Thursday, May 3, 2012

The First Film of MAY—it’s a knockout—and the final April roundup

MOVIES!!! Gotta love ’em—that’s an order!
Here’s what I’ve been screening lately:

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009; John Hyams) is a damn good way to start the month of May!
Turned on to this movie by Vern’s ranting about it at Movie Morlocks, I had to check it out myself—and holy fucking shit, does this movie rock!

Right from the start, Universal Soldier: Regeneration creates tension and then blasts out some full throttle hard-core kick-assery. Whew, it’s exciting.
And even without knowing anything about the characters’ back-story from 1992's Universal Soldier, you can easily pick up on what’s going on—and the expository info-dump scenes are handled well.
(BTW, the trailer for Universal Soldier looks swell, and I’m making sure to hunt that flick down.)

On its own, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is a very cool sci-fi action thriller, with a smart well-structured script.
And that 90% of the cast was unfamiliar to me meant I wasn’t bringing baggage—I had no idea who was going to make it to the end or not—not even headliner Jean-Claude Van Damme (looking worn and soulful, and that is used effectively).

Now, since I’m unfamiliar with mixed martial arts (MMA)-based action movies, maybe the uniqueness to me of this movie’s combat scenes was a big factor in my enjoyment, but I hope not. I’ve always been a fan of martial arts flicks since I was a kid, when my stepdad first took me to see Enter the Dragon in 1973.

And as others have said, casting MMA stars as soldiers and cyborgs is brilliant—they can do so many of their own stunts, and they are so well-trained and in such perfect physical shape, they might as well be superheroes already.

Dolph Lundgren shows up in an extended cameo that’s wonderfully deranged, and really adds some flavor to the proceedings.

Most of all, after the headache I got from The Raid, it was nice to have the shaky-cam WAY toned down—director John Hyams’ father is Peter Hyams, the director of 2010,
The Star Chamber, Timecop (also with Van Damme), Outland, the vastly underrated and ahead of its time Capricorn One, and many others. He’s acted as his own cameraman for most of his movies, and his presence as cinematographer on Universal Soldier: Regeneration is a big part of the flick’s success. (Giving credit where it’s due: Universal Soldier: Regeneration director John Hyams co-edited his film really well—many cuts but I never got lost in the hurly-burly.)

This is a flick worth checking out; and if it’s any indication of the level of competence and craftsmanship, the MMA sub-genre is one I’ll be checking out more often.

Shortish Takes:
Here’s the rest of the flicks that I caught in April. (Previous April movie round-ups are HERE and HERE)

Countdown to Looking Glass (1984; Fred Barzyk) An interesting mix of faux-TV-news broadcast (a la Special Bulletin or Without Warning) and behind-the-scenes political thriller skullduggery, as the US and USSR streamroll towards going nuclear in the Gulf of Persia.
Really only of interest to folks (like me) who have a special place in their hearts for the thermonuclear war warning film, especially its Reagan-era subsection with films like The Day After, the aforementioned Special Bulletin, and my “favorite,” the British-made and bleaker-than-bleak Threads.

Countdown to Looking Glass (not available for home-viewing in any format, but available on-line) is interesting in that it uses real politicians playing themselves offering opinions and strategy to the spiraling situation in the Mideast. Both Eugene McCarthy and Newt Gingrich (one’s dead, the other should be) show up, playing their respective roles of responsible, thoughtful dove and irresponsible, saber-rattling (chicken)hawk, adding a slightly bonkers feeling to the situation: the fiction is utterly broken when recognizable politicos make an appearance. And politicians get paid enough already! Stop stealing food out of legitimate actors’ mouths!

Blow Out (1981; Brian De Palma) Not as great for me as it used to be, for some reason. Still stylish as all get-out, De Palma at his technical pinnacle—but with this screening I found the performances to be very off: Nancy Allen seems to have only gotten one suggestion—“act stupid”—and Travolta seems so pale it’s distracting, when he’s not over-emoting.

Justified: Season One (2010; created by Graham Yost & Elmore Leonard) Marshall Givens is insane—that’s his secret. He dresses and acts like an Old West fast-draw gunslinger because he’s nuts—and THAT is his edge. Fun show, I look forward to viewing Season Two.

The Lathe of Heaven (1979; Fred Barzyk & David R. Loxton) It’s been ages since I read Ursula K. LeGuin’s source novel, but I seem to recall that the film’s problems were problems I had with the source material. (And lack of imagination: I remember seeing this as a kid when it first aired: even then, the laser-smoke effects were very weak—the cheap “star-gate” effects that Sunn Classics used routinely in their quasi-spiritual masterpieces back then was really so much better.)
I can truly only recommend this to either nostalgia buffs, or those interested in “reality bending” science fiction, like the type Philip K. Dick is most known for.

Kitten With a Whip (1964; Douglas Heyes) An overwrought, bonkers movie that is a new Ivanlandia fave, and subject of a longer future post. Suffice to say, this was a big inspiration on John Waters.

“Fun & Games” episode of The Outer Limits (1964; Gerd Oswald) Watched as part of my weird effort to see all the futuristic humans-being-hunted movies and shows that could have possibly influenced The Hunger Games.

That said, “Fun & Games” doesn’t hold up, suffering under the heavy weight of star Nick Adams atrocious overacting. Cool razor boomerang, though—an influence for The Feral Kid in The Road Warrior, perhaps?

Doug Stanhope: No Refund (2007) Funny, funny man, highly recommended. Fans of Bill Hicks should dig Stanhope, but expect somebody even angrier and far less mellow.

Lili (1953; Charles Walters) An Ivanlandia fave, this flick will be commented on more thoroughly in a future post.

“The Gamesters of Triskelion” episode of Star Trek (1968; Gene Nelson) Perhaps one of the dopiest episode of Star Trek, and watched for the same reasons I watched the “Fun & Games” episode of The Outer Limits (see above). That said, this episode made me wish that The Hunger Games had had more brains in jars: “Five-hundred quatloos on the human!”

No comments:

Post a Comment