KEEP BUSTIN'

The Krays

tn_kraysRonnie and Reggie Kray were identical twin gangsters who ran London’s East End in the ’50s and ’60s. They owned night clubs (part of the movie SPARROWS CAN’T SING with Roy Kinnear was filmed in one of their clubs) and hung out with celebrities including Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. Ronnie was gay, and was involved in a political scandal, allegedly having sex with and supplying men for the conservative politician Lord Boothby. The brothers were crazy and vicious and in ’69 got twin life sentences for different murders.

I’m not sure when they did all those weird stop motion films with the creepy dolls and shit.

THE KRAYS is a 1990 movie about the Krays, directed by Peter Medak (THE RULING CLASS, SPECIES II) and written by Philip Ridley (writer/director of THE REFLECTING SKIN and THE PASSION OF DARKLY NOON). I guess that combination is why it’s not a traditional gangster movie. It gives the twins a creepy DEAD RINGERS kinda vibe and spends less time than you’d think on their criminal activities.

In fact, the first 20 minutes is about their childhood. We see their traumatic experiences during the war, and how much time they spent surrounded by women while the men were off fighting. They were protected by their mother Violet (Billie Whitelaw, TWISTED NERVE, THE OMEN, SLAYGROUND) and spoiled by their Aunt Rose (Susan Fleetwood, CLASH OF THE TITANS). (read the rest of this shit…)

Redeemer

tn_redeemerIn REDEEMER, Marko Zaror plays The Redeemer, a mysterious, drifting avenger with a thing for Catholicism. He used to be a cartel hitman, now he’s fulfilling a big time penance. He’s got a full back tattoo of the crucifixion, carries a portable altar and various idols and penants of the saints, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wears socks sewn out of a corner of the Shroud of Turin. For 95% of the movie he keeps the hood of either his sweatshirt or his jacket up. It’s not raining, so I think it’s to make him look like a monk. And every day he kneels and does a prayer ritual. The weird part of it is when he rubs a bullet with a scorpion painted on it against his forehead, then plays Russian roulette. Kind of a quirky thing to do every single day, right? I guess maybe that’s a thing though. I wouldn’t know, I was raised Presbyterian.

Anyway this individual The Redeemer is wandering through Chile on foot when he comes across some jerks beating up a fisherman. He watches for a while before he saves the guy. He’s real good with guns, but he’s Marko Zaror, so he’s also got some incredible kicks and punches. By rescuing the guy and taking shelter in the nearby home of a single mother they all end up involved in the man’s troubles: he found a bunch of money in his fishing net, he took it, it turned out to belong to gangsters, they are not real understanding about it. So The Redeemer and friends hide in a cave while he broods and prays and doesn’t talk and makes plans to clear all this up.

Plan A: Get the gangsters to promise no harm in exchange for their money back.

Plan B: Kill them all and use the money for the mom’s kid’s operation. (read the rest of this shit…)

London Has Fallen

tn_londonhasfallenLONDON HAS FALLEN is the sequel to 2013’s OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, that one where Gerard Butler (GODS OF EGYPT) plays Secret Service agent Mike Banning, protecting President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart, I FRANKENSTEIN) when the White House is attacked. It is not to be confused with WHITE HOUSE DOWN, the one where it’s Channing Tatum protecting Jamie Foxx.

Who am I fooling though? I get them confused so much I sincerely mixed up the titles when I wrote the first draft of this review in my notebook, and when I fixed it I started to type OLYMPUS DOWN. I was thinking I’d found the Tatum one to be the more passable 2013 half-assed excuse for a DIE HARD rip-off, but then I went to the tape. My review of that one is a little harsher, and ends by saying “If you see only one UNDER SIEGE IN THE WHITE HOUSE movie this year, see… ah, who gives a shit? Nobody will remember either of these movies a year from now. Of the two I think I preferred OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. I forget why though. Something about Melissa Leo?”

In my day a movie had to excite somebody’s imagination to get a sequel. Now it just hast to be the one of two similar bad movies that gets more money because it came out first. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gods of Egypt

tn_godsofegyptAlex Proyas’s new fantasy GODS OF EGYPT debuted at the top of the box office this week, ahead of ZOOTOPIA and DEADPOOL. Only in Russia, though. Here it’s a disastrous flop with merciless reviews.

Honestly this movie was dead the second they released a trailer. I don’t think I ever once saw it discussed in any context other than a criticism of “whitewashing,” since its lead Egyptian gods are played by white Europeans. Obviously a poor choice. Otherwise my take on the trailer was different from the conventional wisdom. I say appealingly weird, you say hahaha razzies haha sobaditsgood howdidthisgetmade haha.

Reading the headlines of the savage reviews, and seeing the weird stills accompanying them, pushed me to not miss it in the theater. At the multiplex here it opened with only two 3D screenings and two 2D each day. By comparison a nearby theater has three each of Stephen Chou’s THE MERMAID, for which Sony has been criticized for having too small of a release. (Sorry, I didn’t see that. I’m an asshole.)

The main thing here is that it’s Alex Proyas. I wasn’t gonna get my hopes up, but I didn’t trust the responses of normal people on a movie by him. Those guys said KNOWING was terrible too, for many of the same reasons I enjoyed it. In fact, his movies wouldn’t be as fun if they didn’t put some people off. They have a little bit of that “how did he get away with this?” appeal.

The good news is GODS OF EGYPT is not as bad as they said. The bad news is it’s not as crazy I’d hoped. (read the rest of this shit…)

Street Wars

tn_streetwars“This film is one I refused not to make.” –Jamaa Fanaka

STREET WARS is a 1992 movie about drug gangs, with a rap soundtrack, but it feels more like blaxploitation than BOYZ N THE HOOD. That’s because it’s, as the credits say, “A Jamaa Fanaka Picture Show.” That’s the director best known for the PENITENTIARY trilogy, but before that he did some weird blaxploitation movies like the killer dick picture SOUL VENGEANCE, aka WELCOME HOME, BROTHER CHARLES. So here he kinda takes the themes of SUPER FLY and stirs them into early ’90s black culture with some of his own weird seasonings.

It definitely falls into the outsider art type category. The awkward home-made filmatism combines with some truly strange ideas to create a surreal experience, a movie that transcends competence. The climax really doesn’t work as action or drama, but it’s so weird I forgave it. The shootouts are always confusing but enthusiastic. There are guns that blow soccer ball sized holes in the sides of cars, and send victims flying through the air looking suspiciously like dummies being sloppily tossed from off screen. (read the rest of this shit…)

Deadpool

tn_deadpoolDEADPOOL is a smart-ass, hard-R super hero revenge movie for the 14 year old boy in every man, woman and child. The feature directing debut of FX artist Tim Miller (who designed the opening credits for Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) has show-offy digital camera moves, fourth-wall-breaking narration, meta and self-referential humor, frequent jokes about dildos and other things going up butts, gun fetishism, jerking off, juvenile homophobic name-calling like “cockgobbler,” and is convinced that it’s hilarious to know the names of different gross sex acts and talk about doing them with old ladies. Sounds exactly like a Neveldine/Taylor style headache. But I really enjoyed it.

I saw commenters here predicting I would hate DEADPOOL like I did KICK-ASS. I understand the comparison, but here’s why I think it’s different: it has a different personality. Both are trying to push buttons with foul-mouthed costumed characters going overboard with the violence and seeming real proud of themselves for it, but to me KICK-ASS seems like it’s trying to shock and outrage some hypothetical prudes and squares that would never watch the movie anyway, while DEADPOOL seems like it’s trying to win everybody over with its obnoxious charm. There are tons of childish jokes in the movie that didn’t make me laugh, but they felt less like jokes failing and more like me smiling and shaking my head at a dipshit friend trying to make me uncomfortable to amuse himself. And the X-Men seem to feel kind of the same. He’s basically a bad guy but they keep going easy on him because they want him to be a good guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Brooklyn

tn_brooklynbestpictureBROOKLYN is my best-picture-nominee-completist viewing for this year. When the nominations were announced the only ones I hadn’t seen were THE REVENANT (which was about to come out and I was excited to see), ROOM (which I had been told was very good so I was already interested) and this one (no interest). And I’m not saying it changed my life or nothin, but it’s a good movie I never would’ve watched otherwise.

Saoirse (pronounced sur-shuh) Ronan plays Eilis (pronounced AY-lish) Lacey, a young woman who works in a shop in a small town in Ireland in 1952 (pronounced nyn-teen-fiff-tee-too). But she doesn’t get paid much and  people are starving and her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott, RESIDENT EVIL) arranges for her to go to the U.S. where there might be better opportunities. A priest (Jim Broadbent, SUPERMAN IV) sets her up with a home at a boarding house, a job at a department store and even night classes in bookkeeping at a college.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Room

tn_roombestpictureROOM is a movie that would be better to know nothing about. I knew a little more than I should’ve, and that wasn’t too bad. But if you were planning on seeing it anyway, read this later.

It’s mostly a two-person movie: a mom (Brie Larson, GREENBERG) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay, THE SMURFS 2), who is turning five today. But they can’t go to Chuck E. Cheese or something because they live inside a small room that they can’t leave. It has no windows except for a skylight.

I wonder if they’ll do straight to video sequels like they did with CUBE. Hopefully they saved the set.

But they make do. She has the ingredients to make a humble birthday cake. No candles, though, which makes him cry. They decorate Room, as they call their world, with garbage, call objects by names like it’s Pee-wee’s Playhouse, do regular exercises and play games to keep their bodies and brains okay. They thread together a bunch of eggshells and draw a face on it: “Egg Snake is our longest and fanciest friend,” narrates Jack. Livin it up.

Like THE LOVELY BONES this is childish fantasy used as an escape from evil and tragedy. They don’t come out and say it at first, but Ma was kidnapped and locked in here at age 17, and gave birth two years later. So that tells you who the father is. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spotlight

tn_spotlightbestpictureSPOTLIGHT is another one of the best picture nominees. I’d already seen it anyway. It doesn’t seem to me like signs are pointing to it as a potential winner, but it definitely feels like your traditional perfectly-good-movie-that-wins-best-picture-and-makes-you-resent-it. Unlike BIRDMAN or ARGO it is not about actors or Hollywood, except in the sense that it allows actors to shine in a big cast with mouthfuls of dialogue. But the appeal is they get to portray professionalism, a courageous Fight Against the System, and a true story about a heavy topic: the massive cover-up of child sexual abuse among Catholic clergy.

It’s an ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN type deal. The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight” team of reporters who do long-term investigative journalism sort of stumble across this thing, an old story that no one paid much attention to that has bigger implications. They talk to victims, look at records, connect the dots, do the math, and start to suspect that the atrocity is much bigger than anyone realized. If it’s 3% of priests, let’s see, how many priests are in Boston? And 3% of that is… HOLY SHIT, that’s too many molesters in my opinion.

They discover lawyers who were involved with settlements between the families and the church. The families were led to believe the church would punish the abusers and getting some money for the kid to live off of would be the best thing to do. Whoops. They just made them move and let them keep working. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Big Short

tn_bigshortbestpictureDo you remember the Will Ferrell movie THE OTHER GUYS, how the end credits were a big animated info graphic about the banking crisis? It connected to the scheme by the villains in the movie but seemed jarringly serious at the end of a cop movie parody from the director of ANCHORMAN where Ferrell carries a wooden gun, has an evil pimp alter ego and has a chief played by Michael Keaton who quotes TLC all the time and works a second job at Bed Bath & Beyond. That’s why it’s not completely out of the blue that its director Adam McKay has made his first non-comedy, THE BIG SHORT, which has been nominated for many awards including Oscars for best picture, director and adapted screenplay. This is not the classic funny-man-yearning-for-respectability-with-corny-Oscar-bait-movie gambit. This is a rage that’s been fighting to get out.

Based on the non-fiction book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Moneyball author Michael Lewis, the movie tells the stories of several small-timers and outsiders in the financial world who had the foresight to see that the housing market was built on fraud and was destined to collapse. They figured out a way to basically bet against the banks, who gladly accepted the offers because they believed their own lies. They thought these people were crazy and giving them free money. (read the rest of this shit…)