Friday This ‘n’ That – Truly Terrible Taglines

Taglines are nice, easy ways to sell your product. Properly handled, they say something complimentary about your product while hopefully being witty at the same time. On the other hand, a poor one can be a source of amusement.

We were driving back from Florida and I saw a restaurant I had never heard of. The name of the restaurant was Millhouse and their tagline was “not just a steakhouse”. My thought was of course “oh, they’re a steakhouse”. Sooo, not such a good tagline though it does convey that they are indeed a steakhouse.

We went cruising on the disappointing Norwegian line but, thanks to targeting, I saw ads for Carnival on the book of faces. “Not what you’d expect from cruise food” is their unfortunate tagline. As what one would hopefully expect from cruise food is really nice steaks and lobster, this is a rather scary tagline. This may be meant to challenge the current perception that cruise food has gone downhill (it has) but is more likely meant to combat the generally accepted maxim that Carnival has the worst cruise food (cheapest cruise = cheapest food?).

Double Impact

Bringing this back to my blog’s raison d’etre, one of my favorite movie taglines is from Double Impact. The movie is just a typical Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle but the plot involves Van Damme as twins separated as infants (a la the 1941 Douglas Fairbanks vehicle, The Corsican Brothers). The tagline is “Twice the Van Damage!”. I occasionally appropriate this line for other purposes.

Next of Kin

Getting back to unfortunate taglines, my best friend Patrick (miss you, bud) and I were seeing some movie back in the late 80s when a preview for Next of Kin came on. It’s a story of a family of hillbillies coming to Chicago to take on the mob. In spite of a game cast (check out a pre-Taken Irish Liam Neeson as a hillbilly or Ben Stiller in a non-comedic role), it is as bad as that sounds. Near the end of the preview, star Patrick Swayze intones “You ain’t seen bad yet but it’s comin'”. Thanks for the summation.

Sightseers at an Alien Uprising

Sightseers and Alien Uprising are currently available on instant Netflix

Alien Uprising

 

Alien Uprising (2012) – Rated R

One night five friends are out drinking, the next they’re struggling to survive in a landscape controlled by alien invaders in this sci-fi chiller. Anarchy is in the air as an enormous spacecraft hovers overhead and order breaks down on the ground.”

One Line Review: Absolutely awful, abominable atrocity.

OMG. Writer/director/producer/actor Dominic Burns has a terrible case of Attention Deficit Disorder. He is unable to focus on a single scene for longer than a few seconds. Initially I thought it was because he was filming (badly) a montage of the dance club but he can’t even focus on that. He cuts back and forth from the incomprehensible past to the equally incomprehensible present. Burns is also a bit of an egomaniac, plastering posters of his Airborne movie throughout the film.

The camera jitters all over the place, particularly during the sex scenes. Speaking of which, he cuts back and forth during two simultaneous sex scenes, splicing in footage of another friend throwing up in a toilet.

There is much to be said about taking an intimate approach to a global problem. It worked really well in Signs. Here though you’ll want all the characters to die long before the aliens show up.

The actors are pretty terrible though I will say it was probably a smart move to cast Bianca Bree as the hottie. She is quite attractive but, more importantly, she is Jean Claude Van Damme’s daughter. My guess is that is why he is in it. Speaking of nepotism, Michael is played by Pierce Brosnan’s son, Sean.

I can’t really blame the actors though as it is the completely haphazard way the film is thrown together that is the worst offender. There are innumerable nonsensical flashbacks/dream sequences/visions, even the film isn’t sure what they are.

A note to whoever titled this piece of cinematic garbage: Uprising has a meaning (an act or instance of rising up) – try to at least have your title make sense.

People Watch: Julian Glover and Sean Pertwee show up as voices of doom, each for about half a minute. I have to think that they were sentenced to community service or something.

Sightseers

 

Sightseers (2012) – Not rated

Newly coupled Chris and Tina embark on an RV road trip to take in England’s unique sights and rolling countryside. But as events and people inadvertently raise Chris’s ire, the trip takes a gory wrong turn.

I think you’ve found your ouevre, Chris.”

I love Ben Wheatley. His first film, Down Terrace, was a hysterically funny sendup of the British crime film albeit in a very low-key, dry humor way. He wrote, directed, and edited both that and his second feature, Kill List. Kill List is a bit of a mash-up between a hit man film and a horror movie. It is very funny, though not as good as Down Terrace. Kill List is currently available on instant Netflix.

Ben Wheatley directs and edits here but Sightseers is actually written by the two lead actors, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. Sightseers has the same sense of humor. Wheatley’s films are made on a very small budget with no big name actors, explosions, or special effects yet are very professional.

I do have to warn that they are quintessentially British. There is no effort to broaden the appeal of these movies for American audiences. Wheatley makes very personal, humorous films and I’m very much looking forward to his latest endeavor, A Field in England.

If I seem vague about Sightseers, I am. The film is very good but most of the fun are the turns the story takes and I don’t want to spoil those. The evolving relationship between Chris and Tina, both of whom have rather severe mental problems, is the other highlight of the film.

Five Times the Van Dammage – Expendables week

Neglected in the first Expendables movie, it appears that JCVD will be the antagonist in The Expendables 2. The Muscles from Brussels will play the hilariously named Jean Claude Villain. Five of JCVD’s films are currently available on instant Netflix.

Hard Target (1993) – Rated R

“A cadre of villains hunts humans in New Orleans for evil kicks. When Yancy Butler’s father disappears, she asks Jean-Claude Van Damme to find him. Van Damme soon uncovers the villains’ twisted game, turning the hunters into the hunted.”

Easily the best of the five, Hard Target was John Woo’s first Hollywood movie. Wilfred Brimley is hilarious in it (partly unintentional) and Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo make good villains. There are some wonderful action setpieces here, especially a shootout in a Mardi Gras warehouse.

The Quest (1996) – Rated PG-13

“Action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme directed himself in the role of Chris Dubois, a 1920s New York City street criminal who’s kidnapped by gun smugglers, then sold to pirate captain Lord Dobbs (Roger Moore). He eventually hands Dubois over to master kickboxer Khao (Aki Aleong), who discovers Dubois’ excellent fighting skills and forces him to participate in a legendary Tibetan competition where one wrong move could cost him his life.”

Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) – Rated R

“Retired from his career as a Universal Soldier, Luc Deveraux works as a technical adviser on a hush-hush government project to design a smarter cyborg warrior. But he soon discovers that the supercomputer controlling the soldiers has its own agenda.”

How many times are they going to remake/reboot this? The original was in 1992 and was pretty fun. This was made in 1999 and while we lost Dolph Lundgren, we gain Bill Goldberg and Michael Jai White. The UniSols then went dormant until 2009’s Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Later this year we’ll get Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning with JCVD, Dolph Lundgren, and Scott Adkins, all of whom are in The Expendables 2.

Derailed (2002) – Rated R

“NATO undercover operative Jack Logan, who wants to get past the Slovakian border and safely into Frankfurt. Things seem to be going smoothly as Jack and Galina board the train posing as a “couple” but soon, all hell breaks loose!”

Assassination Games (2011) – Rated R

“The indestructible Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to big-screen mayhem in this light-’em-up action thriller, with rival assassins joining forces to dismantle a global drug cartel operating in league with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.”

Assassination Games teams Van Damme with Scott Adkins. Scott Adkins is a very physical action star but hasn’t found a good property yet. Assassination Games is unfortunately not that vehicle. This is enjoyable for Van Damme and Adkins fans only. Adkins is also in The Expendables 2.

Assassination Games – Half the Van Dammage

 

Assassination Games (2011) – Rated R

“The indestructible Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to big-screen mayhem in this light-’em-up action thriller, with rival assassins joining forces to dismantle a global drug cartel operating in league with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.”

I could just say Van Damme and leave it at that but there is actually quite a range of quality in Van Damme’s films. I always loved the tagline for Double Impact – “Twice the Van Dammage!”. Timecop is a blast as is the goofy Hard Target (currently available on instant Netflix) but then you have Knock Off.

My best friend Pat wanted to see Knock Off for Van Damme and I liked director Tsui Hark so off we went. It was so bad that I wanted to walk out about 15 minutes in. I didn’t want to ruin Pat’s good time so I just sat through it. When it was over, Pat turns to me and says, “that was so bad I wanted to walk out but I thought you were enjoying it.” Augh! An hour and a half of my life that I’ll never get back.

Assassination Games falls smack in the middle. Jean Claude Van Damme seems much more relaxed on screen lately. He has been doing a lot of movies with other actors. Here he shares the action spotlight with Scott Adkins. Adkins is a very physical actor who can really sell the martial arts scenes. He was a lot of fun as Yuri Boyka in the Undisputed series.

The director does make good use of the industrial settings in eastern Europe. I’m not sure I would praise the cinematography but I did like the bleak cement look to everything in the film.

There are a fair number of adequate action sequences, none are stunning but all are competent. The best is actually a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where Adkins and Van Damme simultaneously attempt an assassination. Most of the violence is gun related but there is just enough hand-to-hand to please the martial arts crowd.

Those points would add up to a pretty good movie but the final action sequence is telegraphed and not very good, the script needs a lot of work, none of the villains are compelling, and everyone besides Van Damme and Adkins is basically an extra.

If you’re a Van Damme or Adkins fan then by all means watch it. If you’re a martial arts fan who has run out of other movies then watch it, otherwise skip it. By the way Van Damme and Adkins will both be joining everyone else in the action genre (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Crews, Couture, and newcomer Liam Hemsworth) in The Expendables 2. That just leaves Steven Seagal for the inevitable The Expendables 3.