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

Posts Tagged ‘Summer Flings’

Battle For Terra

Monday, August 21st, 2017

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

May 1, 2009

BATTLE FOR TERRA is a computer animated sci-fi fantasy that opened wide with almost no advertising or awareness. I thought it was the big expensive one that was an infamous flop, but it turns out I was confusing it with DELGO, which was released the year before, but not in the summer, so I don’t have to watch it. This one was actually a low budget independent production, but it did open wide and did not seem to capture the public consciousness, so I’ll go ahead and call it a Summer Fling in the tradition of TITAN A.E.

In the opening scene I was unsure I’d be able to make it through this one, because the alien race at the center of the story, the Terrians, look like this:

I pictured people working hard on this movie for months or years and then being crushed when they realized what it was gonna look like, but maybe I’m just picky about alien designs. Boxofficeflops.com says they spent just below $20 million on this (less than a third of the first SHREK’s budget), but Wikipedia says $4 million. If it’s the latter that’s insane because PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 cost $5 million and it’s a fuckin found footage video that doesn’t have an all star cast like this does! However much they had, it’s obviously not gonna have Pixar-level textures, but it doesn’t take more money to have better designs. For my money the worst decision made in this production was “Yes, I am okay with this being what the main character looks like.”

So thank God the story is pretty good. It starts in this world of Terra, a peaceful society of floating pea-pod E.T.s who fly around in wind-powered vehicles in harmony with flying whales. With better visual craftsmanship I think this would feel kinda like THE DARK CRYSTAL, though some things seem a little too close to modern human life (they have school and the teacher takes attendance and they have dinner at the dinner table and if they get in trouble they get sent to their room). (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 League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017
a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

July 11, 2003

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN is a cool fucking premise: a sort of Victorian era Justice League made of literary characters with unique talents or abilities. In this world, the famous stories of English literature (plus Mark Twain) really happened, and the Queen puts together a super-team to try to stop an attack on Venice. So James Bond’s M (Richard Roxburgh, VAN HELSING, STEALTH) recruits the adventurer hunter Alan Quatermain (Sean Connery, FIRST KNIGHT), Dracula’s Mina Harker (Peta Wilson, SUPERMAN RETURNS), the Invisible Man (but actually not the same H.G. Wells one, for legal reasons)(Tony Curran, Priest from BLADE II), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng, BRUISER), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend, director of BATTLE IN SEATTLE) and Captain Nemo (veteran Bollywood star Naseeruddin Shah).

Sort of like MYSTERY MEN, this is based on a comic that’s a riff on the super hero team stories, but made when X-MEN was the only straight up movie version of that sort of thing. The comic, written by Alan Moore, is apparently very different, thicker in obscure literary allusions and lighter in summer movie type spectacle (sword fights, shoot outs, flying CGI machinery, explosions). The adaptation is credited to another comic book writer, James Robinson, who wrote alot of Superman. His previous screenwriting work was CYBER BANDITS, COMIC BOOK VILLAINS and a swing and a miss in the long line of writers trying to figure out how to do FREDDY VS. JASON. (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.

Bad Company

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

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

June 7, 2002

When BATMAN & ROBIN was flung onto 2,934 screens in the summer of ’97, the legend of Joel Schumacher, dependable Hollywood journeyman, blew up like a glitter bomb. The director’s next Batman movie was was cancelled because the studio wanted to go in a different direction – the direction of as-far-away-from-Joel-Schumacher-as-possible. Apparently recognizing his diminished status in the blockbuster arena, Schumacher reinvented himself as an oddball, directing the fucked up 8MM (1999) with Nic Cage, FLAWLESS (1999) with Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman (which he also wrote), and TIGERLAND (2000), an acclaimed $10 million Vietnam film that’s Colin Farrell’s American debut. The first one was mostly reviled, but the other two caused some critics to offer cautious respect.

So why not dip his toe in again with an action-comedy star vehicle interracial buddy movie type thing? One that would team him with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who has also made some shameful movies, but seemed to always get away 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.

Swordfish

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

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

June 8, 2001

These next two Summer Flings will not be wannabe tentpole Happy Meal type movies with action figures, but adult-aimed studio action thrillers that arrived with a thud. SWORDFISH was heavily hyped as the movie where Halle Berry (THE CALL), not long before winning her Oscar for MONSTER’S BALL, appeared topless. But the star is her fellow X-Man Hugh Jackman (THE MISERABLES), suddenly a leading man after the world fell in love with his Wolverine in 2000. He plays Stanley Jobson, legendary hacker who is no longer allowed to touch a computer or visit his daughter Holly (Camryn Grimes, MAGIC MIKE). He’s leaner than we’re used to him now, with an earring and spiky, slightly frosted hair, like an early Tom Jane character. Unlike in REAL STEEL, where he reluctantly formed a relationship with his estranged son, this guy will do anything to get his kid back.

Though an ex-con, Stanley is 100% good guy. We find out, of course, that his big crime was a hacktivism/whistleblower type thing where he planted a virus in an intrusive FBI spying program. (In my opinion Julian Assange and Edward Snowden both fantasize about being Stanley Jobson and this movie is their SCARFACE.) He’s trying to be a good boy now, and is introduced wearing only a towel and hitting golf balls off of his trailer in an oil field in Midland, Texas. A mysterious stranger named Ginger (Berry) shows up knowing everything about him and sexily harasses him into flying to L.A. to meet her boss, Gabriel Shear (John Travolta, BROKEN ARROW). (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.

Titan A.E.

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

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

June 16, 2000

Just before a race of alien energy-beings called the Drej blow up the Earth, Errol Flynn looking scientist hero Sam Tucker tosses his towheaded son Cale on an evacuation shuttle with Tone Lōc and goes off to fly a ship called the Titan on a mission to save the human race. He gives the boy a ring and it’s obvious to the audience that it will be the key to saving humanity but jesus christ dude make it clear to the kid! All he says is “Take this. As long as you wear it, there’s hope.” it’s a god damn miracle that he still has it when we pick up 15 years later. What in the hell were you thinking you god damn idiot, don’t be subtle about this shit.

So, grown up Cale (Matt Damon, THE DEPARTED) is some kind of space-iron-worker, a roughneck working class dude from Colorado, gettin it done on the outsides of ships and stuff, but he still has the same dumb ’90s boy band haircut from childhood. Since most humans are dead he’s a minority living among a bunch of creatures who eat food that he thinks is gross. So when a square-jawed Earthling captain and contemporary of his father named Korso (Bill Pullman, CASPER) comes to find him, you can see why he eventually agrees to join him on a mission to find the Titan. (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.

Mystery Men

Monday, July 24th, 2017
a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

July 22, 1999

MYSTERY MEN. Huh. There might’ve been room for a big budget super hero parody movie in 1999, if you’re into that sort of thing, but it needed better jokes than “ha ha, this would be a terrible super hero. What a dumb name and costume.” This is an impressive cast in a big, expensive comedy with very few laughs.

A group of amateur super heroes – shovel-carrying The Shoveler (William H. Macy, THE LAST DRAGON), fork-throwing Blue Raja (Hank Azaria, HEAT) and leather-jacket wearing Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller, NEXT OF KIN) struggle to find success or recognition. They’re definitely meant to be lovable underdog misfits, but I had trouble respecting them. It’s established that there’s an actual super powered guy called Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear, THE MATADOR) who’s a douche and wears corporate logos like a NASCAR driver but he’s made Champion City so safe that he has to get his arch-nemesis Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush, MUNICH) released from the asylum just to have something to do. Before that happens the unnamed Mystery Men couldn’t be little guys trying to make a different in a harsh world – they’re delusional losers trying to feel important by forcing themselves into a job that they’re not needed for, and are really, really bad at. I did not find them appealing. (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.

Wild Wild West

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017
a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

Big Willie Weekend, 1999

Two summers after their hit film MEN IN BLACK, director Barry Sonnenfeld (d.p. of BLOOD SIMPLE) and star Will Smith (SUICIDE SQUAD) tried to bring a similar comedy/special-effects/adventure mix to the old west. It’s like a western in that there are cowboy hats, guns, railroads and occasional horses, but also not really because it’s about two top agents for the president going undercover and then having a big battle against a giant mechanical spider that’s on a rampage and headed for the White House. Not a type of story I’ve seen done with John Wayne or Clint or anybody.

The basis is The Wild Wild West, a western-meets-spies TV show that lasted four seasons, ending thirty years prior to the movie. It was actually cancelled not due to a lack of popularity, but controversy over violence on television, and did have two followup TV movies. But the last of those was in 1980, and nineteen years later it was at best a cult show, and not yet available on DVD. So this is another expensive blockbuster based on characters that most of its intended youthful audience had never seen, or in this case even heard of.

But they didn’t have to know it was based on anything. Waning interest in westerns may have been a bigger problem, but that could’ve been overcome by the popularity of Smith, or the fun gimmick of the gadgets and steampunk type robotics, or the energetic style and cartoonish humor of the director of the ADDAMS FAMILY movies.

But that didn’t happen. (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.

Spawn

Monday, July 17th, 2017
a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

WARNING: Somehow I forgot that I already wrote about SPAWN eight years ago, but now you’re in for a more detailed look.

August 1, 1997

It’s weird that one of my least favorite movies in this series so far is the one that stars Michael Jai White! Thank you Ralph Bakshi for making sure it’s not in last place.

White plays Al Simmons, an amoral elite counter-terrorism black ops super badass who gets betrayed by his boss Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen, FIRESTARTER, who took the job because his grandson told him Spawn was cool). He’s set on fire, blown up and recruited by a crude CGI giant monster devil (voice of Frank Welker) to be a soldier for Hell. Returned to earth five years later as a burnt up demon called Spawn, he lives among the homeless and learns how to use his new demon powers while pining for his wife Wanda (Theresa Randle, CB4) and plotting revenge on Wynn.

I made that sound like a story, if I do say so myself. The movie’s not as interested in that. Faithfully adapted from the top-selling comic book of some parts of the ’90s, here is a visually dark, Marilyn-Manson-on-the-soundtrack slog that makes THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS look like a masterwork of storytelling craft. And at least CITY OF ANGELS was nice to look at. Despite the participation of the great cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (DESPERADO, JACKIE BROWN, PAN’S LABYRINTH), this thing looks like shit! Rarely has there been a worse case of CGI overreach – shockingly sub-par, MORTAL KOMBAT-level monsters, fire and transformations are slapped all over it like a big-screen CD-ROM game, and even the straight-ahead action movie scene at “Military Air Base, Hong Kong” looks like a ’90s syndicated TV show where cops raid warehouses and dockyards every episode. (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 Shadow

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

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

(NOTE: I’ve decided to go back to cover two Summer Flings that I regret having skipped.)

July 1, 1994

Look, I can’t say for sure what audiences were yearning for in the summer of ’94, but it might have been a cartoon about lions and it might not have been a super hero movie set in the 1930s, based on a character from serialized radio dramas. Here is yet another entry in my beloved genre of old-timey-super-hero-movie-that-totally-failed-at-the-box-office-but-I-thought-it-was-pretty-good. I suppose THE SHADOW seemed like a more sensible bet than some of them, because it was at least a character with vague name recognition and noir influences like BATMAN (in fact some believe the first Batman story was a rip-off of a Shadow story called “Partners of Peril”).

At first glance The Shadow (Alec Baldwin, THE GETAWAY) does seem like kind of a Batman-esque character. He’s a rich handsome guy named Lamont Cranston who lives a secret life, going out at night as a scary figure, fighting criminals. He doesn’t have a cape, but a black cloak that serves the same purpose, plus a hat and a mask over the mouth and two guns. And hidden in an alley is the entrance to his Batcave-like secret base. (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.

Batman & Robin (20th Anniversary Ice-travaganza)

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

BATMAN & ROBIN is 20 years cold, and CHILLED TO PERFECTION!

“There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris did. Uma is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.” –Joel Schumacher to Variety, 2014

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

It was June 20, 1997, and I thought BATMAN & ROBIN was the stupidest, most tasteless, worst big budget movie ever made. After the wholesale awfulness of BATMAN FOREVER went over well with audiences willing to sanction its buffoonery, Warner Brothers allowed director Joel Schumacher to go full Schumacher for the next one. It’s the same admirable, director-friendly approach that led to Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS, and the bean counters would come to regret it once again. Schumacher’s purest artistic vision is like the aftermath of a rainbow sherbet fight in the costume storage warehouse for an ice skating troupe. He keeps the moody Elliot Goldenthal score and themes of mourning and vengeance, but buries them in a day-glo fantasia of overacting, bad puns, fetishistic rubber costumes and theme park stunt show style super hero battles. For me it became Exhibit A in any argument against the “It’s Not Supposed To Be Shakespeare/Check Your Brain At the Door” school of summer blockbuster permissiveness.

I wasn’t wrong. But twenty years later to the day, after many truly great summer movies, some of them even starring Batman, it’s easier for me to appreciate the uniqueness of BATMAN & ROBIN – the outrageously tacky designs, the subversively in-your-face homoeroticism, the laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of the plot and dialogue and settings and action, and especially the spectacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bulky metal costume and glittery blue makeup as Mr. Freeze, playing like a simultaneous parody of over-the-top Batman villains, blockbuster excess and his own penchant for groan-worthy one-liners. He makes more than two dozen ice or cold related cracks without losing his boyish, gap-toothed Arnold charm.

Today I am prepared to admit that I own BATMAN & ROBIN on Blu-Ray. And have watched it twice in that format. And on purpose.

Ah shit, you guys. I like this stupid movie now. (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.