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Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

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.

GLOW Season 1

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

I don’t usually review TV, but this show is short and consistent enough to review like a movie, and long-time commenter Mr. Majestyk tried to get me to defend my love for it, and it seemed to me worthy of its own post.

GLOW is a fun new Netflix show inspired by the 1986 founding of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. It’s not a historically accurate representation of people or events, and even the wrestling personas are sort of off brand or alternate dimension versions. There’s a Machu Picchu instead of Mountain Fiji, and a team called The Beatdown Bitties are similar to The Housewives. But it takes the idea of fringe Hollywood people doing a casting call for women willing to live in a house together and learn to wrestle, and makes it into ten breezy half-hour-ish episodes of dramedy. There are underdogs, friendships, creative expression and a winning let’s-put-on-a-show spirit. And the show they put on is women in crazy costumes and glitter makeup tossing each other around in a ring with pink ropes, which is better than some other types of shows that somebody might put 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.

The Beguiled (Clint’s version)

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

I’m excited for the impending release of Sofia Coppola’s new version of THE BEGUILED, but I had never actually seen the 1971 version starring Clint Eastwood, and what am I, an asshole? So I made sure to finally see it.

Right before DIRTY HARRY, Clint and Don Siegel made this one which is less action packed than DIRTY HARRY because Clint is bedridden or hobbling on crutches for the entire movie. Also he’s confined to a girl’s finishing school, and it’s not a DIE HARD type picking-off-terrorists-one-by-one situation either. It’s mostly just flirting.

Clint plays Corporal John McBurney, a.k.a. Johnny, McBee or Mr. Yank, a Union soldier badly wounded on Confederate territory and rescued by 12 year old girl’s school resident Amy (Pamelyn Ferdin, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS). Initially headmistress Martha (Geraldine Page, THE RESCUERS, THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE) intends to hand him over to the Confederate soldiers who stop by periodically on patrols, but she decides he’ll die in their prison if she doesn’t help him heal first. (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.