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. Strangly, 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 cliché , 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!

Dark Tower – A Solid Fantasy Film

Our other staff writer underestimated how good this film is. The film adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark tower is a towering masterpiece. Elba is awesome as the gunslinger and takes the role seriously. Also, he does some good dead-pan humor. He plays a fantasy western version of a Knights Templar. His guns were ‘forged from Exacalibur’.

McConaughey is also strong as the man in black, who can be thought of as the false prophet in a Biblical sense. The man in black bears a striking resemblance to the Randall Flagg character in the Stand, another apocalyptic Stephen King masterpiece. Unlike other modern hits like Harry Potter, this movie the Dark Tower warns against the use of occultist magic.

The most obvious occult symbols in the film are the dark tower itself (Tower of Babel/ WTC parallels are obvious from the NYC skyline shots being ominously shown over and over again), and the portal itself (CERN parallels). Just as in the stories Firestarter, there are tons of insinuations to the MK Ultra program (unveiled by the Church committee in the 70s in Congress and the victims were paid reparations), in which the government takes kids who have psychic abilities and abuses them and does experiments on them. In the Dark Tower the government keeps trying to seize the kid character in the film to do just that.

This movie is considered a fantasy. But it is not. It is Stephen King’s coded way of warning us of several things:
a) magic and occultism are dangerous and help to bring about the Anti-Christ (the Man in Black), by opening portals for demons to enter our world through.
b) the government kidnaps and experiments on people who are psychic (Firestarter with Drew Berrymore this occurs throughout the film, also in this film they try and get the kid for his psychic abilities, and its done through mental health or foster care)
c) The falling and rebuilding of the World Trade Center has some sort of strong connection to the occult, and King quite possibly predicted the fall of the Twin Towers in his first volume from 1982.

King started writing in the early 1970’s. At that time there was a strong mistrust of government. From the Gulf of Tonkin, to the Church committee, to Cointelprolo Operation, the government had gone and lied to the public while doing some really evil things. Stephen King clearly picked up on this. Many of his works exhibit an anti government paranoia. Not just Firestarter (where George C. Scott acts super creepy almost sexual intonations towards Drew Berrymore), but in the Dead Zone the Martin Sheen character was set to become a fascist dictator set on nuking the world. Lawnmower Man had ‘the Shop’ too. Or in the Stand, where small pox virus breaks out of a government lab, killing off most of the globe’s population. Only to be saved by the ‘Hand of God’ at the end. Stephen King himself is the visionary, and much of what he warns us about is directly from the bible.

This newest film of Stephen King’s is the clearest indication and proof yet that King believes (and is right) that Christian prophecies are fulfilled beyond anything that could be considered coincidence. The fact that the book dealt with apocalyptic towers in NYC way back in 1982 is a blatant example of how human history and future has been coded into biblical prophecy, and cleverly deciphered, reinterpreted, and laid bare for keen observers of pop culture to use as a tool to heighten their intellectual awareness.

Another notable simulacra throughout the film and the book the characters say ‘I shoot with my mind not my hand’. This echoes Infowars.com slogan ‘there is a war for your mind’ just a little to closely to be coincidence. There is also a line that repeats throughout regarding virtue (or lack thereof) about ‘Having forgotten the face of your father(s)’, which likely relates to the Founding Fathers and how America has abandoned its original principles.  As you watch the film see what examples you can find as a viewer in terms of occultism. They are plentiful.

Traci Lords – B Movie Honoree

An uplifting story in B-movie cinema is Traci Lord’s ascendance from exploited porno actress to legit B and even A-movie star. For example, “Not of this Earth” is a wonderful 1988 cheeseball remake of Roger Corman’s “classic.” It rules. She bares her breasts but also shows strong comedic skills as a nurse who unknowingly works for a space alien who is stealing the “life force” from nubile women. To borrow a quote from a video store I used to frequent in Berkeley in the 1990’s this film is the    “Showgirls” of sci-fi.

The film is so sexy and funny it doesn’t matter that it’s cheap. Jim Wynorski, who also made “Chopping Mall” and “The Return of Swamp Thing,” is an excellent sleazemaster whose films are very entertaining, The film, despite being made for less money than the original, turned out well and received a theatrical release and some decent reviews, leading to a role for Lords in the classic “Cry-Baby” and Stephen King’s “The Tommyknockers.” The 2010 widescreen DVD from Shout! Factory is very good and has commentary by Lords and Wynorski and an interview with Lords.

Another good B-movie starring Lords is “Shock ‘Em Dead,,” a 1990 horror comedy recently released to Blu-ray. It is about a hopeless loser geek who sells his sole to Satan so he can become a metal God. He gets his wish, but discovers he has to kill in order to continue his hedonistic lifestyle. Lords plays the “pure woman” who likes him whom he must seduce to end the curse. Although the film is cheesy, it has a decent plot and the songs are hilarious and pretty good. No longer required to shed her clothes, Lords is appealing in this obscure but underrated gem. Check it out!

Traci Lords is a reminder that a girl can rise from inglorious beginnings and become a movie star and decent actress. These two films are a must for any B-movie fan’s library! Thanks, Traci!

Warlock BluRay is Pagan Gold

Maybe I’m weird, but the most anticipated Blu-ray release for me this year was not “Rogue One” or “La La Land,” but instead “The Warlock Collection.” Part of the new Vestron limited edition collection series from Lionsgate, these films deal with a Satanic warlock who wants to end the world. The original film features Richard E. Grant as a witch-hunter from the 17th century who, like the warlock, is zapped into 1991. Only Grant and Lori Singer can prevent Julian Sands from destroying the universe by saying God’s true name backwards and thereby undoing creation.

 

Lori Singer plays “Kassandra with a K,” a buoyant woman from the valley who joins the witch-hunt via necessity (the warlock puts an aging spell on her) but gradually falls for the sincere Grant. This film is distinguished by distinguished locales, good performances, a healthy sense of humor, and a wonderful Jerry Goldsmith score.

 

Sands is pure evil, but you like him: his suave British charm is hard to resist. Grant shines in a rare sympathetic role; you may remember him as the villain from “Hudson Hawk” or as the alchoholic in the great “Withnail and I.” Singer is sexy and feisty; what happened to her? Mary Woronov from “Eating Raoul” and “Night of the Comet” has a small role. Overall, a great film that I regret missing in theatres.

“Warlock: The Armageddon,” an almost unrelated sequel, is lower-budget but just as much fun. This time, Sands is more directly related to Satan, and his powers are much more sinister. Born in an oddball fashion full-grown from some random woman, Sands must acquire the correct precious priceless stones to end the world. This he does by tricking people into giving him the stones, then killing them Freddy Krueger or Wishmaster style. He even turns somebody into a Picasso! Who can stop his nefarious plot? The Druids, of course. and two dorky teenagers played by Chris Young and Paula Marshall. You would think the Warlock would easily win, but you’d be wrong. It all concludes in mano-a-mano fashion, as the dorky teen turns out to have the right stuff. This film, like the first, has very interesting special FX and is made with a kit of charm. I did see this at the AMC Saratoga 6 in 1993, and I miss seeing genuine B-films at the cinema. If you like Julian Sands and ridiculous horror films, don’t miss this one. It’s from the director of the “Waxwork” films and “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.”

Finally, we have “Warlock III: The End of Innocence,” where the Warlock is now played by Bruce Payne because Julian Sands didn’t like the script. This movie is about a college girl (played by “Hellraiser”‘s Ashley Laurence) who inherits a haunted house but wants to keep it so she can find out about her family heritage. She brings several friends along, and soon they are all being tormented by the Warlock, who tortures all the friends until they turn on our heroine. This film was OK but I couldn’t get into it. It didn’t fit with the other 2 films, mainly because it was too serious. This one I would recommend watching just once.

There are, of course, more bonus features on this set than I can count,, but the main thing is that you get 3 very entertaining ’90’s B horror films, painstakingly restored, for about $25. This set is so entertaining you’ll be tempted to give your soul over to the warlock. Julian Sands is the best horror baddie since Vincent Price, and these films show that off-the-wall, non-cliché efforts can be very entertaining. Don’t miss this Blu-ray set!

Cult Classic : Barbarians

If you enjoy bad but fun sword and sorcery B-films, then Cannon Films’ 1987 romp “Barbarians” is for you. In it, two twin barbarians (played by the Razzie-nominated David and Peter Paul) who have been manipulated to kill each other instead face off against the great Richard Lynch. This film, which is from the director of “Cannibal Holocaust,” features good production values and music by Pino Donaggio. More importantly, it appears to have inspired the “Golden Axe” video game series, with many scenes resembling the games and the twin brothers frequently wielding axes. The “Barbarian Brothers” can’t act but are really something,This movie can be found on a double bill DVD with Lee Majors and Cornel Wilde in “The Norseman.” Good times!

It Comes at Night : C+

 

Looking for an edge-of-your-seat horror winner? Look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for a little food for thought, then “It Comes at Night” is not a total failure. The film deals with an outbreak of a deadly virus, possibly smallpox. Nobody seems to really know what it is or how it spreads, but fear and mistrust runs rampant. The film deals with two families whose paths cross in a desolate, apocalyptic future.

There are some good things about this film. The actor playing the 17-year old son is real good. Also, the atmosphere and tension are palpable. The problem is that the film refuses to give the audience information that it needs. Without knowing if the characters’ fears are baseless or valid, it becomes impossible to know how to react to the characters’ decisions. Also, the film concludes with an irritating non-ending that, judging by a sudden change in aspect ratio, may be the young, sick protagonist’s dream.

While I would definitely hesitate to call this a bad horror film, it’s just not a very entertaining one. Also the star, the edgy Joel Edgerton, is wasted here in an unsympathetic role. This film could have really amounted to something. However, in its current form, it’s kind of a waste. Go see something else more uplifting, like almost any film ever made. By the way, the title is meaningless