So once again we have survived.

The Trust

tn_thetrustI think I speak for most of us when I say that we love Nic Cage and also that we don’t necessarily trust Nic Cage when he appears in a new VOD/extremely limited release movie. He ends up in a bunch of pretty mediocre thrillers, you don’t always know if he’s gonna add some spice with his mega powers or play it straight, and even if it’s an interesting movie in its own right it might end up being kind of a mess like Paul Schrader’s disowned THE DYING OF THE LIGHT did. Or at least that’s the fear.

Luckily I thought I remembered somebody saying this one was pretty good, so I gave it a shot, and it was the right choice.

Most of Cage’s movies are pretty serious, even if he’s funny in them. THE TRUST has an actual sense of humor. It opens with another character, Waters (Elijah Wood, GRAND PIANO), laying in bed, staring blankly. Then we see that a blond hooker is riding him. He’s not into it. He’s staring at a mole under her breast. Afterwards he’s leaving cash on the bedside table and we see him consider taking back one of the tens. But then he gives it to her. So he’s not too bad. (read the rest of this shit…)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

tn_startrek4summer2016originsIn case you don’t know, I am not nor have I ever been a member of the Trekko community. I am at best a casual enjoyer. Just so you know who you’re dealing with here before reading this review I will make two potentially disqualifying confessions:

1. I have watched WRATH OF KHAN a few times over the years and it’s always pretty good but I honestly have no clue why everyone I know considers it one of the great movies.

2. The first J.J. Abrams STAR TREK is the Star Trek I enjoyed the most.

But you know, I’ve seen good episodes of various shows and I respect the philosophy of it, the emphasis on ideas, the respect for knowledge and wisdom, and the colorful style of the original show. I wish I could appreciate it more, but maybe I’m just a philistine.

With this in mind I had to go to the experts to ask which STAR TREK picture I should watch for the Summer of ’16 Origins series, and I was prescribed STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986). I was under the impression that “the one with the whales” was the one everybody made fun of, but Wikipedia says it was well received, and according to my friends who grew up on it it’s the one they watch the most. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Night Flier

tn_nightflierTHE NIGHT FLIER has a premise that could only really come from a Stephen King short story: a vampire (Michael H. Moss, ROBOCOP 3) – old school, with a Dracula cape and everything – pilots a small plane, and goes around to different small airports drinking people’s blood.

The protagonist is Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer, ROBOCOP) the star asshole at a shitty tabloid that seems to be a cross between The Weekly World News, TMZ and A Current Affair with a more sick and bloodthirsty edge, as well as an apparent belief in the tall tales they’re selling. He’s introduced checking the new issue, seeing it doesn’t have the photo he wanted, and yelling “WHERE’S MY GOD DAMN DEAD BABY!?” So he’s a purist about his scumbaggery. (read the rest of this shit…)

Criminal

tn_criminalCRIMINAL is way too generic a title for this distinctive Kevin Costner action thriller, another enjoyable under-the-radar, higher-minded-than-advertised b-movie to put on the shelf next to 3 DAYS TO KILL. Costner would be the criminal of the title, a gruff, uneducated death row inmate with the strong action movie name of Jericho Stewart. He’s said to have some kind of condition that leaves him no capacity for empathy, like that creepy kid in MALEVOLENCE and BEREAVEMENT, so he experiences what the internet calls “the feels” for the first time when he’s the subject of an experimental surgery that implants another man’s memories into his brain.

I couldn’t help but think of FACE/OFF. Not that it has any of John Woo’s heightened filmatism or outlandish action – the tone, grounded world and love of intelligence agency war rooms are closer to a BOURNE movie – but that’s the only other movie I can think of that uses a sci-fi gimmick in a non-futuristic world and then puts an emphasis on exploring its emotional consequences.

The story starts with Bill Pope, not the cinematographer of THE MATRIX, but a CIA agent on the run in London, played by an uncredited Ryan Reynolds (BLADE TRINITY). He’s in the middle of a mission gone south – something about Spanish anarchists and a hacker and a buy, and people chasing him around town trying to trap him. When he ends up dead, CIA director Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman sporting another action movie name that’s not messing around) is desperate to find out what Pope was working on, because he was the only one getting close to a hacker (blackhat?) who may be able to remotely control military weapons. So Wells – actually, can I call him Quaker? – Quaker turns to this guy Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones, UNDER SIEGE) who has been developing this memory-implanting theory for years. (read the rest of this shit…)

Star Trek Beyond

tn_startrekbeyondI’m not sure if this is what STAR TREK BEYOND is supposed to mean, but this new star trek goes beyond just referencing old star treks. I don’t think part 2, INTO DARKNESS, is as bad as its reputation now, but it kinda left a sour taste in my mouth by building itself too much on “see, this is like before, only it’s the reverse of before” and shit like that. I would rather see a new story, which is what they did here.

Since part 1-2 director J.J. Abrams jumped ship to do a STAR WARS, he’s only producer on this one. And since Paul Greengrass decided to do another BOURNE movie with Matt Damon, Justin Lin (FAST AND FURIOUS 3-6) had to forget about the one he was developing with Jeremy Renner, so he became available.

Another thing that’s different on this one is that Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, co-wrote it (along with Doug Jung, who wrote CONFIDENCE and some episodes of Dark Blue and Banshee). So it finds Captain Kirk, like Pegg’s character in the Edgar Wright movies, unhappy and questioning what he’s doing with his life. He’s three years into a five year star trekking contract (I guess we’ve missed a whole bunch of adventures since part 2) and getting kind of bored of the ol’ final frontier. So he thinks he wants to become an Admiral.

But one day on what seems like an easy task the Enterprise suddenly gets destroyed by a swarm of metal space bug things and they crash land on a rocky planet. The crew gets split up and they face various threats before they reunite and come up with a plan to fight Krall (Idris Elba, GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE), the leader of the bugs, and rescue themselves. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cold in July

tn_coldinjulyCOLD IN JULY is a hell of a thriller, a small town Texas crime story with a first act that provides enough story to turn into a standard movie, then adds an odd little swerve. And then a couple more, and eventually you’re down a road you never could’ve predicted. But not in a crazy twisty kind of way. More like the strange, almost random little turns that life takes.

It’s based on a book by Joe R. Lansdale, adapted by director Jim Mickle and his co-writer Nick Damici. After this they adapted Lansdale into the TV show Hap and Leonard.

It all starts in a very simple and human way in East Texas, 1989. Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall, GAMER) is woken up by his wife Ann (Vinessa Shaw, LADYBUGS, EYES WIDE SHUT) because she hears a noise. Like many Americans, especially Texans, he has a gun in the house in case something like this happens. But he’s not the hunting or target shooting type, and this sort of thing hasn’t happened to him before, so he nervously struggles to get the bullets in and tiptoes out to the living room scared as shit. And he sees that yes, someone has broken into his house.

Richard points the gun at the guy. The guy stares at him. What now? Before he can figure that out, his shaky finger accidentally pulls the trigger, shoots right through the dude’s eye. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tarzan and the Lost City

summer2016originstn_tarzanBefore there was THE LEGEND OF TARZAN there were over 200 other Tarzan movies, and before those there were 26 books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and books by other people, and radio plays and cartoons and records and cereals and pajamas. But for the purposes of Summer 2016: Origins I wanted to watch the previous live action Tarzan, the Tarzan movie of the ’90s, TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY (1998) starring Casper Van Dien (followup to his debut STARSHIP TROOPERS).

It turns out some of the things I liked about LEGEND’s approach had already been done in this one. LOST CITY begins with Tarzan already a lord and having to return to the jungle and his old ways to help somebody. It also has a respect for the native African characters, showing them as his close friends who he comes to help. And it has bad guys who are arrogant European assholes plundering Africa (although they’re just stealing diamonds, not abusing workers/enslaving people like in LEGEND). They start by stealing from graves, which does not go over well with the locals. (read the rest of this shit…)

SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: Top Dog

sdcc tn_topdogIn the K-9 review I mentioned that it competed with TURNER & HOOCH for King of the Human/Dog Buddy Cop Movies. But TURNER & HOOCH takes place in the fictional northern California town of Cypress Beach, so who gives a shit? Nobody.

For the true San Diego/cop/dog experience outside of K-9 you gotta got to 1995’s TOP DOG, where Chuck Norris plays Lieutenant Jake Wilder, a San Diego police detective actually assigned a dog named Reno as his partner. I don’t know if this is K-9 fan fiction and the SDPD is supposed to be building off of the precedent of Jerry Lee, or if K-9 exists as a movie within this universe and it inspired them to do this for PR purposes. But the point is this is in the top two San Diego dog cop comedies of the 20th century. Just my two cents.

The filmatists seem to aim for the same basic approach as K-9 – jokes peppered through a serious action movie. The villains are white supremacists shown making hateful speeches (though thankfully light on racial slurs), they are mostly not played as bumbling buffoons. But there’s cheesy, happy music by George S. Clinton (MORTAL KOMBAT), the jokes are broader than K-9, the action is cornier and the look is shoddy. On the positive side there are more explosions, kicks and jumping stunts. All these things can be explained by who the director is: Chuck’s brother Aaron Norris (DELTA FORCE II). (read the rest of this shit…)

SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: K-9

tn_k-9sdccK-9 is a weird type of action-comedy that only existed in the ’80s. James Belushi plays own-rules-playing San Diego narcotics detective Mike Dooley, who sneakily borrows a K-9 patrol dog off the books for an unauthorized raid, and then treats the dog as his partner, talking to him as if he’s a human in a regular non-dog-related cop movie. And the dog, Jerry Lee (introducing Jerry Lee as himself according to the credits, which is a lie because the dog was named Rando and got totally fucked over because dogs aren’t SAG), will sometimes make human gestures like covering his face with his paws in embarrassment or making a little arf sound that resembles a human sigh.

It’s humor that often seems more for kids than adults, yet every single other aspect of the movie – the car chases, the bar fight, the shootouts, the angry chief, the arrogant, swimming-pool-lounging drug lord villain (Kevin Tighe, ROAD HOUSE), the relationship problems caused by his occupation, the dramatic score, etc. – is 100% standard issue PG-13 (when that was edgy) action movie. And I don’t mean as a parody, mimicking the style to get laughs from absurdity. They’re just making a movie how movies were made back then. It wasn’t weird at the time. (read the rest of this shit…)

SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: Hardcore (1979)

tn_hardcoresdccI know all the major websights are covering the San Diego Comic-Con this week. I will not be there in person and never have been but in my opinion there is alot I can cover from home in terms of the city of San Diego. For example I have learned that Paul Schrader’s movie HARDCORE from 1979 has a part that takes place in San Diego. This is an EXCLUSIVE SCOOP for Outlawvern.com or an EXSCLOOPSIVE for short. © 2016 Vern please credit.

Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott) is a single father in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a successful factory owner (“we make rivets for the auto industry”) and devout Calvinist. It’s Christmas time and the family’s all together, Uncle Joe (Paul Marin, THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES HOLLYWOOD) being an angry prude about the dancing Santas on the Christmas special the kids are watching.

“I’m sick of watching this television stuff,” he rants after abruptly turning it off. “You know who makes it? All the kids who couldn’t get along here, they go out to California and make television. I didn’t like ’em when they were here and I don’t like them out there.”

Jake is the more laid back grownup who laughs and says “Give the kids a break, it’s Christmas!” (read the rest of this shit…)