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The Steven Seagal Super Cinematic Spectacular: Marked For Death

I Swear Seagal Has Used The “Silhouette” Movie Poster More Than any Other Star!

Marked For Death is a bit of a quandary of a movie for me. It really isn’t that horrible of a movie. In fact it is just as watchable as Above The Law, albeit for entirely different reasons. Marked For Death is infinitely more violent though and it isn’t exactly like Above The Law was exactly some G Rated Disney film. Marked For Death is also a bit more easy to summarize, since the summary is “Steven Seagal fights drug dealing Jamaican posses”. It is an insanely fun movie to watch though, as it pretty much abandons the complex, yet at times, convoluted storytelling ofAbove The Law and Hard To Kill, opting for a more straightforward action movie story. It kinda makes you wish Steven Seagal lived in your suburb so he could beat the crap out of the drug dealing Jamaicans in it1.

This is not to say that Marked For Death is not convoluted. It is insanely crazily convoluted. I mean an ex-DEA agent gets sucked into a a drug war with the local Jamaican posse. Luckily he’s got the local High School football coach, Max, backing him up. Thank God the coach is played by Keith David, giving us at least one familiar character actor to carry this thing. Well since Seagal’s ex-DEA guy, the surprisingly average named John Hatcher2, is trying to clean-up his local Chicago suburb the Jamaicans mark him for… wait for it… DEATH!

The Jamaicans don’t play fair either, like the Mafia or Yakuza would. No sir, they don’t believe in civilians and go after Hatcher’s family too, including his wife played by Elizabeth Gracen before she became the go to romantic interest Amanda on Highlander: The Series3. The death mark in question is issued by the Jamaican Posse’s leader and chief Hougan/Witch Doctor, Screwface. Screwface has seemingly started a massive push to take control of the Chicago drug trade and now all that stands in his way is Seagal and Keith David. Along the way this erstwhile dynamic duo get intel from Charles, an ex-Jamaican Cop who now plies his trade in Chicago. Screwface and his posse have been Charles’ pet peeve stretching back nearly 5 years.

So n ow, Hatcher, Coach Max and Charles buy themselves a fuckton of guns and head for Jamaica to take out Screwface. The only person who can help them is one of Screwface’s girlfriends, who tells them how to find him but to be careful “For the Screwface has two heads and four eyes”. Along the way, Max has his views on Jamaican’s changed as Charles takes him on a tour of Kingston, Jamaica to show him the poverty there. Max had only viewed the people of Jamaica as either stoned Rastas or drug dealers, but when he sees the poverty firsthand he gets a better grasp of just how little there is in the way of work there and just how many are suffering. Screwface dealing drugs in Jamaica only makes matters worse, as it creates drug addicts that won’t work even if they had jobs.

Hatcher and his boys stage a daring raid of Screwface’s estate, all culminating in a big showdown between Hatcher and Screwface and one badass decapitation. Hatcher and company take Screwface’s head back to Chicago4 and march into the local Posse’s hangout to show them proof that Screwface is dead. This backfires as a seemingly intact Screwface murders Charles. Turns out Screwface is a set of identical twins who ran their drug empire collectively, thus giving the appearance that Screwface could be in 2 places at once. So we get Hatcher versus Screwface round 2, which ends exactly how you want ti to, with a punny quip from Hatcher5. Thus ends the saga of John Hatcher, thank God!

Make no mistake, Marked For Death is totally the big dumb action movie you think it is but thee is some subtle social commentary in there and not just in the parts filmed in Kingston. Jamaican’s were making aggressive moves into the American drug trade in the late 80 and early 90s. Most police forces were having to deal with the new Caribbean gangs like the Jamaicans and Haitians, who were far more ruthless than the Italian Mafia at the time. New York and Chicago both had Jamaican Posse problems, that slowly got curtailed6. American Cops had not seen such blatant disregard for the law and that level of violence7. The Jamaican Posses got off the streets for he most part and scaled back to mostly supplying.

The interesting part of this movie really is the 5 minutes that Charles, played by Tom Wright, breaks down the social and economic plights of what seemed to be most of Jamaica. Its a shame that this wasn’t delved into a bit more, but what is provided paints a very bleak fate for Jamaica and its citizens. There is far less law enforcement can do in Jamaica because the cops either don’t have the resources to stop the drug trafficking or are just plain corrupt. At least that was case in the late 1980s. It would be interesting to see either a sequel or remake of Marked For Death now, to see if the situation has gotten any better or much worse. Believe it or not this is neither the first nor last movie that Seagal made with something resembling a political message. Above The Law was the first one as it dealt with the CIA’s connection to drug trafficking. On Deadly Ground, well that is just one giant “Fuck the oil industry” movie mixed with “Man, the white man really fucked over the Native Americans” sentiment8. I’m sure there are a few other Seagal movies out there with hidden political subtext, but honestly is anyone watching his more recent stuff to care?

Marked For Death is a pretty fun movie overall. Its worth a watch on Netflix, hell it is even worth buying out of the under $3 bin at your local Wal-Mart. Part of me really would like to see a remastered Blu-Ray of this movie, complete with a Seagal commentary track. For some reason, I want to know this guy thinks. I mean maybe he is deeper than we give him credit for, what with his being a former incarnation of the Buddha and all. But really, I want to know about his thoughts on the political sub-text of this movie. Did he, the director and the screenwriter share the same views on the plight Jamaica and the drug trade? Well shit, now I really do want a deluxe edition DVD of this movie!

Of course none of the political sub-text is needed for Seagal’s next cinematic venture. A movie that borders somewhere between a parody of cop film and revenge movie, yet simultaneously is one of the most mean-spirited, violent movies I’ve ever watched.

1Not that this is really a huge problem where I live or anything. I mean I live in an urban area and I’ve yet to be hassled by drug dealing Jamaicans. Now drug dealing white kids who are trying to be the next Eminem? Those I got in spades!

2An average name compared to Hard To Kill’s insanely named Mason Storm

3Not that is a bad thing, since Amanda was pretty much the most entertaining recurring character on that show, just not entertaining enough to carry her own show.

4Imagine getting that thing through customs!

5“I hope they weren’t triplets!”

6In no small part to the Russian Mob moving in and showing the Caribbean gangs what real ruthlessness was.

7Los Angeles might be the only exception to that, as LA was a completely different type of war on drugs than New York or Chicago. Crack was slowly taking over entire chunks of the LA ghetto one neighborhood at a time.

8I’m not saying the Native American didn’t get screwed, I’m just saying On Deadly Ground is really heavy handed about it, even more heavy handed than Billy Jack!

Next Time… Law & Order… errrr… I mean OUT FOR JUSTICE~!

A Day At Wizard World Chicago

It has been more than a decade since I last attended a Comic Convention. Cons are a costly endeavor and given my constant state of being lite on cash, they rarely fit in my spending plans. I had the rare opportunity to attend one this past weekend, as Wizard Wold Chicago made its presence known and I had the chance to actually attend it. This was in no small par thanks to my dear friends Chris and Lauren and my dear girlfriend Jenn. Jenn was kind enough to pay my way, something I was not 100% comfortable with but accepted. So with girl on my arm and friends leading the way I embarked on this fantastic voyage.

Let me be clear, I do not really go to Comic Book shows for the celebrity guests nor do I go to see who is cos-playing as what. I go for the Dealers Room. It doesn’t matter the type of Con, the floor of the Dealers’ Room is where the real action of any Con is at. Huge savings on back issues, trade paperbacks and toys, its what every con-goer should spend the majority of their time on. That isn’t to say I didn’t see a few celebrities during my day trip to Chicago, as I had the chance to meet and shake hands with a few and thank them for entertaining me over the years. Bu they are not my focus for a con. The problem this year was I was exceedingly light on cash, with a mere $5 to my name. That $5 got spent wisely but we will cover that later.

The day of the con started with me and Jenn waking up at 5:30AM. This was not planned at all, as our original plan called for us to wake at 6:30AM. I had a restless sleep and Jenn just found herself awake. We were supposed to be at Chris and Lauren’s house by 8AM. Needless to say, Jenn and I had more than enough time to prep now. Prep for me was simply showering, getting dressed and having a small nosh before leaving. Jenn’s process was a bit more involved, as he had many comic books with her in a suitcase. She was contemplating getting some of them signed but wasn’t sure which artists were going to be there. Yes, I know Wizard World always puts their Guest List online, but she was too busy getting ready to have actual time to look. As Jenn got ready, I checked my email and correspondence. I had contemplated taking my trade collection of Crisis On Infinite Earths with me since I knew George Perez was going to be there. Then I realized that getting Perez to sign something would be more than the $5 I had in my wallet and left everything at home.

Jenn and I left my place at &AM and arrived at Casa Del Chris & Lauren at 7:25AM. Ominous sign number one was that Chris car was not in the driveway. I, being an eternal optimist, started thinking the worst that Chris and Lauren left without us. Jenn told me to stop being silly and just call Lauren. I called Lauren but no one picked up. I was right they did leave without us. We decided to wait in the driveway until 8AM and see what happened. Then my phone rang. It was Lauren, she was in the shower when I called and couldn’t answer. I let her know we were in the driveway and she dashed to the door to let us in. Chris wasn’t home yet, as he works a third shift job and usually didn’t get home until 8AM. The sad thing is, I knew this already, yet still went into my “optimistic viewpoint”. Lauren needed to finish getting ready so Jenn and I tried to find something to watch on TV1. Chris finally showed up and needed to shower2 and get ready. We finally got on the road a little after 8:30AM.

I could tell you about our ordeal to get to the con but that would be a Brave Blog entry unto itself. Let us just say there was traffic in Chicago. Lots of traffic in Chicago. I grew up in New York City and I NEVER saw traffic this bad. We finally arrived at the Con a little after 2PM. Toledo to Chicago should only take about 4 hours. I think you get my point.

So we finally stumbled into the Con itself. The first thing we saw when we entered made me kind of giddy. It was the classic Batman’66 Batmobile. This was not my first time seeing it, but every time I see it I get giddy. The Batman’66 Batmobile is easily my favorite live action Batmobile. It is just so freaking cool. It smokes any other version of the Batmobile put to film. There was also the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters and while that was cool, it just isn’t the Batmobile. Now this was just in the lobby of the convention center. We had not even made it to the show room yet. When we did it was everything I remember about a Comic Con. Crowded, loud and lots of people pushing and shoving with nary even a simple “pardon me” or excuse me”. I was starting to remember why I hated going to cons.

After about 5 minutes Jenn and I broke off from Chris and Lauren. We had different agendas. Chris and Lauren wanted to chat some artists they knew and also to show off Lauren’s pretty dope Punisher costume. Jenn and I were on a search for toys, Kamen Rider toys to be specific. Along the way we got to see lots of people in various costumes. There was a Predator, a few Batmen3, a gaggle of Batman villains4, a pretty great Black Adam and even someone as Sailor Moon. One costume in particular caught my eye. For most of the day at the con I saw her go by, this bubbly blond who was traveling with a group of people. Toward the end of the day I finally went up to her and asked straight out “Pardon me, but are you dressed as Flamebird?”. She smiled and let out a grateful “YES~!”. Apparently she had been at the Con all day and no one knew who she was supposed to be. I guess that is the drawback of dressing as a lesser known Teen Titans character. She was just glad that someone knew. “Shit, I’m an old school Titans fan” I told her, “good job, that costume is dope!”.

When not hunting for toys, Jenn was busy with her camera trying to snipe pictures of a few celebrities. We were not in a position to shell extra money out just so we could wait in line like rubes and then pay extra money to have our photo taken with any celebrities. Hell the lines for Shatner an Stan Lee were insane. I’ve never met Shatner, but I’ve met Stan Lee on more than one occasion5. Jenn snapped pics of Kevin Sorbo, Lou Ferrigno, David Della Rocco and Sean Patrick Flanery6. We both went right up to Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew just to say “Thank you” to him. I feel kind of bad we didn’t go up and do the same to Jeremy Bullock but c’mon, he was Boba Fett, one line of dialogue in Empire and a slapstick routine in Jedi does not a “Thank you” get.

Our quest for Kamen Rider toys was bust though. My love of Kamen Rider goes back 20+ years now and thank God my girlfriend was open-minded and geeky enough to get hooked on it too when we started seeing each other. We hit every toy dealer on the floor and not one of them was selling import toys. Well, except for Kotobukiya but I ain’t got that kinda money to blow on a hand sculpted Batman statue. It used to be any Con would bring out a few import toy guys but I guess they’ve all jumped ship to the Anime Conventions now and I just flat out REFUSE to go to an Anime Convention7. I thumbed through a few boxes of Trade Paperbacks that were 50% off. Man, I was $2 short of buying Showcase Presents: The Unknown Soldier!8

Jenn had her geek moment extraordinaire, as she got to meet Brian Pulido, creator of Lady Death, Jenn favorite comic. Now I’ve never been a big Lady Death fan, but Pulido is a guy I have immense respect for. Jenn geeked out hard and as she showed off her Pulido inspired tattoos. Mr. Pulido was wowed by this and even asked to get a few pictures of them for his website. He then signed a comic for Jenn and she was ecstatic. I have to say Brian Pulido is one class act. He was friendly and showed genuine enthusiasm toward this fan of his work. He made Jenn so very special. He gave off that vibe that he was as excited to meet her as she was excited to meet him and that is pretty awesome.

So after 2 or so of meandering we met-up again with Chris and Lauren. We all took a breather to sit-down. Jenn told them her story of meeting Brian Pulido, I told them all the different costumes I saw and celebrities we spotted . After thirty minutes of rest, we were all back on the hunt. Jenn and I had given up our hopes of finding Kamen Rider swag and now walked around with Chris and Lauren. In our wandering, I saw James Hong9 getting ready to man his booth and politely went up to him and told him “Mr. Hong, I just wanted to say I have loved you in everything I’ve ever seen you in!”10. I went to shake his hand but he waved me off and instead insisted that we fist bump. I was in no position to argue with the man. If James Hong tells you to fist bump him, then you fist bump James Hong!

I saw Renee Witterstaetter, who used to be editor of John Byrne She-Hulk book when I was in the mail room at Marvel. I quickly dashed over to her and said with a smile “Hey I just want to say, I used to deliver your mail for you when you were at Marvel”. Her reaction was totally great “No way! Well thanks for delivering my mail!”. I felt bad I didn’t buy anything from her. Chris and Lauren got into a conversation with J. O’Barr, creator of The Crow, who has always been a genuinely nice guy in the pat and continues to be a genuinely nice guy to this day. There were a lot of artists I wasn’t familiar with but whose artwork all looked pretty great.

I got to shake hands and say “Thank you” to Neal Adams, one of those artists who just still blows me away to this day. He was selling collections of his most popular work11 with the idea that fans could buy the collections and then have him sign at no extra cost. I really don’t have a problem with artists doing that. It is pretty how almost every artist supplements their per page rate in the comics industry. Besides, they are technically working the whole Convention, signing and sketching stuff for fans12. Some of the artists can definitely come off having attitude or give off that ever so faint air of douchery. Neal Adams did not. He was personable and friendly and seemed to understand my lack of funds. Besides, I’m really not in the collector’s game. I want to meet artists and writers I’m a fan of just to say “Thanks”.

Which brings me to my geek moment of geek moments at the Con. It was about 10 minutes until the Con shut down for the night at 8PM. I was waiting in line to see George Perez. Perez is one of my favorite comic artists of all time. I rank him right up there with Jack Kirby and Carl Barks,I mean he has always been so amazing. I had broken away from Jenn, Chris and Lauren about 20 minutes before. Everyone in line had cash for Perez so he could either sign something or sketch something. I was just in line so I could shake his hand and thank him for 30+ years of entertaining me. I watched him sketch Captain America for one guy and it seemed he did it in 5 minutes. What was even more amazing is that it looked exactly what you expect a finished Perez Cap to look like, minus the coloring. He just seemed to do it so easily. When it came to my turn all I said was “Mr. Perez, I have nothing for you to sign and no money to ask for a sketch. I just want to shake your hand and say thank you so much for all these years of great comics”. He cracked a smile and shook my hand as he said “Thank you, that means a lot”. Then I went on, “Actually, you may not remember but we met more than 20 years ago when I worked in h Marvel mail room”. That surprised him. “Really? You worked in the mail room?”. I then told him how it was 1991 and I was delivering mail to the office of then Hulk editor Bobbie Chase. Told him how I dropped off the mail and there he was, probably working on Hulk: Future Imperfect13. His smile got bigger the more I told him about it. Finally he asked me, with enthusiasmI wasn’t expecting “Hey, would you like to get picture with me?”.

In the middle of all this, I managed to spend my $5 on something worthwhile. Artist Dave Graham had several sketches on sale, including a one of Harley Quinn that Jenn had been eying but didn’t have the money to buy. I waited for Jenn to move on to the next artist and hung back. I cleverly negotiated $5 for the sketch and even got a personalized message with it. I surprised Jenn with it right away and, needless to say, Jenn was totally floored. It is always good to score points with the Girlfriend. It also helps that I love to see her smile and giving her that sketch brought a huge smile to her face.

I was blown away. Here was one of my idols wanting to take a picture with me and I didn’t even ask or expect it. Of course I said yes. Without hesitation he ran around the table, almost gleefully if I had describe it, and embraced me so Jenn could take a picture of us together. I thanked him again, because he really had made my day. Hell, he even made me forget how much my feet hurt. George Perez had made my day at Wizard World Chicago 100% worthwhile!

With that said, here is my lasting memory of Wizard World Chicago!

Me (Left) and the legendary George Perez (right)

1NEWSFLASH: Outside of News, there is nothing on TV at 7:30AM. We subjected ourselves to old Power Rangers episodes. Even worse, it was Power Rangers Ninja Storm!

2Thankfully Power Rangers was replaced with Phineas & Ferb

3Classic 70s version and Nolan-verse versions

4One guy had a perfect Penguin costume, right down to the nose, which I’m pretty sure was actually his.

5Having worked at Marvel had its benefits i n the long run

6Got to love The Boondock Saints, though Norman Reedus wasn’t there.

7Anime Conventions are just… creepy. American Otaku don’t get the point that being an Otaku is not a good thing.

8I’m sucker for DC war comics and even a bigger sucker for Joe Kubert

9He of Big Trouble In Little China fame

10Seriously, check his IMDB or Wiki entries. James Hong has been in everything!

11Green Lantern/Green Arrow and a plethora of Batman material.

12Not all of them do sketches though. Some strictly sign stuff and take pictures.

13He confirmed that he was indeed at that time

The Steven Seagal Super Cinematic Spectacular: Hard To Kill

More Fun Than Bad But Still Not Good

If Above The Law was a credible debut for Steven Seagal, then Hard To Kill was the movie that made it clear he wanted to be something of a challenger to Stallone and Schwarzenegger for box office glory. There was enough buzz around Seagal because Above The Law performed so well for a movie starring a relative unknown. Above The Law opened in wide release at #8 its opening weekend. The number one movie in North America that week was Beetlejuice and the rest of the top 10 is pretty impressive featuring movies like Moonstruck, Biloxi Blues and a re-release of Disney’s The Fox & The Hound. Opening at number 8 with that kind of competition is damn impressive. Hard To Kill opened at number one at the box office the week it was released in February of 1990, supplanting Driving Miss Daisy to claim the spot1. If Above The Law was Steven Seagal meekly saying “here I am” then Hard To Kill was Steven Seagal yelling at Hollywood “HERE I AM!”.

Hard To Kill is not nearly as good as Above The Law from a story perspective. We have gone from an Ex-CIA operative turned cop getting involved corrupt CIA conspiracies to a cop who gets put in a coma by his enemies, only to wake up 7 years later wanting revenge. That right there is whole plot of the movie. Sure, there is whole thing about how the man villain is a corrupt U.S. Senator wrapped up in criminal activity but do you really care? I mean Hard To Kill is the most basic movie plot there is. It is about revenge plain and simple. T really is not complicated. Yes there are other minor plot threads to make you care more about Seagal’s ludicrously named protagonist, like dragging his now teenage son into the whole mess of revenge. Sure the kid wants revenge as well, I mean the bad guys killed his mother and sister after all. But really on the scale of ludicrous action movie stories this doesn’t rate as completely ridiculous, at least not as much as say your average Chuck Norris movie2.

The thing is Hard To Kill has such an insanely ludicrous story, that the only real reason to watch it is solely for the action sequences. Above The Law had some great action and served as a kind of introduction to Seagal’s brand of Aikido. Hard To Kill throws the low key introduction out the window and just gives us Seagal just flat out beating the living crap out of people and randomly breaking their limbs. It is a violent movie, one of those R rated action movies that people want to go see in the early Spring because by that point they are so sick of re-released Oscar contenders that watching a motherfucker break another motherfucker’s arm in 3 places is sort of a cathartic release after months upon months of movies that are specifically bred to be Oscar bait3. Make no mistake, Hard To Kill is most assuredly NOT Oscar bait. It is essentially the antithesis of an Oscar bait movie. I mean, I’m sure if they released a movie where Jessica Tandy plays a cop awakening from a 7 year coma bent on getting revenge on those who put her in that coma through the power arm-breaking Aikido during Oscar Bait Season people and critics would go see it4 and probably praise her performance for showing such depth and range.

All kidding aside, Hard To Kill is not a terrible movie by any means. It is light on story and heavy on the action, which pretty much becomes the basic formula for every Seagal movie from this point forward. The plot is tissue paper thin but as a person who has to watch the movie you don’t care. This is not Shakespeare, shit it isn’t even a bad Tony Scott movie5. You are watching this movie for the action. You are watching this movie for the violence. You are watching this movie for Kelly LeBrock!

Ah yes, Kelly LeBrock, the model turned actress that inspired many a teenaged boys first erection when hey got to see Weird Science for the first time. The thing about Weird Science was that Kelly LeBrock was playing a character that was in control. She was the one that steered the movie and really made it fun. She kind of had the same role in The Woman In Red to a lesser extent. Unlike in those movies, here she plays damsel in distress. She is the nurse that is on duty when Seagal’s Mason Storm6 comes out of his coma. She then ends up helping him with his recovery so he can get out of his wheelchair, all in the name of revenge and limb-breaking justice. Remember what I said a few sentences back about how Kelly LeBrock was the one that steered Weird Science and drove the story? This is definitely not the case here. In Weird Science she was funny and charming as hell. Hard To Kill gives a Kelly LeBrock devoid of any with or charm. She is simply a broom shaped like Kelly LeBrock, simple window dressing whose sole purpose is to be the pretty nurse that Mason Storm uses to help him get over his murdered wife. I know if I were married and in a coma for 7 years and suddenly came to that I’d spend my time grieving my murdered wife by plugging away at Kelly LeBrock. Well, Kelly LeBrock in 1990 at least. Of course the Seagal/LeBrock romance was going on during filming of the movie as well and Seagal and LeBrock ended up married for almost 10 years and 3 children.

So what exactly do we take away from Hard To Kill?

Well for starters, Steven Seagal in 1990 had officially “arrived”. He took a low grade, ludicrous action movie and turned that into box office gold. Hard To Kill gave Seagal access to better scripts and better production values. These are things that happen when you go from “Future Action Star” to “Bankable Action Star”. Its safe to say if Hard To Kill had bombed then both Marked For Death and Out For Justice would not have done as well, with latter possibly not being made at all. It is the success of Seagal’s first four movies that allowed him to get to play with the big boys when Under Siege was dropped in his lap. The thing is, of the first 4 movies Seagal made Hard To Kill has this terrible story yet somehow the movie is still entertaining and engrossing. This movie should be just Goddamn awful yet isn’t. It just might be one of the best examples of the movies as escapist fantasy I can think of. Really, no intelligent person should watch Hard To Kill and come out happy that they just sat through it but I can’t think of one person that doesn’t like it when you talk about Seagal movies. I don’t even hate this movie. It is one of those great action movies that don’t get made anymore, in the fact that Hollywood felt that action movies need to have more stuff blowing up all the time7. Here Seagal and Director Bruce Malmuth give nothing but gunplay and Martial Arts and make a pretty good little action movie out of it.

So go watch Hard To Kill. I think you’re going to realize it isn’t totally awful. Personally, I don’t like it nearly as much as I like Above The Law but it is still a movie you can sit down and watch with friends and have a good time with. Of Seagal’s first four movies it is probably my thrid favorite. When next w continue the Steven Seagal Super Cinematic Spectacular I’ll talk about Seagal’s amazingly fun and equally violent Marked For Death, a movie that is almost as ludicrous as Hard To Kill but so much more fun for all the wrong reasons!

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Coming Soon: Marked For Death~!

1 Driving Miss Daisy reclaimed the #1 spot the following week. Hard To Kill remained in the top 10 for 7 more weeks.

2 I maintain that outside of Way of the Dragon and The Octagon, Chuck Norris has NEVER made a good movie. Hell in one of those 2 movies I just named he is in it for less than 20 minutes as basically the guy who shows up to get his ass kicked by Bruce Lee.

3 Seriously, Oscar Bait Season runs from the middle of October until Christmas Day every year. That isn’t to say we don’t get some good movies out of it but a lot of them are released at that point in the year to prime us for the onslaught of movie critics awards, the Golden Globes and then the Oscars.

4 Forget the fact that Jessica Tandy died in 1994. If she were doing violent Aikido based action movies you would totally go see it. Fuck, I’d totally go see it!

5 Make no mistake Tony Scott has made some fucking awful Goddman movies. We forgive him because he made Top Gun, True Romance and Crimson Tide.

6 Mason Storm? REALLY? Who names their child this? I mean the movies are supposed to be escapist fanttasy but this shit is inexcusable for a character in a movie from 1990!

7 Even Seagal is guilty of this as when he directed On Deadly Ground his attitude seemed to become “Bigger is better”.

The Amazing Spider-Man or Does Whatever A Spider Can

“Nobody Knows Who You Are…”

There are those times when I am determined to hate a movie before I actually see it. Most of the time it is warranted cause the movie looks pretty inane, uninteresting or just all around bad. Even if I do eventually see it after its run in theaters, rarely am I proven wrong about those movies as they are exactly what I imagine them to be. This doesn’t only apply to movies, it happens with Television shows, comic and books alike. Sometimes it is the insistence of other people telling me how great something is that leads to my not liking it even more. Insistence breeds contempt in me, it is like someone telling me I “Have” to like something and by saying that I feel as if they are trying to take away my right to decide for myself whether it is good or not1. This brings us to the reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise.

I really was predisposed to not liking this movie before I saw it. I had a genuine problem with re-booting the entire mythology after only 10 years and 3 movies2. For some reason this whole idea just made me angry and honestly, there are much more worthwhile things to be angry about. Then more details started trickling out about the reboot. The movie was going to re-tell Spider-Man’s origin, they hired someone that couldn’t be further from being Peter Parker to play Peter Parker and they hired Marc Webb to direct. The last item there shouldn’t have bothered me so much since Marc Webb directed (500) Days of Summer a movie that I absolutely loved. Yet my nerd-rage was clouding my need to be objective about the reboot. Then all the rumors about the story started to get tossed about like Peter Parker was going to be a mutant whose powers are activated by the spider biting him, the character of Dr. Curt Connors had been changed from his comic origin to being a total screwball mad scientist trying to conquer the world and even the utterly ludicrous “Spider-Man is going to be in The Avengers so they can set-up this movie”3. Then the first pictures of the new Spider-Man costume came out and I was horrified. “They can’t be serious” I thought, “This has to be a joke”. It was no joke. The Spider-Sneakers, the alteration to the line of the costume, all of it was true. After seeign that costume my aforementioned nerd-rage was going into full overload.

I saw the first trailer for the movie when I went to go see The Avengers and that did nothing to calm my fears. The trailer looked terrible. “Peter Parker is not a dark brooding skater” I cried. “The Lizard looks terrible” I bemoaned. “They made Hawkeye out to be a chump”… oh wait that was one of my major complaints about The Avengers4. The trailer was a bust. Things were not shaping-up well for The Amazing Spider-Man5. Finally the day came I went to go see The Amazing Spider-Man. I went to see it with my significant other because she really wanted to see it. I cannot say no to this girl. I mean what else were we going to see? She already saw me cry when we went to see Brave.

I saw The Amazing Spider-Man.

Shockingly, I liked The Amazing Spider-Man. To be more precise, like doesn’t really cover my feelings about The Amazing Spider-Man. I LOVED The Amazing Spider-Man. Marc Webb made a completely entertaining movie where I had little to complain about. The alteration to the costume? Spidey is moving around so much that it is barely noticeable and when he is moving around he looks like what you expect Spider-Man to look like moving around. Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker with just the right amount of “nerd” factor, an element which never really came across in Tobey Maguire’s version of Peter. Rhys Ifans plays a very sympathetic man in Dr. Curt Connors, a man who really does want to help humanity with his ideas and research but gets put in one of those positions that any major research scientist gets put into when he gets in bed with a major conglomerate6. Then there is good old Dennis Leary, who for once decides not to play a movie character as himself. Leary is pretty damn great as Captain George Stacy, playing him as a policeman that really does believe in the law and sees Spider- as someone who is, in a way, mocking what he does for a living. I could write tomes on how great Emma Stone is as Gwen Stacy, I mean Gwen was always Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s exemplification of the perfect girl next door7 and Stone hits every aspect of that in her portrayal. All of these actors pretty much hit the nail on the head in making you relate to them. Hell all that and you get Martin Sheen and Sally field being the best damn surrogate mother and father a guy could want!

Then my friends, there is the story. This is the best “Comic Book Story” made into a movie. I mean I love The Dark Knight to death but it isn’t exactly one of those Batman stories you might pick-up written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams or Jim Aparo. It doesn’t have that sense of wonder and adventure. The Avengers not only doesn’t feel like a good comic book story, the movie itself spent way too much time trying to be a blockbuster it kind of forgot to have any sort of real story at all. The Amazing Spider-Man not only feels like a good Comic Book Story, it feels like a great Spider-Man story written by Stan Lee. That more than anything is what I want from a Spider-Man movie. Sam Raimi was able to do this in the first 2 movies with Spidey he made and Marc Webb does it here. You’ve got Spider-Man 8 locked in mortal combat with a crazd villain while fate of everyone living in New York City hangs in the balance. Peter Parker is doing this while dealing with the death of his uncle, trying to get along with his girlfriend’s father and trying not to make his Aunt worry about him all at the same time. That right there is EVERY Spider-Man story Stan Lee wrote for the first 60 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man9 comic book. What the fuck more could you possibly want from a movie called The Amazing Spider-Man?

This was a fun movie, you should see it. It is fun, full of action and proof that a good comic book story can be told on the screen. It made me remember that I need to stop judging things before I actually see them.10 It made me remember that I love Spider-Man on the same level that I love Superman, Batman and Uncle Scrooge. The Amazing Spider-Man is one of the reasons I love both movies and comic books and always will. Pu the Raimi movies out of your head when you see it. To compare those movies with this one is not fair at all because if you sit there and complain about how Raimi did it better you really will be missing one of the best interpretations of Spider-Man ever and one of the best movies of the Summer. Take a kid11 with you and make him fall in love with Spider-Man the way only a little boy can fall in love with a comic book character.

 

Until Next Time, Peter & Gwen Should Stay Off The Brooklyn Bridge!

1 This happens with almost every new television or movie project associated with Joss Whedon. Lord how I have come to loathe Firefly.

2 Of course after how awful Spider-Man 3 was I guess I can’t blame Sony for wanting a clean break from the Sam Raimi directed franchise.

3 I started hearing that last rumor way back in 2011 from several people and I had to explain to them that unless Paramount and Sony were giving each other some serious handjobs then there was no way that was going to happen.

4 I had one friend declare The Avengers his favorite movie of all time. My rebuttal was simply he needed to see some actual great movies.

5 Ironically, one of the 2 things about the movie I liked before seeing it was the title.

6 This only happens in comics and the movies, so this being a movie based on a comic kind of damned poor Doc Connors.

7 Smart, Sexy, Funny, Caring and Understanding: Gwen Stacy was all of these things and more.

8 The look of The Lizard might be my only gripe about the whole movie.

9 Seriously it is EVERY great Spider-Man story Stan Lee has ever written and it always works!

10 Not entirely likely, I’m an old dog and too tired for new tricks.

11 Preferably your own kid or kids but if you don’t have any kids surely you’ve got friends with at least one you can take with you!

Manhattan or Hope Through Heartbreak

[Note From The Author: I am not giving up on the Seagal movie analysis, its just man some of those movies are really brutal to sit through and I don’t mean the violence man. Some of those movies really suck. The following piece was started several months ago and I just finished it this evening. Yeah, I’m a Woody Allen fan…]

After my little headfirst dive with Annie Hall, the need to watch more Woody Allen films kind of slowly crept up on me. There was a period of a few weeks where I had no interest in watching anything by Allen for quite a bit. As much as I love most of his films, I really needed to sit back and actually not write any analysis of anything by him1. Then the Oscars happened. I say that with no real malice or anything but man seeing Allen win Best Original Screenplay kind of warmed my heart. I mean nearly 5 decades of film making and the man can still win one of those nice little gold statuettes. That is what got me wanting to not just see Midnight In Paris, the movie he won his most recent Oscar for, but to delve back into watching some of his older material, focusing on films I’ve actually never bothered to sit down and watch. This actually covers a lot of ground because this is a man who has made and released a movie almost every year since he released his first film in 19662. All told that is 44 movies he’s directed. You realize George Lucas has made six feature films and got a fucking Irving G. Thalberg Award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for “Lifetime Achievement”? The sad thing of those six movies only 2 of them are any good3. Allen has made 44 films to date and I’ve seen only a fraction of them, but my gut is telling me possibly 33 of them are pretty freaking great.

This brings us to Manhattan. Released in 1979, this revisits a few elements from Allen’s 1977 masterpiece Annie Hall. Those elements deal with marriage, male/female interpersonal relationships and just how great it is to live in New York City. It tones down the more fantastic elements of Annie Hall to tell a much traditional, linear story and what you get is a very funny, sweet and tender tale of man who wrestles with his own sense of morality, to find out what really makes him happy was the girl he left behind. Of course there are certain elements of the film that kind of… well… they kind of cast a new light on how Allen justified certain personal choices he made in his life regarding his relationship with both Mia Farrow and Soon-Yi Previn. But fuck it, I’m not going to make the mistake of opening that can of worms too much because the moral of that story is that love, genuine real love, is love and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.

Manhattan has some of those elements that you will find in other Allen movies, those little seemingly auto-biographical touches that help flesh out the main character. Allen plays Isaac Davis, a divorced television writer who is dating a girl of 17 years named Tracy played, by Mariel Hemingway. Hemingway was actually 18 when the movie was released so there is a good chance she was probably true to her age during filming of the movie. Allen plays Isaac as torn between the fact that he truly cares for Tracy but he finds the difference in their age uncomfortable. He is also under stress due to the fact that his ex-wife (Meryl Streep) is preparing to release a book all about their time together, including the details of why she left him for another woman. So we’ve got Isaac, dabbling in pederasty, stressed out because of his ex-wife and loathing his job. Thank God he’s got friends in the married couple of Yale (Michael Murphy) and Emily (Anne Byrne) right?

Not so fast there, Yale is having an affair with another woman, which he confesses to Isaac after a night out with their ladies. This blows Isaac away, as he always thought Yale and Emily had the perfect marriage. The woman in question is Mary Wilkie (Diane Keaton), a somewhat snobbish intellectual upon first encounter. Mary is the opposite of Keaton’s portrayal of Annie Hall simply by being intellectual and having to show that side of herself off, something Annie would’ve been completely not comfortable doing. It is only when Isaac runs into her a second time that he begins to appreciate Mary’s intelligence and finds her to be an actual nice person.

This doesn’t help his moral compass any with dating Tracy, whom he still has very deep conflicts about being with. It gets even worse for him as Yale decides to break-up with Mary and encourages Isaac to date her. Isaac breaks it off with Tracy and starts dating Mary and then we get to see how that relationship goes from start to finish. But what could have been a great romance is ruined by Mary’s own self-doubt and by Yale’s inability to let go of something that ultimately destroys his marriage. Mary and Yale never really break contact, thus leading to their reuniting, leaving poor Isaac in the cold. Isaac is left alone, wondering what it is he has done to get him to the point he is at now. In deep depression one can find oneself being deeply reflective and in turn they can have one of those life changing epiphanies. For Isaac his moment of clarity is realizing that he needs to be with Tracy because the last time he was actually, truly happy was when he was with her. So in one of those utterly romantic moments that you would find in a Megan Ryan romantic comedy of the 1990s, Isaac dashes off to Tracy’s apartment building to confess his feelings. This is where the similarity to a Megan Ryan romantic comedy ends, as Isaac arrives to confront Tracy just as she is leaving Manhattan to study abroad in London.

It is this culmination of everything in the movie where we learn what exactly Isaac liked about Tracy. It was her pure and innocent nature, the fact that she was young and had not been beaten down by life. She was optimistic, sweet and genuinely a good person. It was all these qualities that drew Isaac to her in the first place, that and the fact she genuinely cared for him. Her final lines to him in the movie “Not everyone gets corrupted. You have to have faith in people” may seem sad but actually are meant to give both Isaac and the viewer hope. The fact that Isaac’s reaction to this sentiment is to smile only further hammers home the message and wisdom she is trying to impart on him. That smile by Isaac is a sign that if this teenager can see the world this way then maybe, just maybe, Isaac can too.

So I just gave you the whole plot of the movie, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go watch it. If Annie Hall is Woody Allen’s best example of an honest romantic comedy, then Manhattan is his best example of a bittersweet one. Sure in Annie Hall Alvy and Annie break-up, but the fact that Alvy looks back on it so sweetly to the point he realizes that they are better off as friends, still has a happy connotation to it. Manhattan is different. Manhattan is about deception and lies in romantic relationships. These are not very straightforward lies either. Yale is lying to his wife about his affair with Mary which dovetails into him thinking that he can save his marriage by cutting Mary off. Yale is lying to himself with that train of thought because in truth Yale forgets 2 things, he is actually in love with Mary and that cheaters always cheat, they just can’t help it. Of course Yale screws over his best friend in Isaac to get what he wants. Isaac is also lying to himself about his relationship with Tracy. He doesn’t want to believe he is happy with a girl that is so much younger than himself. Instead, he fools himself into breaking the girls heart so he can try being with Mary, who is really just using him as a substitute for Yale. Everyone is lying to each other. Even Yale’s wife Emily, she suspects Yale is up to something but she just doesn’t come out and say it. Emily is actually the most underdeveloped character in the whole movie, which is kind of a shame because it makes her seem sort of like a throwaway piece of exposition at the beginning of the film, just to demonstrate Yale is married.

Manhattan is a funny movie despite its bitter-sweet end. Allen delivers some truly great comedy bits in the movie, including a dinner party conversation about how when dealing with Nazis, a satirical piece in The New York Times is all well and good but really, physical violence really is quite more effective in dealing with them. Ironically, Manhattan might be the last of Allen’s more optimistic films in spite of its bittersweet ending4. The close of the 1970s and shift to the 1980s saw Allen delve in to just as much dark themed comedy as slapstick. Infidelity, lies and self-delusion all crop up in movies like Crimes and Misdemeanors, Shadows and Fog and Hannah and Her Sisters. The themes of betrayal and right and wrong also get explored in those movies, especially in Crimes and Misdemeanors. But those darker themes can trace their roots back to Manhattan.

Manhattan shows the darker sides of what Annie Hall explored. Love gone wrong on all fronts and how it affects everyone in one persons life and every persons life all at once. The real zinger of the movie though is that sometimes what we really want in life is right there in front of us no matter how much we protest it being there. No matter how cynical and jaded a person is, really they want love and hope to get it in their life. It is just much harder for them to recognize it when its there. It also makes Manhattan a story of failed love. That is one hard pill to swallow, yet simultaneously, that pill fills one with hope for tomorrow. An odd dichotomy that not many storytellers can pull of so well, yet Woody Allen makes it look so damn easy.

1Hence the sudden appearance of Poetry Corner for 2 entries here at Brave Blog

2He took a 2 year sabbatical after making Sleeper in 1973 and then came back in 1975 with Love & Death. He then took a year off in 1981 and came back in 1982 with A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy. Every year after 1982 he has released a movie and in some cases he would make 2 movies a year. No doubt he felt guilty for taking time off.

3American Graffitti , Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back are three excellent movies. I’ll cut Lucas a little slack for his movie THX-1138 since he was remaking his short student film into a feature. The other 3 movies were the Star Wars prequels and no sane person or anyone with a sense of taste could ever consider those good films.

4This isn’t to say Allen didn’t make more than his fair share of whimsical comedies like Radio Days, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo or Manhattan Murder Mystery, in fact many of his movies from the 80s are pretty fantastical and full of whimsy. Its just the ones that get the high praise tend to be the darker ones it seems.

Brave or On Losing My Mother

A Truly Worthwhile Movie Experience, No Matter The Language

[Editor’s Note: Why wait until Dark Knight Rises to make your editor look like a fool? Hell, we figure our idiot writer will finally have those Steven Seagal movie reviews finished by Christmas if we’re fucking lucky! Anyway, here is the review for Brave]

At the age of 16 I lost my mother to a combination of cancer and stroke. One was brought on by the other. I was away at boarding school when this event occurred. My mother had fallen ill just after Christmas break, in fact she first started feeling ill the day I left home to go back to school in January of 1988. The next 4 months were agonizing for me. I didn’t find out until after my birthday, that February, that my mother was actually even ill. It was information that my father had kept from me because he didn’t want anything to interfere with my schoolwork. Going home every few weekends to watch my mother in pain and waste away from cancer was far and away the most painful thing I ever had to experience up to that point in my life. The day she died wasn’t nearly as awful because the day before I returned to school after my Spring break, my father pulled me aside and told me rather bluntly “Spend as much time with mom between now and when I take you back, because in all honesty it is more than likely the last time you will have to spend with her” (1). The day that hurt more was my mother’s funeral. I was so shaken that day for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons was I never got to really say good-bye to her and tell her how much I loved her. It sounds so cliché to say that about a loved one but that regret is genuine and so very tangible. I’m 40 years old now and what scares me is that since the age of 20 I can barely remember my mother’s face. I have no idea if it is some kind of mental block or anything of the sort. I am actually very good with faces, it is names that that slip my mind but my mother’s face is continually hazy to me when I try to remember her. I don’t even have a picture of her in my possession. There is so much that still hurts when thinking about the loss of my mother that I honestly cannot begin to list them all.

I had the pleasure of seeing PIXAR’s Brave the other day. It was a marvelous movie that was full of action, adventure, humor and fun. It was also a movie I was not expecting to move me the way it did. Previously on this blog I wrote 3 separate movie reviews under the heading of “3 Movies That Have Made Me Cry”. I need to amend this list now because Brave moved me so, that by the time it was over I found tears rolling down my face. I have had twenty-four hours to mull over what I experienced when I saw Brave and why it moved me in such a manner. I mean this isn’t the most daring and original movie PIXAR has made (2). It isn’t even necessarily the best movie they’ve made on a technical (3) or emotional  level (4) but for some reason Brave really resonated with me. The tears I cried at the end of Brave were not tears of me sobbing uncontrollably or any sort of histrionics mind you. These were tears of a movie having touched me by stirring thoughts of my mother. The tears did not well-up in the corner of my eyes, they just flowed freely and streamed down my face.

Brave is not a complex story. It is very straightforward but not to the point where I felt that I was being beaten over the head with the obviousness of what the themes were trying to convey. The story tells the tale of Merida, a willful Scottish princess, who is at odds with her mother Queen Elinor over Merida’s right to choose her own path in life as opposed to having marriage forced upon her due to her station in life. All Merida wants to do is shoot her bow in the woods and ride her horse Angus. All Elinor wants is for her daughter to to act in a manner a princess should . In the middle of all this is King Fergus, who is the one person that seems to understand both sides of the conflict and honestly believes that if Merida and her mother would sit down and listen to what the other is saying, peace will reign at home. Of course Merida, being young and impulsive, takes drastic measures to try and change her fate and get her mother to listen to what she wants for her life. Needless to say, usually when young impulsive teenagers do this, be it in fiction or life, the results are never what they want.

The main theme of the movie is Mother/Daughter relationships, which one can easily make a case for being about all parent/child relationships. By the end of it all Merida and Elinor come to an understanding of one another. That understanding affected me in such a way that all I could think about was my mother and the things left unsaid between us. I know my mother knew that I loved her. It doesn’t mean that I felt that maybe I should have said it more often than I did. I can only remember snippets of things about my mother, little things about her that make me smile but I want more than that. There was much psychological damage done between my father and I after my mother’s death. We inflicted many wounds upon each other, many that left scars that linger to this day. I don’t know how my mother would feel about what our relationship became. I think my biggest fear is that there is the possibility that my mother never really understood me, or at least died before she had the opportunity to. It is things like this that made me connect with Brave as a movie. In the end Merida and Elinor are able to understand each other and remember that they love each other in that way only a mother and daughter can.

Brave is really a movie about all familial bonds. It is about the damage and pain those bonds go through and about the lengths those damaged and oft times broken bonds need to go through in order to be repaired and be stronger than they had been. It is a lush and gorgeous movie to behold, full of dark green trees, bright red heads of hair and amazingly blue skies. Its characters are simultaneously comedic yet almost fully conceptualized. It has the most spirited Princess that Disney has let come to the screen and actually makes it so more than just little girls can identify with her. But what Brave really has, is a depth of emotion and feeling that touched me and made me miss my mother and really want to reconnect with her in any small way I possibly can. It is, so far, the BEST movie of the summer (5). I’m in such awe of this movie, despite it not being PIXAR’s best, that it is dangerously close to entering that fabled hall of being part of my All Time Top 10 Movies (6). Lastly, it is a movie that is open ended enough for a sequel and if that happened I’d be right in the front of the line at the theater waiting to see it.

Until Next Time…

Footnotes:

(1) My father has never been one to dance around a subject delicately when bluntness is required. He knew the outlook for my mother was bleak and realized that coddling/lying to me would do more harm than good in the long run.

(2) That distinction still goes to WALL-E

(3) Again, WALL-E

(4) Come on, Toy Story 3 was such an ode to the joys of childhood and the pain of growing out of it that if you didn’t feel some sort of longing to play with your favorite toys then I sense you might be some sort of inhuman monster.

(5) I get the feeling this will not be the last time I say that in the summer of 2012

(6) I’ll have to see how it holds up to repeated viewings. If the tears flow as freely upon second viewing as they did the first it could even be in my All Time Top 5!

Prometheus: A Movie Worth Seeing

What Happens When You Look Upon The Face of God?

[Editor’s Note: It is Summer Movie Season, we warned you this might happen about the consistency of what articles get published after what happened with The Avengers. The Steven Seagal movie reviews are being worked on, our writer ASSURES us this is the case but don’t be surprised when the next article you read is for Dark Knight Rises since our knucklehead just got his tickets for that reserved. Still, this article might be one of the more evenhanded reviews you are going to read on this blog so enjoy!]  

I’ve watched a lot of movies in my short lifetime. Many of those have been in the category of Science Fiction. Now when I talk about Science Fiction, I am not talking the fantastical Lucas or Frank Hebert derived Space Opera. I am talking about hard Science Fiction along the lines of Arthur C. Clarke or Carl Sagan. Hell even Gene Roddenberry gave us a better hard Science Fiction than George Lucas ever could. I bring the subject of “Hard Science Fiction” up because I recently saw Prometheus and I really think it might be the best Hard Science Fiction movie I’ve watched since Stanley Kubrick adopted Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to film. Director Ridley Scott has put forth a movie that asks the question “If you could confront your creator and ask him ‘what was the purpose in making man?’, what do you think his answer would be?”. More importantly, what if God’s answer is not only not what you expect but actually the exact antithesis of what you expect?

The biggest confusion about Prometheus, from the start of its concept to its final production, is whether or not it is in fact a direct prequel to Scott’s 1979 Science Fiction Horror masterpiece, Alien. There is not an easy answer to this question, because an easy answer is never “possibly”. What Scott and writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have crafted is a movie that tackles the topics of the evolution of man, religion and God while leaving a message that just because Man has questions about his origins, does not mean that the answers he will find are what he wants nor will they be particularly palatable. In fact the answers to the questions of the origins of life are utterly horrific and may lead to even more penetrating questions that you really shouldn’t want the answers to either.

Even the title of the movie, Prometheus, is an allusion, using the Greek myth of the tormented Titan to draw comparison to. The irony is that in the myth of Prometheus, it is Prometheus alone who is punished for giving the gift of fire to mankind. The movie essentially shows the consequences of what would have happened if Zeus not only punished Prometheus for the gift of fire but determined that simply for having fire, mankind had to be destroyed. To put it in more Judeo-Christian terms for everyone, there is a reason one should not look upon the face of God and then expect to come away from the experience unscathed. Hell, Raiders of The Lost Ark taught us the supernatural consequences for this course of action so it only makes sense that Prometheus shows the scientific reason for why gazing upon God’s visage is beyond a bad idea.

The movie itself is what you want from Ridley Scott returning to the genre of film that made us take notice of him. The fact that H.R. Giger returns to the universe of Alien definitely gives a somewhat sense of thematic cohesion from a design standpoint. The interior shots are vast yet still give off a certain cramped and claustrophobic feeling just like they were on the Nostromo in Alien. The exterior shots are amazing and beautiful at first and as the movie progresses the elements turn the planet against the protagonists of the film. Hell everything turns against the protagonists of the film simply because you cannot expect Ridley Scott to make a thematic prequel to Alien and have things go smoothly. I mean shit, this isn’t a Hayao Miyazaki family movie, you haven’t come to watch Tonari no Totoro, there has to be conflict or else Scott would have made the dullest Science Fiction movie since Contact.

Let’s get the story of the movie out of the way. The Cliff Notes version is this, Scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall Green) use cave paintings to theorize that mankind may have in fact been the result of aliens manipulating DNA, seeding the planet and then leaving. All the cave paintings are spread across the Earth and all are from different time periods, but all show the same pattern on them. This actually turns out to be a star map, pointing to where our possible alien creators came from. Shaw has named these creators “Engineers”. Using the information Shaw and Holloway get financial backing from Weyland Industries to send the scientific vessel Prometheus to a moon located in the star system the maps all point to. The ship is manned and monitored by CEO Peter Weyland’s (Guy Pearce) personal android David (Michael Fassbender) for the 2 year journey. The meat of the movie is about what the crew of the Prometheus find on the surface LV-233. It is about how when you scratch the surface of the riddle of man’s existence, nothing good will come of it. The revelations come rapidly. Who the Engineers are, what their connection to Earth and humanity is and what their ultimate plan for mankind actually is. No, you will not get those answers from me, for that you need to go watch the movie. All I will say is The Engineers are awfully harsh for being such terrible absent parents.

The story for Prometheus is fascinating yet chilling as more and more questions get answered. The acting is excellent, with Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender really hitting it out of the park. Fassbender really is on the verge of being a huge star at this point based on this and his performance as Magneto in X-Men: First Class last year. He plays the android David, a being that is devoid of emotions, with a certain naivete at times and yet a certain eerieness in others. The thing is his expression remains utterly neutral and his behavior patterns only ever change in the slightest bit. Everything Fassbender does in his portrayal of David is pure body language and Fassbender is just amazing in that regard. Noomi Rapace gives yet another amazingly physical performance, like she did in The Millennium Trilogy. She really sells pain and desperation exceedingly well. The rest of the cast is solid, with Idris Elba being a fun character in the Captain of the Prometheus, Janek. Elba plays the character with an American Southern drawl, which doesn’t sound natural but isn’t exactly jarring either. I’ll praise Guy Pearce’s performance but I’m not going to tell you why exactly. When you see what was done to him you just might double take. Yes, all you Alien fans you will get what you came for but you have to be patient. This is not a movie for those of you wanting instant gratification. Ridley Scott and company make you wait for the payoff for why you came to this movie and they make you want it bad.

Prometheus is an excellent film and definitely makes up for my disappointment with The Avengers. There are parts that fill you with wonder and parts that may terrify you. It is every away mission on an episode of Star Trek gone horribly wrong and no, that isn’t backhanded praise in the slightest. It is a movie that questions whether man should even venture into deep space for answers to the myriad of questions we, as a naturally inquisitive species, all have. Its moral, however, is that all finding the answers to your questions does is beget more questions and the overall curse of humanity is that we just don’t know when to stop searching for answers, no matter how truly frightening those answers might be.

The Steven Seagal Super Cinematic Spectacular: Above The Law

A Much Better Movie Than You Might Think!

To understand why Steven Seagal initially made good action movies, one has to actually understand how he ended up starring in his first movie Above The Law. It was a case of pure ego on the part of Agent Michael Ovitz, who on more than one occasion has claimed he could make anyone a star. Ovitz and Seagal knew each other due to Ovitz being a student at Seagal’s West Hollywood Aikido Dojo. Ovitz put his claim to the test by arranging a screen-test for Seagal in 1987. Seagal was not a novice in Hollywood though, as he had served as fight choreographer and stunt co-ordinater on several movies before that, not the least of which were 2 films in the James Bond franchise. Seagal’s screen-test went over so well Warner Brothers signed him up for a 3 picture deal. Ovitz asked Seagal to star in Above The Law as a personal favor to Ovitz and thus we have one of the best debuts for an action movie star I can think of.

Above The Law isn’t your average action movie. It relies less on blowing things up and moves on displaying Seagal’s talents as a Martial Artist. The average movie fan wasn’t exactly overly familiar with Aikido in 1988 when the movie was released. What made it even more impressive was Seagal’s wiry frame. Outside of his penetrating stare, Seagal may look somewhat unassuming to someone not in the know. So to see this slip of a guy beat the crap out of people onscreen and, more importantly make it look believable, was something refreshing. When Bruce Lee made it huge in the 70s, everyone and his brother tried to copy the style of 70s era Hong Kong Kung-Fu movies. Seagal demonstrated efficient brutality with Aikido, a form that relies on using an attacker’s force against him by use of counter grappling and short range strikes. The thing is, Aikido is primarily a strictly defensive art, designed to negate as much damage to both victim and attacker as possible. Well that philosophy didn’t come across so well in Above The Law, as Seagal demonstrated the most offense minded Aikido anyone had seen by that point.

The fact that so few people in the West were unfamiliar with Aikido at the time, only added to Seagal’s appeal. He was someone new and exciting. The rest of his appeal, in his first quartet of movies, was also his slight frame. Seagal was not the action movie hero we, as moviegoers, had become accustomed to in 1980s. The 80s were the era of Stallone and Schwarzenegger i.e. the over-muscled guy. Steven Seagal was so wiry and lean, not skinny mind you but more in shape the way a gymnast might be as opposed to how a bodybuilder is in shape. He is muscular but not bulging out of his shirt. Seagal in Above The Law spends large chunks of screen time in a tank top or wifebeater and that only enhances his lean look and makes him seem like an even bigger asskicker. Add to his intense look, that stare with his then narrow face, Seagal just exuded intensity. Even in scenes where he is mainly talking onscreen, there is just this raw energy he gives off, like at any second he is gong to explode in a silent rage and maybe even slap co-star Pam Grier. If anything it is amazing Seagal didn’t have a Hollywood contract before Michael Ovitz came along.

The fact of the matter is, Michael Ovitz came along and made good on his boast, thus unleashing Seagal on a movie going public. Unleash is the right word to use because Above The Law is a tour de force of action that actually has a more complex plot than your average 80s action film. I mean c’mon, a story about an Ex-CIA operative in Vietnam, with possible Mob ties, returns home to Chicago and joins the police force and then gets wrapped up in a rogue CIA cell that is determined to assassinate a US Senator. There is also some stuff in there about protecting a group of illegal immigrants, which ties into the Senator. This is one convoluted story to some extent, but it is pretty complex for an action movie starring a martial artist turned actor. The thing is the movie ends up working because along with all the martial arts and gunplay, Above The Law somehow tells a complex story that merges 3 types of action film into one. It ha the intrigue of a spy movie, the straightforward action of a cop movie and the sheer man to man physicality of a Sonny Chiba Street Fighter movie!

Let me go a little further into this. Steven Seagal plays Nico Toscani, an American who traveled to Japan and mastered the art of Aikido. Due to his knowledge of said art and his familiarity with Asian cultures , Toscani is recruited by the CIA during the Vietnam War. On one mission, near the Vietnam-Cambodian border, he watches one of his superiors, Kurt Zagon, torture a prisoner. Through this torture he learns that the unit he is working for has gotten into the business of running drugs from Southeast Asia to the US. Nico quits the agency in disgust and returns home to Chicago. This is just the opening prelude of the movie, giving you Nico’s (and to a lesser extent Seagal’s) background.

This early exposition pretty much paints with a large brush, basically letting everyone watching the movie know that one way or another this shit will get brought up in the main story later on. So after Nico gets back from Vietnam he becomes a cop and even gets married to a character played by Sharon Stone BEFORE she became the mainstream actress most guys wanted to see naked in 1992 and before she started to look like a sleestack sometime around 2004.

It is all pretty straightforward, I mean if you look at Seagal’s first 4 movies he plays a law enforcement or ex-law enforcement officer of some kind so it makes sense that this movie starts the trend. Nico gets involved in a case where after a successful bust his perps are immediately released due to intervention by the Feds. Usual action movie protocol when the Feds get involved Lead/Actor Cop gets told to stand down/back-off the case. The Cop basically ignores the warning and investigates deeper in to the criminal activity and always digs up something worse. Do you really expect this movie to break that formula?

Basically it goes like this, criminals are tied to the Opium/Heroin ring that Nico’s ex-CIA unit was involved in. It was due to the drug connections of the unit that Nico quit the CIA in the first place (well that and the fact that Zagon was a a fucking psycho). This all ties into a catholic priest harboring Nicaraguan refugees. See Zagon wants to use the drug money the CIA was still making to fund an invasion of Nicaragua but can’t because a U.S. Senator is trying to pressure the CIA into unveiling their dirty tricks before the Senate. Zagon is tryign to put together a little dirty operation with the Nicaraguan drug dealers to pull off an assassination on the Senator so the U.S. will back his nutty invasion idea.

Of course Nico starts piecing all of these things together, gets the CIA after him and has pressure from his own Police Internal Affairs Division investigating him for no good reason (courtesy of Zagon). The deeper Nico goes, the more people he needs up beating the crap out of (including trashing the same bar twice and beating up the bar owner so many times I lost count). It all boils down to Nico being captured by Zagon and his goon squad. Zagon tries to torture Nico, not for any real reason other than he can. This causes Nico to Hulk-Up and break free and then beat the living shit out of everyone in order to get to the auditorium the Senator is giving a speech at. Nico busts in, stops the assassination and even beats he crap out of some Secret Service guys in he process, all in time to save the Senators life. The movie ends with Nico and the Senator relating Nico’s story to the press about the CIA connection to drugs and backing drug lords, painting Nico as a model Hero Cop.

That’s the movie. It blends political intrigue, spy-thriller and and plain old asskicking into a pretty satisfying movie. Seagal isn’t doing Hamlet as Nico Toscani but more importantly, he knows this and really doesn’t try to push the envelope as an actor. Seagal knows he is here to be intense and kick ass. The rest of the movie is like a whose who of “Secondary Character Actor Heaven”. You get good old Chelcie Ross in there as Nico’s CIA buddy, Nelson Fox, who keeps trying to wave him off the whole thing. Chelcie Ross is probably best remembered for being in Major League as Eddie Harris, the old pitcher who would use anything to get some grease on the ball. Add to that Henry Silva as Kurt Zagon. Silva is a king of the “Hey That Guy Played The Bad Guy In [Insert Movie Title Here]” School of Acting. He definitely plays a good psycho CIA Torture Master in Above The Law, though he was better as the crazy-drugged out hitman in Sharkey’s Machine. Hell, Michael Rooker even has a cameo in this and I might have even spotted Dennis Farina at some point (don’t quote me on that, but c’mon when you need a room full of guys to play Sicilians or Chicago Cops, odds are Farina will be in here somewhere). Then you throw in Pam Grier as Nico’s soon to retire partner, who really doesn’t need all this shit to go down her last week on the force. Even if Seagal’s acting isn’t Alec Guiness level, he’s got a pretty fucking amazing supporting cast. Shit, even Sharon Stone is decent, as Nico’s wife and all she pretty much does is yell and cry at him.

In the end, Above The Law tries to be many different types of movie at once and yet somehow still manages to be coherent, a trick not many movies can pull off with just being about one thing. It is also Seagal at his most compelling. I mean it was his first movie, it was the movie that said “Hey! Look at this White Guy beat the crap out of someone with a Martial Art you have probably never seen before!”. Seagal had such a magnetic presence because he pulls off intense and completely calm at the same time, save for when he is kicking someone’s ass. It’s like he wants to prove what Bruce Lee was saying in Enter The Dragon was true, that emotional content in a fight is the difference between winning and losing that fight. The fact is most martial artists stumble a few steps when they start their movie careers. Hell even most of the guys in the Action Movie Pantheon have some early stumbling steps (just look at Schwarzenegger in Hercules In New York or even worse Stallone in every post-Rocky movie until First Blood), but Seagal is so incredibly compelling and badass in Above The Law that he just clean knocks it out of the park on the first pitch. It was a hell of a way to start a film career. No one foresaw Above The Law being as good as it was. It wasn’t a great film by any stretch but it was something different and it gave the world Seven Seagal. Even more surprising is how well Above The Law holds up, as it doesn’t feel dated or out of place when watching it to day. It really is a good movie. Of course Above The Law set the stage for what was to come next, Seagal’s Sophomore effort Hard To Kill!

Next Time: Hard To Kill

The Avengers or I Waited 5 Years For This?

BEHOLD! The WORST Movie Poster For A Major Motion Picture I’ve Ever Seen!

[Editor’s Note: “Oh I’m gonna write about Steven Seagal” he said. “Give you an in-depth analysis of ‘Above The Law’ he promised. Horseshit! Obviously our resident idiot forgot he was going to see The Avengers on opening night or else he wouldn’t have posted that last article promising everyone discussion of Steven Seagal’s early work. Fuck, we here at Brave Blog still are trying to figure out why decided to choose that as a topic for 4 more articles. It is like he wants to torture you people! Be warned, the idiot put some minor spoilers in this!]

I really wanted to love The Avengers, I really did. I went into it with a fair amount of excitement and optimism as Marvel’s track record on building The Avengers as a movie franchise has been pretty rock solid up to date. Alas, I just “liked” The Avengers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when all the movies building up to it have been at the least in the “Very Good” to “Excellent” range and your payoff movie is just “Good”, well then there is a problem. Is it a major problem? Well, that all depends what your definition of “Major Problem” is.

The worst part of this movie is the dialogue. Having spent 35 of my 40 years on this planet reading comics and a good chunk of those comics being comics The Avengers star in, never have they ever been so snippy with each other. You want snark in The Avengers that’s why you have Hawkeye in there, the one guy who usually always had the dissenting opinion. But when everyone not named Captain America is more determined to have the last word in an argument it leads to all the other characters delivering zingers for the first 2/3 of the film. That isn’t real dialogue. That isn’t a conversation or meaningful dialogue amongst a group of people. Yes, a chunk of the story for the movie revolves around how The Avengers can’t get along to form a cohesive unit unless there is a major crisis but clashes of personality rarely manifest in a room full of people being perpetually sarcastic toward each other. One or two people sure, but everyone (again, save for Captain America) deciding they have to be as catty as Oscar Wilde is really kind of stupid.

This issue of dialogue shouldn’t be too much of a problem really, but it is like that for 2/3rds of the movie. It really makes everyone seem very petty and vain and that is not what I want out of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”. It doesn’t help at all that one of the main leads decides to mail in his performance. I’ve loved Robert Downey Jr. in both Iron Man and Iron Man 2. I always had issues with how it was written as “Ultimate” Tony Stark and not Marvel Universe Tony Stark, but our man Robert Downey Jr was just so damn charming in both of those movies that I could sit there and say “Not his fault it was written that way”. The problem here is that Downey Jr. seemed so disinterested, that Tony Stark’s arrogance and bravado isn’t nearly as fun this time. I really hope Robert Downey Junior isn’t becoming bored with Tony/Iron Man, because he really has made the character fun in its own franchise but if the upcoming Iron Man 3 has the Tony Stark featured in The Avengers then I’m not going to enjoy that movie nearly as much.

I’m still trying to figure out why they even bothered putting Hawkeye in this movie as he felt utterly superfluous in it. His entire role could have been replaced by using someone like The Taskmaster. Hawkeye gets brainwashed by Loki 5 minutes into the movie, shows up less than 10 minutes worth screen time before getting un-brainwashed and then gets more prominently featured during the last 1/3rd of the movie. The problem here is that Hawkeye is the least developed of all the characters introduced thus far in the build-up to this movie and thus actually NEEDED way more screen time and character development. Instead he effectively gets written out for the majority of the film and comes back for the grand finale. I want to care about Hawkeye but this movie gives me no damn reason to.

There is also some major problems with how Loki is written in this movie. The irony here is, Tom Hiddleston is so awesome as Loki at the same time. Having Loki play crazed world conqueror in so blatant a manor actually goes against both how he is portrayed in comics and how he was portrayed in the movie version of Thor. There are a few glimpses of him being a master manipulator, his little plan to cripple S.H.I.E.L.D. Is actually pretty damn brilliant, but this takes a backseat to him seeking to subjugate humanity through use of the Cosmic Cube. Early in the movie Loki all but preaches The Anti-Life Equation and I had a real problem with that and not just because The Anti-Life Equation is a Kirby New Gods concept. It is because Loki gets too much pleasure from toying with humans through his schemes to ever buy into the concept of Anti-Life. This movie tries to portray Loki as Darkseid but instead he comes across as a petulant child and that is a disservice to both Darkseid and to Loki.

OK that is the bad, so what is the good about The Avengers?

The last 45 minutes are EXACTLY what you want an movie featuring The Avengers to be. It has that classic Marvel feel of Superheroes throwing everything at the bad guys until the good guys win. Hell that has always been the mentality of The Avengers in comics. This isn’t The Justice League of America, there isn’t complex problem solving to beat the bad guys. The Avengers fight and fight and then they fight some more. Just some really great action and fight choreography fills the last 1/3rd of this movie. Every character gets their moments to shine. You get to see why Captain America is the second (or possibly third) best hand to hand combatant in the Marvel Universe, Thor brawls his ass off, Hawkeye shoots arrows (I mean honestly, that is what Hawkeye does) and Black Widow kicks even more ass than she did in Iron Man 2. It is an orgy of comic book violence and has those defining moments where the good guys stand triumphant multiple times. Amidst this you get defining moments for Captain America demonstrating why you absolutely would follow the man into battle. Most importantly, “Hulk Smash!”. In fact Hulk smashes in a major way that should satisfy anyone who grew up reading The Incredible Hulk in 1970s.

I also loved Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. In fact she rally is the best developed character in this movie, as we get more of her background and history. Johansson takes a second tier Avenger and makes her the most fascinating character. We get details about her relationship with Hawkeye and see why she is one of Nick Fury‘s best agents. She shows why Black Widow is a Maser level spy through sheer manipulation. She is no blunt instrument like James Bond, she is a master of manipulating people, as much as Loki is. Yet she is still the most “human” of the major players in this film, especially when she interacts with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner. Johnasson makes Black Widow as believable as possible in a most unbelievable of movies. Throw Samuel L. Jackson in that boat for “Master Manipulator” as well. Sam Jackson may look like Nick Fury in The Ultimates but they very much play him as classic Fury, using anyone and everyone around him to get the results he needs. Jackson’s Fury has plots within his plots, like any good spymaster would. The more the movie unfolds, the more of Fury’s hand gets revealed . Hell we even get that wonderful old Stan Lee/Jim Sternako era Fury as he has to fight tooth and nail against the S.H.I.E.L.D. High Council to make sure his plans don’t get fucked up. Anyone who is a Nick Fury fan will walk away with a smile on their face with how well they handled the character. Hell it makes me wish they’d just do a straight up Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Movie!

Overall, this is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but like any movie not named Citizen Kane, it has its flaws. It doesn’t come close to being the greatest Superhero movie of all time but is completely NOT the worst. As far as great comic book movies go (i.e. not necessarily Superhero movies) it ranks right there below Ghost World and Road to Perdition, which is pretty good company to be in as it were. As far as great Superhero movies go, well it is better than Watchmen (I still loathe that movie) and any version of the Punisher put to film. It really doesn’t take much to be better than the Burton/Schumacher era Batman movies so even before I watched The Avengers, I knew it would be better than that tripe. It falls somewhere between X-Men and X-Men 2 probably. It is mainly hurt by weak dialogue and what seems to be Robert Downey Jr. sleep-walking his way through the first 2/3of the movie. Yet, the last 1/3rd is so much fun, one could almost forgive the the previous 2/3rd. Interestingly enough, this was longer than Iron Man 2 yet didn’t FEEL as long as Iron Man 2 was and since The Avengers clocks in at just under 2 and a half hours that is saying something. Everything followed a logical course and gave a more than suitable resolution. Simply put, The Avengers is a fine spectacle for the most part. It just could have been a better movie overall.

Now This? This IS The Avengers!

For Some Reason I Talk About Steven Seagal

Portrait of An Aikido Master As a Young Man

Action stars come and go, this is one of the rules of cinema. Sure some stay way beyond their expiration date. It isn’t like you want to see someone like say, Kevin Sorbo perform Death of A Salesman [1]. That is why the good action stars faded away and are now slowly making a comeback. It used to be so rare that we got an action movie star return to a popular franchise and make it work for the new generation. Sylvester Stallone is the exception to the rule, I mean there is no way that he should be making good action movies at 65, but he gave us Rocky Balboa AND John Rambo. Then there are the action stars who start strong and continue to have a career despite the fact that they have gotten progressively worse in every movie [2]. So with that in mind, the question posed in this Brave Blog entry is: When exactly was it Steven Seagal became the punchline of action cinema?

Steven Seagal was on the verge of true Super-Stardom in the early 90s. After a string mildly successful action movies he made Under Siege (1991) which should have sent his career to new heights. But in actuality, Seagal’s movies just got worse and worse. He kept cramming them full of environmental messages and situations that were so improbable that taking him seriously became a thing of a sheer impossibility. As an examplelet’s review the plot to Seagal’s truly ludicrous movie, The Patriot (1998). Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren. Seagal is playing a medical doctor in this. I should just stop the plot review right there because the “Aw c’mon man really?” factor is just to damn high. Even better, he is playing a medical doctor who also happens to be a former Government Research Immunologist [3].

Where the hell was I?

Oh yeah, The Patriot!

Portrait of An Aikido Master As A Young Man After Discovering The Joys of Eating Bacon


Anyway, Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren, a medical doctor in Ennis, Montanna. Dr. McClaren is a former Government Research Immunologist, who has a specialty in herbal medicine and self-defense. Seriously, how can you expect me to go on after that fucking sentence? I mean fuck, even Under Siege was minutely plausible. I mean I can believe a Navy SEAL gets busted down to Galley Cook and saves an aircraft carrier from being taken over. Wait, let me re-phrase that, I can believe a Navy SEAL gets busted down to a Galley Cook for insubordination. The whole ship taken over by terrorists and then saved by a Galley Cook and a stripper part, that’s where it gets ridiculous, but fuck it, its the last of the 80s style action movies that were still getting turned out in the early 90s. Under Siege just might be the last really great one too, as all the icons of that era started making some really awful stuff afterward. Stallone tried to actually act, Schwarzenegger delivered 2 good movies with James Cameron in T2: Judgement Day and True Lies but gave us lots of crap in Last Action Hero, Jingle All The Way, Batman & Robin and End of Days. As for Chuck Norris… well Chuck Norris never really made a great action movie so we can just skip over him.

Wait wasn’t I trying to explain the premise of The Patriot?

Okay, Steven Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren, a local medical Doctor in Ennis, Monatana. McClaren is a former Government Research Immunologist with a specialization in herbal medicine as well as a weapons and self-defense expert. Things are afoot as residents of Ennis are being struck down by a mysterious disease that was unleashed by some local anti-government militia. This movie was made after the FBI kind of screwed up the raid on the Branch Davidian Cult in Waco, Texas and the Ruby Ridge militia case, so Hollywood wasn’t afraid to use crazy survivalist militias as fodder for action movies, no mater how ill advised it actually may have been. People dying, anti-government nut-jobs and a mysterious tea being he only thing that can stop the virus all come into play as Seagal plays the role of a Doctor with all the depth and caring as he did when he played Nico in Above The Law (1988). Let us be clear, this is NOT a good movie but should give you an idea of just how far Seagal had fallen from grace as an action star by 1998.

Compare this against his other contemporaries in the action genre. Arnold Schwarznegger stayed strong until 1996. His last good movie that he had the lead in was Eraser in the summer of 1996. Then came the Christmas of 1996 and Jingle All The Way, a movie which Arnold still defends to this day by pointing its box office success in many Third World countries. This doesn’t excuse it from just being terrible. He followed that up by delivering awful movie after awful movie. I mean from Christmas of 96 until he became Governor of California, Arnold made nothing but crap. After Jingle All The Way came Batman & Robin (1997) and the less said about that movie the better. Even worse is Batman & Robin isn’t the WORST of the pack as you still have utter shit like End of Days, The 6th Day (2000), Collateral Damage (2002) and the awful Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines (2003) [4].

The difference between Seagal and both Schwarzenegger and Stallone is that the latter 2 had an incredible run of great blockbusters to back them up. Seagal had one true blockbuster in Under Siege. He could have capitalized but kept following up with movies that the other 2 didn’t start making until their prime had already faded. After Under Siege Seagal delivered On Deadly Ground, a movie which has the honor of not just being an awful movie but also being an awful with Michael Caine. Shit, Seagal not only starred in this one but directed it as well, resulting in a movie about Alaskan Oil Rights, the plight of the Alaskan Esmiko [5] and (like so many Seagal movies) revenge. Now Michael Caine has been in a few bad movies, but he’s Michael Caine and can usually at least muster a performance that can make the average movie watcher say “This sucked… except for Michael Caine”. Well this is the movie where that doesn’t apply. On Deadly Ground is so bad not even Michael Caine is good in it. Stop and chew on that fact for awhile!

Steven Seagal or Jack Donaghey: You Decide!

Now I can go ahead and analyze every Seagal movie after Under Siege up until his pretty fun urn in Machete (2011) but what the hell is the point? For every good movie that Seagal was in I’d have to talk about 5 bad ones. Well fuck that noise son! I’m not going to do that to you, what few faithful readers I have. Most importantly, I am not going to do that to myself because, honestly, that is just too much for one man to sit through without taking up heavy drinking. No sir, what you can expect for the next 4 installments of Brave Blog are a very candid looks at Seagal’s first four major studio films in the order they were released so you can get an idea of where he was going before Under Siege made him a big star and yet simultaneously ruined his career. We’ll start in a week or two with his best overall movie Above The Law, which is really one of the most underrated action films of the 80s. From there we’ll dissect the rather absurd premise of Hard To Kill (1990). Then we’ll delve into Seagal’s first foray into failed social commentary with Marked For Death (1990) and then we’ll wrap it all up with the one of the most physically violent revenge films of the the last 30 years, <strong>Out For Justice (1991). What I hope the analysis of these 4 movies will do is try to figure out what went wrong with a man that was once on a promising road to action stardom and how it really could have been so much more than it ended up being.

So Bond up Son!

The Steven Seagal Super Cinematic Spectacular
is coming your way [6]!

[1] Provided, Kevin Sorbo’s major attempt at being an action movie star was Kull The Conqueror, a movie so bad I’m stunned Kull creator Robert E. Howard didn’t rise from the grave himself to cleave Sorbo in twain with a broadsword.

[2] This rule doesn’t apply to major action stars from Hong Kong. Jackie Chan turns 60 in 2 years and still won’t stop doing insane shit on film. The same goes for Sammo Hung (60) and Donnie Yen cetainly ain’t getting any younger (48). Thank God Stephen Chow (48) is slowing down and hasn’t starred in anything since his unexpectedly moving science fiction film CJ7.

[3] Amazingly enough Seagal as an ex-Research Immunologist is still more believable than Tara Reid as an Archeologist/Museum Curator in Alone In The Dark.

[4] His one redeeming movie was the remake of Around The World In 80 Days (2004), where he played against type as the comedic antagonist in a movie with Jackie Chan.

[5] I think I’m being redundant by saying “alaskan Eskimo”. I mean If I say Eskimo is someone online going to write me a nasty comment about the plight of the Portugese Eskimo?

[6] Not right away mind you… soon… or soonish is more likely…

Next Time: Above The Law!

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