Thursday, March 31, 2011

TANGO & CASH (1989) - So bad, it's actually good.

The buddy cop film reached glorious heights in the 1980s. This awesome decade for action movies saw stuff like 48 Hrs and Lethal Weapon hit the big screen, movies which were true classics of the genre. On the lower end of the scale is this flick, Tango & Cash, starring two of the biggest '80s stars at the peak of their fame, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, and a whole bunch of other faces you might recognize. Tango & Cash might not be amongst the best action flicks of all time, but it's got enough so-bad-it's-good moments and '80s cheesiness that it works out pretty well.

THAT just happened.
There must be a law against starting a Stallone movie in dull fashion. Remember Cliffhanger, where the dude's just chilling up on a rope hanging thousands of feet up in the air while flexing his muscles? That was a good opener. Demolition Man starts out with an apocalyptic Los Angeles in flames while Sly guns down criminals and does somersaults and flips in cargo pants. Another good one. Or maybe Rambo III, where the movie kicks off with our favorite Italian Stallion beating the crap out of some poor Thai dude with a stick. True to form, Tango & Cash has the impeccably dressed Detective Ray Tango in a Cadillac chasing down drug-dealers using a fuel truck to smuggle cocaine. Tango shows the audience how badass he truly is by playing chicken with the truck and forcing the drug runners to be ejected from the moving truck's windshield using just his rugged good lucks and a tiny revolver.

Mullet? Check. Enormous, over-compensating gun? Check.
While Tango is the rich, polished cop who's on the job for the thrills, Detective Cash (Kurt Russell) is just the opposite. He's the street smart average Joe. He dresses like a hobo, eats old pizza, and instead of using a pee-wee sized gun, he uses a revolver the size of a battleship cannon, with a huge laser pointer on top. Why? Because it's the 80s. That shit was cool back then. Cash and Tango are rivals, each trying to out do the other with bigger busts and more arrests. While their little contests is going on, the city's criminals are feeling the butthurt from losing all that coke and money. Drug boss Yves Perret (Jack Palance) is losing a good deal of coin every time the hot shot cops make a bust, so he comes up with a plan to frame them both for murder, and get rid of them once and for all.

Is it just me or are 80s movies kinda homo-erotic?
After investigating a lead at a warehouse, Tango and Cash fall into the trap placed by Perret and get framed for murdering some drug-dealing jerkoff. Some cops who've been bought off by Perret and the mob help to lock them both up, and after taking a plea bargain with the judge, they're sent to jail for a year or so. After the obligatory prison shower scene, and a prison riot or two, they both realize they won't last a year in the slammer since half the prisoners are in there because of their arrests. Cash gets a buddy on the inside to help them bust out, and along with Tango they start planning their revenge on the mob.

Obviously the story isn't this movie's strongest point. I'm sure that back when Tango & Cash came out, it was the shit: big star power, a ridiculous techno soundtrack, and snappy one liners. Nowadays, it's pretty dated, which is strange since some movies even older than this one have aged much better. Maybe it's the number of plot holes which make no sense at all, which is pretty hilarious to be honest. For example, the end of the movie ends up looking like something out of a Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8 game, when Tango and Cash get a pimped out minivan with rocket launchers, machine guns, and they blow up the mob's hideout. The dialogue is actually the saving grace for this movie. It's SO bad, the lines SO cheesy and the one-liners SO ridiculous that it just becomes great fun to wonder just what the hell they'll say next.

Maybe Stallone and Russell were in this one for the paycheck, but it's undeniable that they were having a blast while doing it. There's nothing serious to be found in Tango & Cash. You might actually feel stupider after watching it, but you won't be able to say you didn't have a great time. This is a stupid, funny, brainless action movie. Grab a beer, some pizza and celebrate the fact that mullets have long gone out of style.

TL;DR - Stallone. Russell. One-liners. Terrible techno music. It's a cult classic! - 7/10

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

S.W.A.T. (2003) - Proof that Samuel L. Jackson makes anything better

Back in the '70s there was a slick cop show called S.W.A.T. that starred Steve Forrest and Robert Urich as a pair of badass cops kicking ass and taking names. It was a pretty decent show, but what really stood the test of time was that bitching theme song (see end of the review). I dare anyone to try and find a theme song more '70s sounding than this one. It just makes you want to grab an assault rifle, hop over some fences, drive that big ass van really fast with the sirens blaring, and take down some criminal scum. It only took thirty something years for Hollywood to make an adaptation of the show, and it came out in 2003's inventively named S.W.A.T.

Street and Gamble shoot a hostage and they get shitcanned. There's no reset button in real life.
The movie opens with a thrilling shootout scene similar to the bank robbery in Heat, with a couple of masked dudes spraying AK-47s all over the place and taking hostages at a bank. SWAT is called in, and the action focuses on two cops, Officers Street (Colin Farrell) and Gamble (Jeremy Renner) as they sneak into the bank against orders, and end up shooting most of the robbers. Gamble being the hotshot prick that he is, shoots a guy holding a woman hostage, the bullet going through her shoulder before killing the bad guy. Immediately after the raid, Street and Gamble are told their SWAT careers are basically over. Gamble is hugely pissed off, and feels betrayed by both the department and his partner Street. He quits, while Street remains on the force working in the gun storage.

Gather round, children.
Shortly after, SWAT gets a new boss: Sergeant Hondo (Samuel L. Jackson), an old-school cop with a reputation for being a real hardass. Hondo is offered to take over SWAT, but he insists on picking his own team. He recruits Street, and has him join the new outfit, which includes Deacon (LL Cool J), Sanchez (Michelle Rodriguez) and TJ (Josh Charles). Almost right after they finish training, Los Angeles turns into a warzone when some French drug lord named Montel (Olivier Martinez) is captured, and the LAPD prepares to send him off to prison. Montel, in a usual dick move, announces he'll pay anyone who busts him out of jail $100 million bucks. With L.A. being L.A., armed gangs start planning to bust Montel and nab that reward. It's then up to Hondo's team to make sure the French sleazeball gets to prison and keep Los Angeles from being demolished.

That French guy has a funny accent. He must be a murderer.
As far as action movies go, S.W.A.T. isn't half bad. It's got a likeable cast, especially Sam Jackson who is always fun to watch, and Farrell and Renner are good at playing off each other. Michelle Rodriguez plays her usual tomboy role and is good at it, while LL Cool J just blurts out random one liners and shows off his abs a few times. The story is about as simple as they get, and you'll probably see the big twist at the end coming from a mile away. That's not to say it's not a fun ride. The action sequences are all very well shot and thankfully have none of that lame shaky camera that directors have hard ons for these days. There's a cool scene near the end with a jet, a bridge and a limo that is probably the highlight of the flick, and most of the action seems pretty believable.

Achievement Unlocked.
S.W.A.T.'s not a great action movie, but it's not a bad one either. A good cast and some nice action pieces can't make up for the weak story, but at least it has the charisma factor going for it. You can tell from most of the performances that no one is really playing it straight and the aim is basically for a fun popcorn flick, and in that they succeed. It's good enough for a lazy weekend, and in a world were we get a flood of Twilight movies every year, that's good enough for me too.

Without further ado, and in all its old school glory:

TL;DR - SWAT cops in L.A. shoot half the gang population and fight a Frenchman - 6.5/10

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SLITHER (2006) - Comedy + horror = always a great mix

Take equal parts The Fly, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, zombie movies, and countless other horror movie inspirations and what do you get? You get Slither.  James Gunn's movie is a hilarious throwback to some of the best of the cheesy B-movie horror flicks of the past, adding comedy into the fray and a good cast to boot. There's plenty of familiar faces and familiar plot points you'll probably see coming a mile away, but it won't change the fact that Slither is a very entertaining flick.

Starla has a problem: her husband eats wild animals and is apparently, an alien.
Slither begins with a meteor making its way into Earth's atmosphere, leaving a fiery trail across the sky as it lands on the outskirts of a small hick town in the middle of nowhere, unnoticed by two sleepy cops pulling an all night shift. The meteor splits open, and we see that it's no ordinary meteor... *GASP*, it's an alien meteor! Cut to Starla (Elizabeth Banks), a pretty blonde school teacher married to a rich jerk named Grant (Michael Rooker) who drives a fancy Cadillac and owns the biggest house in town.

After Starla rejects Grant's advances in bed one night, Grant goes off for a brisk walk to cure his case of the blue balls. He meets up with another woman in the forest, and before they get frisky, they come across the meteor lying in the boonies. Grant gets too close while investigating, and gets a worm shot at him by some weird slug looking thing. It buries into his chest and after losing and regaining consciousness, he heads back home.

Nathan Fillion is hilarious. The guy is such a bro.
Grant is obviously not the same dude however. He starts getting enormous cravings for meat, starts acting weird around others, and soon enough we learn the bug inside him is a parasite, slowly turning him into a hideously deformed freak from the inside out. Starla is shocked to discover her husband has been killing animals around town, so she tells Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), the local town Sheriff. Bill and the rest of the town folk are forced to deal with Grant's mutation before the town is overwhelmed by the alien slugs turning everyone into mindless alien freaks. Oh yeah baby... gotta love that B-movie flavor.

Kill it with fire! Or nuke it. Or BOTH.
I'm disappointed in myself that I had never thought to give Slither a chance before. The mix of comedy, horror, and nastiness is just about perfect. There's plenty of genuinely funny lines and scenes, and the horror isn't half bad considering it's not an out and out scare flick. Nathan Fillion is one of my favorite actors, and he's great as usual, nailing the funny and serious aspects of his role, and his Sheriff is a standout character. Rooker is also good, especially in the beginning as the unlikeable Grant, and the rest of the cast does decent jobs (the asshole mayor is just hilarious). The make up and gore effects are also convincingly disgusting, especially a barn scene with a hideously mutated fat lady, or the famous bath tub scene referenced in the poster.

Favorite part of the movie? Why yes, yes it is.
Slither knows what it wants to do with the audience and does it pretty damn well. It's got the right amount of laughs and thrills to make it enjoyable, switches from gross out horror to comedy seamlessly. It's too bad that Slither did terrible at the box office. Maybe people were expecting a full-blown horror film and were surprised by the funky comedy factor. In any case, if you're in the mood for some tongue in cheek horror, look no further. Very recommended (just don't eat anything while you watch it).

TL;DR - B-movie gross out fun with plenty of one-liners and people getting split open - 8/10

Friday, March 4, 2011

TERMINAL VELOCITY (1994) - Skydiving Charlie Sheen saves the day

Inspired by Charlie Sheen's recent hilarious interviews and his bi-winning ways, I decided it might be fun to take a look at some of Sheen's older movies from the 90s,  back when he was still a bankable action star. Originally, I meant to watch and review Navy SEALs, but I couldn't get my hands on a copy, so I settled for the next best thing: a movie about Charlie Sheen as a sky diving instructor who fights Russian spies and mobsters. The plot makes about as much sense as Charlie's twitter feed, but rest assured, plenty of good laughs are to be found.
"Are you one of my goddesses?"
The movie opens with a blonde chick having an angry conversation over the phone in Russian, talking about how she's been compromised and it's time to leave Tucson. All of a sudden, some thugs break into her house, grab her and start to torture her, asking where they can find her sister. She refuses to give her up and they kill her. The scene switches to a skydiving school, where 'Ditch' Brodie (Charlie Sheen) is one of the hotshot instructors with a bad reputation. His latest stunt involved him dropping down into a 8-year old's birthday party (instead of the intended bachelorette party) wearing leather pants and with his ass showing. On top of that, the FAA has been investigating him for other safety violations.

The glorious, glorious '90s.
A pretty blonde named Chris (Nastassja Kinski) shows up to Ditch's company, asking for a first time lesson in skydiving. Ditch finds her pretty hot and agrees to take her up for her first jump. While getting ready for the jump, Chris says she saw another plane outside the window. When Ditch goes to the cockpit to investigate, he comes back and sees Chris has in fact, gone full retard and fallen out of the plane. He dives after her, trying to save her, but her chute won't open and she is killed. Ditch is distressed, and soon enough a safety inspector named Pinkwater (James Gandolfini) shows up to investigate the girl's death. Pinkwater seems to be really interested in finding out as much as he can about the girl. Ditch does a little digging by himself, and after breaking into Chris's apartment, realizes she'd been lying to him.

Unbelievable plot twist? YOU BETCHA.
He realizes she had faked her own death, and they eventually meet again. Chris reveals she's actually Krista Moldova, an ex-Russian spy on the run from the same guys who killed her sister earlier in the movie. It turns out that Pinkwater and his crew are ex-KGB mobsters, planning to steal a shitload of gold bars to finance a coup back home in Russia. Ditch and Krista will have to stop Pinkwater and his boys before they can get away with the gold, and prevent a new Cold War.

Don't worry, it's just a Cadillac.
Terminal Velocity is pretty much what you'd expect from an action movie starring Charlie Sheen. It's got heaps of  hilarious one-liners, sex jokes, and close ups of Sheen making weird faces. Charlie does a decent job with his character, and his comedy flows well with the action.. The girl  is decent enough as well, seeing as how she's pretty much unknown. Everyone else is as you'd expect, crappy. Gandolfini's okay, but everyone else seems to have taken their acting lessons from Billy Madison. The best part about the movie are definitely the stunts, like the scene where Charlie drives a Cadillac out of a flying plane (pretty epic shit actually), or jumps from one plane to another.

Yes, that's Charlie Sheen riding a rocket. WINNING.
Sadly, they don't really have a chance in hell of saving this pic from being anything but a cheesy, overacted action fick. It doesn't really matter all that much though, since a lot of it is tongue in cheek and the movie works much better when you've got a couple beers in you anyway. Watch it for the laughs and cheap thrills.

TL;DR - Classic Sheen actioner. Check your brain at the door and stay bi-winning. - 6.5/10

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

UNDER SIEGE (1992) - Steven Seagal's first (and last) great movie

I think it's safe to say that Steven Seagal movies are somewhat of an acquired taste, like chopped liver, driving Oldsmobiles, taking a dip in Tijuana hotel swimming pools, and sipping Four Loko with dinner. Growing up as a kid raised in the 90s, I was lucky since it was in this decade that Seagal's career reached its peak (however brief it actually lasted). My parents were pretty cool at the time, seeing as how they let me join in on watching those glorious R-rated action movies on weekends, and about the only off-limits things were the gratuitous, bouncing titty scenes or the really gory stuff, and as a result, I've seen just about every Seagal movie ever made. I think I can safely say that Under Siege is by far the best flick he's ever made, and it might be the only one really worth watching.

Can't have a Seagal movie without brutal knife fights.
The USS Missouri is one of the last battleships in the US Navy, and she's about to be retired out of service. The President has decided that the ship's nuclear missiles will be removed before her decomissioning, so the ship departs on her last voyage from Pearl Harbor to California. Aboard the Missouri is Chief Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal), who works as a cook in the ship's galley, is good friends with the Captain, and one of the most popular guys on the boat, as evidenced by the fact that he has dance-offs with the other galley crew. Also aboard the battleship is Commander Krill (Gary Busey), an officer who hates Ryback and is an overall asshole. Krill orders Ryback to stop cooking and clear out the galley, since he is bringing food and entertainment by helicopter for a surprise birthday party for the ship's Captain. Ryback gets suspicious, and ends up punching Krill in the face, which leads to Krill locking him up in the meat freezer.

Gary Busey + Playboy playmates =  the winning formula for 90s action movies.
The helicopter arrives, bringing a rock band, caterers, and "Miss July '89" Jordan Tate (Erika Eleniak) for the party. Soon enough, all hell breaks loose when members of the band and caterers start killing officers on the ship. The band is actually a gang of ex-CIA mercenaries, led by William Stranix (Tommy Lee Jones). Stranix and Krill, working together, are planning to steal the nuclear Tomahawk missiles, smuggle them out via submarine, and sell them off to the black market. To make sure no one interferes with their plan, Krill shoots the Captain, and sends men to kill Ryback as well. It's too bad for Krill though, since Ryback ain't just a cook: he's an ex-Navy SEAL who enjoys stabbing dudes and loves building bombs, booby traps and all sorts of other wicked shit. Ryback escapes and sets off to save the day. He finds a new partner in the half naked Jordan, (who pops out of a birthday cake with glorious boobage exposed, of course), and they then have to deal with plenty of Stranix's mercenaries, stop the nuclear annihilation of Hawaii, and survive plenty of knife fights.

Tommy Lee Jones is hilarious as the deranged Stranix.
What undoubtedly makes Under Siege better than all the other Seagal movies is the supporting cast, which is outstanding. You couldn't have picked a better duo than Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones to play unhinged psychopaths and have an end result as satisfying and entertaining. These two guys made this movie - you hardly notice Seagal's and Eleniak's stiff acting, or the flimsy plot, since Stranix and Krill are such fun characters. A lot of action movies take themselves too seriously and end up as $1.99 bargain bin fillers. Under Siege follows the Die Hard formula (hey, if you're gonna copy someone, copy from the best) pretty well, mixing some comedy between the shootouts, fist fights and assorted macho moments.

Gary Busey dressed as a woman. His best work to date.
This flick is one of the best pure action movies of the 90s, and has aged pretty well all things considered. Yeah, it's a Die Hard clone. So what? It's an example of how to make a good derivative movie. If you only see one Steven Seagal movie in your lifetime, make sure it's Under Siege.

TL;DR - Steven Seagal's only good movie & classic 90s action flick - 8.5/10