Solo (1996) Preview

Jamie and Patrick emerge from the portal to Earth and they breathe in the fresh Brooklyn air. Home at last. Patrick pulls out his emergency cable knit sweater and they begin the hike back to their apartment. He sure is ready to put the Obsidian Dongle away for safekeeping and see his wife and six children, while Jamie just needs a classic NY slice and his MTV. Rad. As they pass by their favorite book store a stray glance stops Patrick dead in his tracks. “J-j-jamie… what is that?” he says in a panic. A large “Bestseller” sign hangs over a large stack of the latest hit: R&P: Rest in Peace: The Death of Rich and Poe. They scramble into the bookstore and buy a copy for themselves. They stare at the glossy cover in disbelief. It’s exactly like the one they saw in the BMTverse. They flip to the back page to see a picture of them… there they are smiling from a picture neither remembered taking. A chill runs down their spines when they turn back to the front and see a small sticker that reads: “soon to be a major motion picture.” “They can’t,” mutters Patrick, “if that movie bombs then…” but Jamie is right there on the same page, “Rich and Poe will die in the BMTverse.” Hearts racing they run back to their apartment and pace the room. “We need to know who stole our identities and what the hell is going on”, says Jamie, “and there’s only one way to do that.” Patrick nods. They have to read that book. “Maybe it won’t be so bad,” says Patrick as he reads the first line: “‘Let’s pound some dweebs,’ says the robot terminator cyborg sent from 1996 to kill Rich and Poe…” Oh boy. That’s right! We continue the based-on-a-book cycle on a lesser known 90’s action film Solo starring Mario Van Peebles. It’s about an AI weapon that fights back against its creators and is based on the book Weapon by Robert Mason. Let’s go!

Solo (1996) – BMeTric: 46.5; Notability: 18 

StreetCreditReport.com – BMeTric: top 7.2%; Notability: top 80.0%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 1.0% Higher BMeT: Barb Wire, Kazaam, Striptease, Bio-Dome, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace, The Crow: City of Angels, The Stupids, Hellraiser: Bloodline, Mr. Wrong, Spy Hard, Poison Ivy 2, Jingle All The Way; Higher Notability: Eraser, The Fan, Spy Hard, Jingle All The Way, Chain Reaction, Daylight, The Associate, Dear God, Mulholland Falls, Up Close & Personal, Eddie, Eye for an Eye, Sgt. Bilko, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Larger Than Life, Dunston Checks In, The Chamber, Carpool, Girl 6, and 58 more; Lower RT: Bio-Dome, Kazaam; Notes: I’m starting to think bad films come in two flavors. There are the ones where the notability is relatively low but it absolutely crushes BMeTric / RT (which are usually the same as long as critics and audiences don’t disagree). And then there are the soulless films which have huge notability but seem to always hover in that 35-55% range on RT. I think the low-notability ones tend to be the more beloved in BMT, so that’s promising. Also, I can’t believe we haven’t seen either Bio-Dome or Kazaam for BMT yet.

Leonard Maltin – 2 stars –  Solo is an android who has a crisis of conscience when he directly disobeys an order that would result in the murder of innocent people. This sets him on a collision course with his creators, particularly a sadistic colonel. Standard action for nondiscerning fans of the genre. Van Peebles is actually quite appealing in the lead.

(Not much to discuss there as it boils down to: pretty much what you would expect, although Van Peebles is better that one would think. I’m shocked, having watched the movie, that he doesn’t mention that it yet again seems to rip off Seven Samurai.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV-4gWRtNxY/

(Oh wow the overlay with the blatant Apocalypse Now rip off. This trailer looks like a direct-to-video garbage fire. What the hell were they thinking?)

Directors – Norberto Barba – (BMT: Solo; Notes: Mostly does television now, including 11 episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Served in the U.S. Army Special Forces.)

Writers – Robert Mason (novel) – (BMT: Solo; Notes: Wrote an autobiography called Chickenhawk about his experience flying helicopters in Vietnam. His only other credit is writing for a documentary on the same subject. His writing is mostly science-fiction, like Weapon, the book Solo is based on.)

David L. Corley (screenplay) (as David Corley) – (BMT: Solo; Notes: Almost exclusively wrote straight-to-video stuff after this, including Executive Power starring Jean Claude Van Damme.)

Actors – Mario Van Peebles – (Known For: Ali; New Jack City; Heartbreak Ridge; The Cotton Club; Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song; Run the Race; How to Get the Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass; Stag; The Hebrew Hammer; Future BMT: Exterminator 2; Gunmen; Posse; Submerged; We the Party; Multiple Sarcasms; Panther; BMT: Jaws: The Revenge; Highlander III: The Final Dimension; Solo; Notes: A director, actor, and producer, the son of Melvin Van Peebles. He directed the film Badasssss! which is about the making of his father’s film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.)

William Sadler – (Known For: The Shawshank Redemption; The Green Mile; Bill & Ted Face the Music; Iron Man Three; Die Hard 2; The Highwaymen; The Mist; Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey; VFW; The Hot Spot; Kinsey; Freeheld; Freaked; Rush; Project X; Trespass; Being Flynn; Greetings from Tim Buckley; Ava’s Possessions; The Hollow; Future BMT: Grudge; Machete Kills; Bordello of Blood; Disturbing Behavior; Hard to Kill; K-9; The Duel; RocketMan; Living Among Us; The Battle of Shaker Heights; Hanky Panky; Eagle Eye; Man on a Ledge; Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight; Awaken the Night; A New Wave; Freedom; August Rush; Reach the Rock; Frank the Bastard; BMT: Solo; Notes: I never realized he played the Grim Reaper in the Bill & Ted films. Played Sgt. Toomey in Neil Simon’s Tony Award winning play Biloxi Blues.)

Barry Corbin – (Known For: No Country for Old Men; WarGames; The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; Stir Crazy; Urban Cowboy; The Hot Spot; The Homesman; Planes: Fire & Rescue; In the Valley of Elah; Dead and Buried; Honkytonk Man; Nothing in Common; Permanent Record; All Saints; The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez; That Evening Sun; Provinces of Night; The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez; The Valley; Race to Space; Future BMT: The Dukes of Hazzard; Ghost Dad; Who’s Harry Crumb?; Held Up; Career Opportunities; Burning Rubber; Beer for My Horses; Any Which Way You Can; The Man Who Loved Women; Curdled; The Grand; My Science Project; Lake City; Short Time; New Life; BMT: Solo; Critters 2; Notes: Nominated for three Emmys, two for Northern Exposure, and one for the TV Movie Moon Shot. He was in the marines and actually did train at Camp Pendleton in California where they were planning on reprogramming Solo.)

Budget/Gross – $19 million / Domestic: $5,107,669 (Worldwide: $5,107,669)

(Brutal return. But I’m not sure what they expected since the film looks like it was destined to be straight-to-video. I’m not sure why you would spend $20 million on a Mario Van Peebles vehicle in the first place. Where did the money go? Exclusively into pyrotechnics?)

Rotten Tomatoes – 8% (3/36): Featuring hammy performances and bland characters, Solo is an all too straightforward actioner that’s both predictable and instantly forgettable.

(Sounds about right. I’m still pretty perplexed that of all people Mario Van Peebles was being tagged as a potential action star in 1996. Reviewer Highlight: These escapist showdown movies are only as good as their villains and heroes. The heavies here are more of those ubiquitous gung-ho military types who are due to be dishonorably discharged from further cinematic duty. – Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune)

Poster – Solo: A BMT Story

(I’d love to think what would happen if Patrick and I were able to travel back in time and see this poster in the wild. I feel like a graphic artist somewhere threw this together and assumed it would be rejected and then when he was told his poster was chosen he panicked. At least they got that sweet block lettering. D.)

Tagline(s) – Part man. Part machine. Total weapon. Prepare to go Solo! (C+)

(You were going so good there for a while, tagline. Honestly the end is tacked on. Prior to that it’s an OK tagline. It’s got the structure and the plot. Just lacks a little creativity. Really what they have is something that works for any cyborg film… although, I’m not always prepared to go solo for every cyborg film, so that’s helpful to know.)

Keyword – based on novel

Top 10: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Catch Me If You Can (2002), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Emma. (2020), Goodfellas (1990), Ready Player One (2018), Jojo Rabbit (2019), Forrest Gump (1994), Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Future BMT: 72.2 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011), 47.5 The Dark Tower (2017), 45.7 London Fields (2018), 43.8 Priest (2011), 43.6 Allegiant (2016), 43.4 The Rhythm Section (2020), 42.2 Pan (2015), 41.3 Addicted (2014), 39.7 Eat Pray Love (2010), 39.4 The Princess Diaries 2 (2004);

BMT: After (2019), Dolittle (2020), Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), Fifty Shades Freed (2018), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), Warcraft: The Beginning (2016), The Three Musketeers (2011), The Circle (2017), The Snowman (2017), Striptease (1996), Conan the Barbarian (2011), The 5th Wave (2016), Hunter Killer (2018), Fifty Shades Darker (2017), Vampire Academy (2014), Jumper (2008), Around the World in 80 Days (2004), The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), A Walk to Remember (2002), A Dog’s Purpose (2017), I Am Number Four (2011), Death Wish (2018), Cheaper by the Dozen (2003), Poseidon (2006), Eragon (2006), Kiss the Girls (1997), Dragonball Evolution (2009), Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005), Along Came a Spider (2001), The Choice (2016), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Something Borrowed (2011), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), The Host (2013), Safe Haven (2013)

(My god, we’ve done so many of them. And we still, confusingly, still have Twilight films to watch? I forget because I actually randomly watched them all years ago for no apparent reason. None of the others in that Future BMT section seem particularly appealing if I’m being honest. Although some of them have to be in a different keyword since we aren’t even half way through this cycle.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 16) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Mario Van Peebles is No. 1 billed in Solo and No. 2 billed in Highlander: The Final Dimension, which also stars Deborah Kara Unger (No. 3 billed) who is in 88 Minutes (No. 6 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 3 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 1 + 2 + 3 + 6 + 3 + 1 = 16. If we were to watch Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, and Kingdom Come we can get the HoE Number down to 16.

Notes – The program on the TV that the people in the village is The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). (I noticed this in the wild. Really good film, would highly recommend even if you don’t typically go for 50s films and that particular brand of special effect artistry)

2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story included the subtitle so as not to be confused with this film. (Well … I would assume it included a subtitle because Solo sounds like it could literally be anything. I doubt many people would be like “I’m going to Solo tonight want to come?” and their friends would respond “Wait, you’re going to go see that 1996 Mario Van Peebles robot film in theaters? That’s weird”)

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