"The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It'd take you ten minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you're lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five minutes. Go." — Mel Gibson, 'Mad Max'
Greetings from the apocalypse! Hopefully this isn't the end, but I have to depart the sandblasted pages of this column for a brief sojourn across the wasteland. With a little luck, a lot of gasoline and the aid of a gangly autogyro pilot I should find my way back in a few months time, but until then enjoy this last weekend column … for now.
Friday, August 2
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POW! IN THEATERS
As I wrote earlier this week for Film.com, "2 Guns" will without a doubt take its place among the pantheon of extremely forgettable Denzel Washington action movies. Hell, the trailer could have been one of those parodies from the beginning of "Tropic Thunder." This by-the-numbers actioner concerns a DEA agent (Washington) and a Navy SEAL (Mark Wahlberg) misled into robbing millions from the mob and forced to take down the CIA punks who set them up. Just think of it as Denzel playing a game of cops and robbers at the Boys and Girls Club and you just might make it through. Also, Bill Paxton. 'Nuff said.
NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
Not that Mark Wahlberg hasn't made his share of snoozer action product, but with him it's more of the rule than the exception. While Marky Mark waits patiently for his chance to score an Oscar, you can settle back with Netflix Streaming as "Shooter" unloads on your flatscreen. Wahlberg is a military sniper framed for the assassination of the Ethiopian archbishop and has to go on the run and discover the FBI agents who set him up … HEY! This sounds familiar! Saving grace: The late Levon Helm of The Band plays a firearms expert who lends Wahlberg a helping hand.
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BASIC CABLE BLUES
Back when Tony Scott was around he knew how to get the manly out of Denzel, as 2004's "Man on Fire" shall prove tonight on Spike at 10:30 p.m. Washington plays an ex-Special Ops guy hitting more bottles than bad guys who takes a gig protecting a little rich girl (Dakota Fanning) in Mexico City. They bond, she gets kidnapped, he seeks revenge. It's very meat and potatoes, but Scott was indulging in some cool stylistic flourishes with this movie: overcranking the camera, playing with subtitles, etc. I miss you, Tony Scott!
All y'all who read this column on the reg know I have lust in my heart for movie art. If I lived on the west coast that aching desire would be satiated by the opening reception for "Bleeding Metallics!" from 7-10 p.m. at Hero Complex Gallery in Los Angeles. This new print showcase includes art celebrating pop culture metals, from the "Aliens" power loader to Wolverine's claws and, of course, Mad Max's V8 interceptor. Hell, even some of the ink and paint this s**t is made out of is metallic! Put the pedal to the metal and get down there, ya beach bums.
Saturday, August 3
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POW! IN THEATERS
Miles Teller turns on the charm as he takes up the mantle of being this generation's John Cusack in the heartmelting teen dramedy "The Spectacular Now." Teller plays Sutter Keely, a likable if hard-drinking high school senior and men's clothing store employee who falls for an adorkably hot nerd named Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley). She's propulsive, he's stuck in neutral, how will their love survive? I admittedly haven't had the chance to see this yet, but I've heard it's the bee's knees. Teller could be a big star some day, but "From the writers of '(500) Days of Summer'" doesn't fill me with optimism, as that has to be the most overrated yuppie pandering thing I've ever seen.
Of course, not all high school kids have perfect Sears catalogue complexions and speak in sparkling platitudes. Underground Sundance movie "High School Record" is one of the most oddball takes on high school life I've ever seen, ostensibly a mockumentary about a kid documenting his senior year along with some of his more eccentric classmates. Some of it feels awkwardly staged while other scenes are so caustic you might get flashbacks to your own secondary education days. The youthful cast is plucked almost entirely from the L.A. punk scene (No Age, Mika Miko, The Living Sisters), the standouts being Dean Spunt's "visionary" weirdo, Bobby Sandoval's greaser dude ("I like to race cars and f**k girls"), Jennifer Clavin's popular hot girl ("I'm in solidarity with the Women of Afghanistan Club") and Becky Stark's loopy drama teacher obsessed with world peace. Watch it below in its entirety via HULU fo free, yo:
PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
A lot of folks (including the actors themselves) are drawing parallels between "The Spectacular Now" and the cinematic oeuvre of John Hughes. While Hughes hit his stride with "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," the truth of the matter is every entry in his teen angst cycle was at best a whitewashed Hallmark card not even approaching the same cul de sac as genuine high school experience. At worst he wrote absolute hogwash. Case in point: "Career Opportunities" at 7 a.m. on FLIX. Written by Hughes and directed by Bryan Gordon (who later helmed episodes of "Freaks and Geeks"), it involves a going-nowhere kid played by Frank Whaley who's stuck cleaning a Target during the graveyard shift, when magically Jennifer Connelly is also stuck inside with him … and then robbers show up! It's like "Home Alone" meets my wildest sex fantasies!
Sunday, August 4
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YOU DOWN WITH VOD?
On to this week's much recommended Survivor of Thunderdome. Back in 2011 I got to visit the set of the sci-fi found footage film "Europa Report" as it lensed on a rickety soundstage in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and was impressed by the amount of real science and thought going into it. Now that "Europa Report" is out in limited release and VOD I can tell you the finished product is a very cool and sometimes chilling affair that uses a hypothetical multi-national, privately-funded trip to one of Jupiter's moons to explore what first contact with alien life might actually be like. The found footage aspect is never a burden as it's a situation which actually WARRANTS being video-documented, and Sharlto Copley is great as a heroic astronaut.
MST3-YAY! "Mystery Science Theater 3000" was a landmark in snark, the epitome of witty for any 10-year-old who loved to make goofy comments at movies. Here were adults (and robots) whose job it was to take the piss out of cheesy movies, how great was that? In light of "Europa Report" we're going to focus on another space mission gone wrong with the "MST3K" spin on 1977's "The Incredible Melting Man," a low-budget effort about Steve West (Alex Rebar), a mustached astronaut who gets irradiated on a flight to Saturn and returns to Earth looking like a Hot Pocket that was microwaved for too long. Mike and the bots start the quips hard ("Somebody better start melting soon or I'm gonna lose patience!") and don't stop until the last drop of protoplasm falls off West's liquefied bones. Watch the episode below in its entirety thanks to the glory of YouTube:
NEW ON BLU
John Carpenter puts the jam in my jelly roll. Until the '90s almost every movie that guy made hit some kind of perfect groove, and now that 1980's "The Fog" is on an amazingly overstuffed Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory you'll discover what made him the undisputed Prince of Darkness. "The Fog" is about a fog that rolls over the coastal town of Antonio Bay, but unlike "The Mist" (where the fog was filled with Lovecraftian monsters) this fog is chock full 'o leprous pirate ghosts hellbent on gouging people's eyes out at the stroke of midnight. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to Carpenter country after "Halloween" in full scream queen mode as a sexy hitchhiker drawn into the middle of the mayhem and the director's creepy synth score will give you the willies.
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Tired of boring-ass erudite cineastes with a stick up their butt? Then get your film studies country fried as South Carolina's Vince Rotolo and Kentucky's Nic Brown roll out the "B-Movie Cast," wearing their blithe disregard for good taste like a badge of honor. Their October 3, 2010 episode centers exclusively on "John Carpenter's The Fog" with the two dishing crazy trivia (Did you know a third of the movie was reshot?) to pointing out weird inconsistencies (How did Hal Holbrook's Father Malone have a grandfather who was ALSO a Catholic priest? Someone f**ked up their vows!). All my genre homies better listen, and listen good!
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …