Monday, April 7, 2014

Radioactive Dreams

Released in 1985, Directed by Albert Pyun

 Starring John Stockwell, Michael Dudikoff, Michele Little

Well this wasn't what I expected! Given that I hadn't seen any trailers, because I couldn't find any in English, I went into this movie on the title alone. And I'm glad I did. I like surprises.

What we've got here is a mid-eighties Post-Apocalypse Hell meets 1940's private eye noir, or more acurately, imagine the Blues Brothers bumbling their way through the streets of L.A. in the mid eighties, after everything's been bombed and there's no law. Sound fun? It is.

"Make sure you get my good side"

John Stockwell (Top Gun) and Michael Dudikoff (Bloody Birthday, Enter the Ninja) play Phillip and Marlow, who have been holed up in a bomb shelter for the last fifteen years after a nuclear war led to every nuke in the world being set off, except one. Left alone to raise each other while their father's vanished, their only entertainment was a stash of 1940s mystery novels and detective movies, from which they taught themselves how to dance and shoot and talk fast like a couple of real swell Dicks. I'm guessing Dick meant something different in the forties. Lord only knows what Hell it must be for two boys to go through puberty in a bomb shelter with nothing but magazines, books, and each other. But that's a movie none of us want to see. What we do see is the day they pack up what gasoline they have onto their pops old car, grab some cigarettes and sunglasses, dress up in sharp suits like a couple of Joe Fridays, and go out to see what's become of the world.

What they find is Edge City, a swarming metropolis of big hair, sweaty babes with bigger tits, and radioactive nightclubs with bigerer attitude. It's good to know that in the Post-apocalypse future everyone will still be talking like it's 1986, I just hope the girls are still that hot! The costumes are well done, but it's so dark in most scenes that it's hard to get a good look at everybody.

A couple of Edge City's best and brightest with costume designer Joseph Porro

So our boys wander in after rescuing a girl from certain doom at the hands of a couple of radiated freaks, none of them realizing that she accidentally dropped a pair of keys in Marlow's lap while using her tongue to steal the gun from his belt. You just have to see it to get it. It turns out these are the two keys needed to launch the one and only remaining nuke, and whoever possesses them is sure to be the most powerful person in the now truly free world. How she got the keys in the first place, and what she's doing running around with them by herself getting raped by the Toxic Avenger, who the hell knows. But now that our boys have them, they instantly become the man with the ball, and naive and gullible as they are, it takes about seven women jamming their tongues down their throat before they realize these chicks aren't after them for their boyish good looks.

Whassa matter kid, Can't you Kiss and drive?

I wont give away the rest, but the whole thing is an hour and a half of hairspray, gun toting kids, and heroes that always enter with an eighties power-rock backup band and a fog machine. My one gripe with a movie of this mid-range quality is they hired about three too many smoke wizards, and sometimes it's hard to tell what's going on through all the fog. Man it must've been a good living to run a fog machine in the eighties.

There's also the more serious aspect of the two facing their coming of age and reconciling their loss of innocence in a cold and bitter world where they have to kill to live, and women, like in their books, can't always be trusted. As Phillip says to one girl who crossed them, "We used to be a couple of real swell and decent guys, ya know? Now we're not much better than you." The girl in this case, Rusty, is played by a beautiful young thing named Michelle Little, and it's hard not to feel bad for her. She just seems too damn cute to leave.

I give this one three mutated Joey Ramones out of five, it's fun, funny, cheesy in all the right ways, and there's tits, which is always nice. The soundtrack is great and I've left a link below, it's often cited as a favorite part of the movie. The main characters seemed a bit annoying at first, but their development from bumbling wannabe gumshoes to sharp dressed men in hats is done wonderfully, and the mix of fast-talking-high-pants-wearing private eyes in the middle of a PA wasteland is truly original and refreshing.

Radioactive Dreams! See it. Share it. Love it!

Check out the soundtrack here

Monday, March 10, 2014

Seeking a Friend For the End of the World

Released in 2012, Directed by Lorene Scafaria

 Starring Kiera Knightley, Steve Carell, Martin Sheen

So this is a movie about the days leading up to the end of the world, breaking my stride for post-apocalypse, but it's also Kiera Knightley, and how can you not love anything she does? Intensely smart, witty, and achingly beautiful, she could make Honey Boo Boo bearable. 

It's also got Steve Carell, another favorite of mine from the Daily Show Farm League, who finally proves he can play more than a shmuck, though he only just starts to shake the dumb guy robes about halfway through the movie. He seems a bit stiff in places unfortunately, but not in a Paul Reiser way, not that bad. I think he's just gotten so used to being a punchline that he needs a couple more movies like this to pull off a good dramatic role.

So what happens is, there's a huge mammoth asteroid headed straight for planet Earth, and everyone has just three weeks to live. So naturally, it's time to run out and steal big screen televisions and smash cars. Unless you're the guy who was just told he had six months to live with cancer, and now he's got three weeks before impact, so what do? Live it up and celebrate the End of Days, or hire a hitman to take yourself out? Some people, most people, choose to party up and suddenly restaurants are welcoming pets for half price specials and no one calls the cops when an orgy breaks out at table twelve. High school parties become bucket list events tossed up with fireworks and heroin, and more orgies. And some angry men are just plain angry so they run around smashing and setting fire to things while the world goes puddi.

But not our Steve (Dodge), no no, not our well behaved, kind-hearted guy next door. He wont do heroin or jump into an orgy because that's for bad people, and a modern Hollywood protagonist can no longer be a bad boy can he? Because you, dear audience, are not a bad boy are you? You would not do such things would you? Surely no, no. But your wife would. In fact, Dodge's wife freaks out and ditches him right at the start, so in his typical mild-mannered fashion, he puts on some vinyl until the riots reach his walls, then decides to take off for a road trip to visit his high school sweetheart. What else to do with the last days right? But his real genius is deciding to grab up his cute neighbor in the apartment next door, the lovely Kiera Knightley. Hey, I don't care how many drug-packed orgies are going down at Denny's, if Kiera Knightley is my neighbor and she's stuck with a jobless dunce for a roommate who doesn't even have a car to escape, I'm gonna whistle to the lass and hi-tail it outta town.

So off they go to find a few people they really want to say goodbye to before the world goes BOOM, and along the way there's comedy, drama, heartache, and romance. It's believable, funny, and warm. Super well-placed music like The Hollies "The Air That I Breathe" make the right statements. 

Pretty unusual for an apocalypse flick, that you actually feel OK when it all ends. 

Check out the soundtrack here

Friday, February 28, 2014

After the World Ended

To be released in 2014; Directed by Tony Sebastian Ukpo
Starring Haruka Abe, Eke Chukwu, Junichi Kajioka

"From the dust to the great beyond, only we remain"

"1st film in a series of science fiction films from the Earth Future timeline created by Tony Sebastian Ukpo. All the films are set within the same universe and refer to each other, though differing in story, characters, and genre"

This highly anticipated Sci-fi is on my short list of must-see movies this year. In 2458 man is slowly rebuilding itself from the ruins, and out of the rubble come many different stories, and fates, like Babel. Three such fates are represented who will ultimately come together for what, well the teaser trailer and the producers are wisely mum on the details. I hate it when trailers give away the whole movie, so I'm a quick fan of the cryptic bit below. It looks a damn sight better than that Will Smith mess, anyway.

Check it out and tell your friends. And keep up with the Facebook page for more teasers and showtimes. This one looks promising.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

After Earth

Released in 2013, Directed by M Night Shymalan
Starring Jayden Smith, Will Smith

In the starring lineup of IMDB's casting, there's usually three actors listed. David Denman is listed as a starring lead, but he only appears for about 90 seconds. Maybe it's because he has the most interesting bit in the whole film. The rest is just Smith SR and Smith JR.

In a nutshell, this is a thousand years after the apocalypse that forced humans to leave Earth and survive in space. Soldiers become known as Rangers and Cypher Raige (Smith SR) is a hero and status symbol as one who feels no fear, rendering him invisible, a 'ghost', to monsters who can not see or hear, but can only sense fear. Kitai (Smith Jr) idolizes his father and gets top academic scores in the Ranger academy, but lacks the physical prowess to be advanced as a Ranger. His father takes him under his wing on a space mission, perhaps to sharpen his skills and help him realize his potential as Cypher's successor. Sounds good so far, but when the ship crash lands on Earth, on which they're told "everything here has evolved to kill humans", the rest of the movie's potential lies burning with the wreckage.

Father and son are the only survivors, and Cypher's legs are broken. Kitai is given a mission to find the tail and retrieve the distress beacon, since the ones in the cockpit were damaged in the crash. There's enough computer power for Cypher (I keep wanting to call him Dad) to stay in contact with his son and give one exposition after another so the viewer isn't completely lost. The only problem is, I'm probably making this movie sound much better than it is. In fact it's as predictable as anything Hollywood pumps out these days and it's basically I Am Legend all over again, with a lone Smith wandering around an abandoned Earth and pissing off everyone in the audience with his complete lack of wit or charisma.

Truth is I like M Night as a director, I thought the Last Airbender was great, and I was looking forward to seeing Jayden Smith play a lead role and see if he might be nearly as cool as his father, but twenty minutes into the movie you just want to smack the shit out of him. His father is the most respected Ranger on the force and Jayden, sorry, Kitai, constantly ignores his orders and nearly gets himself killed about every ten minutes. There's not an ounce of character development as he transgresses from stubborn apathetic pussy-wimp teenager to stubborn apathetic fearless, er, teenager. He relies completely on his hi-tech backpack and his father's advice, and you just wish he would improvise one damn thing for himself. After about 70 minutes, you still just want to smack the shit out of him because he still wont stop lying and disobeying the one guy trying to keep him alive.

Somehow, by the magic of Hollywood, the stubborn twat with the personality of a pizza box manages to evade a horde of baboons, giant birds, tigers, leeches, and I'm sorry am I spoiling it? Give me a break. It's a Hollywood movie from 2013. What would you expect besides a happy ending? This is a perfect example of why I prefer gritty family-unfriendly movies from before I was born. When Hollywood still had two big balls between W and D.

I'm not sure what amazes me more, the fact that M Night Shymalan could spend $130 million dollars on a barely 90 minute movie with barely two actors and one ship, or that one of the funniest and coolest actors of the 1990s could raise such an insufferable spoiled brat that he spends the whole movie coming across as nothing more than an insufferable spoiled brat. There's a reason this lost $70 million at the box office.

Still, if you're a big Will Smith fan, and he hasn't lost you in the last few years with crap like I am Legend, then you'll prob put this in your collection, on Blue Ray of course, so you can see where most of that $130 million went: into big fancy cameras and lots of compensating CGI.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

American Cyborg: Steel Warrior

Released in 1993, Directed by Boaz Davidson
Starring Nicole Hansen, Joe Lara, John Saint

Now this is fun. by 1993 cyborgs were probably the only thing on TV scarier than Vanilla Ice. Terminator II was the biggest baddest movie anyone could talk about, so Hollywood was ready to throw every cyborg script they had at the wall. Enter American Cyborg: Steel Warrior. It's a double-titled double-dose of terminator ripoff that's got everything you want: a post-apocalyptic wasteland, big guns, excessive use of the color blue, hookers who get their costumes from Pat Benetar videos, badass cyborgs who feel no pain, and of course, beautiful girls. In this case it's the loveable Nicole Hansen.

Nicole plays Mary, possibly the only woman alive who's able to give birth to a live child since the great war brought destruction and acid rain upon the world. Raised in an underground lab, the baby is still a fetus, kept in a stylish artificial womb(These underground rebels always have the best technology). They must get Mary and the baby across the city to the port, where friendly rebels from Europe will take the child to a safer place to be raised as a new beacon of hope for humanity.

Of course, it wont be easy. The world is run by the machines now, and the system employs cyborgs to enforce their rule. Since most of the surviving humans are sterile, the system has let them live out their misery until they go extinct, and then the cyborgs can rule the world in peace and play Sega Genesis forever. If it sounds too much like Terminator, well , just think of it like this: Did you ever watch the Robot War scenes in Terminator and wonder what it would be like to have to survive in that underground mess? Well here you go. Your wish is granted. There's plenty of raggedy clothes and silly street gangs to go around.

Right from the start Mary's friends have a plan to reach the port but they're wiped out by a single lock-jawed cyborg("the newest model!" one yells) who bears a striking resemblance to a certain Austrian cyborg, and relentlessly pursues Mary through the entire movie. If this sounds too much like Terminator, don't worry, there's more! This guy doesn't have any snappy comebacks, but he does get one of his eyes blown out.

Mary, who obviously can't last two minutes on her own, runs into loner rebel Austin, and together they make for the ocean. The chemistry between them could be a little better, but I put that on Hansen. Joe Lara plays his part well, and could have done better as an actor, but Hansen just seems removed sometimes, like it's hard to believe she's all there. The screenplay could've been better too, but hey, what do I know?

One of the most annoying things about this movie is not the T2 ripoffs, I was over that in about five minutes. It's the fact that everytime the Cyborg has the chance to just blow austin away as easily as he kills everyone else in the movie, he settles for man-to-man fisticuffs and ah, fuck it. It's fun to watch. And that's what it comes down to really, if you want a lot of action and a fair bit of suspense, and you can somehow reconcile this as a lost Terminator side story, then I think you'll enjoy American Cyborg: Steel Warrior. Give it a go, and thanks for reading.

If you like spoilers, or you've already seen the movie, check out the play by play at P.A.-UK with lots of pictures. million Monkey Theater also gets into it, linked through the banner below.

After the Apocalypse

Released in 2004, Directed by Yasuaki Nakajima
Starring Velina Georgi, Zorikh LeQuidre, Jaqueline Bowman

Shot in Brooklyn this movie has been near the top of my to-watch list for some time. What's compelling about this film is the actors have no lines. It's basically a silent movie, and to top it off it's in black and white. letting the actions speak for themselves. The idea is, gasses still present in the air after the Third World War prevent anyone from speaking to each other, so one woman travels with four men as they try to navigate the rubble of the old world.

I love anything daring, and anything shot in New York, so I really can't wait to see this one.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Andromeda Strain

Released in 1971, directed by Robert Wise
Starring James Olson, Arthur Hill, David Wayne

Scary, beautiful, and daring, The Andromeda Strain has a reputation for impeccable acting, storyline, and set design. While the plot of a virus that wipes everyone out save a select few who are mysteriously immune may sound as cliche as gets, this is probably the movie by which most others of that plot get their inspiration. Where 'A Boy and His Dog' inspired Mad Max, 'The Andromeda Strain' is equally influential and essential to not just the PA sub-genre, but to the Sci-Fi genre as a whole.

See, until the seventies, most sci-fi thrillers depended on bigger and bigger monsters to scare the crowd, and huge slabs of budget would be fed to these often gaudy and usually terribly designed beasts that made the movie more of a laugh-fest than a thriller. The Andromeda Strain stands the test of time and avoids feeling too dated because it succeeded in bringing a very realistic and frightening killer to the big screen: a virus. And not just any virus, but an alien life form that is so small it can only be seen by an electron microscope(which in th 70s, were pretty bulky and intimidating instruments in themselves, and leave it to the great director to surround these instruments with an equally intimidating super-lab called Wildfire).

The imagery is cold, isolating, with lots of air and space typical of seventies environments, and you really get that sense of, shit, if we don't fix this, we really will be the only ones left, and for how long no one can say.

The film is based on a story by Michael Crichton(Jurassic Park), and it's reputation marks it to Crichton as Carrie to Stephen King. So a space crew returns to Earth from a successful mission, and people start dropping like flies. Turns out they brought back something very deadly. Soon, the landscape looks like Jonestown and everyone is dead except a grumbling old alcoholic and an infant. These two are brought into the massive Wildfire Laboratory, which was built specifically for such a purpose. The casting was reportedly a determined move to avoid including too many big names and go with actors who could deliver the kind of suspense and tension this movie really needed to avoid imploding in on itself in a storm of pretentiousness. Indeed, between the great acting, Wise's direction, incredible art direction by William Tuntke(Mary Poppins, Buck Rodgers), and the palpable tension and pacing, I promise this will instantly become one of your favorite seventies films right alongside A Clockwork Orange and Serpico. It's film done right.

There was a TV series remake of this in 2008 that may or may not totally suck. So be sure you're buying the one from 1971 with the cover above, not the cover below.

This is the 2008 TV remake. Be sure you're buying the right one!