Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Marine 3: Homefront & The Marine 4: Moving Target

Today I am bringing back the classic mid to late 90s TBS Thursday night special, Movies for Guys Who Like Movies. I have too many memories of watching the latest, awful episode of WCW Thunder, only to see commercials throughout it for the night’s Movies for Guys Who Like Movies selection that would immediately follow it, which was usually for some awesome campy action flick from the 80s featuring a member of The Expendables as the lead. It was a great way to wind down the night and enjoy a nonsensical action film and simply take in a barrage of bullets and explosions as I nodded off to sleep.

I am covering a pair of newer action films that are a throwback to that era, but are nowhere near as legendary. The masterminds at WWE Studios just released The Marine 4: Moving Target (trailer) last week. I have seen the first two Marine films starring John Cena and Ted Dibiase Jr. as the lead, but never got around to seeing the third installment titled, The Marine 3: Homefront (trailer). So I spent this past weekend indulging in the latest two Marine films and made sure to throw on my mindless 80s action film goggles on top of it for good measure.

The latest WWE wrestler taking the lead marine role in both of these films is former world champion and reality television star, Mike “The Miz” Mizannin. In Homefront, The Miz portrays Sgt. Jake Carter, who is on leave in his small hometown of Bridgeton when he finds himself stumbling into the middle of a messy situation. Carter’s sister, Lily (Ashley Bell) and her boyfriend Darren (Jeffrey Ballard) witness a murder at the hands of a terrorist group head up by one Jonah Pope (Neal McDonough) and are quickly taken hostage. Word gets out to Carter and he rushes in with many obstacles blocking his way to save the day in vintage 80s action film fashion.

In Moving Target, the trail of destruction that Carter left behind presumably lead to his discharge as he is now working private security. He has a less than desired first day on the job, when the security team he is part of is ambushed by a group of mercenaries headed up by a man going by Vogel (Josh Blacker). Homefront is also the first WWE Studios film to feature one of their Divas in a film, with Sumer Rae being one of the mercenaries chasing down Carter throughout the film. The mercenaries are after who Carter is sworn to protect, one Ms. Olivia Tanis (Melissa Roxburgh). The mercenaries are constantly one step behind Carter & Tanis until, wait for it, the hunters become the hunted.

Both Marine films are among the low budget, direct to video fare. WWE Studios has been making films like this for awhile now and somehow found a way to be profitable at it and thus they continue to pump their films into the marketplace. Scott Wiper makes his return to directing for WWE Studios with Homefront, which I do not mind since The Condemned is probably my favorite WWE produced film (yes, I have seen them all, one day I will do a power ranking). Homefront does a better job at establishing the characters and background before going into the action nonstop where Miz and a group of FBI Agents assault Pope’s base on an old school ferry that looks like it has seen its share of action movies. I am not looking for an academy winning plot in these type of action films by any means, but it is nice just to get a smidge of setup to get me to care for the character which Homefront does far better than Moving Target.

In Moving Target we get a brief introduction of the security team Carter is part of, and before we know it they are ambushed and are on the run throughout the rest of the film. The gunfights and action are pretty solid for both films, with both films having plenty of heated up firefights and even a couple of close hand-to-hand encounters as well. I will give the slight nod for better all around action to Homefront since it has a good range of close corridor shootouts, as well as an entertaining larger scale thugs vs. FBI shootout that brought back nostalgic moments of Lethal Weapon.

I will have to give the edge as far as casting and overall performances to Homefront as well. The Miz is surprisingly decent as Jake Carter, and dare I say it does a marginally better job than Cena and Dibiase as the head marines before him. Neal McDonough has been solid as the cheesy head villain in action movies before this, and he easily nails the antagonist role here. Vogel is an ok villain in Moving Target, but the way he is constantly second guessed by his underlings in the film does not necessarily make for a convincing villain.

Not that anyone was expecting a lot, but with all the hype WWE put into having Summer Rae in the film (it is just her and Miz on the DVD cover afterall), do not be surprised WWE treats her as an afterthought in the film much like they do the Divas division on their weekly programming. Even though she is constantly in the background as one of the mercenaries, she only has five lines of dialogue for about a total of a whopping 20 words in the film. At least she gets to have a brief fight scene with Carter that mixed up the action, but this awful bait-and-switch advertising brought back disappointing memories of WWE hyping up Behind Enemy Lines 3 by making it look like Mr. Kennedy was the lead in the trailers and film posters, when instead he was just a minor supporting role.

Both films have a small smattering of extra features. Homefront has five features totaling around 40 minutes while Moving Target has three extras totaling around 20 minutes. Of all of these I recommend checking out Shipwrecked and Casting Call on Homefront the most. The former has a great tour of the boat a good chunk of the film takes place in, while Casting Call shows how WWE had fans audition for a minor FBI Agent role in the film at Wrestlemania XXVIII Fan Axxess. Hey, that was the Mania I attended and I happened to audition for that role too! To my dismay, I did not hear back from WWE Studios to live out my dream as an extra in a Hollywood film. For Moving Target extras, I got a mild kick out of the random old on set interviews with John Cena and Ted Dibiase, along with some new clips from the Miz talking about the “legacy” of these films in The Franchise extra feature.

As you can tell, I obviously dig Homefront over Moving Target. I liked The Marine 3: Homefront for the most part, and while The Marine 4: Moving Target definitely has some drawbacks, I still had a fun time with it. Both are still decent little action film throwbacks, and if you do not mind the low budget production values and lack of major star power, you can get a decent night of old school thrills with a few beers, a bowl of popcorn and watching both of these back to back.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Rocky II

It has been a crazy past couple of weeks so thus explains the lack of blogs past couple of weeks, and I may not achieve my quota by the end of the month. Regardless, I am back with my take on the sequel to the Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1976 with my take on 1979’s Rocky II (trailer).

This is my second viewing of Rocky II and I forgot how much transpired in the first half hour. The film kicks off with the riveting final rounds of the Balboa(Sylvester Stallone)/Creed(Carl Weathers) fight from the first film, and the sequel picks up immediately where the original left off with an ambulance taking both fighters to the hospital for recovery. Shortly after Rocky gets out of the hospital he proposes to Adrian (Talia Shire) and not too long after that they discover they are having a baby.

Rocky goes on a bit of a spending spree with his take of the gate of the big fight and splurges on fancy new clothes (though I was never a fan of the tiger emblazoned jacket in this film), car, house, the works. Eventually this catches up to Balboa and after he discovers he cannot act worth a lick in his endeavor in commercials. Rocky tries settling on a manual labor job, but shortly after getting laid off from that winds up at the bottom of the ladder cleaning up the gym for his old trainer, Mick (Burgess Meredith). To help make ends meet, Adrian goes back to work at the pet shop, and Rocky sells his car to a much slimmer Paulie (Burt Young). All of the last two paragraphs take place in the first half hour. It certainly did not feel that long, but it all just breezed by before I knew it.

Meanwhile, Apollo is furious at fan backlash in his disappointing split-decision win against an unknown underdog. He winds up going on a national PR tour calling Rocky out for a rematch so he can put him away for good in a couple rounds to show the first fight was a fluke. Finally, Balboa agrees to the fight and the two announce it in a hilarious press conference where Rocky shines with his dry humor. A lot of training takes place next with the illustrious chicken chase training to build Rocky’s speed, and eventually culminating in another epic montage set to another classic score from Bill Conti. The training montage is so incredibly cheesy this time around you cannot help but love it as Rocky runs up the stairs again, but this time with a swarm of little kids, along with children singing the chorus of the Rocky theme.

Rocky II ups its production values significantly from the first when it comes to the big fight at the end. It takes place at the historic Philadelphia Spectrum in Balboa’s hometown, and this time there is no fancy camera work to hide a small smattering of extras as they managed to pack it to the brim here. Like the last film, we have an incredible first couple of rounds to up the intensity, before getting a montage of rounds 3-14, before finally giving us the final round in its entirety with the climatic double collapse finish. This fight was super fun to watch, and definitely benefited from more camera angles and better lighting that the added production values helped procure, and even with the dramatic final moments of the fight that had me at the edge of my seat, I still oh so slightly prefer the first Creed/Balboa fight from the first film.

The same can be said overall to how I prefer the first Rocky over the sequel. Both are presented as serious sports films that both deliver big, but Rocky II ultimately is just a notch below the first. The movie pops out a little bit more on BluRay, but is not a must own in HD by any means, and unlike the first Rocky, this one has zero extra features whatsoever. This still is a fantastic film, and the first two along with Rocky Balboa, are my three top films of the franchise.

Past Rocky Blogs


Friday, April 3, 2015

redvsblue season 3

I am a little late on this one, but it is now time to cover season three of the web series, redvsblue (trailer). The plot really starts to unravel in the third part of The Blood Gulch Chronicles saga, with a majority of the season taking place outside the confines of the fan favorite map that dominated most of the first two seasons. When season one ended, most of the redvsblue cast went off to chase down an infected Doc (Matt Hullum) via the blue base teleporter, but it teleported most of them to different locations on a series of different original Halo multiplayer maps.

Caboose (Joel Heyman) and Sarge (Matt Hullum) found themselves teleported into a unique predicament on another fan favorite map, Battle Creek. Here, a series of constantly respawning red and blue soldiers continue an endless cycle of hilariously blowing each other up that is a riot to take in. Meanwhile, Chruch (Burnie Burns) and Simmons (Gustavo Sorola) are taken prisoner on the Sidewinder map, while Doc and just the head of Lopez are also out there scheming up their next diabolical plan. Donut (Dan Godwin),Tucker (Jason Saldana) & Tex (Kathleen Zuelch) were the only remaining troops at Blood Gulch, and after a few shenanigans there, they join up with Caboose and Sarge in a mysterious location that I believe is the Wizard map from Halo.

These five then teleport to Sidewinder to rescue Simmons and Church, but the rescue mission fails big time with a huge explosion that sends most of them off to a new dimension that takes place on a map in the then newly released Halo 2. Sarge somehow explains it best that they are now in an all new future timeline. Meanwhile, Church got teleported so far back in the past that instead of being in a world featuring 2004's latest and greatest graphics, he is instead in a world filmed with one of Bungie's first games from the early 90s, and that is the FPS Marathon.

It is here where Chruch realizes he has to revisit the events that took place in the first two seasons of redvsblue to prevent them from blowing up the universe again. So in a fresh twist, we see Church time travelling and interrupting key moments from the first two seasons, but constantly failing at attempting to change the way history played out. These moments were probably my favorite out of this season, as you can tell the filmmakers at Rooster Teeth had a blast coming up with all kinds of ways of Church to screw up trying to change the past.

I am going to spoil some of season three's final moments here, so reader beware! Meanwhile, the rest of the reds and blues convene on another fan favorite map, Zanzibar (aka "The Windmill" map), where they discover 'O Malley and Lopez are constructing a mammoth robot army to take over the world. The two armies decide to (gasp) work together and bomb the base, and it is when rewatching this final base invasion transpire I forgot that this is where the redvsblue universe really starts to go off the rails. Turns out that Caboose became best friends with the bomb, who turns out can talk and his name is Andy (Nathan Zellner). In the season's final moments, Church finally teleports to Zanzibar just in time to stop the bomb, but just before a new alien menace approaches him as the season closes.

Extra features are the same standard fare as previous seasons. While the season three content that is filmed with the first Halo is remastered with the PC version of Halo for a far better resolution, I have no idea if the scenes from Halo 2 were from the original Xbox or the PC version that hit a few years later. Regardless, it still looks pretty great, and there is a significant jump in graphics between the two games. Looking back it is remarkable, and nearly hard to believe that both games came out on the same system. The extra features however are not remastered, and I do not mind since it is a nice comparison to see how much better the main feature looks. For extras there are 40 minutes worth of deleted scenes, outtakes and bonus PSA videos where the Rooster Teeth crew have special videos on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Election Day and the Cold and Flu season. The original commentary is also here featuring most of the cast, and it is fascinating hearing how psyched they were to get early access to Halo 2 at Bungie's studios and hear other interesting anecdotes from them throughout the production.

Season three of redvsblue is where the show really starts to go all out as the Blood Gulch map is no longer the primary setting. It is at this point about a decade ago where I saw myself starting to get a little less attached to the series because so much was happening in each weekly released episode, but watching it again this time around in one sitting made it a little more easier to follow. Throughout this season I could not help but think about how much it reminded me of the TV series, Lost (which was actually premiering its first season while season three of redvsblue was transpiring), and how much that series went bonkers when it introduced time travel in its later seasons. Season five I believe is where I originally stopped watching, so I am almost caught to where I once was, but I think watching these seasons in individual chunks now will greatly improve my chances at staying on board with the series.

You can join in the fun reliving these episodes with me by watching them for free on the Rooster Teeth website and YouTube channelor by getting the ten year anniversary set off Amazon. See you all next month for season four!

Past redvsblue Blogs

Season 1
Season 2