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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Darkman

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

After his horror breakthrough, his failed comedy, and his knockout horror sequel, Sam Raimi finally made it to the semi-big-time. He’d really wanted to do a movie of Batman or The Shadow, but could never get the rights. Then he came up with the idea for his own dark avenger, one with the ability to change his face. His 40-page treatment The Darkman was greenlit by Universal Studios in 1987.

Raimi brought in NAVY SEALS writer Chuck Pfarrer to flesh out the treatment as a screenplay, which was then rewritten by Raimi and his brother Ivan (under the theory that Ivan, a doctor, could help make the medical sci-fi aspects plausible). The studio brought in the team of Daniel and Joshua Goldin (up-and-comers they also had working on PROBLEM CHILD) to bring the various drafts together before the Raimis went at it again. By the time the movie was made and released at the end of August, 1990, Tim Burton had made his BATMAN movie and all the studios were trying to mimic that success. Surely that was an influence on Raimi’s choice of composer Danny Elfman, and on the minimalist marketing campaign based around a silhouette and the question “Who is Darkman?”

I’m sure at the time I would’ve been interested in this movie anyway, but I was specifically excited when I read that it was the genius behind beloved video favorite EVIL DEAD II taking his first shot at a large scale mainstream movie. Seeing the posters, reading about it in magazines, seeing it on the big screen, I accepted it as a big time summer blockbuster alongside DICK TRACY, BACK TO THE FUTURE III and DIE HARD 2. But Raimi having four times his budget on EVIL DEAD II still meant about a third or a fourth of the budgets of those films. Even Cannon’s DELTA FORCE 2, released the same day as DARKMAN, had a slightly higher budget. I think it’s a testament to Raimi’s exciting directorial style that his many green screen and miniature techniques, which have dated technically more than any of those other movies, still seemed flashy enough to stand toe-to-toe with them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

I had been pretty excited for SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS, but I was skeptical about director Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.) so when it came out and everybody said the action scenes were unwatchable I put off seeing it. I don’t know if the tempering of expectations helped, but catching up with it on video I found it was pretty much the enjoyable studio b-movie I had been hoping for.

Maybe there’s a better word for that, but it’s a category I appreciate: mainstream studio theatrical releases with huge budgets compared to the DTV stuff we love, but without any expectations of either being giant hits or critical successes. Unpretentious, crassly commercial movies, sometimes seemingly out of touch with what is considered cool at the moment, all generally seen as lowbrow also-rans, whether or not their creators had higher aspirations. Stuff like non-FAST Vin Diesel movies, most of the video game and/or Milla Jovovich movies, fantasy sword guy movies, Rob Cohen and P.W.S. Anderson movies. I know not to hold them to my normally stringent artistic standards and just hope for a satisfying mix of pretty cool, kinda stupid, hopefully excessive in some goofy way, maybe in some ways better than most people were gonna give them credit for. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix Resurrections

Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

“I’m sorry. How could I know this would happen?”
“We didn’t understand all of it back then. No more than we do now.”

(you have entered THE SPOILERTRIX)

When I saw the first trailer for THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS, it wasn’t what I expected. That is to say that it seemed like the sort of thing you would expect from a normal 2020s “legacy sequel” to an old series: bringing back some of the original stars, addressing that they are older now, stripping away some of the excesses of previous sequels, visually and otherwise referencing famous scenes specifically from the first movie. Which is all fine and good, but I figured they must be hiding something, because I didn’t believe Lana Wachowski (working without Lilly, who wanted to take time away from the industry) would come back to THE MATRIX after 18 years just to do something normal. I was betting on her having come up with some weird approach that even if I didn’t like it very much I would respect, as was the case with CLOUD ATLAS and JUPITER ASCENDING.

RESURRECTIONS might be the most accessible movie a Wachowski has made since the original MATRIX, but I don’t think I was wrong. This is a filmmaker making the movie she wants to and not what she thinks anyone else wants, therefore ending up with something no one else would’ve made. And I’m happy to say that I more than respected it. I kind of loved it. Though I wasn’t sure at first. (read the rest of this shit…)

Copshop

Monday, December 20th, 2021

COPSHOP is the latest smart-alecky, artfully lowbrow violencefest from director Joe Carnahan (rewriting a script credited to Canadian financial advisor Kurt McLeod, story by Mark Williams [HONEST THIEF]). I tend to like Carnahan’s work more than dislike it, and I like that he seems to have settled on Frank Grillo (THE GREY) as his main guy and gotten a little better grip on the collar of that SMOKIN’ ACES chaos he likes to set loose. In both this and last year’s time-loop movie BOSS LEVEL Carnahan has found a good balance between the macho rowdiness, the cleverness and touches of sentimentality, and given Grillo a good sleazy-likable-asshole-antihero-fuckup to play.

I guess he’s more anti and less hero in this one. It’s clearly a modern western, and if it’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY he sure ain’t the good. But his main motivation throughout the movie is to warn his ex-wife and daughter that they’re in danger, so how could we completely hate him? He plays Teddy Murretto, a Vegas (or Reno?) fixer on the run with a bag of something valuable. On foot with time running out, enemies closing in and nowhere to go, he punches a random cop so that he can hide out in a jail cell. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix Revolutions

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

When the second half of the 2-part MATRIX sequel begins, our hero Neo and antagonist Agent Smith are both displaced from their regular realities. Smith has somehow transferred his computer-program-consciousness into the organic human body of Bane, only survivor of the destroyed Nebuchadnezzar, now in the sick bay of the Hammer next to comatose Neo, whose mind is trapped in a purgatorial subway station in a virtual world separate from The Matrix.

Yeah, the sequels get complicated. We learn that programs inside The Matrix are regularly deleted, but some try to escape that fate. The subway is a black market means of smuggling exile programs in and out of the Matrix or the Machine City (01?) mainframe. This is all overseen by the Merovingian, with the subway itself operated by his employee The Trainman, a scary dude played by Bruce Spence, a.k.a. the Gyro Captain in THE ROAD WARRIOR and Jedediah in MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix Reloaded

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

THE MATRIX RELOADED may have been the most highly anticipated but immediately rejected sequel of my lifetime. I’m not just excluding PHANTOM MENACE for being a prequel – whatever happened in the rest of the world, I honestly didn’t experience many people hating it until months later, at least. With RELOADED it was pretty instant.

It was the only MATRIX movie I reviewed upon release, so you can click here to see my kinda dumb, mostly still applicable 2003 thoughts on the matter. I seemed to be fielding a backlash against the original MATRIX movie as well as people hating RELOADED, but it was only the latter I found myself feeling I had to defend over the years.

I do think I partly understand why people were disappointed. THE MATRIX ends on a perfect note of letting us imagine what’s next in the “world where anything is possible.” Any definitive answer of what happens next has a hard time competing with the electric feeling of not knowing. Especially when part 1 was a carefully constructed machine of concept, explanation and payoff, while part 2 kind of wanders through a labyrinth of tangential notions and questions before it gets to the battle it’s been promising. And it cuts off in a cliffhanger well before said battle. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix

Monday, December 13th, 2021

THE MATRIX is, I continue to believe, one of The Great Movies. It absolutely holds up today, and also it reminds me so much of then. I will always remember what it felt like when this was a new movie, and our entire understanding of the MATRIX story. When we all imagined where it would go next, and then we we had a couple years enjoying or rolling our eyes at all the movies obviously influenced by it, whether that means corny outfits and techno music or that brief, glorious window when Hollywood actors could be convinced to spend months preparing for action scenes with the great Hong Kong choreographers. But mostly I like to remember what it felt like to be surprised by it. Going in wondering if it would be good and then coming out knowing it was this.

I did have hopes. I had come to respect Keanu Reeves’ taste in movies after SPEED and, say what you will, JOHNNY MNEMONIC. I liked BOUND and it was exciting to see directors like that doing a sci-fi movie. And then a day or two before it came out I heard something about there being kung fu in it? So it wasn’t completely out of the blue that it was good. But I don’t think I was expecting something that a couple decades later would still be thought as highly of as the fucking MATRIX is. (read the rest of this shit…)

Danger: Diabolik

Monday, December 6th, 2021

Mario Bava’s DANGER: DIABOLIK stars John Phillip Law, who to me will always be Pygar, the blind angel of love from BARBARELLA. This one came out earlier the same year, 1968, and kinda seems like BARBARELLA’s evil crime movie cousin. It is in fact another Dino De Laurentiis international co-production based on a comic book, and reportedly uses some of the same sets (though I’m not sure which ones). It feels very much like a super hero movie at the beginning: we hear police talking about Law’s character Diabolik as some kind of legendary figure, he first appears in a long black car (Jaguar, not Batmobile), he shows up in a mask, does his thing, makes an escape to a secret entrance to an amazing hidden base inside a cave. But this guy is no super hero, he’s just a thief with a whole lot of flair.

Police Inspector Ginko (Michel Piccoli, THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE) is determined to not let Diabolik steal the $10 million that needs to be transported, going out of his way to deliver decoy money and send the real shipment in a Rolls-Royce with cops disguised as diplomats. But that car finds itself engulfed in plumes of multi-colored smoke and then lifted up by a crane operated by by Diabolik. The camera zooms in on him for a diabolical laugh when the title comes up. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rurouni Kenshin Part III: The Legend Ends

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

I’m still catching up with these RUROUNI KENSHIN movies. I really recommend RUROUNI KENSHIN PART I: ORIGINS (2012), and I watched RUROUNI KENSHIN II: KYOTO INFERNO (2014) a while back and then this one. I got caught up and didn’t finish that review until now but I wanted to finish before I watch this year’s final two installments.

RUROUNI KENSHIN PART III: THE LEGEND ENDS (2014) continues from the cliffhanger of part II, in which our no-longer-believing-in-killing samurai hero Kenshin (Takeru Satoh, SAMURAI MARATHON) had leapt from the pirate ship of aspiring-Japan-conqueror Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara, BATTLE ROYALE), failed to save his pacifist sword master friend Miss Kaoru (Emi Takei, TERRA FORMARS), and washed ashore on some beach, to be discovered by a mysterious dude. But the story slows down for a while, correctly judging that part II has earned the filmatists our trust and the right to take a breath and dig into the characters and the melodrama for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Guardian Angel

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

GUARDIAN ANGEL is a 1994 Cynthia Rothrock joint from PM Entertainment, directed by Richard W. Munchkin (RING OF FIRE) and written by Joe Hart (REPO JAKE, STEEL FRONTIER). It’s not one of the better crafted Rothrock pictures, but it’s a worthwhile grade of ridiculousness.

Rothrock stars as Christine McKay, who’s working as a cop when we first meet her. And she’s at a great place in her life. Staking out a public park undercover as “lady standing next to ice cream truck,” she shows off her engagement ring to her partner and confesses that she never thought she’d marry a cop. Then the shit goes down: two groups totaling around 25 people show up at the park to discuss a counterfeiting transaction.

McKay makes the very questionable choice to run by herself toward these gangs firing her gun in the air. The sound causes them to start fighting and shooting at each other. She personally beats the shit out of several of them before backup arrives. (read the rest of this shit…)