KEEP BUSTIN'

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

tn_forceawakensstarwarsminuslucasWARNING: This is all spoilers, why would you read it without seeing the movie?

Previously on Disney’s Star Wars™: When it was announced that George Lucas had sold Lucasfilm to Disney and other people were gonna make new Star Wars movies, the world celebrated like the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI special edition but with the song from the original end of RETURN OF THE JEDI. I wasn’t so sure. I thought Lucas was a one-of-a-kind visionary whose works couldn’t be duplicated without his oversight, and I would rather see a flawed idiosyncratic Star War like his prequels than the potential mediocre one made by somebody else. But on the other hand as a huge Star Wars trekkie to the bone I couldn’t help but be excited to see Luke, Leia, Han, Sebulba and Chewbacca on the big screen again, something I never expected to happen. So when the trailers came out I was as down as anyone. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mishima: a life in four chapters

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This is the story of Yukio Mishima (Ken Ogata, VENGEANCE IS MINE), once “Japan’s most celebrated author,” but now largely known as a crazy who commited public ritual suicide. Paul Schrader’s complex, lushly produced film weaves together both sides of the writer’s legacy, illustrating what he called “the harmony of pen and sword,” an attempt to fuse his art and his actions into one.

It starts in 1970 the morning of the day when we know from the onscreen text that Mishima is going to take “4 cadets from his private army” to a military base, kidnap a general. Mishima, and those of us who have heard of this incident, know he will make a speech about the soul of Japan and then cut his belly open with a sword. But he doesn’t seem nervous. He skips breakfast but has one last leisurely morning, reading the paper, enjoying some tea in his lovely backyard. (read the rest of this shit…)

BEWARE! people talkin Star Wars

tn_starwarsPlease note, I will not be seeing the new Star picture until Friday night. I will be leaving the internet to seclude myself in the mountains or somewhere, hopefully to return with a review next week. I know some of you are gonna want to comment on it before then, so I made this post so you can use it and not some unrelated review where somebody might be reading the comments not wanting you to spoil FORCE AWAKENS for them.

But please remember that much of the world will not have seen the movie yet. Be honorable and not only try to avoid spoilers for now, but fill the beginning of your comment with a bunch of non-specific stuff so there is nothing even remotely midly almost spoilery in the “recent comments” thread. WE DON’T WANT TO FUCKING KNOW. Be nice.

“Patience my young padawan learner, be mindful of I have a special set of skills give me the fucking elephant.” –Qui G. Jinn

Happy Boonta Eve everybody and may the force awakening you! (that’s from Star Wars)

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

tn_templeofdoomlucasminusstarwarsOh no, Indy! Don’t go into that temple! That’s not a regular temple, that’s a temple of doom!

I practice religious tolerance, so if those guys want to eat monkey brains and bugs and what not, I’m not gonna judge. But in my opinion they should not be having child slaves and pulling a guy’s heart out of his chest and stuff. Not unless it’s consensual. I don’t care what their Bible of Doom says about it, you don’t go around doing that stuff, you guys. Or don’t rub our faces in it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM has an amazing opening that scores big by being absolutely not at all what anybody thought would be the opening of the sequel (well, technically prequel) to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Instead of rugged Indy wearing leather, in some jungle or desert, covered in sweat and sand, maybe carrying a torch, cutting through cobwebs in an ancient burial chamber, it opens with a musical number in a glamorous Shanghai restaurant. Dr. Jones has no hat, and is wearing a white tux, as he conducts a tense merchandise exchange with nefarious gangsters willing to resort to poisoning and hitmen disguised as waiters to get what they want out of him. But for his part Indy is willing to resort to taking a showgirl (Kate Capshaw) hostage at knifepoint and fleeing with an orphan boy named Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) as his getaway driver. (read the rest of this shit…)

Twice Upon a Time

lucasminusstarwarstn_twiceuponThe early ’80s were an odd time for animated features. Though Disney had somewhat come out of a slump with the successful THE FOX AND THE HOUND and Disney-defector Don Bluth had some success with THE SECRET OF NIMH, most of the releases were off-brand, slightly off-kilter and remembered now as cult films at best: FLIGHT OF THE DRAGONS, THE LAST UNICORN, THE PLAGUE DOGS, as well as cartoons for adults or teens like AMERICAN POP, HEAVY METAL, HEY GOOD LOOKIN’, FIRE AND ICE and ROCK & RULE. Into this weird landscape came TWICE UPON A TIME, a movie with an entirely unique look and that doesn’t seem to be aimed at children or adults.

The story has something to do with dreams. In a city called “Din” (portrayed by live action footage and photos of San Francisco or somewhere), people who fall asleep will have good dreams if little animated blobs jump on their faces. But an asshole called Synonamess Botch sends vultures and a magic glowing spring (?) to stop the blobs and give the people nightmares instead. Meanwhile, back in whatever the magical place that’s not Din is called, there’s a guy called Ralph, the All-Purpose Animal, who changes to different animals or combinations of animals, and has the same voice as Garfield, Lorenzo Music. He has a sidekick called Mumford who’s a guy with a bowler hat who seems like maybe he’s supposed to be funny or something, but I’m unclear what he does. These two are sent on a mission to dump some garbage, but then sent on a different mission to steal “The Cosmic Clock,” which they break and accidentally stop time. Also there’s a fairy godmother involved and a guy called Rod Rescueman who is one of those Dudley Doright type characters who thinks he’s a super hero but is actually just a dumb muscly guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Body Heat

tn_bodyheatlucasminusstarwarsBODY HEAT is a tight, atmospheric, sometimes literally steamy neo-noir from writer and first time director Lawrence Kasdan (THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, CONTINENTAL DIVIDE). It pulls off the feat of having the protagonist seem reasonably relatable and likable despite doing the wrong thing from beginning to end (including but not limited to aggressively courting a married woman and then plotting to kill her husband and get his money).

He is Ned Racine (William Hurt, who at that time had only starred in ALTERED STATES and EYEWITNESS), a sleazy Florida defense lawyer renowned by his friends like District Attorney Peter Lowenstein (Ted Danson, THE ONION FIELD) and police detective Oscar Grace (J.A. Preston from THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR and HIGH NOON II: THE RETURN OF WILL KANE) for his sexual conquests, though not his competence as a lawyer. One night Ned sees Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner, a stage actress with one TV episode to her name) standing looking at the ocean, and it’s all over for him. She’s just standing there like a real sexy piece of cheese in a mouse trap, and a mouse is gonna do what a mouse is gonna do.

BODY HEAT is a good title, but this is another one that could be called KEEP YOUR DICK IN YOUR PANTS. In the noir tradition they verbally spar; he hits on her, she rejects him, then makes one unmistakably suggestive comment before disappearing like Batman when Ned’s not looking. Might as well have thrown down a smoke pellet. (read the rest of this shit…)

Raiders of the Lost Ark

tn_raiderslucasminusstarwarsHave you guys seen this RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK movie yet? I was always under the impression that it was pretty well known, but then they changed the title to INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK so I guess it must’ve been one of those BY THE BOOK/RENAISSANCE MAN or EDGE OF TOMORROW/LIVE DIE REPEAT type of situations where it didn’t do well enough so they changed the title. The last resort of the marketing scoundrel. Anyway, this is the movie that Steven Spielberg made because he was sad they wouldn’t let him do James Bond and he wanted to make the fuckers pay dearly. He and George Lucas were kickin it V.I.P. style on the beach in Hawaii right after STAR WARS came out. They were probly like wearing cool shades, just hanging out pumpin some jams on the boombox, it was alot like this song is how I picture it, and it is said that the volleyball scene from TOP GUN was based on them. So George is spotting while Steven is doing some bench presses in my opinion and George starts talking about this old script he wrote with Philip Kaufman before STAR WARS, a thing called THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA SMITH that’s kinda in the style of the old cliffhanger adventure serials. After they got home they ended up reworking the whole thing and having this guy Lawrence Kasdan (who was writing STAR WARS’S EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) do a new script.

So they got the ideas and production of Lucas plus the supreme directing chops of Spielberg, and they made a great movie. I love that the opening shot is the Paramount logo dissolving into an actual mountain. It’s a signal that they’re taking extra special care from the first frame on to make every detail great. I know there are exceptions to this rule (DOOM), but usually when the filmatists even put thought into how to make the studio logo cool that means there’s gonna be some serious elbow grease in this movie. No laziness. (read the rest of this shit…)

Chi-Raq

tn_chiraqCHI-RAQ (Chicago + Iraq, pronounced shy-rack) is the Spikiest Spike Lee Joint achieved so far. It seems like whatever itch Lee was trying to scratch with those musical numbers in SCHOOL DAZE has been building up for all these years until it exploded onto the screen like that inflating dude in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. Lee must’ve woke up one morning and said fuck it, I’m gonna make a movie that’s so Spike Lee it turns into Baz Luhrmann.

Let me tell you a few things about how heightened and crazy this is. It has musical numbers. It has dance numbers. It has a rap number that breaks into a gun fight precipitated by an argument depicted in onscreen text messages. It has an army of women in chastity belts performing a sexy choreographed group lip-synch to “Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites (maybe my favorite scene). The two rival gangs wear purple and orange, and are called the Trojans and the Cyclops Spartans, whose leader is Cyclops (Wesley Snipes wearing a red-sequined eyepatch). There’s an explicit reference to THE WARRIORS so you know Spike knows what this reminds us of. (Also Luther himself, David Patrick Kelly, is in it.) All of this is presided over by a fourth-wall-breaking narrator played by Samuel L. Jackson wearing fly suits, spinning a cane and reciting toasts and dirty jokes like Dolemite. That’s not just me reading into it, because he’s called Dolmedes and he references Shine and the Signifying Monkey.

Oh, by the way: all of the other characters speak in rhyme also. So that’s pretty different from most movies. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kagemusha

tn_kagemushalucasminusstarwarsIn 1980, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola presented a film by Akira Kurosawa, KAGEMUSHA. It opens with a five minute static shot of three almost identical looking characters sitting in a throne room in their fancy robes, two of them talking about the other one. You got the emperor Shingen there in the middle and his brother is on his right telling him about the guy on his left, how he spotted this petty thief about to be executed and noticed that he looked like the emperor and would make a good double for him. Sure enough he’s a dead ringer. It’s a real good find, this could work out great, right? But the double is kind of belligerent and crazy, and also he very reasonably chafes at the idea of being called a criminal by a guy who has killed thousands in wars and executions.

Maybe with some training though?

I guess people compare KAGEMUSHA to that movie DAVE, where Kevin Klein is a lookalike who has to replace the president, but I haven’t seen that one, so I’ll compare it to FACE/OFF, where a cop pretends to be a criminal? I don’t know. Anyway, the job gets more serious when the emperor gets hit by a sniper and before dying makes his boys promise to keep his death a secret for three years. I didn’t get this at first, but I think it’s because his heir is his grandson, a little boy. Gotta let him grow up to be at least 7 or 8 before tossing him in the deep end. (read the rest of this shit…)

More American Graffiti

tn_moreamericangraffitilucasminusstarwars1977 saw the release of George Lucas’s third film, STAR WARS. It did well. But the experience of making it was troubling enough to make Lucas rethink his dream of directing films. He decided to redirect his energy toward producing for other directors, and in fact he didn’t direct again for 22 years. But in 1979, as an executive producer, he brought back the characters from his second film.

I’m not gonna try to convince you that it was a good idea to make a sequel to AMERICAN GRAFFITI six years after the first one, but this is a much better sequel than I was figuring on. Definitely more interesting and ambitious than you would guess. I bet what happened was they wanted to do MORE THX-1138 but when the first one wasn’t a hit they rewrote the script for these characters.

While REGULAR AMOUNT OF AMERICAN GRAFFITI dealt with the cultural shifts of the ’60s by nostalgifying the times right before the a changin’, this one actually dives straight into the muck. The first thing you see is army helicopters over Vietnam, and there are more hippies and protests in this one than cars cruising the strip. It still doesn’t deal directly with the civil rights movement, but there are hints.

The impressive part is the structure. We find the gang back together on New Year’s Eve, 1964. Laurie (Cindy Williams) is now pregnant with twins, married to Steve (“special appearance by Ron Howard,” but it seems like a genuine role to me, not a cameo). Debbie (Candy Clark) and Terry the Toad (Charles Martin Smith) are still together, but he’s shipping out to ‘Nam tomorrow to “Kick ass, take names and eat Cong for breakfast.” They all come visit their cool drag racer friend John Milner (Paul Le Mat) at the track, where he’s trying to win races, attract a sponsorship and build a legit driving career. So it seems like it will be another day-in-the-life with this group of friends as they’re all on the verge of major life changes. (read the rest of this shit…)