The new Amityville flick, The Awakening, hit Blu-ray this month. We picked up a copy, and were happy to get to see it, since the Weinstein scandal prevented its wide release. Amityville showed in only a handful of theatres, and grossed a total of 800 bucks. My underground metal albums made almost that much last year. So I feel good!
The question regarding any Amityville flick is always, “How do you make a decent 90 minute movie about some guy wasting his family with a shotgun?” In reality wasting everyone probably took five minutes and wasn’t that interesting. Normally the answer is to have a bunch of gratuitous dead kid ghosts, as well as boring family scenes to build a sense of (boring) characters. And there is some of that in this film. However, what made this film interesting is the neurologically impaired crippled character who is getting possessed by the house to kill his family. This all happened because the (stupid!) mom has moved the family to that house specifically to harness evil powers to heal his ass, since God failed. This backfires (obviously). The crippled character is played by Cameron Monaghan, and he does a splendid job in the role. I had a client with a similar condition to his when I was a caregiver, and this character he portrayed was unusually believable. The house heals him so he can kill his family. When he does have control of himself , he uses the power-chair wheel imprints in the mud to put a protective voodoo circle around the house. Isn’t that heartwarming?
Bella Thorne, famous from God knows what, also excels in her role as the dumb teen girl who moves with her family to this Godforsaken house. Normally I don’t like those super skinny white girls, but this girls hot, and she does a great job of prancing around in her underwear throughout the film. In light of the Weinstein sex scandal I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but if she is over 18 and had shown her tits (small tits have their fans too!) I would add a whole star . And her acting isn’t half bad.
Between the mixed reviews, weak box office, and online media hate focused on Matt Damon, the average person is ready to assume that the new film “Downsizing” is a disappointment. Imagine my surprise because “Downsizing” is one of the best films of the year. Damon plays a man who agrees, along with his wife, to be shrunk because of the high cost of living. As a small person, he can live like a king. Unfortunately, life while shrunk is much more complicated than he imagined.
This move starts as a high-concept science fiction comedy and gradually turns into something much greater. When the film slows down and becomes a comedic love story between Damon and Hong Chau (who deserves an Oscar for her performance as a small disabled Vietnamese political activist) as well as being about the possible end of the world, then we are really in uncharted territory for a big budget sci-fi film. The film deserves praise for its weird but plausible premise as well as a great cast (including, Cristoph Waltz, Kristen Wiig, and Udo Kier) and uncannily good special effects. When it was over, I felt like I had seen a truly original futuristic movie. For once, as well, I had seen a film with characters and situations worth caring about. “Downsizing” is the best sci-fi film of the year.
The crime thriller “Good Time,” which just hit DVD and Blu-Ray, is easily one of the year’s best films. Starring the perennially underrated Robert Pattinson (who is also great in “Cosmopolis” and “The Rover”) as Connie,a smart criminal determined to protect his developmentally disabled brother, the film opens with the two brothers in a heist gone wrong. Connie had busted his brother out of the government’s care, and, as you might expect, the heist goes wrong and the brother ends up in police custody and gets sent to Rikers’ island. The rest of the film is about Connie’s desperate, all-night odyssey to save his brother from the horrors of prison. However, in trying to save his brother, Connie makes big mistakes and ends up getting himself in an astonishing amount of bad situations.
I thought I knew how “Good Time” would turn out, but I was wrong. The script is both serpentine and surprising as it refuses to cater to our expectations. This is not a mainstream film but it is exciting because it is so well executed. All of the actors are great, as are the music and cinematography. The portrayal of the disabled brother is convincing also and Jennifer Jason Leigh is brilliant in a small role. By the end we’ve been through quite a ride with characters and plot twists we haven’t seen before. Pattinson’s portrayal of the smart but misguided and dangerous Connie is indelible. “Good Time” is a must-see!
“Blade of the Immortal,” a fantastic, gory supernatural Japanese samurai movie from master of horror Takashi Miike, is one of the year’s most entertaining films. Based on a hit manga series in Japan, the plot has many similarities to this year’s hit “Logan” but this movie is actually better! It concerns a little girl who must convince a world-weary, immortal samurai to avenge her family. And so he does, in one of the goriest, craziest, and most epic action films in a long time. The director, whose 100th film this is, may be familiar to American audiences through “Audition,” “Ichi the Killer,” the original “One Missed Call,” and “13 Assassins.” This time he tops himself, giving us a film that is a cross between Akira Kurosawa and Quentin Tarantino. It’s longish but never dull, and is now playing in select theaters and Amazon Prime streaming.
How could a film that is certified fresh at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes be one of the year’s worst films? Its simple, 92% of the public are fucking morons. Watch “Thor Ragnarok” and find out. This Thor sequel could be a good place to start the purge!
In the tradition of “Superman 3” and “Batman and Robin,” this film tosses away any semblance of seriousness to sling joke after joke at us. If the film was funny, like “Superman 3” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” are, this might be forgivable. But with the exception of a great cameo by Stan Lee, this film is not so much funny as painful. See Thor spar with Loki (again)! See Anthony Hopkins (for about a minute)! Watch Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum embarrass themselves (though Goldblum is funny)! Witness the pointless humiliation of the Incredible Hulk character for laughs! Watch scene after scene of elaborate but pointless special effects! Thrill to horrible puns! It’s in 3-D (actually they did OK on that part)! Watch actors fail at conveying emotion in scene after scene! And watch your hard-earned dollars go down the toilet! If you miss one big-budget blockbuster this year, make it “Thor Ragnarok.” I walked out near the end, catastrophically disappointed. “Thor 3” is a bore and a chore, and I couldn’t wait to get out the door.
Film buffs should take note that a new film called “Lucky” is making the rounds starring the late, great Harry Dean Stanton. The film is about a 90-year old free spirit who is very eccentric and interesting. Du ring the course of the film, we find out about him and his beliefs and we meet other residents of the small town he lives in. The cast also includes Tom Skerritt and Ed Begley Jr., but it’s David Lynch who steals the film as a charming, home-spun oldster who has an unusual bond with his pet turtle Columbus. This is a solid, sometimes hilarious, well-made film that shows conservative people in a good light. Stanton’s and Skerritt’s character are war veterans and it’s nice to see a positive depiction of American veterans for a change. Be sure to stick around for a great gag at the very end! Stanton (from “Repo Man,” “Paris. Texas,” “Christine,” and “Escape from New York”) is incredibly affecting and deserves an Oscar. Don’t miss this excellent, bittersweet comedy!
So I went to see this Jackie Chan movie that has been out almost a month called The Foreigner. Chan plays a poor bereaved Chinese ex-patriot whose daughter gets killed by an IRA bomb. It is set in the current day, so this is a joke. Enter Pierce Brosnan as a boring corporate IRA boardroom type guy (talk about boring settings). Brosnan does every scene with 15 white thugs, and fills a ridiculous stereotype that if you have an Irish accent, you are therefor either in the mob or you are a cop. The other good guy besides Chan is a black embassy officer, and it becomes clear early in the film that white people are evil. Also its obvious about five minutes in that Brosnan is the bad guy, and his little act pretending to be Mr. Reformed Bomber Guy is a fail.
To make matters worse, there must have been some kind of popcorn promotion at the theatre I attended. As the trailers about AMC’s shitty soda and popcorn proceeded, fat slob whites and Mexicans surrounded me like the Alamo, with loud slobbering sounds of buttery cholesterol death and straw slurping corn syrup clogging.
My girlfriend simultaneously decided to start browbeating me regarding relationship bullshit. I was forced to relocate to a less odorous, less slobbery section (near the exit). But slobs proceeded to stake positions around me and took my seat as I got up for 5 seconds for fresh air and recomposing. At this point (which was about twelve minutes into the film) I felt I would have to vomit if I stayed in this disgusting theatre.
As I went outside Mexican families waddled by with disgusting filled popcorn boxes the size of their upper frame, while towing two extra plastic bags (each) of even more enormous popcorn. This was truly shocking and nauseating. It was like Day of the Popcorn. These people were fucking popcorn zombies I am telling you.
So I went to the front counter and told them the crowd was disgusting and chewing more popcorn than I had ever seen in my entire life. And I was able to get a full refund.
Sometimes you can find very interesting films you haven’t heard about by glancing at the shelves of Walmart and Best Buy. “Blood Father” starring Mel Gibson and William H. Macy is one such film. It finds Mel reaching back to his “Mad Max” and “Lethal Weapon” glory days as a former alcoholic and drug addict who is just out of jail and trying to walk the straight and narrow path. Unfortunately, his daughter has fallen in with some dangerous Mexican criminals. When she shoots her psychotic boyfriend and escapes, her estranged dad is the only person she can go to. Fortunately, even a reformed Mel Gibson is still quite the badass.
This film works on two levels. It’s a violent, bloody action thriller AND the story of a father and his daughter. Mel Gibson is the film’s greatest asset because, B-movie or not, he plays it for real. His tenderness towards his daughter makes for a nice contrast with the violent action scenes. This film shows up “Taken” with Liam Neeson as the wimpy flick that it is. Unlike that one, “Blood Father” has real stakes and the ending is not predictable. Mel proves that he is still as adept in front of the camera as he is behind it in “Hacksaw Ridge.” If you want a thrilling, bloody action thriller, watch “Blood Father.”
If there’s one movie you’re not supposed to like this year, it’s “The Assignment.” If you’re a member of the LGBT community, you’re supposed to be offended by its mere existence. If you’re the regular average Joe, the themes of sex change combined with copious male and female nudity will offend. Conversely, we at GROIN kind of like it! “The Assignment” (2016) is the new film by Walter Hill, a consistently good director whose work includes “The Warriors” and “Streets of Fire.” Perhaps dissatisfied with well-crafted but non-distinctive recent work like “Bullet to the Head,” Hill has opted to make the first action flick (that I know of) about a sex change.
Sigourney Weaver plays a brilliant, quite mad doctor who wants revenge for the death of her estranged brother. Frank Kitchen (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is a super-macho gangster who committed the crime and is about to get the surprise of his life. He is now a she, and will have to discover his feminine side as he enacts bloody revenge for an operation he never wanted. Meanwhile, the audience gets graphic male and female nudity so we are convinced that Frank is authentically male and female.
This movie kind of trashes the SF Tenderloin District lifestyle in its immorality and seediness. In between scenes there are comic book like jump cuts reminiscent of his earlier classic The Warriors. The antagonists include mad plastic surgeons, psychiatrists, Chinamen Mafioso types, and dive bar trolls. The best thing is the quick pace of the film, and the high number of action sequences. The film’s use of SF as a dark backdrop of societal collapse is effective. This movie subversively does not give the gay lifestyle a pass. As such, it is a brave film.
We are supposed to be offended, apparently, that Frank didn’t want the operation and doesn’t like being female. I was more interested in the performances of Rodriguez and Weaver. Rodriguez, who was also good in “Girlfight,” is convincing as the transgender protagonist. We believe her as both sexes, and we also believe she is tough and unhappy. For Weaver, this is her best work since the 1990’s. Proclaiming her superiority to all of mankind and outraged that more people don’t know Shakespeare and Poe front and backwords , she is the most memorable antagonist in a long time. Rent it to sneer and watch it to gasp, because “The Assignment” is the rare B-action flick that doesn’t suck.
“American Made” is Tom Cruise’s best movie in awhile. It’s a dark comedy based on true events about a pilot who gets in way over his head working for the C.I.A. and, later, Pablo Escobar and Manuel Noriega. Because his actions shed so much negative light on America’s activities in the Middle East (detailed in the Iran-Contra scandal), he is able to escape punishment for an extraordinarily long time. Although Cruise has trouble with his character’s southern accent, he fearlessly portrays his character’s lack of moral qualms. In fact, in terms of having access to planes, a ton of money, and guns for no good reason, his character resembles the Vegas shooter. Is this just a coincidence, or is it some kind of deeper message from Hollywood about how history repeats. Look at Obama’s cash pallet Iran deal. Or how the CIA accidentally armed ISIS when the Iraqi army forfeited their weapons.
One of the best things about this film was that the cinematography was excellent. Many of the shots of the vast forests of South America are breath-taking as Cruise flies above. There are some similarities to the film Gold, starring Mathew McConoughey, released not long ago. Its good that films about serious subject matter are sometimes still hitting the mainstream.
Director Doug Liman of “The Bourne Identity” and “Edge of Tomorrow” fame keeps the story focused and the satire sharp. It’s definitely better than the similar “Lord of War” and “War Dogs.” And compared to “Air America” it is golden. The problems with those other films is that they were too whimsical. In short, if you’re looking for a serious film that happens to be very entertaining, go with “American Made.”