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.
I’d been wanting to watch this 1993 movie called RUNNING DELILAH, first because it stars Kim Cattrall as a cyborg, then because I realized it was directed by Richard Franklin (ROAD GAMES, PSYCHO II, LINK), and it didn’t hurt that it co-starred THE PHANTOM himself, Billy Zane. What I didn’t figure out until shortly after I pressed play was that it was really an ABC TV pilot that was released as a TV movie when it wasn’t picked up for a series. It’s written by Ron Koslow, the screenwriter of INTO THE NIGHT, but more relevant to this he was the creator of Beauty and the Beast, the popular show with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. I guess RUNNING DELILAH was one of his romance/genre crossover ideas that didn’t fly.
And I do not believe it transcends that description, but I wanted to review it for The Cultural Record, so I’ll go ahead and throw in another TV movie, AMAZONS (1984) that was included on the same DVD. (It also had SUPERDOME  and THE AMY FISHER STORY [1993,the one with Drew Barrymore]) but I didn’t watch those.)
RUNNING DELILAH finds Christina (Cattrall) working as a secretary, but she’s actually Delilah, a spy trying to steal documents from her criminal boss (Yorgo Voyagis, VAMPIRE IN VENICE). She meets up with her partner Paul (Zane), who sports what was called a “Caesar cut,” as popularized by George Clooney on ER, and laments that they never got it on. He seems to take it well when she turns him down again, and this is actually one time when it’s a benefit that it was supposed to be a TV show. If it was a movie the guy she turns down would turn out to be a traitor, but since it’s a TV show it just means there will be sexual tension and then they’ll fall for each other. (read the rest of this shit…)
As someone who finally got into Paul Wesley Snipes Anderson’s RESIDENT EVIL series pretty close to when it was finally wrapping up, I was thrilled to hear that the director and his wife/star Milla Jovovich (HELLBOY, not the Ron Perlman one) had purchased the film rights to a fresh new video game franchise copyright property trademark. Without any judgment on (or implied knowledge of) the respective video games, I feel that there is potential for a series called MONSTER HUNTER about monsters and hunters who hunt monsters to be better than one about zombies and umbrellas or whatever. And I loved that one!
So I had planned to see this Toho co-production based on the works of Capcom in the biggest, if emptiest theater in Seattle, until shit (the pandemic) happened and that was not possible for me. But as soon as they made it available for digital “purchase” I paid the four-or-five-dollars-more-than-the-movie-ticket-would’ve-cost and now that file access is MINE.
It begins in a world of fantasy. Pirate ships are sailing through sand. Ron Perlman (HELLBOY, the Ron Perlman one) is there. Tony Jaa (KILL ZONE 2) is there. Monsters attack. Tony gets knocked off the boat. It is sand, so he doesn’t drown, but he’s left behind.
Then we switch to a different desert, the type in our world, in our time. It even has latitude and longitude listed on screen. I think they might mention directions and clicks at some point if you want to check your map and follow along at home. (read the rest of this shit…)
I can’t explain this, and it’s embarrassing to admit, but somehow I had never seen ONCE A THIEF (1991) until now. How the hell did I not watch the movie that John Woo and Chow Yun Fat did between their two greatest home runs? Especially since I even watched the North American TV pilot he made based on it five years later! I knew this was gonna be more light-hearted and comedic than THE KILLER and HARD BOILED and that I probly wouldn’t like it nearly as much, but come on. Obviously it was something I needed to see. As I should fuckin known, it’s a fun time with some great stunts and action and a type of ludicrousness I enjoy in many Hong Kong films, if not usually Woo’s.
The story is about a trio of thieves, Cherie (Cherie Chung, PEKING OPERA BLUES), Joey and Jim (Chow Yun Fat and Leslie Cheung, reuniting after A BETTER TOMORROW 1 and 2). We meet them as they’re staking out an art museum for a heist, with Joey walking around admiring the art in the suave manner of Chow Yun Fat, Cherie pretending to be an idiot walking her dog through some deliverymen so she can mark the crate that holds the painting they’re planning to steal, and Joey strutting to his motorcycle in a leather jacket and scarf, bragging to a random street artist that he’s a famous thief. Soon they’re performing a really cool FAST AND FURIOUS-esque mobile truck heist that involved climbing on and under the truck, cutting a hole through the bottom, and gliding away with a parachute. (read the rest of this shit…)
I gotta admit, I barely knew Indonesian cinema existed until I saw MERANTAU and THE RAID. We all loved THE RAID and THE RAID 2 and then THE NIGHT COMES FOR US came along and that was arguably even more impressive. It was directed by Timo Tjahjanto, who’d already done another Iko Uwais martial arts movie I loved called HEADSHOT with his long-time collaborator Kimo Stamboel. They also did a horror one called KILLERS that I had to turn off in the opening scene because it was too much for me at the time. Some day I’m gonna get up the guts to go back. These days Stamboel has a heavily hyped horror movie called THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC, written by Joko Anwar. Anwar is the guy who directed SATAN’S SLAVES (which I enjoyed) and IMPETIGORE (which I haven’t seen yet but it was on some best of the year lists).
So clearly there are healthy action and horror scenes over there, and those are my primary interests. But did you know they also have a local answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The aforementioned Anwar wrote and directed the 2019 film GUNDALA, based on an Indonesian comic book character created in 1969, and will be overseeing a series called the Bumilangit Cinematic Universe (BCU), with seven more films planned in Volume 1.
I knew there’d be something interesting about an Indonesian take on modern super hero movies, but once again I was caught off guard because you guys, this movie is really good. It certainly takes some inspiration from the Marvel films, and there’s a costumed hero with some powers and some colorful super villains, but mostly it’s a legit martial arts movie with lots of really well directed fights. And it’s interesting to see how a character like this compares and contrasts to the ones that have caught on here. The main difference is that his life has been way harder than any of our guys. (read the rest of this shit…)
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI… is a very good straight-to-Amazon-Prime movie in that odd genre of “What if we got to see a bunch of familiar cultural and historical figures spend a night hanging out together?” In other words, it’s based on a play, in this case written by SOUL co-director Kemp Powers, who also wrote the screenplay for first-time-feature director Regina King. Of course we’ve known King as an actress since 227 and BOYZ N THE HOOD, and then she played Huey and Riley and got an Oscar for IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK and was a Watchman, but she’s also been directing TV since 2013. Her million dollar quartet here is made up of important Black Americans of the ‘60s who really were friends, but it’s a fictional story about them getting together at a hotel after Cassius Clay (Eli Goree, “PO No. 3,” GODZILLA)’s surprise victory over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964.
In town for the fight are Clay’s spiritual advisor Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, THE COMMUTER), the singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., RED TAILS) and NFL great Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE), there to do color commentary. After the fight they meet up at Malcolm’s humble hotel room, guarded by two Fruit of Islam, the very serious Kareem X (Lance Reddick, JOHN WICK) and young Brother Jamaal (Christian Magby), who does a really funny double take and star struck grin when he realizes the guy he’s letting into the room is Sam Cooke. (read the rest of this shit…)
Well, I could’ve sworn it was a little more recent than this, but Paul World Series Anderson’s THREE MUSKETEERS came out in 2011 – two RESIDENT EVIL chapters ago, plus a POMPEII and a MONSTER HUNTER. I don’t remember if I just didn’t get to it or if I was immune to the charms of the Andersonography at that moment in time, but whatever the reason, I fuckin blew it. I can imagine the warm feeling I would’ve had watching an early afternoon show in a huge, mostly empty theater at Pacific Place. And I bet the 3D would’ve been amazing.
But at home on 2D blu-ray ten years later was good too. Maybe I should be thankful I saved it for a time when this specific type of escapism is more precious. Like that 2001 movie THE MUSKETEER that I reviewed recently, it’s loosely based on the Dumas novel and completely unembarrassed to pimp it out with modern cinematic trends and PWSA fixations, including but not limited to speed-ramping, acrobatic fight choreography and cool steam-punk weapons and vehicles. It takes the silliness much further than THE MUSKETEER, and has a much bigger budget – the climax involves two armed blimps engaged in a pirate ship battle in the sky – and I thought it was a whole lot of fun. (read the rest of this shit…)
FREAKY is the recent Blumhouse horror comedy conceived under the title “FREAKY FRIDAY THE 13TH,” because yes, it is a slasher movie combined with a body switch comedy. A psychotic serial killer called “the Blissfield Butcher” (Vince Vaughn, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, PSYCHO) steals an ancient magic dagger, not realizing that when he uses it to stab random teen victim Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, THE MARTIAL ARTS KID) their souls will switch places. Whoops.
The director is Christopher Landon (BURNING PALMS), which makes a whole lot of sense, because he’s the guy who did HAPPY DEATH DAY, a slasher movie combined with GROUNDHOG DAY (and a movie I enjoyed quite a bit). I heard an interview where Landon said he was a little reluctant to be that guy, but he liked the idea by co-writer Michael Kennedy (assistant animation producer, Family Guy) so much he had to go for it anyway. (read the rest of this shit…)
FAST GETAWAY was apparently a hit by some standard, so three years later we got the DTV sequel FAST GETAWAY II. Like the first one, it’s still only available on VHS. Corey Haim, Cynthia Rothrock, Leo Rossi and Ken Lerner all return, and there are many direct references to things that happened in the first one, but they do at least find a new setup to make it different.
Young but experienced bank robber Nelson Potter (Haim) now lives on his own, in fact seems to be pretty rich, and is so far beyond his past as a horny virgin that he wakes up and is offered sex in the opening scene. Then there’s a bank robbery that plays off the first movie, with Nelson now graduated to his dad’s role of the ringleader-who-makes-the-bank-customers-sing-a-song, and with an attractive woman named Patrice (Sarah Buxton, THE SURE THING, LESS THAN ZERO, TODAY YOU DIE) as both the person he follows into the bank to hit on and the plant hostage he takes.
(read the rest of this shit…)
FAST GETAWAY (1991) is a movie that has not made it to DVD, and the VHS cover shows a slightly Vanilla-Ice-looking Corey Haim doing a teen magazine locker pinup pose in front of a red rectangle. I was vaguely aware of its existence for many years before learning that it might be worth watching because it co-stars Cynthia Rothrock. And only when I rented it did I learn that it’s the first of only two movies directed by stunt legend Spiro Razatos. (His other one is CLASS OF 1999 II: THE SUBSTITUTE, and then he did some episodes of Team Knight Rider.)
Razatos is a stuntman going back to the early ‘80s (THEY CALL ME BRUCE, POLICE ACADEMY 2) who graduated to stunt coordinator with OMEGA SYNDROME in 1986. He also did SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2. I first became aware of him when I was impressed by the crazy low budget car stunts in the MANIAC COP movies and learned he was the second unit director and stunt coordinator behind them. He also did EXTREME JUSTICE, BAD BOYS II, TALLADEGA NIGHTS and DEATH RACE, and then he became the go-to car guy with FAST FIVE and all subsequent FAST movies, plus MONSTER TRUCKS and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, which has some good shit in it, I swear. (read the rest of this shit…)
POSSESSOR is a fucking great and deeply disturbing near-future-cyberpunkish assassination thriller directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Yeah, when you’re David Cronenberg’s son, seems like it would be good not to direct real grim, trippy movies that are gonna be compared to your genius dad’s early shit. Too much to live up to. It might be easier to just be a rapper named Li’l Decker or something. Like, what if Sofia Coppola had started out making gangster movies? But DJ The Doctor From JASON X here pulls it off. It doesn’t seem to be copying any specific content or style from the elder Cronenberg, but it definitely is a contemporary equivalent to the tone and quality of the old man’s early, crazy shit.
It stars Andrea Riseborough, who I for a second recognized from MANDY but thought – nah, must be somebody else. She plays a pallid and haunted looking lady named Tasya Vos, a fittingly cool name for someone in her line of work. She looks like she’s on her death bed, but it’s part of her job as a strange type of assassin and undercover agent… I would say a futuristic type, but I’m told this takes place in alternate past? I don’t know. But she spends most of her time in a lab with her head plugged into a machine that somehow projects her consciousness into an implant that her colleagues have clandestinely placed inside an unwilling subject. So, while controlling some poor sucker’s body, she murders her target, then turns a gun on “herself,” which returns her to her real body and/or ties up the loose ends of the assassination plot. Kind of like a clumsier, riskier, more evil version of plugging into the Matrix. (read the rest of this shit…)