Posts Tagged ‘eighties

30
Dec
09

Movies on DVD/BD Review: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

What, no Serpentor?

Starring Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid, Marlon Wayans, Christopher Eccleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Directed by Stephen Sommers. Based on the toy line by Hasbro

It’s Shakespeare for six-year-olds (pending your six-year-old kid isn’t stuck-up and/or going to a private school). It’s over-the-top, laser-blasting, bodies flyin’, shit blowin’ up, fast-paced, unbelievably cartoonish action featuring macho guys, hot chicks, and fight scenes between good and bad guys. In short it’s a literal translation from the cartoon TV show to live-action movie. And it’s entertaining as hell.

Stephen Sommers gives backstories to characters that don’t really need them, but I guess he felt the need to be a “good” filmmaker and clue the audience in on the history of the characters. This only comes into question with the beginning segment showing a “weapons dealer” named James McCullen who, in 1641, was given an “iron mask” for dealing weapons to both the Scots and the French. His received the name “Destro,” short for “destroyer of worlds.” Yeah, okay.

Fast forward to the “not-too-distant future,” where McCullen’s descendant James McCullen runs MARS (Military Armaments Research Syndicate), a weapons contractor that has designed nanomites, micro-robotic bugs that look like green acid when they eat away at metal but come with a safety killswitch. McCullen has armed four warheads with these and wants them transported.

The convoy transporting the much-sought briefcase is sent off-course and intercepted by soldiers with technology far superior than theirs. Of the survivors there is Duke (Tatum) and his best friend Ripcord (Wayans), saved by Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), and Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui). Duke, Ripcord, and the case are taken to “The Pit,” G.I. Joe HQ.

The Pit is a gigantic training facility buried deep beneath the Egyptian sand. This place has LEVELS: shooting, hand-to-hand combat, and a water park addition that you makes you navigate through hoops –literally. Imagine the scene in “Wayne’s World” where Wayne opens the door to the room where “people are being trained just like in ‘James Bond’ movies” and multiply that by 10, adding some cool hi-tech gadgets; you get my drift. General Hawk (Quaid) presides over The Pit and G.I. Joe, a multi-national group of “the best of the best.” They pour over what facts they have and Duke offers up info on Ana (Miller), a woman he had proposed to 4 years earlier and one of the enemy combatants. Duke and Ripcord do a training montage and are officially Joe-certified.

There’s a reason for McCullen’s backstory as we find that he did the old con man “protect this for me while I hire someone to take it from you” routine. He’s hellbent on playing all sides against the middle just like his ancestor. Another member of COBRA is The Doctor (Gordon-Levitt), a man breathing through a mask who injects the nano-technology into subjects creating “super soldiers” whose bidding he controls via computer. Also, the Baroness/Ana, is married to Baron deCobray (Grégory Fitoussi), a noted French research scientist. I almost forgot to mention: his base is multi-leveled and underwater.

Peril is the name of the game as McCullen and COBRA unleash one of the four nanomite weapons on the Eiffel Tower. Ripcord and Duke don Delta-6 suits which allow them to run, jump, and shoot faster than anyone or anything else. Duke manages to save most of the Eiffel Tower but is captured in the process. It’s up to the Joes to get Duke back and save the world.

This is the kind of movie I had expected “Transformers” to be: whiz-bang special effects with shallow story, plot, characters, and motivation. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because do you really need depth in “G.I. Joe?” There are a few instances where Sommers tries rising above the source material by giving the characters backstory but really, this is the kind of movie that doesn’t call for that. Tough guys with guns and lasers, bad chicks in leather and high heels, tech-geek weapons, ninja fights… it’s your inner child’s wet dream.

The one downside to this film (if you’ve already accepted it for what it is) is the inconsistency of the special effects. Some of them are really well done while some of the more massive vehicles (especially those in water or the air) seem to be need another layer or two of rendering. Outside of that as long as you know that this movie is as literal a translation of the cartoon as there ever has been… you’re green for Go.

Why watch the movie? Sienna Miller is hot. So is Rachel Nichols. Cool tech-geek stuff. You’re inner six-year-old which remembers the halcyon days of “Yo Joe!” watching real American heroes take down Cobra needs its fix. Or watch it because Sommers got right what Michael Bay gets wrong.

Watch for “Mummy” alums Arnold Vosloo, Brendan Fraser, and Kevin J. O’Connor.

My grade: C (and knowing is half the battle)

19
Aug
09

In Passing… John Hughes (1950-2009)

john_hughes

 

Director, producer, and writer John Hughes passed away on August 6, 2009. Hughes was known for successful 80’s teen comedies such as “Pretty In Pink,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Weird Science,” and “The Breakfast Club,” as well as “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” “Uncle Buck,” and “Home Alone.” Born in Lansing, Michigan he spent time shooting small films in Northbrook, IL. In 1970 he took a job as an ad copywriter in Chicago. Continuing to write he sent in a story called “Vacation ‘58” which became the basis for “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” His breakout film was “Sixteen Candles,” which won praise and followed by “Breakfast Club,” “Weird Science,” and “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.” Not wanting to be “the teen comedy guy,” he directed “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” “Uncle Buck,” and “Home Alone.” His last was “Curly Sue,” in 1991. Since then he dropped off the Hollywood radar, movie back to Chicago and eventually going into farming. Using the pen name Edmond Dantes (think “Count of Monte Cristo”) he wrote the screenplays for “Maid in Manhattan” and “Drillbit Taylor.” He died from a heart attack at the age of 59.

 

Thoughts and prayers for his family and friends.

 

Check out his IMDB page at:

 

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000455/

12
Feb
09

A Salute to Anthology TV of the Eighties

Being a kid in the Eighties my TV watching consisted of Transformers, He-Man, and G.I, Joe in the afternoon, Knight Rider and maybe Alf in the evening, and then there were the scary shows, the ones I had to sneak away and watch, telling myself that my parents didn’t know I was watching them (when they probably did). Since my childhood was skewed toward sci-fi/ horror genre, so is the following:

 

“Hammer House of Horror” – Running for only one season (13 episodes) in 1980, the British Horror production company Hammer Film Productions released this foray into ghosts, demons, and the supernatural.

 

“Tales From the Darkside” – Produced by George Romero (with Stephen King writing at least 2 episodes), “Darkside” ran from 1984-1990. Each episode was 30 minutes in length and began with a normal situation that would get crazy quickly and end with a twist. Then again, there were a lot of series like this. What set “Darkside” apart from the rest was its dark sense of humor. This show has recently been released on DVD and I’m having a blast watching it. My favorite so far is the one which starred the guy from the Dunkin’ Donuts commercials from the Eighties. He has back problems and goes to see a doctor, who tells him that in order to get rid of the back pains he has to get rid of the stress in his life, which means that his wife has to be killed. After his will is killed in a car “accident” he’s summoned to the doctor to find he now has to kill someone to “pay” for his back pain “cure.”

 

“Amazing Stories” – Steven Spielberg decided to take his childhood watching of “The Twilight Zone” and reading “Amazing Stories” and helped create this series. While “middle of the road” to critics, it wasn’t bad for what it was: a family version of “The Twilight Zone,” so to speak. I remember watching the very first episode, “Ghost Train,” about an old man who, as a kid, placed a penny on a railroad track, derailing the train. The train returns to claim him as he nears death. Also, there was the episode about the cartoonist trapped in a gun turret of a Word War II Bomber, Santa being jailed, and a kid who becomes magnetic after a piece of meteorite falls in his back yard. It ran for two seasons: 1985-1987.

 

“The New Twilight Zone” – This ran on CBS from 1985-1989. CBS had what they thought was a good idea: resurrect “The Twilight Zone.” Problem was that this retreading tanked and was cancelled after two seasons. Unfortunately they had pre-sold the series into syndication and had to continue making episodes to honor the contract. Hindsight is 20/20… Trivia note: J Michael Straczynski, creator of “Babylon 5,” wrote 12 episodes for the series. I remember watching the episode where two children were taken to an amusement park and led to a tunnel with rooms, and each room had a different set of parents interested in adopting the kids. Also, the episode where the couple was caught “in between” time and blue men ran about town changing everything for the next upcoming minute.

 

 

“Freddy’s Nightmares” – Based on the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, this one had Freddy himself, Robert Englund, hosting tales of evil and death occurring on Elm Street. Remind me not to live there… The series 1988-1990.

 

 

“Monsters” – As “Tales from the Darkside” was neared its end, several of the directors and writers worked on “Monsters.” “Monsters” was similar to “Darkside,” but the main difference was that each episode of the series literally dealt with a different monster. It ran from 1988-1991.

 

 

“Friday the 13th” – Unlike “The New Twilight Zone,” this show shares little with the actual movie franchise except the title. The show was about two cousins, Ryan Dallion and Micki Foster, who inherit their uncle’s antique shop. Unbeknownst to them the relics are cursed and they must retrieve them from the buyers before too much damage and harm is caused. The series ran from 1987-1990.

 

 

“Tales from the Crypt” – Finishing out the Eighties was another personal favorite, “Tales from the Crypt.” Each episode began with The Cryptkeeper, a skeleton narrator who provided kitsch humor to the episode about to be unfolded. It had great theme music and was fun to watch. The episode I remember was when the old millionaire man had a young wife. Finding a younger bodybuilder, he pays to exchange body parts piece-by-piece. At the end he has the body of the bodybuilder, but no money. Meanwhile, the bodybuilder now has the money, and the wife, of the former millionaire. The Cryptkeeper dominated HBO and syndication from 1989 until 1996.

 

“The Ray Bradbury Theater” – Hosted by scifi author and based on several of his short stories, this series ran from 1985-1986 and 1988-1992. The subjects ran from science to supernatural, from childhood memories and fears to being grown up. One of my favorite episodes was called “The Town Where No One Got Off.” In it a writer (Jeff Goldblum) exits the train at a town where the train only stops to drop off supplies. He’s followed around by a retired sheriff (Ed McNamara) who traps and confronts him about what he’s doing there. Trivia note: Larry Wilcox (Officer Jon Baker on “CHiPs”) was an executive producer on the series.

 

Some of these are available on DVD, and some are still on video.

 

Don’t stay up too late…