Posts Tagged ‘80’s film’

P2 (2007)
An office worker called Angela (Rachel Nichols) is pursued by a voyeur psychopath after being locked in a parking garage on Christmas Eve.
I’m a sucker for films where main character just can’t get to their intended destination, The Hitcher, After hours, Judgement Night, Brake down and Hostel to name but a few spring to mind – Films with a minimal cast and a difficult situation to get out of. P2 ticks both boxes here.
First time director Franck Khalfoun builds up the tension here and makes the most out of his two leads Wes Bentley and Rachel Nichols. The score and cinematography is of a high standard and the acting is first rate for this type of thriller but it is let down by its lack of character development by the script.
Angela seems such an unlikable character that you’d like her to get killed off in the first five minutes. That said, who needs characters built? As the film unfolds, after all manner of psychological and physical hoops Angela goes through, you find your rooting for her after all. The effects are realistic and the blood mostly comes from Angela work mate. There’s a nasty scene involving a vicious dog which is not for animal lovers, so beware.
The end is satisfying as to is the film as a whole; all in all it’s a solid little thriller which includes an Elvis Christmas song. You can’t go wrong.

Screamers (1995)
A war ridden apocalyptic mining planet, a small defence robotic weapon known as Screamers have continued to evolve into something more deadly which puts both sides of the conflict survivors at risk.
Alien (1979) scribe Dan O’Bannon delivers an interesting take on the infamous writer Philip K. Dick’s short story, Second Variety.
Both Jennifer Rubin and Peter Weller are very effective as the leads in what could have be just another B-science fiction and the rest of the small cast are adequate enough. Christian Duguay direction is competent and he builds up some genuine tension when the Screamers burrow through the ground, wielding blades and attack their prey, the human war survivors.
Although the special effects are below par and are now dated, the practical effects, chopped limbs, explosions are decent and there are some great matte paintings and the costumes look excellent.
As Joe Hendricksson (Weller) journeys across wastelands to negotiate peace the film becomes more visually interesting and atmospheric with its desolate cold surroundings, sweeping snow covered landscapes and fort complex. An ominous atmosphere is created especially in the darker scenes, which have some nice surprise moments and creepy children.
Screamers is a slow satisfying paranoia sci-fi with guns and robots on a small budget. Overall, it’s certainly worth the watch if you’re a fan of the genre.

The Shining (1980)

A caretaker is isolated with his family in a hotel for the winter season, however they are not alone and the past guests and staff spirits still live on putting the caretaker, his wife and son in grave danger.
The uncut 146 minute version which only reinforced the fact that it is one of the best, if not the greatest tension driven, psychological horror films that has been made.
Thankfully Kubrick doesn’t follow Kings ‘The Shining’ novel to the letter, or we have the hedged animals coming to life and an explosive ending, while grand it would have lost the reality and realism that Kubrick creates.
Jack Nicholson’s antics, Shelley Duvall’s fear, Danny Lloyd’s performance (one of the few child leads that isn’t annoying) is first-rate as Danny. Veteran and voice of Hong Kong Phooey, Scatman Crothers is superb and the array of actors small but memorable parts including, Bladerunners Joe Turkel as Lloyd the Bartender and Barry Nelson as Manger, Stuart Ullman.
It’s not the novel, Kubrick’s the Shining one of the most impressive horror films ever made and on so many levels.

The Thing (2011) 

It is 1982, after a signal is investigated in Antartica a team accidentally find a body and ship. A team of researchers are dispatched to assist and they soon find they’ve discovered something alien and deadly.
From the opening cinematographer Michel Abramowicz frames a shot of a sweeping snow-landscape as a yellow tractor ploughs across the ice and snow with the familiar beats of the originals score. Bearded Norwegian talk in their native dialogue and you feel you’re in good hands from the outset.
Although there are two females roles Mary Elizebeth Winstead as Kate gives it that Alien- esque dynamic with a prominent male cast but over all the look and feel is that of The Thing and it feels like a true prequel.
The recreation of the sets and the 80’s music add to the fan-boy fun and Marco Beltrami score excellently reworks Ennio Morricone original track which packs it’s own punches and chills.
It’s a dark film with lots of shadows possibly more so that it’s predecessor what adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere. It’s also bloodier, and gorier with an equally fantastic autopsy scene.
There’s no getting away from comparing directors Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s Thing to the original classic. That said, for new comers watching it cold it works as a stand alone film – as a prequel to the masses its a joy.
The team are equipped bio researchers which adds extra dynamic and pace to the story, like the viewer some of the characters have equal knowledge of what The Thing creature is doing early on like its audience who have already seen Carpenters classic. However, that fact the characters are up to speed on alien creatures purpose it takes some of the everyday down to earth person handling a situation, learning more as they go along away.
There’s some effective tension and there’s a great set piece on a helicopter. Due credit to writer Eric Heisserer and Ronald D. Moore, the Norwegian dialogue adds to the realism and attention to detail. As distrust builds the story becomes even more engrossing. There’s too much CGI nevertheless there’s some nice touches involving arm braces and tooth fillings thrown into the mix and Heijningen Jr. Handles the mix of splitting heads contorted bodies and faces perfectly while creating a great sci-fi horror ride.
The sound is wonderful with familiar moaning, the tentacles flaying noise and eerie screams galore. These complement the practical and computer effects. There are some discrepancies but none that detract or couldn’t be arguably accounted for.
The acting is more than adequate aided by a solid script. There are some notable performances including Ulrich Thomse’s Doctor Sander and Jonathan Walker as Colin. Winstead really carries the film and does it surprisingly well -as a side note she’s as moody and likable as Kurt’s MacReady.
There’s not a joke in sight, it’s serious. It’s a very fast paced film with enough surprises to keep it fresh while paying homage at the same time. The closing act is bloated but arguably so was The Thing’s 1982. But like its classic counterpart all is forgiven with its great epilogue.
Overall, semi-perfect replication -like The Thing organism itself.

The Thing (1982)

After being freed from its ancient crash site an extraterrestrial life form infiltrates an Antarctic research station, imitating taking the appearance of the researchers that it kills.
An atmospheric understated sci-fi at it best. I’ll never understand how Carpenter lost the lustre in some of the other film he made, nevertheless, his Thing is one of his best movies and also once of the best sci-fi movies ever. Despite being based on the same source material (before remakes were popular) the thing has a look and feel of it’s own and is very different from its 50’s counterpart.
The isolated setting, the astounding cinematography and scenery creates intrigue; drawing you in from the very beginning. It’s a perfect horror/sci-fi cocktail of Ennio Morricone’s haunting foreboding score, Rob Bottin and Stan Winston’s benchmark practical effects (which are to-date arguably unsurpassed) Carpenters claustrophobic set ups and Bill Lancaster screenplay.
It’s rare that every single actor is exceptional and supplied with effective dialogue. All the cast from Kurt Russell to Wilford Brimley as Blair are all captivating, great casting by Anita Dann. The characters have their own issues and as the paranoia sets in relationships are forged and other broken, building to a bold and satisfying conclusion.
This is more than just a cult film with a ‘monster’ hiding in warm places surrounded by snow, it’s a finely tuned science fiction horror masterpiece.

Die Hard (1988)

A New York cop’s holiday is cut short when a group of terrorists gate crash his wife’s office Christmas party and hold the workers for ransom.
Director John McTiernan’s Die hard is the archetype hostage action flick, often imitated rarely surpassed. It’s the sleeper hit that made Bruce Willis a star and remains sinisterly great fun to this day.
It captures that Christmas feeling perfectly with a distinguished score from the late Michael Kamen and some fine cinematography by the then unknown Jan de Bont (Speed Director).
The supporting cast are all first rate and include William Atherton, the late Paul Gleason, Bonnie Bedelia and the excellent Reginald VelJohnson as the typical cop Sgt. Al Powell. Alan Rickman, probably in his finest performance, is the heist leader Hans Gruber. His un-stereotype bad guy has oddly become a stereotype after being copied in countless action films.
Packed with compulsory 80’s one liners, over the top action and a well written script, Die Hard remains a great piece of entertainment.
With my recent blog about Governor Swarzenegger I thought it would be rude not to give a little mention to Stallone.
Ah, the 80’s battle of the box office hero’s, amongst and collection of characters the kings of Hollywood actions had their defining characters, Arnold had The Terminator, Bruce Willis had John McClane (see this blog) and Stallone had John Rambo.
Over the last twenty years Stallone has suffered the same career ups and owns as his boxoffice rivals. What separates Sly from his other ex-Planet Hollywood stars is that he’s an Oscar nominated director and writer (never getting the credit he really deserves as a filmmaker). Rocky aside oddly in comparison to the other aforementioned characters John Rambo his most iconic and significant character that changed noticeably over the course of four films. To sum it up in one sentence Rambo went from a quite realistic war veteran in First Blood, to a totally over the top combat instrument in 2 and 3, coming full circle as a mixture for Rambo.
The movie was officially greenlit by Nu Image/Millenium Films and would be loosely based on a novel called Hunter (a novel to which Stallone had the rights for), it involved Rambo hunting a feral beast. In 2009 Stallone stated that the story had been changed and would feature Rambo searching for trafficked women who disappeared  over the Mexican border. However, in May 2010 he confirmed that Rambo V was cancelled and that Rambo had been “retired”.
So in the meantime sit back and relax, if you’ve never seen them or are a fan, here are my thoughts on one of Stallone’s most memorable collection of films.
First Blood (1982)

John Rambo (BAFTA winner Sylvester Stallone) is a fairly reserved and
sensitive guy, a man who has seen and lived the horrors of the Vietnam
War. He returns to the good old United States of America to find his
only friend has died. You can sympathise with him and when small- town sheriff (Brian Dennehy) takes a needless dislike to him and his heavy handed deputies mistreat Rambo you can see why Rambo is sent over the edge.
In retrospect, unfortunately the sequels turned John J Rambo into
‘Rambo’ the icon who relies more on an M-16 to get him out of trouble.
In First Blood Rambo utilises the teachings from Col. Trautman (Richard
Crenna) his war training and combat skills to stay alive and outwit his

With less guns and explosions director Ted Kotcheff competently builds the tension and suspense and you get the feeling Rambo may not make it till the end. The locations are wonderfully atmospheric – foggy, earthly capturing the true outdoors. Stallone, Crenna and Dennehy are on form and the movie has a strong supporting cast that includes David Caruso in an early role as Deputy Mitch. Underpinning all this is Jerry Goldsmith’s memorable score.
Rambo First Blood is a grounded drama and action must see.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Picking up with Rambo doing hard time after the events of the first film, he is given a second chance, however, he is left for dead behind enemy lines and must escape from his Russian & Vietnamese captors and bring some Vietnam Vet’s home.
Where as the first film was credible, the late George P. Cosmatos’ far-fetched First Blood Part 2 metamorphoses Rambo into the memorable gun-touting icon. With a James Cameron and Sylvester Stallone screenplay it plays on Rambo as the loner war machine. Jack Cardiff’s cinematography is worth mentioning, especially the jungle scenes, and rice-fields where Rambo must dispose of an endless supply of solider extra’s using a machine gun and a bow. Comatos’ packs the screen with stunts and explosions and handles the subtler moments with ease. Jerry Goldsmith once again delivers a thriving memorable score, that adds atmosphere to the films proceedings.
Famous writer and actor Steven Berkoff is perfect as the Russian bad guy (although peculiarly similar to his own General Orlov from 1983’s Octopussy). With a distinguished cast including Julia Nickson as Rambo brief love interest Co Bao, Charles Napier and Martin Kove. Richard Crenna makes a welcomed return as Col. Trautman and once again is the mediator between Rambo and the ‘bureaucrats’. Again Sylvester Stallone is in fanatical preposterous physical shape and mumbles through the restrained scenes with Nickson convincingly.
All in all it’s a great 80’s action flick, delivering a larger than life sequel. However, if there were any serious war messages they’re lost in the mist of leeches, explosions and bullets.
Rambo III (1988)
Peter MacDonald’s Rambo 3 is far removed from Ted Kotcheff’s credible First Blood and follows the Rambo icon established in George P.Cosmatos’ First Blood Part II.
What’s notable from the outset is the real life political and conflict shifts since ’88, as the Americans are helping the Afghan rebels achieve freedom from the invading Russians. As the cold war ended overnight this appeared to hamper this Rambo’s already out of date story line box office success. That said, paradoxically it has made Rambo more significant and highlights how quickly an alliance can shift which may stick in some viewers throats satirically or not.
Richard Crenna once again plays Col. Trautman who is captured behind enemy lines and Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) must stage a solo ‘unofficial’ rescue mission. Again, Stallone is in obscene physical shape for this instalment, and is 100% committed to his role as Rambo. There’s a brief appearance by Kurtwood Smith who gives the usual effective performance. Sasson Gabai and Spiros Focás are part of an effective supporting cast. However, the Russians are an array of forgettable extras and Marc de Jonge Colonel Zaysen just can’t escape from the stereotype script he’s been given.
Rambo 3 is very watchable but in retrospect it’s fraught at times by diplomatic changes of the time, even more so in today’s climate and ironically this takes the fun out this instalment.
Jerry Goldsmith’s score is once again excellent and MacDonald who was handed the directing reigns last minute does his best. There are a few stand out scenes all of which display Stallones refined abilities, a stick fight and horse game. Nevertheless, Sylvester Stallone and Sheldon Lettich screenplay is all comic book dialogue. The film looses memento in the second act and by the third you don’t care who lives or dies.
There’s gun’s, helicopters, bullets, explosions, monks and glow-sticks if that’s your thing you’ll love Rambo III.
Rambo (2008)
Now living in  Thailand, Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to venture into war-torn Burma, and rescue a group of Christian missionaries.
While this is another sequel that keeps John J Rambo as ‘Rambo’ the icon who relies more on a gun to get him out of trouble, Stallone is on top form as the heavy, bulky, Rambo – out with ‘don’t push me’ and in with the new catchy saying ‘go home’.
Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) is sorely missed but he still makes a brief (from the grave) appearance in Rambo’s dream. With this film is there’s no developed bad guy in a cinematic sense but there is however a bad army and silent leader which adds to the realistic tone of the film.
The acting is a mixed bag from the supporting cast, Brian Tyler’s music is fine, the locations and sets are fantastic but what stands out is Glen MacPhersons cinematography and Sean Albertson’ slick editing. Sly is on top directing form, giving a film that is like a war doc at times and you really see what damage bullets can do. Like is predecessors there is a message in Art Monterastelli’s and Stallone’s screenplay but it’s sometimes lost in the powerful gunfire and graphic blood. It’s not as smart as the First Blood but the ending rounds the film off well and Rambo ‘does go home’…
Yes, I’d happily pay to see another Rambo made. Well done Mr Stallone!
Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

Rambo goes on a rescue mission to Mexico to return a kidnapped loved one but a Mexican gang brings the war back to him.

Last Blood is an interesting Rambo instalment, just as you think Adrian Grunberg’s well directed outing is going to be a paint by numbers kidnap flick there’s a major twist on the Taken-like premise. However, while Sylvester Stallone’s and and few other writers flesh out Rambo (reminiscent of First Blood’s characterisation) aside from some old photos it lacks some much needed dialogue nods and throwbacks. Col. Troutman doesn’t really get a mention, his Vietnamese flame, Co Bao, doesn’t get a look in etc. No bandana or hair cut tidbits either. And the theme music is not as punchy as the early outings.

That said, Rambo’s father is mentioned , his mental state is explored and his reliance on medication is touched on. The last twenty minutes as the grizzled veteran dusts off his crossbows to take on the sex traffickers are particularly gory and graphic, appeasing Rambo action fans. There’s gut-wrenching carnage as he picks off a variety of stereotype cartel. Its as hard hitting as it’s predecessor and makes Part II and Rambo III look quite tame in comparison.

Hopefully, Stallone has one more Rambo outing left in him to come full circle, connect the dots with more Vietnam and First Blood, 2, 3 links not just weapon references. We always wanted him home but maybe Rambo is more entertaining back out in a war zone.

Nevertheless, it’s great to see Stallone as Rambo back on the big screen. Recommend.

Even if he were permitted to run for President, forget the governor of California, forget he’s married to a Kennedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger will always be the last action hero to me.
His bodybuilding Mr. Universe success aside, From Conan to Terminator 2, Arnold was one of the most bankable stars of the 80’s and early 90’s, I’ll never forget an interview where the late Paul Yates on the Big Breakfast Show asked, “do you ever lie to your wife,” he causally replied something like, “Of course, I told her Last Action Hero was a big hit’. Proof he’s always had a great sense of humour!
With some wise roles and taking from his love of the Bond films and his own humour, Arnold finely tuned the one liner quips and he became a household name. Oddly he was never really criticised for his high body counts and Stallone seemed to take all the negative press.
I’m sure if it wasn’t for the sad death of his mother and his own heart problems and surgery that he wouldn’t have slowed. However, issues allowed wannabe Arnie clones to try and take his mantel, nevertheless, the new style of action hero, where brain means brawn did take the limelight and Schwarzenegger was wise to turn to politics which he’d always been interested in.
From a small isolated village in Austria to king of Hollywood, Arnold’s journey is an attraction in itself, but that is another story…
Below are my thoughts on some of Arnold’s most entertaining films.
Raw Deal (1986)
Wrongly disgraced FBI agent Kaminsky (Schwarzenegger) reluctantly takes up a job as a sheriff of a small town but is given another chance, goes undercover and joins the Mafia to take them down.
Paul Michael Glaser’s Raw Deal, possibly with a different director could have become a successful mediocre 80’s cop/gangster flick. However, it become another Arnold vehicle which does them both credit, playing on his humour, packed with one liners, his physicality, he throws guys about and his action persona, he fire lots of guns.
Looking back and to put things into perspective, and removing The Running Man (1987) from the equation, Raw Deal fittingly sits in between Commando (1985) and Red Heat (1988). The story is superior to Mark Lesters Commando, a high body count, rescue action. However, it lacks the dynamics, acting or grounding of Walter Hill’s ‘buddy’ movie Red Heat.
While this is was a clever Schwarzenegger ‘vehicle’ what stands out about Raw Deal is that he’s not on screen all of the time and gives the movie breathing space, allowing the gangsters, a line up of familiar faces including: Sam Wanamaker, Paul Shenar and James Bond baddie Robert Davi to do their stuff. Darren McGavin gives a subtle performance as FBI agent Harry and Kathryn Harrold isn’t bad.
Raw Deal was never going to win awards but it’s an above average production, fast-paced, action-packed and entertaining. It’s a guilty pleasure and a must for Schwarzenegger fans – No one gives Arnie a Raw Deal.
The Running Man (1987)
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Ben Richards who after being set-up with some altered surveillance footage is wrongly-convicted as the Butcher of Bakersfield. Later captured after a prison break he must try to survive a public execution gauntlet, staged as 2019 highest rated TV game show.
Nothing like the Steven King (writing a Richard Bachman) novel, veteran TV director Paul Michael Glaser gives an extraordinary vision of the TV consumer future. While slightly dated and its annoying use of footage from parts of the a film itself The Running Man (1987) was ahead of its time and still is an atmospheric and engaging ride.
It’s packed with outlandish stereotype characters, larger that life bad guys, big action sequences and the traditional Arnie one liners. But there’s a message that runs deep in Steven E. de Souza’s screenplay, which reflects our society, it’s fascination with realty TV, gambling and our fear of 24 hour surveillance, corrupt powerful corporations and manipulation by the media. Tackling the question in its own way, can you believe all you see?
There’s a dreamlike quality to the film, and the darker scenes ooze atmosphere. The costumes, sets and locations are striking, showing a great contrast between the different classes, the score is memorable but what makes this sci-fi work is that you actually care about the characters. The supporting cast are excellent, including Maria Conchita Alonso at her physical best, Alien’s (1979) Yaphet Kotto and Predator’s (1987) Jesse Ventura. Mick Fleetwood plays his older self and real game-show and TV host Richard Dawson is excellently cast as Killian. It goes without saying that Scwarzenegger is on top form in this physical role.
It’s great entertainment, it’s time to start running, don’t take my word for it, watch it.
Red Heat (1988)
Walterhill is on directing form in this Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick. Red Heat despite some political shifts still holds up today. Schwarzenegger looks leaner and meaner than ever in the role of Ivan Danko a Captain who is sent to the U.S.A to bring back fleeing Russian drug dealer back to Moscow assisted by Det. Sgt. Art Ridzik (James Belushi).
The supporting cast are an array of familiar faces including Gina Gershon, Laurence Fishburne and Peter Boyle. Ed O’Ross is convincing as the menacing drug dealer Viktor. Jackie Burch casting is perfect, Schwarzenegger’s Danko character is the just right as the fish out water Russian and James Belushi is on top form as the wise cracking cynical detective, it’s the perfect ‘buddy’ cop movie. The one liners flow fast at the expense of the culture differences between the USA and USSR.
Aside from James Horners rehashed music score from another Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Commando (1985), Red Heat feels original and surpasses predecessors, setting the foundation for many copycat films that followed. There’s a witty script but it’s far meatier than your average action film, befitting from a shot on location feel, giving it some believability and atmosphere.
All in all it’s a better than expected, an enjoyable action film with Arnold in his prime.
Total Recall (1990)
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid who has the planet Mars on his mind. He goes for virtual vacation, however, things go awry as he discovers that his job, marriage and life maybe a lie. After a murder he’s forced to go to the planet for real but while on the run he finds that he may hold the key to an ancient Martian artifact.
Set in the year 2084 there are some nice futurist touches, talking robots, virtual tennis coaches, electronic nail painting to name a few. The internal mars sets are just that, sets, but the external, airport and mine shots are very effective. There is a wonderful otherworldly score by Jerry Goldsmith and some great costumes and spacesuits designed by Erica Edell Phillips.
RoboCop (1987) director Paul Verhoeven once again uses Ronny Cox as the menacing protagonist in this Phillip K Dick inspired story. In it’s day it was hailed for its special effects and make-up effects and while these have dated slightly, it still holds its own as an entertaining science fiction.
If the director reins and role were given to anyone other than Arnold this may have been a sci-fi thriller, but with Arnie’s larger than life screen presence and Verhoeven highly-flavoured visuals Total Recall is not given a noir look that would usual accompany such subject matter becoming a vivid futuristic action flick.
While the acting is a little overboard with a cast that include Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Marshall Bell it’s saved by the intriguing story that moves along at a fast pace and Schwarzenegger performance. The rest of the cast are hired bad guys, mutants and an array of quirky characters.
Overall Total Recall is a great piece of captivating entertainment so “for the memory of a lifetime Rekall, Rekall, Rekall.”
Predator (1987)
A team of commandos find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial hunter…
John McTiernan directs the perfect cast including the likes of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura who are just right in this action orientated alien film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is armed with some great one liners but packs in a good performance with some subtler moments.
Apart from The Thing like shot at the very beginning, it’s and original piece that deservingly started a franchise. . To be picky only some of the editing and effects let the film down. Those aside, the music by Alan Silvestri is fitting with it jungle beats building up apprehension and suspense throughout the film. This film could have easy fallen into B movie territory, but the great Cinematography, creature effects and costume design keep it grounded.
The film builds up in true monster fashion by holding back the Predator’s reveal. Not since Alien has there been such hand iconic creature which Kevin Peter Hall wonderfully brings to life. John McTiernan notches up the tension in the final showdown and writers Jim Thomas & John Thomas give us a brave bold ending.
One of the most enjoyable rounded sci-fi films ever.
The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator remains one of the most enjoyable Science fiction films of all time. Bradfield’s pulse pumping score and nostalgic music from an array of obscure bands all adds to the lure of this timeless classic.
James Cameron’s direction is excellent, giving the visuals scope and depth. His above average story and screenplay stop it falling into B-movie hell.
The time travel is logical; in as much as if Sarah had never met Kyle, John would have been the off spring of one of her dates. Either way it’s highly satisfying science fiction and not science fact.
The films cast include Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen who play it natural and straight, Bill Paxton and Brian Thompson briefly turn up. The leads Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor give flawless performances and keep you routing for their survival from the now infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Terminator. The film has a gritty and edgy look, with some gore moments, even though some of the effects have dated, the practical effects from Oscar winner Stan Winston hold up to this day.
A defining moment for sci-fi action, Schwarzenegger and Cameron. The Terminator is compulsive viewing.
Commando (1985)

With a larger than life story, catchy tag-line and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name in bold letters you felt at the time this action could be something special.

In 1985 Schwarzenegger need only fend off Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone to become number the one action hero. Mark L. Lester’s Commando gave Schwarzenegger the opportunity to become a mainstream action star without the high concept’s of being a killer robot or an amoral barbarian. Schwarzenegger, avoiding bad guy typecast quickly became a good guy hero and the rest is history.

In true 80’s tradition Commando’s writer’s Steven E. de Souza, Jeph Loeb, Matthew Weisman deliver a simplistic paper thin, yet pleasing plot. Arnie is John Matrix, a retired elite commando who has only a few hours to rescue his daughter Jenny (a young Alyssa Milano) from an exiled dictator played by Dan Hedaya.

The cast are perfect for this genre and include Predtor’s Bill Duke and Vernon Wells in his best role as Matrix’s adversary Bennett. Striking Rae Dawn Chong is Matirix’s reluctant sidekick and has some amusing lines. And David Patrick Kelly plays a memorable role as the slippery bad guy Sully. Despite some filming and editing goofs, it’s a well-constructed film, Lester’s locations and sets, day and night shoots are worthy of note. James Horner accompanying score is excellent, with its catchy tune, horns and xylophone.

Genuinely funny, Arnold takes one liners quips to a new level thanks to Steven E. de Souza, screenplay. The body count is high and although far-fetched, for example, Arnold carrying a lot of muscle and firepower takes on a small army of extras, he is simply fascinating. With some remarkable practical stunts, brawl scenes, knife fights, car chases and plenty of shooting, Commando has everything an action film should have.

Over all it’s great action fun and as soon as Arnie picks up that first weapon you know, “Somewhere, somehow, someone’s going to pay.”

Roman Polanski, Academy Award-winning director nominated for Oscars for “Tess”, “Chinatown,” and “Rosemary’s Baby” pleaded guilty in 1977 to a count of having unlawful sex with a minor, acknowledging this he fled the United States before he could be sentenced. U.S. authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in 1978.
He declined to collect his Academy Award for Best Director in person when he won it for “The Pianist” in 2003 to avoid being arrested if he enters the U.S.
On 26 September 2009, Polanski was taken into custody at the Zurich airport by Swiss police at the request of U.S. authorities, however, on 12 July 2010, the Swiss authorities announced that they would not extradite Polanski to the U.S.
After establishing himself as one of the most important international directors in the 60’s and 70’s he was unsurprisingly shunned by Hollywood for this unlawful act and the ‘80’s were uneventful for Polanski, directing only two feature films – Pirates (1986) and Frantic (1988).

Ironically for some his private life makes him more known than his films. Many years before his arrest, sadly, Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate was murdered in 1969 while staying at the Polanski’s Benedict Canyon home above Los Angeles by members of the notorious Charles Manson ‘family’.

Polanski, now in his seventies, still lives in France and aside from his interesting personal life and his critical achievements I like to share with you my thoughts on his three most underrated and splendid thriller films Frantic The Ghost Writer and The Ninth Gate.

Even though these three films were appreciated by some critics they were not nominated by any major guild or festival for best picture, which in my opinion is a crying shame and while not perfect they are of no lesser interest than the aforementioned critically acclaimed Tess and Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby.
What is notable about these films is that they are anti Hollywood in style, Frantic’s Euro-subtlety and The Ninth Gate in it’s odd narrative and The Ghostwriter in it unconventional settings.
There’s no coincidence that all have solemn endings and it easy to see why Polanski would be drawn to such projects.

Known under a few different titles The Ghost Writer borrows some of the serious and grounded elements of Roman Polanski’s Ninth Gate (1999). The tight thriller follows Ewan McGregor’s loner character, a ghostwriter hired to complete the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan), who becomes accused of war crimes. The writer soon uncovers a conspiracy that like his dead predecessor puts his own life in peril.

The lighting is superb, plenty of shadows adding to the ominous atmosphere, the locations and sets are attention-grabbing, with an unusual beach house setting and motel at one point. Alexandre Desplat’s score puts the viewer on edge.

There are fine performances from a cast of familiar faces including Robert Pugh, Eli Wallach, and Liz Hurley look-a-like Olivia Williams. Both Kim Cattrall and James Belushi go against type cast and deliver their best work in a long-time. Despite Brosnan’s shaky accent, he’s on good form playing the ex PM, Adam Lang perfectly.

Like with most of Polanski film’s there’s no overboard story telling, everything is subtle, natural and down to earth. There’s no need for big explosions or fast paced cut’s. McGregor is exceptional as an everyday man out of his depth. The tension is builds up slowly, taking time to immerses the viewer and follow the story from the Ghostwriter’s point of view. Credit must goto Robert Harris’ novel and adaptation of an intriguing, topical story but this film interestingly demonstrates not only what a great screenplay writer Polanski’s is, but like the Piano shows what he can do with a bigger budget.

It’s well crafted suspense thriller, admirably, Roman Polanski makes a mystery as good as they used to be.
In Frantic Harrison Ford offers his best performance a character study of a man who, tamed by his peaceful and conformist existence is forced into a seedy and risky dangerous world.

Written by Polanski himself alongside Gérard Brach. It has a classic Hitchcock narrative and appreciates the rules of the genre. From beginning to end, the director shows a deep discipline by the way in which he visually conducts the narrative, establishing and preparing each shot, framing and revealing in a methodical.

Although Frantic never gets ‘frantic’, the title refers to the psychological aspect of the narrative, it’s an edgy and suspenseful story. The pace of the movie is very slow but worth the wait as Dr.Richard Walker (Harrison Ford) is caught up in a web of Parisian night-clubs, drugs, seedy characters and terrorist games in order to find his kidnapped wife.

This is a tight little thriller which Roman Polanski has tackled in a personal down to earth manner without big guns and explosions. The characters are believable and you get caught up in Richard Walker’s (an ordinary man in an unordinary situation) journey to find his wife.

Ford and Emmanuelle Seigner’s (Polanski’s wife) performances are top-notch, the chemistry between the unlikely pairing is the making of the more interesting, tense and memorable scenes. Ford’s Doctor Walker changes from a desperate fish out of water, to a driven survivor, while striking Seigner (Michelle) goes from self-centred drug trafficker, to heroine. The supporting cast are fantastic, an array of crazy characters including- french tramps and desk Clerks, to bumbling American officials and dodgy French cops.

Polanski’s direction is excellent and the movie is worth a watch just for a nostalgic look at 80’s back street Paris. This is a fine production accompanied by an excellent memorable score from Ennio Morricone. Throw in Paris as your backdrop and you get one of the best thrillers of the 80’s in the vein of Dial M for Murder mixed with a dash of Chinatown.

Frantic is sorely underrated.

Filmed 11 years later The Ninth Gate is the film adaptation of The Dumas Club, written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Johnny Depp plays Dean Corso, a rare book dealer, who is in search of copies of a demon text “The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows”, a book purportedly written by Lucifer himself and is said to contain knowledge to raise the devil. Corso gets drawn into a conspiracy with supernatural overtones.

The film is actually a lot cleverer than it’s given credit for, a subtle subtext, complex story and so on. Johnny Depp gives a fantastic performance as a cynical morally corrupted anti-hero.

Polanski’s wife Emmanuelle Seigner’s is cast as a mysterious blonde. Lena Olin fleets in and out as to does Frank Langella (Boris Balkan) who gives a great exaggerated performance. Like Polanski’s Frantic there is an array of quirky characters that push the story forward to a intriguing conclusion.

The special effects are very minimal and used very effectively, Darius Khondji’s cinematography is excellent and Wojciech Killar score is superb. The Ninth Gate is a highly atmospheric occult thriller, a fascinating experience.
Polanski’s Frantic, The Ghost and The Ninth Gate have not been given the credit that they deserve, and while I’m not writing this to convert or sway opinions they are films that should not go unnoticed by movie-goers.