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Seven more movies

There are so many good movies out there — a hundred years of old movies, plus thousands of odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten or DIY movies made just for the joy of making 'em — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.

All these films are streaming for free and without commercials, if you have a good adblocker. Sites like Putlocker are torrent indexes, and thus legally questionable, so experts recommend using a VPN.

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
YES

This was a huge hit and now it's a classic — you’ve seen it, everyone’s seen it, and you don’t need me to tell you it’s terrific. Beverly Hills Cop is a perfect action movie, while it’s happening.

The problem comes after it’s happened, if you pause and ponder. For all its undeniable fun, this is a movie about bad cops, and it loves bad cops, and wants the audience to root for bad cops.

In Detroit, Axel Foley is a “rogue” officer, who goes undercover without authorization, breaks all the rules, and is constantly in trouble with his boss. Threats to (justifiably) fire him run all through the movie.

In California, he lies to local police, and wants those cops to lie to their commanding officers. He scolds them when they don’t lie, and there’s all sorts of lying whenever anything happens that might get a cop into trouble.

The plot's final feel-good punchline comes after local cops have violated direct orders and myriad rules of police behavior (“they had to,” in the story), when the city’s #2 cop invents a huge whopper to explain everything to the police chief. It's a lie that melts and molests all the facts, but makes the Police Department looks good, and seems sure to get all the movie’s cops promoted instead of investigated.

This is the thin blue line police are all about protecting each other, more than protecting the public. It's ordinary police behavior, played here for laughs, but in real life cops routinely lie about what they've done and who they've killed, and routinely get away with it, just like they do in the movie.

You're aware, I hope, that police misconduct is an epidemic. We only know who Derek Chauvin is — and who George Floyd was — because Floyd was murdered by police on camera. Without the camera, Officer Chauvin would've told the same lies, and gotten away with it, and this afternoon he'd be wearing a badge and pulling people over for speeding, and killing someone if he felt the urge, and then lying about it again. This is an ongoing real-world nightmare, not some lovable action movie.

It is a lovable action movie, though. Eddie Murphy is extraordinarily likable as a rogue cop whose best friend gets killed because he was mixed up in something shady. John Ashton and Judge Reinhold play bemused local cops. Jonathan Banks is already in full Ehrmantraut mode, à la Breaking Bad. The music by Harold Faltermeyer is catchy and marvelous for mood management in matching the plot points. I'm tempted to give a shout-out to the writers, Daniel Petrie Jr and Danilo Bach, but skeptical that they contributed any of the magic here, because neither of them have anything else interesting on their IMDB resumés.

Leviathan (1989)
YES

An underwater mining crew runs into troubles, the nature of which isn’t revealed until midway through the movie so I shan’t explain it. Peter Weller is in charge; he’s always good and he’s especially good here. It’s about rugged, mostly ugly men, with a few women, required by movie-law to be beautiful. Among the men, the same movie-law requires that at least one character must be an obnoxious jerk, and this time it’s Daniel Stern.

Other than that, I have no major complaints, and no major compliments. You want an enjoyable big-budget popcorn-chewing Hollywood scary sci-fi movie? This is that, and it’s fun.

The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955)
NO — 

There’s a body on the beach, and the cop investigating is a prick, even for a cop. The body has radiation burns, though, which makes this more science fiction than police drama. It was made by a major studio, so the monster in a rubber suit looks better than Roger Corman's monsters in rubber suits, but that doesn’t make any of this interesting. It’s not.

There’s one good line, which applies to the movie itself: “Nature has many secrets that man must not disturb, and this was one of them.”

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
BIG NO — 

Somehow the leading actors from the original Star Wars were bribed or cajoled into appearing in a Christmas special for TV, along with Art Carney cracking bad jokes, Diahann Carroll singing about the universe, Jefferson Starship performing without Grace Slick, Bea Arthur tending bar and singing at a downsized-for-television Cantina, and Harvey Korman in three roles, none of which are funny. Oh, and Princess Leia sings.

There’s almost a story — Chewbacca is late for the 'Life Day' celebration, and his family is worried about him. We see lots of Chewbacca’s family, and hear many, many Wookie-style growling yowls from all of them, without subtitles. The yowling is frequently interrupted by dancing and acrobatics, musical numbers, a cartoon, and more bad comedy.

I’ve heard of this abomination for years, but finally seeing it is nearly no fun at all. The opening credits are unintentionally hilarious, but the rest of this mess is bland, uninspired sketch comedy from 1970s TV, enjoyable only as camp, and even then only for a few minutes at a time. It's officially branded Star Wars, though, so it's canon — and not much worse than The Phantom Menace.

Unknown World (1957)
YES — 

Famed geologist Jeremiah Morley is concerned about the proliferation and dangers of nuclear weapons, so he's established the Society to Save Civilization. Rather than working for disarmament, the group proposes to explore under the Earth, finding or drilling tunnels and caves, where some lucky humans might survive the coming nuclear holocaust. To do the digging, they’ve designed a ‘cyclotram’, but the only funding they can find comes from some billionaire bastard who demands to accompany the underground explorers.

Whew. That’s a heck of a story setup — all from the film’s first ten minutes.

Finding or building bigger bomb shelters seems like a shitty solution to the nuclear threat, and the technology of the cyclotram makes no sense. The mission’s only woman is described as a feminist, but surprisingly for 1957, she’s not portrayed as misguided, stupid, hostile, man-hating, or frigid. The anti-nuke scientist, Doc Morley, is also written as reasonable and intelligent, not as a complete loon.

There’s a sense of humor, too — I laughed several times — and while the visuals of the underground explorations are unimpressive, the actors respond with a believable sense of wonder. There are thoughtful conversations about the isolation of being miles below our existence here on the surface, and even at its deepest physical and philosophical depths, the script makes no mention of God, which I appreciated.

Make no mistake, this is a low-budget effort, but it’s not low-effort. Something’s going on here.

Y2K: The Movie (1999)
(a/k/a Countdown to Chaos)

NO — 

Nothing's going on here.

This is a made-for-TV panic flick about the looming Y2K crisis of 1999. It’s everything we were worried about back then: Prison doors open at midnight and bad guys run free! Pregnancy complications at the hospital, but the equipment doesn’t work! Dead bodies at a nuclear plant! Your teenage daughter is at a New Year’s Eve party with her hacker friends, Clipper and Chaos! Ronny Cox plays the guitar! There’s a preposterous and impossible emergency landing! At a cable news channel, though, there’s inexplicably both electricity and ethics!

America's hottest computer hotshot is Ken Olin ("You may remember me from Thirtysomething in the ‘80s, and nothing else"). We’re told that for Y2K emergencies, Olin has access to a supersonic jet that can take him anywhere in the country in two hours, but — hello? In a Y2K worst case scenario, his supersonic plane would fly like a rock, or be unable to land.

That’s me talking, though; the movie doesn’t understand this, and it’s moot anyway — Olin faces only the same local problems he’d face if he was the city’s I.T. manager. And then the movie is over.

They should've titled this Y2 Chaos, but that would be almost clever, and there's none of that here. It's stupid and cheesy, but you might enjoy it if you’re in the right mood.

I was, and did, thanks to peak-silly dialogue like, “You can’t blow things up here, this is a nuclear power plant!” and “Have you tried digital override?” and “The core temperature is rising exponentially. At this rate, you’ve got less than sixty minutes!”

Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966)
BIG NO

Using “hyperspace hypnotism,” a rocket scientist has established communication with Venus, and then the dreaded Venusians make all the machinery in town (or maybe on Earth) stop working. Sadly, these technical difficulties do not interrupt the streaming video. I’d be so proud of my 8-year-old grand-nephew if he’d written this.

9/18/2021

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17 comments:

  1. OMG i have to see the Y2k movie. Relive the hysteriua!

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    1. Y2K is on my list too, and Unknown Worlds.

      Doug, I had to read your review of Beverly Hills Coop twice to make sure you're serious. I love that movie but I *do* see your point.

      Delete
    2. I was trying to be both serious and ridiculous.

      Beverly Hills Coop sounds good, though. Axel Foley is working in the produce section, and discovers that the celery isn't organic...

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    3. And Brandon, the hysteria was silly almost like the movie, but it was a serious problem. The millennium would've been a mess without the heroic efforts of Peter Gibbons and others like him.

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    4. i was a kid raelly but everyone said it was nothing and way overblown.

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    5. Everyone saying something doesn't mean it's true. The Y2K crisis was real, and wasn't overblown. It was almost completely averted by coders doublechecking everything for the last few years of the last millennium, but without that overtime and effort, 1/1/2000 would've been disastrous.

      Delete
    6. Maybe i was too young to know, take your word for it gramps.

      I learned a thing though.

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    7. OK, I'll buy — what's the thing you learned?

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    8. Do you know about Lincoln being Melungeon? Yet another reason to raise an eyebrow at the south!

      The more and more I research migrating patterns of humans from the pilgirms the stranger and stranger the south gets

      Not a raised eyebrow in judgement, but curiosity!

      Delete
    9. I remember Lincoln, He's on a penny. The Melungeon thing, though, I don't know what you're talking about.

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    10. Melungeon is a specific group of people in the appalacian mountains

      Theyre a mixture of Native American, Caucasian and African American Ancestry

      Okay so try to make this short. Pilgrims landed on plymouth rock. They built civilizations and eventally the 13th colonies. they brought white, european slaves with them. they were indebed for a certain lngth of time. after they paid their debt they could leave. most weren't allowed to live in the settlements because they were not desirable so they fled to the cumberland regions of the appalachian mts. being in a strange land they married and befriended Native Americans to survive.


      Fast forward to 1800s. African Americans were now the slave of the day. many African Americans fled and hid in the Appalachian mts to hid from bounty partys that were bring them back to the plantation by brutal means. they too befriended these original settlers who looked like white caucasian folks but dressed talked walked like blond Native Americans, can you imagine.

      these groups eventually married had offspring creating what was referred to as Melungeon. Caucasian looking folks that had characterstics generally associated with Native Americans but also characteristics of African American groups.

      Abraham lincoln, olive complexion skin, typical with both Native Americans and African Americans, and had grey/blue eyes and dark black Corse hair. traits that are generally attributed to that specific group of people. Also known as the gray eyed folks.


      the more you know

      thats your one thing for today anyway

      Delete
    11. That's fascinating if true, but entirely new to me. Cite your sources?

      Taking it at face value, I would then wonder whether we know Lincoln's genealogy, family tree? Like, do we know how 'mixed' he was, and what percentage of him was of what extraction?

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    12. the line from Treasure of Sierra Mader, sources, we dont need no stinking sources.

      My source is books ive read thats all.

      Lincoln's mother was also a Melungeon. As her family was orginally from that region, or so Ive been led to believe.

      Delete
  2. I had to see it for myself. The Star Wars special exists. It was prime time entertainment on a major network. People watched that shit! Jesus.

    You're right about BH Cop but I still love it.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe in his next re-edit, George Lucas can restore Bea Arthur to the Cantina scene.

      Delete
  3. I clicked and watched Unknown World, and you nailed it. It's cheesy but smart, good writing.

    I love the reviews and your Pathetic Life has been on fire the past several days, pun intended.

    Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Appreciated. Feel free to nudge me toward any movies you'd recommend.

      Delete

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