Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The OTHER Best 2008 Comeback for A Grizzled Veteran

Everybody's talking about Mickey Rourke and "The Wrestler". I haven't seen it yet, but I am a fan of Mr. Rourke. Afterall, he starred in "Barfly", one of the best movies about drunks ever made and by far the best cinematic interpretation of Charles Bukowski's writing. Well, another grizzled veteran of the silver screen made a comeback in 2008, and not too many people know about it. Maybe its because he moves in silence, clad in black, his black hair greased back and his dark scowl distorting his visage into a hate mask of destruction. Yes, it is Steven Seagal I am talking about, and though his comeback didn't warrant interviews on NPR and a pictorial in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, it made die hard Seagalogists like myself take notice.

Seagal was once one of the all-time great movie bad asses. His rebellious attitude, the amount of gore and violence in his movies and his crazy conspiratorial politics all made for an intoxicating cocktail. From 1988 until 2001 (barring "Ticker" and "The Patriot") everything he touched turned to gold. Or if not exactly gold, at least movies that are entertaining as hell and just about the best thing to watch while stripping your mind of unneeded brain cells. Look, I could wax poetic about my love for the Ponytailed One, but you might be better off just reading this incredible book: Seagalogy. I can tell you, if Seagology was Tom Cruise's cult, he'd be making way better movies.

Ever since his last turn as a big screen action star, the crappy Ja Rule team-up "Half Past Dead", Seagal has churned out an endless succession of straight to DVD action flicks. They range from the fun ("Belly of the Beast"), to the palatable ("Black Dawn") to the downright horrible ("Submerged"). They've all had one thing in common, however. They are bad, bad movies.

Recently, however, Seagal has staged a mini-comeback. First he made "Urban Justice" in 2007. Now, by no means is this a good movie, but it is entertaining, and has a fairly straight ahead story. The problem with most of the worst of the Seagal straight to video films is that they have been extremely convoluted espionage tales. Nobody watches Seagal for the plot. The more stripped down the better. HIs best movie is "Out For Justice", and that has the simplest story out of any of his films. We watch Seagal, much like Jason Voorhees, because we want to see how he will dispatch large numbers of foes. In the classic Seagal films, he would never disappoint in this department. Hitting people with salamis, pool cues, pool balls, throwing people through windows, legs and arms breaking left and right. A perfect symphony of violence conducted by a large man with a ponytail and a penchant for wearing fancy three quarter length coats.

Seagal is getting old now, and it shows. First off, dude is fat. Second off, his face is looking pretty haggard. Now, i've been thinking for awhile that he could still make some decent films if he played his look right. Instead of being some dapper international spy and looking ridiculous, have him play an old burn out. That's just what they do in "Pistol Whipped" and it makes for Seagal's best film since "Exit Wounds".

Seagal plays a burned out drunk, a compulsive gambling disgraced cop. The great Lance Henriksen plays a powerful and mysterious guy who hangs out in an abandoned theatre and buys all of Seagal's gambling debts, which are over a million dollars. Seagal has to pay him back by killing a bunch of crime lords. Decent premise, right? On top of the decent story and brief but effective fight scenes, this film actually contains some of Seagal's best acting, ever! Not too impressive to some people, but for me, its a revelation. When you see a Seagal scene that actually approaches the universe that the planet Touching inhabits, you are seeing his best acting ever. Its a compelling character as well. Seagal pretty much looks like a fuck-up these days, so why not have him play a fuck-up?

I really liked this movie and I heartily enjoyed the Jim Beam Rye Whiskey that I sipped while watching it. I had only had Rye once before, some time when I was 21, I had a couple of glasses of Old Overholt and was not very impressed. I decided to give it another shot while watching this on my day off, and I was pleasantly surprised. Beam Rye has a sharp, spicy flavor, a pleasant aftertaste and a great, clean finish. It tastes way better than the Beam white label bourbon. The scary thing is, now there is a whole 'nother world of whiskey out there that I have to explore. Beam Rye, thank you for opening the doors to an even deeper level of drunken hell in my life. (That last sentence is a joke. My life is great, this blog is proof.)

Seagal drinks a lot in this movie, which is awesome. He walks into a bar and orders, in his trademark near unintelligible whisper, either a "Double dragon rock on the rocks" or a "double Jack and rocks on the rocks". Either way, impressive order. There is only one other line I felt the need to scribble down while viewing this and that was, of course, "You're cremated now, muthafucka!" Which is of course, a great line.

Anyways, this a wholly positive review, as I really liked the movie and the whiskey. See you in the funny papers.

Friday, February 13, 2009

File Under Crappy Remake

I was excited for this, I really was. I'm a huge Jason fan, and I've always thought that in capable hands his story could be a great, classic horror tale. And, more realistically, given the right treatment, Jason could kick serious tail in a new film. Think "Freddy Versus Jason" without Freddy. A well-directed, big budget homage to the man behind the mask. My friends Tim and Jill Voorhees, almost if not greater horror nerds than myself, invited me to join them for the super special midnight screening last night in Boston. (Not true, I totally invited myself.) My ladyfriend, a true trooper, (a "trueper" maybe? No? You sure?) came along for the ride, even though she had chased 5 year olds around all day (she is a child murderer.) (Joking, its for her job.) (At a child labor camp.) (Still joking.) We met up with our friends Ian and his ladyfriend, who I for no particular reason will call "Manda Bo Banda" in this column. (That's class, when you call your crappy blog a "column". I still want to see this damn thing get published. Too bad all the alternative weeklies in Boston blow donkey scrotum.) (I really need to chill out on the parenthesis.) We had a number of drinks at the Beacon Street Tavern, a stylish little bar with a great Irish bartender who gave me a free Miller High Life, which Milady and I impressed everyone at the bar with as we inhaled it scarily fast.

We walked over to the theater, all in great spirits and a little tipsy, excited and hoping for the best. Maybe I was a little drunk, but everyone there seemed drunk as well. In fact, the deep voiced black guy sitting behind us who wouldn't shut up said to his girlfriend after everyone shushed him, "I'm tipsy, I ain't shuttin up." His girlfriend threw popcorn at me as I left the theater, as well. I did my best menacing stare and pointed at her. I'm getting off track here, must be the day off hangover beers I'm sipping. Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was drunk in a theater with a bunch of drunks about to be very disappointed.

I had a bad feeling right from the get-go. The film uses that extremely annoying newer trend in direction where the action is shown in ultra-closeups with herkity jerkity camera movements. This basically renders it impossible to tell what the hell is going on. On the big screen, it leads to a ripping headache, as well. Even with a solid buzz and a pocket full of rum nips, this film was hell to look at. One of the only things I liked about the film was that Jason dispatches an entire crew of campers before the opening credits. You think that the movie is going to be about these jerky, horned up kids (as that is what all these movies are about), then Jason, with a rag on his head, kills them all. THEN it says "Friday the 13th". Everyone cheered. That was the best part of the movie.

One of the biggest problems with this film, and it has many problems, is that it focuses on the campers. Nobody cares about the victims. We like Jason. The victims are disposable, almost like props. Introduce a group of campers, show them naked, then have Jason kill them. We don't care about them. Maybe in the old ones, we cared a bit, because they are sometimes likeable, like Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover in Part 4. In this movie they all suck, really, really hard. There is one likeable Asian guy that actually has some funny dialog. That's it. Everyone else sucks and you just wish they would die right away. Nope. Jason takes his sweet time. The movie was hyped up to be a "re-imagining" of the first 3 films, a focus on Jason's journey from little retarded boy to king of the slashers. Where the film really disappoints, for hardcore fans of the series, is that it fails at being about Jason. Its about these lame college kids that you just wish would hurry up and die.

I don't really want to continue writing about this movie. It is that bad. It actually pisses me off just to think about it. Its about as horrible as a Jason movie can be. Its like a remake of all the bad parts of the Jason movies of old. Here they hit all the wrong notes and failed to make an evocative, even halfway decent vision of the Voorhees legacy. When you consider how truly bad most of the Jason movies were, its not a surprise that this is a cheap, crappy movie. I just hoped that by 2009, a film 6 years in the making, after a latter day gore renaissance, Jason would come back to take his rightful seat at the throne of the slasher king. It could have happened. Easily. But it didn't. This movie sucks and is an insult to all the fans of the series. My recommendation for anyone who has a hankering for Jason is go and watch "Friday the 13th Part 2", that's my favorite in the series and its about 20 million times better and more fun than this turd.

Author's Note: Proving that he is an even bigger horror nerd than me, Tim went and saw this again yesterday. He said it was way better on a second viewing without high expectations. I'll wait until it comes out on DVD and compare notes. 2-15-09