"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Ricky Powell: The Individualist

RICKY POWELL: THE INDIVIDUALIST is a 2020 documentary about the late New York City photographer/scenester who documented the golden age of hip hop and the ‘80s New York City art scene. Most of us know of him because of a line in a Beastie Boys song – he grew up with Ad Rock and went with them on their tours for around a decade, hanging out and taking photos. He also took many famous pictures of Run DMC, LL Cool J and Public Enemy.

And it was more than that. He just lived in an interesting place and time, and knew a ton of people who went on to do big things, who were comfortable with him and let him take candid photos of them. Club kids, actors, graffiti artists. Some of his old friends are interviewed in the movie: Natasha Lyonne, Debi Mazar, Fab 5 Freddy, Laurence Fishburne, the graffiti writer Zephyr. (read the rest of this shit…)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

So far I have watched all the Marvelous Cinematical Unabomber motion pictures and related Disney+ streaming television works, and I have enjoyed the majority of them. But fuck all that. What’s important here is that DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS is the first movie Sam Raimi has directed since OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL nine years ago. I liked it quite a bit more than that last one, but my feeling about it is kind of similar: it’s just fun to see him working on a giant canvas, putting his spookablastian spin on this other thing, even though I’d much rather see him working with his own creations.

MCU movie #28 with Raimi’s fingerprints all over it is not as good as, say, an original western with Raimi’s fingerprints all over it, let alone an original comic-book-inspired character he made up, but it is, at times, thrilling. MULTIVERSE opens mid-battle as ex-surgeon-turned-ex-Sorcerer-Supreme Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, the guy in the dragon costume in THE HOBBIT) and a teenage girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez, SHADOW WOLVES) are super-leaping across chunks of debris floating in space while a tendril-covered demon blocks access to a pedestal holding a magic book called the Book of Vishanti. It’s the good counterpart to the evil Darkhold, which in this context suddenly I realize is the MCU equivalent of the Necronomicon. They’re leap-frogging and parkouring and the camera is deftly moving around them in impossible ways, a natural evolution of all the groundbreaking web-slinging sequences in Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN trilogy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rage and Honor II: Hostile Takeover

RAGE AND HONOR II: HOSTILE TAKEOVER was released only a year later (1993), but it’s made by a whole new team. It’s the only narrative feature directed by Guy Norris, an Australian stunt legend who had been on the team for THE ROAD WARRIOR, stunt coordinator for DEAD END DRIVE-IN and BLOOD OF HEROES, etc.

This sequel also has a new set of writers: Louis Sun & Steven Reich. Sun has no other credits, but Reich was producer of CIRCUITRY MAN and SHAKES THE CLOWN, both also released by record-label-turned-film-distributor I.R.S. Media.

Rothrock is playing Kris Fairchild again, but she might as well be a different character. We first see her sneaking around in all black with gun holsters, wearing a headset and saying “Alpha 1 in position” before battling a bunch of terrorists in creepy Halloween masks. It will turn out to be a training exercise, meaning she has moved on from both of her jobs in part I – high school history teacher and martial arts instructor. Now suddenly she’s some kind of agent and she’s sent to work for a bank in Thailand as part of an investigation. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rage and Honor

RAGE AND HONOR (1992) opens in black and white – first, grainy high contrast footage of the city, maybe 16mm, then camcorder footage with scanlines – following leather-jacketed Kris Fairfield (Cynthia Rothrock) in an empty high school class room, finishing up her day of work and heading home. I assumed this was a reference to the Michelle Pfeiffer tough-and-inspirational-inner-city-teacher movie DANGEROUS MINDS, which also opened in black and white, until I realized that this came out three years earlier. This is another TOP-GUN-coming-out-after-IRON-EAGLE situation. I got one very suspicious and insinuating eye on you, Mr. Bruckheimer. You’re on notice.

The biggest surprise about this movie is that after the opening it’s never relevant or mentioned that she’s a high school teacher. I was so confused by it that I reloaded the DVD two different times thinking I must’ve misinterpreted something. But it’s true – she has a classroom, a chalkboard, she leaves with papers to grade, she runs into a student named Paris (Patrick Malone, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES) and gives him his paper, she seems to be his history teacher. It’s too bad they didn’t stick with the idea, because a Rothrock version of THE SUBSTITUTE or ONLY THE STRONG would be right up my alley. She really does seem like a cool teacher. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tiger Claws II / Tiger Claws III

TIGER CLAWS II (1996) starts with part I’s Tiger Claw kung fu serial killer Chong (Bolo Yeung) in jail, and ends with him on another astral plane. During that same period the quality of the movie takes a similar journey, going from very promising to something else entirely.

Chong is sitting cross-legged on the floor of his cell when a shithead cop comes in and asks “Who’s the gorilla?” Hearing that Chong has just finished a 9 month psych evaluation and will plead insanity tomorrow, the cop (who didn’t even know who the guy was) insists “He’s not crazy!” and goes into the cell to “teach him some manners” by hitting him with a club and yelling at him.

(I do totally believe this part actually.)

Chong sits and meditates, ignoring him at first, then casually taking the club from him. Unfortunately he doesn’t do anything with it.

Meanwhile our boy Tarek (Jalal Merhi) is busting a gloriously-ponytailed arms dealer named Victor (Evan Lurie, DOUBLE IMPACT, MARTIAL LAW II, AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2). There are fiery explosions, he gets his man, but his partner dies, and while he’s distracted some guys in a white van free Victor. (read the rest of this shit…)

Moonfall

“I always used conspiracy theories because, not that I really believe in them in any way, it’s more like it’s kind of the lure of it… There is like endless stuff about the moon. So, in that respect, it was so strange for me that we got supported by NASA. I have no clue why they’re doing this. Honest to God. I have no inkling of an idea why they did this, but obviously, they need it.” 

—Roland Emmerich to Collider

MOONFALL is the most recent picture from director Roland Emmerich (UNIVERSAL SOLDIER), now available on video. It uses pretty much the same character tropes, broad cliches, annoying humor and preposterous approach to plotting that made him briefly an A-list director after (for reasons I still have not been able to discern) people liked those things in INDEPENDENCE DAY. That was a long time ago, and for quite a few years now the public has been less accepting of Emmerich’s product. By now all the destruction in his movies is computer generated, and we’ve seen every single thing everywhere digitally destroyed many times over, so the novelty has worn off. But somehow I’ve grown to get more of a kick out of his wildly ridiculous movies because they seem much more charming now that everybody agrees they’re just some puzzling bullshit that Hollywood made for some reason and not the current state of the art for blockbuster filmmaking.

In other words, this was by far the dumbest shit I’ve seen in a while, so I enjoyed it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Street Trash

I was thinking about STREET TRASH (1987) after I revisited the TOXIC AVENGER series a couple months back. I had seen the movie as a teen and all I really remembered was a part where some dude is taking a piss and his dick gets ripped off and a bunch of guys play keep away with it. Of course, any movie would be proud to have a memorable scene like that, and most filmmakers would tip their hat to it, just out of professionalism. But it is widely known that TOXIC AVENGER director Lloyd Kaufman hates STREET TRASH and the people behind it. I heard him grumble about it at a book signing, and he refers to it sometimes in his books, without really going into specifics. People ask him about it in interviews, but he’ll just make a joke. The best explanation seems to be that he thinks it’s a rip off of the Troma style. Also, there was apparently some incident involving its “little shit” director Jim Muro on an episode of The Morton Downey, Jr. Show.

It definitely traffics in a similar in-your-face repulsiveness/taboo-violating to the Troma movies. It takes place among a community of homeless alcoholics in Brooklyn and uncomfortably blurs the line between offensive caricature and (very mildly) sympathetic portrayal. I can’t think of a character in the movie that’s not intentionally repellent, but the movie at least recognizes that they’re up against a cruel and unjust world. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Jackal

Bruce Willis is… THE JACKAL. This one came out in 1997, between THE FIFTH ELEMENT and MERCURY RISING. It was coming off an adventurous couple of years in Bruce’s career that included NOBODY’S FOOL and 12 MONKEYS, and this is more of a normal Hollywood picture than those, but it was still an unusual role for him. He’s top-billed over Richard Gere (who was between RED CORNER and RUNAWAY BRIDE) but playing the antagonist, a very cold and serious assassin hired to kill the head of the FBI.

It comes from director Michael Caton-Jones (DOC HOLLYWOOD) and it’s based on Kenneth Ross’s screenplay to the 1973 Fred Zinnemann film DAY OF THE JACKAL, which itself was based on a 1971 novel by Frederick Forsyth. The new screenplay is credited to Chuck Pfarrer, a national hero because he wrote HARD TARGET and part of DARKMAN. (He was also a Navy SEAL and wrote NAVY SEALS.) Reportedly there was an uncredited rewrite by Kevin Jarre (who has a “story by” credit on RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II). (read the rest of this shit…)

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

I’m going to start this review nice and then get all my complaints out and then be nice again. THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT is a fun movie with the irresistible gimmick that it stars Nic Cage as himself (or, I guess, “Nick Cage,” according to the credits). It’s pretty funny and kind of sweet, it allows him to refer to his “nouveau shamanic acting” process a couple times, references some of his movies, even has a de-aged and sometimes mega version of himself as his invisible spirit guide, “Nicky.” It’s a nice mainstream acknowledgment of what used to be a somewhat fringe opinion: that Nic Cage is brilliant and awesome, whether as an action star, as a work-a-day b-movie headliner, or as an eccentric weirdo.

The plot involves Cage at a low point because he’s been rejected for a role he wants really bad (directed by David Gordon Green, who wrote the foreword to Seagalogy, which means I’m two degrees from Nic Cage), he’s running out of money, and his daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION) and ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan, GAME NIGHT) are fed up with him. So he agrees to accept an offer to attend a rich dude’s birthday party in Mallorca for a million dollars. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Northman

THE NORTHMAN is the new one from Robert Eggers (THE WITCH), his version of a badass viking revenge story. Of course that’s filtered through his arcane sensibilities, making it a cousin to David Lowery’s fantasy-by-way-of-A24 movie THE GREEN KNIGHT and, moreso, Nicolas Winding Refn’s VALHALLA RISING. It’s actually a little bit more straightforward and traditionally entertaining than either of those, or at least doesn’t descend into an abyss of strangeness with no visible exit sign. But it’s not GLADIATOR either. It won’t pass as a movie made for normal people.

It has a basis in Icelandic folklore, especially versions of the story of Amleth, which inspired Hamlet. Eggers wrote it with an Icelandic author named Sjón, who wrote REYKJAVIK WHALE WATCHING MASSACRE and LAMB, but also grew up with Bjork, co-wrote some of her songs and performed with The Sugarcubes under the name “Johnny Triumph,” so he got her to have a cameo as a prophetic witch or whatever. A significant casting coup there in my opinion. She doesn’t act that much but it would be cool if this gave her the bug again and then she got to be a villain in FAST X or something. (read the rest of this shit…)