HDTGM Triple Feature: Jingle All The Way (1996), Street Fighter (1994) & Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)

jingle all the way poster One of the highlights of my podcast-listening week is seeing a new episode of How Did This Get Made pop up. I’m a huge fan of this show about wacky movies hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas. Sometimes I watch the movie before the episode goes live, sometimes I’m pretty familiar with them already and other times, I just go along for the ride and check it out later. In the past few weeks, I’ve actually watched a trio of films inspired by the podcast and figured I’d group them all together. I also just realized that these three movies feature three of my favorite action stars, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone in some of their most bonkers movies ever.

The gang covered the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sinbad holiday comedy Jingle All The Way on their first Christmas episode back in 2011. I watched this one a few weeks back, but thankfully took notes to help jog my memory. The movie finds workaholic dad Schwarzenegger going crazy trying to find an action figure for his son, played by future Anakin Skywalker Jake Lloyd. Sinbad moves in an out of the movie doing the same thing. Meanwhile, it seems like Phil Hartmann is moving in on Arnie’s wife Rita Wilson and this is all leading towards a huge holiday parade in what’s supposed to be a snow-covered town, but is clearly a side street in LA in the spring.

I thought I had this movie figured out for the first 20 minutes or so. That part is basically a movie for kids with over-the-top, cartoony style gags. Heck, there’s all kinds of talk in the first 10 minutes that set up the entire film (toy, parade, snow, etc.). Cool, I got it, let’s roll. And then things start getting weird and dark. The whole Hartman thing was pretty crazy, plus Sinbad is a nutso postal worker (remember when that was a thing?) who actually hands a cop a bomb that explodes! Luckily, he’s okay because he’s apparently facing off against the Road Runner. The whole thing culminates in a big parade where Arnie dresses up as the action figure hero and has a pretty epic fight with Sinbad. I feel like I could use the word “bonkers” to describe roughly everything in this movie. I wound up watching the end with my kid and I’m pretty sure she didn’t pick up on any of the insanity, so maybe you can get away with this one with a tyke if you have one. Maybe just cover their eyes when Arnie punches a reindeer in the face. That might be damaging.

Before moving on, if you’re looking for any kind of message, don’t. The obvious and seemingly intended point is that commercialism is not the point of Christmas, but that being with people is. And yet, the ENTIRE MOVIE is actually about commercialism, getting things, taking them away from other people and keeping them. You can’t just tack on a nice moment from Lloyd at the end and flip the whole script, you know? Ah well, moving on…

street-fighter-the-movie-poster This spring, HDTGM covered one of the greatest bad video game movies around when they did Street Fighter starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen (who’s as wooden here as she is on S.H.I.E.L.D., zing!), Kylie Minogue and Miguel A. Núñez Jr. who was in both Return Of The Living Dead AND Friday The 13th: A New Beginning. I’ve probably only played a Street Fighter game for about an hour in my whole life and know next to nothing about the franchise, but it’s still clear from watching this movie that the writers didn’t really care about any of that as far as plot goes and instead decided to just shoehorn in nods to the games.

Basically, Julia plays a guy who wants to not so much rule the world, but his own country. JCVD isn’t down with that, especially after Julia captures one of his pals. Thankfully, JCVD leads some kind of UN-type military group that wears bright blue camouflage for no reason. I honestly can’t remember many of the details beyond that because every single character in this movie is lying about what they want or why they’re there. So many of them switch sides that you practically need a score card. Actually, that’s an overstatement as the good guys are clearly good and the bad guys, well, usually wear masks, hats or have crazy blades on their hands.

The funny thing about this movie is that, I was pretty sure I’d seen this back in my high school days or maybe when I lived with my buddy Rickey and we watched a ton of JCVD movies. When I went to Netflix to give it watch, I laughed because it asked if I wanted to watch again and the screen capture was of the end credits. Guys, I can’t stay away from a good-bad JCVD movie and this is one of the best-worst. If you do watch this movie, please do yourself a favor and listen to the episode. They point out so many awesome bits of craziness that I kind of want to listen to it again right now.

stop or my mom will shoot I realized yesterday that Netflix Instant is about to cut a ton of titles on January 1st. Turns out there are 25 of those soon-to-be-gone flicks in my queue so I figured I’d watch a few when I can. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot popped out from the batch because of one thing: How Did This Get Made (episode 61 to be exact). Since Lu had laid claim to the big TV, I actually broke out the Kindle Fire and watched that way which worked pretty well.

Sylvester Stallone plays a supercop in this one whose mom — Estelle Getty — comes for a visit only to witness a murder that she teams up with her son to solve. This movie is so all-over-the-place that it’s really hard to get a handle on. It starts off with a solid action scene which eventually leads into an airport scene where a group of stewardesses comment on his physique based on pictures — many of them baby pics — that Estelle showed them. One of them even says something about him being attractive in a diaper which is just so weird and gross that it’s hard to handle. In fact, there’s a lot of awkward sex jokes that leave you off balance.

Keeping you further off balance is a scene where Estelle — who is super annoying in that way that moms of this time were on TV and film — actually washes his gun with soap and water in the sink. Up to that point she was just overbearing, but at this point she’s dumb verging on insane. That gets compounded by the fact that she brought an entire suitcase of canned pineapple as well as another one with cleaning products. That’s obviously pre-intense airline security, but I’m fairly certain you can make something terrible with at least one of those cases.

Oh, I forgot to mention that his house is kind of crazy too. He’s got a ton of random stuff all over the place from a ceramic pumpkin and a rubber ducky to a bunch of board games and a tiny red gumball machine. And there’s a dream sequence where Stallone’s in a diaper. And Estelle Getty shoots a guy. And there’s a henchman thrown out a window. And, and, and. None of this is actually about story so much as the crazytown things thrown in to launch an admittedly silly plot over-the-top into bonkersville.

Again, do yourself the service of listening to this episode if you decided to watch the movie (or even if you don’t, it’s that good). They point out a lot of the elements I noticed but also so many more. And remember, while you’re watching this one, remind yourself that Stallone has an Oscar for writing.

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The Music Box: Human Nature By America (1998)

America Human Nature

Picking one disc out of a box and giving it an uninformed listen!

I haven’t had the best luck with The Music Box selections. Schleprock was pretty mundane pop punk and Joseph Arthur’s And The Thieves Are Gone… wasn’t my thing, but I did really enjoy Gas Giants. This week’s selection, though, was straight-up awful. I don’t think I’ve ever cringed or wrinkled my nose so much while listening to a record ever. In fact, I probably would have just called it quits with this one, thrown the CD away and moved on, but I wanted to keep the column going for this week, so here we go.

As with all the other posts so far, I didn’t do any research before listening to this record which might be the most “adult contemporary” thing of all time. I knew the name America and after a song or two, realized it was probably the “A Horse With No Name,” band, but didn’t confirm that to be the case until I looked them up on Wikipedia. Even with that classic song in the past, I couldn’t enjoy this record in the present.

Maybe it’s because this is just not my kind of music, but I could not escape the idea that this record was one of two things: one, a bad attempt to copy some kind of new wave folk formula to get Baby Boomers grooving or, two, an incredibly sincere, yet clueless attempt. I kept thinking of David Brent from the original Office. He really thinks he’s doing great things, but it’s clear to the audience that he is not. There was just something about this collection of songs that felt a little too put-on and manufactured, but I can’t quite place why and I’m not listening again without a good reason (ie a paycheck).

Most of the slow burn, jangly nonsense could be written off as a once-prominent band growing old with their audience, but then you get to “Hidden Talent” and things get super creepy. Two lines into the song, one of my musical sins gets committed when an adult man refers to anyone but his daughter as “little girl.” It’s sung in that Michael McDonald-ish, easily mocked kind of voice that usually devolves into throaty “Bur bur bur bur-bur-bur-bur” any time you do an impression of it. So that tipped me off to some grossness, which made me look up the lyrics.

A basic listen might indicate that this is just a guy trying to tell a young lady that she’s got a lot of potential she just hasn’t tapped yet, but I’m thinking this song is about a creepy old dude who wants to tap a young lady, revealing her true sex potential in the sweaty process. It goes from “I’m just trying to make you understand/All the ways you can affect this man” in the first verse to “Hidden talent (hidden talent, yeah)/Affair without warning/Hidden talent, mmm (mmm).”

Seriously, there’s no other way to read this song’s intent. Had that “little girl” portion been excised from the proceedings — as it should have been — I would have gotten a less intense predatory vibe. If this song is just a guy singing to a lady his own age, it’s not so bad, but you’re primed for an age discrepancy right from the beginning and just when you think it might be more of a mentor-y song, then you get “affair without warning.”

Alright, I’m done thinking about this record for the rest of forever.

Picking Up The 52 – Everything Else

As I said over in my more in-depth reviews of DC’s relaunch titles Huntress, Batwing, Hawk & Dove and Deathstroke #1s, I came upon a stack of books from the relaunch and read them in the order they were piled in. I was going to spread these reviews out a bit longer, but first I got a little behind in posting and then I got my hands on even more comics I want to talk about, so let’s get these out of the way, shall we. Overall, I’m still not sure how successful the issues I read were at either roping in new readers with familiar stories or  giving existing fans interesting things to sink their teeth into. I found myself really enjoying the weirder books, things like Deathstroke or Frankenstein or Justice League Dark, basically books that could be taken out of DC, tweaked here and there and feel like new, original creator owned concepts. There are a few revisions of existing franchises that I liked and one particular one that failed. If you’re curious to see what I thought in a few sentences for each issue, read on! Continue reading Picking Up The 52 – Everything Else

Friday Fisticuffs Fail: Silent Trigger (1996) & The Cutter (2005)

I tried, you guys, I really did. I know I’m not always consistent with my recurring blog posts like Friday Fisticuffs, Trade Posts or Ad It Ups, but I’ve been trying to get back on schedule. I figured that a Dolph Lundgren movie from the 90s would be the perfect FF subject, but I was terribly, terribly wrong. Silent Trigger (or Assassin Warrior as it’s apparently known in France) suuuuuuucks. To try and remedy that, I figured I’d watch a Chuck Norris movie. That should be great, right? Nope, not at all. But I’ll get to that.

First, Silent Trigger. Bleh. What a boring, crappy movie filled with people who seem to be trying really hard to do things they don’t really understand. The female lead in the film seems to have studied at the Ertha Kitt School of Acting because she is forever talking like 60s Catwoman. Meanwhile, the cinematographer or whoever shot this thing starts off trying to do all these crazy angles and whatnot to disorient you, but you know the problem with that? The people and things being shot aren’t interesting. At no point throughout this film did I care about anyone or anything (except when the woman gets beat up, but that’s just because I hate seeing that in general).

I guess I should explain the plot. Dolph’s a sniper and the woman is his spotter. They’re on a job somewhere that goes bad. He doesn’t take the shot and they’re on the run. That right there should have been the plot of this movie, but instead that’s told in flashbacks and our main story finds them teamed back up on another job in an under-construction skyscraper with two guys guarding it, one of whom looks like Randy Johnson and has terrible looking blue spider tattoos all over him because he’s a crazy cokehead. Or something.

The plot, such as it is, is these two people sitting around talking and remembering stuff. That could work with a solid cast, but when Dolph is the best actor you’ve got, don’t build your movie around character beats and drama, JUST BLOW SHIT UP. Additionally, the threats never seem that threatening, but maybe that’s just because I felt like I was watching cartoon character just going through the motions and checking off all the boxes in the list of action movie cliches.

But, beyond all that, there aren’t any fight scenes! Well, there’s a few, but most of the action in the flick is gunplay. That’s on me, of course, I can’t blame the movie for not being something it never claimed to be. There’s one fight between Dolph and Randy with lead up to what should have been another, but that gets cut off at the knees in a moment that’s supposed to show how much trouble they’re really in, but instead just deflates the one possible interesting thing in the movie.

You know what the coolest part of this movie is? The poster. So, just look at that and skip the flick.

I should have known better. When I saw that The Cutter, a Chuck Norris Joint, was released in 2005, I should have gone on by. But, I hoped the old dude still had some strength in those ass kicking legs and hoped for the best. You know what’s better than watching a latter day Chuck Norris movie? Everything. It’s so strange because–to me at least–he looks like he has for the past 10 to 15 years, but he sure has heck doesn’t move like that. There’s a brief scuffle in the beginning of the film where he looks so concerned about breaking a hip that it penetrates your brain from the screen. I didn’t even realize why until I thought about it, but I actually felt nervous watching and it wasn’t because I thought his character was in danger, I was actively worried that one of my childhood idols would slip a disc or something.

The plot on this one is pretty standard. Chuck was hired to find a woman’s daughter, but she gets iced before he can save her. He feels bad and decides to take another job for a woman who had her diamonds stolen. I couldn’t tell if there was an actual connection between the two crimes, but it doens’t really matter. He winds up hanging out with this woman and also Tracy Scoggins who’s a cop I think.

I’ll be honest, I turned this one off in favor of taking a shower while the kid took a nap. I just didn’t care enough and seeing what was left of the awesomeness that once stood toe to toe with Bruce Lee made me sad. Heck, there’s one scene where Chuck is supposed to dive over a two foot tall wall to avoid a shooter and they had to speed the film up! I’d rather remember him as Delta Force or Bruce’s sparring partner than in something like this or the also disappointing Hellbound. I’ve got my fingers crossed that he doesn’t make me cringe in Expendables 2.

Belated Friday Fisticuffs: Revolt (1987)

Obviously, it’s well past Friday, but I just had to write about one of the strangest movies I’ve seen in a very long time. My folks came for a visit on Friday and Saturday, then we had a CPR class to attend on Sunday as well as a Super Bowl to watch. Monday I was swamped with work AND it was my birthday and then yesterday I was in the city covering a Comic Book Men Q&A with Kevin Smith and the boys. So, I’ve been busy, but not too busy to talk about this incredibly odd movie.

Revolt is a mystery. It’s a mystery how something so bad could get released, why absolutely nothing about this film can be found on IMDb and why the heck, even with all that, it still wound up on Netflix Instant. I am not kidding you guys when I say that I checked about ten names from the cast on IMDb hoping to find the title Revolt or even a film from that year on their resumes, but it was a total bust. Heck, this is the only poster I could find and it’s smaller than the usual ones I like to run, but it’s the largest I could find.

So, the origins and background of this film are completely unknown aside from what’s actually seen on the screen and, my oh my, there is a lot going onscreen in this movie. First and foremost, you need to understand that this movie is terrible. The acting is bad, the story is far more overwrought and confusing than it needs to be (I had trouble differentiating characters for most of the film), it tries too hard to address real issues that should probably be handled better and even includes a voiceover in the first ten minutes that sounds like something out of an After School Special that completely disappears. Heck, I almost wish it would have stuck around because it would have cleared a few things up. But, even with all that, I had an amazing time watching this movie. It’s a “so bad it’s good” kind of thing absolutely and if you dig those kinds of movies, I’m fairly confident saying you will LOVE this one.

So, in addition to the terrible acting (at times it seems like aliens dressed as people saw a movie and this is their attempt at making their own) and the hilarious voiceover (“There’s a drug dealer on that train…Ah, there he is.”) it also seems as though most of the vocals were dubbed over later. You know how that wound up working out well for Robert Rodriguez when he made El Mariachi? Well, it doesn’t work here. Continuing the strange “Is this a foreign film?” vibe, it also includes some sound effects that dudes making Hong Kong action films in the 70s would shake their heads at. An old man gets knocked over and they do that “bundle of sticks falling from a great height” sound effect. It’s bonkers!

But, then it gets serious. Plenty of people close to our heroes get straight up murdered. Heck, one of their sons (or somebody’s son, I really have no idea who’s related to who) gets hit by a car. Is any of this really necessary? Usually I’d say no, because there’s a sexual assault and the guy who does it only gets shot, which doesn’t seem like appropriate payback, BUT this movie also has a bigotry component revolving around problems in Iran that INSTANTLY make every single white person in town turn into a raging racist who doesn’t want anything to do with the Iranian family in town (who are kinda sorta at the center of things, I think). Heck, even the little kid (the one soon to have a nasty run in with a car) gets the shit kicked out of him at school AND harassed by a blond woman who’s either a teacher or just a meddling mom.

And, of course, being Friday Fisticuffs, there are fights in the movie. None of them are really worth talking about, though they do look real. Heck, I’m not sure if these aren’t just people beating the crap out of each other. The real gold comes towards the end of the movie when a blond guy and a brown-haired guy take their weapons to the bad guy’s camp and they jump around like crazy (the blond guy is like a friggin gymnast in this thing). This is the closest you’ll ever get to a Contra/Super Contra movie from the 80s and it’s worth watching just for this scene (and there’s a lot more goodness to enjoy if you’re a fan of the badness).

I hope I’ve included enough nonsense from the movie to convince you guys to check this movie out on NetBox. If not, know that it contains the calmest phone conversation between one bad guy (who looks like he could be Stone Cold’s uncle) and the other where they very calmly talk about giving the Iranian people in town trouble because they’re from Iran. You’d think they were discussing picking up a new ladder with how unemotional they are about the whole thing.

Please, do yourself a favor bad movie fans and watch Revolt as soon as you can. I haven’t gushed this much about a bad movie in possibly ever and hope you guys can share in the unique joy this film brings.

Prefered Podcasts: How Did This Get Made?

After enjoying Paul Scheer on The League and finally getting around to listening to his WTF episode, I started following him on Twitter. That was fortuitous because he sent out a link last week about the latest episode of a podcast he does with Jason Mantzoukas (also on The League) and June Diane Raphael (who guested on Party Down) called How Did This Get Made? The concept is pretty simple, the three hosts and a special guest–usually a comedian, actor or writer as well as a few directors–get together and talk about a movie of questionable origins. For the most part, the titular question is asked in more of a “How did this piece of garbage get made?” but occasionally it’s along the lines of “How did something this awesome get made?”

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I’m a fan of goofy, bad movies as well as awesome ones, so this podcast could not be more in my wheelhouse. Add in the fact that some of my favorite comedians like Patton Oswalt, Nick Kroll, Ken Marino, Casey Wilson, Matt Walsh, Adam Scott and Rob Huebel among plenty of others, an appearance by Lost’s Damon Lindelof talking about Superman III and directors Lexi Alexander and Brian Taylor talking about Punisher War Zone and the Crank movies respectively and I honestly can’t stop listening to these episodes.

I was initially drawn to the podcast because of the interview with Taylor about Crank. Those are two of my favorite movies of the past ten years so it was interesting to hear people as much in love with it as I was geeking out with the director. Then I started going through the episodes of movies I had seen like Catwoman and Burlesque, but I realized even with movies I haven’t seen like Old Dogs and Jingle All The Way, the manner in which these folks talk about the movies brings you right in. In fact, I think it’s almost better not having seen the movies. The episode with Doug Benson and the gang talking about the second to last Twilight movie was particularly hilarious.

I know the internet is already filled with people complaining about movies, but that’s not really what this podcast is about. At least not in a complete bitching kind of way. For the most part–and I’ve listened to a half or third of the episodes so far–the hosts really do appreciate bad, goofy movies and enjoy pointing out how crazy some of them are (All About Steve sounds INSANE) though, of course, there are some that they just flat out hate. But, because those movies are in the minority, the overall experience is fun, like sitting in a room with a few cases of beers, some pizza and some pals laughing at some of the weirder movies ever made. I’m actually kind of bummed that I will be caught up in the next day or two (I think I listened to a dozen or so episodes yesterday) because then I’ll have to wait like everyone else for new episodes. But, that’s part of the fun of podcasts: finding some that’s been around, downloading like crazy, putting that in your ear holes and then punching on the new episodes as they come in.

Friday Fisticuffs: High Voltage (1997)

Right off the bat, I think it’s very important to let you know that High Voltage is not a good movie. I’ve often heard people talk about the kinds of movies that were born thanks to the popularity of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but never really experienced it (or knew I was experiencing it). This flick borrows heavily from both movies immediately with an out of sequence opening that works on three different timelines (the group of cooks talking about committing a crime, the drive to the heist and the heist itself). Hell, during the “discussing the crime” parts, it’s pretty obvious they’re trying to go for the rapid fire dialog Tarantino’s known for. Hell, there’s even a Mexican standoff in the first ten minutes and a foiled heist.

Antonio Sabato Jr. is our hero and leader of the gang of crooks. Amy Smart (interesting that she’s in two movies called High Voltage) and the guy who played the crazy roommate in Dead Man On Campus are part of the gang. When it turns out the bank they want to rob is actually a front for the mob, they’re on the run which sends Sabato on a tour of (I’m assuming) LA and Nevada calling up old friends to help him out, including 80s bully extraordinaire Billy Zabka. Hell, even Ogre from Revenge Of The Nerds makes an appearance as a bartender.

Fun casting isn’t enough to make this a good movie. Nearly everyone involved has trouble delivering dialog. There’s also plenty of nonsensical moments like people not being able to shoot other folks a few feet in front of them, men with AK-47s running like little girls from a guy who just rode in on a motorcycle and Amy Smart marrying her by-then dead boyfriend thanks to Sabato holding a gun to a priest’s head. The film tries really hard to be cool and hip, but the goofy action sequences and bad dialog reveal this dog’s true nature. Just check out this clip, it’s the first 15 minutes of the movie and one of the few I could find on YouTube after a few minutes of searching.

Speaking of action, it’s as disjointed as the film itself. The gunplay bounces between pretty cool looking and laughable, veering into Shoot Em Up territory, but without the winking nods to the audience that let you know this is all a ludicrous, but fun adventure. The hand-to-hand fighting is also a weird mix. There’s all these corny sound effects that sound like they were taken from the Indiana Jones audio library (they work in those movies because they’re over-the-top action movies, but this is supposed to be set in the real world). Every punch sounds like a bag of bricks falling to the ground and every slash of a knife like a samurai sword cutting through the air. It’s too much. At the same time, the recipients of every blow and bullet do these kind of amazing and painful looking flips and contortions smashing into everything from tables and chairs to walls and each other. These are corny moments, but they remind me of great martial arts flicks where it looks like dudes are really getting hurt (made all the better by the Jackie Chan-esque closing credits). This short side-fight between Shanon Lee (who winds up being Sabato’s love interest) and an unnamed adversary winds up being one of the more interesting ones.

In the end, I think a movie like this really relies on its leads and how convincing they are as cool badasses. If Stallone starred in this movie or Arnie, I think I’d be all over it, but Sabato just doesn’t have the chops or timing that those guys did (and do). He’s kind of like Van Damme in that he comes off as kind of a douche, but whereas Van Damme’s earlier roles straddle the line and lean towards the more palatable end of the spectrum, he leans the other way and kind of makes me wish that Billy Zabka had knifed him by the end of the movie.