I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

Kung Fu Traveler

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Here’s a new sci-fi/kung fu hybrid that’s honestly not up to my standards of martial arts movie quality – to be fair it was made for cable and a streaming service in China – but it’s such a joyfully ludicrous storyline that I can’t help but sort of recommend it if you’re ever in a b-movie mood. It stars Tiger Chen (from Keanu Reeves’ excellent MAN OF TAI CHI and Jesse V. Johnson’s upcoming TRIPLE THREAT) and it can best be described as a cross between a TERMINATOR movie and a period kung fu movie like, say, FEARLESS starring Jet Li.

It opens in a future where aliens have conquered much of the earth. Chen plays a general in a military force that’s fighting back. He and his partner (Wang Zhi, DRUG WAR) are out in the field battling some aliens when he’s able to defeat one of them using kung fu.

This is the craziest part of the movie, reminding me of BEYOND SKYLINE, where the RAID guys fought against tall alien monster guys. There they got to use animatronic suit effects, here it’s digital, looking like a very ambitious SyFy Channel premiere. But, I mean, I can’t not enjoy shit like this:


He also has a robot arm that goes over one of his regular arms.

(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.

Annihilation

Monday, March 12th, 2018

In ANNIHILATION, the sophomore directorial work of Alex Garland (EX_MACHINA, also author of The Beach and screenwriter of 28 DAYS LATER, SUNSHINE, NEVER LET ME GO and DREDD), Natalie Portman (LEON THE PROFESSIONAL) takes a journey into the heart of weirdness. Her character Lena is a cell-loving ex-Army biology professor at Johns Hopkins University (also the alma mater of Gil Scott-Heron, Wes Craven and Wolf Blitzer) whose presumed-K.I.A. husband Kane (Oscar Isaac, SUCKER PUNCH, THE NATIVITY STORY) suddenly shows up alive and odd and unable to explain anything. Sort of like the also mourning Amy Adams character in the also brainy-adapted-from-an-acclaimed-novel-sci-fi-movie ARRIVAL, she’s taken to a site (Area X) where soldiers and scientists face an unexplained, unprecedented phenomenon. In this case it’s not a spaceship but a sort of slowly expanding spectral bubble they call “The Shimmer” that surrounds a chunk of land and no one who has entered it has ever come back out. Until Kane. (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.

Deadly Weapon

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

DEADLY WEAPON is another randomly-stumbled-across VHS rental. This one got my attention with a faded lenticular cover and warranted further investigation when I saw that it was written and directed by Michael Miner, the less-discussed co-writer of ROBOCOP, and stars a bonafide Dream Warrior, Rodney Eastman, aka Joey from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and 4.

Caveat: It’s produced by Charles Band.

The opening text of this 1989 low budget teen angst sci-fi tale explains that it takes place “in the mind of a fifteen year old boy.” I guess that explains its cartoonishly broad idea of how people and relationships work. Eastman plays Zeke, a lonely teen who narrates in the third person, referring to himself as “The Visitor” because he’s “a visitor from another galaxy.” (Not really. That’s his fantasy.) He lives in dusty King Bee, Arizona (Population 4,852) with an abusive alcoholic stepfather and is anxious to grow up and move out, so he says he “watched the skies waiting for a sign, some signal that everything was gonna be alright.” (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.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

In my view Scarlett Johansson can do no wrong. But the live action manga and/or anime adaptation GHOST IN THE SHELL probly did itself a fatal wrong by casting her as the human-brained robot cop Major, a role that probly should’ve showcased an exciting up and coming Japanese-American actress.

I was skeptical about the controversy at first, because the animated version of the character looks white to my American eyes, and I mean she’s a robot she can look any way they want her to look, plus the story takes place in a very international future, and anyway it’s an American remake of a foreign film so by definition it’s gonna be changed for American culture, and additionally the director of the anime Momoru Oshii said that Johansson was perfect for the part, and it’s true that her roles in UNDER THE SKIN and LUCY prove that she’s uniquely qualified to play an ass-kicking almost-naked robot lady, and furthermore it’s not like it’s easy for her to get a lead role like this either, and anyway a couple years ago all the clamor was for Hollywood to make more big genre movies based around women, and back then nobody specified “white women don’t count.” So I feel bad for her.

But… I think the criticisms were legitimate. (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.

Beyond Skyline

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

SKYLINE is an alien invasion movie that I haven’t seen and never heard anything good about, but now there’s a sequel on VOD called BEYOND SKYLINE, and it has Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian from THE RAID in supporting roles. The fact of the matter is if they put those two in a movie then there’s a high chance I’m gonna watch it. I mean if it gets to the point where they’re doing non-fighting cameos in Sandra Bullock relationship dramas or wacky ironic “grindhouse” movies with Danny Trejo and Sid Haig then my dedication will be tested. But for now it’s a pretty effective hook.

A better reason to watch it is the actual lead, Frank Grillo. Chances are you either already love him or are unfamiliar with his recent ascension to torch-bearer of a certain masculine ideal. He caught my eye in THE GREY and WARRIOR, and he was the main villain in the Chinese smash WOLF WARRIOR 2, but generally when he gets into big movies it’s like secondary villain in CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 and 3 or “Squadron Commanding Officer” in ZERO DARK THIRTY. You gotta go a little lowbrow like THE PURGE: ANARCHY to see him as full-on leading man.

Grillo’s rugged charisma anchors this messy, ambitious low budget special effects showcase. He plays an LAPD detective who, you will be in no way surprised to hear, is currently suspended because he’s been drinking so much since the death of his wife. When his partner Garcia (Jacob Vargas, THE PRINCIPAL) tells him “You look worse than I imagined” it’s kinda funny because Garcia is a bit of a slob but Mark is chiseled and well-groomed. (At least it’s not the standard “You look like shit.”) (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 Wars: The Last Jedi

Monday, December 18th, 2017

This is an ALL SPOILER review, written assuming that everybody has seen THE LAST JEDI before reading.

* * *

If you’re not familiar with my take on the Star Wars, I’m a devout follower, but a heretic. I’m out of step with the mainstream because I hold George Lucas in high regard and I prefer the innovation, ideas and idiosyncrasies of his prequels to Disney’s more polished and socially acceptable continuations (though I like those too).

I’ve also been pretty alone in my skepticism about director Rian Johnson. That might be overstating it – I thought BRICK was very well made and I did like LOOPER – but some of the ideas are a little corny to me, and I never related to the effusive praise from my friends and colleagues. So I wasn’t over-the-forest-moon about him doing a Star War.

After THE LAST JEDI, though, I’m sold. And worried about him not doing the next one. In his capacity as the first sole-writer-and-director on a Star War since Lucas, Johnson succeeds in so much more than I could’ve hoped: continuing and deepening the characters from THE FORCE AWAKENS, bringing back Luke Skywalker for a powerful completion to his arc, thrillingly upending some of our expectations, putting a personal mark on the world of Star Wars, and saying new things about the meaning of the saga as a whole and its application to the world. Also there are some weird new creatures, and Luke milks one of them. (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.

24 Hours to Live

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

24 HOURS TO LIVE is a new VOD movie (theatrical in L.A. and New York starting December 1) that could be described as Ethan Hawke’s JOHN WICK. Not that it’s a very similar story, or a martial arts movie, but it has action beyond the modern standards, takes place in a world of elite killers, and has some un-self-conscious absurdity in its basic premise that’s grounded in very effective, heartfelt emotions. I guess this means they don’t consider Hawke and Rutger Hauer big enough names to sell an action movie in wide release these days, but it doesn’t at all feel like DTV. Both quality and production value-wise it’s completely legit, and I liked it better than many of the Jason Statham, Gerard Butler and Liam Neeson pictures I’ve paid to see on the big screen.

In classic international co-production fashion it begins with an Interpol agent, Lin (Xu Qing, FLASH POINT), under attack by militants in South Africa while transporting a whistleblower (Tyrone Keogh, BLAST, STARSHIP TROOPERS 3) to testify to the U.N. It’s meat and potatoes machine-guns-rocket-launchers-and-jeeps type action that immediately shows you the movie means business. Heads are popping, bodies are bouncing off windshields and rolling under tires. (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.

Blade Runner 2049

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to imagine a better sequel to BLADE RUNNER than BLADE RUNNER 2049, especially after seeing Ridley Scott’s two interesting but sloppy prequels to ALIEN. Here Scott acts as producer, wisely handing the reins over to Denis Villeneuve (PRISONERS, ENEMY, SICARIO, ARRIVAL), so we get the gorgeous visuals and elliptical philosophizing, but with a stronger narrative and more coherent ideas than Scott prefers these days. It couldn’t exist without building on the 1982 film’s world and style and feel, of course, so I’m not saying it’s better, but to me this detective lead and the mystery he’s solving are much more absorbing than the earlier version.

Not that it’s trying to be accessible. Doesn’t seem too long to me, but it’s 2 hours and 43 minutes, or one DAWN OF THE DEAD plus a sitcom including commercials plus 6 more minutes. It’s mostly slow and quiet, though Benjamin Wallfisch (IT) and Hans Zimmer (BROKEN ARROW)’s Vangelis-inspired score sometimes builds to a tempest, and a few great action beats spring up among its handfuls of violence. What excites me most, though, are the simple atmospheric touches, like the gentle burble of a pot of garlic boiling on the stove as fugitive replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista, HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN) is ambushed by an intruder sitting quietly in the dark, confronting him calmly.

It’s K (Ryan Gosling, ONLY GOD FORGIVES), an LAPD detective who is (opening scene spoiler) himself a “skin job,” but working to track down all remaining replicants that aren’t programmed to die. His powers of observation on this case lead him to a shocking discovery that “breaks the world” according to his boss Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright, BEOWULF), so she assigns him to cover it up. To maintain order. (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.

Invaders From Mars

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

In the ’80s, lots of people were trying to make Steven Spielberg movies. And obviously POLTERGEIST is Tobe Hooper’s Steven Spielberg movie. Or Steven Spielberg’s Tobe Hooper movie. These days it sounds like they should’ve just been credited as co-directors if it had been allowed. Accounts vary. So let’s forget all that and call INVADERS FROM MARS his version of a Spielberg movie, but not a regular Spielberg movie. It’s the type that the weirdo who directed LIFEFORCE would make. And that Golan and Globus would produce.

It was, in fact, Hooper’s followup to LIFEFORCE (which the kid is watching in part of the movie – lenient parents) and has a screenplay by the same duo. That would be the great Dan O’Bannon (ALIEN, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) and the mysterious Don Jakoby (DEATH WISH 3, ARACHNOPHOBIA, DOUBLE TEAM, VAMPIRES – how is the writer of all of those not legendary?) Hooper was still editing this when he started TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, so by my calculations this is right near the peak of feverish Hooper creativity. (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.

Night of the Comet

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

NIGHT OF THE COMET is like OMEGA MAN reborn as a vividly nineteen-eighties movie. To me it feels like a cousin of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and an acquaintance of MIRACLE MILE, CHERRY 2000 and A BOY AND HIS DOG. The tone is a little cartoony, but not silly; it has zombies, but the bigger threat comes from the government. It’s a good salty-sweet mix of bleak and cynical with sweet and fun.

The young leads, Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart, NIGHTHAWKS, THE LAST STARFIGHTER) and her little sister Sam (Kelli Maroney, SLAYGROUND, CHOPPING MALL) are called “Valley girls” on the box, but luckily that means no more than where they live. Maybe they say “I’m so sure” or something, but they’re serious characters, not the goofy-talking stereotype we know from the Moon Unit Zappa song. Still, centering around youths of the ’80s, NIGHT’s primary locations are a movie theater, a radio station lit by neon art, and a mall. (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.