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Hardcore Henry (2015)

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Directors like to try new things sometimes, and often it gets the movie talked about to the point where it overshadows the plot.  For instance, there is a lot going on in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), for better or worse, but director Alejandro G. Iñárritu chose to film the movie as if it were one continuous shot.  It did take some effort to make it all seamless, but largely the ploy was successful.  It is not the only aspect of the movie to spark discussion, but it is a big part of what the movie is. Hardcore Henry uses the gimmick of filming an action film all from the point of view of the main character.  It's not the first time the idea has come about - a good many of the found footage films practically do the same thing - but instead of trying to find any excuse to have the protagonist carry a camera around for 90 minutes, Hardcore Henry instead gives the audience the thrill of experiencing the action right along with the protagonist.  The main problem is t…

Clay Pigeon (1971)

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Clay Pigeon is a strange film.  It's pretty much a forgotten early '70s hippie exploitation film from Tom Stern, a character actor that was known for bit parts in biker films.  He took what money he had earned from his past movies, borrowed some more and talked MGM into distributing the film with promises of a portion of the gross - something that never came, as the movie was in and out of theaters despite having a decent cast. Stern plays Joe Ryan, a Vietnam veteran and ex-police officer living as a hippy on the streets of Los Angeles.  Ryan was awarded the Silver Star when he jumped on a grenade that turned out to be a dud, which often gets him a pass when needed, although he seems to play that ace rarely.  When he spends some time in jail for taking a cop's motorcycle for joyride he is contacted by Agent Redford (Telly Savalas), who wants to help him flush out drug kingpin Neilson (Robert Vaughn).  Ryan refuses, but Redford decides to force the issue, putting Ryan on Ne…

The Howling (1981)

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Every decade or so the classic monsters get a redo.  Our favorite Transylvanian vampire has gone from the rat-like "Count Orlock" of Nosferatuto the suave specter of Dracula, and then transformed into an almost feral presence in the Hammer versions before becoming tragic figure in the 1970s and 1990s.  All along the effect have become better, evolving from a couple of puncture wounds to entire throats ripped out. Hammer didn't do too much with werewolves, and though Lon Chaney, Jr. played Larry Talbot as a tragic character in The Wolf Man and all the sequels it generated, the character came later in the Universal pantheon and it seemed that, for quite a while, no one had any use for lycanthropes.  That is, until the early 1980s.1981 saw a pair of werewolf films.  The more famous, An American Werewolf in London, was directed by John Landis and had special effects by Rick Baker.  It told the story of an man turned into a werewolf when attacked on the Scottish moors, and it…

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)

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While it did well financially, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menacewas not exactly received with open arms by the fans.  While Jake Lloyd got a lot of undeserved blame for his role as a young Anakin Skywalker, the main source of discontent was Jar Jar Binks.  The Return of the Jedimay have been a bit too kid friendly in order to make that sweet merchandise money, but The Phantom Menace went all out and the reputation of the series suffered for it.  What the next movie needed was to emulate The Empire Strikes Back That meant a darker tone, introducing more of the actual plot of the trilogy and including some conflict that would pay off in one way or another once everything was wrapped up.  Film maker and frequent George Lucas apologist Kevin Smith, before Attack of the Clones appeared in theaters, assured us this was it. Anakin would go to some dark places, Jar Jar played a minimal role and we would get to see Yoda in action.  We were promised a return to everything that made St…

Idiocracy (2006)

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It was either the late 1990s or early 2000s that I discovered Cyril M. Kornbluth's short story, "The Marching Morons".  I was already familiar with its companion piece, "The Little Black Bag", about a largely automated medical device that travels back in time and is misused in the current day.  The bag itself was designed by the remaining, hidden cadre of intelligent people of the future, made fool-proof in order to make sure that the general population of the time could actually treat illnesses, while pretending to know what they were doing, and not causing any harm in the process.  That particular story had been compiled and also filmed a number of times for anthology shows.When I read "The Marching Morons" I realized that there was only one place I recognized it from - The Simpsons.  In the 10th episode of their Halloween themed Treehouse of Horror, there's a segment called "Life's a Glitch, Then You Die".  It's based on the c…

The Black Hole (1979)

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If anything The Black Hole got me even more interested in astronomy at a young age.  Due to my interest in space travel, and the science behind it, I learned early on that the reality of entering a black hole was more of a frightening thought than an exciting one.  There is no other side of the "hole" - one gets dragged down to a singularity, and that's the end.  Even worse was when I learned about spaghettification, meaning the part that is nearest the singularity begins to get stretched to the level of the very molecules being pulled apart.  Regardless of the science, I remember wanting to see this movie as a child.  I spent a lot of time at the local library, and one of the books available was the comic adaptation of the film.  Later I got my hands on other adaptations, including the short-lived Beyond the Black Hole.  I really wanted the action figures, particularly V.I.N.C.E.N.T., Old B.O.B., Maximillian and the Sentry Robots.  Star Warswas always going to be my cen…

The Running Man (1987)

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I remember it was the early 1990s.  I was in an arcade - an arcade in which, if I remember right, I beat a number of friends soundly at air hockey - when I found an arcade game calles Smash TV.  The point of it was that the player was in a game show and had to kill as many people as possible to advance, while grabbing prizes and working their way through the levels to gain their freedom.  I loved it, as it was something I had been looking forward to in a game for a long time. As for The Running Man, which provided inspiration for the game, I am not sure if I had seen it at the time I discovered the game.  When I decided to revisit it for this review I was sure it had come out later than it did, but quickly realized (before checking the date) how truly '80s the whole production looked.  I know I didn't see it in the theater, as there was no way I was sneaking in at 15 with my baby face, but I am quite sure I saw it sometime before 1990.  I at least know I had seen it before I r…