I’m apt to employ the term temple when describing Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse. It is a place of holy reverence for cinema of all genres and visible levels of technical proficiency. The people who own and operate this glorious shrine to film are tried-and-true movie geeks and they know how to put together events that allow for communal worship and celebration of our passion. Last year they unleashed an event that, by its close, had graduated to force of nature: Cinemapocalypse.
The premise was that Quentin Tarantino wanted to premier Inglourious Basterds in Austin and the epic epicness of that film called for something a bit more grandiose than a simple screening. So along with Basterds, QT brought two other films; personal favorites of his that inspired the main attraction. Veteran character actor, and all-around badass Robert Forster then introduced a film of his own and the evening concluded with two more films; six in total. The event ran all through the night and well into the next day.
The first Cinemapocalypse was so loaded to the gills with pure awesome that its aforementioned awesomeness could not be contained within or quelled by just one event. It was a cinch that a second Cinemapocalypse would follow, but the anchor film would have to be something unbelievably amazing to match the power of Nazi killing and Hitler exploding. Luckily, Sylvester Stallone reached into his most manly of chests, ripped out a bloody rib, and gave birth to the ensemble of testosterone that is The Expendables.
Because The Expendables is the long-awaited conglomeration of some of the most macho, irrepressibly badass action stars of ours or any other generation, it was decided that the three films that would precede its premier would each be vehicles for one of its cast members to showcase the pure gun-shooty, kick-facing, punch-gutting magnificence of said actor. For my part, I will try to do justice to the eyebrow-singeing fireball of fantastic that was Cinemapocalypse II. I was lucky to survive.
Demolition Man (1993)
The evening began with a screening of the finest Sylvester Stallone/Wesley Snipes film to be set in the future to come out of 1993: Demolition Man. I have a big, wet soft spot for this early 90’s train wreck. I went so far as to canonize its so-bad-it’s-good cult status by inducting it into the fraternal order of schlock that is Junkfood Cinema. Check it out here if you absolutely hate productivity.
Rather than echo my thoughts on this film, and bore you to tears for a second time, I would rather discuss the crowd reaction to the film. You may find the choice of Demolition Man a bold, possibly absurd, one as far as the quintessential representation of Stallone’s contribution to action cinema. But the thing is, every film shown tonight was hand picked by the masses.
When the immeasurable selection committee was presented with the task of selecting three movies, despite the scores of titles to choose from, these three were overwhelming favorites. That means the people have spoken and when they think of Sylvester Stallone, more than Rocky and more than Rambo, they think of the naked guy in the block of ice who tries to teach Sandra Bullock about sex. I could not have been more thrilled that so many people recognized this film as being a dynamo of Stalloneic entertainment value regardless of its quality level. That’s my kind of crowd, and that’s exactly why it played so well.
At our first break, as the hands of the clock were just about to herald the commencement of the next day, Master of Disaster of Ceremonies Zack Carlson decided that the crowd looked a little haggard. He felt we were beginning to fall to the sirens of slumber and rallied to keep us fully sentient of the ocular smorgasbord before us. And so, in honor of one of the weirdest portents of the future featured in Demolition Man, Zack unveiled a tray of 30 food items purchased form Taco Bell. He then proceeded to chuck tacos and burritos at the defenseless audience. Would this be the most absurd moment of the evening? Read on to find out.
I Come in Peace (1989)
Next up was a film showcasing the talents of the tallest member of The Expendables cast: Dolph Lundgren. The film chosen to honor this gargantuan Swede who has punched and kicked his way into our hearts was I Come in Peace. The basic premise is that an alien comes to earth to inject people with heroine and steal the resultant endorphins, as they are a designer drug back on his planet. A second alien, an inter-galactic law-enforcement officer, follows him in an effort to curb the slaughter of Earthlings. Dolph plays a renegade cop whose partner dies and is therefore forced to team with an uptight FBI blah blah blah cliché cliché cliché.
I wish I could adequately express how much I love this film. I Come in Peace played Terror Tuesday earlier this year, which is the Alamo’s weekly showcase of horror films. I have been covering that event for the past year for a great website called Horror Squad. I fell in love with this film from the first explosion and never looked back. Although this was the ardent Lundgren choice of the action film cognoscenti prior to the event coming together, I was shocked at how many of the actual attendees had not seen it.
This film is a parade of every conceivable misstep a filmmaker can make. The characters are flat and hackneyed, the story is absurd and derivative, and it was set in an exotic locale known as Houston. However, the insuppressible cool of Dolph leaks out of his stilted character mold and spin-kicks his way into cult hero all while spouting some of the most gloriously awful catchphrases of all time. The crowd went wild for the action and unintentional comedy of I Come in Peace.
On the Next Page: Bruce Willis kicks ass on Christmas and Sly and the boys play war games in The Expendables..