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

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for February, 2009

Darkman III: Die Darkman Die

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Darkman’s still trying to fix that liquid skin problem, and this time he forms a partnership with one of the doctors who did the experimental surgery on him in the first place. She wants to try out a new technique to rewire his nerves so he has feeling again, and he agrees to be her guinea pig on the condition that he can borrow her top of the line DNA sequencer for his skin project. Both end up getting what they want: the equipment helps him “break the 99 minute barrier” (again – they seem to have forgotten he already did it in part 2) and she rewires his nerves to a remote control device because actually she works for a crazy steroid dealer (Jeff Fahey) who’s pissed off because Darkman stole a bunch of his money and now he wants to study him to find out how he gets his super darkstrength.

DIE DARKMAN, DIE has the same director as part 2 but this time it’s written by Colleary and Werb, the guys who wrote DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH and FACE/OFF. Come to think of it these guys are obsessed with faces and masks. Colleary even wrote an episode of the new Alfred Hitchcock Presents about a woman who has plastic surgery to look like someone else and Werb was a writer on THE MASK. Weird. But the point is they are pretty good writers and went beyond the DTV call of duty on this one. (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.

Darkman II: The Return of Durant

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

We thought Larry Drake’s sadistic, finger-collecting crime lord Robert G. Durant was killed when Darkman caused his helicopter to explode, but actually he survived, in a coma, his gang secretly keeping him on life support in his mansion. Also we thought Darkman was a big screen hero played by Liam Neeson, turns out he’s on video and played by Arnold Vosloo.

THE RETURN OF DURANT is a pioneering DTV sequel, one of the earliest examples of the artform, and also the beginning of Sam Raimi expanding his Renaissance Pictures empire by executive producing a bunch of other people’s shit instead of just making EVIL DEAD movies. If nothing else this movie was a training ground for sidekicks in future Raimi productions – Vosloo would be Lance Henriksen’s in HARD TARGET and female lead Renee O’Connor would be Xena’s. (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.

Darkman

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I believe you’re all familiar with the director Sam Raimi. You know – kind of a smart ass, wears a tie, master of energetic camerawork, loves the Three Stooges. These days I guess people just think of him as the guy who did the three Spider-man pictures. Nerds curse his name because although the first two touched their hearts and moved their souls the third one was kind of dumb and had a part where he did an evil dance, and apparently in the comic book it is made very clear that the whole point of the Spider-man character is that he would never do an evil dance like that. The Punisher or Blade maybe would do one under the influence of sorcery or an alien ray, but Spider-man – never. So even if Sam Raimi did direct THE EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2, ARMY OF DARKNESS, SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN 2, THE QUICK AND THE DEAD and A SIMPLE PLAN it doesn’t matter, that’s all moot now, like Michael Richards’ comedy after he used the n word.

But with this review we gotta transport ourselves back to the early 1990 when Raimi was an underdog, a cult director who had done two drive-in masterpieces and one disowned comedy, and here he was trying to break into the post-BATMAN studio game with a movie that was big budget for him but small compared to the movies it was gonna be held up against. It’s kind of like a comic book movie: a super hero origin story, with music by Danny Elfman, and with ‘man’ in the hero’s name. It’s also kind of a horror movie: he’s a mad scientist and a burnt up Phantom of the Opera type freak whose scarring turns him crazy and murderous. But mostly I think it’s like an action movie: it has R-rated violence, he’s getting revenge one-by-one on the criminals who wronged him, there’s explosions and stunts, and one of the screenwriters is Chuck Pfarrer, the ex-Navy SEAL who wrote NAVY SEALS and HARD TARGET. (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.

Surviving the Game

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

In this 1994 MOST DANGEROUS GAME ripoff, Ice-T plays a homeless man hired by a bunch of rich assholes supposedly to be their guide on a hunting trip, but actually to be their prey. Because the second deadliest prey is man, the first deadliest is Ice-T. (I wonder if Predator knows about this yet?)

The movie doesn’t really offer any backstory for why Ice-T is tough enough to survive this hunting expedition (SPOILER), he’s just Ice-T. He’s not an ex-soldier or ex-cop or trained in the Orient or anything. In fact it’s the reverse: he’s a regular guy and almost all of the people he kills are ex-CIA.

I gotta warn you this is a little on the cheesy side. It’s not exactly great action, and some key moments are bogged down by bad decisions like having Ice’s one-liner clearly recorded in a studio and looped in so it takes you out of the moment. But it’s still enjoyable to watch because it’s such a simple, classic setup and it’s an all star cast. Hunting Ice are no less than Gary (PREDATOR 2) Busey, John C. (ON DEADLY GROUND) McGinley, Charles S. (BLACK DOG) Dutton, F. Murray (SCARFACE) Abraham, and their sicko leader, Rutger (BLIND JUSTICE) Hauer. Then there’s some guy named William McNamara as Abraham’s babyfaced son, and for most of the movie that is the entire cast. So not a bad ensemble. (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.

Double Team

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I’ve talked to alot of people who are going back and rediscovering Mickey Rourke performances after seeing THE WRESTLER. They rent BARFLY, maybe 9 1/2 WEEKS, ANGEL HEART, JOHNNY HANDSOME, THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE. I was thinking about that and suddenly it occurred to me that I don’t hear anybody talking about a little picture I am very fond of but haven’t seen in many years, one with a cover that says VAN DAMME – RODMAN – ROURKE. So I rented it in preparation for a post-Oscars celebration.

Well, poor Mickey didn’t get the Oscar, but who needs an Oscar when you can say ‘I WAS IN DOUBLE TEAM, MOTHERFUCKER’? I mean, which would YOU rather have? Okay, I guess most of you probaly said the Oscar, but what would your second choice be? (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 Friday the 13th Saga

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

SYNOPSIS: Upon the reopening of Camp Crystal Lake – a summer camp with a past so troubled it’s better known as Camp Blood – the new camp counselors (Kevin Bacon, et al) are murdered in increasingly gruesome ways. The killer turns out to be Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), a sweater-wearing fruitcake still upset because her son Jason drowned there years ago and then she had to murder people and then they closed the camp but now it re-opened so she got confused and thought the new counselors were the old counselors so she killed them. So one of the counselors chops her head off. But then a new set of counselors come and it turns out that Jason is actually alive and grown up and he lives in a weird shack in the woods with a shrine to his mother and he’s pissed off because her head got chopped off so he kills people for revenge. So an aspiring child psychologist puts on the dead mother’s sweater and pretends to be her to trick him and then she stabs him, etc. Then all the sudden it’s in 3-D and Jason gets back up and kills some more people. Some more people show up and some bikers and Jason puts on a hockey mask and then they hang him. But then little Corey Feldman is there and some other people and there’s deaths so Corey gives himself a terrible hair cut and tries to freak out Jason and stabs him in the head with a machete and then Jason trips and impales his own head and dies. Then it skips ahead 15 years, Corey Feldman (played by some other dude) is grown up and living in a halfway house with some other maniacs and he’s haunted by Jason, who is alive again. But then it turns out it’s just some asshole pretending to be Jason, so they kill him. But just to be sure, Corey Feldman (now played by yet another guy) digs up Jason’s corpse and he’s gonna burn it but it’s struck by lightning so it comes back to life and kills some more people so they chain that fucker up and throw him back into the lake where he belongs. But then a psychic accidentally uses her powers to bring him back to life and then fight him and then throw him back into the lake where an electrical accident brings him back to life again and he gets on a teen cruise ship where he bores everybody for 90 minutes before going to New York, fighting some silly punk rockers and turning into a little boy. But then he’s an adult in the woods again and gets killed by a SWAT team so a guy eats his heart and then he goes from body to body killing people and a bounty hunter you’ve never heard of before suddenly knows all this magical shit for killing Jason so he turns back into Jason and then some big goofy rubber hands pull him into Hell where he fights Freddy. Then it skips forward hundreds of years (Kubrick style) and Jason is unfrozen in space where he kills people and turns into a cyborg, etc. The end. OR IS 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.

Any Which Way You Can

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

At first I was a little concerned about this sequel. Sondra Locke comes back, and that seems pretty fishy because she totally screwed Philo over in the first one. She was not a good person and nobody in their right mind would think “why didn’t those two crazy kids work it out?” So I was a little disappointed in Philo for forgiving her, and maybe in Clint for casting her. It smelled like girlfriend nepotism.

But by the end I realized that this letting-bygones-remain-in-their-original-state-of-being-bygones business is the central theme of the movie and the reason why it’s so enjoyable. It’s about friendship and bonding and forgiveness, about enemies becoming buddies. When mustache-sporting tough guy William Smith shows up in town and goes jogging with Philo you know right away that he’s gotta be the big mafia-sponsored underground fighting opponent Wilson coming to spy on Philo. That’s easy to predict. What’s not as expected is that they instantly like each other, and it stays that way. They help each other out and there’s alot of talk of owing one and being even, but it seems to me that’s all a front. There’s just no animosity between them, nothing but professional respect and a shared disgust for the people they’re working for. I didn’t pick up on that at first. I thought Philo would outsmart Wilson and show him up. Maybe he could if he wanted to, but he respects him too much. When they finally do have their fight you’re not rooting for one side like you traditionally do in a fight movie. They’re not fighting for any kind of grudge or to prove anything, but just out of love for their sport of bareknuckle boxing. (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.

Every Which Way But Loose

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Clint Eastwood is Philo Beddoe in…
EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE

Don’t you hate it when you and your orangutan are driving somewhere in your pickup truck minding your own business and some fuckin biker assholes pull up and start harassing you about there being an ape? Why can’t a man and an ape travel together as equals without getting stared at and made fun of? And also, does someone who wears a viking helmet really have a leg to stand on in making fun of your choice of animal companion? And no wonder those morons put swastikas on everything, going around harassing different races and species.

Well when and if this happens to you you might get fed up and try to chase those fuckers down, possibly steal a street sweeper and tail them until they hop a train, at which point you will at least get to steal their bikes. This is a worthwhile option and one that works out for trucker/mechanic/bareknuckle brawler Philo Beddoe in this movie, but it also begins a war that leads to many fights and the destruction of more than a dozen motorcycles. So just know what you’re getting into here is all I’m saying. (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.

Chocolate

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

This heart-rending melodrama from Thailand tells the courageous story of Zen (newcomer Yanin Vismistananda), an autistic girl who finds out her mother has been suffering from cancer but hasn’t done anything about it because she can’t afford proper medical treatment. With the help of an orphaned street urchin, and despite her many mental obstacles (she is easily distracted by small round objects, she can barely speak, she is afraid of flies), Zen goes around the city struggling to collect enough money to save her dying mother.

Harrowing, huh? But you know come to think of it I should’ve mentioned that this is from the director of ONG BAK, so the way she collects money is by picking fights with gangsters, battling 15 or 25 guys at a time, doing flips, hopping over and under various furniture and pipes, hitting people with her feet, hands, knees, elbows or head, swordfighting, throwing people off buildings, etc. See, her mom used to be a gangster and all these assholes owe her money, and Zen wants to collect. And it just so happens that one of the things she is fascinated with is the movie ONG BAK. She has focused much of her mental energy on observing muay thai in that movie and in the kickboxing school she lives next to, and has somewhat superhuman hearing and reflexes. It’s just a lucky combination I guess. So look out. (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.

Taken

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

TAKEN has finally hit American shores many months after everybody else in the world already saw it and emailed me about it. As reported, it is a Luc Besson-produced version of a Seagal-type scenario: ex–CIA badass’s daughter gets kidnapped in Paris, he goes and gets her back. An old favorite. The hook is that this badass is not played by a Seagal, or even a Statham. It’s Liam Neeson (SCHINDLER’S LIST).

Okay, so admittedly action is not completely new for Neeson. He was a swordsman in both BATMAN BEGINS and PHANTOM MENACE. A long time ago he was Darkman. He even co-starred in a (not very good) Patrick Swayze action picture called NEXT OF KIN. (The one where not-famous-yet Ben Stiller plays a mobster’s douchebag son.) But mostly he’s moved beyond that, and I think most people consider him a Serious Actor. You know – MICHAEL COLLINS, KINSEY, GANGS OF NEW YORK, Spielberg’s choice to play Lincoln. And here he is playing a role that the first Ain’t It Cool review complained could’ve been played by Jean-Claude Van Damme. But of course you and I agree that’s why it’s so cool. We want to see a Van Damme movie but with Liam Neeson. Or how about a Michael Dudikoff with Frank Langella? Or a Bolo Yeung with Daniel Day Lewis? A Cynthia Rothrock with Susan Sarandon? (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.