A batch of really great movies are present on this week’s Shelf, including a violent action sequel to a violent action movie, a documentary about the greatest sci-fi movie never made, a comedy for people who love swearing, a Victorian science fiction classic made modern, a revenge yarn, a survival tale set in the deep south, and a movie where a crocodile eats a bear. Seriously. It’s eclectic as always here on Ye Olde Shelfe.
In Gareth Evans’ sequel to 2011’s bone-shattering, blood-splattering Indonesian actioner The Raid: Redemption, supercop Rama (Iwo Uwais) goes undercover with the violent and pervasive Jakarta mafia to find out where the corruption within the police department is. He spends several years in prison as part of his cover, and befriends the crime boss’s son, mostly dramatized through an extended, face-smashing mud-pit brawl. Once on the outside, Rama finds that the crime boss’s connections are more extensive and more wicked than he could have imagined. After a visit to an illegal porn ring, strip searches, car chases, hooker parties, corrupt cops, a pair of video-game escapees who kill people with baseballs and hammers (and you’re gonna love those two), and a completely useless subplot about an aged assassin trying to make good with his kid (this plot never directly effect’s Rama’s plotline), we finally get to the final fight, wherein Rama has to fight his way through an entire building of toughs.
In 1977, Star Wars completely changed the science fiction game by making a rollicking action adventure with state-of-the-art special effects and design elements that are still emulated today. It really was the first truly blockbuster space opera, but it almost wasn’t. In the early ’70s, a radical, surrealistic filmmaker from Mexico, Alejandro Jodorowsky, was embarking on a quest to gather the very best people to create a film of Frank Herbert’s “unfilmable” space epic, Dune. Alas, though, despite the hard work of dozens of creative types, the film was ultimately shelved. Frank Pavich brings us the story of this ill-fated, though highly entertaining, piece of coulda-been cinema with his documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune.
This is easily one of the most entertaining and enthralling movie documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. Jodorowsky himself is just as insane and excitable in his 80s as he was when he was working on this film and listening to him tell anecdote after anecdote, surely much of it embellished, is thoroughly entertaining, especially with the beautiful artwork by Moebius and others. Absolutely check out this documentary. In fact, don’t miss it.
Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, Bad Words, concerns a grown-ass man (Bateman himself) who, through a clerical loophole, is legally allowed to enter, and subsequently easily win, various children’s spelling bees. He travels the country doing this, but his reason is completely unclear, especially to his sponsor, a curious and embarrassed reporter (Kathryn Hahn). While he acts like the biggest douche on the planet Earth, his heart is eventually softened, slightly, when he meets another (age appropriate of course) bee contestant (Rohan Chand). He teaches the boy how to loosen up a bit, and maybe the boy teaches him a thing or two also.
Lars Von Trier makes deliberately button-pushing (and if you ask me quite self-indulgent) movies. This one, made up of two halves to create a 4+ hour story of sexual deviance and desire, stars frequent Von Trier collaborator Charlotte Gainsbourg as a woman who recounts her long and sordid sexual history of being the titular sex-fiend to Stellan Skarsgard. Shia LaBoeuf also stars doing the worst English accent of all time. So there’s that, if you’re interested.
The Time Machine
George Pal, the innovative producer and director of such sci-fi staples as 1953’s The War of the Worlds, brings us his take on another H.G. Wells novel, this one the Victorian-era adventure The Time Machine. Rod Taylor stars as the intrepid scientist who has built a machine that allows him to stay in the same physical spot in space but move backwards and forwards in time, eventually going so far into the future that nothing of the England he knew remains. He encounters two distinct races of humanity, those that live on the surface known as Eloi, and among them the very alluring Weena (Yvette Mimieux), and the nasty subterranean Morlocks, who attack the Eloi at night.
Featuring some wonderful special effects for 1960, some beautiful and colorful cinematography, and a great central performance from Taylor, The Time Machine has to be one of a handful of truly brilliant science fiction films of the era. And now it’s in HD so it looks even better.
John Boorman’s slick 1967 adaptation of Richard Stark (a/k/a Donald Westlake)’s novel The Hunter, which introduced one of the coolest and toughest anti-heroes in all of pulp and hard-boiled fiction, the name known as Parker. In the film, however, he’s called Walker and he’s played by the tough-as-nails Lee Marvin. The story follows Walker after he gets out of prison and wants his former partners to pay the exact amount of money they stole from him on the night he was picked up, all those years ago. The problem is, nobody wants to make the retrieval of this money easy, and Walker ends up having to throw people out of windows to get his point across.
This is, without question,ws one of the coolest action movies of the 1960s, and indeed of all time. Point Blank also stars Angie Dickinson, John Vernon, Keenan Wynn, and Carroll O’Connor.
Walter Hill’s 1981 survivalist action film centers on a group of Louisiana National Guardsmen (including Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, and Fred Ward) who run afoul of some Cajun hunters deep in the bayou. With only blanks in their guns and no idea of how to communicate with the French-speaking psychos, the Guardsmen begin a trudge for their lives through knee-deep swamp water and attempt to avoid the ingenious and sinister traps laid for them at every step of the way.
Lake Placid Collectors Edition
It’s been 15 years since this horror/comedy was released, and in that time, I think it’s just as funny and quirky as it was in 1999, only now we can appreciate it more. Featuring Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, and Brendan Gleeson as a group of various professionals attempting to find, catch, and not get eaten by a giant 30-foot crocodile in an otherwise peaceful lake in Maine, the film is definitely more about the laughs than it is the thrills, but it’s a very entertaining 85 minutes which features both Betty White swearing like a sailor and the aforementioned croc eating a bear. Yeah.