"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Fantasy/Swords’ Category

Blade of the 47 Ronin

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

You know me – I’ve always been fascinated with DTV sequels. One of their endearing qualities is that their modest budgets allow for a different type of crass commercialism than regular Hollywood – they try to cash in on familiar (or even unfamiliar) titles that would never fly on the big screen. That gave us the miracle of the UNDISPUTED sequels, but mostly just stuff where it was funny that it existed – loosely connected followups or branded rehashes of CRUEL INTENTIONS, WILD THINGS, ROAD HOUSE and HOLLOW MAN, for example, many of which I reviewed for The Ain’t It Cool News at the time.

Thanks to Universal’s direct-to-video division, 1440 Entertainment, that tradition is still going strong, and arguably making a comeback. Back in the aughts they brought us SCORPION KING and DEATH RACE sequels, they revived Chucky in the great CURSE OF CHUCKY, they started making JARHEAD sequels for some reason, and brought to life such unlikely part 2s as THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2, KINDERGARTEN COP 2 and HARD TARGET 2. In 2018 they even made a DTV sequel to UNBROKEN, that war drama directed by Angelie Jolie, and in 2019 they did BACKDRAFT 2, INSIDE MAN: MOST WANTED, DOOM: ANNIHILATION and UNDERCOVER BROTHER 2. That last one I tried to watch because Michael Jai White is in it, but I gave up when his character went into a coma near the beginning. Still, I appreciate its existence because it keeps me on my toes. It reminds me that any movie, no matter how old, no matter how forgotten, no matter how how-the-fuck-would-you-make-a-sequel-to-that, could suddenly have a DTV sequel. And it would already be filmed and have cover art by the time I found out they were doing it. You gotta be aware at all times. (read the rest of this shit…)

Avatar: The Way of Water

Friday, December 16th, 2022

If we hadn’t seen it coming for so many years, AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER would be a cinematic miracle. There has definitely not been a blockbuster movie with this level of mindblowing spectacle, visual beauty and action chops since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, and before that since the first AVATAR.

I’ve rewatched AVATAR several times since it came out, and it’s always as good, usually better than the last time. Watching it again this week was no exception, and it really struck me that holy shit, these “game changer” visual effects from 2009 have influenced everybody, but not one movie has matched them. (Probly closest would be Peter Jackson’s largely forgotten HOBBIT trilogy.) I don’t want to get into an attack on modern blockbusters, many of which I enjoy, but it’s a simple statement of fact that the similarly-greenscreen-and-performance-capture based visuals in the very expensive Marvel movies that are trailered before THE WAY OF WATER and coming out next year look crude and primitive next to what was achieved thirteen years ago in AVATAR. And now along comes the sequel that blows AVATAR out of the water (by putting it into the water). (read the rest of this shit…)

Violent Night

Monday, December 12th, 2022

When I first heard that the trusted manufacturers of sturdy action cinema at 87North Productions were making a Santa Claus movie, I misunderstood. I pictured sort of a BAD SANTA meets DIE HARD – a serious action movie where it’s some deadbeat mall Santa who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and has to save the day, hopefully using a velvet sack’s worth of seasonally themed methods.

So when I realized that the Santa Claus played by David Harbour (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) in VIOLENT NIGHT is the actual Santa Claus, having his Christmas Eve deliveries interrupted by hostage takers and using “Christmas magic” to fight back, I was disappointed at first. Sounded corny, I thought.

I was wrong. I want to apologize to Santa. VIOLENT NIGHT is an admirable and solid take on a type of movie I treasure: the genre mash-up that knows it’s ludicrous to combine these particular types of movies but moves forward trying to deliver on both genres as well as the unique opportunities offered by their combination. So it has the trappings of a DIE HARD/UNDER SIEGE scenario (ruthless mastermind, elite mercenary force, carefully planned heist, hero mixed up in it by mistake, shocking deaths of innocent people, bad guys picked off one-by-one with stolen or improvised weapons) but also a heartwarming holiday tale (little girl wavering in her belief in Santa, family having trouble getting along, lessons about selflessness). It’s a comedy, but not a spoof. It tries to deliver faithfully on the mission of each genre. (read the rest of this shit…)

Monkeybone

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

Here’s a story I may or may not have told before. It takes place on February 28, 2001. A few minutes before 11 am there was a 6.8 earthquake epicentered in the southern Puget Sound. I was at work and I saw some shelves wobble and a few things fall down, but nothing serious. Downtown there was some damage – some vehicles got crushed by falling bricks, and I remember a couple clubs where bands used to play in Pioneer Square (OK Hotel and Fenix Underground) were wrecked enough they went out of business. I called my roommate at home to make sure none of my stuff broke, and he made fun of me.

After work I went to Pacific Place to see this movie MONKEYBONE. All the advertising looked cheesy, but I was hoping it might be interesting because it was from Henry Selick, the director of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Unfortunately the advertising was pretty accurate. I remember a couple times during the movie something playing on a bordering screen made a loud rumble that vibrated the whole row I was sitting in. I thought about the three escalators I took up through the mall to get to the theater, and the fourth escalator inside the theater that goes up to the floor where this one was showing, and I thought, “That’s an aftershock, and the building is gonna collapse, and I’m gonna die watching fucking MONKEYBONE.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING is the new George god damn Miller movie. So obviously you should see it. Here are some thoughts.

It makes sense, but also is really funny, that in the seven (!) years since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD this project was sometimes described as the small movie Miller wanted to make before diving into another Mad Max. The reason it makes sense is that it’s a simple love story centered around two characters, and much of it is one long conversation taking place inside a hotel room. The reason it’s funny is that one of the characters is telling stories set in different cultures and across centuries, with kings and queens and magic and imaginative creatures and many frames filled with too much meticulous detail to absorb in one viewing.



The best way I can describe it is that it’s a whole lot like Richard Linklater’s BEFORE movies, other than being in almost every way their opposite. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pinocchio (2022) (the Robert Zemeckis one)

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022

Well, I’m afraid it seems my fellow people who write about movies were not open to a giant corporation treating an 80+ year old animation masterpiece as i.p. to remake in a modern style, especially coming from a once A-list director they’ve turned on in his later, weirder years. So they engaged in a hyperbole measuring contest to find out who could hate Robert Zemeckis’s PINOCCHIO (2022) most outlandishly.

I get it, I guess, but I don’t relate. I can see refusing to give in to the existence of these remakes, I can see not wanting them to do it to PINOCCHIO specifically (it’s my personal favorite Disney movie), I can see not liking the finished product. But I can’t see thinking it’s terrible, let alone the worst thing you’ve seen lately/in years/ever. That’s just silly talk.

Yes, that is correct, I liked it for what it was. I’ll get into it in a minute. Just let me pre-amble a little bit more. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pinocchio (1940) (the Disney one)

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

In 1992, Walt Disney Animation was on an undeniable upswing. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT had been a smash in ’88, THE LITTLE MERMAID reignited their musical fairy tale formula in ’89, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was so respected in ’91 that it got a best picture nomination, and they had ALADDIN coming out in November. It would be funny if they felt the need to re-release classics in the summer to sabotage potential competitors, since ROCK-A-DOODLE and FERNGULLY were long gone by June 26th, 1992 anyway. But I think this was just a reliable money-making technique they had developed, to release an old one in the summer and a new one at the end of the year. Remember that in last year’s summer of ’91 retrospective I got to review the re-release of 101 DALMATIANS, which was really not needed to stave off ROVER DANGERFIELD, in my opinion.

The “WALT DISNEY’S CLASSIC” for 1992 was the studio’s second-ever animated feature, PINOCCHIO, returning in celebration of its 52nd anniversary, I guess. 1940 was the same year Daisy Duck made her debut in Mr. Duck Steps Out, Bugs Bunny made his in A Wild Hare, Woody Woodpecker made his in Knock Knock, Abbott and Costello made theirs in One Night in the Tropics, and Captain America and Bucky made theirs in comic books. It was the year of Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR, the year DUNKIRK happened, the year Winston Churchill became prime minister, the year the first McDonald’s opened, the year nylon stockings came out. Pretty long ago. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Princess

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022

THE PRINCESS is a new straight-to-Hulu movie with a simple concept. At its center is a Disney-type story of a medieval princess who wants to find her own destiny and not be forced to marry somebody for political reasons, but it’s done as a violent martial arts movie with a DIE HARD type premise. The Princess (Joey King, WHITE HOUSE DOWN) wakes up, having been drugged, in a Rapunzel type tower. She doesn’t have long hair, but she does know how to fight, so she battles to the death with the guys guarding her and sneaks around the castle picking off enemies McClane/Ryback style while plotting how to save her family, who she sees threatened at swordpoint in the plaza below.

In flashbacks we learn that due to a lack of male heirs The King (Ed Stoppard, JUDY) was gonna let this motherfucker Julius (Dominic Cooper, WARCRAFT) marry the young princess. She almost went through with it “for the good of the kingdom” or whatever, but backed out at the last minute, and now this hostage situation is how Julius plans to change her mind. Great guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Mummy (1999)

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

I have a well-earned reputation for being easy on movies. My friends will see some highly anticipated movie at a critic’s screening and be grumbling about how much they hated it, and then they’ll turn to me and say, “You’ll probly like it though.” My list of movies everybody says sucks that I enjoy is way longer than most people’s. My wife seems to think I’m some kind of bad movie Jesus being kind to the cinematic lepers. Especially with new releases people often accuse me of having low or no standards.

But there are a handful of popular blockbusters from the ‘90s that I hated at the time and have not turned around on. Most of them were big hits, then fell out of favor for years so I could breathe a sigh of relief, but then when the people who were kids when they came out grew nostalgic suddenly they were claimed as classics again. Of those, Stephen Sommers’ THE MUMMY is the one I get the most shit about any time I mention it. It comes up on Twitter every once in a while and I get a wave of people not believing their eyes. It doesn’t compute for them that someone doesn’t think that movie is one of the greats. More than once I’ve made the mistake of trying to go a little Rowdy Roddy Piper and lean into shit talking about it. People start to seem genuinely mad, so sometimes I back down and admit that I haven’t seen it since opening day and even though I think Sommers has continued to be a director of lunkheaded, formless movies with terrible visual design and seemingly unfinished digital effects despite enormous budgets, I did get a kick out of all that in VAN HELSING and G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA. So maybe I could soften to him.

Now I have a new problem, though. I finally did it. I went and watched the movie again, in the modern year of 2022. I tried to like it. I might be able to say there’s more of it I like than the other ‘90s blockbusters I hate. But I can’t say I turned around on it. So welcome, Mummy fans, to the latest annoying chapter of what I suppose I should start calling Vern Never Learns.

(read the rest of this shit…)

FernGully: The Last Rainforest (and the weird animation of summer ’92, part 1)

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

“This ‘weird creature’ is a human!”


FERNGULLY: THE LAST RAINFOREST is a well-meaning but not so great movie that was more successful than most of the non-Disney animated features in this very strange early ‘90s period. It didn’t make a ton of money, but it seemed to capture the imagination of some kids, and even got a DTV sequel in 1998. I would venture to guess it will be the most normal animated feature of summer ’92, but like most of the movies that were trying to compete with Disney without doing something drastically different from them, it feels kinda off and out of touch.

It reunites PUMP UP THE VOLUME couple Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis, this time with Mathis as the lead and Slater as the jealous secondary boy in her life. Mathis (before SUPER MARIO BROS.) plays a hummingbird-sized fairy named Crysta, and Slater is her shirtless male friend Pips. They fly around and can turn into blue and green (respectively) light and they live in a rainforest that’s supposed to be in Australia and has kangaroos and platypuses living in it. Also there are little goblin guys voiced by Cheech and Chong who fly around on large beetles, but I was a little distracted that they sit on top of their wings, so the beetles seem to just magically float. (read the rest of this shit…)