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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The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin

The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin. Walt Disney Pictures 1967.

Before watching the movie:

This is another one it’s hard to find much description that doesn’t just recap the entire plot, so I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to see for a while. A rich Boston kid running away to Gold Rush California to have adventures? Eh, not too exciting. The kid getting accompanied by his family’s very buttoned-up butler out of concern for his safety, and the butler is played by Roddy McDowall? This is somewhat more relevant to my interests.

I suspect this is going to have more of an episodic structure, as the Disney equivalent of a pulp Western adventure. Apparently it’s a musical, which could go either way. Being based on a book, there will probably be a decent amount of substance, but mostly I expect loosely connected Western-themed hijinks and barely justified showstopper songs.

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Wheels on Meals

Wheels on Meals. Golden Harvest 1984.

Before watching the movie:

This seems relatively obscure, at least in this country, as a Hong Kong import. Though it did launch a franchise under the title it was distributed with in Japanese.

The first summary I saw didn’t give me much of an idea of what to expect and the other summary appears to lay out the entire movie, so i still don’t know what to expect beyond a couple of cousins running a food truck getting sidetracked by getting involved in… taking down a crime ring? Rescuing a Spanish heiress? I don’t have a whole lot to go on, but something something probably not The Pink Panther with kung fu (well, kung fu outside of the Kato scenes), but that’s the best thing I can connect it to with what I have.

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Jane and the Lost City

Jane and the Lost City.
New World Pictures 1987.

Before watching the movie:

The legend of the comic strip “Jane” is of a series of contrived pretenses to get the attractive young woman character to lose her clothes, especially around soldiers, drawn as a morale booster for British soldiers in WWII. When I was investigating the background of what this movie is based on, I couldn’t even get much more out of Wikipedia, because the legend is that pervasive. But that just made me even more curious how this pulp adventure-sounding story could relate to that beyond jamming an attractive girl named Jane whose clothes keep falling off into the plot.

I was able to find an article that traces a somewhat more comprehensive history (part 1 of 4, sequential parts are backward in the archive for some reason), where I was able to learn that it started as a high society satire/romance comic a bit like how I imagine early Blondie was before it fossilized around Dagwood’s suburban atomic family, and only later did the titillation creep in, and the war only took it over still later than that, but that reaches the end of the scope of the article, so while I have an impression that Jane was getting into war-related scrapes as an officer’s secretary, I still don’t have much of an idea of how that translates into a movie described as “Winston Churchill sends Jane on a mission to retrieve diamonds from a lost African city before the Nazis can get them.”

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Doom

Doom. Universal Pictures 2005.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not versed on the lore of Doom, but I think it’s pretty simple. There’s some kind of complex infested by demons, and one guy with a lot of guns takes them out. This movie is about a team fighting aliens. So already not the most faithful.

Later games probably built up the story, but I’m pretty sure it’s always essentially a lone guy fighting demons. But lone guys are hard to write movies for. I’m sure the change to aliens was something like embarrassment, but I completely get making it a team, even if it was probably not the best possible decision.

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Relativity Media 2009

(Attempting to restore regularly scheduled programming, which is more than I can say for the plumbing here.)

Before watching the movie:

So I guess the joke is Kevin James is a fat, self-important security guard? And probably most of the comedy is going to come from Blart being fat or overstepping his station? I never expected this to be a great movie, or all that interesting. But it’s available, and it’s probably got some actually funny parts.

I just don’t know how they can make a feature length movie out of that concept.

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The Spy Next Door

The Spy Next Door. Relativity Media 2010.

Before watching the movie:

While the red and orange background isn’t all that unique, this poster design doesn’t do much to communicate that this is Spy Kids but with less imagination and more Jackie Chan. I’m probably always up for a Jackie Chan comedy, but the bar’s been set pretty low.

I had no idea that Billy Ray Cyrus or George Lopez were in this movie until I started looking for posters. I would’ve expected George Lopez to get more promotional focus, especially considering when the movie was made.

I’m just now noticing just how big a genre “kids doing superspy stuff” is. The ones that I think of, Spy Kids, “Kim Possible”, and Agent Cody Banks, are all early 2000s, but it seems to have come back recently with My Spy, and I know there are other notable examples from before the 90s, so I’m not sure if it’s an evergreen movie subject or if this is very late to cash in on some successful franchises.

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The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger.
Troma Entertainment 1984.

Before watching the movie:

I hadn’t heard of this movie until I stumbled across it on a streaming platform, but apparently it has a cult following. It’s from about 20 years later than I initially thought, but I also thought it was played straighter. This is going for satire, not camp.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the grotesque deformity the accident that gave him his super powers came from is a specific take-that to all of the superheroes and villains that got their start from chemical or nuclear accidents and end up looking amazing, or at most with a cool scar on the face, completely unlike most things that suddenly and dramatically change a human body in reality.

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