"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Worm on a Hook

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Ernest Goes to School

June 10, 1994

I put ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL on my schedule because it was on a list of June 1994 releases, but upon further research I realized they didn’t exactly attempt to mount a challenge to SPEED and CITY SLICKERS II. They only gave it a limited release in Connecticut (nickname: “The Ernest State”) before the rest of the country got it on video in December. So I could have very justifiably skipped reviewing it in this series. But never let it be said that I retreated from my search for knowledge. Ernest, going to school!? I mean, how is something like that gonna pan out? I had to know.

It occurs to me that I’ve never reviewed an Ernest P. Worrell movie before, so I’ve never had a chance to note that back in the Ain’t It Cool days some people thought my name was a reference to the off camera character Ernest was talking to in the commercials and TV series he did, or that it was funny to write “Know whut I mean, Vern?” in response to my reviews. Both were incorrect.

This one was the sixth Ernest motion picture, or seventh if you include DR. OTTO AND THE RIDDLE OF THE GLOOM BEAM (1985), where Jim Varney played several characters, including Ernest. There were three more after this, all DTV, and out of the whole series this is the only one not directed by John Cherry. Instead the honor goes to Coke Sams, writer of most of the Ernest works going back to the beginning. (read the rest of this shit…)

City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold

June 10, 1994

CITY SLICKERS II: THE LEGEND OF CURLY’S GOLD is the sequel to the Billy Crystal comedy adventure hit I reviewed in my summer of ’91 series. You may remember that Jack Palance won an Oscar for playing the surly trail boss Curly, who teaches Mitch (Billy Crystal, RUNNING SCARED) how to feel like less of a twerp, helps him deliver a baby calf, dies, and is bizarrely buried out in the middle of the desert. The sequel opens with Mitch riding out to visit Curly’s grave, only to have him reach and rise out of it, in a parody of the end of CARRIE. (A nightmare, of course.)

I thought it would be funny if they got Palance back just to do that scene, but this is actually a sequel that follows in the tradition of A BETTER TOMORROW 2, where the stand out character was killed in the first movie so they brought the actor back as his twin brother. Mitch keeps seeing Curly outside his window and shit, his friends think he’s losing it, but in fact Curly’s twin brother Duke is following him around trying to find a treasure map hidden in his brother’s hat, which Mitch has. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hit Man (2024)

HIT MAN (2024) is on the more crowdpleasing side of Richard Linklater movies, a sort of comedy, sort of romance, sort of noir, sort of true story that’s good enough to sort of make me forgive the “based on a true story… sort of” disclaimer and related dad joke vibes. For me it doesn’t quite live up to the hype from the Toronto International Film Festival, where it apparently blew the roof off, but it’s definitely worth watching if you already get Netflix, where it ended up.

This is really a star vehicle for Glen Powell, an Austinite who worked with Linklater in FAST FOOD NATION, EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! and APOLLO 10 1/2 (an animated/rotoscoped movie that’s also on Netflix, and quite good) before blowing up in TOP GUN: MAVERICK and ANYONE BUT YOU. Now the two of them teamed up to co-write and co-produce this showcase for Powell doing more than just his usual cocky hunky guy thing (but also that). He plays Gary Johnson, a New Orleans psychology professor who lives alone with two cats, enjoys bird watching, and tucks his polo shirts into his cargo shorts. He’s a dabbler who moonlights as a tech guy for the police, recording undercover stings busting people who were asking around about putting a hit out on somebody. When Jasper (Austin Amelio, The Walking Dead) is suspended for excessive force, Gary is pushed into playing the hitman, digs deep to create a macho character, and turns out to be very good at it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Speed (30th anniversary revisit)

June 10, 1994

So far my study of summer ’94 hasn’t found much excitement in the big blockbuster type movies. THE FLINTSTONES got all the hype but the ones I’ve been most invested in were quirky things by well known directors – SERIAL MOM, CROOKLYN, EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES. Now finally we come to a straight ahead action spectacle that truly delivered at the time and still holds up today.

SPEED came out 30 years ago as I post this, and it’s a classic. It feels like a very traditional studio crowdpleaser, but also not quite like anything else before or since. Twentieth Century Fox figured out what they had on their hands and moved it up from August to June, but no one else was sure at first if Keanu Reeves would be accepted as an action hero outside of POINT BREAK, or even if people would want to see him with short hair. So for many it was a surprise how big it became (5th highest grossing movie of 1994). (read the rest of this shit…)

Renaissance Man

June 3rd, 1994

RENAISSANCE MAN is a really-not-that-bad inspirational teacher movie directed by Penny Marshall (A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN) and written by Jim Burnstein (a rookie who later did D3: THE MIGHTY DUCKS). It’s corny in the usual ways but also benefits from the simple appeal of the formula and a more-subtle-than-usual performance by Danny DeVito (ROMANCING THE STONE, THE JEWEL OF THE NILE, BATMAN RETURNS).

He plays Bill Rago, a fuck up in the world of advertising who gets fired after missing an important meeting with out-of-town VIPs. Ed Begley Jr. (last seen two weeks ago in EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES) appears briefly as his friend Jack who hired him and still cares about him but has run out of jobs for him. While defending him to the boss Jack says “the man’s had a few personal setbacks the last couple years,” and we can infer that one of them is a divorce, but I like that they never elaborate. Maybe it was some weird shit too. We don’t know. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Cowboy Way

June 3rd, 1994

I should’ve known better after BEVERLY HILLS COP III, but I was kind of excited to watch a ‘90s studio action comedy that I’m not really familiar with. I might have seen THE COWBOY WAY on video back in the day, but I don’t remember for sure, so it was basically new to me. Could’ve been an unheralded gem! But it wasn’t. Just some competently produced, very dumb bullshit. I always think of ’94 as a great year for film, but so far, I gotta tell you, the summer movies are not contributing to that impression.

The story is about two bickering New Mexico rodeo pals, Sonny (Kiefer Sutherland, TWIN PEAKS: FIREWALK WITH ME) and Pepper (Woody Harrelson, DOC HOLLYWOOD), who go to New York City to look for their missing friend Nacho Salazar (Joaquin Martinez, JOE KIDD). Nacho turns out to have been killed trying to save his daughter Teresa (Cara Buono) from traffickers, so they try to save her. Both the action premise and the comedy premise are that they only know how to live “the cowboy way” so they don’t really understand the city much but also can punch better than any mere city boy on account of cowboy ruggedness. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Flintstones (30th stoniversary revisit)

May 27, 1994

THE FLINTSTONES was undeniably one of the big movie events of the summer of ’94. Sure, it got poor reviews, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone who thought it was anything more than fine, but people definitely went to see it – it made almost $300 million over its budget, the #5 grossing movie of the year. Since we all agree that box office is important because movies are a business etc. etc., this figure proves that THE FLINTSTONES made a bigger mark than SCHINDLER’S LIST, PULP FICTION, THE CROW, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, SHORT CUTS, ED WOOD, and CLERKS that year. Only THE LION KING, FORREST GUMP, TRUE LIES and THE SANTA CLAUSE were more impactful. Sorry, that’s just science. There are fossils to prove it.

So I thought it was important to include in this series, and also I wanted my sainted wife, who had never seen it, to watch it with me. (Don’t worry, it was fine, she didn’t hate it.) But when I did that and then I re-read my review of the movie from the Summer Flings series in 2017, I realized that oh jesus, I covered this very thoroughly at that time. Didn’t leave much more to write about. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Primevals

THE PRIMEVALS is about an expedition to a forgotten land in search of ancient creatures untouched by evolution (but a little bit by aliens), and the incredible thing is that we as viewers are witnessing a similar miracle. The Ray-Harryhausen-esque fantasy film was first conceived and pitched in the late ‘60s by stop motion animators David Allen, Dennis Muren and Jim Danforth, and then had various false starts in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so by the time it was filmed by Allen with funding from Charles Band in 1994 it was already a throwback. Then Full Moon Entertainment’s financial situation stalled the completion of the animation, and the movie was left in limbo when Allen died of cancer in 1999.

You’d think that would be the end of it, but fortunately Allen left the storyboards and puppets with the right person – his friend Chris Endicott, an FX artist for many Full Moon and Marvel pictures. Another couple decades later, through Indiegogo funding and the hard work of many of Allen’s animator and VFX friends, the movie was completed and premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival last summer. I was able to see it a few weeks ago at the Seattle International Film Festival, and I had a great time with it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Note: There aren’t exactly twists or anything to spoil in FURIOSA, but this is all spoilers. You really should see the movie first. This review the discussion afterwards.

There are over one million things I’ve always loved about the MAD MAX movies, and one of them is that they’re separate tales. There’s no continuity, no narrative references to or consequences from a previous chapter, and other than Max Rockatansky and his Last of the V8 Interceptors there’s never been a returning character, location or faction. They don’t necessarily take place in any order, and they’re so separate that some people think Tom Hardy’s Max is a different character from Mel Gibson’s. I’ve always thought of them as more like the Man With No Name trilogy than, say, STAR WARS.

But FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA isn’t a MAD MAX movie. Says it right there in the title – it’s a saga. And we knew it was the backstory of Furiosa, written in conjunction with MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, shown to Charlize Theron to help her performance, at one point supposedly considered to be shot back-to-back, at another to be done as an anime movie directed by Mahiro Maeda (director of the Second Renaissance episodes of THE ANIMATRIX and animator on NAUSICAA and KILL BILL VOL. 1). So FURIOSA is a traditional prequel in the sense that it depicts an earlier stage of the specific world and characters of FURY ROAD. (read the rest of this shit…)

early review on Patreon: THE PRIMEVALS

For those who currently do or want to start patronizing me on the ol’ Patreon, I have posted my review of THE PRIMEVALS, Full Moon’s Yeti vs. lizard men movie that was the passion project of their top stop motion animator David Allen, first pitched in the late ’60s, filmed in 1994, and thought dormant when he died without quite finishing it in 1999. Now it’s been miraculously unfrozen and coming to VOD soon.

If you’re not able to or don’t want to give me money, I get it and I plan to post this particular one for free here very soon. But I gotta self promote and remind you every once in a while that for less than it costs to buy a refrigerator magnet at the $1.01 Store you can get access to a bunch of exclusive posts and help me continue to work only part time at the day job and put most of my time and mental focus into providing you the good shit here at outlawvern.com. Thank you!