Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Original Theatrical Release Date: August 9, 1996
Director: John Carpenter

It’s 2013 and Los Angeles is now an island for undesirables, deported from America by the U.S. Government. Once you go there, you can never get back. The President’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), steals a doomsday device and heads for the island in order to help free the prisoners there and daddy isn’t happy. He gets Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go after her by having him injected with a disease that will end his life in hours and promising him the cure if he’s successful. However, a revolutionary named Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) and L.A.’s many dangerous denizens stand in the way.

Sequels are rarely ever able to outshine the originals, and this film is no exception.

The entire movie is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the entire culture of Los Angeles, and that it probably the most entertaining aspect of the film. It’s an action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is fun for the most part but makes for a movie that’s hard to become attached to, unlike the first film Escape From New York.

Kurt Russell really channels his inner Clint Eastwood for this installment, and other actors such as Steve Buscemi and Peter Fonda fall into their roles with seemingly great joy. Who doesn’t want to see Bruce Campbell as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills?

The movie plays out like an Extreme Sports story, with Kurt Russell taking on extreme forms of basketball, hang gliding and surfing, which is really strange in the context of this film, but made for some entertaining scenes.

The special effects have not held up well over time and some of them, while laughably funny, tend to take you right out of the movie. However, at this point in his career it seemed like John Carpenter was just having some fun, and the fun did shine through and it’s sort of infectious.

Still, for those who weren’t introduced to this series of films back when they originally came out, it might be hard to fully appreciate this sequel by today’s standards, though the original still holds up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Escape From L.A.

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Hulk Vs. (2009)

Hulk Vs. (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: January 27, 2009
Director: Sam Liu, Frank Paur

The Incredible Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) is one of Marvel Comics’ most powerful and dangerous characters. In this animated double feature, the Hulk goes up against The Mighty Thor (Matt Wolf) and Wolverine (Steve Blum) in two separate vignettes.

In the first, Hulk is transported to Asgard by the mischievous Loki (Graham McTavish), Thor’s jealous brother, and placed under a spell with the help of Enchantress/Amora (Kari Wahlgren). With Bruce Banner (Bryce Johnson) separated from his monstrous other half, the Hulk, he can only watch as Loki uses Hulk to smash his way through Asgard with only Thor and his Asgardian friends to stand in the way.

In the second, the Canadian military is after the Hulk when he is suspected of making attacks on defenseless wilderness homesteads. They call in Wolverine, who uses his superior senses to track Hulk down. However, as the two rage away at each other in the forest they are both attacked by members of the Weapon X program which created Wolverine’s adamantium-laced bones and claws and Wolverine is left to fight Sabretooth (Mark Acheson), Lady Deathstrike (Janyse Jaud), Omega Red (Colin Murdock) and Deadpool (Nolan North) all at the same time, with Hulk as the wild card.

It was an interesting choice to package this as a double feature. The whole thing, with both movies, runs to about an hour and a half.

I found the first story with Thor to be a little underwhelming. It’s always cool to see Thor go up against Hulk, but this one wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was going to be. There were a few instances in which Thor really went to town on Hulk, but overall, to create more drama, the writers sort of overpowered Hulk a little bit. I felt like with these two titans beating on each other, there should’ve been more destruction, more action.

Luckily, the second story redeemed the entire movie.

Wolverine versus Hulk, to me, is always really great…and this one tried to re-create, at least a little bit, the fight they had in Incredible Hulk #180, which was Wolverine’s first appearance in 1974. Notable differences being the involvement of Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Deadpool. For the movie version, it worked however because a fight between Hulk and Wolverine would be pretty brutal but also pretty short, so having the villains show up enabled the pacing to be the way it was.

Overall, it was a fun watch. I just wish they had tweaked the Thor section a little bit more.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Also, just a side note: If you’re interested in all-things-Hulk….check out The Collectionary, which features tons of Hulk-related merchandise to peruse and consider purchasing for gifts or for yourself.

Trailer For Hulk Vs.

The Punisher (2004)

The Punisher (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2004
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is an FBI agent who foils a drug deal in which Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) son is killed. Saint is a crime lord of the highest caliber and sets out to punish everyone involved. He discovers that Castle and his family are getting together for a reunion and decides to kill them all. With his wife, son and entire family dead, Castle re-groups and goes on a vengeance-fueled murder rampage against the Saint family in an all out war as the Marvel Comics character, The Punisher.

I was never really sold on Thomas Jane as Frank Castle. I don’t fully know why, but I just wasn’t. I thought Dolph Lundgren looked the part back in The Punisher (1989) but that movie had about as much to do with the actual Punisher franchise as Mickey Mouse. Ray Stevenson, from Punisher: War Zone (2008) was a perfect casting for Castle, in my opinion, but that movie also suffered from severe story problems.

What I wish could have happened was that they took Ray and put him in this movie and then amped up the story and it could have been amazing. Really, it could have!

As it is, we get a glimpse of emotion when Frank’s wife and kid are running from the mobsters but then, after they kill Frank about 80 different ways (beating him senseless, shooting him point blank multiple times and then blowing him up) he is transformed to The Punisher but we don’t really transform with him. He is living in an apartment building with some wacky-yet-lovable neighbors (and also Rebecca Romijn Stamos, because she’s TOTALLY believable as the ‘girl next door’) who are constantly wondering about him.

My favorite parts about this movie were his fight with The Russian and the encounter with the singing assassin, Harry Heck, who sounds and looks a lot like Johnny Cash. Those guys were both taken from story runs that Garth Ennis did in the comic books, so I guess you could say I like the books more than the movie.

Jane’s Punisher is just never quite badass enough, which kind of ruined it for me. Travolta wasn’t too bad, but that’s the problem. We needed more time with Castle’s family so that we cared about them and THEN they should have killed them all off so we wanted to see them avenged. As it was, I just thought they all did incredibly idiotic things while they were being fired at by the mob.

In any case, it’s not the worst Punisher movie I’ve seen and certainly not one of the worst movies I’ve seen in general, but I felt kind of let down. I hope they re-boot this series someday, but I hope they stick with the emotional side of his loss because that’s what’s most effective in the comics and why he’s an enduring character. STORY FIRST, PEOPLE!

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For The Punisher