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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

TOM CLANCY is simply WITHOUT REMORSE is a new loosely-based-on-a-Tom-Clancy-book action movie starring Michael B. Jordan (RED TAILS) as John Kelly, the character who I guess is later played by Willem Dafoe in CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER and Liev Schreiber in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS. It was meant to be a major theatrical release, but after, you know – all this – Amazon bought it, so you gotta watch it on Prime. But you should do that if you can. This is a good one.

I am absolutely not a Tom Clancy guy, not even in movie form. One reason this is more my shit: less military hardware. It’s a more Seagal-ian premise: Navy SEAL’s wife is murdered, he goes out to avenge those responsible whether the agency will help him or not. In the book I guess that meant he killed a bunch of drug dealers, here it’s reimagined as a conspiracy related to a mission he went on, and I think it makes a statement against nationalism and even militarism. Kelly is very matter-of-fact about the violence upon his family being an extension of the violence he committed for the government. Of course, the film’s main objective is just to work as a military thriller, but it also seems cognizant that this stuff shouldn’t be thoughtlessly glorified, and I appreciate that. (Maybe it should be called NOT WITHOUT SOME REMORSE.) (read the rest of this shit…)

One Good Cop

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

May 3, 1991

I’d never seen this one before, and from the title I always thought it was a thriller about police corruption. I guess I had only seen the tough guy poster on the DVD and blu-ray, and not the theatrical one that looks like SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE or something.

I think there is some subtle commentary about policing early in the movie, which I will go into, but for the most part it’s not about that. Instead this movie – which was only the fifth release from Disney’s not-for-kids label Hollywood Pictures – really is a fusion of the type of vibe of those two posters. It’s a gritty police/crime thriller about a cop whose partner gets killed, but in addition to going after the people he considers responsible, he and his wife take care of and then try to adopt the dead partner’s three adorable daughters. The amount of screen time and sincerity it puts into the second part is very unusual, so although this is in many ways not my type of movie, I respect its bold mix of genres. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Rage in Harlem

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

It’s that time of year again. The time when the sun comes out and my instincts tell me to crawl into a dark theater. It’s also become the time when I take a deeper look at summer movie entertainment of the past. Especially in this strange year, when the vaccines are starting to kick in but an immediate return to normal life seems unlikely, there’s something I find very comforting and fascinating about this form of time travel. I especially like looking at times I remember living in, but when I was too young to see everything that came out or to understand them in the way I would now. It’s partly nostalgia but partly wanting to learn about everything I missed.

It becomes harder to do each year, as there become fewer stretches that I haven’t already mined (or, in the case of anything in this century, that I wasn’t writing about at the time). Fortunately this year we’ve hit the 30th anniversary of a crop of movies from what I think is kind of an interesting transitional period with some cultural shifts in progress. It’s a summer with some fresh territory for me and although I’ve already reviewed what I consider its two most important releases, they’re both monumental enough to justify writing up more than once. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

“I have a problem with cold-blooded killers.”

As longtime reader Sternshein has been promising me for a couple years now, BLOODSPORT 4: THE DARK KUMITE is some crazy shit – maybe the strangest sequel in a name brand action franchise. It completes the trilogy of BLOODSPORT sequels starring Daniel Bernhardt (ATOMIC BLONDE, NOBODY), but it doesn’t follow the tradition of framing it as a story told to children. Instead it opens with Bernhardt fighting in a tiled pit that looks like it might be a drained fountain, with sicko spectators above chanting “KILL! KILL! KILL!”

He raises his leg like a sledge hammer above his downed opponent – but abruptly stops himself, and turns to address the crowd. They drop silent.

“No! I will not kill this man! This man fought with skill, and dignity, and you would have me destroy that integrity. And why? To satisfy your lust for death?”

He helps the man up, hugs him, pats him on the back.

“There was a time the Kumite meant honor. But I see now that Kumite here is dead. It has become nothing more than a bloodsport.”

(It should smash cut to a giant ‘4: THE DARK KUMITE’, but no such luck.) (read the rest of this shit…)

F/X

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

F/X is a pretty cool little thriller from 1986 that I think I saw back in the VHS days, but I didn’t remember it at all. And since Bryan Brown (THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH) on the poster looks like Roy Scheider to me, I was really picturing something different. Brown is Australian and is allowed to fully use his accent here, a rarity in American movies that I was prepared to credit to the international success of CROCODILE DUNDEE until I saw that this came out earlier in the same year. So instead I will credit the success off CROCODILE DUNDEE to the success of F/X.

Brown stars as Roland “Rollie” Tyler, a Hollywood (well, New York) special effects genius who seems to be considered the best in the business. And you know what that means: it opens with a scene of violence that turns out to be a film shoot. It’s a pretty good version of that cliche, because instead of a horror movie like usual (see: BODY DOUBLE, PET SEMATARY TWO) it’s a shootout in a restaurant. A guy catches on fire, aquariums get shot up, a bunch of live lobsters get loose. Good scene.

Rollie is approached on set by a dude named Lipton (Cliff De Young, DR. GIGGLES), who claims to be a big fan with some work for him. But the project turns out not to be a movie – he works for the Justice Department, and he wants Rollie to help him fake a death. Notorious mob boss Nicholas DeFranco (Jerry Orbach, BREWSTER’S MILLIONS) has turned state’s evidence, people are trying to kill him, if they can fake kill him maybe it will take the heat off until the trial. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mortal Kombat (2021)

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

MORTAL KOMBAT (2021) is a perfectly okay movie, especially given the past success rate of video game adaptations. It does a decent job of putting some of the Mortal Kombat characters into a passable modern movie. I found it reasonably entertaining, and had I expected it to be bad I might even have been pleasantly surprised. It also might’ve played better in a theater, if I could go to one.

Here’s the problem: I’m the type of guy who thinks you could make something truly kick ass out of any bullshit that involves colorful characters fighting each other. They’ve been talking about a new Mortal Kombat movie for more than 10 years, with James Wan announced as producer for six of those, and I think the ‘90s incarnations are fun (if ridiculous) movies that have plenty to build upon. So for years now I have been anticipating this movie that ended up being directed by Australian commercial director Simon McQuoid and written by Greg Russo (first credit) and Dave Callaham (DOOM, THE EXPENDABLES, WONDER WOMAN 1984), with a story credit for Oren Uziel (who had been developing it with Kevin Tancharoen after his unlicensed Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short and an episode of the official web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy). And I thought it might be something special. Maybe next time. (read the rest of this shit…)

Don’t Panic

Monday, April 26th, 2021

DON’T PANIC, a.k.a. EL SECRETO DE LA OUIJA, is a 1988 English-language Mexican horror film that seems designed to crossover to American audiences, with its lead character Michael (Jon Michael Bischof, who directed a movie called RATAS NOCTURNAS three years later) a blond, curly haired kid who explains in narration that his family moved from Beverly Hills to Mexico City, a situation he considers “the pits.”

By the time of his 17th birthday, though, Michael already has enough friends for a party. His best pal Tony pushes him to play with a Ouija board even though he’s scared of it because of a previous incident involving an entity named “Virgil” who Michael believes is the devil. He keeps saying “I have to go home” to get out of it, which confused me because I was pretty sure this was his home, a theory confirmed by his mom (Helena Rojo, AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD) coming out and making everybody leave. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sound of Metal

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

SOUND OF METAL is not what I pictured at all. It’s about this guy Ruben (Riz Ahmed, VENOM) who’s a heavy metal* drummer, and then he loses his hearing. That’s the part I did know. The poster and the trailer and everything all focus on him shirtless on stage banging away on those things, and especially since it was nominated for best picture I had to figure it was about him struggling and overcoming and finding some thrillingly dramatic way to keep playing. I’ve heard of deaf people who play music based on vibrations, so I don’t think it’s impossible. It’s loud music, after all.

*pretty sure there’s a more accurate name for what their group Blackgammon plays, but fuck if I know what it is. Maybe sludge metal?

That’s not what this is at all. In the beginning he’s on tour with his group Blackgammon, which is just him and bleached-eyebrow singer girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke, READY PLAYER ONE). They live in an RV (a little nicer than NOMADLAND) so they’ll just play a show at some small place, try to sell some records and merch, then move along to the next town and find the next place.

The hearing loss seems pretty out of the blue. His ears just start ringing before a show. Then it sounds like he’s underwater. He just kinda pretends it’s nothing and hopes it will pass. Doesn’t even tell Lou. During the show he just goes for it, and Lou is looking at him like something’s wrong, so we wonder how far off he is. Suddenly he loses it, gets up and runs out the fire exit. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bloodsport III

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

Way back in 2013 I reviewed BLOODSPORT II: THE NEXT KUMITE starring Daniel Bernhardt. But I reviewed it as part of this tournament gimmick I was doing called The Super-Kumite, and the movie lost its round to BLOODFIGHT, so I never followed up with BLOODSPORTs III and IV like I normally would. Until now!

Unlike me, the filmmakers didn’t waste time. Part III (no subtitle) came out in 1996, the same year as part II. Bernhardt (or, as we call him this week, Bob Odenkirk’s fight trainer/co-fight-coordinator/“Bus Goon” on NOBODY) returns as Alex Cardo, the guy who won the sub-titular “NEXT KUMITE” after Van Damme’s Frank Dux in the original.

One odd continuity with part II is that it has a wraparound where the movie is a story being told to a kid. In part II it was Master Sun (James Wong) telling kids in his martial arts class how Alex became a good person. This time it’s Alex telling his ten year old son Jason (David Schatz, AMBROSE BIERCE: CIVIL WAR STORIES) a story about his life “living in the far east as a very successful gambler.” He notices Jason upset late at night, finds out he got suspended from school for beating up three eighth grade bullies, and decides to take him for a camping trip. So Alex figures it’s time to tell his son – who has been training in martial arts – that he was the Kumite champion (“Cool!”) and then about something that happened while he was “living in the far east as a very successful gambler.” It’s pretty cool, because most fathers, when their son gets into trouble at school, aren’t able to whip out a “the time I tried to avenge a murder” story. (read the rest of this shit…)

Nobody

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Yes, it’s true – the makers of JOHN WICK have turned Bob Odenkirk (DR. DOLITTLE 2) into an action star. NOBODY (now on VOD) comes from WICK screenwriter Derek Kolstad (ONE IN THE CHAMBER, THE PACKAGE) and is produced by WICK co-director David Leitch, and it has many obvious similarities to JOHN WICK. The premise is a variation on a retired super-killer in a “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!” situation. It mines the same entertaining territory of depraved Russian gangsters having the shock of their lives when they discover that somebody they assumed was just a random regular person is in fact a preposterously elite warrior who’s about to fuck up their whole existence. The dry, dark humor and gory, painful, expertly choreographed violence are certainly in the same ball park.

So if anybody has a bad thing to say about this movie that might not make me spit out my drink it would be “it was too much like JOHN WICK.” But I don’t agree that it’s a problem at all, because its strongest similarity is that it was another trailer that seemed to come somewhat out of the blue and made me say “Holy shit, where have you been all my life?,” and then when the actual movie came out it was simultaneously exactly as promised and so much more than anticipated. I don’t hesitate in saying that NOBODY is a new classic. (read the rest of this shit…)