Radical Jack (1999, directed by James Allen Bradley)

Billy Ray Cyrus is Jack, a tough-as-nails former CIA agent who is still traumatized by his actions during Desert Storm and the murder of his wife by the international terrorist, Riotti (Benny Nieves).

Stop laughing.

I’ll admit that the idea of Billy Ray Cyrus, the most mild and unthreatening of mullet-headed country music stars, playing a CIA burnout who has killed countless men may sound like something to laugh about but … forget it, I’ve got nothing.  Laugh all you want because it is ridiculous casting and, throughout the film, Billy Ray looks increasingly uncomfortable with the character’s R-rated antics.  Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do, though.  When this movie was made, it’d been seven years since Achy Breaky Heart and even one-hit wonders need to pay the bills.  In 1999, reinventing Billy Ray Cyrus as a second-tier action star probably seemed like a good idea.  Billy Ray may not be the most convincing CIA agent but he’s still more likable than Steven Seagal.

Billy Ray is sent undercover to a small town in Vermont.  Somehow, by working as a bouncer at the local roadhouse, Billy Ray Cyrus is supposed to find a way to expose two local arms dealers, Lloyd (George “Buck” Flower) and Lloyd’s good for nothing son, Rolland (Noah Blake).  Lloyd and Rolland are selling weapons to Riotti so this is personal for Billy Ray.  But Billy Ray is also romancing Rolland’s ex-girlfriend, Kate (Deedee Pfeiffer) so it is personal for Rolland too.

As both an action hero and a film, Radical Jack isn’t all that radical and Billy Ray Cyrus never looks comfortable in any of the action scenes or the scenes where he makes out with Deedee Pfieffer but there are still plenty of explosions, fights, and chase scenes.  Though she doesn’t have much romantic chemistry with Billy Ray, Deedee Pfieffer gives the best performance in the film, playing Kate as someone who knows that she deserves better than what life has given her.  Radical Jack was produced by the same people who did Time Chasers and fans of that film will be happy to visit the exact same landing strip and hangar that was featured so heavily in that sci-fi epic.  There’s also a twist at the end, which you’ll see coming from miles away and Billy Ray does something unexpectedly cruel with a hand grenade.  Radical Jack did not make an action star out of Billy Ray Cyrus but, two years later, he showed an unexpected talent for comedy with his small role in Mulholland Drive.  Seven years after playing a burned-out CIA assassin, Bill Ray Cyrus found new fame as Miley Cyrus’s father and Radical Jack would never ride again.

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 4.17 “Sharing The Spotlight” and 4.18 “New Girl In Town”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Hang Time!  This week, YouTube once again tries to keep me from watching every episode of Hang Time.

Episode 4.17 “Sharing the Spotlight”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 7th, 1998)

Julie is told that unless she does better in her Math class and passes her upcoming exam, she might not be eligible to play basketball.  OH NO!  I hope everything worked out….

Unfortunately, this is one of the two episodes of Hang Time that are not available on YouTube.  So, I have no idea if Julie learned a lesson about the importance of balancing academics with her extra-curriculars but I’m going to guess that she probably did.

Let’s move on to an episode that actually is on YouTube….

Episode 4.18 “New Girl In Town”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 7th, 1998)

Meanwhile, at the basketball camp….

Like I’ve said before, it’s not surprising that NBC showed these episodes out of order because, in the 90s, there were no continuity nerds around to call them out online.  Still, it’s hard not to get a little annoyed at how little NBC apparently cared about whether or not it was possible to follow the storyline from one episode to another.  Even though I can’t watch the previous episode, I can read the imdb plot description and know that it featured Julie in school.  Now, suddenly, Julie is a counselor at a summer camp.  Admittedly, I tend to be a bit over organized but messiness like this just drives me crazy.

Anyway, at camp, Mary Beth and Kristy get their hands tangled in a basketball net.  Julie watches them and refuses to help because she’s having too much fun reminding everyone that she’s not a “bonehead.”  Finally, Julie decides to help but soon, she gets tangled in the net as well.  “Now I’m a bonehead!” Julie declares.

“Awww geez,” Coach K. says as he walks up with Eve (Alexana Lambros), a new girl at the camp.  I haven’t mentioned it before because it was too stupid but “Awww geez” is Coach K’s catch phrase.

Eve is really excited to meet Julie but then again, everyone on this show is always excited to meet Julie.  Eve says that Julie inspired her to play basketball but everyone always says that to Julie.  Personally, I’m more interested in the fact that this new girl is named Eve.  We’ve all seen All About Eve, haven’t we?

And, indeed, it does turn out that Eve will do anything to look good on the court and to show up Julie.  Apparently, college scouts are coming to the camp and, since Eve is from a small high school, this might be her only opportunity to impress them.  It’ll be difficult to do that with Julie hogging the spotlight.  Now, if I was Eve, I would just point out to the scouts that Julie has been in high school for five years.  Instead, Eve tries to sabotage Julie by 1) flirting with Julie’s ex-boyfriend, 2) cutting Julie’s shoe laces, 3) spilling bleach on Julie’s clothes, and 4) locking Julie in a storage shed.


Okay, admittedly, Eve isn’t going about things the right way but, after four seasons of Julie always being right and perfect, it’s kind of hard not to appreciate Eve as a force of chaos.  Eve seems to be having so much fun being bad that it reminds us of just how boring a character Julie really could be.  The audience applauds when Eve gets her inevitable comeuppance but I have a feeling that a lot of them were secretly on her side.

Anyway, it all works out.  Coach K sends Eve home.  The University of Connecticut says that they’ll probably still offer Julie a scholarship.  Of course, Julie would have to actually graduate high school first and that’s not going to happen for a while.  Hopefully, someone still offered Eve a scholarship.  Sportsmanship is overrated.

Next week: the team once again prepares for the play-offs!

Monday Live Tweet Alert: Join Us For Drive and Top Gun!

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in hosting a few weekly live tweets on twitter and occasion ally Mastodon.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of Mastodon’s #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We snark our way through it.

Tonight, for #MondayActionMovie, the film will be 1997’s Drive!  Selected and hosted by Sweet Emmy Cat, this movie features Mark Dacascos!  So, you know it has to be good!

Following #MondayActionMovie, Brad and Sierra will be hosting the #MondayMuggers live tweet.  We will be watching 1986’s Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and John Stockwell!  The film is on Prime!

It should make for a night of fun viewing and I invite all of you to join in.  If you want to join the live tweets, just hop onto Mastodon, pull up Drive on YouTube, start the movie at 8 pm et, and use the #MondayActionMovie hashtag!  Then, at 10 pm et, switch over to Twitter and Prime, start Top Gun, and use the #MondayMuggers hashtag!  The live tweet community is a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy. 

Film Review: Rumble in the Bronx (dir by Stanley Tong)

First released in 1995, Rumble in the Bronx is known for two things.

First off, it’s the film that finally made Jackie Chan a star in America.  Chan had been an international star for two decades before starring in this film but he had initially struggled to break into the American film industry.  Before Rumble in the Bronx, no one in Hollywood was quite sure what to do with an actor who was both skilled at martial arts and who also had perfect comedic timing.  Indeed, the very title of  Rumble in the Bronx seems to designed to make Americans feel comfortable with the film.  Jackie Chan may have been from Hong Kong and the film itself may have been dubbed and it may have been released internationally before New Line got around to releasing it in the States but it was a film about the Bronx!  And what’s more American than the Bronx?

Except, of course, Rumble in the Bronx wasn’t filmed in the Bronx.  The other thing for which this film is remembered was that it may have taken place in the Bronx but it was filmed in Vancouver.  From the minute the audience sees Jackie walking through this film’s version of the Bronx, it’s pretty obvious that he’s in Canada.  All of the extras are very polite.  The city streets are surprisingly clean.  Even the graffiti is rather mild in tone.  (Reportedly, the production spray-painted the locations every morning and then cleaned up all the graffiti at night.)  When the film shows us its version of an NYPD stationhouse, the building is so neat and clean that it seems like it should be in a Canadian tourism brochure.  New York has never looked more inviting than when it was played by Vancouver.

Of course, the main giveaway that this film was shot in Canada was that there are mountains in the background.  Majestic mountain ranges are one of the few things that you cannot find in New York City.  When the bad guys drive someone out of the city so that they can threaten him, they end up in front of an absolutely gorgeous mountain stream.  Seriously, I’m sure I’m not the only person who wanted to travel to Canada after watching Rumble in the Bronx.

But, hey …. it’s a Jackie Chan movie!  If you can’t suspend your disbelief while watching a Jackie Chan movie then when can you suspend it?  The film’s plot is not terribly complex.  Jackie plays a Hong Kong cop who comes to New York for his uncle’s wedding.  While his uncle is on his honeymoon, Jackie looks over his uncle’s store and protects it from the local gang.  Jackie also befriends Nancy (Francoise Yip) and her wheelchair-bound brother, Danny (Morgan Lam).  Both Nancy and Danny need someone to look out for them and to encourage both of them to reject the seedier temptations of the Bronx.  They also need Jackie to protect them from the golf-loving crime lord, White Tiger (Kris Lord).

The plot is mostly an excuse for a series of increasingly elaborate fights and stunts.  As always, it’s fun to not only watch Jackie Chan in action but to also try to spot all the moments in which he nearly killed himself performing his own stunts.  Rumble in the Bronx is the film in which Jackie Chan broke his ankle while jumping onto a hoverboat.  One can actually see the ankle bending at an extremely awkward angle.  I actually covered my eyes when I realized what was happening because it was obviously very painful.  If anyone had any doubt of how painful it was, Jackie included footage of him howling in pain during the end credits.  That said, as painful as it was to watch Jackie’s ankle snap, it doesn’t change the fact that this film’s finale actually involves a hovercraft!  Even without Jackie’s stunts, the action in this film’s finale would be enjoyably and shamelessly over the top.  But knowing that Jackie was out there risking his life to make the film makes it all the more enjoyable.  And it also helps that Jackie Chan is a legitimately good actor, one who gets a lot of laughs out of the fact that the characters that he plays are often as shocked by some of the things that he does (and survives) as the audience is.

Myself and a few others watched Rumble in the Bronx on Friday as a part of our weekly #FridayNightFlix get-together.  We had a blast.  Another film that we recently watched for #FridayNightFlix, Escape From The Bronx, is famous for its line of “It is time to leave the Bronx”  but you know what?  Why would anyone ever want to leave beautiful Vancouver?