action, crime, movie, movie review, sci-fi

November 26th, 2017 Movie – Steel (1997)

steel 1997

Sometimes, you have to ask yourself exactly how a movie gets made. Of course, that also begs the question on how I find myself owning those same movies. Now I would actually say that this is the how I wound up owning today’s movie but that would be a lie, as I had actually sought this out and bought it on purpose. The reason for that is simple, my friends and I were discussing bad movies and this one came up and I, being in a bit of a superhero mood, I decided to buy it. So lets have some fun with today’s movie, Steel (1997).

The plot: John Henry Irons, along with his partner Susan “Sparky” Sparks, designs and tests weapons for the U.S. Military. After conducting a test on a new laser rifle, which easily disables a tank, Irons and Sparky are checking over the results on the rifle’s performance. Meanwhile, Lt. Nathaniel Burke is secretly talking with Senator Nolan, who is observing the tests, and tells her he has been making some of his own modifications to the weapons to make them even more powerful. The team heads to the next testing site, consisting of an abandoned village, where the plan on using a sonic cannon to take down a wall. Burke asks to fire the cannon and pushes the power setting to it’s maximum. Irons notices this and tries to stop him but Burke fires the weapon, taking out the building he was aiming for but the sonic blast bounces back and strikes the building they are in, causing part of the roof to collapse. At a military tribunal, Irons testifies that Burke caused the accident which killed Nolan and paralyzed Sparky. Burke is dismissed from the military and blames Irons for ruining his career. Afterwards, Colonel David wants to get back to work designing weapons but Irons resigns his commission, upset that his weapons injured Sparky. After going to the hospital to check on Sparky and giving her his address, Irons heads back home to Los Angeles to live with his younger brother Martin and his Grandma Odessa, unaware that Burke heads there as well. Burke goes to an arcade manager named Big Willy Daniels, who is known to sell weapons to gangs on the side, and offers a proposition for Daniels to loan him the seed money to start producing weapons and he will get half the profits from the sales. Burke builds his first prototype and has a worker demonstrate it for Daniels and the gun shorts out, causing a horrible burn to the kid’s face but Daniels is impressed by the damage the weapon had caused and tells Burke to keep working on them. Burke kills off Daniels’ assistant Duvray, who was critical of Burke, but spares Daniels’ bodyguard Singer and convinces him to work with him. Singer organizes a test of his weapons by helping a gang rob a bank, using the new weapons to easily break into the building and the vault. Irons and Martin are riding to a town meeting with Irons’ friend Norma, who is a police officer, when she is alerted to the bank robbery and heads off to go handle the call. When they arrive there, Irons is shocked to find his weapons are being used to commit the crime and he is forced to rescue Norma when her car is flipped over and catches fire while she tries to stop the robbers. When Irons sees a straggler, Cutter, trying to escape, he chases after him and eventually catches up to the kid and asks him where he got the weapons but he is shot by Slats, the leader of the gang, and the two crooks escape. The next day, Irons contacts David to find out how his weapons got into the hands of a street gang but David tells him that all of his weapons are accounted for. Irons then asks Martin about the gang and heads to their hangout to question them about where they got the weapons but Slats refuses to answer his questions. After Irons leaves, Slats calls Burke to tell him about Irons visit and Burke tells him to keep Cutter out of site but after he hangs up, Burke tells Singer to kill Cutter as an example to the others. Irons tries contacting Sparky and finds out that she has transferred to another V.A. hospital. After going to visit her, and finding her wallowing in self pity over being paralyzed, Irons takes her out of the V.A. to help him. Heading back to L.A., Irons takes Sparky to his Uncle Joe’s junk yard, where he has a workstation set up, and he convinces her to help him build weapons to take out the weapons being used by the gangs. Meanwhile, Martin gets a job at the arcade, where Burke takes over his training. With Sparky and Joe’s help, Irons fashions himself a suit of armor, while Sparks and Jo make him a weapon, shaped like a sledgehammer. Irons goes for a test run on his new weapon and armor, stopping a mugging and a gang shootout without any problems. The gang members all run away but when the cops show up, due to the gunfire, they attempt to arrest Irons. Irons manages to get away, though part of his armor falls off and his grappling cable breaks in the process, and safely makes it back to their hideout in the junkyard. The next day, Martin is talking about Steel, what the media is dubbing the costumed Irons, when Burke talks to him about it, then meets up with Slats and tells him to keep an eye out for the man of steel. As Steel and Joe head out on patrol, Singer, Slats, and some more of Slats’ gang head out and attempt to rob the Federal Reserve, while Burke films what they do so he can use it to sell the weapons on the internet. Steel shows up to try and stop the robbery and Burke, watching the film, notices him talking to someone and wonders who it is. Steel’s weapons have no effect on the crooks armored vehicle, as the armor is the same as his, and he is knocked back by a blast from the sonic cannon. When the police arrive and attempt to arrest Steel, Slats takes out the police helicopter and Steel is forced to save the police officer before the debris falls on him while Singer and the gang make their escape. Steel is forced to run as well as the cops chase him but he is able to get away and drive his motorcycle into Joe’s modified truck. Later, Sparky is tending to Irons’ injuries and chastising Joe for pushing him too hard. Meanwhile, Burke has the footage of the robbery sent out to the TV stations, prompting various criminal organizations to find out how to get the weapons, and then calls the police with an anonymous tip on where to find Steel. Irons returns home and is questioned by his Odessa on whether or not he is Steel when the SWAT team burst into the home and arrest Irons, finding one of Burke’s prototype weapons in his basement. Irons is placed in a line up and the detective in charge asks the people that Steel had helped after the mugging if they recognize him but, feeling like Steel was doing good work, say they don’t recognize him, nor does the police officer that he rescued. Irons is kept in holding for questioning but Sparky and Joe get the D.A’s signature and voice pattern so that Sparky can call and get Irons released. That night, Steel and Joe go looking for the site of where the auction is taking place and Sparky is standing by to call David to arrest them all but Burke’s men show up and capture her. Losing contact with Sparky, Steel and Joe continue to head out and locate the site of the auction and Steel makes his way inside, telling Joe to try getting a hold of Sparky but if that fails, contact David and tell him where to go. Steel heads inside but is soon captured by Burke’s men, who threaten to kill Sparky if he doesn’t surrender. Burke then makes his sales pitch, killing Daniels and turning on Slat in the process but Steel taunts him about having more firepower in his hammer than Burke has in his weapons. Burke falls for the taunts and activates the hammers electro-magnet, sending the hammer back to Steel, while Sparky reveals that she added some weapons to her wheelchair and begins attacking Burke’s men. Steel tells Sparky to get out of there and he goes after Burke, who shows that he has Martin as another hostage and as Steel saves Martin, they find themselves locked in a tool shed, with Singer throwing a grenade inside. With no way out, Martin points to a hole in the roof and tells steel to throw it, to which Steel says he never makes those shots, but manages to get the grenade through the hole, then protects Martin from debris while Singer is killed in the explosion. Burke unveils his latest weapon and attempts to use it on Steel but the blast ricochets off of Steels armor and strikes Burke, launching him back into the warehouse where falling debris falls on him and kills him while steel drives the armored vehicle out of the warehouse so they can get away. David and his soldiers arrest all of the criminal organizations and the next day attempts to contact Irons and convince him to come back to work for him but Irons refuses. Later, Irons, Joe, Sparky, and Martin go to Odessa’s home, which she has converted to a restaurant, and Sparky reveals one last modification to her wheelchair; one that allows her to stand upright, as Irons hugs her.

Steel (1997) was heavily panned by the critics, holding a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Steel is a badly-acted movie that indulges not only in superhero cliches, but also the sappy TV-movie-of-the-week ones.” Shaquille O’Neal had to do his own stunts for the movie, as the director was unable to find a stunt double tall enough to fill in for O’Neal. The movie was a box office bomb, only earning $1.7 million off of a $16 million budget.

This is an absolutely horrible movie for a lot of reasons. Shaquille O’Neal was ok playing Irons, while Judd Nelson made a great bad guy in Burke. I also thought it was funny to have Richard Roundtree as Uncle Joe, with that comment about him liking the hammer’s shaft being really funny. The story was interesting in the fact that the character Steel was a member of the Superman family but they decided to make no reference or mention of Superman at all for this movie (although Shaq’s Superman tattoo was visible in several scenes). Aside from that, the character’s origin was very close to the origin of the character in the comics, with some slight differences obviously. I also liked that they worked in the whole Shaq being bad at free throws bit into the movie, but their making it a pivotal moment was a little much. The special effects were average to be honest and could have been a lot better but I have seen worse. This is not a good movie but can be funny in the “so bad, it’s good” style, or just torture if you want to show it to someone you hate.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5

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action, crime, drama, movie, movie review, thriller

September 17th, 2017 Movie – The Skulls

the skulls

Ahh, the turn of the century and a time when you could actually go out on a date to the movies and get some snacks for the cost of one ticket now a days. I know in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I watched a lot of movies in the theaters, honestly more movies than I can remember off hand. I do remember going to see this movie in the theaters down in Savannah on a date with my girlfriend at the time. Even though I bought it on DVD (another Blockbuster purchase), I honestly haven’t watched this movie in years but I do remember liking this movie when I first saw it. Now let’s see if it still holds up as I watch today’s movie, The Skulls.

The plot: Luke McNamara is a local “townie” that is able to attend Yale on scholarships while also working in the cafeteria to help cover the costs. As he tries to figure out how to afford to go to law school, Luke heads to a rowing competition, where he is the captain of the team and has lead them to 3 championships. As they prepare for the race, Luke is unaware that he is being observed by two men, who are considering recruiting him to be in The Skulls. After winning the competition, Luke is celebrating at a bar with his friend/roommate Will, who is also the coxswain of the rowing team, and Chloe, who Luke has feelings towards. Will tries to convince Luke that he should tell Chloe how he feels but Luke says that he can’t, as he feels like he has nothing to offer her since she comes from a wealthy family. As Luke complains about how much all of his tuition is costing and how much he will end up and how the Skulls will supposedly help him pay for all of that if he is selected to join but Will warns him that if it’s secret, it might not always be a good thing as they walk by the Skull’s campus house. As they are eating pizza up in Chloe’s dorm room, Luke receives a phone call asking if he is ready to be reborn and instructing him to another payphone. Luke rushes off, with Will and Chloe trying to figure out where he is going, and after following a series of instructions, Luke drinks a drugged drink and ends up passing out. Luke regains consciousness and finds himself inside a coffin and finds several other people also exiting coffins. Suddenly, two hooded figures welcome the new members to The Skulls and assigns them a test to steal the mascot from a rival secret society. The group head to the society’s building and one kid, Caleb Mandrake, quickly jumps over the moat to reach the door. When he says it is locked, Luke jumps over and manages to pick the lock and the two manage to climb the tower and steal the mascot, a weather vane shaped like a python. When Luke returns to his dorm room the next morning, Will and Chloe start asking him questions about what happened but Luke says he doesn’t want to talk about it. When Will asks him point blank if he is a Skull, Luke tells him he doesn’t know but Will doesn’t believe him. The two start arguing and Chloe tries to get them to calm down but when Caleb calls for Luke, Will gets even more upset that Luke is picking his new friends over his old ones. Chloe leaves as well, looking hurt over Luke’s actions and when Luke talks to Caleb, Caleb tells him to look under his pillow and Luke finds a box containing a Skull medallion. Luke, Caleb, and the other recruits arrive at the Skull’s ritual room and are paired off into “soulmates”, with Luke and Caleb being paired together, and inducted into the Skulls by the Chairman of the order, Judge Litten Mandrake , Caleb’s father. After leaving the room, Luke heads to Chloe’s room to apologize and asks her to dinner but when he finds that he has an additional $20,000 in his bank account, Chloe realizes that he is a Skull but Luke tries to convince her to be happy for him. The next day, Luke, Caleb and the other Skulls are invited to the Skull’s island retreat and Litten introduces Luke to his soulmate, Senator Ames Levritt, who takes a liking to Luke due to their similar backgrounds and hands him a card, saying to call him if he needs anything. Luke then goes to talk with Caleb and comments on the tension between him and his father and Caleb says that Litten is ambitious and wants to be on the Supreme Court and has been trying to pass on that ambition to him but Caleb doesn’t know what he wants yet. After returning from the island, the new Skulls find gifts in the form of new cars waiting for them and they all quickly speed off. The next day, Luke sees Will in between classes and comments on his missing practice and Will tells him he is working on something secret. Elsewhere, Caleb is at boxing practice and when he heads to his car, he finds the window is smashed and someone has stolen his key to the Skull’s building. Caleb goes to find Luke and asks to borrow his key, saying he left his key inside the building, and Luke hands it to him. When Caleb gets to the ritual room, he finds Will in there taking pictures and accuses him of taking his stuff and Will admits to it and goes to hand him his key but says he doesn’t have the rule book on him. Later that night, Luke feels bad about his argument with Will and heads to the newspaper room to apologize only to find Will’s body hanging from one of the beams. The detective in charge of the case, Detective Sparrow, starts to question Luke about Will’s death but is stopped by the University Provost, Martin Lombard, and Luke leaves with Chloe, while Caleb offers his condolences. As movers are packing up Will’s stuff to send back to his home, they uncover a secret drawer in his desk and Luke realizes that Will was doing an article about the Skulls and had Caleb’s book. After the funeral, Chloe tells Luke she knew Will was doing the article but had been asked to keep it a secret and asks Luke if the story got Will killed. Luke tells her he doesn’t know but she can tell that he is not being completely honest and calls him out for lying as she leaves in tears. The next day, Sparrow talks with Luke about the case and tells him that Will had a contusion on the back of his head, indicating something violent happened before he died and that his suicide was possibly staged. At a meeting with the Skulls, the group are brought to a room to reveal their deepest secrets and Luke volunteers himself and Caleb to go first. After they are sealed into the cage and lowered into the well, Luke subtly questions Caleb about what happened to Will but Caleb refuses to answer it. Afterwards, Luke and Caleb are brought to see Litten and Litten forces Caleb to tell him the truth. Caleb explains that he went to the room and found Will taking pictures and after confronting him, they struggled and Will ended up falling and breaking his neck so he called Litten and Litten covered up the accident in order to protect his future as well as the Skulls. Luke isn’t happy about it but Litten offers him a pre-approved acceptance to any law school he wishes in order to keep the secret. Luke gets in touch with Levritt to try and figure out what he should do and Levritt give Luke the idea about checking the security tapes, as everything that happened would be recorded and comments on how the Council is putting everything into getting Litten onto a Federal Bench, as a precursor to the Supreme Court, and it would be a shame to see anything happen that would ruin his chances. Luke goes to see his old high school friends, who he used to commit crimes with, and convinces them to help him in exchange for giving them his car. They find out the tapes are switched out twice a day and try to follow where the man takes them but Luke loses him in the school’s library. When Luke returns to his room, he is attacked by Caleb, who reveals that Luke’s room is bugged, as is Caleb’s and Chloe’s, and begs Luke to stop digging into the matter. Luke goes to see Chloe and apologizes for what he has done and proceeds to tell her everything. Meanwhile, Litten calls the Council and wants to kick Luke out of the Skulls but Levritt votes against the measure until Litten pulls him aside and shows him photos of Levritt with his 19 year old mistress, blackmailing him into voting for the measure. The next day, Chloe yells at Luke in the cafeteria for writing him a letter breaking up with her and tells him to never talk to her again. After she leaves, Caleb, who was sitting behind Luke, tells him it was a good call, as he feels Luke did it to keep Chloe away from him. Luke then heads up to Chloe’s room, revealing it was an act, and after turning up the music and her shower to insure nobody can hear them, he tries to get her to stay clear of any further involvement but she tells him she is involved because she loves him, and the two embrace and kiss. That night, Luke assaults the security guard as he enters a secret room in the library and steals the tape of the ritual room from the night Will was killed. As he leaves, he is chased down by Lombard and another man but his friends, wearing masks to hide their identities, show up and beat them down, then they all escape with Chloe. Heading back to his friends’ place, they watch the tape and see Will fall and Caleb call his dad and tell him what happened. Caleb wants to call the police but Litten apparently tells him to leave the room. As the continue watching the tape, the see that Will was still alive but Lombard and his men enter and after talking with Litten, they kill him and then take the body to stage the suicide. Luke heads to the police to speak with Sparrow only to find that Caleb is there, having told Sparrow that Luke killed Will. Luke hands Sparrow the tape saying that it proves who killed Will but when Sparrow, Luke, and the D.A. watches the tape, they find it is blank and Luke realizes that Sparrow switched the tapes as he is carried off and placed into an ambulance, where he is sedated and transported to a psychiatric institute that is run by a member of the Skulls. Back at the school, Chloe goes to speak with Caleb and ask for his help in getting Luke out of the mental hospital but Caleb refuses to help her and tells her to leave and she does, but tells him that Will was still alive when he left the room. Chloe is assaulted by Lombard and his men but manages to get away from them and runs into Levritt, who takes her to the hospital. They get Luke out of the hospital and Ames tells her to tell Luke there is only one way out of this and to remind Luke that, “they live by the rules and they die by the rules.” As they leave, they are attacked by another car, which forces them off the road, causing them to crash on an unfinished railroad bridge. Lombard goes to shoot Luke but he is killed by Sparrow, who hands Luke his rule book and tells them to leave. At a motel, Luke tries to figure out what Levritt meant and when Chloe tells him about what Levritt told her, he checks the rule book and figures out what Levritt meant. Luke rows over to the island and as Litten is toasting the new Skulls on ending their Period of Revelation, Luke enters the room and challenges Caleb to a duel. Litten wants Luke to be arrested but when he is reminded that the Skulls’ laws supersede the outside laws, he offers to take Caleb’s place, only for Luke to tell him it is forbidden for the Council members to interfere when the matter concerns their kin. As they prepare to face off in the duel, Luke tries to convince Caleb to tell everyone the truth of what happened, refusing to fire on Caleb but Caleb can’t tell them, but also can’t shoot Luke. Litten grabs another pistol and prepares to shoot Luke but he is shot in the shoulder by Caleb. As everyone rushes to tend to Litten, Caleb grabs another pistol and prepares to shoot himself but he is stopped by Luke, he says it is over. Later, Luke is talking with Levritt and tells him that he knows he orchestrated things to play out as they did in order to remove Litten as Chairman. Levritt admits it and tells Luke he looks forward to working with him but Luke says he is leaving the Skulls. When Levritt says they will find him and call on him but Luke ignores him and leaves, prompting Levritt to watch him and say, “Well done son, well done”, as Luke rows back to the mainland and joins up with Chloe, who was waiting for him.

The Skulls was pretty much panned by the critics, holding a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “The Skulls is full of nonsense and empty of good script and plot.” The movie is based on conspiracy theories concerning Yale’s Skull & Bones Society and though the school is not mentioned by name, there are several references to Yale throughout the film, primarily them referring to the rowing team as The Bulldogs. Despite the poor reviews, the movie was a hit at the box office, earning $50.8 million off of a $15 million budget and would spawn two direct to video sequels.

Yeh, this movie didn’t quite hold up as well as I thought it would. The acting was ok, with Joshua Jackson (Luke) and Leslie Bibb (Chloe) doing a good job in their roles and showing some decent chemistry together. I also liked Craig T. Nelson (Litten) and William Petersen (Levritt) but I thought Paul Walker (Caleb) seemed rather bland. The story was honestly a little weak, with them trying to make a good suspense/thriller but basically threw a bunch of dramatic cliches up against the drawing board and hoping they would stick. The really annoying thing was the hinted familial relationship between Levritt and Luke, as they try and hint that Levritt is Luke’s dad, but waited till the end to drop that dud of a bombshell and did absolutely nothing with it. Honestly, the thing I liked the best about this movie was the soundtrack and while it can sometimes help carry a movie, that is definitely not the case this time. It might be worth watching for some people but this was really a disappointment to me.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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