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.
There was a time, I must admit, when I didn’t properly appreciate HARD TARGET. I had already been intoxicated by the unadulterated John Woo of THE KILLER, BULLET IN THE HEAD and HARD BOILED (in that order, I believe) so when I watched his 1993 Hollywood debut I could only see the compromises. American Woo was less violent, less stylish, less emotional and built around the stiff toughness of Van Damme instead of the smooth charisma of Chow Yun Fat.
But with the passage of time comes wisdom and context. From the perspective of today we can see that HARD TARGET stepped deeper into the Woo Zone than any of his subsequent American films save for FACE/OFF. More importantly, it’s clearly a masterpiece among Van Damme vehicles, themselves an enjoyable body of work that can benefit from some Woo. A pessimist sees HARD TARGET as Woo watered down with Van Damme. But I’m an optimist now so I know it’s a refreshing glass of Van Damme spiked with a shot of Woo tequila. (read the rest of this shit…)
GI JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA was a stupid fucking movie from a shitty director. I loved it. It was just so un-self-consciously ludicrous that it was hard not to enjoy. Like a hyperactive little kid that you would never want to be a parent to but just seeing him jump around giggling for a minute makes you laugh.
The directionist was Stephen “THE MUMMY” Sommers, a veteran of loud, dumb, rhythm-less and weirdly low rent big budget summer blockbuster type movies. The guy couldn’t direct his way through a “DIRECTORS ONLY” door, but he’s excited enough about ninjas and funny masks and shit that he accidentally made a fun one. I would say he made RISE OF COBRA fun not so much through his talents as through a series of coincidences. (read the rest of this shit…)
Okay, now the summer is really starting. Crocodile Dundee, Stallone in a car, those were appetizers. This is the first bonafide Big Ass Summer Movie of ’01, with the advertising and the toys and what not. It opened huge, and eventually made more than $433 million worldwide. I don’t think I know anybody that likes it, though.
THE MUMMY RETURNS is the second one, the one where the mummy returns for a while, then leaves again. Like the first MUMMY it begins with a narrated prologue that’s better than the movie proper because it doesn’t have Brendan Fraser or a bunch of talking in it. This one tells a little bit about the legend of The Scorpion King (The Rock), a guy who led a bunch of warriors in trying to conquer the world, but they all died of heat stroke so he was bit by a scorpion or whatever, and magic. His part is less than 5 minutes, he speaks one line and it’s not in English, and his narrative purpose is to return as a shitty CGI bug monster at the end. Also to set up a prequel spin-off that’s way more entertaining than the mummy movies, in my opinion. (read the rest of this shit…)
Not since THE HURT LOCKER have I seen a movie that so convincingly captures the mental toll that the pressures of a war zone take on our soldiers. I’m not talking about GI JOE, I’m just saying I haven’t seen another movie like that since THE HURT LOCKER.
I don’t know what you’ve heard, I don’t know what kind of rumors are flying around, but this here is not what anybody should call a “good summer popcorn movie.” GI JOE can’t be mentioned in the same breath as JAWS or even JURASSIC PARK or even INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, so don’t ever read this sentence out loud. But there is something unique about this movie and I would recommend it to some of you. If you’re the type of individual with room in your heart for a ridiculous movie that comes out in August that you go see in a half (or all) empty theater for a laugh, then I believe this movie will deliver for you spectacularly. For example I paid money to see STEALTH a few years ago and it was kind of funny. If STEALTH was a single this is a grand slam. I was laughing pretty much from the extravagant new Hasbro logo at the beginning to the weirdly intelligence-insulting final scene, without many lulls in between. For some of you it will be unwatchable crap, but for me it’s hilariously terrible and/or terribly hilarious. (read the rest of this shit…)
Darkman’s still trying to fix that liquid skin problem, and this time he forms a partnership with one of the doctors who did the experimental surgery on him in the first place. She wants to try out a new technique to rewire his nerves so he has feeling again, and he agrees to be her guinea pig on the condition that he can borrow her top of the line DNA sequencer for his skin project. Both end up getting what they want: the equipment helps him “break the 99 minute barrier” (again – they seem to have forgotten he already did it in part 2) and she rewires his nerves to a remote control device because actually she works for a crazy steroid dealer (Jeff Fahey) who’s pissed off because Darkman stole a bunch of his money and now he wants to study him to find out how he gets his super darkstrength.
DIE DARKMAN, DIE has the same director as part 2 but this time it’s written by Colleary and Werb, the guys who wrote DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH and FACE/OFF. Come to think of it these guys are obsessed with faces and masks. Colleary even wrote an episode of the new Alfred Hitchcock Presents about a woman who has plastic surgery to look like someone else and Werb was a writer on THE MASK. Weird. But the point is they are pretty good writers and went beyond the DTV call of duty on this one. (read the rest of this shit…)
We thought Larry Drake’s sadistic, finger-collecting crime lord Robert G. Durant was killed when Darkman caused his helicopter to explode, but actually he survived, in a coma, his gang secretly keeping him on life support in his mansion. Also we thought Darkman was a big screen hero played by Liam Neeson, turns out he’s on video and played by Arnold Vosloo.
THE RETURN OF DURANT is a pioneering DTV sequel, one of the earliest examples of the artform, and also the beginning of Sam Raimi expanding his Renaissance Pictures empire by executive producing a bunch of other people’s shit instead of just making EVIL DEAD movies. If nothing else this movie was a training ground for sidekicks in future Raimi productions – Vosloo would be Lance Henriksen’s in HARD TARGET and female lead Renee O’Connor would be Xena’s. (read the rest of this shit…)
WARNING: This unfinished review here was written in the year 2000 when I was young and stupid. I’m leaving it here for the comments, for historical purposes and for my own accountability, but please if you’re just looking for a review of HARD TARGET read the one I wrote 16 years of wisdom later.
Well as you can see above, I reviewed John Woo’s HARD BOILED long ago. In that review I was obviously right about a bunch of crap that I said. For example, HARD BOILED is still a masterpiece. And as I predicted, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON was a masterpiece that blew away the combined artistic merit of every American Chow Yun Fat movie times ten. But I was wrong that after the success of CROUCHING TIGER my man Fat would never do an american movie again. Back then I would’ve been happy to hear that but that’s because I never saw fucking BULLETPROOF MONK. Oh for crying out loud, what is the man doing? (read the rest of this shit…)
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