Film Review: Do or Die (dir by Andy Sidaris)


So, imagine this.

You and your BFF are at a luau in Hawaii.  Fires are being spun.  People are dancing.  Drums are being beaten.  It’s almost time to eat the pig and suddenly, you discover that a mysterious old man wants to speak to you.  The man is surrounded by armed guards but you’re used to that.  Both you and your BFF work for the government.  You blow things up and save the world for a living!

Anyway, the old man informs you that he is a master criminal named Kane.  He’s one of those “I’m going to take over the world” types but apparently, you keep thwarting his plans.  He’s a little bit upset about that and why not?  It’s hard enough trying to conquer the world without having somebody continually blowing up all of your friends.  He says that he’s going to have you killed.

Uh-oh!

But fear not!  Kane isn’t going to kill you right there and then.  It turns out that Kane has a code of honor that he lives by.  He may be evil but he believes in fair play.  So, Kane says that he’s going to kill you later.  Apparently, he’s hired six different teams of assassins.  Over the next couple of days, they’re going to try to kill you.  Fortunately, the team’s aren’t going to work together or anything intelligent like that.  That wouldn’t be fair.  Instead, they’re going to come at you one at a time.  Once one teams fails to kill you, they’re out of the hunt.

How would you react?  What would be the first thing that you and your BFF would do?

Would you make sure your guns were loaded, lock the doors, and then wait for the first team to make their move?

Would you try to make the first move, maybe trying to take out Kane right then and there?

Or maybe you would leave the country and try to start a whole new life under a new identity?

I’d probably go with the third option but that’s not what Donna (Dona Speir) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) do when Kane (Pat Morita) tells them that they’ve been targeted.  Instead, they get topless and relax in the hut tub while discussing how much it sucks that someone wants to kill them.

Honestly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  The 1991 film, Do or Die, was directed by Andy Sidaris.  In a Sidaris film, a topless hot tub party plays much the same role as the family get togethers that often end the Fast and the Furious movies.  Still, it’s hard not to be a little bit disappointed by their sudden passivity.  After all, Donna is the same agent who previously used a rocket launcher to blow up Erik Estrada at the end of Guns.

Speaking of Erik Estrada, he’s back.  However, he’s playing a different character than he played in Guns.  Now, he’s a heroic agent named Rico.  When Donna and Nicole finally get around to letting their boss, Lucas (William Bumiller), know what’s going on, Lucas recruits Rico to help protect them.  Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) and Shane Abilene (Michael Shane) are also brought in as well.  Shane still has terrible aim.  I know that’s a running joke in all of the Sidaris films but you really do have to wonder why the government continues to employ someone who sucks at a huge part of his job.

Anyway, Donna and Nicole eventually head for the mainland but that doesn’t do much good because Kane put a tracking device on her watch and Donna apparently lost several IQ points between the end of Guns and the start of this movie.  At first, they go to Vegas but eventually, they end up in Louisiana.  This leads to the usual remote-controlled boats and helicopters, the same ones that appear in nearly every Sidaris film.  Needless to say, a lot of stuff gets blown up.

And it’s all pretty boring, to be honest.  It sounds like it should be fun, what with all the different assassins showing up and Kane getting more and more frustrated as Donna and Nicole continue to survive.  But, unfortunately, none of the assassins are that interesting.  Most of the film takes place in Caddo Parish.  My family lived in Shreveport for a year and a half.  I like Caddo Parish.  But it really can’t compare to Hawaii as far as photogenic locations are concerned.

Do or Die had potential but it got lost in the hot tub.

Music Video of the Day: Movies by Alien Ant Farm (2001, dir. Marc Klasfeld)


We’ve reached the end of February, and the last version of Movies by Alien Ant Farm. This is the one most people know. Unfortunately, I sat down late to write this, so let’s keep it simple.

The music video starts off with lead-singer Dryden Mitchell apparently confused by a hotdog jumping around onscreen next to a bun when his just sits in his hand.

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It must be because that’s not supposed to happen without John Travolta around to sing about Olivia Newton-John.

Grease (1978, dir. Randal Kleiser)

Grease (1978, dir. Randal Kleiser)

He decides to jump into the screen in order to work in a reference to Last Action Hero (1993). The rest of the band decides to follow suit, and are instantly replaced by every alt-rock band from the time-period.

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Once inside, they notice that the movie magic is now dead.

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Now they remind us of how big a fan they are of Michael Jackson–in case we didn’t get that from them covering Smooth Criminal–by referencing Captain EO (1986).

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However, their reference to Captain EO also features the Italian evil-eye thing that ignorant people think has something to do with Satan, and it pisses of the local Sammi Curr.

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Trick Or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

Trick Or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

It doesn’t matter that he now dresses more like Axl Rose. Sammi thinks that he is the only rocker that has the right to reach into or out of a screen. He did it in Trick Or Treat to kill Ozzy Osbourne.

Trick Or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

Trick Or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

Luckily the band turns into the Ghostbusters in order to deal with Sammi Curr. I’m sure it was also a way of taking a shot at critics of their brand of hard rock/heavy metal.

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The band performs as themselves for awhile, and brings more stuff out of the screen to remind us of the early-80s 3D craze before turning into Oompa Loompas.

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Veruca Salt is the audience. She is promptly turned into a giant blue M&M.

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Now the band goes into Karate Kid mode, but Mitchell is down!

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That’s no problem though because Pat Morita shows up to heal him through the power of movie magic.

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This causes them to flash to an Asian guy in the audience before moving on.

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The video decides it’s time to go into the 90s with Edward Scissorhands (1990) .

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Edward spots a guy sporting an afro in the audience and decides to update him for the times by giving him the Coolio.

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It also spells out AAF just in case we forgot what band we were watching. At this point, the audience decides it’s time for them all to jump into the screen.

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That is except for the usher…

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who disappears in the far shot…

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but reappears when the camera cuts back to the front of the theater.

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The music video was directed by Marc Klasfeld who you might know from any number of places, including:

Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) by Katy Perry

Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) by Katy Perry

He’s directed over 100 of them. He also shot around 20 of them.

Emilie Sennebogen produced the video. I can only find two music video credits for Sennebogen.

Scott Free was the stylist on the video. He appears to have done around 10 music videos.

Jeff Judd worked on make-up. I can only find two music video credits for him.

Ben Oswald was the production manager. He’s worked as a producer, production manager, and as an associate producer on music videos.

Enjoy!

Back to School Part II #16: The Karate Kid (dir by John G. Avildsen)


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Finally, I am getting a chance to continue my series of Back to School reviews!

Earlier today, we had a pretty big storm down here in Texas and it knocked out the electricity for three and a half hours!  There I was, sitting in the dark and wondering if I would ever get a chance to review the 16th movie in this 56-film review series.

(Originally, I was planning on being done by this weekend but, as always seems to happen whenever I do a review series, I’m currently running behind so it’ll probably won’t be until the weekend after next that I post my final Back to School review.)

Fortunately, the Oncor truck eventually showed up in the alley.  I, of course, ran out into the back yard and started to shout at them, “I need power!  I have movies to review!”  They must have heard me because, suddenly, the power came back on.  And now, I can finally get around to sharing a few thoughts on the original, 1984 version of The Karate Kid!

Up until last night, believe it or not, I had never seen The Karate Kid before.  Certainly, I knew about it.  Much like Star Wars and Star Trek, The Karate Kid is one of those cultural landmarks that everyone knows about even if they haven’t actually sat down and watched the movie.  Even before I watched the film, I knew about Mr. Miyagi.  I knew about “wax on” and “wax off.”  I knew about the crane.  I even knew about “You’re alright, LaRusso!”

But I hadn’t actually seen the film and I have to admit that I was a little bit hesitant about doing so.  Everything I had heard about The Karate Kid made it sound like a thoroughly predictable and excessively 80s sports film.  I was expecting the film to be all about power ballads and training montages and uplifting dialogue and certainly, The Karate Kid had a lot of that.

But what took me by surprise is what a genuinely sweet movie The Karate Kid is.  Yes, it’s predictable and it’s full of clichés but dammit, it all works.  It still brought tears to my mismatched eyes.

The karate kid of the title is Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), who moves, with his mother, from New Jersey to California.  Daniel’s a nice kid who has learned a little karate from reading books but he’s still no match for the bullies at his new high school.  Daniel does get a girlfriend, Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue, giving a performance that feels far more genuine than any of her more recent work), but even that leads to him getting in trouble.  It turns out that Ali’s ex-boyfriend is Johnny (William Zabka), the top student at Cobra Kai.  Oddly enough, Johnny’s teacher is also named John.  John Kreese (Martin Kove) is a Vietnam veteran who decorates his dojo with pictures of himself looking threatening.  Kreese, we soon discover, is a total psychopath.  “NO MERCY!” he shouts at this students.

When Johnny and his fellow Cobra Kai students beat up Daniel on Halloween, Daniel’s life is saved by Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita).  Mr. Miyagi may appear to just be a simple maintenance man but he’s actually a total badass.  He teaches Daniel not only the moves of karate (“Wax on…wax off…”) but the philosophy as well.  He explains to Daniel that there are “No bad students.  Just bad teacher.”  In short, he is the exact opposite of Kreese.

Who is the better teacher?  That’s a question that will be answered when Daniel faces off against the Cobra Kai bullies at the Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament.  Can Daniel defeat Johnny, win Ali’s love, and earn the right to live free of harassment?

Well, it would be a pretty depressing movie if he didn’t…

Anyway, The Karate Kid turned out to be a really sweet and likable movie.  I was never surprised by the movie’s plot but I still found myself being drawn into the story and hoping that everything would work out for Daniel and Ali.  The character of Mr. Miyagi has been parodied in so many other films that I was a bit surprised to see just how good Pat Morita was in the role.  Yes, Morita gets to say a lot of funny lines but he also gets a rather harrowing dramatic scene where talks about how his wife and child died while he was away, serving in the army.

It’s interesting to note that, at the end of the film, even Johnny got to show a glimmer of humanity, suggesting that even the worst jerk in the world can be redeemed by a good ass-kicking.  That said, Kreese is pure evil from beginning to end and Johnny’s friend, Dutch (played by Chad McQueen), is about as scary a high school bully as I’ve ever seen.  But at least Johnny is willing to admit the truth.

LaRusso?

He’s alright.

 

Embracing the Melodrama #31: When Time Ran Out (dir by James Goldstone)


If I had been alive in the 70s, I would have been terrified if I had ever found myself in the same general location of Paul Newman, William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Jacqueline Bisset, or Burgess Meredith.  Just based on the movies that they spent that decade appearing in, it would appear that disaster followed them everywhere.

Just consider:

Both Paul Newman and William Holden were trapped in The Towering Inferno. 

Ernest Borgnine and Red Buttons both ended up taking an unexpected Poseidon Adventure together.

Jacqueline Bisset was a flight attendant in the first Airport and nearly got killed by a mad bomber.

And finally, Burgess Meredith was a passenger on The Hindenburg.

Seriously, that’s a dangerously disaster-prone bunch of thespians!

So imagine how terrifying it must have been on the set of the 1980 film When Time Ran Out when all 6 of those actors — along with a lot of other disaster film veterans — were first gathered in one place.  People were probably running for their lives, both on-screen and off.

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When Time Ran Out takes place on an island in the South Pacific.  Shelby Gilmore (William Holden, playing yet another ruthless but essentially good-hearted businessman) owns a luxury resort that happens to be sitting dangerously close to an active volcano.  Oil rigger Hank Anderson (Paul Newman) is convinced that the volcano is about to erupt but Shelby’s son-in-law, Bob Spangler (James Franciscus), refuses to listen and claims that even if the volcano does blow, the resort will be safe.

(As a sidenote, why were William Holden’s son-in-laws always too blame in disaster movies?  First, you had Richard Chamberlain in The Towering Inferno and now, it’s James Franciscus in When Time Ran Out…)

Suspended over a volcano

Suspended over a volcano

You can just look at the film’s title (When Time Ran Out!) and guess that Bob is probably wrong.  However, Bob has other things on his mind.  First off, he’s cheating on his neurotic wife (Veronica Hamel) with a native islander (Barbara Carrera) who happens to be married to the hotel’s general manager, Brian (Edward Albert).  Brian also happens to be Bob’s half-brother and is therefore owed at least half of Bob’s fortune but nobody but Bob realizes that.

And, of course, there are other colorful guests at the hotel who will soon find themselves either fleeing from or drowning in molten lava.  There’s a white-collar criminal (Red Buttons) who is being pursued by a detective from New York (Ernest Borgnine, of course).  There’s also two retired tightrope walkers (Burgess Meredith and Valentina Cortese) and you better believe that there’s going to be a scene where one of them is going to have to walk across a plank that happens to be suspended over a river a lava…

Told ya!

Told ya!

Eventually, that volcano does erupt and…well, let’s just say that When Time Ran Out is no Towering Inferno as far as the special effects are concerned.  The scene where one random fireball flies out of the volcano and heads for the resort is particularly amusing for all the wrong reasons.  Not only does the volcano apparently have perfect aim but it’s also painfully obvious that the fireball is streaking across a matte painting.  This is the type of film where, when people plunge into a river lava, they do so with heavy lines visible around their flailing bodies.  That, along with the cast’s obvious lack of interest in the material, adds up to make When Time Ran Out a film that is memorable for being so ultimately forgettable.

The Horror!

The Horror!

(It’s odd to consider that this film was directed by the same James Goldstone who directed such memorable films as Rollercoaster and Brother John.)

When Time Ran Out is something of a historical oddity because it was the last of the old 70s all-star disaster films.  (This may have been released in 1980 but it’s a 70s film through and through.)  The movie was such a monumental failure at the box office that it pretty much ended an era of disaster films.

For that reason, it also feels like an appropriate film with which to close out the 70s.  Tomorrow, we’ll continue to embrace the melodrama with the 1980s.

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