As a special favor to all individuals who have been so faithful to my sight and my works, I’m gonna do a special NON-BUMMER edition of VERN TELL’S IT LIKE IT IS, where I talk almost entirely about movies. Not about politics. That is not to say that I will stop complaining about the Bush Regime. Or even cut down on it. Because you can’t just ignore that shit. But today I’m gonna.
EXCEPT to promise you that the fuckers will attack Iraq before November, I’m guessin within the next month or so. And then it could get ugly. Nobody in their right mind, and almost nobody who isn’t an on-air personality for the Fox News Network, thinks this is even a halfway reasonable idea. But if there is a massive uprising of dissent, which there should be, the mechanisms are already in place for a disaster. Pay close attention to what they’re saying about “we don’t want to change the posse-commitatus act, no, all we’re saying is that we are going to LOOK INTO changing it, but we really don’t want to, I mean we definitely won’t even consider doing it, we’re just gonna LOOK at it. But not do it. Necessarily. Don’t worry.” Kent State will seem like a birthday party after this. And then people will finally understand what the Bush Regime is. But it might be too late.
Okay! And that’s all I will say this time! It’s Happy Time!
This column will not be about that weird samurai horror movie but about this new trend in the making of the VERSUS movies. You know, like KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. There are actually three movies about ready to go into production which pit two separate movie franchises against each other. Two of the three have been nerd-dreams for at least ten years, but it will be fitting if this is the year they finally get the greenlight, representing the world now as a deadly battle between evil and evil.
The one that seems to be definite is SUPERMAN VS. BATMAN. It’s probaly the least ridiculous of the three premises, even though it’s about superfriends. My nerd correspondent tells me there is a long history of these two bein buddies in a children’s comic book called “WORLD’S FINEST” which is about how they team up to fight dinosaurs and shit. But he says that nerds are more interested in the one comic “DARK NIGHT RETURNS” where Batman puts on a big metal suit and tries to pummel the shit out of Superman, and at least gives him a bloody nose anyway. Apparently Superman works for Ronald Reagan in this comic so he deserved alot worse.
Also don’t forget to mention the cartoon, he says, where Batman dates Lois Lane just to piss off Superman, and follows him to his apartment to find out his identity, and when Superman has taken off his costume and notices a bat-shaped bug attached to it, he looks out the window and sees Batman standing on a building far away holding a pair of binoculars and givin him a thumbs up.
That actually sounds pretty good.
The movie will take the same approach, that Batman and Superman hate each other because one is an obsessed, revenge driven guy and the other one is an all american idealist with a little curl in the front of his hair like Michael Jackson used to have. Then they team up at the end.
The filmatists are a mixed bag. The script is by Andrew Kevin Walker, always known as the guy who wrote SE-(the number seven instead of a V)-EN. But he’s also the guy who wrote BRAINSCAN and 8MM.
To be fair, he was a script doctor on David Fincher’s actual best movie, THE GAME, so give him credit for that one too.
Then the director is Wolfgang Petersen. He’s the kraut who did DAS BOOT and he also did IN THE LINE OF FIRE with Clint. On the other hand his last movie was THE PERFECT STORM. But he seems like a guy who would take the character drama and treat it seriously, like Bryan Singer did in X-MEN. So maybe it could go in the “good” category of movies based on children’s juvenile picture comics, but we’ll have to wait and see if they got them wearing goofy leather motorcycle jackets like on DAREDEVIL or who knows what they could do.
But I gotta say so far this one is not my most anticipated because if it sucks, it won’t be that interesting. Unlike JASON VS. FREDDY, which is guaranteed to suck. Because it’s about Jason vs. Freddy.
This is one of those movies that people have talked about for years. Talking about it like it was a good idea. In the end of JASON GOES TO HELL they even set it up. Jason dies, and some muppet arms pull him down into the dirt. Then some leaves blow over and his mask is right there on the surface of the dirt. Suddenly Freddy’s glove comes up and scrapes across the mask. So I guess they are fighting right there in the dirt. It’s kinda fucked up man, I don’t get it.
Ever since I saw that movie I wondered, how the fuck do people get to have that bad of taste that they would take that as a serious premise for a horror picture? I mean first of all, FRIDAY THE 13TH was never on the same level as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Even in the bad sequels. Jason is just a dude who goes around and kills people, usually teens having sex, using fancy tools. Yeah there’s a certain pulpy primal whatever to it. I love it, especially in 3-D. But the Freddy pictures were always more cerebral. They were based on deeper fears, on surrealism, and Jungian type psychology. And on that whole sins of the fathers thing. The parents of Elm Street were vigilantes. Freddy was a child killer, but they killed too. And they increase the cycle of violence. There is more depth to this concept than Jason, who was mad at the counselors ’cause they let him drown, I think.
In the first FREDDY there was this part where she was in the school, only it was a dream. And there was a goat walkin down the hallway. To me that was the most fucked up part. Why would there be a goat walkin down the hallway? But in a dream it makes sense.
Goats are kinda creepy too man, I don’t know.
I mean admittedly after the first one the themes were beat down to their dumbest core, and it just became a formula. Girl doesn’t like bugs, Freddy turns girl into bug, squooshes girl, makes pun. But even in those, they were doin some real inventive set piece type maneuvers, inventing very complex makeup effects and putting Freddy through weird transformations and makin him turn black and white or he turns a kid into a puppet and controls him by his veins or whatever. And meanwhile all they’re doin in the Jason pictures is makin him jump out and stab a guy in the eyeball or somethin.
Also, Freddy got wrapped up pretty good in that last one, WES CRAVEN PRESENTS WES CRAVEN’S ALL NEW NIGHTMARE ADVENTURE. In that one all the Freddy movies were fictional but Wes and Robert Englund and everybody got stalked by a primeval force that inspired Freddy. It was actually pretty good and did the self–referential thing before SCREAM. Jason never had a sequel as good and serious as that, let alone an original. (And in the original, Jason wasn’t even the killer! Fuck, man.)
So right from the beginning you got Freddy slummin by bein in a picture with Jason. It’s like Jackie Chan doin a movie with Tom Arnold.
And besides that, what the hell are they gonna do? Have a competition to see who can kill the most people? Or actually fight each other? And how are they gonna fight, anyway? After a long day of walking slowly after chicks in the woods and then catching up, Jason nods off. And he has an ironic dream where Freddy turns him into a chick and chases him through the woods!
This is pretty much the stupidest idea for a movie ever, and that’s why I am so happy to see my man Ronny Yu takin it on. Ronny used to be a legimate director in Hong Kong, doing very operatic pictures like THE PHANTOM LOVER and the two BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR pictures. But you know what happened, control of Hong Kong went back to the mainland, and all the good filmatists sold their souls to the curse of Van Damme.
Ronny Yu managed to avoid ever working with Van Damme. But instead he did a movie with talking kangaroos that do kung fu. I mean, you can decide which is worse. WARRIORS OF VIRTUE was a bizarre combination of a straight to video type kids movie that coulda had Rick Moranis as the dad, and an authentic Hong Kong fantasy. There are interesting themes where the good guys try to redeem the bad guys instead of kill them, and some of the bad guys turn good or the good guys turn bad. It also brought wire–fu to america before THE MATRIX, and Peter Pau’s cinematography before CROUCHING TIGER. But I should reiterate though bud it was about talking kangaroos that do kung fu.
The kangaroos had some kind of breakthrough animatronic lip synch technology and he had already done two movies with the word “BRIDE” in the title, so Mr. Yu was immediately hired to direct BRIDE OF CHUCKY. This is the Chucky picture where Chucky has a girlfriend who is also a doll, and they have sex (only after marriage, interestingly. I guess that’s why it’s not JASON VS. CHUCKY). The tone is completely absurdist, sometimes John Watersy camp. And then occasionally they have some pretty beautiful shots of the puppets in tragic poses, again courtesy of Oscar winning cinematographist Peter Pau. Chucky was the first ’80s slasher icon to question his own legitimacy in a sequel. Jason followed suit this year when he flew into space and dealt with his feelings of inadequacy by turning into a robot.
So it will be funny to see the same thing happen to Freddy. The first scary horror villain to turn into self parody and then get scary again for one movie and then turn into more of a gimmick than ever.
Apparently the premise is that Freddy is trapped in hell but he manages to send Jason to Elm Street to kill more of the children of the people that killed him. That should be a laugh riot. I hope Jason doesn’t go in dreams, I hope he goes door to door. It will be a fish out of water type situation, how is he supposed to run around in this suburb when he’s so used to the campground? Or maybe he will be in the dreams but it confuses him. And then later Freddy has to chase people through the woods at Crystal Lake and he doesn’t have his dream powers so he just keeps tripping and crashing into trees and he can’t even keep up with them.
The rights issues would prevent Chucky from making an appearance, but hopefully Ronny will work some puppets or kangaroos in there somewhere. And keep in mind that New Line Cinema owns the Texas Chain Saw pictures. As long as they’re pissing away any integrity the characters once had with the Michael Bay remake, I hope they work Leatherface into this one. Like you find out in a flashback that he got sent to Camp Crystal Lake one summer.
Anyway, I can’t fuckin wait.
Finally we have ALIENS VS. PREDATOR. This is not as silly as JASON VS. FREDDY but it’s destined to be garbage. This is a worse idea because it’s just plain stupid, it doesn’t have any retarded charm to it. All they are is two different types of aliens and they fight each other. Fantastic.
Newsies on the talkbacks sometimes give me shit for talking about “nerds” like I’m not one of them. I write on the internet medium of communication, I watch movies, I even write about movies based on children’s funny books, etc. So I am no different from them, goes the newsie argument.
Nope, sorry, there is something that separates us bud. And that is Aliens vs. Predator. I have never thought that was a good idea. Nerds get a boner over the idea. That is the difference. No boner (me), boner (nerds).
This is a much more serious case of slumming because in my opinion the ALIEN series has managed to retain some integrity the whole way through. Of course they all have flaws and none of them can ever match ALIEN. But ALIEN is really somethin. It is still influential to this day. It popularized the idea of the working class people in space, the biomechanical type of design, the art of H.R. Giger, the scary alien sci-fi horror sub-genre. It was a brilliant idea to have H.R. Giger and Moebius design everything. It was Jodorowsky’s brilliant idea, actually, he was gonna do it for DUNE and then Ridley Scott copied the idea. But it really worked. I mean that alien has no eyes! That fucker is scary.
And what is the deal with those giant dudes made out of bone? You know, the dead guys they found in the spaceship? I still want to see those dudes in one of the sequels. How do they even move?
ALIENS is influential too, and established James Cameron as a major director (before eliminating his entire fan base with one acceptance speech), and ultimately made cinematic history by influencing the much more important landmark BLADE II. The alien queen in there is brilliant, I think that bitch and Yoda are the two greatest movie monsters ever. I mean I look at that fucker and I think it’s a real animal. It creeps me out.
The aliens don’t look as creepy in the other two and they start to get overexposed, much in the style of Jack Black or the Osbournes. Jack Black is funnier in his socks and underwear if he is used more sparingly. They need to keep him in the shadows more. Haven’t these people ever seen JAWS? Come on! That’s how you use Jack Black.
But otherwise the movies are pretty good and underrated. I can’t tell the difference between any of those bald british guys in ALIEN 3, and I didn’t like how the first guy that got killed was just some janitor they didn’t even introduce us to. But David Fincher did some great visual work, and most of all showed some enormous Cinematic Balls by killing off all but one of the main characters at the very beginning, off screen, and the other one at the end. Hooray for David Fincher! I think he is going to go onto something bigger.
And then there is ALIEN RESURRECTION by another now-beloved director Jean Pierre Jeunet. Everybody hates this thing, even the guy who wrote it (who now does that “Buffy” show about the girl who kills vampires). Jeunet said he was glad when they came out with a version subtitled in french, because now he knows what it’s about.
But I think it is underrated. First of all, the photography is stunning. The best in any of the sequels. Second of all, the characters are better than in Fincher’s and you can tell them apart. For example, Winona Ryder is a little elf girl with big eyes. Ron Perlman is a huge muscleman with a grotesque face, who grunts alot. I never once mistook one for the other. Michael Wincott is a good tough guy in it, he has that gravelly voice. Also there is a cool guy, I guess he was originally supposed to be played by Chow Yun Fat. But I still liked this guy with the long dreadlocks who gets the Badass Burden of having to fight aliens with the paraplegic Dominique Pinon strapped to his back.
This is like the doubleman in EL TOPO but badder because this dude has to swim underwater in a flooded kitchen for something like 5 minutes, chased by aliens. There is also a good basketball scene.
The most controversial part is when Ripley does the alien queen, and then there is a half-human, half alien baby that has human eyes. Now I’m not sayin the effects couldn’tve been better but this part was fuckin brilliant. For the first time in one of these movies you actually feel sorry for the fucker ’cause you have to look it in the eye. So you don’t get to applaud when the poor bastard gets maybe the most painful death possible, getting sucked into space through a little hole about an inch in diameter. Crying the whole time and looking Ripley in the eye. The whole series, Ripley is trying to exterminate this race, and all it did was follow its own instincts. It’s the circle of life, Ripley. They can’t reproduce without killing people. Unless maybe they can plant their eggs in tofu, I’m not sure. But in this scene they make you question things a little more.
You can not name a single scene in a PREDATOR movie that is halfway as cool as that. Even if you’ve seen the movies. Because they are not very good. [note from the future: man, I was so wrong when I wrote this column. I obviously hadn’t seen PREDATOR in a long time otherwise I would know that it is awesome. sorry about this everybody I just needed time to change. –Vern, February 27th 2009.] Yeah I know, John McTiernan did the first one, but he also did MEDICINE MAN and ROLLERBALL. I have long since accepted that the dude only did DIE HARD and nothing else is worth acknowledging as a piece in the same filmography.
The only reason this movie caught on is because AT THE TIME the monster was a good design and had a good invisibility gimmick. The only other thing that endures in the picture is to see soon-to-be-former-Governor-of-Minnesota, then-former-professional-wrestler-turned-colorful-commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura running around with a helicopter gun saying macho shit like “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
But the design doesn’t stand up as being as creepy or weird as the ALIEN design, and mostly you just see that stupid heat-vision-POV footage that I guess at the time might’ve seemed cool. Now it’s what they do on tv to fill out an episode that’s too short.
PREDATOR movies don’t have much to offer in mythology. They don’t have conflicts like Ripley vs. the bureaucrats and militarists. They don’t have other alien races. They don’t have their own worlds and groundbreaking stylization. They just take place out in a jungle like any of those action movies you see on late night USA Network, the ones that star Roddy Piper or Don “The Dragon” Wilson.
I mean it’s really not a very good movie at all, and the sequel is worse.
PREDATOR has absolutely NOTHING to offer in this relationship. I don’t see what ALIEN sees in him. So there’s no way you’re gonna get a director like David Fincher or Jean Pierre Jeunet interested in doing a movie like this. So instead you get the only guy you can get, “Paul W.S. Anderson”, which is the new name for Paul “Not p.t.” Anderson.
My buddies over at AIN’T IT COOL NEWS really have it in for P.W.S. Anderson. And I don’t always agree with those boys but in this case they are definitely right. This is the dude who did MORTAL KOMBAT and I’m sorry to say that’s probaly my favorite of his movies. And I’ve seen all of ’em.
Other than that you got RESIDENT EVIL, which I don’t think I have to explain. And you got EVENT HORIZON which is a piece of garbage that people occasionally try to defend. The spaceship effects are admittedly beautiful but the horror is all inept and derivative, ripping off just the violent shit from HELLRAISER and not the creepy shit. And throwing in about ten times the acceptable level of loud-noise-makes-audience-jump fake out scares.
His most respected picture is his first one, the british one, SHOPPING starring Jude Law. This introduced his style of moronic electro-music mayhem. It’s about a bunch of fuckwads driving cars into stores and then stealing shit. I know, it sounds cool but it’s not. This is one of those movies where a bunch of unconvincing british criminals stand around and brag about how cynical and nihilistic they are.
“But why, Jude Law, why? Why are you gonna rob the most heavily secured mall there is? Are you insane?”
“Because nobody’s ever done it before! I NEED TO BE SOMEBODY!”
I mean does anybody really have to do the “one last big score” thing again? Or the “Please, Jude Law! We can go straight! Let’s move to (name of city), we can start over, start clean. I’m begging you!” No baby, I can’t do it. I can’t live with myself if I don’t do this job. Did you hear how I said job, that is criminal lingo that I use, because I’m a criminal in this movie. And a cool one. Geez I hope I don’t die ironically in the end, though, to add gravity to this mindless crime movie.
This guy never was a good director and he gets worse almost every time out. I’m gonna have to skip this one, even though I like them aliens. They have no eyes. It’s creepy.
Now that I have blabbered on I would like to propose that these three event pictures could be turned into even more of an event, even more of a corporate synergy, a tie-in, a cross–promotion. They could be a tournament.
Here’s how it works. The winner of JASON VS. FREDDY, and the winner of BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN, and the winner of ALIEN VS. PREDATOR will be put in a hat. Or their name will anyway. From this hat we will draw two pairs that will fight each other in two more movies.
Of course we need one other entry, so I propose a remake/rematch of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. The original doesn’t count because there was no clear winner. I know there is that urban legend that in the american one King Kong won and in the Japanese one Godzilla won. Actually there was only one ending and it was pretty much a stalemate. So let’s do that one over and throw the winner in the hat.
Now we got ourselves the finals. I would like to see Superman go up against Jason. Batman is better, but it would be funny to see Jason trying to catch Superman. Superman flies around the world twice in two seconds, and when he lands Jason is already standing there in front of him. Or maybe it would be funny to see Superman against Freddy because both of them have godlike powers. How will they outdo each other? Will Superman’s ironic dream involve Batman?
If Predator wins, it might not be that bad because he could potentially go up against Godzilla. Predator is a hunter and what better trophy to have than a Godzilla skull? That’s what he thinks. It will be good to see Godzilla eat that little bitch like one minute into the movie. The rest of the movie will be about Godzilla realizing he has feelings for Mothra.
But if Alien wins, and let’s face it he better, he will have a good challenge with Godzilla. If he plants an egg in Godzilla, would the chestburster be giant and Godzilla-like? Or would it just be regular size, and not do much damage? I’m sure it would at least make Godzilla nauseous, like having little worms crawling out of your skin. And then Godzilla could puke all over the city. I don’t know this could be a good match boys. I’m gettin excited.
Of course the two finalists will square off in the championship film in the summer of 2007, with special appearances by Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Abbot and Costello, Dracula and Billy the Kid. Or maybe just DMX.
Please, Hollywood, consider my proposal.
ONE FINAL NOTE.
Harry Knowles from The Ain’t It Cool News came to Seattle this week to do a booksigning for that book he had written. I met him briefly and he said he liked my Writing. He was very nice and not as fat as the cartoons on his sight make him out to be. I was kinda disappointed. What a phoney, he is really not all that fat. And he was wearing one of those rockabilly shirts with flames, not a faded Red Dwarf shirt or something like you might expect the “Head Geek” to.
Harry had a pretty dedicated following there, excited to see him. He talked real passionately, and he just wouldn’t stop talking. He said “right, okay” alot the same way Mr. Tarantino does.
I know alot of people, including many of my readers and associates, are not fond of Harry, or at least of his Writing, or of what he represents, or something. There are always people questioning his “legitimacy” as a “journalist”, or his acceptance of free crap from studios, or whatever. And there was that embarassing three part article on Film Threat where the guy thought he was blowin the lid off of Watergate but all he got was “some guy that Harry knew got busted for selling bootlegs at comic conventions”.
I mean look, even I don’t like how he says “could of” instead of “could’ve”. Even I know about contractions.
But I really think this guy is the real deal and let me tell you why. He watches movies all day long. He knows all of em. He is talking about people and movies I never heard of. I don’t think he’s makin em up either. And you can tell by his voice how excited he is to talk about them.
I mean you’re right, he doesn’t have as many insightful things to say about the movies as some of the more academic individuals on the internet type medium. And alot of the people on there have the same tendency to make every movie that comes along either the best movie they ever saw or the worst one they ever even heard of. But what he does have is a real passion for the movies, and that is a good thing.
I know you heard that one before and you don’t buy it, but it’s true. That doesn’t just mean he likes worthless garbage like AMERICAN VERSION OF GODZILLA and ARMAGEDDON. He also likes weirder, lower budget, more obscure worthless garbage. Garbage that is so worthless, that there is a worth to its garbageyness. Or, I don’t know. You know what I’m tryin to say, maybe.
What I’m tryin to say is, I would rather talk to a dude who finds something to love in a lot of crap, than a dude that hates every movie I love. Some people love movies so much, they hate all movies. I never want to get to that point where I go a whole year and only see 1 or 2 movies I really liked. At that point it’s time to start getting into NASCAR or something.
Harry was very complimentary to me. I should’ve thanked him for the support he has given me. Please remember that he has repeatedly exposed my works to an audience of millions. In exchange he got big stacks of talkbacks of people saying I was a fuckin moron and had lowered the bar for Ain’t It Cool by 36 feet.
So far, nobody else has done that for me. So in this respect, Harry is the ONLY person who is not a big asshole. Everybody else, fuck you.
So for what it’s worth I liked Harry, although to be frankly honest I am not the best judge of character, that is part of why you didn’t see much of me during the ’90s.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.