"I'll just get my gear."

Archive for April, 2020

Blood Quantum

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

I keep having to write this same exact preamble, so here’s the short version: yes, we all think we’re sick of zombie movies, but here’s another really good one. (See also: TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.) The fresh spin on BLOOD QUANTUM – a Canadian one that opened the Midnight Madness portion of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and got a surprise release on Shudder this week – starts with it taking place on a First Nations reserve (or Indian reservation as people here call it).

It has a vivid weird-day-unfolding feel, like a serious THE DEAD DON’T DIE, rolling out the odd characters in town through the point of view of Red Crow reserve chief of police Traylor (Michael Greyeyes, DANCE ME OUTSIDE, FIRESTORM, Fear the Walking Dead, True Detective). But it starts on his dad, Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman, a sturdy, bald old badass with no other acting credits) gutting a bunch of salmon he caught. The fucking things won’t stop flipping around like they’re in that Faith No More video. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Decline

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

“Listen, I got nothin against playin army. I don’t mind that at all. I think the ideology of some of these folks is good. But there’s assholes everywhere, and Floyd is an asshole.” —Dr. Wesley McCLaren (Steven Seagal), THE PATRIOT

 

THE DECLINE (originally Jusqu’au déclin, UNTIL THE DECLINE) is a French Canadian thriller, the first Netflix production out of Quebec. It was recommended to me by “some asshole” (@QBF4LYF) on Twitter and coming in at a swift and economical 83 minutes it was an easy, successful bet.

It’s about this guy named Antoine (Guillaume Laurin, MOMMY), middle class husband and father, slightly on the dorky side, and really into survivalist shit. He watches his hero Alain (Réal Bossé, NITRO)’s well-produced, reasonable-seeming instructional videos online, follows along with his daughter, sealing a giant pack of rice for storage and getting her to repeat her lessons about why it’s important. Alain mentions how fast Montreal grocery stores will run out of staple foods during an emergency, which hits a little close to home in this time of pandemic. (Later someone will mention the threat of an H1N1 outbreak.) And Antoine doesn’t fit the stereotypes of survivalists so it comes across as a weird but harmless hobby more than a paranoid obsession. (read the rest of this shit…)

Girl on the Third Floor

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR is a 2019 horror film that’s been on video for a while and recently showed up on Netflix. It stars Phil Brooks (RABID), better known under his pro-wrestling name CM Punk, but it’s not a movie designed to star a muscleman, and not released under the prestigious WWE Films banner. That might be because they don’t do as many wrestler-based movies anymore, or because he’s a mixed martial artist now, or because he left WWE on bad terms saying he would never work with them again and accused their doctors of malpractice on a podcast and was subject of a defamation lawsuit for it and won. Could be any of those reasons that he had to go out and book a normal acting role.

To be honest I had to look that stuff up, I don’t know much about him. I didn’t even know that he looks like Jon Hamm. He slimmed down to regular-muscular-guy size as opposed to wrestler size, but doesn’t hide that he’s covered in tattoos. His character Don Koch is an ex-lawyer infamous for ripping off his clients, but doesn’t fit your preconceived notions of somebody like that since he’s got the ink and listens to Neurosis and stuff. That helped me not hate him as he tries to start over in the Chicago suburbs.

That’s where he’s just starting renovating a rundown house, his pregnant wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn, LITTLE CHICAGO, Banshee) periodically checking in on Facetime. He’s alone with his dog, some power tools, some personal demons, and maybe some supernatural entities. At least that’s my interpretation of the various goos dripping from outlets, lightbulbs and holes in the walls. (read the rest of this shit…)

Extraction

Monday, April 27th, 2020

EXTRACTION seems to be getting good promotion as far as non-awards-contender-made-for-Netflix movies go. And there aren’t movie theaters at the moment anyway, so it was the hot movie to see this weekend. I’m glad they figured out a way to get people interested – I’ve been anticipating it for a while, but “it’s the first movie directed by the stuntman who did the action direction for ATOMIC BLONDE and WOLF WARRIOR II” maybe doesn’t have the same currency with normal people as it does for me.

Sam Hargrave has been the Captain America stunt double since the first THE AVENGERS, and a Marvel fight/stunt coordinator/second unit director since CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, so he was well known to “visionary directors” Joe and Anthony Russo, who used their Marvel money to start the production company/studio AGBO. And they were wise enough to get him as director for this movie based on their 2014 graphic novel Ciudad (written with Ande Parks, adapted for the screen by Joe Russo). (read the rest of this shit…)

After Hours

Friday, April 24th, 2020

“I just wanted to leave my apartment, maybe meet a nice girl. And now I’ve got to die for it!”

AFTER HOURS is Martin Scorsese’s take on the “staying up all night and a bunch of crazy shit happens” movie (see also INTO THE NIGHT, MIRACLE MILE, EDMOND). This one follows Paul (Griffin Dunne), a young word-processing drone who lives alone in a small apartment in New York City. After a boring day at work he goes to a cafe to re-read what he says is his favorite book, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. A woman named Marcy (Rosanna Arquette, same year as SILVERADO) is by herself at a nearby table, notices what he’s reading and says “I love that book.” He doesn’t even hear her at first. But she starts trying to quote it.

Suddenly she moves to his table to get him to look at the weird cashier (Rocco Sisto, INNOCENT BLOOD, ERASER, THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT), who seems to be practicing dance moves. She’s about to leave but they have a short, weird conversation that includes 1) telling him she’s staying with her friend Kiki Bridges and 2) giving him Kiki’s phone number so he can inquire about her sculptures of bagels and cream cheese. (read the rest of this shit…)

Stray Dog

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

STRAY DOG is an Akira Kurosawa film from 1949 – only seven years into his directing career, but about a third of the way into his filmography. I believe it’s the first one I’ve seen by him that wasn’t a period piece. At the time he had gotten really into the Maigret books and decided to write a detective novel. It took him longer to adapt the book into a screenplay than to write the book itself. Apparently it started the genre of police procedurals and/or detective movies in Japan. Pretty impressive side-achievement to kick off an entire category of movies different from the ones he was known for.

The mystery: where the fuck is my gun? Toshiro Mifune – who I have to admit I didn’t even recognize – plays the rookie homicide detective Murakami, who’s feeling like a piece of shit because somebody swiped his Colt when he was on a crowded bus. He figures it out too late, chases a dude (assistant director Ishiro Honda, five years before directing GODZILLA) but doesn’t catch him. So he has to learn all about the local pickpocketing and gun dealing scenes, recognize someone from the bus in a mugshot, convince her to give him a hint about who she gave the gun to, then finding out that person rented the gun to somebody… (read the rest of this shit…)

Absentia

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

I think it’s pretty widely agreed now that Mike Flanagan is one of the most qualified candidates for a new “Master of Horror,” right? Two others would be Jordan Peele and Ari Aster, but they only have two movies each to go by. Flanagan has more evidence on file. I know it’s a title previously reserved for the guys we read about in Fangoria when we were growing up, and here I’m nominating three guys I’m older than. Time is a bastard. But we need fresh blood. The Masters need heirs.

I didn’t review them, but I thought HUSH and GERALD’S GAME (both not-on-DVD Netflix exclusives, unfortunately) were good. I think DOCTOR SLEEP is truly great, and will likely be near the top of my best of the decade list. But of the one’s I’ve seen so far his true masterpiece is the TV series The Haunting of Hill House. I’m a guy who generally doesn’t give a shit about ghost stories, and has a hard time keeping up with TV shows, but I found that series absolutely captivating, deeply moving, and at times really fuckin scary. I didn’t even need the ghosts to show up very often, honestly. I was so into the characters. As thrilling as the climax was, I was kind of sad to get to the last episodes because I just wanted it to keep going.

DOCTOR SLEEP and Hill House have many themes and elements in common, despite being adapted from unrelated books. And since they’re his biggest and most expensive to date, they’re kind of like the ultimate Mike Flanagan films. Both could be described as sprawling – they have multiple time periods and locations, some giant sets, large casts, great FX and a type of high level cinematography I love with very complex and effective camera moves (including long takes). So I really didn’t know if his first feature ABSENTIA, which had a $70,000 budget raised partly on Kickstarter and was filmed mostly in his apartment in Glendale, would seem that much like what we now know is a Mike Flanagan film. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rumble in the Bronx

Monday, April 20th, 2020

In February of 1996, when RUMBLE IN THE BRONX was released in the U.S., it was an event. I don’t know if it was the zeitgeist or a concerted marketing effort or what, but it came along at the exact right moment for Jackie Chan to achieve his dream of hitting it big in the States. He’d tried twice before with American movies filmed in English: Robert Clouse’s THE BIG BRAWL a.k.a. BATTLE CREEK BRAWL in 1980 and James Glickenhaus’s THE PROTECTOR in 1985. Neither caught on. But he finally did it with a re-edited and dubbed version of one of his Hong Kong movies.

For some of us, we’d had a few years of fiending to see and learn about whatever Hong Kong action cinema we could. Trying to find rentals or bootlegs of subtitled John Woo, maybe Ringo Lam, THE HEROIC TRIO, FONG SAI YUK, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR, or anything Jackie.

Most of those were about a certain poetry, a certain vibe, a mix of style and cool and honor and brotherhood and violence that seemed thrilling compared to what we got at home. But the excitement of Jackie was entirely about the miracle of human movement. A guy who can flip and run up walls and jump off buildings and onto or over moving vehicles. A daredevil and a silent comedian and a kung fu master all rolled into one. He wasn’t cool in the same way that Chow Yun Fat was. He was kind of a dork. But also a god. (read the rest of this shit…)

Escape Plan: The Extractors

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

I’m not sure why we’d ever be ranking the least likely trilogies of our cinematic era, but if the topic comes up, I’ll be sure to mention the ESCAPE PLAN saga. Here – let’s recap:

It all began with a legit theatrical release from the director of 1408. This was in 2013, after EXPENDABLES 1 and 2, in a period when Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were making solid old-man-action vehicles that just weren’t catching on (BULLET TO THE HEAD, SABOTAGE, THE LAST STAND). ESCAPE PLAN is only my third favorite of those, but it’s a solid sort-of throwback action movie, it was fun to see Sly and Arnold together in something less winky than an Expendables, and it was especially cool to see Schwarzenegger kind of being a character actor, being funny and a little crazy as a sidekick instead of the hero. Plus it had a weirdly overqualified cast of Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio and Amy Ryan (plus Vinnie Jones and 50 Cent). (read the rest of this shit…)

Edmond

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

When we lost the great Stuart Gordon recently, I realized there were a few of his films I still hadn’t seen. It’s kind of nice, actually, to still have something left to discover. There’s a particular one that happens in space that involves truckers that I honestly have wanted to see since before it even came out, and somehow never have. It’ll be a few weeks before I can finally change that, because I decided to order a UK Blu-Ray instead of pay Amazon to stream it in standard def. But I wanted to watch this one first anyway – the one based on the David Mamet play.

Gordon and Mamet, if you don’t know, go way back. Long before RE-ANIMATOR, Gordon was doing envelope-pushing theater work in Chicago. He directed, at his Organic Theater Company, the production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago credited with establishing Mamet as a playwright, although there was an earlier one starring William H. Macy, who also stars in this movie.

Here he plays Edmond Burke, a dude who works for some kind of financial firm called Stearns & Harrington. He’s apparently had a bad day (his meeting on Monday got pushed back to 1:15 – WHAT IN THE LIVING GOD DAMN FUCK!?) when he heads home and, on a whim, stops to get a tarot reading. She tells him “You don’t belong here.” (read the rest of this shit…)