The Toy

The Toy. Rastar 1982.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve seen many stories about an obscenely rich person obtaining living characters as a personal plaything for themselves or their children, but I doubt any of them were direct references to this story so much as just yet another commentary on how rich people live in a completely different world.

I think Jackie Gleason is primarily known for playing a decidedly blue collar guy, so it seems like an unusual choice to cast him as the eccentric millionaire. However it seems like most of Richard Pryor‘s movies in the 80s were about him reacting to finding himself in impossible situations, so the dissonance of agreeing to something bizarre he doesn’t believe in because he needs the money fits that pattern.

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Under the Same Moon

Under the Same Moon (la Misma Luna). Creando Films 2007.

Before watching the movie:

I didn’t know this movie existed before I watched it, so all I had to go on was that a lot of it is in Spanish, it’s about border crossing for family and Eugenio Derbez is in it. And I seriously can’t come up with more to say about it.

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War of the Satellites

War of the Satellites. Santa Cruz Productions 1958.

Before watching the movie:

I probably know about as much about this movie as Roger Corman did when he decided to make it. Earth is about to start launching satellites and aliens disapprove, and it’s all very “hey, remember Sputnik?”

It sounds more interesting to watch than to write. The effects and action sequences will probably be hilarious but also the best part. It looks like even though the United Nations is standing in for the United States, they still manage to let the United States be the most American part of the Earth.

I like going into movies completely blank on them until I have to write about my nonexistent preconceptions.

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Fools Rush In

Fools Rush In. Columbia Pictures 1997.

Before watching the movie:

I very vaguely recall a movie with this title being around back then, but I don’t remember anything about it. I didn’t even remember it was one of the movies they tried putting Matthew Perry in.

I see it’s another movie titled after a song they can easily license. It could be a direct reference to the proverb, but as it’s a love story, it’s going to be a reference to the love song.

I definitely did not know this is about a rushed relationship between an American guy and a Mexican woman and the problems created when their lives and families catch up with their choices until now.

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The Shaggy Dog

The Shaggy Dog. Walt Disney Productions 1959.

Before watching the movie:

While I’d seen brief promos for this movie before with other Disney home video rereleases, I never really got an idea of what it was like beyond somebody turning into a dog. I did see the Tim Allen remake, but if that draws on anything past the “human turned into a dog” idea, it looks like it has more to do with the sequel The Shaggy D.A. I do see that where that remake used genetic research as the catalyst for the metamorphosis, I’m kind of amused that this is just “a magic ring”. Or rather, a magic ring the Borgias had, because dropping random historical names makes things sound more legitimate.

I know a few more details now but I still don’t really know what shape the story will take. It’s always nice to see Fred MacMurray though.

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Your Tax Dollars At The Movies

Despite election cycles, the world is all politics, all the time, and it is only the privileged few who can avoid that, perhaps especially during an administration mainly built on not constantly drumming up controversy. So there’s always time to consider American government through the movies.

1776: Begin at the beginning, and sit down, John. Gridlock is eternal.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: The little guy with a heart who’s chronically too rare in the machinery of government.

The Manchurian Candidate: Back when it was easier to imagine a foreign government brainwashing and grooming future American leaders than just tuning the minds of the electorate through online advertisements and fake accounts.

All the President’s Men: Somehow Watergate is when cynicism about government corruption became standard, though it’s always been with us.

Wag the Dog: When there seems little else to do about the state of affairs, why not laugh about it?

Election

Election. Bona Fide Productions 1999.

Before watching the movie:

I never knew much more about this movie than that Matthew Broderick is in it and it’s probably some kind of political satire, so it always lived in my head near movies like Swing Vote, Welcome to Mooseport, and The Campaign.

On taking a closer look, this is centered around a high school class president race, and the central conflict seems to be between a teacher and a student, so I’m intrigued at the prospect of a more unorthodox satire and wondering what political parallels could develop from this dynamic. Or maybe I’ve gotten it completely wrong and this is just a study of high school politics, but I don’t think so. Stories that came from novels generally have some kind of more applicable theme.

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Enter the Dragon

Enter the Dragon. Concord Production 1973.

Before watching the movie:

This is lauded as possibly the best martial arts movie of all time, but I’m looking for something about the story to interest me and it seems like the barest excuse plot. British Intelligence goes to a martial arts instructor and points him at a crime lord. Oh, I guess there’s a tournament he’s going undercover in to get close to the bad guy. That’s a bit better than them just saying “go fetch”, but it’s still a pretty thin plot.

I would say the fights need to be exceptionally good to make up for the sketchy plot, but of course they are. That’s what everyone already cared about with this movie. I feel like I’m being weird for asking it to also have a story.

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Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Mr & Mrs Smith. Summit Entertainment 2005.

Before watching the movie:

I was always a little intrigued by this movie, so I’m not sure why I never got around to it. Maybe it was because I was only a little intrigued. A married couple get turned against each other by the realization that they’re assassins for rival organizations, not a hundred percent my thing. Spy comedies are fun, but I’m not sure how much this is spy or how much it’s comedy. The actors don’t especially grab me either. I never had strong feelings either way about Pitt or Jolie, and I’ve got no idea who else is in it. I guess the most lasting cultural impact of this movie wasn’t the movie itself but the debut of Pitt and Jolie’s real-world tabloid relationship, and I could not care in the slightest about celebrity relationships.

It sure looks like an expensive house they end up shooting to pieces though. That’s something nice to look at.

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Under Siege

Under Siege. Alcor Films 1992

Before watching the movie:

Though the log line is essentially “Die Hard on a battleship”, the Navy setting somehow gets me thinking more of Jack Ryan. Thanks to the movies, I think of Jack Ryan as a civilian CIA bureaucrat, but a moment’s research turned up that he’s ex-Marine. So maybe Seagal’s character here is closer to Jack Ryan than I thought, but I was more interested on my initial discovery that Seagal is serving as a cook than when I found out he’s an ex-SEAL. It takes away from the appeal of an underdog for me the more prepared that underdog is for the challenge they face in the movie.

The fact that the terrorists are led by a disgruntled CIA operative intrigues me. Most 90s bad guys are generic terrorists, but they’re usually Eastern European, maybe with a specific ex-Soviet flavor. The head terrorist being rogue CIA opens up a possibility of critiquing American policies rather than just wrapping the good guys in the Stars and Stripes and painting the bad guys as whatever the top enemy of the US government is at the time. Though since this probably required extensive cooperation with the US Department of Defense in order to be able to use the battleship setting, I doubt it would be all that forward thinking.

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