GEMINI MAN is your traditional “the greatest assassin anybody ever saw decides to retire and then god damn it I thought they loved me but they’re sending a guy to kill me what the fuck” type scenario. The gimmick is that the guy they send after him is a younger version of himself created through the miracle of cloning. He figures this out a good third or more into the movie, but we know from frame one because of the studio’s decision to advertise the film.
Will Smith (“Nightmare On My Street”) plays both extreme retiree Henry Brogan and the facial expressions of the very advanced digital animation character playing his clone. Junior, as he’s called, gets dispatched after Henry’s Old Buddy From the Marines Jack (Douglas Hodge, THE DESCENT PART 2) and Russian operative Yuri (Ilia Volok, AIR FORCE ONE) tell him that that last guy they had him kill, the terrorist, was actually an innocent scientist being eliminated as part of a cover-up. When Henry hears this information he looks up to the clouds just as the lite on a satellite blinks, but it’s only to tell us someone heard this. He doesn’t seem to figure it out himself.
He does catch on that the new manager at the docks where he keeps his boat is really a D.I.A. agent sent to keep tabs on him. He asks Dani (Mary Elizabeth Lucy McClane Winstead, BOBBY) on a date, maybe just to get her to admit she’s spying on him and convince her he’s not a threat. But when some dudes try to kill both of them they end up on the run together. They head to Colombia to meet up with his Old Agency Friend turned small plane pilot Baron (Benedict Wong, LARGO WINCH). (read the rest of this shit…)
I seriously have been meaning to see THE POSTMAN ever since 1997 when it came out. I thought it sounded like a cool idea, and I seem to remember first hearing of it as an upcoming George Romero movie in a Fangoria Terror Teletype. But then Kevin Costner made it and I guess everybody saying such bad things about it kept pushing it down my list.
Well, I would like to thank everybody for that, because 19 years was exactly the right amount of time to wait – all the sudden there is upheaval in our country that makes this particular dystopia weirdly appropriate. Yes, it’s very corny, with slow motion images of triumph made all the more syrupy by a James Newton Howard score. And yes, it is three hours long, but still seems rushed at times, with odd time-passage issues and major scenes that fade in and out like a “previously on THE POSTMAN” highlight reel. But it has a uniquely optimistic spin on post-apocalyptic fiction, and man does it speak to me right now.
Kevin Costner (who directed from a script by Eric Roth [MUNICH, ALI], then rewritten by Brian Helgeland [PAYBACK, BLOOD WORK, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER, LEGEND]) plays a nameless wanderer in post-Doomwar 2013. The oceans have dried up (reverse WATERWORLD), civilization has collapsed and you gotta do a chemical test on water before you drink it. He’s traveling the Utah salt flats with his load-carrying mule Bill, looking for settlements where he can perform Shakespeare scenes in exchange for food. But he’s in one of these towns when the Negan-from-The-Walking-Dead-esque tyrannical warlord General Bethlehem (Will Patton, BROOKLYN’S FINEST, ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL) comes through with an army on horseback conscripting ten men from each town. And they choose him. (read the rest of this shit…)
I always have hope for Brian Helgeland movies. It doesn’t matter how many times I don’t like his latest as much as I like PAYBACK, I keep having expectations. He also wrote A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, ASSASSINS and BLOOD WORK and won that Oscar for L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, but PAYBACK is the Platonic ideal I keep coming back to.
Fairly or not, I associate Helgeland with that Richard Stark feel, that clean, precise storytelling, writing with a badass swagger, no need for fancypants show off business. His new one LEGEND is about London gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray (see THE KRAYS review from yesterday) in the early ’60s. Being based on real crimes stretched across a couple years doesn’t lend itself to that type of tight plotting, it’s more of a character study and relationship drama. But it is a little bit like PAYBACK (theatrical cut) in tone. It follows a charismatic criminal anti-hero who is funny, badass, and a terrible person. It’s darkly humorous, and violent, and set to alot of good soulful music (Booker T and the MGs, The Meters, Young-Holt Unlimited).
I guess it would be accurate to say it’s kinda Guy-Ritchie-esque, but I liked it more than some of those. It’s Guy-Ritchie-esque only in a good way.
Like Peter Medak’s take on the story, THE KRAYS, this one is told in first-person narration by a woman. But this time it’s not their mother, it’s Reggie’s poor wife Francis (Emily Browning from SUCKER PUNCH). The story focuses on Reggie and his relationship with Francis, with the crazier brother Ron as sort of a side character and threatening presence who’s always out there and liable to start trouble. Like if Jaws was your twin brother. (read the rest of this shit…)
I know the internet reminds us that every day is the 20th anniversary of something or other, and that’s not always a good thing. There is too much nostalgia, and too many factoids. We need to learn how to live in the present, otherwise what the hell anniversary are we gonna celebrate 20 years from today? But today, my friends, is an important one: July 14th, 1995 was the day the world was gifted UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY.
I think you know how I feel about this movie. It stands as one of Seagal’s best big studio movies, one of the great sequels in the history of action, and one of the best DIE HARD rip offs. It’s a cool, accessible Seagal with a great supporting cast (especially the villains) doing enjoyable special-effects-based spectacle action while also spreading the gospel of choking and wrist-snapping. I’m not sure I can write a new review of it, since of course I wrote a whole chapter about it for my book Seagalogy: The Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and talked a little more about it in my Cinefamily Journal last year. So instead, to honor the occasion, let’s take a look at some of the key players and consider how much they’ve accomplished in the two decades since. (read the rest of this shit…)
After their disagreement over DOMINO, my eyeballs and Tony Scott’s movies weren’t speaking to each other for years. But UNSTOPPABLE was okay and then the poor guy died and my eyeballs started to feel kinda bad and got nostalgic for all the good times of TRUE ROMANCE and CRIMSON TIDE and all that, and they finally saw REVENGE and they liked that quite a bit. You know, maybe if they had known what was coming they could’ve patched things up like N.W.A. did when Eazy E was dying. But that just wasn’t the way it worked out. It’s too bad.
Anyway I got caught in the middle of that beef and that’s why I skipped PELHAM 123 until now. Plus I really like the original and thought (well, knew) it could only suffer from updating. (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…)
After determining that Brian Helgeland was responsible for the scene I loved in ASSASSINS I thought I should watch one of his movies that I haven’t seen before. But not his new one (the remaking of Pelham One Two Three) because life is too short for new Tony Scott movies.
So I went way back to this VHS-only cult oddity from Ate de Jong, director of DROP DEAD FRED. This is actually Helgeland’s last credit before ASSASSINS, but it came out back in 1991, when he was still considered a horror guy, having done NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, 976-EVIL, and some episodes of FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES. (read the rest of this shit…)
Stallone, Banderas, Julianne Moore, Richard Donner. Not a bad roster, but I never heard anything good about this 1995 studio action picture. I’ve had it on my list for a while anyway because the script is credited to Andy & Larry Wachowski and Brian Helgeland. How do you go too wrong with that? Whoever’s script got ditched they were rewritten by somebody good. Either the MATRIX guys or the PAYBACK guy.
Well, overall the movie’s only okay, decent, watchable. Some nice touches, but fairly forgettable. But I gotta say, the first half hour or so approaches greatness. My favorite scene is actually right at the beginning. Stallone is leading another guy out into the woods at gunpoint, obviously to put him down like Old Yeller. Their faces are glum, like this is an inevitable conclusion they’ve dreaded for a long time. Both are wearing nice suits and ties, Stallone is wearing knee-high rubber boots.
Suddenly they get to a marsh. The guy’s shoe sticks in the mud. He laughs. “You know, when I saw you I wasn’t scared, but I did wonder why you were wearing those. Now I know.” (read the rest of this shit…)
I don’t know how familiar any of you are with Payback, the 1999 Mel Gibson-starring adaptation of Richard Stark’s The Hunter. That’s the same book that inspired one of the all time canonical works of Badass Cinema, Point Blank.
Well, Mel Gibson is no Lee Marvin and writer/director Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale) is no John Boorman. But I think Payback is an underrated movie. It’s a good balance of vicious and funny. It’s got a bit of a ’70s throwback feel and lots of weird touches to make it an indistinct time period. There are rotary phones, and primitive credit card technology that makes fraud more convenient, and the film is washed out with bleach making everything have a pale blue tint to it. You’re not sure when this is supposed to be taking place, which in a weird way reminds me of the experience of reading the books. Most of it reads pretty modern but obviously you are dealing with armed robbers, there is money, communication and security technology that would make some of the stories impossible today. So I sometimes have to check the copyright dates to be sure when this would’ve happened. (read the rest of this shit…)
I gotta question I was wondering about. If you had to choose one Scott brother that was better (or not as bad), which would it be, Ridley or Tony? On one hand, Tony has never made a truly great movie like ALIEN or, you know, BLADE RUNNER is a good one too in my opinion. Both by Ridley. Tony’s got nothing on that level. But on the other hand, Tony has a couple okay movies: TRUE ROMANCE and CRIMSON TIDE are both pretty okay. I’m looking on IMDB here and– okay wait a minute, Tony Scott did TOP GUN? I forgot about that one. Never mind. I guess I choose Ridley. Congratulations on this great achievement, Ridley. I remember you seemed pretty pissed off that you didn’t get the best director Oscar for that corny gladiator movie you made. Maybe this great honor will cheer you up. Way to go, champ.
So I guess that makes Tony the underdog here, and he had one this year called MAN ON FIRE that seemed to show some promise as a film of Badass Cinema. Academy Award Winner Denzel Washington (“You shot me in the ass!”) plays an alcoholic ex-CIA killer guy who’s hard up for work so he becomes a bodyguard for a little girl in South America. People get kidnapped there more often than they don’t get kidnapped, so next thing you know she gets stolen and this motherfucker stops at nothing to get her back and/or torture, maim and murder the people responsible. And I don’t know if you ever saw the poster for this one but it was real good. No collage or nothing, just one giant picture of Denzel wearing a suit and sunglasses, looking real tough. Behind him you see nothing but fire and smoke, and he’s standing half way in front of this little girl, holding out one hand in front of her, and she’s wearing a private school uniform and hugging a teddy bear. (You know, for emphasis.) It’s like Chow Yun Fat with the baby on the HARD BOILED poster, only 9 years later. (read the rest of this shit…)
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