“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for December, 2008

Gran Torino

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Holy shit, I think I knew this before, but Clint Eastwood is the greatest movie star of all time. How is it possible that a guy who 40 years ago starred in some of the best westerns ever, and 30 years ago starred in some of the best cop movies ever, and 15 years ago directed and starred in the (deserving) winner of the best picture Oscar (another one of the best westerns ever), and in this decade is still going strong as a unique and sometimes great director of serious movies, and yet ALSO chose to direct and star in this humble little slice of moving dramedy with a side of good old fashioned ass kicking? Answer: it is not possible. But Clint doesn’t believe in impossible so he did those things anyway. Also he was mayor once. And plays piano. And sang the theme song for this one.

I think probaly most people want Clint to keep doing those Oscar bait movies. I liked MILLION DOLLAR BABY (another best picture, not even the one I referred to before) and I get why people like MYSTIC RIVER, and I thought LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA was great. But as good of a director as he is I think Clint Eastwood the movie star is an even more valuable treasure to the world, so I’m happy he’s still willing to throw us one of these. The older and gruffer he gets the cooler he gets, so he should stay on camera. (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 has read Stallone’s The Expendables

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

SPOILER ALERT !!

Usually I don’t write much about a movie before it’s made, because I prefer movies that exist. Every once in a while somebody sends me a script like LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD or RAMBO, but I usually ignore them. I would rather watch the finished movie and not know what the original plan was. And to be honest I’m not sure how qualified I am to tell you about the meal based on the recipe. But THE EXPENDABLES – a Sylvester Stallone action ensemble picture where he will write, direct and then star alongside Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Forest Whitaker and Randy Couture – is a big fuckin deal among those of us who love the action cinema of the ’80s and ’90s. We can’t help but dream about this one like nerds once dreamed of Star Wars prequels or new outfits for their limited edition Serenity dolls so they can act out what would’ve happened in the second season. So when Stallone’s script fell into my lap this time I couldn’t resist.

By the way I would like to take a moment to welcome A.B. King to the talkback. Welcome, A.B.

The ragtag team of the title are a group of elite mercenary badasses – at one point described as “totally prepared to die in a blaze of glory” – hired to take out a dictator in the South American country of Corza. I do not have an opinion on what’s going on in Corza because I believe it is a fictional country, but if in fact they’re real I’m against them. They got all kinds of human rights violations and shit. No good. (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.

Universal Soldier

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

In the ’80s Sylvester Stallone took action movies through a whole cycle of American self esteem issues. In FIRST BLOOD he dealt with Vietnam vets coming home and feeling abandoned. In FIRST BLOOD PART 2 he actually flew back to Vietnam, discovered the war was not quite wrapped up yet, and took home the gold with an amazing hail mary pass to save the POWs. In ROCKY IV he moved on to the Cold War and sewed that one up through a sporting event. Only in 1991 did notorious shitmakers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin dig up Stallone’s ROCKY IV enemy Dolph Lundgren, pit him against Jean-Claude Van Damme, and cut into those Vietnam wounds again. You know, for a super soldier movie. Don’t worry, it’s not exploitative. They’re artists.

What did happen to all those MIAs in Vietnam? FIRST BLOOD II said some were still alive, being tortured by sadistic Viet Cong who’ve yet to move on with their lives. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER posits that they were killed in action and their bodies were experimented on by Jerry Orbach, who resuscitated them as mindless super soldiers with super-healing powers when kept at low temperatures. (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.

Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

The concept of THE GINGERDEAD MAN is basically “Chucky, but a gingerbread man instead of a doll.” It takes part 2 about three minutes worth of recapping and rhyming narration to explain that in the sequel. But to be fair the goal is not so much to catch the audience up to speed as to pad it out to be longer than an hour so it seems like a real movie almost.

With an ingeniously stupid premise like this, there are a million hilarious ways to do a sequel. Instead they chose to do the old “monster attacks people making a horror movie” route already done much better in SEED OF CHUCKY. If you got the same premise for part 2 as another series had for part 5 then you should probaly do it better, right? Well, that wouldn’t be the Full Moon way. (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.

Special Forces

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

SPECIAL FORCES is part of the AMERICAN HEROES series which, as I’m sure you are all very aware, are unrelated Nu-Image action movies each spotlighting the heroism of one branch in the American military. So I hope I’m not unpatriotic for watching it for its Israeli director Isaac Florentine and British co-star Scott Adkins. I’ve written about these guys before – Florentine is the director of such movies as UNDISPUTED II and THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL, while Adkins is the co-star of movies ranging from UNDISPUTED II to THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL. Okay, so they aren’t making classics yet, but they’re some of the only reliable individuals I’ve found in the world of DTV action. They always seem like they’re trying.

A journalist taking pictures of atrocities in the in my opinion fictional former Soviet republic of Muldonia is taken hostage by some sadistic military assholes. One looks like a regular-sized Jaws from James Bond, but with grey hair, the other looks like the comedian Emo Philips wearing a beret. The second one is one of those villains you’re supposed to hate extra for his stupid haircut and hat, and the way he turns his nose up at everything. We should have enough to hate him for just with the atrocities he’s committed but we still find ourselves thinking “I hate him, he’s so stuck up!” (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.

Death Warrant

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

This is the early Van Damme picture that was written by David S. Goyer of BLADE fame. I know that guy has gotten some shit since he directed BLADE 3 and it wasn’t as good as the other two, but I give him credit. Sure, his directing needs work, but BLADE 1-2 are A+ action screenplays with the ideal balance of humor, brooding, swagger, mythological mumbo jumbo and pitch perfect build to moments of badass payoff and clever action scenes. Plus he worked on DARK CITY and BATMAN BEGINS, and I say anyone who works with Chris Nolan but also wrote a movie for Van Damme is worthy of respect.

In this one Van Damme plays a cop from Quebec (they always gotta have a different excuse for his accent) who puts five shots in a serial killer called The Sandman, then gets sent on a mission undercover in a prison to investigate mysterious inmate murders. Robert Guillame plays his best friend in prison, and I’m not sure how BENSON ended but he must’ve been up on some serious corruption charges to wind up in this place. He also got stabbed in the eye so he looks like a kindly, smaller Tiny Lister. (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 Vs. Seagal Vs. Vampires In AGAINST THE DARK!!

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Over my several years as a rising Seagalogist I have been asked many times who would win in a fight between Seagal and Van Damme. I have also been asked who would win between Seagal and Bruce Lee. I have never been asked who would win between Seagal and vampires, but I know now that the answer is Sea(SPOILER)gal. But this is also one of those whoever-wins-we-lose type scenarios because, I’m sorry to report, AGAINST THE DARK may be the least interesting movie Seagal has ever made.

Some might disagree. Many who don’t like Seagal’s movies criticize him for the exact reason why I think he’s interesting: he keeps making the same type of movie over and over again. To me it’s the perfecting, tinkering, and slow evolution of that formula that makes the movies cool. You don’t listen to blues to hear brand new riffs. Still, it SEEMS like it would be interesting to see his first attempt at a horror movie. But let’s be honest, nobody’s expecting it to work as a horror movie, and it doesn’t. So it should be a real Seagal movie, but it isn’t. It’s a shitty Sci-Fi-Channel-worthy vampire siege movie where one of the characters happens to be played by Seagal. And not even the main character. (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 Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Friday, December 12th, 2008

PROLOGUE: Long ago, a brave warrior (Jet Li) and a graceful dancer turned actress (Michelle Yeoh) did the movie TAI CHI MASTER together. Then both went to Hollywood and did Lethal Weapon and James Bond and shit. But they had not forgotten each other. They were gonna star in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON together. But Jet backed out for the incredibly classy reason that he had promised his wife to take the year off from movies and be with her while she was pregnant. Years later, they had another chance to do a movie together in Ronny Yu’s FEARLESS – but Michelle’s scenes got cut out of the theatrical version. So it was this last summer, 15 years later, that the two were finally reunited on the big screen. BUT IT WAS IN THE FUCKING MUMMY 3! How’s that for a Tales From the Crypt type twist ending?

Okay, I should get a couple disclaimers out of the way. First of all, mummies are not one of my favorite monsters. Off the top of my head the only mummy movie I can think of that I like is BUBBA HO-TEP, but that didn’t really need to be a mummy to be good. It just needed to be a slow moving monster so an elderly Elvis could be a fair match for it. If it was about a giant space slug or mutant sloth it could also be good if it had the same characterization of a sad, lonely Elvis Presley. The Universal MUMMY with Boris Karloff is a great monster at the beginning, then he disappears and it’s just Karloff in a fez for the rest of the movie. It’s no DRACULA, I’ll tell you that. And as you can see above I didn’t think the Hammer version was that great either. (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.

Punisher: War Zone

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Punisher War Zone? More like Punisher BORE Zone!

Nah, that was not sincere punning. Actually I was not bored and in fact enjoyed this stupid movie. What I mean to say is “The Punisher? More like The FUNisher!” But you know how it is, people tend to prefer negativity to positivity. That’s why there’s three movies called THE PUNISHER and not a single one called THE REWARDER. So I went the extra mile, I gave you both types of puns. Merry Christmas.

The Punisher is a unique motion picture phenomenon. Not too many characters are in movies three times, with three different actors, three different directors, three different approaches. Not sequels or remakes, each one is a do-over. I can relate to this type of series because I myself am a unique motion picture phenomenon: I am the rare individual who sort of enjoyed all three versions of THE PUNISHER. (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.

Lionheart

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

LIONHEART is Van Damme circa 1991, and his best up to that point if you ask me, which by reading this you agree to do. As a matter of personal taste I think competitive fighting is one of the squarest action subgenres. You got less room for chase scenes and explosions, the rules and locales of the fights are too rigid. I mean nothing against a good pre-fight jitters locker room scene or a spooky ancient temple with torches and mystical snake statues, but I prefer a more urban style of action movie. One with crooks and creeps, alleys, fire escapes, car windshields.

LIONHEART is a smart compromise because it continues the competitive fighting of BLOODSPORT and KICKBOXER but in a cartoonish underground fighting circuit in New York and Los Angeles. This is another subgenre that gets old fast, usually because you get sick of looking at the same dimly lit arena with a fence or barbwire, maybe a strobelight. This one avoids that pitfall by having a new location and crowd for each fight: a circle of cars (with people rollerskating around), a swimming pool with all but the deep end drained (crowd in bikinis like it’s a pool party), inside somebody’s mansion (a black tie event) and (my favorite) a racquetball court. Brian Thompson is there but never fights. The real villain is Cynthia (could’ve sworn the credits just called her “The Lady,” but maybe I imagined that) the stereotypical L.A. rich bitch of the ’80s: short hair, expensive clothes, sexually and capitalistically aggressive. (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.