Sunday, October 22, 2017

Double Review: 'Happy Death Day' / 'Brawl in Cell Block 99'

One's a movie about a basic blonde bitch forced to get murdered over and over again until she finds out who's trying to kill her and the other stars Vince Vaughn as a psycho prisoner forced to kill a whole bunch of Meskins so his daughter won't get aborted by drug runners.

By: Jimbo X

You know what my favorite part of any mass shooting is? When the media keeps asking itself why the shooting happened, as if there could ever be a halfway logical reason as to why some 60-year-old stockbroker grabbed an AR-15 and decided to shoot up a pre-K school one afternoon.

Call me old-fashioned, but does it even matter what the motives of a mass shooter are? His "rationale" for blowing away 57 people is wholly irrelevant to the fact that he voluntarily CHOSE to blow away 57 people and then went through with it. There are a lot of hate-filled psychopaths in American society, but even the most rancorous, vehemence-fueled maniacs usually tend to stop short of perpetratin' actual mass murder, if nothing else because they know it's going to end one of two ways: with either Johnny Law popping a cap in their ass or a SWAT team rasslin'  them to the ground so they can be placed in a cell block condo for the remainder of their natural life, getting fan mail from all sorts of weirdos who think it was so cool that they barged into that all-you-can-eat Taiwanese buffet and decided to turn 27 diners into Swiss cheese. Yeah, it sounds like a pretty peachy deal, until you realize they don't let death row inmates have the WiFi password, and the likelihood of getting rectally fucked to death is approximately 1,500,000 times higher than that of the freed population.

You see, hate or anger or rage or whatever nondescript terms the media like to throw around doesn't explain shit when it comes to mass shootings. I'd venture to guess that at least half of the American populace is chronically incensed, perpetually outraged and pathologically infuriated, but by that same token, half of the U.S. population ain't running around blowin' people's heads off at Denny's, either. Maybe they secretly want to, deep down, but there's something VERY obvious that's preventing them from fulfilling their homicidal urges. And whatever that prohibitive something is, it's clearly something all of these mass shooter people don't have, or at the very least, don't care too much for.

First and foremost, just about all of these mass shooter types are suicidal. They don't give a fuck if they live or die, and I'd surmise that's a pretty big factor as to why people periodically waltz into elementary schools with enough live ammo to stock a remake of the first three Rambo movies. But you see, these people aren't your average suicidal folks. No, they actually care about their existential legacy, and they know full well that if they go home and suck on a bag of helium or wrap their lips around an exhaust pipe, CNN ain't going to cover it and they're just going to get thrown in the dirt and nobody will remember him five minutes after the funeral service. You see, what these mass shooters ACTUALLY want is fame, and there's NO easier way to get your photo in the newspaper than grabbing a gun and making high volumes of people die at one time. The media absolutely loves that kind of stuff, and I've long believed that the 24 hour news cycle has done FAR more to exacerbate the explosion of mass shootings in the U.S. than the N.R.A. and Big Pharma combined. Over there in the Middle East, people embark upon mass murder for 72 virgins and a seat at the dining room table next to Allah. But here in the States, people embark upon mass murder for 72 hours of around-the-clock CNN coverage and the promise of their own Wikipedia article.

Just once - just dadgum once - I'd love to see the media stop harpin' on gun control and mental illness and take responsibility as the number one reason why mass shootings keep happening in these United States. From that Napoleon Dynamite-sounding Korean motherfucker at Virginia Tech to that autistic, probably homosexual dweeb at Sandy Hook to that old ass white motherfucker in Las Vegas, they keep killing people because THEY KNOW it'll make them celebrities, and instead of dying as a bunch of shmucks who never did nothing in life, they'll be remembered as the criminal geniuses who had the will and the wherewithal to off a whole shit load of people at once. 

Forget banning semi-automatic weapons, if you want to see mass shooting numbers plummet in America, you ought to be sending letters to your Congress-people demanding they pass a law that makes it ILLEGAL for the media to mention the name of mass shooters or show their faces on television or the Internet. If these sick fuckos KNOW they'll never get the credit for their handiwork and that nobody will ever know they existed in the first place, they no longer have the existential incentive to carry out mass homicide. Granted, you'll still have the occasional workplace massacre and Asperger's maniac bringing a handgun to chemistry class from time to time, but I guarantee you won't be seeing anymore spectacle mass murders where every lunatic in the lower 48 is trying to top one another's "high score" like they were playing real life Robotron or something.

It makes no damn sense to me. This is the same media that pats itself on the back for not covering teen suicides 'cause they're afraid emo 16-year-olds might get the wrong idea and slit their wrists open for Facebook likes, but they're completely oblivious to the idea that THEIR incessant coverage of mass murder doesn't just encourage people to grab a Bushmaster and go to town on a gay bar or the midnight showing of Justice League 4: Ambush Bug Sucks Lobo's Dick for Two and a Half Hours, it's THE ONLY REASON these nutcases actually go through with their homicidal plans.

If all you fucks at MSNBC and Fox News and The New York Times and Buzzfeed want to REALLY know why people keep going on mass shooting sprees, you don't need to do any investigative journalism. All you gotta' do is take a nice, long look in the mirror and you'll see clear as day why these assholes are so anxious to kill a whole buncha' people. You call it ratings tragedy, they call it publicity ... and as long as the stewards of Big Media keep giving these sickos precisely what they desire, these mass killings are destined to keep happening, over and over and over again.

So it's basically Scream meets Groundhog Day meets Heathers meets me running out of things to compare it to. Uh, Teen Mom 2, maybe?

Speaking of people dying left and right, our first flick of the week is one of the more ingenious slasher flicks Hollywood's given us in quite some time. Granted, I'm not saying that this here Happy Death Day is an all-time genre classic or anything like that, but compared to stuff like Scream 4 and Unfriended and Smiley, it's actually pretty damn inventive and entertaining.

Basically, what we're working with here is a horror version of Groundhog Day, except instead of Bill Murray relivin' the same day over and over again, we've got this one blonde sorority girl named Tree getting stuck in a perpetual murder loop 'til she can figure out which supporting cast member keeps choking to her to death in the school water fountain and yanking her innards out with a Bowie knife after football practice. So yeah, it's essentially yet another whodunit horror spoof, but this one's a tad different.

For starters, it's one of the more politically incorrect horror movies to come down the pipes in quite some time. We've got the head sorority bitch literally making fun of retards and calling black girls fat to their faces, and we've got not one but TWO bang-up jobs depicting Asians as the most stereotypical "bananas" in the history of film. Secondly, pretty much everybody in the movie is some kind of asshole, and therefore deserving of a grisly demise - which, of course, is one of the most hallowed of Jimbo's Ten Golden Rules for All Neo-Slasher Movies. And the horror to comedy ratio here is done surprisingly well, with the goofy stuff never really detracting from the power of the scary shit (and vice versa.)

So we've got this one sorority girl. She begins the movie waking up in the bed of some random frat boy, but she's too hung over to remember if he raped her or not. So naturally, she just asks for a couple of Advils, heads back to the sorority house, rebuffs her probably lesbo mixed-race roommate's birthday cupcake offering and oops, winds up getting her intestines ripped out of her bellybutton by some freak-of-nature in a hoody who's wearing a plastic baby doll mask (by the way, the fictitious college's name is Bayfield ... which, I suppose, is a portmanteau of Bayside High School from Saved by the Bell and he rape-tastic, real-world Baylor University.) Oh, and if you're wondering if this movie lays the Dear Colleague "rape culture" stuff on too thick, you might be pleasantly surprised by the film's glorious lack of identity politics propaganda.

So she wakes up in the same guy's bed again and slowly realizes she's reliving the same day over again. This time around she takes extra precautions to not get killed, but whoops, she still ends up getting dissected during a surprise birthday party. Well, by the third time she's reincarnated, she finally starts to get the drift of things, and starts making a shortlist of all the people she thinks might have it out for her, and yeah, it's pretty much everybody in the movie.

From there it's her basically running down all of the people who don't like her and fishing for red herrings until we found out there's this one escaped psychopath on the loose who just butchered an entire hospital wing and after killing her a couple of times, she realizes "oh, I get it, this guy HAS to be the guy I'm supposed to stop to get out of this time loop" so she resolves herself to finally put a pickax through his brain to end the movie and eventually she does but the next morning when she wakes up ... oh shit, she's still caught in the chronological doughnut. Anyhoo, she uses the extra time to, what else, make herself a better person and start talking to her estranged dad again and telling closeted jocks to go out there and get them some "man ass" and standing up for all the fat black girls in the sorority who just want to eat Twinkies and chocolate milk and THEN we find out who the real psycho killer is and ... well, it's pretty much the most obvious thing in the world, but I won't spoil it for you here. 

Nah, just kidding - it's her roommate, who's been jealous 'cause she's been fucking a professor she's obsessed with and has been trying to feed her poisoned pastries the whole dang time. Of course, it's not knowing who the killer is that makes the movie worthwhile, it's knowing how the killer gets dispatched, and I must say - this thing ends with one of the best paint-the-sorority-walls-red denouement bitch-fights in recent memory. Oh, you better believe these girls are going to  have to do a lot of fundraisers to pay off the property damage on this one; we're talking maybe a solid month of weekend bake sales and car washes, on both Saturdays and Sundays.

We've got 18 dead bodies (including one character who dies 11 times.) No breasts. One exploding police car. One hanging. Neck snapping. Multiple stabbings. Multiple bullet wounds. Gratuitous Teen Mom. Gratuitous "Ophelia." Gratuitous farting. Kung fu. Bong fu. Defenestration fu. And the thing more or less responsible for the movie existing in the first place - some serious cupcake fu.

Starring Jessica Rothe as Theresa "Tree" Gelbman, the snarky sorority sister stuck in a space-time loop who says lines like "don't look at me like I just took a dump on your mom's head" and "who takes their date to Subway? Besides, it's not like you have a footlong"; Israel Broussard as Carter, the obligatory sensitive love interest who finds date rape morally reprehensible and is more than willing to take a knife wound or two, even if it doesn't get him a blow job later that night; Ruby Modine as the Puerto Rican roommate who we think is all nice at first but actually wants the main character to puke her guts up after eating rat poison-laced comestibles; and Rachel Matthews as the bitchy sorority head honcho, who says "earth to Theresa, space retard" and even pantomimes the facial expressions of somebody with Down syndrome when she does it.

Written by Scott Lobdell - yep, the comic book writer from the 1990s who gave us Generation X - and directed by Christopher B. Landon, who also helmed Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and that one Paranormal Activity movie where everybody's Meskin.

I'll give it two and a half stars out of four. Of course, once you figger out the whole murder mystery thing it ain't nowhere near as enjoyable, but it's got enough decent stuff in the middle to keep you mostly entertained, even on repeat viewings. Jimbo says check it out, but only if the local multiplex ain't playing the next movie on our double bill.

Not since the heyday of Charles Durning have we seen hyper-patriotic vigilante action THIS awesome.

All I'm going to say is that if there's a theater within 100 miles of you playing Brawl in Cell Block 99, you better catch the next screening ASAP. Not only is this the best vigilante action movie to come down the pipes in years, it might just be the first TRULY great movie of Donald Trump's America. This thing is already guaranteeing Vince Vaughn's enshrinement in the degenerate cinema hall of fame (I think it's in New Jersey somewhere), and it's only a matter of time until this thing becomes THE midnight movie of our generation.

The very first shot of the movie is a truck running over a Miller Lite can, so you just KNOW it's going to be manly as fuck. We've got Vince Vaughn playing this bald-headed guy with a Celtic cross tattooed on the back of his skull and he gets laid off from his tow trucking job and he comes home and finds his bony-ass wife sitting in the driveway trying to cover up a big-ass hickey on her neck. He reacts, as any of us would, by ordering her to go back into the duplex and having a boxing match with her car. I mean, he goes full bonus stage in Street Fighter II on that motherfucker, and it is glorious.

Afterwards they have a long talk about the dairy section at the local 7-Eleven (seriously, it goes on for almost ten minutes) and then they agree "you know, maybe getting a part time job as a drug runner ain't the worst idea for part-time employment." So flash forward 18 months and Vince's got a big old house and his wife's preggers. He gets called up by this one drug dealer who asks him if white people can say "nigga" and he puts Vince on a job working with these Meskins, but he's a bit hesitant because one of them looks like a meth addict on steroids but he agrees after his boss man promises him three months paid paternity leave. So the Meskins go scuba divin' for crack for about 20 minutes, then they turn on Vince and there's a big shootout with the police and one of the Meskins yells "get ready for 9/11 part two" and starts lobbing grenades everywhere and Vince ain't going to stand for it so he waltzes on over there and starts shooting the drug runners and he gets arrested and the judge puts him behind bars for seven years and we get this long sequence which shows Vince getting processed on the first day. This old black dude who shot two dudes in the head 28 years ago while he was on heroin gives him the lowdown on prison life and this one guard keeps trying to get him to join the prison's boxing program, but we never get Penitentiary IV because these goons break into Vince's house and kidnap his wife and the next day this Russian dude representing the Mexican drug kingpin Vince screwed over shows up and tells him they've got his girl and they're going to give her a black market abortion unless he repays his debt by killing another dude at another prison facility.

So that means he has to cause a ruckus at this medium-security facility so they'll take him to the prison where the assassination target is imprisoned. We get a pretty long (and shockingly realistic) scene showing the monotony of medium-security prison life, and then Vince decides to pick a fight with the boxing guard, and he snaps his arm in half and fights three more guards, eats some mace and billy club and gets carted off to a max security prison where the warden says the place is really more of a "minimum freedom" facility and his cell is literally a stone cavern. And there's a broken toilet with overflowing shit in it, so he can't eat nothing.

But you see, the guy Vince is supposed to be killed is held in the most secure part of the entire facility, so to be sent there he has to get into a prison yard brawl with these Meskin gang members, but since Vince is about a foot and half taller than all of 'em it ain't much of a fight. But just when they're about to start swinging bar bells at each others, the guards start firing shots in the air and Vince literally breaks another dude's spine with a bear hug and he roughs up some more guards and he's dragged into the titular cell block 99 with a burlap sack over his head and they toss him into the basement where there are literal torture devices everywhere. They strap an electro-shock belt around his waist and deep fry his kidneys every time he steps out of line and make him sleep on busted glass, and the warden gets sick of his shit and tosses him into a room with the four Meskins he beat up earlier and apparently they're in good with the drug lord who kidnapped Vince's wife, but he easily dispatches all of 'em and puts down a couple more guards for good measure. 

Then he gets the master key to all the inmate cells and it's officially time to make some Meskins pay. We've got a dude LITERALLY having his face grinded off on a concrete floor. We've got another guy's skull getting punted until it looks like a Jack O Lantern thrown out of a helicopter. And just you WAIT until Vince gets his hands on the big bad who ordered his unborn child's execution - having his leg bent 90 degrees the other way and having his head flushed down a septic tank are two of the nicer things Vaughn does to the poor sumbitch. 

Of course, there's more meat to the movie than this, but I don't want to spoil it for you. All I'm going to say is that the Russian goon and his Japanese abortionist buddy do indeed make it to the appointment, but since Vince's wife found herself a semi-automatic rifle, there's no guarantee the procedure ever takes place. And considering how irked the warden is over Vince's behavior, it's probably no surprise that he doesn't greet Vaughn with a warm cup of cocoa and a hearty handshake at the very, very tail-end of the movie. But again, I ain't spoilin' nothing for you - this movie is so damn good, it might actually be worth paying money to see it. 

We've got ten dead bodies. No breasts. Two exposed buttocks (unfortunately, they're Vince's.) Multiple kung fu scenes, including a battle to the death against a Mitsubishi. Eye gouging. Pistol whipping. Heads roll. One face literally sanded off. One head stomped open like a pinata. Gratuitous tire punching. Gratuitous bloody feet. Grenade fu. Caseworker fu. Night stick fu. Compound fracture fu. Full body cavity inspection fu. Electro-shock belt fu. Broken glass torture fu. And the thing more or less responsible for the movie existing in the first place ... some SERIOUS registered Republican fu.

Starring Vince Vaughn as protagonist Bradley Thomas, the principled drug runner turned prison assassin who says lines like "I'm sick of getting the skim milk and hoping love brings us the cream, because it won't" and "I didn't know H20 had a sexual orientation"; Jennifer Carpenter as his anorexic-looking wife who's too sick to hold an Uzi correctly when Meskin drug trafficker lay siege to her home; THE Don Johnson as Warden Tuggs, the constantly-cigar smoking prison head honcho who makes Vince take a dump in a hole in the floor and makes it a philosophical effort to allow his tenants the most minimal amount of freedom allowed by U.N. convention; and Udo Kier as the Russian messenger, who only shows emotion when he gets all giddy about the prospects of amputating Vince's daughter's legs while she's still in utero

Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, who deserves an Academy Award just for thinking up the line "don't call me a foreigner - last time I checked, the flag wasn't red, white and burrito."

There ain't no question about it - this thing is an instant classic, kind of a combination of Ichi the Killer and Drive, with a hearty amount of Death Wish and The Story of Ricky thrown in for good measure. No surprise, but I have no reservations about giving this one a full four stars out of four rating. Jimbo not only says check it out, he says see it about three or four times and get it on DVD, too. 


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