Sunday, April 15, 2018

Iron Sky

Concepts don’t really come any higher than this. IRON SKY posits that the Nazis fled Earth near the end of World War II and set up a secret base on the dark side of the Moon. Seventy years later, this lunar “Fourth Reich,” led by Führer Korzfleisch (Udo Kier) and his SS sidekick Adler (Götz Otto), is planning an invasion of Earth, but is surprised when an American space capsule lands nearby. Adler kills one astronaut and takes prisoner the other: an African-American named James Washington (Christopher Kirby).

Unfortunately for the Nazis, they can’t get their giant warship Götterdämmerung to work properly, as their computer technology is still rooted in the 1940s. Discovering Washington’s smartphone, Adler brainwashes Washington, bleaches his hair and skin white (!) to pass for a proper Aryan, and takes a flying saucer to Earth in order to meet U.S. president Sarah Palin (Stephanie Paul) and get more computer phones.

Director Timo Vuorensola plays this for comedy — perhaps wise considering the absurd premise. More than broad comedy, much of the humor is in the form of sharp political satire that doesn’t treat the United States with kid gloves. It’s no surprise the corporations that control film distribution in the United States stayed far away from IRON SKY, which isn’t shy about equating Nazi theology and contemporary right-wing rhetoric, as personified by the American president (who, to be fair, isn’t specifically named Palin, but come on…) and her vulgar campaign manager (Peta Sergeant).

Shot in several different countries on a low budget, reportedly around $10 million, IRON SKY doesn’t have the visual effects money to match its imaginative production design, which includes a moonbase shaped like a giant swastika. The actors are unafraid to tackle the silly concept and sharp anti-American humor head-on with special props going to the very funny Kirby and to top-billed Julia Dietze, who is charming as a Nazi teacher who uses an edited ten-minute cut of Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR to indoctrinate the base’s children.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Next Of Kin

If you can buy Patrick Swayze (following ROAD HOUSE), Liam Neeson (TAKEN), and Bill Paxton (TWISTER) as brothers, then you’ll probably be down for the rest of this Chicago crime drama about Kentucky hillbilly justice. If you can buy Andreas Katsulas (THE FUGITIVE) and Ben Stiller (STARSKY AND HUTCH) as father and son, then you’re pretty easy to please. Helen Hunt (MAD ABOUT YOU) is also here as Swayze’s wife, plus Adam Baldwin (CHUCK) and Michael J. Pollard (TANGO & CASH the same year!), which makes NEXT OF KIN pretty fascinating at times.

As crime drama and action/adventure, NEXT OF KIN is solid but routine with some nice chases and gunfights courtesy of English director John Irvin, who made the mediocre RAW DEAL with Arnold Schwarzeneggar, the stolid yet spooky GHOST STORY, and THE DOGS OF WAR, a violent adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s novel. Michael Jenning’s screenplay examines the different justice systems in play in Chicago, which is presented as “civilization,” basically, and the back hills of Kentucky, where the Gates family makes its home.

Most of them, at least. Brother Truman Gates (Swayze) left home for the Windy City, where he became a police detective with a pretty, sophisticated wife (Hunt) who plays violin. Youngest brother Gerald (Paxton) finally follows in Truman’s footsteps, but his arrival in Chicago is met with violence in the form of gunman Joey Rossellini (Baldwin) of mobster John Isabella’s (Katsulas) crime family.

Truman, a good cop, is dedicated to finding the murderer, but oldest brother Briar (Neeson) wants more: vengeance. Which gives NEXT OF KIN several different layers to play: brother vs. brother, old-fashioned revenge vs. the letter of the law, fish out of water. Irvin puts together a pretty good chase atop an L train, and the climactic cemetery shootout is laid out with precision and some thrills. NEXT OF KIN was not a hit, earning half of what ROAD HOUSE did at the domestic box office, but Swayze’s next film, GHOST, was an Oscar-winning monster smash.