HELLBENT (2004) opens with your traditional lovers lane murder, well shot with colorful tinting that seems to come from a light shining through a bouquet of helium balloons they have in the car. The two lovers are beheaded by a dude (Nick Name, who also provides some of the soundtrack with his band Nick Name and the Normals) with a scythe and devil mask/helmet thing. We’ve seen a million scenes like this, but there are two things unusual about this version:
1. the lovers are both men
2. the killer is shirtless
Well, mostly #1. The 2014 remaquel of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN had a male-male couple killed in a lovers lane, but this one takes place entirely in the gay community in West Hollywood, so it’s fair to call it a gay slasher movie. The hero – Final Boy? – is Eddie (Dylan Fergus), who works a desk job at the police station. He’s not an officer – an injury prevented him from finishing the training. He gets recruited to pass out flyers warning people in West Hollywood that there’s a murderer loose, and uses Halloween as an excuse to wear his dad’s old uniform when he does it. (Strangely he won’t get into any kind of impersonating-an-officer trouble while wearing it. But I guess it reminds him of the shoes he’s trying to fill.)
At night he goes to a Halloween carnival with some friends, where you have your typical slasher movie debauchery (except gay) while the devil mask guy follows them around looking for a window to behead them. (read the rest of this shit…)
I can say I love Shaw Brothers movies, because most of the ones I’ve seen are so good. But there are so many more of them than I’ll ever see. Every once in a while I remember that and I check one out. This one is from 1970 and it stars one of the pioneering female martial arts movie stars, Cheng Pei-pei, perhaps best known for COME DRINK WITH ME.
It starts with an origin story. Some guys transporting silver taels get ambushed at an inn. The main guy is so badass that he keeps fighting even though he has daggers sticking out of his back and forehead. He dies, but his young daughter Fang Ying Qi is carried into the woods where she’s found and adopted by a kung fu master named Xuan Zhen (Ku Wen-Chung, a prolific actor and director since the ’40s). In her first appearance after the opening credits, the master has been enjoying his tea, when suddenly Cheng Pei-pei as grown up Ying Qi drops in from above the frame – I think she’s been hanging out in the trees.
As I mentioned in one of the comment threads somewhere, an enormous rent increase has forced me to move suddenly. I wish I was a monk who could just sweep up and glide over to the new place, but the truth is I have endless waves of books, CDs, movies, magazines, papers and random crap to sort and pack and move or figure out how to part with. It has consumed all my time and energy and soul. I hope to have something ready to post soon, but I’m not sure I will. I’m sorry to say these next two weeks or so I will have to be on semi-hiatus.
So thank you for your patience. I look forward to things being back to normal (or better).
P.S. I haven’t even seen MOTHER! yet, can you believe that shit
Here’s a new piece I wrote for Thrillist’s “America Week.” It had to be slightly sensationalized by calling it “the” 15 great American action movies “that everybody should see,” but please know this is not my idea of the 15 best American action movies ever made. Instead I tried to choose, from among my favorite American action movies, representations of different parts of America. It’s a portrait of America through the medium of action movie list.
In fact I specifically requested to not have a “THE” in the title so that I could include a certain movie set in Alaska without getting drawn and quartered in the comments for calling it one of the best. Oh well. I regret nothing!
EXPLANATORY INTRODUCTION PARAGRAPH: I have noticed that some of the movies coming out this summer are based on pre-existing characters or stories. In this off and on series we’ll look at earlier versions.
I don’t know if the young people know about this now, but in 1989 Tim Burton’s BATMAN (do people even watch that anymore?) was a gigantic explosion in pop culture. This was way back when “geek” was considered an insult and “actually some comic books aren’t just for kids they call them graphic novels” was considered interesting trivia. A movie about a super hero hadn’t been popular since SUPERMAN twelve years earlier, and that had seemed like an isolated incident. Now all the sudden the world was captivated by billboards and merchandise of just the bat symbol. It was on cereal boxes and racks of bootleg t-shirts in parking lots. Batman was worn by skateboarders, celebrated in weird Prince videos on MTV, welcomed back nostalgically in reruns of the ’60s comedy series starring Adam West. Intrigued newcomers picked up paperbacks of the groundbreaking ’80s work of dark Batman that were considered sacred texts from publication until the exact moment when musclebound Zack Snyder picked up the ball (the dodge ball?) and ran with it. (read the rest of this shit…)
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was an ABC TV show that ran from 1992-1993. I never saw an episode. I still haven’t, because the version that’s on video is called The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones and it’s re-edited. According to legend (as well as Wikipedia) the Chronicles were hour long episodes about Indiana Jones as a young man having adventures and/or chronicles in different exotic locations. The stories would jump around in time, so sometimes it would be Sean Patrick Flanery (BOONDOCK SAINTS) as teen/early-twenties Indy, sometimes it would be Corey Carrier (school band cymbal player in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK) as 8-10 year old Indy. And the episodes would be bookended by George Hall (BIG DADDY) as 93-year-old Indy (with eye patch) remembering the stories.
Wait a minute – that would mean in the then-present day? I always think of him in the WWII era, but it turns out he stuck around a while. Think about that. Indiana Jones was around for Woodstock, for disco, for “We Are the World,” for “Baby Got Back.” If he had grand kids there might’ve been an Indiana Jones and the Elusive Cabbage Patch Doll adventure one Christmas. None of this is covered in the show though.
The first season (1992) was 6 episodes, the second season they made 22, but only aired 18 before cancelling it. Then from 1994-1996 they followed it up with four TV movies for the Family Channel. Finally, in 1999 they paired up the hour long episodes, plus a couple new ones, and re-edited them into movies, which came out on VHS and later DVD. One major change was to remove all the segments with 93 year-old Indy, so you never get to see Indiana Jones in contemporary situations, like the one where he tells the story of his teenage love of cars after seeing a monster truck at the gas station.
I feel like I should hold off on posting my next Lucas Minus Star Wars review, because the world is mourning David Bowie and doesn’t want to read about Michael Jackson in space. So consider today a moment of silence. Sincerest condolences to Mr. Bowie’s family, friends and fans.
The penultimate HELLRAISER, Rick Bota #3, is not really better than the previous DTV entries, and definitely way worse than any of the theatrical releases, but after three pretty samey ones in a row it was briefly refreshing to see the series, for the first time, try to pander to dumb young people. Elements include: an addictive internet game, an exclusive invite-only theme party, teen suicide, masked orgies, cell phones. Coming only 3 months after DEADER and from the same director it’s nice that it’s crappy in a completely different way.
In the interim, LAND OF THE DEAD and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS had come out. That’s about it. Impossible to detect a change in the horror landscape. Instead of sticking with the times I guess they wanted to pull a LAWNMOWER MAN or BRAINSCAN type deal and base it around computer technology, so that the movie would already seem laughably dated and out of touch by the time it was finished editing.
The story is about a group of twenty-something friends (and one ex-friend) whose buddy Adam has just died horribly. We don’t know how it happened, but it had some connection to their shared obsession with a video game called Hellworld.
Two years later they’re thrilled to solve a virtual Lament Configuration and get invited to “a Hellworld party!!!” at a mansion on “86 Hillbound Drive.” It’s hosted by the great Lance Henriksen, who has a collection of puzzle boxes and weird babies in jars and claims the mansion was designed by LeMarchand, all of which delights his guests. There are young people dancing, drinking, mingling, some of them topless or just having sex right out in the open like it’s EYES WIDE SHUT. The host gives them all a cell phone and a paper mache mask with the phone number on the forehead so people will call and proposition each other. (read the rest of this shit…)
DESPERADO is my favorite Robert Rodriguez movie. People will always say the scrappy, home-made, subtitled EL MARIACHI is better, and a strong argument could be made for FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, with its Tarantino script and movie-star-making performance by George Clooney. But to me DESPERADO is his purest expression, the full enthusiasm of a young, hungry Hollywood rookie high on spaghetti westerns, John Woo and what his new friend QT was up to, fired into a full-blooded action movie uniquely based in Mexican culture.
The Tarantino influence shows in the talky opening with Steve Buscemi as the Mariachi’s hype man/street team, loudly telling tall tales about him in a bar, and in the scene where Tarantino himself plays a criminal telling a long-winded joke about peeing. But otherwise this has an identity very different from the wave of ’90s crime films, one that’s more visual and musical. He uses lots of slo-mo and dissolve edits working in tandem with a driving Latin rock score by Los Lobos. This is just one example of how the fresh Hollywood hotshot used his newfound resources while insisting on doing it his way. Another is the casting of the leads. (read the rest of this shit…)
This is gonna be short and mean, like a leprechaun. To be frankly honest I almost didn’t try to write a review of this one, because I didn’t think I had much to say. But I decided it was my moral obligation to warn everybody. The only thing necessary for LEPRECHAUN: ORIGINS to triumph is for men who have already seen LEPRECHAUN: ORIGINS to do nothing.
Let’s be realistic. This is the LEPRECHAUN series. You and I, we are not devastated or surprised that the new LEPRECHAUN movie is not good. We weren’t expecting it to be, we weren’t even wanting it to be. But one thing we did expect, in my opinion, was it to be a movie that had a leprechaun in it. When you really think about it, that is one of the number one things tying all the previous movies together. “Has a leprechaun in it” has always been one of the steadfast rules of the franchise. Until now. (read the rest of this shit…)
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