Friday, September 16, 2016

Worth Mentioning - A Rag for the Walking Dead

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

An athlete tries action, the world ends, killer bugs go Hitchcock, and Van Damme tries drama.


Stone Cold is one of the most entertaining cheeseball action flicks ever made, a film that manages to be completely badass despite the fact that the hero is sporting one of the worst hairstyles I have ever seen. It's this hideous, two-tone, epic mullet thing that was unique and questionable in 1991, but has aged to look absolutely atrocious. This disastrous coiffure is on the head of Brian "The Boz" Bosworth, at the time a twenty-five year old retired NFL quarterback, who had to leave football in 1989 after two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks due to bad shoulders. He attempted to segue into a film career with this movie, and although that career didn't really take off, he has gone on to rack up a respectable 20 acting credits in the last twenty-five years.

Bosworth's hairstyles appear to have gotten less elaborate as he has aged, and the realization that this movie came out half his life ago was a shocking one to me.

Also shocking is the revelation that this movie was written by a man who was in his seventies, Walter Doniger, a veteran of film and television who received his first writing credit on Mob Town, released fifty years before this, in 1941. It was directed by former stunt coordinator Craig R. Baxley, whose other directing credits include Action Jackson, Dark Angel/I Come in Peace, and Sniper 2. Baxley's stunt background played a large part in making Stone Cold as awesome as it is. Stunt guys tend to know how to deliver cool, hard-hitting action.

Stone Cold has cheese and insanity all over it from the opening scene, which involves a trio of overacting, screaming knuckleheads robbing a supermarket, smiling broadly as they shotgun security cameras and unload assault weapons into boxes of crackers. Then Bosworth shows up as Alabama police officer Joe Huff, who is currently on a three week suspension for insubordination. Looking utterly absurd with his bad hair and terrible leather trenchcoat, Huff can't outright arrest these guys since he's been suspended, so instead he takes a lackadaisical and goodnatured approach to incapacitating them one-by-one. It's quite a typical action movie opening, the hero nonchalantly shutting down some random crime, and Bosworth/Huff handles it as well as anyone.

With his screen debut, Bosworth doesn't show any promise that he might end up winning awards some day, but he pulls off the action quite well, looks believable when he's pummeling people, and he has a likeable screen presence - at times doing the stoic tough guy act, at others coming off a bit more jovial than the average action hero.

Since Huff has made more biker-related arrests than any other cop in Alabama, he gets recruited/blackmailed by the FBI into going undercover and infiltrating the Mississippi biker gang The Brotherhood, which has been killing religious leaders and assassinated a judge who gave one of their members a long prison sentence for the murder of a priest. The Brotherhood is believed to have ties to the Mafia and are starting to branch out into drug running, contract hits, and prostitution. If Huff doesn't work for the FBI on this, his three week suspension will be expanded to six months without pay. So, he does the job.

The Brotherhood likes the hang out, throw huge parties, and do really stupid things, like shoot beer cans off each other's shoulders and heads. William Telling with beer and firearms is one of the first things we see these guys doing, with a moment that confirms that this film will be going over-the-top at times. Tasked with shooting a beer off a buddy's shoulder, biker Ice (William Forsythe) pulls out a full-auto submachine gun and opens fire. Although it's spraying multiple bullets, somehow they miraculously miss the other biker, just one of them blasting the beer can apart. The biker then drops to the ground while Ice keeps the trigger pulled, his bullets now hitting an old car... and wouldn't you know it, they hit the gas tank and set off a mini-explosion. Only in an action movie would you see something like this. This is the sort of movie where a motorcycle will turn into napalm if it drives into a car.

Under the alias John Stone (that's how we get the title, you see?), Huff is able to join The Brotherhood, despite having an antagonistic relationship with Ice, by impressing the gang's leader Chains Cooper (Lance Henriksen) with his motorcycle riding skills, his fighting ability, and his fearless, take no guff attitude. Chains calls it having balls of steel.

There are twists and turns, bad deals and vilolence. Huff's cover is blown more than once, including to his witness/love interest Nancy, Chains' old lady, who's played by Arabella Holzbog, an actress I would have liked to see have a bigger career after this than she has.

There are certain moments from this film that have remained in the back of my mind ever since I watched it for the first time twenty-five years ago, especially a moment where a meek, dim biker called Gut (Evan James) stands up to Chains and gets mangled for his troubles. Another is a scene where Chains repeatedly plays and rewinds a news clip of a District Attorney saying he'll be seeking the death sentence for a Brotherhood member.

That District Attorey, Brent Whipperton (David Tress), is running for Governor, mainly on an anti-Brotherhood platform. The Brotherhood and the mob cause so much chaos in Mississippi that Whipperton and the current Governor even agree to put the National Guard on the streets. The ultimate goal for the Brotherhood is to kill Whipperton, which builds up to a climactic battle in a courthouse that is another thing I've never forgotten about this movie.

How I forgot the grotesque funeral scene where the Brotherhood mounts the battered corpse of a fallen member on a motorcyle and eulogizes him before setting him on fire is beyond me... Also, how did it lapse from my mind that Chains, having discovered Huff's true identity, tries to kill him not by simply shooting him, but by subduing him, having him held captive overnight, then put on a helicopter with a bomb strapped to him so they can toss him out at a chosen moment? Welcome to James Bond territory, home of the overly complicated assassination attempt.

Stone Cold had a troubled production - Baxley replaced the original director a few weeks into filming and brought with him story changes, which is probably why Lance Henriksen has said that much of the dialogue was ad libbed - and it wasn't a box office success, but it seemed to find its audience on home video. It certainly found me. I was blown away by this movie when it first came out, and over the first few years after its release I watched it many times on VHS and TV. The story, the action, the characters, I got wrapped up in all of it again and again.

Bosworth was surrounded by some great actors, like Henriksen and Forsythe, who both turned in excellent performances. The presence of Richard Gant and Sam McMurray as the FBI agents was also quite welcome.

Stone Cold was awesome in 1991 and it's awesome today. If you like cheesy, old school action but haven't seen this one, you have to seek it out right away. Experience The Boz.

HELL (2011)

Executive produced by Roland Emmerich, a filmmaker who has a lot of experience destroying the world, having done it in films like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, Hell is set the future year of 2016, by which time Earth is a sun-scorched post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. Solar storms have caused the global temperature to increase so much that it's too hot to be outside for very long during the day, too bright to see very far, and dangerous to let the light hit your bare skin.

Filmed in Germany and Switzerland and performed in the German language, the movie follows the struggles of a small group of survivors as they travel through the barren countryside, seeking a rumored safe haven in the mountains. A place where there might still be water.

Although Hell was featured as part of the Final Girl blog's SHOCKtober event last year, I wouldn't really consider it to be a horror movie. It's essentially of the same "end of the world" sci-fi sub-genre as the Mad Max series, just minus the copious amounts of vehicular action.

There is some action and thrills, however. This isn't just about a few people driving and/or walking through a desert, although those things do take up some of the running time. As the zombie films of George A. Romero have taught us, the biggest threat in a post-apocalyptic world is actually other people who have a violent approach to their survival tactics and have often left behind most of their humanity. The people our protagonists run afoul of here are a group who have resorted to cannibalism, and are also on the market for attractive young women to keep as "wives" and breed with... I suppose the stretch that's set within the home of these cannibals, with characters kept captive and tied up, could edge into horror territory, but it's debatable.

Simple and short, Hell did feel like it was dragging a bit from time to time, but I found it to be a decent watch overall. The concept of the world being overcome by heat was an intriguing one, it might have been more interesting if they had explored that in an even more in-depth manner before getting to the "escape from cannibals" element.


J.T. Petty was in a similar place in his career when he was hired to write and direct the third Mimic film as Guillermo del Toro was when he made the first Mimic. Both filmmakers had just one previous feature under their belt (Cronos for del Toro, Soft for Digging for Petty) when they ventured into this world of giant killer bugs who can take on a human-like appearance.

Petty was quite an interesting choice to helm a sequel, and he did bring some indie-style creative vision to the project, which is evident in the very first scene, which involves a little boy being killed by one of the Judas bugs. During the kid's death, the main focus is a writhing, mortally injured bird he had just found in the gutter. A director who saw this as just another gig wouldn't be shooting something like that.

The Judas Breed was created to wipe out the cockroach population that was spreading a deadly disease called Strickler's among the youths of Manhattan. Petty's film ties into that back story by centering on Strickler's survivor Marvin Montrose (Karl Geary), who was left so weakened by the disease that he's barely able to leave his family's apartment. Taking a story element from Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, Petty has Marvin pass the time and deal with his isolation by constantly keeping a camera trained on the city street below his window and the apartment building across the way.

While keeping watch on his neighborhood, Marvin gradually comes to realize that there are multiple Judas bugs stalking around, killing anyone who crosses their paths. These events have something to do with a guy Marvin knows only as "Garbageman". He's played by Lance Henriken, so of course he's a suspicious character.

Marvin tries to get the police involved, but that just results in the detective hooking up with his mom (Amanda Plummer). Do really deal with this issue, Marvin has to join forces with his sister Rosy (Alexis Dziena) and neighbor Carmen (Rebecca Mader) to exterminate these bugs.

There's also a bit of a romantic subplot between Marvin and Carmen along the way, although Marvin is too shy and awkward to make a move on her. It doesn't help that he can barely breathe around her, first because of her smoking habit and then because of her perfume. She does eventually figure out how to be around him without nearly killing him.

Mimic 3 is actually leaps and bounds better than you might expect the second direct-to-video sequel in a killer bug franchise to be. I would assume that the limited locations and number of characters was probably a studio mandate, and Petty's idea of work with that limitation by making the movie a twist on Rear Window was a smart and interesting one. Giving a nod to the Strickler's set-up of the first movie was also a nice, clever move. There are good moments of suspense, Petty shoots the bugs really well, and the story motors along quickly, wrapping up in a mere 76 minutes. And that includes credits.

The Mimic films form a solid trilogy of creature features, and I think it's a bit of a shame that there aren't more entries in this series. If Dimension can push the Children of the Corn and Hellraiser franchise into the double digits, they surely could have knocked out a Mimic 4 sometime in the last thirteen years.


I first saw the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Nowhere to Run when it hit VHS sometime in 1993, and while I enjoyed the movie I wasn't as enamored with it as I was with some of the Van Damme films that had come before, like Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Death Warrant, Double Impact, and Universal Soldier. It's not one I had gone back to since the mid-'90s, and watching it now seeing the writing and directing credits made my jaw drop.

The film's story is credited to Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand and Joe Eszterhaus, the highly paid writer of such films as Basic Instinct and Showgirls. The screenplay was written by Eszterhaus, A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child's Leslie Bohem, and Hell Night's Randy Feldman. The director who brought this to the screen was Robert Harmon, the man behind the classic 1986 thriller The Hitcher. It's like they were putting together a genre dream team.

Nowhere to Run begins the way The Hitcher ended, with a prisoner transfer going disastrously wrong. In this case, though, we're wanting the prisoner to escape. He's Van Damme as Sam Gillen, a bank robber going to prison for the murder of a security guard who was actually killed by his buddy Billy (Licence to Kill's Anthony Starke) when he saw that the guy was about to shoot Sam. Billy gets Sam an early release by causing the prison bus to flip over, but one of the officers shoots Billy dead in the process.

From that point on, this is quite an old fashioned film. Although set in the early '90s, it easily could have been made decades earlier and would have played out in a similar fashion. With its small town setting, poor farmers, and shots of an escaped prisoner in a suit cooking food over a campfire beside a pond in the countryside, I find that it has an old timey feel.

Sam hides in the wilderness near a farm inhabited by widowed mother Clydie (Rosanna Arquette) and her two young children, "Mookie" (Kieran Culkin) and Bree (Tiffany Taubman). A land developer played by Lethal Weapon 2 villain Joss Ackland, who has a lackey played by the great Ted Levine, is trying to drive the family off their land as part of his plan to replace the town with a whole new community, but Clydie refuses to be moved. She and her husband lived here together, at this place they called the Valley of the Moon.

Of course, that means the villain has to take things to the level of physical threats to try to get Clydie out of his way, and that's when Van Damme's fighting abilities get put to use, as he comes out of hiding to kick some ass. If this movie had been made decades earlier, the fights would have been a bit different for sure, not many leading men have Van Damme's moves.

Clydie lets Sam move from his tent into her barn and even lets the Quebecois criminal eat dinner at the kitchen table with her family. He sticks around the property as their guardian, lending a hand to others who are being intimidated as well. During their time together, Sam bonds with the children and a romance develops between him and Clydie (even though Van Damme and Arquette did not get along on set). Having seen some of Eszterhaus's work, I have to assume that the more inappropriate discussions this pseudo-family unit has were typed up by him, with conversation topics including penis size and whether "boobs" are gross or not.

Nowhere to Run was a bit of a change of pace for Van Damme. There are still fights and scenes of action, but they're not the overwhelming focus. This movie is about the interactions between the characters, the situations Sam and Clydie are in, and it actually works and holds my attention as a drama. I can see why it didn't catch on with me when I was nine or ten, because it's not really one a kid would rave about to his friends like the previous Van Damme films. "It's so cool, you gotta see the scene where he and the young widow talk about how pretty violets smell!" That just wouldn't happen.

As far as the fights go, though, the scene where Ted Levine attacks Van Damme with a pitchfork has always stuck with me. Whenever I would think of Nowhere to Run, that's what would come to mind, along with the image of Sam on his Triumph motorcycle.

Overall, this isn't one of JCVD's more awesome films, but it is a good one.


  1. I agree with most of the critiquing, however Brian Bosworth wasn't a QB. He was a Linebacker. Huge difference and did damn good for is debut acting. The movie has plenty of mistakes but so what Bosworth is a total stud.

    1. Oops, I guess it shows that I don't know anything about football. Thanks for reading!

      - Cody