The Spook Who Sat By the Door

tn_spookwhosatbythedoor“Their first mistake was letting him in. Their worst mistake was letting him out.”

A senator’s polls say he needs more of “the Negro vote” to win re-election, so his strategist suggests accusing the CIA of discriminatory hiring policies. Cut to the CIA considering hundreds of black men as candidates and narrowing them down to 10 men in their training course.

They teach them to shoot, car bomb, collapse bridges, sky dive, scuba dive, judo, etc. But you only need one token to play Ms. Pac-Man so only one of these guys gets through: the guy who doesn’t make any friends, who “has a habit of fading into the background.” So much so that you barely even notice him in these early scenes. Some other guy seems like he’s the main character. But this is the guy. His name is Freeman and he’s played by Lawrence Cook, who also had parts in TROUBLE MAN, COLORS and POSSE. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cotton Comes to Harlem

tn_cottoncomestoharlemCOTTON COMES TO HARLEM is a quirky, colorful love letter to the people and culture of Harlem, tucked away inside a crime story adapted from a Chester Himes novel. MGM packaged the DVD in the “Soul Cinema” series along with COFFY, FOXY BROWN, BLACK CAESAR and TRUCK TURNER, but to me it doesn’t really feel like a blaxploitation movie. If it is it deserves credit for being one of the most textured and gorgeous looking blaxploitation movies. I will intersperse some random screen grabs throughout this review to give you an idea of all the great colors, clothing, sets and locations. (read the rest of this shit…)

Battle of the Damned

tn_battleofthedamnedIn BATTLE OF THE DAMNED, Dolph Lundgren fights zombies, and I’ll give it this: it’s way better than AGAINST THE DARK, the one where Steven Seagal fights vampires. There are two main reasons for this:

1) AGAINST THE DARK is Seagal’s worst movie ever
2) BATTLE OF THE DAMNED also has robots

It’s almost the same story: group of mercenaries led by beloved action icon of the ’80s and ’90s (in this case Dolph) patrols through a quarantine zone where a plague turns everybody into violent monsters (in this case running zombies instead of vampires) while a group of bland survivors walks slowly and talks about boring shit in a large building. They kill a bunch of the monsters, splattering that CGI blood that dissolves in the air, and there is some running around and stuff. Seagal used a sword, Dolph doesn’t, but he does meet a guy named Elvis (Jen Kuo Sung of NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 3 and BLOODMOON) who does. And he knows the military plan to bomb the whole area to stop the virus so he bands together with the survivors he meets and they try to get out of there before it’s too late. The end. (read the rest of this shit…)

RoboCop (2014 remake)

tn_robocop14Many remakes, even good ones, remove or weaken the meaning or subtext of the originals. The classic example is Zack Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (by this same production company, Strike Entertainment), which is a fun action movie version of Romero’s masterpiece, but doesn’t have much time for the questions about our voluntary enslavement to consumerism and materialism. How do we keep our humanity in the face of this apocalypse? Did we have it in the first place? Who gives a shit. Zombies!

Another one is LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. A surprisingly good remake, in many ways more artful than the original, but with its last act tweaks and audience-pleasing ending it completely ditches the thing that makes Wes Craven’s version worth stomaching: its angry illustration of the dehumanizing effect that revenge has on those who commit it. According to the last scene of the remake fuck all that, sadistic revenge is funny and cool.

ROBOCOP 2014′s goals and tone are very different from Mr. Verhoeven’s 1987 classic, but it’s the rare remake that’s arguably even more directly political than the movie it’s based on. Most would say, and I agree, that Verhoeven’s (or really Neumeier and Miner’s) message about privatization and corporate greed is more powerful because of its hilarious bluntness. It was the sarcastic cop movie that Lee Iacoca and Ronald Reagan’s America was asking for, a movie where amoral corporate assholes run the police force for profit, turn a dead body into a cyborg cop, then unleash him to do high caliber battle with savage DEATH WISH style supercreeps and get mixed up in a feud within the company, reconnect with his old self and turn on them. (read the rest of this shit…)

RoboCop History Week: RoboWrapUp

robocophistoryweek

So which one does RoboCop smell like? Strawberry? All of them? It's unclear.

If RoboCop was so pure and sacred before a remake then why do we know which fruits he smells like?

Thank you for joining me this week in discussing the RoboCop cartoon and the RoboCop TV series and the other RoboCop cartoon and the RoboCop mini-series that happened after the first and second RoboCop sequels.

I have to admit that I had an agenda or two in writing about these crappy shows. I know alot of people are very protective of Paul Verhoeven’s ROBOCOP and were/are righteously offended about the very idea of remaking it. Which makes sense, ’cause it’s a classic.

But I thought it would be helpful for all our mental and emotional health to remember that it’s not exactly an untouched story suddenly being violently plucked from a pure white cloud and soiled by unexpected commercialism. We’ve never lived in a world where ROBOCOP was safeguarded from exploitation like a J.D. Salinger book or Calvin and Hobbes. No, as soon as the damn thing was out of the gate it was cross-marketed like an Omni Consumer Product. It was merchandised, sequelized, video gamed, cartooned and teeveed. Of course I’m not saying “it’s already been ruined, so let’s keep ruining it.” I just mean that since they’ve already treated it like a trademark, brand, franchise and property even before everybody was brainwashed into using those OCP type terms non-ironically, I’m open to the idea of somebody coming along and doing a better job of it. (read the rest of this shit…)

RoboCop History Week: RoboCop: Prime Directives: Dark Justice

tn_robocoppdrobocophistoryweekIn 2001, three years after the previous ROBOCOP tv show (the cartoon ROBOCOP: ALPHA COMMANDO) and 14 years after the original movie, the Canadian company that made the LA FEMME NIKITA tv series and MUTANT X owned the tv rights to ROBOCOP and wanted to squirt something out before they expired. Instead of a traditional tv series they decided on a mini-series of four feature length, but not feature quality movies. Or prime directives, if you will.

I watched the first one, DARK JUSTICE, which has RoboCop (Page Fletcher, who I guess played the title character in the early ’90s tv series The Hitchhiker) returning to action on his tenth birthday.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Robocop History Week: Robocop Alpha Commando: “Justice Reborn Parts 1-3″

tn_robocopalpharobocophistoryweek“I’m not a weapons system. I’m a man.”

In 1998, 11 years after the first ROBOCOP movie, five years after the last ROBOCOP movie, ten years after the first ROBOCOP cartoon and four years after the first live action TV series came the second ROBOCOP cartoon, ROBOCOP: ALPHA COMMANDO. This was cartoon RoboCop reimagined for a very different age of TV animation. After the success of prime time cartoons like The Simpsons and the influence of Batman: The Animated Series, most cartoons were still aimed at children, but the standards for storytelling were a little higher, and many seemed like they were no longer made with utter contempt for the little shitbags they expected to be babysat by the fuckin thing.
(read the rest of this shit…)

RoboCop History Week: RoboCop: The Series (pilot)

still_robocoptv7robocophistoryweek“The Future of Law Enforcement” is the two-part pilot to the 1994 ROBOCOP live action tv series, sometimes known as ROBOCOP: THE SERIES or ROBOCOP: THE BEGINNING. Orion Pictures licensed the TV rights to a Canadian company called Skyvision (no relation to Skynet) who made one season that started airing about 4 months after ROBOCOP 3 took flight. (get it, because he can fly in part 3.) Despite that proximity it seems to ignore the events of the sequels, for example Murphy’s family doesn’t know he’s RoboCop. Sorry, ROBOCOP 3 – you just left theaters like five minutes ago, and we’ve already disavowed your sorry ass. On Canadian television, even. You blew it, ROBOCOP 3. Admit it.

The script is credited to original ROBOCOP writers Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, and it definitely has some of their sense of humor in it. I keep reading that it’s adapted from their rejected part 2 script CORPORATE WARS. But as a movie sequel you figure they’d try to make it somehow bigger than the modestly budgeted part 1. And now they have to scale it down for a Canadian syndicated television budget. It definitely would’ve had to have a whole hell of a lot more plot, excitement and things happening to seem like a theatrical movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

RoboCop History Week: 1988 cartoon pilot “Crime Wave”

tn_robocopcartoonrobocophistoryweekLook man, I don’t want to take away from Black History Month, which is still ongoing, but circumstances have led to me deciding to declare RoboCop History Week. As a new remake of ROBOCOP approaches it is imperative that we remember all the previous RoboCops who have made their impact on RoboCop history throughout the years.

Of course the most important RoboCop is 1987′s ROBOCOP by Mr. Paul Verhoeven. This is an all time classic. Significantly less important is ROBOCOP 2, a pretty bad movie but with some cool parts and ideas in it. In my opinion its greatest contribution is in demonstrating that maybe Irvin Kerchner is not 100% responsible for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK being a great sci-fi part 2. It is possible that he couldn’t have done it without the strong hand of a certain writer/producer/creator who perhaps people don’t want to give any credit to because of how he spurned them many years later when they were old and goateed.

On the other hand, ROBOCOP 3 is a piece of shit but it came from a director whose other works are pretty much flawless for what they are. So who knows. These things happen. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Death of Bruce Lee

tn_deathofbruceleeIt would be cool if Ron Van Clief was to Lee Van Clief as Bruce Li was to Bruce Lee, but actually he’s just another martial artist who capitalized on the success of ENTER THE DRAGON by starring in a bunch of low budget non-period-piece kung fu movies. The unique thing is that Van Clief wasn’t a Bruce Lee clone, he was more following in the footsteps of Jim Kelly.

(Now where’s the guy who got a bunch of movies ’cause he looked like John Saxon?)

Like Bruce Lee’s greatest victim, Chuck Norris, Van Clief had made his name in competitive martial arts and ran many schools before finding his way into movies. The year after ENTER THE DRAGON he starred in his first movie, and it was called BLACK DRAGON. It’s a nice idea because even if we still had the original Dragon we still might enjoy experiencing a Black Dragon. So he doesn’t so much have to pass as a worthy replacement. It’s a different thing. (read the rest of this shit…)