THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD is a movie I was highly anticipating ever since I first read it was in the works. When it finally came out as one of these pandemic same-day-on-HBO-Max releases and it turned out it wasn’t quite the A+ movie I was hoping for, it kind of entered and left my consciousness without much incident. But I did think it was a cool movie taken on its own terms, and worthy of documentation with a review. And then it started to seem better the more I wrote about it.
Reasons I had high hopes:
1. It’s directed and co-written by Taylor Sheridan, who previously directed WIND RIVER and wrote SICARIO, HELL OR HIGH WATER and WITHOUT REMORSE. I just really like his style of quasi-realistic, contemporary-western-ish crime/action with tough, broody characters and a heightened atmosphere of doom.
2. It stars Angelina Jolie, who we don’t see in too many movies these days, but who I believe has an advanced understanding of badass screen presence. I base this partly on WANTED, a ridiculous movie I don’t necessarily love, but that she really stood out in. I always remember reading that she took the script and crossed out a bunch of her dialogue that she didn’t feel she needed, and said that Clint Eastwood taught her to do that. That really seemed to work for her there.
3. Also because I read the cool-sounding premise: a national park fire fighter on lookout duty helps a kid escape from assassins during a forest fire. Is this gonna be pretentious FIRESTORM? Starring an Oscar-winning actress instead of an NFL player? I can dig that! (read the rest of this shit…)
I don’t watch these twisty suspense thrillers too often, but they can be fun. I honestly don’t know what drew me to TAKING LIVES right now, but the only thing I knew about it other than that it stars BY THE SEA director Angelina Jolie is a really absurd thing that happens at the end that somebody told me about back when it came out. That turns out to be the best part of the movie, but I guess it’s okay I had it spoiled 11 years ago because otherwise I don’t think I would’ve watched it. There is no scenario where I see this fresh. It’s kind of like how I saw both SEVEN POUNDS and ORPHAN only because their plot twists sounded funny. Not that this is as good as those, but I enjoyed it okay.
Extra-hot-late-twenties Jolie plays Agent Illeanna Scott, an FBI profiler who has come to Canada to help Hugo Leclair (Tchéky Karyo), her mentor from Quantico, catch a serial killer. You know the drill: she’s totally brilliant, she has odd habits (like she lays inside a grave to get closer to the crime), she looks at gory photos while eating, she comes up with theories based on tiny details and everybody looks at her in either awe or fear. Olivier Martinez (BEFORE NIGHT FALLS) plays a cop who doesn’t trust or respect her, and he gets to be the bearer of that cliche that if you say something insulting in front of someone in another language thinking they don’t understand it then for sure they will play along and later say something to you in that language to reveal that they are fluent and then you will be embarrassed and not know what to say. (read the rest of this shit…)
“You know the rules. No fraternizing with cyborgs.”
CYBORG 2 has a totally different feel from CYBORG. Apparently it didn’t even start out as a sequel to CYBORG, it was supposed to be something called GLASS SHADOW until they realized the only way I was gonna rent it 20+ years later would be if it was connected to an existing Jean-Claude Van Damme series. It looks more expensive than Albert Pyun’s original (though still in the low budget realm) and plays much more traditional, not an art film at all.
The disease that had ravaged the world in part 1 must’ve been cured. The ROAD WARRIOR type wasteland has become a poor man’s BLADE RUNNER dystopolis with Max Headroom type boardroom villainy. There’s way more talking and stunt doubles and things that happen. And while I took part 1’s robo-lady as a traditional cyborg – human with machine add-ons – now they’re using the C3PO definition: just a robot. We see how it works in a cool opening credits sequence of liquid flesh injected into a female casing over a robo-skeleton.
(lots of spoilers throughout this one, if you care)
I don’t want to bust your fuckin bubble man but some of the shit in the Disney movies is kinda dramatized and what not. For example the movie POCAHONTAS and probly also POCAHONTAS II in my opinion is more a cartoon fantasy musical based on the legend of John Smith being rescued by Pocahontas than a legitimate historical document. Well, now the Walt Disney Studios live action division has courageously blown the lid off the old animation studio, accusing them of fudging some of the facts in their classic SLEEPING BEAUTY. Touché. Hats off to Disney for exposing all this before WikiLeaks or somebody did.
If you are not familiar with SLEEPING BEAUTY it is an ironic title in my opinion because it’s the best looking Disney cartoon but also… let’s say, not the least boring one. It’s about a princess cursed by a wicked sorceress so that when she turns 16 she’ll die except a fairy godmother changes it so she’ll only fall asleep. That’s better than dying, but the catch is she can’t ever wake up, except there’s this loophole that a kiss of true love can do it. But how the fuck would that happen oh wait there’s a handsome prince willing to kiss a sleeping gal, so it works out.
If that whole story seemed kinda suspicious to you then you’re gonna see MALEFICENT and you’re gonna be like “I knew it. I fuckin knew it!” This is the story of how that sorceress Maleficent was not really the wicked old bitch who goes around cackling and talking about how evil she is, she’s just a strong woman who got a bum rap from a patriarchal society. After seeing this, SLEEPING BEAUTY will seem like racist anti-fairy propaganda. (read the rest of this shit…)
MR. & MRS. SMITH is an action comedy from Doug Liman, the director of THE BOURNE IDENTITY and JUMPER. It has had a bigger imprint on pop culture than JUMPER because it caused Brad Pitt to ditch the lady he was with at the time and stick with his wife in the movie, LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER THE CRADLE OF LIFE star Angelina Jolie. The two play John and Jane Smith (of course), who have been married for “5 or 6 years” without knowing that each other are highly skilled assassins for rival secret organizations. It’s kind of like TRUE LIES I guess but less hateful, more equal (though also the action, like the movie in general, is not as huge).
John works out of a cluttered headquarters like a construction office, his partner a misogynist loser who lives in his Mom’s basement (Vince Vaughn, his shtick already pretty worn out by that point). John keeps his weapons in a secret bunker under the tool shed. Jane’s firm is a high tech MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE type joint in a high rise. She seems to be the boss, pampered by an all female, all model staff including Kerry Washington. At one point she tells two of them to make her coffee. Her weapons, of course, are in a secret compartment under the oven. (read the rest of this shit…)
As you know I am a scholar of the Big Summer Popcorn Movie, or whatever you want to call it. And I not only like to review the new ones but I like to look back at the old ones and figure out what’s what. We’re getting to the end of the summer movie season (which I consider to be May through August) but now that I’ve finished The Super-Kumite I think it’s time to start a new summer movie project. Fuck you, September. You don’t scare me.
This is what I’m gonna do. For each summer from 2003 until last year I’m gonna pick two movies to review: one that I never saw before, one that I’m revisiting. And as you can see I’m starting with THE CRADLE OF LIFE as the one I never saw before.
release date: July 25, 2003
It turns out I dig these LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER movies. Maybe if I’d seen them at the time, on the big screen, as if they were gonna compete with the A-list summer blockbuster type movies, I would’ve been more critical of them. But ignoring them for ten years and then deciding to watch them out of curiosity really pays off I think. Sometimes you gotta let these things age in the cellar for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)
Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie)’s trade is a “tomb raider,” which is like an asskicking archaelogical adventurist. It’s just like whatsisdick, the guy with the hat from that other movie that also used the word “raider” in the title – but don’t worry, that’s a coincidence. Lara’s introduced in what looks like some sort of an ancient crypt. She’s wearing short shorts, a The Phantom belt, spinning two pistols. Her crotch and her large, pointy boobs are somewhat emphasized, in my opinion. Might just be me.
Wouldn’t you fuckin know it, her search for treasure is interrupted by a large robot. Cue the electronical music and the wire-assisted acrobatics (remember we’re just two years after THE MATRIX). The fight is too forced to be very exciting in my opinion, but it ends on a nice touch: after killing the robot Lara takes a breath, then laughs to herself. (read the rest of this shit…)
Hey, have you guys ever noticed how alot of these so-called action movies they do now days make no effort to show any action in their action scenes? I think I might’ve mentioned something about that before, not sure.
Okay, it’s getting old for me to write about, and I’m sure it’s even worse for you to read about. But I feel like if we stop mentioning it it’s like we’re saying it’s okay. Whether it’s Michael Bay’s ridiculous edits or Paul Greengrass’s wobblecams that opened the floodgates, something happened, and old fashioned notions like geography, coherency, and visual storytelling got buried. The language and standards of action cinema that have evolved and developed over generations have been thrown out the window and it’s become acceptable to just have a quick smear of photography that sort of loosely implies the fights and chases that audiences used to pay money to actually see with their own eyes. I think there’s gonna be a backlash against this type of movie pretty soon, and it’s bubbling up in this new wave of DTV action we’ve all been enjoying. But still, you can’t just let it go. You gotta say something. (read the rest of this shit…)
Take one part THE MATRIX, one part FIGHT CLUB, two parts THE MATRIX, one part EQUILIBRIUM (one part THE MATRIX, one part straight to video), and one part THE MATRIX, but not as good, and you have the new motion picture WANTED. James Macavoy (the British Zach Braff) plays an unhappy office drone who out of the blue has his world turned upside down when a super hot asskicking gun babe in leather tells him he’s destined to be a super warrior and whisks him off to a secret organization of gun-obsessed rebels who teach him how to bend reality, do super gun tricks and martial arts in various showoffy camera-rotating slo-mo special effects action sequences, killing enemies without feeling bad because they have complete faith in the righteousness of their mission.
But there’s no computer world involved so on second thought this is not at all like THE MATRIX in any way. I doubt these filmatists even know about THE MATRIX. This is probaly one of those “yeah, people told me afterwards it was like THE MATRIX, but honestly I never heard of it, it’s just a weird coincidence” type deals. Plus Morgan Freeman plays Morpheus instead of Laurence Fishburne. Totally different. 100% new and original creation.
Okay, I have to admit that I somewhat enjoyed this dumb ass movie, but I think I’m still within my rights as an action fan to bust its movie balls, because there are rules. Once again I must refer to my “action movies are like the blues” comparison. In the blues there are traditions, there are standards, you don’t have to be shockingly original, you can follow a traditional sound and then put your own spin on it, express yourself from within that framework. But you don’t blatantly copy one specific person’s unique style. You don’t copy Jimi Hendrix’s approach to blues, for example, or if Muddy Waters’ ‘Electric Mud’ had caught on you would’ve looked like an asshole if all the sudden you came out with your acid rock blues album. (read the rest of this shit…)
BEOWULF is the new “motion capture” weirdly computerized sword and sandal 3-D movie from Robert Zemeckis. He’s using the same technology and directational style as POLAR EXPRESS but it will go over better because that one was for kids, this one has a bunch of stabbings and monsters and a part where Virtual Angelina Jolie gives a handjob to a sword, so that means it’s more sophisticated and adult.
Ray iWinstone voices the blonde he-man of the title. Anthony Hopkins 2.0 plays the old king, Robin Wright Penn’s likeness plays the princess from the fuckin Shrek movies, and John Pac-Mankovich does his usual distractingly weird performance as some asshole who is pissed off about something or other. Also you got Crispin Glover inhabiting the monster Grendel and a very good computerized duplicate of Angelina Jolie’s head as Grendel’s hot mom. (read the rest of this shit…)
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