“They’re nerds. With their advanced knowledge of computers they can get any information they want!”
REVENGE OF THE NERDS is about as ‘80s of a movie as could exist. Raunchy sex comedy, fraternities, evil preppies, cartoonish nerd characters, gay stereotypes, Asian stereotypes, things that are now recognized as sex crimes played as fun hijinks, a part where they rap very badly. Those things weren’t entirely washed away by the new decade, but they became less common. You weren’t really gonna see many movies like that on the big screen anymore.
But that didn’t stop those vengeance hungry nerds from seeking further retribution on network television! I don’t remember being aware of this at the time, but REVENGE OF THE NERDS III: THE NEXT GENERATION aired at 8 pm July 13, 1992 on Fox. According to tvtango.com it rated lower than its competition: repeats of FBI: The Untold Stories, Evening Shade and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Also its last half hour overlapped with coverage of the first day of the Democratic National Convention.
The director is Roland Mesa, who had only previously directed an interview with Tim Burton about EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and only followed with a 1994 episode of Tales from the Crypt that was the first credit for Ethan Suplee. But it has the same writers as the theatrical movies, Steve Zacharias & Jeff Buhai. Guardians of the REVENGE OF THE NERDS saga. (read the rest of this shit…)
CARTER is a new South Korean action spectacular just released on Netflix today. It’s a real runaway roller coaster, bowling ball rolling down a steep hill, adrenaline jolt type of movie, so in that spirit I’m gonna try to plow through a review and get it up real fast, like in the old days.
I’m not always on top of the South Korean cinema, but this one is from director Jung Byung-gil, whose THE VILLAINESS (2017) ranks high for me in the list of the best action movies in the last decade. CARTER is in some ways not as good, but it’s even more action-packed and technically awe-inspiring, so I absolutely recommend it.*
*To most people. Some restrictions apply, see later in review for details, ask your doctor if CARTER is right for you.
Joo Won (FATAL INTUITION) stars as Carter Lee, a guy who wakes up face down in a hotel room surrounded by gun-pointing CIA agents. He has a freshly stitched-up, cross-shaped wound on the back of his head, and there’s a trail of blood leading from under the covers across the floor. He doesn’t remember who he is or what the fuck is going on, but the agents show a video of him holding one Dr. Jung Byung-ho (Jung Jae-young, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE) hostage and saying to come get him in that hotel room. (read the rest of this shit…)
“Women are lonely in the ‘90s. It’s our new phase.”
July 10, 1992. Future Grammy-winner “Baby Got Back” had just hit #1 on the Billboard charts, questioning Eurocentric beauty standards in American culture and allowing Seattle’s best known rapper to perform on top of a giant fiberglass ass. In arguably more feminist news, we have our third woman-directed movie of the summer (following POISON IVY and A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN).
GAS FOOD LODGING* is another one from IRS Releasing (RUBIN & ED, ONE FALSE MOVE), and it’s the sophomore film from writer/director Alison Anders, whose debut BORDER RADIO (1987) (co-directed with Dean Lent and Kurt Voss) had been nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. This one’s loosely based on a 1971 young adult novel called Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt by Richard Peck, but it fits pretty well into this period of American indie cinema when Anders’ future FOUR ROOMS neighbor Quentin Tarantino hadn’t arrive yet and directors were more influenced by her former boss Wim Wenders (she was a production assistant on PARIS, TEXAS). It’s about two sisters growing up with their single mother in a mobile home in dusty (fictional) Laramie, New Mexico, and doesn’t try to bullshit you with much more of a hook than that. That’s what Anders is interested in. (read the rest of this shit…)
I think the first time I noticed Jordan Peele was in the 2012 movie WANDERLUST. I thought he was really funny in that and then his Comedy Central show Key & Peele started and there were those Liam Neesons sketches and all that. Somehow 10 years later we mainly think of him as one of the most exciting working horror directors – he was even name dropped in the most recent SCREAM movie. Strange world we’re living in.
For me Jordan Peele film #3, NOPE, was one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, and not just because it would put an end to its trailer playing on every god damn movie I went to for several months. It’s pretty impressive that I was able to go see it and be surprised to find out what the overall story was and that some of the shots I had seen seemingly hundreds of time were not what I thought they were. To preserve that for you if you haven’t seen it I’ll talk about my general feelings about the movie and then I’ll warn you when I’m gonna get into it in more detail.
I love the first two Jordan Peele movies. Here’s my theory on them. Both have really original concepts and worlds, great acting performances, characters that are entertaining to watch, well executed ratcheting of tension and release, and elements of allegory that are fun to think about while watching and even moreso afterwards. (read the rest of this shit…)
“Who the hell are these guys?”
When UNIVERSAL SOLDIER arrived on screens on July 10, 1992, it launched Jean-Claude Van Damme to a new level of movie stardom. DOUBLE IMPACT, with its wide release, increased budget and improved acting performance had been a big reach into the mainstream for the star of Cannon fighting tournament movies, but it just wasn’t the big crossover hit he needed. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER was.
Part of the appeal was that it pitted JCVD for the first time against fellow action icon Dolph Lundgren (in his followup to SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO). They tried to play up some sort of rivalry between the actors, even staging an argument and shoving match on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Produced by Carolco (FIRST BLOOD, TOTAL RECALL, THE PUNISHER, T2), distributed by TriStar Pictures, and featuring the sort of badass metallic title font one should expect from those origins, it was a $95 million hit in theaters, proving that these guys were more than just the stars of videos you rented to watch with your buddies.
I already reviewed this one back in 2008, and it’s a pretty good review, so check it out. But I figured it was worth another look in the context of ’92. It’s an interesting study in summer releases because it’s in that sweet spot between a b-movie and a blockbuster. It was Van Damme’s most expensive movie to that point, but that still meant only 2/3 the budget of LETHAL WEAPON 3, and less than half of BATMAN RETURNS or ALIEN 3. Director Roland Emmerich did not yet have a track record of making blockbusters – this was his
second English language movie first Hollywood movie, and follow up to MOON 44 (1990) starring Michael Pare. The success of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER would get Emmerich in the door to do STARGATE which would hook him up to do INDEPENDENCE DAY, which would apparently give him a life long pass to make gigantic, very stupid movies that everybody complains about and swears are worse than the earlier one they like. (read the rest of this shit…)
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (which opened against BOOMERANG on July 1, 1992) is a very nice and pleasing mainstream period sports comedy-drama from director Penny Marshall (JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH). It’s a fictionalized version of one of those true life historical events you hear about and think “Yep, that’s a movie” because it reads so much like a high concept movie pitch: during WWII, when so many American men were sent to fight overseas, some enterprising baseball executives started the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to keep the sport in the public eye. Though they endured all manner of sexist indignities (like being forced to wear skirts and pretend to fit various feminine stereotypes) they also were good at what they did and took their shot to show it off.
Geena Davis (FLETCH) and Lori Petty (CADILLAC MAN) star as Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller, small town Oregon sisters who run a dairy and play catcher and pitcher on a softball team. One day a scout named Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz*, THREE AMIGOS) attends a game and wants Dottie to try out for the A.A.G.P.B.L. She’s happy with her life and uninterested, but agrees to go if he’ll give Kit a shot too. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE GRAY MAN is the new Netflix movie that they put so much into they’re actually doing promotion for it. Showed it to critics a week early, had the directors do interviews and stuff, as if they want people to know it’s there and maybe watch it. Almost like they’re in the movie business. Crazy.
It stars Ryan Gosling (ONLY GOD FORGIVES) as “Six,” a guy who was doing time for murder until a spook named Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton, ON DEADLY GROUND) got him released in exchange for dedicating his life to being a secret government assassin, or “Sierra.” One day on a mission in Bangkok he takes out a target (Callan Mulvey, BEYOND SKYLINE) who, before dying, gives him an encrypted drive he says has the dirt on Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page, MORTAL ENGINES), his new boss at the CIA who pushed Fitzroy out. When Carmichael acts suspicious about it on the phone Six decides to mail the drive to a retired handler he trusts (Alfre Woodard, CROOKLYN) and go on the run. (read the rest of this shit…)
On Wednesday, July 1st, 1992 – one day after Prince and the New Power Generation released “Sexy MF,” the first single from their symbol album – Eddie Murphy played a Sexy MF in the romantic comedy BOOMERANG. It’s the sophomore movie for HOUSE PARTY director Reginald Hudlin, but it’s written by Murphy’s COMING TO AMERICA scribes Barry W. Blaustein & David Sheffield (POLICE ACADEMY 2: THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT), based on an idea by Murphy.
Murphy plays Marcus Graham, hot shit New York advertising executive, who is welcomed to his office like everyone’s best friend or personal hero. He’s also the type of guy who checks out every female ass he crosses paths with, smiles and flatters his way into dates, and then immediately moves on to the next woman. “Once I hit it I lose interest, but that ain’t my fault!” he swears.
He’s definitely an asshole, but Murphy plays him with enough charm to balance some of that out. For example there’s a scene where director Nelson (Geoffrey Holder, ANNIE) excitedly presents a commercial with ridiculously suggestive shots of a model fellating a banana. Marcus tells him some parts to cut out but laughs and jokes around and just shows an appreciation for Nelson’s eccentricity. It’s not the usual thing where the successful boss guy has to be mean. Everybody loves him. (Of course, negative reviews interpreted this as Murphy having an ego. Once you’re as successful as him you get called out for playing cool guys.) (read the rest of this shit…)
In 1992, Walt Disney Animation was on an undeniable upswing. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT had been a smash in ’88, THE LITTLE MERMAID reignited their musical fairy tale formula in ’89, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was so respected in ’91 that it got a best picture nomination, and they had ALADDIN coming out in November. It would be funny if they felt the need to re-release classics in the summer to sabotage potential competitors, since ROCK-A-DOODLE and FERNGULLY were long gone by June 26th, 1992 anyway. But I think this was just a reliable money-making technique they had developed, to release an old one in the summer and a new one at the end of the year. Remember that in last year’s summer of ’91 retrospective I got to review the re-release of 101 DALMATIANS, which was really not needed to stave off ROVER DANGERFIELD, in my opinion.
The “WALT DISNEY’S CLASSIC” for 1992 was the studio’s second-ever animated feature, PINOCCHIO, returning in celebration of its 52nd anniversary, I guess. 1940 was the same year Daisy Duck made her debut in Mr. Duck Steps Out, Bugs Bunny made his in A Wild Hare, Woody Woodpecker made his in Knock Knock, Abbott and Costello made theirs in One Night in the Tropics, and Captain America and Bucky made theirs in comic books. It was the year of Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR, the year DUNKIRK happened, the year Winston Churchill became prime minister, the year the first McDonald’s opened, the year nylon stockings came out. Pretty long ago. (read the rest of this shit…)
DUAL is the latest from writer/director Riley Stearns, which came to disc this week. I checked it out because I really Iiked his last one, THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE, which stars Jesse Eisenberg as a “35 year old dog owner” who takes up karate after being assaulted, but is not remotely the movie I’d picture when hearing that description. At the end of my review I wrote, “I really like the feel he has here – a barren, generic town, people who speak oddly, an undercurrent of danger as this strange black comedy kind of turns into a thriller. It’s very unique.”
That sounds quite a bit like this one too, despite entirely different subject matter. DUAL is about clones and is set in a casually dystopian near future (or present?), so it’s technically a sci-fi movie, but it feels like it could be the same world as the previous one. It’s got the same sort of deadpan strangeness, plainness and bone-dry, bleak humor. There’s even some combat training that takes place in a room that might as well be one of the dojos in that movie. I wondered if Stearns ever considered using Allesandro Nivola’s asshole sensei character as the trainer, then I read that Eisenberg was announced as a cast member at one point, so maybe it would’ve been him. (read the rest of this shit…)