I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Posts Tagged ‘Jim Brown’

He Got Game

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

also May 1, 1998

I remember thinking of HE GOT GAME as a slightly under-the-radar Spike Lee joint, but I think it’s become pretty well known over the years. It’s just that it’s in that middle period where he still seemed to have clout but the cultural excitement around him was on a slow, inevitable decline after touching the sun in 1992 with MALCOLM X.

With CLOCKERS and GET ON THE BUS he got increasingly experimental with his style, switching between different film stocks and handheld cameras in energetic ways that I always thought were influenced by Homicide: Life on the Street. HE GOT GAME is a uniquely stylish film that seems more inspired by slick commercials and sports show intros. The story is about the ugly, exploitative side of college athletics, but the style is all about worshiping basketball as the great American sport.

Two credits give you an idea of Lee’s lofty approach: “Music: Aaron Copland. Songs: Public Enemy.” The musical score is built from the sweeping 1940s “populist” style orchestral pieces by, as Lee puts it on the commentary track, “the great American composer from Brooklyn, New York.” Pieces used include “Our Town,” “Lincoln Portrait” and “Fanfare for the Common Man.” The latter has been used in sports broadcasts and Navy ads, it has played on Space Shuttles and inspired the scores for both SUPERMAN and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. It was originally composed upon America’s entry into WWII. Copland considered the titles “Fanfare for a Solemn Ceremony” and “Fanfare for Four Freedoms” before using a term he heard in a speech by Vice President Henry A. Wallace. These are reverent Americana anthems for the pursuit of happiness and amber waves of grain and all that. (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.

El Condor

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

In 1970, a couple years before he was SLAUGHTER and BLACK GUNN, Jim Brown was the manly hero of the western EL CONDOR. He plays Luke, who’s introduced chained up in a prison labor camp. But the Union army has a mission that could use his special set of skills, so they make him an offer he can’t refuse: if he’ll sneak in and blow up a train for them, they’ll give him his amnesty papers.

Just kidding, he can refuse! He’s already been through that whole suicide mission thing before in THE DIRTY DOZEN. This time he breaks his chains, shoves the papers in the captain’s mouth and escapes. This is one badass reversal of expectations I’m gonna assume belongs to Larry Cohen (RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), who’s credited as screenwriter along with Steven Carabatsos (TENTACLES, HOT PURSUIT). Luke is a Han Solo who stays selfish. Instead of fucking around with war shit and learning a greater cause, he goes on his own mission to try to get Emperor Maximilian’s gold that, according to legend, is in the El Condor fortress, protected by the strongman Chavez (Patrick O’Neal, SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT, THE STUFF, 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.

Slaughter

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

“Badass, huh? Well I hope you’re better with that knife than you were with that big black car. ‘Cause I’ma jam it up your ass.”

Jim Brown was a black action star before blaxploitation. He’d already done more than ten movies by the time SHAFT and SUPER FLY hit. He’d done westerns, he’d been one of the DIRTY DOZEN, he’d even played a version of Richard Stark’s Parker character in THE SPLIT. But I’ve always associated him with the blaxploitation era – I mean, he ended up in I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA and ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, didn’t he? – and that all started in 1972 with the movie SLAUGHTER, in which Jim Brown is SLAUGHTER.

In the opening scene a dressed-up older couple get into their Mercedes and it explodes. They were Slaughter’s parents. Dad “had underworld connections.” Slaughter was “a Green Beret hero.” He gets the name of a responsible party: Renaldi. Tries to confront him at an airport, ends up in a car vs. small plane chase, apparently screws up an investigation by the U.S. Treasury.

So Chief Inspector A.W. Price (Cameron Mitchell, ACTION U.S.A.) takes him into a room, calls him the n-word, makes him sign a confession, gets put into a headlock, and puts him on a secret mission to Mexico with two partners to take down the man responsible for blowing up his daddy.

One thing that’s funny about this mission: both of his partners surprise him, and both almost get killed by him. Kim (Marlene Clark, BEWARE! THE BLOB, GANJA & HESS), at first posing as a reporter for “Black Is Magazine,” hides in his bathroom and gets the whole room shot up. Harry (Don Gordon, BULLITT, THE EXORCIST III), waits in his hotel room and as soon as he says “Hi!” gets punched through some furniture, against a wall, out a window into a swimming pool and then gets punched a couple more times while in the swimming pool. (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.

Still Bill

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

tn_stillbillAfter all that EXPENDABLES business, how ’bout a musical interlude?

STILL BILL is a sweet, intimate reunion with Bill Withers, the great singer and songwriter known for songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean On Me” and “Just the Two of Us.” Withers has a great voice soaked in emotion, but what I love most about his music is his honest and down to earth lyrics that cover topics dear to his heart that aren’t usually covered by other singers. Take for example “Grandma’s Hands,” about his love and gratitude for everything his grandma did for him and others when he was growing up, and ultimately how much he misses her. Or “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” about a wounded war veteran. He had more on his mind than “baby I love you” type of business. (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 Dirty Dozen

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

tn_dirtydozenMan, it’s one of those concepts that’s too perfect to fuck up: twelve WWII era inmates of a military prison are sent on a dangerous mission to kill as many Nazi officers as they can. The Americans have this target, but they don’t want to waste good soldiers, so why not these lifers and death row cons, murderers and rapists? It’s kind of the same concept as “paint clothes.” You don’t paint the house in pants you’d wear to church, and you don’t want to waste your best soldiers on a suicide mission so you use these fuckos you got in storage. If they die – well, you weren’t planning on using them anyway. No loss.

For the cons it’s a good deal too. They get to go outside. If it’s true they like killing, here’s their chance for more. They get to postpone their executions, or kill some time before their executions. And if they do a good job and survive they might get pardoned, maybe, if fuckin Ernest Borgnine sees it in his heart. If they die in the line of duty, well, maybe they’d rather die that way than on a rope. (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 Running Man

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

tn_runningman1Arnold Schwarzenegger is… THE RUNNING MAN. That’s actually what it says on the credits, which makes me feel good, makes me proud to be an American. In fact, I’m gonna make a new tag for this review called “is…” If you can think of some other movies where the star “is…” the title, let me know. But only if it’s in the actual opening credits, not just the trailer or the poster, at least for now. We’ll see how many we can find.

THE RUNNING MAN was a book Stephen King wrote in 1982 when he was on the lam and hiding out under the alias Richard Bachman. I read it back in the ’80s so I don’t remember it in much detail, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the same kind of goofy cartoon shit as the movie. It was about a brutal game show of the future where contestants tried to get across the country without being killed. I think there were bounty hunters after them, but also they’d become famous through the show and regular people would try to kill them to collect a reward. It’s like American Idol except instead of participating by calling in you do it by shooting at the guy. The main character was kind of like Kowalski in VANISHING POINT, he ended up capturing the hearts of everybody at home and they started rooting for him to get away. (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 Split

Monday, April 20th, 2009

tn_thesplitThere are two Richard Stark based movies left that have never been released for the home video in the U.S. One is MISE A SAC, a French one based on The Score, where Parker and a crew try to rob an entire mining town. The other is THE SPLIT, based on The Seventh, where Jim Brown as the Parker character robs a football stadium and then has some trouble afterwords. My man David M. in France has seen both – he saw a restored print of MISE A SAC and told me it was great. As for THE SPLIT he did me one better than telling me about it, he sent me a recording from when it played letterboxed on the French Turner Classic Movies channel. (I don’t know who the French Ted Turner is, but it sounds like he plays better shit than the American one.)

If you’re reading this in the future maybe every movie ever made is available for instant download, but in my day you had to be patient. You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to see this thing. The closest I came before now was an old movie magazine I bought at an antique mall because it had Barbarella on the cover (wait a minute, is Roger Vadim the French Ted Turner?) So I bought it for the Barbarella, because a man has needs, but it turned out there was also an “article” – really just a plot summary – about THE SPLIT. I’d been meaning to read it and write a book-to-movie-summary comparison until they get off their ass and release it. But now thanks to French Ted Turner I don’t have to stoop to that. (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.