Sunday, January 29, 2012

Casey Jones

*Disclaimer: the preview that’s posted above shows too much of the movie in my opinion, so if you’re planning on seeing the film I wouldn’t recommend watching too much of it.

Holy shit guys, this short film about arguably the best character from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe is fucking incredible.  As much as I liked Elias Koteas’ version of Casey in the live action picture from 1990 this is definitely better.  There’s still the same wise cracking tough guy charm that the character is known for but in this film he’s much more sadistic and completely merciless.  Like Casey shoves a guy’s head into a barrel of fire.  It’s left unclear if he actually kills the people that he comes across but it certainly looks like he beats them to a fucking lifeless pulp. 

This one’s an origin story but since the film is only about 30 mins long all the bullshit is cut out.  We learn who Casey is, understand his motives and see him fight crime.  There aren’t any unnecessary subplots or bad CGI effects shots getting in the way.  Half of the short is Casey beating the fuck out of bad guys which is exactly what we want to see.  And it’s all choreographed and shot well.  The action scenes are understandable and straight forward and the non action scenes create a nice brooding atmosphere that fits perfectly with the character.

The only real complaint I have is I wish Hilarion Banks (the dude who plays Casey) had a little beefier build and wasn’t quite so scrawny looking.  I don’t want Casey to look like Schwarzenegger or anything but I think he would look more menacing if he was a little more muscular.  This isn’t a big deal though because when the man springs into action there’s no doubt he can kick some serious ass.

So should you see it?  Yes, definitely.  Do what you have to, see it.  It’s ironic that I wish this was feature length because there are a lot of movies out there that I wish were 30 mins instead of 90.  So maybe it’s better that this is a short?  I dunno.  With this director, lead actor (they’re brothers by the way) and great sense of filmmaking I think they could pull it off.  Who knows, maybe they will one day. 

This film almost feels Nicholas Winding Refn-ish with how gritty it is.  And now that I’m thinking about it, Casey Jones should’ve had a dedicated film already.  Well it’s about time someone corrected that.  They nailed it, the mask, the character, the production, the feel, the music, everything.  The Banks bros even included other TMNT characters (but I wouldn’t want to spoil for you who they threw in). 

The appeal of Casey Jones is that he’s a man who won’t put up with street thugs anymore so he takes matters into his own hands.  He doesn’t have a superpower or even martial arts skills.  He’s just some fucking guy with an arsenal of sports equipment that he uses to knock people around.  And when he doesn’t have some sort of club he uses his fists like an unstoppable machine that keeps coming at you.   I really can’t recommend this short enough guys.  Casey’s the fuckin’ man.       

Friday, January 27, 2012

Roseanne Drug Episode

First off, sorry fellas that these posts have been so sporadic.  You know all that life shit gets in the way.  But the main reason why I’ve been off track lately is because I’m watching all of Roseanne.  As of this post I just finished season 6 which means that I recently saw their drug episode (“A Stash from the Past”).  And it was very different than how other sitcoms I’ve seen handle the subject.

So Roseanne finds some pot and thinks it’s David’s.  The initial blaming is quick and concise by telling him that drugs can screw up your life, it’s illegal, etc.  But right after that Dan tells Roseanne that it’s really hers from 20 years ago that she forgot about.  Dan reminds her that he stashed it when Roseanne was pregnant with Becky.  Now that’s a helluva twist already but they figure that since there’s no one home the two (along with Jackie) actually smoke the shit!  But after they get high D.J. comes back home because he forgot his sleeping bag (he was supposed to be sleeping over a friend’s house) which makes Roseanne realize that she’s a grown up with major responsibilities like raising a kid.  She comes to the conclusion that if something were to happen to D.J. while she was crumpled then she wouldn’t be able to properly come to his aide.  Dan tells Roseanne that they shouldn’t smoke pot anymore because it’s a different time in their lives and it’s not enjoyable like it was when they were younger.

Compare this with the drug episode from Home Improvement (called “What a Drag”):

Brad gets caught with weed and the Taylors grill him.  They say the usual things also like you could get into an accident, it could screw up your life, etc.  Jill eventually tells a story about how she once smoked pot laced with something that put her in the emergency room and she wound up in jail.  Why she went to jail isn’t explained though.  All she says is that somebody “turned her in”.  I guess she must have had the shit on her?  Or maybe she acted crazy while in the hospital?  Otherwise I don’t get it.  Whatever, Jill tells Brad that she was “messed up for a long time after that”.  Again, that’s pretty vague.  Jill also never mentions how old she was when this happened but I think it’s safe to assume that she in her college years because Tim was the one that had to bail her out of jail and they didn’t meet until college (ok, so I’ve seen the show before).

My point is that Roseanne approaches the topic of pot (I don’t think this really applies to other drugs except maybe alcohol) in a fairly reasonable and nonjudgmental way while a lot of other shows don’t.  Home Improvement demonizes it by telling kids that they’re certain to end up in the emergency room or jail or become emotionally and/or mentally fucked up.  Tim and Jill even threaten Brad with drug testing which, in my opinion, says to kids that you can’t go to your folks about this because they aren’t going to handle it in a rational way.  With Roseanne three adults make the decision to try weed again and come to the conclusion on their own that it’s not as fun as it used to be.  They give it a shot and decide not to do it anymore.  I think that’s a more effective way of telling both kids and parents how to deal with drugs.  Think about your responsibilities and what’s important to you in life. 

To be fair I can’t blame Tim Allen for taking the kind of stand that he does on the show because he did go to jail for a couple of years for trafficking cocaine in the late 70’s.  Oh and he also got a DUI in ’97 which was before his drug episode aired.  So drugs have affected his life in a pretty negative way.  But I like how Roseanne handles the topic.  The gist of what the show is saying is that if you’re a kid then you shouldn’t be smoking weed but if you’re an adult then you can make that decision for yourself.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Batman Forever Laundry Scene

Do you guys remember the scene in Batman Forever where Robin wrings out his laundry using martial arts?  That’s probably the most pointless part of the film.  I guess it’s supposed to establish that Dick knows how to kick some ass but this is not the way they should have done it.  If the filmmakers just used the part a little later where Robin fights the black light gang then that would have done the trick.  Having the guy twirl wet socks around like nunchucks isn’t cool…like it’s really fuckin’ dorky.  Besides, how come he doesn’t use a dryer?  It looks like there’s one right there in back of him.  And if it isn’t a dryer then why the fuck wouldn’t Bruce Wayne have one?  He can afford it.  Nothing about the scene makes sense or really needs to be in the movie.    

Another scene that’s perplexes the shit outta me is when Dick does a gymnastics routine while trying to get to the entry to the batcave before it closes.  Instead of risking breaking an arm or a leg or a neck or an Alfred Dick should have sneaked down there at night or while Bruce and Alfred were busy elsewhere and either picked the lock or stolen the key to get in.  Doing it the way he did was pure theatrics and serves no purpose other than to nudge the audience in the ribs and say, “oh check it out, this stunt number we cooked up is pretty neat eh?” 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Marty McFly Chicken Complex

You know how Marty McFly can’t stand being called chicken (or “yella” either)?  Think about how pathetic that is.  I mean the guy won’t back down if someone calls him chicken…ever.  He’s gotta be a little fucked in the head for something as petty as that to always get the best of him.  And the thing is that Marty never would have learned to let that kinda shit go if he didn’t embark on a totally fucking insane time travel adventure.  And the proof is in Part II.  When we see him all grown up in the future with a family Needles (great name by the way) calls him chicken and Marty gives in causing him to lose his job.  Of course I’m glad that Marty does finally learn to deal with his emotions in this particular area at the end of Part III when he forfeits his gunfight against Buford Tannen and then later again when Needles challenges him to a drag race.  But it’s funny that they didn’t resolve this issue towards the end of the first film, especially when they didn’t know sequels were going to be made.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Terminator 2: Judgement Thoughts

It’s been a good five years maybe since I’ve seen this masterpiece and I just had a hankering for it.  But there were some things that I noticed this time that I hadn’t previously and I think they’re worth discussing.  To be clear this isn’t a full review, just some shit I want to throw out there.

This first point might be obvious (or not) but Arnie is really good in this thing.  I mean seriously good from an acting perspective.  I totally buy that he’s a fucking machine with his stoicism and stiff movements.  I don’t think we see him breathe or blink throughout the whole film.  Everything about Arnie’s portrayal makes him seem like a very off human including his build and waxy looking skin.  And because he’s an outdated model by this point the accent makes more sense than it did in the first Terminator.  It’s like the machines didn’t get the speech program or mouth mechanics quite right with the T-800 but were able to figure it out and make it smooth with the T-1000.  With Robert Patrick just speaking normally and not putting on some kind of accent of his own it helps to give the Terminator universe depth.  The T-1000 is an improved model in every way including how it talks and communicates.  Whenever the T-800 has a conversation he remains very dry and emotionless but the T-1000 is actually able to convey things like courtesy (it says “please” and “thank you” when talking with John’s guardians), inquiry and even shock (look at its face right before the famous “hasta la vista, baby” line).  So the acting all around was better than I realized.

The second point is that Sarah Conner isn’t really motherly at all and the contrast between who she was in the first movie and who she is in this one is striking.  James Cameron turned this average Jane character into a totally insane soldier that will do whatever it takes to protect her son.  So she basically turned into Reese which means there’s no room for her to get gushy with John.  Sarah’s only concern is that he’s alive and relatively healthy.  She’s like his commanding officer more than his mother.  But it’s interesting that John still sees her as and desperately wants her to be the paternal figure he yearns for.

Third, while this picture is pretty perfect there are at least four times when the T-800 says something out of character.  Previously this didn’t bother me but this last time they really stood out.  And I know what you’re thinking, “it’s fucking Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fucking action movie, of course there’s going to be cheesy fucking dialogue you moron”.  Normally I would agree but this film is leagues beyond most action pictures and is executed brilliantly in every area.  It’s smarter and better than these corny lines:

1.       When our gang goes to break into Cyberdyne they encounter a guard at the desk who tells them that they can’t go in to which the T-800 says, “I insist”.  I understand that this thing is a highly advanced robot but I don’t think puns and irony would be part of its programming.  I mean it’s just not essential for what the thing was built to do.  Take the bar scene for example when the T-800 demands the biker’s clothes.  That’s how a killing machine from the future would handle things.  When he doesn’t get what he needs then he takes it by force without shooting off some pun.

2.       A little later Dyson asks the terminator how they will detonate the explosives and the robot replies, “remote control” and then makes a *click* sound with his mouth.  And not like an actual click sound effect from an effects library but one that a human would make with his/her mouth.  Why the machine thought it needed to add that sound in is inexplicable.  Doing something like that is sort of a folksy gesture that’s usually accompanied by a wink.  And even though the wink isn’t there it’s too human of a thing for this fucking mechanical apparatus to be doing.        

3.       Right before the T-800 goes to shoot up a million cop cars outside of Cyberdyne John reminds him that he swore not to kill anyone.  The thing responds, “trust me”.  It’s possible that the terminator has a list of American sayings and frequently used phrases but I’m sure it would be difficult to determine which to use in any given situation or conversation.  This line isn’t terrible albeit incredibly overused.  What really bothers me about it is that the T-800 says it with a smirk on his face.  Again, maybe the thing is programmed to smile whenever it says that line but I can’t imagine that it would be very useful when attempting to kill people.  The hitch is that this particular unit was reprogrammed to protect so who knows what they stuck in there.

4.       And finally, perhaps the most offensive line in the entire movie is when the T-800 says, “I need a vacation” after defeating the T-1000.  A robot wouldn’t make an intentional joke like that unless it was programmed to.  The line isn’t even genuine in that it’s a machine that doesn’t need to rest or take time off.  It’s not like the thing was thinking about going the Caribbean and kickin’ back for a week in the sun.  The T-800 isn’t going to know what funny is.  I guess Cameron couldn’t resist leaving this ad-libbed line in there even though it’s completely out of place.  But I will admit that the impact of the absurdity is somewhat muted because by this point the movie’s over.  It already blew my balls off and the stuff that happens after the T-1000 is gone is just some quick wrap up.  The line probably would have had full revulsion power behind it if it was placed earlier in the film but it still infuriates me.

Honorary mention goes to the T-1000 when he says, “say, that’s a nice bike”.  But I’ll let that one slide because not only is it a creepy line delivered in a creepy way but I like the callback to the first Terminator.  The same reasoning goes for when the T-800 says, “come with me if you want to live”.  It’s a fucking badass line and again, it’s a nice way to give a wink to the first film but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense coming from the T-800.  You would think that this machine, whose only job is to protect John Connor and then when commanded by John, Sarah Connor, wouldn’t be giving Sarah the choice to come with it.  It’s the “if you want to live” part that I’m talking about.  It’s not about “if” she wants to live but more like this robot is going to do everything it can to make sure she does live whether she wants to or not.  However, I could see the same argument being made for this line as the “trust me” one where the terminator was programmed to say it.  Sure, that’s possible.

And I know you’re wondering why I didn’t list, “hasta la vista, baby” or “no problemo”.  Well that’s because those are actually given background and context.  John teaches the terminator to say these things when they’re driving through the desert so when they come up later it’s not out of place.  I’m not saying that these lines aren’t silly but only that they’re actually explained while the others that I listed aren’t.  

The next thing I really paid attention to was the music.  The T-1000 theme is fucking eerie as a motherfucker.  The relentless alarm type pulse really got to me.  Throw in some extremely high pitched string hits (sounds more like synth strings though) a la Psycho and you have a perfect villain theme.  The ironic thing is that the T-800 theme also sounds like it could be used for a villain.  I like that they made it sound sort of metallic by using what sounds like anvils pitched down but according to IMDB it was cast iron frying pans.  The T-800 theme has a militaristic feel and the T-1000 theme has a more serial killer thing going on.  In fact if you listen to the soundtrack without the images that go with it the thing sounds like a horror movie score.  I love it.

The last thing that got me thinking was the T-1000’s make up.  It’s described as liquid metal and I’m no scientist/computer programmer/biochemist/fuckin’ brainiac but I think this machine is made of billions or trillions of tiny micro computers suspended in some sort of fluid.  Maybe they have tiny screens on them that when combined creates the image of a human which is how the T-1000 can imitate anything it comes in contact with.  What I’m really trying to say is that I have no fucking clue how this thing is supposed to work.  It’s goddamn cool ‘n all but pretty baffling if you actually stop and think about the mechanics of it.  Whatever, whether it’s made of metal or stupid fucking little computers like I suggested, it wouldn’t feel like a human.  I mean it may look like hair and skin ‘n shit but if you touched it, it wouldn’t feel right.

Ok, I think that’s enough about T2 (at least for now).  All of the shit that I brought up isn’t meant to make the movie look bad or question its badassness.  I love this picture not only for the jaw dropping action sequences but also that it creates a rich world that makes me think about how shit fits into it and works.  Cameron was good once, even great.  I don’t know what the fuck happened to him though.  Whatever, Terminator 2 guys, it’s the fucking best.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Extreme Prejudice

So this one is really like two movies in one.  There’s one story about Nick Nolte (Blue Chips) playing a hard boiled Texas ranger who’s after Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe (Sudden Death, Southern Comfort)), an American drug lord hiding out in Mexico.  The other story is about a group of mercenaries that…need to do a job…they’re after Cash too but…I didn’t understand what their deal was exactly.

The best character is Cash and Boothe plays him perfectly.  He’s tall, handsome, charming and downright mean.  For example we’re introduced to him by showing him pick up a scorpion and then crush it in his bare hand.  So the movie’s trying to tell us that not even something we consider deadly and dangerous can stand a chance against Cash.  We’re lead to believe that he has some sort of code but he treats the woman that he’s supposed to be in love with (Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man, Predator 2)) like shit and he also cheats in the final showdown at the end.  So he’s manipulative and slimy, not honorable.  But I still like him.

Nolte’s character, Jack Benteen, and Cash were best friends up until the whole crime boss thing happened.  And seeing Nolte and Boothe together made me realize that Boothe is really the better version of Nolte.  I think they’re both pretty similar in their acting style but Boothe tends to play more dirtbags and even when he supposed to be playing a good guy he has an assholic quality to him.  For me Nolte’s emotions feel forced a lot of the time and it’s not that Boothe’s seem that much more genuine but goddamn does it look like he’s having fun up there.  Nolte always looks like he’s laboring through the part while Boothe makes it seem effortless.

That's a great looking poster
There are a couple of good action scenes in here including the really awesome ending shootout that’s reminiscent of The Wild Bunch.  I like the bank robbery and chase sequences too even though I don’t think they have a whole lot to do with the movie.  I also like how the faceoff between Cash and Jack gets a bunch of build up and postponement to make it seem all the more important.

This was directed by Walter Hill and he’s kind of a mixed bag.  He’s capable of creating genius works like Hard Times, The Warriors and Last Man Standing.  And while his stuff is always entertaining on some level at times it can fall a bit short like with Red Heat and Undisputed.  This one is probably a little above average.  The casting helps a great deal and this one has some of the all time greats including Michael Ironside (Total Recall, Visiting Hours) and William Forsythe (The Devil’s Rejects, Boardwalk Empire). 

Between the two stories I was actually more interested in the mercenaries one.  Aside from the pretty cool cast of characters I think it’s because I didn’t fully know what was going on with that one.  I mean the film starts A-Team style where they list the name, rank and military background for each mercenary.  Then they do some recon work and rob a bank and go to Mexico and…what the fuck are these guys up to?  They say they have orders from some central command but they’re never explained.  Well some shit is explained at the end but I feel like it doesn’t account for all the shit that leads up to it.  Sure, the mano a mano western type plot between Cash and Jack is cool but it’s a little slow compared to what’s going on with the mercs.

So is it worth checking out?  Yeah I think so.  There’s plenty of badass shit to pull this disjointed movie together long enough to make you want to see it through.       

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Ok so I’m not really a Motorhead fan but I do like eccentric people and I think Lemmy qualifies.  This doc follows him around for a while giving us a glimpse into his day to day routine and lifestyle.  It also gives a brief history of his music career but the focus is more on the man himself.

Lemmy is genuinely one of the more interesting figures in not only rock but just music in general.  Part of it is that he’s been around since the mid 60’s and has amassed a lifetime of experience playing rock ‘n’ roll.  If he wasn’t in a band (The Rockin’ Vickers) then he was working for one (The Jimi Hendrix Experience).  Another part of it is his honesty.  He’ll tell you that he loves Little Richard and country music and be proud of it instead of having to conform to a metal image.  Lemmy won’t lie to you about anything.  If he thinks your music sucks he’ll tell you and if he thinks you’re a cool guy or gal then he’ll hang out with you.  What you see is what you get.

There’s all sorts of insights into his life like that he’s a World War II fanatic, that he met his six year old son for the first time during a drug deal, he drinks Jack and Coke nonstop, he has a tiny cluttered apartment in L.A. filled with Motorhead knick knacks and Nazi memorabilia, etc.  Even the first shot of Lemmy playing an Xbox is informative and strange.  I never would’ve thought that he’s the kinda guy that likes to play video games but it turns out he is. 

Even the soundtrack is interesting to listen to because the filmmakers interspersed classics like “Ace of Spades” with other shit like Lemmy’s cover of “Louie Louie”.  There’s also a scene with Lemmy and Dave Grohl covering “Run Rudolph Run”.  He never seems to tire of the music that excited and inspired him as a kid and young dude.  It’s just this kind of reverence for his predecessors and idols that makes him such a likeable and identifiable guy. 

Since this is a movie about a rock legend there’s a law that he/she must have their dick sucked by an endless parade of celebrities.  I wish there wasn’t so much of that because I learn more about Lemmy just by watching him than by hearing Slash tell me that he’s “the real deal”.  The doc also harps a bit on how nice he is.  Although, that I minded less because it was cool to find out through the various stories told.

Overall this thing was put together well and I definitely recommend it.  Just like Ozzy Osbourne and Keith Richards it’s a miracle that this man is not only still alive but also making new Motorhead records and touring around the world playing to sold out crowds.  And he seems just as into it as ever.  So if you like music of any kind or even just interesting people then I think it’ll be worth your while. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Valhalla Rising

I’m not gonna pretend that I got it.  I don’t know if these Vikings really entered heaven, hell, some other spiritual world or if they landed in North America.  To make myself feel better I’ll go with the last one. 

So if you look at it that way it’s sort of like Refn’s take on a Terrance Malick movie.  And I really mean a specific one, The New World.  Now, The New World blew me away when I first saw it and had to go back a second time to re-experience those gorgeous shots and beautiful score set against eccentric editing.  Hold on a sec, this is the film I was trying to remember that I saw twice in theaters in my Drive piece.  Damn, that was a neat full circle that I accidentally made.

Anyway, what they have in common is that Valhalla Rising is shot totally outdoors with very little dialogue and shows these guys wondering what the hell to do pretty much the whole time.  There’s a sense of discovery, adventure, wonder, bewilderment (they were trying to reach Jerusalem, boy did they get it wrong), anger and on and on.  It’s (at least partly, I think) about going on a journey, finding out something about yourself and the world and (hopefully) being enlightened by it.  This one is also just as pretty to look at.  

What was great is that the Vikings have no idea what’s going on and neither does the audience so all of these emotions transfer readily.  I mean you don’t know much about these characters but I still found myself caring about whether they lived or died.  I was entranced and kept wondering where all of this was going.  It’s like we’re all in it together.

After a quick wiki check Valhalla is a place where people who died in combat go.  That still doesn’t help me understand this movie or even the title.  Maybe this is supposed to be the first trip to Valhalla?  Or after this Valhalla was created or built or idea-ed by somebody?  Not sure.

This one’s an intricate and delicate piece.  All of the components need to work for the whole thing to work.  With something like this if the music is off or there’s not just the right amount of dialogue or the actors don’t look right or there’s too much levity or any other one thing then the entire picture falls apart. 

I liked it but was unexpectedly surprised because I assumed it was going to be like Refn’s other films.  Well I guess not counting Fear X because that was different too but man was it dull.  I recommend this one but be warned that this is a moody fucking movie.  It’s not something you just throw on.  In my case I ready for a totally different film and had to adjust quickly.  Alright Refn, you caught me with my pants down.  Good work.

As a side note, it’s funny to think that this is what got Refn the Drive gig.  According to Ryan Gosling he saw this picture and knew he had found the right guy for the job.  They’re pretty different films if you ask me but maybe Gosling wanted Drive to be more like Valhalla Rising.  It’s hard to say how well that would’ve turned out since I have so much affection for Drive but it certainly would’ve been interesting.  You know what though, I’m glad Refn didn’t go that way because we already have a Terrance Malick and he’s pretty damn good at being that.