Men In Black 2 (2002, Barry Sonnenfeld)

Hey, I never saw this, always wanted to, but heard it was bad. Just the thing The Last Ten Minutes was invented for. The two mismatched partners are joined by Rosario Dawson with nuclear jewelry and pursued by Evil Lara Flynn Boyle till she’s eaten by a subway monster. Jones tells Dawson she’s the fifth element, Smith is attacked by shockingly subpar effects. Did you know there was a part 3? Neither did I.

[Rec] 3: Genesis (2012, Paco Plaza)

Previously watched [Rec] 1 and remake-sequel (remaquel?) Quarantine 2. Can’t find [Rec] 2 on netflix because their search is ridiculous, so let’s pick up here. Loving couple is trapped in kitchen by encroaching zombies until loudspeaker bible recitation stops them. Dude has a sword, which actually seems like a smart zombie weapon. Girl is bitten by an elderly fellow (bad hearing, immune to loudspeaker), guy cuts off her arm but he’s stupid and slow, and they both die. From one of the directors of the first one, but not shot first-person, so the title doesn’t make sense anymore. The girl was in Ramin Bahrani’s Man Push Cart.

[Rec] 4: Apocalypse (2014, Jaume Balagueró)

Oh, this is from the other director of the first one, and looks a lot worse. Stars Angela from parts 1 & 2. A guy with bad hair helps Angela kill zombie monkeys with a boat motor. Why does the bad guy have a snake-tongue? A boat explodes!

The Interview (2014, Goldberg & Rogen)

Those two guys are trying to escape N. Korea. Cue the loud action scenes. Katy Perry soundtracks the fiery death of President Randall Park (Danny Chung in Veep), then we get an anticlimactic escape from the country. One of the directors wrote for Da Ali G Show.

Horns (2013, Alexandre Aja)

The one where Harry Potter is a demon, from the director of the great Hills Have Eyes Remake. Dang, no horns, Harry must’ve had them cut off already (a la Hellboy?). His brother (Joe Anderson of Across the Universe) is sad, so Harry goes walkies with Max Minghella, and there are guns, and wow, Harry sprouts wings then turns into a full flaming demon and has homicidal maniac Max brutalized by snakes. I think Harry’s dead girlfriend is alive again but I stopped watching because my roomie locked his keys in his car. Is this Wolf Parade over the ending?

The Sacrament (2013, Ti West)

Sorry Ti, but after two-and-a-quarter disappointments you join Aja in Last Ten Minutes purgatory. Joe Swanberg in death cult compound is running from gunmen, everyone is dying, and it’s shot first-person a la [Rec] 1. Isn’t this the same plot as one of the V/H/S/2 segments from the same year, which West and Swanberg were also heavily involved with? Joe semi-rescues AJ Bowen (of every Adam Wingard movie) with the shakiest shaky-cam I’ve ever witnessed. Ends with unnecessary solemn title cards. Boo.

Maniac (2012, Franck Khalfoun)

Fuuuck, this is also shot first-person – and out-of-focus, no less. Co-written by Alexandre Aja. Khalfoun made P2 and acted in Aja’s Haute Tension – they’re as close as the West-Swanberg-Wingard crew. I think Elijah Wood kidnaps Nora Arnezeder then she stabs him with a mannequin arm and runs him over. Then she dies, so he marries a mannequin. Most of these movies are very bad, but this one looks unusually, especially, very very bad.

The Conspiracy (2012, Christopher MacBride)

Grainy first-person pinhole camera with blurred-out faces. Why do all these movies hate cinema? Dude wakes up in the ritual sacrifice room, then is chased through the dark woods while wearing an animal head. Finally a series of talking heads dismiss whatever conspiracy theory the hunted/murdered cameraman presumably uncovered. MacBride has made no other movies and hopefully it’ll stay that way.

Automata (2014, Gabe Ibáñez)

It’s balding trenchcoat dudes with shotguns vs. slow, clunky robots. The robots are talking wise, getting themselves shot, when a fully bald Antonio Banderas arrives. His plan of action is poor but he still kills two guys and the third is dispatched by a Short Circuit lizard. Weird/nice to see a robot-future movie where some of the robots (not the lizard) are actual props, not people or digital effects.

I, Frankenstein (2014, Stuart Beattie)

From the trailer this looked like epic nonsense, but it’s actually more coherent than most of the others I just watched. Bill Nighy! The final battle: Frankenstein Eckhart vs. angels, gargoyles, a merman, lots of fire, men in suits, poor digital effects and Bill Nighy! Meanwhile there’s a bunch of computer progress bars and “access denied” messages. Progress bars are always a great source of tension in movies, eh? A massive Matrix-like chamber full of bodies begins to self-destruct. Eckhart (is he the monster or the doctor?) defeats demon-Nighy, saves some lady from a fiery apocalypse and collapsing castle. Beattie wrote the Pirates of the Carribean movies (and Collateral), his cowriter was an actor in Men In Black 2.

Psychotically entertaining, probably endlessly rewatchable, continuing adventures of Danny Trejo. Machete’s old friend Jessica Alba is killed early on by a Mexican-wrestler-masked Mel Gibson, so he takes a revenge job from President Charlie Sheen, tracked by a killer called El Cameleon (who is disguised as Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas before being dispatched by rednecks). Machete’s handler Amber Heard turns bad. He captures schizo Demian Bichir, who kills his own daughter Vanessa Hudgens, earning wrath of her mother, brothel mistress Sofia Vergara. Finally eyepatched Michelle Rodrigues shows up with bomb expert Tom Savini (a reformed villain from the last movie). Also, William Sadler is an immigrant-hating sheriff, and Marko Zaror plays ass-kicking clones. All this, plus teasers for Machete Kills Again… In Space.

Back with his rival/writer Lem Dobbs of The Limey and Kafka, but I don’t see much point in celebrating the reunion since this was a straightforward double-crossed super-spy story. If not for the Soderbergh name and the A-list cast that always follows the Soderbergh name, this would be filler content on HBO starring Edward Furlong or the like. I’m starting to think that I’ve been suckered into believing that Soderbergh is some important auteur, when really he just makes slick entertainments rather well. But I guess he goes back and forth – some turns out better than others – and this one is firmly on the slick-entertainments side of things.

The reviews focused entirely on whether action hero Gina Carano can act in the non-action scenes, and the answer is “well enough”. More surprising is that the stars (particularly Fassbender and Tater) can keep up with Gina in the fighting scenes, also well enough.

Gina is a spy/mercenary/thing working for Ewan McGregor’s private organization, rescues a Chinese fellow from kidnappers along with her buddy “Tater” Channing, then accepts a quick follow-up assignment with British agent Michael Fassbender at the house of Mathieu Kassovitz (Amelie‘s photo-booth boyfriend), where she finds the dead Chinese guy, realizes she’s being framed, gets jumped by Fassbender and shoots him dead after a struggle.

But wait, the movie starts in the middle, where she’s met by Tater in a diner while being tracked by Ewan’s people, kicks Tater’s ass but does not kill him, then kidnaps a dude named Scott (the kid who was shot by Stephen Root in Red State) to escape. Now she’s off to clear her name, tracking down Ewan (traitor with a bad haircut who gets left to drown Ted Danson-style), Tater (killed by Ewan), Michael Douglas (gov’t good guy who helps slightly). We know the big baddie at the end will be Antonio Banderas, since we saw him with a Castro beard early in the film then he never came back, and he wouldn’t just have the one cameo. Help also comes from her dad Bill Paxton (his first movie since 2007, and the first I’ve heard of since ’04).

According to the IMDB, shot and edited by Soderbergh under pseudonyms, well enough.

Antonio Banderas (first movie of his I’ve watched since Once Upon a Time in Mexico) invents an insect-and-heat-repellent artificial skin, which he’s tested on a beautiful woman who seems to be imprisoned in a room of his house. But the artificial skin is a distraction from the real story – the fact that the girl may be fireproof is sadly not integrated into the plot. Mainly the movie wants to tell us more about Vera, the woman in the room (Elena Anaya of Mesrine), and how she got there, with bonus sub-plots about Dr. Antonio and his family.

Firstly, his housekeeper/chef (Marisa Peredes, star of Flower of My Secret) is secretly his mom, and her misfit son Zeca comes to the house dressed as a tiger, ties up his mom and rapes the girl upstairs before Antonio comes home and shoots him to death, while mom watches on the monitors downstairs. Some of the most intense shots in the movie involve those monitors, Antonio, his mom and Zeca interacting with Vera’s image.

Backstory: Antonio became obsessed with artificial skin after his wife was disfigured in a burning car (crashed by Zeca, with whom she’d been cheating) then threw herself out the window to her death in front of their young daughter, who became a psychological wreck from the experience. Years later Antonio takes his daughter Norma on a rare trip outside her mental hospital to a party, where she’s nearly raped by party-crasher Vicente in the garden. Soon the daughter commits suicide and Antonio kidnaps Vicente, gives him an unwilling sex change and alters his whole body to resemble that of Antonio’s dead wife before her accident.

So, back in the present, it’s no wonder that soon after Antonio starts letting Vera/Vicente leave her room, she starts planning revenge – grabs a gun from his desk and kills Antonio and his mom. Movie ends with a tearful reunion, the beautiful Vera in her family’s shop for the first time in six years telling her mother “I’m Vicente.”

Almodovar will never top the Caetano Veloso interlude in Talk To Her, but he gives us a couple of passionate performances by Concha Buika, just one of the details that lifts this movie above its sordid story.

I meant to rewatch Eyes Without a Face before going to this, but forgot.

Almodovar back in his comedy period, and his fourth movie in a row starring pre-Hollywood Antonio Banderas, this time as a released mental patient who methodically stalks then kidnaps actress Victoria Abril (also of Kika and High Heels), basically ties her up until she falls in love with him. It’s possibly the great women’s director Almodovar’s least feminist film in that respect.

Before the kidnapping, Abril is starring in the final film of director Francisco Rabal (Nazarin himself). He wants reshoots so people are looking for her, plus Antonio has the actress’s sister to deal with, as well as a drug dealer (Rossy de Palma) he ripped off. Happy ending, but Katy still didn’t love it because kidnapping isn’t funny.