Saturday, May 31, 2014

Flick Pick: Taken

(20th Century Fox, 2008)

Another Luc Besson blockbuster. One might have thought that pushing 60 when this film was made, Liam Neeson would be too old to be an action hero. They would be wrong.
Someone might also think that if someone took his teenage daughter to sell into white slavery in any father's worst nightmare, she wouldn't stand a chance of rescue. They would also be wrong. Somebody might even think that there's no way audiences or critics would enjoy another Bessonesque masterpiece of car chases, explosions, dead bad guys by the score, and reprehensible French citizenry getting beat up on camera. They would be the wrongest of all. One can never see enough Frenchmen getting beaten up.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Flick Pick: From Paris With Love

From Paris With Love
(Lionsgate, 2010)

A Luc Besson production. In other words, an absolutely kick-ass hour and a half utterly wicked roller coaster ride, with John Travolta playing the a-hole on a mission, in this case, literally. Jonathyn Rhys Meyers as the fish out of water wannabe secret agent. With car chases, a body count shy of a hundred, several thousand gunshots, plenty of hand to hand combat, and a handful of explosions. In other words, a Luc Besson production.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Flick Pick: The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element
(Columbia, 1997)

If you're trying to find a Luc Besson film that isn't worth watching, while there probably are some, this one isn't it. It's a bit different from his usual work. This time, in the car chase, the cars fly. The evil foreigners aren't French this time, they're from Mangalore. And when something explodes, sometimes it's so big it takes all of space to contain it. Bruce Wills is the out-of-control hero, Gary Oldman is the quietly menacing villain, Ian Holm the catalyst between the two, Chris Tucker in an utterly off-the-hook send up of the deranged love child of Prince and Dennis Rodman, and Milla Jovovich as the absolutely smoking hot titular heroine. Get your multipass, buckle in, and enjoy this ride.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Flick Pick: Midnight Run

Midnight Run
(Universal, 1988)

In teaming Robert DeNiro with Charles Grodin in this flick, director Martin Brest did two things: he proved DeNiro can do comedy, and produced one of the best buddy movies of all-time. DeNiro was and is second to none in playing tough guys, so seeing how effortlessly he sends them up is worth watching alone. Teamed with Grodin, who never attempts to go toe to toe with DeNiro, just brilliantly undermines his character with a wit that's drier than toast, and the result is eminently watchable. With the players rounded out by such accomplished talents as Yaphet Kotto, Joe Patoliano, Dennis Farina, and John Ashton, this trip was definitely necessary and well worth making.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Flick Pick: Return Of The Jedi

Return Of The Jedi
(20th Cent. Fox, 1983)

The one that brought all the threads together and tied them up neatly and satisfyingly, at long last, this is still probably the weakest of the original trio, since by now all the groundwork has been laid, and it depends on action set-pieces with minimal character or story development. It's less a roller-coaster ride than a parachute drop, with everything rather predictably coming down to what happens in last bit. We do get to see Luke surpass his father, and Han spends almost no time at all flying a spaceship, while Lucas continues his personal trend of always including a new annoying character in each successive film, in this trip, Ewoks. But at least they're fun to watch, which sums up the rest of the movie as well.

Monday, May 26, 2014

For The Fallen

"If you are able,
save for them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind."

Maj. Michael Davis O'Donell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam

Flick Pick: The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back
(20th Cent. Fox, 1980)

The second hardest thing to do in moviemaking, after making a good movie, is making a good sequel. Somewhat reviled at the time for being a blatant set-up for the finale, The Empire Strikes Back mostly pulled it off, advancing the story at the time in ways only hindsight would fully reveal. People tolerated it because it also expanded the view into the Lucas-verse by revealing the previously unseen Emperor, at the same time it brought in Yoda to flesh out the mystical Force a bit more, and deepened Leia's love interest without giving anything away. Totally unable to stand on its own, it's nonetheless an irreplaceable bridge in the series of films, and something you'd only miss if it suddenly wasn't there.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Flick Pick: Star Wars

Star Wars
(20th Cent. Fox, 1977)

First premiering today 37 years ago, this little $11M sci-fi flick became the biggest film ever  (for six years, until E.T. knocked it off the pedestal) and adjusted for inflation is the number three-grossing film of all time. Back when a multiplex had two or at most three screens, I stood in a line twice around the theatre to get into this one opening weekend. Based purely on word-of-mouth from being out for a day.
The soundtrack blew me away in the first 30 seconds. The villain was pure distilled evil before his third line. And by the time we got to see the twin sunset on Tatooine, everyone in that theatre knew this was not going to be like any movie we'd seen before: it was like every movie we'd seen before. Turned up to 11.
Nominated for ten Oscars, and winning six (including none for George Lucas) this wasn't a bad effort for a guy directing only his third studio pic. Not least of which by showcasing a guy Lucas had used in one of the numerous small parts in American Grafitti, talking him out of putting down his hammer and saw building custom studios for record producers and songwriters, and coming back to acting full-time. Our introduction to Han Solo (before the later monkeyization of the original) had him shooting Greedo first under the table, and it endeared Harrison Ford to audiences in a career that has become a force of nature.
Not bad for a few notebooks of scribbling done while Lucas was attending film school, which he got funded by working for scale, asking only for the rights to the ancillary merchandise.
Fox execs figured they were getting a deal, thinking that t-shirts and posters were no big loss. Lucas paid for Skywalker Ranch and starting ILM on royalty checks paid from Kenner Toys. And somewhere around the second hundred million dollars of box office, the idea of maybe making a sequel came up...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Flick Pick: MIB3

(Columbia, 2012)

Marred by an ill-advised sequel to the original (the less said about it, the better) Men In Black 3 returned the franchise to still watchable after 15 years, chiefly by the inspired casting of adding Josh Brolin as a screamingly perfect Agent K, doing Tommy Lee Jones in his twenties probably better than TLJ himself did originally. The side characters are fun, seeing the take on NYC in the 60s is well-done, the cliff-hanging suspense is real, and the ending kills.
If they want to do another one of these this good, I'm game. If they don't, they should leave it be.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Dog That Does't Bark

For reference, it seems that a couple of ladies in the Alpine TX (Texas?! WTF?) area were recently roughed up by the minions of HopeyDopey and BigGov recently. And their neighbor noticed it.
And documented it.

So did another blog.
And the local TV news.
And the local newspaper.
And another newspaper has more here.

What was notable here was that as a condition of bail, the victim was required to recant all statements alleging federal agents' witnessed and documented misconduct. US. v. Lipsen bail conditions.

Which, as UCLA law professor and former SCOTUS clerk Eugene Volokh has noted in the WaPo, is not only blatantly unconstitutional knavery, it isn't even within artillery range of the boundaries of allowable bail conditions.

By all accounts, the DEA has raided the establishment in question some four times to date, and failed to find so much as one illegal seed of anything. When the neighbor was complaining, they raided and searched his house too. Then got a warrant for the search after they'd already done the raid.

A suspicious-minded person might be forgiven for wondering why the DEA and CBP keeps raiding a dry hole over and over, when narcotics traffic across the border in the Big Bend region is, by all accounts, wildly out of control. And for thinking that repeated attentions to someone who's obviously Not The Problem while ignoring the actual criminals, is a bit more than convenient coincidence. Or even for suspecting that perhaps some cartel payoffs and marketing expansion by certain feds might certainly be involved. But that would be unfair, because anecdotally, the CBP and DEA are at worst only 40-70% penetrated by bribe-taking thugs on cartel payrolls, so tarring all of them with that brush is just wrong. [/sarc]

They might even start researching what level of official black-robed assclownery it takes to impeach or simply remove a federal magistrate who would issue such unconstitutional bail requirements upon a presumably innocent person, and why anyone on the federal bench would issue after-the-fact CYA warrants to federal agents who obviously just violated the law to conduct an unwarranted raid in the first place. And they should.

But what you aren't getting is the sound from the dog that isn't barking:

Sean Hannity isn't outraged.
Sarah Palin has issued no comments.
And most important of all, The entire Headless Chicken Posse and the Greater Fucktard Bundy Army aren't marching to the sound of the guns, against actual documented clear-cut federal abuses of power.

Yup, incredible as it may seem, despite actual, verified, ongoing, egregious and repeated abuse of federal law enforcement powers, none of the brilliant band of ne'er-do-wells from Bonkerville  Bunkerville is saddling up to head to Alpine TX and speak any power to The Man.

The chairborne commandos of the Internet, the Imaginary "FreeFor" Army, can't seem to saddle up and toddle off to step in when there's a plethora of actual violations of federal law going on.
Maybe they're afraid that unlike the hapless BLM rodeo clowns, the DEA may, y'know, actually shoot them.
Maybe they got lost in Vegas on their way to the turnoff.
And maybe they're all hiding in the corner and soiling themselves.

The greater point being, if that mob of fat-assed loudmouth crazies are the band of "patriots" anyone is counting on to come to their assistance, well, if that's your plan, I have some magic beans you might try too, and the price is reasonable if you have a family cow to sell.
Craven Cliven Bundy had cows.
The Lipsens apparently have no cows.
So no Fucktard Army will come to rescue them.

So if you don't have cows, to purchase the dubious allegiance of hordes of village idiots, it probably helps to have the law actually on your side, and be ready to, as the saying goes out here in the West, "fork your own broncs", one way or the other.

Nota bene that the Lipsens, and their neighbor, didn't go on YouTube and call for a jihad to hang all federal agents.
They went to the newspaper, the TV station, and the Internet, and stated the documented facts of the case.
They didn't allege that the world is upside down, and the feds have no jurisdiction over sovereign citizens.
They documented their actual violations of black-letter written and settled Constitutional law.

Bundy continues as a laughingstock.
The Lipsens will probably prevail at trial, and walk away with punitive damages in their pocket to boot, eventually.

Amazing how not acting like a bunch of lunatics, or depending on same, gets such a better response all the way around, i'n'it?

Flick Pick: Men In Black

Men In Black
(Columbia, 1997)

Most comic books should stay comic books, but every once in awhile, there's an exception. Even rarer, there's an exception that's smart, funny, and makes half a billion dollars profit beyond recouping budget. This would be the latter version. The fact that two such disparate actors riff so well off each other is a total treat to watch; that their last names happen to be Smith and Jones is icing on the cake. This monstrous blockbuster deserved every penny it made, entertaining audiences far and wide, while coincidentally tripling the sales of the Ray Ban sunglasses worn by the characters.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Flick Pick: The Shootist

The Shootist
(Paramount, 1976)

Few actors get to make a great last picture. John Wayne was one of those few. While he didn't know at the time it was his final screen appearance, it was a letter perfect last hurrah, with long-time friends and co-stars filling out the cast list. The entire film is one long lead-in to the final John Wayne shootout, and it's worthy of both the movie and the man, providing one of the best exclamation points at the end of anyone's screen career.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Flick Pick: True Grit

True Grit
(Paramount, 1969)

"Wow! If I'da known that, I'da put that patch on 35 years earlier!" were John Wayne's words in accepting the award for Best Actor at the 1970 Oscars for this movie. A year after the frothing hatred of liberal Hollywood for making The Green Berets, his career pinnacle was anchored in the over-the-top portrayal of the one-eyed, drunken, cantankerous s.o.b. gunslinging federal deputy marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, opposite Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, and Robert Duvall. His performance is quite simply the only one worth watching in this film, or any version of it. Accept no substitutes for the genuine article: an American legend in real life, especially from putting the reins in his teeth, twirling a carbine and a six-shooter, all the way to the closing credits, jumping his horse over the railfence himself in the final scene, at age 61.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Flick Pick: McClintock

(United Artists,1963)

A westernized version of The Taming Of The Shrew, beyond comedy and onto farce, directed by Andrew McLaglen, son of long-time Wayne friend Victor McLaglen, starring the usual Wayne stock company of actors. It was a top-grossing film when it came out, and relieved financial woes after Batjac Prods. ate a lot of debt in making The Alamo.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Flick Pick: Big Jake

Big Jake
(Cinema Center/CBS Films, 1971)

One of my personal favorites of Wayne's westerns, from a screenplay written by the same authors of the original Dirty Harry movie script. Having received a long-overdue Best Actor Oscar for True Grit in 1969, this movie role fits Wayne's persona at this stage of his career like a glove. Much of the film was directed by Wayne (without credit, as a favor) owing to the ailing health of the primary director, Wayne's long-time friend George Sherman, who'd directed Wayne as far back as the 1930s in westerns for Republic Pictures. The film marks the fifth and final time Maureen O'Hara played opposite Wayne, giving every bit as good as she ever did when the two were paired. It was produced by Wayne's son Michael through Batjac Prods., and starred Wayne's son Patrick as his older son in the film, Christopher Mitchum playing his younger son (which close association proved the final blacklisting nail in Mitchum's stalled further career among Hollywood liberals), and Wayne's 9-year-old son Ethan Wayne playing Little Jake, his character's grandson in the movie. Wayne movie regular characters Bruce Cabot, John Doucette, John Agar, Jim Davis, Harry Carey, Jr., and Hank Worden all get time in this one, along with bad guys in this outing like Glenn Corbett and Richard Boone, the latter playing a true hiss-worthy arch-villain to match Wayne's hero.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Flick Pick: Rio Lobo

Rio Lobo
(Paramount, 1970)

Third and final re-work of this story, and probably the best of the three (Hawks and Wayne were getting pretty good at doing this story by this time through). Features Mexican cinema star Jorge Rivero, and Robert Mitchum's son Chris, along with Jack Elam in the ornery old coot role for this run through, and Jennifer O'Neal as the girl in the story. Writer George Plimpton gets a cameo as a gunslinging version of a Star Trek red-shirt, and one bit part was played by flaming 25-year-old beauty (but middling actress) Sherry Lansing, who polishes off the villain at the film's climax, then dissatisfied with her work, dropped out of acting within a year. She started working behind the camera, finishing up as the head of Paramount Pictures during its longest and most financially successful stretch, from 1992-2004, overseeing a string of features that were 80% profitable, when Paramount garnered three Best Picture Oscars, and including the then-highest grossing film in movie history, Titanic.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Flick Pick: El Dorado

El Dorado
(Paramount, 1967)

Second bite at the apple, this time nominally based on a novel by Harry Brown, with John Wayne alongside Robert Mitchum, James Caan and Arthur Hunnicutt, and Charlene Holt as the girl. This time around, there's an actual theme song, but the score was done by Nelson Riddle, which given the time frame it was made is why a lot of this one sounds an awful lot more like an episode of Batman with Adam West than it does a western.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Flick Pick: Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo
(Warner Bros., 1959)

Howard Hawks' first go-around of this western tale, based on a short story by B. H. McCampbell, with John Wayne as the sheriff, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson his deputies, Walter Brennan as his jailer, and Angie Dickinson as his girl.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Flick Pick: Stagecoach

(United Artists, 1939)

In 1939, director John Ford took a short story from Collier's he'd bought the rights to, and shopped it around town. Nobody wanted to make it as a A-movie western, because everybody in Hollywood knew westerns were dead. Worse, he refused to cast Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich in the leads, insisting instead on a brawny 31 year old veteran actor who'd made a string of mediocre films, some 80 or so in all, none of them very impressive. Ford finally found someone to put up half the money, and he scrambled for the other half. After agreeing to give Claire Trevor top billing, he took the cast and crew to a desolate place that hadn't been shot much before called Monument Valley, and put her and seven other assorted actors onto an Overland stage with John Wayne.
Unseen at the beginning, Wayne's iconic intro doesn't come until nearly 1/4 of the way into the movie, hollering and twirling a Winchester. During filming, Ford told  co-star Louise Platt about Wayne that "He'll be the biggest star ever because he is the perfect 'everyman'." After this movie, and Wayne going on to dominate the US box office for the next thirty years, including seven other collaborations with Ford, almost all of which were those "dead" westerns, Ford's skill at spotting talent is undisputed.
Yakima Canutt's stunts set the standards for movies for 50 years, Thomas Mitchell's portrayal of the alcoholic frontier doc earned him an Oscar the same year he played Scarlett O'Hara's father in Gone With the Wind, and John Carradine made a memorable performance as well; Wayne's loyalty to those he befriended extended the length of his career, as when Carradine again appeared in the last movie Wayne ever made, The Shootist.
This film was so perfectly done, Orson Welles called it a textbook on moviemaking, and said he watched it 40 times during his own foray into directing on Citizen Kane. And nobody of any intelligence has ever again said that westerns were dead. So, with the Duke's birthday coming up later this month, here's the first of a few memorable performances by way of celebration, starting with that first zooming close-up that let America know a star had arrived.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Flick Pick: The Adventures Of Robin Hood

The Adventures Of Robin Hood
(Warner Bros., 1938)

If this was the only movie Warner had ever made, they would have rightfully earned a place in the pantheon of great movie studios.
Premiering 76 years ago today, in glorious Technicolor, with a stellar cast, a perfect screenplay, and a magnificent score by Erich Korngold, this movie released tomorrow would still pack theatres. It has a perfect hero in Errol Flynn, the best heroine he ever played opposite in Olivia  DeHavilland, the most hiss-worthy villains in Claude Rains' Prince John and Basil Rathbone's Guy of Gisbourne, and the best-played band of merry men ever assembled in one cast, the archtype for all time; and pitted against each other in some of the best-staged screen melees ever filmed, with the woods of NorCal and Malibu standing in for Sherwood Forest.
One look at the earlier Captain Blood, and this is clearly nothing but an epic pirate movie, set on land, and in wall-to-wall spectacular color. It won three Oscars, for the timeless score, the art direction, and film editing, and was nominated for Best Picture, along with nine other movies, all ultimately losing to Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You, which you can't even find on TCM at 3AM these days.
I think time has made it clear which movie deserved the honor.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

March Of The F**ktard Pengiuns

"The Carson City Council gave preliminary approval this week to an ordinance that would target anyone from kindergarten to age 25 who makes another person feel "terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested" with no legitimate purpose."

As Casey Stengel used to say, "You could look it up."

Aside from how much fun this will make next Halloween, when every cranky old SOB in Carson holds an entire garage full of kids hostage under citizen's arrest for criminal violations, a few other thoughts come to mind.

The day the dipshit council in Carson passes that law, I'm going down to the LA Sheriff's station in Cason to swear out a complaint against anyone over 18 and under 25 who voted for those sh*theads, because those kids scare the hell out of me. With no legitimate purpose.

And if you or anyone you know lives in Carson and votes, I just want you to know you're a bunch of mentally deficient uber-retards with delusions of adequacy.
Feel free to serve me with a writ anytime. Oh, wait, too late, I'm over 25.

That also includes every one in the city of Carson up to and including the age of 95. You're all dumber than a box of rocks too.

Because, you little horde of f*ckwit penguins marching in lockstep towards the Holy Monolith Of Stupidity that is your god, it evidently escaped the notice of both you and your civic guardians, that there's this teensie little thing called
the First Amendment.

Perhaps some of you may have heard of it.
It says that Congress can make no law restricting the freedom of speech.
Then along came
the Fourteenth Amendment,
which the really astute among you may have heard incorporated those rights to citizens of the several states.

This means this asinine exercise of tyranny is Constitutionally prohibited.
So please, cite me. I've always wanted to own my own city, even if the inhabitants have the brains of a stegosaurus.
But damn. I'm over 25. Still too late to come after me.
Deputy Barney Fife will have to content himself with trying to ticket people old enough to graduate with master's degrees for being mean. With "no good reason". I wonder, does one (or all) of them bitching out the jackassical city council there count as a "legitimate purpose", or not??

But it's nice to know they let the First Amendment apply once you become 25.
That's mighty white of them. In the meantime, the first kid they cite under this law is going to Stanford Medical School, courtesy of the taxpayers of Carson who voted their gaggle of council dipshits into office.

And the next time some soopergenius in Carson decides to write an ordinance, it would probably help if you'd have elected only people with an IQ less than three standard deviations below the mean average. (You should look that up. It isn't a good thing.)

Populating your city council with unredeemable morons isn't going to work out well, now or later, and the sooner some bunch of you all stumble over that fact and pay attention to it, the sooner you can start beating your civic f*ckwits into paying attention to the sorts of things within their scope of practice, like potholes in the streets and such.

Perhaps if you could get your would-be leaders to stop licking the windows at city hall and marveling at the wonder that is the smell of their own farts, they might be induced to pay attention to such pedestrian fodder, and leave the despotism to banana republics and socialist paradises half a world away. It would also probably help if you'd stop them from eating the jars of paste on their desks, what say? Additional money could be saved if you stopped holding umbrellas over their heads while it rained to stop them from drowning when they stare up at the raindrops with their mouths agape.

By the way, you're all ugly, and your mothers dress you funny. And not in a humorous way, except to those of us watching your city's clowncarnucopia of fail.

At this point, you're making the City of L.A. look bright by comparison, and their city council wise and thoughtful, which is no small achievement.
Kindly knock it off.

If anything I said hurt your pwecious feeeeeeewings, learn a lesson, you pre-literate cluster of thumb-sucking litter-box leftovers.
So grow a thicker skin, a bigger brain, and realize civilization's job isn't to shield you from feeling like the monumental jackasses and morons you all evidently are.
Stop being an entire village made up of idiots.

Or at least, if you're going to keep it up, move to Santa Monica, where no one will likely notice.

P.S. If you work for the City Attorney's office in Carson, or worse, you are the City Attorney for Carson, and you weren't dragged out of the last council meeting where this was preliminarily approved screaming at the top of your lungs that the council was a bunch of incompetent morons who'd be sued from here to Hell for violations of Constitutional law, (not to mention common sense) please kill yourself, with all due haste, and if possible, by hanging yourself from a public overpass. At least your death will serve a better example to your profession than your squandered life, so you won't be a total waste of skin and oxygen before you die. Anything less would be far too little, too late.

P.P.S. If the residents have secretly changed their city's first name to "Johnny", and this is really a tribute to the king of late-night comedy by way of the funniest joke you could play on yourselves, I apologize. Well played. You've insured that the funniest thing on late night for the next few nights will be Carson, for the first time in decades. High-O!

Flick Pick: XXX

(Columbia, 2002)

One of the wildest and most kick-ass live-action adventures in years, and still great fun to watch. It's not drama school on display, it's flash, explosions, and some of the extremest stunts ever filmed, not least of which was the finale, which killed star Vin Diesel's stunt double on the second take. (Take One is the one in the movie.) And the less said about the abominable sequel the better, but noting that Vin Diesel somehow morphed into being black, and as rapper Ice Cube, was probably the first clue things would not be the same as the original.

Monday, May 12, 2014

You're Doing it Wrong, Pt. II

In the first installment, I noted that the Hollywood Establishment has a serious case of HUTA with regard to using issues of religious faith as something to wipe their behinds with when they're out of other ideas. Pretty much in the same way, and for the same reasons, every seventh-grade class clown goes for toilet humor: because they can't help themselves.

This time around, let's take a peek at movies about the military.
And I'll be nice, and stick mostly with movies made after 9/11.

"Unfair!" come the shouts.

A) It's my blog.
B) Almost everything before 1970 (give or take) shows a general reverence and respect for the military, on both an individual and institutional level. Everything dramatic from then to nearly 2000 is exactly the opposite. The exceptions were any action-adventure, which was mainly Eastwood, Norris, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis laying waste to everything in sight, including box office earnings records. And Saving Private Ryan.

I'm not going to re-fight the Vietnam War here. But the echoes of that conflict die hard. Most of the boomers that ended up in Hollywood are more inclined to be hippies had they been given the chance, and they keep trying to force-fit everything into that bong-hit wisdom and point of view, with few exceptions. The aging  Children Of The Sixties as producers, directors, and actors keep trying to fight a war they were never in, and relive the halcyon days they never understood, but somehow pine for.

Cases in point, as before:

Rules Of Engagement - 2000 Budget $60M, US Gross $61M, Total Gross $71M
Message: The military is evil, even to its own.
The Four Feathers - 2002, Budget $35M, US Gross $18M, Total Gross $30M
Message: Duty, honor, country? You must be joking!
(Alternate title: The Four Infidels: What happens when you re-write cinematic history with a pro-jihadi script.)
Jarhead - 2005 Budget $72M, US Gross $62M, Total Gross $96M
Message: Don't bother with a war, Saddam isn't worth the trip.
Home Of The Brave - 2006, Budget $12M, US Gross $52K, Total Gross $499K
Message: All veterans are damaged goods.

In The Valley Of Elah - 9/2007, Budget $ 23M, US Gross $7M, Total Gross $29M
Message: US Soldiers are PTSD-ridden dismembering psychopaths.
Rendition - 10/2007 Budget $ 27.5M, US Gross $9M, Total Gross $27M
Message: America routinely tortures innocent people.
Lions For Lambs - 11/2007 Budget $35M, US Gross $15M, Total Gross $63
Message: War is just a game; we happily squander our best and brightest to no good end.
Redacted - 11/2007 Budget $5M, US Gross $65K, Total Gross $782K
Message: US troops routinely kill innocent people without a care. 
Stop Loss - 2008 Budget $25M, US Gross $10.9M, Total Gross $11.2M
Message: US troops are all PTSD bombs, drunks, and baby killers.
The Messenger - 2009, Budget $6.5M, US Gross $1M, Total Gross $1.5M
Message: Your heroes are bums and alcoholics.
The Hurt Locker - 2009 Budget $15M, US Gross $17M, Total Gross $49M
Message: War is just a rush for adrenaline junkies.

The Men Who Stare At Goats -2009 Budget $25M, US Gross $32M, Total Gross $69M
Message: We all know the military is full of wacky fruit loops, and here's the proof!
Green Zone - 2010, Budget $100M, US Gross $35M, Total Gross $95M
Message: WMDs were a mythical cover for a war about oil.

Total totals: Spent: $442M Recouped US: $270M   Recouped Total:$ 532M
Net profit for anti-military, anti-American/West pictures: $90M
13 movies, 7 of which still haven't seen any profit whatsoever.
Message: You can embarrass yourself and lose your financial pants at the US box office making anti-American, anti-military movies, but the rest of the world will help you to just barely break even almost as often as not, because they hate America as much as most of official Hollywood does.


U-571 - 2000 Budget $62M, US Gross $77M, Total Gross $127M
Black Hawk Down - 2001 Budget $92M, US Gross $108M, Total Gross $173M 
We Were Soldiers - 2002 Budget $75M, US Gross $78M, Total Gross $114M
Tears Of The Sun - 2003 Budget $75M, US Gross $43M, Total Gross $86M
The Guardian - 2006 Budget $80M, US Gross $55M, Total Gross $95M
Battle: Los Angeles - 2011 Budget $70M, US Gross $83M, Total Gross $212M
Act Of Valor - 2012 Budget $12M, US Gross $70M, Total Gross $81M
Zero Dark Thirty - 2012 Budget $40M, US Gross $95M, Total Gross $133M
Lone Survivor - 2014 Budget $40M, US Gross $125M, Total Gross $149M

Message, in every case: America, F**k yeah!

Total Totals: Spent $556M Recouped US: $734M Recouped Total: $1.170Billion
Net profit for pro-military, pro-American pictures $ 614,000,000
10 movies, every one of which made a profit.

Of those, only Tears Of The Sun and The Guardian failed to more than break even before they ever left the US.

Messages: You can make nearly seven times the money on 10 pro- pictures as you can on 13 anti- pictures. And never, ever lose a dime.
(Unlike at least 7 of those total flops in the first list that will likely never see a profit.)
When you don't piss on the audience's head, they come to see your movies.
When you're out of step with the home audience from coast to coast, they aren't the ones who are wrong.

So maybe go back to telling good stories, which war movies have supplied literally since the dawn of movie making itself, and stop going out of your way to crap all over both the country you're in and the people who serve it - for one helluva lot less than SAG scale.

I can shoot these fish in the barrel all day long; it's not like too many studio execs in Hollywood seem to take a hint, let alone read their own ledgers.

Flick Pick: 12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men
(United Artists, 1957)

Henry Fonda put his own money into co-producing this film (because he couldn't get a studio to take a chance on it even with him staring!) after it appeared first as a television drama in 1954. A masterpiece story by Reginald Rose was combined with a dozen of the most talented actors anywhere to shoot this entire thing in 19 days in New York for $349K. Great script, great actors, and the great good fortune to pair first-time film director Sidney Lumet and veteran photographer Boris Kaufman, created a drama for the ages. Almost the entire 96 minutes takes place inside one simple jury room, with nothing but great performances to carry it along. It has since been re-done on Broadway, on tour, and on cable, but this version is still the best and most timeless iteration of it, and probably always will be.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Flick Pick: The Cannonball Run

The Cannonball Run
(20th Century Fox, 1981)

The better version of this story than Gumball Rally, loaded with stars all having a good time, and taking the audience along for the ride. Dom Deluise alone is worth the cost of the movie, and this and the 1984 sequel were the last appearances of Dean Martin on film.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Flick Pick: Cast A Giant Shadow

Cast A Giant Shadow
(United Artists, 1966)

Bookend companion piece to Exodus, this one done by Batjac, John Wayne's production company, dealing with Israeli independence from the viewpoint of U.S. Army Col. David Marcus, who served as the first general in the nascent IDF. Played by Kirk Douglas, and with an assortment of all-star cameos including Wayne himself. While it seems like a typical fictionalized Hollywood treatment, it turns out that both the broad strokes and the details are pretty much accurate throughout.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Flick Pick: Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane
(RKO, 1941)

By most accounts the greatest film ever made, topping poll after poll, notable as an effort by first-time director Orson Welles, all of 26 at the time. It doubled its production budget at the box office, was nominated for nine Oscars, and won for Best Original Screenplay, which Welles shared. Based not loosely enough on media magnate William Randolph Hearst to suit him, the film was blacklisted by every part of his media empire, and he was furious about its release and success. His threats of further industry wrath induced block voting by screen extras that denied the film, and Welles, both the Best Picture and Best Actor awards. Seminal in technique and epic in scope, it's a movie that's been picked to pieces by every film school and student since, such that youngster Welles took every subsequent producer and director to school on making movies in a then few-decades-old medium, right up to the current day. It's barely an exaggeration to note that it took the outbreak of WWII a few months after this movie premiered to get it off the front pages. Afterwards, Orson Welles wept, for there were no more worlds left to conquer.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Flick Pick: Exodus

(United Artists, 1960)

Otto Preminger's excellent adaptation of the bestselling book, starring Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, and a round-out assortment of screen greats to tell the story of the formation of Israel. Shot on location in Cyprus and Palestine, and made when Israel as a modern nation was barely a decade old, it does a decent job of laying out how it came into being. I'd have posted in on the Julian date anniversary of May 15, but on the Jewish calendar, the anniversary floats year to year. So this is close enough.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Flick Pick: The Outlaw Josey Wales

The Outlaw Josey Wales
(Warner Bros., 1976)

Clint Eastwood's first masterpiece western, directed by him after a disagreement led to the firing of the original director. A tremendous critical and box office success, proving once again that every time someone proclaims the western genre to be dead, just like granny's leftovers it keeps coming back.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

You're Doing It Wrong (w/ an Update)

If you've noted my flick picks, particularly around Christmas and Easter, you may have noted no shortage of movies coming from a traditional Judeo-Christian religious perspective. Not terribly shocking, even for Hollywood, since the movie business is 10% movies, and 90% business. Until someone let the morons in to run the place in the last 20 years.

So let's play "How To Lose A Ton Of Money And Piss Off Your Audience (Or Not)".

Exhibit A:
Item: Groundhog Day, the late Harold Ramis' spiritual tale of redemption (given enough chances), specifically no religious view, but wholeheartedly embraced by every one of them.
Production budget: $14.6M
Gross: $71M(domestic)

Exhibit B: 2004
Item: The Passion Of The Christ, Mel Gibson's lifelong dream project of making an accurate portrayal of Christ's last hours on earth, according to the New Testament. Turned down by every studio on the planet, he bankrolled it himself.
Production budget: $30M
Gross: $611M

Exhibit C: Late Fall, 2008

Item: Religulous, Bill Maher's anti-religious screed posing as documentary.
Production budget: $2.5M
Gross $13M

Item: Fireproof, blatantly Christian movie, the third produced by Sherwood Baptist Church in tiny Albany, GA on a comparative shoestring.
Production budget: $500K
Gross: $33M

In fact, it not only trounced Maher's offal, it made more in 2 weeks' release than his flick made total, and beat it week in and week out at the box office during their near simultaneous releases.

Exhibit D: Now

Item: Noah, purportedly the story of Noah and the Ark, yet somehow transmogrified into a tale completely devoid of God, such that even the presence of Russell Crowe couldn't keep it afloat.
Production budget: $125M
Gross (to date): $99M domestic, $332M total
At this rate, it will be out on video by Memorial Day, and if it wasn't for foreign box office, Russell Crowe would be looking for a new career.

Item: Heaven Is For Real, Randall Wallace's pro-Christian outlook film with exactly that premise.
Production budget: $12M
Gross (over two weeks so far): $66M

Item: God Is Not Dead, independent drama with that exact premise.
Production budget: $2M
Gross: $56M

Item: Son Of God, a film made from a miniseries dramatization about the life of Jesus, first aired on the History channel.
Production budget: $22M
Gross: $59M

In short, anti-religious movies may eventually make 3x their budgets.
Pro-Christian/pro-faith movies, even cinematically mediocre ones, tend to make 3x-200x their original budgets.


If Hollywood in general wants to play both sides to make sure no dollar in someone's pocket goes uncollected, I can understand that.
But you'd think they'd be looking for the next authentic Bible story a la The Passion Of The Christ if they were actually committed to making money, and maybe trying a bit harder to not offend the people who show up in droves when someone doesn't insult everything they hold dear, or even >gasp!< actually play to it when it's appropriate to the story.

Just a thought.

UPDATE: But you don't have to just take my word for it.

Flick Pick: Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah Johnson
(Warner Bros., 1974)

Directed by Sydney Pollack, talked into it by third choice star Robert Redford, from a John Milius screenplay, and with the mountains of Utah as a backdrop, those four aces combined for a huge winning hand, first at the Cannes Film Festival, and then at the box office. Warner had originally insisted that it be filmed on their Burbank backlot, and budgeted $3M to make the movie. Redford and Pollack convinced them they could do the movie for the same price on location, insisting it had to be shot that way. They not only pulled it off, it raked in over $52M domestic gross alone, and the rest was moviemaking history.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Flick Pick: Brubaker

(20th Cent. Fox, 1980)

Solid prison drama with Robert Redford and a great supporting cast, including face time for a newcomer named Morgan Freeman. Directed by Stuart Rosenburg, famous for directing another prison flick, Cool Hand Luke. This is definitely a movie of its time, because after the drug-fueled gang-banger turf wars of the '80s, it would be tough to build much audience sympathy or suspension of disbelief for such a harmless crew of likeable convicts as this lot actually existing outside a comedy, and a screenwriter's imagination.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Donor Lists, and Comparing Apples To Pineapples

American Mercenary and I have been going back and forth in comments to two posts on his blog over the virtues and evils of campaign donor lists. Blog comments on Blogger are text limited, so there really wasn't time to go into all the details I would have liked the second time around. So I left this part of the back and forth for here, where there is more space.

To follow this, you'll need to see the prologues, or it will be coming out of nowhere to you.
If you want to see this from the start, go here and here. Then come back.
In the second half of the second post on the topic, AM writes:

I'd like to say at this point, "I rest my case." but I'm not done yet.

So if campaign finance laws aren't hurting the progressives, who are they hurting?

Let us take a step away from the 1st Amendment, which includes both the right to free speech and the right to assemble, and move to the 2nd Amendment.

If an informed public is justification enough to have a donors list, then isn't having an informed public justification enough to have a gun owners list? Think about it, if we just knew where all the guns were, clearly then we could track down criminals in mere fractions of the time it takes now!

Except that only punishes the law abiding, who fill the forms out, who will then be punished when someone who breaks the law with a gun draws the ire of law enforcement.

If gun registration does nothing to prevent crime, it is not a stretch of logic to say that donor registration does nothing to prevent corruption.

I am by very nature both anti crime and anti corruption. Having lists made of law abiding people, by their very nature of being law abiding, does NOTHING to combat crime or corruption.

History has shown that gun registration is a bad thing. So far with Eich and the IRS scandal we are starting to see a historical pattern where donor registration is turning out to be a bad thing.

How many more years of conservatives being hounded from their position in business, how many more years will people tolerate bureaucratic discrimination? 

An informed public is an empowered public. But only if the information is impartial and complete. And when only the law abiding play by the rules, the information will never be impartial or complete.

Why do you think that Democrats rail against Voter Identification Laws? Because it makes voter fraud harder. It is not in the best interest of the law breakers to make voter fraud harder. But Democrats will go on and on about "the fundamental freedom to vote being so sanctified that it must not be perverted by a card check."

Like I said, laws only affect the law abiding. War is politics by other means, and it would be a poor warrior who went to war on the enemies terms, and let the enemy change the rules of engagement to the enemies advantage. Yet somehow liberty minded individuals are supposed to let progressive communists dictate campaign financing?
1) First apples to pineapples comparison: There is no Constitutional right for everyone to run for office. Unlike there is for keeping and bearing arms.

2) You, as a private citizen have a right to privacy that covers your papers etc.
You, as someone running for public office, enjoy no such presumption of privacy.
Therefore trying to compare an informed public when selecting those who wield the levers of power, to an informed public sticking their noses into your house or gun safe are two HUGELY different things.There are only 545 people in the federal government who directly participate in a democracy. 536 of them are elected. 4 of them by each one of us, the voters. Asking who's bankrolling their campaign, as well as local campaigns, and ballot initiatives, doesn't hinder anyone's speech, but it sheds a tolerable amount of light on what used to take place in the stereotypical smoke-filled back rooms. 

3) "Knowing where all the guns are" is practically and epistemologically impossible thing, and a rather poorly expressed strawman to stand in for the gun controller's rationale (to the extent that braindead liberals can be said to think rationally). Trying to drag guns into this argument is a specious stretch requiring the flexibility of Elastigirl from Incredibles. The only point of similarity is that the First Amendment is right in front of the Second.

4) Donor registration isn't to "prevent corruption". No law "prevents" anything. Trying to pose the argument of anything thusly is intellectually dishonest, and opens the door to saying with the same tongue-in-cheek "logic" that since laws against murder don't prevent murder, we should eliminate those laws too.
Donor lists provide readily available evidence of corruption, while leaving the voters' common sense (or lack of it) to use that information to vote out the crooks or liars. Or not.
So the only "flaw" in making donor lists is that it leaves individuals free to take the action they think is appropriate, at their whim, rather than coercing that action. Hardly a flaw.

5) Brendan Eich is presented as the sole example of donor registration lists gone bad.
The IRS scandal has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with listing donors. (It has to do with the Sixteenth Amendment being a monumentally stupid-assed idea, pretty much since the get-go, and unto the end of time.)
To date, we've had about twenty federal elections since post-Watergate campaign donation rules were enacted (1974ff.), with 468.5 federal offices (give or take) up for election each time, plus state offices in the tens of thousands, times multiple candidates, times bazillions of listed donors, and thousands and thousands of state ballot initiatives, and yet Eich is essentially the sole exemplar of why reporting campaign donors is horrible.  This would be akin to getting rid of all ships because one rowboat sunk.
It also ignores the fact that Eich was forced out of a post on a corporate board because his views were offensive to the board he was picked to head, and potentially damaging to the business of that company. That's why he was deemed incompatible with the company's business, and shown the door - with an undoubted gold-plated severance package. So I'm not shedding tears for the man, or what happened. He is not the rallying cry to stop listing who gives what to whom.
This isn't a case of bureaucratic discrimination. It was just business.

6) The IRS was used as a weapon to discriminate against conservative groups.
That has crap-all to do with putting names on a donor list. How would you go about concealing the NRA's political bent from the IRS? Or any other group?
In the past, both Democrat and Republican administrations have used the IRS as a weapon, long before the existence of 1974 campaign donor laws. The problem is the IRS. Not campaign donor lists that didn't exist prior to the post-Watergate reforms enacted by Congress to prevent multi-million dollar dirty tricks squads, slush funds, and hush money all paid from that morass of unaccountable untraceable cash contributions.

7) Campaign financing isn't "dictated by progressive liberals". The Congress, both houses, was held by the GOP entirely, and with the White House too, for six years. They changed none of it. In fact, they made it worse.
Because campaign finance rules are dictated by incumbents, to make their offices a bastion against upstart challengers. And exactly as noted, the unconstitutional (though upheld by SCOTUS, exactly like Dred Scot, Kelo, or upholding Obamacare) McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reforms have made it about 98% unlikely that a challenger will unseat an incumbent, ever, any time.

Blindfolding voters about who gives to what campaign, whether for candidates or ballot propositions, won't accomplish that, or any other good thing.

Voting out McCain-Feingold, a completely separate issue, will.

Repealing the Sixteenth Amendment would unleash political and economic freedom like nobody would imagine, and hobble Leviathan to actually seeing to its business along Constitutional mandates.

Which is why a jihad against publishing the donors to campaigns is misguided, ineffective, and malicious.

By the way, under current federal rules, any contributions by anyone under $50 may be in cash and anonymous, which accounts for probably 90% of all political contributions going back to forever. So the law really only effects people that want to dump money into political campaigns. And frankly, as long as the identity and amounts were reported, I couldn't care less, generically, about who does that. As long as I can look up who's backing something or someone, the amount they give, IMHO, is constitutionally protected political free speech, and should be entirely unhindered. The farcical and intellectually vacuous opinions of some of SCOTUS notwithstanding.

Flick Pick: Master And Commander

Master And Commander
(20th Cent. Fox/Miramax/Universal , 2003)

With an epic $150M budget, it took three studios to foot the bill to bring Peter Weir's breathtaking film, based on the Aubrey/Maturin books of Patrick O'Brian, to the screen with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany in the leads. The result is breathtaking and realistic. Other than a brief view of a tribal maiden or two off South America, not a single other woman appeared in the entire movie for the balance of two-plus hours; this is the antithesis of the three-hanky chick-flick. It sets the new standard for sailing ship movies; the cast trained hard and long aboard ship extensively prior to filming, and it shows in every frame. This movie was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and had it not had the misfortune to premiere in the same year as the final installment of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, it would undoubtedly have gotten away with far more than the two it earned for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing. It more than recouped investments, but not by enough to guarantee a sequel. More's the pity that when Hollywood creates a cinematic masterwork, no one wants to do another one; but if they produce something better left in a cat's litter box, they make a dozen more. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Flick Pick: Chinatown

(Paramount, 1974)

Roman Polanski's classic film noir detective story, with Jack Nicholson in every scene, helping Faye Dunaway unravel the seedy water rights shenanigans of John Huston's character, a cinema caricature of William Mulholland, in Los Angeles circa 1937. The film is an all-time classic by itself and within its genre, with a great score by Jerry Goldsmith. Among many honors, it garnered 11 Oscar nominations, winning one for Robert Towne's masterful screenplay.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Flick Pick: The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming
(United Artists, 1966)

Long before Peter Benchley scared the pants off New England beachgoers with the story of a monstrous shark, his father Nathaniel penned a splendid little tale about a Russian submarine inadvertently beached on mythical Gloucester Island, which was later made into a star-studded Cold War comedy by Norman Jewison, with Carl Reiner, Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters, and nominated for Best Actor in his first major film role, Alan Arkin as the sane Russian trying to protect his men, his captain, his boat, and his dignity. Jonathan Winters putts Don Knotts' deputy to shame, Brian Keith is the picture of a perfect small-town sheriff, and Carl Reiner demonstrates why he was the king of comedy, managing one epic comedic scene while gagged and tied to the town switchboard operator, without uttering a single intelligible line. And he kills. He's 92 now; see him in his prime. It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and deserved the honors. Between this film, yesterdays', and Dr. Strangelove, it's notable that the Cold War is the only war where all the best films are comedies. There's a lesson in there, I think.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Flick Pick: One, Two, Three

One, Two, Three
(United Artists, 1961)

Billy Wilder's relentless comedy starring James Cagney and Horst Buckholz in the best send-up of communism ever. Cagney carries this picture from beginning to end, and just when you think it's going fast, Khachaturian's Sabre Dance kicks in on the soundtrack, and it hits afterburner. The pace and burden were so overwhelming that Cagney retired from movies for twenty years afterwards because "I felt I was slipping". If this is Cagney slipping, in gear he must have been a fireball. Filming was taking place in 1961 Berlin the day the Russians put up the Berlin Wall, and the movie was re-discovered by West Berlin audiences in 1985, forming no small amount of impetus and backdrop to Reagan's speech there when he uttered the famous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech in 1987.
Happy May Day.