I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Archive for the ‘Comic strips/Super heroes’ Category

Spawn

Monday, July 17th, 2017
a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

WARNING: Somehow I forgot that I already wrote about SPAWN eight years ago, but now you’re in for a more detailed look.

August 1, 1997

It’s weird that one of my least favorite movies in this series so far is the one that stars Michael Jai White! Thank you Ralph Bakshi for making sure it’s not in last place.

White plays Al Simmons, an amoral elite counter-terrorism black ops super badass who gets betrayed by his boss Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen, FIRESTARTER, who took the job because his grandson told him Spawn was cool). He’s set on fire, blown up and recruited by a crude CGI giant monster devil (voice of Frank Welker) to be a soldier for Hell. Returned to earth five years later as a burnt up demon called Spawn, he lives among the homeless and learns how to use his new demon powers while pining for his wife Wanda (Theresa Randle, CB4) and plotting revenge on Wynn.

I made that sound like a story, if I do say so myself. The movie’s not as interested in that. Faithfully adapted from the top-selling comic book of some parts of the ’90s, here is a visually dark, Marilyn-Manson-on-the-soundtrack slog that makes THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS look like a masterwork of storytelling craft. And at least CITY OF ANGELS was nice to look at. Despite the participation of the great cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (DESPERADO, JACKIE BROWN, PAN’S LABYRINTH), this thing looks like shit! Rarely has there been a worse case of CGI overreach – shockingly sub-par, MORTAL KOMBAT-level monsters, fire and transformations are slapped all over it like a big-screen CD-ROM game, and even the straight-ahead action movie scene at “Military Air Base, Hong Kong” looks like a ’90s syndicated TV show where cops raid warehouses and dockyards every episode. (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 Crow: City of Angels

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

August 30, 1996

I don’t remember ever hearing anybody say nice things about THE CROW part 2, CITY OF ANGELS, so let me start out with one: this is a gorgeous looking movie. Part 1 production designer Alex McDowell (LAWNMOWER MAN, CRYING FREEMAN, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, WATCHMEN) returns, this time with cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier (GUMMO, GOOD WILL HUNTING), to tweak and expand on the aggressively stylized gotholopolis look he created for Alex Proyas’ THE CROW.

This time it looks more real, and has a yellow tint on its foggy (maybe it’s smoggy?), trash-strewn streets, representing the heat of Los Angeles, I hope, and not the piss that it clearly smells of. I don’t know my skylines, so I’m not sure I would’ve understood that they changed the location from Detroit without the subtitle or the cool shot where a row of palm trees burst into flame one-by-one as the crow (the bird that seems to be responsible for resurrecting murder victims, not the vengeful harlequin ghost he enables) flies past them. There’s a great tracking shot of the bird flying over the (model) city, and a profile shot of the ghost speeding on his motorcycle, his feathered friend right in front of him. The movie definitely achieves on levels of technical craftsmanship. (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.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

I liked the Sam Raimi SPIDER-MAN movies (1, 3) and I liked the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN that I saw, but this new SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING is the first one to convince me that hey, I like Spider-Man. This is easily my favorite version.

Continuing the story of Peter Parker (Tom Holland, phone voice of Tom Hardy’s son in LOCKE) shortly after he got to fight with the Avengers in CAPTAIN AMERICA V. THE CIVIL WAR, this is an upbeat, funny slice of life in a previously unseen part of the Marvel Universe: the high schools.

Thanks to being discovered by Tony Stark (Saturday Night Live Season 11 cast member Robert Downey Jr.), Peter is now armed with a high tech costume and the prestige of being able to talk about “the Stark Internship,” but he’s still a dork. He gets made fun of even within his Academic Decathlon team (thanks alot Flash Thompson [Tony Revolori, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL]), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) talks to him about Legos in front of cheerleaders, and he annoys the shit out of his Avengers pointman Happy (Jon Favreau, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET), who doesn’t return his way-too-many calls and texts about wanting a new mission. (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 Shadow

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

(NOTE: I’ve decided to go back to cover two Summer Flings that I regret having skipped.)

July 1, 1994

Look, I can’t say for sure what audiences were yearning for in the summer of ’94, but it might have been a cartoon about lions and it might not have been a super hero movie set in the 1930s, based on a character from serialized radio dramas. Here is yet another entry in my beloved genre of old-timey-super-hero-movie-that-totally-failed-at-the-box-office-but-I-thought-it-was-pretty-good. I suppose THE SHADOW seemed like a more sensible bet than some of them, because it was at least a character with vague name recognition and noir influences like BATMAN (in fact some believe the first Batman story was a rip-off of a Shadow story called “Partners of Peril”).

At first glance The Shadow (Alec Baldwin, THE GETAWAY) does seem like kind of a Batman-esque character. He’s a rich handsome guy named Lamont Cranston who lives a secret life, going out at night as a scary figure, fighting criminals. He doesn’t have a cape, but a black cloak that serves the same purpose, plus a hat and a mask over the mouth and two guns. And hidden in an alley is the entrance to his Batcave-like secret base. (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.

Batman & Robin (20th Anniversary Ice-travaganza)

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

BATMAN & ROBIN is 20 years cold, and CHILLED TO PERFECTION!

“There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris did. Uma is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.” –Joel Schumacher to Variety, 2014

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

It was June 20, 1997, and I thought BATMAN & ROBIN was the stupidest, most tasteless, worst big budget movie ever made. After the wholesale awfulness of BATMAN FOREVER went over well with audiences willing to sanction its buffoonery, Warner Brothers allowed director Joel Schumacher to go full Schumacher for the next one. It’s the same admirable, director-friendly approach that led to Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS, and the bean counters would come to regret it once again. Schumacher’s purest artistic vision is like the aftermath of a rainbow sherbet fight in the costume storage warehouse for an ice skating troupe. He keeps the moody Elliot Goldenthal score and themes of mourning and vengeance, but buries them in a day-glo fantasia of overacting, bad puns, fetishistic rubber costumes and theme park stunt show style super hero battles. For me it became Exhibit A in any argument against the “It’s Not Supposed To Be Shakespeare/Check Your Brain At the Door” school of summer blockbuster permissiveness.

I wasn’t wrong. But twenty years later to the day, after many truly great summer movies, some of them even starring Batman, it’s easier for me to appreciate the uniqueness of BATMAN & ROBIN – the outrageously tacky designs, the subversively in-your-face homoeroticism, the laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of the plot and dialogue and settings and action, and especially the spectacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bulky metal costume and glittery blue makeup as Mr. Freeze, playing like a simultaneous parody of over-the-top Batman villains, blockbuster excess and his own penchant for groan-worthy one-liners. He makes more than two dozen ice or cold related cracks without losing his boyish, gap-toothed Arnold charm.

Today I am prepared to admit that I own BATMAN & ROBIN on Blu-Ray. And have watched it twice in that format. And on purpose.

Ah shit, you guys. I like this stupid movie now. (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 Meteor Man

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

August 6, 1993

We got a few super heroes in this series, but THE METEOR MAN is the first original one. I mean “original” as in appearing here for the first time, not as in distinctive and unique. This is a comedy(ish) by Robert Townsend, so it’s basically “what if a regular guy became a super hero?,” which means intentionally generic super power/vigilante tropes, sometimes setting up jokes, but not always. In fact the opening credits have no comedy at all. It starts with Cliff Eidelman’s STAR WARS-esque scoring and a special effects sequence of a meteor exploding as the title flies at us ala SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE.

After that it pretty much looks and feels like a comedy, but it’s mostly serious in its story about a guy wanting to protect his neighborhood from a gang.

The guy is Jefferson Reed, wimpy Washington DC substitute teacher and, because this is a couple years after MO’ BETTER BLUES, member of “the baddest jazz trio in DC.” So they mention Wynton Marsalis a couple times, he has white suits, musical note pajamas and jazz memorabilia, and he tries to trade records with his neighbor Mr. Moses (James Earl Jones, BEST OF THE BEST), but we never actually see him play his bass (rip off).

Nice character detail: he has one of those car stereos that you pull out and carry around with you. (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.

Wonder Woman

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Remember when they first announced Gal Gadot would be playing Wonder Woman, and people complained? I remember, because to those of us of the Fast & Furious faith, we knew her as Gisele, and it offended us that they would disrespect her like that. We knew she could be good.

Turns out she’s great. I can’t imagine a more perfect actor for this interpretation of the character. She’s the best thing about an overall sturdy movie.

In a quick prologue, young Diana – they never call her Wonder Woman, but I will, because I don’t feel like I’m on a first name basis with her – gently defies her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen, SOLDIER, DEMONLOVER, 3 DAYS TO KILL) to train with her badass aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright, BEOWULF, MONEYBALL, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) to become a great warrior. She lives a good life of training montage and power discovery on the all-female island of Themyscira, until one day a fuckin dude floats up on shore.

It’s Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, SMOKIN’ ACES), a WWI flying ace and Allied spy shot down while trying to escape with stolen plans for a deadly chemical weapon. German soldiers attack and feel the wrath of the Amazons, a great action scene where Antiope gets the most badass move: a flip and mid-air simultaneous firing of three arrows that hit three different foes. So clearly Wonder Woman learned from the best. (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 Rocketeer

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017
a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

June 19, 1991

THE ROCKETEER has all the right ingredients for an aw schucks old timey circa-1938 super hero yarn. The hero, Cliff (Billy Campbell, FAT KID RULES THE WORLD), is a pilot for air shows – small time enough to be an underdog, but cool enough to strut around in his brown leather pilot’s jacket and clock a guy when necessary.

The setting is Los Angeles, so his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly, CREEPERS, LABYRINTH) is an aspiring ingenue, the villain is suave, swashbuckling “#3 box office star” Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton, BRENDA STARR), and the experimental technology they’re fighting over was originated by Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn, THE STEPFATHER). Also involved are mobsters (because Sinclair hired them), Nazis (because he is one), G-men (led by Ed Lauter, DEATH WISH 3, THE ARTIST) and a giant named Lothar (former Austrian basketball pro Tiny Ron Taylor [ROAD HOUSE, SASQUATCH MOUNTAIN] made up by Rick Baker to look like Rondo Hatton).

The random way Cliff becomes a jet-packing hero is pretty cool. During a test flight of the craft he and his mechanic/mentor Peevy (Alan Arkin, FREEBIE AND THE BEAN) have been working on for years, he flies over a chase between the mobsters and the FBI. The mobsters think he’s with the feds and turn their tommy guns on him! Some kind of mixup causes the gangsters to get away without the jetpack they stole from Howard Hughes, but Cliff accidentally finds where they stashed 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.

Dick Tracy

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Oh hey, look guys, it’s summertime! And you know what that means: 1) time to sit back and unwind 2) that hardcore dance has gotten a little bit out of control, and 3) there will be a bunch of big special effects type movies coming out. As soon as the sunny days start I get excited for all the greatness and/or crap that’s coming out every Friday, I get nostalgic for the joy I’ve had in movie theaters throughout my life, or even that certain feeling I get from sitting down and waiting for some big expensive heavily advertised movie that will turn out to not be artistically worthy of its Slurpee tie-in. I still cherish the experience.

And in between watching the new movies I usually do some kind of summer movie retrospective. I’m sort of running out of good anniversaries to do, though, so this year I decided to try a different approach. This will be a series of films that have come out in the past couple decades of summers but didn’t exactly catch on culturally. Some of them will be financial flops or disappointments, others made decent money but were undeniably rejected by audiences. We’ll look at some misunderstood gems, some horrible pieces of garbage, and various stages in between.

I’m calling them SUMMER FLINGS – things the world flirted with briefly on the screen, then left in the past. Or movies that were flung out there and nobody caught them. Today’s movie is arguably remembered more than most of the others we’ll be looking at, but it definitely didn’t catch the world on fire the way Disney hoped it would, so I didn’t want to skip it.

P.S. I’m shy about bringing this up, but I’d have a hard time doing a series like this without my benefactors on Patreon, whose generous donations help offset some of the extra days I take off to really dig in and research and what not. So thank you to them and if you enjoy these reviews and can afford it please consider donating (or using any of the other methods of support mentioned on the right side of your monitor/bottom of your phone). Thanks!

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June 15, 1990

When the ’90s began, Tim Burton’s BATMAN seemed like the gold standard for summer movie excitement. In 1989 it had been a phenomenon at the box office, in record stores and at bootleg t-shirt stands, and every studio wanted to find their own Batman. (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.

Steel

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

tn_steelIn 1998, we got the first ever black Marvel super hero on film, Wesley Snipes as BLADE. An important milestone in pop culture, a breakthrough for Wesley Snipes, one of the great films of the decade and of the comic book genre. It’s momentous no matter how you cut it. For the record, though, DC was ahead of the curve. They had their first black super hero on film one year and one week earlier than Marvel.

But, uh, to be clear it was… Well, it was STEEL. There’s no other way to say it. The movie was STEEL. That’s the only thing about it.

Shaqille O’Neal is Steel (Christian name John Henry Irons), an inventor of experimental weapons for the U.S. military. We first meet him demonstrating a sonic cannon test model with his friend Sparks (Annabeth Gish, WYATT EARP) and some fucking asshole named Nathaniel Burke (Judd Nelson, NEW JACK CITY). We know John is a nice guy because he’s telling a senator about his weapons being non-lethal.

“You like that?”

“Not killing? Yes ma’am, I do.” (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.