NINJA II: SHADOW OF A TEAR is the kind of action movie I always want more of: a pretty simple story about a badass in a personal conflict, stubbornly entrenched in the distinct values of a warrior subculture, with some absurdity but no joking around, and designed to deliver a whole bunch of great fight scenes done by real martial artists with lots of long takes, the camera always carefully composed and steady, moving in ways that always emphasize action and never obscure it. In other words it’s the long-awaited new Isaac Florentine/Scott Adkins joint. (read the rest of this shit…)
Archive for December, 2013
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is the incredibly entertaining new movie from director Martin Scorsese (Michael Jackson’s BAD), based on the memoir of scumbag fraudulent stockbroker Jordan Belfort (executive producer of SANTA WITH MUSCLES), adapted by Terence Winter (writer of a 50 Cent video game and 2 episodes of The Cosby Mysteries). Leonardo DiCaprio (POISON IVY) plays Belfort in the saga of his meteoric rise from innocent Wall Street rookie to multi-millionaire cokehead innovator in greed and callous thievery. After THE GODFATHER and all these other classics that show how organized crime operates like a business, here Scorsese flips it around to show how business acts like gangsters.
Man, we take it for granted after so many big, showy movies with great directors – or we don’t want to admit it ’cause he’s still got kind of a baby face and we remember when he made the teenage girls faint in their pants – but jesus, DiCaprio sure has turned into a good actor. WOLF is Scorsese picture #5 for him, and it seems for a while like he’s mostly doing his usual moves. He’s got the intensity, the energy, the accent that’s old timey and not very naturalistic but he goes so all-in that I buy it, the face that teeters between boyish and Benicio Del Toro. Early in the movie he even crash-lands a small aircraft and stumbles away, as if he’s doing callbacks to THE AVIATOR. He should do that in all his movies, it could be his “I’ll be back.” (read the rest of this shit…)
First of all, I would like to extend my deepest and most profound apologies for the first time I wrote about LETHAL WEAPON and fixated on Mel Gibson’s Swayze-esque hair and David Sanborn’s Smooth Cop Jazz saxophone. I know my comments hurt alot of people and put alot of negativity into the world, and that is something I simply never wish to do. I would especially like to apologize to Gibson’s hair stylist Paul Abascal, who not only did hair on many Swayze, Stallone and Willis (?) classics, but also went on to direct PAPARAZZI and the reshoots of PAYBACK. I know now it was a different time and place that cannot be held to a newer era’s standards of taste and style. In the years since that review I have changed alot, I have learned, I have grown as a man, as a critic and as a spiritual being. I have looked at pictures of JCVD in HARD TARGET and realized Mel’s mullet coulda been worse. So to get ready for Christmas I decided I was ready to try LETHAL WEAPON again.
It’s hard to separate LETHAL WEAPON from the litter of movies it spawned. In the sequels Murtaugh (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2) and Riggs (Mel Gibson, MAD god damn MAX) are great buddies and there’s wisecracking and everything and I mix it up in my mind with the cliches of interracial buddy movies. But really the first LETHAL WEAPON is not about race and it’s pre-buddy. It’s about the formation of their buddyship. It’s about this regular working family man cop who, on the day after his 50th birthday, is forced to be partners with a younger crazy guy. Like, not just a loose cannon, a guy that we’ve actually seen wake up in his trailer, put a gun in his mouth and start crying and almost pull the trigger. While watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. He’s been suicidal since the death of his wife in a car accident, even has a special hollow point set aside for the job. (read the rest of this shit…)
SAVING MR. BANKS is the story of P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) flying out to Burbank to develop the movie of her book Mary Poppins with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). I’m surprised it’s not called TRAVERS, following the last-name-of-character-to-indicate-this-is-a-biopic-and-this-small-story-is-representative-of-the-larger-story-of-their-life trend (CAPOTE, HITCHCOCK, LINCOLN, BLADE, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, etc.). Maybe they were worried people would think it was about Peter Travers.
As a one-time film critic herself, P.L. would never be confused with Positive Pete. It’s not mentioned in the movie, but I’ve read that in ’37 this Travers reviewed Disney’s pioneering achievement SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and trashed it. I wish I could read the whole thing, but all I can find is this quote that’s been floating around: “There is a profound cynicism at the root of his, as of all, sentimentality.” Lucky thing Rotten Tomatoes was only on index cards back then, so nobody cared that she was the Armond White of the ’30s, fuckin up its 100% fresh rating. (read the rest of this shit…)
I guess I got a little Charlie Brown in me. I’m gonna keep trying to kick that football. I mean, I do have fun with these movies, I just want one some day that meets or exceeds my hopes for it.
Either way this is a pretty good teaser. A nice return to the abstract, non-movie-footage type of early trailer, and I like the increasingly ludicrous skull logos for these movies.
I can’t really make out everybody in the picture. Is Kelsey Grammer really in there somewhere? That still makes me laugh that he’s playing a badass mercenary. But maybe he’ll pull it off. And I’m pretty sure Gibson will be an excellent villain. The description under the trailer on Youtube reveals that they’re crediting it as “with GIBSON with FORD and SCHWARZENEGGER.” So the “also” credit was a Van Damme exclusive. Good job Van Damme.
You may remember my important review series Kid ‘n Play: 20 Years On Film: A Cinematic Legacy. Year end awards did not. But to be fair I think the Pulitzer has a print requirement. And I’m in for the long game anyway, I got my fingers crossed for best of the decade type awards.
Anyway it’s obvious that somebody read my series because they decided it was time to rebooten the HOUSE PARTY film franchise for a generation newer than the one that theoretically watched 2001’s HOUSE PARTY 4: DOWN TO THE LAST MINUTE starring Kid ‘n Play’s younger movie cousins Immature. HOUSE PARTY: TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT is kind of a modern rehash of the first one but done with actors and not music people like the original or the previous rebootal. In that sense it seems to be not really in the same spirit, it comes from the attitude that it’s easier for an actor to learn how to rap than the other way around. But it’s still the story of teenage rapper friends trying to get the girls they like and this time get a record contract at a party they aren’t supposed to be throwing. (read the rest of this shit…)
“I think the streets are clean for a while. I’m a dinosau’. Ain’t nobody around like me no more, so…”
Steven Seagal’s new one FORCE OF EXECUTION isn’t really a movie I would recommend to most people, mainly because they would ask what “force of execution” means and I would have no idea what to say. I guess it means the same thing as “reservoir dogs,” but just doesn’t sound as cool or poetic.
However, as a dedicated Seagalogist (in fact, one of the West Coast’s most respected, if I do say so myself) I found plenty of things interesting about this one. In fact, I watched it without reading anything about it and it kept confounding my expectations for a Seagal picture. In the opening scene Seagal’s character Mr. Alexander has a guy tied to a chair and he’s threatening him, saying “You broke the code, Sasha,” and stuff like that. He gives him a knife and tells him to slit his own throat as punishment for being “a rat.” When the guy tries to defend himself Mr. Alexander beats him to death and complains about getting blood on his suit. I mean, Seagal characters are always kinda over the line, but they don’t usually capture a traitor, torture and kill him. (read the rest of this shit…)
Before I talk about the remake of OLDBOY it’s important that I say I liked the original but only saw it one time 8 years ago. Here’s what I wrote about it then.
In the remake directed by Spike Lee and written by Mark Protosevich (THE CELL, I AM LEGEND), Josh Brolin (THRASHIN’) plays a Nick Nolte character named Joe Doucett. He’s an alcoholic, sexually harassing deadbeat dad and advertising asshole who after a long night of drinking, puking and crying in 1993 meets a woman who takes him to a hotel and when he wakes up he realizes she’s not there and there are no windows or doorknobs. One of those hotel conundrums, you know. And this was before Yelp and shit like that so he couldn’t even give them a bad review. Turns out this is not a normal hotel in that you can’t leave. Someone, for some reason, has locked him in this weird prison. Every day they stick a plate of dumplings and a bottle of vodka through a hatch in the door, but they don’t tell him why he’s here.
(read the rest of this shit…)
I guess Beyonce Knowles released a “surprise album” on iTunes on Friday. They didn’t announce it in advance or anything and word spread like word spreads on the internet and holy shit it became the number one selling digital file album of such and such. Everybody lost their shit and wrote headlines and everything. Amazing! Revolutionary! It may seem like a clever attention-getting gimmick for a star of her size to not bother with marketing, but here’s the truth: her husband Jay-Z knew through the Illuminati that I had just watched Beyonce’s Christmas-time thriller OBSESSED and was about to put up a review. So she knew she had to rush the album’s release in order to take advantage of that extra spotlight. Your welcome, Beyonce.
Like in DIE HARD, the shit goes down at an office Christmas party for some L.A. financial something-or-other firm. But instead of faux-terrorists taking over the building it’s a stalker executive assistant trying to take a married man. Lisa (Ali Larter from FINAL DESTINATION) is a temp who’s been breathing all over Derek Charles (Idris Elba, GHOST RIDER’S SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE), listening in on his phone calls, finding out too much about him, putting him in uncomfortable situations. The camera makes her seductive, zeroing in on her crossed legs when she sits near him, her glossed lips when she smiles at him. (read the rest of this shit…)
Well, we lost some cinema icons today. Peter O’Toole of course. I’m not the guy to write the definitive tribute for him, but here’s a piece I wrote when I saw LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm a couple years ago. And one on THE STUNT MAN. And, uh, SUPERGIRL.
Also Joan Fontaine from REBECCA and SUSPICION died, so there will be some good tributes to her. She was 96.
But me being who I am I want to write a few words about Tom Laughlin, whose family announced today that he died on Thursday. He was 82, a year older than O’Toole! I was surprised to read that. Laughlin was an actor, writer and director who occupied a unique corner in the history of Badass Cinema and independent film and I don’t think alot of the young people know about him. So put your learning pants on.
“Put your learning pants on” and related phrases and merchandising are © 2013 by Vern