‘Phil’s Quick Capsule Review’ (a nod to legendary comedian Bill Hicks who coined the phrase when he reviewed ‘Piece Of Shit’ movie Basic Instinct)… where a perfect 10 is rarer than a rain free British summer!
Written by Phil Hobden – UK based podcaster, writer and former filmmaker. Part of the All Things Film network…
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Alita: Battle Angel is a total mess. Yup it’s 15 years plus in development for filmmaker James Cameron, who turns over directorial duties to the unreliable Robert Rodriguez but sadly still carried writing the script. Seriously if after 15 years you can’t get a better script that this, then Avatar 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 stand no hope. Mahershala Ali does that thing actors do now where they get nominated for an Oscar just months away from starring in a totally bollocks film (see: John C Riley, Eddie Redmayne) in a cast that features both box office repellants Ed Skrein and Jai Courtney. From its non-ending ending, to its ‘did they REALLY just write that’ script, across to its piss poor CGI and clunky directing this film does almost everything wrong. Please avoid.
Best Bit: My 2 minutes toilet break which gave me a nice break from the film
Cinema, Stream, Avoid: Avoid
If You Liked this Try: Avatar, Ghost In The Shell, Ready Player One
Phil Hobden is the former Film Editor & Writer for renowned martial arts focused COMBAT MAGAZINE in the UK. He is also a filmmaker in his own right, having produced two cult Independent action films in LEFT FOR DEAD and TEN DEAD MEN. He was the host for the award nominated Filmsploitation podcast for 4 years, currently co-hosts Ross And Phil Talk Movies and is a writer/editor for his own blog Phil’s Quick Capsule Review…
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: From Dusk Till Dawn remains one of the most nuts films of the 90’s and possibly marked the last great film by both directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Yes really I went there. Starting as a typical Tarantino, it’s not until they hit the Titty Twister bar that the film takes a surprising twist. Well not that surprising as the trailer gave it away but still bloody good fun. Cameos by Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Greg Nicotero sit along side a career making turn by George Clooney and a ‘What the fuck am I doing here’ look of Harvey Keitel. Greta script,. superb action and a crotch gun. What’s not to love.
Best Bit: ‘Everybody be cool. You be cool.’
Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy
If You Liked this Try: Desperado, Pulp Fiction, Lost Boys
Happy New Year fellow film fans! Welcome to Grosse Pointe Geeks Jan 2015 Rapid Fire Review!
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Director: Ridley Scott
Actors: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver.
Scott has another stab at the historical epic with this so-so retelling of the story of Moses. On the plus side its beautifully photographed, very well directed and the set designs are amazing. However, its too long, fairly dull in places and there isn’t nearly enough action. Also Weaver and Aaron Paul barely get a look in -making one wonder why they were cast in the first place, not only that but to be honest the whole thing had a distinct whiff of Ridley Scott tapping Gladiator all over again.
At Cinemas now
The Expendables 3
Director: Patrick Hughes
Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes, Jet Li, etc etc.
Recently released on Blu Ray, which includes an extended more violent version than the one released in cinemas. Now i know i did a quick review of it last year, but if I’ve said it once I’ll say it again – for the love of God and Mammon – if you haven’t done it already -please please watch this film!
Yes its silly, no it isn’t Shakespeare but if you love an action movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is well made and extremely entertaining – then this is definitely for you.
(On Blu Ray and DVD now – however i would recommend getting it on Blu Ray)
Director: Paul Fieg
Actors: Sandra Bullock, Mellissa McCarthy
The mismatched cop genre is mined once more in this fairly good action comedy. Bullock is the straight laced FBI agent who reluctantly teams up with McCarthy’s slobbish Boston detective. Skips along at a rare old pace, very profane and actually quite funny in parts – especially McCarthy who gets all the quality one liners.
However we have seen this kind of film many times before in the 1980’s and one hopes that its success wont necessarily inspire Hollywood to go down that route all over again.
Available on DVD/Blu Ray and Netflix
The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies
Director: Peter Jackson
Actors: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Ian McKellan, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom.
The Middle Earth saga comes to a close with this epic final chapter that sees all and sundry close in on the Lonely Mountain to try and claim the gold from Thorin and Dwarves.. Freeman, Evans, Armitage and McKellan give faultless performances once again, plus Jackson effortlessly crafts a film that not only looks fantastic but is incredibly enjoyable as well. I will say this though – as good as it is, it cant touch the Return Of The King and one did get the feeling that a lot of footage was held back for the yet to be released 2015 extended edition DVD.
At Cinemas now
The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Actors: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, Mark Strong, Charle Dance, Matthew Goode.
Based on the true story of Alan Turing – a brilliant mathematician who single handedly built a machine that could decipher the Nazi Enigma Code and as a result turned the tide of World War 2, saving millions of lives in the process. A totally outstanding film, with a mesmerising performance from Cumberbatch that, if there is any justice, will bag him a much deserved Oscar nomination. One of the best films of 2014 – highly recommended.
At cinemas now
Director: Gregory Levasseur
Actors: James Buckley, Ashley Hinshaw
Found footage film featuring a team of archaeologists who unearth a lost pyramid then get trapped inside, whilst being pursued by evil supernatural forces and all manner of flesh eating beasties. Descends into CGI madness at the end but to be fair the story is quite interesting, there are some pretty scary bits and its certainly worth a look for anyone who enjoyed last years As Above So Below.
Possibly still at cinemas now
Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For
Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Actors: Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Eva Green, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon levitt, Powers Booth.
Not bad sequel to the 2005 original. Well made, fairly enjoyable with some good performances – especially Brolin, Levitt, Booth and Green, however the narrative and story aren’t as well structured as the first film and overall it all feels like a case of been there done that with no need to do it again – which seems to be all Robert Rodriguez does these days anyway.
Available on DVD/Blu ray
The Wicker Tree
Director: Robin Hardy
Actors: Graham McTavish, Christopher Lee
Adaptation of the novel ‘Cowboys for Christ’ and a sort of sequel/companion piece to Hardy’s original film – The Wicker Man.
Suffice to say that once in a while there comes a film that is so bad that it automatically gets into my top ten worst of all time list………and this is that film. Awful in just about every way you can imagine – cheap looking, amateurish direction, terrible acting, appalling script, and overall a complete and utter insult to anyone who enjoyed the first film.
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Sin City A Dame To Kill for wasn’t a film I as looking forward to. Whilst I liked and positively reviewed the original I have ZERO interest in rewatching it and Millers follow up The Spirit was horrid. Oh and Rodriguez has forgotten how to make a good film. So It’s with surprise that I say SC: ADTKF is actually quite good fun. It’s still style over substance for sure, but damn it looks pretty and for once it’s nice to see a film so strikingly different from the norm. It still suffers from some odd pacing issues and Jessica Alba offers little in the realms of actual acting (pouting being her go to mode) but overall it’s a film I enjoyed.
On the eve of the 17th Feb release of Machete Kills on DVD & Blu-Ray we’ve dug back into the vault and pulled out an interview back from the release of the original Machete movie with it’s star, the one and only Danny Trejo.
Danny Trejo stars as the titular character in the new grindhouse action release Machet. Trejo is one of Hollywood’s most recognisable stars, Combat Film sat down with Trejo to talk grindhouse, Hollywood and his time behind bars.
What was it like to have Jessica Alba as your love interest in Machete? God, she’s gorgeous. I kissed her and then all my friends wanted to kiss me. At this age!
How many knives do you carry under that jacket in Machete? Actually that’s a secret, but there’s between 20 and 40.
Did you have to carry them all? Well, in the jacket, they were in the jacket. Otherwise, Machete just carries six, I think, and two machetes, six small knives and two machetes.
Did you cut yourself during filming? No. Thank God.
How many litres of blood did you spill in the movie? A lot. But the good thing about Robert Rodriguez is that he comes from like a cartoon background, so even the blood is funny. It’s comical and it’s gross all at the same time. I cut three guys’ heads off and people were laughing. They were like, “Go, go, go!” My mum is 83 and she hates violent movies, but she was at my premiere and she loved it. She loved it.
What was the most outrageous and challenging scene to do? When I was crashing through the window holding onto some guts. When I read the script I was like, “What are you talking about? I don’t understand.” But then I was like, “Okay, that sounds really good.” And now I think the guts really took it, like, “Wow! That’s awesome!” That was fun and that was challenging.
Do you regret any of your tattoos? No. I love tattoos. I literally love tattoos. I think body art is great, but some people can rock them, some people can’t. Some people look silly in them, other people, they just fit. You’ve just got to find out. These days I see a lot of girls with ankle tattoos, or something cute, and that’s great. When I was growing up, you never saw a girl with a tattoo. So styles go and styles come, but tattoos are forever, so once you put it on, it’s there. I’ve had this one on my chest since 1965. My tattoo, it’s the most famous tattoo in the world.
It’s in every movie that you’re in, but I never thought it was real. [Looks outraged] It is. [Shows chest] That was done in prison by a friend of mine called Harry ‘Super Jew’ Ross, and we started it in San Quentin and then I got kicked out of San Quentin and I went to Folsom. It was almost a scene from West Side Story, because I was on the bus in chains being shipped up because of the trouble I had got into, and this was Harry’s first tattoo, so he’s going, “Don’t. Wait. Nobody touch it. I’ll go to Folsom, I’ll go to Folsom.” So about six months later, he showed up and did some more of it. There was a big riot in Folsom and I got sent to Soledad and he got sent to Vacaville, and he came down afterwards from Vacaville and finished it.
How many years did that take? About three. Maybe two and a half years. But I’ve got a plaque at home that has a picture of it on, which says, “Most Recognisable Tattoo in the World” by International Tattoo magazine.
Is it based on an actual woman? No, it’s just a picture we drew. A senorita with a hat. You call them “charas”, they used to ride with Pancho Villa, they carried the guns and cook and do all that stuff. But they weren’t servants, they were fighters, so goes Mexican folk-lore.
What do you remember most about prison? The fact that there are only two kinds of people: there is predator and there is prey. That’s it.
How much worse are prisons these days, compared to when you were on the inside? Well, I know about California that there are so many more people in prison, so since there are so many more people in prison, they are all over-crowded because of a lot of the ridiculous laws, so a lot more people are going to prison for less and less reason.
If your boxing career had continued, would you have hit the big time? It was said that I was pretty good, but boxing is management. A lot of boxing doesn’t have to do with skill, it’s management. And so I think that’s about the best way to say it. I know a lot of great fighters that can’t get good fights.
Could you have been such a success if you weren’t so scary looking? (laughs) Well, I could have been Brad Pitt. But I’m not. I knew a long time ago I wasn’t a pretty boy so I was content with being the bad guy because it always seemed like the movie stars were pretty boys: Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Stallone… They’re pretty.
Stallone is pretty? (laughs) Well… I don’t know.
How much fun is it to play a hard guy all the time? It’s a job. It’s easy to do. And with a face like mine, I’m not going to be Leonardo DiCaprio (laughs) So I have a certain look. Now, I can be a good bad guy, or I could be a cop if I’m edgy.
You could play an artist or a painter. An artist? But I wouldn’t get to beat up anybody or shoot anybody (laughs). And I just love action movies. I did a movie called SherryBaby, and at first I hated it, because I was the nice guy. Everyone else got to beat her up, and I didn’t get to sock anybody or shoot anybody. But I have a lot of fun in films, for me that’s what it’s all about. If I’m not enjoying it, I don’t want to do it.
You’ve been in nearly 200 movies. Isn’t it about time you took a sabbatical, laid up on a tropical beach somewhere and wrote your memoirs? Not really. My life is a vacation. I love what I do. This is my life. My kids are grown, they only call me in emergencies or for money (laughs). I have three dogs and everyone else takes care of them for me. And I don’t golf. Making movies is the most fun.
What about writing your memoirs? I don’t know. There is a book, it’s called Champion, and it’s about my life-story, and that’s about as far as I want to go. I don’t want to sit down with somebody and start writing. My life is interesting to everybody but me.
You are finally a leading man. Playing Machete, is this the greatest honour of your long and distinguished career? Yes. Absolutely. This is the greatest honour, thank you. And thank you Robert Rodriguez for bestowing on me being the first Latino action hero. I owe a lot to our predecessors: remember Pedro Gonzalez? He was one of the first Mexican actors in John Wayne movies, but he was the goof. He was the, “Forgive me senor,” guy, the funny guy, and we’ve come a long way since then. I have to thank him, and other Latin actors since then. (Shouts) “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”
What’s your favourite prison movie – Tom Selleck’s An Innocent Man? No. No. No. My favourite prison movie is a movie called Animal Factory. That was from a book written by Eddie Bunker. If you want to read the best criminal novel ever written, read Education Of A Felon by Edward Bunker. Great, great, great criminal novel that gets into the mind of a criminal. And Eddie Bunker is the guy that first hired me to be in a movie, he hired me to be in a movie called Runaway Train with Jon Voight and Eric Roberts. And he was my friend in prison and he was my friend throughout life. He passed away but he was a great, great writer.
How did you get hired that first time? I showed up on a movie set by accident once. I was a drug counsellor working with kids, and one of the kids I was working with called me up and said, “Hey, I’m having a problem, I think I’m going to use,” and in 1985 cocaine was crazy on sets. I thought he had a regular job, but I turned up and it was a prison movie, and I thought it was the cutest thing I had ever seen – I kept smearing their tattoos, they were all fake tattoos, and I had a whole bunch of real ones. So this guy looks at me and says, “Do you want to be in this movie?” And I said, “What do I have to do?” And he said, “Do you want to be an extra?” “An extra what?” And he said, “Can you act like a convict?” I thought, “I’ve been in every prison in the State of California, I’ll give it a shot.” (laughs)
So I took off my shirt, to put on their blue shirt, and I had the big tattoo on my chest, and people who have been in prison know that it was a prison tattoo. I didn’t get that in a tattoo shop or in the Marines; it’s not about loving my mother, it’s a prison tattoo. So all of a sudden this guy comes over and says, “Hey, you’re Danny Trejo.” I said yeah. He said, “I saw you win the lightweight and welterweight titles up at San Quentin.” I said, “Yeah, you’re Eddie Bunker.” He was the guy that used to write, and I knew him in prison. He said, “What are you doing here?” So I told him I was hanging out with this kid, trying to help him, and he said, “Do you want a job? They need somebody to train one of the actors how to box.”
So you talk about God-shots or divine intervention or whatever. I said, “What’s it pay?” And he said, “$320 a day.” So I asked him how bad he wanted this guy beaten up. I couldn’t believe $320 a day for one fight. I would have chewed Godzilla’s ear off for fifty bucks. So I started training Eric Roberts how to box. The director saw me and he liked the fact I could control Eric – he was young then and didn’t care, but he wanted to learn how to box, so he would do whatever I told him to do. From there, to right now, I have done about 188 movies.
You must have got to a point where you got a pay-cheque bigger than $320. Wait, let me tell you something. They hired me on a daily, and $320 a day to me means that at the end of the day, you get $320, okay, cool. So I worked for three weeks 16 or 17 hours daily. In the SAG union, that would be time and a half, then double time, and because you worked 16 hours, they are supposed to let you rest 12 hours. What that means is the money you have earned for this day gets put up in front the next day. I don’t know any of this. I’m just counting $320, $320, $320. I was just adding up all the $320s. That was enough for me! But when I got that first cheque, I looked at it and went, “Woah!” I put it in my pocket and didn’t say nothing. I started leaving and Eddie said, “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m out of here. They made a big mistake.” I just wanted to go and cash it. They could ask me for the money back later. He was like, “No, no, let’s figure it out. Oh yeah, overtime, yeah. This is right.” I knew nothing. I’d never been on a movie set in my life.
So when you got an even bigger cheque, what did you spend it on? You know what? I was married so a lot of it went to my wife. “How much did I make?” (laughs) But for the first part of my career, I was a single parent. During Runaway Train, I was a single parent. The craft service, they used to have a huge table with salamis and cheese and meat, so I would always make three or four sandwiches and take them home for me and my son the next day. Then one day, some girl comes up and says, “Oh Danny, you have a meal penalty.” And I had four sandwiches, so I was like, “No, no, I’m making these for some of the guys.” I thought she was penalising me for taking too much food, but she said, “No, no, we didn’t feed you within six hours, so you get $100 worth of food.” “Oh okay, so help me make sandwiches!”
How old were you when you first started in movies? In 1985, I was 38 years old already. I had been a drug counselor ever since I got out of prison. I still work for Western Pacific Rehab. We still detoxify drug addicts and I do a lot of their public relations. People always call me and say, “This guy’s pretty hooked, can you help him?” and I still do that.
What has changed since the 80’s with drugs in Hollywood? I think the worst thing that has happened since the 80’s is crack cocaine. Crack cocaine and crystal meth. Now the kids are just frying their brains. We’ve managed to push drugs more and more underground, but parents don’t want to talk about it any more. Parents are afraid to ask their kids, “Are you smoking weed?” I ask my daughter every day, “Are you getting loaded?” “No, Dad.” “Okay, cool.”
Smoking weed isn’t going to destroy your life though. You’re right, it’s not, but it’s against the law. That’s the only problem. I think they should either legalise it and then just leave it alone… these are just my views okay. We have a war on drugs, that means this war on drugs supports the DEA, the FBI, the CIA, all these agencies, so if they legalise drugs – and I’m not advocating legalising drugs but this is a reality – if they legalise drugs, all these guys would be looking for a job. So it’s not only the war against drugs, we’re trying to save our economy.
We take it you don’t vote Republican? (laughs) You know what? I try to vote what I honestly believe to be the best for people. It’s just the way. So if it’s Republican, Democrat, Independent – if there is an issue that I believe in that is not of my party, or whatever, then I will vote for that. I think that’s the best way I can say that.
Do you still drink alcohol? No. Stopped drinking in 1968.
Machete being your first real leading role, are you hoping to get more lead roles now? You know, I love to work. I’m not going to sit around and wait for just lead roles to come around. I will work all the time. If somebody wants me to play a tree, I will play a tree. If they want me to put fruit on it, they can pay me more money. But I just love to work. And I see guys in the gym, not working, waiting around to be the leading man. I’ll be like, “I don’t care, I want to work.” It drives me crazy hanging out.
What role do you get recognised most for? For kids, and parents, it’s Spy Kids. But people remember me from Desperado, people loved From Dusk Till Dawnand now, just from the trailer, people shout, “Machete!” That’s funny.
You’ve worked with George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, how was that? I have learned something from all of them, but the man who I think is one of America’s greatest actors is Robert De Niro. I love watching him. And I like the fact that he’s not like… a Johnny Depp. Depp’s just beautiful. But Robert De Niro still looks like Charles Bronson. And I love Charles Bronson. I worked with him a couple of times too.
What do you think the secret of success in Hollywood is? Me? One of the keys to success is making sure that the people you work with want to work with you again. If you have an attitude, if you’re late, if you don’t feel good, or if you’re like, “I want a chai latte with whipped cream, with soy!” then people start to say, “Oh.” You know what I mean? But if you’re an asset, like on any job, make yourself an asset then people want to work with you again.
Don’t you need a lot of luck? No. Luck don’t got nothing to do with it. People who are waiting around for luck are the people who aren’t shaking hands and being nice to other people and aren’t being polite. I was on this movie and there were three grips sitting in chairs, and an old lady standing. I was thinking, “What is wrong with this picture?” This old lady was 60, 70 years old, so I went over and said to the grips, “Get up. Get out of here!” I sat her down. I thought she was just an extra, but later, the director came over and said, “Danny, thanks for getting my mum that chair.” I didn’t know it was his mum, I swear to God I didn’t. I just saw an old lady standing and three guys sitting. So maybe those grips don’t want to work again, but I make sure everybody who works with me wants to work with me again. And so far, I have accomplished that.
What would you have done if you hadn’t got into movies? I would still be a drug counsellor, working with kids, and I am. Everything good that has happened to me has happened as a direct result of helping someone out. So I dedicate my life to helping people. I go to juvenile halls, to high schools, prisons. You look at Hollywood, at the actors that are having problems in their lives, none of them give anything back. They are all very, very selfish, very, very self-centred, very, very egotistical, “What’s in it for me?” Well, nothing is in it for you but problems, until you start giving it back. I don’t mean financially, I mean your time. If you’re an actor you should be talking to kids in juvenile hall and telling them, “Wait, there’s a better way to go. You do this, you get in trouble.” That’s what I do.
Machete Kills is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Download on the 17th Feb 2014.
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Okay so for the most part Grindhouse movie shave left me cold. However Machete Kills ends up being the film that get’s it right. Finally. Funny, crude, bloody and OTT in a good way, finally Rodriguez reminds me of why he was once one of the most fun directors around. As for Trejo he’s having the time of his life… all in all a good, fun movie.
Best Bit: Trejo. One bad motor scooter.
Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Rent
If you liked this try: Grindhouse (9/10); Machete (5/10); Hobo With A Shotgun (3/10)