Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Action in Politics

If you're like me, then you're feeling that all of the political hoopla surrounding the elections is growing tiresome. Obama or McCain? Well, Obama clearly. But if you're on the fence or don't feel like either candidate would represent you, then perhaps you might be interested in this late entry from the conservatively badass (or was it liberally freaking sweet?) party, John McClane. Have a look here for a summary of his stance on the issues and click here to donate.

Unfortunately, Sonny Landham dropped out of the Kentucky senatorial race earlier this year, denying the world a trifecta of Predator action stars in office (Arnie Schwarzeneggar and Jesse Ventura being the other two). Actually, maybe it isn't so bad... read here. Evidently, he's still got his eye on the gubernatorial race in 2010.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hard Boiled (1992)

Why didn't anybody tell me that I've been missing out on an entire other perspective of the 80's and 90's action genre? On my friend Justin's advice, I bumped Hard Boiled, a John Woo classic starring Chow Yun Fat, to the top of my queue this week and the results were outstanding. A brief synopsis:

Tequila Yuen (Chow Yun Fat) is a hard-boiled cop on a mission: find those bastards that killed his partner. "Those bastards" turn out to be a bunch of gun smuggling mobsters in the middle of a gang war on the Hong Kong streets. Tequila teams up with an insider named Tony (Leung Chiu Wai) working both sides of enemy lines to uncover the mob's secret munitions stockpile. Lots of people die.

Man, cheesy jazz music framing a loner cop against the backdrop a lawless city. Amazing. John Woo makes no apologies for the civilians killed in the middle of spectacular gunfights. Nor does he shy from sub-machine guns with endless magazines and revolvers which only misfire when at point blank range with Tequila's head. The resulting film is one full of extended fight scenes with bullets flying for the duration. Generally, bad guys get six or seven shots in the chest before they go down. Further, good guys take six or seven shots before they need to go to the hospital. Hard Boiled is pure action. Ultra violent with little semblance to real life.

I think my favorite scene is the first one in the tea house. There is something really cool about all of the birdcages hanging around while good guys and bad guys exchange gunfire like its going out of style. 

It is pretty clear that the reason I like this movie is because it does a great job of taking all of the symbols and themes of the american cop action movie (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, etc) to the extreme. The gunfights are more outrageous, the main cop is inexplicably tougher (but with a sensitive, clarinet playing side), and the cop partner relationships are as stereotypical as The Simpsons makes them out to be. Ill be sampling from the John Woo catalog for the next few weeks. Keep you eye out for more.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Best Fight Scene Ever...?

If anyone can tell me where this clip comes from, I will give you everything I have and more.

PS- I was having trouble with the feed earlier. Click here to go to the source.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Last Jedi

The more home movie projects I see, the more I'm beginning to wish that I had a lot more time on my hands. They just keep getting better and better and I want in. Anyway, here is the latest a greatest internet video, Star Wars VII: The Last Jedi.

Kind of a vicious ending right?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Appaloosa at the Boston Film Festival

Under the silly impression that the entire cast of Appaloosa would be at the opening of the Boston Film Festival, a couple of friends an I ventured into East Cambridge last night. While the promises of superstar attendance turned out not to be true, the movie turned out to be a pretty good one. Appaloosa, based on the novel by Robert Parker (a Cambridge native), is a true to the genre no frills western of the best kind. The story goes like this: 

Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) heads west to expand his mind after spending a few years serving in the military during the presidency of Chester Arthur. He meets up with Virgil Cole (Ed Harris), an established peacemaker with a taste for Emerson, somewhere out west. From that point on, Hitch is Cole's right hand man, his back-up with an 8-gauge shotgun constantly poised on his shoulder and a moustache to boot. The two find there way to the sleepy town of Appaloosa somewhere in New Mexico territory. Turns out a rancher by the name of Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) has been terrorizing Appaloosa, most recently by shooting down the sheriff and his two deputies. The town officials hire Cole and Hitch to take care of business, and badassery ensues. From here on, the story isn't too surprising, awesome shots of the New Mexican ladscape punctuated here and there by cool gunfights and a shoddily cast Renee Zellwegar. By the end, we've seen the two gunslingers escort their prisoner across the desert, fend off marauding natives, walk into a gunfight with the odds weighted heavily against them, and drink more than a few shots of whiskey in the middle of the afternoon from dirty shot glasses in an even dirtier saloon. Pretty standard western movie stuff.

I am going to say that I liked the movie. It was an interesting western. Your standard western has a single protagonist (Eastwood, Wayne, etc) who takes it all on. But Appaloosa gave us two, which was interesting. First off, both Harris and Mortensen are true badasses, Mortensen perhaps a bit more. So it was kind of like getting twice the bang for your buck. But, having two protagonists, male protagonists at that, in a western movie added some interesting undertones to what is generally a pretty macho genre. This movie was really about the relationship between two straight men. But this was no Brokeback Mountain. It was more like Lethal Weapon (you know how Riggs and Murtaugh kind f have that more than friends relationship, but it isn't anything sexual?).

I think that the Renee Zellweger character was crap. Basically, she just wasn't a realistic person. This isn't the fault of the director so much as it is the fault of the original author. Or maybe it's both their faults? Regardless, she didn't add much to the movie except that she made you think twice about Ed Harris' character for loving her, which I guess added depth to his character. 

The best part of the whole thing is Viggo's facial hair. Holy shit! Check it out.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Darth, You Trickster!

This is hilarious! I just love the look on the guy's face.

Thanks cinematical.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Possible confirmation of the next Batman Villains?

I know we have speculated on this in the past, but it looks as if the Depp/Hoffman team up in the next installation of Chris Nolan's Batman has some weight to it. According to MTV's Splashpage, Michael Cain let slip a little tidbit concerning Johnny Depp as the Riddle and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin. This rumor has been going around for awhile now, but never from the mouth of such an involved party. While both of these actors are impressive in their own rights, I'm curious to see how they would hold up in Nolan's gritty take on the Gotham universe. I've never been fond of the Riddler, but maybe we culd see him reborn as some kind of intelligent yet quirky serial killer type who enjoys leaving clues at the scenes of his brutal murders. I could also see Hoffman play a nasty, sweaty, child porno loving Penguin character. That would be a newer realistic take on the characters that I might be able to find a bit more threatening than their past iterations. I'm just spit balling here though, what does everyone think?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

EcoSaber? Really?

I was over at /film this morning where they were featuring this hip little tee under their "Cool Stuff" post of the day. As I was looking at it, I had mixed feelings. Is this cool? The Obama supporter in me wants to say yes. Yay to energy efficiency! Yet, the Star Wars fan in me is conflicted, and I'm not sure why.

I think it has to do with the fact that the lightsaber is sacred to me, a symbol not to be tampered with. For my birthday one time, my friend Sean made me a lightsaber out of a plumbing material (piping, nuts, etc). It's freaking sweet. I don't have to keep a bat in my house because I know I can mess up an intruder with my lightsaber if needed. Of course, it doesn't work (refer to our previous discussion on working lightsabers and such), but that isn't the point. It is a pure symbol. It's pure badassery.

Then again, maybe I'm being too hard on this shirt. It is clever, and it will likely make money, which is really the point. I guess that more than anything this shirt makes me realizes that I should be able to get over my boyish dreams of becoming a Jedi and man up to maybe more important things in life (like global warming?). In fact, maybe this shirt is the perfect way for me to show what's important to me and at the same time display my love of sci-fi action?

I don't know. Maybe it's the color.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lucas' Hidden Fortress?

Apparently, I missed out on the Star Wars Geek Pack that fully outlines George Lucas' links to Kurosawa. That's fine, and I'm not at all surprised that another acclaimed director (in his former years) that is close to my heart was influenced by the clear genius of Kurosawa films. In any case, I watched Hidden Fortress the other night, which is the Kurosawa film which supposedly provided the seeds of inspiration for Star Wars: A New Hope. Here's what I have to say about it, which may or may not be the same things that Star Wars fanatics have been saying for years.

The connection between the two bumbling idiots of Hidden Fortress and C-3P0 and R2-D2 is undeniable, both in terms of perspective and in terms of the somewhat slap-stick humor the bring to their respective films. But Tahei and Matakishi do not serve so much as sidekicks to Rokurota as consistent pests to be exploited. Their greed drives them more than their altruism, whereas the droids of Star Wars fame demonstrate a degree of loyalty and selflessness which in the end is endearing. 

Then of course, the Princess Yuki character has obvious connections to Princess Leia. Although the characters are quite different, they share a strength and bravery that is likely not coincidental. And the whole idea of a protagonist serving as guide and bodyguard to a "rebel" princess leader is clearly inspired by this Kurosawa piece.

Aside for these similarities, which are the most obvious, I would say that Lucas definitely took a few cues from Kurosawa's use of misdirection in this film, and probably a few others of his. The Jedi mind trick could very well have been the result of a long, introspective brainstorming session of Georgie's after watching Rokurota distract the border patrol to allow for safe passage of a wagon carrying the Akisuki clan's fortune. At least, that's how I see it. Of course, one could argue that the whole concept of misdirection is something that was not novel to the Kurosawa film. But, I think it is the way in which it is used that is very reminiscent of its use in Star Wars. I couldn't help but think about Obi-Wan Kenobi tricking the storm troopers on the Death Star when I watched this scene in Hidden Fortress. 

I'm always taken aback by the timelessness of the Kurosawa stories. The fact that many of his ideas have been retold and retold again in forms that are different, but fundamentally the same, is really just incredible. Think about it. Lucas. Leone. Tarantino. Star Wars. A Fist Full of Dollars. Kill Bill. Incredible.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Little Green Monsters

Hey guys, sorry I've been MIA for the last few days. Moving across the country doesn't afford a whole lot of time for action movies. 

So I was (am) one of those people who watched (watches) one movie over and over until I knew (know) all of the lines. In fact, my life has been punctuated with these periods, so much so that I can relate different eras of my development to different movies that I watched on repeat. Middle school was The Craft (don't judge). Early high school was Pulp Fiction and later high school The Matrix. Freshman year of college was The Big Lebowski. First year of graduate school was Dune. And so on. 

One of those movies was Gremlins. And, in fact, it was the lesser of the Gremlins movies, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. So you can imagine the nostalgia I felt when I ran across this little number

I would say that this is nothing short of genius. Truly inspiring and an homage to my early teens. Thank you, whoever you are.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Alright, I saw all of the hype and I watched the Academy Awards, so I knew that a lot of people were all about this film. However, for some reason I had an aversion to watching this movie in the theater and it took me ages to finally put it in my blu-ray player. Somehow, I had the notion in my head that this movie was a long, boring, wanna-be action movie that allowed all of the artsy, Cannes crowd to point and say "See, I like shoot em' up movies too".  Imagine my surprise when 1/3 of the way into the movie Javier Bardem kills a man with a compressed air gun with the composure one might witness in the maitre d' of a fine restaurant. At that point, the rest of the movie could have been a bad reenactment of the teletubbies and I would have watched it. Not only is the film expertly shot (there was some of the best attention to detail I have ever seen in a movie with a silenced shotgun) but the Coen bros. managed to turn an extremely simple, cliche of a plot into a twisted, nail- biting thriller. Give me a moment to point out some of the sweet spots that I loved about this film:

 The characters were tops. Tommy Lee Jones delivered one of the best Texas drawl filled performances of his career that included some of the finest cowboy tough guy lines a man can create. For example,
   "I sent a man to the 'lectric chair. He kilt a 14 year old girl. Said that if they turned him out he'd do it again. Said he knew he was going to hell. 'Be there in about fifteen minutes.'"

Plus, our protagonist on the run, Llewelyn Moss was no lolly gagging local yocal. He managed to outsmart the Mexican Mafia and a highly trained assassin several times before they finally got to him. 

Anton Chigurh is one of the sweetest assassins I've come across since they invented the ninja, and he puts down the only character I wasn't wild about (Woody Harrelson, aka Carson Wells) in such a nonchalant, no nonsense manner that I immediately decided it was worth Carson's presence in the movie just for that death scene. I could go on for hours, but instead, I'll let you take a look at this rockstar scene in which Anton forces a local gas station clerk to flip a coin for his life (badass!).