"I'll just get my gear."

Archive for March, 2019

Dragged Across Concrete

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

This is my piece about being torn between loving S. Craig Zahler’s movies and being grossed out by the worldview they seem to represent. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I’ve been waiting for DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE with a new emotion I call antici-dread. On one hand, it’s writer-director Zahler’s followup to BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99, maybe my favorite movie of 2017. On the other hand, it’s his ode to racist cops and I’m starting to worry that my love for Zahler’s right-up-my-alley tone and filmatism has made me too quick to brush off questions about his fascination with casual racism and anti-heroes brutalizing minorities to protect the white women.

I really like BONE TOMAHAWK and BRAWL, and I’m not entirely convinced by some of the interpretations of them I’ve heard. But I got nervous when producer Dallas Sonnier (who has also done very good work, from managing Stone Cold Steve Austin to resurrecting Fangoria) did a press tour about his company Cinestate’s “populist” movies – code for “quiet 2+ hour slow burn niche art movies with occasional bursts of extreme gore” – saying they appeal to a “neglected audience” in “the age of Trump.” Asked about BRAWL receiving “4 out of 5 swastikas” from a white supremacist reviewer, Sonnier was only quoted with a less than forceful, “The reactions that come from them, we can’t control.”

I sure hope it’s all a big wacky misunderstanding, but to me it seems suspiciously like a “very fine people on both sides” marketing strategy. Then Zahler rebooted PUPPET MASTER to be about funny puppet hate crimes, and off-handedly referred to GET OUT as “manure” with no explanation in his Fangoria column, and at some point you gotta acknowledge a pattern even if it’s gonna fuck with your enjoyment of singular, committed, badass crime stories. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fist of the North Star

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR is a straight-to-video live action manga adaptation post-apocalyptic white people martial arts b-movie that I’ve been meaning to watch for about 20 years even though everybody said it was garbage. And I’m sure if I knew the comics or the anime version I would hold it to different standards, but coming to it fresh I gotta tell you this one checks off alot of boxes of the type of shit I enjoy in a movie. I am here to tell you it has merit.

The villain is the head of the Southern Cross martial arts school, who rebuilds a city after World War III and becomes its dictator, and the hero is the last heir of the rival North Star school, whose powerful fighting style is the only thing that can defeat Southern Cross. And even though their names are Shin and Kenshiro they are played by two white dudes, Costas Mandylor (VIRTUOSITY) and Gary Daniels (COLD HARVEST).

Today this would be frowned upon as whitewashing, and fair enough. But I guess I’ve grown up fascinated with white adoptees of martial arts from the ’70s and ’80s kung fu, karate and ninja booms, and to me there’s something sort of awesomely stupid (in a good way) about these muscular dudes with mullets and leather vests without shirts being the last great martial arts warriors of the future. And I have no right to impose this policy on the outside world, but in my mind there’s a statute of limitations that says since he’s not pretending to be Asian in any way Gary Daniels is grandfathered in to be allowed to be named Kenshiro as he practices moves on the bones of western and/or eastern civilization.

One complaint: why no headbands? I have rarely seen two dudes more worthy of cool headbands. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Guilty

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

THE GUILTY is an elegantly minimalistic Danish thriller. It’s a premise that makes LOCKE seem needlessly extravagant. Like that movie it’s a story told entirely through its lead character’s phone conversations, but in this one he’s not driving around. Tom Hardy saw it and said “God damn it! Why did you put me through all that? I could’ve just been in a room.” I’m not sure which accent he used.

(I haven’t seen BURIED and don’t remember much about THE TELEPHONE with Whoopi Goldberg, so I don’t know. Maybe they make this look like Michael Bay.)

The visuals take place entirely inside a small call center at a police station. The beautiful thing is that it neither feels like a gimmick or a thing they could’ve changed if they’d had a bigger budget. No, it just feels like the natural, best way to tell this particular story. (read the rest of this shit…)

Us

Monday, March 25th, 2019

If you haven’t seen Jordan Peele’s second movie US and you’re just wondering if I recommend it, the answer is yes. Personally, I loved it. I don’t expect everyone to feel the same, or as strongly.  Not everybody’s gonna be looking for the same things. The record breaking opening weekend proves Peele is still playing to more than just the people who go to lots of horror movies, and it’s hard to know what anyone will demand from the followup to a small horror movie so broadly popular it broke all rules by being nominated for best picture.

I think this is one with all kinds of fascinating things going on beneath the surface, as we now expect from Peele and his “social horror,” but that’s not the primary thing I’m looking for. It also really speaks to me just with its directorial style and the bugged out horror ride it takes us on.

I don’t want to write anything tip-toeing around those things they held back in the marketing. I’m thankful the trailer didn’t give away the whole game. So I’ve written a VERY SPOILERFUL review for after you’ve seen it only. I hope if you haven’t seen it you’ll come back after you have. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mortal Engines

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

You might’ve figured a new sci-fi/fantasy produced and written by Peter Jackson and his fellowship (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens), and directed by his storyboard artist/effects guy since DEAD ALIVE Christian Rivers, would be a pretty big deal. I had hoped to see it in 3D, but it came out the same week as THE MULE and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE and then the next week I wanted to see AQUAMAN, MARY POPPINS RETURNS and BUMBLEBEE and since the movie flopped the showtimes dropped precipitously and it was gone before I got to it. Plus, everybody said it sucked.

Wrong! I am happy to report that MORTAL ENGINES is pretty fuckin cool! It’s based on a young adult book, and there are some costumes and characters that follow a sort of steampunk or HUNGER GAMES city dweller style that I’m not into it, but it’s an adventure in an interesting world with cool characters and the spectacular effects of Weta at their best.

The movie centers around futuristic London, which is a “predator city,” meaning the whole fucking thing drives around the wastelands like a giant tank looking for resources, which they get by “ingesting” smaller cities to steal their machines and citizens. In the opening scene they chase down a small mining town and swallow it up. When I saw the Londoners on the fancy top deck watching the chase and cheering I fell in love with the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Ranger

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

THE RANGER is a pretty solid, pretty simple little horror movie about some punks in a remote cabin running afoul of a psychotic forest ranger. It’s a little more serious than that sounds, but in an interesting way, not a pretentious one. I believe it takes place some time in the ’80s, because there’s a Walkman but no cell phones, but otherwise it could take place any time in the last 35 years or so. Punks are timeless.

The story centers on Chelsea (Chloe Levine, The Defenders), whose family owns the cabin. She was there as a little girl when her uncle (Larry Fessenden, the Stan Lee of indie horror) died under grisly and not-yet-fully-explained-to-us circumstances. Now she gets pushed into bringing her friends there to hide out after her shithead boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) stabs a cop during a police raid at a punk show. (read the rest of this shit…)

Triple Frontier

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

TRIPLE FRONTIER is last week’s straight-to-Netflix-no-theaters release from director J.C. Chandor (MARGIN CALL, ALL IS LOST, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR). This one is higher profile than most such releases because it floated around various big name directors and studios before Netflix bought it with the bottomless money supply their CEO famously received by catching a magic fish, and it stars Oscar Isaac (SUCKER PUNCH), Ben Affleck (ELEKTRA, director’s cut only), Charlie Hunnam (KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD), Garrett Hedlund (TRON LEGACY) Pedro Pascal (THE GREAT WALL) and Adria Arjona (PACIFIC RIM UPRISING). It’s such a big deal for the company that they made the uncharacteristic choice of promoting its existence!

Isaac plays Santiago “Pope” Garcia, an American advising the Colombian military in violent raids on drug gangs. His informant/sometime-girlfriend Yovanna (Arjona) claims to know the location of a jungle fortress where cartel boss Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos, MONKEY TROUBLE) hides out with all his money. So Pope goes back to the states to recruit some of his old retired spec ops buddies as a team to go in and do reconnaissance and pocket a percentage of the money the police ultimately seize.

At least that’s what he says until they get there, and then it becomes clear that the police don’t know anything about it yet. He wants his buddies to do a heist with him. Ah, shit, Pope. Are you kidding me with this shit? (read the rest of this shit…)

Timecop

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Recently when I ranked all the ’90s comic book movies for Polygon I rewatched TIMECOP for the first time since that decade. I decided to disqualify it when I read on the production notes extra that it was originally written as a script and then made into a Dark Horse Comics series, but I’m glad I watched it first, because it’s better than I remembered.

Jean-Claude Van Damme (BREAKIN’) plays Max Walker, a regular cop who’s about to be recruited to a new secret government agency that travels back in time to stop other time travelers from changing history. Knowing the future presents ample opportunities for get-rich-quick schemes (for example, in the opening a guy uses a futuristic machine gun to steal gold from the Confederate Army), but the government worries this could butterfly-effect shit up, so they try to control it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Triple Threat

Friday, March 15th, 2019

TRIPLE THREAT is the long-awaited international co-production that teams Tony Jaa (ONG BAK, THE PROTECTOR, KILL ZONE 2), Iko Uwais (THE RAID, HEADSHOT, THE NIGHT COMES FOR US) and Tiger Chen (MAN OF TAI CHI, KUNG FU TRAVELER). That in itself is an event, but wait until I tell you who plays the villains. Directed by Jesse V. Johnson (THE BUTCHER, SAVAGE DOG), it’s not an envelope-pusher like some of the modern classics each of those three have under their belts, but it’s a solid action romp with tons of clearly shot fighting, taking advantage of all the possible match-ups and varying martial arts styles.

Jaa is first billed and shown first, but Uwais is the protagonist and the one with the best hair*. Jaa and Chen play mercenaries duped into a “humanitarian mission” that’s actually an attack on a village in which Uwais’ character’s (very briefly glimpsed) wife and friends are killed. Seeking revenge, he tracks the two to their day jobs as underground fighters… and gets beat up. But they recognize him from the village, explain themselves and become his on again, off again allies as he uses them to try to lure out the criminal syndicate responsible. Meanwhile those two try not to be killed by the gang for knowing too much, as well as to protect a Chinese heiress (Celina Jade, LEGENDARY ASSASSIN, SKIN TRADE, WOLF WARRIOR 2) they discover is being targeted by them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get ready to get AVENGEMENTed

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

I must be moving up in the world because I actually got sent a press release about Samuel Goldwyn Films acquiring U.S. rights to “THE ACTION-PACKED FILM ‘AVENGEMENT’ STARRING SCOTT ADKINS.”

The important new information is that it will be released digitally on May 24th. It also says it’ll be in theaters that day, but I don’t know how many of our cities will benefit from that.

The other thing that most impressed me is that Adkins’ character is named CAIN BURGESS. Obviously we were all hoping for John Avengement, but the genre can definitely use more Cains and Kanes. We’ll see if Cain Burgess becomes the next Yuri Boyka.

AVENGEMENT is directed by Jesse V. Johnson, who I have noted is on an incredible role with SAVAGE DOG, ACCIDENT MAN, THE DEBT COLLECTOR and TRIPLE THREAT all in a row. He first directed Adkins way back in 2005’s PIT FIGHTER. The screenplay is by Johnson and Stu Smalls, which bodes well – Johnson wrote the excellent DEBT COLLECTOR, and Smalls is Adkins’ life long friend who co-wrote ACCIDENT MAN and has helped mold his dialogue for other scripts.

Here’s the official plot summary:

“While released on furlough from prison, a lowly criminal evades his guards and returns to his old haunts to take revenge on the people that made him a cold-hearted killer. It’s an epic, bloody battle to search for the soul he lost years ago on the streets of an unforgiving city.”

Johnson’s description of the character and story are intriguing. He calls Cain Burgess “both frightening and sympathetic” and “A man who has tempered his pain and rejection into a carbon steel tool for revenge.” And he claims that said revenge is “a satisfyingly baroque, almost elegant retribution.”

So we’ll find out what that’s all about in a few months, but we only have to wait until next week to see the latest from Johnson and Adkins (as the villain), TRIPLE THREAT. I’ll have a review of that for you tomorrow morning after the embargo lifts.