The Players Club (1998)

the-players-club-movie-poster-1998-1020196466Starring LisaRaye, Bernie Mac, Monica Calhoun, Jamie Foxx, Chrystale Wilson, Adele Givens, Anthony Johnson, Faizon Love, John Amos, Charlie Murphy, Montae Russell, Ice Cube, Samuel Monroe Jr., Alex Thomas, Terrence Howard, Luther Campbell, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Michael Clarke Duncan

Directed by Ice Cube

Expectations: Moderate. I know next to nothing about this.

threestar


First and foremost, The Players Club is a movie by and for black people. I’m not trying to generalize and I don’t mean that in any way other than descriptive, but my mind kept returning to this fact while watching the film. It never congealed into a deep, coherent thought because I was always entertained with the brewing drama occurring between the characters, and there was never really a down moment to ponder this.

In today’s society we hear a lot about how racism is dead, or how we’re living in a post-racial world, but that’s all bullshit. One look at the popular entertainment produced by Hollywood will show you that actors of any color skin other than white better be ready for a whole lot of supporting roles. But for a long time, probably since the Blaxploitation movement in the ’70s, there has been a small but thriving black filmmaking community. The films very rarely crossover to mainstream audiences, but they’re out there doin’ their thang, producing films for a select audience of people.

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Trespass (1992)

Starring Bill Paxton, Ice T, William Sadler, Ice Cube, Art Evans, De’voreaux White, Bruce A. Young, Glenn Plummer, Stoney Jackson, T.E. Russell, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Hal Landon Jr.

Directed by Walter Hill

Expectations: As the final film of Ice Fest, I’m excited and a little sad it’s all over.


As soon as Trespass started, I couldn’t contain my excitement. The opening scene seemed designed specifically for me in this moment, as the second line in the film is spoken by Ice Cube, quickly followed by a line from Ice T. The scene is a series of close-ups as Ice T and his associates watch a video of one of their friends being murdered, intercut with the credits of the film. The structure of the scene builds excitement as you start piecing together the story that will play out for your enjoyment, but obviously for me there was another, more pressing agenda. Seeing Ice Cube and Ice T together in one film after eight solo films was too much for me to handle. No matter what the dramatic weight of the scene was, I couldn’t help myself. I had the biggest grin on my face and I was hooting with glee. The two Ices had finally joined forces. “Life is good,” I said to myself. And the best part of this story is that the movie that followed this pure, giddy joy was awesome.

After this opening scene we meet our two main characters, a couple of firefighters played by William Sadler and Bill Paxton. While attempting to save “Ted” Theodore Logan’s dad (Hal Landon Jr. for the non-Bill & Ted’s fans) from a burning building, Paxton acquires a package containing a golden Celtic cross and a newspaper clipping about an old Catholic church robbery. There’s also a map inside, so Paxton shows his buddy and they decide that treasure hunting for a million dollars worth of gold sounds a hell of a lot better than slaving away at the firehouse for the rest of their lives. The only caveat is that the building the map leads them to is deep in the bad part of town, and the situation quickly escalates to violence.

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Stealth Fighter (1999)

Stealth Fighter (1999)
AKA Mercenaires, Nighthawk

Starring Ice T, Costas Mandylor, Erika Eleniak, Sarah Dampf, William Sadler, Ernie Hudson, Andrew Divoff, William G. Schilling, John Enos III, Alex Meneses, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Steve J. Hennessy

Directed by Jim Wynorski (as Jay Andrews)

Expectations: Super high. I’m more pumped about this one than any other Ice Fest movie.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


In the first of her two scenes in Stealth Fighter, Erika Eleniak asks her husband, “You want some ice tea?” Her husband and I both responded to the affirmative, but unfortunately Stealth Fighter is a lot lighter on Ice T content than I would have liked. This saddened me, but the footage that remains is absolute gold, and the rest of the movie when Ice T isn’t around is filled with all kinds of explosions and craziness that only legendary B-Movie director Jim Wynorski could pull together so well. Sure, the majority of the action footage is taken from much larger budget films such as Diamonds are Forever and Flight of the Intruder, but the resulting bouillabaisse lends Stealth Fighter an air of being much more than it actually is. There’s just nothing like giant explosions on-screen, even if they are re-used.

Stealth Fighter opens in the best way possible: a slow-motion shot of sweaty hands coming together for an arm wrestling match. The hands belong to Ice T and Costas Mandylor, a couple of hotshot, rival fighter pilots. Before long they get the call to action, but while in flight Ice T goes rogue, kills his co-pilot and downs the plane. The military and all of his squad mates label Ice as K.I.A. and continue on with their lives, but like a spider waiting to strike, Ice steals the F-117 stealth fighter over 10 years after his supposed death. He’s working for a Latin American terrorist who plans to use it to threaten the US President (played by Ernie Hudson!) into releasing his political prisoner friends. The plot is overly convoluted, but it keeps one cardinal rule close to its heart throughout: awesome explosions always equal shit-eating grins.

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Quick Takes: Hobo With A Shotgun, The Night Before, No Strings Attached

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

Starring Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Robb Wells, Nick Bateman, Peter Simas
Directed by Jason Eisener

Webster’s gonna have to put out a new dictionary, because they need to add a picture of Rutger Hauer from Hobo With A Shotgun to the entry for “trash”. Hobo With A Shotgun is the ultimate trash movie, filled with a seemingly non-stop orgy of bloody splatters and disembowelments. They try for some substance but there’s none, which is to expected, but it’s not nearly as fun as it should be. It’s enjoyable for gorehounds, but it seems more like someone trying to make a movie like the ones they love instead of focusing on the whole and making something of quality. I’m impressed that they made it though and that they got Rutger Hauer! Nice colors throughout too, and not just the reds of blood.

The Night Before (1988)

Starring Keanu Reeves, Lori Loughlin, Theresa Saldana, Trinidad Silva, Suzanne Snyder, Morgan Lofting, Gwil Richards, Chris Hebert, Michael Greene, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, George Clinton
Directed by Thom Eberhardt

Great in concept, but a little lackluster in execution, The Night Before tells the wild and crazy tale of how Keanu Reeves meant to take Lori Loughlin to the prom but ended up on the wrong side of the tracks in East LA. This begins a series of fuckups too numerous to list here. The interesting thing about this one is that it’s mostly told through inventive flashbacks as Reeves stumbles through alleyways trying to piece together what happened to him just a few hours ago. It gets tiring as it goes on, but it’s still a fun movie overall. Strangely enough, I saw this movie on TV a couple of times but I could never remember its name until recently when I happened upon it while doing some IMDB searching. If only I had retraced my steps like Keanu, my search wouldn’t have taken twenty years.

No Strings Attached (2011)

Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Jake M. Johnson, Cary Elwes, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Kline, Chris Bridges, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell, Ophelia Lovibond, Talia Balsam, Guy Branum
Directed by Ivan Reitman

No Strings Attached is an enjoyable romantic comedy, but like all romantic comedies it’s wildly predictable and its success lies completely in the hands of its leads. Thankfully both Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher perform their duties well and paint a good picture of a shallow relationship. Directed by Ivan Reitman(!) with little to no flair or style, the film fits perfectly into that tired mainstream studio mold that seems to endlessly churn out the same film over and over. It’s not as funny as it should be, nor is it as touching as it thinks it is, but it was a fun night off for my brain.

Prison (1988)

Starring Lane Smith, Viggo Mortensen, Chelsea Field, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Tom Everett, Ivan Kane, Arlen Dean Snyder, André DeShields, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Stephen E. Little, Mickey Yablans, Larry Flash Jenkins, Hal Landon Jr., Matt Kanen, Kane Hodder

Directed by Renny Harlin

Expectations: Looks awesome, it has a director that went on to better things, Viggo and gore… I should like this.


Prison has a ton of stuff going for it. It stars Lane Smith, a character actor you know and love but probably don’t recognize the name (I didn’t). It co-stars Viggo Mortensen very early in his film career. It’s directed by Renny Harlin who would later go on to direct such favorites as A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master & Die Hard 2. The film is also produced by Empire Pictures and the wonderful John Carl Beuchler is on FX duty. In addition to that, the script was written by C. Courtney Joyner who later went on to write Puppet Master III & write and direct Trancers III. How’s that for some talent?

The film opens with an execution scene from the prison’s past. Lane Smith escorts the condemned man to his death by electric chair, but the dreamy quality of the scene suggests that all is not as it seems. As this is an 80s horror film, one can only assume that his soul cannot rest! Thirty years later, overcrowding in the prison system forces the state to re-open a penitentiary long since closed. They recruit Lane Smith, one of the old guards there, to head up the place as warden. Smith is haunted by the memories surrounding the electrocution, penetrating his dreams nightly. Before long, crazy shit starts happening for reals at the prison. It first comes to head when two men in solitary get a visitation from a very unwelcome spirit.

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