Cinemax Friday: Supreme Sanction (1999, directed by John Terlesky)


Jordan McNamara (David Dukes) is a world-renowned news reporter who is investigating why some U.S. Army helicopters were mysteriously shot down.  The sinister Director (Ron Perlman) doesn’t want McNamara to uncover the answers.  So, he dispatches Dalton (Michael Madsen) to take care of the problem.

Dalton leads a group of assassins but everyone knows that his best sniper is Jenna (Kristy Swanson).  Jenna has killed a countless number of people for Dalton but, when it comes to McNamara, she can’t bring herself to pull the trigger.  It’s because Dalton foolishly orders Jenna to take the shot while McNamara is on a beach with his daughter.  Jenna is not willing to kill a man in front of his daughter.  When Jenna refuses to pull the trigger, she becomes a target herself and she’s forced to go on the run with McNamara and her only friend, a hacker named Marcus (Donald Faison).

Supreme Sanction doesn’t feature any nudity or, for that matter, any sex but the presence of Michael Madsen and Kristy Swanson in the cast makes this feel like a late night Cinemax film nonetheless.  The movie starts out slow and David Dukes (a good actor who is strangely bland here) really isn’t believable as world-renowned journalist but things pick up once Jenna and McNamara go on the run.  The first time you see Kristy Swanson behind a sniper rifle, your instinct might be too laugh but she gives a surprisingly natural performance and, by the end of the movie, she’s actually a credible action heroine.  Meanwhile, in the role of Marcus, Donald Faison gets all of the good lines.  He’s a hacker and, since this movie was made in 1999, that means that he’s the comic relief who can do just about anything.

Not surprisingly, the movie is stolen by Michael Madsen.  Madsen gives a standard Madsen performance here, delivering all of his lines in a threatening whisper and smirking whenever anyone tries to talk back to him but, even if he doesn’t do anything new, he’s still entertaining to watch.  Madsen is one of the few actors who can easily switch between appearing in B-movies and major productions and that’s because it’s hard to think of anyone who can play a smug, overconfident villain as well as he can.

Supreme Sanction is an unapologetic B-movie and it’s pretty damn entertaining.

Back to School Part II #37: Can’t Hardly Wait (dir by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont)


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Oddly enough, the late 90s and early 2000s saw a lot of movies about teenagers that all had strangely generic names.  She’s All That, Down To You, Drive Me Crazy, Head Over Heels, Get Over It, Bring It On … the list is endless.

And then you have the 1998 graduation party-themed Can’t Hardly Wait.  Can’t Hardly Wait has such a generic name that, when you first hear it, you could be forgiven for naturally assuming that it stars Freddie Prinze, Jr.  Of course, if you’ve actually seen the film, you know that it features almost everyone but Freddie Prinze, Jr.  This is one of those films where even the smallest roles are played by a recognizable face.  In fact, there’s so many familiar actors in this film that a good deal of them go uncredited.  Jenna Elfman, Breckin Meyer, Melissa Joan Hart, Jerry O’Connell, and Amber Benson may not show up in the credits but they’re all in the film.  In fact, you could argue that Melissa John Hart, playing an impossibly excited girl who is obsessed with getting everyone to sign her yearbook, and Breckin Meyer, playing an overly sensitive lead singer, provide the film with some of its comedic highlights.

(That said, perhaps the most credible cameo comes from Jerry O’Connell.  He plays a former high school jock who ruefully talks about how he can’t get laid in high school.  He’s so convincingly sleazy and full of self-pity that you find yourself wondering if maybe O’Connell was just playing himself.  Maybe he just stumbled drunkenly onto the set one day and started talking to anyone who would listen…)

Can’t Hardly Wait takes place at one huge high school graduation party, which is actually a pretty smart idea.  The best part of every teen movie is the party scene so why not make just make the entire movie about the party?  Almost every member of the graduating class is at this party and we get to see all of the usual types.  There’s the stoners, the jocks, the nerds, and the sarcastic kids who go to parties specifically so they can tell everyone how much they hate going to parties.  Eric Balfour shows up as a hippie.  Jason Segel eats a watermelon in the corner.  Sara Rue’s in the kitchen, complaining about how everyone’s a sheep.  Jamie Pressly drinks and assures her best friend that she’s at least as pretty as Gwynneth Paltrow.  (“And you’ve got way bigger boobs!” she adds, encouragingly.)  Outside, Selma Blair frowns as someone hits on her with bad line.

Of course, Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli) and Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt) are the main topic of conversation at the party.  For four years, Mike and Amanda were the school’s power couple but Mike decides to dump Amanda right before they graduate.  Mike feels that he’s going to have a great time in college and he doesn’t need any old high school commitments holding him down.  His best friends all agree to dump their girlfriends too.  Mike spends the party watching, in horror, as all of his friends go back on their promise.  Amanda, meanwhile, wanders around and wonders who she is now that she’s no longer Mike Dexter’s girlfriend.

Preston Meyers (Ethan Embry) struggles to work up the courage to tell Amanda that he’s had a crush on her ever since the first day he saw her.  Meanwhile, Preston’s best friend — the reliably sarcastic Denise (Lauren Ambrose) — finds herself locked in an upstairs bathroom with Kenny “Special K” Fisher (Seth Green).  (Needless to say, Kenny is the only person who actually calls himself “Special K.”)  Kenny is obsessed with losing his virginity.  Denise, meanwhile, won’t stop talking about the sweet and dorky Kenny that she knew way back in elementary school.

And then there’s William Lichtner (Charlie Korsmo).  He’s spent his entire life being tormented by Mike and he specifically goes to the party looking for revenge.  However, he has a few beers and quickly becomes the most popular senior at the party.  He even gets a chance to bond with Mike…

Can’t Hardly Wait is a favorite of mine.  It’s one of those films that doesn’t add up too much but it’s so so damn likable that it doesn’t matter.  It’s full of smart and funny scenes and all the actors are incredibly likable.  If you’re not rooting for Preston and Amanda by the end of the movie then you have no heart.  In fact, Can’t Hardly Wait is a lot like Empire Records.  They may not be much depth to it but it’s so sincere and earnest that you can forgive it.

You can even forgive the generic name.

Back to School #50: Clueless (dir by Amy Heckerling)


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By their very nature, teen films tend to get dated very quickly.  Fashions, music, and cultural references — all of these serve to make a film popular when it’s first released and occasionally laughable just a few years later.  Take 1995’s Clueless for instance.  Watching it now, it’s impossible not to get a little snarky when Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) refers to a hot guy as being a “Baldwin.”  When heard today, it’s hard not to wonder if Cher is thinking of beefy rageaholic Alec or ultra-religious realty TV mainstay Stephen.  (Personally, I prefer to think that she was thinking of Adam Baldwin.)

Clueless is one of those films that I always remember watching on TV and loving when I was little but, whenever I watch it now, I always find myself feeling slightly disappointed in it.  It’s never quite as good as I remember and, with each viewing, I’m just a little bit more aware that, while both were very well-cast in their respect roles, Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash weren’t exactly the most versatile actresses of their generation.  There’s a reason why Dash is now a political commentator and Silverstone is best known for that video of her spitting food into her baby’s mouth.  As well, watching the film now, it’s hard not to think about how the talented Brittany Murphy would tragically pass away 14 years after its initial release.

And yet, I can’t help it.  I still enjoy Clueless.  I could spend hours nitpicking it apart and pointing out what parts of it don’t quite work as well as they should but ultimately, Clueless is a fun movie that features and celebrates three strong female characters, which is more than you can say for most teen films.

Directed and written by Amy Heckerling (who earlier directed the classic Fast Times At Ridgemont High), Clueless is based (quite directly) on Jane Austen’s Emma.  In this version, Emma is Cher, the spoiled 16 year-old daughter of a lawyer (played, very well, by Dan Hedaya), who lives in Beverly Hills and who is happy being superficial, vain, and popular.  In fact, the only person who ever criticizes Cher is her stepbrother, Josh (Paul Rudd), who is studying to be an environmental lawyer and is visiting during a break from college.

When Cher plays matchmaker and deftly manages to pair up two of her teachers (played by Wallace Shawn and Twink Caplan), she realizes that she enjoys helping people.  (Though, it must be said, the only reason she helped her two teachers wass because they were both taking out the misery of being single on her…)  So, Cher and her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) decide to help another student, new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy), become popular.  After giving Tai a makeover, forbidding her to date skater Travis (Breckin Meyer, who is adorable), and trying to set Tai up with rich snob Elton (Jeremy Sisto), Cher is shocked to discover that Tai has become so popular that she is now challenging Cher’s social status.  Even worse, Tai decides that she has a crush on Josh right around the same time that Cher realizes the same thing.

Plus, Cher still has to pass her driving test…

As I said before, Clueless is hardly a perfect film but it is a very likable movie.  Director Amy Heckerling creates such a vivid and colorful alternate teenage universe and the script is full of so many quotable lines that you can forgive the fact that the story sometimes runs the risk of getting almost as superficial of Cher.  It may never be quite as good as I remembered it being but Clueless is still an entertaining and fun movie.

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Trailer: Kick-Ass 2 (Extended Red Band)


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This past week saw the largest collection of nerd, geek and comic book fandom gathered in one magical place. The place in question is San Diego and the event is called San Diego Comic-Con or simply just uttered in awed whispers as Comic-Con. It is a place that many outsiders have shunned as a place that has no place in good, normal society yet they continue to arrive in larger numbers to ply their products to those they shun. Even this blog has it’s shamers and ignorant individuals who spew insults yet they too continue to visit because deep in their subconscious they know, like those who ridicule Comic-Con and those who attend them with a passion, that they’re the ones out of step with whats not accepted in society.

What does this mean when it comes to the latest trailer for Kick-Ass 2 that just came out of Comic-Con?

Absolutely nothing other than the trailer and the film itself is just another weird meeting of the two cultures. It’s a film that celebrates the ridiculousness and absurdity of the comic book culture, yet it’s one that’s funded by the very same people who insulted the scene just a decade ago.

The first film was a revelation and helped introduced the world to one Chloe Grace Moretz, but it also showed that comic books and films made from them didn’t have to be PG or even PG-13. There was a place for ultra-violence in our comic book films. It also helped bring the name of Matthew Vaughn into the forefront of comic book fandom. While he’s not directing this sequel (he elected to go with X-Men: First Class and we’re all the better for it), he did help in bringing it to life and hand-picked his successor in Jeff Wadlow.

While Kick-Ass 2 is not getting the same sort of buzz from Comic-Con the original film did it is still one film I’m quite interested in seeing just to find out what has happened to our young superheroes and vigilante crime fighters since the last film. Plus, it’s main villain likes to call himself “Motherfucker”.

Trailer: Kick-Ass 2 (Red Band)


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2010’s Kick-Ass was one of those films that you either loved or hated. It was a film adapted from the Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. comic book of the same name that also had a similar reputation of having extreme opposites in regards to how people perceived it.

I, for one, loved the film despite just being “meh” when it came to the comic. Where the film by Matthew Vaughn was a darkly comic deconstruction of the superhero story the comic book that gave birth to it was just an exercise in shocking the readers without working for it. Yet, despite that the film was a hit with both the fans of the comic book and those who didn’t even know it was a comic book. That popularity allowed the film to make enough profit that a sequel was greenlit even before a second volume of the comic book was even started by Millar and Romita, Jr.

Kick-Ass 2 sees the return of both Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass with Red Mist now calling himself The Motherfucker and the film’s main antagonist. The sequel sees Matthew Vaughn return as producer with Jeff Wadlow stepping in as director.

Kick-Ass 2 is set for an August 16, 2013 North American release date with the film premiering earlier on July 19, 2013 in the UK.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Skyline (dir. by the Brothers Strause)


Skyline, which just opened this weekend, is currently getting almost universally terrible reviews from the nation’s mainstream critics.  The consensus seems to be that the film features impressive special effects but that can’t make up for the predictable storyline, cardboard characters, and bad dialogue. 

(Oddly enough, this is being said by the same critics who, last year around this time, were raving about Avatar.  It’s as if these critics are trying to make up for essentially giving James Cameron a free pass by now nitpicking every single effect-driven movie to death.)

Well, to be honest, a lot of what they’re saying about Skyline is true.  The characters are pretty thinly drawn, the script is pretty basic, and the plot is derivative.  But you could have guessed that just from watching the movie’s trailer.  Skyline is a fun and enjoyable little movie, the type that you’re already forgetting about as you walk out of the theater.

Plotwise, a bunch of rich people get together in L.A.  They party, they drink, and they do things that would make their mother’s cry.  The next morning, Earth is invaded by brain-sucking aliens and our hung-over protagonists, trapped in a luxury hotel, attempt to survive the next three days.  And that’s pretty much it.

The cast is pretty much made up of people you’re used to seeing on TV and most of them give TV-movie-style performances.  They struggle not to be overwhelmed by the special effects but, to be honest, this actually makes the film more effective.  The cast’s struggle to keep up with the special effects neatly parallels humanity’s losing battle against the aliens.  However, for the most part, the cast does what is required of them and they do it well enough.  It is a little bit distracting that a key supporting role is played by Scubs’ Donald Faison because every time I saw him, I kept expecting to hear a Zach Braff inner monologue. 

The film’s nominal lead is played by Eric Balfour, who is actually probably about as appealing as he’s ever been in his role here.  In the past, I’ve always been vocal about “not getting” Eric Balfour but, lately, I’ve been starting to see his appeal.  (And no, my sudden appreciation of Balfour has nothing to do with the fact that I had a kinda fun conversation with him on twitter once — well, okay, maybe a little.)  I think in the past Balfour has been cast in parts where his facial hair was expected to carry the dramatic weight of the role.  In this film, Balfour is actually allowed to play a sort of “everyman” type role and he’s actually very appealing in the role.  Plus, I never noticed this before but Eric Balfour has like literally got the sexiest biceps ever.  They’re at least in the top ten as far as sexy biceps are concerned.  Also in the cast is David Zayas (you’ll recognize him from Dexter) who doesn’t have sexy biceps but is still a totally hot badass in his own mysterious way.  Here he plays a concierge who shows up out-of-nowhere and quickly becomes the coolest character in the film.  He gets to deliver the film’s best one-liner as well.

Ultimately, Skyline is a movie about special effects and it is here that the film triumphs.  Working with a relatively low budget, the filmmakers have managed to create aliens that are not only believable and occasionally scary but kinda fun as well.  These are the type of old-fashioned aliens that have come to Earth with only one purpose in mind and the special effects — the ominous mother ship floating over L.A. and the various things (they appear to be some sort of cross between animal and machine) that patrol the city in search of fresh victims — all have a retro feel to them that is undeniably appealing.

For all the criticism that Skyline has been getting, the really only inexcusable flaw is that the film is basically is 10 minutes too long.  If the final ten minutes (or “Day 3” as the film puts it) had been cut out of the final film, Skyline would probably be getting much less slammed by the reviewers, the majority of whom would probably then be able to see the movie for the silly, campy, and enjoyable little b-movie that it really is.  However, that ending — well, a bad ending can ruin an otherwise decent movie and if you need proof, here it is.  In fact, I suggest that anyone who goes to see Skyline should leave as soon as that title — Day 3 — appears on the screen.  Just stand up and walk out of the theater and allow the end of Day 2 to be the end of the movie.  Trust me, you’ll have much fonder memories of the experience afterward.