So once again we have survived.

Blackbelt

a.k.a. KICKBOXER COP

In my experience, a good Don “The Dragon” Wilson vehicle is one where he goes routinely through standard action formulas, provides his kicking expertise and likable personality, and the filmatists throw on just enough flair to make it stand out from the pack a little. In this one that flair comes in the form of the weirdo villain played by Matthias Hues, the 6′ 5″ German-born martial artist best known as the evil alien in Craig Baxley’s I COME IN PEACE.

Hues plays John Sweet, who when we first see him is about to have a romantic encounter with a woman (Mia Ruiz, WILD AT HEART) in a hotel. He seems like he’s leaving to get a bottle of champagne or something, and she hums to herself and strips while she waits. But he knocks on the door of a nearby room where some criminals are meeting, and he kills them all with his bare hands.

Then he goes back to the room like nothing happened. I thought he was a rival gangster or vigilante but then he murders this poor woman (who turns out to be a prostitute, despite her enthusiasm) and cuts off her ring finger.

We meet our hero Jack Dillon (Don “The Dragon” Wilson) as the opposite of a guy killing a prostitute: he’s a guy beating up a pimp. “The broken nose is for the girl. The vasectomy’s free.” And he brings one of the pimp’s stable back to her mother. Dillon is not for-hire, though. He refuses payment because “I don’t charge to take out the garbage.” Or, I assume, to unload the dishwasher. (read the rest of this shit…)

Atomic Blonde trailer

I mean honestly, I didn’t need any more information after the fight at the beginning. But yes, this is from the co-director of JOHN WICK. It’s based on a graphic novel, adapted by Kurt Johnstad, who I think did a good job on the 300 movies. And kudos for noting Charlize’s Academy Award after showing her kick a dude down some stairs. I got high hopes.

Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe’s War

based on characters NOT created by Stephen King

LAWNMOWER MAN 2: JOBE’S WAR (theatrical title: LAWNMOWER MAN 2: BEYOND CYBERSPACE) is a weird sequel to a weird movie. Part 1, of course you remember since it is one of the most cherished and analyzed stories of all time and one of the primary pillars of our culture, is about a mentally challenged landscaper named Jobe (Jeff Fahey) who through virtual reality programs and smart pills becomes a mad telepathic super-genius who kills a bunch of people by controlling a lawnmower with his mind and then tries to live in computers but Pierce Brosnan blows up his lab. Part 2 picks up with stock footage of the explosion and reveals that Jobe survived all burnt up. When he heals he’s a bald Matt Frewer, who does not waste time pretending like they didn’t hire him because he already played a person who lived inside a computer world. He seems to use craziness as an excuse to act totally different in different scenes, but there are definitely parts where he’s mugging and quipping exactly like Max Headroom.

Part 1 took place at “the turn of the millennium.” Part 2 takes place in “Los Angeles – the Future,” a BLADE RUNNER type city of skyscrapers, monorails, futuristic vehicles I assume are left over from other sci-fi productions, fire barrels, steam, sparks and outdoor TVs. But Austin O’Brien (LAST ACTION HERO) returns as Peter, and he’s four years older, so that means this is around 2004. The futuristic year that SHREK 2 came out.

I mean, this is a real dystopia though because there are NO lawns in this movie.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Josie and the Pussycats

Before Riverdale, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, before Christopher Nolan Batman, before 9-11 even, there was a different type of comic book movie: JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS. Inspired by the Archie comic book and Hanna-Barbera cartoon, writer/directors Harry Elfont & Deborah Kaplan told a goofy version of the little-rock-‘n-roll-band-tested-by-overnight-superstardom story.

Actually maybe we should forget about comics and consider this timeline: it was a year before American Idol started. The Spice Girls had packed it up the year before. NSYNC and Backstreet Boys were still popular. The movie seems to offer the Pussycats as a refreshing alternative for teenage girls to obsess over instead of boy bands, but it should be noted that Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Pink, and Aaliyah (plus Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson) all had hits that year. But I guess the Pussycats do stand out by playing instruments. Their songs are kind of sassy pop punk, not good in my opinion but not as intolerable as some in-movie music. (read the rest of this shit…)

Logan

(some spoilers here for a great movie that you should just go see regardless of what I say)

When the first X-MEN movie came out I thought this new “Hugh Jackman” guy looked and acted so much like Clint Eastwood that I called it “The Return of Clint.”

“I’m not sure how this was accomplished exactly,” I wrote at the time. “Maybe this is a computer generated renderation of a young Clint… Maybe it is Clint under a lot of makeup to make him look more like he did in his Thunderbolt days. Maybe it is a son of Clint’s, much like Chad McQueen but keeping more in the true spirit of his father than Chad does. Or hell, maybe it’s just some dude named Hugh Jackman who looks a lot like Clint Eastwood.”

These days I lean toward the third one, and maybe the resemblance is harder to see now that Jackman is such a star in his own right and has done plenty of roles where he’s not scowling. But man, he elevated the world of that movie by squinting at it with that Clint attitude, and he was even introduced as a bare knuckle brawler like Philo Beddoe minus the orangutan. It didn’t feel like a guy self-consciously imitating a Clint-like persona, either. It was a genuine badass presence and charisma that I still believe birthed the entire modern era of comic book movie mania, for good or bad. Because without Jackman as Wolverine I don’t think X-MEN would’ve caught on and if X-MEN didn’t catch on I don’t think the Marvel movies would’ve gotten off the ground and we’d all be going to conventions dressing up as characters from serious adult dramas. (I can’t decide if I’m going as BRIDGE OF SPIES this year or one of the ACLU lawyers from LOVING.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Lawnmower Man

I know you guys probly already have huge parties planned, but in case you’re in a part of the world that doesn’t celebrate, today is the 25th anniversary of STEPHEN KING’S THE LAWNMOWER MAN. And in March of 1994 we’ll be able to celebrate the anniversary of THE LAWNMOWER MAN, after King’s lawsuit made New Line Cinema remove his name from it.

(Weird detail from an Entertainment Weekly article at the time: King “hired a team of private investigators to check out video-store copies in five cities” to prove they were violating an injunction against using his name. Did he worry if he brought in four tapes from four cities New Line would say “Nah, it’s only the copies in those four cities, the rest of the ones we made don’t say Stephen King”?)

(read the rest of this shit…)

Ms. 45

featuring Abel Ferrara as “First Rapist”

MS. 45 is a simple, palatable slice of early sleazy arty Abel Ferrara. Much like his previous film DRILLER KILLER it’s his New York art scene take on a genre movie, and a great time capsule of that world, but it’s a much more captivating story and – crucially – the people in it are far less obnoxious. Instead of playing the insufferable lead, Ferrara just plays an alley rapist in a Halloween mask at the beginning.

Yes, it’s a rape-revenge story like THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE, and also a vigilante movie like DEATH WISH. The rape scenes are as disturbing as any, but mercifully short compared to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE or something. The vast majority of the slim 80-minute running time is given over to our 17-year-old protagonist Thana (Zoë Tamerlis, later known as Zoë Lund)’s urban murder spree. When she beats a rapist to death with an iron she could report it as a legitimate case of self defense, but she makes the less orthodox choice of hiding the body and using his gun for the .45 caliber execution of adult men who make moves on her, attempted gang rapists, pimps she sees beating prostitutes, etc. A fun new hobby for a young woman living on her own in the city. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The last Guy Ritchie movie I watched was the first SHERLOCK HOLMES. When it ended I realized first that I wasn’t sure what the mystery was that Sherlock Holmes had solved, and then that I was having a reaction from accidentally combining medication and alcohol. But some people told me they saw it undrugged and didn’t know what the mystery was either. At any rate, I had long since given up on Ritchie since the initial excitement of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, which I have not revisited.

That’s why I took much too long getting to THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., a fun, charming, stylish summer blockbuster Cold War spy thriller that represents Ritchie at the very top of his game. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get Out

GET OUT is a crazy, racially themed horror-thriller written and directed by Jordan Peele of the comedy duo Key & Peele. And you know how sensitive I am about this, so I’ll just say right here that I consider this a horror movie that’s funny, not a horror-comedy. That’s how I prefer it. There are some big laughs, but they come out of the characters and situations, not at the expense of taking them seriously.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, SICARIO) is a young photographer who’s going on a trip with Rose (Allison Williams from Girls), his girlfriend of five months, to meet her parents. One thing he’s nervous about: she hasn’t told them he’s black. She swears it won’t be a big deal. Swears it. (read the rest of this shit…)

‘Round Midnight

I got the distinct feeling you guys were bored to death when I did a mini-jazz series after LA LA LAND came out (reviewing MO’ BETTER BLUES and THELONIOUS MONK: STRAIGHT NO CHASER). You know, you follow your muse, and sometimes your muse is heading out north when the zeitgeist already got on a plane going south two days ago. But I’m glad I went on that kick if only because it inspired me to finally watch ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT (1986), French director Bertrand Tavernier’s beautiful tribute to the scene of American bebop players transplanted to Paris circa 1959. Real life saxophone legend Dexter Gordon plays fictional saxophone legend Dale Turner as he tries to recapture inspiration and meaning during a stretch of depression near the end of his life.

With his froggy voice, tired eyes and odd sense of humor, sixty-something-year-old Gordon’s is a non-actor performance so compelling he was nominated for the best actor Oscar. Of course he also plays live music all throughout, so Ryan Gosling wouldn’t have been as good in the role.

(The Oscar went to Paul Newman for THE COLOR OF MONEY. Herbie Hancock did win one for ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT’s score, taking out James Horner’s ALIENS and Ennio Morricone’s THE MISSION.) (read the rest of this shit…)