A failed recording artist turned minor cult leader ties up Nicolas Cage and kills his wife – bad move. Nic John Wicks the enemy, but with less professional skill and more sheer bloody rage. The cult calls in their supernatural enforcers, the Black Skulls biker gang, but Cage’s Rage is too strong to be stopped. The movie’s story seems like a thin excuse to unleash an intense Cage performance and psychotronic visual effects on the viewer, and this viewer ain’t complaining. Seems like I noticed references to Friday the 13th, Rob Zombie, Evil Dead, Hellraiser – there must be more.

Hot Vacant Rich Guy is on a desert hunting trip with his two dim buddies and his Hot Trophy Girlfriend Jen. She gets sexually abused by the dim buddies, threatens the rich guy in response, and so he murders her. But wait, Jen wakes up impaled on a tree, gets herself loose and defends herself against the rampaging hunters, dispatching the two then tracking Richard back to his fancy house for a showdown.

Fargeat’s debut feature is a stylin’ movie with some groove-ass music and a pretty incredible idea of how injuries work. Jen has a seemingly infinite blood supply (half the movie is people following trails of blood), takes peyote and cauterizes her stomach wound with a phoenix beer can. Jen is Matilda Lutz, who starred in the latest Ring sequel, her man is Kevin Janssens (this year’s Cannes flick To the Ends of the Earth), guy who gets stabbed in the eyes is Guillaume Bouchède of an upcoming Dominique Pinon movie, and guy who shoots her ear off and gets a foot full of glass is Vincent Colombe of 2010’s Point Blank.

If anyone’s reading, there is a short-term Situation over here… fewer movies are being watched, and fewer words written about them. Gonna burn through the backlog with some half-assed posts!

Katy says this is considered Jimmy Stewart’s worst movie, which seems farfetched – A Tale of Africa, anyone? Sure it’s no Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but it’s fine. Stewart is scooping salt after dropping off supplies when local drunken bully Dave (Alex Nicol of Bloody Mama and The Screaming Skull) comes by and steals/destroys all his stuff. Stewart gets revenge, of a sort, by hanging out with Dave’s dad’s love-interest/nemesis Aline MacMahon (The Flame and the Arrow) and refusing to leave town, not letting on that he’s tracking some rifles stolen from his late brother. So Jimmy gets tangled up in all the townfolk’s affairs until he figures out who’s trading rifles to the sinister Indians (it’s Dave, of course), almost getting himself killed a bunch of times in the process.

Dusty, enraged Stewart with defeated Dave:

The town is supposedly dominated by a very large ranch plus Aline’s smaller one, though we never see workers at either place except when they ride out in groups to start fights. The rancho grande is run by ailing Donald Crisp (Ulysses Grant in Birth of a Nation forty years earlier) who wishes his son wasn’t such a fuckup, and foreman Arthur Kennedy (who we just saw in The Lusty Men), who’s in on the rifle scheme with Dave. Combo of the gun deal, the vengeful Stewart, and Crisp’s failed power plays all lead to downfall and death, though somehow Crisp is given a happyish ending, engaged to Aline, while Stewart has to ride off but tells his own love interest (Cathy O’Donnell, girlfriend of handless Harold in The Best Years of Our Lives) to look him up if she ever rides east.

Crisp and Kennedy:

Jack Elam (Once Upon a Time in the West) plays a would-be assassin:

After an earthquake half destroys their apartment, a couple of actors (both are stars of Farhadi’s About Elly) find a new place which was formerly rented by a sketchy woman, whose former “customer” wanders into the place one day and catches the wife alone in the shower. She is traumatized, and too distracted to carry on with the play. Between rehearsals her husband gets annoyed with everybody and tracks down the assailant, an old man, locking him into their old place until he has a panic attack and dies. I assume the moral ambiguity of it all mirrors something in Death of a Salesman, but I’ve really only seen the version in Synecdoche, New York.

Richard Porton in Cinema Scope, a known hater of Farhadi’s The Past:

Both Farhadi and Miller are fond of schematic narratives and cannily deployed didacticism; the strengths and weaknesses of this sort of social realism are crucial to assessing the muddled aesthetic achievement of a film that doesn’t replicate the impact of A Separation, the director’s finest achievement, but avoids the embarrassing histrionics of his previous (and weakest) film, The Past.

I think this is Mina Sadati playing the prostitute – she complains that the play dialogue refers to her having no clothes on, while she’s always wearing a raincoat:

Vince Vaughn’s measured descent from tow-truck driver to drug runner, into a police shootout, to prison, to max-security prison, to “the prison within the prison,” to ultimate revenge and death. Heads get stomped, but in grimy low-light, so not even as graphically as in Dead Man – overall this was less brutal than I expected from the reviews (which may have been written by people who missed Bone Tomahawk), and funnier too. Vaughn plays an intriguing mix of characters we’ve seen before: smart and smartass, the extreme badass who will do anything to protect his family, willing to turn on his own colleagues to protect police but later destroying any prison guard who gets in his way, always calm and patient.

Don and the gang:

Somehow this is the first Vince Vaughn movie I’ve seen since Made in 2001. I didn’t recognize Don Johnson as the Gary Oldman-looking warden, or most of the other actors. Geno Segers (a cannibal in Bone Tomahawk) is one of the idiots working for the big bad (Dion Mucciacito). Jennifer Carpenter (the lead’s sister in Dexter) is Vince’s wife, kidnapped by the big bad and threatened with an evil abortionist if Vince doesn’t cooperate. Messages are delivered by a calm Udo Kier, who gets killed by family friend Marc Blucas (Buffy’s boyfriend in season 4-5). Tom Guiry (Smalls in The Sandlot) is a torturer guard killed by Vince. Mustafa Shakir (Big Mike in The Deuce) is a decent guard who Vince attacks when trying to act dangerous to escalate his sentence, and Clark Johnson (news editor in The Wire season 5) was in there somewhere, probably dead or at least badly hurt. Just missed the top-ten in this year’s Skandies (The Salesman is the last of the top twenty that I haven’t seen).

Just another business day for Udo Kier:

All marvel movies are about sibling rivalries and father issues, aren’t they? Twenty-some years ago, New Black Panther Chadwick Boseman’s dad T’Chaka (who later died in a Civil War-era explosion) killed his brother/Boseman’s uncle N’Jobu (This Is Us star Sterling Brown), and now N’Jobu’s son has grown into the revenge-seeking Michael B. Jordan. But first, Boseman has to become Black Panther so we’re familiar with the rituals and clans… Winston Duke challenges and loses, Daniel Kaluuya is a Boseman buddy who joins Jordan and feels ambivalent about it (he’s this movie’s Karl Urban), Forest Whitaker is a wise man (of course he is). Jordan shows up with a dead enemy of Wakanda (Andy Serkis as “Ulysses Klaue”) and proof of his noble birth, so he’s accepted and allowed to challenge, then after he wins and Boseman loses his Panther powers, the alliances get all twisted.

Boseman has very capable help from his gearhead sister Shuri (Letitia Wright of the Black Mirror season I keep forgetting to watch), his ex Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Kaluuya’s girl, the bald warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira of Mother of George, whose costar Isaach De Bankolé appears here as an elder and I didn’t recognize him because of the huge distracting lip-plate), and improbably, CIA agent Martin Freeman. Besides the whole cynical “The CIA is actually doing good things for Africa” message and some typical CG-cartoon fight scenes, the movie’s Africa-influenced sci-fi and badass warrior women make for some striking imagery that we’ve never seen before. This and Thor 3 and Guardians are finally taking all this blockbuster superhero money and producing things that are fantastic to look at instead of ever-larger monsters destroying ever-larger cities.

A great swordsman defeats an entire army of thugs who murdered his sister, then is made immortal by an old woman, and this entire backstory only takes up the first twelve minutes of the movie. Miike wasting no damn time with this one, supposedly his hundredth film, though I’d like to see what list they used to calculate this, since IMDB considers Pandoora a movie, and counts MPD Psycho as three movies.

Anyway… fifty years later, the “itto-ryu” is a supervillain samurai clan killing all the dojo heads in the Tokyo, including the parents of this girl Rin, who reminds our man of his sister, so he agrees to take on the gang. Rest of the movie is a series of high-energy fights, one-on-one and one-on-hundreds, against badasses with a variety of weapons. I found Sukiyaki Western Django too tiresomely goofy, 13 Assassins too classy and Hara-Kiri too faithful – this one’s just right.

Our heroes:

Clan leader Sôta Fukushi:

Our immortal hero is Takuya Kimura (Faye Wong’s bf in 2046, voice of Howl, star of two separate movies called Hero), Rin is the voice of Mary, and the fey cult leader starred in As The Gods Will. That leaves all the specialty assassins:

Kuroi Sabato (Kazuki Kitamura of Miike’s video game movie Like a Dragon) wears Shredder headgear, goes down first. Magatsu (Shinnosuke Mitsushima of the next Kore-eda movie) has long spiky hair and a sweet facemask. Shizuma Eiku (Ebizô Ichikawa, main dude in Miike’s Hara-Kiri) is a white-haired immortal who knows how they can be killed (bloodworm poison!). Makie (Erika Toda of the Death Note series) wields a double-edged spear and changes sides, and Shina (Hayato Ichihara, bullied boy of All About Lily Chou-Chou) is a blonde dude who focuses on killing the girl even when the army is attacking. Chiaki Kuriyama (Gogo in Kill Bill) is a government spy with long blonde hair, and Tsutomu Yamazaki (Goro in Tampopo) leads the government army, which needless to say in a Miike film is no better than the murderous cult. With no main-cast crossovers between this and 13 Assassins, it looks like Miike is trying to turn every actor in Japan into a badass killer.

Maatsu:

Makie:

Willow Maclay on her blog:

Miike doesn’t pull any punches as things reach a climax (with a few bloated, unnecessary side plots here and there) frequently zeroing in on Manji’s immortal body as it falls apart, but impossibly perseveres. When Manji finally confronts the man who wronged Rin … he’s barely a man anymore, more zombie than alive, and there is no elegant duel between sword wielding warriors. It is merely an act of execution, a job being completed, and a loss of life. It is with blunt honesty that Miike displays this final dance not as something worthwhile or justifiable, but another violent act in a long string of violent acts that Manji has committed during his lifetime, and some day Rin will die because of his actions.

From the advertising this looked like an amoral violent comedy with the funniest dialogue of the year, but it turned out to be a deep story about forgiveness with the funniest dialogue of the year. According to the Internet, the movie is actually racist, anti-feminist, and not deep at all, so I am wrong, but I had a great time.

Frances McDormand wants to shame sheriff Woody Harrelson into continuing the search for her daughter’s killer, but Woody is dying of cancer and finally kills himself, causing the town to turn on Frances. Sam Rockwell, a horrible racist cop working for Woody, who badly beats Caleb Landry Jones (playing a nice guy for once), is fired by new chief Clarke Peters, then tries to do the right thing for once by helping Frances. Lucas Hedges, having a big year, is Frances’s son, John Hawkes her ex, Peter Dinklage her partner in crime, and Abbie Cornish Woody’s wife.

I haven’t seen this since it premiered. Teenaged Me was really into Tarantino, and also Counting Crows and Gin Blossoms and the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Wayne’s World and Tim Burton and Mortal Kombat, and most of those things are no longer good, so sometimes I forget that Tarantino still is.

Anyway, here’s what happens in Kill Bill Volume 1:

Whole wedding party is wiped out, execution-style by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.

The Bride shows up at Vernita’s house (Vivica A. Fox, lately of Empire). A quick knife fight, then relaxed conversation, then sudden death.

Flashback to the aftermath of the bloody wedding, investigated by the cop from Grindhouse, then Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) is sent to assassinate the Bride in her hospital bed but Bill calls her off at the last minute. We never find out what the Bride did, exactly, to deserve this treatment.

The Bride awakens, righteously murders the dudes who have been coma-raping her, and hits the road in a stolen Pussy Wagon.

O-Ren Ishii animated backstory, which is basically Lady Snowblood.

The Bride talks the retired swordsmith Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba of bunches of Kinji Fukasaku films) into making her a perfect sword.

The Big Finale of Part 1: The Bride shows up at the House of Blue Leaves, taking on crazed teen Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama of Battle Royale, The Great Yokai War)…

and O-Ren herself (Lucy Liu)

“Is she aware her daughter is still alive?”


Volume 2:

Wedding reprise, she introduces Bill as her father to groom Tommy (oscar-winning makeup artist Chris Nelson)

Budd (Michael Madsen) has a horrible strip club bouncer job and a pointless life, but he has been warned that the Bride is coming, and he gets the drop on her then buries her alive.

In flashback, Bill sends the Bride to be tutored by Pai Mei (Gordon Liu, star of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin with comical white hair), who teaches her “it’s the wood that should fear your hand,” and she destroys the coffin and emerges from the ground living-dead-style. 95% of movies would open with the training scene, then when she’s in trouble an hour later have a voiceover reminder of the training scene, then victory… it seems more effective to structure it this way (hopeless situation / flashback to training scene / solution).

Elle kills Budd via snake, and a close-quarters swordfight with the risen Bride follows. Elle loses her other eye. Frequent sightings of the movie poster for Mr. Majestyk.

The Bride visits Bill and rescues her daughter via the five point palm exploding heart technique.

“The lioness has rejoined her cub and all is right in the jungle.”