And You Thought It Was Safe(?)

G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)

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Magnum Force (1973)
"...especially when it comes to tedious Crime Dramas."

“…especially when it comes to tedious Crime Dramas.”

Blanket Spoiler Warning for a forty year old film you should’ve already seen. But, then again, who am I to talk? I’ve seen pieces of Magnum Force over the decades, and everyone’s seen the clip of Harry saying, “Man’s got to know his limitations” for the third and final time, buttoning up Our Theme. That clip’s the next-to-last shot of the film so, in one sense, a thousand Eastwood Retrospectives have already spoiled it in more ways than I ever could, just talking about it.

So let’s talk about Magnum Force, the One With Those Other Vigilante Cops Who Don’t Play By the Rules. The film that exists explicitly because everyone called Dirty Harry fascist. It’s star, a self-described “political nothing” who now admits registering with the official Political Nothing Party (the Libertarians) took all the “fascism” talk personally. Especially since an early draft of Dirty Harry‘s script centered around, not a psycho killer vaguely based on Zodiac, but a gang of vigilante cops much easier to confuse for fascists than Hangdog-faced Harry.

Eastwood liked that script, but Don Siegel preferred the one with Scorpio. And America agreed, making Dirty Harry the fourth highest grossing film of 1971, right behind Diamonds Are Forever. With Dirty Harry only eight million dollars less popular than James Bond, a sequel was inevitable. Or so we’d say on this side of the 1970s, a decade that, among other things, saw sequels gain a measure of acceptance in polite company. They’d always existed, of course, but Hollywood A-listers and cultural pundits shunned them as fundamentally low, pulpy things. Besides, Big Name Stars put butts in movie theaters, not on-going stories. The very idea was regarded as silly, the kind of notion that drove “silly,” “juvenile” stuff like superhero comic books. Movies, the thinking went, could certainly be better than that…couldn’t they? Continue reading

The Traumatic Cinematic Show, Ep. 61: Ip Man
March 25, 2013, 8:45 am
Filed under: Podcasts, Reviews | Tags: ,

The Traumatic Cinematic Show: Ep. 61: Ip ManAs March-ial Arts month come to a close the trio picked a modern Wushu film based on a legendary Wushu master. Legend and lore has it Ip Man (or Yip Man) trained the kung-fu film legend Bruce Lee and the trio delves deep into this story to see if any truth is in these rumors. Donnie Yen leads the cast in this amazing tail of action, suppression, and uprising. Join the @TCPodCast crew in their discussion and review of this semi-biographical account of Yip Man and be amazed with the skills and fighting styles the crew brings to the table. Tune in to witness Mike Wickliff’s Midwestern Devastation Panda Paw Wing Chung style. Admire for the first time in 200 years Mr. DeMoss’s West Coast Negative Angst Whooping Crane Bitch Slap method. And before you leave you will see for the last time performed in public MuGumBo’s Flying Dragon Spinning a Yarn Eight Legged Spider Boxing style.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

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Unknown Island (1948)
"I don't know, T-rex, he comes from the land of sharp focus. Can't be THAT tasty...can he?"

“I don’t know, T-rex, he comes from the land of sharp focus. Can’t be THAT tasty…can he?”

Generally speaking, Dinosaurs make everything better. However, when you get down to the specifics, you’ll likely find “better” often translates out to “better than nothing” or “not complete shit.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, is usually blamed for hammering out the Dinosaur Adventure template with his 1912 novel The Lost World. Principally remembered today as an on-the-job training ground for budding special effects wizard Willis O’Brien, 1925’s Lost World movie was extremely popular as a whole, opening whole new markets up to subsequent “fantasy adventure” pictures and the giant monster movies they eventually spawned.

There’s a reason most film geeks skip directly from that Lost World to King Kong and onward to Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The twenty years in between Kong and Beast were a sorry time for all the interesting genres. Horror fell into a vicious “self-parody = $$$ = self-parody without self-awareness” cycle my fellow survivors of the 1990s should instantly recognize. Sci-fi, barely out of infancy, got relegated to before-the-feature serials until the Space and Atomic Ages stole the American imagination away from the Old West. There were no “Action Movies” as we know them today. Westerns covered most of that territory, but whole swaths of what we’d now call “Action” or “Thrillers” were categorized under the catch-all term “Adventure.”

Like most film nomenclature, the term’s inaccurate and often dangerously misleading. Most “Adventures” follow a plot so standardized and predictable even audiences from the 1940s could recognize it from the next town over. Blindfolded. In the dark. Unknown Island is a perfectly awful example of that, the best reason in the world to love King Kong even more than you already do. Because as problematic as some of the things in Kong might be, at least they aren’t boring. And, generally speaking, Willis O’Brien makes everything better. Continue reading

Ghost of A Podcast from the After Movie Diner
March 15, 2013, 8:45 am
Filed under: Reviews

Burning CageDue to my own foolish hubris, I once again stepped through the glass doors of the After Movie Diner to discuss Ghost Rider with host (and Devil’s bounty hunter) Jon Cross. Specifically, the two pathetic thalidomide babies that pass for Ghost Rider films, though, me being me, I do bring up some comic book history no one else will care about for the sake of my beloved context. Listen as we speak past each other like characters in a DeLillo novel, marvel at the shortsighted stupidity of 20th Century Fox and desperately search something, anything, else to talk about before differing opinions of Spirit of Vengeance expose a vast gulf in our critical philosophies.

Download the episode here (left click to listen, right click, “save target/link as” to download MP3

Also, be sure to check out Jon’s movie commentary podcast, Dr. Action and the Kick-Ass Kid, wherein Jon and the titular Doctor talk over the action movies others fear to watch. (I’d just as soon blow my brains out as watch Masters of the Universe again, for example.) And then there’s Jon’s other, monthly, slightly-more-within-our-wheelhouse podcast, The B-Movie Bargain Bin, where Jon and Mike Murphy of the Badasses, Boobs and Body Counts podcast search for the Best Worst Movie ever made (despite the fact No Retreat No Surrender already exists, rendering such a quest fruitless).

Chronicle (2012)

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