"I'll just get my gear."

Archive for August, 2019

The Nightingale

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

THE NIGHTINGALE, now in limited theatrical release, is Australian director Jennifer Kent’s followup to THE BABADOOK. That 2014 debut of hers was a critical sensation and cult hit that made less than 1/34 the box office of ANNABELLE the same year, but it reached a ton of people, including many who don’t usually bother with the genre. Certainly some of the hype was about it being directed by a woman, and I think that’s relevant in that its scares are based in motherhood. I can point you to plenty of pro-woman horror movies, but few that are about such specifically female fears.

That made Kent one of those directors whose names get reported as being on the short list to direct every WONDER WOMAN or CAPTAIN MARVEL that comes along. She told Indiewire “I did entertain one blockbuster seriously and I thought, yeah, I could give this something really special. But then ultimately I heard about the way the films are made, and I thought it would kill me.” So five years later she still hasn’t been sucked into the ol’ i.p. game, unless you count developing an adaptation of the 19th century lesbian thriller book Alice + Freda Forever. Instead she made this. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Street Fighter

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

“I may in fact be worse than the villains. But I know the way they think and act.”

Sonny Chiba is… THE STREET FIGHTER, a.k.a. Takuma Tsurugi (or Terry in the English dub). He’s an A+ anti-hero because he’s just straight up a bad person, but he’s so cool he keeps luring us into rooting for him.

And he’s definitely in the Bad Motherfucker Hall of Fame. We’re introduced to him disguised as a Buddhist monk to visit Tateki Shikenbaru (Masashi Ishibashi, SHOGUN’S NINJA) on death row. Shikenbaru is apparently a murderer, but he seems like an honorable guy who’s excited when he realizes he gets to have a karate duel in his cell with someone as good as Tsurugi. But Tsurugi hits him with a special delayed-asphyxiation blow that causes him to collapse just before execution. The prison officials decide they legally and/or ethically have to transport him to a hospital, at which point Tsurugi and his sycophantic partner Rakuda (Goichi Yamada, DOUBLE SUICIDE AT NISHIJIN) ambush the ambulance, abduct the prisoner and send him to Hong Kong. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tai Chi Master

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

By now you’ve probly noticed that I like searching for wisdom in martial arts movies the way some people do religious texts. Sorry, they’re just more fun to me than holy scripture. But man, when I find one that speaks to me I feel spiritually invigorated. TAI CHI MASTER (a.k.a. TWIN WARRIORS) (1993) is just such a sermon. It’s one of those stories full of symbolism that

1) seems easily applicable to life

and

2) makes for strong, mythical drama

And since it’s directed and choreographed by the great Yuen Woo-ping (in between IRON MONKEY and WING CHUN) it would already be worth watching just for the beautiful fights full of wild flourishes and ingenious gimmicks. This is a world where people frequently kick logs and barrels at each other and back, where most people have the ability to leap into the air and spin or flip several full rotations, where you fly up and swing on a chandelier and the lamp oil spills and makes the floor slippery so you land on top of the people who have fallen down and slide around on them like they’re snowboards. (read the rest of this shit…)

Point Blank (2019)

Monday, August 26th, 2019

POINT BLANK (2019) is a recent Netflix release directed by Joe Lynch (WRONG TURN 2, EVERLY). It’s not a remake of the classic Lee Marvin POINT BLANK from 1967, or the non-classic Mickey Rourke/Danny Trejo POINT BLANK from 1998, or even the Brazilian police corruption documentary POINT BLANK from 2015, but in fact the French one from 2010 that was recommended to me many times but that I haven’t seen yet. Of the three of those I’ve seen, this one’s in second place!

It’s got a great, “oh shit, we’re already doing this” opening. There’s an exterior shot of a mansion at night, but before the camera can move inside we hear gunshots and see flashes inside, and then a guy comes flying through one of the windows and makes a run for it. He’s Abe (Frank Grillo, MY SOUL TO TAKE) and he’s frantically trying to get ahold of his getaway driver brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) in between ducking gunshots and receiving threatening texts from some guy named Big D.

And then… I’ll just say he ends up an unconscious John Doe at a hospital, which is where he intersects with our protagonist, Paul (Anthony Mackie, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER), a nurse doing extra shifts because his wife Taryn (Teyonah Parris, CHI-RAQ, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK) is about to give birth to their first child. And the next thing you know Mateo has taken Taryn hostage to force Paul to sneak Abe out of the hospital. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rondo

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

RONDO is the second feature from writer/director Drew Barnhardt. Ethically I need to fully disclose and disclaim that he’s a reader of this websight and we’ve corresponded off and on for many years, which is why I plugged but didn’t officially review his 2009 no-budget slasher/thriller MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO. So take it with whatever amount of salt you feel is necessary, but I truly believe movie #2, which was released on disc by Artsploitation Films earlier in the summer, is distinctive. It has the feel of the style of pulp novels I love, where a (in this case) somewhat blank character falls into some seedy business and part of the thrill is having no idea what direction it’s going or even what structure the story’s gonna take.

The plot concerns Paul (Luke Sorge), a combat veteran living with his protective younger sister Jill (Brenna Otts) after being dishonorably discharged for what we’re told was an “of course, mysterious” shooting incident. Jill tells him he can’t have alcohol or guns in the house, but he’s such a mess she ends up cradling him and pouring whiskey in his mouth like she’s bottle-feeding a baby. She sends him to an addiction doctor someone recommended to her, but doesn’t realize he’s going to talk to a weirdo who will give him a big monologue about the local fetish community and then “prescribe” for him to show up at an apartment in a highrise downtown to fuck some rich creep’s wife in front of him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Never On Tuesday

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Recently I saw multiple articles about a scene from an obscure movie that someone had appreciatively posted on Twitter – “that insane Nicolas Cage viral clip,” as Entertainment Weekly put it. Can you believe that Youtube clip he did? The inside story of that Youtube clip he did. What a nut! What a meme! What a Nicolas Cage!

The clip was a very brief and strange uncredited cameo Cage did in the 1989 straight to video sex comedy NEVER ON TUESDAY. It had never made it to DVD because the company that had planned to went out of business first. I’d never seen it even though it’s the first movie from a director I like, Adam Rifkin (PSYCHO COP 2, THE LAST MOVIE STAR).

It’s great that we have the technology to easily share shit like this, but I’m old school so I waited to watch the whole thing. When I checked Amazon it was listed as “currently unavailable” on both VHS and Prime streaming (which I don’t get anyway), but luckily we’re still holding on to Scarecrow Video here in Seattle, so I rented the tape. I’m glad I did!

(read the rest of this shit…)

Shazam!

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

SHAZAM!, as a super hero premise, is no Batman. Or Aqua Man. Or Plastic Man. Or Meteor Man. He’s just some kid who meets a fuckin wizard in a cave who gives him the ability to turn into your standard adult muscular flying off-brand Superman-type cape guy. For the several years that they were talking about making a SHAZAM! movie, even when The Rock was gonna play the bad guy, I assumed I wouldn’t bother to watch it. But when it finally got made by LIGHTS OUT director David F. Sandberg – The Rock has a producer credit, but isn’t in it – it had a good enough trailer that I gave it a shot on video.

It begins in the past, when a kid (Ethan Pugiotto, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2) and his dad (John Glover, MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS, BATMAN & ROBIN) and older brother (Landon Doak) are involved in a car accident, and as it’s happening the kid somehow flashes from the backseat of the car to the cave where the wizard (Djimon Hounsou, ELEPHANT WHITE) explains the mythology of the movie, which involves magic powers he has to pass on to a new hero, and monster statues representing the seven deadly sins. But after some simple testing I guess the wizard determines this kid is a dick and not worthy of the powers in question, so he turns him away. (read the rest of this shit…)

Motorway

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Cheang Pou-soi has been directing movies since 1999, but I never knew about him until 2015 when I was blown away by KILL ZONE 2 (SPL II). MOTORWAY is from 2012, and it’s a much simpler film – shorter, less complicated, less thematically heavy, and it works really well that way. Maybe some of this simplicity comes out of the type of action. Martial arts scenes like KILL ZONE 2’s require increasing complexity – for example the knockout prison riot scene – but this is a car chase movie. At its heart it’s about two drivers. One guy in a car driving very fast after another guy in a car. Literally straight forward.

It’s a serious movie, but it’s got a nice tinge of absurdity to it. Its law enforcement protagonists are not cool homicide detectives or badass SWAT dudes, they’re part of an elite squad of, uh, traffic cops. I guess they’re there for their high level driving skills, but their regular job is camping out with the speed gun, pulling people over, wearing dorky windbreakers and reflective vests, the kind of thing most action movie cops only have to do in a funny montage after they get in trouble. Cheung (Shawn Yue, LEGEND OF THE FIST, THE GUILLOTINES) takes the job seriously and is annoyed that his older partner Lo (Anthony Wong, HARD BOILED, GEN-X COPS 2, EXILED, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, IP MAN: FINAL FIGHT) seems to not give a fuck. (Having him browse literature about an upcoming retirement seminar is a good spin on the ol’ two-weeks-from-retirement cliche). (read the rest of this shit…)

Cage II

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

One of many underground fighting movies I took a look at in my action movies of summer ’89 retrospective was CAGE, a cheapie starring Lou Ferrigno and Reb Brown as Billy and Scott, two Vietnam buddies forced into a cage fighting circuit. It was enjoyable for its cast, its warm-hearted tribute to friendship, and even its naive-feeling sincerity about the uncomfortable premise that Billy acts like a child because of a brain injury. And I got even more entertainment reading about director Lang Elliott’s later business ventures, including taking over a smoothie chain in a failed attempt to produce a Dorf feature film and build a theme park.

In 1994 Elliott returned with a sequel, so far his final directorial work. CAGE II (subtitled THE ARENA OF DEATH on the VHS packaging) reintroduces Billy and Scott while they’re out grocery shopping. Their negotiations about whether or not Billy is allowed to buy a blue soft drink are intercut with ominous shots of a gang of long haired bad guys in sunglasses and black trenchcoats walking toward the store. And it lays it on thick how much innocence this evil is about to collide with. Billy and Scott smile at a little boy. Two women invite Scott to a party. Before that, while they’re giving him the eye, two smiling children skip by, holding hands! (read the rest of this shit…)

Red Scorpion 2

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Having wrapped up my series on the action movies of summer ’89, I’ve been enjoying the freedom to dart around to different topics that catch my interest. But I realize there’s a little bit of unfinished business to get out of the way. There were two movies I reviewed in The Last Summer of ’80s Action that spawned not-even-on-DVD-in-the-U.S. sequels five years later. There’s nothing hugely special about either of these part 2s, but you know how I am. I had to see them. And the one that follows series-opener RED SCORPION seems like a good epilogue or postscript, because it really signals a change in world politics.

Remember how RED SCORPION part 1 was produced with the cooperation of the racist regime in South Africa? The sequel is having none of that. In fact it explicitly casts racists as the bad guys. GOP lobbyists Jack and Robert Abramoff are still credited as executive producers, but the movie strays far from their original mission of making conservative arguments in genre movies. The villains are even described in expository dialogue as “ultra right wing.” (read the rest of this shit…)