"KEEP BUSTIN'."

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Lethal Weapon 2

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

I already wrote about LETHAL WEAPON 2 along with the rest of the LETHAL WEAPON series back in 2014. I’m still happy with that review. It covers much of what’s relevant about the movie, and even features a scan from my beloved Summer 1989 Warner Brothers Catalog (as seen in the BATMAN review). But I didn’t think I should skip over the movie in this series because it’s such a crucial piece of what I’m talking about here. So the earlier review still stands, but here’s a partially overlapping supplemental look at LETHAL WEAPON 2 focusing on its place in the action movies of summer ’89.

LETHAL WEAPON (1987) was of course a quintessential ’80s action movie, the Platonic ideal of a buddy cop picture, and one of the originators of the idea of Mel Gibson and producer Joel Silver (ROAD HOUSE) as action kings. But part 2 is more my idea of what “a LETHAL WEAPON movie” is like because it invented how to sequelize that movie and make it about the continuing adventures of that now-established friendship. It takes what was already seen as heightened and makes it bigger, sexier, funnier, lethal-er (apparently it’s the biggest body count in the series at 33), creating a template (and new character in Leo Getz, played by Joe Pesci a year before GOODFELLAS) that would be used for two more sequels in the ’90s. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Karate Kid Part III

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE was not the only part 3 on offer for Summer of ’89 – there was also John Avildsen’s THE KARATE KID PART III. And as Mrs. Vern pointed out to me, the series kind of follows the same pattern as Indy: there’s the popular first one, the second one goes off in a different direction (bringing him to Japan), and then the third one plays it safe by being closer to part 1, with Cobra Kai, John Kreese and the All-Valley Karate Tournament. And then of course both series also have a much later, unpopular part 4 and a pretty enjoyable remake starring Jaden Smith.

I think PART II had an okay reception, and this isn’t supposed to be an apology for it like LAST CRUSADE was for TEMPLE OF DOOM. But it’s kinda funny to me because PART II’s trailer narrator said, “No more tournaments. No more cheering crowds. This time… the combat… is real.” Of course there’s no more tournaments and crowds and shit, that wasn’t real combat at all, that was for babies, and only a complete coward would make another movie about that kind of sissy bullshit. We have moved well beyond that nonsense and fuck you if you even think for one second that– oh, what’s that? We’re doing tournaments and cheering crowds again? Oh, cool! Welcome back! (read the rest of this shit…)

Abduction (2019)

Monday, July 15th, 2019

As I might’ve mentioned once or twice before, Scott Adkins has really been on a roll in his recent movies with director Jesse V. Johnson. But let’s not get too comfortable. He’s got a new one coming to DVD tomorrow called ABDUCTION. It’s not of similar quality, but I had fun with it, and it’s something different for him. The cover just shows him with a big gun, so I assumed it was a COMMANDO deal with him rescuing his daughter from kidnappers. Yeah, pretty much, but the kidnappers are aliens! Or inter-dimensional beings? I think inter-dimensional beings. Forgive my ignorance.

So no, it’s not a remake of John Singleton’s 2011 movie starring Taylor Lautner. I also got it mixed up with another upcoming Adkins project called SEIZED, which I have confirmed is a different movie, an Isaac Florentine joint where a daughter and son are kidnapped, presumably by humans.

I don’t think I can say ABDUCTION is Adkins’ weirdest, because there’s always UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, a far more atmospheric, moody and hard-hitting movie, better on every level. This one is literally a Roger Corman production and has the bland glossiness and chintzy digital effects I associate with the SyFy Channel. But it’s definitely not generic. It has a hell of an opening that immediately dunks your head in the craziness and takes its time before letting you take a breath. I was into it. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Vigilante

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

A month or two ago I saw a comedy called BOOKSMART, directed by Olivia Wilde, who I just knew as an actress from TRON: LEGACY. BOOKSMART is about two really smart, funny girls obsessed with good grades and good colleges who, on the night before graduation, try to go to a party. It’s similar to SUPERBAD in both laugh ratio and sweet emphasis on friendship, and it even stars Jonah Hill’s hilarious sister Beanie Feldstein (LADY BIRD), along with Kaitlyn Dever, who played Loretta on Justified. I really enjoyed these two characters, plus the score by Dan the Automator, and highly recommend the movie, but it’s the kind of thing I don’t really know how to write about. I don’t know how to get much mileage out of trying to explain why I think something is funny. So I just tweeted about it and left it at that, until this very paragraph.

But the same week BOOKSMART came out there was a much less jolly movie released on video starring Wilde, written and directed by first-timer Sarah Dagger-Nickson. This one is called A VIGILANTE, and she’s literally playing a vigilante. It’s an arty movie that played South by Southwest in 2018, and the title could maybe be an homage to Jacques Audiard’s A PROPHET, because that seems like sort of the category of movie they’d like to be in. But at the beginning there were logos for Emmett-Furla Productions, Saban, and Moviepass. So yeah, obviously this one I know how to write about. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME continues the charming “teen comedy, but in the Marvel Universe” vibe of 2017’s SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, but instead of situating it on the outskirts of the MCU it’s more in the middle this time. It’s pretty much an epilogue to the whole story that culminated in AVENGERS: ENDGAME, or a bridge to the next one. It starts by making light of the fictional tragedies of that movie (a hilariously awful teen-made video tribute to fallen heroes) and pretty much addressing everything I wondered about after ENDGAME (AVENGERS that is, not HIGHLANDER) pertaining to a world where half of all teens are five years younger than their ID says.

And then it’s kind of like it should be called SPIDER-MAN IS… IRON MAN 4. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL LIVE) is on a school trip to Europe, and his mind is on a plan to tell M.J. (Zendaya, SUPER BUDDIES) he has a crush on her, though she seems to be spending her time with Brad (Remy Hii, CRAZY RICH ASIANS), who is somebody’s little brother who grew big and handsome while the rest of them were dusted. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wheels On Meals

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

WHEELS ON MEALS is the 1984 Hong Kong action classic starring Chinese opera bros for life Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung (also director), fresh off of WINNERS AND SINNERS and PROJECT A. Jackie and Biao star as Thomas and David, dorky cousins who live together in Barcelona, sharing a bedroom that has separate doors right next to each other for no reason other than a visual gag. In the opening we see them getting up, working out and practicing on kung fu dummies, so that when they’re amazing fighters through the rest of it there’s a foundation for it. (But we never see them practice again.)

Sammo plays a guy named Moby, who’s introduced sporting shades and a perm that almost looks like jheri curls. He’s working (without pay) for a sleazy p.i. (Herb Edelman, a.k.a. Dorothy’s ex-husband Stanley on Golden Girls) who leaves town to hide from a gambling debt and leaves Moby in charge, causing him to strut around town dressed like he’s in the “Smooth Criminal” video, whisper-bragging to everyone that he’s “Acting Chairman of Matt’s Detective Agency.” He also takes a case to find a woman from an old photograph (oh my god this could turn into THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) and it seems like all he really knows how to do is look for some guy named Fatso to ask him about it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Midsommar

Monday, July 8th, 2019

MIDSOMMAR is the new one from HEREDITARY writer/director Ari Aster. It’s about a group of drugged out (and in some cases horny) young people running into some craziness during a summer vacation, so hopefully nobody will pretend it’s not a horror movie.

It’s very much in the vein of Aster’s first one, because it has weird and ridiculously detailed cult rituals, meticulously designed sets and camera moves, slow ominous dread building to big/crazy/gory payoffs uncharacteristic of modern arthouse horror, superb acting performances, an emphasis on tense relationships and heavy emotions, and an undercurrent of dark, uncomfortable humor that got a bunch of big laughs in the audience I saw it with (though, if HEREDITARY is any indication, people will tell me I imagined that). So it’s a similar template, but a very different palette, because there’s nothing supernatural and there’s not much darkness. It takes place in an old-timey village in Sweden where everyone wears white, it’s sunny all day, and the nights are short and never get all the way dark. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Dead Don’t Die

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy THE DEAD DON’T DIE is… I mean, it’s a zombie comedy by Jim Jarmusch. Which is unexpected. When the trailer came out I couldn’t tell if they were trying to mislead us or if Jarmusch had made something totally different from his other movies. The answer is in the middle, leaning toward the first one. It feels closer to normal Jarmusch than to, like, SHAUN OF THE DEAD. It’s high on oddness and quirk, low on concept, plot structure or traditional resolution. Compared to ZOMBIELAND or TUCKER AND DALE or something the humor is bone dry and the pace is molasses slow.

But by LIMITS OF CONTROL standards it’s an action packed thrill-o-rama. It has a whole bunch of zombies digging out of graves like Thriller or RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, pulling out people’s intestines for a snack, and getting their heads chopped or blown off. They’re respectable zombies, too – o.g. slow shambling style, some personality to them, one played by Iggy Pop (DEAD MAN, THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS). There’s one pretty distinctive touch in that they emit puffs of dust from their wounds. I imagine Jarmusch worked with more FX people on this than on all his other movies combined. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Brian Taylor is the former camera operator and guy who played “Young Man” in THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN who, with partner Mark Neveldine, wrote and directed CRANK, CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE, GAMER and GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. The CRANKs are beloved by many, and feature some fun ideas and a game Jason Statham, but when I watched them a decade ago I could not abide their intentionally obnoxious why-are-you-hitting-yourself-why-are-you-hitting-yourself stylistic and comedic fart-in-the-face. GAMER I despised even more because it tried harder to work as a high concept action movie and tried less to make it possible to have any clue what you are ever even looking at. And GHOST RIDER I don’t think they were happy with and it’s not very good but I liked some of what they did.

But in 2017 Taylor made his solo directing debut with MOM AND DAD and for my money this is his best movie. (He has subsequently done two seasons of a SyFy series called Happy! which I’ve heard some good things about.) It’s not like he’s changed what he’s about. He’s still using gimmicky camera moves, cheeky needle drops and spastic cutaways, and you better believe he’s gonna repeatedly slap you across the face with bursts of rockin guitars and blip bloopin dubstep electro-burps (score by Australian DJ/producer Mr. Bill). But it feels more under his control, more like a storyteller strategically employing chaos in service of a story, less like a dude with no pants on blowing two airhorns in your face and uncontrollably giggling about how funny it is that he’s doing it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gunmen

Monday, July 1st, 2019

GUNMEN is a simple but appealing little buddy movie with goofy humor and a little more style than you expect, or at least I’m guessing it does from what you can see on the shitty cropped DVD. It takes place in the modern world with mercs in sweat-stained gear and machine guns slung over their shoulders flying around South America in helicopters, but it’s pretty much a western, even opening with its buffoonish anti-hero Dani (Christopher Lambert around the time of KNIGHT MOVES) sitting in a dirty jail cell watching a fly land on his face when Cole Parker (Mario Van Peebles around the time of FULL ECLIPSE) blows up the wall to bust him out.

“Oh my god, I’m so happy to see you!” Dani says as he jumps into Cole’s Jeep. “Who are you?” (read the rest of this shit…)