Random Film of the Week: Waterworld

WW water

Uh, hey pal… you’re not gonna DRINK that, are you?

WATERWORLD ArrowMovie memory #1764 (or so): sitting in a packed theater back in 1995 watching the opening sequence to Waterworld as Kevin Costner’s Mariner character urinates into a plastic container, then pours that pee into a dicey-looking filtration system and drinks the results. You’d best believe the bulk of the audience let out a collective “EWWWWWW!” and yes, there was one guy sitting somewhere in the back of the darkened theater who yelled out something about how ice cubes would have made that recycled beverage go down better.

“EWWWWWW!”

Flash forward to me watching the three (!!!) versions of the film in Arrow Video’s packed to the gills (heh) with bonus features triple-disc set and I kind of want one of those funky filter devices just so I don’t need to take breaks when I’m going through my film backlog. For all its expensive sets, Costner’s dedicated performance, some amazing stunt work and a completely and perfectly bonkers performance by Dennis Hopper as its main villain, the film is still flawed in that, “Where’s the beef?” manner when it comes to a few key plot elements. Granted, its ecology past peril theme is a bit more relevant it today’s climate (and yes, that’s a double pun, kids). But there’s no real “science” here if you’re looking for it. Hell,  if the Earth does lose its major land masses underwater as shown here, an overblown big-budget sci-fi action flick isn’t exactly where we’re headed in that watery future, glub, glub.

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May the 4th Needs a Fifth, I Think

Yeah, yeah. I kind of don’t like the over-celebrating thing when it comes to some stuff I appreciate, but that’s the way things are these days. Still, a little tribute is in order to a film that deserves it (well, in its original format), so here’s mine.

Perspective from an old fart who knows stuff: There was not a hint of internet nor the sort of over-speculation we suffer though today way back in 1976 when I was sitting in a movie theater and saw this teaser for the first time:

(Thanks, thecoolman!)

I vaguely recall being really curious about this upcoming film because it looked completely different than anything I could recall seeing (hey, I was only 12 at the time), yet it seemed really familiar in a few ways to stuff I’d seen on the local PBS station. At that point, I had zero idea of what a homage was or a way to grasp that George Lucas was borrowing from the past to create his own futuristic adventure (what was curiously, set in the distant past). Anyway, I noted the non-date and filed the film away in the memory banks as something to look forward to seeing. Those school friends I knew were either not interested at all or worse, had a low opinion of sci-fi films that extended to books and comics of the period. So only a rare few of the kids I knew even cared about this film before and to some extent, after it was released.

The most amusing modern thing in regards to this teaser is the Official Star Wars YT channel has an (intentionally?) embarrassing low quality teaser while other non-official sites have not only better quality ones, but one that’s been redone to include footage found in the actual release print. Granted, while MUCH prettier, I find that clip problematic because it’s redone history that erases the fact that the teaser was supposed to be cruder thanks to the film still being nowhere near completion a about a year out from its eventual release date. Sure, film fans didn’t know this and other that tiny bits (VERY tiny) of information dropped in a few sci-fi mags of the era. But that all changed as 1977 rolled around and more info as well as the successful Star Wars comic book appeared. I avoided the comic for a while, but eventually collected most of its run over time, enjoying a good deal of what I was reading (including stuff now FAR outside the current canon)

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Someone Left a Cake Out in the Rain (So it’s Likely for Me)

So, whadyagetme for my birthday? It’s today, you know. As for gifts, well… I got myself a little party to throw later:

(Thanks robatsea2009!)

Or, wait… maybe it’s this party?

(Thanks, 88 Films!)

Hmmm. I’m confused, but I know it isn’t this party because I went to it and did NOT have a good time at all:

(Thanks, Zero Media!)

In reality, other than thinking cake-like thoughts for a hot minute, I have no big deal plans for today at all. The day will be spent at home maybe with a movie, definitely with some gaming (I have a few backlogged films and games to get to, as usual), and probably no big deal food item other than what I plan to cook for myself later (ah, the wonderful world of restricted dieting, but at least it will be quite tasty). General mood in my current state is more or less this (and I’m not Thulsa Doom here):

(Thanks, Dean Oliver!)

Eh, whatever. I suppose things cold be worse, but let’s leave it at that for the moment.

Back in a bit.

-GW

ALIEN @ 40(-ish) Still Has It (…Mostly)

ALIEN 40

A bit late to the party, but I have my reasons…

So, I waited a few days to post this to more or less commemorate the day I went to see ALIEN some 40 years ago. I was 15, and I took the day off from school to hoof it down to Times Square just to see this on a larger screen than was available in the Bronx. Or, I probably went downtown because I didn’t wan to be caught walking into or out of a theater there showing it. Or both. Anyway, it happened and as with Star Wars before that, I’d say my cinematic life took an upswing thanks to some fine film-making that recalled things I’d seen in the past. Ridley Scott’s direction was impressive, the cast was great and what more can be said about the production design and art direction that combined a few distinct art styles you’d think wouldn’t mesh together at all into something so… beautiful to look at?

(Thanks, Moviepilot Trailers!)

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Not-So Random Film of the Week: Way of the Dragon/Return of the Dragon

Hey, look! it’s that time of the month again – you know, when us guys get together and do the usual, but in public and with way too many people watching (well, hopefully). Yes, it’s time for an all-new (but not very much improved) installment of…

(theme song plays):

Video Store Action Heroes - Banner 9 final

If you did NOT hear a theme song, let me know. I paid some guy on eBay a pretty penny for a theme song. Hmmm… I think I need to stay off eBay for a while…

This month’s other entries can be found at Mike’s Take on the Movies, The Cinema Monolith, and Wolfman’s Cult Film Club, so go get reading (you’ll need your own popcorn and beverage of choice, though).

WotD MP

A bit of misleading marketing copy here thanks to this getting a US release after Lee’s unfortunate demise and Enter The Dragon popping up in theaters first in the States.

If my fading memory is correct, the first martial arts flick I’d ever seen was Way of the Dragon (or Return of the Dragon) sometime in the mid 70’s on a black and white TV, either on WOR or WPIX, I believe.  It was pretty horribly dubbed from what I recall, but then again, so were way too many foreign films of all genres from what I can remember.  That version was what I saw as “definitive” in my youth until I finally heard from a few friends in the late 80’s that I’d probably want  to see it in its original language. That took a while, as I finally got around to seeing a cut of the Cantonese/Mandarin version with English subtitles about 10 years back and it made for a much better experience.

As a kid, I didn’t pay close attention to dubbing other than cracking up at the way the mouths moved while wondering how those actors onscreen often said the dopiest things. As I grew older and gained more knowledge about films and the dub/sub process, I saw that more often than not, bad dubbing was the result of rewriting dialog and trying to fit those words into the mouths of whichever actor was speaking lines. Granted, Bruce Lee’s first complete work as a writer/director/producer isn’t exactly going for the gold on the scripting front, but it works far better when you see how Lee uses the language barrier as a major part of the film’s plot.

(Thanks, fortunestarmedia!)

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The Dead Don’t Die: Jim Jarmusch Doing Zombies? Yummy.

Okay, the whole zombie genre is so played out to me that it would take something really quirky to get my yawny brain percolating in deciding to watch yet another entry in an already packed field. Well, thanks to the one and only Jim Jarmusch, here’s a zombie film I’d run out to see in a theater as well as snap up a disc at some point down the road:

Also, Iggy Pop as a zombie? Too damn funny (although Keith Richards would have been a more obvious choice), and the rest of the casting is inspired and diverse enough to make this a crowd pleasing gem for fans of everyone in this hopefully awesome flick. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see (and not pay a damn bit of attention to aggregate scores at all), but I’m prepared to go in cold and come out all warmed up about this one based on my appreciation towards Jarmusch’s previous work alone.

-GW

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

Video Store Action Heroes - Banner 9 final

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.

 

slipstream pax

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!)

Detour_MP

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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