KEEP BUSTIN'

Radioland Murders

tn_radiolandlucasminusstarwarsRADIOLAND MURDERS is a retro comedy, a madcap murder mystery taking place in 1939 as a Chicago radio station has a gala live broadcast performed in front of an audience and a room full of big shot affiliates waiting to be impressed. There’s a big band and actors doing adventure shows and commercials while the writers, directors and sound engineers scramble to have something on the air after the boss just tossed out all of their scripts. Meanwhile, writer Roger (Brian Benben, I COME IN PEACE) is pathetically trying to woo back his wife Penny (Mary Stuart Masterson, GARDENS OF STONE), who thinks he cheated on her. It was a misunderstanding, but he’s too much of a doofus to make her understand.

And then he becomes the #1 suspect when people in the station start turning up dead. So he has to avoid the police, solve the mystery, convince his wife and finish some scripts. Kind of a rough day for him.

The DVD cover brags about an “All star cast!,” which is stretching it, but the huge ensemble cast does include an impressive lineup of character actors, some of them better known now than they were then. You also got Ned Beatty, Brion James (BLADE RUNNER, 48 HOURS), Michael Lerner (MANIAC COP 2), Michael McKean, Jeffrey Tambor, Stephen Tobolowsky, Christopher Lloyd, Larry Miller (FOODFIGHT!), Corbin Bernsen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dylan Baker, Robert Klein and Harvey Korman (The Star Wars Holiday Special). Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins of the AMERICAN GRAFFITI saga show up together. Since there’s sort of a variety show going on at the center of it there are appearances by Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, Joey Lawrence (as a dreamy crooner) and even Billy Barty (WILLOW). Also Gary Anthony Williams, the voice of Uncle Ruckus on The Boondocks, made his first movie appearance. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

tn_youngindylucasminusstarwarsThe Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was an ABC TV show that ran from 1992-1993. I never saw an episode. I still haven’t, because the version that’s on video is called The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones and it’s re-edited. According to legend (as well as Wikipedia) the Chronicles were hour long episodes about Indiana Jones as a young man having adventures and/or chronicles in different exotic locations. The stories would jump around in time, so sometimes it would be Sean Patrick Flanery (BOONDOCK SAINTS) as teen/early-twenties Indy, sometimes it would be Corey Carrier (school band cymbal player in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK) as 8-10 year old Indy. And the episodes would be bookended by George Hall (BIG DADDY) as 93-year-old Indy (with eye patch) remembering the stories.

Wait a minute – that would mean in the then-present day? I always think of him in the WWII era, but it turns out he stuck around a while. Think about that. Indiana Jones was around for Woodstock, for disco, for “We Are the World,” for “Baby Got Back.” If he had grand kids there might’ve been an Indiana Jones and the Elusive Cabbage Patch Doll adventure one Christmas. None of this is covered in the show though.

The first season (1992) was 6 episodes, the second season they made 22, but only aired 18 before cancelling it. Then from 1994-1996 they followed it up with four TV movies for the Family Channel. Finally, in 1999 they paired up the hour long episodes, plus a couple new ones, and re-edited them into movies, which came out on VHS and later DVD. One major change was to remove all the segments with 93 year-old Indy, so you never get to see Indiana Jones in contemporary situations, like the one where he tells the story of his teenage love of cars after seeing a monster truck at the gas station.

(Do you think they said if Indy went to movies when he was in his 90s? Do you think he saw UNDER SIEGE?) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Look of Silence

tn_lookofsilenceI’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, THE ACT OF KILLING was, unexpectedly, one of the best movies I’d ever seen. And you might’ve said then, and might say now, “Okay, yeah, I heard I should see that, but did you say it was a documentary about genocide in Indonesia, and how the people that did it are still in power and treated as heroes and talk openly about what they did as if it’s something to brag about?”

Yeah, okay, when you put it that way it sounds like not a good thing to watch on a Friday night. But sometimes it’s good to learn about the bad things in this world, and there are worse ways to do that than watching an absolutely fascinating, gorgeously shot film that works as an expose, a parable about the power of cinema, and a dark, sick, you-would-be-buckled-over-laughing-if-it-wasn’t-such-a-nightmare joke about the mundanity of evil. Parts of it play like a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but it’s real footage of actual war criminals trying to make a weird art movie glorifying their own atrocities.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s followup is a companion piece that’s less surreal, more intimate, but similarly profound. He continues on the same topic, but instead of focusing on the perpetrators he goes back to his original idea of following one of the survivors. To me that sounds like it would lose the unique hang-out-in-the-living-room-of-evil, give-them-enough-rope-to-hang-themselves power of the first movie, but it ends up being just as impressive because of the amazing person they focus on. (read the rest of this shit…)

Close Range

tn_closerangeCLOSE RANGE is the new one from the DTV action power team of star Scott Adkins and director Isaac Florentine. That’s an event because it’s been two years since NINJA 2, and it seems like longer.

I think this is Adkins’ gruffest performance without a Russian accent (he plays American). This time his character Colton MacReady is

1) an ex-Special Forces guy who’s
2) now on the run because he
3) “disobeyed an order that would’ve disgraced him and his uniform” and then
4) “put his superior officer in the hospital” so
5) “He’s been on the run ever since.”

That’s a backstory that could’ve been created with a refrigerator magnet set of action movie cliches, but I’m not against that. Those are good magnets. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ip Man 3

tn_ipman3I’ve watched and enjoyed all the movies made about Ip Man so far, but IP MAN 3 is the first one I’ve seen on the big screen. A really big screen at a multiplex with only four other people in the audience. I feel like I should send AMC a thank you card.

After three years Donnie Yen returns to what has become one of his greatest roles, the real life Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, most famous here as a guy who taught Bruce Lee. Director Wilson Yip (SPL/KILL ZONE) and writer Edmond Wong (DRAGON TIGER GATE) also return, but the great fight choreographer Sammo Hung has been replaced by the also great Yuen Woo Ping. The weird thing about that is that Yuen did Wong Kar Wai’s rival Ip Man movie THE GRANDMASTER.

Part 2 took place in the early ’50s, with Ip Man and his family moving to Hong Kong, where he set up a Wing Chun school. Now it’s ’59 and he’s still living humbly in a small apartment with his wife (still played by Lynn Hung) and youngest son. We don’t really see him teaching anymore but apparently he is because he still has all his fiercely loyal disciples, and he’s getting into trouble with the wife and the kid’s school (math and reading type school, not fighting) for always working too late.

Once again this story involves a public challenge by another martial arts teacher trying to prove superiority over the local legend. This time it’s not a different style against Wing Chun, it’s a guy saying that he has pure Wing Chun and Ip Man is peddling some bullshit watered down autotune Wing Chun. This guy shouldn’t be fuckin with Ip Man, but he’s a sympathetic enough character that I didn’t initially realize he was gonna be the antagonist. (read the rest of this shit…)

Livid

tn_lividLIVID is from the writer-directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who did INSIDE, an incredibly intense movie even before it turns envelope-pushing brutal. That was one of those rare movies that actually made my heart beat faster. So I looked forward to seeing their next movie… and then the Weinsteins brought it. “We are thrilled to be back in business with Julien and Alex and couldn’t be more excited to help bring their frightening vision to fans everywhere,” said Bob Weinstein in a press release. I bet they actually could’ve been more excited, because that was 2011 and they still haven’t brought their frightening vision to fans anywhere. I think they’re considering an American remake. While they ponder maybe doing that some day for some reason the team went on to do another one called AMONG THE LIVING and a segment of THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 and an upcoming Texas Chain Saw prequel called LEATHERFACE that will hopefully be better than it sounds. Meanwhile, four-years-old LIVID sits on the Weinstein’s Fuck You, It’s Ours trophy shelf. So I gave up waiting and rented the old region 2 DVD from France.

This is the story of Lucie (Chloe Coulloud) on her first day as a trainee helping Mrs. Wilson (Catherine Jacob) on her rounds taking care of elderly people, checking up on them, giving them their meds and stuff. Lucie, who kinda reminds me of Scarlett Johansson when she was a little younger, impresses Mrs. Wilson by taking to it well, even knowing how to administer shots. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Revenant

tn_revenantRight now THE REVENANT (from executive producer Brett Ratner) is being marketed as an Important Awards Contender type movie. It’s the year’s most Oscar-nominated film and the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama, so until THE BIG SHORT won the Producer’s Guild award the other day it seemed like the frontrunner for the coveted title of Answer To Trivia Question About Which Lesser Movie Got Best Picture Instead Of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

It’s the latest from Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the least fun of the Three Amigos, but the one who got best picture, director and screenplay last year for BIRDMAN. He’s also a guy who talks real passionately and is charming in interviews, but in print or out of context can sound like a pretentious asshole, for example when he said that his excellent new western is not a western because it transcends pathetic human genre:

“Western is in a way a genre, and the problem with genres is that it comes from the word ‘generic’, and I feel that this film is very far from generic.”

(Genre actually comes from the French word for ‘kind’ or ‘type’.)

But fuck all that. That’s a distraction. On its own, THE REVENANT is the kind/type/genre of pure, undiluted, immersive filmatism that I love. Unafraid to go long stretches without dialogue, or to have the minimal exposition mumbled through an unintelligible accent, it plunges us into a world (1823 fur trappers and hunters under siege by Arikara Indians) and doesn’t give us any instructions on how to get home. It trusts that the dense atmosphere and simple, action-based narrative will lead the way. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lila & Eve

tn_lilaandeveI had to give LILA & EVE a shot because of my love of different types of vigilante revenge movies. In this one the titleational duo are two women (Viola Davis [from the JESSE STONE movies] as Lila, Jennifer Lopez as Eve) who meet in a support group for mothers of murdered children and decide to ignore the group’s core principle of learning to accept what you can’t change.

Like Neil Jordan’s THE BRAVE ONE with Jodie Foster, this tries to lean harder on the respectable drama side than the satisfying DEATH WISH one. Lila’s son was killed in a drive-by shooting, most likely not meant for him. When she waits around all day to talk to the detective in charge (Shea Whigham, FAST & FURIOUS) he doesn’t even recognize her. They discuss the lack of progress in front of a picture of a dead white cheerleader who has her own task force.

But Eve won’t have it. She pushes Lila to go out to the block where it happened, find the criminals that work there, question them, work their way up the ladder until they find who did it. During their first parking lot confrontation the guy pulls a gun and Eve shoots him. Now they’re killers. She takes his phone and uses what she finds on it for further detective work. (read the rest of this shit…)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

tn_lastcrusadelucasminusstarwarsINDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE is the third one, and it’s the one that deals with that Holy Grail of elusive treasures, the Holy Grail. We find Indy’s father Henry Sr. was after it his whole life and getting real close and has a notebook full of clues he’s found and now he’s kidnapped. So Indy has to find his pops and hide that book from the Nazis and also there’s some guys sworn to protect the Grail who try to stop him.

Sr. is of course played by Sean Connery, and maybe that’s an in-joke because Spielberg did RAIDERS when he wanted a Bond type movie to do, but Connery doesn’t play him like 007. He plays him as a dork. He kinda acts like a little boy and wears a bow tie and tweed vest and is often in comical positions like riding in the sidecar of Indy’s motorcycle. Whenever Indy has to fight somebody, his dad has a look of admiration. He had no idea his kid could t. c. of b. like that.

The lady this time, Elsa (Alison Doody, A VIEW TO A KILL), is much, much, much more tolerable than TEMPLE OF DOOM‘s Willie Scott, which turns out to be a bummer when (spoiler) we find out that she’s a Nazi. Not only that but she managed to bone both generations of Joneses (a plot point requested by Connery). Which is her right, but kinda gross, right? I personally don’t think she’s right for Indy.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Land Before Time

tn_landbeforetimelucasminusstarwarsTHE LAND BEFORE TIME is a good example of a movie legacy destroyed by a “franchise.” Throughout the ’90s the name was synonymous with candy-colored sing-along babysitters in clamshells thanks to thirteen straight to video sequels (THE LAND BEFORE TIME XIV: JOURNEY OF THE BRAVE starring Damon Wayans Jr. and Reba McEntire drops February 2nd – not a joke), and 26 episodes of a TV series. So I was surprised to watch the original – executive produced by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and directed by Don Bluth (THE SECRET OF NIMH, AN AMERICAN TAIL), none of whom had anything to do with the sequels – and find out it’s a pretty solid animated feature in the mold of early Disney.

Apparently Spielberg conceived it as BAMBI with dinosaurs, and that’s pretty much what they made. It’s an admiring depiction of the world of dinosaurs, with children being born into a scary world, making friends, experiencing danger and death. It is not a musical, the comic relief is minor, any cuteness is juxtaposed with an overall tone of melancholy. I mean, it’s about plant-eating dinosaurs in a world with almost no plants left. (read the rest of this shit…)