THE AVENGERS PART 2 is probly the most comic bookiest comic book movie achieved by mankind so far, which is to say that most of the action scenes have like 15 different supermen and secret agents and shit flipping around shooting magic beams and power waves and explosive arrows and laser things and doing super punches and alley ooping each other and what not as they fight against an army of flying wiseass robots. There are two main characters who wear capes, one that turns into a giant monster, one that’s from a viking fantasy dimension or whatever, at least two that fly of their own accord and two using the jets on their power suits, one that moves faster than sound and another that does mind control and shoots red, uh… magic I guess?… from her hands. It’s not played exactly “gritty” but it’s not a joke either. It means it.
After writer/director Joss Whedon (SPEED)’s masterful job of combining all the different Marvel characters into one supergroup in part 1, he has an even bigger miracle to pull off, and ends up with more mixed results. Because after you’ve managed the trick of combining all these worlds and characters into one coherent movie (which honestly I didn’t believe could be done), the challenge is how do you do it again and make it seem new again and bigger this time but not worse? And the answer is “it’s hard to say.” (read the rest of this shit…)
Everly (Salma Hayek) is one of these sex slaves who doesn’t know Liam Neeson or Tony Jaa, so she has to take justice into her own hands. Her movie starts right in the thick of things, but we quickly start to piece some of her story together: she’s been kept woman to a Yakuza for four years, taken away from her young daughter, and she can’t stand it anymore. She had an escape planned with a police officer she trusted, but he hasn’t shown up. Now she’s here in the bathroom with one stashed gun and a bag full of money, so she can either kill herself or take that one opportunity that Eminem talks about in that one song.
In a way this is a DIE HARD type movie. It’s one person fighting off many criminals in a contained location, in this case the fancy apartment she’s been stuck in. It’s even Christmas time, though she is not bare foot, so in that sense it’s more like DIE HARD 2. And she can fight better than we probly could, but it’s all tenacity, she’s not a super woman. She gets shot, cut, stabbed, she cries, she messes up, but she keeps fighting. (read the rest of this shit…)
Here’s one of those classical science fictional tales, like THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU or JURASSIC PARK, where an outsider comes to a remote estate or island and sees the game-changing technological breakthrough of an eccentric genius working outside of the constraints of societal and ethical norms. You know what, I’m gonna go ahead and make the generalization that if a helicopter is required to get to the location of the experiment then you’re in trouble. That’s what I’ve learned.
Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson, TRUE GRIT) is a lowly code-writer for the giant search engine Bluebook who wins a contest and/or is mysteriously summoned to spend two weeks with the reclusive company founder Nathan (Oscar Isaac, THE NATIVITY STORY) at a high tech laboratory/compound/bachelor pad out in The Middle of Fuckin Nowhere, Norway. It turns out here’s there because Nathan has built an artificially intelligent robot and wants someone to talk to it and test if he considers it to be conscious or not. (read the rest of this shit…)
SKIN TRADE (actually written as SKINTRADE on screen) is the long-awaited passion project of Dolph Lundgren, who produced and wrote the screenplay with Gabriel Dowrick (an editor and sometimes director) and Steven Elder (an actor who was in GALLOWWALKERS). Over the years Dolph had sometimes planned to direct it himself, sometimes not to act in it, at one point possibly to have Steven Seagal co-star. Eventually he handed over the reins to Ekachai Uekrongtham, director of BEAUTIFUL BOXER and PLEASURE FACTORY, which is about the sex industry in Singapore. To Dolph SKIN TRADE is an attempt to raise awareness about the problem of sex trafficking. For me it is an achievement in having a movie that stars Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa and Michael Jai White.
Dolph plays Nick Cassidy, an NYPD detective who gets himself into trouble by gunning down Serbian gangster Dragovic (Ron Perlman, sort of reprising his character from POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW)’s prettiest son two seconds after he yells “I will prove to you… I AM MY FATHER’S SON!”
Just another day on the job, you would think, but next thing you know some dudes fire an RPG into Nick’s living room window and he wakes up in the hospital with the side of his face melted and no wife or daughter in his burned down house.
Meanwhile Tony Jaa plays Tony, an undercover cop on a crusade against Dragovic’s sex slavery ring in Cambodia and Thailand. We first meet him wearing a nice suit and being threatened at gunpoint to have sex with a young kidnapped child. He fakes like he’s gonna do it but instead he pulls out his belt to use as a weapon to beat up every sorry sex slaving piece of garbage in the room and dangle their cowering leader (Gigi Velicitat, ELEPHANT WHITE, THE MARINE 2, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN LI) off the side of the building until he tells them where their next shipment of human cargo is headed. And then he drops him anyway. The guy probly shouldn’t have offered him that freebie on sex slaves in my opinion. That was his mistake. (read the rest of this shit…)
You may know that there is a movie called SKIN TRADE starring Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Ron Perlman and Peter Weller that just came to V.O.D. and will have a limited theatrical release in a few weeks. If you’re in L.A. and want to see it on the big screen I’m told there’s going to be a premiere at the Egyptian on May 6th.
Oh yeah, and with DOLPH MOTHERFUCKING LUNDGREN and TONY GOD DAMN JAA in attendance. Subject to change, I’m sure, but that’s what I’ve been told. And I have not been told this but I fully expect Jaa to ride in on an elephant and for Dolph to be carrying the dead Apollo Creed over his shoulder and wearing the He-Man costume.
Here’s the link for tickets. Apparently if it goes well there may be more of this type of screening, which would be good for you guys and for America.
I’ll post my review of SKIN TRADE on Monday morning.
STALKING DANGER is the video title for C.A.T. SQUAD, a 1986 TV movie directed by William Friedkin. You can tell it’s TV by the cheap video titles, the 4:3 composition (even though it’s shot by Wes Anderson’s Academy Award nominated cinematographer, Robert Yeoman) and the “guest starring” in the credits, but otherwise it’s very cinematic. It even has a blood-pumping score by Ennio Morricone.
This is another secret agent counter-terror thing, with badass Doc Burkholder (the Michael Douglas-esque Joe Cortese) appointed to put together his own team to catch an assassin called Carlos (Eddie Velez, THE HUNTED, BLACK DAWN). It’s not supposed to be Carlos the Jackal, by the way, just standard, human Carlos I believe.
We know who the guy is because we watch him come in disguised as a priest, see how he sets up in a tower, crosses himself after he snipes the guy, gets away. And possibly we realize that the reason he looks so familiar is because he played “Dishpan” Frankie Santana, the best special effects man in Hollywood who joined the A-Team in the last season. But if not we are excited to learn that from IMDb.
Then we switch to Doc going around recruiting each member of his group (always a favorite part of this type of story), following leads, doing surveillance, poring over the photos, comparing everything to what else they know. ZERO DARK THIRTY shit. Eventually they catch on that it’s this guy and they go look for him. They follow him on the street, he tries to lose them down alleys, goes through different apartments and out the back door, that kind of stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is being called “the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western,” but only the “vampire” part is strictly accurate. For one thing, it doesn’t have much in common with spaghetti westerns other than the setting of a barren, quiet town and a scene with some obvious Morricone-inspired music. As for the other part, it is true that the characters are all Iranian and the dialogue is in Persian, and it takes place in Iran. It’s interesting because it looks very different from how you expect the landscape of Iran to look, it will really change your idea of what that place is like. In my opinion that’s because it was filmed outside of Bakersfield, California, where Iranian-American writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour grew up.
So I think technically it’s an American movie made in America by Americans for American audiences, but obviously what I have described here is an uncommon cross-cultural mix, which does give the movie a certain flavor. And it needs that flavor, ’cause there’s not that much soup here.
The title refers to “The Girl” (Sheila Vand), a quiet, lonely young vampire woman who from some angles looks strikingly like Winona Ryder. She wears a striped shirt and a black veil, which cuts quite an image in the film’s nice black and white cinematographism by Lyle Vincent (Sesame Street: Elmo Visits the Doctor) as she spookily skulks in the shadows and follows people or just stands there watching them like a creep or a Michael Meyers or an it follows. (read the rest of this shit…)
My friends, I don’t know about you, but I count myself lucky to live in a world where one of my favorite hip hop producers, the RZA, not only got to write, direct and star in a legit kung fu movie, but got to do a DTV sequel directed by one of the leaders of the form (Roel Reiné, THE MARINE 2, DEATH RACE 2–3, SCORPION KING 3, 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED). If I somehow slipped and fell into an alternate dimension that’s okay. I’m not going back.
Filmed in Thailand with about a third of the first film’s budget, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2 is much more normal and low key than the first one, I want to warn you of that up front. There are fewer colorful gimmicks, no crazy Russell Crowe performance, comparably grounded (both literally and figuratively) martial arts, and no mention of the cliffhanger from the director’s cut where I think he had to team up with the X-Blade to save his wife that got snatched by the Falcon Clan and put in a big nest on top of a mountain or something like that. But for me it’s still a very enjoyable sequel because it maintains the most important ingredient: the complete sincerity of the RZA. (read the rest of this shit…)
FORTRESS is one of those rare b-movie (or B+ movie?) gems that you come across every once in a while that has everything: good cast, great gimmicks, unexpected emotion and substance, cyborgs. It’s a 1993 sci-fi action movie, but clearly without a summer blockbuster budget, so it feels somewhere between Paul Verhoeven and ROBOT JOX. And that makes sense, because it’s the same director. Man, why did I never see this before? Didn’t I know it was a Christopher Lambert movie directed by Stuart Gordon? Don’t I believe in the auteur theory?
Lambert plays Brennick, an ex-soldier (“the most decorated captain of the Black Berets, yet you quit in disgrace…”) busted with his pregnant wife Karen (Loryn Locklin) trying to sneak out of the country because it’s illegal to give birth twice. They both end up at the Fortress, a giant underground, privately owned prison. The convicts become property of the Men-Tel Corporation and used for prison labor. Their job: to keep building further into the ground, making more room for more convicts to build even further. That’s my favorite concept in the movie because it so deviously illustrates the problem of the prison industrial complex. Zed-10, the computer program that runs the place (voice of the director’s wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon), keeps saying the Men-Tel slogan “Crime does not pay.” But of course for them it does. (read the rest of this shit…)