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

Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

Roots: The Gift

Friday, December 16th, 2016

There have been many types of Christmas TV specials over the years: the beloved cartoons like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the stop motion ones like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the musical variety shows like the ones Johnny Cash did, the very special episodes of sitcoms. December 1988 brought us Christmas episodes of China Beach, L.A. Law, Thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, Day By Day, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Just the Ten of Us, 227, Amen, Dear John, Full House, Murphy Brown, Night Court, Perfect Strangers, Punky Brewster, The Tracey Ullman Show (including the Simpsons short), Who’s the Boss, Wiseguy, Beauty and the Beast, and Pee-wee’s Playhouse (still a perennial classic), plus the specials The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite, Christmas in Tattertown (directed by Ralph Bakshi), Bob Hope’s Jolly Christmas Show (special guests Orel Hershiser, Don Johnson, Florence Griffith Joyner and Dolly Parton) and the famous TV movie reunion A Very Brady Christmas.

But do you think it’s weird that there was also a special Christmas movie based on Alex Haley’s acclaimed 1977 slavery mini-series ROOTS? I thought it was kinda weird so I decided to watch it and see what the deal 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.

12 Years a Slave

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

tn_12yearsaslaveWe all know the grand American tradition of the movie about the black man but in the POV of the white man. It’s the story of the civil rights struggle and the brave white FBI agent or country lawyer who stood up and made a difference, or the spunky white lady who gave the mistreated black maids of Jackson a voice, but with her name on the cover. These are well-meaning, sometimes good movies, but they’re suspect in assuming the audience can only follow if they have a white surrogate on screen. They don’t trust us to put ourselves in the shoes of black characters. If Spike Lee hadn’t made MALCOLM X I bet it would’ve been about a white dude trying to understand Malcolm X, or giving him his ideas.
(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.

Django Unchained

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

A couple weeks ago the studio “lifted the embargo” as they say, and all the online critics unchained their DJANGO reviews even though non-critics wouldn’t see the thing until Christmas. I think that’s a silly ritual because I wasn’t gonna read that shit! This is the new Quentin Tarantino movie, you go in fresh. I already know I want to see any movie he makes, I don’t gotta read everything about it first. In case you’re different I’ve tried to mark the biggest spoilers in this review, but as usual I recommend seeing the movie first.

DJANGO UNCHAINED is the most straight forward movie Tarantino has ever made. It follows one main character from first scene to last, doesn’t cut away to another story or even jump around in time other than some very traditional flashbacks. There are alot of long conversation scenes, but it’s generally pretty clear what they have to do with the main plot of the freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx, STEALTH) becoming a bounty hunter and trying to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a plantation. And that’s not a misleading description, that’s really the movie, a racially charged western (or “Southern,” Tarantino likes to say) in the tradition of those CHARLEY movies I just reviewed.

So in a way it feels uneventful for a Tarantino movie, the first time he made one that was pretty much what I expected from the commercials. On first viewing it seems low in my rankings of the QT filmography, but that doesn’t say much. Tarantino sure knows how to entertain, and I happen to love this genre of badass black cowboys out for frontier justice against practitioners of the slave trade. For his first straight up genre picture that’s a good genre to pick. I love this 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.

The Legend of (word white people shouldn’t say) Charley

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

I’ve been curious about this series of Fred Williamson slavery-era westerns, and with DJANGO UNCHAINED coming at the end of the month it seemed like a good time to finally get to them.

As the old white patriarch of a plantation is on his death bed he wants to free his favorite slave, who took good care of him. She says she’s too old to start a new life and asks him instead to free her son, Charley (Fred Williamson). Charley works as a blacksmith, which makes me think this was probly one of the inspirations for THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS. But unfortunately he never uses his ironworking skills as a free man, not even in the sequels.
(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.

Mandingo

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

This is gonna be an awkward conversation starter, but, uh… anybody here seen MANDINGO? It’s a deeply uncomfortable, ugly movie, not just in showing horrible things, but in making us follow main characters who don’t see anything wrong here. Directed by Richard Fleischer (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, MR. MAJESTYK, CONAN THE DESTROYER) and written by mentally ill two-time Academy Award nominee Norman Wexler, it was maybe intended as a prestige picture but received as trash and exploitation. I don’t care which it is but I do think it’s pretty brilliant, even STARSHIP TROOPERSy, in the way it confronts racism, so I thought it would be worth discussing before DJANGO UNCHAINED comes out.
(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.

Cloud Atlas

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

What if there were like a book of maps, only it was made out of the sky? That would be weird.

Well, anyway. At a climactic point in CLOUD ATLAS a character talks righteously about freedom, and about refusing to accept boundaries. And that’s what Lana and Andy Wachowski (who directed this along with Tom Tykwer) have done with their lives, their careers and this movie in particular. If you haven’t heard what CLOUD ATLAS is, it’s a nearly 3-hour epic based on a supposedly unadaptable book. It takes place in a bunch of different time periods ranging from the age of slavery to a dystopian future to even a post-apocalyptic future after that. But not in order – it jumps around from story to story, like a bunch of unrelated movies edited together as a weird joke on Youtube.
(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.

Amistad

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

tn_amistadWith AMISTAD Spielberg brings his historical dramas closer to home, dealing with slavery in America through the story of an unusual court case. The case deals with a group of Africans captured as slaves and transported on a schooner called La Amistad. Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) leads an uprising and takes control of the ship, but they end up taken into custody along American shores. (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.

Freedom Road

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

tn_freedomroadTime for a little history lesson. Not about the American post-slavery period known as Reconstruction (which is what this movie is about) but about TV movies. It’s hard for young people to wrap their heads around now, but there was a time when TV movies actually could be big events, a major shared element of our culture. This was when there were only a few channels, and none of them were SyFy, and movies about giant komodo dragons or snakes were not yet common. Believe it or not there were even sometimes TV movies where the people making them actually tried to do a good job. In fact, there were honest to God movies on TV that put some theatrical films to shame, like Spielberg’s DUEL and Carpenter’s SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME. Of course, most of them weren’t as good as that, but alot of them were at least memorable. In the ’70s and ’80s there were true crime movies to creep the shit out of us, like THE HILLSIDE STRANGLERS, THE DELIBERATE STRANGER, I KNOW MY FIRST NAME IS STEVEN. Or if you want to get real frightening there was the nuclear war movie THE DAY AFTER.

1979’s 4-hour mini-series FREEDOM ROAD fits into the Important Historical Epics category like ROOTS or SHOGUN or I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER or some James A. Michener type shit. It’s about a man who goes from a slave to a soldier to a delegate to an educated black man to a senator and freedom fighter uniting former slaves with lower class whites to stand up against racist politicians and thugs and create a stable life for themselves. But the main reason to watch it is the star: Muhammad Ali. (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.