Month: May 2015

For a Few Dollars More

Year: 1965
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Written By: Sergio Leone, Fulvio Morsella, and Luciano Vincenzoni

RYAN’S REVIEW

Coming out right off the heals of its predecessor, A Fistful of Dollars, this movie was everything a good sequel should be. More of the same but better. This movie has more gun slinging, more at stake, and more Eastwood. As I continue this effort in realizing what I have been missing in all the years I avoided these movies I see more and more how foolish I was to wait so long.

I was confused as first because the villain, El Indio, is played by the same actor who played the villain in the first film, Gian Maria Volonte. Although I can’t argue with the decision to cast him again because the guy made such a great bad guy the first time around. I thought the addition of another bounty hunter in Lee Van Cleef was a good one but he took too much screen time from Eastwood. Eastwood didn’t get to be the ultimate hero in this movie but he is the guy that rides off into the sunset, with all the bounties and he grabs the extra loot out of the tree on his way out.

In haste to finish out this trilogy I’m going to wrap up this review as a simple one. I may have liked A Fistful of Dollars a little bit more but I liked this one enough. In my opinion the best sequels are the ones that build on their story and get bigger.  This movie did a great job at that and I look forward to seeing the next one. I have never been a fan of westerns so take my word for it when I tell you that this one is worth your time and you won’t be disappointed by it.

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Predator

Year: 1987
Directed By: John McTiernan
Written By: Jim and John Thomas

RYAN’S REVIEW

Here it is, the quintessential action film that my brothers and I must have watched a million times growing up. This movie, as much as Die Hard, is a perfect movie for the genre. Technically it qualifies as sci/fi but this first film is all action aside from the Predator. They took a group of badasses, gave them a nice array of firepower, and dropped them in the jungle to make a movie. That is just a formula for success and it worked so well that the Predator is still a successful franchise nearly thirty years later. They have been hit or miss with sequels and spin offs but the Predator has become an iconic character that people will always show up to see.  No matter how many times I see this movie myself I still get into it every time. It takes me back and I find myself wishing I could break out my G.I. Joes again and mimic the story line with my play.

The cool thing about this movie is that for the first half of the film it’s straight action while the real threat lurks in the background. There is the drop off scene in the beginning with the spaceship but afterwards the actual Predator isn’t seen for almost half of the film. The Predator himself is worth waiting for. A villain so badass the military has literally spent millions of dollars and years of research trying to replicate some of his technology. I remember reading an article in a magazine over ten years ago about how the military was trying to develop a predator style camouflage. I don’t know if that was ever achieved but I’m certain if they were doing that they were also trying to develop their own ideas after the Predator’s mask that allows heat seeking vision and voice synthesizing technology.

The cast of this movie is so interesting because not fifteen years later two of these men would have served in highest office of State Government. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, a man with an interesting history, is notable for being the highest elected third party politician when he was elected Governor of Minnesota in 1999. As a Reform Party candidate he held office from 1999 to 2003. Arnold Schwarzenegger also famously served two terms during his hiatus from being an action star from 2003 to 2011. Now I am much more familiar with Schwarzenegger as a politician than I am “The Body” because in 2003 I was a young politically minded college kid. I was a way left liberal back then but I loved the Governator. He had such an interesting approach to politics. During an election year when everybody was trying to hide all their dirty secrets and deny everything Arnold Schwarzenegger would run head long into his own controversies. With an attitude that was real he admitted to his past discretions and just called it the product of another time. Sure he sexually harrarrassed some women, sure he smoked pot once or twice, sure there was that sound clip of him explaining that he was “cumming all the time” (see below) but none of it could phase the would be Govenator. He had surprising charisma and I loved how casual he was when everyone else was so stiff. I found it incredibly interesting how he left office and immediately went back into acting to reclaim his mantle of greatest action star. He hasn’t really achieved that yet but this new Terminator film looks interesting. Both of these men, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse “The Body” Ventura (long time friends no less), have lived such interesting lives. If you have the opportunity they’re both “worth a Google.”

The rest of the crew in this movie can’t go unmentioned. Carl Weathers and Bill Duke were both great in this movie. I have always been a big fan of Weathers, and Duke has such an intimidating look about him. Their last stand together is legendary and left an impression on me from an early age. I once saw a skit on SNL that featured Carl Weathers in which he kept referring to himself as “the black guy from Predator” over and over again. I don’t even remember what the skit was actually about but I still laugh at it randomly when it pops into my head occasionally. I don’t know much about Sonny Landham but I once watched a feature special on this movie and the way people talked about him was interesting. He was apparently quite the wild man and they had a guy shadow him during filming simply to keep him out of trouble. I love how he wounds himself before taking on the predator in his last stand, such a badass Native American warrior. The famous action writer/director Shane Black played the part of Hawkins, notable only for saying pussy multiple times in the film. Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast to play the part of the predator but couldn’t hack it and was replaced by the much taller 6’9” Kevin Peter Hall. Of course Van Damme couldn’t hack it, he may look cool at first with his fancy splits and strange accent but the more I hear about that guy the more I hear he isn’t for real.

Nobody really matters in this movie like the last man standing though. Schwarzenegger played many memorable and iconic roles over throughout his career but this movie is just such a spotlight for him. When he goes toe to toe with the Predator and it comes down to fisticuffs he set the bar incredibly high for other would be action stars. This guy, Arnold freaking Schwarzenegger, is exactly why I can’t abide by the standards of the 20teens, or whatever you want to call them, and accept Liam Neeson as an action star. I tried to watch the first Taken, all the while thinking “who does this guy think he is?” Action stars gotta have more, they have to measure up to the Terminator, Commando, Harry Tasker, Conan, Jack Slater, and of course Dutch. Dutch doesn’t stress about this big ass scary alien, no, he smears mud all over himself and sets traps for it. Low on ammo? Not a problem for Dutch, he’ll just manufacture himself a bow and arrow and take on the space alien Indian style. In the end it takes an ass whooping and a last minute trick but Dutch wins out, as Schwarzenegger always does. A nuclear explosion can’t even take him out, in true Schwarzenegger style he simply dives behind a sturdy plateau of ground and survives despite everything. A true American hero, lost his whole crew and had to single handedly defend Earth from this alien but he did it and he won. That’s just American, that’s the motherf****** Govenator.

This scenario, a group of soldiers trekking through the jungle as they are picked off one at a time by an unknown enemy was one I re-enacted many times with my toys as a little kid. I used to have the most epic games with my G.I. Joes when I was little and I would have them act out a variety of scenarios from my favorite action films. This one was always one of my favorites. I would go the whole nine yards often coloring red on my Joes with a washable marker to simulate blood. Some even had appendages that had gotten old and could easily be removed and put back into place. That Joe always turned out to be the one to lose a leg. When a Joe’s coolness finally wore out on me or he was simply getting too old he would be the victim of an explosion and the pieces of his body would become the debris scattered across the battlefield. Oh how I loved and miss that youthful age when I could have so much fun just using my imagination.

This is an awesome movie, a stalwart in the collection of any action fan who grew up through the golden years of the genre. This movie gets me every time and I never get bored of it. I love the testosterone driving masculinity behind it all. Some evenings when both of my daughters are asleep and my wife is busy in the kitchen this is the kind of movie that can get my blood pumping. When you live in a world of pink and princesses, Predator is like a lightening bolt that zaps some adrenaline into the world. If you haven’t seen this movie then you have missed out. It is a classic film that is not only worth your time but worth your money as well.

NEXT MOVIE: Predators

Despite this, he got elected Governor of California. Two times. America really is the land of opportunity. This is one of the most interesting men of the last century.

The Poseidon Adventure

Year: 1972
Directed By: Irwan Allen and Ronald Neame
Written By: Paul Gallico (novel), Stirling Silliphant and Wendell Mayes (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was a new addition to the blog from a couple of months ago. I had never seen it before sitting down to review it for the first time. I picked it up specifically because I was familiar with it as a classic and wanted to see a more youthful Gene Hackman. In that I succeeded but despite the notoriety the film has maintained over time I was not enamored with it.

I am a big Gene Hackman fan but haven’t seen enough of his career prior to what he has achieved in my own lifetime. For as long as I can remember Gene Hackman has been old. Much like other famous and prolific actors of advanced age like Anthony Hopkins or Sean Connery I had never known any other version than the one I grew up with. Having recently taken the time to start appreciating what the younger Clint Eastwood accomplished, Hackman was another actor I wanted to see earlier in his career. I bought this movie after being prompted by Amazon but there are others I need to see too. The French Connection is one that specifically comes to mind because I have never seen it. Outside of Bonnie and Clyde, the only movie I had seen from Hackman’s younger career was Superman.

I’ll be honest I didn’t really love this movie. It’s a good movie but it didn’t pull me in quite the way I expected having heard so much about it over the years. I thought Hackman’s performance made it worth seeing and I understand how the role advanced his career. He was quick thinking, in control, and in the end he got to be the martyred hero. The movie had very compelling scenes throughout but Hackman’s heroic death at the end was one of the best.

I didn’t love this movie but I appreciate it. The movie ended on a very gripping note as the few survivors from the group found that they were the only survivors on the ship. As the camera pans out over the turned over cruise ship the reality sets in and it’s haunting. This must have been an incredibly shocking ending in 1972. Not only did the hero die but the tragedy proves be as dire as it could have been in the final moments. I think I would have liked this movie a lot more had I been around when it actually came out. Plenty of movies made long before I was born still captivate and marvel me in ways that nothing else can. This one didn’t do that though and I can’t put my finger on why. I’m gonna blame it on a generational thing having grown up overexposed to this type of tragedy and action.

I have never seen the remake of this film and don’t intend to. I have written many times about my distaste for remakes and I think the idea of remaking this movie was just as poor as all the other remake ideas. When there is nothing to improve on a film there is no reason to tarnish the original with a subpar version. If anybody reading this has seen the remake make your case for it if it actually was worth seeing. I cannot imagine such an argument will be presented, the remake has an incredibly low rank on IMDB. The original on the other hand is worth seeing and if you get an opportunity to see it your time won’t be wasted.

NEXT MOVIE: Predator (1987)