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

Phantom Thread

a.k.a. THE INSUFFERABLE MR. WOODCOCK

or

LOOK AT THIS FUCKIN GUY

PHANTOM THREAD (no “THE”) is the latest from P.T. Anderson. I think we always figured he was gonna keep on being a great filmmaker, but back when he did BOOGIE NIGHTS I doubt I was thinking “In 20 years this guy will do a weird relationship drama about a dress designer with poor social skills and we’ll all go see it because it’s Paul Thomas Anderson.” If I was then I’m impressed with myself because that was an uncanny prediction.

They have advertised it as “Daniel Day-Lewis’s final performance,” as if he’s dead, but really he just says he’s retiring, like Jay-Z five albums ago or Steven Soderbergh before The Knick, LOGAN LUCKY, Mosaic and UNSANE. It’s not my place to tell him what to do with his life, but still I’d like to encourage him to hold off on retiring until doing one more film, a remake of ENTER THE NINJA. Then he would end on the greatest performance of his career by a country mile before heading off to the mountains to humbly cobble shoes, design dresses and live as a Mohican while leading a ninja clan in character as Abraham Lincoln. (read the rest of this shit…)

Allied

ALLIED is an unassuming, quick-paced WWII spy thriller/tragic romance combining the slick directivational chops of Robert Zemeckis (BEOWULF) with the smart guy writing of Steven Knight (EASTERN PROMISES, REDEMPTION, LOCKE). Brad Pitt (CUTTING CLASS) plays Canadian-born spy Max Vatan, who parachutes into French Morocco and pretends to be the Parisian husband of secret resistance leader Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard, RUST AND BONE, TAXI, FURIA). He’s dropped right into the fire, instantly feigning intimacy with this woman as he meets her for the first time sitting with a table of Germans (I think?) at a restaurant. It’s kind of like that story about James Brown calling young Bootsy and his band The Houseguests and flying them in to walk right out on stage and play a show with him. Except way more dangerous. And less funky.

I feel like I’ve gotten off track here.

In private Marianne hammers Max on his terrible Parisian accent, and they very professionally put into place a plan we’re not let in on. It’s not until shortly before the shit goes down that they give in to the elephant in the room, or in this case the car, as they make love inside one while the windows are covered by a brutal sandstorm. (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Panther

(SPOILERS)

BLACK PANTHER is the first Marvel movie I was anticipating mainly because of the director. FRUITVALE STATION was very good, but of course it was CREED that made me think Ryan Coogler is one of the most promising young directors we have. Best and most miraculous movie of 2015 that didn’t star Charlize Theron with a robot arm. I’d be up for whatever Coogler wanted to do next, but this seemed like a particularly good match for him after CREED’s mix of moving personal drama, immaculate filmatistic style and 21st century pop mythmaking.

#2 reason: Chadwick Boseman. The guy playing the title character shot to the top of my most exciting actors list when I saw his incredible performance as James Brown in GET ON UP. I didn’t know how anybody could pull off playing The Godfather and here is this actor I barely heard of before transforming himself into crazy old man James Brown, young James Brown, all kinds of James Browns. And dancing and strutting and grunting and referring to himself in the third person and pulling it off. He didn’t get all that much acclaim for it, definitely not any awards – somehow he got to skip that step before becoming a super hero.

If you want to call him that. T’Challa isn’t a vigilante or anything, he’s the King of Wakanda, a culture where part of the job is getting supernatural strength and wearing a panther costume to defend the kingdom. It’s like if the president also had to be Superman. What’s cool about this is that Black Panther has to think about things none of his peers do. He has to be a symbol much like Captain America, but with the responsibilities that Thor skipped out of when he turned down the throne. Here he’s challenged to not only defend his rule from a dangerous usurper, but convince his people to shift the direction of the country in order to make a better world. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Seasoning House

(Warning: this movie is about disturbing shit, and I’m going to describe what it’s about)

THE SEASONING HOUSE is a very dark thriller from the UK circa 2012. How very dark? Well, it takes place in “BALKANS, 1996” and it’s about a mute girl whose family got killed in front of her and she’s forced to work in a brothel for war criminals. Not as a prostitute – the boss thinks the birthmark on her face makes her wrong for that, so she’s sort of like his assistant. Her job is to go around to the poor girls tied to beds, shoot them up and fingerpaint makeup on them.

It’s fucked up, man! And the light at the end of the tunnel that caused me to give this one a shot is the promise of “brutal revenge” on the box. Revenge is never righteous, but in movies I tend to enjoy it, despite not liking the muck you have to get through in order to make the comeuppance seem deserved. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Villainess

THE VILLAINESS is LA FEMME NIKITA with a little KILL BILL by way of South Korean cinema. A young woman with a troubled past has her identity erased, is trained to kill for the government, put undercover, given a mission, trying to earn her freedom. But she was already pretty damn good at killing before the feds got involved. They capture and recruit her after an incredible opening massacre, done in her POV – it’s first person shooter/slasher/stabber/kicker-through-window – until she sees herself in a mirror, then gets her head smashed into it and the perspective separates from her body, rotating around her as she continues to fight, mostly using gym equipment (the jump rope is my favorite) as weapons.

As her captivity, training and missions are depicted in somewhat elliptical fashion, the events leading up to that rampage also come out piece-by-puzzle-piece in flashbacks, not even in chronological order within themselves, and with some characters played by different actors in different periods. I find the story at times confusing and overcomplicated, but still compelling. Even if I didn’t, I’d still call THE VILLAINESS a must-see for the most audacious, envelope-pushing action filmatism I’ve seen in quite a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellraiser: Judgment

It wasn’t much more than two years ago that I finally bit the bullet and reviewed the entire HELLRAISER series. I’d always had an attachment to the four theatrical ones (HELLRAISER and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II are still classics, HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is ridiculous, HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE is a mess with its hellbound heart in the right place) but had previously stayed the hell away from the DTV sequels (HELLRAISER: INFERNO (directed by Scott Derrickson), HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER, HELLRAISER: DEADER, HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD and HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS). That last one feels for all the world like they just had to shit something out by the end of the month to maintain the movie rights, and that’s what they came up with. Yet they’ve gone almost seven years without making a new one or a remake. Could it be that they finally decided to let it–

AH, FUCK. They made another one. And you know me, I’m a completist, I can’t be the guy who’s watched nine of the ten HELLRAISER movies. I had no choice but to watch this shit.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Post

THE POST is Spielberg’s newspaper movie. Specifically it’s about the Washington Post in 1971 struggling for relevance, banned from a first daughter wedding, in the process of taking an inherited family business public, when suddenly their more exalted rivals the New York Times get a court injunction for breaking the story of the Pentagon Papers (a secret study proving that the government had known for years that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable and stayed in just to put off the humiliation of a loss). Can The Post’s reporters get ahold of these Papers for themselves, will they have the balls to print a story about them, and will they get away with it? I think you know the answers, but tune in to find out how it goes down.

Like LINCOLN or MUNICH, this is one of Spielberg’s very good grown up movies that doesn’t necessarily light the world on fire, seems destined to be buried in his catalog of iconic classics, but gets some nice reviews and an “it’s an honor just to be nominated” slot in the best picture category at the Oscars. Another movie like that was BRIDGE OF SPIES, the year SPOTLIGHT won best picture. SPOTLIGHT was a good movie with a big cast doing great work in a story about the importance of journalists uncovering dangerous secrets and standing up to powerful institutions that have covered up their own complicity in atrocities. THE POST is all those things with the added bonus of being thrilling and cinematic. Spielberg might be doing a smart-people-talking-and-figuring-things-out movie, but he’s gonna do that with an eye for imagery, period detail, and visual explanations of processes: stealing and reproducing a massive document, puzzling together the order of said document when the pages get mixed up, delivering a message across town, creating the plates to actually print a newspaper, running the printing press, the list goes on.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Victor Crowley

VICTOR CROWLEY is part 4 of the HATCHET series. Despite the title it’s not any kind of a reboot or a prequel or anything. Part I-II director Adam Green made it secretly and surprised fans with it at an event advertised to sound like a tenth anniversary screening of the first one, and it’s very much designed as a fun time for dedicated fans of the series and the people who buy t-shirts of Green’s dog  and stuff.

So the fact that I didn’t love it shouldn’t scare fans off, because it’s not really for me. I really liked part III, a final girl vs. slasher standoff cranked up to 11. This is more in the tradition of parts 1 and 2, with the quirky character business, broadly cartoonish performances and occasional over the top chopping and splattering of bodies, done with a scream and a wink. Also you got your cameos by horror people, though some of them just in cell phone footage this time. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thunder Run

THUNDER RUN is a Cannon-distributed movie with a wonderfully ridiculous sounding premise: a Korean war vet trucker has to drive a weaponized big rig full of plutonium at high speed as bait for a gang of nuclear terrorists. For some reason when I read the back of the VHS box it kind of sounded to me like a bullshit Hollywood blockbuster remake of THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY, the nihilistic indie movie that the main character is trying to make in Charles Willeford’s The Woman Chaser.

It’s kind of less awesome than it sounds but much more laid back and good hearted. It stars Forrest Tucker (FINAL CHAPTER: WALKING TALL) in his penultimate role (the last being the TV movie TIMESTALKERS) as Charlie Morrison, the nice old Nevada grandpa who’s in need of money to keep his Cobalt mine operating when he’s offered a quarter of a million dollars to make the run by his old war buddy George (John Ireland, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE).

The funny thing is it’s almost halfway into the movie by the time he actually leaves on the run. Some of that screen time is spent on preparations, but alot of it’s just shenanigans. For example, we get a whole sequence about the local drag racing scene. Charlie’s grandson Chris (John Shepherd, Tommy from FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING) races his shitty looking pickup truck and beats an out of towner in a sports car, trying to win money for Grandpa. Little does he know he won’t be needing it. This scene also introduces Chris’s group of friends including girlfriend Kim (Jill Whitlow, PORKY’S, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS), “electronics genius” Paul (Wallace Langham, SOUL MAN, COMBAT ACADEMY, THE SOCIAL NETWORK), who rigged the truck with nitrous oxide, and a hot blonde (Cheryl M. Lynn, maybe?) who lures the police away by driving up on a motorcycle and flipping them off. Of course she does that with an all black helmet and then takes it off and dramatically unfurls the hair so we will say “GASP! It’s a LADY!(read the rest of this shit…)

Supremacy

I can’t believe this actually happened, but I found out about a movie from a trailer on a DVD that I rented, and then I rented that movie. And it didn’t turn out to be a great movie but it was a fairly interesting one that I don’t think got any attention at all, so I might use this technique again.

SUPREMACY is the story of swastika-and-Confederate-flag-tattooed Aryan Brotherhood fucko Garrett Tully (Joe Anderson, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, THE CRAZIES, THE GREY, HERCULES, Mason Verger on Hannibal) who gets out on parole and on his first day out robs a convenience store, gets pulled over, and shoots a cop. So, with helicopters overhead and roadblocks all around he and Doreen, (Dawn Olivieri, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER), his white power associate assigned to pick him up from prison, break into a house and take a family hostage. As luck would have it the family are black, so there is quite a bit of tension and racial slurs here.

The head of the household is an ex-con himself, Mr. Walker (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2), who lives with his girlfriend Odessa (Lela Rochon, KNOCK OFF), her son Anthony (Evan Ross, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY 1-2), daughter Cassie (Robin Bobeau, “Excited Lady,” BAADASSSSS!) and grandson Jamar (Alex Henderson, Young Andre on Empire and Young Adonis in CREED) and a baby. Tully and Doreen point guns at them and hole them up in an upstairs bedroom and try to claim they’re being reasonable even as they threaten them and bring up dumb racist stereotypes and shit. So Mr. Walker has to find a way out of this. (read the rest of this shit…)