Hot on the heels of James Cameron’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY came the other most important action movie of summer ’91, Kathryn Bigelow’s POINT BREAK. Cameron was famously married to Bigelow at the time, and is credited as executive producer, and the film has parallels to his in its technical perfection and intensity of action. The pair had reworked an original script called JOHNNY UTAH by W. Peter Iliff (PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS), co-story credit to Rick King (director of PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS), with Cameron doing a last minute pass to improve the action scenes before immediately shifting to T2. “She basically is 100% responsible for the final film from that point on,” Cameron reportedly said at a convention in ’91. And clearly it’s Bigelow’s combination of impeccable craft and counterintuitive artistic choices that made POINT BREAK a hit, then a cult favorite, then an enduring classic.
The choice that seemed crazy at the time, and prophetic now, was her insistence on casting Keanu Reeves as the college football legend turned overachieving FBI rookie Johnny Utah. By all accounts Bigelow had to fight for Reeves, because producers wanted someone else. That’s understandable – he’d been in the dark indie thriller RIVER’S EDGE and the period piece DANGEROUS LIAISONS, but was best known to the world as Ted from BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, with whom he inescapably shared a lovable stoner airhead sounding voice. On the other hand, when the movie was almost made by Ridley Scott a few years earlier he’d had Matthew Broderick in the role. You’re telling me that made more sense!? (read the rest of this shit…)
Nearly 30 years after GET CARTER and its American cousin HIT MAN there was another version of the movie and/or its source novel, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis. It starred Sylvester Stallone and was almost universally hated. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t fare well if hung up on a wall next to the 1971 version, but I find it at least interesting as an exercise in adaptation and an oddity in the Stallone filmography. And maybe I’m a little easier on it because it takes place in Seattle, with some of it actually filmed here.
In the mid ’90s, the ground was shifting under everyone’s feet. Hair metal bands felt displaced by Nirvana, MC Hammer decided he had to sign to Death Row Records, and the action heroes of the ‘80s were starting to see the writing on the wall. So by the end of the decade the once dominant Stallone was trying to find his place in a new world. JUDGE DREDD (1995) had been a notorious flop, and ASSASSINS (1995) and DAYLIGHT (1996) were poorly received. He couldn’t get Tarantino to cast him as Max Cherry in JACKIE BROWN. Though COP LAND (1997) had been one of Stallone’s best performances, it didn’t seem to bring him the critical credibility he was looking for, and his followup, the thriller D-TOX, was sitting on a shelf (it would be barely released in 2002 under the title EYE SEE YOU). Stallone been pigeonholed by his massive success as a larger than life action god, and many critics were more interested in rooting for his failure than seeing him evolve, or even return to his roots. (read the rest of this shit…)
“It’s weird how they built a huge franchise off of the first film. I can’t quite understand it. It’s like they say in the film ‘There can only be one. ‘ In a genre film you can create any scenario you like, but once you break your own rules, the audience feels betrayed, which is what happened with HIGHLANDER II.”–Russell Mulcahy to Money Into Light, 2016
“The more cornered we were, the more stupid things we had to come up with.”–Christopher Lambert
I missed out on being disappointed by HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING with the rest of the world in 1991. Somehow I never watched the HIGHLANDER movies until the 21st century, at which point I’d lived many years knowing part II had been universally rejected and mocked. And when I did watch it it was the re-edited and 19-minutes-longer “Renegade Version” put together for DVD in 1997, and I’ll be honest – I liked it! I’ve always been one for weird, not-taking-the-easy-road sequels like BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, BATMAN RETURNS, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME, BRIDE OF CHUCKY, RETURN TO OZ, JASON X, etc. So I was into the idea of Connor MacLeod in a dystopian future city working with rebels to, uh… blow up a shield around the earth, because it’s not necessary anymore. I mean — sure. Why not? (read the rest of this shit…)
Long before he directed the new biopic STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, F. Gary Gray was already linked to members of N.W.A. He’d directed the video for the Ice Cube classic “It Was a Good Day” (1992), and later the action-movie-inspired “Natural Born Killaz” by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube (from the soundtrack to MURDER WAS THE CASE). When Gray started in features it was with Cube, who wrote, produced and starred in FRIDAY. And he also did the video for Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin” from that soundtrack.
So in ’97, when he did his first action movie, he cast Dre in a small role as Black Sam, an underworld figure who provides guns for the protagonists, an all female crew of bank robbers.
Hear me out on this, but I do not consider N.W.A to be super respectful of women. Their songs talked endlessly about the bitches and/or hoes. FRIDAY also did some of that, in arguably a more playful way. The men are all doofuses, but Nia Long and Regina King aren’t, so you can’t take it completely seriously. But there’s a whole lot of humor about the women they do or don’t want to get laid by, and one hilariously has as her theme song “Hoochie Mama” by 2 Live Crew. “Big booty hoes – up wit it!”
No man, I don’t got a problem. I just watch Michael Bay movies recreationally. I don’t gotta watch them when I wake up or nothin. It’s just every once in a while. I only watched PEARL HARBOR ’cause I was doing all the summer of 2001 movies. And TRANSFORMERS 3 because I thought it would be funny. Then people said I should watch this one. It’s not a big deal, man. That’s not that many. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
In this 1994 MOST DANGEROUS GAME ripoff, Ice-T plays a homeless man hired by a bunch of rich assholes supposedly to be their guide on a hunting trip, but actually to be their prey. Because the second deadliest prey is man, the first deadliest is Ice-T. (I wonder if Predator knows about this yet?)
The movie doesn’t really offer any backstory for why Ice-T is tough enough to survive this hunting expedition (SPOILER), he’s just Ice-T. He’s not an ex-soldier or ex-cop or trained in the Orient or anything. In fact it’s the reverse: he’s a regular guy and almost all of the people he kills are ex-CIA.
I gotta warn you this is a little on the cheesy side. It’s not exactly great action, and some key moments are bogged down by bad decisions like having Ice’s one-liner clearly recorded in a studio and looped in so it takes you out of the moment. But it’s still enjoyable to watch because it’s such a simple, classic setup and it’s an all star cast. Hunting Ice are no less than Gary (PREDATOR 2) Busey, John C. (ON DEADLY GROUND) McGinley, Charles S. (BLACK DOG) Dutton, F. Murray (SCARFACE) Abraham, and their sicko leader, Rutger (BLIND JUSTICE) Hauer. Then there’s some guy named William McNamara as Abraham’s babyfaced son, and for most of the movie that is the entire cast. So not a bad ensemble. (read the rest of this shit…)
Hi, everyone. “Moriarty” here with some Rumblings From The Lab…
No, seriously. The one and only Vern has returned with a new review of the seemingly in-limbo animated film, LI’L PIMP. Dig in:
Dark days have descended upon the Vern compound here in the bright blue upper left corner of the American map, and they hit me like a basketball to the nose. Just sitting here naively preparing for one of them ewok celebrations they used to have. Fireworks shootin off everywhere, a bunch of little dudes dancing around playing drums on Homeland Security helmets. I was high off publishing my first book and was feeling real optimistic. I felt the world was gonna change for the better and I looked fondly forward to the future, to a day when my fellow countrymen and women could hold their heads high and swell their chests with pride. Also to BLADE 3 next month.
Then, not sure what happened, somewhere around November 2nd or 3rd I just plunged into a bottomless funk. Not the good Clyde Stubblefield kind. The bad kind, where you’re sad and crap. The kind where you stumble around aimlessly and start behaving strangely. Maybe you watch GARFIELD and write a bizarre, rambling essay about it, to name one example. Who knows what could happen while you are in this state of the blues. (read the rest of this shit…)
Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
Wow. Bob and David are everywhere right now, and it sounds like they’re having a great time. I still don’t know if I’m going to be able to get into the insane benefit show they’re part of in a few weeks, and I missed this. Still, if we had to have anyone cover it for us, thank god Vern was the one who went. You’ll see why when you read this…
I know how you feel about film festivals. You’re for them, right? I think one of you said you were. I’ve seen a couple good pictures at the Seattle International Film Festival but that’s about it for me. Until today, when I decided to venture south to the Olympia Film Festival. And I’m real glad I did.
Usually I avoid Olympia. I know it’s our state capital, it once had a fine brewery and they got lots of college kids who brag because the rock band Sleater-Kinney was named after a street they still have near there. But I mean come on. The street isn’t even that good. In the downtown area the buildings are too far apart, and everything is closed. At least on Sunday. Anyway today they finally got a reason for me to go there: ON DEADLY GROUND. (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