Friday, August 16, 2019

Only now does it occur to me... BRASS TARGET

Only now does it occur to me... that when it comes to speculative historical revisionism, you can hardly get nuttier than the gloriously banal BRASS TARGET (based on the novel, THE ALGONQUIN PROJECT). It's a movie that boldly asks––what if?––General George S. Patton (George Kennedy)

was not, in fact, killed after a car crash, but was murdered by a hitman (Max von Sydow)


who made it look like an accident and was working on behalf of corrupt Allied military officers––including THE PRISONER's Patrick McGoohan,

PATRICK MCGOOHAN WILL NOT SAVE YOU A SEAT

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.'s Robert Vaughn,

Weirdo post-coital Robert Vaughn

and OVERBOARD's Edward Herrmann,

Flustered post-coital Edward Herrmann

the latter two of whom are playing a couple!––who have stolen $250 million in Nazi gold. And what if some noble hero (John Cassavetes) almost stopped it... and then sought revenge on Patton's behalf?

John Cassavetes is here to chew bubblegum and look creepy, and he's all out of bubblegum


John Cassavetes: even when he's trying to be wholesome, he can't not be creepy

Also playing out in the background is a romantic subplot between Cassavetes and Sophia Loren, which, given the prioritization of the XY chromosomes on display, has received zero creative energy and flops like a dead fish. 
Loren, despite her top billing, couldn't be more of an afterthought. She and Cassavetes may have the least amount of chemistry out of any Hollywood coupling I've ever seen, and I've seen STAR WARS––EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Robert Vaughn has more chemistry with the viewer and all he does is stare at us like a walleyed lunatic.

I mean, really, though.
Nothing can spark their interest––not even the thought of the eventual paycheck; not even the idea that when the shooting stops they never need to see each other again

The whole thing sort of plays like a movie directed by a sentient stack of WWII paperback novels and testosterone-doused hand grenade-paperweights whose favorite part of any war film is the part when a bunch of generals stand around a nondescript industrial space and talk about maps. If BRASS TARGET were a person, it'd be a guy whose favorite Peckinpah film is THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND. His favorite Alec Guinness movie is THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM. His favorite Clint Eastwood is THE EIGER SANCTION. His second-favorite is FIREFOX. I could go on.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Only now does it occur to me... THE BLACK WINDMILL

Only now does it occur to me... that while THE BLACK WINDMILL is known for being a much-maligned Don Siegel flick featuring a bored Michael Caine as a British secret service agent who is (supposedly) acting with urgency to rescue his kidnapped son:

"I have a particular set of skills....skills I have acquired over a very long career... skills that make me a nightmare for people like you... but if you want to see them in action, you'll have to give me a better motive than kidnapping my dumb son"

 that while it is known for co-starring a malevolent John Vernon (in a rare non-school principal role):

that while it is known for an azz-kickin', trumpet-funk '70s soundtrack by Roy Budd, and that while it is known for wasting as much wine as Stanley Kubrick wasted fake blood on the elevator scene from THE SHINING:

REDRUM.... TOLREM

...it really ought to be known as the premiere venue for Donald Pleasence to fondle a fake mustache with impunity.


He just can't 


keep his hands  


off the damn thing 


it's practically pathological, and,

  
in reacting to it, I think Michael Caine affords it more acting headspace than the concept of his kidnapped son. 

 
The only time Donald's not touching it is when he has a broken arm and both hands are fully preoccupied.

Also, I guess it bears mentioning that there's a scene near the end set at a windmill. But the windmill's not black, and there's nothing particularly meaningful about it.

It'd be like if Don Siegel called DIRTY HARRY "THE OLD QUARRY" or INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS "THE HIGHWAY OVERPASS."

Thursday, July 25, 2019

R.I.P., Rutger Hauer

"All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain." Oh, man. What can I say about Rutger Hauer's death at 75? One of the greatest actors of his––or any––generation, he brought operatic dimension, emotional intimacy, and a kind of unsettling perfection to his greatest films (BLADE RUNNER, SOLDIER OF ORANGE, FLESH + BLOOD, TURKISH DELIGHT), an elevating sense of fun to his silliest work (THE TENTH KINGDOM, BLIND FURY, PAST MIDNIGHT, WEDLOCK, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, his appearances in mindbending Guinness advertisements),  and something unexpected, strange, and considered to his lesser films (Hallmark's THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, BLEEDERS, DRACULA 3D, THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND), even when he was subtly conveying that the film in question did not deserve his talents. He probably deserved an Oscar for THE HITCHER. And SURVIVING THE GAME. And hell, maybe THE BLOOD OF HEROES. R.I.P., Rutger––and thank you for the work you left behind.

 
Rutger offers Ice-T a few of life's finer things before the deluge in SURVIVING THE GAME.


FLESH + BLOOD: "Rutger Hauer simmers and scowls––a calculating, towheaded, serpentine fiend, and murderer who might be the closest thing we've got to a 'hero.'"


A joy ride in BLIND FURY: "There's a hell of a lot of lip-pursing and brow-raising and eye-squinting, but instead of coming across as over-the-top, it's simply a means for Hauer to externalize our key suspension of disbelief– that a blind man can achieve near-supernatural feats of swordplay." 

THE HITCHER: "Now, apparently, C. Thomas became extremely afraid of Rutger Hauer for real during the shooting of this film. It's not hard to see why. Hauer transforms every interaction between himself and Howell into a theoretical hotbed of sadism, savagery, and primal sexual desires. Every time Hauer is near, you can tell that he's intently thinking about kissing C. Thomas, then maybe about snapping his neck afterward. Hauer is so deeply entrenched in the character, that he knows which buttons to press to make C. Thomas actually uncomfortable. C. Thomas knows that a hateful yet passionate kiss is not is the script, but when somebody as absolutely committed as Rutger is around, da script don't mean shit."


THE 10TH KINGDOM: "Sure, he could've phoned this in (like he did in Hallmark's TV remake of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE), but by gum, he's givin' it his all.  It's like THE HITCHER infiltrated the Disney universe– this is what I'm talkin' about!"

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Interview with Sean Gill in Pleiades

Pleiades, the literary journal at the University of Central Missouri (that recently published my prize-winning short story "The Statement of [REDACTED], Revised") has interviewed me for their website, and you can read the whole exchange here.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Film Review: DREAMSCAPE (1984, Joseph Ruben)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Dennis Quaid (ENEMY MINE, INNERSPACE), Kate Capshaw (INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, SPACECAMP), Max von Sydow (THE SEVENTH SEAL, MINORITY REPORT), Christopher Plummer (THE SOUND OF MUSIC, A BEAUTIFUL MIND), George Wendt (CHEERS, HOUSE), David Patrick Kelly (COMMANDO, THE CROW, TWIN PEAKS, THE WARRIORS), Peter Jason (THEY LIVE, PRINCE OF DARKNESS), Chris Mulkey (TWIN PEAKS, QUIET COOL), Eddie Albert (ROMAN HOLIDAY, THE HEARTBREAK KID). Music by Maurice Jarre (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE CELEBRITY GUIDE TO WINE). Casting by Johanna Ray (TWIN PEAKS, MULHOLLAND DR., KILL BILL, SHOWGIRLS, COOL AS ICE, BLUE VELVET). Special makeup effects by Craig Reardon (THE GOONIES, DICK TRACY, POLTERGEIST). Special effects by John Eggett (NIGHT OF THE COMET, THE PIRATE MOVIE), Jim Doyle (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO), and Jim Aupperle (THE THING, ROBOCOP 2, BEETLEJUICE). Directed by Joseph Ruben (THE STEPFATHER, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY). Written by Ruben, David Loughery (PASSENGER 57, STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER), and Chuck Russell (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET III: DREAM WARRIORS, THE BLOB '88).
Tag-line: "Alex Gardner has an extraordinary gift. The government wants it...The scientists want it... To keep it may cost him his life..."
Memorable Quote: "So, Jane, what you do here, in effect, is count boners."

In a familiar, darkened alley:

"It's been a while!"
–"Sure has. Whaddya got for me?"
"A riddle. What do you get when you combine David Lynch's casting director, the writer of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET III, the makeup effects dude from DICK TRACY, and a villain who's a combination of Freddy Krueger and Revok from SCANNERS?"
–"If the VHS art you're clasping is any indication... an INDIANA JONES rip-off?"
"Yeah, I don't know why they did that. It's not really like INDIANA JONES at all, unless you consider Kate Capshaw's presence and a stop-motion snake monster to be the full Indy experience.

'Snakes with hands... why'd it have to be snakes with hands?'

Frankly, it's a paranoid science-fictional political thriller that's lot more like SCANNERS, THE FURY, or FIRESTARTER. You could even call it a proto-INCEPTION. Dennis Quaid plays a psychic on the run from the government. He's using his abilities to win big at the racetrack when he's hunted down by special agents Peter Jason

and Chris Mulkey."

–"Wow, that's some genuine '80s street cred right there! I'd watch that MIAMI VICE rip-off."
"You ain't seen nothin' yet. Quaid is then delivered unto Max von Sydow and Kate Capshaw, who are running a sleep research center. They believe that Dennis Quaid can use his psychic abilities to enter other people's dreams and heal their neuroses.

You will note this is not Willie Scott

They believe this because they already have a psychic who can enter dreams. And while you're busy in the shower, he's in your bedroom, wailing on your saxophone."
–"Uh... what?"

"And his name is...

D...

P...

...motherfuckin' K!  DPK! That's right, David Patrick Kelly!"
–"From TWIN PEAKS? From 'Warriors, come out and play-yee-yay?' You're the only person on Earth who calls him that."
"That's definitely not true."
–"But I do appreciate that levitating saxophone squeal. Looks like this movie's '80s trash element just went into overdrive."
"Ohhh yes. So Dennis Quaid agrees to work with the dream researchers after he gets over the spartan decor

'Who's your decorator, Darth Vader?'

and enjoys some serious dive bar pitchers with Max von Sydow."


–"Why doesn't Max von Sydow ever invite me out for beers? And what bar is that?"
"Supposedly it was called the Village Pub, was in Santa Monica, and has been closed down for a while. But I couldn't find a whole lot of information about it. Annnyway, with DPK comes the next phase of the film and the main plot: evil CIA spymaster Christopher Plummer hijacks the project in order to manipulate and assassinate the U.S. president... in his dreams... using DPK as a dream assassin!"

–"That's quite something. You're right, this kinda sounds like a higher-stakes version of INCEPTION. But didn't you say something earlier about... snake monsters?"
"I sure as shit did! This dream world's way more like Freddy Krueger's. Anything––and everything––can happen. You want snake monsters? We got that.

DR. CALIGARI by-way-of evil '80s funhouse?


DPK with.... Freddy Krueger fingers?

Rippin' out hearts like he's in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM?

Well, guess there's one more thing to connect it to INDIANA JONES.

Droppin' one-liners like he's James Bond?"

'Have a heart,' he says. [tosses heart]

–"This looks completely insane."
"I haven't even gotten to George Wendt yet."
–"What?! Norm?"
"He plays a Stephen King-style horror writer who has a host of conspiracy theories about the whole dream-assassin operation... and it turns out he's right. Naturally, we first meet him at Max von Sydow's favorite glorious dive."

–"Is George Wendt legally allowed to not be at a bar?"
"Hard to say. Also, did I mention that DPK has dreamworld laser nunchucks with morningstar handles?"



–"Okay, okay, goddamit! You got me! I'm sold."
"I knew that'd take you over the edge."
–"Why have I never seen this before? Why has the universe conspired to keep this film from me?"
"It's a cruel world, my friend, and rarely does it make sense. But I think it's going to be okay. You have a copy of DREAMSCAPE now."