TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STREETS OF FIRE (1984)

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STREETS OF FIRE (1984)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Hot on the heels of the smash hit, Eddie Murphy debut 48 Hours, Walter Hill indulged himself with this “Rock & Roll Fable” about an up and coming rock star named Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) who is kidnaped by biker gang leader Raven (Willem Dafoe) at a concert in her home town. Her ex-soldier, ex-boyfriend Tom Cody (Michael Paré) comes to rescue her, along with her current manager/boyfriend Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) and another gruff ex-soldier McCoy (Amy Madigan). That’s kinda it, plot wise.

After a huge success with the action, buddy comedy 48 Hours, Hill took a stumble that he would never really recover from. Streets Of Fire is a bit of a mess and was a box office disappointment after the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte flick becoming a runaway hit. Co-written with Larry Gross, Streets is a combination 40s, 50s, 80s meets a bit of Blade Runner and never quite clicks and is definitely missing something. One of the big problems is the lack of a real story. The set-up is over within the first 40 minutes with Aim being rescued by Cody and company. The next 50 minutes is a meandering journey back home and then some soap opera level romantic melodrama when they get there. In the mean time, we wait for Dafoe’s villain to come after them, which he finally does in the last 10 minutes. Even at slightly above 90 minutes it gets tedious real fast. Another problem is that there is no energy or excitement to the action. The various fisticuffs and gunfights are very by-the-numbers and have none of the intensity of Hill’s previous films like The Warriors. On a technical level, the film looks really good, thought the time period mash-up doesn’t quite visually click either. There are some really good tunes from the music numbers on the soundtrack and Ry Cooder’s score adds some atmosphere to the proceedings. The legendary Andrew Laszlo delivers some top notch cinematography, as well. It’s that just for a “Rock & Roll Fable” there is very little “Rock & Roll” spirit in this flick and overall it’s kinda dull when all is said and done.

As for the cast they are all good enough, despite given sadly little to really do other than the lead males. Michael Paré is a solid hero. He does the smoldering intensity thing well and his loner Cody might have been more impressive in a better movie. Dafoe is also good as the slimy, somewhat androgynous Raven. His motivations for kidnapping Aim are thin, but that is the script’s fault and he is a good villain that sadly disappears for a good portion of the second half. Diane Lane is a bit bland, but again the character is little more than a damsel to be rescued and isn’t given much to do but stare with doe eyes at Cody. Rick Moranis’ douchey Billy Fish is a bit annoying, but the character is supposed to be, so we can cut him some slack. Rounding out the leads, is Amy Madigan who is fine and likable as the tough ex-solider McCoy and probably would have made even more of an impression with better material. There are supporting roles by Bill Paxton as an old friend of Cody’s, 80s icon E.G. Daily as a groupie and The Warriors Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Cody’s sister Reva, who calls him when Ellen is abducted.

This is a flick that had a lot of potential, but drops the ball with a paper thin story and delivering some very by-the-numbers action from a director who was becoming known for his action flicks. It’s a self-indulgent misfire that could have been something special with a better script and it’s director not falling asleep at the wheel. There are some now classic tunes on the soundtrack…including a couple produced by Jim Steinman, who produced Meatloaf’s classic Bat OutOf Hell album…and there is some nice 80s nostalgia, but, overall, Streets Of Fire fizzles instead of blazes. This 1984 movie has developed a bit of a cult following and there was an unofficial sequel from Albert Pyun made in 2008 called Road To Hell reuniting Paré and Van Valkenburgh as “Cody” and “sister” with Anita Leeman playing “Ellen” and Lauren Sutherland as “Mc Coy”.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 bullets.

bullet_head rating

 

 

 

and the trailer to the unofficial sequel, Road ToHell…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981)

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SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Film takes place in 1973 with a national guard unit on training maneuvers deep in the Louisiana swamps. A squad of these weekend warriors goes on a recon mission and decides to steal some locals’ boats to cross the bayou. When the owners return in mid-theft, the incident quickly leads to violence and the unit commander (Peter Coyote) is killed. To make matters worse, the soldiers ‘arrest’ a local man (Brion James) and destroy his shack in retribution. Now the remaining guardsman are being hunted through the swamps and killed off one by one by the vengeful inhabitants. With only one box of live ammunition between them and miles of hostile swamp in front of them, their chances of survival seem slim as their numbers dwindle and they start turning on each other, as well.

Southern Comfort is an action/thriller directed by Walter Hill and co-written with David Giler and Michael Kane, that sadly requires a lot of stupid behavior from it’s main characters to move the story along. Granted the leads are supposed to be a bunch of ignorant and arrogant yahoos but, even for these guys, some of their actions just don’t make sense. That and making most of the film’s principals unlikable, for the most part, doesn’t exactly evoke our sympathy much. Only Keith Carradine’s Private Spencer and Powers Boothe’s Corporal Hardin seem to have some common sense and are the only somewhat likable characters here and even that’s pushing it. The film does have atmosphere and it does seem at times like there could be danger around any tree but, it is hampered by a slow pace and the fact that these guys are more of a threat to themselves and each other, than the locals. Despite being a very flawed film, there is still somewhat of an entertainment value to it, thought. Maybe it is seeing these morons get themselves deeper into trouble and then what’s coming to them, sometimes by their own hands and sometimes those of their pursuers. It also takes until the last act before things finally start to click on a thriller level and we get some solid action and suspense.  On the positive side, there is some nice cinematography of the Louisiana Bayou by Andrew Laszlo and an atmospheric score by Ry Cooder.

I actually saw this in a theater in 1981 and remember it far more fondly than I did upon my recent revisit. It’s not terrible and there is some decent action but, I guess I was a lot more forgiving in my teens then I am now. It’s an OK flick that’s really hampered by unlikable characters and the constant stupidity with which these trained reservists act and the fact that they pretty much invite all that befalls them with their actions. It finally gets moving in the last act and the blurred line between good guys and bad guys is lifted for a more straightforward finale but, it’s a little late. Overall, it’s just disappointing when I initially remembered it as a much better movie. Also stars Fred Ward, The Thing’s T.K. Carter, Sonny Landham and Buckaroo Banzai’s Lewis Smith.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 bullets.

last_stand rating

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REVIEW: BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013)

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BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013)

Sly Stallone plays Jimmy Bobo, a New Orleans hitman who, along with his partner, takes out a target. But, Jimmy and his partner are then targeted themselves by a vicious assassin, Keegan (Jason Momoa) and his partner is killed. Jimmy soon finds out that his target was a former DC cop and now reluctantly teams up with the cop’s ex-partner, Kwon (Sung Kang) to find out why the former cop was targeted and why he and his partner were double crossed. Obviously Bullet’s biggest problem is a convoluted and routine story of the usual conspiracy reaching high levels and prerequisite cover-up attempts. We even get Jimmy’s hot tattoo artist daughter, Lisa (Sarah Shahi) who exists only to be taken hostage at one point. Added to the been-there-done-that story is a slew of bad dialog including some awful Asian jokes made at Kwon’s expense. I’m not politically correct but, if you’re going to go that route, at least come up with something new and clever in the racial jokes department. The dialog in general is pretty lame so, at least a few good one liners would have been nice. Aside from the sub-par script, Walter Hill’s direction is pretty uninspired. The film is very by-the-numbers and there is little energy though, the two fights between Momoa and Stallone are fast paced and have some impact but, that’s it. What happened to the director who gave us classics like The Warriors and 48 Hours? As for the cast, despite not having much to work with, Stallone is solid. Between this, Rambo and The Expendables flicks, he plays the aging warrior well. Too bad he wasn’t doing it in a much better movie. Sung Kang is rather bland as the cop caught up in this mess but, it’s Stallone’s show and he is basically a tag along anyway. Momoa makes a good villain though and sexy Sarah Shahi is hot in the cliche’ family member/future hostage role so their reputations are safe. Rounding out the cast are Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Christian Slater as the generic and dull bad guys responsible for all the conspiracy and killing. Other then a few decent action scenes and some nice use of the New Orleans locations, there really isn’t much to recommend here unless you are a fan of one of the cast or Hill and feel you need to check it out for yourself. Completely generic and a definite misstep for Stallone during what is a nice career resurgence for him.

2 bullets!

bullet_head rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE WARRIORS

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

Escape From New York is one of my all time favorite B movies and a bonafide film classic. I instantly fell in love with this film upon seeing it opening night at the legendary Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and John Carpenter solidified himself as one of my favorite directors.

An outrageously original idea has New York City in a war-torn, crime-filled, future turned into a maximum security prison, and legendary director Carpenter makes it work by taking his subject matter just seriously enough to make the audience buy it. Add to that a colorful cast of characters, including one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heros of all time, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) and you have the recipe for a B movie classic. The story is simple, war hero turned outlaw, Snake Plissken has been captured and is about to be sentenced to life imprisonment in New York City Penitentiary. Fate intervenes and the President’s (Donald Pleasence) plane is hijacked on the way to a crucial peace summit and crashed inside the city. Former special forces soldier Plissken is the only man skilled enough to sneak in quietly and get him out alive and Snake now has a chance at a full pardon for all his crimes if he takes the job. A vicious gang leader called The Duke Of New York (Isaac Hayes) has other ideas for both The President and Snake, who has less then 24 hours to complete his mission or the world goes back to war.

Director and co-writer (with Nick Castle) Carpenter creates some nice tension and suspense and his visual eye is great at creating a gloomy hellhole out of the world’s greatest city. Dean Cundey’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful as it captures the world inside New York, which is very effectively portrayed on a small budget. Carpenter moves the film along well, although not as fast paced as today’s audience are used to, and there is plenty of action and chases to keep one entertained. Despite being released in 1981, this film may be the last film to have a real 70s feel to it before the Lethal Weapons and Die Hards changed action films forever. Another film that inspired many and was imitated many times and another great Carpenter film score to add to the atmosphere.

As for the cast… Kurt Russell does his best Clint Eastwood as Snake and it’s only natural then to pair him up with Eastwood co-star Lee Van Cleef as Police Commissioner, Bob Hauk. Rounding out the cast is Halloween vet Donald Pleasence as the President, Harry Dean Stanton as Brain, Carpenter’s then wife, Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie, Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie and legendary soul man Isaac Hayes as The Duke of New York. And not to forget, there is also genre favorite Tom Atkins as Hauk’s right hand man, Rehme and frequent Carpenter collaborator Charles Cyphers as the Secretary Of State. A simply classic B-movie sci-fi/action flick and one of my all time favorites!

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  The studio wanted Charles Bronson as Snake, but Carpenter fought for his choice of former Disney child actor, Russell and the rest is history. Also, the SPFX were done in part by a then unknown James Cameron, who went on to direct Terminator and Titanic. And despite it’s setting, most of the film was lensed in St. Louis and L.A. with only one night actual shooting in NYC at the Statue of Liberty.

One of the greatest B-movies of all time!

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THE WARRIORS (1979)

Classic 70s flick is a comic book style action film that has a street gang from Coney Island, The Warriors, framed for murdering Cyrus (Roger Hill), the charismatic leader of The Gramercy Riff, the biggest gang in the city. Cyrus has gathered representing members of all the major gangs under a truce to discuss unifying them all and taking over the entire city. Luther (David Patrick Kelly), the psychotic leader of the Rogues, shoots Cyrus and fingers the Warriors. With their leader killed for the crime, the rest of the Warriors, under war chief Swan (Michael Beck), now must fight to make their way back home with every gang in New York City out to get them, including The Rogues, who want them all dead to cover their crime. Split up and beat up, the Warriors are determined to see the sands of their Coney Island beach home.

Walter Hill creates a surreal, violent and stylish action thriller with some really colorful characters and a sumptuous neon visual style from his and David Shaber’s screenplay, based on Sol Yurick’s book. His atmosphere is also enhanced by a wonderfully hypnotic electronic score by Barry De Vorzon. The Fight scenes are top notch and the film rarely stops moving as our heroes battle their way through enemy lines encountering some very colorful adversaries such as the face painted, bat wielding, Baseball Furies. Despite the film being about The Warriors, it’s the painted faces of the Baseball Furies that would become the trademark of this last great B-movie of the 70s. This is also still, in my opinion, one of Walter Hill’s best movies. A classic film that has also been immortalized by David Patrick Kelly’s haunting taunt… (“Warriors… come out to play-ay!”)

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The Warriors caused an uproar upon release when some gang related violence occurred at screenings causing theaters to add security and ads for the film were temporarily removed from radio and TV. Future oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl has a small role as an undercover vice cop who arrests genre favorite James Remar as Warrior member Ajax. Star Michael Beck was quoted as saying that The Warriors opened a lot of doors for him…and then Xanadu closed them all. Personally I don’t think Megaforce helped much either. Thankfully movie fans give Beck the props and honor he is due whenever he appears at conventions and he will always be immortalized as Swan in this well revered classic.

 A classic 4 Furies
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