Tombstone is one of those movies that nobody talks about, but anytime you admit that you haven’t seen it, whoever you’re talking to is bound to violently react with a sharp gasp and a “what do you mean you haven’t seen Tombstone?!” like you just admitted that you’ve never eaten a hamburger in your life. Today, I fixed that problem. Watched Tombstone, that is. Anyone who looks at my midriff will know for a fact that I’ve eaten many, many hamburgers in my lifetime.
Tombstone is an American western-action film based on the true story of Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russel), a retired wild west lawman who wants to settle down in Tombstone, Arizona, but is roped back into dishing out rifle-fueled justice with his brothers Virgil (Sam Elliot) and Morgan (Bill Paxton, R.I.P.) and an old friend and con-artist Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer). The Cowboys, a gang nearly one hundred strong has been terrorizing Tombstone and its surrounding area, and after a couple violent and bloody run-ins with the gang and it’s leaders Curly Bill (Powers Boothe) and Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn), the Earp brothers and Doc don law badges and set out to clean up Tombstone once and for all. Also, if you’re marveling at how all-star this cast is, let me inform you that Charlton Heston, Stephen Lang, Jason Priestley, and Paula Malcomson are also in it.
We’re just burning through Criterion movies here like the entry-level-hipster-self-proclaimed-film-buffs we are! Out of all of the films that sit on the Criterion shelf at movie stores, The one I’ve looked at more than any other has got to be The Complete Lady Snowblood. The simple elegance of the title alone was enough to hook me, and once I found out that Meiko Kaji starred as the titular assassin, I was sold. She was the best part of Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and I was really interested to see what she could do in a less sleazy film. For those of you who read this blog just for the bad movies, I promise I’ll get back to Hellraiser soon.
Lady Snowblood (Shurayuki-hime) follows Yuki, a young woman raised from birth to be an assassin and carry out a vendetta against the leaders of a small gang in 1800s Japan. These ne’er-do-wells are responsible for killing Yuki’s father and raping her mother before her birth. When Yuki’s mother attempts to get her own revenge, she is imprisoned for life and decides to have a baby that can grow up to exact her revenge.
Now 20-something years old, Yuki prowls the countryside piecing together whatever information she can to track down those responsible for devastating her family, using her umbrella sheathed katana to doll out bloody justice whenever she sees fit.
Oh boy. I’ve had this one coming for a while. Jupiter Ascending is the latest full length film from the Wachowskis, the dynamic duo of writer/ directors who are known for occasionally popping into the Hollywood scene and flipping the sci-fi genre on it’s head. They dropped The Matrix in 1999, and… umm… I guess they fumbled around with it’s sequels, then there was Speed Racer in 2008 which only made back 75% of its 120 million dollar budget. There was also Cloud Atlas in 2012, which had pretty mixed reviews, and, well, I guess they knocked it out of the park with The Matrix and just kind of floundered for almost two decades since then.
So, that brings us to Jupiter Ascending. This movie is about Jupiter (Mila Kunis), a daughter of a Russian immigrant who’s family flirts with the poverty line running a house cleaning business for the rich and the upper class. Her life sucks, having to wake up before 5am every morning and scrubbing toilets all day, every day, but her life gets flipped, turned upside down when she meets Caine (Channing Tatum) a half-man-half-dog (he’s his own best friend!) hybrid from space who brings her to space so she can find out she’s Queen of Earth because her DNA is exactly the same as the actual Queen of Earth whose dead now and the Princes and Princesses of this intergalactic royal family are fighting over who gets to own Earth so they can farm the humans to make big glo-sticks that keep you young forever. This is all the first 15 minutes of the movie. Confused? Me too. (more…)
Looper is the third feature length film from writer/ director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) who has been swallowed up by the Hollywood machine to direct Star Wars Episode VIII. Looper is a neat little time travel movie set in the not so distant future starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe: a Looper, a man who kills people who are sent back in time by a crime syndicate in the future. Apparently it’s super hard to dispose of a body in the future, so sending it to the past to be killed and left there is a sure fire way to keep things under wraps.
When Loopers sign up for this gig, they are on contract for 30 years which when up is when they are sent back in time to be killed by their past selves, closing the loop. If the loop doesn’t get closed neatly, the mob that hires out the Loopers will make sure both ends of the loop are closed off. Get it? Got it? Good. So, naturally, one day Joe happens to show up to perform a hit only to find himself face to face with an older version of himself (Bruce Willis) who is ready and willing to fight him. Older Joe escapes, and present day(ish) Joe has to track him down and kill him to close the loop before the mob closes it for him. (more…)
I’ve mentioned before how I work as a video store clerk, and any movie store worth it’s salt is sure to have a decently sized Criterion section. We’re lucky enough to have a sister section in our Criterion shelf dedicated to Arrow Video, a company that behaves like Criterion except they specialize in horror, sci-fi, exploitation, and cult films rather than pieces of high art. For example, films like Microwave Massacre, Society, and the entirety of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ catalogue of the macabre are available. Naturally, these films have flashy, explicit covers to grab your attention in any way possible, but out of all of them, I was drawn to a box set with a rather restrained and elegant cover. This turned out to be the Female Prisoner Scorpion Collection, a series of movies I knew nothing about at the time but after some quick Google-Fu, they shot right to the top of my to-watch list.
The Female Prisoner Scorpion films follow Nami Matsushima a.k.a Matsu the Scorpion (Meiko Kaji, later famous for Lady Snowblood), a convict in a Japanese all-women’s prison who was incarcerated for assaulting a police officer. Matsu fell in love with a narcotics officer named Sugimi who convinced her to work with him on a sting operation. Sugimi let the Yakuza catch Matsu, and let them have their way with her before using her rape as a distraction to help make his drug bust. Left bloodied, broken, and bruised, Matsu became hellbent on getting her revenge on Sugimi, and after a failed murder attempt against her former lover, she was locked away behind bars. Her hatred burns so deep however, that she’ll take any opportunity she can to escape prison, find Sugimi, and pay him back for the torture and pain she went through when he betrayed her.
I watched Face/Off for the millionth time recently, and after watching and loving Hard Boiled not too long ago I’ve been on an action movie (specifically John Woo) kick ever since.
The Killer is another one of John Woo’s Hong Kong action flicks, only released three years prior to Hard Boiled. Starring the infinitely cool Chow Yun-Fat as Ah Jong, the titular killer who falls in love with Jennie (Sally Yeh), a lounge singer whom he blinded by accident while performing a hit for the Triads. After another hit which goes awry, Jong pops up on Detective Ying’s (Danny Lee) radar.
When Ah Jong performs a final hit for an aspiring Triad boss so he can get the money needed to cure Jennie’s blindness, Ying pursues the mysterious assassin, becoming more and more obsessed with him. After the hit, Jong finds the men who sent him out are looking to terminate him, and now he must evade pursuit from both the police and his employers. Tensions rise between the police and the Triads, and many, many, many bullets are exchanged along the way. (more…)
Action movies were the first genre of movies that really captured my imagination. When I was a wee lad, explosions, gunfire, and karate chops were the quickest ways for a movie to make it’s way into my heart. Regardless of the quality of the action, let alone the rest of the movie, if there was action to be had I would eat it up. Now that I’m a little older and a lot grumpier, action movies have to earn their respect from me. I’m a lot more critical of movies than in my youth, and shit like Tak-three-n doesn’t fly with me anymore. While I still like to think I have a childlike enamoring to big explosions and loud, dumb action in movies, the execution of these juvenile films is of equal importance to me now.
Hard Boiled is a Hong Kong action flick written and directed by the legendary John Woo (The Killer, Hard Target, Mission: Impossible II, Face/Off) starring Chow Yun-Fat (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and Tony Leung (Hero). Hard Boiled is widely considered one of the greatest action movies of all time, even being inducted into the Criterion Collection because a movie where Chow Yun-Fat soars through the air blowing up a thug on a dirt bike with a well placed shotgun blast is considered to be at the same level of cinematic brilliance that Bergman’s The Seventh Seal or Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai are.
Hard Boiled follows Inspector Tequila (yes, really) played by Yun-Fat, a gritty cop from the streets tasked with taking down a local gang of Triads. Tequila is ruthless and unorthodox in his policing, butting heads with his chief whenever he’s out on a mission. Along the way, he runs into Alan (Leung), another cop who has been deep under cover with the Triads, slowly moving his way up the ranks. Together, they team up to investigate the Triad gun smuggling operation in Hong Kong. Tequila wants the Triads dead, but Alan needs to keep his cover so that he can bring them down from the inside. Tensions rise between the police and the Triads, and many, many, many bullets are exchanged along the way.