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

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

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.

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.

Disturbing Behavior

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

July 24th, 1998

is when SAVING PRIVATE RYAN came out. I wrote about that a while back. Here’s a review of a different movie that came out that day.

I don’t consider DISTURBING BEHAVIOR a very good movie, and I’m not aware of anybody it’s meaningful to, but in a certain way it’s a decent time capsule of where we were at in 1998. The gloomy drizzle and ferries made me wonder if fictional Cradle Bay, filmed in Vancouver, B.C., was meant to evoke Washington state. It would be fitting, because it sort of plays like the disaffection of the so-called grunge scene trickling out in late ’90s teen sci-fi, like chemicals that were spilled into a sewer, overflowed into the Sound, made their way into the plants growing along the shore and were eaten and shat out by animals.

Steve (James Marsden, ACCIDENTAL LOVE) is the new kid in school, moved into town eight months after the trauma of his brother (Ethan Embry from CAN’T HARDLY WAIT)’s suicide. In the cafeteria, stoner outcast Gavin (Nick Stahl, MIRRORS 2) appoints himself rope-show-er and gives him an elaborate take on that time honored teen movie trope, the explanation of all the school’s cliques. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg (BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, CON AIR, ARMAGEDDON, HIGHWAY, PAIN & GAIN) seems to be going for a cross between Shakespeare and Daniel Waters, in my opinion missing the mark on both. He uses a structured format where Gavin lists the awkwardly named groups (“Blue Ribbons,” “Micro Geeks”), describes them, says their “drug of choice,” and then his spaced out sidekick U.V. (Chad Donella, FINAL DESTINATION, TAKEN 3) makes a rhyme about what kind freak they are: “freaks who fix leaks,” “freaks who squeak,” “freaks in sneaks.”

(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 Meg

Monday, August 27th, 2018

When elite underwater rescue guy Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham, GHOSTS OF MARS) tries to save his friends from a damaged nuclear submarine, he makes a controversial decision to shut a door and leave behind some of the crew, saving eleven others from an explosion. His career and life are ruined by that hard choice. And also because he believes the sub was attacked by a monster and everybody thinks he’s nuts.

Years later he lives in Disgraced Hero Exile in Thailand, drinking all day in his Thai farmer hat, running a small fishing boat. It’s clear that he’s a sweetheart when some little kids wave at him on his motorcycle and he makes a funny face for them. I liked this little touch, though it kind of undercuts the later badass juxtaposition of his friendship with a little girl named Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai).

Of course he’s resistant at first when his old buddy Mac (Cliff Curtis, DEEP RISING, WHALE RIDER, THE POOL, RIVER QUEEN, THE FOUNTAIN… he does alot of water related movies, is my point) shows up to recruit him for another rescue. This time it’s people working for a high tech underwater lab who lost radio contact. And one of them is his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee, THE LOVED ONES). In a refreshing swerve from standard action movie protocol, he just likes and respects her, and is not trying to win her back. He does get to tell her “I told you so,” of course, when they all see that giant monster that they spent years telling him he didn’t really see. (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.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Monday, August 6th, 2018

This is weird, there’s a JURASSIC PARK sequel that came out 2 1/2 months ago and I didn’t get around to seeing it until this weekend, when it’s down to two showings a day. I think I saw all the other ones opening day or weekend. But maybe it was a smart move on this one because it benefits from the lowered expectations of everyone telling me it was trash.

In JURASSIC WORLD, you remember, they reopened the dinosaur park and the dinosaurs reattacked the new park and there was a new guy named Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, WEINERS) who was real macho and always trying to show off the size of his forearms. And he trains raptors and has a contentious bickery love with an uptight lady who works at the park named Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, TERMINATOR SALVATION).

In FALLEN KINGDOM, the dinos are still loose on abandoned Isla Nubar, where a volcano is about to erupt. Claire is now a dinosaur rights activist trying to convince the government to act to save these endangered dinosaurs. She’s contacted by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS), who runs the estate of John Hammond’s dying partner Lockwood (James Cromwell, SPECIES II; also played Howard’s father in SPIDER-MAN 3) and wants to fund the rescue mission. But he especially wants to find Blue, the most intelligent raptor, and knows that Owen is the only person who could track 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.

Small Soldiers

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

July 10, 1998

SMALL SOLDIERS is an effects-driven, Spielberg-produced, released-on-July-10th sci-fi movie. But it’s about killer toys (or at least potentially killer toys?) and the hero is a kid and it’s not a CHILD’S PLAY movie (it’s rated PG-13) so I’m not sure it was really seen as a movie for adults. To me and surely many others who saw it the exciting thing was that it was directed by Joe Dante, who hadn’t had a film since MATINEE five years earlier. And with him and Spielberg doing a movie about a young man fighting out of control small things raising a ruckus in a small town, obviously everybody had visions of Gremlins chomping on their heads.

Alan (Gregory Smith, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) is a maybe 14 year old kid who works at his dad (Kevin Dunn, MARKED FOR DEATH, also in GODZILLA, ALMOST HEROES and SNAKE EYES that summer)’s toy store, one of those ones that only sells wooden blocks and airplanes and shit, nothing based on cartoons or movies (so there’s not an anti-GODZILLA in-joke here). His dad actually has a specific “no war toys” policy. But one day his friend the delivery driver (Dick Miller, of course) has another store’s shipment of new high tech talking action figures called the Commando Elite. Alan thinks they would sell better than Lincoln Logs or whatever and convinces him to let him take a set. (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.

Pi (a.k.a. π)

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

July 10, 1998

PI might be the most impactful of the summer of ’98 indies, at least in the sense that it introduced filmmakers who continue to be relevant 20 years later. It’s one of the old fashioned, scrappy, less-than-a-million dollar shoe-strings-and-boot-straps indie debuts, by which I mean it’s in black and white. Actually, 16mm high-contrast black-and-white reversal film. Vincent Gallo claims he fired Dick Pope as cinematographer of BUFFALO ’66 because reversal stock was too hard for him, but here’s director Darren Aranofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, two Mr. Nobodies out of nowhere and they know how to use it. I like this kind of look, the grain dancing around, creating shadowy faces. It’s so opposite of how low budget movies usually look now that they’re digital.

Co-writer Sean Gullette (TRAITORS) plays Max, a genius mathematician obsessed with his thesis that “everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers.” When he was a kid, he says, he stared into the sun, and this gave him an ability to notice numbers everywhere. He’s fixated on discovering patterns in long sequences, a hobby that first-time director Aranofsky has fun trying to make seem cinematic through fast editing, the cool guy electronic dance music of the era and pre-THE-MATRIX lo res on-screen strings of numbers. Also he figures out how to get some foot chases in there (Max thinks he’s being followed). (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.

Armageddon

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

July 1, 1998

“There was some criticism that I made NASA look dumb in certain places. In fact if you heard some of these asteroid theories of what they are thinking of doing, it just sounds asinine.” –Michael Bay

ARMAGEDDON is Michael Bay’s third movie, but in some sense it’s the one where he revealed his true face to the world. There were plenty of examples of his style and character in BAD BOYS and THE ROCK, but it was ARMAGEDDON that first presented the full breadth of his trademarks: awesome awesome macho bros, pretty pretty sunsets, government employees portrayed as insufferable weiners even though they’re in the right, spinning cameras, haphazard editing all over the fucking place, chaotic mish-mashes of explosions and sparks and machinery and debris and smoke and crap, beautiful shots of people in various locations around the world, weirdly hateful characters presented as cutesy comic relief, an army of highly qualified writers seemingly locked in a cage and forced to duct tape a bunch of dumb ideas into the most unwieldy structure they can come up with that has a running time at least 30 minutes longer than the story has earned, and of course an ensemble of talented actors improvising jokes with no regard for any sort of desired rhythm or tone of storytelling. (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 X-Files

Monday, July 9th, 2018

June 19, 1998

(or is it THE X FILES?)

(note: Some people call it X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE, but I think “fight the future” is just the tag line, like “DIE HARDER.”)

Oh shit, man. The ’90s. The X-Files sure was a bigger deal in the ’90s, wasn’t it? And in some ways this movie spin-off of the show is the most era-representative of the ones I’ve watched in this series so far. Not in style, or in any kind of fun, nostalgic way – it doesn’t feel very dated – but just in its view of the world. It spoke to a type of pre-millennium paranoia that has uncool associations today, but at the time was fresh and edgy and hip.

See, the internet was pretty new, so it wasn’t common to know about every strange belief or kooky fringe group. If you wanted to find out about some weird creature somebody claimed to spot you had to read outdated cryptozoology books at the library. If you wanted to know about UFO cults you had to know their address and send them a self addressed stamped envelope and read their newsletter. I don’t know why, but that’s what I did at a certain age. One time I even went to a UFO cult’s presentation on a college campus. All I really remember was a woman with a shaved head who seemed very sincere about all this. A few years later when the mass suicide happened I dug out a handout I’d saved, and though it didn’t say “Heaven’s Gate” on it anywhere it described the same theology, following the teachings of someone called “The Two” or “Ti and Do.” And I always wondered if that lady got out in time. (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.

Upgrade

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Until now, Leigh Whannell has seemed like James Wan’s sidekick. I guess technically he’s the creator of SAW, because he wrote the short film, but he’s mainly known for co-writing the first three SAWs, DEAD SILENCE and all the INSIDIOUSes. And then he directed INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY CHAPTER THREE. But did you know he had it in him to go off on his own and write and direct a ferocious low budget cyberpunk action thriller? Man, why didn’t you tell me?

Logan Marshall-Green (from THE INVITATION and Quarry, but I’ll always think of him as “I just want answers, baby” from PROMETHEUS) stars as Grey Trace, a simple mechanic who loves listening to Howlin’ Wolf records in the garage and working on his Firebird even though he lives in a near future with self-driving cars and cyber implants and shit. (Yeah, I know. But at least they don’t say out loud that he’s an analog man in a digital world. They just show you visually and then move on.)

Then one night mysterious criminals shoot him and his wife (Melanie Vallejo, the Blue Ranger on Power Rangers Mystic Force), leaving him paralyzed and her dead. Though his house is set up with some pretty sweet robot arms that can prepare food for him, he’s miserable and suicidal without his wife or the ability to work with his hands. (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.