Summer Movie Flashback: The Da Vinci Code

2007

2006

tn_davincicodeHonestly, DA THE VINCI CODE or whatever is not a movie I ever though I’d watch. Some of the things going against it are:

a. didn’t look interesting to me
2. book I never cared about
III. director Ron Howard is competent but kind of a square director in my opinion, not somebody whose movies I ever get excited for and
d. in my opinion Akiva Goldsman is the writer of BATMAN AND ROBIN.

And I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for this Summer Movie Flashback I got myself into. There just wasn’t another significant summer of 2006 movie I hadn’t seen. Right up until the last minute I was actually planning to do MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND just ’cause I thought that would be easier to stomach, but I decided that would be dishonorable. This one was obviously part of some cultural phenomenon of the time and is more representative of that summer. (read the rest of this shit…)

You’re Next

tn_yourenextIn YOU’RE NEXT, a group of adult siblings and their significant others gather at their rich parents’ big ass, miles-from-where-anyone-can-hear-you house to celebrate their anniversary, but get invaded by 3 or more maniac killers wearing plastic animal masks. This is kinda the new subgenre, isn’t it? Faceless killer home invasion movies, like ILS (THEM), THE STRANGERS and THE PURGE. ILS was genuinely pretty scary, THE STRANGERS was for a while, and I didn’t watch THE PURGE but it looks hilarious. YOU’RE NEXT isn’t quite as tense as those other two I saw, but it’s more fun.

All of the web guys have been hyping this one up since it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and Fantastic Fest two years ago, so I’m not surprised that I’m seeing a little mini-backlash from people I know. But I don’t really blame anybody. It’s easy to see how people at a film festival see a brand new movie, are excited to tell everybody about it, it takes forever to come out, but they really want people to see it so they do everything they can to promote it, and by the time everybody else finally gets to see it it sounds like it’s supposed to be the Second Coming when it’s really just a fun horror movie. Which, in my opinion, is worth telling people about, so I appreciate the tip.

For me this was not a KICK ASS situation where it seems like you must’ve had to be there at that one midnight screening to have any idea how people could enjoy the movie that much. My smaller 7:50 multiplex audience for YOU’RE NEXT was laughing and enjoying themselves too. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ip Man: The Final Fight

tn_ipmanfinalfight“A scholar and a warrior!”

Hey, you know what, how ’bout another movie about Ip Man? This is the fifth one I’ve seen in as many years. But this is THE FINAL FIGHT, so it’s the last one, at least until IP MAN: A NEW BEGINNING or WES CRAVEN’S NEW IP MAN.

This is from Herman Yau, the director of the least known but still good Ip Man picture, LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN, and once again with an appearance by Ip Man’s actual son Ip Chun (a consultant on all of the Ip Man movies except THE GRANDMASTER). But this time the attraction is seeing Anthony Wong (HARD BOILED, HEROIC TRIO, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, EXILED, VENGEANCE, everything else) take over the Ip Man role and play him as an old man. In THE GRANDMASTER it ends up when the good old days are over and everybody’s opening kung fu schools left and right. That’s when this is, over a period of years but focusing on the early 60s, around the time Ip Man was giving Wing Chun lessons on the roof of a building. (read the rest of this shit…)

Summer Movie Flashback: War of the Worlds

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2006

2005

Wow – WAR OF THE WORLDS holds up. I remember it being the most intense PG-13 movie ever, but I thought maybe with the escalation of that rating since the Joker stabbed a guy with a pencil in DARK KNIGHT maybe it wouldn’t seem as harsh by today’s standards.

Nope. This movie is a fuckin nightmare! It starts as an anxiety dream (oh shit, what if my kids come over and I show up late and forgot to clean up and my ex-wife and her husband see that I don’t have any food and…) then one of those ones where you see weird shit in the sky (a strange electrical storm) and in the distance (3-legged alien attack machines), and then it’s a disaster one (mobs attacking your car at night, thousands of people trying to climb onto the same ferry), then a war one (running into the hills at night as tanks roll in the other direction) and then a more intimate things-that-go-bump-in-the-night one (alien in the basement). All of this executed with the classic Steve Spielberg filmatistic chops.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Dark Angel (I Come In Peace) Blu-Ray review

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Craig R. Baxley’s DARK ANGEL – or, as we Americans proudly call it, I COME IN PEACE – hit the ray of blu today courtesy of the great Shout Factory. You can read my review of the new disc over on The Daily Grindhouse.

For comparison’s sake here’s my original review of the movie from about 7 years ago.

 

Summer Movie Flashback: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

tn_mrandmrssmith

2005

2005

MR. & MRS. SMITH is an action comedy from Doug Liman, the director of THE BOURNE IDENTITY and JUMPER.  It has had a bigger imprint on pop culture than JUMPER because it caused Brad Pitt to ditch the lady he was with at the time and stick with his wife in the movie, LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER THE CRADLE OF LIFE star Angelina Jolie. The two play John and Jane Smith (of course), who have been married for “5 or 6 years” without knowing that each other are highly skilled assassins for rival secret organizations. It’s kind of like TRUE LIES I guess but less hateful, more equal (though also the action, like the movie in general, is not as huge).

John works out of a cluttered headquarters like a construction office, his partner a misogynist loser who lives in his Mom’s basement (Vince Vaughn, his shtick already pretty worn out by that point). John keeps his weapons in a secret bunker under the tool shed. Jane’s firm is a high tech MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE type joint in a high rise. She seems to be the boss, pampered by an all female, all model staff including Kerry Washington. At one point she tells two of them to make her coffee. Her weapons, of course, are in a secret compartment under the oven.
(read the rest of this shit…)

No One Lives

tn_noonelivesWWEstudiosI’m not gonna try to convince you that NO ONE LIVES is a new horror classic or anything, but I enjoyed it. It’s from the prestigious WWE Studios and it has a level of absurdity and audacity that makes it a worthy successor to their first horror production, SEE NO EVIL. The British advertising even uses an Empire quote calling it a “guilty pleasure.” They’re not trying to fool anybody.

This one has an obvious SAW influence, but it’s not a so-called torture porno. It’s kind of a horror-formula moosh-up, combining the super-genius-psycho-with-ridiculous-death-contraptions with more of a traditional slasher movie formula (people in cabin being picked off one-by-one) as well as a little LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (class tensions and abduction courtesy of a family/gang of greaser reprobates).

It’s got one of these prologues that begins mid-terror, a screaming blond named Emma (Adelaide Clemens) chased through some woods, captured by booby traps. Turns out later she’s from a rich family, but judging by these traps the kidnapper is not in it for the money. He just likes hanging girls upside down and stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Grandmaster

tn_grandmasterNOTE: A couple weeks ago I watched Wong Kar Wai’s long-awaited Ip Man movie THE GRANDMASTER on an import DVD. I loved it so much I decided not to post a review until the U.S. theatrical release so more people would be able to see it and discuss it.

Then I saw an ad on TV calling the movie “Martin Scorsese presents THE GRANDMASTER,” talking about “THE MAN WHO TAUGHT BRUCE LEE,” and showing a bunch of fight scenes with an aggressive hip hop soundtrack. There’s an even more extreme one online now that uses the theme from THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.

These ads gave me a laugh, because as great as the fights are in the movie the emphasis is on characters and metaphors and beautiful imagery, and it’s as much about Zhang Ziyi’s Gong Er (a fictional character, I believe) as a biography of Ip Man. I was excitbtisled to see it on the big screen, but dreading the possibility of an audience angry at the long breaks between punching.

What didn’t occur to me is that maybe the breaks aren’t that long anymore. It turns out the U.S. theatrical cut is a Weinsteinized version that’s 22 minutes shorter. David Ehrlich of film.com explains that the new cut was done with the participation of Wong, and details all the things he noticed that were cut out. I won’t spoil whether or not he likes the new version, you’ll just have to read his article Kung Foolish: How The American Cut of ‘The Grandmaster’ Ruins a Masterpiece to find out for yourself.

I still plan to see it, but based on Ehrlich’s list it sounds like half of the themes and scenes I talk about in this review aren’t even in the movie anymore. So fuck it, here is my review of the 130-minutes-including-credits Suitable-For-The-Entire-World-Except-For-America-Because-How-Could-They-Ever-Understand-It Cut. (read the rest of this shit…)

R.I.P. Elmore Leonard

elmoreleonard
UPDATED

Well, Elmore Leonard passed away yesterday. Not too far from 90 and he was still writing books. Not bad. Others have paid tribute to his unique talents, and around here if I tried to do that I think it would be preaching to the converted. Or preaching to the preachers. But I want to say a few words about a couple aspects of his work that mean the most to me personally.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Summer Movie Flashback: I, Robot

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2004

2004

I, ROBOT is a movie that I had low expectations for when I saw it that summer, and it exceeded them, so it seemed pretty good. Re-watching it now it’s still pretty good but maybe a little less pretty good now that I expected it to be pretty good.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a mystery story in a sci-fi world of 2035 where helpful robots are a common household appliance. Will Smith plays Detective Del Spooner (Spanish for “Detective of the Spooner”), an arrogant, trenchcoat-wearing Chicago cop who is horribly racist against robots and always trying to accuse them of crimes, even though they’re programmed to always protect humans and have never in history committed a crime. His boss (Chi McBride) is constantly embarrassed by this fucking idiot working for him but must have an old friendship with him and feels sorry for him enough not to fire his ass like would probly happen to anybody else fucking up as bad and often as this fuckin guy does and always acting like a total crazy person in front of numerous witnesses both at work and in public. (read the rest of this shit…)