Alex Nall’s “Lawns” : Piercing The Veil Of Small-Town Wholesome Americana

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

“In a town like Twin Peaks,” the promotional advertisements for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me informed us, “no one is innocent.”

Of course, when his foolishly-lambasted masterpiece (for my money, at any rate) hit theaters back in 1992, Lynch had already made something of a career out of exposing the dark underbelly of the American myth — whether he was shining an uncomfortable light on the shadows cast by the apple pie exterior of small-town life in Blue Velvet, or exploring the corrosive pressure applied by pop culture iconography on the socially-and-economically-marginalized in Wild At Heart, he had staked out a viewpoint (to say nothing of a distinctly surreal style) all his own by the time he finally guided us through Laura Palmer’s harrowing final days.

Cartoonist Alex Nall, by contrast — who mines certain similar thematic veins in his latest Kilgore Books graphic…

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A Quickie That Clicks: GENIUS AT WORK (RKO 1946)

cracked rear viewer

Back in 2015, I reviewed a turkey called ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY , which paired Bela Lugosi with the “comedy” team of Wally Brown and Alan Carney, RKO’s cut-rate answer to Abbott & Costello. Well, it seems the studio threw together this unlucky trio again, along with co-star Anne Jeffreys and adding horror icon Lionel Atwill in another attempt at a scare comedy titled GENIUS AT WORK. Glutton for punishment that I am, I recorded it, then watched, expecting another bomb… and instead found a fairly funny little ‘B’ movie that, while not on a par with ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN , is a whole lot better than the aforementioned ZOMBIES fiasco!

Brown and Carney are back in their screen personas as doofuses Jerry Miles and Mike Strager, which they played in all eight of their films together. This time around, they’re radio sleuths hosting a show called ‘Crime of…

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Review: The Hunt for Red October (dir. by John McTiernan)

The Hunt for Red October

Fresh off the success of his two previous films, The Predator and Die Hard, John McTiernan was now tasked with adapting one of the 1980’s most popular novels with Tom Clancy’s debut techno-thriller, The Hunt for Red October.

By 1990, the year the film was released, Gorbachev had thawed the Cold War that existed between East and West. The Berlin Wall was months away from being torn down and glasnost became the word of the day for most people who knew nothing but the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over their heads since before born.

It was during the final years of the Cold War that an insurance salesman with a penchant for military and spy thrillers tried his hand in writing one. this first attempt became a worldwide sensation and was quickly put up in a bidding war by all the major studios. It would be Paramount Pictures who would win to adapt The Hunt for Red October for the big-screen and John McTiernan would be hired to steer the film.

While Sean Connery would ultimately be cast in the main role of Soviet submarine Marko Ramius, he wasn’t the first choice. German actor Klaus Maria Brandauer was originally cast but ended up leaving production a coupe weeks into production due to prior commitments. So, in comes Connery and the rest, as they would say, is history.

The thing about film adaptations of popular novels has been how much of the novel could the filmmakers, especially the screenwriter, be able to fit into a film that would run around 2 hours or so. Some cutting of scenes that fans loves would have to be done and depending on the scenes in the novel, a backlash could begin against the film even before filming was completed.

Fortunately, this was Hollywood in the late 1980’s and there was no such thing as the internet as we know of it today. There were no blogs dedicated to reporting on every minute detail of a film production. No amateur film newshound bringing up unsubstantiated rumors of the going’s on during a film’s production. This was still a Hollywood who controlled how news of their activities were going to be reported and what they decided to tell and show reporters.

This would be a boon for McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October since the film had some major help from not just the U.S. Navy, but from the Department of Defense in trying to make sure the film was as realistic as possible in portraying the life of American submariners, Naval personnel and how the intelligence community in the West operated. Again, this was also with the film portraying all these groups in a much more positive light in return for their assistance.

In today’s world, such a compromise from the filmmakers to gain the help from the military-intelligence apparatus would be akin to some as perpetuating warmongering and glorifying the military. I could see blogs shouting for boycotts if such a thing happened nowadays.

But returning to the film The Hunt for Red October, for a straight-by-the-numbers thriller it still brings a certain surprise and inventiveness in the action-thriller genre that other filmmakers decades later would try to emulate (Crimson Tide and the many Jack Ryan-based films). Despite a Russian accent that really was cringe-worthy even when first heard, Sean Connery made for a charismatic and sympathetic Marko Ramius whose reasoning for defecting with the titular submarine Red October went beyond just the politics of the era.

Backing him up was a strong ensemble cast with a very young Alec Baldwin in the role of Jack Ryan, James Earl Jones as his boss CIA director Adm. James Greer and Sam Neill and Scott Glenn as Cmdr. Borodin and Capt. Mancuso. The film goes in heavily into Clancy’s love for technobabble and military jargon, yet the actors involved seemed very game and convincing in acting out the dialogue that would sound ridiculous is just read without context and understanding.

While the film does sacrifice some of the more political maneuverings in the book, which meant less scenes with Richard Jordan as National Security Advisor Dr. Pelt, it does streamline the film to be more action-oriented. It was a shame they went that way in which parts of the novel to cut out since Jordan’s performance as Dr. Pelt was one of the highlights of the film, despite his limited screentime.

In terms of action, The Hunt for Red October proved once again that McTiernan knew how to handle both tension and action in equal measure. He makes the cat-and-mouse battle between the Soviet and American subs seem as thrilling as any fast-paced dogfight scenes that thrilled filmgoers when Top Gun premiered on the bigscreen.

Even the film’s orchestral score from the late and great composer Basil Poledouris would lend the film a certain level of martial prowess that Poledouris’ compositions were known for. Even after many viewings it’s still difficult not to hum the film’s Soviet national hymn-inspired theme.

While The Hunt for Red October was one of the last films of the Cold War-era that still showed the tug-of-war between the East and West, it was a fitting end to a part of Hollywood’s cinematic history that portrayed Communism, especially that of the Soviet Union, as the big go-to Enemy that made action movies of the 80’s so popular with the Reaganite crowd.

The success of this film would begin a cottage industry of sequels featuring the character of Jack Ryan who would be portrayed in subsequent films by none other than Everyman himself Harrison Ford then in a miscasting in a later sequel by Ben Affleck.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #191: Her Worst Nightmare (dir by Damian Romay)

Last night, I watched Sunday’s Lifetime premiere film, Her Worst Nightmare!

Why Was I Watching It?

I recorded Her Worst Nightmare off of Lifetime on Sunday night.  I watched it on Monday because I desperately needed to make some space on my DVR!  (Seriously, I’ve got like 5 hours of recording space left…)

Plus, I have to admit that I really liked the title.  Judging from the poster above, the film was originally called Degrees of Fear but I actually preferred Her Worst Nightmare.  Honestly, if the word nightmare appears in the title, there’s no way that I’m not going to watch.

What Was It About?

A year ago, Dakota (Claire Blackwelder) was kidnapped and held prisoner by a brutal sociopath.  Though she was eventually rescued and her kidnapper was sent to prison, Dakota is still struggling to deal with the trauma of what she’s been through.  Now a college student, Dakota is still paranoid and withdrawn.  With a student reporter trying to get her to talk about her experiences and a possibly lecherous professor (Trevor St. John) constantly trying to get her to come out and have a drink with him, Dakota doesn’t know who to trust.

It especially doesn’t help that it appears that, once again, someone is stalking Dakota.  Has her kidnapper escaped or is something else happening?  Dakota is determined to find out!

What Worked?

In the lead role, Claire Blackwelder gave a sympathetic performance and she did a good job of portraying Dakota’s paranoia.  It was impossible not to empathize with Dakota and Blackwelder’s performance really held the film together.

Meanwhile, Trevor St. John was hilariously self-satisfied in the role of Prof. Campbell.  We’ve all had a teacher like him, the handsome professor who goes out of his way to let you know that 1) he’s only a few years older than you and 2) he likes to hang out at the same places that you do and 3) he’d love to have office hours with you at any time during the semester.

Her Worst Nightmare was a relatively restrained film.  Usually, I complain whenever a Lifetime film is too low key.  I usually like my Lifetime melodramas to be totally and completely over-the-top. But, in the case of Her Worst Nightmare, the restrained approach actually worked.  It generated suspense and, like Dakota, I found myself looking at every corner of the screen, keeping an eye out for any possible threats.

What Didn’t Work?

I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly shocked when the identity of Dakota’s stalker was revealed.  That’s one of the drawbacks of having a small cast.  There’s only so many possible suspects and, once you discount all of the obvious ones, it’s pretty easy to guess who it’s going to be.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Whenever Dakota was feeling paranoid, I was like, “Been there.”  Unlike Dakota, I’ve never been kidnapped and held prisoner but I very well could have been if luck had not been on my side.  Anyone who has ever been stalked or who has ever escaped from an abusive relationship will be able to relate to Dakota.

Lessons Learned

Just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t out to get you.  Actually, to be honest, I already knew that before I watched the film but sometimes, the best thing that a film can do is remind you of something that you already know to be true!

Music Video of the Day: So Alive by Love and Rockets (1989, directed by Howard Greenhalgh)

Love and Rockets was an English alternative band, made up of all of the members of Bauhaus who were not named Peter Murphy.  From 1985 to 1998, before breaking up to pursue other projects, Love and Rockets released 7 studio albums.  Though Love and Rockets always struggled to escape the shadow of Bauhaus, the band was still responsible for some of the best music of the late 80s and 90s.

Their best known song was So Alive, which was a number one hit in both the United States and Canada.  The video is highly regarded by aficionados of long legs and backlighting everywhere.

The song was written by the song’s lead vocalist, Daniel Ash.  As Ash explained in an interview with Xsnozie:

“I’d gone to a party on Saturday night, and I was married at the time, and I saw this woman over the other side of the room, and I was completely transfixed which is very odd because I was freshly married.  It was very weird, but I was completely infatuated by her and so much so that I couldn’t go near her to even speak to her, it was just this overwhelming thing. I can’t explain it to this day. That’s why the first line is, ‘I don’t know what color your eyes are.’ Because I didn’t get that close, I just saw this person in the distance.”

The video was the first to be directed by Howard Greenhalgh, who would later direct the video for Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun.

And yes, Love and Rockets did take their name from the comic book series by the Hernandez Brothers.