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

Archive for November, 2016

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

tn_babycarttohadesWhen you’re the shogun’s executioner and your wife is murdered and you’re set up and your life is ruined and you choose to take your son on the demon’s path and become an elite assassin for hire, you do alot of wandering around having adventures. Part 3 of the LONE WOLF AND CUB series (or, if you prefer it dubbed and edited to be dumber, part 2 of the SHOGUN ASSASSIN series) is episodic in a good way. They cross a couple different enemies, get offered a couple different gigs, get into some shit with the Yagyu Clan, and their nemesis Retsudo is mentioned but not seen, like The Emperor in STAR WARS.

On their travels, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) are jumped by a bunch of ninjas, so he kills them. (SPOILER)

Along a road there are some watari-kachi, mercenaries, drifters who go around trying to get gigs, often just “hired for show when someone needs more men in their procession” because the kind of lords they work for can’t afford to hire them full time. (see also: film critics) They’re sitting around with Master Kanbei (Go Kato, SWORD OF THE BEAST), who they consider uptight, so they try to take him down a notch. “You’re really peculiar. You don’t drink, you don’t touch women.” They don’t get him because they figure the only reason it’s worth having their job is to “have fun,” which we quickly realize means to rape women along the highway.

Master Kanbei chooses not to participate when these pricks run off to attack a passing mother and daughter, knocking out their male servant. But he doesn’t stop them either – not until he hears them brag about who they’re all working for. Then Kanbei intervenes in a very calm, business-like manner: he kills the servant, then the two victims, then makes the three mercenaries draw straws so that one can be killed and blamed for the murders. (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.

Doctor Strange (2016)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

tn_doctorstrangeIn his latest vehicle, the King of DTV Action Scott Adkins plays “Lucian / Strong Zealot,” the right (or possibly left) hand man to a dark master of mystical world-bending sorcery magic spell power beams named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen, VALHALLA RISING). Kaecilius was once a student of The Ancient One (international martial arts superstar Tilda Swinton, CONSTANTINE) but now suspects she is siphoning dark magic to extend her life and therefore steals a magic ritual from a special book of ancient something something, etc. So Lucian / Strong Zealot and another person are sent after The Ancient One’s new student Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, WAR HORSE) to try to destroy his magic apartment in New York and they have a fight in a hospital where they’re both ghosts but it’s kind of weird because (SPOILER IN FIRST PARAGRAPH OF REVIEW) Benedict Cumberbatch defeats Scott Adkins.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-8-35-50-pm
And Scott Adkins as “the ghost of one of the minions.”

Okay, the truth is this is not a Scott Adkins movie. His character is small enough that when his big scene is described in an Entertainment Weekly article they don’t bother to credit him. It’s weird that as Marvel Studios continue to build this vast universe of re-usable characters they chose to use

1) Idris fucking Elba as “magic bridge operator”

2) Ray god damn Stevenson as “one of Thor’s friends that he has back home”

and now

3) Scott mother fuckin Adkins as “henchman who gets beat up by magic cape” (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.

Skinheads

Monday, November 28th, 2016

tn_skinheadsBefore GREEN ROOM, before Election 2016, there was Greydon Clark’s SKINHEADS (1989), about a small gang of neo-Nazis running wild.

It starts, like so many cheap action movies, with the gang robbing a convenience store. But in this case they there’s no hero to kick their ass, and they intentionally turn their wrath on the elderly Jewish owners and a young black customer.

Now that they are murderers, they decide maybe it’s time to get out of town for a bit. Take a vacation in the mountains somewhere outside of Reno. But their rampage continues when they stop at a cafe and pick a fight with some other patrons. After Tiny (Duane Davis, UNDER SIEGE, TYSON, PAPARAZZI) accepts the challenge and outboxes the biggest, dumbest skinhead, Brains (Dennis Ott, “Bar Character,” ROAD HOUSE), their crazy leader Damon (Brian Brophy, CITY OF INDUSTRY) shoots and kills him. (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.

Imprint

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

tn_imprintIMPRINT is a quiet little indie supernatural drama from 2007 that I never heard of until I was looking for genre movies from a Native American perspective.

Shayla Stonefeather (Tonantzin Carmelo, Into the West, Teen Wolf) is an attorney in Denver prosecuting Lakota teen Robbie Whiteshirt (Joseph Medicine Blanket) for murder. The local Native American community has come out in force proclaiming his innocence and protesting the unfairness of a nearly all white jury, so she’s seen as a traitor to her people when she gets him convicted.

Meanwhile her dad (Charlie White Buffalo, Into the West) is dying, so she goes back home to say goodbye and support her mother (musician Carla-Rae). She gets a call from her douchey white boyfriend/colleague Jonathan (Cory Brusseau, ESCAPE THROUGH TIME) saying that Robbie tried to escape and was shot to death, and then she starts seeing and hearing weird things around the house. Is she being harassed by Robbie’s angry brother Frank (Russell Chewey), or others who are angry about the Whiteshirt case? Or is it some ghosty business? Or a 50/50 blend?

And there’s another mystery. Her brother Nathaniel (Gerald Tokala Clifford, SKINS, SWELTER) has been missing for some time, possibly dead, after an incident with her father discovering him using meth. And though her father is catatonic most of the time, she hears him yell out things in the night, and got him to draw some pictures which seem to have some sort of significance. So this may be related to one or more of the mysteries. (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.

Child’s Play 3

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
tn_childsplay3“So here’s my advice: Grow up. You’re not a kid anymore. It’s time to forget these fantasies of killer dolls.”
Well, I think it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing that asshole doll Chucky ever again. He got his plastic head burnt to a crisp and yes, the Play Pals corporation did refurbish him in part 2, intending to prove the doll wasn’t sabotaged by an employee but instead resurrecting a serial killer to commit a murder spree mostly consisting of their own employees. Plus their factory got totally trashed. I don’t think they’ll make that mistake again! I’m sure when they cleaned out the factory they destroyed that grotesque pile of latex and Chucky flesh that was left of him and we can put that whole catastrophe behind us now.

Oh shit – they didn’t! Eight years after CHILD’S PLAY the same foolish CEO (Peter Haskell, ROBOT WARS) is convinced by the board to bring back the Good Guys dolls. They consider children to be “consumer trainees” and they can’t lose their biggest brand just because of “the fantasies of one disturbed boy.” (I wonder what he thinks happened to his murdered executives, or at his factory? One of his employees got his eyeballs poked out! Do not work for this company!) So they rev up the (noticeably smaller) assembly line again, some hooks pierce the Chucky blob (which I guess has been laying there alive for eight years) and it bleeds into a vat of molten plastic that will be molded into the new Good Guys dolls. And voila! Chucky is mint in package again.

(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.

Child’s Play 2

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

tn_childsplay2“It doesn’t matter. Wherever I go, Chucky will find me.”

CHILD’S PLAY 2 is an unnecessary but entertaining continuation of the story of young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) and that time when his mom accidentally bought him a doll that was possessed by the soul of Chicago serial killer Charles Lee Ray, a.k.a. The Lake Shore Strangler.

We pick up two years later. Andy is being put into foster care while his mom Karen is in a psychiatric hospital for believing in killer dolls. We only see her in a photo, but I’m gonna assume she’s in there doing pullups and getting buff like Sarah Connor when she was locked up for similar reasons. Andy goes to stay with Phil (Gerrit Graham, POLICE ACADEMY 6) and Joanne (Jenny Agutter, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) Simpson, though Phil doesn’t seem to like him and has very reasonable concerns about whether they’re qualified to raise a horribly traumatized kid.

Andy grew up in a small apartment in the city, now he’s in this huge house, he gets his own room with a bunch of toys, which he’s excited to see, but obviously he misses his mother. He doesn’t know when he’ll see her again, or how long he’ll be able to stay here. And he’s never had siblings before, but now there’s this teenager named Kyle (Christine Elise, BODY SNATCHERS). He walks into her room and she’s smoking and gives him attitude. She’s been the for three weeks but hasn’t unpacked because she’s never been able to stay anywhere for more than a month, and doesn’t expect that pattern to change. Andy overhears the Simpsons talking about him and feels bad, he gets scared of dolls, he’s not used to having a dad at all, let alone a strict one. But Kyle reassures him that Phil’s not that bad (she’s had much worse). So it’s just a movie about the challenges of being a foster child or a foster parent and stuff like that. That’s pretty much 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.

Child’s Play

Monday, November 21st, 2016

tn_childsplayWe all know Chucky, the vulgar, red-haired, Jack-Nicholson-sounding killer doll. He’s almost as famous as Freddy or Jason, characters that you don’t have to watch horror movies to be aware of. But when I first saw CHILD’S PLAY in 1988 I honestly didn’t know it was gonna be a killer doll movie. The poster/newspaper ad only showed Chucky’s evil eyes hovering in the sky over little Andy’s babysitter plummeting from the window of their Chicago apartment. A TV ad showed a quick glimpse of him attacking, but I remember thinking of what I was looking at as some kind of crazy witch lady. Maybe a killer dwarf?

An exciting moment in my recent trip to Vegas was seeing a portrait of Chucky and his bride Tiffany posted in the tiny lobby of an Elvis chapel along with Rob and Sheri Moon Zombie, Jon Bon Jovi and somebody he married, Richard Belzer just by himself. There were plenty of horror movies in 1988, but I doubt they’d hang pictures of the killers from BLACK ROSES or HIDE AND GO SHRIEK or even MANIAC COP in there (although that would’ve been a thrill too). Chucky has lasted.

Like anyone I enjoy the pop culture phenomenon of Chucky, most of his sequels and the absurd places this series has gone, but CHILD’S PLAY is something different. It puts a serial killer into the doll in the opening, then puts the doll in the arms of a child and makes us dread what will happen – what is happening when we’re not looking – until near the end. We look accusingly at the doll sitting there limply. We know you’re in there, you asshole. Why won’t you show yourself? For most of the movie his conniving happens in whispers we can’t hear, in low-to-the-floor POV shots, his little hands reaching out, or in quick glimpses, a little thing running by in our peripheral vision. When we finally do get a good look at him in his living-doll form it feels like we caught a bigfoot, or walked in on that dude in the bear costume in THE SHINING. Something we’re not supposed to be seeing. (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.

Arrival

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

tn_arrivalARRIVAL is a new one in that category of serious smart sci-fi where huge momentous things happen between the human race and alien life and/or outer space, yet it’s really about something very intimate and human (see also INTERSTELLAR, CONTACT, THE FOUNTAIN, GRAVITY). In this case it’s about twelve giant alien objects (they look like smooth flat stones you would find on a beach, balanced on the side) that come down and float in various locations around the world, yet also it’s about love and family and tragedy.

Director Denis Villeneuve (PRISONERS, SICARIO, ENEMY) is no chump, so the unfolding of the historic first contact is a powerful oh shit sequence. Perpetually calm language professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams, CRUEL INTENTIONS 2) ignores the commotion of students gathering around a TV, then the miniscule attendance of her lecture, but when everyone’s phones keep ringing the information finally gets to them. Sorry to interrupt – it’s just that the world has completely changed forever. (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.

We Are What We Are (American remake)

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

tn_wearewhatweareWE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013), like THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, uses cannibalism as a stand-in for any unfortunate family traditions that are passed down through the generations long past their shelf date. In this case the Parker family continues a practice that should’ve expired immediately after their ancestors did it the first time in a Donner Party survival type situation. Now it’s gussied up as a religious act to be repeated yearly as “Lamb’s Day,” and the Parkers hold onto an ignorant belief that they’ll get sick if they don’t do it.

This is told mostly from the family’s perspective, and they’re not some weirdo Leatherfaces. To them it’s, like, a family doesn’t just stop celebrating Christmas one year. The Parkers are gonna eat a bowl of human chili on Lamb’s Day. It’s how they were raised. (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 Martial Arts Kid

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

tn_martialartskidTHE MARTIAL ARTS KID is about a young man who gets in trouble too much so he gets sent far away to live with his aunt and uncle. He meets a nice girl he likes, but she has an asshole sports car driving bully boyfriend who threatens him just for talking to her. And the boyfriend is part of a bad crowd and they end up in competition over the girl and in sports. And he has an older mentor that trains him.

Remind you of any other movie? Me too. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT. Or maybe you were thinking THE KARATE KID, but in that one he just moved because his mom moved, he wasn’t a troublemaker. Totally different. Also, that’s about a kid who specifically does karate. This is a kid who does martial arts in general. I don’t really see a comparison.

Okay, maybe I do. I just like to mention TOKYO DRIFT whenever I can. This is a weirdly transparent KARATE KID rehash, arguably closer to a straight up retelling than the official remake with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. There’s even a wax on/wax off reference like some remakes would want to do, and it plays with your expectations of him being given a nice car as a gift. Instead he gets a bike, which he rides around the suburbs, keeping him a Martial Arts Kid when he seems to be on the verge of Martial Arts Manhood. (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.