Tag Archives: Bill Duke

Commando (1985) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Matrix
Rae Dawn Chong as Cindy
Alyssa Milano as Jenny Matrix
Vernon Wells as Bennett
James Olson as Maj Gen. Franklin Kirby
David Patrick Kelly as Sully
Bill Duke as Cooke
Dan Hedaya as Arius
Director: Mark L. Lester

Retired Special Forces soldier John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lives with daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano) in isolation, but his privacy is disturbed by former commander Franklin Kirby (James Olson), who warns him that his fellow soldiers are getting killed one by one. After Kirby leaves, Jenny is kidnapped by former Latin American dictator Arius (Dan Hedaya), who wants Matrix to restore him to power. Instead, Matrix sets out to take down the rogue leader and rescue his daughter.

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In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger established himself as an action star with The Terminator, and he increased his action icon status with movies like 1985’s Commando. Commando is a very silly over the top Schwarzenegger flick, it’s not one of his best films (even when just considering the action genre) but it is one of his more well known over the top action movies. Completely ridiculous, it has a real self awareness and charm to it that actually elevates the movie and makes it work.

This movie is very straightforward, Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to get his daughter back and is going to kill a lot of people along the way. That’s all that this 90 minute movie consists of. If you want some form of compelling story or character development, you won’t find it here. The characters are very standard and basic, with nothing special about them. However, what makes Commando work as an Arnold flick (over some of his other action movies) is that Commando knows that it’s a stupid and goofy action movie. It’s full of cheesy one liners that seem to be written specifically for Arnold. You don’t really get much tension, you never feel like Arnold is really in any danger, anything that he goes up against doesn’t pose much of a problem for long. The closest thing to being that is the final fight but even then you know he’ll be fine in the end. You’re just watching Arnold kill a bunch of people on his way to rescue his daughter. I will say that it’s really the third act that’s the complete action filled flick that you’d want. Before that, as over the top as it could be, it really wasn’t as large as you’d think it would be. With that said, it is worth staying around for the third act because it is really something completely nuts and entertaining.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in this movie is playing pretty much a basic version of all the action heroes he’s played and would continue to play, the character really doesn’t have much to him. His character of John Matrix is a former killing machine who has a daughter and that’s all that there is to him. It’s not a great performance but it’s not really meant to be. Schwarzenegger is a good actor, whatever role he’s given he does the best with what he’s given and usually delivers what is expected (at the very least), his role here is no exception and he does the best he can with it, even if it’s a pretty generic character. There’s not much to say about the other actors. I guess Alyssa Milano and Rae Dawn Chong are good enough. The villains are all pretty one note and don’t really pose a threat to Matrix at all but their performances all fit their generic bad guy roles. The standout of all of them was Vernon Wells, who was quite entertaining as an crazy over the top villain who’s the only one who seems to be at the level of John Matrix on a physical level.

As far as 80s action movies go, Commando is pretty well directed by Mark L. Lester. It is filled with all of the over the top 80s action clichés and the movie is far from realistic but they are entertaining nonetheless. The action is actually well shot, you can actually see what’s happening. Some of the action scenes are more entertaining than others, as I said it’s really the third act that gives you the goofy and over the top action you’re looking for. The third act is purely action sequences after action sequences with Arnold plowing through countless enemy soldiers like nothing and also has a pretty solid end fight.

If you like silly and cheesy action movies from the 80s, Commando is honestly a must watch if you haven’t seen it already. Arnold Schwarzenegger effortlessly delivers as always, the action is entertaining but most of all, this movie knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more than that, which is why it works so well. As I said earlier, it’s not the ultimate over the top action flick, really its just the last act that goes absolutely nuts with its action. However it’s probably one of the best examples of 80s action movies (Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks particularly), especially when it comes to all the tropes and clichés. So give Commando a watch if you want a silly action flick.

Mandy (2018) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Red Miller
Andrea Riseborough as Mandy Bloom
Linus Roache as Jeremiah Sand
Bill Duke as Caruthers
Richard Brake as The Chemist
Ned Dennehy as Brother Swan
Olwen Fouéré as Mother Marlene
Director: Panos Cosmatos

Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire.

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I had been looking forward to Mandy for a while, mainly because of Nicolas Cage. I do like Cage and I do think he’s a great actor but the movie itself looked good as well, from the trailer the whole look and style looked right up my alley. Even though it was being officially released online, I decided to wait in case it came to cinemas (as it was also being released in some select cinemas) as I heard it really benefits from watching it on a big screen. I didn’t even know if the theatre would come to a cinema in my city. I’m glad I waited though because watching in the cinema was one of the best experiences I’ve watched a movie in the theatre. Visually stunning and led by a perfectly crazed performance by Nicolas Cage, Mandy was one of the highlights of 2018.

Mandy is a straightforward movie with a straightforward plot, pretty much just your normal revenge story. What makes it stand out is how it is done. One of the things you really should know about Mandy before going in is that although it seems like the whole movie will be the revenge story, it actually takes a while before it happens. The movie is basically split in two halves. The first half is mainly focussed on the character of Mandy (Andrea Risebourgh), Mandy and Red (Nicolas Cage), and Jeremiah (Linus Roache) and the Children of the New Dawn. Usually a revenge movie would have the whole revenge part kick in after the first act, however with Mandy, the whole revenge part came in the second half of the movie. You do need to know that going in because otherwise you’re going to be rather bored waiting for Nicolas Cage to kill someone. I actually do like the first half, it does help set the mood and unlike most revenge movies which have one act to set up everything before disaster strikes, you get to spend more time with these characters, so that events later on would have a little more impact. The movie is 2 hours long but I can see how others would feel like its a lot longer. You just have to really have the patience for the movie. The second half kicks the pacing into high gear, as it’s really the revenge section, where Nicolas Cage goes on his revenge path and it’s just insane and entertaining. Mandy is a hard movie to pin down to a singular genre, because it’s an arthouse film, a horror film, a revenge film, it’s multiple things at once.

Nicolas Cage delivers one of his best performances here. For the first half of the movie he is pretty subdued and unassuming. In the second half however he goes into a huge Cage rage, delivering one of his craziest performances yet, and that’s saying a lot. If you’re looking for a bunch of entertaining Nicolas Cage freak out moments, you’re going to get that in the second half. However it’s not just “here’s Nicolas Cage freaking out”, his reactions actually works with the character, you aren’t just entertained by his freak outs. With that said, there are also plenty of hilarious and wonderful Nic Cage moments that some people are going to love. I can’t think of anyone else who could’ve played this role, Cage is perfect for the role. Also good is Andrea Riseborough as the titular character Mandy. She has a real presence to her and her chemistry with Nicolas Cage is believable. We don’t really learn a ton about the two characters but it’s enough. Also deserving of some praise is Linus Roache as Jeremiah Sand, the cult leader and villain of the film, his performance really worked well.

This is the first film I’ve seen by Panos Cosmatos, I know he’s previously directed a movie called Beyond the Black Rainbow but I hadn’t seen it yet. Having seen Mandy, I need to watch it soon because his direction and style is really great and one of the most distinct parts of the movie. This is a very visually stunning movie. Plenty of people have described this movie as being like a drug trip and it really does feel like that. There’s a lot of bright vivid colours, particularly red, that are very apparent throughout the film. So many parts of the film feel like a giant painting, or a heavy metal album cover. Even outside the colours, there’s some moments that really feel trippy, such as a scene between Mandy and Jeremiah, which feels really surreal. There are even some brief animated moments, which would be out of place in any other movie but it works well enough here. It is also a very bloody and violent movie, you get to see Nicolas Cage deliver vengeance. There are some extremely gratifying scenes in the second half, one of which features a chainsaw fight between Cage and someone who has a bigger chainsaw than him. Mandy also has a score composed by Johann Johansson and it’s really beautiful and sets the tone of the movie really well. It’s also his last score, and he really ended it on a great note. A lot of what is seen could be described as being “very metal”. There’s a biker gang called the Black Skulls and they look like the Cenebites from Hellraiser. If you’re a big metal fan, you’re going to have a blast with Mandy. With all the visuals and the sound, all of it is enhanced and improved by watching it in a theatre.

Mandy is definitely not for everyone, it is a really slow movie (especially for the first half), it is heavy on its direction and style over the story and it just won’t work for everyone. However it personally really worked for me, the performances (especially from Nicolas Cage) were great, Panos Cosmatos’s directing style was visually beautiful and it was such a great experience for me. I will say that if you’re going to see it, try to see it in cinemas (I know its difficult), you really get more of the experience that way. Mandy is one of my favourite films of 2018 and I’m definitely going to need to check out Panos Cosmatos’s past and future work.

Predator (1987) Review

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer
Carl Weathers as Al Dillon
Elpidia Carrillo as Anna Gonsalves
Bill Duke as Mac Elliot
Richard Chaves as Jorge “Poncho” Ramírez
Jesse Ventura as Blain Cooper
Sonny Landham as Billy Sole
Shane Black as Rick Hawkins
R. G. Armstrong as Major General Homer Phillips
Kevin Peter Hall as The Predator/helicopter pilot
Director: John McTiernan

Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a soldier of fortune, is hired by the U.S. government to secretly rescue a group of politicians trapped in Guatemala. But when Dutch and his team, which includes weapons expert Blain (Jesse Ventura) and CIA agent George (Carl Weathers), land in Central America, something is gravely wrong. After finding a string of dead bodies, the crew discovers they are being hunted by a brutal creature with superhuman strength and the ability to disappear into its surroundings.

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With the latest Predator movie coming in under a month from now, I decided to check out the original film again. Predator was a pretty big hit upon its release and would lead to 2 (now 3) sequels and a couple of crossover films with the Alien franchise. While the reaction to Predator upon it’s release was mixed, it become more beloved over time. Watching Predator for a second time, I have to say that it is still a really entertaining 80s action movie. It may not be one of my favourite action movies of all time but I still really like it and it does have its place in action cinema.

Predator is a rather straightforward action movie that is rather thin on plot. The first third is a seemingly standard action movie, and the rest is a survival against a mysterious killer who’s picking each of them off. The highlight of the film without a doubt though was the third act with Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Predator facing off. It’s glorious to watch, and I like how Arnold has to go to ‘primal’ tactics to fight the Predator instead of just using all the guns that they have in most of the movie. One effective thing about the Predator in this movie is that the movie doesn’t just show it in all its glory (of course its not quite as impactful now that we all know what it looks like). As I said earlier, there isn’t a lot of depth to the story or the characters, and it’s not that unpredictable. However for the type of movie it’s trying to be, it works well enough most of the time. With that said, there is a death halfway into the movie that is lingered on for too long and it feels stretched out. It’s not like it left any emotional impact, we don’t feel much for the character’s death because we didn’t particularly learn much about said character and weren’t given any particular reason to like him. So really it would’ve just been better to move past that death scene reasonably quickly. Outside of that segment, Predator is pretty consistent in its hour and 46 minute running time.

The cast with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham and Shane Black do a good job in the movie. As I said before, none of these characters get any characterisation or depth and so they don’t really get to do much with their roles. Arnold Schwarzenegger does quite well once again in an action role, there’s no real depth given to him here but he is believable enough in his role and is great in the action scenes, particularly in the third act.

John McTiernan is a very good action director with Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard with a Vengeance and Predator is yet another solid action flick from him. The gun battle (there’s really just one in the first act) and all the action scenes are really done well. The locations really works, it makes you feel like you’re in the jungle and it doesn’t feel fake for at least most of it. It really feels like an 80s action movie, with the sound effects, CGI, explosions, sparks and music by Alan Silvestri, which could really work for you or not, but you do need to go into it expecting an 80s movie. Some of it can look really dated, such as the cloaking effects, also some of the POV shots from the Predator’s perspective in the third act were kind of messy. On another note, the design of the Predator itself is quite great, it feels effective and while we don’t learn the background of these aliens (I don’t know if we ever get to learn in the movies) it works well for this movie.

Predator is a really solid action movie and watching it you can really see why it made such an impact when it was released. Not all of it has aged well, it has a very thin plot with thin characters, and I’m not sure if I’d personally put it on the best action movies of all time list, but it is still essential viewing for anyone who loves action movies.