I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Okay, so admittedly it’s weird that 17 years after the acclaimed, Academy Award winning CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, The Weinstein Company up and made a sequel without the original director. And filmed it in English. And sold it to Netflix so it was barely released in theaters and may never be available on disc in most countries. It’s not surprising that people seem to have been disappointed, or just confused, or completely unaware of it. But if we think of it in terms of unlikely DTV sequels, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY is in the upper echelon.

No, the director is not Ang Lee, but it’s not nobody either – it’s Yuen Woo-Ping, whose choreography was the life’s blood of the first film. I wouldn’t say he tops it here, but he brings more graceful glides, spinning swords and nimble roof top skips and hops. It’s worth noting that today’s technology is used to create more elaborate magical realism, like when the two leads ride in on horses, block a barrage of spears, leap high into the air, land and begin a sword fight, all in one beautiful shot. (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.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON is an important movie to me for a couple reasons. One is personal, but the other is kinda about you guys. I had been writing reviews on my Geocities websight for a bit, but I didn’t really think anybody gave a shit, so I had kind of given it up for a few months when I ran into an old friend who mentioned he liked what I wrote about CROUCHING TIGER and wondered when I was gonna write more reviews. So I did, and then I continued for like 17 years, and here we are. Thank you, Jacob M., for saying that to me that day.

I love CROUCHING TIGER. I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up after all these years. It was such an exciting movie of its time, but it’s been imitated, techniques have evolved, new things have been achieved in martial arts, we’ve changed. And though I still like HULK, the other Ang Lee film I was obsessed with in the early 2000s, it doesn’t quite knock my socks all the way off anymore. Just part way off.

CROUCHING TIGER, I’m happy to discover, still does. And it knocks them off in a deeper, more mature way than it used to. My socks were very impressed.

(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.

It

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

STAND BY ME vs. THE THING. A group of young nerd friends in the small town of Derry, Maine battle a shape-shifting (usually clown-shaped) thing-from-another-(not-specified) that feeds on the fears of children. Oh, and also feeds on the actual children, apparently as a way to create more of that sweet fear.

Stephen King’s book tells the story of this “Losers’ Club” in 1958, and then reunites them as adults to do It in grown up style. Andy Muschietti (MAMA)’s movie just handles the childhood half of the story, moving it up to the summer of 1989, three years after the book even came out.

I read the book probly 30 years ago and only remember it well enough to be thankful they left out the pre-teen gang bang scene. I still question the part where a bunch of boys and one girl go swimming together in their underwear and then hang out that way. Maybe it was different on the east coast but this seemed like an alien clown’s idea of what the youths do together. Also the graphic blood pact seemed to me from a different time, but I guess God bless those little psychos for being up to that kind of self-mutilation. I couldn’t do 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.

Okja

Monday, September 11th, 2017

This year THE HOST and SNOWPIERCER director Bong Joon-ho made a truly one-of-a-kind movie. OKJA is a sweet girl-and-her-creature tale like MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO after it has been swallowed by a vicious satire of corporate greed and man’s treatment of animals. It’s produced by Netflix with an international cast, many of them speaking English, but its wild shifts in tone make it feel safely within the tradition of South Korean cinema.

It already seems bug-nuts from the opening, when aggressively-faux-enlightened Mirando Corporation CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton, CONSTANTINE) gives her colorful presentation about the “discovery” of the allegedly miraculously eco-friendly “superpig” species and their plan to give them to farmers in 26 cities around the world to raise for ten years using their local traditions and then to crown one as the best.

The decade passes, and young Mija (Ahn Seo-Hyun, the daughter in THE YELLOW SEA) lives an idyllic life in some mountains in Korea helping her grandfather (Byun Hee-bong, MEMORIES OF MURDER) take care of their superpig Okja. She’s bigger than a hippo – looks like a giant Eeyore – but limber enough to leap around like Ang Lee’s Hulk. Mija plays with her and rolls around on top of her belly and climbs inside her mouth to brush her teeth for her. (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.

Weapon of Choice

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

The box says FIST 2 FIST 2: WEAPON OF CHOICE, but it should just be WEAPON OF CHOICE. The distributor retitled it for some reason, but in FIST 2 FIST, writer/director/star Jino Kang played Ken, a former criminal turned martial arts instructor. In WEAPON OF CHOICE he plays Jack Lee, a former criminal who wears martial arts clothing but is not specified to be an instructor. Different guy, in my opinion.

The title refers to his method of showing up at a place – say a private club or warehouse – unarmed, fighting with his hands and feet and the guns and knives and what not he takes away from his opponents. This way he’s not leaving any evidence behind but still manages to get in a big sword duel.

Jack is introduced using this technique to massacre a room full of people at a gangster’s birthday dinner, leaving only one terrified witness to give his boss the message that “my part of the deal is done.” Then we find him six years later living as an ordinary dude with an unnamed regular job, living with his teenage niece Jaime (Kelly Lou Dennis) who he’s raised as his daughter since the death of her real father. But one day the boss finds out this was a scam – ol’ brother-in-law faked his death to escape a debt. So masked men burst in and try to kill Jack and they kidnap Jaime and just for good measure they intend to traffic her. So… they’re bad guys. (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.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

In the part of my brain dedicated to Favorite Movies, James Cameron’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY sits on the top shelf with all the best and strongest. It was the definition of knock-you-through-the-back-of-the-theater summer blockbuster when it arrived in 1991, and my love for it has only deepened in the intervening quarter century.

Some big budget FX movies arguably get by on technological gimmicks that lose power as years pass, but not this one. It matters nothing that the groundbreaking, reality melting digital effects of the liquid metal T-1000 (Robert Patrick, THE MARINE) no longer cause jaws to drop, because in fact T2 is more impressive as a document of the time before computer imagery largely replaced old school stunts and sets and locations. No matter how many times and ways people and vehicles and buildings and cities and countries and planets have been elaborately destroyed by computers in the summers since, the thrill of T2 is not gone. For example the semi vs. motorcycles, helicopter vs. truck and other attempts to quash the relentless pursuit of the T-1000 are still exhilarating.

Rewatching every few years doesn’t wear out T2’s spectacle. Instead it amplifies the themes that animate the movie’s soul. (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.

Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in It

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

(Akounak tedalat taha tazoughai)

I heard about this a couple years ago as “the Nigerian Nigerien remake of PURPLE RAIN.” And that’s a fairly accurate description, so obviously I had to see it eventually.

This is the first film made in a Tuareg language – Nigeriens mostly watch movies in Hausa – and apparently they don’t have a word for purple, hence the poetically clunky title. I’m sure they also have NOON THE COLOR OF BLUE WITH A LITTLE RED IN IT and THE COLOR THE COLOR OF BLUE WITH A LITTLE RED IN IT.

Guitarist Mdou Moctar stars as himself, a nomadic musician who arrives in the city of Agadez, Niger and starts up a rivalry with the local musicians. Like PURPLE RAIN, the movie aims to hype up an interesting musical scene, but the Sahara is pretty different from Minneapolis. There does seem to be some night life, but not really a club like the 1st Ave. Mostly these guys are competing for wedding gigs, and their songs become popular when people trade them on SIM cards for their cell phones. They keep handing each other phones to listen to songs on. A sort of in-person file-sharing system. (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.

R.I.P.D.

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

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

July 19, 2013

Most art is derivative of something or other, but jesus christ is it uncomfortable how flagrant R.I.P.D. is about trying to repackage MEN IN BLACK. Instead of a secret government agency investigating aliens who secretly live among us it’s a secret police department investigating dead people who secretly live among us. But you got the younger guy recruited and learning about this real world beneath our sugar-coated topping and partnering with an older, grumpy guy and they have goofy ray gun looking guns and go around questioning weird informants who turn into crazy cartoon special effects creatures (though Rick Baker is retired, so they’re mostly digital). I swear RIPD even has a headquarters that looks like they built it over the set from MiB.

The young guy is Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds, BLADE TRINITY), in life a Boston PD detective betrayed by his partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon, ELEPHANT WHITE) over some kind of gold treasure they stole from a crime scene. Nick was having regrets and wanted out so Bobby shot him in the face during a raid. Instead of Heaven or Hell, Nick goes to RIPD to continue as a cop and help them round up “deados” who illegally stick around on Earth. Not really a noble calling, in my opinion. (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.