Cinemax Friday: Final Impact (1991, directed by Joseph Mehri)


 

The girl on the back cover of the VHS box is only in the film for 5 seconds.

Danny Davis (Michael Worth) is the light heavyweight kickboxing champion of Ohio but he wants to be the national champion so he approaches Nick Taylor (Lorenzo Lamas) for training.  Nick used to be the national champion but he is still haunted by his brutal defeat at the hands and feet of Jack Gerard (Jeff Langton).  Nick is now an alcoholic who makes his money on the oil wrestling circuit.  (The girls wrestle in oil while Nick kickboxes in a ring.  Guess what most of the people in the bar end up watching?)  When Danny and Nick first meet, the arrogant Nick refuses to have anything to do with him.  But when Nick sees Danny win his match and shout out, “I am invincible!,” Nick decides to take him under his wing.  The kid’s good but he needs to learn some lessons about making potentially ironic declarations in the ring.

Nick trains Danny and shows him that all of his talent won’t mean anything if he allows himself to become predictable.  Soon, Nick and Danny are making the national circuit and fighting in Las Vegas.  But as Danny becomes successful, Nick starts to grow jealous.  He starts to feel as if his girlfriend, Maggie (the incredible Kathleen Kinmont), prefers Danny to him and he becomes so insecure that he can’t even perform long enough to cheat with a local prostitute that he picks up in a bar.  Making matters worse is that, for Danny to become the champ, he’s going to have to defeat Jake Gerard, the man who ended Nick’s professional career.

Occasionally, late night Cinemax took a break from showing nudity-filled neo-noirs to show films like this one, a low-budget rip-off of Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Kickboxer.  Of all the films that came out of this very 90s genre, Final Impact is one of the better examples.  The fight scenes are exciting but the real appeal of this film is that it stars Lorenzo Lamas and Kathleen Kinmont, back when they were still a couple.  Kinmont was one of the best of the 90s video vixens, beautiful and not a bad actress either.  Meanwhile, Lorenzo Lamas was the male Shannon Tweed.  Lamas may not have been a great actor but his total lack of shame and his ability to deliver deadpan dialogue like, “No one is invincible,” without cracking a smile made him more entertaining than many of his fellow direct-to-video stars.  Lamas lurches drunkenly through Final Impact, taking both himself and the movie far too seriously and playing Nick’s emotional breakdown like an actor begging the Academy to just take a look.  It’s fun to watch.

Final Impact ends as these films always do, with a champion being crowned.  As far as I’m concerned, everyone in the film is champion, a champion of 90s Cinemax.

Love on the Shattered Lens: Lying Eyes (dir by Marina Sargenti)


If you want to see something creepy, just check out the first 5 minutes of the 1996 television film, Lying Eyes.

It takes place at a high school basketball game.  While the team is heading into the locker room for halftime (which is something that I assume they do in basketball, though I’ve never actually watched a game so I could be wrong), the cheerleaders run out onto the court and do their routine.  The camera switches back and forth from closeups of the cheerleader’s backsides to shots of a handsome man named Derek Bradshaw (Vincent Irizarry) sitting in the stands and obviously enjoying the show.

The scene already has a leering quality but what makes it disturbing is the little smile that comes to Derek’s face while he watches the cheerleaders.  Derek maybe handsome but he’s also quite a bit older than the teenagers who are sitting around him.  It’s obvious that he’s come to the game alone and it’s also obvious, just from the way that he’s watching, that he didn’t come because he’s a fan of high school basketball.  Instead, he’s there to ogle the cheerleaders.

Later, one of the cheerleaders — Amy Miller (Cassidy Rae) — is driving home.  We’ve already seen a scene where Amy explains to her best friend, Dana (Ashlee Levitch), that she’s tired of dating immature teenage boys.  While Amy’s sitting at a stop light, another car rear ends her.  The driver gets out and checks to see if Amy’s okay.  The other driver is ….. DEREK!

Amy is immediately charmed by Derek, especially after he offers to pay for the damage done to her bumper so that she won’t have to report the accident to her insurance company.  Later, when Amy goes to pick up her car from the garage that Derek recommended, she discovers that not only has the bumper been replaced but that Derek also had the mechanic install a CD player!  (Remember, this movie was made in 1996.)  And Derek’s given her a bundle of CDs!  When she thanks him, he smiles and says that he hopes that she likes Hootie and the Blowfish.

(Seriously, he says that.  I’m not joking.)

Anyway, Derek and Amy are soon having an affair.  Amy thinks that Derek is the best and even accepts his word when he explains that he’s married but he and his wife are separated.  However, everyone else in Amy’s life is suspicious of Derek and so are we, because we’ve seen a 100 movies just like this one!  Plus, we saw Derek acting all pervy at the high school basketball game….

Soon, Amy’s grades are slipping and her friends are getting mad at her because she’s no longer spending any time with them.  However, Amy has other things to be concerned about.  For instance, someone leaves a note in her mailbox, calling her a whore.  Someone keeps calling the house.  Someone takes a knife to her new leather jacket.  Apparently, someone is not happy about Amy’s relationship and, even after Amy breaks it off with Derek, the harassment continues.

Who is out to get Amy?  Could it be Derek?  Could it be Derek’s wife?  Could it be Dana or maybe even Dana’s older sister, Jennifer (Alison Smith)?  Or could it be someone who Amy doesn’t even suspect?

Lying Eyes is an enjoyably trashy film.  This is one of those movies where you know exactly what’s going to happen but the film itself is just so cheerfully melodramatic that you can’t help but get sucked into it.  Though the film was originally made for NBC, it has since become a Lifetime staple.  This really is the ultimate Lifetime film.  Unfortunately, it’s not as a good as it used to be because, the last few times I watched the film, I noticed that the original kickass soundtrack had been replaced by a generic soundtrack.  I get that this sort of thing happens and it has to do with whether or not the distributor feels like its worth the trouble to pay for the rights to the songs that originally appeared in the film.  But seriously, the generic music that replaced the original soundtrack often doesn’t even go with the scenes in which it is heard.  This is especially true of the film’s opening, where the cheerleaders’ opening routine was obviously choreographed to totally different music from what is now playing in the background.

On the plus side, Vincent Irizarry is both perfectly sleazy and perfectly charming in the role of Derek and Cassidy Rae is relatable and sympathetic at Amy.  Falling for a guy who is obviously wrong but refusing to listen to your friends and family because you want the fantasy to be true?  Seriously, we’ve all been there.  That was pretty much my entire life when I was 18 years old.  Rae does such a great job that you don’t even mind that Amy often behaves like an idiot.  (Seriously, if someone is stalking you, threatening to kill you, and forcing your car off the road, you might want to consider not shrugging it off.)

Lying Eyes is a good, trashy melodrama and if you’re looking for some Valentine’s Day counter programming, it’s on Amazon Prime.  I just wish they would bring back the original soundtrack.

Love On The Shattered Lens: Romeo and Juliet (dir by Franco Zeffirelli)


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now that the Oscars and the Sundance Film Festival are over with, it’s time to start a new series of reviews here on the Shattered Lens.  For the rest of February, I will be looking at some films that deal with the universal topic of love.  Some of these films will be romantic.  Some of them will be sad.  Some of them might be happy.  Some of them might be scary.  Some of them might be good.  And some of them might be bad.  In fact, to be honest, I haven’t really sat down and made out a definite list of which films I’ll be reviewing for Love On The Shattered Lens.  Instead, I figure I’ll just pick whatever appeals to me at the moment and we’ll see what happens!

Let’s start things off with the 1968 film version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

“Oh my God!  Romeo and Juliet are hippies!”

Well, that’s not quite true.  I mean, it is true that Romeo (played by Leonard Whitting) and Juliet (Olivia Hussey) are played by actual teenagers in this version of the classic play.  It’s also true that, even though the film is set in a painstakingly recreated version of 15th century Verona, almost all of the actors have what would have then been contemporary haircuts.  Romeo, Benvolio (Bruce Robinson), and Mercutio (John McEnery) all have longish hair, dress colorfully, and look like they could all be in the same band, covering the Beatles and writing songs about dodging the draft.  Even Tybalt (Michael York) seems a bit counter-cultural in this version.

As played by Olivia Hussey, Juliet comes across as being far more rebellious in this version of Romeo and Juliet than in some of the others.  It’s hard to imagine that Olivia Hussey’s Juliet would have much patience with Juliets played by Norma Shearer, Claire Danes, Hailee Steinfeld, or even the version of the character that Natalie Wood played in West Side Story.  Olivia Hussey’s Juliet is always one step away from running away from home and hitch-hiking to the free Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Speedway.  Like the audience that the film was intended for, Romeo and Juliet both know that their parents are out-of-touch and that their friends are only temporary.  Embracing love and pursuing all that life has to offer is what matters.

Was this the first film version of Romeo and Juliet to make explicit that the two characters had consummated their marriage?  I imagine it was since it was apparently also the first version of Romeo and Juliet to feature on-screen nudity.  That’s quite a contrast to the largely chaste 1936 version, in which Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard both seemed determined to keep a respectable distance from each other.  Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey have an amazing chemistry together.  They’re the two prettiest people in Verona and they just look like they belong together.  From the minute they meet, you believe not only that they would be attracted to each other but that they’re also meant to be lovers.

Of course, we all know the story.  The Capulets and the Montagues are rival families.  Juliet is a Capulet.  Romeo is a Montague.  Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, kills Romeo’s friend Mercutio.  Romeo kills Tybalt.  Juliet fakes her death.  Romeo commits suicide.  Juliet wakes up and does the same.  The Prince shows up and yells at everyone.  This film version moves around some of the events and it leaves out a few scenes but it actually improves on the play.  For instance, poor Paris (Roberto Bissaco) doesn’t die in this version.  Seriously, I always feel bad for Paris.

Throughout it all, director Franco Zeffirelli emphasizes the youth of the characters.  It’s not just Romeo and Juliet who are presented as young.  The entire Montague and Capulet feud is largely portrayed as being just a silly turf war between two competing high school cliques.  When Tybalt and Mercutio have their fateful duel, it starts out largely as a joke and, when Tybalt kills Mercutio, it comes across as if it was an accident on Tybalt’s part.  Tybalt appears to be just as shocked as anyone, like a scared kid holding a smoking gun and trying to explain that he didn’t know it was loaded when he pulled the trigger.  When Mercutio curses both the Capulets and the Montagues, it’s all the more powerful because Mercutio is undoubtedly wondering how the duel could have so quickly gone from playful taunting to a fatal stabbing.  The entire conflict between the Montague and the Capulets is a war that makes no sense, one in which the young are sacrificed while the old retreat to the safety of their homes.

Romeo and Juliet was a hit in 1968 and it’s still an achingly romantic film.  Whiting and Hussey generate more chemistry in just the balcony scene than Leonardo Di Caprio and Claire Danes did in the entirety of Baz Luhrmann’s version of the tragic tale.  Along with being a box office hit, it was also a critical hit.  The Academy nominated it for best picture, though it lost to Oliver!

It’s Love, Part 6


Happy Valentine’s Day!

As everyone knows, Valentine’s Day can be difficult when you’re single.  Everyone around you is in love and you’re just trying to find something good to watch on Netflix.  If you are among those who are single today, do not worry and do not despair.  You’re not the first person to find yourself in this situation and you’re not alone.  The path to true love is never an easy one to travel but the destination makes the trip worth it.  To help you on your journey, here are some vintage romance comic covers.  Even in the 1950s and the 1960s, Valentine’s Day wasn’t for everyone.

Finding love is not always easy.

And sometimes, you have to first discover who you are before you become a part of a couple.

But don’t worry because when you find love and you find the right person to share it with, it’s all worth it.

As Jane Austen once said, “There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

From The Humans and the Cat Here At TSL, Happy Valentine’s Day!


From the humans and the cat at the Shattered Lens to all of you, happy Valentine’s Day!

Some people, like the flame-haired one, love this day while the others, like almost all of the silly humans on twitters, hate this day.  Of course, if you’re a cat, every day is Valentine’s Day!

Whether you’re celebrating, observing, or denouncing this day, here’s hoping that it’s a good one for you and all of your loved ones!

Today, we wish love and happiness to every single one of you.  Over the last ten years, those of us here at the Shattered Lens have talked about the movies and the TV shows and the books and the music and the performers that we love but in the end, the most important love is the love that we have for each other and for those of you who have been kind enough to read our thoughts.

From the humans and the cat here at the Shattered Lens, thanks you!