So once again we have survived.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN is director Kenneth Branagh’s attempt to redo the story as a romantic period melodrama. You still got your mad science lab, but also wigs and corsets and all that shit. Branagh himself plays Victor Frankenstein, and this is in the era when men in historical dramas had to have long Fabio hair. He cast himself as the doctor who creates his monster while shirtless, running around pulling heavy levers to show off his glistening muscles.

Branagh playing a beareded, wet-behind-the-ears college student while in his mid-thirties somehow reminds me of Chris Elliot in CABIN BOY. He’s a fancy lad who interrupts a medical lecture to argue with the professor about mixing medicine and philosophy. The teacher is outraged and the filmatism implies that he’s stickin it to the man, but personally – I don’ t know about you guys – I don’t take medical advice from Victor Frankenstein. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Return to Salem’s Lot

tn_artslA RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT is Larry Cohen’s weirdo theatrically-released sort-of-sequel to Tobe Hooper’s TV mini-series of the Stephen King book. But really it just takes the location – the tiny town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine – and the idea of doing a vampire story there. It’s not the same vampire or the same type of vampire. It doesn’t connect, from what I remember. But I like that.

Joe Weber (Cohen’s muse Michael Moriarty) is an anthropologist working on a CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST type documentary when he finds he has to come home to look after his troublemaking teenage son Jeremy (one-time actor Ricky Addison Reed, who IMDb claims was cast to play Robin in Tim Burton’s BATMAN in scenes that were never filmed). Joe brings his son to the old, recently-inherited fixer-upper in his birth-town of Salem’s Lot (as some but not all abbreviate it). (read the rest of this shit…)

Power Rangers

I know what you’re thinking, ’cause it’s the same thing I’m thinking: if it’s just called POWER RANGERS now instead of MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS does that mean there’s no morphin anymore? Or that there is morphin but they didn’t want to mention it in the title because it’s not particularly mighty as far morphin goes? And is morphin actually just morphin’ without the apostrophe or is it some mythological Power Ranging concept that I’m unaware of and it’s not explained in the movie and that’s why it’s not in the title? Also, did they foresee that I would try to text “It’s morphin time!” to my friend and it would autocorrect to “It’s morphine time!”? I mean, this is a movie that raises many questions.

There is in fact morphin (not morphine) in the new 2017 movie POWER RANGERS, but they have to earn it. A do-over, not a sequel to the ludicrous 1990s after school TV show, director Dean Israelite (PROJECT ALMANAC) and writer John Gatins (FLIGHT) (story by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless [THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, GODS OF EGYPT] and Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney [SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS]) try to make sense out of a mythology that started as just some bullshit that importer Haim Saban made up to string together library footage from the Japanese robots vs. giant monsters show Super Sentai Rangers. (read the rest of this shit…)

Brotherhood of Death

BROTHERHOOD OF DEATH is one of those low budget exploitation movies that promises a seemingly can’t-lose premise and then doesn’t much deliver on it. Oh well, it’s still kinda fun. With the tagline “Watch the brothers stick it to the Klan!,” it tells the story of a group of black friends (some of them played by members of the Washington Redskins, I guess) who go off to Vietnam, and become Special Forces badasses. When they get back home they discover that not much has changed. The Klan are terrorizing and raping black people and the police aren’t much help because… well, because the police here are the Klan, it’s mostly the same group of guys, just wearing different uniforms. So – much too late in the movie – these vets do exactly what Doug Llewelyn used to tell us not to do: take the law into their own hands. They apply what they learned in ‘Nam to the situation.

When we first meet them they’re driving around in a school bus like hippies, getting drunk off their asses. They get into a conflict with a guy at the gas station who’s clearly a racist piece of shit. I gotta side with them while also admitting that they started it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kong: Skull Island

KONG presents SKULL ISLAND is a goofy, pulpy monster movie that doesn’t live up to the hallowed cinematic legacy of KING KONG, but hey, it works as a more exploitative sequel. I think my expectations for this were more inflated than most because of how much I dug director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ first movie, THE KINGS OF SUMMER. That was an original comedy with wise, relatable insights into humanity, masculinity and growing up. I don’t think there’s any reason why a punching gorilla monster movie can’t have that kind of substance behind it too, but to me this feels less human and more like the work of one of these distanced, pop culture loving whippersnappers.

In an unusual but arguably tasteless move, Vogt-Roberts set the movie at the end of the Vietnam War, an international disaster that he treats like a cool movie reference. The talk about senseless loss of human lives feels less impassioned and emphasized than the orange APOCALYPSE NOW sunsets and helicopters and the soundtrack that largely comes straight off of the Songs That Movies Use As Shorthand For the Vietnam Era, Volume I 2-CD set.

But to be fair, “Down On the Street” by the Stooges and “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath are two heavily-featured songs that wouldn’t be on the Robert Zemeckis version of this. And believe it or not alot of it was filmed on location in the actual country of Vietnam, unlike any Vietnam War movie I know of. Vogt-Roberts and cinematographer Larry Fong (3oo, SUPER 8)’s bright orange, yellow and red skies make it stand out visually from any other giant monster movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Wailing

tn_wailingTHE WAILING is a long, moody, unpredictable South Korean film about a terrible evil coming to a small fishing town in the mountains. The plot is fairly simple, there’s not that much to it, but I like how it takes you very gradually from naturalism to a bit of craziness.

It’s one of those openings that made me immediately think this might be a great movie even before anything actually happened. It just has this potent transporting quality as it depicts this hapless cop Jong-goo get up early to investigate a crime scene. Rain is coming down hard, you can hear it in every direction. He’s still trying to wake up, and he’s not in any hurry. And then he gets there and all the officers are sheltered under their tent-like rain coats, walking through and cataloging the aftermath of a horrific murder, and unlike the usual depiction of seen-it-all cops barely phased by dead bodies (while one minor character kneels down and pukes to show that this is an extra bad one) we see Jong-goo’s terrified expressions as he witnesses the increasingly bizarre circumstances of the deaths.

This is our hero. Not some badass. Just a guy. And it endears us to him so that we’ll relate all through the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blade II – 15th Anniversary Spectacular

“You obviously do not know who you are fucking with!”

On one hand, it’s hard to believe that BLADE II was fifteen damn years ago. I mean – I reviewed it when it came out. And I’d already been around for a few years. Am I really that old? On the other hand, an awful lot has changed since the movie came out.

My actual ticket stub from opening night. Also my actual ticket stub from a week and a half later. I never figured out how the abandoned subtitle BLOODHUNT showed up on the tickets.

Let’s start with Wesley Snipes (“Blade”). He made a part 3, had a falling out with the writer, they made a Blade TV show without him, he got relegated to DTV, got busted for tax evasion, did time, got out, now is sort of back and still the Man and hopefully will achieve more greatness. Guillermo del Toro (director) became better known and beloved for his specific visual style and obsessions, was nominated for a best screenplay Oscar for PAN’S LABYRINTH, continued to alternate between Spanish language art films and Hollywood productions, but never did a for-hire gig again, unless you count THE HOBBIT, which he toiled on for a few years before quitting. David S. Goyer (writer) directed part 3, co-wrote Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy and went on to mastermind the DC movie universe, as if trying to earn the extreme hatred many comic fans had long held for him for some reason. Donnie Yen (martial arts choreographer, “Snowman”) had a huge career resurgence at home in Hong Kong, particularly with the IP MAN series, and recently finally had success in English language movies playing the best characters in ROGUE ONE and xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE. Norman Reedus (“Scud”) also became a geek icon by playing Daryl on The Walking Dead, as did Ron Perlman (“Reinhardt”) by reteaming with del Toro to play Hellboy in two live action films and two animated (plus starring in many seasons of Sons of Anarchy). Luke Goss (“Jared Nomak”) was a former pop star from the boy band Bros who had been in a few movies. This breakthrough role led to playing the elf equivalent of Nomak in del Toro’s HELLBOY 2 and eventually being a frequent face of DTV, including starring as Frankenstein in DEATH RACE 2 and 3. Matt Schulze (“Chupa”) – okay, he didn’t become a big thing, but to me he’s an icon because he’s the villain in Seagal’s OUT OF REACH and Vince in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and FAST FIVE.

Maybe more notably than any of this, the techniques del Toro pioneered to combine live action stunts with animated doubles for super-powered fights and camera moves evolved into the modern style of comic book action (and blockbusters in general). His smart ways of adding digital effects to practical ones have also been influential. Getting a genuine visionary to do the sequel to a movie like BLADE is one of those things you always wish for as a movie fan but shouldn’t hold your breath for. This time you could’ve, though. It happened. (read the rest of this shit…)

Train to Busan

Most of the great zombie movies are not as much about zombies as about people and what they do when they band together and try to survive. This is the case with TRAIN TO BUSAN, last year’s South Korean smash hit about the passengers on a train during a sudden ghoulification outbreak.

It centers on this dude Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo, THE SUSPECT) who is kinda like John McClane in that he’s fucked things up with his family because of his work and you kinda feel sorry for him and know he wants to fix things even though to be honest he shoulda known better. But he’s unlike McClane in that he’s a handsome well-dressed fund manager guy. Totally different color of collar. Come to think of it he literally had a white collar because I noticed the tall collar on his shirt looked cool.

Anyway he’s got a bunch of shit going on at work but he reluctantly agrees to bring his young daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an) on the train to Busan to see her mother, because it’s her birthday and she kept threatening to go by herself and then he really blew it when trying to buy her a good present. (read the rest of this shit…)

Manhunter

Michael Mann feature #4 is MANHUNTER. Instead of a moody portrait of a thief like in THIEF he does one of a profiler trying to identify a serial killer. This is of course Mann’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, the pre-SILENCE OF THE LAMBS story of a guy chasing a killer called “The Tooth Fairy” after having caught Hannibal Lecktor (that’s how they spell it when he’s played by Brian Cox). William Petersen (THE SKULLS) plays Will Graham, who FBI agent Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina, CODE OF SILENCE) nudges into the investigation by showing him some crime scene photos and making him feel bad. That was a pretty shitty thing to do because Will is just starting to get his life back together after getting inside the mind of Lecktor also got him inside the rooms of a mental hospital.

“You’re supposed to be his friend. Why didn’t you leave him alone?” Will’s wife Molly (Kim Greist, C.H.U.D.) asks resignedly. (read the rest of this shit…)

Silk II

Detective Jenny “Silk” Sleighton, the famous character created by Claudine St. James, is back three years later, keeping the streets of Honolulu safe once again. Except this time they don’t credit Claudine St. James, supporting my theory that there is no such person as Claudine St. James and they just put that credit on the first one to make the character seem extra pulpy. (And it worked.)

This time Silk is played by Penthouse Pet Monique Gabrielle (CHAINED HEAT, EMMANUELLE 5, DEATHSTALKER II). She really doesn’t seem like the same character without Cec Verrell’s quirky fashion and bad girl vibe, but Gabrielle’s version is very likable in a different way. She sounds a little too nice to pull off some of the tough talk, but she’s good at making the facial expressions while ducking in and out of corners to fire/dodge bullets.

She has a much older partner/best friend named Chris Meadows (Bon Vibar, CAGED HEAT II: STRIPPED OF FREEDOM) who is celebrating his impending retirement, and you know what that means. The funny thing is he’s killed because of an old Yakuza debt, so the retirement is really unrelated, it still would’ve happened if he’d left the danger behind years ago. (read the rest of this shit…)