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

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R.I.P. Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

atcq

I have to say a few words about Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest (pictured center), who died last night. Rolling Stone reports that it was due to complications of diabetes, which is what you’d expect of the MC who called himself “a funky diabetic” on the classic “Oh My God” and who several years ago received a kidney transplant. It was donated by his wife, as was touchingly depicted in Michael Rapaport’s documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life.

I have to agree with the conventional wisdom that A Tribe Called Quest is one of the best rap groups ever. There was a time in the ’90s when I started to resent them as the group that every white non-rap fan would say they liked, along with Beastie Boys. But eventually I had to admit to myself that those guys were right. I liked their first album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, which they made when they were teenagers and wearing to wear goofy costumes. The album holds up due to songs like “Bonita Applebum” and “Can I Kick It?” But it’s their second album, The Low End Theory, that makes them all-timers.

I still kinda remember the feeling of hearing it for the first time. It seemed so weird and stripped down compared to the complex samplescapes that I loved at the time. The sampling of some jazz basslines and horn riffs seemed very distinct and novel at the time, but the drums seemed so simple and raw. And that’s what still stands out to me today. As much as I love their voices and words, I am hypnotized by the drum. (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.

Lucas Minus Star Wars: What have we learned?

Friday, February 19th, 2016

tn_lucaslucasminusstarwarsThank you for indulging me these last few months as I went through all 44 years of George Lucas productions, from the one he made when he was 27 (THX 1138) to the one he made when he was 70 (STRANGE MAGIC). As you know, I’m interested in how Lucas created possibly the most beloved thing in pop culture history (the original Star Wars trilogy) and then became nerd culture’s biggest pariah when he came back to the series later in his career. The Star Wars phenomenon (both its dark side and light side) is so blindingly powerful that it eclipses everything else he’s ever been associated with. I thought it would be valuable to look at his filmography but with Star Wars removed from the equation.

Kind of. You may’ve noticed that I’m too fascinated by his idiosyncratic later work and much of the world’s fanatic hatred of it to leave it out entirely. I couldn’t help but find foreshadows and echoes of the prequels in most of his other movies. I tempted fate by bringing it up again and again, showing (as I was discovering it) that the prequels fit into a larger body of work and obsessions than just that one particular saga about the space conflicts. I want to thank all the commenters for not falling too much into another debate about prequels and special editions even though I kept leaving an opening for 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.

So long 2015, you hustlin sonofabitch

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

tn_mcqueentoastWell, it’s been a year again. 365 days of 2015ness have passed, that much I know for sure. I did not manage to become a successful or highly paid individual yet. I lost some family. The world lost Darren Shahlavi, Roddy Piper and Wes Craven. A bunch of less celebrated people got shot and blown up all around the world. I’m against it. Stop doing that.

I’m gonna focus on the positive though. My life is mostly good, and I make it through the bad days in part because of you guys and what we do here. I think I had a year of writing that I can be proud of. Let’s go over some highlights.

As is my tradition now, I started the year with Clint, revisiting THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES. Later in the month I saw his AMERICAN SNIPER, which I still think is more complex than it got credit for. And if you think that makes me a war apologist, fuck you. I didn’t see you seeking out actual Iraqi films about the war like AHLAAM to write about too. That was me that did that.

Speaking of Bradley Cooper movies, I finally reviewed THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, so I can include a link whenever I mention Cooper for any reason. In that sense I really made alot of progress this year.
(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.

BEWARE! people talkin Star Wars

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

tn_starwarsPlease note, I will not be seeing the new Star picture until Friday night. I will be leaving the internet to seclude myself in the mountains or somewhere, hopefully to return with a review next week. I know some of you are gonna want to comment on it before then, so I made this post so you can use it and not some unrelated review where somebody might be reading the comments not wanting you to spoil FORCE AWAKENS for them.

But please remember that much of the world will not have seen the movie yet. Be honorable and not only try to avoid spoilers for now, but fill the beginning of your comment with a bunch of non-specific stuff so there is nothing even remotely midly almost spoilery in the “recent comments” thread. WE DON’T WANT TO FUCKING KNOW. Be nice.

“Patience my young padawan learner, be mindful of I have a special set of skills give me the fucking elephant.” –Qui G. Jinn

Happy Boonta Eve everybody and may the force awakening you! (that’s from Star Wars)

(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.

End of year plea and special offer

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

tn_christmasTHey everybody, I didn’t think to do this on Black Friday, let alone Black Friday Origins: Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday, Whatever It Is Sunday, Cyber Monday, Steam Punk Tuesday or Wednesday Wedding Day, but now here it is The Next Saturday and I just want to remind everybody that if you happen to do your Christmas or other shopping through Amazon or Amazon UK you could really help me out by using my search bars or links, no matter what it is you buy. You pay the same amount you were gonna pay anyway but then they slice off a little chunk for me.

And I have just now decided on a special deal I’m gonna do. Now through the end of the year, if you do one of the following things to support me:

  1. buy a NEW copy of any of my books
  2. buy some stuff through my Amazon links
  3. donate something to my Paypal thing
  4. buy one or more of my Vern’s Fleamarket products (using my link gets me referral money on top of royalties)

(see sidebar for links)

…and then email me about it (outlawvern at hotmail dot com) I will send you a signed bookplate that you can put in one of my books, stick to your Kindle screen or put on your guitar case or whatever. Please put the word BOOKPLATE somewhere in the subject line of the email so I can find them easier, and let me know the name to sign it to and address to mail it to. Also, please specify if you need it for a Christmas gift so I can try to rush it to you. (Note: I just now decided to get some custom ones made, but if you need it fast I have a box of Garfield ones around here somewhere that I’ll try to find). (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.

Bruce Lee’s 75th

Friday, November 27th, 2015

tn_bruceleebruceleeiconI should be back on Monday with my review of CREED, but I didn’t want today to pass without acknowledging what would’ve been Bruce Lee’s 75th birthday. Among his many contributions, consider that pretty much anyone who starred in a martial arts movie in the past, say, 35 years got started after seeing a Bruce Lee movie. So if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have nearly as many reviews on here.

It seems to me there are alot of people who know of Bruce Lee but haven’t actually sat down and watched his whole movies, and I think they could benefit from them. The bad news is he didn’t live long enough to make very many true starring vehicles, the good news is that makes it easy to catch up with. It’s not like getting into Sun Ra or Frank Zappa or something. I’ve even considered making an instructional pamphlet about it called SO YOU HAVEN’T SEEN A BRUCE LEE MOVIE…

In lieu of that, let me share the links to my reviews of Bruce’s movies, in case you haven’t read them.

THE BIG BOSS, a.k.a. FISTS OF FURY, is the first real Bruce Lee vehicle, and an early example of some of my favorite badass cinema techniques.

FIST OF FURY, a.k.a. THE CHINESE CONNECTION, is his only historical period piece type deal. It has many great and iconic scenes, though does suffer from some serious nationalism. (It has also been remade, including by Jet Li as FIST OF LEGEND.)

ENTER THE DRAGON I bet you’ve heard of. Great movie.

WAY OF THE DRAGON, a.k.a. RETURN OF THE DRAGON is my personal favorite Bruce Lee movie, the only one he directed, and the one where he kicks Chuck Norris’s ass in a textbook-great martial arts duel.

GAME OF DEATH has the iconic fight against Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the yellow and black jumpsuit, but it’s actually a horrible exploitation of Lee’s death and unfinished work-in-progress. You can watch it or not, but be sure not to miss BRUCE LEE: A WARRIOR’S JOURNEY, the documentary that explains the movie he was really trying to make and then reconstructs all of the scenes he shot (the best fights he ever did). There’s also a GAME OF DEATH II which is less morbid and more fun than the first one, but only has a little bit of obviously recycled Bruce footage. It’s mainly about his character’s brother.

Bonus points: MARLOWE, the ’60s take on the Raymond Chandler character starring James Garner has a couple great scenes with Bruce as the villain’s henchman.

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.

My new most anticipated movie: MANIAC COP

Friday, September 25th, 2015

tn_maniaccopWell, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD had a good decade-plus run as my most anticipated movie. And that worked out well. I doubt I’ll ever see another one pay off like that in my life, but it’s always good to have things to look forward to, to keep you going.

Right now there are plenty of lower key projects to be excited about, from the finally-happening BOYKA: UNDISPUTED IV to the new STAR WARS picture. But right now the one that pushes my buttons the most is actually a remake of MANIAC COP.

This has been in development for a while, to be produced by Nicolas Winding Refn and (last I heard) scripted by Ed Brubaker, writer of acclaimed crime comics (and Seattleite I believe). Sounds fantastic. But what takes this news to the next level is the director: John Hyams, the genius behind UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, DRAGON EYES, THE SMASHING MACHINE and RANK. I have spent the last five years wondering why the hell some studio hasn’t given this guy a budget to deal with, since his straight-to-video works easily out-thrill, out-style and out-smart most big screen action movies, including $200 million dollar duds like, I’m sorry to say, the recent TERMINATOR picture. (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.

Update from last year’s Halloween special

Friday, September 18th, 2015

tn_nightmareonmystreetLast Halloween I did an important, should’ve-been-award-winning piece called Analysis: “A Nightmare On My Street” vs. “Are You Ready For Freddy?”, in which I compared and contrasted the Freddy Krueger themed song by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince with the one by The Fat Boys. Today I have a brief update, or sequel if you will, to that piece.

In the piece I embedded the “Are You Ready For Freddy?” video, but said there was no video for “A Nightmare On My Street.” In the comments it came up that people including Jake thought they remembered seeing a video. I feel like I would remember such a video existing, but more importantly it’s not on Youtube, on any of the many extras-packed DVDs and Blu-Rays of the Elm Street series, in the excellent 4-hour documentary NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, or on the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince video collection.

Since then I’ve encountered other people who think they remember seeing it, so I looked into it again. Wikipedia says

“The song was considered for inclusion in the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, but the producers of the film decided against its inclusion. New Line Cinema, copyright holders of the A Nightmare on Elm Street film franchise, sued DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s record label for copyright infringement, forcing the label to destroy a music video produced for the song. Both sides eventually settled out of court.”

but since this section is not sourced I wondered if some of it could be an urban legend. The very specific language of the disclaimer sticker on the record supports the existence of a lawsuit or threat of one, but would they really have made a video before that happened? (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.

R.I.P. Wes Craven

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

tn_cravenDamn, I never see these things coming. I sat down tonight to work on some writing and stumbled across the news that a favorite director has passed away today.

Before he directed the dirty, disgusting LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, Wes Craven was a college professor, and I’ve alway thought that made sense. To listen to him in interviews and commentaries he always seemed like the most thoughtful and literary-minded of the horror directors. He was interested in primal fears and ancient myths and where those intersect with modern lives. By directing SCREAM (from the screenplay by Kevin Williamson) he accidentally kicked off the meta era of horror, but I always felt he’d gotten there earlier in his own WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, where he made the played-out no-longer-scary-ness of his own creation, Freddy Krueger, part of the mythology. In that one the ELM STREET movies were just that – movies – but they were also an important tool of humanity because they could keep at bay the primordial force that inspired the character. The real Freddy.

Think about this. In 1972 Craven directed LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which helped kick off the slasher cycle of horror. In 1984 he directed A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, which started the supernatural slasher movies, and the ’80s era of slasher movie icons. Basically, Freddy became the Hulk Hogan of horror. (Even down to the racism, ’cause he said something pretty foul in FREDDY VS. JASON.) And think of what the Elm Street series meant for special effects makeup, with all those gooey, one-upping dream sequences they came up with each time. That’s why I was always a Freddy guy. I was into all that latex and crazy transformations and shit. (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.

R.I.P. Rowdy Roddy Piper

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

tn_roddypiperI was shocked and saddened today to stumble across the news that wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had died. I didn’t see this one coming. I thought he was gonna be one of the ones that gets to grow old.

I know some of you are serious wrestling fans to this day. That’s not me. But I’m one of the millions who was obsessed with WWF wrestling in the 1980s. It was a time when pro wrestling stopped being seen as a lowbrow fringe activity and was allowed to intersect with all parts of culture. Andy Warhol went to a Wrestlemania. Cindy Lauper and Alice Cooper became wrestling managers. A more experienced manager, Captain Lou Albano, played Lauper’s father in a video. Wrestlers released terrible albums, which I bought on vinyl. On Saturday mornings there was a cartoon called Hulk Hogan’s Rock-n-Wrestling, and every fourth Saturday Night NBC showed wrestling in place of SNL. When one of these Saturday Night’s Main Events took place in Seattle I was there. I was thrilled to see Andre the Giant in person (although he didn’t wrestle) and Brian Bosworth in the crowd. I was [undisclosed] years old and witnessing these larger than life individuals – cartoons of good, evil and awesome sculpted out of muscle and fat and encased in colorful spandex – was like catching a glimpse of the Greek gods. (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.