THE DENTIST must’ve done well on video, because they had a sequel ready in two years, with director Brian Yuzna and star Corbin Bernsen both returning. Part 1 screenwriters Stuart Gordon & Dennis Paoli handed the reins to newcomer Richard Dana Smith, who went on to write thrillers (mostly for TV) with the following titles: THE STEPDAUGHTER, THE PERFECT WIFE, ALONE WITH A STRANGER, STRANGER AT THE DOOR, THE PERFECT NEIGHBOR and FRAMED FOR MURDER. THE DENTIST 2 is kind of the weirdo horror movie loving cousin of those types of movies.
The sequel opens with Dr. Feinstone’s dream about practicing dentistry on his ex Brooke (a returning Linda Hoffman, BLACK SCORPION II: AFTERSHOCK) in an all white office. Closeups fetishize her lipstick and nylons – this might be the only movie in cinematic history to cause discomfort by equating dentistry with sexiness. He accidentally makes her bleed, and things get way worse from there.
This is one of the things that haunts him in prison, where he tells his psychiatrist (Rende Rae Norman, TRUE COLORS, The Young & the Restless) that he’s a good person and it was a “stranger” who did all those horrible things in part 1. It’s not like he’s trying to put on a front, though, because he won’t pretend he’s not still violently angry when she asks about his wife cheating on him. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE DENTIST is a unique little horror movie about a couple of days where a guy’s life totally unravels. Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen, TALES FROM THE HOOD) is an asshole from the word go – we see him berating his wife Brooke (Linda Hoffman, FACE/OFF) over a stain not coming out of one of his shirts, then forgiving her because she bought him expensive cuff links. When he catches her blowing the pool cleaner (Michael Stadvec, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… AGAIN, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… FOR MORE, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… TO APOLOGIZE BECAUSE THEY’VE REALLY CHANGED) he fantasizes about screaming at her and forcing her at gunpoint to bite down with her “perfect teeth.” Instead he doesn’t confront her and then completely loses his shit.
I like the messy, accidental piling up of events. There’s almost a true crime feel to it. He tries to sneak up on the homewrecker and shoot him, ends up instead shooting a neighbor’s dog that attacks him for trespassing. Ken Foree (FROM BEYOND) and Tony Noakes (BREAKAWAY) play the police detectives who circle around with the potential to catch him, but they’re investigating the killing of a pet, not a person. They’re investigating a weird, creepy thing, not knowing it’s more serious than that. (read the rest of this shit…)
DR. GIGGLES is not the best kind of horror movie, but it’s a kind I like: the kind that knowingly, shamelessly embraces absurdity and formula. It says okay, I am a slasher movie, my theme is “a killer doctor,” step aside and I will do my thing. So you kinda know what it’s gonna be, and you get a laugh from some of the specific choices or smile with satisfaction when that thing you were assuming had to happen does happen.
We first see the good doctor (Larry Drake in his feature film followup to DARKMAN) demonstrating an experimental surgery to his colleagues in the observation deck. But then we realize that he’s not supposed to be doing this – he’s escaped his cell in a mental institution, he’s cutting up one of the doctors, and the “colleagues” are other patients. Security there nicknamed him Dr. Giggles because he’s a John Doe and he does indeed giggle alot. Drake is so good at the creepy giggling I wonder if he brought it to the character and they rebuilt the movie around it. (read the rest of this shit…)
I’d heard that AD ASTRA might be one of those movies like THE AMERICAN or SOLARIS that is a little slow or arty or whatever but since it’s a big release with a big movie star from OCEAN’S ELEVEN a bunch of people who aren’t comfortable with that type of movie see it and either get real disappointed or fall asleep about ten minutes in. That might’ve been a myth, because it got a B- Cinemascore, which is the same as HUSTLERS. But I guess hearing that got me primed because it was alot more exciting than I expected!
This is the first movie I’ve seen by James Gray (LITTLE ODESSA, THE YARDS, WE OWN THE NIGHT, TWO LOVERS, THE IMMIGRANT, THE LOST CITY OF Z), but I know he has a reputation for quiet and thoughtful dramas. And honestly I didn’t expect as much sci-fi as we get – it’s a little further into the near future than I thought. From the trailer it looked more like a straight astronaut drama. And I got nothing against astronauts, there are many fine astronauts, but I think I was born without that gene many guys have that makes them involuntarily swell up with patriotism any time they think about a person or object that has been to the moon. Or maybe I just didn’t see THE RIGHT STUFF at an impressionable age. (read the rest of this shit…)
GEMINI MAN is your traditional “the greatest assassin anybody ever saw decides to retire and then god damn it I thought they loved me but they’re sending a guy to kill me what the fuck” type scenario. The gimmick is that the guy they send after him is a younger version of himself created through the miracle of cloning. He figures this out a good third or more into the movie, but we know from frame one because of the studio’s decision to advertise the film.
Will Smith (“Nightmare On My Street”) plays both extreme retiree Henry Brogan and the facial expressions of the very advanced digital animation character playing his clone. Junior, as he’s called, gets dispatched after Henry’s Old Buddy From the Marines Jack (Douglas Hodge, THE DESCENT PART 2) and Russian operative Yuri (Ilia Volok, AIR FORCE ONE) tell him that that last guy they had him kill, the terrorist, was actually an innocent scientist being eliminated as part of a cover-up. When Henry hears this information he looks up to the clouds just as the lite on a satellite blinks, but it’s only to tell us someone heard this. He doesn’t seem to figure it out himself.
He does catch on that the new manager at the docks where he keeps his boat is really a D.I.A. agent sent to keep tabs on him. He asks Dani (Mary Elizabeth Lucy McClane Winstead, BOBBY) on a date, maybe just to get her to admit she’s spying on him and convince her he’s not a threat. But when some dudes try to kill both of them they end up on the run together. They head to Colombia to meet up with his Old Agency Friend turned small plane pilot Baron (Benedict Wong, LARGO WINCH). (read the rest of this shit…)
GOOD TIME is a hell of a movie from Josh and Benny Safdie, thirtysomething New York indie directors I never heard of until the flashy A24 trailer acted like they were a household name. Sure enough it’s their fifth feature film (including one documentary) but this one got a little more attention for starring Robert Pattinson, the guy from the Cronenberg movies. He plays Connie Nikas, a New York City dirtbag who storms into a doctor’s office to get his developmentally disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie) and bring him to help rob a bank. They get away at first but most of the money is ruined by a dye pack and Nick gets arrested. The movie is about Connie running around town all night trying to find $10,000 more dollars to pay Nick’s bail.
It’s a stylish epic of dirt-baggery – Meth Age Michael Mann. An intimate look at a shitty dude doing idiotic things with fevered lighting, gritty real locations, some raw non-professional actors and one of the most legit retro-synth scores I’ve heard, a Tangerine Dream-esque thing by an electronic artist Oneohtrix Point Never, which is a name that I totally understand and can say easily, on account of how young and with it I am. And just so you know I didn’t have to ask anybody what vaporwave was and if I had I totally would’ve understood what Wikipedia meant about it being “built upon the experimental and ironic tendencies of genres such as chillwave and hypnagogic pop.” (read the rest of this shit…)
As a young man I read a bunch of Stephen King. He was my favorite until I decided Clive Barker was more interesting – I don’t know if I was right. The point is I’m just another movie-watching asshole and can’t pretend to be a King scholar. I haven’t read The Shining (1977) or its 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep. I have, of course, seen Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING, and like everyone except King and the Razzies voters I think it’s a masterpiece. (I also just realized it’s the first horror movie I remember seeing.)
It almost seemed like a suicide mission for writer/director/editor Mike Flanagan (OCULUS, HUSH, GERALD’S GAME) to make a movie out of Doctor Sleep. How do you even make a sequel to one of the most unfuckwithable horror movies ever made – a fucking Stanley Kubrick movie – let alone try to please the author who famously hated the movie’s take on his very personal story about alcoholism? He tried to bridge the movie with the books, and I think he pulled it off! (read the rest of this shit…)
BROKEN PATH (2008) is a humble but impressive low budget production, simple in story and filmmaking, but with a high volume of work put into its virtually non-stop action scenes. A little like last year’s NIGHTSHOOTERS, it has the feel of an indie horror movie, but its attraction is high quality fight choreography. It’s what happens when some passionate people get together a little money to make a violent home invasion movie, but those passionate people happen to be a star, director/choreographer and stunt team (Alpha Stunts) from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
I had a hard time getting a hold of this obscure footnote in the history of western martial arts movies of the oughts. I’m not sure I can call it under the radar, because I’ve had it recommended to me a few times over the years and seen it on an underrated action movies list. It never got American distribution though, so when I looked for it years ago I couldn’t find it. But it’s directed by GUYVER 2 and DRIVE choreographer Koichi Sakamoto, so Jack Thursby (and possibly another person on Facebook – sorry that I can’t find your comment) reminded me of it when I did Steve Wang Week earlier this year. This time I was able to order it on a German DVD under the title ATTACK OF THE YAKUZA. I think there’s also a UK release as BROKEN FIST. (read the rest of this shit…)
I honestly wanted to see the LION KING quasi-live-action remake in the theater, but never managed to. Turns out it did okay without my money. But by waiting until now to review it I missed out on timely discussions of related issues about a pioneering studio turned monolithic corporation treating their legacy of hand drawn animation as just a shitty licensing library to be resold (and possibly replaced in the imagination of new generations) with more realistic imagery. I guess I addressed it in my review of the (actually) live action ALADDIN. Basically, I’m open to to enjoying these remakes on their own terms, but the whole idea of them is a bummer.
Now let’s get to a more controversial topic: I have never thought the original LION KING was very good. I know it’s a beloved classic, one of the highest grossing animated movies of all time, etc. I watch it once every 5-10 years hoping to like it better this time, but I always strike out. I liked the dramatic stuff, like everything having to do with Mufasa’s death, but I always thought the musical numbers, in addition to not being really my jam, were more of a distraction than a story. And I was not really into the farting warthog. (read the rest of this shit…)
LEON (THE PROFESSIONAL) sums up Luc Besson pretty good, doesn’t it? He’s creepy about young women. Also, he’s really good at putting them in cool, stylish action roles. His latest in that vein, ANNA, came out this summer with little fanfare (or box office), at least partly because Besson had recently been accused of rape. Maybe it deserved to fail. But for whatever it’s worth it’s a solid movie full of what he does well.
It actually has alot in common with ATOMIC BLONDE. A beautiful bisexual spy (well, assassin in this case) double and triple crosses her way through end-of-the-Cold-War European intrigue with a twisty plot and a couple of long, impressive fight sequences. Charlize and her action and David Leitch’s intoxicating colors and music are more my speed, but ANNA has the advantage of being real complicated without being hard to follow. It’s a satisfying tale. (read the rest of this shit…)