Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Blue Ruin

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

tn_blueruinI don’t know what this has to do with BLUE JASMINE, but it’s pretty good as a standalone.

I saw alot of film festival acclaim for BLUE RUIN as a movie about how bad and ugly revenge actually is. I gotta tell you I was skeptical, because I didn’t want to hear some joyless lecture about the wrongness of something most of us never experience, especially as punishment for our inherent enjoyment of classic action movie formula. DEATH SENTENCE and others prove you can make that point and still have fun.

Luckily my assumptions were unfounded. As the writer Harry once told Flavor Flav, “Don’t believe the hype.” BLUE RUIN isn’t trying to teach us a lesson, it’s actually a fairly traditional and enjoyable thriller about a murder and ensuing mess, spiraling out of control like that time the Cat in the Hat came over and ate cake in the bath tub. It’s just that it comes from young independent filmatists so it feels more like it’s happening to some dude you know than the usual slick Hollywood players. It’s quiet, naturalistic, and you have to piece together the backstory from what’s happening, you don’t get alot of obvious exposition. The avenger is a pretty non-descript nerd named Dwight (Macon Blair). Big, sunken eyes, a little doughy, bad haircut, no cool motorcycle jacket or shades or nothin. Just a normal guy. Could work at Best Buy or something.
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Hercules

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

tn_herculesI don’t know what you people are thinking not wanting to see a new Hercules movie starring Dwayne T.R. Johnson. The motherfucker grew a beard and wore a lion on his head and somehow increased his workout from what it was before, and yet the world acts like there’s nothing to see here. Here we have a movie star who we have all anointed an icon, an actor who combines the charm of George Clooney with the cartoonish physicality of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has entertained us many times but who still hasn’t quite found that great movie vehicle he deserves. And he has decided to use his impossibly giant muscles to lift up the sorely missed genre of the macho sword and sandal b-movie. Just on principle people like us should be taking time off work to see this thing, but all my friends, people I work alongside, who I admire and respect, just respond to the existence of HERCULES with a “ho hum” or a “ha ha.”

Yeah, I know the reason. With everything going on in Gaza right now, and in Russia and the Ukraine, it’s hard to really put our minds on something so trivial nah just fucking with you it’s because this was directed by Brett Ratner.

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Superman: The Movie

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

tn_supermanSUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (not to be confused with Superman: The Imitation Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread) is an important movie. It was the first big comic book super hero picture, and an early entry in the world of post-STAR WARS blockbusters that shaped today’s generation of filmatists. By casting Marlon Brando as Joe L. Superman (plus  Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and Glenn Ford as Pa Kent), director Richard (LETHAL WEAPON) Donner set the precedent, still in place today, that big respected actors in supporting roles can add credibility to a super hero picture. And by casting only-one-movie-under-his-belt Christopher Reeve as Kal L. “Clark Kent” Superman he showed that sometimes a fresh face is better than a familiar veteran to play an iconic character. That later worked for Wolverine (whose first movie was executive produced by Donner), Thor and two subsequent Supermen. (Other actors who were supposedly on the producers’ wish list: Al Pacino, James Caan, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman and [why not?] Muhammad Ali. Any one of those would’ve automatically been a completely different movie.)
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A Time To Die

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

tn_timetodieI found A TIME TO DIE in the action section, and it looks like an action vehicle for Traci Lords. On the cover she’s holding a gun in front of some burning vehicles and she looks awesome. But that’s not exactly what this is, there’s not alot of action. I’m gonna go ahead and classify it as “crime” to be less misleading. A few people get shot, and there’s a car chase where an unrelated car crashes and blows up. And the one part at the beginning where she crushes a dude’s balls (pictured left). But you’re not gonna see Traci Lords doing karate or anything. It’s more of a suspense-drama I guess.

But I kinda liked it. It has all the hallmarks of a generic and at times amateurish thriller, but it keeps surprising with extra bits of personality. Take for example the opening scene, where an arms deal is going on on the roof of a building, and one of the dealers gets mad ’cause a kid sets off the alarm on his car in the alley below. He yells at the kid, and the kid gets offended and lays on top of the car just to fuck with him. The dealer loses his temper and shoots the kid, fucking up the whole deal.

This is not the introduction of the bad guys, and the kid is not a brother or friend of Jackie (Lords) who needs to get avenged. It’s just a weird incident that she reports to as a crime scene photographer. (read the rest of this shit…)

Speed 2: Cruise Control

Monday, July 21st, 2014

tn_speed2I never watched SPEED 2 before. When I decided the day had come I actually got excited about it for a minute. Wait, so there’s a studio blockbuster in the DIE HARD or UNDER SIEGE type of subgenre that I haven’t seen? What was I waiting for? I mean, I know it was almost unanimously hated, and that it was an early example of the PG-13-sequel-to-R-rated-action-movie, but when has that stopped me before? I am an individual with an open mind and an open heart. I am ready to welcome SPEED 2 into the hospitality of my mental space.

I thought. But the mob was right on this one. SPEED 2 is pretty sucky. It’s the SPEED 2 of SPEED sequels.
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Speed

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

tn_speedDo you guys know about SPEED? It’s like GRAND PIANO with a bus! An L.A. public bus that requires the very precise driving of not going below 50 mph or it will blow up. Even if it went through a school zone it could not slow down to avoid crunching the little ones under its wheels. That’s fucked up! I mean they don’t run into that problem in the movie but jesus, bad guy mastermind, think of the children.

It’s no mystery to us, this is the work of bomber-for-ransom Dennis Hopper (TICKER), who in a pre-bus sequence tries a similar job on an elevator full of Patrick Bateman types, but is foiled by Jeff Daniels (BLOOD WORK) and his young gum-chewing sidekick Keanu Reeves (MAN OF TAI CHI). This was after POINT BREAK but before THE MATRIX, so Keanu as the lead in a big action movie was still a new notion to the world. But what are you gonna do, the Jeff Daniels character gets shot and taken off the streets, it’s just not in the cards for it to be a kickass Jeff Daniels vehicle. I’m sorry.
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A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

tn_noodleshopThere’s a nice little tradition of cross-cultural, cross-genre remakes. The most famous of course is the Japanese samurai movie YOJIMBO becoming the Italian western A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. And recently I reviewed the Japanese samurai remake of the American western UNFORGIVEN. There was also BLIND FURY, that was an American action movie based on Zatoichi, and they didn’t even have to get cowboys involved at all. There are both Indian and American remakes of OLDBOY. This is a thing that we do now. If the story is strong enough it can work, and translate in different ways for different cultures.

Still, it was a surprise in 2009 when Zhang Yimou, director of gorgeous epics like HERO and RAISE THE RED LANTERN, took on the Coen Brothers’ lean neo-noir debut BLOOD SIMPLE. The dry, dusty tale of adultery, murder and dumb mistakes becomes a period Chinese story with broad comedy elements. It’s weird and not entirely successful, but interesting to a fan of this type of cultural outreach. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hundra

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

tn_hundra“What manner of woman would meddle in men’s affairs?”

One thing I’ve noticed in these Barbarian movies, Barbaria seems to be a very male-dominated society, even more than our own. You remember what Conan the Barbarian-American said about “the lamentation of their women.” Women are treated as sex slaves, whores, treasure, at best babymakers. That’s why HUNDRA is so cool. This is the feminist Barbarian movie. This is about a woman that lives in that same savage world, but flat out refuses to take any shit.

“Many of our women preferred to bear arms rather than children,” the narrator says. “The champion of these was…

HUNDRA.”

Hundra (Laurene Landon, MANIAC COP 1-2) is from a tribe of all women. In order to keep their race going some of them periodically venture out to use men for their “seed,” but that’s not Hundra’s thing. The only man in her life is her dog Beast, who is a total coward who runs away any time in the movie that there’s danger. She says it’s because he’s a male. This is actually a very successful use of animal-related comic relief. It really made me laugh to see that little shit make a run for it before each major action scene, then conveniently show up again in peacetime.

One lady in the tribe nags Hundra about her responsibility to “bring life into the tribe” and “bring a successor,” but Hundra just makes fun of her. “I prefer the feel of a horse between my legs to that of swine, and it pleasures me instead of pains me.” If she was out trying to find some meat then who would go out and get the actual meat, you know what I mean? (read the rest of this shit…)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Monday, July 14th, 2014

tn_dotpotaReview of the Movie of The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

When there’s no more room in Hell, the apes will ride the horses. This new PLANET OF THE APES series has decided to start titling in Romerical order, so #2 is DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Sounds good, but since they’ve used the title we can now rule out a future chapter with apes living in an abandoned shopping mall and then they get attacked by biker apes. Also, if this is DAWN OF THE then where is the Hare Krishna ape?

2011′s RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES was exciting because it looked like a total joke and then it caught me with its touching and nuanced story of the super-intelligent ape Caesar, wedged inside a dumb sci-fi story with one dimensional human characters. DAWN loses the advantage of surprise but gains the advantage of building off the first one to create a way better movie. They wisely skip ahead 10 years to when the human population has been decimated by the virus and Caesar has led the apes to build a village in the Redwoods. They’re nearing an Ewok level of advancement with wooden treehouses and spears, war paint, a few crowns and jewels made of teeth. No hoods or hang gliders yet. (read the rest of this shit…)

Stage Fright (2014)

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

tn_stagefrightI honestly thought this new-to-disc movie STAGE FRIGHT was gonna be a loose remake of the Italian STAGE FRIGHT directed by Michel Soavi, but after seeing it I don’t think they’re suppoosed to be connected. It’s just the logical title for a stage-performance-themed masked killer whodunit (or whoslashedit I guess). This one’s got completely different characters and backstory, it’s set at a camp for kids learning musical theater, and instead of a silent killer in a creepy as hell owl mask it’s a guy who sings rock songs in a kabuki mask that looks like that puppet from SAW.

See, that’s the thing about this, it’s a musical. And by “thing” I mean both “unique part” and “problem for me.” You know I don’t have a completely closed mind, I have appreciated a musical now and again. I loved the critically trashed THE MISERABLES, for godsake, I thought it was amazing. And you know how I feel about MARY POPPINS. But by my way of thinking “slasher movie with musical numbers” is kinda like BRICK‘s “hardboiled detective story, but in a high school.” I can admire the cleverness of how it’s put together, but that extra element is a drawback to me, not a bonus. I’d be more excited for the regular thing. I guess I still see room for great straightahead slasher movies in the world. The slots haven’t been filled yet, no need to start getting all fancy. (read the rest of this shit…)