The dialogue in this movie is just okay (except when flashy drug dealer Roger Guenveur Smith is described as having “a life expectancy of about half an hour”) until Jeff Goldblum gets a hold of it – this is my second movie this month that he’s rescued. Larry Fishburne is undercover, takes over the late Roger’s job and teams up with lawyer Goldblum, who gets off on the power and money. “Being a cop was never this easy.” An extremely cynical movie and as great as Hoodlum. Be careful who you pretend to be, etc. LVP Glynn Turman in an opening scene with its own weird tone. Surprising to hear Snoop Dogg in 1992.

The boys:

My first time rewatching since becoming a Paul WS Anderson convert from the Resident Evil series and Monster Hunter. Funny to learn that the studio cut a half-hour of footage, then tried to restore it for the DVD release but couldn’t find it. Also very nice to see Sam Neill going mad in space so soon after I rewatched In the Mouth of Madness.

Before the hellship Solaris-es Neill into blinding himself and murdering the crew, he was the ship’s designer, brought along on a rescue mission by Captain Laurence Fishburne. Their fellow astronauts have all done other sci-fi/horror work: Quinlan in the Joe Dante segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, Richardson as the mom of Color Out of Space, Jones in the bad 2014 Godzilla, Noseworthy in Bruce Willis virtual thriller Surrogates, Pertwee in Doomsday and Dog Soldiers, and Isaacs in A Cure for Wellness and Don’t.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987, Chuck Russell)

Kicking off the second Elm Street double-feature, and Videodrome was right, this is the great sequel, a big blockbustery movie, more inventive than it is jokey. Classy intro music until Kristen (Patricia Arquette’s debut) plays a cock-rock song on her boombox. Freddy slashes her wrists to send her to the psych ward where Nancy now works helping people with dream issues. We meet a new group of weirdos and misfits, who will be killed off one by one, their personality quirks weaponized against them.

Kristen’s thing is that she can pull others into her dreams (good sfx on this), which is how Freddy plans to get new victims, something like that. Is there any reason Nancy’s house should be so important in the hauntings, besides visual reference for the viewer? We get some new backstory, as we must, meeting Freddy’s nun mom’s ghost (Nan Martin: a nun named nan) who reports FK was “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.” They need to find FK’s bones and bury them in hallowed ground, but the kids don’t know where that is – maybe Heather’s drunk, washed-up dad John Saxon can help, before getting killed by a cool skeleton.

Arquette’s fellow survivors will be mute Joey (Rodney Eastman of I Spit On Your Grave Remake) and combative Kincaid (Atlanta’s own Ken Sagoes of the What’s Happening reboot). Memorable deaths include sleepwalker Bradley Gregg (of some major 80’s movies and also Class of 1999) featuring good stop-motion puppetry, and TV-loving Penelope Sudrow (the Jon Cryer ep of Amazing Stories). We also got punker Jennifer Rubin (Screamers) and wheelchair nerd Ira Heiden (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark) and a slumming Laurence Fishburne as a doctor.

I was getting Hellraiser II vibes from some of this – Arquette can’t help looking like Imogen Boorman, but the mute kid screaming and shattering mirrors, and Freddy pretending to be Nancy’s dad then stabbing the shit out of her all added to the feeling. Nancy gets another doctor (Body Double star Craig Wasson) to believe her crackpot stories about dream murders, the kids imagine themselves as the titular warriors, the bones are buried, and Chuck would go on to direct the pretty good Blob remake.


A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988, Renny Harlin)

They were “the last” of the Elm Street kids in part 3, so what’s left for this movie, which opens with a shitty pop song, and stars nobody? Part three felt like a real movie, now suddenly all the dialogue feels made-for-cable. Wikipedia says the writer’s strike was to blame for this. Parts 2 and 3 were like alternative sequels, different ways to follow up the original, but this one just feels like a part four, so I’m holding off on the next Nightmare movies before they get too depressing.

Should’ve watched Hairspray instead:

It’s a little funny that the dog who digs up Freddy’s bones (which reanimate using Frank’s Hellraiser re-fleshing effect) is named Jason. Different Actress Kristen is now Tuesday Knight, singer of the opening theme and star of Sex Demon Metropolis: Vampire Madonna and AI-generated werewolf film The Amityville Moon, but we’ve still got the real Kincaid and Joey, for a few minutes at least, before they succumb to junkyard and waterbed.

New Kristen is out of the psych ward and in regular school, starts losing classmates left and right. First goes asthma nerd Sheila, then Kung Fu Rick (of the same year’s Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama – it’s a shame John Saxon didn’t live to meet Rick) and Weightlifter Debbie, who gets Gregor Samsa’d. At some point Kristen herself gets burned alive, and the various powers of all these kids are absorbed by classmate Alice (Lisa Wilcox of Watchers 4) who chases after Freddy with her useless boyfriend Dan. Calling back to the childlike magic of the original movie’s ending, Alice shows FK his own reflection, and his imprisoned souls tear him apart. The movie’s one cool addition is sticking the kids in a time loop, a very dreamlike scenario. Harlin had a big moment in the 90’s, but I haven’t heard of any of the ten films he’s directed since he botched that Exorcist prequel.

John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)

A cigar-chomping, weirdly Jon Benjamin-looking drug lord awaits the return of Wick, who steals back his car and immediately totals it. Then Wick calls John Leguizamo to fix the car, and buries his guns under concrete – gonna be a peaceful movie!

“No one gets out and comes back without repercussions.” Oops, Wick is retired and refuses to honor some old blood oath with a dude named Santino (Italian Riccardo Scamarcio of Loro and Go Go Tales), so baddies blow up his house – but the dog survives this time! Back to the hotel, Cedric Daniels shows him to Ian McShane.

Off to Rome, which also has a Hotel Continental – the movie is expanding its mythology to Avengers-level proportions. Also, Wick is “the ghost, the boogeyman,” but wherever he goes everyone knows him by name. Sent to kill mafia boss Gianna (Claudia Gerini of an upcoming Diabolik remake), he gets new guns from Peter Serafinowicz and bulletproof suits, meets Franco Nero, then goes to a rock show (like a more chill Sleigh Bells) and follows Gianna to the hot tub, where she helps him execute her. This doesn’t go over well with her bodyguard Common, and after an exhausting fight where Wick videogames dozens of dudes, they end up back at the hotel.

Open contract on Wick, underground homeless anti-assassin league, a couple of boss fights with handheld weapons. I dug the silencer shootout, but the Lady From Shanghai hall of mirrors ending is really something special. Big news, Keanu getting (expensive) assistance from his Matrix costar Larry Fishburne. Finally, the movie’s mythology is strong, since the only time I felt shocked was when Wick shot the baddie on sacred Continental ground.


John Wick Chapter 3 (2019)

“We’re the same, you know.”

Wow, I’d just finished watching Chaplin shorts, and this opens with a Buster Keaton scene projected on the side of a building, which I suppose connects the ensuing motorcycle chase/crash to the slapstick tradition. Picks up exactly where the last one left off, a wounded Wick given an hour headstart before every assassin in the world comes after him. Ian and Larry and Cedric are gonna be fired for collaboration, but if Wick can complete a task for the Nomad King, his excommunication will be reversed… along the way we meet Derek, Halle Berry, Anjelica Huston, boss of bosses Asia Dillon (Billions), and one of the stars of Double Dragon.

I dunno, I was in a bad mood. It seemed like part 2 opened the Wickiverse further, then part 3 closed it abruptly, becoming a parody of itself (I also wrote “movie promotes fascism”). It’s more videogamey than ever – of course Wick teams with Ian and Cedric for a climactic shootout against faceless bureaucrat invaders, but the writers seem like they’re either making this out of contractual obligation or they’ve developed a bad drug problem since the last one. The lighting is the main thing it’s got going for it – super cool lighting.

Visually and performatively stylized melodrama, slangy and retro and dreamily lit, like a much better Grease, or a nonmusical West Side Story. Rusty James (Matt Dillon in his third S.E. Hinton movie in a row) mopes around with his tough friend Smokey (Nicolas Cage, his second year in the movies) and his nerdy David Cronenberg-looking friend Steve (Vincent Spano of City of Hope) and Nice Guy Eddie, speaking wistfully about Rusty’s long-missing older brother, local-legend gangster The Motorcycle Boy. Rusty James has a hot girlfriend Patty (Diane Lane) who’s into him, but he cheats and disappears and flakes around. Rusty James is trying to keep alive the gang wars he barely remembers from his brother’s day, and just as he’s losing a fight, The Motorcycle Boy dramatically reappears. This is the earliest I’ve seen Mickey Rourke, four years before Angel Heart, doing his gentle/tough handsome-zen thing – everyone in town agrees he’s crazy, but we don’t see him acting crazy, except maybe when he liberates every animal in the pet store.

It’s clear from the tone of the thing that somebody is doomed – probably Rourke (and yup, sure enough). The cops aren’t happy to see him back, but a heroin-addict substitute teacher starts hanging around, and old rivalries start simmering. It’s kind of a hangout movie where not much happens, but it feels tense most of the time. Dillon’s character is kind of an idiot, and his idol brother’s return blows up his worldview that things were better in the tough old days. In the end Rourke has died, Cage has stolen the girl and said he’d take over the gang if there even was a gang, Rusty James rides his brother’s motorcycle to the ocean, and it sounds like Wall of Voodoo over the credits but I guess it was that guy from The Police.

I keep meaning to watch the four hours of extras on the Criterion disc, but haven’t found the time. The Outsiders was also a Coppola-shot S.E. Hinton-written gang movie made the same year, and I should have double-featured these. The cast in this film is impressive – the brothers’ shitty alcoholic dad is Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne is a gang go-between, Tom Waits a bartender. William Smith, who starred in the real David Cronenberg’s Fast Company, is the mustache cop who uses inappropriate force to kill Rourke after the pet store incident.

Rumble brothers with grudge cop:

On the surface this was terrific, an expertly plotted thriller, more tensely captivating than any of the Ocean’s movies, with terrific music and excellent editing. But after giving it some thought and pitting it against Super 8, Contagion is starting to feel like slimy propaganda. The bad guy in the movie is Jude Law’s blogger, supposedly a whistleblowing, truth-seeking outsider but actually a treasonous scam-artist, eager to sell out. Government agents working for the CDC (headed by Laurence Fishburne) and some local labs (headed by Elliott Gould) are the good guys – not just good but angelic. They sacrifice themselves, working extremely hard and always putting others ahead – Fishburne gives his own dose of the long-awaited vaccine to the child of poor CDC janitor John Hawkes (because in Atlanta all our janitors are white guys), Jennier Ehle uses herself as a vaccine test subject to speed the process, and Kate Winslet dies trying to discover the virus’s source. So most of the way through the movie when some anti-government protesters appear outside the CDC, the viewer has automatic hatred for them. What sort of mindless malcontents would protest against these selfless public servants?

Heroes behind the scenes, Ehle and Martin:

Hero Fishburne with regular non-hero Hawkes:

The emotional Minnesota civilian center of the movie is Matt Damon, whose dead cheatin’ wife Gwynyth Paltrow was patient zero (as amusingly illustrated at the end of the movie). Marion Cotillard is a CDC researcher gently kidnapped in China by Chin Han, held for (fake) vaccine ransom. Bryan “Malcolm’s Dad” Cranston works for FBI I think. Demetri Martin, strangely, is Jennifer Ehle’s coworker. Soderbergh and writer Scott Burns (The Informant, Bourne Ultimatum) should’ve been hired for those 9/11 movies, or some kind of corporate response film to the Occupy movement (if anyone in power felt that Occupy required a response).

Jude Law in puffy suit: