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Posts Tagged ‘Ethan Hawke’

The Black Phone

Monday, June 27th, 2022

(beware The Spoiler)


THE BLACK PHONE is a solid, straight forward horror tale set in a Denver suburb in 1979, when a succession of boys have gone missing. Locals blame it on someone they call “The Grabber.” The story centers on a kid named Finney (Mason Thames, young Walker in the new version of Walker: Texas Ranger), who’s either in middle school or high school (definitely pre-driver’s license age).

His life is not the easiest, but he gets by. He and his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw, AMERICAN SNIPER) have to walk on egg shells around their alcoholic father (Jeremy Davies, punk rock Toyota commercial) as well as various bullies closer to their own age. On Fridays Gwen sleeps over at a friend’s and Finney “takes care of” Dad – tucking him in and watching Emergency! by himself.

It’s a pretty tight movie, but I appreciate that it doesn’t rush the section where it establishes Finney’s daily life and the ominous mood of the place and time. One day there’s a fight outside of school, some big creep named Moose (J. Gaven Wilde, HALLOWEEN KILLS) calling a smaller kid named Robin (Miguel Cazarez Mora) a slur and taking a swing at him, at which point we learn that Robin is some kind of junior high Billy Jack who this kid absolutely should not have fucked with. Finney doesn’t know how to do that when he gets chased into the restroom by three dickheads, so it’s a relief when Robin walks in. Turns out they’re friends, though I get the sense it’s one of those friendships where one (Finney) is in awe of the other and feels surprised and lucky the guy even talks to him. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Northman

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

THE NORTHMAN is the new one from Robert Eggers (THE WITCH), his version of a badass viking revenge story. Of course that’s filtered through his arcane sensibilities, making it a cousin to David Lowery’s fantasy-by-way-of-A24 movie THE GREEN KNIGHT and, moreso, Nicolas Winding Refn’s VALHALLA RISING. It’s actually a little bit more straightforward and traditionally entertaining than either of those, or at least doesn’t descend into an abyss of strangeness with no visible exit sign. But it’s not GLADIATOR either. It won’t pass as a movie made for normal people.

It has a basis in Icelandic folklore, especially versions of the story of Amleth, which inspired Hamlet. Eggers wrote it with an Icelandic author named Sjón, who wrote REYKJAVIK WHALE WATCHING MASSACRE and LAMB, but also grew up with Bjork, co-wrote some of her songs and performed with The Sugarcubes under the name “Johnny Triumph,” so he got her to have a cameo as a prophetic witch or whatever. A significant casting coup there in my opinion. She doesn’t act that much but it would be cool if this gave her the bug again and then she got to be a villain in FAST X or something. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mystery Date / Pure Luck

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

August 16,1991

The only thing I remembered about MYSTERY DATE was that Gwar was in it. It’s a once-crazy-night movie where this kid Tom (Ethan Hawke, EXPLORERS) nervously takes out his crush Geena (Teri Polo, BORN TO RIDE) and tries to impress her, and they end up at a place called Club Voltaire during a Gwar show. We briefly get to see them roaring and thrashing and performing a cartoonish decapitation – pretty great choice for the “band that would seem intimidating to these people” scene. (In Keanu’s THE NIGHT BEFORE it was Parliament-Funkadelic.)

What I did not remember is that Tom finds a dead body in his trunk, accidentally kills a cop, and gets in a war with the Chinatown mafia. I thought it was gonna be a normal horny romantic comedy type deal.

Tom is a shy recent high school graduate. Since he looks like Ethan Hawke they don’t try to pass him off as a total nerd – he wears a Los Lobos t-shirt and has posters of The Stranglers, The The, Elvis Costello, UB40, and that Lynda Barry “Poodle with a Mohawk” cartoon, all suggesting he’s, like, a guy who listens to college radio or whatever. But he doesn’t make it clear what other passions he may have, save for this “mystery girl” next door (I think she’s housesitting?) who he spies on through a telescope (unethical). He lives in the shadow of his brother Craig (Brian McNamara, SHORT CIRCUIT), who’s at law school, and his parents’ dog, who they’ve taken out of town for a dog show. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cut Throat City

Monday, February 1st, 2021

CUT THROAT CITY may be the capital of CUTTHROAT ISLAND, I’m not sure, but the one I’m here to write about is the crime film set in New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina, and it’s the latest directorial effort of The RZA.

As you may know I’m a fan of RZA’s music (Wu-Tang Clan, GHOST DOG score), acting (THE PROTECTOR 2, BRICK MANSIONS, THE DEAD DON’T DIE) and film scholarship (the commentary track on THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, his 36films.com livestreams). I’m also a big fan of his first film as a director (and writer and star and composer), THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. I have some issues with the way he shot the fights, but I absolutely love the old school kung fu fantasy world he created and the many characters, clans and weapons within it. So I take him seriously as a filmmaker. (read the rest of this shit…)

Explorers

Monday, July 13th, 2020

July 12, 1985

Director Joe Dante came up in the world of Roger Corman – first cutting trailers, then directing PIRANHA – before his success with THE HOWLING (1981) brought him to the attention of Steven Spielberg, who produced TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983) and GREMLINS (1984). So it’s notable that Dante’s Summer of ’85 entry EXPLORERS is another that (like D.A.R.Y.L. or especially COCOON) seems like it wouldn’t have existed without the influence of Spielberg’s films.

In an interview with Podcasting Them Softly, screenwriter Eric Luke confirms, “The thing that sold it, that Paramount thought, let’s make this was like the one sentence concept, because E.T. had just come out and been the biggest hit ever, so my answer to that was three boys build their own space ship and go into space and it all works, it’s not just a fantasy, there’s some scientific underpinning.”

(read the rest of this shit…)

First Reformed

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

FIRST REFORMED is another Paul Schrader broken-man-slowly-boiling-over character piece in the tradition of TAXI DRIVER and ROLLING THUNDER. This time his subject is Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke, DAYBREAKERS), the very nice and thoughtful reverend of a small 250 year old church in upstate New York that still exists because it’s a historical landmark. He sermonizes to about half a dozen people on Sundays, but his duties also include being a tour guide and stocking the gift shop.

He cares about the job, but it seems like it’s one of those transferred-to-Antarctica type situations. We slowly piece together some of the problems he has, the things he’s punishing himself for and how his life went south after the death of a son in the military. He writes journal entries in a spiral-bound composition notebook which we hear as calm, reasonable sounding voiceover, but sometimes he’ll casually drop in some bit that makes you do a double take, like when he laments, “If only I could pray.” Uh… you seem like a guy who would pray, is all I’m saying. (read the rest of this shit…)

24 Hours to Live

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

24 HOURS TO LIVE is a new VOD movie (theatrical in L.A. and New York starting December 1) that could be described as Ethan Hawke’s JOHN WICK. Not that it’s a very similar story, or a martial arts movie, but it has action beyond the modern standards, takes place in a world of elite killers, and has some un-self-conscious absurdity in its basic premise that’s grounded in very effective, heartfelt emotions. I guess this means they don’t consider Hawke and Rutger Hauer big enough names to sell an action movie in wide release these days, but it doesn’t at all feel like DTV. Both quality and production value-wise it’s completely legit, and I liked it better than many of the Jason Statham, Gerard Butler and Liam Neeson pictures I’ve paid to see on the big screen.

In classic international co-production fashion it begins with an Interpol agent, Lin (Xu Qing, FLASH POINT), under attack by militants in South Africa while transporting a whistleblower (Tyrone Keogh, BLAST, STARSHIP TROOPERS 3) to testify to the U.N. It’s meat and potatoes machine-guns-rocket-launchers-and-jeeps type action that immediately shows you the movie means business. Heads are popping, bodies are bouncing off windshields and rolling under tires. (read the rest of this shit…)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, we have the movie that the director of THE FIFTH ELEMENT makes eight years after he sees AVATAR. One of the first scenes in Luc Besson’s VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, the one right after the title, brings us to the island paradise planet of Mul, where elongated, glittery-skinned beauties with star-shaped irises fill their giant shell backpacks with pearls, and they feed one to a little pangolin-like creature who puffs up and starts pooping duplicate pearls from under his scales that drop into a hole as an offering to the planet, but suddenly the skies are darkened by an apocalyptic event and the destruction of the planet wakes up our hero Valerian (Dane DeHaan, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES) while he’s napping on a beach chair somewhere. And at some point in the middle of that you realize that this is by far the most French-comic-book movie ever made.

And it continues like that, a two hour, 17 minute non-stop kaleidoscope-fantasia-carnival-parade of colorful creatures and planets and space ships and gimmicks inspired by the comics series Valérian and Laureline (1967-2010). The titleistical City of a Thousand Planets (Alpha for short) is a gigantic space station that started out by uniting representatives of every country on Earth, but kept expanding to encompass alien cultures. And since much of the movie takes place on this multi-species megalopolis, this intergalactic Epcot Center, it’s like a marathon of STAR WARS cantina scene after STAR WARS cantina scene. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Magnificent Seven (2016 remake)

Friday, September 30th, 2016

tn_m7-16First of all, man, I am never gonna get that theme song out of my head. It’s on the original and the three sequels and on this remake it’s just on the end credits, other than some sly hints at its rhythm adapted to percussion and that exotic flute type thing that modern film composers love. But it’s so catchy and I’ve heard it so many times this last week or two that it’s burned onto my brain like what used to happen to TVs if you left it on a DVD menu all day. Thanks alot, Elmer Bernstein.

In Antoine Fuqua’s THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, we have a small town in Kansas (not Mexico) being threatened by a wealthy land baron (not bandits) who comes in with a bunch of killers, and makes a shitty, non-negotiable offer for their land, that he says they can accept or be killed when he comes back in three weeks. And he makes this threat at gunpoint inside the church! Not cool.

This opening shows the dangers of normal people standing up to these bullies: they quickly execute the first guy who does it, and this escalates into a massacre. This asshole Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) tells the in-his-pocket-out-of-fear sheriff to leave the bodies where they are, burns down the church and stops by the whorehouse on the way out. (read the rest of this shit…)

Taking Lives

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

tn_takinglivesI 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…)