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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction and Space Shit’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Battleship

Monday, August 28th, 2017

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

May 18, 2012

Let’s say you are a pretty decent commercial Hollywood filmmaker and you have accepted the conventional wisdom that you are now living in a “brand” and “i.p.” culture, a world where studios only want to make – and people only want to see – movies based on famous titles of TV shows and comic books and things that they remember from before. And let’s say that the toy company Hasbro has stumbled into running a movie production company after Michael Bay turned their Transformers toys into a gigantic movie franchise. And that now they are convinced they can do the same thing with the classic board game Battleship.

Well, that actually happened one time to Peter Berg (THE RUNDOWN), who had not directed a movie for a couple years after his not-brand-based Summer Fling HANCOCK floundered in 2008, and his response was “Why not?” Or maybe “I guess?” or perhaps “Okay. Fine.” Since the game is very simple, with no story or characters and I’d say less than five identifiable characteristics that would need to be used in an adaptation, he and screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber (RED 1 and 2) could just use it as a fake name to slap onto an expensive wannabe blockbuster than any sane person would know was gonna be broadly rejected only because of the board game name that they didn’t need to put on it. But that’s life.

(“The Game of Life” by the way is also owned by Hasbro.) (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.

Battle For Terra

Monday, August 21st, 2017

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

May 1, 2009

BATTLE FOR TERRA is a computer animated sci-fi fantasy that opened wide with almost no advertising or awareness. I thought it was the big expensive one that was an infamous flop, but it turns out I was confusing it with DELGO, which was released the year before, but not in the summer, so I don’t have to watch it. This one was actually a low budget independent production, but it did open wide and did not seem to capture the public consciousness, so I’ll go ahead and call it a Summer Fling in the tradition of TITAN A.E.

In the opening scene I was unsure I’d be able to make it through this one, because the alien race at the center of the story, the Terrians, look like this:

I pictured people working hard on this movie for months or years and then being crushed when they realized what it was gonna look like, but maybe I’m just picky about alien designs. Boxofficeflops.com says they spent just below $20 million on this (less than a third of the first SHREK’s budget), but Wikipedia says $4 million. If it’s the latter that’s insane because PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 cost $5 million and it’s a fuckin found footage video that doesn’t have an all star cast like this does! However much they had, it’s obviously not gonna have Pixar-level textures, but it doesn’t take more money to have better designs. For my money the worst decision made in this production was “Yes, I am okay with this being what the main character looks like.”

So thank God the story is pretty good. It starts in this world of Terra, a peaceful society of floating pea-pod E.T.s who fly around in wind-powered vehicles in harmony with flying whales. With better visual craftsmanship I think this would feel kinda like THE DARK CRYSTAL, though some things seem a little too close to modern human life (they have school and the teacher takes attendance and they have dinner at the dinner table and if they get in trouble they get sent to their room). (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.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, we have the movie that the director of THE FIFTH ELEMENT makes eight years after he sees AVATAR. One of the first scenes in Luc Besson’s VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, the one right after the title, brings us to the island paradise planet of Mul, where elongated, glittery-skinned beauties with star-shaped irises fill their giant shell backpacks with pearls, and they feed one to a little pangolin-like creature who puffs up and starts pooping duplicate pearls from under his scales that drop into a hole as an offering to the planet, but suddenly the skies are darkened by an apocalyptic event and the destruction of the planet wakes up our hero Valerian (Dane DeHaan, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES) while he’s napping on a beach chair somewhere. And at some point in the middle of that you realize that this is by far the most French-comic-book movie ever made.

And it continues like that, a two hour, 17 minute non-stop kaleidoscope-fantasia-carnival-parade of colorful creatures and planets and space ships and gimmicks inspired by the comics series Valérian and Laureline (1967-2010). The titleistical City of a Thousand Planets (Alpha for short) is a gigantic space station that started out by uniting representatives of every country on Earth, but kept expanding to encompass alien cultures. And since much of the movie takes place on this multi-species megalopolis, this intergalactic Epcot Center, it’s like a marathon of STAR WARS cantina scene after STAR WARS cantina scene. (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.