Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Action/Adventure - Karl Brezdin ""

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Underrated Action/Adventure - Karl Brezdin

Karl Brezdin specializes in Western chopsocky over at Fist of B-List, but can also be found lending a hand in the massage parlor at the Gentlemen’s Blog to Midnite Cinema, and in the misty catacombs of the Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit. Karl loves adventure in all its forms, including jungles, public transportation, and soft cheeses left out of the refrigerator for more than three hours.

Explorers (1985)
Joe Dante’s 1985 follow-up to Gremlins sparked my interest in repurposing forgotten junk and convinced me that I could use a PC to get to outer space and back. As a nerdy kid, it was always easy to project myself onto the slightly older characters played by a young Ethan Hawke, a young River Phoenix, and a young … that other guy. With the recent news that Paramount is gearing up for a remake, a new generation will hopefully trace the lineage to the underrated original by downloading a torrent instead of finding legitimate means to view it.

Hundra (1983)
It is said that you need to walk before you can run, and that has never been more true than for director Matt Cimber. In this case, he had to make the 1983 fantasy flick Hundra before he could go on to create G.L.O.W. (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling). Laurene Landon’s titular character is a model for bad-ass women everywhere and is eminently convincing as an action lead. There are some lively swordfighting scenes that feature plenty of blood and avoid the usual barbarian tropes of overjuiced actors slowly swinging heavy blades. Also features a secretly awesome Morricone score and one of the longest slo-motion sword fights in cinema history!

Apocalypto (2006)
The backlash against Mel Gibson and his venomous meltdowns has kicked some dirt on this 2006 film, but it remains an incredible action-adventure with epic scale and feel. The choreographed violence is messy and brutal, and the scenery is alternately lush and dense. It’s rare that a foot chase will feel you leaving queasy for the hero onscreen, but this film does it three or four times over 138 minutes. What has two thumbs and doesn’t care if the movie is historically inaccurate? THIS GUY! Borderline masterpiece.

No Retreat, No Surrender 2 (Raging Thunder) (1987)
While officially regarded as a sequel, this 1987 Seasonal Films gem starring Loren Avedon, Max Thayer, and Cynthia Rothrock stands entirely on its own. The trio -- Rothrock as a martial artist helicopter pilot, Thayer as a grizzled ex-patriate, and Avedon as an American kickboxer -- is on a search-and-rescue mission that takes them from the neon-glazed streets of Bangkok to the most humid jungles that backwoods Thailand has to offer. Originally titled Raging Thunder, this is a fine example of the effect that the Rambo franchise had on ‘80s action cinema. While the fight choreography is thrilling, the hostile environment through which our protagonists traverse provides the film’s adventurous qualities. There’s ziplining, crocodile pits, exploding huts, mad monks, boat rides, and even a treacherous rope climb *up* a waterfall.

Planet of Dinosaurs (1977)
This futuristic 1977 film offers us a glimpse of Earth’s pre-historic past when a group of space travelers crash lands on a planet … of dinosaurs. Despite its apparent lack of craft and a cast of mostly one-and-done actors running around in cheap jumpsuits, it’s an interesting artifact of ‘70s stop-motion science fiction on a shoestring budget. The conflict between stock characters -- shirtless meathead, science gal, the self-doubting captain, the sex kitten, the smartass, the corporate dickhead -- is actually quite amusing at times, and the death-by-dinosaur scenes are hilarious. Armed with a synthy score, a convincing landscape in Cali’s Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, and inane dialogue (“today we’re having fillet of swamp monster”) this film won a 1980 Saturn Award. For what, I’m not entirely sure.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Can a John Carpenter film that nearly every genre head knows and loves really be considered underrated? Until I stop meeting people who haven’t heard of it, nevermind seen it, the answer is a resounding yes. This is what every great adventure movie should be: a journey behind the doors and below the surface of a world (we think) we already know. The character of Jack Burton, played to perfection by long-time Carpenter collaborator Kurt Russell, is the perfect proxy for the unsuspecting audience. His outsider perspective and sidekick tendencies bring humor out of the fantastical scenarios in which the heroes find themselves. More often than not, the film’s hybrid elements -- heroes, monsters, mystery, magic, horror, Western, martial arts -- coalesce seamlessly.

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