Archive for the ‘Movies (R)’ Category


THE RAID 2 (2014)




Having rewatched this movie this afternoon in a haze of antibiotics, I expanded my thoughts on THE RAID 2 from the short piece on it in my Blu-Ray column, which I posted earlier this week.




Gareth Evans is a new action director to take very seriously: He’s growing into a world-class directing talent, in my opinion. 2009′s MERANTAU was plenty promising, an able showcase for both star Iko Uwais and for Uwais’ specialty, the Indonesian martial art pencak silat. 2011′s THE RAID: REDEMPTION delivered and then some. It was one of my top five films that year, as much as that distinction matters.



Evans’ next directorial credit after THE RAID was ‘SAFE HAVEN‘, the piece he co-directed with Timo Tjahjanto for the anthology V/H/S/2. It’s a bolt of scarcely-restrainable horror electricity. All on its own, SAFE HAVEN made my top two last year.



Evans’ style has potency, a rare quality among younger directors, especially those working in the genres of action and horror. As genre directing has trended towards the over-use of hand-held camerawork, much has been lost in the crucial areas of clarity, continuity, and identification — if I can’t entirely see what’s happening or who it’s happening to, it’s harder to stay involved on any level.



By contrast, Gareth Evans creates immediate empathy in an audience for unfamiliar actors playing characters who only just appeared onscreen a moment ago. Through smartly-chosen camera angles and clever deployment of tactile elements and technical arts like sound, Evans creates believable environments with simple strokes: The scrape of a metal bat on a concrete sidewalk, the slow juicy slice of a golden scalpel through a human neck, and so on. These small details have heft, which accumulates and enriches the texture of the film terrifically.



As a cinematic storyteller, Evans can really put you in a room, usually a room you don’t want to ever be in — think of the early scene in the first RAID where the villain murders a row of captives only to run out of bullets before the last; how much you feel for that final man despite not even knowing his name. There’s a similar scene in the new RAID film. The bit still works. You can imagine how excruciating it must be to be the last man on the row. You can see yourself in his quivering place. What would you be thinking, if put in that position? What last thoughts might you choose? This is what this director can do with a day-player who never gets a single line of dialogue. He makes you feel for the cannon fodder. Evans’ approach to action is elemental, his approach to 2-D visual storytelling is tangible. These films don’t need a third dimension — the directorial orchestration provides it.



So everything that was so effective about the first RAID film works about the sequel. The key word is “more.”



THE RAID 2: BERANDAL is nearly an hour longer than its predecessor, with twice the characters and a more complex storyline, such as it is. The closest imagining is what would happen if John Woo made THE GODFATHER: PART TWO, minus the sumptuousnous and grace. It’s a back-alley HARD BOILED. This is a seedier neighborhood. The knives are sharper. Heads don’t get knocked around, they get pulverized into a red mist.



Where the earlier RAID film showed the events of one particularly arduous day, the sequel covers a longer expanse of time. Whereas the earlier scenario was confined to one building, THE RAID 2 opens up the action. There’s a car chase now. There are subways. There are rivers and lakes and ruins and killing fields. The villains are even more vicious this time around, if that can be believed. The redoubtable Yayan Ruhian, so indelibly fearsome as “Mad Dog” in the earlier film, plays a similar role here, only to be overcome by the new breed of vicious killer. Evans’ Jakarta is no country for old mad dogs.



There’s even a bit more black humor in the sequel, much of it courtesy of the silent siblings Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, the film’s signature characters. (Better to experience those two without benefit of much foreknowledge.)




The end result of all this “more” by film’s end may be a faint sense of exhaustion, even among die-hard fans of THE RAID like myself. For my part I’m all RAID-ed out. “I’m done,” as series hero finally concludes. These are arduous films — for the viewer alone! One can only imagine how it feels for the active participants. Don’t get me wrong: I love THE RAID 2 and it’s clearly one of the superior action films of the year. It’s only that I’ve been through a long onslaught of fists, bullets, stabbings, and hammerings and now I’d like to see what this gifted filmmaker and his dedicated crew can do next. A third RAID film is planned; hopefully after that there’ll be a return to horror. Or a monster movie. Or a Western. Or a musical. The sky’s the limit, really.




– Jon Abrams.








Finally gonna see THE RAID 2 this week! Been waiting two long years for this thing — can you feel my excitement buzzing like a swarm of cicadas on a summer day? The action in the first movie was all-out peanut-butter-and-bananas, and the events of that one were confined to one building. In this new one they go outside! Oh my god. Imagine these maniacs in cars. I can’t wait. Anyway, here’s what I wrote about the first one when I listed it in my 2012 year-end top-ten.




If I were an action-movie hero (and who’s to say I’m not?), I’d be on the phone to writer/director/editor Gareth Evans yesterday.  He has made,  by a wide margin, the best action movie of the year, displaying all of the most integral virtues of the field. THE RAID starts from the most basic plot – a small group of cops are cornered in a high-rise packed with murderous thugs – and uses only a fraction — $1 million – of the means most action movies have in the pocket.  None of the guys in THE RAID look to be over five feet tall and ninety pounds, and the lead actor (Iko Uwais) looks a bit like Halle Berry circa STRICTLY BUSINESS, yet somehow hey all turn out to be the kind of fearsome, fearless shitkickers who make all fifty-two Expendables look like a Mad Magazine parody.  That’s due to the fact that these are all incredible athletes, of course, but also due to filmmaker Gareth Evans and his ferocious camerawork and ginsu-blade cutting style.




This isn’t just the best action film of 2012 – it’s pure cinema.  Great film-making isn’t only about storytelling and style, though THE RAID has that too.  It’s about using the tools of cinema to most effectively get a story across, with style as a garnish.  What Gareth Evans does here is present the kinetic ass-kicking doled out by his stars in a way that maximizes its impact.  The choreography of both the battles and of the camerawork that captures them has an uncommon clarity.  The violence is tactile – you can practically feel it.  This cumulative effect is also achieved by brilliantly-chosen and –rendered sound design – whether it be the sound of bullets rolling around in a wooden drawer, or that of a chambered clip, or of a machete scraping the underside of a table, or the face of a stone wall.  While everyone else was name-checking Bruce Lee and John Woo in their reviews of this movie, I was oddly enough reminded most of Martin Scorsese’s short film “The Big Shave.”  That’s the level of clever, innovative, forward-thinking filmmaking on display in THE RAID. I’m talking craft, not content.  That said: Will Gareth Evans one day make his own TAXI DRIVER or GOODFELLAS?  I would not bet against it.






Raw Force (1982)


On the Norwegian Wikipedia page for the 1982 exploitation epic RAW FORCE — probably the only time I’ll ever start a sentence that way — we are informed that the movie was banned in Norway in 1984. That’s the most attention any kind of majority, political or otherwise, has paid this movie. RAW FORCE is made for almost no one, because it is apparently made for almost everyone. Nearly every convention or trope of genre movies from the first seventy or so years of the existence of film is expended in this one rickety heap of madness.




As I tried to describe on our latest podcast focusing on RAW FORCEdescribing this movie is like fighting a giant squid. Just when you’ve bested one wavy storytelling strand, another one snaps up and grabs you by the throat.


Here’s the trailer, which is maybe the most dishonest trailer I’ve ever seen:



That trailer literally sells a different movie. The clips are the same, but some of the character names and all of their backstories are totally different. The editors somehow cobbled together a cohesive story from several scenes that have no connection. This is the SHOGUN ASSASSIN of movie trailers. RAW FORCE is plenty of kinds of fun, but one adjective that does not apply is “cohesive.” This is the summary I gave on the podcast:




First, a quote from Anton Chekhov:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Okay. So early on in RAW FORCE, when a plane lands on a remote island and a character mentions that the waters surrounding the island are infested with vicious piranha, you can bet you will see those fish by the end of the movie. And if that character is a white-suited human trafficker who looks and talks exactly like Adolf Hitler, you may fairly assume he’ll be the one to meet them.




Otherwise, RAW FORCE, also known as KUNG FU CANNIBALS, completely ignores the principle of Chekhov’s gun. This movie operates under its own rules, and also it doesn’t have any rules. If you somehow managed to drink up all the movies and television shows of the 1970s and then you barfed them back up, the mess on the bathroom floor might look like this.




Saloon fights, graveyard fights, bazooka fights, hippies in warpaint, gratuitously naked ladies, karate-chopping hobbit bartenders, giggling monks who dine on human women, ninja zombies, a BOOGIE NIGHTS style group of protagonists calling themselves the Burbank Karate Club, an ornery sea captain, a kung fu chef, an extended riff on ‘Gilligan’s Island’, and the aforementioned worst person in human history: All this and more in RAW FORCE.


This was a fun episode even though I was delirious and feverish and congested and loopy. As always my co-hosts Joe and Freeman were terrific, engaging, and informative. You can subscribe and download the show on iTunes (please comment with feedback!) or you can



Here are our previous episodes, in case you’d like to catch up. We’re recording a new episode this week! Stay tuned.



Vigilante Force






Find me on Twitter:











A Review: RIDDICK (2013)

Posted: September 9, 2013 in Movies (R)

Riddick (2013)

The role of Riddick is Vin Diesel’s Madea.  This is a character he will insist on returning to, again and again, over and over, regardless of what anyone else thinks or needs.  The character may or may not bear out such devotion, and may or may not lack for depth, but those considerations are not going to slow this train.  In many ways, he’s right to do it.  Don’t misunderstand.  The modern cinematic landscape is seriously short several mid-range actioners with mean, stoic anti-heroes.  That was why I liked 2000’s PITCH BLACK, in which writer/director David Twohy and his star first introduced Riddick, a deadly criminal with night-vision eyeballs and a particular talent for killing space monsters.  There wasn’t much like it at the time.  There still isn’t.  The most popular action movies nowadays are kid’s stuff at best.  At worst, they’re neutered.  And neutered is a bad place for this particular genre to find itself.  To give it credit, the new Riddick movie, conveniently titled RIDDICK, lunges boldly and violently at that R-rating,  but in the process reveals itself to be pretty moronic.

Unfortunately, some recapping is in order.  PITCH BLACK, the first movie in this series, found a spaceship crash-landing on a hostile planet infested by carnivorous alien creatures who attack at night.  Vin Diesel’s Riddick, a convict and prisoner, becomes the crew’s only hope of survival due to his surgically-enhanced vision and his vast experience in the ways of killing.  Cole Hauser played Johns, a bounty hunter who seemed to be the hero of the piece until Radha Mitchell’s pilot character emerged as the moral center of the film and Riddick its most memorable player.  The script by Twohy and Jim & Ken Wheat had some nice reveals and reversals, and Keith David (THE THING, THEY LIVE) played a major supporting role.  Then 2004 brought THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, a much larger-scaled adventure which I haven’t seen.  Turns out that’s a problem, because 2013’s RIDDICK certainly unfurls under the expectation that the audience has seen PITCH BLACK and THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK.  There have also been cartoons (DARK FURY, which is cool) and video games (ESCAPE FROM BUTCHER BAY and ASSAULT ON DARK ATHENA, which again I haven’t encountered).  This character has a strong following, obviously, which means that RIDDICK may well play better to the obsessives than it did for me.  But I’m of the opinion that a movie should work for the casual viewer as much as it does for the long-timers, and with that criteria [and others] in mind, RIDDICK crash-lands with a dull thump.

RIDDICK opens with the title character marooned on an all-new hostile planet.  The very first sight is that of a space-vulture pecking at Riddick’s bloody hand.  Riddick being Riddick, he grabs the creature by the throat and chokes it to death.  If this reminds anyone of a similar moment in another Universal film, 1982’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN, well hey.  It’s only the first of a lengthy parade of genre references both intentional and possibly accidental — RIDDICK as a film invokes influences as varied as ALIENALIENS, ALIEN3, ALIEN RESURRECTIONJURASSIC PARK, APOCALYPSE NOW, TREMORS, and the work of Frank Frazetta.  Being built on a foundation of homage is fine in itself; PITCH BLACK was a pleasing vehicle in part because it was powered on the stuff.  But PITCH BLACK is itself one of the primary influences on RIDDICK, which makes the latter film feel like the proverbial snake eating its own tail.  And RIDDICK runs over two hours, which means it’s one of those pythons that takes a long time to digest.

Events from THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK are the cause of the main action in RIDDICK.  Again, I haven’t seen CHRONICLES, but I can infer this because there is a flashback sequence early on, featuring Karl Urban (DREDD), who was clearly a primary antagonist in that movie.  The new movie walloped me with a dense exposition cloud, but it seems that Karl Urban and his men set Riddick up, acting as allies only to blindside him and strand him on this new desert planet.  By the way, DUNE was apparently a huge influence on THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK because that’s how all these people are dressed in the flashback, in weird beetle armor.  Riddick is too, but he quickly sheds that as he fends for himself, trying to survive alone in the Australian Outback of space.  He’s attacked by alien dingoes and swamp scorpions.  He eventually conquers the elements, taming a baby dog-thing which he keeps as a companion, and innoculating them both from the poisons of the local predators.  This part of RIDDICK is an interesting decision on the part of the filmmakers.  It contains a wealth of imaginary space animals, which is the primary reason I liked AVATAR.  But it also requires nearly half an hour spent almost exclusively in the company of Vin Diesel, which is problematic.  Vin Diesel’s screen persona operates on a very sleepy kind of cool.  He sings a killer lullaby.  He’s not exactly a fiery presence.  HELL IN THE PACIFIC works because Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune have an inner fire that shows on screen; you could watch them do literally anything.  By contrast, Vin Diesel needs to be forced into action to be interesting; he needs to get into a car, or trade punches with Dwayne Johnson. Some will feel differently, but after five minutes of watching the “Vin Diesel camping out in space” movie I was ready for virtually anything else to happen.



Be careful what you wish for.  Two teams of hunters arrive on the planet in search of Riddick.  The first, apparently hired by Karl Urban (though I could be wrong), are a shaggy bunch of mercenaries looking to collect his head, literally.  As if actively looking for an honorable mention on my most notorious year-end list, this entire gang is entirely Latin.  Some characters are more memorably crafted than others.  One of them is Dave Bautista, the pro-wrestler who was similarly likable in a similarly inconsistently-written role in 2012’s THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.  Another is Jordi Mollà, who has played villains in BAD BOYS II, KNIGHT & DAY, COLOMBIANA, and various other movies that demand disreputable men of Spanish descent.  He gets to say things like “I don’t want you stepping all over my deeeck here, my friend,” to the second group of mercenaries, led by a man named Johns (Matt Nable), who it turns out is on the scene because he’s the father of Cole Hauser’s character from PITCH BLACK and is looking for Riddick to answer for what happened during the events of that film.

Three thoughts on this character:

1)  I’m supposed to remember this much plot detail from a movie I haven’t seen since 2000?

2)  Why couldn’t Wings Hauser have played this role?

3)  He has Denzel Washington’s mannerisms.  Seriously, if you see RIDDICK, keep an eye on this guy.  It’s uncanny.  When he was on screen it was all I could think about.  Before you call me crazy, take a look.  Think Denzel.

Johns’ team includes Bokeem Woodbine (THE BIG HIT), a guy who looks a ton like Mickey Rourke, and Katee Sackhoff, a neo-geek icon for her role in Battlestar Galactica.  She’s the only substantial female character in the movie — the only other one, a prisoner briefly played by R&B singer Keri Hilson who we’re told has been sexually abused by the Latino gang before they let her go only to shoot her dead.  This is not a film for feminists.  One is killed after a minute of screen time and the other is portrayed as masculine in every way except when it comes time to film her in the shower and have the male characters make lewd, nasty sexist comments to her, despite her insistence that she isn’t interested in men.  She does eventually flirt with Riddick, because this is an American action movie and  a character’s God-given sexual orientation is no match for number-one-on-the-call-sheet, but honestly, no one has more chemistry with Vin Diesel than Bokeem Woodbine does.  Keep an eye out for the scene where it appears the two of them are about to kiss.  Now that would have been a more interesting movie than this one turned out to be.



When the two teams of antagonists arrive on the planet, the subjectivity of the film shifts abruptly from Riddick’s first-person perspective, as the main character working to survive in the wilderness, to the perspective of his enemies, who view Riddick as a kind of Michael Myers figure.  The depiction of Riddick changes, from a constant presence onscreen to a superhuman wraith who sneaks in and out of the frame, quietly dispatching anyone he considers as a threat.  This is not something a good movie does.  You kind of can’t do that.  Imagine if Indiana Jones suddenly vanished from the movie and we followed RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK from the perspective of Belloq and Toht.  It’s narratively clumsy.  It’s almost as if RIDDICK reverts to PITCH BLACK halfway through — the characters literally start talking about the events of the first movie, and then by so doing they conjure the plot of PITCH BLACK.  A rain begins to fall, the alien monsters start to swarm, and then Riddick becomes the only way off the planet for the rapidly-dwindling number of survivors.  Remember when I complained about having to remember a movie I saw thirteen years ago?  RIDDICK responds to that complaint mid-course by becoming a rerun.

There’s no joy in saying so, but RIDDICK is sporadically entertaining at best.  It’s more aptly described as derivative, boorish, and insanely long for how simplistic the story is and for how little tension the action scenes produce.  The movie lacks any trace of the playful humor Vin Diesel evidences in the FAST & FURIOUS movies.  There’s a difference between being a compelling anti-hero, and being a dick.  Riddick is really just a dick in this movie, and he’s supposed to be our guy!  If you’re going to be a dick, you damn well better be funny.  Everyone here is either sneering, snarling, or sulking.  Why spend two hours in their company?

Argue this one with me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

P.S.  If you want to see a David Twohy movie that deserves your attention, check out the crafty, terse, and suspenseful A PERFECT GETAWAY.

Red Tails (2012)



RED TAILS is a big-budget rendition of the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen, the 332nd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American pilot squad in our country’s history, a fact that means everything. Remember that the seeds of the Civil Rights movement were still en years away, and desegregation was not even officially a word. The Tuskegee Airmen weren’t just a noble concept; they were all-the-way heroic. So named because they were trained in Tuskegee, AL, these pilots were the result of twenty years of advocacy by, among others, African-Americans who were barred from service in the first World War. Before they could fly combat missions (a sore spot the movie details), the 332nd flew bomber escort missions, acting as midair bodyguards for the white pilots on actual combat missions. When they were finally sent to fly on their own, they excelled. They shot down German jets and destroyed German trains, trucks, boats, barges, destroyers, and military factories. A couple hundred of the almost one-thousand of them didn’t survive the war. The unit was awarded a long list of Flying Crosses, Bronze Stars, and Purple Hearts. They were called “Red Tails” due to the distinctive crimson paint on the tail section of their planes.




Despite an interest in the great true story behind RED TAILS, I failed to see it when it was released theatrically in January of last year. 2012 was a crowded time for movies, but beyond that, this particular movie arrived to positively toxic word of mouth. I still wanted to see the movie, but I didn’t rush. Now, if you watch RED TAILS and poke around online for reviews, you will see something very clearly: The movie is not jump-out-of-your-seat-and-tell-everybody great, but nor is it remotely as bad as its reviews, which are generally venomous and nasty.


The reason is that most reviewers didn’t review the movie RED TAILS. They reviewed its producer, George Lucas. I’m sure I have been guilty in the past of looking beyond a movie to write about other things besides the actual movie in front of me, so I can’t condemn the practice, but it was a widespread and noticeable mania in this case. RED TAILS is the passion project of George Lucas, who talked for years in interviews of getting it made. His reasons are his reasons. Maybe his reasons are only that it’s a great story. That didn’t matter to most critics. They wanted to write about STAR WARS.


Older critics blame George Lucas’ STAR WARS and Steven Spielberg’s JAWS for the glut of offal that followed, the thirty years of summertime blockbuster bombast made by less-talented fans and craven capitalists. Younger critics, particularly those hailing from my generation, feel burned by George Lucas. He made some movies when we were young that we loved (three STAR WARS and three INDIANA JONES‘s), and then he made some follow-ups (three STAR WARS and one INDIANA JONES) that we did not love. That we kind of hated. “The new STAR WARS movies suck,” most of us have said. “George Lucas ruined my childhood,” the drama queens among us have said. Now, as for me, I haven’t gone back to revisit the newer STAR WARS movies since I first saw them, but nor have I gone back to the originals in over a decade. George Lucas didn’t ruin my childhood. He made some super-imaginative movies that I loved as a kid, but as a result of my changing tastes, haven’t felt a need to obsessively revisit, the way many of my peer group do. Apparently I’m coming at this from a slightly different place than many people my age. Ain’t no grudge being born on these shoulders. I’m not going to hold STAR WARS against RED TAILS.


Also, George Lucas didn’t direct RED TAILS. But here’s what he did do:


  • Hired African-American writers to sculpt the story. John Ridley, original writer of THREE KINGS, did the first drafts, and Aaron McGruder (THE BOONDOCKS) worked on it afterwards.


  • Hired a young African-American director, Anthony Hemingway, to helm the project.


  • Hired a huge, talented, predominantly black cast, anchored by the more famous Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. but primarily spotlighting terrific up-and-comers such as Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Leslie Odom Jr., and Michael B. Jordan.


  • Hired an African-American composer, Terence Blanchard, the best in the business regardless of race, over the more obvious Lucasfilm choice, John Williams.


  • Hired the now-departed Lee A. Archer Jr., original Tuskegee flying ace, as technical consultant.


  • Supported the project with all of the filmmaking resources he has amassed over the years, including having the legendary editor Ben Burtt contribute to the film and having Industrial Light & Magic do the effects.


  • Hired the legendary Joe Kubert to draw that killer poster up at the head of this post.


  • Covered the $58 million budget out of his own money. That’s not including $35 million he paid for distribution.


  • Made the press rounds to promote the film on the basis of his own celebrity, despite the fact that he was bound to take a metric ton of shit from all the legions of angry STAR WARS nerds along the way.


  • He didn’t have to do any of these things, by the way. He could have waited for the rest of Hollywood to put this story up on a big screen. (That would have been a long wait.)


Now, those are only the facts, son. I’m hardly a George Lucas apologist. I like good movies as much as you do. And so I’m not able to argue that the finished product can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the very best World War II filmmaking, not even those made by Lucas’s pal Spielberg. RED TAILS isn’t as viscerally involving as SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and it isn’t as layered or affecting as BAND OF BROTHERS. It’s somewhat superficial, leaning back on firmly-established cliches when you’d like to see some real fire, some rage. I mean, these guys are fighting the Nazis. I’m the guy who thinks INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS didn’t go far enough. Judge me however you see fit, but: It’s as satisfying for me to watch black guys shooting down Nazis as it is to watch Jews doing the same. I love watching Nazis get killed onscreen. It’s one of the best things about movies. The violence in this movie is somewhat sanitized, certainly removed, not impassioned. Maybe that’s more healthy, but it’s also the less bloody, less emotionally-invested approach — with all the work I did to back away from STAR WARS earlier, it’s still a fair comparison to liken the best moments of RED TAILS to the part of RETURN OF THE JEDI where Lando Calrissian blows up the Death Star.


Still, is that the worst thing? RED TAILS is all broad strokes. It’s corny. It has some very likable actors saying some very purple dialogue that isn’t eminently quotable on its own. It’s got some cheesy romance. It’s got real production value in the sets and the costuming. It has state-of-the-art effects, its dogfight scenes being its most tangible and thrilling moments by a wide margin. Its score is all pomp and circumstance and yet stirring all the same.


Holy shit, I feel like I’m describing the original STAR WARS.


Here’s a question: Don’t little black kids have the same right to have a STAR WARS as little white kids do? Isn’t it a decent thing that George Lucas at least tried?


RED TAILS isn’t a great movie. You can find a more detailed accounting of why that is in the reviews by Wesley Morris and the late Roger Ebert. They give you the honest take-away. RED TAILS is most enjoyable when it’s about the planes, not the people. And that’s a let-down. This story deserves to be made into a great movie. Still, it’s hardly awful or a waste of your time. It isn’t an embarassment. It’s way, way better than all three prequels. It’s a diverting rendition of an important story that deserves telling, on the widest screen possible. Lee Archer should be way more famous than Yoda or Boba Fett. If watching RED TAILS makes little kids — black or white — look up his name, it’s a success for that alone.





Red Tails (2012)

Red Tails (2012)

Red Tails (2012)


Daily Grindhouse would be pretty much my favorite website even if I weren’t writing for them, but since I am, here’s a collection of all my work so far.  It’s some of my very best stuff. Enjoy!

25TH HOUR (2002) 48 HRS. (1982) 52 PICK-UP (1986) 88  THE ACT OF KILLING (2013) ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948) Alex Cross (2012) ALIEN (1979) ALIEN ZONE (1978) ALPHABET CITY (1984) american sniper  AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) ANACONDA (1997) ANTS (1977) The Apple (1980) ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) ARTISTS & MODELS (1955) Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) BADLANDS (1973) BAIT (2012) A Band Called Death (2013) BASKET CASE (1982)  BATMAN (1989) BATTLE ROYALE (2000) The Baytown Outlaws (2013). Beetlejuice (1988) BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2013) BEST WORST MOVIE (2009)The Big Lebowski (1998) Big Trouble In Little China (1986) BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) BLACK DEATH (2011) THE BLOB (1988) BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) The Brides Of Dracula (1960) brothers-2009 BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965) untitled CARRIE (1976) CB4 THE MOVIE (1993) CEMETERY MAN (1994) Charley Varrick (1973) CHEAP THRILLS (2013) CHOPPING MALL (1986) class-of-1984-poster The Colony (2013) COMPLIANCE (2012) CON AIR (1997) Conquest (1983) THE CONTRACTOR (2013) Creature (2011) CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) CRIME WAVE (1954) THE CROW (1994) DARKMAN (1990) DEAD & BURIED (1981) DEADLY FRIEND (1986) deranged-1974-movie-review-jpeg-35312 THE DESCENT (2005) THE DEVIL’S EXPRESS (1976) dillinger-1973 DIRTY HARRY (1971) Django (1966) Django Unchained (2012).  DOG SOLDIERSDOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) DRACULA (1931) Dredd (2012) DRIVE (2011) Drive Angry (2011) End of Watch (2012) EQUINOX (1970) Escape From New York (1981) Evil Dead (2013) THE EXORCIST (1973) Eyes Without A Face (1960) FACE-OFF (1997) Fast Five A tumblr_n2u9s565B11rscnczo1_500 Fist Of Legend (1994) FRANKENSTEIN (1931) GANJA & HESS (1973) the-gauntlet-1977 Get Carter (1971) ghostbusters GHOSTBUSTERS 2 (1989) ghosthouse 1988 GI Joe Retaliation (2013) THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011) GOD TOLD ME TO (1976) GONE GIRL (2014) THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966) The Great Silence (1968) Gremlins 2 - The New Batch (1990) The Grey (2012) Halloween (1978) Hannie Caulder (1971) Hardbodies (1984) Hardware (1990).. Henry (1990) High Crime (1973)  THE HILLS RUN RED (1966) . IMG_8699 THE HIT (1984)Hit Man (1972) hobo with a shotgun HOMEFRONT (2013) The Horror Of Dracula (1958) the host - no words HOUSE (HAUSU) (1977) The Iceman (2013) The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009) IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) THE INNOCENTS (1961) THE INSIDER (1999) The Invisible Man (1933) Iron-Man-3-2013 I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) Island-of-Lost-Souls-19331 Jackie Brown (1997) jaws jennifers body  JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011) The Keep (1983) KILLER JOE (2011) The Killers (1966) Killing Them Softly (2012) The-King-of-Comedy-1983 LADY IN CEMENT (1968) LADY TERMINATOR (1989) THE LAST CIRCUS (2010) BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON (1985) Lawless (2012) LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) the-leopard-man-movie-poster-1943-1020199765 Leprechaun (1993) A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (1997) LINK (1986) Liz & Dick (TV, 2012) Lockout (2012) The Lords of Salem (2013) Lost Highway THE MAGIC BLADE (1976) MAN OF STEEL (2013) THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE (1997) The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) Maniac Cop (1988) THE MANITOU (1978) MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1976) men-in-war-1957 MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977) MILANO CALIBRO 9 (1972) MULHOLLAND DR. (2001) MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D (2009) My_Darling_Clementine_1946 NakedSpur-1953-MGM-one navajo-joe-1966 NEAR DARK (1987) NEON MANIACS (1986) night of the comet NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986) THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) Night of the Living Dead (1968) NOSFERATU (1922) NOTORIOUS (2009) OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983) ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013) OUT OF THE PAST (1947) PACIFIC RIM (2013) pet-sematary-1989 Phenomena (1985) POOTIE TANG (2001) POSSESSION (1981) PREDATOR (1987) Premium Rush (2012) PRIVATE SCHOOL (1983) PULP FICTION (1994) Pursued (1947) q-the-winged-serpent-movie-poster-1983-1020195479 quick-change-poster BERANDAL (2014) RAVENOUS (1999) RAW FORCE (1982) Raw Meat (1972) RE-ANIMATOR (1985) Rear Window (1954) RED RIVER (1948) RED ROCK WEST (1992) Relentless (1989) RIDDICK (2013) tumblr_njo3upN5tn1sy67obo1_540 the road  ROBOCOP (1987) ROBOCOP (2014) SCANNERS  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) SCROOGED (1988) Shaft (1971) Sheba, Baby (1975) SHOCK WAVES (1977) shogun_assassin SORCERER (1977) source-code Spring Breakers (2013) SQUIRM (1976) STARSHIP-TROOPERS-1997 story of ricky  STREET TRASH (1987) Streets-Of-Fire-1984 THE STUNT MAN (1980) SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) Super (2011) SUSPIRIA (1977) switchblade_sisters_poster_02 (1) TAXI DRIVER (1976) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) THE THING (1982) THIS IS THE END (2013) thriller TORQUE (2004) touch of evil The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) TREMORS (1990) TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007) THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972) THE UNKNOWN (1927) Under The Dome VAMPIRE’S KISS (1988) VERTIGO-1958-649x1024 Vigilante (1983) vigilante force THE VISITOR (1979) WHICH WAY IS UP (1977) WHITE HUNTER  WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL THE WICKER MAN (1973) winters-bone WITCHBOARD (1986) worlds-greatest-dad-2009 ZODIAC (2007) ZOMBI 2 (1979) ZOMBIELAND (2009)

Make Daily Grindhouse your daily destination for genre movie news, reviews, and interviews — there’s a ton of truly great content over there, beyond just the parts with my name on ’em.

And follow me on Twitter for updates!: @jonnyabomb

Now THIS is how you do homage. When I talked about 1986’s LINK, I mentioned how Australian director Richard Franklin was a devoted acolyte of the work of Alfred Hitchcock. You wouldn’t know it from watching LINK, but you’d absolutely know it from watching 1981’s ROAD GAMES.

ROAD GAMES, sometimes known under the more claustrophobic title ROADGAMES, stars Stacy Keach as Pat Quid, an American trucker making his way through the dry plains of Southern Australia in order to deliver a freezer full of frozen meat. His only companion is a dingo, which Quid has named Boswell, who rides shotgun. (Attention, English majors…) This is the first clue that Quid is an unconventional guy. It’s not exactly legal in this time and place to be riding with a dingo, no matter how docile and domesticated Boswell seems to be. Also, Quid is a bigtime chatterbox. He barrages poor Boswell with constant conversation, which for us viewers is a pleasure, since these monologues are delivered in the plummy stentorian register of Stacy Keach. Keach has come up with names for all the fellow travellers who he spots recurring along the highways, including Benny Balls, Fred Frugal, Captain Careful, Sneezy Rider, and, most ominously, Smith Or Jones.

Smith Or Jones is the driver of the dingy olive-green van that Quid spots driving suspiciously at the same time he’s hearing radio reports of a deranged killer at large. It’s a long time before Quid himself gets a look at Smith Or Jones, but right from the outset we the audience know that Quid’s not crazy, due to the eerie early scene where a young woman is strangled in a motel room with a mean-looking length of wire. For better or worse, and probably the latter, we know, we’re going to see that guy again. It’s when Quid picks up a young hitch-hiker (Jamie Lee Curtis, just a year fresh off THE FOG and three off HALLOWEEN) who he nicknames “Hitch” that the trail really starts getting warm.

Quid calls this young lady “Hitch” A) because it’s what he calls hitch-hikers and he likes nicknames for everyone, but to the film fanatics in the audience it’s a clear nod from Franklin and his writer, Everett De Roche, to the master filmmaker who made a movie much like this one in spirit. (And it’s no accident that Quid’s first name, “Pat,” was the also name of Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter. Nice little gender-reversal on the shout-out, there.) If you’ve seen 1954’s REAR WINDOW, there can be no doubt which Hitchcock movie Franklin and De Roche have taken as inspiration. REAR WINDOW is also a film about a hero stuck in an enclosed space, who catches wind of a crime and is deemed crazy by the authorities, leaving him to take matters into his own hands. Both movies make effective use of diagetic music, which means that you sometimes see the source of the music on screen — Stacy Keach plays the harmonica throughout ROAD GAMES, and at times his playing blends in with the score (which is a very good one, by Brian May of THE ROAD WARRIOR fame). Both movies have fun with nicknaming. And both movies are very romantic, despite all the bleakness and the overcast of murder. ROAD GAMES is romantic not just in the nicely-played relationship between Quid and Hitch, but also in the romance of the open road, of that dream some of us have of gassing up a truck and driving down highway as far as the eye can see — it’s a bonus if you’ve got a dog and a pretty girl riding shotgun.

I suppose it’s a minor stretch to classify ROAD GAMES as a horror film — it’s more of a suspense thriller than anything else, although Smith Or Jones is a truly spooky presence in his few fleeting appearances throughout the film. I feel justified grouping ROAD GAMES into horror because of its prime status in the genre of “Oz-ploitation” and because of its interesting proximity to HALLOWEEN. Richard Franklin was reportedly friendly with John Carpenter (I’m still looking for more information on this but it seems they studied at USC at the same time), and Franklin cast Jamie Lee Curtis in ROAD GAMES after meeting her on the set of THE FOG. And of course, the same year Jamie Lee Curtis appeared in ROAD GAMES she would soon appear in HALLOWEEN 2.

Much is said about John Carpenter’s affinity for the work of Howard Hawks, but less is said about how much Carpenter’s sensibilities also reflect a love for Hitchcock. (One clue is how HALLOWEEN‘s Dr. Loomis is named after a character in Hitchcock’s PSYCHO.) While Carpenter was subtly — and stylistically — paying homage to Hitchcock in HALLOWEEN, Richard Franklin would go on to do so directly with the sequel to PSYCHO, 1983’s PSYCHO 2, which I’ve not seen personally but if you’re interested to read more on it, you should read this review by the great Vern.

All of which is to say that if you loved John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, and who doesn’t?, you will most definitely love Richard Franklin’s ROAD GAMES.

Ride with me on Twitter: @jonnyabomb

Studying a film genre, the way I’m attempting to do with horror with this feature, often means digging through surface layers and uncovering more and more bizarre history as you go along.  RAW MEAT is both an example of, and a metaphor for, that experience. 

RAW MEAT is a horror film made and released in the UK in 1972 under the title DEATH LINE.  For reasons I’ve not yet been able to track down, RAW MEAT is the title that was given to the movie for its United States release, a title by which it seems to be better known today.  It is the first film of Gary Sherman, the American-born filmmaker who nine years later made 1981’s DEAD & BURIED.  I was aware of DEAD & BURIED before I started this feature, but learned of RAW MEAT‘s existence only recently.  This is what I mean by the movie being a living example of the experience of genre-spelunking.

The poster for RAW MEAT tells you what we’re dealing with: Cannibals in the London underground.  But that wasn’t a common movie subject in 1972, and certainly not in the UK where things were more genteel.  The Hammer films could get pretty bloody for their time, but I don’t remember many willing to deal with the increasingly-relevant cinematic topic of inbred cannibals.  This movie arrived a year before THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, a decade before C.H.U.D., two decades before CREEP.  I can pretty much guarantee that John Landis saw RAW MEAT at some point before shooting the spooky underground scenes in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.  Its focus on the sleazier aspects of British nightlife also predated Landis’ movie, which, as we all remember, notoriously staged pivotal scenes in a porno theater.

RAW MEAT opens with an officious-looking gentleman in a trenchcoat checking out the dirty magazines in a sex shop, then getting shot down by a hooker in the underground train station.  The opening credits music by Wil Malone and Jeremy Rose is awesomely sleazy and porny and quite frankly, promises a little bit more than the movie provides.  Things scale back and slow down a little.  But not so much for this high-society fellow on safari, whose name is Manfred — he is attacked and left lying on the steps below.  A disgustingly-in-love young couple, Alex (David Ladd) and Patricia (Sharon Gurney), walk past the body — he dismisses the man as a bum sleeping it off, but she has more of a conscience.  After a debate that goes on a little too long, Patricia persuades Alex to find a cop — sorry, a bobby — and go to check on the poor sod.  But when they get there, the body is gone.

Enter Inspector Calhoun and his assistant Rogers, who are tasked with cracking the case.  Rogers is played by Norman Rossington, a British character actor who appeared in films such as THE LONGEST DAY, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and A HARD DAY’S NIGHT.  Calhoun is played by Donald Pleasence, who is no strange face to readers of this site.  But if you’ve only seen Donald Pleasence in movies like THE GREAT ESCAPE, HALLOWEEN, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and even PHENOMENA, you’ve seen a far more reserved and authoritative version.  This is a Donald Pleasence a tad closer to the late scenes of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, the buggin’-out “A-numbah-one!” version.  Calhoun is a sardonic and somewhat belligerent style of policeman.  There’s a single scene where the great Christopher Lee makes a cameo as an MI-5 agent who butts heads with Calhoun over jurisdiction, and that scene seems to exist only to show that Calhoun is an anti-authority kind of guy (and to serve as under-mentioned manna to horror fans).  Pleasence is the guy who keeps the movie alive anytime we’re above ground, since Alex and Patricia are a bit of a drag.  (She won’t see THE FRENCH CONNECTION because “it’s too violent.”)

Our recap has gone off the rails and neglected poor Manfred.  Well, he’s indeed been abducted by carnivorous underground morons — one in particular.  The monosyllabic killer, who is so hairy it’s hard to tell where the fur ends and the tattered clothing begins, is referred to as “The Man” in the credits and is the next-to-last of his kind.  He’s keeping the female of the species alive — she’s ailing — in a horrific room full of dead and decaying bodies and body parts.  Manfred is alive but catatonic from a blow to the head.  In a series of disturbing scenes, The Man’s process becomes clear, including one still-graphic moment where he slices open Manfred’s neck so that the Woman can drink. 

Eventually, Alex and Patricia get separated by hijinks involving closing subway doors, and The Man grabs Patricia and absconds with her to his underground charnel house.  Alex has to convince the cops to join up with him and head down there to find his girlfriend before she gets eaten up, or worse.  The abduction and rescue scenes all the way to the climax are very PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, owing to the old Universal tradition while remaining very freewheeling and atmospheric in that uniquely 1970s way.  The film ends on a weird, unique tag that I won’t ruin here.

RAW MEAT is a film that isn’t too well-known but seems to have had profound influence in key places.  It’s one of the first killer-cannibal movies that I can name, kicking off a genre that has been lurking within the horror ranks ever since.  The brief routine where The Man bites off a rat’s head predates all manners of rodent-biting incidents in heavy metal history.  Members of the crew went on to big things as well:

Make-up artist Peter Frampton went on to record Frampton Comes Alive!, and of course we all know about Propmaster Tony Teiger:

However, the work of director Gary Sherman would seem to deserve reconsideration.  RAW MEAT is a rough, imperfect movie, but a powerful and still-effective horror debut.  I’m not sure why it took him over a decade to get to his next movie, DEAD & BURIED, or why that movie didn’t lead to a bigger career (I’m reading that the unfortunate experience of POLTERGEIST III may have been a factor), but between those two movies alone, he surely deserves more credit in the books of cult horror.

One last thing:  RAW MEAT was co-produced by Paul Maslansky, who has since produced every fucking single POLICE ACADEMY movie to date.  You tell me what’s scarier.

P.S.  You can watch RAW MEAT in its entirety on YouTube, though maybe not for long.


Take a long shower and then come meet up with me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb


This collection has been much-requested and a long time coming.  To get at the reviews, just click on the movie poster of your choice.  And be sure to bookmark this page, because it’s bound to get updated frequently!

         Age Of The Dragons (2011) Alex Cross (2012)          Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)      A Band Called Death (2013)  The Bay (2012) The Baytown Outlaws (2013).        Big Fan (2009) The Big Gundown (1966)    Black Death (2010)          The Brides Of Dracula (1960) Bring it On (2000) Brothers (2009)               Cloud Atlas (2012)   Conan The Barbarian (1982) Conquest (1983)    CREEP (2004)  

The Dark Knight (2008) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)       Days of Thunder (1990)         Django Unchained (2012)           EQUINOX (1970) Escape from New York (1981) Evil Dead (2013)         Fist Of Legend (1994) Flight (2012)       The Gauntlet (1977) Get Carter (1971)    gi_joe_retaliation_ver30 THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (US, 2011).          The Grey (2012) Halloween (1978)       Hardbodies (1984) Hardware (1990)   The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)    Hit Man (1972)          The Iceman (2013)     THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978).   THE INSIDER (1999)  The Invisible Man (1933)  Iron Man 3 (2013) Island Of Lost Souls (1933)      The Keep (1983)   Killer Joe (2012) The Killers (1966) Killing Them Softly (2012)          LadyTerminator                Lincoln (2012)   The Lords of Salem (2013)      The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Manborg Maniac Cop (1988)  THE MANITOU (1978)  MEN IN WAR (1957)      MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)     NEAR DARK (1987)      Night of the Living Dead (1968)          Peeples (2013) A Perfect World (1993)      PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)        THE PROFESSIONALS (1966)      The Raid (2012)       Red Tails (2012) Relentless (1989)    SALT (2010) Bill Hicks Sane Man (1989)   SCROOGED (1988)  Severance (2006) Shaft (1971)