I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Archive for May, 2009

Up

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

tn_upWelcome to another episode of Vern’s Soft Side. In this episode, Vern cries at a fuckin cartoon.

Okay, short version first: just go see the fuckin thing. This review is gonna have spoilers in the sense that I’m gonna talk it up, you’re gonna go in expecting this or that based on what I said, it’s gonna get to your analytical mind and might fuck everything up. So don’t read this. Also disregard what I said above about crying, I would never cry, come on man let’s be serious here.

UP is the latest Pixar and somehow tops everything they’ve done before. For all the mediocrity and horribleness going on in our world today, we are lucky to live in the golden age of Pixar. Who knows how long their streak could last, but watching their movies now feels like watching PINOCCHIO and BAMBI and all those coming from the same group of people in a row. It’s just incredible, nobody else can match what they’re doing. (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.

Tyson (1995 HBO movie)

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

tn_tysonhboFrom Uli Edel, the visionary director of BODY OF EVIDENCE and THE LITTLE VAMPIRE, comes the 1995 made-for-cable biopic of Mike Tyson. HBO had made alot of money off the Mike Tyson fights, but then he lost the title and went to prison. I guess they made this movie to keep him in their library and maybe spark new interest for his comeback.

The most notable part of the movie is that Michael Jai White plays Tyson, in the role that brought him to somewhat-prominence. Before that he had a small part in TOXIC AVENGER 2-3 and was in a couple low-rent martial arts movies that I ought to track down one of these days, but this is what got him the bigger roles like, uh, Spawn.

You know, in the first UNDISPUTED the Ving Rhames character was clearly inspired by Mike Tyson. I think he was the current-champ, not the former-champ, but he was in prison on a rape charge that he denied. I’m not sure if I thought about it before that when Michael Jai White took over the character for part II it was the same guy who played Mike Tyson! This movie ends with him about to go to prison, so for a real weird experience I challenge somebody to watch TYSON, then UNDISPUTED, then UNDISPUTED II all in a row. (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.

Tyson (2009 Documentary)

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

tn_tysonWell, shit. Mike Tyson’s poor 4-year-old daughter died. I was already working on a couple of Mike Tyson-related reviews and I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to tie in with that terrible news. But he’s an interesting dude and these movies are worth discussing, so I’m gonna put them up anyway.

TYSON is a documentary about Mike Tyson. Actually, it’s an interview with Mike Tyson, illustrated by old clips and photos, so it’s his life story and career from his point of view. In the beginning there’s some split screen with overlapping clips of him talking. For a second I thought “Oh shit, that’s right, James Toback did that shitty movie TIMECODE with the 4-way split-screen. I forgot about that movie.” (I bet you forgot about it too until I mentioned it. Sorry.)  But don’t worry, most of it is a simple, straightforward documentary about an unusual person.

[UPDATE: and as Handsome Dan pointed out in the comments I was confusing Toback with Mike Figgis. Toback is guilty of BLACK AND WHITE, but innocent of TIMECODE.]

I don’t really follow boxing so I didn’t know much about him, and it turns out it’s an interesting story. He talks about being picked on as a kid, then getting in his first fight (a guy killed his pigeon) and winning. That changed his whole attitude about himself. Then he started boxing and he met this grizzled old white guy Cus D’Amato, he’s like Burgess Meredith in ROCKY, he takes Mike under his wing and molds him mentally and physically into a warrior. At first Mike wasn’t taking it that seriously, he was still on the streets robbing people and shit, until this D’Amato convinced him he could be great. They had a father-son type relationship, you see through vintage interviews how much they meant to each other, then the guy died when Mike was 19. Real sad story. (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.

Leadbelly

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

tn_leadbellyI liked Gordon Parks Sr.’s direction on his SHAFT movies so much that I wanted to see what else he’d done. The one that looked most interesting was this. The cover shows the title character shirtless, muscular, holding a guitar like John Henry holding a hammer, and calls him a black legend. So it looks like some period piece blaxploitation tall tale or something. But it’s really a biopic of the legendary singer and guitar player.

Roger E. Moseley plays Hudie Leadbetter, who we first see as a grey-haired old man in prison. Some white musicologists, Professor Lomax and son, are going to prisons recording “negro folk songs” for the Library of Congress archives. Leadbelly tells them he knows alot of songs, some he learned and some he made up, and as he begins to sing and talk about his life it flashes back to when he was young and tells his life story, how and where he learned these songs or why he made them 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.

Thick As Thieves

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

tn_thickasthievesToday I have for you a review of an obscure Alec Baldwin movie, complete with a tangent about Obama’s choice of condiments.

THICK AS THIEVES is a little-known crime movie from 1998 that I learned about because of BLACK DYNAMITE. That’s the Michael Jai White blaxploitation homage that comes out in September (I’m hoping to see it a little early because it’s playing the film festival here). In my excitement for that one I looked up the director, Scott Sanders. Turns out he wrote for A DIFFERENT WORLD and ROC, and then he directed THICK AS THIEVES.

Alec Baldwin plays Mackin, a thief hired to steal food stamps from a printing plant. After the job some dirty cops pull him over and try to take his money. He handles it, but knows he had to have been set up by the guy who hired him, Pointy Williams (Michael Jai White) so he tries to get back at that asshole. Meanwhile “the Italians” aren’t gonna be happy about what Pointy did so his people keep trying to snuff out Mackin before things escalate and they get into deep shit.
It’s adapted from some book by a guy named Patrick Quinn, but definitely is gonna remind you of Elmore Leonard and that type of crime story where the characters have little funny quirks. Also like Leonard the plot is full of coincidence and mistakes, the characters are kind of dumb and talk about goofy things, but can also be seriously dangerous. (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.

Terminator Salvation

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

tn_terminatorsalvationHere’s my TERMINATOR SALVATION review. Sorry it took me a few days – everybody else on the internet has already reviewed it two or three times each and moved on with their lives. I figured I ought to go the extra mile so my  review includes an optional soundtrack:

 

 

(note: I’m not really gonna pussyfoot around the spoilers in this one, so beware)

I got so much trouble on my mind. I refuse to lose my hope for McG. I had this fantasy – what if McG made an undeniably great TERMINATOR movie, and everybody who ever talked shit about him had to eat crow? They’d be so unprepared to admit they liked a McG movie that their minds would pop like balloons. It would be like reading in the newspaper that a squirrel had built a working rocket ship – just completely out of left field. They wouldn’t know what to do. “Well, his name makes me uncomfortable, but TERMINATOR SALVATION changed my life.” “You know, I went back and gave CHARLIE’S ANGELS FULL THROTTLE another look, it turns out it was ahead of its time. There was no way to really know back then that it was good, only Vern ever understood it, but now it works.” (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 Adventures of Ford Fairlane

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

tn_fordfairlaneWhat the fuck is this? is a fair reaction to the existence of FORD FAIRLANE. All you can really do is try to set your mindclock back to 1989 and picture it from the perspective of the people setting it up.

I mean you got the hottest action producer, Joel Silver of DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON fame. He’s got the rights to this “rock ‘n roll detective” character taken from some magazine column or Herfy’s tray-liner comic strip or something. To rewrite the script he hires Daniel Waters, hot shit young writer of HEATHERS in his first for-hire job. But who can we get to direct? Who is rock ‘n roll enough? How about that Finnish guy who did NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4? His hair is practically to his ass, I think he could do it. Renny Harlin had been toiling away on a version of ALIEN 3 that never got made, and this was kind of his entry into the world of action. In fact, Joel Silver hired him for DIE HARD 2 after seeing the dailies for 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.

Orca

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

tn_orcaIn honor of the fresh new summer movie season I thought it might be a good idea to go all the way back to the beginning, the one that started it all, the granddaddy of summer movies, JAWS. And then skip forward two years to ORCA.

Now, I don’t want to rattle any cages or nothing, but in my opinion – and it’s a free country, so I’m allowed to believe whatever I want to believe – ORCA is not as good as JAWS. To be fair, the makers of ORCA most likely had no idea about JAWS, they hadn’t heard of it, it’s probaly a coincidence. Just two completely unrelated summer movies about men in boats going to battle against deadly aquatic mammals. So it’s probaly not cool to compare them. And that’s good because as its own thing I think ORCA is topnotch. (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.

Johnny Pate-a-thon

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

tn_pateIn case you’ve had your fill of straight-to-video action and shit, I’ll give you an alternative. Today we’re having a triple-feature of ’70s blaxploitation movies with scores by Johnny Pate. You know, I’m trying to find one of those real accessible topics everybody can relate to.

Johnny Pate is a Chicago-born bassist and arranger. He says his first and biggest love is jazz, but to me he’s a legend because of his comparatively brief detour into R&B in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He worked with many Chicago labels of that era but most notably alongside the one and only Curtis Mayfield – Pate was an arranger for the Impressions and for Mayfield’s label, Curtom.

I’m not as detail-oriented about music as I am about movies, so I probaly wouldn’t know about Johnny Pate except that I happened to pick up his 1970 funk instrumentals album “Outrageous” when it was reissued last year by Dusty Groove. Then I found out he scored SHAFT IN AFRICA so I finally got around to watching those sequels and loved them. At least half of my love for blaxploitation movies comes from the music, and of course SUPERFLY and SHAFT are the two most legendary blaxploitation soundtracks. Here’s a guy who kind of connects them together – he arranged Superfly for Mayfield, he scored the third SHAFT movie, and even played with the original Isaac Hayes SHAFT themes when he scored the short-lived (and not on DVD) SHAFT tv series. (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.

Outlander

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

tn_outlanderMan, here’s a solid little movie with a clever genre-mixing premise, nicely acted and directed, a fun time, but owned by the Weinsteins. So of course it was barely released or advertised. These pricks got a quiet, sad drama based on a Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, they’re gonna pretend it’s some sci-fi action movie. Meanwhile they got this one that actually is a sci-fi action movie, but they forgot they even had it. “Oh shit, did we release that viking thing? I can’t remember. Just send some DVDs to Blockbuster and tell them not to mention it to anybody.”

Oh well, at least it snuck out. The cover art is pretty cool too, and it uses one of those critic quotes that isn’t really a compliment but just a description: “PREDATOR meets BEOWULF.” And that’s accurate. A space ship crash lands in Norway, 709 A.D. A survivor climbs out wearing a space suit that looks alot like a suit of armor (surprisingly that doesn’t come up again later). He’s Jim Caviezel, and I wasn’t sure at first if I was gonna accept aliens that look just like humans, but when he looked up Earth on his computer it said we were an “abandoned seed colony,” so I guess we all come from the same place. Brothers from a different mother. (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.