Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/15/2020 – 03/21/2020, The Upshot Of It Is —

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Don’t look now, but there’s a new publisher on the scene. AWA (short for Artists Writers & Artisans) is the brainchild of a pair of former Marvel head honchos (Axel Alonso and Bill Jemas), and right in the midst of the COVD-19 pandemic they’ve rolled out their Upshot comics imprint with no less than four titles in one week. Let’s take a look at ’em —

Unquestionably the “flagship” release of the company’s first wave is The Resistance #1, featuring the return to comics of one-time “fan favorite” writer J. Michael Straczynski, here teamed with superstar artist Mike Deodato Jr. This book has one of those immediately “ready for Hollywood” type of premises, centered as it is upon a global disaster (seem familiar?) that suddenly and inexplicably causes several thousand survivors across the globe to manifest super powers in its wake. I dunno, the story’s competent enough and plenty interesting…

View original post 586 more words

Time Chasers (1994, directed by David Giancola)

People, I know what you’ve heard but Time Chasers is not that bad.

I know that Time Chasers has got a reputation.  It was featured on one of the most brutal (and funniest) episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  That, in fact, is probably how most people know about this film.  (Some members of the MST 3K crew subsequently revisited Time Chasers for Rifftrax.)  It’s true that MST 3K was known for taking apart bad films and it probably hasn’t helped the film’s reputation that it’s been reported that some members of the production were not amused about being mocked by Mike Nelson and the bots.

But that’s all in the past and I think that today, we can finally admit that Time Chasers is not that bad.

It’s certainly one of the few films to suggest that time travel can be achieved by an airplane, five oversized floppy disks, and a Commodore 64.  Nick Miller (Matthew Bruch) is a scientist and amateur airplane pilot who has discovered how to travel through time.  He hopes that we can use time travel so that we can figure out a way to “stop killing ourselves.”  Lisa (Bonnie Pritchard), the local journalist who went to high school with Nick, is impressed, especially when Nick takes her on a trip to the future (which does indeed look much like a mall food court).  Lisa is less impressed when Nick decides to sell the idea to J.K. Robertson (George Woodard).  J.K.’s a rich businessman and that automatically makes him evil.  Lisa understands this.  Nick does not.

J.K. promises that he won’t use time travel to develop weaponry but, when Lisa and Nick take another romantic trip to the future, they discover that the world is in ruins and it no longer looks like a food court.  Instead, people are shooting at each other.  J.K. lied!  Nick and Lisa go back to the present to confront J.K. but J.K.’s not willing to give up time travel that easily.  Soon, as a result of all the time travel, there are multiple Nicks and Lisas and J.K. Robertsons all over the place.  It all ends with a trip back to the American Revolution, where many of the colonists wear wrist watches and modern-style eyeglasses.

It is easy to poke fun at something like Time Chasers but I’m going to defend it.  The plot is actually more ambitious than you would expect from a low-budget sci-fi film and there are some clever touches that indicate that the director actually did give some serious thought to what would happen if you had multiple people jumping from one time to another.  (I like the fact that, when Nick meets his past self, Past Nick can’t understand why Present Nick won’t stop talking about Lisa.)  For all the ribbing that they took on MST 3K, both Matthew Bruch and Bonnie Pritchard are likable as Nick and Lisa.  Bruch may not look like a conventional hero and, in this film, he’s got a mullet that’s goofy as hell but there’s a lot of sincerity to his performance.

I love MST 3K.  When I first saw the Time Chasers episode, I laughed so much that it hurt and it’s still a favorite of mine.  (I cannot see an empty field without saying, “Hey, Children of the Corn.”  Lisa — our Lisa, not the film’s Lisa — is usually kind enough to reply, “Hey,” so my joke isn’t just left hanging in the air.)  But taken on its own, without Mike and the bots riffing on it, Time Chasers is not that bad.  It’s goofy take on time travel and, dammit, I like it.

18 Days of Paranoia #8: The French Connection II (dir by John Frankenheimer)

The 1975 film, The French Connection II, opens up three years after the downbeat conclusion of the first French Connection.

Having escaped from the police at the end of the first film, the wealthy and suave Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) is still smuggling drugs and living his best life.  He goes to parties with wealthy people.  He has lunch dates with important businessman.  Even though the French police are keeping an eye on him, Charnier seems to be virtually untouchable and he knows it.  If Charnier seemed impossibly smug in the first French Connection, he’s even worse in the second one.

Charnier may be enjoying himself in Marseille but what he doesn’t know is that there’s an American tourist in town.  He’s a very loud American, one who insists on trying to speak to everyone in English and is shocked to discover that most of the French natives don’t have the slightest clue as to what he’s talking about.  He’s shocked when he goes into a bar and fails to impress two young French women.  He also doesn’t seem to understand that even French people who speak English are not going to appreciate being called a “frogs.”  He wanders around town in loud shirts and with a fedora sitting rakishly on his balding head.

Yep, it’s Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman).  The anti-hero from the first French Connection is still on the case and he’s now come all the way to France to help track down Charnier.  The last time we saw Doyle, he had just accidentally killed a cop and was running through a dark warehouse, firing his gun.  In fact, the first film ended with the suggestion that Doyle was such a loose cannon that his career as a narcotics detective was probably over.  Instead, in the sequel, we learn that Popeye is still working in narcotics and he’s still just as much of a loose cannon as he ever was.  If you thought people in New York found Popeye to be obnoxious, just you wait to see how the French react to him!

What Popeye doesn’t know is that his superiors in New York have only sent him to Marsielle so that he can be a target.  They know that Popeye will never be able to blend in.  Charnier will spot him and, hopefully, Charnier will panic and make some sort of mistake that will finally allow the police to capture him.  French detective Henri (Bernard Fresson) goes along with the plan, despite his own moral objections.  Henri can’t stand Popeye but he doesn’t want to see him killed either.

It doesn’t take long for Charnier to notice Popeye.  After Popeye is captured by Charnier’s man, they inject him with heroin until soon, Popeye is an addict.  Before Popeye can finally get his shot at Charnier, he’s going to have to overcome his own drug addiction….

The French Connection II starts out well, with Gene Hackman wandering around Marsielle and acting like a stereotypical ugly American.  Director John Frankenheimer does a good job of keeping the action moving at a steady pace during the first half of the film and there’s a lot of great scenes involving Popeye being followed around town by not just the police but also Charnier’s men.  The first half of the film does a great job of establishing an atmosphere of paranoia, which is not surprising when you consider that Frankenheimer’s other credits included The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days In May, and Seconds.

Unfortunately, once Popeye is captured and gets hooked on heroin, the action not only comes to a halt but the normally reliable Gene Hackman starts to act up a storm.  When Popeye, while going through withdrawal, starts talking about how he used to play baseball and how he once has a try-out with the New York Yankees, the scene seems to go on forever and Hackman’s performance becomes so histrionic that you basically just end up feeling like you’re watching someone auditioning his heart out for a spot in the Actor’s Studio.  Gene Hackman was one of the world’s great actors and Popeye Doyle was a great role but, in The French Connection II, we’re reminded that even a great actor occasionally needs to have his performance reined in.

Eventually, after Hackman’s had his big Oscar moment, the action kicks back in and the film kind of regains its momentum.  There’s a big action scene towards the end of the film.  (Ironically, it’s the type of big, good guys vs. bad guys shoot out that the first film deliberately avoided.)  The film ends with a literal bang that’s abrupt yet undeniably effective.

As far as sequels go, The French Connection II is good.  It’s not great and, not surprisingly, it doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the power of the first film.  But it still has enough effective scenes to make it worth watching.  You just might want to hit fast forward whenever Popeye starts talking about baseball…..

Other Entries In The 18 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared
  2. The Humanity Bureau
  3. The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
  4. The Falcon and the Snowman
  5. New World Order
  6. Scandal Sheet
  7. Cuban Rebel Girls

4 Shots From 4 Film: Special Gary Oldman Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is the 62nd birthday of one of the best actors currently working, Gary Oldman!  In honor of both this day and also Gary Oldman’s amazing versatility as a performer, here are…

4 Shots From 4 Films

Sid & Nancy (1986, directed by Alex Cox)

The Firm (1989, directed by Alan Clarke)

The Fifth Element (1997, directed by Luc Besson)

The Dark Knight (2008, directed by Christopher Nolan)

Music Video of the Day: Heartbreaker (At The End Of Lonely Street) by Dread Zeppelin (1990, directed by ????)

Yesterday’s music video of the day was Dread Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song.

Today’s music video of the day is another video from everyone’s favorite cover band.  This one is for Heartbreaker (At The End of Lonely Street).  I have no idea who directed it.  I don’t know if the song was a hit when it was released.  I don’t know if anyone but me cares.  But sometimes, you just need to see a Led Zeppelin song covered by a 300-pound Elvis impersonator.

Am I alone in this?