January 25th, 2008

SIX-STRING SAMURAI (1998) * ½

In 1957, Russia dropped the Bomb on the United States.  Elvis moved from Graceland to Las Vegas and declared himself King.  After his death, forty years later, dozens of dirty, dingy sword slingers head to Vegas (now called “Lost” Vegas) to claim heir to the throne.  One such dude is Buddy (Jeffrey Falcon), who looks like Guy Pearce playing Stephen Dorff in The Elvis Costello Story, who wears thick glasses, dresses like a dime store Reservoir Dog and keeps his samurai sword stored in his guitar.  He joins up with an EXTREMELY annoying kid and together they head to Vegas, slicing and dicing their way across the desert wasteland as they do battle with increasingly odd characters, including “Death” (who looks like the love child of Slash and Rob Zombie), and even go to Hell (it looks like a kindergarten version of Thunderdome). 

 

Six-String Samurai is a bizarre mixture of El Topo, Lone Wolf and Cub, The Road Warrior, A Fistful of Dollars, The Warriors and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels.  You can never tell if this is some kind of spoof, or if you’re supposed to take this thing seriously.  You may have fun spotting all the movies that this flick rips off from, but when all is said and done, that will be your main source of entertainment, so enjoy it.

 

The fight scenes themselves are clumsily choreographed and suffer (like everything else in the movie) from the film’s obviously low budget.  Falcon (who also co-wrote the screenplay) fails to make much of an impression as either a tight lipped hero OR a rock n’ roll star and the kid that accompanies him throughout the movie is mega irritating. 

 

Director Lance Mungia (who later went on to direct The Crow 4) gets an A for effort for trying to keep this mess together, but ultimately the film is too derivative for it’s own good.  It would have made a great comic book though. 

 

THE DEFENDER (2004) *

 

Dolph Lundgren not only stars, but he DIRECTS. 

 

Jerry Springer co-stars as the PRESIDENT. 

 

Have I got your attention now?  Thought so. 

 

Okay, so now you immediately know everything you need to know about this movie.  If you are the kind of person who would never watch a movie that Dolph Lundgren would star in, let alone direct, you can probably stop reading this review now.  If you are the kind of person who would never watch The Jerry Springer Show, let alone a movie in which he plays the president of all people, you can probably stop reading this review now. 

 

Are you still here? 

 

Anyway, this is one lame and boring Direct to DVD “political thriller”.  I say political thriller because for half the flick it feels like you’re watching CNN:  The Movie as a bunch of talking heads keep blabbering on about how much the President’s new peace plan blows goat’s nuts.  Meanwhile in a hotel in Bucharest, Dolph has to protect the Condoleezza Rice stand-in AND the Osama Bin Laden stand-in from being murdered by a group of crazed Americans who are sick and tired of being lied to by the government. 

 

Are you getting any of this?  Neither did I. 

 

Anyway the REAL reason Dolph is playing cat and mouse with terrorists in a Bucharest hotel is because it’s dirt cheap to film your Direct to DVD action movie in Bucharest, and it’s EVEN CHEAPER when you never have to leave your hotel room. 

 

I strongly recommend you do not attempt to drive a car or operate heavy machinery after viewing this one. 

 

Even though Dolph sleepwalks through the movie (he doesn’t handle multi-tasking well apparently), at least Springer gets the classic line:  “You messed with the wrong country and you fucked with the wrong President!” 

 

Sign him up for Air Force One 2. 

 

As terrible Straight to DVD action movies that involve ridiculous stunt casting for the Commander in Chief go, this one’s about on par with Land of the Free which starred William Shatner as the Prez.    

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005) ***

 

Divorce isn’t a pretty sight and The Squid and the Whale earns points for not shying away from it’s subject matter.  It handles things in a deftly sardonic manner and gets the feeling of adolescents trapped between two feuding parents just right. 

 

It also happens to be pretty funny too. 

 

Basically the movie consists of the misadventures of two children while their diluted parents (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) deal with the ups and downs of joint custody.  While the parents are wrapped up in their own affairs (literally), the kids try to adjust to their new familial arrangement with varying results. 

 

If you were a child that had to go through your parents getting divorced (like me), a lot of this movie will ring true for you.  I also admired the way that the director Noah Baumbach (who also co-wrote The Life Aquatic) didn’t pull any punches when it came to addressing teenage sex and chronic masturbation and showed what’s it’s like being a teenager, warts and all. 

 

The movie runs a scant 80 minutes and leaves a lot of plot threads hanging, but it captures a lot of real moments and Baumbach’s observations are pretty on the nose.  While it may be laugh out loud funny, it’s also kind of depressing, which may limit your number of viewings, but overall, The Squid and the Whale is a bittersweet look at an uncomfortable subject and is especially worth a look if you’re the product of divorce. 

RAMBO (2008) ****

Well, it’s been two decades since Rambo blew up half a country, but it was definitely well worth the wait.  In First Blood, Rambo declared war on a bunch of rednecks.  In Rambo:  First Blood Part 2, Rambo blew up half of Vietnam.    In Rambo 3, Rambo joined up with the Taliban to mow down a bunch of Russkies.    This time out, it’s Burma’s turn to get annihilated. 

 

The movie starts out with the Burmese army murdering approximately 1,700 innocent civilians.  They shoot holes into infants the size of softballs, rape the women, feed the men to the pigs, molest little boys, make drugged up women do the Macarena, and force people to run the 100 yard dash on landmines.  They also cut off the people’s heads, arms, and legs indiscriminately. 

 

It’s worse than Philadelphia on a Saturday night. 

 

A bunch of Christian missionaries want Rambo to guide them up the river to help the wounded masses.  Rambo is just content on working on a fishing boat, wrangling cobras, and making homemade machetes, so he passes on the deal.  He reluctantly agrees ONLY after the cute missionary (Julie Benz, exuding a sexy Christian MILF quality) makes doe eyes at him.  So he takes ‘em up river and lets them go do God’s work, when wouldn’t you know it, those nasty Burmese soldiers turn up and take them prisoner. 

 

Now the head preacher man gets worried when the missionaries don’t come back so he hires Rambo to take a couple mercenaries behind enemy lines to rescue his flock.  Rambo grabs his machete and takes the mercs to the Army’s campsite.  The mercs are not Grade-A Killing Machine material, but that’s okay because Rambo is.  Since Rambo has been sitting on a fishing boat for twenty years, that’s given him plenty of time to sit around and think up ways to kill people. 

 

Like cutting people’s heads off, ripping out their throats, carving out their guts, blowing them up with Claymore mines and of course the old standby:  shooting people with a very big gun.  What makes Rambo different in this one is that he likes to get REAL CLOSE to people before his shoots them with a very big gun so all that’s left is itty bitty pieces. 

 

42,000 rounds of ammunition and 2,600 dead Burmese soldiers later, Rambo emerges from the jungle with a single flesh wound to rescue the missionaries. 

 

All I’m going to say is that Rambo makes Saving Private Ryan look like Sense and Sensibility. 

 

What we have here is the finest action movie since the original First Blood.  What we have here is the biggest body count movie of this or any millennium.  What we have here is Sylvester Stallone at the top of his game. 

 

Stallone paces the movie at lightning speed and once it gets going it, never lets up.  Like Stallone’s body, there isn’t an ounce of fat on it.  Whether it’s the Burmese soldiers brutally murdering the villagers or Rambo brutally murdering the Burmese soldiers, never once is there a lack of exploding body parts on the screen.  In fact, I’m pretty sure Rambo kills DOUBLE the amount of people he’s killed in the entire series in this one movie. 

 

My only complaint with the movie is that it ends.  I was hoping that after Rambo rescued the missionaries, he’d go back and singlehandedly liberate Burma, but oh well.  Hopefully if there’s a Rambo 5 (Fifth Blood?), Rambo can go back and blow up the half of Burma he forgot to blow up in this one. 

 

This was the first Rambo movie directed by Stallone and he does a fantastic job with it.  It’s certainly on par (if not better) than the first two movies and is a definite improvement over Part 3.  Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another TWENTY years for old Rambo to kick ass again. 

 

In addition to directing, Stallone also co-wrote this bad boy and gave himself all the best lines like “Live for nothing or die for something!”, “When you’re pushed, killing’s as easy as breathing!”, and “Fuck the world!”