A while back I reviewed a movie called BOOT CAMP that made me think these reform camps would be a good setting for a slasher movie or a DIE HARD ripoff. THE ARCHER is not that, but it’s another straight forward escape thriller set in one of these abominable places in the child abuse corner of prison-for-profit hell. In many cases they’re a scam where parents who don’t know how to understand their kids are convinced to pay money to some ex-military or faux-military psychos to torture them in the name of behavioral re-alignment. In this case she’s considered a good kid, a 4.0 student and state archery champion with no record until she beats the shit out of her friend (and crush)’s abusive boyfriend. Then her naive mom (Dendrie Taylor, SPECIES, SAVING MR. BANKS) is talked into signing away her rights under the theory that it will get her a lighter sentence. (read the rest of this shit…)
We all know Iko Uwais as the star of THE RAID [REDEMPTION] and THE RAID 2. Those movies showcase him as a likable hero and incredible martial artist, but they’re also a strong collaboration with co-star/co-choreographer Yayan Ruhian and director Gareth Evans. Having also loved their earlier film MERANTAU I want to see that team keep working together as long as possible. Uwais without the others – as is the case with the 2016 film HEADSHOT – is still exciting, so I was frustrated that I couldn’t find it in theaters or on-demand when it came out. But for some reason by the time it finally came to video I sort of took my time getting around to it.
Big mistake! HEADSHOT is fantastic, a reminder to never underestimate Uwais as a performer or choreographer. The directors are Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto, also known as the Mo Brothers. They’re known more for horror than for action, having done a segment of the anthology TAKUT: FACES OF FEAR (2008), a feature called MACABRE (2009), and (with Evans) a segment of V/H/S/2 (2013). I tried watching their serial killer movie KILLERS (2014) and it seemed very well made, but the opening was legitimately disturbing and I think I was going through something and I decided I didn’t need it in my life at that time and turned it off. That doesn’t happen to me often! (read the rest of this shit…)
After being so fascinated by that weird movie I reviewed last week, URBAN JUNGLE a.k.a. HOMEBOYZ II: CRACK CITY, obviously I had to see what else writer-director Daniel Matmor had done. He wrote Tobe Hooper’s NIGHT TERRORS and he has a story credit on a 2007 Kim Coates movie called KING OF SORROW, but his only other directorial work is this cheap rape-revenge movie BUFFALO HEART: THE PATH OF DEATH from 1996.
Buffalo Heart (Buffalo Child, “Pawnee #1,” DANCES WITH WOLVES) is camping out one night singing traditional Native American songs to his daughter (Autumn Blessing) when this group of six belligerent drunk assholes (some of them off duty cops) approach saying racist shit about welfare and war dances and then attack them for no reason. Matmor himself plays Jerimiah, whose face we see in close up as he rapes the little girl (fortunately you can tell that the young actress is not really in the scene). After he accidentally kills her they shoot her dad, bury both in a shallow grave and swear not to ever discuss what happened “even amongst ourselves.” (read the rest of this shit…)
HELL IS FOR HEROES is a tight little black and white Don Siegel war movie that I watched because of that Village Voice piece I just did about the McQueen/Marvin/Bronson/Brown film series it’s playing in later this week. To tell you the truth I don’t watch too many war movies, and I don’t really have a desire to get more into them, but I liked this one.
It’s about a platoon of American soldiers in Montigny, France, 1944. They’ve been hanging out in this “rest area near the Siegfried Line,” waiting to go home. You got your eccentric goofballs: Corby (Bobby Darin) is a talker and hustler who carries around a bunch of junk and prides himself on being able to get people whatever they need. He’ll tell you all about it. Henshaw (James Coburn, HARD TIMES, DEADFALL, ERASER) is some kind of mechanical genius. He seems to keep his mind occupied by puzzling over how machines work. In the opening he has a car dismantled and Sergeant Pike (Fess Parker, THEM!) asks what was wrong with it. “Oh, I don’t know,” Henshaw says, seeming to have not considered that question. Also there’s Homer (Nick Adams, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD), a young Polish guy who clings on to the soldiers, runs errands for them and dearly wishes to join them in hopes that he can go back to the States with them.
Into this hangout movie is transferred Reese, played by Steve McFuckingQueen. Pike knows him and trusts him as a soldier, but he’s trouble. He walks in with his rucksack and an air of superiority, finds his corner and minds his own business until he sneaks off to get a late night drink even though it’s strictly forbidden. (read the rest of this shit…)
If you’re in New York, the Quad (I say as if I know what that is) is running a great film series from today through April 12th, called “Action Figures: Prime Cuts From McQueen, Marvin, Bronson, and Brown.” I know this because the good people at the Village Voice thought of me to do the write-up on it. I must be doing something right in life, huh?
They’re showing DEATH WISH, THE DIRTY DOZEN, EL CONDOR, EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, THE GETAWAY, THE GREAT ESCAPE, HARD TIMES, HELL IS FOR HEROES, THE KILLERS, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, PRIME CUT, THE PROFESSIONALS, THE SAND PEBBLES, SLAUGHTER and THE STONE KILLER. Almost all of them are on 35mm. I watched a few of the ones I hadn’t seen before as preparation, so I’ll have reviews of those in the next week or two.
Unfortunately DEATH HUNT got cut from the lineup, so I had to lose a paragraph about Bronson getting into a bunch of shit to save a dog as an example of badass juxtaposition. But you can add that one in if you’re playing along at home.
Anyway, here is the Village Voice piece. Thanks!
I’m not sure if SUTURE (1993) counts as a neo-noir, but it seems a little related to other ’90s indie crime movies like RED ROCK WEST and THE UNDERNEATH and stuff. The plot definitely seems like something out of an old crime novel. Clay (Dennis Haysbert, NAVY SEALS, ABSOLUTE POWER, The Unit, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR) is a guy from rural California who has come to visit his half brother Vincent (Michael Harris, ZAPPED AGAIN!, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III, MR. STITCH) in Phoenix. They’d never met until recently, at their father’s funeral, when they were surprised to find out how uncannily they resemble each other.
Vincent is very rich, lives in a fancy modern house with art and slicks his hair back and generally reminds you of AMERICAN PSYCHO. Clay keeps worrying that Vincent will think he wants money from him, which he doesn’t. In fact, it’s Vincent who wants something from Clay, and it’s much more than money. He gets Clay to put on his clothes and drive his car and then blows him up, to fake his own death. Terrible hospitality from this fuckin guy, jesus christ.
Clay survives, though. His face is messed up and he doesn’t remember who he is, but everybody assumes he’s Vincent and tells him about “his” life, including that he’s a suspect in his father’s death. (read the rest of this shit…)
Well my friends, I’ve made another weird VHS discovery. You know how I am. I rent odd little movies I never heard of that seem to have never made it to DVD. And in an attempt to legitimize this activity I now have a name and logo for such reviews. I considered VH-EXCAVATOR, but I decided TAPE RAIDER worked a little better and sounded more like an exciting adventure. Picture me as The Phantom going into that museum and stealing back the artifacts for his buddies, but instead of an artifact it’s a movie and I’m making sure you know about it. Whether you like it or not.
This one is called URBAN JUNGLE and was released by Xenon, so it has a trailer for THE LEGEND OF DOLEMITE at the beginning. It might be from 1989 or 1994, depending on which IMDb entry you trust (it seems to have two). I first found it under the title URBAN JUNGLE HARLEM (1994), and I looked up the director and was searching for a copy of his other movie HOMEBOYZ II: CRACK CITY (1989) until I watched a trailer for it which proved it was the same movie. Some of the weird things about that are
1) None of the people on the cover are in this movie or look like anybody in this movie
2) I never noticed any crack
3) I can’t find any evidence of a HOMEBOYZ I.
URBAN JUNGLE is the story of David (Brian Paul Stuart, BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE), a young man living in Harlem, working as a photographer “for the revolution” and also doing some unspecified job for a crime boss named Enrico (Blas Hernandez). Maybe they do sell crack, but I never saw any. Enrico works out of a dilapidated old church and has an unfuckwithable Native American enforcer in a bolo tie (didn’t catch the character’s name). (read the rest of this shit…)
Let’s say hypothetically you have a fondness for Burt Reynolds (HOOPER, CITY HEAT, regular HEAT, MALONE, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II and III) but you find it depressing that circumstances have conspired to make his filmography this century include films like A MAGIC CHRISTMAS (as the voice of “Buster the Dog”), NOT ANOTHER NOT ANOTHER MOVIE, DELGO and Uwe Bolle’s IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE. Well, then THE LAST MOVIE STAR is for you. Writer-director Adam Rifkin (THE DARK BACKWARD, PSYCHO COP RETURNS, THE CHASE, DETROIT ROCK CITY, writer of MOUSEHUNT and SMALL SOLDIERS) devised the movie as a love letter to Burt’s career and a chance to show that he’s a legit actor. He wrote it for him and told him he would only make it with him. I think he hoped it could be a career reviver or re-contextualizer like LOST IN TRANSLATION or something.
I guess it’s too late for that, because it’s out on video today and you probly never heard of it. But it kinda fits the subject matter to be a shabby little obscurity getting by on alot of heart. See, Burt plays 80 year old former six-years-in-a-row box office champ Vic Edwards. He still has money and a nice house, but he lives alone, hobbles around like he’s someone who won’t be walking for long, and people barely look at him anymore. He’s like a super hero who’s lost his powers. He can’t get what he wants by strutting around and smiling at women. He’s much more likely to creep them out than impress them.
The movie opens with a real clip of handsome, charming young Burt on TV telling a funny story, casually taking in the adulation of the audience, then smash cuts to Vic skinny and wrinkled and having to put his dog to sleep. (read the rest of this shit…)
Do you guys know who Roxanne Shanté is? In the early days of hip hop, back when it was still pretty much just a New York thing, she was one of the greatest battle MCs. And she was also a 14-year old girl. Marley Marl, the producer behind Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan, Kool G Rap, and others, was her neighbor in the Queensbridge housing projects. The way she tells it, one day when she was going to do her laundry he yelled down to her from his window to ask if it was true she could rap, and would she come up and record some rhymes for him. When he played her the beat that had been sampled in UTFO’s hit “Roxanne Roxanne,” she says she freestyled about being the Roxanne in the song. Ten minutes later she went back to the laundry and forgot all about it until her friend called and told her it was playing on the radio. And then it became a phenomenon.
I never knew much about her or heard that story until she was on Ice-T’s podcast three years ago. I actually wonder if that interview gave writer/director Michael Larnell the idea to make a movie about her. Either way, a bunch of the details she mentioned to Ice ended up in the biopic ROXANNE ROXANNE, which played Sundance in January and was released direct to Netflix on Friday.
I think Shanté’s story is more natural for a movie than your usual superstar music biopic it was more neighborhood legend than media event. I know her voice and style and “Roxanne’s Revenge” and some of the responses it inspired from rival female MCs, like when UTFO came back with someone calling herself “The Real Roxanne” added to the payroll. But she’s not like Johnny Cash or someone where they’re wedded to depicting the creation of all the most famous songs and their climbs up the charts and a bunch of iconic moments that people would be mad if they skipped. And there’s not a bunch of footage we’ve all seen a million times and can’t help but compare it to. (read the rest of this shit…)
The Loose Canon: BLOOD AND BONE (2009)
There have been two proud moments in my getting-close-to-20-years of writing about action movies when a truly special one appeared inconspicuously in the DTV market and I was the first person I’m aware of to point to it and say holy shit you guys, check this out. One was John Hyams’ UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION, which later gained attention from some of the more respectable critics thanks to its great and very arty followup UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING. The other is BLOOD AND BONE, directed by Ben Ramsey (LOVE AND A BULLET). I do think it has grown something of a following, but not the credit it deserves as a perfect showcase for an under-recognized star in peak form, or as a stone cold classic of its genre. Like another Michael-Jai-White-starring DTV favorite, UNDISPUTED II: LAST MAN STANDING, BLOOD AND BONE isn’t even available on region A Blu-Ray. What the fuck, video industry? Too badass for hi-def?
The ten year anniversary of BLOOD AND BONE is coming up next year, so I’m giving the rights-holders and the gatekeepers a heads up. I want to see a cool, respectful collector’s edition Blu-Ray with added extras and a painted cover and shit. I want to see theatrical screenings. I am positive this will play great with audiences. Make it happen. A parade would be cool too, but that’s negotiable. (read the rest of this shit…)