Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up (11/6)

Zone Troopers
Empire Pictures was a low budget film company in the 1980s that specialized in the genres of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Although Empire made some really bad B-movies (Robot Holocaust), they also created some really good ones (Re-Animator) and plenty in the middle. I have now seen seven movies made by the company and all of them were entertaining on some level, even the bad ones.
I wanted to see this movie because it was an Empire Pictures film. It also features two of my favorite character actors: Tim Thomerson and Art LaFluer (who I mentioned in my review of the 1988 The Blob remake).
Zone Troopers was written and directed by Danny Bilson, the guy who later wrote the script for The Rocketeer. I've never seen that movie but like this flick its a throwback to the serials of the 1940s and 1950s. Bilson also worked on some other Empire Pictures films like Trancers which also starred Tim Thomerson and launched a cult classic movie series. He also wrote the script for Eliminators which is a pretty silly movie, but one of my favorite over the top fun B-movies.
Forget Cowboys and Aliens, this movie came out years before and is basically G.I.s and Aliens! Zone Troopers is about a platoon of four remaining WWII U.S. soldiers who discover the wreckage of an alien spaceship while behind enemy lines. Zone Troopers feels like a 1950s sci-fi film. The movie nailed the retro style and is a parody of both monster movies and war flicks.
The Nazis and aliens are not subtitled which is an interesting choice as it puts us in the shoes of the American soldiers. All four of the lead soldiers ham it up and have witty lines. They have great chemistry together and you get to know them pretty well and actually care about these characters, which is pretty unusual for a sci-fi/action B-movie. I liked the use of an orchestral score and period music. A lot of 80s B-movies went with a cheap and cheesy synthesizer soundtrack so its nice to see Zone Troopers buck that trend as well. The special effects are decent considering this is a 26 year old low budget movie. The dialogue and characters were so good that it didn't matter!
As fun as this movie was, maybe a bit more could have been at stake. For example, more could have been made of Nazi plans to use the alien technology against the Allies.
The movie has a great tongue in cheek tone which is a ton of fun. For example, one of the soliders actually punches Hitler! Thomerson shines as the Sarge who simply can't die no matter what. Zone Troopers never takes itself too seriously in tone, but doesn't use its subject material as an excuse to make a bad movie which is why I was surprised how good this was. Sure this isn't anywhere near a great film, even within the action/sci-fi genre, but the world would be a better place if all B-movies were this entertaining and competently made!
"Buy War Bonds. Available in the Lobby." is seen at the end of the closing credits!

Cool as Ice (1991)
You know a movie is going to suck before you watch it when the tagline doesn't make any sense: "When a girl has a heart of stone, there's only one way to melt it. Just add Ice." How does ice melt stone? Shouldn't they be adding lava instead?!
If Vanilla Ice was not in this movie it would probably be more unknown but just as bad. However, this movie was only made to capitalize on Vanilla Ice's fifteen minutes of fame. My point is that while Vanilla Ice certainly an awful actor and won a Razzie Award for "Worst New Star" for his role in this movie, the writing, directing, and acting by the other cast members are just as bad. Speaking of the writing, here are some of my favorite quotes from this turd:
"Drop that zero and get with the hero!" - Johnny
"I'm gonna go across the street and, uh, schling a schlong." - Johnny
"Looky, looky in Kat's black booky." - Johnny
"As soon as you're done making sex?" - Tommy
I think you get the idea! The dialogue is so bad that the frequent musical and montage scenes are welcome even though they are filler and just as terrible. Yes, I would rather see Vanilla Ice "dance" around a construction site than try to talk!

I am a big fan of Michael Gross for his roles as Michael J. Fox's father on the TV show Family Ties and as gun-toting Burt Gummer in the Tremors series. Gross plays the father of Kathy (Vanilla Ice's love interest) and not even he can save this garbage. The wacky mechanic is played by prolific character actor Sydney Lassick (One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Carrie, etc.) who somehow got into this piece of crap. Oscar nominated actress Candy Clark (American Graffiti) is also in this film. But what I never would have guessed is that Oscar winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan) was the director of photography for this shit fest. To be fair it was one of his first films. I guess you gotta start somewhere!
I didn't even get to the plot yet but there isn't much of one anyway! Vanilla Ice plays Johnny, a biker/rapper who falls for Kathy and tries to win her heart. Kathy's parents don't like Johnny and neither does the audience. There is a too little, too late subplot about Kathy's parents being ex-cops placed under witness protection. The criminals that Kathy's parents put behind bars end up kidnapping Kathy's brother as revenge. Johnny and his biker gang save the day and he gets the girl. The basic story (mysterious "bad boy" comes to town and falls in love with a nice girl whose family doesn't approve of him) has been done so many times before that this movie doesn't even try to be original. Being derivative is one thing, but there are plenty of bizarre scenes that don't make any sense like the "fun house" Vanilla Ice and his crew are staying at for some reason. Cool as Ice is for bad movie lovers who want to see a true stinker. Everyone else should stay far away or just watch the Nostalgia Critic's review.

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