I will be at Dark Delicacies in Burbank on 6/26

tn_gdt6/22 UPDATE: I am hearing that unfortunately Craig Baxley and Cynthia Rothrock will not be able to attend. However Don “The Dragon” Wilson will.

If you haven’t heard yet, I (Vern) am emerging from my spiderhole again for my second ever public appearance, a book signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank at 2 pm on Sunday, June 26th. This time it’s not all about me (or Seagal) though, I’m there to support my friend david j. moore and his gigantic new action movie compendium THE GOOD THE TOUGH & THE DEADLY: Action Movies & Stars 1960s – Present, which I made a very small and humble contribution to.

But that’s not all! I am told there will be a whole bunch of icons from the type of b-action movies we love in attendance as well. Like david’s post-apocalyptic movie book WORLD GONE WILD, this one has over 1,000 capsule reviews (five by me, I believe, which is how I got into this mess) and david’s interviews with a who’s who of action stars, directors, writers, stuntmen, etc. Some of them will be there with us to sign the book. INCLUDING MR. CRAIG R. BAXLEY, DIRECTOR OF SOME OF MY VERY FAVORITE MOVIES.

Here’s the full list via david: (read the rest of this shit…)

The Witch (and the great horror divide)

tn_witcha.k.a. “The VVitch: A New England Folk Tale,” as it said on the actual movie

Our beliefs on horror movies are very dear and personal to us. We were indoctrinated into them as children, performing rituals both in groups and in private. Though horror fans often think of themselves as one big group, different factions draw from different traditions. Some are strictly isolationist, while many draw from the Italians, or the Japanese, or even the French. Some have an Amish-like devotion to a specific bygone era, for example the Orthodox ’80s Slashists not only refuse to acknowledge the reformations of the SCREAM era, they don’t even believe in Blu-Ray.

There are many dogmas to adhere to or ignore. Some oppose jump scares, others welcome them to the flock. Many exalt franchise horror, but some consider sequeling a sin. Most oppose new remakes, but who doesn’t at least like THE THING? There is a wide spectrum, from those who seek the gore and transgression of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and GUINEA PIG to those who believe the best scares are always left to the imagination (of the viewer, not the filmmaker). In the middle are many who spent a few years fretting about “torture porn” and its hold on the genre. Or PG-13 teen horror. Or studio horror with big name actors. Or whatever.

Since the ’80s, horror has been both a highly specialized world for fangorian aficionados and a go-to market for squeezing quick bucks out of undiscerning young people. Therefore it should be no surprise that movies like THE WITCH that take a mood-heavy, narrative-light arthouse type of approach can be praised to the sky by critics and horror media, then called “the worst movie ever” by normal people who expect something different when they go to a horror movie. That they will get mad at the people who said it was good, and accuse them of thinking they’re stupid, which will then make them think they’re stupid. Lots of finger pointing. We could be moving toward burning and drowning. (read the rest of this shit…)


tn_warcraftThe opening of WARCRAFT seems promising. A booted foot steps over a skull. The camera arcs up dramatically to show an elaborately armored warrior picking up a shield and sword, stepping into a clearing for a duel. And then we see the guy he’s fighting. He is an orc. That means he’s a motion capture or animated type monster character who is like 8 or 9 feet tall with saber teeth, giant muscles, fists as big as your head, fingers that even seem too big for him, even though he’s a giant. A voice is narrating about the war between the humans and the orcs, but it’s a deep, distorted voice, because it’s not the human talking to us, it’s the orc.

In the next scene, the orc is laying next to his very pregnant wife, talking about their plans, what they will name the baby. She teases him about him having a big head. They laugh at each other. This is a fantasy adventure movie and minutes in we have a monster couple being intimate and loving! It’s like CLASH OF THE TITANS meets the end of FARGO when Marge and Norm are in bed talking about the painting he’s doing for the stamp.

This is why I came to this. A fantasy movie but from a monster perspective. This is beautiful! So as the metal letters of the logo float at me in 3D I am as excited as the nerds who cheered when the trailers started and one guy yelled “FOR THE HORDE!,” and went on to surprise me by gasping and clapping for the I-thought-unimpressive ASSASSIN’S CREED trailer.

Then the next scene is about some humans, standard issue guys in armor standing in castles talking about shit, and they are not as interesting as those orcs. But it continues to be about them for a while. And a while longer. And eventually you realize that the movie is gonna mostly about them. It’s like one of those movies about the civil rights movement or apartheid or something but they have a white guy as the main character. They don’t think non-orc audiences can relate to an orc protagonist. (read the rest of this shit…)

some positivity for today

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

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…)

The Gift

tn_gift THE GIFT is a domestic stalker thriller that seems very familiar from the outset. Happy successful white couple Simon (Jason Bateman, SMOKIN’ ACES) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall, THE TOWN) buy a beautiful new house in a lovely new suburb. Simon has a promising job and possible Big Promotion. They’re trying to have a baby. They quickly make new friends at work and in the neighborhood and have those sophisticated adult dinner parties with the wine and what not that I have seen in movies but am not invited to. They have a dog.

And at the store they run into a guy Simon knew way back in high school. Joel Edgerton (WARRIOR) plays Gordon Moseley, a.k.a. Gordo, a.k.a. Gordo the Weirdo. Simon says he barely knew him, but the guy seems nice enough and anxious to welcome them to town (even if it’s weird that he shows up at their house with too many gifts) and they invite him over for dinner. And he keeps wanting to be their best friend. It’s awkward, but harmless. OR IS IT?

(Harmless I mean. There is no question that it’s awkward.) (read the rest of this shit…)

R.I.P. Kimbo Slice

tn_kimboThe legendary (infamous?) fighter known as Kimbo Slice died of heart failure today. Around here we know him as the guy in the opening scene of BLOOD AND BONE who tries to punk Bone in the prison bathroom but finds out that’s not gonna happen. He also returns in the end credits to have his way with the main villain of the movie, and there’s a great video on Youtube of Kimbo on set intently listening to a punching lesson from Michael Jai White.

Everyone’s saying Kimbo was kind and gentle, which is amazing if true because look at that fucking guy! He was only in a couple other movies – two low rent MMA movies that I’ll get to eventually, and SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION – but he obviously could’ve played a million Tiny Lister type roles if he’d wanted to.

Kimbo had a fascinating history, because he became famous originally as a street brawler, seen in Youtube videos of seedy arranged fights in backyards and parking lots, like something straight out of HARD TIMES, LIONHEART, FIGHTING or RUST AND BONE. Or BLOOD AND BONE. I like when they have be careful so as not to bump into a satellite dish or something. It’s very unskilled fighting and totally unprofessional, presented like porn – that’s because in stemmed out of him being a bodyguard and limo driver for the Reality Kings porn company. Try to duplicate that career path! (read the rest of this shit…)

X-Men’s Apocalypse

tn_xmenapocI remember when the first X-MEN movie came out I went to it expecting something stupid but enjoyable, along the lines of MORTAL KOMBAT. Instead it was a fun super hero movie with a star-making performance by Hugh Jackman and a really appealing premise: super-powered mutants are a minority, feared and endangered by the government, and split between two factions led by old friends/bitter rivals (both played by older Shakespearean actors) who have philosophical disagreements about how to deal with that.

The sequels continued to mine this material in interesting ways. Part 2 had me talking about the USA PATRIOT Act in the review. Part 3, though widely hated, has the most interesting gimmick: a “cure” for mutants, so that each of them have to face whether they would be happier just fitting in and being “normal.” The prebootquels FIRST CLASS and DAYS OF FUTURE PAST delved deeper into the relationship and argument between Professor Xavier and Honorary Doctorate Magneto, and continued with what I really liked about the original trilogy, which was that the “bad guys” were always at least kind of right.

Now finally with part 6 we have that movie I originally thought I was going to see in 2000, where you just get to enjoy the people in crazy costumes punching and shooting beams at each other if you can get past how forehead-slappingly stupid the story is.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Forever The Greatest

tn_aliWe can’t really be shocked to hear that the great Muhammad Ali passed away today, but it still feels wrong. The champ lived almost as long with Parkinson’s as without, so he seemed unstoppable. He’d long since lost his incredible athleticism, his quick wit, his big mouth, and yet he kept going. He was out there, showing up in public every once in a while to pass the Olympic torch, receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom, attend the inauguration of the first black president, make himself known as an American Muslim, or tweet happy birthday to The Rock.

Until today we could still call him a living legend. Even outside of professional boxing his adventures were unparalleled. He had a gold medal (which he threw into the Ohio River after being disgusted with the racism he experienced at home – some dude found it in 2014!). He inspired the song “The Greatest Love of All.” He was a Wrestlemania referee. He had a cartoon where he went to space. He fought tooth decay. He fought Superman! (Don’t worry, his mother’s name was Odessa.) But we admired him most for the true bravery of living from his conscience, putting his career and reputation on the line to oppose the Vietnam War, to go public as a Muslim, and to speak out about racism, even if it bummed out Sly Stone on that ridiculously uncomfortable episode of The Mike Douglas Show. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Ninja 5 (and Antoine v. Ninja conclusion)

tn_an5AMERICAN NINJA 5 is the explosive finale to the AMERICAN NINJA saga, by which I mean it’s an unrelated movie starring David Bradley that they retitled. At least that’s my assumption since he’s named Joe in this one instead of Sean. I could easily accept this character as Sean Davidson, who he played in parts 3 and 4, but they call him the other name so they must not have had that in mind while filming. He also opens the movie training with Tadashi “Bronson Lee” Yamashita, who played the Black Star Ninja in part 1, but this time Yamashita is credited as playing himself.

And I guess they must’ve decided that the title was misleading enough that they didn’t have to have a totally unrelated subtitle like all the other sequels. Something like AMERICAN NINJA 5: GAUNTLET OF FIRE or AMERICAN NINJA 5: IRON CLAW JUSTICE.

By the time this came out in 1993, ninjas were a subject of parody and kiddie fare. In the same year, the older brother of AMERICAN NINJA 5’s young star starred in SURF NINJAS with Rob Schneider and Leslie Nielsen. So this is a PG-13, sometimes jokey movie. Bradley has to take care of his master’s grand-nephew Hiro (introducing Lee Reyes). Also, his master, Master Tetsu, is played by Pat Morita, four years after THE KARATE KID III and the KARATE KID cartoon, one year before THE NEXT KARATE KID. Not very Cannonical. But it does have many elements of an AMERICAN NINJA movie: a scheming evil scientist, an army of multi-colored ninjas with one more visually distinguished lead ninja (with a snake-themed name, even), a kidnapping, sneaking into a foreign land, sneaking into a compound, getting jailed, doing a ninja hand signal meditation thing, child ninjitsu training montage, suppressed memories of childhood ninjitsu training. (read the rest of this shit…)