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Brewster McCloud (1970)
Classic H-town - Timeless
I have seen the film on Turner Classic Movies - one thing that I have noticed was a Houston, TX of the past, which has virtually changed for the past 34 years. The Astrodome is still there, only that it's westside now has a larger facility known today as Reliant Stadium.
When I watched the film a few days before the Super Bowl - I have noticed that several Houston-area locations have changed - especially in front of the former M & M Building (now the University of Houston - Downtown) where Stacy Keach was rollin' downhill in a wheelchair right after an old Houston Police cruiser drives past by. Today, a light rail line has been constructed, and if I had the DeLorean from the Back to the Future trilogy - I would like to experience the "old" H-town.
Cult Favorite for Hip-Hop fans
I first seen Juice when I was 19, and I used to recall when YO! MTV Raps used to air the behind the scenes when this film was made.
This might be the only film that 2Pac had hair, until he shaved it off (watch the video for Trapped - from his 2Pacalypse Now album). Although the film was all original, right down to the script, Tupac's portrayal of Bishop is typical of Inner City youth who are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, violence, and gangs. The character morphs from the typical ghetto youth who has no role models to a psychopathic/sociopathic villain with a Hitchcockian twist. I recall when Tupac and Q's scene in the hallway would have been another classic Hitchcock scene, where he peaked as the ultimate villain, unlike Laurence Fishburne in What's Love Got to Do With It as Ike Turner. I recall the quote from the film when he states "U ready to die, nigga?" in front of Q - it reminded me of young black males who always were sent to the principal's office at my old high school who later ended up in the penitentary.
All of the 4 youths depicted in the film - only two lived through the violence, except for Tupac and Khalil Kain's portrayal of a baby-daddy/gangbanger. Although DJing as a tenured career may not be rock-solid for ghetto youth, Q's portrayal of taking his responsibility further as a successful DJ - was his friend's deviances worth it?
Watch for an early Samuel L. Jackson and his wife in the film, along with a young N'Bushe Wright as one of Raheem's ex-girlfriends.
Trading Places (1983)
I recall seeing this on cable several years ago, and one thing I recall was to watch the scene in front of the World Trade Center where Louis and Billy Ray disembark from a taxicab, which is Ground Zero today. This may be one timeless classic where the World Trade Center plays an important role, only that the scenes are preserved on film for eons.
I'd recommend this for a film collection where the Twin Towers once stood; I would like to see them rebuilt again to their former glory. A Manhattan Island without the Twin Towers is like a Houston, TX without the Shamrock Hilton.
Escape from New York (1981)
Shaft the Tormentor?
I used to see this cult favorite on HBO in the 1980s, especially the character of the Duke (Isaac Hayes). Why cast Mr. Shaft as a villain? If anyone had seen this film years ago, one would never play the Shaft theme again.
Pop culturalists should note the Duke's Cadillac with chandeliers on the front fenders, which depicts an 'art car' in a major film. ESNY was the first film to depict a decked-out automobile; if anyone ever travels to Houston, TX, there is an art car museum located on Heights Blvd. Sorry, the Cadillac isn't there on display.
Rent either Shaft, Truck Turner, Three Tough Guys, or I'm Gonna Git You Sucka instead, if anyone is traumatized by Isaac Hayes' portrayal of a heinous villain.
It came true again...
I have seen this on HBO several times, and no one would expect that the plot wasn't over. The 1993 attempt might have failed, and no one would expect the REAL disaster several years later.
REMEMBER SEPTEMBER 11, 2001!!! WE MUST REBUILD AND RECOVER.
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
Every blaxploitation flick was parodied in the Wayans' breakthrough parody, long before Don't Be a Menace (1996) and Scary Movie (2000). Damon Wayans is no equal for Doodlebug, but his Doodlebug spoof (e.g. take the stairs or out the stairs) with a retarded Kadeem Hardison (White Men Can't Jump, Vampire in Brooklyn) would make anyone watch this again and again. The Kung Fu Joe depiction spoofed Three The Hard Way (1974), but no one can match Jim Kelly (Enter The Dragon, Black Belt Jones), and another thing is noticeable throughout the film: a Shaft parody, with Shaft's theme music. Before Carmen Electra's spoof of Baywatch in Scary Movie, there was Flyguy (with goldfish heels!!!) and the inner city Olympics (the sprint contest with a TV set and a 1980s-era Chevrolet Nova being stripped to the undercarriage)!
A pre-HBO Chris Rock has a brief cameo, and he is referred to as a 'greasy Jeri Curl-wearin' by no other than Issac Hayes himself. Fans of the other Wayans parodies should have this in their video collection.
After renting the flick, what I have seen was a parody of romance and womanizing. Even the diner scene, where two elderly women referenced to Ocean Spray products, was like the old lady in When Harry Met Sally... (1989), when she wanted to order the same dessert Meg Ryan had. Neither of the three scammers has the machismo of either Shaft, James Bond, or Austin Powers, but with Amanda Peet as the woman to think twice before asking her phone number, one would have the impression that everyone should see Martin Lawrence being stalked by Lynn Whittfield in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996).
The vibrator scene ended with a Truck Turner (1974) reference of exiting the bathroom stinkin', and throughout the film, there are a few instances that Amanda Peet was showin' her Whoopi Goldberg teeth several times. Although the vulgar overtones wasn't the same as a Quentin Tarantino cult favorite (e.g. Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction), especially with Brian Van Holt as the ultimate QT impersonator as Brad (watch how he picks up his women, but no one can be like the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree), some might consider this classic as a throwaway, but as a result, I rather purchase a ticket for Saving Silverman instead. Where's the good talent? They should have casted Ben Affleck, Seth Green, and Ryan Phillippe instead, and die-hard Amanda Peet fans would have nightmares after seeing this film (not to mention Saving Silverman).
Year of the Dragon (1985)
Scarface gangsta flick - with a dose of Fu Manchu
Much like Scarface (1983), and New Jack City (1991), the film might be controversial, especially with the negative portrayal of Asian Americans, especially the negative labels of cliched Asian stereotypes (e.g. illegal sweatshops, illegal gambling, prostitution, female TV anchors, and Scarface-esque gangsters). I first saw this movie in 1985, when I was 12, but to this day, this film has the usual violence, stemming from police brutality and racism.
Unlike the later films like The Corruptor (1999) or The Replacement Killers (1997), this classic can be considered a Scarface copycat, like New Jack City. Ice-T stated that "there will be another one after me" in regards to a younger protege rising to the top, a la the innovator, like Al Capone. The portrayal of Joey Tai is a reference to a modern-day Fu Manchu, even down to the dialogue.
True Romance (1993)
Quentin Tarantino's influences are depicted, like in his other films, but although he sold the script to finance Reservoir Dogs (1992), the storyline was close to the original adaptation, except for a few noted differences (e.g. the alternate ending and the absence of Tarantino alumni like Tim Roth et.al.). To this day, this film has a lot of QT influences, even if he didn't had the chance to direct one, where he had to let something go to work on another masterpiece (Reservoir Dogs, 1992).
Truck Turner (1974)
Uhura's Alter Ego?
Seeing this blaxploitation classic for the first time revealed a lot more, and I used to see part of a clip of this film on MTV, when they used to have a TV show called Liquid Television, which aired around 1992. The only scene that I can recall was when Issac Hayes stated that "tell them you've been hit by a truck." Issac Hayes might have earned the Oscar a few years back for the Shaft theme, and at one time, a candidate for Shaft. Although the music score (compliments of Issac Hayes) was a little funkier than Shaft (1971), there were a lot of themes common with the blaxploitation genre, like pimp hats and Cadillacs. One thing that Star Trek fans will notice is Nichelle Nichols as a foul-mouthed madam who beats up women, which was at the right time, where Star Trek reruns were popular, and Trek alumni had to find other employment.
Yaphet Kotto might have held an orange kitty cat (shades of The Godfather and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, or Dr. Evil), but portrays another villain, this time, more menacing than Dr. Kananga from Live and Let Die (1973). He does not hit women this time, but has ties to the mob, where in one scene, his "insurance company" consisted of Mafia hitmen, where he would avenge a former pimp's death as retribution, and finally meets his maker. Although Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Laurence Fishburne, and Bill Duke have transcended beyond blaxploitation, the classic scene where Issac Hayes stares at the camera has been copied to this day, and even Quentin Tarantino were influenced by timeless classics.
Body Shots (1999)
Pulp Fiction and Dating
After seeing the film on video, the opening sequence might be another reference to Quentin Tarantino's use of the multiple time frames, but this film details how dating in the '90s is like. In the last decade, stalking, safe sex, and sexual harassment have been media-savvy topics for debate, and after watching this film, one would expect what dating is like these days. The days of the womanizer, like James Bond, Shaft, or Austin Powers might belong in another genre, where the young urban professional has taken the place of the former.
It's hard to be the player, and the womanizer, however, the 4 couples experience their own version of how their date turned out. One was shocking, with the issue of date rape, while the others (the fellatio in the parking lot, and the dominatrix) might be leaned toward sexual inneundo. The only dating experience that has a lot of latitude was the one between Sean Patrick Flanery (a native East Fort Bend County native, like myself) and Amanda Peet. They should have casted Ryan Phillippe and Angelina Jolie for the couple that ended up with their version of how alcohol abuse leads to date rape.
The character of Jane was suited for Amanda Peet, since what I have seen was emotional, especially with the scenes where she and Tara Reid are together (with the Bond girl and her friend), outlining the legal system and the overall outcome of rape/sexual assault in a court of law. Not every rape case is prosecuted, because one must look at the facts, and apply an attribution of one's behavior when a jury has to fit the puzzle together.
Catfish in Black Bean Sauce (1999)
After seeing the film, much of what was portrayed on screen was similar to the community that I live in today, which is in East Fort Bend County, east of Missouri City, in a section of Houston, TX that is located in Fort Bend County. Chi Mui Lo, who was a West Philly resident, and myself, a mixed-race Asian, were acculturated and assimilated around African American culture, but in real life, I prefer American pop culture as opposed to traditonialism. Much of the usual stereotypes were attacked seriously (similar to Hollywood Shuffle), especially when Chi Mui Lo does a Chris Tucker impersonation! A friend of mine used to state that "you're not Black, and why do U act like this?", and after seeing this film, the Chris Tucker impersonation was how I used to be when I was in high school, only to imitate the Doodlebug character from Cleopatra Jones (1973).
LOLs, especially with the transvestite/gay Asian, flashbacks, nightmares, and a Jerry Springer-esque scene that would make anyone see this film again.
After seeing this timeless classic, the film is based upon the life of Henri "Papillon" Charriere, a safecracker framed for the murder of a pimp. Before the United Nations charter in 1945, European nations had a way to rid their population of convicted felons by deportation to an overseas territory. Modern nations like the United States and Australia were founded as a result of deporting convicted felons from Europe, especially to rid the problem concerning "surplus populations." This film portrayed the last vestiges of colonialism, where convicted felons would serve their time, and either remain there for life, or become colonists.
Much of the film was close to Henri Charriere's autobiography, and Steve McQueen's portrayal of a convicted felon was a homage to both Captain Hilts (The Great Escape) and Doc McCoy (The Getaway). One characteristic of the film was the portrayal of the brutality of the French penal system, especially the use of the guillotine, where the "worst of the worst" were dealt with harshly.
Much like Malcolm X (1992) and The Hurricane (1999), this would be a timeless classic. Even The Green Mile (1999) and The Shawshank Redemption (1995) are great films, but Papillon has a class of its own. Colonialism might be over, and after seeing this timeless classic, one would experience the grim reality of colonial life.
Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
Mutant Alien-esque Monsters Raping Young Women
When I first saw this flick at 8 years old, the only scene that gave me the nightmares was the fetus-burster (similar to Species II). At the time, I didn't want to think about natural childbirth again, until I saw Species II (1998), the fetus-burster reminded me of this classic. The woman that dies on the operating table at the end of the film should have had an abortion, instead of spraying blood.
In this film, the mutants only know to rip off bikini tops (the mutant fish love naked bOObs, and feel horny), rape young women, and multiply, especially during the rape scenes. The only scene that might be silly is the scene where the radio DJ is mauled, and the Salmon Queen about to be attacked, and loses her bikini top (too bad that her bOObs weren't silicone-augmented, but she ends up with scars on her chest). I didn't mind the depiction of the topless scenes (naked bOObs that look like silicone implants), but if anyone wants to see a fetus burster or topless scenes, rent Species II or a Playboy video instead.
Huang mian lao hu (1974)
Silly and Mediocre
After seeing this flick, the voices of everyone (African American, Caucasian, and Oriental) were dubbed. Even the sound effects were trashy, like the constant "police sirens" sound effect during the police precinct scenes, as well as the sounds of the cars firing up, which sounds like a 4-cylinder import, not to mention the bull-whip sound effects when someone is punched or karate-chopped.
They should have had the Caucasian and African American voices heard normally, instead of some British accented voice-over. LOLs, when hearing an African American sounding like a Brit, as well as the dubbing of Chuck Norris' voice. The only thing worth hearing is the 70's score, common with the blaxploitation genre.
Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a flight attendant, who is legitimately employed, and earns $16,000/yr, and works a second job by delivering money (over $10,000) to Samuel L. Jackson, who is an arms dealer, with a "crack ho" beach bunny, portrayed by Bridget Fonda. Jackie Brown might not be your average flight attendant; she is a convicted felon, busted for carrying drugs for her husband, and in her current profession, she smuggles and delivers money to Ordell Robbie (Jackson). Eventually, she gets busted (for carrying $50,000 and possession of cocaine), but this is just the beginning. The portrayal of Ordell Robbie is another reference to the innovator, who engages in illegitimate sub rosa goals to achieve success, much like Al Capone and Meyer Lansky. The real-life criminals like Capone or Lansky is similar to the portrayals of the fictional characters Tony Montana (Scarface), Nino Brown (New Jack City), Dylan Malone (Catch Me If You Can), or the kid from Fresh (1994).
Jackie Brown might be the only Quentin Tarantino flick that stands alone from his other films, like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. One thing that I noticed was that the recurring alumni (e.g. Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, and Tarantino himself) weren't casted. Samuel L. Jackson was the only Tarantino alumni that was in the film, but he did another breakthrough by casting Hollywood has-beens (e.g. Robert Forester, Pam Grier, Sid Haig, and Michael Bowen) from 70s and 80s films and TV shows (e.g. Sharky's Machine, Across 110th Street, Detroit 9000, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Mean Streets, martial arts classics, and numerous 1970's-era blaxploitation films). Maybe it was the videos that Tarantino might have viewed while being employed as a video store clerk back in the 1980s.
She has a choice of serving time, or cooperate with the cops, to bring down Ordell Robbie. Excellent plot twists, especially when Robbie threatens Max Cherry (Robert Forester) in his Cadillac. Lots of cameos in this Tarantino flick, like Chris Tucker (who ends up killed in the trunk of an Oldsmobile), and Aimee Graham (Heather Graham's younger sister) as a sales lady in a department store. She REALLY looks like a clone of her sister from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, without the shagadelic attitude! Another thing that I noticed was the Tarantino trademark of 70s music, especially R & B/funkadelic tunes like Across 110th Street (Bobby Womack), Didn't You Blow Your Mind This Time (The Delfonics), and Street Life (Randy Crawford).
Date Rape: A Young Woman's Personal Experience
Date rape is one of the unreported crimes in America, and I have seen this short film in a criminal justice class that was an elective before getting my baccalaurate degree in 1997. The young woman was victimized twice, and felt victimized by the second incident when the acquaintance forced himself upon her. The first time that the alleged sexual assault took place was after a few bottles of champagne, and details the dark myth of alcohol abuse and sexual assault. The 1990s might be deemed as the decade of the woman, since stalking, date rape, and sexual harassment have been portrayed by the media and how laws can be changed.
The university kept the date rape as an internal matter, and Katie Koestner's story might be one out of a million where women have gone public about how date rape is never brought before a court of law. The conclusion, with the REAL Katie Koestner, was based on actual statistics, and how others should do when sexual assault is dealt with. Not all cases are prosecuted, since a lot of rape cases are either dismissed and/or tried in a court of law.
Unlike Fresh (1994), New Jack City (1991), Catch Me If You Can (1989), or Scarface (1983), this short film details the life of Eddie Matos, who comes from a broken home, and becomes a drug dealer after dropping out of school at an early age. His typology of the innovator is similar to Fresh or Scarface, but his life is cut short. The quick money is there, but before the end, he ends up shot by Sergio, a rival drug dealer, and this event confines Matos to a wheelchair for life.
At the end of the short film, it's sad to see the real Eddie Matos in a wheelchair, a paraplegic, like Ron Kovic, since the quick money and lifestyle of a drug dealer is cut short. Everyone wants a six-figure income, and it's better earning a six-figure salary in the NBA rather than in the streets of New York.
The Hurricane (1999)
An ode to Racism and Institutional Discrimination
The film depicts the life of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a framed athlete that is serving a life sentence. Throughout the film, racism and institutional discrimination play a key role, especially with a racist cop (Dan Hedaya), and the turbulent 60s, during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement.
Norman Jewison might be an outstanding director, since he directed a couple of films that depicted racism, like In the Heat of the Night (1967), and A Soldier's Story (1985). After watching this film, seeing Rubin Carter in prison might be analogous to the life of Nelson Mandela, where a miscarriage of justice still exists. Like The Green Mile (1999), where Michael Clarke Duncan is a death row inmate, Denzel Washington is a lifer, who has nothing to lose.
Anyone who is familiar with the Alabama railroad boys case would enjoy this film.
Catch Me If You Can (1989)
Drag Racer, High School, and the Gambing Syndicate
Unlike Fresh (1994), where a young, 12 year old African American male pushes drugs in the Brooklyn community, this film has another reference to the innovator, a typology coined by sociologist Robert Merton, where an individual would like to have a share of culturally defined goals, but reject the legitimate means to achieve success. In this film, the local high school is on the verge of being closed, and the student council president (Loryn Locklin) and the principal (Geoffrey Lewis) must come up with $200,000 to save the school from its demise. When Matt Lattanzi steps in, this is where the plot twist occurs.
The Malone character engages in illegitimate sub rosa activity, by illegal street racing for money, and when all legitimate efforts fail during the fundraiser, the last resort is illegal street racing, when $3000 of the fundrainser money is betted on a street race. Unknowingly to the high school students, they are dealing with the gambling syndicate, and the loan sharks that run the illegal street racing. Lots of classic cars in this film, which includes a 1968 Chevelle and a 1957 Chevrolet, and watch for the ultimate plot twist where the principal used to be a legendary drag racer! Why does he hide his car on the schoolgrounds? Because his home used to be located there.
Jerry Springer might have parodied his hit talk show on screen, and all of the elements that are common to the REAL show are referenced (e.g. foul language, cuss words, women flashing their boobs, and fighting). When Jerry first had his talk show, none of the trashy elements were present, and after the Richard Bey Show was taken off the air, Jerry decided to continue the trend. Rent one of his home videos instead, since this film would make anyone change the channel, or watch and laugh. Even my former college professor wouldn't watch Jerry Springer anymore, since he has become the worst role model for anyone to look up to.
Forced Vengeance (1982)
Hong Kong Mobster Flick
Chuck Norris is a Hong Kong security guard, in a casino, which is run by his adopted family, a Jewish American immigrant (David Opatoshu). He refuses to accept an offer from a rival mobster (Michael Cavanaugh, who starred in a couple of Clint Eastwood flicks), and is killed. One scene that is disgusting is where David Opatoshu's daughter is kidnapped, and Chuck Norris' girlfriend (Mary Louise Weller of Animal House fame) raped and murdered. A little more intriguing than An Eye for An Eye (1981), but this was the second Norris flick that he portrayed a Vietnam vet.
If watching his infomercial for the Total Fitness Gym with Christie Brinkley, this was the first time that he used an exercise product during filming the movie.
007 Goes to The Final Frontier
In You Only Live Twice (1967), 007 lost a chance to pilot a spacecraft, when Blofeld ordered an astronaut out of a spacecraft. This time, 007 gets his second chance. The plot is a carbon copy of The Spy Who Loved Me, with a few science fiction references. Before SpaceCamp (1986) and Armageddon (1998), this was the debut of the Space Shuttle on screen.
Drax might be modeled after Adolf Hitler, and the Bond girl (Lois Chiles) might be a CIA agent posing as an astronaut. Holly Goodhead might be similar to Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: DS9, but a good choice for the ideal Bond babe. She might not be tough like Jennifer Watts (Jessica Steen) in Armageddon, but the Dr. Goodhead character seems underdeveloped. The return of Jaws might be the lowest point in the 007 franchise, since the Roadrunner/Coyote chemistry from The Spy Who Loved Me was re-incorporated. What happens after Drax's henchman is killed? Simple. He hires Jaws, and just becuase he was Stromberg's bodyguard before, he still would like to get 007 once and for all. LOL, until Jaws becomes 007's ally after Drax expresses a psychotic episode. LOLs, especially the musical score used from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) as a entry code.
Enter the Dragon (1973)
What Could Have Been...
After seeing the restored version of this timeless classic, the plot was fairly similar to a James Bond flick, especially the villain, Han. I would deem Bruce Lee's final film as a turning point, where another action hero franchise would have originated. Han might be a carbon copy of Dr. No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (e.g. an island headquarters and a white Persian cat), as well as the island headquarters, with a drug lab and human subjects for testing heroin.
I would deem this film as Bruce Lee glorifying 007, since he goes undercover. The only thing that Lee would be best remembered for are his screams and howling on screen. The scene where the showdown takes place might make Freddy Krueger experiencing nightmares. Lots of athletes that would become actors, which include Bolo Yeung (Double Impact) and Jim Kelly (Black Belt Jones). Watch for a cameo by Jackie Chan as the victim who has his neck snapped in a headlock.
Bound by Honor (1993)
Prison Gangs -- The New Cosa Nostra?
I have seen this film on cable several times, and the screenplay of Jimmy Santiago Baca was a masterpiece in depicting the dark world of prison gangs. Prison gangs have been deemed a security threat in every American prison, state or federal, and how members and family are bonded.
This film portrays the life of a biracial man (Damian Chapa, known as Carmine in Money Talks) that is hated by his real father (a Caucasian), and before he turns 18, murders a rival gang member to avenge his cousin's (Jesse Borrego) maiming, after he is bodyslammed onto a fire hydrant. This event changes the lives of the three youths in the film.
One youth ends up becoming an artist, and a heroin addict, after his near-serious injury from the bodyslam, another goes to boot camp (Benjamin Bratt), after being arrested by the LAPD, and becoming a police officer, and the other ends up in prison, and ascends up the hierarchy of being a prison gang leader. The Miklo character would be the focal point in the insurrection that occurs in the penitentiary, while the other men live separate lives. The saddest scene in the film is the Cruz character, where he ends up being a heroin addict, and is devastated by the death of his younger brother, when he ODs after a trial shot. This leads to Cruz being ostracised by his family, and this fuels the resentment by his half brother, the detective.
Lots of familiar faces, especially Thomas F. Wilson (Biff Tanner in the Back to the Future flicks) and Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon) as a Nazi.