Cronos (1993, Guillermo del Toro)

In 1536, the official watchmaker to the viceroy flees the Inquisition and lands in Vera Cruz, Mexico. In 1937 a vault collapses, killing the watchmaker. How he lived for 400+ years becomes the obsession of rich, dying businessman Claudio Brook (Simon of the Desert himself). When his enforcer son Ron Perlman discovers evidence that the watchmaker’s Cronos Device (which turns the user into a kind of vampire/addict: see also The Addiction, released two years later) has turned up in an antiques shop, he tries to acquire it from its accidentally-immortal new owner.

Two dying men, sort of:

Think I watched this in Paul Young’s after-hours screening series at Tech, but I must’ve slept through part of it, since it seemed mostly unfamiliar. A quality flick – suppose it qualifies as horror, but it doesn’t behave quite the way a horror movie is supposed to, has a classic genre sensibility (horror genre with action/revenge/gangster elements) but marches to its own beat. For instance, the old man’s granddaughter Aurora isn’t a spooky ghost child nor a victim, but a witness/participant, a representative of the spectator with more personality than is usually allowed.

Perlman, before City of Lost Children:

Federico Lupi, also in The Devil’s Backbone, is antique dealer Jesus Gris, who has a run-in with Ron Perlman after finding and using the device. Perlman arranges a car crash and attends the cremation of Gris’s coffin – but Gris has escaped from it just in time. After getting himself together he sneaks into the businessman’s office seeking answers about his condition (with Aurora accidentally in tow, a glowstick between her teeth). The businessman is killed, and a rooftop fight between Gris and Perlman leaves them both dead-ish, but Gris is revived by the device, which he then smashes, realizing he’s being tempted to drink Aurora’s blood. He goes home and presumably starves to death in bed surrounded by his family, a strangely beautiful portrayal of a moral vampire.

Buy from Amazon:
Cronos (Criterion Blu-ray)

Drive (2011, Nicolas Winding Refn)

A few years ago some critics raved that Paul Greengrass’s super-fractured Bourne movies were the exciting new thing, so hyperactively edited that they defied attempts to make sense of the action sequences. I wasn’t a huge fan, so I’m glad that this year critics are raving about Refn’s pared-down slow-motion action film instead.

J. Rosenbaum, listing things he does not like: “extreme violence as a function of specious and hypocritical morality (or, even worse, ‘sensitivity,’ as in Drive).” I haven’t figured out exactly what that means, but Katy disliked the extreme violence as well. For all the slow, cool aspects of the movie, its retro opening titles and theme songs (which I’ve been playing over and over), its straightforward genre story and simple themes of family love and heroism, there sure is some extreme bloody violence, including a thug’s head getting stomped to bits in an elevator, Christina Hendricks getting blasted with a shotgun, and Albert Brooks, in possibly his first death scene since the opening sequence of Twilight Zone: The Movie, getting a razor to the arm.

Ryan Gosling (unfortunately of Lars and the Real Girl) is perfect as the blank no-name Driver (stunt-man, getaway driver, track racer and mechanic – a vehicular all-star) who falls for his married neighbor. T. Stempel: “most of what she gets to do is smile sweetly. Carey Mulligan does that well, but it’s a criminal under-use of her talent.” When we meet her husband Standard, he’s a nice guy, seemingly reformed from prison, so the driver would have a moral dilemma if Standard was not quickly killed by gangsters (led by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman – great casting). Driver tries to help the girl escape the baddies, but the more baddies you hurt, kill or rip off, the more baddies you attract. So he finally has to kill just about everybody, ends up driving away by himself, mortally wounded, the soundtrack telling us that he has become a real hero. Oh also Bryan Cranston (Julia Roberts’ ex-husband in Larry Crowne) is great as the hard-luck mechanic who gave the driver his day job.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008, Guillermo del Toro)

Let’s see, this opened last July and apparently I was too busy watching classic Hollywood comedies, french auteur cinema, documentaries and Wall*E to go see it. Also I wasn’t so wowed by Pan’s Labyrinth and I figured an action-comedy sequel could only be worse than that. Turns out it’s a very good action-comedy sequel. I should’ve guessed. Anyway, looked great in high-def.

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I guess Hellboy was dating fire woman Selma Blair in the first one – I barely remember the movie even though I’ve seen it twice. Anyway she’s pregnant in this one with twin fire demons, but that’s hardly discussed because we are busy being introduced to, then figuring out how to kill, various wonderful creatures.

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Also Doug “Silver Surfer” Jones is back as Abe the aquatic poetry-reading scientist psychic fellow, Jeffrey Tambor as the comic relief operations manager, and introducing the voice of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane as the ectoplasmic being encased in a steamy glass-topped robot suit.

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This time the crew goes to Ireland (actually filmed in Budapest) to fight some Lord of the Rings holdovers.

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They win at the end.

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Did I mention John Hurt appears in the intro?

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Pro-Life (2006, John Carpenter)

Movie starts and I am happy. Remote women’s clinic picks up a girl in trouble, then her father, a possibly dangerous anti-abortion religious nut with three gun-happy sons, drives up. Window rolls down… it’s Ron Perlman! You do not mess with Ron Perlman!

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Turns into a precinct/assault movie, which I have no problem with, but uh oh, where’s the horror? Oh, the girl was raped by demons, and her demon baby is about to be born (spoiler: it’s a flesh-colored spider with a doll head) and nothing can stop that and its demon father will rise up from the ground to claim the baby!

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So, pretty stupid. I could at least forgive it that, but that twice, twice!, a character (perlman, one son) comes up against the demon in a hallway of the clinic during the assault, gives an uh-oh look, camera cuts to demon looking all demony… then nothing. Did that low-rent demon suit not offer enough freedom of movement to take a swipe at a guy’s head? Anything? Anyway, girl shoots her baby and demon wanders off. Movie manages not to be an adequate comment on abortion, religion, clinics, fanatics, motherhood or demons.

Percussive score written by Carpenter’s son is the worst movie music I’ve heard since Goblin was in business.

Movie still gets points for having Ron Perlman in it.