The Legend of Drunken Master (Drunken Master II)

The Legend of Drunken Master (Drunken Master II). Paragon Films 1994.

Before watching the movie:

I was very close to reviewing this a few months ago, but then when I started to get ready to, I quickly learned that not only was it a foreign-language import, it was also technically a sequel. Its original Chinese title is “Drunken Master II”. However, it is described as a “reboot” of the original movie from sixteen years earlier, with “little in common with… its predecessor”.

And what’s different? Well, I was hesitant even when I found out it wasn’t originally in English. But I’ve crossed that now. After a tough month, I want to review something silly, and since this is only spiritually connected with the movie that gave this one its II, I’m not that concerned by it. I’ve reviewed adaptations and remakes, and I’m given to understand this is essentially a fresh take.

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Blue Streak

Blue Streak. Wintergreen Productions 1999.
Blue Streak. Wintergreen Productions 1999.

Before watching the movie:

This came up in automatic recommendations, and I know very little about it. Apparently, it concerns a jewel thief trying to recover his stash, which had a police station built over it while he was in jail. I’m expecting something of a heist, but there are indications he spends a while posing as a police officer to get inside, which implies a deeper level of infiltration than I usually think of for a heist.

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Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd. Hollywood Pictures 1995.

Before watching the movie:

I expect this movie to be a lot like RoboCop. A police state dystopia set in the near future that is now both uncomfortably dated and also overly optimistic about technological advances.

I’m not sure if Dredd is a satire or just a warning, but I know the point of him is that the degree of force he and other law enforcement are allowed to use is meant to be far beyond excessive. I don’t know if that carried through into the movie, or into fan understanding of the comic or the movie. Starship Troopers is mostly loved for the hyperviolence it was meant to be satirizing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same happened to Dredd.

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Quiz Show

Quiz Show. Baltimore Pictures 1994.
Quiz Show. Hollywood Pictures 1994.

Before watching the movie:

I have a dim memory of being aware this movie was in theaters. It was nothing I would have gotten to see at the time, but it vaguely sparked some interest as a regular viewer of Jeopardy. I didn’t know what it was about then. It was 20 years later that Jeopardy had their own ratings-driving long-runner, but the reason it hadn’t happened before is that they had only recently dropped the forced retirement rule instituted to keep above the appearance of doing the same rigging that actually happened on Twenty-One.

There is absolutely no reason I can think of why this should remind me of The King’s Speech, but here we are. Maybe one of the posters for that movie shows the King making the radio address from behind? It’s completely immaterial, so. Continue reading

Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow. Mandalay Pictures 1999.
Sleepy Hollow. Mandalay Pictures 1999.

Before watching the movie:

I principally know the story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow through the Disney featurette. Wishbone did an adaptation, but it was the second season that I’m much less familiar with. It would be easy to go more into why Crane gets involved with the Horseman legend than the Disney version did, but it seems to pretty simply be that he’s spooked by the legend and happens to become a victim of the ghost. Well, it was a short story to begin with, so there’s not much need or room for motivation.

In this version, apparently they’ve changed him from a superstitious schoolteacher to a detective. Which would let him drive the plot, so it might be a good change. Definitely means this is going to be very different. Continue reading

Practical Magic

Practical Magic. Stargate Studios 1998.
Practical Magic. Stargate Studios 1998.

Before watching the movie:

I really like modern-day spellcaster stories. I even found a fondness for Teen Witch. So all that I really need to be interested in this movie is that there are modern-day witch sisters. Their conflict has something to do with a curse upon their love lives, which sets up a romantic comedy apparently, and I’m further intrigued. I also like Sandra Bullock in pretty much anything, so that’s a plus as well. Continue reading

Galaxy Quest

Few things have been kept alive by love for half a century. That club will probably be growing enormously for the next few years because so much of our culture was born in the 60s and 70s, but this week, fans are celebrating that milestone for Star Trek. While anything can achieve fifty years since just by the nature of time, fifty years continuous is something special in pop culture. If the Animated Series is included, the longest hiatus in Star Trek is only around five years. There’s a new movie in theaters now and a new series coming direct to home streaming next year. And it all began before men walked on the moon.

So I came to the question of how to celebrate it here. I grew up with Trek. Trek was in the house before I was born. The number of times I’ve watched the first six movies probably adds up to dozens, and the ones worth talking about as representative of the franchise have been talked about to death. I’ve seen every episode of the original series at least once. I saw the new movie a few weeks ago. What can I talk about?

Galaxy Quest. Dreamworks Pictures 1999.

The 90s were the height of Star Trek as a franchise. From 1993 to 1999, there were always two series in production, and from 1994, there were movies on top of that. There was always something new in Trek, and as the internet grew, it became much easier to talk about it with other fans. Continuity was huge even before there was a shared universe across three productions to keep track of. And as the preeminent fandom in the public’s eye, Trekkies were the easiest target to spoof the weird fans who take the things they love maybe a bit too seriously.

 

And then along comes a movie that spoofs Trekkies themselves. What if somebody completely didn’t understand the concept of fiction and dedicated their lives to a show, forcing the actors to be their characters for real? What if somebody loved a show so much they made it real?

What strikes me about describing the story like that is that the idea of a fictional story colliding with the real world is actually pretty common, but it’s always through magic. Last Action Hero comes to mind, and Stranger Than Fiction is a good example of not explicitly being magic, but it’s a weird thing that is narratively indistinguishable from magic. The Thursday Next novels interestingly begin with a bit of technology to jump into the fictional worlds in the first book, but dispense with it subsequently. I’m sure there must be other examples of fiction intruding upon reality through a purely sci-fi mechanism (aliens receive TV broadcasts, model their society around the show), but I can’t think of any.

Of course, Peter Q. Taggart is clearly based on William Shatner. Ego to the brim, alienating the castmates that are stuck with him, and too stuck in the glory days to realize it. That he is the main protagonist makes him sympathetic, but it has to get pretty savage to break Taggart down to the point where a real-life space adventure is what he needs. Everyone else is a bit more vague. Tawny Matheson’s best parallel is Uhura, but they cast Sigourney Weaver and arguably her function is more of a parody of Tasha Yar at tactical. I have a dim memory of the novelization letting her find a function that wasn’t just repeating the computer and looking pretty, but unfortunately the movie doesn’t have time for it and she just ends up embracing the part. Tommy Webber is mainly a Wesley Crusher type, but casting him black invokes Geordi’s season at the helm as well. Dr. Lazarus is kind of a hybrid of Spock and Worf. Dane/Rickman is clearly emphasizing the Spock side, but his cool logic in this case is an attempt to control his hot-blooded warrior tendencies.

I really enjoy Tony Shalhoub’s performance, but they cast him as Fred Kwan/Tech Sgt Chen, and he’s not at all Asian. If they’d given Fred a surname of a more appropriate ethnicity it could’ve at least been a joke about Hollywood casting anyone vaguely not white in any ethnic role, but instead it’s an honest example. Shalhoub is of Lebanese descent, but could be mistaken for Mediterranean European, and so this spoof of a show that was promoting diversity before diversity was a watchword comes off as having a token black guy and a token woman/love interest, and everyone else is white guys. And one green monster.

But they’re just the ones having the adventure. The real heroes of this story are the fans. The alien fans who were united by their respect for the “historical documents” from another world, and the human fans whose knowledge of the show guides the crew to victory. In the end, the Thermians are encouraged to make their own adventures, to be inspired by the Protector rather than devoted to it. Fans that become creators are what keeps franchises going, spawning legacies without bound. The Thermians will make their own history, and Galaxy Quest will live again. And Star Trek, and its fans, will continue the mission.