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Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

True Lies (30th anniversary revisit)

Thursday, July 18th, 2024

July 15, 1994

I already reviewed TRUE LIES back in 2007, so I considered skipping it in this series. But it was a big hit (knocked FORREST GUMP out of the #1 slot for a week, became third highest grosser of the year), and such a straight up summer blockbuster, that it seems like it needs to be addressed. And I thought some people would be disappointed if I didn’t include it. But if you’re one of the many who consider it an action classic you might wish I abstained.

My arc with TRUE LIES goes like this: at the time I was hugely disappointed. It was an impressive action spectacle but it struck me as painfully racist and misogynistic. That wasn’t unheard of in those days, and I had a kneejerk revulsion to anything that seemed jingoistic or militaristic, so there were many beloved ‘90s hits that I watched feeling like the guy who didn’t belong at the rally. But I took TRUE LIES as a real betrayal from Cameron, who I admired so much for what he did with Ripley in ALIENS and Sarah Connor in T2, and whose TERMINATOR movies warned of out of control worship of military hardware. Now his big achievement was being the first guy allowed to film a particular war plane he thought was awesome. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Fall Guy

Friday, May 10th, 2024

I first heard of David Leitch as one of “the JOHN WICK GUYS” – the two MATRIX RELOADED stuntmen who directed JOHN WICK and changed action cinema. Chad Stahelski was the one credited, and has continued helming that visionary series, while Leitch launched a more normal directing career – half projects from their production company 87North (formerly 87Eleven), half for-hire type gigs. I love his neon-drenched spy movie ATOMIC BLONDE, and his other films (DEADPOOL 2, HOBBS & SHAW, BULLET TRAIN) all have good action, some style, and some other things I like about them, but their increasingly scattershot humor has kept me from fully embracing them. So I’m glad that with THE FALL GUY, a loose redo of the ‘80s TV show premise, he’s found his perfect subject.

The story is light and breezy, and everyone gets to be funny, but the humor leans mostly on one easygoing star persona – Ryan Gosling (director of LOST RIVER) as stuntman Colt Seavers – rather than having every character constantly compete for attention with wacky riffs. And best of all, obviously, it’s a love letter to the stunt profession, so there’s a very specific expertise and passion that makes Leitch more qualified than anyone else to tell this story. He even has a songwriting credit on an end credits “there should be an Oscar for stunts” song! (read the rest of this shit…)

Downtime (1997)

Monday, April 1st, 2024

DOWNTIME is a 1997 British film set in a dilapidated apartment building. I feel like somebody might’ve recommended it to me here years ago, but maybe it’s just in my head because the cover says “MOVE OVER BRUCE WILLIS, A BRITISH ACTION MOVIE TO DIE FOR.” I didn’t really think of it as an action movie, but the DIE HARD connection is obvious: it’s mostly set in one building, and much of it involves elevator-related danger, including climbing up onto the top of the elevator, climbing around inside the shaft, and the elevator falling and exploding. And it’s got a good look to it, with the camera moving around confidently (courtesy of ENEMY MINE and FIREBIRDS d.p. Tony Imi), so maybe there’s some McT influence in there.

But what makes it interesting to me is how much it still feels like something different. While DIE HARD is a pure action movie strengthened by the relationship drama in the middle of it, this feels like it’s a relationship drama that sometimes gets interrupted by some DIE HARD stuff, and keeps trying to brush it off and stay on track. Obviously straight ahead action is my preference, but I appreciate the originality of this approach, and it kept surprising me which directions it went. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mountain Between Us

Thursday, March 14th, 2024

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (2017) is to date the biggest Hollywoood production from Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad (RANA’S WEDDING, OMAR). Some reported it as his English language debut, but of course we know that was actually the Jeffrey Dean Morgan DTV action movie THE COURIER. This one is a little more respectable and was given a decent release, opening against BLADE RUNNER 2049 and doing okay-ish, despite pretty negative reviews.

Based on a 2011 novel by Charles Martin, it’s a survival movie with most of its runtime spent with just two actors. Daredevil conflict zone photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet, TRIPLE 9) and Baltimore-by-way-of-London brain surgeon Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba, PROM NIGHT) don’t know each other until their flight is cancelled by a storm, stranding them both at an airport in Salt Lake City. Alex is intent on getting home in time for her wedding, and she overhears Ben saying he needs to get home for a surgery, so she convinces him to go in with her to charter a small plane to another airport to catch a different flight. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rana’s Wedding

Wednesday, March 13th, 2024

A few weeks ago I watched the very good, Oscar nominated Palestinian film OMAR (2013), followed by the same director, Hany Abu-Assad’s English-language DTV action movie THE COURIER (2012) starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Because that’s how I roll. I enjoyed those and want to watch some more from Abu-Assad, so the obvious choice is his earlier Oscar nominee PARADISE NOW (2005). But for now I wanted to watch one that’s not about terrorism, so I went with his 2002 film RANA’S WEDDING, aka JERUSALEM, ANOTHER DAY. This isn’t as much of a thriller as the others I’ve seen, closer to a romance, a story about a woman trying to marry her boyfriend on very short notice. It’s just about this character and this situation, but because of where she lives that can’t help but be political. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spontaneous

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

Yesterday when I reviewed LOVE AND MONSTERS I mentioned how much I enjoy the work of screenwriter Brian Duffield (JANE GOT A GUN, THE BABYSITTER, UNDERWATER), but I strategically avoided mentioning his directorial debut that came out just two weeks before LOVE AND MONSTERS, because I wanted to save that topic for today. SPONTANEOUS (2020) is another one that combines young romance and coming-of-age with a genre premise, and has some accidental pandemic parallels. It’s more of a teen movie than a sci-fi one, but it’s R-rated for “bloody images throughout.” Adapted from a 2016 book by Aaron Starmer, it follows its witty, acerbic protagonist Mara (Katherine Langford, KNIVES OUT) as she navigates a senior year punctuated by dozens of her classmates randomly exploding.

“What? Like a bomb?” asks her best friend Tess (Hayley Law, Riverdale) after the first one, Katelyn Ogden.

“No. Like… a balloon?” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Phantom Lover

Monday, April 17th, 2023

THE PHANTOM LOVER is sadly not a documentary about me and how much I love the movie THE PHANTOM, but it’s the next best thing – a 1995 Hong Kong romantic melodrama. It has no martial arts, but it’s director Ronny Yu and cinematographer Peter Pau doing another lush, operatic fantasy about forbidden, doomed lovers, like THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR. And like THE OCCUPANT it has a set of young characters learning about and having their lives influenced by the tragedy when they visit the site years later.

In this case the location is not an apartment building, but a magnificent Beijing theater. In 1936 it’s fire-damaged and cob-webbed enough that the broke-ass fledgling Sprout Troupe think they can afford to rent it for their musical Flaming Blood.

Ten years earlier the theater was known from here to Tianjin, Shanghai as the home of the great Song Danping (played by the groom of the Bride With White Hair, Leslie Cheung), brilliant actor, beautiful singer, dreamy heartthrob, definitive essayer of Romeo (cheesy musical version). Hungry up-and-comer Wei Qing (Huang Lei, CJ7) bribes the caretaker with chocolates to tell the story, and it takes up the first half of the movie. Danping was in love with Du Yunyan (Chien-lien Wu, EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN), daughter of one of the local rich dudes (Wong Bing, THE FOUNDING OF A REPUBLIC), and she would meet him in the theater after hours for romantic interludes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bones and All

Monday, December 5th, 2022

note: This is a great fuckin movie and this review has spoilers, so if you’re planning on seeing it anyway, I suggest doing that first and coming back.

I’m not fully up on the films of director Luca Guadagnino. He’s done several I haven’t seen, including A BIGGER SPLASH, which I know some people love. I did see CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, which I didn’t officially review but did write a little about in a 2018 Oscar preview. I concluded that, “My main feeling about CALL ME BY YOUR NAME was that it was pretty good but just not for me. But I did continue thinking about different aspects of it for days afterward, making me think I liked it more than I realized at first.”

Since that was my only impression of Guadagnino it seemed kind of crazy that he was the one to finally do a remake of SUSPIRIA! Or as I called it in my review, “SUSPIRI… uh…”

Actually I liked that one, and will watch it again, though I didn’t understand what it was trying to say about German politics of the ‘70s. As I wrote in my review, “It is possible that this Italian director and American writer have something very important to say about the post-WWII generational shift that was happening in Germany when they were 6 and 8 years old, respectively, and that it adds greatly to the story of these dancing witches. If so it’s way over my head, so for me it dilutes what could be a far more intense experience if the horrific parts weren’t so spread out.”

With those mixed feelings in mind, I’m thrilled to say that Guadagnino’s new one BONES AND ALL is the first one I’ve seen by him that I unreservedly loved. This is another horror one that will get some of the more finicky genre purists in their feelings about it being pretentious or whatever, but I think it’s a real fuckin knockout. It’s a cannibal road movie romance. You’re gonna love it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Honeymoon in Vegas

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

HONEYMOON IN VEGAS (released August 28, 1992) is pretty mediocre, but definitely more watchable than some of the other stuff I’ve been reviewing lately. That mainly comes down to it being a romantic comedy with Nic Cage playing the protagonist, and going a little mega at times, dipping into those skills from VAMPIRE’S KISS four years earlier and taking them for a little test drive in a more mainstream movie. Gives it a little more energy.

Cage (between ZANDALEE and AMOS & ANDREW) plays Jack Singer, a small time private detective in New York City. He adores his girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker between L.A. STORY and STRIKING DISTANCE), but she wants to get married and have kids, which he’s not comfortable with. It’s a totally normal feeling, but it’s given a ridiculous origin story in the opening scene where his creepily possessive mother (Anne Bancroft in one scene!) dies while trying to make him promise to never get married because no one can love him as much as she did.

Betsy doesn’t want to wait anymore, and gives him an ultimatum that she says isn’t an ultimatum, so he decides she’s right and that they should take a vacation to Las Vegas, have some fun and elope. (read the rest of this shit…)

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING is the new George god damn Miller movie. So obviously you should see it. Here are some thoughts.

It makes sense, but also is really funny, that in the seven (!) years since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD this project was sometimes described as the small movie Miller wanted to make before diving into another Mad Max. The reason it makes sense is that it’s a simple love story centered around two characters, and much of it is one long conversation taking place inside a hotel room. The reason it’s funny is that one of the characters is telling stories set in different cultures and across centuries, with kings and queens and magic and imaginative creatures and many frames filled with too much meticulous detail to absorb in one viewing.



The best way I can describe it is that it’s a whole lot like Richard Linklater’s BEFORE movies, other than being in almost every way their opposite. (read the rest of this shit…)