Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

tn_tmnt14TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014) is director Jonathan Liebesman (BATTLE LOS ANGELES, WRATH OF THE TITANS, TEXAS CHAINSAW BEGINNINGS: THE FINDING OF THE SAW) and the Platinum Dunes company’s modernized retelling of the classic tale of Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello, the humanoid turtle monsters who are discovered by a human reporter living in a giant underground sewer home and are trained in ninjitsu by a talking rat so they enjoy pizza but at night they sneak out to fight crime and there’s this Japanese guy with armour who wants to kill them because–

You know what, on second thought this is not a story, this is a half-assed explanation for a joke title some guys came up with in the ’80s that, through some bizarre series of mishaps and coincidences, accidentally became a multi-million dollar pop culture/merchandising juggernaut. Nobody knows why or ever will. It was even on Unsolved Mysteries.

Seriously, I saw part of a documentary on these turtles, and it explained how the hugely popular cartoon show was built around the toys they wanted to sell. The people who made the cartoon seemed totally surprised and confused that it was something that people liked so much. It’s funny to see them try to explain in retrospect that historic moment when a voice actor said “Cowabunga!” and they decided to use it. It seems like they figure it must’ve been brilliant, but I don’t think they get it any more than I do.

This new version is pretty much a simplified rehash of the previous movie version, from what I can remember. You still got TV reporter April O’Neil (like the porn star), now played by Megan Fox, and she discovers that “a vigilante” stopped an attempted chemical robbery by “The Foot Clan,” who are masked paramilitary guys now instead of ninjas, except for Shredder and a couple other people at the top. Here’s the thing though: she keeps trying to take pictures and video on her phone. That’s why they had to do a remake. THIS IS HOW WE LIVE TODAY. (read the rest of this shit…)

Psycho Cop Returns

tn_psychocopreturnsPSYCHO COP RETURNS is a huge leap ahead of part 1. Yes, it’s one of those purposely cheesy self-aware horror movies from the Troma era. Broad acting and stereotypes, big-haired, big-boobed female characters there more for the stripping scenes than for anything else, douchebag characters who frequently hoot and holler about booze and tits, cheesy keyboard-badly-imitating-an-orchestra score. And it’s the type of movie where the third billed actor is “1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain,” kind of like how Don “The Dragon” Wilson’s kickboxing titles were sometimes included on the opening credits.

And it’s not a great movie. But it’s almost instantly clear that they’re trying to do a good version of that type of bad movie. The opening few minutes – two dudes encountering the Psycho Cop (still Bobby Ray Shafer) at a donut shop, followed by an opening credits montage of gorey body parts piled inside his patrol car – shows much more signs of effort than the entirety of part 1. It smacks of “This is gonna be stupid, but let’s go for it!,” and that attitude is pretty infectious.
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Psycho Cop

tn_psychocopPSYCHO COP is no MANIAC COP, I’ll tell you that. You know, MANIAC COP is a low budget indie exploitation movie, but it’s the kind with scope. The kind where they use all the resources they have, sneak shots on location, try to push the envelope on stunts, stretch the budget, get as much bang for the nickel as they possibly can. The kind that were made to play in a theater in Times Square for a while but that people are still interested in today. PSYCHO COP (which came out between MANIAC COPs 1 and 2) is the other kind.

Instead of an action-horror hybrid this is a generic shitty slasher with its closest thing to a redeeming value being the cop-themed killer, Officer Joe Vickers (played by Bobby Ray Shafer, now best known as Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration on The Office). He’s an officer who suddenly goes on a killing spree. Also he’s satanic. In the opening he puts on his uniform in a dingy apartment with a pentagram painted on the wall and candles everywhere. He dips his hands in a bowl of blood before putting on his sunglasses. Later he sets up a bunch of wooden crosses in the woods for a ritual. (read the rest of this shit…)

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence

tn_maniaccop3In the tradition of MANIAC COP 2, MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE begins with footage from the end of the last one. Undead Maniac Cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar)’s honor guard funeral is intercut with new scenes of a voodoo priest (Julius Harris, also in Larry Cohen’s BLACK CAESAR) stabbing a head with a ritualistic dagger and chanting. So now we know that part 2’s CARRIE-esque ending is actually a voodoo curse. Man, first Chucky, then Screwface, now this. What the bloodclot, voodoo?

Robert Davi returns as Mac, who is investigating these voodoo guys and suspects a connection to Cordell. Claudia Christian’s character Riley doesn’t show, but there’s another female lead (Gretchen Becker), a younger officer nicknamed “Maniac Kate” for her Dirty Harry type approach to law enforcement. Mac knows her mother and considers her a kid sister, but seems kind of flirtatious in their first scene together at the gun range (hopefully now renamed The Six Target-Shooting Officers Killed By Maniac Cop In Part 2 Memorial Gun Range) where they take turns shooting the target while she vents about getting in trouble for shooting an attempted rapist. Mac says she should’ve waited a little longer so she could’ve shot more than just an attempted rapist. Classy.

Maniac Kate responds to a pharmacy holdup by a crazed pill-feaster (Jackie Earle Haley in the movie that came before the one that earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor). Kate and the junkie end up in the hospital, the hostage dead, and a pair of sleazy tabloid video journalists film the whole thing and broadcast an edited version that makes her look like she was in the wrong. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fury Road teaser

In 2015 there’s gonna be a new STAR WARS picture, a new BATMAN LOVES SUPERMAN picture, I believe an AVENGERS PART 2, a CAPTAIN AMERICA PART 3, a new TERMINATOR, a new HUNGER GAMES MOCKINGJAY,  a new MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, a new FANTASTIC FOUR, probly a couple Spidermans and X-Mans, JURASSIC WORLD, E.T. SPRING BREAK, and many other big movies. All of them stacked up on top of each other won’t reach the knee pads of my man Mad Max Fury Rockatansky II.

(I didn’t include FURIOUS 7 or JUPITER ASCENDING in that list because they might tip the scales)

This seems like a trailer too big for Imax and here I am watching it on my computer. But I couldn’t ignore it, it had to be acknowledged here. All hail George Miller. (read the rest of this shit…)

Maniac Cop 2

tn_maniaccop2Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon return for the bigger, I think better MANIAC COP 2. I guess it had a bigger budget than the first one and it has a more confident, cinematic feel. Hats off to cinematographer James Lemmo (who also did the first one, MS. 45, VIGILANTE and THE GLADIATOR) for his deliberate, ominous pans through New York City locations. There’s even a great opening credits sequence designed by Pablo Ferro (DR. STRANGELOVE) that really establishes the mood as the camera glides across a police impound lot and the remains of the vehicle involved in the climax of part 1.

This is maybe 2 weeks later, when Jack (Campbell) has been cleared of the murders but is trying to get back on the force. I’m a little confused because there’s a new captain and reference to the previous one being dead, but for some reason the commissioner, played by Michael Lerner (BARTON FINK) instead of Richard Roundtree, and given a different name, is treated as the guy who’s always been there. He sends Jack and Theresa (Landon) to police psychologist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian, HALF PAST DEAD), which is also where a new character, Detective Sean “Mac” McKinney, ends up after shooting a suspect. (He didn’t kill him, but only because he says it’s too much paperwork.)
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Maniac Cop

tn_maniaccopMANIAC COP is like an ’80s b-movie dream team. William Lustig (MANIAC) directs, Larry Cohen (IT’S ALIVE!) writes, James Glickenhaus (THE EXECUTIONER, THE PROTECTOR) executive produces. And check out this cast: Tom Atkins (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) is Frank McCrae, a tough NYC lieutenant investigating a murder spree by a mysterious dude in a police uniform. Bruce Campbell, one year after EVIL DEAD 2, is Jack Forrest, a cop who is implicated in the murders and goes on the run to find out who really did it. Hundra herself, Laurene Landon, plays his crimp-haired mistress Theresa Mallory, a fellow cop who helps him in his quest. Richard Roundtree (SHAFT) and William Smith (HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN) are the hardass commissioner and captain. Sam Raimi has a cameo. And also Jake LaMotta, for some reason. And Robert Z’Dar (TANGO & CASH) plays the maniac cop. He’s mostly in silhouette, so his superhumanly giant chin is not as much of a distraction as in some movies.

(Wait a minute… how did Bruce Campbell title his autobiography “If Chins Could Talk Kill” when he co-starred with Z’Dar? He knows his chin ain’t shit.)

Jack gets involved because his wife (Victoria Catlin, GHOULIES, Twin Peaks) notices him sneaking around and suspects him of being the maniac cop. But of course he’s really going to see Theresa. Whoops. Since his wife gets killed by the maniac and left in his hotel room, now it looks like he’s the guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Citizenfour

tn_citizenfourWhen you hear that CITIZENFOUR is a really good documentary about Edward Snowden, you don’t really picture what it actually is. Or at least I didn’t.

I figured it would be a really powerful documentary about the exiled NSA whistleblower and the programs he exposed, the issues they raise about privacy, governmental overreach and technology. It would be really upsetting at times, sometimes shocking, it would use news footage and interviews to tell this story. Hopefully a well put together version of these advocacy documentaries that draw our attention to an important thing going on in the world and tell us some facts about it that we might not’ve known, get us real riled up.

Well, it’s most of those things, except it’s not at all a talking head documentary. What I didn’t know going in is that this movie is part of the leak itself. Before Snowden even met with journalist Glenn Greenwald about the National Security Agency secretly working with telecommunications companies to spy on the phone calls and emails of Americans not even suspected of any crimes, he contacted documentary director Laura Poitras to document it. So this is not a movie telling the story of what happened. This is actual footage of it happening.
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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

tn_birdmanorBIRDMAN OR is an incredible movie on a technical and craft type level. It’s like a play, really. Mostly dialogue and centered around one building, but it’s also very cinematic because it’s photographed ROPE-style, as if the whole movie is one continuous shot. Of course it’s not, that’s all an illusion, and it’s not even supposed to mimic real time. Sometimes it will pull up to the sky and it will become day or night before it comes back down, or the events within the shot will make it clear that time has passed. One second they’re in a rehearsal for a play, the next there’s an entire audience there. Pretty tricky stuff pulled off with the genius of director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, expanding on the long takes he did with Alfonso Cuaron in CHILDREN OF MEN and GRAVITY. The director/co-writer this time is their buddy Alejandro González Iñárritu (BABEL).

It’s the story of Hollywood actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton, JACKIE BROWN), who was a serious actor but became known mainly for playing a super hero in a trilogy of movies in the early ’90s. Now he’s trying to adapt a Raymond Carver story for the stage. He’s having all kinds of problems right before the first preview, while also dealing with emotional crises about his lagging fame, his perceived lack of respect as an artist, his failed marriage (Amy Ryan plays his ex-wife, still in his life), the crappy job he’s done as a father (Emma Stone plays his recovering junkie daughter/assistant, who is constantly annoyed with him and her job). So we, as the point of view of the camera, hover there and watch his rehearsals, his arguments, we fly through the labyrinthine back halls of the theater, into the dressing rooms, onto the scaffolding, onto the stage, outside into crowded Times Square. There is crying, fighting, fucking.

Meanwhile Riggan seems to be losing it, he occasionally hears the Beetlejuice-like voice of his movie character egging him on and finds that he can move objects with his mind and even fly. In fact we first meet him levitating in a yoga pose, but still managing to look pathetic in his slightly loose tighty whiteys and dingy theater-basement apartment that the narration tells us “smells like balls.”
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The Incredible Melting Man

tn_meltingmanShortly after getting a nice view of the rings of Saturn, astronaut Steve West and his colleagues get blasted with space radiation. Steve manages to make it back to earth alive, but now he’s… incredible.

He wakes up suddenly in a hospital, his face Darkmanned in bandages. He goes to a mirror and pulls them off to find that yes, he is a melting man. He’s caught the Space Melt. All his skin looks like melted rubber or wax and constantly drips slime. This is upsetting to him so he starts smashing things. Before trying to calm him down, before calling security, a nurse (Bonnie Inch) who sees him drops the two glass jars of cold blood she was bringing him and runs away screaming. There’s a long slo-mo shot of this. Throughout the movie nobody ever reacts to him like he’s a man suffering from a horrible ailment. They act like he’s a bear running at them. And it turns out their instincts are right, because he mauls almost everybody he sees.

For most of the movie Steve wanders around a small wilderness area where he beheads a fisherman who looks like Willie from ALF and encounters some kids playing hide and seek (one of them mistakes him for Frankenstein). There’s more slo-mo when the severed head floats down a stream and then over a small waterfall. I pictured the effects guys jumping up and down and high fiving each other when the floating head bumped a tree branch and spun around to show its face to the camera. (read the rest of this shit…)