I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Archive for May, 2008

Vern wants you to Pay Homage to the Man With The Ponytail… Steven Seagal! And get a PLAYSTATION 3 for the effort!

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

WIN A PLAYSTATION 3 JUST BY PAYING TRIBUTE TO STEVEN SEAGAL

Which I imagine is something you guys do in your spare time anyway, so why not?

Hello friends, Vern here. As many of you know, I self-published a book last year called SEAGALOGY, which forever changed the lives of the couple hundred people who read it. If you have noticed any kind of improvement in the world or change in the essence of a man since then I think it is fair for me to take full credit. Well, on June 10th a new revised and updated edition of the book will come to book stores everywhere thanks to Titan Books, a fine British publisher also responsible for the greatest coffee table book I know of Click Here! Obviously an in-depth study of the films of Steven Seagal sells itself, but as a sign of respect for my mission the nice people at Titan decided to promote the book through the medium of contest. Basically what you have to do to enter is make a video paying tribute to what you like about Seagal. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Vern reviews the new Jim VanBebber box set!!!

Monday, May 26th, 2008

VISIONS OF HELL: THE FILMS OF JIM VANBEBBER

This Tuesday Dark Sky releases a 4-disc box set of the works of underground director Jim VanBebber. Although he’s been working since the mid-’80s this little box of sleaze represents pretty much his entire output: 2 feature films and some shorts. I think the only thing missing is a bunch of music videos, a trailer called “Chunkblower,” and some 8mm stop motion shorts he made as a kid. The guy is completely independent and uncompromising, this is not a gonna you expect to start directing commercials or be in the running to take over THE WOLF MAN. But I guess if it wasn’t such an uphill battle for him his movies wouldn’t be as interesting.

One of the two features is THE MANSON FAMILY, which he started in 1988 as a quickie exploitation movie that he expected to do in 2 weeks. Then he got obsessed with researching the actual crimes, ran out of money, started up again later and didn’t finish it until 2003. To be honest I’m not a big fan of this one even though some of the filmatism is amazing. It really looks and feels like it was made in the late ’60s or early ’70s. At its best it’s pretty terrifying, a really bad trip. The scene where they cover themselves in dog’s blood during a beachside orgy has to be seen to be believed. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Battle in Seattle

Monday, May 26th, 2008

BATTLE IN THE SEATTLE
Vern’s thoughts on the movie, the historical event, and Thursday’s
opening of the 2008 Seattle International Film Festival

NOTE: This is another one of those ones I sent in to Ain’t It Cool and they never ran it. But I was kind of thinking of making it a geocities exclusive anyway because I knew as soon as some asshole talkbacker pointed out it was long I would ram my head through a wall.

IMPORTANT NOTICE – RFL/NFW: This will be a Real Fucking Long review that will also talk about my own observations of the actual historical events the movie is based on. You’ve been warned so NFW (No Fucking Whining).

At a glance BATTLE IN SEATTLE might seem like a perfect opening film for this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. For one thing, it has the word “Seattle” in the title. For another it takes place in Seattle. Those are only two of the reasons. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Showdown in Little Tokyo and Bridge of Dragons

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

The Dolph Lundgren vs. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa Saga
SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO (1991) and BRIDGE OF DRAGONS (1999)

As I continue to learn about the works of Dolph Lundgren (no, sorry, I’m not writing LUNDGRENICS, I’m just trying to become a more well-rounded individual) it’s refreshing to find that he has many movies where he is a charismatic action hero and not just some grunting oaf. SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO is one people have been recommending to me for years because it has him teamed with Brandon Lee, which is a pretty big deal for somebody whose most notable co-stars are often talk show hosts like Jerry Springer or Montel Williams.

Basically this one is a cop buddy picture with Dolph as the line-crossing, bushido practicing white cop on the Little Tokyo beat who by the way is out to avenge the deaths of his parents by a samurai, but that’s neither here nor there. We know Dolph is a bad motherfucker right away because he single-handedly busts up an illegal underground fighting circuit by rappelling in from the ceiling in the middle of a match and then taking on those who disagree with his decision. Later he’s in a cafe when he happens to see some of the same Yakuzas bullying the old lady owner for protection money. In the middle of the brawl that ensues he’s introduced to his new partner, Brandon Lee. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Avenging Force

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

A bunch of people have suggested this one to me over the years, so thank you all. It’s a Michael Dudikoff picture made one year after AMERICAN NINJA. Once again Steve James is the sidekick, this time playing a senator whose family is targeted by racists, so Dudikoff tries to help them and, when that fails, becomes an avenging force.

The best thing about the movie is the bad guys. They’re introduced at a big martial arts demonstration/awards dinner type ceremony. At first it just seems like some kind of weird overlap between a martial arts club and the Republican party. They’re these prominent businessmen and they keep talking about how bad gun control is. But then all the sudden they start tossing the N-word around. These guys are fuckin white supremacists! They also have a secret “hunting club” where they dress up in Halloween masks and S&M gear and shoot arrows at humans. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Redbelt

Monday, May 19th, 2008

If you’ve seen anything by David Mamet then you know it’s kind of surprising (and awesome) that his new movie is about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I even heard rumors that it was a straight ahead kickboxing movie like BLOODSPORT, and when the opening credits had Japanese drums like Christopher Lambert’s THE HUNTED I was about ready for the rebirth of action cinema. But this is really not an action movie. Anyone who goes in looking for that might be disappointed like the guy who wanted his money back when I saw GHOST DOG. Maybe not quite as much – there’s not alot of poetic shots of birds flying or long scenes of dudes driving around quietly contemplating. But this is not BEST OF THE BEST 2008, it’s definitely a David Mamet movie. Slowly unfolding plot that could go in any direction, narrative that respects the audience enough not to spell everything out for them, an intricate con, macho dialogue, magic tricks, Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna, Mamet’s wife, songs by Mamet’s wife. I was hoping William H. Macey would show up as some retired kickboxing legend, but maybe next time.

The best thing about the movie is Chewetel Ejiofor. He plays Mike Terry, the instructor at a small, struggling jiu-jitsu academy, and a total fucking badass. He has some ties to bigshots in competitive mixed martial arts (or “karate potpouri” I believe they prefer to call it) but he doesn’t consider competition fights to be honorable, so he won’t do that even when he needs the money badly. It’s best to just let the plot fall into place, it’s not exactly high concept. But I will say that it involves some coincidence, a broken window, some lies, and some sleeper holds. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Class of 1999

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Director Mark L. Lester returns in 1990 for an ambitiously ridiculous sequel to CLASS OF 1984. Instead of taking some character or setting from that movie and continuing with it he takes the same sort of story and puts it in a futuristic sci-fi world. So instead of a paranoid vision of violence in schools a couple years from now it’s a purposely ridiculous paranoid vision of cyborg teachers taking on violence in schools.

The first one took a while to warm up, but CLASS OF 1999 is at maximum awesome levels straight out of the gate. You can’t help but laugh as the movie apes ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and then ROBOCOP and then a little TERMINATOR. The ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK part is that the hero is a juvenile delinquent who they let out of prison to go– well, not on a mission. To high school. And it’s in a walled off zone where the kids are so out of control the government has decided not to enforce law there. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Class of 1984

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

CLASS OF 1984 is an earlier picture by COMMANDO’s Mark L. Lester. It starts out shitty with a terrible song by Alice Cooper and your usual ’80s horse shit about cities being overrun with maniac punk rocker delinquent savages. In this case the problem is at a high school where new music teacher Mr. Norris (Perry King) is surprised to find metal detectors, switchblades, gang fights and students who lick their middle fingers and say “sit on this, motherfucker.” His new friend, science teacher Roddy McDowall, has learned to get used to it, and carries a piece in his briefcase.

But Mr. Norris can’t just get used to it. These hoodlums are always interfering with his class, and they sell drugs to one student who flips out and climbs up the flagpole and lets go. And later wiseass trumpet player Michael J. Fox (in his first movie role, and looking about 14 years-old) gets stabbed, something that rarely happened on Family Ties, in the BACK TO THE FUTURE or TEEN WOLF sagas, or in any of those TV movies about summer camp. Plus they start threatening Norris outside of school, showing up at his house in Halloween costumes and spraying him in the face with fake blood. Which is a metaphor for real blood, if I know my teens. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Speed Racer

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

If the old Speed Racer cartoon had a baby with a Hot Wheels commercial in the back of a candy store and fed it magic mushrooms every day for breakfast, then when it turned 18 that baby would legally become this movie. What I mean is it’s clearly the product of its upbringing: silly cartoon plot, Skittles color palette, cartoon physics, monkey wearing clothes, etc. But it wants to become a man, so it rebels. It confuses little kids and their parents with a complex non-linear structure intercutting a present day race with backstory and a flashback race and overlapping past and present races within one shot. And instead of trying to stop some evil plot to destroy the world like you’re supposed to do in this type of movie, SPEED RACER helps an investigative body stop a corrupt corporation from manipulating the stock market by fixing races. (It does not mention the tax disputes from PHANTOM MENACE.)

The result is a movie that people want to beat up. The Wachowski Brothers until now have only directed 4 movies, 3 of them THE MATRIX and the other one just to prove to the studio they could direct THE MATRIX, so this is almost like their sophomore slump. It’s an absurdly ridiculous and/or ridiculously absurd, kind of alienating and weird Wachowski version of a kiddie movie that already seems destined to lose the studio a ton of money and either force the Wachowskis to try something smaller or safer or to go away and not direct for ten years. Also I kind of liked it. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

The first and most important thing that must be said of THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE is that it has one of the most badass theme songs ever, and without even leaning on the crutch of wah wah guitar. A deep ominous BA-DUMP-BUMP-BUMP alternates with tension building horns and violins or something in a higher pitch… well, I’m dancing about architecture here but trust me, this theme song WILL kick your ass. The score is by David Shire, who strangely has done mostly TV movies but recently did ZODIAC. But it has that catchiness and strutting quality of the best Lalo Schifrin, like ENTER THE DRAGON or something, where after you see the movie you can’t help but walking around picturing it as your theme music.

(By the way, if you watch the original theatrical cut of PAYBACK you can tell that the badass music during the opening montage is inspired by this. They did a good job, but not as good.)

And the movie does a pretty good job of living up to the theme song. It’s directed by Joseph Sargent who is also mainly a TV guy, but the feel is cinematic. Watching it now I realize this must’ve been a huge influence on many of the DIE HARD type movies and especially DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE. It doesn’t have the one guy in over his head and physically fighting the bad guys, but the criminal plot, setting, characters, sense of humor and tone are all very DIE HARD. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.