Starting the new year with the latest in the Terminator francise. Once again, they are moving forward with the premise of changing the timeline doesn't always work the way you want it to. Ya, I'm going to do spoilers, so quit now if you care. This entry has some delightful (to the fan base at least) almost scence for scence sequences from the orginal. Plus it has Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a T-800 series who has been guarding Sarah Connor since a T-1000 tried to kill her as a little girl. The flesh around the machine ages, which is how they explain using a current Schwarzenegger for the aging robot. The special effects are great and the fights are epic. Well worth the popcorn and rental.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters
Yet another example of excellence from DC Comics animated movie team. This is an alternate universe where the Justice League is made up three, and I use the term loosely, heroes. Superman is the son of General Zod, not Jor-el, The analog Batman is a vampire (created by Science!), and their "Wonder Woman" is one of the New Gods. All them have no issues what so ever in killing bad guys. Just to set the tone for this universe a bit more firmly, Amanda Waller is President. Ya, it's a dark reflection of the DC Universe. Things only get worse when the Justice League starts getting framed for killing scientists. In the end, it's a wake up call for the League, with some help from Lex Luthor, who seems to be crossed with Stephen Hawking in this setting.
This is a story about an unassuming young stoner named Mike in West Virginia. He works in a convient store and is prone to anxiety attacks. He also has a surprisingly hot girl friend. Mildly interesting, but not very gripping. Then the focus shifts to CIA headquarters, were two agents are in a turf war. The topic appears to be the young stoner, and why is so important to one of the agents that he be killed? This is where it gets interesting and gives a big hat tip the the Borne Identity series. Mike is actually a sleeper agent. The lone survivor of a program to produce deadly agents from three time loser "volunteers." The former head of the program shows up and activates Mike with a series of code words. Now things go from interesting to violent. Starting with the two CIA operatives (from a competing program that trained violent psychopaths) who were doing something (just guess) to his car. Mike takes them out as they approach. He had just made some instant noodles, so the hot water goes in the face of one as he stabs the other in the neck with his spoon. Things escalate from there, from a police station filled with dead cops to a massive over reaction by the CIA. A little slow to start, but this flick picked up nicely with combined humor and action. Some excellent work by supporting cast members as well. Well worth the rental and popcorn.
Taking the Way Back Machine to 1998 for this classic B-Movie. It is that story of an Italian assassin hired by an English police officer to kill the gangster who killed his partner. The problem is that the assassin, Maria, is very expensive. So the cop hires an assassin he can afford to kill Maria after she completes her assignment. Of course, there is a reason why she was much more expensive. Things get interesting, because everything is set on a timetable, and Maria arrives early. So she has time to kill before it's time to kill. Hence the name of this fine example of Drive In movie making. The downside to this excellent flick is that it was only released on VHS. I saw it back when you would go to your local video rental store to get movies to watch at home. Joe Bob would say check it out, if you can find it.
A delightful romantic comedy with plenty of violence mixed in for flavor. Anna Kendrick plays a quirky young woman who picked the T-Rex as her spirit animal at a young age. She meets "Mr. Right", played by Sam Rockwell, and they quickly fall for each other. Rockwell's character is a former CIA assassin who has gone bizarrely free lance. He also wears a clown nose when killing people. Yes, he is slightly crazy, as is Kendrick's character. Throw in Tim Roth as the crazy hitman's former partner trying to track him down, and RZA as some local New Orleans muscle with great potential, and you have a fun little B-Movie.
1776 and An American Carol Once again, I'm going with an Independence Day double header. Starting with the 1972 film version of the Broadway musical 1776. It tells the tale of getting the resolution on Independence passed through the Continental Congress in the summer of 1776. William Daniels is quite good as John Adams, but it is Howard Da Silva as Benjamin Franklin who steals the show. The second film was the 4th of July weekend pick for 2009. It is the story of Crocumentary filmmaker Michael Malone (name slightly changed so you will be sure which fat communist bastard it is supposed to be), who wants to ban the "4th of July" and is visited by the Ghost of John F. Kennedy, who tells that he will be visited by three spirits in order to cure him of his unpatriotic ways. One of the Spirits is the ghost of General George Patton, who slaps the fat bastard.
The Cohen Brothers managed to produce a particularly subversive movie. A very well made movie, but subversive. Frankly, I'm surprised this movie made it out of Hollywood. It's a story about movie industry in the early 1950s. It was the era of big studios. When the stars worked for the studios and did what they were told, and the studio took care of them. The protagionist is the studio boss, who runs the Hollywood end for the owner in New York. He is dedicated to his job, loves his family, is devoted to his wife, takes care of his stars, and is a devout Roman Catholic. Like I said, this movie is subversive to the Hollywood culture. To fight the current Hollywood culture even more, the bad guys are actual communists. To be fair, they aren't very competent, mostly whiny writers who are pissed that they are not running the studios and making the big money. I really enjoyed this money, it was very rich in detail, and provided good insight into the time. The studio didn't care if you were homosexual, or Hispanic, or had poor taste in husbands ("He was a minor crime figure." "He was not minor!"). You were part of the studio family and the studio took care of you. Loyality was expected in return, but that was part of the studio culture of the time. Fire up the popcorn, lean back, and enjoy this well crafted bit of filmwork. Excellent work by a excellent cast that includes Scarlet Johansson, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum (singing and dancing), Alden Ehrenreich, and Veronica Osorio.
The Last Legion
Yet another historical fantasy on the Arthurian legend. When I say fantasy, there is a wizard, but he is limited to slight of hand. It's more alternate history. Start with a historical fact. The Goths invaded Rome, and the last Caesar, a teenager named Romulus, ended up in exile for the rest of his life on an island. In this movie, Romulus (Thomas Sangster, the kid from Love Actually), is rescued by a Roman general (Colin Firth), and advised by is tutor, the before mentioned wizard (Ben Kingsley). They travel to Britain, fight a major battle, defeat the bad guys, and set the stage for King Arthur to show up later. Throw in Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as an Indian warrior in the service of the Eastern Roman Empire (work with me on this), and Kevin McKidd as one nasty Goth, and you have a B-Movie worthy of the rental and popcorn. Movie nerd note, Colin Firth is in Love Actually as well. He doesn't share any screen time with Thomas Sangster. Sangster does share a lot of screen time with Kevin McKidd in the HBO series Rome. If you are interested, the movie was based on the book by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.
It's almost Halloween again, so we're going with some of the classics. An attempt was made to remake this 1984 classic, and it flopped big time. Not because of the cast. They were well seasoned comedians and have multiple very funny films to their credit. Personally, I didn't think they could capture the spirit of the film, pun intended, and I was proven right. They completely missed the Libertarian theme to the movie, which the director admits was intentional.
An American Werewolf in London
Let's not forget Near Dark and Dog Soldiers, picks from October 2011, for a double header of vampires and werewolves.
The Nice Guys
Los Angles. The 1970's. Cars, the porn industry, "Big Oil", government corruption, and two working stiffs trying to make a living. One beats people up for a living, the other is a cheap detective trying to earn a living for him and his 13 year old daughter. The daughter ends up driving him around a lot, which is safer than letting her drunk dad drive. You are going to have some L.A. Confidential flashbacks here. Mainly because of Russell Crowe (he beats people up in both movies, mostly people who deserve a good beating), and Kim Basinger. In all, a fun movie with humor mixed with violence. Worth the rental and the popcorn.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
It's Christmas, so let's go with a humorous take on a classic. Kermit plays Bob Cratchet and, of course, Miss Piggy plays Emily Cratchet. Complete with two Pig girls and two Frog boys as children. Gonzo the Great plays the narrator, Charles Dickens. He actually plays it straight for the most part. What really makes this movie though is an excellent performance by Michael Caine as Scrooge. Rizzo the Rat as Dicken's sidekick is pure value add, from a Muppet perspective.
Best of the 'B's.
It's the Last Friday of the Year, so I'm going to to back and pick a film from each year that aspires to be a B Movie.
2008 Gotta go with Oblivion, winner of the 1994 Best Fantasy/Horror film at the Houston International Film Festival.
2009 Bubba Ho-Tep, Bruce Campbell seals the deal for this pick.
2010 Tough choice, but I'm going with Confessions Of An Action Star
2011 Black Belt Jones staring the late, great Jim Kelly
2012 Digital Assassin. The low budget, poorly written Turkey dreams of being a "B" movie.
2013 National Lampoon's The Legend of Awesomest Maximus. Another tough choice.
2014 Sands of Oblivion
2015 The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Monday Book Picks