Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Super Cops

The Super Cops ~ Okay, I have to admit, when I first saw this movie back in the mid to late seventies I felt tricked. The name of the movie is ‘Super’ Cops, and the movie posters, TV advertising, and even the novelization said it was about the real life Batman and Robin. What an awful thing to do to a ten year old. If you promise me Batman and Robin, I’d better get Batman and Robin.

Sadly, there’s really none to be found here. In the footage of the real cops at the beginning, Dave Greenberg is wearing a red and white Batman t-shirt. In the midst of the movie there’s a sequence where neighborhood kids tease Greenberg, played by Ron Liebman, and Robert Hantz, played by David Selby, calling them Batman and Robin. That’s about all you get. Of course it doesn’t help that “Batman” TV show writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the film. I felt tricked. I wanted superheroes.

Batman and Robin on the wall in their only cameo.

That said, this true story of two unorthodox cops in Brooklyn, who both the citizens and the press dubbed Batman and Robin is a intriguing and entertaining one. The story of Greenberg and Hantz is pretty typical of the 1970s cop movie, lighter fare than the similar and earlier Serpico. There’s also a bit of “Charlie’s Angels” in there as well, because the two are patrolmen who want to be more.

While it is funny and entertaining, sadly there’s very little actual chemistry between Liebman and Selby. And Selby’s bug-eyed staring into the camera is just unnerving and a little bit creepy. It might’ve made a half decent TV show rather than a movie. Some of the humor is forced, juvenile, and seems to be desperately in need of a laugh track. That might help it actually. Worth a watch if nothing else is on, or as a time capsule for the 1970s. It’s no Batman and Robin, ya know?

"Potato Chips" by Slim Gaillard

Red Sun

Red Sun ~ I got turned on to this one eavesdropping on Twitter. I follow comic book writer Andy Diggle on Twitter and someone had hipped him to it. Just imagine it, a movie with Charles Bronson as a gunslinger and Toshiro Mifune as a samurai in the old west. Add in Ursula Andress, Alain Delon, music by Maurice Jarre, and direction by Terence Young – and you have Red Sun. I had to see this. How could I lose?

Also known as Soleil Rouge, the flick has Mifune as a Japanese samurai in the old West, carrying an ancient sword for the US President, which is stolen during a train robbery. Mifune teams with Bronson, one of the robbers betrayed during the heist, to get the sword back. A samurai, a cowboy, a western and a buddy movie, all with a brilliant cast and spellbinding music. I’m sold.

The film turns out to be everything I could have wished for. All the actors are perfect in this international amalgam. I don’t think I could have had more fun watching this. For once, a film that achieves everything it promises to be – a gritty western with amazing actors from all parts of the world. Great flick.

The Name’s the Thing at Sofa King

Wreck-It Ralph

This review, in a slightly altered form, has already appeared on my pop culture blog, Welcome to Hell. Since it’s videogame topical, I figured I’d share it here too. Enjoy.

First things first, Wreck-It Ralph being a Disney/Pixar flick, we get a Pixar cartoon before the main feature. “Paperman” was a sweet short utilizing different animation than usual for Pixar, and it also had a bit of a Japanese anime vibe to it. I liked it a lot, a big reason to see this movie is to see “Paperman” first.

Wreck-It Ralph, the newest from Disney/Pixar, is loosely at first glance a cross between Toy Story and Tron. Like the first movie we discover that the entities in our videogames actually live, especially when we’re not looking, and like the second flick we discover that they live in their own little universe with its own physical and moral laws, all within the confines of one arcade.

Wreck-It Ralph is the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix, Jr., essentially close to Donkey Kong in many ways. Ralph, shunned by the other denizens of his game, determines to leave his game and make good. He goes off to Hero’s Duty, a hybrid of Halo and Starship Troopers, to win a medal, and recognition. When things go awry, he becomes stranded in Sugar Rush, a mix of Mario Kart and Candyland. There, Ralph must decide if truly is the bad guy, or a hero.

It’s a complex plot that is quite dark in places, but for the most part, it’s an enjoyable journey through 1980s videogame nostalgia. It has a sharp sense of humor, great characters, and the voice work of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and especially Jane Lynch is first class. There are also many cameos of classic videogame characters that make the flick a real treat.

An added trivia bonus for old school videogamers is the song that plays over the closing credits, “Wreck It, Wreck-It Ralph” by Jerry Buckner, formerly of Buckner & Garcia of “Pac-Man Fever” fame.

I liked Wreck-It Ralph quite a bit, and while I wonder if this might be over or under the heads of some folks who weren’t into, or alive for, 1980s arcade games, I highly recommend it. Great flick.

Funky Forest

Funky Forest – The First Contact ~ I love Japanese television, film, and comics, but admittedly, a lot of what I like is genre specific. Superhero, giant monster, etc. That might be part of the reason I just didn’t get this.

Even with subtitles I don’t believe I could even tell you what it’s about. Imagine an extra long episode of “Kids in the Hall” in a language you didn’t understand and you’ll begin to get a vibe of what this movie is like.

It looks very much like something I might like but it is indescribable and I don’t get it. There are some very neat make-up, animation and CGI effects in it though. Just don’t ask me what it’s about.

The best explanation I can offer is it’s a sort of Amazon Women on the Moon… on crack. Watch at your own risk.

French Fry Diary 442: Ponzio’s Preview

The Newsroom

I love HBO. I think that they, along with the folks at Showtime, AMC, and Starz among others, just make the best television out there. Looking at ratings and award nominations, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that belief. I guess that’s why “The Newsroom” is such a hard pill for me to swallow.

I tried to watch the first season of “The Newsroom” when it aired. I just couldn’t get into it, and once the episodes started to pile up in the DVR, I gave up and resolved to catch up later. It’s hard to start watching a new show. Some things like “Dexter,” “Treme,” and “The Walking Dead” grabbed me immediately from the first moments. Others like “Rome,” “The Wire,” and “Homeland,” all of which I loved/love, took some time to warm up to. “The Newsroom” falls solidly in the latter category, but maybe without so much of the love part.

There’s a lot to like about “The Newsroom.” Jeff Daniels, in the lead as a on-his-way-out newscaster trying something new to stay relevant, is spectacularly selfish. He’s been given something few actors get – a platform on which to act over the top. His supporting cast is amongst one of the best ensembles in television. Dev Patel is someone to watch, and Alison Pill is the real star of the show, definitely watch her. Most of the performances are high caliber, a hallmark of HBO.

The show is a little bit Network, a little bit Broadcast News, with just a touch of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as well. The problem I have lies behind the scenes, in its creator, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin belongs to an era and style of television I particularly dislike. Much like David E. Kelley, Sorkin doesn’t just want to entertain audiences, he wants to teach, to preach, to ultimately force feed his opinions into the viewers, whether they like it or not.

Here, in “The Newsroom,” it gets so bad sometimes as though it literally feels as though characters are merely taking turns on an imaginary soapbox than actually having a conversation or debate. It always takes me out of the show, and sometimes it’s painful in its execution. Shame.

Except for that, “The Newsroom” is definitely worth watching, especially for Jeff Daniels, Alison Pill. Dev Patel, and also genre favorite, Oliva Munn. The Bin Laden episode made me cry, and that’s saying a lot. The show is very very good, despite its preachiness, but it is, after all, HBO. Check it out.

French Fry Diary 441: Heinz Deep Fries

Skyfall

Skyfall ~ This twenty-third official James Bond film, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the movie franchise, seems to be at odds with itself in my opinion. There is a passion by the filmmakers to acknowledge the past here even as they backburner and mock it. To quote the new Q as he hands Bond simply a gun and radio, “What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore.” Much of the dialogue and the plot is dedicated toward saying the Bond way is passé, over with in this day and age, while simultaneously saying it’s needed. It is a nice balance.

I was not a fan of the first two Daniel Craig Bond films, not because of Craig’s humorless performance, or that they were rebooting the franchise for a new audience, mind you, but more because I resented them putting Pierce Brosnan out to pasture. I enjoyed Pierce quite a bit in the role. And actually Craig does a subtle humorous turn and smirk in this one. He’s winning me over. Daniel Craig is book perfect when it comes to James Bond, but I’ve been spoiled by the movie versions, and expect a little something extra, ya know?

What really brought this film to life for me was director Sam Mendes. His stunning and startlingly different visuals light up and dim the screen significantly and lend specific mood and atmosphere to every sequence. Most stunning are the Shanghai scenes, beautiful camera work. I recently had the chance to peruse and review Greg Williams’ book Bond on Set: Filming Skyfall over at Biff Bam Pop!, and while an amazing picture book, it doesn’t hold a candle to the actual film in vibrancy and spectacle.

Craig is flawless, as is Judi Dench as M, and new girl Naomie Harris, and Ralph Fiennes is a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved Ben Whishaw as the new Q, but that was easy because I love him in everything he’s in, especially “The Hour.” A major complaint however comes in the form of Javier Bardem as the villain Raoul Silva. Not just over the top evil like most Bond villains, but he’s also a bit creepy in a stereotype homosexual pedophile kind of way, so creepy in fact, that he comes off like a bad joke. He is as out of place in a Bond flick as say… Jaws and his girlfriend in Moonraker. For a franchise trying to upscale itself in the audience’s eyes, Bardem was a mistake.

The opening action sequence is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen in a while (Tomorrow Never Dies is still my favorite). The title theme song by Adele better than average and appropriate. What makes me sad is that for a movie that embraces its heritage, gives nods to its history, and celebrates its characters, even adding to their origins – it seems to back step into a simple vengeance storyline rather than a clever spy thriller – which is what it should be. I mean, let’s face it, the last sequences of this film could have easily been a Denzel action flick or perhaps another Die Hard. Revenge is the easy way out. I want to see Bond save the world, for Queen and for Country.

All that said, I really enjoyed this movie, from the fantastic visuals of director Mendes to the titanic score by Thomas Newman, Skyfall was a terrific Bond film. Recommended.