So once again we have survived.

Christmas Rush (a.k.a. Breakaway)

CHRISTMAS RUSH (or BREAKAWAY on DVD) is a 2002 action movie made for the cable channel then known as TBS Super Station. (Other original TBS movies that year: DEAD IN A HEARTBEAT, DISAPPEARANCE, ATOMIC TWISTER, COUNTERSTRIKE, FIRST SHOT). It’s a DIE-HARD-in-a-mall type setup and I believe the only DIE HARD copycat besides DIE HARD 2 that takes place at Christmas time.

Dean Cain (A CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE …FROM A BOOK CALLED WISELY’S TALES, A CHRISTMAS WEDDING, THE DOG WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS, THE CHRISTMAS GIFT, A NANNY FOR CHRISTMAS, THE DOG WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS VACATION, THE CASE FOR CHRISTMAS, THE DOG WHO SAVED THE HOLIDAYS, DEFENDING SANTA, SMALL TOWN SANTA, A BELLE FOR CHRISTMAS, MERRY EX-MAS, BEVERLY HILLS CHRISTMAS, A DOG FOR CHRISTMAS, BROADCASTING CHRISTMAS) plays Cornelius Morgan, edgy Chicago cop who gets suspended and is being sued for a shooting that happens while arresting Chinese gangsters. On Christmas Eve day he’s handed a subpoena and gets in a small snit with his wife Cat (Erika Eleniak, UNDER SIEGE, an episode of Hunter and a Wet ‘n Wild video). At night he tries to visit her at her work, a jewelry store in Chicago Place Mall, to give her flowers and apologize.

BUT! He sees the supposedly-retired thief Jimmy Scalzetti (Eric Roberts, CHRISTMAS IN COMPTON, SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS, ALL AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL, A HUSBAND FOR CHRISTMAS, SANTA’S BOOT CAMP) strolling in looking all tough and intent on something and clearly not there to shop for holiday gifts or trenchcoats, which they are stocked up on. He follows them into an employees only hallway and sees that they’re there to rob the place. (read the rest of this shit…)

Carol For Another Christmas

Late one snowy Christmas Eve, influential rich guy Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden) is visited at his mansion by his nephew, history professor Fred (Ben Gazzara, ROAD HOUSE), who confronts him about having blocked a cultural exchange program at the university. Their philosophical argument turns into yelling. After Grudge chews his nephew out and tells him to leave, Fred smiles and dryly says, “Merry Christmas, by the way.”

This somewhat legendary 1964 TV update of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, his followup to CLEOPATRA and only small screen venture. But the obvious voice here is writer Rod Serling, five years after starting The Twilight Zone, sticking with his favorite trick of using genre as a vehicle for heart-on-sleeve pleas about contemporary social issues.

We learn that Grudge’s son Marley was killed in combat on Christmas Eve. This is the source of Grudge’s dislike of Christmas, but also his isolationism. He sees liberals as people who get American military men killed:

“Every few decades we seem to pay for your indiscriminate affections with the lives of our sons.”

But Fred sees it as trying not to get anybody killed: “Those indiscriminate affections as you put it are simply the acknowledgment that all men have sons. That grief for the unnecessary dead is not exclusive to this country, this town or to the House of Grudge.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Under the Cherry Moon

Remember in the ’60s when Prince starred in that French romantic comedy? Well, I guess that didn’t happen per se, but it’s kind of what his 1986 directorial debut UNDER THE CHERRY MOON feels like. It’s not really a period piece, but it’s filmed in gorgeous black and white (grain perfectly preserved on the excellent new Blu-Ray transfer), has a goofy old fashioned tone and doesn’t have many contemporary styles or references outside of the amazing soundtrack by Prince and the Revolution. The many songs we know as the album Parade (biggest hit: “Kiss”), but there’s also plenty of great instrumental music in there that’s sadly not on the soundtrack.

Prince plays Christopher Tracy, a slick gigolo type from Miami, currently on the Riviera living off of rich French women who he seduces during his job as pianist at a restaurant. He has it down to a science. Best friend/roommate/possibly brother Tricky (Jerome Benton from The Time) is a very effeminate fellow pussyhound who is in awe of Christopher’s skills as he lays in the bath tub improvising love poems over the phone. He’s designed to deliver a certain type of pleasure to a certain type of woman, and it helps that he looks like Prince.

The romcom formula kicks into gear when these love vultures learn of a party for the 21st birthday of the heiress Mary Sharon (Kristin Scott Thomas, ONLY GOD FORGIVES, in her first role), when she will inherit $50 million. They crash the party with plans for Chris to figure out how to marry her. (read the rest of this shit…)

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD is from GET CARTER director Mike Hodges three decades later, and kind of about the same thing, and it’s amazing how much of a similar tone it has in such a different era. It could almost be a remake. But not the one with Stallone.

Having starred in CROUPIER for Hodges five years earlier, Clive Owen plays Will Graham, a mysterious beardo guy who lives in a van out in the woods, pissing in a bucket. He has a younger brother, Davey (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, TITUS, MATCH POINT), who still lives in London. He’s a guy who goes to parties and sells coke to rich girls. We watch him doing his thing one night and watch somebody else watching him, and we wait for whatever bad somebody to do whatever they’re obviously gonna do to him.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Intruder

Just when the night crew is closing up at the Walnut Lake Market, cashier Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, THE WRAITH) gets assaulted by crazy ex-boyfriend Craig (David Byrnes, WITCHCRAFT 7 and IX). Most of the staff get in a big brawl with him and he runs off. They think he’s still hiding in the store somewhere, but they’re not sure, and the police come and prove to be incompetent.

That’s a solid slasher movie set up. It has that all important sense of time and place – a limited location with all kinds of possibilities for horror gimmicks and gags, a set of characters doing their duties in different parts of the building where they can be picked off, a reason why other people aren’t around and the cops are no help. The few minutes of searching for Craig near the beginning sets up the geography of the store and all the potential hiding places that will become important locations. Though not necessary, INTRUDER also sets up a mystery, because we have the easy-to-jump-to conclusion that this abusive asshole is the murderer, but not showing his face gives us the unsettling feeling that we’re being tricked. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rogue One

a.k.a. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

ROGUE ONE is the new Star Wars picture, but not episode VIII, but also not new exactly because it’s what happens before part IV, which is the first one. I look forward to explaining that to the first casual viewer I meet who thinks this little British heroine is the same one from THE FORCE AWAKENS.

She’s a new character though, Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones from THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. She’s supposed to be some kind of criminal or something who’s snatched from a prison transport by the budding Rebel Alliance because they’re looking for her father (Mads Mikkelsen, VALHALLA RISING), a scientist who was abducted by the Empire when she was young and is helping them build a spherical planet-destroying space weapon (see also episodes IV, VI and VII). So like most STAR WARS leads she’s an orphan, then she was raised by a legendary guerrilla named Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker, BLOODSPORT) although the raising happens offscreen. (read the rest of this shit…)

Roots: The Gift

There have been many types of Christmas TV specials over the years: the beloved cartoons like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the stop motion ones like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the musical variety shows like the ones Johnny Cash did, the very special episodes of sitcoms. December 1988 brought us Christmas episodes of China Beach, L.A. Law, Thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, Day By Day, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Just the Ten of Us, 227, Amen, Dear John, Full House, Murphy Brown, Night Court, Perfect Strangers, Punky Brewster, The Tracey Ullman Show (including the Simpsons short), Who’s the Boss, Wiseguy, Beauty and the Beast, and Pee-wee’s Playhouse (still a perennial classic), plus the specials The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite, Christmas in Tattertown (directed by Ralph Bakshi), Bob Hope’s Jolly Christmas Show (special guests Orel Hershiser, Don Johnson, Florence Griffith Joyner and Dolly Parton) and the famous TV movie reunion A Very Brady Christmas.

But do you think it’s weird that there was also a special Christmas movie based on Alex Haley’s acclaimed 1977 slavery mini-series ROOTS? I thought it was kinda weird so I decided to watch it and see what the deal was. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mindwarp

tn_mindwarpFangoria Magazine is important to me. I’ve been reading it since some time in the ’80s. It covered not only all the great horror movies that have come out during all those years, but also the less great ones. I like that you could read detailed coverage of, like, DOLLY DEAREST or some shit when it came out. I have boxes of old issues and sometimes I’ll remember to go back and see their interviews about, say, HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE, or something and find more details than I could find browsing the internet. It’s great.

Back when people read magazines and loved horror movies enough to read about how they were made, Fangoria had enough money to try crossing over and making some movies of their own, including MINDWARP. To be honest I  don’t remember ever hearing of it until I came across it recently on a nice Twilight Time blu-ray. I remember Fangoria Films as a distributor of low budget movies (don’t think I ever watched any of them) but I didn’t realize that before that they had tried to finance one movie per year, starting with this in 1990 (not released until ’92 though), followed by CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT (vampire movie from HELLRAISER II director Tony Randel) and SEVERED TIES (horror comedy with Oliver Reed, Elke Sommer and Garrett Morris in the cast). (read the rest of this shit…)

Manchester by the Sea

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is the heavily critic-worshipped third film by writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, MARGARET*). It’s a story about loss and family and people trying to salvage their fucked up lives. It’s not as devastating as some people make it sound, but also not as ultimately-uplifting or inspirational as maybe you would hope. It’ll probly make you tear up a few times and laugh a few times in its 2+ hours. It captures the ways family, friends and beer can bring you both solace and pain.

*[Please note that it is not one movie called YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, MARGARET. It is one movie called YOU CAN COUNT ON ME and then another totally separate one called MARGARET. And if I had written it as MARGARET, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME I would’ve had the same problem.]

*[Also please note that Lonergan wrote THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE and an episode of the cartoon Doug, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to mention those at all because right now we are focusing on his directorial work.] (read the rest of this shit…)

Society

tn_societyBrian Yuzna’s SOCIETY is about a nefarious, perverted secret among the rich, and how it’s discovered by a high school jock dude. I think Yuzna (who was making his directivational debut after producing RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and DOLLS) is going for kind of a BLUE VELVET type thing here – the weirdness that tips him off to a creepy conspiracy beneath the thin veneer of All-American wholesomeness.

Specifically, this takes place among the students and parents of Beverly Hills Academy. Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, son of HALLOWEEN II‘s Michael Myers Dick Warlock) almost seems like some kind of lab-created ’80s hero: mild mullet, polo shirt under letterman’s jacket, Emilio Estevez swagger with a slight Michael J. Fox vulnerability. He plays basketball, dates a cheerleader, acts like a tough guy and nerd-shames his snooty opponent in the debate for class president, but he sees himself as an outcast in his community of rich country club white people. We know from the opening scene that he’s seeing a psychiatrist (Ben Slack, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 4) and has nightmares about his mom (Connie Danese, HUNTER’S BLOOD) and dad (Charles Lucia, the killer in HOSPITAL MASSACRE – playing the father of the son of Michael Myers!), who clearly favor his sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings). He thinks he’s adopted. He’s told he’s paranoid. (read the rest of this shit…)