Review: The Legend of Drunken Master
Directed by: Lau Kar-Leung
Category: Hong Kong Cinema
Legendary director Lau Kar-Leung brilliantly directs this Jackie Chan classic utilizing the widescreen aspect ratio to full effect. I mean, some of the visuals in here are simply breathtaking and flat out brilliant thanks to director Lau Kar-Leung's amazing ability to perfectly frame every single shot in gorgeous widescreen. I'm really surprised that it's not considered one of Chan's better films in general because it has everything you could possibly want in an old school Jackie Chan film before he went all Hollywood on us. This is Jackie Chan in full on Jackie Chan mode with insane fight sequences, a collection of International martial artists cast as the bad guys and the fearlessness Chan displayed in his career in the 80's and majority of the 90's.
I had only seen this once before, and I honestly can't remember where or when. I'm sure it was at a theater, but I think it must have been at the time when Miramax was buying the rights to these films and re-releasing them dubbed and in most cases edited. But in any case, I remember loving it and always remember the last part of this being one helluva badass and endless martial arts sequence with Chan's character getting drunk on gasoline or something and basically becoming invincible.
Wong Fei-hung (Jackie Chan) is unwittingly thrust into an international scheme to steal local and very valuable Chinese artifacts and import them around the world when a package in his possession is accidentally switched on train ride back home from market shopping trip. He also practices a type of martial arts called "Drunken Boxing", which his father forbids him to ever do and which also makes him very dangerous when fighting. It's up to Fei-hung and his friends to stop the black market merchants at all costs to protect his countries honor. Will he do this righteously? Or will he drink a few bottles of wine and revert to his remarkable Drunken Boxing abilities, which he has sworn he would never use again?
It's been a long while since I've seen a martial arts film this good, one that doesn't delve into fantasy or use an excessive amount of wire work. Sure, there's wire work in here, but it's used in a few situations where your not supposed to know they used wires, not like most of the marital arts films nowadays where the fight scenes always delve into fantasy or the ridiculous with martial artists actually flying and shit.
It was really great seeing director Lau Kar-Leung appear in this one as well. I tell you, for an old guy he can kick some serious ass. "And" direct a badass film at the same time. Quite an accomplishment if you ask me. I also have to give it up to Anita Mui. Though I can imagine that she can come off as annoying to a lot of people, I found her pretty funny in this one. The rest of the cast is pretty great in this too, each bringing there own individual talents to the table. Jackie Chan though was really fun to see. With all the crappy family friendly Hollywood movies he'd been making for the last 11 years, I often forget he was a badass and Legend of Drunken Master is a true testament to his immortal badassness.
I know this is supposed to be a sequel to Chan's other Drunken Master film from '78, but Miramax/Dimension films changed the name and I'm sure cut it severely as they often did with these imports. I will say though, the dubbing wasn't bad at all. And having Jackie Chan dub his own voice certainly helps. For a good ol' fashioned martial arts film with some classic Jackie Chan style stunts, you can't go wrong with Legend of Drunken Master.
Directed by: Russell Mulcahey
Category: Badass Cinema
Richochet has everything that a lover of Badass Cinema could possibly want. 90's action cinema at it's finest, a hit or miss director momentarily showing a flash of genius, a legendary action cinema screenwriter reminding us why he was one of the best at what he does and the unlikely casting of John Lithgow as an exceedingly evil villain who can actually take down Jesse Ventura. Not once, but twice!
I hadn't seen this one in a long while, but always remember being struck by how visually striking it all was at the hands of original Highlander director Russell Mulcahey. But it wasn't until Jack over at Collected Cinema did an enthusiastic review on this in his "Forgotten" series that I finally got the push I needed to get off my ass and revisit this one again. You can check out that awesome review here.
Nick Styles (Denzel Washington) is a young LA Cop who happens to be at the right place at the right time when Earl Talbot Blake (John Lithgow) attempts to flee a drug deal where he's just murdered everybody in the room. During a tense negotiation, which just so happens to be caught on camera by a bystander with a camera, Styles shoots Blake in the knee with a gun hidden in his underwear all while Blake is holding a female hostage, eventually subduing him. Hailed for his heroic deed with footage of the incident all over the news, Styles is immediately upgraded to detective and eventually district attorney, all while Blake languishes in prison with only one thing on his mind, to seek revenge against the man who put him there, Nick Styles. After a daylight escape from prison, Blake begins a methodical scheme to ruin the district attorney's life and drive him over the edge until he's left publicly humiliated and desperate to the point of insanity.
So let's discuss the incredible talent behind the camera for a moment. I've always liked Russell Mulcahey as a director. He's had more misses than hits in his career and seems to never really stick with one definable style from one film to the next, but when he hits he hits big. For me, as much as I love the original Highlander, it's this film I admire most from his filmography. It's brilliantly directed with so much style that to this day I cannot believe that he directed both Ricochet "and" one of the worst films in his career, Highlander II: The Quickening in the same year. That's such an extreme parallel. In the same year he managed to direct both the best and worst film from his filmography with two completely different looks and styles that you'd never know they were made by the same guy unless you were a geek for this shit like I am.
But you've also got action producer extraordinaire Joel Silver on producing duties, 80's and 90's action god Steven E. De Souza on screenwriting duties and it's almost impossible not to figure out who did the score as it sounds almost identical to his score in Predator a few years earlier. I'm talking about Alan Silvestri. But hey, that's fine because it works amazingly well in this film adding just the right amount of tension to an already taut action thriller.
What makes Ricochet work so well is that all of these elements behind and in front of the camera work so damn well. It's one of those perfect examples of 80's and 90's Badass Cinema where all these elements came together at just the right time in the genre, much like Predator, Die Hard, Action Jackson and I Come in Peace did. I had such a blast with this one. It's an utterly ridiculous plot filled with completely ridiculous situations and circumstances but at the same time it's so much damn fun. You just can't take this stuff too seriously. But at the same time, how can you? We're supposed to believe that John Lithgow can physically take down Jesse "The Body" Ventura in two separate sequences. 'Nuff said.
The film's full of awesomely brilliant sequences and visuals. But one of the ones that stand out the most is a sequence inside of the prison Blake (Lithgow) has just been sent to. It's in what looks to be a kitchen and you hear someone yelling that if two inmates have a problem with each other, they fight it out. Only they tape books to there bodies for armor and use weight bars as swords. This was such a brilliantly executed sequence that mimicked almost to the exact camera angles the final fight between Macleod and The Kurgan. I mean, it was almost identical and I loved it.
Bottom line, you just can't go wrong with Ricochet. A sorely overlooked entry to the early 90's action thriller genre with the combined talents of De Souza, Silver and Mulcahey working on all cylinders. Since it's release, we've only ever had one DVD release, and it's not a very good one. It's never as clear as it should be and though it is in widescreen thankfully, it feels like it should look so much better. Here's to hoping that we eventually get a blu-ray release of this beauty some day. It totally deserves it.
Review: Mothers Day (2010)
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
I've never seen the 1980 Troma original, so of course when I heard the director of Saw II, III and IV was doing a remake I assumed it was going to be in the same vein as that 80's horror classic, but I was mistaken.
Mother's Day (2010) plays out more like a thriller than anything, and that's perfectly fine unless you were expecting a full blown horror film. But whatever. It's not the end of the world and once I realized what kind of film this was actually going to be, roughly about 30 minutes in, then it wasn't so bad and Mother's Day (2010) has a lot to like once it's all over. Rebecca De Mornay most importantly. She's certainly played a villain before, but none quite like the character of Mother in this film. She's about as evil, cold, calculating and diabolical as they come, but then in the same breath she's sweet, warm and seems genuinely compassionate towards her hostages which only makes things worse because it's all a mindfuck. She knows how to get into your head, as she's done with her murdering, robbing and raping "boys". And that's the best part of Mother's Day. Seeing Rebecca De Mornay play an evil ice cold bitch, and then like the flip of a switch, seeing her become mothering, nurturing and caring within a split second.
The Koffin boys have just have just escaped a deal gone bad. When one of them is shot during the double cross, they decide to head to there old house where there mother resides, only to find out much too late that mother has lost the house to foreclosure and there are new tenants living there who just so happen to be throwing a party when the Koffin brothers show up. Angry and confused, they take the new tenants and there friends hostage and call there mother (De Mornay) who soon arrives and takes charge. What's supposed to be a quick and easy getaway soon becomes a nightmare for everyone involved.
In the realms of a suspense thriller, this had a lot of tension, really fucked up situations and a decent amount of violence. You don't get any "horror" film type of gore here, but director Darren Lynn Bousman doesn't shy away from the gratuitous nature of violence and at times even revels in it. I wish I could say he did a bangup job making this thing look slick and unique, but he doesn't. Bouseman has a directing style that you honestly couldn't differentiate from any other up and coming horror director. I guess that's not a bad thing, but if you're making movies, you certainly want to put your stamp on them. He's constantly working and making horror films, but you'd never say "That's a Darren Lynn Bousman film". He might get there one day, he just hasn't yet.
The cast here is all really good with a few recognizable character actors, but I can't say one single actor really stood out, except for De Mornay, because as an ensemble cast they all did pretty great and were effective. But this is De Mornay's show all the way.
Once you get out of the mindset that this isn't going to be a full on horror remake, you'll enjoy it much more for what it is, a well made and tense suspense thriller. The second half makes up for any shortcomings the first half might have, and the small twists and turns the creep up here and there offer a nice payoff to a film that ended up being slightly better than I was expecting it to be.
Nightbreed AKA Cabal German Big Box VHS Clamshell
If you haven't already heard, there is a movement to get Clive Barker's Nightbreed restored to an awesome 159 minute extended cut (or Cabal cut as it's been coined), compared to it's theatrical run of only 105 minutes, and converted to blu-ray. However, they need 5000 signatures before Morgan Creek even considers looking through there vaults for the print and missing footage. Please, if you want to see this awesome film released the way Barker had intended in his cut then click the link to the right and sign the petition. They are so close, only needing 1000 more signatures by the end of the month. Do you part, spread the word, repost the link on your blog, facebook page and twitter and let's make this happen.
Here's the link to the petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nightbreed/
Special thanks to my good buddy Ingo over at Hellford667 Movie Reviews for once again hooking me up with this German beauty.
Review: The Rookie
|VHS cover scan courtesy of VHSWasteland.com|
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Category: Badass Cinema
I had been wanting to revisit this one for quite some time, remembering a few badass sequences here and there and wondering if my memories held true. I remember this coming out when the "cop buddy" resurgence was in full swing thanks to Lethal Weapon and then it's massively successful sequel that came out a year before this did. What better time to cash in on the cop buddy movie craze right? One thing's clearly evident, there is and always will be a (pre) and (post) Unforgiven Eastwood filmography. (Pre) meaning that while he starred, directed and often times both starred "and" directed in movies up until the western masterpiece Unforgiven in 1993, none of them matched the immense style and talent on full display in that film and pretty much every film he directed after. In fact, it almost seems like he was reborn (metaphorically speaking of course) with Unforgiven because it's like someone else has sat behind the directors chair with almost all of his subsequent films. Hell, he's even won Oscars for directing since then for Christ's sake! Yea I know, they haven't all been winners, but the ones that do stand out are the ones we'll always remember.
So yea, the guy's matured immensely as a visualist and stylish director and while The Rookie is fun and completely enjoyable, it doesn't fall under the (post) Eastwood style. But that's okay, because if you're in the mood for a cop buddy movie full of action, ridiculous situations and curse words galore, then this just might be for you.
I had a lot of fun with this one. It starts off with one helluva action sequence where detective Pulovski (Eastwood) and his partner engage a stolen car ring in progress. Pulovski's partner gets killed by the ringleader Strom (Raul Julia) and a car chase ensues with Pulovski in pursuit of a big rig hauling about a half dozen stolen sports cars, which the bad guys proceed to let loose from the rig while they are being chased by Pulovski. A pretty badass sequence to say the least and an awesome way to start the film. After the death of his partner, Pulovski is partnered up with rookie David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen), a rich kid who wants to do something more with his life than live off of daddy's money. Of course these two mismatched partners don't click (could there be any other kind of cop buddy flick?), and a lot of insults and name calling ensues, until Pulovski is kidnapped by Strom (Julia) and his crazy sidekick chick Liesel (Sonia Braga) over the loss of his inventory thanks to Pulovkski's interference at the beginning of the film. He's demanding a two million dollar ransom to cover the loss and to pay back the people he works under. So it's up to The Rookie to save his new partner. Will he ask daddy for the ransom, or use what he's learned from his tough as nails and slightly demented partner to save the day?
Eastwood was awesome. Still buff in his old age and really good at playing an asshole. Even when his new partner has helped him out and saved his ass countless times, he never says thank you and still treats him like a piece of shit. Charlie Sheen was really great in this one too. We all know where it all went wrong for him, and I often forget there was a time when he was making big budget films like Young Guns, Platoon and Wall Street, but the guy is a natural and it clearly shows in films like this. The late great Raul Julia is always great, chewing up the scene in everything he does. But it's the miscasting of Sonia Braga that really threw me for a loop. I don't know who's idea it was to cast her as the sexy villain, but she's anything but sexy and just seemed horribly miscast here.
One of the best things The Rookie has going for it is that it has some pretty badass action sequences, a convertible with Pulovski and Ackerman crashing through the window of an exploding building, then flying through the air on top of another building accidentally crashing through a sky roof until it lands on the ground inside the building is "the" standout. On top of that, the film only gets better and better as it progresses, with only a few lull sequences here and there. If I had to bitch about anything, it would be those lull sequences, the way too long 2 hour running time and the fact that I would have preferred someone else behind the directors chair for this one. It's all filmed nice and pretty straightforward (it's clean and you can actually tell what the hell's going on), but I think someone with a much more visual style could have really made something special out of this one. I feel the same way about Richard Donner and Lethal Weapon 2 and 4, but that's just me. If IMDB is to be believed, the great Craig R. Baxley (Action Jackson, I Come in Peace, Stone Cold) was originally set to direct this in '88 and oh man! I would have given anything to see that!
Here's some interesting technical tidbits. Scott Spiegel (writer/director of Intruder and writer of Evil Dead 2) co-wrote this with The Punisher screenwriter Boaz Yakin. And I'm talkin' about the "best" Punisher film, the 1989 masterpiece starring Dolph motherfuckin' Lundgren.
This was Eastwood before he got all artsy and starting winning Oscars, but this was literally right at the cusp of his shift in style so it still has a lot to offer. Maybe a little too long at 2 hours, but a lot of action and a tried and true formula keep this one in check.
Review: Let The Bullets Fly
Directed by: Jiang Wen
Category: Hong Kong Cinema
I had read a few blurbs about this one recently, all positive, and when I saw this was available at the Redbox the other day, I jumped at the chance to check it out because it had been a while since I was impressed with any kind of Hong Kong cinema. Though to be fair, I really haven't seen a whole lot of them to begin with recently.
I'll be honest, I just didn't get it and I just didn't dig it at all. I tried, because I really, really wanted to like this one. But it all fell flat and a lot of it just didn't make any sense and went right over my head. But I'm sure you'd have to be somewhat familiar with Chinese culture or even Chinese folklore or mythology to really get a lot of it? I don't know. A :lot" of the dialogue comes at you in a fast and furious pace that with subtitles, even "I" had a hard time keeping up, and like I said, I just didn't understand a lot of it. But then again maybe some of it is lost in the translation.
One of the biggest issues I had with this was that it was too "slapstick comedy" and a little too silly for my taste. And I try not to judge a book by it's cover too often, but with a title like Let The Bullets Fly, I was expecting an action film, and honestly, I didn't see a whole lot of action in here. Add the fact that Chow Yun-Fat (who's usually a badass), plays two characters in this, and one of them annoying as hell, and it just all didn't gel very well with me. While I've never seen anything with Jiang Wen before (he also directed), I thought he had a lot of charisma and a strong presence as the lead. But I really didn't like his style of directing and though there were a few impressive and beautiful shots here and there, a lot of it was just all over the place.
Synopsis via IMDB:
Set in China during the warring 1920s, notorious bandit chief Zhang (Jiang Wen) descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, an identity that he had hijacked from Old Tang, himself a small-time imposter. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, Zhang soon meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang (Chow Yun-Fat) as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues.
So there you have it. Too silly for my taste and not nearly enough action to keep me tuned in regardless. I toughed it out till the end, but nothing was going to save this one for me unless it completely shifted tone and gears in the second half to compensate for the confusing and silly first half. Might not be so bad for others, just not my cup of tea.
Review: The Fly
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
Released in 1986, 3 years after the excellent Videodrome and The Dead Zone, David Cronenberg again delivers a tour de force classy, mature and riveting horror film that only someone of his talent, intelligence and caliber can deliver.
I had completely forgotten how incredible and shocking this film was. Obviously, whenever most people talk about this remake it's of it's gross out effects sequences. And I have to admit, as much as I love that stuff, even I found some of it to be stomach turning. But I love that stuff! That just goes to show you how incredible the effects work is in here.
But if you can look past the effects and the gross out sequences (which are all excellent), you'll find a thoroughly captivating film that deals with one mans decent into a mental and physical transformation and into a hellish existence. And the casting of Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle was nothing short of brilliant. To see him go from a mild mannered genetic scientist looking thinly in his oversized 80's suit to a man dealing with both a physical and mental change as he appears to grow stronger and more agile by the day was nothing short of astonishing punching holes through the walls, hanging from the ceiling and becoming more physically built and imposing by the day. What's amazing is that it happens almost immediately after emerging from the pod, which was originally invented as a teleportation device to teleport himself from one pod to the other. Only during his initial transference, a fly became trapped in the pod with him confusing the computer into combining the two on a molecular and genetic level when they were teleported from one pod to the other.
Honestly, for an intelligent horror film coming out of any era, it just doesn't get any better than this. Cronenberg was at the top of his game here delivering one awesome piece of horror cinema after another with films like Scanners, Videodrome, The Dead Zone, The Fly and Dead Ringers. He's stuck with thrillers for the most part since the early 90's, but the 80's was where he reigned supreme. I'd love to see him tackle another horror film again though, even if it was just one last time.
This was during a period when Goldblum and costar Geena Davis were in almost everything together it seemed. I know it was just like 3 movies I think, but since they were really in love and all over the tabloids at this time, it just feels like it was a lot more than 3 films. I may be wrong, but I think Earth Girls Are Easy was there last collaboration together. Oh what a mess. But here, they work splendidly together. Goldblum as the slightly charming, eccentric and changing scientist who grows more evil by the day, and Davis as the scared but sympathetic love interest who just can't stay away. I mean, you buy it completely from them and it works.
A little on the slow burn side for the first half, the story picks up pace immediately at the half way mark and doesn't let up for the remainder of the films running time. Often shocking, completely engaging and leaving a lasting impression on you long after it's over, The Fly is a masterpiece in intelligent adult horror films.
Review: The Running Man
Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
Category: Badass Cinema
I gotta be honest. I enjoyed this one so much more than I remember. I've always been fond of The Running Man, but never liked it as much as his other films from the 80's which resulted in not watching it nearly as much as say Predator or Commando. And I think one of the things I remember not really liking was the choice of Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky of Starsky and Hutch fame) as director. He'd never done an action film of this caliber and I never really thought his style gelled well with this genre of film. Directing a few episodes of Miami Vice doesn't count. But seeing this again, so many years later and much more advanced in my age I can appreciate it a whole lot more on a much more mature level and in fact seeing that it's a pretty damn good 80's sci-fi / action film. You could even say it was a precursor to reality television and reality game shows for that matter because in 1986 I don't think there were even any in existence.
Set in the near future where everything from what to wear, what kind of music to listen to and what to drink has been completely controlled by the government, Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger) is a cop who is framed for a brutal massacre of innocent civilians. Escaping from prison, he's caught a short time later and forced to participate in the worlds most popular show called The Running Man, created and hosted by Damon Killian (Richard Dawson). The Running Man is a government controlled game show where convicted felons are thrown into a series of obstacles fighting for there lives while being chased by regulars known as "stalkers", each with there own brand of killing. To date, no Running Man contestant has ever survived until Richards enters the game. When stalkers start turning up dead, Killian turns up the heat by sabotaging the game and when that doesn't work, offering Richards a full time job as a stalker himself. Soon Richards only has one thing on his mind...........killing Damon Killian himself and putting an end to The Running Man.
This was a lot of fun with a great ensemble cast. Ahnuld being Ahnuld is always great, especially when he was in his prime like in the 80's. Yaphet Kotto, though a surprise to see here, was effective as was Richard Dawson who I only ever remember as the host of Family Feud. While I'm on the subject of casting, let me take this moment to mention the incredibly odd supporting cast here, first and foremost with Dweezil Zappa and Mick Fleetwood (huh?). But then you also have Jim Brown sporting a really funky hairdo as the stalker Firebal, Jesse "the body" Ventura sporting a really funky hairpiece as retired stalker Captain Freedom and the big guy who plays the stalker Dynamo who sports a mohawk made out of light bulbs who doesn't really seem to be able to do shit as a stalker to be honest. And let's not forget Schwarzenegger mainstay Sven-Ole Thorsen as a bodyguard. Fun cast to say the least.
There's nothing truly remarkable about The Running Man, unless you count the behind the scenes stuff. It's from a story written by Stephen King under a pseudonym and directed by one half of Starsky and Hutch. That's an odd combination in my book. But luckily we have 80's and 90's legendary action screenwriter Steven E. de Souza (48 Hours, Commando, Die Hard) on writing duties so you know it's going to be fun.
What I found amusing was that at first when Richards (Schwarzenegger) kills one of the stalkers, and then a second one, the audience is shocked to the point of silence. Nobody has ever killed a stalker before. Shit, even the host is at a loss for words. But then when it gets to a showdown between himself and a third stalker (the opera singing Dynamo) and he has a chance to kill him as well, Richards doesn't because Dynamo is helpless and he doesn't kill helpless human beings, even scum like Dynamo as Richards simply puts it. But then the audience starts booing because now they want him to kill the stalkers. It was an interesting switch in the dynamic that happened rather quickly once Richards killed the first stalker.
As far as the stalkers and there particular weapons go, they're kinda cool, but completely impractical. But I don't feel like getting into why each weapon serves only one purpose for that individual but ultimately prevents them from being efficient as a stalker or a killer. Take Fireball for instance. He walks around with a huge flamethrower pack strapped to his back, and his hands have to constantly hold his flamethrower, which makes him pretty much useless for any kind of hand to hand combat or anything else for that matter. But whatever. He did look cool flying with that thing in his 70's superhero getup.
One of the few problems I had with this was that it didn't benefit from any kind of big finale. Yea, he kills the bad guy at the end, but he was a game show host in his 60's so there's not going to be any kind of one on one action there. Instead he shoots him down the pod shoot where he comes out the other end on fire crashing into a billboard which results in a huge explosion for no apparent reason. Gotta love the 80's and there unnecessary explosions.
I remember when this fist hit theaters it didn't do as well as some of his other films and was a sour note in his career for a brief time, until he made Last Action Hero in 1993. But this was much more fun and entertaining than I remember and not nearly as lame as I remember also, and really, what else can you ask for?
Original Star Wars Trilogy German VHS Bookstyle Clamshells
Grab this amazing German Bookstyle Clamshell VHS set while you still can!
Our good friend and fellow blogger Ingo over at Hellford667 Movie Reviews currently has this amazing VHS set for sale on eBay. You can view that listing here.
The set comes in near mint condition for a really awesome price and it's simply too good to pass up.
The set ships from Germany, so please contact him beforehand with any questions you may have before bidding in regards to shipping.
This listing is set to expire on May 22, so Bid Now!
Here's a link to this listing again:
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY BIDDING !!!
Review: Blue Steel
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
I've always enjoyed this film. It's not groundbreaking or anything like that, and it suffers from an annoying and insane amount of problems, but I've always enjoyed the look and style of the film, and most of all seeing Ron Silver acting batshit insane.
Kathryn Bigelow directs this stylish noir thriller 2 years after the awesome Near Dark and 2 years before the even more awesome bank robbing surfer film Point Break. So to me, this girl was on a creative high during this point in her directing career. I've always enjoyed her as a filmmaker, thought believe it or not the one film she won an Oscar for is the one film I actually like the least in her filmography. I know, I know, for shame. But as with most other action directors from the 80's and 90's (ahem Tony Scott anyone?) when The Hurt Locker came around, she had switched her more restrained and streamlined visual style to the heavily relied on handheld shaky-cam bullshit and it drove me nuts. It was a decent movie, but I felt it would have been so much better had she put more of an effort into the visual aspect of it, the way she did for films like Blue Steel and Point Break.
On her first day on the job, NYPD rookie Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) blows a would be robber away during a supermarket holdup. During the shooting, the robbers gun literally falls into the hands of innocent bystander and stockbroker Eugene Hunt (Ron Silver). As if tempted by fate, Eugene steals the gun and Turner's credibility and her version of events get tossed out the window since there's no gun to back up her claim that the robber aimed it at her before she blew him away. Having this weapon has somehow woken a sleeping demon in Eugene and before long he's become a serial killer loose on the streets killing at random and who's also tormenting Turner by carving her name on the bullet shell casings. A cat and mouse game ensues between Turner and the serial killer and she soon realizes that the killer may be closer than she thinks.
Believe me, I didn't give anything away since it's all basically laid out for you in the first 30 minutes leaving nothing to chance or for any kind of big reveal. And that's one of the problems I had with this. It was fun to watch and oozing with style, but not a whole lot of substance. They literally tell you everything almost immediately, even the identity of the serial killer, and though that's not "always" a bad thing (Silence of the Lambs did the same thing but did it so well), the script could certainly have used a lot of work because you end up screaming at your television set for almost half the film at some of the most unbelievably idiotic and just plain stupid decisions these characters make. And the key word here is unbelievable because a lot of the things that go on here to push the story along are so odd and unbelievable that they clearly weren't going for any kind of realism. I could literally go on and on at specific scenes and sequences but that would end up becoming the bulk of this post.
It was nice seeing Jamie Lee Curtis in this kind of role. Up until this point she was usually in romantic comedies so seeing her play a plain Jane rookie police officer without trying to look attractive was refreshing and I must say she pulled it off nicely. Veteran character actor and all around badass Clancy Brown was a nice addition in here and it was even more refreshing to see him play someone other than the bad guy or some fucked up character. Here he plays a homicide detective who ends up trying to solve the serial killer murders along with Turner and though a hardass, does start to form a soft spot for Turner. But the one to really watch out for in here is Ron fucking Silver. The guy is just crazy in this. Don't get me wrong, I think the guy is great in everything he's in, seeing him most recently in the 80's Chuck Norris action flick Silent Rage. But here he was given to go full on psycho and he was awesome.
One of the other things that bothered me was that they never explain why Eugene Hunt (Silver) goes crazy just because he finds a gun. Up until that point he's a clean cut-suit wearing-high dollar stockbroker. Then he gets his hands on this stolen gun and he turns into a serial killer over night. He starts bathing in the blood of his victims, talking to himself in religious verses and all kinds of crazy things. And what he's able to get away with right under the police officers noses just drive you nuts. But like I said, realism wasn't a top priority here. Just don't take it too seriously and you'll enjoy it.
I know it sounds like I'm doing a lot of complaining, but it's hard not to with this film. But! I did in fact enjoy it quite a bit because while there are some annoyances, there's also a lot to enjoy as well. Top notch directing from Bigelow in top form, great performances all around and a dark film noir look and feel wrapped up in an urban detective thriller. Look past the absurdities and you should definitely enjoy this one.
Review: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Directed by: Brad Bird
Category: Badass Cinema
When I heard that Iron Giant and The Incredibles (two of my personal favorites) director would be making his first live action film with the 4th entry into the Mission: Impossible franchise, I honestly thought that was such an odd choice for his first live action film. In my mind I thought he certainly coulda picked a better film or franchise, one that better suited his specific talents as a storyteller and filmmaker. But wouldn't ya know it? Bird managed to deliver the best entry in the M:I films to date. The most action packed, the most thrilling, the most intense, the most stylish and the most entertaining.
I've always kinda sorta liked these films in the general sense. I don't love them (not until this one anyway), but always enjoyed them to a certain extent. I think what I liked most about them was that each new entry offered a different take than the previous offerings by the likes of directors Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and now Brad Bird. I liked each one for specific reasons, but not all of them equally. I liked how De Palma's original played out more like a mystery or spy thriller. I liked how Woo offered up some striking, if outlandish visuals and I liked Abrams overall structure in part 3, though I didn't like his penchant for hand held quick edit camera work. It actually drove me nuts and I think I would have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more if it didn't give me such a damn headache. Structurally and storywise though, it was far better than parts 1 and 2. I just didn't dig the visuals.
I'm not even gonna attempt an in depth plot summary with this one because it would take me too long to try and put it simply and condensed. But basically, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is in a Russian prison. He's broken out by new agent Jane Carter (Paula Paxton) and old cohort Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), who's now been upgraded to field agent. Along for the ride purely by accident is William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who has a few secrets of his own and together they must stop a Swedish terrorist named Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) from setting off a Russian nuclear weapon in the United States.
That's really the jist of it because the plot gets way more complicated than that with so many characters, villains and subplots that I had a hard time trying to keep up with who was who and who's side they were on from time to time. But whatever, it was a helluva ride literally right from it's opening frame to the closing credits. Director Bird and producer and star Cruise have put together one of the best action films I've seen in years thanks to some expertly staged and choreographed action sequences, stunts and special effects. Did I mention that it was equally hilarious too? Indeed, but not enough to take away from the vibe it's strongly been cemented in since the first film. It's still a M:I film, but surprisingly funnier than the three previous films. And while I'm mentioning Cruise, let me just say that the guy goes all out in this one. Say what you want about his strange antics from many years past in his personal life, but when it comes to work the guy works harder than anybody I've ever seen. You'd think this was his last film and he wanted to go out with one last hurrah. That's the amount of energy he puts in here and it's clearly evident on screen. The guy's just a certified badass and I'm glad to see him shine once again after a few lackluster offerings these past few years.
Bottom Line, M:I - Ghost Protocol is an insanely satisfying action film from beginning to end and the best entry in the series. You rarely get a chance to catch your breath or digest what's just happened as the next epic action sequence floors you even further.
Directed by: Bernard Rose
While doing a thesis on urban legends, local college student Helen (Virginia Madsen) is told the story about Candyman (Tony Todd), a ruthless killer of men, women and children with a bloody hook for a hand who must be summoned by calling his name five times in front of a mirror. Of course Helen doesn't believe this myth and one night decides to cast this ridiculous notion aside by calling out his name five times in front of a mirror. Once summoned, Candyman holds a strange fascination with Helen and the mindgames begin.
For me, Candyman represents a rare breed of horror film, the "mature" horror film. Or the "classy" horror film if you will, which is a rare film category they just don't make enough of these days anymore. Candyman is a good ol' fashioned "mature" horror film in the vein of Silence of the Lambs. And yea, under that category you could argue that The Silence of the Lambs "could" actually happen while Candyman cannot and therefore be considered fantasy. But I'm looking at them in general terms and compared to other horror or thrillers starting to come out around that time, these two films are a step above the norm. So before people start preaching, I'm not saying Candyman is another Silence of the Lambs (not by a longshot) and maybe not as good as that film, but definitely an adult horror film full of wit, style, substance and genuine chills that even 20 years later, I still hold in the highest regard. Plus, you gotta admit, it has an insane amount of badass one-liners that don't really make a lot of sense, but sound so cool rolling off the tongue. Maybe not as cool as when Tony Todd is spouting them, but cool nonetheless.
While based on a short story titled The Forbidden by horror master Clive Barker, I think a lot of what works about Candyman the film is due to the talents of writer/director Bernard Rose. Looking at his resume, you'd never think that he would be the guy behind a film of this genre, but he pulls it off splendidly and with such class that while it's not insanely awesome by any means, it's thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end. And there are a few things that really help this one stand out. One would be that it was made in the early 90's, a time before the quick edit hand held lame-ass camera gimicks they use today. Rose films it straightforward with a minimalist touch which really only add to the overall effects of the story. Because essentially it's a film about an urban legend, which just so happens to be true, but had it been made today it would have turned into a completely different kind of film and mainly geared towards the young crowd starring some actress from the current 'hot" reality show or something. But that's not what Candyman is about. Thankfully, the version we got back in 1992 is about substance, not style.
Another huge contributing factor to Candyman's success is it's intensely Gothic score by Phillip Glass. It's eerily catchy, simple, effective and you won't stop humming that simple tune for days to come. That combined with Rose's strengths as a director and a haunting turn by character actor Tony Todd (a brilliant move in the casting department) in the role of Candyman and Virginia Madsen's no holds barred portrayal as the stubborn and feisty college student and the object of Candyman's desires.
As much as I liked it, there are a "lot" of things I still don't understand. Like why he's called Candyman. It's never explained and simply based on the story and how he became Candyman, you never get any logical answer as to why he chose that name. I mean, it'd be one thing if he only killed children by luring them with candy or some shit, but he seems to kill at random and candy never actually comes into the picture. And they say he only appears when you call his name 5 times, yet based on the legend and history of his crimes and killing spree, he seems to appear at will, often using the excuse that people are starting to not fear him anymore or not believe in him anymore, thus forcing him to appear and start killing just to prove that they should have something or someone to be scared of. So that was odd. Also, he's a spirit, ghost, demon, apparition or whatever you want to call him. He appears, disappears, has superhuman strength, superhuman abilities and all that. But there's a scene where Helen (Madsen) figures out where he resides and goes looking for him. She finds him and he's actually sleeping in this abandoned room, snoring the night away. Since when do ghosts or spirits sleep? Another odd creative choice.
But enough of the bitching. Candyman still kicks ass and while not actually being very scary per say, is eerie, moody with a haunting score and confidant direction by it's writer/director, emerging as an early 90's horror classic in my book.
Directed by: Robert Rodriquez / Ethan Maniquis
Category: Badass Cinema
With the recent news that Machete Kills has finally been greenlit and rolling into pre-production as we speak, I thought what better time than to revisit one of Rodriguez's best efforts in a long while and one of the most violent action films I'd seen in quite some time. I love Machete. You know, whether you love or hate Robert Rodriguez's films, you gotta respect the guy as a filmmaker. He makes films the way "he" wants to make them and releases them the way "he" wants to release them. I mean hell, the guy owns a film production company and as special effects company for Christ's sake, further enabling him to make films on his terms. Films like Machete.
Machete is a dizzingly over the top, blood splattered gorefest full of enough action and ridiculous violence that even though they try to tackle a serious issue like immigration, that's the last thing you'll remember after watching this because it's just so much ridiculous and silly fun that whatever the hot button issue might be, you can't take it too seriously. How ridiculous you say? While in the hospital after an accident, he overhears a doctor mention how the human intestine is ten times longer than the human body. Literally minutes after learning this useful bit of information he guts a bad guy, rips his intestine out and uses it as a rope to jump out a third story window swinging down into a second story window in the hospital. Awesome.
Born out of a fake trailer as part of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse experiment / collaboration (and which easily stole the show), Machete tells the story of an ex-federale named Machete Cortez. Hiding out in the United States and working as a day laborer, Machete is hired to assassinate a local politician. When he's double-crossed by the men who hired him, he rages a brutal one-man-war against them and exacts the kind of revenge only Machete can.
Finally, after hundreds of background and supporting roles, Danny Trejo is finally allowed to be front and center and we all need to thank his second cousin Robert Rodriguez for that. He saw something in this guy that nobody else did and with his clout, made him into a fucking movie star. And who else could play Machete like Trejo? Nobody. Hardly ever uttering a line of dialogue or even a single word in the entire film, Danny Trejo carries the full force of the character of Machete and the film squarely on his massive shoulders to blistering effect. I mean, the guy "is" Machete. The guy can make hundreds of more appearances in hundreds of more films and television shows, but for the rest of his career, if anybody ever has a hard time trying to figure out who Danny Trejo is, all you have to say is Machete. But the guy's everywhere. Just as of this writing alone, he has 5 films in the can waiting to be released, 9 films in post production and 5 films in pre production. That's insane!
Machete does suffer from a few problems though. First, it begins with such an insane bloodbath of violence and carnage that the rest of the film couldn't possibly live up to that badass beginning, and it doesn't. It's still incredibly badass, but it doesn't reach the level of badass as that opening sequence. Second, and this was a problem I had with Tarantino's Death Proof, they bill it as a homage to the Grindhouse films, and do a good job of giving it that look and feel complete with the scratches all over the picture and the jumpy frames, but that only lasts maybe 5 minutes in the beginning, as with Death Proof. I wish they both had kept that look and feel throughout the rest of those films and not just teased us with that with just the opening sequences. Ah but whatever. It's a minor issue. One of my main issues with Machete would be that it doesn't "look" like a Robert Rodriguez film. Especially considering this was the first time in a long while where he'd been able to go all out action for a film, but maybe because he shared directing credits with Ethan Maniquis, it just doesn't have the trademark Rodriguez touches or camerawork. Over the course of his career, he's managed to acquire a specific visual style, more prominent in his action films rather than his kid friendly features. There are a few standout scenes here and there for sure, but for the most part it's all filmed rather dull and straight forward. Especially when it comes to that iconic scene at the end of Machete flying through the air on a motorcycle with that massive cannon firing off a hundred rounds attached to his handlebars with a huge explosion in the background. It just seemed to come out of nowhere with no real buildup to it at all. I think that's the scene people remember most from the fake trailer and for it to just happen so fast that it was over just as fast as it had begun and you want more of that badass sequence. From the same guy who gave us Desperado and From Dusk till Dawn, I was hopeful that same guy would have delivered the visual flare so prominently displayed in those earlier all out action efforts. But like I said, that could be due to the fact that he had a co-director. And who knows how much of the look and feel of Machete is actually attributed to Rodriguez or Maniquis.
Visual tendencies aside, this is still one helluva badass and extremely violent, gory and insane action film. Add to that an odd but incredibly satisfying ensemble cast which includes Steven Seagal as a Mexican drug kingpin, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, Lindsey Lohan (nude), Robert De Niro and Jeff Fahey and you have a film 100% certified Badass.
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