Monday, March 28, 2011

Medium is the new large (popcorn)

The movie was going to start at 2pm and I thought I was ahead of the curve by arriving one hour earlier, but as I drove past the New Beverly Cinema at approximately 12:55pm and saw the line stretching out all the way down to Lulu's Cafe, I was like Of Course I'm An Asshole. Hello lady and gentleman, this is me talking about going to see Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino -- as opposed to pastry chef Quentin Tarantino -- had been programming March's schedule at the New Bev, and on the final week he would end it with a week-long engagement of his combined version of both volumes of Kill Bill. Tickets went fast, I know that because I was one of the motherfuckers constantly clicking the Refresh button on my browser minutes before they went on sale. Because of this, the New Bev has not only extended the run another week, they made the last two days (April 6/7) only available to purchase at the box office. That will be interesting to see, how that line ends up looking.

I went yesterday, the first day at the first showing, mostly because I liked the idea of having the rest of the day available to do nothing but check e-mails and harbor resentments against my few friends and acquaintances for real/imagined slights. The line was long, but we all had tickets, so I was able to substitute the panic of not getting in for the panic of not getting a good seat. It turned out I ended up sitting behind Mr. Tarantino again, as I did during the Grindhouse screening. He was sans brother Rodriguez, but he remained consistent in that his guests' were predominately female (Omar Doom was one of the few men in the group, so I'm guessing half of the ladies were with him, as it should be when you're one of the badass motherfuckers who killed -- fuck it, I'm not spoiling that one yet).

Did not expect QT to be there; it was his birthday that day, but it was also 2pm and if I was a rich Oscar-winning filmmaker, I wouldn't be getting out of bed until at least 2:30, but as it was, he was there in his green and black hooded sweatshirt. There's eavesdropping and can't-help-but-overhear, and since I was sitting behind the guy, I think I belong in the latter category; it sounded like he was talking about Tron Legacy and how he dug what he saw as a re-envisioning of the original film's visuals. It was interesting and fitting with his "tell me what you like, not what you don't like" philosophy, that I never heard him actually say that he liked the movie.

He also mentioned how the original Tron didn't leave as much of an impression on him as the arcade adaptation did. Someone said something about how watching Tron Legacy in 2D was like watching Captain EO without the 3D glasses, and QT laughed, saying he was going to use that line. Then he used a line from Death Proof, the one about "if you want to hang with the cool kids, you gotta be cool" or something like that, I don't remember, I'm fuckin' tired.

Before the film, a couple guys on stage were selling limited edition (of 600) posters of Kill Bill, drawn by someone respected, I'm sure. Anyway, they were $50 each and I'm just not quite at that disposable income level yet, so I didn't get one. You should get one, though. Get me one, too, while you're at it.

The pretty woman working the concession stand had a way about her that put me at ease, for some reason, she just did. For all I know, she could be cracking whips at the other employees behind closed doors, but the lady who served me my popcorn had a nice aura about her and strangely enough, did not have a single whiff of hipster about her, unlike the rest of us. She must be a Torgan, I thought to myself. Further thoughts ended with me concluding that a high-strung, overly sensitive piece-of-shit like me would only find peace in a utopia where all the people working behind counters of any kind were of the Torgan lineage.

While I NOM NOM NOM'd the popcorn, a girl I recognized from the stand-by line was walking up the aisle and then did a complete about-face right after passing Quentin's row -- excited recognition. She seemed cut from the Quirky cloth and in the movie of her life, she would be played by Alison Lohman; her blonde hair was mostly done up in something that reminded me of Princess Leia's hairdo, she was wearing a frilly white blouse and leopard print pants with matching suspenders. She carried a leopard print coat that completed the ensemble. She looked down toward Quentin and from where I was sitting I could see her eyes tear up, her form slightly trembling (as was her voice).

"Remember me?" she asked, and I suddenly felt my head tilt down towards the floor. QT did not answer (probably steeling himself, preparing for the worst), so she continued. Something about how she met him last year at a cafe and that she proposed marriage to him -- my gaze was burning a hole into the floor at this point -- and then went on to shower effusive praise, telling Rapist #1 from Planet Terror how much she loved him, and she used that word, "love". I felt for this MPDG and I certainly wasn't judging her -- there but for the grace of ego, go I.  But I wanted her to shut the fuck up before things got worse for both of them. She was a cute girl from where I was sitting but QT probably gets model-quality tang on a daily basis, and besides, you never promise crazy a baby.

Thankfully, nothing followed; Quentin said he did remember her, then thanked her and she went back to her seat. Even more thankfully, Quentin and his crew did not turn into Mean Girls after she left, it didn't turn into them laughing as Stuntman Mike walks away after failing to sneeze (or whatever the fuck he was trying to do in that scene). Instead, they listened as Quentin was rather matter-of-fact in his recollection of running into the girl, and then they continued talking about other stuff.

Julia Marchese stepped up to the mic and led the entire audience in singing Happy Birthday to QT, and then the birthday boy went down and did his intro. As he began, camera flashes started going off, so one of his ladies got out of her seat and hurriedly walked over to Julia to tell her something. Julia then turned to the audience and asked us to please shut off all cameras. Not satisfied enough with Lady Marchese's request, Quentin's Gogo Yubari then took over and went schoolteacher on us, telling those with cameras to stop it. Out of respect for Quentin -- and fear of being sent to detention -- the audience members proceeded to stop photographing QT.

He talked about how this print of Kill Bill was presented in Cannes back in '04 (the year he was president of the jury) and it was screened out-of-competition and he mentioned that there were things in The Whole Bloody Affair that were not in Vol. 1 & 2, and that there were things in Vol. 1 & 2 that are not in The Whole Bloody Affair, likening this version to a 60's "roadshow" film like Battle of the Bulge, complete with an intermission. He also told us that this print was only screened two times before today; the first time at Cannes, the second in a private screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas. Because of that, he told us, we would be the first public audience to watch The Whole Bloody Affair, which we reacted to by cheering because we're special or something.

It was going to be a long ride, so he quickly wrapped it up by thanking us for wishing him Happy Birthday, and then told us that he picked trailers of films that were in one way or another some of the inspirations for Kill Bill. To the best of my weed-damaged memory, we saw the following:

-- a jazzy ad for Dr. Pepper (seen before at the Grindhouse screening)

-- Pam Grier owning motherfuckers in Coffy

-- Sting of the Dragon Masters starring Angela Mao. I've seen this film before, when I was 11; I was studying taekwondo and was quite the fiend for it (the kind of little asshole who would go to the video store in his gi) and one day I saw this box for a movie called When Taekwondo Strikes. I was like Whaaa? A taekwondo movie that wasn't Best of the Best or Best of the Best 2? Huzzah! Anyway, that was an alternate title for Sting of the Dragon Masters. The trailer is awesome because Bernard Herrmann's North by Northwest score plays over it. But don't take my word for it, click here.

--The Million Eyes of Su-Muru with Frankie Avalon and Shirley Eaton. A bunch of hot chicks on an island doing their thing, and then fuckin' Beach Blanket Bingo shows up to shoot the shit out of them because he's the good guy, I guess. What a fucking asshole.

-- Rolling Thunder. If you don't know about Rolling Thunder, then man, you just don't fuckin' know.

-- They Call Her One Eye, the American re-edit of Thriller: A Cruel Picture. I met Christina Lindberg once at a screening of this movie; I pretty much acted like the girl I mentioned earlier, and she seemed genuinely creeped out by me. Par for the course, if you ask me.

-- Shogun Assassin, the American re-edit of the first 2 parts of the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Watching the trailer served as a setup for a pretty amusing callback for the audience near the end of Kill Bill. That John Landis-looking motherfucker Leonard Maltin did two things that will make him A-OK with me for life: he held open a door for me at the Egyptian Theatre, and he gave this movie three-and-a-half stars in his movie guide.

The film began, and this time when the late, great Sally Menke's name came up, Quentin was applauding along with everyone else -- his clapping was the loudest, and he was the last one to stop. 

I'm sure you've seen both volumes of Kill Bill, and it's safe to say that whatever your opinion on those films will be the same opinion with The Whole Bloody Affair. Me, I dug the hell out of both volumes. I dug how in the same way that Spielberg & Lucas took their beloved childhood cliffhanger serials and paid homage to them while taking that shit to the next level with Star Wars and the Indiana Jones flicks, QT took all those kung-fu, yakuza, exploitation, spaghetti western and grindhouse movies he grew up watching and made Kill Bill.

You see it even in the way certain sequences are shot; the Pai Mei stuff gets all crazy with the Shaw Brothers zooms and rack focusing, the House of Blue Leaves battle has the occasional tilted angles that look like 1970's Sonny Chiba is gonna come out at any moment, and the wedding chapel stuff (particularly the Bill/Bride dialogue) has a bit of the Leone-esque vibe, mixing wide shots with extreme close-ups of the characters faces -- and then, of course, there's all those feet shots. Always with the fuckin' feet shots. Me, I'm gonna have all the actresses in my movies wear glasses and everyone's gonna be like Dude, what is up with all the girls-in-glasses in your movies and I'm gonna be all coy about it, saying how it's not gratuitous, all the glasses shots have a reason for being there, unlike Jane Campion's movie which is nothing but gratuitous girls-in-glasses shots, tee-hee-hee.

To be safe, I'll try not to spoil anything too much in the off chance you still haven't seen this. It's been slightly re-edited to give that "roadshow" feel QT was referring to; the intermission break comes right after The Bride drops off a certain character at the hospital, and as a result, eliminating a major plot revelation that Vol. 1 closed with, and as a result of that result, the audience is no longer ahead of the main character in this version of the film.

This is the same print that was screened at Cannes, so we see the official Festival De Cannes logo at the beginning and French subtitles throughout (most amusing subtitle came up when Buck's "Pussy Wagon" is introduced: BAISODROME). The opening credits still proclaim this as Kill Bill Vol. 1, the end credits are from Vol. 2, and while QT has talked about adding an extra scene during the animated Origin of O-Ren sequence, it's not included in this print, so either they're still working on that for an eventual Blu-Ray or theatrical re-release or maybe that shit's just not gonna happen. 

As far as things that are no longer in this cut of the film, I remember the following: The Old Klingon Proverb no longer opens the film (a dedication to Kinji Fukasaku is in its place), the extended ending that closed Vol. 1 is gone (since we're going to see most of it later on anyway), and the Vol. 2 intro of Uma talking to the camera while driving to Bill's is gone too. As far as things added to this cut of the film, we now see the full uncut House of Blue Leaves sequence in color (I swear, somewhere along the way during that battle, the non-stop barrage of red blood and severed limbs became damn near hypnotic in its beauty -- beautiful ownage!) and I swear a couple dialogue scenes in the second half of the film seem to go on a tiny little bit longer (but then again, my memory of Vol. 2 is hazier than Vol. 1).

I'm running out of steam here, what else to say? Oh, OK, I noticed the women in the audience seemed to get a bigger kick out of O-Ren Ishii and Gogo Yubari doing their thing than the guys. One girl a couple rows ahead of me seemed absolutely delighted with Gogo's treatment of that drunk Ferrari-driving motherfucker -- was this a kind of wish-fulfillment thing going on, after a life of being accosted by unattractive men looking to pick up on her? Yeah, I wish I could disembowel the next loser who tries to hit on me!

There's a part when O-Ren tells her underlings how they shouldn't be afraid to speak up if they have an opinion on something or disagree with her. She says she's open to hearing them out as long as they hear her out in return. With the exception of the "I collect your fucking head" bit, that could also be something that maybe an Oscar-winning filmmaker might tell his cast and crew. I don't know, I'm just pulling even more stuff out of my ass than usual. Ready for more ass-out-pulling? Like, totally complete ass-out-pulling?

I like to amuse myself (and only myself) by interpreting the pre-battle House of Blue Leaves stuff as Quentin Tarantino and his entourage hitting up a hot nightspot. Quentin is O-Ren Ishii -- the Crazy 88's, his entourage. Like O-Ren, QT is fuckin' Boss of All Bosses in his field (provided that Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Terrence Malick, et al, aren't in the room) and I'm sure many an establishment was run by a person who told the staff that no matter what the VIPs demand, they gotta get that shit, no matter how fuckin' outlandish it is, you gotta satisfy their every whim with vim in this bitch. If Quentin's buddies want four pepperoni pizzas in this sake joint, that muthafuckin' Charlie Brown-looking muthafucka best get that shit right quick.

But then, in that case, who does The Bride represent -- Roger Avary, maybe? That motherfucker's blond-haired, so that shit could work. Do you find me sadistic, Roger? Taking your fuckin' Top Gun rant and using it for my own purpose? Uh, uh, motherfucker -- this is me at my most opportunistic. But to go with that interpretation would mean you'd have to go with the tragic assumption that QT has guilt about the whole intellectual property thing, and therefore is deserving of being revenged upon -- ah, but then again (like Budd says) so does Roger, so I guess we'll just see, won't we?

This combined version runs a little over 4 hours, even longer if you count the intermission (felt like at least 15 minutes were given to us), and yet it didn't feel long at all to me. I remember seeing Once Upon a Time in America at the Egyptian, that shit was a half-hour shorter than The Whole Bloody Affair and felt twice as long -- that might have something to do with that flick not having an intermission (what the fuck?), so I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. I never do, really.

As the end credits rolled, I overheard a girl a few seats down recognize the name Cheng Cheh. I wanted to tell the guy with her that she was a keeper, this chick who knew what the fuck a Cheng Cheh was. Then I was reminded of the Quentin fangirl from earlier (QT left during intermission, never came back, probably out of fear of the girl), and thought maybe I should follow my own ungiven advice, so I got up and looked for the leopard-printed lady.

There was a long line already formed outside for the 7pm show, this one even longer, snaking out even past Lulu's cafe and headed for the residential sidewalk. The standby line was as long as a regular movie night line, and then there was another line from the opposite direction, which I couldn't figure out. Down the street I saw her, the girl who wanted to take Quentin's hand in marriage, and I ran down until I caught up to her. Because I'm a fat fuck, I arrived completely drenched in sweat and out of breath. In between gulps of air, I told her that I may not be Quentin Tarantino, but maybe she'd like to join me for some pie, because I kinda have this thing where I like to go for pie after a movie and talk about it. She stood back, looked me over, and then very slowly, she smiled. I smiled back.

Then she yelled "RAPE!" and I ran away.

Somewhere in that last paragraph, I started making it up, which is sad because even in my fantasies I feel a need to be realistic.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Zoë Bell is better than you.

Playing hooky from school resulted in me getting Saturday detention, but when Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez played hooky from work, it resulted in Grindhouse. Go figure. As part of QT's birthday month, the man himself is programming the schedule at the New Beverly Cinema. There's a line that Harry Belafonte's gangster character says to Dermot Mulroney's hostage character in that dead drunken supremely-talented asshole Robert Altman's film Kansas City, and I vaguely remember it being something like "You hear that? (the music playing in the club) That's Count Basie. It's the only reason you're not dead yet." Well, I'm going to appropriate that shit, smack it up, flip it, rub it down (oh no!) and say that the New Bev is the only reason L.A. isn't dead to me.

When I drove past the theater, there were about 5 or 6 people in line. Ten minutes later, after finding a spot and taking a stroll around the block, the line was halfway down the block. Mr. Phil Blankenship would periodically walk down the line to make sure that everyone already bought their ticket online (it completely sold out online, anyone who wanted to buy a ticket that night had to wait in Standby). The huge turnout for tonight's screening of Grindhouse plus Machete reminded me of the two or three (or four?) screenings of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World they had here, and how those shows played to a packed house; both films were disappointments at the box office but the fans are hard-fucking-core. Which made me think if there were just as many hardcore fans of the movies that beat Grindhouse during its initial release; would I see people line up around the block to see Wild Hogs at the New Bev? I highly doubt that.

A very familiar-looking man stepped up to someone in the line, and after a couple seconds I went Holy Shit It's Michael Biehn -- Kyle Reese! Cpl. Hicks! Johnny Ringo! -- dressed casually in his dragon print button shirt and black jeans and hiking boots (he looked like he was in a scene from the non-existent Navy Seals 2, chilling out and drinking beer with his bros on R&R until they all get paged because a group of terrorists have taken over an embassy or something). The man in line showed Biehn an album full of black & white artwork (storyboards? comic art?) and after a while of looking through them, Biehn took his leave and walked off with his lady companion who was not Sarah Connor, which is a good thing because the chances of the New Bev turning Tech Noir dropped dramatically once I realized that.

As I devoured (DEVOURED, I SAY) the delicious popcorn, and the theater slowly filled to capacity, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez showed up. Biehn went up to Quentin and they hugged; he said something about how it's been a while since the last time they had spoken. Mr. Rodriguez -- a tall drink of water -- arrived suited and booted, and he not only managed to wear a cowboy hat without looking douchey or racist, he made that shit look pretty fuckin' cool. Quentin came dressed as Quentin.

They ended up sitting in front of my friend and I, and that was very cool. We were going to watch this movie with the guys responsible for it sitting close enough for me to uncomfortably breathe heavily all over them, clipping hairs from their head for the shrine I keep in my closet where I worship them Helga Pataki-style in my spare time; I have a lot of spare time. To Quentin's left were three ladies, which sounds about right, I'd complain if he had 2 or less. One arrived in the kind of sexy badass outfit one wears when riding a motorcycle in a movie; her belt buckle appeared to be a diamond-studded pistol. At one point, Quentin asked her for a large Diet Coke and I wondered if she was an assistant (or just a considerate friend) and perhaps that pistol was real and she was Quentin's "do-dirt nigga".

Like most of my fellow fanboys, I too considered the idea of going up to them and making a complete ass of myself. It's not like I wouldn't have anything to say, in fact, it's quite the opposite. I wanted to tell them how I had just completed my first feature and I had them to thank/blame. I wanted to tell them how they were the first filmmakers who I felt a kinship with, and that it was the 1993 one-two combo punch of seeing Reservoir Dogs on VHS and El Mariachi in the theater that gave my life a goal in that young age -- to go from accomplished film-watcher to wannabe filmmaker. I wanted to tell them how with their first films, Quentin Tarantino made me want to make movies and Robert Rodriguez told me that nothing was stopping me from making them.

Instead, I decided it was better to respect their space and leave them alone.

"Jungle" Julia Marchese began the intro by requesting people not to take photos or video and then QT and RR came down. Quentin talked about how this screening was especially, uh, special because it felt like he and his brother from another mother Rodriguez were coming full circle with this experience. They told the "hooky" story; Robert would watch 16mm prints projected on a white sheet in Quentin's blacked-out apartment (this was before Tarantino moved to plushier digs that are unfortunately located next door to Alan Ball's pterodactyls) and that Quentin sincerely declared/asked something to the effect of "Isn't this the life?". They told the Dragstrip Girl/Rock All Night story; Robert saw the poster for that double bill, said he had the same one at home, and then he immediately had a light bulb moment and brought up the idea for Grindhouse.

It also came out of wanting to share the experience of watching movies at Quentin's house; QT would screen 2, 3, 4 movies and have trailers and intermissions and ads -- Grindhouse would be a chance to do all that for audiences worldwide (well, audiences in the U.S. at least). They also mentioned how Rodriguez had his movie cast long before Tarantino cast his; to give the actors an idea of what kind of movies they were making, they screened Zombie (horror: this could never happen) and Torso (terror: this could happen) with trailers. Rodriguez's film would be full of show-stopping gore (like Zombie) and Tarantino's film would feature extended scenes of girls talking punctuated with the occasional brilliant kill scene, climaxing with a 20-minute long final setpiece (like Torso).

They also made sure to distinguish the "sickos" in Rodriguez's film as being "infected", not zombies. Quentin told a story about how he talked to director Umberto Lenzi (I'm assuming they were discussing Nightmare City) and referred to the bad guys in his film as zombies. Lenzi responded by getting all WTF about Quentin's use of the word "zombie", acting all confused before finally getting all Italian loud and declaring "THEY'RE-A EEEN-FEC-DED PEEEE-PUUULL!"

We were then told how we were going to watch Grindhouse as they originally intended it; with real trailers and ads included. The movie was already long, Quentin said, and I'm sure legal issues were also another reason why it wasn't released this way, but for us, the fans at the New Bev, this is how we'd be watching it. He told us that he and Robert would not be coming up to do a Q&A or talk more about the film, this would be a triple feature that would go: trailers, Planet Terror, trailers, Death Proof, trailers, Machete. Then they wished us a good time and sat down.

A guy went right up to Quentin to get his autograph or something and QT gave him the apparently-known-by-many shpiel of "Thanks, but I'm just trying to watch the movie like you..." or something like that. The lights went down and suddenly a guy in a powder-blue t-shirt with dark blue sleeves came walking quickly down the aisle, headed for the same row as Quentin but Julia (walking up the aisle) demonstrated her Bionic Woman engineering by lasering in on the pesky target and getting in front of him. She held up her hands, effectively blocking him in a polite manner that could also double for Don't Make Me Have To Push You. The lady Just Fucking Knew what this guy was up to and was going to put a stop to it. Whispered words were exchanged, but I managed to hear her tell him "Please go back to your seat" at the end of it, and that's just what he did.

I don't remember the order of the trailers and ads, but I'll do my best: a Coca-Cola advertisement, Lucio Fulci's The Psychic, Dario Argento's Deep Red, Sum Yung Guy's Deep Thrust, Lucio Fulci's Zombie, some Filipino's Women In Cages and I think that was it as far as the new trailers, followed by the Machete trailer and Planet Terror.

Now, I've written about Grindhouse before in one of my first ramblings on this here blog; it was my contribution to the far superior blog Final Girl and her Film Club. I haven't been there in a while, but I'm going to see if she's still doing the Film Club thing, I'd like to do another one. I think I might have even met the lady (if that was even her) behind that site at Eric Spudic's Movie Empire (which is now closed, unfortunately). She was working the counter and even offered to help me take my purchases to my car. I thanked her but figured I could handle it myself. Then she politely laughed at my stupid joke about how I'll probably drop them anyway. Then I went outside, and sure enough, I dropped the movies. Because my life is filled with nothing but new ways for me to choke on my spoon.

Anyway, yeah, I've rambled about Planet Terror and Death Proof already and it's interesting to read (for me, not for you) because I was well into an alcoholic depression (with the occasional rage-filled moment of levity) during that time of my life. Don't clap for me yet, 12-steppers, I don't drink anymore but I do love me some pot -- but at least I'm not depressed anymore. So if you want my detailed (read: way too fucking long) thoughts on the extended versions of both films, click on this motherfucker.

I will say a couple things about the films, I'm now of the opinion (or at least as of this moment in time) that the shorter Grindhouse versions of both movies are superior. For a while, my ideal version of Grindhouse was the theatrical cut of Planet Terror (the pacing moves like a MUTHAFUCKA) and the extended version of Death Proof. But now, I like my Death Proof shorter as well. Sure, there are moments that I'll be missing, like the full Michael Parks monologue or that awesomely creepy photo-taking sequence, but I can always enjoy those scenes separately on the Blu-ray. I really don't give a shit about buying Italian Vogue (even though I liked seeing Nicky Katt pop up) and I'm not getting anything out of Kurt Russell fondling Rosario Dawson's feet, since I'm not the one fondling them. I once made a DVD with the extended versions of both movies along with the Zombie/Wright/Roth trailers taken from an Internet source, but after watching it once, I gave it to my cousin.

With repeated viewings, a dim motherfucker like me starts to notice and appreciate things more from these films. My third favorite scene in Death Proof (following the entire car chase sequence and the first crash) is when Jungle Julia texts Christian Simonson. She's excused herself to a closed-off section of the bar, away from the loud music of AMI the jukebox. The bar music on the soundtrack is eventually drowned out by Pino Donaggio's score from Blow Out ("Sally and Jack", I believe) and she's sending him lovey-dovey messages. It's like this is Jungle Julia without the tough don't-give-a-shit persona she's been putting up in front of everyone else for the rest of the film. This is a personal, non-guarded moment and I think she genuinely likes the dude, this dude who probably doesn't give a shit about her. I mean, for all she knows, that guy was probably texting back his "Me Too" message while getting a fuckin' lap dance. She's making Stuntman Mike feel like a heel and talking shit about that skinny fake-blonde bitch at the bar, but she's probably hiding the fact that she's also a little touchéd herself.

At least that's how I like to see it. I'm probably wrong, like I was wrong about the scene in Jackie Brown (still my favorite QT joint) when Robert Forster firsts sees Pam Grier and Bloodstone's "Natural High" starts to play on the soundtrack. I thought that was supposed to underscore Forster's love-at-first-sight moment, but then on the DVD, QT is talking about how that was just a moment for people to go "Ahhh!" because it's an awesome song, and how the only people who really got that scene were black people -- and Quentin, of course, because he's black too.

A couple moments watching Grindhouse with the directors in front of me stood out; The first was right after the Machete trailer when a blocky 70's-style Weinstein Company logo came up with the announcer saying "Brought to you by your friends at the Weinstein Company!" Right after that, Quentin glanced over to Robert and Pretty Girl With The Diamond Pistol Belt Buckle beside him. Oh how I wish I had the ability to interpret that glance! What did it mean? What was the emotion behind it? Only Quentin and those he shared his glance with know for sure. Also when the late Sally Menke's credit in Death Proof came up, everyone else in the room burst into applause and cheered -- all but Quentin, who slowly nodded for a while. 

After Grindhouse, there was about a 20-minute break (and the exodus to the toilets and concession stand began). Some guy walked up to Quentin and Robert and thanked them for the good times, and QT/RR graciously thanked him back. Quentin then said "Love your tailor!", referring to the man's Grindhouse t-shirt. I talked with my friend for a bit, then checked my messages (zero, as usual), then went to say goodbye to the Cherry Coke I had gotten intimately acquainted with during Grindhouse. I got in line to use the head and saw that Mr. Rodriguez was in front of me, probably looking to relieve himself of some Cerveza Chango.

When you're a famous filmmaker, you have to make peace with the fact that people are going to ask for autographs or talk with you while you wait to use the toilet; Rodriguez signed quite a few pictures and posters and was being incredibly nice the entire time. If he was annoyed, he was hiding that shit like a pro. The powder blue shirt guy (aka the guy who almost probably got his ass handed to him by Golden Earrings in the name of Quentin's comfort) went up to RR and shook his hand. After that guy left, the guy in front of Rodriguez then turned to Robert and said "Man, you can't even pee in peace!" and then followed it up with "So how was it like working with Lindsay Lohan?"

After the break, a new reel of trailers started: a jazzy bebop-ish ad for Dr. Pepper, Chinese Hercules (starring Bolo Yeung aka That Buff Asian Dude From Bloodsport), some crazy nunsploitation flick called The Lady of Monza (the trailer consisted of people getting whipped, smacked, punched, kicked, and I think even banged -- it's a movie about nuns), something called Ride In A Pink Car, muthafuckin' Charlie Bronson breaking out muthafuckin' Robert Duvall in Breakout, and a teaser for something called Teenage Hitchhikers (dialogue and narration playing over a slow revolving zoom out of what appeared to be the poster, if I recall somewhat correctly).

Machete followed. I saw it back in October and liked it, but felt a tad letdown. It's a sad irony (or whatever the right fuckin' word is) that ultimately this was yet another example of a movie that wasn't as good as the trailer. You have Danny Trejo, the 21st century Charles Bronson, fucking motherfuckers up in the worst possible ways using knives and various other stabbing/slashing/impaling implements all in the name of the illegal immigrants who are trying to make a shitty living doing shitty jobs -- and I was left wishing there was more of that. My buddy loved it, though; I think he even liked it more than Death Proof.

The good outweighs the bad, but the bad is still pretty fuckin' heavy; the movie feels too slow at times and that's kind of a shock because Rodriguez is usually aces in the pacing department (remember long ago, when I told you how I thought Planet Terror's pacing moves like a MUTHAFUCKA?) but to me, this one doesn't really feel like it's headed anywhere. Usually, you can feel that shit, like we're headed into the home stretch, but in this one, I sure as fuck couldn't. By the time Machete is leading an army of low-riders into the final battle, I knew I was watching the prelude to the Big Battle, and yet, it didn't feel like it, if that makes any sense and it probably doesn't.

Robert DeNiro's character, he's this senator who's running for re-election on a campaign of no amnesty for illegals and building an electrified fence at the border, and I think his ads where he refers to the illegals as "parasites" and uses images of cockroaches and maggots, well, it didn't seem so funny to me because I can totally buy that happening in real life. I think Rodriguez was trying for Satire and took an unplanned left turn into Straight Up Fuckin' Accurate. Shit, check any news message board on the subject, those motherfuckers are already talking that kind of shit -- hell, it's probably even worse. It's really just a matter of time before we see real ads like that, making illegals synonymous with insects. I'm still not convinced that DeNiro's speech where he keeps mocking the idea of "change" wasn't taken word-for-word from some politician going off on that socialist/commie/America-hating/tax-loving Obama (or "Nobama", as the clever like to call him).

Steven Seagal is awesome, and if you don't agree with me, then you're probably Kelly LeBrock. I probably even like him more as a fat guy, but I'm down with either version -- which I guess makes him the Alec Baldwin of martial artists. I love that they cast him not only as the bad guy, but a Mexican drug kingpin named Torrez. That description sounds like it was taken straight from the fantasy movies that play in the cinema of my imagination. He doesn't disappoint, either; he speaks with an accent, occasionally throws in some Spanish (he's particularly fond of calling people "puñeta").

The rest of the cast is great; Don Johnson does his best Michael Parks impression, Lindsay Lohan does a good job remaining somewhat relevant, Cheech is Cheech (always a good thing), Jeff Fahey speaks in such a low growling voice you could probably play his scenes to test your subwoofers, Nimrod Antal is way better an actor than you'd expect, and goddamn Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez are making it difficult for me to live life knowing I'll never get to bang them. We already know about Alba's hotness capabilities, but I was especially (pleasantly) surprised by M.Rod's bringing-of-the-sexy in this one. She didn't do much for me back in the day, but now, I don't know if it's because they usually cast her in butch roles or she hadn't fully blossomed yet, but I see her in Machete and she manages to combine that hardass aspect she brings with a large degree of absolute smokin' heat.

I wonder about that. I thought it was good filmmaking that did it, but I recently watched a video clip from a radio show where the host was recording his guest and in the middle of it, Michelle Rodriguez walks down the hall with her entourage, on her way to another show. They say Hi to her and she winks back. After she's gone, the guest turns to the host and talks about how hot she is in person, and what a shame it is that Hollywood's been dyking her up all these years.

Anyway, Robert Rodriguez co-directed this movie with his protege Ethan Manquis, maybe that's why this one doesn't have that same, uh, I don't know, snap to it that his other movies have. It really only comes to life during the action, and even then, half of the action is frustratingly standard-looking, while the other half is wildly inventive. It also seems to have the same problem that Once Upon A Time In Mexico had -- the film seems more interested in the supporting characters than the fuckin' main dude. Look man, in the end, I dug it, but goddamn, I really wanted to see the movie I thought I was going to get from the trailer. As it is, it feels like I'm watching a different movie with the occasional scene from the trailer thrown in -- which come to think of it, is EXACTLY what this movie is. Don't I feel like a fuckin' tonto.

The audience response was interesting. There wasn't as much cheering or laughing as with Grindhouse. There was the occasional WOOOO but I think it was the same guy doing it. Some of the jokes fell flat (regardless of whether they were funny or not) and got no response, and some bits that I didn't expect to get a reaction were rather well-received. Quentin seemed to really dig the movie, though. Some of the loudest laughs came from him, and on occasion, only the laughs came from him. But before you say What The Fuck Are You Implying, calm down puñeta, I'm not implying anything -- trust me, his were as sincere and genuine a fuckin' laugh as you will ever hear. These guys are best friends, and as such probably share the same sense of humor. It happens, I guess -- sometimes the audience is going to be on a different wavelength but as long as you're still getting laughs and as long as the audience is still cheering every once in a while, what's the problem?

The triple feature ended, and a great time was had by most (I can't assume for all of you). Quentin and Robert stuck around during the credits, talking to each other. My buddy and I ended up chilling outside for a while, me yapping incessantly while he smoked his cigarette. Eventually, RR went outside and signed some autographs. By the time we decided to take off, I looked over to see RR and QT listening intently while Clu Gulager (wearing a Marine Corps jacket -- once a Marine, always a Marine) talked to them about whatever. I felt like turning in their direction and shouting THAT'S RIGHT MOTHERFUCKERS, WHEN CLU SPEAKS, YOU FUCKIN' LISTEN, but then I remembered that I while I may be stupid, I'm not bloody stupid and instead I drove my friend to Norms, where I spent my meal being stared at by a bald smiling tattooed man in the booth in front of me, only occasionally breaking eye contact with me to look down at a sketchpad he was furiously drawing on.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gym employees have no sense of humor, and if they do, it's an extremely wack sense of humor from another planet

So the doctor, he fixed my ear up; it wasn't permanent damage, just something a little antibiotic and steroids can fix. Feeling the sudden violent mood swings brought on by the latter drug, I wondered aloud if I should start beating the shit out of women while lifting weights or something. He said perhaps it's best to start incorporating some physical activity into my life, something more than just getting up to grab another Hot Pocket to toss into the microwave. Sure whatever, asshole. I mean, this doc, he was watching Hot Fuzz in his office, which happened to be across from the exam room where I was waiting inside for a long time. I could hear the unmistakable David Arnold ass-kicking music coming from the closed door and I was sitting there unable to even call a motherfucker because of the sign that said NO CELL PHONE WHILE INSIDE EXAMINATION ROOM. Also, my doctor looks like Guillermo Del Toro and he's giving me shit about my shape, so Double Dumbass on you, I say.

How do you really convince someone like me to visit a gym, to get a little of that physical activity he was talking about? You tell the asshole to visit one of these Gold's Gym joints and visit their "Cardio Cinema" room, a small darkened theater made up of a big screen, projector and treadmills in place of seats. They only play one film per day, played on a loop so if you come in late, you can catch up with the rest later if you're still running/walking/cycling by then. Sounded like an easy way to burn some calories; letting the on-screen events distract me as my heart-rate level was somewhere around 300 and all I was doing was walking. Fat fuck.

The guy at the gym explained how great the Cardio Cinema room is, and how it's outfitted with surround sound and IMAX. Yup, he said IMAX and it took every ounce, fiber, molecule, muscle, and belief inside me to not go right up to his face, look him in the eye, and go "BULLSHIT!!!!!" like Chow Yun-Fat in the English-dubbed version of Hard Boiled. Instead, I just nodded, pretending I was the kind of person who would buy that shit.

It's not like I was expecting The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, but the choices are relatively "safe" middle-of-the-road fare, and maybe even "middle-of-the-road" could be considered too kind, if yesterday's choice is any indication: Killers, a movie I never wanted to see because it starred two people who I'm 99.7 percent sure are insufferable douchebags in real life. There's another movie called Killers, starring nobody you know and directed by the guy who ended up creating The Asylum production company, responsible for those quickly-made low-budget DTV cash-ins of films currently playing in non-cardio cinemas -- I didn't even like that movie but I was really hoping I was watching that one instead.

I guess I could've gone to a regular treadmill instead, but I've gone through that before, that shit makes me feel all too aware that I'm exercising and even the music or the closed-captioned televisions aren't going to distract me enough. I'm here, so I should try this Cardio Cinema regardless of today's fare, I said to myself. I'm going to do a quick rundown on this one, because you really shouldn't be worrying about spoilers on this shit, and it's not like you're gonna read this anyway.

So the movie starts with the Female Douchebag From Knocked Up on a trip to Nice, France with her parents, played by awesome non-douchebags Tom Selleck and Catherine O'Hara. I feel bad for O'Hara, strictly on a She's Better Than This level; I'm sure she makes a nice chunk of change doing these movies a favor by being in them, but it still stings a bit that she and other SCTV gods like Eugene Levy also have to appear grateful for that shit. No wonder Rick Moranis said Fuck That Shit and got out of the game. No wonder John Candy's dead. I hope at least the people behind movies like Killers, New York Minute and Surviving Christmas understand that the only good they provide to this world is affording Levy and O'Hara the opportunity to appear in better movies, like those improv joints from that asshole Christopher Guest.

Female Douchebag is recently single and she meets this guy who's good looking in a This Guy's A Major Tool kinda way, played by Punk'd The Douchebag. Punk'd is supposed to be a secret agent/assassin type, and I say "supposed" not because his identity is mysterious or something, I say "supposed" because we're supposed to buy that shit, that this douche can fuck up some tough Frenchie and snap his neck. Whatever, douche. If anything, I'd sooner believe that while they were filming this, Punk'd got a little too rough on the stuntman fighting opposite him and nearly got his ass handed to him as a result.

I can picture it; the stuntman steps back and says to him (in a Cockney accent) that one more stupid mistake like that and he's going to twist Punk'd's nutsack off and place it between his asscheeks, a position more becoming to him, he'd reckon. Then Punk'd the Douchebag starts crying to his army of bodyguards to get between him and Angry Cockney Stuntman, then and only then starting to feel tough. So yeah, Punk'd meet-cutes Female Douchebag after doing a hit (he blew up some helicopter, killing his mark and a most likely innocent helicopter pilot) and they begin a wonderful douchebag courtship while enjoying the nice beaches and nice vistas of, uh, Nice.

Selleck's character is overly protective of his daughter, even making sure her hotel room is adjacent to his. He's always going on about her safety. I want you to remember that for later. Anyway, Punk'd ends up turning down a hit from his boss, played by yet another funny actor slumming it and having to look happy about it, Martin Mull. The only reason I don't feel as bad for Mull is because Patton Oswalt once referred to him as being an asshole; it was one of those arguments for Don't Meet Your Heroes, and the flipside to that coin according to Oswalt, was that he then met Carrot Top (not a hero of Oswalt's) and found him to be one of the nicest guys ever.

So cut to three years later, and Punk'd the Douchebag is married to Female Douchebag and they live in a nice neighborhood somewhere in the tax-incentive-giving state of Georgia. Punk'd has some kind of job in construction where he works out of an office and occasionally visits a site to tell the Mexicans what's what while still dressed in his clean white corporate wear, probably getting that shit dirty and not caring because I'M AWESOME or whatever douchebag mantra is filling his mind at the moment (he learned from the smaller, less-popular sub-sect of Transcendental Meditation called DTM, and I don't even have to tell you what that shit stands for. Meanwhile, Female Douchebag works in an office or something.

It's quite a thing to watch Punk'd's interactions with others; his response to everything is to make a condescending Whatever Loser look after the other person is done talking. For all I know, the character in the screenplay is supposed to be likable, but because of the actor playing him, he just seems like the smarmiest, most-asshole-like, I'm Better Than You motherfucker I've seen in quite some time. I guess this is what fans of Punk'd like about him, this is why they spend their hard-earned money to go see his shit movies, they love watching this guy be an asshole because maybe they want to be just like him, and they've gone as far as the Ed Hardy shirt and the ironic trucker's cap, but that's it. They're still a cougar away from being him. That's the only thing separating those douches from this douche, because there certainly isn't a talent gap involved.

I mean, Lois Griffin from Family Guy shows up playing one of Punk'd's neighbors and she's doing the wacky neighbor thing and it's like Punk'd couldn't even play it like he's amused by her. Later in the film you find out she's a hired assassin and I think that's supposed to be a surprise except Punk'd is already treating her weird from the beginning -- and I don't think he's supposed to be playing it that way. It's like the director tried to pull Punk'd aside and explain to him that his character should be friendly with Lois Griffin because as far as he's concerned, she's just some lady. But Punk'd probably turned to this director and went, NAH THAT'S STUPID, BRO (Punk'd speaks in all caps) and then probably explained that his fans like to see him be a dick and not in an awesome Alec Baldwin/Will Arnett sort-of-way, it's more like he's a dick in the way that genuinely unpleasant people are dicks.

So suddenly in the middle of the movie, the Douchebags find themselves being attacked by friends and colleagues; Punk'd's co-worker attacks him in the kitchen with a knife, friendly deliverymen are firing machine guns at them, a horny sexed-up neighbor is trying to run them over. Now, Female Douchebag doesn't know why (she doesn't know about Punk'd's former life -- he confessed to her late one night about it, except she was asleep and didn't hear a word, and he thinks she did and took it rather well as a result) this is happening to them but Punk'd figures maybe it's related to his previous employment. Anyway, they start to bicker with the whole WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME/I TOLD YOU ALREADY deal, eventually leading into the I'm Pregnant plot point and along the way, many a product placement is made.

This is where I came in (and then stayed to watch the first half when the movie started over). I started working out halfway through the film, and I have to admit, it played rather well this way, not knowing why anything was happening. In fact, there was an almost Kafka-esque feel to it, watching this couple freaking out as all these people in this suburban setting try to kill them, and they can't even go to Big K-Mart to buy a pregnancy test without Usher showing up with a price gun and making Punk'd nervous that he might be One Of Them. There's a germ of a good idea there somewhere, in my unintentional reedit-by-way-of-watching-it-from-the-middle version. Not that it helps, it only made me want to go home and watch the chase scene from To Live and Die in L.A..

Usher's appearance, by the way, only made me wonder if this was set up by having Punk'd call his bros and ask them if they wanted to show up and have some fun. Most of them were out doing better things (probably out fishing with Mark Cuban, Chris Daughtry, Jeff Probst, Super Chef Bobby Flay and Adam Scott's character from Step Brothers). Damn. Usher seemed like an OK guy, but now I have to re-think that because of the company he keeps. It must've been unbearable on that set, those two bro-ing out while girls with no standards or self-respect were screaming and moistening their undergarments because OMG PUNK'D AND USHER ARE AT THE BIG K-MART.

The assassins are mostly played by people who unlike the stars of this film, are known for their comedic talents and sense of humor. They unfortunately are losers in the Who's More Attractive game against the stars, and that's where it really counts in Hollywood; Lois Griffin from Family Guy (shot in the head), some skinny dude (run over), some other skinny dude (neck snapped), real-life Marine Rob Riggle (who unfortunately probably had the decency to be nice to Punk'd behind-the-scenes, rather than putting him in a hurt locker -- his character gets crushed/impaled), Casey Wilson from SNL (shot in the head), and someone named Lisa Ann Walter (burned to death) who I remember from something for some reason. For a while, I thought the theme of this movie was Hot People Rule, Normal People Drool, but there is one hot chick who is trying to kill them, as well, she's like Punk'd's secretary or something, and she gets impaled by an antler chandelier that she was bitching about earlier in the movie, which I guess is irony or poetic justice or something.

For a good portion of the running time, there was an older Asian couple on the treadmills next to me. They seemed to really enjoy the movie, and good for them, I'm not holding it against them, I just wish they knew that the star of the movie is probably the kind of asshole who would wait for them to leave so he could start going Ching Chong Ching Ching Chong behind their backs, then high-fiving his bro about it ("now let's go date-rape some chicks!").

I wish the Asian couple didn't leave, because then this fat guy (fatter than me) in a red polo shirt and sweatpants stepped in and decided that he was going to let everyone know what he thought of this movie. He didn't seem to mind that people around him left their treadmills while he was trying to MST3k the feature. It was probably his way of working up the nerve to do an open-mic night at the local Chuckle Hut and bomb horribly with his observations about women until out of desperation he starts making jokes about those goddamn Mexicans and their Mexican music (this Chuckle Hut is located in Orange County), then they'd all laugh and he'd feel Awesome and now fully charged, he tries to pick up chicks with his shit Chris Farley impersonation -- and succeeds!

You cannot escape the talkers, even in the movie theater gym. I felt that even though this was a shit movie, this is still a movie theater setting and he should take that shit somewhere else. Nobody is forcing him to watch this. As for me, I was running in spite of the assholes on-screen -- I was running OUT of spite. I'm a spiting motherfucker. Besides, as shitty as the movie was, it still managed to distract me from the plain and simple fact that I was actually running. Running! For more than 10 seconds! It's probably even easier if you're doing it to a movie you like!

It got to a point that we were the only two left, and I sure as fuck wasn't going to leave, I had a good run going. Eventually, a cute girl got between me and Fat Guy In A Polo Shirt and he decided to give his running commentary to her, rather than me. I can sense her Oh Man, I Picked The Wrong Treadmill vibes and I'd feel sorry for her, but since she'd probably never give me the time of day, I felt nothing but a major amount of Serves You Right For Being Cute toward her. Instead, I cooled down and switched to another machine, leaving her with Mr. All My Friends At Work Say I Should Be A Comedian.

So at the end of the movie, it turns out that Selleck's character used to be a secret agent/assassin/whatever himself, and he was the original target that Punk'd The Douchebag was supposed to take down at the beginning. He thought Punk'd was after him, so he assigned sleeper agents to pretend to be Punk'd's friends and neighbors until they got the word from him. There was a misunderstanding when Martin Mull's character recently contacted Punk'd, and Selleck assumed the hit was back on, so he alerted the assassins and that's why Punk'd and Knocked Up spent the second half of the movie trying not to get killed. This from the guy who was nervous about the idea of his daughter sleeping in a hotel room that wasn't adjacent to his.
But now that everything is settled, and all the assassins are dead, it's all water under the bridge, I guess. Turns out Selleck's as big a douche as his daughter and son-in-law.

This was an asshole movie made by asshole people and starring a couple of assholes. There is the occasional cool person involved (some of the supporting cast, the cinematographer shot True Lies) but other than that, it's an asshole production. But I saw the whole thing, so that makes me the biggest asshole of the bunch. You know, I'm being hard on Katherine Heigl, I know people don't like her, but I'll let her slide. I take back all the Female Douchebag talk about her because she never hosted a prank show, she never called herself and Sean Combs "the new Rat Pack". I'm sure in between doing movies, reading scripts and raising her kid, Ms. Heigl probably likes to chill out by reading my blog, so I just want to make it clear that I don't really have a beef with her. But you're sure as fuck on probation, Heigl.

The action was OK, but it's more of that pre-Bourne old-movie-star style of action choreography where you don't believe for a second that Punk'd could fuck a guy up like that. People get shot and blown up, it's a touch more brutal than you'd expect from a no-blood PG-13 movie, and it probably hurts more to watch because it's happening to people you want to see accomplish their mission and live. Instead, Punk'd and Knocked Up win the battle and live on to have an asshole baby. Meanwhile, I'm sure some of these assassins had families at home who are going to receive either a phone call in the middle of the night, or a visit from Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson. And for what? Because fuckin' Magnum PI was afraid of dying from the very same sword he lived by? What a fuckin' asshole.

This movie made me sad. The only thing that makes me sadder is if they took the same script, same director and the same cast but replaced Punk'd and Knocked Up with, oh, I don't know, Matt Damon and Amy Adams, I'd most likely give this shit a pass, even though this is without a doubt, a shining example of a Piece Of Shit movie.

I don't know if I'll do it again, I mean, I like being sedentary and dying a slow blubberous death, but as far as yesterday goes, I adapted rather easily into this new world, this gym world, walking around and exposing my fat upper body and juicy man-titties in public. What I wasn't ready for was the odd mixture of guys who trot around naked in the locker room with those who are trying to save themselves a little decency by using a towel. I guess that's where the thousand-yard-stare comes into handy when you're now living with civilians who look at your man-bitch-tits while their wangs are flopping around too close to the hair gel.

Friday, March 11, 2011

If hating Nazis is wrong, I don't want to be White

Listen lady and gentleman, I understand that shitty things happen to all of us and there's nothing wrong with bitching about it on the Internet -- shit, that's mostly what I do on this blog and Twitter, but for God's sake stop signing off with FML, because you are fucking blessed to be alive in this beautiful/ugly world and if you have at least one person that gives one iota of a shit about you, then consider yourself double blessed. You gotta treat that shit like gold, jack, 'cuz it is gold. Your life? That is gold. The Japanese are currently in a stunning realization of that, at this moment.

So last night I went to see a Rod Taylor double-feature at the New Beverly Cinema, part of Quentin Tarantino programming all of March's movie schedule because it's his birthday this month and ain't no party like a Quentin Tarantino party 'cause a Quentin Tarantino party don't stop (until the month of April). I knew of Rod Taylor when I first saw him in The Time Machine (the original, not that Guy Pearce bullshit), back when my 7th grade social studies teacher played it for my class for God knows what fuckin' reason. Then I remember QT geeking out about him during an interview on Riki Rachtman's radio show, back in '96; he was going on about what a badass awesome motherfucker Mr. Taylor was in both film and life. Quentin also championed going to the drive-in by yourself during this interview. So, I immediately started renting Rod Taylor movies to see if this motherfucker was right and once I was old enough to drive, I didn't even bother calling anyone to join me at the drive-in (there was no one to call, really).

Anyway, last night. While waiting outside, I listened to the older film geeks in front of me talk about favorite music composers and directors and actors; one of them had an anecdote told by director Richard Fleischer about working with Kirk Douglas. Turns out The Ragman's Son had a well-deserved reputation in his heyday for being a king-size prick and pretty much the stereotypical asshole superstar. So Fleischer was shooting The Vikings somewhere overseas and there's one shot where they set up both Douglas and a camera with a very rare lens or something on a couple of safety lines about 65 feet up a castle wall. I guess the guy in charge of Douglas and the camera rig asked Fleischer which of the two had higher priority, should an accident occur. Fleischer, not joking at all, told the guy to save the camera.

I also overheard the woman half of a couple that appeared to be in their late 40's remark at the long line, saying something like "Look at all the geeks. Quentin created this. These are all his children." Every couple of minutes or so, Michael Torgan would pass by with a cart carrying what I assume were film reels in boxes with the FBI warning stamped on them, either that or Torgan is also an FBI agent and in between working at the New Beverly and living his life, he's probably out doing extreme shit, hunting Bodhis with his fellow Johnny Utahs. Once inside, I saw Clu Gulager tell a guy with a backpack who looked like Russell Brand's earthier, buffer brother that he looked like he was going on a hiking trip and the guy was like "...uh, yeah". Poor guy just got Gulager'd and didn't know what to do.

Quentin wasn't there to intro (he had already shown up the previous night for the same movies) but that didn't bother me; his appearance should be treated like a cherry on top of the most delicious hot fudge sundae ever (the movies), not the other way around, and I know what I just wrote was probably the most fruitiest thing yet, but what can I do, it's in my nature. Both films are currently not available on DVD and that was really what convinced me to take the trip. The first film was Dark of the Sun, but the on-screen title was The Mercenaries, so I don't know which one is the actual title. It's weird because the latter title is more appropriate, but I prefer the more literate-sounding former.

Taylor plays a mercenary who arrives in the Congo with his brother-in-arms, played by that Martian-owning Jim Brown (they played a reel of Jim Brown trailers before the film) and it's kinda funny how when they arrive at the airport, everyone else is trying their absolutest darndest to get the fuck out, while Taylor and Brown are the only two trying to get in. It's hot in the fuckin' Congo, everyone is all disgustingly sweaty like a fuckin' migrant worker in July or Roman Polanski in the junior high school girls locker room, and I bet you that was all real, they didn't have to spray that shit on anyone. I doubt they actually filmed in the Congo, but they sure got the climate down.

So, it looks like the president of the C is worried about some stupid Belgian motherfuckers living deep in the jungle; I don't know why they're there, they should be drinking wine and eating pommes frites in a more friendly area, but they didn't, instead they set up shop trying to fuckin' civilize these savages (and what a coincidence that there are precious resources in this land to make some coin on) and now they're in a position to get fucked Jesus Quintana-style by the Simbas. The Simbas are bunch of these hardcore scary badass rebellion motherfuckers who are also big fans of The Lion King. The Simbas were also known for their extraordinary psychic abilities, since they were able to be fans of a movie that didn't even exist until 30 years later. That sounds all cute and shit, but they also rape nuns and young scared men, proving they are big believers in If It Feels Good, Do It.

That's why Taylor and Brown are there to do their thing, get these non-Van Dammes to safety. The president's like Oh and while you're at it, there also happens to be about 50 million dollars in diamonds stashed in a vault somewhere in town, you might want to bring them with you if you want to get paid for your service. At least Taylor wants to get paid, being the soldier-of-fortune that he is, but Brown is more of an idealist who wants to offer help to his birth country (he speaks perfect English because he went to the States and attended university there and because it's Jim Brown playing him).

I remember watching Siskel & Ebert and it was either the Jawless One or the Dead One who quoted some filmmaker, something to the effect of All you need to make an entertaining movie is have a train in it, or some shit remotely like that. I agree with that because every train movie I recall never failed to be entertaining, like Runaway Train, The Great Train Robbery (the Sean Connery bullshit, not the original), Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, and Unstoppable. Diminishing returns, but still, Good Times came from all of 'em. Well, add Dark of the Sun to the list, in fact, put this shit to the top of the list number-one-with-a-bullet because not only could this be my favorite movie involving train action (in a non-porn), this might be one of my favorite films period.

The late Jack Cardiff directed this, and in addition to being a director, he's better known as one of the world's all-time greatest cinematographers, a fact I was reminded of as TV's Marc Heuck told an older gentleman in the row behind me that Jack Cardiff is better known as one of the world's all-time greatest cinematographers. I think Tarantino has said before that he prefers Cardiff as a director, and I'd have to see his other flicks before I can agree or disagree. Fuck that, I agree, simply based on Dark of the Sun. Hey, I love The Red Shoes and thinks it looks mah-va-lous, but The Red Shoes didn't make me want to jump and go FUCK YEAH every ten minutes, like this piece of work. The film has a great pace, there is no fat to this bitch, the basics of the story are laid out with a brilliant economic simplicity. The mission is set and the men for the mission are chosen in what felt like 5, 10 minutes tops. They don't waste any time, and the dialogue isn't even that expository, or if it is, it sure as fuck felt natural. There's also a cool montage of setting up the train with guns and men and all the dialogue is silenced while the music and sound effects do their thing.

I liked Taylor's character because he's a badass, but he's also got a sense of humor and isn't all morose about his work, like most Men Of Ownage nowadays. But then again, that's probably because we're kinda watching a character who hasn't yet crossed that line, that line into darkness (ah, now I understand) that turns G.I. Joe into The No Mercy Man. There's this cowardly Frenchie dude who's only been on three missions, so he punks out early on and Taylor gives him shit about it, but for all we know Taylor's character had his own personal Frenchie moment back when he was green. Not all warriors come out of the womb as a certified Bad Ass, most have to work their way up to it, and I like to think the Taylor character is like that. Problem is, even if he's used to kicking ass and taking names, he's probably going to reach his breaking point during this mission, and if that sounds like a spoiler to you, then fuck ya'll, you shoulda been there last night.

I'm really just talking outta my ass more than usual, because I didn't sleep much from watching earthquake/tsunami coverage and I'm all tired and depressed now, but I'm thinking that the shit that happens during the mission in Dark of the Sun is so hardcore and not as easy as it originally sounded that the people involved end up revealing who they really are, deep inside, when the chips are down. It's a scary thought, because I'm watching some of the characters, and thinking, could I be THAT fucking guy? I mean, I'd like to think I value human life, and I hate to imagine that seeing 50 million in diamonds right in front of me will change my outlook, but you never know. You never know until it happens, if it happens.

On the other hand, I'd like to think that I'd pull some selfless shit for other people, but again for all I know, I could be one of those guys who starts cowering in the corner and crying like a little bitch during a firefight, rather than Manning The Fuck Up and getting my hands a little dirty with some punk-ass's blood. Here's something even worse -- how about being put in a position where you are watching horrifying shit being done to people around you and you can't do anything about it because it would mean giving yourself away; you have to fight against every fiber in your being that is telling you to do the right thing, otherwise the mission will result in instant failure and you'd be dead too.

The first half of the movie is a great rousing action-adventure, and if it continued that way, I'd have still been very happy about it, but then something happens that fucked my shit up something awful. Not many movies can accomplish making me feel a genuine sense of Oh My God These People Are So Fucked. I mean, usually I'm more amused, like Ha Ha, They're Fucked Now. But this movie, holy shit, the filmmakers are not fucking around, in fact, I think it's their way to slap the audience in the face to snap out of our Wheee This Is Fun! attitude and scream in our faces about how The Shit Just Got Real. I'm telling you, dear reader, this shit gets too fuckin' real -- and the movie is all the more awesome for it.

The second half is even better, because now you know that the game is rough and the stakes are other people's lives, to misquote that rat-soup-eatin' muthafucka from Dolemite. There are some moments here that I don't think modern action-adventure moviemakers have the balls to pull off now, everything is getting fuckin' homogenized just so Focus Study Member #14 feels better. There's a movie called Tears of the Sun that is similar in many respects (even the title!), except it's not as good and it's a lot more downbeat and something of a dirge, which just shows to go you how hard it is to both show you horrible shit while still maintaining an entertaining feel to the proceedings; Dark of the Sun pulls that shit off flawlessly and somehow makes it feel, I don't know, effortless. Fuckin' Jack Cardiff, yo.

Every likable character's death hurts in this movie, and every time a bad guy gets owned it feels fantastic. The writers did a great job making you feel one way or the other about the people in the movie, (there isn't a single character that fails to make an impression) and the actors then carry it the rest of the way by just being awesome about it. There's this former Nazi asshole who's along for the ride because he's in charge of the soldiers they're using for the mission, and Taylor notices that this piece-of-shit still proudly wears a Swastika medal and tells him to take that shit off. Later on, the Nazi does some cold-blooded shit, something that has a horrible chilling logic to it, and Taylor then tells him to put that shit back on because he sure as fuck earned it.

I loved the dialogue scenes between Taylor and Brown's characters; nowadays, we'd all be calling this kind of relationship a bromance, and it doesn't help that there's a least one line Brown says regarding Taylor that could really be taken the wrong way (unless that's what the writers intended, the cheeky bastards) but back then in the 60's, that was just male camaraderie. Nowadays there's no such thing as Male Bonding, we have to call that shit borderline gay, and that's too bad. I guess you just can't have a couple bros who feel very strongly about each other -- probably even moreso after having gone through previous violent missions together -- without assuming they want to bang each other. Nowadays you just can't be really close with your bro; I sure as fuck don't want to get it on with any of my close guy friends -- but that's probably because they're not attractive enough for me. Anyway, it doesn't always have to be subtext, that's what I'm saying.  

Listen man, I don't want to make this shit sound too serious, because when it comes down to it, this movie is just full of Win -- Win in the form of motherfuckers getting shot, blown up, and repeatedly karate chopped to the neck. There's a chainsaw battle, people jumping from roofs onto jeeps, machine gunning motherfuckers even after they've been killed, and one spectacular jeep versus raft scene that had me wondering if it was going to end the way I thought it would end. I figured it wouldn't; the chase was good enough, but the catching up part will probably suffer in comparison to the build-up, I thought to myself. My man, I'm telling you it ended EXACTLY how I hoped it would, and apparently everyone else in the audience felt the same way because the whole fuckin' room burst into applause.

I'm going to share the same sentiment as other people who saw this film at the New Bev by calling it my favorite men-on-a-mission movie. Rod Taylor is a badass, Jim Brown is cool, and hot half-raza Yvette Mimieux (Taylor's co-star from The Time Machine) is nice to look at and helps keep the gay away. I don't get it. I don't get how you can't make a movie like this anymore, a movie with great action, drama, and humor without any kind of pandering. They exist, on occasion the summer movie gods give you a Die Hard or an Inception. But we're also sorely lacking in movies with some fuckin' BALLS (he said in a Will Arnett voice). In a weird way, I'm so glad Tarantino introduced this movie to me and so many others at the New Beverly, but I'm also kind of bummed that there aren't more like them. What the fuck, yo?

They showed a reel of Rod Taylor trailers, then a guy in a Snoopy shirt and striped shorts sat near me (I don't even know if that shit was ironic or a genuine love for the Peanuts dog and all things vertical), then the next film, Hell River (it had the much better title of Partizan in the print that was screened) began. Now, this movie commits only one terrible crime in my eyes, and it's the unfortunate crime of following Dark of the Sun. I think a lot of people held that against it, based on the walkouts during the film. This was a film made in Yugoslavia, and as a result, the film has very much a dreary Southeastern European look and feel. It's very serious, and I only remember one moment of levity in the whole thing, but it's still a good flick.

Rod Taylor was pushing 50 at this point, starting to look more like his Winston Churchill in Inglourious Basterds, but he still came off as his usual badass self. He plays Marko, and rather than being all depressed about living in Yugoslavia, he's busy heading a rebellion against the Nazis (it takes place during 1941) and most of the movie consists of them doing the guerrilla thing, surprising these fuckin' Krauts and doing everything except shouting "Wolverines!" at the end of it. Early on, there's a scene between Marko and his brother and while watching the older, pudgier guy talking with this much younger dude, I realized that the movie is trying to make us believe Marko is much, much younger than he appears. Like, he's supposed to be only a few years older than this other guy who appears to be in his 20's. I don't know. I accepted it because hey, it was 1941 in Yugoslavia and the Germans are fucking everybody up. That shit would probably age the fuck out of you.

The main Nazi bad guy is played by the same fuckin' Nazi from Dark of the Sun, also looking a little older than the last time, but at least he's probably playing his age. That was pretty amusing, it almost works as a prequel to Dark of the Sun, with the German actor playing the same character -- only somewhere between the events of both films, his character got some work done on his face and lost a few pounds. Adam West also plays a Nazi, and such is the film's strength in accomplishing an overwhelming sense of downbeat bleakness to the proceedings that I didn't find it funny or even amusing. I mean, come on -- it's Adam West playing a fuckin' Nazi! And yet, not a giggle or smile from me.

Ultimately, you're watching a film about fighting a force much greater than you, knowing you're probably not going to make it, but goddamn it, it's better to die on your feet than live on your knees or something like that. It's not a pretty life for a Partizan, marching marching marching through cold frozen landscapes with little food and only the clothes on your back. The bad guys have machine guns and tanks while you're most likely only rolling with a bolt-action rifle. The odds are overwhelming. Fuck it, I'd like to think I'd pick that life over shaking in my boots and trying to act all civil with these Nazi monsters when they come goose-stepping into my hood.

There's one scene where this woman mayor of a small town is translating a conversation between Asshole Nazi From Dark Of The Sun and some other townsperson, I don't know, he looked like a priest or something. She speaks in an even tone and I don't think she ever looks this asshole in the eyes -- she does not want to do anything remotely antagonistic. Doesn't matter, the next scene she's hanging from a tree. Sucks to be you, woman mayor.

The best the Nazis can come up with is just executing innocent villagers because they know the Partizans are human beings with hearts and souls (Nazi ain't got no humanity!) and it would probably fuck up their morale enough to just give up the Wolverine bullshit, but it's really no choice at all for the Partizans. It sucks, but by fighting back there still is a chance, a tiny sliver of a chance, but a chance. There's more than one battle scene where Taylor can't help but get so fuckin' exasperated after killing a bunch of Nazis, barely surviving, then only to find a whole new mess of Nazis coming the other way. It's like one of those old school video games where the bad guys won't stop until you die, because that shit was all about a high score, not getting to the end.

My favorite scene is when Marko has been separated from his fellow Partizans and he's hiding out in what used to be a village but it's been destroyed and on fire and shit. The only living creature aside from him is a dog (happy to see him, natch). He goes upstairs in one house and looks at the framed photos on the wall, pictures of a family. He picks up a hat from the table. He plays a record that is still on the turntable. You can just watch that shit get to him, that the people who lived here -- mother, father, children, grandparents -- were just living life, doing their thing, maybe even happy or content. Now they're all either dead or well on their way. 

Some scenes look kinda cheap, and some scenes look fuckin' epic, like some Lean/Cimino style shit with wide shots of what looks like hundreds of motherfuckers walking down the tundra. The battle scenes are impressive in their size but aren't necessarily the most engaging. I don't know, it's just me, I guess; watching tanks get blown up doesn't really do as much for me as watching a motherfucker get shot in the face -- that shit never goes out of style.

I have to say though, there's one battle moment that I don't think was intentional, and I think what we saw on-screen was a split-second away from turning Hell River into a genuine snuff film; one soldier falls off his tank, falls right in front of the wheels and for a couple seconds manages to only get pushed by it and it's only by the grace of God (that motherfucker must've been answering prayers that day) that the actor/stuntman manages to throw himself aside and is narrowly missed by the tank as it rolls right past him, as opposed to right over him.

It's a good film overall, shaky in some moments (Adam West leads the lamest dumbest schmuckiest attempt at an ambush in film history for a non-comedy) but I dug it, and I really liked the ending. It definitely would've played better on its own, but maybe I'm alone in that opinion because I felt like not that many people were
into it. Again, that could be from having a tough act to follow, but I'm not sure, they could've just thought it was really shitty. I overheard one (I'm guessing) New Bev employee talk about how one of the patrons stepped out into the lobby/concession area and asked her if it was even worth bothering going back in. She told him yes, it's worth it because you will never see this movie again. She has a point, sometimes you have to give a movie a chance, because in some cases all that exists is a fuckin' film print and one day you're gonna think about giving that movie another try, and guess what? You're assed out.

Anyway, going back to that FML shit. I guess I'm just too sensitive and being No Fun For Anyone, but personally I feel that FML fuckin' trivializes the whole game of Life, whether you're being serious or funny. Some people hate when you take God's name in vain, and I don't like when people damn their existence like that for some bullshit reason, there's plenty of evil shit out there ready and willing to show you some real FML. I just hate that saying, that's all, and if it was anything else but FML, I'd probably be OK with it. I'm being extra-douchier than usual, but whatever, that's my thing and believe it or not, I'm pretty fuckin' sincere in all my ramblings. Yeah, even when I referred to Karl Malden as "smoking hot" in my last one, because if I had the chance, I'd hit that and try to get some American Express travelers checks out of the deal. Oh wait, he's dead, so that's never going to happen. FML

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Please don't come to the theater if you smell like B.O.

So the doctor tells me that my partial deafness in one ear was caused by my overly cautious, damn near OCD-levels of Feeling Unclean. Good thing I chose the mono version of the The Beatles box set, I thought to myself. Sensing my depression over possibly spending the rest of my life as half-a-listener, he smiled and said that if worse came to worst, with my deaf ear and psychotically hygienic ways I can always consider working in the aviation industry. Upon my non-response, he then asked if I didn't think he was funny. "Not at these prices", I answered. Hello lady and gentleman, I'm now going to ramble about my visit to Grindhouse night at the New Beverly Cinema, where I'm assuming the 70's films they were showing that evening were good ol' fashioned one-speaker sound mixes. I needed something to cheer me up, so I went.

While waiting in line, badass motherfucker Clu Gulager asked a cute girl in glasses (a redundancy, in my opinion) if she was looking forward to tonight's fare. "What kind of question is that?!" she responded in an excited and good-natured manner. It was nice to hear a girl say something like that in a way I'm not accustomed to; for the most part, any question I ask a young lady is met with annoyance and disgust, as if she could hear the desperation dripping from every syllable. Lots of people kept asking an older gentleman "Where's Cathie?" and I'm assuming they meant the movie geek heroine/New Bev regular Cathie Horlick, otherwise I would've spelled the name Cathy or Kathy. Having assumed that, I then assumed the older gentleman was Cathie's father.

Before the Revenge-themed triple-feature began, I listened the best I could from my good ear as the New Bev sound system played old radio ads for movies like The Gay Deceivers (the title sounds like some shit you'd hear from Glenn Beck or my mother) and Superchick. My favorite was for a Jack Palance film called Mister Scarface, and boy oh boy, did the advertisers have no fuckin' shame whatsoever because the ad bragged about how this film "outsmarts The Godfather". I love that, and I wish they still did that because it's been a while. The last time I remember a movie trying to bullshit the potential audience into seeing it by putting down another, it was back in 1994 with The Professional (that's Leon to you and me); "makes Speed feel like a slow ride to Grandma's house" or something like that.

Usually these guys are the guys who do the Grindhouse nights, but this month St. Quentin is programming this shit with flicks he digs and hopes you dig as well. It was a sold-out crowd that night, double the usual amount of people for a Grindhouse night according to host Brian Quinn (I think) and he figured Tarantino's name had something to do with that. Patton Oswalt was walking up the aisle when he was stopped by a fan, and it was cool to see that Big Fan seemed genuinely happy to meet a big fan -- either that or spending most of your life dealing with people getting all up in your shit gives you lots of practice on how to deal with potential crazies.

The 1st film of the night was called The No Mercy Man, starring some dude I never heard of, Black Samson, a bunch of goofy white motherfuckers and muthafuckin' Sid Haig. This low-budget movie was shot by Dean Cundey, who went on to shoot movies for Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter, but more importantly he lensed Sir Rowdy Herrington's Road House. The No Mercy Man takes place somewhere in Arizona, and in case you hadn't picked that up, the movie gives you a nice hint by having one of the characters nonchalantly refer to a "nigger" while eating dinner with his family. This guy is the hero's father, by the way. What's funny is that for about 20 minutes or so, I had no idea who the hero was supposed to be, but that's probably because this is one of those flicks were they don't so much have Good Guys and Bad Guys but Protagonists and Antagonists.

Black Samson plays Prophet, this fuckin' carny who makes extra money on the side by hooking up with his mixed race buddies and holding up liquor stores and stealing cars and whatever the fuck else you can steal from a one-horse town. He's introduced calling a liquor store owner "Honky!" and then he and his stupid goofy white-boy partner-in-crime go on one of those 35 mph car chases where it seems like nobody's life is in danger, but it sure is a pain in the ass to those involved. There's a pretty amusing theme song playing over it that I guess would share the Unlikely Use Of The Word "Rape" In A Theme Song Award along with the John Saxon/Rosey Grier joint, The Glove.

Prophet makes the mistake of stopping at a ranch to try jacking some old WWII vet; at one point, he grabs the old farmer's daughter and since it's a 70's revenge movie, you think you know what's going to happen next, but it turns out he ain't no punk-ass rapist. Anyway, she gets away and runs into her brother Olie who's just come home from a stay at the hospital. Turns out this ex-patient is also a Vietnam Vet, he's got the uniform and medals on to prove it. He's got these former Army buddies who think he's the fuckin' man over how much fuckin' ownage he brought to Charlie in the Nam, but he's all Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder'd over it.

I dug how his father is proud of the man his son used to be, but kinda ashamed of the pussy he currently is. A couple times during the film, Olie shows flashes of how awesome he can be, but usually he's just playing the shell-shocked vet, either standing around and looking assed out at his horses or drinking beer with salt in it while still retaining his strong masculine good looks. Yeah, I know -- that was a pretty fruity thing to write, but you should be used to it by now.

But come on, people, the movie is called The No Mercy Man, not The Puts Salt In His Beer Man so you know it's just a matter of time before this artist of death is about to paint his masterpiece. This is a slow-burn kind of movie, where shit gets worse and worse and you keep waiting/hoping for the guy to do the absolute last thing he wants to do -- put some fucking permanent hurting to these assholes. This played a few years ago at the New Bev, along with Rolling Thunder, which sounds about right because that's a similar style of slow-burn revenge flick. According to the guy I'm sure was Mr. Quinn, the last time they screened this, the reels were out of order and even guest Sid Haig couldn't tell because he hadn't seen the film before (or at least for a long time), but the audience was so stoned and drunk, they didn't give a fuck and liked it all the same.

I liked how Prophet was a fuckin' asshole but not necessarily boo-hiss evil (besides, that's the Sid Haig character's territory); he can get violent in his crimes but at one point, one of his guys kills a mark and you can sense Prophet's whole fuckin' crime paradigm flip the fuck over. I mean, he just wanted to scare the poor goofy old white guy and maybe hurt him a little, but now thanks to his Javier Bardem-sounding henchman not knowing his own strength, he's been dragged kicking and screaming into No Witnesses territory. From that point on, I guess he figured there's no such thing as getting a little blood on you, and since he and his gang are now murderers, it's time to hit bigger targets and make more money.

I'm sure there are better movies to compare it to, but off the top of my head I was reminded of Death Sentence, the movie where revenge is a dish best served cold and with a side of bacon -- Kevin Bacon. Both films are in the revenge genre but they seem to have an attitude like Hey Guys Violence Only Creates More Violence. Both movies are basically about one incident provoking another incident which then provokes another incident, violent act escalating to even more violent acts and Oh Won't Someone Think Of The Children. Both movies manage to make that point while still managing to make you clap your hands and get all Fuck Yeah about seeing some motherfucker take a shotgun blast to the fuckin' chest. At first I cared for Olie's sanity and seeing him succumb to occasionally putting foot-to-ass felt like a combo of Exciting & Bummer, but eventually I just wanted him to snap out of his funk and, I don't know, burst through a wall (come to think of it, they could've called this movie The Kool-Aid Man).

I have to give this flick extra credit for having some of the good guys be casually racist without calling them on it, and I wonder if this was just a ballsy move by the filmmakers or if it was just a 70's thing. Like, in the beginning of the movie, Prophet stops by the ranch to ask Olie's father for water. Olie's dad senses something is up, so he goes inside the house to get his shotgun. Even now, I still wonder if he felt Prophet was up to no good or if it was his Racist Spidey Sense tingling, as in Black = Criminal. The real bitch of it is that he's right, Prophet was gonna try to jack him. It reminds me of the time a couple of my black brothers got pulled over by a cop -- for DWB, driving while black -- and the cop decided to search the car and found weed. Basically they got pulled over for no reason, and the cop found one. "They pulled us over 'cuz we're Black!" my friend told me. He wasn't amused when I told him that finding weed in your car pretty much justified the cop's action, as well as future DWB stops.

After the film, Clu Gulager stopped and asked this cute blonde girl if she enjoyed the shoot 'em up action at the end. She happily responded by telling him that she really liked the movie and wished she had a machine gun on the top of her car (like one of the bad guys in the film). At that moment, I felt a little wistful as I spent four seconds imagining being married to her. We can't all be Clu Gulager, some of us just have to settle for imagining being married to cute blondes who want machine guns on top of their vehicles.

The 2nd revenge movie of the night was Johnny Firecloud, and this one has no qualms about how it treats the whole vengeance deal. It's like Olie's father from the previous movie wrote the screenplay for this movie, considering how Getting Violent is not-so-much seen as an unfortunate extension of having disagreements with your fellow man, but more like a gift that would be a waste to never use -- only the producers took the script away from Olie's father and changed the main character from a clean-cut White Man to a dirty goddamn Injun.

Yup, this one also takes place in a desert town that most likely borders Mexico, hence the absolute hate-with-fervor these white motherfuckers have for anything non-Hick. The title character is this Native American who is just trying to get by and work an honest day's work, but he keeps getting hassled by The Man, which in this film's case, is actually just one man (and a deputy). The sheriff is your basic small town hassler, breaking tail-lights just so he has something to write you up on. Later on, you find out the sheriff isn't so much a bad guy as much as he's just really confused (in more ways than one) and kind of a pussy because there's kind of a Road House deal going on in this town; this rich old guy (played by the formerly young guy from Kiss Me Deadly) owns the fuckin' town and is pretty much the law behind the law. Yeah, that's right -- that's two Road House references up in this bitch.

So this rich asshole Ben Gazzara wannabe is pissed at Johnny Firecloud because the stud knocked up his daughter before heading over to Nam, and it doesn't matter that the dude became a war hero, and it doesn't matter that the baby was stillborn (lucking him out of having to buy gifts), he's still just a worthless Indian to this douche. He's got his despicable cronies fucking with Firecloud as well as his old Chief grandfather while hooting and hollering (you figure these hicks would be cool with the Chief since he's a drunk, just like them) and I guess Billy Jack hasn't played at the local drive-in yet because otherwise they'd have known that you just don't fuck with the friends, relatives, and emotional sanity of any Native American back from Nam.

Let's get back to this sheriff character; somewhere along the way, he has a kind of heart-to-heart with Firecloud -- or as heart-to-heart as one can get when the other person is handcuffed in a cell while you aim a gun at him -- and explains why he's pretty much Ben Gazzara Sr's bitch. Long story short, this guy pulled a Hennessey-in-Biloxi Blues and was dishonorably discharged as a result, sending him back to town with his tail between his legs and his pants around his ankles. When he was telling that story, people in the audience were tittering and giggling because it was sounding kinda odd the more he went on (it doesn't help that some of the film's dialogue sounds like it was written by Tobias Fünke) and finally when the truth -- ahem -- came out, all of us showed our sympathy for his plight by laughing our fuckin' asses off.

When you look like Johnny Firecloud, you get your pick of chicks. Problem is that the selection comes down to just two girls because the rest of the female townsfolk consists of cunts who gather around to watch motherfuckers get hanged (hung?) from a tree. The first pretty lady is a schoolteacher on the reservation, and she's played by the broad who accepted that dead fat Method-acting motherfucker's Best Actor award at the Oscars, and she's basically on Firecloud's nuts because she thinks he wants to be White rather than own up to his pure badass Native American heritage. He's all like You're Talking Crazy, but she might have a point because he doesn't really give her the time of day yet he had no problems putting a dead baby inside Gazzara Senior's daughter (aka The Second Girl in Firecloud's Life).

I was a particular fan of Ben Gazzara Sr's daughter; she's all depressed about the baby and Firecloud, so she spends most of her time drinking herself into a Native American-style stupor, only having enough energy to slur her love for the guy while opening up her shirt and making me feel all funny in the audience (which would explain the guy next to me switching seats, I reckon). Plus it's not like there's much to do in that town, aside from harassing the Reds and hanging out in that canyon area that looks a lot like where they filmed that one episode of Star Trek (and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey) at.

Anyway, shit gets really fuckin' serious about halfway through when someone close to Firecloud is murdered and it really fucked me up because it's one of those horrific angry/crazy/rabble-rousing lynch mob scenes where the only sane person in the bunch happens to also be the recipient of the noose treatment, and everyone in the audience went quiet because we all knew what we saw -- we saw That Moment in a revenge movie when you're just about a few minutes away from watching sweet, sweet Brutal Ownage. At that point we (and by we, I mean me) are silently asking the filmmakers if they are going to deliver. Some films do, and some films don't. The waiting got me all jittery with excitement. It could go either way, you know.

Well, the film sure as fuck delivers as Johnny Firecloud does not hold back as he fucks up these assholes Indian-style. No, I don't mean he does it while sitting cross-legged, I mean he's fuckin' scalping motherfuckers and other various Native American violent specialties. The first person he takes out, holy shit, I wanted to jump out of my fuckin' seat and thank the movie gods and St. Quentin for allowing me to live long enough to watch some fat fuckin' hick bleed profusely from the head; so freaked out by the ownage done to him, this guy doesn't even know he's supposed to die. It's almost like he needed it confirmed by walking inside a church just so everyone can see what just fucking happened, like Hey Everyone, Look How Fuckin' Bad I Got It, because it would be a waste to not share that kind of shit with at least one other person. You have to understand, lady and gentleman, I LOVE it when an action movie goes horror on me, I absolutely love it.

This is an unapologetic revenge movie, where there's nothing wrong with seeing the hero get back at them and there's no emotional asides about how we as a people Shouldn't Be Doing This and how we're all human beings and all that shit. So it kinda broke my heart a little that the ending nearly throws a wrench into the works; it suffers from the same shit as the 2004 version of Man on Fire, where you watch payback after payback after payback and then all-of-a-sudden SCREEEEEECH we're given an ending we didn't want. OK, I won't speak for you -- I didn't want that fuckin' ending. It didn't help that the print started jump-cutting during the final lines of dialogue, rendering the end even more WTF.

Goddamn it, I don't want the ending to Man on Fire, I want the ending to Vigilante, bitches. As it is, the movie is 95 percent Fred Williamson and 5 percent Sidney Poitier, so it's still a sweet revenge flick, and besides, I did what the MST3k guys did in that Girl in Lover's Lane episode by rejecting the ending that was given to me and making up my own better ending in my head. Such is the magic of cinema and the human imagination. And when all is said and done, this movie does feature one of my favorite shots in a film EVAAAAAR; Johnny Firecloud is handcuffed, laying facedown on his cot, behind bars. The sheriff and deputy standing beside him. Firecloud is shirtless, revealing a bunch of bloody welts and gashes from a Jesus-style whipping he received. There's something written in chalk among the rest of the graffiti on the wall: TO HELL WITH NIGGERS AND INDEONS. That fuckin' tableau just about sums up all the shit these poor Native Americans in this town have to deal with, ignorant crackers who can't even spell their goddamn racial epithets right.

There's this really good biography on Robert Mitchum I permanently borrowed from a friend, it's called Baby I Don't Care and there's a part detailing how his son Christopher followed in his father's footsteps. Turns out the guy didn't even want to be an actor, he went to university to become a writer. Then, like most people with English degrees, he couldn't find work, he couldn't even get non-writing jobs because people figured he was already set by having a rich & famous daddy. So he decided to give acting a try, eventually finding his niche in the European market, starring in movies like The Summertime Killer, the 3rd and final film of the night.

I noticed that in The No Mercy Man, the revenge doesn't come until the end, while the revenge in Johnny Firecloud starts about halfway through, but in The Summertime Killer, the revenge begins right after the opening scene. Not only that, but the title character (played by Mitchum) pretty much gets his revenge by the 15 minute mark, save for the last motherfucker on his list. Basically, The Summertime Killer is about what a fucking pain in the ass it is to finish what you started. I know one assassin in the Tarantino-scripted True Romance refers to his first kill as the "bitch of the bunch", but this movie begs to differ.

So, Mitchum has finished taking out most of the guys who killed his father back in the day, either by sniping them or riding his dirt bike right up to their cars and blasting the fuckin' bastards in the face, and now he's off to Spain to take out the last mafioso motherfucker (who looks like Ian McShane, by the way). At first this guy is stone-cold Golgo 13 about his business; he ends up romancing this chick by engaging her in a dangerous bike vs. putt-putt Euro-ride chase on the highway that coulda killed other people on the road (but who cares 'cuz we're in LOVE) and for a while I thought maybe he just decided to take some time off and enjoy the local vag, but it turns out this chick is his target's secretary and he's just trying to get closer to the motherfucker. That's cold, yo.

Because we still have another 70 minutes or so to kill, the hit is a miss and Mitchum has to improvise a new plan to get to The Last Motherfucker; he kidnaps this smoking hot girl (The Last Motherfucker's daughter) and holds her hostage until he can arrange a meeting and finally kill this guy. The smoking hot girl is played by smoking hot Olivia Hussey, which is kind of an appropriate last name (even if the spelling is different). Again, is it me or were these actresses so much hotter back in the day. She's healthy, this girl, she's thin without looking like the stick figures of today. Thankfully, the filmmakers were pervy Spaniards who knew what they had, so her character is mostly in swimsuits.

Speaking of smoking hot, Karl Malden plays a New York detective who does the occasional job for the mob, and once they catch wind that some blond-haired kid is shooting their guys in the face, they hire him to come down to Spain to take care of The Last Motherfucker, which later then becomes a mission to find the motherfucker who attempted to kill The Last Motherfucker. Malden does his usual solid work here, picking up his paycheck like a fuckin' pro and I guess he always dressed in his Streets of San Francisco clothes. 

While Malden's doing his thing, Mitchum is finding it kind of hard to get to the other side of his task because his hostage is always pulling something cute, like trying to escape or impale him with a metal rod, like most women do. Sure enough, they start to like each other and I don't mean to spoil the movie (not to mention every other fuckin' movie ever fuckin' made) but they end up falling in love, so now he's got THAT to deal with as well. And while they never mention it, I like to think that maybe Mitchum is second-guessing his original goal because we're never told why his father was killed in the first place, or maybe they did and I just didn't hear it because I only have one good ear and I'm falling apart and Death please welcome me into your warm arms.

I mean, maybe his father talked shit about these mafia guys' mothers. These guys are probably Italian, so that's like making fun of your mother X 10. The only way the man could've made it worse for himself is they were Sicilian and he decided to go about THAT route. Ah, whatever -- family's family, I guess; it's like that scene in Die Hard With A Vengeance when Dead Ringers tells The Return of Bruno something like "there's a difference between not liking your brother and not caring when some Bruce Willis-looking motherfucker drops him from goddamn Nakatomi". Something like that, but you get my drift (no, you don't).

I don't know, maybe it was because it followed the one-two punch of Ownage that was The No Mercy Man and Johnny Firecloud, but I wasn't feeling this one so much. Maybe it would play better on its own, and at a much earlier time (it was 2 in the morning by the time it ended). As it is, it's got some decent action (with one jaw-dropping use of a real horse fuckin' buckling over as it fell down a hill -- you Just Fucking Know that right after the director called the Spanish cinema equivalent of Cut, some "animal expert" walked up to that horse with a .45 and put it out of its misery. Then they got ready for take 2 and got the next horse) and the locations are pretty to look at and Olivia Hussey is even more pretty to look at.

The movie was OK and my favorite character was Mitchum's Boxer dog. That dog was beauty, eh. He's introduced running in slow-motion alongside Mitchum on his dirt bike with that Run and Run song playing over it (really loved that lame song) and I could've watched that shit for 90 minutes. That dog is awesome, like most dogs are awesome, and he gives a great performance because you can see that the Boxer really digs Chris Mitchum, either that or he thought that was Robert Mitchum (there is a strong resemblance) and was just being star-struck. I choose to believe the former, and besides, dogs have good hearts. I don't mean that in a creepy Mola Ram kinda way, I mean, dogs are full of love and can be pretty goddamn selfless in their actions.

Take Mitchum's dog, for example; that beautiful dog ends up making the most selfless move on behalf of his beloved owner and I felt for the pooch. That poor dog doesn't even have a tail anymore because Mitchum wrongly believed like most Boxer dogs owners, that chopping its fuckin' tail off is OK. No, it's not, that's strictly cosmetic bullshit and the poor dog doesn't deserve to be done that way. And you know what gets me the most, I see Mitchum's dog with his nub tail, and the goddamn magnanimous creature is still happily wagging what he has left. He has no ill will towards his master. Meanwhile, I'm a human being and I wish you and your family DEATH just for not saying thanks when I hold the door open for you. Dogs have good hearts, people.

Now, you can be the kind of asshole who tells me that dogs only love you because you're the person responsible for feeding them, but you're probably the kind of motherfucker who gets off on telling children there is no Santa Claus, believers that there is no God, and Sam Raimi fans that there will most likely never be an Evil Dead 4. And if you're that kind of person, I hope Johnny Firecloud pays you a visit in your bed late one night and tangles assholes with you.