Empty Balcony: Runaway

Tom Selleck at peak mustache, Gene Simmons, THAT Gene Simmons, playing a mad scientist who has an army of killer robots, in a science fiction film written and directed by Michael Crichton? Yes, I will watch that.

From 1984, Runaway is a look into the near future, where robots are a part of everyday life. They cook our food, wash our clothes, construct our buildings, and guard our businesses. But like all machines, they aren’t perfect. That is where the dedicated men and women of the police department’s runaway squad come in. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Runaway”

Stallone Month: Rambo III

In the review for Rambo: First Blood Part II, I lamented that the film marked the end of a budding First Blood franchise, and the start of the Rambo franchise. Indeed, demoting, and then finally excising, the First Blood string from the title is as much a sign of the creative direction in these films as it was a marketing decision to promote the character of John Rambo, and the man who played him. Continue readingStallone Month: Rambo III”

Stallone Month: Rambo: First Blood Part II

What a gloriously stupid movie. First Blood, the 1982 film about a disturbed Vietnam vet taking on a county sheriff with a bloated sense of self-importance, was a surprisingly impressive film. It was gritty and low-rent, despite having a big star in the lead. It was an action film that had real world reasons for the action. It was ridiculous and believable at the same time. But today’s film is just a blood and guts cartoon. Continue readingStallone Month: Rambo: First Blood Part II”

Stallone Month: First Blood

It’s a trying time in American politics, what with the White House having fallen under the control of the Orange Menace. But, even though this Trump situation is beyond all bounds, political tension is nothing new in the United States. Without it, a film like First Blood wouldn’t exist. That’s right. The progenitor of the Rambo film franchise, films that became icons of the mad, excess-filled action film style of the 1980s, was as much a political film as it was an action film. Continue readingStallone Month: First Blood”

Empty Balcony: Seven Days in May

This may have been the wrong film for me to watch while there’s a lunatic in the White House. Seven Days in May, the classic political thriller from 1964, tells the story of a Marine Colonel who stumbles upon a military plot to overthrow the president. It’s a gripping story, full of the opposing ideologies of the Atomic Age, and of deterministic governance. Its ideas are grand, and yet simple. The nuance of true politics is lacking, as are the skeletons in every president’s closet that make declarations about fairness and the will of the people awkward to hear, but that doesn’t matter. The story is amazing. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: Seven Days in May”

Schwarzenegger Month: Total Recall

Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t in any movie released in the year following Twins. I would like to think that he had receded into isolation, that he took the time for some introspection, some reflection on just what it meant to be an action star in the 1980s. Explosions. Big guns. Massive body counts. He was a master of everything that made action flicks great, and just about all of it was discarded in Twins. I hope he found new purpose, a new center, in his life. But very probably, he was enjoying the new house all that Twins money bought him. Seriously, that movie was a smash hit. And so was his next film, Total Recall, which was released in 1990. Continue readingSchwarzenegger Month: Total Recall”

October Horrorshow: Poltergeist

So, who really directed Poltergeist? Part of the Hollywood mythos the last few decades treats this as an open question. Was it Tobe Hooper, the man at the top of the credits? Or was it producer Steven Spielberg? It was such a serious concern among the Directors Guild that they launched an investigation into whether or not Spielberg had tried to snatch credit away from Hooper. Honestly, no one involved is saying definitively one way or the other, but Hooper is a competent storyteller with fine directorial vision, and I can’t see him having a film taken away from him. That being said, it’s also hard to picture Spielberg letting a director that was not him have total creative control over a flick he was very much involved in as producer. So did Spielberg direct Poltergeist? Who knows, and who cares? Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Poltergeist”

October Horrorshow: Psycho II

I like Psycho II better than Psycho.

— Quentin Tarantino

Slow your roll, Quentin.

I’m taking that quote out of context. It is possible to like one film more versus another, while recognizing that film A is not as good as film B. For example, I have a short list in my head of my favorite movies. Star Trek II is on that list. I can watch that film at anytime. I love it because it’s a wonderful sci-fi flick, with lots of action and a comprehensible story. I also love it because if there had never been any other Star Trek film made, if there had never been any of the television series, it could stand on its own with none of the decades-long backstory. But I will never, ever, say that it is a better film than, say, A Prophet, or Jiro Dreams of Sushi, to name two better films I saw this year. Those two films are better, but they will never come close to attaining the same level of appreciation I have for Star Trek II. It just cannot happen. So I understand how Quentin Tarantino, who has a much more thorough understanding of cinematic history than I, could like Psycho II more than Alfred Hitchcock’s original classic. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Psycho II”

October Horrorshow: Leviathan

(Note: I wrote this way back in May, then decided that, rather than post this immediately, it would fit in better with the October Horrorshow. Hence the slightly dated references in the opening paragraph.)

From 1989, Leviathan is George P. Cosmatos’s follow-up to the classic Sylvester Stallone shitfest that was Cobra. And Leviathan isn’t any better. Little more than a mashup of Alien and John Carpenter’s Thing, Leviathan is a stroll down recognizable and well-worn plot paths, comfortable in its familiarity, like an old pair of shoes or the quilt that your grandmother made when you were a child. A more crass reviewer could say Leviathan is a blatant rip-off of much better films, and they would be correct. But I choose to view Leviathan in a more forgiving light, especially since, these days, Hollywood is determined to cram sequels, adaptations, reboots, and remakes down the throats of the all-too-willing public. This week, I could have chosen to see The Avengers or even Battleship at the theaters. Instead, I decided to stay local with my garbage, and rent a fine example of shitty monster movie cinema to view in my own home. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Leviathan”