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Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

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Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Christopher St. John was a stage actor and member of the Actor’s Studio who had been in FOR LOVE OF IVY and HOT PANTS HOLIDAY and then was up for the title role in SHAFT. He didn’t get it, obviously – instead he played the supporting role of the militant Ben Buford. But that was enough to inspire him to invest his money in this independent starring/writing/directing/producing vehicle with ads billing him as “Christopher St. John, whom you last saw in SHAFT.”

Because of that connection, and because it’s a 1972 movie dealing with the Black experience, with some guns and a soundtrack by J.J. Johnson, it is sometimes lumped in with Blaxploitation. It’s not that at all. Frankly I prefer movies where the exploitable elements are more prominent, but that’s obviously not what St. John was interested in, and that should be acknowledged. This is an arty, experimental and political work that reminds me much more of Jules Dassin’s UP TIGHT (co-written by Ruby Dee), Melvin Van Peebles’ SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG and Bill Gunn’s GANJA & HESS than SHAFT or SUPER FLY. It’s more about an impressionistic depiction of societal sickness than, you know, traditional entertainment. For what that’s worth. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fast Color

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

FAST COLOR is a really well made little movie I watched on Hulu. I didn’t really know what it was about, but remembered that when it came out last year there were people lamenting that it didn’t get enough attention. They called it a super hero origin story and felt that should’ve made it more marketable.

That description isn’t totally inaccurate, but sells it a little short, I think. It’s about a woman with some telekinetic type powers, but she doesn’t wear a costume, fight crime, fight super villains, or use her powers for heroism at all. She even explicitly says “We’re not super heroes,” and doesn’t seem to later change her mind about that. The story reminds me much more of FIRESTARTER than any comic book movie. Regular person made into a fugitive by being born with unusual gifts, running through small towns to avoid being a guinea pig for some secret government project. (read the rest of this shit…)

Little Woods

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

LITTLE WOODS is the debut of writer/director Nia DaCosta, who followed it with the upcoming CANDYMAN (2020), sequel to CANDYMAN (1992). I’m not sure how much they’ll have in common, because this one’s not horror, and it takes place in a rural area, but it’s very good, and raises my expectations for the other one even higher.

Tessa Thompson (CREED) is great as Ollie (short for Oleander), who lives in her late mother’s busted up house in North Dakota and is almost done with her probation. While mom was sick she would go into Canada to get medicine for her, but she also had a whole pill-selling enterprise going, and she got caught at the border.

Now she does stuff like go out to construction sites and sell coffee and sandwiches out of the back of her pickup. People still ask her for Oxy and she explains she doesn’t do that anymore. Everybody still likes her. The local opiate pusher Bill (Luke Kirby, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) thinks that makes her a good saleswoman and tries to get her to work for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Da 5 Bloods

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

DA 5 BLOODS is Spike Lee’s new Vietnam War joint that happened to be produced by Netflix, so when our current global nightmare thwarted theatrical release they didn’t have to delay it, they just put it right onto their service, making it one of Pandemic Summer’s biggest blockbusters in my opinion. For now this is our James Bond and our Top Gun (I won’t say Wonder Woman, because it’s very male oriented).

Like so many of Lee’s movies, it finds interesting ways to visually connect history to the present. Think of DO THE RIGHT THING’s showcasing of the photos and quotes of Dr. King and Malcolm, MALCOLM X’s coda of real people (including a newly freed Nelson Mandela) saying “I am Malcolm X!,” or BLACKKKLANSMAN’s montage with the murder of Heather Heyer, the real David Duke and the president’s other Very Fine People in Charlottesville. Following in that tradition, DA 5 BLOODS opens with historical footage and photos establishing Those Uncertain Times of the Vietnam era.

Muhammad Ali explains his refusal to kill people who haven’t done anything to him on behalf of people who have. To the tune of “Inner City Blues,” we see black soldiers in Vietnam, whitey on “Da Moon,” Black Panthers, Malcolm, Martin, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis. We alternate between brutality in Vietnam and at home: burning monks, the Kent State shootings, the street execution from that famous photo, police clubbing protesters at the DNC, the children burned with napalm. When the war ends and this volley of fast-speed documentary turmoil subsides, the frame stretches and contracts to widescreen, and Saigon dissolves to modern tourism-friendly Ho Chi Minh City, where four of our titular quintet meet up in a hotel lobby, hugging and hand shaking, sipping the first of many fruity umbrella cocktails, in a present that will repeatedly bleed into the past. (read the rest of this shit…)

Capone

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

“You know, this is what happens when people spend too much time in Florida.”

I can’t lie. Half of my interest in CAPONE was a curiosity about the legend of its writer/director/editor Josh Trank. If you know who that is, you probly know him for a meteoric rise and fall. The success of one found footage movie (CHRONICLE) led to coveted studio gigs – a giant super hero movie and a Star Wars spin-off. But FANTASTIC FOUR was drastically changed from his cut, he quit the Boba Fett movie before they could fire him, there was a weird story in the Hollywood Reporter about his dogs wrecking a house he rented, and he made the career-sabotaging faux pas of disavowing FANTASTIC FOUR on Twitter just before it was released to terrible reviews and box office.

Seemed like a cautionary tale, and I can’t deny a morbid fascination with it. I didn’t love CHRONICLE, save for its cleverness about fitting good camera moves into found footage, so I wondered how these powerful Hollywood people got, and then lost, so much faith in the guy. But when I saw FANTASTIC FOUR I actually found alot to like about it, especially in the discovering-their-powers scenes that I described at the time as “more inspired by THE FLY than SPIDER-MAN.” And I realized that he hadn’t come completely out of nowhere – he edited and co-produced BIG FAN, a dark comedy/drama I liked.

Five years after his fall into the Great Pit of Carkoon, Trank has resurfaced with a self-generated, independent project, not inspired by “geek properties,” but by one of those historical deep cut kind of stories some people get hooked on. CAPONE is about Al Capone not in his gang years, but the last year of his life, released from prison to live in a mansion in Florida as his mental and physical capacity deteriorate from syphilis and strokes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Barry Lyndon

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

BARRY LYNDON is not the type of movie people recommend to me all the time, but it is the kind of movie that most people who have spent as long as me trying to be up on the good movies have, like, bothered to see at some point. Because it is widely known that that Stanley Kubrick usually did a pretty good job of the movies. Yet I managed to go several decades not seeing it. I guess there’s no way to be suspenseful about this – you’ve probly done the math and figured out that since this is a review of BARRY LYNDON by me that means I’ve finally seen BARRY LYNDON. An exciting day. I get to go over to the Homicide: Life On the Street dry-erase board and change the letters from red to black.

Ryan O’Neal (THE DRIVER) stars as Redmond Barry, horny Irish ne’er-do-well who has to leave home and have adventures because he thinks he killed an English officer in a duel. I’m not clear how old he’s supposed to be in the early scenes, but it’s funny that they keep referring to mid-‘30s, manlier-than-everyone-around-him O’Neal as a “boy.” Maybe they should’ve made him sit in oversized furniture like Martin Short in CLIFFORD.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Edmond

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

When we lost the great Stuart Gordon recently, I realized there were a few of his films I still hadn’t seen. It’s kind of nice, actually, to still have something left to discover. There’s a particular one that happens in space that involves truckers that I honestly have wanted to see since before it even came out, and somehow never have. It’ll be a few weeks before I can finally change that, because I decided to order a UK Blu-Ray instead of pay Amazon to stream it in standard def. But I wanted to watch this one first anyway – the one based on the David Mamet play.

Gordon and Mamet, if you don’t know, go way back. Long before RE-ANIMATOR, Gordon was doing envelope-pushing theater work in Chicago. He directed, at his Organic Theater Company, the production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago credited with establishing Mamet as a playwright, although there was an earlier one starring William H. Macy, who also stars in this movie.

Here he plays Edmond Burke, a dude who works for some kind of financial firm called Stearns & Harrington. He’s apparently had a bad day (his meeting on Monday got pushed back to 1:15 – WHAT IN THE LIVING GOD DAMN FUCK!?) when he heads home and, on a whim, stops to get a tarot reading. She tells him “You don’t belong here.” (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)

Richard Jewell

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Even before that fake baby in AMERICAN SNIPER, people were talking like Clint Eastwood was some confused old man who doesn’t know how to direct a movie anymore. Gotta disagree. I know I’m far from the only one who really enjoyed and was surprised by THE MULE, and now that I’ve caught up with Clint’s latest director-only drama, RICHARD JEWELL, I’m here to tell you that’s a good one too. Really good, and to me it’s by far the most compelling of what now seems to be a Real American Heroes series with SNIPER, SULLY and THE 15:17 TO PARIS*.

Okay, yeah, so there’s a part where kids drinking beer in a dorm room have a poster on the wall that says “Beer 2 Night.” Have fun with that one. I didn’t notice the fake baby before so maybe there’s some in this one, I honestly don’t care. It’s a fascinating story, it made me laugh, it moved me, it has one of if not the best lead performance of last year. My friends, I have Jewellmania. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lady Vengeance

Friday, March 13th, 2020

(contains heavy spoilers for 15 year old movie)

LADY VENGEANCE is the RETURN OF THE JEDI of director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy in that it’s the third one (after SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and OLDBOY), it’s loaded with delightful elements, and it’s my favorite even though most people probly say the second one is the best. It begins with a woman named Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yung-ae, JOINT SECURITY AREA) being released early from prison. She’s a national media sensation because of the mismatched combination of the horrible crime she was convicted of (murdering a five-year-old boy) and her youthful appearance of “unabashed naivety.” She got wall-to-wall news coverage, there was a trend of wearing polka-dot dresses like hers, tabloids compared her to Olivia Hussey.

(I wonder what Olivia Hussey is known for in South Korea? ROMEO AND JULIET? BLACK CHRISTMAS? Or maybe a random one like TURKEY SHOOT is huge there?)

(read the rest of this shit…)