Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 in Review

Well, another year has come and gone, and with it, a series of reasonably good new action films. There were some surprising highs and some disappointing lows in '09. Below we discuss a few of our favorites and also lament a couple of tragedies*.

1. Star Trek

I should say up front that I am NOT a Trekkie. I had my stint with the Next Generation as a kid, and I watched Deep Space Nine for a time. But I never was a big Kirk and Spock kind of guy. That being said, I'm no fool and I knew going into this what were the major faux pas to be avoided. JJ Abrams managed to give us a new take on an old franchise and simultaneously maintain a sense of continuity. This installment of Star Trek gives us a pseudo origins story of some of our favorite characters. The story centers around a crazy Romulan named Nero (played by Eric Bana), who after having his planet destroyed by a rogue exploding star, travels back in time with the intent of destroying all federation home planets. Unfortunately, despite Nero's best efforts to alter the events of history, Kirk still ends up on the Enterprise with the old crew (Spock, McCoy, Scottie, and so on). With a little help from Future Spock, Kirk and his crew stop Nero and bring balance back to the universe.

I was a big fan of this movie for a number of reasons. First, the casting was superb. I thought McCoy and Spock were particularly well done. Second, Leonard Nemoy's presence was a necessary common thread to create a believable origins movie (unlike Wolverine (see below for discussion) ). And third, being a huge Lost fan, I really enjoyed JJ Abrams time travel/alternate reality plot line. In retrospect, it was the only way that Abrams was going to appease Trek fanatics and create something that wasn't garbage. Next up on Abrams plate is a new Mission Impossible movie... let's see if lighting will strike twice.

2. District 9

District 9 is by far my top pic for 2009. I can't tell you how pleasantly surprised I was with my viewing experience of this movie. Essentially, District 9 tells the tale of a group of refugee aliens who find themselves hovering above Johannesburg emaciated and in need of help. Over the course of a number of decades, the aliens (affectionately referred to as "prawns" due to their distinctly shellfish-like appearance) entrench themselves in a network of shanty-towns in the city. The story centers on Wikus Van de Merwe, played by Sharlto Copley, who is given the responsibility of relocating the prawns to a government camp away from the city, both out of sight and mind. Unfortunately, during the process, Wikus is exposed to an alien substance which slowly but surely has him transforming into one of the prawns. Wikus quickly finds himself between worlds, untrusted by the prawns and wanted by the humans for his valuable alien-human hybrid dna. The parallels between District 9 and South African apartheid are obvious and make this movie all the better.

I think that the reasons I liked this movie are (1) the main actors were not a bunch of superstars, making it that much more believable. (2) Most of the alien effects relied on costumes rather than CGI. Thank christ. And (3) District 9 doesn't reinvent the wheel. The main themes borrow from South African history and the sci-fi components are tried and true (i.e. sweet battle mechs and gigantic alien craft hovering over a major city). Overall, a fantastic movie. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of these off-the-beaten-path type films in the years to come, particularly given this movie and the success of the low-budget Paranormal Activity this year. Fingers crossed.

3. The Watchmen

If you are anything like me, you had high hopes for this movie. I've now seen it twice and still have mixed feelings. For those of you who don't know, The Watchmen is about a group of vigilantes who come out of forced retirement after a series of masked crime fighters are killed. Heavy on Cold War themes and thick with original and titillating imagery, The Watchmen is a classic which is worth the read, even if you are not a comic book kind of a person.

As you may know, we here at Action Direct are big fans of the comic book and posted numerous times in anticipation of this movie. Early buzz had us believing that director Zack Snyder was going to give us something true to the graphic novel. Unfortunately, I think he may have gone a little too far. The Watchmen book is short on good animation, but remains a classic due to its phenomenal storyline. Snyder's take is heavy on the visual and pays less attention to the story, which to me is a problem. Ultimately, I think that this movie falls short, although it is clearly entertaining visually and probably worth watching on Blu-Ray. But for the die-hard fans out there, be ready to be a little disappointed.

4. Zombieland

Zombieland is, as you might imagine, about zombies. We aren't given a whole lot of information about how it began, but little is needed. By now, we the public are well-versed in the possible subtexts resulting in a zombie-ridden world. In this particular version of zombie induced post-apocalyptica, Tallahassee and Columbus (Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg) are loners who form an unlikely alliance. The duo soon encounter Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin), a pair of sisters who have somehow managed to survive. The four set out cross-country on an antic-packed journey to the west coast, discovering along the way that while there may be safety in solitude, companionship is priceless...

I don't know about you, but I had a hell of a good time watching Zombieland. The driving philosophical motif in this film is the following: "you've got to appreciate the little things". Although movies like the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later taught us to respect zombies, it is Zombieland that teaches us that sometimes, you just have to laugh about your situation, even if that situation is killing fat zombies. Definitely go see Zombieland if you haven't yet.

5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This year's top candidate for biggest disappointment is X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is supposed to retell the story of Wolverine, one of the most beloved of Marvel characters. Instead, we are handed a pale of semi-solid poop. I don't understand why the film industry insists on "improving" comic book story lines. Actually, I do understand why ($$), but that doesn't make it okay. It's as if a couple of dudes bought one or two Wolverine comic books over the weekend, skimmed them, and then got together on Monday to brainstorms plot twists which would make Wolverine's origin better.

The truth is, I should not have been so invested in this movie to begin with, particularly after the shit they pulled in the most recent X-Men movie. Here are some of the worst moments in this movie:
  • When Gambit spins his bo staff over his head to "helicopter" down from a rooftop. Are you kidding me?
  • When Sabertooth asks Wolverine, "Do you even know how to kill me?".... sigh.
  • When Stryker shoots Logan in the head with the gigantic Magnum, thereby erasing his memory and tiding up an otherwise discordant film franchise. I just hate that shit.
Maybe I'm being too hard on this movie, but in today's film climate, when franchises like Batman and Iron Man are making concerted efforts to create super hero movies which don't suck, I just expect more.

* Note that I am not including Avatar here. I know that it technically was released in 2009, but I haven't seen it and, frankly, have been a little bit disgusted by the hype.

6. Terminator Salvation

While Wolverine topped out 09's shitlist, a close second would have to be the much anticipated Terminator Salvation. This has proven to be yet another heartbreaker in a line of disappointments. The Terminator series, which climaxed long ago with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, will have to continue to hold its breath for a worthy follow up to its first two installments. A disjunct, rather unfeasible storyline combined with some over the top special effects (some of which brought Arnold out of retirement) made what was intended to be a gritty, post apocalyptic action film into just another big bang FX movie churned out of the Hollywood shit machine.

One of the biggest surprises that I encountered during the movie was that I found Christian Bale's character line (becoming the grown version of John Connor) to be rather overblown and underwhelming, yet relative newcomer Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright) was able to deliver some excellent scenes throughout the first half of the film as an amnesia ridden wanderer in a world he no longer recognizes. However, his "strong heart" was not enough to pull the rest of the film out of the mud and, in the end, leaves this film as a fun Dbox experience but certainly not the salvation to the franchise that we had all hoped for.

7. Inglourious Basterds

In Quentin Tarantino's latest addition to his bloody repertoire, he takes on one of the most visited backdrops of modern action film: World War 2. While the scenery may be a common thread in the action genre, the style with which it is presented is uniquely Tarantino's. As we have already posted at length on Basterds, I won't spend too much time rehashing our analysis, but as a landmark in 09's cinema, Basterds has brought us some of the most memorable and entertaining theatrical moments of the year. From the intensely anticipatory opening farmhouse scene to the comedic and ultra violent burning of the french Cinema, Tarantino delivers his trademark nods to spaghetti westerns and samurai flicks of the 60s and 70s while continuing to deliver excellent casting and an amazing soundtrack. If you haven't taken the time to watch this one, do yourself a favor and reserve a few hours of time on a Tuesday night, pick up a copy of Inglourious Basterds and prepare to be scalped.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What to do in case of a Zombie attack?

Have you ever wondered how a zombie outbreak might go down in your neighborhood? Do you know where the closest gun store/mall is? And, do you know of a secondary entrance should the front door be mobbed by angry zombies?

These are pressing questions that you should have answered long ago. For those of you preparing your little ones for the inevitable, I suggest using the this zombie simulator. Impressing upon them the importance of readiness should be top priority. Complete with blood puking, ass-hauling zombies, being familiar with this simulator is one of many precautions that we should all be taking.

Make no mistakes, evil exists.... be prepared.


Not surprisingly, this subject has been of late getting some serious press. Head on over to NYTimes read an interesting, and somewhat bleak, assessment of our odds...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Empire

In celebration of its 20th birthday, Empire magazine has done a sweet spread of actors posing as some of their most (in)famous roles. This one is by far my favorite....

Head over to Empire to see 'em all.

Monday, November 30, 2009

When Dreams Become Reality

As it turns out, while Steven Seagal was showing the world creative ways in which one man can break another man's arm on the big screen, he was also training a select group of Louisiana police officers in creative ways in which one man can break another man's arm... for real.

A&E's latest series, Steven Seagal: Lawman... for real.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tauntaun Innards are Cozy

I don't know about you, but the first thing that enters my mind every time I see Han cut open his tauntaun to warm Luke with its innards is, "Mmmm, that looks cozy."

The good folks over at have gone ahead and taken it one step further. Now your young one can sleep "in the belly of the beast"... literally experiencing the warmth (and smell) of the inside of a tauntaun*.

* Snow rebel uniform/helmet not included.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Scalping, Revenge, Feet, and the Bear Jew: Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds

Today you're in for a real treat. Joining us for what will likely be the first of many action related collaborations is our very own Zatoichi, a close friend and fellow action junky of the highest degree. Today, Zatoichi and myself will be delving into the clearly troubled mind of Quentin Tarantino as we discuss his latest film, "Inglorious Basterds". Note, the following will likely contain a number of spoilers which you might wish to avoid until actually seeing all 2 hours and 32 minutes of the film.

Zatoichi: After a string of Tarantino films that have been either awesome, but with too much chop and hack (Kill Bill, Death Proof) or not so awesome (Jackie Brown), I walked into Inglourious Basterds with sweaty trepidation. Would the author of Pulp Fiction, a consciousness transforming film and among the best ever made, be able to live up to my hopes?

As in his other films, Tarantino has built his story on a theme that has been used many times over (Reservoir Dogs: Heist gone wrong; Pulp Fiction: Hood gets involved with Boss's wife; Kill Bill: Revenge Epic). This time, he uses what may be the most overused setting in all of film and literature for the past sixty years: WWII epic. Going into the film, you wonder how Tarantino is going to deal with subjects such as the holocaust or Hitler, both of which are extremely tricky, and must be dealt with carefully, at the risk of audience alienation. The tactic in the past has either been humor: Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), or Dark, Brooding, Drama: Der Untergang (2004). Further, it seemed impossible that he could breathe new life into a subject that had been exhausted from every angle by almost every great director that has ever lived. Amazingly, Tarantino effortlessly navigates this impossible subject with signature violence, dialogue, and, most importantly, humor. It's easily his funniest film.

A good example is The Ridiculous Pipe that Waltz's character smokes in the opening. It's in shocking contrast to the look and feel of the film to this point, and especially to the pipe of his opponent. Tarantino has the reserve to present it without mention. And while the film is hysterical it also manages gut-wrenchingly-beautiful and profound, such as Laurent's character's escape (in absolutely the most effective homage to John Ford ever achieved (despite fifty years since The Searchers came out)). The masterful linking of these two examples in the film illustrates one of the director's greatest strengths - the tight juxtaposition of horrific tragedy with uproarious comedy.

Casey: I'll come right out and say that I liked Inglorious Basterds. It helped that I was in need of a dark cool place to rest my head after a night of kilts and boot daggers followed by an early morning drive through the robust landscape of western Massachusetts.

To a certain extent, I agree with what Zatoichi has to say. Tarantino certainly succeeds in juxtaposing the horrific and the slapstick, although I worry that he takes one or two too many steps in the direction of the latter, particularly in the end scene in the movie theater, when Pitt et al infiltrate a Nazi movie premier as supposed Italian cameramen. It feels over the top to me. But I'll concede that Tarantino did a fantastic job of navigating a well-explored bit of cinematic terrain (i.e. WWII). Specifically, there were two things that blew my mind about this movie:

First, I knew coming into this movie that Tarantino had taken a few liberties with history, but had no idea the extent to which his exaggerations and fantasies had gone. Tarantino essentially takes the story that he wants to tell and then proceeds to tidy it up with historical context. It is really pretty interesting, especially since he (unsurprisingly) makes no apologies for doing so. I had never given much thought to this before I saw this movie. In general, formula-based historical fiction frames a fictional story against a historically accurate backdrop. The story is often times incidental to the actual events of history, or, in the best cases, somehow cleverly tied in with what we accept as true. In IB, what we know to be true about WWII is tossed to the wayside to make room for Tarantino's version of reality.

Second, this movie makes it very clear that Tarantino has mastered the art of drawn out stationary scenes with impeccable dialogue. Think Vincent Vega sitting in a booth with Mia Wallace at Jack Rabbit Slim's, and then imagine that Jack Rabbit Slim's is a basement pub in the middle of occupied rural France. Then go ahead and imagine that Marilyn Monroe and Richard Nixon are actually a famous German actress/spy and a Nazi officer with an ear for phoney accents, respectively. Somewhere in between you arrive in the ballpark of where Tarantino takes you in IB. Unfortunately, this has the effect of making IB feel to me much more like a string of polished short films with recurring characters than a full length film. Has Tarantino ever done any shorts?

All that being said, I appreciate the intricacies of the story and Tarantino's continued effort to build up the Tarantino Universe of characters. Plus, I'm in awe of the way he disposed of all of the important high-ranking Nazi officers, including the Fuhrer himself. Excellent.

Zatoichi: It is tremendously freeing that Tarantino violates history. For me, the conclusion was inevitable, and maybe I should have guessed that he would be so irreverent with history, but I didn't, and the effect was spectacular.

One of the most lasting images is of Hitler, laughing hysterically during the screening of the film within the film. The film he's watching with the rest of the Third Reich isn't funny. It's about a single Nazi killing hundreds from a watchtower, and the only thing that ever happens is that he keeps shooting people, and they keep missing him (well, except that at one point he takes the time for some intricate wittling). Hitler laughs like he about to choke to death throughout. While this is hysterical, it adds a levity to our impression of the evil of Hitler that maybe shouldn't be there.

It hadn't occurred to me that the slapstick was too much, though I can see why you say so. I thought Pitt, in particular, pulled it off, and that the film works within the rules that Tarantino has set up for himself (which arent many). The physical comedy isn't much more ridiculous than the dialogue, violation of history, or improbabilities of the plot.

I think we were both surprised by how strong and original the film was. It breaks all the rules that it has to to allow Tarantino to tell the story that he wants to tell. Pure entertainment, lasting impressions, and the best dialogue he's written in years.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quentin Tarantino's Top 20

Hey folks, long time no see. My apologies, but the last couple of months have been a little hectic and have not left as much time for action related rhetoric as I would like. But I came across this today on /Film, and thought that I would share it with you.

Here we have Quentin Tarantino listing his top 20 movies made since he became a director in 1992. At the top of his list is Battle Royale, which I have to admit is one badass movie. The other nineteen come in no particular order, but do include cinematic greats such as Unbreakable and The Matrix, among others. I also like that he included The Host, which I thought was actually a really great monster movie.

There are a few in here that I have not seen and will certainly add to my list (I can't believe I haven't seen Police Story 3!). I was also pissed that Katheryn Bigelow's Point Break wasn't in there, until I realized that it was made in '91, and Tarantino was quickly redeemed in my eyes...

Any that you would add to the list?

PS- I saw District 9 yesterday and it was rad.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Violent Sci-Fi Action Recommendations

So I logged onto Netflix yesterday to find that my first recommended genre was "Violent Sci-Fi Action". Have I been watching so much violent sci-fi that the Netflix algorithms picked up on it? Has anyone else encountered such specifically tailored recommendations on Netflix?

Anyway, being that my girlfriend has been out of town, I have in fact been watching an inordinate amount of Sci-Fi. I thought that I would fire off a couple of titles in case you too find yourself without your significant other for an extended period of time and have a hankering for 80's Sci-Fi action.

The Thing (1982):

I may have caught this one on the the tail end of our Kurt Russell celebration. The truth is, I'm surprised I had never seen it until now. In this early eighties sci-fi action/ horror flick, a team of American scientists in Antarctica are faced with the realization that an alien lifeform which absorbs and then replicates any living thing it pleases, has infiltrated their ranks. Now it's up to Russell and friends to figure out who is still human and who is waiting to suck out his brains the first chance they get. Pretty good thrills coupled with gross-you-out special effects, this little guy is a gem for the fan of classic sci-fi.

Outland (1981):

This was actually one of the violent sci-fi's that Netflix recommended. I had never heard of it and thought I would give it a shot. Overall, a pretty good experience. This one tells the story of Marshall O'neil, who makes it his job to clean up an outer ring mining colony. Turns out the general manager, played by Peter Boyle, has been flooding the colony with a dangerous narcotic which boosts productivity in his workers but has the unfortunate side-effect of turning them into psychotic killers. O'neil quickly finds himself the target of an assassination attempt, which he, having made few friends on the colony, has to quell all my himself. Kind of a sci-fi detective story, which I thought was both gritty and frank. Quite enjoyable.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985):

This one needs no introduction. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the third and final installment of the Mad Max films. Most people consider this movie to be the worst of the three. While they may be right, that by no means makes this a bad movie. On post-apocalyptic Earth, folks either fend for themselves on the open road or take refuge in one of the few "civilized" establishments. Barter Town is one of these. Powered by an army of swine, Barter Town is ruled above by Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and below by Master Blaster (who is actually two people). Max stumbles into town after having had his team of camels stolen. To get 'em back, he makes a deal with Tina to kill Master Blaster, but after seeing Blaster's sweet face, busts the deal. Unfortunately, in Barter Town, bustin' a deal means facin' The Wheel. He is soon exiled to the desert where he is taken in by a starry-eyed tribe of kids who together return to take back what's theirs and to let Tina know who really runs Barter Town. Strong sci-fi and, as always, great western-like chase scenes with dune-buggies.

Also on the list:

The Road Warrior (1981)
Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD ( 1996)
Serenity (2005)

Have you seen anything good lately?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

X-Men: The Animated Series Available Online

If you're like me (and if you're reading this then you surely are), you remember fondly the Saturday 10:30 am time slot of the early 90's. Yes, I'm talking about the X-Men Animated Series, arguably one of the best comic book inspired cartoons (are there any other contenders?).

It's surprising that the whole series isn't yet available on DVD (actually, it will be shortly, although not the complete set of episodes). But apparently, will be airing an episode every Tuesday night! This is huge, and will certainly make it into my already full Tuesday night line-up...

The first episode of many is posted below.


Next episode here:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Would Win in a Fight: Raymond Tango versus Gabriel Cash?

As the final installment in our "Kurt Russell Kicks Ass" extravaganza, we revive an old tradition here at Action Direct, where Keanu and I pit two action personalities against each other and discuss who would win in a fight. Today, we're going to throw Ray Tango (Sly Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell), of Tango and Cash fame, into a concrete pit with nothing but their wits and see who comes out victorious.

For those of you who don't know Tango and Cash (and therefore, did not instantaneously pee your pants at this hypothetical matchup), let me bring you up to speed. Ray Tango and Gabe Cash are the Los Angeles area's top cops. Tango usually takes care of things up in a suit and tie, whereas Cash generally wears jeans and a mullet. Oh yeah, and the two don't get along. Unfortunately, their success pisses off local crime boss, Yves Perrett (Jack Palance), who promptly has them framed and imprisoned. The two put aside their differences to escape from jail and clear their respective names.

All right, so who would win in a fight?

Damn, this is a tough one. On the one hand, Cash plays dirty. I wouldn't put it past him to sneak a laser mounted shank into the pit. On the other hand, Tango took on a semi truck with nothing but a .38 snubnose... and won. Both are limber and both would bet on themselves in this match, which does say something. But, I'm going to have to give this one to Cash.

This is the guy who took a bullet for Tango, and then proceeded to kick the shit out of Brion James, eventually finishing the job by sticking a grenade down his pants. He also took not one, but two bullets in the chest (thank goodness for kevlar), and then jumped out of a second story window to catch the guy who did it (and he did catch him). This guy is tough. I know that Tango is also a bad mo'fo', but he doesn't have the same brassy balls that Cash has. Granted, Cash lacks the sophistication, and potentially, the creativity of Tango. And I guess that's what made them a good team. But I don't think that sophistication wins against edginess in a one-on-one death match.

Now, we know that Tango can take a beating (because it's Stallone and he always takes a beating). So this thing is going to be long and bloody, although it's not likely to be fancy. Cash is simply going to be the last one standing after a merciless fist fight, probably nursing broken knuckles and potentially a dislocated disc. I think that there might be some pretty good banter before the first punch is thrown as well. Something along the lines of,

"We always knew it would come to this, didn't we Tango?"

"Yeah, Cash. I guess we did."

"Just so you know, after you're dead, I'll take good care of your sister."

"Never gonna happen, Cash. You see-"

SMACK! Tango hits Cash with a sucker punch to the jaw, and it's on. Rest assured, the walls and each man's respective wifebeater tee will be bloody after this one. But seriously, just watch Cash take those bullets below. Case and point.

Alright, let's just get one thing straight right here and now: This is one tough motherfuckin' match up. It's one of those decisions that you hope you'll never be asked to make because of the sheer amount of manliness it would require even to blog about either of these guys losing in a fight. Thank god this question fell into the right hands- had it ended up anywhere but here at Action Direct, we would probably be facing such catastrophic forces that this global economic crisis would look like a case of mild diarrhea (which, I'll admit, still sucks).  That being said, here's my 2 cents:

This particular brand of 'Mano a Mano' has been seen throughout history. It's the cold, calculating mastermind vs. the wild, throw caution to the wind rogue. It's Indigo Montoya vs. The Man in Black, it's Iceman vs. Maverick, it's Agent Smith vs. Neo. While both Tango and Cash blur the line a little between these two archetypes,  I think we can all agree that Tango is the straight man while Cash plays the rogue. Now if history has taught us anything, it's that if you play your hand too close to the chest, you'll inevitably lose. You've gotta be able to improvise, no matter how well you know the playbook, so I'd say that the chips are stacked (albeit lightly) against Tango. Cash has got that certain type of bravado that says "I don't really give a shit if I live or die, as long as I kick your ass", and in a pit fight, that goes a long way. Any who require further proof of this attitude may direct their questions towards Kurt Russell's mullet. 

However, Tango's method of badassery is usually cleaner and more efficient than Cash's, which he delivers fast and hard. For example, a quick bashing of a head against prison bars may be the reward for mouthing off to Tango, which was a lesson learned all too well by "Captain Dynoball" (an inmate previously sent to jail by Tango but at one point locked up in the same prison). If Cash were to get a little too wild with his punches, I have no doubt that Tango could quickly pull a Last Boy Scout and ram Cash's nose into the back of his skull. 

All things considered, I'm gonna have to agree with Casey. Cash has got quite a few tricks up his sleeve and he has probably gotten dirty a few more times than Tango's calm and collect style has allowed for. My guess is that the battle would last for at least 20-30 minutes before Cash gets a little crazy in his eye and decides to aim all his aggression at one of Tango's ankles. Tango will lie propped up in the corner of the pit cursing Cash's name and yelling "C'mon pussy, finish it!", but of course Cash's respect for Tango will never allow him to do so and we all go home with a slightly longer penis after watching such a battle.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Not before I make your head into a canoe!

The second film in our celebration of Kurt Russell is, to say the very least, a doozie: Tombstone (1993), starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliot, and Bill Paxton.

Kurt Russell plays none other than the Dodge City lawman, Wyatt Earp, in this mid-nineties western classic. While perhaps lacking the same no-nonsense sentiment of Big Trouble in Litte China, Tombstone is beyond a reasonable doubt one of Russell's finest films. Sheepish, but not unwilling to start some shit, Russell's Earp is a tough-as-nails peacemaker trying to settle down in the "quiet" town of Tombstone. Of course, when you have the reputation that Earp does, trouble finds you. It isn't long before the resident Cowboy gang and Earp butt heads, ending in an historic killing spree.

Not only did Russell star in Tombstone, he directed it. Maybe this is why he strikes that "I'm humble, but I'm an ass-kicker" tone so well. Further, his casting of Billy Zane as the traveling thespian, Mr Fabian, was brilliant. As was his choice of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. It was Kilmer's Holliday that inspired me to become a chain-smoking, TB having, alcoholic gunslinger who spouts latin when drunk....

Now, apparently there are some historical inaccuracies in this movie. For example, it turns out that the shootout at the O.K. Corral actually took place on a cold afternoon after a light snow. Damnit Russell! A snowy shootout would have been cinematic genius! However, apparently Virgil Earp did lose function of his arm after an assassination attempt, and did tell his wife, "I still got one good arm to hold you with." Damnit Virgil! You got class!

I've always thought that it would have been seriously badass to be a cowboy. This was one of the movie that put me over the edge. I am now the proud owner of hand-made in Missouri boots, a rattlesnake belt buckle, and have sported a strong moustache from time to time (not as good as Wyatt's, but better than Morgan's). One day, I'll get there.


Friday, February 20, 2009

This is gonna take crackerjack timing, Wang.

Today I would like to kick off a celebration of one of our most beloved action heroes who has become a symbol of badassery that all red blooded americans can be proud to claim as their own. That's right my friends, I'm speaking of the master of mullets himself, Mr. Kurt Russell. This fine biter of bullets and kicker of asses has starred in many action classics over the years, appearing alongside such action greats as Sylvester Stallone, Jack Palance, Val Kilmer, Mel Gibson, Robert DeNiro,  and Ray Liota to name just a few. Casey and I intend to highlight some of our favorite selections over the coming weeks, starting with none other than his kung fu classic, Big Trouble in Little China. 

I was 7 years old when this movie came out, and as I recall, it rocked my young world. Not only did the nasty orangutan monster scare me shitless, but this is one of the first films that made me realize how superior those who knew martial arts were to the rest of the candy ass world. The initial street battle between the two rival chinatown gangs which took place at a funeral of a fallen gang member (AKA one sweet backdrop for a battle) not only laid the foundation for future generations of triad inspired gangland battles (Lethal Weapon 4 anyone?) but was an inspired means to introduce the 3 elemental Kung Fu bosses, Thunder, Rain, and Lightning. These guys defined the term "antagonist" to my young mind, known to me then as "bad guys", and possessed skills which I would envy for years to come (about 23 additional years so far). Lightning bolts and swordplay; a match made in heaven.  

Of course, Kurt Russell played his part to the T. The swarthy, rogue truck driver, Jack Burton, delivered a library of quotable one liners (see the title of this post) and pulled off the 'I just threw my knife at you which you threw back at me which I caught in mid air and hit you in the forehead with it' move of greatness. Stupid Lo Pan. All the while, Jack flirts with both disaster and a young Kim Cattrall to create a series of clever and memorable scenarios that serve to justify Jack's involvement in the whole green-eyed lady ordeal. 

For those of you yet to see this movie, don't fret. This is not one of those flicks that seems stupid and childish if you never caught it in your youth. We here at Action Direct can more or less guarantee you'll thank us for the recommendation (unless you're a 1000 year old cursed chinese overlord who needs the blessing of Shin Dai to make you flesh again. Then you'll probably think the movie is a bit biased in its portrayal of the aforementioned chinese overlord. Also, you might be a chick). To those of you who have already seen it and are looking to rewatch it after being reminded of its greatness, say hi to Egg-chen for me.


In the end, nothing really ends.

Okay, Watchmen is in theaters on March 6th. So until then, you can probably expect two or three more posts due to Keanu's and my own pee-pants excitement. 

Today, I found this youtube video of the Watchmen trailer, recreated using panels from the original comic. It is really sweet, and I, having just reread the original graphic novel, got all giddy when I saw it. 

Pretty sweet, right?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An Homage to Bodhi

I was just surfing the movie blogs and found that \film (recently voted one of Time's top 25 blogs) had just posted this about my all time favorite action movie, Point Break. It's worth reading if you have a few minutes and are at all a fan of the film. 

One of the many interesting details outlined in this little number is that the screenplay for Point Break (originally called simply, Johnny Utah) was written by the same guy who wrote Prayer of the Rollerboys, starring Corey Haim and Patricia Arquette (by-the-by, I'm still looking for a copy of this, so if you know where to find it, let me know)! 

Yet another  factoid, turns out Point Break was directed by Katheryn Bigelow, who was married to James Cameron, who released Terminator 2 at the same time. Good things come in twos, as they say.

Finally, my own personal contribution to the Point Break legacy, I recently named my new dog Bodhi after the Swayze's character. Long live Point Break!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Governor Iceman?

Now every post that is published by Casey and myself here at Action Direct comes from the heart. We take Action movies personally. But this bit of business involving one of our favorite hit or miss actors really hits home. According to the American Associated Press, it looks as if we have another action star trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesse 'the Bod' Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Val Kilmer, (AKA Mad Mardigan) is considering running for the governor of our very own home state, New Mexico. What could this mean to the residents of our old stomping ground? Well, it depends on which Val Kilmer steps up to the task of running the state. If we see Iceman Kazansky step up to the podium, we may see New Mexico transform into one of the most formidable of these United States. However, we also run the risk of seeing one super shitty version of Batman try and take flight, which would spell certain disaster (on a scale only seen by the likes of Joel Schumacher). While Val hasn't made any final decisions on the matter, he has been quoted stating, "If I run, I'm going to be the next governor." 

Atta boy Val. 

Not Action Related: Joaquin Phoenix is Losing It

And now for a short break from our regularly scheduled program:

Some of you may have heard that Joaquin Phoenix is leaving acting to pursue a career in hip-hop, which is maybe not such a surprise after seeing him lay down some mean rhymes in Walk the Line... but I was a little shocked.

Well, since he made the announcement, things have gone steadily downhill, culminating in this "its so bad, but I can't help but watch it" interview on Letterman the other night. 

WTF? Is he messing with us? Or is he really this crazy? Have a look.

Friday, February 6, 2009

In case you didn't already know.

In continuing on with our coverage of the adaptation of the Watchmen graphic novel to the silver screen, I would like to put out a little tidbit of info that will most certainly be a boost to all of you fans following its progress out there. As most of you have already heard, the movie that is scheduled to open in theaters on March 6th will not include one of the amazing sub plots of the original story- The Tales of the Black Freighter. However, as a huge fan of the graphic novel himself, Zach Snyder has not left this tale of haunting piratery fall by the wayside. The official release date of The Tales of the Black Freighter animated film will be March 24th and will include Gerard Butler of the the homoerotic stabathon thriller 300 as the voice of the sea captain. This straight to DVD release will be directed by Mike Smith (Futurama, Bender's Big Score) and will hopefully be every bit as enthralling as its printed forefather. A big thanks to Mark Graham of Vulture for staying current on this topic.

Steven Seagal Runs Like a Girl

My friend and fellow action junkie Justin pointed this out to me yesterday. I, of course, immediately went to the internet to confirm or disconfirm this assertion and was perhaps less than surprised to find the following proof (number one hit on my first Google search). It's true; despite his martial arts training from the age of seven under the tutelage of well-known karate instructor Fumio Demura, Steven Seagal has never learned how to control his flailing limbs while jogging up a mountain during a training montage.

That being said, he still kicks some pretty serious ass. I would suggest having a look at some of our previous posts, here or here, if your faith is shaken....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Red Heat (1988)

Believe it or not, there are still a few movies in The Governator's catalog that I have not seen. Red Heat was one of these until last night. While I wouldn't exactly say that this is one of Arnie's most underrated films, I would say that of his not so good stuff, this is one of the better ones. Netflix gives the following synopsis*:

When Viktor (Ed O'Ross), a narcotics kingpin from the USSR, escapes from prison and heads for Chicago, Russia's brawniest, most fearless and most disciplined police detective (Arnold Schwarzenegger) follows Viktor to the Windy City and teams up with a loud-mouthed American cop (James Belushi). Together, the mismatched, culture-clashing, rule-breaking duo must overcome their differences and attempt to track down the nefarious Viktor.

Okay, what is it with naked fight scenes in Russian bath houses (see clip below)? For no good reason, this movie opens with Arnie in a loin cloth beating the crap out of some portly soviet in a bath/orgy house in the middle of a cold Siberian winter. If they wanted to show off Arnie's amazing bod, they could have easily edited in a few shots for Conan the Barbarian, and it would have made about as much sense as him beating the crap out of Le Fours in the snow. 

That being said, it was a pretty good fight scene. I particularly like the part where Arnie grabs a guy by the beard and then proceeds to man handle him. 

Also, Jim Belushi...? I guess I see what they were going for. The juxtaposition of Arnie's staunch soviet training and Jim's semi-overweight and super-annoying persona was indeed striking. I guess I just didn't buy him as "that no good, lazy, sonuvabitch.... but damn is he a good cop" kind of character. There was more than one occasion where Jim broke into a sprint, Martin Riggs style, attempting to chase down a car as it tore through oncoming traffic. But the difference between Jim Belushi and Mel Gibson is also striking.

All right, there was also some good about this movie. I did like Abdul Elijah (Brent Jennings) as the criminal mastermind. But I was upset that we saw so little of him. Also, the Gina Gershon appearance was good, but a Gina/Arnie love story would have been better. Oh yeah, and the part where Arnie was blasting henchman with the .45 reminded me of wreaking havoc with the Magnum on N64's Goldeneye, which I also liked.

In the end, Red Heat is a good one to have under your belt, but don't go out of your way to see it. There's a reason that Predator and Terminator are classics.

*Note: I would really like to be the guy who write these little synopses. How do you get this job???

Friday, January 30, 2009

The End is Nigh...

So I'm not sure which is better: The fact that somebody had the time, resources and drive to hack into a traffic signal and force it to proclaim the all too frightening warning of zombie infestation in the area or the fact that this happened within 2 miles of my very own house. Granted, this isn't exactly a topic we like to joke about here at Action Direct as we would hate to cry wolf and risk a blind eye being turned when the proverbial shit hits the fan and infected flesh eating corpses overrun the city, but this is just too good not to display. Take a look at the cheesy news story video that took place off of South Lamar and Martin Luther King Blvd.-

*Update: Apparently the outbreak is spreading as word of Zombie infestation has been reported on road work signals in Illinois as well. The end is so goddamn nigh...

Friday, January 2, 2009

In Anticipation of 2009 (UPDATED 1/8/2009)

Happy New Year, my loyal fans and friends! I hope that you all have pretty much recovered from whatever New Year's Eve antics you had planned.

Today I review my most anticipated action flicks of 2009. I'm not convinced 2009 is going to kick as much ass as 2008, as far as action film releases are concerned. It would be hard to top the old one-two that Iron Man and the Dark Knight gave us. But there are a few gems coming our way which I am eagerly awaiting. Chronologically, they are

1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1): All right, the truth is, I think this movie looks crappy and I am preparing myself to be disappointed. But it does show promise, and Hugh Jackman has been the heart and soul of the X-Men franchise for quite some time now. the one thing that makes me absolutely giddy with excitement about this movie is the appearance of a favorite X-Man, Gambit. Check out the trailer and give me your thoughts...


2. Star Trek XI (May 8): I'll admit to being a bit of a Star Trek geek as a youth. It's probably even worse that I was a Next Generation fan, and even into Deep Space Nine. That being said, I've always really like the Star Trek films, and am eager to see what this newbie is all about. The trailer is interesting. I'm pretty sure we're going to end up with a film heavy on CGI with inexperienced actors and a cameo from Leonard Nemoy, the combination of which will result in an average movie that will look spectacular on Blue Ray.

3. Terminator: Salvation (May 22): We've talked about this before on Action Direct. Bale is badass and the Terminator franchise is lucky to have him. I think the trailer looks awesome and I can't wait to see what the robots are capable of.

4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 17): If you're a Potter fan, then you'll need no explanation. If you aren't, then you are just annoyed at this point and will likely stop reading. Alas.

5. The Watchmen (Release Date Not Set): Another movie which has gotten lots and lots of coverage on this blog. The latest news is that Fox won the lawsuit against Warner, which could spell bad news for the film. Basically, Fox owned the rights to the movie that Warner made, and is now trying to cash in on it. I believe that it had a summer release date, but this will be pushed back now that the lawsuit is over. I just hope we get to see it in 2009. Have a look at this little Behind the Scenes video for some more pump-up material.

Watchmen Exclusive

So it should be a good summer. 

Transformers II is notably not on the list. I think the first sucked and I'm personally not looking forward to reading all of the movie blogs talk about how the second one is just as good. 

Some wild cards: The A-Team and G.I. Joe. 

Have I missed anything?

UPDATE: Holy smokes! Have you seen the trailer for Nine? Tim Burton's next animated bit, coming to theaters 9/9/2009. Looks excellent.