Bravo Two Zero (1999, directed by Tom Clegg)

In 1991, during the Gulf War, a British SAS patrol — codenamed Bravo Two Zero — is dropped behind enemy lines in Iraq.  Led by Andy McNabb (played by Sean Bean), their mission is to track down and destroy Iraqi scud missile launchers and also to disrupt communications between Baghdad and Northwestern Iraq.  Almost from the minute that the 8 member teams is dropped behind enemy lines, things start to go wrong.  The weather turns against them.  They’re spotted by both Iraqi civilians and soldiers.  While the team tries to make it back to safety, McNabb and three others are captured by the Iraqis and are forced to endure torture while looking for an opportunity to escape.

Bravo Two Zero, which originally aired in two parts on the BBC, is based on Andy McNabb’s memoir about what happened when Bravo Two Zero found themselves trapped behind enemy lines, their mission compromised.  It’s a rousing story but it’s also a controversial one.  Several other people who were involved with the operation claimed that McNabb (which was a pseudonym adopted to protect the identities of the other members of the unit) exaggerated certain details, particularly the extent that he was tortured and the number of Iraqi soldiers that the unit had to fight on their way to the Syrian border.  What is known for sure is that the unit was trapped behind enemy lines and, of the 8 who set out, only five returned, having survived against almost impossible odds.  It’s possible to debate the exact details but no one debates the bravery of the men involved.

As a film, Bravo Two Zero takes McNabb at his word.  It’s a tough and gritty war film and Sean Bean gives an excellent performance in the role of McNabb.  Real-life footage from the Gulf War is mixed in with the recreation of what happened to the unit and it gives the film both a semi-documentary feel and it also ratchets up the suspense.  While the news broadcasts present what appears to be a very easy victory over Iraq, we’re reminded that it wasn’t as easy for the men who were actually getting shot at on a daily basis.  Will the men be able to make it to Syria before the rest of the world moves on?  Though the film is clearly on the side of the Coalition Forces, it’s hardly blindly jingoistic.  While the Iraqis who torture McNabb are presented as being sadists, the majority of the Iraqi citizens come across as just people trying to survive day-by-day while bombs rain down upon them.  For the most part, the Iraqi people are presented as being caught in the middle of a war that, regardless of who wins, will never benefit them, pawns in a battle between competing super powers.  The film’s villain is Saddam Hussein and not the people living under his dictatorship.

Bravo Two Zero is an excellent war film, one that emphasizes the hard work and training that goes into serving with the SAS over the usual action film heroics.  While never glamorizing combat or war, it pays tribute to those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 02/09/2020 – 02/15/2020, Catching Up With Brian Canini

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

It’s been a little while since we took a look at what Columbus, Ohio’s Brian Canini is doing over at his Drunken Cat comics imprint, but seeing as how I just got a package from him in the mail last week, and finally had a chance to read through it all last night, now’s as good a time as any to put his work back under our metaphorical microscope —

Plastic People #11 is one of the best issues of the now-long-running series to date, as our “plastic surgery police” in a future LA continue their investigation of the city’s first murder in decades by talking to one of the last surviving REAL cops in town (an LA without police? Talk about a utopia) in order to figure out how to even begin gathering clues and identifying suspects in the first place. This title damn near lost me when Canini…

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Music Video of the Day: Rock the Boat by The Hues Corporation (1974, dir by ????)

“Rock the boat!”

“Don’t rock the boat, baby!”

“Rock the boat!”

“Don’t tip the boat over!”

I have to admit that, as much as I love this song, I find myself thinking about South Park whenever I hear the lyrics.  “Kick the baby!”  “Don’t kick the baby.”

I also have to admit that the main reason why I’m sharing this video today is because, earlier on Saturday night, I hosted a Punk v Disco party.  It’s hard to say which one won.  Punk started out strong but disco rallied quite a comeback during the final 30 minutes.  In the end, I’d have to call it a draw.

Anyway, Rock The Boat was reportedly the first disco song to ever make it to number one on the charts in the United States.  It holds up pretty well, doesn’t it?  I’ve always like the fact that you’ve got that chorus demanding that the boat by rocked and there’s that one, lonely voice saying, “Hey, let’s not do that.  Let’s not tip the boat over just yet, okay?”  If I ever find myself in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of other people, this is the song that I’m going to sing to cheer everyone up.

As for this video, I assume it was done for television.  Don’t ask me what show they were appearing on.  I just like the song and the dancing.


Mitchell (1976, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen)

Mitchell (played by Joe Don Baker and don’t you forget it) is a detective who rubs everyone the wrong way because he’s a huge slob.  In order to keep Mitchell from investigating a murder committed by a mobbed-up lawyer named Walter Deaney (John Saxon), Mitchell’s superiors order him to conduct surveillance on businessman James Arthur Cummings (Martin Balsam).  Cummings is in the export/import game, which can only mean that he’s looking to smuggle heroin in the United States.  Mitchell balks at having to spend hours sitting in a car and watching a house but he finally agree to do it just so he can show up his superiors.  “I’m going to get Deaney and Cummings!” he says.

In order to get Mitchell off of his back, Deaney sends him a prostitute named Greta (Linda Evans).  Mitchell doesn’t have any problem having sex with Greta but he does have a problem with her smoking grass.  After spending two nights with her, he hauls her off to jail for possession because the only intoxicant that Mitchell needs is Schlitz beer.

Eventually, both Deaney and Cummings get tired to being harrassed by this slob so they team up to kill him.  This leads to both a dune buggy accident that has to be seen to be believed and an exciting helicopter chase.

Mitchell is best-known for having been featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Everyone remembers Joel and the bots making savage fun of Joe Don Baker and commenting on the plot’s incoherence.  What is less well-known is that the version that was shown on MST 3K was a heavily edited version that was missing some key scenes.  Earlier today, I watched the unedited version of Mitchell.  It’s still pretty bad but the plot does make slightly more sense.  In the unedited version, we actually learn why John Saxon just vanishes from the movie and we also see the end result of Mitchell’s final confrontation with Cummings, instead of just cutting away.  Even more importantly, in the unedited version, we discover that Mitchell spends the entire movie being threatened, abused, and insulted.  It makes it easier to understand why he’s in such a terrible mood throughout the entire film.  The unedited version of Mitchell is not much better than the edited version but it is a tougher and more violent film in every way.

Mitchell is usually described as being a take on Dirty Harry but it’s actually more of a French Connection rip-off.  The slovenly Mitchell has more in common with the erratic Popeye Doyle than with the cool and collected Harry Callahan.  Unfortunately, Mitchell doesn’t have any scenes that can compare to the chase scene from The French Connection nor does it have that film’s gritty, semi-documentary tone.  Whereas Doyle and Callahan got results through being smart along with being tough (Dirty Harry, for instance, goes out of its way to show that Callahan is dogged investigator and not just a trigger-happy cop), Mitchell just annoys people until they try to kill him.

For all the shit that Joe Don Baker has taken for starring in Mitchell, his performance is not that bad.  He’s convincing as a borderline fascist cop who doesn’t get much sleep and who doesn’t trust anyone.  It’s just that Mitchell, as written, is never a likable hero.  Instead, he’s the type of hero who busts his girlfriend because she has a tiny amount of grass in her purse.  Of the villains, John Saxon is believably sleazy as Deaney but Martin Balsam sleep walks through his role as Cummings and, even in the unedited version, his plan never makes much sense.  Balsam and Saxon should switched roles.

Finally, no review of Mitchell would be complete with including the lyrics of the haunting Mitchell theme song, sung by Hoyt Axton:

“My my my my Mitchell
What do your Mama say?
What would she do
if she knew you
were fallin’ round and carryin’ on that way…
Crackin’ some heads, jumpin’ in and out of beds
and hangin’ round the criminal scene…
Do you think you are some kind of a star like the guys on the movie screen…

Well oh my my my Mitchell
What would your captain say?
If he knew you was hangin’ round
Eatin’ with the crooks and shootin’ up the town
Know you been out there, roundin’ up the syndicate
succeedin’ where the others have failed
Oh my my my Mitchell
You shoot ’em just to get ’em in jail
When they take a look in the record book, they’ll find you got a lot of class…

The whole shebang, arrestin’ painted ladies for a little grass
Oh my my my Mitchell!”


The cover of the unedited Mitchell DVD features Joe Don Baker from Walking Tall, Linda Evans from Dynasty, and a publicity still of John Saxon. Martin Balsam, however, does appear to have been taken from the film.

Music Video Of The Day: Van Horn by Saint Motel (2020, dir by A/J Jackson)

What’s this?

It’s a great video for a great song performed by my current favorite band, Saint Motel!  The video was directed by A/J Jackson, who is also the lead singer.  (I nearly called him the “adorable lead singer” but, to be honest, the entire band is pretty damn adorable.)  Saint Motel has always been as much about the visual arts as it’s been about the music.  I saw Saint Motel live just a few weeks ago and seriously, they’re great.  It was a fun show and if you ever get a chance to see them, take it!

I should also note that this song was apparently inspired by a night that the band spent in the town of Van Horn, Texas.  I’ve actually been to Van Horn and this video does a pretty good job of capturing the place.  I get the feeling that I may like the town a little bit more than the members of Saint Motel but no matter.  It’s a good song and a good video and the dog is cute.