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…)
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.
“We found him. We can do whatever we want with him.”
ENCINO MAN is I guess a landmark in 1990s American cinema because it introduced “the Pauly Shore movie.” Then in his mid-twenties, Shore was the son of The Comedy Store owners Sammy and Mitzi Shore, so he had started doing standup and hanging out with Sam Kinison as a teenager, developing his surfer dude/stoner/Valley Boy persona “The Weasel” – one of those characters who has a certain way of talking and catalog of slang and catch phrases that seem to be beloved by somebody somewhere, but to those of us who came in late it’s unclear whether you had to be there to get it or if there even was a joke in the first place.
He had been in a few movies, including 18 AGAIN! and PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC’S REVENGE, but his big break was in 1989 when he became an MTV VJ, in character. A year later they gave him his own very popular show called Totally Pauly. When ENCINO MAN was in development at Disney, the head of Hollywood Records got Jeffrey Katzenberg to watch Totally Pauly and then put Shore in the movie. He didn’t want to play the caveman, so the filmmakers worked with him to rewrite the protagonist’s best friend character to be a weird guy who says “nugs” and “weez” and stuff in such a way that it’s clear that it must be funny. (read the rest of this shit…)
Like many citizens of the world, I love most of Steven Soderbergh’s movies. Still, the nature of streaming services and the lack of urgency their releases seem to inspire in my brain have left me behind in his return-from-retirement period. I haven’t seen the basketball one, the app one, the laundromat one, surely others.
But my favorite Soderberghs are the crime ones: #1 OUT OF SIGHT, #2 THE LIMEY, #3 the OCEAN’S series. And there was another one about a lady beating people up that I raved about for ten years, but that’s on hiatus for a while. These are all very different from each other in most respects other than quality. But his most recent one was released straight to Home Box Office Maximum and although this review is very late I actually managed to watch that one right away. And I loved it.
NO SUDDEN MOVE is another new mode of Soderbergh crime picture. Maybe it’s closest to THE LIMEY in tone: serious, with a high level of tension, but plenty of dry, dark, odd humor coming out of the characters and situations. Set in Detroit in 1956, it’s the story of small time criminal Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle, THE METEOR MAN), recently out due to overcrowding, still disgraced in the underworld after whatever the fiasco was that got him busted. So it’s either real lucky or awfully damn suspicious that someone he doesn’t know – white middle man Doug Jones (Brendan Fraser, MONKEYBONE) – is offering him five grand for what’s described as “a simple babysitting job” that will take three hours of his time. He doesn’t have to know he’s in a movie to have a pretty good hunch it’ll end up being more complicated than that. (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…)
Unfortunately this is not the pervy Cronenberg movie I’ve never gotten around to seeing about the people getting off on car crashes. This is the race relations movie directed by Paul Haggis, writer of Clint’s MILLION DOLLAR BABY. I gotta be honest, my reason for seeing this was not that I thought I would like it, but that I was just real damn curious. Because it got so many rave reviews, and Roger Ebert chose it as the best of the year, but every single person I knew who had seen it said it was corny, overwrought bullshit.
I hate to be a centrist but I think it falls somewhere in the middle. It seems well intentioned. It’s trying to point out different kinds of subconscious racism, it’s trying to show that people are complicated, racists maybe have a chance of being redeemed, people who don’t think they are racists might end up shooting a black dude, etc. It’s one of those movies where there’s a bunch of different characters tangentally connected by coincidence and you find out as the story unfolds what they have to do with each other, which can be fun. And there’s some good little moments and whatnot. One of the best scenes actually involves a cop trying to save somebody from a flipped car before it blows up. In other words, a scene you can see in every single episode of CHiPs. But this is better directed so it’s pretty intense. Also Tony Danza has a cameo. (read the rest of this shit…)
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