Sunday, February 28, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... HOUSE PARTY

Only now does it occur to me... that HOUSE PARTY and the films of David Lynch are so oddly (and intrinsically) intertwined.

Allow me to explain:  HOUSE PARTY begins with a slow, tracking shot approaching the titular house, mid-party; the camera occasionally shudders (in a way most often used in horror films––and do note that it's shot by EVIL DEAD II's cinematographer, Peter Deming) before resuming its approach.  Once inside, we cross a landscape of dancing bodies, but the frame rate is slowed and an ominous mist envelopes the figures.  Despite the trappings, it doesn't quite feel fun––it's cheerful but mostly sinister, like the dancing in the opening scene of MULHOLLAND DRIVE.
 
HOUSE PARTY.

 
MULHOLLAND DRIVE.
 
The camera shifts its gaze toward the ceiling, and in a literal depiction of "raisin' the roof," the roof breaks loose of its moorings and floats away among the cosmos.
 
The entire sequence is quite impressionistic and oddly foreboding––and it also really reminded me (in flavor and practice) of the opening scene of ERASERHEAD, a paean to dark and portentous cosmic textures:
And so with this general feeling, I embarked on the HOUSE PARTY experience.  Imagine my surprise and vindication when "Kid" (Christopher Reid)––strolling BLUE VELVET-y suburban streets at night––is stopped by some local cops who refer to him as.... "Eraserhead."
 
This freeze frame would only be more 'Lynchian' if that flashlight was also flickering.  And if BOB were crouching in the background.

 
Jack Nance wishes he could attend your HOUSE PARTY, but he can't afford a babysitter.

And indeed Lynch took notice––in 1992 he went on to hire cinematographer Peter Deming to shoot the second episode of his bizarro and short-lived sitcom ON THE AIR, and they've worked together a total of seven times since (HOTEL ROOM, LOST HIGHWAY, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, INLAND EMPIRE, DURAN DURAN: UNSTAGED, and the new episodes of TWIN PEAKS).  Therefore, we could choose to see the opening scene of HOUSE PARTY as essentially a trial run for MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and in retrospect we can even find an analog for the opening tracking shot  in the frightening approach across the pavement toward the Club Silencio:
Who knew that Kid N' Play would have such a profound impact on what I consider to be the finest film of 2001 and possibly this 21st Century?  (Naturally, I mean HOUSE PARTY 4: DOWN TO THE LAST MINUTE.)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Film Review: THE PROTECTOR (1985, James Glickenhaus)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 91 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jackie Chan (RUMBLE IN THE BRONX, THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER), Danny Aiello (THE STUFF, DO THE RIGHT THING), Roy Chiao (BLOODSPORT, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM), John Spencer (THE ROCK, THE WEST WING), Mike Starr (GOODFELLAS, ED WOOD), Moon Lee (MR. VAMPIRE, FIGHTING MADAM, FIGHTING MADAM 2).  Cinematography by Mark Irwin (VIDEODROME, SCANNERS).
Tag-line:  "Now, New York has a new weapon––a cop with his own way of fighting crime!"
Best one-liner:  "I never go anywhere in southeast Asia without an Uzi!"

In a familiar, darkened alleyway:
"Whaddya got for me today?"
-"Jackie Chan."
"Brilliant––he's one of my all-time favorite action stars, what with his gleeful comic timing, death-defying stunts, and penchant for Cannon Films-style wacky-action!"
-"What would you call that?  'Wacktion?'"
"Oh, stop.  So which one is it?  RUMBLE IN THE BRONX?  THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER? WHO AM I?"
-"THE PROTECTOR."
"THE PROTECTOR?!  You've never reviewed a Jackie Chan movie before, and you're starting with this one?"
-"This ain't my first Jackie-rodeo.  I can start wherever I want.  Though the truth is, I'm starting here because something like RUMBLE IN THE BRONX fills me with so much joy that I find myself unable to do something so pedestrian as taking notes for a review."
"But THE PROTECTOR?!  Jackie disavowed this film––the Americans didn't know what to do with him, despite the fact it's a Golden Harvest co-production.  It's filled with toothless action, devoid of humor, and clearly choreographed by frightened insurance adjusters.  It's like they checked Jackie's charm at the door and stuck him in the middle of a straight-to-video Chuck Norris vehicle."
-"I take offense to that."
"But you'll admit that this is a little more 'HERO AND THE TERROR' than 'SUPERCOP,' will you not?"
-"So it's not his best work.  So what?  There's plenty to enjoy here, and on a number of levels.  For starters, it's from director James Glickenhaus, a sleazy-NYC scion who brought us MCBAIN and THE EXTERMINATOR, and who is thus indirectly responsible for EXTERMINATOR 2, one of Cannon Films' greatest achievements."
"Go on..."
-"It depicts a New York hellscape, like out of DEATH WISH 3 or CYBORG, gangs with gaudy skull earrings and leather jackets with oversized shoulderpads roaming around a burned-out urban husk, populated only by man-sized rats and trash can fires.  They take out truckin' buddy semi-trailers like bandits going after covered wagons. "

"I can appreciate that."
-"Then we have Jackie Chan and his partner."

"Who's his partner?"
-"It really doesn't matter, because in his very first scene he shows off a stuffed animal he bought for his kid.  This small, sympathetic touch clearly telegraphs that he's not long for this world.  Saying it was his last week before retirement would have worked just as well, too."
"As far as buddy cop flicks go, that is an indisputable truth."
-"Indeed.  And as I predicted, he is fated to die before even nine minutes of movie have elapsed.  Gunned down by a gang of dudes with machine guns who accidentally rob a dive bar at 10:00 A.M. instead of the grocery store from COBRA, which they clearly intended."

"What a tragic scene."
-"Don't worry--Jackie puts it right, blasting the bad dudes with a handgun and only occasionally using flourishes of physicality and martial art.


The last guy escapes, but Jackie aims a speedboat at his speedboat and blows him up real good, all the while making his escape with a very conveniently timed helicopter rope."



"Is that the Statue of Liberty, under renovation?"
-"Hell yes it is.  That's the kind of moxie this movie's got.  Glickenhaus loves his New York, warts and all.  Where another filmmaker might have chosen not to show the scaffolding to preserve the aesthetic fairy tale, Glickenhaus revels in it.  He probably shows it to us five or six times."
"Nice."
-"And curiously, the caliber of cinematography is much higher than you'd expect for this sort of film.  I soon discovered it was vividly photographed by Cronenberg's own Mark Irwin!"

"That man sure knows how to do a glassy, glossy cityscape."
 -"Indeed he does.  So with the plot officially underway, THE PROTECTOR makes sure it hits every buddy cop trope, down the line.  Jackie's stick-up-his-ass boss disciplines him with the old "that's no excuse for blowing up half the goddamn harbor" and threatens to have his "badge and gun on my desk!"

We've all been there.

which is followed up by a slow clap scene whereupon his colleagues dramatically submit their approval of his maverick, hot-doggin', action-luvin' ways.




This is one of the best-ever 'contagious slow-clap' scenes in cinema, right up there with ROCKY IV.  The dead-eyed stare from the cop who starts it is well worth the price of admission.

Soon thereafter, there's a fashion show (prefiguring DEATH WISH 5),

Not quite ALL THAT JAZZ.

and Jackie is paired with Danny Aiello, and pretty much the remainder of the film takes place in Hong Kong––"
"Hold on one gosh-gadoodlin' minute.  Did you say Danny Aiello?"
-"Yes."

"You mean to tell me that there exists an 80s buddy cop movie with Jackie Chan and Danny Aiello."
-"Correct."
"Talk about burying the lede!  What the hell are you doing?"
-"Come on.  Let me do this at my own pace."
"So what does this turn into, a fish-out-of-water story, with Aiello at sea in Hong Kong?"

-"No, and they were clearly resisting that idea.  They say he 'spent a lot of time there during Vietnam.'  You can tell he knows the city very well because they have him say things like 'I never go anywhere in southeast Asia without an Uzi!'"
"Oh."
-"Yeah.  Once we get to Hong Kong, the proceedings slow down a little bit.  I think Glickenhaus is a bit out of his element. Eventually, there's an assassin wearing Marianne Faithfull's outfit from GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE, some head butts, some homoerotic splashing,


an action scene at a massage parlor/brothel, and a guy who attacks Jackie Chan with a handheld buzzsaw."

"Is that buzzsaw spraying neon-colored liquids?"
-"They're in a paint factory or something.  I don't know.  So later, Roy Chiao––the 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' of BLOODSPORT and the gangster at the Club Obi Wan in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM shows up to portray the villain of the piece."
"I see what you did there, and I'm not particularly impressed."

-"Anyway, Chiao doesn't have a whole lot to do beyond 'look menacing.'  Eventually, Danny Aiello––and not Jackie Chan, like the movie poster promises––wields that Duke Nukem style hand cannon and makes some stuff explode.

Jackie Chan drops a load of bricks on a helicopter and that's about it.  The stunts never take center stage and Jackie is never is allowed to do anything too endearing.  The whole thing is kinda not as good as it should be."
"That's what I figured.  Next time I'm picking the movie."
-"Yeah, yeah.  Three stars."

––Sean Gill

Monday, February 15, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... VINYL

Only now does it occur to me... that the "Long-Haired Rocker"––on the left-hand side, in the orange and brown faux-silk shirt––bears a certain resemblance to the proprietor of this blog:


And indeed it is!  In July 2014, it was my pleasure to work as an extra in the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot episode of VINYL, which premiered last night on HBO.  It was amazing to witness the (then) seventy-one year old Scorsese ply his trade with the passion and energy of someone fifty years his junior.  (I myself could barely keep up after two consecutive seventeen-hour days.)  It was something of a magical experience (I even had the opportunity to briefly meet co-producer and FREEJACK star Mick Jagger), and in my rather biased opinion, I recommend you check it out!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... BONE TOMAHAWK

Only now does it occur to me... that Sid Haig and David Arquette ought to co-star in a full-fledged buddy comedy.
 
Their dynamic here––as a couple of bumbling, cutthroat highwaymen––only lasts for a few minutes, but it's thoroughly enjoyable, with Sid doing the irascible old man bit and Arquette dialing up the sort of Steven Weber-pastiche he nailed in Mick Garris' RIDING THE BULLET.

The film itself has some pacing issues and a streak of unlikeability––it's a generally nihilistic thriller, part acid western and part torture porn.
 
But then again, it's great to see that mustache on screen again.  Kurt presumably grew it for THE HATEFUL EIGHT, but sensibly realized that it was far too fantastic a 'stache to confine to only one film.

He also has a great "grumpy old men" relationship with brilliant character actor Richard Jenkins (THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, THE VISITOR, BURN AFTER READING).
There are some notable performances and shenanigans along the way––an extremely restrained Sean Young shows up, possibly wearing the same shoulder pads from BLADE RUNNER:
 
Matthew Fox chomps on cigars and occasionally contorts his face into the expression known to LOST fans as "Jackface":
and the tribal troglodyte villains seem culled from a MAD MAX movie, but that's okay, too.
BONE TOMAHAWK, ladies and gentlemen.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Updated, Browsable List of All Reviews: February 2016

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BALTIKA EXTRA 9 (2008, Russia)BANANAS (1971, Woody Allen)THE BAND WAGON (1953, Vincente Minnelli)
BARFLY (1987, Barbet Schroeder)
BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
BATTLE IN HEAVEN (2005, Carlos Reygadas)
THE BEACH (2000, Danny Boyle)
BEAT GIRL (1959, Edmond T. Gréville)
BEAT STREET (1984, Stan Lathan)
THE BEGUILED (1971, Don Siegel)
BEST WORST MOVIE (2009, Michael Stephenson)
BETRAYAL (2003, Mark L. Lester) BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987, Tony Scott) BIG (1988, Penny Marshall)
BIG BLOW (2000, United States)
THE BIG CLEAN (198?, Michael Ironside)
THE BIG EASY (1986, Jim McBride)
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986, John Carpenter)
"BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA" (1986, The Coup de Villes)
BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956, Nicholas Ray)
BILL AND COO (1948, Dean Riesner)
THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970, Dario Argento)
BLACK BOOK (2006, Paul Verhoeven)
THE BLACK CAT (2007, Stuart Gordon)
BLACK MOON RISING (1986, Harley Cokliss)
BLACK ROSES (1988, John Fasano) A BLADE IN THE DARK (1983, Lamberto Bava)
BLADE RUNNER (1982, Ridley Scott)BLIND FURY (1989, Philip Noyce)BLOOD BATH (1966, Jack Hill & Stephanie Rothman)
THE BLOOD OF HEROES (1989, David Webb Peoples)
BLOODSPORT (1988, Newt Arnold)
BLOODSPORT 2: THE NEXT KUMITE (1996, Alan Mehrez)BLOODSPORT III (1996, Alan Mehrez) BLOODSPORT 4: THE DARK KUMITE (1999, Elvis Restaino)BLUE CHIPS (1994, William Friedkin)
BLUE COLLAR (1978, Paul Schrader)
BLUE DIAMOND BEER (2005, China)
BLUE STEEL (1989, Kathryn Bigelow)
THE BLOB (1988, Chuck Russell)
BLOOD WORK (2002, Clint Eastwood)
BOARDING GATE (2008, Olivier Assayas)
BODY DOUBLE (1984, Brian De Palma)
BODY BAGS (1993, John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper)
BODY OF EVIDENCE (1993, Uli Edel)
BODY PARTS (1991, Eric Red)
BOOMERANG (1992, Reginald Hudlin) BORDELLO OF BLOOD (1996, Gilbert Adler)
BORDERLINE (1980, Jerrold Freedman)
BOXING HELENA (1993, Jennifer Chambers Lynch)
THE BOY WHO COULD FLY (1986, Nick Castle)
BOYZ N THE HOOD (1991, John Singleton)BRAIN DEAD (1990, Adam Simon)
BRAINSCAN (1994, John Flynn)
BREWSTER'S MILLIONS (1985, Walter Hill)
BRAZIL (1985, Terry Gilliam)
BREAKING GLASS (1980, Brian Gibson)
BROKEN ARROW (1996, John Woo)
BRONCO BILLY (1980, Clint Eastwood)
BRONX WARRIORS (1982, Enzo G. Castellari)
THE BROOD (1979, David Cronenberg)
THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY (1978, Steve Rash)
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992, Fran Rubel Kazui)
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: "HALLOWEEN" (1997, Bruce Seth Green)
BUIO OMEGA (1979, Joe D'Amato)
BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013, Walter Hill)
BULLETPROOF (1988, Steve Carver)
BUNNY O'HARE (1971, Gerd Oswald)
THE BURNING (1981, Tony Maylam)
BURNT OFFERINGS (1976, Dan Curtis)
BURYING THE EX (2014, Joe Dante) THE BUTLER (2013, Lee Daniels)
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