Music Video of the Day: Angel in Blue Jeans by Train (2014, dir by Brendan Walter and Mel Soria) (Happy Birthday, Danny Trejo!)


Happy birthday, Danny Trejo!

Today’s music video of the day features Danny Trejo riding a motorcycle through the desert and doing other badass, Danny Trejo-type things.  I know that a lot of people will watch this video and think to themselves, “My God, he can sing too!”  However, believe it or not, Trejo is just lip-syncing.  I know.  I was shocked to find that out, too.  That said, Trejo does a pretty good job lip-syncing and it’s possible that he may have been singing during the filming.

Seriously, who doesn’t love Danny Trejo?  Not only is he a good actor who appears to sincerely want to improve the lives of other people but he’s got a pretty inspiring personal story too.  So today, we happily wish the best of birthdays and we invite you to….

Enjoy!

 

Here’s The Trailer for Inmate #1: The Rise of Danny Trejo


There haven’t been many trailers to share, lately.  That’s largely due to the uncertainty that’s surrounding COVID-19 and when — if ever — certain films are going to be able to get a theatrical release.  That said, there is a new trailer out and I think that a lot of our readers are going to be interested in it.

So, without further ado….

Inmate #1 is a documentary about how all-around badass Danny Trejo went from being a convict to being a cultural icon.  As anyone who has ever seen Trejo interviewed can tell you, he’s got an inspiring life story and he’s also a wonderful storyteller.  I’m looking forward to seeing this documentary, which will be released in the United States on July 7th.

Dilemma (1997, directed by Eric Larsen)


Delfina, a precocious ten year-old, desperately needs a bone marrow transplant.  Unfortunately, the only available donor is Rudy Salazar (Danny Trejo), a sociopath who is currently sitting on Death Row.  (We’re told that Rudy is the only possible donor because both he and Delfina are “half-Mexican, half-Greek.”  I’m not a medical expert but I imagine there’s probably more to finding a donor than just that.  And, even if it was that simple, surely Rudy and Delfina are not the only two people of Mexican-Greek ancestry living in Los Angeles.)  Lydia Cantrell (Sofia Shinas), who works for the governor, arranges for Rudy’s death sentence to be commuted to life in prison in return for him donating his marrow.  At the hospital, Rudy stages a violent escape and soon, he and his old gang are on a rampage.

It falls to renegade Detective Quin Quinlan (C. Thomas Howell) to track down Rudy and bring his rampage to an end.  The only catch is that Rudy has to be captured alive because Delfina still needs that transplant.  Complicating matters is that Quinlan really enjoys shooting the bad guys.

If the plot of Dilemma sounds familiar, you may be one of the handful of people who remember an old Michael Keaton/Andy Garcia film called Desperate MeasuresDesperate Measures may have had the same plot as Dilemma (along with a bigger budget and bigger stars in the cast) but it didn’t have Danny Trejo.  Trejo appears without his trademark mustache and he really plays up the idea that Rudy Salazar is one evil dude.  Rudy’s so evil that he even laughs at shooting people in the back.  When a member of his gang is wounded in a shootout and begs, “Don’t leave me, dawg!,” Rudy takes one look at him and says, “You’re of no use to me.”  Only Danny Trejo can make a line that work.  With the rest of the cast not making much of an effort one way or the other, Danny Trejo is the best thing about Dilemma and one of two reasons to watch the movie.  The other reason is to watch in amazement as both the police and the criminals fire thousand of bullets at each other without ever having to stop and reload their guns.  Luckily, they’re all terrible shots who only have good aim when its convenient for the plot.

There’s no dilemma about skipping this one.

Horror Film Review: Anaconda (dir by Luis Llosa)


In many ways, the 1997 monster film Anaconda is an incredibly dumb movie but let’s give credit where credit is for.  Whoever was in charge of casting this movie managed to assemble the most unlikely group of co-stars that you would ever expect to see in a movie about a documentary crew who run into a giant snake while sailing down the Amazon River.

I mean, let’s just consider the most familiar names in the cast.  Jennifer Lopez.  Ice Cube.  Jon Voight.  Owen freakin Wilson.  I mean, it’s not just that you wouldn’t expect to come across these four people all in the same movie.  It’s that they all seem to come from a totally different cinematic universe.  They’ve all got their own unique style of acting and seeing them all on the same small boat together is just bizarre.  You’ve got Jennifer Lopez, delivering her lines with a lot of conviction but not much sincerity.  And then you’ve got Ice Cube coolly looking over the Amazon and basically daring the giant snake to even think about trying to swallow him.  Owen Wilson is his usual quirky self, delivering his lines in his trademark Texas stoner drawl.  And then you’ve got Jon Voight.

Oh my God, Jon Voight.

Voight plays Paul Serone, a Paraguayan who says that he can help the documentary crew find an isolated Amazon tribe but who, once he gets on the boat, basically takes over and announces that he’s actually a snake hunter and he’s planning on capturing the biggest anaconda in existence.  It takes a while for the snake to show up.  When it finally does, it’s actually a pretty impressive throw-back to the type of cheesy by entertaining monsters that used to show up in drive-in movies back in the 50s and the 60s.  But really, the biggest special effect in the movie is Jon Voight.  Wisely, Voight doesn’t waste any time trying to be subtle or in anyway believable in the role of Serone.  Instead, Voight gives a performance that seems to be channeling the spirit of the infamous Klaus Kinski.  Voight growls, snarls, and glares as if the fate of the world depended upon it and he rips into his Paraguayan accent with all the ferocity of a character actor who understands the importance of being memorable in an otherwise forgettable movie.  It’s as if Voight showed up on set and looked at what was going and then said to himself, “Well, Jon, it’s all up to you.”  Serone is really a pretty vicious character.  I mean, he literally strangles a character to death with his legs!  But, thanks to Voight’s crazed energy he’s still the most compelling character in the movie.  It’s really scary to think about what the film would have been like without Voight shaking things up.  Along amongst the cast, Voight seems to understand just how silly Anaconda truly is.  Voight takes a rather middling monster movie and, through sheer force of will, manages to make it at least somewhat entertaining.

Personally, I’d like to see a remake of Anaconda, one that would feature the same cast but would be directed by Werner Herzog.  Just imagine if Herzog had told the story of that trip down the Amazon.  Gone would be the bland dialogue and rudimentary character motivations.  Instead, we’d have Jennifer Lopez slowly going insane while hundreds of monkey lay siege to the boat and Ice Cube musing on the never ending conflict between man and nature.  Herzog’s Anaconda would probably be just crazy enough to keep up with Jon Voight’s performance.

Review: Predators (dir. by Nimrod Antal)


Predators

It would be 20 years before those space-faring hunters, the Predators, would grace the bigscreen once again. Sure, they were part of the two Aliens vs. Predator films of the early 2000’s, but I don’t count them as part of the Predator franchise just due to the fact that they weren’t the headliner. Plus, those two mash-up films were all sorts of something awful.

2010’s Predators by Nimrod Antal (produced by Robert Rodriguez) looked to bring some new life into the scifi action franchise which the two AvP films quickly drained of life and excitement. From the early 1990’s til the release of this film, the franchise gradually built up it’s very own unique film universe which (through novels, comics, games, etc.) was as rich as any scifi franchise. Those who followed this world-building began to understand the Predators culture, mindset and technology.

For some, this meant erasing some of the mystery that made the Predator such an iconic film monster, but others thought it helped established rules for others to follow to help streamline the stories instead of relying too much on one-upping one story after the other.

Predators followed some of the world-building done prior, but also introduces a new wrinkle in the lore by adding the so-called “Super Predators” who were bigger, faster and meaner than the classic ones we’ve seen through the decades. Also new to the Predator lore was setting the film on an unnamed planet which would act as some sort extraplanetary game preserve where Predators could hunt their chosen prey at their leisure and on ground they know.

This new plot point adds a dimension to the film’s narrative in that the humans being hunted had no where to go. Their chances for survival even less now that whatever advantage they might have had on Earth go by the wayside. They’re now being hunted on Predator ground. It’s akin to sport’s game hunting where rich dentists and lawyers pay to hunt specific game in a controlled and managed way in the savannah’s of Africa.

Yet, despite these new additions to the franchise’s lore the film, for the most part, works as an action film. We have the requisite band of misfits, murderers and killers. The worst humanity has to offer but the best at what they do. They run the gamut of black ops mercenaries, elite snipers, drug cartel and rebel enforcers and right up to even a serial killer.

Leading this ragtag bunch, however reluctantly, was the enigmatic Royce played by Oscar-winner Adrien Brody (who actually pulls off the wiry, cold-hearted black ops killer). It’s through his character that the entire film hinges. He’s not the type to play well with others, let alone work with a team as disparate as the one he’s accidentally been stuck with on an unnamed death world. Still, the film works with him as it’s lead. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to believe that this character could easily kill everyone around him and have the best chance to survive being hunted.

He’s the stand-in for the audience who scoff at how those around him make one dumb mistake after another. This is not to say that he’s likable, because he’s definitely in the anti-hero mold who would sacrifice his own teammates if it meant living another hour. Yet, he also understands that his best chance at survival is to continue to use the others even if it means saving their lives.

Nimrod Antal has an eye for action that was very much a throwback to the McTiernan days of the franchise. He allows the scene to unfold in long, sweeping takes to establish a sense of the action’s geography. It’s a skill that less and less action filmmakers use nowadays as quick cuts and edits have become the go-to technique to make a scene more action-packed than it truly is.

Where the film suffers has less to do with Antal’s direction, but more on how exposition-heavy the film gets to try and explain the situation to the rest of the cast. Every time the film ends an action sequence we get some exposition to explain what’s going on to the characters. the writers even wrote in a character (played by a very game Laurence Fishburne) whose only role is to be Exposition Man.

Now, let’s talk about the new Super Predators. They’re an interesting trio of hunters that actually adds some new color and excitement to the Predator series, but at the cost of the more classic Predator we saw with the first two films.

We have three new types of Predators who represent three types of hunters. There’s the Tracker who uses a sort of alien hunting dog to flush out the prey. Then there’s the Falconer who uses a sort of cybernetic drone who scout ahead and look for the prey. The drone looks like something out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Falcon bag of gadgets. But it’s the biggest and baddest of the three, the Berserker, who headlines the new trio. Where the other two have a specific hunting role to play, the Berserker is just as its named. There’s no skill to this hunter, but just sheer brute force to take down what it’s hunting.

They’re a cool-looking bunch but they do detract from the more classic Predator. They actually make the original ones seem more than just a tad useless and helpless when put up against these newest trio.

Predators was definitely a couple steps above what audiences had received with the two Aliens vs. Predator films. Despite some shortcomings with an exposition-heavy screenplay and a narrative choice to make the classic Predator less intimidating, Nimrod Antal’s entry into the Predator franchise has enough action and new world-building additions to bring back some excitement into the series. It’s a shame that the stink from the two AvP films impacted this film and how many people ended up seeing it, but with each passing year more and more people have begun to rethink their initial negative feelings about Predators and give the film it’s just due of being a fun and exciting scifi actioner.

Film Review: Guns (dir by Andy Sidaris)


As you can probably tell by looking at the poster at the top of this review, the 1990 film Guns was Andy Sidaris’s attempt to make a Bond film.  Not only does the poster feature a man in a tuxedo and two gun-wielding women but the tag line even reads, “James Never Had This Kind of Help!”

(Of course, that’s not really true, as anyone who has seen Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, or For Your Eyes Only can tell you.)

Much like a Bond film, Guns features a secret agent fighting to defeat an international conspiracy.  The agent’s efforts lead her and her allies to several different cities in several different … well, really only one country.  Being a Sidaris film, it’s doubtful the Guns really had the budget to film anyplace other than the United States but still, the action does move from Lake Huvasa, Arizona to Hawaii to Las Vegas.  That’s about as close as a Sidaris film ever gets to featuring exotic locations.

(If Lake Havusa sounds familiar, that’s because Jimmy Kimmel gave away at trip to Lake Havusa during the Oscars.)

And like any good Bond film, Guns has a flamboyant and almost comically evil villain.  Juan “Jack of Diamonds” Degas (telenovela star and future reality tv mainstay Erik Estrada) is an international gun dealer and an all-around sociopath.  He’s the type who shoots someone and then smirks about it.  He’s so evil that he’s even got Danny Tejo working as his main henchman!  That’s really evil!  Estrada gives a surprisingly good performance in the role.  Especially when compared to the forgettable villains who appeared in Sidaris’s previous films, Juan Degas feels like a worthy opponent.  It’s not just that he’s evil.  It’s that he’s so damn smug about it.  You can’t wait to see him get taken down.

Degas is planning on smuggling a bunch of Chinese weapons into America through a base on Hawaii.  The only problem is that Donna (Dona Speir) and her new partner, Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez), are based in Hawaii!  Degas knows that he has to get rid of them if he’s going to have any hope of succeeding.  (For whatever reason, it never occurs to Degas to smuggle the weapons through Guam or American Samoa. I mean, there are other islands out there.)  When Degas sends two cross-dressing assassins to kill Nicole, they end up not only shooting the wrong woman but also killing a friend of Dona’s as well.

Now, it’s personal!

Except, it was already personal.  In a typical example of Sidaris’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along style of  plotting, it turns out that Degas previously killed Donna’s father.  And now, it appears that it might get even more personal because Degas has kidnapped the Attorney General of Nevada, who happens to be Donna’s mother!

Obviously, this means that it’s time to gather together another group of misfit agents and take down the bad guys.  That means that Savage Beach‘s Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane) and Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) both show up again.  It also means that a lovable magician named Abe (Chuck McCann) gets to help out as well.  Unfortunately, one member of the team is eventually blown up by a remote control boat.

That’s right!  A remote control boat!  For some reason, remote control vehicles were a Sidaris obsession and it’s not a Sidaris film without someone getting blown by either a remote control boat or helicopter.

Anyway, there’s a lot of explosions to be found in Guns but the good thing is that it’s women blowing stuff up and it’s women who are in charge of the entire operation.  That’s the thing with a Sidaris film like this one.  For all of the nudity and the double entendre-filled dialogue, Guns was an action films where women got to shoot the guns, beat up the bad guys, and ultimately save the world from a smirking misogynist.  When Donna picked up that rocket launcher, it was both ludicrous and empowering at the same time.

Guns is one of Sidaris’s better films.  For once, despite all of the usual Sidaris red herrings, the plot can actually be followed and Estrada is an appropriately hissable villain.  While the film may not be able to compete with the best of the Bond films, it’s still more fun that SPECTRE.

Bronson’s Rich: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987, directed by J. Lee Thompson)


To quote The Main With No Name, “When a man’s got money in his pocket, he begins to appreciate peace.”

Two years have passed since Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) last visited and cleaned up New York.  He is back in Los Angeles, the president of his own successful architectural firm.  Now a rich man, he has retired from killing criminals, though he still has dreams where he shoots muggers in parking garages.  Paul has a new girlfriend, journalist Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz).  When Karen’s teenage daughter, Erica (Dana Barron), dies of a cocaine overdose, it’s time for Paul to get his gun out of storage and blow away a drug dealer.

Shortly after shooting that drug dealer, Paul finds a note on his front porch.  “I know who you are,” it reads.  Paul then gets a call from a mysterious man (John P. Ryan) who identifies himself as being a reclusive millionaire named Nathan White.  Nathan explains that his daughter also died of a cocaine overdose.  He wants to hire Paul to take out not just the drug dealers but also the men behind the dealers, the bosses.  Using his vast resources, Nathan has prepared a file on every major drug operation in Los Angeles.  He offers to share the information with Paul.

“I’ll need a few days to think about it,” Paul says but we all know he’s going to accept Nathan’s offer just as surely as we know that Nathan White has an ulterior motive that won’t be revealed until the movie’s final twenty minutes.

For the first time, Paul is no longer just targeting muggers and other street criminals.  This time, Paul is going after the guys in charge and trying to bring an end to drug trade once and for all.  (The idea that the best way to win the war on drugs was just to kill anyone involved in the drug trade was a very popular one in the late 80s.)  L.A.’s two major drug cartels are led by Ed Zacharias (Perry Lopez) and the Romero Brothers (Mike Moroff and Dan Ferro).  Along with their own activities, Paul and Young work the turn the two cartels against each other.

It’s not just the criminals that have changed in Death Wish 4.  Paul has changed, too.  Paul used to just shoot criminals and run away.  In Death Wish 4, he gets more creative.  He sneaks into Zacharias’s mansion and bugs the phone so that he can keep track of what’s going down.  When it comes time to kill a table full of drug dealers (one of whom is played by Danny Trejo), Paul doesn’t shoot them up.  Instead, he sends them a bottle of champagne that explodes when they open it.  By the end of the movie, Paul is blowing away the bad guys with a grenade launcher!  How many former conscientious objectors can brag about that?

The biggest difference between Death Wish 4 and the films that came before it is the absence of director Michael Winner.  Winner and Bronson had a falling out following Death Wish 3 and, as a result, Winner had little interest in returning to the franchise.  Instead, Winner was replaced by J. Lee Thompson, who had already directed Bronson in several other Cannon films.  As a result, Death Wish 4 is less “heavy” than the previous Death Wish films.  Whereas Winner’s direction often felt mean-spirited and exploitive, Thompson plays up the film’s sense of airy adventure.

Though it barely made a profit at the box office and has been dismissed by critics, Death Wish 4 is an enjoyable chapter in Paul’s story.  If you’re looking for mindless 80s mayhem, Death Wish 4 gets the job done with admirable efficiency.  It would have made a great ending for the franchise but Bronson would return to the role one last time.

Tomorrow: Death Wish V: The Face of Death!