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

Posts Tagged ‘revenge’

The Crow: City of Angels

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

August 30, 1996

I don’t remember ever hearing anybody say nice things about THE CROW part 2, CITY OF ANGELS, so let me start out with one: this is a gorgeous looking movie. Part 1 production designer Alex McDowell (LAWNMOWER MAN, CRYING FREEMAN, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, WATCHMEN) returns, this time with cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier (GUMMO, GOOD WILL HUNTING), to tweak and expand on the aggressively stylized gotholopolis look he created for Alex Proyas’ THE CROW.

This time it looks more real, and has a yellow tint on its foggy (maybe it’s smoggy?), trash-strewn streets, representing the heat of Los Angeles, I hope, and not the piss that it clearly smells of. I don’t know my skylines, so I’m not sure I would’ve understood that they changed the location from Detroit without the subtitle or the cool shot where a row of palm trees burst into flame one-by-one as the crow (the bird that seems to be responsible for resurrecting murder victims, not the vengeful harlequin ghost he enables) flies past them. There’s a great tracking shot of the bird flying over the (model) city, and a profile shot of the ghost speeding on his motorcycle, his feathered friend right in front of him. The movie definitely achieves on levels of technical craftsmanship. (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.

Aftermath

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

When we look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will turn 70 next month, we can’t help but remember the 20 year old Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger, or the thirty-something CONAN THE BARBARIAN Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he fearlessly shows an aging, sagging ass and chest getting out of the shower in his new drama AFTERMATH, my mind couldn’t help but flash to his naked arrival in THE TERMINATOR thirty-some years ago. These days he looks like a muscular old dude, but not a machine from the future’s overblown idea of the perfect human body, and there are many people who don’t want to see their action heroes face the inevitability of getting old. They shame him for not permanently retaining his own unattainable body standard. They make hacky jokes about geriatric Expendables and Terminators in nursing homes.

Fuck ’em. They’re wrong. Arnold in his late ’60s is still Ah-nold, but now with a little Charles Bronson, a little Clint Eastwood, a little former governor of California who’s paying for his mistakes but making the best of it. I like his old man action movies, especially SABOTAGE, and I hope he doesn’t give up on them. If there was a constitutional amendment that allowed him to run for president my main concern would be that we wouldn’t get any more of those. But I’m also impressed that he’s doing small dramas like AFTERMATH and MAGGIE, where he shows that yes, a guy with muscles and a thick accent can still do a very good, very emotional acting performance. (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.

Jennifer

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

tn_jennifercarryoncarrieBefore we address the other adaptations of CARRIE, let’s look at one of the movies its success made possible.

A few years after CARRIE was a hit, producer Steve Krantz whipped up this totally different movie called JENNIFER. Instead of just living in a decrepit house, Jennifer (Lisa Pelikan [LIONHEART, the TV version of TRUE GRIT with Warren Oates]) lives in a decrepit house that’s also a pet store. Instead of being raised by a single mother it’s a single father (Jeff Corey [SURVIVING THE GAME, the movie version of TRUE GRIT with John Wayne]) and instead of thinking her powers are the Devil’s work he thinks it’s Jesus. Instead of whatever form of Christianity Margaret White practiced, Jennifer’s father raises her as a snake handler. Instead of a sympathetic gym teacher there’s a dreamy science teacher (Bert Convy, host and producer of Win Lose or Draw) who is real cool and asks her to call him Jeff. Instead of a public high school where she doesn’t know how to fit in it’s a boarding school where everyone treats her like shit because they’re spoiled rich kids and she’s a poor kid on a scholarship. Instead of killing a pig and pouring its blood on her they hang her favorite kitten in her locker, and then say she did it and use it as an excuse to kidnap her.

Totally different. (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.

Lady Snowblood

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

tn_ladysnowbloodTalk about a revenge story! Yuki, a.k.a. Lady Snowblood (Meiko Kaji from the FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION series), has been raised from birth specifically for vengeance. Nothing else. No coloring, no jump rope, just “let’s get you ready to track down some people and chop them the fuck up.” It all started when four scumbags (three men, one woman) attacked a couple, killing the man and raping the woman. When the woman later killed one of the attackers she was put in jail, where she died giving birth to Yuki.

As an adult, Snowblood actually remembers being born in jail. Then a teacher trained her in swordsmanship and fighting and a lady named Auntie taught her to be a pickpocket. She’s like Batman, travelling around to different teachers, mastering different skills, but she will avenge her parents’ death not by fighting crime (DEATH WISH) but by killing the actual perpetrators (DEATH WISH II).

When we first meet her she’s tracked one down, approaches with an umbrella, attacks the guy’s caravan and slices them up. Then she goes to a tribal leader guy who likes her because she once did some killing for them. He agrees to use his people to track all the names on her wish list so she can cross them off. (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.

Dying of the Light

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

tn_dyingofthelightDYING OF THE LIGHT is yet another troubled Paul Schrader production. The story is: it was a Schrader script that Nicolas Winding Refn almost directed with Harrison Ford and Channing Tatum as the leads, but Ford and Refn disagreed on the ending (guess who wanted a happy one?) so I guess Ford went and did COWBOYS & ALIENS and Refn did DRIVE. Then Refn became executive producer for Schrader directing it himself with the, uh, less-assured-of-a-theatrical-release team of Nicolas Cage and Anton Yelchin. Then after it was filmed the other producers shut out Schrader and did their own edit and scoring, so Schrader, Refn, Cage and Yelchin effectively disowned it by wearing t-shirts with the “non-disparagement” clause of their contracts that prevents them from complaining about the movie. Also cinematographer Gabriel Kosuth (2nd Unit DP of SHADOW MAN, ATTACK FORCE, FLIGHT OF FURY, AGAINST THE DARK and A GOOD MAN) wrote a righteous guest column in Variety about the producers recoloring the whole thing against his will and ruining what he and Schrader were trying to do.

We’ll get into that stuff later, but first let’s consider the Damaged Goods Cut on its own merits. It’s a flawed movie but more watchable and original than other recent basically-DTV Cage vehicles. Cage plays Evan Lake, a decorated CIA field operative who 22 years ago was tortured and had his ear mutilated by a young track-suit-wearing terrorist named Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim from the Johan Falk series). Lake refused to give up any information and was about to be executed when commandos stormed in and saved him. Now he’s kind of like their mascot. They have him give the tough guy speech to the fresh-faced new recruits, but he’s a depressed desk jockey who isn’t taken very seriously by the agency or allowed in the field. A big part of his day is trying to control or hide his shaky hand. (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 High

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

tn_slaughterhighslashersearch14I almost turned this one off during the April Fool’s Day flashback prologue, when the popular kids prank “that stupid dork Marty” (Simon Scuddamore) by making him think he’s gonna lose his virginity to the hot girl Carol (Caroline Munro, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, CAPTAIN KRONOS – VAMPIRE HUNTER, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, MANIAC)  in the girls locker room showers. Instead he finds himself naked in front of ten popular kids filming him, poking his ass with a pool stick, electrically shocking him, chanting “Where’s the beef?” and having two dudes pick him up by his thighs and dunk his head in the toilet. Real Abu Ghraib shit.

Since the coach breaks it up they come after him again when he’s staying late in the chemistry lab. They trick him into smoking a bad joint and mix up his chemicals so that they explode, which ends up causing a fire and dumping a big jar of acid (unwisely left open on the edge of a high shelf) on his face. All that is fine except the acting (especially by the nerd) is Troma-broad, without the content being as crazy, and if they’re not gonna take this at least half serious I’m not sure it’s worth my time. But when we skip to the present day it straightens up and starts acting like it’s a real horror movie, so I stuck with 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.

John Wick

Monday, October 27th, 2014

tn_johnwickI never figured Keanu Reeves would become an action hall-of-famer, but here we are. Of course he stars in the great POINT BREAK, but we can’t lie, we all kinda chuckle at his FBI surfer dude Johnny Utah in that. And then he was good in SPEED, but would that be enough? If that was enough Matt Damon would be an action legend. Of course, playing Neo in THE MATRIX trilogy sealed the deal, Reeves learned to do all that kung fu and that hadn’t really been done by a normal actor like that before and those movies and those fights hold up today. Still, it seemed like an anomaly in his career. He would always be Neo to the world but that would be it for Action Keanu, right?

Nope. Because he directed last year’s martial arts gem MAN OF TAI CHI and played the villain, creating and performing some more classic fight scenes. When I saw that I realized it was time to acknowledge his greatness. 47 RONIN put a little bit of a damper on that though because it was so boring I never even wrote a review. If I had it would’ve said “Some of the monsters are cool” and that’s about it.

But after JOHN WICK, Reeves’s strong connection to Badass Cinema cannot be denied. This is a fun, violent, straight-ahead revenge action movie. Reeves did not direct it, but his stunt double from the MATRIX movies, Chad Stahelski, did*. So it’s probly a style of directing too dangerous for Reeves to perform. (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.

Blue Ruin

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

tn_blueruinI don’t know what this has to do with BLUE JASMINE, but it’s pretty good as a standalone.

I saw alot of film festival acclaim for BLUE RUIN as a movie about how bad and ugly revenge actually is. I gotta tell you I was skeptical, because I didn’t want to hear some joyless lecture about the wrongness of something most of us never experience, especially as punishment for our inherent enjoyment of classic action movie formula. DEATH SENTENCE and others prove you can make that point and still have fun.

Luckily my assumptions were unfounded. As the writer Harry once told Flavor Flav, “Don’t believe the hype.” BLUE RUIN isn’t trying to teach us a lesson, it’s actually a fairly traditional and enjoyable thriller about a murder and ensuing mess, spiraling out of control like that time the Cat in the Hat came over and ate cake in the bath tub. It’s just that it comes from young independent filmatists so it feels more like it’s happening to some dude you know than the usual slick Hollywood players. It’s quiet, naturalistic, and you have to piece together the backstory from what’s happening, you don’t get alot of obvious exposition. The avenger is a pretty non-descript nerd named Dwight (Macon Blair). Big, sunken eyes, a little doughy, bad haircut, no cool motorcycle jacket or shades or nothin. Just a normal guy. Could work at Best Buy or something.
(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.

Kiss of Death (Shaw Brothers)

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
tn_kissofdeath
This came out the same year as ENTER THE DRAGON, so the face-slashes might not be an homage

KISS OF DEATH is a 1973 Shaw Brothers production, but not a period martial arts movie like what they’re mostly known for. The director, Meng Hua Ho also did CAVE OF THE SILKEN WEB and OILY MANIAC. This one is a contemporary urban story about a lady (Chen Ping) who, one night walking home from her job at the textile factory, gets gang-raped by five street thugs, and now she wants revenge.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t get I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE graphic about it, but of course everything to do with the attack is very unpleasant. I was actually shocked by a scene where she is surprised by blood dripping down her legs. Most movies about sexual assault don’t bother depicting the ugly details of the physical aftermath.

But it turns out not to be what I thought it was. (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.

Avenging Angel

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

tn_avengingangelAVENGING ANGEL takes place 4 years after ANGEL. Lieutenant Andrews (now played by Robert F. Lyons) has become Angel (now played by Betsy Russell from DELTA HEAT and SAW III-VII)’s guardian and paid her way to leave the streets of Hollywood for a college somewhere a few hours away, where she’s studying law and excelling at track and field. She goes by Molly again and has a preppie boyfriend named Terry (Richard DeHaven, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) who doesn’t know about her past as a gun-toting teenage prostitute.
(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.