Saturday, June 25, 2022

Junesploitation 2022 Day 25: Revenge!



    Park Hoon-jung's THE WITCH: PART 1 -- THE SUBVERSION (2018, VUDU Rental, 125 min.) and THE WITCH: PART 2 -- THE OTHER ONE (2022, theater, 120 min.), both for the first time.

    Featuring ZERO witchcraft and/or magic whatsoever, "The Witch" series of movies (part 2 just released theatrically in South Korea and the States; part 3 is already in the planning stages) feel like the best movie adaptations of a non-existent anime/manga property. It's a pick-and-choose from the best aspects of 1988's "Akira," the early "X-Men" movies, sprinkles of "Constantine," "Superman: The Movie" and "Twilight" (without the superhero, religious or vampire shit), and Paul T. Anderson's "Resident Evil" series (but replaced with the "Prey" FPS IP) for entertaining mainstream action mixed with the slow-burn pleasures of a South Korean revenge thriller. "The Subversion" works best as a stand-alone sci-fi tale that didn't need the tacked-on, convoluted world building of "The Other One." But I ended up really liking the new batch of bad-asses in the sequel (including a live-action equivalent of "Ghost in the Shell's" The Major and Batou, if Batou was a foreigner with a wicked sense of humor! :-D) working for different factions vying to obtain the ultimate power. And this being from South Korea not every a-hole that deserves to die gets his comeuppance, or a courageous character in the right guaranteed to NOT get a sad throwaway death. :'(

    I'm being vague on purpose. The least you know going into "The Witch" series the more fun you'll have. Saw "The Witch 2" first on its last theatrical showing in New York City last Thursday, and I liked it so much I had to rent the prequel (just finished watching it a few minutes ago). Seeing them backwards days apart only heighten my awe at what the writer/director has been able to pull off so far. 4 YOUTUBE REACTION CHANNELS ABOUT PEOPLE EATING FOOD (out of 5) for Parts 1 and 2 combined; 4.25 for "Part 1" and 3.75 for "Part 2."


    Wes Craven's SCREAM (1996, 4K UHD, 111 min.) and SCREAM (2022, 4K UHD, 114 min.).

    Recently upgraded to the 4K versions of the first and newest "Scream" movies, and they're predictably great in the AV department. The new one didn't hold as well on repeat viewing as when it came out in January (still worth owning and overall better than 2 and 3, not quite as good as 4 and OG "Scream"), but it made me realize that Roger Jackson's voice-overs as Ghostface killer are the unheralded MVP of this movie franchise. I just love hearing this guy taunt, be charming, scream like a banshee or justifying his (her?) insanity. Except for Freddy Krueger (who talks too much and not everything he says is interesting) and Doug Bradley in the early "Hellraiser" movies, I can't think of another horror icon whose voice is as memorable as his look. The killers taking the Ghostface persona may change, but the attitude and self-confidence to taunt your prey before, during and after the kill to me is revenge (sometimes real, but mostly imagined and/or pretend) personified. The filmmaking team may change (R.I.P. Wes) and final girls come and go (good luck continuing the current reboot without Neve Campbell), but the day a new "Scream" movie is released without Roger voicing Ghostface to me will be the day the franchise will have truly died. 4.75 DATED CELLPHONE PLOT HOLES (out of 5) for OG "Scream," 3.5 HOSPITAL DEFIBRILLATORS LEFT UNATTENDED (out of 5) for "Scream" '22.

  2. Savage (2009 – Brendan Muldowney)
    I knew and heard nothing about this movie before. I thought this would be a bloody revenge movie – and in some way it is becoming that towards the end… and when it does, it becomes really gross. But until then, it is first and foremost a drama, running only 88 minutes long, but telling an interesting story about masculinity and rage. The characters aren’t very lovely, yet believable portrayed. I liked it, despite its digital look and very 00s color grading.

  3. Ms .45 (1981, dir. Abel Ferrara)

    I had initially wanted to avoid a "rape revenge" movie for today, but have recently been wanting to explore more of Ferrara's filmography so I went with this one. A lovely young lady gets raped (twice), and proceeds to go on a killing spree. Wow, all the men in this gritty NYC were creeps. It was interesting how she changed from being very innocent/naive to increasingly confident and sultry the more she killed. This movie was fantastic, but I wouldn't show it to my parents.

  4. The Unforgivable (2021)

    The revenge aspect to this ended up being the b-plot, but that's alright. Regular movies with decent budgets are so rare, that I didn't mind it's somewhat silliness from time to time. Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, even one of my favorites Richard Thomas. Movies used to have good casts and mediocre plots and that was enough. That's what this was.

    A young woman blames Gamera for the death of her parents, so she develops a psychic bond with rival monster Iris. I'd always thought of Gamera as Godzilla for kindergartners, but this movie doesn't mess around. A lot of the action is filmed from a person-on-the-street perspective, emphasizing the unbelievable size and destructive power of the kaiju. It's also crazy violent. The monsters get bloodied up in the fights, and the movie doesn't shy away from showing human casualties in the wreckage. Even though they are villains, a lot of time is spent making the girl and Iris sympathetic. Definitely a must-see for giant monster fans. I liked this so much, I might just buy the Blu-ray.

    Bonus Lloyd Kaufman-sploitation, day 25: DIRECT YOUR OWN D*MN MOVIE (2009)
    Lloyd conducts a series of interviews with big names, including Joe Dante, Dario Argento, Penelope Spheeris, William Lustig, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and a bunch of others. The usual jokey Troma shtick is dropped in favor of the celebs' advice for wannabe filmmakers. This is hyped as being Lloyd's "film school on a DVD," but the advice is more theory-based, and not a lot of nitty-gritty about what to do when the camera is actually in your hand. Therefore, this doc is entertaining, but not practical.

  6. Bones (2001, dir. Ernest R. Dickerson)

    Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg) is a criminal running a gambling ring in the 70's, but he also protects his neighborhood from bigger crime, until competitors and a corrupt cop murder him. 22 years later, a group of teens buy Jimmy's decrepit house to turn it into a night club, and inadvertently set Jimmy's ghost loose to seek revenge.

    Some genuinely creepy imagery, blaxploitation themes, a hip-hop soundtrack, and very 2001 editing. Snoop Dogg hams it up as the vengeful ghost and Pam Grier is the MVP as Jimmy's old girlfriend. (Has Pam Grier ever been in a movie and not been the MVP?)

    1. "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars"? 🤨☹️

  7. The Quick and the Dead (1995)
    Why did I wait so long to see this movie?

    Was I worried that it would disappoint me?

    Did I need to explore the Italian west first?

    I have no idea!

    Simon Moore wrote this movie as a tribute to Sergio Leone and man, it comes through in every scene of the film. He had intended to direct his own script as an independent film and soot in either Spain or Italy when Sony Pictures Entertainment bought the script, got Sharon Stone as the lead and went with Sam Raimi after she was impressed with his work on Army of Darkness. She went so far as to tell the producers that if Raimi did not direct the film, she wouldn’t be in it.

    Raimi would blame himself for the film’s failure, sayin “I was very confused after I made that movie. For a number of years I thought, I’m like a dinosaur. I couldn’t change with the material.” That said — it made $47 million on a $35 million budget and time has seen the movie be critically rethought.

    The Lady (Stone) has come to the town of Redemption — a place where the only law is John Herod (Gene Hackman) — for a fast-draw single elimination shooting tournament in which no challenge can be refused and the gunfight goes on until a contestant yields or dies.

    There are really only four people who can win the contest: The Lady, Herod, a former gangster turned preacher called Cort (Russell Crowe) — Herod’s former right-hand man who abandoned his violent career in favor of a peaceful religious life after Herod forced him to kill a priest — who is given one bullet per battle so he doesn’t shoot his way out of town and The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), who just might be the best gunfighter of all time if you listen to what he has to say.

    Each of them must battle their way through, however, as Herrod defeats Sergeant Clay Cantrell (Keith David), a killer hired by the town itself to murder him and The Lady kills Eugene Dred after he assaults the saloon owner’s (Pat Hingle) daughter. Afraid that she won’t be able to achieve her mission — which is more than the money in the tournament — she nearly runs away before Doc Wallace (Roberts Blossom, Old Man Marley in Home Alone) hands her her father’s badge and tells her that she must clean up the town. At the same time, Cort must battle Spotted Horse (Jonothon Gill), a man who says that no bullet can kill him.

    The flashback that follows — Herod caused her to kill her father (Gary Sinise) — sets up the reason why she must destroy not only the man who murdered her father but destroy his entire town, which won’t be easy.

    This is the kind of movie I love so much, packed with actors of true character, like Lance Henriksen as trick shot fighter “Ace” Hanlon, Tobin Bell as Dog Kelly, Sven-Ole Thorsen as “Swede” Gutzon, Evil Dead II writer Scott Spiegel as Gold Teeth Man and Italian western star Woody Strode as Charlie Moonlight. This was Strode’s last role and the movie is dedicated to him.

    This movie is full of not only amazing gunfights, incredible dialogue and plenty of tension but a bravura ending — daylight through a shadow! — that literally made me jump out of my seat. It’s also packed with montages and a moment where there are so many extreme zooms and rack focus moments that I was sure that the ghosts of every beloved Italian director had risen from their graves and taken over the film.

    1. Love your enthusiasm for this flick, it comes through in every word of your review. ☺️🤓

  8. Terminal Island (1973) dir. Stephanie Rothman

    Winner! Inmates are sent to an island to fend for themselves. A dictator of sorts emerges needing to be taken down and the women he abused cleverly oblige. Absolutely great survivalist action with the usual exploitation hallmarks peppered in. Could be a full on classic with a slightly more interesting End Boss. Magnum and T.C. together for the first time as a bonus.

  9. The Protégé (2021)

    Not as Revenge-y as the Amazon plot description would lead you to believe. Kinda disappointed with this one. Maggie Q is playing it so cool, she's almost asleep. Samuel L is okay, but he's not in it very long. Keaton is the only one really having fun here. But there's not a whole lot of fun to be had because the action is so boring. Gun fight and badly shot hand-to-hand fights. On top of all of this, the plot is so uninteresting. Everything is centered around a character we never meet.

    This movie just made me feel sad for Martin Campbell. I liked Edge of Darkness more than most, but his last 2 have been real misses. Something magic happens when he works with James Bond, bur otherwise it's just not for me.

  10. Shogun Assassin (1980)

    One of the biggest blind spots I'm tackling this month. I've watched The Bride watch it before sleep with B.B., I've heard it sampled by Wu-Tang Clan, but I haven't seen it myself until today. And I absolutely freaking loved it.

    In all fairness, it's not as much a revenge story as a "survive countless assassination attempts while protecting your unbelievably cute son" kind of thing, but let's not split hairs here. More importantly, the re-edited narrative is lean and sharp, the gruff English dub (including voiceover) is shockingly great, and the synth-heavy music creates an eerie mood that only enriches the story both in the quiet scenes and the moments of first-rate bloodshed. As cliched as it sounds, this movie is a truly unique experience. And now I need to dig into the Lone Wolf and Cub series proper.

    1. I believe Shogun Assassin was assembled from the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films. That series is definitely worth seeing, Adam. I got through the first four films back in 2020 and intend to finish the series. Each installment does something a little different with the story and the visual style.

  11. MR. MAJESTYK (1974, Richard Fleischer)

    Don’t mess with Vince Majestyk! This was watched very early this morning at the Mahoning Drive-In during a night of Charles Bronson films. Sandwiched between screenings of The Mechanic and Death Wish 3, Mr. Majestyk comes off as the least interesting of the three. Bronson plays the title character, a watermelon farmer in Colorado who ends up tangling with a hitman when both end up in the same jail. When Majestyk tries to use the hitman to get out of his charge, the hitman is not all appreciative. Eventually it all becomes a mutual quest for revenge. Although the simpleminded script and a car chase that goes on too long lowered my enjoyment of the film, Charles Bronson gives a very Bronsoneque performance worth watch.

    DEATH WISH 3 (1985, dir. Michael Winner)

    A long-time exploitation favorite of mine, I could not miss a chance to see this on a very big screen. Unfortunately, fog moved in during the middle of the screening. Knowing the film so well, I could picture the blurred scenes without any effort. The fog, thankfully, lifted before the conclusion, which is just a delightfully crazy experience every time. In an over-the-top film, that finale raises the outrageousness to sublime levels. Watching Paul Kersey mow down hordes of gang members in the streets with a machine gun never gets old.

  12. Hard Candy (2005)

    This has been on my watch list for a while, but put it off because I was never in the "mood" for it. Well, now is as good of a time as any. And it's good! Elliot Page and Patrick Wilson are essentially the only performers here, and they do a great job, both actors are totally engaging in every scene. Wilson I found especially terrific. The film does, however, suffer from a terminal case of mid-2000s. Idk what it is, but all of the then-contemporary art direction and cinematography is very distracting. Just, an absolute black hole of culture was the mid-2000s. I cant believe we all lived through it.

  13. I KEEP FORGETTING TO DO MY REVIEWS!!!!! But I watched John Wick last night and it was amazing as always which is why it's one of my favorite movies of all time.

  14. These are only loosely "Revenge!" movies (they contain revenge, but aren't really about revenge), and they certainly aren't exploitation movies, but I started my day off (and occupied most of it) with The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974). I'd been eyeing a rewatch of this duology since upgrading my home theater setup a few months ago, and the mood really struck me today, so I'm cramming this prestige-shaped peg into a Junesploitation-shaped hole.

    Both flicks are fantastic (he said, very originally), and while they can certainly be enjoyed and praised without worrying about a rank comparison, that's just where my thoughts go whenever I watch this pairing. It's a fun debate, and there are convincing arguments on both sides, but Part I always seems to come out as my favorite, and did again on this rewatch.

    I think my preference for Part I comes down to a couple of things. For one, it has some built-in advantages from being the first entry in the series. Part II is handicapped by **Spoilers for two all-time classic 50-year-old movies** losing quite a few primary characters from Part I, and also having to try to build off the plot and themes established in Part I.

    De Niro is great as young Vito, played with a quiet, calculated reserve that could easily have been botched by going for a bigger, noisier Brando impersonation. That said, Brando's performance is indisputably iconic, and his absence in Part II is a hole that can only be partially patched over. The expansion of Fredo's character is a real plus for Part II, and helps to make up for Sonny's absence, but Sonny's brash, violent, impulsive character viewpoint is something that doesn't exist in Part II's world of cool, calm operators, and I think it makes the inner family "personality rainbow" of Part I a bit more colorful and well-rounded. Michael V. Gazzo as Pentangeli pulls off the minor miracle of being just as charismatic as Richard Castellano's outstanding Clemenza, but you clearly see that the aggrieved informer role in Part II was intended to be Clemenza's. I think I prefer the antagonists of Part I in general. Lee Strasberg gives a fantastic performance as Hyman Roth, but he (like Clemenza) loses a bit from having to be ret-conned into the history of Part I, and Sollozzo provides a darker, more physically menacing presence than anything in Part II. Part II boasts sleazy Senator Pat Geary and the colorful Don Fanucci (whose assassination scene, led into by De Niro's rooftop stalking, is awesome), but I'll take corrupt police captain McCluskey (portrayed by the always imposing Sterling Hayden), Barzini's high-level schemer (not as prevalent as Roth's, but more of a mafia insider, and in that way, scarier, I think), Moe freaking Greene, and even Hollywood producer Jack Woltz who "can't afford to be made to look ridiculous!"

  15. Continued, because I went way too long...

    Part II also has the challenge of having to build on the established plot and themes of Part I, which center around the masterful tracking of Michael's arc from a college boy war hero ("That's my family, Kay. It's not me.") to killer head mafioso (who'll lie to Kay about having his step-brother killed). Part I just feels very tight and focused, with its broader thematic nods to Vito vs. Michael, old world vs. new world, American dream/progress/etc. tying in nicely and economically to the main plot. Part II is basically forced to go bigger and more ambitious with those larger themes, but they don't feel as tightly bound to the main narrative to me. They're also stuck with less of an arc for Michael (morally compromised killer to even-more-evil brother killer is still interesting, but not as dramatic a character shift as in Part I). Some folks point to the interwoven young Vito flashbacks as a reason they prefer Part II, and while I do enjoy those stretches, and find them to be an effective and interesting plot structure, I just prefer the tighter focus of Part I's narrative. Both movies move at a pretty luxurious pace, but I find Part I riveting at all times (I could have watched a full three-hour movie of Connie's wedding alone). On the other hand, I think Part II does drag just a bit at times, and I think that's a function of that broader, more ambitious, less focused narrative.

    Just to reaffirm that, despite my preference for Part I, I still love Part II, here are a couple of things that particulary struck me on this rewatch... Every scene between Michael and Fredo is just incredible. Cazale absolutely nails the passed-over screw-up older brother, and Pacino is equally tragic as the betrayed head of the family who can't forgive, and becomes a true villain because of it. Although they don't get as many scenes as that pairing, the brother-sister duo of Mike and Connie shines as well. The wake/funeral scene between Talia Shire and Pacino, where Connie explains her own anger at, and forgiveness of, Michael (with a little manipulation in comparing him to Vito in "just being strong for our family"), and tries to convince him to forgive Fredo ("He's so sweet, and helpless without you"), is just killer writing and performance. And finally, as much as I picked at the looser narrative/thematic focus of Part II, the ending of that movie (last 10-15 minutes or so) is just perfect--Michael brutally closing the door on Kay (echoes of the Part I ending), Tom Hagen and Pentangeli talking Roman history at the prison, the assassination of Hyman Roth at the airport (completely unnecessary due to his medical and legal troubles, but demonstrating Michael's pure ruthlessness and vindictiveness in his need to eliminate him anyway), the dread of Anthony being called away from the boat (becuase you know what it's leading to), the killing of Fredo, the flashback to happier times at the dinner table, quick cut to Vito waving Michael's little hand goodbye on the train from Italy, Michael sitting alone, powerful and victorious, but an unhappy, bitter shell of his younger, hopeful self--man it's good! And it's why I'll keep coming back to these movies, and maybe why I'll keep thinking, "Maybe this is the time I'll think Part II is the best!"

    1. And then, for a truer Junesploitation Revenge! watch, I rewatched The Quick and the Dead (1995). This movie is a cartoon western, but man, cartoons are fun! The four leads (Stone, Crowe, Hackman, DiCaprio) give completely magnetic performances. I hadn't seen this in maybe 10 years, and what really struck me was how impressed I was with Raimi's (and writer Simon Moore's) ability to get a full movie out of this premise. At first glance, the elevator pitch (wild west shootout tournament bracket!) sounds amazing. But if you keep thinking about it for a minute or two, and try to flesh out a full movie around it, the premise actually has the potential to be a bit thin and repetitive (quick draw gunfights are pretty abrupt, and not as conducive to tournament format as other sports/fights). So although the story isn't exactly deep or surprising, it's colored-in so boldly that it remains interesting and eminently watchable throughout the runtime.


  16. Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973) dir. Bo Arne Vibenius

    late addition due to out of town guests

    Opening with a deftly executed and absolutely crushing sequence of childhood trauma, Thriller is pretty upfront in its intentions pretty much from moment one: its with deft cinematic hands we are about to have a knife slowly twirled in our side for the next couple hours. This is a bleak, beautiful movie about ugly things, the kind of bastard born from competing impulses towards between exploitation and experimentation native to an era where The Virgin Spring and Last House on the Left might have shared Sunday matinee marquee space, and not because the programmer was some sort of clever cinephile.

    It's also a film seemingly endlessly helped and hobbled by its notoriety. Some of this is self-inflicted via the inclusion of some, at best "extraneous," hardcore inserts, but a lot of it is the word of mouth infamy its varying stages of censorship has generated, compounded by some high profile enthusiastic supporters like Quentin Tarantino, whose genuine excitement about the title doesn't always capture the gutting experience that comes with watching it. Even now, with Vinegar Syndrome's gorgeous new box release,* I've definitely seen no shortage of enthusiastic buys turn sour when they realize that the thrill-ride promised by the key art is more of a slow painful collapse.

    * Overjoyed (seems like a weird word but I'm gonna go with it) to get such a well restored complete release of this- I think it's the first time I've gotten to see it in Swedish, and it's definitely the first time I've seen it not on an overplayed VHS or a fuzzy digital rip