"I'll just get my gear."

Archive for June, 2020

Fast Color

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

FAST COLOR is a really well made little movie I watched on Hulu. I didn’t really know what it was about, but remembered that when it came out last year there were people lamenting that it didn’t get enough attention. They called it a super hero origin story and felt that should’ve made it more marketable.

That description isn’t totally inaccurate, but sells it a little short, I think. It’s about a woman with some telekinetic type powers, but she doesn’t wear a costume, fight crime, fight super villains, or use her powers for heroism at all. She even explicitly says “We’re not super heroes,” and doesn’t seem to later change her mind about that. The story reminds me much more of FIRESTARTER than any comic book movie. Regular person made into a fugitive by being born with unusual gifts, running through small towns to avoid being a guinea pig for some secret government project. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pale Rider

Monday, June 29th, 2020

June 26, 1985

PALE RIDER is a solid, well made, mostly traditional western starring, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, from a script by Michael Butler & Dennis Shryack (THE GAUNTLET, TURNER & HOOCH). Clint stars as a mysterious drifter only referred to as “Preacher,” because when he takes off his stylish trenchcoat he reveals a priestly collar. But this is only after we’ve seen him stick fight a gang of bullies to unconsciousness and comment, “There’s nothin like a nice piece of hickory.” So there are reasons to question whether that’s his true occupation.

The Preacher wanders into a small California mountain town called LaHood, destination unknown. When asked if he’s just passing through he says he hadn’t really thought about it. The man he saved from a beatdown, Hull Barret (Michael Moriarty, Q), invites him to stay for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

New Patreon bonus: FIRST BLOOD book vs. movie comparison

Friday, June 26th, 2020


As I’ve mentioned before, I feel a little weird about promoting my Patreon during These Uncertain Times™. I guess I always feel weird about it. But the fact is your generous, totally optional support is helping me get through this, it’s so much better than having to freelance for morally questionable outlets, and I want to show my gratitude. So what I have here is a rough draft I dug up from 2008 when I was trying to write a follow-up to Seagalogy. If you’re interested in how the Stallone classic FIRST BLOOD differs from the David Morrell book it’s based on, here you go! (spoilers for both, of course)

Thanks again.

CLICK HERE FOR FIRST BLOOD

 

Little Woods

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

LITTLE WOODS is the debut of writer/director Nia DaCosta, who followed it with the upcoming CANDYMAN (2020), sequel to CANDYMAN (1992). I’m not sure how much they’ll have in common, because this one’s not horror, and it takes place in a rural area, but it’s very good, and raises my expectations for the other one even higher.

Tessa Thompson (CREED) is great as Ollie (short for Oleander), who lives in her late mother’s busted up house in North Dakota and is almost done with her probation. While mom was sick she would go into Canada to get medicine for her, but she also had a whole pill-selling enterprise going, and she got caught at the border.

Now she does stuff like go out to construction sites and sell coffee and sandwiches out of the back of her pickup. People still ask her for Oxy and she explains she doesn’t do that anymore. Everybody still likes her. The local opiate pusher Bill (Luke Kirby, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) thinks that makes her a good saleswoman and tries to get her to work for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cocoon

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

June 21, 1985

COCOON is directed by Ron Howard (his followup to SPLASH) and produced by Richard D. Zanuck (SUGARLAND EXPRESS, JAWS), but I bet some people assumed Spielberg had something to do with it. It opens with an Elliott-like little boy (D.A.R.Y.L. himself, Barrett Oliver) who’s up past his bedtime sneaking a look at the moon through his telescope. And then there’s a spaceship (designed by Ralph McQuarrie, like the one in  E.T.) flying down over some dolphins in a scene lit much like the opening attack in JAWS. The story involves a close encounter of the third kind with friendly e.t. the extra-terrestrials, so lots of people stare up in awe at glowing alien and spaceship effects by Industrial Light and Magic. And hey, the main characters are the elderly residents of a retirement community who find a magical way to recapture their youth, much like Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” segment of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE!

Best pal retirees Ben (Wilford Brimley, whose other 1984 releases were MURDER IN SPACE, REMO WILLIAMS and EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR) and Art (Don Ameche, who starred in THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL when Brimley was five years old) are residents of the Sunny Shores Villa in St. Petersberg, Florida. They’re kind of the cool rebels of the place, because while many of their peers are sitting around playing cards and shuffleboard they’re strutting out in their beach clothes that look like pajamas, squeezing through a broken gate to trespass in somebody else’s indoor swimming pool. Sneaking around like a bunch of goonies. (read the rest of this shit…)

Scream, Queen! – My Nightmare On Elm Street

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

SCREAM, QUEEN!: MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is a really good horror documentary. It may also be interesting to non-horror fans interested in the history of gay Hollywood in the ‘80s. It’s the story of Mark Patton, who played Jesse Walsh, the young protagonist of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE in 1985. As he sees it, he was a hot young actor getting his big break as the lead in a highly-anticipated sequel, only to find that it had gay subtext in it that was dangerous to him as a closeted gay actor. His representation told him there was no way they could put him up for straight roles anymore, and he only did a CBS Schoolbreak Special and an episode of Hotel where he punched George Clooney before disappearing for almost 30 years. He says he decided to quit after he was cast as a gay character but asked to still pretend he was straight.

I didn’t know or understand any of that as a young horror fan in the ‘80s. I just knew part 2 was my least favorite. As the documentary says,  it was “not a fan favorite.” Jesse is a boy who moves into the house where Nancy lived in part 1, finds her previously unmentioned diary, starts to be haunted and then possessed by Freddy, who grows inside him and tears out of his skin. (The FX for that have always been amazing.) Then Freddy appears outside of dreams and attacks a fuckin teen pool party. At that time there were no instructions on how to make a Freddy sequel, so they just had to guess. Part 3 added the element of a group of misunderstood teens working together, being in dreams together, finding ways to fight back. It was so appealing it became the formula for three more movies, making 2 seem like it didn’t know what it was doing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Return to Oz

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

June 21, 1985

Forty-six years after MGM’s beloved Technicolor musical THE WIZARD OF OZ, Walt Disney Pictures produced their own journey through the world of L. Frank Baum. Though titled and framed like a sequel, writer/director Walter Murch and co-writer Dennis Gill (WALK THE LINE) treated it more as a literary adaptation, basing it mostly on book #3, Ozma of Oz, combined with some characters from #2, The Marvelous Land of Oz. In an article by Alan Jones in the July, 1985 issue of Cinefantastique (my most quoted source in this review series, you may have noticed), executive producer Gary Kurtz (THE DARK CRYSTAL) says they “pondered at great length” whether to even use the iconic ruby slippers, since in the books they were silver.

Like its predecessor, the not-really-sequel is full of whimsical characters and underpinned with fairy tale menace, but in most other ways it’s wildly different. The colors are subdued rather than vivid, the settings are grounded rather than stagey, it stars 10-year-old newcomer Fairuza Balk as Dorothy rather than a teen like Judy Garland, and she doesn’t sing, because it’s not a musical. While WIZARD’s costumes, jokes and dance numbers come out of the vaudeville tradition, RETURN creates its world and characters with the rapidly evolving cinematic puppetry, animation and visual FX technology of the Lucas/Spielberg era. Murch told Cinefantastique, “At first I was worried about using state-of-the-art animatronics, but so many of the OZ personnel are graduates of The Muppets, STAR WARS, and THE DARK CRYSTAL that I realized it would be pointless to worry.”

The result is a classic entry in the unique-to-the-‘80s subgenre of dark, imaginative, FX-heavy fantasy for children, preceded by THE DARK CRYSTAL and THE NEVERENDING STORY and followed by LABYRINTH. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Stuff

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

June 14, 1985

“Are you eatin it? Or is it eatin you?”

I have a hard time putting my finger on the exact tone of THE STUFF. Its entire subject and premise clearly satirize consumerism, fads and greedy corporations making money from unhealthy products. The opening scene is laugh out loud funny, and definitely a parody of THE BLOB. The score by Anthony Guefen (DEADLY EYES) is often comically overblown for the scenes it accompanies, and sounds like library music. The characters often say and do odd things in the manner of accidentally funny low budget movies, but we know from his other work that writer/director Larry Cohen knows what he’s doing. Still, it doesn’t come across to me like a spoof, like it’s deadpan in order to be funnier. It seems more like yeah, we know this is a goofy idea, but we’re treating it seriously, just go with it.

I don’t feel like I quite understand its intentions. But that’s okay. Whatever they were going for, they came up with something unique.

“The Stuff” is the name a marketing firm comes up with for a white foam that an old man finds bubbling out of the ground. People like to joke about the guy in THE BLOB poking the meteorite with a stick, but this guy goes swiftly from “what is this weird substance?” to “hmm, let me taste it.” And it’s so delicious it just turns into snack time for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

D.A.R.Y.L.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

June 14, 1985

Like THE GOONIES, D.A.R.Y.L. is a family-friendly movie that opens with a high speed car chase (stunt coordinator: John Moio, who then did THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2). But the Spielberg movie that scene reminds me of most is A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. A scientist (stuntman Richard Hammatt, WILLOW, BATMAN, NIGHTBREED) is driving through winding roads, pursued by a helicopter, with unnaturally calm ten year old boy Daryl (Barret Oliver, KID #2, UNCOMMON VALOR) in the back seat. We know because we know what movie we’re watching that Daryl is a robot, and much like the mom in A.I., Dr. Mulligan sees no way to protect his robot boy except to drop him off in the woods and hope he can make it on his own. (But I think Mom survives – the doctor drives his car off a cliff. R.I.P.)

At various points in the movie Oliver’s performance will remind me of Haley Joel Osment’s in A.I., but it’s a very different approach to the story. Rather than a dark fairy tale journey through a fantastical future world, this is what happens to a character like that trying to pass for human in a normal ‘80s suburb.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Da 5 Bloods

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

DA 5 BLOODS is Spike Lee’s new Vietnam War joint that happened to be produced by Netflix, so when our current global nightmare thwarted theatrical release they didn’t have to delay it, they just put it right onto their service, making it one of Pandemic Summer’s biggest blockbusters in my opinion. For now this is our James Bond and our Top Gun (I won’t say Wonder Woman, because it’s very male oriented).

Like so many of Lee’s movies, it finds interesting ways to visually connect history to the present. Think of DO THE RIGHT THING’s showcasing of the photos and quotes of Dr. King and Malcolm, MALCOLM X’s coda of real people (including a newly freed Nelson Mandela) saying “I am Malcolm X!,” or BLACKKKLANSMAN’s montage with the murder of Heather Heyer, the real David Duke and the president’s other Very Fine People in Charlottesville. Following in that tradition, DA 5 BLOODS opens with historical footage and photos establishing Those Uncertain Times of the Vietnam era.

Muhammad Ali explains his refusal to kill people who haven’t done anything to him on behalf of people who have. To the tune of “Inner City Blues,” we see black soldiers in Vietnam, whitey on “Da Moon,” Black Panthers, Malcolm, Martin, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis. We alternate between brutality in Vietnam and at home: burning monks, the Kent State shootings, the street execution from that famous photo, police clubbing protesters at the DNC, the children burned with napalm. When the war ends and this volley of fast-speed documentary turmoil subsides, the frame stretches and contracts to widescreen, and Saigon dissolves to modern tourism-friendly Ho Chi Minh City, where four of our titular quintet meet up in a hotel lobby, hugging and hand shaking, sipping the first of many fruity umbrella cocktails, in a present that will repeatedly bleed into the past. (read the rest of this shit…)