Beach Babes from Beyond (1993)

BeachBabesfromBeyond_1Starring Sarah Bellomo, Tamara Landry, Nicole Posey, Michael Todd Davis, Ken Steadman, Joe Estevez, Joey Travolta, Linnea Quigley, Burt Ward, Don Swayze, Jackie Stallone

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: If I expect anything other than babes on a beach, I’m asking to be disappointed.

Estevez. Stallone. Swayze. Travolta. Names you know and love. Each one can carry a film on its own, but Beach Babes from Beyond contains them all… plus Burt Ward and Linnea Quigley! Beach Babes from Beyond was the first release from Full Moon’s off-shoot softcore comedy company Torchlight Entertainment, so they really brought out all the stops! The only catch is that the names belong to relatives of the stars you generally associate with them. So if you’ve ever wanted to see Patrick Swayze’s brother and Sylvester Stallone’s mom bickering in a spaceship cockpit, you’ve just found your movie!

Beach Babes from Beyond focuses on their daughter, Xena (Sarah Bellomo), and her friends Luna (Tamara Landry) and Sola (Nicole Posey). With Xena’s parents out of the house on holiday, the girls decide to take Xena’s dad’s prize “T-Bird ship” out for a joy ride, but wouldn’t ya know it, they crash land on Malibu beach! Meanwhile, Dave (Michael Todd Davis) and his friend Jerry (Ken Steadman) have come to the beach to visit Dave’s uncle Bud (Joe Estevez), in hopes of saving his beachfront home from redevelopment. The laws of film and nature demand that these male and female groups must come together for the greater good, and they do so with an insane amount of people wildly dancing on the beach and some sexy hilarity along the way!

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City Hunter (1993)

City Hunter [城市獵人] (1993)

Starring Jackie Chan, Joey Wong Cho-Yin, Richard Norton, Gotoh Kumiko, Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching, Carol Wan Chui-Pan, Tan Lap-Man, Leon Lai, Ken Lo, Gary Daniels, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Jan Lam Hoi-Fung, Mike Abbott, Louis Roth, Michael Wong Man-Tak, Hagiwara Kenzo

Directed by Wong Jing

Expectations: Moderate.


City Hunter is another Jackie Chan film that I wasn’t completely in love with during my teenage obsession. I was desperate to recreate that first-time feeling of experiencing Rumble in the Bronx, so something like City Hunter, with its wildly comedic, cartoon tone, wasn’t going to fit the bill. These days my passion for Jackie remains constant, but my expectations and restrictions of what I want to see from him have relaxed and opened up considerably. Now I’m happy to follow Jackie and whatever director he’s working with into any creative experience they can cook up.

In these terms, City Hunter is an impressive work of art. It manages to capture the over-the-top look and the feel of a cartoon/anime in live action, and it keeps this tone and aesthetic constant throughout every aspect of the production. From exaggerated acting and facial expressions, to the breakneck, logic-smashing pace, to the action choreography that is comedic and over-the-top before anything else, City Hunter is stylistically rich, and about as perfect a comic book adaptation as you could ask for. I have half a mind to give it four stars — I was that bowled over by it — but I’ll have to watch it again to see if it holds up and reinforces this strong a reaction.

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Crime Story (1993)

CrimeStory_1Crime Story [重案組] (1993)
AKA New Police Story, Hard to Die, Serious Crimes Squad, Police Story IV, Police Dragon

Starring Jackie Chan, Kent Cheng, Law Kar-Ying, Au-Yeung Pui-San, Christine Ng Wing-Mei, Poon Ling-Ling, Blacky Ko Sau-Leung, William Duen Wai-Lun, Ken Lo, Chung Fat, Wan Fat, Wan Seung-Lam, Stephen Chan Tak-Gwong

Directed by Kirk Wong

Expectations: Moderate.


Crime Story represents another step forward for Jackie Chan. The film is gritty, realistic, and for the most part without comedy. This is not the recipe for the standard Jackie film, so many fans will be turned off. I understand the sentiment; when I first saw this as a teenager I had the same reaction. Consequently, Crime Story really took me by surprise this time around. It was a revelatory experience; I now see how the film is truly a fantastic piece of work in nearly every way. Where I once felt the film lacked enough “Jackie moments,” I now appreciate it as a wonderfully tense cop drama with a scrumptious Jackie cherry on top. The two styles are brought together incredibly well, too, with Kirk Wong ably guiding the camera to accentuate the exceptional, atypical action choreography from the Jackie Chan Stunt Team.

Inspector Eddie Chan (Jackie Chan) has recently lived through a traumatic encounter where he was forced to kill some men. He insists that he hasn’t been shaken by the experience, but his psychologist remains worried. Meanwhile, a criminal group led by corrupt cop Hung Ting-Bong (Kent Cheng) plans to kidnap the wealthy businessman Wong Yat-Fei (Law Kar-Ying). Eddie returns to active duty and is placed on the security detail to protect Wong, and because this is a movie, his best efforts are not enough to prevent the kidnapping.

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Arnold Quick Takes: Happy Anniversary and Goodbye, Dave, Beretta’s Island

happyanniversaryandgoodbye_3Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974)

Starring Lucille Ball, Art Carney, Nanette Fabray, Peter Marshall, Don Porter, Patricia Blair, Doria Cook-Nelson, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Directed by Jack Donohue

I’ve been a Lucille Ball fan for pretty much my whole life, but I’d never seen anything other than I Love Lucy and The Long, Long Trailer. Judging on Happy Anniversary and Goodbye, I don’t know that I was missing much. The hour-long TV special presents the story of Norma and Malcolm Michaels, a married couple who have exhausted about every shred of love their relationship once had. After the first scene, composed almost solely of yelling, name-calling and snide remarks, the couple has decided to divorce. The special punctuates this real-life drama with levity, but it often feels odd to laugh when this couple is at such a low point. I have a hard time imagining a similar special being made today. Their personal journeys while separated are much more successful, though, with some classic-styled Lucy antics and a cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger at nearly the start of his career. I doubt anyone involved thought his acting career would amount to much, as his usual spark is missing completely. It’s still fun to see him at his rippling, bodybuilding peak. This one can surely be skipped, but as a fan of Lucy, Art Carney and Arnold, I did enjoy it overall.

Dave_1Dave (1993)

Starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley, Charles Grodin, Faith Prince, Laura Linney
Directed by Ivan Reitman

Ivan Reitman made Dave in-between two Arnold vehicles (Kindergarten Cop and Junior), and Dave is every bit as unbelievable and outlandish an idea as Arnold teaching five-year-old kids or carrying a baby to term. Dave is a regular guy who gets to be the President of the United States after the real guy has a stroke. At first he’s just a simple stand-in, but as Dave’s personality shows through, the people love him. He cuts budget items as quickly and easily as you’d make a grocery list, he does magic tricks to cheer up a homeless kid, he uses giant robotic arms to tell fishing jokes; Dave does it all. Except the film itself is not nearly as charming as they make Dave out to be; it’s actually fairly slow and plodding, existing in a middle-ground between unfunny comedy and ineffectual drama. Arnold’s cameo as himself is ultra-minor, but it reminded me of going through the Presidential Fitness Tests at school. At the time, I thought they were super cool because they were affiliated with Arnold, and that if I did good, maybe I could meet Arnold. Alas, I wasn’t good enough (nor did I look enough like an actual winner to impersonate them, Dave-style).

BerettasIsland_1Beretta’s Island (1994)
On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

Starring Franco Columbu, Ken Kercheval, Elizabeth Kaitan, Van Quattro, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jo Champa, Tammara Souza
Directed by Michael Preece

If you’ve seen Pumping Iron you probably remember Franco Columbu as Arnold’s workout buddy and co-competitor. Their friendship continues to this day, and in a lot of early Arnold movies Franco is somewhere in the background in a small role. So it only makes sense that when Franco finally had his own starring vehicle that Arnold would cameo in it! The buddies pump some iron together in an early scene, spurring each other on in much the same way I imagine they do in real life. It’s nothing special, but it’s one of the most honest and believable moments in the film. The rest of the film is some of the most ridiculous, dumb-action-movie stuff ever crammed into a low-budget movie. Franco plays Franco, a retired Interpol agent now living the high life in LA… so basically riding his motorcycle, pumping iron and making wine. But he gets a special assignment to go back to his beloved Sardinia, now plagued with drugs and the associated villainy, and because this is a dumb action movie, the drug lord lives right next door to Franco’s best friend.

Beretta’s Island has so much to offer the B-Movie aficionado who harbors a special love of Arnold and the general ridiculousness of the ’80s drug lord action film. Things like: a couple of lengthy workout scenes, an ’80s-style score, and Franco shirtless at every opportunity and then some. In addition to being a vanity project for Franco, Beretta’s Island is also a cultural love letter to his Sardinian homeland with its multiple sequences of folk music, traditional festivals and dancing, horse racing, soccer, boxing, making out on the beach, etc. Beretta’s Island is the kind of movie you can’t recommend because virtually no one will like it, but I had a total blast with it and I know some like-minded soul out there would too. So get in the right mindset and give it a shot! You’ve never lived until you’ve seen a shirtless bodybuilder jump onto a motorcycle to chase the drug lords he recognized in the crowd of the boxing match he was coaching and then started fighting himself because the opponent was on cocaine. 🙂

Quick Takes: Naked Lunch, M. Butterfly, Crash

nakedlunch_1Naked Lunch (1991)

Starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Roy Scheider, Monique Mercure, Nicholas Campbell, Michael Zelniker, Robert A. Silverman, Joseph Scoren
Directed by David Cronenberg

Naked Lunch is one of those movies that’s hard to classify. I’ve never read the source novel, but from what I understand it was always assumed to be unfilmable. Cronenberg definitely found a way around that, incorporating elements of William S. Burrough’s life into this wild, weird, paranoid tale. It’s something of a horror movie with its gross-out physical FX work, but it’s also nothing like a horror movie. I mean, does a living typewriter that looks like a bug automatically make this into a horror movie? No, I don’t think so, but this movie would be a hard sell to any “normal” audience, that’s for damn sure. If you are intrigued by the creative process or surrealism, Naked Lunch is a must. I don’t know if you’ll like it, but it’s definitely a movie that you won’t be able to shake easily.

MButterfly_1M. Butterfly (1993)

Starring Jeremy Irons, John Lone, Barbara Sukowa, Ian Richardson, Annabel Leventon, Shizuko Hoshi, Richard McMillan, Vernon Dobtcheff
Directed by David Cronenberg

On the surface M. Butterfly seems like an odd film for David Cronenberg to make, but its themes of sexual politics and identity fit right in with much of his other work. Both of the lead characters, René (Jeremy Irons) and Song Liling (John Lone), are compelling and very well acted, but together I don’t think their relationship is satisfactorily developed. It always felt a bit cold emotionally, but I suppose that’s part of the point of it all, isn’t it? In any case, because of this I didn’t connect with the film as I’d have liked to, but as Cronenberg clearly made the film he wanted to, I’m sure that’s more my fault than his. Shooting the film in China, on back alleys and grand vistas alike, with some truly exceptional lighting, M. Butterfly is one of Cronenberg’s most beautiful films, and that’s saying a lot within his filmography. My personal obsession with China and its culture probably helped, too. A good film that I appreciate and respect, but don’t especially like too much.

crash_1Crash (1996)

Starring James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas, Deborah Kara Unger, Rosanna Arquette, Peter MacNeill
Directed by David Cronenberg

Speaking of films that I appreciate and respect, but don’t especially like too much: Crash. But in this case, I think Crash is a much better film than M. Butterfly. It’s incredibly bold, telling its story almost entirely through car crashes and sex scenes. Surprisingly then, there’s a ton to deconstruct and engage with intellectually while the actors writhe on-screen. This is Cronenberg exercising his visual storytelling abilities to the absolute max, creating a non-traditional, challenging film to stand the test of time. The cars and the taboo sexual desires associated with them in Crash are provocative and integral to the film, but it also feels like they could be replaced with non-offensive, traditional elements to craft a more mainstream pleasing film. But where’s the fun in that? I feel like if I saw Crash a few more times, I’d really come to understand and appreciate it more fully. I can’t say that I liked it, but Cronenberg definitely didn’t make a bad film. In fact, it’s probably one of his finest achievements.

Remote (1993)

Remote1993Starring Chris Carrara, Jessica Bowman, John Diehl, Tony Longo, Stuart Fratkin, Derya Ruggles, Jordan Belfi, Kenneth A. Brown, Lorna Scott

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

I purposefully don’t do much research so I can come to movies without too many expectations. In the case of Remote, knowing nothing led me to incorrectly assume that the title referred to a TV remote. I imagined a magical remote control as the catalyst to the typical Moonbeam storyline of a kid getting sucked into an alternate world, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, Remote is more grounded than any other Moonbeam film I’ve seen so far, and the title refers to remote-controlled planes, cars and yodeling Germans.

The storyline is fairly scattershot, but if I had to classify it as something, it’s basically a Home Alone clone. Randy (Chris Carrara) is your typical ’90s whiz kid, and his special interest is in remote-controlled devices. His best friend is a baseball-playing girl named Judy (Jessica Bowman), and they spend a lot of time together flying remote-controlled planes, and racing remote-controlled cars around the duct work in the attic of the sole model house for an undeveloped housing tract. This house is their special hideout, but when a trio of bungling burglars seek refuge there, Randy finds himself trapped in the attic with nothing but his remote-controlled minions between him and the criminals.

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Last Action Hero (1993)

lastactionhero_8Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austin O’Brien, F. Murray Abraham, Charles Dance, Frank McRae, Tom Noonan, Anthony Quinn, Art Carney, Robert Prosky, Mercedes Ruehl, Ian McKellen, Professor Toru Tanaka, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras

Directed by John McTiernan

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.


Last Action Hero is OK. As a comedy it’s not great, as an action movie it’s about the same, but as a mainstream big-budget action comedy I guess it’s pretty solid. The production itself is quite impressive, and the film boasts a ton of great stunts, FX and explosions. The film-within-a-film idea allowed the writers to go balls out, and they did a great job of distinguishing the real world from the imaginary, even well before Jack Slater transitions over into our world. The use of sunny and colorful Los Angeles as the fictional setting, and gritty, dangerous nighttime New York as the real world helps a lot with this as well.

Before I get too deep into this review I should probably note that I’m not a fan of self-aware films. If the entire Scream franchise and Cabin in the Woods were to disintegrate out of existence, I wouldn’t mind at all. I’m sure there are films out there that buck this rule of mine, but I can’t think of any at the moment. Last Action Hero is definitely one that falls within this self-aware category, but because of Arnold and my general love of shit blowing up I was able to make it through this one without too many urges to jump out the window screaming.

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