Darkman III: Die Darkman Die

Darkman III: Die Darkman Die

darkmaniii1

Today’s feature is the finale of the Darkman trilogy: Darkman III: Die Darkman Die.

Darkman III: Die Darkman Die was written by the duo of Michael Colleary (Face/Off, Death Wish V) and Mike Werb (The Mask, Face/Off).

Darkman III was directed and shot by Bradford May, an experienced television director who worked on shows like Dallas, Hawaii Five-O, JAG, Smallville, and Supernatural, and also helm the previous entry in the Darkman franchise, Darkman II: The Return of Durant.

The editor for Darkman III: Die Darkman Die was Daniel T. Cahn, who has done extensive editing on he small screen for shows like The Young and The Restless, Cheers, and 7th Heaven, and also cut the high-tech creature feature How To Make A Monster.

The producers for the film included original Darkman writer/director Sam Raimi, David Roessell (Inspector Gadget 2, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD), Rob Tapert (The Evil Dead, Timecop, Army of Darkness), Bernadette Joyce (Airwolf, Knight Rider), and David Eick (Battlestar Galactica).

The effects team on Darkman III included Wayne Toth (Darkman II, Vampires, The Faculty), Evan Campbell (Super Mario Bros., Elves, Darkman II, Spawn, The Faculty), Brock Jolliffe (Gladiator Cop, Darkman II), Robert Sheridan (Shatterbrain, Open Range), Jon Campfens (Stuck, Slither), Derek Grime (Johnny Mnemonic, Cube, Darkman II), Gudrun Heinze (Mimic, Undercover Brother), and Simon St. Laurent (American Psycho).

The original musical score for Darkman III was provided by Randy Miller (Hellraiser III, Darkman II), with Danny Elfman’s themes from Darkman getting some heavy re-use.

The cast of Die Darkman Die includes Arnold Vosloo (24, The Mummy), Jeff Fahey (The Lawnmower Man, Machete, Body Parts, Planet Terror), Darlanne Fluegel (Lock Up, Once Upon A Time In America), Roxann Dawson (Star Trek: Voyager), and Nigel Bennett (The Skulls).

The plot of Darkman III: Die Darkman Die is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Darkman, needing money to continue his experiments on synthetic skin, steals a crate of cash from drug lord Peter Rooker, attracting the gangster’s attention. Rooker is determined to find the source of Darkman’s super strength, and uses his beautiful but evil doctor to lure Darkman into a trap. Thinking that the doctor will restore feeling to his tortured body, he discovers too late that they have taken a sample of his adrenaline, which they will market as a super steroid. As Darkman plans his revenge on Rooker’s gang, he slowly begins to care about Rooker’s neglected wife and daughter. He must now find a way to help them, and destroy Rooker before he uses the adrenaline to plunge the city into chaos.

Darkman III was, like its predecessor, released straight to video, and was not given a theatrical release. Still, it wasn’t received well by those who did catch it: the movie currently holds a 4.7 user rating on IMDb, alongside equally abysmal Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 33% from critics and 21% from audiences.

darkmaniii2The introduction to the movie looks and feels like the start of a television show rather than a movie. The background is laid out in voiceover and clips ahead of the credits, rather than having it weaved into the story itself. It seems unnecessary and amateurish to me, to say the least. Even if this was meant to be a television show script, it should have been modified to suit this form.

Given this movie was filmed back to back with Darkman II, most of my criticisms of that movie still stand here, so I’ll avoid retreading on any of that. One of the big differences between the two is the antagonist, who is played by Jeff Fahey as a new character in Die Darkman Die.

I like the concept behind the plot here: inevitably the clandestine research done by Darkman would continue to mount expenses, and his vigilante activities would draw a lot of attention from both police and criminals. The concept of manufacturing his power and distributing it as a drug adds a great little commentary about capitalism and drug use to the story, which is a nice new dimension to it as well.

As much as I like aspects of Darkman III, it is ultimately still a disappointing, half-assed sequel when placed next to the original Darkman. Because this is less of a sequel as much as it is a parallel film with Darkman II, it doesn’t really have an opportunity to improve on any of its problems. Basically, this is just more of the same, rather than a new film with an entirely new vision. I can’t say that it is better than Darkman II, because that film is undoubtedly more suited as a sequel to the original, but it also isn’t the worst thing out there. For what is probably the worst film in the franchise, it isn’t all that bad, particularly for straight to video action.

For bad movie fans, I think the whole Darkman series is worth checking out. Both of the sequels have some upsides that justify viewing, and the original is simply a fantastic cult movie.

Street Fighter

Street Fighter

streetfighter1

Today’s feature is a classic video game movie adaptation, starring Raul Julia and Jean-Claude Van Damme: 1994’s Street Fighter.

Street Fighter was written and directed by Steven E. de Souza, whose other writing credits include The Flintstones, The Running Man, Die Hard, 48 Hours, Commando, Hudson Hawk, Judge Dredd, and Beverly Hills Cop III.

The cinematographer for the movie was William A. Fraker, whose list of credits include SpaceCamp, The Island of Doctor Moreau, WarGames, 1941, The Exorcist II, Vegas Vacation, and Tombstone.

Street Fighter astoundingly has five primary credited editors: Robert F. Shugrue (It, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), Anthony Redman (Highlander II, Red Heat, Body Parts, Bad Lieutenant), Dov Hoenig (Dark City, Heat, The Crow, The Fugitive, Manhunter), Donn Aron (Heroes, Another 48 Hours), and Edward M. Abroms (Blue Thunder, Ironside).

The music for Street Fighter was composed by Graeme Revell, who also provided music for The Fog, Freddy vs. Jason, Daredevil, Red Planet, Blow, and Spawn, among many others.

The team of producers for the film included Tim Zinnemann (The Running Man, Pet Sematary), Kenzo Tsujimoto (Street Fighter: The Animated Series), Akio Sakai (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), Edward R. Pressman (Judge Dredd, Masters of the Universe), Grant Hill (Jupiter Ascending, Titanic), and Sasha Harari (The Doors).

The effects workers for Street Fighter included Zoltan Elek (Leviathan, Timecop, Double Team), Maggie Fung (The Island of Doctor Moreau, Mission Impossible III), Brian Cox (Ghost Ship, Razorback), Suzanne M. Benson (Spy Hard), Dean Sadmune (The 6th Day, Tammy and the T-Rex), Rob Conn (Eragon), Rodney Burke (Stealth, Red Planet, The Punisher), Mont Fieguth (The Matrix, The Punisher), Paul Gorrie (Hot Fuzz, Red Planet, Dark City), Walter Van Veenendaal (Son of the Mask, The Matrix), and David Young (Stealth, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome).

The cast of Street Fighter inlcudes Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double Team, Timecop, Kickboxer, Universal Soldier, Cyborg, Lionheart, Hard Target), Raul Julia (The Addams Family), Ming-Na Wen (Mulan, Agents of SHIELD), Damian Chapa (Under Siege), Kylie Minogue (Moulin Rouge, Doctor Who), Byron Mann (Catwoman), Roshan Seth (Gandhi, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns, Rollerball, Any Given Sunday), Robert Mammone (The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions), and Jay Tavare (Adaptation).

streetfighter2The plot of Street Fighter is pretty basic, and summarized on IMDb as follows:

Col. Guile and various other martial arts heroes fight against the tyranny of Dictator M. Bison and his cohorts.

Essentially, Bison is a dictator of a fictitious foreign country, where he has built a highly technological army that threatens the world at large. A number of different parties, all with different motivations, all converge with the goal of deposing him.

Another Street Fighter film adaptation was made in 2009, called Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. The goal was for this movie to contrast with the 1994 effort by being far more serious in tone. However, it proved to be even less well-received, and even had lower grosses than the original.

streetfighter4The Street Fighter video game series debuted in arcades in 1987, but became huge in the 1990s with the release of Street Fighter II, and cemented the franchise as one of the elite fighting video games, alongside the more violent and graphic Mortal Kombat.

Interestingly, the production of Street Fighter happened almost concurrently with the film adaptation of its key rival franchise, Mortal Kombat, which released in 1995. Reportedly, Van Damme even turned down the role of Johnny Cage in that movie due to his involvement with Street Fighter.

Hilariously, there were two different official Street Fighter: The Movie video game adaptations: one was made explicitly for arcades, and another was produced independently for the home console systems Sega Saturn and PlayStation. These games featured the vague likenesses of the actors from the feature as their characters.

streetfighter3The martial arts movie legend Sonny Chiba had an unrelated franchise of films in the 1970s similarly called The Street Fighter, which included the sequels Sister Street Fighter, Return of the Street Fighter, and The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge. These films are lauded as grindhouse action favorites, and are hailed by die-hard fans of the genre.

Raul Julia sadly died soon after he finished filming for his role in Street Fighter, making it his last film appearance. Even during filming, he was suffering from his cancer, which limited his ability to perform in action scenes.

streetfighter5Street Fighter was made on a production budget of $35 million, on which it grossed just shy of 100 million in its lifetime global theatrical release. In spite of that profitability, the reception to Street Fighter was overwhelmingly negative: it currently holds a 3.7 user rating on IMDb, alongside Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 12% from critics and 20% from audiences.

Personally, I don’t hold any ill feelings towards this movie whatsoever. It doesn’t take itself very seriously, and there are some solid humorous moments interspersed with the naturally over the top and ridiculous action story, which I welcomed. The fact that the video game is basically plot-less left a lot of wiggle room for how to construct this movie, and what they came up with is something that I don’t think is half bad. Some fans were clearly unhappy with some character changes that were made to fit them into the confines of the story, but at the same, there was a lot of attention put into making sure the characters at least looked their parts, which I appreciated.

Most people note Raul Julia as an obvious highlight of this movie, and I absolutely agree. He has some highly memorable lines, looks iconic in the role, and manages to even slip some humor into a role that is absolutely straight and iron-faced. However, I think the good performances go beyond just him: I actually like JCVD in this picture as well. He looks on top of his game, and gets a couple of hammy moments of his own in the movie. The rest of the cast is a bit of a mixed bag, though I personally loved the comic relief portrayal of Zangief and the duo of Ryu and Ken, which were all criticized by many.

Trying to nail down what the problem was with this movie isn’t easy. I think the failure had more to do with the world not knowing what it wanted from this movie than anything else. Were fans expecting a serious, gritty action picture? That wouldn’t be at all in the spirit of the cartoonish video game, with has distinguished itself from Mortal Kombat by being more colorful and flamboyant, as opposed to gory and brutal.

The one thing I do wish was incorporated into the movie was some of the music from the Street Fighter game, which is outstandingly memorable, particularly Guile’s Theme. How awesome would it have been for an orchestrated version to have been included in one of the battles?

As it stands, Street Fighter was a very early video game adaptation, before the concept became a doomed proposition. And, honestly, I think it is one of the better ones out there. There is certainly way more to enjoy in this silly movie than there is in any of Uwe Boll’s litany of video game adaptations, and I think this one might be worth a nod over Mortal Kombat as well (though that is debatable). I think this is honestly a fantastic good-bad movie watch, and nails action humor better than your average movie that attempts it. Fans of the games should appreciate the pandering via the inclusion of so many characters as well, who are surprisingly well-weaved into the movie if you ask me.

You don’t have to look very far to find other thoughts about Street Fighter: it seems like every person in the bad movie reviewing game has taken it on at some point. I recommend going through the lot of them, because there is quite a lot of variety in the thoughts on this movie, and a whole lot of backstory to read into about it as well.

Roadie

Roadie

roadie2

Today’s feature is a rock & roll musical comedy starring Meat Loaf. Buckle up, because it is 1980’s Roadie.

The screenplay for Roadie was written by Michael Ventura and Big Boy Medlin, the latter of whom was a journalist who conceived of the central character, and went on to be an executive at E! Entertainment. Story credit for the film was also given to director Alan Rudolph, who helmed movies like Breakfast of Champions, The Secret Lives of Dentists, and Afterglow, and executive producer Zalman King.

The cinematographer for Roadie was David Myers, who is best known for documentaries like Marjoe and Woodstock, but also shot George Lucas’s debut movie, THX 1138.

The editor for the film was Tom Walls, who also cut Surf Ninjas, Mac And Me, Bachelor Party, and Mortal Thoughts.

ROADIE, Meat Loaf (aka Marvin Lee Aday), 1980, © United ArtistsOutside of Zalman King, the producers for Roadie included John Pommer, who was a production manager on The Great Santini, Walking Tall, and Paths of Glory, and Carolyn Pfeiffer, who also produced the Vanilla Ice vehicle, Cool As Ice.

The musical score for Roadie was composed by Craig Huxley, who also provided the music for the movie Alligator, wrote the theme song for Walker, Texas Ranger, and provided sound work on Motel Hell and Thriller.

The effects team on Roadie included Mike Moschella (Hook, Wild In The Streets), Joyce Rudolph (Teen Wolf, Hider In The House), John Frazier (White Dog, War of the Roses, Hesher), and Howard Jensen (Ed Wood, Rocky IV).

The cast of the movie is made up of Meat Loaf (Fight Club, Crazy In Alabama, Spice World, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Kaki Hunter (Porky’s), Art Carney (Last Action Hero, The Late Show), Soul Train producer Don Cornelius, Gailard Sartain (Fried Green Tomatoes, Mississippi Burning), Joe Spano (Hill Street Blues), and Sonny Carl Davis (Evil Bong, Trancers II).

ROADIE, Meat Loaf, Debbie Harry, 1980, (c) United ArtistsThe plot of Roadie is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A young Texas good ol’ boy has a knack with electronic equipment, and that talent gets him a job as a roadie with a raucous traveling rock-and-roll show.

During the introduction of the character of Travis Redfish, the house shown to be his home is the same one prominently featured in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which is a nod to his character’s Texan origin.

Roadie is filled with cameos from across the music industry, with screen time given to icons like Roy Orbison, Deborah Harry of Blondie, Alice Cooper, and Hank Williams Jr.. Interestingly, the cameo by Alice Cooper was initially meant for Mick Jagger, who wasn’t available to film.

Roadie received a number of alternate titles for international markets, given that the slang term ‘roadie’ doesn’t translate well. The Spanish-language title was Los Locos Caminos Del Rock (which translates to The Crazy Roads of Rock), while the Italian title was similarly Roadie: Le Strade Del Rock (The Road of Rock).

roadie3I couldn’t find a production budget estimate for Roadie, but the financial details I did dig up indicated that it grossed under $5 million in its lifetime theatrical run in the United States, which is unlikely to have been very profitable (if at all), depending on how much money was sunk into it.

The reception to Roadie was generally negative: it currently holds an IMDb user rating of 5.0, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 17% from critics and 56% from audiences.

Roadie is a very strange movie that I’m not quite sure how to classify. It walk and talks like a comedy, but there are no jokes to be found anywhere in this movie. The only attempts at humor come from the honest ignorance of Meat Loaf’s character, or the occasional concussion symptoms. There are also a handful of colorful and outlandish characters, but nothing about them is specifically funny. Meat Loaf’s father watches television, Meat Loaf’s sister has a grating voice, and so on, and so on.

roadie1Meat Loaf’s character isn’t even particularly consistent: sometimes he is a child-like simpleton, sometimes he is a wizard-tier engineer capable of fixing extra-terrestrial vehicles, and other times he’s just a brash, conservative asshat. To Meat Loaf’s credit, he sells the portrayal at each one of these turns, but it feels like a bunch of different people rather than a singular character.

The primary love interest of the movie is a 16-year-old aspiring groupie with an obsession with Alice Cooper, and an apparent psychic ability to detect rock songs in radio waves. She is at times purely manipulative, but in other moments a child-like, naive, and honest character. Much like the problem with Meat Loaf’s Travis Redfish, she seems like an entirely different character in any given scene, to the point that the interactions between the two of them are essentially a crapshoot of personalities that could interact in any variety of ways.

Overall, Roadie is a confused, strange movie that rests on top of a very weak screenplay. The music industry cameos are interesting to see, but there isn’t much to the movie outside of that. The final scene, in which Redfish is set to repair a downed UFO, is one of the weirdest shark-jumping conclusions I have ever seen to a movie, but it isn’t nearly enough to save it on the whole. This is an almost entirely forgotten movie, though, and is an interesting deep cut if you happen to stumble across it. It has some redeeming value, but not much. Bad movie fans might give it a shot, but I wouldn’t advise anyone else to seek it out.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

mortalkombatii1

Today’s feature is yet another reviled sequel, and one of the most hated video game adaptations of all time to boot: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.

The screenplay for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was written by the duo of Brent V. Friedman (Foodfight, Prehysteria 2, Prehysteria 3) and Bryce Zabel (M.A.N.T.I.S., Dark Skies), while story credit was given to producers Lawrence Kasanoff and Joshua Wexler, along with creators of the source video game series, John Tobias and Ed Boon.

Moral Kombat: Annihilation was directed by John Leonetti, who was also behind The Butterfly Effect 2 and Annabelle, and shot movies like Child’s Play 3, I Know Who Killed Me, The Scorpion King, The Mask, and the original Mortal Kombat.

The cinematographer for the film was Matthew F. Leonetti, who also shot Santa’s Slay, The Butterfly Effect, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Red Heat, Action Jackson, Commando, Weird Science, and The Bat People, among many others.

The editor for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was Peck Prior, whose astounding list of credits includes Pixels, Disaster Movie, Epic Movie, Master of Disguise, Meet The Spartans, Vampires Suck, and Weekend At Bernie’s II.

The team of producers for the movie included Alison Savitch (Foodfight, Mortal Kombat), Joshua Wexler (Foodfight, Beowulf), Brian Witten (Detroit Rock City, Dark City, Spawn), Kevin Reidy (Ever After), Lawrence Kasanoff (Foodfight, Class of 1999, CHUD II: Bud the Chud, Blood Diner, Mortal Kombat), Carla Fry (The Mask, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Lost In Space), and Gerrit V. Folsom (Queer Eye For The Straight Girl).

The effects work on Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was provided by a team that included Shaune Harrison (Jupiter Ascending, Children of the Corn II), Matt Jordon (Seed of Chucky), Melissa Lackersteen (Game of Thrones, Judge Dredd), Chris Lyons (Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade II, Fat Slags), Gary Pollard (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Little Shop Of Horrors), Michelle Taylor (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Judge Dredd), Larry Arpin (The Dentist, Maniac Cop 3, Leprechaun, Maniac Cop 2, Blood Diner, Maniac Cop, The Ambulance), Everett Burrell (Re-Animator, Trick or Treat, Castle Freak), Chuck Comisky (Rush Hour, Jaws 3-D, Battle Beyond The Stars), Jeff Matakovich (Small Soldiers, Battlefield Earth, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Linda Drake (From Beyond, Chopping Mall, Troll, Dr. Alien), Ron Trost (The Omega Code, Mortal Kombat, Slipstream (2007)), Neil Todd (The Avengers, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Mark Meddings (Krull, Gladiator), and Kevin Mathews (The Avengers, Judge Dredd, The Brothers Grimm).

mortalkombatii3The musical score for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was composed by George S. Clinton, who also provided music for such movies as The Love Guru, Catch That Kid, 3000 Miles To Graceland, Beverly Hills Ninja, Mortal Kombat, Brainscan, and American Ninja 2.

The cast of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation includes Robin Shou (Mortal Kombat, Beverly Hills Ninja), Talisa Soto (License to Kill), James Remar (Dexter), Sandra Hess (General Hospital), Lynn Williams (American Gladiators), Brian Thompson (Hard to Kill, Cobra), Musetta Vander (The Cell), and Irina Pantaeva (Zoolander).

The plot of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation picks up right where the previous movie left off, following the surprising appearance of Shao Kahn after the conclusion of the Mortal Kombat tournament. For vague reasons, the evil leader given the human heroes six days before he permanently merges the dimensions and conquers Earth, which gives them time to train and come up with a plan.

A third Mortal Kombat movie was already in planning when Mortal Kombat: Annihilation came out, but the overwhelmingly negative reception to the movie effectively forced those plans into cancellation.

mortalkombatii2The character of Sheeva, a multi-limbed antagonist, was cut down to have minimum screen time once it became clear that the necessary effects to portray the character were cost prohibitive for the production.

Johnny Cage’s very limited role in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was possibly due to the original actor, Linden Ashby, refusing to sign on to join the sequel’s cast.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was made on a production budget of $30 million, on which it grossed just over $51 million in its total worldwide theatrical release.

In spite of the movie being ultimately profitable, it was absolutely hated by critics and audiences alike. It currently holds a 3.7 user rating on IMDb, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 3% from critics and 25% from audiences.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is an absolute trainwreck of a movie from top to bottom. To start with, the movie shouldn’t have been pushed forward on such a weak script, which was enough to turn numerous actors away from the project from the start. The generally rushed production is something that is definitely evident on screen, as just about everything about it feels unfinished, like it needed to percolate longer.

The most evident visual problem with the movie is the effects work. While the writing is bad, that would have been forgivable if the movie had provided decent action and special effects, but unfortunately it doesn’t deliver in either category. It is hard to blame this on the workers particularly, as both time and the budget were clearly shackled with unreasonable constraints. Still, the product on screen looks like something from the mid 1980s, not 1997, which particularly evident in the “animality” fight during the climax.

mortalkombatii4One of the other problems with this film is that it tries to crunch too much content into the movie, particularly in the form of characters. It is one thing to try to appease a fan base by including favorite characters from the source material, but there is a point where there are so many characters that none of them have the time to get fleshed out. Fans of the games certainly love Ermac and Noob Saibot, but they (and many other characters) are wasted in the movie, as they are too prominent to be background characters, but not important enough to be real members of the cast.

Overall, the movie is on the edge of being entertainingly terrible. Some bad movie fans are much higher on it than others, but I’m in the camp of people that finds it to be a little too boring to be elite. There is certainly some amusing incompetence across the board here, and it isn’t unwatchable, but it is far from the top of my bad movie list. It is still worth giving a shot for bad movie fans, and definitely a must-see for fans of the video game franchise.

Darkman II: The Return of Durant

Darkman II: The Return of Durant

darkmanii1

Today’s feature is the first sequel to Sam Raimi’s twisted superhero tale, Darkman: Darkman II: The Return of Durant.

The screenplay for Darkman II was written by Steven McKay, who also penned Diggstown and Hard To Kill. The story credit, meanwhile, was given to the duo of Robert Eisele (The Great Debaters) and Larry Hertzog (Hardcastle & McCormick, La Femme Nikita).

Darkman II was directed and shot by Bradford May, an experienced television director who worked on shows like Dallas, Hawaii Five-O, JAG, Smallville, and Supernatural, and went on to helm the third Darkman movie, Die Darkman Die.

The editor for Darkman II was Daniel T. Cahn, who has done extensive editing on he small screen for shows like The Young and The Restless, Cheers, and 7th Heaven, and also cut the high-tech creature feature How To Make A Monster.

The producers for the film included original Darkman writer/director Sam Raimi, David Roessell (Inspector Gadget 2, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD), Rob Tapert (The Evil Dead, Timecop, Army of Darkness), Bernadette Joyce (Airwolf, Knight Rider), and David Eick (Battlestar Galactica).

The effects team on Darkman II included Greg Nicotero (Intruder, The People Under The Stairs, Maniac Cop 3, Vampires, The Faculty, From Dusk Till Dawn 2), Patricia Keighran (Pacific Rim, Chicago), Jordan Samuel (Crimson Peak), Howard Berger (976-EVIL, Intruder, New Nightmare, In The Mouth of Madness, Scream, Boogie Nights, From Dusk Till Dawn 3), Karrie Aubuchon (Wishmaster, Pumpkinhead II), Evan Campbell (The Faculty, Spawn, Elves), Janna Crawford (Torque, Suburban Commando), Gino Crognale (Troll, From Beyond, DeepStar Six, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Erin Haggerty (Pulp Fiction, New Nightmare), Tom Turnbull (Hannibal, Slither), Jon Campfens (Saw III, Stuck, Mimic), Robert Kurtzman (It Follows, DeepStar Six, From Beyond), and Brock Jolliffe (The Firm, La Femme Nikita).

darkmanii2The original musical score for Darkman II was provided by Randy Miller (Hellraiser III, Darkman III), with Danny Elfman’s themes from Darkman getting some heavy re-use.

The cast for Darkman II includes Arnold Vosloo (Blood Diamond, The Mummy, 24), Larry Drake (L.A. Law, Bean), Kim Delaney (NYPD Blue, Army Wives), Renée O’Connor (Alien Apocalypse), and Lawrence Dane (Scanners, Happy Birthday To Me).

The plot for Darkman II: The Return of Durant is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Darkman and Durant return and they hate each other as much as ever. This time, Durant has plans to take over the city’s drug trade using high-tech weaponry. Darkman must step in and try to stop Durant once and for all.

Darkman II was interestingly filmed simultaneously with its sequel, Darkman III, and sat on the shelf for a couple of years before it was released straight to video.

I wasn’t able to dig up an estimate of the production budget on Darkman II, but the low-rent cast would certainly indicate a low budget. However, the lack of a theatrical release still makes its profitability questionable.

On top of that, the reception to Darkman II was overwhelmingly negative: it currently holds a 5.0 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 29% from critics and 20% from audiences.

First off, Arnold Vosloo is by all accounts a big step down from Liam Neeson in the lead role. Neeson’s portrayal really seemed cracked and generally unhinged in Darkman, and he wasn’t afraid to look visibly dis-shelved or frantic. Vosloo, on the other hand, is way too calm and collected for what his character is supposed to be. Outside of a couple of outbursts, he seems to be functioning just fine. There is an argument to be made that this is because the story takes place some time after the first movie, but it is far less entertaining at the end of the day regardless of the rationale.

darkmanii3The supporting cast is also a bit shallow in Darkman II, in both portrayals and in their writing. Pretty much every character outside of Darkman and Durant with any kind of characterization winds up dead within half an hour of their introduction, which makes it really hard to get invested in the story as a whole. The villains are a little bit stronger than the allies, but not by a whole lot. The only really bright spot is Lawrence Dane, who plays a mad weapons developer who hams up his woefully limited screen time.

Overall, Darkman II isn’t all that bad for a direct to video action flick, but it is such a dramatic knockoff from Darkman that it was pretty much doomed out of the gate. Comparisons to that first film are unavoidable, and it is totally incapable of stacking up on any level. Still, this is hardly an unwatchable movie, but it is disappointing as a follow up to Sam Raimi’s cult classic.

For fans of Darkman, I think Darkman II is certainly worth checking out at least once, with the knowledge going in that it is in no way on the same footing with its predecessor.

darkmanii4

Over The Top

Over The Top

overthetop1

Today’s feature is a 1987 Sylvester Stallone vehicle with an immensely appropriate title: Over The Top.

The screenplay for Over The Top was penned by lead actor Sylvester Stallone and Stirling Silliphant (Village of the Damned, The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure), with story credit going to Gary Conway (American Ninja 3, American Ninja 2) and David Engelbach (America 3000, Death Wish II).

Over The Top was directed and produced by Menahem Golan of The Cannon Group, who worked extensively with his co-producer cousin, Yoram Globus, to bring the world such movies as Enter The Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, The Delta Force, The Apple, Bolero, and American Ninja, among many others.

The cinematographer on Over the Top was David Gurfinkel, who also shot the movies American Samurai, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, America 3000, The Delta Force, Enter The Ninja, and The Apple.

Over the Top featured two primary editors: Don Zimmerman (Marmaduke, Galaxy Quest, Cobra, Rocky IV, Staying Alive) and James Symons (Tank Girl, Fortress 2, Rambo III, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

Outside of the dynamic duo of Golan and Globus, the other producers on Over The Top were Tony Munafo (Judge Dredd, Tango & Cash, Cobra, Demolition Man) and James D. Brubaker (The Nutty Professor, The Nutty Professor II, Rhinestone, The Right Stuff, Bruce Almighty).

The musical score for Over The Top was provided by Giorgio Moroder, who also composed music for movies like Scarface, Flashdance, American Gigolo, Midnight Express, and the 1984 remake of Cat People.

The effects team for Over The Top included Bob Mills (Jackie Brown, Batman Returns, Nine Months), Christina Smith (Slipstream (2007), Small Soldiers, Congo, Jurassic Park), Rocky Gehr (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Real Genius, The Monster Squad, Speed, Waterworld), Dennis Petersen (Wild Wild West, Breaking Bad, Lethal Weapon 4, Jingle All The Way), and Richard Hill (Jonah Hex, Hollow Man, Jaws 3-D, Demolition Man, Short Circuit).

The cast of Over the Top is made up of Sylvester Stallone (Judge Dredd, Rocky IV, Rhinestone, Tango & Cash, Demolition Man, The Expendables, Death Race 2000), Robert Loggia (Big, Scarface, Holy Man), Susan Blakely (Concorde: Airport ’79, The Towering Inferno), and Rick Zumwalt (Batman Returns).

MSDOVTH EC007The plot of Over The Top is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) is a struggling trucker who arm wrestles on the side to make extra cash while trying to rebuild his life. After the death of his wife, he tries to make amends with his son who he left behind 10 years earlier. Upon their first meeting, his son does not think too highly of him until he enters the World Arm Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas. His hope is to receive the grand prize of $100,000 and an expensive current custom semi-truck and thus start his own trucking company.

Sylvester Stallone has reportedly claimed that he agreed to do the movie based on the pay alone, and is generally unhappy with the way that the film ultimately panned out.

overthetop2Over the Top was made on a production budget of $25 million, on which it grossed only $16 million in its domestic theatrical release, making it a significant financial failure.  The film didn’t fare any better with critics or audiences: it currently holds an IMDb rating of 5.6, alongside Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 36% from critics and 49% from audiences.

As you would expect of just about any Cannon release from the era, Over The Top is a completely ridiculous movie, and a whole lot of fun at the same time. To say the least, it lives up to its name: the arm wrestling sequences in particular can only be described as “over the top,” in just about any way you can imagine: they are a chorus of lights, grunts, music, facial expressions, and large, angry truckers.

Typically, I am not a big fan of prominent child acting in movies. When it comes down to it, most child actors aren’t well-suited for significant roles. That said, David Mendenhall is shockingly watchable in Over The Top. I’m sure this is sort of helped by the fact that his character is written in a peculiar way that generally doesn’t leave him to his own devices to be aimlessly precocious, like many directors seem to do with child actors. He still definitely has bad moments, but his performance was far less painful than a movie like this would typically turn out.

The music in Over The Top is terrifically iconic for the late 1980s, integrating synth, rock, country, and blues into a fantastic backdrop for this odd psuedo-action movie, sounding like what I assume a dingy truck stop in the 1980s would have.

Part of the central plot of Over The Top is a “slobs vs. snobs” scenario that is fought out internally in the mind of Mendenhall’s character, Mike Hawk (heh). Throughout the movie, he is caught in the crossfire between the high-class influence of his wealthy grandfather and the blue-collar style of his long-absentee father (Stallone), and visibly transitions between the two throughout the story. While the “slobs vs. snobs” conflict is hardly unique, it plays out interestingly to have the battle waged inside the psyche of a kid.

Overall, Over The Top is a delightfully cheesy movie that delivers everything you could really want from it. There’s a sports movie component with the arm wrestling, an overly sentimental family bonding plot, some vehicular stunts, and Stallone doing his usual Stallone shtick. Personally, I see this as a must-watch for bad movie fans, up there with Stallone cheese classics like Rocky IV and Tango & Cash.

For more thoughts on Sylvester Stallone’s dip into cinematic arm-wrestling, I recommend checking out Janet Maslin’s review in The New York Times and Paul Attanasio’s brief coverage in The Washington Post. Also, the good folks at BMFcast covered it in a double feature with Hulk Hogan’s No Holds Barred, which I’ll be getting around to as well one of these days.

Driven

Driven

driven1

Today’s feature is a 2001 Sylvester Stallone vehicle directed by Renny Harlin: Driven.

The screenplay for Driven was written by Sylvester Stallone himself, who many forget is a veteran screenwriter, with writing credits including Rocky, Staying Alive, First Blood, Rhinestone, Over The Top, and many others. Story credit for Driven was given to the duo of Jan Skrentny and Neal Tabachnick, who don’t have any other credits of note.

Driven was directed and produced by Renny Harlin, the action movie director responsible for such films as Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, The Long Kiss Goodnight, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Cutthroat Island, Deep Blue Sea, Mindhunters, and 12 Rounds.

Driven had two primary editors: Stuart Levy, who cut Red Eye, Foxcatcher, and Insurgent, and Steve Gilson, whose work has primarily been on television shows like Pawn Stars and Ice Road Truckers.

The cinematographer for Driven was Mauro Fiore, an Academy Award winner with credits including Avatar, Southpaw, Smokin’ Aces, Training Day, and The Equalizer.

Outside of Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone, the team of producers on Driven included Don Carmody (Goon, Silent Hill, Weekend at Bernie’s II, Lucky Number Slevin), Mike Drake (The Number 23, The Whole Nine Yards), Raul Guterres (Turistas), Tom Karnowski (Captain America, Alien From L.A., Double Dragon), Jefferson Richard (Maniac Cop, 3000 Miles To Graceland), Elie Samaha (Battlefield Earth, The Boondock Saints), Rebecca Spikings (Deep Blue Sea, Mindhunters), and Tracee Stanley (Battlefield Earth, The Whole Nine Yards).

driven2The makeup effects on Driven were provided by Brian McManus (Cop And A Half, Striptease), Suzi Ostos (Source Code, High Fidelity), Christopher Pizzarelli (Jason X, The Love Guru), Sean Sansom (In The Mouth of Madness, Dracula 2000), and Tricia Sawyer (Casino, Sphere).

The Driven special effects work was done in part by Sam Barkan (Home Alone, 8 Mile), Colin Chilvers (Superman III, Tommy), Kaz Kobielski (Blues Brothers 2000), Don Riozz McNichols (Primal Fear), Troy Rundle (Jason X), Yvon Charbonneau (300, The Aviator), and Denis Lavigne (The Fountain).

The visual effects team on Driven included Jeremy Burns (Argo, Van Helsing), Marc Cote (300, Timeline, Battlefield Earth), Mark S. Driscoll (Monkeybone, Boat Trip), Henrik Fett (Gone Baby Gone, Black Swan), John Follmer (Children of the Corn II, Mortal Kombat, McHale’s Navy, Red Planet, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Mark Freund (Torque, Van Helsing, Be Cool), Benoit Girard (Epic Movie, Cellular, Torque), Anthony Ivins (Volcano, The Spirit), Phillip Palousek (Donnie Darko, Swordfish), Brian Jennings (Lawnmower Man 2, The Faculty), and Matt Hullum of Rooster Teeth.

The stunts on Driven were coordinated by Steve Lucescu (In The Mouth of Madness, Johnny Mnemonic, Darkman II, Darkman III, Mimic, Jason X, Battlefield Earth), Steve Kelso (The Abyss, Maniac Cop 2, Mississippi Burning, Moonwalker, On Deadly Ground, Breakfast of Champions, State of Play), and Andy Gill (Cannonball Run II, Never Too Young To Die, Maniac Cop, Dead Heat, The Ambulance, Highlander II, Maniac Cop 2, Congo, Double Team).

Kit-7 (L to r) SYLVESTER STALLONE and BURT REYNOLDS in Franchise PicturesÕ high-tech drama, ÒDriven,Ó distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.The musical score for Driven was composed by electronica artist Brain Transeau (BT), who also provided music for such movies as Go, Stealth, and The Fast and The Furious.

The cast for the movie includes writer/producer Sylvester Stallone (Over The Top, Rocky IV, Rhinestone, Tango & Cash, The Expendables, Cobra, Judge Dredd), Burt Reynolds (Cop And A Half, Boogie Nights, Smoky & The Bandit, Shark, Deliverance, Fuzz), Kip Pardue (Remember The Titans), Stacy Edwards (Superbad), Til Schweiger (Far Cry, Inglorious Basterds), Gina Gershon (Face/Off), Estella Warren (The Cooler, Kangaroo Jack), Brent Briscoe (The Green Mile), and Robert Sean Leonard (Dead Poet’s Society, House, M.D.).

The plot of Driven is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A young hot shot driver is in the middle of a championship season and is coming apart at the seams. A former CART champion is called in to give him guidance.

Driven was made on an astoundingly high $94 million production budget, on which it only managed to gross just under $55 million in its worldwide theatrical release, making it a huge financial failure. Critically, the movie bombed almost as hard: it currently holds a 4.5 rating on IMDb, alongside Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 14% from critics and 33% from audiences.

The first thing that I noticed when watching Driven is that the music absolutely does not work in the movie: it doesn’t seem to sync up with what is going on in the story, and seems like it is more there to fill in space than serve a purpose. It is kind of like if the rhythm section in a rock band is trying to drown out the lead guitar: it just doesn’t work, and throws the whole situation off balance.

The way that Driven is shot and edited could best be described as “frenetic”: it is filled with rapid cutting, changes in angles, and handheld shots that never seem to let the frame stay still, even during non-action scenes dedicated to exposition or character building. It comes off as uneasy and off-balance, which is good in some situations, but not in this sort of movie.

Burt Reynolds is one of those guys who is hard not to like whenever he chooses to show up in a movie, and I usually get a kick out of seeing him in things. However, he really truck me as phoning it in in Driven, which is kind of a bummer. It doesn’t help that his character isn’t really a Burt Reynolds type: he isn’t a charmer or a smooth talker or a joker, he is more like a big business antagonist for the plot in a lot of ways, which just doesn’t suit him.

Then again, the poor performance from Reynolds in this movie is hardly unique: Stallone is undeniably wooden as well, and the younger actors visibly struggle with the respective burdens of their various roles. The only solid performance in the whole thing in my opinion was Robert Sean Leonard, who also plays against type as a sleazy agent/manager, which is a fairly small part in the grand scheme of the movie.

The plot of the movie is also a bit of a problem for me: it kicks off with the young racer already having won a number of races on his own, and hitting a backslide over the course of an opening montage. Stallone is brought in to reinvigorate him to make a final push in the season. The combination of a green rookie and a washed-up veteran is a good combination, but the fact that the kid is already an established winner when the story begins takes away from some of their potential dynamic. The kid already knows how to win: he isn’t totally wet behind the ears and in need of mentorship, he’s a professional in a slump who needs someone to pump his tires. This just isn’t as compelling of a scenario to work with. For instance, a movie where Stallone discovers a young racer while enjoying his retirement would be far more interesting, because there would be a deeper dynamic between them and a clearer end goal for the story.

Overall, Driven is a platonic ideal of a poorly conceived box office bomb. The actors are a mix of past-their-prime veterans and unbankable rookies, the story is based on a sport that isn’t particularly popular in the United States, and the production budget ballooned out of control in a way that almost doomed it out of the gate. Driven just about destroyed Stallone’s career, which was only salvaged in the end by the reboots Rocky Balboa and Rambo a number of years later, which paved his return to action with The Expendables franchise.

For fans of Sylvester Stallone’s filmography, Driven is an essential low point that is sort of an essential to catch. It isn’t a good movie by any means, but it was such a public failure and had such a negative impact on his career that it isn’t exactly avoidable for a completest or an aficionado. Likewise, bad movie fans should give this one a shot, even though it isn’t the most entertaining movie out there. The presence of both Reynolds and Stallone, even if they aren’t on point, is good enough to justify giving this one a glance.

For more thoughts on Driven, I recommend checking out Film Brain’s Bad Movie Beatdown video on the flick, as well as Roger Ebert’s surprising 2 1/2 star review of the film.