1997

May 24, 2019

(Ep. 121): Fire Down Below – Movie Commentary: May 2019

We started this new year off with a film from 90’s action star and serial eater, Steven Seagal’s Hard to Kill! We continue the Seagal Saga with Fire Down Below, you know the EPA action film…no not that one…the other one…yeah there is another EPA action film.


Fire Down Below

1997 ‧ Thriller/Action ‧ 1h 45m

Description

When an EPA representative is discovered dead in a small Midwestern town, government agent Jack Taggart (Steven Seagal) goes undercover to check things out. He finds that local coal mogul Orin Hanner Sr. (Kris Kristofferson) is cutting financial corners by disposing of hazardous waste wherever he pleases and that local kids are falling ill because of this recklessness. Taggart then works to stop the shady activity and save the town, but Hanner and his thugs soon grow suspicious of him.

Initial release: December 13, 1997 (South Korea)
Budget: 42 million USD
Box office: 16.2 million USD
Music composed by: Nick Glennie-Smith
October 26, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1997: Mimic

GOOEY

Mimic – Gooey

I loved 1997, I was a weird, awkward middle-schooler obsessed with movies, horror, and for some weird reason, Mira Sorvino. I don’t know what it was about her, but I’m sure we all remember our movies crushes, and this was probably one of my biggest ones at that age.

This brings me to “Mimic” a relatively generic 1997 monster flick, but again, it holds a special place in my heart because it starred the lovely Mira Sorvino (imagine a 14 year old Matt reviewing this film).

In New York, a disease called Strickers is decimating the child population in the city, think of it as a cross between polio and the plague. Dr. Susan Tyler discovers the cause stems from cockroaches living in the cities sewers so she develops a new breed of bug; the Judas bug that will infiltrate the roach population and wipe them out from the inside out all while dying off themselves within a few months. All goes well and Strickers is all but wiped out and the city’s children are safe.

A few years later, a priest is attacked and killed by an unknown entity. CDC officials become involved and soon learn that the Judas breed might not only still be available but might also involved into something else that might be walking among the people of New York.

Overall, I think “Mimic” is a fun monster film with some great practical effects, but also some very lackluster mid-90s CG. The supporting cast, including Jeremy Northam, Charles S. Dutton, and Josh Brolin put in good performances, including Brolin, and his death scenes, which is one of the highlights of the film for him.

Other things that bothered me are the inclusion of child actors in this film. There are three, all annoying, but at least two of them meet relatively gory endings, which I stand up and applaud.

This is an early offering from Guillermo del Toro, who most will know from both “Hellboy” films and “Pacific Rim” but a lot of people forget that he cut his teeth in Hollywood on horror films like “Mimic” and the almost-forgotten vampire flick “Cronos.” I would love to see del Toro go back to his horror roots in future films, and not just something like “Crimson Peak.”

If “Mimic” doesn’t bug you, maybe some of these other films from 1997 will:

Alien Resurrection
Anaconda
Event Horizon
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Scream 2
Uncle Sam

March 16, 2015

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Double Team

Well it’s March, and with it comes March Madness. To honor the basketball gods, we will be loading up the “Action Movie Time Machine” with the dial set to the decedent year of 1997 to visit Dennis Rodman, before he became the American ambassador to North Korea.
The year is 1997. Howard Stern showed everyone his “Private Parts”, police investigate the murder of the Notorious B.I.G., and the Bundy family say goodbye as “Married With Children” comes to an end. All this, and someone thought it was a good idea to put NBA star Dennis Rodman in “Double Team”.
THE SKINNY
Jack Quinn, Jean-Claude Van Damme, is a special forces spy type who has recently retired so he can be with his wife when she gives birth to their first child. His retirement plans get cut short as he is sent out on one last mission to apprehend an international terrorist for hire who goes by the name Stavros, Mickey Rourke. Quinn has spent years trying to capture Stavros, so naturally, when Stavros comes out of hiding, Quinn is just the man for the job.
Quinn is sent to lead a Delta team in the capture of Stavros, but first we have to introduce the elephant in the room. Quinn visits the gay-bar district of town to meet up with his contact, Yaz, Dennis Rodman. Yaz, is interesting. He…well, is dressed like Dennis Rodman. Dennis Rodman is more or less playing himself in this movie. In fact, Dennis Rodman is playing Dennis Rodman pretending to be an underground arms dealer who has recently decided to work exclusively with the “good guys”. This scene isn’t so important. It simply introduces his character so we’re familiar with him later.
So, Quinn buys some weapons, that apparently the Delta Team can’t get their hands on, and he and the Deltas head after Stavros.
Their intelligence says that Stavros will be visiting a Dutch amusement park. The Delta team show up early and set up a sting operation complete with a tranquilizing sniper who will take Stavros alive. When he arrives, Quinn wonders why he would bother with an amusement park? Is he planning a terrorist attack? Well it turns out that he was visiting his son.
Soon the Deltas are discovered, a shoot out begins and Stavros’ son is shot in the cross fire. Quinn chases Stavros on foot and is lead to a nearby hospital where they fight it out in the nursery. Stavros manages to escape when he  throws a grenade at Quinn. Quinn opts for saving the children and this allows Stavros to go free.
When Quinn wakes up from the explosion he finds himself on a remote island as the newest member of “The Colony”. The Colony is where special agents go when why are no longer effective. They are too dangerous to be set free and too valuable to kill. Instead they are gathered together to analyze data and help world governments capture terrorists and fight rogue nations. This idea is a 100% rip-off of a ’60s British television series called The Prisoner.
After a few days and two training montages, Quinn fights his way off the island and swims through laser infested waters before being picked up by a cargo plane that Quinn climbs into in mid-air. Once on the ground, he recruits the help of Yaz who offers to take him to see his wife – who thought Quinn was dead. I don’t know why they didn’t just drive, but Quinn and Yaz parachute into Quinn’s backyard inside an invention Yaz came up with himself. It’s a giant air filled globe the encases the person wearing it, allowing them to safely float down to the surface of the Earth…It’s a fuckin’ basketball!
Anyhow, once Quinn arrives at his house, he discovers that it’s a trap set by Stavros. Stavros has kidnapped Quinn’s pregnant wife and is planning to take the child for himself to replace the one killed in the shoot out. Yeah, that’ll teach Quinn!
Quinn and Yaz follow the Stavros trail to Italy where Yaz uses his monk connections to zero in on him. “Monk connections”, you ask? Yep, apparently a while back Yaz built the monk’s some “main frame processor” complete with a dial-up connection to the world wide web. The “cyber-monks” are grateful and most eager to repay Yaz.
The monks help Quinn locate his wife, who is at a hospital giving birth. By the time Quinn arrives, the baby has been hatched and Stavros is gone. Fortunately one of the nurses knows his plans.
Quinn follows Stavros to the Coliseum where he and Yaz must fight through Stavros’ goons before Quinn and Stavros fight it out surrounded by land mines. If that wasn’t enough, Stavros brought along a bangle tiger. Stavros sure knows how to party.
Yaz saves the baby while Quinn and  Stavros battle – which is a pretty decent fight sequence. Everything ends when Stavros steps on one of his own land mines – blowing up both himself, the tiger and the entire arena…for some reason. When all is said and done, Quinn rides off into the night with his newborn son. The End.
THE VERDICT
I feel like “Double Team” was the precursor to “Rush Hour”. I might be giving “Double Team” more credit than it deserves but each film shares quite a bit with the other. They each team-up a martial marts master with a wisecracking black man… Okay, that the only similarity. But “Double Team” did come out over a year before “Rush Hour”. And if movies like “Deep Impact” & “Armageddon”, “Dante’s Peak” & “Volcano”, and “White House Down” & “Olympus Has Fallen” are any indication that studios are totally willing to rip of each others idea while are still being developed, I’m sure the same could be said about “Double Team” & “Rush Hour”.
“Double Team” is kind of…bad. But there is good to be found within it. Like Van Damme’s fighting…and splits. There are many of the action sequences that are well filmed and turn out to be pretty entertaining. My problems with the film is also the action sequences. While they are entertaining, they are designed to be so over the top that I can’t take them seriously. They are so overly complicated that they stop making sense. These problems really show the films age, as everything in the ’90s had to be the most extreme at all costs. Example; The final showdown that results in a hand to hand fight to the death…in the Coliseum…surrounded by land mines…and there’s a tiger. Are you fucking kidding me?!
Rodman is another problem. So naturally, to help sell the film the studio wanted an interesting celebrity. He dressed outlandish and fooled around with Pamela Anderson and this made him famous.  And now we have a sub-par action flick that’s full of his strange outfits and colorful hair-dos. His popularity was a bit of a passing fad, and again, this movie shows it’s age. Oh, and everything Rodman says becomes a cheesy basketball related one-liner.
My REAL problem with this movie is it’s story telling. There is no attention to detail and no effort to develop the characters. Van Damme’s character is a special forces spy type, but who does he work for? Why does Rodman’s character so chummy with Italian monks and why do the monks have the internet? I could go on asking these dumb questions but I won’t bother. It seemed like the writers had a hand full of “awesome” ideas and had to find a way to get them all to fit together without wasting too much time on explaining anything.
In the end, the core of this movie is interesting; how the spies have a lose network they belong to and when the “retire” they go to The Colony – but everything else is gimmicky crap.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes another trip on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi Punk!
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!

 

 
 

 
 

October 17, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – The Assignment

DOUBLE INTRIGUE

Alright, enough goofy action comedies about twin brothers separated at birth, weight lifting, JVCD splits and taking bubble baths together. This time we’re visiting a film featuring real life spy stuff and espionage, “The Assignment“. I first heard about this flick back around ‘99 when I was staying up late to watch “skin-emax”, and instead stumbled upon this. Oh how those were the days… All aboard! The Action Movie Time Machine is now departing.
The year is 1997. Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear during a boxing match. The world mourns the loss of both Princess Diana, Mother Teresa & Notorious B.I.G.. The “Titanic” sails again, this time at the box office and “Batman & Robin” proved to be the worst Batman film of all time. All this and “Carlos the Jackal” was brought to justice in “The Assignment”,
THE SKINNY
“The Assignment” begins with Lt. Cmdr. Annibal Ramirez, Aidan Quinn, who is spending his shore leave traversing the narrow streets of Israel when he notices that he is being followed. He ditches his things and makes a break for it, but as it turns out, the person following him isn’t the only one. There is a group of people working together to track and capture him. Once he is captured, he is brought to a dank and dirty apartment where he is beaten and interrogated by an unnamed man, Ben Kingsley, who keeps calling him Carlos and “The Jackal”.
 
At first Annibal pretends to be a tourist, as are his military instructions if he were to ever be detained in a hostile environment, but after a while he understands that he has been captured by some form of Israeli military and starts to explain who he is and how they can contact a naval liaison to corroborate his story. He is detained for several more days before he is set free.
Weeks later Annibal returns home from a long stint at sea when he is visited by Jack Shaw, Donald Sutherland, from the CIA. Jack has come to recruit Annibal for some highly sensitive spy work. Why Annibal? After all there must be scores of highly trained special ops types ready and willing to take on this assignment, right? Well none of them share the face of a notorious terrorist for hire, Carlos “The Jackal”. Somehow Annibal and Carlos are doppelgangers.
After some convincing, Annibal travels to a remote facility in Montreal, Canada. Here he takes on the alias Miguel, begins learning all that he can about Carlos and receives a crash course in spying from Amos, the very same man who interrogated Annibal in Israel. Amos and Jack have been tracking Carlos for years, but have never been able to apprehend him. Now with “Miguel” on their side, perhaps they can get the drop on him.
Miguel’s training consists of memorizing the names on tombstones, counting condiments in a refrigerator, breathing in cheap cigar smoke and eating gallons of oatmeal a day until it gives him the shits. I don’t know about you, but it all sounds like high tech spy stuff to me.
As a child Carlos’s father, who he hates, smoked the cigars and now as an adult when he smells the same cigars it drives him nuts. The same goes for the oatmeal. As a child he and his mother were poor and there was little else to eat. This is all an attempt to get Miguel inside the head of Carlos. He had to endure as a child, and now as an adult he can be selfish and impose his will on others. This sort of personality trait is the sort of thing that will make him a believable Carlos to the people who know him best. As for the condiments and tombstones, these are tactics used to get Miguel to be more observant of his surroundings. To be able to piece together the whos, whats & wheres from his environment.
There is a scene in which Miguel’s “mock wife”, Jack, told him that she is spending the week out of town with family and now Miguel has two minutes to casually look around a mock kitchen and living room, and report his findings after time expires. He drinks from the milk carton, looks in the trash and has a seat on the couch. Miguel’s learns from this that the milk is fresh so it must have been purchased recently. Too recently for her to have been out of town. There was a book of matches in the trash from a bar down the street. The couch has a cushion turned over and smells of cheap aftershave. Miguel explains that she never left town. She also met a man at a bar and brought him home, then had sex on the couch. After which Miguel smiles and asks Jack, “…are you fucking my wife?”.

The training continues with Miguel learning how to fuck from a spurned lover of Carlos. Let it be known — this lady is a freak. Miguel has reservations about cheating on his wife, but ol’ Jack always knows just what to say; “Don‘t think of it as cheating on your wife. Think of it as fucking for your flag”. Lol I love this movie.
As the film approaches the final act, the plan is finally explained to Miguel. Since assassinating Carlos outright will result in retaliatory attacks from his fellow terrorists, Miguel will pretend to be Carlos to discredit him with his Soviet connections and in turn let them take him out. He, as Carlos, will sleep with one of the real Carlos’ mistresses and convince her to do some banking for him. The banking involves accepting a wire transfer from the CIA into her account and then out of her’s and into Carlos/Miguel’s. This is something that will get the attention of Soviet Intelligence. This combined with a public meeting between Carlos/Miguel and Jack solidifies the counter intelligence story that Carlos is being paid off by the CIA to share with them what he might know about the Soviets.
You pretty much know how this is going to end, but because I think you should give this flick a watch, if you get a chance, I’ll try to save some juicy details about the finale. Just know that there is a face to face fight between Carlos & Miguel, some secret spy code words, as well as double lives are lived.
THE VERDICT
“The Assignment” is tame by the standards of ‘80s action movies. However its real life esthetic has always been something that I’ve enjoyed. The way Annibal is trained in Canada has always fascinated me. How he was pushed to his limits — forced to remember seemingly unimportant information and taught how to interpret it. And of course how Jack and Amos teach Annibal to react to the smell of cheap cigars and oatmeal the same way Carlos would, but forcing him to smell and eat it constantly.
This is the sort of thing I imagine real life spies might have to do in order to blend in and survive.
Released right around the same time as “Goldeneye”, “Mission Impossible” and “The Saint”, I was introduced to a new brand of action movie. Sure, Bond had been around for thirty or so years but most of those films leaned more toward traditional action fare than what I was now getting familiar with. Besides, Bond always had fun but unrealistic gadgets and one-liners that I’ve grown to expect and love in Bond films, but I can’t take them all together seriously.
This films story is as entertaining as it is interesting. I was surprised to lean in recent years that “Carlos the Jackal” is a real person who was arrested and convicted in ‘97 for killing several French police. The Carlos from “The Assignment” is a little more colorful, and I don’t think there was ever a plot to discredit him by using a double. But oh well. If you’re interested, you can learn more about the real Carlos here.
The acting is great, and with Ben Kingsley and Donald Sutherland, how could it not be? The special effects are mostly good but from time to time they show their age. There are a several explosions that are super-imposed. While they do look obvious, they also don’t look awful. It was the ‘90s after all. Even space aliens hell-bent on blowing up the white house super-imposed their laser blasts [“Independence Day“].
 
If you are at all interested in spy/espionage thrillers then “The Assignment” is for you. I highly recommend It.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, “Awfully warm for this time of year.”
For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor

October 8, 2013

This Is Halloween: Scream 2

OUTLIER

Scream 2 – Outlier

Certain things sell me on a film, especially a horror film.  The main thing(s) is whether it keeps me interested, engaged, and I’m able to care about a few of the characters.  You wouldn’t normally say that a soundtrack for a film is what made you like the film even more.  However, “Scream 2” is that type of film, an outlier where the soundtrack is as good as the film itself.  But of course there is an excellent movie hidden behind the soundtrack.

“Scream 2” the first sequel in the popular “Scream” series is “The Godfather II” of the horror genre.  Not only is Wes Craven back, with Kevin Williamson penning the screenplay again, but Craven ups the ante and creates a sequel that provides more laughs, more tension, and an even hipper cast than the first film, including Raylan Givens.  Once again we start with a sequence that later in the series becomes standard protocol where a famous person(s) that you wouldn’t think would get killed, gets killed.  Meanwhile, Sidney Prescott, our heroine in the previous film, has gone off the college where she’s followed by Ghostface.  But wait, you might say, “Wait a minute, Ghostface is dead, that was Billy Loomis and his buddy Stu!”  I would rebuttal and say, “You know what would have been cool, if Ghostface Killah played Ghostface!”  I still say we get that petition signed and just cast “Scream 5” with everybody from the Wu-Tang Clan.

While Sidney is trying to adjust to college life, a new boyfriend, and playing Cassandra, her friends are killed one at a time by Ghostface, who just LOVES sequels; they’re bloodier, sillier, and have ridiculous plot twists.  While “Scream 2” is all of this and more, the fact that it’s self-aware without being fully self-aware works extremely well.  The characters never follow their own advice even though they try to justify their decisions for being the typical horror stereotypes.  Just like the first “Scream” the characters are likable and are typical of the slasher genre, but Craven and Williamson do a great job of expanding the world of Woodsboro from it’s small town beginnings in the first film, to a college campus where there is a larger group of suspects in a more condensed, claustrophobic area.

Now, let me get back to the real reason to like this film; the soundtrack.  If you haven’t enjoyed the “Scream 2” soundtrack, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.  The tracks range from Master P to Dave Matthews Band, but I still think there should have been some Wu-Tang on the soundtrack, it just seems like a lost opportunity.

Overall, “Scream 2” would have been a great way to end the series, but what would a horror series be without a few more sequels, which we got with the underwhelming “Scream 3” and the underrated “Scream 4.”  However, “Scream 2” stands alone as a horror sequel that not only meets a fan’s expectations but was so much more than a cooker-cutter sequel to make more money.  While Wes Craven’s record as a horror director had been spotty since “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” the “Scream” franchise gave him a second lease on life, and “Scream 2” stands as one of his best efforts in a career that spans over 40 years.  An outlier indeed, “Scream 2” gives you what you want, but it gives it in a way where excess isn’t required.

Fun Fact:  As if there wasn’t enough to like about “Scream 2,” Danny Elfman, composer of “Batman,” “Spider-man,” and former lead singer of Oingo Boingo, took the time to compose the Cassandra theme heard HERE for the film.

December 18, 2012

Happy Holidays: Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown – Comeback

Pam Grier was a big star in the 1970s.  I mean she was Foxy Brown (the original Foxy Brown, not this one, even though this one did have something to do with the following film) and Coffy.  She was the epitome of “the baddest bitch” (and not this shit either).  Pardon my language, after dealing with Tarantino flicks for the past two weeks I finally feel like I’m getting into character.  The novice Tarantino head will consider either “Pulp Fiction” or “Inglorious Basterds” his masterpiece (for the record I have no issues whatsoever with either film, they are both fantastic in their own rights) but “Jackie Brown” from 1997 is by far Tarantino’s most accomplished effort and showed a master at work, in complete control of his cast and story while developing an alternate universe that paralleled, or maybe even intersected at times, his “Pulp”and “Reservoir Dog,” universe.

A comeback can come in many shapes and sizes.  For “Brown” this was a comeback of sorts for both Grier and Robert Forster (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance) and also Tarantino himself.  Between the time “Pulp Fiction” premiered in 1994 and the release of “Brown,” QT had hit some rough times.  Have you ever seen “Destiny Turns on the Radio“? And while “Four Rooms” was decent enough it was still a bomb.  Come 1997, he had a lot to prove, and by God, he proves it.

Like any great genre film, the plot is simple, yet complex.  We have an airline stewardess, played by Grier, who works for a small-time pimp and drug-runner named Ordell Robbie, played by Samuel L. Jackson (and for my money the best performance of his career).  Two ATF agents bust the stewardess and she heads to prison.  Enter the middle-age bail bondsman, who falls head over heels for our stewardess who has a plan to put an end to Robbie’s career.  We have twists, double and triple-crosses, and enough quirky characters and quotable lines to shake a stick, or an AK-47, at.  “Brown” is an exercise in blaxplotation for the mod-set.

What makes “Brown” special is the fact that normally when books are taken and transformed from the written word to the silver screen, it’s never done as good and you always hear the same comment, “the book was better.”  Well, when the author of said book that you are adapting says that this is his favorite adaptation of his work, you got something good.  “Brown” is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch” from 1992.  You might remember another Leonard novel that was adapted shortly before “Brown,” which was “Get Shorty” from 1995, starring John Travolta, who was Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction.”  It’s the circle of life baby.

Overall, if you want the perfect Tarantino flick to check out during the holidays, or anytime for that matter, it has to be “Jackie Brown.”  While it might be the most unappreciated of his film repertoire, it’s an exercise in writing, acting, and direction at the genre’s best.

Fun Fact:  Have you ever payed close attention in “Pulp Fiction” to the music faintly played (between 2:30-2:35) in the hallway where Jules and Vincent are discussing foot massages?  That song is “Strawberry Letter 23” which you can also hear in this scene in “Jackie Brown.”

July 27, 2012

Spawn

Spawn: Shit

Well it’s about a mercenary who gets killed. He goes to Hell and is turned into a soldier for the Devil’s army.

Thats it…

The Story is fine, but its the late 90’s (1997). So sadly like most films from the 90’s unlike T-2 (1991), Jurassic Park (1993), who the Director worked on and somewhat ID4 (1996) the CGI sucks! Really any other film from the 90’s has such bad CGI. Somethings in this film look fine but the worst is Hell, especially the Devil, who you would think “should” look good. When the Devil talks his mouth stays open? He might be the worst thing you have ever seen. Seriously its that bad! You would think if they couldn’t get the Devil to work and look right, they just have him in the darkness somewhere where all you see is the Devil’s eyes. I mean, I even remember in ’97 when I saw this film on HBO the Devil still looked like shit. Such a easy fix, yet I guess they give up.

Lets be honest there are a few other big issues with this film but the worst that makes this film unwatchable was the Devil’s look.

By the way this film won a Best Special Effect award in 1997. Only award it won, yet I have no idea how…Oooo and ILM did the special effects, yep that Industrial Light and Magic. If you don’t know who that is google it.

Your world will be blown because you will see clearly they gave up on this film.

Now I gotta go delete my browser history since I googled this film…

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