Monday the New World begins. That’s right, we’re gonna do some catching up with the Zombie Squad as we begin a weeklong celebration of Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra. Why Cobra? I’m not entirely sure myself. But no matter: clean your Jati-Matic submachine gun, throw on your Ray-Ban Outdoorsmans and come join the party, pigs.
Cinema history is filled with classic director-actor pairings: Fellini and Mastroianni. Ford and Wayne. Scorsese and DeNiro. Art Camacho and Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson is not one of them.
Beginning in 1995, the duo has bumbled their way through four outings, each worst than the last, but their 2004 offering X-Treme Fighter just might mark their lowest of low points.
Imagine some bastard hate child of Tron and a martial arts demonstration at your local mall and you’re on the right track. Even the ill-at-ease Lorenzo Lamas seems to have too much ‘artistic credibility’ to show up for more than a day of shooting ... but I guess this was BEFORE Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.
Someone long ago said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, the same can be said for writing about movies. So in that spirit, I’ll tarry no further. Ladies and gents, X-Treme Fighter in all its truncated glory:
The Movie: American Kickboxer 2 (1993)
The Couple: David (Evan Lurie) and a Kickboxing Student
Masters of seduction like David know how to get the ladies naked and in their hot-tub: "Chinese Balls". The actual terminology is Baoding Balls and they're not really used to "stimulate all the right pressure points" but that's okay - if you're Dave, you don't really have to know what Baoding Balls are to activate their seductive powers.
You could try this too, but as you probably lack a sexy overbite and two bottles of Jheri curl activator you probably would FAIL.
WARNING: CONTAINS BUTTOCKS!
Lemme just lay this out there. I’ve always hated white bluesmen. I don’t care how ‘technically-gifted’ he is, every time Stevie Ray Vaughan launches into one of his 12-bar wankfests I turn my radio dial. I can tolerate Clapton right until he uncorks another Willie Dixon vintage. And Johnny Winters: pack it up for the next state fair, snowy. So the likelihood of "Road House: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" being my cuppa was slim from the get-go.
You may remember Jeff Healey as Casey. His Jeff Healey Band were the house band at the Double Deuce in Road House. His blues guitar prowess is on ample display here (check his solo “I’m Tore Down”) so if this be your thing, by all means: enjoy.
There also a few old-timers in the house. The Voice of Chevy, Bob Seger provides a credible cover of Fats Domino’s “Blue Monday”. Well, it’s credible until at 1:22, some studio hack detonates a catastrophic synth-sax solo. We also get Little Feat (post-Lowell George), who contribute “Rad Gumbo,” a generic zydeco ditty whose ‘radness’ is better suited for a Putamayo Summer Sampler than an action movie soundtrack.
The movie Road House contains a wealth of music from artists as diverse as Wilson Pickett, the Crew Cuts and Alabama - so the fact that this compilation caps off at a stingy eleven cuts is a bit troubling. Even more troubling is that executive producer Jimmy Iovine decided to squander two of the those tracks on golden throat Patrick Swayze. If we can take anything positive out of Jimmy’s indiscretion, it’s that after singing on two previous soundtrack albums (Dirty Dancing, Next of Kin), Pat finally hung up his microphone for good after this one.
Jeff Healey Band - When the Night Comes Falling (video)
When the final credits rolled, T-Force left me with one nagging question: Why would police robots need genitals? If the primary function of the Terminal Force is to enforce the law, what purpose do their cybernetic wangs and hoo-hahs serve? After much ruminating, I came to the conclusion that its probably just an excuse for director Richard Pepin to show off Evan Lurie’s ass and Jennifer MacDonald’s tits. This is a cheapo cash-in actionsploitation flick, after all.
Following the monster success of Robocop (1987), the cinematic landscape was littered with inferior wannabes - R.O.T.O.R. (1989), Cyborg Cop (1993), Robocop 2 (1990) - but T-Force stands out from the pack ... it also rips off the Terminator. Plus it has Malibu from American Gladiators!
When the movie opens, some dude who looks like Ted DiBiase has kidnapped the British Ambassador and the only squad that can save the day is the “cybernaut unit” T-Force. Enter Adam Omega, Cain, Zeus, Mandragora and Athens, guns ‘a blazin’. But wouldn’t you know it, thing go wrong - Adam (Lurie), “misunderstanding” his mission, ends up turning the Ambassador and a slew of innocents into pizza topping.
For the City of Los Angeles, this is a publicity nightmare - so Mayor Pendleton (Silver Spoons' Erin Gray!) and Police Chief Richman order the T-Force program shut down immediately. This does not sit well with Adam, he sees this as a threat to "threat to [T-Force’s] self-preservation" and he leads a bloody rebellion. The whole robot gang follows him, except for Cain (Bobby Johnston) who soon teams up with grizzled cyberphobic cop Jack (Jack Scalia) to extinguish the uprising.
The whole production has the dramatic inertia of grass growing. What’s most disturbing is Johnston is the only T-Forcer who can believably play a robot. How hard is it to be robotic? Marble-mouthed Evan Lurie made a brief career of it - but here he finally feels the need to emote. Bad timing, Evan.
If this be the sort of thing you get your kicks off of, pick up R.O.T.O.R. or Cyborg Cop instead - two like-minded Saturday night beer blast cinematic disasters which are guaranteed laughs. Good luck finding them on DVD though. In a cruel twist of fate, T-Force is readily available and retails at $6.99 ... just bring the hard stuff instead.
Monsieur Van Damme has worn more than his share of regrettable outfits in his day. Today we celebrate the fashion sensibility (or lack there of) of the one and only Muscles from Brussels.
2. Somewhere Minnie Mouse is naked and shivering.
4. Despite this obvious publicity stunt, JC ended up losing the role of Blade to Wesley.
5. Photographic evidence: standing next to Iron Mike can make anybody look well-dressed.
Labels: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Okay, here’s the scenario: You and your new husband are engaging in a little he-in’ and she-in’ on the kitchen counter when suddenly a helicopter hovers into your backyard and kidnaps your only daughter. A man calls demanding one million dollars. What do you do?
If you answered call up your domestically-abusive cop ex-husband and bed-hopping kickboxing instructor ex-boyfriend you’re following the line of logic that writers Jenö Hodi and Paul Wolansky have drawn through American Kickboxer 2. And what an odd couple these two make! Kickboxer David (Evan Lurie) is a self-loving, health food-eating libertine. Policeman Mike (Dale “Apollo” Cook) is straight-talkin’, beer-swillin’ good ol’ boy. Talk about a clash of personalities! These two unlikely partners just might save the day ... that is, if they don’t kill each other first!
Anyway, Lillian (Kathy Shower) ropes in her two former suitors by telling each of them that they are the father of little Suzie and then, as they say, we are off to the races. It seems wherever these two go, trouble follows and it manifests itself in hilariously incompetent fight choreography. Of particularly note is the roadhouse ruckus at the “secret mercenary hangout” (which is inconspicuously located right on Hollywood Blvd.). Casting - judging by the wooden acting and obvious punch-pulling - seems to have been pooled from whatever regulars just happened to be in the bar that night.
And if David and Mike’s adversaries can’t beat ‘em with their fists, they try to slay ‘em with their wit. Or maybe just sucker punch them while they wrap their brains around such inscrutable Zen koans as: “You know the difference between justice and revenge? Justice is when somebody does it, revenge is when you do it!”
Lurie and Cook may be the stars here, and David Graf (Police Academy’s Sgt. Tackleberry) may provide the celebrity wattage, but the film indisputably belongs to one man:
He strides the film like a Filipino Colossus - tongue flicking, roaring exultantly, gracefully propelling his impressively brawny bulk through two epic screen battles.
What became of him? Perhaps he lost his life combating Communist insurgents in the Bicol Peninsula. Or possibly he lives a quiet life with family and children in the Manila suburbs. This matters not, for he’s preserved forever in celluloid for future generations to bask in his eternal glory.
Say what you want about Vince McMahon. That he’s an adulterer. That he’s a doper. That he’s a monopolizer. That he treats wrestlers like circus animals. That over the last fifteen years he’s encrusted professional wrestling with such a thick layer of exploitative, sophomoric sleaze that it will probably never fully recover. Say what you want, but ol’ Vince sure is an optimist. So much so, that he placed his beloved product, the XFL in a movie set in the future. In the 6th Day not only has the XFL surpassed the NFL in popularity - it’s expanded! This assured that a month after the movie was released on DVD, it was already a hilarious anachronism.
Ah, well, we never did get to see those Roadrunners and Centaurs play, but we did get Arnold back in fine form, in the sort of ludicrous sci-fi vehicle that the 80s were supposed to have left behind.
The story takes place in a future “sooner than you think” in which the science of cloning has been perfected. It has solved the problem of famine and losing your beloved pets. If the fancy strikes you, you can clone just about any living thing you want ... except for human beings. Laws have been passed that forbid that. But wouldn’t you know it, a bunch of greedy bad guys are cloning humans on the sly, and they’re making their services available only to the extremely wealthy.
Never mind all that, it’s an excuse to have two Arnolds in one movie and I tell ya, seeing two Arnolds exclaiming “Cool!” in unison is worth the price of admission alone. Where else do you get such glittering one-line gems as “All I know is that there is somebody in my house, eating my birthday cake, with my family, and its not me!” Okay, maybe Jingle All The Way ... but let’s not go there today.
If you’re having Total Recall-deja vu, you’re not alone - director Roger Spottiswoode seems to have taken his visual cues from Verhoeven. It’s littered with glittering, automated sights and sounds. The future is a busy and chaotic place and once again, Arnold is just of out step with it all. But alas, that PG-13 rating means there’s no triple-breasted babes this time out, boys.
Hollywood hack-meisters Marianne and Cormac Wibberley (I Spy, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) try to imbue the movie with some deeper “message” but they lack the writing chops to pull it off. The 6th Day seems to want to ignite some stimulating after-movie dinner debate, but its done with the subtlety of sledgehammer to the face. Then again, if subtlety’s what you’re aiming for - don’t cast Arnold.
Let’s face it, people: the Blues Brothers sucked. At the end of the day, their legacy is a single rather enjoyable film in which they’re consistently outshone by the music legends they’ve surrounded themselves with. The whole schtick was ultimately a platform for Belushi and Aykroyd to live out their teenaged fantasy of being the ass end of the Stax-Volt Revue.
Perhaps that’s a little harsh. Sure, they weren’t the second coming of Sam and Dave, but at least they had the good sense to hire a helluva back-up band. The same can’t be said for Bruce Willis.
A little background: Bruce, his ego in full bloom from the success of Moonlighting, decides that acting isn’t enough for him, he wants to be a singer. But wait, wait ... he needs a cool alter-ego too! Enter Bruno Radolini. Bruno’s a 60’s journeyman rock singer who’s had several brushes with greatness but never quite made it. Why he never made it would become apparent later.
Somehow, Bruce’s agent convinces both Motown and HBO that this is a good idea, and an album plus companion TV rockumentary are unleashed upon the unsuspecting public. The resulting album, The Return of Bruno is released and enjoys modest chart success, peaking at #14 on Billboard 200 and producing a #5 hit with “Respect Yourself.” The second time out though, America wouldn’t be so charitable - Bruce’s sophomore release If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger, effectively killed off Bruno for good (although he does make a few live appearances at Planet Hollywood openings).
It’s easy to see why listeners didn’t go for a second helping. The Return of Bruno is a pretty strong argument for a unilateral ban on singing TV stars - as if William Shatner’s The Transformed Man wasn’t enough. But whereas Shatner’s debut has endless kitsch appeal, this is just a bore. Willis’ thin, Seagram’s-and-cigarettes growl is only slightly better than his anemic pop-blues settings. The covers here ("Under the Boardwalk," "Respect Yourself”) will only have you longing for the originals and his own originals will have you longing for the subtle songwriting pen of Don Johnson.
Not bad enough to be good, not good enough to actually be good - The Return of Bruno is best left gathering dust in the cut-out bin of your local record shop.
Bruno Radolini - Jackpot (Bruno's Bop) (live)
Bruno Radolini - Down In Hollywood (live)
The Movie: One Tough Bastard (1995)
The Perp: John North (Brian Bosworth)
The Victim: Karl Savak (Bruce Payne)
If you wanna kill somebody - especially an important somebody like, say, your arch-nemesis - there’s no more dramatic way to do it than than push him off a building. Or a cliff. Or perhaps some iconic landmark. At least this is what the movies have taught us. According to the Movie Deaths Database, “Falling” is the number one death device of filmmakers - clocking in at an impressive 134 fatalities (and counting). But nobody milks the drama more than director Kurt Wimmer did right here.