"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

TEXAS CHAINSAW Re-Massacred

Friday, August 12th, 2022

For those of you who missed it when it was a Patreon exclusive in June, here’s my Vern’s Appeals Process revisit to the 2004 remake of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. And if you’re interested in something else to read I just put up a new Patreon exclusive (for now) where I do the same for Stephen Sommers’ DEEP RISING.

INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY

When I positively reviewed this year’s sequel to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), coherently titled TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2022), I wasn’t quite prepared for how controversial that would be. Not nearly as controversial as when I loved the 2013 EVIL DEAD remake directed by the producers/writers of this new CHAINSAW (I stand by that), but my appreciation for it really threw some people for a loop. What I came to understand was that people remembered how fiercely protective of Tobe Hooper’s creation I was when I went scorched earth on Marcus Nispel’s remake in my 2003 Ain’t It Cool News review, which I proudly titled “Vern massacres THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.” At least a few people wished I had come at this unpopular sequel with that same kind of righteous fury.

My perspective: of course I didn’t. That was a long time ago, I’ve changed, circumstances have changed, the franchise has changed, this one is more my style than that one was, and even if none of those things were the case, I’d still have different expectations for the — what, fifth? — sequel than the first redo. But I had been thinking about the remake, because I’d been seeing people on Twitter – possibly a generation younger than me, who saw it at a different stage in their life and horror fandom – saying that it was a classic in its own right, and they couldn’t believe there were people who disliked it. I ferociously disagreed with that assessment at the time, but like I said, I’ve changed, things have changed. And It’s been so long. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thor: Love and Thunder

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

I’m very late to this one, but I have finally seen and written down words about Thor picture #4, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, directed by the suddenly controversial Taika Waititi. I see most of the Marvel movies right away, but various other happenings conspired to make me wait until three weeks later on this one, and honestly it was kind of nice to miss most of the conversation and see it after the storm had passed. I’m curious to see if this review will still generates anything close to a new release level of discussion, or if the interest in such topics dissipates with exposure to oxygen. I honestly don’t know the answer.

It was also good to see later because I was aware that the response had been much more widely negative than for most MCU movies, and especially than the in-my-experience-universally-popular THOR: RAGNAROK from the same director and general attitude. Before that I had taken for granted that it would be one of the better Marvel movies. I concede that it’s the opposite. But maybe the lowered expectations contributed to me still being entertained and not hating it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bullet Train

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

David Leitch’s BULLET TRAIN has plenty going for it. It has a strong ensemble of actors playing colorful characters, like a quippy modernized Murder on the Orient Express, except in this one everybody’s trying to murder each other and/or escape, it’s not so much of a whodunit. It’s a fun idea, it looks good, the action scenes are really well executed, with the actors really putting in the work, as we’ve come to expect from 87North (formerly 87Eleven) productions.

But to me the movie is a disappointment. For the last year or two I knew it was the big 87North movie with the crazy-good cast headed up by Brad Pitt fighting each other on a train, and I just took it for granted it was gonna be top of the line. On the surface it is – it’s colorful, has a sense of style, and mostly avoids that everything-is-green-screen feeling of so many modern movies. It even has a good soundtrack of (until Rare Earth on the end credits) non-obvious songs, from Shuggie Otis to Pussy Riot to a really strong use of “Holding Out For a Hero.” Strong because it’s not the original Bonnie Tyler version from FOOTLOOSE, but a Japanese cover made by Miki Asakura in 1984 as the theme for a show called School Wars (now remixed with some MORTAL KOMBAT-y dance music flourishes). (read the rest of this shit…)

Prey

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

This is one of those times in the world of so-called franchise filmmaking when things somehow go surprisingly right. The PREDATOR series didn’t seem necessarily alive – PREDATORS had come 20 years after PREDATOR 2 and didn’t really catch on, THE PREDATOR came 8 years after that, was fucked over by the studio, only to flop and be hated by many, loved by few, if any. (Personally I enjoyed it for what it was, but I can’t deny it’s a mess.)

That was four years ago now, and since then there was little reason to believe anybody was trying to make another one. Little did we know that a little action movie that director Dan Trachtenberg (10 CLOVERFIELD LANE) filmed in the wilderness of Alberta, Canada under the code name SKULLS was actually a new PREDATOR movie. Later they announced it would go straight to Hulu (or Disney+ in some countries), reportedly due to some bullshit politics about the streaming rights for Fox theatrical releases going to HBO Max first. The fuckers. I’m jealous of the lucky sonofabitches who got to see it at film festivals and special screenings, where apparently it went over well. But even going straight to streaming might be kind of a lucky break culturally. Now everybody is talking about how much they like it, including people who probly wouldn’t have gone out to see it immediately, and we don’t have to read those articles about the movie that’s been really well received but is underperforming. (Because what is “performing” in streaming? Nobody knows. Maybe there isn’t such a thing.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation

Monday, August 8th, 2022

“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

Friday, August 5th, 2022

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…)

Gas Food Lodging

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

“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…)

Nope

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

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…)

Universal Soldier (30th Anniversary defrost)

Friday, July 29th, 2022

“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

Thursday, July 28th, 2022

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…)