I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Posts Tagged ‘Scarlett Johansson’

The Horse Whisperer

Monday, May 21st, 2018

May 15, 1998

THE HORSE WHISPERER is a drama about healing and romance and horses. It’s pretty simple and intimate, focusing mainly on three characters, but it’s on an epic canvas; it’s nearly 3 hours long and it spreads out to widescreen when it moves from New York to the wide open fields of Montana, photographed lovingly by Robert Richardson (U-TURN, THE AVIATOR, DJANGO UNCHAINED).

Sixteen year old Grace (Scarlett Johansson in her followup to HOME ALONE 3) has a horrific horse-riding accident – I was actually unprepared for how fucked up the accident is – that results in the death of her best friend (Kate Bosworth [THE WARRIOR’S WAY, HOMEFRONT] in her first movie) and her friend’s horse, plus the loss of one of her legs and the mangling of her horse, Pilgrim. (This is the third movie of the summer where a semi-truck plowing into someone is a crucial plot point, but I don’t think this one involved a tired driver.) The experts want to put the horse out of his misery, but Grace’s mom Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas, UNDER THE CHERRY MOON) never gives permission, so he lives in a barn all scraped up and violently freaking out when approached. Grace is kind of the same, hating her mom and her life and breaking down when she sees Pilgrim scared of her.

But Annie reads a magazine article about this horse expert in Montana named Tom Booker (Robert Redford [THE HOT ROCK], his first time starring and directing at the same time). When she can’t get him to come to New York she packs up her daughter and horse against their will for a long drive conveyed through the medium of longer-than-expected driving montage. Grace dodges all attempts at conversation and bonding – thankfully the movie doesn’t give Annie any horse troubles on the trip. That would be a nightmare. I don’t know how helpful a horse whisperer is when your psychotic horse gets loose at a truck stop. (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.

Avengers: Infinity War

Monday, April 30th, 2018

(Honestly it would be hard to spoil everything major that happens in this movie, because it’s hard to keep track of it all. But this review is loose and reckless with SPOILERS)

I learned in 2012 when THE AVENGERS came out to never underestimate Marvel. So on the third AVENGERS movie, INFINITY WAR, I figured they could pull it off – they could combine most of the main characters developed over 17 previous movies (people from the IRON MAN movies, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, the CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, the THOR movies, the AVENGERS movies, the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, DOCTOR STRANGE, SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING and BLACK PANTHER) into one big super hero monster mash. But back when I had first learned that lesson, when they introduced the purple CGI space monster villain Thanos after the credits, I gotta admit I was still skeptical. I didn’t know how they were gonna make that guy cool.

They did it. To me he’s their best villain outside of Killmonger. It’s a cliche to say that comic book characters are the Greek gods of the modern age, but Thanos (Josh Brolin, JONAH HEX) is the villain that most lives up to that description. In fact, one minor problem I had with the movie is that he seems so convincingly powerful I wondered what the hell the Avengers and the Guardians thought they were doing repeatedly going after him. Like, come on Star Lord (Chris Pratt, ZERO DARK THIRTY), why are you pointing a laser gun at this guy and acting like that’s gonna do anything? Are you stupid? (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.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

In my view Scarlett Johansson can do no wrong. But the live action manga and/or anime adaptation GHOST IN THE SHELL probly did itself a fatal wrong by casting her as the human-brained robot cop Major, a role that probly should’ve showcased an exciting up and coming Japanese-American actress.

I was skeptical about the controversy at first, because the animated version of the character looks white to my American eyes, and I mean she’s a robot she can look any way they want her to look, plus the story takes place in a very international future, and anyway it’s an American remake of a foreign film so by definition it’s gonna be changed for American culture, and additionally the director of the anime Momoru Oshii said that Johansson was perfect for the part, and it’s true that her roles in UNDER THE SKIN and LUCY prove that she’s uniquely qualified to play an ass-kicking almost-naked robot lady, and furthermore it’s not like it’s easy for her to get a lead role like this either, and anyway a couple years ago all the clamor was for Hollywood to make more big genre movies based around women, and back then nobody specified “white women don’t count.” So I feel bad for her.

But… I think the criticisms were legitimate. (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.

Captain America: Civil War

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

tn_cap3You guys know how these super heroes are. Good guys turning bad, bad guys turning good, Hawkeye getting mind-controlled by a magic crystal, alternate dimensions, recastings, reboots, team-ups, betrayals, fake deaths. It’s no surprise they can’t all get along. I mean, it was hard for Nick Fury to convince them to be The Avengers in the first place – in fact a guy had to die and then he had to cover up that he actually didn’t die (see tv show) to inspire them to even stay together in the first place. So it’s a miracle they went this long without a breakup. The Pharcyde only got through two albums. N.W.A only did one before Cube left.

In what is technically CAPTAIN AMERICA 3, but almost seems like THE AVENGERS 3, the government tries to get the Avengers to agree to being controlled by the U.N. That actually seems better than the original formation under S.H.I.E.L.D., a privacy-invading ultra-spy agency that turned out to be controlled by evil space-Nazis or whatever. But after three years of the Avengers as an indie locally-owned Mom & Pop super-team, Captain Steve R. America (Chris Evans,  STREET KINGS, SNOWPIERCER) – who, to his credit, was never comfortable with S.H.I.E.L.D. – is not about to sell out. He doesn’t want to risk being sent somewhere he doesn’t belong, or not being allowed to go somewhere that he does.

But Tony “the Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey Jr., NATURAL BORN KILLERS, 1985-1986 season SNL cast member) and some of the others think it’s a good idea. At the actual signing ceremony there’s a bombing that kills the King of Wakanda (John Kani, THE WILD GEESE), and security photos pin it on Steve’s war buddy Bucky T. Wintersoldier (Sebastian Stan, THE COVENANT, RICKI AND THE FLASH), who fell off a bridge in part 1 but in part 2 turned out to be alive and had been frozen and had a robot arm and was brainwashed and was a super assassin and evil but maybe he’s still Bucky inside but now he’s on the run (long story). The police and the Avengers are after him to kill him but Steve believes he can be rehabilitated and wants to bring him in alive. So it turns into a ghost protocol with Steve and an all star team of sympathizers going underground, and the two sides get into some scraps. (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 Jungle Book

Monday, April 18th, 2016

tn_junglebookDisney’s 1967 animated version of THE JUNGLE BOOK was pretty much a hangout movie. A bunch of animal dudes kickin it in the jungle, occasionally singing songs. Like HOUSE PARTY but with snakes and shit. The tiger Shere Khan plays the part of Full Force.

Now modern Disney and director Jon Favreau (executive producer, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS) have brought in more of the world and narrative of Rudyard Kipling’s stories for an excellent live action(ish) version that captures plenty of the spirit of the old one while also being totally different. It uses versions of the original songs and even evokes Disney animation with a painted version of the castle logo, but never feels redundant. It’s like putting on glasses and seeing that version in more detail, from the visuals to the story.

I have to admit, after COWBOYS & ALIENS I kinda thought maybe we got too excited about Favreau as a director because of IRON MAN. Clearly I was wrong. This is a movie I can’t imagine many directors pulling off. Like with IRON MAN he finds a perfect balance between nerdy love for the source material and clear vision of how to tell the story in a dramatic way we haven’t quite seen on screen before.

And it can’t be easy competing with the memory of Stephen Sommers’ 1994 version.

(That might be unfair. I haven’t seen 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.

Disney’s Marvel’s Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in: The Age of Ultron: A Marvel Cinematic Universe Adventure 2D

Monday, May 4th, 2015

tn_avengers2THE AVENGERS PART 2 is probly the most comic bookiest comic book movie achieved by mankind so far, which is to say that most of the action scenes have like 15 different supermen and secret agents and shit flipping around shooting magic beams and power waves and explosive arrows and laser things and doing super punches and alley ooping each other and what not as they fight against an army of flying wiseass robots. There are two main characters who wear capes, one that turns into a giant monster, one that’s from a viking fantasy dimension or whatever, at least two that fly of their own accord and two using the jets on their power suits, one that moves faster than sound and another that does mind control and shoots red, uh… magic I guess?… from her hands. It’s not played exactly “gritty” but it’s not a joke either. It means it.

After writer/director Joss Whedon (SPEED)’s masterful job of combining all the different Marvel characters into one supergroup in part 1, he has an even bigger miracle to pull off, and ends up with more mixed results. Because after you’ve managed the trick of combining all these worlds and characters into one coherent movie (which honestly I didn’t believe could be done), the challenge is how do you do it again and make it seem new again and bigger this time but not worse? And the answer is “it’s hard to say.” (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.

Under the Skin

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

tn_undertheskinThis director Jonathan Glazer, I can’t really put my finger on him. SEXY BEAST I didn’t like all that much, but most people seem to, or at least they did at the time. British crime comedy stuff, mostly normal, but people forget the weird interludes with the half man/half bunny. What was that about.

Second movie BIRTH. Not as recognized, but I loved that one, a unique and creepy thriller with potent Kubrickian filmatism. Got me excited for movie #3, which turned out to take nine years and be his least commercial work so far even though it’s a sci-fi movie that has Scarlett Johansson taking her clothes off. The thing that gets me is none of these movies seem like the same director to me. He’s mainly a commercial and video director, so he likes to play with different styles, but that never stopped David Fincher or Spike Jonze from being identifiable. Maybe I’m missing it by seeing them years apart.
(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.

Lucy

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

tn_lucyLUCY is the new movie by Luc Besson and his first directorial work since… THE MESSENGER? … to be noticed much in the U.S. He had supposedly retired from directing after ANGEL-A in 2005, but then he made another one of those ARTHUR children’s movies and by 2010 he was doing THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC (which I liked) and fuck it, he was still a director. Last year he did THE FAMILY with Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer (which I, like most Americans, haven’t gotten around to yet) but now all the sudden he has this LUCY and it’s a big hit, opening much bigger than The Rock’s HERCULES even though that one is PG-13. (There actually was a point early in LUCY where I thought to myself “Oh good, they do still make R-rated movies.”)

Scarlett Johansson plays the titlogical Lucy, a student in Taiwan when her douchebag boyfriend of one week (a Donal-Logue-at-a-rave type dude with a shitty cowboy hat and yellow-tinted glasses) gets her involved against her will with some ruthless gangsters led by Choi Min-sik (OLDBOY). She doesn’t speak the language so she barely knows what’s going on by the time she has a bag of experimental drugs (actually blue pop rocks I think) sewn into her belly for clandestine transport.

(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.

Captain America Meets The Winter Soldier

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

tn_captainamerica2Okay, bad news first: CAPTAIN AMERICA TOO is pretty much Marvel’s post-action movie. It has a good action movie type of plot: Captain America finds out his agency S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised, has to go on the run, has to figure out who he can trust and operate without his usual resources to uncover and defeat a vast conspiracy. He has to fight two different legendary warriors, both with some “just how badass is he?” buildup, and one of them even played by the great UFC champion Georges St-Pierre. The Captain gets continually chased and attacked by a crew of headset and vest wearing soldiers led by Frank Grillo of WARRIOR and THE GREY. There are many, many fight and chase scenes involving different fighting styles, fun acrobatics, various forms of transportation (motorcycle, SUV, robotic wings, helicarrier), weapons, super strength, super parkour, colorful technologies, interesting locations, clever gimmicks, epic destruction, badass dialogue and good character and plot motivation. Everything you want in a great action movie except… (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.

Her

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

tn_herHER by Spike Jonze – his fourth feature film in 14 years – is a completely unique movie. It’s a touching relationship drama mixed with light sci-fi and cultural satire that’s somehow brutally accurate and gently affectionate at the same time. It’s the story of this depressed writer Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who’s in the middle of a divorce, and he meets someone who he really connects with… only it’s not a person, it’s the artificially intelligent voice in his computer (Scarlett Johansson). Yeah, he thinks it’s weird at first too, but it just happens. You can’t argue with your heart I guess.

Spending his life with his operating system has its share of challenges. He has to carry a little camera around for her to see the world. It’s awkward introducing her to people. They can’t hold hands or take a picture together and when they get it on it’s basically phone sex. They’re dealing with alot of handicaps here.
(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.