Thursday, June 25, 2009

Masters of the Universe (1987)

I've been putting off summarizing this spectacular summit of supremeness for some time, but after seeing some nerd with a Masters t-shirt indulging in a greasy slice during karaoke night at a pizza joint in Davis, I could delay no longer. Part of my procrastination derives from the fact that I'm having trouble separating this sasquatch from it's elder brother, Flash Gordon, which I have also dipped into lately. In fact, now that I think about it, I may have watched more sword and sorcery epics in the last month than in most of the rest of my movie marathon life. But who doesn't like indulging in a little S&S now and then? It's not just the greasy, hairless (at least where it counts) blonde that reminds me of Flash; you've also got the bombastic ballads, sets on 80s planets with sequins and sparkles, and an amalgamation of animalistic participants that could only come from the mind of a comic book reader. That's right, Masters pulls some legends from across the nerd game board, with Soul Caliber characters battling it out with dwarfs and sorceresses. And then there's Skeletor. His costume is actually pretty good if you can ignore the fact that the skull face is awkwardly flexible. Like, how can bone make facial expressions? But forlorn fact is not what Masters is made of. No, no, that's 1 part supergeek to 2 parts 1980's to 1 part creepy sex fantasy to 3 parts awesome. Yes; never skimp on the awesome. Even without a big enough budget (that's why they had to move the intergalactic strip-war to Earth = cheaper sets!), the money is well spent. All the scenes in Eternia are outrageously outer space and perfectly crafty castle. And while Flash managed to hyperhype the 80's era execution with the presence of the glam gods Queen, Masters pulled out its own bomb with that whole synth side plot. Yes folks, they managed to throw in an epic eighties weapon with the arrival of the scintillating and psychedelic synth instrument which is actually some sort of cross-universe portal/transportation device. Ahh, the eighties. Courtney Cox is also pretty hot in this, and I was surprised to learn that Dolph Lundgren can in fact speak English, so that's a plus. And despite the blatant Star Wars ripoffs (the parent of an era!), this miraculous mess seems to hold itself together pretty well. But, what do I know (other than eighties action/creature comedies)? Even better, the director has literally done next to nothing in his career; the only other thing I've seen by him is the T2 3-D show at Universal Studios in the mid-nineties! But hey, it was awesome! I even heard that a sequel was in the works, but after rotten reviews and a lack of funding interest, they just turned everything into a platform for Cyborg, the starring vehicle for the relatively unknown Jean Claude, and also a delectable delight. Now all we need is some sort of showdown. Oh wait, I guess that's what the Universal Soldier collection is for!

Final Judgment: "Greasy and gleaming, a god among live-action space-fantasy comedies!/Hey, it's the eighties!/Swords and synths, crazy costumes, lizards and wizards, heavy with honor and filled with fantasy (I'm not just talking about Lundgren's thighs) = a movie clearly worthy of laserdisc!/Let me turn your cosmic key!/I'll take intergalactic instruments any day!/All I want to know is, where's his pussy?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Steel Dawn (1987)

Man, I was reading through the comments section for this flick on imdb, and I was more than a little flabbergasted to see some of the reviews. It's like everyone is trying to find reasons not to like this cinematic masterpiece because it might somehow degrade their hipster rating on facebook or some shit even though they were clearly awestruck by the sheer supremeness of Patrick Swayze fighting evil in an apocalyptic wasteland. There are excuses like, "This is not an example of cinematic magic...", While unworthy of an Academy Award..." and "Steel Dawn is a nice and easy to follow film-perfect for those weekday nights or when you don't want to watch something too complex that takes a lot of concentration." As if I ever needed any reason to bask in the sunlit glory of Swayze kicking mutant ass all while sporting the most beautiful mullet ever conceived and captured in cinematic history. I mean, it's more than a mullet; it's layers of mullet, and maybe a little braid. I spent much of the film toiling over the decision of which mullet was most awesome, and it was a hard one. But ultimately, the sheer fluid movement and chic gloss of Swayze's mullet beat out the competition, much as Swayze beats up people in this cleverly constructed desert wasteland where mighty mullets and eclectic weapons rule the dunes. Actually, not too much construction was required since there were only a couple of edifices, and the entire entity was filmed in Namibia. Ahh, on-site filming: does it get any better? So if you're wondering why the desert looks so damn good, and even better than you thought deserts outside of Monument Valley could look, now you know why: no CGI, fuckers! There are many other things that make this newly discovered diamond gleam above most others, including the previously mentioned diverse weapon collection and the presence of original and engineered future vehicles. Yes folks, we have lift-off. In addition to the dune-rovers, there is a sort of template for the podracers that we've all come to know and despise in Episode I, and we are graced with not just fist fights, but also sword fights, nun-chuck fights, and other crazy bladed and non-bladed WM(only in Swayze's hands)Ds. But just because there's fighting and vehicles, trysts with power, a post-apocalyptic premise and studded leather costumes doesn't mean there's that much to compare with Road Warrior. This is much more Western, with the one well of water (I'll show you my cave of wonders Nomad) and the lone dude willing to sort that shit out. Bring down the tyrants! Oh, did I mention that Swayze is so freakin' awesome in this P-A future that he gets graced with the singular name of Nomad? I mean, when they start capitalizing that shit, you know you're somebody, even if it's a somebody shrouded in mystery (and leather). Additionally, standing proud and red white and blue is none other than the late-great Brion James. Is that shirt supposed to be some sort of metaphor? If it were just the colors, I could find a way around the American dilemma. But red, white and blue combined with a blonde mullet worthy of a round in the ring with Swayze's coifed creation seems like more than a coincidence. Either way, I'm just glad they found a place to stick him in this movie. Seriously, there are only like 6 or 7 characters, and one of them is a chick not showing her tits (oh wait, that's Swayze's wife; they should be proud to share that much harrowingly awesome hair between them!), and one of them is a fat little kid who apparently scored a credit through sheer familial bonds with the producer. I just hope he shares familial bonds with either a brothel owner or a cosmetic surgeon, because dayum that kid is ugly! Regardless, I am still clueless as to why this movie isn't rolling off every action-fan tongue the way that Road House and Tall wait...Point Break used to. I guess it could have something to do with the 1987 release. That's right, it's pretty hard to concentrate on P-A fiction when there are a million multiple o faces happening across the globe due to the girly greatness known as Dirty Dancing, a creamy classic released in the same year. How does one man accomplish so much? And in the late 80's no less! Hopefully Swayze realizes that he doesn't need monetary retribution (yes, that's right, less than a million dollars) to proudly bear this crest upon his shield of ass-kicking. Booyah!

Final Judgment: "Swayze will go out with strength and dignity, much as he has kicked ass for justice through the years!/Any future with Swayze, post-apocalyptic or no, is the future for me!/Fuck, that cover is awesome!

Gattaca (1997)

I almost wasn't going to post on this classic, because I was under the assumption that everyone knows how frickin' awesome this film is. But apparently, box office receipts prove me wrong. What's up with that? I guess it sort of falls between genre audiences since it's science fiction without any special effects. But that clearly gave it more integrity. I mean, why does science fiction have to be all flying cars and talking dinosaurs? No, no, Gattaca is a much more subtle type of postulation about the future, and I for one am definitely intrigued. 12 years after the release of this sparkling gem, I'm not sure if we're any closer to the future described, a future where genetics can predetermine your place in society before you're even insured to go to kindergarten, but we're certainly not any further away. Just look at the insurance process in place now and think of all the stock (literal and figurative) being placed in scientific accuracy and reliability of genetics (I'm still on the fence). I mean, what sort of bullshit is that? Like we're somehow going to be able to unravel the code of millions of years worth of evolution when the fastest supercomputers can't even begin to handle the connections and puzzle pieces? I scoff at your arrogance! But, as we all know, logic is never quite the pretty pony calling the shots at the rodeo known as life. But I digress. The film is sweet! Who didn't want to be an astronaut as a child? And who can't understand the feeling that you're just not allowed to be exactly who'd you like to? Besides, Jude Law is hot, especially when he has all of his hair! And the sets are so classy! Not classy like a glass of Strawberry Hill, but classy like clean and modern! They didn't even have to build them! Instead, they filmed at buildings like Frank Lloyd Wright's 1960 Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, California (thank you wikipedia). It just feels....plausible. And that is something that science fiction scientists don't always produce in their lab o' hollywood harlots. But why oh why did they try and fake that Uma Thurman is shorter than Ethan Hawke? That's bullshit! He's the short one, why should she be embarrassed? Stand tall my urban sister!

Final Judgment: "Just close enough for comfort!/A biopunk vision of liberal eugenics = awkward wariness!/Ha! Fiction determining science debates; it's good to know that imagination still has its place!/Fuck genetics! Fuck predeterminism! And Fuck the Man!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Almost Heroes (1998)

Well, the tables have certainly turned. I haven't felt quite this way since the monstrous responsibility of Dragstrip Girl. I mean, it had to be done; I had to post about this movie. But for once, I'm falling in line with the critics and not the jolly imdb commenters that we've all come to love and trust. To be quite truthful, this scares me, but I guess we can't win them all. Let's be honest, I watched this movie for two basic reasons: it looked absolutely awful and I'd never heard of it despite the fact that Chris Farley is in it. I mean, I know my way around the Blockbuster or two, so a Farley movie should be common knowledge. Especially when you consider the fact that it is officially the last starring role that Farley ever appeared in. And I thought Beverly Hills Ninja was bad! It's hard to laugh at the jokes when you can practically see Farley's suicidal drug thoughts scrolling across his pupils. Ohh, the degradation. I mean, there were a few laughs. And Eugene Levy is always worth a chuckle in ugliness. But mostly, it was a little depressing. The one gag I can't get out of my head (and totally not in a good way) are the straw prostitutes. Yes, if you ever wanted to see a grown man so starved for the female coochie that he will cajole, woo and fuck a scarecrow in a dress at the local brothel, you're in luck. The stock footage of squirrel and eagle bits were pretty good too. And I always love some good animatronics. Otherwise, it's just classic Farley, which, don't get me wrong, isn't a terrible thing, with the dude falling off cliffs and down trees and over waterfall rapids, etc. etc. etc. And Matthew Perry? Even the days of Friends glory couldn't keep him out of this mess. Other people seem to think that rewatching this gem will result in some sort of state of enlightenment where you think every minute of it is hilarious. I appear to have much to learn, my sensei. Instead, for me this appears to be the height of nineties ridiculousness and patheticness. And all while watching some tramp with vegetable oil in her lips prance around and remind me what's wrong with Hollywood these days. Oh well, at least it looks like they found at least one real Indian.

Final Judgment: "I'd be laughing if I wasn't crying."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Everything Else (May and June)

It appears that I'm starting a new category: Everything Else (I've Been Watching). That's right, I can do that. This one is for all those classics that don't quite need another post, but are still pretty dang good. That way, if you're looking for something "safe," you know you've got the Tesla Seal of Approval!

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Police Academy (1984)

Double Trouble: A Far Off Place (1993) and Wild America (1997)

Well, it is time to approach that epically metaphysical yet oh-so-Middle American question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Why do I bring up such delicate banter now you ask? Because, upon watching movies of my childhood that are both heart-warming and totally awesome, I have to wonder, which came first: did my love for the common features of these dual delights lead me to enjoy these fine films, or do I like the things I like because of the movies I watched during development? I guess, first-off, we should address the commonalities (it's a little uncanny, especially since I don't remember making these connections before). As is typical with young adult movies, both films deal with issues of adolescence, standing up against adults, pursuing dreams and fighting for what you believe in. Okay, easy enough to see how both plots could end up on the same family friendly shelf. But we also need to include exotic locales, Aboriginal inhabitants, wild animals, respect for said animals, dream-states, life-threatening situations, and the ever deal-making cave paintings. Oh, the cave paintings, on which I spent a year of life! I adore you! But why? What draws me to these things? I, for one, (Krishnamurti willing) will have to ponder on these questions throughout the days, perhaps never finding an inkling of answer or satisfaction. But, since the movies are filmed on location, filled with crazy natives and crazier animals (some are even people in suits!) and spotted with an explosion or two, I know that at least I will always have some inspiring fiction to watch while I cerebrate.

Final Judgment: "Fiesty kids and real deserts make me happy!/Regardless of the origin, my life is gladly filled with the mysteries of wildlife and cave paintings!/Ahhhh, why do these children never get any older looking?!/You can always count on the magic of movies to take you back to a time of wonder!/Oh girl-faced boys and wild animals!/If I've learned one thing, it's that you're never too young to hallucinate!