"I got news for 'em. There's gonna be hell to pay. 'Cause I ain't daddy's little boy no more."

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Carlos Gallardo is… BRAVO and SINGLE ACTION

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

tn_singleactionThere’s a precedent for people who star in low budget movies just to help a buddy out but then keep acting and end up with big careers almost by accident. Bruce Campbell in THE EVIL DEAD, for example. Or Owen and Luke Wilson in BOTTLE ROCKET. You could even say Sharlto Copley, a filmmaker who Neil Blomkamp wanted to put in DISTRICT 9, and the next thing you know he’s a member of the A-Team!

So it’s not surprising that Robert Rodriguez’s buddy and co-producer Carlos Gallardo’s starring role in EL MARIACHI wasn’t his last. Sure, he was replaced by Antonio Banderas in the sequel (and knocked down to a smaller role), but in 1998 he got to play another title character in the mostly-English-language Mexican production BRAVO. This time he’s not a regular guy, he’s “best of the best” Mexican Secret Service agent Carlos Bravo, who’s secretly in love with the president’s daughter. (Don’t worry, she’s an adult.) Rather than guitar he plays pretty violin music for her (badass juxtaposition).

But when the daughter is spotted sneaking out of Bravo’s room he gets fired. Luckily he has his leather jacket there and his hog parked at the front door, so he’s able to drive off into a new life. (read the rest of this shit…)

El Mariachi

Monday, August 24th, 2015

tn_mariachiWhen Robert Rodriguez made EL MARIACHI in 1992 he was just some regular 23-year-old dude from Texas. He didn’t think he was ready to make a grab for his Hollywood dreams yet. He had no idea he would catch the attention of the Weinsteins, ride the wave of mainstream indie movies of the ’90s and eventually have his own cable channel and a mini-studio where he makes wide release movies without having to get out of bed.

Though most anyone would consider EL MARIACHI superior to most or all of Rodriguez’s modern output, at the time he didn’t even consider it a real movie. He only set out to make the first in a trilogy of practice movies to get him ready to make his first for real one. His original plan was to sell it to the Mexican DTV action market to get enough to make the next one. It wasn’t a cynical Asylum-type “this crap should be good enough for them” attitude, though, it was more like youthful bluster. I can’t compete with JURASSIC PARK, but I can compete with these movies. I can do better!

He came to L.A. to sell it to a Spanish-language video company, but they took too long sealing the deal and meanwhile he got signed to a major talent agency who sent it around to real studios and got him a deal at Columbia. His hope was to get a real budget to do a remake. When he realized they wanted to release it pretty much as-is he tried to stop them, thinking it would kill his career before it started. (read the rest of this shit…)

Virtuosity

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

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RELEASE DATE: August 4th
RELEASE DATE: August 4th

There are many things I don’t understand about the sci-fi world and story of VIRTUOSITY. It opens with Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington) in a Captain Panaka cosplay outfit chasing a killer through the business district, where everybody is in a suit carrying a briefcase, like they’re in The Matrix. It does turn out to be a virtual reality simulation and Parker turns out to be a prisoner, though he was formerly a cop until he accidentally killed an innocent(ish) journalist while killing the guy who killed his family.

But what is the reason for this simulation? I guess it’s supposed to be for training? But then why are they training prisoners? I guess because it’s still in Beta testing. With its current calibration, getting killed in the virtual world can cause the player to go into convulsions and die in real life. (You hear that, Wachowskis? See if you can take that idea and do something better with it.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

tn_mi5It’s been a joke for quite some time that Tom Cruise, like Prince or Keanu Reeves, never ages. Actually, now he’s starting to show some age, and I like it. He has a few more lines on his face, a little more character. Good work, Tom. Also his new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie is good.

It has been a tradition in the series to have a respectable actor in a position of authority over Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force team. In part 1, Jon Voight played the boss and mentor. In part 2, Anthony Hopkins sent Hunt on his missions. In part 3 there was Laurence Fishburne to question his actions, and in part ghost Tom Wilkinson was “the Secretary.” Now in part 5, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (M:I-RN), we have the most involved of all of these characters, Alec Baldwin as CIA director Alan Hunley. He gets the entire IMF agency disbanded and tries to capture or kill Hunt, who is still in the field trying to finish his last mission.

What I’m getting at is that Alec Baldwin’s famous narrator voice gets to deliver a very good Just How Badass Is He? speech for Ethan Hunt, which includes the appropriately hyperbolic phrase “he is the manifestation of destiny.” That’s one of the many advantages of having Christopher McQuarrie aboard as director and co-writer. The man made JACK REACHER. He loves a good Just How Badass Is He? speech. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gen-X Cops 2: Metal Mayhem

Friday, July 17th, 2015

tn_gycANT-MAN comes out today, with Paul Rudd (HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS) playing a Marvel super hero. He’s not a traditional square-jawed action guy, but a handsome dude who got his start playing pretty boy boyfriends (ROMEO + JULIET) isn’t a completely outside-the-box choice for such a character. Sure, he’s turned out to be best at comedy, but ANT-MAN seems to be a super hero story with a few more laffs than usual, so it makes sense. I’ve read that Rudd had to get in shape for the movie, but they didn’t make him turn into He-Man like Chrises Pratt, Evans and Hemsworth.

And I think I know why he got away with that. Paul Rudd happens to hold an Action Movie Legitimacy Card that none of those other Avengers do – one he shares with Chuck Norris, Scott Adkins, Steven Seagal, Darren Shahlavi, UFC’s Don “The Predator” Frye and Nathan “Rictus Erectus” Jones – he was the white dude in an Asian action picture. The film in question is the year 2000 sequel GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM, which is the version I watched, though it’s available in a different cut with the Cantonese parts dubbed into English, under the title JACKIE CHAN PRESENTS GEN-Y COPS.

(Note: Jackie actually had nothing to do with the movie, it’s sort of like a QUENTIN TARANTINO PRESENTS HERO type situation. Man, I wish I could present movies. VERN PRESENTS BEST OF THE BEST 2, etc.)

I haven’t seen part 1 (from 1999), but it must be about these two somewhat comical undercover cops Match (Stephen Fung, THE AVENGING FIST, TAI CHI HERO) and Alien (Sam Lee, MAN OF TAI CHI), who are introduced driving a Ferrari that Match bought with money from founding a successful websight. They are supposed to be very modern and computer savvy, so Alien keeps talking about ICQ. (read the rest of this shit…)

Once Upon a Time in Shanghai

Monday, July 13th, 2015

tn_ouatisAs much as beautiful action sequences are one of the great joys of life, the story really is the important part, it turns out. It can be formulaic and unoriginal – no problem, that can even be a plus sometimes – but it has to be a good engine for the fights and chases, giving us characters with motivations and making us want to see something happen, even something as simple as “I hope he kills that motherfucker” (or “I can’t wait ’til he fights that little guy!” as the guy next to me at THE RAID said). Most of the better Asian martial arts movies are especially story-driven I think, because of their themes of brotherhood, honor, tradition vs. innovation, etc.

So this is unusual but here’s one I’m recommending mostly just for the action. It’s the reverse of so many modern American action movies where I liked it despite the action being weak. I liked it even though I didn’t care much about what was happening until like halfway through.

I mean, there are elements I love here. The hero Ma Yongzhen (Philip Ng, DRAGON SQUAD) has a right fist so powerful his mom made him wear her jade bracelet to remind him not to use it. Donnie Yen’s wife tied a string around his wrist for the same reason in KUNG FU KILLER, but this is a more severe punishment because it’s pretty girly looking. His fist is often shot to look giant, and then we see that gaudy-looking bracelet with a metal charm on it that spins and hums with movement. So every time we see it we remember his vow of punchlessness. (read the rest of this shit…)

Absolution

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

tn_absolutiona.k.a. Mercenary: Absolution

ABSOLUTION is the latest from Steven Seagal, and his first to go straight to VOD before going to video this week. I guess it also played a couple theaters, although I have not heard any reports of anyone seeing it in one. I think this is more a sign of changing markets than of this particular movie’s quality. It’s not markedly different or better than his other recent works.

In ABSOLUTION Seagal faces a villain known only as “The Boss,” but I don’t think it’s supposed to be Bruce Springsteen. Either that, or there’s alot I didn’t know about Bruce Springsteen. Vinnie Jones (SUBMERGED, GUTSHOT STRAIGHT) draws upon his experience in BRADLEY COOPER’S MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN to play this tweed-wearing kingpin who works out of a professorial type office with globes and bookshelves and stuff, but his hobby is video taping himself in a fetish mask torturing and murdering prostitutes in a kitchen in the back of his 24-hour dance spot Club One.

Two things happen here. First, John (Seagal) and his life-debt partner of three years Chi (Byron Mann, BELLY OF THE BEAST, A DANGEROUS MAN, True Justice) have done a murder-for-hire on a  whore-loving, coke-snorting gangster called “The Afghani,” (a very good douchebag performance by Sergiu Costache, who’s actually Romanian) and are killing time before extraction by having some Johnnie Walker at the Danube Blues Club. Second, one of The Boss’s victims (Nadia, played by Adina Stetcu) escapes him, runs through the Club One dance floor, onto the streets, into the Danube, and literally into John’s lap, begging for help as The Boss’s underlings try to drag her away. (read the rest of this shit…)

Terminator Genisys [sic]

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

tn_terminatorgNote: if you know nothing about this movie, this review has lots of spoilers. However, every major twist is given away in the advertising, one of them even on the poster.

There’s a cool, clever idea near the beginning of TERMINATOR GENISYS. We start out in the post-Judgment Day future, where the resistance leader John Connor (now played by Jason Clarke of ZERO DARK THIRTY) is about to destroy Skynet and its army of machines. But Skynet has just sent a T-800 (played by a body double with a digital-young-Arnold-Schwarzenegger head) back to 1984 to kill his mother Sarah Connor (now played by Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones, not to be confused with Lena Headey from Game of Thrones, who played her on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) before she conceives him. So John sends his best soldier (and secret father) Kyle Reese (now played by Jai Courtney from JACK REACHER and who would have been in the fifth DIE HARD if they had made one but there is not one in my opinion) back in time to protect Sarah. You know, the plot of THE TERMINATOR.

And then it goes and re-creates a few scenes we recognize from the first movie: the man in the garbage truck seeing the Terminator arrive naked in a ball of lightning, the homeless man in the alley seeing Kyle, the Terminator approaching three punk rockers (none of them Bill Paxton) and demanding their clothes. Except then, all the sudden, there’s another, older Arnold Schwarzenegger there, attacking the young one, with the help of Sarah. And we learn that this is a different timeline, not the one from THE TERMINATOR that we and Reese expected. This older Arnold is a Terminator who was sent back to when Sarah was 9 to protect her and raise her. So she’s not a clueless waitress who he has to convince, she already knows about the future and her son and how to shoot guns and everything. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

tn_kingsmanWell, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I did, you guys: I enjoyed KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE. Although I have this idea of director Matthew Vaughn as an overhyped Friend of the Internet, when I look at his filmography it’s really only KICK-ASS that I have a beef with. But since KINGSMAN is the director and writers of KICK-ASS adapting from another comic from the same guy that did KICK-ASS you can see why it would be a concern.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young British man of drinking age. His dad died in Iraq when he was a kid, his mom has an abusive asshole boyfriend, he hangs out at the pub with his friends, gets in fights, doesn’t have a job. This could be the beginning of another GREEN STREET sequel, but when he gets busted for stealing some asshole’s car it’s not a soccer fan club that helps him out, it’s a stranger who claims to be a friend of his dad.

Little did Eggsy know that his father was in a secret society of highly skilled, well-financed super-spies working independently of any government. This guy who helps him, code named Galahad (Colin Firth, THE KING’S PEACH), says he owes Eggsy’s dad for saving his life. Galahad notices Eggsy’s squandered potential (he quit the Marines as well as an Olympics-bound gymnastics career) and decides to recruit him to try out for their organization. But it’s a tough audition. It’s kinda like trying out for the SEALs but only one person gets to join. (read the rest of this shit…)

Die Hard With a Vengeance

Monday, June 1st, 2015

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RELEASE DATE: May 19
RELEASE DATE: May 19

“But I thought this was a currency exchange!”

In kicking off my summer of 1995 retrospective I made the grave error of skipping a May 19th release that very likely is the movie of that summer, one that is widely loved (especially around here) but sometimes forgotten in the lists of great films of the ’90s. Of course I don’t have to remind you guys about DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, you know about it. But I neglected to remember that my reviews of the original DIE HARD trilogy were written 15 years ago when I was taking the first steps on my journey to cinematic enlightenment. In other words I was kind of a dummy. So I owe it to myself and to society to try again.

The main thing that makes WITH A VENGEANCE stand out from the other DIE HARD sequels is the strong filmatism of director John McTiernan at his peak. The opening two minutes is a perfect sample, like when the one guy in the coke deal lets the other guy dip his finger in and taste the product. We see the Brooklyn Bridge on a summer day. Then the words “DIE HARD” whoosh onto the screen. This is DIE HARD but it’s a new location, new time of year, new time of day. Then the words fly away and are replaced by a much larger” WITH A VENGEANCE,” slamming across the screen, then shooting right at us. This is a sequel that’s aware of the power of it’s title, so it’s unashamed to smash it into our eyes with a sound effect, to cockily fill the whole screen with it.

Then we get a beautiful montage of New York City set to “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. The sun glimmering on reflective buildings. Sidewalks filled with people walking to work. Cars and buses and delivery trucks. These look like real commuters. Documentary footage. An accurate representation of regular people starting their day. A nice day, too. But abruptly, mid-lyric, a department store explodes, sending clouds of dust and wreckage into the street, flipping over cars and trucks parked in front. (read the rest of this shit…)