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Tag Archives: Isaac Hayes

I think we discovered what happened to Mario Van Peebles: Posse (1993)

As you know, in my last post, I asked the question, what the hell happened to Mario Van Peebles?  Well, after he directed and starred in Posse (1993) we now know where he went—into the can.

Obviously, this is my humble opinion.  After Van Peebles costarred in Heartbreak Ridge (1986) with Eastwood, he then costarred with Wesley Snipes and others in New Jack City (1991) which was probably the best film Van Peebles has been in.  So a couple of years after New Jack City, a screw must have come loose when Van Peebles decided to direct and star in Posse.  As my regular visitors know, I have a very high threshold for bad movie pain but Posse took me to the limits.

Where to start.  Well, the story is presented as a flashback told by an unnamed Old Man with a Cuban prologue during the Spanish American War—one of the most cliché devices I think film makers use.  Jesse Lee (Mario Van Peebles) leads the US Army 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers who are fighting in the Spanish-American War in Cuba.  The 10th is barely holding its own and is under constant attack from enemy troops.  Jesse Lee runs back to the command post of the corrupt and racist Colonel Graham (Billy Zane) asking that the 10th Cavalry be allowed to pull back and regroup.  The crooked Colonel offers him a deal: in exchange for shooting a deserter he will permit the retreat.  Instead of killing the man in cold blood, Lee shoots a cigar out of his mouth.  After killing the deserter himself, the Colonel offers Jesse Lee’s command of the 10th to another prisoner called “Little J” (Stephen Baldwin) (the alternative is a firing squad). Graham then orders the 10th to fall back in order to begin another mission that will require them to wear civilian clothing, as opposed to their Cavalry uniforms, making them spies under the rules of war and deserters under the U.S. Army code of military justice.  The 10th is ordered to rob a Spanish gold shipment, which is really a setup to give the Colonel an excuse to execute the entire 10th Cavalry as deserters. 

The 10th get the gold and begin to run somewhere as a newly formed “Posse,” always just one step ahead of the evil Colonel.  After a number of chase scenes and close encounters, we discover that Jesse is really seeking revenge for the hanging of his father.  The run takes the Posse to some small towns where Jesse is known, respected and feared.  Eventually there is  about a 30 minute battle royale between the Posse and the white town folks and the evil Colonel.  Some of the Posse is killed (except of course for Jesse and his Indian squaw) and all of the white folks and soldiers either flee or die a loud death.  Then of course there is the climactic battle between Jesse and his arch nemesis the Colonel.  Well, I don’t think I need to tell you how that comes out. 

Finally, after the bloodshed, the gold and riding off into the sunset, we flash forward to the narrator who is now an old man telling the tale to some journalists and even has a book that Jesse’s father had given him somewhere along the way.

This move is bad on so many levels I hardly know where to start.  The film starts out looking good until the characters open their mouths, then it becomes clear that they are so flat, so comic book, so ‘much’, both the good and the bad guys are just over the top bad; I would try to describe them further but my fingers might turn to rust as if a pox were put on my computer.  Every stereotype imaginable manages to get a role in this one—right down to their names, like “Father Time” or “King David.”  Moreover, throughout the movie we are presented with an in-your-face history lesson of whitey’s oppression of everyone.  True or not: save it for the PBS documentaries. 

Now here is the worst part: the talent.  This movie had a formidable cast. Just look at this list:

Mario Van Peebles – as Jesse Lee

Stephen Baldwin – as Little J

Billy Zane – as Colonel Graham

Melvin Van Peebles – as Papa Joe

Big Daddy Kane – as Father Time

Blair Underwood – as Carver

Isaac Hayes – as Cable

Charles Lane – as Weezie

Robert Hooks – as King David

Richard Jordan – as Sheriff Bates

Pam Grier – as Phoebe

Aaron Neville – as Railroad Singer

Stephen J. Cannell (yes the TV & film writer who recently died of skin cancer)- as Jimmy Love

I mean come on, Pam Grier, Isaac Hayes, Blair Underwood (L.A. Law)!  Van Peebles managed to take a great cast, lots of money and a potential story and create something unbearable to watch.  Unfortunately, Posse is yet another classic example of what Hollywood considers its audiences to be—simple minded.  I don’t know, maybe they are, but that does not mean I have to like it.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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And you thought 9-11 was tough try this: Escape from New York (1981).

I was watching an episode of American Dad today which made some references to a futuristic Armageddon world and then it came to me: John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981).  This flick has it all: a great cast Kurt Russell as “Snake Plissken,” Lee Van Cleef  as “Bob Hauk,” Ernest Borgnine as “Cabbie,” Isaac Hayes as “The Duke of New York City,” and Adrienne Barbeau as “Maggie.” This quality continues as the movie has a futuristic Sci-Fi story, suspense, humans sacrificing themselves and a cult like following.  Why haven’t I looked at this one sooner?  Who the hell knows but here we go!

In the “near future” Manhattan is turned into a free for all prison.  The island is surrounded by a fifty foot wall and all bridges leading in and out are heavily mined.  Needless to say the dystopian society that has evolved inside the walls is cruel and unforgiving.  Road Warrior like gangs roam the streets looking for prey or carrion to feast on with an assortment of weapons and whatever machines they can keep running (like Ernest Borgnine’s taxi).  As prisoners are being processed before being dumped into this hell they are given the opportunity to be terminated immediately rather than face the chaos.

 

Enter Snake Plissken, a one-eyed ex-special forces soldier caught robbing the federal reserve who is about to serve the rest of his days in New York.  Alas, Air Force 1 is forced to crash.  The President survived thanks to some sort of escape pod but he is stuck in New York.  How do we know the president survives?  The Duke sends one of his fingers to the authorities to confirm it.  Snake cuts a deal with Hauk that if he can get the President out of New York within 24 hours he will get a full pardon.  Oh and by the way there is a cassette tape that contains important information on nuclear fusion that he has to get too.  By the time Plissken has reluctantly agreed, Hauk has him injected with microscopic explosives that will rupture his carotid arteries once the 24 hours are up.  Even cooler is that the explosives can only be defused during the last 15 minutes before they detonate, ensuring that Snake does not abandon his mission, or find another way to remove them.  If he returns with the President and the tape in time Hauk will save him.  As he should, Snake promises to kill Hauk when he returns.

 

Snake slips in atop the World Trade Center in a glider, and locates the escape pod.  He follows the President’s life-monitor bracelet signal to the basement of a theater, only to find it on the wrist of an old man.  Snake then runs into a friendly inmate nicknamed “Cabbie” (Ernest Borgnine), who offers to help and takes him to see Harold the “Brain” Hellman, a well-educated inmate who has made the New York Public Library his personal fortress.  It turns out that Brain and Snake are old buddies from some heists they pulled in the past.  Brain tells Snake that the self-proclaimed “Duke of New York” (Isaac Hayes), the terrifying leader of the largest and most powerful gang in Manhattan, has the President and plans to lead a mass escape across the mined and heavily guarded 69th Street Bridge by using the President as a human shield.  How much cooler can things get?  Well when the Duke unexpectedly arrives for a diagram of the bridge’s land mines, Snake forces Brain and his girlfriend Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau) to lead him back to the Duke’s place f/k/a Grand Central Station.  Snake finds the President being held in a railroad car but is not able to rescue him and he is captured by the Duke’s cronies.

Brain and Maggie trick the Duke’s men into letting them have access to the President and after killing the guards, they free the President and flee to Snake’s radical glider.  When the Duke learns the President has escaped with Brain, he loses his mind and rounds up his gang to chase them down and kill them.  Snake manages to slip away and catches up with Brain, Maggie and the President at the glider, but during their attempted getaway, a gang of inmates push the glider off the building.  Is there another way out?  Yes, Snake and the others find Cabbie, and Snake gets behind the wheel before heading for the bridge.  When Cabbie reveals that he has the nuclear fusion tape, the President demands it, but Snake takes it.

 

Being pursued by the Duke, Snake and the others drive over the mine infested bridge.  After the taxi hits a land mine, the cab is destroyed and Cabbie is dead.  As the others make a run for it Brain is killed by a mine and Maggie won’t leave him.  She wants revenge on the Duke and shoots at him with a revolver—to no avail as the Duke smashes Maggie and his car.  Snake and the President reach the containment wall and the guards raise the President up on a cable drawn from a Jeep mounted winch. Snake sees the Duke approaching and attacks him from behind but only after the Duke blows away the two guards with a machine gun Snake lost to the Duke when he was captured.  Knowing time is running out Snake nails the Duke in the head and makes his move for the cable.  Halfway up the wall, the cable stops and the President fatally shoots the Duke.  Snake is then lifted to safety, and the explosives implanted in his body are deactivated with mere seconds to spare.

After Snake gains his signed pardon from Hauk, Hauk offers Snake a job, to which Snake merely starts walking away. As Snake continues walking out of the prison parking deck area, Hauk asks Snake if he is going to kill him. Snake replies, “I’m too tired… maybe later.” Snake, still walking away, pulls the magnetic tape out of the cassette containing the information on nuclear fusion as he leaves.

 

Wow!

 

What else can I say?  Great movie.

 

Here is some comedy.  Where did they decide to shoot this movie needing gritty decaying buildings?  Where else can you find hell on earth but East St. Louis!  I always thought East St. Louis’s reputation was urban lore, but apparently I was wrong.  See http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CCsQtwIwBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DtWMFsXwpToA&ei=TFYiTv2EE4ajtgfq-rijAw&usg=AFQjCNGqe9vUGdn7wG7-W4ioFYfWfAPKMA&sig2=UoFKCPSfyE_TncCaurkPsA.

 

The movie was also a great commercial success—it had a budget of six million dollars and grossed about fifty million worldwide.  Nice work as usual Mr. Carpenter.  They sure don’t make them like this anymore.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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