Thursday 25 December 2014

Monsters vs Aliens

The Fifties: a time when smoking was good for you, women knew their place, and nuclear energy was glamorous and exciting.

The bold, new atomic age promised a future of unlimited energy, new medicines, and world peace. Of course, what we actually got was a Cold War, Chernobyl and bemused-looking sheep glowing away like a Ready Brek advert.

But there was at least one silver lining to the radioactive cloud: monster movies.

Hollywood, never slow to exploit the money-making potential of total global annihilation (witness pretty much the entire oeuvre of Roland Emmerich), found in radiation the perfect cinematic foil. At a stroke, atomic energy made plausible the existence of a series of terrifying, never-before-seen threats to humanity.

Just think of the excitement: movie producers were suddenly free to create monsters as outlandish and weird as their imaginations could command. (Provided, of course, said monsters could be made from rubber and have enough room inside for a stuntman to blunder around unconvincingly).

From these more enlightened times, such ideas seem patently childish. Which is probably why Dreamworks thought they’d be fertile ground for a gentle, family-friendly parody: Monsters vs Aliens (2009).

Our hero is Susan, an everyday small-town girl living a blandly anonymous life. However, her bucolic suburban existence is shattered when she’s transformed into a 49-foot-tall version of herself after being hit by a meteorite containing ‘quantonium’: the baffling-and-clearly-bollocks science element. (See also Scotty’s famed ‘dilethium crystals’ in Star Trek.)

Captured by the military, Susan is whisked off to a secret facility where other mutants are kept under lock and key. But then, wouldn’t you just know it, Earth only goes and gets itself threatened by some aliens (that other staple of Fifties sci-fi).

Susan: Attack of the '50s sci-fi cliches
Hey, it suddenly looks like Susan and her rag-tag collection of freakish friends – having been mistreated so badly – are going to have to save the day. We can only hope that those rotten suits who judged people by their appearance have learned their lesson, kids.

Given Monsters vs Aliens’ vintage inspirations there’s fun to be had in playing ‘spot the movie reference’. While 12 inches shorter, Susan is clearly a homage to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

And you don’t need the brain power of an atomic scientist to work out that ‘Bob’ - an indestructible blue gunge – is inspired by The Blob. The classic-era origins of the entertainingly waspish Dr Cockroach (The Fly) and the charmingly simple Missing Link (Creature from the Black Lagoon) are similarly easy to spot.

Enjoyable, as this good natured mimicry is, a nagging doubt gradually grows into an all-consuming question: does this film have an original idea of its own? Such doubts are thrown into sharp focus when, having exhausted the entire canon of Fifties classics, the film starts ransacking other famous sci-fi films from across the decades. Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T are all gleefully plundered as the scriptwriters desperately search for more tropes to poke fun at.

And herein lies the problem. While it has a fun premise and is beautifully animated, the film is effectively one massive in-joke. And not a particularly clever one at that. The effect is rather like watching one of those dreadful ‘Top 100’ shows, where a kaleidoscope of familiar scenes are served up devoid of context and meaning.

Still, at least Monsters vs Aliens doesn’t have Jodie Marsh and Bryan from Big Brother 2 sharing witless (and made up) anecdotes. Small mercies and all that.

Thankfully, there’s also an exploding helicopter scene to maintain our interest. This takes place early in the film. After she’s captured by the military, the newly 49 foot tall Susan is escorted to her cell by two helicopters.

As she protests her imprisonment, pleading that she poses no danger to anyone, she accidentally slaps a helicopter. With its rotor blades crumpled, the damaged chopper spins round out of control before crashing to the ground and exploding. Sorry Susan, you were saying?

Artistic merit

It’s well enough done. The helicopter explosion is really just a punchline to a joke, and not the climax of a dramatic scene, so it’s fairly perfunctory.

Exploding helicopter innovation

First known helicopter explosion in an animated movie. First helicopter to be destroyed by a petulant 49-foot-tall-woman.

Do passengers survive?

No. The camera lingers on the bloody and charred remains… Of course the pilot survives. This is an animated children’s film, for heaven’s sake: not Apocalypse Now.


Appropriately for a film about invaders from outer space, a galaxy of Hollywood stars lend their vocal talents to the film. Personal favourite was Kiefer Sutherland turn as the grizzly, gruff, and gung-ho General W.R Monger – a name guaranteed to raise a smile with weak pun enthusiasts everywhere.


You have to wonder whether the scriptwriters, giddy with so many in-jokes, actually forgot they were writing a children’s film. It’s hard to imagine most six-year olds would have a working knowledge of Fifties B-movie sci-fi.

Pixar has built a multi-billion dollar empire from remembering to throw in a few decent jokes for the grown-ups, but here it’s definitely the kids who are the afterthought.

Favourite quote

After learning of the alien invasion of Earth, the President announces, “Boys, set the terror level to code brown ‘cause I need to change my pants.”

Interesting fact

Despite a less than impressive critical reception, the film has curiously – four years on – spawned an animated TV series charting the group’s further adventures.

Review by: Jafo

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Black Dynamite

Nothing sends an Arctic cold shudder of fear down the spine of a film fan quicker than the prospect of watching a movie spoof.

Sure, the genre has seen its share of laughter-filled classics over the decades (Airplane, Austin Powers, The Naked Gun to name but a few). But in recent years, an unending torrent of feeble efforts has thrown this once proud comedy niche into disrepute.

Ordure such as Meet The Spartans, The Starving Games and Epic Movie – not to mention the execrable Scary Movie franchise – have left traumatised witnesses mute in stony-faced horror. They’re the cinematic equivalent of Ebola – dangerous, lethal and to be avoided at all costs.

(The witless Wayans brothers have been responsible for much of this ordure. Anyone anyone brave or foolish enough to sit through a sofa marathon of their oeuvre would witness a veritable Groundhog Day of crapness – the same pratfalls, ‘Say wha’’ expressions and fart jokes on a perpetual, unfunny loop.)

So understandably, it was with bowel-twitching trepidation that Exploding Helicopter approached ‘blaxspoitation’ send-up, Black Dynamite (2009). Was this to be another grim, gag-free, misfire? More lame slapstick and crude innuendo? Dear reader, all is not lost. Black Dynamite, against all the odds, will have you exploding with laughter.

Martial arts star Michael Jai White plays the film’s eponymous hero, an ex-CIA agent turned ghetto Samaritan. Everything is good in the hood until his brother is murdered in mysterious circumstances. Vowing revenge, White begins an investigation to unmask the killer only to discover an outrageous conspiracy aimed at keeping the black man down.

Michael Jai White as Black Dynamite
So what makes this movie succeed where so many others have failed? First, this is obviously an affectionate parody. It’s clear that White – who also wrote and produced – loves the films he’s poking fun at.

This can be seen in the actor’s pitch-perfect performance, which cleverly pays tribute to the film’s inspirations even as it sends them up. White deftly combines the swaggering cool of Richard Roundtree’s Shaft and the chop-socky moves of Jim Kelly’s Black Belt Jones, while subtly satirising their super-confident, super-stud personas.

There are other nice touches. The film’s authentic feel, for example, is heightened by subtly weaving in footage from original blaxsploitation flicks. While not taken to extremes of Rob Reiner’s private eye spoof Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (where Steve Martin‘s down-at-heel shamus appeared to act alongside Humphrey Bogart) it helps create a warm, nostalgic vibe.

Black Dynamite stands in stark contrast to the recent glut of movie spoofs, little more than cynical cash-ins on popular franchises. And let’s face it: when a spoof film pointing to the shite-ness of the original is even more lame and disappointing, there’s not much to laugh about for anyone (except, of course, the shysters who made it).

And if wit, good writing and savvy acting weren’t enough, Black Dynamite also throws in a decent chopper fireball towards the end of the movie.

In order to stop the conspiracy, Black Dynamite flies a chopper to the White House for a showdown with the President. Fearing an attack on POTUS, guards from the ‘Honky House’ (as it’s amusingly called throughout) fire on the helicopter with a rocket launcher.

Our hero manages to bail out and parachute to safety, but his buddy remains at the controls as the helicopter is hit and explodes like a fourth of July firework display.

The classic 'hero illuminated by exploding helicopter shot'
Artistic merit

An aesthetically pleasing chopper fireball: this is a good, fiery explosion. Even better, the skydiving White is artfully fore-grounded against the exploding helicopter for a classic ‘hero illuminated by conflagration’ shot – a true favouriteof the action genre.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Hey, who needs innovation when you can pull off the classic genre moves so convincingly? Like Tony Bennett covering a Kajagoogoo song, this scene takes an old staple and adds a bit of class.

Do passengers survive?

Yes, Black Dynamite survives via his parachute jump. While this may seem an unlikely means of escape, Ewan McGregor performed exactly the same trick in preposterous fashion during the turgid Angels & Demons. (Fact note: while the dour priestly thriller is technically not a spoof, McGregor’s leap is by far the funnier of the two.)


The soundtrack is a crucial element of any blaxsploitation film, and Black Dynamite boasts a top-notch score courtesy of composer Adrian Younge.

Many of the soundtracks for the original Seventies films were recorded by legendary artists like Bobby Womack, Isaac Hayes, James Brown and Curtis Mayfield. Even measured against these intimidating benchmarks, Black Dynamite’s soundtrack can strut and swagger with the best of them.


It’s not often that Exploding Helicopter fails to find at least one fault, but this is happily one of those rare occasions.

Favourite line

Nothing, aside from getting into a helicopter, is more fatal in a film than pointlessly explaining how much you love your wife and children. Sure enough, after needlessly sharing a family anecdote one of Black Dynamite’s friends is suddenly shot dead.

“Who saw that coming?” quips Black Dynamite with tongue firmly in-cheek.

Review by: Jafo

Want more? Then check out the Exploding Helicopter podcast on Black Dynamite. Listen on iTunes, Podomatic or YourListen.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Iron Thunder

We get no pleasure from saying this, but Iron Thunder (1998) is the worst movie we’ve ever reviewed.

The really sad part is, it’s not without promise. The film has a cool title (so cool that there’s already a movie with the same name starring Anthony ‘Amy’ Elmore) and stars Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica fame.

Well, let me tell you. It is all bad. Iron Thunder has nothing a viewer wants: likeable characters, an interesting story, or even just stupid fun. All copies of this cinematic abortion should be eradicated from the earth.

Richard Hatch plays a guy with a plug in his head. This allows him to plug-in to a new experimental tank, supposedly forming a perfect union of man and killing machine. Unfortunately, as anyone who’s watched a film involving testing a new super-weapon will suspect, it’s not long before Hatch’s mental screws come loose causing him to go rogue with the super-tank.

Keen for the return of their expensive hardware, the military despatch a team of soldiers to track down and stop Hatch. Will most of their number be killed before one plucky soul finds a way to circumvent the tank’s superior technology? I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it for you……

Chief among Iron Thunder’s failings is the rock-bottom budget which give proceedings an ugly, junk-like look. From the horrible CD-ROM-style graphics to the toy tanks that are laughably used as miniatures, every expense has been spared with miserly enthusiasm.

Punctuating the sub-crud action are a series of interminable, ball-achingly dull scenes where characters talk to each other to no great effect. Compounding both these problems is the films punishing runtime – a brutal, inexcusable 110 minutes. Why? What were they thinking?

Try to imagine a more stupid Digital Man (1995) crossed with the mentally challenged Bulletproof (1988). Now imagine the whole thing playing out for almost two full hours and you might have some clue as to how unbelievably bad this movie is.

Aptly, the director (or to be more accurate, perpetrator) of this movie is one Jay Woelfel. It is funny how people live up to their name for everything about this film is indeed woeful. It’s a wonder to think that he was ever allowed to unleash this atrocity on the public. How come there were no repercussions? Avoid this movie like the plague.

Still, our duty to cataloguing the world of exploding helicopter movies compels us to provide a review and detail the chopper fireball on display.

The whirlybird conflagration occurs towards the end of the film. A chopper flies with some top military honchos flies out to where Iron Thunder is trundling round.

The crazed Richard Hatch though has decamped from his tank and is now running around with a machine gun. He takes aim at the chopper hovering overhead and fires off a volley of bullets. Naturally, otherwise we wouldn’t be writing about this, the helicopter explodes

Artistic merit

In keeping with the z-grade production standards of the rest of the film, the chopper fireball is a shoddy piece of work. The footage of the actual helicopter explosion looks like it might be nicked from another film. Director Woelfel tries to liven up proceedings by having flaming wreckage cascade to the ground. Adding to the lack of believability are the unconvincing reaction shots of people on the ground.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Only known destruction of a helicopter by a man with a plug in his head.


While the film often feels like it’s never going to end, we can confirm that it does have a conclusion.


Every minute between the opening and closing credits.

Interesting fact

People involved in the film actually managed to find work again.

This review is a guest post by our friends Brett and Ty from the great website Comeuppance Reviews. They're dedicated to celebrating action movies from the eighties VHS era. Check out their website and discover some forgotten gems.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Spy Game

There was a time when it seemed Robert Redford would stay forever young.

While his contemporaries slowly wrinkled and went bald, Redford remained supernaturally preserved. His boyish face, framed by that lustrous golden fop of hair, seemed to elude the ravages of time.

But eventually, Father Time did catch up with him. The craggy lines came, his sturdy posture started to hunch a little, and gradually that perfect, bouncing blonde coiffure started to look like a mockery of the ravaged features below.

Sadly, the only person who didn’t seem to notice any of this was Bob himself.

Oblivious to the fact that his face was starting to resemble a wedding cake left out in the rain, he kept right on choosing classic young man roles. First, there was The Natural (1984), where a 48-year old Redford (already 15 years too old for the role) outrageously appears in a flashback as his character’s 18-year-old self.  Less Sundance Kid, more ‘Sundance, who are you Kiddin’?’

Worse was 1990’s Havana (the famously duff Cuban rehash of Casablanca) where viewers were asked to believe the beautiful young starlet Lena Olin would be powerless before the raw magnetism of Redford – whose face by now was looking as worn and leathery as a battered chesterfield sofa.

It wasn’t until Indecent Proposal (1993) that Redford himself finally realised the game was up. When the only way you can get Demi Moore into bed is by offering her a million dollars, you know your days as a twinkly-eyed lady-killer are over. Following this, Bob promptly took his crow’s feet behind the camera to continue his film career as a director.

All of which, by round-about route, brings us to Spy Game (2001), a film which saw an older, wiser, age-appropriate Redford return to acting. He plays a veteran CIA agent who’s just about to toddle off into retirement.

But on his ‘last day at work’ (see Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, Robert Duvall in Falling Down etc), he learns that his protégé (played by Brad Pitt) has been captured by the Chinese government while carrying out an unauthorised mission.

Fearing a diplomatic incident, the CIA’s spineless bosses want to wash their hands of Pitt and let the dastardly Chinese execute him. Will Redford find a way to rescue his friend? And can he do it before the leaving speeches and carriage clock presentation?

Given that Redford is playing a retiree, some viewers might be tempted to sit back and relax, happy in the knowledge that any age-related embarrassment will not be on the menu. Over-confident fools!

Ever enthusiastic to grapple with such an elastic concept as time, it turns out our Bob has picked a film that’s riven with multiple decade-spanning flashbacks. So, we’re barely out of the opening credits before Redford's teleported back 20 years to events during the Vietnam War.

Facing this challenge, most actors would use a little judicious hair-tinting or forgiving soft-focus camerawork to help portray their younger self. Not our Bobbie. He simply dons a Seventies-era flared collar shirt in the ironclad belief that he still doesn’t look a day over forty. (Note: at this point, he was 65.A pensioner. More Cocoon than Platoon material.) It’s patently ridiculous, but all you can do is sit back and admire the chutzpah of the man.

It’s hard to fathom where such copper-bottomed self-confidence comes from, but we perhaps touched on the real reason earlier – it’s that incredible bouffant.

While every other male Hollywood barnet has slowly thinned or greyed over the decades, or simply grown implausible (Stallone, for example, looks like he’s wearing a black woolly cap), Redford’s magnificently-coiffured mop has remained perfectly preserved atop his head.

Each time he looks in the mirror and sees that golden thicket, he must think he’s immortal. Perhaps somewhere in an attic there’s a painting of a balding, greying Redford, but with a face as smooth as a baby’s backside.

And speaking of things that don’t get old, what more timeless movie thrill is there than an exploding helicopter?

This takes place during the infamous Vietnam flashback where Redford orders Pitt to assassinate a top NKVD official. While Pitt lies in wait for his target, he’s spotted by a gook helicopter which opens fire on him. Pitt returns fire with a machine gun, damaging the chopper’s engine.

The wounded whirlybird spins slowly towards the ground before disappearing behind a small hill. We hear a crash and a huge fireball suddenly erupts into the sky. Charlie don’t surf, and after this chopper fireball, he don’t fly either.

Artistic merit

You can’t fault the explosion which is a spectacularly large mushroom cloud of reds, yellows and oranges. But, marks have to be deducted for not actually showing the helicopter explosion.

Having the chopper disappear behind a convenient piece of geography is a tired old cheat we liked to see ended. Surely, there’s a Hollywood special effects union that could take action?

Exploding helicopter innovation

Both method (gunfire) and location (Vietnam) have all been done before. Even the fact that helicopter explosion takes place in a flashback has been done before.


Viewers of a certain vintage (particularly those dumbfounded by modern gadgetry) will experience a retro thrill at seeing a real-life pager play an integral role in the film.

For younger readers, a pager was a bit like a mobile phone on which you could receive, but not send, very limited text messages. Until the early 1990s, they were seen as the height of twentieth century communications technology. But kids, before you start feeling smug, in 20-years everyone’s going to think all this Twitterbook and Facetweeting you do is a bunch of backward tomfoolery. You’ve been warned.


In recent years, James Bond and Jason Bourne have popularised a whizz bang view of the espionage world. One where agents hack into top secret files with a few seconds of computer wizardry, dispose of the guards with their mixed martial arts skills before parkouring their way to safety.

Spy Game, though, paints a decidedly old-school picture of the world of espionage. One where fragments of intelligence are painstakingly pieced together after hours spent poring over dusty brown folders.

Which therefore makes the choice of Tony Scott to direct utterly perplexing. Famed for his fidgety camerawork, rapid cutting and over the top approach to filmmaking, he would seem the perfect choice for the latest Tom Clancy rather than this Le Carre-esque tale of spycraft.

Interesting fact

The exploding helicopter sequence isn’t the only scene in the film where the producers looked to save money on the chopper related budget of the film. According to IMDB, Tony Scott wanted extra money in order to use a helicopter to film a scene that takes place on the roof of a tower block.

When the producers refused, Scott used his own money to pay for a helicopter. I just wish he’d thrown the money at the chopper fireball scene instead and given us a better thrill.

Favourite line

In one scene, Redford’s character dispenses a little advice to his young protégé: “When did Noah build the ark? Before the rain.” Given Redford creaky appearance, it’s fair guess he was talking from first-hand experience.

Review by: Jafo

Still want more? Then check out the Exploding Helicopter podcast episode on Spy Game. You can listen via iTunes, Spotify, Player FM, Acast and Stitcher. Or right here and now....

Friday 21 November 2014

Terminator Woman

Sgt. Jay Handlin (Jerry Trimble) and Sgt. Julie Parish (Karen Sheperd) are cops with an ongoing rivalry about who is the better martial artist. But could there be sparks flying in the romantic department as well?

While trying to figure this out, the pair travel to Africa of all places bring down crime lord Alex Gatelee (Michel Qissi). Naturally, it’s no straightforward task to nab their man. Julie is kidnapped and Jay has to fight off countless goons and the sexual advances of Gatelee’s randy henchwoman Myra Bolo (Ashley Hayden). After enlisting the help of some locals, our heroes martial arts abilities are put to the ultimate test when they face Gatelee in the final showdown. Will Jay be Handlin business? Find out today...?

Unlike many of Jerry Trimble’s films, Terminator Woman (1993) is professionally-shot and competently made. Which may be no coincidence given that, unlike many of Jerry Trimble’s films, it’s not made by Roger Corman. That being said, the pacing is off making the story rather dull at times. If they’d lopped about 10 minutes off, this whole outing might have had a bit more verve.

The leads, though, are all top-notch. You’ve got fan-favorite Trimble, who - and we mean this as a compliment - resembles a more meat-heady Emilio Estevez. Alongside, you’ve got fellow fan-favourite Sheperd - an enjoyable screen presence whose excellent martial arts skills are wonderfully captured here. And finally, there’s Qissi (who also directed the movie) as a very convincing baddie. So those are the movie’s strengths and weaknesses for you, and they fight it out - like everyone else on screen - throughout the running time.

Generally speaking, we don’t really care for ‘Africa slogs’, as we call them, but this one is tolerable, thanks mainly to the aforementioned leads. The Trimble/Sheperd team-up was an inspired choice, reminiscent of similar kick-ass pairings such as Richard Norton and Cynthia Rothrock in the Rage and Honor diptych, or Steven Vincent Leigh and Sophia Crawford in Sword of Honor (1996). If nothing else, Terminator Woman plays to the strengths of the leads, with plenty of fights and good-natured stupidity.

Judging by the large “TW” logo on the US VHS box art, perhaps the filmmakers were attempting to establish a brand to be used in subsequent films. Maybe they hoped in the future people would stand around at the water cooler asking, “Have you seen the latest TW movie? It’s awesome.”

While this movie prediction may not have come to pass, anyone who foresaw a fiery demise for the film’s helicopter will not come away disappointed. You’ll have to bear with us as this one’s a little tricky to explain.

At the film’s climax, Hayden tries to make her getaway on speedboat. Shepherd and one of the friendly locals, pursue in a helicopter they’ve commandeered. After catching-up, Shepherd leaps from the chopper into the motorboat for a chop-socky showdown with Hayden.

After biffing away at each other for a bit, Hayden decides to play dirty, grabs the boat’s flare gun and tries to shoot Shepherd. The shot misses, but the flare arcs high into the sky and falls lands – with ridiculous improbability – back on the boat on top of a box of explosives. (I know, what where the odds?)

Shepherd yells to her friend to jump from the chopper, before diving over the side of the boat. The flare detonates the TNT causing such a huge explosion that it wipes out the helicopter as well.

Artistic merit 

We really enjoyed this chopper fireball. Its destruction is quite convoluted, but that just serves to make it more fun. The sequence plays with our expectations as initially you think that the flare will directly blow-up the helicopter. It’s a cool touch to use the explosion of the speedboat to destroy it. 

Exploding helicopter innovation

First known use of an exploding speedboat to destroy a helicopter.

Do passengers survive?

Yes. Shepherd and her friend both survive having jumped off the chopper at different points. The unfortunate pilot though is never seen again.


The whole film is very ‘nineties’. What do we mean by that? Well, in the midst of all the action, Trimble finds time to perform a ‘spontaneous’ shirtless martial arts workout alone in his hotel room. Anyone who’s seen a similarly underdressed Jeff Speakman prance about to Snap’s The Power in A Perfect Weapon or William Sadler as Colonel Stuart in Die Hard 2 will know the form.


Maybe it’s an African thing or maybe it’s a nineties or action movie thing, but there’s a club in the film called Backlash. It’s hard to imagine why you would call a dance club “Backlash”. It’s a bit too angry for us.

Interesting fact 

Karen Sheperd is the Terminator Woman, Steve Railsback is the Termination Man, and George Segal is the Terminal Man. Quite where all this leaves Mr Schwarzenegger is anyone’s guess.

This review is a guest post by our friends Brett and Ty from the great website Comeuppance Reviews. They're dedicated to celebrating action movies from the eighties VHS era. Check out their website and discover some forgotten gems. 

Saturday 15 November 2014

Terminal Rush

Jacob Harper (Don the Dragon) is a deputy sheriff in a small town near the Hoover Dam. As if having to fend off rednecks who harangue him because of his Indian (i.e. Native American) ancestry wasn’t enough to deal with, a team of heavily-armed baddies has taken over the dam. They threaten to blow it up unless they get twenty-five million dollars in ransom. (They’re holding the dam hostage, so that makes sense, right? Eh, never mind...)

Raising the stakes are the fact that Harper’s wife is pregnant and his beloved father, Nate  is trapped in the dam. Can Harper’s use his wits and martial arts skills to save the dam and his family? Or has he met his match – as the VHS box art suggests - in the villainous Bartel (Roddy Piper)? Will Harper’s mission be dam successful or dam impossible? And you thought we wouldn’t do a ‘dam’ pun in our introduction...

Terminal Rush (1996) is a scraggly straggler in the unending parade of nineties ‘Die Hard-in-a’ movies, and this ranks towards the back of the pack. While the opening of the movie is funny and completely ridiculous, with government officials spitting out random non sequiturs between credit titles, things quickly take a turn for the mediocre.

The film rapidly descends into a mindless shoot-em-up between no-one-knows-who. Incomprehension is compounded by the drab, washed-out look that director Damian Lee gives the film. It’s less Terminal Rush than Interminable Rush.

So why do we keep watching these things? Because we think our cinematic heroes, Don The Dragon
and Roddy Piper will save us. Granted, Roddy plays a rare baddie role here, but you get the point.

In classic fashion, Don’s character, Harper, is the ex-Special Forces, ‘if anyone can save us, he can’ type that’s regularly found in these films, but his character is rather a disappointment. Don’s martial arts skills are underemployed as he largely sticks to handgun action. The potential of his Indian ethnicity is similarly frittered away with dreadful one-liners like, “That’s a dreamcatcher,” after beating-up a baddie. If you didn’t just groan, feel free to do so now. Warning: it doesn’t get any better from here on out.

Bad guys wear black.......eye-liner?
Bizarrely Roddy wears black eye-liner throughout. Just why he wears it - and he wears it for the entire the movie - is never explained. Equally entertaining is a black guy named Snookie (Warren). Truly he’s the original Snookie. The Jersey Shore cast members must be huge Terminal Rush fans. And what could be more apt than naming a little orange moppet after a strapping black gentleman? Plus his voice sounds exactly like Samuel L. Jackson’s. If you ever wished Jackson appeared in Terminal Rush, just close your eyes during Snookie’s scenes. You’re not missing much anyway.

Still, amid the sill beat-em-up scenes there is an exploding helicopter scene to punctuate the boredom.

In an attempt to re-take the dam heavily armed soldiers and a helicopter are called in. Unfortunately, Roddy Piper is well prepared for such an eventuality. Hauling out a missile launcher he takes aim at the whirlybird and removes it from the sky.

Artistic merit

It’s a decent fireball. It’s big and orange and blossoms nicely on the screen. Roddy’s ridiculous Adam & the Ants inspired make-up only adds to the enjoyment.

Exploding helicopter innovation

First helicopter to be destroyed by a man wearing black eye-liner.


Terminal Rush might be a Terminal Bore but it does have one of our favourite items: repeated footage. Apparently some goons walking down steps while shooting machine guns was deemed so amazing, we have to see it multiple times.


Featuring the word ‘Terminal’ in the title of the film was a curious nineties phenomena. We go more deeply into this phenomenon in a review of Terminal Justice.

Favourite line

“It’s classic stupid if you ask me.” - Snookie

Tag line

“A national monument held hostage. A forgotten hero rises with a vengeance.

This review is a guest post by our friends Brett and Ty from the great website Comeuppance Reviews. They're dedicated to celebrating action movies from the eighties VHS era. Check out their website and discover some forgotten gems. 

Wednesday 12 November 2014


Widowed psychic Andy (David Keith) and his pyro-kinetic daughter Charlie (Drew Barrymore) are on the run. They’re fleeing a shadowy Government organisation known simply as "The Shop" who want to capture the pair and harness their spooky powers for their own nefarious ends.

When initial attempts fail, The Shop’s head honcho Hollister (Martin Sheen) hires crazed one-eyed goon John Rainbird (George C. Scott) to hunt the pair down. After Rainbird snares his prey, our heroes are locked-up in a top secret laboratory where Sheen subjects them to a barrage of sinister experiments. Will Andy and Charlie have to live out their days as human guinea pigs, or can they use their psychic powers to escape? Well, you won’t need the power of extra-sensory perception to guess what happens.

Now, when you call your film Firestarter (1984), you really need to serve up a sizzling hot entertainment. Unfortunately, this lukewarm offering is rather undercooked.

Much of the blame has to go to director Mark L Lester who allows the plot to gently simmer for far too long. So, instead of watching Charlie wreak pyro-manic carnage, the film gets bogged down in endless scenes of domestic drudgery as Dad tries to council his young psychic padawan about her deadly powers. It's like watching an X Men sequel played out as Ken Loach-style misery-porn.

Still, the film is not devoid of fun. Patient viewers are eventually rewarded in the final act when Lester finally turns up the gas and gives our heroes the chance to unleash their powers with unrestrained abandon.

Drew Barrymore channeling her inner Bonnie Tyler
As the title helpfully suggests, Charlie’s special skill allows her to set objects ablaze while her father can manipulate people by implanting suggestions into their minds. So as a legion of Government agents move in for the kill, our heroes are given bountiful opportunity to creatively use their abilities.

More entertaining though is how David and Barrymore demonstrate their freaky mental powers with their thespian skills. To convey the effort of using his Jedi-like mind tricks, David clutches his head whilst adopting a particularly pained and earnest expression. No doubt aiming for an air of Svengali-like mystery, he simply looks like someone trying stoically to deal with a bad case of piles. No wonder he was - according to Stephen King, on whose book this film is based - fourteenth choice for the role.

Meanwhile Barrymore looks no less ridiculous. Presumably unable to coax ‘psychic’ from his young E.T star, Lester just uses an off-screen fan to wildly blow her long tresses about. I’d not seen so much hair portentously billowing about since Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding out for a hairbrush’ pomp.

Unsurprisingly, given Firestarter’s slow-burning approach, it’s not until the film’s denouement that we’re treated to the exploding helicopter – and there’s no prizes for guessing its source.

David Keith: psychic and piles sufferer
During her escape bid, Charlie starts torching everything in sight. Pursuing agents and their vehicles are spectacularly turned to toast as the enraged brat becomes a human flamethrower.

Into this nightmare swoops a lone helicopter. Via a megaphone a passenger optimistically orders Charlie to "stay right where you are". Ever the obedient child, Charlie duly stands stock still, but only so that she can take careful aim at the chopper and blast it out of the sky with a fireball. Perhaps that instruction to stand still should have included an order not to torch aerial vehicles either.

Artistic merit

The chopper conflagration is fitting addition to the numerous acts of destruction at the end of the film. The explosion is nice and clean and engulfs the chopper entirely. Extra marks for Charlie's pinpoint pyro-kinetic accuracy.

Exploding helicopter innovation

The first and only known exploding helicopter caused by pyro-kinesis.

Although it’s not necessarily the earliest use of psychic powers to destroy a chopper. Tanya Roberts used psychically controlled flamingos to crash a whirlybird in Sheena: Queen of the Jungle which was also made in 1984.

Do passengers survive?

Not a chance. The pilot, and potentially an additional passenger that decided to man the loud speaker, were undoubtedly cremated in the explosion.


Barrymore, in her first post E.T. outing, is excellent as the kid trying to handle a set of powers that are ruining her life. Mr Sheen also puts in a typically well-polished performance.


The soundtrack, courtesy of new age synth warblers Tangerine Dream, has not aged well. For anyone who grew up in the eighties the ethereal plinking and plonking conjures painful memories of French mime artists and pretentious stage magicians. Awful.

Favourite quote

Charlie McGee: "Get out of here, you bastard! I'll burn you up! I'll fry you!"

Interesting fact

The book has had a few additional adaptations. 18 years after Firestarter, the direct-to-TV 'Firestarter 2: Rekindled' was produced - featuring Dennis Hopper and Malcolm McDowell. A series, set 20 years after the events of Firestarter, is also apparently in development.

Review by: Joe

Tuesday 4 November 2014


Sometimes the title spells out exactly what you’re going to get.

101 Dalmatians gave us spotted dogs, and lots of them. Three Men and a Baby gave us, well, three men and a baby. And certainly, as far as Exploding Helicopter was concerned, Nude Nuns With Big Guns delivered on every aspect of its promise.

So, when a military rocket containing top secret nanotechnology crash lands in a zoo, we’re just one implausible plot twist away from the creation of a homicidal, robotic crocodile. Namely, Robocroc (2013)

What follows is, broadly speaking, about as imaginative as the title. The newly spawned cyber reptile quickly goes on the rampage, chewing up hapless extras and chomping an army unit into mincemeat.

It then falls to two zookeepers to save the world from this pointy-toothed terror. But for all their best efforts, the hapless duo is powerless to save the audience from the crushing boredom of the plot.

Given this is a low budget creature feature, Exploding Helicopter always expected Robocroc to be a cheap and shoddy affair. However, even for a hardened viewer of genre cliche, this was a whole new order of bad.

The whole film is beset by a depressing lethargy. In scene after endless scene, it half-heartedly trudges through the usual genre tropes with all the enthusiasm of a sulky teenager press-ganged into a family holiday.

Worse, in a film about a murderous 20 foot-long crocodile, all the truly terrifying butchery appears to have taken place in the editing suite. Clearly embarrassed by the shonky CGI appearance of its notional star - presumably generated on a ZX Spectrum - the movie-makers limit Robocroc's appearance to just a few fleeting glimpses.

Robocroc in all his low budget CGI glory
Which leaves a terrible monster movie without even the virtue of a monster. Several promising scenes - for example, the death of a swimming pool filled with nubile teens - are rendered utterly toothless, as all the limb-tearing carnage takes place off-screen. When a splatter movie refuses to show either the villain or the victims, you have to wonder what the point is.

(In fairness, Jaws was famously 'the shark movie without a shark' for the first two acts. But it had a cracking script, visionary director, top acting chops and an unforgettable score to take up the slack. Here it looks like the cameraman's got pissed and fallen into the camera at the vital moment.)

The cumulative effect of all this inaction soon becomes mind-numbing. For long stretches nothing happens. Then finally, something does happen, but it's all off-screen. Then nothing happens again. Few creature-features can lay claim to having a Beckettian quality, but this is such a film. It should have been called Waiting for Robocroc.

Still few films are without any reward and Robocroc does at least serve up one unlikely treat: Keith from Boyzone. Oh, yes. Cast as a Steve Irwin-style croc hunter, the former chart topping lip-syncer is called in to help stop the beast. (If only he'd crooned out a couple of his lamentable ballads at the monster, the movie might well have been over a lot sooner.)

After watching Robocroc turn a bunch of heavily armed elite soldiers into hamburger, the Irish lunk bizarrely decides to get all Tarzan on the techno-reptile's ass and wrestle it into submission like Johnny Weissmuller did all those years ago.

(In perhaps a movie first, the CGI wrestling on display here is actually less convincing than Weissmuller's famously histrionic thrashings about with a large piece of reptile-shaped rubber.)

Follow the example of these teens and
run away from Robocroc
Sadly, such giddy novelty is in scarce supply elsewhere - and particularly with the exploding helicopter scene.

Following a possible sighting, the military predictably bring in a helicopter to search for the murderous croc by swooping very, very low over the water. You'll never guess what happens next. Oh, you already have.

Yup, registering 9.9 on the cliche-ometer, our dependable monster leaps 'suddenly' from the water and smashes into the whirlybird, causing it to explode. Call it a chopper croc-flagration.

Artistic merit

Dismal. The helicopter explosion is only briefly glimpsed. Presumably the special effects budget couldn’t stretch to showing anything more.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Better. This is the first known destruction of a helicopter by a robotic crocodile.


It was a struggle to find any, but the least-worst aspect of the point of view photography which allows us to see the world through Robocroc's eyes. This means we get Robocop or Terminator style computer graphics overlaid on the real world with flashing “target locked” messages popping up onscreen. Conveniently, it also means the director doesn't have to show us the dreadful computer croc.


We're pretty much stuck for choice here, but perhaps the most galling thing is that there never seems to be enough of anything.

The military don’t have enough soldiers, the zoo doesn't have enough animals, the splatter scenes don't have nearly enough splatter. However, what's really missing is drama, tension and entertainment.

Interesting fact

Dee Wallace (who you may remember from E.T: the Extra Terrestrial) faced a similar threat in the equally low budget Alligator 2: The Mutation.

Review by: Jafo

Thursday 25 September 2014

The Last Match

Cliff Gaylor (Oliver Tobias) is a football player with an attitude. When his daughter Susan (Melissa Palmisano in her only screen credit) is framed and imprisoned for possessing illegal drugs while on vacation (in either a Caribbean or South American country, it’s never really made clear), Gaylor tries all the traditional channels to free her. 

First he goes to see the American Consul (Charles Napier, here credited as “American Consul”) but he’s useless. He then goes to see a local lawyer (Martin Balsam, credited as “Lawyer”), who is just as incapable. So Gaylor does the next natural thing: he calls his football coach (Ernest Borgnine, here credited as “Coach”. Sensing a pattern here?). 

Fired by can-do attitude, Borgnine promptly volunteers his entire football team to stage a commando raid on the prison. Of course, the whole team agrees and Coach “coaches” the mission by arming and training them in the usage of machine guns. All the team now need to do is get past sadistic prison warden Yashin (Henry Silva) and his underling prison guard. Will the team be able to punt, spike, blitz, sack, snap, and tackle their way towards reaching their (field) goal? Find out today!

The Last Match (1991) had a lot going for it: a strong cast, an amazing concept, and visually the sight of uniformed football players brandishing machine guns and grenade launchers looks awesome. Unfortunately, the movie only really kicks into high gear in the final third. 

Most of the movie is a staid and bland “my daughter’s in prison” drama with echoes of Midnight Express (1978). One thing Midnight Express did not have - unless we blinked and missed that part - is a bunch of crazed footballers on the rampage shooting machine guns at Henry Silva while Ernest Borgnine happily gives instructions through a headset. 

Ernest Borgnine calls the plays for the football
commandos final assault
Sadly, because of the rarity of this movie, most people haven’t gotten to see the cast of Borgnine, Balsam, Silva, Napier, and the footballers do their thing. Had this been released on VHS during the golden age of video stores, it might have had a shot at being a well-known cult movie. Instead, it’s just a not-so-well-known cult movie, which is only really justified by the last third.

That said there are some other noteworthy moments. There’s the strange “whosh-whosh” sound effects like someone’s waving a piece of cardboard in the air and a bizarre scene where Borgnine jovially recalls his wartime experiences. Other oddities include an evil drug dealer who has a shirt that simply says “NEWS”, and a subplot about saving an Elian-like kid from the third-world hellhole that is the unnamed country they’re trying to escape from. Also there’s a guy in the cast named Jim Kelly who’s a White guy and not the Jim Kelly we all know and love. 

So to recap, we’ve got unnamed characters, who are part of a football team that’s never named, running around an unidentified country. It really shouldn’t work. Yet somehow the silliness is pretty funny. 

Another good thing about the movie is that the whole “football commandos” idea is played completely straight. Where some filmmakers may have thought this a wacky or ironic idea – everyone here seems to think it was a perfectly sane concept for an action movie. And thank goodness for that. We get more than enough irony these days as it is. 

Fourth down and close quarters machine gun action
Just look at the training sequence where fully suited-up football players shoot machine guns at targets. That’s why we keep going back to these Italian productions. They always seem to deliver in some way, shape or form. But the fact that a quality idea like this didn’t really take off to its full potential shows that by 1991 things were starting to run out of gas. 

Much like Martin Balsam, who gives a bizarre, stuttering performance. Seated throughout he seems utterly confused as he reads his lines off a piece of paper. Compare that to Borgnine, who injects the movie with some much-needed energy during the interminable first and second portions. 

In the end, The Last Match has a killer concept, but ultimately doesn’t hit the mark. Or score a touchdown, if you will.

Still, there is one moment in the film where its bonkers premise fuses happily with the conventions of the action movie: the exploding helicopter scene. 

Our favourite moment occurs during the football team’s big assault on the baddies. A huge gun battle breaks out between the football commandos and the villains, who call in some rotor-bladed air support. 

Our heroes look like they might be in a sticky spot, but one of the team has a moment of inspiration. Splitting open a football, he packs a grenade inside, before punting it at the chopper. It’s a perfect kick and the football arrives at the helicopter just at the moment the grenade explodes, whereupon the leather ball and the whirlybird disappear in fiery oblivion.

Artistic merit

What can we say? This is a classic chopper fireball. Sure the effects are extremely ropey, but when we’ve just seen a man blow up a helicopter by volleying a grenade filled football at it, we’re not going to complain. We’re just going to sit back and enjoy the creativity, the imagination, not to mention the sheer lunacy of it. 

Exploding helicopter innovation

First use of an American football to blow-up a chopper. The trick has subsequently been repeated in Three Kings (1999) where Ice Cube attaches an explosive to a football before throwing it at a helicopter. 


You have to love the makers of this film for running with the concept and giving us appropriately football-themed chopper fireball.


It might have been nice to see the wreckage fall to the ground or the pilot doing a classic “What the….” double-take. But like we said before, this no moment for petty grumbles.

Interesting fact

Director Fabrizio De Angelis has previous exploding helicopter form, having blown one up personally in Cobra Mission and overseen the destruction of another as producer on Cobra Mission 2.

This review is a guest post by our friends Brett and Ty from the great website Comeuppance Reviews. They're dedicated to celebrating action movies from the eighties VHS era. Check out their website and discover some forgotten gems. 

Tuesday 26 August 2014


You don’t normally associate sex, drugs and violence with a Keira Knightley film. Nor, indeed, entertainment.

Typically, the straitlaced star is found in more genteel fare, giddily swooning in wholesome romantic comedies or staid period dramas. But after making her name with a slew of such sappy entertainments (Pride and Prejudice, King Arthur, Love Actually), our Keira had fallen foul of a fate more terrible than missing the debutants ball: typecasting.

Given her unblemished ‘English rose’ appearance and RADA-honed diction, Hollywood merely wanted to truss her up in a corset and have her coquettishly flirt with a succession of floppy fringed twerps. Understandably, Knightley didn’t want to spend her career playing toff totty so deliberately blasted her chaste persona with a canny act of career sabotage: Domino (2005)

The film is loosely based on the life of Hollywood l’enfant terrible Domino Harvey. The daughter of actor Laurence Harvey (The Manchurian Candidate), Domino ditched her dull Hollywood existence for the hedonistic thrill of life as a bounty hunter.

This exaggerated account of her unorthodox career sees our privileged moppet getting out of her depth in LA’s seedy underworld. After becoming unwittingly embroiled in the theft of $10m, she finds herself pursued by the Mafia and the FBI. Can she cut a deal with the mob? Can she escape arrest? Would you like more tea, Vicar?

As the tattooed, chain-smoking, nunchuck-wielding bounty hunter, our Keira wastes no time in gleefully trashing her choir girl reputation. Facing down a gang of heavily armed drug dealers, she defuses the situation by performing a semi-naked lap dance. Later she coolly orders the amputation of a man’s arm before indulging in a mescaline fuelled sex romp in the Nevada desert. At no point during these scenes does she perform an adagio on the pianoforte or suggest taking a turn round the garden.

There’s a guilty pleasure in watching the normally ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ Keira getting down and dirty. And you certainly can’t fault her ‘commitment’ to the part (producers preferred euphemism for actresses getting their nellies out). Unfortunately, the plausibility of her character is punctured every time she opens her mouth. 

With her cut-glass English accent and 18-carat pronunciation, La Knightley can’t quite deliver her lines with the throaty menace you’d expect of someone who tracks down violent criminals for a living. Ray Winstone, this is not. Her posh brogue renders threats like, “Listen bitch, we’ve got your fucking son. Give us the money or we’ll whack his arse” unintentionally comic. Rather than exuding fearful menace, she sounds like a crabby old Duchess, irritably complaining that the staff haven’t cut the crusts off the cucumber sandwiches again.

Unfortunately, other problems start stacking up. The chaotic storyline which is incapable of going five minutes without introducing a new sub-plot is as unsure as Madame Knightley’s performance. The film seems unable to decide whether it wants to be a biopic, action film or a critique of celebrity culture.

Story overload is compounded by sensory overload courtesy of director Tony Scott. Directing with his trademark ADHD style, the viewer is assaulted with a dizzying kaleidoscope of fidgety camerawork, fast cuts, flashbacks, and freeze-frames. And if that isn’t enough to induce a migraine, everyone’s second favourite Scott brother punctuates the action with a pointless voiceover. Adding to the confusion, said voiceover is also plastered all over the screen in caption form. By the time the exhausted viewer makes it to the end credits they’re left longing for some nice, quiet, soothing entertainment: like a Michael Bay film.

Still, this everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to filmmaking pays dividend for the viewer when Scott throws in an exploding helicopter.

During the film’s climax, Keira and her group of bounty hunters attempt to cut a deal with the Mob. The negotiations, which take place on the top floor of a hotel, turn sour and a three-way gun battle breaks out between the bounty hunters, the mafia and the FBI who keeping tabs on the situation from helicopters circling the building.

 During the ensuing melee, one of the mafia henchman opens fire at the helicopter, killing the pilot. Without anyone controlling the chopper, it swiftly crashes to the ground and explodes.

Artistic merit 

Given the extravagance with which Scott directs the rest of the film, the helicopter explosion is a most disappointing affair. The chopper simply disappears from view, after which we hear a crash and see a big flash indicating that it’s been blown-up.

One would have thought that Tony Scott would have grasped this opportunity to create an explosive scene of operatic intensity. Instead, there’s no wreckage, no drama, no nothing.

Exploding helicopter innovation 

Sadly, none to report.


Every film is improved by the presence of Christopher Walken, and Domino proves no exception.

Cast as a fast-talking TV producer, Walken gives a performance that can only be described as Walken-esque. His idiosyncratic approach to pronunciation – where words are emphasised seemingly at random – make listening to his line readings an unalloyed joy.

Other actors can speak non-stop for half an hour without leaving an impression. Whereas Walken, in one brief interlude here, simply says “Wow” in his own peculiar syntax and steals the whole scene.


Throughout the film there’s a curious motif of a dying goldfish. Indeed, a flashback to Domino’s childhood shows her witness the unfortunate death of her fishy friend, and the adult version wears a goldfish tattoo on her neck. While hardly up there with Sophie’s Choice we’re presumably meant to ascribe some deep emotional significance to this loss of what is essentially a middling fairground prize.

Here’s another theory: many animal behaviourists believe that domestic goldfish are driven start, staring mad by going round in circles without ever getting anywhere. Having sat through this film, I may be beginning to see the significance of the motif.

Favourite quote 

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going? These people paid for a seminar.”

Interesting fact 

Look closely amid the welter of tattoos that Keira sports in the film and you’ll notice a curious reference to Blade Runner, which was directed by Tony Scott’s brother Ridley. Inked across the back of her neck is ‘Tears in the rain’ a nod to Rutger Hauer’s famous speech at the end of that film. Again, the tattoo seems to have no significance to the film, so it appears to be nothing more than an ‘in-joke’ between the two brothers. Hilarious stuff.

Review by: Jafo

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow

"Smart, exciting, and unexpected" screams the quote emblazoned across the film's poster in a manner suggesting the producers were as surprised as anyone to find themselves with unqualified praise for a new Tom Cruise movie. 

Such astonishment is easy to understand. Since the Scientology bothering superstar's sofa jumping meltdown, the Cruiser's career has been on a steady downwards slide of franchise sequels and middling genre efforts.

At first glance, the Edge Of Tomorrow (2014) appears to be another unappetising entry in the recent Cruise canon, with familiar ingredients from Groundhog Day, Source Code, Starship Troopers and War of the Worlds reheated like some kind of cinematic casserole. But what should have been an indigestible dogs’ breakfast, turns out to be a surprisingly tasty sci-fi action thriller.

Tiny Tom plays Major William Cage, a media spokes-officer for the military who are fighting a war against alien invaders who have taken over much of Europe (true to form, perennial surrender-monkeys France are one of the first nations to fall). Leading the fight-back are General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) - who is planning to defeat the aliens by launching a D-Day style landing on the continent - and Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) a super-soldier whose battlefield heroics have made her the war’s poster-girl.

But this isn't the battle-comfy Cruise character we've seen in the past. The smooth-tongued media man prefers to enjoy a war - as any sensible General does - as far away from actual combat as possible.

Unfortunately for him, Gleeson has other ideas and sends the cowardly Cruise kicking-and-screaming to the front line on the eve of invasion (for an idea think Blackadder’s General Melchett sunnily despatching Captain Darling to the trenches). Cruise is quickly fried alive in the Somme-esque disaster, but gains the ability to replay the same day with each subsequent death - a skill he must use to save the world. 

The Cruiser: as surprised as anyone
that critics liked his new movie
It's in one of these failed attempts that Cruise and Blunt arrive at an abandoned house in the French countryside, which like all Gallic retreats happens to have a small helicopter in the back garden.

Cruise suggests to Blunt that it would be a great idea for them to kick back, enjoy some wine, and see where the evening takes them, rather than flying the chopper to the certain death he's seen on past attempts. Blunt weighs this up, and then considers certain death by chopper crash preferable to a sweaty triste with our perma-grinning friend.

The chopper has barely lifted off the ground before it swoops into the garage. The only thing missing is a smug Cruise standing over the wreckage, arms crossed, head shaking, uttering the line 'what did I just tell you?'

Artistic merit 

In truth, it's a pathetic crash. Cruise's character knows it's coming, we know it's coming, and when it does arrive we are denied a large explosion in favour of several small fires. Mercifully we only see this sequence once in the film, despite Cruise's character telling us he's experienced it multiple times. 

Do passengers survive? 

Emily Blunt chooses death by exploding helicopter
over sex with Tom Cruise
No. Blunt's character survives long enough for some dialogue, before predetermined death. 


For anyone that's been annoyed by the recent crop of Cruise films, or for anyone that just wants to slap the perennially perky Cruise in the face, the Edge Of Tomorrow provides a rare treat. Large sections of the film resemble Sean Bean's legendary 'death reel' allowing schadenfreude fans to revel in the sight of Cruise being sliced, crushed, shot, squashed and toasted innumerable times.

There's also one marvellous moment where after tiring of another failed attempt at saving the world Top Gun Tom decides 'oh fuck it, I'm off to the pub' where he boozes it up with the locals.

For a film that's stolen elements from so many different films, Director Doug Liman (of Bourne Identity fame) does an admirable job in making the end result surprisingly intelligent and enjoyable. Cruise's transformation from battle-shy weasel to inadvertent soldier just about works, while Blunt is at her best when coldly opting to take the option to reset the day into her own hands.


However, the ending does seem somewhat implausible. Cruise is able to use his knowledge of the future to convince a group of soldiers that don't know him to go on a suicide mission to Paris, yet at no point can convince anyone in the military command that they need to change their battle plans. The Deus Ex Machina at the end unravels the minute you prod at it. 

Favourite line 

Major William Cage, on hearing his assignment into the battlefield: "While it is an honour General, I am afraid I'm going to have to decline. I can't stand the sight of blood, not so much as a papercut."

Interesting fact 

The film was released during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War 2.

Review by: Joe

Saturday 28 June 2014

5 Days Of War

“The first casualty of war is truth,” reads the sombre quotation at the start of this ridiculous movie.

Well, they said it. In 5 Days Of War (2011), truth isn’t just a casualty – it’s punched in the nuts, water-boarded then blasted by a firing-squad before the opening credits have even finished.

Supposedly ‘based on real events’, this war drama tells the tale of plucky Georgia’s heroic resistance in 2008 against a Russian invasion. Most independent commentators reckon the blame for this messy conflict needs to be shared – but you’ll find no such namby-pamby even-handedness here.

The reason why is simple: the film was part-financed by the Georgian government. (Bizarrely, one of its ministers is even listed as a producer.)

The result, unsurprisingly enough, is a gallumphing piece of pro-Georgian propaganda. Swivel-eyed and angry, the movie ramps up the anti-Russian rhetoric so much it’d bring a blush to the cheek of a Fox News presenter.

The ‘story’ centres on Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend), an American journalist in Georgia to report on the war. While helping a Georgian family flee the fighting, he films Russian soldiers cold-bloodedly executing civilians – then has to daringly escape through the frontlines with this damning evidence of evil Russkie war crimes.

Will he make it? Could the truth finally be revealed to the world? Does anyone remotely care? No.

Rupert Friend the star of 5 Days Of Snore
There’s another odd, even schizophrenic, aspect to this movie. Clearly, the Georgian tourist ministry – fearful that two hours of watching the country being reduced to rubble might discourage potential holidaymakers – has insisted on the inclusion of lots of idyllic ‘travelogue’ imagery showing off the region’s beautiful old towns and balmy countryside. In some scenes, you half-expect Judith Chalmers to wander into shot and start extolling the virtues of the unspoilt beaches.

But then the action will suddenly lurch back to a graphic depiction of war-time horror (a wedding celebration ending in a bombed bloodbath, for example). Back and forth it goes, between sunny vistas and blasted buildings, cute pavement cafes and corpse-littered streets. It’s like watching Machete Kills and Wish You Were Here having noisy, confused sex. And not in a good way.

Misfortune seems to be heaped onto this movie. Already staggering under the weight of Georgian governmental expectation, its credibility is further lumbered by two titanically over-the-top performances from a couple of has-been stars: Andy Garcia and Val Kilmer (of which, more later). And then there’s the ultimate death-knell for any film: Renny Harlin.

Ah, Renny. Over the years, the scarecrow-coiffured Finn – a favourite bete noire of this website – has been accused of many things, but subtlety and sophistication are not among them.

The dead hand behind such clunking high-concept fare as Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea and Cliffhanger, our Renny deals pretty much exclusively in explosions, car chases and gunfights. Indeed, his Nordic disposition seems almost offended by such quaint cinematic conventions as plot and character development.

Renny Harlin directs 5 Days Of Bore
Harlin’s stylistic peccadilloes are most readily apparent here during a scene in which senior government figures anxiously discuss the country’s fate. Confronted with people doing nothing more than actually speaking to each other, Harlin’s unease is palpable. You can almost sense his panic: ‘What is this? Two people, in a room, talking? Oh my god – there’s pages of this stuff’.

Realising the potential for cinematic catastrophe (ie. three straight minutes without an explosion) Renny solves the problem with admirable simplicity: he just presses the directorial fast-forward button. Suddenly the actors – who’d previously been speaking in measured and actorly tones – start rattling through their dialogue at machine-gun pace. It’s like they’re taking on bets at Ascot.

Complex plot points – whole swathes of story – are hurled back and forth like hand-grenades, just so the Renny-nator can get back to blowing some shit up.

Still, such pyromaniacal intent was always going to pay dividends for readers of this blog. And when a big Russkie Mil-Hind 24 hooves into view, shooting up heroic Georgian soldiers, you can be sure Renny isn’t about to cut away to a quiet scene of contemplative dialogue. Oh, no. It’s chopper fire-ball time.

With his comrades under fire, one of the Georgian grunts whips out a rocket launcher and blasts the helicopter. Damaged, the whirlybird spins into the top of a building, before tumbling to the ground and providing our exploding helicopter ‘money shot’.

Artistic merit

As already mentioned, if there’s one thing old Renny knows about (and we’ve checked: there is only ‘one thing’ he does know about) it’s how to blow things up. Thus, the audience gets to really relish the ailing chopper’s death throes before seeing its final demise – all in lustrous, fiery, CGI.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Nothing to report, sadly. This is a little disappointing, as the Nordic numpty has provided plenty of quirky helicopter explosions in previous films – see Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea, or 12 Rounds for examples.


Andy Garcia's 5 Accents Of War
For schadenfreude enthusiasts, the undoubted highlights of the film are the eccentric cameos from Andy Garcia and Val Kilmer.

Garcia has the juicier role as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Cast because of his physical resemblance to the great man (and, let’s be frank, because he’s generally ‘available’ these days), his performance comes crashing to the ground as soon he opens his mouth.

Try as he might, our perma-brylcreemed smoothie is simply unable to maintain a Russian growl, and his weird Cuban lilt keeps leaking through. No true film buff has really lived till they’ve witnessed his ‘Nyet! Nyet! What-a are ya doin-a, senor comgrim rade?’ schtick for themselves.

Along with Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and Ray Winstone’s catastrophic ‘American’ in Fool’s Gold, this is one of the worst accents committed to film.

Val Kilmer has a smaller role as a maverick, slightly unhinged journalist: though, in fairness, his role is the only thing about him that is small. The striking, blonde hunk of Top Gun has long since been subsumed into layers of celebrity blubber. Big Val’s famously hearty appetite for drink, drugs and however many burgers are on offer is, in a sense, now literally written all over him in rubbery bands of flesh.

Val Kilmer's 5 Bellies Of War
His entrance to the film is spectacular. With little warning, the shocked viewer is confronted with a paunchy, long-haired Val, luxuriating naked in a bubble bath. It’s like Jabba the Hutt’s bigger brother has slithered into the wrong film. It’s a truly magnificent sight.

In his (successful) day, Val was famous for on-set strops, minion-bullying and ridiculous ‘remove all the red M&Ms’-style diva behaviour, so there’s a certain grim satisfaction in watching the old fool get his gut out for a few paltry shekls. It can comfortably be assumed that the Big Man is these days administering to his own M&M compartmentalisation needs.


The movie spends 15 minutes establishing a traumatic back-story for Anders, involving a friend and fellow reporter dying in his arms while in Iraq. Throughout the film, various characters tell Anders he needs to move on from this trauma in a manner that strongly suggests a looming moment of dramatic catharsis. However, nothing ever happens.

One can only guess that Harlin, petrified by the prospect of shooting scenes featuring actual emotions, quietly ripped those pages out of everyone’s script.

Favourite line

“Everything is easy when you wear a mini-skirt.” Thankfully, this line is not uttered by Val Kilmer.

Review by: Jafo