Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Magnificent Obsession

Cost: One dollar late fee to the Oakland Public Library
Year: 1954
Run time: 108 minutes
Director: Douglas Sirk
Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Barbara Rush, Agnes Moorehead

A Love Letter to Jane Wyman's Hair (RIP)

Dear Jane Wyman's hair,

Ever since renting the underrated and demented Sirk-sterpiece MAG OB a couple months ago, phantasms of your shellac'd dome have haunted every waking second of my sad little shell of a life. If only I had the strength and derring-do of your daring 'do. So perverse, so severe, so unfailingly fetch. I often fantasize about my own personal Jane Wyman doll, scrubbing pots and pans up and down with her snuffleupagian garden of wooly filaments, wiping away all the dried cheese and pancake syrup like so many dust patches swooped away in a tropical breeze. At the end of this ceremony of cleanliness, I'd grow her back to normal size with my mind and lecture her on how marrying Ronald Reagan was a mistake, but how it will all be better now because there are so many dishes to clean and nothing else quite does the trick as well as she does, yes yes, everything is going to be okay, please don't cry Jane Wyman, please stop crying.

And then on September 10th, the crying did stop . . . FOREVER. Jane Wyman's hair had died, but my magnificent obsession with it was still only beginning. The Jane Wyman doll in my mind keeps telling me that everything will be okay, that the dishes can still get clean, and that the witches shall remain dead as long as we celebrate their passing every year with a big glitzy party that Rock Hudson can describe to you in minute detail while clutching your blind hand. "I could never have you pitied on account of me!" Will you be my beard? Your hair can be the SJP to my pots and pans Ferris. No? Well, I wasn't asking. I'm telling you that it must be so. Take me money! I didn't kill your husband! I was unconscious when it happened! I had no idea! No, don't get out of the car door! BOOM! and then you're blind, but it's okay because years ago, long before I settled into a life of degenerate, speed boat driving, scotch swilling playboy-hood, I had a humble simple dream: to be an eye surgeon. So you see it works out since you're blind and everything Jane Wyman, and I will help you to see, but like Steve Guttenberg, I won't tell her it's me, and you shouldn't either, lest you put her through more trauma then she already has. Just drop my voice a pitch and go on. Yes, Dr. Giggles has taught me well, I'll be ready for her eyes in no time. Just a little goofy gas and then fade. CAN YOU SEE CAN YOU SEE YOU CAN SEE! HUG. END. boom. tears, everywhere i look there are tears. can you see the tears, Jane Wyman? Can you understand the truth in which we live?

YOU CAN, well good, I was afraid.



(Editor James Olmos Note: originally written on September 14th 2007, left unpublished until now!).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fingers (1978)

Price: $3
Year: 1978
Length: 89 minutes
Writer/Director: James Toback
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Michael V. Gazzo, Tisa Farrow, Jim Brown, Danny Aiello, Tanya Roberts, Anthony Sirico, Dominic Chianese

The perfectly adequate new HBO series HUNG is all about protagonist Ray Drecker's other-worldly huge dong. It enchants all who lay eyes upon it and it dangles freely over every aspect of his life; most notably, his decision to use his wangasaurus sex to stack up paper in the recession by becoming a male prostitute. Yet, in a rare moment of pay cable restraint, his cock has yet to be unsheathed for the home audience. According to the producers, this was a conscious choice since revealing this magical penis would rob it of it's mystical superhuman qualities as no actual cock (real or prosthetic) could possibly be as groovy and gratifying as the cocks' we constantly build in the throbbing tower of our own mind's eye hole. Essentially his member is a kind of Cock Me Deadly/Pulp Fucktion suitcase type deal, we know he's packing something special in there, but special how? Long and thick? Veiny? Mushroom head or Gregorian monk? Enquiring minds demand to know.

Harvey Keitel, on the other hand, has rarely been so coy about whipping it out. With his fly-breaking work in modern classics such as Abel Ferrara's ode to ugliness BAD LIEUTENANT, Jane Champion's multi-Oscar winning THE PIANO and Theo Angelopoulos' artsy fartsy blow bartsy ULYSSES' GAZE, Keitel almost single handily brought full-frontal male nudity into the American mainstream. Since Harvey's early to mid 90s triumvirate of penis showing, male nudity has become increasingly prevalent in mainstream movies from the collected works of Ewang McGregor to the comedy penises of Jason Segel in FORGETTING SARA MARSHALL and the fat dude sporting a GG Allin Denny's Sausage in OBSERVE AND REPORT.

However, being the Rosa Parks of cock-revealing can have its limitations and nowhere is this more apparent than in his lead performance as Jimmy Fingers in James Toback's ode to his own penis FINGERS. You see Jimmy Fingers is a passionate thoughtful conflicted young schizophrenic who is torn between the violent underworld of his life as a mobster's son and his desire to play piano at Carnegie Hall like his crazy old mom. Hanging over this parental schism is the fact that Jimmy Fingers is constantly horny as hell because he has a prostate problem where every time he ejaculates it hurts like fuck. He finally gets his ass checked out by a proctologist who helps to cure him of his constipation issues and also maybe to allude to his latent homosexuality. But this relief is only temporary as he is emasculated later on by having Jim Brown make out with the girl he crushing on. Harvey Keitel's penis just can't catch a break, except for the really weird scene where he has 30 seconds of heaven with Tanya Roberts in a women's room for one of the most repulsive and indulgent sex scenes I've seen in a while. For the most part, he's ruled by his disagreeable cock and it makes his life a living hell, yet even though Jimmy Finger's penis is the catalyst to pretty much all his actions in one way or another, we thankfully never get to see it ourselves, even though I was expecting Harvey to pull a himself at any given moment and show us the goods. Here's him getting a finger (note the title motif!) shoved up his ass.

He also walks around at all times of day with a tape player playing insanely irritating doo wop like some kinda Proto-Radio Raheem. He is particularly fond of playing the song SUMMERTIME SUMMERTIME by the Jamies over and over. It sounds like this . . .

Needless to say, throughout the movie this song irritates all within ear shot, including the audience, as it is the most irritating song of the era. Please don't complain to Jimmy Fingers about it though cause he will threaten to cut your lips off, you cocksucker (again with the latent homosexuality and the penises).

This is James Toback's directoral debut and pretty much all the themes and ideas contained within here are recurrent motifs throughout his 30 year career. By all accounts, James Toback is a self-centered blowhard who makes movies about himself and the things he's obsessed with over and over again. A main character who is driven by sex and can convince gorgeous women to sleep with him at the drop of a hat? Sure, try FINGERS, LOVE AND MONEY, THE PICK UP ARTIST, TWO GIRLS AND A GUY or HARVARD MAN. A fascination with the sexual prowess of huge black sports stars? Try FINGERS, BLACK AND WHITE, or TYSON. Main characters who get mixed up with the criminal element? Try FINGERS, EXPOSED, THE PICK UP ARTIST, BLACK AND WHITE, or HARVARD MAN. A main character who loses touch with reality? FINGERS and HARVARD MAN are the ticket. You get the idea. Lots of directors are guilty of re-making the same film their whole careers (Wes Anderson comes to mind as a recent example). Few have done it with the same relentless drive as Toback has over his eight narrative films and two documentaries, which would be fine or even admirable if Toback were actually, you know, talented (hint: he's not).

When it was first released, FINGERS was heralded as one of the most promising debut features of the 70s. And, despite my numerous reservations about it, it's not hard to see why. Removed from the repetitive grind of Toback's subsequent garbage duty (which also made many of his early adopters abandon ship with the quickness), FINGERS is a pretty impressive debut feature. Harvey Keitel gives one of his best performances as the tortured and conflicted Jimmy Fingers. As written, Jimmy is tickier than Waburton in blue with his continual air piano, tape decking, and repressed penis rage, but Keitel walks a fine line by embracing these quirks but just barely holding them back from the precipice of self-parody. Except when he's supposed to be playing the piano, then it is fucking horrible. Case in point (cut to 3:10 for his wacky piano antics).

He's supported by a murderer's row of mob movie supporting actors including Michael V. Gazzo (who got a supporting actor nod for the Godfather Part II), Danny "The Pickle" Aiello, Lenny "Luca Brasi" Montana, and Dominic Chianese and Anthony Sirico, who would gain fame 20 years later on THE SOPRANOS as Uncle Jun and Paulie Walnuts respectively. The film also features the earthy, gritty photography of Michael Chapman, an underappreciated DP who shot THE LAST DETAIL, TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, and THE LOST BOYS in the 70s and 80s before being relegated to studio hackdom in the 90s and 00s. Oh well, somebody had to shoot SPACE JAM. Actually, no, they didn't.

The whole film is wildly disjointed and erratic in its pacing and in its connection to reality, which those who praise it often attribute to the filmmaker's attempts to have the film mirror the character's mental decline. FINGERS does ok in this regard, but it's still pretty amateurish. It's not as brilliantly evolved as something like THE BUTCHER BOY, which actually made me feel like I was slowly going insane myself, nor is it as assured and disturbing as the aforementioned OBSERVE AND REPORT's handling of bi-polar disorder. That his films that don't deal with schizo main characters often share the same disjointed and clumsy vibe is more of a testament to Toback's generalized shittiness as a writer-director than anything else.

Now, let's try to go full circle, shall we? (No Michael Palin) The problem with HUNG is that you can't make a show about a dude with a huge penis and not show the audience said penis (especially while showing us the boobs of just about every single female character on the show) without it seeming like some kind of cheat. I'm not alone in this as a decent amount of the discourse online about HUNG has tied into this very problem with the show. The same principle applies to making a movie starring Harvey Kietel that is essentially about his character's dick and not showing us said dick as well. However, in this case, this problem wouldn't be a problem to audiences watching the movie back in 1978 because, at that point in his career, Keitel had yet to realize his potential as Hollywood's great bearer of cocks. It's only in retrospect that it seems particularly strange and yes, like some kind of cheat, that we don't see lil' Harv because of his subsequent reputation for and association with bearing his penis constantly in movies when nobody in their right mind would want him to. This very same retrospective expectation taints the movie FINGERS itself because, as previously stated, almost all of the themes and ideas in this pretty good film have been flogged over and over again by Toback throughout the subsequent 30 years of his career to diminishing returns in increasingly horrible bloated self-mythologizing crap like THE PICK UP ARTIST, TWO GIRLS AND A GUY, BLACK AND WHITE, and HARVARD MAN. My own experience of the movie FINGERS was undoubtedly kinda ruined by my having seen those four shitfests before watching FINGERS. Thus, Toback's refusal to stop making movies about the same shit for the love of god is the primary threat to FINGERS' legacy as a pretty interesting and exciting debut film from 1978. It's kinda like that scene in the movie HANNIBAL where Ray Liotta eats his own brain. You can bite off a little bit of your brain to keep going and provide your body with the nourishment it needs to survive being interred by a manic Anthony Hopkins. But if you eat too much of your own brain, you will die because you need your brain to live and your brain is what also enables you to eat in the first place so if you eat the part of your brain that tells your mouth to chew, you can't chew anymore and then you can't eat and you die. Toback's been eating his own brain (the brain apparently on full display in FINGERS) his whole career; taking bits and pieces from it and throwing them repeatedly against the wall in all his other movies, leaving nothing else on the withered husk of the film FINGERS but a thirty year legacy of repetition and self-indulgence. If he'd only had the good sense to either retire or quit after making FINGERS, he could float around like a Leonard Kastle or even Charles Laughton (as director) showing his great debut film and having people think about what if because, in this case, the what ifs that we can imagine after seeing FINGERS are invariably much better than any of the actual movies he's made in the interim. So basically, just like Michael Jackson was in the last few years of his life, Toback has been the biggest threat to the legacy of the material he made when he was still good (i.e. FINGAZ). Fortunately, Michael Jackson had the good sense to die at a time where it was still possible for us to pretend to forget about all the weird awful antics that marred his last 20 years of life and made it possible for us to all enjoy his fucking awesome shit once again free of the looming specter of his weird noseless face and pederast tendencies. Toback's release of a documentary about Mike Tyson this year creatively titled TYSON seems to be a move in the right direction for him as well. It's his most critically acclaimed movie since FINGERS (well, in fact, it's his only critically acclaimed movie since FINGERS) so there may be hope for him yet. My advice is just to avoid any and everything the man produced in between. (ok, except also for his Oscar nominated screenplay work for the perfectly acceptable Barry Levinson movie BUGSY, but once again, there he was eating someone else's brain and not his own).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rambo III (1988)

Price: $1.50
Year: 1988
Length: 103 minutes
Director: Peter MacDonald (replacing Russell Mulcahy)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Kurtwood Smith, Mark De Jonge

"It's a blue light"
"What does it do?"
"Turn blue"

Whenever I have blanked on something to blog about in this very space I turn to the films of Sylvester Stallone for inspiration. My very first post here was on his glorious buddy work with Kurt Russell in TANGO AND CASH, which I quickly followed up with a rambling discourse on the quite underrated JUDGE DREDD. Then, when I felt the need to revive this thing after 6 months of inactivity, I went with his semi serious duet of death with Rutger Hauer in NIGHTHAWKS. So it is not without some precedent that today when I was thinking "oh gee, I should write another entry in that damn thing already," I came to the conclusion that once again I'd need to turn to Mr. Stallone to force me to type entirely too many words into one space about one of his movies.

Hyperlinking and plodding essay exposition aside, RAMBO III will also, strangely, be the first Sylvester film I will have discussed here that features the dueling strengths of Stallone's acting and his screenwriting (but sadly not his directing). Stallone's career as a screenwriter is frequently overlooked or unfairly dismissed in most assessments of his career, yet it's a key factor in the success of many of his best films. His demented, excessively violent take on a book that would later be turned into a fucking Cindy Crawford + Baldwin Bro vehicle singularly made COBRA one of the greatest action films of the 1980's. Most prominently, he has been the only credited screenwriter on every single ROCKY film (6 total), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for writing his breakthrough role in the first ROCKY, for which he also received an acting nod, for which he did not win either, for which I am sad. 4 Witch(es) want to buy me flowers so I will now go ahead with this post now.

Anyway, I think most of Stallone's best movies have been those that he has had a hand in writing, then again he has screenwriting credits on a full half (18 of 36 by my count) of his post ROCKY films so the odds are somewhat stacked in his favor here to begin with. Still, I don't think it is coincidental that his prolonged 1990's flameout at the American box office came on just after he stopped taking a hand in his own scripts post-CLIFFHANGER (his last American box office hit until SPY KIDS 3-D in 2003 and his last script until 2001's uber-dud DRIVEN, which I'm just gonna blame on Renny Harlin sight unseen and I'm a Renny Harlin apologist, but that's another entry and this parentheses needs to end sometime how about no).

While Stallone took over the directorial reigns to the ROCKY franchise as soon as he could get the studio approval and wrote every one of those movies alone, he never seemed to take the same pride in his other signature series: the RAMBO films. Sure, he's a credited screenwriter on every single one of 'em, but up until 2008's reboot RAMBO, he was always a co-credited writer. For FIRST BLOOD, it was Stallone rewriting the script of a TV writer and an old B-movie hack, both of whom would never get another screenplay produced. On the contradictorily titled RAMBO:FIRST BLOOD PART II, Stallone re-wrote a script by James Cameron to fit his own political views with mixed success. Finally with RAMBO III, he worked alongside a good old reliable hack JCVD writer-director named Sheldon Lettich. Clearly, Stallone makes his vision shine through these other writer's words and ideas, but I don't think he really truly achieved greatness with this series until he took over the screenwriting and directorial reigns himself for RAMBO in 2008, a film that stands diarrhea and Drano above all the other RAMBO movies. Much like a French cigarette, Stallone is always at his best when he is unfiltered and the early RAMBO movies suffer for it.

Before I get into what doesn't quite work about RAMBO III, a film I have tried desperately to love but leaves me cold every time like 15 year old me with a Frank Zappa album, I'm going to list a few of the things that RAMBO III gets wonderfully funderfully co-rrect(ida). First off, unlike RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART II, there is no attempt to shoehorn in any half-assed love interests for Mr. John Rambo this time. It is here that Stallone recognizes for the first time the true homoerotic potential of this franchise by removing almost all females from the picture (the only women in the whole film are a few young Afghani girls who Rambo saves in one scene) and by ramping up his own roided up shirtlessness to its absolute zenith. Never before had Stallone been so shirtless so often, not even in any of the ROCKY films where it even makes sense for him to be shirtless half the time since it's about fucking boxing, and he would never reveal himself so often again either. So if you want to see a lot of Stallone's cocaine and HGH filled chest covered in blood, sweat, and tears look no further than RAMBO III. Stallone also employs his famous exploding Rambo arrows to great effect in this movie. Whenever I was just about ready to nod off like Layne Staley in a public restroom, Stallone would explode someone with an arrow and my interest level would rise just enough to keep me a goin'. Finally, some special mention must be made of the fantastical kill towards the middle end of the movie where Stallone throws a guy with a rope around his neck down a hole with a bomb attached to him that explodes just after his neck is broken by the freshly taut rope. Sadly, this type of imaginative and entertaining death is sadly in short supply in this film. A remarkable decade of killing pulls to a limp end in this film.

At the end of the day though, there's a great YouTube video hidden somewhere in this movie, but it is just surrounded by too much dull exposition and hilariously misguided political intentions that somehow never wind up being hilarious themselves. This film is about how John Rambo puts everything on the line to help the Taliban in Afghanistan fight against those dastardly Russians who have invaded their land and killed their women and so on and so forth. We got A LOT of exposition involving Stallone spending time with the Taliban, learning from and adapting to their sometimes strange but always proud customs, such as playing a version of polo with a dead animal for a ball. Rambo beats them at their dead animal game the first time he plays it cause he's cooler than Clarence Rosario on a napkin and because Americans are naturally more gifted at all sports than foreigners, especially when they are Sylvester Stallone. We also get to spend some good mellow times with the kind hearted Taliban leader who is almost Omar Sharif just as the heroin dealer guy in MITCHELL is almost Anthony Quinn. As Jerry Goldsmith's self cannibalizing string and horn sections ebb and flow all around us, Stallone gives us a well-meaning master class in sympathizing with these Taliban guys and their pretty lousy seeming plight. History has been unkind to this film as the real tragedy these days is that Rambo puts his ass on the line to save a bunch of fuckers who then return the favor 13 years later by blowing up the beloved and historically significant set pieces from KING KONG 1976. But it was a different time then and wacko conservatives like Sylvester Stallone and the Golan-Globus axis were too busy demonizing those evil Russians at all costs so that if they made some other guys look a little too beatific in the process it was worth it to make a point about how evil those damn Russians were.

This extended and drawn out exposition is clearly some kind of convoluted way for Stallone to try to justify all the excessive violence in this film to those who criticized his reliance on blood, sinew, and powder kegs in the past. You see it's okay to kill people if they are really, really bad and if they are hurting people who are just tryin' ta live like Devin the Dude and not bug anyone else. Of fucking course, he befriends a child during this extended sequence. I assumed that the child would die in some horrific way in the movie, but I wasn't really paying too close attention at that point. I certainly hope the child dies, why else would you need to include one in a film like this? Essentially, Stallone in a war environment just makes too much sense. His overwrought, hyper-violent tendencies work best when placed in environments where it makes no sense like the wide world of arm wrestling truck drivers in OVER THE TOP, a city of serial killing satanic bikers in COBRA, or a boxing match against a 7 foot tall Russian that ends the Cold War in ROCKY IV. Logic is never Stallone's best friend, and he spends entirely too much time in RAMBO III trying to make sense, which is something he should never try to do.

At the time of this film's production, it was the most expensive movie ever, unadjusted for inflation, at a total budget of $63 million. Nowadays, a Sandra Bullock rom-com costs that much, but that a film of this extreme political content and violence once reached that hallowed threshold (now occupied by DELGO 2: Avatarded and Loving It) says more about the weird and woolly 1980's than anything I could ever say in this here spot. So I'm just gonna wrap up with the phrase "WHO ARE YOU? YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE" that Stallone tried to make his own "I'll be back" or "Yippie Kay Ay," I bet those Planet Hollywood meetings always got awkward when Sly would try to shoehorn it into some corner of conversation where it didn't quite fit and Bruce and Arnie would smirk to themselves and indulge him amicably, content in the knowledge that they truly achieved catchphrase ubiquity, the sole honor that this world has yet to grant upon Mr. Stallone. Whatever, sometimes a blue light is just a fucking blue light.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

One Tough Bastard (aka One Man's Justice)

Price: $2
Year: 1996
Length: 100 minutes
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Brian Bosworth, Bruce Payne, Hammer, Jeff Kober, Neal McDonough, M.C. Gainey

I can't decide how to start this so here's a few different opening paragraphs on the movie ONE TOUGH BASTARD (aka the inferior DVD title ONE MAN'S JUSTICE).

1. About Those Eagle Cries

The comedic potential of Eagle cry soundbites has been dutifully harnessed by Stephen Colbert's opening credits over the past few years. However, they were hilarious long before that dirty pinko took a shine to them. In 1996, while Mr. Colbert was still slogging away on the Dana Carvey Show, a movie called ONE TOUGH BASTARD really tried to make the eagle cry motif happen in the most sincere and poignant way. The opening shot of the movie is a sun rise, then after a couple seconds, an eagle cry is heard. I laughed. Then the eagle cries kept coming as the Boz has a heart2heart with his moppety little girl. I kept laughing. Always the same public domain casio keyboard eagle cry. Always the same gut reaction, laughter. By the time the movie ended, I counted somewhere between 12 and 56 eagle cries on the soundtrack. Not since Eagle Eye Cherry first escaped from Don Cherry's nutsack in the 1970s have eagle cries achieved such cultural prominence. And they wouldn't again until Eagle Eye Cherry's timeless anthem of true love conquering all SAVE TONIGHT would top the charts one full year after this movie came and went unloved and unremembered . . . until now!

2. On "And Hammer"

Traditionally, when a film features a well established or well regarded actor in a smaller role, you can expect their name to be set off at the end of the credits by either a "with" or an "and." Sometimes, particularly loaded casts will employ both the "with" and the "and" to set aside different levels of respect for those actors, with the "with" actor(s) coming before the "and" actor(s), thus creating a hierarchy of featured-ness. Often times, the character that the actor plays will be included as well, as if it means something special to us that the movie features "Wilford Brimley as Cooter" as opposed to just plain old Wilford Brimley. It's known as "last billing" in the industry. The movie ONE TOUGH BASTARD gives this spot for Hammer, leading to the rather amusing credit "and Hammer" in the opening credits. At first, I rewinded to see if I had missed a preceding credit for Arm. No such luck as apparently the producers of this film were impervious to the product placing payola of the baking soda brigade. After thinking for another moment, I remembered that MC Hammer dropped the MC when he came out with his epochal statment on life and love, "Too Legit to Quit." It was meant as a statement of ascension on his part as he, with that album, transcended the limitations of merely being an MC and became something more like a life coach in whose lessons one could get lost for hours and hours. So I surmised that this movie featured Mr. Hammer in a supporting or featured role (he's a drug kingpin). And this got me excited. However, if I had known what treasures lay ahead of me, I would have even been more excited. Here's why I was so excited . . .

3. The Greil Marcusy Wanky Americana approach

Action movies are a lot like Blues music. They both involve playing around and incorporating established riffs and motifs and formulas in ways that are at once familiar and hopefully, if you're doing it right, unique. After all, just as there are your shouty growly blues singers like Buddy Guy, there are also blues singers who neither shout or growl like people who aren't Buddy Guy. They may play the same riffs, but do they play them with the same feeling? I don't know, I don't really listen to the blues, which is why I have very little to support this theory with. But I do watch a lot of action movies and I know that Stevie Ray Vaughn sort of played blues guitar (electric blues, ugh) and that for some reason, in the movie HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN, Mickey Rourke as HARLEY DAVIDSON wears a leather jacket with the initials SRV and the roman numerals MCMLVI-XC, which are supposed to stand for Stevie Ray Vaughn's birth and death dates even though he was actually born in MCMLIV as opposed to MCMLVI, but whatever it's still not as bad as Crooked I's SLAUGTER tattoo, or John Mayer's SRV tattoo for that matter. So basically, Mickey Rourke's jacket in that movie connects everything together well enough that I can stop trying to flog this still born metaphor with something resembling "facts." Maybe action movies are more like jazz music. But not like good interesting jazz music, but boring sucky Wynton Marsalis jazz music that just recycles the same shit Louis Armstrong was doing 50 years ago, but adds a sheeny patina of Kenny G production quirks to blend in with the WAVVVE 94.7 of today. In this sense, ONE TOUGH BASTARD is a great American work of art that takes the established tropes and stereotypes of the 1980's action movie, but puts just enough gonzo retardo flair into it to maintain a sense of lolercaustian discovery while maintaining a hard line of instantly recognizable characters and situations that are comforting to the discerning action fan. It's exactly like almost every other action movie made around the same time, but it is goofier and more outlandish in a good way or something. I got bored with this whole wanky approach before I could even get out of the first overlong paragraph. YIKES stripes froot strype gumm.

4. The most important question ever

When I watch a movie for the first time, I always find myself asking the same questions as I watch it. Do I like this? Do I need to pee now? How about now? And now? Am I thirsty? Are there boobs in this film? How about now? And now? What time is it? But beyond these simple questions, there lies a more important question, heck, it may be the most important question: Does this movie feature a character getting kicked in the balls so hard that he immediately starts vomiting? Well, let's just say that by this rubric ONE TOUGH BASTARD is one of the greatest films of all time. A man does get kicked in the balls hard and you better bet that milky spoogey vomit immediately spews forth from his mouth. For most of you, this is all you will need to know about this film to make up your mind as to whether this is a must see or a most avoid, however, for the few of you who need more info, I can blather on some more below.

5. On Fakes

The day before I decided to watch this movie, I got into an argument with one of my three friends about the movie DEEP RISING. He was all like oh yeah doesn't that have Fake Nick Nolte in it? I had to think for a minute and then I remembered that yes it does have Fake Nick Nolte in it as the evil guy who owns the boat and who wants everyone to die for some reason. You've probably seen Fake Nick Nolte in a bunch of movies as well. He's in Silence of the Lambs, X-Men: The Last Stand, Red Dragon, 8MM, and a whooping 3 unconnected Grisham adaptations: A Time to Kill, The Client, and the Pelican Brief. His name is Anthony Heald and he looks a lot like Nick Nolte. This movie features one of my other favorite fake actors, Fake Stacy Keach with a Mustache. It is important not to confuse him with Fake Powers Boothe or even Powers Boothe himself who was once known as Fake Stacy Keach with a Mustache before he ascended to name awareness levels in his own right. However, I was sad that FSKWAM dies after about 5 seconds on screen in the opening scene of this film. His name is M.C. Rainey and he looks a little bit like Stacy Keach, but with a mustache.

6. The Everybody's Gotta Start Somewhere Approach

When I was at Big Lots the other day, I found myself in a bit of a predicament. They had two Brian Bosworth movies in the $3 DVD bin. I could not in good conscience buy both of them, so I had to compare and contrast. In one hand, I held MACH 2, which is an action movie from 2001 involving planes and also features a rare non-Worf turn from Michael Dorn. In my other hand, I held ONE MAN'S JUSTICE, which is an action movie from 1996 (better vintage) involving revenge featuring a rare attempt at acting by Hammer. Dorn vs. Hammer is a draw, leaning towards Dorn since I am super gay for TNG and am sick of Hammer's public goody 2 "those magic shoes" image at this point. The years obviously favor 1996. No clear winner emerged after this first round. So I perused the rest of the crew information and came upon an intriguing director head to head. Mach 2 was helmed by the familiarly named Fred Olen Ray, who I think assassinated someone but whose specific other works eluded me (according to the imdb, he has directed over 100 movies none of which have a better user rating than 4.28, which went to something called Bikini Chain Gang). ONE MAN'S JUSTICE, however, was helmed by Kurt Wimmer, who I immediately recognized as the writer-director of such over stylized action crap as ULTRAVIOLET, where Milla Jovovich kills vampires instead of zombies, and EQUILIBRIUM, where Christian Bale does silly things with guns that people think are cool. He also wrote such classics as the crappy Crichton adaptation SPHERE and the lousy THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR remake. Despite the fact that I basically like none of his movies, the Wimmer factor tipped ONE MAN'S JUSTICE over the edge for me. I always love seeing where people come from, especially when it's straight to VHS garbage like this Bosworth flick here. Also, it seemed like his aesthetic might mesh well with Bosworth crap and oh boy was I right.

7. Name Confusion

The copy of this film I purchased is called ONE MAN'S JUSTICE, which is a lousy lousy title for a movie. It sounds weak and unclear. He has a gun in front of a flag, but why? The title ain't selling me shit. However, it was originally called ONE TOUGH BASTARD, which is a great title. It is completely inaccurate since The Boz is a total noncy poof in this movie, but it still sells me the ass kicking that OMJ does not. Whoever changed this title is a moron. A cowardly dum dum straight up shook one.

8. The I'm Tired of this writing a bunch of intros nonsense approach

I'm getting really bored of this whole thing here so I'm going to stop and just ramble out my last 3 opening into one mushy pad of butter inside a hot loaf of bread melting along down the sides and dripping onto your plate. It goes to show how stupid and pointless this whole exercise has been that I managed to make it 7 whole intros before I even mentioned the one reason that truly sets this film apart from the pack and makes it worthy of being sought out at your local Big Lots and purchased for 2 whole dollars and that is one Mr. Bruce Payne. If you know Bruce Payne at all, it is most likely for his sublime Fake Alan Rickman turn in one of my favorite films, PASSENGER 57. In that film, which I have someone seen upwards of 10 times over the past few years, he is an evil terrorist who steals a plane and he is very good at being evil and hilarious in that film. He is also maybe known to some of you pathetic nerds out there as the villain in the DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS movie, which I never saw. His name also MAJORLY reminds me of a certain Damon Wayans film. Either way, he is fucking completely brilliant in this movie right here. He plays an evil CIA agent with a nose ring, long flowing Nelson brothers poster on DJ Tanner's wall style hair, a penchant for constant cocaine snorting, and the ability to say things like "You're gonna be in my Dog and Pony show until the Pony dies, Pony!" as if they actually make sense and are menacing. He goes by the Deep Space Nine-ish name Savak. It's one of the best hammy villain performances I've seen since Lance Henriksen's work in the Boz's other meisterwerk, STONE COLD. I don't know why the Boz brings out such great overacting in his co-workers, but I would like to thank him for it.

Also, this movie features a child drug dealer. Now, plenty of other movies have dealt with child drug kingpins. It is a notable element of ROBOCOP 2. The kid in that is pretty evil looking and evil acting though. He kills people with guns and shit. When he gets killed, you're all like good riddance kids these days he had it coming! In this movie, there is a child drug dealer. He is chubby and cute and not menacing at all and like 8 years old. He's like one of Rudy's friends on The Cosby Show, which means he is like Alicia Keys (look it up, fucker!). In ROBOCOP 2, I think there was supposed to be a satirical element to the kid drug dealer. It was misguided like much of ROBOCOP 2, but I think they were going for laughs in a way with it. In ONE TOUGH BASTID, I think the kid drug dealer is supposed to be an actual thing we are supposed to take seriously. By way of character development, we see his 8 year old friend get gunned down by a goofy white kid who resembles Carrot Top, who comes up to him asks "what's your shoe size?" and then blasts him in the face before he can respond. First of all, the common urban legend was the gang banger asks you where you're from and then they shoot you depending on what you say. It supposedly happens. I've read about it in the paper. Shoe sizes though. Why should you die over shoe sizes? It doesn't make sense, but white guys who look like Widespread Panic fans shooting up 8 year old black kids in the hood also makes no sense. So anyway, the main drug dealer guy gives this 8 year old kid a key of heroin to deliver along with a gun. It is implied that this is the first time they have worked together as well. You don't give a key of pure to somebody you just started working with and especially not a child. It makes no damn sense, but in a good way. It's an enjoyable nonsense. A critical madness if you will. You Won't. This is all I could find on YOUTUBE.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

Price: $2.50 (Part of a 3-pack of DW2,3, and 4 I bought for $7.50 at Wal-Mart)
Year: 1987
Length: 99 minutes
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Starring: Charles Bronson, John P. Ryan, Kay Lenz, Soon Tek-Oh, Danny Trejo, Tuvok

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown opens with a sequence that is at once entirely familiar and typical of the franchise and also announces, in its own weird way, that this ain't your daddy's Death Wish. It starts in the location that is perhaps the most iconic trope of histrionic urban dread: the abandoned parking garage. Placed into this spooky cauldron is a blond professional woman in her 30s, who as a woman alone in a Death Wish film, seems to preternaturally sense her own imminent rape attempt even before any spooky clues start popping up. She walks quickly and suspiciously to her car, breathing a heavy sigh of relief once inside its "safe" confines. However, she turns the key and the car won't start, OF FUCKING COURSE! Before she can even begin to lament the fact that there are no other cars around to give her a jump or call AAA or whatever, she notices a dude standing across the lot from her with a panty on his head. So she tries the key again. No response. When she looks again, there is a second dude with a panty on his head. Tries the key again. Now a third dude with a panty on his head. Still the same distance. Tries the key again. Looks up and poosh they've all gone, but panic has set in now and she keeps trying that damn key but still nothing but grinding. Then whippow, the windows of her car are all smashed in and the panty faces are a grabbing and a groping and we all know how this is going to end, with her being raped and we'll learn that it was like Chucky Bronson's second cousin and there will be revenge and hundreds of bodies will pile up. But wait, in the corner of the lot, a shadowy figure emerges with a gun, he resembles an architect, an architect of MAYHEM. Why, it's good old Paul Kersey as played memorably by Charles Bronson in the previous three Death Wish movies. He promptly kills all the panty head dudes BEFORE they can rape the anonymous 80's woman who plays absolutely no other role in the rest of the movie. And that's it, no more rape or attempted rape for the rest of the movie. That's the big twist I was talking about. It may not seem like that big of a twist. I mean, there was still an attempted rape, and it was still the very first images of the movie; heck, they even rip her shirt off for some uncomfortable nudity right off the top as well. Plus, they beat the living shit out of her before Kersey shows up, so the violence against women quotient can be reached as well. But if you've seen any of the previous 3 movies, you know that this series is known for exactly 2 things: long drawn out graphic rape scenes and the completely over the top vengeance they inspire in one man killing machine, Paul Kersey. By eliminating the protracted rape sequence aspect of these films, we are given a gift by the filmmakers to enjoy this schlocky revenge fest for the stupid pleasure it can provide without having to be bummed out by all the rape that somehow is supposed to justify all the gratuitous killings. Oh here's, the opening scene on youtube anyway.

Now that the "rape" is out of the way, what can it be that will inspire Kersey's heart strings to launch into a concerto of explosions and bullets, why those goddamn drugs these kids are doing these days, of course. Before continuing, it is worth noting that this is the first Death Wish movie that wasn't directed by Michael "named on opposite day" Winner; although it still shares the same Golan-Globus Cannon Films mark of quality that defined the previous 2 sequels. Instead, old smelly warhorse J. Lee Thompson was brought in to whore it up for the Cannon suits as he had been doing for much of the decade. While Thompson was directing classics like GUNS OF NAVARONE (for which he was nominated for a fucking Oscar) and CAPE FEAR in the 60's, he was pretty much limited to directing over violent quasi fascist Charles Bronson films from the mid 70's onward. Death Wish 4 was the 7th of 9 movies that he would direct Charles Bronson in from 1976 to 1989 (they are in order: St. IVES, THE WHITE BUFFALO, CABOBLANCO, 10 to MIDNIGHT, The EVIL THAT MEN DO, MURPHY'S LAW, DEATH WISH 4, MESSENGER OF DEATH, and KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS). It should be noted that Charles Bronson is depicted holding a gun on the poster for every single one of these colorfully named films, except for St. IVES, where a woman behind him is holding a gun over his shoulder, which is close enough since he could grab the gun at any moment and basically be ready to kill. Of these films, the only other ones I've seen are MURPHY'S LAW, which notable mostly for its catchphrase: "The only law I know is Jack Murphy's law. It's very simple. Don't FUCK with Jack Murphy" and the fact that it presents the rare female serial killer antagonist, which is progressive in a profoundly regressive way I suppose; and 10 TO MIDNIGHT, which is defined by having a sex criminal murderer who murders women while he is completely nude, which I don't think any other movie has ever done because it is a fucking terrible idea. So yeah, they musta been fucking buddies (not fuck buddies . . . I think) or something since they worked together so much, but this is the only DEATH WISH movie they made together and, since these films form the bulk of Charles Bronson's claim to 80s filmic immortality, this pairing is very, very special in a way, but also not special at all since they made 8 other movies together that might as well have been DEATH WISH movies for all the killing and the violence and the ladies and the frauleayven chillllld.

So the basic plot of this movie after the completely unconnected opening scene that honestly could have been tacked on at the last moment by the fuming coke splattered face of Menachem Golan himself, "What do you mean there's no rape?? How will they know it's a DEATH WISH movie? Throw in some ALMOST rape so no one's disappointed! After all, they come for the rape and they stay for the violence!" ANYWAY, after that scene, we meet homicidal sociopath Paul Kersey at his new job at an architectural firm in Los Angeles (another change from the first 3, which all take place in NYC). He's just sitting around flipping through papers and pretending to do work when a young girl approaches him with a bunch of papers. He is warm towards her, but asks if she's okay because she's all sniffles mcnosealot in front of him and she's chirpily like YEAH I'M SUPER all Harrison Ford in Frantic like. It seems pretty obvious this girl is going to die now because this guy is like the Midas Bro of Doom in that whomever he loves dies. It turns out she's his way younger girlfriend's daughter. In the next scene, we learn where her sniffing comes from as she goes off with her boyfriend to the old video arcade to buy some cocaine after arousing Kersey's suspicion by blowing a J with her BF in the driveway. "I worry about her" he says, "I love her like my own daughter." Now we really know she's going to die since everyone Paul Kersey ever grows attached to dies in a wildly violent fashion. However, once again, our expectations are tweaked by the prevalence of drugs over rape in the plot. As it turns out when she's at the arcade buying some yayo from Tuvok with her BF, another dealer dude pulls her aside and is like "I GOT A SPECIAL PRESENT JUST FOR YOU, IT's THAT GOOD SHIT, Don't share it with your boyfriend it's ALL FOR YOU!" So yeah, the scene ends and we are immediately rushed towards her being an overdose victim at the morgue. Guess she listened to her dealer and didn't share! Serves her right for being shellfish. Paul cries, his much younger girlfriend cries, and the vengeance plot is seemingly given permission to take off in the filmmaker's eyes. To drive the point home, we are given a tour of the rest of the dead bodies in the morgue, all children, all drug related! OR R DEY? You see, the coroner points to one kid who's like 15 and has a hole in his head, and is like "he was shot after robbing a convenience store to get money to buy drugs" and for another body, a 13 year old girl, "she was a prostitute to get money to buy drugs and her throat was slashed by one of the clients."

Now here's where the turgid and entertainingly retarded morality of the film needs to be questioned. First of all, how can you hold drug dealers responsible for these convoluted cause and effect style deaths. How do they know the kid was robbing the store to get drug money? Shouldn't the guy who shot the 15 year old in the head be responsible for the kid's death, since he you know directly killed the fucking kid. Also, ditto for the girl whose throat was cut. The dude who slashed her throat killed her. Not drugs. It makes no fucking sense why he would jump to the conclusion that the drug dealers are the ones who need to die in the case of these deaths. I guess they made these kids have violent deaths since the correct and more universally accepted point of view on overdose deaths is to blame the person who did the drugs of their own volition for their own deaths. The fact that the plot clearly points out that this girl did all the drugs by herself without her BF makes her culpability in her own death almost absolute to any non-Paul Kersey person. Hell, she even kept it all for herself. Maybe if she'd be more generous and less selfish and shared her super special secret stash, she wouldn't have died in the first place.

This is where I begin to think that this movie may have more up it's sleeve than at first meets the eye (for an eye we in this together son your beef is mines). I honestly think that it could all be a satire of how fucking stupid the war on drugs actually is. First of all, it makes no bones about depicting Paul Kersey as a total fucking psycho. He kills people left and right who maybe have some small connection to the drug trade, but certainly don't necessarily deserve to die for it. For example, later in the film, he raids a fish processing plant that is actually a front for a huge cocaine smuggling and processing factory in the back. It's a huge factory full of working class people. Many of these people don't even work in the back and possibly don't know anything about what goes on back there. But once Kersey gets in there, it's all guns a blazing shoot em all and let Allah sort out the rest. Once he has started out on his killing spree there, the PA loudly announces repeatedly "$1,000 to the man who takes down the killer" and these poor desperate working class people start throwing themselves at him left and right, even though he handily kills them all, just in the sad desperate hope that they might be able to take him out and get $1,000 to like pay for diapers and operations for their sick kids and shit. I mean, I'm not gonna try to take out a murdering machine for $1,000. I don't know anyone who would jump at a man holding a fucking crazy ass machine gun just for the chance to get 1,000 measly dollars as a reward. It just goes to show that these were just people getting by the only way they know how as underpaid lower level cogs in the drug machinery. They were just as exploited and abused by the drug kingpins who truly profited as the so-called victims of drug use. His attack on those workers makes EXACTLY as much sense as it would to blow up the Jack Daniels factory because your daddy drank himself to death. Yet if anyone did that, it would be viewed as a national tragedy, not a cause for celebration.

Which brings me to another (briefish) point, unlike in the other DEATH WISH films, there is very little depicted public approval of Paul Kersey's killing sprees in DEATH WISH 4. The only people who approve of his actions throughout the course of the film are one police officer who keeps claiming he's making their job easier (probably because he's lazy and looks like Ben Gazzara) and a man posing as the father of a dead drug victim who actually turns out to be another drug lord who encourages Kersey because he's helping eliminate his competition. In DEATH WISH 3, we are given numerous shots of common folk congratulating Kersey on cleaning up their streets and, in fact, he gets a whole building of old Jewish people on his side to help him take out those pesky punks in that film's jaw dropping climax. Old people killing punks with guns. It's amazing. But here, Kersey only works by himself, never with any assistance or even public approval. He's already killed hundreds of people over the course of the previous three films and his killing spree in this one seems Bourne more of habit than any warranted wrath or fury. Hell, Bronson never even really expresses any emotion throughout the whole movie apart from his one hilarious line reading of "It's those damn drugs!" Killing for Kersey is just a way of life and one he has no intention of giving up on anytime soon, even if no one he loves got raped this time.

Another point, it is very clear to anyone who has ever seen a Cannon Film or any film from the 80's for that reason, that every single person on the set of every single movie made between the years of say 1982 to 1991 was completely coked out of their fucking minds. There is even a scene in this film (above) where Kersey attacks a film producer who is involved in selling drugs at his office and guns him down. The producer is surrounded by posters for Cannon Films at the time of his death. In fact, they actually shot this scene at the Cannon office complex to allegedly save money, which I don't doubt that it did, but it also sends the pretty clear message that we are seeing a drug dealer character who is basically depicted as also being a producer for the Golan-Globus company. Why would you want to associate your own company with drug dealing, you know apart from the free promotion of your own properties? Because you don't fucking care whether you're associated with dealing drugs cause your company runs on the stuff anyway.

In fact, most of the drug dealers' deaths seem to be more validated by the fact that they are all just a bunch of assholes more than by the fact of what they do for a living (or killing). Poor factory workers scene aside, almost every villain who is taken out in this film is depicted as an abusive, misogynistic, angry, violent pile of shit before being taken out by the Kers Man. So we, as the drug loving audience, can root for their deaths as assholes who deserved to die for being assholes, while others, as the drug hating audience, can root for their deaths as assholes who deserve to die for being assholes and for poisoning our children with those GODDAMN DRUGS.

Another scene early on in the film that I think gives me cokeamamie theory some Creedence (tapez) is when the younger gf of Kersey, who happens to be a newspaper reporter, talks to her editor about how, in light of her daughter's death, she wants to launch an investigation into uncovering how drugs are distributed to our children. He, as the most rational character in the entire film, basically smacks her down with a little bit of something like this: "Everybody does drugs these days, nobody wants to hear about it, it's too mainstream now for you to have any effect on it, plus you're too close to the story to be objective. Nobody is going to want to read what you have to say about it because they already know how to get drugs because they do drugs everyday! Report about something else, anything else, and then I'll talk to you." Maybe we're supposed to view this guy as a callous ass. Someone on the imdb message board said he reminded him of Charles Grodin, who himself has seemed at times like the very living definition of self-important ass. I, however, viewed him as a sole voice of reason in this cracked out bowl of wacky noodles.

Whether any of this satirical or drug war smackdown theories that I'm reading into this film were at all intended by the filmmakers hardly matters at this point. The director and star have both been dead for several years, so all we have left to judge them on is the work they left behind and that is free to interpretation however we, as the audience, see fit. I mean, when I watched TRIUMPH OF THE WILL for an art class in college, we weren't watching the movie because we appreciated or agreed with its message. We were just watching it for the architecture and camera set ups. I honestly find it hard to believe that anyone in this day and age could appreciate anything about that film apart from its technical specs. Its dull as dishwater depiction of Hitler yakking on and on about lord knowz what would probably go over worse at a kkklan rally than a screening of the latest Tyler Perry film. Despite its intent as a celebration of Hitler's glory and ideology, it stands largely today as a boring tired relic of technical innovation. It has taken on a new life as an artifact of a time and place where people thought like that and made movies about it. But viewed through the lens of HIS-STORY!, we can instead view it as one of the best depictions ever of the true banality of evil (yes, I read that book in college as well). It makes being a Nazi look as fun as calculus homework and that's basically what the film has been reduced to itself: homework. I watched it for a class, most people who watch probably do it for classes. It's too boring for any other use. Except maybe cleaning my toilet. Those hard DVD edges really wipe the poop off real good.

I feel like Death Wish 4, regardless of whether it was intended as a secret condemnation of the drug war or as an orgiastic celebration of vigilante justice, stands today in largely a similar light. Removed from the histrionic heights of Nancy Reagan's JUST SAY NO era of paranoid worry worting, it is next to impossible to view the film as anything but a condemnation of the absurd lengths that Charles Bronson goes towards avenging the death of a girl who was entirely responsible for her own death and, therefore, doesn't need any avenging in the first place. Just because it depicts this vigilantism doesn't mean we have to side with it. Sure, there are probably many who do watch the film and think that, yeah, all those drug dealers sure had it coming and boy do they blewed up good. That's fine. But I imagine these people are in the minority, just as there are probably still a minority of very very patient and attentive Hitler Youth wannabes who sit around in their den watching TRIUMPH OF THE WILL and getting all jazzed about being anti-semitic, provided they can stay awake. Once a movie has been released into the world, it is open to the interpretation of every single person who sees it and every single person's interpretation is the right one for them. It's what makes us different from one another and part of what defines us as people.

I'm reminded of the audio commentary track for the movie STARSHIP TROOPERS, one of my favorite films by Paul Verhoeven (who is maybe my favorite director at this point). At the very start of the track, before the credits have even started rolling, Verhoeven starts going into a rant about how false and wrong it was of the many critics who branded his very clear satire of war as being fascist. He argues that while the film does depict fascism, that itself does not make the film or the filmmaker fascist themselves. As anyone with half a brain (which I guess doesn't include about half of the nation's film critics) can attest, the film STARSHIP TROOPERS is indeed a complete and total satirical evisceration and takedown of fascism. By taking on the form of a propaganda film not entirely unlike TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, he is using one of the common tools of fascism to condemn it in an almost exceedingly clever way WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE? The only problem is when people who misinterpret the filmmaker's intention throw insults their way. This was what was so troubling to Verhoeven, who has made at least 4 or 5 of the most misunderstood films of all-time. Critics were calling him a fascist and saying that his film approves of fascism when any close reading of it tells you the exact opposite. It probably tells you more about the people making these accusations than it does about Verhoeven himself or his film. Just as my interpretation of DEATH WISH 4 probably tells you a lot about myself since I have been a life long opponent of the drug war and a firm believer that people are wholly responsible for the damage they do to their own bodies. As a result of this, I viewed it through that mindset and found plentiful evidence for my position throughout the movie because that was what I was looking for.

Maybe one day, you'll look at this movie and see the same things I saw. Or you won't. It doesn't really matter. The whole thing is just an excuse to kill a lot of people in amusing ways, which this film does splendidly. The exploding wine bottle on the table was my favorite. I'll look it up on youtube. BOOM!

There's that. It gives you a real flavor for the actual film itself. If you made it this far in my rambly discourse, I will personally buy you a beer if you're ever in LA. Just drop a comment and we'll iron out the details. I'm almost serious about this. This is by far the longest blog post I've ever done and it just keeps getting longer the more I talk about it. LONG STORY SHORT, this movie is fucking hilarious and fails in every possible way to actually convince us that any of the vengeance depicted in this film is at all warranted. Still, it's fucking hilarious. You should watch it some time. Here's how the movie ends if you need more proof.

The whole movie is on youtube if you act fast. Just search for Death Wish 4: The Crackdown and you can't miss it. Good luck out there. And remember, only take what you can handle and always know your dealer. Especially if you're gonna watch this movie. It's much funnier that way.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Baxter (1989)

Price: $1.50
Length: 82 minutes
Director: Jerome Boivin
Starring: A Bull Terrier and a bunch of French people

I guess there are some people in this world who don't find Ingmar Bergman movies fucking hilarious. I don't know what to tell these people because for my money, Wild Strawberries is a much funnier movie than some Billy Wilder bullshit like Some Like It Hot or whatever else was passing for funny in late 1950s America. Something about the fulfillment of absurd Foreign Film Cliches in Bergman's work just makes much guffaw every time. Blame the deluge of Seventh Seal parodies (Animaniacs, Conan O'Brien, Bogus Journey, etc.) I was privy to long before I gathered my nuts and started shuffling through the foreign section at the local blockbuster. By the time I finally saw the Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, I was so used to laughing at their black and white iconography and existential brooding that even Bergman's formidable filmmaking chops were not enough to muffle my laughs. Also, I was 12.

Now a lot of people really love SLIT, many even claim it as the best comedy ever made, which is fine because no one knows why people find the things funny that they do, it's just instinct, cause and effect type shit. Either way, alls I'm getting at is that pretty much every review I can find of this BAXTER movie online (no michael showalters allowed here fyi) yacks on and on about how disturbing and dark this movie is, which is I suppose one way of looking at it.

For those of you who don't know, here's a quick ploticular miles runs the voodoo down: Baxter is an adorable bull terrier dog, total Spuds McKenzie doppelganger effect, who can think, has killed people in the past, will kill people again, and who develops obsessive psycho possessive crushes on human women. All of this might be disturbing if this movie were made in any other country on earth apart from France and if the movie were not in black and white, which tips its manifest artiness out of the blue and into the black. So yeah, we get an evil adorable dog with an interior monologue voiced by a middle aged French guy killing people in black and white. It's the perfect storm of hilarity!

And boy, does this movie deliver. Maybe the funniest movie I've seen this calendar year. The dog he has a french accent! HAHAHAHAHAHA! You owe it to yourself to see it. It's great. It's on DVD now, too, so feel free to add it to your Netflix Q, and don't be put off by Lionsgate's SAW-esque DVD packaging. It's all they know how to do, so don't blame them, blame society. In addition to reminding me of the absurd hilarity of black and white Ingmar Bergman (whose color films I actually find quite devastating, especially the one with Elliott Gould), this movie reminded me somewhat of a film I hate MAN BITES DOG. However, whereas that film was loathsome overrated belabored crap that took itself way to seriously like a trustafarian undergrad prating on and on about how society is fucked up and shit, maaaaaaaaan, our culture of violence is a manifestation of bourgeois angst in a tortilla wrapped inside a donut placed in a field of loofah sponges. FUCKing hell, that movie is bad. No wonder the dude('s) who made it offed himself. I would to if that was all anyone knew me for. Granted nobody knows me for anything at this point, but that's the way I like it. Except INEED$, do you know who is hiring?

PS. SEE BAXTER the one with the dog on it ITS HILARIOUS!!!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Night Hawks (1981)

Price: $1
Year: 1981
Length: 99 mins
Director: Bruce Malmuth (replacing Gary Nelson)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Lindsay Wagner, Nigel Davenport, Joe Spinell, Persis Khambatta, Catherine Mary Stewart, and Rutger Hauer as Wulfgar

I always ignored this movie cause I thought its title sucked. It makes me think of Edward Hopper, Tom Waits, Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfieffer, Rutger Hauer, Cage, and Camu Tao in that order before settling on a mental image of Stallone, which is a pretty horrible rate of recall for my phoney baloney Stalloney mind. Whenever anyone describes anything as being over the top around me I turn my hat around and start crashing trucks into Robert Loggia's house, for gosh sake. But there are only so many Stallone films in the world and I have a standing order to purchase all unseen ones at any given chance regardless of consequence or funds. So Night Hawks was a no brainer.

Fortunately, the movie is much better, weirder, and prescient than its weak title would suggest. For starters, Sylvester Stallone has the typically strong character name DEKE DASILVA. A name so strong that posters for the movie touted him as being "DEKE DASILVA, THE MOST DANGEROUS COP KNOWN TO MAN" despite the fact that this movie is mostly about what a wimpy sour puss DaSilva is up until the final heartgripping moments. Anyway, Billy Dee Williams is his partner, the tragically named Det. Sgt. Matthew Fox; such a step down from being Lando Calrissian to being linked to that dry rag of a Party of Five alum. BDW had good luck with LC initials, bet he wished they had gone with Lacey Chabert instead. Also, we get Rutger Motherfucking Hauer in his American film debut as the awesomely named international super-villain of terror WULFGAR. It is a fucking travesty that this guy has gone from Verhoeven muse status to straight to video after thought, but so it goes. He's great here and really puts this movie OVER The Top and into being pretty decent territory.

So the movie opens with a burly female nurse with an oddly plasticine and motionless face walking down the street in a bad neighborhood as hoods and toughs swarm around her for the easy mugg. But wait, that weird inhuman face was merely a mask being worn by Sylvester Stallone as Deke DaSilva, the cross-dressing Serpico surrogate the 80's demanded and received. Then Billy Dee Williams jumps out from behind a corner and the dastardly creeps of crime have been stifled again. On the other side of the globe, Rutger Hauer with a beard blows up a department store for some terrorist groups or something, but they get mad at him for killing kids and he's all like pfffft. Then he gets found out when he's trying to seduce some co-eds while posing as a college professor, so he gets plastic surgery that consists of shaving his beard and wiping the putty that won Kidman an Oscar off his nose. Then it's off to New York, which is where Deke and Matthew reign, thus setting up them up for a confrontation!

The movie is kinda slow for the first hour or so, but really picks up during this sweet chase scene, which happens to be on Youtube.
Part 1:

Part 2:

I really dig BDW's Superman tee here and the use of Slow Ride by Foghat during the disco dance scene. Was that seriously a disco dance hit? If so, awesome. If badly placed by misguided people working on movie, awesomer. Either way, a bunch of stuff explodes and Wulfgar is all like I'm gonna kill your girlfriend DEKE DASILVA! But just when he gets ready to stab her, she turns around and has Stallone's face and gun in her hand, which is also Stallone's hand now. Thus bringing us back to the drag show from the beginning and being kind of a bummer of an ending cause DaSilva doesn't like killing, it's just his job. Either way, good show. I mean, it ain't COBRA, but it sure as hell is a buttassload better than PARADISE ALLEY. Now I just need to find a copy of F.I.S.T. cause Anthony Kiedis plays Stallone's son in it. Yes. Oh yeah, the hot bald chick from the first Star Trek movie is in this, too. Looks like she's wearing a wig, which makes sense since this is only 1-2 years later. CHECK IT OUT!