Mardi Gras Film Review: On Hostile Ground (dir by Mario Azzopardi)

Uh-oh!  New Orleans might be in trouble!

In the 2000 film, On Hostile Ground, John Corbett plays a geologist named Matt Andrews.  Matt has been asked to investigate why two giant sinkholes have suddenly opened in New Orleans.  The mayor’s press secretary, George Regan (Peter Stebbins), hopes that Matt will just do a perfunctory investigation and then declare the sinkholes to be no big deal.  After all, it’s nearly time for Mardi Gras and it would be an economic disaster to cancel this year’s celebration.  One can only assume that, like most movie bureaucrats, Regan has never seen Jaws and therefore doesn’t understand the folly of saying, “We can’t close the city during tourist season!”

However, Matt’s a geologist and he holds himself up to a higher standard.  He doesn’t care about whether or not people get to celebrate Mardi Gras or not.  In fact, just listening to him talk and watching him work, you get the feeling that Matt was probably the guy who, during previous Mardi Gras celebrations, would say, “You guys go without me.  I’ve got to get some work done.”  Anyway, Matt does some investigating and discovers that New Orleans is basically about to collapse into the Earth.  It could happen tomorrow or it could happen 3,000 years from now but it will happen.  Matt also points out that, even if the entire city manages to not sink into the Earth, the sinkholes could cause the levees to collapse and then the entire city would be flooded.  (This movie was made before Katrina.)

Regan hears Matt out and then decides to hide all of his evidence and let Mardi Gras go on as planned.

Can you guess what happens?

There’s a few things that I immediately noticed about On Hostile Ground.

First off, my family lived in Louisiana for about a year and a half.  I’ve been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  I can usually tell when a film has actually been shot in Louisiana as opposed to some place nearby like, say, Georgia.  Watching On Hostile Ground, I noticed that it appeared that at least a few of the Mardi Gras scenes had actually been filmed in New Orleans.  There wasn’t quite as much Mardi Gras footage as I was expecting but what there was appeared to be authentic.  However, whenever the action moved outside of the French Quarter, I couldn’t help but notice that the surroundings looked very Canadian and that very few of the extras sounded like they had ever spent any time anywhere near the Big Easy.  In short, it quickly became obvious that the majority of this made-for-television film was shot in Montreal and Toronto.  Canada really can’t pass for Louisiana, much as how they could have never shot an episode of Degrassi in New Orleans.

The other thing I noticed is that, despite New Orleans being below sea level, Matt and his fellow geologists had no trouble finding dry underground caverns underneath the city.  It reminded me a bit of that old X-Files movie where the kids find an underground cavern right outside of Dallas.  Some things just aren’t going to happen, okay?

Anyway, this is one of those low-budget disaster films where everyone refuses to listen to the scientist and disaster follows.  This is the type of film that, nowadays, would probably be made by the Asylum for the SyFy Network.  That said, the Asylum version would probably be a lot more fun because there would be probably be like a sea serpent or killer Mardi Gras floats or something.  This one is just kind of dull and spends too much time on build-up without enough pay-off.

On Hostile Ground is not really worth sacrificing any beads for.


Love On The Shattered Lens: Xanadu (dir by Robert Greenwald)

“What the Hell did I just watch?” I asked myself as the end credits rolled for the 1980 film, Xanadu.

Xanadu is one of those films where words just fail you.  It’s a musical and it stars Olivia Newton-John, who has a good voice even if she’s also kind of a bland screen presence.  The music is really good.  I love the main song and it’s definitely one that has gotten stuck in my head every time that I’ve heard it.  Of course, for the longest time, I thought Olivia was singing, “One-a-due.”  (Seriously, I’m the worst when it comes to mishearing lyrics.)  But no, I later discover that she was singing about Xanadu and who would have guessed that Xanadu would turn out to be a roller disco?

Yes, it’s a very strange movie.

Xanadu starts out with a mural of nine women coming to life.  The 9 women are the Muses.  You may remember them from Greek mythology.  They exist to inspire artists who inevitably end up falling in love with him without realizing that a muse is not allowed to love back.  This leads to a lot of great art but also to a lot of broken hearts.  Olivia Newton-John plays a muse named Terpsichore but she prefers to be known as Kira because …. well, wouldn’t you?  For centuries, Kira has inspired great works of art.  She’s worked with Michelangelo and probably a few poets as well.  As someone who majored in Art History, I’m thankful for Kira because, without her, my degree would be totally useless as opposed to just slightly.  In the year 1980, Kira has again entered the mortal world so that she can inspire …. a roller disco.

Yeah, okay.

Listen, I could probably go on for about a thousand words about how disappointed I would be to go from inspiring the Mona Lisa to inspiring a tacky roller disco in Malibu.  But it doesn’t seem to bother Kira so good for her!  Of course, Kira is a bit distracted because she’s broken the number one rule of being a muse.  She’s fallen in love with an artist!

Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) is a painter whose job involves painting larger versions of album covers so that they can be displayed in the windows of record stores.  Sonny dreams of being an independent artist but instead, he’s stuck recreating the works of others.  He feels like his life and his work are going nowhere.  However, once he sees a picture of Kira, he is immediately inspired.  And then, when Kira skates up behind him and kisses him, he’s in love!


The only problem, of course, is that Sonny is a human being and Kira is a mythological creature.  If Sonny was destined to fall in love with a creature from Greek mythology, I guess he should be happy that it was one of the muses and not Medusa.  But anyway, Kira says that she’s not allowed to be with Sonny so Sonny tries to talk Zeus and Hera into changing the rules.  Whether or not he succeeds is kind of left up in the air.  I think a bigger problem would be the fact that Kira is immortal whereas Sonny comes across like he’ll probably end up snorting too much cocaine before the 80s are over.  But that’s never really brought up in the film.

Around the same time that Sonny meets Kira, he also meets Danny (Gene Kelly!), who is a former big time band leader who now spends his time hanging out on the beach and dreaming about opening up a roller disco.  It turns out that, when Danny was a young man, he was also inspired by Kira.  Danny and Sonny join forces and soon, Xanadu is a reality!  Danny fantasizes about a 1940s style nightclub.  Sonny fantasizes about a generic “rock club.”  They may have two different visions but fortunately, they both agree one one thing: everyone has to wear roller skates.

Xanadu is one of those films where not much really happens but it’s still incredibly busy.  Danny keeps on dancing.  Sonny keeps on painting and bitching about how his life isn’t going anywhere.  Kira keeps on roller skating through everyone’s life.  As I said, the music’s great but the storyline …. well, to be honest, I thought the film’s story was fun as an example of something that could only have seemed logical in the late 70s.  I mean, it’s an incredibly stupid film but Gene Kelly’s in it and, even at the age of 68, he was still such a dedicated old trouper that you can’t help but smile whenever he breaks out a few moves.  Add to that, Michael Beck and Olivia Newton-John do make for a cute couple, even if both of them were reportedly miserable during filming.  They just look like they belong together, in a California beach community sort of way.

Xanadu’s a big mess of a movie but it’ll make you dance and it’ll make you sing.  All together now: One-a-due, One-a-due something want to do….*

Cinemax Friday: Killing Streets (1991, directed by Stephen Cornwell)

Most of the time, late night Cinemax was dominated by noirish films starring Shannon Tweed but, occasionally, the network did slip in a low-budget action flick.  Killing Streets is a typical example of one of those films.

A Marine named Craig Brandt (Michael Pare) has disappeared in Beirut so his twin brother Chris (also played by Michael Pare) flies all the way over from Dayton, Ohio to search for him.  Even though everyone says that Craig’s dead, Chris knows that it isn’t true because, as a twin, he and Craig have a psychic connection.  It turns out, of course, that Chris is right.  Craig is being held prisoner by terrorist leader Abdel (Alon Aboutboul).  Chris is determined to rescue Craig, even though Charles (Lorenzo Lamas), an official at the American embassy, orders him to leave the country.  Chris may just be a high school basketball coach but that doesn’t stop him from going all Jack Bauer on every terrorist that he meets.  With the help of diplomat Sandra Ross (Jennifer Runyon) and Gilad (Gabi Amrani), the Middle East’s most helpful taxi driver, Chris sets out to rescue his brother.

When I started watching Killing Streets, I was excited because, according to the opening credits, it starred Lorenzo Lamas and it was produced by Menahem Golan.  Unfortunately, for the most of the movie, Lamas doesn’t get to do much other than bark out orders in one of the least convincing Southern accents that I’ve ever heard.  Instead, the first part of the movie is all about Michael Pare.  Michael Pare usually isn’t capable of showing enough emotion to be convincing as one character.  Now, imagine him playing two characters.  While one Michael Pare is walking around Beirut and searching for clues, the other Michael Pare is sitting in a cell and getting beaten and, since they both always have the same blank expression on their face, the only way you can tell which Michael Pare is which is by paying attention to who has more blood on them.  The whole time, you just want Lorenzo Lamas to show up and start showing off his Renegade skills but instead, he’s stuck telling one of the Michael Pares that he better get on the next plane back home.

Luckily, towards the end of the movie, the two Michael Pares team up with Lorenzo Lamas and they spend about ten minutes shooting guns and blowing stuff up and doing all of the other things that we want to see happen in a film like this.  It just takes a while to get there and while Menahem Golan may have produced this film, he didn’t direct it so, even though the ending is exciting, most people will probably lose interest before they get there.  As far as action films about rescuing hostages in the Middle East are concerned, this is no Delta Force.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Sam Peckinpah Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

95 years ago today, Sam Peckinpah was born in Fresno, California.  He went on to become one of the most influential and most self-destructive directors of all time.  Peckinpah was as legendary for his combative personality and his behind-the-scenes conflicts with the studios as he was for his talent.

Even after he revolutionized the western with The Wild Bunch, Peckinpah often struggled to get work and, when he died at the too young age of 59, it was after years of being neglected by the same industry that had once embraced him.  Fortunately, a new generation of filmmakers discovered and appreciated Peckinpah’s work and have kept Mad Sam’s legacy going today.  Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez owe a huge debt to him.  (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood particularly felt as if it was suffused with the spirit of Peckinpah.)  Whenever you see someone getting shot in slow motion or a group of old timers (whether they’re criminals or cowboys) getting ready to take a final stand, you’re seeing the influence of Sam Peckinpah.

In honor of Sam Peckinpah, here are:

4 Shots from 4 Films

The Wild Bunch (1969, directed by Sam Peckinpah)

The Getaway (1972, directed by Sam Peckinpah)

Cross of Iron (1977, directed by Sam Peckinpah)

The Osterman Weekend (1983, directed by Sam Peckinpah)

Music Video of the Day: You Suck by Abigail Breslin (2014, dir by ????)

You tell ’em, Abigail!

I like to think that this song was directed at whoever it was who convinced her to appear in New Year’s Eve.

I’m happy to say that no one in my life sucks right now.  In fact, I’m about to go on a two week vacation with my favorite person in the whole wide world.  Fear not, though.  I may be gone but I have a lot of posts written out and scheduled to publish until I get back.  So, I’ll be on vacation and yet, I’ll still be posting reviews.  I often think about this because it’s actually a pretty common occurrence for me to write out a review and then schedule it to publish way later in the year.  So, if — God Forbid — I were to die over the next two weeks, I would still be posting reviews all the way through 2021.  It would be like my ghost telling you what movies to see …. FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE!  That’s kind of neat.

Anyway, enjoy!