Movie Review – Assassins

Assassins (1995)
Written by Lana & Lilly Wachowski, and Brian Helgeland
Directed by Richard Donner

I’ve previously mentioned Richard Donner when I reviewed Ladyhawke and discussed how he is a perfect example of a journeyman filmmaker. Assassins is yet another example of this. Here we have a story that is rife for stylish exploitation, but instead, we get a very by the numbers shooting. The cinematography is mostly standard except for a few interesting choices here and there. Donner just simply isn’t anywhere close to being an auteur, and that’s not a bad thing. In the case of this film, it really could have used a filmmaker with a more inventive touch.

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Movie Review – Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking (1995)
Written & Directed by Tim Robbins

In the last couple of weeks, I have felt so much anger & hate towards the police. I won’t repeat things I’ve said in the privacy of my home with my wife, but they have been rancorous things I never thought I would say about anyone. There is a part of me that knows this depth of hate isn’t good for the human psyche, and yet it is so easy to give in to these violent thoughts. I’ve watched over 300 videos of police brutality done on protesters, which has had a powerful effect on me. The police shouldn’t be let off the hook for a single act of cruelty and murder, but I think I needed to see this film right now to help temper my justified outrage.

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Movie Review – Bad Boys

Bad Boys (1995)
Written by Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, and Doug Richardson
Directed by Michael Bay

At this point in my life, I have seen five Michael Bay films, and I can confidently say that I hate him and his stupid movies. The only way to enjoy a Bay picture is to literally become braindead and not process films beyond the surface level. He’s like is a pile of cocaine that became sentient, frenzied & overconfident but ultimately lacking in any substance. I get why a picture like this one might have wowed audiences. In 1995, this style of filmmaking was brand new. He was taking a genre that wore out its welcome in the 1980s, the buddy cop movie, and injecting it with a more contemporary vibe. You have two Black lead actors as the heroes which wasn’t happening in big-budget film then. There is so much here that feels fresh, but when you go beyond that immediate feeling, you find a picture mired in old-fashioned misogyny and unfunny attempts at jokes.

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Movie Review – Cop Land

Cop Land (1997)
Written & Directed by James Mangold

This weekend, as the country fell into turmoil via a much-needed insurrection, director James Mangold shared behind the scenes information on the making of his second feature film Cop Land. You can read that thread here, but the gist of it is that the Weinstein Brothers and Miramax were nervous about making a movie that had cops as the villains and highlighted the insular, corrupted nature of their organization. The script came from Mangold’s own childhood, growing up in Washingtonville, New York. The particular development Mangold lived in was the home to cops who found loopholes that would let them live outside of New York City. Because they were separated from the communities they patrolled, the police came to think of those residents as “other”, always sizing them up and assuming they were enemies.

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Movie Review – Crimewave

Crimewave (1985)
Written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, & Sam Raimi
Directed by Sam Raimi

A slapstick crime-comedy written by the Coens and directed Sam Raimi sounds like a perfect movie. This was before an era where these names were associated with the sorts of film perfection we talk about now. However, Crimewave is an extremely disappointing picture that has hints of later brilliance. It’s most definitely a Coen Brothers story with Raimi’s style overlaid, which isn’t a combination that works out as good as it sounds. Raimi opts to go for a Tex Avery angle with characters existing in a cartoonish world, yet there are some terrifying and dark aspects in the mix.

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Comic Book Review – Deadly Class Volumes 7 & 8

Deadly Class Volume 7: Love Like Blood (2018)
Reprints Deadly Class #32-35

Deadly Class Volume 8: Never Go Back (2019)
Reprints Deadly Class #36-39, FCBD 2019 Deadly Class Killer Set

Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig & Jordan Boyd

In the same way, Book 2 started with all-out action and violence, so too does Volume 7. The new kids are in Mexico, having met up with Marcus and Maria. Saya’s brother has sent in his Yakuza. Viktor and the other kids from school have shown up to claim the trophy of killing Marcus. Things explode, and the book never seems to let up. Readers have been waiting for a rematch between Marcus and Viktor since Book 2’s first act, and Remender goes out of his way to subvert our expectations. I can honestly say I didn’t expect that moment to happen like it did, but it was very satisfying, and I think it will lead to more complex stories down the road.

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Comic Book Review – Deadly Class Book Two

Deadly Class Book Two: The Funeral Party (2018)
Reprints Deadly Class #17-31
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig and Jordan Boyd

Deadly Class: The Funeral Party feels like a much-needed upgrade from the previous entry as we finally get beyond just Marcus’s specific perspective. The action kicks off right away with the freshman class forced into a brutal massacre to determine who moves on to a sophomore year. This is a moment where we really get to know some of the previously marginal players in the story. Shabnam rises to the occasion as a major villain in the series though still having to engage in a tug of war with Viktor and other cliques. 

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Movie Review – To Live and Die in L.A.

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
Written by William Friedkin & Gerald Petievich
Directed by William Friedkin

Director William Friedkin made his name in the 1970s with films like The French Connection and the phenomenal success of The Exorcist. Then his following pictures didn’t quite click with audiences, and he slid into less big-budget work. That’s where Friedkin works best, though, and in 1985 he gave us a movie that might out Eighties De Palma’s Scarface. To Live and Die in L.A. is a movie dripping with neon fluorescents, cocaine, and just all-around sleaze. The soundtrack was by pop group Wang Chung and the visuals are full of non sequitur 80s pop art images.

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Comic Book Review – Deadly Class Book One: Noise Noise Noise

Deadly Class Book One: Noise, Noise, Noise (2016)
Reprints Deadly Class #1-16
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Rick Remender, I spent half a year reading through and reviewing his entire body of work at Marvel Comics in 2018. As part of my look at Image Comics this year, I decided to check out his Deadly Class series, which had been turned into a now-canceled series on SyFy. I literally went in blind, not knowing the names of any characters or the premise of the series. I was surprised by what I read, enjoyed quite a bit of it but also had some moments that I didn’t care for. 

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Movie Review – The Grifters

The Grifters (1990)
Written by Donald E. Westlake
Directed by Stephen Frears

The Grifters by Jim Thompson was published in 1963, and while the film adaptation takes place in contemporary 1990s Los Angeles, director Stephen Frears chooses to treat some aspects as anachronistic. The story features a character archetype that seems to fascinate moviegoers indefinitely, the conman or, in this case, the conman and the conwomen in his life. We love to see how duplicitous tricksters trick each other, often leading to tragic outcomes, where even the “winner” feels broken and lost because they’ve played their grift on someone important in their lives.

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