Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Eye For An Eye (1981)


In 1981, Chuck Norris released his best movie up to that point, though given how underwhelming his first four films were that’s not saying much.  Chuck plays Sean Kane, a cop (naturally a martial arts expert given Chuck’s presence) out for revenge after his partner, played by Terry “Weekend at Bernie’s” Kiser is killed during an undercover operation.  Sean quits the force and is soon conducting an investigation of his own after his partner’s reporter girlfriend Linda Chan(Rosalind Chao) is murdered by a huge henchman known as The Professor played by Toru Tanaka.  Tanaka is well known in the field of action movies with supporting turns in The Running Man, Revenge of the Ninja, The Perfect Weapon and Missing in Action 2.  Given those credits, I think it’s safe to say he’s a favorite of mine.

Sean’s investigation leads him to a huge drug smuggling operation run by Linda’s boss Morgan Canfield, played by Christopher Lee.  Lee is solid as usual in his few scenes but the fact that this is one of the highlights of his work in the 80’s is not a good sign at all.  The bad guys also include the obligatory dirty cop who pretends to be Kane’s buddy.

Kane is aided by Chao’s father James, another martial arts expert played by the late, great Mako.  Mako not only serves as the sidekick but also provides some comic relief by almost constantly berating Sean for his apparently sloppy martial arts skills.  It’s amusing and one of the few times I can honestly say the comic relief in an action movie is truly funny.

This is a very good thing as pretty much none of the other performances are all that memorable.  Chuck is his usual self, Lee sort of coasts through his role and Tanaka makes for a good henchman, though there is a wonderful bit of stupidity as he appears to be wearing elevator shoes which impede his ability to move quickly.  This is especially funny in his first scene where he’s chasing the reporter.  You almost wonder how it is that he gets even slightly close to his target!

While the action is just fine, the film suffers from some severe pacing issues, as do most of Chuck’s movies.  At almost an hour and forty five minutes, it sags in places, though I’m not sure there is anything that could have been cut without hurting what little plot was there to begin with.

Also, Lee’s presence as a villain is not really that much of a surprise as he falls perfectly into the cliché of a big name actor in a seemingly unimportant role turning out to be not what he seems.  Its fine for what it needs to be but it’s still utterly predictable.

Chuck would re-team with this movie’s director, Steve Carver, two years later in the excellent Lone Wolf McQuade, a far better movie and one that I have written about over at The Agony Booth.

As for this movie, it’s a perfectly acceptable rainy day action movie that you can sit down and enjoy.  Just don’t expect anything mind blowing.

The Expendables (2010)


9/10

Note from the author:  Over at The Agony Booth, I’ve been doing long recaps of cheesy action movies.  Here, I’ll be covering more or less the same ground but with a focus on the more well-known films in the genre.  I thought I'd start off with this movie which is a fantastic throwback to the exact type of movie I will be covering on this blog.

One of the great things in the last few years has been the resurgence of Sylvester Stallone’s career.  I’m a huge fan of the guy and it’s great to see him putting out quality films again.  Rocky Balboa was a nice sendoff for the series and Rambo was, quite frankly, awesome in its own unique way.

His latest movie is an amazingly fun throwback to the glory days of action films where the macho nonsense was laid on thick, the violence was excessive to the point of hilarity and by the end pretty much anything that could be blown up real good met with that fate.

Sly plays Barney Ross, a mercenary who heads a team that includes Lloyd Christmas (Jason Statham), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) Yin Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren).

The plot is a favorite of mine when it comes to cheesy action movies, the good guys have to overthrow a sadistic Central American dictator.  Here, the dictator, one General Garza (David Zayas) is being funded by Munroe (Eric Roberts), a former CIA operative who is assisted by Dan Paine (Stone Cold Steve Austin) and The Brit (Gary Daniels).

Ross and company are put onto the job by a shadowy man named Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) and in a wonderfully amusing scene; Ross takes the job after it’s rejected by a fellow mercenary played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Yep, the three big names from 80’s action are in one scene together and it’s great!

The movie kicks off with a nice action scene on a boat that ends with Jensen being kicked out of the group for being an unstable nut job.  Other action highlights include a hilariously over the top scene Stallone and Statham in a plane that sees Statham getting into a gun turret mounted on the nose of the plane and the wonderfully excessive climax that has enough gunfire, flames, blood and carnage for two movies.

There are simply not enough words to describe how much I love this movie.  The performances are great across the board and I should give a special mention to Mickey Rourke at this point.  He has a supporting role as a former member of Stallone’s team and serves as the team’s weapons supplier.  In a rather neat, inspired moment, he is given time to reminisce about a mission he was on that stuck with him.  It’s a wonderfully done moment that is great because it is so out of place.  Sure, Stallone tries to tie it in with his character’s psychology but come on...You come to a movie like this for loads of action, not psychological complexity.

Great flick though and Rourke is great in his scenes.  I highly recommend this movie for anyone who either was around for this type of movie when it was the norm or wants to know just how great action movies used to be.

Laughs from the Past-Standup Cavalcade

I love stand-up comedy almost as much as I love movies.  From a very early age, the first time I saw Bill Cosby to be precise, I’ve always had a love for the art and this series will serve as a loving tribute to one of the most difficult forms of entertainment one can undertake.

Jim Gaffigan-Beyond the Pale (2006)

10/10

Our first subject is an offering from a man I’ve only recently discovered in the last year or so.  Jim Gaffigan is a wonderfully offbeat comic with an easygoing Midwestern friendliness that makes his comedy that much funnier.

After a few CD releases, Jim put out Beyond the Pale in 2006.  Coupled with a special on Comedy Central, this set is an excellent way to introduce someone to his unique brand of comedy.

It opens with him doing his “inner voice”, a whispery, strangely outraged audience member who serves as a running commentary on the actual material in the routine.  It’s a great way to disarm the audience and at times is even funnier than the jokes he does.

He moves on to spend most of the show talking about food and eating.  Far from a one dimensional topic, he manages to make the laughs come for nearly an hour.  The highlight has to be his routine on Hot Pockets.  It’s fantastically funny, as is the rest of the CD.  I also recommend the DVD which provided an extended version of the show and some extras.

Martin Mull:  Near Perfect/Perfect (1979)

8/10

We go all the way back to 1979 for our next album with the humorous song stylings of Martin Mull.  A diverse performer, Martin has done movies, TV, stand-up, he’s also a pretty damn good painter.  Bottom line, the man is talented.

This is one of the last comedy albums he did; it was recorded live and runs a little under an hour.  It begins with a satirical intro from Los Angeles radio legend, the late Robert W. Morgan that pokes fun at fast food restaurants and move onto Mull doing a mix of songs in different styles (he hits country, disco, tender ballads) and comedy in his “self-centered entertainer” character.

Probably the most entertaining part of the album is Track 5 titles “This Takes the Cake”.  It contains some funny stuff from Mull highlighted by the song which features Peter Frampton sitting with Mull and his band.  There’s also a very funny bit on saving the forests of the country by using household pets instead of wood.

The album is fairly hard to find but if you can...and you enjoy mildly kitschy late seventies comedy, it’s a nice little gem.

Bill Cosby:  200 MPH (1968)

9/10

We finish this round off with one of my all-time favorite comedy albums.  Period.  As I alluded to at the top of the article, Bill Cosby is one of my favorite comedians.  I feel he’s one of the best at the simple but vital art of telling a story onstage.

This album is a prime example of this as he begins the set with some shorter routines on families and animals before launching into the title track.  The last track on the album, it runs just over 22 minutes and mainly concerns a car he had made for him specially that can achieve a top speed of 200 mph.  It begins with Bill chatting with the audience about cars, knocking the VW as well as the folks who drive them in a very casual manner (this show like many of his late sixties/early seventies albums was recorded in a casino) and moves onto the story which ends with a rare bit of political humor from Bill as he foists off the out of control car on George Wallace.

Bill is at his relaxed best here, I’m sure the casino setting helped that and it’s really a nice throwback album to put on.

An Introduction



Welcome to the Pop Culture Shack, an irreverent look back at stuff you either missed or already saw but forgot to laugh at the first time.  I’m Ed, your master of ceremonies and I will be guiding you through the wonderful, weird world of  70’s, 80’s and 90’s pop culture with some more modern stuff thrown in for flavor.

The content of this blog will be divided into the following categories:

Movies:

Here you will find cheesy action movies, cheap horror movies, quality movies that should be highly regarded, quality movies that should be poorly regarded, mediocre movies that should be mildly noticed before being forgotten, bad movies that should be noticed, bad movies that should be noticed briefly and then forgotten, recent movies and very recent movies…which would be the rare occasion I have the time and money to go out to the theater.

Oh, and also the occasional DVD review.

Comedy:

This will mainly be comedy albums and comedy specials.  Each post will usually contain multiple reviews because...Well, because I’m a showoff.

Before we begin, I should probably talk about myself a bit.  I’m a writer with a degree in screenwriting from Chapman University in Orange, CA.  Besides a love for movies and pop culture, I also enjoy basketball, football and baseball.

Please enjoy, and remember:  Laughter is the best medicine...though it still won’t cure the common cold.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.