I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Post

THE POST is Spielberg’s newspaper movie. Specifically it’s about the Washington Post in 1971 struggling for relevance, banned from a first daughter wedding, in the process of taking an inherited family business public, when suddenly their more exalted rivals the New York Times get a court injunction for breaking the story of the Pentagon Papers (a secret study proving that the government had known for years that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable and stayed in just to put off the humiliation of a loss). Can The Post’s reporters get ahold of these Papers for themselves, will they have the balls to print a story about them, and will they get away with it? I think you know the answers, but tune in to find out how it goes down.

Like LINCOLN or MUNICH, this is one of Spielberg’s very good grown up movies that doesn’t necessarily light the world on fire, seems destined to be buried in his catalog of iconic classics, but gets some nice reviews and an “it’s an honor just to be nominated” slot in the best picture category at the Oscars. Another movie like that was BRIDGE OF SPIES, the year SPOTLIGHT won best picture. SPOTLIGHT was a good movie with a big cast doing great work in a story about the importance of journalists uncovering dangerous secrets and standing up to powerful institutions that have covered up their own complicity in atrocities. THE POST is all those things with the added bonus of being thrilling and cinematic. Spielberg might be doing a smart-people-talking-and-figuring-things-out movie, but he’s gonna do that with an eye for imagery, period detail, and visual explanations of processes: stealing and reproducing a massive document, puzzling together the order of said document when the pages get mixed up, delivering a message across town, creating the plates to actually print a newspaper, running the printing press, the list goes on.

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Victor Crowley

VICTOR CROWLEY is part 4 of the HATCHET series. Despite the title it’s not any kind of a reboot or a prequel or anything. Part I-II director Adam Green made it secretly and surprised fans with it at an event advertised to sound like a tenth anniversary screening of the first one, and it’s very much designed as a fun time for dedicated fans of the series and the people who buy t-shirts of Green’s dog  and stuff.

So the fact that I didn’t love it shouldn’t scare fans off, because it’s not really for me. I really liked part III, a final girl vs. slasher standoff cranked up to 11. This is more in the tradition of parts 1 and 2, with the quirky character business, broadly cartoonish performances and occasional over the top chopping and splattering of bodies, done with a scream and a wink. Also you got your cameos by horror people, though some of them just in cell phone footage this time. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thunder Run

THUNDER RUN is a Cannon-distributed movie with a wonderfully ridiculous sounding premise: a Korean war vet trucker has to drive a weaponized big rig full of plutonium at high speed as bait for a gang of nuclear terrorists. For some reason when I read the back of the VHS box it kind of sounded to me like a bullshit Hollywood blockbuster remake of THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY, the nihilistic indie movie that the main character is trying to make in Charles Willeford’s The Woman Chaser.

It’s kind of less awesome than it sounds but much more laid back and good hearted. It stars Forrest Tucker (FINAL CHAPTER: WALKING TALL) in his penultimate role (the last being the TV movie TIMESTALKERS) as Charlie Morrison, the nice old Nevada grandpa who’s in need of money to keep his Cobalt mine operating when he’s offered a quarter of a million dollars to make the run by his old war buddy George (John Ireland, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE).

The funny thing is it’s almost halfway into the movie by the time he actually leaves on the run. Some of that screen time is spent on preparations, but alot of it’s just shenanigans. For example, we get a whole sequence about the local drag racing scene. Charlie’s grandson Chris (John Shepherd, Tommy from FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING) races his shitty looking pickup truck and beats an out of towner in a sports car, trying to win money for Grandpa. Little does he know he won’t be needing it. This scene also introduces Chris’s group of friends including girlfriend Kim (Jill Whitlow, PORKY’S, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS), “electronics genius” Paul (Wallace Langham, SOUL MAN, COMBAT ACADEMY, THE SOCIAL NETWORK), who rigged the truck with nitrous oxide, and a hot blonde (Cheryl M. Lynn, maybe?) who lures the police away by driving up on a motorcycle and flipping them off. Of course she does that with an all black helmet and then takes it off and dramatically unfurls the hair so we will say “GASP! It’s a LADY!(read the rest of this shit…)

Supremacy

I can’t believe this actually happened, but I found out about a movie from a trailer on a DVD that I rented, and then I rented that movie. And it didn’t turn out to be a great movie but it was a fairly interesting one that I don’t think got any attention at all, so I might use this technique again.

SUPREMACY is the story of swastika-and-Confederate-flag-tattooed Aryan Brotherhood fucko Garrett Tully (Joe Anderson, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, THE CRAZIES, THE GREY, HERCULES, Mason Verger on Hannibal) who gets out on parole and on his first day out robs a convenience store, gets pulled over, and shoots a cop. So, with helicopters overhead and roadblocks all around he and Doreen, (Dawn Olivieri, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER), his white power associate assigned to pick him up from prison, break into a house and take a family hostage. As luck would have it the family are black, so there is quite a bit of tension and racial slurs here.

The head of the household is an ex-con himself, Mr. Walker (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2), who lives with his girlfriend Odessa (Lela Rochon, KNOCK OFF), her son Anthony (Evan Ross, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY 1-2), daughter Cassie (Robin Bobeau, “Excited Lady,” BAADASSSSS!) and grandson Jamar (Alex Henderson, Young Andre on Empire and Young Adonis in CREED) and a baby. Tully and Doreen point guns at them and hole them up in an upstairs bedroom and try to claim they’re being reasonable even as they threaten them and bring up dumb racist stereotypes and shit. So Mr. Walker has to find a way out of this. (read the rest of this shit…)

Undefeatable

After recycling his Richard Harrison footage across 25 ninja movies (see NINJA KILL), Chang Cheh assistant turned “Ed Wood of Hong Kong” Godfrey Ho made at least one movie that was shitty in an entertaining way. The proof is the English language, filmed in America UNDEFEATABLE (1994), sort of a poor man’s BLACKBELT, if such a thing is possible. Like that fun Roger Corman produced Don “The Dragon” Wilson vehicle, it combines martial arts with the slasher movie cliche of a deranged serial killer obsessed with his mommy. But this one has Cynthia Rothrock (NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 2).

The movie itself seems to think the star is some guy named John Miller, who was also in the Ho-directed Rothrock vehicle HONOR AND GLORY the same year (hmmm…) and then was apparently on 20 episodes of Homicide: Life On the Street, but uncredited, so I think he’s just a background guy at the department. Here he’s a supercop introduced with the traditional off-duty interruption of a convenience store robbery, or “just a couple of punks giving me a warmup” as he calls it, before breaking up an organized street fight and confiscating the winnings. He’s actually kind of a stick in the mud hassling fighters. It wasn’t until 35 minutes in when they showed him practicing with a staff that I realized he was a martial artist too.

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Ninja Kill

As I’m sure I’ve told you before, one advantage as well as disadvantage of the ancient tradition of the video store is that you find random weird stuff you weren’t looking for and end up renting it. This is how I became aware of NINJA KILL. Two of the reasons I rented NINJA KILL:

1. It’s called NINJA KILL

2: This is the cover:

Note the tagline: “BREAK NINJA LAW – SUFFER NINJA JUSTICE!” Words to live by, in my opinion.

This is the story of Ninja Master Gregory (Richard Harrison, HIGHWAY TO HELL) and how one day he’s sitting on top of a picnic table wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a friend from the ninja community comes to give him a tip about an impending assassination plot involving ninjas. He has to pay $5,000 for the information (interestingly he seems to be able to pay this with five bills) and then his informant is immediately killed by another member of his yellow-uniformed ninja clan. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mercenaries From Hong Kong

You know who had a hell of a studio? Those Shaw Brothers. As far as a company that develops a formula and evolves an artform into a recognizable “brand,” those guys were tops. Within their voluminous catalog are hundreds of period martial arts films, including some of the best ever made, THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN and THE 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER being my favorites of the small percentage I’ve seen. I’m sure I’ll be watching these for the rest of my life and never see all of the good ones or get tired of their approach.

But it’s still a special treat, an exotic delicacy, a rare limited edition collectors item when you see one that breaks out of the usual template. For example I love SUPER INFRA-MAN, their version of a kaiju movie. MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG – the third film directed by Wong Jing, who recently did CHASING THE DRAGON with Donnie Yen – isn’t as unique as that, but it’s a beautiful thing: the talents of the Shaw Studios stunt teams and choreographers applied to a contemporary ’80s story with guns, grenades and motor vehicles. It came out in 1982, same year as FIRST BLOOD, but seems to predict that post-RAMBO-2 period with its Vietnam vets putting the team back together and returning to the jungle to fight drug lords. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as Sammo Hung’s amazing EASTERN CONDORS, but it’s a similar vibe of seeing tropes we love from American action being elaborated upon using techniques unique to Hong Kong cinema. (read the rest of this shit…)

Happy Death Day

HAPPY DEATH DAY is a nice little high concept horror movie. 90 minutes, fast paced, upbeat. When I first saw the teaser I thought “I can’t believe nobody’s thought to do that before!” and sure enough these people did it ably.

See, it’s GROUNDHOG DAY meets a slasher movie (specifically SCREAM 2 I would say). Oddly named sorority girl Tree (Jessica Rothe, LA LA LAND) wakes up hung over on her birthday in the dorm room of some geek she barely knows. She shame-walks out of there in her shoulderless sequin blouse, squinting at the bright sun, and goes through a busy day (rushed changing of clothes, late for class, awkward run-ins with guys, sorority meeting, avoiding her dad, attempted tryst with a teacher) before being stabbed to death by an unknown person in a baby mask (weird school mascot, good slasher mask). And then she wakes up in that dorm again, on her birthday again. So she has to keep re-living this day, but also solve her own murder so that maybe she can see tomorrow. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kickboxer: Retaliation

I don’t know what I was expecting from KICKBOXER: RETALIATION, the new sequel to 2016’s KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, which was a remake of the 1989 Cannon classic KICKBOXER. I waited for midnight Thursday to watch it on V.O.D. as soon as it became available, so clearly I was excited. But I didn’t think it was gonna be this good.

The original Kurt Sloane, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, only made it to his part 2 in the form of a body double unceremoniously shot to death in an alley, leaving three sequels to a never-mentioned-before Sloane brother played by Sasha Mitchell. The remake Kurt Sloane, played by stuntman Alain Moussi, gets to stick around. A different Van Damme character, Sloane’s mentor Master Durand, does survive for the sequel and continues to be the heart and soul of the series.

I love when sequels open with the character we know suddenly in a whole different place and life situation. My go-to example is RAMBO III, where we find John living in a temple in Thailand, winning underground stick fights for money. But this is more like a TEMPLE OF DOOM opening because we find Kurt in a tux, sexy salsa dancing with his now-wife Liu (Sara Malakul Lane, Seagal’s daughter in BELLY OF THE BEAST) on a train at night. They get attacked and he has to slow-motion fight some people, including on top of the train in pouring rain as it crosses a bridge, until they all fall off. (read the rest of this shit…)

Showdown in Manila

SHOWDOWN IN MANILA is the latest from Alexander Nevsky, the Russian bodybuilder turned b-movie actor who starred in and directed BLACK ROSE. This one is the directing debut of Mark Dacascos and it’s much more fun and ambitious than that last one, largely due to an EXPENDABLES-worthy cast of action icons.

Nevsky plays Nick Peyton, the leader of some sort of elite police strikeforce thing in Manila. In the prologue he leads a police raid and his whole team are wearing those giant helmets like in THE RAID – except for him, even though he’s 1-3 heads taller than all of them. Standing there ready to take it like a lightning rod. He doesn’t get shot in the head, but does get shot and fails to apprehend two ultimate b-action bad guys: Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (L.A. TAKEDOWN, KICKBOXER 2, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO, MORTAL KOMBAT, BRIDGE OF DRAGONS) and Matthias Hues (NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 2, I COME IN PEACE, BLACKBELT, MISSION OF JUSTICE, TALONS OF THE EAGLE, TC 2000). C-HT in particular looks like he’s enjoying the hell out of just strutting around in tropical gangster clothes being arrogant.

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