So once again we have survived.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage teaser

Okay, I didn’t actually like xXx very much at the time, and I kind of condescendingly liked-did-not-love xXx: STATE OF THE UNION. But somehow I’m really fucking excited for this one. All those years ago Vin Diesel turned down the sequels to THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and xXx, but when he came back to the former he helped grow it into a series greater than even early adopters could’ve imagined. He’s taken his sweet time getting back to Xander Cage, and I kinda doubt they were begging him, so this is something he’s passionate about. And I believe this time he can live up to the absurd premise. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ghostbusters (2016)

tn_ghostbusters16GHOSTBUSTERS was a popular movie in 1984 and we still remember it and it has a good logo and it’s 2016 so obviously there’s a remake. Luckily they chose director Paul Feig, who has gotten big laughs with BRIDESMAIDS, THE HEAT and SPY, and he brought along past collaborators Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, plus current SNL cast members Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to bust open those ghosts and devour their delicious green centers or whatever it is that ghostbusters do.

Like in the original, the ghosts and the quasi-science of busting are pretty much presented with a straight face. I guess come to think of it it’s the ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN method. For this one it’s all digital FX, from what I can tell, but that works well for these glowing, floating, rotting, transforming, transparent entities. It’s kind of a retro Haunted Mansion type of ghost I guess, not the type you’d expect to see in a James Wan movie or something like that.

Then within this story (scripted by Feig with co-writer Katie Dippold) of some unorthodox scientists starting a ghost extermination business and uncovering a plot to summon evil spirits to New York City there is comedic riffing. The jokes come at a much faster rate than the original, so even in the scare-based opening scene there are some big laugh lines. I think this is a wise approach since they’re not working with a new concept this time around. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ghostbusters (1984)

summer2016originstn_ghostbustersGHOSTBUSTERS (1984) is the story of three male scientists – Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray – who live and work in New York City and specialize in studying the supernatural. They lose their grant at the college just because the uptight higher ups notice that they are bringing great shame and humiliation upon the institution by wasting everyone’s time and money on an area of study that is not real. And that’s without even knowing that Murray (WILD THINGS) doesn’t totally believe in it and spends his days doing fake telepathy tests just to hit on women.

So they decide to lease a beat up old fire station and start a scrappy new business that treats exorcism like pest control and advertises on TV and what not. Lucky for them they are correct, it turns out ghosts are real and there are a couple actual hauntings going on in the city. A female client (Sigourney Weaver, ABDUCTION) comes to their male offices with a huge case: her refrigerator is a portal to a ghost dimension or some shit and she and her neighbor (Rick Moranis, STREETS OF FIRE) get possessed and an ancient Sumerian god named Gozer (Slavitz Jovan, KNIGHT OF CUPS) appears on top of the building and they have to shoot lasers at it, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kickboxer: Vengeance trailer

I’m excited about this one. KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE is a remake of KICKBOXER, and it for sure is a new franchise because they’re about to start shooting a sequel called KICKBOXER: RETALIATION. In this one, Alan Moussi (stunt double for Henry Cavill in IMMORTALS, The Miz in THE MARINE 3, Jason Clarke in WHITE HOUSE DOWN, Hugh Jackman in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE and Jai Courtney in SUICIDE SQUAD) takes on the JCVD role of Kurt Sloan, whose brother (now played by the late Darren Shahlavi) is paralyzed (now killed I bet) in the ring by the vicious Thai fighter Tong Po, originally played by Van Damme’s friend Michel Qissi, now the great Dave Bautista (credited as David here, so it’s his serious actor role I think). (read the rest of this shit…)

The BFG

tn_bfgTHE BFG is the latest BFD from Steven Spielberg (E.T., A.I.) and it’s an LSM (Lesser Spielberg Movie), but still won me over PDQ. Based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the CF, James and the GP, The Fantastic MF), it’s the story of a 24-foot tall individual (Mark Rylance, BLITZ, BRIDGE OF SPIES) whose thing is he comes into town at 3 a.m. with a trumpet that blows dreams into people. But this time he’s seen by Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a little night owl girl at an orphanage, and he doesn’t want her to burn his whole operation so he reaches into her window, picks her up in his palm and absconds with her to Giant Country.

I love the way this giant sneaks into town. It’s not one of those things where he’s invisible to people who don’t believe in him or something. No, he just comes in late at night and knows how to hide when people are around. He wears a cloak that he wraps around himself and he’ll move into the shadows, curl up on the bed of a truck or stand in the shape of a tree. I like that it’s not all that convincing of a tree, because it shows that there could be crazy shit going on right under our noses that we just don’t notice because we’re not looking for it. Nobody expects giants. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Legend of Tarzan

tn_legendoftarzanI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: THANK YOU studios for continuing to make these expensive old-timey adventure character movies even though they are always financially disastrous. I for one appreciate the gesture!

Of this type of movie, Gore Verbinski’s THE LONE RANGER is far and away the most entertaining and masterful. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is closer to the level of the last major Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation, Andrew Stanton’s JOHN CARTER. It’s a little slicker than that one, but also a little more normal since it takes place on Earth with Earth type animals. Yet it’s not what I expected at all. It knows that you already know the basics about Tarzan, so it tries to walk that delicate line of giving you a different spin without sacrificing the classic Tarzan shit you expect. It also tries to capture some of the feel of stories written a hundred years ago while looking at matters of race, gender and culture with today’s eyes. And it does these things fairly successfully.

In the opening we meet Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, THE GREEN HORNET), a cruel Belgian mercenary searching for the fabled diamonds of Opar, and Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou, AMISTAD, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE), a menacing cheetah-masked Chief willing to trade the diamonds for the capture of his greatest enemy, name-withheld-but-cut-to-the-title-THE-LEGEND-OF-TARZAN®. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Neon Demon

tn_neondemonNicolas Winding Refn had been around for years before he draped Ryan Gosling in that silver scorpion jacket and became such a name among the movie savvy that he can get a John Hyams remake of MANIAC COP funded and put his initials on the beginning and end of his movies like they’re monogrammed towels. He’d had international acclaim for the PUSHER trilogy and VALHALLA RISING, but DRIVE was such a perfect balance of effective crime drama, zeitgeisty nostalgia and style, and arthouse indulgence that it became a bonafide cultural moment. And he’s been trying to punish us for it ever since.

I like that he lets his freak flag fly, and while most of my friends couldn’t hang with his follow-up ONLY GOD FORGIVES, it really spoke to me with its odd mix of revenge story deconstruction, broken martial arts movie structure and feverish surrealism. His latest, NEON DEMON, swerves even further off the road of logic and coherence in its exploration of the world of young models in L.A.

Elle Fanning (MALEFICENT, SUPER 8, THE NUTCRACKER IN 3D, SOMEWHERE), somehow looking five years younger and more naive than in whatever movie I saw her in last, plays Jesse, a newcomer to town trying to find gigs. Makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone, INHERENT VICE, SUCKER PUNCH) latches onto her after a shoot and introduces her to Gigi (Bella Heathcote, DARK SHADOWS) and Sarah (Abbey Lee, the Dag from FURY ROAD, also in GODS OF EGYPT), more experienced models who respond with jealousy and cruelty when the gatekeepers start treating her as something special. (read the rest of this shit…)

Independence Day: Resurgence

tn_idra.k.a. ID4-2:RSRG1of3

In case you skipped my INDEPENDENCE DAY review last week: For me, a connoisseur of the summer blockbuster, its release twenty years ago was a dark time. It was one of the earliest cases of the widespread “It’s not supposed to be Shakespeare!” defense in the internet age, and one of the first times I felt wildly out of step with the popular opinion on a movie like that. I already thought JURASSIC PARK was no JAWS but here people were forgetting that a blockbuster movie of that quality had come out just a few summers earlier. Apparently these expensive studio sci-fi romps could only be idiotic and painfully unfunny and if I couldn’t jump up and down hooting and hollering about any dumb bullshit that they decided to put on screens then I was the asshole.

20 years later I’m softer on it. I still think it sucks, but it’s a funny sucks. And I’ve been able to laugh through other equally terrible (though never as societally elevated) Roland Emmerich pictures including 2012. As long as we’re talking about him as a back-up Rob Cohen, not what we have now instead of James Cameron or George Lucas, I can appreciate him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Independence Day

President Whitmore (right) confers with the Chief of Staff's ex-husband's dad
President Whitmore (right) confers with the Chief of Staff’s ex-husband’s dad

summer2016originsWhen Roland Emmerich’s INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE landed (get it, like a space ship [although I guess technically these ones never land, so forget it, I retract that pun]) in theaters 20 years after the first one was a smash hit in the summer of ’96, people were asking if the first one held up. Trick question! It was never good. If there’s any way it’s a classic it’s as a classic example of a summer blockbuster that’s a huge hit, but unworthy to join RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, TERMINATOR 2, etc. in the pantheon.

Let me put it this way: It’s a movie made by people who thought five syllables was too unwieldy for a title, but two was too small, and therefore it should be referred to by the half-sensical abbreviation “ID4.” That’s not normal people thinking. That’s pure Emmerich. And I think it’s fair to say that only Emmerich (with his then writing/producing partner Dean Devlin, an actor from MOON 44) could’ve, or at least would’ve, made this movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ghostwatch

tn_ghostwatchsummer2016originsGHOSTWATCH is a famous 1992 BBC Halloween special which, like THE CONJURING 2, is based on the alleged ghosting incident known as “The Enfield Poltergeist.” A mom and her two young daughters claimed to have a ghost they could hear knocking on the walls and bending their spoons and stuff. And there really was no way to disprove that this was a ghost, other than that they caught the kids faking it. Still, other than that, 100% for sure it was real ghosts and worthy of multiple true story movies and books.

While THE CONJURING goes through the motions of pretending to be based on a true story, GHOSTWATCH goes the extra mile and pretends to be a documentary. It takes the form of a live broadcast with an in-studio host (Michael Parkinson as himself), on a corny set decorated with skulls and crystal balls, interviewing a doctor (Gillian Bevan) who’s supposed to have investigated the case. They have a bunch of screens to go via satellite to the house, where a reporter (Sarah Greene as herself) and camera crew are with the family talking about their story and hoping to document ghost activity. Also Red Dwarf‘s Craig Charles (playing himself) is the wacky comic relief reporter on the scene outside the house. And in the studio they also have a phone bank and take calls about people’s ghost stories and stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)