Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

tn_yellowhairI loved that female barbarian movie HUNDRA, and unfortunately there was never a sequel (let alone a James-Bond-style decades-long series like it deserved), but at least star Laurene Landon and director Matt Cimber reunited for this western adventure serial type deal. Landon plays the first-part-of-the-title character, daughter of Grey Cloud (Claudia Gravi) and “half breed” like Billy Jack, but living among the tribe. Unlike Hundra she’s surrounded by men, but like Hundra she doesn’t think they’re worthy of her (rejecting one suitor by defeating him in a wrestling match).

We begin mid-story with Yellow Hair’s buddy The Pecos Kid (Ken Roberson) in jail and with Colonel Torres (Luis Lorenzo) in possession of the fabled deer-horn-carved-into-a-wind-instrument that could help him find the legendary Aztec City of Gold. When the troops come after her tribe in their search for the gold she has personal reasons to find it for herself. (read the rest of this shit…)

Population 436

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

tn_pop436Yesterday it was officially announced that director Michelle MacLaren will be directing a Wonder Woman movie. She’d been Blogger’s Choice since it got around that Warner Brothers was hoping to get a woman for the job.

It’s a good idea to get some female perspective in some of these super hero pictures, and an interesting challenge. There unfortunately isn’t a very big pool of established female directors to choose from, and zero who’ve been allowed experience in big budget effects or super hero movies. One who came close was Patty Jenkins (MONSTER), who was supposed to do THOR 2, but was fired before filming allegedly for “a lack of overall clarity in her choices.” Women who’ve done medium-sized or small studio genre movies include Karyn Kusama, who did ÆON FLUX; Catherine Hardwicke, who did the first TWILIGHT (then got dumped); Kimberly Peirce, who did the CARRIE remake; and Lexi Alexander, who did the b-movie THE PUNISHER’S WAR ZONE.

To date the biggest budget live action movie directed by a woman is Kathryn Bigelow’s K19 THE WIDOWMAKER. She also happens to be a great action director, but after THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY it’s hard to picture her going super hero. I assume they offered to greenlight six serious contemporary issue dramas if she’d do this, but if so she must not’ve been interested.

So they’re digging into the TV directors. MacLaren got the internet’s eye by directing episodes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Obviously they’ve talked to her about what she wants to do, so they have more to go on than the we do. Personally I’m skeptical of counting on the cinematic vision of TV directors. From what I understand TV is usually a totally different gig than movies. They come in and try to follow an established approach, directing a cast and crew already working together as a team who know how it’s supposed to go. It’s the producers and show runners who have the vision. That’s why it’s rare to see one episode of a TV show that stands out filmatistically. (read the rest of this shit…)

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins

Monday, November 24th, 2014

tn_remobtisl“Computer said you were a smartass.”

You know what’s great about movies? Any of us who are reading this who are currently alive were born some time after they were invented. They got a head start on us, and no matter how hard we try we’ll never catch up with all the good ones that already exist. It’s just a beautiful thing to realize that even now there are movies out there as perfectly tuned for me as REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS that I haven’t gotten around to yet. Thank you, Lord. Good work on that one.

One reason it’s great: it’s an action vehicle for Fred Ward. He’s been a great utility player in SOUTHERN COMFORT, UNCOMMON VALOR, TREMORS, etc. but even playing the lead in the great MIAMI BLUES he has to compete with scene-stealing villain Alec Baldwin. Here he’s the main attraction from beginning to end. It glorifies him as a fit badass in his 40s, and it shares his dry sense of humor.

We first meet him as a tough but lazy cop (with mustache) sitting in his patrol car eating a burger and drinking coffee, being hassled over the radio about gambling money he owes. When some dude gets chased right past him he doesn’t react at first. It doesn’t seem like he’s even gonna bother to intervene. (read the rest of this shit…)

Interstellar

Friday, November 21st, 2014

tn_interstellarYou guys heard of this INTERSTELLAR? Came out recently. It’s Chris Nolan’s take on the wide-eyed space exploration epic. The type of sci-fi movie that keeps its feet partly on earth, has no lasers or star wars in it whatsoever and tries to seem relatively semi-quasi-plausible by modern scientifical-esque theories. It’s definitely supposed to be a spectacle, but not in the complicated-cgi-creations-loudly-smashing-things-into-a-million-cgi-particles way we generally get now, or even the how-did-they-even-do-that style of the INCEPTION hallway scene. More in the LAWRENCE OF ARABIA sense of gigantic landscapes. It’s the type of movie made by and for people who get awe struck staring up at the stars and weepy at the thought of specific astronauts. People whose imaginations get boners from the idea of a manned mission to Mars more than they would from a monster biting the head off a robot.

So the truth is I’m not the audience for this movie. I was better in monster biting head off a robot class than in science. When a guy sitting by me in the theater said he read that the black hole created for the movie was so “mathematically accurate” that scientists were now making discoveries based on it, I literally had no idea what that meant. Still don’t. On several different levels. So keep that in mind when I tell you I liked, didn’t love INTERSTELLAR. But I’m still gonna write about it, ’cause this is America. (read the rest of this shit…)

Locke

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

tn_lockeYou guys want to see a Tom Hardy acting showcase that doesn’t involve muscle gain? Then LOCKE is the KEYE! This is the movie where the entire thing is Hardy driving in his car and making phone calls. I honestly thought that meant a Larry Cohen type high concept thriller, but it’s not that at all. Just a drama, a character study. But that’s cool.

Hardy’s character Ivan Locke has a 90 minute drive to a hospital. While he’s driving he’s also trying to:

1. Convince the brass at his construction company that it’s okay that he decided to ditch work on the big day they’ve been working toward forever when he is supposed to oversee the largest concrete pour in English history.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Jersey Boys

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

tn_jerseyboys“Frankie’s okay. He’s no Neil Sedaka.”

Here it is again, the ol’ New Movie Directed By Clint Eastwood But Without Him Acting In It rigmarole. It goes like this: New Clint movie comes out. It doesn’t seem like my kind of thing. It gets bad reviews (at least if it came out in recent years). I genuinely intend to see it in theaters, but I keep putting it off. There’s always something I’m more excited for that’s playing. Like, uh, I believe I might’ve seen some robot/dinosaur related picture around the time JERSEY BOYS came out. So I end up missing the movie in theaters. Months later it comes out on video. I’m not excited. I feel like I’m doing my homework. I watch it.

And then the Hey, this is pretty good!

I wouldn’t say this surprised me as much as J. EDGAR (which I still believe is totally underrated, and got 10% worse reviews even than JERSEY BOYS, according to Rotten Tomatoes) but I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. It’s a solid, entertaining biopic of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons based on a Broadway show of some kind. Vincent Piazza of Boardwalk Empire plays guitarist Tommy DeVito and then the guys from the stage version play the other three: John Lloyd Young as lead singer Frankie Valli, Erich Bergen as songwriter/keyboardist Bob Gaudio and Michael Lomenda as bassist Nick Massi.

I thought it was gonna be a musical, but thankfully it’s not. It’s just a story about musical performers doing musical performances, recorded by the actors. I don’t know about the show, but the movie version only has one actual musical number and it’s during the end credits. In my opinion it is more of a blooper reel than an official part of the movie, because why would they be dancing around on a soundstage street singing songs, I mean it just doesn’t make sense.

The rest of the time it’s them singing “Sherry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” and stuff, and these are good songs. So it’s not a problem. (read the rest of this shit…)

Whiplash

Monday, November 17th, 2014

tn_whiplashWHIPLASH is one of those movies that you hear about playing at Sundance and what not and going over like gangbusters. But you have to take that praise with a grain of salt. You know those festival-goers, they can get excited about seeing something first, something brand new without a bunch of pre-release expectations, with a big audience, usually with the directors and actors there. Sometimes it’s a great movie and they get to call it first, other times nobody really cares as much when the movie comes to the civilian world. Sometimes it’s good but you feel a little let down from all the build up. Sometimes you don’t really know what anybody saw in it at all.

I had none of those problems with WHIPLASH. It would actually be hard to exaggerate how strong its effect was on me. You know how a hyperbolic critic would say they had to catch their breath after a movie? That was literally true for me. When the credits rolled I felt my skin tingling and then I realized I was breathing fast. Honest to God exhilaration from this movie.

The set up and the execution are very simple. Nerdy loner Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller, who I have liked since the remake of FOOTLOOSE) is a student drummer at an elite music conservatory in New York. He idolizes old timey jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and wants to get into the top band at the school, the one conducted by Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, THE JACKAL). Fletcher is maybe some kind of genius teacher, but for sure a total fucking asshole. I’m not talking a strict teacher, a grouchy curmudgeon, a Joe Clark type guy that’s gonna turn out to have a heart of gold. I’m talking just… you want to punch this fucking guy in the face in the opening scene and I’m pretty sure you’re not gonna love him by the end. One of the most abusive, hateful non-murderers ever put on screen, and not in an endearing Billy Bob Thornton type of way. He doesn’t even give you the usual cinematic satisfaction of going too far and becoming a psycho in the criminal sense. It doesn’t turn into THE STEPFATHER or something. He’s just… a Total Fucking Asshole (TFA). (read the rest of this shit…)

Demented

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

tn_dementedslashersearch14b“That’s over with! Those men are in jail. I wish you would just stop dwelling on it!”

Sometimes when you’re on a Slasher Search or a Horror Quest you have to take what seems like an empty barrel, turn it upside down and start banging on the bottom and see if any chunks break off and fall out into the dirt. And if you do that you run the risk of watching something like DEMENTED (1980). From the box it sounded like an I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE rip-off, which is dangerous territory. It’s actually a little weirder than that sounds, but not really in a good way.

Director Arthur Jeffreys has no other credits, which is not surprising, or might mean that it’s a porn director using a fake name. The writer, Alex Rebar, did an obscure Christmas horror called TO ALL A GOODNIGHT, directed by David Hess.

In the opening scene our heroine Linda Rodgers (Sallee Elyse, credited as Sallee Young) comes home and starts petting her horse before suddenly being jumped by a bunch of yahoos with pantyhose on their heads who drag her into the barn and gang rape her. The complete lack of buildup or establishing of characters or story makes it seem even cruder than I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, but at least the rape scene is much shorter and less graphic.
(read the rest of this shit…)

The Fly (1986)

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

tn_theflyDavid Cronenberg’s THE FLY is about a best case scenario for a remake. It takes the premise of a fun but very dated old sci-fi joint and gives it context, tone and emotional substance more fit for its time of 1986. At the same time it’s a great stealth-Cronenberg movie that was normal enough to be a big hit at the time but artful and weird enough to be different from anything we’d seen before. This was his brief Hollywood period with DEAD ZONE, which was sandwiched between THE BROOD/SCANNERS/VIDEODROME and DEAD RINGERS/NAKED LUNCH/M. BUTTERFLY/CRASH/EXISTENZ/etc.

It starts cute with undiscovered genius Seth Brundle (DEATH WISH‘s Jeff Goldblum) awkwardly hitting on magazine reporter Veronica Quaife (THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT‘s Geena Davis) and somehow getting her back to his lab, which she’s not happy to learn is also his bachelor’s pad. She’s skeptical and probly a little creeped out until he demonstrates what he’s secretly been working on: “telepods,” a set of chambers that can disintegrate matter on one end and reintegrate it on the other. Teleportation. Star Trek shit! He points out that it will revolutionize transportation. In one of the few corny bits in the screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue (PSYCHO III, KULL THE CONQUEROR) we find out Brundle gets car sickness as extra motivation for inventing such a thing.
(read the rest of this shit…)

G.I. Jane

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

tn_gijaneGI JANE is way classier than its male counterparts RISE OF COBRA, RETALIATION and THE MOVIE, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much of a straight-ahead action movie it is, complete with triumphant music by Trevor Jones (CLIFFHANGER), themes of fight brotherhood and many a badass training montage. It’s built around the idea of Demi Moore having to achieve a level of physical toughness never officially reached by a woman before, which is a little far-fetched, I know. But the actress acquits herself admirably, obviously trained intensely and shows off in many sweaty pull-up and one-armed pushup scenes like an ’80s Dolph, Stallone or Van Damme movie might have. I think maybe Ridley Scott was on a mission to one-up what James Cameron did with Linda Hamilton in T2. To get him back for ALIENS.

It’s also an issue movie, inspired by the debate of whether or not to allow women in combat in the U.S. military. Moore plays Jordan O’Neill, a lieutenant in military intelligence who knows her shit far beyond expectations. If she were a man she probly would’ve moved to some sort of special ops team where she could take advantage of her expertise, but women aren’t allowed there.

Until now. When a female senator (Anne Bancroft) cleverly throws her weight around at a confirmation hearing and gets the military to agree to a number of women-in-combat test cases, O’Neill is chosen as a good poster girl – skilled, but not too butch. So she gets to try out for the Navy SEALs. This was before they were known for killing Osama bin Laden, this is when they were known as Jesse Ventura’s buddies. But they were among the toughest of the tough. They bring in the very best special ops soldiers and even most of those guys drop out before Hell Week is over. So it’s a hell of a challenge for her. It’s a grueling test of strength and endurance that only a small percentage of men can hope to survive, not believed possible for a woman. And that’s not even figuring in the likelihood that nobody there wants a woman to be able to do it. (read the rest of this shit…)