I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Land

THE LAND is a movie that played Sundance last year, that I watched because its writer-director, Steven Caple, Jr., was just announced as the director of CREED 2. And I hate to start out a review this way, but it’s fucking 2017, so… I need to say that I’m not sure where we’re at on Sylvester Stallone. Horrible allegations were published, but not in one of these exhaustively researched and backed up pieces that have taken down Harvey Weinstein and others – this was in the tabloid the Daily Mail. The only additional reporting I’ve seen was on TMZ, in a post where Stallone’s ex-wife Brigitte Nielsen swears it could never have happened, and a person said in the Mail story to have introduced Stallone to a fan denies that he ever did or would have done anything like that. More significantly, TMZ says that Vegas police do not have a record of the police report that was the entire basis of the Daily Mail story. But they offer no further details and I have seen no followups from any serious journalists.

Stallone’s work means so much to me that obviously I would prefer to live in the world where he’s officially cleared of being a piece of shit. But if the unidentified accuser in the Mail story really exists, I don’t want any part in debating what she says happened. So I don’t know what to do on this one.

In the happy world where everything is fine, the CREED sequel is my most anticipated movie. So forgive me if this is wrong, but I have allowed myself to have some excitement for it. The other day it was announced that Michael B. Jordan and Stallone had chosen Caple Jr. to direct on the strength of his debut THE LAND. Obviously I was curious, so I rented it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Brawl in Cell Block 99

When we last left novelist and heavy metal drummer turned filmatist S. Craig Zahler, he had made a distinctive directorial debut with BONE TOMAHAWK, a nice western with great characters and dialogue and that turns into a little bit of a gory cannibal movie by the end. I liked that one quite a bit but I think film #2, the crime movie BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (which is coming to video on the 26th but I splurged for VOD) is a huge leap ahead for him.

Vince Vaughn (PSYCHO) stars as Bradley Thomas, a burly tow truck driver who, after a really bad day, decides to go back to the drug business for a while. Cut to 18 months later, when his bedroom is almost as big as the whole house we just saw him in, and his wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter, BATTLE IN SEATTLE) is pregnant. Their dreams are finally coming true, but some things go wrong at work (as they do) and he ends up in prison, where he must protect himself on the inside and his family on the outside from the enemies he’s made. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dead End City

If you, like me, enjoy the occasional muddy VHS war against out-of-control Street Toughs, you may enjoy 1988’s DEAD END CITY, starring a bunch of people I never heard of being overshadowed by the menacingly inflated features of Robert Z’Dar (MANIAC COP, SAMURAI COP, BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME).

Here he plays Maximum (at least that’s what the credits say his name is), who leads a gang of white biker dudes with headbands, sunglasses, gang vests, chains, fingerless gloves and spiked gauntlets into a neighborhood to shoot random people, invade homes, blow up cars, etc. Maximum is mysterious in his fashion choices – he wears a suit and tie with the end of the tie ripped off, then later he adopts a studded biker look and then a band-t-shirt-sewn-onto-long-jacket punk look. The gang is called the Ratts, and they have names like Zim and Ripp, but I can’t tell any of them apart except for “Ratt Queen” (Isis Richardson, PHOENIX THE WARRIOR) because she’s the only female and the only one with big hair with a streak in it like an X-Man or a Jem and the Hologram.

Jack Murphy (Greg Cummins, Bosch) owns a factory in the area – I never figured out what type of factory – and isn’t too concerned about the radio reports or the government official (Don Barber, “Man in Bathroom,” DEATH CHASE) who comes to tell him to evacuate. The next day he gives in and sends the staff home, but, not wanting to relocate to a shantytown, he decides to stay in the factory with his friend Brett (Durrell Nelson, AN AMERICAN CAROL, stuntman in THE TOXIC AVENGER), his secretary Nancy (Aleana Downs, WITCHCRAFT III: THE KISS OF DEATH) and her visiting blind brother Malcolm (Rob Wuesthoff, stuntman in TEEN WOLF TOO). (read the rest of this shit…)

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is playwright turned IN BRUGES/SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS director Martin McDonagh’s exploration of a grieving mother at war with the local PD. Her teenage daughter was raped and killed seven months ago, and she’s mad that they haven’t made any arrests, so she rents three billboards that bluntly explain the situation and blame the police chief by name.

I probly don’t need to tell you that this creates some tension in town. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, SEVEN POUNDS, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, TRIPLE 9, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, 2012) tries to reason with her politely about taking it down. His deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), who is locally infamous for an unexplained incident involving the torture of a black man, is not as cool-headed about it, and threatens poor Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones, GET OUT) at the billboard company. The woman’s son Robbie (Lucas Hedges, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA) is traumatized and hurt by the graphic details of the murder he had previously avoided knowing. Her ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes, STEEL), a domestic abuser and a cop, is embarrassed by it and doesn’t think it helps anything. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Assassin

The trailers for AMERICAN ASSASSIN had me confused. Here is this mainstream, slick and expensive looking movie, Michael Keaton is in it, they’re advertising it before respectable movies. And then the plot is that a guy’s fiancee is killed in a terrorist attack, so he trains himself into a super-duper-badass warrior and master of covert ops and goes on a personal mission undercover into the terrorist cell to get revenge on the motherfuckers. That sounds exactly like a movie I would watch if it starred Scott Adkins or Jason Statham or The Rock or somebody. But this just stars some guy. Some actor.

Well it’s on video now so I had to find out the deal. Turns out the actor is Dylan O’Brien and additionally it turns out that Dylan O’Brien is the guy that starred in those movies THE MAZE RUNNER that somebody has probly watched at some point. Also it turns out that there is still a serious TV show based on TEEN WOLF and the show has Teen Wolf’s wacky buddy Stiles in it and Dylan O’Brien plays this Stiles. We are learning alot here today in my opinion. (read the rest of this shit…)

Red Christmas

RED CHRISTMAS is new holiday horror courtesy of Australia. I saw Dee Wallace’s name on the cover and I assumed, quite reasonably I think, that she’d have a small part but was the only big name person to sell the movie. Turns out she is legitimately the lead, and gets to be a full-on heroine who faces off with a deranged killer and also with the lingering memories of traumatic decisions made in her past. She takes charge and barks orders and in a stand out scene she has to tearfully assure her adult son with Down syndrome that she still loves him while she’s creeping through a dark house with a rifle. This is a good role for her!

It’s also a really interesting movie that does enough that’s right and/or unusual to make up for its obvious flaws. Yeah, the opening abortion protest is phony as hell, some of the digital cinematography during daylight is too clean and cheap looking, the family arguments that come up sometimes feel forced and inauthentic, its point-of-view on the touchy subjects it brings up is incoherent enough that it ultimately feels like button-pushing provocation. But in my opinion horror movies are sometimes allowed – even encouraged – to make you feel uncomfortable and maybe a little offended. It’s part of the deal. (read the rest of this shit…)

I Am Nancy

These days most horror fans have heard of the concept of the Final Girl, whether or not they know where it comes from. But they at least know it’s the heroine of a horror movie, the one that’s left standing at the end, like Laurie in HALLOWEEN or Sally in TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE or… the ones in the FRIDAY THE 13ths.

There are few as iconic, and almost none as pro-active, as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET‘s Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp. She’s the all-American girl next door (or across the street in Johnny Depp’s case), she gets terrorized by a supernatural dream killer, the adults don’t believe her, not even her overprotective cop father (John Saxon, ENTER THE DRAGON, THE GLOVE). But this is not a heroine who only manages to scrape it out and survive. Nancy gets shit done. She goes to the library and researches, figures out who Freddy is, uncovers his connection to her and her friends’ parents, teaches herself to build booby traps and comes up with a clever plan to go into the dreamworld and pull him out and try to kill him. And then she figures out the next step after that. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lady Bloodfight

“There’s no ancient Chinese secret that’s gonna heal broken bones in a single… night!? Impossible!”

My friends, I have been derelict in my duty of making sure the world knows about LADY BLOODFIGHT. Yeah, I know, it sounds like LADYBLOOD FIGHT, or like an all-female reboot of the obscure Bolo Yeung movie BLOODFIGHT, but think of it as WOMEN’S BLOODSPORT. It’s a great DTV fighting tournament movie starring Black Widow stunt double and future action superstar Amy Johnston. I watched it a few months ago, having been put onto it by my readers (shout out to Felix and whoever else mentioned it in the comments) but the write-up got away from me until I watched it again today and I loved it even more.

Johnston is the daughter of a world kickboxing champion, and has studied martial arts since the age of 6. She mostly works as a stuntwoman, but has roles in RAZE and Scott Adkins’ upcoming ACCIDENT MAN, and she starred in one with Dolph called FEMALE FIGHT SQUAD that I’ve heard isn’t as good. But after LADY BLOODFIGHT we better be seeing more of her. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Accountant

Bear with me here, but Christian Wolff, a.k.a. The Accountant (Ben Affleck, REINDEER GAMES) has kind of alot in common with Blade. He’s an anti-hero vigilante who works mysteriously in the underground, a good guy but scary and at odds with the law. He’s mostly a loner, but has a few trusted accomplices. He’s very aloof, not good at talking, expressing emotion, connecting. He has traumatic parental issues and a condition that he tries to keep under control with special treatments. He has a well-established operation with a secret headquarters and armory that we sort of learn about piece-by-piece as the movie goes on. He’s nomadic, setting up base in different parts of the world, always prepared to dump everything and move on if he gets burnt.

This time he knowingly breaks protocol to protect a young woman (Anna Kendrick, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) who gets mixed up in his fight, and he shocks her by giving a glimpse into his crazy world.

One pretty big difference: instead of a half man/half vampire daywalker, this guy is autistic. That’s what causes his social awkwardness. If he were to walk around in broad daylight with a sword on his back it would be understandable.

(read the rest of this shit…)

24 Hours to Live

24 HOURS TO LIVE is a new VOD movie (theatrical in L.A. and New York starting December 1) that could be described as Ethan Hawke’s JOHN WICK. Not that it’s a very similar story, or a martial arts movie, but it has action beyond the modern standards, takes place in a world of elite killers, and has some un-self-conscious absurdity in its basic premise that’s grounded in very effective, heartfelt emotions. I guess this means they don’t consider Hawke and Rutger Hauer big enough names to sell an action movie in wide release these days, but it doesn’t at all feel like DTV. Both quality and production value-wise it’s completely legit, and I liked it better than many of the Jason Statham, Gerard Butler and Liam Neeson pictures I’ve paid to see on the big screen.

In classic international co-production fashion it begins with an Interpol agent, Lin (Xu Qing, FLASH POINT), under attack by militants in South Africa while transporting a whistleblower (Tyrone Keogh, BLAST, STARSHIP TROOPERS 3) to testify to the U.N. It’s meat and potatoes machine-guns-rocket-launchers-and-jeeps type action that immediately shows you the movie means business. Heads are popping, bodies are bouncing off windshields and rolling under tires. (read the rest of this shit…)