At the end of last month we lost Albert Pyun, prolific and perhaps infamous b-movie auteur, chronicler of kickboxing cyborgs, mounter of simultaneous productions, and occasional blurrer of lines between drive-in exploitation and abstruse art movie.
When I reviewed KICKBOXER 2 back in 2009 the man himself showed up in the comments and thanked me for the review, even though it included the line, “The director is Albert Pyun, but I never would’ve guessed that because it’s both watchable and kind of good.” He had a very gracious and self-deprecating attitude, promising “I hope I am improving to at least an almost semi-coherent level of competence,” and he came back a few times responding to questions and comments. Too bad he dodged my question about how he made it look like a dead Van Damme in KICKBOXER 2 (claiming it was someone who died from watching the beginning of ALIEN FROM L.A.). (read the rest of this shit…)
“You obviously do not know who you are fucking with!”
On one hand, it’s hard to believe that BLADE II was fifteen damn years ago. I mean – I reviewed it when it came out. And I’d already been around for a few years. Am I really that old? On the other hand, an awful lot has changed since the movie came out.
Let’s start with Wesley Snipes (“Blade”). He made a part 3, had a falling out with the writer, they made a Blade TV show without him, he got relegated to DTV, got busted for tax evasion, did time, got out, now is sort of back and still the Man and hopefully will achieve more greatness. Guillermo del Toro (director) became better known and beloved for his specific visual style and obsessions, was nominated for a best screenplay Oscar for PAN’S LABYRINTH, continued to alternate between Spanish language art films and Hollywood productions, but never did a for-hire gig again, unless you count THE HOBBIT, which he toiled on for a few years before quitting. David S. Goyer (writer) directed part 3, co-wrote Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy and went on to mastermind the DC movie universe, as if trying to earn the extreme hatred many comic fans had long held for him for some reason. Donnie Yen (martial arts choreographer, “Snowman”) had a huge career resurgence at home in Hong Kong, particularly with the IP MAN series, and recently finally had success in English language movies playing the best characters in ROGUE ONE and xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE. Norman Reedus (“Scud”) also became a geek icon by playing Daryl on The Walking Dead, as did Ron Perlman (“Reinhardt”) by reteaming with del Toro to play Hellboy in two live action films and two animated (plus starring in many seasons of Sons of Anarchy). Luke Goss (“Jared Nomak”) was a former pop star from the boy band Bros who had been in a few movies. This breakthrough role led to playing the elf equivalent of Nomak in del Toro’s HELLBOY 2 and eventually being a frequent face of DTV, including starring as Frankenstein in DEATH RACE 2 and 3. Matt Schulze (“Chupa”) – okay, he didn’t become a big thing, but to me he’s an icon because he’s the villain in Seagal’s OUT OF REACH and Vince in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and FAST FIVE.
Maybe more notably than any of this, the techniques del Toro pioneered to combine live action stunts with animated doubles for super-powered fights and camera moves evolved into the modern style of comic book action (and blockbusters in general). His smart ways of adding digital effects to practical ones have also been influential. Getting a genuine visionary to do the sequel to a movie like BLADE is one of those things you always wish for as a movie fan but shouldn’t hold your breath for. This time you could’ve, though. It happened. (read the rest of this shit…)
Before there was such a thing as Marvel Comics movies, there was BLADE.
Technically it wasn’t the first Marvel movie. It was the fourth. But nobody would’ve expected Marvel Comics to take over the movie business the way they have now. There had been the infamous flop HOWARD THE DUCK in 1986, and a few low rent b-action movies: THE PUNISHER starring Dolph Lundgren in 1989, then Albert Pyun’s DTV movie of CAPTAIN AMERICA in 1990. A Roger Corman production of FANTASTIC FOUR had been made in 1994 merely to extend the movie rights to the characters; it was never released, and the negatives have since been destroyed. I still kinda like THE PUNISHER, but until BLADE came along in 1998 none of these really connected with audiences, and there was no reason to think they would. James Cameron and Golan & Globus had an equal amount of success in trying to make a Spider-man movie, and Marvel had gone bankrupt.
Let’s be honest, most of us never heard of a Blade before the movie. He came from the ’70s series Tomb of Dracula, part of a team of Dracula-hunters made up of descendants of Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing and Dracula himself. He wore a red leather jacket and green pants and spoke what creator Marv Wolfman later admitted was “cliche ‘Marvel Black’ dialogue.” But screenwriter David S. Goyer was a fan of the character when New Line Cinema, inspired by the success of FRIDAY, wanted to do a black super hero movie.
At the time it was easier to compare to other vampire movies. Anne Rice style romantic bloodsuckers had dominated the image of the subgenre since at least the movie version of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE in 1994, and BLADE was part of a pushback that included FROM DUSK TILL DAWN two years before and John Carpenter’s VAMPIRES two months after, all reminding audiences how much fun these creatures could be as vicious monsters that need to be exterminated. Each has their own version of the rules and their own leather-clad hunters with weapons made from silver, garlic, holy water or wood, but only BLADE (and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then two seasons in) treated it as an opportunity for martial arts. (read the rest of this shit…)
Here’s a movie that brings a new angle to my Badass Auteur Theory. If this starred Ben Affleck or Ewan McGregor or somebody it would just be a mediocre stalker thriller from the director of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. But since it stars Sylvester Stallone we can only see it in the context of his body of work. It forces us to look at it as a Sylvester Stallone vehicle and compare it to CLIFFHANGER and stuff. So it has the advantage of being an interesting tangent in his filmography.
Stallone plays Jake Malloy, former city cop turned FBI agent. The wikipedia entry makes me think he was supposed to be a Seattle cop, but I didn’t pick up on that from the movie and it wasn’t filmed here. Anyway, he’s on the trail of a serial killer who targets cops. He’s been chasing this guy for 6 months but he’s not in so deep he doesn’t have a personal life. He buys an expensive ring so he can propose to his girl (Dina Meyer), so I think you know what that means. He better own a black suit.
Well, so far this summer of 2001 we’ve been having hasn’t been too hot. But at least we got that new Tim Burton movie coming out, right? I don’t know why they gotta remake PLANET OF THE APES but it’s a great cast and that guy knows what he’s doing, I’m sure he’ll do something interesting with it.
Nope. 10 years later I’m not sure I need to explain why the PLANET OF THE APES remake is no good. I don’t remember there being an argument about it at the time, or ever encountering anybody that liked it in the decade since. It was a bad idea, it was not good, let’s all pretend it never happened. The end.
Kris Kristofferson is… THE TRACKER. He’s like Tommy Lee Jones in THE HUNTED, except this is the Old West so it’s probly both a more common skill set and a more useful one. He’s a guy who can glance at some footprints in the dirt and tell you how many people were there, their size, what kind of horses they had, how long ago it was, possibly their political beliefs and religious backgrounds. There’s a part where he points out where a horse is leaning to the right on every fourth step and that means the rider is holding his gun a certain way which means he’s left handed. (Which I don’t think turned out to be important, it was just showing off I guess.) Man, I couldn’t even tell which one was the fourth step, but this guy’s so used to knowing this shit he thinks it’s easy to explain. His name is Noble Adams and he’s famous enough that the guy he’s after is honored and almost star struck when he finds out who’s tracking him. (read the rest of this shit…)
Time for a little history lesson. Not about the American post-slavery period known as Reconstruction (which is what this movie is about) but about TV movies. It’s hard for young people to wrap their heads around now, but there was a time when TV movies actually could be big events, a major shared element of our culture. This was when there were only a few channels, and none of them were SyFy, and movies about giant komodo dragons or snakes were not yet common. Believe it or not there were even sometimes TV movies where the people making them actually tried to do a good job. In fact, there were honest to God movies on TV that put some theatrical films to shame, like Spielberg’s DUEL and Carpenter’s SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME. Of course, most of them weren’t as good as that, but alot of them were at least memorable. In the ’70s and ’80s there were true crime movies to creep the shit out of us, like THE HILLSIDE STRANGLERS, THE DELIBERATE STRANGER, I KNOW MY FIRST NAME IS STEVEN. Or if you want to get real frightening there was the nuclear war movie THE DAY AFTER.
1979’s 4-hour mini-series FREEDOM ROAD fits into the Important Historical Epics category like ROOTS or SHOGUN or I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER or some James A. Michener type shit. It’s about a man who goes from a slave to a soldier to a delegate to an educated black man to a senator and freedom fighter uniting former slaves with lower class whites to stand up against racist politicians and thugs and create a stable life for themselves. But the main reason to watch it is the star: Muhammad Ali. (read the rest of this shit…)
Take a look at that cover there. If you know me then you know I had to watch that movie.
I’m not stupid. I knew it would be, uh… problematic. “Probaly unwatchable” is I believe how I pre-described it to friends. But I figured as long as it stars the team of DMX and Kris Kristofferson I’m gonna get something out of it.
True, DMX has failed to deliver on the promise I thought I saw in him when I first saw BELLY. He seems to have pretty much lost his mind (up in here, up in here) and is not above making cameos in unwatchable DTV garbage in order to pay the legal bills for his poor driving, impersonating of federal officers and lack of dog feeding. So DMX alone is not a selling point. (read the rest of this shit…)
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Can you believe that? Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Has there ever been a better title for a film of Badass Cinema, because I don’t think there has. Leave it to Sam Peckinpah, that lovable old drunk who spent his whole career fighting with studios and filming innocent kids standing by the side of the road watching as horrible atrocities took place in slow motion to come up with a title like that. I don’t think that one will ever be topped.
I really like Peckinpah, especially one that I guess is not generally considered one of his best, The Getaway. I like that this is a guy who makes violent westerns and crime movies but instead of trying to dazzle the audience with explosions and car chases, he seems to pour his filthy old grizzled alcoholic soul into it. All of his frustrations, problems and paranoid delusions seem to end up in there somewhere. He knows that a good personal film is not necessarily about some dude reading poetry and being misunderstood by the ladies. (read the rest of this shit…)
Earlier this week I saw a highly anticipated sequel, based on an old comic book character, a half man/half vampire who has become the best vampire killer there is. He travels the world, even during sunlight, cloaked in black, wielding a sword, slaying vampires. This time around he is after the same prey as a macho team of fighters who are both his rivals and reluctant allies. Their quest takes them to the seat of vampire royalty, and along the way – against his nature – he forms a tender friendship with a female on the rival team of fighters, and stays with her until the end.
That wasn’t Blade II though, it was some cartoon called Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Actually that’s what it says on the box, but the title screen just calls it Vampire Hunter D. (Just like the ticket stub for Blade II called it Blade II: Bloodhunt, but the title screen just called it Blade II.) This movie has rightfully been praised for its cartoon drawing, which is very detailed and elegant. Much more interesting than that blue hair, big eye japanese stuff certain musty smelling individuals can’t get enough of. But what surprised me though, I thought the story was real good. (read the rest of this shit…)
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