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Archive for August, 2018

The Negotiator

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

July 29, 1998

THE NEGOTIATOR is a monument to that too-brief window of time when there were big budget Samuel L. Jackson vehicles. He’d been acclaimed in supporting roles including JUNGLE FEVER, then said that line in JURASSIC PARK, then became a superstar with PULP FICTION. I always thought it was unfair that Travolta was nominated for best actor and Jackson for supporting, but that’s mostly where he stayed. He was still kind of a sidekick in DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE or THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT or a scene-stealer in JACKIE BROWN. And technically even this one is a two-hander with another star, but it starts on Jackson and keeps the two separated for most of the movie so I’d put it in a rare Samuel-L.-Jackson-vehicle category along with SHAFT, THE 51st STATE and SNAKES ON A PLANE.

Also going on in the late ’90s: Kevin Spacey. Like Jackson, he was a veteran character actor who suddenly caught the world’s eye with an indelible performance in a breakout indie crime drama. And he actually won his Oscar. After SE7EN and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL he was one of the most respected dramatic actors in Hollywood.

So THE NEGOTIATOR had a pretty catchy thriller hook (hostage negotiator gets framed by crooked cops, takes hostages in a desperate ploy to find out the truth and prove his innocence), but it was definitely that heavyweight actor showdown that lured us in. Two enormously respected actors, also known for hip movies, actoring the shit off each other in a studio thriller. That had appeal back then. (read the rest of this shit…)

Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song”

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Had things gone differently, Michael Jackson would’ve turned 60 today. Every year on his birthday I like to write about one of his videos. This year I chose “Earth Song” because it seems like we need it – it sadly seems more and more relevant as time goes on – and because I think it’s one of his lesser known videos.

At least it was to me. It was the third single from the 1995 album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, which I didn’t actually buy when it first came out. I don’t know if it was wherever I was in life or the fact that it was half greatest hits, but I didn’t pay as much attention to that album as I had some of the other ones. I did really enjoy the weird promo they were showing on BET and MTV, where Michael leads a scary army and a giant statue of him is forged and unveiled to a crowd of screaming fans. And at the time I thought those were Rambo-style bullet straps on the statue. I still don’t know what the fuck he was trying to communicate with that short film, and also I still enjoy the audacity of it.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Disturbing Behavior

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

July 24th, 1998

is when SAVING PRIVATE RYAN came out. I wrote about that a while back. Here’s a review of a different movie that came out that day.

I don’t consider DISTURBING BEHAVIOR a very good movie, and I’m not aware of anybody it’s meaningful to, but in a certain way it’s a decent time capsule of where we were at in 1998. The gloomy drizzle and ferries made me wonder if fictional Cradle Bay, filmed in Vancouver, B.C., was meant to evoke Washington state. It would be fitting, because it sort of plays like the disaffection of the so-called grunge scene trickling out in late ’90s teen sci-fi, like chemicals that were spilled into a sewer, overflowed into the Sound, made their way into the plants growing along the shore and were eaten and shat out by animals.

Steve (James Marsden, ACCIDENTAL LOVE) is the new kid in school, moved into town eight months after the trauma of his brother (Ethan Embry from CAN’T HARDLY WAIT)’s suicide. In the cafeteria, stoner outcast Gavin (Nick Stahl, MIRRORS 2) appoints himself rope-show-er and gives him an elaborate take on that time honored teen movie trope, the explanation of all the school’s cliques. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg (BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, CON AIR, ARMAGEDDON, HIGHWAY, PAIN & GAIN) seems to be going for a cross between Shakespeare and Daniel Waters, in my opinion missing the mark on both. He uses a structured format where Gavin lists the awkwardly named groups (“Blue Ribbons,” “Micro Geeks”), describes them, says their “drug of choice,” and then his spaced out sidekick U.V. (Chad Donella, FINAL DESTINATION, TAKEN 3) makes a rhyme about what kind freak they are: “freaks who fix leaks,” “freaks who squeak,” “freaks in sneaks.”

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Meg

Monday, August 27th, 2018

When elite underwater rescue guy Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham, GHOSTS OF MARS) tries to save his friends from a damaged nuclear submarine, he makes a controversial decision to shut a door and leave behind some of the crew, saving eleven others from an explosion. His career and life are ruined by that hard choice. And also because he believes the sub was attacked by a monster and everybody thinks he’s nuts.

Years later he lives in Disgraced Hero Exile in Thailand, drinking all day in his Thai farmer hat, running a small fishing boat. It’s clear that he’s a sweetheart when some little kids wave at him on his motorcycle and he makes a funny face for them. I liked this little touch, though it kind of undercuts the later badass juxtaposition of his friendship with a little girl named Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai).

Of course he’s resistant at first when his old buddy Mac (Cliff Curtis, DEEP RISING, WHALE RIDER, THE POOL, RIVER QUEEN, THE FOUNTAIN… he does alot of water related movies, is my point) shows up to recruit him for another rescue. This time it’s people working for a high tech underwater lab who lost radio contact. And one of them is his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee, THE LOVED ONES). In a refreshing swerve from standard action movie protocol, he just likes and respects her, and is not trying to win her back. He does get to tell her “I told you so,” of course, when they all see that giant monster that they spent years telling him he didn’t really see. (read the rest of this shit…)

BlacKkKlansman

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

BLACKkKLANSMAN is the new Spike Lee joint, and it seems like it’s getting way more attention than at least the last decade of his jointography. I don’t remember half this much interest in CHI-RAQ, OLDBOY, RED HOOK SUMMER or MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, and even I haven’t gotten around to DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS yet.

I believe there are a couple reasons for the commotion on this one:

1) It’s produced by GET OUT‘s Jordan Peele

2) and also Blumhouse, who know how to market a low budget movie

3) it’s based on the true story of a black cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, which is a good hook

and most importantly (read the rest of this shit…)

A long road

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Friends, I need to write something very personal and sad right now. Some of it will include things about my family and my age that I usually try to be vague about, but fuck it. I’m really only writing this to get it out of my system, so if you didn’t come here to be bummed out or to read my fuckin diaries, that’s perfectly all right. I recommend instead this review from last year of STEELE JUSTICE starring Martin Kove.

But the thing is my mom died Monday morning. It wasn’t sudden, and yet, of course, it kinda seemed like it was. This has been a trying half decade for me. After my dad’s Alzheimer’s was severe enough that he had to be moved into a facility, but before he passed away, Mom tripped and hit her head. Just a normal clumsy accident, didn’t think much of it, but the raccoon eyes that developed the next day helped convince her she should get checked for a concussion. The damage from the fall wasn’t severe, but there was something else they noticed: a brain tumor. A huge one. The surgeon who would soon remove it described it as “the mother of all tumors” and “the size of a grapefruit.” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mask of Zorro

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

You know me, I love these modern (like, 1990s or later) takes on old timey adventure heroes. For example I enjoyed THE SHADOW, THE PHANTOM, THE LONE RANGER and THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, all of which were considered flops. I suspect the generation that was greenlighting these kinds of pictures is gone, and the tradition will die out, but I appreciate their contributions to my entertainment.

There’s only one I can think of that was a genuine hit. THE MASK OF ZORRO opened at #1, made $250 million worldwide, even got a sequel. One of its biggest marks was making Catherine Zeta-Jones into a movie star. Obviously you and I already knew her as a villain who switches to the good guy side in THE PHANTOM, but executive producer Steven Spielberg (DEEP IMPACT) recommended her after seeing her in a Titanic mini-series. MASK OF ZORRO was the thing most people knew her from before ENTRAPMENT, THE HAUNTING, HIGH FIDELITY, TRAFFIC, CHICAGO, etc. For screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio (SMALL SOLDIERS), who are credited alongside John Eskow (PINK CADILLAC, AIR AMERICA) and Randall Jahnson (DUDES, THE DOORS) it was the prototype epic-period-adventure-movie template they would use for four PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies and THE LONE RANGER.

As far as I know nobody ever talks about THE MASK OF ZORRO anymore. But they should. It’s fucking great. (read the rest of this shit…)

I did another podcast: Zebras in America

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Hey everybody, it’s another chance to destroy my carefully cultivated aura of mysteriousness! The podcast Zebras in America invited me to be on their new episode, so I did, and it was fun. I’m afraid to listen to it, but I remember questions we addressed included what is Jean Claude Van Damme’s best movie, was Dave Bautista a good wrestler, is Bruce Willis phoning it in, should The Rock make better movies, who are my favorite rappers, and how do I know about Ram El Zee. I like these guys alot because they knew most of the DTV action movies I dropped but also are way more knowledgeable than me about art movies. From what I can gather, two of Marcus’s biggest interests are pro-wrestling and the films of Claire Denis, and obviously I respect that kind of range.

Note: when listing favorite West Coast rappers I forgot Digital Underground, Xzibit, and I think even Snoop.

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 66 is on iTunes and stuff or you can check it out HERE.

P.S. I just now figured out that the title is a reference to FREDDY GOT FINGERED.

Revenge

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

REVENGE (the 2018 release with the pink logo, not the Kevin Costner/Tony Scott one) is a great rape-revenge movie. Not a subversive one in my opinion, just a really good version of the form that goes mercifully light on the first r-word and entertainingly extravagant on the second. Obviously the very idea of the genre is upsetting, but as far as these things go, it’s a fun time. It has no interest in gritty realism or wiping your nose in the shit. It’s not even about any “dig two graves” or LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT don’t-stoop-to-their-level anti-revenge moralism. It has alot of symbolism and poetic exaggeration and exists in a world where human bodies have an impressive capacity for withstanding severe injuries and extreme blood loss.

(NOTE: If this sounds like something you can dig, I suggest seeing it and not reading the rest of this review yet, because I will be using SPOILERS to discuss alot of what I find most interesting in it.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Monday, August 6th, 2018

This is weird, there’s a JURASSIC PARK sequel that came out 2 1/2 months ago and I didn’t get around to seeing it until this weekend, when it’s down to two showings a day. I think I saw all the other ones opening day or weekend. But maybe it was a smart move on this one because it benefits from the lowered expectations of everyone telling me it was trash.

In JURASSIC WORLD, you remember, they reopened the dinosaur park and the dinosaurs reattacked the new park and there was a new guy named Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, WEINERS) who was real macho and always trying to show off the size of his forearms. And he trains raptors and has a contentious bickery love with an uptight lady who works at the park named Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, TERMINATOR SALVATION).

In FALLEN KINGDOM, the dinos are still loose on abandoned Isla Nubar, where a volcano is about to erupt. Claire is now a dinosaur rights activist trying to convince the government to act to save these endangered dinosaurs. She’s contacted by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS), who runs the estate of John Hammond’s dying partner Lockwood (James Cromwell, SPECIES II; also played Howard’s father in SPIDER-MAN 3) and wants to fund the rescue mission. But he especially wants to find Blue, the most intelligent raptor, and knows that Owen is the only person who could track her. (read the rest of this shit…)