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Mad Max

In Every Movie Ever I make the poor decision of watching every movie in a given franchise. This time, I’m checking out the first entry in the Mad Max series. Posted .

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Why I haven’t watched the entire Mad Max tetralogy is a mystery even to me, but here we are, and I’m making up for lost time.

And let it be said: I watch a lot of misunderstood movies. Cult movies. B-movies… Call them what you like, but Mad Max is more often than not put in the cult category. It’s one every movie snob is supposed to love. Me? Clearly I’m not a snob, because good grief… I downright hated this film. It’s not often I say I would watch Twixt over anything, but here we are, and that is what I’m saying.

Where does one even start?

It might not be kind to compare director George Miller to Uwe Boll, but where the latter claims he’s a doctor, the former actually was (is, perhaps) a surgeon. He funded this movie by working extra shifts. Furthermore, Miller has quite the rap sheet and has amassed both Oscar nominations and entries into the Babe franchise. Be all of that as it may, I can’t help but wonder if this is where Dr. Boll got his inspiration.

As far as Mad Max goes, I had no idea what was going on. I have my doubts Miller did either, and this ends up feeling like a somewhat dystopian version of the CHiPs TV show. Something about a cop who’s a night rider, and (as usual) Mel Gibson’s wife is killed, revenge is in the cards, and I don’t even know what.

Mel looks pretty sharp in those leather pants, though.

There are so many odd things here, and the film often plunges into parody territory. There’s a soaring sax solo from Mel’s wife, sensually playing notes one would expect to see in a Leslie Nielsen movie. The badass biker gang? They’d probably seem rougher had they not delayed chases to put their helmets on.

And a dystopian society where Kawasakis are the bikes of choice, and Coke cans are strewn around… That doesn’t really do it for me.

If nothing else, this is a good study of Mel Gibson. Here is a man who has only gone through two stages of aging: from birth to Lethal Weapon, and from Lethal Weapon until now. In Mad Max he doesn’t look much like the Mel we know and love… -ish… today, so consider it a museum relic in that sense.

That aside, I don’t get why this is a cult classic. I really do not. It’s just a mess of half-baked plots, and while the movie is nicely filmed, I cannot figure out Mad Max’s classic status, cult or otherwise. It’s just a dull film.

Yet I will persist. Be it Tina Turner in a shifty costume or Tom Hardy killing his career, I will be there, watching each and every movie in the series. God help me.



The Purge trilogy

In Every Movie Ever I make the poor decision of watching every movie in a given franchise. This time, I’m checking out The Purge trilogy. Posted .

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How does a country achieve 1% unemployment and virtually no crime? Trump, take note: Make one night a year a purge night. Throw all rules aside, and let everyone do anything to anyone1 without the fear of persecution. An intriguing concept for sure and The Purge trilogy delivers some disturbing and entertaining movies—when are the two mutually exclusive, after all?—likely based on 2018.

So! The movies…

The Purge

The original’s concept was larger than its budget and was so scaled back to a storyline taking place solely in a house. In it, a family led by a dapper Ethan Hawke arms its security system, expecting to sit through the night while the purge does its thing outside.

Obviously, the movie is not 90 minutes of people just sitting around.

The well-meaning son lets a homeless person in to hide from a chasing mob, which doesn’t go over too well with The Freaks, as they’re called. Yes, they want in, but Ethan isn’t about to go down without a fight.

Tiny budget aside—I assume the majority of the three million went into Mr. Hawke’s pocket—this reminds me a bit of Night of the Living Dead. People stuck in a house, a mob trying to come in… We also get the added layer of a family trying to get the homeless person back out so they can be let alone, which brings up all kinds of moral dilemmas.

The Purge is a tense, interesting movie, and particularly Rhys Wakefield deserves a shout-out for his role as The Freaks’s «Polite Leader». Some cheap scares and predictable action scenes aside, I enjoyed the less than 90 minutes of this quasi-dystopia fiction(-ish).

The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge pulled in more than USD 60 million, which might not be huge numbers, but is still 20 times that of its budget. A sequel was inevitable, and the franchise made its first step to reach a cult-plus status2.

Does The Purge predict the future? I would say yes, merely based on the new founding father sharing his first name with (y)our 45th (official) president.

Anarchy is quite different from its predecessor in format, taking on a 1970s, running-through-the-street action pace, while keeping a similar feel. Led by a very grizzly Frank Grillo—out for revenge—we get some awesome action trope-y, Charles Bronson class fun. Think Once Upon a Time in the West meets Escape from New York and you get a general idea. Hell, there is a bit of Running Man in here too; the book, not the movie.

With a USD 9 million budget, franchise creator James DeMonaco got some good creative freedom, and the movie has a stylish look about it. Lighting and cinematography are both top notch.

I quite enjoyed the tense journey through the streets of… who knows where… and Anarchy is my choice entry in the franchise. With USD 71 million in the bank, there was, of course, no doubt we would get…

The Purge: Election Year

Oi, red flags about from the beginning. This seems too A-movie like. Too slick. What the hell is someone of Elizabeth Mitchell’s stature doing here?!

Then! In walks Frank Grillo, as manly as a manly man’s man can be, and we know… Everything will be OK.

Mitchell, as it is, holds her own as a candidate for president who wants to abolish the purge. Her opponent, a New Founding Fathers pick, is out to get rid of her, and hey! What better time to do so than exactly that night?!

Frank Grillo to the rescue. And this time, flanked by a very badass Betty Gabriel.

The A-movie nonsense ends soon enough, and Election Year even flirts with the blaxploitation genre, which seems fitting with the franchise’s 1970s finesse.

More so than the former movies, we get some excellent one-liners; not the lame 80s style ones, but ones fitting for this kind of a film. (For whatever reason, even «heeeelllll no!» seemed acceptable.)

And Dante Bishop, the only character from the two previous movies, gets his share of screen-time and makes the best of it. If the world was falling to pieces, I would decidedly want him on my side.

Election Year might start off too slick, but it gets well bizarre and entertaining enough to live up to its own mythology soon enough.

All three movies are unapologetically actiony, and I like that. It’s easier to forgive the flaws when they go 100% in like this.3 The second entry is the best one, but the third one comes close. The first one is kind of its own thing and works well as a thriller.

Check up on the movies and take lessons for what we are in for. There are many to be learned.

1 Minus high-ranking political officials, of course.

2 Too successful to be true cult, yet not successful enough to be… successful.

3 One of the reasons I also enjoyed Suicide Squad.



Kindergarten Cop 2

The world calls them trash, I call them One Star Classics. Posted .

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Say what you want about Dolph Lundgren—and there is a lot to say—but nobody can accuse the guy of taking himself too seriously. Whether it is his annual appearances on Sweden’s Eurovision broadcasts or participating in science quizzes, the guy’s clearly a sport.

Of course, his movies might not always be stellar1, but for some bizarre reason, they are often bizarrely watchable.

Add Dolph’s sportsmanship with his nose2 for entertainment, and you have Kingergarten Cop 2. That’s right: One hour and forty Schwarzenegger-less, Lundgren-filled minutes of pure gleefulness! And if the runtime seems long, you may or may not be surprised to learn that roughly fifteen minutes are dedicated to Twix product placements.

Granted, The storyline is… shaky. I get the distinct impression the director got the choice between making either a Kindergartent Cop or a Lethal Weapon sequel, and decided to do both. In one movie. This is, for all intents and purposes, Lethal Weapon set in the Kindergarten Cop universe. I mean, Dolph lives in a trailer, for Christ’s sake. How very Riggs.3

Other than that, the movie takes an odd turn into conservative propaganda territory. Be it your gay stereotypes, references to the «war on Christmas»—the «Christmas festival» that was renamed to «Holiday festival» is now just the «festival»—and actual subtitles for the token Asian kid… I mean, what the hell?

Lundgren, while reading a children’s story, neatly sums it up: «This book is full of liberal BS!» Wow!

Yet, there is no denying the charming sides to the movie. Dolph’s bromance with Bill Bellamy (you know him as the PA announcer in an episode of Murder in the First) gives all the laughs one would expect, and the one-liners come flying:

«No one dates anymore, grandpa… it was a hookup.»

«Let’s put the mac and cheese on the stove and get this play date started!»

Schwarzenegger couldn’t pull those off even in his dreams!

And let’s be honest: Kindergarten Cop 2 isn’t a whole lot worse than its predecessor. Sure the budget is slimmer—I’m pretty sure the school and the police station were filmed in the same location—but on the flipside, you get that much more Dolph. Who’s going to complain about that?

1 See In the Name of the King 2 for more.

2 For all Dolph-hounds: The «Mac and Charlie Write a Movie» episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia covers Dolph, dogs, noses, and more!

3 Again, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia also has an obsession with the Lethal Weapon series (making two sequels of their own in the show).



A Series of Unfortunate Events and Pasta Puttanesca

Posted in Movies and Recipes. Which one is better, the movie or the Netflix show? And why wouldn’t you crave some pasta puttanesca after watching either of them?

The author’s screenplay or the author’s «script-doctored» screenplay? Which version of A Series of Unfortunate Events is the better is a subjective opinion, but if you want my view (and why wouldn’t you), here are the propers…

Count Olaf vs Count Olaf

That is, Jim Carrey vs Neil Patrick Harris, both of whom I approve of. If I had to make a choice, I’d go with Carrey who does a better Count Olaf (the cruelty seems rather sincere1) though each Count Olaf-in-disguise ranks about the same. Carrey’s portrayals are possibly vaguely funnier—particularly Captain Sham—but one can’t deny Harris’s inspired take on Stephano.

Lemony Snicket vs Lemony Snicket

There’s no contest here. I always found Patrick Warburton to be a one-note (albeit funny and likable) actor, but here he adds some unexpected depth. His Snicket mirrors Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame) in a very becoming manner and mixes deadpan humor with convincing dread. Not that I have any issues with Jude Law, but Warburton gives the Netflix show a surprising pinch of class.

Set design

Even today, the movie’s budget would be considered exuberant, so from a technical perspective, it takes this one home. However! It’s obvious that the series creator, Barry Sonnenfeld, had gotten far enough along with the movie (he left because of «creative differences») to have influenced the basic look, and thus the two feel very, very similar. The show has also taken their budgetary constraints as an opportunity to make the sets look more theater-prop-like, which goes well with A Series of Unfortunate Events’s theme. In that sense, I actually prefer the Netflix version.

Flow

A two-hour movie covering three books versus an eight-hour show covering four? Netflix clearly has an advantage here. However, I am impressed that they managed to put the movie together without the storyline ever feeling rushed. (Plus Meryl Streep doing comedy for twenty minutes? Always a treat.)

Which means…

… that they’re both good, the show and the movie. I actually don’t know which one I prefer, as, in the end, they’re pretty dang similar. Where Netflix pulls ahead is the flow. There is more time for plot details, and Harris is left with a lot of room to ham it up. In that sense, even though I prefer Carrey, I actually think Harris might have a leg up (no pun intended2) after all.

Just watch both. You’ll surely be left with ten or so hours of solid entertainment. Read the books, too—I’ve admittedly only checked out a few, but they are excellent. And do pair all of them with…

Pasta puttanesca!

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 3/4 cup chopped basil

Toss all the ingredients, minus the spaghetti, together and cook the sauce. Boil the pasta, drain it, and mix it in with the sauce. That’s it.

And what exactly is a «puttanesca»? A «prostitute». There you go. A Series of Unfortunate Events has a little bit for everyone.

1 The man doesn’t believe in vaccines after all.

2 Referencing Captain Sham, natch.



Most Likely to Die

The world calls them trash, I call them One Star Classics. Posted .

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With Scream and its descendants’s successes, there has been a surprising lack of rip-offs of the franchise. I suppose I Know What You Did Last Summer had some similarities, but that’s pretty much the only one I can think of.

Now, with the teen slasher genre enjoying a retro craze1, we have Most Likely to Die. I doubt it made its way to theaters before getting dumped to the dustiest corners of Netflix, but hey, who am I to judge?

An all-star cast including Heather Morris (Glee), Perez Hilton (his blog), and Jake Busey (trying his darnedest to out-creep his father and earn the and credit), we follow a ten-year high-school reunion party. Shock and awe, members of the group start getting offed, and… Well, it’s all very predictable. However, I feel there are some clever little details here that makes Most Likely to Die a worthwhile watch.

First, I’m not one to be all up in giddy arms over clever kills in horror movies, but respect: Offing the victims based on their yearbook’s «most likely to…»-s is inspired.

Related, I thought the cap and gown was a bit of an overkill for The Graduate’s costume—and yes, that is the moniker of the killer—but the way the cap is used as a weapon… Bravo!

Visually, the movie does a good job mimicking Wes Craven’s nineties sensibilities, or at least most of the time. I’m guessing the budget must have put the kibosh on multiple takes, and the actors heads get cut off (in the filming sense) during a couple of jarring shots.

And while the cast isn’t actually all that starry, the actors do a decent job with a script that isn’t exactly Shakespearean.

All in all, Most Likely to Die is entertaining. It’s apparent who the killer is early on, but making your way to the conclusion is a fun-ish journey. Sure there are some technical shortcomings, and the dialogue is so-so, but come on… What can one really expect from a movie called Most Likely to Die?

Oh, and it all ends on a «cliff-hanger». Yes, the producers clearly had grand plans for a sequel, but I have my doubts that will happen.

A boy can dream, though.

1 A Scream TV adaptation as well as Scream Queens.