ALI BOMAYE!

Ip Man 3

tn_ipman3I’ve watched and enjoyed all the movies made about Ip Man so far, but IP MAN 3 is the first one I’ve seen on the big screen. A really big screen at a multiplex with only four other people in the audience. I feel like I should send AMC a thank you card.

After three years Donnie Yen returns to what has become one of his greatest roles, the real life Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, most famous here as a guy who taught Bruce Lee. Director Wilson Yip (SPL/KILL ZONE) and writer Edmond Wong (DRAGON TIGER GATE) also return, but the great fight choreographer Sammo Hung has been replaced by the also great Yuen Woo Ping. The weird thing about that is that Yuen did Wong Kar Wai’s rival Ip Man movie THE GRANDMASTER.

Part 2 took place in the early ’50s, with Ip Man and his family moving to Hong Kong, where he set up a Wing Chun school. Now it’s ’59 and he’s still living humbly in a small apartment with his wife (still played by Lynn Hung) and youngest son. We don’t really see him teaching anymore but apparently he is because he still has all his fiercely loyal disciples, and he’s getting into trouble with the wife and the kid’s school (math and reading type school, not fighting) for always working too late.

Once again this story involves a public challenge by another martial arts teacher trying to prove superiority over the local legend. This time it’s not a different style against Wing Chun, it’s a guy saying that he has pure Wing Chun and Ip Man is peddling some bullshit watered down autotune Wing Chun. This guy shouldn’t be fuckin with Ip Man, but he’s a sympathetic enough character that I didn’t initially realize he was gonna be the antagonist. (read the rest of this shit…)

Livid

tn_lividLIVID is from the writer-directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who did INSIDE, an incredibly intense movie even before it turns envelope-pushing brutal. That was one of those rare movies that actually made my heart beat faster. So I looked forward to seeing their next movie… and then the Weinsteins brought it. “We are thrilled to be back in business with Julien and Alex and couldn’t be more excited to help bring their frightening vision to fans everywhere,” said Bob Weinstein in a press release. I bet they actually could’ve been more excited, because that was 2011 and they still haven’t brought their frightening vision to fans anywhere. I think they’re considering an American remake. While they ponder maybe doing that some day for some reason the team went on to do another one called AMONG THE LIVING and a segment of THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 and an upcoming Texas Chain Saw prequel called LEATHERFACE that will hopefully be better than it sounds. Meanwhile, four-years-old LIVID sits on the Weinstein’s Fuck You, It’s Ours trophy shelf. So I gave up waiting and rented the old region 2 DVD from France.

This is the story of Lucie (Chloe Coulloud) on her first day as a trainee helping Mrs. Wilson (Catherine Jacob) on her rounds taking care of elderly people, checking up on them, giving them their meds and stuff. Lucie, who kinda reminds me of Scarlett Johansson when she was a little younger, impresses Mrs. Wilson by taking to it well, even knowing how to administer shots. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Revenant

tn_revenantRight now THE REVENANT (from executive producer Brett Ratner) is being marketed as an Important Awards Contender type movie. It’s the year’s most Oscar-nominated film and the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama, so until THE BIG SHORT won the Producer’s Guild award the other day it seemed like the frontrunner for the coveted title of Answer To Trivia Question About Which Lesser Movie Got Best Picture Instead Of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

It’s the latest from Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the least fun of the Three Amigos, but the one who got best picture, director and screenplay last year for BIRDMAN. He’s also a guy who talks real passionately and is charming in interviews, but in print or out of context can sound like a pretentious asshole, for example when he said that his excellent new western is not a western because it transcends pathetic human genre:

“Western is in a way a genre, and the problem with genres is that it comes from the word ‘generic’, and I feel that this film is very far from generic.”

(Genre actually comes from the French word for ‘kind’ or ‘type’.)

But fuck all that. That’s a distraction. On its own, THE REVENANT is the kind/type/genre of pure, undiluted, immersive filmatism that I love. Unafraid to go long stretches without dialogue, or to have the minimal exposition mumbled through an unintelligible accent, it plunges us into a world (1823 fur trappers and hunters under siege by Arikara Indians) and doesn’t give us any instructions on how to get home. It trusts that the dense atmosphere and simple, action-based narrative will lead the way. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lila & Eve

tn_lilaandeveI had to give LILA & EVE a shot because of my love of different types of vigilante revenge movies. In this one the titleational duo are two women (Viola Davis [from the JESSE STONE movies] as Lila, Jennifer Lopez as Eve) who meet in a support group for mothers of murdered children and decide to ignore the group’s core principle of learning to accept what you can’t change.

Like Neil Jordan’s THE BRAVE ONE with Jodie Foster, this tries to lean harder on the respectable drama side than the satisfying DEATH WISH one. Lila’s son was killed in a drive-by shooting, most likely not meant for him. When she waits around all day to talk to the detective in charge (Shea Whigham, FAST & FURIOUS) he doesn’t even recognize her. They discuss the lack of progress in front of a picture of a dead white cheerleader who has her own task force.

But Eve won’t have it. She pushes Lila to go out to the block where it happened, find the criminals that work there, question them, work their way up the ladder until they find who did it. During their first parking lot confrontation the guy pulls a gun and Eve shoots him. Now they’re killers. She takes his phone and uses what she finds on it for further detective work. (read the rest of this shit…)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

tn_lastcrusadelucasminusstarwarsINDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE is the third one, and it’s the one that deals with that Holy Grail of elusive treasures, the Holy Grail. We find Indy’s father Henry Sr. was after it his whole life and getting real close and has a notebook full of clues he’s found and now he’s kidnapped. So Indy has to find his pops and hide that book from the Nazis and also there’s some guys sworn to protect the Grail who try to stop him.

Sr. is of course played by Sean Connery, and maybe that’s an in-joke because Spielberg did RAIDERS when he wanted a Bond type movie to do, but Connery doesn’t play him like 007. He plays him as a dork. He kinda acts like a little boy and wears a bow tie and tweed vest and is often in comical positions like riding in the sidecar of Indy’s motorcycle. Whenever Indy has to fight somebody, his dad has a look of admiration. He had no idea his kid could t. c. of b. like that.

The lady this time, Elsa (Alison Doody, A VIEW TO A KILL), is much, much, much more tolerable than TEMPLE OF DOOM‘s Willie Scott, which turns out to be a bummer when (spoiler) we find out that she’s a Nazi. Not only that but she managed to bone both generations of Joneses (a plot point requested by Connery). Which is her right, but kinda gross, right? I personally don’t think she’s right for Indy.

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The Land Before Time

tn_landbeforetimelucasminusstarwarsTHE LAND BEFORE TIME is a good example of a movie legacy destroyed by a “franchise.” Throughout the ’90s the name was synonymous with candy-colored sing-along babysitters in clamshells thanks to thirteen straight to video sequels (THE LAND BEFORE TIME XIV: JOURNEY OF THE BRAVE starring Damon Wayans Jr. and Reba McEntire drops February 2nd – not a joke), and 26 episodes of a TV series. So I was surprised to watch the original – executive produced by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and directed by Don Bluth (THE SECRET OF NIMH, AN AMERICAN TAIL), none of whom had anything to do with the sequels – and find out it’s a pretty solid animated feature in the mold of early Disney.

Apparently Spielberg conceived it as BAMBI with dinosaurs, and that’s pretty much what they made. It’s an admiring depiction of the world of dinosaurs, with children being born into a scary world, making friends, experiencing danger and death. It is not a musical, the comic relief is minor, any cuteness is juxtaposed with an overall tone of melancholy. I mean, it’s about plant-eating dinosaurs in a world with almost no plants left. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tucker: The Man and His Dream

tn_tuckerlucasminusstarwarsTUCKER, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (CAPTAIN EO), glorifies two of executive producer George Lucas’s favorite things: cars and artistic independence. It’s a starry-eyed, big-band-jazz-scored paean to Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges), an innovator who failed to conquer the post-WWII car business, but at least made a cool car.

The titleistical dream is the idea of the Tucker, “the car of the future today,” a sleek, futuristic sedan with the engine in the back and three headlights that he says will move with the front wheels for safety. He’s just a dude with a scrappy company working out of a barn who invented some turrets for the army and a tank that they rejected because it moved too fast. He still owns one and uses it to drive the family into town to get ice cream. Nobody will invest in his dream until he gets it into a magazine and just acts like it’s something that’s happening. Next thing you know Martin Landau is able to get him meetings and investors. The Secret!

In one sense Tucker is full of shit. He thinks he can make this car, but he lets people believe he already has. He pushes his sons and trusted collaborators into overdrive to figure out how to build a good-enough prototype in time for the big unveiling. Like a movie trying to make a summer release date. The dream runs into the reality of unforeseen problems and limited time and resources, but he’s happy to just build a thing that looks like the concept art. (read the rest of this shit…)

Balance of Power

tn_balanceofpowerIn BALANCE OF POWER, Billy Blanks plays Niko, one of those martial arts instructors who teaches disadvantaged kids, in one of those neighborhoods where gangs go door-to-door demanding protection money. He makes the kids pick up litter in the neighborhood and lectures them if they think “the most important thing about karate” is “kicking some butt, man.” Niko is sensitive and truly cares about the kids, but he maintains a tough love exterior, hoping it will keep them in line. He’s especially worried about Billy (Adam Bonneau) because he told him not to ever go to the playground (inhabited by scary gang members) and then the dumbass went there for a girl.

Meanwhile Niko’s in trouble because the mob guys just noticed that they have mistakenly forgotten to ever shake him down for money. Embarrassing blunder there. So some thugs, including long-haired Shinji Takamura (James Lew, MISSION OF JUSTICE), come in, he refuses, they break some glass and give him an ultimatum. When he still doesn’t pay up the main enforcer guy drives a car by the playground and one of his ski masked guys does a drive-by on Billy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Powaqqatsi

tn_powaqqatsilucasminusstarwarsGeorge Lucas and his big homey Francis Ford Coppola (CAPTAIN EO) are executive producers of Godfrey Reggio’s POWAQQATSI (Life in transformation), the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the Qatsi trilogy that began with KOYAANISQATSI (Life out of balance) in 1982 and ended with NAQOYQATSI (Life as war) in 2002. If you’ve seen either of those, or the ones by Reggio’s cinematographer Ron Fricke (I reviewed his SAMSARA in 2011) then you got a pretty good idea what this is like. Which is good, because my words might not cut it.

We could classify these as “experimental documentaries,” but they don’t have much of what anybody thinks of when they think of documentaries. No interviews, no narration, no onscreen text, no people talking at all. No storyline or argument made. No easily encapsulated subject or premise. Just themes.

They’re like cinematic paintings, or photo essays, or poems. They rhyme by having similar shots and images over and over again, all set to very repetitive (in a good way) scores by Philip Glass.

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Willow

tn_willowlucasminusstarwars

“Elora, you don’t want me. Tell her. I’m short. Even for a Nelwyn.”

Like John McClane’ll tell ya, sometimes some shit happens and you just have to step up. For Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis, RETURN OF THE JEDI, THE EWOK ADVENTURE) it’s when his kids find one of those abandoned river babies (we all know how that goes) and then it turns out to be the Chosen One prophesied to kill the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), so mean knights with packs of dog-like beasts are gonna keep attacking the village until they find her. Willow admits to the town that he has the baby they’re looking for, and he doesn’t argue when the wise wizard The High Aldwin (Billy Barty) appoints him to lead a party on a journey to give the baby back to the Daikini, the bigger people.

I say bigger because Willow’s village is all people under four feet tall. There are fighters among them, like Vohnkar (Phil Fondacaro, RETURN OF THE JEDI) or “Vohnkar Warrior” (Tony Cox, RETURN OF THE JEDI, CAPTAIN EO), but Willow isn’t one of them. A small man looked down upon even among the people of his size, he’s the underest of dogs. As a fledgling magician he screws up even his corny magic trick illusions, and now he finds himself going head to head with a real sorceress.

The first Daikini they find is Mad Martigan (Val Kilmer, BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS), a warrior imprisoned in a small cage who seems at first like a Jack Sparrowish rogue. When an army is headed their way and most of Willow’s party turns tail he has little choice but to free the man and convince him to help, like an action comedy set up. (read the rest of this shit…)