Thanks to his recent acting performances in The Mandalorian and Jack Reacher, Werner Herzog has become something of a cultural meme. His dour expression, dry narration, and nihilistic philosophy makes for great parody when applied to absurdity.
But it can’t be forgotten that Herzog is still a fascinating, distinct filmmaker. His latest documentary, Nomad, is a powerful tribute to writer Bruce Chatwin, whose work and approach to life Herzog admired.
My Spy wouldn’t be nearly as fun without Dave Bautista carrying the entire venture on his formidably muscled shoulders. Any doubters who dismissed Bautista as another pro wrestler trying to be a movie star like Dwayne Johnson were likely silenced by the comic timing he showed in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.
Bautista has continued to use that talent for deadpan humor in comedies like Stuber, and with My Spy, he’s taking the step to family-friendly action star, which elevated the careers of Johnson, Vin Diesel and John Cena. (Bautista is also a producer here, showing he knows this is the right move, balanced with his roles in upcoming spectacles such as Dune, Army of the Dead and a third Guardians movie.)
With the premiere of Bao Nguyen’s Bruce Lee documentary, Be Water, on Sunday (as part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series), I thought it would be worth revisiting 1993’s Lee biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.
I’ve always been a Lee fan, though couldn’t call myself a diehard. But I certainly remember watching his movies on TV as a kid and marveling at an Asian guy kicking everybody’s ass (including Chuck Norris). Even my mother sat down to watch with me, and she never had much interest in the stuff I enjoyed.
However, my memory of Dragon — which I saw in theaters when it was released in 1993 — is that it wasn’t very good. My rewatch confirmed that opinion, maybe even more so now that I often watch movies with a more discerning eye.
The kindest description of Dragon is that it’s a fairy tale telling of Lee’s story which takes significant dramatic license with real-life events and essentially turns his biography into a Bruce Lee action movie. That’s not to say that the film isn’t entertaining. But it strains believability to think that Lee (played by Jason Scott Lee) engaged in major action set pieces throughout his life.
Honestly, I wondered if the COVID-19 pandemic ended my days of getting paid to write movie reviews. Not only are movie theaters closed, but Asheville’s Mountain Xpress, where most of my reviews run, had to pare down due to a lack of ad revenue.
But indie theaters have been showing movies virtually, with part of the rental fees going to those venues, providing publications with films to review. And thankfully, the budget to pay for those reviews is opening up again.
So I was eager to review Lucky Grandma when given the opportunity:
Director Sasie Sealy (who co-wrote the script with Angela Cheng) builds her feature debut around a memorable grouch, Grandma Wong (Tsai Chin), whose fortune changes when a huge amount of money literally falls into her lap.
Lucky Grandma is a clever spin on the crime caper genre, thanks to Chin’s wonderfully cranky performance and Sealy trusting her warped morality tale to play out to its natural end.
As I was sitting in the theater before Bloodshot began (preceded by about 25 minutes of trailers, of course), I realized that this could be the last movie I’d see in public for a while. Even before chain and independent theaters implemented social distancing measures, then closed entirely, major releases had been pushed back for months (at least), so we wouldn’t have been getting new movies for a while.
So if Bloodshot was the last new movie I’d see in theaters until maybe — maybe — the summer, did Vin Diesel send us into self-imposed isolation on a high note? Well, sort of.