Tag Archives: movies

“When Did You Lose Your Grace?”

28 Sep

As I’ve said before, I’m an aficionado of cheesy films. The Prophecy (1995) scratched me where I itched; to date, this is the only film I’ve seen in the theatres more than once. I love this story – angels as heavenly hitmen! No one brings it better than Christopher Walken!

Forget the sequels, this film is wonderfully made. Of course, you have to accept the concept first – there was a second war in heaven and there are “rebel” angels who need the perfect evil general to lead their armies to overcome the “loyal” angels. Somehow, that soul is in a colonel who committed war atrocities in Korea and died in a rural town in New Mexico. Okay, pretty big suspension of disbelief.

Failed Priest Turned Cop – Elias Koteas

The movie starts off with a Catholic priest who suddenly gets a vision so profound he loses his faith and becomes a homicide detective. Okay, big job switch, but he’s our protagonist. He also happens to be the perfect person to follow the leads when angels start killing each other in the streets.

Gabriel – Christopher Walken

Leader of the rebel angels, when his lieutenant is taken out by Simon, one of the loyal ones, has to come down to Earth to get the soul himself. Amazing job through the entire film. He has GREAT lines and fun scenes that balance the utter brutality of his character.

Simon – Eric Stoltz

Plays perfectly what you think an angel would look and sound like. Great performance.

Satan – Viggo Mortensen

Before he became famous as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, this performance is what I know him from. Suave, goofy, and demonic… Hells, Viggo is frickin’ amazing! One moment talking calmly, next teasing, next psycho – wow!

Even the secondary characters rock hard. Patrick McAllister, who played the colonel, never said a word during the film (because he was dead, not that stopped anyone else), but conveys creepy silently. The little girl (Moriah Shining Dove Snyder) is one of the best little girl performances EVER, right behind Newt in Aliens. Completely believable, worked well. Even the teacher / love interest was good, but then again, it was Virginia Madsen… and after Jennifer Connelly, she’s my big celebrity crush.

The lines are memorable, the story flows, and you are alternating laughing and being shocked… sometimes in the same scene. Amazing world building. Fantastic cinematography – there’s one scene that has no words, but explains the new character’s entire backstory in fifteen seconds. Wow! I thoroughly recommend this movie!

However, as said before, my taste in films is not everyone’s. Have you seen this movie? Did you think it sucked? Was it a life-changing experience for you, too? Were you somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments below!

Big Trouble in Little China

15 Sep

Is it the art that speaks to the budding artist? Or does the observer simply seek out that which confirms their soul? You know what Jack Burton says at a time like this?

Who? Jack Burton! The hero of Big Trouble in Little China, a film from 1986 which… okay, is not high art. However, it hit me when I was twelve, so I was the most impressionable age to see this, however this film has grand scope, great characters, fun effects, and most importantly, does not take itself too seriously.

As a friend of mine said to me, “You are the connoisseur of 80’s B-movies.” That’s when I grew up, so sure, that’s what speaks to me. Ahead of its day, I think this film hired every single Asian actor in Hollywood… and they still didn’t have enough. There’s a scene where an obviously Russian looking dude is fighting in a Chinese street gang.

This also gave me a love of anything with Kurt Russell in it. Now, if you don’t think he’s amazing, watch Soldier (1998) and see how he delivers an almost wordless performance. You know exactly what the character is saying and doing in every scene without saying a G-D word. And he’s the main character!

I still quote this film all the time, even with the fact that most of the lines don’t make sense out of context. “Six demon bag, sensational!” “Yes, sir, the check is in the mail.” Even “Which Lo Pan? The little basketcase on wheels or the ten-foot-tall road block?!”

Ah… not my favorite movie of all time – that I had to finally admit was Dune (1984) – but one of my “quote-fest films” which along with Hudson Hawk (1991) and Army of Darkness (1992) I love to watch and quote all the time. Interestingly enough, I realized that all three have the same plot. Wise-cracking hero gets put in insanely weird situation and does precious little to save the day.

And all of them are generally considered bad films. However, I like action, I like comedy, and these are all three. I know I’m not alone in liking these “cult classics.” Of course, I like Buckaroo Banzai (1984) so your mileage may vary.

What do you think? Have you seen this film? Am I completely wrong? Tell me in the comments below!

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit”

31 Aug

In conversation, I’m often quick witted, but I’m not very original. So it’s rather expected that I quote someone else about quotes. I use quotes all the time, and some are so good, they stick with me. These are the maxims I live by.

Anyway, it’s time you knew what the heck I meant when I keep repeating them. A maxim (not the magazine) is a short statement conveying a simple truth. I’ve got about 5 to 8 I use on a regular basis. Now if you’re wondering if they can truly be that profound if you can’t remember how many you have, I’ll just say that life changes, and some are more important than others.

Obscure movies are a great source of quotes… well, obscure to most people. It’s always fun to throw out “I’m a reasonable guy, but I’ve just seen some pretty unreasonable things.” (Big Trouble in Little China) Of course, sometimes it’s things that don’t really count as quotes. I personally like “Okay, I get that. What’s this?” That’s actually from the Blues Brothers and is part of a longer conversation introducing what we think of as the Bluesmobile.

Jake: What’s this?

Elwood: What?

Jake: This car. This stupid car! Where’s the Cadillac? (beat) The Caddy! Where’s the Caddy?

Elwood: The what?

Jake: The Cadillac we used to have. The Bluesmobile!

Elwood: I traded it.

Jake (with disbelief): You traded the Bluesmobile for this?

Elwood: No, for a microphone.

Jake: A microphone? (beat) Okay I can see that. What’s this?

I still wish I could pick up the phone like the villain does in The Long Kiss Goodnight and say, “Who the f@#* is this?!” In fact, the entire film is hard to quote because of the profanity… well, in most company, anyway. I do get away with “Son of a bitch’s got to pay,” also from Big Trouble in Little China, but more often spout out “Six-demon bag, sensational!”

So what are your favorite movie quotes? Let me know in the comments below!

The Empty Vessel of Anticipation

24 Aug

Imagine a film so bad that the lead actor had every copy destroyed before it could be released. This actually happened in 1972… and now I discovered it’ll be released in 2024.

The film is called “The Day the Clown Cried,” the actor was Jerry Lewis, and the plot revolves around a clown in the Holocaust. Yeah… That’s all I know and it already sounds really bad. Apparently one copy was held by the Library of Congress and the copyright runs out in four years… So the ban ends.

What I know from the Star Wars prequels is that the longer you wait for something, the more disappointed you’ll be when it actually comes out. There is no way this film is as bad as I’m expecting. Besides, I’ve seen this plot before – it’s called Jacob the Liar with Robin Williams and… It’s got its moments, but it’s still trying to make an upbeat film about the Holocaust!

If there’s more than… let’s say 10 years from the previous film, there’s so much build up for a film that it can’t possibly match your expectations. The Zorro film comes to mind.

Of course, you can transfer this to many things in life – there are so many empty vessels that we pour our expectations and hopes into and find them… well, empty. It’s part of our modern outlook on life. I’m not a great fan of watching bad films, so as much as I’ve heard about this Jerry Lewis film, I’m probably not going to watch it.

Am I alone in this? Is there a better example you can come up with? Let me know if the comments section below!

What Conan the Barbarian Teaches Us About Fatherhood

23 Jul

When did saying “I Love You, Son” stop being taboo? As guys, I get it, we don’t talk about our feelings that much – makes us seem “unmanly,” but there was a change in my generation in which it started to be okay to tell our sons that we love them. What was the disconnect? Was the taboo always there or did it evolve with our concept of manliness? Of course, we turn to cheesy action movies for our answer.

How did this thought come about? Well, I was watching Conan the Barbarian, the 2011 version with Jason Momoa, and in that version, Conan is raised by a single dad until he’s 12. His mom dies in childbirth in the middle of a battlefield. Badass. Of course, when your dad is played by Ron Perlman, you’re guaranteed to become a badass. But Conan’s dad was a very harsh father, and it’s only later when he inevitably is about to die, it’s only then that he says, “I love you, son.” Then pours a giant ingot of boiling metal on himself.

A very powerful scene and one I really enjoyed, but why did Conan’s dad have to be a dick to him his whole childhood? He was trying to toughen him up? Okay, you’re a barbarian, it’s a harsh world, I get it. But it’s not going to cost you anything to hug your boy every once in a while.

Compare this to the 1982 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Conan’s dad is still tough, badass, and still has a heart-to-heart with his young son. This speech is one of my favorites in all of movie history…

Fire and wind come from the sky, from the gods of the sky, but Crom is your god. Crom, and he lives in the Earth. Once giants lived in the Earth, Conan, and in the darkness of chaos they fooled Crom, and they took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered, and the Earth shook, and fire and wind struck down these giants, and threw their bodies into the waters. But in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel, and left it on the battlefield.

We, who found it, are just men: not gods, not giants, just men. And the secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan, you must learn its discipline. For no one, no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts… This you can trust.

The way William Smith plays him is great. Now this actor is a Korean war vet, gave up finishing his doctorate, and became a B-movie villain. (Funny how life takes you strange places.) Notice that second paragraph, though, as he talks to the eight or nine year old Conan with compassion, but seriousness. He’s also holding five pounds of broadsword as he talks. He obviously cares at the same time he’s telling his son, “You gotta be tough.”

Interesting enough, the tone of the movie also continues into the main plot. The difference between the main villain, Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones) and Khalar Zym (played by Stephen Lang) are also obvious. Both have that sad look towards their work. Doom has been personally learning the mystery of power. Zym’s a single dad who is trying to bring his evil wizard wife back from the dead. When facing Conan father’s killer, Doom is blase: “Really?” Zym takes a moment, but remembers Conan.

In the Schwarzenegger version, it’s the love of his family that was lost is reflected in the blandness of the evil that took it away. In the Momoa version, it’s the toughness he learned as a kid that is reflected in the passion of the evil. Maybe that’s the key – my father certainly wasn’t an affectionate man, my stepfather was more affectionate, but we weren’t a family of huggers. When I went to college and I met my first Italian friend, suddenly embracing someone you love was wonderful! I love hugging people! That contact is essential for feeling good and giving you strength later on.

Naturally, when I raise my own son, I don’t hold back my love and affection for him… at the same time, I try to prepare him for the world he’s going to live in. Compassion should be balanced with toughness, a man can be manly and still not an impassive dick to those he loves. You can cry at movies and be stoic in the face of pain or weakness. There is a balance that one needs to live… and that’s the lesson we need to pass on to our sons.

If you have kids, how do you balance toughness with kindness? Allowing independance versus keeping them safe? Put your hints in the comments below. In the words of Red Green, “Hang in there, we’re all in this together.”

What The Hell Did I Just Watch?

21 Jul

I happened to see Zardoz (1974) was available on Hulu. All I knew is that it was terrible and was one of those films I’m sure Sean Connery wish he never did (including Highlander II). But then one of my friends convinced me, “Oh, no – it’s really good. Watch it!” Okay – and I descended into movie-watching hell.

I’m not going to put a spoiler warning here because this movie is already spoiled. There is no way to describe this film–even the official description makes absolutely no sense after the first fifteen minutes. It starts off with a floating head explaining sophomoric philosophy, followed by a killing spree and a (different) giant floating head while Beethoven plays in the background.

You follow the floating head for the credits, which should have told me to run away right there. I already had the “pretentious” flag from the intro, the killing spree by men in scanty clothing, the Beethoven… but then, the “written, produced, and directed by” warning right there? I should have stopped right there!

Now if you love this film, then you and I expect different things out of movies. I expect a story. I don’t expect a visual representation of the pointlessness of existence or the ennui of being really… really old. The story should be the plot. You can have a message, you can have a really obvious message, but there needs to be a story. This has no story – it is “look at this cool universe” and “this is the message” kind of movie. The first could be forgiven – the second screams “art film.”

It’s not just that this is 70’s sci-fi. I love Logan’s Run. I love Soylent Green. But I was reading a review of this film that encapsulated it all. Will Thomas said, “A fascinating reminder of what cinematic science fiction used to be like before Star Wars, this risible hodge-podge of literary allusions, highbrow porn, sci-fi staples, half baked intellectualism and a real desire to do something revelatory misses the mark by a hundred miles.”

There is a lot of boobies. A lot of “Show me more of this human thing called sex.” I now understand the “Big Giant Head” joke from 3rd Rock from the Sun. I feel asleep twice during this film… and only felt the need to rewind once. I skipped past a five minute montage of teaching Zed… with lots of boobies. There were two redeeming points in the movie – and I’m giving nothing away here – one is where Zed learns to read, the other was the Apathetics licking Sean Connery.

And then it ends, as you knew it was going to end, with a denouement which would have been nice if it hadn’t been so creepy. It reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Most of the film is slow-motion shots of “Look how cool these effects are!” set to the Blue Danube Waltz, fifteen minutes of “That’s a neat story,” and an artsy ending.

I’m gonna give this a 8/10 on the WTF meter. The only movie I’ve ever seen that rating higher (9/10) was Motorama (1991); I figure a 10/10 would destroy the fabric of the universe. I am also going to punish my friend for telling me to watch this film. My retribution will be swift.

How would you punish my friend? What piece of garbage would you make him watch? Write your answer in the comments below.

P.S. Shaktimaan (the TV show) is not an option. That’s just cruel and unusual punishment.

Misheard Lyrics, Allegories, and Things Left Unsaid

11 Jul

When I started writing my current project, I thought about a line from the song Skibbereen, which I heard in the movie Michael Collins. So… “To Serve a Foreign Queen” was born! But now, here’s the problem… that line doesn’t exist. Those words were never sung.

Is this proof of alternate dimensions? No, just a faulty memory. Turns out the song lyric that I named was simply misheard, since I last watched the film a long time ago. I discovered the movie Michael Collins, when I was working in Korea back in 1999. They had things called bideobongs–video rooms–which are mostly an excuse for the crowded Koreans to have a rented room, watch naughty films, and whack it in peace. However, the one closest to me actually had a pretty good selection of films (this is pre-Netflix), and they had that as an option. Absolutely loved it, went back, watched it three more times.

Michael Collins is a wonderfully told story about the IRA from 1916, when Ireland gained independence in 1922, and the Irish Civil War of 1923. (Pause.) Now what I just wrote is a lie… depending on who’s reading it. The problem with doing historical films too close to the actual event is that it comes with a lot of emotional baggage, so when Hollywood made that film, it walked into a historical minefield. Not necessarily because of the Irish Civil War (which created the two major political parties in Ireland), but because the film neglects to mention that Collins ordered the IRA to disrupt the North in order to keep them back in the country. That caused the Troubles, which is why when I mentioned to my Northern Irish coworkers that this was my favorite film, they gasped with horror.

So this was a big “rah-rah Ireland” film and plays with the history. The names were correct, but the characters (other than the title one) were given flaws that caused the civil war later. They added in a love triangle which kinda happened, but not in the way you think. According to the Irish themselves, they only gained independence in 1937, because they were still nominally part of the British Empire until then. “Free State” didn’t cut it. In fact, it didn’t cut it so much that the country started shooting each other over whether they would be a “republic,” free and independent versus a “free state,” with the King of England still as the head of state. Yes… this was a war about the name of their country, and countless folks died (including the title character) because of it.

Seriously?

Yep. In the same way, the lyrics were close… but not quite. Here’s what I think I actually heard:

It’s well I do remember on a bleak November’s day,

The landlord and the sheriff came to drive us all away;

they set my house on fire with their cursed English spleen

And that’s another reason why I left Old Skibbereen.

Yes, the movie is not perfectly historically accurate, but who cares?! It was a great flik, and got me interested in reading more about the Irish Civil War of 1922… when previously, I never even heard of it. I liked The Patriot, too, and I knew that was dead wrong historically. But the battle sequences are good, and that’s what counts. Disney’s The Three Musketeers with Charlie Sheen is a great romp… has nothing to do with the book by Alexandre Dumas.

Have you ever run into this problem? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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