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The Indefinsibles: Legend (1985)

Gabby: The harmony of the universe depends upon an eternal balance. Out of the the struggle to maintain this balance, The Indefensibles try to see both the good and bad in Jeremy’s pick…

Jeremy: Legend. I wonder if my GeoCities site of Tom Cruise upskirt photos is still up.

Brett: So, Jeremy, this was your pick. How do I put this? Explain yourself!

Jeremy: Here’s the thing: I don’t like Legend. Never have. But I haven’t seen it in who knows how long. I wanted to give it another chance, because it’s Ridley Scott doing sci-fi/fantasy. Theoretically, I should love this. If I were to do a top ten list of my favorite movies, Blade Runner is near the top. Alien is an honorable mention at the very least.

Legend is one of the first movies I remember where I didn’t like something I wanted to watch. I was bored and confused because I was bored. Besides catching a few minutes here and there on cable, the next time I attempted to watch it was when I scored a free copy of The Director’s Cut on DVD. I barely made it through Lily touching the unicorn. So this is the first time I’ve watched it start-to-finish in 30 years.

Hate’s too strong a word for my reaction this time – but I have little patience for it. And it’s my own pick. I get to be “the Jeremy” of my own pick.

Gabby: I like the fact you’re ‘the Jeremy’ of your own pick!

Brett: I had fun with the movie, but I think you could make one of those kids’ books with a record from the ’80s (“When you hear Tom’s shorts being tiny, turn the page…”) and not miss a single line of dialogue. You could fit the whole story in about two pages of text. And yet… I liked it. I kind of wanted to watch The Director’s Cut right after to compare what was different. Because I, too, haven’t seen it since it first came out on DVD.

I like how it looks, and there is something going on there… but it all feels so hollow. However, I also think Blade Runner is a little hollow, too. Soooo…

Jeremy: Don’t worry – there’s nothing you can say about Blade Runner that my wife hasn’t said before. (“Jesus, you’re watching that again?”) Also, you can’t shock me after you said mean, mean, awful, hurtful things about Fellowship of the Ring on Twitter.

The weird thing is that I have a soft spot for beautiful messes like this – David Lynch’s Dune, Tron: Legacy, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Heck, I’d even go to bat for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, despite having problems with it. (You better believe we’re doing Prometheus one day, folks.)

Gabby: Brett, I am so relieved. I thought I wasn’t supposed to think Blade Runner was hollow. I will confess that I agree with you. I wish I could enjoy it on the same level as the majority of film lovers, but I just never have been able to. But I greatly admire it when watching it, but it is a slightly detached admiration unfortunately. I want to be you Jeremy when watching Blade Runner. I hope to see it on the big screen one day, and maybe it will all click together in an eye-opening revelation. I just totally fell in love with another revered classic, 2001, after getting to experience it on the big screen.

Brett: I still love Blade Runner, but I admit the problems with it. So many problems. 

Jeremy: Don’t worry – you’ve been dead to me for some time. Fellowship of the Ring, Brett. Fellowship of the Fuckin’ Ring.

Brett: I know. 

Jeremy: And I know what people find lacking with Blade Runner and Scott’s movies. (And I’d kill to see Blade Runner in a theater.) With all the movies I just mentioned, there’s something to bite into besides the sensory experience – characters, themes, allegory, or just sheer nuttiness. There’s nothing to invest in here. At least, I found nothing to invest in.

Brett: Legend is the culmination of all the complaints about Ridley Scott movies. Weak narrative, poor character development, reliance on images over storytelling. Blade Runner has some character work, Alien has characters and a complete story.

Gabby: Alien does have a complete story and real characters, yes. Two of the reasons I adore Alien. 

Jeremy: Outside of Tim Curry’s performance, there’s little to embrace besides the production and makeup effects. And holy shit, you guys, the makeup effects. We’ll talk more about the makeup soon.

Brett: What I find odd is that this is the movie Tom Cruise made just before Top Gun. I always had it in my head that this was waaay earlier in his career. legend_2_tom-cruise_old-teethThe character of Jack is so paper thin and empty. He must have been excited to work with a big name director, because I can’t imagine the script gave him much to chew on and he was working towards being the biggest star in the world at that time.

Jeremy: If memory serves, my family rented this because the guy from Top Gun was in it. (Note for our younger/non-US readers: I can’t begin to describe how ridiculously huge Top Gun was back in 1986.)

Yeah, emptiness is the best word for this. Compare this to Lynch’s Dune. I don’t care for the characters in Lynch’s adaption, either – but they are fascinating, for better or worse. Probably worse.

Gabby: I agree about the emptiness. The worst thing about that, I think: Scott believes it’s smart and filled with meaning. So then it also comes across a bit pretentious. I remember listening to part of the Blade Runner commentary with the unicorn and being stunned by the level of self-satisfaction he had at its layers of meaning. Just because you use unicorns doesn’t automatically mean you bring the layers of mythical meaning with you. You have to do something with it. If not, it just ends up being weak Christian imagery; like the film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

There is more power in one line, regarding unicorns, in Harry Potter and The Philospher’s Stone than this film. The moment I am thinking of is when Bane tells Harry that Voldermort drank the blood of a unicorn to stay alive, and what that does to someone: “You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.” Joanne Rowling knows how to use mythology, bring it to life with a new interpretation and all in the context of a compelling larger story.

Jeremy: Well put. And the cast is trying. There are no bad performances here. I know I’m repeating myself, but there’s just nothing there for them. Even Gump wouldn’t be memorable if the overdubbing legend03didn’t make him sound like he was drinking Scotch every time he was off-screen to get the cigarette taste out of his mouth.

Brett: The comedy feels really, really out of place, too. I kept thinking, “Why are there jokes? He was building atmosphere just to kill it with this stuff?” And the comedy is really goofy. I get he was trying to make some kind of classic storybook movie, but when the rest of the movie is so dark, the gags just yank you right out of what little story there is. 

Jeremy: Yeah, there’s that moment when the not-so-bad henchman stands up to Darkness, Darkness intimidates him, and then he yelps, “Shit!” It’s such a record scratch of a moment. I’m curious if these bits stick out more or less in The Director’s Cut. The need for levity makes more sense with a 113-minute movie. (The theatrical cut comes in just shy of 90 minutes.)

Granted, I have a fondness for navel-gazing movies, so f1d253157ca6abb1696ebfd0550f0974maybe I’m looking for something that was never intended – but is there anything of weight here? It’s just fairy tale 101 combined with the opening riff of the Bible. And we probably shouldn’t dwell on the Adam and Eve comparisons. I’m sorry, Christians, most of you are great – but your origin story is messed up. Please know I don’t want to knock anyone’s beliefs, but I also want to call attention to something that is profoundly misogynistic.

Gabby: It really is deeply misogynistic. We should really celebrate Eve as she gave us knowledge. But of course she was a woman so therefore we must think she is a disgrace. Lily is curious, she doesn’t know the rules and means no harm. If you saw a unicorn, wouldn’t you want to touch it? Talking of Lily; I want to get one thing off my chest, Lily please stop singing. You are not particularly gifted in this area.

Jeremy: Heh. Yeah, I hope it doesn’t need to be said, but I have a problem with a story where the concept of sin or the loss of innocence is solely a woman’s fault. That being said, Lily’s part of the story is better than I remember. She’s not intentionally doing anything blasphemous. Then, she realizes what she’s done and wants to fix it. Lily’s never seduced by Darkness and does play a part – too small a part – in saving the day.

This does get me to one thing I like about this movie: even Jack, our hero, would be lost without the fairy folk. I like that Jack and Lily are fixing this mistake,legend-still-2 but they need help along the way. The problem is I don’t feel the characters – especially Jack and Lily – grow at all. And the murdered unicorn is alive again at the end. This world is presumably static again. So who cares?

Gabby: That is a good example of where something could have been added to make the film richer. There is no growth for the characters really and not much of consequence. Lily being more involved in saving the day would be more interesting. It would give her a chance to not just redeem herself but to prove she can have the adventures she wished for at the beginning. To be an active participant in them. Instead she doesn’t really get a chance to do that.

Jeremy: We should get to why anyone still cares about this movie: Tim Curry and the artists that made Darkness come alive. Because, goddamn…

Brett: Tim Curry is amazingly magnetic. There are times when he is moving around where I kind of can’t tell how they managed it. Those horns alone look like they would neehqdefaultd extra wires to support the weight.

Jeremy: I read up on Rob Bottin’s makeup effects. There was a harness built into the neck and chest prosthetics to support the fiberglass horns. At best, I bet that upgraded that makeup from being excruciating to barely tolerable.

Tim Curry has less screentime than I remembered, but who knows how many days he was in makeup? Like Clue, this was a physically and mentally exhausting performance that took weeks to create. Imagine the concentration and stamina needed for that.

This might just be me, but there are two Tim Currys in my mind. There’s the guy we saw in Clue, who from that point on provided comic relief and quirkiness to a number of so-so mainstream films. (We’ve already covered two of them.) Then, there’s this Tim Curry. The same guy from Rocky Horror. Still quirky, still theatrical – but oozing a playful sexiness.

I mean, a ridiculous level of sexiness. If you were this Tim Curry’s neighbor and realized you were out of sexiness, you could knock on his door and say, “Sorry to bother, but it appears I’ve just run out of sexiness. Could you spare some?” Then, Tim Curry would playfully arch an eyebrow and say, “Oh, of course, dear. Won’t be a mo’. Practically drowning in the stuff here…” That’s how sexy this Tim Curry was.

Brett: So… are you making a sexy cake? Is that the secret ingredient to your monkey bread? You put a little sexy into every bite?

Jeremy: A gentleman baker never tells…

But, er, yeah, I’m not sure you’d call Darkness sexy. Not unless hooves do it for you. But I’m trying to remember another portrayal of the devil – in demonic form – that’s intended to be seductive. That’s what the pleasing shapes are for.

Here’s something that stuck out to me on this viewing: he’s the one character that actually has some layers to him. Darkness is always intimidating, but he knows his weaknesses, his limitations. Sometimes, it’s like he knows he’s on the losing side. And that’s all coming from Curry’s performance. It’s obvious he spent a lot of time in the makeup chair figuring out this character.

This is Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster good. The problem I keep coming back to is Tim Curry put more thought into Darkness than the screenplay ever did. He can only take the character so far.

Brett: The whole movie is super hollow and only exists in our minds because of him. But he’s not in it enough to satisfy.

Gabby: The idea of Curry knows he is on the losing side is a really good point Jeremy. Lily could have figured out how to play against that, to learn how to be Darkness’ antithesis, to help restore the balance around her. It is a shame Curry doesn’t have anything like that to bounce off of as his performance is wonderfully rich.

Brett: To change subjects… I was annoyed at how much they tried to make everything Lily’s fault. Everyone blames her for touching the unicorn. A thing they never told her not to do until she had already done it. “It’s forbidden! How could you?” “You could have mentioned this two minutes ago.”

And I’ve always felt that Ridley Scott would be happier as a silent film maker. Put on the track where it’s just the music and see if the movie doesn’t make more sense.

Jeremy: I get that. I’m still blown away by how charming and effortless The Martian was. That movie’s all about the dialogue and performances.

Brett: Haven’t seen it.

Jeremy: I loved it. Like, a lot.

Brett: I will have to check it out, then. Okay, quick round-robin. Did you guys think that this movie had way more Tim Curry in it before watching it this time? I remember they only interact at the end, but I remember him being in the movie more often. Probably because outside of the set design, Tim Curry is the only really good thing in this movie.

Jeremy: I had the same reaction. I remember this being his movie.

Gabby: This was my first viewing, but the movie came alive when he was on screen. So I really wish he did have way more screen time than he did.

Jeremy: Before we wrap things up, I’d like to focus on the sets for a minute. They’re stunning – no one does it better than the good people at Pinewood Studios. One other thing I like about Legend is Scott’s decision to keep everything practical. The number of optical effects shots is surprisingly low, even in 1985.

I’ve always had a fondness for movies like this, which lean into creating exterior locations on studio sets. They’re not trying to hide it, and it creates a heightened world that feels otherworldly. Visually, Legend holds up incredibly well – because they did almost everything in-camera. I’m not against digital effects, but if you can do it practically, do it practically.

Brett: There is a surprising number of time lapse shots in the movie. And I like all the little practical touches. The shot of the fire place, where the mist is rolling into the fire, it took me a few seconds to work out how they got the mist moving so quickly. It sort of appreciate that moment where I get to get caught up in the “How did they do that?” moment.

We’re on the same page about CGI: it’s fine when it works, but it should be an item of last resort.

Jeremy: And with that, final thoughts?

Brett: All my thoughts are of tiny shorts and Tim Curry being sexy. If only we would have had Tim and the Tiny Shorts on their own, like a buddy cop movie.

Jeremy: I’d watch that movie. But of course I’d watch it. You know the kind of movies we cover here.

It’d be interesting for us to wait a year and give The Director’s Cut a chance. Maybe not do a full article – but see if our feelings change with time and/or the different cut.

Thanks for reading, everyone. We’re only doing two Tim Curry movies for now, since we’re already so far into October. We’ve got another round of scary movies lined up for this year, and we’re each picking a movie from a Master of Horror. Brett’s pick, The Dark Half, will be up soon. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter or leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

See you soon, knuckleheads. Go watch a movie.

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The Indefinsibles: Night at the Museum 2 (2009)

Gabby: Welcome to the extended reign of The Indefinsibles. We traveled to the darkest depths of ancient history, and then came back to discuss…

Jeremy: Night at the Museum 2: Something Something Smithsonian. A film as educational as a Texas public education textbook and half as funny.

This is our second installment in our “Summer of Sequels” series. Why did you pick this movie, Gabby?

Gabby: Mainly I think it was a good film to demonstrate a type of box office yard stick. It might not be great, but there are some fun things about it. At least you didn’t totally waste the money you spent on the cinema ticket. There is also a discussion to be had as to the potential of the movie and how the final product fell short.

Brett: This isn’t the worst – the performances are fine and the movie is in focus. The script follows the three-act structure because professional screenwriters worked on it. The effects and lighting are fine. It’s just, as a whole, not that good. It is less than the sum of its parts. We could sell Stiller for what the whole movie is worth. It’s kind of dull, the story is kind of stupid. Coming in without seeing the first one, it took me nearly 15 minutes to learn the rules. And it just didn’t make much of an impact either way. And that’s actually the main problem.

It’s not a good-bad movie, because I couldn’t make fun of the bad performances or cheesy production values. It wasn’t a movie I liked despite its flaws. And that makes it a worse movie than say… Omaha: The Movie or Amazing Spider-Man 2. Those are fascinating and amazing messes. One is a first time director that didn’t know quite what he was doing and the other is just such a train wreck.

My point is that what makes a bad-bad movie is that it’s boring. That’s the one big sin a piece of entertainment can commit. The worst thing about this movie is that I barely noticed it. If we didn’t plan on discussing it afterwards, I probably would have never thought about it again an hour after it was done.

Jeremy: For the most part, we’re on the same page. Since I’ve never seen the first Night at the Museum, I tried to imagine it’s 2009 and I’m only watching this at the theater because I’m a good friend/boyfriend/older brother. Would I be confused and miserable throughout? The answer’s “no.” With this many talented, funny people sharing the screen, some good material is invariably going to seep through. This is a weird middle ground you rarely get in movies: nobody’s phoning it in, but no one’s working that hard, either.

Like you said, Brett, this is a total product. The writers, Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, are two funny guys who’ve made a second career out of writing big studio comedies designed to be studio note and test screening proof. They have no illusions about what they’re writing. And if that puts food on their table so they can create material they care about, I’m OK with that.

So, yeah, no strong feelings about this movie – except I wish it was funnier and cared about history or science or anything besides pacifying the masses. It actually does make me want to see the original. I can imagine a sweeter – if no less mercenary – version of this story about an average Joe with big dreams getting a kick in the pants after spending a night with these historical figures.

So let’s start with this: how weird is Ben Stiller’s arc in this movie?night-at-the-museum-battle-of-the-smithsonian-oscar-the-grouch-darth-vader-review I’m assuming his dream of becoming a successful inventor came true at the end of the first movie. The sequel bends over backwards to get him back in a security guard outfit, so he can realize he was happier as a night watchman.

Brett: And that was such an odd plot point, because it really wasn’t earned or defined in any way. They just mention he’s not happy, but there isn’t a sign of it. He doesn’t seem unhappy. He doesn’t seem unfulfilled. And you know, fuck this movie for trotting out the “if you’re successful you must really be miserable” trope. I really hate that one.

Jeremy: Yeah, he’s consumed in work and obliviously being kind of a dick. Not a full dick, mind you. Just a bit of a dick. Not even a half-shaft. It’s probably not worth digging too deeply into this film’s messages, but I also dislike movies that say you can either be successful or you can be happy.

It’s like Hollywood’s afraid we won’t root for a character who is both. I‘m OK with the setup that he’s too focused on his job, but can’t he end up running his business and supporting the museum? He doesn’t need to sell his business to be a patron. If he needs an excuse to visit his magic friends there, he should start selling his glow in the dark flashlights in the gift shop.

Gabby: The Ben Stiller character arc is a big flaw in this film. I rewatched the first one before I rewatched this to prepare a bit. And the first one ends with him as a night guard. He is a man with ideas for an invention or two, but never really followed anything through. This arc works in that film. The first film also tells him the importance of learning his history. In the second one, he doesn’t even seem to care about meeting Amelia Earhart or learning about the things she is famous for.

The other problem I have with this film is it brings back characters natmuseum23from the first movie and leaves some of them in a big crate for the majority of the film. A new character, Colonel Custer, joins them, who is the one given the majority of the material inside the crate. This makes it almost nonsensical to have those characters back at all.

The talent in this movie maybe should have been let free a bit more. As the plot is total nonsense anyway. I did love that Robin Williams bit about ‘New York Teddy.’

Jeremy: Yeah, it amazed me that most of the supporting cast wasn’t written out entirely, based on how little they have to do here. I do like Bill Hader’s Custer. I’m not sure how much Hader improvised, because his bits are among the strongest in the movie. They had a funny idea and fully committed to the bit. That’s rare in this film.

Brett: I thought Amy Adams also committed to the part, I just thought that part was terrible. Hank Azaria got the broad outlines of the script and then just riffed on it. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn his part was mostly made up on set.

Robin Williams did a pretty good job, with what he was given to do. Ben Stiller was… well… he was there. I have never loved him, but I have never felt he wasn’t doing the best he can. This is what makes the movie so bad in my mind, because we are just so “Meh” about it.

There aren’t a lot of “What the fuck?” moments. There’s only a few complaints about how their history is badly off, or how they picked most of Amy’s lines by grabbing a slang dictionary and picking terms at random. 

Gabby: I love Amy Adams in this. She is kind of why I liked this. john-carter-mars11I want to see the movie she was going for, with her part being better written. It is Amelia Earhart for goodness sake, the people writing this had history books, documentaries and the internet after all.

I reimagined this movie at some point because I feel something is there, but a better framework was needed in order to support that character and give her the movie she deserves. Amy Adams is so earnest, adorable and enthusiastic I just can’t help love her playing a fantastic and iconic historical figure. Ben Stiller is fine. Hank Azaria is such a life raft for the messy structure by just having fun. He delivers his lines with flair; ‘You’re evil, you’re asthmatic…’

Jeremy: I’m glad you brought up the bit with the bust of Teddy Roosevelt, Gabby. It’s the quintessential scene of this movie for me. It’s a great idea with a lot of potential, and nowhere near as funny as it should be. They’re coasting on the premise. It’s one of many scenes where I was thinking, “You had the premise, you had the structure. Why didn’t you keep working on the jokes?

Brett: I wonder if they thought the movie was working when they were on set. This was probably one of those movies where everyone had a lot of fun filming. Everyone is a pro, everyone did their job, and there was likely a lot of laughs during every take. 

I am reminded of a story Terry Gilliam told on the commentary for Monty Python and Holy Grail. He said that during the editing, Terry Jones would pick takes that weren’t quite as funny as the ones Gilliam picked. He said Jones was always wrapped up in the moment where they were on set and that one take made them laugh the hardest while filming. But Gilliam always said that those weren’t the best takes and that Jones was remembering the fun they had on set, rather then looking at what’s in the frame on the screen.

Since I heard that story, I have often found times where I have been watching a subpar movie and thought, “You went for the take that made you laugh harder while filming, rather than the one that works in the movie.”

This movie is imagesan example. I would bet that Hank Azaria was making everyone on set piss themselves with laughter. I would bet that they had to stuff socks in their mouths not to ruin the bits with Custer. I would even bet they applauded every time Amy Adams rattled off one of those chains of slang-filled dialogue. You can sort of see the places where this production was a hell of a lot of fun. 

The problem is, very little of that fun translates to the screen.

Jeremy: I’d never heard that story about Holy Grail before. A good piece of wisdom for all of us endeavoring to be funny. Comedy’s a discipline that requires objectivity, like any other art form.

Back to Amy Adams for a moment: I always enjoy seeing her in movies, but her Amelia Earhart didn’t do a lot for me. She’s doing what she can – no one working today does plucky better than her. I get where they were going with her character: live in the moment, have an adventure. The problem is Ben Stiller’s already doing that. He just needs to put down his phone and have dinner with his kid now and again.

I don’t think it would fit the rules, but I first thought Amy Adams would keep flying at the end so she could keep outracing the dawn, instead of flying back to the Smithsonian. And how lame is the ending, with Ben Stiller bumping into her playing another character?wicked4

Brett: They literally stole the ending of the remake of Bedazzled.

Gabby: Or One Touch of Venus. Which has a similar but much better executed version of that ending. I love One Touch of Venus. These movies should have more of what it had.

Jeremy: Never seen either of those movies, but it’s a well-used trope. I wouldn’t mind it in the slightest if it made sense within the narrative.

And I didn’t have the same problems with Ben Stiller that you did, Brett. When it comes to finding the right role that suits his talents, he reminds me of Steve Martin. They both often play overly straight-laced schmoes or wild, crazy guys. Their best roles are in a narrow middle ground where they get to be a little of both. This part’s almost in that middle ground, but he rarely gets a good line. On the other hand, he’s a good sport and shares the screen well with everyone who gets to cut loose, such as Hank Azaria, who’s my favorite part of the movie.

Granted, anyone doing a Boris Karloff impression that good is going to get my full attention. (And ’90s Simpsons is practically a religion for me.) Azaria’s live-action roles are often underappreciated because he is so great at doing those voices. I’m glad there’s something more to the character besides the voice. I dig the idea that he wants to conquer the world… but wants someone else to do the conquering while he sits in his throne room. Again, I’m thinking, “Oh! It’s so close. You’re almost there, gang. Just keeping working the material and stick the landing.”

And Jesus, how unnecessary are Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone? Christopher Guest gets a moment or two to do his thing as Ivan the Terrible, which is always welcome. The Napoleon gags are cheap and obvious. And did they even bother writing a joke for Al Capone?

It doesn’t matter. They’re taking time away from Azaria and the returning cast. I guess it could’ve worked if Azaria recruited them one at a time, night-at-the-museum-battle-of-the-smithsonian-oscar-the-grouch-darth-vader-reviewand they each had their own setpiece where they attempted to capture Stiller and Adams. That would make the Darth Vader/Oscar the Grouch scene funnier – like Azaria’s running out of bad guys and desperately exploring his remaining options. Despite being obvious fan service, that scene is funny – thanks to Azaria’s delivery. And I’m not just saying that as a huge Star Wars fan.

One last thought about the performances from me. This was, I think, the first time I’ve watched a Robin Williams performance since his death. That hit me a lot harder than expected.

Brett: His opening performance particularly, when he first gives Ben Stiller the fatherly advice and is cut off before he finishes was just sort of… I’m really glad nothing important happened for a minute or two after that because I needed a moment to myself.

Jeremy: My feelings about Robin Williams grew more complicated over the last decade, but he’ll always be one of my comedy heroes.

Gabby: I had a similiar reaction to that fatherly advice bit also Brett. When talking about my emotions around Robin Williams’ death, virginia-water_2602492bI can’t say it better than I did here with my friend, and sometimes co writer, Josh Pearlman. He was a brilliant talent and I was very overcome with emotion when he died. The first movie too was a bit hard for me, but it gave him much more to do. The first movie was much better, from this point of view, as he was given more room to just be an entertaining version of Teddy Roosevelt. It doesn’t ring true to me when Teddy in the second movie tells Ben Stiller what he really was going to say. It definitley felt like it was leading to a sincere touching moment. Maybe that was a studio note to make the ending more peppy.

When it comes to studio entertainment, this one really hits middle of the road for me.

Jeremy: This is the kind of calculated studio product I typically hate. To my surprise, I didn’t hate this. It’s factory-built for a family movie night or to have on in the background during Christmas Day – something everyone can’t really complain about and can enjoy to some degree. And that’s how I’d describe my experience with it: I enjoyed it to a small degree.

Gabby: That is it Jeremy. That is what I feel. I wanted to choose this film as I felt there was hate for something that is kind of harmless and a bit of fun. I have had a bit of trouble talking about it because of having no strong feelings about it. That might be my biggest problem with it. The fact I see a better movie to be made here. But what came out was fine. A background movie. 

Brett: I disagree to an extent. I found it irritating, and after a while the stereotypes starting blasting away my ability to enjoy it. We didn’t get into the stereotypes much. But I did make the tweet that was basically “This movie is a cavalcade of outdated stereotypes. “

Gabby: I think it is more paint by numbers filmmaking. Th1W49OFMRWhere stereotypes are used instead of characters merely to support the flimsy plot. They are reliant on star power, charisma and delivery to develop the film further. When a blockbuster doesn’t have those charms, you can get something like The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, where everything is flat and dull, and you really want the movie to end. However, as long as you get people involved with some good will and sense of fun then the film can end up with something dynamic at least, that offers a performance as enjoyable as Hank Azaria’s for instance.

Jeremy: Yeah, there’s no agenda here. Third grade school plays cover more historical ground than this movie. But, yeah, there’s a better version of this story that delves into history, which uses how messy, horrible, and wonderful it is to fuel the conflict, instead of chasing after a magical tablet.

Brett: I… just don’t care about this movie. I can’t work up the enthusiasm to hate it or hurl vitriol at it. I didn’t pay a lot to see it though – and I will have the moment where Steve Coogan rode in on a squirrel emblazoned on my soul for all time. That’s something I had never seen before, so it’s like Mad Max: Fury Road in that respect. HA! Didn’t see me linking those two movies, did you?

Jeremy: And with that, thanks for reading, everyone. We’ll finish our “Summer of Sequels” series soon with my pick, House II: The Second Story. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter. We livetweet every movie we cover in advance of discussing them. Also, we’d love to chat about these movies – or movies and pop culture, in general – in our comments section or on social media.

See you soon, knuckleheads. Go watch a movie.

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The Indefinsibles: John Carter (2012)

Gabby: We are summoned to Mars by my choice…

Jeremy: John Carter. Note to self: make sure safe search is on when looking for images of Dejah Thoris for the article you’re writing.Deja29covIncenRafael

Gabby: So what was your first viewing of this? Any previous relationship with the property?

Brett: This was the first time I watched it.

Jeremy: This was my second viewing. Like most everybody else, I didn’t see John Carter in theaters. I wanted to – but never got around to it. I rented it as soon as it came out on video. Before this retrospective on pulp/weird fiction adaptations, I tried reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars and could never get into it. During my daily commute recently, I listened to a free audiobook reading so I’d have an understanding of what it took to adapt the source material.

I was – and still am – pleasantly surprised by this movie, even if they didn’t completely crack the story. Everyone involved in this production – from director Andrew Stanton to a desperately floundering marketing department – wasted too much energy on convincing us that there was something here for everyone, instead of just telling the damn story.

Gabby: I wish I could have supported this when it came out. But I only saw one poster for it and I live in London and that was when it stopped showing in cinemas. Now, either I may have been living under a rock at the time, or that says a lot at how terrible that marketing was. Though I knew I wanted to see it. I had seen a special on it on TV. Like a brief kind of promotion almost and I wanted to support it.

Jeremy: I wish I’d supported it in theaters, as well. This movie reminds me of a lot of first installments in comic book franchises – not great, but potentially on the way to greatness. The big problem for me is that I always felt an arm’s length away from the character of John Carter. I never cared for any of these characters or the world they were fighting for, and that’s what I want more than anything from a movie like this.

Brett: I was super bored. In fact, I have to be the Jeremy for this movie. John Carter [Woola about to attack]I really didn’t enjoy myself here. I can try to think of some positive things, but I spent most the movie wishing it was shorter and had less storylines and characters. I was just bored really.

Jeremy: It could be leaner and meaner, yeah. Let me start at the end of the movie and work my way back: I wasn’t fully engaged on this viewing, then found myself grinning like an idiot during the last scene. I was suddenly – finally – charmed by Taylor Kitsch as he told his nephew, a fictionalized Edgar Rice Burroughs, to take chances and live his life. I was overjoyed that Carter was going back to Mars, despite feeling little joy before that moment. The movie suddenly came alive.

One of the reasons Andrew Stanton jumped from animation to live-action was because he was “spontaneity-starved.” I find precious little spontaneity in John Carter. The budget got too big and Disney panicked about having another flop with Mars in the title. And it shows in almost every scene. It’s calculated to death.

Gabby: I also really like the segment with John and his nephew getting him back to Mars. I got invested in his quest to get back there and felt very happy when he succeeded. 

Brett: Okay, so here’s my problem: the book A Princess of Mars is thinner than a DVD box. That’s not a joke, I checked. We happen to have all the books hanging around the house, even though I have never read them. This should have been a fast-paced, peppy, pulpy, action-packed thrill ride. Instead, they try to build a franchise and ended up smothering the adventure and excitement under the weight of all the extra story. 

Mark Strong’s villain and storyline should not have been in this movie. It turned an Indiana Jones-style romp into a Lord of the Rings snorefest. It wasn’t a badly made movie, although the CGI became visual noise after a while. It became ponderous and dull. 

I liked the way the movie started. I thought the exploration of Mars and John’s discovery of his  super-strength on Mars was fun. But every time they cut away from him, the movie just died. I didn’t care something_wicked_this_way_comes_by_sharksden-d6w8ntcabout the extended storyline they were building for Dejah Thoris, or much of anything that wasn’t John doing Mars stuff. I just wanted to see him doing his thing, that’s when the movie worked for me.

Gabby: ‘John doing Mars stuff’ should have been the tag line for this movie.

Brett: Since I got bored, I lost track of the 200 plot lines they were throwing at the wall hoping something would stick. I was just sitting there saying, “Have the adventurer do adventure stuff. I don’t care if Dejah Thoris gets the ring to Mount Doom. I don’t care if Mark Strong ever takes over Mars or not. Just tell me the number to the phone in my car and get on with it!” They were in such a hurry to advertise the next movie, they forgot you still have to enjoy this movie. I am going to just say the problem was pacing and not letting the world-building happen naturally.

I was reminded of how I felt watching The Wolverine. I was bored; it wasn’t working for me. I knew it should work for me, and yet there I was bored and not caring. I never really connected with the story and I ended up standing on the outside not being able to understand what all the fuss was about.

Gabby: I enjoy the exploration of his powers when he first gets to Mars. And I like the Lord of the Rings comparisons here! That is very on point. There is too much melodrama going on in the background that takes away from the adventure and fun of discovering Mars.

Jeremy: Oddly enough, like The Black Cauldron, this movie pulls material from the first two Barsoom books and puts them in a blender. Granted, there’s almost thirty years and countless regime changes at Disney separating the two movies, but it’s interesting to see they made the same mistake twice.

Brett: What is it with Disney trying to cram two books worth of story into one movie?

Jeremy: The Therns, led by Mark Strong’s character, johncarter036don’t show up until the second book. They’re one addition too many for this movie. That being said, I like the idea of the Therns, a clandestine organization profiting off the wars they engineer. But it feels like a safe choice – namely because they tie it together with Carter being a Confederate soldier. Stanton’s trying to say there’s often a moral divide between the people who start wars and those fighting them. In theory, that’s a good message, but it feels a bit half-hearted here. Another calculation.

Gabby: The cynic in me also believes history has proved to us that is false. One example would be the ‘following orders’ example from the Nazis. We know that was not always the case.

Brett:  The hundreds of story lines are a big reason why this movie never engaged me. I did kind of connect with John Carter though. I would watch that pretty motherfucker running around, being half naked and heroic all day.

Jeremy: Sometimes a hero being heroic is enough. Granted I’ll take a conflicted Peter Parker over a vanilla Clark Kent any day. But I still like a Clark Kent.

Brett: I like certain Clark Kents. It depends whose playing/writing him. I have this horrible feeling that if John Carter was more Marvel and less Tron: Legacy, it would have gone better.

Jeremy: All three movies we picked this round felt like they needed to give their protagonists tortured backstories so modern audiences would connect with them. In fact, my pick, The Whisperer in Darkness, also gives the main character a dead wife and kid, with the same mixed results.

Brett: Spoilers! Does he not have a family in A Princess of Mars? I haven’t read it. *

*This only makes the second book/story that the movie was based on that Brett hasn’t read  – ed.

Jeremy: Yep. Anything that contributes to Carter’s moodiness or ambivalence to the conflicts around him was invented for this movie.

I’m not that familiar with Taylor Kitsch. He’s at his best here in the brief moments where he gets to be a drew-barrymore-as-dylan-sanderscharming rogue. It’s not a bad performance – but I get the impression he wanted to have more fun than he was allowed to have, which doubles down on the moodiness. I’m not against Stanton humanizing the character, but this is a pretty dour start for a movie franchise based on a - and I don’t mean this to sound derogatory – juvenile adventure series. A character that can soar through the air shouldn’t be weighed down by this much emotional baggage.

Brett: Juvenile seems like an appropriate word.

Jeremy: It’s green men and red boobs wankery, yeah. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Gabby: It is a shame with it being boring to you Brett. I do agree there is too much thrown in here. As Jeremy pointed out, a second film might have got it to a much higher level. Mark Strong’s plotline is definitely the big weakness here. It is sad that the movie was such a bomb and it probably will never get a chance to develop that potential.  

The addition of his tortured past and him being a Confederate soldier is unnecessary. I do like his quest trying to get back to Mars and it making him rich. And the fact that he only enjoys those riches so far as it allows him to continue. The charming
downloadrogue mode is much better for Kitsch, but also makes for a more likeable character. The moodiness is just unpleasant at times. I like the section where he and the Princess are on Mars’ answer to camels… space camels. There is this playful back and forth between them, much preferable over him grumping in a corner somewhere thinking about a medallion.

To go back on something Jeremy said earlier, I think the part where the boring and calculated studio notes show through is with the villains. Sab Than (Dominic West’s character) could have been the villain on his own, without being connected to faux space philosphers. The Therns felt like they were there to unnecessarily tie the script together.

Brett: In Heavy Metal, there is a story where a geek is taken to another world and decides to stay because in that world he’s a big strong guy with women dripping off him. No tragic backstory, no dead family. The only explanation you get is “On Earth, I was no one, but here, I’m Den!” Hey, you guys wanna watch Heavy Metal?

Jeremy: Ummm… Er…

In the screenwriters’ defense, A Princess of Mars is very episodic. If you take out the Therns entirely from this movie and save the Zodangas for a third-act complication, the major plot beats are faithful to the novel. The book hints that Carter isn’t even human, that he was originally from Mars. He’s seemingly ageless (most of the Martian races live for a 1,000 years), can’t remember his youth, and learns to travel between the two worlds by thought alone.

He’s also a straight-up fuckin’ psychopath in the book.

Without the Therns, the whole story comes down to what Carter’s willing to do to save Dejah Thoris (a strong, well-written damsel in distress – but a damsel in distress, nonetheless) from the Tharks and then the Zodangas. There’s a lot of flowery prose about Carter’s dogged belief in duty, loyalty, and love – but there’s so many moments in the book where he stumbles into a situation, does his best to size up who the bad guys are, and proceeds to murder the shit out of said bad guys. He needlessly murders as many people/aliens as possible. It’s like he’s trying to beat his fuckin’ high score or something.

Don’t get me wrong, Burroughs wrote a hell of a story – but the novel often crossed whatever limits I have for enjoying power fantasies. Even if the final film is too calculated, I get why Stanton looked at the source material and decided a white interloper, a Confederate soldier no less, reshaping a world in his own image wasn’t going to play. 

Brett: In the books, the Martians have red skin and nobody wears any clothes. There aren’t even loin cloths, everyone just runs around starkers. They sometimes wear leather belts around their chests and have capes of colored material. Strangely, Disney didn’t go for the nudity part…

Jeremy: I’m surprised there wasn’t a trashy ’70s European adaptation with tons of nudity. I would happily watch that on Hulu and then happily delete my watch history in order to avoid my wife’s frowny face.

Back to this movie: what did everyone think about the john-carter-mars11performances?

Brett: I found the woman playing Dejah to be sort of boring, but I couldn’t tell if that was the actress or the writing or the directing or what.

Gabby: There is a missing element in the performances. Is there anyone that really stands out to either of you? Thinking about it now, they are all okay, but not really more than that.

Jeremy: I mentioned earlier feeling an arm’s length away from the characters. To me, it seems like the actors felt the same way about their roles. The one exception is Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas, who gets to go big and have fun. Oh, here’s one moment that does seem spontaneous: Tars Tarkas slapping Carter in the back of the head for leading their army in the wrong direction. That joke is so unexpected and welcome at that point in the movie.

Like Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins is fine as Dejah Thoris. They did a good job of modernizing the character and giving her things to do that were handled by other male characters in the book. I never doubted for a moment that her character was John Carter’s equal. A lot of that comes from Collin’s performance.

Also, I had a real “Pullman/Paxton” with James Purefoy and Dominic West. Thank God the two were color-coded with their blue and red capes. I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart.

And with that, final thoughts, everyone?

Gabby: To me there are joys in the film. I think the movie looks its best, funnily, when Carter is on Earth and the plot involves his nephew. There is something involving and lived in about it. And when not swarmed by CGI battling aliens, I find Mars quite fun. The landscape, when Carter is trying out his jumping skills for instance, are impressive.

The movie could do with a bit more of the adventurous and good humored spirit of that and the space camel scene.wicked4 There is a touch of dark humour when Carter reappears, as his nephew is trying to open the crypt. More of that and it would have made it a bit more peppy. That and a bit of a tighter script. As it stands, I still really enjoy this movie. I wish it hadn’t been given such a hard time as there is a lot to like. It was brave to do this movie – despite the last minute, misguided cowardice from the studio. It has a spirit of adventure that shows through in certain scenes with an imaginative take on life on another planet. 

Brett: Honestly, what annoys me most is that I REALLY wanted to like this, and I… just… didn’t. This gets added to an annoyingly long list of things I feel like I should like and just don’t. I feel like I’m on the outside looking in at a party, but they’re playing music I don’t like and eating food that makes me sick. But everyone else is having fun and I feel bad just mentioning if I eat the shrimp stuffed mushrooms I will basically explode and die. Don’t worry John Carter, you’re in good company on that shelf, with a lot of other fan favorites.

Jeremy: If you take away all the stigma surrounding this movie, you’ll find an occasionally bland but enjoyable adventure story. You could do so much worse. For Andrew Stanton, an animation director switching over to live-action for the first time, it’s a surprisingly assured debut. The problem is that this went through the Disney sausage factory. And no matter how good the ingredients, anything that goes through a sausage factory is gonna taste like sausage. 

Thanks for reading, everyone. We’ll be back soon with one more movie in this pulp/weird fiction block, A Whisperer in Darkness. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter for more ramblings on movies and other nerdy pursuits.  And leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

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The Indefinsibles: The Shadow (1994)

Gabby: We channel our otherworldly powers whilst discussing…

Jeremy: The Shadow. Who knows what need for cultural sensitivity training lurks in the hearts of men?

Gabby: So that was fun!

Brett: Yeah, this movie is always fun. It’s just not perfect. It might even be objectively bad. I can’t be objective about it though.

Jeremy: Neither can I.

Gabby: I would watch it again.

Jeremy: Before we go further, let’s introduce this latest round of movies. We’re each picking a film we want to defend that’s inspired by classic works of pulp/weird fiction. We’re starting with Brett’s pick, The Shadow. This movie’s been on our radar since we first started talking about doing these retrospectives. Not that it matters who picks a movie, but I assumed the two of us (both huge Shadow fans) were going to have to rock-paper-scissors for this one. Surprisingly, there was another movie I wanted to do more.

So let’s start at the beggining: when did everyone first see The Shadow?

Gabby: This was my first experience.

Brett: I started with the radio show, and then read some of the stories, the comics and movies came last for me. The Shadow was my favorite radio show as a kid. So of course I was there on opening night to see this movie, and I mostly enjoyed it.

Jeremy: My history with The Shadow is surprisingly personal. This movie came out in July 1994, which was the last month before me and my family moved to a different state. I was fifteen and had come out of my shell over the last school year – so I was taking the whole thing about as well as you would expect. Everything was already in boxes and we spent that July in a furnished apartment. My only sibling was off at college. So with nothing much to do, my parents were cool and let me practically live with my friends until we left town.

I bounced from house to house. While staying with my best friend at the timeWellesShadow, the two of us decided to see The Shadow on a whim (neither of us had heard of the character before). The poster looked cool and we were fifteen. Of course we were down for a superhero movie.

We both loved it (me in particular). Part of the merchandising push for this movie was re-releasing episodes of the radio show. I picked up one of those sets a few days later. Pretty sure it was around 20 episodes. I remember listening to Orson Welles as The Shadow on my Walkman during the drive to a new home in a new state. I kept tracking down episodes and listening to them alone in my bedroom that autumn while coming out of my new shell.

I still enjoy the movie, but part of that fondness no doubt comes from it taking me back to a bittersweet time.

Brett: My history goes back further. When I was a little, little kid, like 3, there was a station that played old radio shows.

So I listened to a bunch of stuff, The Shadow was one of the only things they played that wasn’t a comedy. So The Shadow was the one badass I listened to late at night when I wasn’t sleeping. We got some tapes of episodes when I was about 12 or so. 8 tapes, 16 episodes, very cool stuff. There was a podcast that put, like, 50 episodes out as a podcast.

I got some reprints of the stories in little collected books that were probably printed in the ’70s at my middle school library. It should go without saying that I was A PIMP in school. Had to beat the babes off with a stick.

What I liked about The Shadow, what I have always liked, is that mysticism is allowed to be the answer. You don’t get that Hardy Boys nonsense where the solution is so goofy and convoluted that ghosts would be more sensible.

This movie is a little more comic book and a little less pulp story, but the baddie is still allowed to be an Eastern mystic, and they allow for the power of the atomic bomb. It straddles both worlds that The Shadow existed in.

Gabby: Although, I have had little in the way of comparison as to interpretation, I did pick up upon the interesting mix of magic and superpowers.

Jeremy: Yeah, that’s where the character from the pulps and the radio show diverge, to my knowledge. We’ll talk about the history of The Shadow in a moment.

Gabby: I think a good thing would actually be to discuss some of those things it aims to be and how successful those are.

Jeremy: It has the same basic flaw as most ’90s popcorn movies: it can’t decide what it wants to be. It tries to please everyone.

Brett: It’s tone is too mushy. It wants to be a comic book and a pulp story and a mystery and an adventure and it wants to be the pure version of all of those instead of a mixture. However, that does mean the individual scenes taken on their own are generally fine. It’s a little clunky, but it gets to where you want to go. 

Jeremy: Agreed. I like each element of this story – except the goddamned shrieking face knife – but the pieces don’t always fit together. The problem is this: every time screenwriter David Koepp commits to an earnest idea, he hesitates and instead goes for a joke. It’s the screenwriting equivalent of trying to convince your boss about something at work, but you keep saying things like, “I don’t know – I could be wrong, but…”shadowknife2

I like Koepp’s writing, though. The guy knows banter, and I live for banter. And he does an admirable job of taking the different versions of The Shadow from different mediums and combining them together.

Briefly, the origin of The Shadow began on the radio in 1930 – though the character was only the narrator of a crime anthology show. (Think the Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt.)

The character became so popular that he got his own pulp series the next year, which ran until 1949. The look of the character matches what we see in the movie, and he’s a bit like Batman – a master detective who’s trained to peak mental and physical condition. He’s also a master of stealth and disguises. In fact, Lamont Cranston is just one of his aliases in the pulps. The Shadow got an origin story a couple of years in, but it was never that important. These are stories about a superhero fighting bad guys for fighting bad guys’ sake.

In 1937, the character goes back to radio with his own half-hour show. The way they get him to work over the airwaves is pretty brilliant. This version of the character has the ability to “cloud men’s mind” so no one can see him. Obviously, an invisible man plays beautifully on radio. It’s here that Margo Lane is introduced. And this character actually is Lamont Cranston, a young playboy who fights crime around living the high life with a beautiful companion. For a lot of fans of the pulps, this was a safe, water-downed version of the character.

I’m not sure there’s another superhero this well-known that doesn’t have a clear character bible. Whether it’s Adam West or Michael Keaton or Christian Bale, Batman is always Batman. It’s the tone that changes. Based on the medium, The Shadow is barely the same character. For my money, this hybrid version of The Shadow is the best interpretation so far. We get some of the street-level grittiness and the supernatural powers. And despite the goddamned shrieking face knife, the origin story works for me.

Brett: So how many of us have read the stories, listened to the radio show or read the comics? Or saw the two movies made in the ’30s?

I haven’t read all the pulp stories, or read many of the comics, but I have read enough to know what we’re dealing with. The stories were a little more “mystery around every corner” while the radio show was just a detective show that allowed supernatural explanations. The two movies I have from the ’30s are basically short serials. They’re on that level of quality and storytelling style. 

Gabby: I watched one of the ’30s movies of The Shadow, after seeing this version, and I was not really a fan. What is your favourite story of The Shadow?

Brett: It’s honestly been so long since I read any. There is a radio episode that sticks with me, though. The Thing in the Cage has a creepy as all fuck ending. 

Gabby: So racism… Is that reoccurring in this thing? The Asain stereotyping here is quite extreme in the first section of the movie. Where they use China as a dark and mysterious land full of evil magics and men with a lust for power.

Brett: There was a TON of Yellow Peril stuff in pulp before Nazis took over at the baddie du jour. It’s not just The Shadow, the mysterious East was both a place where all the really cool stuff came from and all the clever villains. Racism is always going to be part of the deal, because these were disreputable populist stories and could do disreputable populist stuff. dvd_snapshot_00-27-12_2013-03-12_20-28-46

Jeremy: These stories are of their time. Nothing I’ve read in any of the pulps is a direct attack on any race or culture. That’s not an excuse for the horribly outdated things found in these stories. If you’ve read or listened to a Shadow story that contradicts that statement, let us know. We’re all mature enough here to appreciate a story from the past while acknowledging the problems of the past.

With that in mind, let’s get this out of the way: how does Shiwan Khan play for everyone? Going only by this movie, do you find him or his henchmen offensive?

Brett: I probably should find it more offensive than I do. I think because it’s set in a historical place, and that John Lone really doesn’t play up to Yellow Peril stereotypes, I tend to forgive it. He’s not trying to get Margo hooked on opium so he can sell her to white slavers while bringing down the decadent West, I sort of look past a lot of it. His henchmen don’t play a large enough part either. We rarely really see them.

I am a white guy, though. I try, but, you know… white American.

Jeremy: I get that. You and I are living life on the easiest difficulty setting. That’s right where I am with these characters, as well. For both Khan and Dr. Tam, who The Shadow recruits at the beginning of the movie, that’s where they’re from, not who they are. Does that make sense?

Brett: Yes. Khan’s reasons are very much universal. He wants power and wealth. He might as wells stroke a white cat and be all “You have interfered for the last time, Yin Ko.”

Gabby: I found some of it offensive and some of it not so much. I think Khan is, as you both say, played in a way that makes him more than a typical villain with wishes of grand power.

I think it was more the way they introduced ‘the Orient’ in the film, that struck me as offensive, but then I think they manage to get away with that and use the Eastern magic as an influence on the character and the villains. Like you said Jeremy, it is the place they are from and not why they are evil.

Jeremy: Koepp giving Cranston a darker backstory helps. Both men committed the same atrocities and were given the same opportunity to redeem themselves. This is one of the few times I enjoy the “We’re not so different, you and I…” cliché.

And I dig the Redemption Work Study program that Cranston and Khan go through. Cranston is not chosen as a white savior or anything. He’s chosen because he’s a monster with an ounce of good left in him. It’s never explicitly said, but I assume there are “Shadows” all over the world doing what Cranston does.

Obviously, having a Nazi bad guy or something would’ve gone down easier. But this movie weighed the source material, considered these concerns, and tried to do something about them. It’s a step – probably too a small step – in the right direction.

Gabby: I like the trope of mirroring the villain and the hero, that is always interesting. Screenshot (45)I suppose linking the villain to Genghis Khan helped. Having a real historical figure, one that became one of the most feared conquerors, makes it seem not a racist fear it is tapping into, but a fear of dead legends coming back to haunt us. Vlad the Impaler is another figure like this, for instance.

Brett: That’s back to the pulp stories. Shiwan Khan was featured in at least two stories. I don’t remember Shiwan Khan having psychic powers.

Jeremy: Vlad the Impaler would’ve been wicked awesome.

Brett: I also don’t think the romantic dynamic worked, mostly because Baldwin and Miller kind of had no romantic chemistry. Oddly though, as friends who fight crime, it worked. When they didn’t try to have them flirting, they worked better. They make good co-workers, though.

Jeremy: Their kiss at the end stuck out for me on this viewing. Alec Baldwin was the perfect Lamont Cranston in 1994. The same for Penelope Ann Miller as Margo Lane. (And holy shit, the supporting cast in this movie…) They’re not perfect together. They have some chemistry. It still works – and would’ve worked better if they kept their relationship platonic.

It ties into something else I found off on this viewing: Cranston is enjoying himself a little too much. That’s not Baldwin’s fault. He’s going off the script. I like that the movie is fun. I don’t want a “dark and gritty” Shadow. Cranston’s just a little too redeemed for the first movie. It’s like we’re getting where this character would be one or two sequels down the road. shadow947

Brett: If they were making the movie today, they would have things more franchise-minded. They probably would have a better idea what tone they want to strike and get closer to it. Or they’d try to get “clever” and ruin the whole thing with in-jokes and terrible ertaz radio shows.

Jeremy: Khan would be the First Horseman or some shit like that, yeah. Doc Savage would show up for one scene.

Brett: Now speaking of a character that needs a new movie!

Jeremy: Shane Black and The Rock, baby. I hope it gets made. I’m assuming the ’70s Doc Savage movie is something readers can expect in the future.

Brett: OK, there is one scene that I think should have been super chilling, but it’s played for laughs. When Shiwan Khan gets the guy to throw himself off the Empire State Building. Think about it and that’s a very dark and wicked. He makes someone commit suicide over a bit of mockery. I feel like John Lone thought that scene should be played darker. But then they cut away and make a joke as we see the body bouncing on the way down.

And killing the guard at the beginning is pretty dark -

Jeremy: Even if it’s Neelix from Voyager…

Brett: …and it’s given some weight. Again, the jumbled tone thing.

400px-Shad_01Jeremy: I lost my shit over the “It’s all falling into place…” gag in theaters, to the point where people turned around and looked at me. It’s a Peter Jackson/Sam Raimi joke. I still get a little nostalgic kick out of it, but thirtysomething Jeremy knows better.

It’s an honest swing and a miss. At least it’s not “Next time, you get to be on top.” What the hell is that doing in this movie?

What does everyone make of Russell Mulcahy? Through the ’80s and early ’90s, he made several movies like The Shadow that found their audience on home video.

Brett: I’m generally okay with him. He seems to know the movie he’s making. Commentaries and interviews with him have led me to believe there has been a lot of interference in the movies he’s made. He tries to please everyone, and as a result, a lot of his movies are all over the place.The light-hearted adventure thing can work, he made it work in Highlander. The story as presented here needed to be one thing or the other.

It should have gone more for light-hearted adventure and left the attempts at darkness to one side.

Jeremy: “He was a music video director” is a classic cheap shot, but it holds water here. It’s not that he’s too focused on visuals. There’s a stitched-together feeling here I get from a lot of movies made by directors who got their start in music videos.

It’s odd that I want Mulcahy to go darker with the material. That’s not usually my thing. I like that this is a redemption story. I’m all for stories that say, yes, we can change – but change is hard. It goes back to the fact that Lamont is already at Step 12 of Megalomaniac’s Anonymous when I want him at Step 8 or 9.

Brett: I could have done without the atomic bomb. I would have preferred some murder mystery story full of characters and suspects and not taking over the world or using atom bombs.

Jeremy: I’m indifferent about the A-bomb. And it should be said that the final showdown between The Shadow and Khan feels so weak because an earthquake destroyed the original set and they ran out of time and money.

Back to something positive: whoever came up with the notion that Lamont can never hide his shadow, the last vestige of the darkness within, is brilliant. Dscn4251To my knowledge, that was invented for this movie, and I can’t imagine the character without it now.

Brett: Oh, and I just checked. In the radio show, Lamont learned the invisibility trick from Yogi priests in India. And he used modern science to improve his mental skills. I’m not sure of the shadow on the wall was part of the comics. It’s an excellent addition.

Jeremy: In all the pulps I’ve read, he’s a master of stealth and disguises. When he’s sneaking around, bad guys sometimes see an odd shadow where one shouldn’t be, but that’s about it. To my knowledge, it’s not there as a weakness, nor does it symbolize anything. As the pulps go on, more vague hints of the supernatural pop up. The main writer of the pulps, Walter Gibson, wanted The Shadow to be horribly disfigured, prompting the need for all the disguises. Gibson’s editors nixed it.

Speaking of Sam Raimi, he pitched his version of The Shadow in the late ’80s using that premise. Once the studio passed, he ended up using those elements in Darkman.

Brett: How do we feel this fares as a historical piece? Is it a good historical piece? Bad? Do they set up the world well? Compare with Dick Tracy, The Phantom, Captain America: First Avenger – or something like Poirot and other UK period shows that subsequently played on A&E like crazy.

Jeremy: It’s a handsome production. Not sure how accurate it is. It works, though. Does this little niche of superhero movies have a name? I usually just call them Art Deco superhero movies. I hope we cover more movies in this quirky little sub genre. So far, we’ve talked about this and The Phantom. Depending on how long we do this, I imagine we’ll get to most of them. We definitely need to do Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow one day.

Brett: I always called these Hat movies, because of people wearing hats. I also put Indiana Jones in here, since I don’t think any of the other hat movies exist without Indy. I have a love/hate with Dick Tracy, because it was almost good and then Madonna shows up.

Jeremy: And The Rocketeer and The Phantom are more trying to capture the spirit of Indiana Jones than actual movies from the ’30s. If Batman: Mask of the Phantasm counts, that’s my clear favorite of the ’30s/’40s superhero homages.

And with that, final thoughts, everyone?

Gabby: This is another mess, but a fun one. Though it tries for way too many things that it doesn’t pull off, it works in serial form. Meaning that sequences and scenes work separately. charlies_angels_full_throttle_10176But the movie as a whole, despite its flaws, has a lot of things to admire. The fact it aims for so much is quite charming really. And there are some sequences that make me want to watch it again relatively soon.

Brett: I will always have a soft spot for The Shadow and any movie directed by Russell Mulcahy. You can say a lot about the guy, but he tried to be interesting and exciting. You can feel him making an effort to just entertain you if he can. I’ve never seen one of his movies and thought he was being lazy. I appreciate him.

Jeremy: It’s still a lot of fun. I wish it was more solid, but here we are. I’m always going to have a soft spot for it. And not just for the movie it is and where it appeared in my life: this was my gateway into classic radio dramas and pulp fiction. It’s like your first kiss. It doesn’t matter if it was good. It was the beginning of something new.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Summertime and real life have interrupted our regular schedule of late, but we’re already a fair way into talking about Gabby and I’s picks. We’ll be back soon with John Carter.

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter where we talk about movies and other nerdy stuff. Oh, and say it with us one last time: stupid goddamned shrieking face knife…

The Indefinsibles: The Black Cauldron (1985)

Bargaining switches/With big boobed witches/Swords that seem freaky/And mist that’s creepy/Undead skeletons ruled by Demon Kings/These are a few of my favorite things?/Why does this movie make me feel so bad? ♪

Gabby: You guessed it, my pick for our Dark Disney series is, The Black Cauldron.

Jeremy: At the time I’m writing this, my local movie theater has a screen dedicated to playing old Disney movies. The Black Cauldron’s playing this weekend. Should I take my toddler and videotape him being traumatized?

Brett: Sweet Monkey Jesus! Obviously we want that!

Jeremy: I doubt I’ll take him. Even if you factor in my desire to irreparably traumatize him, I don’t want to see this again anytime soon.

Gabby: So have we all seen this before? downloadI saw this on video when I was younger. I must have watched a few times but it didn’t get played nearly as often as the others. I hadn’t seen the film since the late ’90s most likely.

Jeremy: Before this retrospective, only once in theaters back in ’85. I would’ve been six. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a good experience. I had already seen films like Temple of Doom and Ghostbusters in theaters, but this experience was different. And not in a good way.

I’m sure the movie scared me, but even back then, I liked being scared by melting Nazis and killer robots and the like. I remember The Black Cauldron feeling so… oppressive. Before watching it again, the one clear memory I had was Gurgi jumping into the cauldron during the climax and his resurrection a few minutes later. Of course, I didn’t mind Gurgi as a kid. But the movie wore me down so much that, by the time he came back, I was not having any of it. Too little, too late.

I’m trying to find the right word to describe The Black Cauldron. What keeps coming to mind is abrasive. Not because it’s dark and scary, but because it’s so relentless and manic. It’s like The Fellowship of the Ring if you removed anything endearing about the fellowship and just kept torturing them with orcs and dark riders for 80 minutes straight.

Brett: I saw this in the theater too. This is really sort of frustrating because there was clearly a good movie that could have been made here. The Prydain books are well regarded. There is a lot of talent on display here. 

Gabby: images (1)One problem with this movie is that the lead is a tosser. I remember not really liking him when I watched this as a child.

‘What do girls know about swords?’ Giant arsehole…

Brett: He’s a kid. Like genuinely 14 or something. He hasn’t discovered feminism yet. Princess Welsh Name will help with that.

Gabby: Uhhh… he shouldn’t have been taught sexism. Not, he should wait for feminism. The person who brought him up does not seem to be a sexist arse so he should have been brought up with the ideals.

My brother was more mature at four than this guy.

Brett: It’s the 10th Century and he was raised on a pig farm with one old man. Congratulate him when he does well. He should be congratulated for not claiming all her property and having her family killed when she displeases him! He’s raised in a society that doesn’t even consider women to be people in the strictest sense of the word, so… I’m just sayin’… Game of Thrones… something something….

Gabby: Exactly. Where would he pick sexism up? In fact, 14 in the 10th is like 44 to us probably. Especially to a farmer. 

Brett: Frankly, while I agree the hero is a little sexist, the witches are what stick in my craw.dvd_snapshot_00-27-12_2013-03-12_20-28-46 The depiction of the witches comes off as truly misogynistic. That bit goes on forever and it’s hateful the whole time. This is basically a prequel to Game of Thrones. With less rape and more Gurgi.

Jeremy: Ah, Jesus… Gurgi. I meet in the middle on this one. I’m OK with the youth being callow if he grows. In this case, though, the kid doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The magic sword literally does all the work for him. All he has to do is hang on to the damn thing. What an odd story choice that is.

Gabby: That is exactly her argument too. He is a bit full of himself I guess.

Jeremy: The problem is he’s a character who grows over a series of novels. We’re only getting one piece of a larger story, crammed into an 80-minute movie that’s a tonal mess.

Gabby: Yeah that is a big problem!

Brett: And why were they adapting the second book in the series? That just feels odd.

Jeremy: So it’s loosely the character journey from the first book and the MacGuffin from the second?

I get the impression that part of the tonal dissonance came from two different generations of Disney talent. It feels like the old guard intended to make a traditional animated film, but the young upstarts kept adding more skeletons and boob shots with the witches. There are SO MANY boob shots in this movie, you guys.

Brett: I feel like I’ve already run out of things to say. There’s not much to it. This was a movie that just didn’t work too well. It’s got a feel similar to The Sword in the Stone, but then Team B came in and made things dark.

Jeremy: There is one thing we haven’t talked about, and I can’t believe it took us almost a thousand words to get here. This movie features an oracular pig.Dscn4251 A fuckin’ oracular pig. You can’t make stuff like that up. That beats wasp royal jelly for the biggest “The fuck…?” moment in any movie we’ve covered.

Brett: I have a blind spot for the pig. I keep forgetting about how crazy that is because in the end it really doesn’t matter.

Jeremy: It’s weird. It’s like the appetizer MacGuffin before the entree MacGuffin. The pig’s just there to get everyone interested in the Black Cauldron.

Gabby: The fact “oracular pig” is said in any movie is amazing really! Wasp royal jelly was pretty fabulous though.

I have a few more things to mention. What do you think of the Horned King design?

Jeremy: I have mixed feeling about his design. The silhouette is terrific, but I’m already blanking on what he looked like – especially the face.

Gabby: I am with you on the silhouette of the horned king being powerful and the face not living up to it. It just doesn’t have the punch needed. I also agree that it is strange to adapt the second book. I tried to find the first book in some libraries near me and it wasn’t on record. I am not sure if this film has something to do with that.

The witches truly are awful. It is beyond offensive. They felt very abrasive, to quote Jeremy’s word. 

I remember being scared by the Horned King as a child. That segment where he puts the skeleton in the cauldron is an exampletumblr_inline_o29fxvx9q41rklbsy_540 of where the score is really effective. The green stuff that came out of the cauldron following the orange blast gave me nightmares for several months. There was something about the colour and the accompanying high pitched noise. The same, scored, sound that is present when you see all the green as the skeletons march. Those balls the Princess has in combination were that colour in my dream. Those things put me on edge too, but that was more the context. That of a horrible castle with a possessed horned skeleton wanting to reign his army of the undead over the land. Rather than the glowing balls themselves.

Jeremy: And the crazy thing is a lot of the scarier footage was removed before release. Apparently, at a test screening of this longer cut, kids ran out of the theater in terror. Part of me is like, “That’s wrong, man.” The other part of me – the parent currently trapped in toddler hell – read that, laughed maniacally, and screamed, “YESSSSSS!!!”

Here’s an interesting coincidence, thanks to our age gap: Brett and I were quite young when we saw this in theaters, and you were about the same age when this finally got a home video release in the ’90s. We should mention that Disney buried this movie for a long time after its release.

Brett: I quote directly from Wikipedia here – Jeffrey Katzenberg, then-Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, was dismayed by the product and the animators felt that it lacked “the humor, pathos, and the fantasy which had been so strong in Lloyd Alexander’s work. The story had been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it was heartbreaking to see such wonderful material wasted.”

I mean… ouch.

Jeremy: He’s right, though.

Gabby: He is right about humour and pathos. The film needs it. That is what I was kind of getting at when I said he is a bit of a sexist protagonist. It is more that he is a self-absorbed one, and thinks of others as less important. He also lacks a sense of humour. Brett mentioned The Sword and the Stone. When rewatching Black Cauldron, there is a part where the witches are in the clouds for the first time, telling them about the cauldron. Screenshot (55)That really reminded me of the part where Merlin and Madam Mim have a Duel. The way it is drawn, the grey colouring of the sky and ground, as well as the shape of the trees, is incredibly similar. But it lacks the wonderful sense of humour and character present in Sword and the Stone. I love Madam Mim. She is such a fire of energy. They needed something like that here to add some energy to the fantasy.

Jeremy: We should also mention Elmer Bernstein’s score I don’t hear Bernstein mentioned that often. He knew how to write an eerie film score. Some of the cues feel quite similar to his work on Ghostbusters, though. That’s not entirely a bad thing. You can’t overstate how important his score is to Ghostbusters.

Brett: This score was cut to pieces. So it doesn’t come off as his best work.

Gabby: I have seen there is a bit of an internet campaign to get that uncut version re-released. I would definitely see that.

Elmer Bernstein is brilliant and the fact they cut his score up to pieces really does show the makers of this film did not know what they were doing. The score is so powerful in the sections with the Horned King.

Jeremy: I need to track down more details about what scenes were cut. I’m curious if a director’s cut would restore some connective tissue or just be more skulls & boobs wankery.

Brett: Skull and boobs wankery. drew-barrymore-as-dylan-sandersI have just found the subtitle for this group: The Indefensibles – Skull and boob wankery.

Jeremy: And, er, on that note, final thoughts, everyone?

Gabby: I stand by being scared of that scene where the Horned King awakens his army of the dead. That still packs a punch, thanks to the imagery actually being effective here and Bernstein’s score. The scene where Eilonwy saves Taran with her glowy balls I think is very atmospheric as well. It is a pity there is so much of the film that is actiuvely hateful alongside moments like that.

Brett: We barely talked about Gurgi, but he bugs me. He should be lovable, but he ain’t. His sorta-self-sacrifice really annoyed me. I think because it was so passive aggressive. “Oh, you have lots of friends I have none.” *JUMPS* It’s not noble, he doesn’t do it because he loves the guy and wants him to be safe, he just doesn’t have any friends. Smeagol didn’t have any friends, and he did fine. (He did fine, right? I never finished the books, it just got to being too many songs. He got away, right? Smeagol was okay, right?)

Jeremy: I’m ambivalent. I get why this is a favorite for some people – especially fans of Lloyd Alexander’s novels. There’s a spark – a joy – that’s missing for me. Except for a few subversive moments here and there, there’s no passion here. It feels like something Disney started and had to finish. I could go another thirty years without seeing it again and be fine with it. Maybe it would grow on me if I gave it another chance. You never know.

Thanks for reading, everyone. This was the last film in our Dark Disney retrospective series, which we had a lot of fun doing.wsad We’ll be back soon with three films inspired by classic pulp/weird fiction. We’re starting with Brett’s pick, 1994’s The Shadow. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter. We’ll most likely be a little more active on social media during F This Movie’s Junesploitation event. You can also leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

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The Indefinsibles: The Black Hole (1979)

Gabby: ‘Time and space as we know it no longer exists. We will be the first to see it, to explore it, to experience it!’ So is the mantra of The Indefensibles, as we go forth into Jeremy’s Dark Disney pick…

Jeremy: The Black Hole. A reclusive astrophysicist promises to pay five astronauts and their wacky robot sidekick $10,000 apiece if they spend the night in his haunted spaceship.

I should start by saying that The Black Hole was one of my favorite movies as a kid. I’ve probably seen it a hundred times – no exaggeration. I can be objective about it, but I love the hell out of it to this day.

Brett: So I kind of had the same problem as I did last time I watched this.

Jeremy: It’s, like, three or four different genres awkwardly crammed into one movie? The tone is all over the map?

Brett: No, that’s fine, if a little clunky in parts. It’s not as “exciting” as I wanted. I wanted Rollicking Space Adventure, but it’s not that kind of movie. It’s a Disney film and all that entails. It’s my own fault for thinking “Disney’s Star Wars” rather than just a Disney Movie set in space. It feels like a Disney movie, it’s even shot exactly like Treasure Island of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Nobody does that “Comedy Lighting in a Dramatic Movie” thing quite like Disney Live Action. 

Jeremy: Yeah, there was probably some corporate synergy going on here. Some of the set pieces seem tailored for subsequent attractions at their theme parks – the tram, the shooting range, the meteor storm. (The rolling ball of death is one of my favorite shots in any film, by the way.)

Brett: It also feels like this is like a 2 1/2 movie crammed into a 90-minute bag.

Jeremy: I get that. Dr. Reinhardt’s mad scientist plan is revealed about halfway through. And it’s only in the last half-hour that the movie really gets going. The action scenes are pedestrian, even by ’79’s standards. And like Something Wicked, there’s a great, startling scene – the reveal of the robots actually being the crew, f030901_theblackhole04ollowed by Anthony Perkin’s death – right before the climax that the climax can’t top.

Despite some problems with the script (ESP with a robot?), I still enjoy the first half and how it gets all the pieces on the board. My favorite part of movies like Alien and The Thing are the early scenes before everything goes to hell – the setup, the mystery. Granted, the mystery is obvious here in a way it’s not in those movies.

I’m not the first to say this: The Black Hole is a haunted house movie in space. I love the long, lingering shots of characters exploring this gothic spaceship, accompanied by that moody John Barry score. The part of me that turns this on when I can’t sleep – that wants it to wash over me as I’m drifting off – eats this up.

Gabby: I find the vibe unique, which I like. At times, I was not entirely sure what I was watching. For instance, there is a section with a big red blob coming towards them and they escape through the ecosystem.

Jeremy: Those are meteors that the black hole is pulling in. The timing’s certainly convenient.

Gabby: Have you ever seen the Planet of the Apes film series? Other than the first one, I mean. Beneath the Planet of the Apes is my least favourite. That is one of those films where I didn’t know what I was watching. In a bad way. Whereas I kind of enjoyed this Black Hole flavour bag of nuts. Another film similar to Beneath, for me, in terms of the way I reacted to it, was The Mole People. The Black Hole is definitely not The Mole People. The Mole People, Dinosaurous and Jack and Jill are some of my least favourite movies of… all time.

Jeremy: I actually revisited Beneath the Planet of the Apes a few weeks ago. It was rough. I’ll leave it at that.

Brett: There is no single item that I can point to and say “That just doesn’t work” but it doesn’t all fit together. It doesn’t gel for me.

Jeremy: What really sticks out to you as not working?

Brett: B.O.B. didn’t work for me. They could have cut the robots and just made the movie half an hour longer. The mystery of the crew felt rushed, and having B.O.B. just take V.I.N.C.E.N.T. to the factory where everyone is transformed felt cheap. V.I.N.C.E.N.T. should have discovered the crew on his own. The shooting gallery bit didn’t seem to fit in the movie either, but at least it wasn’t very long.

Gabby: The shooting gallery was a part I did not enjoy, also. It was like watching trash bins made from tin have a game of bullet tag. On a different note, why does one of the robots sound like a hillbilly? blackhole2I didn’t exactly get why some of the robots were without emotions, but V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and the cute southern robot had them.

One small issue I had is the overuse of sound effects for the space devices. It got on my nerves at one point. The reveal of what is behind the masks I found very effective, very good makeup design.

‘You mean we’re going into the black hole?’ ‘Yep.’ Yep! Sorry, I found that funny. The segment where they go through the black hole is disorientating with the use of sounds, thoughts and dizziness inducing circling close-ups – a good way to play with the unknown fear of what lies in store for them. Anyone else think that image of the robot on the mountain surrounded by red is inspired by Fantasia? That segment in Fantasia is one of the most terrifying things I ever saw as a child. If we talked about that and the Mickey segments on its own, that would be the film I would have picked. But the rest of that film comes with a whole bunch of things I really dislike.

Jeremy: The one thing I still enjoy about the shooting gallery scene is seeing Maximilian’s predecessor and the weird social structure the robots have. Here’s this older robot who’s now irrelevant and whiles away the hours being a bully at the local robot bar. It’s bonkers – but it adds to the house of horrors. If left alone, these robots would probably go on doing this forever. That’s chilling.

Back to V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and B.O.B.blackhole2 (1) I can barely stand them as an adult. Roddy McDowall tries to make V.I.N.C.E.N.T. work. There was no way to make V.I.N.C.E.N.T. anything but insufferable with this script. They crammed R2-D2 and C-3PO into one character without understanding what makes those characters or their dynamic work.

Slim Pickens was a Disney regular, I believe. This movie has weird little nods now and again to westerns that really stick out. B.O.B. is the most glaring example of that.

Brett: Also, did anyone notice that the black bot was supposed to be twirling the guns, but was actually just twisting his wrists around?

Jeremy: You know, I’m not sure. You think I would be able to recall that, given how many times I’ve seen this.

Brett: Check that scene again, he’s just flipping his hands around. Each set piece works pretty well, the end is actually pretty exciting, but it feels old-fashioned. Had I not known this was 1979, I would have never pegged it as a Post-Star Wars movie. Granted, that’s a problem Disney movies had and would continue to have for some time. I think the old-fashioned feel is actually part of the charm now. Although the bit where Capt. Holland explains to Kate that he’s thinking of quitting because of a recent event where he was sitting in a guy’s house with a stun gun was a little weird.

Jeremy: Wait. What?

Brett: That was probably a bit from Jackie Brown, now that I think about it.

Jeremy: Doh! I get it. I’ve only seen Jackie Brown once at a press screening way back in the day.

Brett: Of all QT’s movies, that one is probably the most underrated. Which is a shame because it’s pretty good.

Gabby: Hold up. Jeremy, go watch that film again. Brett, pretty good? I have a poster of Jackie Brown on my wall. Jackie Brown is fucking great. I might be biased as it is in my top 10 favourite films. But honestly, that movie is so brilliant. On rewatches, you can see how well choreographed everything is; Sally Menke was an editing goddess. And I love you, Pam Grier. Pam Grier is the bomb. Pam Grier forever.

Brett: Anyway… I liked The Black Hole but I didn’t love it. And I kind of wanted to love it. All in all, though, this is one of those “everything works on paper” sort of things. It just flopped a little on the screen. 030901_theblackhole03Each piece works (save the shooting gallery) but it doesn’t come together into a complete package. I know I keep saying this, but I just wish this movie was a little longer. Give it a little more room and I think it does work. And the special effects were kind of stellar. One of the benefits of having money and existing in the late ’70s.

Jeremy: The effects hold up. If you’re a fan of optical effects, listen to Saturday Night Movie Sleepover’s podcast about this movie. They go into detail about all the technical innovations that came out of making this movie. The effects have a different look from what ILM was doing at the time. They’re quite distinctive. The production design is equally singular. Even if you haven’t seen this movie in years, you would never mistake it for another sci-fi movie made during the post-Star Wars boom.

Like Something Wicked, this probably isn’t scary for adults, but what did you think about how violent it is? And how much it leaned into the hellscape at the end, where we’re led to believe that hell itself lies within the black hole? It’s hard to believe this movie and Alien came out in the same year, because they’re both going for the haunted house vibe. Dr. Reinhardt could’ve been played by Vincent Price.

Gabby: I would have loved a bit of Vincent Price in this film! I thought the film could definitely be scary for kids. The hellscape leaning for one thing.black03 But another is the way in which it twists and turns. Not knowing what you are watching as an adult might be confusing and maybe entertaining, but as a child that kind of thing could put you on edge and even frighten you.

Jeremy: Yeah, I grew up in a relaxed Christian household. Reinhardt’s descent into hell and the good guys possibly going to heaven blew my mind as a child (in the best way possible). This sequence and the mishmash of genres throughout the film expanded my ideas about what a story could be.

I loved how this movie scared me as a kid. As an agnostic adult, I’m kinda like, “Heaven and hell. That’s all you got, Disney?” 2001: A Space Odyssey this is not.

Brett: But at least their time warp sequence doesn’t carry on for 10 damn minutes.

Jeremy: True. And Reinhardt in hell is still a powerful image that works at a gut level. It’s all about the procession of souls marching below him. It’s somehow haunting and kinda dumb at the same time. And John Barry’s music…

Since this is my pick. I’d like to talk about the cast some more. Annoying robots aside, there are some strong casting choices here. Robert Forster is, like, extra laconic here, but I dig The Right Stuff vibe you get from him. He’s the guy who’s going to stay cool under pressure no matter what. You want this guy as your leader. Unfortunately, the character has nothing to do but stay level-headed.

Kate has her father, but that doesn’t go as far as it should because it’s obvious he’s dead. It’s interesting that Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Perkins end up having the most to do, dramatically speaking. What other kids movie is going to have a character do a 180 like Borgnine’s character, who suddenly panics and ditches everyone? Or have a likable, if misguided, character get an immersion blender through the chest?

Gabby: Robert Forster having nothing to do was a waste. I also kept thinking something would happen with Kate’s father. Like he would be one of the zombie masked people.

Jeremy: Exactly. She should’ve met what was left of her father.

Gabby: I am not sure about the blender, but we all have seen The Lion King right?

Simba, a baby lion, has a wise, kind father, Mufasa, who loves and cares for him. Mufasa is then plunged to his death on top of a cliff by his own brother who pretends to pull him up first, to really add to that horror, he is not only killed by being murdered and thrown from a cliff, but also totally trampled by a flock of wildebeest intended to kill him and his son. If that isn’t enough, we see the little lion go up to his father’s corpse crying for him to wake up. I mean I still cry like a baby at that scene.

Jeremy: For my money, Woody and the gang going into the inferno holding hands in Toy Story 3 trumps them all.

One last thought about Reinhardt. I like Maximillian Schell, but you know he’s cuckoo-crazy-bananas from the start. We needed to see more of the visionary and less of the madman before the third act. You’re left wondering, what does Anthony Perkins see in this guy? Also, here’s another shout-out to Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers, who turned me on to the idea that Perkins’ character is turned on by Reinhardt. I can’t unsee it now.

And, er, on that note, final thoughts?

Brett: For the most part the movie is fine. It’s a good movie, and I wouldn’t turn it off if I happened upon it.

Jeremy: One of my earliest memories is watching The Black Hole. Being scared, awed, and overjoyed by it. Sure, it’s a mess – but it’s my mess. I can’t overstate how much of an impression it left on me, how it shaped the stories I consume and create. Despite all the Disney touches, I miss the populist sci-fi films from this era like it (and, of course, The Empire Strike Back and The Wrath of Khan) which had a little more teeth.

As Brett said in our live-tweet, I live for giant spaceships lumbering through space, black-hole31heading  towards both wonders and nightmares. As silly as this movie gets, it still delivers on that front for me.

Thanks for reading, everyone. We’ve got one more movie to go in our Dark Disney retrospective series, The Black Cauldron. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter and leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

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The Indefinsibles: Evolution (2001)

Gabby: So it is my turn with a sci-fi pick, and I went with…

Jeremy: Evolution. David Duchovny and a group of somewhat lovable misfits rush to stop an alien threat that’s evolving as rapidly as the script’s color wheel of rewrites.

Brett: Gabby, let’s start with why you like this movie. What about it struck you?

Gabby: Well for one thing I hadn’t watched it in years. I thought it might be a great dynamic for us. With that and the fact that neither of you had watched it before, if I am correct?

Brett: Not only had I never seen this movie, I knew nothing about it. Seriously, everything I knew about this movie was on the DVD cover. Not the back cover, mind you. The front cover.

Jeremy: I skipped it in theaters because of the reviews. I rented and never finished it – though I didn’t turn it off voluntarily. I can’t remember what happened, but some minor emergency popped up and ate up the rest of the night. I had work in the morning and the video was due back. I just said, “Yeah, I’m good.” Pretty sure I stopped right before the mall scene, which is a shame: it’s the highlight of the movie.

Gabby: I really enjoy that mall scene.

Jeremy: It works because they’re doing something. There are way too many exposition scenes and other dithering about. The movie goes out of its way at times to avoid the aliens. It’s another sign that they probably didn’t know the movie they were making during filming.

Take the elephant in the room, Ghostbusters (another film directed by Ivan Reitman). Bill Murray and company are busting ghosts by, what, the thirty-minute mark? About an hour into Evolution, I threw my hands up in the air in frustration and said, “Oh great, now they’re sitting down for breakfast…”

Brett: I want to start positive. I will say, I didn’t hate it, but I had a hard time keeping hold of it. I felt like the plot was going to dissolve in my hands like spun sugar at any moment. It’s a little frustrating, because I can easily imagine a version of this movie that really clicked and fired on all cylinders.

Jeremy: There were only a few scenes where I actively hated this movie, mostly when Julianne Moore was treated like a redheaded piece of meat. Right about when theatre_of_blood_poster_03_1_t614Orlando Bloom had a surprisingly long and crass rant about Julianne Moore, wanting to shag David Duchovny, I thought I was going to have to go the full Jeremy on this movie. Then, an alien insect flew up Orlando Jones’ ass. And since his character deserved an unwelcome anal intrusion at the time, my feelings turned less hostile, reverting back to ambivalence. By the end, I was like, “They kinda tried.”

Brett: I checked online. This was a straight forward sci-fi movie before a rewrite added jokes to it. In a way, this doesn’t work for the reason Ghostbusters does. In Ghostbusters, the movie is serious. It is only the reactions, or cool lack there of, that makes it funny. The situations are never inherently comical.

In this, too many situations are made comical, and those are the bits that most failed to land. It wouldn’t take much to make Ghostbusters a sci-fi / horror movie. It would take a hell of a lot to make Evolution a serious movie. Even though, you can see the serious movie it once was peeking out in several scenes. That’s what made it so frustrating. I would be getting into it, we’d be driving along just fine, and then they’d plow the car into a snow bank.

The more I think about it, the more parallels I can draw. I could almost do a “this worked in Ghostbusters, and this is why it doesn’t work here.”

Jeremy: I was going to bring up the script rewrites if someone else didn’t. What I’m curious about is whether the jokes also changed through the production. Something clicked for me when I looked at the DVD box art and noticed this: “From the people who brought you Ghostbusters and Road Trip.”

True, Ivan Reitman was involved in both movies. I suspect that, as this was being rewritten into a comedy, it more closely resembled Ghostbusters, Then, someone got cold feet about the budget or how things were going on the set or something, and they started adding more dick and fart jokes, in the hopes of catching the American Pie crowd.

It’s not like you can’t enjoy Ghostbusters and Road Trip, but they’re not exactly chocolate and peanut butter together.

Gabby: The sex and fart jokes are so bad. I just wish the other element of the fun won out. We don’t need that. We can laugh at the scenario. 

Brett: When the leads work, they work. Orlando Jones and David Duchovny both manage to be funny in different ways while still being good looking and charming. I kept seeing the Reitman who made Ghostbusters when they were discovering things together. There were genuinely fun moments, like the three guys in the Jeep after killing the dragon thing in the mall. It’s not a hilarious scene, but you get the idea that they are enjoying being together at that moment.

They’re celebrating, and it feels kind of real.

Jeremy: I should add for our readers that we all watched Ghostbusters together during F This Movie Fest. I’m sure we would’ve compared both films anyway, 600px-EvolutionMossberg500(3)but it’s unavoidable now after watching them so close together. I wish there was a line of dialogue here half as good as the worst joke in Ghostbusters. The only memorable gag I remember is during the mall scene, where Duchovny and company leave the price tags on the shotguns they just appropriated. That’s pretty inspired.

About the mall scene: what is up with the young woman in the changing room who gets snatched by the monster? I was thinking to myself, “What is going on with her? Why is she so angry? Is this a tough mall? Did her backstory about suffering a changing room-related trauma get cut? And most of all, what is this movie’s beef with women?”

Brett: The problem is sort of profound. I don’t get it. I didn’t get the young woman’s whole thing. It’s kind of disappointing. Not just her, obviously. As I said in the live tweet, I felt like we were in another time and place.

Gabby: There is also the problem that another time and place might not even have this. Look at The Thin Man, 1934. Myrna Loy is, as smart, funny and brilliant as William Powell. And they are made greater by each other.

Jeremy: And it’s not just mall girl. During her introduction, Julianne Moore gets her skirt accidentally hiked up so we can see the ’40s pinup undergarments she’s wearing. A little while later, Duchovny’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t mentioned before this scene, shows up mostly to take off her shirt and show off her bra-clad boobs. I should add that Duchovny’s ex is played Sarah Silverman. How can you hire these two extremely talented people and then just treat them like objects?

Brett: Here’s the thing. It’s not just that Julianne Moore is wearing a garter belt and stockings, its that they actually go to the effort of mentioning it in the dialogue. Duchovny’s little outburst at the diner to Sarah Silverman is clearly supposed to be a moment where we’re on his side and women just be cray-zay, yo.

Even though he is clearly being the dick, we’re supposed to be rooting for him.

Gabby: Are we really supposed to be rooting for him? Because I never felt that. He’s asking for his shirts back, in the most uncivil manner. He’s being a dick. I always, just took it for granted maybe, that everyone sees it as him being a dick.

I really hate the way they treat women in this film. There are a lot of things though that ease my problem with that. Firstly, Allison is really smart. julianne_moore_evolution_001She also sticks it to government bullshit. Those guys need Allison for sure. Also, and this is the big one, she is played by Julianne Moore.

Brett: I actually find the three guys oddly charming when they work together. Orlando Jones is a lot more interesting than I had thought he would be.

Gabby: We all love mistfits. We all hate misogyny (I hope). So the misogyny wins. And I end up caring for their team because: a) Julianne Moore b) Allison realizes that the government’s let’s ‘blow the shit up’ idea of a solution is insane. c) The fact that the movie has a go at teasing American political history. This bombing solution has been posed as a solution by these type of world leaders, many times before after all. There might lie a smarter movie, way, way under the bullshit.

Jeremy: Yeah, the weird thing is that, even though they’re a roadblock, the military isn’t portrayed that badly here. It’s another example of the “we’ll find the jokes as we’re going” vibe I get from this movie. The movie has no strong opinion about them. Maybe there’s an anti-authority sentiment here, but not really.

And it’s odd how much the townsfolk fade in and out of the picture. Several of them – Seann William Scott’s boss at the country club, the young woman at the mall – really stand out, because they’re so abrasive. As Ghostbusters proves, Reitman is excellent at making his locations part of the story. Whether hastily removed or added in, I get the impression that the town – largely an upper-class, planned community – was meant to play a larger part.

It’s a fun – if nasty – idea that this small town full of rich, entitled people, who wanted to get away from anything that scared or offended them, gets attacked by all these biological horrors. It reminds of Gremlins in a way. I wish Reitman had committed to that idea… if it was intentional.

Brett: Interesting idea.

Jeremy: I’m also trying to think of another movie where the enemy base/point of origin is discovered by the good guys in the first ten minutes, and they keep kinda going lazily back and forth from it as the story needs. It plays almost like an old Doctor Who story.alan-rickman-as-alexander-dane-in-galaxy

I like that Duchovny and Jones first react to the idea of alien life with curiosity instead of panic. That’s a rare touch. Just to make sure I didn’t miss something, we have no reason to believe this is an alien invasion, right? A meteor with alien goo crashes on Earth by chance, and the evolution of these creatures is basically like space kudzu, right?

Gabby: It is kind of like The Blob (1958) in that way.

Brett: I was thinking, this movie would have been a lot more like Ghostbusters if Seann William Scott had started the movie as the side kick. Make it these two scientists and their kind of meat head buddy who actually gets it right sometimes.

You can actually see how these three would get along as buddies if they’d had more time. We didn’t need to waste all that time before we got them together.

Gabby: I think despite the head and shoulders commercial, the scene where that little fire truck full of misfits try to battle that alien is an example of their gun ho efforts.eT7yA This is a weird way to save the day. It is kind of funny, we kind of like these people. And it’s creative. The film has enough of that stuff for me to warrant the couple of times I have seen it.

Jeremy: I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall during the marketing meeting when Head & Shoulders committed to this movie.

“Sir, someone wants to use our shampoo in their movie. It’s an important plot point, and the movie’s by that guy who did Ghostbusters!”

“How important a plot point? What happens?”

“They put 500 gallons of our shampoo in a fire truck and then shove a hose full of the stuff up a giant alien’s ass. They use our product to kill it!”

“…”

“Well, now that I say it out loud…”

“…”

“Did I mention one of the characters says our shampoo leaves their hair flake-free?”

“Make sure our contract says that line stays in the picture.”

Brett: I think that’s why it hasn’t got any kind of following. 5% stupider and it would be a glorious disaster that we’d go see at midnight. 1894073,gh3XNwHRg5u++DvOXJ+ufHlnzWsUU7JrlaQVZdpgm2Twwac1sjaHn5Y3kTpJ2WZNf5Exy8NzG4LJli4QSnVtMw==But it never really goes off the rails, it never goes completely crazy. Even the shampoo thing has an air of “and then the solution is something crazy… like shampoo or something?” Rather than “And the solution is dandruff shampoo! Because it’s got chemicals in it… you know?”

One is trying to be wacky, and the other doesn’t even fully grasp that normal humans would find this batshit.

Jeremy: We’re getting a little long on words. Final thoughts, everyone?

Brett: I wish this movie was either better written or more badly made. If the movie making was as inept as the script, it could have been dumb fun. If the actors were struggling against impossible odds, it could have been fun. It’s in that uncomfortable area where it’s not good enough to be good, but not bad enough to be dumb fun on a Saturday night.

Jeremy: We’re on the same wavelength, Brett. It’s not a hidden gem. It’s barely even a curiosity. And this movie’s treatment of women is something else. I just realized that, whether intentional or unintentional on the part of the filmmakers, this was a thread that ran through all three of our picks this time around. Admittedly, we’re talking about hard-to-defend films, but it’s still a troubling aspect of the sci-fi/fantasy genre that still needs some, well, evolving.

Gabby: You do have to give it to this movie. It is a mess. But, as Jeremy said, they sure try. It’s a lot of fun because they seem so gun ho. Even if that means it doesn’t work. It tries. More effort went into making this than some movies. Maybe ones about carslong-galaxy-quest robots for example.

Jeremy: Thanks for reading, everyone. This was the last movie in our block of sci-fi movies. Next up, each of us will take turns trying to defend a not-so-loved comedy, starting with Young Einstein. Please follow us on Twitter, where we live-tweet every movie before discussing it. See you in two weeks!

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Film Favourites: Galaxy Quest (1999)

Jeremy: In between our Indefensibles articles, Gabby and I set aside some time to celebrate Alan Rickman and all the great performances he left us with. Today, we’re talking about one of my favorite movies, Galaxy Quest.

Gabby, do you remember the first time you saw this?

Gabby: I was fairly late to this one unfortunately. I think I came to it about three years ago. And was very sad I hadn’t watched it before. I remember absolutely loving it. There are few films that pulls off what Galaxy Quest does. And boy does it pull off superbly! I immediately wanted to watch it again. I haven’t re-watched it as much as I wanted too. But I think I am going to amend that now. It is a joy to watch every time. How about you?

A side note, as this will be a part love letter to Alan Rickman,galaxy-quest-sigourney-weaver-and-alan-rickman I want to say that ‘By Grabthar’s hammer – what a savings’, is one of the best line readings in the history of line readings.

Jeremy: If there actually are an infinite number of parallel Earths, there is no reality where that line is delivered better. As to my first experience with Galaxy Quest…

I’m about to give you and our readers some ammunition for the next time you think I’m wrong about a movie. You know the whole “I was into something before it was cool” thing? Yeah. I was the exact opposite of that with Galaxy Quest.

After Alan Rickman passed, I read the MTV oral history about its making, and someone mentions how the marketing for it was all wrong. I’m proof of that, because I was, like, the exact target for this movie back in 1999. Every time I saw a poster or ad for it, I shrugged and thought, “Meh, I’ll rent it.” I was on winter break from college with little to do when it was in theaters. If I had wanted to see it, I would’ve seen it.

But wait! There’s more. galaxy-quest-scrn-19Cut to a few months later. I make the two-hour drive to my folks’ house to do laundry and eat real food for the weekend. They had just purchased a DVD player (a big deal at the time), so I rented a few movies for the weekend. My parents were out of town, so I popped in Galaxy Quest and watched it alone on a Friday night.

And I thought it was fine. Not great, not that funny – but charming enough. A short time after that first viewing, I’m back at college and I go over to a friend’s place. They had just started watching Galaxy Quest. I shrugged again and went, “Eh, I’ll give it another go.” This time – somewhere around “Let’s get out of here before one of those things kills Guy!” – everything clicked. In the right environment, with friends who were laughing, enjoying themselves, and getting it, I knew I was watching something special.

Gabby: When delving into Galaxy Quest, there are so many places we could start. From the way they explore fandom, riff with casting or referencing Star Trek. We must bring up the fact they put Buzz Lightyear and Ripley in a Sci-Fi space adventure together. Casting directors can be beautiful people.

Jeremy: You’re right – there are very few films that pull off what Galaxy Quest does, which is being a comedy that’s also exciting or scary or doing whatever films in the genre they’re riffing on are supposed to do. Galaxy Quest is among a very rare class of films like Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, and Hot Fuzz.

As to the casting, everybody is great in this (including Tim Allen, who I know is a sticking point for some). But Alan Rickman, man… Every delivery, every perfect pause. The man’s timing was utterly brilliant. There’s a visual gag near the beginning where he snatches a photo out of a fan’s hand to sign. It’s a small moment, but everything about it is masterful. galaxy_questAs a student of comedy, it’s like watching the perfect swing in baseball or something. And why am I, of all people, doing a sports analogy? That’s a terrible idea.

One reason I might have bounced off this movie at first glance: it’s basically a riff on ¡Three Amigos! or A Bug’s Life. The difference, though, is that those movies don’t care much about silent movies or the circus once the plot gets going. This movie is all about the tropes of Star Trek – and the mythology that grew around the original show and its cast. Somehow, it’s equally successful at being a deconstruction, gentle satire, and affirmation of Star Trek and its values.

Gabby: Alan Rickman is absolutely perfect and flawless in this film. I would have said the same thing a few months ago and I will say the same thing in a few years. alan-rickman-galaxy-quest That is not something that grief has filtered. The man was just brilliant at the delivery of every line he had. Anything he said could get a laugh or become memorable, because of the way he said it. (We will surely bring up “Turn to page 394…” when we eventually get around to talking about Harry Potter. Who else would make that line remotely interesting, let alone so memorable and great?)

This film is wonderfully structured. That visual gag is an example of how thought out the script is. With the mention of both Star Trek and the convention I want to zone in on the fandom culture the film comments on. I think the film both, as you state with gentle satire, pokes fun at but lovingly so, the fans of such Sci-Fi worlds. gq_048BrandonSalutesIt does this with the feel of coming from one of them. Never mean spirited, but always so much fun. The way the main cast, of the show Galaxy Quest, view its fans is very telling. And Alan Rickman’s character arc in the film is quite interesting from this perspective too. When Alex says ‘that stupid line’ to Quellek, it is so touching. Alan’s performance there too is sensational.

Jeremy: The movie says there’s nothing wrong with loving something like Trek and taking some level of guidance from it – but, you know, go outside now and then.

Gabby: Yes, no fandom, however noble, is worth vitamin d deficiency. I say that from experience.

Jeremy: Hey man, outside is scary. That’s why I said “now and then.” Speaking of the script, how brilliant is the clock counting down to “1” gag? Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.

Gabby: They joyfully incorporate the nerds to help them save the day. It must be every Sci-Fi kid’s dream to be involved in something like that. They have a brilliant way of commenting on women in Sci-Fi too, especially with the casting of Sigourney Weaver 10268696_oriand what she brings to the role. As she says to Alex, ‘At least you had a character that people love. My TV guide interview was 6 paragraphs about my boobs and how they fit into my suit no one bothers to ask me about what I do on the show… I repeated the computer’

Jeremy: Yeah, it’s crazy to think that, if you were to make this film now, one of the first studio notes would be, “Can we really make fun of comic-cons like this?”

There are a few performances I want to talk about quickly. First, you’re right: Sigourney Weaver was in a rare position in 1999 as a female actor. She was able to say, “Wouldn’t it be fun to play the eye candy for once?” Until a few years ago, that was a quagmire countless female actors were trying to break free of.

And her character’s still great, even if she purposely gets a little less to do than her male counterparts. Like the rest of the movie, it’s important to remember this is a send-up. Please tell me if I’m wrong, Gabby – but I think the movie really commends all of these characters for showing up and being willing to help.

Back to Rickman. Even though I think the casting is uniformly perfect, there were several parts that had to be absolutely right or the movie would fall apart. Rickman is definitely one of them. The gravitas that he is – and knowing how to turn that gravitas up a single notch into parody – is brilliant.

The other casting choices I’m thinking of are the four aliens who have major speaking parts.galaxy-image I can’t say enough good things about them and how they were directed. This movie would be a disaster without them getting it right – especially Enrico Colantoni as Mathazar. I can think of few other movies where “the people in need” are so endearing.

To me, Quellek’s death feels a little manufactured. I know that’s the point, but it’s an emotional moment, not a gag – so it plays differently. Nit-picks aside, the way Rickman reacts to his death is so moving. It isn’t just about Quellek’s death. It’s this moment where Rickman’s character realizes how much Dr. Lazarus means to people. It’s just… Damn, now I’m thinking of Alan Rickman and Leonard Nimoy and getting a little verklempt.

While I’m on a similar line of thought, how great is Tim Allen in the “We lied…” scene?galaxyquest10611

Gabby: You’re verklempt, I’m verklempt. We’re all verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves… I don’t think I will stop being sad about this for a while. I am really glad we are doing this… Tim Allen really is great in that. He really shines through. The sense of the team coming together is genuinely touching. Particularly on the most recent viewing, watching this with this angle. Well, I have to say I did definitely get misty. I have no shame in that. This film stand the test of time and also I would gladly have it presented to aliens, in the name of peace, as one our ‘historical documents’.

Jeremy: If I were to make a list of my 100 favorite movies, Galaxy Quest would be in the top half – maybe higher. A lot of people say it’s the best Star Trek movie. While I can see where they’re coming from, I think the rest of us can agree that The Wrath of Khan is the greatest movie ever made.

It’s hard to sum up why I love Galaxy Quest so much. I live for comedy and science fiction, galaxy-quest (1)so this is pretty much my dream movie. And yes, I like schmaltz – which it has the perfect amount of. But the most amazing thing is that it still embraces Star Trek’s core message that we can be better than we are now. That’s just so great.

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The Indefinsibles: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

[Editor’s Note: There is no right way to enjoy Star Wars – or any movie, for that matter. If you love Revenge of the Sith and the prequels, that’s great. You’re not wrong and we’re happy for you. This, though, is three people’s honest opinions about it, and we hope you have fun reading it. If you disagree, we’d love to have a civil discussion with you in the comments section or on Twitter. As you’re about to find out, at least one of us can’t shut-up about Star Wars. -JDW]

Gabby: With this being the second in our Sci Fi / Fantasy round of Indefinsible movies, we dive into Jeremy’s selection…

Jeremy: Revenge of the Sith. A movie that proves that if inexplicably dying because you lost the will to live actually happened in real life, an entire generation of angry nerds would have suddenly been silenced back in 2005.

Gabby: I found tweeting through this very entertaining.

Jeremy: Yeah, I had a lot fun. Brett won the night with “Draw me like one your Bespin girls.” I‘m a little worried my tweets were a bit obvious. Hopefully, that won’t be the case for my part in this retrospective. 2e320db88e6646b223813f260c90520d

Gabby: Well at least you did not spend half the time going on about Padmé’s hair styles, as I did.

Jeremy: I found your tweets about her hair oddly fascinating. I’m sure we’ll circle around to that soon.

Let’s start with why I picked this. I have some minor nitpicks with The Force Awakens, but I’m crazy in love with it and how it recaptures the spirit of the original trilogy. With it fresh in our minds, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the last real Star Wars movie that came before it.

Gabby: I am interested in your first viewing Jeremy, what was that like for you? Was it a growing affection, or was it there from the onset?

Jeremy: Overall, I walked out of my midnight show in 2005 pleased. That’s not to say I embraced the film completely. After the first two prequels, I went into Revenge of the Sith with this attitude: there will be parts I like, and parts I don’t. I’m going to enjoy the parts I like and refrain from bitching too much about the rest so my wife still views me as a viable sexual partner. That’s the same attitude I have about these movies today.

I don’t speak for all Star Wars fans, but I remember a bit more excitement for Episode III compared to Episode II. revengeofthesith1-large The basic details of Obi-Wan and Anakin’s duel, where Anakin “fell into a molten pit”, had been around since the Return of the Jedi novelization way back in 1983. You can’t overstate how much fans, even the jaded ones, were looking forward to seeing the events that led to Darth Vader and the Empire.

And in some of the broad strokes, Lucas delivers on giving us the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker. The broadest strokes, mind you!

Gabby: I really must say upfront I have not seen the prequels a great many times. I think this was my third viewing of Sith. I may have watched the other two twice. The Phantom Menace, though, was watched quite a few years ago now.

Sith felt like a really bad B-movie with no fun, bar Ewan. I tried to get into the spirit of watching a B-movie as we went a long. But I would have appreciated something more. I think what doesn’t work is Anakin. Hayden Christensen is a real plank of wood in this film. It would have been great if someone with a bit of an edge could play him. Like… Michael Fassbender. Who is always amazing.

Jeremy: Mmm… Fassbender. I have trouble seeing it, but oh yeah, he would’ve been a better choice. It feels like Lucas cast both Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen because they looked a bit like Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher – which is, like, the worst way to cast people.

Speaking of blocks of wood, do you think Samuel L.Psycho-1960-Martin-Balsam-Mrs-Bates Jackson felt dead inside while making this movie?

Brett: I have always said it’s a mark of Lucas as a director that he could make Samuel L. Jackson boring.

Gabby: I agree, Brett! It is astonishing how he managed that with Sam Jackson. Jeremy, it was so sad seeing him like that. I can imagine him being like, “Yay, Star Wars, oh wait this is…’

Jeremy: Right there with you, Gabby. And Brett, what are your initial thoughts about the movie?

Brett: Okay, due to one thing and another, I only just finished Sith… and now I have to be the Jeremy of this one. I really don’t like Revenge of the Sith. Outside of a couple of scenes, it just does not work for me. So much of it falls flat, the story was not set up or executed properly, and the movie’s effects are just a mess.

Jeremy: Don’t worry – be the Jeremy all you like. I’m OK with that.

Brett: The writing was so clumsy.star-wars-3-revenge-of-the-sith-sc I didn’t think the concepts and storyline were set up enough. When things eventually happen, they carry no weight. It’s always been the weakest of the three prequels to me.

Gabby: When you start talking about the world in which is set up in the prequels, I get lost. Because the base line for a different universe isn’t there like the originals. Therefore, I am just not interested. It all goes over my head.

Jeremy: It’s amazing that a few lines from Peter Cushing about the senate being dissolved in A New Hope have more weight than three films where you actually spend time at the friggin’ senate.

Gabby: Amen!

Jeremy: You’re not alone, Brett, in thinking this is the weakest of the three. For a long time, I thought each prequel was better than the last, as the series grew darker and began to connect with the original movies. A few years ago, popular opinion shifted to Clones being the worst – which I also agree with now. With every passing year, it seems like people gradually dislike Sith more and more. It’s weird to think that a lot of folks vote The Phantom Menace as being the best of the worst.

And regarding the film’s script, Tom Stoppard supposedly did some rewritesdad3aa8a3ff4572c50372d4d6a40815d. I can hear it in a few places, but so many of the line deliveries are garbage. They’re like the spoonful of urine that makes the medicine not go down.

Let’s start with Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side. What works? What doesn’t?

Brett: That he suddenly seems convinced the Jedi were trying to take over while Palpatine is actually taking over is a problem. And he seems to go from killing Mace in a moment of distress to killing… ugh, that term… younglings, in cold blood in realtime. So, what, two minutes?

Once he gets to Mustafar he seems to have settled into the role. The fight between Obi and Annie is properly tragic.

Jeremy: I appreciate the first half of the fight, before the CG overkill of lava surfing and whatnot. That moment on the bridge where they grapple each other, the lava erupts, and John Williams’ music swells is undeniably powerful. A lot of people don’t like “I have the high ground!” But it works for me. Anakin loses because he can’t control himself. That feels right.

Gabby: John Williams is a genius. Let’s all take a moment to pause and appreciate that…

You may proceed.

Jeremy: I want to get to “younglings” before this over. Brett and I share a lot of frustrations about Anakin falling for the whole “the Jedi are taking over” thing. It’s funny that you mentioned it, Brett, because it really stuck out at me on this viewing.

The three of us are still getting to know each other. I’m assuming both of you are casual Star Wars fans… unlike me, the semi-lapsed Star Wars fanatic, who used to devour any media that had the Star Wars logo on it – books, comics, video games.

Brett: I haven’t played all the games or read all the books. I read some comics and played a few games, though. I didn’t get a lot of the expanded universe stuff. I only really have what’s on the screen to go by.

Gabby: I think I am the least into the Star Wars fandom of the three of us. I love the original trilogy. They are pure gems. Force Awakens is amazing and would happily see that a few hundred times. I think I made my brother into a bigger Star Wars fan than I am. I bought him the original trilogy for him when he was maybe 6, and he got totally hooked. He knows way more about the Star Wars mythology than I do now.

Jeremy: You are to be commended for that, Gabby. And that’s what I thought – neither of you consumed the prequel media that was designed to fill in the mortar that Lucas forgot to put between the bricks. Then let me ask this: how do you feel about Yoda and the Jedi Council in this movie? And how do you think Lucas wants us to feel about them?

Brett: I think Lucas was trying to show the Jedi as an arrogant group on the wain. I think he manages that, but it could have been a little more on the screen.

Gabby: The Jedi Council thing seems an attempt to go more political. What would you think if there was actual effort involved there? I think there could be something to it. A dynamic that would have made the transition to the dark side more understandable, for instance.

Jeremy: I’m happy to hear that comes across. I know fans are still annoyed by Yoda’s “mourn them not, miss them not” speech. 001They think Yoda’s being a cold-hearted dick, but that’s exactly what Lucas wants you to think. That’s a ballsy move on his part, especially with such a beloved character.

Gabby: I liked that Yoda mourn line. I think it shows some fire, on Lucas’ part by risking Yoda coming across as an arse but attempting to give him that edge. At least that was a little bit of a character dynamic.

Jeremy: You’re completely right, Gabby. We should’ve clearly understood that the Jedi were part of the Republic’s decline. We needed to see Anakin witnessing something that legitimately shook his faith in the Council and be on his side when it happened. Or maybe, the Council discovers Padmé’s pregnancy and wants to take their children away. Instead, the central conflict is that he’s an overly emotional peg trying to fit into a stoic monk hole.

And, uh, on that note, let’s move on. Besides Gabby’s fascination with Padmé’s hair, what does everyone think of Natalie Portman and how Padmé is written?

Brett: She’s basically written out. What little story they shot for her was cut out of the movie. Beyond that, she only exists to be a flower vase of Anakin’s fear.

Jeremy: I’m on the fence about her subplot not being included in the final cut. tumblr_m9fmmpxusa1r6wi9so1_1280For those who don’t know, Padmé joins a group of senators who, like the Jedi, have their doubts about Palpatine letting go of his emergency powers after the war. Most of these senators end up forming the Rebellion.

I kinda wish it was left in, because I enjoy how Padmé and Anakin are on different branches of the government, and Palpatine is driving a wedge between them, politically and personally. Plus – and forgive my crudeness – Padmé would not come off as being barefoot and pregnant.

Gabby: I didn’t expect to find her hair the most compelling part of this movie. I was deeply fascinated by it. It is just the weirdest thing. It is like they got Cyndi Lauper’s space baby as the hairdresser.picrevengeofsith12

So here is the thing. This character has nothing. So what is Natalie Portman supposed to do with that? Apparently, she is radiating love. Everything seems based off Anakin’s emotions and actions. Which we don’t really see either. Like Brett says, a flower vase.

However she isn’t really even given that. That character could be far more interesting in a film where she is pregnant with the two heroes of the beloved originals. I did like that scene though when she comes to Anakin, right before the final duel. Ewan MacGregor comes in and he thinks she has betrayed her. Despite the thinly way this is written, there is still substance there. It has a dynamic and it is involving, even emotionally. For me anyway.

I think they all seemed more involved in that scene. As there was more there. The film does have a few moments like that.Star-Wars-movies-Episode-III

Jeremy: Yeah, the last half-hour has several legitimately stirring moments – especially the way Lucas cuts back and forth between the birth of the twins and the birth of Darth Vader. These scenes are why Sith is my favorite of the prequels.

Alright, we’re running a little longer than usual with this one. There are two things I’d like to do before we finish this. First, please allow me to get some quick fanboy grievances off my chest, which I’d be happy to chat about in the comments section. Here goes:

1) Why not put Temuera Morrison in a real clone trooper costume? Why the pointless, distracting CGI?

2) General Grievous is the worst – especially knowing that Lucas already had a perfectly good Christopher Lee lying around. Anakin’s fall happened at the right time in the movie, but it should have come from murdering Dooku in cold blood.

3) Dooku? Dooku? I mean, it’s no Kit Fisto – but come on, George…

4) “Younglings.” Did Lucas come up with this name because he decided to pull his punches regarding Anakin’s actions. Guess what? Anakin kills a bunch of children. If you’re going to go there, own it.

5) And last and most offensive of all: 1812_14_screenshotPadmé dying because she lost the will to live. Shouldn’t Anakin be directly responsible for her death? What a last-minute cop out this feels like. I’m disappointed that Padmé’s presence in this movie was marginalized for time, but I’m truly angry that her entire character arc – and what she represents as the one major female character in the prequels – became marginalized thanks to this movie. I believe this was unintentional on Lucas’ part, but it doesn’t stop it from being there. Thank God for Rey and the new trilogy.

With that off my chest, let’s end this retrospective on a positive note. I’d love to hear three things you both liked about Revenge of the Sith. And while I will accept “Ewan McGregor”, “Ewan McGregor”, and “Ewan McGregor” as an answer, I’d love to hear anything else you have to offer.

Brett: Okay, three things. 1) Daisy Ridley is as cute as a whole box of buttons. 2) Harrison Ford didn’t phone it in. 3) Like 80% of the movie...  Wrong Star Wars.

Fer reals though… Okay, so Palpatine explains what the power of the dark side actually is. The one time he makes it about an empty idea of power, that scene works. Both of them are being real actors, they’re giving real performances and they’re actually talking about something. The movie thinks it’s being clever talking around things and quipping, but that scene actually gives you an idea of how this young Jedi could be seduced.chst

Jeremy: It’s a terrific scene, yeah.

Brett: The movie still looks pretty, even if I don’t think it comes to much. Aaaaand….. Ewan McGregor?

Jeremy: I’ll allow it.

Gabby: To end on a positive note there are some elements I like in this film. They are Ewan, the Yoda line, the scene before the battle we talked of, and of course the endlessly fascinating hair choices by Padmé.

Here’s my three. First – and I know it’s obvious – Ewan McGregor. Simply put, he’s one of the best things to ever happen to Star Wars. McGregor does solid work in all the prequels, and he’s especially good here. If the prequels actually enrich anything about the original films, it’s the character of Obi-Wan. Much of that is on McGregor.

Two, even if it’s underdeveloped, I’m fascinated by the arrogance and obliviousness of the Jedi Council. Of course, you don’t want to see them get wiped out, but it’s obvious their time has passed. It’s an unexpected but welcome addition to the Star Wars mythology.

Three, Anakin’s descent into darkness is Greek Tragedy 101, but it does the job. His visions come to pass because he comprises his principles to avoid them. It’s one of the most classic of classic plots for a reason, folks.

So, yeah, that’s Revenge of the Sith.

Brett: It wasn’t very good in theaters, and I didn’t think it was good now. I don’t hate it, but I really don’t like it much.

Jeremy: It’s a mess. There are, though, enough good things in it to keep me coming back. (Christ, I sound like Padmé at the end of this freakin’ movie.) At its best, you can see flashes of the scrappy, primal storyteller Lucas once was. Maybe it comes down to this: it’s a Star Wars movie and I love Star Wars. As terrible as these movies are in places, I’d rather have them than not. And thank God again for The Force Awakens…

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The Indefinsibles: The Beastmaster (1982)

Jeremy: Welcome to our first block of hard-to-defend movies in 2016. We’re each picking a sci-fi/fantasy film we want to defend. We’re starting with Brett’s pick, which is…

Brett: The Beastmaster. It’s basically a bronze age version of How to Win Friends and Influence People before an editor took out that whole “setting your village’s toddlers on fire” thing.

Jeremy: I know, right? What other movie do you get that in? Also, everyone in this movie explodes the second they get near fire.

Brett: So what did we think? Beyond the pick-up artist scenes. Because those are way creepy now.

Jeremy: Oh yeah, they are. We’ll get to that.

Gabby: This seems to have definite influences from Greek mythology. For instance, the use of the Three Fates, witch women here, to predict Dar’s future.  And a possible influence from the story of Melampus who had the power to speak to animals. I do love Greek mythology. I have read a few different versions of certain myths. As well as just finished a book called Song of Achilles, which is a novel with a twist on the Trojan war with a homosexual love story at the centre. Many of these tyoes of films, like Beastmaster, as well as the mythologies it takes influence on have a homoerotic undertone. I think it is all that hyped up angst in effort to achieve the ultimate level of masculinitymarc-singer-beastmaster by being the best fighter.

Brett: There may be something to that. I sort of feel like we have a mix of a Greek mythology film and a peplum film here. The gods aren’t a factor in this movie, even though they’re mentioned a couple of times.

Gabby: What about the influence of epics and shorts and sandals movies?

Brett: I think Don Coscarelli was just trying to ape the whole near naked man in a leather skirt of the Italian peplum films. It’s pretty clear the writers read a lot of stuff. There is the inspiration from the Andre Norton book, but some of those things are out of Robert E Howard. There are ideas from a variety of ancient myths. This is almost a better adaptation of a Conan novel than the movie that was actually made with the name.

How did everyone feel about this movie?

Gabby: I had fun. I was certainly more confused than I anticipated. I wasn’t quite on board with the rules of the world they invented. I am not sure we really are supposed to be though.

Jeremy: I had a lot of fun, too. I remembered watching parts of this when I was a kid, but I realized after this viewing that must’ve been Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time. A much, much harder movie to defend. Imagine my surprise by how competent and enjoyable this seemed in comparison.

Brett: Oh God, Beastmaster II is almost unwatchable.

Jeremy: It’s basically a Highlander II situation, right?

Brett: Pretty much. I’m glad you guys both had a good time with this.

Jeremy: The pervy bits grated on me, and there’s some tonal dissonance. I get why this was a childhood favorite for so many.

Brett: Speaking of, Marc Singer was almost Connor Macleaod.

Jeremy: That almost could’ve worked. He’s a little too “Aw, schucks…” for that part. And for this role in Beastmaster, if I’m being honest – though I enjoyed his performance. I haven’t seen that many things he’s been in. My experiences are limited to this and Batman: The Animated Series.

Brett: He was in V, another blast from the ’80s.

Jeremy: Oh God, I have one memory of V – the birth of that alien baby. I was really young and it terrified me to the point that I’m still hesitant to revisit it to this day.

alienbabyBrett: I think that’s the sequel, V: The Final Battle

Jeremy: V: The Childhood Trauma – that’s what it is. Anyway, Beastmaster…

Brett: I look at this as a Pobodies Nerfect situation. I was in my 20s when the DVD first came out. I was shocked at how the ferrets were used to just be comic relief to the extent they were. They wanted it to be the next Star Wars, but they couldn’t stretch a dollar like Lucas could.

Jeremy: Critics often pan movies like this by saying all the attention went to the special effects. That’s kind of the case here with the animal wrangling, which I imagine ate up the shooting schedule.

When we were live-tweeting the movie, I mentioned there’s this special kind of movie you only get in the early-to-mid ’80s, which I call “almost enough budget” movies. They’re not low-budget, exactly – because the money was there for effects, location work, and some solid character actors. At the same time, you can see in places where time and/or the money ran out.

My mind went to the original Terminator. If you wanted to be overly picky, there’s some dodgy effects and a few moments where one more take would’ve helped, but the whole is so much more than its parts. This is a lot of parts of varying quality. And boy, is the tone all over the map.

Brett: So was there anything you guys particularly liked or disliked, outside of the creepy sexual politics? I think we were all skeeved by that.

Jeremy: I was impressed with the production design and creature effects – the bat people, Rip Torn’s henchwitches, and all the quirky, freaky odds and ends throughout the movie. Whether adapting stories or creating his own, you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before in a Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) movie.

There was a human-to-cow fetus transfer. You can’t make stuff like that up.

At the same, the things I just mentioned work against the movie. I get the impression that this was intended to be a much darker, more muscular film, and Coscarelli, Singer, and company ended up having too much fun during filming.

beastmasterwingsGabby: I agree about the darker intentions versus the fun they had with the execution. It does make it have an interesting dynamic. But sometimes one that kind of jars. It is really fun to watch though. I love the weird touches, like the ring with the eye. I don’t know about you but I think skulls in my plats would look gooooood.

Jeremy: Skull fashion accessories make any movie better. That’s come up before in our Indefensibles retrospectives. With the kind of movies we’ll be doing, it won’t be the last time, either.

Gabby: I think we can’t really escape a little explanation or talk on the creepy sexual politics. Especially after bringing it up a few times.

Jeremy: I know we should, but I kind of don’t want to. Not because I want to dismiss it. It’s there and you can’t miss it. And if you did miss it or want to excuse it, maybe you have a little more growing to do as a person.

Brett: The problem with the creeper scenes is that they were supposed to be charming and fun. I mean the ferrets steal her clothes, and the tiger is the worst wingman ever! It’s still crap, though.

Creepy shit be creepy y’all. It’s that Chris Pratt charming creeper thing… good looking, supposed to be fun, but still makes your skin crawl.

Jeremy: It goes back to my issues with the tone. If this was a sleazier B-movie, I wouldn’t be on board with it, but I would at least be like, “Well, that’s this movie.” With the film as it is, I was going, “Wait, Marc Singer, you’re not gonna… Yeah, you are. And using the ferrets, too…”

Did the pervy bits stop me from enjoying the movie? No. It does stop me, however, from being able to recommend it without conditions.

Gabby: I do have some questions to explore these slimy sexual politics that are displayed in the film. The first two of these questions bounce off the weird way in which the animals play into the romance:

Is it also because Dar and Kiri are related that this relationship is so troubling?

Is it because Dar’s Oedipus complex could involve a cow?

Is ibeastmaster11t because a middle-aged man wearing two belts and a loincloth has been traveling with a young boy?

And is Dar always oiled up? How is this possible?

This is… an interesting movie.

Jeremy: To answer your last question first, Beastmasters sweat Crisco. This was scientifically proven in the 1940s. Well, I say Crisco… It’s actually a unique substance remarkably similar in chemical composition to Crisco.

Brett: And if he rolls in hay, he’s going to just look like one of those The Worst Cat photos, because of all the grease he’s got smeared on him.

Gabby: What are you guys saying?

Jeremy: You don’t have Crisco in England?

* ONE GOOGLE SEARCH LATER… *

Gabby: I see! Yes, I get this joke now.Crisco--better_than_butter What the *&@! is vegetable shortening? That looks kinda yucky.

Jeremy: I’m sure you have something like it over there. It’s probably got some weird British nickname like “the vegetable oil’s bollocks.”

Gabby: I think we do sell it. But it isn’t flying off the shelves. Trexis is more popular. Also “The vegetable oil’s bollocks” is better value. 

Jeremy: As to your first question – they’re first cousins, right? ‘Cause that is a weird and unnecessary addition to this story.

Admittedly, after being born out of a cow and having the brand of an ancient, terrible God that gives him beastmastering powers, the guy shouldn’t procreate with anyone. First cousin lovin’ would only be the cherry on that deformity sundae.

Gabby: I am deeply disturbed imagining how their offspring would turn out now. 

Jeremy: I’ll skip the Oedipus cow bit, then. I had no1763152,QviIf3N0iTHEzRhGcl1aNvKjQGHQX6v2lW+RhcfMsweZ+Me8QeOr6M236TvvQmpHopPJAwEl5OzKtDSbAQBaTg== problem with John Amos watching over the kid. He’s a knight of the realm watching over the next king.

Brett: No, I never had any issue with that either. That’s a pretty well established trope. Actually, it’s kind of a tropey movie, and I mean that in a good way. Tropes can be useful for shorthand storytelling.

Jeremy: Totally. All I ask is that you make it your own. That happens here.

Brett: Okay, I want to talk about the action scenes. I had not noticed how choppy the action scenes are before hmthis viewing. Marx Singer can just about do that figure 8 thing with the sword, but he doesn’t seem able to do much else.

You can usually gauge how competent the stunt men are by how long a single shot goes on. I counted like one and two moves per camera angle. They really worked to build the fights in the editing room.

Jeremy: The fights reminded me of old Star Trek episodes – fun, spirited, but not exactly, you know, good. Everyone’s trying. That’s enough for me.

Brett: I will agree, everyone put forth the effort. Am I the only one who is disappointed in how rarely that throwing thing is used? All I can think is it was an effect that they never got quite working right.

Jeremy: The throwing weapon was so disappointing! It reminded me of the Glaive from Krull. That was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and I was always so frustrated about the Glaive barely getting used. At first, I was watching this and thinking, “Coscarelli gets it!” Then it all but disappears!

Krull all over again, man.

Gabby: Can I also say, the bird bailed him out quite a lot by not really doing anything. He certainly had interesting animal accomplices. If you have a guy that can talk to animals, why not give him actually cool animals? Instead the main ones we get two joker ferrets that do all the work somehow and a black tiger that doesn’t give a shit about anything. Also the eagle that is basically the animal version of Bettie Davis. She shows up, everyone stops messing around.

Brett: The bird was so uncooperative, they had to drop it from a hot air balloon to get it to fly.

Now, there is something we haven’t touched on. How many movies give a ferret a heroic death? The ferret kills the main bad guy, then dies while saving Dar and getting the baddie. Forget that he’s an animal for a second. How many movies can you think of where the comic relief is given a heroic death, or gets to kill the main bad guy? it would be like if Much the Miller’s Son suddenly leapt on Guy of Gisborn and saved Robin at the last second. Only here, Much is a ferret and Guy is Rip Torn (of all fucking people) and Robin Hood is Tanya Roberts.

Jeremy: We also haven’t mentioned Rip Torn or Tanya Roberts, but we’re running a bit long. If you know who they are, then you’ll know exactly what they deliver (or don’t deliver) here.

Brett: Have we said all that we have to say about Beastmaster?

Gabby: I think I just wanted to add that I was more impressed with the landscapes than I thought I would be; there are some nice wide shots. l.php

Jeremy: I want to say again how fun this is. It probably plays better if you only catch a few scenes at a time on cable. I’m glad I saw it and get the affection people have for it.

Thanks for reading, everyone. We’ll be back soon with my pick for this round of movies, Revenge of the Sith. In the meantime, please follow us on Twitter. And feel free to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

And have a picture of Marc Singer with sparkly hair on us. You’re welcome.