For a Bloody Good Samurai Flick Try…

“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.

Thor the Bore

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.

Harry Dean Stanton’s Last Film Reviewed

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!

Thank You For Your Service Says ‘Fuck You’ to Kneelers

Everywhere I go in Salinas these days people pull me aside to talk shit about the NFL kneelers. “Too many people in my family died for that flag”, “Those motherfuckers”, and stuff like that are the common small talk here. To start with, fans were not happy their local team the Raiders up and decided to move to Vegas despite sell-outs. Meanwhile the 49ers lost all their first 7 or 8 games, following the Colin Kap debacle where he started the kneeling trend.

I wasn’t expecting much from “Thank You For Your Service,” but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised. This film, which stars Miles Teller and is directed by the writer-producer of “American Sniper,” paints a bleak picture of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It shows the terror of war by following three Iraq War vets through their post-war experiences, which tend to be scarier than any horror film I’ve seen this year. One of the soldiers is an African American who has almost completely lost his ability to remember dates. Your heart goes out to him. Because the film is a true story, the resolution is not as exciting as it seems like it could be. But it’s a powerful film, and Amy Schumer (who I’m not wild about) is fine in a straight dramatic role. This movie is definitely worth seeing and probably better than “American Sniper.” Don’t miss it if you like serious films!

Walter Hill’s Assignment is Twisted

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 Delivers

“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.”

Battle of the Sexes (Women Won)

This new flick Battle of the Sexes, about the chauvinist gambler and former Wimbleton winner who took on female tennis pro Bill Jean King, is a good combination of humor and social commentary. The film is well balance in a way that few films are. Kind of reminds me of Rain Man in that regard. The sets and costumes really capture the era of the 70s very well.

Do you remember hearing about the tennis match in the 70s between them, in which Billie Jean King won? I remember HBO sports pushing documentaries about it really hard when I was like 5 years old, in between Mike Tyson boxing decapitations. This movie makes an interesting point: that women won the battle of the sexes, in terms of independence, pay, and social prestige. Billie Jean King becomes liberated from her husband by a dike lover to rub in the fact that she wins this charade of a tennis match. It is rather unsettling. The husband has to cuck. And that’s the problem. Don’t blame women for being misguided. Its the men who cucked societally and allowed this corrosion, where men get walked all over.

 

Steve Carell plays the male chauvinist very effectively. He is a dead look-alike in fact. At the time the guy was so past retirement that the match was a bogus litmus test for the make species. John McEnroe would have kicked Billie Jean’s ass. Anyhow, Carell brings a zeal and enthusiasm to the role which is unmatched in the film. He does manage to beat the #2 tennis star in the world at the time, who is the more traditional woman. Strangely and wrongly, the movie subtly hints that a traditional woman does not handle pressure as well as a gay one.

This is a hard film to review and grade so I would recommend you see it yourself and come to your own decision. Prepare to have a few laughs and possibly be outraged at dike scenes where you were not invited in as a threesome.

St. Ives: A Bronson Classic

Whenever you’re looking for quick action fix, you can’t do any better than a 1970’s or a 1980’s Charles Bronson film, but for different reasons. The 1970’s films like “Death Wish,” “The Mechanic,” and “Hard Times” are genuine classics, whereas the 1980’s films like “Death Wish 2,” “Death Wish 3” and “Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects” are so-bad-they’re-good. “St. Ives,” a 1976 film I just watched, falls into the former category. It has a “Chinatown” film noir feeling that I really like, and the music is appropriate for the time.

The cast includes John Houseman, Jacqueline Bisset, Maximallian Schell, and also Jeff Goldblum and Robert Englund as hoods. Bronson plays Raymond St. Ives, a crime reporter and ex-policeman who is hired by the nefarious John Houseman to retrieve five stolen ledgers. Many deaths ensue, and Bronson ends up spear-heading a robbery to get revenge for a job gone wrong. My favorite scene in the movie is the first, in which Bronson is being confronted and accused at gunpoint, which throws us into the narrative right away because we want to know why he’s in trouble. This film is classic 1970’s cinema because it combines action, conspiracy, and a detective story. The director, J. Lee Thompson, made “Cape Fear” and “The Guns of Navarone,” as well as 8 other Charles Bronson films. This is probably the best one. If you’re looking for a classic 1970’s Charles Bronson experience look no further than “St. Ives”!

Anabelle Sucks

 

OK, so the original “Annabelle” sucked pond water, but “Annabelle: Creation” got good reviews, so I decided to check out. It fucking sucks too! With a lame poster like this, who could go wrong:

They could not think of a better clichĂ© , so instead the opening scenes were the only good scenes in the picture, as they detail the sad (and based on fact) story of a family that has a tragic accident involving a little girl named Annabelle. Where have I seen this before? Well like a thousand other movies (because its supposedly based on a true thing!). Well -so far, so good. But then we get this “Little Orphan Annie” bullshit about the bereaved family letting an orphanage of little Catholoc girls shack up in their luxurious (and creepy) estate which makes no sense. We also get a plot that exploits the disability (polio) of a little girl, including a creepy lift to the upstairs of the house. The little girl unlocks a door she’s not supposed to and soon the jump scares and “Exorcist” and “Conjuring” rip-offs begin. At no point is the orphanage, led by a nun who’s not very bright, ready to pack up and leave despite many terrible things happening. Geez. What’s wrong with the nuns these days??

If you’ve been following this review, you’ll notice that this film is not content with putting little girls in jeopardy, but has decided to double down and put a little disabled girl in jeopardy. Its a movie about whatever it will take to fill seats and sell popcorn basically. After a while, it becomes simply a succession of jump scares. You can go take a leak at any point in this film and you won’t miss anything. Go refill that $7 soda. When this happened, the packed audience became more entertaining than the movie. Dozens of cries of “aw hell no!” as well as predictions of what was going to happen provided the entertainment the film itself was lacking. It was one of those crowds where there is a really low IQ going on, and you have to duck and hide on the way out.

So although the film is slightly better than the first “Annabelle,” it still comes down on pandering to the audience rather than telling a good story. Its like sex with a fat chick, not very good!

Horror fans are advised to skip it and wait for “Stephen King’s It,” which generated more creepiness and atmosphere in a two-minute clip before the film than both “Annabelle” films combined. I have no idea why the crowd applauded loudly at the end. My cash would have been better spent at the racetrack frankly.

Instant Justice = Instant Fun

Ready for an hilarious bad action movie experience? Check out “Instant Justice” starring Michael Pare and Tommy Kiitaen. Neither of these actors need a huge introduction because Pare starred in “Eddie and the Cruisers,” “Streets of Fire,” “The Philadelphia Experiment,” and “Bad Moon,” while Kitaen was in “Bachelor Party” and “Witchboard.” Pare plays a Marine named Younglood (shades of the Rob Lowe classic from around the same time) whose sister is killed as part of a modeling/prostitution scam run by drug dealers.

Pare infiltrates the criminal underworld in the movie and will stop at nothing to avenge his sister’s death. Tawny Kitaen plays the love interest and potential victim, who apparently showers fully clothed and wants to run off with Youngblood if he’ll stop thinking about vengeance. All of this involves all little gratuitous nudity (not Tawny), drug use, car chases, shootouts, and bad acting. Pare is a poor man’s Stallone, but he has his moments, Tawny is hot with priceless bad ’80’s hair, but she’s not a great actress. The director used a fake name and was never heard from again. This film is definitely so-bad-it’s-good.If you enjoy bad ’80’s action, be sure to get “Instant Justice” from 1986 on VHS!