It speaks to the strength of The Burning’s reputation among cult-film fans that what’s most memorable about the 1981 slasher is not
that it was written by the Weinstein brothers, nor that it represents
early appearances of the likes of Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter and
Fisher Stevens. It’s that its Cropsy is just a damned good villain.
As Simon Lam gets older, he gets better. The veteran actor has appeared in such in seminal HK action films of the 1990s as Once Upon a Time in China (opposite Jet Li) and Bullet in the Head (directed by John Woo); in the aughts, he graced audience and critical favorites Election and Ip Man.
Lee Van Cleef enjoyed a secondary career in Italy cranking out spaghetti
Westerns, with little regard to quality. However, 1972’s Grand Duel — aka The Big Showdown — is deserving of its Grand label. No wonder Quentin Tarantino borrowed its sweeping theme song by Luis Bacalov for Kill Bill; you'll recognize it in two notes.
Early in The Last Stand,
the small-town sheriff played by Arnold Schwarzenegger says, "It's my
day off. Should be a quiet weekend." That's the new way of saying, "I've
got one week to retirement," because it signals — with flashing neon
and everything — that life is going to royally upend those plans.
One needs more than two hands to count the numerous other films from which “Battle: Los Angeles” has been cobbled: “Independence Day,” “Cloverfield,” “Starship Troopers,” “Transformers,” “Aliens,” “Predator,” “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” and
any movie in which bullet casings fall to the ground in slow motion, to
name just a few.
If the alien-invasion flick often looks like a video game, that’s because it’s written like one (as in barely), as a loose string of missions for its gung-ho Marines: Rescue civilians from a police station; take them to safety; destroy the mother ship. That’s the simple-structured path for our cardboard, interchangeable heroes, led by a stoic, ever-grimacing Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) as Staff Sgt. Nantz, after aliens lay waste to several locales around the world, La-La Land included.
As Billy Joel once sang early in his career, say goodbye to Hollywood.
Employing a shaky-cam style reminiscent of first-person-shooter games, director Jonathan Liebesman (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”) puts his cast through nearly two solid hours of rat-a-tat-tat and budda-budda-budda, all in a messy manner making it difficult to tell who’s who. When this sci-fi actioner says “Battle,” it means it, but at the expense of any kind of story. One doesn’t expect much from effects-driven efforts like this, but even I was astonished at how little it aims to tell. All it cares about it aiming to shoot. That quickly wears audiences out.
Bonus points if you believe it ends in a setup for endless sequels, from “Battle: New York City” to “Battle: Sheboygan.” Retreat! —Rod Lott