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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Mimic 3: Sentinel

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Neither MIMIC or MIMIC 2 seemed to go over all that well, but that didn’t stop Dimension Films from releasing MIMIC 3: SENTINEL in 2003. This is probly my favorite of the three, and at the very least it deserves high marks for taking advantage of the pre-sold nature of the format to take a weird left turn, not at all the lower-budget-rehash approach of so many DTV sequels. It follows a drastically different template: the Hitchcockian voyeur thriller. It even uses a quasi-Saul Bass movie poster font for the title. But it doesn’t feel like they took an old suspense thriller script and grafted a bug man onto it, because it ties into and builds off of the world of MIMIC in smart and interesting ways.

This one is written and directed by J.T. Petty, whose THE BURROWERS I’ve been meaning to check out forever. He also did SOFT FOR DIGGING (a $5,000 student feature that I believe got him this gig), S&MANand HELLBENDERS. Here he’s made a movie that kind of feels like it comes out of the same school as early Soderbergh or Nolan – the hyper-intelligent indie guys that were more into old noirs than drive-in movies. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic 2

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

One thing we’ve learned from sci-fi and horror films is that monsters and weird things find ways to survive, to evolve, to adapt, to keep coming back. It was true in the case of the Judas Breed, a bug genetically engineered by Dr. Susan Tyler to be a sellout traitor that kills off the diseased roaches of the Manhattan sewers and then dies out, that instead managed to squirt out tens of thousands of generations in a couple years and evolve into a six foot termite-mantis that can mimic the shape of a human to survive on the streets. It was also the case with the MIMIC movie series itself. Guillermo Del Toro and the Miramax marketing department created an identifiable enough brand, the Weinsteins or somebody okayed a direct-to-video sequel, and with a third of the budget and no need to attract box office I suspect it was able to be hatched with less of their scrutiny and meddling. While MIMIC is an interesting movie that doesn’t entirely deliver as slick mainstream entertainment, its sequels are in a good position to exceed expectations. They’re better than you fear and different than you expect, thus fulfilling the potential of the DTV sequel format. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mimic

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

It really didn’t occur to me, when I decided to finally rewatch MIMIC, that it was a movie about a pandemic. One of the main characters is the deputy director of the CDC! But it’s not at all similar to the pandemic we’re currently in – “Strickler’s Disease” seems to only affect children, putting them in comas. Because it’s spread by cockroaches, aforementioned CDC guy Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam, THE NET, AMISTAD, THE INVASION) recruits a brilliant entomologist, Dr. Susan Tyler (then-recent Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, between ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION and THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS), who comes up with a novel plan: she genetically engineers a new bug called the “Judas Breed” that infiltrates cockroach colonies and pukes up a bunch of enzymes that increase their metabolism so they starve to death. Give the roaches a disease to stop them from giving us one.

Three years later, Strickler’s disease has been wiped out, the two doctors are married, and everything seems fine, except weird shit is happening under Manhattan. A mysterious vagrant type guy drags a priest underground, and only an autistic kid named Chuy (Alexander Goodwin) witnesses it. Chuy’s guardian Manny (Giancarlo Giannini, BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA) is a shoe shiner, so the kid has become affixed on people’s footwear, and for some reason he calls this attacker “Mr. Funny Shoes.” I don’t know why, but that’s one of my favorite details in the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

His House

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

HIS HOUSE is a horror movie that recently went straight to Netflix. The kind that played Sundance and that critics love (I just checked and it’s still 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes after 82 reviews). That’s about all I knew about it, which is a luxury we have during this time when many of the big movies go straight to streaming. I like and recommend watching movies blind when you can, but this is a review, so here we go.

It’s about a refugee couple who escape South Sudan and are given a temporary home on the outskirts of London, only to find something evil there. It’s one of these stories that relates supernatural happenings to trauma and makes the line sort of blurry for the characters so they don’t at first know which one they’re experiencing. It benefits from great leads and strong direction by rookie Remi Weekes (also writer, with a story credit to Felicity Evans & Toby Venables). (read the rest of this shit…)

Jiu Jitsu

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

There’s something going on in the world of indie action that I don’t think gets enough attention. It started in 2016 with KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, a fun remake of the Cannon classic, with stuntman Alain Moussi in the lead and JCVD himself, in eccentric character actor mode, playing the mentor. It was directed by John Stockwell, who did pretty good with IN THE BLOOD and some of his other movies, so when the screenwriter took over as director for the sequel that didn’t seem like a good sign to me.

I was so wrong! KICKBOXER: RETALIATION turned out even better than the first one, with much more ambitious and assured direction, including complex choreography with great long take camera work. Of course, writer/director Dimitri Logothetis wasn’t some screenwriter getting his first shot at directing – he’d had a long and unusual filmmaking history that started in ’80s b-movies, producing HARDBODIES 2 and directing SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK, and included the 1989 boxing documentary CHAMPIONS FOREVER. Incidentally he’s also a blackbelt in Kenpo karate, having been taught by Ed Parker (he says he got to train with Elvis three times).

Now Logothetis has reunited with Moussi for another action vehicle, not a remake but a sci-fi story he first tested out as a comic book. And since it has a crazy premise and a good supporting role for Nicolas Cage maybe more people will notice this time. (read the rest of this shit…)

You Got Served: Beat the World

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

“You know dancing is our only way out.”

I was under the misimpression that YOU GOT SERVED was a big franchise like STEP UP. Unfortunately it turns out YOU GOT SERVED: TAKE IT TO THE STREETS (2004) is just an hour-long instructional dance video, and YOU GOT SERVED: BEAT THE WORLD (2011) is really an unrelated Canadian dance movie that they rebranded as a YOU GOT SERVED here in the states. (Elsewhere you might find it as BEAT THE WORLD or THIS IS BEAT.) So we don’t get to find out what happens after they shoot the Li’l Kim video.

Think of how many unlikely phenomenons could’ve been cut down with an unrelated part 2! This could have easily been the fate of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, UNDISPUTED and so many others.

The good news is that this one is honestly more fun than YOU GOT SERVED. I knew that would be the case when it opened with a parkour chase across the rooftops. It seems very intense but turns out to be a demonstration. “You know we’re gonna be the first crew to bring free running to hip hop.” Yuson (Tyrone Brown, BEWARE THE GONZO) has recruited Justin (Chase Armitage, DEATH RACE 2), a freerunner from London, to help his crew, Fusion, create a unique routine for the impending Beat the World international dance competition.

(read the rest of this shit…)

You Got Served

Monday, November 16th, 2020

YOU GOT SERVED (2004) is a formula melodrama about a subculture of fiercely competitive dance crews in L.A. At night they have showdowns in what looks like a boxing gym, taking turns doing routines, the victor decided by the crowds who fill the place to the brim and cheer so loud it sounds like a stadium. In the opening scene sometimes they jump and when they land their feet seem to cause the earth to shake, as if they are Titans. But mostly the movie tries to seem down to earth.

It centers on Elgin (Marques Houston, BEBE’S KIDS, HOUSE PARTY 3) and his best friend David (Omar “Omarion” Grandberry, WRONG SIDE OF TOWN). They and their friends are incredible dancers but sadly they talk about it more as a “way out” than an art or a passion or something they were born to do, even though it must be all of those things. In the opening battle the prize is $600, but I counted at least eight people they have to split it between. I’m sure battling is way better than working an 8 hour shift, but I don’t think you could win enough of these to pay the rent. So David and Elgin reluctantly supplement it by doing deliveries for a drug dealer named Emerald (Michael “Bear” Taliferro, HALF PAST DEAD; later directed STEPPIN’: THE MOVIE). (read the rest of this shit…)

Naked Killer

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020


NAKED KILLER (not to be confused with NAKED GUN or NAKED LUNCH) is a 1992 Hong Kong action movie, one of the good ones that colors outside of the lines of reasonableness. An unhinged plot, extreme behavior and acrobatic, sometimes gory action make it fun, especially since those qualities tend to overlap.

The film’s central theme is a collision of violence and sexuality – the female lead is an assassin trained to seduce men and then kill them, the male lead is a cop who has been impotent since accidentally shooting his brother to death. It’s kind of a romance, and how’s this for a meet cute? Tom (Simon Yam, BULLET IN THE HEAD, LARA CROFT is the TOMB RAIDER in THE CRADLE OF LIFE) and Kitty (Chingmy Yau, LEGEND OF THE LIQUID SWORD) are in the salon getting their hair cut at the same time. Another hairstylist is hitting on Kitty when his pregnant girlfriend comes in to confront him. Kitty pretends to take his side until she attacks him with a cigarette and stabs him repeatedly in the groin with his scissors. Tom chases her and she steals his gun, which triggers his trauma and makes him puke, so she feels sorry for him and gives it back. This story would make an amazing wedding toast! (read the rest of this shit…)

Fall Guy: The John Stewart Story

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

A few years ago I reviewed ACTION U.S.A., an indie action movie from 1989, filmed in Waco, Texas. It was the directorial debut of stuntman John Stewart, a veteran of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, THE HIDDEN and PHANTASM II. It was clearly designed as a showcase for stunts – all kinds of hanging off of moving cars and helicopters, falling off of buildings, cars crashing and exploding, a guy’s motorcycle catching on fire and falling off a bridge. Tons of fun.

At the time it only existed as a super rare VHS tape, but beginning this week Alamo On Demand are playing a new 4K restoration in drive-ins and virtual cinemas (tickets here), which I imagine (hope) means there will be a blu-ray too at some point. Here’s the trailer Alamo made for it:

Stewart directed three more movies in the early ‘90s (CLICK: THE CALENDAR GIRL KILLER, CARTEL and HIDDEN OBSESSION) before doing 14 episodes in the first two seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He continued to work in stunts (including as stunt coordinator for LEPRECHAUN 3 and CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC’S RETURN) but didn’t direct another feature until 2007, when he made FALL GUY: THE JOHN STEWART STORY. Yes, an autobiopic. He’s played by Jason David Frank, the Green/White Power Ranger. (read the rest of this shit…)

Haunt

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Well, now that that’s taken care of…

November 9th, especially one right after an election week that makes Halloween seem like two months ago, is not necessarily the optimal time to review a movie that takes place on Halloween. But I felt this particular seasonal viewing was strong enough it should be entered into the record.

The title HAUNT doesn’t refer to ghosts, but the term for “haunted houses” or horror mazes that have grown in sophistication and popularity in recent non-pandemic years. There seem to be many of them in the L.A. area, judging from the horror podcasts I listen to, and I think there’s a documentary about them. They’ve evolved from the old fake spider webs and a guy jumping out in a Leatherface mask to “extreme haunts” where you have to sign a waiver because they’re really going to try to make you uncomfortable. This is a film about a group of college age friends who end up at one of those places after a Halloween party. They don’t know they’re in a horror movie, but we do, so we’re more tense than they are waiting to find out which danger is not fake.

There are a bunch of similarly themed and named movies of recent vintage – this is the 2019 American one with a clown mask on the poster. I didn’t know until afterwards that writer/directors Scott Beck & Bryan Woods are the guys that wrote A QUIET PLACE. (read the rest of this shit…)