World War 2

November 14, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Survivor

In an attempt to find something totally awful and remarkably unremarkable to close out “1980s Post Apocalyptic VHS Rentals”, I discovered a little film that goes by the name “Survivor“. It has a four star rating on IMDB and over half of the dialogue is dubbed inner monologue, written like some prose poem. Sure signs that I’ve found myself a turd in the rough. But ya know what?… It isn’t as bad as all that.
Out there somewhere, relegated to someone’s musty basement and stored on reels of magnetic tape, only now finding their way to the human eye by Youtube and what not, are wretched works of post apocalyptic fiction. I have failed to find one of these films. Perhaps it’s a good thing. I know they are out there. Somewhere. But the “Action Movie Time Machine” isn’t about traveling time to find stinkers. It’s about finding the obscure, the little known and about finding out Action Movie roots.
With that said, the “Action Movie Time Machine” is synched into a parallel time stream for the year 1998.
The year is 1987. Construction begins on the Channel Tunnel, connecting the UK and France. Wang Chung gets everyone to “Have Fun Tonight” and Reagan tells the Soviets to “Tear down that wall!”. Also a nameless astronaut kills a guy in “Survivor”.
THE SKINNY
“Survivor” begins with our main character, an unnamed NASA astronaut, played buy Chip Mayer. Well the man’s real name is Christopher Mayer, but he is credited as “Chip“. So for the purposes of this review, I’ll call him “Astronaut Chip”.
For NASA, Chip was given the task of deploying a laser defense satellite from his space craft, “Challenger 2”. It seems in this time stream President Reagan’s “Star Wars” project came to fruition. But before the satellite became operational, WWIII began and Chip watched the whole thing unfold from space. This whole NASA/astronaut plot was also used in a similar movie “Def-Con 4“, about an astronaut who return to a post-WWIII Earth in search of his family.
Chip later re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and began traversing the post nuclear war desert-like landscape of Europe, searching for a place to live. Though the war is over, scavengers and survivors still fight to the bitter end if they think there may be drinkable water near.
One of these very scavengers, a Turk who nearly killed Chip, told him about a “promised land” south of Budapest. Since then Chip has been traveling the railways on his solar powered rail car…thing, in search of it. Soon this leads Chip to a night time run-in with a pair of survivors who live on a boat in the desert (what was once an ocean). This run-in gets him stabbed and left for dead, then found and taken in by a former Soviet credited as “The Woman”. Since she has red hair and is a communist, I think I’ll call her… “Red”.
On Red’s sea side villa (a wrecked and rusted out ship), Chip and Red share a tumultuous relationship. A relationship based exclusively on suspicion and sex. This is fine and well, until one day as Red is fishing for lunch, a man grabs her by the hair and drags her off. Chip see this and chases after them.

  Chips follows for days, through the desert, until he discovers the ruins of some sort of underground facility that contains fresh water. As Chip investigates the facility, he sees people living and working underground. Operating machinery and growing plants that don’t need sunlight. This is a self sustaining facility. There is just enough food, water and electricity for one hundred and fifty people. If a baby is born, then someone must die. That’s just how closely this ecosystem is balanced.
This ecosystem has been maintained for years by a council of scientists (An engineer, a surgeon, a biologist ect…), but has since been overthrown by Kragg, Richard Moll, who has pillaged the facility’s resources and raped it’s fertile women. Kragg sees the apocalypse as not the end, but the beginning and himself as the future. He wants to control the facility so he can breed a new race of people who will eventually repopulate the Earth and exterminating all other survivors.

 
Chip learns all about the facility and Kragg from the council, who also tell him that Red originally worked at the facility and escaped after Kragg claimed her as a sex slave. The council then assign Chip with the task of killing Kragg, which would free Red and allow the ecosystem to return to a balance.
Chip agrees and moves to confront Kragg. When he does, Kragg explains his rather interesting world philosophy and asks Chip to join him. Things go south pretty quick. A bit of a cat and mouse chase takes place before they engage in hand to hand combat and soon, Chip manages to stab Kragg up through the jaw and out his head.
 
After this, the film ends with Chip and Red, now back at her ship, watching the sun set together. So… what about the people living in the facility? Oh well. The End.
THE VERDICT
If my synopsis seemed a bit sparse it’s because there is a pretty simple story with very little dialogue. As I mentioned in the beginning, most of what’s said is Chip’s inner monologue or voiceover from the Turk or Red who fill in back story. It’s kind of a strange way to tell a story, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work. It reminds me a lot of Frank Miller’s “Sin City”, which is heavy on noir like inner monologue.
I also like the idea of watching WWIII unfold from space. Seeing the blinding white flashes at either end of the Earth’s surface, hearing nothing due to the vacuum of space and wondering if you’re the only human left alive. It’s a pretty heavy idea and I don’t think I’ve seen it (“Survivor” and “Def-Con 4” talk about it but don‘t show it.). Not even in a contemporary film which would be infinitely more feasible with CGI. Perhaps someday.
I admit, “Survivor” wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It isn’t the best but it is competently made and held my attention. It was a shot in the dark and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it. Watching this on Youtube is a lot like renting VHS back in the day. You see the name, the cover art and a brief description, and that’s all you’ve got.
There were hundreds of thousands of films released on VHS and over half were straight to video. It was easy to feel cheated by spending your hard earned money renting a pile of crap with superb cover art. At least this way I don’t get charged late fees or have to worry about rewinding the damn thing. In a strange way “the digital age” and Youtube are breathing new life into that old rental experience. The adventure and the mystery is still there, it’s just a little lazier.
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!

January 4, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds – Tension

I don’t think any war in our nation’s, or world’s, history has been done to death like World War II.  There have been romantic, comedic, heart-wrenching, and just plain bad tellings of “The War to End All Wars.”  On the top of my list I have “Saving Private Ryan” and the so-far-under-the-radar “Enemy At The Gates,”  whereas craptastic crap like “BloodRayne” remains at the bottom of the English Channel.  But you know that when a filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino gets a bug up his ass that he wants to make a war film its not going to be like any war film you’ve ever seen.  Enter, “Inglourious Basterds.”

Before I dive into “Basterds,” I’ll preface;  I was actually going to review all of Tarantino’s directorial efforts in order, but the holidays sidetracked me and I ended up skipping right to “Django Unchained,” where you can read that review right here.  I’d like to think of “Basterds” as the moment where Tarantino went mainstream, and I mean REAL mainstream.  “Basterds” was his first film to feature a TRUE leading man in Brad Pitt, and he finally was able to reward one of his actors with an Academy Award in Christoph Waltz.  In a way it was also one of his most accessible efforts in theaters where it was the largest release for a Tarantino movie to date, “Kill Bill Vol.1” was a close second.  And it was the first of his films to be available in a Digital, DVD, and Blu-Ray format (since the writing of this review you can pick up the Tarantino XX Blu-Ray Collection that features all of his films in an HD format).

“Inglourious Basterds” follows the exploits of a group of Jewish-born Army Mercenaries and their commanding officer Lt. Aldo Raine as they merrily maraude across Europe killing, scalping, and branding Nazis.  But that is just a small portion of the film, which also follows a French-born Jewish female theater owner planning her revenge against Nazis who are planning to premier a propaganda film entitled “Nation’s Pride.”  Included in attendance are Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler.  As you can imagine there are twists, typical Tarantino humor, and scenes of fantastic violence.  The difference between “Basterds” and Tarantino’s other films is the tension and you can cut it with a knife in several scenes.  The best examples include the Strudel scene and the Bar scene.  What you also start to see, and this might have started after QT finished up his “Kill Bill” saga, is the change in his tone of film.

Tarantino began making and writing films with an edge, a very gritty edge.  He dealt with the wrong side of law in thieves, murderers, sadists, and hit-men   And for the most part, it all seemed to fit in some realm of reality.  When “Bill” was released you began to see a different side; which included more fantastic plot devices and stories that revolved more around revenge and the bloody road that leads to it.  I’m not going to say that Tarantino is getting lazy, its really just a maturation process in his filmmaking, or an evolution if you will.  He’s moved from the gritty streets of Los Angeles, to a fantastic Earth 2 of DC proportions.

Look at any war genre film from the 1960s and 70s, and “Basterds” has its fingers all over it.  From the original “Inglorious Bastards” to “The Dirty Dozen” and maybe in throw in a little “Wild Bunch” and you have “Basterds” in a nutshell.  What Tarantino really brings out is the fact that a so-called “foreign” film can be accessible to any audience.  There are a ton of subtitles across this nearly three hour epic, but the actors who read the dialogue do it so well, and with such fluidity, that you get seduced by their delivery, no matter if its in German, French, or Italian.  I brought up Christoph Waltz winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Col. Hans Landa, aka, The Jew Hunter, and part of that victory must have come from his ability to act and deliver dialogue in English, German, French, and Italian with gusto, hilarity, and conviction.  Every time he appears on screen you are transfixed on his slimy SS Officer.  You both hate and love Landa, and there aren’t many characters in the history of film you can say that for.

Is “Inglorious Basterds” a good movie, of course it is.  While some viewers saw it as a little boring, uneven, and maybe even a romantic take on Nazis and World War II France, there is still plenty to take away from “Basterds.”  Also, I would put money on the fact that the ending of “Basterds” is one of the most satisfying in any Tarantino film to date, even “Django Unchained.”  If you haven’t already, or maybe if you’ve even seen it a few times, check out “Inglourious Basterds,” it’s tons of fun, and started a new chapter in the career of Quentin Tarantino.

Fun Fact:  Eli Roth, who appears as Sgt. Donny Donowitz, aka The Bear Jew, in “Basterds” directed the scenes from the film-within-a-film, “Nation’s Pride.”

September 24, 2012

Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List – Remember

With the Jewish High Holy Days under way, I felt it only appropriate to include a movie that I not only find amazing, but in a way, a birth rite of sorts for the Jewish religion.  Move over “Hebrew Hammer,” step aside “Fiddler on the Roof,” that film would be “Schindler’s List.”

Let me start with this; I’m in no way a religious person, you might even call be a very poor example of what a Jew should be. I eat cheeseburgers, I enjoy baby back ribs, and I do not actively attend temple on either Friday, Saturday, or any day for that matter. However, I respect a religion that doesn’t push it’s ideology all the way down your throat, maybe just the tip (as long as it’s circumcised).

Just in case you haven’t seen, or heard of “Schindler’s List” I’ll give you the rundown; Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson, or the bad-ass in “Taken 1 and 2”) is a factory owner, and Nazi Party member, who hobnobs with the Reich in the evening to keep up good relations in the lead up to Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution.”  As the German war effort ramps up, and the Krakow ghetto is liquidated, Schindler begins to see his Jewish workers as more then just workers, but victims in a senseless crime committed by the party he is affiliated with, and he tries to save as many of his “workers” as he can with his “list.”

Along with Neeson, the cast is aces, with Ralph Fiennes starring as SS guard Amon Goeth and Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern, but it would be nothing without the direction of Steven Spielberg.  Spielberg captures Poland in the late 1930’s and 40’s perfectly, and shooting the film in black and white adds to the stark backdrop of the era.  The film only features two scenes with color as Schindler sees a young girl in a red coat being lead away from the ghetto, and later that same girl, in her red coat, seen by Schindler again as just another dead body.  The color usage is supposed to be the point where Schindler starts to see the Jewish people as not only his workers, and/or property, but as human beings, and we begin to see his transformation from factory owner to savior.

Some people might see “Schindler’s List” as exploitative, or narrow-minded in its view of World War II, but it’s a film that shows people the horrors of the Holocaust (sure, it’s a movie made in America, by the man behind “Indiana Jones” and “Jaws”) and you have to merit a film that just about anyone can relate to.  There are themes of redemption, perseverance, faith, sacrifice, and love, and seeing where Oskar Schindler started, a well-to-do Nazi Party member, to where he ends up, on his knees wondering why he couldn’t save more people, is as beautiful as it is tragic.

Fun Fact:  “Schindler’s List” was based on “Schindler’s Ark” the 1982 novel by Thomas Keneally.

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