Tag Archives: Larry J. Franco

Escape From New York (1981): Trapped in the Machine

Escape From New York

    “Escape from New York” and “Escape from L.A.” were stories I was only really familiar with through the game series that they helped inspire. Solid Snake was drawn from the ex-soldier and protagonist of this series Snake Plissken. Both of them are isolated soldiers forced into situations of their control and must race against time to complete the mission and save themselves. The biggest difference is the “Metal Gear” series is much more sci. fi. based while the “Escape” series is more dystopian and apocalyptic. Suffice to say I really enjoyed “Escape from New York,” and consider it a favorite film even though it does have some obvious problems that I will go into.

       John Carpenter wrote and directed the film while it was co-wrote by Nick Castle and produced by Larry J. Franco and Debra Hill.

   The story begins in 1988 when there is a 400% increase in crime leading to the United States turning Manhattan Island into a high security prison. It is in 1997 and Air Force One get’s hijacked and crashed into the prison that is Manhattan forcing the New York Police Force to send in Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to rescue the President and save the tape that is needed for the Peace Summit with the Soviet Union and China. From here Snake is in a race against time as he is infected with capsules that will kill him in 22 hours unless they are removed.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of society falling apart leading to a tyrannical government rising in the United States is fascinating, especially as we see how the disregard for life of those who aren’t among the privileged has decreased drastically. Whether it is Snake having the capsules put into him that give him a death sentence unless he completes his mission or all the rules that you see the moment you come in, as well as the fact that all those entering Manhattan Island have the choice to commit suicide rather than going to Prison. The disregard for life it at it’s height.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful. It is dark and shadowed and captures the feel of being trapped extremely well. Everything is hidden, which sets up how we don’t see what happened to the President until much later in the story and we don’t meet the Duke of New York until later in the story either. Dean Cundey and Jim Lucas did a great job.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is very 80s and it works. There is a tense synth feel that pervades the film which captures that this is supposed to be a future really well. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth did a great job.

The Action – The action is extremely solid. Whether it is Snake having to fight against his dying body and different crooks or facing off against the Slag in a bat fight in the Duke of New York’s arena or finally racing across a mined bridge being chased by the Duke…every action scene moves the plot forward and establishes the strength and guile of our hero or the motivation of those around him.

 Maggie – Maggie is the girlfriend of Brain who was once Snake’s partner but ran away. She comes to Brain’s defense but also sees the bigger picture too as she and Brain help save the President from the Duke. This leads to the Brain eventually dying and her using the last of her energy to try and kill the Duke. She was a great character and gave us a picture of someone making it in Manhattan. Adrienne Barbeau did great.

Brain – Harry Dean Stanton is great as the double crosser who eventually comes to stand by his friend. He’s smart and that is what keeps him alive as we see him outsmart both Snake and the Duke on multiple occasions and in doing so keep his head. He does eventually die on the bridge and can’t make it out but he makes possible Snake and the President’s escape, saving Manhattan from being bombed by the mainland.

Duke of New York – Isaac Hayes (Chef from “South Park”) is a great villain. He is a guy who is confident who sees himself as number one. He’s rose through the ranks of the prison to the point that he owns it now and just wants to get revenge on the world that put him there. He nearly succeeds too, only being stopped by Brain and Maggie when they change sides and help Snake free the President.

Snake Plissken – Snake is a bitter ex-convict who also served in the army at one point. Among the people he is seen as a bit of a folk hero and most people in Manhattan eventually recognize him. He’s ruthless but has a good heart as we see him go from threatening Brain and Maggie to trying to use all he can to help them escape. He’s pretty anti-authority too and we see him give cabbie’s tape to the President, embarrassing him on live television before China and the USSR while Snake himself destroys the tape that the government was going to use. His story is resisting the machine even as he is forced to be a part of it. Kurt Russell does a great job.

Okay: Bob Hauk – He is the guy who injects Snake with the capsules forcing him to race against time. He believes in Snake and has a respect for him as at the end he asks Snake if he’d like to join his team.

The Cons: The President – He’s a tool and wasn’t all that memorable. He wasn’t bad but he wasn’t written with much depth as we see him dismiss the lives that were laid down so he could escape and him cringing everytime he is threatened.

Romero – Romero just looks crazy but we never get why the Duke made him his second in command. Because of this he is just kind of there.

   This story has great world building, but I didn’t feel as attached to the characters as I did in “Escape from L.A.” I think a big reason for this is a lot of what the story does is world building and tone setting. It is “Alien” to “Aliens” and in both cases in order to experience the world we don’t have the time to really grow attached to a lot of the characters. It is still a film I’d recommend to anyone who loves a good dystopian or apocalyptic story and it sets up “Escape from L,A” and the story beats “Escape from L.A.” will use really well.

Final Score: 9 / 10

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Jurassic Park III (2001): A Fun Shlocky B Movie That Captures the Spirit of “Jurassic Park”

Jurassic Park 3

     This movie is a lot better than what I remember and in many ways was a lot more enjoyable than “Jurassic World.” I think a reason for this is that it is more honest in what it is, it knows it’s characters are stupid but it is also honest in that they are truly flawed, they aren’t caricatures even if the writing they have to work with is pretty bad. It isn’t a good or great film by any stretch of the imagination but it is a lot of fun if you come in expecting a Monster B Movie film that tries to capture what made it’s predecessors memorable while still trying to create an identity of it’s own.

      The film was directed by Joe Johnston and written by Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Larry J. Franco. The world is based off the books created by Michael Crichton.

      The story involves Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) being tricked into being taken to Isla Sorna or Site B where the Dinosaurs have been developing for years. He is tricked into going to the Island by the Kirbys who are looking for their son who went missing in a parasailing accident off the coast of the Island. From here the story unfolds as as they try to escape the Island and find the Kirby’s son.

The Pros: The Raptors – The Raptors were the best part of this film. From there communicating and setting traps for the heroes and the fact that their motivation is to defend their young. They really act like a pack and seeing them interact with Alan Grant who is obsessed with them creates some really good scenes.

Udesky – Michael Jeter plays a Mercenary who is the organizer and is not what he appears to be. He’s a smart guy and good at survival and is the one who connects with Alan Grant first until he ends up getting killed by the Raptors and his squad gets killed by the Spinosaur. He was a good minor character.

Paul Kirby – William H. Macy is wonderful in this role! His role is similar to who he played in “Fargo” where he is in a failed/failing marriage and has to find himself in circumstances that are getting more and more out of control. In this he is able to find courage and stand up for himself and the group and in the process ends up getting back together with his wife.

Dr. Ellie Degler – Dr. Ellie is from the first film and she is great in this! She is the successful one of the survivors and is in a happy relationship and has a best friendship with her Alan. She is the one who saves the day too as it is a call she makes that brings in the Navy and Marines to save the Kirbys and Alan. Laura Dern is great.

Dr. Alan Grant – Sam Neill really is great as Alan Grant, in this we see he’s been trying to make sense of the traumatic and amazing experience of the Park and it has changed how he relates to people as his passion of paleontology is ignored for people who just want to ask about surviving the Park. When he is pulled in against his will he makes the most of it though and faces his fear of the Raptors.

Okay: Billy Brennan – Billy is the stupid Grad. Student who steals Raptor eggs so that Grant and their group can get funding again. He is an idiot character but at least saves Eric Kirby at one point and he pays for his stupidity by nearly dying.

Eric Kirby – Eric is the kid who finds a way to survive on the Island for a time and admires Dr. Grant’s work. He isn’t a bad character but I wanted to know how he was able to survive and why he was reading Grant’s book if he was just a kid. Still, alright kid character.

The Cons: The Special Effects – The special effects got pretty bad at different points, mostly with the Spinosauras who is the main enemy of the show as sometimes it’s head is shown and even if it is a practical effect, looked really fake. The same went for CGI in certain parts, though the Raptors and Pteranodons.

Amanda Kirby – All she does is scream and do stupid things and need to be rescued. Pretty much a wasted character.

Alan Grant’s Dream – A Raptor says his name, this was the moment I knew it was going to be a B Movie, and besides Amanda Kirby, it never got worse than that moment.

   This was a really fun B Movie that almost so bad it was good. The human characters actually felt like real people with motivations and not caricatures like “Jurassic World.” Alan Grant being the main character helps things too as he has always been flawed and a bit obsessed so even with some crappy special effects he still manages to create a really entertaining film. This was a really fun movie that doesn’t quite reach the level of good but gets close.

Final Score: 7.6 / 10