I’m a Fan of ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’

This memorial day weekend serves as the 15th anniversary of the release of ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’. The third installment in the incredibly popular action franchise. Upon it’s arrival in May of 1995, critics and audiences alike praised the film for it’s breakneck pace and clever dialogue. Adding Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Zeus Carver, was a calculated risk that only enhanced the film. Giving Willis a partner, especially a ‘black guy’ from Harlem was an inspired touch. Jackson and Willis’s banter about race in NY during the 90’s is poignant and sometime hysterical. But let’s not forget this is a ‘Die Hard’ movie, no less than 60 seconds into the picture, the first bomb explodes. For the next 2hrs and ten minutes, the action doesn’t stop. Director John Mctiernan, helmer of the first and still best ‘Die Hard’, slickly navigates this cinematic roller coaster. There are at least five blood pumping action sequences, the cab-ride through central park, the subway explosion, Willis shooting it out inside an elevator, a dump truck outrunning a wall of water and the climactic shoot-out aboard a boat full of explosives. This is one of my personal favorites when it comes to summertime cinematic escapism. It would take another 12years to get ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ to the screen in 2007. However ‘DH3’ still holds up well and is one of the last action epics from the pre ‘Matrix’ -era, that doesn’t seem dated.

Buy It On Amazon

I’m a Fan of ‘Watchmen’

This film was highly anticipated in the months leading up to its release. Causing fanboy hysteria at comic book conventions across the nation. An excellent trailer was attached to ‘The Dark Knight’, Warner Bros. was bracing for record breaking box office returns. Then the film premiered and after a $55 million opening weekend it died quickly grossing less than $110 million or about what ‘Ghost Rider’ or ‘Daredevil’ made. So what happened? A lot of people couldn’t get passed the prevalent male nudity or overall nihilistic vibe that reverberated around a story line in which America is anxiously awaiting an impeding Nuclear War with the Russians. But I have always felt that this hard R film noir superhero film is an excellent example of what is right and ultimately wrong with the genre. The opening action sequence is a brilliantly shot set-piece scored to Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgettable’. This sets the tone for one of the most violent non-kid friendly film to ever feature a group of superheros. Admittedly there are sequences that are absolutely bizarre and even downright horrible,it could also be said that it runs 20min too long. On the flip side this film features eerily beautiful moments of mind bending meta-physics and bone-crushing action. Along with a complex central dilemma; are these ‘Watchmen’ heroes or mentally unstable vigilantes. It may be seriously flawed but it’s a beautiful beast of a film.

Buy It On Amazon

I’m a Fan of ‘The Sword and the Sorcerer’

Albert Pyun’s sword and sandal fantasy was released back in the spring of 1982. It would go on to gross close to 40 million dollars by the end of it’s run. Nearly as much as the higher-budgeted ‘Conan the Barbarian’, which would be released later that year. The astonishing return on investment for the producers would ultimately rank this film as one of the highest grossing independently produced movies of all time. Rouge-ish Lee Horsley (think a rugged Tom Selleck) plays Talon a mercenary with royal heritage who is recruited by a princess to bring down a brutal tyrant and a powerful sorcerer. One of the most memorable aspects of this film is the weapon Talon wields, a three bladed sword that projects smaller blades. Richard Lynch plays the heavy in a snake like performance, another in a string of 80’s films such as ‘Invasion USA’, and ‘The Barbarians’. While Kathleen Beller who plays the princess Alana is great eye candy, she wears lingerie-style garments throughout. Pyun’s at his best here, telling a straightforward narrative that makes time for humor and action. The rousing score by David Whitaker is arguably just as good as the epic Basil Poledouris score from ‘Conan’. During the end sequence a title card pops up proclaiming that ‘Talon’ will return shortly in a planned sequel. For years this never materialized, however Albert Pyun has finally delivered on his 28yr promise. Later this year the follow-up ‘Tales from an Ancient Empire’ starring Kevin Sorbo will be released. Next time your in the mood for a little 80’s throwback pop this in the DVD player.

Buy It On Amazon

I’m a Fan of Tim Burton’s ‘Ed Wood’

Coming off the enormous success of ‘Batman’ and the ensuing backlash against ‘Batman Returns’. Director Tim Burton quietly delivered a modestly budgeted, b&w film set in the 1950’s, about a cross dressing filmmaker on the fringes of Hollywood. The film was a resounding Box Office failure. It did however garner Martin Landau, magnificent here as former star and junkie ‘Bela Lugosi’, an Oscar for best Supporting Actor 1994. Back when it wasn’t fashionable to think of Johhny Depp as the greatest Chamelon-actor of our generation. Burton was using him to full potential, Depp’s embodiment of Ed Wood results in arguably his greatest performance to date. He injects that character with an unwavering enthusiasm along with an endless amount of optimism and eagerness. Burton for the first time in his career toned down the overt art design and placed his trust in the excellent screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. The relationship between Wood and fading star Lugosi is the heart of the film, which in turn provides an emotional edge rare in most of Burton’s other work. The joy of movie-making pours out of every frame. Easily Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s finest collaboration.

Buy It On Amazon

I’m A Fan Of ‘Into the Blue’

I’m a sucker for a good adventure movie, and this is one of the best underwater thrillers to have (uh?) surfaced in the last decade. Directed by John Stockwell (whom also helmed the similarly underrated ‘Touristas’) this is equal parts treasure hunt picture, drug smuggling drama, and beach t&a film. At the center of it is Jessica Alba, at the height of her celebrity and attractiveness as ‘Sam’ the girlfriend to Paul Walker’s character ‘Jared’. The couple are scuba divers who happen apon a sunken plane full of narcotics. Soon the leads are mixed up with the local drug kingpin and a hunting rival in Josh Brolin, who is outstanding as the heavy. Scott Cann and Ashley Scott fill out the cast and give life to the film when Alba’s ass and Walker’s abs are covered up. The underwater photography by D.P. Shane Hurlbert (infamous for being the guy Christan Bale went ape-shit on) is dazzling and the best of it’s kind since ‘The Abyss’ almost 20yrs earlier. Next time the rain is beating down and you need a summertime pick-me-up, put this in the DVD player for a pleasantly diverting 90min of tropical adventure.

Buy It On Amazon

I’m A Fan Of CW’s Smallville

   When this show premiered back in 2001 I dismissed it immediately. The advertising material pushed a ‘Abercrombie’ model as ‘Clark Kent’ and I felt that was totally against everything the Supeman mythology was about. Clark Kent is an average kid just trying to blend in, not a 6’5 ripped runway model. But the damnest thing happened, I watched the first four episodes years later on DVD and was hooked. Tom Welling plays Clark so perfectly that he erases memories of Brandon Routh’s mediocre performance, and Christopher Reeves magnificent portrayal of the superhero.

   The early seasons are focused on fractured relationships between fathers and their sons. Clark struggles with his families true identity and emerging powers, while Lex is locked into a vicious game of cat and mouse with his ‘Trump’ like father Lionel. John Glover is excellent as the eccentric billionaire and father to Lex, his on-screen intensity is equally matched by Michael Rosenbaum an outstanding actor who is used here perfectly. Rosenbaum’s version of Luther is a charming snake, who wants nothing more than to be best friends with Clark. Anyone familiar with the Superman story knows where this relationship is ultimately headed. Yet it’s fascinating to watch the arcs that slowly turn Lex and Clark into opposing forces. Kristin Kreuk is absolutely stunning as Lana Lang the long sought after girl from Smallville high. Later seasons introduce every major character in the Superman universe including Lois Lane, Perry White, and Jimmy Olsen along with the DC Justice League. This show has been picked up for it’s 10th season marking it as one of the longest running shows currently on television. Who knew the man of steel had this much staying power?

Buy It On Amazon

I’m A Fan Of Wesley Snipes

    Think back to the early 90’s for a moment. Schwarzenegger was still a ‘Terminator’, Michael Keaton was ‘Batman’ and Will Smith was only the ‘Fresh Prince’. This was a time when Wesley Snipes was an ‘A’-list action star and heavyweight dramatic leading man as well. For every ‘Passenger 57’, there was a ‘Jungle Fever‘, every ‘White Men Can’t Jump’, a ‘New Jack City’ or ‘Sugar Hill’. This was a man with the build of a boxer and athleticism of a gymnast, who was also a classically trained actor.

    The last six years haven’t been kind to Snipes. His recent out-put of b-grade action films have guaranteed consistent paychecks but ultimately have lessened his value to American audiences. How did this guy end up in B-movie purgatory? Snipes has made claims (somewhat fairly) of being blacklisted from Hollywood after the fall-out surrounding ‘Blade 3’. Reports suggest that Snipes was extremely un-cooperative on the set. When the film came out and did middling ($52million) business he sued New Line Cinema for $13million dollars citing breach of contract, claiming he had no voice in the hiring of novice director David Goyer. Filing a very public lawsuit against a studio is career suicide. Coupled with the IRS investigation Wesley Snipes had become a joke.

    But now one of the big-screens finest is back in ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’, playing a character that is somewhat of a bookend to his ‘Nino Brown’ role in 1991’s ‘New Jack City’. Two years removed from all the media hysteria revolving around his legal troubles, Snipes is back in cinemas delivery a career best performance. The second he steps on screen you are instantly aware why this man was a movie star in the first place. That’s why; I’m still a fan of Wesley Snipes.

Buy It On Amazon

I’m A Fan Of NBC’s Chuck

    What could be better than a funny version of Alias? NBC’s Chuck has somehow managed to recreate the fun spy games of J.J. Abrams’ hit show, whilst keeping the dramatic scenes intact. These universes literally parallel one another on many levels. After The O.C. it’s nice to see Josh Schwartz shine again with Chuck. Especially since his other hit show is now Gossip Girl.
    Zachary Levi is both humorous and endearing in the lead role. Yvonne Strahovski adds drama as Chuck’s sexy love interest. She might seem like a nice girl, but is capable of turning on a dime and striking down any threat to her or her teammates. Serenity fans will be pleased to see Adam Baldwin working again. And in a similar role that he embodied while playing Jane. Rough exterior with a heart of gold (well, at least a heart of silver). For a show to truly succeed, the supporting cast must be good. In this case they are great. The side story-lines involving these characters are a welcome break to the spy world Chuck lives in.
    The show revolves around Chuck and his friends working in a Buy More, which is nothing more than a Best Buy. If you’ve ever worked in an electronics store like this, the show captures the ambiance perfectly. No one does any real work. In fact the most work done in the store is avoiding actual work.
    If you’re a fan of spy or private eye shows, then Chuck is a must watch for you. If you’re just into great television, then make some room in your weekly schedule. You won’t be disappointed.

Buy It On Amazon

I’m A Fan Of Composer Marco Beltrami

    Marco Beltrami has done a lot of scores for films. A lot more than you think. If you went to the theaters in the last five years, chances are you’ve heard his music. Guillermo Del Toro seems to swear by him, having used his talents in Mimic, Blade II and Hellboy. There is debate as to whether his scores are bland. I challenge anyone to listen to I, Robot, Joy Ride or 3:10 To Yuma and say that. People wonder how this guy can continue working in films, but it’s obvious that he has won over several directors including Len Wiseman, which he scored Underworld: Evolution and Live Free or Die Hard for, and Wes Craven, which he’s scored every film in the Scream franchise for and Cursed.
    But Beltrami’s greatest score, in my opinion, is that for Wes Craven’s Red Eye. The score rounded out a perfect film. Unfortunately it is not available on CD, DreamWorks release this immediately!
    His music is typically understated and yet still comes out with a strong beat. He typically does best with action movies, I, Robot, Resident Evil and Terminator 3 prove this best. This is music that will get your heart racing, and then drop off in a smooth transition to let the movie take back the reigns.

Buy Marco Beltrami Scores On Amazon