Category Archives: Movies

The quiet passing of Jan-Michael Vincent…

Yesterday it was reported that actor Jan-Michael Vincent had passed away on February 10th, almost a month ago, at the age of 73.

There are those who may know nothing about Jan-Michael Vincent. Here’s a trailer from The Mechanic, one of the movies he co-starred in with Charles Bronson back in 1972 and which I remember him best for…

The movie would be re-made later with Jason Statham in the Bronson role but , IMHO, it didn’t hold a candle to the original film and completely wiffed on what made the original so good: The ending.

Jan-Michael Vincent would appear in several movies, many of which may be classified as B films but were enjoyable nonetheless, throughout the 1970’s. He nonetheless established himself well enough that when he made the move to TV and the series Airwolf in 1984, he reportedly earned $200,000 per episode, an amount that made him one of the highest paid actors on TV at the time.

Alas, he was simultaneously spiraling out of control in a vicious cycle of drugs and alcohol which ultimately led to him becoming an undesirable in the field he worked in, as well as endangering his life.

Many of the details (and they are quite sad) can be read in this article about Mr. Vincent’s passing as written by David Moye and presented on Huffingtonpost.com:

Actor Jan-Michael Vincent Dead at 73

At the risk of paraphrasing the article, Mr. Vincent was in a major car accident in 1996 which resulted in him breaking his neck and injuring his vocal cords. In 2000 he was ordered to pay over $350,000 to a girlfriend he assaulted and who subsequently miscarried. He also spent 60 days in jail at that time due to violating his probation regarding alcohol related convictions. In 2008 he had another car accident and developed a leg infection. The lower right leg had to be amputated.

Mr. Vincent, who once looked like this…

Image result for jan-michael vincent

Was photographed later in life and after all that hard living looking like this…

Image result for jan-michael vincent

I don’t mean to put these images there to shock you. Again, it saddens me tremendously to see Mr. Vincent in these later in life pictures.

While he may not have been one of the greatest actors out there, as a child of the 1970’s and 80’s, he was a near constant in theaters and on TV.

I loved The Mechanic. So much so that when I wrote this novel, which was released before the Jason Statham remake of the movie, I used that title. Yeah, I suppose I stole it, though to be fair the term “mechanic” was well known as slang for a hitman/mercenary. Still, when I used the title I didn’t think many would remember that old film…


I also loved Mr. Vincent in Damnation Alley, a post-apocalyptic thriller that also featured George Peppard…

And, yeah, I really enjoyed him on Airwolf

Seeing him in that photo above, broken down, old, missing the lower half of his right leg, makes me incredibly sad.

I suppose in the end its one of those cautionary tales. You can have everything in life, success, money, looks… and yet still throw them away.

Rest in peace, Mr. Vincent. Despite it all, I’ll remember the joy you brought me in your roles.

Captain Marvel (2019) reviews…

There have been elements -dark elements, IMHO- within the interwebs focused on bringing down movies which feature female leads in what are to some traditionally “male” roles.

For example, the onslaught of ridiculousness directed at the Ghostbusters remake of a few years ago. Now, those forces seem to be focused on the this week to be released Captain Marvel, the latest in the long line of Marvel Comic adaptations and featuring Brie Larson in the titular role.

These people tried to lower the movie’s Rottentomatoes.com audience score by posting all kinds of negative reviews… this in spite of the fact that the film has not been released but to critics thus far.

Rottentomatoes.com decided to shut down these audience reactions/comments and, frankly, I’m fine with that.

Today, I went on the site and looked specifically at the Captain Marvel page (you can go to it here) and found the movie’s critical reaction was generally good, charting in at 84% positive.

But reading the actual reviews, I’m getting a feeling that Captain Marvel, alas, will prove to be one of those “good/decent but not great” films that Marvel has released.

I’m curious to see further reviews, but even many of the positive ones point out this movie has flaws. Given this movie is intended to be the precursor to what will likely be the end of the “first wave” Marvel films (I strongly suspect some of the big name actors who participated in that first wave, including the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Gwyneth Paltrow, will be done with the Marvel universe following Avengers: Endgame) as well as serve as the launching pad to the second generation of Marvel movies, one has to wonder if the second generation might be having a bit of a shaky start.

Here’s the thing: It was extraordinary good luck the fledgling Marvel movies snagged the talents they did for this first wave of films. I cannot imagine an Iron Man film not featuring Robert Downey Jr. Getting Samuel L. Jackson to play Nick Fury, though the character was clearly changed from his comic book version, nonetheless worked incredibly well. Chris Evans made for a fantastic Captain America.

I could go on and on, but the point should be clear.

After a fantastic, and incredibly long series of successful movies (some of which fared better than others), will the Marvel Universe films continue to hit pay dirt with new actors and characters?

Only time will tell!

UPDATE: So today I’m looking at Captain Marvel’s rottentomatoes.com page (you can find it here) and I find that the critical reaction is 81% positive but the audience reaction is a paltry 31% positive.

I suspect many of the negative statements are malcontents (at this point in time, none are actually posted though it will likely happen very soon).

Regardless, I found this on reddit:

The Official Captain Marvel Discussion Megathread

You can find many opinions here, both positive and negative, regarding the movie and what worked for some and didn’t for others.

I’m still getting a feeling this film is one of the “lesser” Marvel features. That doesn’t mean Captain Marvel is a “bust,” but rather that it has good moments yet doesn’t quite reach the level of being a “great” Marvel film.

Time will tell, redux.

At a loss of words here…

Like many, I spotted this over the weekend:

I understand what Disney is up to here. They’re taking popular, well known properties and squeezing even more money out of them by creating “live action” versions of them (see Beauty and the Beast, Jungle Book, and Dumbo for example).

To some degree, its a win-win scenario for them: The properties are already (as mentioned above) well-known so you don’t have to spend oodles of money advertising the “new” movies. You also don’t have to spend all that much money getting a new story/screenplay… you just use what you have and touch it up a little here and there and, voila, there you go.

But this one…

I just… I just don’t know. It looks ok, I suppose, but the trailer’s “punchline”, Will Smith appearing as the Genie is…

Seriously, I’m at a loss of words.

I don’t like it all that much, though I grant you seeing only a few seconds and hearing only a few words shouldn’t be enough to either love or hate a thing, but Aladdin, unlike some of the other features making the transition from animation to live action, featured a manic vocal performance by Robin Williams in the Genie role and he was likely the main reason the film was as successful as it was.

Will Smith doesn’t have nearly the same manic qualities as a Robin Williams, though he clearly has built a terrific career of his screen charisma.

I suspect I won’t see this film when its released, though this may be more related to the fact that I have difficulty finding free time to see films I want to see, much less those that I’m not as interested in seeing.

However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious to hear what people think of Mr. Smith in this role. Will the full film prove he could do something like this? Or will the end result prove to be something far less?

Time will tell.

DC Movie schedules…

Curious as to what’s going on with the DC movie schedule… after, that is Wonder Woman ’84 and Shazam!…?

Then check out this article presented on i09.com and written by Germain Lussier:

Three DC Movies are coming summer of 2021

The big news is that one of the films, The Batman (or whatever it will be called when all is said and done) will not feature Ben Affleck in the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Looks like his days in the role are officially finished.

I enjoyed Ben Affleck’s foray into the role but can’t say I’m surprised or terribly unhappy he’s done in the role. Nowadays and with so many films featuring recurring characters, I’ve reached a point where I know actors won’t be tied to a role forever and there is a good chance we’ll see others take the role on, for better or worse.

Now… what’s going to happen with Henry Cavill’s Superman? Will we soon hear about a reboot of that role, as well?

Speaking of other roles/movies: The other two films mentioned in the above article are The Suicide Squad and DC Super Pets. The former is the film James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) wrote and may direct and which, according to the article, is not beholden to the first Suicide Squad film and may feature a mostly new cast. The later, I strongly suspect, will be an animated film of some sort.

Also not mentioned is the Birds of Prey movie (which appears to be filming right now and features the return of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn), and the Joaquin Phoenix Joker film (which concluded filming a few weeks back). Also not mentioned, nor has filming begun, of The Flash and New Gods film.

Stay tuned!

Netflix Ratings…

Over at Slate.com Willa Paskin wrote a fascinating (to me, anyway!) article concerning Netflix and their recent release of watched program information, something they are often hesitant to do:

Netflix, You, and the Hits no one knows are Hit

The upshot of the article is that Netflix, who as I mentioned before are usually tight lipped about their watched programs, offered some information on their programs such as You, Sex Education, and Bird Box and… the numbers are eye opening, to say the least.

The author rightly questions whether the numbers are totally accurate. After all, what constitutes a “watch” of a series? Supposedly Netflix counts 70% of a watched show as valid, but while that may apply to stand alone movie such as Bird Box, one wonders if that also applies to a series of episodes.

Still, and again as the author notes, the numbers presented, even assuming they are likely inflated (and you can adjust them as you feel), are nonetheless staggering and the comparisons made to other successful feature films or TV shows hint at the very real possibility that there is a whole sub-culture out there that watches things which “regular” networks do not bother with.

One of the things I’ve noted with this new age of information is that sometimes unexpected things bubble to the surface and become popular. It’s almost impossible to predict what will “click” with the masses, but it does once again prove the late William Goldman was right when he said about making movies:

Nobody knows anything… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.

Hotel Artemis (2018) a (mildly) belated Review

When I first heard about this movie, I was excited. Written and directed by Drew Pearce (screenwriter for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Iron Man 3), the film sounded like something right up my alley: A noir near-future crime/action drama featuring a most curious cast and a claustrophobic setting.

The movie, to my eyes, felt like something a young John Carpenter might come up with.

And, in many ways, it is.

Set in the near future of (if memory serves) 2028 Los Angeles, Hotel Artemis concerns a highly fortified building which secretly houses a medical clinic which heals criminals. The Artemis is run by two people, “The Nurse” (Jodie Foster, made up to look very old and fuddy-duddy) and Everest (Dave Bautista, quite good as the muscle with a heart).

The movie begins with a robbery that goes bad. Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his gang rob a bank during a riot. There is a shootout afterwards and one of the gang members is killed while Waikiki’s brother is injured. The two head to the Hotel Artemis to get healed and meet up with The Nurse and a couple of other clients in house, including the mysterious Nice (Sofia Boutella) and the loudmouth Acapulco (Charlie Day).

As the riots outside continue, electricity is on and off and our cast of characters interact. The pressure rises when Morgan, a police officer (Jenny Slate) appears at the door of the hotel injured and, almost simultaneously, Crosby Franklin (Zachary Quinto), son of powerful mobster Niagra (Jeff Goldblum… if you’ve seen the trailer of the film, which I’ll present below, you’ve seen roughly 1/4th of his total screen time within the film!) calls in that he’s on his way for treatment.

Morgan, it turns out, is known to The Nurse. More specifically, Morgan knew The Nurse’s son, who perished mysteriously (though we’ll soon find out everything about that) and though the Artemis does not take in police, The Nurse goes against her rules and takes her in.

Anyway, Niagra soon arrives and things go sideways in many ways (I’ll not spoil the story) and eventually we reach a conclusion.

Unfortunately, the film is never terribly action filled (except for the opening and closing acts) and the story presented, while interesting, isn’t that interesting. Worse, by the end we’re supposed to find a nobility in a few characters who sacrifice themselves for others but the film hasn’t presented viewers a strong enough reason for us to feel this is anything more than plot contrivance.

In the end, Hotel Artemis is a misfire, IMHO, an intriguing enough concept which could have used a stronger -much stronger- script.

Too bad.

Aquaman (2019) a (on time!) Review

A couple of weeks ago I attempted to get into the theaters and see the film Aquaman and… no dice. It was that packed.

What a difference a couple of more weeks make!

No, I didn’t go to an empty theater -there were still many people there- but it took almost a full month since the film’s formal release before I was able to get to it.

And it was a fun ride.

Mind you, the film is very much a “Marvel” type superhero movie, full of spectacle and likeable characters who let out funny quips here and there even as the plot of the film isn’t necessarily something incredibly original or outrageously well thought out.

In many ways, ironically enough, the film reminded me of the 2011 Ryan Reynolds/Blake Lively starring Green Lantern, which I don’t need to remind you many feel was a bust.

Why are the two films similar?

Because they both feature information dumps regarding the titular characters, their origin, all the people around them, along with their first “big” mission. Where Green Lantern failed was that the information dump was handled badly, starting and stopping and sometimes focusing too hard on irrelevant material. I still recall getting to the middle or so of that film and suddenly being presented with the origin of Doctor Waller (her character would re-appear in Suicide Squad). I found myself wondering what would possess the filmmakers to stop everything else that was going on to then waste precious screen time on something that, in the end, was irrelevant to the movie in full.

Aquaman, on the other hand, manages the information dump well. In the opening act, we’re quickly introduced to Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman, quite good) and Lighthouse Keeper Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) who meet one stormy night and quickly fall in love before Atlanna is pregnant and then delivers Arthur Curry (eventually, Aquaman, as played by Jason Momoa).

The movie wisely keeps things moving from there, not lingering on any one point and giving us, by the film’s end, a full accounting of Arthur Curry’s upbringing and the fact that he’s noble yet an outsider to both the land dwellers and the people of Atlantis.

Meanwhile, in Atlantis, Arthur’s half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson, quite good as the movie’s main villain) is in talks with King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren… what a delightful bit of casting!), father of Princess Mera (Amber Heard, also quite good as the very independent minded princess who will eventually bring Aquaman to his home) to bring together the underwater kingdoms and initiate a war against the surface dwellers.

King Orm, again to the movie’s credit, makes a point. The surface dwellers are polluting the oceans and his gripes against them are well founded, though his actions prove him to be a little too eager for bloodshed.

Of course, the two will eventually be on a collision course for the throne of Atlantis.

When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out, there were many who bemoaned the film’s too dark tone. Aquaman goes the other way, providing a very bright palette even if, IMHO, the plot is far more familiar than that of BvS.

I’ve defended BvS many (perhaps too many) times before and I’ll do so again: As time passes since its release, it occurs to me that by the time that film was released people were expecting -if not outright hoping- that that film would be a “Marvel-style” superhero movie. It is my feeling (no more than a hunch) that the negative reaction was in part due to the fact that BvS was very much not a Marvel type of movie. Now, it seems that film is experiencing a bit of a re-evaluation, which I suspected might happen, and in time I can’t help but wonder if people begin to understand what director Zack Snyder was doing and realize the film is far better than they originally felt it was.

But that’s an argument for another day.

Warners/DC clearly felt the sting of those early negative reactions and both Wonder Woman and Aquaman strive to create a bright, beautiful world within which our heroes inhabit.

Aquaman may not be among the very best superhero films ever made (for me, the top three superhero films ever made remain, in order, the original Christopher Reeve Superman, Captain America Winter Soldier, and -yes- Batman v Superman), but it is a fresh, enjoyable popcorn film that knows what it is and delivers the thrills and laughs without taxing audiences too much.

Recommended.

Predator 2 (1990) a (very!) belated review

Way back in 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in what was arguably his second biggest/best role -after The Terminator, of course- as Dutch in the classic horror/action hybrid Predator

The movie, directed by John McTiernan (whose next film following this was the criminally forgotten Die Hard… 😉 ), managed to mix horror and action in equal doses and, further, presented a villain in the form of the alien Predator which was truly fearsome and made one wonder how someone as seemingly invincible as Mr. Schwarzenegger would survive.

Three years later a sequel to that film appeared. Cleverly (I kid, I kid) titled Predator 2, the 1990 sequel was directed by Stephen Hopkins (Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, numerous TV credits including 24) and starred Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, and Bill Paxton…

Unlike Aliens, the sequel to the terrific Alien, the movie wasn’t a huge box-office hit or held in as high esteem. Despite this, the Predator creature proved popular enough to appear in several subsequent films, up to and including last year’s The Predator.

I was curious to re-watch Predator 2 (don’t ask why), and a couple of nights ago I put it on, sat back, and watched it. I found it a most curious experience.

The movie takes the original Predator’s setting from the jungles into the then near future L.A. (the movie, as mentioned, was released in 1990 but the film’s opening states the action takes place in 1997). This near future L.A. was heavily influenced by the original Robocop. It is a hellscape of disorder, gangs, and heavy guns; of cops overwhelmed and dealing with sleazy TV reporters (including a cameo by the late right wing mouth-breather Morton Downey Jr.) eager to report on the latest street-level outrage.

The movie is certainly ambitious in presenting a very full cast of characters. It begins by introducing us to Danny Glover’s Lt. Harrigan (the movie’s protagonist) and his crew. The crew consists of his right hand man Archuleta (Ruben Blades) and right hand woman Cantrell (Maria Conchita Alonso). When introduced they are involved in a street level gang gunfight that’s gone out of control. Thanks to the actions of Harrigan, the bad guys retreat into a building. As Harrigan is about to order a raid on that building, he gets an order from above that he’s to stand down, that someone else will take care of the hoods.

Renegade as he is, Harrigan ignores orders and his crew raid the building. Within the crew find a grisly and bloody massacre. One gang banger is left alive and Harrigan pursues him to the roof and wipes him out. Afterwards, Harrigan spots something… strange (though fans of the original Predator know what it is): A weird figure who isn’t quite visible.

Back on the street, Harrigan is reamed out by Captain Heinemann (Robert Davi, pretty much wasted in what amounts to a cameo role as the cliched “stern Captain”). Another, strange group of people arrive at the scene and take over. They are led by an equally strange Peter Keyes (Gary Busey, also in what amounts to a cameo role), who seem to know more about what’s going on than they’re willing to say.

Once back at the station Harrigan and company meet newbie -and loudmouth- Lambert (Bill Paxton, playing a mild variation of his smart-ass Aliens character) and, with the cast in place, we get to the mystery of what’s killing the violent gangs of L.A., and whether the creature behind these massacres has targeted Harrigan and his people as well.

The problem with Predator 2 versus the first movie is that there are too many moving parts. As I mentioned, Robert Davi’s “stern Captain” is a cliche of a character and, frankly, could have been done away with to give the story proper more time to breath. Further, I got the feeling the theatrical cut of the film left plenty of scenes on the cutting room floor.

Perhaps the biggest example of this is when Harrigan presents to the crusty (another cliche) lab lady the Predator spear-head for examination. Only thing is: We never see Harrigan get the spear head. A certain character gets it before they… get it, but we never see Harrigan pick the piece of evidence up. It’s left to a clumsy voice over to have Harrigan states he got it from a dead person’s hand but never see that actual scene.

Eventually Harrigan goes mano-a-mano with the Predator, and it is in this prolonged bit that the movie’s logic takes its hardest fall. It’s simply impossible to believe after seeing the fierce Predator of the first movie to believe Harrigan could go after this Predator like he does… and actually have him on the run.

Finally, the climactic way Harrigan takes out this Predator requires the fearsome and clever alien become incredibly stupid and allow him(it?)self to get within stabbing distance of our hero.

So, yeah, as a sequel to the wonderful original, Predator 2 falls short.

However, and after saying all this, Predator 2 is far from the worst sequel to a terrific original film I’ve seen. There are serious problems with the film but I admired the film’s makers ambitions even if they ultimately fell short of the mark.

THe Meg (2018): A (mildly) belated review

I’ll go really short and sweet here: The Meg is a popcorn film through and through: Nothing serious, never terribly gory or scary or action packed, yet nonetheless scary and exciting enough to make for passable -if ultimately forgettable- entertainment. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

I know it sounds like I’m damning the movie with faint praise, but I assure you: This film is not a disaster by any means. It was pleasant enough to watch -as pleasant, I suppose, as any giant murderous shark film can be. Of course, when dealing with a movie involving sharks, you’re bound to find echoes of Jaws. What somewhat surprised me is that there were also echoes, especially in the movie’s opening act, to a long forgotten 1973 film named The Neptune Factor

Don’t say you don’t learn a few things about films from the past ’round these parts!

Anyway, despite the seeming faint praise, I recommend The Meg. It ain’t Jaws (go see that if you’d rather), but if you’re curious and you’ve got the time to kill, you could do far, far worse.

Best/worst movies of 2018

As the year winds down, we get those wonderful lists of best and worst films of 2018.

As usual, I find myself having seen precious few of either!

First up, from i09.com and written by Germain Lussier we have…

10 Best and 5 Worst films of 2018

Now, the website from which this list came from deals with sci-fi/fantasy films so of course the list consists of films within that genre. Of the best films listed, I’ve seen two of them: A Quiet Place and Mission: Impossible – Fallout. I feel both films are quite good but imperfect. A Quiet Place is a wonderful exercise in tension BUT the story itself, and the logic of the situation presented, has some serious flaws. And if you focus on them, you’re likely to not feel that positive regarding this film. As for M:I, it was a good, solid action film, IMHO, but “more of the same” and not quiet as good as the previous M:I film.

All right, let’s get some more worst of lists. Here is Peter Travers from Rolling Stone offering his…

10 Worst Films of 2018

I haven’t seen any of the listed films, though I’m about to get The Meg from Netflix. I heard, for the most part, good things about the film so I’m keeping my fingers crossed… and my expectations low! 😉

Meanwhile, Julia Hays over at iDaily.com offers…

The Worst Movies of 2018 (So Far)

This list is longer, offering a whopping 24 films. Now, with these lists, I’m seeing a few films show up more than once. The Happytime Murders (unlike many others, I felt the previews made the film look like it could be fun. But the overwhelmingly negative reactions to seeing the full film from critics and audiences have me running for the hills!). Gotti (the film had all kinds of troubles getting released… looks like a lot of bother for nothing good). Life Itself (one reads a consistent “what were all these talented folks thinking of when they signed on to this?!” from critics).

Anyway, now for the positives…

Nick Schager at Esquire magazine offers his…

25 Best Movies of 2018

I’m most intrigued by the Nicholas Cage film Mandy, which is on my Netflix list as well. Otherwise, I’ve seen a grand total of … 1 of these films (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) but am curious/intrigued about at least two others (Annihilation and Burning).

Finally, from Den of Geek, we get two Top 10 lists, from David Crow and Don Kaye…

The 10 Best Movies of 2018

That’s all for now!