I have survived the Cinemapocalypse twice now. The first time was roughly one year ago. The Alamo Drafthouse had decided to turn the Austin premiere of Inglourious Basterds into a fifteen hour movie marathon. Quentin Tarantino had programmed the first three movies of the night himself and he kindly stuck around to introduce each of his picks, as well as do an on-stage Q&A with fellow Basterd Eli Roth. The entire night was full of surprises (hell, the walls of the Drafthouse exploded halfway through IB and massive Nazi banners unraveled just as the Basterds entered the Nazi-commandeered movie palace in the film) and great movies, which is why I knew I absolutely must be at any future Cinemapocalypse events.
Fast forward one year for a special Expendables branded Cinemapocalypse. The event this time around was a little shorter in length, a mere eight hours, but it still spanned the entire night and surviving patrons still looked as though they had just had their ass kicked in the best of ways by the time it was over. That's no surprise, of course, considering the lineup was Demolition Man, I Come in Peace, Die Hard, and then The Expendables.
However, as is to be expected whenever the Drafthouse gets involved with something, they didn't simply play each film back to back. Of course they had to do everything they could to make sure the audience was in the perfect mood for a night of old school action awesomeness.
One of the things the Drafthouse is known for is a refusal to show advertisements before movies. No obnoxious spots for local pawn shops or big screen ads for the latest season of Ice Road Truckers; no, the Drafthouse knows how to program a great preshow. The Cinemapocalypse preshow consisted of a ton of vintage clips featuring all the major players from The Expendables as well as fan made tributes to its stars. I think my favorite contributions were Terry Crews' Old Spice commercials, which are even more surreal when played back-to-back on an absurdist loop that seems like it will never end, and this outstanding "I'm Bruce Willis" tribute music video:
Before the Stallone/Snipes match-up of the millennium began, Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson took the stage to introduce the night by, well, blowing up the stage with a bundle of pyrotechnics hooked up to a cartoonishly large demolition plunger. This was of course the perfect segue for Demolition Man, which was preceded by trailers for three Stallone classics: Cobra, Rambo 3 and Judge Dredd.
As for Demolition Man, I'll be expounding more of my thoughts on it in my discussion post on the film over at Sci-Fi Squad, but in short I fell in love with it like never before. Not only had I never seen it on the big screen, but I don't think I've ever actually sat down and paid the movie my undivided attention. As a result I had built up this image of the Demolition Man as being one big joke, which it definitely is not. Oh, it's a funny, funny movie, but everyone involved is clearly in on the joke. It was a real eye opener to finally realize that fact.
After the lights came up, Zack once again took the stage, only this time he had a tub of Taco Bell tacos and burritos and proceeded to toss them into the theaters, declaring with wild eyes that we were now living in the future.
I Come in Peace
I, like many people in attendance, had not actually seen Craig R. Baxley's I Come in Peace. I was certainly familiar with it thanks to very vivid memories of staring longingly at the VHS box cover art at my local video store as a kid, but for some reason I just never actually took it to the counter and rented it. Having now seen it, I'm not sure that I would call it, as Zack did, the best Dolph Lundgren movie, but it is a ton of fun. I love how completely baseline the plot is and how rigorously it adheres to the buddy cop formula, but aside from a few standout elements (the utter lack of motivation behind the alien drug deal, the killer compact disc gun), it's easy to see why it hasn't enjoyed a life on late night cable the way its Cinemapocalypse brethren have.
It was great to see Lundgren get his own showcase, though. In addition to I Come in Peace, we also got a preshow that included trailers for Showdown in Little Tokyo, Rocky IV, Masters of the Universe and this glorious gem:
I was already positively giddy to finally see Die Hard on the big screen, but I was pushed over the top when Zack once again took the stage to dump out a bag of "glass" and ask for volunteers to walk across it barefoot for prizes. I wasn't man enough to do it myself, but I'm glad there were people willing to suffer for the amusement of a couple hundred Die Hard fans. Then the lights dimmed and the screen was lit up with trailers for Die Hard 2 and Hudson Hawk. Both were great, but they were mere distractions for what was about to follow.
Now Zack had stated that Fox only has one 35mm print of Die Hard that they send out for exhibition and that the quality of it was pretty rough, so the Drafthouse had gotten hold of a private collector's print. I have no idea whose print it was, but that person is a God. The clarity of the 22-year old print was absolutely pristine and had everyone instantly salivating. It was gorgeous and I don't think anyone could have asked for a better way to see the best action movie ever made on the big screen. This was, as expected, the highlight of the night for me.
[Thanks to @ReelDistraction for the pic!]
It was pushing 5am by the time The Expendables was at bat, so there was very little fanfare for its introduction. No trailers, just an announcement from Zack that Sylvester Stallone had bought everyone in the audience a box of old timey popcorn and that he hoped everyone was ready to have their faces blasted off by the manliest of man movies.
I actually wasn't expecting much from it, which is perhaps why I enjoyed it as much as I did. It's far from perfect - in particular the first half of the film is pretty dry - but it goes out on enough of a sustained high note to not leave any potent taste of disappointment behind. For the most part the audience seemed to be pretty split on it. There were people like me who were infected by its ambition and kill-happy final scenes and people who thought it was too limp for too long, but I didn't talk to anyone who either outright hated or loved the movie.
Could The Expendables have been better? Definitely. But was it exactly the kind of movie that should end a night spent basking in the glow of action movie cliches? Absolutely.