Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Alan Freed Story (1999)

Based on John A. Jackson’s book Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll, this is the warts and all story of Alan Freed, who may have invented rock and roll — or at least popularized it — but lived fast and certainly anything but scandal free.

Director Andy Wolk was behind the 2002 film The Christmas Shoes, a movie that I am forced to watch every year. I am still upset that this year, I will have to watch it yet again.

Judd Nelson plays Freed, who rose from small stations in New Castle, PA and Youngstown, OH (WKST and WKBN, which I grew up on) to making history coining the term “Rock and Roll” on Cleveland’s WJW. So if you’re ever wondering why the heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland, Huey Lewis wasn’t just writing a line that rhymed with “believe them.” His wife Jackie McCoy is played by Mädchen Amick from Twin Peaks and Sleepwalkers.

For all the actors playing musical stars in this, Bobby Rydell and Fabian Forte are both in this. Honestly, the fact that I don’t have a Fabian Letterboxd list is a major oversight. And oh yeah — a later love interest is Paula Abdul.

The payola scandal and alcoholism that ruined Freed’s life is touched on, but you get the idea that he loves rock and roll so much that none of that — much less his wife and kids — got in the way of putting on a show for the kids.

Look at that — three versions of Alan Freed — a 70’s movie, his version of the story and the TV movie — all in one day.

You can watch it on Tubi.

Gemini (1999)

Tarō Hirai is better known as his pen name, Edogawa Ranpo (taken from Edgar Allan Poe). Writing often of the Boy Detectives Club and their leader Kogoro Akechi, he brought his love for Western detective fiction and melded it with traditional Japanese legend.

Shinya Tsukamoto is best known for his stop-motion cyberpunk body freakouts Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer and Tetsuo: The Bullet Man.

So imagine — a director mostly known for his modern takes on man’s inhumanity to man going back in time to Japan’s Meiji era for a story loosely based on Ranpo’s work that ties closely to the same themes he’s explored in our time and the near future.

Dr. Daitokuji Yukio (Masahiro Motoki, once an idol singer and now a serious actor) seemingly has it all. After a military career, he has taken over his father’s practice and has a gorgeous wife named Rin (Ryo, GoemonAlive).

However, she has no memory of her past. That’s the least of his worries as in short order, both of his parents are killed by a mysterious stranger and his wife shuns him after he treats the rich instead of the poor during a plague. Yes, these same issues still were with us in 1910 Japan.

That strange man (Motoki in a dual role) ends up being his long-lost twin Sutekichi, who throws Yukio into a well and takes over his life. The true secret? Rin was once his and now, he has her back. The once-proud and rich doctor must now crawl from the muck to claim what was once his.

This is one strange movie and I say that in the best of ways. Here’s one small example: no one has eyebrows. Everyone wore makeup to conceal them, which lends the movie an odd look.

You can get this from Mondo Macabro, who were nice enough to send us the blu ray for review. It comes complete with a 17-minute feature, Tsukamoto Shinya ga Ranpo suru, detailing the creation of this movie. It was made by Takeshi Miike, so if you’re a fan of his work, that’s just another great reason to make this purchase.

Me & Will (1999)

So, did you know . . . sandwiched between the ‘60s original and Phil Pitzer’s 2012 revisiting, Easy Rider: The Ride Back, there was another unofficial “sequel” to Easy Rider, which concentrates on a search for the famed Captain America chopper that appeared in Easy Rider? Never heard of it? It’s okay. No one did.

Be it an unintentional sequel or a loose remake—with a Thelma and Louise twist—of the counter-culture classic Easy Rider, there’s definitely a dash of another late 60’s cinematic classic, Midnight Cowboy, in these engine revs written and directed by its stars, Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr. (Another Easy Rider-inspired biker-epic, the better known Roadside Prophets, made in the early 90’s with John Doe, the bassist and singer from X, and a Beastie Boy, may even come to mind as the story unfolds.)

Told from the point of view of Jane (the “me”), a hard-living aspiring writer, she meets an equally burnt-out artist-cum-party girl named Will in an L.A. drug rehab clinic. After watching a late-night showing of Easy Rider on TV, Jane (Sherri Rose) and Will (Melissa Behr, aka “Doll Chick” from Bad Channels and its sequel, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys) decide to make like Wyatt and Billy and break out of rehab to embark on a trip to find the legendary chopper ridden by Peter Fonda—which is rumored to still exist in the city of Willsall, Montana.

As the road trip unfolds, Jane and Will meet the usual cross section of bikers, hippies, burnt-out garage mechanics, psycho waitresses, abused women, and abusive cops—as well as the rock bands Space Age Playboys (yes! Kory Clarke and Warrior Soul!) and Keanu Reeves’s band Dogstar. (I played Dogstar on the radio and went to their shows back in the ’90s; they were a solid indie, alt-rock band and not the “actor-gimmick” they were smarmy-labeled.)

What helps this lost bikers-searching-for-their-souls flick is the cast featuring those actors we care about at B&S About Movies: Seymour Cassel (Trees Lounge), M. Emmet Walsh (Escape from the Planet of the Apes), Steve Railsback (Lifeforce), and Grace Zabriskie (Galaxy of Terror). (Oh, shite: she was also George’s mother-in-law on Seinfeld. Sorry, Sam.) And keep your eyes open for Johnny Whitworth (Empire Records), William E. Wirth (The Lost Boys), and Tracy Lords (Shock ’em Dead).

Oh, and Jane’s boyfriend, Fast Eddie, is Patrick Dempsey (the ’80s cable comedy-classic Can’t Buy Me Love and “McDreamy” from TV’s Grey’s Anatomy). Of course, when Grey’s Anatomy became a ratings juggernaut—and as with Katherine Hegyl’s equally unknown 2006’s Zyzzyx Road—the DVD reissues of Me & Will feature Dempsey front and center—with Rose and Behr kicked to the curb.

In addition to the ‘Playboys and Dogstar appearing on the soundtrack, there’s music by Dwight Yoakam, Josh Clayton, formerly from School of Fish (remembered for their ’90s hit, “Three Strange Days”), in addition to classic tracks by the Doors and a solo-bound Mick Jagger. Matt Sorum of the Cult/Guns n’ Roses scored the film—with a guitar-style that almost leaves it feeling like a Tangerine Dream-scored film (Thief comes to mind, IMO), sans the synths and moogs.

To dismiss Me & Will as a vanity-driven “female Easy Rider” and to be alpha-male ruffled by its “female empowerment” message is a chauvinistic disservice to Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr’s efforts to dissuade the film from disintegrating into a hail of bullets of a gone-wrong crime caper, ala the somewhat similar Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke buddy-biker action flick, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991).

Me & Will is a gallant effort; a heart-felt, solid indie-film and Rose and Behr certainly deserved better than their exploitation resumes allow. And kudos to Columbia Pictures giving their blessings and not having the proceedings degrade into the legalese haze of Phil Pitzer’s not-as-bad-as-they-say Easy Rider homage. You can watch Me & Will as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv or without ads on You Tube.

So, as with Phil Pitzer’s Easy Rider: The Ride Black: Me & Will is an alright effort. So do Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr a solid and support indie film by streaming the ad-stream version on TubiTV, will ya?

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Easy Rider: The Ride Back (2012)

So . . . did you you know Easy Rider was followed forty years later by an unofficial sequel? It’s okay. No one does. . . .

The existential subtext and counterculture viewpoints (somewhat) of the original are lost . . . somewhere on a dusty, Baja road in this “sequel” (also working as a prequel) that explores the family history of Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt “Captain America” Williams through the eyes of his older brother, Morgan: a pot-distributing, Vietnam war deserter and custom jewelry-designer (specializing in Maltese crosses; not for the reasons you think, the eventual reveal is a clever trick-of-the-script) living in luxurious solitude on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

The drama and struggles center around Morgan’s cycle-lovin’ family friend, West Coast (Jeff Fahey of The Lawnmower Man, Psycho III), Williams sister Shane (Sheree J. Wilson of TV’s Dallas and as Alex Cahill on Walker, Texas Ranger; she also produces), and her wealthy-hubby (Michael Nouri of Flashdance) as it flashes to and fro from the 1940s to the present, concerned with Wyatt’s brother, Morgan (Phil Pitzer) visiting his dying, disapproving father. So, along with West as his “Billy,” Morgan mounts Wyatt’s Captain American chopper, which he recovered back in ’69 and restored, slaps on his brother’s old leathers, and takes a “ride back” to bury those family demons.

Of course, when it comes to making a sequel, the smart bet is to file legal actions against Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the producers of the original through their Raybert Productions (the force behind The Monkees TV series), to block them from reclaiming their expired film rights. And don’t bring back any of the original’s cast or crew. And cavet those emptor for the ol’ home video bait n’ switch: courtesy of the flashing-back-and-forth, Fahey, Wilson, and Nouri are the marquee-stars, but only here as supporting characters. This show belongs to Phil Pitzer and Chris Engen (as the young, troubled third-brother Virgil; who despite his bigger role, is bumped off the marquee).

So goes this vanity-vision by producer and screenwriter Phil Pitzer, a former lawyer who, with a desire to enter the film industry with a bang, manipulated legal loopholes to get sequel rights. His co-writer and director, Dustin Rikert, fared better: his names pops up as a producer and director on a slew of telefilms broadcast on the Hallmark, Lifetime, and Syfy channels. Their Easy Rider part deux was initially completed in 2009 and appears in filmpedias with that release date; however, by the time it went through the festival circuits and film markets for distribution, it was formally released in 2012.

So, is Easy Rider: The Ride Back the most-unwanted-not-a-sequel since the days of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (which I really like) or House II: The Second Story (which I didn’t) or House III: The Horror Show (which I did, because well, it’s a friggin’ Lance Henriksen and Brion James movie)? And is stuffy ol’ Leonard Maltin—who hates everything the B&S About Movies crew likes—justified in calling the Pitzer’s effort “a staggeringly bad, cash-in bomb,” solely based on Pitzer’s clandestine legal maneuvers?

Eh, well . . . to Pitzer’s credit: He does, as you can see, resemble Fonda, so it lends to the credibility that he’s Wyatt’s brother, as well as “being” Wyatt in flashbacks that lend to the film-to-film continuity. All of the bikes (especially Wyatt’s chopper reproduction) and time-period designs (props, costumes, cars, etc.) are correct, the Korean war sequences are well-shot, and the cinematography by Brian Lataille (videos for Incubus and Linkin Park), while not up to the László Kovács-standard in the original, is pretty solid. And yes, as with any indie, flick: there’s a few strained thepsin’ moments. So, while it’s not exactly Easy Rider, Pitzer’s effort is not a Tommy Wiseau (or Neal Breen) biker joint as some threaders and reviews claim. No, it’s definitely not The Room on wheels” as some have said.

While the flashbacks and bike-riding interludes of Morgan’s and West Coast’s contemplations (most in voice overs as majestic “post-card moments” unfold) about life, e.g., homelessness and hunger, ecology, the meaning of patriotism and true freedom, make the film seem a bit longer than its 90-minute running time, Pitzer nonetheless crafted well-rounded characters for his actors to sink their thespin’ teeth into. He also developed a compelling “history” for an initially ambiguous, metaphorical-drifting character. So kudos to Pitzer for giving a structured “focus” to a film that was admittedly an “out of focus,” scriptless-improv in the first place (that Fonda and Hopper openly admitted in interviews).

And besides: I always enjoy seeing senior actors (e.g., the recently-released Nana’s Secret Recipe) given meaty roles and, to that end: Newell Alexander (who’s career goes back to the ’70s TV series Barnaby Jones and Battlestar Galactica ’79, The Kentucky Fried Movie; he also appeared in Walker, Texas Ranger with Sheree) and Ron Howard’s pop, Rance (The Andy Griffith Show, Grand Theft Auto, and Cotton Candy) are both excellent in their roles as Poppa Williams and his ol’ hog-riding Korean War war buddy, so much so, you’d like to see more of them in the film.

All in all, despite Leonard Maltin and the Internet hoards of war, Easy Rider: The Ride Back it’s not as Wiseauian bad as they’ll lead you to believe. (The same arguement we had with our review of Jeremy Saville’s radio dramedy, Loqueesha). And for those who have stated Phil Pitzer “thankfully, has never made another movie” and “hasn’t made another movie since”: Phil produced the upcoming Cannes Without a Plan (2021), the third writing-directing effort from Julie Simone Robb (NBC-TV’s Homicide: Life on the Street) that also stars Pitzer’s The Ride Back cast member, Jodie Fisher (of Charles Band’s Blood Dolls).

Courtesy of a new distribution deal with retro-imprint Kino Loeber, Easy Rider: The Ride Back is available worldwide as 2019-issued Blu and DVD and VOD stream on Amazon Prime and You Tube Movies. Yeah, you’ll find that errant You Tube freebie (you know you look there and TubiTV first before you buy), but do Phil Pitzer a solid and support indie film, will ya? Pay for it, okay?

Like Kowalski said in Vanishing Point: “Fuck the man!” Keep on making movies, Phil. You’re alright, kid. . . .

So, did you know . . . sandwiched between the ‘60s original and Phil Pitzer’s 2012 revisiting, Easy Rider: The Ride Back, there was another unofficial “sequel,” which concentrates on a search for the famed Captain America chopper that appeared in Easy Rider? Never heard of it? It’s okay. No one did. Join us at 3 pm for more tales from the fast and the furious . . . with Me & Will.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Existential and the Furious: Part 3: Vanishing Point (1971)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

This 20th Century Fox tale reminds a lot of Elektra Glide in Blue, United Artists’ 1973 existential road flick entry about a disgraced biker-cop (Robert Blake) produced-directed by James William Guercio, who managed and performed with the Beach Boys and produced several albums for ’70s pop-meisters Chicago (who appear in the film). We also had Vanishing Point on the short list for “Radio Week,”* thanks to Cleavon Little’s blind DJ. While it was bumped for that week—but it’s prime fodder for “Fast and Furious Week.” Thank god for Dodge Chargers. . . .

Kowalski (Barry Newman) is a Vietnam veteran, disgraced ex-cop and former professional road racer of motorcycles and stock cars. To cope with his personal demons, he lives on the open road as a driver for a car delivery service. Before heading out on his next assignment—transporting a supercharged 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco—he scores a hit of speed and makes a bet with his drug-pusher that he can make the trip in 15 hours.

As the police follow in hot pursuit, Kowalski becomes a folk hero to the roadside eccentrics and Vietnam-war worn masses, thanks to the on-air updates of the cross country chase by a blind DJ “Supersoul” (Cleavon “The Prince of Darkness” Little of FM) on KOW, an 50,000-watt R&B/Soul station broadcasting across Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado and California. (Little’s engineer—an unaccredited role—is John Amos of TVs Good Times, but youngins know him for his work in Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Coming to America.) (And, is it just me, or is Outside Ozona a slasher version of Vanishing Point? That’s not critical insult, but a kudos.)

Yeah, we love this movie, but this movie also really wants to be the next Easy Rider, with its replacement of Steppenwolf by way of the equally biker-acceptable Mountain with “Mississippi Queen,” along with the counterculture band Delaney, Bonnie & Friends (see the history of Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac), who also appear in the film as a singing group at a religious revival caravan.

There’s no online streams, but Blus, DVDs, and used VHS-tapes are available on Amazon to watch Vanishing Point. . . .

So, we teased you about the two “sequels” to Easy Rider . . . but did you know their was a remake to Vanishing Point? It’s okay. No one does. Join us tomorrow, August 7 at 6 pm, for more tales of the fast and the furious . . . and the vanishing . . . with Vanishing Point ’97.

How much is this film loved? It has die-cast cars!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Existential and the Furious: Part 2: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

This Universal Studios tale in which the bikes of Easy Rider meet the Dodge Challenger of Vanishing Point was on the short-list for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” tribute (ran Sunday, July 19 to Saturday, July 25) of films as result of ex-Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson starring as the “Mechanic” and ‘70s soft rocker James Taylor as the “Driver.”

But wait! There’s those celluloid bonus points, since this is directed by Monte Hellman, who made his directorial debut with Roger Corman’s Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)—a relationship that lasted for several films over fifteen years. And Hellman gave us Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out (another “unwanted sequel,” ala Phil Pitzer’s Easy Rider: The Ride Back, that’s actually better than you think, as result of the Hellman touch), and he executive-produced Reservoir Dogs. So, courtesy of that Corman lineage, Hellman’s not giving you a typical Universal picture. This is an A.I.P-styled romp that’s not for the mainstream cinema folks.

As with Wyatt and Billy’s biker travels, Two-Lane Blacktop is an existential road trip into metaphorical ambiguity—only from inside the cockpit of a Black 1955 Chevy 150. Unlike most major studio buddy-road adventures, this one’s void of exposition to the point of silence: the Chevy’s passengers are perfunctory to the story, operating more like “parts” to the car than actual people.

As the stoic duo travels across country entering impromptu and legalized dragstrip races, they pick up the hitchhiking “Girl” (Laurie Bird, who became Hellman’s girlfriend), meet a homosexual hitchhiker (Harry Dean Stanton, later of Alien and Repo Man), and a New Mexico to Washington D.C. “pink slip” challenge is made by “GTO” (Warren Oates), an insecure braggart who discover a vicarious purpose through the freedom-lives of the Chevy’s “internal parts.”

Regardless of its rock-star casting, neither Wilson nor Taylor provide music to the film and no Easy Rider-styled soundtrack was ever released. The film does, however, features songs by the Doors, Arlo Guthrie, and Kris Kristofferson. Lori Bird, in a James Dean-tragic life, only made three films: two with Hellman, the other being Roger Corman’s Cockfighter (1974; also with Warren Oates), and in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977; as the girlfriend to Paul Simon’s character). Coming to live with Simon’s musical partner, Art Garfunkel, she committing suicide-by-pills in his apartment at the age of 26.

There’s no online streams, but Blus and DVDs (co-issued by Universal through Criterion Collection and Anchor Bay) and used VHS-tapes are to be found on Amazon.

My buddy Eric, as with Easy Rider, takes me to task with this movie as well: “Duke, your idea of “classics” sucks ass,” he tells me. According to him—a car nut, mind you—”nothing happens.” “It’s like watching a stoner version of Seinsuck.” (Sorry, Sam!)

Friends and film, huh? It’s not so bad: chicks and film is worse.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

UPDATE: Out in the social media ethers, reader Jake Garrett schooled us on this fun car flick fact: The ’55 Chevy in Two-Lane Blacktop is the same car as Bob Falfa’s in American Graffiti. Did you know that? We didn’t. Hey, we’re big enough to admit that we don’t know all of the film trivia out there. Thanks, Jake!

The Existential and the Furious: Part 1: Easy Rider (1969)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

While The Fast and the Furious franchise began as crime caper flicks that transitioned into spy flicks of the xXx variety, there’s no denying Universal Studios’ “big engine” is rooted in the rock ‘n’ hot-roddin’ juvenile delinquency flicks of the ’50 (we have a “Drive-In Friday” night this week covering a few of those films), the biker-centric counterculture flicks of the ’60s, and revin’-car flicks from the ’70s (reviews for a whole bunch o’ them this week!).

For long before the good intentions of Paul Walker’s LAPD officer Brian O’Conner’s law-enforcement soul was drugged with the scent well-weathered leather, hot metal and oil, and the scent of a Mitsubishi’s exhaust (R.I.P., Mr. Peart), Easy Rider was the godfather of them all—and that celluloid patriarch brought forth two sons. . . . And those sons were fruitful and multiplied with the ’70s “big engines” of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (also starring Peter Fonda) and Gone in 60 Seconds (no, not that one, the 1974 one!).

In between, there was this cop movie called Bullit that starred some guy named Steve McQueen toolin’ around in a 1968 Mustang Fastback going head-to-head with a 1968 440 Magnum Dodge Charger. And they slipped “The Duke” (of all people) into the cockpit of a souped-up 1973 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am “Green Hornet” in McQ. But we were diggin’ Roy Scheider in his 1973 Pontiac Ventura Sprint in The Seven-Ups. And let us not forget: Producer Philip D’Antoni is the guru of rubber who gave us memorable car chase sequences in not only The Seven-Ups and Bullit, but The French Connection, as well. Then, for a twist, instead of a souped-up muscle car, Robert Blake slipped onto a 1970 Harley touring cycle for the “motorcycle cop” version of Easy Rider: 1973’s Electra Glide in Blue.

Released in 1969, Easy Rider became a counterculture epic that set the pace for the early ‘70s car chase classics to come: Two-Lane Blacktop and Vanishing Point (as well as Electra Glide in Blue)—regardless of the transportation and “mission” of their protagonists’ “trips,” each film equated the open road with freedom of the soul.

Wyatt and Billy (Peter Fonda, who became a biker icon courtesy of Roger Corman’s 1966 biker epic, The Wild Angels, and Dennis Hopper, who was able to get financing for his 1971 ego-boondoggle The Last Movie as result of Columbia Studios raking in $60 million worldwide on a $400,000 budget) embark on a western-without-horses motorcycle trip across America from California to New Orleans for a drug deal (instead of gold prospecting or stage coach robbing). Along the way to make their “big score” they meet up with communal hippies (in lieu of Indians), partake of drugs and sex, and frolic about New Orleans (in lieu of say, Dodge City, Kansas, or Virginia City, Nevada) in a Seinfeldian “a movie about nothing” existence (sorry, Sam; quoting my buddy Eric’s take on the movie)—and it all comes to an end by way of the ubiquitous, hippy-hatin’ rednecks (the Indians got ’em).

Jack Nicholson stars as Wyatt and Billy’s gold-football helmeted sidekick: ACLU lawyer and jail cellmate, George Hanson (the trio first collaborated on The Trip, Roger Corman’s 1967 stoner flick written by Nicholson; who did his own biker flick, 1967’s Rebel Rousers, which was released post-Easy Rider fame, in 1970), music Svengali Phil Spector (The Big T.N.T Show) stars as “The Connection,” and future MTV video queen Toni Basil (“Hey, Mickey!”) also appears in a minor role (she worked with Nicholson on the Monkees’ Head). The soundtrack—inspired by the successful use of pop and rock music for 1967’s The Graduate— features music by Steppenwolf (who also provided music to another psychedelic film, 1969’s Candy), the Band, the Byrds, and Jimi Hendrix.

You can watch this everywhere, pretty much, but it streams on Amazon Prime.

Ah, Easter Eggs: So, did you know Easy Rider was followed forty years later by an unofficial sequel? Two, in fact. It’s okay. No one does. Join us tomorrow at 12 noon and 3 pm for more tales of the fast and the furious . . . with Easy Rider: The Ride Back and Me & Will.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Hitman’s Run (1999)

Sooner or later, Mark Lester and Eric Roberts would have to unite and bring their dual direct to video magic to bear. This would be one of those times and it would not be the last.

Here, Eric is former mob hitman Tony Lazorka, who has become John Dugan in witness protection after he refuses to kill someone. He’s in witness protection which is more like witless protection. And the mob is back on his trail, which is how these things always go. Where’s Arnold ready to erase people these days?

Roberts gets screwed over by a hacker, who we know is a computer wizard because he rides a skateboard and is a general malcontent. He’s played by Esteban Powell, who was in Dazed and Confused and Powder before this. He cannot have been more annoying than he was in this movie and I didn’t want his poor father (Eric Poppick, who always plays nosy neighbors and put-upon doctors; witness Single White Female and Problem Child) to ever find him again. Having the mob kill you would be a better fate than enduring one day with this keyboard kid.

C. Thomas Howell plays a fed, Farrah Forke makes an appearance and plenty of people only I would get excited about are in this, like Damian Chapa (dude, the guys IMDB bio is bonkers; he name drops growing up in a bar across from Larry Flynt’s first Hustler club, then talks about how The James Dean Foundation picked him over Leo for a biopic before they were all murdered, yet he neglects to mention that he played Ken in Street Fighter), Pittsburgh native Lindsay Taylor and Joe Viterelli, who was in the aforementioned Eraser and was a dependable mob character actor, appearing as Jelly in the two Analyze This movies, as well as MobstersBullets Over Broadway and Mafia!

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Base (1999)

And you thought Mark L. Lester and Eric Roberts was a Reese’s chocolate-in-the-peanut butter match in our VHS celluloid heaven? The ‘Les also worked with Mark Dacascos — a man only matched by actor-martial artist Oliver Gruner in direct-to-video action bad assery. Yeah, you heard me right: Mark friggin’ Dacascos: Jimmy Lee in Double Dragon, Zero in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Eric Draven in the The Crow: Stairway to Heaven series, and the Netflix series Wu Assassins. Ah, but the direct-to-video oeuvre: American Samurai, China Strike Force, and The Redemption: Kickboxer 5. Yeah, you’re damn right we watched the mockbusters I Am Omega and Solar Attack for our Dacascos fix.

My only grip with you, Dacascos: Why you haven’t done a movie with Eric Roberts?

“Better research before you pop your lip at me, Mr. Francis.”

“Mark Dacascos?”

“It’s cool, R.D. I did three projects with Eric, in fact. I can’t remember if we had scenes together, and if we are in it that long, you know how that goes in these low-budgeters, but our names are on the boxes. We did Beyond the Game, with Oliver Gruner, by the way, along with Final Approach, and Maximum Impact, with Danny Trejo. And I know you dig Danny over at B&S.”

See. Even the uber fans like Sam and myself can’t see ’em all.

So . . . with Arnie’s Commando front and center on the ‘ol DVD box and Paula Trickey from TV’s Pacific Blue and The O.C as the only other named commodity in the military tomfoolery: Dacascos is Major John Murphy, a U.S. Army Investigator, teamed with Lt. Kelly Andrews (Trickey) to shut down Sgt. Gammon’s cocaine smuggling operation (at the former Victorville Air Force Base in California).

Are the clichés and stereotypes afoot? Of course they are. But aren’t they also stumbling about in the A-List Summer Tentpoles? You get what you paid for with The Base: it’s not exactly Rambo, but you gets lots of Commando-styled action and violence on a well-stretched budget. And thanks to Dacascos’s agility, we get — unlike with Arnie’s bulk and Sly’s grunt — lots of martial arts action that rivals the celluloid hijinks of Chuck Norris. And ex-75th Ranger Regiment U.S. Army Ranger Tim Abell — still building on his 112-plus resume, including the cable mockbuster Battle of Los Angeles — is pure pisser as the psycho-drug dealing Sgt. Gammon.

“Hey, R.D. Don’t forget to mention that ‘Dacas and I also did Instinct to Kill.”

“You got it, Mr. Abell!”

“Hey, you forgot about the sequel I wrote and Mark Lester produced.”

“C. Courtney Joyner?”

“It was called The Base 2: Guilty as Charged and it starred Antonio Sabato, Jr. in the Major John Murphy role and, this time, James Remar, you know, Ajax from The Warriors, is the corrupt military psycho.”

“Yeah, I know. Sam and I never saw it and we can’t find any online streams.”

“Yeah, that’s how it is with most of my and Mark’s later films. But here’s the trailer. Happy hunting. Oh, thanks for reviewing Public Enemies, by the way.”

“Hey, remind everyone that I made three flicks for Mark Lester.”

“James Remar? Yeah, we’re reviewing Betrayal with Erika Eleniak. But we can’t find a streaming copy of Blowback with Mario Van Peebles to review. Sorry, James. But we’ve never seen it.”

“Eh, that’s cool. I know how it is with these low-budgeters and their shoddy distribution.”

So, in the words of Sgt. Gammon: “It’s time to lock, cock, and rock” . . . and hit that big read streaming button. You can watch a freebie rip of The Base on You Tube. We also found this very cool interview with Mark L. Lester chatting about his early films on You Tube.

It’s been one hell of a week paying tribute to Mark L. Lester at B&S About Movies. Damn fun.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Superstar (1999)

Kids in the Hall member Bruce McCulloch directed this, another example of trying to turn a sketch into an entire long form story. In this case, Catholic high school student Mary Katherine Gallagher finally grows beyond five-minutes of jokes to tell you more of her life. Does it work?

Steve Koren wrote this, as well as Click and Jack and Jill for Adam Sandler. Oh yeah — he also did A Night at the Roxbury. That’s some SNL cast service, let me tell you.

Mary Katherine dreams of kissing cool kid Sky Corrigan (Will Ferrell) and being a superstar. This leads to a moment right out of Carrie and her falling for bad boy Eric Slater (Harland Williams). And oh yes, Jesus (also Ferrell) shows up.

Did you enjoy this sketch? Would you enjoy it for more than an hour? This will determine whether you like this or honestly, any Saturday Night Live movie.