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Showing posts from May, 2016

One man's mundane and desperate existence is another man's Technicolor.

Strange Days (1995)
(SPOILERS) In 1998 – I know, I can’t stop mentioning it, but the opprobrium is deserved, really – James Cameron rather infamously gave an Oscar acceptance speech in which, following a request that the assembled Academy members observed a minute’s silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives on the Titanic, he directly followed up with the invitation “And now. Let’s go party till dawn!” There’s a sense, revisiting Strange Days, which he devised and co-wrote with Jay Cocks, of eerie premonition, of similarly pat, consequence-free logic in a tale of rape, murder, racism, police corruption, voyeurism and general brutality that resolves itself with a millennium’s eve kiss; as the credits go up, Lenny and Mace go party till dawn!



Strange Days was released to general viewer indifference, but I well recall being bowled over by it during a period that seemed to be offering great movies week after week (late ’95 and early ’96). Most of these (Heat, Seven, Twelve Monkeys

We spliced in genes from different species to create the ultimate killer organism.

Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)
(SPOILERS) James Cameron’s first movie, except he protests that he was replaced after two-and-a-half weeks (or was it eight days?), shut out of the editing room, and generally disabused of any notion he had a say in the finished picture. And yet, he can’t escape this sequel to Joe Dante’s cheap and cheerful original as his generally cited debut, however divested of it he may be. Jimbo also cared enough to (apparently) produce his own edit for a little-seen laserdisc version. I had next to no desire to revisit this particular scene of a crime, but in the interest of fairness to his oeuvre and a thorough exploration of the works of the Jim-meister, I steeled myself and… Piranha II: The Flying Killers, or Piranha II: The Spawning, as you will, is a very long 90 minutes.

Piranha II plays less as a horror movie than a combination of bad ‘70s porn, where every other scene anticipates a major unfurling, and bad ‘80s vacation comedies, where the holiday makers hav…

To survive a war, you gotta become war.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
(SPOILERS?) I’d like to say it’s mystifying that a film so bereft of merit as Rambo: First Blood Part II could have finished up the second biggest hit of 1985. It wouldn’t be as bad if it was, at minimum, a solid action movie, rather than an interminable bore. But the movie struck a chord somewhere, somehow. As much as the most successful picture of that year, Back to the Future, could be seen to suggest moviegoers do actually have really good taste, Rambo rather sends a message about how extensively regressive themes were embedding themselves in Reaganite, conservative ‘80s cinema (to be fair, this is something one can also read into Back to the Future), be those ones of ill-conceived nostalgia or simple-minded jingoism, notional superiority and might.

The difference between Stallone and Arnie movies starts right here; self-awareness. Audiences may have watched Rambo in the same way they would a Schwarzenegger picture, but I’m dubious First Blood Part I…

Don't push it! Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe.

First Blood (1982)
(SPOILERS) Conventional wisdom seems to have rallied round the first Rambo movie as an earnest, low-key piece about a Nam vet, one that belies the bloated carcasses flying hither and thither in later excursions. That’s not quite the case. First Blood starts out well enough, certainly, mustering a legitimate sense of injustice over Stallone’s persecuted (and smelly) John Rambo. But this is still a picture all about overstatement, and director Ted Kotcheff was definitely not the guy to turn it into something special.

First Blood went through a number of directors and writers after David Morrell’s novel was published and the rights snapped up in 1972 (an estimated 18 versions of the script). Stallone toned it down such that Rambo became more sympathetic, no longer killing his pursuers (only one, the particularly abusive sergeant who ignites it all, dies, and only indirectly due to John’s actions) and no longer buys the farm (fortuitous for franchise purposes). Still, the …

I'm burning up a sun just to say goodbye.

Movies on My Mind Week Ending 28 May 2016
Deepwater Horizon
A tale of unparalleled heroism, based on one of the biggest environmental disasters in recent years? Yep, that would be the latest movie from inveterate patriot and establishment drone Peter Berg, a director intent on ensuring propaganda that would make John Wayne proud lives on today, in only slightly distilled form (albeit including the occasional sop to a different point of view, in the interests of balance, don’t you know).
Berg’s movies, the quite underrated Hancock aside, have been a lexicon of jingoistic flag-waving for the past decade. If one were to be charitable, one might suggest he’d been MK-Ultra’d and now stands proud (or dead-eyed) as a brainwashed figurehead for whatever piece of stylised corporate or political indoctrination Hollywood has been instructed to spew forth next: The Kingdom, Lone Survivor, Battleship (which he decisively sunk), and now Deepwater Horizon, which, whether directly or not, looks like it …