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.

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!

Other Side of the Door: B+

If you think you would enjoy a cross between “Pet Sematary” and “The Changeling,” you’re in luck because “The Other Side of the Door” is a spooky flick! It’s about an American family living in India who lose their youngest child in a tragic accident. Devastated by the loss of the child, the mother learns of a way she can talk to her son one last time. It involves digging up his body, cremating it, and taking the ashes to a creepy temple. The mother can talk to her son there but there’s a catch: don’t open the temple door! As you can probably guess, the mother opens the door, and the terror begins! This is a very well-acted and directed movie and it is unique that it is set in India. The director made the recent “47 Meters Down” and is someone to watch. While not a masterpiece, “The Other Side of the Door” works very well and recommended to horror fanatics everywhere! And remember: don’t open the door!

Mel Gibson Reigns in Blood Father

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.”

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.

Bladerunner 2049 Review

As a sequel to perhaps the greatest science-fiction film of all time, “Blade Runner 2049” has a lot to live up to. And, surprisingly, it does, in one of the year’s best films. Ryan Gosling plays Agent K, a replicant blade runner who is assigned to track down and kill Deckard (Harrison Ford, returning from the original). He soon discovers that, through Deckard, he may hold the key to a secret that could change history forever.

This film cost $150 million and looks it. Society on Earth is barely surviving an environmental onslaught, but it is still recognizably a “Blade Runner” world. There is a big Sony presence in the future, and a gigantic hologram of a naked woman (which must look great in 3D). The line between human and androids has further blurred.

Harrison Ford is much better in this film than he was in the first one, exuding warmth, humanity, and purpose. I also really liked Jared Leto as the sinister, blind android manufacturer, and Robin Wright as K’s understanding superior. Besides being excellent science fiction, the film is also a mystery and a film noir. As with the first one, the ending is surprisingly moving and provides a real emotional catharsis. Hans Zimmer’s score (with an assist from Vangelis) is his best in years.

If I have a complaint, it is that the film, photographed by Roger Deakins, is not as aesthetically pleasing as the original. That’s a small gripe, though, for a film that accomplishes so much. “Blade Runner 2049” is a must-see.

Jeepers Creepers 3 Makes the Cut

“Jeepers Creepers 3” is a rip-roaring monster movie. Exuberant with its gore and humor, it concerns what happened with the creeper between the first and second films. It brings back three actors from the first one: Brandon Smith. Gina Philips, and, of course, Jonathan Breck as the Creeper. Also starring is the legendary, green-eyed Meg Foster, from such classics as “They Live,” “Leviathan,” (1989) and “The Emerald Forest,” as well as Stan Shaw, a character actor from “Rocky” and many others. The film concerns a massive attempt to hunt down the Creeper by law enforcement. As the hunt continues, many innocent people get caught in the cross-fire.

I enjoyed the film’s sense of humor and that it is an old-fashioned B-picture. Particularly amusing is a customized tank that is utilized to fight the creature, as well as the booby-trapped The Creeper vehicle (which two characters get stuck in). The special FX are not as impressive as in the first two, but the film is still a great deal of fun.

This is a very controversial film because director Victor Salva is a convicted sex offender in a 1988 case involving a boy in his film “Clownhouse.” His crime was quite heinous and he was lucky to receive only a 3-year prison sentence. That said, does that have any bearing on his films? No. Victor Salva makes entertaining films. “The Nature of the Beast,” “Powder,” and “Jeepers Creepers” are good films. So, to a lesser extent, is “Jeepers Creepers 3.”

I saw the film at a special one-time only show. A lot of people went to see this film, so they added a special show for Wednesday, Oct. 4. If you’re a fan of the series, go see it!

One last thing: after the film, they showed an interview with Jonathan Breck, the actor who plays the Creeper. His warm memories of making the films combined with his enthusiasm for his fans and the series in general sent those remaining in the audience out on an up note.

Kingsman 2: A Violent Masterpiece

You want action? You want fun? “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” delivers! More entertaining and less nasty than the first entry, this movie involves Julianne Moore trying to take over the world with a drug that incapacitates and eventually kills anyone who has ever used drugs. Only the Kingsmen can stop her. OK, so the plot is as silly as a “Naked Gun” movie. That doesn’t matter. The exuberance with which this film is made and acted is what matters. For example, there is a great gag about turning people into edible sausages that is a great reference to the classic exploitation film “The Exterminator.”

Another great thing is the way Elton John is used; playing himself, he is genuinely funny. Basically, though a little long, this film is one riotous scene after another. Star Taylor Edgerton is more convincing than he was the first time and it is great to see Colin Firth back. Basically, it’s a film you can turn your brain off and enjoy. The action is non-stop and the gags are fast and furious. If you like action and off-color humor, don’t miss this one!

Birth of Dragon : Good Action / Bad Plot

I am reviewing this film as a martial artist and a fan of Bruce Lee’s. Having trained Kajukenbo 4 years or so, and having met grandmasters there who told first hand accounts of having trained with him, I can attest that this film has a somewhat inaccurate depiction of Lee. I also read Lee’s street fighting technique books and his book Tao of Jeet Kune Do. The martial arts kicked ass in this movie. There are killer stunts throughout, and awesome fight choreography. The actors deserve credit for their techniques. Lee was much more spiritual than what was depicted in the film. This film makes him look like megalomaniac. and a thug.

Nobody cares about the middle aged, abused white guy who wants to get with the human trafficked Chinese restaurant worker. Therein lies the problem with this film. Had it just relied on the story of Bruce Lee, and been more respectful to him, and would have been solid. But the subplot involving Lee’s annoying student kills the film’s credibility, and makes it not as watchable.

One bright spot of the film was the part where Lee’s challenger, a Shaolin monk from China, shows him a point about not knowing his own limitations and capabilities well enough. Know thyself, and know thy enemy is a concept the film embraces. The monk also brings a theme of humbleness to the film. There are some positive attributes to the film.

If you are a martial artist , see the film strictly for the action scenes involving the Lee and the monk character. You will see some really good Wing Chung and Jeet Kune Do. Their respective acting performances were pretty strong as well. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is a bit hokey.