Snowpiercer

tn_snowpiercerSNOWPIERCER, the Hollywood-stars/English words debut of South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, is the second best train movie I saw on the big screen in June. While UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY is DIE HARD on a boat on a train, SNOWPIERCER is  the post-apocalypse on a train. The whole world has been frozen over, eradicating all life except for the lucky bastards that got onto a giant train that has been traveling a globe-spanning track for 17 years.

It has similar themes of class inequality to ELYSIUM and the HUNGER GAMESes, but I liked it quite a bit more than those. The concept is that the poor people live in squalor at the back and the rich people in luxury at the front. It’s a brutal dictatorship; the tail dwellers get threatened and beaten, limbs severed as punishment for defiance, fed nothing but green jelly protein bars. Every once in a while a lady in a pretty yellow dress comes back with a tape measure to size up which of their children to steal. You can just feel the anger and humiliation of the people when this shit happens. It’s easy to hate those motherfuckers. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wolf Creek 2

tn_wolfcreek2Man, I waited so long for WOLF CREEK 2 that I gave up on it happening like three different times. Back in 2005 director Greg Mclean said “You call that a debut? This is a debut!” with his deeply Australian outback slasher. It was kinda controversial at the time. I remember a Seattle Times critic walked out. Ebert was really offended by it. All my buddies except the two I saw it with said it sucked. It was labelled a new low in “torture porn” by non-horror fans who still review every new horror movie or worse, “nu-horror” by horror fans who hate most new horror movies. But I thought it was really well done, masterful tension and outstanding (sometimes darkly humorous) villain performance by John Jarrat (DARK AGE), very effective use of wide open nature as a source of terror, plus a little bit of precious George Miller blood pumping through the veins of the chase scenes. One over-explanatory scene and an abrupt ending couldn’t kill it for me.

Mclean’s followup was ROGUE, a really good giant croc movie somewhat buried in the U.S. when it came straight to video from Dimension Extreme. But then financing problems, the death of a close collaborator and who knows what else kept slowing down the return to the giant crater where a guy stalks people. So I’m happy to report that even with all that anticipation this is a very good sequel. It’s a smart escalation, more action packed, faster paced, cleverly structured. The only big repeated error is another “That’s it, huh?” ending. (read the rest of this shit…)

Do the Right Thing

tn_dotherightthingThoughts on DO THE RIGHT THING, 25 years later.

This is still my favorite Spike Lee movie. And I’m a big Spike Lee fan. I mean, I can’t say as big as they get, ’cause I still haven’t seen SHE HATE ME and a couple of the documentaries. I’ve seen everything else though, and I like most of them. I mean – MALCOLM X, CROOKLYN, CLOCKERS, GET ON THE BUS… so many good ones. I know some of you guys are gonna say 25TH HOUR. White people like that one. Including me. I even kinda like GIRL 6. BAMBOOZLED is too much for me though. Or at least at the time it was. Haven’t revisited it. Maybe some day.

I say this because I feel that Spike Lee doesn’t get enough credit as a pioneering and original voice in American cinema. You only see him in the news when he says something stupid, getting mad at Clint for not having enough brothers in his WWII movie or something. I think The Ain’t It Cool News has a social responsibility to mention his name every once in a while just to create the talkback that can remind us how many mush brained racist idiots still exist in the modern world. But there’s not enough discussion of his body of work, his unique style, his influence, his ahead-of-his-timeness. So what if he has a big mouth, if he has a vision to match? (read the rest of this shit…)

Non-Stop

tn_nonstopSo far I think I like the idea of Liam Neeson action vehicles more than the actual execution of them. Both TAKENs were fun, but with post-actiony scuffles and not as tight of storytelling as I prefer in a formula revenge movie. UNKNOWN from what I remember was kinda fun, but what was it about again? He was playing an amnesiac I believe? Yeah, that’s about how I feel about that one.

By far my favorite of this cycle is THE GREY, but that’s because it was all about manly drama. Most of the actual action (anything involving wolves) was as indecipherable as they come. So I came to his new airplane suspense thriller (from UNKNOWN director Jaume Collet-Serra) pretty jaded, but I enjoyed it more than expected.

(read the rest of this shit…)

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?
(read the rest of this shit…)

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.

still_samuraicop5

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!”

(read the rest of this shit…)

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.

(read the rest of this shit…)

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:

(read the rest of this shit…)