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Posts Tagged ‘Chad Stahelski’

The Crow (30th anniversary revisit)

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

On May 13, 1994, Johnny Carson was on Late Show with David Letterman, his final televised appearance. Times were rolling on, guards were changing. That same day Miramax, an indie studio recently purchased by Disney, had their biggest opening ever with a bitter R-rated comic book adaptation. While boomers were preparing to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, here was a movie with a soundtrack full of Lollapalooza bands, their names underlined on the poster, above a 1-900 number you could call “for music CD preview.” That particular demographic hadn’t really been cinematically catered to so directly, and they showed up, as did others. It was even well reviewed by critics, who were unlikely to be comic book nerds or Nine Inch Nails fans in those days.

Now THE CROW is 30 years old, further in our past than Woodstock was at the time. Jesus christ, man. I wrote a review of it 15 years ago. Time flies when you’re getting old, I guess. In 1994 this movie seemed amazing and important – it not only felt so new in its style, but was part of a collective mourning and/or discovery of this exciting actor who had lost his life making a movie about losing his life. Maybe I was falling for the ads asking us to “EXPERIENCE THE MOVIE EVENT OF THE YEAR” and “Take the journey. Experience the phenomenon.” But I went solemnly into a dark theater, the movie washed over me, I could just feel it more than think about it. Watching it now it’s more a movie I find interesting than a movie I can love. But I don’t mind that it’s style over substance. That’s why it works. Evocative imagery and effusive, unexamined emotion – that’s what goth is about, as far as I can understand. That’s what being a teenager is about. I used to be one of those. (read the rest of this shit…)

John Wick Chapter 4

Monday, March 27th, 2023

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 4 is the culmination of one of the great movie series of our time, and a masterwork of its genre, one of the few American action movies to arguably outdo overseas epics like THE RAID 2, THE NIGHT COMES FOR US and THE VILLAINESS. Like its predecessors it expands on JOHN WICK’s distinct style of martial-arts-and-guns ultraviolence, introduces colorful new allies and enemies, and invents even more astounding ideas for types of action spectacle you haven’t seen before. But this one adds an extra layer of emotion through heroic bloodshed style bonding and a deeper realization that everything John Wick does in these movies only digs his hole deeper.

I’ll warn you before I get into the biggest spoilers, but as usual this review will be better for reading after you’ve seen it. If you’re just wondering how good it is compared to other chapters, I believe the first film stands on its own and then the sequels get better the more spectacular they become. So CHAPTER 3 was the best but has now been usurped by CHAPTER 4. (But I love the Halle Berry and Mark Dacascos stuff in 3 so much it’s not an easy choice.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Heatseeker

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

THE TAPE RAIDER TRIBUTE TO ALBERT PYUN PART 2: HEATSEEKER

Yes friends, here’s another Albert Pyun film that has only been released on VHS in the U.S., HEATSEEKER. It came to us in 1995, #2 of 3 between SPITFIRE and NEMESIS 2: NEBULA. Pyun has a story credit, with the screenplay written by Christopher Borkgren (whose only other credit is SPITFIRE).

Set in the futuristic New America of 2019 A.D. (“After Dollman?”) it’s the story of kickboxing champion Chance O’Brien (Keith Cooke, CHINA O’BRIEN I & II) trying to keep doing his thing in a changing world. Combat sports are beginning to be dominated by new models of cyborgs, including those created by the sinister Sianon Corporation, who try to bait “the greatest human fighter in the world” into entering their imaginatively titled event “The Tournament.” (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…)

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 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…)

Bloodsport III

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

Way back in 2013 I reviewed BLOODSPORT II: THE NEXT KUMITE starring Daniel Bernhardt. But I reviewed it as part of this tournament gimmick I was doing called The Super-Kumite, and the movie lost its round to BLOODFIGHT, so I never followed up with BLOODSPORTs III and IV like I normally would. Until now!

Unlike me, the filmmakers didn’t waste time. Part III (no subtitle) came out in 1996, the same year as part II. Bernhardt (or, as we call him this week, Bob Odenkirk’s fight trainer/co-fight-coordinator/“Bus Goon” on NOBODY) returns as Alex Cardo, the guy who won the sub-titular “NEXT KUMITE” after Van Damme’s Frank Dux in the original.

One odd continuity with part II is that it has a wraparound where the movie is a story being told to a kid. In part II it was Master Sun (James Wong) telling kids in his martial arts class how Alex became a good person. This time it’s Alex telling his ten year old son Jason (David Schatz, AMBROSE BIERCE: CIVIL WAR STORIES) a story about his life “living in the far east as a very successful gambler.” He notices Jason upset late at night, finds out he got suspended from school for beating up three eighth grade bullies, and decides to take him for a camping trip. So Alex figures it’s time to tell his son – who has been training in martial arts – that he was the Kumite champion (“Cool!”) and then about something that happened while he was “living in the far east as a very successful gambler.” It’s pretty cool, because most fathers, when their son gets into trouble at school, aren’t able to whip out a “the time I tried to avenge a murder” story. (read the rest of this shit…)

True Vengeance

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

TRUE VENGEANCE is a 1997 Daniel Bernhardt movie that I bought specifically because it was written by Kurt Johnstad. I think I was looking him up because he wrote ATOMIC BLONDE, and I remembered that he was the guy who wrote 300, 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE and ACT OF VALOR. I saw all of those in the theater and liked all of them, and it turns out his only other movie is this earlier DTV one that never even came out on DVD in the U.S. It’s directed by David Worth (KICKBOXER, LADY DRAGON 1 and 2), and I think you can understand why that combination of people made it something I needed to see.

Benhardt plays Griffin, who was a Navy SEAL and then a hired killer of some kind but after the death of his wife he quit the life to take care of his daughter Emily (Tessa Sugay, “Club Girl (uncredited),” TOKYO DRIFT, “Dancer (uncredited)” THE SOCIAL NETWORK). After a brief, incoherent sniper prologue we meet him cutely joking around with his daughter pretending he doesn’t know it’s her birthday. So yes, she is going to be kidnapped.

He has an older guy he calls his best friend named Sam (Harrison Young, Ryan as an old man in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN), who I think runs a garage and kind of seems like he could be the landlord like the guy in ROAD HOUSE? He’s involved in a great bit of b-movie flavor when he’s doing a crossword puzzle, asking for a word for “something that haunts.” Griffin suggests ‘ghost,’ but Sam says it has to be four letters, and just then a scary dude named Adachi (Keo Woolford, “Airport Worker,” GODZILLA) steps in looking for Griffin, who dramatically declares that “The Griffin you knew… is dead.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Birds of Prey

Friday, February 14th, 2020

BIRDS OF PREY AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN is the movie that says “Okay, we fucked up that SUICIDE SQUAD movie, but Margot Robbie was great as Harley Quinn, right? Didn’t we kinda have something there?” And the answer is yes and yes, so luckily they gave her another movie. It’s the second feature for director Cathy Yan, whose 2018 debut DEAD PIGS takes place in Shanghai but stars Zazie Beetz. She obviously has Robbie’s pre-existing character and David Ayer’s SUICIDE SQUAD sensibilities to build off of here, but I think she makes it distinct – it feels to me like a studio hiring a promising new director to do her thing, not to follow instructions.

Formerly the abused girlfriend/sidekick of The Joker, this is the story of Harley’s life after breaking up with him. No longer enjoying the immunity provided by association with a famous psychopath boyfriend, Harley gets herself into trouble with various factions including but not limited to the gang run by Roman “Black Mask” Sionis (Ewan McGregor, MILES AHEAD, JANE GOT A GUN), police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez, DANCE WITH THE DEVIL, Widows), somebody she punched in a roller derby bout (stuntwoman Keisha Tucker), and somebody who blames her for his face being tattooed like a clown and can’t fucking believe it when she doesn’t remember what he’s mad about (Matthew Willig, FULL CONTACT [1993], 3 FROM HELL). (read the rest of this shit…)

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

Friday, May 17th, 2019

I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations too high. I know some are saying JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM is fun but lesser, and that could very well end up being the conventional wisdom. In my mind, though, it’s more than that. It’s an outstanding achievement, a new action classic that outdoes the excellent CHAPTER 2 in both garish spectacle and elaboration on the strange mythology of this secret world of elite assassins.

Like all JOHN WICK movies, it’s full of things you never knew you needed to see, things that are ludicrous, but treated with knowing seriousness, increasing their level of awesomeness. For example, you know that cliche where a character you like gets shot and drops to the ground and you have to wait and hope for the reveal that they were saved by a bullet proof vest? That happens with a dog.

And what about John Wick walking through a desert, but dressed like John Wick? If James Bond goes out into the desert – hell, even if Batman does – he wears different gear. But there is no Desert Action John Wick. When he treks through Moroccan sand dunes he wears the same suit and tie we just saw him wearing in a New York downpour. I suppose maybe he cancelled his debit card when he came back and doesn’t know how to buy new clothes without access to his usual services. But I think it’s more because he’s an icon. That’s his uniform. That’s John Wick. And because director Chad Stahelski knows it’s surreal to see this guy in drastically different settings across the world without changing his blood-stained clothes. (read the rest of this shit…)

John Wick Chapter 2

Monday, February 13th, 2017

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 is the solid sequel we always hoped (in fact assumed) it would be. The first film – already a certified modern action classic – had a perfect combination of elegant high concept (legendary assassin comes out of retirement to avenge some dipshits who killed his dog) and interesting world (a society of killers with their own rules, services and even currency). Rehashing the former would make for diminishing returns, so returning screenwriter Derek Kolstad (ONE IN THE CHAMBER, THE PACKAGE) digs deeper into the latter, showing us more about the operations and codes of the Continental Hotel and its affiliates as Wick is forced to repay a debt, getting himself into more and more trouble and testing the limits of his unkillableness.

He’s still trying to retire. The movie has a sense of humor about it without undermining his sincerity. Moments after he finishes cementing his weapons back into the basement floor the doorbell rings and you think “Jesus, what now?” Well, it’s Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio, THE BEST OF YOUTH), who helped him escape the business and now is cashing in his favor to drag him back in. Wick would have to get into the Vatican to assassinate Santino’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST). Throughout the movie Wick finds himself backed into corners and all he can do is keep killing his way out of them. And the more killing the more corners. (read the rest of this shit…)