13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI is Michael Bay’s movie about the deadly September 11th, 2012 attacks on the American consulate and CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya. That sounds like a terrible joke – one of Hollywood’s most bombastic, least thoughtful directors tackling a recent (and highly politicized) tragedy. And I’m not totally sure whether he’s thinking of this more like a cool action movie or his version of a BLACK HAWK DOWN/ZERO DARK THIRTY. (I’d guess the second one.) But I have to say he did a better job than I thought he would.
John Krasinski (JARHEAD) plays Jack Silva, a former Navy SEAL hired to help out a small group of special ops guys working at a secret CIA base in Benghazi to snatch up grenade launchers and other weapons floating toward the black market after the fall of Gaddafi. Five weeks after he gets there the consulate about a mile away is attacked by a mob of militants, and Jack and friends want to help. And sort of feel like they have to, because there’s no one else to do it.
The appeal to Bay, and of the movie, is the portrayal of these soldiers, their professionalism and heroism, their drive to use their unique skills in a hugely uphill battle, even when they’re (according to the movie) told to stay out of it. From THE ROCK to the TRANSFORMERSes, Bay has always had a fascination with these types of elite soldiers. He’s good at casting big, manly looking dudes and having them throw out the lingo and sling the hardware around and seem like they’ve been doing the job forever. Krasinski is buffed up (he has one scene to really showcase his six pack) and everybody has a shaggy beard and a sweaty forehead, of course. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE GIFT is a domestic stalker thriller that seems very familiar from the outset. Happy successful white couple Simon (Jason Bateman, SMOKIN’ ACES) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall, THE TOWN) buy a beautiful new house in a lovely new suburb. Simon has a promising job and possible Big Promotion. They’re trying to have a baby. They quickly make new friends at work and in the neighborhood and have those sophisticated adult dinner parties with the wine and what not that I have seen in movies but am not invited to. They have a dog.
And at the store they run into a guy Simon knew way back in high school. Joel Edgerton (WARRIOR) plays Gordon Moseley, a.k.a. Gordo, a.k.a. Gordo the Weirdo. Simon says he barely knew him, but the guy seems nice enough and anxious to welcome them to town (even if it’s weird that he shows up at their house with too many gifts) and they invite him over for dinner. And he keeps wanting to be their best friend. It’s awkward, but harmless. OR IS IT?
(Harmless I mean. There is no question that it’s awkward.) (read the rest of this shit…)
The legendary (infamous?) fighter known as Kimbo Slice died of heart failure today. Around here we know him as the guy in the opening scene of BLOOD AND BONE who tries to punk Bone in the prison bathroom but finds out that’s not gonna happen. He also returns in the end credits to have his way with the main villain of the movie, and there’s a great video on Youtube of Kimbo on set intently listening to a punching lesson from Michael Jai White.
Everyone’s saying Kimbo was kind and gentle, which is amazing if true because look at that fucking guy! He was only in a couple other movies – two low rent MMA movies that I’ll get to eventually, and SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION – but he obviously could’ve played a million Tiny Lister type roles if he’d wanted to.
Kimbo had a fascinating history, because he became famous originally as a street brawler, seen in Youtube videos of seedy arranged fights in backyards and parking lots, like something straight out of HARD TIMES, LIONHEART, FIGHTING or RUST AND BONE. Or BLOOD AND BONE. I like when they have be careful so as not to bump into a satellite dish or something. It’s very unskilled fighting and totally unprofessional, presented like porn – that’s because in stemmed out of him being a bodyguard and limo driver for the Reality Kings porn company. Try to duplicate that career path! (read the rest of this shit…)
I remember when the first X-MEN movie came out I went to it expecting something stupid but enjoyable, along the lines of MORTAL KOMBAT. Instead it was a fun super hero movie with a star-making performance by Hugh Jackman and a really appealing premise: super-powered mutants are a minority, feared and endangered by the government, and split between two factions led by old friends/bitter rivals (both played by older Shakespearean actors) who have philosophical disagreements about how to deal with that.
The sequels continued to mine this material in interesting ways. Part 2 had me talking about the USA PATRIOT Act in the review. Part 3, though widely hated, has the most interesting gimmick: a “cure” for mutants, so that each of them have to face whether they would be happier just fitting in and being “normal.” The prebootquels FIRST CLASS and DAYS OF FUTURE PAST delved deeper into the relationship and argument between Professor Xavier and Honorary Doctorate Magneto, and continued with what I really liked about the original trilogy, which was that the “bad guys” were always at least kind of right.
Now finally with part 6 we have that movie I originally thought I was going to see in 2000, where you just get to enjoy the people in crazy costumes punching and shooting beams at each other if you can get past how forehead-slappingly stupid the story is.
We can’t really be shocked to hear that the great Muhammad Ali passed away today, but it still feels wrong. The champ lived almost as long with Parkinson’s as without, so he seemed unstoppable. He’d long since lost his incredible athleticism, his quick wit, his big mouth, and yet he kept going. He was out there, showing up in public every once in a while to pass the Olympic torch, receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom, attend the inauguration of the first black president, make himself known as an American Muslim, or tweet happy birthday to The Rock.
Until today we could still call him a living legend. Even outside of professional boxing his adventures were unparalleled. He had a gold medal (which he threw into the Ohio River after being disgusted with the racism he experienced at home – some dude found it in 2014!). He inspired the song “The Greatest Love of All.” He was a Wrestlemania referee. He had a cartoon where he went to space. He fought tooth decay. He fought Superman! (Don’t worry, his mother’s name was Odessa.) But we admired him most for the true bravery of living from his conscience, putting his career and reputation on the line to oppose the Vietnam War, to go public as a Muslim, and to speak out about racism, even if it bummed out Sly Stone on that ridiculously uncomfortable episode of The Mike Douglas Show. (read the rest of this shit…)
AMERICAN NINJA 5 is the explosive finale to the AMERICAN NINJA saga, by which I mean it’s an unrelated movie starring David Bradley that they retitled. At least that’s my assumption since he’s named Joe in this one instead of Sean. I could easily accept this character as Sean Davidson, who he played in parts 3 and 4, but they call him the other name so they must not have had that in mind while filming. He also opens the movie training with Tadashi “Bronson Lee” Yamashita, who played the Black Star Ninja in part 1, but this time Yamashita is credited as playing himself.
And I guess they must’ve decided that the title was misleading enough that they didn’t have to have a totally unrelated subtitle like all the other sequels. Something like AMERICAN NINJA 5: GAUNTLET OF FIRE or AMERICAN NINJA 5: IRON CLAW JUSTICE.
By the time this came out in 1993, ninjas were a subject of parody and kiddie fare. In the same year, the older brother of AMERICAN NINJA 5’s young star starred in SURF NINJAS with Rob Schneider and Leslie Nielsen. So this is a PG-13, sometimes jokey movie. Bradley has to take care of his master’s grand-nephew Hiro (introducing Lee Reyes). Also, his master, Master Tetsu, is played by Pat Morita, four years after THE KARATE KID III and the KARATE KID cartoon, one year before THE NEXT KARATE KID. Not very Cannonical. But it does have many elements of an AMERICAN NINJA movie: a scheming evil scientist, an army of multi-colored ninjas with one more visually distinguished lead ninja (with a snake-themed name, even), a kidnapping, sneaking into a foreign land, sneaking into a compound, getting jailed, doing a ninja hand signal meditation thing, child ninjitsu training montage, suppressed memories of childhood ninjitsu training. (read the rest of this shit…)
LOVE ON THE RUN is a part 5 where everything comes together: Antoine’s early estrangement from his parents, the patterns of his failed relationships, the risks of putting his personal life (and therefore the people he knows’ personal lives) in his so-called fiction. In the opening we see him with a new girlfriend, Sabine (children’s singer and cartoon show host Dorothée), who he seems to be screwing it up with already. He obviously hurts her by cancelling their plans, without explaining why, but it’s to finalize his divorce with Christine (parts 3-4). So we get to see her again, and then OH SHIT, part 2 co-star Collette (Marie-France Pisier, also one of the screenwriters) happens to see him, finds out about his book, and reads it. And later he sees her and wants to talk to her again.
I’m not saying it’s FAST FIVE good, but it has a similar quality of uniting characters and threads from across the series and putting them into a story that’s in some ways more exciting and satisfying than previous entries. It also made me think of the fourth PHANTASM because of its liberal use of footage from when the actors were younger, though in PHANTASM it’s unused footage and here it’s almost like a clip show episode of a TV show. They keep bringing up things that happened in the past and then there’ll be a short clip from the movie where it happened. (Since this was pre-home video it was reasonable to expect that even if viewers had seen all the other ones it had been only once a long time ago.)
It’s also a little like ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO because in the midst of these flashbacks there are also flashbacks to things that happened between the last movie and this one, as if it’s clips from another sequel we never saw where they moved in with Christine’s lesbian friend. And of course bringing Collette and Christine together for a scene at the end is kinda like when Michael Dudikoff and David Bradley met up in AMERICAN NINJA 4. (read the rest of this shit…)
Long before the FAST AND FURIOUS series did it (better), the AMERICAN NINJA series pulled the power move of doing a part 3 with a new lead, only to combine the casts in a later sequel. AMERICAN NINJA 4: THE ANNIHILATION starts with part 3’s Sean Davidson (David Bradley) and later brings back part 1-2’s Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff). The bad news is this is the first one not to include the character of Curtis Jackson (Steve James), so it almost feels like less of a real sequel than part 3.
The dilemma: American servicemen abducted overseas again. Ninja related again. This time it’s worse, because the crazy British Colonel Mulgrew (James Booth, writer of part 2 and AVENGING FORCE and this one) and terrorist Sheik Maksood (Ron Smezarack) plan to burn the four captured Delta Force commandos at the stake and nuke New York City with a suitcase bomb if they aren’t paid $50 million. (It seems like either threat would be enough though, right?) I know that sounds like a boring useless couple of loser villains with nothing to contribute, so fortunately they are also training an army of super ninjas, one of whom wears a silver helmet and mirror eye patch. So they check out. (read the rest of this shit…)
BED & BOARD is Antoine Doinel Part 4: The Married Years. I don’t know how the fuck he did it, but that weasel Antoine got hitched to Christine and they appear to live happily in an apartment in Paris together. He works at a flower stand right outside the building and can hear her giving violin lessons to children upstairs.
While THE 400 BLOWS was groundbreaking for being kinda naturalistic, this one reminds me of modern quirky French movies with their cute little gimmicks and ensemble of different funny characters who poke their head out of windows to get involved in conversations and stuff. Early on there’s a trick where Antoine is soaking the stems of white flowers in red dye, the camera pans up to a guy talking to him and when it comes back the flowers are now bright red. It’s like a simple magic trick. I like it. (read the rest of this shit…)