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Archive for June, 2018

Can’t Hardly Wait

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

June 12, 1998

CAN’T HARDLY WAIT is a summer of ’98 teen comedy that seems to mean something to people who were the right age then. I’m too old, but for some reason I saw it back then and it didn’t work on me. And now I gave it another shot.

It’s a one-day-right-after-graduation story in the tradition of AMERICAN GRAFFITI or DAZED AND CONFUSED or BLADE [citation needed], centering around a party where Preston (Ethan Embry, LATE PHASES) is trying to get up the guts to talk to his secret crush Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, GARFIELD) because he heard she broke up with her jock asshole boyfriend Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli, TWILIGHT). Preston thinks he can win her over by giving her a love letter he’s been revising for four years. Good luck with that one, pal. He drags along his cynical best friend Denise (Lauren Ambrose, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE), who I was relieved to realize does not have an unrequited crush on him (in fact they laugh about having briefly dated in middle school). She’s very unhappy and ignored at the party, which obviously means she’ll have her rocky heart softened by an unexpected love connection or some shit, but she’s the most charming and relatable character, the one who seems like she probly wouldn’t like this movie, and I’m sure the main reason why some people do. (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.

Mr. Jealousy

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

also June 5, 1998

This review series has swerved off in an unexpected direction. Usually I do these summer movie retrospectives to experience/revisit the big expensive blockbusters of past eras, and I throw in some of the other stuff for variety and historical context. But with the early part of summer ’98 dominated by big movies as bad as LOST IN SPACE and GODZILLA, but given personality by smaller ones as good as WILD THINGS, HE GOT GAME and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, I caught on that it was in my own best interest to be a little more completist than usual. So I went back to my list and added THE OPPOSITE OF SEX and a few other more modest comedy and arthouse type movies that are coming up, and then I realized that this MR. JEALOUSY that I had assumed was some generic studio comedy was actually the second feature by writer/director Noah Baumbach. So here we are.

This is the story of Lester (Eric Stoltz, ANACONDA) and Ramona (Annabella Sciorra, FIND ME GUILTY) during some months they spend together as a tenuous New York City couple. Lester is Mr. Jealousy because, as we learn from narration, he caught his first ever girlfriend cheating on him, and then in college he spied on one and saw her getting it on with a previous boyfriend, so now he’s extremely suspicious of anyone he dates and lives his life cripplingly paranoid about their exes. Some kids have an experience that makes them grow up to be Batman, some have this. (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.

A Perfect Murder

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

June 5, 1998

I thought I had reviewed A PERFECT MURDER before, but for some reason it didn’t come up when I searched for it, so I watched it again. Then when I searched for my DIAL M FOR MURDER review to refresh my memory I did find a review of A PERFECT MURDER from five years ago. But that review wasn’t that good so fuck that review. This is the first time I’ve reviewed it in my opinion.

A PERFECT MURDER is the first of two Viggo-Mortensen-co-starring Hitchcock remakes that came out in 1998. The other is Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO, which is not a summer movie, but is worth bringing up as a comparison. While that was a complete anomaly – an audience-provoking experiment infused with bright colors and stylized costuming – this loose, updated remake of DIAL M FOR MURDER is an expensive, high gloss star vehicle. Remember? They used to make R-rated thrillers that were A-movies, sometimes by top directors. Michael Douglas’s movie before this was David Fincher’s THE GAME. For co-star Gwyneth Paltrow it was part of a prolific period – after being in SE7EN and then really blowing up with EMMA she starred in five 1998 movies: SLIDING DOORS, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, HUSH, this, and best picture winner SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. (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.

Superfly (2018)

Monday, June 18th, 2018

There’s a new theatrically released remake of SUPER FLY called SUPERFLY. Adapted by screenwriter Alex Tse (WATCHMEN, SUCKER FREE CITY), it’s updated to 2018 and relocated to Atlanta, but itstill tells the story of flamboyantly smooth drug kingpin Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson, Grown-ish, The Lion King on Broadway) trying to pull off one last big score so he can get out of the game. He still has his partner Eddie (Jason Mitchell, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, DRAGON EYES), employee-of-questionable-judgment Fat Freddy (Jacob Ming-Trent, Shrek the Musical), and girlfriend Georgia (Lex Scott Davis, TONI BRAXTON: UNBREAK MY HEART). He still has to deal with The Man (corrupt cops want a piece of his business) but now there’s also a Mexican cartel leader (Esai Morales, THE PRINCIPAL, PAID IN FULL, NEVER BACK DOWN: NO SURRENDER) and a scene involving crypto-currency (I’m glad he doesn’t say the word out loud, like in one of the ads I saw).

You may or may not remember that in the original movie Priest had a scene where he spars with a personal karate instructor. Thankfully, Tse did remember. In the update Priest’s boss and crime mentor Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams, MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE, ROBOCOP) is also his jiujitsu teacher and keeps a low profile by sticking around the dojo teaching people to fight. Like Frank Lucas in AMERICAN GANGSTER he preaches not calling too much attention to yourself, and symbolically wears a brown belt instead of his true level of black.

So, as you can imagine, I liked this movie. (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.

Hereditary

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Many horror movies have a little bit of the ol’ status quo at the beginning, a seemingly normal day to contrast with when things start getting crazy. HEREDITARY starts with a funeral, but it’s fairly uneventful, so that’s our calm day to want to get back to when the world starts shitting right into a fan.

Annie Graham (Toni Collette, SHAFT, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE) has just lost her mom. But the family’s feeling strange about it because Grandma Ellen, from the sounds of it, was a weirdo and a total pain in the ass. Annie starts hallucinating her mother’s presence and decides to go to a support group. Her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne, END OF DAYS, COOL WORLD) looks out for the family. Their teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff, MY FRIEND DAHMER) doesn’t really care and just wants to smoke weed and stuff, while their younger daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro, Tony winner for playing Matilda on Broadway!) is… strange. Builds things out of junk, plays with dead animals, munches on a chocolate bar next to grandma’s open casket.

Eventually, weird shit happens. There are apparitions, seances, paranoia, pretty standard stuff. But it’s put together and unfolded in ways that feel new. I’m trying to be non-specific, even though it’s the type of movie that would be hard to spoil. The things that happen are too wild to pin down as a premise or plot twist that can be succinctly explained. It’s a good one, as you may have heard. (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 Truman Show

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

June 5, 1998

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey, THE DEAD POOL, PINK CADILLAC) thinks he just enjoys a normal white picket fence type life mowing the lawn and saying hello to the neighbors and putting on a suit to go work at the insurance company and all that type of shit. He has no idea that his idyllic town of Seahaven is actually a set built on a soundstage so huge it can be seen from space, or that everyone around him, from the random cars that drive past him to his own wife Meryl (Laura Linney, ABSOLUTE POWER, MYSTIC RIVER, SULLY), are hired actors, in on the deception. Literally everything in his life is staged for his benefit.

It sounds like a Twilight Zone premise, and it kind of is: there’s an episode of the ’80s incarnation of the show that’s pretty similar. In “Special Service,” written by J. Michael Straczynski (CHANGELING), David Naughton is shaving one morning when the bathroom mirror falls off the wall and he sees a camera behind it. A serviceman shows up and tries to make excuses but soon has to admit to him that his life is a popular TV show. He seems to be allowed to live in the regular world, though, and the people around him are just cool about keeping the secret until the cat’s out of the bag, at which point he gets mobbed by screaming women. He also got to grow up normal before they started doing this to him five years ago. (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.

I Got the Hook-Up

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

May 27, 1998

I have to admit I’ve never paid much attention to rapper turned filmmaker (I guess?) Master P. I say “I guess” because I GOT THE HOOK-UP is credited as “A MASTER P film,” but it’s directed by Michael Martin, a guy who directed some Outkast videos and the nearly unwatchable Snoop Dogg DTV movie EASTSIDAZ. P did write it though, along with Leroy Douglas and Carrie Mungo (who don’t have any other IMDb credits).

P grew up in the projects in New Orleans, studied business administration at a college in Oakland, and used money from a malpractice settlement related to the death of his grandfather to open a store called No Limit Records, which eventually turned into a record label of the same name. He released his first tape in 1990 and had five albums by the time he moved back to New Orleans in 1995 and built an empire with other rappers including Mystikal (currently on trial for rape) and his brothers C-Murder (now serving a life sentence for murder) and Silkk the Shocker (not accused of anything).

P’s mainstream breakthrough was the 1997 album Ghetto D, which went triple-platinum partly on the strength of the song “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!”, which is about making ’em say “Uhh!” Thanks to the success of the label and smart investing, at the time of I GOT THE HOOK-UP, P was #10 on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s highest paid entertainers. He had starred in and co-directed the straight to video I’M BOUT IT, with another one called MP DA LAST DON coming in December of ’98. I’ve never really looked into any of these things, but summer of ’98 hosted his first theatrical release, I GOT THE HOOK-UP, so I decided this would be a good time to try to figure out what was up with that. (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 Opposite of Sex

Monday, June 11th, 2018

also on May 22, 1998

I remember THE OPPOSITE OF SEX being a big deal indie movie at the time, but it seems mostly forgotten now, mentioned even less often than its widely hated box office competitor GODZILLA ’98. Maybe more than LOST IN SPACE? I had kinda forgotten it too, at least what it was about, but I’m glad I decided to get a refresher on this really funny and kinda sweet dark comedy about a… well, kind of a wild thing, I guess.

Christina Ricci, in her second best movie released on this day, plays Dedee Truitt, a mean and grouchy sixteen year old who runs away from her home in Louisiana to find her grown up, gay half-brother Bill (Martin Donovan, SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D) in suburban Indiana. She manages to seduce Bill’s younger boyfriend Matt (Ivan Sergei, DANGEROUS MINDS, the tv show of John Woo’s ONCE A THIEF) and uses pregnancy to convince him to steal ten thousand dollars from a safe deposit box and run off with her.

(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 Debt Collector

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

“Look, you’re a tough guy, but you’re also a good guy.”
“I ain’t that good, mate. You saw what I did to that lad, didn’t ya?”

Yeah, I know, you’re all aware that Scott Adkins is the reigning king of DTV action. That’s not new information. You’re all well acquainted with UNDISPUTED II and III and 4 and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, if not HARD TARGET 2 or EL GRINGO or the other ones.

What hasn’t been discussed as much is that our favorite English martial artist has hit a new stride in his string of collaborations with director Jesse V. Johnson. Last year they did SAVAGE DOG, a weird and brutal period piece, followed a few months ago by the smart-ass assassin tale ACCIDENT MAN. Adkins gives honestly great performances in stoic roles like Boyka, who grunt almost as much as they speak, and I love those types of characters. But as co-writer and producer of ACCIDENT MAN, he not only gave himself a ton of great fight scenes, but all kinds of witty dialogue and first person narration that no other onscreen kicker could handle. And his latest continues the trend of retaining his Englishness and showing great charisma and verbal dexterity while still living up to the action expectations of a marquee-name martial arts star. (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.

Upgrade

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Until now, Leigh Whannell has seemed like James Wan’s sidekick. I guess technically he’s the creator of SAW, because he wrote the short film, but he’s mainly known for co-writing the first three SAWs, DEAD SILENCE and all the INSIDIOUSes. And then he directed INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY CHAPTER THREE. But did you know he had it in him to go off on his own and write and direct a ferocious low budget cyberpunk action thriller? Man, why didn’t you tell me?

Logan Marshall-Green (from THE INVITATION and Quarry, but I’ll always think of him as “I just want answers, baby” from PROMETHEUS) stars as Grey Trace, a simple mechanic who loves listening to Howlin’ Wolf records in the garage and working on his Firebird even though he lives in a near future with self-driving cars and cyber implants and shit. (Yeah, I know. But at least they don’t say out loud that he’s an analog man in a digital world. They just show you visually and then move on.)

Then one night mysterious criminals shoot him and his wife (Melanie Vallejo, the Blue Ranger on Power Rangers Mystic Force), leaving him paralyzed and her dead. Though his house is set up with some pretty sweet robot arms that can prepare food for him, he’s miserable and suicidal without his wife or the ability to work with his hands. (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.