So once again we have survived.

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

tn_babycarttohadesWhen you’re the shogun’s executioner and your wife is murdered and you’re set up and your life is ruined and you choose to take your son on the demon’s path and become an elite assassin for hire, you do alot of wandering around having adventures. Part 3 of the LONE WOLF AND CUB series (or, if you prefer it dubbed and edited to be dumber, part 2 of the SHOGUN ASSASSIN series) is episodic in a good way. They cross a couple different enemies, get offered a couple different gigs, get into some shit with the Yagyu Clan, and their nemesis Retsudo is mentioned but not seen, like The Emperor in STAR WARS.

On their travels, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) are jumped by a bunch of ninjas, so he kills them. (SPOILER)

Along a road there are some watari-kachi, mercenaries, drifters who go around trying to get gigs, often just “hired for show when someone needs more men in their procession” because the kind of lords they work for can’t afford to hire them full time. (see also: film critics) They’re sitting around with Master Kanbei (Go Kato, SWORD OF THE BEAST), who they consider uptight, so they try to take him down a notch. “You’re really peculiar. You don’t drink, you don’t touch women.” They don’t get him because they figure the only reason it’s worth having their job is to “have fun,” which we quickly realize means to rape women along the highway.

Master Kanbei chooses not to participate when these pricks run off to attack a passing mother and daughter, knocking out their male servant. But he doesn’t stop them either – not until he hears them brag about who they’re all working for. Then Kanbei intervenes in a very calm, business-like manner: he kills the servant, then the two victims, then makes the three mercenaries draw straws so that one can be killed and blamed for the murders. (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.

Skinheads

Monday, November 28th, 2016

tn_skinheadsBefore GREEN ROOM, before Election 2016, there was Greydon Clark’s SKINHEADS (1989), about a small gang of neo-Nazis running wild.

It starts, like so many cheap action movies, with the gang robbing a convenience store. But in this case they there’s no hero to kick their ass, and they intentionally turn their wrath on the elderly Jewish owners and a young black customer.

Now that they are murderers, they decide maybe it’s time to get out of town for a bit. Take a vacation in the mountains somewhere outside of Reno. But their rampage continues when they stop at a cafe and pick a fight with some other patrons. After Tiny (Duane Davis, UNDER SIEGE, TYSON, PAPARAZZI) accepts the challenge and outboxes the biggest, dumbest skinhead, Brains (Dennis Ott, “Bar Character,” ROAD HOUSE), their crazy leader Damon (Brian Brophy, CITY OF INDUSTRY) shoots and kills him. (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 Martial Arts Kid

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

tn_martialartskidTHE MARTIAL ARTS KID is about a young man who gets in trouble too much so he gets sent far away to live with his aunt and uncle. He meets a nice girl he likes, but she has an asshole sports car driving bully boyfriend who threatens him just for talking to her. And the boyfriend is part of a bad crowd and they end up in competition over the girl and in sports. And he has an older mentor that trains him.

Remind you of any other movie? Me too. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT. Or maybe you were thinking THE KARATE KID, but in that one he just moved because his mom moved, he wasn’t a troublemaker. Totally different. Also, that’s about a kid who specifically does karate. This is a kid who does martial arts in general. I don’t really see a comparison.

Okay, maybe I do. I just like to mention TOKYO DRIFT whenever I can. This is a weirdly transparent KARATE KID rehash, arguably closer to a straight up retelling than the official remake with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. There’s even a wax on/wax off reference like some remakes would want to do, and it plays with your expectations of him being given a nice car as a gift. Instead he gets a bike, which he rides around the suburbs, keeping him a Martial Arts Kid when he seems to be on the verge of Martial Arts Manhood. (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.

Riot

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

tn_riotYou and I, obviously we rented RIOT because Dolph Lundgren is on the cover. But we will quickly learn that this is a Matthew Reese Films presentation starring Matthew Reese as Jack Stone.

As you could guess from his name, Jack Stone was an amazingly awesome and legendary cop before a bank robbery and killing of a fellow officer (seen in fragmented flashbacks) put him behind bars. The guards (who wear full body armor and goalie masks) taunt him and the inmates threaten him, except for one tall shy guy with a mop. That’s William, played by Dolph. He hunches over, winces, mumbles, acts scared. But he immediately looks out for Jack. If Jack gets jumped he’ll leap in and beat up a guy with a mop handle if necessary.

Actually there’s one other guy who likes Jack, in a part I didn’t understand. When Jack’s cellmate (ex-football player Seante Williams) first finds him in the cell he starts threatening him, but then recognizes him and smiles. “Jack, right?” He introduces himself as Silva and gives him his choice of top or bottom bunk! Toward the end of the movie a giant muscular blond, like a new model of Dolph, who has been set up as a major threat, comes to kill Jack, and Silva flies in with a Superman punch and takes care of the guy for him.

I don’t know, maybe Silva’s supposed to be some undercover guy planted there to help him? Might as well be, it seems like everybody else in here is. Jack purposely pleaded guilty to get into the prison where his wife’s killer is. William, we find out, is an FBI agent who has been inside for 6 months to look into corruption at the prison (talk about a shitty gig!) and he also has a partner in there who is also undercover. (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.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

tn_jackreacher2For some reason it’s hard to make a movie series based on a book series about some dude who has different adventures. Except for James Bond, and Jack Ryan at one point. And it tends to be only screenwriters turned directors who know this sort of thing would be cool: Brian Helgeland did a Parker book (PAYBACK), Scott Frank did a Matthew Scudder (A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES), Christopher McQuarrie did a Jack Reacher (JACK REACHER). All of these are artful takes on pulpy material, slightly elevated genre fare that’s neither generic nor ashamed to take part in a one-liner or just-how-badass-is-he speech. The latter two are really more interesting for their characters and style than for the particular mysteries they get involved in, so naturally you’re left wanting them to have a whole series of movies.

So congratulations to Jack Reacher for eking out just enough box office to justify a sequel. It feels so natural, but I honestly didn’t think it would happen. (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.

Phantasm: Ravager

Monday, October 10th, 2016

tn_phantasmvPHANTASM RAVAGER is the apparent conclusion to Don Coscarelli’s PHANTASM saga, now available on VOD and very limited theatrical release. It doesn’t necessarily feel like it has to be the last one, but they probly wouldn’t want to continue without Tall Man Angus Scrimm, who passed away after filming.

This one focuses entirely on Reggie (Reggie Bannister), the ice cream man/singer-songwriter turned four-barrel-shotgun-toting warrior drifter who started as the adult friend to the young protagonist, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin). We first find him falling through a portal back to earth in a stretch of desert somewhere. The badass opening sequence recalls MAD MAX as he scavenges wreckage in a seemingly unpopulated area, has to get back his missing Barracuda and then is involved in a high speed chase with the famous silver balls that fly around trying to stab or drill people’s heads. While this chapter does suffer from some phony digital gore, that’s thankfully not the case with the many incidents of balls digging into people’s skulls and spewing geysers of grue out their exhaust valves like water out the back of a jet ski. (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: Out of the Shadows

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

tn_ninjaturtles2TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS takes the world of photorealistic animated humanoid amphibian vigilantes established in part 1 off in more fantastical directions. “The Shadows” of the subtitle are the levels of secrecy they require, fighting New York City ninja crime from their secret sewer home, hiding their existence by giving credit for part 1’s heroics to local news cameraman Vern (no relation) (Will Arnett, announcer voice for the DON’T trailer in GRINDHOUSE). But they get alot of teenage mutant ninja angst about having to watch the Knicks game from inside the Jumbotron like a bunch of lepers.

(note: it actually looks like amazing seats)

The turtles’ armored ninja ringleader arch-nemesis Shredder (now played by Brian Tee from TOKYO DRIFT) gets busted out during a prison transfer in a cool vehicle stunt sequence that totally would’ve existed without DARK KNIGHT, it’s only a coincidence. But the beauty of it is that

1) It’s arranged by a scientist in goofy “nerd” glasses and bow tie played by Tyler Perry (ALEX CROSS)

2) Shredder accidentally gets teleported to another dimension and is assigned a mission by a talking brain monster with robot body (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 Magnificent Seven (2016 remake)

Friday, September 30th, 2016

tn_m7-16First of all, man, I am never gonna get that theme song out of my head. It’s on the original and the three sequels and on this remake it’s just on the end credits, other than some sly hints at its rhythm adapted to percussion and that exotic flute type thing that modern film composers love. But it’s so catchy and I’ve heard it so many times this last week or two that it’s burned onto my brain like what used to happen to TVs if you left it on a DVD menu all day. Thanks alot, Elmer Bernstein.

In Antoine Fuqua’s THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, we have a small town in Kansas (not Mexico) being threatened by a wealthy land baron (not bandits) who comes in with a bunch of killers, and makes a shitty, non-negotiable offer for their land, that he says they can accept or be killed when he comes back in three weeks. And he makes this threat at gunpoint inside the church! Not cool.

This opening shows the dangers of normal people standing up to these bullies: they quickly execute the first guy who does it, and this escalates into a massacre. This asshole Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) tells the in-his-pocket-out-of-fear sheriff to leave the bodies where they are, burns down the church and stops by the whorehouse on the way out. (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.

Seven Warriors

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

tn_sevenwarriorsDon’t get your hopes up as high as I did, but SEVEN WARRIORS is kind of cool because it’s the 1989 Hong Kong take on the SEVEN SAMURAI story. So that means the version with the most complex and acrobatic action.

I had been under the impression it was a Sammo Hung movie, which is not accurate. The credited director, Terry Tong, has a total of nine directing credits, mostly movies that have not made it to the States. He has bit parts in DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS OF THE FIRST KIND and TWIN DRAGONS, so maybe he is a Sammo associate, and maybe IMDb has a reason to list Sammo as co-director. But the credits and other reference sources do not. He does have a small cameo in the opening scene, which is a weird place for a cameo. It’s a much smaller part than Bruce Campbell in CONGO.

The screenwriter is Kan-Cheung Tsang, who wrote ROYAL WARRIORS and a bunch of Stephen Chow’s movies including SHAOLIN SOCCER and MERMAID. He sets this version in “the Warlord Era” or “Chaotic Era” of China, when veterans wander around as mercenaries or thieves, some of them led by hairy-mole-faced Piu (Lo Lieh, CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS) to terrorize and extort a defenseless village. So of course a couple of the villagers go into town and they find Chi (Adam Cheng, ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN), a once respected, now alcoholic commander who was in the war with Piu, to gather up some of his old troops. They’re a colorful set of characters, the most impressive being the suave knife thrower and Karl, the big blacksmith who walks away from repairing some lady’s pan the second the Commander asks for help. He carries around a giant spiked club, almost as big as a person, which is enjoyable in any genre. We could use more of those in cinema. (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.

Seven Samurai

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

tn_sevensamuraiThere are some movies that everybody knows are great and you’d be a fool to deny it. One such movie involves a group of cooperating samurai numbering seven. This is their review.

1954 was a pretty good year for film. Many of the films that were popular in the U.S. are still watched and discussed today: REAR WINDOW, WHITE CHRISTMAS, 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, CARMEN JONES. The best picture/director/actor/supporting actress winner was ON THE WATERFRONT, a movie that turned out to be, you know, fairly influential for actors. In Japan, meanwhile, the two biggest hits were WHAT IS YOUR NAME?: PART 3 and CHUSHINGURA: HANA NO MAKI, YUKI NO MAKI. I don’t think those ever made it to video over here, and little information exists about them in my usual reference sources. The first one appears to be a romance sequel and the latter sounds like it would have something to do with the 47 RONIN story.

In third place at the Japanese box office that year, though, was Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI. It was his fifteenth movie, but his first samurai movie. Would you believe it made more money than the original GODZILLA, which also came out that year? Doesn’t matter now. Both have persevered. And SEVEN SAMURAI is a movie justifiably worshiped by snooty film buffs (and in the Criterion Collection) while still being hugely influential in all the lower-brow genres I love: martial arts, westerns and straight up action.

People always complain about long movies, but here’s a nearly 3 1/2 hour one (the longest of Kurosawa’s career) that’s never a chore to watch. It’s a great story, simple and elegant, but it takes the time to let us get to know its characters, and to give us that feeling of waiting. Some day after the barley is harvested bandits will attack the village. We want that day to come and be over with but we also want all the time we can to get ready.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I’m proud to be the latest one to remind you that you need to see this movie. You need to. Everybody else, you know the story, but let’s go over it in case it’s been a while. (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.