NOW AVAILABLE TO ORDER
Well, I finally went and did it – I published my new book Worm on a Hook. I want to be a little vague, but basically it’s a horror story about a group of friends who rent a cabin for Memorial Day weekend and run afoul of a seemingly-invincible killer back from the dead. And then, I promise you, it’s on. The goal was to find overlap in the conventions of traditional slasher movies and the ’80s and ’90s action I love, and meld them into one ass-kicking novel. I’m very proud of the results, and I think you’ll not only enjoy the story but get a kick out of spotting the ways I apply concepts from reviews and Seagalogy to my own storytelling.
I hope to find this one a bigger audience than I’ve managed for Niketown, so forgive me for going into promotions mode for a bit and leaving this as a sticky post above the new reviews. I’m available for podcasts and interviews – email me at email@example.com for inquiries. And if you read it, let me know what you think!
NOTE: If you’re outside of the U.S. your local version of Amazon should have it too – try searching for “worm on a hook vern” to find it.
May 7, 1991
I don’t think I’ve ever included a TV movie in a summer movie retrospective, but this came up on a summer of ’91 list and I figured why not? After the opening weekend for A RAGE IN HARLEM and ONE GOOD COP, some people checked out a new Stephen King movie on the CBS Tuesday Movie Special. It aired against a Roseanne episode that introduced Shelly Winters as Nana Mary, the fourth episode of a short-lived sitcom called Stat, and a thirtysomething about Hope (Mel Harris) volunteering at a homeless shelter.
One could reasonably assume that a Stephen-King-based TV movie in the ‘90s would be a Mick Garris joint, but in fact it’s a different notable horror director: Tom McLoughlin of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES fame. He also did ONE DARK NIGHT and, come to think of it, co-created She-Wolf of London with Garris. This one comes from a King short story first published in Cavalier in 1974, and later included in Night Shift. It was adapted by Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal, whose all-over-the-place filmography at this point included THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN, THE JEWEL OF THE NILE, SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, and DESPERATE HOURS. (read the rest of this shit…)
Do you all listen to ADKINS UNDISPUTED? It’s a podcast done by a guy named Mike Scott, who goes through the Scott Adkins filmography in chronological order. I can imagine a version of that concept that’s fun to listen to, but not as good as what Mike does. He takes the job seriously, with heavily researched scripted intros, followed by a more free-wheeling discussion with the week’s guest (or “champion”). And very early in the run of the show Mr. Adkins himself caught on to it and has provided interviews for each episode. I’ve learned many things about the movies from Adkins, plus the side discussions have led me to all kinds of Hong Kong movies I hadn’t seen, and the rotating guests have introduced me to some cool people from the world of action movie fandom. It is fun to listen to, but also a genuine work of action movie scholarship. I love it.
So it was a great honor to be a guest on this week’s show. The subject is THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, which I hadn’t actually seen until now, despite Adkins playing the villain and Renny Harlin being the director. Mike originally invited me on for a better movie a little later in the filmography, but we realized it was going to be months before he got to it and nobody was slotted for HERCULES so I was happy to do it. I hope I did okay!
HERE IT IS
P.S. I’ll post a review of the movie after the episode has been up for a bit
TOM CLANCY is simply WITHOUT REMORSE is a new loosely-based-on-a-Tom-Clancy-book action movie starring Michael B. Jordan (RED TAILS) as John Kelly, the character who I guess is later played by Willem Dafoe in CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER and Liev Schreiber in THE SUM OF ALL FEARS. It was meant to be a major theatrical release, but after, you know – all this – Amazon bought it, so you gotta watch it on Prime. But you should do that if you can. This is a good one.
I am absolutely not a Tom Clancy guy, not even in movie form. One reason this is more my shit: less military hardware. It’s a more Seagal-ian premise: Navy SEAL’s wife is murdered, he goes out to avenge those responsible whether the agency will help him or not. In the book I guess that meant he killed a bunch of drug dealers, here it’s reimagined as a conspiracy related to a mission he went on, and I think it makes a statement against nationalism and even militarism. Kelly is very matter-of-fact about the violence upon his family being an extension of the violence he committed for the government. Of course, the film’s main objective is just to work as a military thriller, but it also seems cognizant that this stuff shouldn’t be thoughtlessly glorified, and I appreciate that. (Maybe it should be called NOT WITHOUT SOME REMORSE.) (read the rest of this shit…)
May 3, 1991
I’d never seen this one before, and from the title I always thought it was a thriller about police corruption. I guess I had only seen the tough guy poster on the DVD and blu-ray, and not the theatrical one that looks like SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE or something.
I think there is some subtle commentary about policing early in the movie, which I will go into, but for the most part it’s not about that. Instead this movie – which was only the fifth release from Disney’s not-for-kids label Hollywood Pictures – really is a fusion of the type of vibe of those two posters. It’s a gritty police/crime thriller about a cop whose partner gets killed, but in addition to going after the people he considers responsible, he and his wife take care of and then try to adopt the dead partner’s three adorable daughters. The amount of screen time and sincerity it puts into the second part is very unusual, so although this is in many ways not my type of movie, I respect its bold mix of genres. (read the rest of this shit…)
It’s that time of year again. The time when the sun comes out and my instincts tell me to crawl into a dark theater. It’s also become the time when I take a deeper look at summer movie entertainment of the past. Especially in this strange year, when the vaccines are starting to kick in but an immediate return to normal life seems unlikely, there’s something I find very comforting and fascinating about this form of time travel. I especially like looking at times I remember living in, but when I was too young to see everything that came out or to understand them in the way I would now. It’s partly nostalgia but partly wanting to learn about everything I missed.
It becomes harder to do each year, as there become fewer stretches that I haven’t already mined (or, in the case of anything in this century, that I wasn’t writing about at the time). Fortunately this year we’ve hit the 30th anniversary of a crop of movies from what I think is kind of an interesting transitional period with some cultural shifts in progress. It’s a summer with some fresh territory for me and although I’ve already reviewed what I consider its two most important releases, they’re both monumental enough to justify writing up more than once. (read the rest of this shit…)
“I have a problem with cold-blooded killers.”
As longtime reader Sternshein has been promising me for a couple years now, BLOODSPORT 4: THE DARK KUMITE is some crazy shit – maybe the strangest sequel in a name brand action franchise. It completes the trilogy of BLOODSPORT sequels starring Daniel Bernhardt (ATOMIC BLONDE, NOBODY), but it doesn’t follow the tradition of framing it as a story told to children. Instead it opens with Bernhardt fighting in a tiled pit that looks like it might be a drained fountain, with sicko spectators above chanting “KILL! KILL! KILL!”
He raises his leg like a sledge hammer above his downed opponent – but abruptly stops himself, and turns to address the crowd. They drop silent.
“No! I will not kill this man! This man fought with skill, and dignity, and you would have me destroy that integrity. And why? To satisfy your lust for death?”
He helps the man up, hugs him, pats him on the back.
“There was a time the Kumite meant honor. But I see now that Kumite here is dead. It has become nothing more than a bloodsport.”
(It should smash cut to a giant ‘4: THE DARK KUMITE’, but no such luck.) (read the rest of this shit…)
F/X is a pretty cool little thriller from 1986 that I think I saw back in the VHS days, but I didn’t remember it at all. And since Bryan Brown (THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH) on the poster looks like Roy Scheider to me, I was really picturing something different. Brown is Australian and is allowed to fully use his accent here, a rarity in American movies that I was prepared to credit to the international success of CROCODILE DUNDEE until I saw that this came out earlier in the same year. So instead I will credit the success off CROCODILE DUNDEE to the success of F/X.
Brown stars as Roland “Rollie” Tyler, a Hollywood (well, New York) special effects genius who seems to be considered the best in the business. And you know what that means: it opens with a scene of violence that turns out to be a film shoot. It’s a pretty good version of that cliche, because instead of a horror movie like usual (see: BODY DOUBLE, PET SEMATARY TWO) it’s a shootout in a restaurant. A guy catches on fire, aquariums get shot up, a bunch of live lobsters get loose. Good scene.
Rollie is approached on set by a dude named Lipton (Cliff De Young, DR. GIGGLES), who claims to be a big fan with some work for him. But the project turns out not to be a movie – he works for the Justice Department, and he wants Rollie to help him fake a death. Notorious mob boss Nicholas DeFranco (Jerry Orbach, BREWSTER’S MILLIONS) has turned state’s evidence, people are trying to kill him, if they can fake kill him maybe it will take the heat off until the trial. (read the rest of this shit…)
MORTAL KOMBAT (2021) is a perfectly okay movie, especially given the past success rate of video game adaptations. It does a decent job of putting some of the Mortal Kombat characters into a passable modern movie. I found it reasonably entertaining, and had I expected it to be bad I might even have been pleasantly surprised. It also might’ve played better in a theater, if I could go to one.
Here’s the problem: I’m the type of guy who thinks you could make something truly kick ass out of any bullshit that involves colorful characters fighting each other. They’ve been talking about a new Mortal Kombat movie for more than 10 years, with James Wan announced as producer for six of those, and I think the ‘90s incarnations are fun (if ridiculous) movies that have plenty to build upon. So for years now I have been anticipating this movie that ended up being directed by Australian commercial director Simon McQuoid and written by Greg Russo (first credit) and Dave Callaham (DOOM, THE EXPENDABLES, WONDER WOMAN 1984), with a story credit for Oren Uziel (who had been developing it with Kevin Tancharoen after his unlicensed Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short and an episode of the official web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy). And I thought it might be something special. Maybe next time. (read the rest of this shit…)
DON’T PANIC, a.k.a. EL SECRETO DE LA OUIJA, is a 1988 English-language Mexican horror film that seems designed to crossover to American audiences, with its lead character Michael (Jon Michael Bischof, who directed a movie called RATAS NOCTURNAS three years later) a blond, curly haired kid who explains in narration that his family moved from Beverly Hills to Mexico City, a situation he considers “the pits.”
By the time of his 17th birthday, though, Michael already has enough friends for a party. His best pal Tony pushes him to play with a Ouija board even though he’s scared of it because of a previous incident involving an entity named “Virgil” who Michael believes is the devil. He keeps saying “I have to go home” to get out of it, which confused me because I was pretty sure this was his home, a theory confirmed by his mom (Helena Rojo, AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD) coming out and making everybody leave. (read the rest of this shit…)
Well, it’s that time of year again. The end of April, that fabled time when the Oscars were 2 1/2 months ago unless there was a pandemic. Okay, obviously the big event this week is MORTAL KOMBAT coming out on Friday. But I’m still gonna enjoy watching the Oscars on Sunday.
As is my tradition, I made sure to watch all of the best picture nominees. Due to the pandemic I had seen fewer of them than usual when the nominations were announced, but it was easier to catch up since they could all be streamed. That was nice, though I will always treasure the time I had to take a ferry to the only theater in my area still playing HACKSAW RIDGE.
I had intended to do full reviews of more of these, but you know how it is – I decided to write about Godzilla movies and BLOODSPORT sequels and shit instead. It happens. So here are links to the ones I’ve reviewed and some thoughts on the ones I haven’t. (read the rest of this shit…)