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 ‘Drama’ Category

Phantom Thread

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

a.k.a. THE INSUFFERABLE MR. WOODCOCK

or

LOOK AT THIS FUCKIN GUY

PHANTOM THREAD (no “THE”) is the latest from P.T. Anderson. I think we always figured he was gonna keep on being a great filmmaker, but back when he did BOOGIE NIGHTS I doubt I was thinking “In 20 years this guy will do a weird relationship drama about a dress designer with poor social skills and we’ll all go see it because it’s Paul Thomas Anderson.” If I was then I’m impressed with myself because that was an uncanny prediction.

They have advertised it as “Daniel Day-Lewis’s final performance,” as if he’s dead, but really he just says he’s retiring, like Jay-Z five albums ago or Steven Soderbergh before The Knick, LOGAN LUCKY, Mosaic and UNSANE. It’s not my place to tell him what to do with his life, but still I’d like to encourage him to hold off on retiring until doing one more film, a remake of ENTER THE NINJA. Then he would end on the greatest performance of his career by a country mile before heading off to the mountains to humbly cobble shoes, design dresses and live as a Mohican while leading a ninja clan in character as Abraham Lincoln. (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 Post

Monday, February 12th, 2018

THE POST is Spielberg’s newspaper movie. Specifically it’s about the Washington Post in 1971 struggling for relevance, banned from a first daughter wedding, in the process of taking an inherited family business public, when suddenly their more exalted rivals the New York Times get a court injunction for breaking the story of the Pentagon Papers (a secret study proving that the government had known for years that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable and stayed in just to put off the humiliation of a loss). Can The Post’s reporters get ahold of these Papers for themselves, will they have the balls to print a story about them, and will they get away with it? I think you know the answers, but tune in to find out how it goes down.

Like LINCOLN or MUNICH, this is one of Spielberg’s very good grown up movies that doesn’t necessarily light the world on fire, seems destined to be buried in his catalog of iconic classics, but gets some nice reviews and an “it’s an honor just to be nominated” slot in the best picture category at the Oscars. Another movie like that was BRIDGE OF SPIES, the year SPOTLIGHT won best picture. SPOTLIGHT was a good movie with a big cast doing great work in a story about the importance of journalists uncovering dangerous secrets and standing up to powerful institutions that have covered up their own complicity in atrocities. THE POST is all those things with the added bonus of being thrilling and cinematic. Spielberg might be doing a smart-people-talking-and-figuring-things-out movie, but he’s gonna do that with an eye for imagery, period detail, and visual explanations of processes: stealing and reproducing a massive document, puzzling together the order of said document when the pages get mixed up, delivering a message across town, creating the plates to actually print a newspaper, running the printing press, the list goes on.

(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.

Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

When I moved a few months ago I found a box of VHS tapes deep in my closet, and on one of them had been taped the 1994 NBC Movie of the Week TONYA & NANCY: THE INSIDE STORY. I offer no explanation except that Elm Street’s own Nancy, Heather Langenkamp, plays Kerrigan. Anyway, I set it aside to watch after I, TONYA.

And when I did I was surprised to find how much the two biopics, made 23 years apart, have in common. Of course they hit many of the same famous moments and details, but also they both seem very self conscious about seeming exploitative and therefore attempt to elevate the material with a playful style involving mock interviews and contradictory viewpoints. Some of the scenes, like Tonya being chased by her stepbrother, her father leaving or the first time she meets Jeff Gillooly have weirdly similar staging. Both movies flash forward to Nancy screaming “Why?” early on and then take their time showing Harding’s life leading up to the attack (though this one does have scenes just about Kerrigan).

Both movies have a similar view of Tonya: her dad taught her boy things (shooting guns, shooting pool, fixing engines), her mom abused her, her step brother abused her, her husband abused her, she got swept up and either didn’t know or didn’t fully understand what these guys were doing on her behalf. Would you believe that both movies have a part where the fourth wall is broken to directly accuse the viewer of contributing to the abuse and exploitation of Tonya Harding? In this one it doesn’t come from the actor playing Harding, it comes from the actor playing the screenwriter of the TV 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.

I, Tonya

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

From the naming convention that brought you I, ROBOT and I, FRANKENSTEIN comes I, TONYA. I, Vern, was concerned about this one from the second the production company logos started. Obviously I’m all for movies kicking off with a blast of funk, but I couldn’t see how such music represented Tonya Harding, the scandal-scarred bad girl of Olympic figure skating, icon of early ’90s teased bangs, discussed in this movie as going to a Richard Marx concert, disparaged for her allegedly low class music choices in competitions (“Sleeping Bag” by ZZ Top), declaring herself a redneck, marrying a white man who wears a turtleneck under a cardigan.

Okay, they got a Chicago song on there, I buy that. But Violent Femmes? Siouxsie and the Banshees covering Iggy Pop? And yes, there’s a prominent use of “Spirit in the Sky.” All movies that aspire to hipness have “Spirit in the Sky.”

Throughout the movie these wall-to-wall needle drops never said to me “This is the soul of Tonya Harding,” but instead “Guys, this is like BOOGIE NIGHTS! This is like GOODFELLAS! Right Guys? It’s like Scorsese!” An Entertainment Weekly  interview with music supervisor Susan Jacobs confirms that she sees it as “the soundtrack of AMERICAN HUSTLE or a Scorsese film.” She says they chose ’70s and early ’80s music because “there’s a warmth to the ’70s that does not exist to the ’80s and ’90s.” Sorry Richard Marx.

It’s a small thing. Most people shouldn’t care. But it felt false to me, and kept me a little skeptical. (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 Florida Project

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

I didn’t know much more going into THE FLORIDA PROJECT than that some people said it was great, that it was something about Florida and kids and that Willem Dafoe would show up at some point. No idea what it was about, just open for something interesting. That was a good strategy. But this is a review, so I sort of gotta tell you more. Heads up.

Turns out it’s about kids around six years old or so living in tacky tourist motels near Orlando. In their world, most buildings are painted bright pink or purple or shaped like a giant orange or ice cream cone or wizard. The title comes from what Disney World was called during the development stages, but of course it’s a double meaning here because these kids are basically living in the projects. Their parents are young, single, unable to be with them during the day because of work, or because they are inattentive.

We first meet Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and friends doing what they will do for most of the movie: run around giggling and raising holy hell. In that opening scene their current interest is spitting over a ledge onto a parked car whose owner Gloria (Sandy Kane), they soon discover, is smoking nearby, so she runs after them. They call her names and aren’t scared and are lectured for having “too much fun” after she tracks them to where they live and guilts Moonee’s mother into dragging them out to clean off the windshield with paper towels. In the process Moonee becomes friends with Gloria’s granddaughter Jancey (Valeria Cotto). (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 Land

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

THE LAND is a movie that played Sundance last year, that I watched because its writer-director, Steven Caple, Jr., was just announced as the director of CREED 2. And I hate to start out a review this way, but it’s fucking 2017, so… I need to say that I’m not sure where we’re at on Sylvester Stallone. Horrible allegations were published, but not in one of these exhaustively researched and backed up pieces that have taken down Harvey Weinstein and others – this was in the tabloid the Daily Mail. The only additional reporting I’ve seen was on TMZ, in a post where Stallone’s ex-wife Brigitte Nielsen swears it could never have happened, and a person said in the Mail story to have introduced Stallone to a fan denies that he ever did or would have done anything like that. More significantly, TMZ says that Vegas police do not have a record of the police report that was the entire basis of the Daily Mail story. But they offer no further details and I have seen no followups from any serious journalists.

Stallone’s work means so much to me that obviously I would prefer to live in the world where he’s officially cleared of being a piece of shit. But if the unidentified accuser in the Mail story really exists, I don’t want any part in debating what she says happened. So I don’t know what to do on this one.

In the happy world where everything is fine, the CREED sequel is my most anticipated movie. So forgive me if this is wrong, but I have allowed myself to have some excitement for it. The other day it was announced that Michael B. Jordan and Stallone had chosen Caple Jr. to direct on the strength of his debut THE LAND. Obviously I was curious, so I rented 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.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Monday, December 11th, 2017

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is playwright turned IN BRUGES/SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS director Martin McDonagh’s exploration of a grieving mother at war with the local PD. Her teenage daughter was raped and killed seven months ago, and she’s mad that they haven’t made any arrests, so she rents three billboards that bluntly explain the situation and blame the police chief by name.

I probly don’t need to tell you that this creates some tension in town. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, SEVEN POUNDS, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, TRIPLE 9, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, 2012) tries to reason with her politely about taking it down. His deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), who is locally infamous for an unexplained incident involving the torture of a black man, is not as cool-headed about it, and threatens poor Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones, GET OUT) at the billboard company. The woman’s son Robbie (Lucas Hedges, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA) is traumatized and hurt by the graphic details of the murder he had previously avoided knowing. Her ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes, STEEL), a domestic abuser and a cop, is embarrassed by it and doesn’t think it helps anything. (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 Billie Jean

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN is a cool little 1985 stick-it-to-the-man teen feel-good movie that I think still has alot of relevance today. Helen Slater (SUPERGIRL) plays Billie Jean, a Texas trailer park girl who lives parent-free with her young brother Binx (Christian Slater, no relation, MINDHUNTERS). One day they’re riding around on his motor scooter when they get harassed by a carload of giggly rich bros who I think are following the grade school throw-rocks-at-the-girl-you-like method of flirting. But things escalate until the scooter is damaged.

Billie Jean would not be legendary if she put up with this type of treatment. Instead she goes to the store owned by the ringleader Hubie Pyatt (Barry Tubb, Wolfman from TOP GUN)’s dad (Richard Bradford, MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI) and demands the $608 it will cost to repair the scooter. Mr. Pyatt pretends to be reasonable but then tries to get her to have sex with him for the money, which is very much not in the spirit of the request. As Billie Jean struggles to get away, Binx accidentally shoots Mr. Classy with his own gun. So Billie Jean and Binx and their friends Ophelia (Martha Gehman, F/X) and Putter (Yeardley Smith, THREE O’CLOCK HIGH) go on the run. (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.

Ben-Hur (2016)

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

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

For the momentous conclusion of the Summer Flings series, please join me on a journey down Memory Lane. Actually, just turn with me onto Memory Lane and then stop immediately, because it’s right there on the right – August 9, 2016. That’s when Paramount Pictures and MGM admitted that they had spent $100 million for Timur Bekmambetov (WANTED) to remake BEN-HUR, and that if anyone was interested it would be briefly available for public viewing.

Believe it or not I was interested, but limited showings prevented me from being able to see it in the 3D I felt would be crucial for the full ludicrousness of the director of ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER‘s take on one of old Hollywood’s greatest epics, so I gave up and didn’t see it until now.

On its own merits, this BEN-HUR is fine. It’s light on the Bekmambetovian shamelessness that I was excited for, but it’s a solid enough retelling of Lew Wallace’s stirring 1880 tale of fictional Jewish elite Judah Ben-Hur, who is enslaved, freed, and returns to confront his childhood friend turned Roman Prefect Messala. (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.

Detroit

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

You guys, it’s seeming more and more like Kathryn Bigelow, Academy Award winning director of THE HURT LOCKER, has permanently replaced Kathryn Bigelow, awesome director of POINT BREAK and BLUE STEEL. That’s okay, they’re both very good at what they do. DETROIT follows ZERO DARK THIRTY as another heavily researched, based-on-actual-events issue movie with writer Mark Boal (IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH). This time they step away from the “War on Terror” to look at an even more intractable American quagmire: the war that members of law enforcement have on African American citizens, and the way the system harbors maniacs and racists who abuse their power.

The subject is the Algiers Motel Incident, a particularly gruesome chapter of the 1967 Detroit riots when police officers and National Guardsmen detained a group of young, mostly African American people, beat and tormented them, (SPOILERS if you don’t know about the true story) murdered three of them and were not punished for 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.