The Last Samurai

tn_lastsamuraiBack in 2003, when THE LAST SAMURAI was new, I had a cynical, kneejerk reaction to it. “Yeah, right… Tom Cruise is the last samurai? Who’s next, someone from the brand new TV show this year America’s Top Model?” I was offended that they wouldn’t make a movie just about samurai, it had to be about the white guy that meets the samurai.

Some things I wasn’t taking into account at that time:

I. The DANCES WITH WOLVES type story of a westerner taken in by an enemy tribe of some kind and learning their ways is a longstanding tradition, and it’s a cool idea to do one with samurai instead of Native Americans. In fact it was partly inspired by real stories of a French soldier who did something like that.

II. There are hundreds of great samurai movies made in Japan, and director Edward Zwick of COURAGE UNDER FIRE was not about to beat them at their own game. It’s simply more interesting if he does his own thing here than if he just tries to imitate Japanese samurai movies. Come on.

III. What the fuck are you talking about here 2003 Vern, you LOVE the white ninja tradition of movies – ENTER THE NINJA, NINJA, AMERICAN NINJA, Steven Seagal… how could there not be value in seeing the big expensive studio from-the-director-of-GLORY version of that?
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Black & Dekker PREDATOR

tn_shaneblackAs I’m sure we all heard, Hollywood Reporter is hollywood reporting that Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON) is writing a treatment for a “reboot” of PREDATOR, to be scripted by his old partner Fred Dekker (MONSTER SQUAD, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, sorry about ROBOCOP 3) and directed by Black.

Sign me up. Let’s discuss why this is good news. (read the rest of this shit…)

Samurai Cop

tn_samuraicopA Japanese gang called The Katana Gang is on a rampage, so the LAPD call in a specialist.

“So they call him Samurai, huh?” asks the gang leader Fujiyama when he hears about this long-haired Fabio-lookin motherfucker played by former Sylvester Stallone bodyguard Matt Hannon.

“Yes,” explains right hand man Yamashita (Robert Z’Dar). “His real name is Joe Marshall. They call him ‘Samurai.’ He speaks fluent Japanese. He got his martial arts training from the masters in Japan. He was brought over here from the police force in San Diego to fight us.”

This being 1989, the year after ABOVE THE LAW, might have something to do with that backstory. The poster, which has nothing to do with the actual content of the movie, is definitely going for a MANIAC COP vibe. I think there’s some LETHAL WEAPON influence here too, or at least it’s trying to follow the formula of the white cop with loyal black partner who’s kind of bemused at how far the white guy goes over the line in his enforcement of the law. Samurai and his partner Frank (Mark Frazer, MICROWAVE MASSACRE) have alot of weird, sometimes racially uncomfortable banter about what their boss is gonna do to his “charcoal black ass” and stuff like that.

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The chief is pretty funny, he’s always angrier than necessary. I like when he yells to one of his employees “You, motherfucker, I’ll see you in hell! Leave me alone! Get a job!”

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American Samurai

tn_americansamuraiHow the fuck does a guy become an American samurai? Well, in the case of Drew Collins (David Bradley, AMERICAN NINJA 3-V) when he was a baby he and his parents were traveling in a small plane that crashed into a tree, only he survived, and then he was raised by an old Japanese guy named Tatsuya (John Fujioka, ZATOICHI IN DESPERATION, AMERICAN NINJA, AMERICAN YAKUZA). Finders keepers, you know?

Basically it’s exactly like Superman, except being a white man in Asia doesn’t give him super powers. But he does really good in his sword training anyway. I’m not clear why his adopted father was a samurai swordsman in the 1980s, I suppose it’s kind of along the lines of being a civil war buff. In related news I would like to see a Cannon movie called JAPANESE BLUEBELLY. (read the rest of this shit…)

Vern Predicts: Jodorowsky Fever

vernpredicts150It was 2007. The Year of the Dolphin. The Scouting Centenary. The year of the last Harry Potter book. The year that Anna Nicole Smith and Bam Bam Bigelow passed. The year that DIE HARD turned PG-13. Amidst all that turmoil and unrest I wrote about an Alejandro Jodorowsky DVD box set for the famous The Ain’t It Cool News websight. And in that review I prophesied a day when the then-mostly-forgotten underground filmmaker of the early ’70s would become a mainstream pop culture phenomenon:

“This thing is gonna spread across the globe like airwaves. Rappers will start quoting HOLY MOUNTAIN; on CRIBS they’ll have THE FILMS OF ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY next to their SCARFACE dvd. Bono will buy a thousand copies and pass them out to world leaders, so they can begin their journeys of enlightenment…” etc. I went on for a while.

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Vern’s Cinefamily Journal

tn_cinefamilyWell, it happened. Last Saturday, after 15 years of admittedly weird dedication to anonymity, I went and stood unmasked in front of the Cinefamily theater to publicly share my love of the action films of S. Seagal. A couple of you who were there kindly told me not to worry, that I looked exactly like Lee Marvin, but on the internet I saw my looks compared to two different comedians. I won’t say which ones, so go ahead and assume Roddy Piper and Chopper Read. But now there are a couple blurry Loch Ness Monster type photos of me out there, and Griff says I am not buff and I look like his dad. Giving my reputation a hit like that was not what I had planned for my summer vacation.

But I got no regrets and the reason why can be summed up with one frame of film:

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Foodfight!

tn_foodfightWith the critical and commercial success of THE LEGO® MOVIE, Hollywood and corporate America are hard at work trying to figure out what other consumer products and trademarked property brands they can get away with adapting into feature film franchises. Recently for example we heard about plans for a movie based on Barbie dolls and even one based on Marshmallow Peeps candy. CHEETOS: RISE OF CHESTER and REVENGE OF THE NERDS™ CANDY can’t be far behind.

While THE LEGO® MOVIE is the most brazen product placement movie to be accepted by society, it is not the first one to be made. The innovator in this field is 2012′s computer animated feature FOODFIGHT!, the directorial debut of TRUE LIES and MORTAL KOMBAT executive producer Lawrence Kasanoff, who’d already helped pave the way for the hit  movie with a number of Lego®-based animated TV shows. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Expendables III Official Trailer I: The Hopening

Now’s the part where we get excited despite ourselves.

Notes:

1. the action in this trailer is all shot clearly and steadily. This suggests a higher ACR than the second one and of course the first one, which I was hoping for from director Patrick Hughes (RED HILL). This could still be screwed up by bad editing, but if not it will go a long way toward winning me over more than the other installments.

2. I like that Snipes’s character seems to be just getting out of lock up. Or possibly cryo-freeze.

3. I noticed that one of the credited writers is a woman. Just for those mooks who tried to hype the other two as some sort of chest bumping bros only affair.

She Shoots Straight

tn_sheshootsNote from Vern: I’m working on a write-up of the Cinefamily Seagalogy event, but for now please enjoy this review of an obscure Hong Kong gem thanks everybody.

SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT (aka LETHAL LADY) is an action vehicle for Joyce Godenzi, who stole the show as the Vietnamese double agent in the classic EASTERN CONDORS. She had been in a bunch of movies before this, but I believe this is her only starring vehicle. Today she’s known as the wife of Sammo Hung (who has a supporting role in this), but it should be noted that she didn’t marry him until 1995, so that’s not why she gets a movie, it’s not because of nepotism. Actually, it’s probly because she was Miss Hong Kong, 1984. But I’m glad they thought of doing that because she is incredible.

Here she plays Mina, a supercop who recently got a promotion and also married her handsome co-worker Tsung-Pao (Tony Leung, the one from A BETTER TOMORROW 3).

And you’d think she’d be happy as a clam on Zoloft but she’s got this problem that now she’s got a gaggle of sisters-in-law who are fellow cops who all hate her. They’re worse than the sisters in THE FIGHTER. They’re jealous of her success at work, they try to undermine her authority, disobey her commands, embarrass her. They whine about her getting all the credit for an operation where she clearly deserved the most credit. If they were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that she was the one who slid down the side of a parking garage, jumped onto a moving cab, climbed through a bus, jumped out the other side onto the moving getaway car, got shot at and rolled off and almost run over by a motorcycle which she then commandeered and chased the car literally through a wall of fire, drove over it, ducked a bullet, skidded out the bike and jumped off so the car would hit the bike, flip and roll without hurting the princess. Yeah, the sisters helped, but Mina did the Jackie Chan shit. Plus, the attack happened when most of you ladies were in the bathroom. (read the rest of this shit…)

Seagalogy Goes Hollywood

tn_seagalpaintedWell everybody, I’m off to the land of dreams and what not. Pretty sure it will be a great time although I will also be terrified, like a sasquatch with a police helicopter spotlight on him. The show is 5 pm Saturday at Cinefamily. Last I heard there were still a few tickets left.

Be sure to introduce yourselves. I’ll have some of my books on sale at the concession stand I believe. I’ll try to sign for anybody that wants it, although there’s not a time set for that on the schedule. We’ll see what happens. The important thing is seeing ON DEADLY GROUND and its three excellent prequels in 35 mm.

So, thanks for the support everybody, I’ll see some of you Saturday and the rest of you during the week when I’ll have lots of new reviews I’ve been working on.

your pal,

Vern