War

tn_warex3-li-stathamWait a minute, there’s a movie that’s Jet Li vs. Jason Statham that I never bothered to watch? How can this happen? Well, I remember I was excited for it when it came out but then everybody said it sucked, and I’ve seen enough generic movies of this type (Statham vs. Snipes in CHAOS) to fear sitting through another boring, lifeless slog that wastes my favorite action stars. Fortunately I think I waited just the right amount of time because while I’d agree it isn’t a proper use of Jet Li that’s not really a crushing surprise anymore, and WAR is more watchable, more of a real movie than what I’d always pictured.
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Rebel

tn_rebelex3stallone“Thanks for the poncho.”

We associate Sylvester Stallone with the ’80s, right? Sure, it was ’76 when he blew up with ROCKY and the ’90s by the time he did CLIFFHANGER. But it was the ’80s when he became Rambo, and RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART II was the height of his worldwide icon status, it seems to me. The one that inspired a thousand ripoff VHS covers and parodies and was quoted by President Reagan. To people who aren’t into his type of action movies he’s a symbol of Reagan era war-mongering and media violence. To us he’s on the Mount Rushmore of the most prolific and larger-than-life era of the genre we love most.

For all these reasons it’s weird to see him playing a lefty student radical, as he does in REBEL (filmed as NO WAY OUT). Released in 1970, this was his second real movie role, the first being the softcore movie THE PARTY AT KITTY AND STUD’S. This time he plays Jerry Savage, an anti-war activist who’s grown tired of useless campus protests and wants to do something that will make a difference. To that end he’s gotten involved with a Weather Underground type group that’s planning a bombing to protest a popular kitchenware company that’s making a side business of manufacturing tiger cages, “animal cages to hold people” that they prove are not only being used cruelly in ‘Nam, but are also being set aside for future use at home. (read the rest of this shit…)

Step Up All In

tn_stepupallinIt may be shameful but it’s no secret that I’m a fan of the STEP UP series. It’s like the DEATH WISH series in many ways. Okay, in only one way: I like all of them. The first one is enjoyable dumb melodrama, then the second is a surprisingly good and clever sequel, and the third is even better. Part 4, REVOLUTION, was not quite as good but I liked it, it had people dancing on bouncing cars and a ridiculous plot about using flash mob dancing as a tool of political protest and at the end Peter Gallagher thanked the guy for practically humping his daughter on stage in front of him. Because the transcendence of dance or whatever.

I’m happy to report that I liked part 5, STEP UP ALL IN, a little better than the last one, although admittedly they sorta cheat and do it by rehashing parts 2 and 3 and bringing back favorite characters for more than just cameos this time.
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Cherry 2000

tn_cherryCHERRY 2000 is a quirky post-apocalyptic adventure, one with a cool sci-fi western premise and alot of underlying oddness and satirical observation about life in the ’80s. The action is slightly stilted, and I think director Steve De Jarnatt (who followed this up with the pre-apocalyptic MIRACLE MILE) is more comfortable doing funny twists on the genre than sincerely following its tropes, but I also think there is a good faith effort to deliver the goods. There are lots of machine guns and blowtorches, some explosions, some great stunts involving a car hanging from a crane. When the weinery yuppie protagonist decides to man up he does it by setting fire to a bunch of cars and rigging an explosion that knocks over Tim Thomerson and swarms him with bees. Not bad. (read the rest of this shit…)

Menahem Golan, 1929-2014

tn_golanAs you may have read, Menahem Golan, co-head of The Cannon Group (as well as 21st Century Film Corporation and New Cannan Group) died today at the age of 85. Don’t worry, he didn’t have to suffer from cancer or anything, he just collapsed while walking outside his home in Jaffa, and could not be revived. Golan was a filmmaker to the end, at least according to an IMDb listing that says he was in pre-production on a new ALLAN QUATERMAIN movie that he wrote and would’ve directed.

Like so many of the greats, Golan actually got his start working for Roger Corman, in his case as a production assistant on THE YOUNG RACERS in 1963. That same year he made his writing/directing debut with a Hebrew-language Israeli production called EL DORADO, starring Topol of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF fame. Throughout his career he would direct more than 40 films and produce more than 200. He and his cousin Yoram Globus started Noah Films, an Israeli production company known worldwide for the Oscar nominated satire SALLAH. But of course we know and love them for their reign as the heads of The Cannon Group, which they purchased in 1979 and turned into a prolific powerhouse of low budget action and exploitation in the VHS era. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sector 4: Extraction

tn_sector4“A mercenary that gives a fuck. Great.”

Sometimes I watch a movie that’s hard to even squeeze a review out of. I could do a consumer reports type deal telling you the plot and that it’s boring and mediocre, but I wouldn’t have much of the ol’ insight to offer. Usually if I feel that way I just don’t bother writing anything. This one is borderline, but I’m gonna try to tough it out because I consider it historically important: it’s the directorial debut of Olivier Gruner.

Ah shit, now I looked it up and this is his third movie as a director. So it’s not even a milestone or anything. Why did I watch the whole thing?
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Enemy

tn_enemyENEMY is a weird, spooky thriller that director Denis Villaneuve and star Jake Gyllenhaal did right before PRISONERS. The arthouse freakout before the expensive studio drama that Lee Daniels got fired from. PRISONERS made me pay attention to the former and gain new respect for the latter, so here I am watching ENEMY.

Gyllenhaal plays a depressed college history professor who rents a movie one day and notices that the part of Bellhop #3 is played by a guy who looks exactly like him. Creepy. He does some detective work and tracks down the actor, who also has his same voice and an identical scar. He’s not sure what the fuck is going on, and he’s fascinated, but he’s weird about it. He calls and confuses the guy’s poor wife. (read the rest of this shit…)

Guardians of the Galaxy

tn_guardiansPeter “Star Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt, ZERO DARK THIRTY) is a wannabe legendary space outlaw, a good fighter with a cool breather mask and ship who takes gigs from unsavory characters retrieving rare objects and stuff. A Transporter, if you will. When he finds something called “the orb” for a scary space guy with the scary space name of Rhonan the Accuser, he learns that it endangers everybody in the galaxy, and he decides he’s against that. So he teams up with an alien lady trying to snatch it from him (Zoe Saldana, but green this time instead of AVATAR blue), two bounty hunters trying to capture him (Bradley Cooper [MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN] and Vin Diesel, both voicing cartoons), and a psycho they met in prison (Dave Bautista, RIDDICK) to try to get it somewhere safe, wherever the fuck that would be. I don’t think they discuss throwing it into a volcano like a lord of the rings would do. (read the rest of this shit…)

Barbarian Queen / Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back

tn_barbarianqueen“I’ll be no man’s slave and no man’s whore. And if I can’t kill them all then by the gods they’ll know I tried.”

BARBARIAN QUEEN (1985)

I’m not saying BARBARIAN QUEEN would be great under other circumstances either, but especially watching it right after HUNDRA it seems like kind of a waste. Obviously Roger Corman and/or his people saw that movie and thought “oh shit, we can do a CONAN rip-off but with boobs!” So it’s another sword-wielding woman who overcomes medieval evil, but you’re never really sure how pro-woman it is. As often as they have tough warrior women defeating men in sword fights they seem to have them getting pinned down and having their tops torn off. It happens so much I’m thinking maybe they think the audience is supposed to enjoy it more than root against it.

She even gets hung topless on a rack for a long period and it’s not really treated like a traumatic event. And the wort part is it seems like they could’ve done fine in the titillation department without all that shit. The costume department obviously worked really hard on all the cleavage display all throughout the movie, and then they just get shown up by these boobs ‘n torture scenes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lucy

tn_lucyLUCY is the new movie by Luc Besson and his first directorial work since… THE MESSENGER? … to be noticed much in the U.S. He had supposedly retired from directing after ANGEL-A in 2005, but then he made another one of those ARTHUR children’s movies and by 2010 he was doing THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC (which I liked) and fuck it, he was still a director. Last year he did THE FAMILY with Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer (which I, like most Americans, haven’t gotten around to yet) but now all the sudden he has this LUCY and it’s a big hit, opening much bigger than The Rock’s HERCULES even though that one is PG-13. (There actually was a point early in LUCY where I thought to myself “Oh good, they do still make R-rated movies.”)

Scarlett Johansson plays the titlogical Lucy, a student in Taiwan when her douchebag boyfriend of one week (a Donal-Logue-at-a-rave type dude with a shitty cowboy hat and yellow-tinted glasses) gets her involved against her will with some ruthless gangsters led by Choi Min-sik (OLDBOY). She doesn’t speak the language so she barely knows what’s going on by the time she has a bag of experimental drugs (actually blue pop rocks I think) sewn into her belly for clandestine transport.

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