From the monthly archives:

June 2011

Considering yesterday’s unenthusiastic summer movie post – this is uncanny. I just learned, via JoBlo, that Raiders of the Lost Ark was released 30 years ago today. My 7-year-old self hasn’t been the same since.

raiders-artIf I were tasked (by someone who was incredibly bored and probably unemployed/smelling of pee) with selecting just one movie to represent my childhood – it would be Raiders. History has been kind to the film – it didn’t exactly get poor reviews on this day back in 1981 (It has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but it’s legacy has grown considerably. What began as little more than a fast-paced summer blockbuster (resulting from a Lucas/Spielberg collaboration dedicated to serials from the 1920s) is now heralded as a cinematic benchmark frequently selected by critics as one of the best movies of all time…

  • Just this past March a TV special put together by ABC News and People Magazing voted Raiders the best action movie of all time.
  • In 1998 the American Film Institute voted it #60 on their list of the 100 best American movies, evah. To give context it outranks Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction and Unforgiven. By a lot.
  • It’s #22 out of 250 on IMDB’s list of best flicks.

But forget about established critics and accredited film society thingys for a second. As part of my own personal tribute I’m going to share just a few foggy Raiders memories from my distant childhood:

  1. My father must have also been a huge fan of the film, because he took me to see it 7 times. It’s how we bonded. How we related to each other – and I have no complaints.
  2. I remember him asking his sister, my Aunt Susan, if after seeing it she thought it was appropriate for a 7-year-old. Her exact response was “Well, there’s a little bit of blood, but I think he’ll be alright.” Which brings me to the next memory…
  3. After the first time we saw it, I ran ahead of my father and checked the back seat of his car for mummies.
  4. My friend Adam and I spent countless hours trying to beat the tie-in Atari 2600 video game. 30 years later it is still frequently mentioned as one of the hardest games of all time.

  5. I’d jump at any chance to accompany my Mother to the grocery store in Manotick, Ontario as I was determined to collect each of the 100 Raiders trading cards. After consuming near-fatal quantities of nasty pink-colored gum sticks, I only ever got 99 of them. The elusive card? That bastard, Belloq. And I still have all 99 in a photo album for which I actually won a Boy Scouts “collector’s” badge a couple years later.
  6. My grandmother gave me an Indy action figure during one of her visits, that had a spring-loaded arm which would crack a little cloth whip. I still have it.
  7. One of our neighbors, Terry (whom many years later I would end up working for in England) claimed he knew a guy who had a bootleg VHS copy and if we could organize $100 and two VCRs for the dub I could get one of my very own. Needless to say, he lived to regret telling me that. I don’t think the word “haunting” covers it.
  8. We bought the soundtrack on LP, which I then transferred to cassette, which then became the soundtrack of many backyard adventures, blasted via carefully-balanced ghetto blaster through my bedroom window.
  9. I remember friends and I acting out so many “takes” of the famous swordfight scene that David Fincher and Stanley Kubrick would have said in unison, “Enough already, kid. We got the shot.”
  10. Due to a glaring lack of actual Indy toys in the marketplace, Star Wars stormtroopers and Cobra soldiers frequently stood in for Hovitos, Thuggees and Nazis.
  11. I learned what a Nazi was.

Toht-meltingIf we forget our history we are doomed to repeat it. So in honor of this magnificent anniversary, take time out today and force a 7-year old child to sit through Raiders of the Lost Ark. And don’t let them close their eyes at the end, either. The children are our future, so teach them well and let them watch melting Nazis. Happy birthday, Dr. Jones.

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Today is the first day of summer and I’m normally geeking out with anticipation over at least one upcoming movie (or seven) by now. This year is definitely different though. I really couldn’t give a flying frick about any of them – and that’s not a good feeling. It makes me long for the summers of my childhood when there’d only ever be one or two huge movies released. I blame CGI for the big-budget overload every year. And Jar-Jar Binks.

It’s a weak, weak year for the summer flick. With only two possible exceptions, as I see it. The first is the reboot of Conan the Barbarian out on August 19th and creatively entitled, “Conan”. When I heard about it a year or so ago, and found out Jason Momoa would play the title role, I was unimpressed. After seeing Momoa on Game of Thrones, however, I warmed up to the idea. After seeing the red-band trailer which was released a few days ago – I take it all back.

The second is Cowboys and Aliens. I dig Daniel Craig and love Jon Favreau as both an actor and a director. The real reason I’m amped to see the movie, however, is that there’s a direct link back to my summer movie nirvana of yesteryear to consider – Mr. Harry Ford. He’s playing a villain but I will take what I can get in these strange, digitally enhanced times.

Cowboys and AliensThor was a good flick, but its release date on May 6th makes it a stretch for inclusion as part of the season. It’s also unbelievably difficult to get excited about superhero movies anymore. It’s like the little boy who cried “wolf”, but instead of warning villagers about an impending attack by a lycanthrope – he’s just standing up there on the hill beside pastures full of tasty sheep yelling, “Superhero movie! Um, superhero movie! Superhero movie?” The villagers quickly learn that the little jerk is full of shit, possibly autistic, and then stop listening.

The little guy just keeps on screaming: Thor, X-Men, Green Lantern, Captain America – and that’s just this summer. Over the next 2 years we can look forward to no less than a half-hundred-dozen additional Marvel/DC/etc. properties hitting the big screen – Deadpool. Ant Man, another Kickass, another Batman, un autre Spiderman, an additional Superman, one more Wolverine – but in terms of anticipation the queen mother of them all is undoubtedly The Avengers which is due for release on May 4th, 2012. That kid who’s supposed to be watching the sheep is going to be a little horse. I wonder if he also knows a little german?

 

So, yeah – Hollywood’s current summer movie output is completely overwhelming. This year alone there are about 20 big-budget potential blockbusters shipping in a 4-month period. We have all of the aforementioned plus Harry Potter, Planet of the Apes, Mr. Popper’s Penguins,  Smurfs, Transformers… and I wouldn’t cross the street to see any of them. What about you – seen anything good so far?

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A Strong Sense of Community

by Dave on June 4, 2011

in Television

community-pudi-gloverWhilst Flying to and from Vancouver last week I decided to spend a little more time, via the seatback screen in front of me, with the NBC show Community. Talk about a captive audience – I’d have gone so far as to watch Scrubs if that’s all they’d had. Sure, Air Canada also offered Nurse Jackie and the BBC’s brilliant Sherlock revival, but I’d already seen and loved every single episode of both those series. So it was either watch Community or switch over to the movie channel where i had the pick of the cinematic litter. If the pregnant dog in question had given birth to 27 French language films and the Green Hornet. So, yeah, Community won by a nose. Pinocchio’s nose.

A Talk Soup fan since the Kinnear era, I knew of Joel McHale so made sure to tune in two years ago when the Community pilot debuted – but hadn’t watched it since. Not that the show’s debut was bad. Far from it. It just wasn’t especially… memorable. My Attention drifted elsewhere (as it’s prone to do 246 times a day) and the halls of Greendale Community College were quickly forgotten. Eight days after my return from British Columbia I’m glad that, somewhere high over Kamloops, I was forced to re-enroll.

Over the last two years the show has come a very long way. It’s known for the simultaneously loveable and detestable characters, clever plotlines, recurring jokes, guest stars and overall silly style – to the point where Community has amassed, and is beloved to, a considerable cult following. The best example of this might be the now famous “Library Rap” where Abed and Troy bust a catchy rhyme en Español which was originally just intended as one of the short, standalone clips they feature at the end of every episode during the credits. Episode #2 in this case. It’s taken on a life of its own and probably been many people’s first introduction to the show.


“My name is T-Bone, the Disco Spider.”

The lyrics make a little more sense once you realize the almighty Ken Jeong plays their inept and quite possibly sociopathic Spanish teacher. Thanks to a skirmish with strep throat, and Netflix Instant, I’m now all the way through the first season – and incredibly impressed. My fruitfly-esque attention span held fast for the 25 episode duration and I’m about to dig in to season two.

Another reason I decided to kick the tires on Community one more time is the involvement of multi-talented Donald Glover. Last summer I read about and then saw a movie which I went on to word-of-mouth to anyone who would listen. To some of my older relatives’ chagrin those pressed violently into watching the hilarious Mystery Team included several cousins in the 11-14 age range. So That’s one way to get out of ever babysitting again. Since iPhone batteries last about as long as an Altoid, I’d better get right down to the summary.

Mystery Team (starring Glover who helped write, score and produce the flick at the kinda-sorta tender age of 27 if you’re looking for my point,) is a raunchy, yet refreshingly original, film about a collective of once-almost-famous boy detectives who are now seniors in high school. They’re stuck dwelling on the lost-hamster-finding and apple-pie-windowsill-theft-culprit-apprehending glories of yesteryear while being left behind and ridiculed by their peers, parents and basically anyone else who happens to cross their path. Exhibit A:


“Will work for Fruit Rollups.”

The opportunity to solve a murder arises and team leader Jason (Glover), inspires the others to forget about college admissions for one last summer and prove their detective skills to anyone who thinks they’re a complete joke – which is everyone. A fantastic premise put to film by Glover and the rest of his Derrick Comedy troupe who you’ll even see pop up in bit parts on Community now and then – It’s good to see he’s taking care of his boys. You’ll want to keep an eye on this guy – not to pat myself on the back, but to prove a point: the first time I saw Mystery Team I knew this kid was going to be a big star. Now he’s on a hit sitcom, has at least 2 big budget studio films in the pipeline and has recorded several actually-really-good rap albums and mixtapes as Childish Gambino. Color me impressed. And seek out Mystery Team.

So – that makes it all the more convenient that Glover, alongside Joel McHale and Chevy fricking Chase, is now one of the best things about Community. His character, Troy, is inseparable from Abed – a lovable East Indian with an inexhaustible font of movie and tv references who also suffers from Asperger’s. If you don’t already see the unbelievable potential for comedy in that last sentence alone, you’re in luck… as Scrubs is currently in syndication on more channels than my poor brain can fathom.

community-pierce-chevyLet’s get back to Chevy for a second. He plays former moist towelette tycoon Pierce – an over-the-hill, racist, inappropriate and narcissistic buffoon who is only attending the college to… actually, it’s never quite explained. Chevy took a long show business hiatus after a disastrous foray into talk show hosting and I am beyond glad that he has another hit and won’t forever be remembered as wrapping up a great career with an embarrassing failure. Having said that, I’ve also just reminded everyone that he had a disastrous foray into talk show hosting and almost ended his career with a devastating defeat which comedians continue to beat to death to this day. Dammit, Dave – inside voice! Sorry, Chevy. I meant well and you’re the man. Again.

Wow – I’m all over the place today. Back to McHale again who plays main protagonist Jeff Winger, a self-absorbed, wiseacre and debarred lawyer who becomes the Spanish study group’s de facto leader. After 5 side-splitting Soup seasons he definitely deserved a shot at leading man status and plays the role to a ‘t’. His relationship with classmate Britta, played by Gillian Jacobs, is reminiscent of Sam and Diane to say the least – and Abed even references this fact specifically. But then, that’s what Abed does – he literally likens nearly every event in his life to a meta pop culture reference. Sounds eerily familiar…

In addition to the casting and my kindred spirit, Abed, what sets this show apart for me is it’s undeniable heart. Several years ago, during the heyday of Trailer Park Boys, I wrote very extensively about that show for the same reason. All of Community’s characters, from the sweet bible-thumper Shirley to the formerly Adderall-addicted Annie, care about each other deeply. It’s a strange and dysfunctional sitcom family for the ages and I’m a happy new fan.

Now then – I’ve taken up enough of your time and must bid you a fond ‘adieu’. I must also bid you "do yourself a favor and watch a few episodes of Community on Netflix". They’re only 22 minutes long, now that the commercials have been removed, and you’ll have a better weekend for it. On the off chance you don’t have Netflix Instant yet, there will be no "bidding" whatsoever. It’s only $9 a month and awesome. Pull your thumb out and sign up now.

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