I know your’s cruelly doesn’t blab about it much, but I definitely dig on ’90’s action cinema; it’s usually played in very broad strokes with scenery chewing villains and “every man” underdog heroes going up against improbable…fuck that; ludicrous odds and maybe spittin’ out a one liner or two…which brings us to today’s feature Albert Pyun’s (I’m already sold) Blast!
So what is Blast about you may or may not ask? Well, thanks for asking (or not)! With the Summer Olympics emanate, a highly trained terrorist organization (who’s ranks include the ever awesome Andrew Divoff…so yeah, consider that scenery chomped) traps the entire Women’s Swim Team in the aquatic complex where they will be competing. Well, unknown to them a…and here we fucking go…janitor (Linden Ashby) is also in the complex. Seeing as how he’s pretty ace at removing stains and chucking cat litter on puddles of barf and not kicking terrorist ass, the President and F.B.I. turn to the only man they can…Rutger fuckin’ Hauer as Interpol anti-terrorist agent Leo to guide our hard-moppin’ hero in eliminating the threat and saving those swim-happy athletes!
Blast is exactly what you want an action flick to be; filled to the brim with comic book style villains, preposterous scenarios, and an erstwhile hero that’s easy to root for. Add to that the usual solid directing from legendary genre director Albert Pyun (normally I’d list a few flicks, but if you are unfamiliar with this man you need to get acquainted right quick…just look at his Imdb…and the man is still going strong today directing while suffering from dementia…again, simply a legend). Of course we get great performances from some of our fav faces including the aforementioned Divoff (Wishmaster, Faust), Hauer (Blade Runner), and Tim Thomerson (Trancers), and some a fantastic score from composer Anthony Riparetti.
On the negative side, as you may have surmised, this flick is basically Die Hard in a swimming pool. does the fact that it’s derivative matter? Not to me (look at all of the slasher flicks I absolutely adore and that will show you how I feel about derivative cinema), but some of you may not dig on that.
While Blast is a fun time, the extras on this disc are…there are no extras…just some trailers. Well, that made my job a hell of a lot easier!
Bottom line, Blast is just that…a blast! It’s got everything you love about direct to video action pics in spades, and with the cast assembled and Pyun at the helm, this is one to add to your action collection post haste!
Walking Tall (2004)
U.S. Army Special Forces Sergeant Chris Vaughn (The Rock) strolls back into his ol’ hometown looking for a little of the employment biz at the local mill…only problem, the mill is gone (leaving Vaughn’s family in dire straights indeed) and has been replaced by a casino run by an old High School chum Jay (Neal McDonough). Adding to the bad times, the casino is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, and after learning of the dirty dealings that den of iniquity is capable of, including passing out drugs to the community which results in the death of his cousin, Chris grabs a sturdy piece of wood and starts handing out a multitude of ass beatings six ways to Sunday. Will Vaughn, along with his friend Ray (Johnny Knoxville), be enough to rid the town of what ails it?
Walking Tall is a fun, by the numbers, action flick that delivers on what we look for in such pictures. First up, you get tons of beat downs and ass whoopin’s which is essential material for an action flick (especially one starring an ex-wrestling superstar and produced by his old boss Vince McMahon). Speaking of that superstar, The Rock (or Dwayne Johnson) has definitely gone on to have a huge acting career, but this one was early in the game…nevertheless, he is charismatic, entertaining, and solid leading man material. But he doesn’t carry the load himself, as Knoxville is absolutely fantastic as his friend cum sidekick Ray (and he gets some of the flick’s best dialog to boot).
On the negative side, the film’s villains are as bland and generic as they come, and of course the film doesn’t come close to matching the power and intensity of the original picture (1973’s…get this, Walking Tall…bet you didn’t see that coming, eh?), but it’s entertaining as balls (technical reviewer term).
As for extras on this MVD Marquee Blu-ray release there is a generous amount for fans of the film to enjoy. First up are two audio commentaries (one by The Rock, the other featuring director Kevin Bray). Both are informative, and most importantly entertaining, listens and detail the production of the film nicely. Also included are a featurette on the film’s copious stunts, a collection of deleted scenes and bloopers, an alternate ending for the film, a photo gallery, and the film’s trailer.
If you are looking for a “rock” solid (yeah baby, I still got the stuff!) action flick that entertains while not putting any of your precious brain cells to use, this version of Walking Tall is for you!
Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) finds herself spending her days in a dilapidated farmhouse in rural Texas, where her heroin addicted father Noah (Jeff Bridges) brought her following the drug related death of her mother Queen Gunhilda (Jennifer Tilly). Speaking of death, Noah OD’s almost immediately, and his corpse remains propped up wearing shades Weekend at Bernie’s style, but Jeliza is reticent to acknowledge his passing regardless of decomposition. Keeping her company are her collection of doll heads (Mystique, Sateen Lips, Baby Blonde and Glitter Gal respectively) each representing a portion of her psyche. Jeliza-Rose soon ventures out and befriends her neighbors, a mentally challenged young adult called Dickens (Brendan Fletcher) and his sister Dell (Janet McTeer) who has been blinded in one eye from a bee sting…folks who have a past relationship to Noah. The duo takes Jeliza in, preserve Noah’s body via taxidermy, and set in motion a series of events that you just know are not going to have a happy ending for all involved.
Tideland is one hell of a strange picture, filled with fairy tale elements and the horror’s of drug abuse and mental illness in equal measure. Making this challenging material palatable are the strong performances of the film from seasoned vets of the biz (Bridges, Tilly, McTeer), to rising talent (Fletcher)…but the real star of the show is Ferland as Jeliza-Rose; how one so young gives such a nuanced and mature performance (while making it seem anything but a “performance”) is beyond me! Add to that the normal brilliant direction and keen artistic eye of writer/director Terry Gilliam and you have one beautiful and surreal film.
With all the film has going for it, there are of course a few negatives. As you may surmise, portions of this film are a grim watch, so if that isn’t your bag, you’ve been warned baby. Also, there is a sexual undercurrent to the goings-on while not being explicitly acted upon, is nevertheless present. It’s uncomfortable, as it should be, and can make some scenes a bit high on the squirm-meter.
While Tideland is quite the cinematic experience, Arrow have included some great bonus materials to enhance the viewer’s enjoyment. First up is an introduction to the film from Gilliam, followed by a fantastic commentary track from the same (joined by co-writer Tony Grisoni). Following that we get two “making of” segments; a featurette and a 45-minute documentary by director Vincenzo Natali (Cube) respectively. Next comes a featurette on the film’s usage of green scree techniques (with Gilliam commentary), interviews with Gilliam, producer Jeremy Thomas and actors Bridges, Ferland, and Tilly. Bringing up the rear are deleted scenes with commentary by Gilliam, B-roll footage, a photo gallery, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Tideland is bizarre, disturbing, poignant, and ultimately beautiful and really should be experienced by adventurous movie lovers!