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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Jarhead 3: The Siege

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

tn_jarhead3Maybe you didn’t know this, but there are straight-to-video sequels to JARHEAD, the 2005 Sam Mendes war film based on the memoir by Anthony Swofford. They’re not about Swofford, or other real people. They’re just unrelated fictional stories about Marines in the Middle East. Part 2 I’m afraid was too generic for me to finish, but part 3 has Scott Adkins in it and is directed by William Kaufman, whose HIT LIST is a good high concept DTV Cuba Gooding Jr. thriller and even had some unexpected War On Terror commentary, making him an interesting choice for this.

Well, I’m not sure “interesting” is a word I’d use to describe JARHEAD 3, but it’s not bad. Charlie Weber (CRUEL INTENTIONS 3, VAMPIRES SUCK) plays Albright, a pretty new but promising young Marine assigned to defend a U.S. Embassy. Adkins plays his Gunnery Sergeant Raines, who the men think of as a Buddha of the Marines. We only know this because PR department interviewer Blake (Dante Basco, who I know as one of the stars of FUNK BLAST, a movie ride that once existed at Seattle’s EMP, and you know as Rufio from HOOK, and we all know as Pinball from BLOOD AND BONE) says so. I wish there was more in the movie to back it up. (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.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

tn_13hours13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI is Michael Bay’s movie about the deadly September 11th, 2012 attacks on the American consulate and CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya. That sounds like a terrible joke – one of Hollywood’s most bombastic, least thoughtful directors tackling a recent (and highly politicized) tragedy. And I’m not totally sure whether he’s thinking of this more like a cool action movie or his version of a BLACK HAWK DOWN/ZERO DARK THIRTY. (I’d guess the second one.) But I have to say he did a better job than I thought he would.

John Krasinski (JARHEAD) plays Jack Silva, a former Navy SEAL hired to help out a small group of special ops guys working at a secret CIA base in Benghazi to snatch up grenade launchers and other weapons floating toward the black market after the fall of Gaddafi. Five weeks after he gets there the consulate about a mile away is attacked by a mob of militants, and Jack and friends want to help. And sort of feel like they have to, because there’s no one else to do it.

The appeal to Bay, and of the movie, is the portrayal of these soldiers, their professionalism and heroism, their drive to use their unique skills in a hugely uphill battle, even when they’re (according to the movie) told to stay out of it. From THE ROCK to the TRANSFORMERSes, Bay has always had a fascination with these types of elite soldiers. He’s good at casting big, manly looking dudes and having them throw out the lingo and sling the hardware around and seem like they’ve been doing the job forever. Krasinski is buffed up (he has one scene to really showcase his six pack) and everybody has a shaggy beard and a sweaty forehead, of course. (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.

Sniper: Special Ops

Monday, May 9th, 2016

tn_sniperspecialopsRemember the opening/teaser trailer scene of AMERICAN SNIPER, where Bradley Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) and his partner are on a rooftop somewhere in Generic Dusty Middle East, watching a woman through a sniper scope, not sure if she has a bomb or is just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they’re agonizing over whether or not to shoot her? Steven Seagal’s latest as of last Tuesday (but since surpassed by a new VOD one on Friday) opens the same way, except there’s no agonizing, they just know he’s a bad guy and they shoot him.

Seagal plays Jake Chandler, the eye in the sky for a group of special ops soldiers on a mission to save a Congressman abducted by an evil Taliban leader. They get attacked, leaving Seagal and an injured soldier behind, but then they help a local woman who turns out to be the Taliban guy’s daughter-in-law. Also there’s a whole thing with an embedded reporter (Charlene Amoia, AMERICAN REUNION) who they kind of condescend to because she’s a civilian and a woman, but she steps up and impresses them. They have some shootouts and a tense hostage exchange and what not. All very small scale, maybe one CGI explosion, but at least the gun flashes are real.

Despite the title, this is not related to the SNIPER series, nor is it very much about snipers, and despite Seagal being the only person Photoshopped onto the cover he’s not the main character at all. That would be Sergeant Mosby (Tim Abell, MERCENARIES, SPECIAL FORCES), a likably gruff lug who reminded me of Kevin Nash mixed with Ron Eldard on Justified. The story mostly centers on him, and he’s the one that makes the decisions and talks with the lady and stuff. (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.

Windtalkers (second review)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

tn_windtalkerswoozoneusaBWINDTALKERS is an American John Woo picture that I kinda hated at the time. I can prove it: here’s my review. But I watched it again and although I don’t really disagree with anything I said in that review, now I think it’s okay. Maybe this is because I watched the director’s cut, which is longer and more violent, like a real John Woo movie. Maybe it’s because I came to it with different hopes and expectations, having already not liked it. Or maybe it’s because I’ve grown and changed as a person and movie watcher since the last time. I suspect it’s a combination of all three.

This is Woo’s WWII movie, which makes sense because it’s about male bonding through violence, but also the evil of endless violence, and also a pretty invisible minority (the Navajo) reaching across cultural lines to achieve a common goal, much like Woo making movies in Hollywood. (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.

Red Tails (revisit)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

lucasminusstarwarstn_redtailsBA great historical epic could be made about the Tuskegee airmen,  the all black squadron of American fighter pilots in WWII. That’s what George Lucas thought back in ’88 when he started developing RED TAILS. He put together a script that he compared to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (or NED OF ARABIA to Young Indiana Jones), a three-parter about their training, then their heroic battles, and then coming home to a racist country and Jim Crow laws that don’t give a shit that they’re heroes.

Eventually he decided that was too much for one movie and, like with STAR WARS, chose the middle chapter to focus on. But he also decided that he didn’t want it to be serious grown up drama. He thought it could be a fun movie for black teenagers. It’s an approach he had trouble selling to director Anthony Hemingway (The Wire), but even more to critics, who rejected the movie wholesale, often with some shaming about the movie they thought it should’ve been. (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 Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

tn_youngindylucasminusstarwarsThe Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was an ABC TV show that ran from 1992-1993. I never saw an episode. I still haven’t, because the version that’s on video is called The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones and it’s re-edited. According to legend (as well as Wikipedia) the Chronicles were hour long episodes about Indiana Jones as a young man having adventures and/or chronicles in different exotic locations. The stories would jump around in time, so sometimes it would be Sean Patrick Flanery (BOONDOCK SAINTS) as teen/early-twenties Indy, sometimes it would be Corey Carrier (school band cymbal player in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK) as 8-10 year old Indy. And the episodes would be bookended by George Hall (BIG DADDY) as 93-year-old Indy (with eye patch) remembering the stories.

Wait a minute – that would mean in the then-present day? I always think of him in the WWII era, but it turns out he stuck around a while. Think about that. Indiana Jones was around for Woodstock, for disco, for “We Are the World,” for “Baby Got Back.” If he had grand kids there might’ve been an Indiana Jones and the Elusive Cabbage Patch Doll adventure one Christmas. None of this is covered in the show though.

The first season (1992) was 6 episodes, the second season they made 22, but only aired 18 before cancelling it. Then from 1994-1996 they followed it up with four TV movies for the Family Channel. Finally, in 1999 they paired up the hour long episodes, plus a couple new ones, and re-edited them into movies, which came out on VHS and later DVD. One major change was to remove all the segments with 93 year-old Indy, so you never get to see Indiana Jones in contemporary situations, like the one where he tells the story of his teenage love of cars after seeing a monster truck at the gas station.

(Do you think they said if Indy went to movies when he was in his 90s? Do you think he saw UNDER SIEGE?) (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.

Kelly’s Heroes

Monday, January 4th, 2016

tn_kellysheroesFor four years now it’s been my tradition to kick off a new year with Clint Eastwood. This year I’m starting it with Clint and a rowdy gang of G.I. goofballs including roughneck Telly Savalas, new agey Donald Sutherland, bitter wiseass Don Rickles and young, harmonica-playing, exactly-the-same-looking Harry Dean Stanton (credited as Dean Stanton). It kinda feels like one of those fun ensemble war pictures like THE DIRTY DOZEN or THE GREAT ESCAPE, except the idea behind it is much more cynical.

Clint plays Kelly, a once great soldier, demoted and disillusioned after an incorrect order caused him to blow up some of his own men. When he finds out about a stash of gold bars in a German bank he finally has a mission he can believe in again: get together a crew to penetrate the enemy lines early and get the loot. Everyone thinks/knows it’s crazy, but the lure of the bling is enough. In fact, they have trouble with more and more people joining the group and expecting a share.

At times it can be kind of a broad comedy, and with that old timey type of military humor where they complain about their job but they just talk about hating to have to lug heavy things around, or get bossed around, they don’t talk about the psychological trauma of having to kill people, or almost being killed, or seeing their friends killed. But in a way this is a very subversive movie, because here’s The Great War, the one we can all get behind, the one that made them The Greatest Generation, and our titleistical heroes never even mention ideals or what they’re fighting for. What they end up getting behind is a big payday. (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.

Latino

Monday, December 28th, 2015

tn_latinolucasminusstarwarsIn the early ’80s, a brutal guerrilla war was going on in Nicaragua, with an army of terrorist counter-revolutionaries, or contras, fighting against the leftist Sandinista party that was in power. The contras were funded and trained by the U.S. and called “freedom fighters” by President Reagan. Most Americans didn’t really pay attention, so the cinematographer, documentarian and sometimes narrative film director Haskell Wexler – who died yesterday at the age of 93 – decided to make this fictionalized movie about it.

Eddie Guerrero (Robert Beltran, LONE WOLF MCQUADE) is an American special forces soldier following up his Vietnam tours with a secret mission in Honduras. He works with Ruben (Tony Plana, HALF PAST DEAD 1-2) to train some soldiers who go over the border into Nicaragua to fight the communist Sandanistas.

Then we meet some of these communists living on a farming cooperative. They are peasant women and teenage boys with AKs trying to defend themselves from the contras who keep coming in, burning their crops and taking their sons, forcing them to join up.

We see how that works: they come into town, spray some bullets around, throw the young men on the ground and tie them up. While they’re there Eddie doesn’t really know what’s up yet, but he wanders into an old lady’s kitchen and gets an earful about his side and how she hopes he dies. He takes one of the tortillas she’s making and eats it, so maybe he’s more of an asshole than we realized. (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.

Kagemusha

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

tn_kagemushalucasminusstarwarsIn 1980, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola presented a film by Akira Kurosawa, KAGEMUSHA. It opens with a five minute static shot of three almost identical looking characters sitting in a throne room in their fancy robes, two of them talking about the other one. You got the emperor Shingen there in the middle and his brother is on his right telling him about the guy on his left, how he spotted this petty thief about to be executed and noticed that he looked like the emperor and would make a good double for him. Sure enough he’s a dead ringer. It’s a real good find, this could work out great, right? But the double is kind of belligerent and crazy, and also he very reasonably chafes at the idea of being called a criminal by a guy who has killed thousands in wars and executions.

Maybe with some training though?

I guess people compare KAGEMUSHA to that movie DAVE, where Kevin Klein is a lookalike who has to replace the president, but I haven’t seen that one, so I’ll compare it to FACE/OFF, where a cop pretends to be a criminal? I don’t know. Anyway, the job gets more serious when the emperor gets hit by a sniper and before dying makes his boys promise to keep his death a secret for three years. I didn’t get this at first, but I think it’s because his heir is his grandson, a little boy. Gotta let him grow up to be at least 7 or 8 before tossing him in the deep end. (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.

Ahlaam

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

tn_ahlaamI’ve spent a good portion of the last two weeks thinking, reading, writing and debating about Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER. It’s an interesting movie that has spurred alot of debate from different points-of-view. But the important perspective that isn’t in the movie or in the conversation as far as I’ve been able to see is that of the Iraqi people. Clint followed his WWII movie FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS with the way better companion piece LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, from the perspective of doomed Japanese soldiers. I wish he could do that for the Iraq War too.

It’s too bad, I thought, that there’s not much of a film industry in Iraq, because that would be a great way for us to see the war and its effects through their eyes. Well, it turns out that a couple such movies do exist. One of them is AHLAAM (2004), based on a true story about the people in a psychiatric hospital in Baghdad during the 2003 “shock and awe” bombing a few days before the fall of Saddam Hussein.
(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.