John Wick

tn_johnwickI never figured Keanu Reeves would become an action hall-of-famer, but here we are. Of course he stars in the great POINT BREAK, but we can’t lie, we all kinda chuckle at his FBI surfer dude Johnny Utah in that. And then he was good in SPEED, but would that be enough? If that was enough Matt Damon would be an action legend. Of course, playing Neo in THE MATRIX trilogy sealed the deal, Reeves learned to do all that kung fu and that hadn’t really been done by a normal actor like that before and those movies and those fights hold up today. Still, it seemed like an anomaly in his career. He would always be Neo to the world but that would be it for Action Keanu, right?

Nope. Because he directed last year’s martial arts gem MAN OF TAI CHI and played the villain, creating and performing some more classic fight scenes. When I saw that I realized it was time to acknowledge his greatness. 47 RONIN put a little bit of a damper on that though because it was so boring I never even wrote a review. If I had it would’ve said “Some of the monsters are cool” and that’s about it.

But after JOHN WICK, Reeves’s strong connection to Badass Cinema cannot be denied. This is a fun, violent, straight-ahead revenge action movie. Reeves did not direct it, but his stunt double from the MATRIX movies, Chad Stahelski, did*. So it’s probly a style of directing too dangerous for Reeves to perform. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Purge: Anarchy

tn_purgeanarchyThat movie THE PURGE was a little better than I expected. You gotta accept a completely asinine premise (that 12 hours of “all crime is legal” free-for-all every March 22nd would virtually eliminate crime, unemployment and poverty) but I like Ethan Hawke’s dedicated performance and the subtext about living a comfortable life distanced from the savagery we benefit from. These people say they don’t believe in killing, but they believe in The Purge because it’s the American way. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Now lo and behold part 2 is better than the first one. Not any smarter, but better put together. Okay, we’ve accidentally bought into this world where The Purge happens, now let’s have a more entertaining story about it. They ditched the home invasion/siege format and deal with people moving through the city trying to evade the mayhem. It’s shot in kind of a digital age noir style with solid yellows and reds often highlighting the spaces between dark shadows. As you drive through the city you pass serious beatings on the side of the road, things on fire, gun battles. (read the rest of this shit…)

Nightmare

tn_nightmareslashersearch14I guess I should’ve known about this one, but I didn’t. 1981’s generically titled NIGHTMARE (sometimes called NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN) is apparently pretty notorious due to getting banned in the UK as a “Video Nasty.” That’s not the same as being good. But it has a sleazy, unhinged feeling to it that makes it stand out. It feels like it is definitely not made by slick professionals, but possibly by actual crazy people.

It begins, appropriately, with a guy dreaming he wakes up in his underwear with a woman’s severed head in a pile of guts at the foot of his bed. This will be our killer, George Tatum (Baird Stafford), an often sweaty, always confused mess of a man constantly in agony because of his extremely messed up sexuality. He’s haunted by childhood memories of walking in on his mom (or a mistress or hooker, it seems like, but the credits say mother) in a corset on top of his tied-up dad, slapping him. And then he remembers Mom getting decapitated.

Not surprisingly this is a problem in George’s daily life. For one thing, he likes to go to the Times Square peep shows to jerk off, but he keeps seeing head stump flashes and falling to his knees in anguish. Ruins the whole night, I’m sure.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Initiation

slashersearch14tn_initiationTHE INITIATION is yet another sorority-themed slasher movie (see also HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, SORORITY ROW, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE I and II, KILLER PARTY, BLACK CHRISTMAS, BLACK XMAS), but it’s toward the high end of that list as far as quality. “Introducing Daphne Zuniga” as Kelly (although she had already been in THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD), one of a group of new pledges beginning their Hell Week at a college in Dallas or Fort Worth while somebody possibly connected to her is going around stabbing people, mostly with a 3-pronged gardening tool.

It’s got a little bit of HALLOWEEN and a little bit of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The HALLOWEEN is in the section that takes place in an insane asylum where the inmates all get loose at night and mob a nurse’s car. She gets stabbed, but we don’t see who did it, and none of these witnesses are gonna be able to explain it. They just giggle uncontrollably, suck their thumbs or flick their tongues like lizards. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Burning

tn_burningTHE BURNING is a slasher movie I like, and I can acknowledge that it’s not great but it just fits into my wheelhouse (you know, the house where I store all my wheels as well as some of the movies I like). Something about those FRIDAY THE 13THs and SLEEPAWAY CAMPs just engrained the summer camp of the ’80s into my mind as a perfect place for a slasher. By day it’s canoes and pushing people off of docks and wearing those gym socks with the stripes at the top. Then at night you realize you’re out in the middle of the fuckin woods! What the fuck are you gonna do if (let’s be honest – when) something happens? Where are you gonna go? Deeper into the dark, quiet woods?

But actually Jason and these guys are scarier when they strike in the sunlight. The sanctity of the summer paradise invaded by machetes and improperly used spear guns. Lens flares and dripping blood. (read the rest of this shit…)

Species

tn_species“Don’t go. Please! I want a baby.”

SPECIES is one of these movies of the ’90s that isn’t very good but that represents a weird enough collision of influences to be interesting. It’s a studio genre movie so it has an all-star cast. Ben Kingsley (PRINCE OF PERSIA, BLOODRAYNE) leads the government monster hunt, and his team of specialists is Forest Whitaker (BLOODSPORT), Michael Madsen (BLOODRAYNE), Alfred Molina (PRINCE OF PERSIA) and Marg Helgenberger (FIRE DOWN BELOW).

Behind the scenes they got a couple of legit horror technicians in the mix: composer Christopher Young, whose eerie score is very similar to what he did for HELLRAISER, and monster designer H.R. Giger does his biomechanical thing like in ALIEN, but this time with bonus eyes and boobs. This was the first time his creatures got the computer animation treatment, an exciting development in those days. It was only two years after JURASSIC PARK and just doing everything digitally was still in the future, they had to put in some effort to do it so it was usually a big deal. The digital parts look almost charmingly crude now, but luckily they got puppets and costumes in there too, like you did back then. (read the rest of this shit…)

Under the Skin

tn_undertheskinThis director Jonathan Glazer, I can’t really put my finger on him. SEXY BEAST I didn’t like all that much, but most people seem to, or at least they did at the time. British crime comedy stuff, mostly normal, but people forget the weird interludes with the half man/half bunny. What was that about.

Second movie BIRTH. Not as recognized, but I loved that one, a unique and creepy thriller with potent Kubrickian filmatism. Got me excited for movie #3, which turned out to take nine years and be his least commercial work so far even though it’s a sci-fi movie that has Scarlett Johansson taking her clothes off. The thing that gets me is none of these movies seem like the same director to me. He’s mainly a commercial and video director, so he likes to play with different styles, but that never stopped David Fincher or Spike Jonze from being identifiable. Maybe I’m missing it by seeing them years apart.
(read the rest of this shit…)

The Boxtrolls

tn_boxtrollsHey, I’ve admitted it before. I’m a Modern Man, I can dig on the cartoons sometimes. But I don’t always gotta go public about it. For example I didn’t need it on record that I thought FROZEN continued the evolution of the Disney Princess formula in smart, pro-girl ways. The rest of the world took care of that, I didn’t need to say anything. Stoicism. But I just saw THE BOXTROLLS which was amazing and I don’t trust the rest of the world to make a big deal about this one, so here I am.

THE BOXTROLLS is the third movie from Laika, the stop motion studio out of Oregon who did CORALINE and PARANORMAN. Because of modern technologies like motion control, digital photography and now 3D printing this artform keeps getting more detailed and sophisticated, yet it has a very old fashioned charm to it. It’s all about the tactile and the textured. It’s puppets moving around on elaborate model sets. You can see the fabrics and stitches on the clothes, the brush on the paint. I like how you can see that the eyes are a hard, shiny material under the rubbery skin. That the eyelids look like separate pieces. I like computers, but this shit has an appeal that computers can’t re-create. (read the rest of this shit…)

Skin Trade trailer

This is not just the latest Dolph Lundgren picture, this is the passion project he’s been trying to make for years. He co-wrote the screenplay (IMDb says John Hyams did a rewrite), and originally planned to direct, but instead gave it to Ekachai Uekrongtham, who is best known for BEAUTIFUL BOXER.

c-htAt one point there were rumors that Seagal was going to co-star with Lundgren. Instead we ended up with the more acrobatic all-star team-up of Dolph and Tony Jaa (in his first English role). As you can see, Michael Jai White is also there in a supporting role, along with Peter Weller and Ron Perlman as the skin trader. According to IMDb we should also look out for Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Conan Stevens. The second unit director/action and stunt choreographer is Dian Hristov was Dolph’s stunt double in THE EXPENDABLES 3 and ONE IN THE CHAMBER. He’s also been Seagal’s double through most of the DTV era.

Anyway, looks good to me.

Cutting Class

tn_cuttingclassslashersearch14“Shouldn’t you be bouncing a ball somewhere?”

CUTTING CLASS is the slasher movie starring Brad Pitt. It’s one of his first couple movies, so I figured he would just be a supporting character, like, smaller than Johnny Depp in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. But he’s actually one of the three leads. There’s Final Girl Paula (Jill Schoelen) and two serious suspects for a series of murders that are going on around her school: her jock boyfriend Dwight (Pitt) or Dwight’s childhood best friend Brian (Donovan Leitch, THE BLOB), who was just released from a mental hospital after being blamed for the murder of his father. The movie does a good job of leading you back and forth about which one of these guys is the killer. Or if you want you can go ahead and believe the parts where the creepy janitor (Robert Glaudini, writer of the one movie Philip Seymour Hoffman directed, JACK GOES BOATING) acts suspicious. (read the rest of this shit…)