“I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer; the decision rests with you.”
Klaatu, taking “F*ck Around and Find Out” interstellar.
Today, September 18th, 2021 (if you’re counting its New York City premiere; September 20th if you mean opening across the U.S.), marks the 70th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite films, The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951. I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. Though I’m of course too young to have seen it in theaters, I watched it numerous times when I was a kid, whenever it ran on my local TV station’s Saturday afternoon SF/horror movie double feature. When home video became accessible even to poor bastards like me, TDTESS was one of the first films I acquired on VHS, and later LaserDisc and eventually DVD and (finally?) Blu-ray. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve watched it, and thanks to a local theater owner here in Kansas City, I was finally able to watch a pristine print of the film on a big theater screen several years ago.
(We pause to recall fangasms…..everybody good? Okay. Moving on….)
“A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.”
Heavy Metal is 40 years old today.
I’m not talking about the music genre, which is even older; I mean Heavy Metal, the animated movie based on the self-styled “adult illustrated fantasy magazine (itself based on the French magazine Métal Hurlant),” which premiered in theaters on August 7th, 1981. Unless you’ve been living on an asteroid or suspended in cryogenic freeze lo these many years, you’ve at least heard of this movie, and are even likely familiar with at least one image associated with the film. Check it, yo:
The summer of 1981 was pretty good for movies, especially if you were a 14-year old boy like I was. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Escape From New York, Clash of the Titans and For Your Eyes Only to name but a few were all in theaters, and this was back in the days when movies where “HELD OVER!” for weeks upon weeks, so long as they brought in decent coin. So, it was with no small amount of curiosity that my friends and I, after ostensibly purchasing tickets to see Indiana Jones do his thing for the seventh or eighth time, instead took advantage of lax theater oversight and snuck our way into our first R-rated cartoon.
Dayton, his young, impressionable eyes opened.
And so it went: A mysterious green orb brought back to Earth from deep space proceeds to tell its tale of how evil it is to the young daughter of the astronaut who brought it home. As for the astronaut? Well, he did bring the thing home, so that was his ass. The orb, which refers to itself as the “Loc-Nar,” reveals its story to the girl (and us) through a series of vignettes, each set in different a time period and/or on a distant world, with tons of violence, bad language, and gratuitous animated nudity…and all of it set to a first-rate musical score courtesy of legendary composer Elmer Bernstein, along with what is arguably one of the most KICK-ASS collections of rock music ever to be lumped together under a “movie soundtrack” banner.
Ivan Reitman (as in Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters and…yes…Kindergarten Cop), co-produced the film, which features stories written by Dan O’Bannon (Alien) as well as frequent Heavy Metal magazine contributors Bernie Wrightson and Richard Corben. The voice talents of folks like John Candy, Harold Ramis, John Vernon and Eugene Levy add to the fun. The animation, much of which was derived by “rotoscoping,” or drawing animated figures by tracing over filmed live-action footage of actors, has its ups and downs, though a lot of it looks pretty dated when compared to modern efforts and even some earlier animated features. Still, it does have a distinctive style which remains recognizable.
To be honest, Heavy Metal isn’t that great a flick. I mean, we got a huge kick out of it back then, and I’ve watched it however many times during the intervening years, but it’s not a masterpiece. I enjoy many of its components individually more so than the resulting entire package. Regardless of what I might think, there’s no denying it’s a cult classic, with no small amount of charm doing its best to mask the flaws contained therein.
That’s not to say I think it’s a bad movie. It’s cheesy fun, and while it appealed more to 14-year old me than 54-year old me, I still have a soft spot for a couple of the segments (“Captain Sternn” and “B-17,” for those keeping score). What I remember most, and still love to this day, is the music. Holy shit, what a line-up! Sammy Hagar, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Nazareth, and even Journey and Grand Funk Railroad, just to name the ones off the top of my head. I must have gone through a half-dozen copies of the soundtrack on cassette (Remember those?), and waited for years for the damned thing to be made available on CD. Same with the Bernstein score.
As for the movie itself, I unabashedly admit I own it on Blu-ray, along with its lesser sequel, Heavy Metal 2000 (on DVD, natch). I’ve also followed the magazine off and on across the years, up to and including recent issues from its current iteration, and some of their spin-off comics projects have also caught my eye here and there.
There have been rumblings off and on in recent years about some kind of new animated Heavy Metal film project. While that hasn’t yet happened, HM’s had its fingers in a few other screened projects. First, there was Métal Hurlant Chronicles, a French-Belgian anthology series which took its name from the original magazine. After airing in Europe beginning in the fall of 2012, its two seasons made their way to the U.S. in 2014 and showed up on the Syfy network.
Elsewhere, Kevin Eastman, at the time the owner and publisher of Heavy Metal magazine, co-produced War of the Worlds: Goliath, a 2014 animated steampunk sequel to H.G. Wells’ original novelThe War of the Worlds. Uh…they had me at War of the Worlds. Anyway, Eastman made sure the magazine promoted the film in the run-up to its release, including featuring several tie-in stories released culminating in a “War of the Worlds special” issue. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the film’s novelization, written as it was by friend and fellow word pusher Adam Whitlatch.
Most recently, there’s the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots, which premiered in 2019 and is basically a reimagining of an idea for a Heavy Metal movie series developed by David Fincher and Tim Miller. LD+R has produced 26 episodes to date across two seasons, with a third season of eight episodes slated for 2022.
So, you know: feel free to check out all of that stuff. You know you want to. You can’t refuse. “If you refuse, you die; she dies…everybody dies!”
:: Ahem. ::
Anyway, Happy 40th Birthday, Heavy Metal the movie.
As something of a movie nerd, I’m usually aware when favorite films celebrate “milestone” birthdays (or anniversaries, if you will). This past weekend, I yammered a bit about Top Gun on the occasion of its 35th birthday, as it was released on May 16th, 1986. Back in April, I found time to wax nostalgic about the classic science fiction film The Thing From Another World, turning 70 this year after being released on April 7th, 1951. I think anyone who’s spent any amount of time here knows I’m pretty reliable so far as remembering things like the various Star Trek films, but there are plenty of other favorites, like the original Alien or Superman movies to name just a couple of prominent examples.
2021 seems to be a banner year for celebrating movie milestone birthdays. I’m not just talking about old black n’ white flicks, though a few of those are marking anniversaries of distinction this year, as well. I don’t even mean to stop with movies I saw first run in a theater as a kid or even a young(er) adult, in many cases before the age of home video and all that jazz. We’re deep into that era, progressing from video tapes, LaserDiscs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs to streaming video, all of which have for more than thirty years allowed us to revisit fondly-remembered films any time we feel like it. However, none of that equals the thrill of my young eyes being glued to one of those giant movie screens all those years ago as the lights dimmed and the music started to ramp up. Even today, with so many options at my fingertips, there are still films – old and new – I want to see on that giant movie screen, just as their creators intended.
So, what have we got? Well, here’s a sampling of what’s still to come in 2021:
On Friday, May 21st, Escape from the Planet of the Apes – the third in the “classic series” of Apes films, turns 50. YOU READ THAT RIGHT.
Celebrating its 40th birthday on Saturday, May 22nd, is Outland, Sean Connery’s low-key, even underrated “High Noon in Space” riff, which opened in 1981. Still one of my favorite 1980s science fiction films.
Also on May 22nd but celebrating its 25th birthday after being released in 1996 is the first Mission: Impossible movie. As I write this, Tom Cruise and company are working to finish that series’ seventh film, with an eighth already waiting in the pre-production wings.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Thelma & Louise embarking on their infamous road trip, which began on May 24th, 1991. On that same date, Ron Howard brought to us is wonderful drama about firefighters, Backdraft, starring Kurt Russell and William Baldwin, and Robert De Niro.
Those are just the things I’ve got for the remainder of May. June and July will bring a whole truckload more, as we remember our first encounters with Ferris Bueller, Snake Plissken, Jack Burton, and Indiana Jones on the occasion of their respective “milestone” anniversaries. We’ll also say “Welcome Back!” to Ellen Ripley, James Bond, and (he says, grudgingly) Robin Hood for similar reasons. And that’s just for starters.
Don’t worry, TV friends. I haven’t forgotten you! On television, May 23rd will mark the 20th anniversary of the Star Trek: Voyager series finale, which saw Voyager and its crew make their triumphant return to Earth on this date in 2001.
2021 is also “important” for remembering our first meetings with Jack Bauer, Captain Jonathan Archer, and – if you want to reach even farther back – Colt Seavers, the unknown stuntman who made Eastwood look so fine.
I don’t know that I’ll get to individual entries for most or even several of these. I guess it’ll all come down to time available, but I’ll try my best because these sorts of look-backs are fun, and 2021 is a banner year for me and my fellow movie nerds. When it’s not making me feel old, of course. While I ponder that notion, feel free to throw your personal favorites into the comments section.
“I gotta send somebody from this squadron to Miramar. I gotta do something here. I still can’t believe it. I gotta give you your dream shot. I’m gonna send you up against the best. You two characters are going to Top Gun. For five weeks, you’re gonna fly against the best fighter pilots in the world. You were number two, Cougar was number one. Cougar lost it, turned in his wings. You guys are number one. But you remember one thing. You screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.”
May 16, 1986: the United States Navy is gifted with what might still rank as its best-ever recruiting film. That’s right, elipsing such classics as McHale’s Navy, The Hunt for Red October, and even Down Periscope.
A group of scientists and military officers at a remote Arctic outpost near the North Pole discover a mysterious craft buried in ice. They also find a body, similarly entombed, and excavate it from its frozen grave.
And — as things tend to do in stories of this sort — everything goes straight to Hell, for what they have discovered is not a human or indeed like anything on Earth. Instead, what they’ve found is….
Following premieres in Cincinnati and Dayton as well as Washington, D.C., The Thing from Another World stomped its way onto theater screens across the United States on April 7th, 1951, seventy years ago today. The film’s screenplay was written by Charles Lederer, loosely adapting John W. Campbell, Jr.’s seminal 1938 novella Who Goes There? (originally published as a 12-capter serial in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction under Campbell’s pen name, Don A. Stuart).
“It started…for me, it started…last Thursday, in response to an urgent message from my nurse, I hurried home from a medical convention I’d been attending. At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn’t. Something evil had taken possession of the town.…”
Dr. Miles Bennell is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
I originally wrote what follows little intro here ten years ago while conducting one my now long-defunct “Wayback Review” installments. Most of those were random Star Trek episode but I opted to turn my attention to the Arnold Schwarzenegger combat classic, Commando, on the occasion of its then 25th birthday. It’s ten years later and I this flick has only further cemented itself as one of the best shamelessly over-the-top action movies of the 1980s. I can still watch this without any prompting or reason other than it’s just silly fun.
Commando was released 35 years ago today on October 4th, 1985. I didn’t get to see this during its original theatrical run because by October 4th I was three days into my extended stay at Parris Island, South Carolina, courtesy of the United States Marine Corps and their awesome travel agency and vacation club for new members.
It wasn’t until I made it to my first permanent assignment at Camp Pendleton in California in the spring of 1986 that I found this gem at a discount theater (remember those). VHS rentals soon followed before I finally obtained a copy of my own, and years later I upgraded to DVD when they released an “unrated” cut of the film. The only reason I’ve not yet ugraded to Blu-ray for this title is that said extended version is not available in this format, and to that I say, “The hell is that about?”
So, here we are…35 years after the film’s release. Does it hold up? Let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane and see for ourselves, why don’t we? Though I’ve gone through and tweaked things here and there and freshened up a joke or two, this is pretty much the “live-watch review” I wrote ten years ago:
Colonel John Matrix is a retired bad-ass. Living with his daughter Jenny in a secluded cabin in the middle of Nowhere, he just wants to be left alone, but that’s not to be. You see, three of Matrix’s former Special Ops soldiers have been murdered. Somebody’s targeting Matrix and members of his team, for reasons unknown, and even though Matrix and his men have been given new identities (also for reasons unknown). Matrix’s old commanding officer, General Kirby, warns him whoever’s behind this will soon find him, too. Kirby leaves two Special Ops dudes with Matrix for protection while he heads “into the city” to coordinate with law enforcement in some mysterious manner which will prevent the killers from reaching Matrix.
By my watch, the first Special Ops dude goes down about twenty seconds after Kirby leaves. His buddy takes rounds, too. So much for the protection plan. Matrix instructs Jenny to hide while he retrieves a pistol and rifle from the fucking arsenal he’s got in the back of his tool shed. Now suitably armed and ready to receive visitors, Matrix returns to the house to get Jenny, and finds a guy sitting in her room. The dude and his pals have Matrix’s daughter, and they’ll be holding her for safekeeping as a guarantee Matrix will cooperate, right?
To this day, I feel sorry for the idiots who take this guy’s kid. That’s just some dumbshit idea-hatchin’, right there.
“Wrong,” Matrix says and puts a round through the asshole’s head, and we’re off and runnin’, bitches. Matrix is goin’ Bandit….Reynolds Style!
Matrix bolts outside, seeing a pair of vehicles hauling ass away from the house. When he finds the kidnappers have ripped the innards out of his own truck, he does what any sensible person would do in a similar situation….he pushes the truck down a slope and jumps behind the wheel, steering the truck (sort of) as it careens without brakes down the side of the mountain. Try that shit on for size, Duke boys.
Movie geography being what it is, Matrix is able to attempt side-swiping or simply colliding with the getaway cars twice during their transit down the mountain and its various switchbacks or whatever. He almost pulls it off, too, but instead ends up in a ditch. The kidnappers try to apprehend him and he makes a few of them regret that shit, but the numbers aren’t on his side and he’s finally wrestled to the ground. Matrix looks up to see one of his old Special Ops buddies, Bennett, dressed like Freddie Mercury trying to fit in with Hell’s Angels. He faked his death while helping these mercenary dicks to kill the other members of Matrix’s team. Apparently, he’s still pissed Matrix tossed his ass out of their unit years ago, and he’s just been itchin’ for some payback.
Oh, and today’s Pay Day, because this can’t be a 1980s action movie without a tagline like that.
After being shot with a tranquilizer dart which—if I’m not mistaken—might well be used to sedate moderately sized whales, Matrix wakes up to find himself chained to a table and with a bunch of ass-clowns looking down at him. Leading the ass-clown posse is a weasly-looking prick named Arius, a former dictator who once was unseated from his regime by Matrix and his team. He wants to return to power in his home country of Val Verde, and he’ll do that once Matrix assassinates the current leader. Matrix resists at first, of course, but since Arius is holding Jenny hostage and threatening to kill her, he sees no choice but to agree to the “assignment,” which in 80s MovieSpeak means every single swinging dick in that room along with a lot of other swinging dicks wandering through this movie are all doomed.
Matrix is taken by Bennett and some of Arius’ mercenary ass-clowns to the airport, from which he’ll fly with one of said ass-clowns to Val Verde in order to carry out his mission. Before Bennett can leave, Matrix warns him: “I’ll be back, Bennett.” Hey, that’s a pretty good line. I wonder if it’ll catch on? Escorted by two of Bennett’s butt-buddies, Henriques and Sully, through what passes for airport security in 1985, Matrix is taken to the gate for his flight to Val Verde. Sully sticks some money in his pocket, advising him to have a few beers and give the gang more time with Jenny.
Why is it always the scrawny shits who talk tough? Dude, you really went there? Really? Any dad in the real world is gonna gut you for saying something like that. Say it to an Action Movie Daddy and you might as well just cut off your own balls and save everybody some time. Matrix offers up one of his better lines from the whole movie: “You’re a funny guy, Sully. I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.” Aw, yeah.
Matrix and Henriques board the plane and get to their seats, where Henriques warns our hero to keep his mouth shut. Matrix responds my caving in the dude’s nose before breaking his neck. Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark. Matrix 2 – Bad Guys 0.
The plane starts to taxi down the runway, leaving Matrix with few options for getting off. In this Hollywood, pre-9/11 world, he’s able to get up from his seat *and* take the elevator to the plane’s lower level, where he accesses a maintenance hatch near the front landing gear. I can see some you out there rolling your eyes at the absurdity of this, but if you’ve managed to make it this far and not scoff at Sully’s leisure suit, you can get past this next part. Speaking of Sully, he doesn’t see what happens next, as he’s heading out for a little “me time.” So, he misses Matrix crawling out through the access hatch and down onto the landing gear. The plane picks up speed and he waits for his chance, and wouldn’t you know it? Its runway lets it take off right over some marshland. Good thing it wasn’t the I-5, eh? Shucking his sport coat, which isn’t needed for the forthcoming ass beatings he’ll be administering in due course, Matrix sets the countdown timer on his watch for eleven hours, the approximate duration of the flight to Val Verde. His mission now? Find his daughter before the plane lands and Arius and his people figure out they’ve been had.
In the airport, Sully contacts Arius and lets him know Matrix and Henriques are on the plane, bound for Val Verde. Arius, along with Bennett and Jenny, are boarding a boat for who the hell knows where, with Arius figuring by this time tomorrow, he’ll be back in power. Jenny figures by this time tomorrow, Arius will be breathing through a new hole in his taint. Which one’s right? I know where I’m putting my chips. All in, bitchez!
Sprinting back across the tarmac to the airport, Matrix is hoping he might catch Sully before the little toady bastard can get clear of the airport. Lucky for Matrix, Sully’s got his eye on a hot flight attendant. He’s so distracted Matrix has no problem following him to the parking garage. I mean, let’s face it: you have to be some kind of blind-ass stupid not to see a guy like Matrix tailing you. That, or horny.
In the garage, the flight attendant tells Sully to tie a knot in his dick, and no sooner is he gone than the flight attendant feels a hand on her neck: Matrix. He needs her help to continue following Sully, and in order to be inconspicuous in her dinky little convertible, he does what most of us would do when faced with such a challenge: he rips out the passenger seat so he can get down low enough not to be seen. I mean, that’s right out of my very own covert automobile surveillance handbook (soon to be available exclusively in the Kindle format from Amazon.com!). Sully hits the streets, with Matrix and his unwilling helper, Cindy, following close behind. They make their way to the Galleria, which as all Arnie fans know is the same mall that a cyborg from the future—looking a lot like Matrix—will one day fight another cyborg from the future while trying to protect the future savior of the human race.
Sully, on the other hand, is just here for a drink, some shady business, and hopefully to get laid.
Once in the mall, Matrix and Cindy track Sully to a restaurant, where Sully is meeting with a business partner of some sort. Matrix sends Cindy in to try and draw Sully out to where he can beat his ass, but she instead goes to one of the mall cops and tells them about Matrix and what a crazy fucknugget he is. While Sully and his friend conduct some under-the-table business, the mall cop checks out Matrix and calls for backup to try and take him into custody. As the covert mall-cop cordon tightens around Matrix, Sully notices Cindy skulking about the restaurant. “I knew it!” he proclaims. “It’s gotta be my suit. Chicks can’t get enough of these fine threads.”
As Matrix watches the restaurant from his hiding spot, he becomes aware of the mall cops closing in on him. They try to escort him to Mall Jail or wherever, but Matrix knows if he lets these guys take him, he’ll never hear the end of it at the monthly Retired Bad Ass Special Ops Dudes meetings. “Mall cops? Really? I’d rather get beat down by the gate guard at a Hollywood film studio, bro.” And so on.
Sully, trying out a new set of moves on Cindy, suddenly notices Matrix beating the shit out of a platoon of mall cops, and realizes he’s been followed and Matrix has blown “The Plan” all to hell. Son of a bitch! He’s gotta call Arius! He fumbles for his cellphone and…oh, wait. This is 1985. He fumbles for a quarter to stick in the pay phone. Matrix gets to him before Sully can dial the call and rips the whole phone booth out of its mounting. Sully, understandably terrified out of his fucking mind, runs for it, leaving Matrix to deal with a fresh group of mall cops. Diving into an elevator, Sully thinks he might just get away, at least until Matrix does a Tarzan off the mall’s upper deck and swings himself to the top of the elevator. While Matrix has to beat the shit out of more security guys, Sully makes it back to his car and hauls ass. Matrix follows in Cindy’s car, stopping just long enough to pick up Cindy, who now realizes he’s been telling the truth all along. Way to get on the bandwagon, lady.
The chase winds through city streets and into the suburbs and isolated roads beyond, with Matrix hot on Sully’s ass, until Matrix finally manages to run Sully’s car off the road where it ends up on its side. The car with Matrix and Cindy smashes head-on into a phone pole. I always crack up when Matrix looks over and asks, “Are you all right?” especially since both of them by all rights should’ve gone sailing through the windshield and over the cliff.
Satisfied that Cindy’s not injured, Matrix ambles on over to where Sully’s crawling out from his overturned car. He searches the little turd’s pockets and finds a hotel room key. Hmm….a clue, gang! Matrix starts roughing up Sully, wanting to know where his daughter is, and when Sully doesn’t respond to his polite questions, Matrix changes tactics. Carrying Sully over to the nearby cliff, Matrix holds him out over the ledge by an ankle, using only one hand like the bad ass he is. Sully tries to pass himself off as having information Matrix needs, but Matrix knows better, and this is where he provides part 1 of The Best Line of the Whole Damned Movie:
MATRIX: Remember, Sully? When I promised to kill you last?
SULLY: That’s right, Matrix! You did!
MATRIX: I lied.
When he drops Sully, everybody in the theater cheers as the little shit’s body bounces off the rocks below. See ya. Wouldn’t wanna be ya.
With Cindy’s car out of commission, Matrix just flips Sully’s back onto its wheels. Take quick note of all the damage to the driver’s side of the car. Presto Chango! It’s all fixed the next time you see it. Cindy asks Matrix what he did with Sully, and Matrix’s response is part 2 of the aforementioned Best Line of the Whole Damned Movie: “I let him go.”
Matrix 3 – Bad Guys 0.
Using keen investigative skills and the key he snatched from Sully’s pocket, Matrix and Cindy make their way to the Sunspot Motel. Using the key, they enter Sully’s room and find nothing…other than the fact Sully’s a fucking slob. As they’re working, there’s a knock on the door. It’s Cooke, Sully’s fellow goon and one of the guys who was killing Matrix’s men at the start of the flick. Matrix hides and has Cindy open the door, pretending to be Sully’s date. She lets Cooke in and Matrix gets the drop on him, and a knock-down drag-out fight ensues. Cooke draws a pistol but Matrix is on him and bullets go flying all over the place. Still, this guy can hold his own, it seems, but Matrix finally manages to drop-kick his ass through the door to the next room, which—as always happens in these movies—is occupied by a young dude just trying his best to get a little action.
We pause at this juncture, to admire, salute, and applaud what God chose to give the guy’s girlfriend so far as the mammary department is concerned.
After a few more punches, kicks, and jabs to the junk, Matrix roundhouse punches Cooke back into Sully’s room, where the dude gets impaled on the leg of a broken coffee table. Wow. That’s just not good for anybody. As Cindy starts to blow chunks in the corner, Matrix asks the dying Cooke where Jenny’s being held, but the guy’s already checked out. Score another one for Matrix. A search of the dead man’s pockets turns up little, but in his car’s glove box Cindy finds a receipt for aircraft fuel from a depot in the area. Perhaps there’s a clue to be found there. To the Cookemobile!
At the fuel depot, Matrix has a look-see and worms his way into one of the warehouses, where he observes what looks to be a whole lotta mercenaries checking over various military weapons and equipment. Finding the office, Matrix beats the shit out of some poor schmuck, clearing the way for Cindy to join him. He finds a series of navigational charts and some coordinates, and figures out Arius and his people are flying back and forth between the mainland and a small island off the coast. That must be the location of Arius’ Secret Hidden Lair of Evil! Matrix plans to go there, but not before he stops to do some shopping.
Finding a military surplus store, Matrix uses a bulldozer to bust into the place, and then proceeds to load up a shopping cart with all sorts of equipment, guns, knives, grenades, and other shit that goes “Boom!” Blue Light Special on the ammo aisle! Of course he finds the “secret room” all surplus stores have (No, really), which contains the really high-grade military firepower. “State of the art bang-bang!” as Clarence Boddiker might one day say. What? You don’t know who that is? Shame on you.
Anyway….after getting pretty much anything a budding Commando might ever want (except for the phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range, of course), Matrix sends Cindy to the car in preparation to boogie when the cops finally decide to show up. Man, we don’t have time for this shit! Matrix only has five hours until the plane lands in Val Verde and Arius knows he screwed them. The cops toss Matrix into a paddy wagon for transport, and Cindy follows after them. She even pulls up alongside the van, and the cops are too busy trying to look down her shirt to notice the guns, ammo, and rocket launcher she’s got in her back seat. However, they notice the launcher when she fires a rocket up their ass (after a “practice shot” that blows up a bus shelter. Whoops.). The next shot takes out the van, knocking it on its side and allowing Matrix to bust out, and they get gone.
Matrix and Cindy find the docks where Arius’ amphibious plane is tied up, and after loading all that shitloads of gear Matrix stole from the surplus store, they make a fast getaway as some of Arius’ men show up. In the finest Hollywood tradition, Cindy is an amateur pilot working toward her pilot’s license, and even though she’s only trained on one type of plane, she’s able to start this WWII-era rust-bucket and get it in the air without so much as checking to see if there’s a quick-reference card in the glove compartment.
Back at the surplus store, General Kirby is surveying the chaos Matrix has wrought. He knows his boy is on the hunt, but has no idea where Matrix might be going, so he orders all military, law enforcement and marine radio bands monitored in the off chance Matrix tries to make contact. Hopefully, that might occur before Matrix hate-fucks the shit out of a small country or something.
Meanwhile, in his Secret Hidden Lair of Evil, Arius and Bennett wait for word of Matrix’s success in Val Verde. They’ve stuck Jenny in an empty room, but she’s getting bored and has started looking for a way out. Looks like Daddy taught her a few tricks. As for Bennett, he’s singularly unimpressed with the schoolyard punks playing soldier that Arius has hired for his private army. He warns Arius his asshole should be puckering, because Matrix will be coming, one way or another.
Yeah, it’s gonna get nasty.
With time running out, the plane arrives at the island and Matrix uses a rubber raft from his equipment stash to get to shore. Once there, he gears up for the hell he’s about to unleash. Remember, this is Arnie in his 1985 prime, so the montage of Matrix donning his equipment and marking himself up in pretty useless fashion with camo paint is enough to evoke somewhat confused chubbies of varying length and stiffness from every single dude at your local gun range-slash-microbrewery-slash-tattoo parlor-slash-bargain basement strip joint that’s only open during daylight hours:
At the same time our favorite commando is maneuvering into position to attack Arius’ compound, the plane arrives in Val Verde and some local goons are on hand to pick up Henriques and Matrix. Imagine their surprise when they see Henriques’ body, and Matrix is nowhere to be found? Uh, oh. This can’t be good, right? Since it’s still 1985, they gotta get to a payphone in order to call Arius, giving Matrix a little more time to lay out some bombs, booby traps and other nifty toys.
Arius gets the call Matrix wasn’t on the plane, and orders Bennett to kill Jenny. As the mercenary makes his way to do just that, guards are starting to notice an intruder in their midst. We’re up to 9, 10…14 ticks on the Matrix Body Count as alarms start wailing, and Matrix finally says “Fuck this,” and blows up a couple of buildings. That’s when I officially lose count of how many dudes proceed to eat it in all sorts of grisly ways. Hearing the carnage outside, Bennett nearly soils himself in anticipation, but manages to hold it in as he heads to the room where Jenny’s stashed. But wait! Jenny’s managed to escape, the resourceful little minx! Now mightily pissed off, Bennett sets off in pursuit.
As Cindy makes contact with General Kirby and asks him to send in the cavalry, Matrix is continuing his systematic disembowelment of Arius’ compound, killing everyone and blowing up everything in his path. I’m pretty sure he even took out a bunny rabbit with a Claymore mine. Making his way closer to the mansion, it doesn’t matter how many bad guys there are; he’s slicing through them like a razor through wet Kleenex. When he runs out of ammo for one weapon, he just pulls another one—from his belt, his vest, or some orifice leading to a gun locker in another dimension. When that doesn’t work, he just picks up bad guy guns and uses those, too.
Oh, but wait! A lucky grenade lands nearby and peppers him with a bit of shrapnel. Wounded but still mobile, Matrix crawls to a conveniently-located tool shed. After checking his injuries and deciding it’s just a bloody flesh wound(!), Matrix gets ready for the goons to assault the shed, which they do by emptying their weapon magazines into the building. Of course they never shoot above or below chest level, so it’s just a matter of guessing whether Matrix dropped to the floor or climbed into the rafters. Let’s see what happens, shall we?
One of the goons opens the shed door, and gets a pitchfork in the chest for his trouble. Matrix is up in the rafters, and armed balls-out with the finest domestic weaponry Home Depot can provide. Circular saw blades—which apparently combine the physical properties of ninja stars with the lethality of a light saber—along with machetes to chop off limbs and axes to bury in crotches (Um….ow.) are all he needs to get the drop on his attackers. Then he grabs an M-60 machinegun, at which time the smart guards turn and run like hell.
The dumb ones? Yeah. Their day takes a turn toward total shit. As Matrix uses the M-60 to chew through the next line of guards, he makes his way into the mansion and finally faces off against Arius himself. There’s a running gunfight through the house until Matrix finally empties a shotgun into the tinpot dictator’s chest.
Man. That was pretty anti-climactic.
But wait! There’s still Bennett, who’s chased Jenny into a basement/boiler room/brewery/whatever. He catches her just as Matrix closes in, but Bennett manages to put a bullet in him. There’s some macho bullshit talk before Matrix convinces him to toss away the guns and have a good old-fashioned big dick knife fight. “Come on Bennett. Let’s party!” Naturally, being an insecure crybaby, Bennett takes up Matrix’s offer and the two start to tango. You can almost hear the awesomely funky Kirk/Spock fight music from “Amok Time” (for the uninitiated, that’s the Star Trek episode where Mr. Spock goes crazy because he’s horny and has to get home to bone his betrothed wife, and as will happen on Star Trek, he and Captain Kirk end up fighting over her).
Anyway, back to the action!
Matrix and Bennett face off, mano e mano, knives poking and slicing and trying to land a cut. Bennett scores the first strike, which pretty much just pisses off Matrix, and after a brief scuffle the two go flying off a catwalk to the boiler room’s lower level. There’s some smacking with pipes, boiler doors, and trying to push each other’s face into the fire. Matrix kicks Bennett into an electrical panel, but that only seems to juice him up for more punchin’ and kickin’. It looks like Bennett might have the upper hand, but then Matrix rallies and pretty much pummels the shit out of Bennett before skewering him with a hunk of pipe that ends up with one end embedded into what looks like a monster water cooler, with steam erupting from the other end. Yeah, Bennett’s done, so what does Matrix think about that? Say it with me:
“Let off some steam, Bennett.”
With Arius and all of his goons dispatched, Matrix and Jenny have a happy reunion before Kirby and his unit arrives just in time to clean up the mess. “Leave anything for us?” Kirby asks. “Just bodies,” replies Matrix. Boo-yah.
Kirby asks Matrix to come out of retirement, but Matrix tells him to suck it. This is the last time, at least until a sequel comes along, but Matrix isn’t in any hurry. In addition to having Jenny back safe, it seems Cindy has no pressing plans to be elsewhere right this moment. Meee-yow.
Between 1984’s The Terminator and 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it seemed like Arnold Schwarzenegger was in a lot of bad movies. It’s fair to say most of them sucked some form of donkey balls, from old and shriveled to huge and bursting, depending on your particular kink. The best Arnie film from this period, in my opinion, is Predator, but of the ones that are left? Commando makes a pretty decent stab at being the next best flick. It’s certainly among the more entertaining efforts of those years.
Commando makes no bones about what it is: A stripped-down, quintessential over-the-top 80s action flick, of the sort being cranked out during this period time like meth in rural Missouri. We’re talking about the era of heavyweights like Arnie and Sylvester Stallone in their prime, with potential contenders for their title like Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, and (yes, I’m saying it with a straight face) Jean-Claude Van Damme still a few years away. Even Mel Gibson hadn’t quite arrived yet, despite the success of The Road Warrior which would pave the way for the first of the Lethal Weapon films. From its corny, testosterone-fueled dialogue and wink-wink humor (“I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now I’m very hungry!”), ridiculous stunts, one-dimensional characters and mustache-twisting bad guys surrounded by non-thinking cannon fodder, Commando is a brain-dead action fest, but it’s a damned fun brain-dead action fest. None of the various clones and knockoffs ever seemed to compete with it, for one reason or another. Even Arnold’s other efforts in this vein, like Raw Deal or Red Heat, fail to match Commando for sheer goofy fun.
Yep, this flick has heinous levels of violence, particularly at the end of the film when Matrix is cutting through Arius’ men (figuratively and literally) like a Ka-Bar through MRE peanut butter. If anybody on The A-Team had ever actually been able to hit anything they shot at, it might’ve looked a lot like this. Holy Moses, but do some bullets fly. It’s so ludicrous that one man could unleash this level of carnage, but it’s Arnie, so we let it ride.
Cool Trivia: There’s actually a script for a sequel to Commando floating around the net, based at least in some part on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp. When Schwarzenegger passed on the idea of a sequel, the script was reworked and eventually became the original Die Hard.
I also read there are plans afoot to remake Commando. Um, why?
If you want one of the poster children for 80s ActionPorn, look no farther than Commando. Come on; let’s party.
Because sure, two interviews posted in as many days isn’t annoying. At all.
To be fair, this really isn’t an interview so much as it is three fans sitting around, yakking about Star Trek. In this instance, it’s me joining Trek Geeks hosts Bill Smith and Dan Davidson to talk about – and even to defend to a certain degree – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
“Wait….what?” I can hear some overeager Star Trek fan starting to utter. I can hear the frothing and even the drawing of lines in the sand as they stand ready to die on the hill that is proclaiming this film as the worst Star Trek movie EVER. To those folks, I say, “Yo, simmer down a minute.”
To be fair, Star Trek V holds a not undeserved reputation as being very flawed, and there are those who most definitely consider it the worst of the Star Trek feature films. I tend to dismiss such easy, kneejerk criticisms the same way I give sideeye whenever somebody bellows, “‘Spock’s Brain‘ is the worst episode of Star Trek!” It’s low-hanging fruit. It’s the one non-fans and casual passersby can point to because it has that rep and let’s them get in on the action. Meanwhile, those of us over here in the fan circle know things like “And the Children Shall Lead” and “Code of Honor” exist and they suck the sort of donkey balls “Spock’s Brain” couldn’t find with two hands, a flashlight, and Siri guiding them in from the interstate.
With all of that said, I’m actually not here to tell the Star Trek V haters they’re wrong. First, I really don’t care that much, and second……there is no second. I simply don’t care. Like what you like, don’t like what you don’t like, we all shake hands (or bump elbows in the world of COVID-19…or offer matching Vulcan salutes) and move on with our lives. In the case of Star Trek V, I acknowledge its flaws but at the same time I’m not one to dwell on discussions about things I hate. With that in mind, what I came to do with Bill and Dan is talk about what there is to like about this flick.
Why? Because you’re not hard core unless you live hard core, which is why I still have that Star Trek V tumbler pictured above. Go big or go home, amirite?
Turns out, there’s plenty to like about this movie while still agreeing it’s got its share of problems. Yes, the special effects are a marked step down from previous installments. Bill, Dan, and I came down on similar spots with respect to how the story treats the characters of Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov. While they were “merely” supporting characters portrayed by contract day players during the time of the original Star Trek series, with the feature films they were elevated in stature at least to a degree and deserved more time in front of the camera.
To be fair, each of the films struggles with this problem but it’s very obvious here, coming as it does after the events in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where everyone gets their moment to shine a bit. Here, the focus is more on “the Big 3” of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and while there are certain scenes that might make a fan wince, I will say without hesitation this film contains some of my very favorite moments between these three characters.
On the visual side of things, Industrial Light & Magic’s absence is keenly felt throughout the film. However, director William Shatner Shatner does some pretty slick things with the camera in this film, particularly during tha action sequences on Nimbus III that bring a sense of freshness to what we saw in the previous films. The ending is hampered by budget issues and perhaps Shatner’s being a bit too ambitious and failing to account for all the difficulties that hampered him realizing his big climax the way it was originally envisioned. That said, I’m never gonna fault a guy for swinging for the fences.
Another aspect of the film I will absolutely defend is Jerry Goldsmith’s score. The music he wrote for Star Trek V revisits some motifs which had become familar by the time this movie was released. The main theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture – later modified for use as the title theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation – gets a few new bells and whistles, and cements what will become a staple of Goldsmith’s future Star Trek film scores: wrapping this signature theme around music unique to each movie for its respective end titles sequence. He would do this three more times – Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek: Nemesis – but the end title theme for Star Trek V is my favorite variation on this particular theme. Another fan-favorite cue is the “Klingon theme,” which Goldsmith also created for The Motion Picture and gets its own new take here, as well. The new material he wrote for this outing is some of my favorite Star Trek music, across the board.
We get into all of this and so much more during a chat that runs something like 98 minutes in length, but it goes pretty fast as the three of us found ourselves getting caught up in the spirit of things. No, our “fresh assessment” isn’t going to make Star Trek V: The Final Frontier a better film and maybe it won’t change anyone’s rankings when they list their favorite (and not so favorite) Star Trek films, but if we can convince even one person to appraise the movie and find something to like they may have dismissed the first (or tenth) time around, then it was worth the effort. Even if we don’t get that kind of response, I still had fun. Check out the results of our nerdfest right here:
“Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, Chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. Ten thousand for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”
June, 20th, 1975: The day everybody started reconsidering their summer beach vacation plans.
Based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name, Jawsessentially paved the way for what we now know as the “summer blockbuster event” movie. 45 years to the day after its initial release, the film really does hold up very, very well (yes, even considering what is obviously a fake shark.). What makes up for the sometimes scary/sometimes goofy-looking shark itself is the screenplay, keen directorial choices made by then-journeyman filmmaker Steven Spielberg, a landmark, haunting, and timeless musical score as delivered by veteran composer John Williams, and the razor-sharp performances of lead actors Roy Scheider (police chief Martin Brody), Robert Shaw (the salty sea fisherman Quint), and Richard Dreyfuss (oceanographer Matt Hooper).
As for the shark, Spielberg, owing to persistent malfunctions with the model and perhaps planning for the worst while hoping for the best, elected to keep the shark “behind the curtain” for most of the film. He waits until the one-hour or so mark to provide the first teasing glimpse, when it attacks a boater near the Amity beach. Even then we only get a fleeting look at the creature’s head before the camera cuts away, and we’re left to consider just how frikkin’ big this thing really is. It’s not until the pivotal moment twenty minutes later, when Brody is tossing chum into the water behind Quint’s boat, the Orca, that the shark reveals itself to the boat’s crew, and us, and provides what is arguably the most memorable line of the entire movie: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
There are a few things which obviously date the film, such as fashion, automobiles, and the like. Speaking of clothes, actor Murray Hamilton as Amity mayor Larry Vaughn gets my vote as worst-dressed dude in a movie not featuring Austin Powers. Holy Shit on a Ritz Cracker…that multi-colored pinstripe number? Is he trying to cosplay a Time Lord? I still have nightmares about going to prom wearing something like that. Still, such things are easy to dismiss when we’re talking about a film that’s able to transcend the era in which it’s made. For such movies, I simply consider them period pieces, and enjoy.
Yeah, these days we know that much of the shark’s behavior is wholly at odds with the way sharks really act, but we don’t care. It’s still a riveting story of man facing off against one of nature’s perfect creations; the consummate eating machine which goes about its singular purpose with simple, brutal efficiency. As for the lead characters, Scheider brings what would become his patented “every man” approach to the role of Brody, a regular joe caught up in a ridiculously extraordinary situation. Richard Dreyfuss is our translator as Hooper, explaining the shark’s actions and drive to do what it does, and providing much of the comic relief in the film’s latter half. Robert Shaw offers up an assload of quiet menace to his performance as Quint, and his recounting of the U.S.S. Indianapolis sinking and its aftermath is quite simply one of the most bone-chilling monologues in cinema, period.
Jaws did phenomenal business during the summer of 1975, and continues to be listed among the best films ever made by whoever bothers to make such lists. As for what came after? A sequel was inevitable, especially considering one of the producers involved with the film, Richard D. Zanuck, was the head of 20th Century Fox Studios when the original Planet of the Apes was made and greenlit the first of the sequels to that film (Hey, the man knew how to capitalize on an idea). What about the Jaws follow-ups? Jaws 2 is a serviceable if largely unremarkable sequel, the only saving grace of which is the always watchable Roy Scheider reprising the role of Brody. The less said of the subsequent two films, Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge, the better.
No. We’re not talking about those films here. Ever.
There have been a good number of shark movies since Jaws hit screens – The Shallows, 47 Meters Down, and The Meg being recent and prominent examples – and there have also been rumors circulating for years that a remake of the original film is in the works (in 3-D, even). Whether this might be a straight-up retelling of the film itself, or a new take on Benchley’s original novel never seems to crop up during such mindless blathering. So far as I’ve been able to tell, cooler heads at Universal have prevailed in this regard, at least so far. Perhaps they’re worried about Steven Spielberg’s continued association with the studio (via Dreamworks), and the belief that he might aggressively fight any attempts at a remake, along with making miserable the lives of as many Universal execs as he’s able. In a world that’s given us Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus and Sharknado, I’m content for studio folk to leave this one well enough alone.
Yep, even after all these years, the original Jaws remains an eminently rewatchable film.