80s Odyssey: Black Moon Rising (1986)

black moon rising It doesn’t take much to draw me towards a movie. If you’ve got a flick, especially one from the 80s, starring a few people I already like and don’t take more than 100 minutes of my time, I’ll probably watch you on Netflix Instant. That was the case with Black Moon Rising, a movie I’d never heard of but featured Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Hamilton, Bubba Smith and Robert Vaughn as well as a futuristic super-car. I’m in, let’s do this.

Tommy Lee Jones plays a thief who steals some financial records and winds up getting followed. To avoid his would-be captors, he hides the information in the aforementioned super car which happens to be parked outside a restaurant. While he’s inside, Linda Hamilton and her crew of car thieves lock the door of the place and drive off with lots of expensive cars. Jones follows and discovers that Hamilton works for Vaughn, a big time, evil corporate guy. Jones then starts working on Hamilton to get on her good side while also trying to find out more about the car from its creators who are skittish of the whole thing at first. Of course, he gets everyone on board and leads a pretty exciting assault on a high rise to get both the car and the information back.

I realized while watching this movie that it was probably the youngest I’ve ever seen TLJ on film. It’s not that he looks so much different than he did in the 90s or even now, just fresher. It was cool seeing him running around, fighting guys and getting to wear the cool looking black leather suits instead of playing the jaded veteran. Meanwhile, Hamilton plays a very similar role to the one she did in the Terminator movies. She’s tough and bruised on the inside but keeps a hard exterior to the world that’s knocked her around. For his part, Vaughn really nails his role as the business bad guy. He really reminded me of 80s and 90s Lex Luthor from the Superman comics. He basically plucked Hamilton off the street and formed her into who she is today for good and ill solely to have someone who would absolutely follow his orders. He also tends to monitor and record nearly everything which is kind of an interesting aspect back then. He basically uses all the technology available no matter how expensive to keep his criminal empire in check.

I’ve already writen about Black Moon Rising for three paragraphs now and haven’t mentioned the most interesting part: John Carpenter wrote the movie. I haven’t been able to dig up exactly why he didn’t want to direct it, though it looks like Big Trouble In Little China which came out the same year and Prince Of Darkness which came out the following might have taken up his time. Instead, Harley Cokeliss jumped into the director’s chair. I’m not very familiar with his other works, but do believe I have Battletruck somewhere in my pile of to-be-watched DVDs and think I might have come across Malone starring Burt Reynolds at some point. It’s interesting comparing this movie to some of Carpenter’s others, especially Christine which also focused on a special car, though a far more supernatural one and also stars a real bad ass as the lead just like Big Trouble, Escape From New York and They Live. On the other hand, this is a much more real-world and technology-based film than you might expect from the creator of those other stories. It would have been really cool to see what he would have done with the movie had he actually directed.

black moon rising german poster

Before closing out I wanted to say one last thing about this film, I think it’s ripe for the remake mill. I think this one has a lot of potential and would piss off almost no one. Of course, you’re also dealing with a movie that doesn’t have nearly the existing audience, fanbase and name recognition that some of Carpenter’s other movies do. On the other hand, you’re dealing with a really solid, yet open framework for a story that can easily be transferred to the current day. I’m not saying this would be a multibillion dollar blockbuster, but a pretty good vehicle (heh, puns!) for an action movie that has room for improvement and modernization. This could be something like the Jason Statham remake of The Mechanic which worked out pretty well if you ask me. As it happens, I’d also like to see Statham in this one. Heck, the dude already has experience with driving fast cars. Let’s make this happen Hollywood!

80s Space Odyssey: Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)

I’ve realized in the past few years that I can add “well intentioned Star Wars-esque space opera with practical effects” to the list of sub-genres that I can really get behind. Buck Rogers, Black Hole, Barbarella, Star Crash and a few other Roger Corman movies I’ve seen have all really impressed me. And, in truth, when it comes to Corman’s most expensive-to-date film Battle Beyond The Stars, it’s way more of a Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven lift than a Star Wars one, though they do seem set on making Richard Thomas of Waltons fame look as much like Luke Skywalker as possible. Our hero Shad is worried about the fate of his home planet, so he goes out into the galaxy to bring back a sextet of people including Robert Vaughn, George Peppard (Hannibal from A-Team) and Sybil Danning to square off against none other than John Saxon who played the cop in Nightmare on Elm Street as well as one of the white dudes in Enter the Dragon.

It should also be noted that, while the plot borrows from Akira Kurosawa, it also pays homage by naming Shad’s home planet Akir where the people are known as the Akira. There’s also some fun had with the people he gathers. One’s a bodacious Wonder Woman-esque warrior, a lizard like alien, a cowboy from Earth, a group of mind-melded three-eyed aliens, Robert Vaughn as well Robert Vaughn and more. Shad also has a sassy talking spaceship that’s pretty fun.

All in all, I thought that Battle Beyond The Stars was a nice effort. Even the spaceships look pretty great, though the main one looks like a combination of Hammerhead from Star Wars and the female reproductive system. So, if you’re looking for a practically done, somewhat campy, but still enthusiastic sci-fi flick from the early 80s, you can do a lot worse than checking out Battle. Plus, it’s on NetBox, so you don’t have to wait for a rental!

Bullitt Time

2008-05-15
1:12:10 am

As promised (way back in the first post), here’s my review of Bullitt.

Bullitt (1968)

Directed by Peter Yates

Written by Alan Trustman and Harry Kleiner

Starring: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall and Norman Fell (Mr. Roper)

Okay, here’s the deal. I was really excited to check this movie out. I’ve never seen a movie that Steve McQueen starred in and I’ve heard a lot about the famous car chase, plus I like movies where the cop has to take matters into his own hands to deliver justice. Now, on the negative side, I’ve also found that my attention span has dwindled pretty significantly and I have trouble staying up past midnight (because somewhere along the line, I turned into an old lady). That being said, a movie really has to grab my attention first, so I won’t go off and look at something shiny and second, so that I don’t fall asleep and unfortunately Bullitt did neither.

About 10 minutes into my viewing experience, I was already turned off by the crummy sound, which is pretty funny considering it was nominated for Best Sound in 1969. The quality’s great, but it’s one of those movies where you have to turn the volume up to hear the dialog and then get your ears blown up by a sound effect or the background music (which was a pretty rad jazz soundtrack).

Anyway, a few minutes after that I realized how atmospheric this movie is. By that I mean there’s a lot of space, the shots don’t get right in on the action necessarily, the music is sparse and there just wasn’t a lot for me to stay focused on.

At some point, I got distracted by an IM conversation, then tried to go back a few chapters to figure out what was going on, quit and went to bed. So, on day two, I was determined to start over and watch this movie. No such luck. I got the basic concept (I think): McQueen plays Bullitt, a cop who’s assigned to get a witness to the court on time. There’s some static from this huge d-bag named Chaumers, but beyond that, I’m not so sure. (Side note, this may be the worst review of all time and for that I apologize).

I did find myself transfixed by Bullitt as an image on the screen. There wasn’t a single point that I wasn’t looking at him like a superhero. He would have made a great Captain America or even Batman back in the day. He’s surprisingly quiet, but there’s a sense of danger surrounding him, making me feel like he would kick some ass at any time, any place (just like Cap). As an added superhero bonus, we even get to see him putting his “costume” (the black turtleneck and holster) on and getting his gear together. I love scenes like that in comics and superhero and action movies.

Which brings us to the car chase, which did not disappoint. From what I’ve read, the chase was a pretty big deal back in the day, one of the first big, awesome chases. I also read that Steve McQueen leaned towards the window of the car while driving so people would know it’s him. How freakin’ cool is that? Anyway, there’s a sense of realism to the car chase that made me stop everything I was doing and just watch. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It felt like I was watching a real car chase and, for whatever reason, I actually felt like something terrible could happen to Bullitt at any time. It’s a very visceral scene and I highly recommend at least checking IT out, if not the whole movie. After the chase is done, though, it got atmospheric again and I lost interest (and eventually fall asleep).

So, here’s why I don’t think I was able to get into Bullitt. First of all, and this is no fault of the movie’s, I feel like I’ve seen this movie a dozen times over and probably better done. I’m a big Dirty Harry fan, which came out after this and seems very influenced by Bullitt. But the simple fact that I saw it first means that it’s more in my headspace than Bullitt. Also, and again this is not the movie’s fault, but I was so looking forward to the chase scene that I just wanted to get there and skip the story. That one’s my bad, obviously. And finally, one of the aspects that I liked about the chase scene made the rest of the movie feel ultra slow and that’s the realism of it all. Unlike most action movies, I felt like this could all really happen, I mean, we’ve all seen car chases on Tru TV or Cops that look at awful lot like this one. But, the lack of more over-the-top moments made Bullitt feel a lot longer than it actually is.

To defend myself for just a moment, though, I do enjoy movies from this time period. I like seeing how things used to be a few decades back. Like the hospital scene was really interesting because it made me glad I wasn’t alive and sick in the late ’60s. I also like seeing San Francisco as the background. From what I read this was another first and influential element. This one just didn’t do it for me. But it didn’t turn me off from McQueen, I’ve got The Great Escape and The Getaway on my queue and will probably write them up whenever they come through. So, what do you think? I’m not sure how the comment section works, but if you E-mail me, I’ll post some of the messages on here and respond to them.

Also, get ready for another installment of Iron Mongering and a look back at The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which I’m watching for the first time to get ready for Crystal Skull.