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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Enemies Closer

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

tn_enemiescloserAs of today, ENEMIES CLOSER (2013) is the most recent movie directed by Peter Hyams, and his third collaboration with Jean-Claude Van Damme (after TIMECOP and SUDDEN DEATH). Part of the After Dark Action series (which also included EL GRINGO and DRAGON EYES), it’s a lower budget take on a DIE HARD type of movie. Or I guess a SUDDEN DEATH type of movie. But this time the John McClane/Darren McCord is Tom Everett Scott (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS) and Van Damme gets to play the Hans Grueber/Joshua Foss.

Scott plays Henry, an ex-Navy SEAL trying to figure out his post-war life while working as the ranger of a state park that’s an isolated island with only one other person, an old man, living on it. This is a recipe for having to fight with a couple of bears over pic-a-nic baskets, but he lucks out and all he has to deal with is being in the way when a small plane smuggling “a load of some very naughty shit” crashes in the water nearby and a ruthless gang of killers come looking for it. I mean, it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s more within his skill set. (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.

Jean-Claude Van Johnson (pilot)

Friday, August 19th, 2016

tn_jcvjJEAN-CLAUDE VAN JOHNSON is a new 30 minute comedy pilot starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. You can watch it for free on Amazon – if it gets picked up as a series (if you like it, please fill out their feedback form and let them know) it will be available on Amazon Prime. Yeah, I don’t have that either, and I just looked it up and maybe they don’t put these shows (their most popular one is Transparent) on disc like Netflix does. But it is my solemn vow that if they make this into a full show and refused to put it in a useful format I will still pay to download it or go over to a friend’s house or whatever it is us old men are supposed to do now to watch these computer streams that they have now instead of real tv shows and movies.

If you’re like me – and I know you are – you take this shit seriously, and therefore are skeptical when you hear “Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in a comedy called JEAN-CLAUDE VAN JOHNSON.” It sounds like it could be some How Did This Get Made? type shit – smug, smarmy, snark making fun of the movies we love for being old and absurd and joyful and awesome. I picture some kind of meta-action movie parody by people who only know action movies from other parodies of action movies, like how that movie THE FINAL GIRL is to slasher movies. Something for people who read BLOODSPORT as below them because in fact it is beyond them.

That’s not what this is! I’m so happy to say that this is a really smart and well-made pilot by people who understand and take full advantage of Van Damme’s acting strengths. It uses his persona and body of work for absurdity, but not, in my opinion, in a mocking way. In fact, the episode’s most despicable douchebag – a vaping, hipster movie director – proves his utter cluelessness by telling Jean-Claude that “that ’80s style of fighting, the style that you’re known for, with the kicking and the spinning, and the splits with the guys coming at you one at a time… it’s not realistic. And we all know that now. You know?” This is not a show for people who agree with that guy. It’s for people who know that guy deserves a spin kick to the giant scarf area. (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.

Blade Warrior

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

tn_bladewarrior“When I was a kid our neighborhood was our universe. A universe of friendship and laughter. But something changed along the way. Gang violence took the place of family values.”

There’s a certain type of movie I like where an accomplished martial artist thinks it would be fun to star in a movie, and they put together a low budget production based around their school. An example would be Andre Lima’s “true story” BEYOND THE RING. It’s all based in cliches, and doesn’t quite have what you would call a visual style, but it has a certain amateur charm.

BLADE WARRIOR is another such movie, but it’s infused with a more impressive kind of DEADBEAT AT DAWN type energy, where they don’t really know what they’re doing but they’re dying to make a cool movie any way they can. It’s obvious that they’ve got friends and relatives, or maybe community theater people at best, in the cast, and storage rooms made up to look like a police station and stuff like that. And they’re not always convincing as a guy who wears a trenchcoat or talks like a tough guy. But it has enough of a home-made feel that some of the small things they pull off – like having legit martial artistry – seem really impressive.

Writer/director/producer Jino Kang plays Jack Lee, a cop who also practices Hapkido and runs his dad’s mini-mart. In the opening scene he combines all three by fighting and arresting a colorful gang of thugs who come in looking for protection money. (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.

Jason Bourne

Monday, August 15th, 2016

tn_jasonbourneJASON BOURNE opens with clips from the original Doug Liman/Paul Greengrass/Matt Damon BOURNE trilogy of 2002-2007. Those movies came to reinvent the spy thriller for a new age, even influencing the subsequent 007 movies and unfortunately inspiring an age of impressionistic action sequences. But the last time Damon played the character was almost a decade ago.

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM doesn’t seem like very long ago to me, but think about how much has changed in our world. When it came out Obama was still a senator, Heath Ledger and Paul Walker were still alive, Margot Robbie was 17 years old, only serious fantasy nerds had ever heard of Game of Thrones, movies were projected from 35 mm prints, there was growing excitement about a comeback for 3D, and Vin Diesel had not yet returned to starring in the FAST AND FURIOUS series. Along with FASTs 4-7, action movies we’ve had in the interim include the entire IP MAN series, the entire EXPENDABLES series, THE RAID 1 and 2, JACK REACHER, the John Hyams UNIVERSAL SOLDIER movies, JOHN WICK and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. So one could argue that the genre has changed.

And when JASON BOURNE cuts from blue-tinted, baby-faced everyman flashback Damon to the 2016 model – chiseled features, convincing grimace, gray hairs, a wider color palette – it’s a thrilling leap. He just looks so much cooler now. Having done, you know, whatever the stuff was in the other movies, Bourne is now living the way of the dragon, bare knuckle brawling for cash in Greece. That tells us he’ll probly never stop killing, because he’s clearly some kind of genius who could change his name and get all kinds of high paying jobs, and still he chooses to be a human cockfighter. I wish he lived in a Buddhist temple to complete the RAMBO III homage. (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.

Criminal

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

tn_criminalCRIMINAL is way too generic a title for this distinctive Kevin Costner action thriller, another enjoyable under-the-radar, higher-minded-than-advertised b-movie to put on the shelf next to 3 DAYS TO KILL. Costner would be the criminal of the title, a gruff, uneducated death row inmate with the strong action movie name of Jericho Stewart. He’s said to have some kind of condition that leaves him no capacity for empathy, like that creepy kid in MALEVOLENCE and BEREAVEMENT, so he experiences what the internet calls “the feels” for the first time when he’s the subject of an experimental surgery that implants another man’s memories into his brain.

I couldn’t help but think of FACE/OFF. Not that it has any of John Woo’s heightened filmatism or outlandish action – the tone, grounded world and love of intelligence agency war rooms are closer to a BOURNE movie – but that’s the only other movie I can think of that uses a sci-fi gimmick in a non-futuristic world and then puts an emphasis on exploring its emotional consequences.

The story starts with Bill Pope, not the cinematographer of THE MATRIX, but a CIA agent on the run in London, played by an uncredited Ryan Reynolds (BLADE TRINITY). He’s in the middle of a mission gone south – something about Spanish anarchists and a hacker and a buy, and people chasing him around town trying to trap him. When he ends up dead, CIA director Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman sporting another action movie name that’s not messing around) is desperate to find out what Pope was working on, because he was the only one getting close to a hacker (blackhat?) who may be able to remotely control military weapons. So Wells – actually, can I call him Quaker? – Quaker turns to this guy Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones, UNDER SIEGE) who has been developing this memory-implanting theory for years. (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.

Tarzan and the Lost City

Monday, July 25th, 2016

summer2016originstn_tarzanBefore there was THE LEGEND OF TARZAN there were over 200 other Tarzan movies, and before those there were 26 books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and books by other people, and radio plays and cartoons and records and cereals and pajamas. But for the purposes of Summer 2016: Origins I wanted to watch the previous live action Tarzan, the Tarzan movie of the ’90s, TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY (1998) starring Casper Van Dien (followup to his debut STARSHIP TROOPERS).

It turns out some of the things I liked about LEGEND’s approach had already been done in this one. LOST CITY begins with Tarzan already a lord and having to return to the jungle and his old ways to help somebody. It also has a respect for the native African characters, showing them as his close friends who he comes to help. And it has bad guys who are arrogant European assholes plundering Africa (although they’re just stealing diamonds, not abusing workers/enslaving people like in LEGEND). They start by stealing from graves, which does not go over well with the locals. (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.

SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: Top Dog

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

sdcc tn_topdogIn the K-9 review I mentioned that it competed with TURNER & HOOCH for King of the Human/Dog Buddy Cop Movies. But TURNER & HOOCH takes place in the fictional northern California town of Cypress Beach, so who gives a shit? Nobody.

For the true San Diego/cop/dog experience outside of K-9 you gotta got to 1995’s TOP DOG, where Chuck Norris plays Lieutenant Jake Wilder, a San Diego police detective actually assigned a dog named Reno as his partner. I don’t know if this is K-9 fan fiction and the SDPD is supposed to be building off of the precedent of Jerry Lee, or if K-9 exists as a movie within this universe and it inspired them to do this for PR purposes. But the point is this is in the top two San Diego dog cop comedies of the 20th century. Just my two cents.

The filmatists seem to aim for the same basic approach as K-9 – jokes peppered through a serious action movie. The villains are white supremacists shown making hateful speeches (though thankfully light on racial slurs), they are mostly not played as bumbling buffoons. But there’s cheesy, happy music by George S. Clinton (MORTAL KOMBAT), the jokes are broader than K-9, the action is cornier and the look is shoddy. On the positive side there are more explosions, kicks and jumping stunts. All these things can be explained by who the director is: Chuck’s brother Aaron Norris (DELTA FORCE II). (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.

SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: K-9

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

tn_k-9sdccK-9 is a weird type of action-comedy that only existed in the ’80s. James Belushi plays own-rules-playing San Diego narcotics detective Mike Dooley, who sneakily borrows a K-9 patrol dog off the books for an unauthorized raid, and then treats the dog as his partner, talking to him as if he’s a human in a regular non-dog-related cop movie. And the dog, Jerry Lee (introducing Jerry Lee as himself according to the credits, which is a lie because the dog was named Rando and got totally fucked over because dogs aren’t SAG), will sometimes make human gestures like covering his face with his paws in embarrassment or making a little arf sound that resembles a human sigh.

It’s humor that often seems more for kids than adults, yet every single other aspect of the movie – the car chases, the bar fight, the shootouts, the angry chief, the arrogant, swimming-pool-lounging drug lord villain (Kevin Tighe, ROAD HOUSE), the relationship problems caused by his occupation, the dramatic score, etc. – is 100% standard issue PG-13 (when that was edgy) action movie. And I don’t mean as a parody, mimicking the style to get laughs from absurdity. They’re just making a movie how movies were made back then. It wasn’t weird at the time. (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 Legend of Tarzan

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

tn_legendoftarzanI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: THANK YOU studios for continuing to make these expensive old-timey adventure character movies even though they are always financially disastrous. I for one appreciate the gesture!

Of this type of movie, Gore Verbinski’s THE LONE RANGER is far and away the most entertaining and masterful. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is closer to the level of the last major Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation, Andrew Stanton’s JOHN CARTER. It’s a little slicker than that one, but also a little more normal since it takes place on Earth with Earth type animals. Yet it’s not what I expected at all. It knows that you already know the basics about Tarzan, so it tries to walk that delicate line of giving you a different spin without sacrificing the classic Tarzan shit you expect. It also tries to capture some of the feel of stories written a hundred years ago while looking at matters of race, gender and culture with today’s eyes. And it does these things fairly successfully.

In the opening we meet Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, THE GREEN HORNET), a cruel Belgian mercenary searching for the fabled diamonds of Opar, and Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou, AMISTAD, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE), a menacing cheetah-masked Chief willing to trade the diamonds for the capture of his greatest enemy, name-withheld-but-cut-to-the-title-THE-LEGEND-OF-TARZAN®. (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.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

tn_tmnt2summer2016originsTEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE finds the four rubber turtle people (now with different voices, but I only noticed because Corey Feldman was missing) and their master Splinter the rat co-habitating with locally famous human TV reporter April O’Neil (now played by Paige Turco [THE STEPFATHER, The 100] instead of Judith Hoag). They make a mess of her apartment, order stacks of pizza all day and hang up a swimsuit babe poster. They’re still trying to keep their existence a secret from other humans, but in the opening a young pizza boy named Keno (Ernie Reyes Jr.) witnesses them stopping a robbery, and helps them using his own martial arts skills.

It seems like a pizza deliverer would be the most desirable possible friend for these turtles, because you see they love pizza is one of the main things we have learned about these characters through years of development in many different mediums, from years of comic books, several different animated series, one live action series, one animated movie, two live action(ish) movie franchises and a live tour. Still, they brush him off and return to Splinter-prescribed secrecy until Keno spots them in the apartment while delivering more pizzas. Splinter gives him some fighting and meditation training but tells him to stay out of their fight against Shredder. Keno completely ignores this, and there are no negative consequences. You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, rat. Who oozed and made you talk, anyway? (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.