“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Meg

Monday, August 27th, 2018

When elite underwater rescue guy Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham, GHOSTS OF MARS) tries to save his friends from a damaged nuclear submarine, he makes a controversial decision to shut a door and leave behind some of the crew, saving eleven others from an explosion. His career and life are ruined by that hard choice. And also because he believes the sub was attacked by a monster and everybody thinks he’s nuts.

Years later he lives in Disgraced Hero Exile in Thailand, drinking all day in his Thai farmer hat, running a small fishing boat. It’s clear that he’s a sweetheart when some little kids wave at him on his motorcycle and he makes a funny face for them. I liked this little touch, though it kind of undercuts the later badass juxtaposition of his friendship with a little girl named Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai).

Of course he’s resistant at first when his old buddy Mac (Cliff Curtis, DEEP RISING, WHALE RIDER, THE POOL, RIVER QUEEN, THE FOUNTAIN… he does alot of water related movies, is my point) shows up to recruit him for another rescue. This time it’s people working for a high tech underwater lab who lost radio contact. And one of them is his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee, THE LOVED ONES). In a refreshing swerve from standard action movie protocol, he just likes and respects her, and is not trying to win her back. He does get to tell her “I told you so,” of course, when they all see that giant monster that they spent years telling him he didn’t really see. (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 Mask of Zorro

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

You know me, I love these modern (like, 1990s or later) takes on old timey adventure heroes. For example I enjoyed THE SHADOW, THE PHANTOM, THE LONE RANGER and THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, all of which were considered flops. I suspect the generation that was greenlighting these kinds of pictures is gone, and the tradition will die out, but I appreciate their contributions to my entertainment.

There’s only one I can think of that was a genuine hit. THE MASK OF ZORRO opened at #1, made $250 million worldwide, even got a sequel. One of its biggest marks was making Catherine Zeta-Jones into a movie star. Obviously you and I already knew her as a villain who switches to the good guy side in THE PHANTOM, but executive producer Steven Spielberg (DEEP IMPACT) recommended her after seeing her in a Titanic mini-series. MASK OF ZORRO was the thing most people knew her from before ENTRAPMENT, THE HAUNTING, HIGH FIDELITY, TRAFFIC, CHICAGO, etc. For screenwriters Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio (SMALL SOLDIERS), who are credited alongside John Eskow (PINK CADILLAC, AIR AMERICA) and Randall Jahnson (DUDES, THE DOORS) it was the prototype epic-period-adventure-movie template they would use for four PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies and THE LONE RANGER.

As far as I know nobody ever talks about THE MASK OF ZORRO anymore. But they should. It’s fucking great. (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.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Monday, July 30th, 2018

On the way home from the new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE I mentioned to a grocery store checker that I had just seen and enjoyed it. He asked if I was a big fan of “the original series” and as we discussed this I realized that he just meant the other movies. He’d forgotten it started as a TV series until I mentioned it.

This is one of those things as you get a little older, you lose track of how much time has passed. It also happened with JURASSIC WORLD a few years ago. In my mind JURASSIC PARK was an ongoing series that had made it to part 4. But to a whole generation it was holy shit remember that movie we saw in our youth, now a million years later can you believe they’re bringing it back for a new version, oh the nostalgia?

And lately I’ve noticed people declaring the stealth greatness of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series, as if this wasn’t a thing you would be aware of just from watching popular mainstream movies. It reminded me of when FAST FIVE came out and suddenly a whole bunch of critics picked up that those movies were fun. Yeah, no shit. The only other people in on this secret are the, you know, however many paying customers it takes to get a series to part 5. (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.

Armageddon

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

July 1, 1998

“There was some criticism that I made NASA look dumb in certain places. In fact if you heard some of these asteroid theories of what they are thinking of doing, it just sounds asinine.” –Michael Bay

ARMAGEDDON is Michael Bay’s third movie, but in some sense it’s the one where he revealed his true face to the world. There were plenty of examples of his style and character in BAD BOYS and THE ROCK, but it was ARMAGEDDON that first presented the full breadth of his trademarks: awesome awesome macho bros, pretty pretty sunsets, government employees portrayed as insufferable weiners even though they’re in the right, spinning cameras, haphazard editing all over the fucking place, chaotic mish-mashes of explosions and sparks and machinery and debris and smoke and crap, beautiful shots of people in various locations around the world, weirdly hateful characters presented as cutesy comic relief, an army of highly qualified writers seemingly locked in a cage and forced to duct tape a bunch of dumb ideas into the most unwieldy structure they can come up with that has a running time at least 30 minutes longer than the story has earned, and of course an ensemble of talented actors improvising jokes with no regard for any sort of desired rhythm or tone of storytelling. (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.

Skyscraper

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

We had DIE HARD on a boat and DIE HARD in a bus and DIE HARD on a train and DIE HARD in a hockey stadium and a couple DIE HARDs in malls and DIE HARD on piano and DIE HARD still in a building but not as good with Anna Nicole Smith (called SKYSCRAPER) and now we have DIE HARD still in a building but not as good without Anna Nicole Smith (but still called SKYSCRAPER). Dwayne Therock-Johnson plays Will Sawyer, former FBI agent turned small time security consultant given the huge break of overseeing the opening of the residential upper half of a fictional 225 story world’s tallest building in Hong Kong.

“The Pearl” as it’s called due to a round structure at the top is owned by rich dude Zhao (Chin Han, THE DARK KNIGHT, GHOST IN THE SHELL), who we later find out is being shaken down by some tactical mastermind guy (Roland Moller, ATOMIC BLONDE) whose guerrillas infiltrate and set the building on fire. Will is outside of the building when it happens, but he gets blamed for it and must evade the police THE FUGITIVE style and figure out how the hell to get onto the building because his wife (Neve Campbell, WILD THINGS!) and twins (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell) are on the 96th floor. (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.

Tomb Raider

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

I think this new TOMB RAIDER is kinda good. You probly shouldn’t listen to me because I also kinda liked the new THE MUMMY, and this doesn’t have the benefit of cool monsters.

It’s very much the opposite of what I liked about the previous movies based on this same video game series. I watched LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER and LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE each ten years after they came out, and very much enjoyed Angeline Jolie’s shamelessly larger-than-life super heroine who parachutes into people’s Jeeps while talking to them on the phone, punches and hitches rides on sharks to escape flooded ruins, rides motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, etc. She has the talents and wits and acrobatic wire-fu skills to easily come out on top in any impossible situation, and that’s why it’s fun.

So I was skeptical when I saw that the new one was going for a “realistic” approach (partly based on a newer version of the video game). Doesn’t sound as fun to me. And Alicia Vikander, as much as I liked her in EX_MACHINA and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., looked silly to me in the trailers, leaping off crumbling cliffs, getting tossed around and scraped up and still John McClaning her way out of the rubble. She seemed too small and skinny and delicate for that to be believable. So when word on the movie was dire I gave up most of the hope that had been instilled in me by my admiration for director Roar Uthaug’s slasher movie COLD PREY and especially his viking-ish chase movie ESCAPE. (Once again, I highly recommend that 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.

Escape Plan 2: Hades

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

When I heard they were making an ESCAPE PLAN 2 I couldn’t believe it. If you read my review of the first one you can see that right at the beginning I worried it might be “the last gasp for straight ahead R-rated theatrically released movies from the ’80s action icons.” I was a major proponent of the Old Man Schwarzenegger and Stallone movies and disappointed that they kept flopping. I even saw MAGGIE in a theater somehow (there were three other people there, if I remember right) and I suspect I’ve recommended BULLET TO THE HEAD to more people than any other human being. I liked that one better, but that’s okay – ESCAPE PLAN was a solid genre piece with standard Stallone and Schwarzenegger getting to be funny and some goofiness and weirdness for flavoring. Not the best or worst thing either of these icons have done. A pretty good one. I want to keep seeing old fashioned action star vehicles like that, but these days the world is treating them like VHS. Or maybe Betamax. Or America Online CD-ROMs.

So I was grateful for whatever miracle of international co-financing gave us the possibility of an ESCAPE PLAN franchise. And okay, so it’s too bad Arnold isn’t in this one, but Dave Bautista (WRONG SIDE OF TOWN)? I’ll take Dave Bautista. And then wait a minute, they’re not releasing it in theaters? I guess I could understand it. Still could be good.

But pretty recently I saw another trailer and I noticed wait a minute, this is kind of weird, they say STALLONE and they say BAUTISTA but it kind of looks like it’s mostly about this character played by a Chinese actor whose name they don’t even say. (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 Hurricane Heist

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Note: the correct title is , in the FAST AND FURIOUS font

The only thing wrong with HURRICANE HEIST is that it’s actually called , and that “the” throws off the alliteration. But I’m betting this thing was written as, like, CATEGORY 5 or IN THE EYE OF THE STORM or something and then director Rob Cohen (DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY, DRAGONHEART, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR) said “Are you stupid? This needs to be called . Unless I can talk you into DRAGONWIND?”

Of course I knew I needed to see a new movie from the director of STEALTH, ALEX CROSS and xXx called . Duh. That’s obvious. What I did not know I needed was Toby Kebbel (DEAD MAN’S SHOES, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, FANTASTIC FOUR) playing redneck meteorologist Batman. After witnessing his dad getting smooshed by a hurricane as a child, Will Rutledge grows up to fight weather in a high-tech practically-a-tank car he calls The Dominator. It has armor-plating, roll bars, flood lights and retractable spikes that can claw into cement. (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.