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

Archive for November, 2017

The Accountant

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Bear with me here, but Christian Wolff, a.k.a. The Accountant (Ben Affleck, REINDEER GAMES) has kind of alot in common with Blade. He’s an anti-hero vigilante who works mysteriously in the underground, a good guy but scary and at odds with the law. He’s mostly a loner, but has a few trusted accomplices. He’s very aloof, not good at talking, expressing emotion, connecting. He has traumatic parental issues and a condition that he tries to keep under control with special treatments. He has a well-established operation with a secret headquarters and armory that we sort of learn about piece-by-piece as the movie goes on. He’s nomadic, setting up base in different parts of the world, always prepared to dump everything and move on if he gets burnt.

This time he knowingly breaks protocol to protect a young woman (Anna Kendrick, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) who gets mixed up in his fight, and he shocks her by giving a glimpse into his crazy world.

One pretty big difference: instead of a half man/half vampire daywalker, this guy is autistic. That’s what causes his social awkwardness. If he were to walk around in broad daylight with a sword on his back it would be understandable.

(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.

24 Hours to Live

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

24 HOURS TO LIVE is a new VOD movie (theatrical in L.A. and New York starting December 1) that could be described as Ethan Hawke’s JOHN WICK. Not that it’s a very similar story, or a martial arts movie, but it has action beyond the modern standards, takes place in a world of elite killers, and has some un-self-conscious absurdity in its basic premise that’s grounded in very effective, heartfelt emotions. I guess this means they don’t consider Hawke and Rutger Hauer big enough names to sell an action movie in wide release these days, but it doesn’t at all feel like DTV. Both quality and production value-wise it’s completely legit, and I liked it better than many of the Jason Statham, Gerard Butler and Liam Neeson pictures I’ve paid to see on the big screen.

In classic international co-production fashion it begins with an Interpol agent, Lin (Xu Qing, FLASH POINT), under attack by militants in South Africa while transporting a whistleblower (Tyrone Keogh, BLAST, STARSHIP TROOPERS 3) to testify to the U.N. It’s meat and potatoes machine-guns-rocket-launchers-and-jeeps type action that immediately shows you the movie means business. Heads are popping, bodies are bouncing off windshields and rolling under tires. (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.

Acts of Vengeance

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Instead of thinking of ACTS OF VENGEANCE as the new one from DTV action master Isaac Florentine, I recommend viwing it as the new Antonio Banderas, and oh shit Isaac Florentine directed this! Held to the standards of Florentine’s amazing UNDISPUTED 2, 3 and 4, NINJA 1 and 2 or other Scott Adkins vehicles it can’t really compete. But for a non-martial artist Banderas has some good fights, and it has a nice, weird revenge story for him to sink his actor teeth into.

He plays Frank Valera, a successful defense attorney who, like all workaholic dads in movies, promises to be at his daughter (Lillian Blankenship, SECURITY)’s talent show where she’s singing a song specifically for him but he stays at work too long and gets there after it’s over and feels like a piece of shit and emotionally watches the cell phone video of her singing and tries to call to apologize to his wife (Cristina Serafini, DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE) but man did he fuck up, this guy.

(For what it’s worth, most of the delay was caused by gridlock, and he was honking his horn alot. It was mostly out of his control.) (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.

Puncture Wounds

Monday, November 27th, 2017

a.k.a. A CERTAIN JUSTICE

Lately I’ve been talking up Cung Le, the Vietnamese-American MMA legend turned movie martial artist who has had really impressive supporting roles in FIGHTING, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, THE GRANDMASTER, SAVAGE DOG and recently SECURITY. I love his stoic performances, unique sledge hammer fighting style and unusually compact body type, and I don’t think he’s gotten enough credit for his work.

So far there are a couple of Le starring vehicles, and if you’re only going to watch one, for God’s sake choose John Hyams’ DRAGON EYES (2012), a sort of loose contemporization of YOJIMBO with Jean-Claude Van Damme in a supporting role. But if you, like me, are also willing to watch a not as good Cung Le vehicle, I offer you PUNCTURE WOUNDS from 2014. (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.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

I’m taking the holiday off but I wanted to say happy Thanksgiving and/or Thursday to everyone. I hope you know I am thankful for every single person who reads, comments, patreons, links, retweets, emails to say “what’s up,” sends generally positive vibes, etc. I love doing this and it means so much to me that anyone takes the time to be here. We’ll get through these dark times together and come out stronger, smarter and somehow better looking? Weird, but it will happen.

I am also extra thankful to Chris for setting up outlawvern.com and maintaining it all these years, and don’t worry, he’s working on that recent comments problem! Something changed in the WordPress comments and he has to track it down. I like when you guys start new conversations on the old reviews, so hopefully we’ll get that working again soon.

Thanks again! Sweet potatoes 4 life.

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.

Birth of the Dragon

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is now on video. A very fictionalized riff on the legendary challenge fight between two early ’60s Bay Area martial artists named Wong Jack Man and Bruce Lee, it was not exactly welcomed to screens with open arms. Shannon Lee and the Bruce Lee estate (who are currently developing an official Lee movie) did not approve, white director George Nolfi (THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU) was viewed by most with an understandable raised eyebrow, and an early trailer showing not-in-the-finished-movie first person narration by a white character caused widespread derision (including by me).

But look, I’m fascinated by Bruce Lee, the man and the myth, and by this event in particular. If there’s gonna be a movie about it, no matter how possibly misguided, but especially if produced by the prestigious WWE Films and Blumhouse (whuh?), of course I’m gonna watch it. So I did. (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.

Justice League

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

(SPOILERS)

Sometimes, you know, Superman dies, so a bad guy decides to conquer the world, so you have to put together a team of other super heroes to fill in for Superman, but then you decide to bring him back to life, but he seems evil at first and fights you, but then he chills out while you fight the CGI guy, then he shows up. JUSTICE LEAGUE is a perfectly watchable, okay super hero romp, with a hefty serving of the humor everyone thought was missing in the last two Superman pictures, but no more sense, and very little of the gravity or operatic style. Goodbye worshipful awe of Superman, hello green screened-in undercutting gags.

Oh, but don’t worry, when Aqua-Man smashes through a building it’s been painstakingly established that it’s in an abandoned town. That’s the most important thing, obviously.

The invasion foreshadowed at the end of BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF THE LIVING JUSTICE is at hand. Batman knows it because a Geonosian “Parademon” flies up while he’s hanging a thief off a rooftop. I think he was using the poor guy as bait (the things smell fear), but possibly it’s just a weird thing that happens while he’s on the job. I like that when the creature appears Batman and the criminal seem to completely drop their conflict and have a conversation about how fucked up things are since Superman’s death. A little bonding between fellow humans. A nice moment. (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.

Bits & Pieces

Monday, November 20th, 2017

BITS & PIECES (1985) is another only-on-VHS obscurity that should teach me a fuckin lesson about Slasher Searching. Like HOLLYWOOD’S NEW BLOOD it’s made in California (San Fernando Valley and Burbank, according to IMDb) but clearly not by actual professionals in the movie industry. If their goal was to prove you could make a movie as icky as MANIAC but with no single element from scripting to cinematography to acting that in any way comes even remotely close to being as good, they have succeeded wildly.

Like PSYCHO, DERANGED, DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE, etc. it’s a killer with mommy issues. Like MANIAC he abducts women and brings them to his apartment and has a female mannequin there that he pretends is alive. His name is Arthur (S.E. Zygmont, no other credits) and there is no indication that he has a job besides murder but he’s always dressed like he just got home from work, or is cosplaying the guy from THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED.

(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.

Check Point

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

I don’t think any of you would disagree that I’ve been neglectful of DTV action lately. I’ll always try to see the new Scott Adkins and what not but I don’t get down in the dirt like I used to. I mean I’m proud of the other stuff I write about, but I do have some concerns about the state of my mojo. And to be honest I’ve been feeling a little down worrying that too many of my proudest moments are now associated with skeezy people. It’s like, I mention the guy I wrote a book about, the websight I started out at, the place where I did my first public appearance, I gotta distance myself from three different sexual harassment scandals. And as I’m about to post this I just found out about allegations against an iconic hero for most of us around here, and it’s absolutely crushing me.

I’m gonna have to start hiring detectives to do background checks on these people before I start writing books on them. Pretty soon the fictional characters in my novel are gonna turn out to have secrets. I’m gonna have to write strictly about inanimate objects, because people always turn out to be creeps.

I know it’s more important to expose scumbags than to make sure I feel good about my legacy, but it’s kind of a bummer. So while I process all this I’ve decided to put more effort toward seeing probly-gonna-be-shitty-but-hopefully-not DTV/VOD type action movies like I used to, to see if it brings me back to full strength.

So far the results are inconclusive. I started with CHECK POINT, a film from this year, directed by Thomas J. Churchill (LAZARUS: APOCALYPSE). I chose it based on the following signs of b-action legitimacy in the cast: professional wrestler (Bill Goldberg), horror star (Kane Hodder), professional wrestler turned horror star (Tyler Mane), blaxploitation icon (Fred Williamson) and great character actor (William Forsythe). The lead turns out to be Kenny Johnson, who I assumed was also a wrestler because in close-up he looks kinda like present day Mickey Rourke, but in fact he’s an actor who I would’ve recognized if I watched The Shield or Sons of Anarchy. (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.

Wind River

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

WIND RIVER, new on video this week, is a thriller written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who’s on the radar now because he wrote SICARIO and HELL OR HIGH WATER. Jeremy Renner (Catwoman: The Game) plays Cory Lambert, a hunter for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Wyoming. When he drives out to the Wind River Indian Reservation to find what wild animal killed some livestock and spend some time with his son Casey (Teo Briones) he finds a dead woman in the snow. He knows her, her name is Natalie (Kelsey Asbille, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN). She’s a good friend’s daughter. When they ask him to help show around FBI Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, OLDBOY) he ends up unofficially joining the investigation with her and tribal sheriff Ben (Graham Greene, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE).

It’s a quiet, broody modern western type of a movie with matter-of-fact badassness in the dialogue and bursts of violence, tonally comparable to the aforementioned Sheridan joints, THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADAS ESTRADA, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, stuff like that. But unlike any of those the wide-open landscapes are covered in snow. It’s not sweaty, it’s frost-bitten. (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.