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

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Devil’s Candy

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

All I knew about THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015) was

1) I think it’s one of those ones with some kind of satan/heavy metal theme and

2) I’ve been meaning to see it because it’s the second movie from Sean Byrne, the Australian writer-director of THE LOVED ONES.

That’s why it took me a bit to figure out that this is taking place in America, and that the big Pruitt Taylor Vince looking dude is in fact the genuine item, and most of all that the muscly, tattooed, long-haired, bushy-bearded Matthew McConaghey looking lead was CAN’T HARDLY WAIT‘s Ethan Embry. I only realized it like 2/3 of the way in when I checked IMDb for somebody else in the cast. And I’ve even seen him in grown up roles like CHEAP THRILLS and LATE PHASES. So this is quite a transformation for him.

Embry (Masters of Horror: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road) plays Jesse Hellman, an edgy painter who is able to move his family from a small apartment to a roomy house thanks to a combination of soul-grinding sell-out commissions and a two-people-died-here discount. But, as I personally have noticed sometimes happens in movies, there seems to be something demonic or haunted or cursed or evil or unlucky or fucked up or at least just super, super uncool about the place. I mean, we already saw in the opening that Ray Smilie (Vince, K-9, CONSTANTINE), the adult and seemingly developmentally disabled son of the previous owners, heard whispers telling him to kill. His method of shutting up the voices is to play his electric guitar loud, but his mom makes him stop. It’s like George Wendt and Macaulay Culkin at the beginning of the “Black or White” video, but with more deadly results. (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.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

Monday, October 1st, 2018

I haven’t watched a PUPPET MASTER picture since the early ’90s, so congratulations to this marketing that got me excited to watch the new PUPPET MASTER presented by the new Fangoria.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH is sort of a start-over made with the blessing but not direct participation of Charles Band. I don’t think I can technically call it a reboot, though, because it’s not supposed to end or replace the still ongoing original series. It’s an alternate universe version where the titelistical ruler of evil puppets, Andre Toulon, is a totally different character. Instead of a victim of the Nazis he’s a French-German Nazi sympathizer played by Udo Kier (BLADE, BARB WIRE) in nasty burn makeup. The screenwriter is S. Craig Zahler, and though it does not feel anything like BONE TOMAHAWK or BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 it does continue his tradition of pushing the discomfort buttons and making me wonder “Should I be concerned about these racial themes?”

The main story takes place in the present, when artist and comic book store employee Edgar (Thomas Lennon, MEMENTO, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) has to bite the bullet and go stay with his parents while getting back on his feet after a divorce. Desperate for money, he decides to take his dead brother’s rare hand-made puppet to Dallas to try to sell at a convention for the 30th anniversary of “The Toulon Murders.” But there are a bunch of other people there with their own original Toulon puppets, which all come to life (through goofy hand puppeting, not stop motion) and gorily murder Jewish, gay and black people. Puppetry and bigotry become one. (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.

Shot

Friday, September 28th, 2018

SHOT is a movie that’s not necessarily thrilling from start to finish, but that is a unique specimen and time capsule that I’m happy we, as a civilization, maintain a record of. Somehow the canister-diggers at Vinegar Syndrome got their dusty fingers on a 16mm crime epic made by film students in Champaign, Illinois circa 1973, and now all the sudden it’s on Blu-Ray with a newly restored 2k transfer. The movie is appealing not only for exhibiting the fashion and music of its era, but for having an impressive amount of production value considering its origins. Reportedly they raised a $15,000 budget with campus film screenings, but I imagine it was more a matter of string-pulling that accounts for some of this. They have an abundance of helicopter footage, a small plane, multiple police cars, many guns, and a couple car crashes. It’s no FRENCH CONNECTION (a cited inspiration), but picture yourself, like, 22 years old trying to figure out how to get access to that stuff.

The key to watchability is a solid cast of non-professional actors. Vinegar Syndrome’s promo materials call the movie “regional filmmaking” (and also “a low-key piece of regional New American Cinema”) which is a good description, but might sound like something more laughable and homemade than this. The natural performances I think graduate it to legit indie film. It’s much more professional than so many regional horror movies that I’ve seen, and that’s kind of an interesting part of it, I think. If it was after HALLOWEEN they’d be making a horror movie. If it was after RESERVOIR DOGS they’d be making a crime movie. I guess after DIRTY HARRY they wanted to make cop movies. (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 Predator

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

I didn’t get to see THE PREDATOR until after the world had already estimated its coordinates somewhere in the hostile territory between disappointment and disaster. Maybe that prepared me for the sloppy last stretch (it seems like some connective tissue must’ve been lost in editing or reshoots) and a thudding comedy riff or two involving a character with Tourette’s. And I guess a couple subpar quasi-science discussions, sometimes involving “the spectrum.” Also, is it just me or are these people weirdly unsurprised to see aliens?

But everything else in the movie tears its gear off and covers itself in mud to prove it’s a true warrior of entertainment. This is a funnier Predator movie, one full of joyful, gory mayhem, clever dialogue and inventive action beats. Let me give you an example from the opening. Decorated army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook, JANE GOT A GUN) witnesses the crash of a Predator ship and pulls an extra-terrestrial helmet and gauntlet out of the wreckage before catching a glimpse of the camouflaged alien pilot (6’9 1/2″ parkour artist Brian A. Prince) stringing up another soldier. Panicked, McKenna accidentally fires the wrist weapon, slicing his friend’s corpse in half and dumping intestines and blood onto the cloaked Predator, revealing its location and appearance.

I mean, you love that, right? I love that. We all, in my opinion, love that. That’s what movies are for right there. (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.

Death Kiss

Monday, September 24th, 2018

The success of DEATH WISH launched a million sleazy urban vigilante revenge pictures, but it took 44 years – one for each millimeter in a Magnum – for us to get one starring an uncanny Charles Bronson lookalike. In the tradition of THE MAN WITH HUMPHREY BOGART’S FACE, BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA, THE CLONES OF BRUCE LEE, the entire genre of Bruceploitation, Dolly the Sheep and Madame Tussaud’s comes DEATH KISS starring Robert Kovacs, a.k.a. Robert Bronzi. He doesn’t have a death wish, he is the kiss of death, you see. They explain that.

I believe this is a sincere tribute and/or a weird novelty, not a cash grab, because it’s not like there’s gonna be big money in tricking somebody into thinking there’s another old Bronson movie they never heard of, or that Bronson is alive and looking the same age as he was in DEATH WISH four decades ago. There’s no explanation, he just appears there with his messy hair and trademark mustache, wearing his Paul Kersey trenchcoat and tie, a mysterious stranger showing up where he’s not supposed to, putting bullets into child traffickers and their clients, or unsolicited cash into the mailbox of a troubled single mother (Eva Hamilton, OUIJA HOUSE) who has no idea who he is.

(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.

54

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

I’m a little behind schedule but ladies and gentleman, welcome to the final review in the Summer of ’98 series.

August 28, 1998

54 is the second of summer ’98’s competing disco movies. I’m not sure if it’s the DEEP IMPACT or the ARMAGEDDON, but it’s the not as good and not as well reviewed one. Like LAST DAYS OF DISCO it’s about a particular New York City disco in the later years, and there are conflicts between the management and staff that end with the place being raided by the IRS. But this one is in no way about yuppies, it’s based on the history of a real place, the main characters are all employees of the club, and there’s much more emphasis on the disco as a sanctuary for outcasts and misfits, so it would seem to have the potential to be BEAT STREET to LAST DAYS’s BREAKIN’.

But only the potential. Nobody seemed to take it that way.

Shane (Ryan Phillippe, SETUP) is a macho goon from New Jersey whose dreaming eyes gaze across the water to New York City like Luke Skywalker looking to the stars. He’s drawn to Studio 54 by newspaper columns about the celebrities who go there, so he perms his hair and drags his meathead buddies (including Mark Ruffalo, THE DENTIST) there with visions of Olivia Newton-John dancing in their heads, but only Shane (minus shirt) gets past the openly looks-based velvet rope elimination process.

For a second Shane seems like a Tony Manero, but he doesn’t give a shit about dancing (as in LAST DAYS, dancing is an oddly small part of the disco story). There’s a dramatic closeup of his foot hesitating to take its first step on the dance floor, but then he just goes into the crowd and yahoos for the band like he’s cheering on a football game. The looks he gets cause him to observe his surrounding and copy the other people’s moves. Then he quickly gets a job as a shirtless bus boy and doesn’t have to dance anymore. (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.

Mandy

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

MANDY is a deranged bad trip of a movie from director Panos Cosmatos (BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW). It features a high grade mega-acting performance from Nicolas Cage (FIREBIRDS), and Cosmatos is the rare director to cinematically keep pace with Cage’s style rather than try to balance it out. He and cinematographer Benjamin Loeb (KING COBRA) peel off the skin of reality and find the painted covers of obscure fantasy novels and death metal albums beneath.

Cage plays Red Miller, a lumberjack who lives in a cabin in the Shadow Mountains circa 1983 with his fantasy illustrator girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough, OBLIVION). One day they get kidnapped by a demonic biker gang and psychotic Christian cult led by hippie folk singer Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK), who strings Red up with barb wire and (SPOILER) burns Mandy alive, leaving her to crumble into ashes in his hands.

But he escapes and gathers some weapons and comes back and fucking fucks shit up. And that’s enough to hang a movie on in my opinion but explaining the premise does not remotely describe the movie, which seems from frame one to be drugged out of its mind and/or existing on a different astral plane. I bet when they try to play BORN LOSERS on Civic TV, this is how it broadcasts – a psychedelic fever dream revenge nightmare. (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.

Final Score

Monday, September 17th, 2018

If VOD is where we must go to see rugged heroes run through solidly entertaining classical action formulas then I guess that’s what we’ll do. In FINAL SCORE, Dave Bautista (WRONG SIDE OF TOWN) proves that he can handily carry a wholly unoriginal vehicle that knows how to properly operate the machinery of the DIE-HARD-on-a-____ template. To be more specific, this time it’s the SUDDEN DEATH template – DIE-HARD-in-a-hockey-arena-but-in-a-soccer-stadium.

Bautista plays American ex-Marine Michael Knox, who comes to London to bring his teenage “niece” – actually the daughter of a war buddy whose death he blames himself for – to the soccer match. (Yes, he keeps not calling it football, but don’t worry, there’s a part where a guy gets punched out for that very offense.) Unfortunately Uncle Mike and Danni (Lara Peake, HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES)’s outing coincides with a plot by separatists from the ex-Soviet nation of Sukovia (on the eastern border of Sokovia, I believe) trying to find a former rebel leader in hiding and then blow up the stadium. (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.

Notes on E.T. after seeing it in 70mm

Friday, September 14th, 2018

We all live on the planet Earth, we all know Steven Spielberg’s E.T. – THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL is a great fucking movie. I don’t have to tell you that. I was gonna point you to what I wrote about it in 2002 in case I did, but it turns out that was mostly a collection of jokes about walkie talkies and the dog shitting all over the place if he had run all the way into the space ship. So maybe try googling “is e.t. good” or something. I don’t know. You can figure it out.

Like anybody I’ve loved that pudgy little rascal since he first introduced himself to us in 1982, but I’ve managed to be pretty disciplined about waiting years between viewings so I don’t wear it out. I think last time was when it came out on Blu-Ray (six years ago), with at most one DVD viewing between that and when the special edition played in theaters (sixteen years ago).

But on Tuesday I saw it in the 70mm Film Festival that the Cinerama has here in Seattle every year, and I wanted to share a few new thoughts. (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.

Dead Man On Campus

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

August 21, 1998

is when BLADE came out and changed both cinema and humanity forever. But I already wrote the definitive review of that so here I am reviewing DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS.

It turns out maybe the comedies that come out in August are not essential to a summer movie retrospective. That’s a lesson I’m learning. I actually saw DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS at the time, but I realize now that I was conflating my memory of it with IDLE HANDS. I knew it was a different movie, but I thought it was another supernatural teen horror comedy. It was about half an hour in before I realized oh shit, he’s not gonna turn into a zombie. This is that movie where they find out their college has an obscure rule that if your roommate commits suicide then they have to give you straight As (just go with it) so they try to find an unstable roommate and push him to the brink. The kind of movie that should just have a disclaimer and a 1-800 number running across the screen throughout like a watermark on a critic’s screener. (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.