You know what you’re in for very early on with “Terror in Beverly Hills.” Not only does the name “Frank Stallone” appear almost immediately on screen, but the rest of the credits unspool while Palestinian terrorist mastermind Abdul runs his daily errands. He reads a newspaper, he goes to a shop, and he visits his local mosque. No dialogue, no action, just a man going about his business at a leisurely pace. When he finally boards a jet for the United States, you wonder if you’re going to watch him sit through the entire 14-hour flight. Continue reading
The first thing you see in “Class of 1999” is a computer screen spelling out the dire state of American urban public schools in the not-too-distant future of 1999. The next thing you see is Stacy Keach’s snow-white mullet, which looks like someone bleached a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. All we needed to see to know the movie takes place in a bleak dystopian future was Keach’s hair, so that’s one storytelling misstep right off the bat. Continue reading
Mesopotamia may be the cradle of civilization, but Australia is the birthplace of the apocalypse. Ever since George Miller unleashed “The Road Warrior” on an unsuspecting public in 1981, its feral, stripped-down version of post-Armageddon life has been the go-to setting when movies take place at the end of the world. “Post-apocalyptic” has become synonymous with rusting DIY war machines and dusty leather bondage gear, thanks to the Aussies. That’s why it’s surprising and refreshing to find a movie like “Dead End Drive-In,” another Ozploitation production that shares a lot of elements with the world of Mad Max but nevertheless has something very different to say about what it would mean to live during the end of the world. Continue reading
“Ninja III: The Domination” is the last entry in a very loose trilogy of ninja movies released by Cannon Films, the others being “Enter the Ninja” and “Revenge of the Ninja.” The first two movies definitely believe ninjas had superhuman physical abilities, but “Ninja III” makes the leap into the supernatural by giving them more magic mumbo-jumbo than vampires. According to this movie, a ninja can crush a golf ball with one hand, punch through the roof of a police car, slice a billiard ball in half in midair, survive more gunshot wounds than 50 Cent, and even transfer their souls into other people. It’s that last bit that makes up most of the problem for the heroine of this movie, Christie, but she also has other issues that we’ll get to. Continue reading
These days, the two most important words in Hollywood are “cinematic universe.” Inspired by the billions of dollars Marvel has made with its Avengers movies, studios have been frantic to jumpstart their own cinematic pyramid schemes with intellectual properties from the Justice League of America to the Universal Monsters to Nickelodeon cartoons. The idea, of course, is to maximize profit by giving audiences movies that spin off characters into their own movies or movies that collect characters from other franchises into massive team-up spectacles. It worked well back in the day when Frankenstein met the Wolf Man and most recently when Captain America fought Iron Man, but it remains to be seen whether or not audiences will sit through “Friar Tuck: Origins” before they see Robin Hood finally get the Merry Men together in the last five minutes of his movie.
With so many studios desperately pushing for the Big Bang that will launch the next sure-fire hit cinematic universe, it’s easy to forget that movies used to be stupid enough to just shove a bunch of characters into one movie without making audiences pony up for the installment plan. And so you have a movie like 1986’s “Eliminators,” which resembles a look into a cinematic universe based on the cheap, unlicensed action figures they used to sell in gas stations. Continue reading
Above the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines is an elite military force charged with defending global freedom against terrorist threats from a secret headquarters. Equipped with the most advanced technology available, these colorful commandos hurl themselves headlong into the breach with a devil-may-care attitude. Any child of the 1980s should be able to guess that I’m talking about G.I. Joe, “America’s daring, highly trained special missions unit.” A much, much smaller segment of my generation, however, might eventually get around to guessing that I was talking about MegaForce – after they guessed G.I. Joe, the Bionic Six, the Centurions, M.A.S.K., Chuck Norris’ Karate Kommadoes and the Defenders of the Earth.
In just about every way, 1982’s MegaForce seems to contain all the same elements as G.I. Joe, but in live action and splashed across the big screen. Why, then, is G.I. Joe still fondly remembered by those of us with arrested development but MegaForce lives on only in a few scattered YouTube links? Why did the formula that worked so well in one instance fail so miserably in another? Why is there no special edition blu-ray of MegaForce from Shout Factory? The answer is that MegaForce manages the incredible feat of making the idea of an elite paramilitary strike force with sci-fi weapons as dull as bowling on TV.