"I'll just get my gear."

Archive for June, 2019

Climax

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

I’m not too well-versed in the films of Gaspar Noe. I still haven’t seen his early films like I STAND ALONE and IRREVERSIBLE that gained him a following and a reputation as a nihilistic wipe-your-nose-in-it gloom merchant. I have seen ENTER THE VOID, which taught me that he’s also a great stylist with incredible technical mastery in the area of long takes and seemingly impossible camera moves. I knew this one also had dancing, so I checked it out.

Here’s my pitch: STEP UP 3 meets mother! on acid. Literally on acid – it’s about a French dance troupe having a party in an empty school building and realizing somebody dosed the sangria. Everybody gradually goes from joyfully celebrating their progress on a new routine to getting paranoid, agitated and violent. The few who didn’t drink it are suspected of spiking it, and become targets for the others. Everybody is trying to fuck everybody else while also trying not to be fucked by everybody else. It turns into a dark, horny fever dream where the rooms keeping getting darker and redder and the camera more disorienting, eventually even upside down (shout out to the massage parlor robbery scene in TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1). I noticed that there was a whole lot of screaming and wigging out, but actually didn’t catch that 42 minutes of it was one unbroken take. (read the rest of this shit…)

Raising Heroes

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

June is Pride Month, of course, and I hope it’s been a good one for anybody who it means anything to. I never really knew a way to honor the occasion before, but that’s because I hadn’t yet stumbled across this 1996 gay-themed independent drama that shows two guys with guns on the cover – in fact the tagline is “THIS TIME THE GAY GUY’S GOT THE GUN!” – and mentions John Woo on the back.

RAISING HEROES is about a couple, Josh (Troy Sostillio) and Paul (Henry White), in the midst of a custody battle. Paul’s best friend died of cancer and wanted the two to raise her young son Nicky, but the kid’s grandmother and homophobic case workers are trying to stop that from happening. Then, a few days before a crucial hearing, Josh witnesses a mobster named Victor (Edmond Sorel, also co-writer) executing a guy in a convenience store, and various gangsters spend the next few days following and trying to eliminate him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Child’s Play (remake)

Monday, June 24th, 2019

You all know the story of the 1988 horror classic CHILD’S PLAY: a single mother buys her son the talking doll he wants for his sixth birthday, she brushes it off as imagination when he claims the doll is telling him weird things, a babysitter gets killed and because of the tiny footprints at the scene the police suspect the kid did it. We only see glimpses of what the doll is up to, but we know that a cornered serial killer named Charles Lee Ray performed a voodoo ritual and his spirit is hiding out in there. And the mom goes from worrying about what’s wrong with her son, to worrying she’s losing her mind for starting to wonder if he’s right, to the total shock of seeing the doll walk around and talk to her and stuff. And now she has to stop this supernatural threat that no one will believe her about before the killer transfers his soul into the body of her son.

This new movie called CHILD’S PLAY that is officially considered a remake is not that story. You still got a single mother (Aubrey Plaza, INGRID GOES WEST) trying to make ends meet working at a store, and she still has a son named Andy (Gabriel Bateman [ANNABELLE]), who she buys a doll named Chucky. But Andy is 13 years old (huge difference) and the doll is an A.I. infused walking and talking robot (also huge difference) and he is not possessed by Charles Lee Ray or anyone else (hugest difference). So there’s no secret, everybody knows it walks around and talks to you and stuff, and the kid is not young enough to be confused by it. Instead of dealing with the classic “no one believes me” theme (until it’s implausibly shoe-horned in near the end) the tension comes from the kids (he has friends in this) making the poor decision to try to hide things from the adults, even though Andy is friends with a nice cop who could help him (the great Brian Tyree Henry from Atlanta, WIDOWS, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE). (read the rest of this shit…)

Batman

Friday, June 21st, 2019

Tim Burton’s BATMAN is a movie about a feeling – a feeling called Batman. It’s a lonely, broken, hanging out in a cave with the bats feeling. A sad about my dead parents but trying to be me feeling. A doing a bad job of passing for a normal person but fuck you I’m gonna dress and drive how I want and do what I want at night feeling. An okay it’s true that I am legitimately crazy and even sometimes hang upside down like a bat when I can’t sleep but does that have to mean I can’t have a girlfriend feeling. The feeling is evoked by shadowy alleys, towering gothic structures (thanks to brilliant production design by FULL METAL JACKET‘s Anton Furst), matte black metal and Danny Elfman’s low, murmuring horns that climb to the rooftops, step to the edge and spread their gargoyle wings in a thunderous explosion of marching drums and rococo instrumentation.

Man, that score. There aren’t many I like better than this one. It’s as eternal as the concept of Batman itself.

Now, just as we’re in a groove here – as Batman (in a place that looks sort of like the ’40s, sort of like the ’80s, sort of like a future that never happened) is terrifying muggers, chasing gangsters in fedoras, dodging old timey reporters with similar hats, sitting in his cave looking at scans of old newspaper articles on his computer that looks sturdier than a submarine, or out of costume hiding away in his big empty manor, stewing in a mood that’s black, blue and overcast – here comes this walking splatter of white, green and purple called The Joker. The nerve of this asshole to hold himself as a parallel to Batman! Sure, we understand the need for self expression, the rebellion against conformity, the back and forth between masking and glorying in his disfigurement. And yeah, he knows how to be a funny jerk. His arrogance can be kinda charming. “You look fine.” “I didn’t ask.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Renegades

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Maybe I’m out of touch, but I had never heard of RENEGADES. At first I assumed it was a western. It does reunite YOUNG GUNS stars Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips (the original Woody & Wesley), but it’s a contemporary buddy/cop movie set in Philadelphia. And it’s as solid as you’d hope for from director Jack Sholder, following up ALONE IN THE DARK (1982), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) and THE HIDDEN (1987).

Sutherland (STAND BY ME) plays Buster McHenry, who is one of those guys who goes into a little diner and is on a first name basis with the old man behind the counter. You know the type. Like Dirty Harry, he happens to see a traffic stop turn into a hostage situation from the window while having some night time coffee. Like Riggs, he goes out and performs a crazy stunt, pretending to be a drunk guy wandering in the situation so he can take one guy’s gun, shoot two others, make one surrender. Then he slaps the commanding officer and spends a night in the drunk tank for it. He’s actually a cop but he’s on vacation, doing a private undercover case with the knowledge (but not official sanction) of his boss/mentor/dead dad’s friend Lieutenant Finch (Bill Smitrovich, BAND OF THE HAND). (read the rest of this shit…)

No Holds Barred

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

On May 26th, 1989, PINK CADILLAC starring Clint Eastwood and Bernadette Peters was released. That’s a pretty good one, but I already reviewed it just a couple years ago. So look over that review if you want and now let’s move on to the next week, when “Rock On” by Michael Damien was the #1 single and a movie with similar levels of quality and soulfulness, NO HOLDS BARRED, came out.

When Roddy Piper wanted to star in THEY LIVE (1988), he had to leave wrestling to do it. World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon wanted a piece of everything his “superstars” did, so he promised to get Piper another, bigger movie to star in if he’d stay. As Piper told it years later, he refused the offer because he knew it wouldn’t be a movie directed by John Carpenter.

Good move. A year later, the WWF’s biggest icon Hulk Hogan got to star in the kind of vehicle McMahon could put together as a fledgling movie producer. NO HOLDS BARRED is an unimaginative, pea-brained wrestleploitation movie that plays most of its acting, themes, jokes and drama for the back row of the stadium.

Hogan (whose idol “Superstar” Billy Graham appeared in the infinitely better movie FIST FIGHTER earlier in the summer) basically appears as himself: the big-hearted, beloved by fans and children World Wrestling Federation champion. But he’s not named Hulk, he’s named Rip, and instead of wearing shirts that say “Hulkamania!” he wears shirts that say “Rip ’em!” So it’s like an alternate dimension that’s the same as ours except Hulk Hogan has a different name. Terrible episode of Sliders. (read the rest of this shit…)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

When INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM came out two years after RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK it was off-putting to many, and its PG-rated monkey brain and human heart munching outraged enough parents to inspire the more hardcore PG-13 rating. So five more years passed before director Steven Spielberg and producer/story-provider George Lucas came up with the next one, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, for summer of ’89.

To pull it off they had to back away from everything new they’d tried in TEMPLE OF DOOM and walk right up to everything old we all loved in RAIDERS. So it’s less mean, less weird, less gross, and more directly built onto the template of RAIDERS. Not that it was a total rehash. Nazis are involved, but not necessarily in charge. Marion isn’t there, and the new love interest follows a very different arc. There’s less desert and more water. There’s a wacky old man sidekick played by Sean Connery (ENTRAPMENT). And a whole sequence from Indy’s childhood. But he steals an artifact and brings it to school and then finds out about a quest for another artifact and offers his expertise and travels to different countries and looks at ancient texts that lead him to a series of riddles that he solves while pursued by Nazis, murderers and betrayers and teamed with Brody and Sallah and ultimately when they find the thing it kills the bad guys in cool face-melting special effects sequences and etc. So it’s kind of the same thing. But they did a good job of hiding it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Road House

Monday, June 17th, 2019

ROAD HOUSE is one of the canonical works of… I don’t even want to say action cinema, or badass cinema, I just want to say cinema. When I first wrote about it 15 years ago I was in awe of its unique mix of raucous bar brawls, quotable lines and heightened badassness. I mean, you’d just have to be such a chump not to get something out of a well-made movie about the world’s second best bar security expert (Patrick Swayze shortly after STEEL DAWN) being called into Jasper, Kansas to straighten out “the kind of place that they sweep up the eyeballs after closing,” along the way falling in love, ripping out a guy’s throat and freeing the town from the corrupt grip of rich bully Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara, BUFFALO ’66), who within one scene is revealed as a domestic abuser, shuts off his victim’s aerobics music because it “has no heart,” and boasts “JC Penney is coming here because of me!” It’s a glorious elevated drive-in classic forged from the undiluted sincerity of Swayze, the rioutous fight choreography of Benny “The Jet” Urquidez (BLOODMATCH, THE BIG HIT, WAR INC.), and the savage entertainment instincts of producer Joel Silver (COMMANDO, LETHAL WEAPON, PREDATOR, ACTION JACKSON, DIE HARD, THE MATRIX). It may top even RICOCHET as the most Joel Silver movie ever made. (read the rest of this shit…)

For Queen & Country

Friday, June 14th, 2019

Confession: Classifying FOR QUEEN & COUNTRY as an action film is a bit of a stretch. Yeah, it stars Denzel Washington (RICOCHET, THE EQUALIZER, THE EQUALIZER 2) as an ex-paratrooper, and he gets in some fights and there’s an explosion and some people get shot and there’s crime and the score is by Michael Kamen (DIE HARD). It’s much more of a drama that includes these elements of action and crime movies, though, than it is an action or crime movie.

But look, he has a gun on the poster. I thought it was gonna fit into this series more than it does. Let’s not worry about it.

Washington plays Reuben James, who joins the army to move beyond an aimless life as a soccer hooligan – that’s right, he’s English in this one! – then saw some shit and earned some medals as a gunner in the Falklands. Back in the old neighborhood he tries to get a job and politely decline criminal activities with old acquaintances including high roller Colin (Bruce Payne, HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME), who claims to have a legitimate offer for him, but… come on. And the people with real jobs are indifferent to him, nobody cares that he’s a veteran, racist cops harass him and call him slurs, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fist Fighter

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

When people think of the summer of ’89, it’s possible that the first thing that comes to mind is not the movie FIST FIGHTER. And when they think of the movie FIST FIGHTER, it’s possible that the first thing that comes to mind is not I am aware of a movie that exists that’s called FIST FIGHTER. Yes, this is an obscure one. IMDb says it was released on May 12th (the week when Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You” overtook Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” as the #1 single) and doesn’t list it as a video premiere, but it has no box office data, and it doesn’t register on the Box Office Mojo charts. It has only come out on VHS and laserdisc, and not even Scarecrow Video had it last time I checked. But I bought myself a copy a while back after asking david j. moore the best movies he discovered while working on The Good, the Tough and the Deadly, and fortuitously saved it to review until now.

Our hero is a handsome, muscular man with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair, which I greatly respect. Both times I’ve watched I forgot where I knew this actor from – he’s Jorge Rivero (credited as George Rivero), the star of that Lucio Fulci barbarian movie I liked, CONQUEST. He worked primarily in Mexican films from the ’60s until as recently as 2014, but was also in Howard Hawks’ RIO LOBO with his hero John Wayne, THE LAST HARD MEN with Charlton Heston and James Coburn, and a couple English-language ’90s b-movies like this one. Here his stoicism and dry humor remind me a little of Chuck Norris when he’s playing one of his nicer, less arrogant characters. A big good looking guy who genuinely wants no trouble, wouldn’t try to steal your girl or strut around wearing sunglasses. (read the rest of this shit…)