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: Halloween (2007)

I’ve been avoiding Rob Zombie’s Halloween reinterpretation for a while now. When I first heard that Halloween was being remade I was skeptical to say the least. This is one of my all time favorite horror movies and probably on most other horror fans’ top 10 (at least). It’s a near perfect movie. So, why remake it? If anything, why not make a new sequel?

After it came out I didn’t hear any good things and figured it’d be best if I just left it alone. So, why did I watch it? It was in my house. It was sitting around for a while before I finally popped it in the old DVD player and was not impressed.

I’m not going to say that Halloween is a bad movie, but I will say that it seems to completely miss the mark on Michael Myers as a character and what makes something really scary. I know I’m not the first person to say that I don’t need to see Michael Myers’ crappy life to understand why he’s a psycho killer. What exactly is that point of showing us SO much of Mike’s childhood? All it does is kind of make us feel bad for him. But only kind of because that kid they got to play young Michael is way creepy. Just get to him being a huge killer killing people already. To paraphrase Patton Oswalt, I don’t need to see where the things I like come from, I just like them.

I’m going to switch over to my Live Blogging notes from here on out. To be fair, I was much harder on this movie than I would have been on a movie called Hallows Eve or something else, but hey, that’s what you get for recreating the BEST HORROR MOVIE EVER! Most complaints are in reference to the original movie.

*Oh, he has a shitty life? Thanks, I get it.

*Little Michael looks like a girl, he’s also too old.

*The bully looks like Shia.

*The principal looks like a zombie.

*Haha, now they’re saying Loomis was around before Michael went crazy? Ugh.

*The point of Michael Myers is that he’s just pure evil, showing him as an abused child (even a crazy one who kills animals) elicits at least a little sympathy. Also, I like the Michael just snaps in the original, it’s not a decline into madness it’s an elevator plummeting into the depths of hell.

*How is the bully letting himself get beat to death? Just get up! In real life, I feel like he’s try and get up.

*The blood looks like chocolate syrup.

*Why is his mom with that ass? I get making him a jerk, but seriously, what’s the point? There’s no explanation.

*Yeah, I get it, it’s the 70s, play something that ISN’T on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack. “Love Hurts”? Are you kididng me?

*Her boyfriend’s a douche “I want to do it with the mask on.” The MICHAEL MYERS mask? Ugh.

*Slits that mean bastard’s throat after taping him up. Pretty smart move for a kid.

*So, the boyfriend (steve) either is done banging the sister or is kicked out so he goes downstairs to make a sandwhich.

*Oh look, he’s hitting someone to death again. Inspired.

*Sis is next.

*Oh, also, killing everyone you know because you couldn’t go trick or treating is STUPID. this makes Michael seem like a bitch.

*Oh wow, he put on the MICHAEL MYERS mask. How prophetic. Blarg.

*Hey look, the baby we haven’t seen since the first scene. Will he kill her? OF COURSE NOT! Way to have no dramatic tension whatsoever. The people die in the exact order you think they would.

*Is that what an actual 10 year old looks like? I really have no idea. He seems older.

*So, he’s a normal-ish kid now in the asylum? Ha, and he’s oblivious. Perfect.

*Doesn’t remember what he did? Ugh. I hate this kid.

*YEAH, DANNY TREJO!!! Best interview I ever did.

*Danny tells him to live inside his head…wonder where THIS is going. CRAZY TOWN.

*He’s making masks. One of which is clearly Leatherface.

*HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE SILENT AFTER GOING TO THE INSTITUTION!!!!!! [I could definitely be wrong on this one, but I was not liking this movie pretty intensely at this point.]

*Woah, that nurse is a bitch. Also, probably dead soon.

*Oh no, the mom wants to kill herself. WHO CARES?!

*Old Danny Trejo!

*Why would they let him make all these masks?

*Tyler Mane DOES strike an imposing figure.

*Loomis isn’t supposed to LIKE Michael.

*Of course, the redneck guards are rapists.

*Why would you f**k with a GIANT?

*Michael just kills everyone now?

*The scene between Michael and Danny is tense (will he attack or won’t he?). Yeah, of course he does because this movie’s soulless.

*Why does Michael keep pulling Danny out of the water if he’s trying to kill him? A real murderer wouldn’t do that, it’s movie bullshit. Or he just wanted to smash him with a TV.

*Why does he zero in on this dude in the bathroom? There were a half dozen guys out there.

*Hey another knife kill. Wow.

*How is the jumpsuit not covered in blood?

*So, Laurie’s a crazy bitch? Awesome. [Introducing good girl Laurie with a lewd bagel/sex dance is a poor decision, first impressions and all that.]

*As if it needs to be said, we spend WAY too much time with Michael.

*How/when did he hide that knife and mask under the floorboards?

*DANIELLE HARRIS!!! I should have gotten an autograph when I saw her at Big Apple Con a few years back.

*Now they’re saying she’s Mother Teresa? After her weird bagel dance? Doesn’t jive folks.

*”Just keep the monkeyhouse locked until the monkey dies of old age.” – Loomis. This is great casting. I want to see him in a Halloween 6 remake, completely bat shit crazy.

*The girls are yelling shit at Michael. Why doesn’t he just kill them right there? That’s what this Michael would do.

*I’m still upset about the whole bagel thing too, mom.

*Micheal’s just walking down the freaking street! What happened to his stealthiness?

*Sid Haig, of course. I’m actually not afraid of him though for once.

*Why the heck are there title cards like “Trick or Treat?” After telling me it’s Hoddonfield and Halloween are these necessary?

*Haha, they party in the Myers house. Not a bad touch actually. Except he’s standing right there on the balcony!

*Michael’s killing yet another dude post coitus. A dude who wore a disguise of some kind. Yawn.

*Why do I recognize the gun store owner? [Can’t remember the character’s name by The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz is in this!]

*Holy crap, he just killed Laurie’s parents.

*Danielle vs. Michael, round 4, FIGHT!

*Cop’s face against the dooor as he gets stabbed looks pretty cool.

*Blah blah blah.

*He’s dead. Of course he’s not.

*Loomis: “What the hell?!” That’s a great line.

*Blah blah blah, she’s in the ceiling, they both go off the balcony.

*Empty that gun in his FACE! Aw, out of bullets. Of course. You should really check that ahead of time.

*Ken Foree was in this? Oh the dude in the truck stop.

*If it wasn’t called Halloween I think I’d be okay with it. You just can’t redo the classics.

Uncaged: Con Air (1997) and The Rock (1996)

2008-12-05
5:05:25 am

I recently switched from Blockbuster to Netflix as it was taking way too freaking long for me to get my DVDs (five days at times, even when I turned them in at the store, ugh). As a result I sat here switching my queue over and moving things around. I gotta say, I like the Netflix site a lot more. It’s way more user friendly and I actually like a lot of their movie suggestions. All of which I’m telling you to let you in on how I inadvertently ended up with two crazy, Nic Cage action movies from the mid 90s. I had never seen Con Air before and it’s been about a decade since I saw The Rock, so it was practically like watching it again for the first time.

CON AIR (1997)

What a great and crazy movie. Like with The Rock, I don’t really buy into one of the initial plot points. In this case its the idea that a military man just home from a tour of duty (or something, I’m not always clear on the jargon) kills a dude in a fight, a dude with a knife near Cage’s pregnant girlfriend no less. According to the brief court scene, soldiers are held to a higher standard because they’re killing machines. Sorry folks, I don’t buy it. Isn’t that plain old self defense? Anyway, aside from that (and Cage’s ridiculous accent throughout the film), I bought in. You see, Cage is done with his five year sentence and just wants to get home to his girl and their kid, so they put him on a plane (why was he so far away from home anyway?) with a bunch of other cons to fly them someplace else. Once in the air, the prisoners take over the plane in a pretty ingenious multi-part plan and we go on from there.

The first thing that struck me about Con Air is the cast. Aside from Cage, you’ve got John Cusak as a cop of some kind, John Malkovich as the mastermind behind the hijack, Dave Chapelle, Danny Trejo (the best interview I’ve ever had) and Ving Rhames as cons and Steve Buscemi as a sociopath serial killer. The characters aren’t all that well rounded, but the actors really sell their parts, offering up some of the creepiest cons in recent memory. Even Cusak, who I love in High Fidelity, Grosse Point Blanke and even 1401, is believable in the roll as an action-faring blockbuster cop, who would have thought?

There are all kind of groan worthy aspects to this flick, but I’ll take all of them in exchange for a crazy balls-out action flick that pays off in big names, big explosions and big plots. The final scene takes place in the middle of Las Vegas, first as a plane crash, then as a chase between a fire truck and two motorcycles. One aspect of the movie that was too much, though, was Colm Meaney’s “disbelieving tough guy cop.” In a movie filled with otherwise compelling (if not likeable) characters, Colm’s character just comes off as a boring, one note pain in the butt whose role should have either been rewritten or toned WAY down. It is cool to see his car come to its end, though.

One last thing, I just looked director Simon West up on IMDb and was horrifying to discover he’s the man responsible for subjecting me to the When A Stranger Calls remake. Well, to be fair, I’m responsible for subjecting Ben, Rickey and myself to a pretty awful movie, but who’s counting? It was by birthday after all!

THE ROCK (1996)

Like I said, I’d seen The Rock before, but had very little memory of it, which is great because this movie turned out to be a great surprise. I had a ton of fun watching The Rock, even though I was a little worried about it’s long running time (I have gotten pretty lazy, going so far as to sending Armageddon back without watching it because of its 2 and a half hour running time). Regardless, I am officially a huge Michael Bay fan, so of me what you will, even given what I think was a fairly weak plot point. My biggest problem with the story is that I don’t really buy that Ed Harris’ character would at any point believe his plan would work. If he’s not willing to actually kill a bunch of civilians, why would the government do anything by completely annihilate the island? Oh well.

The island in question is of course Alcatraz, the famous island prison which has fascinated me since I first saw it on some long forgotten show when I was a kid. There’s always been a great sense of history and mystery surrounding that place so I’m pretty much down with any movie or comic being set there (I’m also a big fan the Mythbusters where they test to see if prisoners could have really escaped from The Rock). I am also a big Sean Connery fan, though who isn’t? Seeing how great he is in this movie makes me wish he’d come back and do a role or two. In the flick he plays the only man to have ever escaped from Alcatraz. he gets teamed with chemical weapons expert Nic Cage to stop Harris and his hired soldiers (one of whom is Candyman) from firing off a series of missles with highly toxic bioweapons inside, which means they’ve got to break back into Alcatraz.

If there’s one thing Bay knows, it’s how to make an awesome movie. This one’s got everything from chase scenes to bad ass lines to bigger than life characters and cushion clenching suspense. It really makes me wonder what happened to Cage, though. If nothing else, these two movies reminded me of how much fun he used to be to watch on screen. Maybe it’s that I used to feel like we were both on the same page (these are goofy fun movies and he’s having a goofy fun time doing it), but somewhere along the line he turned into the guy who would star in Ghost Rider. Yeesh. I’ve also heard some pretty terrible things about Wicker Man and really want to watch it after seeing this Best Scenes from The Wicker Man YouTube video:

Crazy right? Well, I can always go back and watch Con Air and The Rock, both of which looked super awesome on the new TV (I really love this thing). But, hey, maybe John Carpetner’s upcoming Cage starrer Riot will bring him back to action movie prominence (I sure hope so).