Friday, August 25, 2017


This is going to be a new ongoing series highlighting tough guy films. The selection of movies will be based on what my local Alamo Drafthouse programs. This blog is completely unaffiliated with the popular theater chain. Their programming inspires me to write about older films, classic movies. Revisiting movies on the big screen is fun, and in most cases essential.

As I've mentioned on my blog before, I am a huge John Carpenter fan. I was a fan of his movies before I even began to notice he was the director. If I remember correctly it wasn't until I was a teenager that I put two and two together that the filmmaker directed a bunch of movies I loved! Watching HALLOWEEN for the first time with one of my childhood friends (also a movie buff and Carpenter fan) was the movie that started this revelation. I quickly wanted to revisit every John Carpenter film!

My friend and I started our John Carpenter renaissance on the eve of DVD. At the time VHS was so cheep and my buddy snagged a copy of Carpenter's first film ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. That day Carpenter became my favorite filmmaker.

My earliest memory of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK was seeing it on cable. It's been so long that I cannot remember, but my educated guess is that the U.S.A. Network was the channel it played on the most? I also remember the poster at a young age, probably from the video store?

While channel surfing, occasionally I'd see bits and pieces of the movie. I always thought that ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK was a scary movie (probably because how dark the film looked and that I was 5 years old) so it never stayed very long before changing the channel. It must have been something about how The Duke's henchmen looked. And there is that scene early in the film where a woman gets pulled underground by a bunch of hands. No Thanks!

It was years later when I watched the film in its entirety, renting it from my local video store.

My impressions were mixed. The story was awesome, but the film itself looked really dated (the VHS copy was in pretty poor shape), and I laughed at a lot of the acting. That being said, Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken was awesome! I loved that there is this running joke in the film that everybody thinks he was dead. If I had to guess, this sounds like a BIG JAKE influence. Now that I think about it,there are a quite a lot of John Wayne and Howard Hawks tributes/influences in the Carpenter and Russell films!

For those that don't know, in the year 1997 crime in the United States has reached an all time high. Manhattan Island in New York City is now a penal colony. There is no law enforcement presence inside the island. Once you enter you can never leave.

One the way to global peace conference, Air Force One crashes lands in the prison while ejecting the leader of the free worlds escape pod. The president is immediately held for ransom. Enter Snake Plissken.

Pliskin has 24 hours to save the president so that he can present his speech on time.

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK maybe dated here and there, but the film (and character) is still a classic! The films musical score is still fantastic as well!

The night was almost perfect but Alamo's pre-show before the movie was highly disappointing. A perfect opportunity to showcase some amazingly cheesy knock-off trailers, it didn't happen. They didn't even show trailers for other John Carpenter films? What we got instead was some lame short of a guy spitting water out of his mouth?

Redemption is coming thankfully with the announcement of the BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA Dinner Party next month. I cannot wait!

Sunday, August 6, 2017


As I sat watching Kathryn Bigelow's new film DETROIT I couldn't stop thinking about her other films THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY. Her new film completes this kind of Docudrama trilogy. Or maybe not? The Docudrama might be Bigelow's thing from now on?

While watching DETROIT I also kept thinking about the documentary THE THIN BLUE LINE, and even Kurosawa's RASHOMON (me and my cinematic mind). But mainly I kept thinking about how gifted Kathryn Bigelow is as a filmmaker. Her eye for detail is amazing! Once the movie started I could not blink. And I became a fly on the wall during the raid at the Algiers Motel.

DETROIT opens up with how the riots started. A welcome home party for a couple of Vietnam vets gets crashed by the police because the building did not have a liquor license. Weak, but I guess that's 1967 for ya! So Detroit's finest fill 3 paddy wagons full of African Americans and send them off. The excessive act sets off the riots leaving Motor City a war zone.

Some time has passed but there is still unrest and a curfew, state police and national guard are helping city police.

In the first act of the film there are three storylines going on:

Three racist police officers are out on patrol, and one of them shoots and kills a defenseless looter. His superior turns the case to the DA.

Next we meet a young man pulling a triple shift working as a security guard to protect a grocery store. This character, played by John Boyega (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, ATTACK THE BLOCK) stole the show for me. His character Melvin Dismukes brings a level headedness to all the terror and chaos happening in the film. Expect to see a nomination come Oscar time

And lastly we meet a group of young talented singers called The Dramatics. They are just about to perform in front of their biggest crowd yet, when all of a sudden the police shut it down because of some rioting. Because of the chaos the group shack up at the Algiers Motel.

Larry, lead singer of the group and his friend Fred meet two lovely young ladies (maybe hookers?). The four of them go back to the room where the ladies are staying. Turns out that the room already has a party going on. Things get tense when a young gentleman gets distraught at all the racist police. Trying to scare some of people in the room by making a point, he shoots off a starter pistol.

A block or two away police and national guardsmen think they are under attack by a sniper. Back up is called and the racist cops we met earlier take the call (uh-oh). And being a hero, Dismukes locks up the grocery store and goes to help (uh-oh again).

The raid on the Algiers Motel takes place in about the middle of the film, and it is without a doubt the strongest act in the movie. Here is where Bigelow's background in genre filmmaking comes into play. The raid is intense and you feel like you're watching a horror movie!

Unfortunately, DETROIT starts to become a little long in the tooth in the third act of the film. It's still a good movie but the trial of the 3 police officers just felt off? Or maybe it was the fact that I had a feeling how badly things were going to end with a jury of all white people deciding the fate of the officers! And when it got to the end of the film I started to think to myself "There was no 'Based On True Events' title card at the beginning of the movie"? Odd?

My only complaint about the film is that I wish it was based more on true events. The end of the movie states that there just wasn't enough evidence in the Algiers incident, and they had to dramatize most of it. If the filmmakers were able to accomplish this I think DETROIT would have been even better! With that being said, the fact remains that 3 young black men were murdered and no justice was found!

Now you know why I thought of films like THE THIN BLUE LINE and RASHOMON.

DETROIT is Highly Recommended!!

Saturday, August 5, 2017


Where to begin? Well, for starters I should be thankful that I'm not a fan who has waited years for a film adaptation of the book series. To those folks I feel your pain. Lots of stuff that I've loved as a kid has been adapted to the big screen that just didn't translate well. THE DARK TOWER feels like a massive step backward in film adaptation? A film based on a 7 book series mashed together in 97 minutes? Are you kidding me? Boycott SONY!

Fans of Stephen King's beloved fantasy series deserved better. THE DARK TOWER beckons a 7 film franchise much like Harry Potter. If the books had more of a general King audience appeal to them, the Harry Potter treatment may have happened?

The original plan was a feature film followed by a television series; that'd be 4 movies and 3 T.V. shows. That idea sort of got dumped and slightly changed. The plan as of now (which will die on the vine come Monday) is 1 film and 1 show.

In anticipation for the movie I stared reading 'The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger'. I was instantly hooked! Seriously, I could have finished the book in a weekend, but ya know, movies and such.

Talking with a fan of the book series it was clear I didn't need to finish the book before the movie. I was reminded the film is a sequel to the book series. What a cool concept, a blank slate so that fans won't be upset at whatever the movie doesn't get "right".

Seeing that I am a newbie to the series it'd be difficult to explain the plot of what exactly is going on. Right now all I know besides the film is there is a man named Roland chasing another man across the desert. It's hinted at that this struggle has been going on and on for ages.

IMDB says: The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O'Dim, also known as the Man in Black, determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

So the Man in Black is trying to destroy the Dark Tower, that way nothing can stop evil entering the world(s). In our world, known as Keystone Earth, a boy named Jake has dreams of Roland, Walter, and a place called Mid-World. He illustrates his dreams and one day stumbles upon a doorway leading to land of his dreams.

Jake quickly meets Roland, the Gunslinger. After talking about his dreams and showing him a drawing of the Man in Black, the two embark on a quest to save the universe. Walter learns of Jake and captures him to aid in destroying the Dark Tower. Will Roland save Jake and finally defeat Walter, the Man in Black?

The verdict is still out on if I think THE DARK TOWER sucks. I've seen worse this year, I think? it's really going to be painful if I have to rewatch THE MUMMY and compare. My feelings as of right now are that THE DARK TOWER is just such a forgettable film. I did a double feature the night I watched it, and by the time I drove to the other theater I completely forgot about THE DARK TOWER.

I can't be as upset or mad as fans of the books, but there we're some things about the movie that down right pissed me off! The thing that has been bugging me ever since is that pretty much every action sequence takes place at night. And why are the action scenes at night you ask? Because the budget was so cheep that special effects took a back seat. I counted 3 action sequences shot at night (probably filtered to look like evening). Somebody that doesn't watch very many movies might think this is okay? But for seasoned moviegoers it's a clear indication that the films budget just wasn't there for special effects.

Final thoughts, for the fans sake I really really hope that one day THE DARK TOWER gets an awesome screen adaptation. I'm holding out for the television series to redeem the movie, but who knows at this point? Right now THE DARK TOWER is a rental at best.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


What if JOHN WICK opened up with the 'Boogyman' himself in a interrogation room? We fade in on a bruised up face of John, and a couple of police detectives asking him "Okay, start from the beginning."? The movie would be pretty boring. Yes, the movie would retain all the amazing action but the stakes are now zero. This is my biggest issue with ATOMIC BLONDE.

Maybe it's too much of a nitpick; but seriously, during every action scene I knew she was going to make it out alive. Unlike in JOHN WICK where I was on the edge of my seat wondering if the title character was going to survive or not? Part of it was because Wick had a death wish.

In ATOMIC BLONDE I found myself not caring because the audience knows she's going to make it out alive. That being said, I loved every action scene in the film! Director David Leitch knows how to direct action. The era of Paul Greengrass/shaky cam action is over, and good riddance!

Besides the great action set pieces, the look of the film is beautiful. Set in 1989, ATOMIC BLONDE really felt like an Eighties movie. I definitely got a Michael Mann vibe, and maybe even Walter Hill!

The only throwback quality that I thought missed the mark was the film's soundtrack? Don't get me wrong the music choices were excellent! I just thought that the execution of said songs were off a bit? Maybe BABY DRIVER spoiled me to much?

One last good thing I liked about the movie was that ATOMIC BLONDE just didn't feel like a JOHN WICK clone. Instead we get a spy movie! Good move on Leitch's part! I guess the trailers hinted at it and I just wasn't paying close attention?

Here's what IMDB says:

An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

I really don't feel like getting into spoilers because the plot of ATOMIC BLONDE is kind of a mess. No more a mess than say SPECTRE, but a mess nonetheless. My saving grace in piecing together the plot was only due to the fact that I've seen a lot of movies. Probably a cop out on my end, but it's true. I figured out who Lorraine was 5 minutes into the film. And the bad guy is pretty predictable.

In the end so what, because the action was cool. I paid to see Charlize Theron kick ass for 2 hours, and I felt that I got my money's worth.

And I cannot wait for ATOMIC BLONDE 2: JAGGED LITTLE KILL (ya know, the Nineties)! Because maybe in that one she won't be telling a story how it all went down, that way the stakes can be a higher!

In all honesty I will probably be seeing ATOMIC BLONDE in the theater again just because I am a fan of the action choreography and the director. It's a dream come true for me that we are finally getting American action films like this! 2017 is shaping up to becoming a great year in the action genre. It's dumb as all get out but I'm including xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE in that roster.

Final thoughts, ATOMIC BLONDE is highly recommend for fans of stylish films and action movies. Do not miss it in the theater!