So once again we have survived.

Posts Tagged ‘Roger Guenveur Smith’

Get On the Bus

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Well, I’m skipping ahead in the Spike Lee chronology I’ve been ever-so-slowly crawling my way through, but I thought a movie about a march on Washington would be a good thing to revisit on the Martin Luther King Day starting the week that, as far as we know, will end with the inauguration of the first American president to be 2 degrees of separation from Steven Seagal (they have a mutual friend, a Russian guy named Vladimir something) and subsequent protest march.

GET ON THE BUS is a road trip movie, but it could almost be a play, because the vast majority of it is about conversations taking place inside a charter bus. Around fifteen African American men, most of them meeting for the first time, are headed from a church parking lot in South Central Los Angeles to the Million Man March in Washington DC. If you’re too young to remember, that was the October 16, 1995 gathering of black men organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

(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.

Cosmic Slop

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

tn_cosmicslopA year before TALES FROM THE HOOD was a black Tales From the Crypt, the Hudlin brothers’ HBO TV movie COSMIC SLOP was “a multi-cultural Twilight Zone.” Even if the VHS cover didn’t have a Chicago Tribune quote calling it that, you’d get the idea from the intro, when a trail of terrible 2D computer animated objects (basketball, rolling pin, chair, bust of Beethoven, electric guitar, bra, asterisk) float in under George Clinton’s familiar “free your mind and your ass will follow” narration and a re-recording of the 1973 Funkadelic song that the title comes from.

It’s even lower budget than TALES and much cheesier, with crude, video toaster style digital effects. It’s clearly a pilot for a show they decided not to make, but it’s another admirable attempt to bring a different perspective to the tradition of short genre stories that explore social issues.

Clinton’s disembodied head floats in, on fire, a blinking animatronic third eye on his forehead, and morphs between different hairstyles as he cryptically Rod Serlings a trio of stories with his cryptic afro-futurist catch phrases. (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.

Chi-Raq

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

tn_chiraqCHI-RAQ (Chicago + Iraq, pronounced shy-rack) is the Spikiest Spike Lee Joint achieved so far. It seems like whatever itch Lee was trying to scratch with those musical numbers in SCHOOL DAZE has been building up for all these years until it exploded onto the screen like that inflating dude in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. Lee must’ve woke up one morning and said fuck it, I’m gonna make a movie that’s so Spike Lee it turns into Baz Luhrmann.

Let me tell you a few things about how heightened and crazy this is. It has musical numbers. It has dance numbers. It has a rap number that breaks into a gun fight precipitated by an argument depicted in onscreen text messages. It has an army of women in chastity belts performing a sexy choreographed group lip-synch to “Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites (maybe my favorite scene). The two rival gangs wear purple and orange, and are called the Trojans and the Cyclops Spartans, whose leader is Cyclops (Wesley Snipes wearing a red-sequined eyepatch). There’s an explicit reference to THE WARRIORS so you know Spike knows what this reminds us of. (Also Luther himself, David Patrick Kelly, is in it.) All of this is presided over by a fourth-wall-breaking narrator played by Samuel L. Jackson wearing fly suits, spinning a cane and reciting toasts and dirty jokes like Dolemite. That’s not just me reading into it, because he’s called Dolmedes and he references Shine and the Signifying Monkey.

Oh, by the way: all of the other characters speak in rhyme also. So that’s pretty different from most movies. (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.

A Huey P. Newton Story

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

tn_hueypnewtonPANTHER reminded me of one of the few Spike Lee movies I hadn’t seen, the 2001 made-for-cable A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY. When it comes to the Spike Lee Jointography there are three categories. There’s the main ones you think about – DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X, all the way through his recent OLDBOY remake. And sprinkled in between are the documentaries, often made for cable. They’re less widely seen, of course, but really good, movies like FOUR LITTLE GIRLS and WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE. But even rarer than that there’s the performance films. I gotta admit I haven’t gotten to most of these. PASSING STRANGE was one, that’s a Broadway musical. I did see ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY. That was pretty good.

A HUEY P. NEWTON STORY, A SPIKE LEE JOINT is a filmed version of a one-man show that Roger Guenveur Smith did starting in 1996 at the New York theater where Hair started.

I don’t know if you know who Smith is. He’s gotta be best known for playing Smiley in DO THE RIGHT THING, so I’m sure people walk up to him on the street every day and say “M-M-M-Martin. M-M-M-Malcolm.” He’s actually been in several Spike Lee movies, he was on Oz I guess, he was one of the stars of Steven Soderbergh’s improvised lobbyist drama K-Street on HBO. But also he was the bad guy in Seagal’s MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE.

He’s an actor I’ve always liked, but I could understand if you didn’t. He has a very theatrical style. He’s a character actor but he likes to show off. He always carries around a little stick of scenery in his pocket to chew on. MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE is an example of him getting a little loosey goosey with the accents. (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.

Panther

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

tn_pantherPANTHER, directed by Mario Van Peebles, written by his dad Melvin Van Peebles based on his own novel, shows the formation and rise and dissolution of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense. That last part of the name is usually left off, which makes sense because it sounds a little awkward. But if they left it on it would make it a little harder to pretend they’re the Kill Whitey Committee.

This is a ’60s period piece made 20 years ago and never even released on DVD in the U.S. as far as I can tell, but it’s timely and provocative because it’s about a community that gets fed up with the shit end of the stick and tries to figure out a better way to deal with it. It opens with a boy riding his bike, taking in the sights of his Oakland neighborhood. He and an older man both watch in delight as a bus blasts by a dressed up lady at a bus stop, blowing her skirt up like Marilyn Monroe. They love that they get to see her garters, and don’t seem to notice that some racist bus driver didn’t stop to pick her up. The innocence of childhood. Nostalgic first person narration is telling us this is where it all started, so it’s a bit of a shock when that kids gets nailed by a car.

He’s not the narrator as a child, it turns out. He’s the dead kid who convinced everybody that they could no longer take “No, you don’t need a stop light at that intersection” for an answer. (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.

Do the Right Thing

Monday, June 30th, 2014

tn_dotherightthingThoughts on DO THE RIGHT THING, 25 years later.

This is still my favorite Spike Lee movie. And I’m a big Spike Lee fan. I mean, I can’t say as big as they get, ’cause I still haven’t seen SHE HATE ME and a couple of the documentaries. I’ve seen everything else though, and I like most of them. I mean – MALCOLM X, CROOKLYN, CLOCKERS, GET ON THE BUS… so many good ones. I know some of you guys are gonna say 25TH HOUR. White people like that one. Including me. I even kinda like GIRL 6. BAMBOOZLED is too much for me though. Or at least at the time it was. Haven’t revisited it. Maybe some day.

I say this because I feel that Spike Lee doesn’t get enough credit as a pioneering and original voice in American cinema. You only see him in the news when he says something stupid, getting mad at Clint for not having enough brothers in his WWII movie or something. I think The Ain’t It Cool News has a social responsibility to mention his name every once in a while just to create the talkback that can remind us how many mush brained racist idiots still exist in the modern world. But there’s not enough discussion of his body of work, his unique style, his influence, his ahead-of-his-timeness. So what if he has a big mouth, if he has a vision to match? (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.

Empire State

Monday, September 30th, 2013

tn_empirestateDito Montiel is a director I’ve kept an eye on since I saw his underground fighting movie FIGHTING. That one’s not good for action filmatism, but it’s really enjoyable as a more realistically textured take on the LIONHEART type of movie, and it has alot of personality. The example I always give when I try to convince somebody to see it is that the ultimate goal of the fight manager character played by Terence Howard is to get enough money to franchise an IHoP. So see that one, everybody. Totally underrated.

EMPIRE STATE is Montiel’s first movie that doesn’t have Channing Tatum in it, instead it stars an occasionally Tatum-esque Liam Hemsworth, a.k.a. the only expended Expendable as of part 2 (spoiler). There’s something odd about an Australian doing a New York meathead character, but Thor’s little brother has more range than I knew. Maybe Tatum was Montiel’s DeNiro, and Hemsworth will be his DiCaprio. I guess we’ll know that’s what’s up if Tatum starts doing a bunch of DTV cop movies with 50 Cent. (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.

King of New York

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

In this movie Christopher Walken plays Frank White who is the King of New York. He is not literally a king but actually some sort of crime boss of New York. He’s fresh out of the joint and unlike certain heroic individuals who choose to turn their life around and follow a path of Positivity, making the world a better place through art and culture, he decides to be king of new york. But he says he’s gonna build a hospital so that makes it okay.

The director is Abel Ferrara, an asshole director who I sort of like. I mean I never met the guy obviously but he’s one of those greaseballs like Vincent Gallo where, before you even see an interview with the guy, you just get the feeling he’s an asshole. In his movie DRILLER KILLER I didn’t even realize he was the star (he used a pseudonym) and I kept thinking this star really thinks he’s hot shit, it’s not just the character. What a fuckin asshole. But then I listened to the commentary track and heard Ferrara say the same exact thing about himself. So I had to like him. (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.