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

Posts Tagged ‘Laurence Fishburne’

John Wick Chapter 2

Monday, February 13th, 2017

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 is the solid sequel we always hoped (in fact assumed) it would be. The first film – already a certified modern action classic – had a perfect combination of elegant high concept (legendary assassin comes out of retirement to avenge some dipshits who killed his dog) and interesting world (a society of killers with their own rules, services and even currency). Rehashing the former would make for diminishing returns, so returning screenwriter Derek Kolstad (ONE IN THE CHAMBER, THE PACKAGE) digs deeper into the latter, showing us more about the operations and codes of the Continental Hotel and its affiliates as Wick is forced to repay a debt, getting himself into more and more trouble and testing the limits of his unkillableness.

He’s still trying to retire. The movie has a sense of humor about it without undermining his sincerity. Moments after he finishes cementing his weapons back into the basement floor the doorbell rings and you think “Jesus, what now?” Well, it’s Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio, THE BEST OF YOUTH), who helped him escape the business and now is cashing in his favor to drag him back in. Wick would have to get into the Vatican to assassinate Santino’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST). Throughout the movie Wick finds himself backed into corners and all he can do is keep killing his way out of them. And the more killing the more corners. (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.

School Daze

Monday, June 29th, 2015

tn_schooldazeSCHOOL DAZE is Spike Lee’s sophomore jointational work, and was never one of my favorites from him. But man, looking back at it now I love its youthful exuberance. Here’s 30 year old Spike having access to the studio’s resources for the first time – he goes from a few actors in apartments in black and white to a huge cast on a college campus. He even has a full-on song and dance number. It’s the first example of what I think is one of his weaknesses: his overreach in tackling too many things at once, creating an unfocused and overstuffed narrative. But in this context that’s kinda charming. He’s really goin for it.

Since DO THE RIGHT THING and MALCOLM X were Lee’s most culturally recognized movies, certain white people pigeonholed him as a guy who only makes movies about white people being racist. Of course that’s not even a complete description of the content of those two movies, let alone applicable to most of his filmography. And joint #2, just like joint #1, I’m pretty sure doesn’t show a single white person in it. (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.

Bobby Z

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

tn_bobbyzPaul Walker won us over while starring in his six great FAST AND FURIOUS movies, so it’s a wonder he had time to do much in between. As you saw with yesterday’s JOY RIDE review I wanted to take the occasion of our saying goodbye to Brian O’Conner to pay tribute to his work again. The trouble is I’ve already reviewed most of his starring vehicles: RUNNING SCARED, EIGHT BELOW, every FAST AND FURIOUS movie… buddy, I saw BRICK MANSIONS in the theater, that’s the type of individual you are dealing with here. Luckily I remembered there was this one based on the book The Death and Life of Bobby Z by Don Winslow, the author of SAVAGES.

BOBBY Z (released in some countries as KILL BOBBY Z or LET’S KILL BOBBY Z) is no SAVAGES, that’s for sure, but it has alot of the same elements: legendary surfer turned ultra-rich California marijuana magnate, Iraq vet turned violent criminal, crooked DEA agents, ruthless Mexican cartels, genius businessman friend turned unlikely kingpin, women scheming while taken for granted as sex objects by the empire. Walker plays the vet, Tim Kearney, a crazy long hair kicked out of the Marines for beating up an Iraqi general and turned into a lifer for three dumb strikes. Now he’s facing certain death from the Aryan Brotherhood for killing a fellow con named Mad Dog (UFC legend Chuck Liddell).

DEA Agent Tad Gruzsa (Laurence Morpheus Fishburne) offers him a crazy, convoluted deal: he looks kinda like this marijuana kingpin named Bobby Z, who cartel leader Don Huertero (Joaquim “Evil Phil Hartman” de Almeida, FAST FIVE) wants in trade for Gruzsa’s kidnapped partner. He says they don’t know the real Bobby Z is dead so if Kearney pretends to be him and successfully makes the trade the DEA will just let him go and he can try to escape from a deadly cartel or whatever but not have to go back to prison. I mean, it’s kind of the honor system I guess. If he wants to go back to prison that’s cool. (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.

Man of Steel

Friday, June 14th, 2013

tn_manofsteel(contains THE SPOILERS)

I cannot tell a lie, I was really fuckin excited for the new Superman movie. I went to the midnight show and everything. I showed up way too early. I passed a guy dressed as Superman going into the john and might’ve given him a high five if I knew he’d washed his hands. I’m down for this. I wanted this to be great.

I’m not one of those people who shits on SUPERMAN RETURNS. I liked it, I just didn’t love it, mainly because I think it was shackled by nostalgia, held back by trying so hard to recapture the old Richard Donner movies. I know this is considered blasphemy in many circles (you’re gonna be hearing that a couple more times in this review) but I just don’t like those Superman pictures that much. They were great in the ’70s and early ’80s but to me they haven’t held up the way the Spielberg and Lucas joints of the era still do and will continue to. So as good of a job as Bryan Singer did of imitating that old version of Superman and goofball Lex Luthor and re-using the same font and music and all that, I feel like what I want to see now is start over and do a different take on Superman that’s made for the futuristic year of 2013. That’s what director Zack Snyder, writer David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan have done with MAN OF STEEL and… well, I like not love this one also. But maybe like it a little more. Maybe a smidge closer to love on this one. I don’t feel high off it like I did off the Batman movies. But I am still thinking about it, and already want to see it again, see how it plays without all the baggage of expectations. (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.

Band of the Hand

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

tn_bandofthehandBAND OF THE HAND is a beautiful combination of elements: underdog juvenile delinquent brotherhood, island survival, stoic badass mentorship, paramilitary vigilante revenge, Miami Vice style and attitude. I mean, literally, it’s the people who made Miami Vice. Michael Mann is the executive producer. Paul Michael Glaser, who is known for playing Starsky but also directed episodes of Miami Vice, is the director. IMDb trivia claims it was actually released theatrically after failing as a TV pilot, but I’m skeptical about that. It seems a little too awesome to have been made for TV. They would’ve had to go back and do reshoots for additional awesomeness.

I think this is Michael Mann’s version of a RED DAWN type teen action movie. It’s hoods vs. kingpins in Miami, great cast, show-offy camera moves and editing, moody atmosphere, restrained dialogue. And as the cover brags, it has a high grade ’80s pop soundtrack – “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister, “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, a bunch of songs by some band called The Reds that also played on MANHUNTER – even a title song by Bob Dylan, somehow. (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.

Predators

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

tn_predatorsWell, whattya know? PREDATORS really is a good old fashioned action movie in the tradition of PREDATOR. Whichever corporate overlord holds the deed to the PREDATOR licensed property seems to be taking a temporary break from the “make sure they know we just want their money” policy that was in place for the two cheesy movies where the PREDATOR predators and the ALIEN aliens all got humiliated together fighting that pizza delivery boy at the pool party or whatever.

The movie begins with THE PIANIST himself, Adrien Brody, dropping from the sky. He just wakes up mid-air, hurtling toward an unknown jungle, no idea how he got here, and luckily finds that he has some kind of small parachute contraption attached to him. We’ve all been there, so it’s a real relatable way to start a movie. (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 Heat (1988)

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

tn_redheatOne thing we’ve learned from the movies is that cops often come from faraway lands to follow a fugitive or transfer prisoners back to their jurisdictions, and when they do that they have to team with a screw-up from the local department and at first they hate each other and say ignorant things but over time the screw-up will learn from working with the foreigner and the foreigner will see something in the screw-up that no one else did and they will gain respect for each other and at the end they will be great friends to set up for the sequel that most likely will never come. Pat Morita came from Japan and did it in COLLISION COURSE, Jackie Chan came from Hong Kong and did it in RUSH HOUR, Clint Eastwood came from Arizona and sort of did it in COOGAN’S BLUFF, except he didn’t need the partner because he’s motherfuckin Clint. Well, here we got Schwarzenegger coming from Russia to Chicago to get the Georgian gangster who killed his partner and is bringing “the American poison” into their country. James Belushi has to escort him and Walter Hill has to escort the movie. (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.

Armored

Monday, March 15th, 2010

tn_armoredRight now Nimrod Antal is a director-of-interest because they got him doing that PREDATORS movie. And I hadn’t seen his movies (like KONTROLL and VACANCY) but ARMORED is out on DVD this week so I decided to check it out. (And yes, every movie he’s directed so far has a one word title.)

I read somewhere that when Robert Rodriguez saw ARMORED it sealed the deal for Antal doing PREDATORS. I’m not sure what that says, because there’s nothing too wrong with ARMORED, but nothing too right, either. (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.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

DREAM WARRIORS is the most popular of the Elm Street sequels, the one that set the pattern for most of them and, to be fair, the roots of everything that’s bad about them. It makes Freddy a little less mysterious, less scary, more jokey. The dreams become less surreal and more gimmicky. But still pretty good.

After skipping out on part 2, Wes Craven decided to co-write this one, although his script was then rewritten by Frank Darabont (who would go on to direct SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) and director Chuck Russell (who would go on to do crap like ERASER). I think the reason for the movie’s lasting popularity is Craven’s “dream warriors” concept. In the first two you had one lead character who has to take on Freddy pretty much by themselves, with only a girlfriend/boyfriend trying to help them. In this one Craven has a girl who for some reason has the power to pull other people into her dreams. So you have a group of teens all in a mental hospital because their Freddy attacks have been misinterpreted as mental illness. They not only share the belief in Freddy, they share the same dream world, so they can work together to fight Freddy. (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.