Toy Commercial Tuesday: Demolition Man Figures

One of my personal favorite oddities of action figure history from the 80s and 90s are the action figure lines based on R-rated action movies that the kids of the day couldn’t or wouldn’t see. I wrote about that a bit with the two different Rambo TCT entries I did, but was reminded about that again while re-watching Demolition Man recently. These toys themselves are pretty basic action figures of the time, in fact they were mostly all repaints of The New Adventures of He-Man toys (the space ones). In fact, the only commercial I remember from that He-Man line featured that same bolo-shooting ship thing.

What really made me laugh about this commercial, though, was how they used Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes’ names in the spot. They’re not even trying to hide the fact that they’re marketing a bullet-ridden film and toys based on its characters for kids!

It seems crazy by today’s standards, but when I was a kid I remember thinking how awesome guys like Stallone and Chuck Norris were without ever having seen their actual movies. Between the toys, commercials and video games, it was impossible not to have at least some idea of who these guys were. It was the same thing with Freddy and Jason too, for whatever it’s worth.

Everybody Must Get Stalloned: Judge Dredd (1993), Tango & Cash (1989) and Over The Top (1987)

stallone four film favorite I don’t know about you guys, but as I get older, I find myself more likely to go back and watch a movie that I had a good time with over one that I actual revere. For instance, I absolutely adore The Usual Suspects and Reservoir Dogs. I discovered both movies in high school and they each changed my brain when it came to how you could tell a story and how film can work in different ways. And yet, I haven’t watched either film in several years. Instead, I seem to spend my time watching and craving more disposable, less “good” offerings like this 4 Film Favorites: Sylvester Stallone DVD 4-pack I recently picked up. I think a big reason for that is that I don’t always want to get too emotionally invested or have my brain messed with. I usually just want to sit down, have fun and maybe get some work or writing done in the process. Yes, that makes me a lazy film fan, but that’s how it is for me these days.

With that in mind, I’ve burned through three of the four movies in this set. As it happens, it’s the three I’ve seen before: Tango & Cash, Demolition Man and Over The Top. I’ve never watched The Specialist, but hope to give it it’s own review  later this week or next, it depends on my work schedule and, more importantly, when and if my kid naps.  But I figured it would be fun to lay down a few thoughts on these movies.

demolition man poster I actually thought I wrote about Demolition Man here on the blog before. I want to say I watched it around the same time I first saw Judge Dredd. Both movies have sci-fi settings, militaristic uniforms, Stallone teaming up with a bad ass leading lady and, inexplicably, appearances by Rob Schneider. Don’t be scared away, though, Schneider’s actually more restrained than I’ve ever seen him before. Wesley Snipes, however is not, but more on that in a minute.

In this one, Stallone plays a cop in the future, 1996 to be exact. The film came out in 1993 when LA was in a shambles and gang violence was a huge source of worry both in real life and on the big screen. Stallone’s John Spartan is a cop with the nickname Demolition Man because he goes into crazy situations and gets the bad guy, but leaves a swathe of destruction in his wake. In the beginning of the movie, he’s going after Snipes’ Simon Phoenix, a major gang kingpin who is never not wearing something silly. Phoenix sets Spartan up and the two wind up getting frozen which is what they do with criminals instead of sending them to jail.

Inexplicably, Phoenix wakes up in the future and starts running amok. It helps that this is a future where everything dangerous, from gasoline to sex, has been outlawed. Hell, they even outlawed swearing to the point where you get fined if you let loose a curse word in a public place. It’s a surprisingly dense and weird world. Taco Bell won the franchise wars, so now every restaurant is a TB, of course. Since Phoenix is basically running ripshot over the police force, they thaw Spartan out and he goes about his business, kicking ass and taking names.

One of the nice things about this four movie set is that it gives you a really good representation of Stallone’s career. In Demolition Man, he’s the stoic warrior, a guy who just wants to get in there, kick ass, punish the bad guy and save the innocents. That’s not a particularly complicated persona to take on, but it is always convincing when he does it. Meanwhile, his co-stars do an admirable job in their own roles. Sandra Bullock plays the 90s-obsessed, action-desiring cop that Stallone winds up partnered with. Benjamin Bratt is the by-the-book lame-o cop. Dennis Leary’s the freedom-loving underground rebel. Nigel Hawthorne’s the evil billionaire pulling more strings than I can keep up with. Also, for what it’s worth, I completely agree with the idea presented in the episode of How Did This Get Made covering this movie that Bullock is actually Stallone’s daughter, which adds a lot of weird layers to the proceedings.

And then you have Snipes. Man, this guy’s not a great actor. I realized this while watching Drop Zone recently. He’s just super-wooden and, even when he’s playing an over-the-top psychopath, he never really feels convincing. He always seems like a guy trying to act like another guy, but never really nailing it. “This is how a crazy guy would be right? Right? Okay, I’ll go with it.” He doesn’t really detract from the movie because it comes off as somewhat farcical all around, but I think the movie would have been a bit more grounded with a better bad guy.

tango and cash Tango & Cash is always a surprise to me. It’s a movie I think I heard more about growing up and later on into my 20s than I actually ever saw. In my mind it holds a place in the pantheon of awesome action movies, but the last few times I watched it, it left me shaking my head a bit.

Like I said the last time I watched and reviewed this movie, the sheer number of puns and one-liners spit out by stars Stallone and Kurt Russell are head-spinning. These guys throw them out like a madman has a gun aimed at them off screen and will shoot them if they don’t make like a Borscht Belt comedian getting heckled. It can be too much at times, especially when the tension is supposed to be high and these two chuckleheads can’t stop cracking wise.

Said tension comes when two of the most famous cops around get framed for killing a guy by Jack Palance. They’re introduced, each have a drug bust, meet one other, get framed, go through a trial, go to jail, fight a small army of criminals and break out of prison in the film’s first half hour or so. From there they try to figure out who framed them, Russell falls for Stallone’s sister Teri Hatcher (an exotic dancer who incorporates drums into her act!) and then they go up against Palance and his goons in an epic, end-of-movie siege. It’s a lot for a 90 minute movie, you guys.

It’s really too bad that the producers wanted a funnier movie instead of a more straightforward buddy action movie starring Stallone and Russell. The problem here unfortunately lies on Stallone’s shoulders. He’s just not great at playing this character, a slick, rich hotshot who fires off jokes in the face of danger. He’s great at parts of all those things, but putting them all together into one role didn’t really work out too well. Actually, I think there’s plenty of raw material on the screen to cut into a more serious film (serious, but still fun). You could easily make this thing at least 20% cooler just by using the mute button. Still, the end of this movie is rad — even if it does involve an LAPD-sanctioned weapons lab complete with a tour that would make James Bond pop his cork prematurely — and is worth all the craziness presented up front.

over the top poster While I tend to place Tango & Cash on a higher plane in my mind, I also find myself looking down on Over The Top a bit, but it’s actually a pretty great movie. Turns out I wrote about this one on the blog already too, but wanted to say a few more things. Yes, this is “the arm wrestling movie” which sounds silly, but it’s actually a well balanced, well acted movie about a man trying to reunite with his son at the behest of his terminally ill ex wife. That right there sounds like something out of an Oscar picture, but this one also happens to have a semi-truck driving Sylvester Stallone in the lead role as Lincoln Hawk, an evil Robert Loggia and the world arm wrestling championship in Las Vegas. Oh, and a kid somehow escaping from a mansion, stealing a car, getting on an airplane and getting into said arm wrestling championship.

So, it’s not the most grounded movie in the world, but this is Stallone at his best. He’s a simple guy with simple motives just trying to make things right. At times he reminded me of his performance in First Blood, where he’s just a guy trying to walk through town and find a friend who gets pushed too far by people who don’t understand him. He’s not the overly slick guy in Tango & Cash or the on-the-surface lawman of Demolition Man, he’s a real guy — a dad –earnestly trying his best.

I realized something while watching this movie, it’s actually a lot closer to the movies I used to watch as a kid than the action movies I gravitated to as I got older. When you think about it, there’s a lot of the same elements in The Wizard as in Over The Top. You’ve got a father and son making their way across part of the country, experiencing obstacles to their relationship and even a big competition in Vegas at the end.  Heck, there’s even a scene in Over The Top where you can see all kinds of Nintendo logos on some video game cabinets in a diner. Synergy! There’s also very little physical violence in the movie if memory serves. Sure, Stallone drives his truck through Loggia’s front door and he arm wrestles a small army of giant, sweaty biceps with bodies attached to them, but this isn’t your usual slug or bulletfest, which actually makes it a pretty good Stallone movie to watch with your kids. Who woulda thought?!

Even though I had a few complaints about each of these movies, I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed myself while giving them another watch. I’m glad I got my hands on that DVD set because, even though they’re not the high quality Blu-ray I prefer these days, they are presented in an affordable manner that allows me to revisit these flicks any time I want. As an added bonus, there’s actually a commentary track on the Demolition Man disc that I’ve got to listen to!

We Want Action: Drop Zone (1994)

drop zone poster Of all the big action stars of the 80s and 90s, Wesley Snipes is one whose films I’m almost completely unfamiliar with. Sure, I’ve seen Blade — what comic fan my age didn’t see it? — and a few other of his more recent films, but I’m still something of a novice when it comes to his filmography. So, when I came across 1994’s Drop Zone, a skydiving action movie directed by John Badham (Short Circuit, WarGames) I figured it would be worth checking out.

And it was. Kind of. While this movie certainly doesn’t abide by the laws of physics and the acting isn’t the best, I still had fun watching it, thanks mostly to the game, if not overly talented cast. Snipes is all over the place in this film. You’d think he’d be more upset after his brother got killed, but you can’t tell as the movie rolls on. Plus, not for nothing, but he’s not the most natural actor of all time. Then you’ve also got Yancy Butler as the head of the skydiving group. She’s super into this role and has a lot of cool moments. I also liked that she was a complicated female character in an action movie which doesn’t happen all too often.

Meanwhile, Gary Busey plays the bad guy. On the Busey-Crazy Scale he’s somewhere between Lethal Weapon and The Rage. This time around he’s running a gang of skydiving thieves who sprung Michael Jeter’s character — a hacker — from prison to help with their next job. They’re trying to get involved with a Washington, D.C. Fourth of July so they can dive in and rob the DEA. The rest of the cast is rounded out with tons of That Guy and That Woman actors and actresses who have mile-long IMDb pages who, on the whole, nail their parts.

Silly as some of the action scenes can be — one parachuter somehow flies right through the window of a truck that should supposedly be driving away from the scene — I will say that the practically shot skydiving scenes are pretty thrilling. In that regard, it reminded me of Cliffhanger where the reality of the subject trumps my brain telling me that I’m watching a fictional film. Not being a thrill seeker myself, I always get a little antsy when I see people way high up with the potential to come down quick, fast and messily.

Snipes’ aforementioned brother is played by Cosby Show alum Malcolm-Jamal Warner. I realized while explaining part of this story to someone over the weekend that this movie would have been infinitely better if Warner had starred. He’s a far better actor and most of the fight scenes felt pretty tacked on, so they either could have been dropped or Warner probably could have pulled them off.

So, while Drop Zone isn’t exactly a classic action film for the ages, it does have some fun moments that make it the perfect kind of movie to watch with a group of friends while drinking beer and eating pizza. Man, I miss watching movies with my friends!

Bullet Points: Hot Rounds Of Information Goodness

the grandmaster Tony Leung Chiu Wai

The Grandmaster might have opened on only seven screens last weekend, but it still earned a per-screen average better than any other release. The Ip Man biopic starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi opens much wider to around 600 screen this weekend and will hopefully continue making a good deal of cash. [via THR]

The_Expendables_3_BTS wesley snipes sylvester stallone

Another day, another round of Expendables 3 images popping up. This time Wesley Snipes got in on the action! [via ComingSoon]

vin diesel fast and furious 6

Fast & Furious and Riddick star Vin Diesel‘s getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today at 11:30 PST. Congrats Vin! [via Variety]sharni-vinson-step-up-3d

There’s been a movie in the works for a while now without a title referred to as “the female Expendables.” As you can probably figure out, it features an all-star group of women kicking ass and blowing things up (presumably). The movie’s already got Gina Carano and Katee Sackhoff on board and now includes Step Up 3D and You’re Next star Sharni Vinson. [via Collider]

antonio banderas once upon a time in mexico

Word on the street is that Sony’s making a TV series based on Robert Rodriguez’s excellent El Mariachi trilogy. Great news, right? Well, not so great when you find out they’re not involving Rodriguez in the process and won’t even return his phone calls on the subject. Ouch. [via Deadline]machete-kills-sofia-vergara-alexa-vega

Speaking of Rodriguez, dig this new photo from Machete Kills featuring Sofia Vergara, Alexa Vega and Elle LaMont. [via EW]

If you like Johnny Depp being all wacky and Jack Sparrow-y then you’ll be interested to learn that the fifth Pirates movie now has an official title: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.  [via This Is Infamous]

The Expendables 3 Official Synopsis Goes Old & New School

expendables 2 stallon crews stathamWanna know what’s really up with The Expendables 3? Check out the official press release from LionsGate and Millennium Films:

LIONSGATE AND MILLENNIUM FILMS COMMENCE

PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY ON ‘THE EXPENDABLES 3

Lionsgate Will Distribute Action Thriller on August 15, 2014 in North America and the UK

SANTA MONICA, CA (August 19, 2013) – Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) and Millennium Films will begin principal photography today on THE EXPENDABLES 3, the third installment of THE EXPENDABLES action-thriller franchise, with production shooting on location in Bulgaria and at Nu Boyana Studios in Sofia.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 will feature Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to their roles in the first two films with Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford joining the all-star cast along with Kellan Lutz, MMA star Ronda Rousey, welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell.

Patrick Hughes (RED HILL) will direct the film, with veteran Dan Bradley (The BOURNE franchise; MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL, QUANTUM OF SOLACE) directing the second unit.  THE EXPENDABLES 3 is written by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt, who previously teamed on OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, and Sylvester Stallone. Avi Lerner, Kevin King-Templeton, Danny Lerner and Les Weldon are producing THE EXPENDABLES 3.  Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson and John Thompson are executive producing. Lionsgate will release THE EXPENDABLES 3 in North America and the UK on August 15, 2014.

In THE EXPENDABLES 3, Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham) and the rest of the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill… or so he thought. Stonebanks, who eluded death once before, now is making it his mission to end The Expendables — but Barney has other plans. Barney decides that he has to fight old blood with new blood, and brings in a new era of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables’ most personal battle yet.

The production will be overseen by Lionsgate’s Jason Constantine and Eda Kowan.

The first two installments of THE EXPENDABLES have grossed nearly $600 million in combined global box office.

It’s cool to finally have a story for the second sequel in the franchise. Note that a few names have been left out of the release like Jackie Chan, Nic Cage, Milla Jovovich and Mickey Rourke. It’s possible those roles just couldn’t be worked out or that they’re being held in reserve for a later announcement.

[via Collider]

Stallone Says Ford Is Replacing Willis In The Expendables 3

the_expendables_2 We here at Explosions Are Rad are big fans of the mash-up action-fests better known as The Expendables movies. The brainchild of Sylvester Stallone, the films bring together some of the best and brightest action stars of all time together offering explosions, fight scenes and gunplay worth the price of admission alone.

If you’re a fan of the franchise, you really need to follow Stallone on Twitter (he’s @TheSlyStallone). The legendary action star took to social media today to not only announce that Bruce Willis won’t return for The Expendables 3, but also that he’ll be replaced by Harrison Ford. “WILLIS OUT… HARRISON FORD IN !!!! GREAT NEWS !!!!! Been waiting years for this!!!!”

He followed that up with what seems like a slam against Willis who appeared as Mr. Church in the first two Expendables movies. “GREEDY AND LAZY …… A SURE FORMULA FOR CAREER FAILURE”

Willis’ Mr. Church played an important role in both films. In the first, he hired the team to invade Valena and in the second he uses their failure in the first movie as leverage to send them out to get a device that winds up putting them in direct opposition to Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Vilain. He even got in on the action alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the second film. Will Ford do the same in 3? We sure hope so.

Last month, Stallone also said via Twitter that the new film, directed by Red Hill‘s Patrick Hughes, will feature real life fighters Ronda Rousey and Victor Ortiz as well.  Hopefully, they fall into Randy Couture territory and turn out to be super watchable on screen. The film is also said to star Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Couture, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Nicolas Cage, Mickey Rourke, Jackie Chan, Kellan Lutz, Milla Jovovich, Wesley Snipes and many more.

Halloween Scene: Blade (1998)

We as comic fans owe a lot to Blade. Not only did the movie show audiences and studios that comic book movies didn’t have to be corny, but also that they could be fun, good and play with different genres. These things had been done before, of course, but the Batman series of films did a lot to both elevate and then destroy people’s conceptions of what a superhero/comic book movie could be. Then Blade came along in 1998, which makes me feel quite old. I followed the movie’s progression in Wizard and was in full support of it like I was of every comic related project I ever heard or read about. I would have been about 15 when the movie came out and since it’s rated R–another brand new concept for the subgenre of movies based on Marvel or DC characters–so I probably didn’t see it in theaters but somewhere along the way I did and I dug it.

I watched it again on Friday and planned to do a Halloween Scene themed Friday Fisticuffs about it, but we wound up hanging out with friends Friday night and it got away from me. Overall, I’d say the movie holds up pretty well, but some of the special effects just look silly.

But first, the good. I like that the movie’s a well-balanced mix of horror and action. With the tragic backstory and F-bomb filled one-liners, the movie definitely feels like a 90s action flick. For me that’s a good thing, but I could imagine it would get to be too much for some. At the same time there’s a pretty cool vampire story going on here. The vamps are from different clans and somehow, some of them were born as vampires while others have been turned. The purebloods have built empires on every continent that help to supply them with blood, but also keep them unknown. Enter Deacon Frost, a non-pure blood who wants to bring about an ancient blood god who will turn everyone into a vampire so it won’t matter who came from who. I thought it was an interesting angle to take with the story, one that I most definitely hadn’t seen at that time and can’t recall seeing since, but that might just be because I’ve got a crummy memory.

The monster story elements might have been great, but the effects weren’t so great. I should clarify, the CGI effects are crap, the practical stuff looks fantastic and the jump from one to the other is pretty jarring. Take that epic opening action scene at the blood rave (everything about this scene is great, by the way, the soon-to-be victim plays it pitch perfectly). The teeth look great (the only way you can really tell someone’s a vamp), then Blade shows up and there’s some great action scenes, but as soon as the vamps start getting blasted they turn to dust which just look bad, especially because they have a weird spark inside. It makes me think about Buffy and how those effects looked pretty good. There’s also some pretty bad stuff going on at the end when a blood toxin thing gets introduced and the blood god kind of makes an appearance. I know there’s been a lot of talk of filmmakers going back and mucking with their films, but I would be in full support of Blade getting some new effects added in. Go back and watch that scene with the subway train and tell me it doesn’t look terrible.

I had a great time watching this flick again. Snipes is at his action star best, Stephen Dorff plays a great “low man on the totem pole trying to rise up” bad guy, Kris Kristofferson is absolutely awesome and reminds me of Sam Elliott in Road House and Donal Logue is great as the unlucky vampire henchman. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend it, if you haven’t seen it in a while, give it another look. I think you’ll dig it!