The Last Dragon



Motown Productions/TriStar Pictures

Directed by Michael Schultz 

Produced by Berry Gordy

Written by Louis Venost

I’ve got a personal cosmology in my head that is kinda like the celebrated and legendary Wold Newton Universe created by the science fiction master Philip Jose Farmer. I connect movies, TV shows, comic books, pulp characters together in my imagination in ways that make perfect sense to me but might have others saying; “WTH?

Take these three movies from the 1980s: “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension” “Big Trouble In Little China” and THE LAST DRAGON. To me all three movies have a lot in common. At the time they were originally released they were financially and critically not well received. I myself loved all three because they mixed up various genres in such a way that I was completely enthralled and captivated. I learned something from these movies that I had also learned from writers such as George C. Chesbro: not to be afraid to mix elements from different genres of fiction. But audiences didn’t take to them back then. Of course, all three of those movies are now considered classics which I suppose now proves that they were all ahead of their time. In My Head, the events of “Buckaroo Banzai” “Big Trouble In Little China” and THE LAST DRAGON are taking place at the same time in the same universe because I can easily conceive of a universe where so much inspired and delightful insanity can all exist at the same time.


THE LAST DRAGON is a delightfully goofy mash-up of martial arts, glitzy musical numbers, Kung Fu mysticism right out of a Marvel comic book, comedy, romance and satire. Leroy Green (Taimak) is a young black man living in Harlem and studies Kung Fu with your typical wise old Kung Fu Master. Leroy’s expertise in the martial arts is so great that he is known far and wide as “Bruce” Leroy. This does not sit well with Sho’Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III) who sees “Bruce” Leroy as the only thing standing in his way of being the supreme Kung Fu Master of Harlem.


But Leroy seeks a more spiritual path. He only wants to find a Master who can help him achieve such a sublime state of spiritual and physical perfection that he acquires “The Glow.” A mystical energy that only a true Kung Fu Master can control. He is directed to find such a Master whose name and true identity I dare not reveal here since it’s one of the movie’s best gags. Leroy gets sidetracked from his quest when he meets up with the gorgeous pop star and video jockey Laura Charles (Vanity) who is being threatened by video arcade mogul Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) to sponsor his girlfriend Angela’s (Faith Prince) singing career. The fact that Angela has no singing talent at all doesn’t seem to make a difference to Eddie. It should be noted here that Miss Prince is actually an accomplished Broadway actress and it takes a lot of talent to sing as badly as she does in this movie. Leroy’s life gets complicated when Eddie and Sho’Nuff joins forces. And even more so when Leroy’s quest for a Master takes the most unexpected turn of all as Leroy is forced to look for his Master in the last place he expected to find him.


When people ask me for a list of recommendations for movies that are simply Fun to watch, THE LAST DRAGON is usually in the Top Ten if not the Top Five. And it is a whole lot of fun to watch and best of all, it’s a movie that you can watch over and over again just because of the fun value. First of all, there’s Taimak and Vanity who are one of the most charming and appealing movie couples in film history. Right from their first scene together you’re rooting for this couple to get together. And I like how this movie isn’t afraid to have fun with typical movie stereotypes. “Bruce” Leroy Green dresses, talks, speaks and acts as if he’s straight out of a Shaw Brothers movie whereas the Asians in this movie talk and act the way we traditional expect African-Americans to behave. Trust me, it’s funny. It’s also quite funny and really sweet in how Leroy’s little brother Richie (Leo O’Brien) is more street smart than his older brother but when it counts they are able to mesh their skills together.


What else can I say? The acting is excellent. Everybody knows what kind of movie they’re making and act accordingly. Look for Keisha Knight as “Bruce” Leroy’s little sister (it’s awfully cute how he calls her “Little Blossom”) Chazz Palminteri and William Macy are also in in this movie. Pay attention and you’ll see them in small but pivotal roles.  Julius J. Carry III cemented Sho’Nuff as one of the greatest bad guys in the history of cinema with this movie. “The Rhythm Of The Night” is one of the greatest videos ever made to promote a movie. The moment when “Bruce” Leroy realizes who The Master is has to be one of the great Stand Up And Cheer moments in movie history. THE LAST DRAGON is one of the few movies I actually wanted to see a sequel to as I had grown to love and enjoy the characters so much. If you’ve never seen THE LAST DRAGON then your homework assignment is to do so right now.

107 Minutes

Rated PG-13


A Picture Of You



Medium 10-12

Written and Directed by J.P. Chan

Based on a story by J.P. Chan and Jo Mei

Produced by Duane Anderson/J.P. Chan /Robert M. Chang/Yasmine Gomez

I will frequently get into arguments with my Facebooks friends who are also rabid movie fans over one simple thing. We’ll be discussing movies and our movie watching habits and the subject of Netflix will come up and they will say; “Oh, I hate Netflix. There’s nothing on there to watch.” And yes, when I hear this quite a bit from them it will drive me up the mollyfoggin’ wall because to me it’s plain and simple as a spit in the eye: if you can’t find anything to watch on Netflix it’s because you’re not looking for anything new to watch.

Take A PICTURE OF YOU for instance. Patricia and I were sitting in the den. We had just eaten a an exceptionally delicious dinner she had prepared and as she is wont to do after we have finished eating dinner she will suggest we watch a movie. She scrolled through the suggestions on her queue, said; “hey, that looks good” and clicked it on. Within thirty minutes we were thoroughly engrossed in an extremely entertaining movie that gave us more than our money and time’s worth and all we had to do was take a chance on it. So let’s table that bullshit about there not being anything to watch on Netflix, okay?  I mean, how many times can you watch “Breaking Bad” or “Doctor Who”? Ohhhhh…yeah, that’s right….”Doctor Who” isn’t on Netflix anymore. Jeezly crow…I guess you might actually have to watch something else, then?

Kyle (Andrew Pang) and Jen (Jo Mei) are estranged siblings who are forced to come together to settle their mother’s estate after her death. It doesn’t help that Kyle had to take care of their mother during the last months of her life without Jen’s help. They leave their lives and move into their mother’s house in rural Pennsylvania to pack up her belongings for a weekend. It also doesn’t help that Kyle has just been through a strained divorce and that Jen is pretty much directionless and self-absorbed. The situation has more gasoline thrown on the fire by Jen inviting her best friend Mika (Teyonah Parris) and boyfriend Doug (Lucas Dixon) up to the house for the weekend. Kyle is understandably pissed that his sister would invite people he considers strangers into what to him is an intensely personal family matter.


And right around when Mika and Doug arrive is when A PICTURE OF YOU takes a sharp left turn out of Really Heavy Family Drama into 1930s Screwball Comedy. Because Kyle and Jen find pictures on their mother’s computer. Pictures that demonstrate that Moms had a freaky side that Kyle in particular would rather not know about. But Jen is determined to find out exactly what the pictures mean and especially about the sexual partner whose penis is quite prominently featured in the picture of the title.

It’s this shifting of tone that really makes A PICTURE OF YOU such a standout for me and for Patricia who was laughing herself into a hernia during the second half. The first half is pretty much straight family drama about two siblings trying to deal with their mother’s death and their own strained relationship. Once the risque pictures surface and the friends get involved…we go into a whole other sphere of influence here. The movie takes on a comic tone that comes out of the characters and the situations and turns out to be extremely hilarious in spots such as when Our Heroes think they’re spying on an illicit assignation that turns into a polyamorous tryst.

A PICTURE OF YOU is one of those true treasures of Netflix: a movie that like Authors Anonymous was apparently ignored in theaters but deserves to be seen by a wider audience simply because it’s a damn good story presented and acted by artists who believe in the story they’re presenting. I really liked Andrew Pang as Kyle because like him I think there’s some things about my mother’s past I don’t want to know. I really fell in love with Jo Mei because I don’t think there’s another actress alive that could say “holy fucking shit” in so many different ways and have it mean so many different things depending on the situation she’s in.

So should you see A PICTURE OF YOU? Absolutely YES. It’s a movie that deals with the subject of grief and loss of a parent I rarely have seen dealt with in a movie before and it does so in a way that is at both serious and hilarious. Some movies I like to watch because they are a thrill ride. Some let me share in an extraordinary adventure for two hours. And some just let me get at look inside the lives of people I wouldn’t normally not be able to get a look inside of. In that respect A PICTURE OF YOU succeeds admirably. A PICTURE OF YOU is available now for streaming on Netflix and I highly recommend it.


90 Minutes

Rated R




The Revenant



Anonymous Content/Appian Way/New Regency Pictures/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Regency Enterprises/20th Century Fox

Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu

Produced by Arnon Milchan/Steve Golin/Mary Parent/James W. Skotchdopole/Keith Redmon

Screenplay by Mark L. Smith

Based on “The Revenant” by Michael Punke

See, THE REVENANT should have hit theaters during the spring or summer. Oh, I know it’s out now because it had to qualify for The Academy Awards. And believe you me, from the first shot to the last it’s got Oscar Bait stamped all over it. But here’s my point: its winter here in Brooklyn and to go through a cold environment to see a movie that for two hours and thirty-six minutes immerses me in a frigid environment is kinda like adding insult to injury.

And when I say immerse, that is exactly what I mean. Director Alejandro Inarritu insisted on filming in remote locations. Reportedly crew members quit due to the difficulty of shooting on the locations and I can believe that. The cast looks as if they’re absolutely freezing throughout the whole movie. It couldn’t have been an easy movie to make. It isn’t an easy one to sit through.

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are scouts for a party of trappers hunting for pelts in the Louisiana Purchase territory of 1823. Saying that it’s a savage, barbarous wilderness barely does justice to how untamed this land is. But the hunters quickly find out as Arikara Indians attack them and most of them are wiped out. Glass, Hawk and about ten others manage to escape on a boat which Glass insists they have to abandon as soon as possible because the Arikara know the river and they will easily flank them and have an ambush waiting.


This plan doesn’t sit well with John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who already doesn’t trust Hugh’s son because he’s half Pawnee. But the commander of the party, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) agrees to Hugh’s plan which saves them from the Indians. But it doesn’t save Hugh from being attacked and hideously mauled by a bear while separated from the party. Hugh manages to kill the bear but he’s left barely alive himself. Although Henry and the others do their best to stitch him up and bring him along, the consensus is that Hugh is only slowing them down and will die soon anyway. Hawk and another member of the party, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) say they will stay with Hugh and when he dies, give him a proper burial. Once he’s promised a fat financial bonus, Fitzgerald also offers to stay behind.

As soon as the hunting party is out of sight and Bridger goes to the river for water, Fitzgerald tries to kill Hugh. Hawk tries to stop him and is killed. Fitzgerald hides the body and tells Bridger that they have to leave as he has seen Indians in the vicinity, the lying bastard. Up until then, Hugh Glass had pretty much been resigned to dying but now Fitzgerald has given him a reason to live and horribly, painfully, Hugh Glass sets out to find Fitzgerald and get revenge.


THE REVENANT from start to finish has a wild, brutal kind of beauty. Even the bear attack on Hugh Glass is both horrifying and yet somehow artistic at the same time. Hugh’s odyssey of vengeance takes place across a spectacular landscape that is stark and forbidding but also gorgeously stunning. Few movies have ever made such a barren wasteland look this enthrallingly fascinating. THE REVENANT is downright exquisite to look at. You’ll be reminded of the films of Terence Malick at times, I’m sure

Far as I’m concerned, every one of the actors in THE REVENANT oughta get a Oscar just for surviving this movie. Everybody looks cold, dirty and miserable in every single scene. If realism is what Inarritu wanted from his actors then realism is what he got. It makes for a pretty grim movie watching experience. Hugh Glass has to first drag himself for miles until he gets the strength to crawl for even more miles and then at last walk. All the while surviving blizzards, hostile Indians (there’s a subplot about an Arikara chief looking for his kidnapped daughter and in his rage slaughters any white man he comes across) French trappers that kill just because they’ve got nothing else to do as well as the land itself which in its own way is an enemy trying to kill Hugh. An enemy more pitiless than any human could ever be.


Leonardo DiCaprio shows again why he’s one of our best actors working today. This truly is a different role for him and there’s long stretches of the movie where there’s no dialog and he communicates very well with his body and face what Hugh Glass is thinking and feeling. But its Tom Hardy that is the movie’s MVP. In fact, I felt I got to know John Fitzgerald better than I did Hugh Glass as Fitzgerald/Hardy gets the lion’s share of dialog and he can articulate himself and his motivations in a way the other characters never do.


So should you see THE REVENANT? Well, it’s no “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” that’s for fargin’ sure. That’s not to say that its entertainment value is any less. But it’s a movie that you have to put yourself in a certain mindset to see as it absolutely is not chewing gum for the brain crafted simply for spectacle and histrionic melodrama. It’s an uncompromising, adult story of survival and revenge that isn’t afraid to be ferociously, even mercilessly brutal and yet achieves a fascinating level of breathtaking beauty in the telling of its story. Recommended.

156 Minutes

Rated R




The Hateful Eight



Film Colony/The Weinstein Company

Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Music by Ennio Morricone

Cinematography by Robert Richardson

Produced by Richard N. Gladstein/Shannon McIntosh/Stacey Sher

I frequently get into arguments with people who tell me that in order for them to enjoy a book or movie or TV show they have to be able to like or relate to the characters. And that’s fine. Me, I’d rather understand their motivations. I don’t give a penguin’s pizzle about liking the characters or relating to them. I want to know why they’re doing what they’re doing. And I don’t need to like them either. In fact, most of my favorite movies, TV shows and books have thoroughly unlikeable lead characters. I even wrote two novels where every single character was rotten right through to the core just to see if I could do it and still have readers enjoy the books. So it should be no surprise that I enjoyed THE HATEFUL EIGHT even though every single one of the main characters is just that: hateful. Ah, but I understood why they were so hateful and that was enough for me.

A few years after The Civil War, bounty hunter John Ruth aka “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell) is transporting the outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) by stagecoach to the town of Red Rock for execution. Along the way he picks up another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock. Seeing as how the stagecoach is barely staying ahead of a monster blizzard, Ruth is naturally suspicious as how two men could just be wandering around in a snowy wasteland. But Ruth lets them ride along. The stagecoach driver, O.B. Jackson (James Parks) insists that they cannot outrun the blizzard and so must hold up for a couple of days at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach waystation.


Upon reaching the waystation, the travelers find quite the motely bunch already occupies it. Bob (Demian Bichir) is a Mexican who claims that the owner left him in charge of the establishment while she’s away. Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) is an effeminate Englishman who claims to be Red Rock’s hangman. Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) is a cowpuncher on his way to visit his mother to share the financial windfall that befell him after a very successful cattle drive.

Retired Confederate General Sandford Smithers (Bruce Dern) is on a pilgrimage to place a tombstone on the ceremonial grave of his son. Over the course of the next three hours we’ll find out that none of these characters are quite what they represent themselves to be. And hanging over all of them is the growing suspicion John Ruth has that one or more of them are part of Daisy Domergue’s gang, just waiting for an opportunity to help her escape. Preferably by killing all the others.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT is as far from QT’s previous Western; “Django Unchained” as Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is from the 1966 “Batman.” The entire first half is all set up and characterization. There’s considerable time spent on the antagonism between Marquis Warren and Chris Mannix as they fought on opposite sides of The War Between The States and there’s still a lot of unresolved feeling going on there. John Ruth has an unreasonable hatred for Daisy and takes every opportunity he can to physically and verbally abuse her. Then we get to Minnie’s Haberdashery and believe it or not, the movie takes a left turn and becomes a murder mystery. The characters are trapped inside by the blizzard and no one can be trusted.


You’d think that since practically the entire second half of the movie is indoors, the movie would feel claustrophobic but such is not the case. Thanks to the spectacular cinematography of Robert Richardson who used Panavision anamorphic lenses to film in Ultra Panavision 70, the interior of Minnie’s Haberdashery becomes a character in its own right and the movie actually starts to feel like and take on the characteristics of a filmed stage play. If you have a chance to see The Roadshow Version in Cinerama then by all means do so. It’s hard to explain and I don’t pretend to be an expert in this but there absolutely is a difference in the viewing experience. There’s an entirely different texture to the images on the screen. Especially in the outdoor scenes that dominate the first half of the movie and will knock your eyes out. Whatever else may be said about THE HATEFUL EIGHT, there’s little doubt that’s it one of the most lushly beautiful movies of recent years.

But you want to know about the story. Let me say this: it takes it’s time to unfold. Tarantino is not interested in rushing to the revelations about the characters and the resolution of their various fates. If you’re not a patient person then THE HATEFUL EIGHT is not for you. And yes, the movie is stuffed with Tarantino dialog. Which I don’t mind. I appreciate movies where characters have in-depth conversations and actually talk to each other instead of at each other.

I will advise you that the violence in THE HATEFUL EIGHT is hideously brutal and for a Tarantino movie that’s saying a lot. The second half is where the blood starts flowing. Did I say flowing? Gushing is more accurate. Remember how Tim Roth spent most of “Reservoir Dogs” rolling around in a lake of his own blood? At one point in THE HATEFUL EIGHT there’s three or four characters doing the same thing all at the same time. And the language is just as brutal as the violence. And yes, The “N” word is used freely by just about every cast member so if you’re sensitive about that, I suggest you give this one a pass.

For my money, Jennifer Jason Leigh walks away with the MVP crown for this movie. When we first see her she’s got a beauty of a black eye. The nearly constant barrage of violence heaped upon her is used for sometimes comical relief and by the end of the movie she’s just about covered in blood from head to toe. This couldn’t have been an easy movie for her to do but she hangs in there and is easily the equal of her male co-stars. Walton Goggins is also a standout and if you’ve followed his career on the small screen, from “The Shield” to “Justified” to his scene stealing guest-starring role as transgender prostitute Venus Van Damme on “Sons of Anarchy” then you will be pleased to know that his small screen star power translates very well indeed to the big screen.

In fact, the one acting disappointment came from the one guy (besides Sam Jackson) who I figured would have been a stand-out considering his experience working with Tarantino. Tim Roth appears to be doing a Christoph Waltz imitation, from his makeup to his body language to the meticulous way he enunciates and verbalizes. It was actually distracting for me as he doesn’t do a very good Christoph Waltz at all.



So should you see THE HATEFUL EIGHT? If you’re a confirmed Quentin Tarantino fan like Your Humble Servant then you probably have. If you’re not a Quentin Tarantino fan then this won’t change your mind about him or his movies. How does it stack up against the rest of his films? Here’s my personal ranking of QT’s movies from Best to Worst:
Jackie Brown

Pulp Fiction

Kill Bill Vol. I & II

Django Unchained

Inglourious Basterds

The Hateful Eight

Reservoir Dogs

Death Proof

So as you can see I don’t rate THE HATEFUL EIGHT as being very high in Tarantino’s filmography but that’s only because he’s made so many other films that I enjoy more. THE HATEFUL EIGHT has everything going for it: magnificent photography, excellent music provided by none other than Ennio Morricone and outstanding performances. All you have to do is bring the testicular fortitude to want to spend three hours with eight thoroughly murderous and despicable characters that even their own mothers couldn’t love.

Rated R

187 minutes

Freddy Vs. Jason



New Line Cinema/Crystal Lake Entertainment

Directed by Ronny Yu

Produced by Sean S. Cunningham/Robert Shaye

Written by Damian Shannon/Mark Swift

Based on characters created by Wes Craven & Victor Miller

It’s not supposed to be so much daggone fun to watch people getting killed in the most graphic and horrendous ways imaginable. It’s not supposed to be intoxicating to see so much blood gushing in all directions. But intoxicating fun is exactly what FREDDY VS. JASON is from start to finish. It’s a manic gorefest that hits the ground running right from the start and doesn’t stop. If you were to pause the movie for a minute and actually try to make logical sense of the events of the movie, you’d stop watching. But because the energy level of the movie is so high and you’ve got one wickedly brutal murder coming so fast on the heels of the previous one that the blood hardly has had time to dry, you don’t care. Well, let me put it this way: I didn’t care.

FREDDY VS. JASON is in the tradition of those great Universal movies in which they would team up their monsters. Movies such as “Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man” “House of Frankenstein” and “House of Dracula” threw together The Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and the Wolfman scheming, plotting and battling each other. In this one it’s Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) who does most of the plotting but once Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) gets an idea of what’s going on, Jason comes back hard in his own fashion. After all, when you’re unkillable and indestructible you don’t have to be a strategic genius.

Freddy Kruger has lost much of his power due to the fact that over time, the adults of Springwood have suppressed any and all information about him. So the current generation of teenagers living in the town has never even heard his name and has no idea he exists. This leaves Freddy stranded in a sort of limbo between Hell and The Dreamworld. But he can cross between the two realms and he does so to find a pawn that he can use to regain his power. Freddy finds Jason Voohees in a state of suspended animation dreaming of slaughtering misbehaving teenagers and of his beloved mother. Freddy uses those dreams to manipulate Jason into resurrecting himself (how does he keep doing that?) Freddy then sends Jason after the Springwood teenagers, figuring that the killings will be attributed to him and the resultant fear and terror will feed him power.


Not a bad plan at all as far as plans go, right? But the problem is that Jason Voorhees is like the living incarnation of that Rolling Stones song “Start Me Up.” Once you get him started, he’ll never stop. Jason proceeds to decimate the teenage population of Springwood and Freddy realizes that if Jason does kill off all the kids that then he’ll be right back in the same predicament he was in at the start of the movie. So now Freddy has a vested investment in stopping his pawn. At the same time, a heroic band of teens have learned about Freddy and figure that the only way to stop him is for one of them to go into The Dreamworld and bring him back into the real world and force Jason to battle Freddy. As you might have surmised by now, this movie’s plot is built upon a lot of plans that go horrendously wrong.

But you want to know what’s really important: do Freddy and Jason fight? Yes, they do throw down not once but twice. The first fight is in The Dreamworld where Freddy has home court advantage and the second takes place in the real world. At Camp Crystal Lake, no less which is Jason’s turf. The battles have all the sophistication of a WWE wrestling match but they’re just as entertaining. Freddy and Jason hack and slash at each other with machete and razor-blade glove, rip limbs off of each other, send each other flying through the air with kicks and punches that could stun an elephant and get back up for more mayhem.


The acting is this one isn’t anything to brag about and forget about characterization. 99% of the cast is dead by the end of the movie anyway. The cast is there for only one reason, to be killed by either Freddy or Jason and they do their jobs admirably. But the three standouts would have to be Monica Keena as Lori, Our Heroine. Kelly Rowland as Our Heroine’s Best Friend and Jason Ritter (John Ritter’s son) as Our Heroine’s Boyfriend. Somebody really needs to work on getting Kelly Rowland into more movies. I’ve only seen her in this and “The Seat Filler” and both times I was struck dumb at how gorgeous she is on screen. And she throws herself into every scene she’s in with sheer gusto. She demonstrates a gift for comedy in the scene where she’s persuaded by her friends (some friends!) to give Jason mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Robert Englund in particular appears to be having the time of his life as Freddy. Not that Englund didn’t give it everything he had in all of his performances as Freddy. One thing Mr. Englund can never be accused of is phoning it in. But he seems to be taking a particular relish in playing Freddy as the behind-the-scenes manipulator/puppet master working the other characters in the movie. There isn’t much one can say about Ken Kirzinger’s performance as Jason because one really doesn’t need to perform as Jason. One simply needs to be big and intimidating and on that level, Mr. Kirzinger delivers.

freddy-vs-jason (1)

So should you see FREDDY VS. JASON? Absolutely. It’s without a doubt an extremely well made movie, one of the best in the series. Everybody throws themselves into it with a great deal of enthusiasm that more than makes up for any plot holes and director Ronny Yu knows how to keep the story moving with not so much as slowing down for a minute. And there’s a lot of neat little callbacks to elements from both the “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” series. I love a horror movie (or any movie for that matter) that knows exactly what it’s supposed to be and succeeds at being that. Enjoy.

Oh, and P.S.: while this movie is the last of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, when I re-watch the series every October I leave “New Nightmare” for last for reasons I’ll go into in my review of that movie. But I recommend that you do that also.

97 Minutes

Rated R

A Walk In The Woods



Route One Films/Wildwood Enterprises/Broad Green Pictures

Directed by Ken Kwapis

Produced by Robert Redford/Bill Holderman/Chip Diggins

Screenplay by Rick Kerb/Bill Holderman

Based on “A Walk In The Woods” by Bill Bryson

I suppose I must be getting old. I remember the day when a new Robert Redford movie was considered a major theatrical event. And a movie teaming him up with Nick Nolte? Hey, that’s news right there. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention because it sure seems as if this movie almost snuck right by me. I vaguely remember seeing a trailer for it sometime during the summer but let’s face it, with all the trailers they show you before a summer movie (I swear that the showing of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” I attended, there was an even dozen trailers) it’s easy to forget.

But no matter. The main point is, I saw it. Did I like it? Well before we get into that, allow me to quote myself from my review of “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Ahem. Here goes; “I myself appreciate and heartily endorse movies like this one because there are a lot of retired and elderly folk who enjoy going out in the evening or the afternoon to see a movie. And they aren’t interested in superheroes or excessively violent and sexually explicit action extravaganzas with all that naughty language. Again, fair enough. When we talk about diversity in our entertainment, let’s not forget our retired and elderly. They deserve to have movies made for them playing in theaters featuring actors playing characters their age and dealing with issues they themselves may be going through.”

Okay? Because A WALK IN THE WOODS is a movie specifically geared toward that age group. Now I’m not saying that younger movie goers wouldn’t appreciate or like this movie if they gave it a chance but there’s a whole lot of things going on here that you can relate to better when you’re 50 or 60 than you can when you’re 20 or 30, is all.

Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) has built up an impressive career as a writer of humorous travel books while living in England for about 20 years. He returns to America and lives quite well and peacefully with his wife Cynthia (Emma Thompson). While attending a funeral we’re shown that despite his age, Bill is still somewhat socially inept and uncomfortable around people. Maybe that’s why he suddenly takes it into his head to hike The Appalachian Trail. It goes for 2,200 miles through 14 states and is famous for the many hikers who attempt to hike the entirety of the trail. Only around 10% of those who start out actually finish. Bill intends to finish. He also wants to go by himself but Cynthia puts both feet down. The only way Bill is going to go is if he takes somebody along.


Enter Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) an old friend who offers to come along. Bill hasn’t talked to him in years. Not because he’s mad at him or anything like that. They just simply drifted apart. But apparently, thanks to a scrapbook he’s kept all these years and luridly wild stories Stephen is more than happy to share with Cynthia, he and Bill had a pretty adventurous partnership for a while there.

Bill and Stephen set out on their last great adventure together and it soon becomes apparent to Bill (and hilariously to us) that Stephen isn’t as good a shape to go on this hike as he said he was. He’s got bad knees and his breathing sounds as if his lungs are made out of burlap. And if that wasn’t enough, Bill finds a pint of bourbon hidden in Stephen’s backpack and wonders if he’s got a boozer on his hands that is going to hinder his finishing the hike. Not that Bill is a model companion either. He’s got his own dysfunctional emotional issues that distance him from people and it says something about the man that he doesn’t seem interested in finding out why.


Despite all that heavy stuff, this is very much a buddy comedy and I can see why Robert Redford bought the rights to this book as this would have been the perfect third film for him to co-star with Paul Newman, forming a sort of unofficial trilogy. But sadly, Mr. Newman passed away in 2008. However, Nick Nolte makes a more than amiable and acceptable co-star. Indeed, he shamelessly steals every scene he can get away with and once again reminds us that he is as adept at comedy as he is at drama.

This photo provided by Broad Green Pictures shows, Robert Redford, left, as Bill Bryson and Nick Nolte as Stephen Katz taking in the view along the Appalachian Trail in the film,

This photo provided by Broad Green Pictures shows, Robert Redford, left, as Bill Bryson and Nick Nolte as Stephen Katz taking in the view along the Appalachian Trail in the film, “A Walk in the Woods.” The movie releases in U.S. theaters on Sept. 2, 2015. (Frank Masi, SMPSP/Broad Green Pictures via AP)

I can’t really say that there’s a compelling story here or even much suspense in wondering if Bill and Stephen will finish their hike. Mainly we get truly beautiful and astonishing views of the Appalachian Trail as the two men walk. Along the way they meet some interesting and eccentric characters such as Mary Ellen (Kristen Schaal) who is convinced that everybody else in the world is dumb and boring except for her. Mary Steenburgen shows up as a hotel manager who sends Bill clear signals that she’d like to provide him with the sort of room service the other guests don’t get. Stephen has a laundromat love affair with the plus-sized Beulah (Susan McPhail) that is definitely more than he bargained for. Nick Offerman also shows up for what is little more than a cameo but he does more with that than most actors do with 30 minutes worth of screen time.

So should you see A WALK IN THE WOODS? If you’re a fan of Robert Redford and/or Nick Nolte, absolutely. They have a wonderful rapport and chemistry that makes me wish they’d done some work together when they were younger. The story is a light one and designed to do nothing more than require you spend some time with two old friends reconnecting with each other and themselves. It’s fun to watch and that’s good enough for me.

Rated R: Be advised that the R rating is for language alone. The “F” word gets a mighty healthy workout in this one.

104 Minutes

Crazy As Hell



Humble Journey Films/Loose Screw Films

Directed by Eriq La Salle

Produced by Butch Robinson/Michael Huens

Written by Jeremy Leven based on his novel: “Satan, His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S.”

See, the problem isn’t finding black characters in horror movies. There have been black characters in horror movies going all the way back to 1940’s “Son of Ingagi” which was the first horror movie featuring an all-black cast and written by that true pioneer of African-American film; Spencer Williams. And Mantan Moreland, best known for playing Charlie Chan’s chauffeur Birmingham Brown starred in a number of horror comedies that were more comedy than horror, but just go along with me for minute, okay?

And during the Blaxploitation Era we had the “Blacula” movies, “J.D.’s Revenge” “Abby” (which actually was yanked from theaters due to Warner Brothers filing a suit against the movie, claiming it was a blatant copy of “The Exorcist.”) “Ganja & Hess” “Sugar Hill” (which is actually just as much a superhero origin movie as it is a horror movie) and “Doctor Black, Mister Hyde” as well as many, many others.

As for the modern era there have been several superior horror movies featuring African-Americans such as “The People Under The Stairs” “Candyman” “Tales From The Hood” all worthy examples of the genre and well worth seeking out. So, no…black characters in horror movies aren’t hard to find. But for every one where the black character is the lead or the hero there’s a half dozen others where the black character is merely window dressing.  They’re usually the best friend of the hero/heroine as a sort of visual shorthand to let the audience know that our lead character is cool and hip because they have a black BFF. Or they are simply a sacrificial lamb that gets killed off halfway through the movie.

No, the problem is finding good horror movies with black characters and I’m pleased to have discovered one that has been around for a long time and that I’ve heard about but never had a chance to see until recently. CRAZY AS HELL turned out to be a real surprise for me and the longer I watched it, the more I liked the vibe I was getting from it. And while I don’t think it’s as good as “Angel Heart” or “Shutter Island” two movies it shares much in common with, CRAZY AS HELL is more than worth your time.

Superstar pop psychiatrist Ty Adams (Michael Beach) reports to his new job at Sedah State Mental Hospital. Adams is going to be put in charge of the facility for thirty days while a documentary crew records everything he does in his private time and in his therapy sessions with his patients. The head of the documentary crew, Parker (John C. McGinley) assures Adams of complete co-operation but it soon becomes apparent that Parker is deliberately filming encounters Adams has with the staff and patients that don’t exactly put him in a flattering or even professional light. And the faculty’s administrator, Dr. Delazo (Ronny Cox) doesn’t trust Adams or his methods as Adams believes in totally medication free treatment for his patients. Delazo also quiet accurately puts his finger on the fact that Adams is arrogantly overconfident with a rampaging ego that will not permit him to admit when he is wrong or admit defeat. None of these traits being exactly desirable in a man who is supposed to be putting his patients first.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Adams is given a new patient to treat. One who checked himself into the ha-hacienda voluntarily and insists on Adams being his doctor. The patient (Eriq La Salle) claims his name is Satan and his profession is The Father of Lies. Naturally Adams thinks he’s fulla felgercarb. But the more time he spends with Satan, the less certain he is about him. Satan knows things about Adams and the other patients that it isn’t possible for him to know. And is just a coincidence that at the same time Satan appears at the nuthouse, Adams begins to hallucinate about his wife and daughter? The same wife and daughter he refuses to talk about? Could it be that the wife and daughter are connected with “incident” in New York Dr. Delazo makes cryptic reference’s to?


The fun of watching CRAZY AS HELL is mostly in us, along with Dr. Adams is trying to figure out if this crazy guy is actually Satan or a just a really perceptive and smart guy playing a game with Adams. And for every piece of evidence that Adams finds that says he’s actually The Devil, there’s another piece that says he isn’t. It’s a movie that maintains that suspense right up until the end and there are not a lot of movies of this type I can say it about. It truly did keep me guessing.

Eriq La Salle effortlessly steals the movie both as an actor and as a director. He plays Satan with a scary seductiveness that walks a fine line between being funny and frightening. He finds the exact right note to play this character and never makes a wrong step. His direction his sharp, tight and keeps the story movie along at an even clip and again, he walks a fine line in keeping our interest while not letting us get too far ahead of Adams. He’ll drop us just enough to make us think we know more than Adams and then by the time we get to the end credits we realize we didn’t know a thing more than what he wanted us to know.


Ronny Cox supplies more than able backup here and Sinbad shows up as a hospital orderly who is constantly getting the high hat from Adams. And keep your eyes open for Tia Texada who plays Lupa, who works in the facility’s cafeteria. She has a small role but Moly Hoses, does she make the most of her short screen time. Trust me when I say that if you see the movie you’ll know exactly what I mean.

So should you see CRAZY AS HELL? Absolutely. It’s a terrific example of a type of horror filmmaking that doesn’t need buckets of blood, pornographic violence or fake out jump scares to do its job. CRAZY AS HELL is a type of horror that sneaks up on you and before you know it, it’s got you. Highly recommended.

Rated R

113 Minutes