Random Warner Bros. – A Clockwork Orange

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator can’t shut its eyes as it watches A Clockwork Orange. (Fun with math: This is the first and only time during this blog series that the random number generator chose two movies in the correct chronological order, with this one following last week’s Dirty Harry.) 

 Here’s what happens: In the future (I think?), young Alex leads a gang of “droods,” committing unthinkable acts of violence and assault every night, solely for their own amusement. When Alex is finally arrested, the government gives him a procedure meant to turn him into a perfectly non-violent citizen. But who is really controlling who?

 Why it’s famous: It’s Stanley Kubrick at his most out-there — controversial for being a sensory overload of sex and violence, while beloved for being a sensory overload of visual style and big important ideas.

 Get your film degree: How much of the movie is science fiction and how much is pure metaphor? I cannot say. You could argue that it’s too convenient how the second half of the movie has Alex reuniting with everyone he encountered in the first half. If the movie is a metaphor, about a totalitarian state forcibly re-wiring its citizens and potentially robbing them of free will, then we need Alex to reencounter his old life to show how he has (or hasn’t?) changed.

 Movie geekishness: We all know how Kubrick likes to use classical music in place of typical film scores, but Beethoven (a.k.a. “Ludwig Van”) is practically a character in A Clockwork Orange. Alex’s love of Beethoven is a nice character detail, so that he comes off more like a real person, despite the violence he commits and the overall strangeness of the movie.

 Thoughts upon this viewing: This is a hard one to watch, but that’s by design. The intent is to provoke audiences, and leave them rattled by the time it’s over. In that sense, the movie succeeds.

 Next: All about the Benjamin.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Fantastic Friday: She’s a modern-day De’Lila

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Just after introducing the New Fantastic Four, their story already wraps up in issue #349.

Recap: De’Lila is a telepathic Skrull fugitive. She’s come to Earth in search a device called an ITT, which she hopes to use to assassinate the Skrull emperor. She’s being pursued by a group of Skrulls who have taken over the minds of the monsters at the Mole Man’s Monster Island to attack the Earth. De’Lila successfully incapacitated the Fantastic Four, and tricked Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, and Ghost Rider into becoming the New Fantastic Four (with a capital N) to fight the Skrulls. As this issue begins, De’Lila has mind-controlled Reed to do her evil bidding, and they’re confronting the New FF, the Skrulls, and the Mole Man in caves beneath Monster Island. Got all that?

The issue begins with De’Lila revealing to everyone that she’s not really Sue. She tries to convince the New FF that she’s on their side, and the other Skrulls are their enemy. The Mole Man believes her, saying he has sympathy for those who are ostracized. Ghost Rider, however, says he can sense evil and treachery in De’Lila’s words even without using his penance stare. De’Lila and Reed escape deeper into the caves, as Spider-Man deduces that Reed is not a Skrull but the real Reed under mind control. The New FF and the Mole Man venture deeper underground in pursuit.

De’Lila slows down the New FF by setting off a bomb, burying them under tons of rock. Hulk does his Secret Wars trick of holding up just enough rock to save his fellow heroes. Ghost Rider uses his super-cool flaming chains to burn a path through the rock. De’Lila full-on seduces Reed with a big ol’ kiss. She explains that the ITT isn’t one device, but a whole army of “Inorganic Techno-Troids” buried beneath the Earth.

At Four Freedoms Plaza, the Fantastic Four are now awake, to find that De’Lila has tied them together in such a way that if one of them uses his or her powers, there’s risk of harming the rest of the team. Franklin shows up having merely slept through De’Lila’s attack, and he frees the team. Roberta the robot receptionist recalls Reed’s “tell it to the marines” comment from last issue, and that somehow inspires her to track down Reed’s location at Monster Island.

Back in the caves, De’Lila and Reed find a buried spaceship, the source of the ITTs, discovering it to be long-lost Deviant technology. (The Deviants are cosmic characters from Marvel’s Eternals comics.) Reed, who still has some use of his brain despite being mind-controlled, theorizes that all the monsters on Monster Island might be long-lost Deviants. The New FF shows up, and De’Lila holds Reed hostage, forcing the Hulk to use his strength to break into the ship and retrieve the ITT.

With the New FF’s help, the Hulk retrieves an egg, which I guess will hatch into the ITTs. (It’s getting confusing up in here.) The Mole Man is the next to show up, alongside an army of Moloids, demanding that the egg belongs to him. Then the original FF show up (perfect timing!) to join the fight.

A big fight breaks out. De’Lila shape-shifts into Mary Jane Watson in an attempt to distract Spider-Man. It only works for a second, until he gets the egg away from her. It ends up with two of the monsters, a male and female. The egg hatches, and out comes an ITT (just one, not an army) in the form of a three-armed robot. The ITT imprints on the two monsters, who appear to adopt it as its child.

Reed and De’Lila kiss again, shocking his teammates. He then regains his stretching powers, and punches out De’Lila. He reveals that he still had some mental control, fighting against her telepathy the whole time. When she kissed him, he pickpocketed the disputer device she used to keep him from using his powers. Reed then kisses the real Sue, reassuring her that she’s the only one for him.

Ghost Rider further defeats De’Lila by giving her his penance stare (so cool) and the Skrull soldiers take her into custody. The Mole Man and the New FF call a temporary truce, as a Hulk vs. Moloid army fight would like destroy his entire kingdom. As the heroes leave, we see the Punisher flying overhead in a black helicopter with a skull painted on the side. (Where’d he get that?) De’Lila had also summoned him to join the New FF, but he sees his help isn’t needed, so he flies off. Cameo!

Unstable molecule: Once again, it’s inconsistent whether Reed’s genius gives him the ability to resist mental telepathy. This issue does not that De’Lila is a “low-level telepath.”

Fade out: When Sue sees De’Lila kissing Reed, she threatens to flat-out murder De’Lila. It’s established that Sue has a dark side, but would she really have followed through with that threat?

Clobberin’ time: Ben, wearing his Thing-shaped exoskeleton, fights side-by-side with the Hulk, despite their ongoing. Hulk even says he’s glad to see Ben.

Flame on: Alicia asks Johnny what form De’Lila took to trick him. Johnny lies and says it was Alicia, not admitting he’s still obsessed with Nebula after Nebula took over his mind a few issues back. (So much mind control in these comics.)

Fantastic fifth wheel: After this story, Wolverine went on to have some time travel adventures in his solo series, followed by a space adventure in X-Men, where fought a bunch of Skrulls again. Not to be outdone, the Hulk’s next adventure in his series was also to fight a bunch of Skrulls!

This Ghost Rider is the recently-debuted Danny Ketch version. Along with his role in the New FF, his next adventures were fighting the Wrecking Crew with Thor, fighting the Hobgoblin with Spider-Man, and fighting demons alongside Dr. Strange.

It was back to business for Spider-Man after this. Along with his Ghost Rider team-up, he fought Cardiac, Carnage, and a bunch of classic villains given new gadgets from Justin Hammer.

Four and a half: It’s awfully convenient that Franklin was merely asleep during De’Lila’s initial attack on the FF. Perhaps that’s just his cover story, because in this month’s issue of Power Pack, he and the Power kids were busy fighting — are you ready for this? — the Adolescent Microwaved Shellshocked Amphibians.

The Alicia problem: Alicia, who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise, is the one who tells the FF that De’Lila “must be a shape shifter.” Takes one to know one.

Commercial break: The Silver Surfer video game, famous for being so hard that it’s unplayable.

Trivia time: This New Fantastic Four story arc would later be revisited in the 2010 Spider-Man/Fantastic Four miniseries. That story takes place minutes after this one, where De’Lila briefly escapes and causes trouble about the Skrull ship until the heroes put her in her place again, all while a mysterious time traveler takes a “sample” from the ITT back to the future. The miniseries ends by revealing the time traveler is Kristoff, who in 2010 is hoping to retake the Latverian throne.

The Marvel Wiki insists that the male monster who co-adopts the ITT is Giganto, the same monster that famously appears on the cover of Fantastic Four #1. While Giganto had numerous appearances after this, this story arc is the last time we see the ITT. I guess we can assume the ITT is just lumbering around Monster Island with the rest of the monsters.

Fantastic or frightful? A fast-paced, plot-heavy issue with the character development only happening on the edges of the story. It becomes about the Reed-Sue-De’Lila triangle, so that the New Fantastic Four are reduced to mere cash-grab guest stars and not a real team at all. Wolverine fans will be especially disappointed to see him not pretty much nothing. On the plus side, Art Adams’ artwork is terrific, and there is an overall “high adventure” feel that we want from Fantastic Four — new or original.

Next: One Thing leads to another.

****

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Random Warner Bros. – Dirty Harry

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number feels lucky as it selects Dirty Harry.

 Here’s what happens: “Dirty” Harry Callahan is a homicide detective who doesn’t give a damn for the rules. He’s in pursuit of a serial killer known only as Scorpio, and no laws or bureaucracies are going to stop him.   

 Why it’s famous: Clint Eastwood as his most growly, doing his “Do you feel lucky, punk?” routine in one of the definitive gritty ‘70s cop films.

 Get your film degree: For as influential as Dirty Harry has been to the cop movie genre, it also bucks a lot of cop movie tropes. There’s no inciting incident that turns Harry from a good cop into a bad cop. Also, there are plenty of scenes with the angry police chief chewing Harry out, but the chief’s words bounce right off Harry, who just keeps on like he always does.

 Movie geekishness: Yes that’s Andrew Robinson, a.k.a. Garak from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Scorpio. He’s not a spy, just a humble tailor.

 Thoughts upon this viewing: I’m torn on this one. When it sticks to cop vs. psycho stuff, it’s a compelling thriller. When we take a break from the action, we get the movie’s downbeat politics, in which Harry does whatever he wants because the system (government, police, etc.) has failed. This dreary worldview makes it hard to enjoy the guns n’ chases action.

 Next: All about the Benjamin.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Fantastic Friday: Totally not a cash grab

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We met them in the last issue, now in issue #348 we see them in action. Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, and Ghost Rider — the New Fantastic Four!

To recap: De’Lila is a Skrull fugitive who has succeeded in incapacitating the Fantastic Four. A battleship full of Skrulls is on Earth to pursue her. They have taken over the minds of all the monsters on Monster Island to help them catch her. Posing as Sue, De’Lila has tricked Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Hulk, and Ghost Rider into thinking that the rest of the FF are dead. The four newcomers are now the New Fantastic Four (with a capital N) and are off to fight the Skrulls.

The New FF take off in a Fantasticar with the Hulk piloting (is the grey Hulk a pilot?) while Spider-Man has a scanner tracking the source of the monster invasion. Wolverine says they’ll trust the rest of the world’s armies and superheroes to deal with the monsters themselves. On Monster Island, the Mole Man shows while investigating what happened to his monsters. He finds the Skrull ship parked there.

De’Lila wakes Reed, and it’s revealed that she’s not just a Skrull, but a telepathic Skrull. She uses mind control on Reed, saying she needs his help to find an egg. Inside this egg is an “Inorganic Techno-Troid,” or ITT for short. The ITT is so well-hidden, only Reed’s science genius can find it.

Stories come in about the monsters attacking all the world’s major cities. In Washington DC, the New FF fight a big insect-like beast as it attacks an airplane. Hulk and Ghost Rider do all the punching while Spidey saves everyone on the plane. Once the fight is done, the New FF continues following the energy source, into the Bermuda Triangle. On Monster Island, the Mole Man creates a sinkhole to suck the Skrull ship underground.

De’Lila and a still mind-controlled Reed track the ITT to a location in the Catskill mountains. They find a hidden tunnel in one of the mountains. On Monster Island, the New FF have also found a hidden tunnel, leading to the underground chamber where the Mole Man, one of his giant monsters, and an army of Moloids are confronting the Skrulls. There’s a bit of comedy as the monster steps on the Hulk’s foot (!) causing the Hulk and Wolverine to fight it.

The Skrull captain tries to escape by shape-changing into the form of a rock, until the Hulk and Wolverine threaten to destroy all the rocks. Ghost Rider uses his penance stare (sweet!) on the captain, who reveals his crew is in search of some Skrull rebels who intend to assassinate the Skrull emperor.

One of the Skrulls then notices Spider-Man’s scanner — the one De’Lila gave him — recognizing it as Skrull tech. Spidey and Skrull realize that Sue is really De’Lila in disguise. That’s when De’Lila and Reed show up. (Does this mean the cave in the Catskills leads directly to an island in the Bermuda Triangle? The comic doesn’t say.) Reed, still being mind-controlled, says the only way the New FF will get Sue is through his dead body. The Hulk, believing Reed is also a Skrull in disguise, answers, “It looks like you’re going to get your wish.”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed still has some thoughts to himself as he’s being mind-controlled. He thinks De’Lila is “exciting” (!) and he tells Roberta the robot secretary (remember her?) to “tell it to the marines” as he leaves. This is foreshadowing for the next issue.

Flame on: While he’s unconscious, Johnny is shown with a large grey hood covering his head. I guess we’re meant to think this prevents him from using his powers.

Fantastic fifth wheel: There are two schools of thought on the New Fantastic Four. One is that they’re a blatant cash grab. The other is that they’re a parody of a blatant cash grab. (This issue’s cover boasts “The world’s most commercialest comic magazine,” suggesting that Marvel is in on the joke.) The big question for this blog is whether the New FF means these four can now be considered alternate members of the Fantastic Four. It’s always been my opinion that the New FF is its own team, separate from the regular FF. Ben would agree, it seems, because in the Thing series from 2006, Spider-Man mentions the New FF, and Ben says, “You think that counts?”

Commercial break: This never worked, did it?

Trivia time: The New FF would later re-team to fight the Sinister Six in Amazing Spider-Man, with Sleepwalker taking Ghost Rider’s place. The New FF also appeared in Secret Defenders and Fear Itself. In the video game Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, it’s possible to play as the New Fantastic Four, with the game’s narrator announcing them as such.

Fantastic or frightful? This is such a fast-paced issue with so much going on that there’s little sense of how this new team works as a team. It’s a bad issue for Wolverine fans, as Wolvie keeps getting sidelined in favor of the other three. On the plus side, the issue is packed with a lot of humor and action — and who doesn’t love giant monsters?

Next: Battle “four” all.

****

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Random Warner Bros. – Risky Business

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator fusses over its expensive glass egg as it selects Risky Business.

 Here’s what happens: Teen Joel’s well-to-do parents are going out of town for a few days, leaving him in charge of the house while they’re gone. Joel is a serious, studious type, but his friends encourage him to cut loose. After a few comedic mishaps, Joel ends up entangled with a prostitute, Lana, and her “manager,” Guido the Killer Pimp.

 Why it’s famous: Young Tom Cruise, dancing in his pajamas and sunglasses, lip-syncing to “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Also one of the bigger examples of the “teen sex comedy” wave of the ‘80s.

 Get your film degree: While most movies on this kind are low-budget trashy affairs (*coughPorkyscough*) Risky Business is a shiny, glossy studio film, with a moody Tangerine Dream score. Writer-director Paul Brickman has done very little outside of Risky Business, his only other well-known credit is as screenwriter for 1999’s Clint Eastwood flick True Crime.

 Movie geekishness: Aside from stars Tom Cruise and Rebecca DeMornay, the movie features a ton of cult actors such as Joey Pantoliano, Bronson Pinchot, and Curtis Armstrong. This is a comedy with not a lot of jokes, with Armstrong delivering most of the gags as the horndog best friend.

 Thoughts upon this viewing: I don’t know. This one starts off as a John Hughes-style teen romp, but then makes a jarring left turn into a drama about prostitution and capitalism. I can understand why the movie is well-liked, but Ferris Bueller is more my style.

 Next: Row, row, row your boat.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Random Warner Bros. – Goodfellas

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator moved slow, because it doesn’t have to move for anybody, when it selected Goodfellas.

 Here’s what happens: Based on the true story, it’s the rise and fall of gangster Henry Hill. We get the big money and the fancy nightclubs, as well as the behind-closed-doors interpersonal tensions and occasional outbursts of violence that come with such a lifestyle.

 Why it’s famous: A Martin Scorsese crime epic — for some, the definitive Martin Scorsese crime epic. It takes a “daily life” approach to depicting organized crime.

 Get your film degree: Your screenwriting 101 teacher will tell you never, ever, ever to use voiceover narration. Goodfellas usually gets a pass because the voiceover adds both exposition and character flavor. Where the movie loses me, though, is when it adds a second voiceover from a second character. This is where the voiceover info and flavor become redundant and, dare I say, unnecessary.

 Movie geekishness: It’s true, I don’t enjoy Goodfellas as much as others. But don’t get me wrong — there’s a lot about it I do like. All the performances are top-notch, especially Ray Liotta’s single-minded loyalty to the mob (until it all comes crashing down, that is) and Joe Pesci as an always-on-the-verge-of-exploding psycho.

 Thoughts upon this viewing: For as beloved as Goodfellas is, I’ve always thought it a mixed bag. The acting is great across the board and many scenes really shine. But then the episodic nature of the script and that freakin’ second voiceover frustrate me. The good still outweighs the bad, though.

 Next: The dream is always the same.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Fantastic Friday: Out with the old

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. One of the most famous (infamous?) FF stories of the 90s is the New Fantastic Four (with a capital N), which begins in issue #347.

Art Adams temporarily takes over artwork duties from Walt Simonson, who is still scripting. Adams brings his trademark cartoony style to FF. We begin with a damaged spaceship crashing on Earth. An alien woman, whose face we don’t see, survives the crash and swears revenge on those who forced her to come to Earth.

At FF headquarters, Reed and Sue are playing with Franklin, who appears to have recovered nicely from the events of Days of Future Present. Johnny is spending most of his time in isolation, not speaking to Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise). This is because Johnny is still haunted by thoughts of Nebula, after she took over his mind a few issues back. Similarly, Sharon doesn’t want to spend time with Ben, because she’s having a tough time being a Thing after temporarily becoming human again in the last few issues.

Out in space, a Skrull battleship is on the way to Earth. The Skrulls are in pursuit of a fugitive named De’Lila. Although not stated outright, it’s clear that De’Lila is the space woman from the opening scene. Back at HQ, De’Lila takes the shape of a beautiful woman to seduce/sneak her way past security. Using a stun device she wears as a ring, she works her way through the whole team. She shape-shifts as Nebula to stun Johnny. She shape-shifts as Alicia to stun Ben. She shape-shifts as Ben to stun Sharon, and she shape-shifts as Namor to stun Sue. Finally, she shape-shifts as Sue to stun Reed, but the stunner doesn’t work as well on Reed’s elastic form. They fight, until she succeeds in knocking him out.

The Skrulls arrive on Earth, tracking what they say are some “Skrull-like” creatures. It’s all the monsters on Monster Island, which you’ll remember is the home of the giant creatures controlled by the Mole Man. The Skrulls use “slave darts” to take over the monsters’ minds and use them to help find De’Lila somehow. Underground, the Mole Man learns about this and swears revenge.

At HQ, De’Lila is still in the form of Sue, sees a news report about giant monsters on the move, and she knows this means her pursuers have come for her. She starts researching other Marvel heroes. Later, Spider-Man shows up, saying his spider-sense has somehow drawn him to FF HQ. He meets Wolverine and the Hulk outside the building. They have similarly been drawn there. A security guard meets them at the door, saying Sue (really De’Lila) had summoned four heroes, and wonders where the fourth is. On cue, Ghost Rider comes riding up.

Note that this is Danny Ketch, the second Ghost Rider, who had just recently been introduced. The other characters don’t yet comment on this. There’s a little bit of action as Spidey, Wolverine and the Hulk chase Ghost Rider into the building. There, they meet De’Lila in disguise as Sue, who convinces them that Reed, Ben, Jonny, Alicia, and Sharon are all dead. Ghost Rider kinda/sorta confirms this, using his ability to sense whenever innocent blood has been spilled.

De’Lila explains that she summed the four heroes with Reed’s “mental alarm resonator” for help. Further, De’Lila says the FF’s killers are the ones who summoned the giant monsters. She gives Spider-Man a “sub-photonic spectro-analyzer” to help them find these assassins. Spider-Man, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and Wolverine agree to work together, with Wolverine announcing, “Just call us the New FF.”

Unstable molecule: We see Reed in the lab, working on the Rad-D device, which kicked off the time-travel plot back in issue #337. He says his modifications will give time travelers an emergency exit immediately back to the present in case anything goes wrong.

Fade out: Sue mentions she learned that Namor had recently devoted himself to saving the environment, referencing Sue recently guest-starring in Namor #3-4.

Clobberin’ time: Ben buys Sharon tickets for the Desert Rose Band, a real-life country/rock hybrid band formed by Chris Hillman, formerly of the Byrds. Not sure why this reference made it into the comic, but okay.

Flame on: Johnny is so overwhelmed with thoughts about Nebula that he burns up a book in his hands. Alicia/Lyja doesn’t seem too alarmed by this.

Fantastic fifth wheel: This story arc finds members of the New FF just wrapping up some big stories individually. Spider-Man just recovered from the Powerless storyline that had him be an ordinary human for a while. Wolverine just got his freedom back after being a prisoner in Genosha during X-Tinction Agenda. The Hulk is here dueling three personalities — his smart-but-brutish grey form, good old Bruce Banner, and the classic “Hulk smash” green Hulk. Danny Ketch just recently became Ghost Rider, and is still mourning the death of his sister Barbara.

Four and a half: Reed has a line of dialogue about giving Franklin “the power of his birthright.” I’m assuming this refers to Franklin absorbing the powers from his future self during Days of Future Present. Also, in Power Pack the same month as this issue, Franklin begins public school, where he’s smart enough to attend class with kids a few years older than him.

The Alicia problem: Lyja can tell right away that De’Lila is a Skrull, and De’Lila takes out Lyja with a punch instead of the stun device. Is it possible that De’Lila figured out Lyja’s secret?

Commercial break: This game was prominently featured in an episode of Stranger Things. Now I really want to see the Stranger Things kids wearing these sweaters.

Trivia time: It’s not mentioned in this issue, but all Skrulls have recently regained their ability to shape-shift. It happened in the second Kree-Skrull war, in which the Silver Surfer, the Super-Skrull, and Skrull Empress S’Byll restored their powers.

Fantastic or frightful? Is this story arc an obnoxious cash grab, a mere excuse to get a bunch of better-selling Marvel characters in this book? We’ll dig deeper into answering that in upcoming issues. As far as this one goes, I’d argue that it does a good job up upping the stakes, making readers feel that four heavy hitters are needed.

Next: Mutants and Hulks and demons, oh my.

****

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Random Warner Bros. – Singin’ in the Rain

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator talked the whole night through after it chose Singin’ in the Rain.

 Here’s what happens: In old-timey Hollywood, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the biggest stars around. In transition from silent films to sound, Lina’s shrill voice just isn’t cutting it. Don begins a romance with actress Kathy Selden and, with the help of goofball friend Cosmo, they hatch a plan to redo the movie, replacing Lina’s voice with Kathy’s.

 Why it’s famous: Gene Kelly is back, once again singing and dancing like crazy, this time joined by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, and a supporting cast all bringing their best to the table. Also catchy tunes, big laughs, and top notch production value.

 Get your film degree: Behind-the-scenes stories of Singin’ in the Rain describe Gene Kelly as a tyrant on set, equal parts relentless perfectionism and Everest-sized ego. A few weeks ago, I watched An American in Paris, which was all about Gene being the coolest guy in the room. Singin’ in the Rain is a huge improvement, however, because not only is Gene one part of an ensemble, but he’s not afraid to play the clown, and is often the butt of the joke. It makes him feel like a real person instead of just “Gene Kelly: Superstar.”

 Movie geekishness: In addition to the top three stars, not enough good can be said about Jean Hagen as Lina. Not only is she hilarious, but the scene where she reveals she leaked info to the newspapers is some grade-A movie villainy. Darth Vader, Hannibal Lector, and Freddy Krueger look at her in that scene and say, “Now that’s evil.”

 Thoughts upon this viewing: With my busy schedule, I had to put on Singin’ in the Rain to play in the background while I packed to go out of town. Even in this less-than-ideal viewing situation, the movie still drew me in, and I had a great time with it.

 Next: Who wants pasta?

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Fantastic Friday: Days of future when?

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Annual #23 was part one of the Days of Future Present crossover, which got a lot hype at the time for being the big follow up to the classic X-Man tale Days of Future Present. It has the FF’s Franklin sharing center stage with the X-Men’s Rachel Summers.

The FF are returning home from a picnic (!) to find that their new headquarters, Four Freedoms Plaza, has disappeared and is replaced by a recreation of the original Baxter Building. The FF fight their way through the building’s old-school security devices, marveling at how it’s a perfect recreation of how it looked when they started their superhero careers. They then confront another Fantastic Four, perfect replicas of the team from their early issues.

The classic FF defeats the new FF (or perhaps the new FF lets themselves be defeated) and the two Reeds try to sort out what’s happened, theorizing either time travel or an alternate dimension. Classic Sue mentions her son Franklin, and out walks a fully-grown adult Franklin. Adult franklin freaks out when he sees the new FF, and he flies off, using destructive new superpowers we’ve never seen before. The FF find themselves back in Four Freedoms Plaza as if nothing had ever happened, except the building is now surrounded by a force field, preventing them from leaving.

We cut to a lighthouse in coastal England, home of the X-Men spinoff team Excalibur. There, mutants Rachel Summers and Meggan are relaxing in the sun, wearing what appear to be togas. Rachel talks about her hazy memories of the post-apocalypse future she came here from. Rachel feels a jolt of energy, saying she’s being called somewhere.

In New York, X-Men Banshee and Forge are out for a stroll, when the adult Franklin appears before them. Franklin freaks out again, thinking the two are dead. He flies off again. In a place located “between here and now,” a mysterious figure is notified of a “code red time emergency.” The mystery man tells his computer to launch a Sentinel attack.

Banshee and Forge show up at FF headquarters, just as the sentinels attack the FF. These sentinels are all in the form of miniature spaceships — look closely and you can see one is a tiny Enterprise from Star Trek. Sue traps the Sentinels in a force field, and they self-destruct rather than be taken apart for information. This also destroys the barrier around the building.

The FF and the two X-Men track down adult Franklin at the Power family’s apartment, where he and the Power Pack kids are innocently playing hide and seek. The kids assume that the adult Franklin is a dream projection of young Franklin’s dream powers. As the FF prepare to take adult Franklin back to headquarters, adult Franklin vanishes. We then see that there’s a new building in the place of Four Freedoms Plaza, with a huge letter X on the side.

That’s the “to be continued” for this story, which crosses over into New Mutants annual #6, X-Factor annual #5, and Uncanny X-Men annual #14. It’s revealed that the adult Franklin is a dream-projection, sent back in time by the real adult Franklin just before he died in Rachel’s post-apocalyptic future. He’s traveled from the future in hopes of fixing everything that’s gone wrong in his timeline. The mystery man is Ahab, who was Rachel’s master when she was a brainwashed mutant-hunting “hound” in the future. The FF and a whole bunch of mutants fight and defeat Ahab. It ends when adult Franklin’s dream-self dissipates, his powers transferred into his younger self.

Back to annual #23, it also has two backup stories. The first is a Volcana solo story, where she learns she a small amount of the Molecule Man’s powers, which he gave her before he took off with the Beyonder. The second backup shows what happened after Molecule Man and the Beyonder merged to form a new cosmic cube. The cube transforms into a female cosmic being named Kosmos. (So… does this mean she’s their daughter?)  She meets up with fellow cosmic being Kubik. He teaches her all about the other Marvel cosmic beings, such as the Watchers, the Celestials, and Eternity. Kosmos is then left to explore, and find her own place in the universe.

Unstable molecule: Reed and Forge use Forge’s able-to-build-anything powers to soup up the Fantasticar, so now it has highly advanced scanning gear.

Fade out: Sue still has her elevator signal device in her belt from the original Baxter Building, even though the building was destroyed some time ago. She says she’s hung onto it for sentimental reasons. It does conveniently help them get into the building.

Clobberin’ time: Throughout the crossover, the mutant characters still call Ben “Thing,” even though he’s human now.

Flame on: In the FF vs. FF fight, the two Human Torches are somehow able to hurt each other with just their fire powers. I guess this is because one of them is a dream construct.

Fantastic Fifth Wheel: In a later part of the crossover, Sharon meets everyone from X-Factor for the first time, except that they already met, back in the Fall of the Mutants crossover. It’s almost as if these X-Men crossovers are hard to keep track of.

Four and a half: Again, during this time it’s hard to pin down just what Franklin’s power are or how powerful he is. Adult Franklin can create living creatures from his dreams, which can apparently think and live independently from him, which is scary. Franklin being able to rewrite reality like this will come again later. On a more amusing note, young Franklin is seen holding a stuffed tiger that’s a dead ringer for Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes.

Commercial break: Ninja!

Trivia time: The big dramatic moment in Days of Future Present is when Jean Grey meets her future-daughter Rachel for the first time. It doesn’t go well, leading to that X-Men soap opera drama we all love. Days of Future Present is also the first time that all the X-Men (other than Storm) meet Gambit for the first time.

Fantastic or Frightful? Days of Future Present is an intriguing story, full of time travel and far-out dream worlds, but the artwork is a disaster. Allegedly, the assigned artists couldn’t meet deadline, so they were replaced with others to get pages drawn as hurriedly as possible. It shows, and the wholly ugly artwork makes the whole crossover unreadable.

Next: Out with the old, in with the new.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Random Warner Bros. – Casablanca

Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. This week the random number generator must remember this as it selected Casablanca.

 Here’s what happens: In pre-WWII Morocco, Rick’s Café, run by mystery man Rick Blaine, is the place to be, an international safe (or not-so-safe) haven from the tensions in Europe. Rick gets ahold of some exit visas, and freedom fighter Lazlo wants them. One complication: Lazlo is married to Rick’s ex, Ilsa, who still has feelings for Rick.

 Why it’s famous: Too many reasons to list. As one of the most influential films ever made, its impact on movie history reaches far and wide.

 Get your film degree: Allegedly, this was a studio “assembly line” film, and no one making it expected it to be as big of a hit that it was. How, then, did it become an Oscar-winning classic? Just a case of all the right talent in the right place at the right time, with director, writer, cast and crew bringing out their best.

 Movie geekishness: How about the big scene at the end where Rick and Ilsa say goodbye? It’s a greatest hits of famous, quotable movie lines, one after the next after the next. The dialogue is so classic and so memorable, that I had completely forgot there’s an Old West-style shootout that follows.

 Thoughts upon this viewing: Having familiarized myself with the movie’s twisty-turny plot, this time I went ahead and followed the emotional core of the story, the Rick and Ilsa relationship, which is, I’m guessing, how most folks watch this. I imagine this is the type of movie where there’s something new to discover every time you watch it.

 Next: Ninety percent chance of showers.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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