COMPILED BY ERIX ANTOINE
It was only a matter of time…
The B Action Movie Thread has been a gargantuan mainstay of this site for several years. So, in our continued efforts to dominate the internet in every conceivable way, here is a weekly column. A digest, if you will. Dig in and we’ll see you in the thread!
THIS WEEK ON THE B ACTION MOVIE THREAD (Last Week’s Installment)
Mike here giving you the best and brightest of the B Action Movie Thread for this week.
Before I go on, a special shoutout to Patrick Ripoll and Jim Laczkowski’s podcast, The Director’s Club. I had the pleasure of speaking with them last week about the films of Walter Hill (most of our focus was on The Warriors and inevitable future column honoree Streets of Fire), and you can listen to it here.
There’s antics all over from pages 1469 to 1474 this week. Here’s some highlights, and feel free to peruse the threadf for more fun:
The fourth *official* Universal Soldier film, with Van Damme, Lundgren, Jai White, Adkins, Roy Jones Jr., and more on board, has emerged as the thread’s equivalent of The Dark Knight Rises, and we squeal at all the info we get towards us on Peter Hyams’ kid’s big movie, like the zombie Van Damme you see above, not to mention gentle mechanic Andrei Arlovski:
Other fun discussions this week:
- The invincibility of Bruce Willis’s career.
- Rene, Felix, and Duke Fleed all show love for X-Men: First Class. Of course, Duke Fleed uses an endless train of “X” puns.
- Joy as rumors that Dwayne Johnson will be playing Roadblock in the G.I. Joe sequel are somewhat confirmed by Mr. Rock. There’s also news that Luke Hobbs will return to the Fast and the Furious franchise.
- Debate over the title of said sixth F n’ F film. Erix says Furiou6. I suggest Fast 6, FuriouSix, and Fast and the Furious VI: The Undiscovered Country as possibilities.
- Speaking of those movies, Fat Elvis points us out to a 1981 drag racing epic with Harry Hamlin, King of the Mountain, with a still drugged-out Dennis Hopper as the bad guy.
- Discussions of the news of Sung Kang’s casting in the Walter Hill/Sly Stallone project formerly known as Headshot.
- Never-were casting idea for Jaws.
- OMG! Brigitte Nielsen had an affair with Arnold Schwarzenegger? The B thread gossips!
- The merits of Hal Ashby’s 8 Million Ways to Die.
- The Perfect Weapon’s assumption that I think Zookeeper looks like Judgment Day, but my defense that it should be given something of a chance for boasting the vocal talents of Sylvester Stallone and Nick Nolte. He also gets his ass blasted by Hobo with a Shotgun.
- Why Nicolas Cage was not present at Spike’s Guys’ Choice Fast Times at Ridgemont High reunion (with Sean Penn and Forest Whitaker on hand!?!?) and Moltisanti’s suggestion that not only is Phoebe Cates locked in Kevin Kline’s cellar (I’d personally doubt that), James Russo be there for the sake of having a pot of hot coffee thrown at him by Judge Reinhold:
By the way, that’s Taylor “Milo” Negron on the far left.
Also on hand: Robert De Niro, who Tyler Foster thinks is primed to make his return as Jack Walsh:
- Jason Momoa might not be that bad as Conan? I gotta check this Game of Thrones business out. And apparently John Milius is making a cameo too:
- In anticipation of Super 8 (which is very possibly the best movie of the summer), our favorite Spielberg movies.
- Neil Marshall’s upcoming projects and filmography, spearheaded by Fat Elvis’s revisit to Doomsday. We all agree he needs to get on his Lovecraftian/Thing-esque Western, Sacrilege, especially if Cowboys & Aliens cleans up at the box office.
- Death Race 3 is coming soon to a Redbox near you!
- A personal update from Jox on the upcoming Red Scorpion Blu-ray from Synapse.
- Warner Archive’s latest releases, like the bitchin’ cover art for their new DVD of the Moltisanti favorite Dark of the Sun:
- It sparks discussion on our favorite men on a mission films.
- Kurt Russell’s son:
- Statham! Owen! De Niro! Killer Elite! September 23! Not a remake of Peckinpah’s movie!
- Rene gets hooked on Breaking Bad.
- Everyone’s favorite Asian action films.
- New gang member SecretAsianMan introduces himself, sparking a (biweekly?) discussion of Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, and providing some memories of the local Cannon Cinema in the UK, run by this man:
- Stills from the Woody Harrelson LAPD corruption drama Rampart:
Will Ned Beatty be obliged for his cruelty in Toy Story 3? The movie debuts at the Toronto festival this September. And yes, that’s Ice Cube in the first one.
Remember when the MTV Movie Awards didn’t entirely suck?
Al Bundy can kick your ass.
Rampage Jackson’s a hit with the ladies.
If you’re not watching Breaking Bad, what the fuck dude?
THE MIND OF RENE F. RANGEL
The balls [in X-Men: The Last Stand] are there, gentlemen. Cyclops had been disintegrated, and yeah, Professor X lived, and the serum that was taking away their powers didn’t really work, but the movie did have a bleak tone, Logan has to kill Jean, and that’s where I saw THE BALLS. They had thus far killed Professor X and Cyclops, then it ends in the only way it can. Logan killing Jean. Until those last few moments where we discover that Magneto’s powers were returning, and the after credits scene where we see that Professor X is still alive, the movie was ending on a depressing note. Very unlike most super hero movies.
So last night I decided to start watching In The Name Of The King, and I’m continuing it right now. It’s not bad. Not bad at all. It definitely looks like Uwe Boll spent the entire $60 million on screen. Liotta is having fun as the sorcerer…. there’s some pretty cool set pieces, and ninjas come out from nowhere to help out Burt Reynolds and his legion. Yeah, it’s $10 I’m not regretting that I spent. I LIKE IT!
THIS WEEK’S MOVIE
ERIX FEELS THE RUSH OF TERMINAL VELOCITY
How many skydiving-themed action movies are there? Three? Maybe four? I’m not sure. But in the lovely days of Fall 1994, there were two. There was Wesley Snipes starring in Drop Zone and there was this.
I’m going with this.
It’s kind of an odd duck, this picture. It wasn’t a big hit (Lord no, despite what the box art and that little blurb on the VHS itself “An action-packed hit!” – that they would always put on anything connected with the Disney company – would have you believe) and it hasn’t even really aged into a cult classic or anything. It’s just one of those movies that you might catch on cable one afternoon and find yourself smiling like an idiot.
There’s no specific reason for this other than that the movie is fun. There’s nothing groundbreaking here at all.
Deran Sarafian is a director no one really talks about. And why should they? He made a couple of action flicks in the 90s that no one really gives a shit about and he graduated to the more lucrative world of television. And that’s really his speed. His workman sensibilities are very much those of a television director. His two best films are this and Gunmen. And they have one thing in common, basically. They are both lean and efficient programmers.
They’re also both ripoffs. Gunmen is much more blatant. It’s basically a remake of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. No one ever talks about that. But it’s true. And I will talk for hours about that when we highlight Gunmen on this column, which we will soon enough. It’s a good movie. We talked about Shadow Conspiracy. We can totally talk about Gunmen.
But Terminal Velocity is a ripoff too. Sarafian’s dad made Vanishing Point. Now… I wish I could tell you Terminal Velocity is a ripoff of that. With Melvin Van Peebles in the Cleavon Little role (despite being older than Little was in 1971) but it isn’t that. It does, however, try to harness some of that movie’s gung-ho spirit… the underdog charm of it is here, in a way.
It’s not so much a ripoff (I’m sure writer David Twohy was convinced his notions were original when he put pen to paper) as much as it’s a movie that tries to embody all the qualities of the more popular action films of its time. Although it was probably shot at the same time as Speed, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there is a similar energy in the propulsive pace of the narrative. And I don’t own a time machine, nor do I remember exactly, but I will bet you good money that the marketing department had a field day trying to sell this thing to all the people who had made the movie about the bomb on the bus so popular a few months earlier.
Now then, assuming this thing was shot in the Summer of ’93, then I’m also going to assume that Sarafian took a little trip to the Loews down the block on his day off (or maybe it was a Hudson Amusements?) and took a gander at Cliffhanger. Then he went back to the set on Monday and said: “Okay guys, here’s what we’re going to do.”
Which is not to say it’s a Cliffhanger ripoff either. Not exactly. But it’s clear that Sarafian tries to invest it with some of that same flair. If you’ll recall, Stallone tossed a girl off a cliff (not on purpose) in the Renny Harlin hit. Well… In this one, Charlie Sheen has to watch Nastassja Kinski turn into a pancake after she hires him for her first parachuting lesson.
Both events set the stage for their respective films. In the case of Cliffhanger, it creates a trauma for the hero to overcome. In Terminal Velocity, it’s the catalyst that thrusts the everyman hero into a twisty espionage plot that has him dodging bullets and leaping out of crashing vehicles like James Bond.
I guess my ultimate point in referencing all these movies is that the movie didn’t set the world on fire back then because people most likely felt like they had seen it all before. Still, although this is not one of the most original pieces of work around, it deserved more than what it got. It pretty much has all the elements you look for in a movie like this.
I want to say something like: It helps to have a likable hero like Charlie Sheen in this movie. But I can’t say that because it isn’t true. Charlie Sheen’s character – Ditch Brodie – is basically a cocky douchebag and it’s very difficult to like him or identify with him. But there is a compelling layer added when you consider that he very well may be playing himself. Now, I’m pretty sure this was when Sheen was entering that phase in the 90s where he went from being Actor Charlie Sheen to Asshole Charlie Sheen.
He was not in a great place, careerwise. He had started out by headlining a couple of serious prestige pictures for Oliver Stone but now people were associating him with Hot Shots! and coke binges. Shortly after this, he would attempt to reinvent himself as CHARLES SHEEN and star in a couple of DTVs that I can bet you haven’t seen (one of them is a serial killer thriller directed by Albert Pyun) but I have and I can assure you that they are not very good motion pictures.
Anyway, Sheen was having a hard time I think. And this film introduces us to him by having him skydive into a child’s birthday party while baring his pasty white ass for all to see. So I guess that doesn’t help either. Particularly if you imagine that it might actually be something he did in real life.
It does help, however, that he has a great co-star in the daughter of Klaus Kinski. How that ugly motherfucker was able to co-produce a creature such as this is one of life’s great mysteries. This is one of the most beautiful women in movies. And you already knew that. But there is so much playfulness to her character here… I guess it’s a spoiler to say she doesn’t actually turn into a pancake in the first scene. But who cares? You get to see her stick around and she’s terrific.
The movie also lets you have fun with its villains.
The first villain you meet is Christopher McDonald. I don’t know how many Christopher McDonald fans there are around here, but I’m definitely one of them. And you can quote Happy Gilmore if you want. But, as far as I’m concerned, he will always be remembered for getting hit by a car and making me laugh in the (classic?) Emile Andolino charmer Chances Are.
Well… In this one he plays a supposedly Russian bad guy with an American Brooklyn accent and a very stupid haircut.
You’ve never seen McDonald like this. Early on in the movie, he terrorizes and beats the shit out of some poor girl in her apartment, subsequently drowning her in her own fish tank. Later he beats the shit out of Charlie Sheen while screaming something about the movie’s McGuffin.
Frankly, he’s so out there that he would be fine on his own. But the movie also throws in James Gandolfini as his boss and the real bad guy behind the whole thing.
I guess that’s also kind of a spoiler. Because when Gandolfini first shows up, he seems to be playing a US Attorney. But I think it’s common knowledge by now that if you cast James Gandolfini in a thriller, chances are he will eventually be slapping women around and trying to kill the hero. So, if I saw it coming, so should you.
I don’t really care about the plot of this thing and neither should you. It’s a standard action programmer that has something or other to do with bars of Russian gold. The storyline is routine and forgettable. But David Twohy’s script still has plenty of wit and allows for the sort of set pieces you expect in this kind of movie.
As mentioned, Sarafian is no slouch in staging these scenes… In particular, the climactic stunt involving a falling classic American car and a narrow escape from certain fiery death is right up there with something out of a Bond movie. In fact, a similar stunt was actually done in the last Bond movie, I think. And I’m here to tell you that the way it is staged in this movie is far superior.
Nothing else in the movie is quite as good as that. But it’s zippy and fun in all the right places. And, despite the PG13 rating, there is no shortage of wall-to-wall violent action when it counts.
In this day of Michael Bay excess where it seems that every action movie has to be 3 hours long to satisfy audiences, no matter how absurdly simple its plot, it’s good to sit back and enjoy lean and to-the-point entertainments like this one every now and then. A dumb action flick can be dumb and silly and short. That’s how I like ‘em.
“I’m much more than a walking penis, I’m a flying penis.” actual Charlie Sheen dialogue improvised into Terminal Velocity.
I remember Terminal Velocity being that OTHER movie on sky diving that didn’t have Gary Busey and Wesley Snipes in it. I eventually saw Drop Zone, but it wasn’t until this review that I got around to seeing Terminal Velocity.
Even though the other Charlie Sheen film we’ve covered for the B-Movie Column, Shadow Conspiracy was sadly a wash despite having an amazing cast, this is certainly not the case with Terminal Velocity. Sheen plays a diving instructor stupidly named “Ditch” (I could not get past this whenever his name was screamed. It’s such a silly nick name, but whatever) who in his introduction, parachutes into a girl’s celebration wearing FAKE ASSLESS CHAPS and is promptly arrested. This seems like a hint of what was probably really already going on in Sheen’s life. He is a warlock after all.
Speaking of Warlocks, one of the greatest geniuses of acting, Klaus Kinski once made sweet love to a woman, ejaculated in her, and created the beauty that is Natassja Kinski. This little minx, that slept with Paul Schrader (she has low standards in the looks department, gentlemen. There’s always a chance.) is the female lead in Terminal Velocity. She fakes her death, only to take Sheen on an adventure that includes Christopher McDonald looking like Mr. Stamper from Tomorrow Never Dies, sleazy James Gandolfini as a guy named PINKWATER, and a stunt involving a Cadillac Allante that needs to be seen to be believed.
I actually had no idea that this film was written by David Twohy until I saw the credits. The man who would bring us one good Riddick movie, and another “ok” one, and the wonderful sci-fi film that also starred Charlie Sheen, The Arrival (see it, it’s great) wrote this one. I’ve always thought of him just as a sci-fi guy, so seeing that he wrote this is actually a good indicator that he can do non-sci-fi action.
Getting back to Christopher McDonald, this man really deserves to be more than just a character actor, or known simply as Shooter McGavin. He seems to relish playing bad guys, and in Terminal Velocity, his character reminded me of Stephen Lang for some reason. Probably from Sheen’s other film we’ve covered, Shadow Conspiracy. Except here, McDonald talks. Talking. That’s something in this film that struck me as strange, because eventually we discover that Natassja Kinski, McDonald, Gandolfini, and a few others are ex-KGB agents. Through the entire film, they NEVER speak in Russian accents. I could go with them speaking in a different accent, so no one knows they’re Russian, but even when they’re by themselves, they still talk in their regular accents. I guess in the overall film, it’s a minor quibble, but it still was strange that it’s never addressed.
The score screams “Kamen” as in Michael Kamen, who did the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard scores, but it’s not him. They just got a composer and probably told him “Do it like Kamen”. Then there is a direct ripoff of a certain money shot from Die Hard 2 that I won’t go into detail about, but if you’ve seen that movie, and you see this one, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
This is one of those rare films that I don’t already have a deep personal connection to, that we’ve covered on here, but I will say, that I enjoyed this film, and would certainly like to see it again. I just hope that eventually an anamorphic dvd gets put out. Even a Blu-ray. Drop Zone got a Blu-ray release, they should follow suit with this one.
Let’s just say she did for bullshit what Stonehenge did for rocks.
Don’t want to cop out or anything, but it’s been a super-busy week for me, and I didn’t have much time to provide a detailed opinion of Terminal Velocity, but it’s an unmitigated blast and Deran Sarafian infuses all the magic he learned from his father, the director of Vanishing Point, into the fun of it all. Sheen is a great asshole-y hero, and James Gandolfini and Christopher McDonald make for an explosive villain team, and they both get insanely cool deaths.