Paul W.S. Anderson’s Soldier: A Review by Nate Hill 

Before poor Paul W.S. Anderson made a fatal misstep with Alien Vs. Predator and was maligned, he made a few really excellent genre flicks back in the mid to late 90’s, one of them being the mostly forgotten and excessively fun Soldier, starring a mostly mute and wholly badass Kurt Russell as a genetically bred super soldier who has fallen on hard times. His name is Todd 3465, and he’s from the last line of soldiers who are in fact real humans, albeit altered. There’s a new program moving in, wherein actual replicants are produced, rendering Todd obsolete. The head of the new outfit is sadistic Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs in full evil prick mode), who wants to do away with anything that isn’t state of the art. Todd is thrashed in a one on one smackdown with Mekum’s lead soldier (Jason Scott Lee), and then left to die on a remote planet used only for trash disposal and inhabited by wayward crash survivors who scavenge what they can. Todd is immediately the outsider, an unfeeling asset bred only for combat and alien to human qualities. A few among the group, including their leader Mace (Anderson regular Sean Pertwee) and Jimmy Pig (Michael Chicklis) attempt to connect, but it’s gorgeous Connie Nielsen who finally breaks the ice. He may be conditioned to kill, but he’s still a human man after all, and there’s some base instincts you just can’t ignore. Trouble brews when Mekum shows up again, that bastard. Now he wants to vaporize their planet on the grounds that the refugees are essentially squatting. Undermining him is Todd’s former boss Church (an unusually restrained Gary Busey), an honorable military veteran who’d love to put Mekum six feet under and restore order. Todd must help his newfound friends, fight tooth and nail against replicants and win his superiority back. Russell is a tank in the role, letting both silence and action speak volumes, a one man old school ass kicking hero of the highest order. The world building and outer space effects are incredibly fun, the villains are broadly characterized with the force of a western, and the whole film knows what people want for a good time at the cinema. Oohh and fun fact: this takes place in the same cinematic universe as Blade Runner, and you can listen for the brief tie in reference that only die hards will pick up on. Great stuff. 

KATHRYN BIGELOW’S POINT BREAK — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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A thrilling sense of kinetic filmmaking has guided the work of Kathryn Bigelow over the last 25 years, and Point Break is just a go-for-broke action picture, complete with moments of total absurdity, fantastic and unexpected humor, and dead serious thrills. Bigelow’s film, from a clever and exceedingly entertaining screenplay by W. Peter Iliff (Rick King received a story credit), is an incredible piece of vigorous action filmmaking — a heist picture, an undercover policier, a romance, an extreme sports movie that feels ahead of its time in retrospect — the creative team threw a little bit of everything into this film and it’s no surprise that the movie has taken on a massive cult following after a solid but not break-out box office performance. Donald Peterman’s dynamic and muscular cinematography is always bracing and exciting, while Mark Isham’s awesome score swells and builds to some great peaks. Ultimate Patrick Swayze POWER here, Gary Busey steals the entire film, and it goes without saying, Keanu Reeves was just all live-wire terrific here, letting his inner Surfer Dude attitude shine through but also getting a chance to kick some ass when called upon; call it a warm up for his heroics a few years later in the blockbuster action pic Speed. Howard Smith’s editing is fluid and keeps the pace at a fast clip (that backyard chase!) and Bigelow really shined with the action sequences, which have been cribbed from repeatedly throughout the years by various filmmakers. The film was a solid success in the theaters, doing $80 million worldwide on a 50/50 split, but the movie would really cement Bigelow’s action chops, after early efforts like Blue Steel and Near Dark announced a new, distinctive voice, and setting up more ambitious future endeavors like Strange Days, K19: The Widowmaker, and the one-two punch of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Hell – I’ll even go to bat for The Weight of Water! And it must be said: Jumping out of airplanes with no parachute POWER!

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