Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Monday, April 30, 2012

Zoe Is Not Amused

Zoe. Photo by Brandi
Zoe remains unimpressed by Ziggy's youthful exuberance and mad antics....

Friday, April 27, 2012

League Of Extraordinary Expendables

Click Image To Enlarge
Here are eight of the twelve character posters that Lionsgate released yesterday to promote the forthcoming all-star action epic, The Expendables 2. No offense to Terry Crews, Randy Couture or Liam Helmsworth - but they're just not in the same league as these guys. I never dreamed that these legendary cinema asskickers would ever all be in the same flick -- man, I can't wait until August.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Still Missing On DVD: PEACEMAKER (1990)

A couple of days after posting my "Nine Movies I (Still) Want On DVD" article here, I decided to look around online for a cheap VHS copy of one of those titles, the 1990 sci-fi actioner, Peacemaker (not to be confused with the 1997 George Clooney flick), starring Robert Forster (Jackie Brown). Sure enough, I found one for around $5 (including shipping), so I ordered it. Well, it showed up on Monday, and Wednesday afternoon I transferred it to DVD-R. I just finished watching it.

I'm pleased to say that it lived up to my vague but positive memory of renting it back in '90. Although clearly a very low-budget film, it has a smart and genuinely witty screenplay that keeps you guessing almost until the end, strong B-movie performances from Forster, Robert Davi (Licence To Kill) and leading actress Hilary Shepard (a lovely woman who really should have had a bigger screen career), and amazing stunt work of the kind you rarely see today, even in big-budget studio flicks.

The plot borrows elements of The Terminator and The Hidden, but has a fresh twist. The story basically chronicles a running battle in 1990 Los Angeles between two humanoid extraterrestrials. One is a serial killer, the other is the Peacemaker (policeman) chasing him. A pretty young coroner, Dr. Dori Caisson (Shepard), gets caught up in their conflict, but isn't sure which one is the criminal and which one is the cop - and neither is the audience until late in the third act. In the meantime, the two aliens shoot, beat and blow each other up - but since they can regenerate their damaged bodies, none of the mayhem does much more than force brief interludes between clashes so they can heal up for the next.

Surprisingly, the movie was directed by Kevin Tenney, who is best known (by those of us who possess encyclopedic knowledge of exploitation films - not that that's a good thing, necessarily) for directing a handful of cheesy - but profitable - horror films in the late 80s-early 90s like Night Of The Demons, Witchboard and Witchtrap. I say "surprisingly" because, while those films were somewhat entertaining, nothing in his directorial resume suggested that he would prove so adept at an action flick... and it is with the action sequences that Peacemaker truly excels.

Seriously, you're lucky today if any DTV flick - even the so-called "action" films - have genuine stunts in them at all. Fight scenes are all shaky-cam and quick cuts, car chases are listless and boring, explosions and gunfire are all cheap CGI... but Peacemaker is loaded from front to back with terrific stunt work. There are tons of gunfights, fistfights, jumping through glass, car chases and crashes (and I mean like the kind you used to see on CHiPs back in the day - with cars flying through the air end-over-end), huge explosions... it really is glorious. The list of stuntpeople in the end credits is nearly twice the length of the list of speaking cast, and contains the names of a number of well known stuntmen and women.

Yes, it's a cheap, direct-to-VHS movie from 1990. The opening spaceship footage is culled from Roger Corman's Battle Beyond The Stars, and some of the acting is marginal at best. But damn, it's fun.

If you still have a working VCR and are willing to hunt around for it - or search on YouTube long enough - it's well-worth watching. Peacemaker is a genuine B-movie gem.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Directed by Dolph

It's funny, but I never really thought of myself as much of a fan of  Swedish action star Dolph Lundgren  until just recently. Sure, I respected the guy - it's difficult not to respect a 6'5' authentic genius (reported IQ of 160) with a master's degree in chemical engineering and a 3rd-degree black belt in karate - and I certainly enjoyed his screen work in the early 90s, like Red Scorpion, I Come In Peace (a/k/a Dark Angel), Showdown In Little Tokyo, and Universal Soldier, but I didn't keep up with his filmography past '93/'94. In fact, I only rediscovered Dolph when I was sent some of his later movies for review at my DVD Late Show site. It was then that I noticed that his DTV movies were generally more entertaining than those starring most of his contemporaries (like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal, for instance.).

Part of the reason for that, I think, is that starting around 2004, Dolph started personally directing some of his direct-to-video flicks, starting with The Defender. Now, I haven't seen all of his self-directed efforts, but I did enjoy The Killing Machine (a/k/a Icarus), Missionary Man, and, in particular, Command Performance.

I'm about to go sit down and watch his second film as director, The Russian Specialist, a/k/a The Mechanik. I've read some favorable reviews of the flick, and found a very inexpensive copy of the DVD for sale online (less than $5, including S&H). It sounds like a fun revenge flick, and I'm looking forward to it....

Monday, April 23, 2012

Atomic Hotties: Charisma Carpenter

Time for a picture of another beautiful woman. That's right - this blog features self-promotional hype, B-movies, comic books, space opera, crime fiction, sword and sorcery, pictures of my pets, and gorgeous dames.... pretty much all the stuff I like. That's what personal blogs are for, right?

Like most people, I first discovered the aptly-named Charisma Carpenter when she co-starred on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its spin-off, Angel in the latter half of the 90s. I also enjoyed her appearances on a couple other of my favorite TV shows, Veronica Mars and Legend Of The Seeker. What can I say? I love shapely brunettes.

I was pleased to hear recently that she'll be reprising her role as Jason Statham's girlfriend in the forthcoming Expendables 2. Another reason to look forward to it....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nine B-Movies I (Still) Want On DVD

Here's one of my periodic lists of B-movies and cult films that I still want on DVD (or even Manufactured-On-Demand DVD-R) for my video collection. Most of these are favorites from my days haunting mom & pop video stores in the Eighties.

As far as I know (and I hope someone will let me know if I'm mistaken), none of these titles are currently available on authorized, Region 1, DVDs or Blu-ray. (Don't talk to me about R2 or other foreign editions. I know it's difficult to believe, movie buff that I am, but I don't own a region-free player and couldn't afford import discs even if I did).

This was originally a list of ten movies, but I just found out that the 1984 Tom Selleck film Lassiter is due out on DVD later this month. 

Arena (1989)
Avenging Force (1986)
Eliminators (1986)
Force: Five (1981)
Godzilla (1985)
I, The Jury (1982)
Ninja III - The Domination (1984)
PeaceMaker (1990)
The Soldier (1982)
I have about half of these titles on VHS, but aside from the fact that they're all pan & scan versions, they're all so old that the tapes are starting to demagnetize (is that a word?) and the image quality is significantly degraded....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nap Time!

Ziggy. Photo by Brandi
Our latest addition to the household is settling in nicely. This is how Ziggy sleeps. Don't try and rub that belly though - I know, it looks so soft and inviting, but it's really a spring-loaded bear trap... with a hair trigger.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Cover: Logan's Search

Here's the fiery cover to third volume in William F. Nolan's "Logan" trilogy, Logan's Search, published in 1980. The artist is uncredited, though the style looks familiar. (Bob Larkin, maybe?) Anyway, I'm in a "Logan" mood tonight, as I picked up the new DVD release of the 1977 Logan's Run television series yesterday, and have been re-watching the show. I'll be reviewing the DVDs at both my DVD Late Show and Space: 1970 sites in a day or two.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Now Playing at the DVD Late Show

Here's what's playing over at my DVD Late Show site this week. Since my last update here at Atomic Pulp, I've posted reviews of Josh Becker's Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except, on Blu-ray/DVD from Synapse Films; Robert Rodriguez' RoadRacers on Blu-ray, The Saint Double Feature, from Warner Archive and the 1968 film adaptation of Richard Stark's novel The Seventh - The Split - starring Jim Brown in the "Parker" role.

I hope you'll swing by the site and check 'em out. More reviews coming before the end of the week.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Black Widow Strikes

In this clip from the upcoming Marvel super-hero epic, The Avengers, the sexy S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff - code named The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) - shows her stuff. I'm really looking forward to this flick!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Fight for What You Love... Not for What You Hate

Back in 1994, Showtime aired a series called Rebel Highway - ten remakes-in-name-only of juvenile delinquent/rock 'n roll exploitation films originally produced and released through Samuel Arkoff's American International Pictures in the 1950s. The series was produced by Lou Arkoff and Debra Hill. The directors - a list that included Allan Arkush, Joe Dante, Mary Lambert, Johnathan Kaplan, Ralph Bakshi (!), John Milius and William Friedkin - were each given a budget of  $1.3 million dollars and a 12-day shooting schedule. They were instructed to pick a title and do whatever they wanted with it.

As one might expect, the quality varied quite a bit. Most of the flicks were frankly unmemorable. Joe Dante's Runaway Daughters was fun, as was Arkush's Shake, Rattle & Rock! - but I can't really remember much about any of the others... except...

Probably the best of them came from the least-experienced filmmaker in the bunch. Based on the critical success of his $7,000 microbudgeted action flick, El Mariachi, Arkoff and Hill offered Robert Rodriguez a slot in the line-up. He picked the title Roadracers, and it became his second feature-length movie.

Roadracers is a lot of 50's fun, and remarkably polished, considering Rodriguez' inexperience at the time. Many of the trademarks and stylistic flourishes of his later films are in evidence, and he handles the cast as smoothly as the action. At the time, he was prepping Desperado for Columbia Pictures, and was having a hard time convincing the studio suits to go along with his choice of Mexican actress Salma Hayek for the female lead. To help persuade them, he cast her in Roadracers - and she steals the show with her screen presence and charm. (Not to mention her smoldering beauty.)

I own Roadracers on laserdisc, and am pleased to find out that it will be released on Blu-ray disc in two weeks (although I've read that Best Buy may already have it available; I'll try and swing by there and see if our local store has it) by Echo Bridge Entertainment. Now, Echo Bridge has a bad reputation for their disregard for proper aspect ratios and underwhelming transfers, but I've read an advance review of the disc and it sounds like they didn't screw it up too bad (although it does appear that they cropped the original 1.33:1 TV-aspect ratio to 1.78:1 to fit new, widescreen sets).

Also, this is a "Director's Cut," so hopefully, Rodriguez  had some input.

Obviously, I'm a fan of the flick. It's early Rodriguez, before he became enamored (or could afford) extensive greenscreen and virtual, CGI special effects. It has real cars, real action, great music, and a terrific cast. I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks on Blu-ray - especially as its preorder (and Best Buy) price is less than $10 bucks.

Roadracers [Blu-ray]

Wednesday Cover: Kolchak

The third issue of Moonstone's Kolchak: The Night Stalker Files goes on sale today. This is my last issue, and it's by my own choice. Recurring health issues simply made it unfeasible for me to maintain a regular schedule. While the publishers were inhumanly patient, I finally decided that it wasn't fair to them or the readers, and regretfully chose to leave the book.

I am proud of what work I did on the title - and the Kolchak: Night Stalker Of The Living Dead miniseries (collected HERE) - and am grateful to Moonstone for the opportunity to write the character. I hope I did Jeff Rice's creation justice.

I know that Moonstone has plenty more Kolchak on the way by a variety of talented creators, and I expect to continue to do the occasional project with the company. I have agreed to write a short Captain Midnight novel for them, for example, and still hope to get some more Captain Midnight comics off the ground... eventually.

The atmospheric cover above was painted by Woodrow Hinton III.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

More DVD Late Show Hype

Yeah, I'm plugging my DVD Late Show review site again. And I won't stop plugging it until the traffic on that site equals the readership here. Frankly, if you read my self-indulgent, obsessive pop culture crap here at Atomic Pulp, you'll almost certainly enjoy reading my DVD and Blu-ray reviews, so you should definitely be checking out DVD Late Show regularly anyway.

Well, since my last update here, I've posted reviews of the documentary Corman's World, chronicling the career of maverick B-movie mogul Roger Corman; the 1954 "techno-thriller" Gog; the 1942 wartime adventure serial, Don Winslow of The Coast Guard; and the made for SyFy channel creature feature, Camel Spiders. On deck for tomorrow is the 1985 revenge flick, Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except, with more reviews coming later in the week.

Check 'em out!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

They Think They Control Him...

In 1988, Dolph Lundgren starred in Red Scorpion, a Rambo-esque military actioner directed by Joseph Zito, veteran of several slasher films and a couple of popular Chuck Norris vehicles for Cannon Films (Missing In Action, Invasion U.S.A.). It was Lundgren's second lead role, coming between Masters Of The Universe and The Punisher, still early in an action movie career that has lasted about a quarter-century and almost 50 films.

I remember renting Red Scorpion on VHS and watching it with my pal Mark Gerardi, but I couldn't tell you much about it now. All I remember (without prompting from the IMDb) is that Dolph (sporting an amazing buzzcut and his Rocky IV accent) played a Soviet Special Forces soldier (or Spetsnaz) sent on a mission to execute an anti-Communist rebel in Africa, and for reasons of conscience, switches sides, going up against the Russian Army. I'm sure it's silly as shit - but I'm also sure I enjoyed the hell out of it back in the late 80s. As I've said before, these old school action flicks are like crack to me.

Well, I'll soon be able to refresh my memory. I received a press release today from boutique video label Synapse Films, announcing that they'll be releasing Red Scorpion on DVD and Blu-ray in June, with a brand-new HD transfer (not the same transfer that's being used on foreign Blu-ray releases) of the uncut, International version of the film, along with a whole bunch of extras:
• All-New 2K High-Definition Digital Restoration of the Uncensored Version
• Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Zito and Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson
• All-New DTS-HD MA 5.1 Soundtrack Mixed Specifically for This Release
• HATH NO FURY– "Dolph Lundgren and the Road to RED SCORPION Featurette"
• ASSIGNMENT: AFRICA – Video Interview with Producer Jack Abramoff
• SCORPION TALES – Video Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini
• Rare Original On-Set Behind-the-Scenes Video Footage
• Animated Still Gallery
• Liner Notes on the Making of RED SCORPION by Jérémie Damoiseau
• Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
• Reversible Cover Design
Anyway, you know I'll be getting my hands on this one. It'll make a great warm-up to The Expendables sequel.

ADDED: I just found the Red Scorpion trailer on YouTube.  Crom help me, I love this stuff!