Classic Comic Double Feature: The Rocketeer (1991) & Dick Tracy (1990)

rocketeer posterA few weekends back we found ourselves in the enviable position of experiencing a light snowfall without much else to do so we decided to scroll through our On Demand options for a family movie. As it turns out we have free Showtime for a bit and The Rocketeer was on there, so we decided to give it a watch.

I don’t remember if I saw this movie in the theaters when it came out, but we did subscribe to Disney Channel back then (long before it was free) so I remember seeing a lot about it and probably caught it on TV.

Set in 1938, it’s about a stunt pilot named Cliff who discovers a rocket pack in his plane, designs a costume and helmet and fights bad guys including local mobsters (lead by Pau Sorvino) and movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) all while trying to keep things going with his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelley).

Directed by Joe Johnston who went on to eventually helm Captain America: The First Avenger, the movie not only works as an action-packed superhero film, but also a fun period piece that references a number of classic actors, actresses and other historical figures from the era (including Lost star Terry O’Quinn as Howard Hughes!). Add to that that real-life elements like potential Hollywood stars working with the Nazis and mobsters refusing to do the same and you have a great film that holds up really well aside from a few clunky special effects scenes here and there.

As a kid, I had no idea who the Rocketeer was before the film hit, but now I know that it was an indie comic book created by Dave Stevens in the 80s during that boom. However, I never got around to reading the actual comics until last year when I got my hands on the IDW-published reprint of Stevens’ entire run, though I was more interested in the pictures. You really don’t need to read the words because the art is just so crisp, clear and expressive. Plus, the colors in that book are just amazing. I don’t know how they compare to the original, but imagine they’re much better given IDW’s reputation for doing super high quality reprints and today’s far better printing techniques.

Dick-Tracy-PosterWhile scrolling through the options to get to The Rocketeer, I also saw Dick Tracy as an option. I LOVED this movie as a kid and realized that, given the obvious similarities, it would make for an excellent double feature mate with Rocketeer.

Based on the classic comic strip created by Chester Gould in the 1930s, Dick Tracy was directed by and starred Warren Beatty as the yellow-clad copper. He’s joined by Charlie Kormo’s The Kid, Madonna’s Breathless Mahoney, Al Pacino’s Big Boy and a variety of others as Tracy attempts to bring the mob boss down while keeping his relationship with Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) together and figuring out what to do with his new ward.

The beauty of this movie is that Beatty went full boat when it came to recreating the look and feel of the comic strips on the big screen. The suits and cars are all wildly colorful, matte paintings give the world an ethereal feel and the bag guy make-up brings characters like Little Face, Flat Top and Pruneface fully to life. Add in the idea of a kid trying to constantly get in on grown-up cop action, the pseudo love triangle with Breathless and the mystery of No Face and you’ve got a super fun and compelling movie that doesn’t get enough kudos from the comic-loving crowd.

As I mentioned, I was a huge fan of this flick when it came out. I definitely remember seeing it in the theater and as scenes appeared on my TV I remembered them from that viewing experience as well as moments captured by the trading card set. That feeling has lingered to this day when I basically want an Apple Watch just so I can feel like Dick Tracy (anyone else remember the wrist watch walkie talkies they sold?).

My four year old daughter slept through most of the first film and was looking at Disney princess dresses during the second, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend these for kids her age. Given the presence of mobsters, shooting, concrete and Madonna’s crazy dresses, it might not be appropriate.

That reminds me. I’m not a fan of Madonna’s outside of this movie and A League Of Their Own, but man, she just KILLS it in this movie. I’m sure I was dazzled by her sheer dresses as a kid, but this time around I really found myself feeling bad for her when she was ever so desperately trying to convince Dick Tracy to love her. Her character adds an interesting intensity to this film that just adds to the overall unique nature of a project that could have easily become what all the terrible late 90s comic book movies turned into: exaggerated cartoons with no concept of what made the source material work.

So, while these might not be the best movies to show a couple of kids (like we did), they are a ton of fun and act as a kind of vanguard for quality comic-based films that would come a decade or so later.

Halloween Scene: The Stepfather (1987)

Let’s be honest, the main reason I wanted to watch The Stepfather is because it stars Terry O’Quinn, you know Locke from Lost. It was fun watching him while we were going through Alias and of course his role in Silver Bullet. And, man, does he absolutely murder this role. He’s cold, set apart, but can also flip the smile and loving glow on when he needs to. Assume there’s SPOILERS ahead. I love how the movie opens with him intricately cleaning himself and changing his appearance while covered in blood. He gets dressed up and then calmly walks through his corpse-filled house all dressed for work. Man, that’s a hell of an opening. So, right away you know this guy is a killer and you’re sort of on edge the entire time because you never know when he’s going to snap and kill again. And that tension lies squarely on O’Quinn’s shoulders and I think he does a great job. He actually does such a great job that I found myself feeling a little drawn in by his niceness. After the opening transformation, O’Quinn already has another family and job set up so he can easily jump right in with that life. The problem is that his daughter-in-law played by Jill Schoelen (who was also in Popcorn!) doesn’t like him and keeps getting in trouble at school. I thought she was fantastic in this, but don’t really remember her in Popcorn.

As the film moves on and word of the first set of murders gets out, she starts getting suspicious. Meanwhile, the brother of the first dead wife is also on the hunt. So, you’ve got a race for who’s going to discover his true identity first and whether it will be before or after he kills his new family. The pacing is pretty great and, even though there aren’t a ton of kills, the suspense is always there with plenty of emotional highs and lows through it. And the final sequences after he snaps and is after his wife and daughter-in-law are great. You’re not really sure what’s going to happen, the guy searching for O’Quinn finally shows up only to get stabbed int he chest, there’s lots of other stabbing and shooting. It’s great.

The movie’s not all good though. I was very weirded out by the fact that, after making it very clear to the audience that Schoelen’s character is 16, they still has a scene with her getting into the shower where you can see full-on butt and the side of a boob. My math puts the actress at being 23 or 24 when it was shot, so it’s not actually weird, but knowing the character is so young and then seeing her naked was kind of disarming and took me out of things a bit. Also, the music is really weird and all over the place. I don’t usually notice things like that, but there’s a scene where the brother/investigator guy is in town, knocks on a door and realizes who O’Quinn really is. He leaps off of their porch and into his car while something that sounds like a Beverly Hills Cop cast-off plays in the background. I know it’s just a product of the time, but it was pretty strange. The music at the very end was a little strange as well, but I was pretty wrapped up in what was going on, so it didn’t bother me too much.

In the end, this is a movie I really really liked. I’ve watched a lot of supposed classics lately that left me feeling pretty bored like Terror Train and Black Christmas, so it was nice to see one that I dug. I also recommend checking out the mini documentary on the DVD in the bonus features, it’s not too long and full of interesting facts about filming and getting the movie together. I good rental all around!

"Look, Another Girl Fight Season Finale"

The above quote was straight from my lovely wife’s mouth as we watched the last episode of the third season of Alias. If you could somehow throw the word “crying” in there it would completely sum up my thoughts on this show. Season 3 really seemed to rehash a lot of previous ideas from the show (a man being betrayed by his spy wife, distrust in the organization, lying to loved ones, bad guys who just won’t die, incredibly sloppy spy stuff and crying. Lots of crying from our bad ass heroine.

The funny thing, though, is that I kind of liked these storylines better than those from the previous seasons. Maybe it’s that I knew what I was getting into when we started. Maybe it’s because the few people whose opinions I’ve heard said it was supposed to get so much worse this season, I’m not sure. I actually enjoyed this season more what with all the Rambaldi stuff taking center stage and twins and other family members coming to light. It’s not a great show, but the ticks seemed to be less (or at least less obvious) and you can see where shows like Lost and Fringe may have had their earliest seeds.

The most impressive element of this show, by far, has been the crazy amount of high quality guest stars they were able to pull in. Here’s a fairly completely list from Season 3: Scott Adsit, Djimon Hounsou, Bradley Cooper (he came back!), Richard Roundtree (seriously, Shaft is following me), David Cronenberg, Terry O’Quinn (he also came back!), Quentin Tarantino (also came back!), Isabella Rossellini (yeesh), Vivica A. Fox, Ricky Gervais (of original Office fame and general awesomeness), Raymond J. Barry, Peggy Lipton (Julie from The Mod Squad and Norma Jennings from Twin Peaks) and David Carradine (another returner). That’s a pretty impressive roster, especially when you consider that many of them made appearances in multiple episodes.

So, I’m curious to see how Season 4 and 5 go. I know there’s a twin or something. And a baby. But, since my expectations are pretty low, so I can’t really get TOO disappointed.

Number One With A Bullet

2008-08-15
3:50:32 am

Hey Gang, so, I’m not a big werewolf movie fan. It’s one of the many things I share with Brian over at

Horror Movie a Day. So, when I read about how much he liked the Stephen King-based Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Terry O’Quinn, Lawrence Tierney werewolf movie from 1985 called Silver Bullet. I’m actually going to let his

review speak for me as I essentially agree with him completely.

I will say, that I really enjoyed seeing Terry O’Quinn in something besides Locke (and the boss from Old School) and Tierney as someone besides Joe from Reservoir Dogs. It’s fun seeing these guys in other rolls when you’re so used to seeing them as specific characters.

Also, I gotta say that I found this to be a pretty effective movie. The werewolf effects weren’t great, but there was a Jaws-like sense of suspense by not showing him all too much. The mystery of who the wolf really is isn’t the main thrust of the flick, but it is a pretty tense moment when you find out who it really is.

And finally, you just can’t go wrong with Busey. He basically plays a slightly less crazy version of himself now and even adlibbed a lot of his lines, which King himself approved (if IMDB is to be believed). Good stuff.