FIRST KNIGHT is a movie I never would’ve watched without an excuse like this series, but it’s not bad. Directed by AIRPLANE!’s Jerry Zucker (his followup to NAKED GUN 2 1/2, but not his first serious movie, having already done GHOST), it’s basically a love triangle between King Arthur (Sean Connery), Sir Lancelot (Richard Gere) and Guinevere (Julia Ormond). Connery and Gere play two different types of handsome while Ormond makes the movie with a more human, layered portrayal.
The story begins with Lancelot, a dreamy, long-haired drifter going from town to town showing off in sword-fighting demos. His path happens to cross young Queen Guinevere’s when her caravan is ambushed on the way to Camelot to marry King Arthur. So he rescues her.
Before he disappears he plants a kiss on her, and she’s got that BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY look of suppressed lust on her face, but she tells him to cool it, she’s engaged. And when she gets to Camelot we see that she’s not just being chaste, she really does love Arthur. Yeah, it’s an arranged marriage, and he’s old enough to be her ancestor, but in his defense he does give her a sincere opportunity to back out, pledging to defend her kingdom of Lyonnesse regardless of marital arrangements. You want him to be a sleazy old bastard so you can root for her to kick him to the medieval equivalent of a curb, but he keeps being a gentleman, god damn it. She tells him she’s not gonna back out, she really wants to marry him, and she seems to know what she’s doing. (read the rest of this shit…)
Fuck a star war – what about a battle beyond the stars? I know a battle is smaller than a war, it is only one of the units that makes up a part of a war, but maybe that’s better. More intimate. More focused. And then it’s beyond the stars instead of within them, as a mere star war is. Beyond is better. This battle has transcended the fucking stars.
Admittedly, it doesn’t seem like BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS takes place further away from here than any of the STAR WARSes. In fact, it is for sure closer, because people have heard of the planet Earth, and one guy is from there. His name is Cowboy, but not the pioneering rapper from the Furious Five who coined the term “hip hop.” He’s actually George Peppard a couple years before The A-Team and he wears a cowboy hat, plaid shirt and insulated silver space pants. He always shows off that he likes westerns and exotic Earth liquor. Obviously he’s the Han Solo character, and he’s entertaining, but most of his scenes are alone in his ship, so there’s a Chewbacca-sized hole next to him. (read the rest of this shit…)
MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE is easily the crappiest movie in my Summer of ’95 retrospective so far. Maybe less offensive than BATMAN FOREVER, since it doesn’t seem to be made by professionals who should know any better, but it’s really something. I know it’s an extension of a cheesy kids TV show made up partly of stock footage from Japanese shows, but it’s amazing that a soundtrack album and a little bad CGI was enough to get this into theaters alongside real movies. APOLLO 13 and
JUDGE DREDD came out the same day. Watching it 20 years later POWER RANGERS does not seem like it belongs in the company of either, and the dark, low quality transfer on the DVD isn’t helping things. It didn’t get completely killed at the box office, though. That weekend it came in below APOLLO 13, POCAHONTAS and BATMAN FOREVER, but above JUDGE DREDD.
Like APOLLO 13 this is the story of an elite team of squares chosen to put on uniforms and helmets and fly into space. The Power Rangers are five teenagers chosen by a giant face in a glass tube named Zordon (Nicholas Bell, DARK CITY) to “transform into a superhuman fighting force” and defend the Australian-looking city of Angel Grove, California. That means morphing into masked and color-coded martial arts super heroes and piloting robotic dinosaurs called Zords that combine into a bigger, humanoid robot called Megazord to fight giant monsters. In their spare time the Power Rangers like to skydive, rollerblade and act as role models to local children who don’t know they’re the Power Rangers because it’s a secret identity, although that is never relevant to the story. As far as we see, none of them have parents, schools, jobs, homes or alone time. (read the rest of this shit…)
Note: if you know nothing about this movie, this review has lots of spoilers. However, every major twist is given away in the advertising, one of them even on the poster.
There’s a cool, clever idea near the beginning of TERMINATOR GENISYS. We start out in the post-Judgment Day future, where the resistance leader John Connor (now played by Jason Clarke of ZERO DARK THIRTY) is about to destroy Skynet and its army of machines. But Skynet has just sent a T-800 (played by a body double with a digital-young-Arnold-Schwarzenegger head) back to 1984 to kill his mother Sarah Connor (now played by Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones, not to be confused with Lena Headey from Game of Thrones, who played her on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) before she conceives him. So John sends his best soldier (and secret father) Kyle Reese (now played by Jai Courtney from JACK REACHER and who would have been in the fifth DIE HARD if they had made one but there is not one in my opinion) back in time to protect Sarah. You know, the plot of THE TERMINATOR.
And then it goes and re-creates a few scenes we recognize from the first movie: the man in the garbage truck seeing the Terminator arrive naked in a ball of lightning, the homeless man in the alley seeing Kyle, the Terminator approaching three punk rockers (none of them Bill Paxton) and demanding their clothes. Except then, all the sudden, there’s another, older Arnold Schwarzenegger there, attacking the young one, with the help of Sarah. And we learn that this is a different timeline, not the one from THE TERMINATOR that we and Reese expected. This older Arnold is a Terminator who was sent back to when Sarah was 9 to protect her and raise her. So she’s not a clueless waitress who he has to convince, she already knows about the future and her son and how to shoot guns and everything. (read the rest of this shit…)
I think most of us will agree that this looks promising. If you didn’t know about this, director Ryan Coogler got some heat for his debut FRUITVALE STATION, and then instead of signing on to some studio’s pet horror remake or comic book movie like he’s supposed to he pushed his dream project of a movie about Apollo Creed’s son being trained by Rocky. Stallone loved the screenplay and agreed to do it.
20 years ago, in the summer of 1995, director Ron Howard (GUNG HO) looked back another 25 years before that to the year 1970.
What does 1970 mean to you? For mathematical reasons I have to think of it as the beginning of the decade of funk, of soul power, of blaxploitation and disco. The decade of Scorsese and Copolla and DePalma, and JAWS and STAR WARS. But really it’s more like a bridge from the ’60s. Sly and the Family Stone were still performing, Bruce Lee was on the rise, James Brown put out “Funky Drummer,” “Brother Rapp” “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” and “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine.” It was the beginning of PBS, Black Sabbath, Doonsebury and DJ Quik (who was born), but it was the end of the Beatles (who broke up, but released Let It Be) Janis Joplin (who went on the Festival Express, but died) and Jimi (who played the Isle of Wight Festival, but died). It was the year after Woodstock and the war was still going. It was the invasion of Cambodia abroad and the Kent State shootings at home. Basically it was a bubble of time floating in the middle of war and protest and multiple cultural revolutions.
Ever the square, Howard (who had spent part of his 1970 guest starring in a Lassie two-parter) made a period piece that’s a worshipful tribute to people completely removed from all of that. (read the rest of this shit…)
SCHOOL DAZE is Spike Lee’s sophomore jointational work, and was never one of my favorites from him. But man, looking back at it now I love its youthful exuberance. Here’s 30 year old Spike having access to the studio’s resources for the first time – he goes from a few actors in apartments in black and white to a huge cast on a college campus. He even has a full-on song and dance number. It’s the first example of what I think is one of his weaknesses: his overreach in tackling too many things at once, creating an unfocused and overstuffed narrative. But in this context that’s kinda charming. He’s really goin for it.
Since DO THE RIGHT THING and MALCOLM X were Lee’s most culturally recognized movies, certain white people pigeonholed him as a guy who only makes movies about white people being racist. Of course that’s not even a complete description of the content of those two movies, let alone applicable to most of his filmography. And joint #2, just like joint #1, I’m pretty sure doesn’t show a single white person in it. (read the rest of this shit…)
CHAPPIE is a slight but sweet sci-fi story from South Africa’s Neill Blomkamp. It’s like a meaner SHORT CIRCUIT or an unexpectedly good Asylum knockoff of the remake of ROBOCOP. The Johannesburg police are very happy with their new police robot “Scouts,” invented by cubicle-bound corporate employee Deon Wilson (Dev Patel from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), and have flatly, perhaps rudely rejected The Moose, a human-operated ED-209 lookalike pushed by jealous ex-soldier Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman). But Deon isn’t really invested in that feud – he’s invented an A.I. program which the boss (Sigourney Weaver) won’t even let him continue with, and that’s all he really cares about right now.
Meanwhile the weirdo South African electronical rap group Die Antwoord are involved in a drug deal gone bad and busted up by Scouts. A scary gangster named Hippo (Brandon Auret, who played mercenaries in both of Blomkamp’s other movies) who has a crazy hairdo that would make any David Ayer character teary eyed with envy, says they owe him a ridiculous amount of money, so they decide they have no choice but to quickly pull off the heist of a lifetime so he doesn’t kill them. That leads to the hair-brained idea of kidnapping Deon to get “the remote” that they assume he has for clicking the power off on the city’s law enforcement. For some reason he doesn’t really have one, go figure. So as a compromise he installs his A.I. program in a damaged police robot for them to teach how to be “the illest gangster” and use robot powers such as jump high and metal punch to help them pull off their robbery. (read the rest of this shit…)
Disney’s POCAHONTAS is the big animated feature of the summer of 1995, a part of the “Disney Renaissance” and feature animation resurgence that started in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But if the popularity of Disney animation was a motherfucker trying to ice skate uphill, this would be the point when he had just reached the top and now was beginning to slide back down in reverse. It came out a year almost to the day after THE LION KING, the tale of fathers and sons and a bunch of unrelated songs about a farting warthog and a smartass weasel guy or whatever, which smashed all box office records for animated features and remained the highest grossing of all time until TOY STORY 3 beat it 16 years later. More importantly, POCAHONTAS came about 5 months before the first TOY STORY arrived like a European with an infected blanket, triggering the end of the popularity of line drawings on the big screen.
Though not very highly regarded, and controversial for its fictionalization of history, I think POCAHONTAS is a respectable swan song for the age of Disney hand drawn animation. It goes whole hog with the house formula of glamorous heroines in a Broadway-inspired musical format, but takes some risks and, most notably, gloriously showcases the artistry of the studio’s best animators, designers and colorists. (read the rest of this shit…)
Well, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I did, you guys: I enjoyed KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE. Although I have this idea of director Matthew Vaughn as an overhyped Friend of the Internet, when I look at his filmography it’s really only KICK-ASS that I have a beef with. But since KINGSMAN is the director and writers of KICK-ASS adapting from another comic from the same guy that did KICK-ASS you can see why it would be a concern.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a young British man of drinking age. His dad died in Iraq when he was a kid, his mom has an abusive asshole boyfriend, he hangs out at the pub with his friends, gets in fights, doesn’t have a job. This could be the beginning of another GREEN STREET sequel, but when he gets busted for stealing some asshole’s car it’s not a soccer fan club that helps him out, it’s a stranger who claims to be a friend of his dad.
Little did Eggsy know that his father was in a secret society of highly skilled, well-financed super-spies working independently of any government. This guy who helps him, code named Galahad (Colin Firth, THE KING’S PEACH), says he owes Eggsy’s dad for saving his life. Galahad notices Eggsy’s squandered potential (he quit the Marines as well as an Olympics-bound gymnastics career) and decides to recruit him to try out for their organization. But it’s a tough audition. It’s kinda like trying out for the SEALs but only one person gets to join. (read the rest of this shit…)