"I'll just get my gear."

Archive for December, 2019

Thunder Warrior

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

THUNDER WARRIOR, a.k.a. THUNDER is the first in a trilogy of low budget action movies of the 1980s. I think I saw it a long time ago, but since the hero, Thunder (Mark Gregory, 1990: BRONX WARRIORS), is supposed to be Native American, I was misremembering it as something made to cash in on the success of BILLY JACK. Turns out it’s a pretty straightforward ripoff of FIRST BLOOD, which came out the year before. It’s the same basic idea of a sheriff who thinks he’s a reasonable guy trying to unjustly kick a long-haired drifter out of his jurisdiction and causing him to go on a rampage. It doesn’t have the military veteran angle, and it involves a conflict over sacred Native land – admittedly very significant differences. Rambo was part Apache according to RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II movie and novelization, but that was never what he was fighting about.

Thunder returns from unspecified adventures to his small Arizona desert town just in time to find Deputy Barry (Raimund Harmstorf, THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS) sexually harassing his fiance Sheila (Valeria Ross, no other credits) at the gas station she owns and operates. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ip Man 4: The Finale

Monday, December 30th, 2019

IP MAN 4: THE FINALE is from the makers of the IP MAN trilogy, according to the giant standee in the multiplex lobby that made me aware of its Christmas day release. I’m grateful to be able to see movies like this on the big screen.

IP MAN is a series released across 11 years with stories spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s, with the great Donnie Yen (HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME) not only showcasing his great fighting skills (in a style he hadn’t previously practiced), but also giving his greatest acting performance as this distinctly gentle and polite asskicker. That’s why I wish it could go on forever. I’m sure we’ll get other great Donnie Yen movies, but I’ll miss him playing this character.

The final Ip Man adventure begins with the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships and takes place primarily in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Back home in Hong Kong, Ip lives in a tiny apartment with his moody teenage son Ip Ching, who has been kicked out of school for fighting (actually defending himself with too much enthusiasm). The principal and others convince Ip he should send his son to study abroad, so he decides to use a plane ticket sent to him by his former student Bruce Lee (Danny Chan, the Bruce-lookalike goalie from SHAOLIN SOCCER who subsequently played Lee in the TV series The Legend of Bruce Lee and then IP MAN 3) to try to get him admitted into a school in San Francisco. (read the rest of this shit…)

Jack Frost 2

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

Last Christmas I gave you my heart, by which I mean I finally watched JACK FROST and wrote about it. This year, I wouldn’t say I was in tears, but JACK FROST 2: REVENGE OF THE MUTANT KILLER SNOWMAN wasn’t as special.

I mean… they tried. Writer/director Michael Cooney returned in the year 2000 (three years after the original) with another scrappy low budget bag of silliness. This one does not have a fancy Vinegar Syndrome special edition, because it was shot in shiny ugly digital video, so what would be the point? There are a couple obvious stock footage shots and I thought “Oh, that’s what a real movie looks like.” On his commentary track (respect for including that), Cooney says he hopes people don’t notice that the stock footage looks different. Whoops. (read the rest of this shit…)

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is the kind of thing that happens when a singular voice creates a revolutionary trilogy that changes movies forever and becomes a cultural phenomenon beloved by generations and then years later makes a trilogy of prequels to said movies that are also a cultural phenomenon and also change movies forever in a different way but are disdained by many and after a while he gets so sick of fuckin hearing about it that he sells off his entire life’s work for nearly five billion dollars and gives most of it to charity while a giant entertainment conglomerate treats his creation as an all-consuming brand centered around a third trilogy that ends the saga but is made by three different directors with no plan for where the fuck it’s going and the first guy does a good workmanlike job, then the second knocks it out of the park with a soulful and distinct followup that severely pisses off a small faction of people we only know about because of the internet and then the third guy gets fired so the first guy has to come back and figure out how the fuck to conclude a story he designed for some other poor sucker to have to deal with and also find an ending to the larger cultural phenomenon he’s been mimicking and for some reason he feels the need to alienate the people who like the movies by pandering to the people who didn’t.

So, you know, if you haven’t seen it yet, you surely can picture that type of movie, but also you shouldn’t read this review because it’s ALL SPOILERS and also you won’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. (read the rest of this shit…)

New column: Profiles in Bad-Ass

Friday, December 20th, 2019

Okay, how should I explain this? Here goes.

I have a new bi-weekly column called Profiles in Bad-Ass on the freshly launched websight REBELLER. The first one is up and it’s trying to address something that I’m sure you know is important to me: that everybody knows who Bruce Lee is but many haven’t experienced the joy of actually sitting down and watching his movies.

In future installments I plan to provide similar overviews of the work of icons from different eras of badass cinema, the types of things I’ve written about extensively here, now in a more generalized and concise format to spread the good word to other corners.

I guess it won’t be the audience I thought, because I didn’t realize it would be behind a paywall. You have to sign up and then you can get 3 free articles a month, or pay $20.20 for a year of access to everything. I feel a little weird about that but it makes sense – we’ve seen that the high profile websights that actually pay their writers can’t sustain on popup ads. Also, I once had a somewhat similar column in a print magazine called Clint, and somebody would’ve had to get a much more expensive subscription to read all of those. (read the rest of this shit…)

Once Upon a Time in Venice

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

About 12 miles and 48 years from ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD lies ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENICE. In this 2017 DTV joint, Bruce Willis is the center of a sunny, quirky, comedic crime tale ensemble. Though the story is narrated by his dorky new assistant John (Thomas Middleditch, THE KINGS OF SUMMER), it revolves around Bruce’s low-life private eye Steve Ford. As you do in these movies, a pan through his office shows us some of his history through the medium of props. For example, some photos and a surfboard tell us he’s a surfer. There’s one touch that made me laugh, but maybe wasn’t supposed to: we learn he’s a disgraced ex-cop from an article that calls him “disgraced” in the headline. Why would he frame that and put it on his wall? It’s not even an important piece of exposition.

Anyway, Steve has two small time cases:

1. Find a missing woman named Nola (Jessica Gomes, “KSI Spokesmodel,” TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION)

2. Find the graffiti artist painting obscene murals of real estate developer Lou the Jew (Adam Goldberg, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, voice of Flealick in BABE: PIG IN THE CITY) on his buildings (read the rest of this shit…)

Hustlers

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

HUSTLERS is a true crime movie with some grit and some emotion and some style. It stars Constance Wu (ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING) and Jennifer Lopez (ANACONDA) as the center of a ring of dancers (they don’t call themselves strippers, according to the source material) who started hanging out with rich guys so they could drug them and run up their credit cards. Wu’s character Destiny tells the story from seven years later, when she seems to have settled down, and is cautiously, suspiciously answering questions for a magazine writer (Julie Stiles, SAVE THE LAST DANCE).

When Destiny starts working at Moves she’s green, rubbing up on guys all day and going home with less money than that’s worth. There’s a great introduction to the place where the camera follows her and the other new girls from the back, out onto the stage to be introduced and down a ramp onto the floor where some asshole gets her attention by calling her Lucy Liu. Reminded me of one of my favorite shots in CREED, when it follows him to the ring and makes you feel like you’re there in his entourage, practically giving you stage fright. This has a similar feeling. You feel like you’re her, as much as a movie can do something like that.

Then she sees Ramona Vega (Lopez) entering the room like a pharaoh, dropping every jaw in the room, leaving the stage looking like it snowed one dollar bills. The Michael Jordan of the pole. Later, Destiny takes a rooftop smoke break at the same time as Ramona, who’s up there laid out like she’s doing a calendar shoot, and introduces herself. Destiny is in lingerie and it’s cold, so Ramona has her come curl up inside her big fur coat. I felt this was maybe a love story, but if so it always stays at or below this level of unacknowledged sexual chemistry. So they might just be friends who cuddle. (read the rest of this shit…)

Clash

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

CLASH is an earlier (2009) vehicle for Vietnamese action star Veronica Ngo that I rented after loving this year’s FURIE. (Thanks for the recommendation, everybody.) This one also uses Ngo’s considerable dramatic acting chops for some emotional scenes (they took her daughter again), but it’s a little less melodrama, alot more exaggerated, more in the vein of a flashy modern Hong Kong crime movie of slightly above average quality. (In fact, one character accuses the heroine of being “so cheesy like a Hong Kong movie.”)

Ngo’s character is known as Phoenix, and she’s the hard-ass leader of a crew doing an arms deal as a ploy to steal a certain laptop with access to— well, doesn’t really matter. Whatever. The international conflict is of no interest to her, she just needs it because her boss (Hoang Phuc Nguyen, CYCLO) needs it, and he’s a scary guy who wears white suits and shades and thinks he’s really cool and deep for repeatedly comparing human beings to the pieces on the go/chess type game he plays in his limo. Fuck this guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Christmas (second remake)

Monday, December 16th, 2019

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) is another loose remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). Like the original and the 2006 remake it’s about a group of sorority sisters who stay on campus during winter break and then start getting stalked and murdered. The creepy phone calls have been updated to creepy texts, and the identity and mythology behind the killings is completely different from either of the previous versions. Which I support. No reason to do this otherwise.

The opening feels like the serious, scary parts of SCREAM. A student named Lindsay (Lucy Currey) is walking home one snowy night, getting weird texts, thinking a dude is following her. He’s not, but suddenly she crashes into a different man wearing a mask and black robe who chases her around a heavily Christmas-decorated house where no one responds to her cries for help. But the horrifying/beautiful overhead shot of Lindsay making a snow angel as she dies and is dragged away sets a bar that’s never met in the subsequent off rhythm and ineffective cat and mouse scenes. I didn’t realize until afterwards that it’s a PG-13 movie, which might explain some of that, but doesn’t really justify that the mask isn’t particularly cool or creepy. That shit is important in a masked slasher movie.

But maybe not as important as a good protagonist, and in that department BLACK CHRISTMAS definitely delivers. The story centers on Riley (Imogen Poots, 28 WEEKS LATER, FRIGHT NIGHT, GREEN ROOM), who is helping the sisters prepare for some sort of Christmas performance at a frat party, but doesn’t plan to participate. Even though she’s in a sorority, her long coat and Doc Martens signal a tinge of cool non-conformist status that Poots somehow makes credible. (read the rest of this shit…)

Opera

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Don’t get mad, but until now I’d never seen Dario Argento’s OPERA. It comes after a run of his best and/or most famous movies: DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA, INFERNO, TENEBRE and PHENOMENA, and I can finally confirm that it belongs in that company. Though it doesn’t reach the feverish intensity of his very best, it’s cool to see Argento get access to a higher level of production value. This takes place mostly in a real opera house with a full opera production, orchestra, behind-the-scenes crew and audience, and cinematographer Ronnie Taylor (Academy Award winner for GANDHI!) takes Argento’s fanciful camerawork up a couple levels.

The ambition is clear in the opening scene, when obnoxious (and unseen to us) opera diva Mara Cecova throws a fit at Marco (Ian Charleson, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, GANDHI), visionary director of the Julie-Taymor/HIGHLANDER-II-ish stylized production of Verdi’s Macbeth she’s starring in, and storms out. The camera seems to represent her point-of-view, with everyone looking at her as she has her tirade, but if so then I guess she floats off the stage into the crowd and then walks out backwards? It’s confusing… and totally impressive and captivating. (read the rest of this shit…)