Sunday, May 31, 2009

Navy Seals (1990, Lewis Teague)

Yeah, I know. Navy Seals? I sought this film out as a young teenager after falling in love with The Terminator and wanting to see anything with Michael Biehn. I actually thought it was a great action film at the time (roughly age 13ish). I had yet to hear a bad thing about the film at the time. Then along came Kevin Smith and his "Ooh, Navy Seals!" joke in Clerks and the rest is history. I am convinced that it is that film alone that made people ridicule Navy Seals so much. After so many years I decided it was time to give it another chance.

Navy Seals follows a group of (you guessed it) Navy Seals, which is a special elite sect of the Navy who are experts on Sea Air and Land. Led by Lieutenant Curran (Michael Biehn), the group are sent on a mission to find some Americans held prisoner in the Middle East when they stumble upon some missiles that cause a major threat to United States. In an error in judgement, Curran leads his men out instead of destroying the missiles. It is then his responsibility to relocate the missiles and destroy them with his team, which includes smooth talking wiseass Hawkins (Charlie Sheen), medic Leary (Rick Rossovich) and sniper Dane (Bill Paxton), among others. Also helping locate the missiles is a half Middle Eastern/half American reporter (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), who is caught in a love triangle with Curran and Hawkins.

After all these years I can safely say that Navy Seals is not a bad movie. There are some scenes that are a little silly (the Seals driving around on golf carts to Bon Jovi's cover of Thin Lizzy's The Boys are Back in Town sticks out). Overall though, it is an action packed movie that also throws in a little bit of drama and romance too. I think what I liked most about the film is the cast. The fact that it has three actors from The Terminator (Biehn, Rossovich and Paxton) obviously sways me a little, but Sheen and Whalley-Kilmer also deliver. Some of the predicaments seem a little far-fetched, but the action scenes are really exciting and the movie itself was pretty enjoyable. So in closing, FUCK KEVIN SMITH.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Survival Quest (1989, Don Coscarelli)

Following up my review for Don Coscarelli's The Beastmaster is another one of his films, Survival Quest. Probably the most notable thing about this film is its cast of nobodies turned somebodies, including Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend's Wedding) and Catherine Keener (40 Year Old Virgin) before anyone had ever heard of them. I myself don't think I had ever even heard of this film before recently, though the logo does look familiar. I may have confused it with Vision Quest before or something though back in the day.

Survival Quest is the story of a group of city folk who sign up to go into the wilderness on a sort of self help adventure. The group consists of a rich girl about to get married (Traci Lin), an old guy (Ben Hammer), a divorcee (Catherine Keener) and an ex-con (Dermot Mulroney), among others. Their leader, Hank (Lance Henriksen) is a survival expert and encourages and teaches them that they need to all work together if they want to survive in the wilderness. They meet up with a group of teenage boys led by ex-army man Jake (Mark Rolston) who carry real guns and fuck with them. One of the teenage boys takes things too far and soon the group must learn the real meaning of survival.

Survival Quest is a neat little action-drama that is pretty enjoyable. Some of the characters are a little too stereotypical and the action doesn't really get going until about 2/3 of the way into the film, but it was still a fun watch. Its funny how much Coscarelli's films vary, from Phantasm to Beastmaster to Survival Quest to Bubba Ho-Tep. The man definitley has some range when it comes to making enjoyable films. Overall, it's worth a watch and I'm sure I'll revisit it in the near future. By the way, check out the poster for this film. Actually a fairly terrifying, ominous picture


The Beastmaster (1982, Don Coscarelli)

What better film to mark the return of my blog than the epic adventure The Beastmaster? None, that's what. I'm sure many of you have memories of watching this movie on video or on cable TV back in the 80s, where it found a huge following. For me it was the USA network on Sunday afternoons. I was pretty much guaranteed to see Tanya Roberts in her slave girl outfit or cute little Kodo and Podo getting into trouble. It had been a long time since I finally re-watched Beastmaster and couldn't believe how much I had forgotten about it.

The Beastmaster is the story of Dar (Marc Singer), the son of a king and queen who are killed by the evil Maax (Rip Torn). Dar is mystically transferred from his mother's womb to a cow's womb (yeah, weird, I know) by one of Maax's witches (who are an extreme example of the word "butter face"). After being removed from the cow, he is saved by a townsman and taught to be a master swordsman. Dar also learns that he is able to telepathically communicate with animals. Damn, I wish I could do that. I'd get some pets and make them get me beer and stuff. Anyway, Dar meets up with a slave girl named Kiri (in a scene that is sure to have caused more wet dreams among boys than any other scene from a PG rated movie ever) as well as young heir Tal (Josh Milrad) and his bodyguard Seth (John "Good Times" Amos). They band together, along with Dar's animal friends (an eagle, a black tiger and two ferrets named Kodo and Podo) to destroy the evil Maax.

The Beastmaster is a fun sword and sorcery film that many people hold dear to their hearts. The movie has many silly things about it but that is its charm. There are great set pieces, sword fights, creatures, animals and lots of fire. The actors are all perfectly cast and there is lots of great creature makeup. If you're looking for a fun sword and sorcery film or just a film that doesn't require a lot of thinking, then The Beastmaster is perfect. That was not an insult either, but a high compliment.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

More reviews coming soon....I promise

So first I wanted to apologize for the lack of anything on the blog. I see that my followers list keeps growing in my absence and I feel crappy for not putting out. Unfortunately my hours were cut at my job as professional movie watcher (aka cashier at gas station), but I should be working this weekend so more reviews are on the horizon. I actually managed to watch a few movies this week already at home (Survival Quest, The Beastmaster and Losin' It), so that is a start too. Last weekend I was in my best friend's wedding up in East Asscrack, ME and the weekend before I was doing Inventory for my full time job. Things should be getting back to normal and you can expect more reviews soon. Until then....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Almost Human (1974, Umberto Lenzi)

As you could probably tell from my last few reviews, Tomas Milian is one of the greats from the Italian Crime genre. Whether he is portraying a cop or a ruthless villain, Milian's acting ability definitely stands out and more often than not, steals the show. Almost Human is a perfect example of this.

Almost Human features Milian as a small time crook Giulio Sacchi who decides that his current means of income are not making him as much money as he wants. He decides to take things a step further and kidnap a rich man's daughter. Along the way his violent streak gets a little out of control and he starts killing everyone he meets. Cop Walter Grandi (Henry Silva) takes the case and will stop at nothing to get Sacchi, even if it means killing in cold blood.

Umberto Lenzi hits another home run with this wildly violent and exciting film. Milian again steals the show as Sacchi, the demented man-child rapist who goes toes over tits crazy at the drop of a hat. This movie had some of the most depraved scenes I have seen in a poliziotteschi, especially the "human roulette wheel" and the "teddy bear falling down the stairs" scenes. Henry Silva does a great job as an enraged cop sick of criminals being let off easy. The whole cast and stunts are all excellent and every time it seems the action is about to let up, the audience gets a swift cockpunch. If you're looking for a sick, violent crime film with non-stop action and blood, then this is for you.


Cop in Blue Jeans (1976, Bruno Corbucci)

Continuing on with the Poliziotteschi reviews is a film that is actually the first in a long series of films featuring undercover cop Nico Giraldi. Directed by Bruno Corbucci (Django director Sergio's brother) and portrayed by Tomas Milian, Squadra Antiscippo (aka Cop in Blue Jeans) introduced us to the ex-crook turned cop Giraldi. From what I've read on this series, it seems that the later films turn more comedic but Cop in Blue Jeans is a great example of a prime Poliziotteschi.

Milian plays Nico Giraldi, an undercover cop who never takes his hat off (perhaps he is going bald or something, I'm not sure) even when making whoopie. He takes the "undercover" dress code of his hero Serpico (from the Al Pacino film) as pretty much a way of life, helping him infiltrate crime rings. After a group of thieves accidentally steals $5 million from crime boss Norman Shelley (Jack Palance), all hell breaks loose and it is up to Giraldi to go undercover and enforce justice.

At first, Cop in Blue Jeans seems like a Serpico ripoff, until you see Giraldi's apartment which is littered with posters of Serpico. He even has a pet mouse named Serpico. I'm not sure if the producers decided it would be better to make Giraldi's character an open fan of Serpico than a blatant ripoff (perhaps to avoid any lawsuits). For those of you who have seen Serpico and know of its status as a classic 70's cop film, I'll be honest and say that I actually liked Cop in Blue Jeans better. Cop in Blue Jeans was pretty much non-stop action with Milian's chameleonic acting expertise guiding us through the life of this offbeat character. One thing that blew me away about this film is the stuntwork, particularly the motorcycle stunts. Giraldi manages to make his motorcycle do next to impossible jumps and thinks nothing of riding up stairs or off rooftops. The editing was surprisingly well too. It's obvious that there is no way that Milian would be doing those stunts but there wasn't a single time when I could tell it wasn't him. The film also has its comedic moments, the best of which is when Giraldi masquerades as a bitch-slappin' pimp. Overall, a very enjoyable, action-packed film.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist (1977, Umberto Lenzi)

Ahh, Poliziotteschi. I love that word. Saying it makes me feel like Dennis Christopher's character in Breaking Away. Also known as an Italian crime film, this genre blended elements from American cop and revenge films like Dirty Harry and Death Wish, but added elements of exploitation: sex, bloody violence and torture, insane villains with strong physical traits, crazy stunts including some of the fastest fucking car and motorcycle chases ever filmed. One of the best known directors for these Italian crime films is Umberto Lenzi. Lenzi, who is also arguably the creator of the Italian Cannibal genre of the 70s (with Man from Deep River) used lots of POV camera work to masterfully capture high speed chases and frequently cast Maurizio Merli as a cop whose rage and use of violence puts most of the gritty American cops to shame. The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist is one example of all of these elements coming together.

In this film, Maurizo Merli reprises his role as cop Leonardo Tanzi from Roma A Mano Armata (Rome Armed to the Teeth). After faking his death to elude the dangerous criminal called The Chinaman (Tomas Milian), Tanzi goes on his own as a vigilante civilian after The Chinaman kills his uncle. Tanzi creates a crime war between The Chinaman and kingpin DiMaggio (John Saxon), involving money and stolen diamonds.

This movie is the real deal. It is one of the most action packed, high speed films you are going to see. Fuck Michael Bay and his Transformers, this is the kind of action film I like. Merli's character has no problem slapping the hell out of a woman and still getting her respect. Milian is great as The Chinaman (I don't get it, is he supposed to be Chinese? The only difference I noticed from his other roles is his bad hair cut and partially shaved eyebrows). Saxon is a treat too as DiMaggio, a ruthless, foul mouthed, crime lord who (in one of the film's best scenes) uses his love of golf to torture people. I am so used to seeing Saxon as a good guy or a cop (unless you count his role as the evil outer space ruler Sador from Battle Beyond the Stars), that his role here really stands out. Lenzi does a terrific job of keeping the action going without letting the audience take a breath. All of these ingredients make for one hell of a great movie.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Revolver (1973, Sergio Sollima)

I saw an advertisement for Revolver in one of those neat Blue Underground catalogs that they include with all of their dvds. The cover stuck with me of a guy in a white fur coat and a pissed off fat guy with a mustache. The man with the mustache (aka Oliver Reed) I will get to later. After being wowed by Fabio Testi (guy in white fur coat) in Lucio Fulci's Four of the Apocalypse and Contraband, I had to see some of his other films. I figured the Blue Underground titles were a great place to start with (not that Fabio Testi dvds are a dime a dozen). The three titles I checked out were Revolver, The Big Racket and Heroin Busters. Here's my take on Revolver.

Vito Cipriani (Oliver Reed) is a prison warden who comes home from work one day to find that his beautiful wife (Agostina Belli) has disappeared. He gets a phone call saying that his wife has been kidnapped and that he must let one of his inmates, Milo Ruiz (Fabio Testi), out of jail or they will hurt her. Cipriani does what he is asked but once out, Milo has no idea who is responsible for the kidnapping. They must follow clues to find out who the kidnappers are and why they wanted Milo out of jail.

Revolver is a fast paced film that would fit well into the Poliziotteschi (Italian Crime) genre, but its really much more than that. Oliver Reed and Fabio Testi form an alliance that moves the film into an almost dramatic territory. Reed (aka God) is amazing as the emotionally wounded prison warden who will do anything to get his wife back. Testi does a fantastic job as Milo, a part he was born to play, showing off his talent, good looks and experience being a stuntman. The whole cast, story and action scenes are great in this one. Sergio Sollima proves he directs Eurocrime films (such as this and Violent City) with as much action and style as his classic Spaghetti Westerns (The Big Gundown and Run Man Run). The film at almost two hours keeps you on the edge of your seat and guessing until the climactic ending. Ennio Morricone also provides a great score, perfectly accenting the action and the drama. I really have no complaints about this one and will fondly remember it as the film that introduced me to one of my favorites, Oliver Reed.