I don’t know why it took me this long, but I finally decided to catch up with the two Mike Flanagan joints I hadn’t seen yet (not counting the dramas he made during and immediately after college, or the TV series The Firefighter Combat Challenge). He made his entry into horror in 2006, with a shot-on-video-in-one-room short called Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan. Like George Lucas with STAR WARS, his story was bigger than his resources so he started with the most exciting chapter and filled in the rest later.
The short is about a guy who has obtained a haunted mirror that he plans to destroy. It’s a cool idea for a short with acting and visuals that require a certain level of forgiveness. But it apparently went over well at film festivals and inspired some interest in a feature version. The trouble was that producers all wanted to make it a found footage movie and/or give it to a director other than Flanagan. So instead he set the evil mirror aside and did a Kickstarter campaign to finance his $70,000 debut horror feature, ABSENTIA (2011). And once that was under his belt he got Intrepid Features (WAIST DEEP, THE STRANGERS) to let him direct a non-found-footage OCULUS, which filmed in 2012. And they must’ve been pretty happy with it, because now he’s a partner in the company. (read the rest of this shit…)
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is an unusual cult movie because it’s largely remembered for the same reason it’s dismissed: it’s overshadowed by its long running TV show followup. In that sense it’s Gen-X’s answer to M*A*S*H.
Had that not happened, maybe there would be more passion for this likable if not entirely successful execution of a cute horror-comedy idea. The director is Fran Rubel Kuzui (TOKYO POP), the screenwriter is then-25-year-old Roseanne staff writer Joss Whedon, and its gimmick is almost there in the title: what if the popular, mall-loving, air-headed Valley Girl cheerleader was not just fodder in a vampire movie, but the chosen one destined to protect humanity? I can’t actually think of many Valley Girl cheerleaders in horror – it seems more like a twist on fake horror movies within other movies than on the actual genre – but it works as a tongue-in-cheek way to cross a high school comedy with horror, and at least superficially point to the serious place where their themes can overlap. (read the rest of this shit…)
Would you believe I’d never seen NEMESIS (1992) before? I’d heard claims it was one of the better movies for director Albert Pyun and/or star Olivier Gruner, but I didn’t get around to it until now. From the cover I always thought it was gonna be kind of a TERMINATOR knock off, so I was very surprised and impressed when it opened seeming more like BLADE RUNNER in the style of THE KILLER.
It starts in Los Angeles, 2027 A.D., which does not look overly futuristic, but is covered in an eerie orangy brown haze. Alex Rain (Gruner, who had only been in ANGEL TOWN) is in a hotel for a liaison with a woman, but then he shoots her in the head, revealing a bunch of wires and electrodes. “God damn cop,” she says. “God damn terrorist” he replies. Though he very poorly delivers a one-liner to her exploded head, he looks very cool when he walks out of the hotel with a Chow Yun Fat style tie-overcoat-and-sunglasses look, passing a bunch of people in the hallway who take a minute to figure out he’s the cop who shot their friend. But then they follow him. (read the rest of this shit…)
I didn’t get to see THE PREDATOR until after the world had already estimated its coordinates somewhere in the hostile territory between disappointment and disaster. Maybe that prepared me for the sloppy last stretch (it seems like some connective tissue must’ve been lost in editing or reshoots) and a thudding comedy riff or two involving a character with Tourette’s. And I guess a couple subpar quasi-science discussions, sometimes involving “the spectrum.” Also, is it just me or are these people weirdly unsurprised to see aliens?
But everything else in the movie tears its gear off and covers itself in mud to prove it’s a true warrior of entertainment. This is a funnier Predator movie, one full of joyful, gory mayhem, clever dialogue and inventive action beats. Let me give you an example from the opening. Decorated army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, JANE GOT A GUN) witnesses the crash of a Predator ship and pulls an extra-terrestrial helmet and gauntlet out of the wreckage before catching a glimpse of the camouflaged alien pilot (6’9 1/2″ parkour artist Brian A. Prince) stringing up another soldier. Panicked, McKenna accidentally fires the wrist weapon, slicing his friend’s corpse in half and dumping intestines and blood onto the cloaked Predator, revealing its location and appearance.
I mean, you love that, right? I love that. We all, in my opinion, love that. That’s what movies are for right there. (read the rest of this shit…)
I don’t remember ever hearing anybody say nice things about THE CROW part 2, CITY OF ANGELS, so let me start out with one: this is a gorgeous looking movie. Part 1 production designer Alex McDowell (LAWNMOWER MAN, CRYING FREEMAN, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, WATCHMEN) returns, this time with cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier (GUMMO, GOOD WILL HUNTING), to tweak and expand on the aggressively stylized gotholopolis look he created for Alex Proyas’ THE CROW.
This time it looks more real, and has a yellow tint on its foggy (maybe it’s smoggy?), trash-strewn streets, representing the heat of Los Angeles, I hope, and not the piss that it clearly smells of. I don’t know my skylines, so I’m not sure I would’ve understood that they changed the location from Detroit without the subtitle or the cool shot where a row of palm trees burst into flame one-by-one as the crow (the bird that seems to be responsible for resurrecting murder victims, not the vengeful harlequin ghost he enables) flies past them. There’s a great tracking shot of the bird flying over the (model) city, and a profile shot of the ghost speeding on his motorcycle, his feathered friend right in front of him. The movie definitely achieves on levels of technical craftsmanship. (read the rest of this shit…)
DRIVE HARD joins DEATH RACE and GETAWAY in the new action subgenre of “former car racing superstar is forced to drive for bad people.” In this one the driver in question is Peter Roberts (Tom Jane, STANDER), a flaky doofus who left racing to get married and raise a daughter in Australia, but now is running out of money and having trouble paying the mortgage, let alone achieving his dream of opening a racing school. Instead he has a driver’s ed school.
Then one day mysterious troublemaker Simon Keller (John Cusack from THE PAPERBOY), a grown man who seems to already know how to drive, takes a lesson from him. After an uncomfortably horrible drive and awkward coffee break in which the stranger admits to being a fan and knowing all about his career, he convinces Peter to drive him to the bank. So he can get some cash to pay for the lesson, he says. But then he comes out holding a brief case and exchanging gunfire with security guards. (read the rest of this shit…)
Do you ever notice the movie posters where it shows the faces of all the leads but then the names above their heads don’t match? You see that and you understand that it was some legal thing, they were required to list them in that order by contract, there’s alot of politics involved. But then you wonder why they don’t plan for that reality ahead of time and make a composition with that in mind. I know it can be done. And KILLSHOT, the long-delayed-then-poorly-received-then-put-off-seeing-by-me-until-now Elmore Leonard adaptation from the director of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, does something rarer. It introduces the characters in the actual movie in credits order so the actor’s names can appear over them on screen. I was really impressed by that extra effort. (read the rest of this shit…)
Thomas Jane plays Malone, a fedora-wearing, ’52 Buick driving, ten thousand bullet firing, fake film noir style opening scene narrating, badass private eye motherfucker in a mostly empty city portrayed by Spokane, Washington. The movie takes place in the modern day (email is mentioned once) but obviously takes most of its cues from the cliches of detective stories/film noir, including the femme fatale client, the fast, back-and-forth quipping and, you know, his hat. He’s old fashioned enough that he keeps calling women “sister.” Also, alot of the score is that cheesy type of saxophone they always use in modern movies and TV as a code for “it’s like an old private eye movie.” (read the rest of this shit…)
Over on the Ain’t It Cool News I have what I believe to be the first review anywhere of DARK COUNTRY, directed by and starring Thomas Jane. Most of it takes place at night but I thought I would use the thumbnail on the left because I thought he looked kind of like Steve McQueen there. Also this is the beginning of the movie when he’s leaving for his honeymoon with his new wife, so I use this picture to symbolize Tom Jane beginning his new life as a director. One of the cups is for him and one is for directing. I’m sure you understood that without me explaining it though.
I am Vern…
DARK COUNTRY, by rookie director Thomas Jane, is a stylized noir made on a low budget with a minimal cast. It was written by a guy who wrote Disney’s TARZAN and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. It was shot in 3-D but is going straight to flat DVD. But somehow this weird combination of elements makes up a pretty good little movie, and possibly the best ever directed by one of the Punishers. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE MIST is called THE MIST because it’s a cool and refreshing vapor of soothing horror quality in a sea of crappy bombast. Also because it’s about a mysterious mist that surrounds a small town and when they go into it there’s monsters. The small town is Castle Rock, Maine and you know what that means: based on a Stephen King story. The weird thing is the hero, Thomas Punisher Jane, is not an alcoholic writer, he is a guy who paints movie posters exactly like Drew Struzan (he even painted the poster for THE THING, just like Drew Struzan did, and came up with the same poster). So this is real new territory for Stephen King.
After a storm wrecks Tom Jane’s painting, his window, his boathouse, and his asshole neighbor’s Mercedes he takes his son and the neighbor (the great Andre Braugher of TV’s HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET) to the Food House grocery store. The place is chaotic with everybody stocking up in case of more storm and you can imagine how much worse it gets when The Mist traps everybody inside. By the way, even though this is Stephen King the grocery store is not possessed, not even the mist is possessed, it’s just mist that happens to surround monsters, which may or may not be possessed. I’m not really sure if monsters can be possessed or not, I have not considered this before. (read the rest of this shit…)
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