Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Point Blank

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Shit, don’t cross Walker (Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen)).  If you happen to rip him off after a routine robbery on abandoned Alcatraz Island and shoot him and leave him for dead he will come after you for sure.  He wants what’s his.  He wants $93K.  So promise me you won’t ever do that, ok?  Good.  Thanks.

But there were a couple of stupid bastards who didn’t do such a thing.  Friend Mal (John Vernon (Ernest Goes to Camp)) and wife Lynne (Sharon Acker (Happy Birthday to Me)) think they’ve gotten away with an easy score.  Mal needs the money to settle a debt with some sort of organized crime outfit so he takes Walker’s share.  Lynne doesn’t love Walker anymore and decides to go along with the double cross.  When Walker recuperates he focuses like a laser beam on looking for these two so he can claim his money and be on his way.

The beauty of this story is the simplicity.  It truly is only about the money.  Walker never expresses a desire for revenge.  If he gets some pleasure out of beating up and bullying the scumbags he comes across we’re never clued in.  It’s weird to imagine but I suppose if Mal gave him the $93,000 immediately the movie would be over in like fifteens mins.  Of course it’s not that easy.  In fact it seems impossible.

Walker has to go up against not only Mal but the entire syndicate that’s backing him.  He works his way up the chain to get to the heads and shows them the same level of insolence and impatience he would to any low level asshole.  He slaps them around, shoves a gun in their face and plainly states in the first ten seconds upon meeting them that if he doesn’t get his money he’ll kill them.  He doesn’t take shit from nobody.

Image result for point blank 1967This is such a badass character but the thing is he’s not terribly interesting.  The combination of knowing so little about Walker and his robotic single minded approach makes him seem inhuman.  He even uses his sister-in-law as bait to get at Mal with little regard for her safety or feelings.  Afterwards she tells him “you died at Alcatraz alright, goodbye Walker” and he barely gets out a hurried “yeah, goodbye” before coolly moving on to his next target.  Walker’s driven but that’s pretty much all he is which is a shame.  They could’ve given him a touch more personality and it only would’ve helped.

With that said Lee Marvin is fantastic in the role.  He was born for this one.  His hulking build and weathered face are perfect for someone as humorless as Walker.  Marvin’s searing stare and stoic performance are really what make the character fun to watch.  You can’t wait to see him shoot a mean ass look to the next guy he encounters and watch that sucker squirm.

However I do have to say I’m not totally into the arty way this picture is sometimes edited.  Director John Boorman (Deliverance, Exorcist II: The Heretic) may have felt he had to make up for the incredibly straightforward plot by using lamenting voice over, characters staring off into space or aimlessly drifting around a room and cutting in different, and sometimes alternate, shots of other scenes at various points like Walker’s dreaming.  And maybe that was the intent, like this is Walker’s dream of revenge as he lays dying.  I prefer not to believe that though because the it-was-all-a-dream stunt is such bullshit in movies.  It’s a cop out.  Stand by your vision filmmakers.  It isn’t explicitly stated either way in Point Blank but still, the editing gives a fantasy hallucinatory tilt to the whole thing and I don’t think it needed that.  What’s even more frustrating is this technique isn’t used consistently either with heavy employment during the first and last thirds and leaving the middle of the film relatively normal.

Image result for point blank 1967So what should be one of the best most grizzled action thrillers ever made and a slam dunk recommendation becomes muddied by stylistic choices and perhaps an attempt to elevate the material.  But look I’ll give it to ya point blank, I definitely think you guys will enjoy it because the plethora of badass shit is undeniable and inescapable.  Actually, it’s a must see.

As an aside this is based off a book called The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake which was the first in a series featuring the protagonist Parker.  Payback starring Mel Gibson (What Women Want) was the second film adaptation.  I re-watched that to see how it holds up and to compare to Point Blank.  It’s not great but not too terrible either.  They go for a surprising amount of jokes that aren’t very funny and the villains are even bigger slimy assholes than in Point Blank.  Although they did give Porter (this version’s Walker/Parker) some emotional background and made him less of a Neanderthal at times.

Image result for payback mel or lucy 1999Brian Helgeland (42, writer: L.A. Confidential) wrote and directed but had the project taken away from him during editing.  He put together his own cut called Payback: Straight Up which is better than the theatrically released version.  The pace is tighter, a lot of the jokes are cut out and the entire third act plays out differently including a simpler and more satisfying ending.  If you haven’t seen Payback you aren’t missing anything but if you’re curious then try to seek out the Straight Up version.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mish Mash 14 (Boomerang, Wind River, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Killing Zoe)


Image result for boomerang 1992What a funny and touching forgotten gem in Eddie Murphy’s repertoire.  It’s about a player who gets played.  Murphy does whatever deceitful action he feels necessary to get a sexy woman into bed and then tosses them aside like a pair of socks.  So naturally when he falls in love with the lady who takes over his position as head of marketing for a cosmetics company she (Robin Givens (Blankman)) turns out to be just as cruel as he is when playing with people’s emotions.

There’s real good drama with Murphy’s job dilemma where he faces possible termination.  He also gets pressured by the figurehead of the new company, who’s a much older woman (Eartha Kitt (Ernest Scared Stupid)), to sleep with her if he wants to keep his job.  And there’s some…dare I say it?…cute romance stuff like the brief fling David Alan Grier (Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby) and Halle Berry (The Last Boy Scout) have.

The highlight though might be the incredible cast of wacky side characters.  Tisha Campbell (Martin) plays Murphy’s neighbor who’s so apoplectic over his deplorable behavior that she hopes he gets a disease where his dick falls off, Chris Rock (New Jack City) in an early role delivers the mail in the building where Murphy works and steals the show every brief moment he’s on camera, John Witherspoon (Friday) is Grier’s embarrassing father who shows up to Thanksgiving in a mushroom patterned suit and I already mentioned the unsubtle seductress Eartha Kitt.

Image result for boomerang 1992Martin Lawrence (Bad Boyses) and David Allan Grier play Murphy’s best buds and their dynamic is great together.  While Murphy is the suave one, Grier is the awkward shy one and Lawrence is the brash extrovert that sees racism in everything.  And while this is meant to be funny as he even thinks the game of pool is racist with the white ball dominating all the other balls, especially the black 8 ball (this theory is fascinating actually), his outlook is justified when they’re all confronted with an asshole white dude in a high end clothing store who thinks they’re gonna steal shit.

Image result for boomerang grace jonesBut definitely the funniest part of the whole thing is Grace Jones (Vamp) as the French fashion icon StrangĂ© (pronounced Strohn-jay).  She’s in your face, crass (to use one of the movie’s favorite words) and committed to bringing cosmetology to its knees.  At a pitch meeting she throws out names for her new perfume like “Steel Vagina” and “Love Puss”.  Her TV ad for the perfume is her in a crazy ass enormous wood weaved dress stomping the ground with her bare feet while giving birth to the new fragrance bottle in some apocalyptic caveman setting (!?).  The character is one for the ages and Jones plays her perfectly.  She has a natural mystique about her that fits so well with this tacky yet brilliant giant in fashion.

So if you want a nice romantic comedy that has a touch of outrageousness to it this should fit the bill.

Wind River

Image result for wind riverThis thriller about a hunter/tracker (Jeremy Renner (Arrival)) and FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers: Age of Ultron)) that team up to find out who killed a teenage girl is pretty ok at best.  There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before and what’s there isn’t done exceptionally.  This is a bit frustrating because modern day stories about crimes on Native American reservations, particularly those of rape and murder, are something that really need to be told.  The laws are apparently so convoluted in terms of jurisdiction and authority that the crimes become very difficult to investigate properly and litigate thoroughly.

Image result for wind river 2017I applaud the film for taking up this topic full on and for shining a light on something that I’m sure most people have never thought about, including myself.  But unfortunately this isn’t a great film.  It’s too much of a by-the-numbers predictable mystery picture.  Taylor Sheridan wrote this (he also directed) and it’s not as good as either Sicario or Hell or High Water.  I guess it should come as no surprise that those aren’t the best either.  I’ll still keep giving Sheridan shots though.  Hopefully he’ll get better.  I mean hey, at least someone’s out there writing thrillers which we could certainly use more of.

But what I would really like to see is a movie (any kind of movie) involving Native Americans without a white lead or the intervention of white characters.  Those have to exist out there, right?  I goddamn hope they do.  Can anyone point me to a good one?

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Image result for spiderman homecomingI got so burned out on superhero movies a long time ago but the reviews for this Spidey were very encouraging so I wanted to see it.  Plus besides Batman Spider-Man is the only other superhero I really dig.

And man this was fun.  Just a lot of damn fun.  Surprisingly they went for pretty much a straight up comedy with some fairly well done superhero action thrown in.  From what I gather this is supposed to be the most faithful representation of Spider-Man done to date and even though I’ve only read maybe one comic book of his in my life this seemed accurate.  Somehow on a gut level it just felt like “oh yea right, this is how the character’s supposed to be”.

Image result for spider man homecoming michael keatonEveryone was cast well, especially Tom Holland (In the Heart of the Sea) in the lead, and the mix of comedy and huge spectacular action with characters flying around doing impossible shit was well balanced.  But most importantly this one has heart.  It didn’t feel like they’re simply churning out yet another Marvel movie because they have a quota to meet.  They really did a nice job.  Give this one a shot even if you think you can’t stomach another comic book picture.  You’re in for a treat.

Killing Zoe

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Seedy underbelly urban crime thriller, fuckin’…a-alright?  Ok, that’s a bit harsh.  The thing is this one had been brewing in my mind almost since it came out in 1994 and I’m just getting to it now.  The bar was set high with Roger Avary, Quentin Tarantino’s old buddy who co-wrote Pulp Fiction and True Romance, writing and directing his first feature.  It doesn’t have quite the finesse I was expecting.  Instead it feels like what it is, a movie frantically written in two weeks because Avary lied about having a script concerning a bank robbery when he didn’t.

The scenes are a little too disjointed where Avary seems to keep running into a brick wall and has to insert a new element into the story to get himself over the obstacle.  He probably didn’t map out the entire plot before starting to see how things would fit together and it shows.  Although it’s remarkable the film works as well as it does which is a testament to how talented Avary is as a filmmaker.

Image result for killing zoePutting the uneven storytelling aside there’s plenty of cool shit in here to sink your teeth into.  The idea of two pals who haven’t seen each other in a long time doing a boatload of drugs and robbing a bank is fantastic.  Eric Stoltz (Anaconda) does a nice job as the smooth calm safecracker new to Paris.  He looks very comfortable in the role and that confidence is impressive.  Jean-Hugues Anglade (Maximum Risk) as the mastermind behind the robbery is the star of the show though.  He doesn’t give a fuck about anything or anyone including himself.  Like he’ll impulsively pull Stoltz’s prostitute (Julie Delpy (The Three Musketeers (1993)) out of the shower and toss her out of the hotel room buck naked and then later shoot heroin in the middle of a club.  And of course he has no qualms about killing folks that get in his way.  A total maniac if there ever was one.

Image result for killing zoeNow there’s the typical pop culture references and quirks you would expect like Captain America, Nosferatu, Billie Holiday and our motley crew having a penchant for Dixieland jazz, but it’s not overabundant like in a Tarantino picture.  There’s enough to give some personality but not so much that it becomes a defining trait.

So overall it’s a good first effort.  It would’ve been interesting to see what Avary would’ve come up with if he had continued directing more.  Anyway, you’ll probably like it.

Sunday, November 5, 2017


Image result for jigsaw 2017How about one more horror review before taking a break from that shit for a while?  And this is appropriate considering I kicked off Harefooted Halloween 2017 with Saw I-VII.  After marathoning those fuckin’ things Jigsaw had to be seen.  Not because I became such a fan of the series but because it was all still fresh in my mind.  This was the best shot this film was gonna get from me.  And how would a new installment compare seven years later to a group of pictures that were all shot consecutively seven years in a row?

Well to get right to the point this is sadly probably the worst Saw movie in the bunch now.  It comes off like someone trying to remember what these pictures were like only having seen one of them a long time ago.  They managed to stick to the two main trademarks of the series, traps and plot twists, but they’re both handled so goddamn sloppily.  Let’s briefly go over both.

First the traps.  Almost all of these fuckers in the previous movies required the victim to complete some sort of mechanical action (which also usually caused unbearable self-inflicted pain) in order to prevent the insidious contraption from killing you or someone you know.  They were more or less self-contained.  In Jigsaw the victims need to get out of the traps by doing something only a human can recognize and that can’t be understood by a machine.  This is not in keeping with the franchise.  Here you need to do shit like inject someone with a syringe full of an unknown substance to free you from your neck collar, or you need to verbally confess your crimes to prevent lasers from splitting your head open, or you need to get slashed by a spinning blade and spill some blood to release the metal bucket on your head (and these aren’t those table saws that can sense flesh and retract, these stay put and shut off when it senses even a tiny amount of blood).  So Jigsaw needs to be standing there watching the whole game play out with his finger on the button waiting for the exact moment to advance someone when they do what he wants them to.  And we know from the other films he does not have time for that shit.  He has so many traps to construct and people to spy on and cancer treatment to go to and other crap.  He’s an extremely busy person.

Image result for jigsaw 2017One trap with sharp metal objects falling onto the victims in a claustrophobic silo particularly doesn’t work.  This is in the middle of the game so any one of the knives or pitchforks coming down could prematurely kill someone.  In the past there was typically a way to survive these things if you can hack it.  It’s not supposed to be pure luck.

The one trap that’s in the vein of the original series is the sawed off shotgun loaded with one shell.  It lies in between two people and they have to decide who will use it.  The twist with it is pure Saw and makes me think this was leftover from one of the other movies because it’s way too clever compared to the rest of the picture.

The other big thing the filmmakers fucked up are the twists.  The storyline is more convoluted than ever, even to the point where I’m not sure how the last ten minutes (which is what I’m really talking about here) fit together with the other installments.  The crazy sidewinder turns these movies would take used to be sincerely, and even pleasantly, surprising.  All the twists in this one are just perplexing without the added enjoyment of it somehow satisfyingly fitting in with the overall scheme of things.

Image result for jigsaw 2017And maybe I’ve developed some sort of intuition when it comes to these fuckin’ movies but I correctly guessed what the ending was about half way in.  So when they got to the big reveal it didn’t have much of an impact.  I think the structure of the story and the editing telegraphed too much which a savvy viewer can pick up on.  Events happen too close together for them to make sense so there’s a weird timeline issue that’s confusing but at the same time only leads to one logical conclusion if you think about it for a sec.

Oh boy, in Jigsaw everything you liked about the Saw films feels dumb and everything you thought was dumb about the Saw films feels a helluva lot dumber.  Better luck next time.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: Sadako vs. Kayako

Image result for sadako vs kayako natsumiWhat I Liked: Good ol’ fashioned original design Sadako is finally back in action after a sixteen year hiatus and even then her appearance in Ringu 0 was brief.  With the most recent entries Sadako 3D was all stylized like you’re watching a live action anime and Sadako 2 3D is a Ring movie in name only with basically no Sadako.  So to see that sadistic ghost girl out there again doin’ her thang was kickass and really satisfying.

They expand the mythology to include repercussions for interfering with Sadako’s curse.  At one point two cursed individuals go to a shaman for help but Sadako doesn’t like that so during the exorcism she has these people kill themselves.  It’s a pretty intense scene that goes on for a while where shit gets weirder and crazier.

Everything is taken at face value here.  There isn’t disbelief that a cursed VHS tape and a haunted house exist, there aren’t really fake out moments that just extend the runtime, we don’t delve into the backstory or motives of Sadako and Kayako, it’s all very straightforward.

What I Didn’t Like: Why do each of these Ring films change the rules?  This one shortens the number of days left to live to only two, and I guess as long as you’re not staring right at the video you don’t get cursed?  What you see on the video is different too.  They got rid of the iconic well in the woods and replaced it with a large building that has an opened doorway and a walkway leading up to it.  What’s accomplished by changing the contents of the tape?

Image result for sadako vs kayakoThe filmmakers couldn’t figure out a way to naturally bring Sadako and Kayako together so they copped out and included a know-it-all-take-no-shit guru who helps guide our protagonists through the curses.  Out of the blue he has the idea to have the two entities face off in order to lift both curses from his clients (he’s getting paid to do this).  That’s very lame.

Spoiler on this last paragraph

The showdown between Sadako and Kayako goes how you would expect, they each land a couple of blows using their signature moves but the filmmakers had to be very diplomatic so as to not piss off fans of either franchise.  It’s the same exact mentality as Freddy vs. Jason.  I understand you can’t show one villain clearly overpowering the other but at the same time it’s gonna feel like a bit of a gyp if no winner is officially declared.

Image result for sadako vs kayakoOverall Impressions: This is way more of a Ring movie than a Grudge movie which was great in my case.  I’ve seen (almost) all the Ring films but only Ju-on: The Grudge so I’m not as familiar with that series.  The cursed video angle is more intriguing to me than the haunted house concept so to get two thirds of a real decent Ring picture, which hasn’t happened in a long time, was awesome.

With such a silly premise it would’ve been tempting to go over the top in the production design and execution but it’s great that the filmmakers restrained themselves.  Interestingly they went serious on this and tried hard to go for creepy atmosphere/imagery and big scares.  I mean it could’ve been neat if they did an exaggerated take like Sadako 3D except even cartoonier but I’m glad they kept it in the styles and moods that were established in each of these franchises.

Image result for sadako vs kayakoAnd you know what?  This film is surprisingly quite good.  The ending is actually the worst part because it’s dreadfully contrived.  I get that having these horror titans fight each other is supposed to be the whole idea but they couldn’t come up with a way to truly make it work.  And because all the other shit is mostly handled very well it made the brawl finale even stupider.

Look, if you’re a Ring fan check it out.  Those parts are fucking cool.  It could be the second best installment in the series strangely enough.  If you’re a Grudge fan, I don’t know.  It definitely plays second fiddle here so you might not be into that.  Either way this is something we all wanted to see, right?  RIGHT!?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: Pet Sematary

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What I Liked: The story about a husband/father (Dale Midkiff (Love Potion No. 9)) who keeps bringing dead family members back to life is pretty fuckin’ cool.  However you just gotta roll with how they unfold everything and not think about it too much.  If you can do that then you’ll be rewarded with an interesting riff on Frankenstein.

Yet another movie with a killer kid in it.  This one is by far the youngest too at like three years old or some shit.  The combination of the child being preposterously young and the obvious use of a stunt doll in some shots makes this infant murderer comical.  It was impossible for me to take that tiny bastard seriously.  In that regard it was amusing and sorta fun to watch, well up to a point.  More on that in a minute.  And on a side note what the hell’s up with the films I picked this year having adolescent slashers in them?  Such a peculiar trend to accidentally inflict upon myself.

What I Didn’t Like: The acting is not very good all around especially Midkiff who plays it too monotone.  Fred Gwynne (Fatal Attraction) is alright I guess but his exaggerated accent, which I can only assume is supposed to be a Maine one, is incredibly distracting.

Two scenes of “Nooooooooo!”  Once is really pushing it but two?  I’m calling foul.

Image result for pet semataryThere’s a bunch of superfluous shit in here like the laundry lady who hangs herself and is never mentioned again, the wife’s backstory involving a sick bed-ridden demon-possessed-looking sister who she hated, the ghost that tries to guide and help the family out at various points but ultimately doesn’t have any real impact on the story and etc.  Maybe this stuff had more meaning or worked better in the book but in the movie it’s thrown in without any thought of why it’s there.

Midkiff doesn’t learn his lesson that he shouldn’t reanimate dead creatures which is very frustrating.  Sure it’s a little funny because he’s such a stupid person but after all the horrific shit he goes through he still doesn’t see anything wrong with putting folks six feet under in that old supernatural Indian burial ground.

Overall Impressions: This was a mixed experience.  On one hand I enjoyed the general premise and how we ramp up from evil dead cat to evil dead person.  It’s a natural progression that you want to see and the filmmakers give it to you.  On the other hand the story becomes predictable which causes Midkiff to come off like kind of an idiot.  Of course whatever you lay to rest in the Indian cemetery, sorry, sematary is gonna come back all fucked up bent on murdering everything in its sight.

Image result for pet semataryAnd I can’t believe they actually went for the homicidal scalpel wielding toddler full on.  I mean his own father has to take him down making this even edgier.  The whole thing has a Child’s Play feel, particularly Child’s Play 2 when Chucky has that switchblade towards the end, with how relentless and vile the kid becomes.  I wonder if there was any influence but the timeline don’t quite add up so it’s unclear (Sematary book (1983), Child’s Play (1988), Sematary movie (1989), Child’s Play 2 (1990)).  The big notable difference however is one is a doll and one is a human child.

This is a tough recommendation.  It’s so well known that if you’re a horror fan you should get around to checking it out at some point.  If you’re not I don’t know if there’s enough here.  The odder things like the wife’s ghastly sister haunting her and the final twist at the end are completely unnecessary but at the same time kinda neat on their own merits.

Stephen King’s done worse and better.  This one is fairly typical of him in that there are good ideas but he has trouble fitting them all together.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Harefooted Halloween: 31

Image result for 31 richard brakeWhat I Liked: In spots this can be very pretty to look at like the big theater type hall where the 31 game is introduced and of course the gorgeous black and white intro scene.

Richard Brake (Hannibal Rising) gives a really good performance as the psychotic Doom-Head.  Unfortunately he’s not in the movie a whole lot and there isn’t much dimension to his character but his enthusiasm rubs off big time.

What I Didn’t Like: The dialogue is incredibly asinine.  It’s overloaded with bad dick jokes, unsubtle sexual come-ons and a large helping of pompousness.  Rob Zombie wrote this and has the actors deliver the lines like he thinks they’re so damn clever.  This is probably my number one complaint with the movie in general.

None of the protagonists are particularly likeable and the bulk of that has to do with the terrible dialogue I just mentioned.  It’s not that they’re bad people it’s that they’re annoying.  They think grinding on an old man gas station owner is a funny joke or that putting on a show centered around a guy in a gorilla mask is the greatest idea.  I don’t care about any of these people.

The shaky cam with quick cuts during the fight scenes is inexcusable today.  Thankfully that shitty trend went out a number of years ago so to see it pop up in 2016 is a head scratcher.  Maybe Zombie shot it this way to sneak in more carnage and still get an R rating.  Or maybe he genuinely thought it looked good.  Either way it stinks.

Image result for 31 rob zombieOverall Impressions: Essentially this is a Running Man rip off.  You have a group of people taking part in a game against their will that are let loose in a controlled environment and pursued by a “stalker”.  If they survive for a certain amount of time they win.  31 is nowhere near as good though.  The gore is amped up prominently and the stalker characters are ghouled up to push this into horror territory.  Oh and by the way 31 refers to Oct 31, you know, Halloween.  It’s when the movie takes place.

What’s most disappointing is Zombie was improving on his filmmaking skills and this feels like a step backwards.  31 goes in a more broad horror direction with generic shit like the filthy boiler room/factory setting, chainsaw wielding clowns, bland characters, etc (to be fair though the little person Latino Hitler stalker is certainly a memorable bizarre standout).  The premise is also much more basic than anything he’s done since the 2007 Halloween remake.  It’s just uninteresting and not the best made movie which is a shame considering Zombie’s shit has always been captivating for one reason or another.

Image result for 31 rob zombieThe film Zombie did before this, Lords of Salem, is his strongest visually.  And even though I didn’t care for the story all that much at least it was a different weirder tale about witchcraft.  The Devil’s Rejects remains his best piece though and a great horror picture in any regard.

31 isn’t a total wash however.  The intro that’s shot in stunningly crisp black and white and showcases Blake’s gripping performance is fucking tremendous.  It seems tacked on compared to the rest of the film and maybe it really was a short that Zombie decided to throw in there, but it’s my favorite part.  That scene is definitely worth checking out.

“I should apologize in advance for not sharpening this thing.  It might take a couple of extra whacks.”