David Leitch’s BULLET TRAIN has plenty going for it. It has a strong ensemble of actors playing colorful characters, like a quippy modernized Murder on the Orient Express, except in this one everybody’s trying to murder each other and/or escape, it’s not so much of a whodunit. It’s a fun idea, it looks good, the action scenes are really well executed, with the actors really putting in the work, as we’ve come to expect from 87North (formerly 87Eleven) productions.
But to me the movie is a disappointment. For the last year or two I knew it was the big 87North movie with the crazy-good cast headed up by Brad Pitt fighting each other on a train, and I just took it for granted it was gonna be top of the line. On the surface it is – it’s colorful, has a sense of style, and mostly avoids that everything-is-green-screen feeling of so many modern movies. It even has a good soundtrack of (until Rare Earth on the end credits) non-obvious songs, from Shuggie Otis to Pussy Riot to a really strong use of “Holding Out For a Hero.” Strong because it’s not the original Bonnie Tyler version from FOOTLOOSE, but a Japanese cover made by Miki Asakura in 1984 as the theme for a show called School Wars (now remixed with some MORTAL KOMBAT-y dance music flourishes). (read the rest of this shit…)
Before seing INCREDIBLES 2 and JURASSIC’S 5 I wanted to catch up with OCEAN’S 8. It’s that all star ensemble heist movie that came out in theaters a month ago. I know whatever conversation there was has already died off, but I wanted to see it.
Debbie Ocean, who kind of looks like Michael Jackson and is played by Sandra Bullock (SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL), gets out on parole with nothing but forty-some dollars, a glittery party dress and a master plan for stealing millions of dollars worth of jewelry. So she’s in good spirits. Plying her trade of theft and scams she gets herself a fancy hotel room and amenities (the fancy lady’s version of Porter building himself back up from nothing at the beginning of PAYBACK) and then goes to find her old partner Lou (Cate Blanchett, HANNA). Lou claims to have not known she was in prison, just thought she changed her number, and she says it so dryly I didn’t know at first if she was joking. I like these two.
Much like OCEAN’S ELEVEN, we get to meet the Mission: Impossible team of heisters in their regular lives as the two go around recruiting them. They rescue jewelry expert Amita (Mindy Kaling, A WRINKLE IN TIME) from working for her mom and Tammy (Sarah Paulson, THE SPIRIT) from suburban boredom. They hire hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna, BRING IT ON: ALL OR NOTHING) and three-card-monty hustler/pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina, CRAZY RICH ASIANS). Most crucially they trick movie star and soon-to-be Met Gala host Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway, HOODWINKED!) into hiring past-her-prime former fashion design legend Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter, PLANET OF THE APES) who they’ve gotten in on a scheme to get Kluger to wear a ridiculously valuable Cartier necklace that would otherwise be in a vault. (read the rest of this shit…)
In THE NET, Sandra Bullock (DEMOLITION MAN) plays Angela Bennett, a loner computer expert who becomes The Beta Tester Who Knew Too Much when a colleague stumbles across a backdoor being used to enter major databases and sends her a disk to take a look at.
Bullock spends alot of the movie saying out loud what she’s pretending to type. Angela mostly stays indoors, and most of her friends are either software company people in other parts of the country that she talks to over the phone, or people in “Cyberchat.” This being 1995, with dial up modems and floppy disks, that was still a pretty new idea, as was her ordering a pizza online (which I would still never do myself in this futuristic age). Of course it’s a movie that plays up the exoticism of computers and the internet, and heavily bullshits it up. The backdoor creates a rapid burst of screens of information that computers back then couldn’t have handled and that have no possible use except movie flashiness. A virus is instantly identifiable because it turns what’s on the screen into little shapes as it quickly destroys the system. Call it the Photoshop Mosaic Filter Virus. So it’s a goofy mix of dated technology and not-feasible-at-that-time. (read the rest of this shit…)
I never watched SPEED 2 before. When I decided the day had come I actually got excited about it for a minute. Wait, so there’s a studio blockbuster in the DIE HARD or UNDER SIEGE type of subgenre that I haven’t seen? What was I waiting for? I mean, I know it was almost unanimously hated, and that it was an early example of the PG-13-sequel-to-R-rated-action-movie, but when has that stopped me before? I am an individual with an open mind and an open heart. I am ready to welcome SPEED 2 into the hospitality of my mental space.
Do you guys know about SPEED? It’s like GRAND PIANO with a bus! An L.A. public bus that requires the very precise driving of not going below 50 mph or it will blow up. Even if it went through a school zone it could not slow down to avoid crunching the little ones under its wheels. That’s fucked up! I mean they don’t run into that problem in the movie but jesus, bad guy mastermind, think of the children.
It’s no mystery to us, this is the work of bomber-for-ransom Dennis Hopper (TICKER), who in a pre-bus sequence tries a similar job on an elevator full of Patrick Bateman types, but is foiled by Jeff Daniels (BLOOD WORK) and his young gum-chewing sidekick Keanu Reeves (MAN OF TAI CHI). This was after POINT BREAK but before THE MATRIX, so Keanu as the lead in a big action movie was still a new notion to the world. But what are you gonna do, the Jeff Daniels character gets shot and taken off the streets, it’s just not in the cards for it to be a kickass Jeff Daniels vehicle. I’m sorry. (read the rest of this shit…)
GRAVITY is the new one from Alfonso Cuaron, genius director who hasn’t done one since CHILDREN OF MEN seven years ago. You remember for that he and his criminally award-snubbed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (THE TREE OF LIFE, THE CAT IN THE HAT [!?]) devised several completely jaw-dropping long take shots where the protagonists run through these crazy battles and go through all kinds of shit without any visible edits. Remember that scene where the car is rolling down the hill and they get attacked by a band of marauders, or the one where he has to fight his way up the stairs looking for his elephant? Or actually I think one of those was TOM YUM-GOONG. But even so there were some great ones in CHILDREN OF MEN, and for GRAVITY they took that to the next level, doing most of the movie in long unbroken takes. You just stop thinking about it, but apparently the first shot lasts 17 minutes. And this is in an era when 17 seconds without a cut would seem like a long time.
Like AVATAR, this plays like a live action movie but actually has more animation onscreen than organic human flesh. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts who are out in their astronaut suits fixing a satellite or telescope or some scientifical type shit when debris from an exploded satellite wrecks the shuttle and kills the rest of their crew. They have no contact with earth, no space ship and limited resources they gotta try to use to get their ass to the International Space Station or whatever. One of those space joints they got up there. Stop me if I use too much technical jargon and what not. (read the rest of this shit…)
Isn’t DEMOLITION MAN a weird one? Sci-fi/action moosh up, Sylvester Stallone plays cryogenically frozen supercop Jack Spartan, cryogenically unfrozen Captain America style to capture his arch-nemesis Simon Phoenix (Wesley G.D. Snipes) in a jokey future society of wimps.
Spartan is a typical non-iconic Stallone character – mumbly, down-to-earth, see-through-the-bullshit everyman, except when he goes into battle, then he’s so prone to blow shit up that he’s nicknamed Demolition Man against his wishes.
I don’t see as many movies as critics who get paid, so I’m allowed to take pride in seeing all the best picture nominees again this year. Most of them I had already seen when the nominations came out, but I had to see this EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE to finish off the check list.
This is the one nobody expected to get nominated. It got pretty bad reviews and didn’t make up for that by being a big hit or anything. I think it was Mr. Beaks who pointed out that it might be the first ever best picture nominee that was certified Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. I honestly wonder if it will be the cause of a rule change next year. There must be some kind of mathematical fluke that caused this to happen, and they better clear that up before YOGI BEAR 2 or something gets a nomination. I don’t know what caused this or who those women were who shrieked with glee when it was named at the nomination announcements. I blame them for this. I think they were up to something. (read the rest of this shit…)
I wasn’t planning to see THE BLIND SIDE, but I’d seen 8 out of the 10 best picture nominees already, and I heard it wasn’t that bad. So what the hell. Figured I could start filling out the checklist and have a review for Super Bowl Sunday.
Adapted from part of a Michael Lewis football book, this is the true story of how a completely uneducated homeless kid in Tennessee who barely spoke and didn’t know what an ocean was got brought into a private Christian school, adopted by rich white people, learned how to play football and got his grades up enough for a college football scholarship. He was Michael Oher, now an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens. (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…)
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