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Author Archive

New on Patreon: ‘John Hyams: Sculpting With Fists’

Friday, September 25th, 2020

Back in 2016 I wrote a John Hyams chapter for what would’ve been a really cool critical anthology book. Unfortunately the publisher went under and it never found a new home. So, in honor of ALONE, I decided to post what I wrote back then as a Patreon bonus. Enjoy!

JOHN HYAMS: SCULPTING WITH FISTS

Lucky Day

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

LUCKY DAY is a 2019 crime movie with death and laughs and colorful characters, including but not limited to Crispin Glover. It’s not retro or a throwback, but definitely has shades of the ‘90s everybody-wants-to-be-Tarantino days and Guy Ritchie and stuff, which is not a pose because this is from writer/director Roger Avary (a.k.a. Oscar-winning co-writer of PULP FICTION), his first directing in more than 15 years.

It’s about a crazy day in the life of a guy named Red (Luke Bracey, GI JOE: RETALIATION, THE NOVEMBER MAN, POINT BREAK remake, HACKSAW RIDGE) when he’s released from a two year prison bid and returns to his French artist wife Chloe (Nina Dobrev, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE) and daughter Beatrice (Ella Ryan Quinn). I don’t think it’s ever specified what he did time for, but he does go to see his friend Leroy (Clé Bennett, JIGSAW) – who has changed his name to Le Roi – and the fact that they run a lock and key shop with a cool basement hidden inside a safe and inside that is a huge safe that he attempts to crack for fun seems like a hint. (read the rest of this shit…)

Extreme Justice

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

EXTREME JUSTICE is a 1993 cop movie by director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO) that you can find on DVD, VHS or streaming on Prime. Lester has done a pretty broad range of b-movie types, but one thing some of them have in common is a great sense of exaggeration. In CLASS OF 1984, for example, he presents a world where juvenile delinquency is so severe that a previously mild-mannered music teacher has no better choice than to do battle with one of his students and dump him through a skylight into the school gym during the big recital. In its sci-fi sequel CLASS OF 1999, such out-of-control kids have led to an overreaction that includes militarized robot teachers.

So I wasn’t sure which way he would go in his movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips (RENEGADES, UNDERTOW, THE BIG HIT) as an LAPD detective who rather than getting in trouble for his police brutality gets promoted to a secret unit where “what useta get you in trouble’ll get you a round of beers.” I guess the reason I wasn’t familiar with this one is that they were worried about releasing it a year after the L.A. riots/uprising and dumped it to HBO. But I’m happy to report it doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure – the movie is very clearly saying that this extreme justice is too extreme and not justice. It’s not the good kind of Paul Verhoeven “you have to be really thick to not understand this satire” clear, unfortunately, but right now I’ll settle for the more accessible “he has a girlfriend who’s the conscience of the movie and convinces him that this is all wrong” type. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alone

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

By now most people around here are familiar with John Hyams, director of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (2009) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012). For a decade now we’ve scratched our heads wondering how those two genuinely visionary masterpieces of contemporary action didn’t bring Hyams to the attention of Hollywood gatekeepers who could’ve certainly used his skills making mid-budget action movies or thrillers, to say nothing of their big video game adaptations and terminators and what not. But without their dumb asses he’s managed to make a Cung Le vehicle I really like called DRAGON EYES (2012) and the 2018 comedy ALL SQUARE (which I just discovered is on Hulu), and the rest of the time has found plenty of work in television.

He put some of his sensibilities into the SyFy zombie series Z Nation, including an episode that’s mostly an extended chase scene and battle, and moreso in the more serious Netflix prequel series Black Summer. If you’ve checked out that show (and I recommend you do), you won’t be surprised that he can make a clean, elegant, deeply scary thriller like ALONE, which was released to digital platforms Friday after being well received at the virtual Fantasia Film Festival. It’s his simplest and least weird movie, all the better to show off his finely tuned suspense set pieces, enhanced by strong acting and a pervasively ominous atmosphere. And it’s very involving, making us feel like we’re there, whether “there” is in a parking lot at night watching truckers pull up to use a restroom, or high up in the trees listening to their brittle fibers creak as they bend in the breeze. (read the rest of this shit…)

Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story

Monday, September 21st, 2020

In this age of streaming and crowdfunding and what not there has been a new wave of documentaries about movie topics I’m interested in. The history of Cannon Films, of martial arts cinema, of ‘80s horror, etc. Some are great and comprehensive, some take on too broad of a topic and can’t really get very far, some are just amusing surface level “remember that?” tours through basic things you likely already know if you watched the movie on purpose. So I try not to expect much more than a cursory talking-heads-and-clip-montages glance at a compelling subject.

STUNTWOMEN: THE UNTOLD HOLLYWOOD STORY – which Shout! Studios is releasing to digital platforms tomorrow, September 22nd – gave me much more. Credited as an adaptation of the book of the same title by Mollie Gregory and directed by April Wright (GOING ATTRACTIONS: THE DEFINITIVE STORY OF THE AMERICAN DRIVE-IN MOVIE), it has interesting things to say about the history of women in cinematic stunts, addresses industry issues that hadn’t all occurred to me before, and most of all gives a glimpse into the lives and work of some really fascinating, amazing women. (read the rest of this shit…)

Vegas Vacation

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

VEGAS VACATION is a standout in the VACATION franchise saga in that it’s the only one that doesn’t have a NATIONAL LAMPOON’S in the title. I don’t know if they sued to get it off of there, like Stephen King did with STEPHEN KING’S THE LAWNMOWER MAN, or if National Lampoon said “VACATION is old hat, we decided to be strictly in the VAN WILDER business now,” or if it’s just an acknowledgment from Hollywood that by 1997 nobody who didn’t go to Harvard in the ‘70s gave a shit about that magazine or was even totally clear what exactly it was. Whatever the reason, the name wasn’t on this one, the brand showed weakness, and before long if I’m not mistaken National Lampoon was forced to change its name to American Pie Presents Magazine.

Pictured: A band on Fremont Street that was likely playing either “You Give Love a Bad Name” or “Wanted Dead Or Alive.”

I can’t claim to be an aficionado of the VACATION mythos, but after watching NATIONALLY AVAILABLE SPIN-OFF OF THE HARVARD CAMPUS COMEDY MAGAZINE’S EUROPEAN VACATION for the Summer of 1985 series I decided to be a completist and watch the only one about a vacation I’ve actually taken. I first went to Las Vegas with some friends who, like Clark and Ellen in the movie, went to renew their vows. I honestly have no interest in gambling, but it’s interesting to watch for a little bit and then walk around taking in all the people, the art on the slot machines, the crass opulence everywhere, enjoying food and alcoholic slurpies and a zipline and late hours and walking past outdoor stages with ‘80s cover bands and realizing the unifying power of Bon Jovi. Seriously, I never liked Bon Jovi growing up, but you hear those songs and somehow everyone seems to know them and want to sing along and it’s weirdly inspiring.

I can completely understand having an aversion to the place, especially if you don’t drink (a little day drinking is part of the fun for me), but I enjoy it there, I find it interesting. So I have a soft spot for Vegas and I like seeing movies filmed at places I’ve seen in real life. I’m easy that way.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Witch: Subversion

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

I watched THE WITCH: SUBVERSION after I heard a few good things and read that it’s from the guy who wrote the incredibly upsetting but badass I SAW THE DEVIL. For this one Park Hoon-jung is also the director, as he’s done with several other films I haven’t seen, including the gangster movie NEW WORLD (2013).

I wish I could tell you this was a crass DTV sequel to THE VVITCH. I did initially assume it would be horror, then I heard it was action, but it turns out to be something harder to categorize. Some melodrama, some sci-fi, some carnage. It seems closest to a Y.A. type movie – teen melodrama X-MEN – except, like so many of the other South Korean movies I’ve seen, it gets horrifically violent at times. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Jewel of the Nile

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Wow, THE JEWEL OF THE NILE came out less than two years after ROMANCING THE STONE, which was expected to be a flop, so it’s not like they had a head start. Fast turnaround. Robert Zemeckis was off making BACK TO THE FUTURE and Diane Thomas was writing scripts for Spielberg (and wanted to be paid well) so producer/star Michael Douglas hired director Lewis Teague (ALLIGATOR) and writers Mark Rosenthal & Lawrence Konner (THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN, later SUPERMAN IV, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, STAR TREK VI, MERCURY RISING and the bad PLANET OF THE APES).

The story starts six months later, with Joan and Jack sailing around the world on the boat he bought with the proceeds from part 1’s stolen jewel. (I thought he bought it for her as a gift, but I guess not.) This time she’s having trouble writing her books because her life is too much romance and adventure. She’s actually bored of all the exotic locales and beautiful sunsets and sits in the boat with her typewriter writing a garbage pirate adventure which she now imagines starring herself and Jack but also gets thrown off and accidentally turns the pirates into punks? I don’t know if that represents a typo or a failed artistic flourish or what. (read the rest of this shit…)

Romancing the Stone

Monday, September 14th, 2020

I don’t think I’ve seen ROMANCING THE STONE since the ‘80s. I’ve been curious to rewatch it forever because it’s one of those things that was huge at the time that hasn’t survived as much in the cultural memory as other things. Like, maybe I didn’t study the crowd scenes enough, but I didn’t notice Kathleen Turner’s character Joan Wilder in READY PLAYER ONE. I suppose because this appealed a little more to the parents of the kids now in charge of the world’s nostalgia. But it’s directed by Robert Zemeckis, who I tend to like, so when I heard that my friends at the podcast The Suspense Is Killing Us were doing a Patreon bonus episode about the ROMANCING THE STONE/JEWEL OF THE NILE duology it prompted me to finally get to it.

Kathleen Turner (who’d only been in BODY HEAT and THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS previously) stars as Joan Wilder, Waldenbooks Romance Author of the Year winning author of Love’s Wicked Kiss, who we meet just as she’s completing her latest novel, as depicted through a re-enactment with her first person voiceover. She imagines her heroine Angelina as March 1981 Playboy Playmate of the Month Kymberly Herrin (GHOSTBUSTERS blowjob ghost, BEVERLY HILLS COP II, ROAD HOUSE, ZZ Top “Legs” video), but our glimpses of the rugged hero who rescues her look suspiciously like Michael Douglas. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

Other than my long-held above average Ms. Pac-Man skills, I cannot claim to be a gamer. I have very little experience playing the video game Mortal Kombat, so I mostly know it as the one they play on acid in Larry Clark’s BULLY. But I’m only human; I have the same weakness for mystical fighting tournaments, magic ninjas, monster violence and spines being pulled out as anybody, button-masher or otherwise. So I’m always open to checking out any cinematic developments related to the Mortal Kombat intellektual property, and that’s good because the recent DTV animated feature MORTAL KOMBAT LEGENDS: SCORPION’S REVENGE is one of the franchise’s best konkoktions to date.

Although I kind of enjoy the silly PG-13 live action movies MORTAL KOMBAT and even MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION, I appreciate that this cartoon is super-duper hard-as-fuck R strictly for violence. No boobs, don’t remember the cursing, a few references to balls (because Sonya Blade repeatedly crunches Johnny Cage’s), but the rating is for tons and tons of bloody, reprehensible bodily deconstruction. Pretty frequent finishings and fatalities and flawless victories in this one. (read the rest of this shit…)