Sunday, 15 August 2010

Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!

You kinda of have to feel for Vern, who after all is from my humble opinion is one the few good things, to come out of the supposed critical empire, that the over rated hamster faced egotist “Harry Knowles” has created from himself with his movie review (and I use that term loosely) site “Ain’t it Cool News”, yet the ego of this man has enveloped pretty much anything this site has created, to the point were the majority of folks would believe that the site is a one man show. Still I would argue after this latest collection of writing from Vern, that it is infact Vern who is now the bigger name especially here in the UK, as he continues to ride the wave of the positive response that greeted his first book “Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-kicking Films of Steven Seagal”, which despite being a great read, felt overly samey throughout, which really is no critism of Vern, but rather the chosen subject matter, as lets face it Mr. Seagal doesn’t tend to stretch himself when it comes to the films he makes, so I was interested to see what Vern could do when given a larger canvas to work with, for if his first book felt like “Vern does Segal” this latest book feels almost like “Vern: The Greatest Hits Collection” for after all the main focus here is on Vern’s speciality, looking at the films which make up the action and cult movie genre, while finding time to cast the occasional glance into other genres such as animation and the more arty side of cinema.

From the start Vern is quick to dismiss that he is going for “Bruceology” here, stating that this book is instead about expressing “a love for all movies” (aswell as a love for the films of Mr. Willis) for whom he uses as his living example of this theory, especially when you take in his varied career from his start in TV comedy “Moonlighting” making the radical career change by staring in the legendry “Die Hard” (1988) before shaking things up further by constantly refusing to remain just another action star, with appearances in equally noteworthy films such as “The Sixth Sense”(1999), which could also be said for this book, as Vern refuses to stick to just action films, instead allowing his attentions to wander off and look at films such as err “Mary Poppins” (1964) and “Brokeback Mountain” which in perticular does provide one of the funnier moments of this book, when he rightfully points out with his usual critical subtly of a half brick.

'It's not about gay cowboys.It's about gay shepherds. They herd sheep...'

Still the majority of these lapses also provide the weaker moments of what is essentially a great fun read and I was glad to see the majority of these appearing at the start of the book, allowing me to get them out of the way so that I could enjoy Vern’s comments on films such as “The Glove” (1979) and “Switchblade Romance” aka Haute Tension” (2003) and despite what the blurb on the back might have you believe, these diversions are sadly not clever as you are lead to believe, eliminating any future moments of cool that you might have obtained by plagiarising them to your friends, like some of you might have done (I know I have), with Tarantino’s “Top Gun is about Maverick not being able to come out of the closet” speech, as the reviews of these films despite providing the occasional fresh insight, rarely prove to be anything close to groundbreaking.

Divided into chapters dedicated to particular aspects of the films being reviewed or just Vern’s own personal style with one chapter dedicated to tangents (or rants to the rest of us) in which Vern demonstrates aswell as openly admits how easily he can get off topic, with his review of “Friday After Next” being more a highlight of things wrong with the cinema experience, than anything about the actually film, as he dissects everything from the crappy waiting music to the stupidly easy “Coke trivia questions” being advertised on the screen. This section in particular I found especially enjoyable and comparable to the porn reviews of Chris Nierako, whose porn reviews are sadly no longer part of “Bizarre” and like Vern’s tangents are less about the film and more about the experience of reviewing the film (if he bothers to cover it at all), while Vern’s writing style on a whole is undeniably passionate for these films he adores, which the more snobbish critic / movie goer would regard as being trash, are when viewed through his eyes are almost like masterworks of cinema, while also providing great insights into the most straightforward and simple of action movies.

Still By setting the book out into these manageable chapters it makes it pretty easy to find what your looking for and to skip past the parts, you don’t really give too much of a damn about, for after all the majority of people who buy this book are going to be getting a lot more from the sleaze and action films covered here, than anything which slightly less visual or subtle. Still for a book about “Badass Cinema” the range of films looked at here is incredibly diverse, even after you remove the entries looking at films like “Garfield” (2004) which honestly have nothing to do with the genre in the slightest, with Vern not only looking at established classics like “Predator” (1987) and “Enter The Dragon” (1973) but more obscure films such as “Dolemite” (1975) and “Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation” (1989) which only helping to further increase my Lovefilm rental list, yet there is a noticeable lack of Chuck Norris or Kurt Russell movies featured here, who’d you’d expect seeing how linked to the genre his movies are, much like Steven Segal who is also MIA and whose absence is more understandable seeing how he was the main focus of the first book, which proved so through I doubt there is much else that could be written about the man, that Vern hasn’t covered already. Still these films being so noticeable absent, does make me wonder if they are just being saved for the next volume, though honestly I would have preferred them here, rather than some of the diversions featured here (seriously Garfield !?!).

Despite a few misfire moments, this proves once again the fanboy credentials of Vern and his highly unique voice he brings to the genre, and I eagerly await the next volume which hopefully will focus more on the obscure as he frequently proves here, the more obscure or terrible a film might be the more in his element he seems to be, especially with these films providing some of the best moments of the book, including a wrestling challenge from the director of "Chaos", so I'm really hoping that he chooses to look at more of these kinds of movies in future volumes, rather than taking pot shots at the easy targets produced by the Hollywood studio system.

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