Thursday, August 31, 2017

When Homeland Meets Atomic Blonde, or Thoughts on Unlocked



In Unlocked (2017) Noomi Rapace portrays Alice Racine, a CIA interrogator in London, which also (let’s be honest) means torturer, though of course this movie focuses more on the psychological aspect because nobody wants to see Noomi Rapace waterboarding suspected terrorists.  She’s burnt out (of course) but is drawn back in because of an imminent biological threat.  There are twists and turns like you’d expect in a spy thriller, she doesn’t know who to trust, she’s on the run, and the clock is running out.  It’s all very Jack Bauer, though I suppose I should say Jane Bauer.
It’s interesting because the movie begins as a traditional and authentic intelligence movie complete with spycraft and dead drops and Noomi Rapace is very believable as a disenchanted spy.  However as soon as the action kicks in she goes full-on John Wick (Jane Wick) on the bad guys, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but an entirely different movie.  I didn’t bother to look at the writers, but it almost feels in places like two different scripts grafted together so that we can have some Noomi Rapace fight scenes.
From director Michael Apted of The World is Not Enough (1999) and Gorillas in the Mist (1988) and featuring Toni Collette with a posh accent and a retro 80's Annie Lennox haircut as Emily Knowles, Alice’s MI-5 contact.  Also watch out for Michael Douglas and John Malkovich as CIA bigwigs and Orlando Bloom as Jack Alcott, an ex-Navy Seal or your basic special ops dude with a particular skill set.










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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How About Not Pestering The Killer Truckers on Your CB Radio, or Thoughts on Joy Ride



A Gen-X Duel (1971, and incidentally Stephen Spielberg’s first movie), Joy Ride (2001) was written by JJ Abrams, who you might have heard of, and starred Paul Walker, in the very same year he would break out with The Fast and the Furious (2001).  Paul is Lewis, handsome college student on a road trip to meet Venna, a pretty coed as portrayed by Leelee Sobieski.  On the way he bails out his older brother Fuller, a prankster played with relish by Steve Zahn.  Fuller gets the bright idea to buy a second hand CB radio and pester the truckers, but this being a movie and all, they pester the wrong trucker which leads to some grisly murders and some highway stalking.  All this happens before they even get to Leelee Sobrieski, who only really appears in half of the movie.
From director John Dahl of the 90’s noir films Red Rock West (1993) and The Last Seduction (1994) and more recently, Dexter, Joy Ride does have a Hitchcock-esque tone as it plays with anonymous roadside motels and the relative safety bubble of your car.  But I can’t help thinking that it’s technically their fault; they started it by fooling around with the CB.  Yes, the trucker takes it too far but everything would have been fine if they had just stayed off the radio and driven to Leelee Sobieski’s college.   
And if that Rusty Nail’s voice sounds familiar, it’s because the killer trucker was voiced by Ted Levine, Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs (1991).  Joy Ride inspired two sequels, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (2008) and Joy Ride 3: Road Kill (2014) because as you know the genre of killer truckers on CB radios is sorely under-represented.










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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

He’s Been Famous For a Lot Longer Than Fifteen Minutes, or Thoughts on Andy Warhol’s Dracula


Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1974), also known as Blood for Dracula, was produced by Andy Warhol but directed by Warhol and Velvet Underground associate Paul Morrissey.  Andy Warhol really didn’t have any creative input in the film; it’s not about vampire soup cans or even set in New York: it’s a traditional vampire story set in an Italian Villa.  A very young Udo Kier portrays the 1920’s Count, on the hunt for virgin blood, which is getting harder to find, even in 1974.  His quest leads him to the Marchese di Fiore, who has four daughters in a notoriously Catholic country.
It’s almost a sex comedy, though the jokes haven’t aged well and it’s no longer scandalous or shocking to a contemporary audience.  Udo Kier is impossibly handsome, brooding like a 20’s silent movie star as a Dracula out of his time, while Warhol superstar and even more impossibly handsome Joe Dallesandro portrays Mario, the di Fiore groundskeeper.

A lateral sequel to Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1973), which also starred Udo Kier as the Baron and Joe Dallesandro and was directed by Paul Morrissey.  Joe Dallesandro was also immortalized in a certain Lou Reed song you may remember, and of course, the album art for the Rolling Stone’s Sticky Fingers (1971, with Brown Sugar and Wild Horses).







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Monday, August 28, 2017

A Camera, A Ghost, and An Idiot, or I Watched Paranormal Movie, So You Don’t Have To

You know the story; you’ve seen it many times before, but maybe not with quite so much toilet humor.  In Paranormal Movie (2013), Kevin Farley, Chris’ brother, (you can see the family resemblance in both his physical appearance and his comedy style, or maybe I’m just missing Chris) inherits a haunted house (that looks suspiciously like the filmmaker’s house).
Employing all the clichés from the Paranormal Activity franchise; a demonic entity rather than a ghost, caring more for the filmmaking process than the characters but also breaking the fourth wall and copious amounts of clown sex, the movie wasn’t exactly funny, but there were lol moments in spite of myself.  Watch out for cameos by Eric Roberts as Dr. Lipschitz, a campy psychic who steals a haunted dildo (I wish I was making this up) and Kevin Sorbo as a creepy security expert who installs 600 cameras (again, not making it up).  Also William Katt, the Greatest American Hero and Tommy from Carrie (1976) is living in the basement.
There’s an awkward desperation, an almost tragic neediness for laughs to Kevin Farley’s character that is reminiscent of his older brother in a way that either seems deliberate, or indicative of some larger family issue.  Regardless, I don’t watch enough comedies and I kept approaching it as a scary movie, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a parody.







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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Lucy Liu and Zorro Fight Darth Maul, or I Watched Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, So You Don’t Have To


You should know by now of my unhealthy obsession for All Things Lucy Liu, (although that fanaticism doesn’t extend to viewing Ally McBeal), so a movie about Lucy Liu shooting every gun in Vancouver and kicking ass like she’s Trinity from The Matrix (1999) is right in my wheelhouse.  In Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002) Lucy plays Sever, a Chinese assassin who kidnaps a weapons dealer’s son.  Antonio Banderas is Jeremiah Ecks, an FBI agent chasing her.  Sever also knows the location of Ecks’ dead wife who actually faked her death.  It’s an overly complicated and unnecessary plot, and really an excuse to watch Lucy and Antonio fight/dance in underrated and stylish gun-fu sequences.
Watch out for Ray Park, Darth Maul and Snake Eyes, as a bad guy, Talisa Soto, who was Vampirella (1996) and Kitana in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) as Eck’s ex-wife (see what I did there) and Miguel Sandoval from Jurassic Park (1993), Seinfeld and more recently, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency as Agent Martin, Eck’s boss.  There was also a cameo of Jet Li driving somewhere, but I didn’t catch him.

Reminiscent of a Luc Besson production, and directed by Thai action movie director Wych Kaosayananda, it’s essentially a European action movie, which means the film suffers from weird pacing issues and, as mentioned, overly complex plots.  It holds an impressive 0% and is ranked #1 on Rotten Tomatoes’ Worst of the Worst List, but hey, it’s still #1 at something.






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Friday, August 25, 2017

Another Day, Another Unstoppable Killer in The Swamp, or Thoughts on Hatchet

From director Adam Green, who was responsible for The Diary of Anne Frankenstein segment of Chillerama (2011, don’t you love that introduction), Hatchet (2006) proves the age-old slasher movie rule that if you kill them in clever and graphic ways, audiences will come.  Hatchet leans into the genre with nerds, boobs and gore in New Orleans and more cameos than you can throw an axe at (did you see what I did there) including Tony Todd and Robert Englund.  There are scenes shot on Bourbon Street and inside Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo store, which is fascinating and famous enough to qualify as a cameo.  Also watch out for Mercedes McNab, and if that name sounds familiar it’s because she was Harmony from Buffy.  Featuring Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley, the unstoppable killer in the bayou, and if you don’t know who Kane Hodder is, maybe this isn’t the blog for you.  To date there have been 2 sequels, Hatchet II (2010) and Hatchet III (2013), and rumors of a third one because why not, it’s a decent mix of bloody humor and humorous blood spilling.








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Thursday, August 24, 2017

When Life is a Movie (and Vice Versa), or Thoughts on The Final Girls



Far more sentimental and emotionally manipulative than a meta-horror slasher movie has any right to be, The Final Girls (2015) features Taissa Farmiga, Vera’s sister, and Violet from American Horror Story: Murder House as Max Cartwright, the daughter of 80’s scream queen Amanda Cartwright.  Both Max and her mother have lived under the shadow of her most famous role as Nancy in Camp Bloodbath, a Friday the 13th pastiche complete with another machete wielding killer in a jumpsuit and (inexplicably) a Tiki mask and the signature chhh-chhh-chhh musical cue.  Max is still reeling from the car accident that kills her mother when she’s invited to speak at a Camp Bloodbath music festival.  When there’s a fire in a movie theater (with no apologies to Oliver Wendell Holmes) Max and her friends escape by stepping through the screen, and end up, yeah, you guessed it, trapped in her mom’s movie back in 1986.
The movie explores some existential themes concerning parallel universe, purgatory, and time loops as the kids (in the movie) figure out the rules to their new universe (virgins always survive) while running away from the killer and enjoying a nostalgic 80’s soundtrack.  Watch out for Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development as Max’s best friend Gertie, Malin Åkerman, Silk Spectre from Watchmen (2009) as Amanda Cartwright, Max’s mom and Alexander Ludwig from The Hunger Games (2012) and Björn Ironside in Vikings, as Chris, a tall, Nordic, handsome guy that Max kinda likes.








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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Technically a Documentary, or Thoughts on Shadow of The Vampire




Shadow of The Vampire (2000) re-imagines the Berlin production of one of the greatest and most beloved vampire movies, F.W. Murnau’s silent masterpiece Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) with a gloriously simple premise: what if they had filmed an actual vampire?  John Malkovich portrays F.W. Murnau, referred to as “Herr Doktor” by the cast and crew, like a 1920’s megalomaniac super-villain; his artistic vision will not be compromised, as he searches for authenticity with this new medium of light and shadow.  Fortunately for him he’s encountered Max Schreck, a real-life vampire living in a crumbling castle, brilliantly portrayed by Willem Dafoe.  Her Doktor explains to the cast that Max Schreck is a method actor who will spend the entire production in character.
E. Elias Merhige, most famous for directing Marilyn Manson videos (gosh I miss the 90’s, a sentence I never thought I’d write) crafted a gorgeous, atmospheric and affectionate production.  Everyone involved in this movie loved the source material and treats it with respect, and it shows.  Watch out for Cary Elwes, Eddie Izzard and Udo Kier, who played the Count in Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1975) as Albin Grau, the producer, art director and Murnau’s closest friend on set.
The English-speaking cast maintains the illusion that this is a German film production by speaking in German accents, which, thanks to all those WWII movies, has got to be one of the easiest accents to mimic.  And while you’re at it, I also recommend the 1979 remake Nosferatu, The Vampyre by director Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski.  That movie’s in German, with actual German accents.







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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trapped in a Shopping Mall With Antonio Banderas, or Thoughts on Security


Antonio Banderas is one of those old-Hollywood triple threats; he can sing, he can dance and he can act.  He’s also made more than his fair share of big budget action movies in his career, starting with Desperado (1995), Zorro (1998) and the confusing and underrated Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002, with Lucy Liu).  In Security (2017) Antonio portrays Eddie Deacon, a burned out vet with a special set of skills who takes a minimum wage security guard job along with a bunch of slacker millennial co-workers.  Guess what happens next.  It involves a little girl mob witness, high tech mercenary hit men straight out of Die Hard (1988) and Ben Kingsley, the Sexy Beast Gandhi himself, slumming once again as an English baddie.
Reminiscent in places of Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009), the darker Observe and Report (2009) but also Dawn of the Dead (2004, I mean, it’s in a mall) and You’re Next (2011).  The cool thing about an after-hours invasion of a mall is, you know, it’s a shopping mall with a sporting goods store, so that means you at least have some archery equipment.  Improvised weapons abound as far as the eye can see.
Antonio Banderas has always been a sensitive action hero, he moves with a graceful elegance reminiscent of a John Woo film that makes movies like these a pleasure to watch.  Look out for Taiwanese Pop Star Jiro Wang as one of those slacker guards and Liam McIntyre, Spartacus to you and me (he replaced Andy Whitfield in the Starz series after his death) as Vance, Eddie’s gung-ho supervisor.




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Monday, August 21, 2017

Tuesday Wednesday Break My Heart, or Thoughts on What Happened to Monday

You should know by now that I’m not usually a fan of green screens and actors reacting to tennis balls on sticks but if it means I get 7 Noomi Rapace performances at the same time, well, let’s just say that life is full of exceptions and leave it at that.  And speaking of Noomi Rapace, in What Happened to Monday (2017) she plays 7 identical sisters in a dystopian future where the state deals with overpopulation and a surplus of children by cryogenically freezing them instead of, say, eating them like in Soylent Green  (1973, sorry if I just spoiled a 44 year-old movie for you).  Think Orphan Black (2013) and Gattaca (1997) with a dash of The Parent Trap (1961) and The Hunger Games (2012).  Why, you may want to know, are there 7 identical daughters in the first place?  It has something to do with genetically modified crops, but the short answer is, it's the future, and it's best not to dwell on logistics and just move along.
At home, the sisters are named after the days of the week, which corresponds to the the actual day they’re out in the real world, sharing the same identity and job as Karen Settman.  Glenn Close does her best Dolores Umbridge impression as Dr. Cayman, the head of the Child Allocation Bureau and chief bad guy, while Willem Dafoe is the father figure.  I have to say it’s nice to see Willem Dafoe not playing a vampire for once or an evil genius, but rather a kindly grandfather genius who comes up with the novel deception and all the gadgets necessary to raise his seven identical grandchildren.
From director Tommy Wirkola, What Happened to Monday is surprisingly gory in places for a dystopian sci-fi film, but I would expect no less from the director of Dead Snow (2009).  These Netflix productions are hit and miss, but they are always ambitious and creative; I think the movie would have benefited from the extended timeline of a mini-series, maybe with an episode devoted to each day of the week.  But then again, that would just be Orphan Black starring Noomi Rapace, and Tatiana Maslany has already made that TV series.








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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Exterminating All Rational Thought, or Thoughts on David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch



Yes, technically it’s William S. Burrough’s  1959 The Naked Lunch, of which Naked Lunch (1991) the movie is based upon, and don’t think I’m not one of those annoying people who have read the book and insist on telling you how much the book is better than the movie, because in my heart, that’s who I am.  However David Cronenberg’s 1991 adaptation tightens the novel’s loose assortment of plots and adds a surreal and disturbing undercurrent that lingers with the viewers for days afterwards, much like a bad high, which is, ironically, one interpretation of the movie.
Peter Weller is William Lee, a failed writer and travelling exterminator in 1950’s New York.  After shooting up his bug spray in search of a “literary high” his life descends into a conspiracy of talking bugs, lizard men and secret agent missions that lead him to the Interzone in North Africa.  Like I said earlier, one interpretation is all this is a response to injecting roach poison.  But the other, more intriguing interpretation (and you know the one I prefer) is David Cronenberg’s decadent, visionary and stylish misadventure featuring a host of actors at the top of their game including Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Roy Scheider and Judy Davis as Bill’s wife Joan.
The film is arguably David Cronenberg’s best, or at least in his top three, and certainly his best work from an adaptation.  His surreal direction coupled with extremely high production values help visualize an alternate mid-century New York, a fully realized world where working men hang out in diners straight out of an Edward Hopper painting and you know, receive secret orders from talking scarabs that are addicted to bug powder.

Pay special attention to the updated Saul Bass inspired opening credits, along with the Coltrane-ish jazz soundtrack by Howard Shore.  The camera loved Peter Weller; his angular face cast long shadows like a young Clint Eastwood, and in Naked Lunch he plays William Lee like a protagonist in a particularly subversive film noir, where everyone’s guilty and no one gets out alive.







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Friday, August 18, 2017

Nic Cage, Back From The Dead and on An Irascible Jaunt, or Thoughts on Drive Angry

Drive Angry (2011), from director Patrick Lussier of Dracula 2000 (1999) is a hard drinking sex and drugs and rock and roll horror movie (make that Southern Rock) featuring Nicolas Cage as John Milton (um, ok), who escapes from hell with the Devil’s gun (bear with me) and returns to earth to save his daughter from a satanic cult.  On the way he meets Amber Heard from John Carpenter’s The Ward (2010) driving a ridiculously cool 1969 Dodge Charger, and has a lot of topical jokes about flip phones in between ass kickings. 
If this sounds bad, or like an R-rated Supernatural episode, well, you’re not wrong, but in the movie’s defense it’s an original screenplay; this isn’t a remake or something based on a comic book, though it’s essentially a Ghost Rider (2007) without the motorcycle and flaming skulls.  I mean, you’ve been asking for more original content, haven’t you?
Watch out for one of my favorite character actors William Fitchner, who you will remember as the bank manager in The Dark Knight (2008) and also appearances in Prison Break, and Armageddon (1998), and an IMDb page of over 80 credits (and counting) as The Accountant, a demonic civil servant.









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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Another Zombie Panic At The Drive-In, or Thoughts on Chillerama



When a horror anthology starts with some drunken grave robbing that rapidly escalates to zombie necrophilia, the audience should have a general idea of where Chillerama (2011) wants to take you.  You have been warned, and proceeding further will only cause embarrassment for you and I.  A lighthearted, bawdy and affectionate portrait of the drive in movie experience and the horror genre, the movie is more fun than it has any right to be with excellent production values abused to make deliberately bad movies.  It’s a fine line, a delicate balance to make one of those so bad it’s good films, and the filmmakers of Chillerama have no problem jumping over that line and covering it in various body fluids.
The wraparound story is set at a drive in showing the movies, where the grave-robbing necrophilia works.  In the first feature, aptly named Wadzilla, a giant I believe the medical term is spermatozoa, runs amuck in the big city.  He’s a stop motion creature related to Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors (1986), but he doesn’t talk.  Watch out for cameos by Olivia Taylor Dudley as a buxom nurse, and Eric Roberts as General Bukkake which is either genius/hilarious or embarrassingly cringey. Either way, it’s a metaphor for the entire movie.
The second feature, I Was A Teenage Werebear is a gay coming of age surf musical on the beach.  Think West Side Story (1961) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) with a dash of High School Musical (2006) and you’ll get the idea.  My nomination for the best and worst title in the history of American Cinema, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, is in black and white and in German.  Reminiscent of Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS trailer during Planet Terror  (2007) with a dash of Young Frankenstein (1974), in which Hitler steals Anne Frankenstein’s lab notes and creates a Jewish rabbi monster, as portrayed by Kane Hodder.
Directors include Adam Green of  and writer Joe Lynch from Everly (2014).  Oh, and there’s zombie virus in the popcorn butter at the drive-in.  Please don’t ask me how it got there.








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