Heatseeker (1995, directed by Albert Pyun)


Directed and co-written by Albery Pyun, Heatseeker takes place in the near future, in the year 2019!  The world is a corrupt and dangerous place where the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.  Corporations are as powerful as governments.  (Albert Pyun, prophet.)  Each corporation is represented by an MMA fighter because it’s not enough that a corporation provide a needed good or service.  Their fighters also have to be able to win tournament after tournament.

Chance O’Brien (Keith Cooke) is a world champion fighter who is unique because he fights without corporate sponsorship and he is also not a cyborg.  While every other fighter has been “enhanced,” O’Brien remains all-natural.  Evil CEO Tsui Tung (Norbert Weisser) wants to show off his newest fighter, Xao (Gary Daniels).  Tung arranges for Chance’s girlfriend and trainer to be kidnapped as a way to force O’Brien to travel to New Manila and take part in the ultimate fighting tournament.  Tung’s plan is for Xao to defeat Chance while the entire world is watching.  Chance just wants to rescue his girlfriend, even if she is now being forced to train Xao.

Heatseeker, I watched in memory of director Albert Pyun.  Pyun was the master when it came to movies about cyborgs entering MMA tournaments and Heatseeker is typical of his films.  The plot is incoherent but no one is watching for the plot.  The fights are the attraction and Pyun doesn’t waste too much time before getting into them.  Gary Daniels and Keith Cooke may not have been the best actors but they were pros when it came to fight scenes and they both give it their all as the work their way to their inevitable final confrontation.  Since all of the fighters, except for Chance, are also cyborgs, that means that each match ends with sparks and exposed stainless steel.

Pyun fans will get exactly what they want out of Heatseeker.  Along with the tournament, Heatseeker also features performance from Pyun regulars like Tim Thomerson and Thom Matthews.  One thing it does not do is feature anyone seeking heart but you can’t have everything.

 

Here’s The Trailer for Transformers: Rise of the Beasts


Here’s the trailer for the latest Transformers movie.

Like Bumblebee, this film is a prequel to the other Transformers films.  This film is set in 1994 so I guess viewers can look forward to grunge and flannel to go along with the robots or whatever it is the Transformers are supposed to be.

 

Here’s The Trailer For Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny


The Dial of Destiny?”

I can see why people are just calling this Indiana Jones 5.

Hopefully, this film will give Harrison Ford a chance to close out the Indiana Jones saga with a bit more panache than he was allowed in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Still, it just feels wrong the Spielberg isn’t directing.

Anyway, here’s the trailer.  It’s always nice to see Harrison Ford acting grumpy.

Here’s The Trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3!


To be honest, I’ve been a little bit bored with the MCU lately.  I mean, the Spider-Man films were fun and WandaVision was certainly better than I was expecting it to be but, for the most part, it’s been hard to shake the feeling that, post-Endgame, the MCU has lost a bit of its spark.  Endgame was such a logical place to stop that everything that’s come after it has felt a bit superfluous.

Still, if anyone can respark my interest in the MCU, it would be James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy.  And, fortunately, they’ve got a new film coming out next year!  Here’s the trailer, which seems to promise that the Guardians will continue to poke subtle fun at the conventions of the MCU while also using those conventions to their advantage.

At the very least, it should have a good soundtrack.

 

Retro Television Review: City Guys 3.1 “Greece Is The Word” and 3.2 “Mr. Baseball”


Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Season 3 of City Guys begins with a new school year!  Interestingly enough, everyone was either a junior or a senior when this show began so you really do have to wonder why they’re all still going to Manny High.  I mean, L-Train was investigating colleges just a few episodes ago!

It’s almost as if TNBC just didn’t care….

Episode 3.1 “Greece Is The Word”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 11th, 1999)

Oh, Christ.  Let’s get into this….

A new school year has begun!  Al and L-Train are looking forward to hazing freshmen.  Dawn has sworn that she is not going to spread herself too thin this semester.  Jamal shows up on campus and all of the students applaud.  Chris shows up and explains that he spent his summer in Greece and had a romance with a girl named Ariana.  Chris and Jamal do not do their stupid radio program so maybe that’s something that the show has finally abandoned.

Anyway, Ms. Nobel thinks that a school dance will be the perfect way to start the year.  Cassidy and Chris immediately volunteer to organize the dance.  It can be a 50s dance, they decide.  Everyone can wear leather jackets and poodle skirts and they can have a hula hoop contest!  Is there some reason why these schools can never have a normal dance?  

In order to research the 50s, Chris and Cassidy go to an arthouse theater that is showing …. you’ve already guessed, I’m sure …. GREASE!  Chris and Cassidy end up making out while watching the movie so they are now officially dating.  Except …. uh-oh, what’s Ariana doing in New York!?  Her father is in New York on business so Ariana decided to come with him so she could see Chris.  It turns out that she still thinks that she’s dating Chris.  It also turns out that Ariana delivers all of her lines in heavily accented broken English and the audience thinks it’s hilarious.

What’s dumb is that Cassidy already knows that Chris had a romance in Greece.  He told her about at the movie.  So, it’s not like she doesn’t know who Ariana is.  Cassidy got into a relationship with Chris fully aware that he had feelings for Ariana just a few weeks previously.  But, instead of telling Cassidy that Ariana is in town, Chris decided to lie to both of them.  He tells Ariana that he doesn’t have a New York girlfriend and he doesn’t tell Cassidy a thing.  Chris thinks that he can pull it off because Ariana is only going to be in town for a day but what if Ariana decides to stop by the dance before she leaves the country?

And yes, that’s exactly what happens.  Ariana gets upset and yells in broken English, which the audience finds hilarious.  Chris, who is dressed up like Elvis, apologizes to Cassidy.  Cassidy says that they’re going to have to take their relationship slowly.  So, I guess that means the writers still hadn’t decided whether they really wanted to commit to Cassidy and Chris as a couple.  We’ll see if this is another one of those storylines that gets abandoned or not.

This was the type of episode that drives me crazy, in that all of the conflict could have been avoided by people not being stupid.  It’s certainly not a good start to everyone’s second senior year at Manny High.  Hopefully, things will get better in our next episode….  

Episode 3.2 “Mr. Baseball”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 11th, 1999)

After spending the previous two seasons as an unathletic goofball, Jamal is suddenly revealed to a star baseball player in this episode.  In fact, Jamal is so good that he has never been struck out and there’s also a scout coming to the game to check him out.  Of course, Jamal lets the fame go to his head.  And, of course, Jamal strikes out with the scout watching.  Jamal’s immediate reaction is to announce that he’s quitting baseball and then to get into a fight with a random Paul Rudd look-alike on the roof.  Ms. Nobel, however, gives him a good talking to and Jamal decides to keep playing.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Chris and Jamal do still have their radio show but, with Jamal devoting all of his time to baseball, L-Train takes over as Chris’s co-host.  While the whole radio station thing has never made much sense to me, I do have to give credit where credit is due.  In the role of L-Train, Steven Daniel was often this show’s secret weapon and he shows it here, managing to get laughs from even  the lamest of jokes.  L-Train often got the worst lines but Daniel always delivered them with such sincerity that it was impossible not to smile.

Meanwhile, Dawn is upset that the Manny High’s mascot is a hunter.  She wants to change the mascot to a big apple.  Everyone laughs at her until she mentions that the Big Apple will always be accompanied by cheerleaders.  Did the Manny High Hunter not have cheerleaders?

Anyway, this wasn’t a bad episode at all, even if it was all a bit predictable.  Wesley Jonathan was not the most convincing athlete that I’ve ever seen but he did do a good job of portraying both Jamal’s anger and his shame after he struck out.  Even Cassidy gets a decent storyline, one which sees her getting thrown out of the game for excessive trash talk.  You go, Cassidy!

Maybe season 3 won’t be so bad after all….

(We’ll find out next week!)

Check Out These Snappy Covers!


1936 September, Cover by Earle Bergey

When it comes to the history of the pulps, it can be difficult to keep track of which magazine was which.  Snappy Stories was first published in 1912 and it ran until 1933.  The stories were considered to be risqué for the time but are tame by today’s standards.  During its heyday, Snappy Stories was one of the most popular magazines in America but it appears that its publishers fell victim to the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the final issue of Snappy Stories was published in 1933.

At the same time, there was another magazine called Snappy, that also features risqué stories and covers that featured pin-up artists.  Snappy began its run in 1929 and apparently ran through the 1930s.  Were Snappy Stories and Snappy Magazine connected or do they just have the same name?  I have not been able to find out for sure.

Both magazines, though, are popular with collectors.  Below is just a small sampling of Snappy covers!

1921, December. Cover by J. Norman Lynd

1922, July, cover by Carl Becker

1923, July, cover by DeAlton Valentine

1924, August, cover by Enoch Bolles

1925, May, cover by Enoch Bolles

1926, July, cover by Enoch Bolles

1926, October, cover by Enoch Bolles

1930, May, cover by Earle Bergey

1934, January, cover by Earle Bergey

1934, September, cover by Earle Bergey

1936, November, cover by Earle Bergey

1937, January, cover by Earle Bergey

Film Review: Don’s Plum (dir by R.D. Robb)


Filmed in 1996 and given a very limited European release in 2001, Don’s Plum is a micro-budget indie film.  It’s about a group of young friends who meet up at a diner called Don’s Plum and spend the entire night talking to each other.  It’s filmed in grainy black-and-white and the majority of the dialogue is improvised.  The main characters continually let us know that they’re friends by referring to each other as “bro.”  There’s a lot of conversations but none of it adds up to much.  In many ways, it feels typical of the type of indie films that were inspired by the early work of Richard Linklater and Kevin Smith.  Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly good or interesting film.

That said, Don’s Plum has achieved a certainly level of infamy due to the fact that two of the talkative friends are played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.  DiCaprio plays Derek, an arrogant, abrasive, and manipulative womanizer.  Tobey Magurie plays Ian, a weirdo with a spacey smile.  DiCaprio and Maguire were both up-and-coming stars when they filmed Don’s Plum.  DiCaprio, who had already received his first Oscar nomination and who had just finished shooting William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was a year away from Titanic.  Maguire was also a year away from his breakthrough role in The Ice Storm.  DiCaprio and Maguire not only starred in Don’s Plum but they’re also responsible for the film having never been commercially released in North America.

There’s a lot of conflicting stories about why DiCaprio and Maguire have both attempted to keep the film from being released.  DiCaprio’s story is that neither he nor Maguire were aware that they were shooting a feature film.  Instead, they thought they were making a short film and the only reason that they even showed up during the two nights of filming was because they were friends with the director, R.D. Robb.  The film’s producers, on the other hand, claimed that DiCaprio and Maguire always knew that they were making a feature film and that the reason they objected to the film’s release was because they were embarrassed by how much personal information they revealed while improving.  The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Of course, it’s also possible that DiCaprio and Maguire didn’t want the film to be seen because the film kind of sucks.  The dialogue is tedious, the film’s pace is painfully slow, the grainy black-and-white cinematography is dull, and the film’s soundtrack is so muddy that it’s difficult to understand what the characters are actually talking about.  Playing a total douchebag, DiCaprio does get to show off his natural charisma but Tobey Maguire appears to be dazed and confused in the role of Ian.  To be honest, both DiCaprio and Magurie are outacted by Kevin Connolly, who plays one of their friends and who would later go on to play the only vaguely likable character on Entourage.  (Connolly also directed the Brechtian gangster movie, Gotti.)  Connolly may not be as showy as DiCaprio or Maguire but his steady presence provides a nice contrast to Maguire’s fidgety mannerisms and DiCaprio’s need to always be the center of attention.

DiCaprio, Maguire, and Connolly are joined by Scott Bloom, playing the boring friend who will sleep with anyone.  Jenny Lewis gives a good performance in the role of DiCaprio’s quasi-girlfriend.  Amber Benson plays a hitchhiker who is abruptly chased out of the diner (and the movie) by an incredibly obnoxious DiCaprio.  At one point, Ethan Suplee wanders through the diner, playing a character who is identified in the credits as being “Big Bum.”  Everyone gets their chance to improv a monologue, often while staring at the bathroom mirror.  Eventually, DiCaprio’s character reveals a tragic secret from his past and it would have been an effective scene if not for the fact that it comes out of nowhere.

Oh, improv.  Improv has led so many directors and performers down the wrong path.  It’s an attractive idea, I suppose.  Get a camera.  Get some of your best friends to visit for the weekend.  Shoot a movie!  Who needs a script when you can just make it up as you go along.  Unfortunately, what’s often forgotten is that improv only works if you have a solid story idea or theme that you can continually return to if and when the improv itself starts to lose focus.  Curb Your Enthusiasm is a famous for being improved but all of the improvisations are based on a plot that’s discussed and set in stone ahead of time.  Don’s Plum feels more like one of those weird shows that George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh came up with for HBO in the mid-aughts.  (Remember that one with the acting class?  Frank Langella played a pompous acting teacher named Goddard Fulton and one of his students got a role on One Tree Hill.)  Don’s Plum meanders without any real direction, with none of the actors really trying to challenge each other.  An improved film like this needs a force of chaos, like Rip Torn provided for Norman Mailer’s Maidstone.  Instead, this film can only offer DiCaprio caricaturing his pre-Aviator persona as a hard-partying and often abrasive movie star.  (If nothing else, this film shows just how much DiCaprio has benefitted, as both an actor and a public personality, from collaborating with Scorsese.)

Don’s Plum is one of those films that is only well-known because of how difficult it is to see it.  But now you can see it on YouTube!  You can watch it and then you can ask yourself what all the controversy was about.  At this point, I think both DiCaprio and Maguire have proven themselves as actors and allowing for Don’s Plum to get, at the very least, a proper video release wouldn’t hurt the reputation of either one of them.  If anything, the best way to get people to forget about Don’s Plum would be to give them to the chance to try to sit through it.  There’s nothing about this film that sticks with the viewer, beyond the fact that neither Leo nor Tobey want anyone to watch it.