Revving Up With The Wraith

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Don’t you hate when a quick synopsis of a film completely undercuts the actual story? That’s what happened when I decided to watch Mike Marvin’s 1986 teen drama/sci-fi/car/revenge film The Wraith on Netflix. In one sentence, the streaming service undercut a major plot point in the film, albeit one that will probably draw people in. Then again, looking at the film’s advertising campaign, they weren’t exactly trying to keep the identity of the film’s mysterious strange much of a secret. Continue reading Revving Up With The Wraith

Six Movies I’ve Seen Recently

Even with all the Halloween Scene posts I’ve been doing this month, I still watch non blood and guys flicks, I just don’t necessarily have the time or energy to do lengthy posts about all of them. So let’s just jump right into it. Let’s just assume there are SPOILERS in all these reviews.

SPECIAL (2006)
I remember hearing about this Michael Rapaport movie about a guy who gains superhero-like powers a while back and thinking it sounded interesting. I dig superhero movies, even when they’re not about known characters and I like Rapaport. Movies like this can be an interesting take on elements of comics and superheros that norms might not have experienced before, but geeks like us have. Special does something like though. See, in Special, Rapaport is a comic book fan who takes part in a pharmaceutical study. He thinks it’s giving him super powers, when really it’s just messing with his mind. To be honest, I turned it off with about 20 minutes left because it was crazy-depressing. Rapaport is such a sad sack lunatic, that he’s hard to watch. For a while you’re not sure whether he really does have powers or not, but by the time I turned it off, after you’re convinced he’s just nuts, I’m not sure how things are supposed to make sense. For instance, when we see him in a chase scene, are we seeing the whole thing through his mind or not? Or the invisible fight? How did these work in real life? I don’t often go in for the “comic book readers as a community” thing, but I do feel like this movie doesn’t help paint comic book fans in any kind of positive light. Eh, moving on.

THE TV SET (2006)
After being disappointed with Special, I wanted to watch something I had heard good things about recently. When I was still at ToyFare, Justin, just told me he watched The TV Set and dug it. See, it’s written and directed by Jake Kasdan who was a director and producer on Freaks & Geeks and is about a producer trying to get his show off the ground only to find his vision being trampled on at every turn thanks to TV executives. David Duchovny is the producer while Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) are the execs giving him trouble. There’s even a brief appearance from Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg (Howard). As a creative person who likes the idea of creating art and just letting it speak for itself, it was hard watching a man’s vision get picked apart and seeing him try to fight for his ideas, but ultimately losing. But unlike with Special, the downer tone didn’t bother me because it reads like a cautionary tale. Not necessarily one that says “don’t get into TV because THIS can happen,” but more along the lines of “hey, heads up, this friggin happens.” The TV Set should be required viewing for anyone looking to get into the TV business and also is kind of a perfect meta bookend for Freaks & Geeks fans.

breakout posterBREAKOUT (1975)
Sometimes I go through the Netflix Instant Watch movies and just look for a certain actor. One of those actors is Charles Bronson, because he’s a badass. One of those movies is Breakout, which gives us the story of a woman trying to get her husband (Robert Duvall) out of a Mexican jail with the help of Bronson and his right hand man Randy Quaid. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying a ton of attention so I missed a lot of the intricacies of the plot. See, Bronson cons a bunch of people in order to pull off this prison break, with all kinds of twists and turns that I didn’t get all of. I will say that Bronson is the man, no doubt about that and it was a lot of fun seeing such a young Quaid and I didn’t even recognize Duvall as I’ve probably never seen a movie where he was this young. Anyway, you can do a lot worse when going through movies from the the 70s starring badass mothers.

FAME (1980)
As I’ve talked about before, I’m a big Kevin Smith fan and love listening to his Smodcast podcast. And, Smith is a big fan of Fame, having talking about it on several occasions. That combined with the new movie coming out and the fact that I’ve been hogging the Netflix DVDs with horror junk, I thought it’d be nice to put Fame at the top of the list so we could watching something on Tuesdays when you don’t watch anything else. And man, what a weird movie this is. You’ve got the message of how hard the life of a performer can be (graduates as waiters instead of actors, photographers looking to take advantage of girls, alcohol) mixed with these over-the-top dance sequences that flow out into the streets of New York or completely take over a lunchroom. Now, I know that performing arts kids can be dramatic, I did musicals in high school and knew plenty of them in college too, but this is just nuts. Though, I do appreciate the fact that it’s a practical musical, one in which the singing and dancing can practically take place in real life. In the end I liked the movie and was glad I had heard Smith talk about it so I wasn’t so surprised by all the intense craziness so I was ready for it, but I did find it a little unfocused. I didn’t have a grasp of who our main characters were until the fourth year and I feel like some of the characters were dropped as it did zoom in on our few main characters. Ah well, good stuff. I’m guessing the remake isn’t as hardcore and the new version of the theme song sucks all the energy and life out of the original. Fail. Oh, also, Alan Parker, who directed Fame also directed Pink Floyd’s The Wall, weird right?

AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS (2001)
Remember how I said I hog the Netflix? I do, it’s a fact. But anytime Em and I try going through NetBox to find something to watch, it takes FOREVER. It’s not that our taste in movies is so wildly different, it’s just that the movies on Instant Watch tend more towards my weird tastes than hers. So, when we came across America’s Sweethearts starring John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts and Billy Crystal. The idea is that John and Catherina are big time movie stars who break up and break down, essentially, but they still have a movie premiering that they need to do press for. Like The TV Set, Billy Crystal co-wrote the story based on his experiences in Hollywood, so it’s another kind of insider look and seems to gel with things I’ve read. Crystal plays John’s agent while Julia is Catherine’s sister/assistant. It boils down to a romantic comedy, but it was a good enough one to pass some time. Plus, as you know, I love me some John Cusack.

side out posterSIDE OUT (1990)
Are there any other sports movies about volleyball? It seems like the people behind Bring It On and Stick It should be working on one right now, though stay away from Ultimate Frisbee, I’ve got something in the works (ie, I want to eventually make something). Anyway, I had heard about Side Out before somewhere, saw it was available on the NetBox and just decided the hell with it, I’m doing this thing! And, it was just okay. I’d still rather watch Bring It On or Stick It. The story follows C. Thomas Howell as a guy working for a bank or something (I can’t even remember what the actual job is). He’s serving papers to a rad beach dude and ends up playing volleyball with another guy. They get their asses kicked, then train and get pretty good, but the other guy gets hurt and the rad beach dude takes his spot. You’ve absolutely seen this kind of movie before, but this time you get Howell and Courtney Thorne-Smith and even Kathy Ireland for a few seconds. Good enough for a few beers and a watch, but I’m not counting the days till I watch it again.

All Out Action: Westworld (1973) & Hard Rain (1998)

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Like I said recently, I’ve been trying to watch as many movies as I possibly can with the Netflix on XBox option, but I’ve also had a few Netflix DVDs sitting around (though the Broken Arrow DVD was completely cracked down the center, so that’s one less to worry about for now). So, here we go with the reviews.

WESTWORLD (1973)

I distinctly remember watching Westworld with my dad when I was younger, but I apparently didn’t remember much but the very basics from the movie. I lucked out and got Em to watch it along with me and it seemed like she liked it well enough (she didn’t make fun of me like she did after watching The Warriors so that’s a plus). Anyway, I also really dug the movie, probably even moreso because I didn’t remember every little part of it.

The basic plot is that there’s this resort populated with robots where you can go and live like you’re in another time period (Roman Empire, Medieval England or the Wild Wild West). You can basically do whatever you want there (including shooting and having sex with the robots, though, presumably different ones). Our story focuses on two visitors, one played by James Brolin, the other by a guy named Richard Benjamin who looked familiar, but nothing on his IMDb rang any bells. Yul Brenner also starts as the robot Gunslinger who keeps coming after Benjamin. Well, the vacation doesn’t go quite as planned as the robots start revolting and SPOILER the Gunslinger kills James Brolin (Em and I both thought he’d be the hero, oh well), sending Benjamin running from the relentless cowboy killer robot.

There’s a lot of cool special effects and writer and director Michael Crichton (I had no idea he directed movies) does a great job of selling the story. According the IMDb trivia he got the idea for the story after visiting Disneyland, which was pretty funny to me because it seems pretty familiar to The Stepford Wives, which I read, watched and reviewed recently. The trivia also said that The Gunslinger also inspired John Carpenter to create the greatest slasher in movie history Michael Myers. So, if you’re a fan of either of those other movies or just cool sci-fi robot stories starring Jame Brolin and Yul Brenner, then you should definitely check this one out.

HARD RAIN (1998)

I’m not even sure why I put Hard Rain on my queue. It was probably one of those suggested movies that Netlifx does when you add a movie to your queue. Anyway, I wasn’t all too excited to watch it when the DVD came in, but I’m really glad I did as this is a fantastic action movie with one of the coolest and best handled natural disaster plots I’ve seen in a while. Plus, it’s got Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid, Ed Asner, Betty White and Minnie Driver sporting a pretty bad American accent.

Plotwise you’ve got Morgan Freeman leading a band of robbers trying to get their hands on the money in Slater and Asner’s bank truck in a town in danger of flooding. Meanwhile Quaid and his fellow police officers try to save the townspeople like Driver and White. As the water rises (and boy, does it get up there) so does the tension and a great “anything can happen” feeling. It does get a little crazy at the very end with all kinds of allegiances changing and crosses being doubled, but all that water makes it okay in my book. You’ve got everything from a boat being driven through a church window to a wave runner chase scene in a high school. It really is just a fun movie that offers up plenty of “how are they going to get out of THIS” situations. I highly HIGHLY recommend this movie to anyone who like fun movies who don’t let things like science get in the way of enjoying a movie (in this world, a gun can fire no matter how long it’s been under water, so just deal with it okay?).