Frankenstein’s Army

tn_frankensteinsarmyLooking to get a fake Stalin-era propaganda anthem stuck in your head forever? The FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY menu, opening and end credits are here to help! This low budget, high on practical effects English language Dutch-American-Czech production tells a simple story about a group of Soviet soldiers who encounter a Nazi scientist’s enclave of steampunk zombie cyborg monsters. And that’s about it.

Tbfh (to be frankly honest) I don’t really get this fascination with adding Nazis to zombies or aliens or mad scientists or whatever. I’m not against it, I just can’t really relate to the people that get so excited for IRON SKY or DEAD SNOW or whatever. I think maybe genre + swastika is shorthand for ’40s pulp aesthetic. And it seems like it’s usually these low budget grassroots people dealing with period detail and style that they can’t really pull off convincingly. This one does better than many I think, even if it has HELLBOY’s Karl Roden in it to remind you how not-fresh the Nazi/Russian/mad science triangle is.
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The Return of Florentine and Adkins

Ha ha, that’s how you make a teaser. I think that tells us everything we need to know, other than the release date. Also, it looks like somebody’s been watching the RAID movies.

Nick Chinlund (CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK) is also in the cast. The fight choreographer/coordinator is Jeremy Marinas, who was a stunt double for two of the ninja turtles. He was also in Jon M. Chu’s LXD: THE LEGION OF EXTRAORDINARY DANCERS series, so he must be a dancer.  Co-writer Chad Law wrote the pretty decent William Kaufman/Cuba Gooding Jr. DTV movies THE HIT LIST and ONE IN THE CHAMBER.

hat tip to Papa Vinyard at the Ain’t It Cool News

The Hobbit Presents The Battle of the Five Armies: a 3D Imax Obligation

tn_hobbit3I saw BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES about 5 weeks after it came out and finished this review a couple weeks later, so you can see I had higher movie-going-and-discussing priorities than the thrilling conclusion to the prequel to the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. But honestly I did go to it of my own accord. After somewhat enjoying part 2 as a dumb spectacle with some good sequences I was kind of in the mood for that again and wanted to be sure to catch it before it left 3D.

(technical notes: I avoided high frame rate so it wouldn’t look like somebody’s home wedding video. I ended up with digital 3D “Imax,” which is on the giant screen but noticeably lower resolution than standard digital projection. So it’s got pluses and minuses)

If you’re like me you have almost no memory of what happened in the other two installments or what the names of any of the characters are, but you do remember the setup for part 3: Smowg, the greedy capitalistic dragon of Desolation Mountain, was awoken from his treasure-slumber and raging toward the man-village, puking deadly flame breath every which way, getting ready to roast some fuckin humans and Godzilla some buildings. Just step on some guys and bite off their heads and all that kind of dragon shit. This is the big screen dragon attack we’ve been waiting for ever since Guillermo Del Toro signed onto THE HOBBIT six years ago, and especially since the cliffhanger ending of part 2 one year ago.

I mean I am shitting myself you guys because THIS IS GONNA BE FUCKIN CRAZY!  The Baggin’ and Toe-taggin’ of the Dragon. The Shakedown in Laketown. The motherfuckin climax of the greatest most epicest trilogy of all time, “THE END OF AN ERA” according to the ads and posters.

That’s the pre-credits sequence. The archery guy from FURIOUS 6 and his kid kill the dragon pretty easily at the very beginning of the movie. The end. (read the rest of this shit…)

Jupiter Ascending

tn_jupiterascendingFirst of all, I’d like to thank the Wachowskis for their unprecedented run of crazy, idiosyncratic big budget studio genre movies, and wish them luck in whatever their new vocation is.

I love the Wachowskis without reservation. BOUND is alot of fun and THE MATRIX is a brilliant sci-fi action classic and then everything they’ve made since then has been messier and crazier. But for them to make sane movies would be a waste of their talent. They can keep pushing the envelopes of special effects technology and storytelling technique as long as they also keep challenging the limits of what a studio can sink hundreds of millions of dollars into. And while I understand some of the disappointment in the MATRIX sequels, I also think that most of it comes from people wanting them to just do the same exact shit again. To me those movies are brimming with excitement about which unexpected turn they can make while also continuing to top themselves in action spectacle.

And then they got to make SPEED RACER. And they must’ve suspected that wasn’t gonna light the world on fire. They are heroes.

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy their new sci-fi-fantasy joint JUPITER ASCENDING like I did the MATRIXes or SPEED RACER, and didn’t intellectually admire it as much as CLOUD ATLAS. It has way less ambition than that one and a little more boredom. I can respect that it’s something that nobody else would ever make, or want to make, or want to have made. It’s ballsy in how shamelessly corny it is. But it’s a shame that their worst one by far will be their last. (I’m assuming. After this many big budget flops in a row you gotta figure they’ll be washing dishes at Warner Brothers until they’ve worked off their debt.) (read the rest of this shit…)

You are now about to witness red band street knowledge

In case anybody else has been anxiously awaiting a trailer for this like I have:

(don’t worry about the gentle black and white intro, it goes into the actual movie footage eventually)

I don’t know what to think, but so far it looks like something I will enjoy whether or not it’s a good movie.

Wild Card

tn_wildcard“I can take care of things. That’s all you need to know.”

In WILD CARD, Jason Statham plays Nick Wild (seriously), a legendary special ops badass who now works as an all purpose “security consultant” for hire. That’s not going well for him, though. He shares his office with a lawyer (Jason Alexander from THE BURNING) on the strip mall outskirts of Vegas, most of his friends seem to be prostitutes, hotel maids, gangsters or casino employees, and he gets such glamourous gigs as getting fake beat up by Vinnie from Doogie Howser to impress a Sofia Vergara. It’s hard to bask in your own greatness when you’re such a fucking loser. So in that sense this is less like THE TRANSPORTER and more like REDEMPTION (where he starts out as a homeless crackhead).

He gets a couple “Just how badass is he?” speeches, but one of them is by himself, and ends with “And I lie alot.” As cool as this guy is – his name is Nick Wild, for God’s sake! – everybody knows he’s a fuckup, and this is underlined by casual comments about the mediocre value of his life. When a friend wants him to get involved in something dangerous and he asks “What if they kill me?” she says “I’ll be miserable for days.” Not years, not months, days. Later a gangster wants to hear his side of the story before killing him just because if he was innocent of what he was accused of “I would feel dreadful.”

If some of this sounds familiar that’s because it’s a remake of HEAT. Not the one by Michael Mann, the 1986 one with Burt Reynolds and based on the book by William Goldman. It counts as a remake though because they re-used Goldman’s old script with just a few tweaks, like Van Sant did with PSYCHO. (In fact, Anne Heche is even in this. But not Vince Vaughn) They changed his name from Nick Escalante and added references to his Britishness. He says “mum” in one part. And I noticed big changes in the action parts (I missed a trick Burt did to light a guy on fire, and a scene where he torments a guy in the dark). But mostly, from what I could remember, it’s scene-for-scene the same. (read the rest of this shit…)

R.I.P. Don Covay

tn_doncovayOne of my favorite singers, Don Covay, has passed away at the age of 76. I expect many or most of you never heard of him, so I want to share a couple of his songs with you and I think you’ll love him too. He was a great solo artist, but was more successful as a songwriter for other people. His best known composition was probly “Chain of Fools,” performed by Aretha Franklin. Have Mercy! the Songs of Don Covayis a whole compilation of songs he wrote, as performed by Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Little Richard, Wanda Jackson, Ben E. King… I mean, he got around.

I buy alot of random funk and soul compilation CDs to try to discover things I wouldn’t know about otherwise, and it was on one called Breaks Sessions that I first learned about Don Covay. It’s a nice 2-disc collection of songs that were sampled in hip hop, such as “Nautilus” by Bob James (sampled by Ghostface in “Daytona 500,” among many others) or “Tribute to Obabi” by The Last Poets (which you’d know as “Excursions” by A Tribe Called Quest). Some of the songs you find on these things are by more obscure artists than those guys, though, ones I never heard of, often without any other recordings to their name. Still, if I like the one song I look them up and in the case of Don Covay it turned out there was a motherlode of other great stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tusk

tn_tuskI don’t know how it happened but somehow I became the guy that’s more lenient on Kevin Smith movies than everybody else. Back in his hey day when he was a Miramax family member, an indie movement poster boy, a voice of a generation, a director of a movie in the Criterion Collection, a critical darling praised for his dialogue, I used to think he sucked. Here’s an overly harsh one I wrote back when people still seemed to like him (I advised readers not to make eye contact with people who recommend it to them). So I’m as confused as anybody that now that he’s widely hated and semi-retired I keep having an  “actually it’s not that bad” reaction to his “flicks,” as he calls them. COP OUT at least had a couple laughs, and his first horror movie, RED STATE, I actually thought was kinda good and now, I’ll be damned, I kinda liked TUSK too. What the hell?

TUSK is less consistent than RED STATE but a little more inspired in its absurdity. It continues the technique of coasting on an excellent performance by Michael Parks as a sadistic weirdo. This time he plays a retired Canadian proud of his life of rugged adventure and deranged, it turns out, by a long period of being stranded after a shipwreck. What’s that mean, that he had to go cannibal to survive, something like that? No, not quite. It means he got messed up by being isolated with only a walrus as his friend. He called him Mr. Tusk, according to his JAWS style monologue about the incident. And now he’s undergoing unusual measures to get that relationship back. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ahlaam

tn_ahlaamI’ve spent a good portion of the last two weeks thinking, reading, writing and debating about Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER. It’s an interesting movie that has spurred alot of debate from different points-of-view. But the important perspective that isn’t in the movie or in the conversation as far as I’ve been able to see is that of the Iraqi people. Clint followed his WWII movie FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS with the way better companion piece LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, from the perspective of doomed Japanese soldiers. I wish he could do that for the Iraq War too.

It’s too bad, I thought, that there’s not much of a film industry in Iraq, because that would be a great way for us to see the war and its effects through their eyes. Well, it turns out that a couple such movies do exist. One of them is AHLAAM (2004), based on a true story about the people in a psychiatric hospital in Baghdad during the 2003 “shock and awe” bombing a few days before the fall of Saddam Hussein.
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Blackhat

tn_blackhatI didn’t think it would happen in this generation, but they’ve produced a manly movie star. They had to borrow him from Australia, of course, but so what? Arnold and Van Damme and Mel Gibson and a bunch of those guys were imports too.

Chris Hemsworth has the kind of rugged persona and charisma that makes a man feel inadequate – he’s 2014’s People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive, and last week’s Man Who Makes Me Feel Like I Better Do More Push-ups – but you respect him for it, you don’t resent him. I don’t know if he’ll maintain all the muscles when he stops being an Avenger, but I bet he’ll stay pleasantly macho. He’ll slick back his hair and look good in an undershirt and sunglasses and he’ll put his protective arms around tiny women but also respect their intelligence.

It’s nice that one of the few manly marquee names of the modern age has now had the chance to become Mannly. In Michael Mann’s BLACKHAT Hemsworth plays Mann’s idea of a being more godly than Thor. He’s a convict who splits his time between reading Focault paperbacks and doing handstand pushups. He’s done time both for assault and for hacking. He knows how to use guns and build makeshift armor and beat up multiple attackers using restaurant furniture, but also how to write computer programs. He’s hypersmart enough to glance at a screen full of code and instantly identify clues to its purpose and author, but also worldly enough to travel through multiple Asian countries and break into places looking for a mystery man. He can be counted on to sit with a laptop or phone and breach a highly secure database, but also can wing a plan to explode a truck on the roof of a building as a distraction to sneak in and physically steal a hard drive. (read the rest of this shit…)