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

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

Author Archive

Seoul Station

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

By now most horror fans have experienced or heard about the greatness of TRAIN TO BUSAN, the 2016 South Korean fast-zombie-plague movie. If you’re in the latter category, I know it’s easy to believe the hype but still feel no urgency to see it, because yeah, I get it. Zombies on a train. So I’ll just say again that while it’s impressive that it made me think “Okay, it turns out I do want another fucking zombie movie,” the real achievement is making me so attached to the characters and attuned to the tragedy of their horror movie circumstances that I produced actual tears near the end. Have I ever cried from a horror movie before? Not that I remember.

When I went to write the review I was surprised to learn that writer/director Yeon Sang-ho’s previous movies were all animated. He’d been doing animated shorts since the ‘90s, before the features KING OF PIGS (2011), THE FAKE (2013). Even more interesting, TRAIN TO BUSAN is sort of a sequel or tie-in to an animated feature called SEOUL STATION that Yeon did immediately before it. I didn’t realize it had come out in the U.S. until I noticed it streaming on Shudder. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wonder Seven

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

You know who’s always good? Michelle Yeoh. Have you noticed that? I guess you have. This one is from 1994, her followup to the classic WING CHUN, and it’s directed by the great Ching Siu-Tung. He had recently been her director for HEROIC TRIO 2 and action director for BUTTERFLY AND SWORD, THE HEROIC TRIO and HOLY WEAPON. The title presumably refers to the special forces team of six men and one woman introduced on dirt bikes chasing a gang of armed robbers through a farm. A guy is dragged through a pile of pig shit. The woman fires an arrow from a musical instrument and it goes all the way through a guy’s leg. One bike drops through a farmhouse ceiling. A guy runs through a pen full of ducks but gets hit in the head by a flying hammer.

All if this is great, obviously, but Michelle Yeoh is not one of these wonder people. The one female is Hilary Tsui (SHAOLIN POPEY), who apparently is playing “Tiny Archer.” The men on the team all kind of blend together to me. Kent Cheng (AH KAM) is the only one who really stands out visually, but unfortunately according to IMDb his character is called “Fatty.” Oh well – in ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA he played “Porky Wing,” and in IP MAN 2 and 3 he’s “Fatso” (Ip Man calls him “Bob” in part 4 though).

Yeoh plays Jing, a cool-sunglasses-wearing woman the Wonder Seven run into beginning with two separate incidents: (read the rest of this shit…)

Kindred Spirits

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Note: since many of us are on lockdown I want to make sure some of the things I review are extra accessible. I watched this one streaming for free on Tubi (and I’m sure you can get it without ads elsewhere).

When Lucky McKee directed MAY (2002), he became one of a wave of promising new 21st century horror directors. He hasn’t received as much attention as Eli Roth, Rob Zombie or some of the other guys who started at the same time, maybe because he hasn’t ended up being as prolific. But he’s got a permanent place in my hall of fame because THE WOMAN (2011) is My Favorite Horror Movie of the 2010sTM. So I’m interested when he comes out with a new one.

Last time it was one called BLOOD MONEY in 2017. If you heard about that one, and it wasn’t from me, I’d be surprised. It’s a straight to video/streaming thriller about some young people finding a bunch of money in the woods and trying to get away from the gun-toting hedge fund jerk it belongs to, played by John Cusack. Obviously I prefer the thorough originality of THE WOMAN, but I also dig when a good director can follow a pretty standard genre template and craft it with bits of nuance and personality that you don’t expect. In particular I was impressed by some of its gender themes, by the performance of Willa Fitzgerald (Scream: the tv series) and that the only woman in the movie gets to be the Tupac-in-JUICE character who pushes them into danger. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rocketman

Monday, March 30th, 2020

Remember that scene in SCHOOL OF ROCK where the character Tomika (Maryam Hassan) timidly tells her enthusiastic substitute teacher Dewey Finn, played by Jack Black, that she doesn’t want to be a roadie, as she’s been assigned? He tries to tell her it’s an important job, but he’ll let her do something else, like security, or…

She’s really trying to tell him she wants to be a singer, but she hesitates, so he doesn’t take her seriously. And then—

That’s Taron Egerton in ROCKETMAN. Oh my goodness, nice pipes, Egerton! I thought I already liked him, because he was good in KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE and LEGEND, and I even kind of enjoyed that fake-Guy-Ritchie version of ROBIN HOOD he starred in. But I thought he was just… a dude, you know? I didn’t see this coming from him. I didn’t know he had this kind of power, to become Elton John. And make me care about Elton John. (read the rest of this shit…)

Come to Daddy

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

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)

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

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

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

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

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

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

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020
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

Friday, March 20th, 2020

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…)