(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Slipstream (1989)

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This one’s a real woozy-doozy, folks. But an innnnteresting woozy-doozy.

Welcome to this latest installment of VSAH, folks! Definitely check out this month’s other reviews from Todd at Cinema Monolith, Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies, and Sir Wolf (you’ve been knighted, pal) over at Wolfman’s Cult Film Club.

slipstream 1989Ambition can be a weird and wild thing at times, particularly when it comes to film production whether it be a big deal studio film or tiny independent flick. Taking a pack of awesome ideas and turning them into reality (well, of the cinematic kind) while keeping an audience hooked into the world you’ve created it a risky business, specifically when it comes to fantasy and science fiction.

Granted, the actual “science” in most sci-fi is at best, suspect and at worst, more than enough to yank a viewer clean out of the experience and leave them scratching their heads raw (ow!) while they try and figure out what the hell is going on in some scenes as they miss an important plot point or three in the process.  On the other hand, a film like Steven Lisberger’s (TRON) absolutely ambitious 1989 film Slipstream isn’t going to be one where you question the science all that much (if at all) because you’ll likely be questioning a few other more important things from parts of its plot to some offbeat cameos that may add to the star power, but come off a bit too much like stunt casting or a few folks popping in for a fast paycheck.

 

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Bill Paxton, doing his best Bill Paxton doing Christian Slater look, circa 1989.

 

The film certainly kicks off ambitiously enough with a properly bombastic Elmer Bernstein main theme and a wonderfully shot flying sequence using one of a few of the custom made aircraft created specifically for the production. That plane is carrying the somewhat cantankerous “peacekeeper” Will Tasker (Mark Hamill) and his able-bodied assistant Belitski (Kitty Aldridge) and said plane is chasing a man in a nice suit (Bob Peck) running away from them to no avail. He’s caught up with and captured by the pair who plan to take him to some faraway location to be tried and executed for the murder he’s committed. Unfortunately for them, their nattily dressed prisoner is swiped by Matt Owens (Bill Paxton), a genial illegal arms dealer looking to make a big score when he discovers how valuable that prisoner is before he decides to try his hand at kidnapping.

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Random Film of the Week: One Good Cop

one_good_cop_xlgI think it was sometime back in 1990 when I was living in a somewhat crappy apartment building on the corner of 112th Street and Manhattan Avenue in Harlem, NYC when a bunch of people rolled up in a few vehicles and started cleaning up the street directly across from me. Weeds were pulled, the basements in the two or three abandoned buildings on the corner were cleared out and if I recall correctly, there was even some exterior and interior painting done that made it seem as if those buildings were going to be fully renovated at some point. All that work also chased away some of the drug trade on the block (a good thing) and at some point I felt things were looking up for the area.

Not too long afterwards, I was going to work and saw a film crew taking up space in the area and it seemed those buildings were going to be used for a movie shoot and not fully renovated after all. Drat. It turned out that scenes for a film called One Good Cop were being shot and despite the somewhat ratty condition of the area, people started popping up to watch the filming. That was in part due to Micheal Keaton being on the set for a few days filming a key action sequence that required a rat wrangler and a whole lot of rats, a few other actors and stuntmen and a panel truck that was key to the scene’s finale.

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Detour Takes a Turn To 4K

(Thanks, Film Forum!)

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Well… it’s a more of a one-way ticket for a few of the less fortunate folks in this flick.

 

If you’ve somehow never seen Edgar G. Ulmer’s absolutely mind-blowing 1945 noir Detour (or even if you have via a few public domain channels) and live in the NYC area, you’re in luck. The Film Forum will be showing a newly restored 4K version from November 30 to December 6, 2018. If I’m not mistaken, I saw this on the big screen way back in 1992 (I think it was at the Film Forum or one of the other downtown NYC indie theaters) when it got a re-release alongside the Wade Williams remake that was okay (albeit not as great as the original) and added scenes not found in the original film.

It’s probably a given that this one will indeed pop up on a disc at some point and even though it’s a film I’ve seen maybe 25 or so times since, I think it’s a good chance this will get added to the library here just to have the best version available. Sure, the ratty quality of the original print lends a certain vintage “charm” to the film. But hell, it’s the 21st century and being able to see this cleaned up and maybe with some minor gaps fixed will be a real treat.

-GW

(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Smash Palace

Smash PalaceThanks to a few oddball decisions (some made by people connected with his first film) Roger Donaldson’s second feature film, 1981’s Smash Palace almost didn’t get made. I’ll let you go check out the excellent making of feature on the Arrow Academy disc for the full story, but let’s just say everything worked out in the end and we have a strong followup to Sleeping Dogs to chat about for a spell. Donaldson’s film is a wrenching, raw look at a marriage fallen apart thanks to a lack of communication and what happens when decisions made by the adults in the room spiral past the point of reasonable discourse.

Al Shaw (Bruno Lawrence), a former race car driver looking to restart his career is married to Jacqui (Anna Marie Monticelli), a former nurse he met while recuperating in France after an accident that took him off the track. They eventually wed and moved to a remote spot in New Zealand where Al runs the titular wrecking company. Jacqui despises the run-down location and dull (to her) lifestyle, berating Al for not taking  a solid ongoing offer to sell the business. Despite the tension, love for couple’s daughter, Georgina (Greer Robson), or Georgie, keeps things mostly in check. Unfortunately, Al’s best friend, local cop Ray Foley (Keith Aberdein) catches Jacqui’s eye and ear (Al talks a lot, but tends to ignore his wife because he’s happy in his work) and the two get romantically involved. When Al discovers this, he lashes out (in a hard to watch scene) and yes, Jacqui leaves him for Ray, taking Georgie with her.

 

(Thanks, Arrow Academy!)

 

Things go sideways and downhill from that point on even though Al gets back on the race track with a car he spent a year building. Recklessly, he makes a series of somewhat terrible decisions, some of which where his hand is forced and others where he just reacts out of pure but flawed human instinct.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs ArrowBased on the novel Smith’s Dream by C.K. Stead, director Roger Donaldson’s 1977 film Sleeping Dogs is not only a remarkable first feature film, it’s shockingly prescient on a number of fronts. Before I get to the film proper, I’ll note that I chose neither this nor Donaldson’s outstanding second feature, 1981’s Smash Palace because of their implied or direct relevance to some of today’s often depressing news. My movie backlog is just so huge that I decided to grab two films off the top of the stack and these Arrow Academy releases were right on top of that stack. Boo-yah, I guess? Additionally, I’d heard good things about both a while back from a few people who didn’t spoil the stories for me other than to note that both were important films from New Zealand that would be well worth watching. Those people were correct, as these two films are simply superb despite their less than Hollywood budgets.

The government in New Zealand is under chaos after oil talks break down, gas is severely rationed and it seems civil unrest is brewing partly as a result of a rather stubborn prime minister determined to keep the peace (or what he sees as peace) at any cost. Meanwhile, rudderless after breaking up with his wife, a man named Smith (Sam Neill) is driving down a highway when he spies a small island in the distance. At a tiny village’s tinier restaurant, he inquires about the ownership of the island and is given directions to a house owned by two Maori men and is told to bring a bottle of whiskey with him. Smith trades the bottle for the island and run-down house on it, but the motor boat he needs to get there? That costs him his car. Well, at least he gets a free cute dog out of that part of the deal, as it’s forced on him during the trade.

 

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The White Buffalo

It’s that time again, folks (Dangit, we need a THEME SONG):

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Go get that popcorn going, this one’s quite a doozy.

The Whire Buffalo (Kino)While it’s not that much of an “obscure” film these days thanks to a few DVD and Blu-Ray disc releases over the years, J. Lee Thompson’s wild fantasy/horror western The White Buffalo goes way the hell out of its way to be as surreal as possible (well, within the confines of a Hollywood studio film, circa 1977). If you’re allergic to allegory and go in expecting it to be a more typical manly-man weekend special Charles Bronson flick, it may likely baffle you with its mystical and more surreal elements even though it definitely delivers the goods on the action front.

If anything, this Dino De Laurentis produced follow up to 1976’s (not quite as classic as the true classic) remake of King Kong suffers from too little scope due in part to a lower budget that, combined with a script that’s not fully fleshed out in spots, doomed it to death by a thousand critics slicing away with pen-knives and audiences who likely were expecting a more commercial flick. Today, it’s a different story as the film has garnered a bit of a cult following, warts and all.

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One of these hairy dudes is Bronson, the other looks more like a hippie jackalope. Uh, wait. a sec…

Still, it’s an excellent showcase for Bronson, as he completely inhabits the role of an ailing James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok (or, James Otis as his alias here), who, after having recurrent nightmares about the titular creature terrorizing his mind, sets out to kill the beast but good. His competition for the prize: Crazy Horse (Will Sampson), whose infant daughter has been killed along with many of his tribe after a bloody rampage by the seemingly unstoppable, mountain wrecking, avalanche-causing monster.

In a kooky way, it’s more or less Ahab (from Moby Dick) meets Quint (from JAWS), but I don’t want to get too far with the literary or cinematic references even though the film is based off the novel by Richard Sale (who also wrote the screenplay). Let’s just say not every idea gels here, and to quote the late Milton Arbogast,

“You see, if it doesn’t jell, it isn’t aspic, and this ain’t jelling.”

That said, when it does gel, it’s like that time you used three boxes of gelatin and too little water and got something sweet you could bounce a silver dollar off of and have it hit you in the eye (ouch). Painfully palatable is a good description.

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Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE: 4K, 3 Ways, On the Way in November

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If I’m not mistakes, we got a load of these posters in the NYC subways as well when the film was initially released in the US. I’d kill for a few to sell off now. Uh, figure of speech, that.

 

Yum. If you’re an old coot like me (or old enough to remember), this pair of TV ads for Lucio Fulci’s horror masterpiece, ZOMBIE. Hey, even though I was 15 at the time, they both kind of sunk into the memory like a… well, like a zombie munching on some fresh brains. I didn’t actually see the film until a few years later thanks to a friend who had it and a bunch of other horror flicks on a VHS tape he’d put together and, yeah, it was worth the wait.

Between the jump scares and general relentlessness when things got going, Tisa Farrow (Mia’s sister) getting it in the eye like Moe Greene, but slower and with a rather pointy piece of wood (ouch), a zombie versus shark scene (no pirates, sorry… but that’s a real shark!), and the classic line delivery early on: “Hey, watch out for the sail!” that kind of starts off this gore-fest in the most comic of manners before things get grim. Yes, there are slow stretches, but the film delivers all the goods when it counts from the icky to the just plain weird (conquistador zombies, ftw!).

 

 

Anyway, the fine folks at Blue Underground and MVD Entertainment Group are releasing not one, not two, but THREE 4K cover variants of the film, newly remastered in 4K and set to crawl your way on November 27, 2018. Actually, there are a whopping SIX variants total when you add in the older 2K BR and DVD versions on the BU site listed here, here, and… wait a sec… HERE. Collect ’em all!

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DEATH KISS: Then Came… Bronson?

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I know I’m very late to the party on this, but yipes, this guy’s got the looks of a… Stone Killer (ha and ha-ha).

 

(Thanks, JoBlo Movie Trailers!)

 

Okay, the film looks kind of cheesy (in the best possible manner) and that soundtrack is pure 80’s perfect (as in equally cheesy, plus tax). But I kind of want to see this, iffy acting, tralier-iffic clunky action scenes and all just for actor Robert Bronzi doing a dead on Charles Bronson impersonation. I almost thought for a hot second some digital effects team got the rights to Bronson’s likeness and stick it on some actor’s face, but nope. Bronzi’s the real unreal deal. I’d bet a buck that Uncork’d Entertainment figured out right away this one would be somewhat of a hit among nostalgic Bronson fans wanting a slice of the old days and old ways.

While I’m not sure he’ll be game for hopping into the Bronson role should there be some studio bold enough to try for a reboot of the Death Wish franchise or a new series with a different name that has Bronson, er Bronzi playing a similar character, actors DO need to work and this guy’s got the looks to get the asses in seats. Oh yeah, Bronzi has an official website, so feel free to pop in and say hello as well as tell him what you thought of his work r his spot-on Bronson impersonation. He seems affable enough not to want to hunt you down and exact justice if you’re a poor judge of his talents.

The film is available on a bunch of VOD services now (Amazon, Hulu, Xbox One, the usual suspects), but as I despise streaming services (mostly because streaming up here blows), I’ll be holding my breath for the December 4 DVD release which seems to be a Walmart exclusive if the film’s facebook page is accurate. Eh, it’ll likely pop up on ebay as well, so at least I can get it there because the nearest Walmart is a bit of a pain to get to. Well, it’s a long bus ride away and I hate the super steep hill that bus needs to go down because it’s somewhat vertigo inducing in a slow roller coaster about to roll over manner. I have no idea how people make that trip along the route, because I’ve seen passengers do stuff like shut their eyes and/or mumble out assorted prayers to all sorts of deities during the trip down. As I don’t have a particular Death Wish to make that treacherous trip, I’ll go the slow and lazy Pony Express route on this. Hell, my backlog is big enough that I can hold out for a few months.

-GW

Beefarino Get! Or: Coming Attractions

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I guess there was a mild white earthquake while some person was laying out text for this DVD cover artwork. Check out the original poster for a clue as to what’s what.

So, yeah. I needed to snag a film for a blogathon and as I’m on a budget these days (well, I’m always on a budget!), I ended up picking us a little addition to the library that, along with a bunch of other films I own just so happen to be from South Korea. Everyone needs an odd obsession or three that’s legal yet somewhat comical and one of mine is legal variants of films that come from other countries. I need to do a post on this at some point I guess.

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Yes, the subtitles are optional. I like the clean animated menu design here (which makes me wonder if the US release uses the same one).

As you can see, the film runs fine (on a Blu-Ray, a PS4, PS3 and standard DVD player from my quick tests). Quality-wise, it’s acceptable, but definitely not anything close to a Criterion Collection remaster.And before you ask “How’s the film?” I’ll tell yoy now that you’ll have to wait with bated buffalo breath for my verdict until next month’s installment of (shameless plug time:) Video Store Action Heroes to find out.

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So shameless… yet so pluggy.

-GW

Burt Reynolds: Last Train Out For The 1970’s Man’s Man

I’d (way too) old enough to still remember seeing Burt Reynolds appear on Dan August way back in 1970-71 and liking the show just for the rather dynamic opening of Burt doing all those stunts (and that catchy title theme):

 

(Thanks, The Rap Sheet!)

 

Amusingly enough, I was also watching Mannix over on CBS back then and yep, both shows were cut from the same (and literal) rough and tumble Quinn Martin cloth. meaning they were reliably action-packed and very guy focused (although both Mike Connors and Burt clearly had appeal to anyone hooked into those shows). I still recall in school one day some fearless (but none to bright) kid tried to copy that floor slide Burt did in the opening only to find out the laws of physics and a non-waxed floor made for a painful-looking science lesson. Hey, I got a laugh out of that foolishness, so it was all good.

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I read Burt said this was his favorite film. I heartily agree. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth the watch.

I didn’t see any of Burt’s movies until John Boorman’s brutal, brilliant Deliverance popped up in heavily edited form (I think on ABC) and yes, I was creeped out big time by it, but it also became a favorite flick whenever it aired. Now, I wasn’t one to follow all of his work, but much of everything I saw was well made and Burt always came off as a pretty cool cat. Even in his more dramatic work up to a point, he did quite okay portraying an interesting variety of characters. I liked his work on Sharky’s Machine a lot because the film works as both cop drama and intentionally amusing dark comedy. yeah, Burt was a pretty decent director, too. Foo. I hate writing these posts because it’s hard to put words into proper sentences when one’s mind is racing like a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am about to clear a huge jump. Go watch a Burt flick at some point, I say. Pick a good one.

-GW