Monday, March 23, 2009

Recap! Action Bonanza!

I think I'll make this one an action feast! I've been joining with friends in the re-consumption of some of the best and brightest. And while these films are certainly not obscure or underrated, there's no doubt that they define my existence. Let's keep it brief and stick to the final judgments, shall we?

The Rock (1996) - "Infinitely better after a spooky night trip to the island of doom!/Michael Bay strikes again with his blatantly gratuitous music video of death, destruction, receding hairlines, military nostalgia, and biting one-liners!/God Bless America!

Commander Anderson: Have you ever been in a combat situation before?
Stanley Goodspeed: Define combat, sir.
Commander Anderson: Shep?
Lt. Shephard: An incursion underwater to re-take an impregnable fortress held by an elite team of U.S. Marines, in possession of eighty-one hostages and fifteen guided rockets loaded with V.X. poison gas.
Stanley Goodspeed: Oh. In that case, no sir. Excuse me...

Waterworld (1995) - "One of Hollywood's greatest blunders is only good news for me!/Dennis Hopper was never meant to be anywhere else!/Crazy costumes, meticulously constructed sets, an interested albeit misinformed idea about the future, and all the bang you could want for your buck!/Long live the short-lived era of real action films!"

Deacon: Don't just stand there, kill something!
Deacon: Well, I'll be damned. It's the gentleman guppy. You know, he's like a turd that won't flush.

Deacon: If I ever see him again, I'm going to cut open his head and eat his brain.
Deacon: Dry land is not just our destination, it is our destiny!

Die Hard (1988) - "The mack-daddy of big-budget action films!/Reginald VelJohnson can save me any day!/This should start with a disclaimer: real sets were used, people really fell off buildings, the sound effects are not stock, we let people swear their pretty hearts out and those explosions are full-scale. Fuck Yeah!

  • When the bomb in the elevator shaft blows out the side of the building, the effect was accomplished by (a) collecting virtually every camera flashbulb of a particularly powerful type in the Los Angeles area and wiring them on the outside of the actual building to simulate the flash, and (b) by superimposing a shot of an actual explosive blowing a hole in the wall of an all-black miniature of the building at the appropriate location.

  • The fireball in the elevator shaft was shot with real pyrotechnics using a miniature shaft; the camera speed had to vary over the length of the shot because otherwise the fireball would appear to change speed as it moved up the forced-perspective model. The effects people weren't sure exactly at what rate to vary the speed, so they rigged a manual variable-speed control and did several takes changing the speed at different rates and then picked the one that looked best.

  • The firearms used in Die Hard (1988) are, as in most action films, real firearms modified to function with blanks. Although modern small arms ammunition is intended to have minimum muzzle flash, director John McTiernan wanted vivid, "exaggerated realism" in the muzzle flashes. Weapons specialist Michael Papac hand fabricated some blanks that were so powerful that the standard firearms modifications weren't workable. Papac had to specially modify the firearms involved. Special Effects Coordinator Al Di Sarro said of these blanks that 'in the world of blanks, there are loads that are not so loud and loads that are deafening', and these were deafening. These blanks did cause some cast members, notably Alan Rickman, to flinch. Furthermore, normally most sound effects come from a studio library of sound effects. Sound designer Richard Shorr didn't want to use these clips as modern sound equipment would show their age, as some of them were recorded in the 1950s. To resolve this and further the "exaggerated realism", the sound crew took the appropriate firearms to a firing range in Texas and recorded them being fired with live ammunition.

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