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Rad (1986)
B-grade BMX flick set in a stereotypical 1980s high school, has attained an odd cult status.
8 December 2005
It's your basic "High-school dork beats bully & gets girl using his worthless social-outcast skill that everyone in this little universe is oddly obsessed with" (happens all the time in the 80's). Nothing particularly original or interesting about it, but for some reason it withstands repeated viewings and still seems like fun. It's one of those movies that unintentionally became a cult flick just by being so straightforward.

The plot, the acting, the characters, the one-liners . . . everything about the production is reasonably serviceable for the era, but certainly not GOOD either. The whole thing feels sorta like a cheesy 80's sitcom doing its big 2-hour episode for sweeps week, and the network gave it some money for a real location shoot & some extra cuss words.

The bicycle stuntwork in "Rad" is stellar. Yes, of course it's outdated now, and modern X-games riders like Dave Mirra can demonstrate a lot more technical skill on multi-directional spins & stuff, but ultimately that's beside the point. In real life the average 13-year-old spends weeks teaching himself to do a decent bunny hop. And for that 13-year-old, it's plenty of fun watching a character in "Rad" just trying to learn an (outdated) backflip move in the schoolyard using a hockey helmet & some old bed mattresses. (Think: "Jackass" but not so intentional. And it's too bad this movie was made before the era of "goof reels" during the end credits, because they probably got some real whoppers on film during this production.)

I can quote every line of this movie, but I still can't put my finger on what aspect of it makes it hold up so well. It's got that same sort of odd quality that a "Duck Tales" or a "Saved by the Bell" episode has: You can't explain why on earth you're still watching & enjoying it as an intelligent adult . . . but you are. (And so is everyone else you've shown it to.) Either way you'd better get your insider-status and enjoy this movie now. Next thing we know they might put it on T-shirts at Sam Goody & take all the fun out of it.
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Lifeboat (1944)
Very interesting political commentary from Hitchcock, packaged as an adventure flick.
24 October 2005
This movie's strength is not so much the execution but rather the great and risky idea. It's the kind of WWII movie that you'd expect to see done 30 years after the fact (when it's safely irrelevant). But Hitch dropped this one on the public right in the middle of the unfinished war.

The show takes a handful of different characters, drops them into a lifeboat after a German sub sinks their ship, and then watches the personalities play out against each other. It's a metaphor for what society as a whole was doing at the time. Through modern eyes, the movie is definitely good but not quite spectacular.

The characters help make the show. In modern movies like this, you'd expect to get totally flat stereotypes for most of the smaller roles. Then the writer would strive to make the 2 or 3 primary characters SO much more interesting than the others, and so the primaries would start feeling a little contrived anyway. But in this case, Hitchcock struck a middle ground of characters that all seem reasonably predictable but still interesting in little ways. It feels realistic.

I hate to point to a solid old character drama and say: "It needed more dazzling special effects" but in this case I think it actually would help some. The whole movie takes place on the lifeboat (soundstaged) and the rickety background projection sometimes gets a little distracting in the tense storm scenes.

It's a good show that could use a good remake. 50 years later this movie is still more thought-provoking than most newer films about the war.
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An interesting "film" disguised as a crappy 70s "movie"
28 September 2005
VP is basically the product of a high-concept existential art film getting hastily re-cut into a crappy B-movie at the last minute. The results, strangely enough, are maybe better than either one of them intended.

If VP had been allowed to finish as a full-blown "artsy" film, it would probably have been a little cheesy & clumsy by modern standards. There are enough heavy-handed moments in it to make me wonder about how much better the creators' lost original version would really have been if it was seen through modern eyes.

But with the studio trying to silence the deeper aspects of VP in the editing room, it takes on a whole new feeling that may have helped it age better than most of the other similar works from the time period. It never reveals any specific message/meaning that you could categorize & describe, but you always get the strong feeling that you didn't get it all. It's maybe not as obvious as scenes being cut in half or anything . . . but it sort of feels like they shot several different versions of each dialog scene during production, and this version you're watching is always the "short, B-movie" one. It makes you wonder what else might be in a can somewhere in a vault at 20th Century-Fox. And like a lot of art forms, it can be a lot more fun to wonder about what's missing than just watching what's there to see.

VP is much more memorable than the sum of its parts.
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Some of you reviewers crack me up.
10 September 2005
The kind of people who write movie reviews are the same kids who were getting beaten up by the local "Duke boys" back in junior high. It really shows in the angry reviews of this movie.

This "Dukes" is a mediocre summer flick. No better, no worse. It did an above-average job of recapturing the vibe of the source material (well, the early episodes of the source material anyway). It basically feels like a 2-hour-long beer commercial.

It's mediocre, but it's certainly not a "horrible movie." It's just a celebration of low-I.Q./high-testosterone life. Many reviewers find that "horrible" and they're taking out their frustration by lambasting this flick.
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