Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 5: '90s Action!


  1. John Badham's DROP ZONE (1994, SHOWTIME). Streaming on PLUTO.

    I love it when a filler pic I wasn't expecting much from blows away my Junesploitation! expectations. Wesley Snipes usually played cool-as-hell badass roles in his better action vehicles. Here he displays vulnerability and some comedic chops as a fish-out-of-water Fed trying to infiltrate the ring of skydivers that kidnapped a high-tech mob hacker (Michael Jeter), killed his brother (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) and made a spectacular mid-air getaway. Snipes still gets to do cool stunts, beat ass, save the day and get the girl ("Hard Target's" Yancy Butler) after punching her in the mouth during their first cute-meet, a moment that made me laugh-out loud for two straight minutes! :-P Gary Busey also gets to jump out of planes and be leader of the bad guys, so this definitely isn't at all like 1991's "Point Break"... not even a little. ;-)

    The real stars of "Drop Zone" are the skydiving stunt people who deliver some "Terminal Velocity"-caliber action set-pieces. Yes, the final act supposedly taking place over Washington D.C. looks nothing like it (even with the fake 4th of July firework effects trying to blend with the stock footage), but since we're talking amazing practical stunt work that at times rivals/surpasses the James Bond series I'll let it slide. I came into this expecting Snipes to be his usual mofo, and wound-up with an ensemble cast (Corin Nemec, Mickey Jones, Kyle Secor, Andy Romano, Rex Linn, etc.) enjoying themselves and enlivening a pretty standard cops-vs.-robbers flick loaded with cool aerial stunt work. They just don't make them like this anymore. 4.5 DECOMPRESSING PAC-ATLANTIC AIR 747 JUMBO JETS (out of 5).

    Mick Jackson's VOLCANO (1997, HULU)

    The "Deep Impact" to '97's "Armageddon"-like "Dante's Peak," "Volcano" is a generic-as-heck, expensive-looking disaster movie milking Tommy Lee Jones' leading man charisma to its fullest. Still in Samuel Gerard mode (did he ever really turn it off?), Jones is front and center as the Los Angeles city employee better-suited to help residents get through the sudden appearance of a lava-spewing volcano on the street. Anne Heche (R.I.P.) comes close in the middle act to being Jones' equal as a seismologist with the right instincts, but the screenplay reduces her in the final act to looking for Tommy Lee's daughter (Gaby Hoffmann) so the man can concentrate on saving the hospital where all the injured people are. Stuff blows up real good and the practical effects (the slow-moving magma) compensate for digital ones (CG helicopters fighting lava) that have really aged poorly. The less said about the clumsy attempts at social commentary ('Everybody looks the same!') the better. John Carroll Lynch, Keith David and baby-face Don Cheadle get a few standout moments. 'It's fine.' 3 MUSEUMS WITH EXPLODING GLASS WINDOWS (out of 5).


    Short and simple. This is "Con-Air" meets "Die Hard," except on a San Diego-bound train with civilian passengers (aka a little girl left locked in a cage and forgotten about! :-P) and DTV production values. Roy Scheider is the John Malkovich-type mastermind, Clint Howard (whose dialogue is 100% movie one-liners, including THE LINE from brother Howard's "Apollo 13") fills the Steve Buscemi crazy psycho role and Dorian Harewood (Eightball from "Full Metal Jacket") plays the honest-cop-that-snapped con trying to spoil the bad guys' plans from within. Ray Wise in a rare hero-type role as the John McClaine-wannabe sheriff, Ed O'Ross as the prison warden, Sam Jones as a bully con, an uncredited Rance Howard (Clint's dad!) and recognizable genre faces (Don Swayze, Keith Coogan, Steven Barr, Richard Foronjy, Blake Gibbons, etc.) make this not-quite-predictable formula go down easy. You could do a lot worse than this for 90's Action! day. It's no "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory," but what is? 3.15 RECYCLED FOOTAGE SHOTS FROM 'THE LAST SIEGE' (out of 5).

  2. EXCESSIVE FORCE (1993, Dir. Jon Hess)

    A deep dish action pizza filled with gratuitous sex and violence, slathered in character actors and genre stalwarts.

    Side note: Imagine if Terry McCain (Thomas Ian Griffith) had to call in his estranged, psycho brother to help him battle the cops and the gangsters. And it turned out his brother was played by Michael Wincott! We're talking five stars, baby.

  3. RICOCHET (1991):
    Russell Mulcahy is a reprehensible deviant and I thank the gods he has been allowed to make major motion pictures.

  4. Black Cat (1991, dir. Stephen Shin)

    Catherine, a young Chinese woman working at a New York truck stop, kills a rapey truck driver in self-defence and then accidentally shoots a cop. She's captured by the CIA, who fake her death, implant a chip into her brain that somehow enhances her abilities and train her to be an assassin in Hong Kong. She's good at her new job, but things get complicated when she falls in love. So basically La Femme Nikita but in Hong Kong (apparently Shin wanted to remake Nikita but couldn't get the rights, so he went ahead and basically remade it anyway).

    More drama than action, but the short bursts of the latter are well done. Especially one scene involving a construction crane is excellent. But the movie stands and falls on Jade Leung's performance as the lead, and she's great. She handles both the action and the drama with ease and makes the character's progression from a wild drifter to a steely assassin believable.

    Black Cat 2 (1992, dir. Stephen Shin)

    Catherine is implanted with another chip, making her almost a mindless, mute automaton. She's paired with a Chinese agent and together they're tasked with stopping terrorists who plan to assassinate Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

    The sequel really steps up with the action, the setpieces are bigger and there are more of them. So that's a big plus, especially today. On the other hand, Jade Leung, who was great in the first movie, is sidelined for a big portion of the movie to make room for a new male lead, and Robin Shou (the nineties Mortal Kombat's Liu Kang) is no Jade Leung. I guess what Leung's character is going through could be interesting if it was explored more, but now she's almost a supporting character in her own sequel.

    Demolition Man (1993, dir. Marco Brambilla) (rewatch)

    A silly premise, a dumb script, questionable social commentary, Stallone and Snipes's charisma, some fun action, and about a hundred clunky one-liners. I kinda love this movie.

    But there's one thing I've always wondered about the whole cryo-prison idea... Criminals are sentenced to cryo-sleep and the more serious the crime, the longer the sentence, and they're not supposed to be conscious during it. So basically, the more heinous your crime, the further into the future you're sent. Seems more like a reward than a punishment to me (despite the weird future society this movie depicts). And then later on, we learn there are also lifers. So they're basically kept unconscious forever? How is that different from a death sentence? Or am I thinking about this way too much?

  5. Is it Thomas Ian Griffith Day?

    Hollow Point (1996, dir. Sidney J. Furie)

    A Buddy Cop movie starring Tia Carrere and Thomas Ian Griffith? Yes please! Carrere is the straight-laced FBI agent and TIG is the pill-popping maniac DEA agent who are trying to track down the gangster boss John Lithgow. Donald Sutherland somehow steals the show as an assassin. This is probably his wackiest performance of his career. Seriously, he is so over the top he makes Cesar Romero's Joker seem subtle and nuanced. Great stunts, huge explosions, couldn't ask for more, I loved this movie.

  6. Timecop (1994)

    This is a real 90s Action Gumbo: a little bit gun play, a little bit sci-fi, a little bit martial arts, a little bit timey wimey, a little bit evil government, a little bit buddy cop, a little bit romance, a little bit revenge. Standouts for me are Ron Silver whos SUCH a great baddie and fun support from Mia Sara (#team sloan peterson for life) and Bruce McGill (just great comic timing and line delivery).

  7. Rapid Fire (1992)

    That's the third time I'm using a 90s Action day to catch up on a Brandon Lee movie. Sadly, it's also the last chance to do so.

  8. How I ever went 30 years without seeing Roger Corman’s THE FANTASTIC FOUR, I cannot understand. Especially after the epic season four Arrested Development storyline where Tobias tries to make a musical adaptation of this Corman B-movie classic.
    This movie is as bad as one would imagine but it’s also charming and captures the feel of a silver age comic book in the way the Adam West tv show did for Batman. And given it had a budget as big as Kate Mara’s wig, it should be praised for what it is and be given a proper physical media release.

    1. This is still my favorite of the FANTASTIC FOUR movies!

    2. Shortly after Roger Corman's death, I found an interview on Youtube with him in which he discussed The Fantastic Four. Apparently, he was really eager to see if there was a market for comic book movies at the time, but the production was purchased from Corman and ended up shelved. I know there is a whole documentary about that; I just have not gotten around to watching it.

  9. Chain Reaction (1996)

    A movie set in Chicago directed by the same guy who made The Fugitive? How did I miss this? And, it's very Fugitive-esque, right down to the casting of the police and reporters. I'm not sure the through-line of Morgan Freeman's character entirely makes sense, but it's Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz, so I'm not going to complain.

  10. Repo Jake (1990)

    Somehow oddly heartwarming straight-to-video sleaze featuring the guy from Elves (1989) as the title character who gets involved in the exciting world of Slam Track (LOL) racing while working as a midwestern Repo Man out in LA (?) to make some fast cash. Fight scenes are hilarious, sound effects kick ass, and soundtrack gets my blood pumping.

  11. BARB WIRE (1996)
    First-time rewatch in over a decade.
    Mill Creek Blu. 7/10 up from 6/10.
    The only thing I remembered about this was being surprised at how entertaining it was. I had zero memory of it being a dystopic future. Maybe that's why I enjoyed this viewing more? The cast is great, the camp factor is tempered by committed performances & that finale is impressive even when Pam's stunt double has a terrible wig. Mill Creek's BD is far from a demonstration disc for your set-up, but having clearer visuals, 16x9 widescreen & great sound go to great lengths to legitimize BARB WIRE.
    This movie is currently ranked #72 on IMDb's "Bottom Rated Movies". I take perverse pleasure in knowing, experientially, that there are so many movies that truly earn such placement, while the folks behind such lists & ratings don't even know they exist.

  12. ASSASSINS (1995)
    Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas are (what else?) rival assassins. Stallone is the stoic one who lives by a code, while Banderas is the unpredictable agent of chaos. Then Julianne Moore shows up to out-cool both of them. At more than two hours, it’s a too long for a cat n’ mouse caper, and the third act creeps along slowly. But there are a lot of slick chases and gunfights along the way. Also, did Jason Momoa base his character in Fast X after Banderas in this movie?

    NAKED KILLER (1992)
    Two female assassins hunt their enemies in the big city while being pursued by a handsome cop. Don’t let the title scare you away from this one. Yes, it’s sexy and horny, but mostly this is over-the-top Hong Kong action how we like it. The action scenes are super stylized, wildly paced, and cartoonishly violent. It’s more flashy than trashy. (To be fair, the YouTube machine only has the edited version. I don’t know how much saucier the unedited gets.) Overall, super-fun movie, and perfect for #Junespoitation!

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)
    Director James Whale leans into the macabre humor, meaning more quirks than scares. But the effects and performances make for a fun night at the movies. One quibble: it always bugs me that the Invisible Man’s rival is known only as “the chief detective.” We can’t give this character a proper name?

  13. RICOCHET (1991)

    Directed by Highlander director Russell Mulcahy. Screenplay by Steven E. de Souza, who is a co-writer on a lot of great movies that have 3 or 4 credited writers but is the sole person responsible for writing and directing Street Fighter (1994). Starring Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, and Kevin Pollak. A score by Alan Silvestri, with an original song by Ice-T. Cinematography by Peter Levy (Predator 2, Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child, and Judgement Night). I don't even need to mention what the movie is about.

    Strategic Command (1997) aka Executive Command

    As I mentioned on Twitter, I couldn't find Executive Decision streaming so I had to go with the Michael Dudikoff knock-off. It's got Amanda Wyss and Bryan Cranston in it also so not a total loss.

  14. Of all the Junesploitaton categories, 1990's action has opened my eyes more than any other. There are so many fun movies I missed during that decade.

    My watch, BLACK CAT (1991), is described very well above by Mikko. Jade Leung is indeed what holds the film together. That was not an easy role to play. It is disappointing to hear that she was largely sidelined in the sequel. The Canadian production is very evident from the accents, which makes the New York scenes a little jarring. Maybe I am too sensitive on that front. In any case, it is an entertaining film.

  15. Daylight (1996)

    This was one of the movies that was on constant TNT rotation when I was a teenager, so I've probably seen the whole thing in 5 minute chunks spread out across 3 years. But this is my first time watching it beginning to end. Anyway, I didn't love it. The characters are overly broad, and it's hard to track the stakes from scene. However, there is a scene whrte Stallone shouts "They're not thinking about the PRESSURE!" so maybe it's perfect?

  16. HARD RAIN (1998)
    First-time watch. Lionsgate Blu. 8/10.
    Is this REALLY that good? Possibly not, but it started to storm as I prepared to watch it. Plus... how much water?! I rarely tire, at this point, in watching well-crafted spectacles on film. I know it's a regular topic & with good reason. You're making a movie that'll (hopefully) be bigger than the sum of its parts & last for unknown years to come... Why make it look shitty? Even into the '70s when a home market wasn't yet settled, the spectacle was vital. By the '90s, that home market was the financial backstop for a theatrical flop, so all the more reason to make something that'll stay "fresh" into the future. Who knows what "they" are thinking these days...

    Maybe it's just better to play it safe...

  17. Surviving the Game (1994)
    How awesome is it that Ice T has played both the hero and the villain in movies that are remixed versions of The Most Dangerous Game? He started here as Jack Mason, the homeless man hunted by the rich and powerful and just three years later, he would be Vincent Moon, the crime overlord who has gathered a hundred of his best killers to, well, kill one another in Mean Guns. It’s as wild as the journey that took him from singing lyrics like “I got my twelve gauge sawed-off, I got my headlights turned off, I’m ’bout to bust some shots off, I’m ’bout to dust some cops off” to playing Detective Fin Tutuola for a quarter of a century on prime time cop TV.

    Ernest Dickerson has made a cool path in his career, too. Starting as the cinematographer for several Spike Lee movies, as well as John Sayles’ Brother from Another Planet, Robert Townsend’s Eddie Murphy Raw and James Bond III’s Def by Temptation, he directed some really interesting films, including Juice, Demon Knight and Bones. He’s since directed episodes of The Wire and The Walking Dead.

    But back to the most dangerous game

    In just a few days, Jack Mason has lost his dog and his only human friend, another unhoused man named Hank (Jeff Corey, who was blacklisted and became an acting coach before returning to acting and being in movies like Jennifer and The Premonition). Between that, being on the streets of Seattle and never dealing with the loss of his wife and daughter, he decides to kill himself. He’s saved by Walter Cole (Charles S. Dutton, a powerhouse of an actor who nearly spent his life in prison) who runs a soup kitchen and refers him to Thomas Burns (Rutger Hauer), a man who runs hunting parties and needs someone who knows how to survive to guide a party that includes CIA psychologist and hunt leader Doc Hawkins (Gary Busey), Texas oil tycoon John Griffin (John C. McGinley) — who is also grieving over a lost daughter — and wealthy Wall Street trader Derek Wolfe Sr. (F. Murray Abraham) and his son Derek Wolfe Jr. (William McNamara)

    Of course, the hunt is to kill human game. And his time on the street has taught him how to be more ruthless than any of these evil people or even the ones who have been led to be part of this group. You know, kind of like Hard Target without the splits.

    Writer Eric Bernt also was behind Virtuosity, Romeo Must Die and then you see that he also wrote Highlander: Endgame and the remake of The Hitcher and you want to be nice but man, really?

    That said, I kind of love this movie because the cast is pretty great and I’m all for Ice T snarling nearly every line of dialogue that he has.

  18. The Last Boy Scout(1991 Dir. Tony Scott)
    A question occurred to me on todays rewatch. I've thought about this before and I'm sure I'm not the first to think it but is Bruce Willis playing Joe Hollenbach in Die Hard 3? No matter . Not my favorite Scott or Willis but its still super solid, still funny and still rules.

    Prayer of the Rollerboys(1990 Dir Rick King)
    Bill Burr talks about in one of his specials how everyone thought Roller Blades were cool to one cool person made fun of them and then we thru all of our pairs of skates away. That person may have saved us from such a horrible future.

    Toy Soldiers(1991 Dir: Daniel Petrie Jr) Better than the Martika video but not as good as Eminem's. Both of those were way easier to dance too.

    1. Martika... now that is a reference going back in a long ways in pop culture time.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Blue Steel (1990) dir. by Kathryn Bigelow

    This one surprised me. I noted it down when Patrick and Adam discussed it recently, and I chose this mainly for fun today. But I ended up legitimately liking it!

    Jaime Lee was solid, and the familiar faces in the supporting cast were great to see. I dug Clancy Brown in a type of role and look I haven't seen before. I could see how some might chuckle at some of Ron Silver's antics, but I was pretty much on board taking him as a serious psycho!

    I'm not saying the movie's fantastic, but for me it was a well-made, satisfying experience.

  20. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)

    Junesploitation family night. The first act of this one had me thinking it was going to be Sidaris-level incoherent. It comes together (a little) as it goes on. The animatronic facial expressions are really impressive. Three Stooges sound effects and the period setting let them get away with pretty good fight scenes. Viviane Wu appeared in this, Heaven & Earth and The Joy Luck Club in the same year. In a twist that made me gasp, voice actor Robbie Rist's (of Cousin Oliver fame) name featured a registered trademark stamp next to it.

  21. Street Hunter (1990)

    Steve James is a very powerful screen fighter. This movie needed to show us that sooner than it did. James' outback style duster didn't really help the look of the poorly lit fight scenes. Still glad to have seen the legend's leading man turn.

  22. In The Line of Fire (1993, directed by my boy, Wolfgang Petersen). I hadn't seen this in years, and it was more of a dramatic thriller than the action movie I remembered. Really good though, as Clint plays an over-the-hill secret service agent that is confronting a changing world while trying to correct his failures of the past.

  23. Money Train (1995) This movie is batshit crazy; it has no interest in its own plot, preferring instead endless scenes of lead actors Snipes and Harrelson “just fucking around.” Robert Blake appears, playing the same character he played in Lost Highway. Jennifer Lopez is wasted in her four scenes. Chris Cooper likes to set female subway employees on fire, but he’s not the actual villain of the piece. The phrase “money train” is repeated over a hundred times; we are also constantly reminded that Snipes and Harrelson are BROTHERS. The actual heist takes all of twenty-two minutes and seems like an afterthought. The kind of movie for which the term “batshit crazy” was invented.

  24. eXistenZ (1999)

    Maybe not entirely action but holy shit what a blast! Thank you Junesploitation for giving me the excuse to watch this for the first time (and hate myself for not having blind bought on Vinegar Syndrome's recent sale). Super horny nipple/clitoris controllers, video game AIDS and butt plug grenades. This may be the "too Cronenberg" a lot of people feel about Wes Anderson films but I was so very much aboard.

  25. Money Train (1995): Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson are brothers! Most of the "action" in this movie is various people running and yelling "GET OUTTA THE WAY!" at pedestrians. Also there is a mini money train, and a real money train. I like J-Lo in this. Did I mention that Snipes and Harrelson play brothers? Because the movie mentions this ONE THOUSAND TIMES. Woody Harrelson's mullet survives a lot of beat-downs and, in the end, the money is trained.