What’s On the Grill? July 25th – August 1st

Howdy Exiles! Another week, another big dose of movies and TV unceremoniously shoveled into our subconscious to fester away and come back unbidden at inappropriate times, just like the time you launched into a thirty minute dissection of I Spit on Your Grave at nanna’s 85th birthday party.

That look on her face? That was not interest, it was horror.

This week I caught a few flicks at home.

Parker: Well, they got the name right. Another of Richard Stark’s brutal crime capers got a release minus the finesse and style that Brian Helgeland bought to Payback. Also, replacing Mel Gibson with Jason Statham was, to put this delicately, not exactly a step up. But he does tone down the Stathanisms somewhat and we get hints of the casual, calculated Parker, (basically the Richard Branson of career street criminals) and the capers happen in a suitably interesting way. Casting a terrifying badass like Michael Chiklis as the guy who betrays Parker this time didn’t really play to the actor’s strengths and he dies hilariously from a neckstab via pistol clip. I think Jennifer Lopez was trying to be a down-on-her-luck everywoman, but she still came across as a waning super-celebrity and the less said of Statham’s Texan accent the better. A watchable if unremarkable crime yarn. C

The Terminator: Still the best. Freed of franchise obligations, quippy teens and everything else that went wrong after Judgement Day, The Terminator is a solid horror thriller that launches over the top of your expectations with the reveal that a robot zombie from the future wants to kill the nice waitress lady. The pacing is still solid, the action scenes are brutal and despite some frantic acting from Biehn (and a tropey love scene), we’re still left with an iconic film for the ages. A

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: At this point, nobody cared that much. The tone is that of a sarcastic teenager who doesn’t want to work on his or her dad’s dumb robot movie and the final set up, having John Connor and A Cute Girl ride out the end of the world together was weirdly convoluted and forced. He’s not a grounded hero, he’s ground zero for everything bad that will happen, a childish interpretation of the lore. Cheap dialogue strings together action set pieces and terrible ideas while Stahl and Danes do what they can with what they have. On the plus side, Schwarzenegger and Loken seem to be having a blast, doing absolutely whatever nonsense the script calls for and being totally cool with it. Self-inflating Terminator breasts. No. Bad Hollywood. F

Terminator Salvation: Much better. At least everyone on board seemed to give a shit. Bale gives us a fairly one dimensional resistance leader (compared to Quinn Abercrombie from Reign of Fire, who is a genuinely conflicted hero) but what he does he does well. The set up of the “most human Terminator ever” in Sam Worthington and the dying Dr. Kogan being an anthropomorphic representation of Skynet are kind of neat ideas, but just didn’t play particularly well as the story unfolded. Also a timeline might’ve been good; this wasn’t the future apocalypse where humanity was on the verge of extinction and even if they beat the machines, they might just peter out anyway. This is the point where humans still have tons of state-of-the-art military hardware at their disposal, including stealth submarines and air support. Tension significantly lifted. CGI Arnold held up pretty well eight years later. C-

Rick and Morty Season 2: What can I say about this show that isn’t self evident. Watching it for the antics is great, but then the feels kick in and right before those outstay their welcome, Roiland and Harmon call you a pussy for caring about the lives of these animated drawings. The gags are self aware, the fourth wall is broken semi-regularly and overall, every episode feels like a conversation between the viewer and the show writers rather than a one-way presentation. This is a show about what matters and what doesn’t when the ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy happens to be a fact of life. These aren’t family life issues explored in early episodes of The Simpsons or F is For Family; these are issues of existentialism, worth, imagination and regret. You pussy. A+

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Speaking of wish fulfillment, Kingsman still stands alone as the only worthy successor to the James Bond empire. While the original franchise struggles with relevancy by trying to recreate the 1960’s (but grimmer and darker and referencing key issues of today!), Kingsman knows what made Bond great. Even better, the various tropes are treated lovingly and carefully rather than jammed in front of the camera with an obvious wink and a neon sign pointing them out. The film dips its toe in the crude and vulgar, something that Bond did unknowingly, flips expectations by casting the personification of British poise and then rounds the whole thing off with the most hilarious head-exploding montage ever set to film. Kingsman is fun in all the right ways and though it like many franchises today is build over the ruins of past glory, it’s a respectful, clever and loving homage as opposed to a thoughtless cash grab. A

What We Do in the Shadows: Taika Waititi’s mockumentary about vampire flatmates living in contemporary Wellington speaks for itself. It’s insanely quotable, filled with the awkward impracticalities of a Hammer-film-style vampire’s unlife and may or may not make you secretly cringe inside recalling your childhood goth phase. A common complaint about this film is that some of the gags seem to overstay their welcome; to retort, I believe this is intentional. This isn’t a skit show and sometimes in real life, embarrassing moments DO feel like an eternity. There are arcs and there is satisfying resolution, dark times and light. Oh, and people are lured to a creepy house to be murdered by immortal monsters. A-

The Devil’s Advocate: This film is not referenced nearly enough these days. Based on a truly terrible book by Andrew Neiderman, the film transcends the source material with iconic direction and stellar performances all around. This might actually be my all-time favorite Pacino role; he’s a joyous animal in his element, stalking the streets and boardrooms of New York like a king. He’s having the best time ever, shading the edges of scenes like oil spilled over the Mona Lisa. Honestly this bought some great work out of then-undefined Keanu Reeves as well; he is stiff and joyless, but I don’t think that’s ever been a flaw, just his most natural state on screen and a perfect way to portray a do-anything-to-prove-himself lawyer, desperately trying to show no fear in an overwhelming shark-tank. A Rosemary’s Baby-esque subplot moves the story along to it’s final destination which does go schlocky in places (we get it, he’s the devil, no point him dipping his finger in holy water ’cause…he’s the devil) but finally ends with a it-was-all-a-dream-or-was-it? sequence which dumps a lot of the momentum. Still, a very underrated movie. B

Street Fighter: This movie was always terrible and somehow gets worse on a rewatch but the fact is that you WILL rewatch it. That is some dark magic there. Instead of talking about the scatter-brained plot which does and doesn’t want to be grounded and somehow involves the core premise: costumed fighters with no backstory duke it out with iconic maneuvers from an early 90’s fighting game; I’ll just give a quick rundown of the cast. Raul Julia died shortly after making this film and on the plus side, he seemed to have had an absolute blast delivering quotable lines and giving us a performance worthy of a Shakespearian emperor crossed with a ‘roided up General Gadaffi. Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue is earnest and forceful. Ming-Na Wen was in something before Agents of SHIELD. Damian Chapa and Byron Mann are Ken and Ryu. Roshan Seth really needed a way to be bald and shirtless by the end of the film. Andrew Bryniarski delivers lines like Zeus delivers thunder bolts. Wes Studi is very mysterious. Peter Tuiasosopo and Grand L. Bush are E. Honda and Balrog. Miguel A. Núñez Jr. is unbelievably sassy and Jean Claude Van Damme does what he does without the constraints of sense or sanity.

This movie is the ultimate lesson on how not to do an ensemble film or treat a property. It is a warning to all film makers and a testament to the powers of the dark gods of the underworld that it’s completely rewatchable. Utterly ungradable and may God have mercy on our poor souls.

So what about you, exiles? Seen anything this week?

Have you caught a new TV show that grabbed you by the sensitive hairies or a film that you had to tell us about?

Sound off, friends!