THE GRAY MAN is the new Netflix movie that they put so much into they’re actually doing promotion for it. Showed it to critics a week early, had the directors do interviews and stuff, as if they want people to know it’s there and maybe watch it. Almost like they’re in the movie business. Crazy.
It stars Ryan Gosling (ONLY GOD FORGIVES) as “Six,” a guy who was doing time for murder until a spook named Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton, ON DEADLY GROUND) got him released in exchange for dedicating his life to being a secret government assassin, or “Sierra.” One day on a mission in Bangkok he takes out a target (Callan Mulvey, BEYOND SKYLINE) who, before dying, gives him an encrypted drive he says has the dirt on Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page, MORTAL ENGINES), his new boss at the CIA who pushed Fitzroy out. When Carmichael acts suspicious about it on the phone Six decides to mail the drive to a retired handler he trusts (Alfre Woodard, CROOKLYN) and go on the run. (read the rest of this shit…)
ONE FALSE MOVE was the Summer of ’92’s little crime movie that could. Like POISON IVY’s Katt Shea, director Carl Franklin was an actor turned director of Roger Corman productions (NOWHERE TO RUN, EYE OF THE EAGLE 2: INSIDE THE ENEMY, FULL FATHOM FIVE). Here he moved into the film festival/arthouse side of the indie world, having come across a hot screenplay from the new writing team of Billy Bob Thornton (an actor who had been in HUNTER’S BLOOD, GOING OVERBOARD, CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN, an episode of Knots Landing, etc.) & Tom Epperson.
Thornton told Entertainment Weekly at the time that they’d been trying to get it made for five years. He said the studios “all pounced on it” but then decided they couldn’t make it because “it didn’t have a rocket launcher or an oversized baby.*” Instead it was produced independently through I.R.S. Media (hip record label and makers of Cynthia Rothrock’s RAGE AND HONOR I & II), completing it in May of ’91. It sat on a shelf for a year except for playing some film festivals, where it was well received enough that the producer convinced I.R.S. to release it in a few cities on May 8, 1992, ostensibly to get review quotes for the VHS cover. It did better than they expected, though, and eventually expanded to 51 markets. (read the rest of this shit…)
The year was 2000. For the the third year in a row, Sam Raimi released a “this is the more serious Sam Raimi” type of movie. Though it combines a thriller story with southern gothic atmosphere and some supernatural elements, it’s his only movie to date that seems in a similar mode to A SIMPLE PLAN. And the script is by that film’s co-star Billy Bob Thornton, along with his long time writing partner Tom Epperson. The two had broken through as writers with ONE FALSE MOVE (starring Bill Paxton), followed by the lesser known A FAMILY THING and DON’T LOOK BACK. On the DVD extras for THE GIFT, star Cate Blanchett says that Thornton told her about the script while they were filming PUSHING TIN together. If it was his idea to cast her in the lead, good idea, Billy Bob.
Blanchett (not long after her first Oscar nomination for ELIZABETH) plays Annie Wilson, a widow raising three boys in a small town in Georgia. The titular gift is her clairvoyance, inherited from her grandmother (Rosemary Harris, UNCLE VANYA), which she uses to make a living, seeing clients in her home. She’s very helpful and beloved by most of the town, though treated with suspicion and superstition by a few assholes. (read the rest of this shit…)
Before I start one of these retrospectives I research the movies that came out during that summer and put together a schedule. But in the course of doing 1991 I keep stumbling across movies that seem worthy of looking at that I missed because they were limited releases, TV movies or DTV and didn’t show up on any of the release date lists I looked at. So when I realized Adam Rifkin’s THE DARK BACKWARD played on one screen starting July 26, 1991 I thought I should backtrack a little to cover it.
For those not familiar with it, it’s a forcefully weird and uncomfortable comedy that was a favorite of mine in the ‘90s, one of those movies I rented on VHS and made a dub of to show to people who had never heard of it, which was most people. It was Rifkin’s first script ever, written at age 19 after moving to L.A. to try to become a director, made when he was in his mid 20s, and it’s a sense of humor and world view that admittedly appealed to me more when I was closer to that age. But it’s such a distinct and unadulterated vision I can’t help but still kinda love it. (read the rest of this shit…)
We’re mostly agreed these days that BAD SANTA is a timeless Christmas classic, right? I have friends and loved ones who it’s too mean for, and it got brutal critical reception at the time, done no favors by Miramax insisting on more ball punching and shit so the theatrical and “BADDER SANTA” cuts could fit some lowbrow comedy marketing strategy that must’ve worked for them on SCARY MOVIE or something. The superior director’s cut has been available for years now, and now I watch that and mourn the loss of one dumb joke from the theatrical ending:
But in any of its incarnations, BAD SANTA makes me laugh so much and channels so much of my most negative thoughts that it’s one of the few movies I can watch once a year without getting tired of it. Willie (Billy Bob Thornton, THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE) is a funny asshole for the ages, a burnt out piece of shit full of self-loathing and even more full of loathing-others. His caustic wit and self-destructive behavior died for our sins, transforming humanity’s worst tendencies into wise ass Yuletide fuck yous both deserved and undeserved, but in a forum where no one can be hurt. He uses his asshole powers for good in his dealings with treacherous Marcus (who can dish it out too) or Bernie Mac’s quietly scheming “store dick.”
After so many viewings I sometimes find myself teary-eyed at Willie’s realization that Thurman (Brett Kelly, TRICK ‘R TREAT) cut himself while carving his weird Christmas gift, and at his attempt to return the favor before being gunned down by police. The smallness of the gesture to me makes it more authentic and in turn puts this jerk in line with more severe holiday transformations like Scrooge‘s or The Grinch’s. (read the rest of this shit…)
“There was some criticism that I made NASA look dumb in certain places. In fact if you heard some of these asteroid theories of what they are thinking of doing, it just sounds asinine.” –Michael Bay
ARMAGEDDON is Michael Bay’s third movie, but in some sense it’s the one where he revealed his true face to the world. There were plenty of examples of his style and character in BAD BOYS and THE ROCK, but it was ARMAGEDDON that first presented the full breadth of his trademarks: awesome awesome macho bros, pretty pretty sunsets, government employees portrayed as insufferable weiners even though they’re in the right, spinning cameras, haphazard editing all over the fucking place, chaotic mish-mashes of explosions and sparks and machinery and debris and smoke and crap, beautiful shots of people in various locations around the world, weirdly hateful characters presented as cutesy comic relief, an army of highly qualified writers seemingly locked in a cage and forced to duct tape a bunch of dumb ideas into the most unwieldy structure they can come up with that has a running time at least 30 minutes longer than the story has earned, and of course an ensemble of talented actors improvising jokes with no regard for any sort of desired rhythm or tone of storytelling. (read the rest of this shit…)
I only gave this a chance because I knew Zoe Bell was in it somewhere and I thought it starred Billy Bob Thornton. Turns out both are pretty small parts. And the opening has alot of signs that this is one of these post-GRINDHOUSE prefab exploitation movies that I can’t stand. It uses that old stylistic device that has pretty much never been used in a cool way, the freeze-frame-turns-into-shitty-Photoshop-tracing-that’s-supposed-to-look-like-a-comic-book-panel. The titlated outlaws are three crazy gunhappy berserker redneck brothers, the unshaven type with greasy hair and fetishistically dirty tank tops, ugly tattoos, biker jewelry, of course a rebel flag on one of them. #1, I don’t understand why these type of characters are so appealing to people who make movies like this, and #2 are we at a point where SMOKIN’ ACES is actually an influential film? Holy shit. I thought I was the only one who liked some parts of that.
FROM THE OUTLAW VAULTS: I never get to take Martin Luther King Day off at my job, but I’m gonna simulate taking a day off here on outlawvern.com by posting an old review of a Leslie Nielsen movie you never heard of. This is a review I came across on my hard drive that I wrote two years ago shortly after Nielsen’s death, but never quite finished or posted. It’s not a movie I’m gonna go back and rewatch in order to complete the review, but I didn’t want to waste all that typing, either. So here it is.
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Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t find myself renting some 2001 Leslie Nielsen movie I never heard of. But the poor guy died recently and I happened to notice this one was written by Billy Bob Thornton (with his partner Tom Epperson and some guy who was in SPIDERBABY), so I wanted to see what the deal was.
Before seeing SAVAGES I wanted to catch up on some of the recent Oliver Stone pictures that I’d skipped. It turns out this one is 15 years old, so you could argue that I’m a little behind on Stone. Do you guys know if JFK is any good? What about PLATOON?
This is his most straight-forward crime genre picture before SAVAGES so I figured it was a good one to check out. Based on the book Stray Dogs by John Ridley (RED TAILS, UNDERCOVER BROTHER), it’s about this dirtbag Bobby (Sean Penn), an ex-tennis player in debt whose fancy-ass car breaks down in the middle of Tiny Desert Town, Hell (actually Superior, Arizona) on his way to delivering a bunch of cash to the guy who cut off some of his fingers, and then things get way worse. But he fucks Jennifer Lopez at least. (read the rest of this shit…)
God DAMN I’m excited for FAST FIVE. It’s only April and that’s my most anticipated movie of the summer by far. But I gotta wait a couple more days, so in honor of Dwayne “The Rock is a registered trademark of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.” Johnson’s addition to the series I decided to finally catch up with his last movie, which I never saw because when I went to see it the showing that I chose turned out to be an “open captions” deal, and I decided to bail. (Ironically there’s so much mumbling in the movie I had to turn the subtitles on a couple times anyway. But at least it was my choice. It’s about freedom.) (read the rest of this shit…)
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