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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine - Double Impact

DOUBLE BLAND
All aboard! Keep all hands and feet inside the time machine at all times. This week we embark on a journey thru time to pay visit to several films that will leave you questioning your very eyeballs. In a series I’m calling “Double Vision”, we will be covering action films featuring twins. Or actors playing twins anyhow.

The year is 1991. Jerry Springer began conducting paternity tests on midget clansmen. The Terminator got a sequel. Vanilla Ice writes an award winning "Ninja Rap" and Sonic the Hedgehog began running all over the damn place. All this and Jean Claude Van Damme played vengeful brothers in “Double Impact“.

THE SKINNY
Young Chad, Jean-Claude Van Damme, has grown up the ward of his uncle Frank, Geoffery Lewis, who owns and operates a fitness club in Los Angeles. One part for aerobics and another for karate. Working in the fitness club with his uncle, in both aerobics and karate, has afforded Chad all the benefits of each. Ass whoopin’ kicks and top notch split flexibility.

 
One day, after receiving some important info from a contact in China, Frank sits Chad down and informs him that Frank isn’t his uncle at all. Frank worked as a bodyguard for Chad’s father when he was just an infant. During this time Chad’s father designed and build a tunnel that connected Hong Kong with the mainland of China. His business partner Nigel Griffith and secret underworld financier Raymond Zhang put out a hit on Chad’s parents. With them out of the way Griffith and Zhang would inherit the tunnel. Why? Don’t ask me.

Frank shows up moments too late and narrowly escapes with Chad as the hitmen fire at him. The head hitman and underling of Zhang is a man named Moon, played by Bolo Yeung. This makes the second time JVCD and Bolo Yeung squared off against one another.

But that’s not all! It turns out that Chad has a twin brother names Alex who was raised in and still lives in Hong Kong. It’s now Frank’s idea to take Chad to Hong Kong, meet Alex, lead the brothers in a war against Griffith and Zhang and take control of their birthright -- the tunnel.

 
Once Frank and Chad reach Hong Kong they meet Alex who is less interested in what Frank has to say. He understand how difficult it will be to take out Zhang with all of his hired guns and crime resources.

While they are getting to know each other and forming a plan, days pass and the film turns into a combination of a “fish out of water” comedy with Chad in Hong Kong eating exotic food and what not, and an “odd couple” drama with Chad trying to win over his long lost brother. This is no easy task. Alex grew up on the streets and has resorted to less than legal business means to get by. He’s one tough cookie.

But forget all that. The brother make their presence known. First they stealthily break into one of Zhang’s cocaine manufacturing facilities and blow it sky high. Lol, it’s always cocaine isn’t it?! Then the brothers make an assassination attempt during a meeting between Griffith and Zhang at one of Zhang’s nightclubs. Alex and Chad, pretending to be the same person, bring several cased of “Cognac” to the party per Zhang’s request. But these aren’t your beverage bottles of the French tonic. They’re bombs!

Griffith and Zhang catch wind of what’s going on and escape the explosions, but not before they learn about the twins. Now knowing who was behind the drug bombing, Zhang’s forces track the twins and devise a plan to lure the brothers in so Zhang’s top enforcers can rub ‘em out. How will they do this? By kidnapping Frank and Alex’s love interest Danielle.

Alex and Chad follow to a docked cargo freighter. As Griffith gets his kicks by torturing Frank, the brothers slowly make their way to the engine room where their loved ones are being held. But before the final boss battle, each brother must defeat Zhang’s enforcers. Chad fights and electrocutes Moon, while Alex takes on Kara, Corinna “Cory” Everson, a She-Hulk muscle woman.

 
The end of the film parallels the fights with the enforcers, as the twins each separately hunt down the conspirators. Alex beats Zhang before dropping him to his death from the top of a crane. Chad manages to misdirect Griffith long enough to get the drop on him, and by that I mean Chad drops a cargo container onto him. The End.

 
THE VERDICT
Here is the part where I say whether or not “Double Impact” is a good movie or not. Well this won’t take long. It isn’t bad, but I can’t say that it’s good either. It’s a competently made film with decent special effects, fights and acting. However it isn’t the most original action movie I’ve ever seen. The same could be said about most late 80s and early 90s action movies, but bare with me.

“Double Impact” is about twin sons who grow up and avenge their parents death. Whether it’s avenging a murdered father, or mother, or brother or wife, that concept is in plenty of action movies. The question becomes “How does Double Impact take that idea and expand upon it?”. Well… there are twins…

Yeah that doesn’t do a lot for me either. More than anything it’s down right strange  watching two JCVDs walk around talking about wearing silk underwear. The film even has to stretch to explain why both brothers happen to have the same accent even though they grew up on opposite ends of the world. Alex was dropped off at a Chinese monastery run by French nuns, while Frank had sent Chad to a reform school in France. I guess if you are born in Belgium that means you’re French to the rest of the world. It amazes me how often films feel the need to explain why JVCD has an accent. Action movie fans don’t really care, and if JVCD disserves an explanation than why not Arnold? Why not Stallone?

There is one last thing I want to point out. The tunnel is the birthright of Alex and Chad. What a strange thing to fight over. I mean, I guess you could put up a toll and make yourself some money. But honestly, who gives a shit about a tunnel?

 
When all is said and done “Double Impact” isn’t bad, but it’s also rather forgettable. I would only recommend it to die-hard fans of Van Damme. Otherwise you can pass this one over.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Things are only going to get better… or strange from here, so until next time, Semper Fi!

For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Simply TV: Star Wars Rebels...And Inexplicably Star Wars: The Clone Wars


POSSIBILITIES

I am one of the few people who stuck with Cartoon Network's Clone Wars series.  All the way from its lackluster backdoor film pilot to its neatly completed Netflix series ender.  If you did as well, you got to see the series actually grow and change for the better.  You got to see a character who you thought would be nothing more than a sidekick that called Anakin Skywalker annoying nicknames like "Sky Guy", turn into probably the most compelling character of them all.  You got to see Darth Maul fleshed out...somewhat.   You got to see Obi-Wan and Anakin's much alluded to friendship.  You got to see a good villainous become an even better anti-hero.  And yes, you unfortunately got to see more Jar-Jar.  However, The Clone Wars is easily the best thing to come out of the George Lucas prequels.  And yet, it was still missing something.  It was missing that Star Wars feel.  What is the Star Wars feel you ask?  It's that excitement, tension and enjoyment you get from watching a rag tag group of unlikely heroes realizing their greater potential and taking on something much bigger than themselves.  That, to me, is Star Wars in  a nutshell.  David versus Goliath.  The Colonists versus The British.  The US versus the Nazis.  Pepsi versus Coke.  It's a feeling that Guardians Of The Galaxy had.  It's a feeling that even 2009's Star Trek had.  But regrettably, it's a feeling that Clone Wars and the Prequels never had.

RAG TAG EXPLORERS
RAG TAG BAD ASSES
I appreciate that both were trying to tell the story of the fall of the Republic.  However, the enjoyment and tension I had watching Han, Luke and Leia just trying to escape the Death Star or Jabba's palace was infinitely more enjoyable and tension filled than any prequel film or Clone Wars episode where dozens of nearly invincible Jedi Knights leap into battle with the support of millions of stormtroopers behind them.   It didn't feel like Star Wars to me.  Then thankfully the takeover happened.  Disney, on it's eerily unpublicized quest for world domination, bought out Star Wars from Lucas.  This opened the door for a new film trilogy and a new animated series to fill in the gaps toward Episode IV.  And this animated series, Star Wars Rebels, appears to at least be trying to get that Star Wars feel back.

Taking place only a few short years after Order 66 and the new Galactic Empire wiped out the Jedi and  consumed the Galaxy, Star Wars Rebels follows a street tough kid strong in the force named Ezra Bridger.  Ezra winds up stumbling upon a group of rag tag mercenaries who appear to be mounting a rebellion to fight back against the Empire.  This set up and story is better suited for episodic Star Wars tales than Clone Wars was, I believe.  Clone Wars fell prey to the "Lesson Of The Week" motif and really didn't have a strong overall story.  Mainly, because it was hamstrung as to where it could go since it had to tie in to the events of Revenge Of The Sith. (Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. had this same problem earlier in its run.)  The creation of the Rebel Alliance has never really been something fleshed out, and its growth is pretty much unrelated to Luke and Han's meeting and journey in A New Hope.  This gives Rebels a lot more freedom in my opinion.  The other thing that gives it freedom are its characters.

I'm sorry for the continuous comparison to Clone Wars, but I think that it is an inescapable comparison which really illustrates the POSSIBILITIES Rebels has by explaining what it does differently.  With that said, Clone Wars' main characters Obi-Wan and Anakin and possibly Padme were the weakest characters on the show in my opinion.  Where Clone Wars really thrived was its introduction of new or previously unexplored characters from Star Wars lore.  Characters like...

 Cad Bane
 and Rex
 and The Nightsisters
and Asajj Ventress(Yes, I know Genndy Tartakovski created her first, but she really grew on Clone Wars)
and the character with the strongest and most enjoyable character arc, Ahsoka Tano.

These new characters were free from expectations and restraints to where they could go, making them much more enjoyable than mainstays like Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme, Palpatine, and Dooku.  Rebels gets to start from scratch as well with a slew of  new and interesting characters.  There is the female Mandalorian explosive expert/graffiti artist named Sabine. (My personal favorite)  There is the muscle and hot head of the group, Zeb, who also has the distinction of being famed artist Ralph Mcquarrie's original visual concept for Chewbacca.  There is the Twi'lek pilot and moral center of the team named Hera.  There is the meaner R2-D2-esque droid named Chopper.  The co-lead is the aforementioned Ezra, who serves as the show's adolescent Anakin redo.  However, the wayward Jedi Kanan Jarrus will be the main reason the team and the series makes it or breaks it.  And that's primarily because he's voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.

From Left To Right: Chopper, Hera, Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, and Sabine
Wait a second!!!  Just hold on!  I know Prinze Jr. isn't a particularly popular actor or celebrity for that matter.  I mean, the guy romantically reigned in Buffy Summers.  How can you not hate him just a little?  Although, I do see what creators Simon Kinberg, Carrie Beck, and David Filoni might have been going for when they cast him as Kanan Jarrus.  Kanan has the smugness and temperament of a Kyle Katarn with the tragic history of a Quinlan Vos.  For the basic Star Wars observer who has no idea of whom I'm speaking of...let's just say Kanan is Han Solo mashed together with a seasoned Luke Skywalker.  Playing a mouthy space scoundrel is not a hard thing for Prinze Jr. to do.  However, when he has to deliver the familiar Jedi platitudes, you can't help but cringe a bit.  Admittedly, it is hard to make Jedi philosophies sound natural. (Unless you're Sir Alec Guinness or Frank Oz)  I just hope Prinze Jr. can get the hang of it, as he'll be the one advising Ezra in the ways of the Force throughout the series.

The pilot episode only gives us a taste of the two main villains, but the talent behind their voices is top notch.  David Oyelowo plays the relentless Agent Kallus.  Oyelowo, who has starred in everything from Jack Reacher to the Butler, gives the typically effeminate Galactic officers a much meaner edge.   Playing the big heavy in the series, The Inquisitor, will be the excellently evil Jason Isaacs.  The Inquisitor's story might possibly be as interesting as Kanan's, seeing as he is an instrument of Darth Vader himself but not necessarily a Sith Lord. 

Aesthetically, the animation is a little more humanized than the blockier Clone Wars.  That visual change is good in some places but not so good in others.  You are always walking that uncanny valley tightrope with digital animation.  Though, I have no doubt that they'll lean more toward the cartoonish side as things go along.  The action scenes were some of the best things Clone Wars got right.  The fights and battles were well choreographed, with no punches pulled.  Rebels continues this aspect with three terrific action set pieces in the pilot, and some fights previewed for later on that you'll be dying to see.  An unfortunate hindrance to Clone Wars was its inability to use the musical score and familiar musical stingers of the legendary John Williams until the end of the series.  Rebels gets to fully use and play with those great themes now, which goes a long way to giving the series that Star Wars feel I keep harping on.

Star Wars Rebels is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe and a series that seems to understand and want to explore its numerous POSSIBILITIES.  How did the Rebel Alliance grow?  How did Leia get caught up with them?  How did Mara Jade become the Emperor's Hand?  What was Obi-Wan doing all that time on Tatooine?  Why is Lando now the only black guy in space?  Sorry, that one's just for me.  Open up your holocrons...fasten your lightsabers...put on your Mandalorian helmet...watch it...then tell me I'm wrong.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Simply TV: Gotham (Pilot Episode)

BURN

Gotham - Burn

How can you go wrong with a show that takes in a universe in which Batman exists? There shouldn't be anything wrong with that......right? Well, how about a universe in which Batman MIGHT exist one day, but in order to get to that one day you have to reside in a universe where you get to follow around a young Jim Gordon, his wise-cracking partner Harvey Bullock, and a bunch of villains who are either not yet the villains you know and love yet, and a female gangster named Fish Mooney. It will clearly be a slow burn for Fox's "Gotham;" the newest take on the Gotham City and it's residents. This opening is not meant to bash the show, it's to clearly state what you are getting into when you prepare to dedicate multiple seasons to a show where you will follow around a young Jim Gordon who is likely not going to fight any "big" villains from Batman's rogue's gallery, but hey, I could be wrong.

So "Gotham" or at least the pilot episode, opens with that fateful night; the death of Bruce Wayne's parents to a mugger's bullet. The added wrinkle in this origin story is that the murder is witnessed by a young girl who has the slightest resemblance to a cat. Of course we know who she will become, but it's never mentioned. Moving from Crime Alley, to the GCPD, we meet Jim Gordon and his new partner Bullock. The two couldn't be less alike, classic case of good cop, bad cop. We also discover that Jim's father was the former DA of Gotham City. Bullock and Gordon arrive at the scene of the Wayne family murder and while Gordon comforts Bruce, Bullock is trying to find a way to dump the case since he knows something is rotten in Denmark. As the show progresses we meet Renee Montoya, who works for the Major Crimes Unit, Jim's girlfriend, Barbara Kean, and I might add those two have somewhat of a history, and it's leaning on the lesbian side, which I can appreciate for obvious male-pig reasons. Along the way we also meet a young Oswald Cobblepot, Edward Nygma, and finally Carmine Falcone, played by "The Wire" alum, John Doman. In my haste we also meet the new Alfred Pennyworth, who delivers one of the funnier lines in the episode as well.

If it seems my synopsis is all over the place, well, that's because the episode is all over the place. While it's a slow burn, it's also a pretty messy burn. There seem to be a few things that you are going to have to get over if you are going to enjoy "Gotham." One, give up on seeing Batman anytime soon. Unless the show begins to rely on flash-forwards, or skips into the future after the first season, or two, there will be no Batman. And yes, I get it, the show is called "Gotham," not "Batman" but when one thinks of Gotham City, there is really only one person you think of, but yeah, I get it.

Two, "Gotham" feels like something that could have been called "Gotham High." Seeing villains like The Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman as younger versions of their selves just seems odd, and wrong. Of course, this is all based on a pilot where things can change drastically and could improve, but I'm not into it as much as I feel like I should be. While I don't agree with the direction of Penguin, I have to admit I like how he is being portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. It's quite a departure from what I'm used to in my Penguin character, from Danny DeVito's take in "Batman Returns" to even the comic books, but building up Penguin as a big bad for the future is ballsy, albeit, a slow burn.

Three, I really hope they change how they use Harvey Bullock. Bullock was one of my favorite characters from "Batman: The Animated Series," and the crooked-cop take on his character, at least to me, is a little too cliched. You're always going to have one of this bad cop-types characters in a show, but why make Bullock that character? Donal Logue, who I think is vastly underrated in anything he acts in, gives Bullock a certain attitude that I appreciated, but I want the slovenly, fat, fast food eating Bullock, not this Bullock. Again, I like Logue, but I'm trying to figure out this take on the character. Of course, I'm sure there will be an arc where Bullock has to make a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, possibly during the season finale, where he will become the Bullock I've come to know and love.

To finish up the rants, some of the music and camera work and simply weird. I can't help but think when I'm watching something in the Batman universe, I imagine listening to either Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer; Graeme Revell isn't who I would expect to score the "Gotham" TV show. And nothing again Revell, I loved his portion of the score for "Sin City" and if we got more of that in "Gotham" I would have no complaints, but alas. It just doesn't seem like the score reflects what I would expect from a pseudo-gritty take on the history of Gotham City.

There are some other nit-picks through the pilot, but as a hopeful viewer, I think some of these things should get addressed. I still don't buy Ben McKenzie, or Detective O.C., as Jim Gordon, but he has shown he's got the chops, see "Southland" as a good example. I really hope the show doesn't push a Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne teen romance angle, that would just come off as needlessly cheesy. Finally, don't create and add characters just to create and add characters. If the show is really going to push the "Rise of the Penguin" and Carmine Falcone/Fish Mooney angle, let those angles flesh out and concentrate on making that the best plot line you can make.

Overall, like "Arrow" and I'm sure "The Flash," "Gotham" will go through it's growing pains, similar to Bruce Wayne. The biggest thing for "Gotham" is that when you hear Gotham, you think Batman. But how long will that last with audiences who want to see the Dark Knight, not the Adventures of Jim Gordon vs. Fish Mooney. Name recognition is the biggest thing the show has going for it right now, and the fact it's on Fox, a network notorious for axing shows if they don't perform up to snuff, it will be interesting to see how long of a leash "Gotham" will have.

Fun Fact: Before he was hitting the street as Gordon, McKenzie was behind the cowl, voicing the Dark Knight in the animated feature, "Batman: Year One."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine - Speed

RELENTLESS

The year is 1994. Teenagers around the world mourned for the loss of Kurt Cobain. “Forest Gump”, “The Lion King” and “Pulp Fiction” all shared the silver screen together and Sony released the Playstation, revolutionizing the way future games would be published. Also a bus was fitted with a bomb and used to terrorize L.A. commuters in “Speed”.

In 1997 “The Simpsons” parodied the title “Speed” in the episode “The Springfield Files” in which Homer says; “I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty, and if its speed dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called "The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down". There is never a bad time to quote The Simpsons.

THE SKINNY
The film begins with Los Angeles police officer Jack Traven, Keanu Reeves, and his partner Harry Temple, Jeff Daniels, as they respond to a call that there has been an explosion inside an elevator shaft of a down town office building. The bomber is demanding a ransom of three million dollars be paid or he will trigger an explosion – cutting the elevators cables – in turn killing the people on the elevator.

 
Suspecting that the bomber isn't playing fair, Jack thinks up a plan to remove the hostages from the equation involving a rooftop crane that he uses to help support the weight of the elevator. Howard Payne, the bomber played by Dennis Hopper, is the type of guy who is very meticulous and always seems to be one step ahead of the game. Payne happens to be keeping a close watch over the elevator to make sure he has the upper hand. Hidden on another elevator and listening in via a microphone, Payne catches wind that police are up to something so he decides to blow elevator anyhow and get the hell outta there.

Jack now suspects that the bomber is near by. He and Harry search the fraught elevators and eventually find Payne. Again Payne has a backup plan. Rather than be arrested and spend his last few years in a jail cell, he blows himself up with a suicide vest. This is one of my favorite scenes of the film.


Days later Jack has a run in with Payne who, surprise, is still alive and pissed. The three million dollars was going to be Payne's retirement nest egg and now he wants revenge against Jack. He calls Jack on the phone and informs him that somewhere in L.A. there is a bus fitted with a bomb. If it's passengers are going to survive Jack will have to located it and get aboard. But there are rules ya see... First, no one is allowed off the bus. Second, once the bus reaches fifty miles per hour it must continue at that speed or it will explode.

For the next hour of the film Jack, now on the bus, tries his best to navigate the busy L.A. streets while keeping the bus above fifty miles per hour and trying to think of a plan to get the passengers to safety. Jan de Bont does a hell of a job directing because, as simple as this concept is, it never gets boring. In fact it’s relentless. There is enough going on to keep the viewer interested and enough suspense to keep them on the edge of there seat. In this time Jack tries to unload the passengers, disarm the bomb, fist fight frantic passengers and even ramp the bus, I'm not even joking, over a fifty foot gap in an overpass that is under construction. Of course this is the doing of young Annie Porter, Sandra Bullock, who has been volunteered to drive while Jack does a little bit of this and that.
 
Jack struggles to understand how Payne knows what is going on in the bus at all times. The police close off air space around the bus from news choppers, but that doesn't help. Finally Jack gets the upper hand when he realizes that the safety cam located at the front of the bus is transmitting a to an undisclosed location where Payne has been watching this whole time. Jack has his tech savvy police pals record and transmit footage in a loop so Payne is unaware that the passengers are being evacuated.

Meanwhile, Harry is doing his best to track down Payne, who it turns out is a former police officer who worked in the bomb squad. Payne was forced into retirement after blowing off his thumb. Payne risked his life for years doing a dangerous job and in return all he got was a lousy gold watch as a retirement gift. This is the heart of Paynes motivation.
 
With the passengers safe the film becomes a man hunt for Payne which leads into the busy L.A. subways with Annie as a hostage and Jack in hot pursuit. This leads to a fistfight on top of a runaway subway car. As Jack and Payne tussle around, Jack eliminates Payne by decapitating him against a light mounted to the ceiling of the subway. The car crashes and Jack and Annie emerge unscathed and fall in love. The End.

THE VERDICT
“Speed” was a HUGE success in 1994. This movie was the only thing people talked about that entire summer. The idea of putting a bomb on a bus, triggered by it's speed, was just so simple and yet tremendously effective. It essentially turned two thirds of the film into a high speed chase.

Beyond that, “Speed” is a chess match between Payne and Jack. Which spaces can they occupy without losing anything and how they can get the other guy to fall on the spaces that will do the them in. It's about leverage.

Speaking of leverage, this reminds me of my favorite scenes in “Speed” and one of my all time favorite scenes in all of action movies. The one in which Jack shoots Harry. Early on, after the people are rescued from the elevator, Jack and Harry track down Payne somewhere else inside the building. Payne gets the drop on Harry and tried to use him as a temporary hostage in an escape attempt. So what does Jack do? Lay down his weapon and allow Payne to escape? Raise his weapon and blow Payne away? Nah! Instead he shoots Jack in the leg. The idea being that if a cop is willing to shoot the hostage, the hostage taker no longer has any leverage. Brilliant! This may have been the first time a movie taught me how to think outside the box and I will never forget it.

Over all this movie holds up, but there are a few areas were the film is lacking.

First the bus ramp scene. I don't give a shit in what kind of “in a perfect world” scenario we're talkin' here, that WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!

Second, when Jack and Annie finally escape the bus, it continues to drive unattended as it loses speed and eventually explodes. The thing is, it explodes just as it collides with an airliner on the runway of L.A.X. So Jack saved the lives of eight or ten people on the bus, but what about the passengers on the airplane?! I assume it was empty, but WHAT THE FUCK?!

Hmmm, the movie begins with a bus that drives into an airplane, and ends in the subway. This movie could have been called “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”.
 
“Speed” is one of those movies that, over time, you'll only remember the tropes that were so often parodied when it was released, but when you sit down and re-watch it, it will remind you just how good it is. Check it out!

Of course this was followed by “Speed 2”. A movie about a boat... and no one seemed to give a shit. Maybe sometime we'll visit action movie sequels that fell flat. If so, We'll start there.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi!

For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

SR Podcast (Ep. 30): September 2014 Die Hard: Movie Commentary




Christmas come early this year as the boys do a commentary for probably their favorite holiday film of all time.  The quintessential action film Die Hard.  Listen up for the syncing instructions and enjoy Die Hard the Simplistic Reviews way...with 3 numbskulls enthusiastically giggling over it.

Show Notes:
Alan Rickman's Answering Machine
Let's order a pizza!
Bill Clay

Music Notes:
Die Hard Ode To Joy 



Friday, September 19, 2014

Tusk or How a Fat Man is Changing Hollywood for the Better

MOVEMENT
Tusk - Movement

Way back when we first started Simplistic Reviews, my first review was of "Zack and Miri Make a Porno." Of course when we first started it really wasn't so much reviews as it was merely talking about a specific scene that we enjoy. It was more, for lack of a better term, simpler in those days. In the years since, the site has expanded and the reviews have become a tad more insightful. I only bring this up because it made me feel nostalgic to think that my first review for the site was for a Kevin Smith flick, and now today I'm proud to review his latest film, the Canadian-inspired horror film "Tusk," which I feel a real sense of connection with for some reason. While "Tusk" is kind of new, and kind of fresh, there was something in my gut where I felt a little weird kind of already knowing what was going to happen and almost felt guilty about that. More on that later.

"Tusk" is the tale of two podcasters, Wallace and Teddy, who host the  "Not-See Party Podcast." Wallace is a fun-loving dude who has found success as a podcaster after years of failing as a comedian. He's got a smoking hot girl friend and gets to travel around the country finding strange and unusual Internet sensations to interview for the podcast. After busting out in his travels to Canada, Wallace finds an intriguing ad telling of the adventures of a man named Howard Howe. Upon arrival at Howe's home, Wallace is taken in by his calm demeanor and his tale of survival at sea with the help of a walrus, whom Howe befriends. As it turns out, Howe isn't the pleasant old man that he appears to be, drugging and kidnapping Wallace with a nefarious end-game.

Kevin Smith's latest effort is a radical departure from anything he's ever done before, and I'm even including Red State. There is nothing View Askew-y at all, no Snoochie Boochie, no overally clever dialogue, not dick and fart jokes, "Tusk" is pretty much a squirm-fest with some Canadian melodrama thrown in, which might be the one thing that is recognizable from Smith's previous work.

In case you don't know the story of "Tusk" it all started as a podcast conversation on Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier's SMODcast in Episode 259 "The Walrus and the Carpenter." Being an avid listener of the podcast I was laughing at the scenario they were creating based on an article they found in Gumtree where a room was for rent, but only if the tenant was able to perform some menial tasks, ie, dress in a walrus suit for two hours a day and only act as a walrus would. It would later be revealed that the classified was a prank, however, I would have never of thought that a conversation on a podcast have been made into a feature length film. With DJ, Justin, and myself as podcasters as well, who go off on long and incredibly strange tangents, it's crazy to think that a tangent can lead to something like this, but this brings me to what sort of irks me about the film.

While I truly did like "Tusk;" I mean it's weird, thought-provoking, gruesome, and the acting is well done, I couldn't stop thinking to myself in the theater; what am I watching? While there are already comparisons to "Human Centipede" and other torture porn in the same vein, "Tusk" is both a film with ideas about the savageness of man, and how far are we truly evolved as a species, and a strange love triangle that is briefly touched upon. I understand the Smith likes to borrow a lot from his other films, and I couldn't help but think that "Tusk" was a cross between the weirdness of "Red State" and the drama of "Chasing Amy." However, this isn't a knock, this is just something that I'm sure a lot of people in the crowd who go into this movie cold will probably say to themselves. It almost seems that "Tusk" is an inside joke that only listeners of SMODcast will truly understand, which is cool, it made me feel like part of an exclusive club; a film made just for me, if you will.

The campaign of "Tusk" is almost as interesting as the film itself. After SMODcast 259, Smith posed a question on his Twitter and Instagram account; basically if you want to see a film about a guy getting turned into a walrus, hastag WalrusYes. The response was enormous and with enough up-votes, if you will, "Tusk" was made based on the response. This is what makes Kevin Smith so endearing, and dangerous, for old Hollywood. Old Hollywood relies on suits, and people in high places, to get films made. All Smith needed was a push from his audience and some brave investors, and he made a film that not only looks as good as films done at double, if not triple, the budget, but he was also able to bring in some pretty decent star-power, including Johnny Depp in another over-the-top, yet understated, performance. Like how Smith trolled Hollywood years ago when he screened "Red State" at Sundance and proceeded to purchase his own film, he's doing something similar by creating a film for his fans just because he could, and people wanted to see it. When you think about it, it makes you think "wow, I can do that......."

So "Tusk" should you see it or not? For morbid curiosity sake, the film is a no-brainer if you are into horror, and/or a Kevin Smith fan, however, if might throw you off, because this is not your typical Kevin Smith film. This is a new direction, no pun intended, for Smith who I think is at a point in his career where he has reached a self-actualization point where he is not only making films for himself anymore, but for the fans that support him, and that is something that should be applauded. #walrusyes

Fun Fact: While Smith wasn't able to get Greg Nicotero to design the walrus suit, he was able to nail down Robert Kurtzman, a member of Nicotero's KNB Efx Group.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine - Point Break


EXISTENTIAL ADRENALINE


Now that my love letter to John Carpenter has come to a close, I was unsure what film, or group of films I should visit next. Should I board the “Action Movie Time Machine” and venture to the ‘80s to track down ol’ Chuck, finally, or maybe the ‘70s for “Dirty Hairy“? Then it dawned on me. Not to long ago I sat down with a few friends to watched “Point Break”. They wouldn’t shut up about how great it was. I hadn’t seen it before, but it was a film who’s reputation I was familiar. A gang of presidential mask wearing bank robbers gain a reputation for their handy work while surfing between jobs. Oh, and Nick Frost’s character, Danny Butterman, absolutely LOVES “Point Break” in “Hot Fuzz”. Well I guess If I wasn’t interested before, I now have my seal of approval. In short, I watched it and liked it, so “Point Break” it is.

The year is 1991. Paul Reubens, Pee-Wee Herman, was arrested for masturbating in an adult movie theater. Accusations of sex abuse and steroid use drew all kinds of heat on to Hulk Hogan and the WWF. All this and Keanu  Reeves learns to surf.

THE SKINNY
The film begins with Special Agent Johnny Utah, Keanu Reeves, who has recently graduated from the FBI academy and been assigned to work band robbery detail in southern California. Upon his arrival he is partnered up with veteran agent Pappas, Gary Busey. Pappas is one of the older members of the team. He’s seen and heard it all, and as a result he’s both jaded by his job, and regarded as a bit of a nut by his co-workers.



Together the new partners pick up where Pappas left off on a case involving a group of bank robbers who go by the “Ex-Presidents”. They call themselves this because they chose to wear presidential masks during their heists. There’s a Nixon, Carter, Johnson, and Reagan. If you were ever confused by some joke or parody from the ‘90s that involved a mask of a president, this movie is it’s inspiration.

The Ex-Presidents have acquired quite the reputation for being professional. No one is ever injured, they only take what money is in the teller drawers and they are in and out in ninety seconds. They leave no clues and few witnesses, and have successfully robbed twenty-seven banks in three years. The only info that Pappas has been able to assemble about they group is that they may be surfers. A security camera caught one of the Ex-Presidents mooning, which revealed a tan line. Later trace elements of wax was in a footprint left by of the robbers and may be board wax. And finally, the Ex-Presidents only rob during the summer months, when the waves are the best for surfing.



For this thin but compelling theory Pappas’ co-workers give him shit. To them, Pappas might as well be talking about the Kennedy assassination or aliens or something. But Utah is convinced. The two devise a plan to send Utah undercover and into the ocean. He will learn to surf and in doing so he will make surfer friends who he will, hopefully, get some hot information out of. This plan works pretty good, if you overlook almost drowning and getting his ass handed to him time and time again by other more experienced surfers.

Soon Utah meets Tyler, Lori Petty, a tough surfer chick who agrees to show him the surfing ropes and later they fall in love. Tyler becomes Utah’s window into the local surf community and introduces him to Bodhi, Patrick Swayze. Bodhi is a bit of a local surfing guru. He has a crew of young men and women who cling to his devil may care lifestyle. Bodhi isn’t just some thrill seeking adrenaline junkie, which he is, he is someone who has a rich understanding of what being alive truly is and how everyone should push the boundaries to better live their lives and experience freedom. There is a moment in the film when Bodhi reminds his crew just why they took on this lifestyle by saying; “This was about us against the system. That system that kills the human spirit. We stand for something. We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human spirit is still alive.”



As Utah starts surfing more with Bodhi and his crew, he begins to understand the more spiritual connection the guys have developed with each other, as well as nature (the surf) and thrill seeking. Bohdi gets Utah to open up and in turn gains his trust and later mutual respect and admiration. This friendship later gets between Utah and his duty when he makes the discovery that Bodhi and company are in fact the Ex-President, and now he has to bring ‘em in.

A lot happens between the middle and end of the film, none of which is bad, but I feel obligated to skip over some so I don’t get too carried away with this synopsis. Consider it self-censorship to prevent spoiling plot. However, I do feel compelled to mention the often referenced “scream while shooting in the air” scene made popular by “Hot Fuzz“. Utah can’t yet prove anything but suspects Bodhi is involved with the robberies. Well one day Utah happens to cross paths with the Ex-Presidents while they are knocking over another bank. This leads to a foot chase. Utah follows Reagan/Bodhi down a hill and blows out his knee in the process, which is an existing high school football injury. Utah can’t follow any further. He pulls his gun and takes aim, but the idea that he may be shooting his friend is too much for him to handle. Instead Utah lets out a scream and unloads his gun into the air. It’s a little goofy, but it illustrates just how much he respects Bodhi.

As the chase drags on, Utah gets close to capturing Bodhi. He finds himself on a plane flying over Mexico and Bodhi has just jumped from the plane in an escape attempt. To catch Bodhi, Utah follows him. He screams “Fuck it!“ and jumps from the plane. Without a parachute… WITHOUT A FUCKING PARACHUTE! The first time I saw this I was genuinely, “What the fuck?!”, surprised. Utah manages to float down to Bodhi, pull his parachute cord and hang on for dear life until they reach the surface of the Earth. Upon landing, Utah blows out his knee, again, and he can’t continue the chase.

Over the next few years Bodhi continues robbing banks in several different countries to afford his freedom seeking surfer lifestyle. Consider these crimes bread crumbs and Utah follows his trail all the way down to Australia. Australia is known for it’s ideal surfing coasts, not to mention there happens to be a ”Fifty Year Storm” approaching. One that is guaranteed to make the most hardened surfers wet in their pants and Utah knows Bodhi will be there. 

When Utah finds Bodhi on the beach they have words and then they have fists. As the local police move into position, surrounding Bodhi, Bodhi begins pleading with Utah -- telling him that he won’t make it in prison without his freedom. Utah grants him his freedom, temporarily, to catch a ride on one of the death defying fifty foot waves. After all it’s a once in a life time event, and as a friend, he understands just how much it will mean to him. As Bodhi paddles out into the waves, Utah quietly walks back to his car. Utah overhears a police officer say; “Okay, we‘ll catch him when he comes back in”, to which Utah replies “He‘s not coming back“. The End.

THE VERDICT
What makes this film great and highly recommended to both action movie fans as well as people who typically thumb their nose at action movies, is that there is more here than just car chases and gun fights. “Point Break” is a hidden gem within the vast wasteland that is action cinema.

It is wonderfully directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker & Strange Days, who, in my opinion, perfectly captures the beauty, freedom and danger of the surf and skydiving. Not to mention, she was able to weave the Utah/Bodhi friendship in just the right way, allowing it to become the focal point of the film. Similar to “Heat”, “Point Break” becomes more about the relationship between the cop and robber, than the actual crimes themselves.

Utah and Bodhi develop a bit of a bro-mance. They each appreciate the others freedom seeking nature and grow to admire each other, which later becomes the center of the films conflict. Utah is forced to hunt down his best friend and Bodhi is driven to break his own personal rules and even kill in order to ensure his escape. In fact Bodhi is even willing to die then be locked up. I can’t speak for everyone, but I was buyin’ what both of these guys were sellin’.

On a similar note, Bodhi is a total bad-ass with an existential life philosophy. Hmm sounds a lot like Swayze’s character from “Roadhouse”. Another action movie must see, if I do say so myself.

The only negatives I found in this film is its goofy surfer lingo and the acting. Not all of the acting, but there are a few deliveries Reeves gives that are less than what they should be. But hell, people have been saying that about his acting for years. On the other hand, Busey’s intense over acting, no matter how wild, is just great.


If you‘re willing to overlook its flaws, you will see that “Point Break” is a great film, let alone great action film.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. And remember, freedom isn’t free. Semper Fi!

For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!


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