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.

twohalfstar


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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Quick Takes: Nightmare City, Your Highness, The Foot Fist Way

nightmare-city-poster-161Nightmare City [Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata] (1980)
AKA City of the Walking Dead

fourstar

Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Sonia Viviani, Eduardo Fajardo, Stefania D’Amario, Ugo Bologna
Directed by Umberto Lenzi

I’ve had Nightmare City on my radar for a while, but the arrival of Tom Savini’s crowdfunded remake-to-be gave me that extra little push in the right direction. Simply put, Nightmare City is a fuckin’ blast. I’ve always been a firm supporter of traditional, walking zombies, with the focus on the incessant nature of the never-tiring horde instead of the more immediate threat that running zombies deliver. But Nightmare City, the first film to use running zombies, proved to me that they can be just as fun, if not more. Director Umberto Lenzi crafts a film with scene after scene of pure balls-out madness, and the way it all bursts forth and inundates the unsuspecting viewer is incredible fun. One moment I was in tense apprehension for what might be behind that aircraft door, and then WHAM! A fucking horde of mud-faced, bloodthirsty fiends runs out, and the rest of the movie never lets up. The running zombies work here because Lenzi still embraces the overwhelming nature of the horde, while also delivering more fun than I think I’ve ever had with a zombie movie. It’s firmly a B-Movie, though, so many will scoff at its low-budget FX, but I say fuck all that and just have a good time with it!

yourhighness_1Your Highness (2011)
threestar

Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Charles Dance, Damian Lewis
Directed by David Gordon Green

Not sure how to review this one because it’s the kind of movie you pretty much know how you’ll feel about it before you watch it. If you liked Eastbound & Down and you’ve come on a quest for more Danny McBride to put in your head, Your Highness is a hoot. It helps if you also have an affinity for ’80s movies, specifically ’80s fantasy flicks like Beastmaster or Conan the Barbarian. If you’re not that person, I can’t imagine this being anything close to entertaining. But for me, I’m firmly in the first group, so I really enjoyed seeing Danny McBride in a fantasy setting. The ’80s-style CG lightning was also a quick way to my heart, but I think the perverted, Yoda-like Wise Wizard, brought to life by a puppet, really sealed the deal. Where a lot of ’80s throwbacks just feel like modern movies, Your Highness actually gets the spirit of ’80s sword-and-sorcery movies down pat, and it’s got more than its share of hilarity if you’re in the right frame of mind.

foot_fist_way_xlgThe Foot Fist Way (2006)
threestar

Starring Danny McBride, Mary Jane Bostic, Ben Best, Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez, Jody Hill, Ken Aguilar, Collette Wolfe
Directed by Jody Hill

Your Highness got me in the mood for some more Danny McBride, which naturally led me to The Foot Fist Way. McBride plays a Tae Kwon Do instructor that is every bit the foul-mouthed blowhard you’d expect him to be. The character is not as defined as McBride’s Kenny Powers role on Eastbound & Down, but you can clearly see the beginnings of that idea in The Foot Fist Way. Fans will definitely enjoy this one, but as this is the roughest of the McBride films, it’s not one to show everybody. Of course, I love me some martial arts, so the parody of that environment and the characters that inhabit it hit very solidly with me.

Alien³ (1992)

Alien³ (1992)
AKA Alien 3

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen, Christopher Fairbank, Carl Chase, Leon Herbert, Vincenzo Nicoli, Pete Postlethwaite

Directed by David Fincher

Expectations: High, but guarded. There’s no way this can hold up to my love of it as a teenager.


Alien³. I remember seeing this in the theater very vividly; I was 11 and it rocked my world. I’ve since seen it a couple of times, but those were all before I cracked 20 and my tastes changed a bit. I’ve been eagerly awaiting Alien³ with nostalgia and a lot of trepidation, and now I can honestly say that I understand why everyone’s so hard on this film. It really doesn’t live up to its predecessors, and it’s much too drama-heavy, but I gotta say, I still greatly enjoyed it. David Fincher may have disowned the film because it was such a horrible experience for him, but I have always — and apparently will always — harbor a great love for this one.

Alien³ immediately pisses off every giant Aliens fan in the room by informing us during the credits that everyone in the pod except for Ripley has died. I imagine they were about as mad as I was at Cameron’s complete disregard for the atmosphere and feeling of Scott’s Alien. Anyway, I was never very attached to any of these characters so I’ve never cared that they decided to go this route, but it is a definite point of contention for many. To this I say: PRISON PLANET, and rest my case. I have such a love for the sci-fi idea of a prison planet that it easily overrides any discomfort or ill feelings the questionable reveal brings on. And like I said, I was never too fond of any of them anyway. OK, I did like Bishop quite a bit, but he actually does get to come back for a bit. Besides, the deaths of the characters allows Alien³‘s story to move in some interesting and intriguing ways, and it gives the film its somber tone.

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Underworld: Awakening (2012)

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Sandrine Holt, Charles Dance, Kris Holden-Ried, Jacob Blair, Adam Greydon Reid, Catlin Adams

Directed by Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein

Expectations: Moderate. These are usually fun.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


Before I jump into the review proper, a bit of background on my history with the series. I don’t intend to review them all, so this short paragraph will have to suffice. I saw the first Underworld in the theater when it dropped and kind of hated it, but still enjoyed it in a guilty pleasure sort of way. When the sequels came out, I laughed and turned up my nose. This was during my transitional phase from film snob to the cultured gentleman that loves all cinema you know and love today. A few years later as my tastes had started to descend into B-movies a bit more, I decided to run through all three of the Underworld films that precede this one. I was surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed the first two, but the third one was definitely a sub-par entry. This leads me to Underworld: Awakening, the newest but definitely not the final entry into the series. You wouldn’t expect a centuries-long war between the vampire and the lycan to end with only four movies, would you?

They open the film with something of a “Last week on Underworld…” bringing everyone up to speed on the events of the first two films that this one sort of builds upon (in a clean slate sort of way). The humans have become aware of the monsters living among them, and as you’d expect humans to do, they immediately seek to wipe them out. Selene tries to steal away into the night with Michael, but instead an underwater grenade rips them apart and leads us into the film proper. Twelve years have passed and we are reunited with Selene in a cryo-tank; she has become a test subject for the human’s experimental monster vaccine program. It doesn’t take her long to bust out (thanks to some help from the mysterious Subject 2) and the action to begin.

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