Monday, August 1, 2011

July 30 - Cocaine Wars and Solar Warriors

Hey, it's a "movies released on video in 1986" double feature! First up is an action flick starring a former 1970s TV star and heartthrob.

The cover and back of my VHS copy of Cocaine Wars

Cocaine Wars (1985)
Director: Hector Olivera Format: VHS (Media)

From director Hector Olivera (BARBARIAN QUEEN) comes this mid-80s actioner set in South America. Released theatrically in 1985 and on video in 1986.

It stars John Schneider (DUKES OF HAZZARD) as Cliff Adams, an undercover DEA agent, posing as a pilot flying drugs for a South American cartel. Kathryn Witt (FLYING HIGH TV series) is American journalist Janet Meade, his on-again, off-again lover.

Cliff uses confidential papers to blackmail drug lord Gonzalo Reyes (Guillermo del Toro regular Federico Luppi CRONOS, PAN's LABYRINTH), but when Janet's colleagues in the US prematurely run with a story, his Stateside operation is busted and all hell breaks loose for Cliff and Janet.

Also making an appreance is the always-great Royal Dano (OUTLAW JOSEY WALES) as the owner of the town's brothel.

The action doesn't really pick up until the final act, when the bad guys capture Janet and Cliff goes all Rambo to bust her loose. Machine gun fire, fist fights and explosions are the order of the day.

Cocaine Wars was filmed in Argentina, which provides the type of South American setting you'd expect (Spanish pueblos, rainforest etc) and some not-so-typical bits (a polo match, a car chase along cliff-hugging mountain roads).

Schneider is likeable enough as the cookie cutter anti-hero (rebellious, selfish, afraid of commitment etc), but on the downside the music and editing are sub-par. Even a car chase loses suspense and drama because of the choppy editing and camerawork.

Cocaine Wars is definitely nothing special. If, like me, you were a Dukes of Hazzard fan as a kid, it's worth checking out for John Schneider, but there's not much else to recommend about it.

The cover of my VHS copy of Solar Warriors

Solar Warriors (1985)
Director: Alan Johnson
Format: VHS (CEL)

Roller skating. Lazer guns. A post-apocalyptic future. A glowing alien orb. Man, I would have loved this movie when I was 10.

In fact, at the age of 36 I still really enjoyed it. As family-friendly futuristic scifi goes, SOLAR WARRIORS is a lot of fun.

Director Alan Johnson only helmed two movies, spending most of his career as choreographer on a bunch of Mel Brooks movies (who incidentally produced SOLAR WARRIORS, but don't expect any Brooksian hijinks here).

The movie starts off with narration explaining that far in the future the world is a barren wasteland (what else?) and all the water is controlled by a corporation.

At an orphanage where kids are indoctrinated to serve the corporation, two teams of teenagers engage in a game that's part lacrosse and part rollerderby, until the E-Police break it up.

While escaping from the E-Fuzz, Daniel (Lukas Haas, WITNESS) stumbles upon a cave and, inside it, a glowing ball of light that is some sort of alien lifeforce (but thankfully doesn't talk, keeping things from going all Disney on us).

Daniel takes the orb back to the orphanage and shows it to his friends, a roller-game team known as the Solar Babies. When the orb is stolen by another orphan and Daniel heads into the wasteland after him, the Solar Babies go in search of him. Lucky for all of them the barren lands just happen to have paved paths they can skate along. They all unite, but are soon on the run from the E-Police.

The main reason to watch this movie is for its cast of young actors who went onto bigger and better things (although for some fame would be fleeting).

Jason Patric, in his feature film debut, is the leader of the Solar Babies, the imaginatively-named Jason. His girlfriend is Terra, played by Jami Gertz, who of course would reunite romantically with Patric in THE LOST BOYS a year later.

Other Solar Babies include Tug (Peter DeLuise, 21 JUMP STREET) and Metron (James LeGros, POINT BREAK), while Adrian Pasdar (a year before NEAR DARK) plays the mysterious bird-loving Darstar.

James Van Der Beek lookalike Peter Kowanko (AMITYVILLE 3D) appears as Jason's antagonistic rival Gavial, a member of the Nazi Youth-esque junior division of the E-Police, while character actor Charles Durning (THE FINAL COUNTDOWN) is the orphanage warden. THE YOUNG ONES regular Alexei Sayle and Bruce Payne (ONE TOUGH BASTARD) are bounty hunters and the late Richard Jordan (LOGAN'S RUN) is top-billed as E-Police leader Grock.

The costumes are also good, and the sets are damn impressive - someone on the IMDB boards suggested this movie was made up of deleted scenes from MAD MAX 3: BEYOND THUNDERDOME, which is a load of hokey, but the sets here definitely wouldn't out of place in that flick.

But don't be fooled. This is a rollerskating movie and much of the action is set up to show off stunts on skates. Luckily the stunts don't detract from the storyline and are much better handled than in PRAYER OF THE ROLLER BOYS.

If you're looking for cheese, skip past SOLAR WARRIORS, but if you're looking for family-friendly scifi with a point of difference (roller skating), check it out.

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