Pound of Flesh teaser

It sounds like this trailer is not officially complete or something like that, but it looks great. I knew this was the title of an upcoming Van Damme picture but did not realize it represented such an excellent variation on the you took my daughter/son/elephant type premise. Also it looks like a high level of fighting for modern JCVD and his first use of the splits in a long time.

You may also notice that the late Darren Shahlavi is in there. I’m not sure if he’s playing a bad guy or the bad guy. IMDb lists him second so I bet it is one of the leads and not a henchman.

The director is Ernie Barbarash, whose last movie was the enjoyable FALCON RISING with Michael Jai White. With Van Damme he has done ASSASSINATION GAMES and 6 BULLETS. Fight choreographer John Salvitti is a long time Donnie Yen collaborator going back to IN THE LINE OF DUTY 4 and up to last year’s KUNG FU JUNGLE. He even helped out on BLADE II.

UPDATE: The original trailer I posted was taken down by the producers. I’ve replaced it with the newly released official trailer, which doesn’t make it that clear that it’s about him trying to get his stolen kidney back, and doesn’t have the impressive splits-related money shot that was in the other one (even though it ends with the same scene). Seems like a weird marketing choice to me to try to stop anybody from seeing the trailer that makes it look good, but this will all be moot once we get to see the movie.

Golgo 13 (1977)

tn_golgo13GOLGO 13 from 1977 – sometimes subtitled ASSIGNMENT KOWLOON, but not to be confused with ASSIGNMENT MIAMI BEACH – is the second adaptation of a popular Japanese comic book. Sonny Chiba plays an infamous assassin known as Golgo 13. But fuck the code name, his real name, or at least the alias he’s living under, is “Duke Togo.” I mean why would you even want people to call you Golgo 13 if you’re normally called Duke Togo? Just stick with the one awesome name, in my opinion. Don’t hog ‘em.

This is a great role for Chiba because he’s just full of larger than life swagger. He wears flashy suits and sunglasses, he has boxes of weapons delivered to him at his hotel, he satisfies women, he’s the very best at killing people and outsmarting everybody. He’s Shaft times James Bond but sort of the bad guy, which makes him kind of cooler than either one. And director Yukio Noda (BRONSON LEE, CHAMPION) shamelessly drapes it in the stylistic cliches of the time. A good thing.

An opening about Hong Kong police responding to a murder moves to a small boat off Miami where a white man named Rocky Brown is expecting to meet the legendary assassin Golgo 13. He’s worried because he doesn’t see any boats around, when suddenly Golgo climbs right out of the water onto the boat with scuba gear. Two other white men watch on a telescope from a hotel balcony, discussing who he is, explaining him to us. Suddenly Golgo pulls out a rifle – is he gonna betray this guy that wants to hire him? No, he fires at the hotel, taking out both of the exposition guys. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Midnight Meat Train

tn_mmt“Please, step away from the meat.”

Before THE HANGOVER made him a marquee name, and before he was nominated for Oscars three years in a row, Bradley Cooper was the star of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008). Sure, he’d already been in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and WEDDING CRASHERS and some TV shows, like he was on Alias and he played “Jack Bourdain” in Darren Star’s short-lived TV version of Kitchen Confidential. But come on. Obviously nobody cares about that shit and I’m embarrassed that I just typed it. He was, and is, the star of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN.

Loosely based on a Clive Barker short story, this is a tale of city life. It’s about fears of late night public transit, of deserted subway platforms and cars, and our curiosity about the other odd people who are out late. The model in the fur coat, the teens selling candy bars at 2 am, most of all the dour, weathered bruiser in the suit and tie (Vinnie Jones, GARFIELD: A TAIL OF TWO KITTIES), always hunched over clutching his bag and looking miserable.

Leon (Bradley Cooper, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) sees the guy and becomes obsessed with him. He follows him GHOST WORLD style, researches him, photographs him, dreams about him. Leon helps a lady escape from rapists, she goes missing that night, and he decides the man with the bag is involved. The more he investigates the creepier and crazier the whole thing seems. And he has a dream where he sees his own head on the guy’s body and it slits his throat and he sees his face reflected in the puddle of blood. You know, that old dream. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Sniper

tn_americansniperAMERICAN SNIPER is a pretty good movie. I wouldn’t rank it too high in the pantheon of Clint Eastwood directorial works, and it’s definitely not one of the all time great war movies, or even the best movie about the Iraq war. It has some overlap with THE HURT LOCKER without being as effective, in my opinion, either as a thriller or as a character study. And obviously we gotta deduct points for it not being a story about a very old sniper played by Clint. But it’s a very good performance by Bradley Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN), it looks into an interesting world (that of the Navy SEAL sniper), it has several tense battle sequences, and it speaks about the experiences of soldiers with some of the quiet simplicity and understatedness I appreciate in an Eastwood picture. That last part is causing a problem.

In many ways it feels different from the rest of Clint’s filmography, but it returns him to one of his favorite themes: the man who has lived a life of violence having a hard time doing something else. Instead of an old outlaw it’s “most lethal sniper in U.S. military history” Chris Kyle (played by Cooper with some extra muscle, facial scruff and Texan drawl), who goes through four tours of duty in Iraq, more than his share, but every time he tries to live a peaceful life with his family he starts itching to be back in combat. It also reminds me a little bit of Clint’s movie J. EDGAR, another biopic of an extreme character that refuses to condemn him. It just presents him, tries to give him a fair shake, shows him as a human, for better or worse.

With most of Clint’s directing-not-acting movies these days (JERSEY BOYS, HEREAFTER, CHANGELING, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, etc.) it’s the same routine: a bunch of people say they suck, I see them and like them, but don’t really know many people who bothered to see them, and the world moves on. Even when he does what seems like a crowd-pleasing awards-bait type movie, like INVICTUS, the academies and what not don’t give much of a shit, and Clint doesn’t care that they don’t. Why would he? Who needs another trophy when you wake up every morning and you’re still Clint fucking Eastwood?

But AMERICAN SNIPER is different. It was nominated for 6 Oscars including best picture, and when it went into wide release last weekend it immediately became a smash hit, the biggest opening of Clint’s career. Also, it’s one of those movies that not only sells tickets, but that people apparently like. It has an A+ Cinemascore and an 89% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (His previous three movies as director rated 65%, 45% and 38%). (read the rest of this shit…)

Drive Hard

tn_drivehardDRIVE HARD joins DEATH RACE and GETAWAY in the new action subgenre of “former car racing superstar is forced to drive for bad people.” In this one the driver in question is Peter Roberts (Tom Jane, STANDER), a flaky doofus who left racing to get married and raise a daughter in Australia, but now is running out of money and having trouble paying the mortgage, let alone achieving his dream of opening a racing school. Instead he has a driver’s ed school.

Then one day mysterious troublemaker Simon Keller (John Cusack from THE PAPERBOY), a grown man who seems to already know how to drive, takes a lesson from him. After an uncomfortably horrible drive and awkward coffee break in which the stranger admits to being a fan and knowing all about his career, he convinces Peter to drive him to the bank. So he can get some cash to pay for the lesson, he says. But then he comes out holding a brief case and exchanging gunfire with security guards.
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Warlock

tn_warlockWARLOCK is a fun, simple movie about a warlock (Julian Sands) who, as he’s about to be inquisitioned to death in 1691, does a magic spell that transports him to 20th century Los Angeles. A storm accurately referred to as “The Devil’s Wind” literally blows him through the window into the home of Kassandra (Lori Singer) and her roommate. Naturally they figure he’s a drunk and let him spend the night. Talk about a racial double standard! If it was a black guy who flew through their window they’d be going for guns. And that wouldn’t have helped here but it would’ve been the right idea at least. Next thing you know the warlock is cutting out the roommate’s tongue and devouring his life essence.

Suddenly a dude wearing furs (Richard E. Grant) is in the house too. Kassandra screams, tries to get away, he punches her, she punches back. He’s talking nonsense, wants to know if the warlock bled in the house. She cuts open her vacuum bag to give him the glass shards for the window, then tries to get away. (read the rest of this shit…)

Goodbye to Language 3D

tn_goodbyetolanguageI can’t fake it, I don’t know enough about Jean-Luc Godard. I liked BREATHLESS. I kinda hated MADE IN U.S.A., but I have a Richard Stark bias.

I should see more of them, the earlier ones at least. I know his current reputation as a cantankerous anti-Hollywood zealot, so I knew I was on dangerous ground buying tickets to his divisive new one. It won a jury prize at Cannes and more recently was chosen as Best Picture by the National Society of Film Critics, but it was obvious from what little I’d read that it was not gonna be for everybody, or even mostbody. What attracted me, and the only thing I really knew about, honestly, was that it’s in 3D, and some have praised it for using 3D in innovative new ways. So as one of the last surviving 3D proponents it seemed like an event worthy of my time.

And it was, but uh… shit. What can you say?
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Darren Shahlavi

shahlavi
I’m afraid it is being reported that Darren Shahlavi, the martial artist best known for playing Twister, the arrogant villain of IP MAN 2, has died. I haven’t found any explanation of a cause of death or confirmation from a news organization, but several people who have worked with Shahlavi, including Jesse V. Johnson (who directed him in THE PACKAGE) seem to believe it’s true. Shahlavi was quite active on Twitter, so I imagine if it was a hoax he would’ve seen it and cleared it up by now.

Fans of DTV and late period Seagal would recognize Shahlavi even if they didn’t know his name. He was in BORN TO RAISE HELL, TACTICAL FORCE and episodes of True Justice. He played Kano in the newer incarnation of MORTAL KOMBAT, and also was in an old movie called LETHAL COMBAT, where he played… Twister? I didn’t know that.

He had been filming the new KICKBOXER movie (possibly called KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE now, but I think it’s still a remake). He plays Eric Sloane, who in the original was Van Damme’s brother who got paralyzed in the ring by Tong Po so he had to get revenge for him.

I learned to get excited whenever Shahlavi showed up in a movie, usually as a smug bad guy. I really did believe he was on the rise. He will be missed.

When We Were Kings

tn_wwwkIf you were going to build the prototype for the ultimate man, wouldn’t it pretty much be 1974 Muhammad Ali? He’s a badass, a fighter with style. I don’t even really like boxing that much but I love to watch him dance around, swinging his fists so fast. Even Bruce Lee liked to watch him.

He’s handsome in a manly way. He’s charming, eloquent, and funny as hell. His humor is mostly based around making preposterous boasts… but it’s not some Danny McBride overconfidence thing, because he usually delivers. In this movie there’s an interview where he goes into detail about high speed photography and how one of his punches was proven to take only four one hundredths of a second, like a blink or a camera flash, and all this is setup for him to claim “Now, the minute I hit Sonny Liston, all of those people blinked at that moment, that’s why they didn’t see the punch.” A tall tale, but based on a true, provable incident.

Of equal importance, Ali has integrity of the Stickin It To The Man variety. He didn’t believe in the war so he refused to sign up for selective service, knowing it would endanger his career, reputation and freedom, and he held his head high the whole time. And he was outspoken about racism too. And he was right. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Huey P. Newton Story

tn_hueypnewtonPANTHER reminded me of one of the few Spike Lee movies I hadn’t seen, the 2001 made-for-cable A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY. When it comes to the Spike Lee Jointography there are three categories. There’s the main ones you think about – DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X, all the way through his recent OLDBOY remake. And sprinkled in between are the documentaries, often made for cable. They’re less widely seen, of course, but really good, movies like FOUR LITTLE GIRLS and WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE. But even rarer than that there’s the performance films. I gotta admit I haven’t gotten to most of these. PASSING STRANGE was one, that’s a Broadway musical. I did see ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY. That was pretty good.

A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY, A SPIKE LEE JOINT is a filmed version of a one-man show that Roger Guenveur Smith did starting in 1996 at the New York theater where Hair started.

I don’t know if you know who Smith is. He’s gotta be best known for playing Smiley in DO THE RIGHT THING, so I’m sure people walk up to him on the street every day and say “M-M-M-Martin. M-M-M-Malcolm.” He’s actually been in several Spike Lee movies, he was on Oz I guess, he was one of the stars of Steven Soderbergh’s improvised lobbyist drama K-Street on HBO. But also he was the bad guy in Seagal’s MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE.

He’s an actor I’ve always liked, but I could understand if you didn’t. He has a very theatrical style. He’s a character actor but he likes to show off. He always carries around a little stick of scenery in his pocket to chew on. MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE is an example of him getting a little loosey goosey with the accents. (read the rest of this shit…)