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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Ronin

Monday, February 26th, 2024

John Frankenheimer’s RONIN is a movie that kicked my ass in a multiplex in the year 1998 A.D. The thing that really stuck in my head about it was the car chases, of course – specifically the one where they end up going the wrong way in a tunnel. But I also remembered it being very tough and smart, I was pretty confident it would hold up, and man was I right. This is a ’90s classic. But timeless.

The title is a metaphor comparing former intelligence agents and soldiers to masterless samurai. It’s about a group of them, apparently serving no higher cause, just letting whoever-the-fuck hire them for their particular set of skills. Sam (Robert De Niro between GREAT EXPECTATIONS and ANALYZE THIS) is a former CIA guy who’s in Montmartre to meet IRA operative Deirdre (Natascha McElhone, THE TRUMAN SHOW), who’s putting together a team that also includes the Frenchman Vincent (Jean Reno doing penance for GODZILLA), Englishman Spence (Sean Bean, GOLDENEYE), German computer expert Gregor (Stellan Skarsgård right before DEEP BLUE SEA) and American driver Larry (Skipp Sudduth, MONEY TRAIN, 54). They will be stealing a metal case from a heavily armed convoy, so they discuss what they know and don’t know about how it will go down, how and when they’ll do it, what equipment they’ll need, where they’ll get that, how they’ll prepare. (read the rest of this shit…)

Jennifer’s Body (revisited)

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024

Seeing LISA FRANKENSTEIN pushed me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for years – rewatch JENNIFER’S BODY (2009). Uncharacteristically, I came right home from the theater and put it on. It made a good double feature.

In a way it doesn’t seem like that long ago, but in other ways it seems like ancient history. It was Diablo Cody’s second movie, coming two years after JUNO, which won her the best original screenplay Oscar. Director Karyn Kusama was on her third movie, trying to make a comeback after AEON FLUX (2005), her one studio project after the indie smash GIRLFIGHT (2000). Since then she’s done THE INVITATION (2015) and DESTROYER (2018) and lots of acclaimed television. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lisa Frankenstein

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

I’m a fan of the Academy Award winning screenwriter Diablo Cody. I enjoyed JUNO and TULLY and her directorial debut PARADISE, but it was YOUNG ADULT and its more friendly cousin RICKI AND THE FLASH that made me a die hard. Two movies about women who are assholes. My life is so different from either of theirs, but somehow Mavis Gary and Ricki Rendazzo are two characters I relate to deeply.

Of course she’s also got a foot in horror world – she wrote JENNIFER’S BODY for Karyn Kusama and even did some script revisions on the EVIL DEAD remake. She’s said she didn’t have to do much on that, but I still wonder if she was the one who named the dog Grandpa. Now she’s returned to the genre, sort of, with LISA FRANKENSTEIN, a teen movie with a zombie and some murders, directed by Zelda Williams (KAPPA KAPPA DIE). (read the rest of this shit…)

Desierto

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

DESIERTO is a straight ahead chased-by-a-sniper thriller that I know at least one person has encouraged me to review, but I couldn’t find who. Thanks for the recommendation, whoever it was. I remembered it after watching THE COURIER last week, because The Courier himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, plays the sniper in this one.

It’s directed by Jonás Cuarón, son of Alfonse and co-writer of GRAVITY. This time he co-wrote with Mateo Garcia. It’s about a group of Mexican migrant workers trying to cross the US border illegally, and encountering a crazy fuckin asshole (Morgan).

I don’t remember them ever saying the main characters’ names, but Gael García Bernal (THE LIMITS OF CONTROL) plays our protagonist Moises, a sometime mechanic who is trying to return to his family in Oakland after being deported for a broken tail light. When the truck they’re being transported on breaks down in the middle of the desert, their guides Mechas (Diego Cataño, SAVAGES, THE MULE) and Lobo (Marco Pérez, AMORES PERROS) reluctantly lead them on foot through a dangerous area they don’t know very well called the Badlands.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Madame Web

Monday, February 19th, 2024

As you can see in my reviews of VENOM and MORBIUS (I didn’t write about VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE for some reason, but it’s probly the best one), I sort of have a soft spot for the In Association with Marvel Comics Universe, the last vestige of the era when the movie rights to different Marvel characters were sold to different studios. I definitely don’t consider these to be among the better comic book movies, but there’s something charmingly out of fashion about them that I get a kick out of. They seem magically transported from another time when super heroes were still kind of niche and many of the movie adaptations were trying to make them palatable for normal people, but the people in charge were clueless business assholes who didn’t know what normal people were like anyway, so they ended up making them accidentally weird. The VENOMs are the best merely because they’re a chance for one of my favorite actors to get a paycheck for being a big goof, but all of them have a similar late ‘90s/early 2000s kind of attitude that now seems kind of novel.

What I’ve come to realize is that I tend to go to movies with a mentality of “show me what you got, movie” while some people go to them with more of a “listen up you dirty sonofabitch, you can’t slip one past me.” So I’m gonna be listing a bunch of stupid things in this movie because those were the things that made it fun for me, while others will cite those exact same things as proof that this movie is terrible. We’re really not that far off, I’ve just learned how to get a chuckle from some silly shit instead of get mad at it. If it’s the right type of silly shit. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Courier (2012)

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

For those who came in late: Yesterday I wanted to watch a movie from Palestine, and I picked OMAR (2013), a very good Oscar nominee that deals with the Israel-Palestine conflict in the form of a dramatic thriller. Afterwards I read about director Hany Abu-Assad and learned that he’d also done the similarly themed, also Oscar-nominated PARADISE NOW (2005), and I think I’m gonna watch that soon. But I also found out that the one movie he did in between those was the 2012 DTV action movie THE COURIER starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan. So… I’m sorry. I had to get to that first. I was too excited not to.

Morgan (WATCHMEN, THE RESIDENT) stars as The Courier. Similar to the Transporter, but with less emphasis on which car he’s driving, he’s the guy who it’s known is the absolute best at delivering a case of unknown contents to some nefarious character without asking questions. I think this was too early for there to be an app to use when you need to hire someone for that, so he really just gets jobs by word of mouth. Good for him. He lives in an old print shop with the name “Ed Smith” on the sign (one of Parker’s aliases, incidentally), and his friend calls him Eddie, but I don’t know him like that, so I call him The Courier, like the credits do. (read the rest of this shit…)

Omar

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Right now, maybe even more than usual, there’s a horrible tragedy going on in the world. It’s painful to dwell on, but I can’t ignore it. I feel with every cell in my body that what Israeli soldiers and American weapons are doing to human beings in Gaza right now is unjustifiable in any context, with any history. But I also know that nothing I do or write can change anything about it. And I’m not trying to start a debate. That doesn’t help anybody. So I can only try to keep doing what I do in a way I feel is constructive.

What I do is write about movies, and one thing I love about movies is the way they can connect us to other people, other places, show us the world through the eyes of others, make us feel things maybe we wouldn’t have otherwise, to understand the world in a different way. So I thought I should see a movie from Palestine. I didn’t know anybody to ask about the subject, so I just looked at the small Palestine section at Scarecrow Video and OMAR (2013) was the one I found that looked most interesting. I don’t remember ever hearing of it, but I had to have when it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. (Italy’s THE GREAT BEAUTY won that year. I didn’t see that either.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Nights and Weekends

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

Hey, you know Greta Gerwig, director of last year’s biggest movie, BARBIE? Whose two previous films LADY BIRD and LITTLE WOMEN were also great and also best picture nominated? Do you remember that she used to be an actress in no budget talkie film festival movies?

It’s cool how quickly we can adjust to those transformations. They seem so strange at first, but then they stick. Stuff like “Bradley Cooper, Oscar nominee” seems unlikely and amusing at first, then pretty soon it’s the most normal thing in the world. At first Gerwig was this rising star of indie movies, she had cool hair, played adorable space cadets, seemed like somebody I would’ve wanted to be friends with or had a crush on when I was younger. I don’t think I saw LOL or HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS, the two Joe-Swanberg-directed movies that got her started, so I first knew her from BAGHEAD and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shudder Double Feature: Suitable Flesh / Destroy All Neighbors

Monday, February 12th, 2024

SUITABLE FLESH is the latest from Joe Lynch, a director who has a certain credibility in my book because his debut was a DTV sequel. I was mixed-positive on WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END (2007) and wrote some things in the review that I now consider out of line, but I definitely respect its joyful spirit toward sequelizing and in many ways outdoing a studio movie I really wasn’t that into. Since then Lynch has directed a comedy that got taken away from him, the Salma Hayek action vehicle EVERLY, the gory outbreak-in-an-office-building movie MAYHEM (which I liked but apparently didn’t review) and the Frank Grillo/Anthony Mackie car chase buddy movie POINT BLANK. But now he’s returned to horror with a sacred task: to manifest an unfinished project of the late great Stuart Gordon.

I didn’t realize it from the name, but it’s one of those unfulfilled ambitions we read about for years – here’s an example of Gordon talking it up while promoting STUCK in 2008, but using the title of the H.P. Lovecraft story it’s based on, “The Thing on the Doorstep.” The script is by Gordon’s regular collaborator Dennis Paoli (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, CASTLE FREAK, DAGON) and it’s produced by RE-ANIMATOR/FROM BEYOND/CASTLE FREAK star Barbara Crampton. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dog Bite Dog

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

Recently, when I saw the incredibly grim (but also oddly beautiful) Hong Kong serial killer movie LIMBO, I realized I should seek out some of the other movies I haven’t seen from director Soi Cheang (a.k.a. Cheang Pou-soi). DOG BITE DOG (2006) is one of his breakthrough movies, and it turns out it has many echoes (pre-echoes?) of LIMBO. Sometimes it feels almost like a remix (premix?).

LIMBO’s most striking feature (besides its black and white cinematography) is being set largely in alleys strewn with garbage. DOG BITE DOG opens with children in a garbage pile and has an important stretch taking place in a landfill. Both have an obsessed police detective who goes around savagely beating up informants, whose problems are connected to a family member currently in a coma. And in both the cop is chasing a transient killer from another country who is protecting a young, traumatized woman. But each of these things has a very different spin here than in LIMBO, the most significant being that this killer is a hitman rather than a serial killer, and is the protagonist. I think he’s even a sympathetic one. Eventually. (read the rest of this shit…)