Monthly Archives: March 2015

“Yes. I, too, like him very much. It’s very hard not to.”

My parents are not big fans of Eddie Murphy.

Every kid in the 80s was.

I didn’t get many chances to watch Eddie Murphy in his early career because of the language content of his movies.  All of my friends were allowed to and talked about it at school.  I was jealous and begged my parents, but they stood strong.  Years later–*clears throat*–YEARS LATER, I appreciated that.

There was just one movie that fell through the cracks.

It’s the story of a man that spends his life finding children that are missing.  A woman sees him on a local television show in LA announcing the latest missing child that he is searching for.  The woman seeks him out and approaches him for some work.  He reluctantly takes the job and sets off on an unexpected investigation/adventure that takes him all around the world and back.

His favorite phrase, “….I’m gonna bust yo ass!”

original

The Golden Child” was another eclectic movie.  There was obvious humor, Eddie Murphy was in it.  There were exotic locations, fantastical villains, a bad ass karate-chopping heroine, dragons, gargoyles, and of course magic.

My parents were reluctant.  After all, it did have that “filthy” Eddie Murphy in it.  So they had to screen it of course.  They were only willing to even screen it after they heard me and my cousins talking about it.  My cousins had seen it and enjoyed it.  My mom started asking them questions:

“Was there a lot of swearing in it?”

“No.”

“Was there any sex in it?”

“No.”

“Was there a lot of violence?”

“Not a lot.”

“Was there nudity?”

 “What’s that?”

We found out what that meant and there was none of that in it either (unless you count the topless dragon).

When I watched it, I found it very unexpected.  I didn’t just enjoy it because I finally got to see an Eddie Murphy movie.  I actually enjoyed the story, the characters, the action, and the humor was just a bonus.  My favorite scenes are the ones that involve Eddie Murphy and Charles Dance (you know, Tyrion’s dad).

charles

Dance is excellent at playing a man that is built to frighten you.  Eddie Murphy is excellent at playing over-confident.  As an audience, we’re aware of how dangerous Dance is.  We have seen that he is not human, that he can appear, murder, and be gone.  Murphy is not in on that trick and treats Dance like he is just another man.  This adds tension for us when we see Murphy antagonize him.  We enjoy the humor in those scenes, but we worry for the well being of Murphy as well.

In the end, I decided to watch this movie more than the one time and tried to memorize all of the funny scenes so that I could talk with my friends about them at school.

I did that…my Eddie Murphy impression leaves something to be desired.

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“Well, then the law’s crazy.”

This next one was another in a list of many that I saw the first time as a made for television movie a.k.a. blood-violence and curse words dubbed out.

Being that it was made in 1971, there wasn’t a whole lot that they had to leave out.

I remember a well dressed tall man that noticed a lot of other things that everyone else didn’t.  A car parked out in front of a bank–still running, for an uncomfortable period of time.  Like a prophet, there are shots fired at the bank and Harry, who wanted to enjoy his early afternoon dinner, is instead forced into action.

He is able to resolve the “situation” with multiple casualties on the other side.  At the tail-end of that scene, the writers made Clint Eastwood a film icon.

I always wondered what it would be like to write something that made an actor a film legend. Did Fink, Fink, & Riesner know that they were writing dialogue that would make some actor’s words and public perception timeless?  My guess is “no.”  They probably just did what the rest of us do.  Thought of things that needed to be said, and bled them out onto the page.

I remember thinking that if the film had ended after that first sequence at the bank heist after his amazing monologue, it’d been a perfect film.  It didn’t end there…it got better.

well do you punk

The story really starts to unfold when Harry starts to hunt down a known female child murderer.  Enter, “Killer.”  That’s literally the character name on the cast sheet.

Fitting.

Andrew Robinson was perfect casting.  Nobody could forget those “crazy blue eyes.”  He was so good, Hollywood only allowed him to play television villains and side street-hoods until he finally found a role as Garak on “Deep Space Nine” in the 90s (22 years later).  Along with the eyes, Robinson carried the smarmy mannerisms and a sniveling voice that spews “evil villain.”  With someone as vile as this, you’d think there could be only one showdown between these two larger than life characters.  Oh no, there’s two epic showdowns in one stoic film; both memorable for different reasons.

killer

This was one of the first “cop” movies I had been exposed to.  There have been many that have tried to duplicate it on some level, but have failed.  The real reason: Clint Eastwood can’t be in every cop movie.  I really feel like some part of America has always enjoyed “Dirty Harry” and some part always will.  He is a very simple character:  do what is right, do what is necessary–scumbags need to die.  This isn’t the type of movie that you watch when you need to study the intricate details of the theme, tone, and plot structure (although a lot of people that want to make a good “cop” movie could learn from analyzing this film); but it is a great film to “escape” into when you are ready for a simple good vs. evil scenario in which good pummels evil’s ass at every turn of the corner.

The good guy should win, right?

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“I’d go with you but-“…”I know, there’s a problem with your face.”

Sometimes movies get caught taking themselves too seriously. Every poorly written movie that can’t throw a little giggle at itself–hell, even wink a little–is committing cinema suicide. Tone plays such a crucial part in any story being told. When you have a pitch about a 2000 year old villain that needs the blood of a certain bride to give him his powers back to rule the entire world and he uses Rain, Thunder, and Lightning (all characters played by men) to do his bidding; brother, that movie better know that it should laugh at itself or you will get laughed right out of your pitch meeting. Especially if this movie is supposed to occur in a modern day Chinatown.

rain thunder lightning Rain, Thunder, Lightning

Enter Jack Burton.  If Dirty Harry ever had a son, Jack Burton was his rebellious teenager.

jack

Played by Kurt Russell, Jack is the “lead” in “Big Trouble in Little China.”  I can’t imagine any other person playing Jack with the necessary restraint at times that Russell was able to pull off.  He is a larger than life character, that unfortunately only had the opportunity to be contained in a 2 hour movie.  No one was brave enough to try and duplicate his dialogue for a sequel or spin-off for that matter.  I can’t say that I blame them.  He’s the kind of lovable loser, that is able to stumble his way through to a victory over the dark lords he faces in this cult classic.  It doesn’t hurt that he appears as the sidekick to Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) who has the ability to do the same amazing, super-human/acrobatic flights through the air as Rain, Thunder, and Lightning.

DD Dennis Dun…that is a samurai sword strapped to his back.

Jack is a truck driver that is friends with Wang.  Wang is awaiting the arrival of his future bride so that they can get married and live happily.  Our villain, Lo Pan (played by the ever unforgettable James Hong) interferes as Wang’s Bride to be is the only woman that can break the curse holding Lo Pan back from his goal of world domination.

old lo pan James Hong: Old Lo Pan
young lo pan James Hong: Revived Lo Pan

Jack’s semi goes missing and gets him involved at length, much like Wang with his bride to be.  There are many “Kung Fu Movie” action set pieces, along with a number of damsel’s in distress (Kim Cattrall being one of them along with Wang’s bride to be), monsters, and old Chinese wizards too.  If you hear all of that and think that this sounds ridiculous, I’m here to tell you that it is and the movie knows it–very crucial. This is a very entertaining film.  There are elements of horror, action/adventure and above all, comedy.  John Carpenter was known for his suspense and horror pictures (“Halloween,” “The Thing,” “Christine,” “Escape from New York“).  I feel that because of his ability to gel all of the different genres that he was familiar with together and create a film that laughs at itself, he delivered a very weird sort of masterpiece that finally found a following on home video. My dad loved it.  My mom left the room after the first scene.

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“In technical terminology: he’s a loon.”

So…after “Fright Night,” my parents started loosening their grip on the R rated movie viewing guidelines that they had enforced.

One of the things that helped was the made-for-tv-edited-version of movies.  I grew to hate those versions as I progressed through adulthood, but as a kid, I wanted to watch some damn movies.

We used to record them on VHS and edit out the commercials.  We would hit “play/record” and when an ad popped up, we’d hit “pause.”  Once the ad was over, we’d hit “pause” again to continue recording.  It gave us something to pay attention to during the ads.  It never went as smoothly as I just described.  One or more of the 3 things I’m going to describe always happened:

1.  We would forget to hit pause when the movie came back on and would miss approximately 10 minutes of story until we noticed again and fixed it (then it was time for another commercial).

2. The ads ended up being so long, the VCR would auto-stop after being on pause too long and we wouldn’t notice; crucial story points missed again, etc.

3. We would run out of tape on the VHS we were using; auto-stop…auto-rewind (this one always made me laugh later).

I think that our first experiment with this disaster (that we continued to do–regardless) was “The Terminator.”

People don’t remember what a big deal that first movie was.  Everyone talks about the sequel, deservedly, but for its time, “The Terminator” was an amazing story told by a special effects master that would become one of the greatest directors of the Hollywood blockbuster of all time.

For me, it was the story that carried the film.  Within the first 30 minutes, you’re engaged, but you are not sure what is going on other than knowing that a former body builder is going around L. A. killing Sarah Connors from the phone book in order.

It’s when the 3rd and final Sarah Connor is saved by another shady character on the run from the police that we get the real story and start to get invested.

come with me if you want to live

The movie was commended for its amazing special effects, prosthetic makeup, animation, spectacle explosions, and action sequences.

car chase 1 The first of 2 car chases.
be-back Infamous “I’ll be back” police murder sequence.
semi Aftermath of the second car chase.
makeup Prosthetic and makeup prep.

For me though, it was always those moments in between the action with Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor that carried the story.  It gave the audience a reprieve from all of the action and violence and helped deliver the plot elements that were necessary to get us up to speed and offer that “human” element (pun…I know).  It also helped create a “suspense payoff” in a way as they both showed us how vulnerable they really were against this juggernaut cyborg from the future.  Whenever he was within 50 yards of them, you thought they were going to die.  The film will be labeled as Science Fiction, but James Cameron was very effective at using horror violence as a suspense tactic to put the viewer at unrest.

I feel that “The Terminator” was a “light bulb” moment for me.  The movie was out for about four years before I finally got to see it for the first time.  Everyone that had been talking about it would mention the action and the violence, but I didn’t really get a sense of the premise or the story until I viewed it.

When Reese talks to Sarah in the car that they are trying to jack about her son and why she has to live–that is the moment I think about and remember how important a story is in film.  Put as many cyborg, serial killer, monsters in a movie that you want, if you don’t have a purpose for them, you just have another survival story, but if the fate of mankind depends on these moments that we are viewing, we’re going to be captivated.  Very simple and effective writing/storytelling that can make a decent sci-fi action thriller great.

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“Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.”

When looking for a quote for this next movie, it was going to be damn near impossible without giving it away.

I did my best.

I think this might be the most quotable movie that most people do by accident.

I remember watching this movie for the first time with my family and my older sister skipped on it as she started watching it at a friends house and did not enjoy it.  She was too cool for it.

I’ll have to admit, until they reached “The Cliffs of Insanity” I was on the fence.  When Fezzik put on a saddle and carried three people up a rope to the top of the cliffs, I was hooked and realized I was watching an epic satire.

The Princess Bride” is easily my favorite Rob Reiner film.  That is saying a lot.  He has an amazing filmography as a director. “This is Spinal Tap,” “Stand by Me,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Misery,” “The American President,” “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and “Flipped” just to name a few masterpieces.

A lot of the success has to be shared with William Goldman.  The author of the great novel by the same name and an amazing screenwriter himself of such classics as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Stepford Wives,” “All the President’s Men,” and “Marathon Man,” (also adapted from one of his novels) to name a few.  If you haven’t watched these, try and find them and give them a chance.  You won’t be disappointed.  Some of these will appear on my list later as well.

Back to it.

I remember taking the same journey as the grandson in the picture.  Not impressed at first with the love story (I was 11 years old) and the fact that Westley was killed off screen was annoying to me.  But as soon as Vizzini, Inigo, and Fezzik enter the picture, the film takes off and it is memorable moment after memorable moment.

circus

The shrieking eels, the cliffs of insanity, the fencing, the wrestling, the battle of wits, the fire swamp, the R-O-U-S’s, the pit of despair, Miracle Max, storming the castle….did I miss anything?  Probably.

 

Villains become heroes, heroes are unveiled as masterminds, magicians come out of the woodwork, and revenge is had.  All in less than a 100 minutes. By the end of it, I couldn’t believe that my sister didn’t love it.

I did.

I mentioned how quotable it was, but the visuals in the film are amazing too from the costumes, the externals, the sets, and the props; everything was done with such precision and care.

Years later I ended up reading the novel and enjoyed the film even more after that.  I caught a lot more of the dialogue during the fencing and understood it.  The book equipped me with a lot of back story for the characters that gave them more depth and I got the pleasure of an “extra” ending as well.

What are your favorite quotes from this picture?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments and have a discussion about them if you’d like to share.

That would make my day.

But please do….As you wish.

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Please join my #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.  Enter your email to be one of the first to subscribe to my newsletter.  There will be talk of my first novel (I will share my first chapter for sure…at some point) and discussions on the television that has influenced me as well.

“There are no such things as vampires, fruitcake!”

My dad loved “monster” horror movies.

I asked him why that was his favorite genre once and he talked about the horror movies that he watched growing up and how “pathetic” they were.  Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula” was the main one I remember him referring to.  He remembered seeing the “bat on a string” for the first time and thinking, ridiculous.  He was always impressed with the groundbreaking makeup and special effects that movies continued to get better at over the decades.

The first “monster” horror picture that my dad let me watch–with his supervision of course–was “Fright Night.”

My dad loved this movie.  I know because I remember “hearing” him watch it many times.  At our old house in town when I was younger, our entertainment center was downstairs and very secluded.  We had an iron, circle-descending staircase that led to the basement, making it impossible to sneak down and watch it with him:

oak-spiral-staircase-metal-backbone-4-shadows
Our Staircase was similar to this one, and it lead directly to the television.

We were able to peer over the first step and look down to see the television, but we could only watch it upside down and you had a few moments before the blood rushed to your head, creating discomfort.  Not worth it.

I remember nagging my dad to watch that movie multiple times, and received the usual “no”.

I found out later that one of my cousins had seen it.  He said that it wasn’t that scary; that it was, “sort of funny.”  I told my dad this and he finally agreed to let me watch it with him (I believe I was 11 at the time–3 years after its initial release).

I was glad my dad was there to watch it with me.  It freaked me out a little.  For its time, the makeup and vampire special effects were amazing.  The prosthetic eyes, fingers, and jaws that the actors used were original concepts in 1985 and were used in multiple horror movies that would follow thereafter.

I remember enjoying the tension of the young boy possibly being murdered by the neighbor next door.  He was very vulnerable, and could not get help from anybody because vampires aren’t real.  It made the odds of survival seem unlikely.  The police couldn’t help him, his friends didn’t believe him, and we are setup to be the only support that Charlie has as the viewer.  What the hell are we gonna do? Oh, and the villain is a vampire that can kill three giant bouncers in less-than-a-heartbeat after 80s club dancing with Charlie’s lady friend.

I found the film very entertaining and enjoyed Chris Sarandon as the villain.  When a villain can scare you, but make you feel comfortable with his charm right before he attempts to strike you with a final blow…that’s villainy at its finest.

When the remake with Colin Farrell came out in 2011, I went right out and saw it.  I remember enjoying parts of what they did with it, but didn’t enjoy it like I had the original.

I did a viewing of the original with some of my friends afterward and they were not impressed and felt that it didn’t hold up.

I disagree.  I think it holds up fine and is a movie that knew what it was making and had fun laughing along side itself.  Next to “The Blues Brothers,” its probably the movie that I re-watched the most with my dad over the years.  Maybe that is why it is so special to me.  Who knows?

I don’t enjoy vampire movies in general, but I did enjoy this one.  It was very different from the vampire films that I was used to.  It was witty, suburban, and educational.  Knowing that my dad enjoyed it so much made me want to share in that enjoyment with him…which I did and will continue to do.

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CAUTION: SHAMELESS PROMOTION!!!

I was so excited to see that someone had joined my newsletter today when I checked the subject line of my inbox!  I immediately opened that email to see who had joined!  Yeah, it was my mom…so….

Let me invite all of you to join me and mom and subscribe to the Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.  There will be talk of my first novel (I will share my first chapter for sure…at some point) and discussions on the television that has influenced me as well.

Thank you!

“I’M BACK BABY DOLLS!”

After a short/long hiatus, I am back to my blog again.  If there were any of you out there that couldn’t stand it, I apologize.  For those of you that appreciated the break, I apologize.  Sorry’s all around….

Anyways.

I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a second review of the last half of films that I have discussed to get everyone back up to speed before I tackle any more new movies (they’re coming, be patient).

So, at the mid point I had finished “Ghostbusters” and then watched the following in this order:

1.  “The Last Unicorn” –Another animated film, but it was unlike any other “cartoon” I had seen.  There was interesting dialogue, a great story, and adult themes (love, self-sacrifice).

2.  “Mr. Mom” –A great family film that had its adult moments (very brief and at this stage, harmless).

3. “War Games” –Another kid saving the day.

4.  Ralph Bakshi’s “The Lord of the Rings” –Child-like characters saving the day (sort of, the story was never finished).

5.  “Superman” –A fantasy film making a comeback in my life.

6.  “The Neverending Story” –See #5’s note.

7.  “Cloak & Dagger” –One hell of an adventure to get more attention from dad.

8.  “Jaws” –My favorite horror picture.

9.  “Back to the Future” –If “Ghostbusters” is 1A, this would be 1B

10.  “Ladyhawke” –More fantasy, but a great love story; and Matthew Broderick with an accent to boot.

11.  “The Guns of Navarone” –First war movie, and an introduction to the actors my mom enjoyed growing up.

12.  “The Great Escape” –Fun…ish.

13.  “Explorers” –I don’t really want to give anymore away on this one.  Just go see it.

14.  “Lucas” –My favorite High School angst movie…ever.

15.  “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” –Do I even need to say anything?  Everyone loves this movie.

16.  “The Blues Brothers” –I just remember the scale of this “comedy” and could not believe the lengths they went to, in order to make sure we continued to laugh.  Easily holds up over time.

17.  We’ll call it, “The Summer of Hitchcock 1” and “2” –Read the posts dammit!  😉

18.  “Stand by Me” –Great story about the importance of youth friendships.

19.  “Little Shop of Horrors” –My favorite musical.  There, I said it.

20.  “The Bridge on the River Kwai” –Best acting in a war movie ever made.

21.  Let’s call it, “the intermittent sprinkling of James Bond films” –See #17’s notes.

22.  “Tootsie” –I rented every Dustin Hoffman movie my parents would let me see after I was exposed to this film.  Still my favorite Hoffman.

*Wiping the sweat off my forehead*

Where could we possibly go from here?

There is so much more.

That’s why I love movies.  They just keep making them.  Some better, some not.  I’m going to write about the better ones.