“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Author Archive

Mortal Engines

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

You might’ve figured a new sci-fi/fantasy produced and written by Peter Jackson and his fellowship (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens), and directed by his storyboard artist/effects guy since DEAD ALIVE Christian Rivers, would be a pretty big deal. I had hoped to see it in 3D, but it came out the same week as THE MULE and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE and then the next week I wanted to see AQUAMAN, MARY POPPINS RETURNS and BUMBLEBEE and since the movie flopped the showtimes dropped precipitously and it was gone before I got to it. Plus, everybody said it sucked.

Wrong! I am happy to report that MORTAL ENGINES is pretty fuckin cool! It’s based on a young adult book, and there are some costumes and characters that follow a sort of steampunk or HUNGER GAMES city dweller style that I’m not into it, but it’s an adventure in an interesting world with cool characters and the spectacular effects of Weta at their best.

The movie centers around futuristic London, which is a “predator city,” meaning the whole fucking thing drives around the wastelands like a giant tank looking for resources, which they get by “ingesting” smaller cities to steal their machines and citizens. In the opening scene they chase down a small mining town and swallow it up. When I saw the Londoners on the fancy top deck watching the chase and cheering I fell in love with the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Ranger

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

THE RANGER is a pretty solid, pretty simple little horror movie about some punks in a remote cabin running afoul of a psychotic forest ranger. It’s a little more serious than that sounds, but in an interesting way, not a pretentious one. I believe it takes place some time in the ’80s, because there’s a Walkman but no cell phones, but otherwise it could take place any time in the last 35 years or so. Punks are timeless.

The story centers on Chelsea (Chloe Levine, The Defenders), whose family owns the cabin. She was there as a little girl when her uncle (Larry Fessenden, the Stan Lee of indie horror) died under grisly and not-yet-fully-explained-to-us circumstances. Now she gets pushed into bringing her friends there to hide out after her shithead boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) stabs a cop during a police raid at a punk show. (read the rest of this shit…)

Triple Frontier

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

TRIPLE FRONTIER is last week’s straight-to-Netflix-no-theaters release from director J.C. Chandor (MARGIN CALL, ALL IS LOST, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR). This one is higher profile than most such releases because it floated around various big name directors and studios before Netflix bought it with the bottomless money supply their CEO famously received by catching a magic fish, and it stars Oscar Isaac (SUCKER PUNCH), Ben Affleck (ELEKTRA, director’s cut only), Charlie Hunnam (KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD), Garrett Hedlund (TRON LEGACY) Pedro Pascal (THE GREAT WALL) and Adria Arjona (PACIFIC RIM UPRISING). It’s such a big deal for the company that they made the uncharacteristic choice of promoting its existence!

Isaac plays Santiago “Pope” Garcia, an American advising the Colombian military in violent raids on drug gangs. His informant/sometime-girlfriend Yovanna (Arjona) claims to know the location of a jungle fortress where cartel boss Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos, MONKEY TROUBLE) hides out with all his money. So Pope goes back to the states to recruit some of his old retired spec ops buddies as a team to go in and do reconnaissance and pocket a percentage of the money the police ultimately seize.

At least that’s what he says until they get there, and then it becomes clear that the police don’t know anything about it yet. He wants his buddies to do a heist with him. Ah, shit, Pope. Are you kidding me with this shit? (read the rest of this shit…)

Timecop

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Recently when I ranked all the ’90s comic book movies for Polygon I rewatched TIMECOP for the first time since that decade. I decided to disqualify it when I read on the production notes extra that it was originally written as a script and then made into a Dark Horse Comics series, but I’m glad I watched it first, because it’s better than I remembered.

Jean-Claude Van Damme (BREAKIN’) plays Max Walker, a regular cop who’s about to be recruited to a new secret government agency that travels back in time to stop other time travelers from changing history. Knowing the future presents ample opportunities for get-rich-quick schemes (for example, in the opening a guy uses a futuristic machine gun to steal gold from the Confederate Army), but the government worries this could butterfly-effect shit up, so they try to control it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Triple Threat

Friday, March 15th, 2019

TRIPLE THREAT is the long-awaited international co-production that teams Tony Jaa (ONG BAK, THE PROTECTOR, KILL ZONE 2), Iko Uwais (THE RAID, HEADSHOT, THE NIGHT COMES FOR US) and Tiger Chen (MAN OF TAI CHI, KUNG FU TRAVELER). That in itself is an event, but wait until I tell you who plays the villains. Directed by Jesse V. Johnson (THE BUTCHER, SAVAGE DOG), it’s not an envelope-pusher like some of the modern classics each of those three have under their belts, but it’s a solid action romp with tons of clearly shot fighting, taking advantage of all the possible match-ups and varying martial arts styles.

Jaa is first billed and shown first, but Uwais is the protagonist and the one with the best hair*. Jaa and Chen play mercenaries duped into a “humanitarian mission” that’s actually an attack on a village in which Uwais’ character’s (very briefly glimpsed) wife and friends are killed. Seeking revenge, he tracks the two to their day jobs as underground fighters… and gets beat up. But they recognize him from the village, explain themselves and become his on again, off again allies as he uses them to try to lure out the criminal syndicate responsible. Meanwhile those two try not to be killed by the gang for knowing too much, as well as to protect a Chinese heiress (Celina Jade, LEGENDARY ASSASSIN, SKIN TRADE, WOLF WARRIOR 2) they discover is being targeted by them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get ready to get AVENGEMENTed

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

I must be moving up in the world because I actually got sent a press release about Samuel Goldwyn Films acquiring U.S. rights to “THE ACTION-PACKED FILM ‘AVENGEMENT’ STARRING SCOTT ADKINS.”

The important new information is that it will be released digitally on May 24th. It also says it’ll be in theaters that day, but I don’t know how many of our cities will benefit from that.

The other thing that most impressed me is that Adkins’ character is named CAIN BURGESS. Obviously we were all hoping for John Avengement, but the genre can definitely use more Cains and Kanes. We’ll see if Cain Burgess becomes the next Yuri Boyka.

AVENGEMENT is directed by Jesse V. Johnson, who I have noted is on an incredible role with SAVAGE DOG, ACCIDENT MAN, THE DEBT COLLECTOR and TRIPLE THREAT all in a row. He first directed Adkins way back in 2005’s PIT FIGHTER. The screenplay is by Johnson and Stu Smalls, which bodes well – Johnson wrote the excellent DEBT COLLECTOR, and Smalls is Adkins’ life long friend who co-wrote ACCIDENT MAN and has helped mold his dialogue for other scripts.

Here’s the official plot summary:

“While released on furlough from prison, a lowly criminal evades his guards and returns to his old haunts to take revenge on the people that made him a cold-hearted killer. It’s an epic, bloody battle to search for the soul he lost years ago on the streets of an unforgiving city.”

Johnson’s description of the character and story are intriguing. He calls Cain Burgess “both frightening and sympathetic” and “A man who has tempered his pain and rejection into a carbon steel tool for revenge.” And he claims that said revenge is “a satisfyingly baroque, almost elegant retribution.”

So we’ll find out what that’s all about in a few months, but we only have to wait until next week to see the latest from Johnson and Adkins (as the villain), TRIPLE THREAT. I’ll have a review of that for you tomorrow morning after the embargo lifts.

Captain Marvel

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Marvel has been on a roll for a while now. I guess it’s inevitable that when you release extra colorful and ambitious movies like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, THOR: RAGNAROK, BLACK PANTHER, and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR all within two or three years then some of the other stuff you put out is gonna seem less impressive. Like, DOCTOR STRANGE was pretty good fun and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP has plenty of laughs and now we have CAPTAIN MARVEL, a perfectly fine movie I enjoyed watching similar to how I enjoyed watching the first THOR. Like that one it’s a pretty cool, well-cast new character who comes to our world from sort of an iffy fantastical one, has some pretty cool, sometimes funny fish-out-of-water interactions with humans, and fights some bad guys from her world in a small town without many people around.

Not bad, but how are you gonna get ’em back on THOR once they’ve seen RAGNAROK? We take the cool characters for granted now and we expect better style, better jokes, better spectacle. At least that’s how I feel. It’s worth mentioning that most of the women I’ve talked to about it liked CAPTAIN MARVEL better than most of the men I’ve talked to, so there may be things we’re not appreciating. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mask

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

When I was invited to write my recent Polygon article about comic book films of the ’90s, I looked over a list and was a little surprised that I had seen and was very familiar with close to all of them. I checked out a few I hadn’t seen, like TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III (not great, but not really my thing), and there were a few I felt I really needed to rewatch because I hadn’t seen them since they were released. In the case of THE MASK, holy shit, that was 25 years ago. I’m not sure it’s a movie anybody talks much about anymore, but I thought it was interesting enough to earn a full review.

I believe that wave of movies I wrote about were all ripples that came out of the giant splash that was Tim Burton’s BATMAN in 1989. More than just a hit, BATMAN was a cultural phenomenon. It’s hard to explain to people who weren’t there, but the hunger for Batman caused by that movie does not have a contemporary comparison I’m aware of. Wearing of bat symbol clothing (licensed or bootleg) rivaled Seahawks gear around here during playoffs. It was a time when they made Converse with bat symbols on them and then I swear to you they made a phone shaped like Converse with bat symbols on them. So studios scrambled to find another old character who could capture the zeitgeist like Batman had, and all those movies being in production paved the way for adaptations of lesser known comics (we didn’t call them “properties” back then because we didn’t want to sound like assholes). (read the rest of this shit…)

The Hard Way

Monday, March 11th, 2019

THE HARD WAY starring Michael Jai White is not a remake of THE HARD WAY starring Michael J. Fox. It’s a totally different story and he’s co-starring with Luke Goss and Randy Couture in a picture that as far as I can tell has gone straight to Netflix (no disc release). I gotta be honest, I had low expectations, because I first heard of it in an awkwardly worded tweet from co-writer Thomas J. Churchill (LAZARUS: APOCALYPSE), illustrated with key art that looks like the cover for a self-published Christian thriller novel. The director and co-writer is Keoni Waxman, who has churned out more Seagal movies than anyone else (THE KEEPER, A DANGEROUS MAN, MAXIMUM CONVICTION, FORCE OF EXECUTION, A GOOD MAN, ABSOLUTION, END OF A GUN, CARTELS, CONTRACT TO KILL and eight episodes of True Justice). He also did the Stone Cold Steve Austin movie HUNT TO KILL. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ranking the Live Action Comic Book Movies of the ’90s

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

I have an extensive new piece over on Polygon where I rank and discuss all* of the live action comic book or comic strip based theatrical or DTV movies of the 1990s. I know it’s weird for me to be writing on a video game sight, but did you know that I’m actually pretty good at Ms. Pac-Man? You might be surprised.

This was fun because I didn’t really realize until I compiled a list how familiar I am with the topic. I’d seen almost everything that qualified, although I had to fill in a few holes and rewatch several that I hadn’t seen in decades (some of which I’ll be reviewing soon). I have my memories of what I thought of the movies at the time and it’s interesting to look at them all as one movement and consider how different they seem now that they’re artifacts of a bygone era.

Please don’t take the rankings too seriously. I’m already questioning why I didn’t move certain things around. For example, I know I put SPAWN up too high, trying to give it credit for notoriety. Hopefully my write-ups show a joy for what’s unique about this genre even in the lesser ones. Judging from the comments, my low ranking and lumping together of the three TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movies is the most controversial choice. I didn’t see that coming, and I think it’s a generational difference – I’m just too old to understand why it’s so fucking hilarious that they love pizza. I’m more of a cats eating lasagna guy. But apologies for the blasphemy.

I wanted to mention here, since it didn’t really fit in the article, that looking at them all together made me realize one particular artist’s contribution to this genre. That person is not Danny Elfman, because I’d noticed he scored DICK TRACY, BATMAN RETURNS and MEN IN BLACK, plus the theme for The Flash on television, so I already associated him with comic book movies of that era. No, my new realization was that Nils Allen Stewart, guy who played Jesse Ventura in a TV movie and veteran action henchman with the weird hairdo in the ON DEADLY GROUND bar fight, appears in THE MASK, THE SHADOW, FIST OF THE NORTH STAR and BARB WIRE. Not bad.

Anyway, PLEASE ENJOY THE ARTICLE BY CLICKING HERE and let me know what you think.

*Zack Clopton on Twitter pointed out that I fucked up – I missed PRINCE VALIANT (1997). Damn it.