Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Lucy

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

tn_lucyLUCY is the new movie by Luc Besson and his first directorial work since… THE MESSENGER? … to be noticed much in the U.S. He had supposedly retired from directing after ANGEL-A in 2005, but then he made another one of those ARTHUR children’s movies and by 2010 he was doing THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC (which I liked) and fuck it, he was still a director. Last year he did THE FAMILY with Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer (which I, like most Americans, haven’t gotten around to yet) but now all the sudden he has this LUCY and it’s a big hit, opening much bigger than The Rock’s HERCULES even though that one is PG-13. (There actually was a point early in LUCY where I thought to myself “Oh good, they do still make R-rated movies.”)

Scarlett Johansson plays the titlogical Lucy, a student in Taiwan when her douchebag boyfriend of one week (a Donal-Logue-at-a-rave type dude with a shitty cowboy hat and yellow-tinted glasses) gets her involved against her will with some ruthless gangsters led by Choi Min-sik (OLDBOY). She doesn’t speak the language so she barely knows what’s going on by the time she has a bag of experimental drugs (actually blue pop rocks I think) sewn into her belly for clandestine transport.

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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…)

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…)

The Return of Superfly

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

tn_returnofsuperfly“Me and Priest go back to the golden age of hustlin.”

Alot of people tend to forget that Superfly returned in 1990. And unlike, say, Batman in BATMAN RETURNS, he actually had a place to return from. He’s still living overseas, now in Paris, when he hears his old partner Eddie has been killed, so he finally comes back to New York.

Oh shit, but I fell into the trap. “Superfly” was never his name, his name was Youngblood Priest and the title referred to the alleged quality of his illegal medicinal products. And it was two words anyway. Super Fly. Maybe “The Return of Superfly” means that Eddie’s dope was not up to snuff and now has been replaced by superior product by this guy Hector (Carlos Carrasco, CROCODILE DUNDEE II, SPEED, PARKER), who’s taking over. (read the rest of this shit…)

Super Fly T.N.T.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

tn_superflytnt“I am retired. Can you dig where I’m coming from?”

How is it that I never watched the sequel to SUPER FLY, especially considering it was called SUPER FLY T.N.T.? You’d think I’d’ve gotten on that shit right away. But I’m not the only one who forgot about it. This 1973 sequel has never been released on DVD. It has no external reviews on IMDb. And its soundtrack has never been on CD, even though it’s good enough that I bought a vinyl copy on ebay right after I watched the movie.

I’m surprised it took me this long to get around to it, but admittedly I never thought it would be good. I figured why make a sequel to SUPER FLY, anyway? Didn’t he quit the game at the end of the first one? Is this gonna be like MAGNUM FORCE, where they totally ignored that Clint had thrown his badge off a bridge at the end of DIRTY HARRY?

Actually, no. Not at all.

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Super Fly

Monday, April 21st, 2014

tn_superflyI’ve seen SUPER FLY a bunch of times, but I guess not since the VHS days. It’s a good looking movie on DVD, a nice document of extravagant ’70s clothing, small but fancy apartments, a white Rolls Royce rolling around dirty New York streets, its shiny hood ornaments leading the charge like a figurehead on a boat headed to the new world. It’s not a plot-heavy movie, it’s full of long scenes showing off the Curtis Mayfield soundtrack, for my money probly the greatest song soundtrack ever made for a movie (though the blaxploitation genre’s got several classics: SHAFT, BLACK CAESAR and COFFY come to mind. And you can’t front on TRUCK TURNER.)

Speaking of SHAFT, it’s weird that SHAFT and SUPER FLY are the two most famous blaxploitation movies, and they’re directed by father and son. Gordon Parks Sr. did SHAFT in ’71, Junior did SUPER FLY in ’72. I don’t know anything about the relationship between father and son, but I noticed Junior gets an opening credit for the still photo sequence. I wonder if that was to make sure nobody thought it was by his famous photographer father? (read the rest of this shit…)

Devil in a Blue Dress

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

tn_devilinabluedressIt looks like  I’m continuing my informal and logo-free History of Black Film series a little bit into March. It could be argued that this is because I got side-tracked writing about ROBOCOP and then went out of town and got snowed in there and got behind schedule on my reviews. But in my opinion I’m really doing it in protest of the injustice of Black History Month being slotted in the shortest month.

I also want to admit that at the beginning I said I was gonna be exploring obscure black action stars, then instead I’ve been looking at lesser known black directors, not really the same thing at all. That’s not because the whole thing was poorly planned and thought out on my part, it’s because you gotta be fluid about these things and follow your creative instincts.

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS is another one where a black director adapts one installment in a mystery series by a black writer. Not that that’s a big category, I’m just saying that’s a parallel to COTTON COMES TO HARLEM. The director is Carl Franklin (ONE FALSE MOVE), the author is Walter Mosley and the mystery-solver is Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, later a private eye but as of this story an a WWII vet laid off from an airplane factory having a hard time getting work until a white P.I. played by Tom Sizemore (SPOILER: I don’t know if you should trust this guy) pays him to look for a white woman (Jennifer Beals) who hangs out in black underground clubs that a white man (but not white woman) would have trouble slipping into without causing a problem.
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Cotton Comes to Harlem

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

tn_cottoncomestoharlemCOTTON COMES TO HARLEM is a quirky, colorful love letter to the people and culture of Harlem, tucked away inside a crime story adapted from a Chester Himes novel. MGM packaged the DVD in the “Soul Cinema” series along with COFFY, FOXY BROWN, BLACK CAESAR and TRUCK TURNER, but to me it doesn’t really feel like a blaxploitation movie. If it is it deserves credit for being one of the most textured and gorgeous looking blaxploitation movies. I will intersperse some random screen grabs throughout this review to give you an idea of all the great colors, clothing, sets and locations. (read the rest of this shit…)

Angel 4: Undercover

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

tn_angel4In ANGEL 4: UNDERCOVER, the chapter after the final chapter, Angel rises from the streets to invade the corporate world. “Executive by day, hooker by night. From the boardroom to the bedroom.” Cool idea, right? Seems like a very ’80s idea, but it was still the early ’90s, it wasn’t too late to explore those still relevant themes of corruption and cruelty hidden behind mirrored skyscrapers and fancy clothes.

I should specify, that’s what the box of ANGEL 4 is about. The movie itself is a standalone story where she’s not an executive and there’s no boardroom (or bedroom, really) and she doesn’t look like the same lady on the cover and doesn’t become a hooker again. But you know, you gotta let the marketing people express themselves too. They had a story they felt like they were born to tell, and they just had to let it out.
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Angel III: The Final Chapter

Monday, January 27th, 2014

tn_angel3ANGEL III: THE FINAL CHAPTER, the third and last of the four ANGEL movies, finds Molly “Angel” Stewart far from her roots. She is no longer played by Donna Wilkes or Betsy Russell, now she’s played by Mitzi Kapture (Silk Stalkings, Baywatch, The Young & the Restless). She’s not a prostitute or a lawyer or runner anymore, now she’s a photographer helping out the police (we see her go along on a gambling bust to take pictures of people running away) and in her spare time trying to work on a photography book about street kids. Most drastic of all she doesn’t live in Hollywood anymore, she lives in New York. (read the rest of this shit…)