Video Store Action Heroes: Streets of Fire (1984)

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Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) and two of The Attackers, about to get attacked (and lose, badly).

Video Store Action Heroes - Banner 9 finalIt’s that time again, folks. You’re likely trapped inside like me for a spell, so I have your attention (at least for a few minutes before you try and sneak out). Say, look what the cat dragged in after a bit of a hiatus. This post is hopefully, virus-free and entertaining (or at the very least, one of those).

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When I first saw Walter Hill’s “Rock & Roll Fable” Streets of Fire way back in 1984, I can honestly say that I really didn’t like it much. Yet, there was a certain “je ne sais pas quoi” about it that made it quite magnetic. I went back at least four or five times to see it afterward probably in the hope it would get better with each viewing and even saw it a few more times on cable over the decades. Despite the ridiculously simple comic book style plot and one-note characters, the film’s super stylish looks combined with the genre and 1950’s/1980’s era blending made for a unique visual experience. Storytelling? Eh, there’s not so much to be thrilled over. Personally, I feel the film hasn’t aged well, original to modern cult following aside. But at least it gets straight to the action stuff if you just want that and well, you get your money’s worth if you go in totally blind expecting exactly what’s onscreen.

Plot-wise, it’s all this and no more, but I’m going to over-explain a tad here: During a concert in her hometown, singer Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) is kidnapped by a biker gang and held hostage in another part of a fictional city.  A fan (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) calls in her tough guy ex-soldier brother Tom Cody (Michael Paré), who was previously romantically involved with Ellen, to go rescue her. He initially turns down the request, but (duh!), why else would he make the long trip back home? He ends up teaming up with Ellen’s new and wealthy jerk boyfriend/manager (Rick Moranis) and another ex-soldier he meets in a dive bar (Amy Madigan), and for a $10,000 fee, rescues Ellen, who thinks Tom only saved her for the money.

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Duck Tales! Ooo woo ooooo!!!

That mostly turns out to be false, and Tom later takes on the gang leader Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe, in too small of a role for a film’s main villain) in a fight with custom made sledgehammers where the outcome is more predictable than you’d think. While the end result is beautifully stylish and super easy to follow, for my tastes it’s too basic of a plot with no surprises or big twists. While the film packs in a lot of flash and neon-soaked noir-ishness, it ends up being up far too predictable despite that flashiness that it’s a bit disappointing.

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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):

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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).

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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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(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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