"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Worm on a Hook

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Huda’s Salon

HUDA’S SALON is from 2021 and it’s the most recent film from Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad – I previously reviewed his films RANA’S WEDDING (2002), THE COURIER (2012), OMAR (2013) and THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (2017). After that last one, a big English language movie starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, he returned home for another one of his thriller/dramas about life in occupied Palestine.

It opens in the titular Bethlehem hair salon, where new mother Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi, Baghdad Central) is having her hair done by Huda (Manal Awad). I kinda fell for the implication that it would be a conversational, day-in-the-life kind of movie, because there’s an 8-minute-long oner as Huda washes and brushes Reem’s hair and they talk about people these days styling their own hair based on Youtube videos, then about the invasiveness of Facebook, and then how possessive Reem’s husband is but how maybe she’ll open her own salon some day when her daughter’s older. And the shot is still going as Huda pours her a cup of coffee (that’s nice) and puts some drops of something in it (oh, that’s not nice) and gets ready to cut her hair but she passes out and Huda closes the curtains and opens a door into a back room where a dude named Said (Samer Bisharat, OMAR) has been sitting on a bed looking at his phone while he waits. Now he helps carry Reem in, takes her clothes off and poses naked for Polaroids with her. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Client

July 20, 1994

And now we come to a 1994 artifact that doesn’t seem that dated culturally, except it’s in a genre – the legal thriller – that doesn’t really exist on this level anymore. Not as a slick, shot on location, big time theatrical summer release.

THE CLIENT is the third movie adapted from a novel by John Grisham, after THE FIRM and THE PELICAN BRIEF (both released in 1993). The book was his fourth, also released in 1993. The movie had a $45 million budget (more than THE SHADOW, SPEED or CITY SLICKERS II, almost as much as THE FLINTSTONES!) and was a big hit, making $117 million worldwide. Movies like this were a big deal then! (read the rest of this shit…)

Longlegs

LONGLEGS is a new horror movie from writer/director Osgood Perkins (THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER, I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE, GRETEL & HANSEL, also played Young Norman Bates in PSYCHO II because he’s Anthony Perkins’ son). If you saw his other movies, or the bizarre, creepy-as-fuck trailers, you probly got the hint that it’s not a normal commercial horror movie, but more in the slow-horror/arthouse/early-Ti-West/stereotype-of-what-A24-releases tradition. Nevertheless it had the best opening weekend ever for distributor Neon, it’s Cage’s first live action film to open above $20 million since GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE twelve years ago, it’s already made a profit and become the highest grossing original horror movie this year.

Set sometime during the Clinton administration, it stars Maika Monroe (THE BLING RING, THE GUEST, IT FOLLOWS, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, WATCHER) as rookie FBI agent Lee Harker (hmm…) who has such uncanny intuition in the field that they test her for psychic powers and assign her to a decades old case. Families with no connection other than their daughters having the same birthday fall victim to murder-suicides, and on the scene are found coded letters signed “LONGLEGS.” Working closely with supportively pushy, hard drinking superior Agent Carter (Blair Underwood, POSSE, SET IT OFF), Harker quickly cracks the cypher, decodes some of the riddles, finds patterns in the dates of the crimes, and comes up with new insights into the case. But somehow Longlegs seems to already know who she is. (read the rest of this shit…)

True Lies (30th anniversary revisit)

July 15, 1994

I already reviewed TRUE LIES back in 2007, so I considered skipping it in this series. But it was a big hit (knocked FORREST GUMP out of the #1 slot for a week, became third highest grosser of the year), and such a straight up summer blockbuster, that it seems like it needs to be addressed. And I thought some people would be disappointed if I didn’t include it. But if you’re one of the many who consider it an action classic you might wish I abstained.

My arc with TRUE LIES goes like this: at the time I was hugely disappointed. It was an impressive action spectacle but it struck me as painfully racist and misogynistic. That wasn’t unheard of in those days, and I had a kneejerk revulsion to anything that seemed jingoistic or militaristic, so there were many beloved ‘90s hits that I watched feeling like the guy who didn’t belong at the rally. But I took TRUE LIES as a real betrayal from Cameron, who I admired so much for what he did with Ripley in ALIENS and Sarah Connor in T2, and whose TERMINATOR movies warned of out of control worship of military hardware. Now his big achievement was being the first guy allowed to film a particular war plane he thought was awesome. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kill

KILL is a Hindi-language action movie currently playing in U.S. theaters via LionsGate. For some reason I was under the impression it was called KILL!, which is not the case, but the exclamation point is definitely implied.

It’s one of the more internationally accessible Indian films because it’s only 105 minutes, not a musical, and it begins with a very Hollywood sort of premise: DIE HARD on a train except not UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY.

But there’s a cultural aspect to the set up that wouldn’t be in the American version. When special forces commando Amrit (Lakshya, a TV star who gets an “introducing” credit) gets back from a mission, he finds out that his girlfriend Tulika (Tanya Maniktala, MUMBAIKAR) is being forced into an arranged marriage with someone else. So he and his mustachioed soldier buddy Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan, BAHUT HUA SAMMAAN) rush to the engagement party to try to whisk her away before it’s too late. But she fears what her powerful dad, wealthy industrialist Baldeo Singh Thakur (Harsh Chhaya, 24: India), would do, tells Amrit to back off, and later texts that she and her family are taking a train back to New Delhi. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mi Vida Loca

July 15, 1994

MI VIDA LOCA (MY CRAZY LIFE) is the third film from writer/director Allison Anders. Two years ago I reviewed her 1992 release, GAS FOOD LODGING. That one was about a young woman growing up in a fictional desert town, this one is a fictional portrait of young cholas in a real neighborhood of Los Angeles.

I’ve heard of Echo Park, didn’t know its history, but as soon as they showed the picturesque little lake with swans and everything I thought “Oh shit! That’s the place from ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION.” The opening narration does not mention that actully-kind-of-good 1991 TV sequel about a giant alligator in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood under threat of gentrification, instead looking back to the silent era of film: “We have a lake that’s been here since the ‘20s, when movie stars had love nests in the hills.” I read that there were studios in the neighborhood then, and the 1914 Charlie Chaplin films TWENTY MINUTES OF LOVE and RECREATION were filmed at the park. That must be crazy to see your neighborhood in a movie from that long ago. Even from 30 years ago is cool, though. (read the rest of this shit…)

She Is Conann

SHE IS CONANN, original title CONANN, is the recently-released-on-disc third film from French director Bertrand Mandico. I previously reviewed and loved his second film AFTER BLUE (DIRTY PARADISE), which I described as being a little bit like if Alejandro Jodorowsky made BARBARELLA. This one is sort of Mandico’s take on Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Very sort of. But the Jodorowsky comparison is even stronger here – it reminded me of the full range from FANDO Y LIS to HOLY MOUNTAIN. This is a crazy one.

Some (including Wikipedia) have described CONANN as “a feminist take on CONAN THE BARBARIAN,” which honestly sounds wonderful, but I don’t think it’s very accurate. Though obviously alluding to the famous barbarian, I don’t see how you can possibly take it as an adaptation of those stories or a genuine attempt at participating in the sword and sorcery genre. It merely brushes against some of that iconography as it leaps out into the cosmos. I laughed when I saw the angry IMDb user reviews – one was titled “Content Fails to Connect to Source material” – because obviously they went in expecting something from the title and couldn’t adjust their take when it turned out it was something else. But I’m not one to talk. I was pretty annoyed at Jean-Luc Godard using Richard Stark’s The Jugger as the supposed basis of MADE IN U.S.A. (read the rest of this shit…)

Forrest Gump

July 6th, 1994

We associate the summer movie season with a certain type of blockbuster. There have been many years where the biggest movie was about a Batman, a Spider-Man, a Terminator, some dinosaurs, some Jedis. 1994 had a different approach – the real behemoth was a cutesy romp through 20th century American history, a bit of a comedy, a bit of a weepy. FORREST GUMP was the year’s highest grossing movie at the domestic box office (#2 to THE LION KING worldwide), its soundtrack album reached #2 on the Billboard album charts (also below THE LION KING) and went twelve times platinum. The movie won Oscars for best picture, director, actor, adapted screenplay, visual effects and editing, and it even inspired a chain of seafood restaurants. So fuck THE LION KING.

It’s funny, I remember going to see this movie right when it came out, not expecting any of that. I was going as a fan of Robert Zemeckis’ obsession with pushing technology forward. I had read about the scenes where Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump is made to appear in footage with John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford and other real people. It was a new technological feat at the time and this was the guy who had combined animation with live action so well in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT and made a digital hole through Goldie Hawn in DEATH BECOMES HER. Remember how that seemed like the coolest thing ever? (read the rest of this shit…)

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

BEVERLY HILLS COP: AXEL F is a perfectly entertaining, perfectly obvious long-awaited nostalgia sequel, perfect for streaming once and forgetting. Eddie Murphy (DOLEMITE IS MY NAME) returns to play Detroit police detective Axel Foley 40 years after the original and 30 years after the disappointment of BEVERLY HILLS COP III. He still has the same job, same basic outfit, the soundtrack repeats “The Heat Is On,” “Neutron Dance” and part II’s “Shakedown,” and the score by Lorne Balfe (TERMINATOR GENISYS, BAD BOYS FOR LIFE, TOP GUN: MAVERICK) reworks Harold Faltermeyer’s beloved “Axel F Theme” and mimics some of his 1984 synth sounds.

So this is not a “He’s having to face age and change!” sequel like ROCKY BALBOA or a “He’s passing the torch” one like CREED. Instead it’s a “He’s still here, not much has changed!” His boss in Detroit was killed in part III, but his old partner Jeffrey Friedman (Paul Reiser, WHIPLASH) is the chief now. Jeffrey tries to convince Axel to visit Beverly Hills not for a case, but to reconnect with his grown up, estranged daughter Jane (Taylour Paige, ZOLA). He moved her to Beverly Hills when she was young and then divorced her mother, they have not spoken in years but somehow she’s family to his 90210 cop friends Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold, GREMLINS) and Taggart (John Ashton, HIDDEN ASSASSIN). Billy was pushed off the force and became a private detective (but still loves Rambo), Taggart is the chief now. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Shadow (30th anniversary revisit)

July 1st, 1994

THE SHADOW is another weird 1994 would-be blockbuster that I previously wrote about in my 2017 series Summer Flings, and I will point you to that review for a more thorough accounting of its plot, merchandising and promotion. But it’s a movie I’m pretty fond of and it’s at least trying to be one of the more traditional popcorn movies of the summer so I wanted to revisit it and discuss it in the context of this retrospective.

You know, when I look at it now the math kinda makes sense. Old pulp super hero + the period when studios were trying to recreate the magic of BATMAN 1989 + Russell Mulcahy, the pioneering music video director who gave us HIGHLANDER and HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING = this movie. It has all kinds of the old timey concepts and tone that I enjoy, it’s filmed with enthusiastic style and energy, it also has a bit of a craziness that’s appealing to me but maybe a turn off for the kind of wide audience they were obviously hoping for. It’s not as wild or messy as THE QUICKENING but it has enough of that that it’s not surprising it didn’t catch on. (read the rest of this shit…)