Posts Tagged ‘action’

If you grew up in the 1940’s you’ll have fond memories of Saturday afternoons well spent at the movie theatre. Sitting anxiously, with bated breath we waited through the coming attractions, newsreels and cartoons, looking forward to the next chapter of our favorite serial.  

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KING OF THE TEXAS RANGERS (1941) is one of those wonderful serials! Football-player-turned-actor, “Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh, stars as Texas Ranger Tom King, who must avenge the death of his father. Duncan Renaldo, of TV’s Cisco Kid fame, co-stars as Lt. Pedro Garcia who becomes King’s sidekick and friend. Neil Hamilton, light years before his role as TV’s Commissioner Gordon on BATMAN, plays a duplicitous fifth columnist who’s helping the Nazis (although they’re never mentioned as such in the serial).

 King of the Texas Rangers048The plot’s quite standard for a serial, but the real delight comes from watching the frenetically paced action sequences. Republic writers were often told to keep the dialogue in serials to under 700 words per episode, and as you can imagine this leaves lots of room for the action parts! There’s shoot-outs, crashes, explosions, exciting chases on horseback and best of all, the amazing stunt work. It’s all carefully choreographed by a skilled team of stunt professionals who put their lives (and limbs) on the line for the sake of the serial. You’ll find yourself reaching for the “pause” button to see just how the stunts were done. There’s amazing back flips, jumps and falls, all done without CGI ! The images shown below don’t do the stunts justice, you really need to see them in action!

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KING OF THE TEXAS RANGERS also features wonderful miniature work from the extremely talented team of Howard and Theodore Lydecker. Miniature sets were carefully crafted to duplicate real locations….then they were blown up!  The Lydeckers often filmed these miniatures outdoors, utilizing natural light, which adds greatly to their realism. Throughout the serial you’ll see amazing explosions, car crashes and other realistic-looking “disasters”. They’re all quite detailed, even to the point of wood scraps flying everywhere during an explosion!

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On KING OF THE TEXAS RANGERS, as with most Republic serials, directors worked in pairs, William Witney handling the action sequences while John English took charge of the dramatic exposition. Their teamwork is rewarded with a tight combination of action and dialogue. If you watch any of the Witney-English co-directed serials you won’t be disappointed!             

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It’s all high-spirited fun and action — guaranteed to please the 12 year old kid in you!

Note: — The best quality prints of KING OF THE TEXAS RANGERS can be seen on Republic Pictures’ VHS or Laserdisc releases, which are purportedly made from Republic’s own 35mm negatives. There is no commercially released DVD, so the quality of no-name DVD’s may be poor.


Here’s some more screen shots from the serial:

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Neil Hamilton as the “bad-guy” John Barton


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Duncan Renaldo gets the drop on a henchman


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Lots of good explosions, courtesy of the Lydecker brothers!


The Good Guys always win in the end!

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 I’ve never been a fan of the superheroes that populate the Marvel Universe, but this film made me a believer. Vivid, exciting, with witty dialogue and wonderfully conceived action sequences, “The Avengers” is a winner all the way! The action scenes are carefully designed, choreographed and executed. They’re a delight to watch, especially since the camera doesn’t bump, grind and shake like other routine action films. With expert use of CGI, Manhattan receives a thorough trouncing, receiving more damage than anything Godzilla could unleash on Tokyo. (We like to think that it’ll be all repaired in time for the sequel).

"The Avengers" (2012)

The Avengers sports a great ensemble, both in conception and casting; Tony Stark/Iron Man ( Robert Downey Jr.), Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner / The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner ). They’re a superb team, and their quick, witty repartee further fortifies their relationships.

Samuel L. Jackson returns to familiar territory as the fastidious Nick Fury. Tom Hiddleston gives an over-the-top performance as the megalomaniac, Loki. Gwyneth Paltrow and Clark Gregg return in supporting roles. Harry Dean Stanton appears in a nice bit part. 

An all-time winner for summertime family entertainment (PG-13). Highly recommended.

In this much anticipated prequel, director Ridley Scott returns to the well one more time for a look inside the Aliens Universe. Replete with all the trappings of the best sci-fi films, ”Prometheus” attempts to show us how the Aliens began their interactions with Man.

Tough, spunky scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” 2009 ) leads an expedition that uncovers ancient paintings on a cave wall. Early Man is depicted looking upward at a strange configuration of planets. The scientists come to realize that human life may have originated on an alien world.

An exploration crew is assembled to travel to the far away world to investigate. Onboard the spaceship Prometheus, the crew is greeted by a holographic version of the aging scientist who’s funding the expedition. (We’d wished it was the John Hammond character from “Jurassic Park,” but instead it’s Guy Pearce badly made-up as a curmudgeon with a cane.)

Keeping the crew in line is martinet Meredith Vickers (Charleze Theron), a representative of the corporation financing the expedition. Dour and statuesque, she seems to relish her position of power. There’s the stereotypical cigar chomping ship’s captain, Janek (Idris Elba), who cares little about the mission and is just anxious to get home and collect his pay.

And in any Alien film, you have to have an android onboard. To this end Michael Fassbender turns in a durable performance as the duplicitous android David. However, we couldn’t help drawing comparisons to Lance Henriksen’s superior (and pluckier) Bishop in ”Aliens” (1986).

Dark, somber and with outstanding special effects, ”Prometheus” creates the feeling of a great mystery waiting to unfold. There’s dark, subterranean alien tunnels, doors with mysterious hieroglyphics, lots of puzzles waiting to be answered….all of these ingredients should create a great sci-film. However, it’s not long before clichés and mediocrity foul the mix.

Unruly crew members don’t follow orders, wandering away aimlessly. The scientists throw caution to the wind, taking their helmets off when the air seems “good”, and cavalierly poking and prodding at anything that drips alien goo.

Then there’s a flamethrower “incident” that’s both startling and spectacular. (Flamethrowers, we have to assume, are standard issue on missions like this, despite the fact that they’ll be used on planets where the lack of oxygen would impair combustion.) We’d guess that many other weapons could serve up quicker and more accurate results.

As the action and tension increase, all logic is thrown aside. Elizabeth, under extreme duress, injured and bleeding, must perform several elaborate computer programming functions in the medical bay (a tricky procedure even on one’s best day) yet she does all this with the skill and aplomb of a veteran medical technician.

Like the 1940′s matinee serials where kids knew their hero was making the wrong choice, “Prometheus” makes you want to yell out loud at the screen, “Watch out! … Don’t do that!”

Director Ridley Scott (“Bladerunner” and “Alien”) has tried to give us a palatable Aliens prequel but it all falls short because of a threadbare script and poor character development. The finale sets us up for a sequel, but one has to ask “what’s the point?”