And now in our journey through the films of Sam Raimi we have arrived at a difficult spot. We have come to the film that was at the time “the new Sam Raimi” but for a few years became “the last Sam Raimi?” I enjoyed OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL well enough when it came out in 2013 (here’s my review), even though a big commercial Disney movie that’s an unsolicited prequel to a famous story wasn’t high on the list of what I wanted to see from him. And it definitely wasn’t what I wanted to see him go out on.
Luckily he has now actually filmed his next movie, so a comeback is on deck. But isn’t it crazy that it’s been 9 years since the last Sam Raimi movie? To remind you of how long ago this was, it’s when FURIOUS 6 and MAN OF STEEL came out. It’s when they were on the first film of MCU Phase Two, IRON MAN THREE. We’re talking seven David Gordon Green movies ago (he was on PRINCE AVALANCHE, starring Paul Rudd, who was not yet Ant-Man). It’s when Franck Khalfoun’s remake of MANIAC came out, and Spike Lee’s remake of OLDBOY, and Ryuhei Kitamura’s WWE Films joint NO ONE LIVES. Remember those? No? You weren’t born yet? That’s what I’m saying – it’s been a while. (read the rest of this shit…)
Raimi started work on SPIDER-MAN 2 immediately after the first one, and had it ready to go two summers later. Since it really is about following up on the events of the first film, it starts by running the credits over some of them, as depicted in paintings by Alex Ross. (He’s celebrated for his realistic portraits of comic book super heroes, which are more impressive when they come from his imagination and not photography we’ve already seen, but still, it was cool that they got him). The end of the sequence reminds us that in SPIDER-MAN Peter chose not to be with Mary Jane, who he loves, so that he could be Spider-Man.
Which does not seem to be working out great so far. The painting of Mary Jane dissolves into a closeup of her face on a perfume billboard that Peter has to walk under every day, reminding him of his pain. Though he tries to hide it, it’s clear his world crumbles when she is not near. He’s in college now, and living on his own in a small apartment. Much like part 1’s opening about all the ways Peter can be humiliated on the way to school, this one piles it on real thick about what a shit sandwich life still hands to him every day. (read the rest of this shit…)
“He had an uneventful childhood. He played baseball with the other kids on the block, became fascinated with the antics of what later became his heroes – The Three Stooges, read Spiderman comic books, thought Jerry Lewis was hilarious and the Little Rascals even more so. What influenced Raimi to become the ‘horror meister’ of slash and gore films is not found in his past.”
—Dead Auteur: How a 20-year-old ex-college student carved out his horror niche in Hollywood by Sue Uram, Cinefantastique, August 1992
Immediately following Raimi’s very serious director period, his career changed drastically again. After so many stabs at the mainstream, he finally made the leap to genuine blockbuster filmmaking, bringing one of the most famous characters in the history of American pop culture to the big screen for the first time. This is not the use-Intro-Vision-to-stretch-the-budget-enough-to-try-to-compete-in-summer of DARKMAN and ARMY OF DARKNESS, or the work-with-huge-stars-but-scare-off-boring-people-by-doing-something-different-with-them of THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. I’m talking a super hero event movie with ten times the budget of DARKMAN, working with Sony Digital Imageworks to pioneer effects techniques that nobody was even sure would be possible, and finally sharing his talents with pretty much the widest audience possible for a movie. (read the rest of this shit…)
HOMEFRONT is a Jason Statham vehicle with an interesting pedigree: screenplay by Sylvester Stallone (Academy Award nominated writer of ROCKY), meth manufacturing villain played by James Franco (Academy Award nominated lead for 127 HOURS), James Franco’s girlfriend played by Winona Ryder (Academy Award nominee for LITTLE WOMEN and THE AGE OF INNOCENCE). Unfortunately the weak link is director Gary Fleder (CableACE Award winner for an episode of Tales From the Crypt), who’s just the guy who did KISS THE GIRLS and RUNAWAY JURY and stuff like that. He’s not terrible but also not the type of strong director that could shoot a bullseye with a simple story like this.
This is the second movie in a row where Statham starts out wearing a long hair wig. This time it’s because he’s a DEA agent undercover in a biker gang. He busts the kingpin Danny T (Chuck Zito), whose son gets shot to death by other cops. Danny and his gang want to kill the shit out of him for this so he has to shave his hair. Also he either goes into witness protection or just retires and moves to a small town somewhere in Louisiana. (read the rest of this shit…)
I like doing these re-reviews. Alot of times I feel differently about a movie as I get older, or I notice new things after seeing it more than once, or I benefit from being removed from the context of the hype and the reactions I’d been hearing when it came out. But it’s a challenge too because it’s so easy to be redundant. More than once I wrote a draft of one of these and then read my old review and found out I unknowingly repeated an idea or even an exact phrase. Shit. Like I was doing I, ROBOT and I was real proud of this joke where I rewrote the 3 Laws of Robotics in my own way. Then it turned out I already did that years ago.
And as the gap narrows here at the end of the series it’s getting pretty ridiculous. This was only 2 years ago, and I haven’t gone off to live a quiet life in a monastery and stick fight in a remote village or anything like that. A man can only gain so much wisdom in that period of time, so my views haven’t really changed on the movie of THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES of the starring James Franco. It’s still a very enjoyable dumb man’s thinking man’s sci-fi. (read the rest of this shit…)
I have this dumb joke that always amuses me: whenever they’re looking for a director to do a new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE or a Marvel Comics movie or something I suggest Harmony Korine. It’s funny to picture the director of GUMMO and TRASH HUMPERS selling out or deciding to do a normal mainstream movie, because it just seems like something he would never be interested in. I picture him as a smartass New York art kid for life.
So it was pretty funny to see his new one at a multiplex with an IRON MAN 3 trailer playing before it. I think this was by accident. In style and substance it’s not that much more normal than MISTER LONELY (the one about the commune of celebrity impersonators), it just happens that it focuses on a topic that can be very commercial: young girls in bikinis spraying beer on each other and jumping up and down and sometimes they have guns. And one of the stars is James Franco, who seems to have alot of interests in common with Korine, but is also the star of a $215 million Disney 3D fantasy movie that was #1 at the box office just last week. (read the rest of this shit…)
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL could also be called WALT DISNEY’S SAM RAIMI 3D. That’s what I was hoping to see, and that’s what I got. If it had been a WIZARD OF OZ prequel movie made by somebody not as exciting as Raimi I don’t know that I would’ve even bothered, and it’s not my first choice of what he should be doing now that he’s stopped being a captive of SPIDER-MAN. But it turns out to be a better-than-expected use of Raimi’s time and mine.
Before we get into that I’m gonna say what we’re all thinking: let’s call it quits on these revisionist fantasy and fairy tale type movies now. “What if Alice in Alice in Wonderland was really the chosen one and she puts on armor and leads an army against the jabberwocky” made literally a billion dollars, but it was a moronic idea that was not rescued by Tim Burton’s imaginative visuals. I’ll give the Hansel and Gretel one and the Jack and the Beanstalk one a shot on video, but after that maybe it’s enough now, eh fellas? But they’re into this idea now of the recognizable name that’s not copyrighted. (read the rest of this shit…)
Last year it was in the news that James Franco wanted to direct an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Other– let’s say, more experienced directors like Ridley Scott had tried already, but the book defeated them. Now here’s this young actor, he’s got a couple Oscar nominations under his belt, but he’s often confused with his dumb stoner comedic persona and called pretentious for his goofball side projects like being on General Hospital and going to Yale. He apparently shot a 20-minute test film starring Mark Pelligrino, Scott Glenn, Luke Perry and his brother Dave to prove his directorial chops. Later he was moved over to a different McCarthy project, CHILD OF GOD.
But here’s the thing: he was already a director. In 2005 he directed, starred in and adapted (from his own play) THE APE, about a writer sharing a New York City apartment with a slobby gorilla. (He has other directing credits on IMDb too, but this looks like the earliest one available on video.) (read the rest of this shit…)
Well I’ll be the rise of a monkey’s uncle – this movie actually is good! I’d heard all good things, but after seeing the trailers and TV ads it was hard to get my hopes up. Boiled down to basics and money shots it’s just some dumb bullshit: James Franco making speeches about a miracle cure, quick shots of every scene where a CGI ape jumps into the air, dramatic trailer music squeals and buzzes. I didn’t even think the much hyped special effects by Weta looked that good. Instead of the people in makeup as evolved apes from the original masterpiece they gotta have Andy Serkis or Tom Hanks or somebody controlling a computer animated chimp with humanized eyes and expressions. They show a baby chimp, it’s digital. Do they not know there are chimps? They think they can’t film a real one ’cause it’s a made up creature like a Smurf or an Avatar? I wasn’t buying it. (read the rest of this shit…)
At first I wasn’t even gonna see 127 HOURS, ’cause what’s the point of doing another one if Nolte and Murphy don’t come back? Those movies were all about the chemistry of those two guys. It doesn’t make alot of sense to replace them with a different character. But it was a bold move to not make it a buddy movie, or a cop movie, and base it on a true story about a guy who went hiking and got his arm stuck under a rock. Alot of people will say that’s just a rehash of parts 1 and 2, but I would argue that there are subtle differences. (read the rest of this shit…)
WAYS YOU CAN SUPPORT THE SHIT OUT OF VERN & OUTLAWVERN.COM
if that's your thing:
Toss me a couple bucks a month, support the good shit, also get access to a bunch of exclusive writing. This is my primary source of writing money that has allowed me to cut down to part time at the day job. Thank you!
2. Buy my books from your local bookseller or somebody