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“They’ve just formed Blazing Sword!”

Last weekend, I saw Pacific Rim. Wow. I loved it. Something about ginormous robot types (called jaegers) pummeling even more ginormous alien monsters… Now that’s good cinema. Don’t get me wrong. There is not one ounce of character development in this movie. Characters met at the beginning of the movie are more or less the same if they live to see the ending credits. You can’t have it all, people!

Anyways, one of the things I really liked about Pacific Rim was that this might be the closest I ever come to seeing a live-action version of Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Hands down, Voltron was my favorite cartoon when I was a kid. Commander Keith was the no-nonsense leader of the team. The Princess was pretty and in constant danger of being kidnapped by the evil Prince Lotor who was more conceited and far less evil than his father King Zarkon. And the sexually ambiguous Pidge talked to mice.

Every episode, the king’s witch, Hagar, would send down a Robeast (aka giant alien monster) which would attack and wreak general havoc on the goodly peoples of Planet Arus. I’m sorry. If my planet was being attacked on a regular basis, I’d have give serious consideration to relocation. Just saying.   

So…the Robeast would attack, and then the Voltron team would assemble their individual lion robots into Voltron!! (Which rocked!) The two would fight on the planet and fight in space. Usually, the robeast would gain the upper hand at some point. Then and only then would Voltron use its secret weapon: Blazing Sword. Ah yes. Best part ever. From that point on, the Robeast has no chance. It’s over.

So, during a massive fight in Pacific Rim there was a scene where the jaeger is out of ammo and is about to lose a fight. What to do…. One character mentions they have one weapon left which just happens to be a sword. Right there in the theater, I elbowed my good friend Sabrina and hissed in her ear, “they’ve just formed Blazing Sword!!!!” I might have shouted it. I’m not sure.

Back several years ago. Might have been 2007 or so, I heard many a tale of a live-action Voltron movie. I was eager to learn more. Sadly, nothing has come to pass. I found a report from a year ago saying that the movie was still in development. Maybe if Pacific Rim does really well, the studios will see that yes, there is an audience for this movie! Maybe.

Anyhoo, if the Voltron movie never gets made, at least I’ll have that one scene from Pacific Rim. I can hold on to that for a while.


Top Billing for Everyone!

In this day in age, superheroes are everywhere. You can’t get away from them no matter how hard you try. They are just there to save the day no matter what.  This week’s movie, makes me think along the lines of Mystery Men in which there was a superhero for everything, but no one had any really spectacular powers.

So what’s this week’s movie, you ask? Well, Super Friends, I’ll tell you: Cross starring Brian Austin Green and Michael Clark Duncan AND Vinnie Jones AND Jake Busey AND Danny Trejo AND C. Thomas Howell AND Tom Sizemore AND!!! David Carradine. Too many “ands?” We haven’t even started. But first, let’s approach the obvious:

Danny Trejo….Michael Clarke Duncan…Vinnie Jones: I think action film. I think things blowing up, and all sorts of awesomeness. Brian Austin Green (BAG)? Huh?  To me, he’s always David Silver from 90210. Has he been in anything since? I’m gonna go look this up and see. That’s a project for a rainy day.

The movie opens with a creative exposition montage that looks like a live-action comic book. Apparently, the world has been at war since it’s creation (cue a shot of Danny Trejo telling us we are “in the wrong place at the wrong time”). The gods forged amulets and gave them to those they deemed special. One such amulet, The Cross of the Isles, was considered the most powerful. I’d also consider it the most green. It’s very green and shiny. The amulets were passed down through the generations and so on and so forth.  There is also a magical Staff of Sekhmet which is powerful enough to kill everyone on the Earth! It requires blood from each of the twelve bloodlines of the gods in order to activate it. Busey’s character refers to it as Satan in a stick. Ha!

I also want to point out that the one line uttered by Danny Trejo is his only line and his only appearance in the film. Yet, he got top billing. It’s a waste, I tell you! Trejo makes any movie cool, but you have to have him in it long enough for the coolness to actually soak in! When will they learn?

Back to the movie. BAG plays Callan Cross. He’s the last in the line of Crosses and he possesses the Cross of the Isles which he always wears. It’s super power is that it creates a cool green force shield that appears around him as bullets strike and deflect. What’s funny is that during one particular shootout in which Callan’s team is trying to save a girl from some thugs, Callan shows up to the party late, and then just shuts down the opposing side. Why not get him there early and send him in first, I say? Or is this like not letting Voltron form the Blazing Sword right off the bat? That always bothered me about Voltron. You knew nothing else would work except for Blazing Sword, but no, we had to wait it out until it was a last resort. Frustrating…

Anyways, the movie continues with Tom Sizemore as Detective Nitti. He’s investigating that very same shootout I mentioned a paragraph ago. He’s after Callan and his team since he considers them to be vigilantes despite the fact that they go around with all their good-deed-doing. None of this matters because we don’t see Sizemore again until the very end in a stupid movie bookend ploy that doesn’t fly.

I need to point out something very important here. The opening credits to this film, after you get past the intro take like five minutes. This is because there are about 200 characters in the movie. This is not a Dickens novel. There is no reason for this many characters. If they were extras, no big deal. But no! Almost every person who has screen time has a name that appears next to a shot of them and their specialty. Also, everyone has a Matrix name. Allow me to introduce a few of the good guys:

Riot: He’s a polite guy who is head to toe in kevlar. Backfire: (Jake Busey) He’s an explosive expert. Also, everyone in the entire movie calls him “Fastball” so I’m thinking there was a change of name and no one corrected the captions. War is Riot’s brother. He has a short temper, and he’s also the director of this movie. There is no reference made to the whereabouts of Pestilence, Famine, or Death. Pity.  Shark is a dude with very cool hair. He like to wallop thugs with pool cues. But wait, there’s more!

Ranger: He’s a sniper. Saint: He’s an assassin who dresses like a priest. Juliane: A blond chick with straight hair who specializes in communications. Lucia: A blond chick with wavy hair who likes to shoot things. And let me point out that while I was taking notes, I got the 2 ladies mixed up I don’t know how many times. They look just alike!!!  Nuke: A guy who talks to Jake Busey in one scene and is never heard from again in the movie, but he gets a full into caption nonetheless. I mean, how many people are in the movie??!! Where’s Waldo?

Villains:  Michael Clarke Duncan is Erlik the Crime Boss. He’s actually pretty cool in this movie. The writer gave him really strange monologues about reading the sports pages and honesty at cards. I think he might have gotten the best deal out of this whole thing. Working for Erlik are English (who has the fakest of British accents) and Slag (who has a strange Boy George-type black streak on his shaved noggin). There is also The Viking (played by Vinnie Jones). Allow me to point out here that Vinnie Jones plays the standard short-tempered, slightly psycho Vinnie Jones character as seen in any film he’s ever been in. It’s useful and all, but just once I’d like to see him try his hand at someone a little clumsy, shy and maybe polite. Maybe have him do a comedy where he plays a butler for a zany family or where he’s a pastry chef. Something!

David Carradine plays a crazy doctor who is working for Erlik. I think, in all actuality, any scene with Carradine in it might have been shot for a different film. The camera angles go off-kilter, and the scenes just get weird.  Carradine’s taking his head Nerd status way over the top here. All the scenes come across as a campy late-nite film.

All the scenes with BAG, however, come across as a bad action flick where the hero has emotional baggage that he’s just not ready to deal with yet.  An example: We get a series of flashbacks with Callan and a chick named Zoey (sharpshooter) in an abandoned warehouse. Shots ring out, and since Callan can’t be killed, guess who ate the bullet? I have no idea how much time has passed, but Callan can’t move on beyond this girl’s death. He’s so upset, in fact, that he takes up a relationship with a chick he meets in the bar that night, and she’s immediately the replacement girlfriend. I guess she’s good for him. After all, they did meet during a bar fight with a couple drunk guys. Feisty Girl, as I referred to her in my notes, is conveniently, a self-defense guru. Her actual name is Sunshine. Yeah…..So I guess that whole emotional baggage storyline they introduced was POINTLESS as it seriously never comes into play ever again in the film.

Okay, let me explain the purpose of David Carradine’s whack-job doctor who does little else in the movie except laugh hysterically. Remember that all-powerful Egyptian staff? It comes into play here and now. The Viking is having Carradine collect and test blood from the twelve bloodlines descended from the gods. And that’s his whole role in the movie.

I hope you like reading all these captions, because each time one of Carradine’s henchmen (named Wire and Brute) show up to collect, we get info. The first victim is a girl captioned as “Descendent of Hera: Bloodline 1.” We see Wire and Brute approach her. Then the screen goes black and a caption appears as “Bloodline 1: Complete.” We get the same for the bloodlines of Cronos, Morpheus, Poseidon, and many other Greek gods. Question: How is it that the blood samples of the Greek gods activate the staff of an Egyptian god? Just wondering…

Anyways, Team Cross gets wind of all these people in the bloodlines disappearing, and so they attempt a search and rescue–in an abandoned warehouse. I love how everyone is dressed like a spy or assassin andJake Busey is wearing a bright blue jacket with flames on the sleeves. He’s the funny one in the group. You can just tell.

Our Gang finds the Blood of Hera girl passed out in the warehouse office. Everyone clears out except for Callan who looks around like he’s expecting trouble. He hears voices and someone ZOOMS right past him like the Flash. Cool. Is the Flash in this movie? Hope his amulet is safe. Hard to tell. He’s looking like it’s missing. The amulet is gone!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Flash stole it! Callan is understandably upset over this.  Now he’s the Weakest Link!

At this point, you might be wondering to yourself, Andrea mentioned C. Thomas Howell was in the movie, but she hasn’t said anything about his character yet. Hmmm. Well, there’s a reason for this. He plays a bartender in one scene, and one scene only. He has maybe three lines, and none of them offer sage wisdom or advice.

So okay, here’s the deal. Vinnie Jones, it turns out, stole the amulet from Callan. He’s fast like that and immortal which seems to negate the reason for his needing the amulet but whatever. My “This is Stupid” meter shot off the charts about 17 minutes into the thing, so at this point, I’m rolling with it.  The Viking wants to die. He’s had enough, and the only way he thinks he can get around to dying is if he activates the Staff of Sekhmet.

All this leads to yet another warehouse fight and a major showdown on the roof. By the way, I think the city in this movie must be called Warehouseville. With the exception of a few apartments, bars and a hospital, every single set is in an abandoned warehouse.

The showdown on the roof is definitely action-packed. Bad guys come out from the woodwork, and there are a lot of nifty gunfights and special effects. Will Vinnie Jones activate the staff and kill the world? Will Callan learn that true power comes from within and maybe he doesn’t need his missing amulet to fight evil? Will another hundred characters with nifty names be introduced? You have to watch to see.

Cross was not a good movie. It was fairly stupid and just odd. Characters are introduced and then never heard from again. What happens to David Carradine? I have no idea. The movie never says. Was C. Thomas Howell working that bar in real life or was he bored on a Wednesday evening? No clue. Also, whole scenes involving useless characters, plot-points and the like are played out and then never brought up again. Time wasters!!!

Here is what’s interesting. While not a good movie, Cross was really entertaining. Despite that fact that everyone with a pulse gets a name, you actually learn them pretty fast. The dialogue is campy and feels forced–maybe even a little made up on the spot. But it’s not shabby dialogue. Busey is hilarious in the movie. Any scene with him was a good scene. The action sequences were well-shot and fun to watch.

I think one major problem is that no one knew exactly which movie they were making. Any attempts at drama looked dumb. There’s one scene where Lucia (or is it Juliane?) was attempting to squeeze out a couple tears. Instead, she looked like she was passing a kidney stone.  Action sequences worked the best as I’ve already explained. The sci-fi/fantasy element was interesting, but because there was so much going on, it wasn’t as important as it could have been.  The comedy was okay, but sometimes the movie was funny when I don’t think it meant to be. David Carradine’s scenes (as I’ve already said) came from some other movie that I’m convinced they edited into the final cut.

Final Thoughts:  I honestly think this flick was made out of pocket by and for the director’s friends. I think that was the intended audience for this movie all along. You can tell everyone is having a great time, and I guess at the end of the day, that’s okay. But for those of us who don’t personally know anyone involved with the movie, it’s like trying to understand someone else’s inside joke.  I worry that the cast and filmmakers had such a good time doing this one, that they’ll all get together some summer and make a sequel. And of course, I’ll have to watch it. It’s what I do.