Saturday, August 26, 2023

Weekend Open Thread



    Muthuvel 'Tiger' Pandian (72-year old Rajinikanth), with the help of friends in high places (and a clueless taxi driver), goes "Equalizer" on a well-organized, blood-thirsty gang of art/statue traffickers with reach into the police department where the retired jailer's policeman son (Vasanth Ravi) disappears when he tries to find info on ultimate boss Varman (a scene-chewing Vinayakan). While he's more of a poser than an on-screen action man (though he gets in a couple of WTF! gory beheadings) Rajinikanth owns his star vehicle and carries "Jailer" through some serious tonal whiplashes, not the least of which is the late reveal (via a quick flashback where the movie earns its name) that our hero is a deranged, sadistic dick. A subplot involving blackmailing a closeted homosexual couple is troubling and the 2nd half isn't as fun as the first, but "Jailer" delivers the goods if you can roll along with Rajinikanth's smirk distracting you from how nonsensical the whole thing is. Recommended.

    Most of Berlin-set "Retribution" gives us Liam Neesom stuck in a car with his teenage kids and a pressure-sensitive bomb, dealing with a telephone bomber without his particular set of skills (he's just a banker with marriage trouble), desperate and not in control of anything.... up until the third act when he reverts back to senior citizen action man. First act is tense-as-heck and excellent, which sadly gives way to a so-cliché-it-hurts-to-watch standoff middle that ends with a convoluted/predictable ending/reveal... yawn. Worth a streaming view, definitely not worth the theater trip.

    Rob's review of BLUE BEETLE ('23, IMAX) mirrors my own thoughts. "Iron Man" + "Green Lantern" + "Ant-Man" (the post-credit scene) = DC isn't even trying to be subtle about its creative bankruptcy. As a Hispanic immigrant, though, I have to give "BB" props for having personality, an engaging fun-to-hang-out-with supporting cast (granny steals the movie) and for giving George Lopez one of his best comedic supporting roles in years. Sorry Xolo Maridueña, hope your star rises with better flicks than this. :-(

    Jean Rollin's THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES (1971, 4K UHD; STREAMING ON TUBI) has 15 minutes of plot (newlywed couple visit cousins in their distant French castle, but they died and were buried the week before... so why are they still walking around and only come out at night?) stretched to 90 minutes. It shouldn't work, but somehow Rollin's pace and framing make it not only tolerable but engaging. Marie-Pierre Castel and Kuelan Herce as the often-nude-and-hugging-in-fur vampiric maids help a lot. ;-)

    Finally hit my stack of Arrow Video Blu-rays from the ongoing B&N 50% off sale. Jim Van Bebber's DEADBEAT AT DAWN (1988; STREAMING ON TUBI) eventually becomes a great revenge action flick... but we have to suffer an endless middle act where Goose (Van Bebber) mourns the brutal beating/murder of his girlfriend, breaks with his junky father and is humiliated by his former gang. Paul Harper's Danny is a great uber-villain, and the climactic final act when Goose breaks loose is worth putting-up with the zero-budget-but-made-with-heart, homemade production values. Looking forward to Van Bebber's other low-budget short films (included in this BD).

    TRAPPED ALIVE (1988) starts as a cold Wisconsin winter Christmas Eve kidnapping (three escaped convicts nab two girls driving to a party), then takes a 180 degree turn into cannibalistic survival horror inside an abandoned mine. Great production design (underground caves look the part), passable-to-terrible acting (Cameron Mitchell literally sleeps through most of his scenes, Elizabeth Kent earns her lengthy uninterrupted backstory dump scene), passable gore and interesting extras. A nice curio.

    GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF THE LEGION (1996, PRIME) has great music and no children protagonists. Ehh... yay? :-(

    1. What Rollin does so well in Shiver of the Vampires, and his early films in general, is create an alluring atmosphere with the setting. The Iron Rose is the only one whose thin plot I found to be a liability. Lips of Blood may be my favorite, but it has been a while since I watched the bulk of his work.

    2. How weird. Iron Rose is my all-time favorite Jean Rollin joint, the one l think nails his knack for tone and atmosphere to near-perfection. Lips of Blood is OK. Oh well. 😎😷

    3. It has been over a decade since I watched most of the Jean Rollin films made in the 1970s. I do not know his films past that decade well. When I watched The Iron Rose (probably from a TCM Underground airing), I just did not connect with it. With the amount of time that has passed, I probably would have a different reaction to that and the others. Finding the energy for a lot of re-watches is difficult now. I did see The Grapes of Death for the first time last October. That is an excellent entry point for Rollin newbies, more conventional in story yet still full of his unique style.

  2. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: MUTANT MAYHEM (2023) I’m not sure how I feel about this rewriting of the Turtles’ origin story, but beyond that this had plenty of fun Turtle action. It emphasizes the "mutant" quadrant of the premise, and I feel it succeeds in that sense.

    HAUNTED MANSION (2023) There's some amusing gags here, and Lakeith Stanfield is especially good, but it’s nonetheless middle-of-the-road. Disney probably wants tons of sequels, but this is not the next Pirates.

    BLUE BEETLE (2023) This isn’t the nearly disaster that Black Adam, Shazam 2, and The Flash were, but I’m still getting “been there done that” vibes from it. The fact that Blue Beetle’s whole family joins the adventure gives this some uniqueness, but the family wore out their welcome after a while. In the end, the movie is… just okay.

    SKIMAMARINK (2022) WTF is this movie?

    TAMPOPO (1986) The next one on my “classics I haven’t seen yet” list. The loose story is set in and around a ramen joint, it's like different scenes are different movie genres throughout. Big fun!

    GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF LEGION (1996) Gamera fights a bunch of bugs that combine into one big bug. It's slow going at first, as the big guy doesn't show up until more than 30 minutes in, but any time spent with Gamera is a good time.

    ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998) Tony Scott goodness!

    INVADERS FROM MARS (1986) Tobe Hooper goodness!

    TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (2022) This movie is… a lot. I kind of wish I hadn’t seen any of last year’s Oscar clips, because going into this spoiler free must’ve been mind-blowing. The script leans awfully hard into the haves vs. have-nots theme, but I suppose that’s what movies are these days. Really enjoyed this, though. Recommended.

  3. Venom (2018) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021):

    I can't really justify liking these two (nor should i have to), but i do. I don't think the second roles casting always work, especially Riz Ahmed in the first movie (i like him in other stuff), and Michelle Williams is pretty much useless in both movies, just there to be a pretty face, but the movies work for me. I think they could've gone crazier, but you guys know how studio movies work, they like to play it safe.

  4. Good weekend to everyone! The summer is really flying by now; only a little more than a month left till Scary Movie Month begins. I am already thinking about a watch list. In the meantime, I am trying to get through my Netflix DVD queue as much as possible. Unfortunately, I will not watch all that want to get to from it, but that is life.

    I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978, dir. Meir Zarchi) at The Mahoning Drive-In – Not the first time I have seen this notorious slice of 1970s exploitation. A drive-in setting, though, adds to the rough charm of the experience. “Experience” is the apt word for it because I find I Spit On Your Grave more that than a film. It was intended to shock viewers and continues to be an uncomfortable watch.

    WET AND WILD SUMMER (1993) – When a young American real estate executive goes to Australia incognito to take over a beach for a resort development, he unexpectedly succumbs to the charms of the surf club there and its members. One those “save the ____” kind of films, this is a fun beach romp that follows the underdog formula and has splashes of random nudity. Elliot Gould unexpectedly shows up in a prominent role. Not a bad time waster.

    I also continued going through Masaki Kobayashi’s THE HUMAN CONDITION films. In parts 3 and 4, Kaji, the pacifist protagonist, finds himself an unwilling recruit in the Kwangtung Army of Japanese-controlled Manchuria. Brutality and bullying are part of his daily life, testing his belief that violence against other human beings is to be avoided at any personal cost. The basic training scenes are eerily reminiscent of those of Full Metal Jacket. Part 4 concludes with Kaji and his unit facing combat in the summer of 1945 against Soviet forces. I felt the three-hour duration more this time, as there is a sameness to the story that is not present in the first films. That being the case, patience is rewarded with some beautiful shots at the conclusion.

  5. Hello everyone! I hope you all watched G.I. Jane this week. Because I did and thought it was pretty great! Demi Moore was kick ass. It’s a “training” movie like 36 chambers.

    I freaking love everything Ridley Scott, so I also watch Exodus: Gods and Kings. It was alright. The scenes with the plagues were incredible, but overall, a little lackluster. I liked it overall though. Lesser R. Scott for sure.

  6. I watched First Blood for the first time recently. That was quite good. Sylvester Stallone is great it and I liked the Canadian forest setting. I’d go on to the sequels, but my understanding is they are very different and don’t seem that worthwhile to me.

    1. They are worthwhile, but it's like they're from a different franchise. One that's purely action and explosions

  7. <a href=">HAVE YOU BOUGHT YOUR $4 TICKETS FOR NATIONAL CINEMA DAY TODAY IN THE STATES (AUG. 27)?</B></a> Seen two already ('Super Mario Movie 3D 4DX,' Chilean documentary 'The Eternal Memory"), down for two more ("Simone" and "Strays") and afterwards l'll determine if can go for a fifth. Good thing l'm off from work Sundays and Mondays. 🤠👍