The Great Killing

tn_greatkillingRecently I had a stressful week I knew would be spent largely in hospital waiting rooms, so I thought real hard about what kind of movie I could rent that would be comforting to me if I ever got home to watch it. I could’ve gone for a movie I’ve already seen a million times and love, like DIE HARD or something. For some reason my heart said “old samurai movie.”

I don’t know for sure what it is about these things that they appeal to me so much. In a way they’re difficult: I’m completely ignorant of the historical periods depicted, and I have a hard time keeping track of some of the character names and terminology. But in another sense they’re simple. The heroes are always working from a code. They explain the code and then they struggle to follow it, even though they’re living in a dishonorable world, working in a dishonorable system. For them there’s no choice but to follow the code, because they know anyone who doesn’t is an asshole. And then there’s a big sword fight.

There’s usually alot of quiet moments in these movies, rarely an overbearing score, and there’s the simple black and white imagery. Kinda calming to me. So I chose to soothe my soul with a movie about the great killing, and I’m afraid that’s as in “the huge killing,” not “the really good killing.” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Protector 2 (Tom Yum Goong 2)

tn_tyg2bHow can the same shit happen to the same elephant twice?

The first thing that jumped out at me in TOM YUM GOONG 2 was the amount of digital effects. Part of what made us fall in love with Tony Jaa’s movies ONG BAK and TOM YUM GOONG a decade or so ago was that they were refreshingly organic. All real stunts, very few visual effects, for the most part not even using wires. So it’s jarring to suddenly see him dodging obvious digital cars and motorcycles, ducking a digital subway, running from a digital explosion. Of course all movies are fake, but that’s more of a low budget version of a DIE HARD type of action than a Thai style, where we’re used to seeing real guys get knocked off of real trucks and get back up for real.

By the way, who’s the sorry motherfucker who found it necessary to introduce green screens to the Thai film industry? There’s this whole great sequence of Jaa fighting motorcycles on a rooftop, and I’m sure most of the stunts are real, but because the background is clearly fake you start questioning the whole thing. They even use green screens for his closeups when he’s holding onto the top of a car. I guess we’re past the days when Thai stuntmen were the crazy motherfuckers who would do anything. They must’ve finally gotten a union. (read the rest of this shit…)

Chinese Zodiac

tn_cz12To be frankly honest I haven’t kept up with the modern Jackie Chan pictures, unless you count THE KARATE KID, which I don’t. I had to really think about it to remember that LITTLE BIG SOLDIER (from 2010) was the last one I saw, and it looks like you’d have to go back pre-RUSH HOUR (to ’98′s WHO AM I?) to get to another non-American one I’ve seen.

But 2012′s CHINESE ZODIAC just came out on video here, and he directed that one, they were making a big deal about it possibly being his last full-on action movie, so maybe it’s a good one to reacquaint us with why we love Jackie? (read the rest of this shit…)

Niketown: a novel (that I wrote)

tn_niketownI wanted to let you guys know I wrote a new book and I’m back in the lone wolf publishing game. It’s called Niketown: a novel. The “a novel” part is to make sure you know it’s a fictional novel, not a collection of reviews of different Nike stores or something. You can get the actual book version HERE for about thirteen bucks, or many electronical type versions HERE for about five bucks. It should be in the Kindle store soon, I’m waiting for it to process. But I believe you can also get a Kindle format from the Smashwords sight for now.

You can read a big sample chunk of it on there too if you’re concerned it’s gonna suck. Hopefully you’ll decide it doesn’t, but it’s a free country.

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The World, the Flesh and the Devil

tn_worldthefleshTHE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL, which I never heard of until I picked up the Warner Archive dvd box abandoned sideways on top of the Post-Apocalypse section at Scarecrow Video, is an early take on the LAST MAN ON EARTH type of concept. It’s from 1959, making it the earliest one I know of, and it’s based on a book other than I Am Legend. Actually it’s apparently based on two things, The Purple Cloud, a 1901 novel by M.P. Shiel (H.G. Wells was apparently a fan!) that sounds like it has very little in common with the movie other than a last-man type concept, and a story called “End of the World” by Ferdinand Reyher (which I can’t find much information on).

Harry Belafonte plays Ralph Burton, an inspector who gets trapped alone in a collapsed mine. He’s down there a long time and goes stir crazy talking and singing to a radio that never talks back (he assumes it’s broken). Eventually he gives up on anyone rescuing him but is luckily able to dig his own way out of the rubble. (Shoulda tried that before, I guess.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Bad Attitude

tn_badattitudeYou ever heard of an actor just called Leon? He used to be credited as Leon Robinson. He’s also a musician, and has found most of his acting success playing musicians in such movies as THE FIVE HEARTBEATS (he played a Heartbeat), THE TEMPTATIONS (he played David Ruffin), MR. ROCK ‘N ROLL: THE ALAN FREED STORY (he played Jackie Wilson) and LITTLE RICHARD (he played Little Richard). He’s been working hard for years, at one point working as the stage manager for In Living Color while also doing supporting roles in major movies.

Despite all that alot of people probly just know him from Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” video:

But we here know him from CLIFFHANGER, ALI and especially BAND OF THE HAND. He might’ve wanted to be more of an action guy than he ended up being, because between his parts in COOL RUNNINGS and ABOVE THE RIM he produced an independent low budget action vehicle for himself. And filmed it in Seattle. So I watched it. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Guillotines

tn_guillotinesTHE GUILLOTINES isn’t a remake of MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, but it uses the same concept of the Emperor having an elite squad of ruthless executioners who use the flying guillotine to do his bidding/beheading. If you thought this was a far-fetched weapon when it was a ring of blades that popped out of a collapsible basket on the end of a chain, wait until you see the post-steampunk version.

In the opening we see the Guillotines (or really the team of digital FX artists) demonstrate their skills in Zack Snyderian slo-mo detail. They have ornate metal rings (like that thing Xena threw) that spin on the end of a curved sword that they hold like a jai alai basket. They pose and let it menacingly chunk chunk chunk until they toss it. It can curve around, ricochet and ring around some motherfucker’s collar and then the machinery dramatically clicks and chings for a while before the blades fold and pop out and cut off the head. (read the rest of this shit…)

M.A.N.T.I.S. (pilot movie)

He doesn't usually look this much like R. Kelly.

He doesn’t usually look this much like R. Kelly.

Remember M.A.N.T.I.S.? It was a 1994 Fox TV show that only lasted one season. It was about paralyzed-from-the-waist-down scientist Miles Hawkins (Carl Lumbly), who builds an exo-skeleton that allows him to not only walk again but to have super strength and also jump high. The first time he tries it out in public he happens to see a woman getting attacked, so he intervenes and kicks some ass, and that gives him the crimefighting bug.

Get it? I said bug, because he’s called MANTIS and I guess he sorta looks like one with the metal helmet with a giant bluetooth on each side like mandibles.

Seven months before the TV show though there was a pilot TV movie (fortunately included on the complete series DVD), which was pretty different and much more watchable. I can’t pretend it plays like a real movie – like the The Flash TV show of a few years earlier it is kinda sad to see a low budget TV crew in Vancouver try to compete with the incredible production design of Tim Burton’s BATMAN – but having recently watched those ROBOCOP TV shows I’m able to appreciate this for what it is: something that is way better than those ROBOCOP TV shows. (read the rest of this shit…)

300: Rise of an Empire

tn_300-2300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE sounds like it would be the name of a DTV prequel to 300, from the producers of DEATH RACE 2. In fact it is a major, successful theatrical release and it is a sepremidquel. A sepremidquel is of course a followup that starts out after the first movie, then skips back to before it and goes into during it (with references to some of those events) and then continues a little bit after it too. You may be sick of sepremidquels, but I think it was a clever way to continue a movie where all the main characters were horribly killed.
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Out of the Furnace

tn_outofthefurnaceOne movie that came and went during the “summer is over, time for some actor-y shit” period of 2013 was OUT OF THE FURNACE. This is the second movie directed by Scott Cooper, who also rewrote from a script by Brad Ingelsby (writer of the gratuitous American remake of THE RAID that apparently is still happening). Cooper previously directed CRAZY HEART, which was known as the Jeff Bridges Oscar movie, but it was also a good movie in its own right, so it was intriguing that he was doing one with Christian Bale next.

I feel like after we got used to him being Batman we kind of forgot how great Christian Bale is. It’s a relief to see him being funny again in AMERICAN HUSTLE, but I also still like watching Earnest Christian Bale. And in this case Rugged Christian Bale. (read the rest of this shit…)