In 1996, John Carpenter essentially pulled a Sam Raimi with one of his key creations, Snake Plissken. While “Escape from New York” is a great scifi action film, Carpenter is this time given a bigger budget and decides to cover a wider field of his mythology, cramming in as much as he could with this sequel/remake. While I wouldn’t call “Escape from LA,” it manages to rise above the rest in Carpenter’s ouevre with some very good concepts, and Kurt Russell doing a bang up job, as always.
By 1993, Robocop had turned from a Christ allegory with a vicious blood streak to a bonafide kids’ mascot who was appearing on lunch boxes and Saturday morning cartoons. Thus was the weird period of the eighties and nineties where even folks like Conan, Rambo, Chuck Norris, and heck, even Freddy Krueger became kiddie fodder. The official final go around for Robocop is a tame and pretty dull 1993 film that director Fred Dekker is saddled with, that takes Robocop in to more family friendly territory right down to having a spunky child sidekick. Not much has happened for Robocop and Detroit since the first two films, as the city is still very much under the death grip of crime, while OCP still controls every going on. Dekker has a lot of catching up to do and sadly doesn’t deliver much in the way of a great sequel, as “Robocop 3” essentially repeats a lot of the same beats from the first two films.
Irvin Kershner has a knack for taking original films and amplifying what makes them work initially. With “RoboCop 2,” Kershner takes the RoboCop mythology to new heights creating a film that’s significantly more memorable than the original and arguably better. That’s a controversial statement for sure but when a lot of fans think of RoboCop, they think about the RoboCop 2 unit which becomes something of a parallel to Alex Murphy. Where in Alex is still grasping with bits and pieces of his humanity and consciousness, our villain Cain fully embraces the technological shell he is transplanted in and begins to wreak absolute havoc.
When I saw some pre-marketing for Thunderbirds Are Go!, the revival of the Thunderbirds at London Toy Fair in January 2015, my interest was piqued and I started hoping for something along the lines of the original series. Then I received my screener for the new series and started watching it. This time around, maquettes are involved by the characters are animated. The stories are still simple, following the Tracy family as they save people and the world one adventure at a time.
Brad Bird is certainly a fun storyteller filled with ideas about science fiction that’s a welcome break from the normal grim and grit of the modern era, I just wish “Tomorrowland” were a masterpiece. If not, I wish it were more than mediocre. As it is there’s a great movie somewhere in the script, there’s just too much narrative and disjointed writing to really see it rise to the surface and hit a home run. “Tomorrowland” is one of the more entertaining messes of the year. It’s a film that doesn’t introduce its heroine until thirty minutes in to the movie, and completely cuts her out of the equation in the finale. “Tomorrowland” is not a bad movie by any means, it’s just the writing is so scatterbrain and haphazard, I couldn’t really appreciate the whole shebang, in the end; which is sad, because I certainly wanted to love “Tomorrowland.”
1998 was a big year for FOX television. Despite handing audiences turkey after turkey (Nick Fury Agents of Shield, anyone?), you have to appreciate their relentless pursuit to deliver genre fare. “Blade Squad” is one of the many failed attempts to build a show out of a TV movie that works as a glorified pilot. As a kid I spent a lot of time in front of the television, and I caught “Blade Squad” one dull Friday night. Suffice it to say despite its interesting concept, “Blade Squad” is a missed opportunity and really dull execution. It’s also a really unique artifact of a decade obsessed with futuristic punk and neon colored dystopias.
I’m very lucky that I don’t have any nostalgic connection to “Robot Jox.” I merely know it that that giant robot movie from Full Moon/Empire, and nothing more. Watching it without the rose colored glasses allowed me to appreciate it for what it really is. It’s silly, it’s unusual, but damn it it’s a lot of fun. I can see watching this as a double bill with “Arena.” We just don’t have nearly enough giant robot movies in America, and “Robot Jox” is that one movie that has its heart in the right place. It’s too big for its britches, but it utilizes old fashioned technology to depict a future where robots decide the fate of countries.
With “Escape from New York,” director John Carpenter once again evokes the western by delivering his own trademark twist of the sub-genre. Through his film he offers up a classic tale of a hero in the badlands while also introducing us to one of the most colorful figures in the Carpenter gallery: Snake Plissken. Plissken is a role only Kurt Russsell could have played, a brooding and rebellious anti hero who is also very cunning and of few words.