The films reviewed in Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo are pulled from a list of films that was started when the column started. The list covers everything I’ve seen for the first time between 2012 and the present.
About ten years ago, I was wasting my life on a shitty horror movie website. It doesn’t exist anymore. Badly run in every conceivable fashion, I quit after deciding that they were never going to pay me the hundreds of dollars they owed me at that point. I put in a little over a year. The work itself was fine. Hell, it was usually a lot of fun. I wrote reviews for dozens of films, connected with a number of independent filmmakers and DVD release companies, and interviewed a ton of really great names. Despite the appalling mediocrity of the website itself, I conducted interviews, on behalf of the site, with the likes of George A. Romero, Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs, Tony Todd, Sid Haig, Bill Mosely, and many others.
If you have to spend more than ten minutes with me in a car, I’m probably going to tell you about all of this. It’s a period of my life that I can easily get nostalgic over, and for long periods of time. It has come up in essays before. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about it in a past Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo.
One of the many things I did that I was proud of was an interview with Lloyd Kaufman. The man behind Troma, Poultrygeist, The Toxic Avenger, and countless others. He is also one of the most astute, passionate filmmakers going today. Don’t let the goofy, messy violence of something like Terror Firmer throw you off. Lloyd continues to be the driving force behind Troma, which continues to operate on its own terms. He helped to create Tromadance, which is one of the best film festivals in the world. He has written extensively, and often brilliantly, on the need for true independent filmmaking. The man has even written and documented an exhaustive, hilarious crash course for would-be writers/directors. He continues to make the horror convention circuit. He continues to make time for just about anyone.
The interview was him making a lot of time for me. I was literally trying to learn journalism without going to college, which is surprisingly difficult. He consented to the interview, answered absolutely every single question I asked, engaged me with questions of his own, and revealed a mind that could run through a universe of topics with ease. He was patient with me, and I swear to God, I think I actually learned something.
Unfortunately, the interview was never published. The nitwits who ran the horror movie site didn’t publish it. They loved it. They just never published. I don’t know why. I will never know why, simply because if I ever see them again, I may have to hit them with a bicycle. Or something similarly painful. I think it’s a good interview. It took place over several days, and the eventual transcript came from approximately four hours of phone calls between us. For some unfathomable reason, I don’t have the entire interview. I really wish I had more to go on than that. It simply doesn’t seem to exist.
But take a look at what I do have. It’s not the worst interview I’ve ever done. My ignorance in how to conduct a proper interview is pretty clear, but I didn’t grimace too much. Hopefully, you won’t either.
And while you’re at it, check out Troma Now, the company’s attempt to join the world of streaming media content. So far, you can enjoy a pretty amazing range of films. I’ve been a subscriber for a couple of months. Visiting the channel is like chasing NyQuil with tequila. Things get strange, and wonderful, almost immediately. Thank god for the strangeness of Lloyd Kaufman. Thank god for Troma.
Alien Covenant (2017): B-
Muddled character motivations aside, Alien Covenant might be Ridley Scott’s best work as a director since the polarizing Alien prequel Prometheus. If you didn’t like that film (I did), I suspect this next chapter isn’t going to please you. Although it is worth mentioning that if you are hoping for an entry in this franchise that actually delivers as a claustrophobic monster movie, which is the essentially the heart and soul of everything good about this franchise, you’re likely to be pleased.
Alien Covenant really only falters for trying so hard to include significant character development and motivations in its masterfully-paced structure. To be sure, I’d rather someone try at these things, failing in small ways, than I would rather watch something empty, joyless, and determined to pander. Scott has his enormous missteps as a director, but he also tends to be pretty good at marrying perceived audience demands with the need to show them something different. Despite the chasm of nods and references to past films in the series, Alien Covenant feels fresh. The approach to this universe most closely echoes the Alien films Scott has actually made, and the director proves yet again that he is perhaps the most ideal caretaker for this universe.
As long as these films are backed by good casts (which in this case includes Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Demián Bichir, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, and others), strong pacing, and the ability to very gradually take us into hell, and then suddenly begin to rip us through horror at a few thousand miles per hour, I see no reason why these films cannot continue. More importantly, I see no reason why these films cannot continue to be richly compelling, and very, very scary.
The Double Life Of Veronique (1991): B+
A noted big winner at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, The Double Life of Veronique retains a singular, gorgeous spirit after twenty-six years. It is perhaps the best film Krzysztof Kieślowski ever made. It is probably his most accessible, a strange story that depicts two women (both played by the breathtaking Irène Jacob) who are miles upon miles apart from one another. They have never met. Yet they are connected by indescribable, intangible emotional bonds. The film explores this, taking us through their separate and then shared narrative. It is difficult for me to imagine someone who can’t be moved, if only a little, by how these narratives stand apart from each other, followed by how they miraculously come together.
Kieślowski avoids clichés and platitudes. He crafts a film that not only offers two profound character studies in Weronika and Veronique, but a film that also quietly celebrates the extraordinary. Without making you feel like a fool, The Double Life of Veronique is a gentle tribute to things that we still can’t fully explain.
Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen (2015): C-
Far from his best work as one of Japan’s best writer/directors, Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen is nonetheless a pretty satisfying Yakuza comedy from Takeshi Kitano. The movie doesn’t quite figure out how to make all of the characters interesting, but it still utilizes a grounded, charming deadpan humor that wins out more often than not.
Particularly entertaining is the performance from Tatsuya Fuji as the titular Ryuzo. His performance provides the film with a sincere emotional core. His performance as an aging mobster who is willing to do what is necessary to recapture his glory days is equal parts hilarious and quite sad. Ryuzo is not pathetic, but he’s heading that way in a hurry. His ambitions keep the movie going, even when things feel as though they have come to a screeching halt. The movie could have used a little more of Takeshi as a cranky, sympathetic veteran cop, but this isn’t his story. It’s Ryuzo, as well as the men he assembles to assume control of their separate and shared destinies. In that context, Ryuzo isn’t perfect, but it should be pleasing to genre/Beat Takeshi fans.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932): B-
Filmed over 80 years ago on the King Kong jungle sets, The Most Dangerous Game has not aged especially well. For some people, this ancient adaptation of a story that pits a deranged, wealthy hunter (the great Joel McCrea) against pre-selected human targets, is going to strike them as downright creaky. Avoid the movie on those faults at your own peril. You’re going to be missing out on a film that still generates considerable tension and atmosphere. There are also elements of madness and despair that are downright palpable at times.
All of these points are combined with a great performance from Fay Wray, widely regarded as the original scream queen. She was capable of much more than merely screaming, although she was rarely given the chance to display that. The Most Dangerous Game gives her a pretty thankless damsel in distress role, but Wray still makes the most of it. She is just one aspect to what is likely still the best adaptation of this story to date. This remains a masterwork of suspense-building.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): A+
A handful of my friends, some of whom aren’t crazy assholes, are giving the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel the distinction of being the best Marvel Studios film to date. You know what? I think I agree with them. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is such an impressive product of sincere joy, an astonishing accomplishment for a movie that cost 200-million dollars to make, you’re going to forget the slightly-weak plot, or the fact that this movie screams “obligatory”, no matter how pleasing it might be.
You know what? I don’t care about either of those things. Unless you’re existing in a near-orgasmic state of constant cynicism, you’re not going to care about the flaws in this movie either. James Gunn brings us all of the things and characters from the first one, and allows them to exist, evolve, and entertain on their own terms. He also manages to keep things moving along at a rather pleasant pace, keeping us engaged with something that is genuinely enthralling, even as the conclusion is more or less foregone to those of us who have been watching these films for a while. The returning cast is a huge part of this movie’s charm, with Michael Rooker stealing just about the entire movie (which includes wee baby Groot) away from Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Karen Gillian. An established veteran actor of dozens and dozens of TV and film roles, Rooker relishes the chance to play one of the most sympathetic, surprisingly complex characters of his wonderful career.
As great as this cast is, and that includes Sylvester Stallone (no, really, he’s fine) and Kurt Russell (in one of his best performances since ending his semi-retirement a few years ago), this massive spectacle ultimately belongs to Rooker’s Yondu. That’s impressive, considering how wonderful this movie manages to be in almost every single regard. Can James Gunn and company repeat this trick a third time at a later date? Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Consistently leaves me with the hope that they will.