MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN takes place in a quirky, goth-y world of young outcast monsters, a story for young people who enjoy the macabre, a premise that sounds like X-MEN but plays more like THE ADDAMS FAMILY. It seems tailor made for a Tim Burton comeback film. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe he needs to find something off the rack that looks good on him. No, actually that’s probly what he did here. Maybe he needs to sew something himself. I don’t know. This metaphor got away from me.
Asa Butterfield (HUGO) plays Jake, our protagonist and first person narrator, who lives a boring life in a Scissorhandsian Florida suburb until one day he finds his Grandpa (Terence Stamp, ELEKTRA, THE PHANTOM MENACE) dead in the woods with his fucking eyeballs plucked out. (The police soothe him by explaining that dogs ate ’em.) Also he sees a giant.
Kinda like BIG FISH, he finds himself tracing the seemingly-fantastical tales Grandpa told him and left behind in letters, journals, photos and maps. (Burton has been past his prime long enough that he’s harkening back to movies from past his prime.) He convinces his dad (Chris O’Dowd, CALVARY) to bring him to Wales to see this children’s home where Grandpa once lived. (read the rest of this shit…)
Welcome to SLASHER SEARCH ’16. Every October I try to watch a bunch of obscure, uncelebrated slasher movies I haven’t seen before in hopes of finding good ones. It doesn’t always work out.
TRAPPED ALIVE is not the type of precious ore I’m digging for in my annual Slasher Search. I say that because #1 it’s not very good and #2 it takes place mostly in an abandoned mine. So you can see how clever I am there, working those two things together. Anyway, it’s not the worst kick-off to a Slasher Search either, because it’s not without its goofy charms. This is a strength of the horror and action genres: you’re looking for a good one, but you might enjoy a bad one. It’s usually gonna be more fun than a bad drama, comedy or western or something.
This one starts as a hostage thriller, too cheesy and amateurish to be LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT gritty, but sexual-assault-threateningy enough to make you feel gross. Robin and Monica (Sullivan Hester and Laura Kallison, both one-time-only actors) are two young women in poofy ’80s glam fashion who are driving to a Christmas party when they’re carjacked by three prison escapees. You have the Krug-like ringleader Louis “Face” Napoleon (Alex Kubik, BAD GIRLS, BE COOL), the bushy-bearded, simple-minded oaf Mongo (Michael Nash, THE COLOR OF MONEY), and Randy (Mark Witsken), the young driver who looks kinda like the guy from 7th Heaven, has misgivings about the kidnapping and is obviously supposed to be the nice, dreamy escaped convict. Not even like a James Dean bad boy anti-hero, just the straight-up nice kid who happens to have just escaped from prison. It’s weird. (read the rest of this shit…)
VAMPIRES is a cocky asshole of a horror-western strutting into John Carpenter’s filmography late, not giving a shit, rubbing everybody the wrong way. I’ve always dug it, though, and I think these days it’s more widely appreciated than it used to be.
The premise, taken from the novel Vampire$ by John Steakley, is that a team of vampire hunters funded by the Vatican travels the southwest tracking nests of vampires and exterminating them with professional grade equipment. James Woods (THE GETAWAY) plays the leader of the team, Jack Crow, maybe the only time he gets to be the leather-jacket-wearing asskicker. The Kurt Russell. The guy who struts around and shoots crossbows and punches people and never once wears a suit.
We see how their job works as the team raids a boarded up old house somewhere in the sunny desert, busting in like a SWAT team, sweeping it room by room to find the bloodsuckers, using a spear and pulley system to drag them out into the sunlight where they flare up and explode (all practical fire effects, from the looks of it). Montoya (Daniel Baldwin, KING OF THE ANTS, PAPARAZZI) mans the Jeep and winch, using a hunting knife to pull the charred skulls out of their kills and line them up on the hood as trophies. (read the rest of this shit…)
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS takes the world of photorealistic animated humanoid amphibian vigilantes established in part 1 off in more fantastical directions. “The Shadows” of the subtitle are the levels of secrecy they require, fighting New York City ninja crime from their secret sewer home, hiding their existence by giving credit for part 1’s heroics to local news cameraman Vern (no relation) (Will Arnett, announcer voice for the DON’T trailer in GRINDHOUSE). But they get alot of teenage mutant ninja angst about having to watch the Knicks game from inside the Jumbotron like a bunch of lepers.
(note: it actually looks like amazing seats)
The turtles’ armored ninja ringleader arch-nemesis Shredder (now played by Brian Tee from TOKYO DRIFT) gets busted out during a prison transfer in a cool vehicle stunt sequence that totally would’ve existed without DARK KNIGHT, it’s only a coincidence. But the beauty of it is that
1) It’s arranged by a scientist in goofy “nerd” glasses and bow tie played by Tyler Perry (ALEX CROSS)
2) Shredder accidentally gets teleported to another dimension and is assigned a mission by a talking brain monster with robot body (read the rest of this shit…)
(warning: contains spoilers about all the best gory parts)
I haven’t seen enough of them to really know for sure, but I get the feeling THE BEYOND may be the masterpiece of unpredictable Italian horror sometimes master Lucio Fulci. It’s a simple, meandering haunted house type of story but with powerfully strange imagery and extravagantly staged incidents of jarringly brutal violence against rubber dummies.
Liza (Catriona MacColl, HAWK THE SLAYER, AFRAID OF THE DARK) is a New York fashion designer (with British accent) who inherits a small inn in Louisiana. It’s been closed for a long time and the basement is flooded, but she wants to get it running again. One important piece of information that has been kept from her: a dude was crucified in the basement in 1927 and renovating the place will open one of the Seven Doors of Death. And you know that song “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, well it will be exactly like that but even more horrifying because it will be who let the dead out to wander the earth and eat people’s faces off and crazy shit. I’m against it. (read the rest of this shit…)
First of all, man, I am never gonna get that theme song out of my head. It’s on the original and the three sequels and on this remake it’s just on the end credits, other than some sly hints at its rhythm adapted to percussion and that exotic flute type thing that modern film composers love. But it’s so catchy and I’ve heard it so many times this last week or two that it’s burned onto my brain like what used to happen to TVs if you left it on a DVD menu all day. Thanks alot, Elmer Bernstein.
In Antoine Fuqua’s THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, we have a small town in Kansas (not Mexico) being threatened by a wealthy land baron (not bandits) who comes in with a bunch of killers, and makes a shitty, non-negotiable offer for their land, that he says they can accept or be killed when he comes back in three weeks. And he makes this threat at gunpoint inside the church! Not cool.
This opening shows the dangers of normal people standing up to these bullies: they quickly execute the first guy who does it, and this escalates into a massacre. This asshole Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) tells the in-his-pocket-out-of-fear sheriff to leave the bodies where they are, burns down the church and stops by the whorehouse on the way out. (read the rest of this shit…)
Don’t get your hopes up as high as I did, but SEVEN WARRIORS is kind of cool because it’s the 1989 Hong Kong take on the SEVEN SAMURAI story. So that means the version with the most complex and acrobatic action.
I had been under the impression it was a Sammo Hung movie, which is not accurate. The credited director, Terry Tong, has a total of nine directing credits, mostly movies that have not made it to the States. He has bit parts in DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS OF THE FIRST KIND and TWIN DRAGONS, so maybe he is a Sammo associate, and maybe IMDb has a reason to list Sammo as co-director. But the credits and other reference sources do not. He does have a small cameo in the opening scene, which is a weird place for a cameo. It’s a much smaller part than Bruce Campbell in CONGO.
The screenwriter is Kan-Cheung Tsang, who wrote ROYAL WARRIORS and a bunch of Stephen Chow’s movies including SHAOLIN SOCCER and MERMAID. He sets this version in “the Warlord Era” or “Chaotic Era” of China, when veterans wander around as mercenaries or thieves, some of them led by hairy-mole-faced Piu (Lo Lieh, CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS) to terrorize and extort a defenseless village. So of course a couple of the villagers go into town and they find Chi (Adam Cheng, ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN), a once respected, now alcoholic commander who was in the war with Piu, to gather up some of his old troops. They’re a colorful set of characters, the most impressive being the suave knife thrower and Karl, the big blacksmith who walks away from repairing some lady’s pan the second the Commander asks for help. He carries around a giant spiked club, almost as big as a person, which is enjoyable in any genre. We could use more of those in cinema. (read the rest of this shit…)
Enough with the cowboys. THE SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS is the sword and sorcery version of the SEVEN SAMURAI story. Obviously.
An evil Ming-the-Merciless-Halloween-costume-looking-motherfucker named Nicerote (Dan Vadis from EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE and ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN) who apparently has some kind of magic sorcerer powers threatens his own mother (Barbara Pesante) that he’s gonna come back and attack the village after the harvest. What a brat. So she sends Pandora (Carla Ferrigno [BLACK ROSES] in her movie debut) and three other women into town with “the mystical Sword of Achilles,” which can only be held by the worthy. Find somebody worthy and get him to come protect the village.
They find Han (Lou Ferrigno, also in his first movie, though he’d already done six seasons of The Incredible Hulk), a gladiator who is said to be immortal, but it’s not really explained very well. I guess he’s not strong or immortal enough to do it on his own, so he has to put together a team which includes some gladiator friends and a badass cynical mercenary lady named Julia (Sybil Danning, who had already been in the space version of SEVEN SAMURAI, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS). (read the rest of this shit…)
The final MAGNIFICENT SEVEN sequel came 12 years after the original from Canadian-born TV director George McCowan, after doing FROGS the same year. Screenwriter Arthur Rowe had also done mostly TV, including a few westerns like The Range Rider and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. This time Lee Van Cleef takes over as Chris Adams, but if they didn’t say his name it would be easy to not realize he was the same character.
The opening is reminiscent of the much better sequel HIGH NOON PART II, because now Chris is a marshal in the Arizona territory and he’s using his recent marriage as an excuse not to use his magnificence to help bounty hunter Jim Mackay (Ralph Waite, The Waltons, CLIFFHANGER) defend a Mexican border town from bandits like he used to do in the old days. He’s not like that anymore, and all their magnificent buddies are dead or in jail. Some of them he put there.
Supposedly he even owes Jim one, but not from some incident we saw in one of the other movies, since this is not a character we’ve seen before. Continuity opportunities are also missed when Chris is asked about his legendary exploits and they have none of them are things he did in the other movies. This could’ve been an unrelated western they changed into a sequel right before filming. (read the rest of this shit…)
Man, they could keep on making these Magnificent Seven movies forever. I don’t blame ’em because they got somebody as cool as Yul Brynner as Chris Adams, they just have to find different actors to surr–
Oh shit, he’s not in this one. He was in four movies that year, including an uncredited bit part in drag in THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, but he decided he was not the part 3 type. Taking over as Chris Adams is George Kennedy, who had won an Oscar for COOL HAND LUKE two years earlier (Brynner had won his four years before the first MAGNIFICENT SEVEN).
I have to admit I had low expectations for Kennedy. He’s a good character actor, but almost always as a utility player, as some sheriff or captain or sleazy bad guy, not the badass hero. Which, I should’ve known, would make this special. As soon as he shows up in the movie, barrel chested, cocky, even kind of handsome, leaning casually as a fence as he interrupts the hanging of a horse thief. He completely changed my whole image of him. (read the rest of this shit…)