So once again we have survived.

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Great Wall

Monday, February 20th, 2017

THE GREAT WALL fulfills two different personal moviegoing habits of mine:

1) trying to see some of the higher profile Asian imports that play at the AMC theater here

2) going to lightly attended afternoon shows of almost every fantasy sword-dude movie that comes out

Maybe you can’t call this an import, because it’s produced by Universal and Legendary, it’s mostly in English and its star Matt Damon (SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON) is an American white in my opinion. And maybe you can’t call it a fantasy sword-dude movie either, because it’s more in a fantasy bow-and-arrow-dude vein. But it is from the great Chinese director of lush historical epics Zhang Yimou (RAISE THE RED LANTERN, HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS), it’s the most expensive movie ever filmed entirely in China ($135 million), and it was released there two months ago and had already made $224.5 million worldwide by the time it came to us. So it’s close enough to these two categories that it piqued my interest.
(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.

John Wick Chapter 2

Monday, February 13th, 2017

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 is the solid sequel we always hoped (in fact assumed) it would be. The first film – already a certified modern action classic – had a perfect combination of elegant high concept (legendary assassin comes out of retirement to avenge some dipshits who killed his dog) and interesting world (a society of killers with their own rules, services and even currency). Rehashing the former would make for diminishing returns, so returning screenwriter Derek Kolstad (ONE IN THE CHAMBER, THE PACKAGE) digs deeper into the latter, showing us more about the operations and codes of the Continental Hotel and its affiliates as Wick is forced to repay a debt, getting himself into more and more trouble and testing the limits of his unkillableness.

He’s still trying to retire. The movie has a sense of humor about it without undermining his sincerity. Moments after he finishes cementing his weapons back into the basement floor the doorbell rings and you think “Jesus, what now?” Well, it’s Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio, THE BEST OF YOUTH), who helped him escape the business and now is cashing in his favor to drag him back in. Wick would have to get into the Vatican to assassinate Santino’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST). Throughout the movie Wick finds himself backed into corners and all he can do is keep killing his way out of them. And the more killing the more corners. (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 Hidden Fortress

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Let’s face it, I’m stupid to not have seen all the Akira Kurosawa movies. Usually when I see one it becomes my new favorite movie. HIDDEN FORTRESS is my latest favorite movie.

It’s another one with Toshiro Mifune playing a badass warrior, but it starts on two buffoonish peasants, Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara). They’re all dirty and their clothes are torn up and they’re arguing, blaming each other for the shit they’ve just been through. One of them got the bright idea they could make money fighting with the Yamana clan, but they got to the battle too late and were mistaken for the losing Akizuki clan and forced to help bury all the dead bodies. And shortly after this they get taken prisoner again, locked up in the vanquished Akizuki castle and forced to dig for their hidden gold until there’s a riot and they escape.

On the lam they accidentally break a stick that has a piece of gold inside, marked with the Akizuki seal. What the hell? And while they’re checking all the sticks in the area for more gold they run into Mifune. He starts bossing them around without telling them he’s General Makabe Rokurota of the Akizuki clan and that he’s trying to sneak the clan’s gold and their sixteen year old princess Yuki (Misa Uehara) to safety. (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.

Cabo Blanco

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

CABO BLANCO, or CABOBLANCO, or “Caboblanco – where legends are born…” as it actually says onscreen, is a 1980 kind-of-remake of CASABLANCA starring Charles Bronson. It’s his third collaboration with ST. IVES and WHITE BUFFALO director J. Lee Thompson (THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, CAPE FEAR, CONQUEST OF/BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN), and in my opinion definitely not their best.

I guess the producer’s first choice to star was Paul Newman, who couldn’t do it so he suggested Steve McQueen, who was sick so he suggested Bronson. I guess if you have to have somebody fill in for Humphrey Bogart, it would be one of those guys, and Bronson might be the best for it. He plays the admirably named Giff Hoyt, who can’t return to the U.S. for unspecified reasons and instead runs a fancy hotel bar on the coast of Peru. (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.

Barb Wire

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

“Do I look disenchanted to you?”

I think it’s important to be honest, so here it is: I saw BARB WIRE years before I ever saw CASABLANCA. So now that I’ve finally seen the Humphrey Bogart one I thought I should rewatch to find out if the Pamela Anderson one really is loosely based on it.

Actually, not that loosely! It’s kind of a sci-fi world, based on a little known comic book, and it’s gender-swapped: Barb Wire (Pamela Anderson, BORAT) is the Rick character, the supposedly not-taking-sides military veteran running a club where dangerous people congregate. Curly (Udo Kier, BLADE) is the waiter guy. Police Chief Willis (Xander Berkeley, WALKER) is the pain in the ass but sort of sympathetic cop raiding the club and kissing the ass of the visiting assholes. Instead of Nazis those guys are “Congressionals” from Washington DC. But their uniforms look like the Gestapo and their leader, Colonel Pryzer (Steve Railsback, LIFEFORCE) likes to torture people. (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.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Monday, January 30th, 2017

RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER is a partly satisfying, partly frustrating ending to the epic billion-dollar-grossing sextology that people all around the world have been following for 15 years and that I have been following for about a month.

Writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson returns (he ended up directing all but parts 2 and 3) and follows many of the fun traditions of the series:

1. Starting off with a ludicrously long and convoluted narrated recap/revision of the story thus far

2. Sort of following up on the last cliffhanger, but in a way that suggests they abandoned the original idea they had when they made the last one. At the end of RETRIBUTION, the surviving characters were on top of the White House surrounded by millions of zombies and monsters, about to begin “the last battle to save humanity.” Now we CUT TO: Alice (Milla Jovovich) all alone in a completely destroyed and barren DC. Last time Wesker (Shawn Roberts) had just given her her powers back to fight this battle, now they tell us that was a trick and she actually doesn’t have powers. Huh? She keeps losing and regaining them without much consequence.

3. Giving it a different look and style from all the other installments. This one is very brown and smoky, everything is dirty and blown up or worn out. Even some of the areas of the Hive that they return to are weathered and grimy instead of smooth and sleek. (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.

Resident Evil: Retribution

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Paul W.S. Anderson stays in the director’s chair for the fifth one, RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION. This one starts at the end of the action scene that starts right where AFTERLIFE left off. Then it shows us that scene in reverse, then regular, and narrator Alice (Milla Jovovich, ULTRAVIOLET) tries to summarize the convoluted events of parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. And then they remake the remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, showing Alice as a suburban mom just going about her business when the zombie outbreak explodes into her life.

That’s the fun of this series: the unpredictable patchwork of set pieces and gimmicks, often playing with expectations, making it seem like the story (like a video game?) is starting over and everything is different, but things usually turn out to have a pretty good explanation.

Okay, the explanation is always clones. Clones are the reason Michelle Rodriguez and Oded Fehr, whose characters died in previous chapters, are suddenly back as different people. Multiple different people. For a while it seems like Rodriguez came back to the series after a ten year absence just for a comically brief cameo where she gives Alice a ride and then crashes 30 seconds later. Then Alice is killed by a zombie. (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.

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is part 4. Series writer-producer Paul W.S. Anderson returns as director for the first time since part 1. I really like how each chapter seems to be completely different from the previous ones, and this is no exception. The new style may be in part because Anderson hadn’t directed a RESIDENT EVIL in eight years (having only directed ALIEN VS. PREDATOR and DEATH RACE in the interim), but I think a huge part of it is that it was shot in 3D with the cameras developed for AVATAR. Not since STEP UP 3D have I so regretted not having seen a movie in 3D. It’s carefully composed with steady camera moves, lots of depth, with numerous scenes of acrobatic fight moves and projectiles coming toward the audience, many times in slow motion. Bullets, knives, swords, tentacles, people, raindrops, quarters, blood, pieces of bullet-ridden walls and shards of glass are among the things that fly out of the screen. You can just tell it would look really cool in 3D, and luckily this is a style that also looks good in 2D. Anderson has a reputation as a hack, but at least give him this: he is in a very small group of directors who actually put in elbow grease to use the 3D medium well.

As is the RESIDENT EVIL tradition, the opening is like a short film unto itself. There’s a security breach at the Umbrella Headquarters in Tokyo, which makes The Hive look like the FIRST BLOOD police station by comparison. A small army of security troops surround the elevator waiting for the intruder to emerge, a drawn out sequence playing with our anticipation for what Alice promised at the end of the last one. (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.

Resident Evil: Extinction

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION is part 3. It takes place five years after part 2, APOCALYPSE, and was released five years after the first film in the series. It has a different style and tone, a little more serious, a little more grounded, but still pulpy, and it really works.

The opening tricked me. It begins so much like the first film – Milla Jovovich as Alice waking up naked and confused in the mansion, putting on the red dress and boots – that I thought I might’ve rented the wrong one. But she explores the place and ends up in a hallway in the Hive with the lasers and booby traps and one of them shoots and… gulp… kills her. Then some guys in biohazard suits appear, take the body up to the surface and throw it in a ditch. The camera pulls out to show a whole pile of dead Alices. And by the way, they’re all wearing that same outfit. I don’t know if that makes sense that they would have duplicate outfits to give these clones they keep testing, but if not it’s better than making sense. Nobody wants to see them wearing different outfits. (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.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALPYSE is the second one. Part 1’s Paul W.S. Anderson scripted it, but handed directing duties over to Alexander Witt (the second unit director for SPEED and the train heist in FAST FIVE) while he himself focused on ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, and it reminds me a little bit of the sequel to Anderson’s MORTAL KOMBAT: it’s way less like a real movie, but therefore kind of more fun. This sequel looks much more expensive than the original – there are huge crowd scenes, explosions and shootouts, it’s not all confined to some underground tunnels. It’s a chaotic mish-mash of styles (normal movie, shaky news footage, blurred frames) and crazy shit happening, often without much regard to rhythm, flow, or logic.

It starts out with a couple minutes of Alice (Milla Jovovich, HE GOT GAME) narrating exposition over flashy computer graphics, but as soon as the title comes up it ditches her and we go back to the day before in happy suburban Raccoon City while the T-virus crisis is going on underground. A menacing procession of identical Umbrella Corp SUVs plow through the streets to bring important scientists to safety. But Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, THE BOXTROLLS)’s daughter Angie (Sophie Vavasseur) is in a vehicle that crashes, and she gets stranded above.

We meet Raccoon City’s militarized police force as well as a special unit called S.T.A.R.S. (“Special Tactics and Rescue Squad. They’re the best”). These are cops who do things like rappel from a helicopter facing straight down firing two machine guns accompanied by rockin electric guitar soundtrack. The kind of people you want, I guess, in a movie version of a video game version of a zombie outbreak. The most memorable of these characters is a wonderfully ludicrous one called Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory, HIGH-RISE), an edgy suspended cop who looks like a model but luckily switches from stilettos to combat boots when she learns about the zombies from the news and goes into action. She spends the movie wearing a turquoise tube top, mini-skirt and holsters. There’s nothing wrong with that, but everyone else looks like they’re wearing movie costumes, and she looks like a cosplayer.

(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.