It’s nearly Halloween, so going with some classics. Starting with Mel Brooks’ classic Young Frankenstein. Followed by the Brendon Frazier version of The Mummy. We’ll end this years picks on a darker note with a tail of vampires in the American Southwest in late 20th century, Near Dark.
Long before the Black Panther movie, there was the Blade Trilogy staring Wesley Snipes. A series based on the Marvel’s Blade character. A half breed Vampire, who can withstand sunlight, thus the nickname, “Day Walker.” Watch the first one, ignore the second, and then enjoy the 2004 trilogy wrap up. The third and final Blade film, and a good B-Movie to boot. Not only is Snipes a cold, hard, bad-ass in this movie (as he is in all the Blade films), the director made some interesting casting choices. Blade is assisted in this film by two other Vampire Hunters, played by Ryan Reynolds, and Jessica Biel. My take on Reynolds character is this could have been a post college Van Wilder who made some really bad life choices. Jessica Biel doesn’t talk much, but seriously, she doesn’t have to. Comninic Purcell is the chief bad guy, but supporting villains played by Parker Posey and John Michael Higgins just add moments of joy for anyone who has seen Best in Show or A Mighty Wind. Parker Posey even has a nice serious dramatic scene. There is even an actress best known for her work in the American Pie movies. I kept waiting for her to talk about double clicking her mouse. Fire up the popcorn and enjoy.
There are reasons the Marvel superhero movies make money hand over fist. The built in fan base of nerds is nice, but they are actually producing good actions stories with some serious star power (Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker for example). The conflict within the royal family is sort of stuff that old Billy S. was writing to put paying butts in seats of the Globe Theater. Like DC’s Wonder Woman, this movie was a labor of love and it showed. The set and costume designing were outstanding and the action scenes were top notch. Plus this film took the formula for a good James Bond Movie to heart. The better the villain, the better the movie. Michael B. Jordan, as the unknown member of the royal family coming home to stir up trouble, was fornicating excellent. Right up to his final scene, he just owned the total bad assness of his character.
Going deep into the B-Movie roots of this list with this Drive In Theater worthy entry, Killing Gunther. This documentary style straight to cable flick is about a group of young assassins who want make their mark in the field by killing the top man in their field, i.e. Gunther. Gunther is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who doesn’t appear until two thirds into the flick, and promptly steals the movie. The only other people who you probably recognize are Hanna Simone and Cobie Smulders. Simone is mostly known for the New Girl TV series, so this was a fun summer flick for her. Smulders on the other hand is doing action movies with Tom Cruise and racking in the cash for her continuing Maria Hill character in the Marvel movies. The answer to why she was in this turkey is simple, the writer/director/star of the film, Taran Killam, is her husband. You may ask Arnold Schwarzenegger did this as well. Probably because he thought was a goof, and is at the point in his career where he can do what he wants. In all, not a bad B-Movie, for a B-Movie. The acting is deliberately over the top (it’s spoof on documentaries, so that is kinda required), the action is actually not horrible (again, B-Movie here, so don’t expect John Wick level action), and it is laugh out loud funny at times. It was shot as an action comedy, and it delivers on both. Definitely worth the popcorn and rental.
A fast paced action film set at the tail end of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall starts to come down during the movie. Charlize Theron plays a British agent sent into Berlin to collect the McGuffin (in this case, a list of spies, including who is actually working for whom). Add in James McAvoy as the MI6 agent in charge of Berlin, who has not just gone native, he’s gone “bloody feral.” Spectacular fight scenes, and of course, nobody is exactly what they seem. Double agents, double crosses, and of course someone seduces the beautiful French agent.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
An action comedy buddy story with the inspired pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. This is a funny and deliciously violent film. Reynolds is a high priced bodyguard at the top of his game, until he loses a high profile client (a well known arms dealer). Now down on his luck, he gets a call from his ex-girlfriend (an Interpol agent) who asks him to transport his arch nemesis (Jackson’t hitman character) so he can testify against a war criminal. From there, the fun really starts. Not a family film, unless your kids are old enough for an impressive amount of profanity and violence.
Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets
Luc Besson had a lot of fun bringing one of his favorite childhood comics to the big screen, and it show. This is a fun film. Awesome special effects, visually stunning, and gloriously true to the pulp origins of the original comic. The weak of part of the film is the two lead characters, who gave it a good try, but just didn’t nail the chemistry needed. Still worth the popcorn and rental, especially if you have a nice big screen with a good sound system.
Smokey and the Bandit
A B-Movie classic. The writer and director, Hal Needham, freely, and proudly, admits that this was a low budget film that was intended for regional (i.e. Southern) appeal. It picked up some box office appeal, when Needham’s friend Burt Reynolds read the script and said that he wanted to play the Bandit. It picked up some more star power with Jackie Gleason and Sally Field. Not leaving Jerry Reed out, but he was better known for his musical career than his acting. The film was made for just over $4 million and was the second highest grossing film of 1977. This film is an American Classic. If you haven’t seen it, don’t wait. Fire up the popcorn and enjoy a film that Billy Bob Thorton claims is considered more of a documentary in the South.
Going with something different for the 4th of July pick this year. Mel Gibson’s revolutionary war movie tells the tale of the war in the Southern states, and the hit and run tactics used by the American forces. Excellent movie with outstanding performances by Heath Ledger and Jason Isaacs. Star Trek fans will be happy to see Rene Auberjonois. Also featured is veteran actor Adam Baldwin, who should have played a tough guy in a Libertarian Space Western for five seasons.
A good solid SciFi film that combines a psychologic thriller with a love story, and throws in a locked box mystery for flavor. The setting is a colony ship taking 5000 colonists to another planet. Since the trip is 120 years long, so everybody, including the crew is in cyro-stasis. The fun starts when the ship takes some damage the automated systems cannot handle. One of the first glitches is waking a passenger up 90 years early. Yup, for the first chunk of the movie, it’s all Chris Pratt, and an android bartender. He spends a year trying to figure out what’s going on, and slowing losing it from the isolation. Add in Jennifer Lawrence’s character for reasons I’m not going to give away, and now you have the romance part. When things go start really wrong, from the accumulating damage over the previous two years, toss in a crew member waking up. He doesn’t live long, damage from multiple failures in his stasis pod, but it gives the passengers the access they need to save the ship, and the 5000 other passengers, literally at the last possible moment. It’s not great, but solidly acted and well crafted.