005) Today You Die (2005)

Today You Die (2005)

Starring Steven Seagal, Treach, Mari Marrow, and Kevin Tighe

Directed by Don E. FauntLeRoy

Back of the Box description: Former thief Harlan Banks (Seagal) sets out to unleash explosive vengeance on the people who set him up for a crime he didn’t commit.

In the 16 months since the idea of #ActionDoneWells was conceived, I’ve made 4 movie posts. This makes number 5, and with my desire to return to blogging semi-regularly, I’m hoping to do at least one of these a month. Today’s pick was a blind selection – i pulled a case without looking, got the DVD in without checking out the label, and a movie started without looking at the screen. With all the possibilities, pulling a Seagal made me happy, but I don’t even know where to begin with this movie.

It’s a lackluster performance from Seagal, who mumbles his way through some of the dialogue. Especially at the beginning, where I second guessed watching it entirely. You can tell when his stunt double is in a scene, as he’s from the back the entire time, with close-ups of Seagal edited in. And the sqibs are heavy-handed during the gun-fights, where footage is reused, as I saw at least one dude get shot exactly the same way twice and another using two different angles of the same shot.

Speaking of reused footage – there is one really good scene in this movie, which is a car chase through the streets of Vegas (E Flamingo, to be exact). I was wondering if they actually filmed in Vegas, and one of the hotels I caught was called Maxim, so I looked it up. And it was a Vegas hotel – but was closed in 2001 (famously known as the hotel Tupac was shot in front of). I scratched my head a little, but then looking at “trivia” for this film, I learned that chase scene was reused footage from a 1997 movie called Top of the World (which I’m definitely going to check out at some point, if it’s available).

There is also a prison riot scene, in which Seagal and Treech escape the prison, which was reused footage from the 2002 Wesley Snipes movie Undisputed.

This movie really seemed like a cookie cutter made movie, and knowing how difficult Seagal is to work with, I think it shows. There is one prison fight scene where Seagal is shown fighting, and I found out it wasn’t acting. According to IMDB trivia:

In the scene where Steven Seagal’s character beats Robert Miano’s character, that wasn’t acting. Seagal disliked Miano because his passes on actress Mari Morrow were turned down, and she was going out with Miano. Seagal did break Miano’s arm – the shot were the arm is broken and Miano’s yelling in pain, were real. Miano took the production company to court and the matter was settled for an undisclosed sum of money.

Parts of the plot (including Seagal’s wife having visions) didn’t seem to have any kind of payoff, and there was some kind of weird plot device involving a sacrifice that also went nowhere. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

Overall, it’s not a great movie, but wasn’t a complete waste of my time either. Kevin Tighe (who I better know as Locke’s father on Lost seemed to have a good time with the little bit of screen time he did have. Two random things that I do want to share, to the point I took pics of them to include in this post. The first is when Seagal and his girl are driving into Vegas, they pass a Children’s Hospital that is “Going Out of Business”.

I kid you not, that visual made me unexpectedly laugh. It was jarring almost, so out of left field. The second is, Seagal plays a thief who is more like Robin Hood, taking from drug dealers and giving back to the community. So at the end of the film, part of the score goes to the Children’s Hospital, which gets to stay open! And Seagal stops by to visit one random little girl:

Yes folks, that is Chloë Grace Moretz. Maybe I missed how she played into the plot of the movie as well. But she did share screen-time with the legend himself.

This is one of those films I don’t mind spending an afternoon with it, but it’s not one I’m going to return to. Also, according to IMDB Trivia: In a 2020 interview, director Don E. FauntLeRoy stated that producer Avi Lerner sent him to Steven Seagal with a copy of the script and orders to get him signed on. That accomplished, FauntLeRoy returned home only to be immediately contacted by Seagal, who had fired the original director and camera operator and demanded that FauntLeRoy be brought in to direct. Eventually an agreement was worked out wherein FauntLeRoy would only direct scenes involving Seagal while someone else handled the rest of the film – which, when taking Seagal’s habit of keeping working hours to a minimum, meant that FauntLeRoy spent very little time on the film but still earned a directing credit. So who is to say who the real director of this movie was.

2022 Movie Stats and 2023 Plans

In September, I turned 40. One of the things Elizabeth and I did back in 2012 was create “40 Before 40” lists, and we did the same thing this year as we look into the next decade of our lives. I didn’t complete everything off of my list, and nor do I expect to complete everything off of my “50 before 50” list – but one of my goals, to get me to write more regularly, is to write and post 1-2 blog entries a month for a year. So, fingers crossed, I’ll be using this thing a little more regularly in 2023.

One of the things I love to track is my movie watching habits, and Letterboxd has some great tools that allows me to see statistics that I use to have to figure out myself. Before Letterboxd, if you have followed my blogging exploits over the past decade, i would make Pinterest boards. And before that, I just would track my viewings in composition books. So, with that in mind, I am going to take a look at both 2021 (basic overview) and 2022 (little more in-depth) stats for a end-of-year movie roundup.

In 2021 I watched 123 movies, in which 42 (34%) were first time viewings, leaving 81 (66%) as movies I had seen before. Of those 42 first time watches, 21 (50%) were not released in 2021.

In 2022 I’ve watched 116 movies so far, in which 64 (55%) were first time viewings, leaving 52 (45%) as movies I had seen before. Of those 64 first time watches, 40 (63%) were not released in 2022. I am happy with that increase, as I am trying to broaden my horizons in watching older films, though I do expect this number to decrease a bit in 2023 as I also would like to watch more movies being released throughout the year. Between working at the library and the streaming access, there is a lot available to me that I do not take advantage of.

2022 Month by Month Breakdowns

January – 16 (14%)
February – 13 (11%)
March – 8 (7%)
April – 8 (7%)
May – 12 (10%)
June – 17 (15%)
July – 4 (3%)
August – 10 (9%)
September – 7 (6%)
October – 7 (6%)
November – 5 (4%)
December – 9 (8%)

No real steady viewing habits it seems – June is a little heavy due to us having a foster placement at the time, and watching a bunch of stuff with them once school was out.

Film highlights of 2022 include:
Theatrical: My top 3 of the year are Top Gun: Maverick, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Nope. I’m also glad we got to see Glass Onion theatrically. Best non-2022 release I got to see on the big screen was Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla.
First time Viewing: I started off 2022 with a first time viewing of The Maltese Falcon. This summer I watched a few 5-star films, including Casablanca, The Fifth Element, Deep Cover, and Nightcrawler. I immediately got online and ordered the Criterion blu-ray of Deep Cover after watching it, I loved it that much. Weird and Prey also get a mention here, since they were not released theatrically.
Repeat Viewing: I did Batman Day with Dave and Billy, seeing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman, and Batman Returns all theatrically for the first time. Elizabeth and I hosted another Middle Earth Movie Marathon, and Encanto has become a household favorite.

I’m not going to set any goals for 2023 for viewing habits, because I learned a while ago that when I did set goals, I never attained them and then wouldn’t watch anything for a period. I’m hoping blogging more will make we want to watch more. I have a few piles at home, and I think I am going to attempt a 2023 Letterboxd challenge. I’m also planning to use the review section of Letterboxd more, which I tired to do this year.

Not all posts here will be movie related. I know of one music-based one I have been stewing on for a bit that I just need to sit down and do one afternoon. Ending 2022 with a good outlook, and hoping 2023 brings good things. And continues the great things I already have.

004) Tunnel Vision (2013)

Tunnel Vision (2013)

Starring Cristos, Ion Overman, and Scott Haze

Directed by Delila Vallot

Gabriel’s (Cristos) wife and son have been murdered, and when the jury fails to convict the killer, this vengeful father must seek out his own justice.

If I’m being honest, this particular movie was never going to be a go-to for me, it was going to take a poll or blind selection for it to be viewed. So today’s pick was chosen blindly – Randomly selected one of the discs out of the #ActionDoneWells pile and then randomly selected a movie off the DVD title screen, without looking.

Based upon the description above (taken from the back of the DVD case), one would perhaps expect a revenge style action film, along the lines of Death Wish or even Taken. I’m not exactly sure why Tunnel Vision was included in a “10 action movie set”, as it is much more of a crime thriller, but that’s fine. I’m always done for a crime thriller/drama. I guess I should also mention it is a low budget film, and it shows at times. Most of the acting isn’t great, with the best performance in the movie being from Ion Overman. Cristos does a decent job at times, but also doesn’t really come across as the grieving/vengeful husband/father as other similar films have portrayed.

While this one didn’t really add anything new to the genre, I also don’t feel like it was a complete waste of a Saturday afternoon. I watch a lot of crime and police procedurals, and this really just felt like an extended episode of one of those type shows. The twist, if I can even really call it that, is one that I’m surprised I haven’t seen on one of the said procedurals.

003) The President’s Man (2000)

The President’s Man (2000)

Starring Chuck Norris, Dylan Neal, Jennifer Tung, and Soon-Tek Oh

Directed by Eric Norris & Michael Preece

Chuck Norris stars as Joshua McCord, an aging Secret Service agent who holds a specific position: he is the President’s Man. He only answers to the president, for when things seem dire. After rescuing the First Lady from an international kidnapping attempt, McCord considers retirement, but first he must find and train his replacement.

Going to be honest right from the start: I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I expected. Especially for a Made-for-TV (network television, at that, as it aired on CBS) from 2000. I was expecting a mediocre and cheesy action wannabe, but got an entertaining 90 minutes (there is a cheese factor throughout it, for sure). For instance: Ralph Waite’s President Mathews is clearly a homage to Reagan and a dialogue reference to George H.W. Bush’s dislike of broccoli seems very out of place for a movie made in 2000. But the action is top-notch, with plenty of fighting, gunfights, explosions, and an opening rescue that is clearly a Mission: Impossible + Bond “homage” if I’ve ever seen one (even the music queue is Bond-esque).

Norris has never been a multi-faceted actor, but he does what he does best here. And it was cool to see him go up against Soon Tek-Oh again (Colonel Yin from Missing In Action 2). I thought Dylan Neal did a good job as Deke Slater (great name, BTW), a character who goes through a lot leading up to his recruitment by McCord. It must of done well, as it had a sequel that was released in 2001. Thankfully, it’s included in the collection this movie is in (though it does show up on another collection (it’s one of duplicate films)), so it’ll have a post some day.

Overall, an enjoyable movie and one that I could see myself watching again (especially with friends). This kind of movie is why I pick up random collections like the ones I do, and will continue to do so. I had a good time with it, and would recommend it for a rainy afternoon.

002) Waterfront (1944)

Waterfront (1944)

Starring John Carradine, J. Carrol Naish, and Maris Wrixon

Directed by Steve Sekely

During World War II, Dr. Carl Decker is a Nazi spy leader works undercover as an optometrist. One night, he is mugged and the decoder book and list of spies he has on him are stolen. Victor Marlow comes to town and contacts Dr. Decker for his next assignment; without the code book though, it’s undecipherable. Marlow does what is necessary to track down the mugger and get the stolen information back, before it falls into the wrong hands.

This movie right here is why I am glad I am pursuing this challenge, as I probably would not have watched this movie otherwise. If you were to take a look at my Letterboxd account, you would notice there is a slim selection of films pre-1970 that I have seen (at least since I’ve started tracking on their site). And even much of the ’70s are a blind-spot for me, but that is a completely different conversation we can have. Beyond the era of the film, it also falls into another genre that I’ve really only started to get into – war films. Basically, this movie would never of been on my radar.

John Carradine and J. Carrol Naish are the two standout performances in this Poverty Row production from PRC Pictures. Carradine especially is great, and his name is going on my list of actors to see more of their films. It’s a quick 68 minutes that I found it to be satisfying overall. 

001) Bounty Hunters (1996)

001) Bounty Hunters (1996)

Bounty Hunters (1996)

Starring Michael Dudikoff, Lisa Howard, and Benjamin Ratner

Directed by George Erschbamer

They Want Him Alive… But The Mob Wants Him Dead!

Michael Dudikoff stars as cigar chomping bounty hunter Jersey Bellini (what a name!), who ends up partnering up with rival bounty hunter (and former flame? It’s never really explained) B.B. (Lisa Howard) to bring in a fugitive. Problem is, said fugitive stole the wrong person’s car with something very important inside and now the mob is after him too!

I love that I kicked off this series with a Dudikoff picture that was a first-time watch for me. What we have here is a mid-90s action/comedy that while I enjoyed watching, it was also highly forgettable. Dudikoff gets to shine his comedic chops a little, which was refreshing for me. Jersey has Home Alone style traps set around his house, and honestly I wish we got to see a bit more of those in action during one scene. He also has a friendship with the kid next door, who helps him with the traps, and that relationship comes back into play when the mob decides to use him for leverage with Jersey.

The relationship between Jersey and BB is never really explained, though their is underlying tension between them besides working for the same bail-bondsman. BB has a framed photo in her home of the two of them; it’s just never explained if it was dating or marriage. Dudikoff and Howard work well together, and their relationship is part of what makes the movie work. I honestly feel like this could of been a movie pilot for a TV show that aired on UPN or USA in the mid-90s.

Benjamin Ratner is the main mob baddie (looking like a dime store Lin-Manuel Miranda), but the highlight for me was seeing Steve Makaj and Peter LaCroix as his main two goons. They have a few scenes bantering together that leads to some laughs, and LaCroix gets a great Lethal Weapon homage scene with Dudikoff.

While the poster promises “explosive high-caliber action”, it fails to deliver. There is one memorable fight scene involving Dudikoff in a generic looking video store where a guy gets his head kicked into the popcorn machine. And if you have ever wanted to see Dudikoff club dancing, this is the movie for you.

Overall, enjoyable and not a bad way to start this journey. A sequel came out in 2001, but I do not currently own it (fingers crossed it shows up on a future Action movie compilation set).

Welcome to #ActionDoneWells

I love movies. I have a very varied taste when it comes to movies; my first job was for Blockbuster Video, and while there I began my curation of DVDs, which continues to this day. I use to be a “day-one” purchaser, but even that has lapsed over the years. Now, I normally wait until “Black Friday” sales – or better yet, finding movie gold while I am out thrifting. Another place to find movie gold, I’ve learned, is the local Dollar Tree.

Which brings us to the purpose of this new post. Over the course of the last 4-6 months, I have bought 6 various movie compilation. 6 compilations, 13 discs, 61 movies (really only 58 since 1 title is duplicated and another is on 3 of the sets). I’ve been known to buy movies and then they sit on the shelf for years. For one reason or another, I have kept these compilations together – after the latest addition to this specific collection over the weekend, I finally decided to accept the challenge and begin watching them.

Only the finest of cinema in my collection

Last night I tweeted the above picture, and said that if I was still blogging, I would make an ongoing series as I watch these sets one movie at a time. Had some good feedback from the post, including the branding of #ActionDoneWells by my pal @BreakABone.

Which brings us to this post. The more I thought about it, I just couldn’t shake the idea of at least starting it. I’ve done various types of posts over three blogs over the years, and while I don’t keep up with it adequately, I do find myself coming back to it. Blogging has never been about making a name for myself or even trying to impress others; it’s been wanting to share the love I have for the things that I love.

No promises this will survive past the inception. The first movie has been watched, and I’m hoping to have it’s post up by end of the week. One thing I do know is that if I do keep up with this, there will always be new sets added to the collection, so it has big “on-going indefinitely” potential.

Is This Thing On?

*clears throat*

I’m not the biggest fan of change. I like my daily routines, and even then I need to have a list of tasks to do to stay on top of things, as I am easily distracted. 2019 ended with some big changes in life, all for the good. With that in mind, 2020 started off strong.

Then March occurred, screeching the year as I were to know it to a halt.

The events of March seems like they took place 5 years ago instead of just 7 months. So much has taken place over the last 7 months, and as I was telling a friend this morning, we will continue to see fallout and such for the foreseeable future, and may not know the full effect for 3-5 years, if not longer. An entire generation has been changed.

Alas, a rabbit trail I will not go down. I’m not writing today to get political or to even summarize what the last 7 months have been like for me. If you’re curious though, ask me.

Why am I returning to a blog that only few will probably even read? For myself.

I turned 38 this week. Through the course of “Happy Birthday” messages, I also received some encouragement that I did not know I needed. I also watched one of my all-time favorite movies, as my wife scheduled a showing of The Shawshank Redemption to kick-off my birthday week (it’s theatrical release date was September 23). Between the movie and the encouragement, I got a taste of something I think I had been missing: a taste of hope.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Andy Dufrense, The Shawshank Redemption

If you know one thing about me, it’s probably that I love movies. I’ve never fallen into one particular “clique” or “fandom” over another, and maybe that’s what makes me unique. I love what I love, and I share that passion. I’ve yet to figure out exactly what I’m going to do here, but I want to return. No vision, but 1-2 posts a month.

I’ve focused too much on the past recently. If 2020 has taught me one thing, it’s to keep moving forward. I’m going to take that sliver of hope and see what I can do with it.

Going to end this post with another quote from another one of my favorite films. It’s a good reminder, especially during these trying times.

Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has! Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one!”

DOc emmett brown, Back to the future iii

Upcoming 2020 Films I’m Looking Forward To

I really want to get back into blogging. Not weekly, and maybe not even monthly, but just regular enough to scratch the creative itch that I have. I need to start somewhere, so taking the queue from a previous post this blog has, I’m going to make a list of 2020 movie releases I am looking forward to.

Couple of disclaimers:

  • I’m not ranking these, and actually will be posting the “Top 10” in order of U.S. release.
  • Out of my “Top 10”, 8 of the movies are from franchises. I am totally down for new and original concepts and characters, don’t get me wrong. But it’s easier to anticipate seeing a continuation of a story or characters you already know.
  • Dates are from the IMDB “Upcoming Movies” and are subject to change. There is probably a lot of stuff coming out this year that is also not on there yet.

Without further adieu: Continue reading “Upcoming 2020 Films I’m Looking Forward To”

Cinema Shame Statement – 2018

Cinema Shame Statement – 2018

With the desire to not only watch more movies but also to blog more in 2018, I’ve decided to take a part in Cinema Shames 2018 activities. Each month they will provide a prompt, and you just need to watch a movie that fits the parameters and then blog about it. More info can be found here.

The January prompt is to create a 2018 Shame statement.

I’m keeping my statement simple and in house. Basically, I am choosing 12 movies I already own that I feel like I should’ve seen by now. I will also participate in the monthly prompts, as time permits.

I’m going to list my 2018 shame statement films in alphabetical order, as I created the list by browsing my collection and writing titles down as I came to them.

Without further adieu…

Continue reading “Cinema Shame Statement – 2018”