Every Generation Gets The Bruce Campbell Hero It Needs

To men (mostly) of a certain age, Ash from Evil Dead from the 1980s:

For slightly younger persons, there’s Brisco County, Jr., from 1993:

A younger generation gets Bubba Ho-Tep from 2002:

Today’s kids might get Sam Axe from Burn Notice:

My kids, of course, are getting things out of order as we watch The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. on DVD. My beautiful wife knows him from Burn Notice. I know him as Ash even though I’ve only seen The Evil Dead and relatively recently.

But I’m pretty sure most universities would be better with a Bruce Campbell Studies Department.

Well, He’s Already Played Jesse Stone

So Tom Selleck is doing reverse mortgage ads, which stuns me because apparently I’m too close to the demographic targeted for reverse mortgage ads when I haven’t even finished paying my forward mortgage yet. But as I watched the ad while riding on a stationary bike to prepare for an upcoming triathlon as I try to futile stave off and lie to myself about being close to the demographic targeted for reverse mortgage ads, I thought, Wow, Selleck is looking a lot like Robert B. Parker these days.

If they make a movie of Parker’s life, I think they know who to call.

On The Iron Mask

Book coverThe Man In The Iron Mask, you mean?” you might ask.

No, old man, although that film is twenty-one years old now, and might be the last thing I’ve seen with Leonardo DiCaprio in it, the film I watched the other night is older than that.

I watched The Iron Mask which features Douglas Fairbanks. Originally filmed in 1929, it was reissued (re-released? remade for television?) with narration by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., replacing the titles. Which is why it makes a sort of sense that I had to keep shushing my children so I could watch my silent movie.

The plot of the movie differs from the later film; in it, the rightful, benevolent king is replaced by the evil twin, but the musketeers intercede to place the benevolent king on his throne.

The film also incorporates elements from the book previously seen in the 1970s films The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers.

I was most impressed with the stunts in the film, and of course, the swordplay. The musketeers and their adversaries fight rapier-style, with thrusts and parries instead of big swings and blocks that you get out of most movies. Although my oldest child did look up from his gaming device and ask if they were dancing or fighting. But he was not paying attention.

In the original release and in this re-release, Douglas Fairbanks delivers a play-like prologue and epilogue that the original audiences would have heard and marvelled at.

So how does it hold up? It’s pretty good, especially with the narration added. The gags work, the stunts still work, and it moves along for its hour and a half.

I’m glad to have seen it and Douglas Fairbanks in action. I’ve seen Errol Flynn already (in Santa Fe Trail with Ronald Reagan).

Also, note the way I found the title of Santa Fe Trail: I knew it was a film with Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan; I thought it might be This Is The Army because I remember my mother had that title on VHS (which probably means I have it on HS somewhere). So I scrolled through Reagan’s IMDB entry, and This Is The Army didn’t seem like the film I was thinking of. So I scrolled through Flynn’s and didn’t see any title that rang a bell. But then I remembered it had Raymond Massey in it as John Brown. You know, Raymond Massey, the guy who was Gail Wynand in the film version of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. So I looked through his IMDB entry and found it. Because I knew Massey from The Fountainhead, which I watched over and over again in my youth.

Well, this isn’t really a review, is it? It’s more a musing which is more about the connections in my head and the thoughts I had on watching the film. I hope I’m not boring you too much, gentle reader, but mainly I’m writing for me in a couple years, and this post will jog my memories of this moment. You’re just here for the ride.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what I thought about Dumas’ book, you can find those book report musings here for the abridged version released with a cover tied to the 1970s film and here for the complete version. And by “you,” I mean “me in five or six years when I’m re-reading this post and remember I read the book, too.”

On National Velvet

Book coverIn my continuing quest (I have so many twee continuing quests this year, ainna?) to watch the old movies in my unwatched video cabinet, I watched National Velvet the other night, inspired a bit by the fact that my youngest son just read a horse book, Black Beauty. I invited the boys to watch, but one of them left early in the film because it bored him. The youngest, though, stayed all the way through and said it was okay.

It’s a horse movie and a sports movie not unlike Seabiscuit, and it moves along pretty well. The plot: A wandering young man, an ex-jockey who lost his nerve after a spill, comes to a seaside village to look up a family who knew his father. The family, which includes the town butcher, his wife, three daughters, and a young son, receive him and put him up, but he might be up to no good as he discovers where the family’s savings are hidden and takes it, but he puts it back when they offer him a job and board. Then the middle daughter wins a horse and dreams of him racing in the Grand National horse race, and the former jockey is asked to help.

So it’s got the training of the horse arc, the redemption of the former jockey arc, and basic family interactions to fill the two hours and a minute. It moves along very well, not bogging down in places.

The film looks newer than Sunset Boulevard because it’s shot in Technicolor even though it hearkens back to the recent past–the late 1920s, right after the setting of Downton Abbey.

The film features a large contingent of actors (Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Angela Lansbury) whom I first knew as, well, almost elderly (which is what they seemed, although in the 1970s and 1980s they would not have been much older than I am now). Angela Lansbury, for example, was quite cute back in the day:

She reminds me of my beautiful wife for some reason.

This film was followed by a television series in the 1960s, a television movie sequel in the 1970s, and maybe a television movie remake in the 21st century (although the IMDB is hazy on this last, with only a title and year). In the sixties and seventies, we sure had a lot of kids with horse shows on television, some through syndication and some new material. It’s probably why the kid wanting a pony was a trope in those days. All the kids want these days is the latest phone and a paid copy of the latest billion dollar mobile game with a big budget for ephemeral in-app purchases.

Oh, and the film has a message to drive home to today’s youth, or maybe just my children: Stop playing with your orthodontic appliance and put it in your mouth. Velvet has a “plate” to straighten her teeth which cost four pounds, and her parents constantly tell her to stop fussing with it. So it’s good to see how some parental guidance remains unchanged between the movie’s setting and last night here at Nogglestead.

The Dirty Tricks of Pseudo-Bachelorhood

Me: “Hey, boys, Mom’s traveling for business. Want to watch Captain America?
Boys: “Yeah!”

That is, of course, the Captain America television movie from 1979. Which first aired thirty years ago tomorrow (January 19, 1979) as a matter of fact.

I probably saw this first on cable television late at night when it was still relatively fresh.

So the boys and I watched this collection of man driving/man riding on a motorcycle montages punctuated by stoic surfer dude reluctance to accept his father’s mantle. They think it could have used more guns and artillery, as always.

But I have ruined Captain America for them like I ruined James Bond. But they’ll probably be happy to watch the second film, Captain America 2: Death Too Soon sometime soon. Because, hey, it’s screen time after a fashion.

On Sunset Boulevard

Film coverSo, as I mentioned in the book report for Whatever Became Of?, I have wanted to catch up on some old films I have in my collection. So the very first I selected was Sunset Boulevard, a new VHS that I removed from its cellaphane wrap and had to remove the little sticker at the bottom that tied the videocassette to its box to prevent shoplifting. Related question: Is it still a new VHS even though it’s merely a VHS that has never been unwrapped? Depends how you want to present it on eBay, I guess.

This book contains spoilers, but spoilers of the sort that the movie spoils in the first couple of minutes of the film, so look out below.

It has a double-fit on my desire to learn more about old films, as it is a black and white film from 1950 about an aging star from silent films (Norma Desmond is the character name; Gloria Swanson, the actress, is an actual silent film star) who ensnares a struggling writer as a kept man/reluctant love interest. The young man chafes under the restraint and sneaks out to work on a screenplay with an attractive young studio reader, and this puts his whole situation into jeopardy.

So a couple of thoughts:

Both characters, struggling writer and the aging actress, are kind of sympathetic and kind of not. The writer’s desperation for financial security leads him to enabling Norma Desmond, and her sadness and subtle madness at the loss of her stardom make one (one being “me”) feel a bit sorry for her. That’s kind of deft. Or perhaps I wasn’t meant to feel sorry for her, but I just do.

Also, that old, washed-up actress was fifty-one years old.

She doesn’t look old to me, even in those pre-plastic surgery days, but I think as we go along, “old” changes. I guess that’s one of the few things we can actually thank the Baby Boomers for in all earnestness.

You know, between this film and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a struggling young male writer might believe that attractive cougars who will take care of your rent are fairly common. My experience indicates they are not.

I absolutely hate the Dead Man Narrates His Own Death framing device. I hated it in American Beauty (a film I might have just spoiled for you as a bonus spoiler), and hated it here.

Still, I’m glad to have seen it. So perhaps next I’ll run through some more of the early Hitchcock that I mentioned here.

The 80s R

So I watched American Ninja last week for several reasons: It has recently become available on Amazon Prime, and I wondered if it would be something I could watch with my boys who are not yet teenagers. I watched it on Showtime when we lived in the trailer park, many times because there’s not much to do in a rural trailer park, and I would have been only a year or two older than the oldest is now (because we moved into the trailer park one month before my thirteenth birthday because the trailer park would not let families with teenagers move into the park).

Wait a minute, Brian J. you say. Wasn’t the reason you watched American Ninja Judie Aronson? “Shut up, Ted,” is my reply. One of the reasons, surely, but not the only reason.

But American Ninja is rated R. So I hesitate to show it to my children because they’re sensitive, or I like to think they’re sensitive, young people protected from screen violence. I’m watching American Ninja, trying to gauge the violence and swearing, and it’s not so bad.

I especially call it not so bad because I followed American Ninja with Kick-Ass, which is also rated R. Which made the difference between an 80s R and a 2010 R very stark.

Take a look at the violence in the final fight in American Ninja:

Now, take a look at the first big fight with the diminutive Hit Girl in Kick-Ass:

American Ninja has violence, but it looks more and more like the 50s Westerns where a gunshot causes the bad guy to clutch his stomach and fall down. Kick-Ass, on the other hand, has dismemberment, splatter, someone set on fire, and a guy getting microwaved until he explodes. American Ninja has soldiers and bad guys swearing in context, while Kick-Ass has an 11-year-old girl with quite a potty mouth at every opportunity (which, sadly, might be the linguistic landscape in the twenty-first century).

But, jeez, an R rating changes across movie eras, ainna? It’s clearly not an absolute guide to sex, violence, and swearing in a film, but a relative measure of how much a movie contains relative to other movies released contemporaneously.

I suppose that’s clear to any thinking person, but I got the proper visceral (literally figuratively) reaction with the juxtaposition of these two films.

Reviewer Does His Best To Spike Bumblebee Movie

I haven’t seen a bunch of feminist hype for the new Transformers movie Bumblebee akin to the Ghostbusters film or reactions akin to Ace‘s recent rants against the film Captain Marvel. I’ve only seen a couple, okay, a lot of commercials during football games.

Here’s the official trailer:

It doesn’t play up any Grrrl Power angle, it doesn’t show some slight teenaged girl beating up large, martially trained men, and it features Bumbleebee as a Volkswagen as God intended (which just means that Volkswagen ponied up the dough to be featured, prolly).

But this AP movie reviewer can’t help but dial up the Grrrl Power and tweak the target audience/fan base: ‘Transformers’ gets a great savior in ‘Bumblebee’:

The “Transformers” movie universe has lately been leaky and rusted out. It’s become shorthand for bad blockbuster moviemaking — male-driven, mindless spectaculars with sophomoric humor. How can it be saved? Just hand over the keys to some talented women.

“Bumblebee,” the sixth film in the series, is a stand-alone origin story written with disarming skill by Christina Hodson and starring the gifted Hailee Steinfeld. It’s a charming tale of a girl and her adorable car-robot, flipping the script on the tired, bloated franchise. While hard-core fan-boys may complain it’s too soft, this film may turn out to be the perfect way to save “Transformers.” Could Bumblebee rescue Optimus Prime this time?

On the other hand, perhaps I should just be greatful that nobody called the president “literally Megatron.”

Meh, I’m not outraged. I’m just a little disappointed in my fellow man.

Reality Television Show Concept

So while tooling through IMDB yesterday, I came up with a reality television show concept: Celebrity Crush.

Basically, it would take actors and actresses, often from older movies and television shows, and have them call upon people who expressed having a crush on them back then.

The producers would scour social media and blog posts looking for harmless admissions that so-and-so liked that actor/actress from that movie from back in the day, would run a background check on the poster, and would then look to get that actor/actress to call upon the non-celebrity to–well, it would depend, I suppose. Go on a date? Get together and talk about the movies and the times in the old days?

Say, for example, someone remembers fondly Judie Aronson from Weird Science and American Ninja:


Producers could find someone who thought she was cute in those films and get them together to talk about where they were then, what they’re doing now, and whatnot. It would be a bit of a Where Are They Now? with the chance for the celebrity to promote new projects (new movies or gyms). The show could catch some of the non-celebrities by “surprise” when the celebrity crush just shows up. The producers could vary the format from “dates” to just discussions and reminisciences (which is not how the real word is spelled, but some of us have nostalgia down to a science, so it seems fitting). They could vary the ages/eras of the celebrity to keep it interesting. I’m telling you, it could work.

I’d watch it.

I’m exaggerating there. I don’t watch much television, especially not reality shows or celebrity news magazine types of things.

But I would happily accept a junior producer credit for writing this blog post.

Now That The Die Hard Battle Is Won….

Now that all reasonable people agree that Die Hard is a Christmas movie (one of the top five, in fact), we can move onto proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that these, too, are Christmas movies:

Gentle reader, Weird Science and Night of the Comet are Christmas movies.

The arguments pro:

  • In Weird Science, when Chet is in toad form, Wyatt expresses fear that he will spoil Christmas. Night of the Comet takes place right before Christmas.
  • Night of the Comet features Catherine Mary Stewart, who, in addition to being cuter than Carrie Fisher, stars in a lot of Christmas movies (see also A Christmas Snow and A Nutcracker Christmas).

The arguments con:

  • Why do you hate Christmas?


They Could Not Suspend Disbelief

As I might have mentioned, my boys and I are watching all the James Bond films in order.

Last night we got to Moonraker, the most outrageous and outlandish film in the series which piggy-backed off of the box office success of Star Wars to inject a science fiction element to the series and features laser battles in space. It also was the largest grossing Bond film for a long time (he said, summarizing the Wikipedia entry).

As my children watched it, they could not suspend their disbelief.

After all, the film featured:

  • Space shuttles, which were space craft that lifted off like rockets and landed like planes.
  • Bent-nosed supersonic passenger airplanes that could cross the Atlantic ocean in three hours.

Given that my oldest was born in 2006, he cannot remember such things, so perhaps he could not believe them possible.

How Brian J. Ruined James Bond For His Children

You know how the first incarnation of the Doctor you see tends to be your favorite in Doctor Who? How the first album from an artist tends to be your favorite, no matter how long you listen to a singer or band or how many other albums he/she/they produce?

So it often is with James Bond.

Your favorite, if you’re of a certain age, is Sean Connery. If you’re a little younger, it’s Roger Moore. If you’re still a pup, it’s that Remington Steel guy. Generally, it tracks with the first James Bond you saw when it was fresh and new to you.

Well, my oldest picked up a James Bond encyclopedia and read everything in it, so he nows the characters and the stories as book knowledge backwards and forwards. Well, not book knowledge; as you might know, gentle reader, the movies are based on a series of books, some of which share the titles but not the plots of the movies.

On a recent excursion to the video store, my oldest tried to slip Dr. No into the mix of titles to rent, and I rejected it. After all, we have that DVD at home. But when it came time for their first James Bond on the screen experience, their father sabotaged them forever by presenting this guy as James Bond:

Sorry, that’s Jimmy Bond as portrayed by Barry Nelson. The first screen portrayal of the super spy was on a black and white television show called Climax!, but James Bond was turned into an American operative with help from his British intelligence counterpart Clarence Leiter. In a production of Casino Royale.

My children sat riveted as Jimmy Bond took on an aged Peter Lorre bad guy at Baccarat. The program ran only an hour, which meant it did not keep them up past their alloted bed time, and they went to bed knowing that they have seen a James Bond that none of their friends have.

And Barry Nelson just might be their favorite James Bond just as Dr. No is their favorite Doctor.

UPDATE: In a stunning turn of events, Dustbury talks about Barry Nelson as Jimmy Bond today as well.

36 Years Later, Brian J. Gets It

So the local Jack station (a radio format term as dated as Adult Contemporary or Album Oriented Rock by now) plays old American Top 40 radio programs on Sunday morning, so I get a chance to catch old songs that don’t get a lot of radio play now.

When Bertie Higgins’ “Key Largo” came on, I thought, not actually featured in the film Key Largo.

And then it struck me: He is singing about the movie Key Largo. I hadn’t known that when I heard the song previously.

I mean, when he sang about Bogie and Bacall, I thought about them in the context that I’d known them at the time I heard the song: From the film The Big Sleep and as a married couple. I didn’t see Key Largo until much later.

So all this time, I thought Bertie just wanted to sail to Key Largo, and that he was watching old movies like The Big Sleep with the woman in the song.

How daft I am.

Fun fact: I’ve actually seen Key Largo twice in recent years (meaning within the last, what, decade?). The first by myself and the second with my beautiful wife as I’ve tried to convince her share in my enjoyment of old movies. So we’ve watched two together, the other being His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.

Confession Time

The first time I saw Tommy Lee Jones’ name on a movie poster, for the film Under Siege

…I thought the drummer from Motley Crüe was getting into acting.

Well, no. That would come later.

But if a film wasn’t on Showtime in the 1980s, or if an actor was not in a film on Showtime in the 1980s, I didn’t know about it.

Now, I know who he is: One of the guys who played Harvey Dent.

Almost Like Big Trouble In Little China II

I watched the Eddie Murphy film The Golden Child again tonight as I had a spot of time.

It played on Showtime back in the day when we were out in the middle of nowhere and had nothing better to do than to watch the same films over and over again.

But as I watched it this time, again, I recognized several actors who overlapped between this film and Big Trouble In Little China:

Perhaps if I watch current movies, I would see crossover like this in character actors, but clearly I prefer the old timey films.

(Of course, if you’re a long-time reader, you probably remember when I noted the crossover actors between Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and Coming to America back in the day. Holy cats, was that twelve years ago?)

Nevertheless, He Remained Married

StLToday.com has a quiz right in my wheelhouse. Well, it’s not a quiz; it’s a slide show of the worst Saturday Night Live skits turned into movies.

The quiz portion of it is: “How many of these has Brian J. seen in the theater?”

Here’s the list; I’ve bolded the ones I saw in the theatre.

  • It’s Pat: The Movie (but I did read the book which was not the movie book).
  • Stuart [Smiley] Saves His Family (I never found Al Franken funny, even after he started doing comedy playing that character in the Senate).
  • A Night at the Roxbury (but my friend Scott and I did not dress up for it, as we discussed).
  • The Ladies Man with my beautiful wife.
  • MacGruber with my beautiful wife. On our anniversary.

I thought one of the films in the slide show would be Superstar! as one of the slides alluded to Molly Shannon’s character, but no. Which is just as well, because I have not seen that at all.

I’m pleased to have gotten a 60% on this quiz because I have a special place in my heart for bad comedies, and most of the Saturday Night Live movies fall into this class.

A Few Thoughts On Ted

DVD cover

As I mentioned, I recently got a membership at the video store, and I’ve been renting (although the “renting” there is like a dollar for a week, and sometimes the guy behind the counter finds discounts where I don’t have to pay at all).

As with most trips to the video store, one wanders the aisles debating the pros and cons of various movies. Me, I like to stick to the two-for-a-dollar films which are a little older than the new releases or the almost new releases, so I have a wide variety of slasher films and older actioners to choose from. And it never fails: I spend ten minutes milling about, finding films that I am interested in watching immediately, and it takes me a while to get the two I’m going to rent. After that, I find bunches of films I’d like to watch, too. So I’ve started writing them down and keeping a running list of things to rent in upcoming visits to cut down on my loitering. Also, this explains why all of them start with the letter R or later in the alphabet: That’s where I was when I thought of it.

At any rate, one of the things I put on the list was Ted, the movie about the talking teddy bear. After watching a couple of actioners lately (Sahara and Soldier, both in the S section, see?), I thought I’d try a comedy. Both discs they had for Ted were the unrated edition, and given the topic matter, I thought I’d go with the theatrical release when viewing it.

Boy, howdy. I expected it to be crass, but this crass? I think I’m not going to enjoy any comedies, especially R-rated comedies, made after 2000.

This film made me long for the sophistication of Adam Sandler, word. Listen, in Adam Sandler, the man-boy is presented as an aberration, and through the events of the film, he grows up somewhat and learns a life lesson. In this film, the protagonist and the bear go through some adventures and maybe learn a little, but at the end, the status quo of the man-boy is restored. Well, there is a little change, but it’s lost amid the drug use and swearing.

The presence of Sam Jones, the star of the film Flash Gordon, was an amusing touch, but that’s about the only thing I found slightly amusing in the movie.

Ah, well, back to the actioners for me.

Every time they release another one of these R-rated comedies, it bombs at the box office late. Which is good because hopefully they’ll stop making them. Unfortunately, the intelligence and sophistication of old comedies is probably beyond the reach of the current man-boys making movies, never to be recovered. So we descend closer and closer to Idiocracy‘s Ow, My Balls.

Back to the Future III: A Personal Timeline

I watched Back to the Future III with my children yesterday. We started watching the trilogy two years ago while on vacation, and it took us this long to get to the end of it. Which is less time than it took us in the 1980s, but it was long enough that they had forgotten parts of the earlier films that were relevant to the third.

But it got me to thinking about when I’d watched the film before.

I saw it in the theater in 1990. It was the first of the series I’d seen in the theater, and it was my one and only date in high school. I’d initially wanted to ask the young lady, a junior to my senior, to the Richard Marx concert (the Repeat Offender tour, using tickets I won on the radio), but when I asked a mutual friend if she was in a relationship, he said, “She would like to be.” I took this to mean she had someone in mind, but I guess it could have been anyone, even me. However, the mutual friend and I went to the Richard Marx concert instead, and some months later, I got up the nerve to ask the girl directly, and she said yes. So we went, and although I was smitten, she was not. Which has worked out all right in the long term.

When the DVD box set was released in 2002 (I remember because of the recall issued because of the framing issues), I got a set–this very set. I watched it with my beautiful wife in our home in Casinoport.

Now, it’s almost fifteen years later, and I watched it again with my children.

In none of the previous viewings did I imagine where I’d be the next time I saw it. Now, I cannot imagine where I’ll be the next time I see it. With grandchildren? Re-watching it with my children when they’re older? Or is this the last time I will see the film?

Actually, I guess I am imagining just a little bit.

Rogue One Spoilers! Must Credit MfBJN!

Well, not actually. I tweeted these bad dogs and thought I’d do a two-fer with the content by recycling it for you, gentle reader.

Yeah, I saw it, but I wasn’t entranced with it. I wonder if the Star Wars movies and the Marvel movies will have diminishing returns as the decades become saturated with them.