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

Frankenstein (2015)

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, CANDYMAN might be my favorite horror movie of the 1990s. And I remember director Bernard Rose’s PAPERHOUSE being very good too when I watched it in the 1980s. But most of his movies have not been horror. Didn’t seem to be his thing. So I was intrigued when I found out that all the sudden in 2015 he did a new version of FRANKENSTEIN.

This is a modernized take on Mary Shelley’s story. The monster is not some stitched together green guy, he’s just a regular full grown man (Xavier Samuel, THE LOVED ONES, FURY) suddenly born in a secret lab through unexplained genetical engineering type methods. Victor Frankenstein (Danny Huston, THE WARRIOR’S WAY, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, BIRTH) is there, but it’s his wife Elizabeth (Carrie-Anne Moss from the fucking MATRIX!) doing the important work now: cuddling him, shushing him, feeding him with an eyedropper. (read the rest of this shit…)

Victor Frankenstein

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN is maybe the only retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story I’ve seen where the monster is not very important. Played by Spencer Wilding (Darth Vader from ROGUE ONE), he’s just the mindless special effect that they fight at the climax. So it’s kind of more about Dr. Frankenstein (James Mcavoy, WANTED), except the main character is Igor (Daniel Radcliffe, THE TAILOR OF PANAMA), who is not so much his assistant as his brilliant partner who has more sense than he does and backs out right before they make that monster.

It starts with Igor as a nameless, hunchbacked, clown-makeup-wearing freak in a circus. For some reason he doubles as the medic, and because he also passionately reads medical books in his spare time, he is a brilliant, ahead of his time medical genius. No big deal. This comes in handy when the acrobat he has a crush on (Jessica Brown Findlay, WINTER’S TALE) falls. Frankenstein, being in the audience, comes to help, but is sure there’s nothing they can do for her – until the hunchback proves otherwise.

Impressed, Frankenstein comes back and frees the hunchback from his cage, and there is a hip Guy Ritchie style slow-mo wacky action scene where Victor does a little bit of parkour and a knifethrower accidentally kills another circus guy in the mayhem. Victor gives Igor his name, hides him out in his apartment and gets him to help with his experiments. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is on their trail for supposedly murdering the knife victim. (read the rest of this shit…)

I, Frankenstein

I, FRANKENSTEIN picks up where Mary Shelley left off, with the the doctor (Aden Young, SNIPER) dying in the Arctic trying to kill the creature (Aaron Eckhart, PAYCHECK). Then it skips ahead to the current day, and there is much evidence* to support that if Shelley had lived 163 years longer she would’ve continued the story in the same way: with “the modern Prometheus” as an immortal who wears cool fingerless gloves and a hoodie under a jacket and is good at fighting and has two magic batons because he’s at the center of an ancient war between demons and gargoyles. *[citation needed]

It takes place in the great city of Greenscreensboro, where it’s always night and swarms of CGI flying guys sweep down and fight mobs of fast running demons – basically just dudes with monster heads who wear leather jackets and do martial arts (fight coordinator: Ray Anthony, SON OF THE MASK). I think this is supposed to be a “the world you live in is just a sugar-coated topping” type secret war situation, but there seem to be almost no regular people in the city to ever witness anything, or to wonder why there’s a gargantuan cathedral with a non-Christian symbol on top towering over the city with guys dressed like extras from 300 constantly going in and out. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN is director Kenneth Branagh’s attempt to redo the story as a romantic period melodrama. You still got your mad science lab, but also wigs and corsets and all that shit. Branagh himself plays Victor Frankenstein, and this is in the era when men in historical dramas had to have long Fabio hair. He cast himself as the doctor who creates his monster while shirtless, running around pulling heavy levers to show off his glistening muscles.

Branagh playing a beareded, wet-behind-the-ears college student while in his mid-thirties somehow reminds me of Chris Elliot in CABIN BOY. He’s a fancy lad who interrupts a medical lecture to argue with the professor about mixing medicine and philosophy. The teacher is outraged and the filmatism implies that he’s stickin it to the man, but personally – I don’ t know about you guys – I don’t take medical advice from Victor Frankenstein. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Return to Salem’s Lot

tn_artslA RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT is Larry Cohen’s weirdo theatrically-released sort-of-sequel to Tobe Hooper’s TV mini-series of the Stephen King book. But really it just takes the location – the tiny town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine – and the idea of doing a vampire story there. It’s not the same vampire or the same type of vampire. It doesn’t connect, from what I remember. But I like that.

Joe Weber (Cohen’s muse Michael Moriarty) is an anthropologist working on a CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST type documentary when he finds he has to come home to look after his troublemaking teenage son Jeremy (one-time actor Ricky Addison Reed, who IMDb claims was cast to play Robin in Tim Burton’s BATMAN in scenes that were never filmed). Joe brings his son to the old, recently-inherited fixer-upper in his birth-town of Salem’s Lot (as some but not all abbreviate it). (read the rest of this shit…)

Power Rangers

I know what you’re thinking, ’cause it’s the same thing I’m thinking: if it’s just called POWER RANGERS now instead of MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS does that mean there’s no morphin anymore? Or that there is morphin but they didn’t want to mention it in the title because it’s not particularly mighty as far morphin goes? And is morphin actually just morphin’ without the apostrophe or is it some mythological Power Ranging concept that I’m unaware of and it’s not explained in the movie and that’s why it’s not in the title? Also, did they foresee that I would try to text “It’s morphin time!” to my friend and it would autocorrect to “It’s morphine time!”? I mean, this is a movie that raises many questions.

There is in fact morphin (not morphine) in the new 2017 movie POWER RANGERS, but they have to earn it. A do-over, not a sequel to the ludicrous 1990s after school TV show, director Dean Israelite (PROJECT ALMANAC) and writer John Gatins (FLIGHT) (story by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless [THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, GODS OF EGYPT] and Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney [SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS]) try to make sense out of a mythology that started as just some bullshit that importer Haim Saban made up to string together library footage from the Japanese robots vs. giant monsters show Super Sentai Rangers. (read the rest of this shit…)

Brotherhood of Death

BROTHERHOOD OF DEATH is one of those low budget exploitation movies that promises a seemingly can’t-lose premise and then doesn’t much deliver on it. Oh well, it’s still kinda fun. With the tagline “Watch the brothers stick it to the Klan!,” it tells the story of a group of black friends (some of them played by members of the Washington Redskins, I guess) who go off to Vietnam, and become Special Forces badasses. When they get back home they discover that not much has changed. The Klan are terrorizing and raping black people and the police aren’t much help because… well, because the police here are the Klan, it’s mostly the same group of guys, just wearing different uniforms. So – much too late in the movie – these vets do exactly what Doug Llewelyn used to tell us not to do: take the law into their own hands. They apply what they learned in ‘Nam to the situation.

When we first meet them they’re driving around in a school bus like hippies, getting drunk off their asses. They get into a conflict with a guy at the gas station who’s clearly a racist piece of shit. I gotta side with them while also admitting that they started it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kong: Skull Island

KONG presents SKULL ISLAND is a goofy, pulpy monster movie that doesn’t live up to the hallowed cinematic legacy of KING KONG, but hey, it works as a more exploitative sequel. I think my expectations for this were more inflated than most because of how much I dug director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ first movie, THE KINGS OF SUMMER. That was an original comedy with wise, relatable insights into humanity, masculinity and growing up. I don’t think there’s any reason why a punching gorilla monster movie can’t have that kind of substance behind it too, but to me this feels less human and more like the work of one of these distanced, pop culture loving whippersnappers.

In an unusual but arguably tasteless move, Vogt-Roberts set the movie at the end of the Vietnam War, an international disaster that he treats like a cool movie reference. The talk about senseless loss of human lives feels less impassioned and emphasized than the orange APOCALYPSE NOW sunsets and helicopters and the soundtrack that largely comes straight off of the Songs That Movies Use As Shorthand For the Vietnam Era, Volume I 2-CD set.

But to be fair, “Down On the Street” by the Stooges and “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath are two heavily-featured songs that wouldn’t be on the Robert Zemeckis version of this. And believe it or not alot of it was filmed on location in the actual country of Vietnam, unlike any Vietnam War movie I know of. Vogt-Roberts and cinematographer Larry Fong (3oo, SUPER 8)’s bright orange, yellow and red skies make it stand out visually from any other giant monster movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Wailing

tn_wailingTHE WAILING is a long, moody, unpredictable South Korean film about a terrible evil coming to a small fishing town in the mountains. The plot is fairly simple, there’s not that much to it, but I like how it takes you very gradually from naturalism to a bit of craziness.

It’s one of those openings that made me immediately think this might be a great movie even before anything actually happened. It just has this potent transporting quality as it depicts this hapless cop Jong-goo get up early to investigate a crime scene. Rain is coming down hard, you can hear it in every direction. He’s still trying to wake up, and he’s not in any hurry. And then he gets there and all the officers are sheltered under their tent-like rain coats, walking through and cataloging the aftermath of a horrific murder, and unlike the usual depiction of seen-it-all cops barely phased by dead bodies (while one minor character kneels down and pukes to show that this is an extra bad one) we see Jong-goo’s terrified expressions as he witnesses the increasingly bizarre circumstances of the deaths.

This is our hero. Not some badass. Just a guy. And it endears us to him so that we’ll relate all through the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blade II – 15th Anniversary Spectacular

“You obviously do not know who you are fucking with!”

On one hand, it’s hard to believe that BLADE II was fifteen damn years ago. I mean – I reviewed it when it came out. And I’d already been around for a few years. Am I really that old? On the other hand, an awful lot has changed since the movie came out.

My actual ticket stub from opening night. Also my actual ticket stub from a week and a half later. I never figured out how the abandoned subtitle BLOODHUNT showed up on the tickets.

Let’s start with Wesley Snipes (“Blade”). He made a part 3, had a falling out with the writer, they made a Blade TV show without him, he got relegated to DTV, got busted for tax evasion, did time, got out, now is sort of back and still the Man and hopefully will achieve more greatness. Guillermo del Toro (director) became better known and beloved for his specific visual style and obsessions, was nominated for a best screenplay Oscar for PAN’S LABYRINTH, continued to alternate between Spanish language art films and Hollywood productions, but never did a for-hire gig again, unless you count THE HOBBIT, which he toiled on for a few years before quitting. David S. Goyer (writer) directed part 3, co-wrote Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy and went on to mastermind the DC movie universe, as if trying to earn the extreme hatred many comic fans had long held for him for some reason. Donnie Yen (martial arts choreographer, “Snowman”) had a huge career resurgence at home in Hong Kong, particularly with the IP MAN series, and recently finally had success in English language movies playing the best characters in ROGUE ONE and xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE. Norman Reedus (“Scud”) also became a geek icon by playing Daryl on The Walking Dead, as did Ron Perlman (“Reinhardt”) by reteaming with del Toro to play Hellboy in two live action films and two animated (plus starring in many seasons of Sons of Anarchy). Luke Goss (“Jared Nomak”) was a former pop star from the boy band Bros who had been in a few movies. This breakthrough role led to playing the elf equivalent of Nomak in del Toro’s HELLBOY 2 and eventually being a frequent face of DTV, including starring as Frankenstein in DEATH RACE 2 and 3. Matt Schulze (“Chupa”) – okay, he didn’t become a big thing, but to me he’s an icon because he’s the villain in Seagal’s OUT OF REACH and Vince in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and FAST FIVE.

Maybe more notably than any of this, the techniques del Toro pioneered to combine live action stunts with animated doubles for super-powered fights and camera moves evolved into the modern style of comic book action (and blockbusters in general). His smart ways of adding digital effects to practical ones have also been influential. Getting a genuine visionary to do the sequel to a movie like BLADE is one of those things you always wish for as a movie fan but shouldn’t hold your breath for. This time you could’ve, though. It happened. (read the rest of this shit…)