Tag Archives: apocalypse

BRUTAL FUTURISTIC POSTERS!

Welcome to the future. It’s 1990. Or maybe it’s 1998. Or maybe it’s 2010. Or maybe it’s even later.

The landscape is a vast desert wasteland where madmen roam the scorched earth on sputtering motorcycles culled from spare parts and outfitted with human skulls. Or – maybe – the landscape is a trash-filled, neon-soaked city overrun with crime and violence, where drugged-out maniacs in leather gear terrorize innocent, law-abiding citizens. Continue reading BRUTAL FUTURISTIC POSTERS!

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“Turbo Kid” (2015) REVIEW

I’m just gonna say it: I didn’t love Turbo Kid.

I know I risk the wrath of many with that bold proclamation, but what can I do? I liked it. It was fine. Some of it was really fun. But overall I was left with a very indifferent, blasé feeling. It’s a feeling I’ve experienced with many of these ‘modern homages’, but more on that later.

For those unaware, Turbo Kid is based on a fan-made 5 minute short that was submitted to be included in the original ABC’s of Death anthology, entitled T is for Turbo. It didn’t end up winning the coveted position (that went to the equally awesome claymation T is for Toilet), but its online presence did garner enough buzz for the makers of Turbo to consider perhaps adapted it into a full length feature.

Enter Jason Eisener, director of Hobo with a Shotgun. Eisener was himself in a similar situation in 2007: he entered a short 2 minute trailer into Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse trailer competition. The trailer won the competition, became a huge hit on Youtube, and eventually Eisener was given $3M to flesh out a full length idea. The resultant film (also titled Hobo with a Shotgun), was a brilliant homage to late-70s and mid-80s exploitation sleaze. And when I say homage, I mean it in the purest sense: the film felt like it was from that era; it didn’t just blatantly lift imagery and ideas from those movies and repurpose them.

So it only makes sense that Eisener is a producer (plus a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo) of Turbo Kid. In a way, Tubro Kid feels like a spiritual successor to Hobo. Like, Hobo with a Shotgun 2099, or Teenager with a Powerglove.

But there are problems with Turbo Kid, problems Hobo didn’t suffer from. And these problems are what most of these modern homages are suffering from.

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First: a consideration has to be made. Can we turn a 5 minute idea into a 90 minute movie? Better yet, do we need to? The original short is incredible. I know when I saw it, and then heard they were making a full length movie, I was giddy. Imagine the awesomeness of that 5 minutes, only 90 minutes worth. How cool would that be! But that’s not how it works; rarely does it work like that. (Hobo was pretty much a fluke, an anomaly. It shouldn’t have worked.) You can’t have an hour and a half of go!go!go! Full length films have character arcs to develop, peaks and valleys. And sometimes what works in a short format won’t work any other way. This is the exact reason Kung Fury worked so well for me. They debuted a 2 minute trailer, raised some money, and released a 30 minute short film. It’s packed to the brim with insanity. It says all it needs to say, doesn’t drag its feet, and leaves before it becomes tiresome.

Then there’s the ‘star power’ aspect. Eisener was lucky with Hobo: he had Rutger F-in’ Hauer as his lead. We’re talkin’ the most revered badass dude from iconic 80s cinema (Blade RunnerThe Hitcher, and sure what the hell, Blind Fury.) I would watch Rutger Hauer read his email for 2 minutes or 2 hours. Turbo Kid is lucky to have genre legend Michael Ironside as its villain, but he’s not the star. And while the two young leads are just fine, I’m not compelled the way I would be if I were watching some titanic 80s character actor lead the movie.

Next: making a movie inspired by bad cinema doesn’t give you a pass to make a bad film. I get that you’re taking straight-to-video trash, taking the best parts of it, and Frankensteining it into a new movie. But that doesn’t mean anything if the end product is just as shoulder-shrugging as its source material. The z-grade action movies of the 80s were desperate beasts. Your homage should elevate the source material. If they couldn’t do it right the first time around, here’s your chance.

maxresdefaultAnd lastly: misappropriating pop culture. Look, I’m over it. No one should look at a hilariously ironic button or t-shirt and think “this same concept would work as a 90 minute movie!” This is why the Internet exists. Because we can ingest it in small doses, move on to something else for a palate cleanse, and then come back if we want more. Incremental bursts of nostalgia, 30-second clicks to remind us of the past. The endless sea of blogs with 500 word blurbs on childhood memories get the job done. I don’t want to sit down to watch a movie and just have it be 90 minutes of “hey, look, we remember the 80s and 90s, too!” The Nintendo mania, the Power Glove idolization, the View-Master, the dayglow clothing, the comic book obsession. It’s taking the place of the actual story. It’s fashion over function. Look, I get it. I have an Ecto-Cooler scented candle sitting on my living room table right now. But I don’t sit there and worship it. I light the sumbitch every now and then, make the apartment smell like a tangerine, and then blow it out.

Maybe I’m just put off because I don’t know who Turbo Kid is meant for. It’s a movie where 30-year-old actors play 14-year-old kids who dress in thrift store chic and obsess over outdated technology in a modern wasteland. Maybe it makes me feel icky because it hits a little too close to home. Look, watch Turbo Kid. But also watch the low-budget — but original — movies that inspired it, like BMX Bandits, Motorama, and Dead-End Drive In. It’s only fair.

Eisener’s tribute to underground bygone cinema was the first. And slowly but surely, other imitators began trickling in. And while it’s not a full blown flood at this point, I’d say our shoes are still ruined.

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Revisiting “The Running Man”

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I’ve seen The Running Man (not to be confused with Marathon Man, which itself is not to be confused with The Marrying Man) several times over last couple decades, almost invariably on some basic TV station, edited for noontime viewing; always in scattered, unorganized chunks. And I’ve never not liked it; if someone asked for an opinion on it, I’d probably say, “Oh yeah, that’s a cool movie”, without giving it much thought. Not much thought, that is, until I watched it again today. If someone were to ask me what I thought of that movie now, I’d say, “Oh shit. Have you seen it?? You totally gotta see it!” And thankfully you can – it’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Like any masterpiece, it not only stands the test of time, but actually gets better with age, and offers new little, trivial tidbits to appreciate with each subsequent viewing. I promise I’m not saying any of this to be ironic or hip; I say these things with an earnest regard. The movie apparently received a lukewarm reception upon its initial release, but I’m here to say: I think this movie is totally solid, enjoyable, and possibly one of Schwarzenegger’s best. Not to mention this movie was the direct inspiration behind the show American Gladiators – and if that’s not reason enough to get you to watch it, well then, we’re done here.

Written by Steven E. de Souza (48 Hrs., Commando, Die Hard) and loosely based on a story by Stephen King, the movie is set in the distant future (I say ‘distant’ because at the time it was filmed [1987] the year 2017 was quite a long time away), and it follows a police officer (Schwarzenegger) who is framed for murder and is forced to participate in a new reality game show that’s apparently one of the most popular forms of entertainment. On this gameshow, convicts are offered a chance at freedom if they can make it through a successive series of heavily armed baddies known as “stalkers”. If the cons survive all the stalkers and get to the end, they can go free.

I’m not sure if it’s just a weird coincidence, but the film shares several tiny parallels with Schwarz’s other films — and not in the broad ‘strong guy fighting bad guys’ general way, but in more specific ways: he wrestles with a woman while she watches an exercise program on TV (Total Recall); he’s implanted with a tracking device while trying to break free from the gurney he’s strapped down to (Total Recall); he tries to escape capture by running down a tarmac (Commando). They are little things, but seeing them evokes flashes of his other movies. I’m sure I could spot more if I watch it again.

So that’s the basic gist of the film, but I wanna point out three things that I think make the movie so enjoyable.

THE CAST

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Yaphet Kotto, Richard Dawson, Kurt Fuller, and Jesse Ventura in a Conan O’Brien-style wig! Not to mention María Conchita Alonso, Mick Fleetwood (!), Dweezil Zappa (!!), and Sven Thorsen. Plus Lynne Marie Stewart (Miss Yvonne) and Lin Shaye! Familiar faces abound, and are all wonderfully cast – from Dawson as the smug and charming TV show host (real stretch), down to the Ventura as the conflicted, glory-day embracing macho man. And speaking of cast, let’s look at the baddies the runners have to face:

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Professor Subzero, Buzzsaw, Dynamo, and Fireball. Does it get any cooler? Buzzsaw rides around on a motocycle while swinging various chainsaws around! And look how mysterious and badass Fireball looks. Plus, if you didn’t notice, Professor Subzero is played by ex-wrestler Professor Tanaka who played the butler in another great Schwarz flick, Last Action Hero. Dynamo is a bit of an oddball — played by real life opera singer Erland Van Lidth de Jeude (probably most well known for his scene as soft-spoken skinhead Grossberger in Stir Crazy), Dynamo isalso an operatic killer who uses electricity to off the runners. And Fireball! Played by the ultimate bad motherfucker, ex-footballer and blaxploitation mainstay, Jim Brown! A mustache-less Jim Brown, at that.

SET DESIGN

Look at any movie from the 70s or 80s that is supposed to be set in the future, and you get either one of two looks: a post-apocalyptic desert-like landscape where people wear bones as a fashion statement, or a vast cityscape full of big angular buildings that are shrouded in smog and neon. I love both of these approaches, but they always seem to be mutually exclusive. However, The Running Man combines the two with great effect! The stalkers, while still being futuristic in their design, are still just rough around the edges enough to evoke thoughts of Mad Max. And the layout of the killing floor is at times both metallic and galactic, but also somehow sparse and dusty. Additionally, the music was provided by Harold Faltermeyer, famous for his bouncing synth scores in movies like Beverly Hills Cop, Fletch, Top Gun, and Tango & Cash – and it compliments the visuals perfectly.

THE ONE-LINERS

Arnold Schwarzenegger is no stranger to delivering a face-slapping punny one-liner just seconds prior to snuffing a bad guy. But this movie is full of ‘em. He even lets the ladies have a little taste:

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At one point, he even delivers two puns after killing Fireball, as if one just wasn’t enough.

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Hell, he even says shit that doesn’t make sense but still feels as if he’s trying to be punny:

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And it wouldn’t feel complete without the inclusion of this bad boy:

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Pure Schwarzenegger.

Well there you have it, friends. If you like films like Logan’s Run, Mad Max, Death Race 2000, hell even The Hunger Games, you’ll probably dig this flick. I highly encourage you to check out The Running Man if you haven’t yet – and I also suggest giving it another look if it’s a been awhile since you last watched it!