Speed

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.
(read the rest of this shit…)

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

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

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

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…)

awesome book alert: World Gone Wild by david j. moore

tn_steelfrontierThis is not a review, because this is the book by david j. moore (no capitals), the guy who did all the NINJA II set interviews for me a while back. So an actual review would be unethical. But I have to make sure everybody knows about this great book because it’s right up most of your alleys. The full title is World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide To Post-Apocalyptic Movies. It’s a beautiful hardcover book, like a textbook. You flip through it and there are capsule reviews of pretty damn close to every post-apocalyptic movie ever made. Not even just obvious ROAD WARRIOR ripoffs but also things you wouldn’t think of right away like I AM LEGEND (and AFTER EARTH, and I think INDEPENDENCE DAY is in there too for some reason. Are all of Will Smith’s movies considered post-apocalyptic? I don’t think I saw SEVEN POUNDS in there).

And then in between are interviews with many of the people involved with movies. All kinds of interesting people, mostly b-movie legends: Michael Pare, Sergio Martino, Vernon Wells, John Hillcoat, Albert Pyun, Dale “Apollo” Cook, Ted Prior, Brian Trenchard-Smith… but I’m most impressed that he interviewed really obscure people that you’d never think you’d see an interview with. For example he talks to the writers of KNOWING and CLASS OF 1999, two pictures I’m very fond of but wouldn’t have even been able to name the writers of. (read the rest of this shit…)

Stage Fright (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…)

Conquest

tn_conquestI have this rule for fantasy movies, you might’ve seen me write about it before. I know, the LORDs OF THE RINGSes are great and everything, but I prefer some barbarians in these things. I don’t want a little innocent creature sneaking around trying not to get a spell cast on him, I want a big motherfucker with an ax smashing skulls. Sure, Aragon is pretty cool, but he’s just like a knight or something. Fuck a knight. And he’s not even on screen the whole time. To me, the best ones are where the main character is a beefy warrior whose code is not as civilized as ours, a man or woman forged in the fires of their savage era. CONAN THE BARBARIAN is the best example, but also WOLFHOUND, THE SCORPION KING, (I’m sorry but) the remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS, and BEASTMASTER qualifies I think. KULL THE CONQUEROR has its heart in the right place. But usually they’re about a little weinery guy who has to overcome that harsh world: a hobbit, for example, or Peter MacNicol in DRAGON SLAYER, or elfy Tom Cruise in LEGEND.

CONQUEST has both of those types of characters teamed up. Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti, THE NEW YORK RIPPER, THE SEA INSIDE) is the wimpy guy, he’s from the civilized part of the world, he reminds me of Harry Hamlin in the original CLASH OF THE TITANS and he has a magic bow that shoots an unlimited supply of glowing animated arrows.

still_conquest8

Mace (Jorge Rivero) is the barbarian.

still_conquest15

(read the rest of this shit…)

Man and Boy

tn_manandboyMAN AND BOY. Ha ha, yeah I know, I noticed that too. The name sounds inappropriate. I bet if it was called THE SEARCH FOR JUBAL or something it would’ve played on cable more and we all would’ve heard of it before. Instead I had to just stumble across it by accident in the western section at the video store. It’s from 1971 and it stars Bill Cosby (The Cosby Mysteries) as Caleb Revers, an ex-Union soldier who, after the Emancipation Proclamation, holds his head high and owns property despite what some of the white folk around might think about it.

I mentioned Jubal ’cause that’s the name of their horse. Being the Cliff Huxtable of the Old West, Cosby is a horse doctor who is going to put some white guy’s injured horse down, but then his son Billy (George Spell, THE NAKED KISS) cries so much he makes a deal with the farmhand or whatever to take the horse if he can get it to walk. It’s like WAR HORSE for a minute, they nurse Jubal back to health and then force him to haul a giant boulder. These people in movies sure do talk a big game about how much they love a horse before they enslave and torture the poor thing. No wonder those big bastards dream of one day fucking all of mankind to death, yelling “Remember Enumclaw!” (see ZOO). (read the rest of this shit…)

Invincible (2001)

tn_invincibleI saw this old issue of Asian Trash Cinema that had an interview with Ching Siu-Tung, veteran martial arts choreographer, prolific wire-fu practicioner, Jackie Chan Chinese Opera schoolmate, and director of Steven Seagal’s weirdest movie (BELLY OF THE BEAST). Of course the interview covered alot of his most legendary work: he directed the SWORDSMAN trilogy, EXECUTIONERS and NAKED WEAPON, he was stunt coordinator for A BETTER TOMORROW II and action director for HERO. But I was even more interested in the weird little tidbits I’d never heard about his brief flirtations with Hollywood after THE MATRIX exploded and Yuen Woo Ping was all booked up.

The craziest one was a story about “the director and producer” of SPIDER-MAN coming to Ching, unhappy with how their action scenes were coming out, and wanting him to redo them. Of course it never ended up happening, he seems unclear why and doesn’t go into details. But it’s an intriguing story. Raimi was always up on the Hong Kong guys, he executive produced HARD TARGET after all. It makes sense he would know about the top wire-fighting guy and think of him for a movie about a guy swinging on webs.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Thank God it’s Slyday

Today is Sylvester Stallone’s birthday, as good a time as any to make sure everybody knows that there was a Hungarian comic book adaptation of COBRA:

kobra

It seems the entire gem of a comics strip was once posted online by the excellent Cannon Films fan sight that has since disappeared like it was the Cannon SPIDER-MAN movie. I have also found evidence that this same series included an issue with back-to-back James Cameron adaptations…

hungarianjamescameron

…so I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other cool ones.

Any Hungarians got a line on these? Are they rare, or do you just have them lying around everywhere, waiting to bring joy to the heart of somebody like me?