Thursday, March 28, 2013

Red Heat (1988)

Title: Red Heat (1988)

Director: Walter Hill

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi, Peter Boyle, Ed O’Ross, Laurence Fishburne, Gina Gershon


Watching an action film from director Walter Hill is a special treat for any lover of action films. Hill’s specialty has always been tough dudes who shoot guns, spew one liners and blow things up good. His films are the epitome of testosterone fueled action films. In no decade was this displayed better then in the 80’s where Hill made films like 48 Hrs. (1982), Extreme Prejudice (1987), Johnny Handsome (1989) and the film I’ll be talking about today, Red Heat (1988). His affinity for guns probably comes from his love of Cowboy movies of which he has made a few, in fact, he has said that everyone of his films is a western in one way or another, which explains why there’s so many shootouts in his films. His love for guns and violence is still going strong to this day, his latest action film was called Bullet to the Head (2012)! Unfortunately, that films dismal box office performance (even while starring Stallone himself!) might prove that the time of the violence/gun filled action film is over, a time gone, but not forgotten. Yeah, there was a time when action films filled with violence and blood where king in cinemas!  And that time was the 80’s!

In Red Heat Walter Hill collaborated with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at the time was making a pretty good name for himself as action film star. When he made Red Heat, Arnold had already made films like The Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), Predator (1987) and The Running Man (1987), back then audiences just couldn’t get enough of ‘The Governator’. In Red Heat Arnold plays Captain Ivan Danko a Russian police man who comes to the United States looking for Viktor, a Russian drug dealer who’s escaped his country and is trying to establish himself as a drug dealer in the U.S. Danko is asigned to come to America to aprehend Viktor, and when he does so he is assigned to Detective Sargeant Art Ridzik played by James Belushi. Ridzik is a messy dude who breaks the rules as often as possible, but it is now his job to take care of Danko while he is in America. In accordance to buddy cop rule #654, at first Ridzik and Danko don’t get along in the least, but they soon learn they’ll have to work together if they want to stop their mutual enemy and who knows, maybe they'll learn to appreciate each other.

The ‘buddy cop movie’ was alive and kicking back in the 80’s, thanks in no small part to the success of the Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop movies which were huge money makers back in those days. Back in the 80’s these movies strived! Usually in these films, one cop is a ‘by the rules’ type of guy while the other one is the wild card of the two. One is clean the other messy, sometimes they are of different ethnicities or even planets, or a combination of all of these. Sometimes one of the cops is alive and the other one is undead as was the case in Dead Heat (1988). Notable examples of these type of films are Alien Nation (1989), Tango and Cash (1989) and Black Rain (1989), to mention but a few of these films. In Red Heat the funny comes from the combination of having a tight ass Russian cop (Schwarzenegger) team up with a smart ass/loud mouth American cop played by Belushi. Gotta admit the combination worked like magic! There’s this one scene where the chief of police asks Danko how do Russian police men deal with all the stress and Danko replies dryly:  “Vodka”. So it’s the differences between these two guys that fuels the comedy. The formula used in Red Heat is nothing new for Hill. In fact, it’s not all that different from Walter Hill’s own 48 Hrs., on that one we have the same basic formula, two extremely different individuals having to work together to achieve a goal.

But aside from the comedy, a good body cop movie should always have good action or else the film risks losing its largely male audience, so does Red Heat deliver in this respect? Hell yeah, it’s Walter Hill at the helm what did you expect? The film starts out with this fight sequence in a Russian bath house, and Arnold kicks the living shit out of some dude while rolling around in the snow half naked. Then we move on to a shootout in the streets of Russia, a couple of more shoot outs when the film shifts to U.S., and finally, the film ends with this spectacular chase sequence through the streets of Chicago involving two Greyhound Buses! Now that scene must have taken a while to shoot because it’s pretty complex and extensive.  But speaking about this film partially being shot in Russia, it’s important to note that this was the first American production that shot some scenes in the famed Red Square. The story behind that is that the Russian cultural department didn't give them the permission to shoot there (actually they never even replied the request) so they just took a very small crew, dressed Arnold up as a Russian cop and shot the thing as if it was some sort of amateur film being made. The results are pretty cool and add authenticity to the scenes.

Red Heat is a film that comments on the slowly evolving sentiments between both countries. Here we have a film with a Russian coming to America; so we have one of the “Reds” among the Americans, and here’s what’s interesting about everything, he’s the good guy in the film! If you remember correctly, the Russians used to be the “bad guys”! Red Heat shows us that the way Americans were seeing Russians was starting to shift, the Russians were no longer the bad guys because during the last half of the 80’s, treaties were being signed between both countries that would put an end to the cold war, so in a way the film is a reflection of this new ideology that was on the horizon; in a couple of years, the Russians wouldnt be the enemies anymore. Soon the hatred would shift towards Saddam Hussein, and later towards Osama Bin Laden. Same as in Orwell’s 1984, the government keeps shifting their countries hatred towards something different; the importance being to always keep the profitable (for them anyways) state of war. Yes my friends, Red Heat is another film that reflects the realities of our lives. But I don’t want to make it sound like this film is all political; this is actually a very fun buddy cop film filled with action, comedy and lots of shoot outs, Walter Hill style! It won’t change your life, but it will entertain you for a while.

Rating:  4 out of 5

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Innerspace (1987)

Title: Innerspace (1987)

Director: Joe Dante

Cast: Martin Short, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Robert Picardo, Kevin McCarthy


Innerspace is a film directed by Joe Dante, the guy behind Gremlins (1984), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) and Explorers (1985). Here’s a guy who loves sci-fi and horror films and on top of that, he loves his Warner Bros. cartoons. You can tell the guy loves old genre films, all of his films are filled with little homage’s and nudges to his favorite films, for example in Explorers, one of the kids falls asleep watching War of the Worlds (1953), in Gremlins 2 he uses horror icon Christopher Lee to play a mad scientist, and in Matinee (1993), he paid a loving homage to genre director William Castle and his films. It’s no surprise then that Innerspace also serves as a homage to a classic science fiction film from the 60’s: Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage (1966), a film in which a group of scientists have to miniaturize themselves in order to enter a another scientist’s body so they can eliminate a blood clot from his brain. You see, this comatose scientist knows how to make the miniaturization process last indefinitely instead of a limited amount of time and if he dies, the secret is lost forever. Innerspace works with these ideas, but in a slightly more exciting and modern fashion.

In Innerspace we meet Lt. Tuck Pendleton, a pilot for the U.S. air force and a class A drunkard, yet  in spite of his drinking problem, Lt. Pendleton takes part in a history changing experiment that will miniaturize him and have him injected into a test bunny in order to conduct a series of experiments from within the bunny. Unfortunately, the minute Tuck is miniaturized and inserted into a syringe, terrorists attack the lab before he is injected into the test rabbit! Somebody wants to steal the top secret miniaturization technology! But, fear not, one of the scientists takes the syringe that has the miniaturized Tuck in it and runs away with it! The scientist ends up hiding in a mall, where he stumbles upon supermarket employee called Jack Putter.  In an attempt to save Tucks life, the scientist injects Tuck into Jacks left butt cheek! Now Tuck is inside of a complete stranger! Tucks mission is now to find a way to communicate with Jack and inform him of what’s happened. Oh, he also has to get back to the lab before his oxygen supply runs out! Will he make it on time before he dies inside of Jack?

While Innerspace shares the same basic premise seen in Fantastic Voyage, that of conducting experiments dealing with miniaturization, it is also a very different movie in many ways. First off, in the first film the main characters are inserted into the body of a comatose scientist, which immediately makes the film a bit slower in pace. In Innerspace the main character is injected into a hyper active, paranoid supermarket employee/nerdy guy called Jack Putter. Putter is played by the one and only Martin Short, who makes this film even more entertaining than it already is. I mean, for me, Martin Short has always been this incredibly funny comedian. In the right movie the guy can really shine. Ever seen him play Ned Nederlander in Three Amigos! (1986)? Do yourself a favor, hilarious! Innerspace was the first film he ever starred in as the main character, and he really took the opportunity to show what he’s made off. He plays this paranoid nerdy guy who gets extremely agitated, he lives in constant fear, basically, he’s afraid of life. The interesting part comes when Lt. Tuck Pendleton is injected into his body. Pendleton finds a way to communicate with Jack, who at first thinks he is possessed by demons when he hears Tucks voice inside his head. But once Jack understands what’s going on, Tuck becomes sort of this driving force inside of Jack, a force that gives him the push necessary to do things he would have never done before. Through Tuck, Jack gains an inner strength he never had, he evolves into someone who will go up against life instead of shrivel in fear of it, this is a character that we see evolve and grow through the course of the film.

And that’s one of the best things this film has, characters played by a great cast. True, Short steals the show here, but Dennis Quaid as Tuck also does a fantastic job, especially when we take in consideration that he acts 90% of the film while inside of this small pod; still he pulls it off majestically. Joe Dante uses a series of actors in all of his movies; for example he always uses Dick Miller in one form or another. Miller is sort of Dante’s good luck charm; on Innerspace he plays a cab driver. He also uses Kevin McCarthy a lot; on this one McCarthy plays the villainous Crimshaw, the guy after the miniaturization chip. By the way, the villains in this film are cartoony in nature, so the film has that sort of fun vibe going for it. It’s like a Warner Bros. cartoon at times, I love that about this one and of course, this cartoonish vibe goes perfectly within the context of a Joe Dante film, he being the WB cartoon lover he is. Look out for various WB cartoon references throughout the entire film, both visual and auditory. For example, when the miniaturization machine stars spinning, it makes the sound the Tazmanian devil would make when he spun like a tornado. So yeah, this is a Dante film through and through; he brings his love for old cartoons, genre films and his usual gang of actors. 

Of course, something has to be said about the special effects work on this movie, which is simply amazing. So much so that the film won an Academy Award for it. First up, when Lt. Tuck is miniaturized, we’re there with him the whole way, we see the interior of Jacks body and here’s where this film is different from Fantastic Voyage, the interior of Jacks body doesn’t look like a set the way they looked on Fantastic Voyage, sorry to hit on the classic, but it’s true. When I watched Fantastic Voyage, I couldn’t help getting this vibe like these actors where just floating on wires in a campy set, this is a problem that they fixed on Innerspace. There’s this amazing sequence when Tuck gets close to entering Jacks wildly pumping heart! That shot was amazingly well achieved, so much so that in his review for the film, Roger Ebert thought they had used real life footage of a heart! Dante had to let him know that it was all achieved through effects work. The guys at ILM where awarded the best visual effects award for their work on Innerspace. In the film, Lt. Tuck Pendleton can use this face altering technology; basically he pushes a few buttons on his pod and Jack’s face begins to convulse and twitch wildly until it changes completely. This is one of the most jaw dropping effects sequences in the whole film, achieved by makeup effects genius/guru Rob Bottin. Dante and Bottin had previously worked together on the groundbreaking effects work for The Howling (1981) and later again in Explorers (1985), two films that also excelled in the make up effects department. I personally had to freeze frame these sequences, I was so amazed by them, flawless work. So, all around great effects work on this show.

The comedy element is also fantastic on this one; the combination of Martin Short, Robert Picardo, and Kevin McCarthy was the perfect amalgamation necessary for a truly funny film, Dante knows that in order to get a funny picture, you need truly funny actors, and this combination of actors was the perfect comedy storm. So my friends, as you can see, this is one of those movies where everything just clicked to perfection. I mean, how funny is Robert Picardo as ‘The Cowboy’? Really funny, that’s how funny! By the way, Picardo is also one of those actors that Dante has used on more than one occasion, Picardo played the aliens on Explorers and he did that show stopping werewolf transformation sequence in The Howling as well. Across his career, Picardo has had extensive experience collaborating with make up effects artists, for example, he was also that water witch 'Meg Mucklebones' in Ridley Scott's Legend (1986), Innerspace is just another of the films where he participated in a make up effects heavy sequence. In closing I’ll say that this film is a true joy to watch. It is fast paced, extremely funny, has fantastic visual effects and a great cast, what’s not to like about this one? Dante was one of those directors who defined the 80’s for me, he had a great sense of humor and a love for the genre that is palpable in all of his films, that’s why his films are still watched and talked about after all these years. What? You haven’t seen Innerspace? Now that I don’t like! Do yourself a favor and rent/buy this one and have yourself a fantastic voyage of the Joe Dante kind, thank me by leaving a message below after you’ve seen it! 

Rating:  5 out of 5 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

Title:  Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

Director: Paul Mazursky

Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Bette Midler, Nick Nolte, Elizabeth Pena, Evan Richards, Little Richard 

In Down and Out in Beverly Hills we meet Jerry Baskin, a homeless man who is happy talking all day to his dog ‘Kerouac’. Jerry lives a care free life being a beach bum, no worries, no responsibilities. Everything seems fine and dandy for Jerry until one day, as Jerry sleeps, Kerouac decides to go with a nice lady who offers him some food. Suddenly, Jerry is left without his dog pal and life turns meaningless for him. Apparently Kerouac was the only thing bringing Jerry any joy. So, with all this sadness and despair in mind, Jerry decides he wants to commit suicide, so he walks into a random house in Beverly Hills, empties his lungs and jumps into the pool, hoping to sink to the bottom and die a quick death. Unfortunately, Mr. Whiteman, the owner of the house sees him jumping and decides to save Jerry’s life. From there on in, Mr. Whiteman decides to take Jerry in for a couple of days, until he can stand on his own two feet, turns out Jerry stays far longer than a couple of days!  

Down and Out in Beverly Hills reminded me in some ways of Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q (2001), a film in which an ominous character simply and inexplicably becomes a silent observer of a Japanese family, where this character came from no one knows, but there he is. The purpose of this kind of character is to analyze the family unit from an objective standpoint, by having a stranger visit them. In Down and Out in Beverly Hills it’s Jerry Baskin (Nick Nolte), a homeless person, who gets to visit a multi millionaire Beverly Hills family, The Whitemans. In this family, everyone is unhappy, the wife is unhappy with her sex life, the husband is having an affair with his Latin maid, the kid wants to tell his parents he is gay but doesn’t know how to go about it, the daughter is anorexic…each family member has got some sort of issue going on that they have to resolve, and Jerry, like some sort of god sent thing, is here to tell them what they need to do to be happy, he might be homeless, but he knows a thing or two about life. Jerry  starts spewing advice left and right, making everyone happier after they listen to him. In this way, the film also reminded me of What About Bob? (1991) which coincidentally also starred Richard Dreyfuss as the father of yet another high class dysfunctional family. What About Bob? Actually reworks the same basic premise of Down and Out in Beverly Hills, but instead of a bum, it’s a crazy guy that invades the family unit. I guess it could also be compared to films like Trading Places (1983) and Brewsters Millions (1985) because of the whole 'rags to riches' thing, but in my opinion, these last two films I've just mentioned are funny and good, Down and Out in Beverly Hills is far superior. 

Certain elements in the film hint at the fact that the filmmakers wanted to comment on racial issues with this film; I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the rich millionaire family in the film is called ‘The Whitemans’.  Here’s an example of how this film comments on racial issues, there is a moment in which the security alarm on Dave Whiteman’s home goes off; seconds later, there are police cars, helicopters and police dogs swarming his house! It’s at that moment that Dave’s neighbor (played by Little Richard) comes out of his home screaming at the top of his lungs, complaining that the police don’t answer his calls as efficiently as they should because he is black! He gives a pretty incendiary speech about it. The Whitemans have a Hispanic live in made which Dave Whiteman is having an affair with. After she has a talk with Jerry (the bum guru who introduces her to subversive literature) she starts thinking that Mr. Whiteman only uses her, that he would never take her seriously because he considers her “third world”. Basically, this film takes the rich “conservative” white man and places him right smack in the middle of two of the biggest issues in society: race and sexual orientation.  I thought it was hilarious that at one point in the film Dave Whiteman is surrounded by a homeless man, by Blacks, Chinese, Hispanics, and even a possibly gay son, so basically, the ending of the film is one gigantic smorgasbord of races and sexual orientations! A police helicopter flies by, sees the whole shebang from above and screams “what a fucking party!” I was laughing like a madman. But it’s the symbolisms that make the scene impact you, we’re all in the same boat, we’re all on the same party, let’s just have a good time.

Add to the funny and the smarts, a pitch perfect cast! Richard Dreyfuss has always been great at playing characters that lose their temper easily and here he does it again. There’s this scene where he is telling his son that he should start learning the ropes of his coat hanger business, and his son tells him that it’s not his thing to which Dave replies “You don’t like hangers? It’s hangers that clothe you and it’s hangers that feed you!” Just hilarious, but Dreyfuss doesn’t just play the hot tempered dude, his character is  layered, Dave is a rich guy who’s doing some soul searching, he sees a freedom and a happiness in Jerry that he doesn’t have in his life. Same goes with Bette Midler who plays the air head wife who’s lost all passion in her life, she goes from guru, to guru looking for meaning in her life. And finally, Jerry as played by Nick Nolte is the icing on the cake. He does the bum thing great, so well that even when Dave fixes him up with a haircut and new clothes, you still see that suffering and that pain beneath the skin, in his soul. So we get all around great performances! Even the dog; ‘Matisse’ is likable, in fact, he is sometimes the most humane of all the characters.

Down and Out in Beverly Hills was based on a French film from director Jean Renoir called ‘Boudu sauve des eaux’ which translated means ‘Boudu saved from drowning’, so in many ways, this is kind of like a remake, but from what I hear, not so much. I haven’t seen Renoir’s film, but I’m guessing it has little to do with Beverly Hills. It probably just borrowed the premise and went its own way with it, good thing is I am now curious to see Renoir’s film.  All in all, I’d say that Down and Out in Beverly Hills was a hilarious movie, personally, I wasn’t expecting it to be as funny as it ended up being, and I certainly didn’t expect the film to have a brain as well as some heart, 80’s comedies sometimes end up being a little too silly, but this one had just the right balance. Sadly, all too often in today’s modern comedies vulgarity or repulsive situations are mistaken for comedy, and I personally hate that. I much prefer films like Down and Out in Beverly Hills, truly funny films, with a bit of an edge and a whole lot of heart.  I miss this kind of comedy, it’s the kind of comedy that John Hughes or Paul Mazursky (this films director) took pride in making, comedies that commented on social issues, but at the same time made us laugh like crazy. Very few directors do this today, comedies with a brain, so clever that you don’t even notice the themes that are being addressed, you just laugh and laugh. It’s only later that you realize, wait a second; this film was actually saying something! Truly one of the best comedies of the 80’s, if you wanna take a trip down to the 80’s and laugh a whole lot while doing it, this is the way to go.  

Rating:  5 out of 5

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Videodrome (1983)

Title: Videodrome (1983)

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: James Woods, Deborah Harry


Videodrome is a film that I’ve re-watched many times over and honestly, every time I see it I see a whole other level of it opening up before me like some giant, pulsating vagina of the mind! What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, after you see this Cronenberg masterpiece, you’ll understand. At first glance, Videodrome might come off as a movie that’s simply out to shock you with its gory, slimy body horror (and does do that exceedingly well) but if we peel back the layers of shock and titillation, we discover that this film has a whole lot to offer us. It speaks, above all things about the over saturation of sensory input we live in. As Debbie Harry’s character ‘Nicky Brand’ puts it “I think we live in over stimulated times, we crave stimulation for its own sake, we gorge ourselves on it. We always want more, whether its tactile, emotional or sexual, and I think that’s bad” Problem is, she’s a complete hypocrite because she herself is a sensory addict! And at the end of the day, aren’t we all? I see many of Cronenberg’s films as essays on any given subject, he’s films are always so psychological, so Freudian, that I find myself searching for themes and symbolisms as soon as I push that play button. Let’s see what Cronenberg was dissecting this time around shall we? 

With Videodrome Cronenberg aims his scalpel at the media and how its constant hammering of our psyches allows it to program us and make us see things in a certain way, ultimately serving as a tool for our manipulation. Television is a truly powerful tool that is used to send out ideas to the masses, to program them. To quote the film “the television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye”. On Videodrome this is represented by a living, breathing video cassette that the bad guys insert into Maxx Renn’s stomach! The video cassette tells him what he must do, like a program, then, like some robot, Maxx goes and does what he’s been programmed to do. Maxx is a tool of the system, he is a product of Videodrome, addicted to television, and he will do what it tells it to. This is why at one point in the film, Maxx says “I am the Video Word made Flesh”. We don’t realize it, but little by little the media can mold our thoughts, this is the main reason why I can’t watch television. I am a self proclaimed television hater; I can’t stand the endless barrage of commercials! Of course, there are selected shows that I’ll watch, but I don’t watch them on television, I get them on dvd and watch them without the commercials, because commercials are my bane! I hate those things with a passion! I hate the brain branding! I hate their manipulative nature! I hate the fact that everywhere I look, every moment of my life, someone is trying to sell me something, so in order to cut down on the amount of commercials I see per day, I avoid television like the plague. Habitual television viewers submit themselves to an obscene amount of commercials, that, same as the living breathing video cassette in Videodrome end up programming them into buying things they don’t need. This is what Cronenberg speaks of, how television can choke you, create a “tumor in your brain” that can change your thoughts or make you do things you don’t have to.  

But Cronenberg's Videodrome offers us the way out of all of this. The answer is simple, de-program yourself and get yourself reborn into “the new flesh”! The idea behind this film is not so different from what the Wachowskis were trying to say with The Matrix (1999). It’s about disconnecting from The Matrix and living in the real world. Videodrome plays with the idea that society as we know it exists under a veil of illusions and lies, and that we need to wake up to the truth, to the way things really are. This is why James Wood’s ‘Maxx Renn’ ends up saying “Death to Videodrome, long live the new flesh”, with this action taken by Maxx Renn, Cronenberg is saying that we need to cut with the programming and become a new person, reborn to a world where the media manipulating our actions or our way of thinking or seeing things. The New Flesh refers to the rebirth of the self, that moment when we disconnect with all the lies, and the illusions that exist in our world and wake up into the real world; no matter how ugly, corrupted or sad it can be, whatever it is, it’s real. The film of course puts its point across in an extremely violent fashion, but the point is made, kill your old self, disconnect from Videodrome, from the Cathode Ray, from the proverbial “system” and become a new, self thinking, inquisitive person. The films grand finale is not made to be taken literally; it’s a symbolism for what needs to be done to become psychologically free.

In many ways, Videodrome was prophetic of many things that were to come in the future. How so? Well, for example, even though this film was made in 1983, it was already talking about “virtual reality” which would eventually become what we now know as “the internet” that cybernetic world that exists somewhere out there in cyberspace, wherever that may be. The place we all connect to on a daily basis, the new religion of the world. Videodrome predicted that “in the future, everyone will have special names” same as you, my dear reader, probably have a pseudonym you use when online. My most recent watch of Videodrome made me realize that it also predicted another invention, albeit a more modern one. You see, there’s a new technology in diapers called ‘Google Glass’ that will apparently put the power of a smart phone on a pair of glasses. The idea being that instead of fiddling with your phone, swiping things with your fingers, you can simply speak commands at your glasses and they will send a message, make a call, take a picture or film a video. All you have to do is start a sentence by saying “Ok, Glass” and the glasses will do what you ask them to, even do a search on Google! In Cronenberg’s film, when Maxx Renn wants to meet the makers of Videodrome, he has to walk in through an optical shop because the creators of Videodrome are getting ready to launch their latest invention that resembles  Google Glass!  Glasses for the public that will allow the powers that be to control people easier! So according to this film, Google Glass is the devil!  Ha ha! Well, you have to admit, this new invention has its advantages as well as disadvantages. Wearing these babies will be like carrying around a spy camera everywhere you go. And I don’t even want to think how commercials will fit into these little eye glasses…the commercials will not be even closer to your brain! The film speaks about how “the eyes are the windows of the soul” and I agree, you can tell a lot from looking a person in the eyes, but what goes in through those eyes matters a lot too.  

If you end up enjoying Videodrome, which I think you will, then I highly recommend checking out Cronenberg’s spiritual sequel to Videodrome called eXistenz (1999), which plays with a lot of the same themes, but from the standpoint of video game technology. On that film people reject reality by connecting themselves into this video game world that mimics, almost to perfection, the real world. But the world of eXistenz isn’t the real world, and so, people live in a lie, a fake world. Which is true, take for example how kids today will play more sports on their Playstation’s then in the real world, with their real friends and you’ll see just how prophetic eXistenz also was. These two films would actually make a great double feature, so if you’re in the mood for that, I highly recommend it! Now if only Cronenberg would do a film like Videodrome or eXistenz, but about the internet! I’d love to see what sort of things he could prophesize about that! Geez, now that I think about it, Cronenberg is a prophet for our times! Videodrome is probably his masterpiece, it sends out a strong resonant message that is even more relevant today than it was back in 1983 when this film was made. Highly recommend it, let Professor Brian O’Blivion show you the way!

Rating: 5 out of 5 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Streets of Fire (1984)

Title: Streets of Fire (1984)

Director: Walter Hill

Cast: Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton


Streets of Fire isn’t all that different from director Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979), it’s an alternate world created by the filmmakers, the rules created by the screenwriter, the director and the actors. In The Warriors, Walter Hill mixed fantasy and reality into a world all its own. The first time I saw The Warriors, it struck me as strange because I asked myself, “who the hell dresses up like clown baseball players?” To me, that wasn’t real, gang members wouldn’t be caught dead in that attire, but then I realized, this is an exaggerated representation of reality. It was Walter Hill’s way of addressing his frustrations and thoughts on the whole gang scene that was destroying the lives of young people during the 60’s and 70’s. And so, if we take The Warriors as an exaggeration of reality, a comic book like fantasy world if you will, then it works. You just gotta let yourself go and dive deep into this cinematic world, suspend your disbelief and just go with it. The same can be said of Streets of Fire, it’s a world into itself, the characters and situations depicted here are not meant to be taken as “reality” but a mere exaggeration of it, a Rock and Roll Fable that takes place in “Another Time, Another Place”.

This is a world where cops allow street gangs to fight, a world in which a biker gang can walk into a rock and roll concert, kidnap the lead singer and terrorize concert goers in all sorts of violent ways. And they can get away with it just fine! This is the premise of Streets of Fire, a film in which we have two gangs of young kids that for whatever the reason hate each other. Willem Defoe and his gang of bikers, who all dress like they belonged in The Village People, kidnap Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) right smack in the middle of her concert and it’s up to Tom Cody (Michael Pare) to rescue her from the clutches of Rave Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) and his gang. The plot is that simple, but we need to keep in mind that Streets of Fire is the classic example of style over substance and I mean that in a good way! Streets of Fire is meant to be enjoyed from a purely visceral point of view, the film is clearly aimed to pleasure our senses and our instinct rather than our minds. Not that it’s a stupid movie; it’s just that its emphasis lies in sensory input because it’s a film about passion and violence, and getting things done. This is a film about action, not about talking. The sensory input comes in the form of enhanced colors, and the awesome Rock and Roll soundtrack, speaking of the soundtrack, this is part of the reason why I say that this is a film that creates its own rules because the film seems to take place during the 50’s but some of the music is very 80’s. I mean, some of the songs were written by the great Jim Steinman (from Meatloaf) and what’s more 80’s than his style of operatic rock and roll?

In a way, the whole story behind Streets of Fire reminds me of Homer’s The Iliad, in which a whole war is sparked by the abduction of a woman, Helen of Troy. In Streets of Fire everything starts because Rave Shaddock and his hoodlums abduct Ellen Aim, now that I think about it, Helena sounds a lot like Ellen,  maybe the similarities between Streets of Fire and The Iliad aren’t that far off, it looks to me as if the writers were partially inspired by ancient epic poem. And yeah, there’s some epicness to this film, there’s this really cool seen in which Tom starts shooting with a modified shotgun at all the bikers motorcycles and the motorcycles start blowing up in balls of flames! Awesome scene! The ending is this clash between two gangs, the evil bikers vs. Tom Cody and his friends, and the battle is like a battle between two rock and roll gods, they even battle with freaking metal hammers! I was like what? Metal hammers? Who thought that up?

The cast is excellent, Michael Pare is great as Tom Cody, he's the guy you don’t want to get mixed up with, he’s a loner, a rebel. Ellen the up and coming rock star, is his old flame; he broke up with her because he doesn’t consider himself the kind of guy who would tag along with her carrying her guitars. Nope, he’s too much of a loner for that. He talks very little, broods a lot and wears a trench coat. He’s a war hero that steals cars, fights for the love of his life, fires shotguns, fights with hammers, and rides motorcycles! This is the ultimate tough guy. Like Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985) or Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Tom Cody is too much of a rebel to get tied down by a relationship. But he doesn’t mind a night of passion! Michael Pare’s career was starting to take off, he was apparently going to be the next big thing in Hollywood, unfortunately he filmed another Rock and Roll themed film called Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) and then he went and filmed Streets of Fire and they both tanked at the box office! Yet, the cinematic gods have smiled upon him! This double death at the box office didn’t kill his career completely, he’s continued his career making b-movies and even one or two studio films. And then there's Diane Lane, wow, she really portrayed a girl worth dying for! Every time she was singing on stage, I was transfixed by her persona, totally captivated. Seeing her on this movie is totally worth the price of admission. Rick Moranis is on this film as well, if you can believe it he plays Diane Lane’s agent/fiancée, and some feel he was miscast in the role. I have to admit he does stick out like a sore thumb amongst all the tough guys and gals. Super sexy Diane Lane with a nerdy dude like Moranis? I didn’t buy it, but whatever, it’s a minor flaw in the movie, plus Moranis is always entertaining.

One of the most interesting characters in the film was a girl named McCoy (Amy Madigan) a tomboy who has as much attitude as everyone else on the film. Willem Defoe is a cartoon of a villain, even his facial expressions are exaggerated emotions, he wears this leather bound attire that’s straight of an S&M magazine or something. My only gripe with the film is the motivations for kidnapping Ellen were not fleshed out , Raven Shaddock says that he’s kidnapped her simply to have his way with her for a couple of weeks, and that’s it. Is that enough to warrant an all out destructive war between two factions? Apparently it is. If a woman is good enough to start a war in The Iliad, then I guess it’s good enough of a reason in Streets of Fire as well and like I said earlier, she is to die for in this movie.

When it was released, Streets of Fire failed horribly at the box office. It didn’t manage to make its money back, so the sequels that were planned for Tom Cody were never made, still, when you watch it, look out for that open ending, they kind of hint at the idea of future films. But as it often happens with cool movies that pass unnoticed in theaters, audiences eventually discover them and so the film has garnered its cult following. Streets of Fire was a good Joel Silver production and you can tell a lot of work went into creating this world, which is why I recommend it, it’s a film that deserves to be seen. Walter Hill wanted to make a film that had all the things he considered cool when he was a kid. Cool cars, rock and roll, kisses in the rain, motorcycles, shotguns…basically, it’s an explosion of coolness tinged with a bit of nostalgia coming straight from Walter Hill’s memory banks. Closing statements: I highly recommend this overlooked Rock and Roll Fable; it is a film that aims to remind us what it means to be young and alive, gotta love it for that!       

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, March 18, 2013

Action Jackson (1988)

Title: Action Jackson (1988)

Director: Craig R. Baxley

Cast: Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, Vanity, Sharon Stone


Every time I watch an action movie from the 80’s it just dawns on me how different they were from what passes for an action film today. Read my review for A Good Day To Die Hard (2013), and you’ll see what I mean, today’s action films are so soft, so tame when compared to the action films of the 80’s which were so violent and so explosive! These films had no CGI explosions; I’m talking real fire and brimstone here, so hot you can almost feel the heat coming from that screen. Action Jackson was the return of the black leading action star, something that had been sorely missing from American theater screens back in the 80’s when the blaxploitation films of the 70’s had completely disappeared. Yeah, there were black action stars, Eddie Murphy in the Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours movies and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon series, but in these movies we always had the black guy teaming up with a white guy, this is not so with Action Jackson. In Action Jackson we had Carl Weathers playing the leading role all by his lonesome, he wasn’t playing second banana to anyone, here he was the star of the show, and boy what a show! This movie was pure black dynamite!

Never mess with a man holding a flamethrower!

I was wondering why Action Jackson was such an explosive film, then I realized it was directed by a guy called Craig R. Baxley, the director behind Stone Cold (1991), another explosive (and extremely fun) action flick from the 90’s that had a very 80’s sensibility to it. You watch that film and you feel it could have come straight out of the 80’s because it was all about explosions, guns and cleavage. Why were Craig R. Baxley’s films so action packed? Well, the answer is simple; the guy was a stunt coordinator before he turned into a director. He did the stunts for many films and television shows before he ended up behind the cameras to direct Action Jackson and Stone Cold, his two most recognized films. He also directed an obscure film that mixed sci-fi and action called I Come In Peace (1990). That film starred Dolph Lundgren playing a cop who’s chasing an alien that’s committing a series of murders across the city. I’d love to get my hands on that one; I haven’t seen it in years! Point is, Baxley is a director who understands action because of his extensive experience as a stunt coordinator, and he brought that experience to Action Jackson, making sure that this was one explosive, ‘balls to the wall’ action film.

Director Craig R. Baxley

How action packed was this movie? Well, this is just an example: Jackson is chasing a villain who’s driving a taxi, so Jackson starts running after the taxi! The guy runs pretty fast because the taxi is going at full speed, and he’s keeping up with it perfectly fine! Then, Jackson leaps into the air and falls on the cars roof, as Jackson is doing this, a truck filled with gas tanks just happens to pass by and it crashes with another car, a huge explosion ensues, but this is just background noise, the focus of the scene is Jackson, holding on to his life on top of this taxi! The villain driving the taxi starts shooting his gun through the roof of the car trying to hit Jackson, who is still dangling from the roof of the taxi! Then, Jackson, while still holding on to the roof, smashes the windshield of the car with his bare fists and knocks out the bad guy! I mean, this scene is actually more action packed then I’m describing it, you have to see it to believe it. I mean, this is a movie that starts out with a body being hurled out of a window, as it bursts into flames! But basically, this movie is all about exaggerated 80’s style action; the kind that feels excessive but is also excessively fun.

Action Jackson is not what I’d call an original film, in fact, its plot is quite formulaic, this is the kind of action film that uses its plot as an excuse for the crazy action antics, and that’s just fine by me really. With this kind of film, exposition is just something that happens to get me to the next big action number.  The plot is all about a car manufacturer played by the one and only Craig T. Nelson, who starts killing off members of the workers union so he can gain political power. It’s up to Jackson to stop him. Jackson plays the hard to control cop who gets just a little too crazy with the villains. In fact, last mission he was involved in he almost ripped the arm off a sexual predator! When he introduces himself, he tells people that some people like to call him ‘Action’ as in Action Jackson! So Action Jackson is not just a clever title for the film, that’s actually his nickname in the movie!  Jackson plays that atypical cop who gets the job done, but destroys half of the city while doing it. You know the type, he’s the kind of cop who gets the police chief all angry and worked up, screaming “Jaaaacksoooooon!” Which is really a cliché of action films, the angry, overstressed police chief; kind of like Mel Gibson and Danny Glover got their police chief all angry in the Lethal Weapon movies. At the same time, Jackson is one smooth dude with the ladies, he’s apparently had some sort of fling with the character that Sharon Stone plays and he’s also having an affair with the villains mistress! In this movie we have a twisted love foursome thing going on! Everybody is screwing everybodies wives and mistresses! 

Same as Stone Cold, there’s tons of nudity on this one. All of it coming from the two main ladies of the flick: Sharon Stone and Vanity. Vanity was all sorts of things, a singer, songwriter, model, dancer and yes, actress. You might also remember her from a Kung Fu flick called The Last Dragon (1985). She had a singing career and even a couple of hits like the 80’s tune “Nasty Girl”. She plays the villains mistress, whom he keeps next to him by keeping her addicted to heroin! But yeah, this is that kind of a sleazy action film aimed at guys, so of course, there’s tons of T & A. This sort of thing is practically unseen in today’s action films (and films in general I might add) so it might come as a bit of a shock just how much nudity is on this one.  Sharon Stone looks extremely sexy, but she’s not in the film as much.  

Craig T. Nelson plays the lead villain, normally he plays a family man (like in the Poltergeist movies) but here he's this villain who wants political power, he’s even an expert on Kung Fu if you can believe! Ever wondered what Craig T. Nelson would look like kicking some Chinese dudes ass with Kung Fu? Look no further! Also starring in this film are a bunch of actors you’ve seen in films like The Goonies (1985), Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and Predator (1987), you know, not famous actors, but recognizable, practically every bad guy or hoodlum is played by some actor you’ve probably seen in some other movie from the 80’s.

This film was produced by famous action film producer Joel Silver, and for him and everyone involved,  Action Jackson actually made a profit, it cost 7 million to make, and made 20 million, which is actually more than double its budget! Unfortunately, this did not translate to sequels or a franchise. Too bad because this was a fun action movie that was so over the top that it’s fun just for that; it also has some great 80’s style one liners, my favorite one has Action Jackson about to burn some bad guy to a crisp with a flamethrower, so he asks the guy “How do you like your ribs?” before turning him into a ball of flame! Now that I think about it, Action Jackson is a pretty violent movie; Jackson resolves everything in extremely violent ways, I mean, this is a guy who has no problems with blowing some bad guy away. Well, let me put it this way, this is not the kind of movie where the main villain kills himself by falling off a building. But then again, Jackson’s being attacked by dudes with freaking flame throwers! What’s a guy to do? Recommend it if you want a heavy dose of 80’s explosive fun.   

Rating: 4 out of 5

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cat People (1982)

Title: Cat People (1982)

Director: Paul Schrader

Cast: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O Toole


Paul Schrader is the mastermind writer behind many great films, for example, he is a frequent collaborator with Martin Scorsese for whom he wrote some of the distinguished directors most recognized films like Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980). Schrader even wrote some of Scorsese’s less popular films like The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Bringing Out the Dead (1999), both excellent films in my book. In fact, if you haven’t seen Bringing Out the Dead, do yourself a favor! He also wrote one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films ever, Rolling Thunder (1977), a film about a soldier who returns home from war, only to find out he doesn’t like what he finds, home just isn’t the same. Schrader even wrote one of my favorite films ever, Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast (1986), the film in which Harrison Ford hates America so much, he decides to create his own society, apart from the rest of the world.  In essence, Mr. Schrader is an excellent writer; I love most of the films he has written. More interesting still, is the fact that Schrader evolved into a film director, a step that little writers take with success. How does he fare as a director? Well, let’s see how he did with his remake of Jacques Tourneur’s classic horror film Cat People (1942). 

The thing with this remake is that it divides its audience, some people seem to really love this movie (I fall into this category) while others seem to criticize it because of its large quotient of sex and violence, but here’s what I have to say about it, accusing this film of being too violent or sexual is like accusing a heavy metal band of being too loud. Sex and violence go hand in hand with this film, you can’t blame Paul Schrader for wanting to explore the films erotic, sensual nature in a more graphic manner than Tourneur’s film, after all, Tourneur’s film was made in 1942, Schrader’s was made in the 80’s, a decade in which sex and violence dominated the silver screen. So to all those naysayers that criticize this movie because it’s sexual, please, grow up! This film was marketed for adults, it is clearly rated “R”, hell, the films tagline (prominently plastered on the poster) read “An Erotic fantasy about the animal in all of us” So, if that tagline isn’t enough to let you know what kind of a film you’ll be watching, then you shouldn’t be watching this movie.  I hate it when people try to be such puritans! Sex is a part of life, what’s the deal with trying to hide it?

This divided audience reaction actually kind of exemplifies what Cat People is all about, sexual awakening, sexual repression and uncontrolled passions. Cat People is about Irena, a young woman who is trying to hide her sexual side out of fear. She is a virgin, but according to her, she’s waiting for just the right guy to take her to paradise. “When it happens, it will be magical” she says. In reality, she refrains from having sex because she belongs to a race of beings called The Cat People. You see, once upon a time, cats dominated earth, and the few humans that existed gave their women in sacrifice to the cats. But Instead of killing the women, the cats mated with them and so, a race of cat people was born. These cat people look just like regular humans, but when they have sex with regular humans, they turn into black panthers. In order to turn back into humans, they have to kill whoever they just had sex with. So sex is always a messy thing with these people. Unless, they have sex with their own brothers and sisters, then everything is okay and they don’t turn into panthers. So we’re talking about an incestuous race here, which is probably the real reason this film stroke up a controversy.

But again, it’s not like the film is advocating incest, far from it. In the film, Irena meets up with her long lost brother, Paul, whom she has not seen since they were children. Paul has the hots for his own sister because he wants to satisfy his sexual desires without having to kill anybody. Unfortunately, Irena doesn’t want to be with her brother, because it’s her freaking brother! “I am not like you” she tells him, to which he replies “That is the lie that will kill your lover”, so yeah; it’s a film that explores many aspects of human sexuality, including the taboo subject of incest. But that’s not all it explores. Irena falls for a Zoo Keeper named Oliver Yates. She loves him, but knows she might have to kill him if they end up together. Does she sleep with him or not? Will she risk turning into a panther and killing him? The symbolisms for sexual awakening are there, and it all fits perfectly with the symbolisms of predatory panthers and their prey.

And what better actress to explore sexuality with then the ultra sexy Nastassja Kinski? Hell, you take the ‘s’ away from Kinsky and you left with ‘Kinky’! So it all works out. Nastassja had no problems with nudity, she really goes all out here, and yeah, let me just say that this film has tons of nudity in it, Annette O’Toole even shows us some skin. I was having this internal battle, who is hotter? Kinski or O’Toole?  Those of you who have seen the movie, please strike back and let me know what you think! So yeah, lots of skin on this one, which was a common thing back in the 80’s, watching Cat People reminded me just how sexually repressed modern American cinema has become. What’s with this obsession of denying our sexual natures? A healthy sexual life is normal; its part of what makes us human. Yeah we can keep it under control, but not repress it. It goes against human nature to do so, because let’s be honest here: We Are Sexual People! Which is the reason why I celebrate films like Cat People! These are films that explore the more passionate, sexual side of life that “is in all of us”. Irena is tempted by good natured sexual attraction to Oliver and the perverted side, represented by her brother Paul. Which side shall she choose?

Another great aspect of this film is the films color palette, which augments the films wild passions, lots of oranges and reds permeate the screen, there’s lots of visual intensity. Aesthetically speaking, the film is a delight to watch: this thanks in no small part to the group of artists that Schrader chose to surround himself with in order to make this film look the way it does. Sometimes it feels as if the film escapes to some sort of surreal fantasy land filled with black panthers. There’s this one scene that I loved where Irena walks naked through the forest, connecting with nature, feeling very much alive. She can see and hear and feel everything that much more acutely, awesome scene. Cat People started off in the right foot when the first thing I heard was David Bowie’s “Putting Out the Fire”, one of my favorite Bowie songs. I had no idea the song was featured so predominantly throughout the whole film! The tune is sultry, just like the film. Malcolm McDowell turns in an intense performance as Paul, Irena’s incest thirsty brother. He plays his role with ferocity, acting like a hungry animal, even his attire is wild! Malcolm McDowell incurs in some nudity himself, but he’s no stranger to that sort of thing, after all, this is the guy who played Caligula (1979).

I can’t compare this film to Jacques Tourneur’s original film because I’ve never seen that version of Cat People, so my review analyzed the film strictly from watching only Schrader’s version, but from what I gather, they are not all that similar. In fact, Schrader himself says he regrets having called it Cat People; that a smarter move would have been to use an alternate title that would distance it from Tourneur’s classic. Apparently, Schrader’s film has very little in common with Tourneur’s film, save for the classic pool scene in which Irena hunts down Alice. Another thing that separates this one from Tourneur's film is the effects work, nothing here is hidden in shadows, or suggested, we see the transformations, the film has some gory fun with that, in this sense it's similar to films like An American Werewolf in London (1981), where we see these graphic transformations take place, though I will say that the transformations in Cat People are not as good as the ones seen in films like An American Werewolf in London or The Howling (1981). This film came to us from a wave of Universal remakes that came during the 80’s in which Universal Studios attempted to give an update to all their old monsters. So what we have here ladies and gentlemen is a very erotic film that explores human sexuality, looks fantastic and has two beautiful maidens as its stars, what’s not to like? So in answer to my initial question, Schrader succeeds as a director as well as a writer. I only wish he’d written this one himself, instead this one was written by Alan Ormsby, the guy behind Porky’s II (1983) and Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973). I guess Schrader wanted to concentrate fully on the direction, because of this, the films script suffers a bit. It doesn’t have the strength that many of Schrader’s other works have, it’s really the only reason I don’t give it a perfect score, otherwise, Cat People is highly recommended!

Rating:  4 out of 5  


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Outland (1981)

Title: Outland (1981)

Director: Peter Hyams

Cast: Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen


The fact that Peter Hyam’s Outland was originally intended as a western, but was later reworked into a sci-fi cop thriller let’s you see the power of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and just what an influential film it is. Alien is such a strong film that it still influences modern filmmakers, but Outland was one of the first few films to rip off Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi horror film. Hyam’s was so influenced by Alien that when you see Outland you almost feel as if you’re watching an Alien sequel, or at the very least, an alien spin-off film. We get the cramped, claustrophobic sets; everything looks industrial, ike the interior of some factory. The spacesuits look similar to the ones in Alien, the clothes the people wear, hell, even the title sequence mimics the title sequence in Alien, no kidding my friends! Also many of the people who worked behind the cameras in Alien also worked in Outland. Even Jerry Goldsmith did the musical score as well!

True, Outland might be an Alien clone, but it also tells its own story. Though it might seem from looking at the films trailer that Outland deals with alien critters, Outland is not a film about an alien beast running around a mining complex killing workers off; actually, the beast in this film is man himself. One of the taglines used to sell Outland was “Even in space, the ultimate enemy is man” again, mimicking the tagline for Alien which was “In space, no one can hear you scream”. Interesting how Hyams switched things around this way; he didn’t need any monster in his movie because man is capable of doing monstrous things all by himself. For example, in Outland we have drug smugglers selling drugs to miners on a mining complex on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. The whole thing is getting out of hand because the drug is a form of amphetamine that gets miners working like horses, but ultimately turns them psychotic after a couple of months of usage. Strangely enough, it’s those in the higher echelons of power that allow this to go on. It’s up to the new police Marshall William T. O’Neil to discover who’s responsible and stop them.

Sean Connery plays this type of ultra righteous good guy, the kind that knows something is wrong and will stop at nothing to set things right, even if it means bumping heads with head honchos who feel like they are so powerful that nothing can stop them. With Sean Connery’s Marshall William O Neil, we get the quintessential good guy, the one who represents the best qualities in all of us. The guy who won’t accept a bribe, won’t steal or cheat or be unfaithful to his wife, even when he has a lady after his loins, which actually happens in this film. In Outland Marshall William O’Neil’s wife leaves him (she can’t deal with him being a cop) and so, he is left all alone on Io. But he has a female admirer in the form of Dr. Lazarus, the colony  doctor, played by Frances Sternhagen. Sternhagen is also one of the films positive aspects; she turns in an intelligent, headstrong character with a bit of an edge, which involves hitting on Marshall O Neil even though she knows he’s a married man. Rounding out the solid cast is Peter Boyle as the guy who runs the mining complex.

The films strongest point is its production values which seem a bit over the top for what is basically a film about drug smuggling. It almost feels as if the story didn’t warrant the production values? It feels as if this movie could just as easily have been a film about a cop trying to stop drug smugglers in the big bad city; the sci-fi angle (and the money it took to bring it to life) feels unnecessary. Why did it have to be sci-fi? Apparently the only reason was to cash in on the success of Alien. In the films favor I will say that it looks beautiful, it’s got that gritty, realistic look from Alien, but at the same time, with its ultra white rooms, Outland feels aesthetically like it’s paying its respects to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969). Hyams paying his respects to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece makes sense when we take in consideration that Hyams ended up directing 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), the direct sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. So Outland ends up being an impressive looking movie, with a simple cop story. Hyam’s has always had an affinity for making cop movies. He made Busting (1974) which coincidentally is also about cops busting a crime syndicate and another cop film called Peeper (1976). He’d revisit cop movies again with Running Scared (1986) which starred Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, and yeah, it’s also about cops trying to stop a drug smuggler! So Hyams turning Outland into a cop thriller shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Hyams has had a fruitful directorial career. He made 2010 (1984) which I personally find to be an excellent sequel to 2001 (not everyone will agree I know). He would go on to work again with Sean Connery in The Presidio (1988), another cop drama! He made two back to back films with Jean Claude Van Damme: Time Cop (1994) and Sudden Death (1995) and followed those with the excellent monster flick called The Relic (1997). He even made End of Days (1999) with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unfortunately, it would be his ill fated return to science fiction entitled A Sound of Thunder (2005) that would put a halt on his filmmaking career. A Sound of Thunder was a terrible film every step of the way, but a lot of that had to do with the production company going bankrupt (after spending 55 million on this stinker!) and a flood that destroyed the sets they had built for the film. It really did not have much to do with Hyams abilities as a filmmaker. Still, it is Outland, Hyams first foray into science fiction that remains one of his best films, recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of Ridley Scott’s Alien or crime thrillers.

Rating: 4 out of 5  


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