Well friends I’m back after a few months of travelling around the world learning every martial art known to man, or maybe just not being inspired enough to write. One of the two. I would like to thank the people who wrote me nice e-mails to make sure I was okay or encourage me to Write again. Also I would like to thank the people who sent me advice about paying my mortgage, penis enlargement, the hot new mother and daughter pictures, my details and especially the wicked screensaver.
As usual, it is hard to write about politics these days because holy jesus, where do you even start? I have noticed that there were a whole lot of us who were right, and a couple people on tv who were wrong, and yet I haven’t seen anybody saying I told you so. Thanks alot assholes, for taking the fun out of “I told you so.” It sucks to be right when being right means that all those troops you supported so god damn much are left rotting in the desert with no mission, no welcome, no desire to be there, and no hope for coming home any time soon, unless they run over a bomb and lose a couple limbs. Every once in a while you see one of them on tv looking sad, and you have to imagine a little thought balloon over their head that says, “4 more years!?” Oh well, it’s a volunteer army, I guess you can’t really complain that you got shipped off to your doom by the same assholes who turned around the very next day and cut your benefits and your pay. I wonder how many of those congress bitches were still wearing their american flag pins when they signed that into law? No biggie, when we’re done arguing about gay marriage and the ten commandments maybe we’ll look into bringing them home. IF there’s time. I doubt it but maybe. Keep your pants on, troops. Go USA.
But hey, you already know how I feel about that so for now, FUCK THAT SHIT. This is a web sight about the god damn Films of Cinema, is it not? So what exactly is the deal here, Vern? The last summer movie I reviewed was THE MATRIX RELOADED and I believe that was before summer technically started. So today what I want to do for you my friends is go back and review all the big summer movies I didn’t bother to review before. So put on your shorts and get ready for a nostalgic journey WAY back to the beginning of summer. (by the way, just because every fucking day was DO THE RIGHT THING this summer doesn’t mean there’s global warming. that’s all a big coincidence.) I want you to close your eyes, well not actually close your eyes because you should be reading this, but anyway I want you to open your eyes and remember a time when all anybody was talking about was a hulk, and not just any regular hulk but an incredible hulk. I guess maybe technically speaking he is not called an incredible hulk he is just HULK, however the incredibleness of this particular hulk goes without saying.
(the [incredible]) HULK
Apparently in the outside world this movie is considered a failure, but everybody I ever met loved it. This to me is what you always hope for from a big summer event movie and usually don’t get. One made by a great director who is willing and somehow able to take millions of dollars from a studio and use it to make kind of an art movie. Except with a big green guy who goes on a rampage. This is a movie where The Incredible Hulk flies across deserts, throws tanks, tears a mutant dog in half, chews up a missile, rides a jet into the upper atmosphere AND takes a moment to contemplate lichen in the desert. And that last part is why it’s so great.
Of course, Ang Lee makes you wait for the big tank tossing rampage, but that’s not a bad thing. God forbid a movie take time to develop its plot and explore the emotions of its giant green muscleman characters before the tanks start flying. This is a completely unique comic book movie in many ways. For one thing, it has much more faith in the human drama of its story, and expects its audience to watch long scenes about normal colored, non–flying humans having conversations with each other. Wearing ordinary clothes. For another thing, it goes much further than most in its depiction of super-powered mayhem. We have never seen a super hero in a movie who could do as much damage as Mr. Hulk. Although I guess he cannot fly around the earth so fast that it starts to spin backwards and goes back in time. But that shit is for pussies.
I should point out though that the Hulk is not really a super hero. He does not fight crime or any crap like that. This is more of a universal monster movie, the tragic story of a scientist cursed by an experiment gone awry who tries to control (but ultimately is liberated by) his monstrous side.
I’ve heard some people complain that the Hulk was “obviously CGI”. What did you want, a puppet? The Rock painted green? Yes, he is an animated character, like King Kong. He might not look as real as the guy sitting next to you in the theater loudly comparing the movie to spider-man, but he is a better person. It’s a real good animated performance, thanks in part to Mr. Ang Lee who apparently wore the motion capture suit for alot of the scenes.
The actor I was looking forward to seeing was Eric Bana, who will win an outlaw award for CHOPPER if I ever get around to announcing the awards for that year. (try to act surprised, though.) He does a decent job in a more normal role, but the standout here is Nick Nolte, who is basically playing that great mugshot of his. His performance as Bruce Banner’s father is completely insane, not hammy in a Joel Schumacher Batman villain kind of way, but more in a Marlon Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau kind of way. He looks like he hasn’t taken a shower in days and he mumbles and snorts most of his lines. In the best scene in the movie he turns an important talk with his son into an impromptu play for the military and makes a big crazy (but completely accurate) speech about military aggression. On the first viewing it seemed completely out of the blue, but the second time I saw it I realized how much of the movie was leading up to this moment. There is a theme about the heartlessness of the military machine, and I don’t think it’s a mistake that jets follow the Hulk into San Francisco and shoot missiles at him right on top of the Golden Gate Bridge. I mean, they just don’t give a fuck who gets in the way, they want to shoot a big green guy. It’s only because Hulk is a nice Hulk that nobody gets hurt.
The first time I saw it I thought of Nick Nolte as a super villain, but the second time around I really thought of it as the tragic story of the father’s relationship to his son. He makes this one mistake of experimenting on himself and every other bad decision he makes in the movie stems from that. Except maybe sending the mutant dogs after Hulk’s girlfriend. That was a little bit out of line, in my opinion.
Anyway, after he transforms from the mugshot into some kind of weird walking electrical field (that’s gotta be the most abstract fight scene in any comic book movie) there is a shot of him saying good night to baby hulk. The first time I thought it was just a flashback, but the second time I realized it could represent the electrical field actually saying goodbye to his son as he disappears into the atmosphere. And I can’t think of any other comic book movie (unless maybe ghost world counts) that has such ambiguous and poetic images.
CHARLIES ANGELS in FULL THROTTLE
Now you might start noticing a pattern here, but I believe this is another movie that everyone criticized but that is clearly a masterpiece of its genre. If you liked CHARLIE’S ANGELS this is a more powerful strain of the same virus. This is the perfect so-called “dumb popcorn movie.” There are movies like ARMAGEDDON that are just plain dumb, and you wonder why they didn’t take any of the oscar winning and/or acclaimed writers in the cast and have them write a script that wasn’t completely moronic and asinine. If Armageddon had made more sense or assumed its audience knew how to read complete sentences, it would not have hurt the movie. Maybe its audience didn’t need it to be smarter, but they wouldn’t have cared if it was. It would have made it better.
With a picture like CHARLIES ANGELS PRESENTS FULL THROTTLE however, adding more layers to the characters or more realism to the caper plot would not only not improve the movie, it would completely ruin it. It has to be that way because that’s why it’s funny. This is a movie about sexy, smart badass super secret agents with more talents and outfits than Barbie. It’s about girls doing kung fu and changing outfits and making double entendres. It is designed so that every moment is completely silly and ludicrous. The tone of the action is cartoonish to the extreme. There is a scene right in the beginning where the girls steal a truck and crash it, plummeting off a bridge, but the truck happens to have a helicopter in the back so they jump out of the truck and into the helicopter which they manage to fly away in.
THE MATRIX takes the Hong Kong style of fantasy action and makes a plausible explanation for how it is possible. CHARLIE’S ANGELS however takes the more pure hong kong approach of assuming that anyone who is not willing to accept the cinematic defiance of all physical laws is an asshole and deserves to be tortured. So if you have an attachment to quasi-realism in your action then you will be deservingly beaten over the head with beautiful scenes like the one where the villain turns around midair and unloads two pistols. While driving a motorcycle. In a motocross race. Without causing much of a scene.
All of the characters are back except for Bill Murray’s Bosley, who is replaced by the great Bernie Mac. This is the one major flaw of both movies. These are two great comedic actors, and they are amusing as Bosleys, but do not live up to their potential. I think this is because both are best when they are allowed to do extended riffs, but here they just get to do little bits. The movie belongs to the ladies.
Crispin Glover also returns as the skinny man, and what was a funny throwaway joke the first time (his hair fetish) now gets a whole backstory featuring Carrie Fisher.
The audience I saw this movie with on opening day was openly in love with it. They cheered for the re-introduction of each character, including Mr. Glover. They cheered for many action scenes, especially the one where the ladies tear through a roof and grab splinters of the roof in mid-air and then use those like skateboards to slide down a rail. I actually heard two people leaving the theater saying, only half joking, “I think that was the best movie I’ve ever seen.”
If I hadn’t heard otherwise I would think it would be impossible to leave this movie without a smile on your face, unless you got stabbed in an unrelated incident or something. Maybe that’s why it got all those bad reviews. Geez they need to do something about that.
28 DAYS LATER
Mr. Boyle’s low budget zombie movie was the “surprise hit” of the summer according to various shitty entertainment magazines that I keep forgetting not to read. I thought it was pretty decent but it does not add anything significant to the zombie genre. Most of this material was already covered more thoughtfully and with better visuals in Mr. Romero’s classic series of films. Kids, if you have not seen them, stop doing your fucking homework and go rent NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD, in that order. These are three great pictures that each make a statement about the time they were made in. Believe me your life will be improved by watching these movies.
28 DAYS LATER, at least on my one viewing, doesn’t seem to say much about our times. But it does repeat several ideas from Romero: a disparate group of survivors looking for a safe haven, a fun looting spree, a semi-domesticated zombie chained by the neck who later gets set loose as a weapon, a military base where the soldiers turn out to be a bunch of goons, a scene where they stop to get gas and one character wanders off and gets attacked by zombie kids and has to kill them. Yes, the zombies are faster than in Romero’s pictures, but we’ve also seen that in the great Return of the Living Dead.
I liked 28 DAYS LATER better near the end where it started to add more non-Living-Dead-retread twists. The idea of the soldiers using the continuation of the species as an excuse for rape. And of course the guy poking out eyes with his bare hands and then embracing his lover without even wiping off. Charming. I also enjoyed the loving relationship between the father and daughter.
I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s well made and I thought it was worth seeing. I’m just saying that shooting it on digital video instead of making it look really good doesn’t constitute reinventing zombie horror.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN in CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL
The big surprise for me this summer was this movie based on the great Disneyland ride. I mean it’s a fuckin pirate movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Based on a ride. Sure, Johnny Depp has a good track record but he also has a couple thankless roles in his past like the hunky gypsy guitarist in Chocolat, which is how I pictured this one.
The script is by the same fellas who wrote THE MASK OF ZORRO and it’s a similar type of old fashioned action adventure swashbuckling type deal, except with the clever added bonus of living skeletons and a monkey. The plot involves pirates cursed by Aztec gold they stole so that they turn to skeletons in the moonlight and cannot enjoy any of their plundering and/or pillaging. So instead of being about pirates searching for treasure, it’s about them trying to bring it all back to end the curse. Usually in a pirate movie you get the scene where they find all the treasure and scoop it up. Here it’s the opposite where they joyfully dump all the treasure back out.
So it’s a good story but nobody fucking cares, because right in the middle of it is Johnny Depp in a classic (won’t get the oscar it deserves) comedic performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, a character he describes as “a cross between Keith Richards and Pepe Lepew”. As soon as he makes his entrance, casually sashaying off of a sinking boat onto a dock, you know you are gonna love this movie. It’s great to see such a weirdo as the lead in a big budget adventure movie, even if they hedge their bets and include that elf Orlando Bloom as a more traditional, bland hunky character who grows in his Errol Flynn goatee over the movie to show how cool pirates are. The best pirates though are the less debonair ones. Most of the bad guys (including Geoffrey Rush) look like a little more grotesque version of the rubber cartoon characters from the ride. This may be the most rotten teeth seen in any one movie.
My only real complaint is the music. Apparently Bruckheimer decided the music “wasn’t piratey enough” so he hired Hans Zimmer to replace a bunch of the music. But instead of making it piratey I think he just took a couple tracks off the cd for THE ROCK and cut them into the action scenes. Oh well, I’ll live.
This is Johnny Depp’s movie for sure but I would also like to thank director Gore Verbinski. After this and the surprisingly good remake of THE RING I think it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing. Maybe they should just keep hiring him for things that just seem like they could never work. Like a sequel to this movie.
LEGENDS OF THE EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN or whatever
I guess everybody else saw it coming, but this was the one real dud I saw this summer. I put my trust in Steve Norrington because Steve Norrington made BLADE. And no matter what Steve Norrington does, no matter how low he sinks, he will always have that. He fucking made BLADE. He is the director of BLADE.
But yeah, he’s also the director of DEATH MACHINE, and now director of this. It’s all about a bunch of literary characters (Alan Quatermain, Tom Sawyer, Dorian Grey, Mina from Dracula, Jekkyl and Hyde, etc.) who are hired as secret agents for the British to fight some asshole in a mask called The Phantom. And in case you can’t figure out that means the Phantom of the Opera, Sean Connery says, “How operatic.”
That’s the first problem with this movie, is that it treats its audience like a bunch of fuckin retards. For example that old ham Connery plays the legendary adventurer Alan Quatermain, who is in many books and movies about cities of gold and what not. But in case you have problems pronouncing Quatermain, they actually added an ‘r’ into the name so it’s “Quartermain.” So don’t worry about it retards, even you will be able to pronounce his name.
According to my nerd sources, the comic strip this is based on is very smart and literary and over pretty much everyone’s head, and real british. The producers thought they needed to add an american character in the mix so americans had someone to relate to. So they made Tom Sawyer into an american secret agent. Well, that’s fine, but when you see the movie (but hopefully it won’t come to that) you’ll see that NOBODY would want to relate to Tom Sawyer as he is portrayed in this movie. I don’t care if you are as american as an apple pie with cheese stuffed into the crust, you’re gonna like either the invisible man best or Captain Nemo, if anybody. No fucking way anybody, anwhere, saw this movie and came out and said, “I really like that Tom Sawyer, I’m glad they included him in there for an american perspective that I can relate to.”
But complaining about that is just petty, because you could fix any five or six of the problems in this movie and you’d still have nothing. It really doesn’t work on any level other than occasionally having a good visual. (And yet the best shots in this movie don’t approach the visual appeal of the average shot in Norrington’s lower budgeted BLADE or THE LAST MINUTE.) It’s an ensemble piece with no really cool characters in it. Like X-MEN if every character was Cyclops.
But the main problem is that this is one of those movies where the story seems to be the last thing they tried to figure out, a couple months after filming. Shit, what is this movie even about? They are secret agents trying to stop the phantom, but then it turns out he is actually a guy in disguise as the phantom, and they are not actually secret agents, and then they fight in the snow, and then Alan QuaRtermain dies, and then he comes back to life because of an african chant or something. It’s one of those movies like MONKEY BONE where it seems like ten different groups of studio executives requested 100 different changes to the script and by the time they all came together nobody could remember why they asked for the changes in the first place. It reminds you of movies like THE SHADOW or even WILD WILD WEST that some day you will encounter in the video store or on cable and say, “oh jesus, I forgot about that one.”
Oh well. I better get to work forgetting.
BAD BOYS II
Are you fuckin kidding me, I didn’t watch that shit.
FREDDY VS. JASON
Finally, the summer ends on a high note with the big one that everyone has been waiting for. I couldn’t be happier with Mr. Yu’s take on this ridiculous Billy the Kid vs. Dracula style crossover.
The setup is good, so let me explain it. The movie starts out in a fit of surreal inspiration with a demonic looking sharp-toothed Freddy Krueger narrating the movie. He explains how he has been banished to hell, powerless because everybody forgot about him (and also because he himself forgot that he died in FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE). Jason is still rotting 2 inches beneath the dirt where Freddy found him at the end of JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY, so Freddy goes into the big guy’s dream, pretends to be his mother and convinces him to go to Elm Street to kill some teens. So Jason rises from the dead and I guess walks from New Jersey to Ohio where he finds some teens partying in the infamous house at 1429 Elm Street, and brutally slaughters a kid in bed. The police see the mess and think it’s Freddy, which spreads fear around the town of Springwood, giving Freddy more power.
Trouble is, Jason is already loose. I guess Freddy’s not all that familiar with what Jason does, but what he does is, if something moves, he kills it. Often with some sort of tool. If somebody runs away, he just walks and catches up with them. If he happens to be in space, he might turn into a cyborg, who knows. Jason is a bad motherfucker. So he’s killing these people before Freddy can get to them, and they get real pissed at each other and then there is a big fight.
Of course there is also a whole plot about the teens caught in the middle of this and how they play the two maniacs against each other, but the writers don’t make the mistake of assuming we give a flying fuck. At first the living characters are pretty much a joke. The audience understands the mythology of Freddy and Jason and the victims don’t, so there is humor at their expense. Like lamb to the slaughter.(except funny.) There are also some funny gimmicks like a scene where the girl from Destiny’s Child who is not Beyonce is forced to pull off Jason’s mask and give him mouth to mouth. No joke. This is a great film.
Yu and company know that the audience really only cares about Freddy and Jason, and their characters are in top form. Freddy is a good balance between the later talkative killer of the sequels and the quieter, scarier guy from the original classic. He says “bitch” too much but he doesn’t do too many puns or oneliners and the dreams he creates are dark and boiler-room centric. He doesn’t figure out the kids’ hobbies and kill them in ironic ways. He’s real dark and nasty, and even has one line that will make you go, “ooooooh, man.” It’s amazing that after all these years Freddy could actually say something shocking.
Jason meanwhile is played by a new guy, Ken Kirzinger, who is slightly taller and narrower than Kane Hodder. I think he’s better. He’s got the rotted, mutated head with a string of hair growing off. And he slaughters people left and right. This movie is a lot gorier than I expected. There are alot of beheadings and impalings and cuttings in half, which feel different from the old days because sometimes they use computers, but who cares. Everybody enjoys a good beheading whether it’s high tech or low tech (and here you get both).
Part of the joy of this movie and the anticipation of this movie is the discussions about who to root for. I have always liked Freddy better because his movies are more imaginative and visually ambitious. Still, I was rooting for Jason. Freddy is a child killer (molester?) who got burned alive and is getting his revenge by, well, continuing to be a child killer. Stubborn old fuck. Jason, on the other hand, is some retarded dead guy trying to make summer camps safer for swimming. So obviously he is the good guy. I think the writers of this movie agree with me on that because they portray Jason as the more sympathetic of the two and even have a part where you feel like Freddy is being too mean to him.
The highlight is of course the big fight at the end. I always wondered, what exactly is Freddy vs. Jason anyway? Is it a competition to see who kills the most people? (answer: sort of.) How are they gonna fight anyway, is Jason gonna fall asleep? (answer: sort of.) They are both able to do some damage both in the dream world and in the real world.
Yu is the perfect director for this movie even if every movie he’s made in america including this one is slumming. I don’t know if he even did it on purpose, but he is the guy who injected new blood into the ’80s slasher franchises by taking a more absurdist approach to them with BRIDE OF CHUCKY and now this. This approach was also taken with the great JASON X. These are all movies that take iconic horror characters from the ’80s, remove them from the templates of their previous sequels, and put them in much more ludicrous situations. We’ve seen Jason kill kids in the woods many times before, but now we get to see him loose on a space station, or on Elm Street, bogarting Freddy’s souls.
Yu also has a great visual sense and makes this movie look distinct from either of the franchises that inspired it. There are assloads of classic images, many of them that play off of the combining of the mythologies (Freddy leaping out of Crystal Lake and landing with a weird demon face is my favorite).
I love this movie the end
well friends thank you for letting me catch up there, i hope to see you all soon
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.