Mystery Train (and a visit to Memphis)

tn_mysterytrainIn NASHVILLE, Robert Altman used the city to represent America in some way. In MYSTERY TRAIN Jim Jarmusch kinda does the same thing with Memphis, but the joke is that it’s three stories about Memphis through the eyes of foreigners. For all they know the whole country hangs Elvis portraits in their hotel rooms.

The first and favorite story is of two Japanese tourists, Jun (Masatoshi Nagase, THE HIDDEN BLADE) and Mitsuko (Yuki Kudo, RUSH HOUR 3) who arrive in Memphis on a train. I know, I thought this was gonna be a remake of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, or possibly a story about a talking train that solves mysteries, but most of it doesn’t have to do with the train at all. You just see the train going by every once in a while. What the “mystery” part of the title means is, well… an unanswered question.

I like this story because I like these two. Mitsuko is obsessed with Elvis, Jun never misses an opportunity to say that Carl Perkins is better. Fuckin show off. He has a carefully maintained rockabilly rebel persona with slicked back hair, a white undershirt tucked in under a big belt buckle, etc. He’s very stoic, almost never smiles or says something openly nice, but it rarely dampens her enthusiasm. In one great scene she tests his cool by making goofy faces, then putting on alot of lipstick and sloppily smearing it all over his mouth via kiss. He manages to stay completely deadpan with his clown makeup on, smoking a cigarette that she lights for him with her feet. But he gives a tiny smile when she walks away.

That’s mostly what this movie is about, goofy little character moments done very dry and quiet, in long takes. So it’s a Jim Jarmusch movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Nashville (and my visit to Nashville)

tn_nashvilleI don’t know what I expected Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE was, but not this. It’s about 2 1/2 hours, and it’s about Nashville, and it’s about America, and I don’t know what it’s about. It might be stretching it to describe it as having a plot. It’s a huge cast, too many characters for me to keep good track of, and it purposely doesn’t bother with explaining who they are. But I rarely felt lost or bored.

The characters are mostly people hovering around Nashville’s famous music industry (circa 1975). There’s an old country legend (Henry Gibson), a white gospel singer (Lily Tomlin), a black country singer (Timmy Brown), some rock n roll guys, some managers and associates and what not. And they’re all kinda buzzing around the same events: a ceremony for returning soldiers at the airport, a traffic jam on the way home, an outdoor concert, a fundraiser, a concert for an independent presidential candidate whose platform we hear blaring out of speakers all throughout the movie but whose face we never see. (read the rest of this shit…)

For the Love of Dolly (and my trip to Dollywood)

tn_dollyNOTE: It’s October now, and you know what that means: Slasher Search and horror review avalanche. I have saved some action reviews to include for variety and will do some new releases but otherwise I’ll be on a strict slashers and monsters diet for the next 31 days. But before we kick that off I really need to polish off an unfinished project from months ago. Way back in May I visited the state of Tennessee, I had a great time, wanted to write a little about it, and found an excuse, starting with this documentary about Dolly Parton fans.

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I used to think I hated country music. I mean, I watched the Mandrell Sisters Show and some Kenny Rogers movies in the ’80s, that’s about it. To me, Dolly Parton was just the lady from BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS and 9 TO 5 and stuff. It wasn’t until way after the fact that I noticed what a saint that lady was. Remember she did a song for TRANS AMERICA? She just seems so relentlessly positive and non-judgmental. Also, some of that stuff she sang when she was real young – “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors” – I realize now that I like some of that stuff.

(although come on Dolly, you gotta put the responsiblity for this one on your man, not on Jolene.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Leprechaun: Origins

tn_leprechaunoriginsWWEstudiosThis is gonna be short and mean, like a leprechaun. To be frankly honest I almost didn’t try to write a review of this one, because I didn’t think I had much to say. But I decided it was my moral obligation to warn everybody. The only thing necessary for LEPRECHAUN: ORIGINS to triumph is for men who have already seen LEPRECHAUN: ORIGINS to do nothing.

Let’s be realistic. This is the LEPRECHAUN series. You and I, we are not devastated or surprised that the new LEPRECHAUN movie is not good. We weren’t expecting it to be, we weren’t even wanting it to be. But one thing we did expect, in my opinion, was it to be a movie that had a leprechaun in it. When you really think about it, that is one of the number one things tying all the previous movies together. “Has a leprechaun in it” has always been one of the steadfast rules of the franchise. Until now.
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Trailer: Darkman vs. Ghost Dog

I like this series. Never as good as I want it to be, but not as frustrating as THE EXPENDABLESes. Neeson gets to be awesome and talk real serious on phones, Besson gets to throw in some ridiculousness, there’s a little bit of interesting subtext. So I’m glad they’re still going (even if implying through the medium of taglines that this is the last one).

It’s kinda sad to see (SPOILER FOR TRAILER) poor Famke getting Kerseyed here, but wise to take the series in a totally different direction. Obviously it’s kind of a play on THE FUGITIVE, complete with a part where he walks through a water pipe in case you didn’t pick up on it. I guess the idea is “what if instead of an everyman or Wesley Snipes THE FUGITIVE happened to the greatest leather jacket wearing black ops badass of our time? WHAT THEN?”

I hope he jumps down from the pipe while talking on a phone! That would be a good mix of FUGITIVE and TAKEN.

The director is Olivier Megaton again, not my favorite. But TAKEN 2 and COLOMBIANA were both much better than TRANSPORTER 3, so I don’t write him off.

The Equalizer

tn_equalizerAll things being equal, THE EQUALIZER is Denzel Washington’s TAKEN. It’s the one where they figure out people like to watch a really commanding older actor be smarter than everybody and kill a bunch of criminals. It has some gestures of seriousness and takes a bit to get to the killing, but once it does it’s pretty straight up about being a violent, lowbrow action movie. It even has the Academy Award winner doing the ol’ slo-mo-walking-away-from-a-fiery-explosion shot. I guess he did that in MAN ON FIRE too, and shot more beautifully from what I remember. But this one is more my speed because it’s not trying to rub my nose in the shit, it’s just trying to be stupid fun.

And by the way I apologize for awkwardly shoe-horning “all things being equal” in there at the beginning. It just seemed like something you do. But let’s try to get past it.

Written by Richard Wenk (VAMP, 16 BLOCKS, THE MECHANIC REMAKE, THE EXPENDABLES 2) and sort of based on the ’80s TV show of the same name, this has Denzel (RICOCHET) playing Edward Woodward’s character Bob McCall, now a book-reading, OCD widower square who works at “Home Mart,” wears polo shirts tucked into dad jeans and cleans his New Balance sneakers with a toothbrush every morning. Then one day when an acquaintance from the diner where he hangs out (Chloe Grace Moretz, TODAY YOU DIE) gets badly beaten by her Russian pimp (David Meunier, a.k.a. Cousin Johnny from Justified) Bob decides to try to help her. And it turns out his previous job was at the CIA or something (the agency is not specified) and that he’s real good at massacring a whole bunch of armed criminals using found objects and guns he takes out of their hands. Gino Fellino would be proud. He even sticks a corkscrew in a guy’s chin and we see it poke up into his mouth. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Walk Among the Tombstones

tn_tombstonesSometimes a man just has to walk among the tombstones, you know? Stroll within the grave markers. Saunter betwixt the memorials. Seagal did it in PISTOL WHIPPED and now my man Liam Neeson (THE DEAD POOL) is taking a turn. He’s doing it in a mystery thriller based on book #10 in a series by Lawrence Block. The movie version is written and directed by Scott Frank, the guy that wrote OUT OF SIGHT, so it’s more about capturing that crime novel feel than being another Neeson vehicle like UNKNOWN or NON-STOP. That said, he is allowed to be awesome, and there are some scuffles.

Admittedly the opening scene is better than anything else in the movie. It’s a flashback to 1991, but has a ’70s feel. Stringy-haired, racial-slur-using asshole police detective Matthew Scudder (Neeson) walks into an empty bar where cops get free drinks. And this is how you know he sucks: the bartender greets him by name, and he doesn’t even say hi or look at him. He just knocks on the counter and then sits down at a booth with his back to him. Fuck you, man! I guarantee you this prick doesn’t tip either. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Rover

tn_roverYou know what I realized? I don’t love minimalism. I don’t hate it either, and I think it’s funny to watch normal people get upset and confused by one of these slow, quiet, ambiguous takes on what usually would be genre material. It’s not for everybody. But some of these things are real artful, and when they’re really rolling the relative lack of movie artifice helps get a potent atmosphere and tone and feel going like nothing else. But to be honest at the end when they wrap up they don’t usually feel like a full experience to me. They’re not usually my favorites, or things I’d want to watch again. But as far as they go, THE ROVER is a real good one.

I don’t mean to diminish it. I liked it and I’m pretty sure some of you will love it. I just thought it would be better to start on that thought than to end on it. And also I want to warn you not to watch this late at night after work like I did. It is fair for filmatists to expect full day time awakeness levels from their viewers, and writer/director David Michod here has earned it ’cause he’s the guy that did ANIMAL KINGDOM. (A co-story credit goes to Joel Edgerton, although he’s not in the movie as an actor.)

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The Guest

tn_guestFirst I gotta give you that dreaded warning that more than the usual amount of fun in this one comes from not knowing what type of movie it’s gonna be. Not like it’s some crazy rollercoaster or mindblowing, rug-pulling shocker of a twist or anything, but it mixes up genres a little bit and I’m glad I didn’t know where it was going. So you might want to do what I did and just know it’s from the director and writer of YOU’RE NEXT and give it a shot. That worked well for me. But if you want to read my review beforehand anyway, be my guest.

Dan Stevens, who you know from playing the libidinous chandelier designer Lord Downington Abernathy on Downton Abbey, but who I know from playing the douchey soul-patched heroin trafficker in the other new movie I watched the day before this, plays a soldier called David Collins who shows up on Mrs. Peterson (Sheila Kelley)’s doorstep one day. He knew her son Caleb, who died in Afghanistan, says he promised to come check on the family for him and tell them he loved them right to the end. This brings up alot of emotions of course but she invites him in (like a fucking vampire) and he befriends her drinking, Henry-Winkler-esque husband Spencer (Leland Orser, SEVEN), her cool 20-year-old waitress daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) and her put-upon high school son Luke (Brendan Meyer, SPOOKY BUDDIES). So he ends up sticking around for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Executioners From Shaolin

tn_executionersMany of us know Pai Mei from his strict teachings of Beatrix Kiddo. In KILL BILL VOLUME 2 he’s a mean old bastard with long white hair. But he’s meaner and older than you may realize: his first movie appearance is in EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN (1977), a movie that opens with him dueling a Shaolin priest to the death and burning down the temple with most of the monks inside. He was already an old man then, and that was 1727 (at least according to the first literary references to the alleged historical figure he’s based on).

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