Command Performance

tn_commandperformanceNote: I sent this in to Ain’t It Cool last night but they didn’t post it, so what the hell, outlawvern.com exclusive. I’d kind of feel bad posting it there anyway because it’s not a very positive review and I don’t want to bum everybody out. But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do I guess.

In COMMAND PERFORMANCE, director/co-writer Mr. Dolph Lundgren also steps out from behind the camera to star as the hero Joe. He’s just a regular guy, your usual American biker who hates guns and lives in Moscow and plays drums for a band called CMF who are opening for an American pop singer performing for the Russian president and his daughters when they’re taken hostage by vengeful terrorists and has to save the day. In other words, DIE HARD in a rock concert, with Dolph Lundgren on drums.

I know there are a contingent of you out there who are as excited for this one as I was. It’s the most anticipated DTV movie of the year besides the Scott Adkins/Isaac Florentine joint NINJA. So it kills me to say this but I don’t think COMMAND PERFORMANCE is one of Dolph’s better efforts.

mp_commandperformanceIt’s not a total bust. Some nice touches come out of the absurdity of Dolph playing “a rocker” as he calls himself. It is funny to see Dolph with tribal tattoos on his arms and rockin out on the drums. He does kill a guy with an electric guitar. And he keeps mentioning recording contracts and royalty rates and shit in the midst of the action. When he finds the president he asks, “You okay, dude?”

But otherwise I’m afraid the execution of the concept is pretty weak. Dolph has shown himself to be a decent director before, so maybe he just doesn’t have the required understanding of the DIE HARD formula. I think COMMAND PERFORMANCE fails in two of the most crucial aspects of the formula:

1. THE VILLAIN. This villain is a Russian soldier angry at the president for the death of his father long ago. He’s menacing enough but he’s not fun to hate and has no humor or crazy over-the-topness. He doesn’t delight in being evil, so he’s not as enjoyable to watch as Alan Rickman in DIE HARD, Jeremy Irons in DIE HARD 3, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey in UNDER SIEGE, Eric Bogosian and Everett McGill in UNDER SIEGE 2, Powers Boothe in SUDDEN DEATH, Dennis Hopper in SPEED, etc. If you’re gonna use this plot structure you gotta realize your movie is gonna be held up against all the other similar ones and you better make sure it can withstand the comparison.

B. THE GEOGRAPHY. In DIE HARD the building setting is crucial, and you know where he is in the building and where the hostages are. Location is important to a DIE HARD ripoff – hence “DIE HARD on a boat,” “DIE HARD on a boat on a train,” etc. Unfortunately, Dolph doesn’t take much advantage of the concert hall setting or manage to establish its layout. Like much of DTV (Seagal’s terrible AGAINST THE DARK comes to mind) it just seems like the good guys are in some gloomy room somewhere slowly walking to other similar rooms, who knows where, could be anywhere in the building. When they do encounter terrorists the action is usually too chaotic and darkly lit to easily tell what’s going on.

And since he’s a biker, not some special forces guy or something, Dolph doesn’t do any karate. Not even biker karate. Not even drummer karate. He just punches people, shoots and stabs in the head. There are a couple good moves. I did like when he stabbed a guy’s chin and you could see the blade through the mouth. Good one Joe. And the idea of “he used to be in a biker gang” explaining why he can take on a highly prepared paramilitary force makes me laugh (in a good way). He teams up with a surviving member of the president’s security team who seems embarrassed to repeat that explanation when he’s communicating with people on the outside. “Well, um, he used to be in–”

I’m glad it’s not some spoof or something, but this movie could’ve benefited from embracing the absurdity of the concept more. I know it’s a fine line to walk, and it’s gotta be hard to put yourself out there in this world so full of condescending ironic dickheads on the internet and the E! network and shit who dedicate their lives to saying sarcastic bullshit about supposedly “has been” celebrities. I understand Dolph doesn’t want people to laugh at him. But fuck it, you’re making DIE HARD in a rock concert, you can’t worry about not being plausible enough. So the biker should know karate, in my opinion. And use drumsticks as weapons.

In Dolph’s defense he does take advantage of the rocker gimmick more then Seagal takes advantage of being a cook in UNDER SIEGE. But I still think he could do better. He could used a bass drum pedal to pound on somebody’s head, a cymbal to slice somebody’s throat (“Joe exclusively slits throats with Zildjian cymbals” it could say on the credits). He could spin a knife the same way he spins a drumstick. He could have a rotating airborne drumkit like the dude from Motley Crue, then lock a terrorist inside and spin him to death. He could lose an arm like the guy from Def Leppard. (okay, that one needs work.) There’s alot more he could’ve done.

I mean, think about John Woo’s BLACKJACK. That’s one of my favorite Dolph pictures, and he plays a guy who’s afraid of the color white who ends up having to fight a bad guy in a dairy with milk spraying all over him. That’s a movie that’s not afraid of some pricks laughing at it. It holds its head high and doesn’t give a fuck what anybody thinks. It has high self-esteem. If his character in BLACKJACK was a drummer I believe he would’ve gone all the way with it, and that’s the kind of Dolph movie I want to see.

I probaly don’t need to tell you that the rock music is cheesy. Then there’s this pop singer Venus played by Melissa Smith, best known to her friends and family I imagine, but also apparently for something called “The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search For The Next Doll.” For her act they just exactly recreate the type of prepackaged garbage real-life manufactured pop stars perform, and they show this at the beginning of the movie and on the end credits as if you might actually want to watch it. It takes a good half hour before the terrorists even take over and then they just sit in a room for most of the movie, there’s no unfolding plan. So the story doesn’t have much momentum. It’s just not as exciting as it should be.

On the positive side, Dolph’s not playing Russian. I appreciate that.

Oh well, Dolph is still cool, and he’s the reigning Hardest Working Man in DTV. As the back of the screener says, “Dolph Lundgren has appeared in over 14 films since 2000!” Before THE EXPENDABLES he still has 2 DTVs coming out, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: A NEW BEGINNING and another one he directed called ICARUS. That one looks pretty cool and has Bo Svenson in it.

Of Dolph’s recent releases I’d say COMMAND PERFORMANCE is not as good as DIRECT CONTACT, MISSIONARY MAN or DIAMOND DOGS, but much more watchable than RETROGRADE (which I never reviewed because I turned it off after a while).

I hope some of you will enjoy it more than I did, but you’ll have to wait until November 3rd. Until then I recommend checking out Jérémie Damoiseau’s ultimate Dolph coverage at Dolph: The Ultimate Guide .

I’ll be back soon with a couple more reviews including one that I believe might be (you better sit down for this) the best DTV movie of the year.

thanks fellas,
sorry Oleg,

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2009 at 11:33 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

91 Responses to “Command Performance”

  1. Dang, I was really hoping this would embrace the absurdity of the concept. Have you seen the winner of that fake trailer competition for GRINDHOUSE? MAIDEN OF DEATH? I was hoping it’d be more like that. People getting smacked in the head with electric guitars, heads being smacked into drum kits, people being stabbed with drumsticks, microphones being used like chain whips, people being choked with guitar strings, bad guys being taken out with a rock star powerslide. So much wasted potential. Aw well. Were there at least lots of drummer jokes?

  2. caruso_stalker217

    August 7th, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Damn, an Oleg shout-out. Never thought I’d see the day.

  3. Although being totally biased I don’t think this review is being totally fair, plus it implies DIAMOND DOGS (or even DIRECT CONTACT) to be good or decent which I doubt is the general take on it so you can’t take this review too seriously… I thought CP could be just right up Vern’s alley though, is his Seagalogy getting to him and in his way of appreciating CP?

    I’ve only seen a rough cut of COMMAND before editing was locked and any sound, special effects or music were done so I can’t say much yet except Vern is definitely being harsh here but granted this movie is not, and was never meant to have good reviews or be a masterpiece. COMMAND will still be DTV of the year with NINJA, no doubt, but sure it’s not like Dolph had $40million and 3 months to make a real blockbuster so it ain’t perfect but come on, he gets the job done and with what he had to work with!

    And Dolph does use his drumsticks, doesn’t he?!

  4. Actually Direct Contact is pretty decent. I mean it’s no great shakes but it’s serviceable and had some good action. Diamond Dogs and Retrograde were pretty lame. As for Command Performance and Vern. I don’t think in anyway Vern is being unfair. See, Vern is certified action film fan. If you look over his reviews, he gave fairly positive to glowing reviews to The Punisher, Dark Angel, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Universal Soldier, Army Of One, Men Of War, Blackjack, Bridge Of Dragons, Missionary Man,Diamond Dogs and Direct Contact. And he was so-so on The Defender. Red Scorpion and the unreviewed Retrograde and now this are films he didn’t care for. Indeed, his perspective to me comes from someone who likes a particular star but also judges to whether the film is well you know any good. I myself am an action fan, and I like Dolph (Like Van Damme, Seagal, Dudikoff so on…) the point is, as much as I like a lot of his work, but one has to tell it how they see it. I mean I can’t stand Pentathlon, The Minion, Agent Red, Sweepers, Masters Of The Universe and Retrograde. They’re very bad movies. Yet I like a lot of Lundgren’s work. The point is, we all differ in taste. I think Vern might’ve gone in hoping for something far goofier and instead was disappointed by how the premise didn’t take advantage at such a campy premise. It’s a legit criticism. I myself, keep an open mind with everything. There’s bound to be some disappointment, even among fans of Dolph. Personally I just wish Vern, would break his I hate Dolph playing a Russian, and rent The Russian Specialist. Which to me is a classic in Lundgren’s cannon. Also, Vern if you think Retrograde sucked (and boy howdy did it ever) Wait until you see Agent Red.

  5. Yeah, that “It’s not like he had $40 million to spend” bullshit ain’t gonna fly around here. Vern knows perfectly well what he can and can’t expect out of DTV. He’s not looking for the massivest explosions ever, he’s looking for those quirky little touches that the studios won’t let you get away with in a movie with Burger King promotional tie-ins. If he says it’s a disappointment, I believe him. I’m still seeing it, though.

    Also: another underrated Dolph movie is Direct Action, not to be confused with Direct Contact. Maybe they’re part of an incomplete trilogy and the next will be Direct Intent or Direct Force or something.

  6. Needs a scene where the terrorists go all SAW on Oleg and make him play a version of Guitar Hero rigged with a bomb that will explode if he misses one note. That would be good.

  7. By the way, what’s with this Oleg shit? I feel like the new kid who doesn’t know all the inside jokes yet.

  8. Hi Vern

    With the “probably best DTV-movie of the year” do you mean “The Keeper” with Seagal. I’m looking forward to this.

  9. Dammit, I hoped for this to be a little DTV-crazy-ass-masterpiece.

    Then again, Vern, you can’t be serious to call DIRECT CONTACT a good DTV-flic. I mean really, that one was such an utter piece of shit, I could hardly watch it without wanting to gorge my eyes out. It was the kind of movie where nobody involved gave a shit, it was just some really awful footage cobbled together by a bored no-talent dickhead, simply so Nu Image had something to shoot in their beloved Bulgaria.

  10. Jareth Cutestory

    August 7th, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Mr. Majestyk: “Oleg” came about in a reveiw of a Dolph film that Vern wrote
    a while ago in which he noted a distinct lack of imagination when it comes to
    naming characters of Scandinavian origin. I think it was the name “Svend” that
    Vern used as an example of the path-of-least-resistance metality that
    affects so much action film-making.
    Vern proposed that the writers try to incorporate less familiar
    names, like “Oleg”, into the script. “Oleg” then became a sort of shorthand for
    the ongoing quest for DTV excellence and self-improvement,
    particularly in Lundren vehicles.

    The original review is somewhere on ain’t it cool. The talkbackers really
    embraced the “Oleg” concept.

  11. Best dtv of the year Vern? Are you saying you’ve seen The Keeper already?

  12. Oleg needs to incinerate a guy by luring him on stage and then turning all the stage lights on.

    Oleg would be able to spot the terrorists in the crowd because they would wear the t-shirt of the band they were there to see.

    Oleg could choke a guy with guitar strings while dismantling a bomb with the pick.

  13. I remember the review with Oleg in it, but I had no idea it had been so embraced by the AICN crowd, since I try not to venture into the hive of scum and villainy known as the talkbacks. It just makes me depressed about the state of discourse in our society.

    But now that I’m one of the cool kids again, I can say with some degree of confidence that Oleg would interrogate a guy by pinning his neck to the wall with the crotch of a Flying V.

  14. I think Oleg was the actual name of an actor who appeared in (I believe) a DTV movie called ROCKAWAY but his name in the movie was Ivan or something. Later it turned out that Oleg was a famous fighter who Lundgren had recently had a boxing match against in real life. I don’t really get the Oleg thing actually but I wrote that review intending it to be on Ain’t It Cool so I felt they deserved a hello.

    JOX: Hey, I hope you’re right, I hope other Lundgren fans like it more than I did. But I don’t think I was being unfair since I am a huge fan of Dolph and was hoping/expecting to write a rave review of that thing. I agree that DIRECT CONTACT and DIAMOND DOGS aren’t particularly good, but I thought were both were more enjoyable than COMMAND PERFORMANCE. I’m happy for you if you disagree.

    And I don’t remember him using his drumsticks as a weapon but if you tell me it’s in there I’ll take your word for it.

    WOLFGANG – that Guitar Hero idea is classic, I love it.

    I guess I’ll keep you guessing about the “possible best DTV movie of the year” until I post the review shortly. It’s not NINJA or a Seagal movie, but does star an actor I have written about fairly extensively. If NINJA or THE KEEPER are as good as this one it will be a great year for DTV.

  15. Jareth Cutestory

    August 7th, 2009 at 9:23 am

    I found the exact quote from Vern’s aicn review of “Rockaway”:

    “I think the best scene in the movie is when Trane meets with Ivan
    (UFC fighter Oleg Taktarov), the Russian enforcer.
    (Of course his name is Ivan. The boss is named Sergei.
    I don’t think they have a Yuri in this one.
    I don’t understand why there’s only 3 or 4 names for all Russian characters in
    American movies. What’s wrong with Oleg? Why can’t this guy be Oleg?)”

    In the talkbacks following the review, “Oleg” begins to emerge as a symbol
    of potential awesomeness in action movies, potential that, for the most part,
    is seldom realized, and therefore continues to exist as an unrealized ideal in the
    minds of his followers.

    In the months following the original review, “Oleg” assumed mythic
    proportions among the talkbackers, and Vern has been annointed as a
    Prophet of Aspirational Asskicking. Or something to that effect. Like Mr. M., I’m
    not inclined to spend too much time in the talkbacks looking for common sense.

  16. I’m guessing the “best DTV of the year” is VanDamme’s “The Eagle Path”. From the clues given so far the most likely other possibility would be Wesley Snipes’ “Gallowalker, but it seems unlikely to me that there’s even a screener of that out. Mind you, neither have a release date yet so I could be wrong.

  17. Though there is a slight possibility it could be one of Michael Jai White’s forthcoming vehicles.

  18. I guess I should try to shed as much light on this OLEG thing as I can since I am very much involved. A bit more than a year ago Vern reviewed a bunch of DTV movies on AICN and in the talkback a group of seven of us made friends and were united by a deep respect for the principles of Dolph Lundgren. The Oleg character was spawned as a personification of the essence of Lundgren and has been a character in many of our hobbywriting projects including stories, movie treatments, comic books, and a television series. We moved out of talkbacks and into The Zone on AICN where we can escape the stifling negativity of the talkbacks and discuss movies as well as share our various artwork.

    The name Oleg is synonymous with uncompromising machismo in exploding circumstances.

  19. OLEG prevails!
    Thanks for the shout out Vern.

  20. OLEG.

    He lived like he died.

    On fire.

  21. Best DTV movie of the year: Michael “not Wesley but better than Sticky Fingaz” Jai White continues his blaxploitation streak in the Stallone knock-off “Black Stallion”.

    Oleg Taktarov – Russian destruction machine. You can’t knock him out, so you bleed him out…

  22. Pacman : I was also thinking about GallowWalker , but I think the movie still needs some re-shoots, from what I read online. Sure , Vern is a fan of Snipes,like a lot of us , and watching the trailer the film looks really good for a DTV movie. There’s even a fight in the trailer that looks like the fight between Max and the Blaster from Mad Max 3! God knows I want to see a supernatural western like Valley of Gwangi , the last good ones I’ve seen are The Burrowers and , well , Tremors 4 ( with B-Movie legend Billy Drago !!). Plus on IMDB the release date is for 2009 !!

  23. Wait a minute here …….Undisputed 3 ?

  24. I wonder if it’s Van Damme…I admit that The Eagle Path looks pretty fun. Or maybe it’s Universal Soldier 3. (Probably not that one, it’s still in post-production) I don’t know…the guys he’s talked a lot about are Dolph, JCVD, Michael Jai White, Seagal (of course) and he’s done some work on Chuck Norris, Michael Dudikoff, Jeff Speakman and Brian Bosworth. I don’t know, with those guys out…My guess lies with JCVD (the man and not the admittedly good movie) or Michael Jai White. I’ll guess The Eagle Path. However this can be because i’m probably a big Van Damme fan.

  25. My guess on “Best DTV Movie of the Year” is Blood and Bone. You’ve got the director of Love and a Bullet, the fight choreographer from Undisputed 2, and Michael Jai White making a martial arts picture together. The potential for greatness is stunning. Also, it’s supposed to be coming out next month.

  26. Jareth Cutestory

    August 7th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Wolfgang – so is this “uncompromising machismo in exploding circumstances”
    something we can witness in specific films, or is it more of an ideal that action
    film heroes should strive for? Or both?

    If so, which recent films/roles best exemplify the Principle of Oleg?

  27. Sorry this didnt work for ya Vern, because the concept is just sounds like the most fun DIE HARD shoe-horned environment since maybe SUDDEN DEATH.

  28. For fun Die Hard ripoff concepts, I recommend No Contest. It stars Shannon Tweed as a down-on-her-luck martial arts champ-turned-B-movie star who’s hosting a beauty pageant that gets taken over by terrorists led by Andrew Dice Clay and Rowdy Roddy Piper. If that’s not enough, Robert Davi gets upgraded from the Agent Johnson role to the Sergeant Al role.

    Let’s recap:

    1. Playboy Playmate Tweed doing kung-fu.
    3. Hot chicks in evening gowns wearing explosive bracelets.
    4. The Diceman in glasses because he’s playing a Bogosianesque insane supergenius.
    5. Rowdy Roddy playing a guy named “Ice.”
    6. Pineapple Face in a rare heroic role.


  29. Mr M – That sounds like the greatest good bad movie ever.

    For Clay, does it compare to his BRAINSMASHER thespian work?

  30. Sadly, I have not seen Brainsmasher.

    I’ll be in the corner now.

  31. You gotta love the title:

    BRAINSMASHER: A Love Story

    Its bad, in typical Albert Pyun fashion, but hey what did I expect from a movie where its a nightclub bouncer fighting ninjas?

  32. How many brains would you say he smashes? Ballpark it for me. When I picture a movie about a guy who smashes so many brains that it becomes his name, I’m gonna expect to see a shitload of smashed brains. If that’s not the case, I need to adjust my expectations accordingly.

  33. “How many brains would you say he smashes? ”

    Not enough. :(

  34. Man I forgot about NO CONTEST yeah that is a classic

    as one of the Olegers, I can say that so far we haven’t witnessed full on Olegness but a close example would be RAMBO…at least in my mind

    We also have high expectations for THE EXPENDABLES and MACHETE

    Danny Trejo, Eric Roberts, Wesley Snipes, and Steven Segal all play into our…belief system as well

  35. Hey Vern, you read both MACHETE and EXPENDABLES scripts.

    Which one was better?

  36. Pyun did some good work in Sword and The Sorcerer, Kickboxer 2 and Kickboxer 4.

  37. I don’t know , Albert Pyun for me is a mixed bag . I’m always disappointed after watching his movies , there’s some good stuff in there , but not always good enough. I mean , the guy is obsessed with cyborgs , directing all four Nemesis movies and JCVD’s Cyborg , but none of these movies is even close to the cyborg-greatness of , say , Class of 1999. But I remember enjoying Knights , and I DO want to see Left for Dead .

  38. RRA – I guess MACHETE was more memorable, although I prefer the more serious tone of EXPENDABLES (there were a couple parts in MACHETE where I thought it got too jokey, although admittedly funny). Both I think have been heavily rewritten since I read them.

  39. Nemesis with Oliver Gruner is fucking hilarious(in a good way).
    It was the first time that I saw a dude do a backflip of a cliff and shooting the bad guy with a huge gun while backfliping…way to go Albert.
    And Underworld 1 stole one scene right out of Nemesis 1.
    So Albert inspired the future director of a Die Hard movie…again, way to go Albert.

  40. Does it look like he’s playing the drums, or is it all shot in close-up like with the kid from The Partridge Family?

  41. I’ve seen behind-the-scenes footage. Dolph can drum.

  42. Vern- you’re excited about Ninja, but what’s your take on Ninja Assassin?
    I’m really looking forward to it. The fact they don’t seem to be pandering to the western audience with a white lead (or white Ninja at all it seems) gives me hope it’s gonna be pretty straight up action-martial arts movie, and there seems to be some “Ninja Magic” (or at least some mysterious Ninja trickery) thrown in from where that guy’s moving at a blur.

  43. Jareth Cutestory

    I will back up my Oleg brother and say Rambo 4 was an Oleg approved experience. There have been many films that have lived up to Oleg’s approval. That Men Of War movie Vern reviewed a week or so ago is a great example.

    But obviously The Expendibles has the best shot at a Maximum Oleg Experience on the level of Predator.

  44. My only problem with the trailer for Ninja Assassin is all the dodgy and uneeded bits of CGI. I watched that behind the scenes video of Rain going through the fight choreography and he and the choreography looked brilliant. So why all the uneeded CG bullshit? I’d rather watch ninjas really spinning those metal chains not having some CG flail flying towards the screen for fuck all reason.

  45. Nemesis with Oliver Gruner:
    in a world where he knows the answer, but he doesn’t know the question, only alex rain knows the path to redemption.
    tom jane is in that, only he calls himself tom janes. smart man.

  46. catch42- I don’t doubt that Rain’ll get a lot of actual fighting to do in the film himself, and I am a bit concerned with a bit too much CGI in it, but a lot of the stuff in the trailer like that seems reasonable to be done with CGI for real. It’s either a case of being really complicated (loads of chains/throwing stars flying about at once, and multiple guys dodging), difficult to achieve with physical props (smashing through the floor with the chain, that car getting smashed up) or something that would be dangerous to do for real (those chain scythes, metal or plastic could take someone’s eye out, so I don’t really blame them for not doing it). I’m just more concerned with unnecessary “stylistic” shots like when they scythe swings by the camera in closeup. It’s not needed and looks phoney.

  47. Grammaton Cleric Binks

    August 8th, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Ain’t it Cool is a lesser site for not posting this. Thanks for the shout out Vern.

  48. AICN has ellis’d for years.

    Aren’t CHUD also openly planning to charge folks to use their forums? They’re like the Rupert Murdoch of the Geek Internet.

  49. I always thought the boards at aicn were weird, since the writers there are such huge movie geeks and just incredibly optimistic about everything (sometimes, um, more than might even be justified). Never understood why the guys who are reading them are so angry, hostile, and negative. Guess the internet is just weird like that.

  50. Sublety – I would think its because out of all those cartoons who worked there, only two people I’ve ever read were worth…no required must-read….reading OUTSIDE if you shared with his opinion or not. Anytime they put out new pieces, my day would be made.

    I’m talking Vern and Foywonder. And both have their own websites. Coincidence?

    I mean seriously, how the fuck can AICN not post a Vern review? That’s like turning down a free joint or free gold or free pussy.

  51. But without AICN I never would have heard of VERN! So big ups to them for making my life a little richer.
    And The ZONE(AICN board) is a nice place to hang out.
    No hostile assholes like in the TB’s and some very good people to hang out with.

  52. (1) True dat, AICN did good there.

    (2) until AICN charges folks for the use of that “Zone.”

  53. RRA- yeah, maybe, but I always appreciated their orgasmic enthusiasm. Obviously, Vern is my main man now, but pre-Vern I usually enjoyed reading their stuff, and could never figure out why virtually everything said there was answered with such a forceful barrage of negativity. Remember, when Vern first started posting there the talkbackers were total asshats about it, although the staff always seemed to get him.

  54. Mr S – If I just wanted orgasmic enthusiasm, I would have joined the College Republicans. There has to be something…well, something why someone is worth reading or you go check up on opinion when a new film comes out.

    And to be fair, I don’t have it. Not many do. Vern does.

    In my AICN bashing, maybe it was inevitable. I think all organizations tend to rot away in their supposed original goals. Consider Rolling Stone, started out as a fringe left news/music magazine and it written by much of the same people that was from the same audience. Home of Hunter S. Thompson of course.

    That ideal has been dead for years. Music-wise methinks, its its an elitist* rag that usually not worth my time. Peter Travers’ reviews are still quite terrific and hes one of the great film critics out there. Pimped the misunderstood BAD LIEUTENANT back in the day.

    They also did a good piece on John McCain last year. The problem was, it obviously was only cooked up and approved after he was assured the GOP nomination. Before that, he was considered untouchable by many media outlets because he was that “moderate” Maverick Senator. Timing is a bitch.

  55. I’m not sure what AICN was like back in the day because I think I only started reading it like 3 years ago when I began using the internet. What I gather they are trying to do is have a website that specializes in genre film news and prides itself on informality.

    I think that main guy Harry sets the tone of the web site. There have been many thoughtful writers on AICN, but the talkbackers mostly follow Harry’s example. If you read Harry’s reviews they’re mostly vulgar hyberbole that tells you nothing about the film he’s reviewing. It’s always stuff like “this film is like a shitbullet fired up your dickhole” or “this film is like if shit grew a rectum and shit out shit that was too shitty for shit”. I don’t think Harry is a bad guy, and from what I gather he put that whole web site together and I think he did a good job, but I don’t think he’s a good writer. But I really like his DVD column. He always finds some interesting stuff that’s coming out that I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of and avoids the shit analogies.

    I actually read most of Massawyrm’s reviews. I find he’s as funny as he tries to be (which is not overly) and also gives you a good idea of the movie without spoilerizing it. And I think he keeps getting better/more mature. He used to have this weird thing where the headline was always some rape joke, but then the actual review was fairly well written, but he’s moved on from that.

  56. “mostly vulgar hyberbole that tells you nothing about the film he’s reviewing. ”

    You know I never noticed that, but you’re absolutely right.

    I think my other, and last, complaint at AICN is how generally dismissive they can be, or deconstructive. I prefer a more constructive tone. I mean Seagal has done alot of lame/shitty movies, and even Vern can’t stomach at least one or two. But he always tries to find something good about everyone.

    If he can.

  57. RRA,

    I’m not sure if you should write off Rolling Stone entirely quite yet. Matt Taibbi is probably the closest thing we have to an HST right now. His old buddies at the Exile (Mark Ames and John Dolan) are pretty good too.

  58. Casey, in that case I’ll try to give them a shot. Thanks.

  59. You know, Rolling Stone mysteriously started showing up at my house a while back. I’m not interested in most of the music they cover, and to be honest I don’t like Peter Travers very much, but I got so addicted to the political coverage that I actually renewed the subscription. They also tend to have pretty interesting articles, true crime stories and stuff like that.

    And in defense of Ain’t It Cool, I don’t think they rejected my review or anything, I just email them my reviews and I think it sometimes gets lost in their email. And part of the problem is I used to send them to Moriarty, who isn’t there anymore. I’m sure if I had resent it they would’ve posted it, but here is fine.

    As for the negativity of the talkbackers vs. the often positive Harry, I never got that either. I think the talkbackers have gotten even more hateful lately and I’m not sure why. Possibly because many of the more thoughtful people have finally given up and left. But somebody suggested to me that there’s a generation of people now who have grown up with the internet and for them that’s just how you’re supposed to communicate. I hope that’s not true.

    All talkbackers look like super geniuses next to the commenters on IMDb and Youtube though. I like to think those are all little kids, it’s too sad to imagine them as adults.

  60. Well, at least the AICN message board (“The Zone”) is still a lot of fun, with an unbelievable low asshole ratio.

  61. “there’s a generation of people now who have grown up with the internet”

    That’s a thought worth musing. Of course we old timers remember when we wanted to communicate, we had to go by telephone or sidewalk.

  62. Ha I was just about to say the same thing Vern – AICN might be filled with angry hate filled commenters, but it’s not as bad as the stuff that finds its way onto IMDB.

    I still have a soft spot for AICN, and I hate doing the “it’s not what it used to be” thing as I think that’s usually nostalgia. But with the loss of Moriarty they’ve lost someone who posted most of the best reviews and best articles. Also the quality of film news and it’s speed has gone down. Slashfilm is the best place for up to the minute film news now.

    I also find it confusing about Harry, he has a wide range of tastes and some excellent taste for old films, and when he mentions them he talks about them with passion – but without hyperbole or sexual analogies and fairly eloquently. Yet whenever he reviews a new film it’s all “holy shit I cried tears when I saw Nimoy it was like having an occular orgasm whilst licking pussy etc etc”.

    His better reviews have weirdly enough been for films he’s ambivilent towards. His TF1 review felt a lot calmer and considered than when he really hates or really likes a film.

    I think what it is is Harry and some of the talkbackers are the two types of hardcore geek you get. Either they go full on “I hate everything especially if they change it from the source material zomg!” of the talkbackers. Or full on “ZOMG fuckity wow wow i can’t believe my eyes I saw Spiderman in a film i never thought i’d see the day it’s all my childhood dreams come true!” of Harry. I hope the attitude of a lot of talkbackers hasn’t disillusioned him, as I’d hate to see the big guy lose that excitement because of a constant barrage of negativity.

  63. I remember clicking on some music video, I don’t even remember which one it was, and listening to it, and out of curiousity I scrolled down to read the comments and it was just this massive discussion of racist, sexist bile with people just going off on tangents about black people, women, and all other the minority groups under the sun. Sure there were plenty people who were flipping out but there were also a bunch of people who were cheering the fucker on and feeding into his or her’s screed. Just fucked up.

    Vern I think your right about how the thoughtful people go fed up and left. I think that goes for he writers as well, Moriarty’s articles tended to produce decent discussions and he had no problem banning someone from the server if they fucked up, so that helped. I think guys like Beaks and Quint can get a good thread going, but whenever Harry or Massawyrm post something they just make it WAAAAY to easy for people to spill their bile about whatever. Still, it’s pretty easy to pick out the people who have honest negative reactions and say so, and the fuckheads that spread their contempt of everything except their own cleverness.

    My advice if you get bogged down in all the shit that clogs up the internet, is to go read Roger Ebert’s blogs and comments section. You will not find a more civil, intelligent discussion anywhere, even when things like religion and sexuality come up, people have intelligent, pointed responses, not just random vitrol spewed all over the place at everybody and everything. It’s like this place except the word ‘fuckheads’ doesn’t make as many appearances.

  64. Harry’s been putting up with the same shit for ten years, I don’t see anybody getting him down this late in the game. Besides, in the last couple of years Harry’s gotten married, and put himself on the road to a healthier life style with a major surgery and diet and exercise regime. I kind of doubt some random guy calling him “a rearded big-titted fuck” a going to make him stop being the passionate guy he’s always been.

  65. I’ve always appreciated Harry’s enthusiasm. If there’s a way to like a movie, he’s going to find it nine times out of ten. With certain notable exceptions, I try to approach film the same way: even when it sucks, it’s still the best thing going. My only problem is that he’s just an atrocious writer. Truly awful. I’m an editor by trade, but I’m not normally a stickler for the rules. Besides, there’s a difference between breaking the rules to create an informal tone (a la Vern, though not so much anymore, I’ve noticed) and making mincemeat of the English language out of laziness or ignorance. Harry’s style just irks the hell out of me. He’ll use the same adjective five times in the same review, he never finishes a sentence, and his use of ellipses borders on avant garde. His sloppy, nearly incoherent style makes it hard for me to take his points seriously.

  66. Rolling Stone is a weird magazine these days because its easily 3/4 corporate shill, with 1/4 still being some of the best journalism available in a popular magazine like that. I don’t give the magazine too much credit for the greatness of their political and news stories, though, because I honestly think the head honchos just don’t consider it much of a threat to profitablity and have so have therefore merely allowed a tradition of greatness to continue (instead of cultivating it).

    Rolling Stone is currently facing a huge crisis in that the music business is changing. Their magazine’s financial success was largely based around their access to huge, legendary artists like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, etc. Nowadays, with the music studios in decline, that kind of big NAME artist is something of a dinosaur, and there are no new ones rising to take their place as small-name small-label bands take over the land and reshape the landscape into a more niche-oriented one. Hence, Rolling Stone for the last few years has been desperately trying to figure out how to deal with this situation, either by lavishly, orgasmically praising the older stars and screaming that they’re still relevant, or by lavishly, orgasmically praising new acts which ape the style of older acts, or, by latching on to the current generation of megastars and trying to convince us that they’re going to be the new classics. It’s all a little shrill and desperate, and I find it kind of hilarious to read a magazine which sports a Jonas Brothers cover and also an in-depth look at the Mexican Drug Cartels. But then again, like Vern, Rolling Stone appeared at my house inexplicably for awhile, and I too found enough of worth in there to justify adopting it.

    Oh yeah, and RRA — I’m no fan of John McCain, but if the article you’re referring to was “Make-Believe Maverick” I felt that was such a transparent ax job I kind of thought they ought to be ashamed to publish it, especially right before the election. I mean, the guy’s been a jerk throughout a lot of his life and inconsistent on tons of key issues. But implying that his refusal to accept early release in prison was some kind of selfish act? Mentioning that he “may” have “only” been tortured for two years, not all five? That was a total Fox News move. There’s plenty of great reasons not to vote for him, but I always hate it when liberal media goes for the mudslinging. Partisan reporting always makes me uncomfortable, but Matt Taibbai usually at least has the good sense not to make it personal (and he’s a better writer).

    As for Harry and AICN, I guess I can’t really argue that Harry’s reviews are informative, but they always make me smile at his boundless enthusiasm and often get me jazzed. Capone and Quint and Massa are all pretty competent writers, although losing Moriarty was a major blow. And even though Harry often expresses himself with exclamation points and bodily fluids more than words, he also does have a really vast amount of movie knowledge that puts my own to shame, and when he feels like it he can write something which is quite interesting and informative.
    “I hope the attitude of a lot of talkbackers hasn’t disillusioned him, as I’d hate to see the big guy lose that excitement because of a constant barrage of negativity.”
    yeah, me too. I live in DC, where our foremost critic used to be pulitzer-prize winning writer Stephen Hunter. He was a artful, highly literate writer, but he was a hater, and I seldom enjoyed reading his stuff. With Harry, sometimes its barely understandable, but I usually am glad to have read it. I think it just makes me happy to read someone who is so unabashedly enthused all the time.

  67. That reminds me, does anyone here read Moriarty’s new home – Hitfix?

    My god it’s one of the most painfully “professionally” designed sites I’ve seen in a long time, that it’s actually kind of put me off going back. The front page is just a horribly busy mess of confusion, way too much stuff going on and most of it is uneeded.

    I used to check it out for Mori’s thread, although he seemed to start posting fewer and fewer reviewes and more news stuff, which is fair enough, but it was his reviews I was really there for. And I’m not fond of the sites desire to be “everything to everyone”. There’s a lot of sites that try and be film/TV/music news and reviews, and few that suceed at it. It spreads everything way too thin and loses a lot of in depth stuff. Hitfix has that problem in many ways. Although I respect Mori for really trying to make it work, he won’t just post news stories, he’ll post news stories and give informed opinions and discussion on them. Which is a lot better than other people bother with.

  68. catch42 – So its either total negativity or total positivity. Emo Cynic or Cheerleader. That’s not much of a choice, neither really worth a brainfart.

    Mr Majestyk – Is Easy Listening music better than heavy metal because its “really positive” and not so negative and mean? Not at you, just a general question.

    Brendan – I like Ebert’s blogs’ community too. I would also add our little talkbacks here. I mean even when me and Majestyk are debating the merits (or lack of) for PLANET TERROR, I don’t think we’ve called each other cocksucking mother fuckers yet. Though apparently I was wrong (maybe I was) when I compared TERROR to EPIC MOVIE. Harsh, but I had a point to make.

    You read Ebert’s latest rant on the supposed film mindless generation of kids? Maybe he has a point?

    Mr. Subtlety – Yes that article was a hatchet job. I mentioned it as much, if at the least because of the timing. If it was 2006, then maybe I would have taken it more seriously. Besides, it made no impact, at least not from my bleacher seat during the election. I loved though that crazy moment in the RS article which somehow tried to imply that McCain caused a major Aircraft Carrier accident…when he had nothing to do with it.

    Then I compare that hitpiece to FEAR & LOATHING: CAMPAIGN TRAIL ’72. People remember Thompson for his amusing drug anecdotes and liking to call Nixon a Nazi, but the dude had a real intellectual grasp of politics. He had actually something worth saying, and probably got that one particular election year (or that epoch’s politics in general), nailed it on the fucking head.

  69. catch42 – I think the problem with Hitfix (which I’ve never visited) from your description is that alot of these movie bloggers really desperately want to be taken seriously as supposed legitimate “journalists” and as such they think they must go that sterile, “inclusive” method.

    Which you ask me, is silly. For one thing, look at “film journalism” today, or the ones that alot of these bloggers want to be. Does Moriarty really want to be the next Ben Lyons? Fuck that, he’s better than that. Be yourselves, don’t piss away that element which made one worth reading in the first place.

    Sometimes its actually good to be the fringe.

  70. You guys knock the IMDB comments but how else is one supposed to find out “Does Charlize Theron get naked in this?” or “Does Jennifer Love Hewitt get naked in this?” or, for the less lowbrow, more artistically minded film fans, “Does Isabelle Huppert get naked in this?” Until such time as there is some kind of ridiculously comprehensive online database cataloging nudity in film the IMDB comments will serve a valuable purpose.

  71. RRA

    I’m not suggesting that those are the only two options people have, simply that, I think over the past several years a lot of people in the world would rather have a quick polarised opinion and are happy to give extreme opinions of either “it’s shit” or “it’s awesome!”. As if a more reasoned opinion is too much effort. I think the “hardcore geek” that I was talking about in relation to Harry and some of the talkbackers exemplify this.

    I’m not sure whether it’s just that I’m not a kid anymore and so have picked up on something that has always been that way for some people, or whether it really is something to do with the effect of the internet and other media and the abililty to get an answer in seconds that has lead to people wanting a “yes/no” answer rather than something in the middle.

  72. the aicn talkbacks are essentially a big virtual barfight, quite addictive.
    but yes, the zone is a great place, people there are actually quite thoughtful.

  73. and dolph looks like he has a winner with icarus.

    by the by, did you know a photo of Oleg aka dolph was able to scare two grown men out of robbing his wife?

  74. Yeah, I don’t like the Hitfix approach either. I don’t even like the name. I just go straight to Moriarty’s blog so I don’t have to see what’s crammed onto the front page.

  75. Drew is still a good writer so I check hitfix daily. Not much else on there is worth reading though. A few days ago Drew (moriarty) posted a pretty great interview with Terry Gilliam.

  76. Mutt Lange. Probably.

    August 9th, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    “He could lose an arm like the guy from Def Leppard. (okay, that one needs work.)”

    Dolph could cut a baddie’s arm off, and then say, “That’s for Rick Allen!”

    You’re welcome.

  77. RRA, as a guy who’s been know to listen to both heavy metal and easy listening, I can tell you that both depend on the skill and sincerity with which they’re played. I don’t really read film criticism because I’m dying to hear someone else’s opinion. I watch a lot of movies and I can make up my own mind. I read film criticism for the same reason that I watch films: to be entertained. I respect Vern’s opinion and all, but I became a fan because his reviews are fun to read. A good film review is an art form unto itself. It should be entertaining whether you have any intention of seeing the movie or not. So while Harry is a good barometer of whether or not a movie is any fun, his writing is like nails on a chalkboard. I’d prefer it if he just had two little check boxes that said “Did it blow my dick off with its kickawesomeness?” and “Did it suck goat nuts through a twisty straw?” It would save a lot of time and I wouldn’t have to read any more play-by-plays of what he had for breakfast and how long it took him to get to the theater.

    That said, I have no time for cynical film critics. They have the best job in the world: They review movies for money. Yet so many of them are such joyless fucks who act like bad movies are a personal affront. The problem is that they’re forced to see movies they don’t want to see. I’m not interested in the opinion of someone who saw a movie against their will and who thinks they’re above it. I’ll always take a fanboy who slobbers over everything over somebody who acts like watching movies is a chore.

  78. Jareth Cutestory

    August 9th, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Wolfgang – the “Maximum Oleg Experience” just sounds like such a beautiful thing. Unless you’re the dude who has to clean the theater afterwards.

  79. Wow, that Blackjack dairy-fight thing sounds like a lost scene from Pootie Tang or something. Please review Blackjack sometime; I could just watch it, but I’m sure I’d be more entertained by your description of it.

  80. The best part was when the bad guy instantly knew what Dolph’s phobia was. White, of course! It’s like a lamer version of the Stendhal Syndrome (the syndrome, not the movie).

    We probably have a better chance of getting the Maximum Oleg Experience from short videos instead of DTV movies. 90 minutes is just too much time to fill.

  81. MATT- Vern already did a review of BlackJack! Look here:

  82. Thanks, travis-dane. I actually searched the site for that review, but when it didn’t turn up at the top of the search results I figured it didn’t exist. Turns out it was at the bottom. Duh.

  83. Hello,

    have you seen The Keeper with Steven Seagal yet? I can’t wait to read your review!

  84. Just watched this last night. While I agree with Vern saying the villain wasn’t that great and the Concert hall geography wasn’t really gone into enough, I still found this to be an enjoyable DTV action movie. I went through all of Seagal’s DTV flicks leading up to Pistol Whipped, and I must say that Command Performance is better than all of those. So I’d definitely recommend checking this out if you’re interested. Oh and he DID use a drumstick as a weapon in his first kill. He shoved it through the roof of a terrorist’s mouth and it came out his eye socket. Hard shit right there.

  85. That was undoubtedly a very accurate as well as authentic representation of the manner in which actual human beings communicate in various instances on the comments sections of the weblogs of the internet. Many thanks for sharing this with all of us!

  86. I liked this.

    Especially the SCENE where Dolph takes out a bunch of Terrorists with the “POWER OF ROCK!”

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