It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of movies from the 80s. Someone far more familiar with the medium than I could write a whole book on how weird and wild the movies of that era were, especially the ones aimed at kids. Looking back you have this great mix of super surfacey action films, dark sci-fi and kid adventure movies plus so much more. Many might look back and snicker at the movies of that era, but not everyone. In fact, I watched two recent movies that could fit right in with some of my favorites, which is why I’m talking about Big Game and Turbo Kid together and hope you watch them back to back!
I’ll be completely honest, I watched Legion over two days, but separated by probably a week or so and don’t remember a whole lot about the plot. There’s an angel who ditches his wings and a bunch of people in a diner, one of which is a pregnant woman whose unborn child is wanted by some demons. Or something. You’ve got a kind of zombie army, old women turning into wall-crawling monsters and, most importantly, an angel fight at the very end between the good former angel and the current bad angel.
I really shouldn’t even be “reviewing” this movie and didn’t plan on it, but there were a few things I wanted to note. First off, the cast is pretty impressive, featuring Dennis Quaid, Kate Walsh, Kevin Durand (Keamy from Lost, dude makes an awesome evil angel), Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Doug Jones and a bunch of others. Second, I wish the story would have been opened up to have larger steaks than just focusing on a few people in a diner. I know that would have made the movie exponentially more expensive, but I feel like I’ve seen lots of stories like this set in out-of-the-way diners. At least it wasn’t snowing. And finally, the movie is worth watching for the final battle between Bettany (the good angel) and Durand. Durand still has his wings and a pretty bad ass weapon that inspired me to put together a list of the best weapons of the past decade, both of which he uses to excellent effect.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with dudes with wings, but the director/fight coordinator/special effects guys did a hell of a job using all the elements for a great finale fight. It kind of reminded me of Grant Morrison pitting the JLA against angels in his run on that book and made me hope that director and former special FX guy Scott Charles Stewart could help out if that run ever gets turned into a movie (incredibly doubtful, but a boy can dream). In fact, all the special effects were top notch, which is why I’d like to see this thing on a larger scale.
After reading Brian at Horror Movie A Day’s review of Outpost, I immediately added it to the top of my DVD queue. Badass soldiers lead by Ray Stevenson fighting some kind of undead Nazis in a remote location? Sold! And, man, I’m glad I did because I wound up really liking this movie. See, a scientist hires Stevenson to put together a team of mercenaries to take him through the woods/jungle to an old bunker.
Once there, the soldiers discover a pile of bald naked men, one of whom is still a live and the scientist discovers a big machine in the basement that the Nazis invented to try and capture the energy of the unified field theory. While Stevenson has things explained to him by the scientist, the rest of the men get paranoid as they’re apparently shot out, phantoms start creeping around and then a full-on invasion force of what looks like zombie Nazis appears in the forest which gets lit up like crazy at night (this is a great effect by the way, looking somehow real and artificial at the same time, and definitely creepy). In fact, the movie has lots and lots of creepy moments between those phantoms and the eventual kills that come from some very solid soldiers designed to kill.
If I’m understanding the science behind the story, the Nazis wanted to capture the essence of the unified field theory (which I in no way understand). They also discovered that that energy had very interesting effects on their soldiers, turning them all but immortal, but, sometimes, out of phase with reality because they’re vibrating on a different level than the rest of the world. I’m working here with a physics knowledge based on a terribly taught high school class I took a decade ago and lots and lots of comic reading. Why the phasing Nazi ghost zombie things don’t just storm the bunker and murder Stevenson and his soldiers straight-up, I don’t know, but this is also asked by one of the soldiers who also doesn’t know, so I guess that’s left up to the audience. Maybe they’re bored and want something to do now that they can get physical.
Even though the movie reminded me a bit of Predator (which I love) and Dog Soldiers (which I didn’t love too much), I still had a great time with it. The plot does a great job of being both a solid action movie and a solid horror movie which plays up on the conventions of both. I actually got some added enjoyment from the flick by pretending that Stevenson was still playing Frank Castle from Punisher: War Zone. Punisher vs. Nazi Zombies? Double awesome.
As loyal Kicking It Old School readers might remember, a few months ago I declared Wanted as my third favorite comic movie of 2008 behind Dark Knight and Iron Man and miles ahead of Hellboy 2 and Incredible Hulk. Well, Wanted has been ousted by Lionsgate’s Punisher War Zone which I watched last week and have been telling my friends about ever since (in real life, that is).
This flick is awesome. It’s great in the same way that I thought it would be when I started seeing previews for it before it came out. This is like Crank or Shoot ‘Em Up or any number of Jean Claude Van-Damme or Steven Seagal movies from the late 80s or early 90s. It’s balls to the wall crazy for most of its 103 minutes, which is exactly what a Punisher movie should be in my opinion (for the record I really like Dolph’s Punisher and barely remember Tom Jane’s).
To put things in perspective, by the 8 minute mark, The Punisher had killed an entire party full of mobsters (including decapitation AND shoving a chair through a guy’s face) before heading off to another creation when the man who will become Jigsaw gets one of the more gruesome villain origins in comic book movie history.
Joining Jigsaw in his murderous rampage is his brother known as Loony Bin Jim, who Lost fans may or may not recognize as Horace (I had no idea, this dude is a chameleon). Sure, both villains are way over the top and it’s nearly impossible not to compare their versions of crazy to the amazing Heath Ledger’s Joker performance, but I still found their brand of crazy enjoyable.
I understand it’s kind of crazy to lump Punisher: War Zone in with two of the greatest comic book movies ever made (hey, we comic fans had a good year last year), but I had more fun watching P:WZ than I did Incredible Hulk and Hellboy 2, both of which suffered, in my opinion, for various reasons (I’d have to see both movies again to really remember why, but I just don’t feel like putting myself through that again).
Speaking of comic fans, even though it’s your basic “dude shooting and killing his way through a bunch of bad guys” story, there are still some nods to the comics. You get Detective Soap and Microchip (played by Newman himself, Wayne Knight), plus some other characters that I wouldn’t have known about if IMDb hadn’t told me about them in the trivia page. Plus, anyone can enjoy the awesome final showdown scene in an old hotel with tons of gangs each trying to kill The Punisher.
All in all, Ray Stevenson did a bang up job as Frank Castle (though, even he couldn’t save himself from the sappy-ish parts of the script that should probably have been scrapped). Dominic West’s Jigsaw and Dough Hutchinson’s Loony Bin Jim were over-the-top crazy and director Lexi Alexander made me excited to see whatever her next project will be. And hopefully it will be another awesome action movie, because there really aren’t enough female action directors out there. Actually I can’t think of any others, can you?