Monday, 27 December 2010

Red Scorpion

Dolph Lundgrenplays a Russian special forces soldier sent to an African country to help put down anti-Communist rebellion.

Lundgren is tasked with killing Sundata the rebel leader, however, upon witnessing the brutality of the pro-Soviet forces he throws in his lot with the rebels, and fights with them to help their rebellion succeed.

The film opens with some dark, backlit, photographs of Dolph looking mean and moody, while a narrator tells us what a bad-ass Dolph is. We then cut to the Russian army HQ in Moscow where Dolph is brought into a room of top Generals for an incredibly long scene of dull exposition.

In order to carry out his orders Dolph has to find a way to get close enough to the rebel leader to assassinate him. He arranges for himself to be put in jail with Kallunda (Al White) the right hand man of the rebel leader who the Soviet forces have captured.

Dolph helps Kallunda escape along with Dewey Ferguson (M Emmet Walsh) an American journalist who's covering the conflict. The trio elude the pursuing Soviet troops and make for Sundata's camp. Having tricked his way into the rebel stronghold Lundgren attempts to kill Sundata. But his bid fails and he is left for the Soviet forces to find.

Dolph's failure isn't well received by his masters who decide to reward him with a spot of light torture with a set of knitting needles. Dolph escapes again - this time for real - from jail.

He wanders the desert until he's found by an old bushman. The old bushman makes Dolph a pair of sandals. Dolph is so humbled by this display of friendship that he renounces his Commie masters by tearing off his dog tags. The bushman then drugs Dolph and gives him a scorpion tattoo.

Dolph seeks out Kallunda again. He tells him he really is a deserter this time. Seeing the sandals and the tattoo Kallunda believes him. They team up and head off to kick some Commie butt.

The film climaxes with Lundgren leading an assault against his own Soviet forces and trying to hunt down their leader General Vortek. The General tries to make good an escape by taking to a Hind helicopter. However, it's only a few feet above the ground before Lundgren blows out the cockpit with a machine gun forcing the craft back down.

With his battle seemingly won Lundgren turns to leave, however, Vortek rallies briefly and is set to shoot Dolph in the back until some sixth sense warns the big Swede. He spins round and looses off with his machine gun blowing the Hind to smithereens.

Artistic merit

It's hard to find fault with a film which builds its conclusion around the explosion of a helicopter.

Made in the pre-CGI era there is a wonderful rich, blood orange explosion. The explosion has a richness and natural quality which is sadly often missing from many computer generated special effects.

There's also a double bang for your buck as the initial explosion which takes out the cockpit is superbly executed. When the helicopter is then ultimately blown to pieces the rotor blades continue to turn with the classic balletic beauty exploding helicopter fans have come to know and love.

Number of helicopters

1

Relevance to plot

Helicopters have a pleasingly prominent presence in the film.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Very little. Lundgren uses a conventional machine gun to bring down the chopper. The already crippled helicopter is then blown up on a landing pad with a well executed explosion.

Positives

There are lots of positives to this film. Not the least of which is Dolph's hair. It's shaved to the scalp at the sides, leaving a blonde strip on the top with a nice little cow lick at the front.

The film co-stars the great character actor M Emmet Walsh. He gives a typically garrulous performance as a rabidly anti-Communist American journalist. Walsh's character isn't big on journalistic impartiality as he has no hesitation in grabbing a gun and shooting Reds at every opportunity.

There's a also a small role for Brion James as a Soviet Army Sergeant. He seemed to specialise in playing sweaty, unshaven, henchmen and has had roles in Blade Runner, Tango & Cash, Red Heat and Bruce Willis's 'Die Hard on a Speedboat' flick Striking Distance. James doesn't really get anything cool to do in this apart from attempt a weird part Russian, part Afrikans accent.

There's also a great scene where Dolph shoots off the arm of a soldier who's about to throw a grenade at him. The soldier then crawls across the ground to try and get to his severed limb which is still holding the explosive. It won't surprise you to learn he doesn't make it in time.

Negatives

Director Joseph Zito [Missing In Action] seems at some points in the film to be striving for something more than a simple propaganda action film. The sequences with Dolph and the bushman take place in near silence. It's not that the scenes are poorly handled or uninteresting, but they feel a bit out of place.

Favourite quote

"You must be out of your mind!"
"No, just out of bullets."

Interesting fact

The film virulent anti-Communist politics may partly be explained by the fact it was allegedly financed by the South African Defence Force through the a right wing think-tank it financed called the International Freedom Foundation. Producer and scriptwriter Jack Abramoff helped run said foundation.

Review by: Jafo

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Men Of Honor


Cuba Gooding Jr overcomes racism and disability to become the first black Navy diver in this inspirational - or nauseatingly saccharin depending on your level of cynicism - biopic.

Mercifully, amid all the tugging of heart strings and treacly homilies to the human spirit there's an exploding helicopter to pep up proceedings.

In an early scene, Gooding is aboard ship when a delivery of mail arrives by helicopter. We see the chopper lower a mail sack to the ship via a winch. Gooding goes below deck, but just as he does we suddenly hear a loud crash.

Gooding hurries topside to find helicopter wreckage scattered across the ocean. Some unseen event has conspired to cause the copter to crash.

Verdict

This is one of worst exploding helicopter sequences ever committed to film, and director George Tillman Jr should be prosecuted for crimes against chopper fireballs.

Despite having the perfect opportunity to stage a dramatic chopper fireball, Tillman opts to stage the explosion off-screen.

It's a technique that some directors have cleverly used to increase the power of a scene. However, Tillman is deluded if he thinks he has added any extra drama here. It is an appalling misjudgement.

Confronted with the challenge of staging a helicopter explosion, Tillman has bottled it. Such cinematic cowardice raises serious questions as to whether he should ever be allowed to direct another film.

Number of helicopters

1

Relevance to plot

As this film is based on true events, the helicopter’s presence is presumably historically accurate.

Artistic merit

Rather than complicate his shooting schedule, Tillman allows the explosion to happen off-screen. Pathetic.

Exploding helicopter innovation

None.

Positives

The only positive is that an otherwise utterly unpromising film about Navy divers delivers a briefly interesting moment for exploding helicopter fanatics.

Negatives

The first rule of exploding helicopters is show the helicopter exploding.

Review by: Jafo

Still want more? Then check out the Exploding Helicopter podcast episode on Men Of Honor. Listen to the show on iTunes, Podomatic, Stitcher, YourListen or Acast


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Firefox

Clint Eastwood is a top fighter pilot, called out of retirement to steal an experimental Russian plane - the Firefox.

In order to sneak into the Soviet Union, Clint disguises himself as a lingerie salesman. So convincing is Eastwood as a purveyor of ladies smalls, he sails through the Russkies border controls.

Later, he infiltrates the airbase - though sadly not disguised as a lingerie salesman - and steals the fighter. Eastwood then flies the plane out of Soviet airspace - whilst avoiding the Russian airforce and its assembled air defences.

The film climaxes with Eastwood engaged in a dogfight with the only other Firefox fighter - flown by the Soviet airforces top pilot.

Verdict

Whilst making his airborne escape, Eastwood has to get past a Soviet naval destroyer which has scrambled two helicopters to destroy the Firefox.

Using the Firefox’s thought controlled weapons systems Eastwood growls in Russian to deploy a couple of rockets to take out the choppers. The first is a crisp, quick, frontal detonation.

Eastwood, also the film’s director, allows the action to linger a little longer on the second helicopter. This one has just taken off the deck of the ship when its blown-up. It crashes back into the deck of the ship and is consumed by flames. The rotor blades continue to turn in time honoured exploding helicopter fashion.

The whole sequence is handled in a rather depressingly brusque way. The helicopters are destroyed in a perfunctory manner as if they were small flies being simply swatted away.

Given that Firefox is centred around a revolutionary fighter plane, Eastwood probably felt that it would undermine the aim of the film to portray the helicopters in a more commanding manner.

Viewers are left in no doubt about the helicopters inferior position in the airforce hierarchy.

Number of helicopters

2

Relevance to plot

Completely believable.

Artistic merit

Frankly disappointing. Clint doesn’t let the action dwell for long on the exploding helicopters. There’s little imagination in the method or style of destruction.

However, Clint brings his own ineffable cool to the scene by blowing up both helicopters by muttering taciturnly in Russian. Very stylish.

Exploding helicopter innovation

First known destruction of a helicopter with a thought controlled weapons system.

Positives

The helicopter explosions liven up a film which has otherwise chosen foolishly to base its plot on a fighter plane.

Negatives

The helicopters are displayed as inept opponents in the face of the Firefox’s aerial supremacy.

Best line

"Think in Russian."

Review by: Jafo

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Other Guys


Gamble (William Ferrell) and Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) play two desk bound cops who seem destined to a life of pencil pushing and office mockery. Until, that is, they get caught up in the investigation of an elaborate Ponzi scheme.

The financial chicanery has been perpetrated by David Ershon (Steve Coogan), a slimy banker whose financial tentacles seem to stretch into the most unexpected of places.

Hilarity ensues as the cops pick apart the puzzle and ultimately become the heroes in traditional Hollywood fashion. Walhberg plays it relatively straight, proving a useful foil for Ferrell's usual wackiness.

Co-written by Adam Mckay, this got middling reviews on its release, but Exploding Helicopter found it a pretty funny movie.

Verdict

A cinematic helicopter explosive first! Death by Titleist. The helicopter is pelted by golf balls from a nearby driving range until the pilot loses control and tailspins into a nearby bridge. Pretty realistic denouement (such are the quality of modern effects it is hard to tell computer generated explosions from real ones) with a hearty and satisfying explosion.



Number of Helicopters

1

Relevance to Plot

Pretty tenuous. There seems to be a shadowy organization that is backing Coogan’s financial impropriety but would they be able to fly helicopter gunship around a post 9-11 New York City without any comeback?

This is a comedy so we will let them off.

Artistic merit

For a few seconds the viewer might think that the helicopter might just make it out unscathed. However it slowly spirals and as metal grinds into concrete we get the pay-off as the whirlybird bursts into a frame-filling fireball. 

Exploding Helicopter Innovation

In a mature niche genre it is nice to know that filmmakers are still taking the time to think of new ways to kill a helicopter. Where else are you going to see a helicopter being taken out by a 3 wood?

Positives

Er..have you not been reading? Helipcopter gets killed by golf balls.

Negatives

None whatsoever. It has taken me almost 2 years to watch a film with an exploding helicopter in it and thus it was a deeply gratifying moment.

Review by: Neon Messiah