Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Release Date: May 14th, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Music by: SQÜRL
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits

Animal Kingdom, Film i Väst, Kill the Head, Focus Features, 104 Minutes

Review:

“That girl is half Mexican. I know because I love Mexicans.” – Officer Ronnie Peterson

Jim Jarmusch is really hit or miss for me.

Overall, I’d say this was a miss but it did keep my interest because one thing I usually like about Jarmsuch’s films are the characters and their conversations. However, while that is good and engaging the first time around, it doesn’t necessarily make a film worth revisiting.

The Dead Don’t Die is pretty much what one would expect from a Jarmusch film about zombies.

It’s weird, it’s quirky and there’s not much else there. In fact, the only real glue that holds this flimsy house of cards together is the cast and their interactions.

While Jarmusch can be labeled as weird, this film seems to embrace its weirdness a little too much. In this film, shit is weird just to be weird.

For instance, you have Tilda Swinton’s character who is a female Scottish samurai that you later find out is an alien when a UFO randomly appears to take her home in the middle of a zombie fight. Why? What’s the point? Why was she there? Jarmusch doesn’t care, so why should we?

You also have a moment at the end where the characters break the fourth wall for no reason other than creating a nonsensical plot twist in an effort to maximize on the weird. It actually broke the film for me and made it irreparable where, up to that point, I kind of accepted it in spite of its goofy faults.

Additionally, characters are introduced, relationships are established and not a whole lot comes out of any of it. There isn’t a satisfactory payoff and you’re just left scratching your head for a lot of it. I mean, you want to like characters and you kind of do but none of it matters because we’re all fucked and no one really has a plan, including the cops.

Is this supposed to be a critique on authority or society? I mean, haven’t we gotten that with just about every zombie movie ever made? From Jarmusch, a guy that has made some solid, critically acclaimed films, I guess I expected more than this. For the zombie subgenre of horror, I definitely wanted more than this, as zombies have been done to death, pun intended, and just being weird shouldn’t fly and shouldn’t get you a free pass.

I also feel like this awkward style of comedy dialogue is well past its expiration date.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Jim Jarmusch films, as well as other zombie comedies.

Film Review: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967)

Release Date: June 30th, 1967
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Howard Browne
Music by: Lionel Newman, Fred Steiner
Cast: Jason Robards, George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson (uncredited), Jean Hale, Jan Merlin, Clint Ritchie, David Canary, Harold J. Stone, Frank Silvera, Joseph Campanella, John Agar, Joseph Turkel, Alex Rocco, Leo Gordon, Dick Miller (uncredited), Jonathan Haze (uncredited), Paul Frees (narrator)

20th Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Review:

“Wanna know something Jack? I like a guy who can use his head for something beside a hatrack!” – Al Capone

This is definitely in the upper echelon of Roger Corman’s motion pictures. Since I hadn’t seen it until now, it was a pleasant surprise and it actually shows how good of a filmmaker he was in spite of his rapid paced productions while doing everything on the cheap.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is one of Corman’s more serious films. There are no monsters, ghosts or sci-fi shenanigans, this is just a gritty, hard-nosed gangster movie that features a damn good cast with Jason Robards at the forefront, as the world’s most famous real life gangster, Al Capone.

The cast also features several Corman regulars like Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson, Dick Miller, Leo Gordon and Jonathan Haze. Beyond that, we also get a young Alex Rocco, as well as Frank Silvera, Joe Turkel and John Agar. This is a movie full of iconic character actors who benefit greatly from the type of characters this picture needed to make it something special and authentic.

At its core, this really feels like an exploitation picture due to the level of violence in it yet it plays like more serious cinematic art. Now I can’t quite put it on the same level as the first two Godfather films but I’d say that it is actually a lot better and more impressive than the standard gangster films that existed before it. It is also somewhat surprising that this was put out by a major studio, 20th Century Fox, as opposed to being released by Corman’s regular studio at the time, American International Pictures.

Man, I enjoyed this a lot. There are a lot of characters but they’re not hard to keep track of and this moves at such a brisk pace, it’s over before you know it. Also, 100 minutes for Corman is pretty much an epic, as he tends to like that 65-85 minute mark.

I feel as if this is a flick that has been somewhat forgotten and lost to time, as it came out well after the gangster genre peaked and a few years before it made a comeback. It’s weirdly sandwiched between the two greatest eras of the genre and despite it having a hard edge, it’s groundbreaking feats were quickly overshadowed and surpassed by films of the early ’70s like The Godfather and Chinatown.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other gangster and crime films of the ’60s and ’70s, as well as Roger Corman’s more dramatic work like The Intruder and The Trip.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 4: The Case of a Cup of Joe

Published: January 25th, 2017
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 143 Pages

Review:

This fourth and final volume of Stumptown was definitely a step up from the fairly mundane third chapter. Granted, I still wasn’t as engaged by this story as I was the first two.

The plot here is more interesting than the previous book but there doesn’t feel like there’s any real danger here for the characters, as the heavies in this are inexperienced hipsters from the coffee scene and not legitimate, dangerous criminals and brutes that have actually gotten blood on their hands.

In fact, this felt more like a comedy than a neo-noir crime drama.

Maybe Greg Rucka wanted to go out on a lighter note with this one but it lacks the gravity of the earlier stories and certainly pales in comparison to the darker, grittier and more realistic neo-noir comic book tales by Ed Brubaker.

I didn’t think this was a waste but it didn’t hit the mark and just didn’t pull me in and hold onto me like the first two volumes did.

There’s really not much else to say. This is just about a bunch of rich eccentrics and hipsters trying to acquire some magic coffee beans.

The end.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Film Review: Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)

Also known as: Die Hard 3, Die Hard: New York, Simon Says (working titles)
Release Date: May 15th, 1995 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh
Based on: Simon Says by Jonathan Hensleigh, characters by Roderick Thorp
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman, Sam Phillips

Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 128 Minutes

Review:

“Yippie-kai-yay motherfucker.” – John McClane

The original trilogy of Die Hard films might be the greatest trio of action films ever made. While the solid Die Hard brand would become diluted with sequels, over a dozen years later, this third (and once final) film closes out the trilogy with a fucking bang!

This also teams up Bruce Willis with Samuel Jackson, one of the actors he has worked best with over the years due to their chemistry and both men’s energy and charisma. The film also pits them against Jeremy Irons in one of the greatest roles he’s ever played, as the terrorist brother of the first film’s Hans Gruber (played by the great, late Alan Rickman).

Irons’ Simon Gruber isn’t just looking for revenge on Willis’ John McClane, he is also using the opportunity to steal the gold from New York City’s branch of the Federal Reserve. There are a lot of layers to the plot but this film does a great job of telling its story, slowly revealing new layers and twists as it rolls on and escalates from scene-to-scene.

This calls back to the first film, a legitimate masterpiece of the action genre. But it doesn’t just do that by using a villain that is the brother of the original film’s, it also brings back that film’s director, John McTiernan. For those that don’t know, McTiernan is the heavyweight champion of cinematic action storytelling between his two Die Hard films, Predator, The Hunt for Red October and Last Action Hero, which has been unfairly crapped on since it came out. Maybe I’m in the minority but I love that film. We should all ignore his Rollerball remake though.

Anyway, this film is literally a non-stop action bonanza that is able to balance those sequences with a good, layered plot that isn’t predictable and provides some real surprises.

Setting this in the middle of New York City also propels it to a new level of scale when compared to the two films before it. The entire island of Manhattan is the playground for the movie’s villain and it’s incredible watching John McClane and Zeus Carver constantly race against time, rushing from location to location in an effort to prevent as much collateral damage as possible. And the whole time, the game is a ruse to cover up what the criminal’s real plan is. Furthermore, his plan also doesn’t align with all of his allies and that just leads to another great plot shift.

This is a superb movie on every level. While it isn’t on the same level of perfection as the first, it’s pretty damn close and it should satisfy those who have loved other chapters in this five film series. But I would say that this is the last of the great ones.

I’ll review the final two in the near future, as I haven’t seen four since it came out and I’ve never actually seen the fifth in its entirety.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films of the era.

Film Review: Clan of the White Lotus (1980)

Also known as: Fists of the White Lotus (alternative title)
Release Date: January 1st, 1980 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Lo Lieh
Written by: Haung Tien
Music by: Eddie Wang
Cast: Lo Lieh, Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, Johnny Wang, Hsiao Ho

Shaw Brothers, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Why worry. He’s not my match at all. To come after us is like seeking death.” – Pai Mei

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a movie with the Pai Mei character in it. While it may be surprising to some, he is not a Quentin Tarantino creation and has in fact been the villain in several Hong Kong kung fu movies over the years. He’s also based on a legendary historical figure, also referred to as Bak Mei.

Clan of the White Lotus is a pretty cool film that actually features Pai Mei quite a lot. The displays of his skill and power in this are really cool and creative and you get to see him fight a lot, which is always badass.

That being said, the fight choreography in this film is stellar and impressive, even for kung-fucianados. I love all the big battles between Pai Mei and the hero but all the other core characters pull their weight. I especially liked the girl in this, Kara Hui. Even her early training sequence was excellent.

A unique thing about this film is that it exists as both a sequel and sort of remake of the 1977 film, Executioners From Shaolin. The films feature the same main players and the Pai Mei character. Some may find it interesting that Gordon Liu, who later played Pai Mei in Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, plays the hero that must conquer him in this one.

Liu’s hero character gets his ass kicked early on by Pai Mei but then he studies the “embroidery technique” from Kara Hui’s character, which gives him the edge in the final battle. Essentially, this technique works like the antithesis to acupuncture. Here, instead of using needles to heal the body, Liu’s carefully placed needles break down Pai Mei to where he can be defeated. It’s an interesting and neat concept even if it’s a bit bonkers.

This is a fast paced, energetic and enjoyable kung fu flick. I can’t call it a classic of the genre but for fans of Tarantino that like to look at some of the film’s that have inspired his work, this is worth checking out.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shaw Brothers kung fu films of the ’70s and ’80s, especially those featuring the Pai Mei character.

Retro Relapse: A Generation of Men Raised by Women, Volume 2: A Rite of Passage

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

*This is the second part of an ongoing series where I am building off of what was discussed in the first part, which was used as an introduction.

One thing that men of my generation and most men after haven’t experienced, is a natural and authentic rite of passage. This can be due to being a generation of men raised by women, as this article’s title implies. Whether a father was completely non-existent or just part-time on weekends and holidays, the young boy didn’t have that male figure there on a full-time basis to show them manly shit.

To be honest, many of these fathers, for whatever reason, weren’t necessarily true men themselves but that is an article I’m saving for a later date. Additionally, in some cases, maybe those fathers weren’t taught what they needed from their fathers as well and they were just part of the cycle.

So what do I mean when I refer to a “rite of passage”?

Well, in most cultures, if not all of them, there is usually some event or test or a passing of the torch where a boy becomes what his people consider a man. This “trial” as we’ll call it here for simplicity’s sake, is usually something that tests the boy or makes the boy have to prove himself before being accepted by his family, peers and community as an adult man. This goes back to the beginning of time and it is something ingrained in our macho testosterone-filled DNA.

Whether a man is aware of it or not, there is a natural desire to be “the man”. Most men become angry at themselves for not feeling like they have achieved full manliness and acceptance by those they perceive as the manly men.

Well, true manly men are a scarce breed in this day and age, anyway. Some men go beyond their own self-loathing in this regard and have a clearer understanding of their situation and find themselves angry at their father for either not being there or not bothering to take the time to pass something on to them. The primal response to this primal desire is anger. And when you do come across a manly man and feel like you don’t measure up, it is demoralizing and thus generates that sense of self-loathing and inner angst.

For me, as I know with many males of my generation and after, I never got that official rite of passage. I just woke up one day and had to come to the realization that I was now living in an adult world. The problem with that is that I didn’t feel prepared, I felt like a boy thrown to the wolves. Now I didn’t panic but I did feel grossly inadequate and ignorant of what I needed to do to survive and most importantly, thrive. And in some respects, I hadn’t grown past the need for a nurturing maternal figure because I hadn’t had a healthy dose of masculine balance in my upbringing.

To this day, I’ve never had that turning point where I’ve felt like “this is it, this is manhood.” Adult life has just been a learning process through trial and error where I’ve had to deal with things as they come and have had to figure out my own solutions. While even if I was prepared and “made a man” by my cultural standards, I understand that life is often times difficult and challenging. The problem is that it is more challenging if you don’t have that edge and the confidence and skills that come with having that edge.

Things can be learned, and that’s the point here.

I couldn’t build anything, I didn’t know how to start a fire, I was really bad with money, I didn’t really know how to swoon a lady, I couldn’t cook and I was lacking in a multitude of other things. I also grew up around kids with money, so it didn’t help when I saw my peers in similar situations just throwing money at the problem and having hired help handle all their adult shit. I didn’t have money, so I had to teach myself and ultimately rely on myself.

Also, technology has made it so that we don’t have to make a fire or even cook really. And maybe technology is part of the problem, in that our fathers didn’t find certain skills a necessity when they could just use an electric heater or a microwave. While I am a fan of technology, I can see where it has made us soft. Hell, it’s a no-brainer that smartphones give us a license to be lazy.

And with technology, a lot of the manlier type jobs are becoming nonexistent. Truthfully, I’m glad that less people have to slave away in a factory and that farming is less strenuous. There are less men risking their lives building skyscrapers and doing dangerous jobs. Technology has its benefits but with pros usually come cons and the con is that there is somewhat of a human evolutionary void because of this.

Sure, men still hunt; they go camping but they don’t have to and these things are mostly considered recreational. The only real exception is where men still hunt to get food, as a deer can feed a family for a long time. It can feed a single man for even longer. And boar hunting has become a necessary practice in order to bring balance back to ecosystems and environments that have become overrun by their invasive nature. Plus, boars are pretty damned tasty; they have a gold mine inside of them called “bacon”.

While I am not one to tell someone else how to raise their kids, I will say, from my experience and others I have talked to over the years, that it would benefit children greatly (boys and girls) to be taught the skills and life lessons they need, in order to be more prepared for the world.

It also wouldn’t hurt to take them camping and to teach them how to handle themselves in a wilderness situation. It builds confidence and character. In fact, even though I was lacking in the father department, I had a grandfather and uncles that did do these things with me and they were not only some of my best childhood memories but they at least showed me what a man could and should be. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as much time with these men as I probably needed and that is why I felt a sort of manliness deficit throughout my twenties.

I think that for a lot of young men out there, you’ve just got to grab the bull by the horns and essentially become your own father and your own man. Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of confusion over what a man is, as there are a lot of people trying to dictate their opinions about it to males desperate to feel more masculine.

Many of these people are the mothers that raised us, who may have a great grasp on how to be a decent human being but have never themselves been a man. And many of them probably even hold some grudges based off of their experiences with the slew of deadbeat dads and man children that populated their “free love” generation.

By the way, I sum up what the essence of manliness is in my article Misconceptions of Manliness. I’ve also written on the topic pretty extensively now on this website, so look around and read some other stuff.

While you may not even know where to start or what to do, I can say with confidence that the website Art of Manliness is a good starting point. Also, find some sort of mentor. You don’t have to be all formal and ask to be his Padawan but just befriend a manlier dude that isn’t an asshole and learn from him. A real man will most likely have sympathy for your situation and not have a problem showing you some things. Of course, don’t get all emo about it. Just hang out, learn how to do some stuff and buy the guy beer and red meat once in a while. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet several great guys over the years that I’ve learned some cool skills from.

The greatest thing that not just men but human beings can do, is to share knowledge and skills with one another.

To guys struggling with these things, just know that you are not alone and that this is a more common problem than most people realize. There is no definitive answer on how to overcome this but just make the effort. Do what makes you feel good and then expand on it. The world has changed drastically in the last century or so, much quicker than our evolution is able to adapt. So it is up to you to adapt in your own way and that is kind of a vital and fundamental principle at the core of what manliness is.