So once again we have survived.

Archive for the ‘I don’t know’ Category

The Neon Demon

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

tn_neondemonNicolas Winding Refn had been around for years before he draped Ryan Gosling in that silver scorpion jacket and became such a name among the movie savvy that he can get a John Hyams remake of MANIAC COP funded and put his initials on the beginning and end of his movies like they’re monogrammed towels. He’d had international acclaim for the PUSHER trilogy and VALHALLA RISING, but DRIVE was such a perfect balance of effective crime drama, zeitgeisty nostalgia and style, and arthouse indulgence that it became a bonafide cultural moment. And he’s been trying to punish us for it ever since.

I like that he lets his freak flag fly, and while most of my friends couldn’t hang with his follow-up ONLY GOD FORGIVES, it really spoke to me with its odd mix of revenge story deconstruction, broken martial arts movie structure and feverish surrealism. His latest, NEON DEMON, swerves even further off the road of logic and coherence in its exploration of the world of young models in L.A.

Elle Fanning (MALEFICENT, SUPER 8, THE NUTCRACKER IN 3D, SOMEWHERE), somehow looking five years younger and more naive than in whatever movie I saw her in last, plays Jesse, a newcomer to town trying to find gigs. Makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone, INHERENT VICE, SUCKER PUNCH) latches onto her after a shoot and introduces her to Gigi (Bella Heathcote, DARK SHADOWS) and Sarah (Abbey Lee, the Dag from FURY ROAD, also in GODS OF EGYPT), more experienced models who respond with jealousy and cruelty when the gatekeepers start treating her as something special. (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.

Meet the Hollowheads

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

tn_hollowheadsYou know what they say about people who work in movies as some job other than director: they really want to direct. It happens to actors, it happens to writers, it happens to Mel Gibson’s hairdresser who directed PAPARAZZI. It also happens to special effects makeup artists. Tom Savini directed the quite good NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake. Stan Winston directed PUMPKINHEAD and A GNOME NAMED GNORM and Michael Jackson’s GHOSTS. John Carl Buechler directed TROLL and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII and a bunch of other stuff. Kevin Yagher (partially) directed HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE. Of all these, the weirdest is the one that Tom Burman did, MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS.

Maybe Burman isn’t as well known as some of those other guys. In recent years his work has been on hospital-set TV shows – Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Chicago Hope, Nip/Tuck. Good work if you can get it. But he’s been in the business since the ’70s, creating the titular heads of THE THING WITH TWO HEADS, doing makeup for FROGS, THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF, THE FOOD OF THE GODS, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and the Wookiees in The Star Wars Holiday Special. His work spans from classic gore moments (MY BLOODY VALENTINE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, HALLOWEEN III) to werewolves (TEEN WOLF) to fantasy (SCROOGED) to action movies (DIE HARD 2, THE LAST ACTION HERO, CON AIR). He worked on Sloth in THE GOONIES, the monster in HOWARD THE DUCK and the Supreme Leader in CAPTAIN EO.

But in the late ’80s he decided to make his own movie to exercise and showcase the skills of The Burman Studios, the company he ran with his sons Barney and Rob. I remember it was on the cover of Fangoria under the title LIFE ON THE EDGE, and that might be the only reason I was aware of 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.

Powaqqatsi

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

tn_powaqqatsilucasminusstarwarsGeorge Lucas and his big homey Francis Ford Coppola (CAPTAIN EO) are executive producers of Godfrey Reggio’s POWAQQATSI (Life in transformation), the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the Qatsi trilogy that began with KOYAANISQATSI (Life out of balance) in 1982 and ended with NAQOYQATSI (Life as war) in 2002. If you’ve seen either of those, or the ones by Reggio’s cinematographer Ron Fricke (I reviewed his SAMSARA in 2011) then you got a pretty good idea what this is like. Which is good, because my words might not cut it.

We could classify these as “experimental documentaries,” but they don’t have much of what anybody thinks of when they think of documentaries. No interviews, no narration, no onscreen text, no people talking at all. No storyline or argument made. No easily encapsulated subject or premise. Just themes.

They’re like cinematic paintings, or photo essays, or poems. They rhyme by having similar shots and images over and over again, all set to very repetitive (in a good way) scores by Philip Glass.

(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.

Goodbye to Language 3D

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

tn_goodbyetolanguageI can’t fake it, I don’t know enough about Jean-Luc Godard. I liked BREATHLESS. I kinda hated MADE IN U.S.A., but I have a Richard Stark bias.

I should see more of them, the earlier ones at least. I know his current reputation as a cantankerous anti-Hollywood zealot, so I knew I was on dangerous ground buying tickets to his divisive new one. It won a jury prize at Cannes and more recently was chosen as Best Picture by the National Society of Film Critics, but it was obvious from what little I’d read that it was not gonna be for everybody, or even mostbody. What attracted me, and the only thing I really knew about, honestly, was that it’s in 3D, and some have praised it for using 3D in innovative new ways. So as one of the last surviving 3D proponents it seemed like an event worthy of my time.

And it was, but uh… shit. What can you 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.

A Huey P. Newton Story

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

tn_hueypnewtonPANTHER reminded me of one of the few Spike Lee movies I hadn’t seen, the 2001 made-for-cable A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY. When it comes to the Spike Lee Jointography there are three categories. There’s the main ones you think about – DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X, all the way through his recent OLDBOY remake. And sprinkled in between are the documentaries, often made for cable. They’re less widely seen, of course, but really good, movies like FOUR LITTLE GIRLS and WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE. But even rarer than that there’s the performance films. I gotta admit I haven’t gotten to most of these. PASSING STRANGE was one, that’s a Broadway musical. I did see ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY. That was pretty good.

A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY, A SPIKE LEE JOINT is a filmed version of a one-man show that Roger Guenveur Smith did starting in 1996 at the New York theater where Hair started.

I don’t know if you know who Smith is. He’s gotta be best known for playing Smiley in DO THE RIGHT THING, so I’m sure people walk up to him on the street every day and say “M-M-M-Martin. M-M-M-Malcolm.” He’s actually been in several Spike Lee movies, he was on Oz I guess, he was one of the stars of Steven Soderbergh’s improvised lobbyist drama K-Street on HBO. But also he was the bad guy in Seagal’s MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE.

He’s an actor I’ve always liked, but I could understand if you didn’t. He has a very theatrical style. He’s a character actor but he likes to show off. He always carries around a little stick of scenery in his pocket to chew on. MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE is an example of him getting a little loosey goosey with the accents. (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.

Soul Vengeance

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

tn_soulvengeanceAlot of people have recommended the PENITENTIARY trilogy to me over the years. Apparently it’s a pretty crazy movie property franchise of the VHS era, so it made sort of a minor cult legend out of writer-director Jamaa Fanaka. He came out of the UCLA film school and a group of young black filmmakers known as “the L.A. Rebellion.” Other members include Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Haile Gerima, so he might’ve been the black sheep of the group, being more interested in exploitation type subject matter than his colleagues.

Although the PENITENTIARYs are what he’s known for, Fanaka (who was born Walter Gordon, by the way – he changed it to a Swahili name in college) actually started in the blaxploitation era. His first feature was 1974’s EMMA MAE, better known now as BLACK SISTER’S REVENGE. In 1975 he did WELCOME HOME, BROTHER CHARLES, which we will discuss here under its current video title of SOUL VENGEANCE. (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.

Poor Pretty Eddie

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

tn_poorprettyeddieHere’s an interesting oddity, a 1975 b-movie sleazefest about rape, racism and rednecks, exploitation but with bursts of SWEET SWEETBACK type artistic pretension. According to the historical essay in the extras it was actually financed by a notorious Atlanta pornographer named Michael Thevis (he also funded Oliver Stone’s SEIZURE). This biography tells me that Thevis was nicknamed “The Scarface of Porn,” that he started out running a newstand but his sales of Playboy inspired him to sell and produce more porn, an enterprise that eventually grew into a nationwide empire of magazines, loops and peep shows. One of his early projects was publishing two of Ed Wood’s porn novels. But before you get too charmed by his up-by-the-bootstraps story you should know he sold child and animal porn, was involved in gangland executions and when he got put away for burning down the warehouse of a guy who criticized him he busted out of prison, tracked down the former associate that testified against him and killed him and another guy with a shotgun.

Also he’s apparently still alive in prison so I’m not gonna criticize him either. This movie is great! Great job funding it, Scarface of Porn!
(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.

Star Time

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

There’s a pride that comes with renting a movie that I never heard of, that you never heard of, that nobody ever recommended to me before, and finding out it’s something interesting. Man, this one is not what I expected. I’m not saying I discovered an unheralded classic like I did when I stumbled across that Billy Dee Williams movie HIT! when it was only on VHS, but I definitely found an unusual one here.

And it’s all because of Slasher Search. As most of you know, every October I try to find some good slasher movies (preferably from the ’70s or ’80s, but I’m having to get lenient these days) that I’ve never seen before. Every year it gets harder, because the pool gets smaller, and I gotta look for more and more obscure ones, like the ones that haven’t even made it to DVD yet. In this case I got real desperate and ventured out of the horror section and I found this tape in Murder/Mystery/Suspense. It looked like it might be a slasher movie, seeing as how it showed a dude wearing a plastic baby mask holding an ax. Which can be used for slashing, is my contention. (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.

Samsara

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

You know how some of these prestige pictures, especially around Oscar season, you’re waiting for the release date and then you find out it’s “New York and L.A.,” and if you’re anywhere else you gotta wait another couple weeks or a month or something? Well, for its first week SAMSARA was only playing two theaters: the Landmark Sunshine in New York and the Cinerama in Seattle. TAKE THAT LOS ANGELES. YOU CHUMPS HAD TO WAIT A WEEK.

I thought Cinerama got the exclusive because they’re one of the few places that can project 70 mm, which is what this was filmed in (Panavision Super 70 if you want to know the name brand) but then it ended up being released only in digital computer file form anyway, by request of the filmatists. “SCREENED IN 4K” they call it. I would complain except it looked great, so I’m sure they knew what they were doing. (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.

Destricted: ‘Impaled’ by Larry Clark

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

tn_destrictedWhen I was working on my DEMOLITION MAN review recently I noticed that one of Marco Brambilla’s few directing credits was on DESTRICTED, an anthology of experimental shorts that got some attention in 2006 when it played Cannes Critics Week and was an official selection at Sundance. The official websight describes it as “the first short film collection of its kind, bringing together sex and art in a series of films created by some of the world’s most visual and provocative artists and directors. They reveal the diverse attitudes by which we represent ourselves sexually.” The cover says “WARNING: Contains strong real sex and strobing effects.” (That last part is ’cause Gaspar Noe did one of the shorts.)

Anyway I always heard the Larry Clark part was good, and now that I knew Brambilla did one I could review it and say “from the creators of KEN PARK and DEMOLITION MAN.”
(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.