“Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads!”

Prepare yourselves, guys! We are less than three short years away from the date on which the Doc and Marty McFly arrived in the future – October 21st, 2015. If Back to the Future II is accurate, we should expect to have flying cars, hover-boards, and interactive holograms any day now! Not to mention self-tying shoes, self-drying clothing, dog-walking robots, etc. The list goes on and on…

The very unrealistic Jaws hologram…

In fact, this is one of the problems I had with this rather over-the-top sequel. While the futuristic inventions shown in the movie are pretty neat, I felt that the amount of time spent on showering the audience with all these new inventions (roughly the first 30 minutes of the film) was excessive. Don’t get me wrong – it is certainly comforting to know that three years from now, I’ll have a robot hovering over my table waiting to feed me grapes. But I would have preferred to do without this knowledge, and to get to the plot of the film more quickly.

Once we do get into the plot, we see that it is much more convoluted than that of the first film. Baddie Biff Tannen returns in Part II to steal the DeLorean, which he uses to travel to the past (1955). In doing so, his actions disrupt the “space-time continuum,” leading to an alternate, dystopian present (1985) which Doc and Marty must fix at all costs. This requires them to return to 1955, which Marty has already traveled to in the first film, and so he has the added pressure of not running into his other self while on his quest to right Biff’s wrongs. Confusing, right? I thought it was very much so! But then, this is a sequel, and filmmakers usually go to all costs to try and outdo their first movie.

So, is this sequel superior to the original? Most definitely not. While the filmmakers’ attention to detail in the first flick was flawless – not a detail too many, and every detail had its place – in Part II, I felt like there was an overload of useless information. In addition, while the first Back to the Future is original and fresh, I felt like the sequel was not. While I had a good laugh at the sheer absurdity of some of the situations that the characters find themselves in, I don’t think I’ll be watching this film again anytime soon. Seriously, if you can only watch one, WATCH THE FIRST ONE! All you’ll get out of this film is an intense desire to own a kick-ass hover-board.

Untouchables 2.0

Since we’re watching The Untouchables this week it made sense to share a couple of trailers for the upcoming Gangster Squad, which seems to be selling itself as Untouchables 2.0. We’re given a similar premise: east coast gangster heads west and takes over in a city filled of crooked cops, so a handful of honest cops need to band together and stop him, while teetering on the line of good and bad. In the trailer Ryan Gosling even directly rips a line away from Sean Connery (“You gotta die of something”).

I love gangster movies, so there’s no way I’m not seeing this movie. But let’s just see if it’s able to see the same success that Brian DePalma’s film saw, or if it gets tossed aside as a rip off.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdtDGBL8x-s

Details, Details, Details…

I can still remember the first time I watched this film… I was no more than 9 or 10 years old, and I thought it was the greatest movie of all time! In my mind, it had it all – a time-travelling pooch, a car that left awesome flame tracks in its wake, and a guy who hitched high-speed skateboard rides from trucks! In fact, so appealing were those skateboard rides to me that I talked my parents into buying me one (wisely purchased at a garage sale), which I sold soon after when I discovered that I was spending more time on the ground than on the board.

Gotta love those flame trails!

That was what I got from the movie the first time around. I had not watched it all through again until today, and I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, this time! I found that, years later, I still loved the easy-going Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and the crazy “Doc” (Christopher Lloyd)… I also found that the plot still kept me entertained. But what really drove me to blog about this film was the realization of how well put-together everything in it is. There is not a single detail out of place!

For starters, the opening scene of the movie introduces us to the Doc’s workshop, which is packed with clocks. While this clearly serves to alert the viewer to the overriding theme of the movie (hint hint, time-travel), it also serves the higher purpose of fleshing out Doc’s character. Although the audience does not know it at the time, they will later come to realize that Doc is obsessed with clocks because of the events that happened thirty years before!

The seemingly unimportant dinner scene is also packed with details that the audience will only appreciate after watching the film through in its entirety. For example, when Lorraine is telling her kids about how she and George met, we don’t make anything of the fact that George is overly distracted with the TV. Only later do we tie this in with the fact that he was a “peeping Tom.” A less noticeable detail, yet one I found interesting all the same, is that they are watching the exact same episode of The Honeymooners that Lorraine’s family is watching when Marty has dinner with them in 1955.

My personal favorite minor detail is the Twin Pines Mall sign. When they are in the mall parking lot, the Doc mentions that he remembers when Mr. Peabody, a man who grew pines, owned that land. Later on, when Marty travels to the past, he ends up on Mr. Peabody’s ranch, where he runs over a pine tree. This is seemingly unimportant, until later in the film, when Marty returns to the mall, and we see that the sign now says: Lone Pine Mall. To me, it is the little things like these that show how much thought a filmmaker puts into a movie!

A Darker Bond (A Licence to Kill)

After my comments on Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of the James Bond character and alluding to later Bond films in my previous blog post on the 1983 Bond Film Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery, I was inspired to watch A License to Kill(1989). While this was the last bond film of the 80’s, it also was the last bond film to be directed by John Glen and was Timothy Dalton’s last film as Bond.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, unlike the Bonds before him, (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore), Dalton’s Bond emphasized a much more stalwart, singular, and emotionless character that translated into a much darker Bond. In part, this was also due to the toning down or loss of the traditional suave charisma that the bonds before him exemplified.

A Liscense to Kill  arguably has one of the darkest plot lines in the Bond series that also uncovers previous unknown facts about Bond’s character, such as that he was once married.

This is one of the first bond films where the inhuman, brutal actions of the drug-cocaine underworld are exposed. We are first introduced to the main villain, Franz Sanchez in a scene where he orders his lackey’s to cut out a man’s heart, while he proceeds to masochistically whip Lupe, his love interest, for her infidelity.  However, this initial scene is merely foreshadowing the violent and grotesque events that unfold later in the film.

The story begins with Felix Leiter, Bond’s best friend, and Bond on their way to Felix’s wedding with Bond as his best man. On their way to the wedding, DEA agents inform Felix that a wanted Drug lord, Franz Sanchez, is in the Bahamas and they have an opportunity to catch him. After the attempted bust fails and Sanchez attempts to escape in a small Cessna prop plane, Bond and Felix pursue after him in a coast-guard helicopter. Once they’ve caught up with the plan, Bond harnesses himself to a cable and rappels down to the plane below them, attaching the cable around the tail of the plane, effectively pulling the plane of the would-be escaping drug lord vertical. All the while remaining completely expressionless.

Sanchez Captured

 

Despite the being captured, Sanchez manages to bribe his way out and escape, later returning to seek his revenge. After Felix’s wedding, Felix and his wife Della are assaulted.   Della is implied to be raped and then killed, while Felix is lowered into a shark tank and is badly mutilated by a great white, losing a leg. Following these events, Bond seeks his revenge on Sanchez by infiltrating his operations in an attempt to assassinate him. After the destruction of Sanchez base, the film concludes with a cinematic chase involving oil tanker trucks, which results in their crashing and both Bond and Sanchez being covered in petrol. The following clip is how Bond narrowly is able to survive and exact his revenge.

Licence to Kill End Scene

As I watched A Licence to Kill, I was stunned by how noticeable of a change in direction the Bond films took in the 80’s. Having watched all the bond films when I was younger, I distinctively remember being more disturbed by Dalton’s Bond and his films having a much different impression on me than the previous and later bond films. It is clear though that James Bond films typically resonate with the decade they are released in. As is evident by the focus on the drug underworld during the boom of cocaine usage in the United States during the 1980’s.

80’s Bond Turmoil! (Never Say Never Again)

Not only was there significant changes in interest rates that resulted in a volatile financial bond market, but there also were drastic changes occurring within the acclaimed James Bond film franchise in the 80’s!

The 80’s marked not only the third decade for the James Bond film series, but also a a clear shift in the direction and vision of the bond films when John Glen became the new director of the series from 1981 to 1989. One of the more noticeable and often criticized changes that were noted by bond fans was the loss of style, suaveness, and overall established character of Bond, for the adoption of what has been stated by critics as a “workman” style/persona portrayed by director John Glen’s Bond.

 

As an avid Bond fan growing up and still to this day (Not a fan of the Craig films),  I feel that Roger Moore who starred in the earlier 80’s films, stayed true to the established persona of Bond, while the late 80’s Bond, Timothy Dalton added a new, somewhat darker and more direct take of Bond’s character.

 

Interestingly, in 1983, a non EON productions (The studio that produced all bond films to that date) Bond film was released. Never Say Never Again(1983) was directed by Irvin Kershner (Director of The Empire Strikes Back) and starred the return of the original Bond, Sean Connery! This surprising deviation in the Bond film saga competed directly with the release of Octopussy(1983) by EON productions. This conflict was dubbed, “The battle of the bonds” by entertainment media.

 

As mentioned, Never Say Never Again(1983) was produced by an independent production company that was completely separate from EON Productions, which had been the producer of all previous bond films to date. However, the script for Never Say Never Again was written by Kevin McClory, one of the three original writers of the Thunderball who retained filming rights of the Bond novel following a long-drawn out legal battle that occurred in the 60’s.

Surprisingly, after 12 years since his “final” role as Bond in Diamonds are Forever(1971), Sean Connery returned as bond in Never Say Never Again(1981) despite saying he would “never again” play the role of James Bond. Quite ironic to say the least! One can only wonder if the title of the film is a reference to the reluctant short lived return of Connery as the role of Bond.

Appropriate to the length of time since we have last seen Sean Connery as James Bond, Never Say Never Again’s story revolves around an aging Bond who is brought back into action to investigate the disappearance of two nuclear weapon which appears to the work of SPECTRE, a global terrorist organization within the bond universe in the novels written by Ian Flemming.

Despite Never Say Never Again‘s deviation from the original Bond production company, the film held it’s own in box offices and today is regarded as apart of the official Bond series/plot-line. In the future, I wonder if we will see the equivalent of perhaps Pierce Brosnan returning as Bond in competition against Daniel Craig? Something tells me this is highly unlikely, yet unfortunate. Thoough you never know!

I Feel The Need!

I realized a few things watching Top Gun:

  • I was right: aviators are indeed badass.
  • If I embrace my terrible singing voice it will land me a good looking woman.

I also noted that, outside of Goose, Maverick, and the rest of the armed forces singing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” music is heavily relied upon in this movie. Tony Scott even reuses a couple of songs over and over again, which I don’t see very often in movies. Usually it seems a filmmaker will use a song maybe twice, but in this film there are two songs that dominate. “Highway to the Danger Zone” pumps us up during the opening sequence, then returns a few more times to enhance other awesome flight scenes. Plus it backs up Barney in his Top Gun tribute from How I Met Your Mother.

Maverick must be awesome if Barney wants to be him for Halloween. But even more noticeable is “Take My Breath Away,” and that’s probably because it’s played like three times in the span of five minutes. It seems like any time Maverick looked at Charlie his inner monologue plays the song. It becomes almost comical because it stops for a few moments when the action steps away from Maverick and Charlie, but it comes back immediately. But, finally. they consumate in the dark and (I don’t believe) we have to hear the song again. It just seemed odd that a filmmaker would reuse one song so much, let alone two separate songs, but if anyone feels differently (or has any examples of other films that do this) please sound off in the comments.

As far as the costuming goes, it’s 2012 and I was tempted to get a bomber jacket, so I can only imagine what fashion trends popped up after the movie premiered in the 80’s. I usually think of Tom Cruise as a wacky guy, but I’ll admit that the man had some “swag” (thanks to his costume designers).

Overall, I loved this movie. It was exciting, engaging, patriotic, and made me want to go out and get a pilot’s license. Don’t be surprised if I actually do show up to class sporting that bomber’s jacket. Cause I definitely feel the need for speed.

This just made me laugh haha

A Full Metal Jacket for you to Wear This Fall

“I Am Become Death” reads the helmet Adam Baldwin (It’s hard to read here, but trust me). This anti-war tale from Stanley Kubrick takes place deep in the Vietnam war. And while half the movie takes place in the battle fields of Vietnam, half takes place in violence free America. Why would an action film take so long to get to the action, you ask? Well, mostly, because it’s not an action movie at all.

You see, Kubrick really made the film as an anti-war commentary, and as such, covered both sides of war. The film is really two films in one, split down the middle with only one character (The protagonist, Joker) bridging the two gaps. The first features boot camp for Joker and his pals. This is the part most people seem to recognize from the film, because it gave us this guy:

Full Metal Jacket Drill Sergeant

This half of the film showcases the brutality that was forced on every soldier by our own men. Never mind what the Viet Cong may have done to our boys, the drill sergeant in this film seemingly hoped to top it. He manipulated the men, turned them against themselves, while swearing and berating them every day. He may have had the best intentions for the men, but the unholy hell that he put Vincent D’Ofrino’s character through (see Private Pyle for just a little taste) causes him to snap, and shoot himself in the bathroom of the barracks. The scene of him loading his weapon before the act (an exquisitely slow scene that builds every single moment of tension possible) gives the film it’s name. But while this is the less violent, it is probably the strongest anti-war sentiment of the film. It showcases the mental instability that is enforced in the military to turn their men into killers.

And then, suddenly, we are knee deep in the war. Joker has chosen to become a field reporter, bringing news to the soldiers. He has never really been in conflict. He has never killed a man. He also wears a helmet which reads “Born to Kill” right next to a peace sign button.  He claims that it is “something about the duality of man, sir!” After being dispatched for a story, he and a friend from boot camp (whose name escapes me…watch the movie and let me know what his name is!) end up trapped behind enemy lines and getting lost, with a contingent of men featuring “Animal” (The man you see at the top of the article). Animal is the perfect example of a soldier. He has started enjoying the killing. And he understands this. He even comments on the fact that there is no home for him. At the end of the film, a single sniper holds the contingent at bay, killing multiple people (including Joker’s friend, and captain). Eventually, Joker and a couple of other soldiers make their way into the building where the sniper hid, revealing that it was a woman in her youth. Joker is forced to shoot and kill her to preserve his own life, and then everything ends all hunky dory. Or, you know, traumatizing.

I did not describe the plot to bolster my word count, or to ruin everything. I did it to make a point. The entire 2 hour and 45 minute film was about Joker becoming a soldier. THE ENTIRE THING. You spend 2 hours and 45 minutes meeting hundreds of characters, only to realize that none of them really matter. What matters is Joker’s growth as a character. And while you might think that it is a waste of time for that little pay off, you would be wrong. The entire film, from start to finish, is riveting to the point of madness. Every character plays a different bit part in the sweeping performance of the war, and brilliantly creates Kubrick’s argument for the destruction of war and expansion of western civilization. And, of course, the song that caps the film (that you are currently listening to) is the perfect cap to the film. Note: You have NOT been listening to this song, because my computer will not allow me to go through the proper channels to upload videos and audio (or I’m an idiot…probably the latter). Find the song right here…It’s a must: Mickey Mouse Song (Warning Swears).

Below is a link to an analysis of the film that I found incredibly interesting:

Documentary, My Dear Watson

 

Joker V Joker V Batman

I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to watch this…I feel like I have let the entire fandom down. I have been a fan of Batman since I was a young boy, through the animated series.

More recently I have found a love for the comic medium (holistically) and even more recently a love for the Batman comics. Especially those that involve the Joker. To me, The Joker is an incredibly complex character, despite the seemingly chaotic nature of his character. And, because of this, he is the focus of this article.

The Joker is one of those characters that has captured the imagination of comic book writers everywhere. Writers from Frank Miller to Neil Gaiman have tried their own personal brand of The Joker and his unending rivalry with Batman. You love to despise him, and at times find yourself almost rooting for him.

The Joker spent most of his life delighting comic book readers, but has been brought into the mass of our generation through Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, with the award winning portrayal by Heath Ledger.

But I find myself, a fan of the comic book Joker, appreciating Tim Burton’s take on the character more than Nolan’s (which is really saying something, because I love Nolan as a director and love the Dark Knight). Burton’s Joker (portrayed by Jack Nicholson)  was more well rounded. An enemy created by Batman. A straight laced gangster, through and through. The peak of elegance, which brilliantly juxtaposed the unease of his mind. Compare that to Nolan’s Joker who is as slobbish as he is deranged. Before you even really know who he is, you know that he is insane.

But, perhaps, the biggest difference is seen in these following clips:

Jack Nicholson Joker

Heath Ledger Joker

While I don’t think anyone will ever argue that Ledger’s performance was not the better PERFORMANCE of the two, the writing fell flat. Nolan’s Joker was a madman with make-up. Burton’s was a masterful killer clown. Nolan’s Joker lost the humor. There was no laughter or joy in Dark Knight. But in Batman, you see the Joker pulling pranks. Albeit, insane pranks. But that is what the comic book villain is all about. The joy. The insanity.

That is not to say that I agree with everything that Burton did with The Joker in Batman. Burton changed the background of the characters to say that the Joker, while he was still Jack Napier, killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. This changes the entire point of Batman to a story of revenge, instead of the traditional dark guardian propelled out of his misery. This choice made no sense, but is not really representative of the Joker.

That is not to say that Dark Knight is not a good film. In fact, it’s probably the stronger film of the two. While I did enjoy Burton’s Batman, the plot was lacking intensely, the characters weren’t nearly as developed as they should have been, and there was perhaps a bit too much camp. It was quintessential bad eighties. But it was a fun ride, and if you are a fan of the Joker, it is a MUST.

But for my money, the best Joker award still goes to Mark Hamill:

Mark Hamill Joker

Full Metal Jacket: “It looks like what we have here, is a failure to communicate!”

 

 

Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is another iconic Vietnam War era film from the 80’s that is famously known for the colorful remarks of the Senior Drill Instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), and Kubrick’s portrayal of the grotesque, realistic, and non-romanticized occurrences of war.

The film begins at boot camp, where Gunnery Sergeant Hartman is in the process of turning recruits into well-disciplined, hardened Marines who are prepared for combat, by employing the typical draconian tactics of shouting slurries of insults in the direction of the new recruits and the occasional use of physical force. Unfortunately for one bumbling and clumsy recruit, Leonard Lawrence, who later receives the name of “Gomer Pyle”, attracts the wrath of the Drill Sergeant. Pyle’s torment persists throughout the recruits’ time at boot camp from not only the Drill Sergeant, but also his fellow recruits as well because of the “collective punishment” policy where every mistake Pyle made, the platoon was punished and not Pyle. Eventually, the rest of the platoon gangs up on Pyle during a hazing ritual, beating him with bars of soap wrapped in towels in the middle of the night.

Before even stepping into the Vietnam War, the audience is given a glimpse into what the formation of a soldier entails. In the case of Vietnam, majority of the recruits had no business, nor had any desire to be in the military, but by law of the draft were forced into service. Vast majorities were unable to deal with even the psychological abuse in boot camp and experienced mental breakdowns. This is demonstrated in the film when Pyle, fed up with his abuse, shoots his drill sergeant and then commits suicide.

One of the most important scenes in the film is a later scene between one of the original recruits, (Joker) who is confronted by a colonel on the battlefield about why he is wearing a piece symbol on his body armor, and a helmet with the inscription “Born to Kill”. Joker responds with a philosophical answer, “I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man”. Joker’s answer summarizes the clear moral dichotomy of war that is presented in Full Metal Jacket.

 One of the more disturbing scenes in the film that captures the undiscriminating brutality of war, is when Joker and Rafter Man are being transported in a helicopter to the Tet Offensive Front and the door gunner is shooting at civilians in the rice fields, yelling “Get some” as men, women and children are struck by bullets. Sickened by what they are witnessing, Joker questions the man, “How could you shoot women and children?” To which the door gunner responds, “Easy, you just don’t lead’em so much! Ha ha ha… Ain’t war hell?”. If that’s not the mark of a psychopath, I don’t know what is.

“Get Some!”

Overall, Full Metal Jacket is another fantastic Stanley Kubrick film that brings yet another viewpoint and different film style of the Vietnam War to the big screen.

Platoon

From Wall Street to Vietnam, in “Platoon” (1986) Oliver Stone takes viewers on a journey to Vietnam that he himself lived firsthand.  During the film’s release, Platoon was regarded as possibly the best work of any kind about the Vietnam War. Oliver Stone took the film in a direction that dove into the immediate experience of the fighting and conflict by encapsulating the hellish life that infantrymen experienced on the ground, where thousands of young men dragged themselves through the rugged terrain of Vietnam surrounded by the foreign elements and exposed to numerous perils of war. The infantryman’s plight was well summarized with, “It’s better to get killed in the first couple of weeks. Otherwise, you just waste time worrying about it.”

 

Platoon is taken from the perspective of a small infantry platoon fighting near the Cambodian border. Not only is the larger war of Vietnam being fought, but there is also an internal clash of ideologies within the platoon. This clash occurs between the two competing leaders, Sergeant Elias, who stands up for his men and encourages a loose attitude and plenty of camaraderie. Sergeant Barnes, who is a high intensity, gun-ho, “Kill’em all’ kind of guy, is counter persona, an the epitome of all soldier stereotypes. The central theme revolving around this internal conflict is what type of persona a soldier should adopt to not only win a war, but also survive.

The platoon itself is divided with those who support Elias, but idolize Barnes. All of this is foreshadowing a future conflict between the two officers that occurs when Barnes shoots Elias, purposely committing friendly fire and lying to his platoon that the enemy killed Elias. This instance is one of the many manifestations of the stressors placed upon infantryman in Vietnam that eventually manifested themselves in inhumane violent actions.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but found some of the scenes over the top. However creating this sensation of war was Stone’s intention. Stone wanted to paint the realities of war onto the big screen canvas, similar to how he attempted to expose the lifestyles of greed and excess in the film Wall Street. 

Two Sides of Top Gun: Death of the Family and Awkward Habits

It is exhilarating to finally watch a film that people deem essential to a complete cultural existence in the United States. For some reason, people were invariably flabbergasted when I admitted I had never watched the film. So, as a dutiful American, I soaked up everything I could. What I found is fascinating.

Very early in the film, a pilot with the call name “Cougar” almost kills himself and his copilot when a picture of his wife and child paralyzes him–the photo gyrates violently and is blood red.

Iceman, a highly skilled pilot, insults Goose by calling him “Mother Goose” when they first meet.  When Goose dies, Mavericks only “family,” Maverick suffers and develops a brief complex towards engaging with an enemy.

Family is weakness, family is bad, family leads to suffering.

The success and skill of the two best pilots, Iceman and Maverick, seems to be based on their lack of family. They are free to fly, so to speak. Their families aren’t weighing them down.

On another note entirely, WHY DO THEY INSIST ON SINGING BADLY IN PUBLIC?

This happens a number of times, but the following two examples are the most glaring. I was shocked at the deluge of testosterone in the bar when the chorus of men belts, “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” at Charlie. Impromptu? I think not. Regardless, Charlie seems to be pleased with the display.

Another musical scene takes place in another bar during the day with Goose, his family, Charlie, and Maverick. They joyfully yell, “Great Balls of Fire” at each other.

I wasn’t exactly sure about the song titles, so I was about to look them up on the internet. Then I had an idea:

“Hey Dad!”

“What?”

“What song did those guys all sing in the bar scene to the girl in Top Gun?”

“You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” he said. He began to sing, “Loovin Feeelin.”

A few minutes later…

“Hey Mom!” I wanted to give her a chance too.

“Yeah?”

“What song did Goose and Maverick sing with the piano?”

“Great Balls of Fire” she said.

Then my dad said to me, “Your mother wanted to have Tom Cruise’s babies.” How many times have you seen Top Gun? Like 20?”

My mom scoffed.

I am still laughing.

 

On yet another note, WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS NIBBLING ON SOMETHING?

It’s never a substantial chew, just a slight mouth movement that I can’t help but conclude that Tony Scott thought this made them look cool or relaxed or something. Well, it was distracting to me, especially when they aren’t really eating something, or they’ve chewed something into cud, or they stop nibbling mid-sentence and then never resume. Maybe they are avid snackers and they carry small Ziplocs of goldfish everywhere. Strange.

They nibble—particularly when Charlie and Maverick converse. Look for it.

I liked Top Gun. I want a call name. I bet there’s a Top Gun name generator somewhere.

 

Thumbs up!