There are many things I don’t understand about the sci-fi world and story of VIRTUOSITY. It opens with Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington) in a Captain Panaka cosplay outfit chasing a killer through the business district, where everybody is in a suit carrying a briefcase, like they’re in The Matrix. It does turn out to be a virtual reality simulation and Parker turns out to be a prisoner, though he was formerly a cop until he accidentally killed an innocent(ish) journalist while killing the guy who killed his family.
But what is the reason for this simulation? I guess it’s supposed to be for training? But then why are they training prisoners? I guess because it’s still in Beta testing. With its current calibration, getting killed in the virtual world can cause the player to go into convulsions and die in real life. (You hear that, Wachowskis? See if you can take that idea and do something better with it.) (read the rest of this shit…)
It’s been a joke for quite some time that Tom Cruise, like Prince or Keanu Reeves, never ages. Actually, now he’s starting to show some age, and I like it. He has a few more lines on his face, a little more character. Good work, Tom. Also his new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie is good.
It has been a tradition in the series to have a respectable actor in a position of authority over Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force team. In part 1, Jon Voight played the boss and mentor. In part 2, Anthony Hopkins sent Hunt on his missions. In part 3 there was Laurence Fishburne to question his actions, and in part ghost Tom Wilkinson was “the Secretary.” Now in part 5, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (M:I-RN), we have the most involved of all of these characters, Alec Baldwin as CIA director Alan Hunley. He gets the entire IMF agency disbanded and tries to capture or kill Hunt, who is still in the field trying to finish his last mission.
What I’m getting at is that Alec Baldwin’s famous narrator voice gets to deliver a very good Just How Badass Is He? speech for Ethan Hunt, which includes the appropriately hyperbolic phrase “he is the manifestation of destiny.” That’s one of the many advantages of having Christopher McQuarrie aboard as director and co-writer. The man made JACK REACHER. He loves a good Just How Badass Is He? speech. (read the rest of this shit…)
I was shocked and saddened today to stumble across the news that wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had died. I didn’t see this one coming. I thought he was gonna be one of the ones that gets to grow old.
I know some of you are serious wrestling fans to this day. That’s not me. But I’m one of the millions who was obsessed with WWF wrestling in the 1980s. It was a time when pro wrestling stopped being seen as a lowbrow fringe activity and was allowed to intersect with all parts of culture. Andy Warhol went to a Wrestlemania. Cindy Lauper and Alice Cooper became wrestling managers. A more experienced manager, Captain Lou Albano, played Lauper’s father in a video. Wrestlers released terrible albums, which I bought on vinyl. On Saturday mornings there was a cartoon called Hulk Hogan’s Rock-n-Wrestling, and every fourth Saturday Night NBC showed wrestling in place of SNL. When one of these Saturday Night’s Main Events took place in Seattle I was there. I was thrilled to see Andre the Giant in person (although he didn’t wrestle) and Brian Bosworth in the crowd. I was [undisclosed] years old and witnessing these larger than life individuals – cartoons of good, evil and awesome sculpted out of muscle and fat and encased in colorful spandex – was like catching a glimpse of the Greek gods. (read the rest of this shit…)
As you all know, I’m a fan of movies where the title is “AMERICAN” and then an Asian word. AMERICAN NINJA, AMERICAN SAMURAI, etc. So AMERICAN SHAOLIN is obviously on my radar. It’s another one written by Keith Strandberg, who did the NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER series (this has sometimes been labelled as part 5, since they’re not really connected anyway). It’s also the first role for Daniel Dae Kim, who went on to be on Lost, 24, Hawaii 5-0, etc.
I haven’t actually found it yet, so I haven’t seen it, but I bring it up because this guy Anatolij contacted me about it. He’s such a fan of the movie that he’s trying to start a record company just to put out the soundtrack. These are the types of dreams I believe in, so I’m doing my part to spread the word. I think he’s just looking for people to put on a mailing list to prove there is interest in a soundtrack and, more importantly I imagine, a Blu-Ray.
Anatolij also writes, “Apart from the AMERICAN SHAOLIN soundtrack, I want to make a community of cool soundtrack fans, who are interested in supporting other underrated unreleased soundtracks. There are some fans who have soundtrack wishes, and I think it would be pretty cool to have a good support base. A CD costs not a lot, and if you can support a release with that, that’s a great thing.”
In THE NET, Sandra Bullock (DEMOLITION MAN) plays Angela Bennett, a loner computer expert who becomes The Beta Tester Who Knew Too Much when a colleague stumbles across a backdoor being used to enter major databases and sends her a disk to take a look at.
Bullock spends alot of the movie saying out loud what she’s pretending to type. Angela mostly stays indoors, and most of her friends are either software company people in other parts of the country that she talks to over the phone, or people in “Cyberchat.” This being 1995, with dial up modems and floppy disks, that was still a pretty new idea, as was her ordering a pizza online (which I would still never do myself in this futuristic age). Of course it’s a movie that plays up the exoticism of computers and the internet, and heavily bullshits it up. The backdoor creates a rapid burst of screens of information that computers back then couldn’t have handled and that have no possible use except movie flashiness. A virus is instantly identifiable because it turns what’s on the screen into little shapes as it quickly destroys the system. Call it the Photoshop Mosaic Filter Virus. So it’s a goofy mix of dated technology and not-feasible-at-that-time. (read the rest of this shit…)
So KIDS is 20 years old – which is older than most (all?) of the actors in the movie. What I’ve discovered watching it now as an aging individual is that the older you get the more disgusting it gets. I mean, they have always been younger than me, but now they look like babies. The first shot of the movie is an endless closeup of skinny, shirtless sixteen-years-young Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick, now better known as a junkie on The Wire) awkwardly french kissing a girl who looks even younger than him (I believe he says she’s 12). I don’t think there’s any nudity in this movie, and for all the sexual discussion and activity – enough that it had to be released NC-17 – it’s actually not very graphic. But there’s a whole lot of young teens sloppily kissing, which is almost more uncomfortable. Those scenes make me feel either like an old prude or a young kid who thinks kissing is gross.
This is the rookie movie of both director Larry Clark and writer Harmony Korine, and it definitely gives you an idea of the type of filmatists they would become. You got Clark’s eye for a gritty, documentary texture and his obsession with documenting sweaty, burgeoning teenage sexuality, and you have Korine’s weirdness and disdain for traditional cinematic storytelling. One long section of the movie is just cutting between two rooms, one full of boys, one full of girls, as they talk candidly/show-offily about sex. Of course they paint very different pictures. For example, in the boy’s room they’re pretty excited about how much they know girls love to “suck dick,” while at that same moment the girls are all commiserating about how much they hate that. (read the rest of this shit…)
I’ve already reviewed MIRACLE MILE and CHERRY 2000, the two feature films directed by Steve De Jarnatt. But today both are released on fancy new Blu-Ray (and DVD) editions from Kino Lorber, with commentary tracks and other extras like you used to do when you were expected to put effort into these sort of things. MIRACLE MILE is finally in the proper aspect ratio, and has a reunion of most of the supporting cast inside Johnie’s Coffee Shop, where a pivotal chunk of the movie takes place. They have Brian Thompson, Kurt Fuller, Denise Crosby, Kelly Jo Minter, O-Lan Jones… even the damn phone booth!
Most exciting for me, I was able to see TARZANA, the never-on-video, not-even-on-Youtube black and white noir short that got De Jarnatt noticed by Hollywood. I wrote about it all in this new piece for The Scarecrow Wire, the blog of Seattle’s non-profit Scarecrow Video, so please read it. (And if you feel the urge to comment over there it will make me look good. If it’s a nice comment. Don’t write about butts or farting or anything, you guys.)
If you’re in the area, De Jarnatt will be doing a signing and Q&A as well as presenting TARZANA at Scarecrow Video this Thursday at 7 pm.
Oh, WATERWORLD, how I’ve been meaning to rewatch you. Maybe I should’ve done it before FURY ROAD, though.
Let’s get the “flop” shit out of the way first. This is still most famous as a big expensive movie that pretty much just broke even. I don’t care. That’s none of my business. I’m old fashioned.
I always thought it was treated unfairly at the time. It was in the news for going over budget and the popularity pendulum was swinging back on Kevin Costner after a bunch of Oscars and hit movies. It became everybody’s target and they were excited for how terrible it was supposedly gonna be. (This article from The Independent at the time examines the reasons for the backlash against Costner.)
Here, let me check if it was nominated for Razzies. Yep, Dennis Hopper won worst supporting actor and it was nominated for worst picture, actor and director. (SHOWGIRLS was the big winner that year.) So that speaks well of the movie if those assholes were against it.
Well, back when he first contacted me about that he told me about this next book he was working on, and I’m not sure there will ever be another book more up my alley. THE GOOD, THE TOUGH & THE DEADLY: Action Movie Stars 1960s-Present is his upcoming opus about “every action star who’s crossed over from the world of martial arts, sports, professional wrestling, and stunt work.” We’re talking a big, beautiful 560 page hardcover book with photos and everything between over 1,000 action movies reviews, a few of them contributed by yours truly (me [Vern]), plus some by Zack Carlson and Mike McPadden. If it’s anything like World Gone Wild I’ll have an ever-growing must-see list folded up inside it as a bookmark.
But I’m more excited for david’s interviews with 70+ action stars and filmmakers. He’s mentioned to me who some of them are, and basically it’s most of the people we talk about here. Yes, big famous people, but also the lesser knowns who in my opinion are more interesting and important to hear from. david’s got encyclopedic (is it wikipedic now?) action knowledge, especially the DTV and the ’80s and ’90s sub-Van-Damme type stuff that most fascinates me. On the rare occasions when I tell him one he doesn’t know I feel like I should get a medal or something.
And by the way, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can assume this one really gets it because it knew it was important to have helicopters and ninjas in the background.
The book will be available December 28th, but you can pre-order it right now. What, are you gonna decide between now and then that this is not a book for you? I doubt that very much.
THIEF is a pure dose of most of what I love about Michael Mann. It’s moody, atmospheric and macho as hell. It matter-of-factly drops us into a gritty underworld, makes us feel like we’re witnessing the real deal, and puts us on the side of a guy who has no business being the good guy except that he lives by more of a code than the other guys do. Not even really a code of honor, just a self-serving code of independence, but one that we can loosely apply to more ethical aspects of our own lives.
By today’s standards it’s an arty movie, full of long, quiet scenes, not a bunch of noises to tell you it’s exciting. It opens with a 10 minute heist sequence where everything goes right. No one gives chase or almost sees them. They’re just very professional about it and perform their jobs well. And it doesn’t need tension. It’s fascinating without it.
It’s a movie that’s low on exposition, high on uncomfortable moments where we aren’t expected to agree with the protagonist (like the aggressive way he courts Jessie [Tuesday Weld], and then the heartless way he cuts her off, treating her as a property that’s been tying him down). But also it has plenty of moments of badassness, not shirking its duty to deliver on the genre goods. Its closest modern equivalent is DRIVE, which at times plays as an homage or ripoff of THIEF. But that’s a character, believe it or not, with more heart. (read the rest of this shit…)
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