"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

Come to Daddy

COME TO DADDY is a very engrossing and unclassifiable…thriller or something where Elijah Wood, decked out in the worst haircut/mustache combo current technology can provide, goes to a remote part of Oregon to visit the dad who abandoned him 25 years ago. He walks through the wilderness to this big house with a really impressive elevated viewing room overlooking a lake. Stephen McHattie (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, BASEKETBALL, 300, SHOOT ‘EM UP, WATCHMEN, 2012, THE TALL MAN, WOLVES, mother!, DEATH WISH, RABID) answers the door and it’s unclear if he even knows why he’s there.

It’s all about tension and discomfort. Wood’s character Norval is patient and polite with his dad, who has a strong drunk-asshole-trying-to-pass-off-condescension-as-friendliness vibe. He alternates between seeming friendly and harmless and outright cruelty. He tries to pour a glass of wine, Norval tells him he doesn’t drink, a generously non-judgmental way of indicating that he inherited his alcoholism and has struggled with it. Dad’s response is to chug his glass and ask “Tempted?” Ha ha. Funny, Dad. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dagon (R.I.P. Stuart Gordon)

You know how it is: you have these reoccurring nightmares about a sexy mermaid, and then you’re on a yacht trip with your girlfriend and an older couple, and a violent storm hits out of the blue and the boat wrecks and your friend is injured and you try to get help on the nearby island of Iboca but everyone’s weird and people have noticeable gills and tentacles and shit and a homeless guy explains to you that years ago a guy convinced them to give up Christianity and worship the sea god Dagon, who is different than Jesus in that he requires his followers to throw him women to impregnate with immortal monster babies. We’ve all been through it, and H.P. Lovecraft wrote about it in 1931, so Stuart Gordon made a movie about it in 2001.

Gordon is a rightfully designated Master of Horror, but I think deserves more recognition than he receives. Every time I watch or rewatch one of his movies it ends up being better than expected or remembered. In this case it still had the same issue I remembered, but it’s pretty good. Maybe pretty good plus. (read the rest of this shit…)

So long, Jan

I just got the sad news that a reader I had been corresponding with for many years passed away earlier this month. Jan first wrote to me in 2009 to correct me for using the term “Helsinki Syndrome” instead of “Stockholm Syndrome.” It was a genuine mistake and not an intentional DIE HARD reference. I’m glad I did it, or maybe I never would’ve heard from him. Or maybe I would’ve, because the next time was to correct an error about Sven-Ole Thorsen.

He introduced himself as an MD and “a Swede currently residing in Denmark.” Over the years the corrections turned into updates about movies he had seen, what he was planning to see, what he was not planning to see, things he had read about Seattle or the American political situation. He worried about the encroaching fascism he saw here. And he was full of movie and TV recommendations, tidbits from Q&As, links to interviews.

I got to know him as very cantankerous and opinionated, sometimes in a hilarious way. He had numerous actors he mysteriously hated and refused to see the films of. One of them was Charlize Theron(!), so I could not get him to watch FURY ROAD (!!), which I often teased him about.

I sometimes wondered why he liked me so much, because he seemed to disagree with me more often than not. He seemed more excited when I wrote about movies from the ’50s or ’60s, but he couldn’t have been a traditional snob – he knew me from Ain’t It Cool and Seagalogy. He was very generous, making surprisingly large donations to my Paypal account, sending me his Christmas mix CDs every year (he made covers for them and everything), sending me a copy of WILD BILL to force me to watch it. Which I then somehow lost. But I did watch it and let him know my thoughts.

I feel terrible that I hadn’t gotten back to him in a while. The last thing he wrote to me was that he had seen all of Michael Bay’s films theatrically except for THE ISLAND (because he hated Ewan McGregor), and he was not going to watch 6 UNDERGROUND (because he hated Ryan Reynolds). “But during the last two Transformers films I sat in the theater and asked myself: What the fuck am I doing here…”

Knowing now that he was going through some shit at that time I appreciate even more that he had a light moment to tell me that. At least once he said he would visit Seattle some day and give me a call. Wish that would’ve happened. I bet getting a drink with him would’ve been awkward and funny and great.

He was a good guy. I’m really gonna miss him. So long, buddy. The only way I know how to pay tribute is to point everyone to what I wrote about FORTY GUNS after Jan’s repeated pleading. It was a great recommendation and I’m so glad he liked the review (despite several corrections).

FORTY GUNS

The Wizard

Ever since 1989 I have been curious what the deal is with this “THE WIZARD” Nintendosploitation movie starring Fred Savage. But back then I was pretty busy having Batmania, so I remember I said “I better wait for Shout Factory to release a remastered 2-disc collector’s edition Blu-Ray.” And now that day has come.

The movie opens with Jimmy (Luke Edwards, I KNOW MY FIRST NAME IS STEVEN, NEWSIES, LITTLE BIG LEAGUE, JEEPERS CREEPERS 2), a seemingly autistic boy, walking along a desert highway. He must’ve been walking for a while, because there’s a small plane looking for him. When a cop comes and gets him, all the poor kid will say is “California.”

His motives are mysterious, but we’re told he’s been horribly traumatized, so it must have something to do with that. That doesn’t make his jerky stepdad (Sam McMurray, C.H.U.D., STONE COLD, CLASS ACT) any more patient with his wandering, so he decides to put Jimmy in what everyone keeps referring to as “a home.” That especially pisses off Jimmy’s brother or half-brother or whatever, Corey (Savage, director of DADDY DAY CAMP), who lives with his older brother Nick (Christian Slater, HE WAS A QUIET MAN) and drunk loser dad (Beau Bridges, MAX PAYNE). (read the rest of this shit…)

Potpourri: Lockdown

Scorpion wears a mask and doesn’t get germs on his hands

Hello, friends! Shit is crazy right now. I hope everybody is looking after their health and sanity. I know many, most, maybe all of us are or will soon be spending more time inside at home, in many cases away from friends and family. But I consider you all friends and family, so I thought it would be a good time to bring back one of these threads where everybody talks about whatever-the-fuck. Updates on your local situations, what you’ve been watching, random escapist nonsense, whatever.

Somehow while mostly staying in I’ve still gotten behind in my writing. That will change soon. As of Monday I’m still working a day job, but shifting to a different phase with drastically fewer hours. That’s what I want, so I can stay indoors for now and not have to take the bus as much. They’ve been mostly empty, but I don’t need that stress. I’m not sure how long even that will last, because there’s been pressure on our governor to add more severe measures to keep people home.

I appreciate everybody commenting on old reviews of the things you’ve been watching, but if none of those apply, here’s a good place to congregate (six feet apart, please).

Magnificent Warriors

After two great turns playing cops in YES, MADAM! and ROYAL WARRIORS, Michelle Yeoh (credited as Michelle Kheng on the DVD I rented) got a chance to do sort of her version of Indiana Jones. In MAGNIFICENT WARRIORS (1987) she plays Fok Ming Ming, a whip-swinging, bi-plane-piloting granddaughter of a legendary revolutionary. During the credits we see her booted feet and leather-gloved hands as she loads a bunch of heavy crates onto a wagon, before it pans up to say that’s right, it’s a LADY. Can you fucking BELIEVE IT? As if we didn’t already know we were here to see a Michelle, uh… Kheng movie.

The most notable thing about the opening, and arguably the movie as a whole: her smile. She’s so happy in most of this. Of course I’m not telling women and/or Michelle Yeoh to smile more often, but I’m used to her seriousness, so it’s novel to see her playing this type of character. Ming Ming doesn’t have to act tough. She just is. Doesn’t stop her from being delightful and having a fun time. I guess that makes her a little more THE PHANTOM than Indy.

She’s been hired as a driver for some gun runner (Chan Ging, SEVEN WARRIORS, THE STORY OF RICKY) trying to sell boxes of rifles to a remote village. To test out the merchandise the buyers shoot him dead, so Ming Ming has to fight them all to get her money. She kicks them, whips them, sets their huts on fire, rides off chased by a sword-wielding mob, and turns around to shoot their bridge out with a gatling gun. And a smile.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Richard Jewell

Even before that fake baby in AMERICAN SNIPER, people were talking like Clint Eastwood was some confused old man who doesn’t know how to direct a movie anymore. Gotta disagree. I know I’m far from the only one who really enjoyed and was surprised by THE MULE, and now that I’ve caught up with Clint’s latest director-only drama, RICHARD JEWELL, I’m here to tell you that’s a good one too. Really good, and to me it’s by far the most compelling of what now seems to be a Real American Heroes series with SNIPER, SULLY and THE 15:17 TO PARIS*.

Okay, yeah, so there’s a part where kids drinking beer in a dorm room have a poster on the wall that says “Beer 2 Night.” Have fun with that one. I didn’t notice the fake baby before so maybe there’s some in this one, I honestly don’t care. It’s a fascinating story, it made me laugh, it moved me, it has one of if not the best lead performance of last year. My friends, I have Jewellmania. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Master

“Man in other country, it’s a long story” —translation of lyric from beach montage song

THE MASTER – not the Philip Seymour Hoffman one, the original – is a Tsui Hark movie made in 1989. Its claim to fame is that it was released in 1992 after ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA made Jet Li a superstar, but what makes it interesting is that it’s an ‘80s Hong Kong movie filmed in L.A. It has a theme of Chinese immigration, the idea that the people of China travel all over the world and bring their culture with them.

The primary practicioner of that philosophy, Uncle Tak (Yuen Wah, FIST OF FURY, ENTER THE DRAGON, CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD, GAME OF DEATH, HEROES SHED NO TEARS, SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT, DRAGON FROM RUSSIA, THE BODYGUARD, MASTER Z, action director of EASTERN motherfuckin CONDORS), is one of three masters the title could be referring to. He owns an herb shop in L.A. within view of the Library Tower (and next to a video store, but we never see inside it). He’s a very good healer and does bone settings for pro-wrestler-looking-dudes who come in after getting injured in fights. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lady Vengeance

(contains heavy spoilers for 15 year old movie)

LADY VENGEANCE is the RETURN OF THE JEDI of director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy in that it’s the third one (after SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and OLDBOY), it’s loaded with delightful elements, and it’s my favorite even though most people probly say the second one is the best. It begins with a woman named Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yung-ae, JOINT SECURITY AREA) being released early from prison. She’s a national media sensation because of the mismatched combination of the horrible crime she was convicted of (murdering a five-year-old boy) and her youthful appearance of “unabashed naivety.” She got wall-to-wall news coverage, there was a trend of wearing polka-dot dresses like hers, tabloids compared her to Olivia Hussey.

(I wonder what Olivia Hussey is known for in South Korea? ROMEO AND JULIET? BLACK CHRISTMAS? Or maybe a random one like TURKEY SHOOT is huge there?)

(read the rest of this shit…)

Bombshell

During my annual Oscar-bait viewing I was scared away from multi-nominee (best actress, best supporting actress, best makeup and hair) BOMBSHELL, about the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal at Fox News, when my friend Matt Lynch tweeted that it was “worse than VICE!” That was an effective and immediate optimism killer. Now that it’s on video though I gave it a shot and I don’t agree, it’s not nearly as obnoxious or frustrating as VICE. But what good does that do to me when it’s not very good either?

Three great actresses play three Fox News employees with their own little stories. Two are playing known real life TV personalities. All three are blonde. Charlize Theron (REINDEER GAMES) plays Megyn Kelly, the star of her own show who was held out as the smart and independent woman at Fox because a couple she noted Trump’s sexism a couple times during the 2016 election. Of couse she also did the same bullshit as every other jerk on that network (about the only example in the movie is her crusade against non-white depictions of Santa Claus).

Theron, one of my favorite working actors, captures Kelly’s demeanor well, and at times the makeup job is uncanny. But I kept thinking “Who does her accent remind me of?” and once I realized it was Mira Sorvino in ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION I couldn’t unthink it. (read the rest of this shit…)