So once again we have survived.

Posts Tagged ‘Cuba Gooding Jr.’

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.

Boyz n the Hood

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

tn_boyzOf course I had to re-watch BOYZ N THE HOOD as part of the N.W.A celebration. Not only is it named after an Eazy-E song, but it’s the actorial debut of Ice Cube, and still, in my opinion, one of his best performances. (No offense, GHOSTS OF MARS.)

The lead, though, is future DTV master (and Oscar winner, but who cares?) Cuba Gooding Jr. as Tre Styles, a teen in South Central L.A. circa 1991. He lives with his dad Furious (Larry Fishburne, DEATH WISH II), a firebrand mortgage broker who works hard to instill discipline and responsibility in his son, and whose fierce attention to politics gets him called “Malcolm Farrakhan.” In one scene he drives Tre and his friend out to Compton to give them a big speech about gentrification and the importance of black-owned businesses. They’re impressed, but mostly just scared to be in that neighborhood. They’re happy to get back in the car and drive straight outta Compton.

Tre’s friends don’t have fathers, and most of them spend more time sitting on the porch drinking 40s than he does. One of them, Dooky, is always sucking on a pacifier. Apparently that’s because the actor, Dedrick D. Gobert, did that to stop smoking, but it definitely comes across as a symbol of men who never get around to grow into adults, or never get a chance to. These guys live something closer to the lifestyle described in the Eazy-E song than Tre does, but with less shooting and drug money and no hitting women as far as we see. (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.

Judgment Night

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

tn_judgmentnightI’m interested in this idea of The Place White People Can’t Go. According to pop culture and middle class conventional wisdom there are large swaths of every major city that are like the wild west or a post-apocalyptic dystopia. The second a woman steps off the wrong subway or a man’s car breaks down on the wrong block, homeless men in ragged coats turn their heads from the flaming oil barrels where they warm their hands, and seedy criminals step out of the shadows of the garbage-strewn, rat-infested alleys to attempt a gang rape or mugging before this shaky-handed outsider gets a chance to unfold his or her map.

Admittedly many of these swarmers are white too, so maybe it’s really The Place Suburbanites Can’t Go. But it seems like a specifically white paranoia, perpetrated on white movie characters. It’s perpetuated in movies I like, such as the DEATH WISH series, as well as many an ’80s comedy. More recently it made an appearance in TRAINING DAY when walking through the barrio nearly got Ethan Hawke’s “shit pushed in.”

This is not entirely made up. Of course there are high crime areas (in Seattle it’s called “my bus stop”) and desperate, troubled people everywhere, and we’ve all heard stories, some of which are true. But I really think the whole thing is blown out of proportion in a way that appeals to our worst instincts and makes problems worse. In most cases I believe a white man can go anywhere and get a funny look at worst. If you mind your own business most people will leave you alone. Going into “a bad neighborhood” is not really like being a piece of meat in a tiger pit. You’ll probly be okay. (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.

Selma

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

tn_selmaSELMA is a story about the influential social justice warrior Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Not a biopic, but a movie focused on one specific campaign, a march through Alabama to demand a law to protect voting rights. The importance of this legislation is illustrated by an old black woman who, though clearly exhausted from her shift at a nursing home, and intimidated by the experience of her previous attempts, tries to register to vote. The white clerk says she’s “stirring up trouble,” threatens to tell her boss about it, and gives her an impossible local government pop quiz before gleefully rejecting her. That the lady is played by Oprah Winfrey, who more than a few people wish would run for president, adds a little meta-weight.

At one point SELMA was gonna be directed by Oprah’s friend Lee Daniels, whose combination of talent and insane tastelessness could’ve been a problem for this story. But I think he was responsible for the brilliant stroke of casting David Oyelowo (the snobby reporter Yardley in THE PAPERBOY, the militant son in LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER) as King. Daniels was also gonna have Robert De Niro, Hugh Jackman, Cedric the Entertainer, Lenny Kravitz and Liam Neeson in the cast. I imagine Neeson would’ve been the voice on the phone harassing Coretta Scott King (played in the actual movie by Carmen Ejogo, who also played King in BOYCOTT, and other characters in ALEX CROSS and THE PURGE: ANARCHY).

Oyelowo (who had also worked with director Ava DuVernay in MIDDLE OF NOWHERE) somehow fattened his face to create a surprisingly good likeness. I’m told he just gained weight, it’s not makeup, but how the fuck do they do that? It’s not like his body is real fat, how did they know he’d gain the weight there? Do they have physical trainers that can focus your diet and workout that specifically? Do they use computers? (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.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

tn_thebutler“I always loved servin’.”

LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER by Lee Daniels is the new one from crazy fuckin Lee Daniels, and I know what you’re thinking: thank God a Warner Brothers claim with the MPAA forced them to include “LEE DANIELS'” in the title at 75% the size of THE BUTLER, because otherwise I would’ve assumed that this modern movie with Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey on the cover is the lost silent short from 1916 THE BUTLER. I mean, who wouldn’t? It would be an easy mistake to make.

Also I know what Lee Daniels is thinking: that’s pretty cool that some crazy corporate bullshit that makes no sense caused me to get my name in the title like WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE or JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES.
(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.

Machete Kills

Monday, October 14th, 2013

tn_machetekillsThere are lots of funny things in MACHETE KILLS. For a while it coasts on enjoyably stupid jokes, like the ridiculous trailer for part 3 of the series that it opens with. Early on it has a little faux-serious melodrama, playing it almost straight when a clash with rogue soldiers, a Mexican drug cartel and an army in lucha libre masks leads to the death of Machete (Danny Trejo, DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN, MARKED FOR DEATH)’s partner. I like the setup, with a redneck Arizona sheriff (William Sadler, DIE HARD 2) failing to hang Machete before he gets called in by the president (Charlie Sheen, NAVY SEALS, credited as Carlos Estevez) who offers him citizenship in exchange for doing a dangerous mission. I thought the joke of casting him was to have a guy as crazy as Sheen as the president, like wasn’t Mickey Rourke the president in MASKED AND ANONYMOUS? It honestly didn’t occur to me until seeing him on a White House set that his dad played the president in The West Wing (not to mention playing Kennedy). Anyway, the best part is the idea that this unsavory slasher/wife-and-daughter-fucker/assassin gets to sit in the White House and hear his offer.

Trejo’s face is even more rugged than ever, if possible, and he doesn’t have to joke around. He’s fun to watch just being that same character, but now equipped with various high-tech variations on machetes to chop people up with. Robert Rodriguez (credited as sole director this time, and also with his name above the title, but only a co-story credit) once again fills the movie with a huge, unlikely cast, mostly playing colorful gimmicky characters: Mel Gibson (PAPARAZZI) as a weapon inventor/space cultist planning to blow up the world, Demian Bichir (2012 best actor nominee for A BETTER LIFE) as a revolutionary/terrorist/something, Amber Heard (DRIVE ANGRY) as a government agent undercover as a beauty queen, Walton Goggins/Cuba Gooding Jr./Lady Gaga/Antonio Banderas all playing the same assassin called El Camaleon, Vanessa Hudgens (SPRING BREAKERS) as a girl that’s in one part, Sofia Vergara allowing Salma Hayek some dignity by stepping in to play the deadly Madam character with army of killer prostitutes (see also Lucy Liu in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, Zoe Bell in BAYTOWN OUTLAWS, etc.) (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.

One in the Chamber

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

William Kaufman is one of the elite few DTV directors whose names I remember in a positive way. So far he’s not an identifiable master of a style like Hyams or Florentine, and doesn’t have as many under his belt as Roel Reine, but he’s done enough that I keep an eye out. THE HIT LIST is a real solid Larry Cohen-esque high concept thriller that could’ve been a theatrical release if it starred somebody more theatrical-release friendly than Cole Hauser. SINNERS AND SAINTS is messier but earnest and with some distinctive touches. Both have a little bit of a political subtext that hints at an authortational type voice.

ONE IN THE CHAMBER is Kaufman’s newest, and has his best cast so far, by which I mean Dolph Lundgren is in it. Unfortunately I don’t think this one is really a step forward. Story-wise it’s more direct than SAINTS AND SINNERS, but not nearly as clever or gripping as HIT LIST. It’s about a war between Russian crime families (never really a good subject for a DTV movie) in Prague. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Ray Carver, not the author of Short Cuts (I don’t think) but an elite killer who’s hired to off some guys but fails to shoot one because the guy uses a woman as a shield and Carver has human feelings, etc., so that gets him fired. His replacement is Aleksey the Wolf, played by Dolph. He’s not in the first 25 minutes of the movie, but as soon as he shows up he steals the whole thing. (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.

Wrong Turn at Tahoe

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Back when I saw the insane Lee Daniels mother-fucking assassin movie SHADOWBOXER I admitted that Cuba Gooding Jr. was good in it, but made fun of the generic covers of some of his other straight to video movies. Back then one or more people stood up for WRONG TURN AT TAHOE. I don’t think I believed them.

Since then I liked Gooding in HIT LIST, and started to realize that I was unfair to dismiss him as a DTV star. Just ’cause he did all that mugging on all those trailers for comedies I never saw doesn’t mean he can’t do other shit. I even kind of liked him in RED TAILS – not a popular stance, but an honest one. And I can’t continue to hold that ugly purple shirt from BOYZ N THE HOOD against him. It was the ’90s, it was a different time. At least he wasn’t wearing Zubaz.

(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

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

tn_redtailsI’m starting to feel like a pushover, ’cause I’m enjoying all these poorly reviewed movies. RED TAILS is a simple pleasure – a straightforward, old-fashioned tribute to the camaraderie between the pilots and crew members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American Air Force squadron. It centers on the friendship between straight-laced, mustache-having but sometimes flask-swigging Easy (Nate Parker) and reckless, authority-bucking wannabe-ace Lightning (David Oyelowo). Easy (unlike his grandson Easy E) always wants to be professional and follow protocol, Lightning likes to disobey orders to go play chicken with a German ammunitaion train or carelessly dive on a battleship with no backup.
(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 Hit List

Monday, November 14th, 2011

tn_hitlistTHE HIT LIST is a DTV suspense thriller with a great, almost Larry Cohen type premise: 2 drunk guys in a bar commiserate over their shitty days; one claims to be a hitman, the other plays along and writes down on a napkin the five people he’d like dead. And then of course, in the hung over haze of the next morning, he finds out that #5 on the list, the boss that passed him over for a promotion, has been assassinated. Oh shit. So he has to put the kibosh on this thing, if not immediately then at least before the motherfucker gets to #1 on the list. I mean yeah, he caught her cheating, but he doesn’t want his wife dead. They haven’t even tried counseling. (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.