Insomnia File #52: The Next Karate Kid (dir by Christopher Cain)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If, over the next few weeks, you find yourself having trouble getting to sleep, you might be tempted to log onto Netflix and watch the fourth season of Cobra Kai.  That’s certainly what I’m planning to do over the course of the next few days.  However, before you watch Cobra Kai, you should make sure that you’ve seen all of the earlier Karate Kid films because you never know who might show up on the show.  I mean, if Thomas Ian Griffith is coming back, anyone could be coming back!  And that includes Julie Pierce, the young karate student at the center of 1994’s The Next Karate Kid.

Julie (played by Hillary Swank) is a troubled teenager.  She lives in Boston with her grandmother.  She attends a high school that is run by a weirdly fascistic self-defense instructor named Colonel Dugan (Michael Ironside), who teaches all of the jocks to be tough, ruthless, and to show no mercy.  When Julie’s grandmother leaves to for Los Angeles so that she can relax, Julie’s new caretaker is an old family friend who turns out to be Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita).

At first, Julie wants nothing to do with Miyagi.  She’s still angry about the death of her parents in a car crash.  All she wants to do is take care of a falcon that lives on the roof of the school.  She does like a boy named Eric McGowen (Chris Conrad) but Eric is also friends with the members of Colonel Dugan’s paramilitary gang, the so-called Alpha Elite.  She needs someone who can understand her and her anger and, at first, Miyagi doesn’t seem like he’s capable of doing and of that.  But then Miyagi discovers that Julie has a natural talent for jumping on top of cars and this leads to….

Well, you know what it leads to.  It’s The Next Karate Kid!  Ralph Macchio was 33 years old when this film was first released and was a bit too old to still be playing a kid so the film’s producers tried to reboot the franchise by giving Miyagi a new student.  The Next Karate Kid pretty much hits all of the story beats from the first film, though it does change things up by not featuring a karate tournament.  Instead, it all leads to a post-prom fight between Miyagi and Dugan.  This film is your only chance to see Pat Morita face off against Michael Ironside and that’s got to be worth something.

The Next Karate Kid does not have a particularly good reputation and, watching the film, I understood why.  There’s very little of the spontaneity or the wit that made the first film memorable.  That said, I did appreciate Michael Ironside’s villainous turn.  If Hillary Swank doesn’t necessarily give the type of performance that would make you think, “Future two-time Oscar winner!,” she still does a good job of portraying the anger that’s at the heart of the character.  If nothing else, The Next Karate Kid deserves some credit for taking Julie’s anger seriously as opposed to just writing it off as being a “teen girl thing.”  The Next Karate Kid wasn’t as bad as I expected but it was still hard not shake the feeling that it was largely unnecessary.

That’s said, I still look forward to Julie’s eventual visit to Cobra Kai.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby

2018 in Review: 10 Good Things That I Saw On Television


Moving right along with my look back at 2018, here are 10 good things that I saw on television.

Please note, I did not say that these were the ten “best” things on television in 2018.  Instead, these are ten things that I enjoyed enough that, in January of 2019, they still pop to my mind whenever I ask myself, “What did I enjoy last year?”  As always, this is just my opinion and you’re free to agree or disagree.

Got it?  Okay, let’s go!

  1. Showtime reran Twin Peaks: The Return

Okay, so maybe I’m cheating a little here.  Twin Peaks: The Return originally aired in 2017.  You may remember that, for about 6 months, the Shattered Lens essentially became a Twin Peaks fan site.  Still, I can’t begin to describe how excited I was to discover that, over the course of a weekend, Showtime would be reairing the entire series.  I binged every episode and I discovered that, even with the benefit of hindsight, it’s still one of the greatest shows of all time.  Unfortunately, the Emmy voters did not agree.  Bastards.

2. The Alienist 

It took me a little while to really get into The Alienist but, once I did, I found myself growing obsessed with not only the sets and the costumes but the mystery as well!  Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning all did excellent work and I can’t wait for the sequel!

3. Jesus Christ Superstar Live

I was skeptical.  I had my doubts.  I thought I’d spend the entire two and a half hours rolling my eyes.  Jesus Christ Superstar proved me wrong.

4. The Americans

One of the best shows on television went out on a high note.

5. Barry

Barry premiered on HBO and it quickly became a favorite of mine.  While I agree that Bill Hader and Henry Winkler deserve all of the attention that they’ve received, I’d also say that Stephen Root continues to prove himself to be one of our greatest character actors.

6. Big Brother

The reality show that so many love to hate finally had another good season.  Since I get paid to write about the show for another site, that made me happy.  Seriously, some of the previous seasons were painful to watch so Big Brother 20 was a huge relief.  (Plus, BB 20 inspired everyone’s favorite twitter game: “Will Julie Chen Moonves show up tonight?”)

7. Maniac

As much fun as it is to complain about Netflix, occasionally they justify the price of their existence by giving us something like Maniac.

8. You

Sometimes, I loved this show.  Sometimes, I absolutely hated it.  However, I was always intrigued and never bored.  I can’t wait to see what happens during season 2.

9. Trust

For all the attention that was given to The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Trust was the best FX true crime series of 2018.  Along with an intriguing story, it also featured great performances from Donald Sutherland, Hillary Swank, and Brendan Fraser.  (Yes, Brendan Fraser.)

10. Westworld

I know a lot of people didn’t care much for the latest season of Westworld.  I loved it and, in the end, isn’t that what really matters?

That’s it for television!  Coming up next, it’s the entry in Lisa’s look back at 2018 that we’ve all been waiting for, my picks for the best 26 films of the year!

Lisa Looks Back At 2018

  1. Ten Worst Films of 2018
  2. Best of Lifetime
  3. Best of Syfy
  4. 10 Favorite Novels
  5. 12 Favorite Non-Fiction Books
  6. 10 Favorite Songs

 

 

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #105: Million Dollar Baby (dir by Clint Eastwood)


Million_Dollar_Baby_poster

(This review and the Spanish trailer below are dedicated to mi madre, who saw Million Dollar Baby when it was first released and told me that, even though the film had been nominated for lots of Oscars, I shouldn’t watch it until I was in a better and more stable place emotionally.  She was right.)

Two months ago, I started Embracing the Melodrama Part II.  At the time, I announced that I would be reviewing 126 cinematic melodramas and I would get it all done in 3 weeks time!  Well, here we are 8 weeks into it and we are just now approaching the finish line.  That’s okay, though.  Even if it’s taken me longer than I thought it would, I’ve still been having fun writing and sharing these reviews.

I’ve been posting these reviews in chronological order.  Though it may be hard to remember, we started with a 1927 silent classic called Sunrise.  From Sunrise, we’ve worked our way through history and we’ve taken a look at films that are both famous and obscure.  And now, 104 reviews later, we finally reach the 2004 best picture winner, Million Dollar Baby.

When I first saw Million Dollar Baby, I had two reactions.  On the one hand, I thought it was a great film.  I thought it was a film that featured great performances and which gave me a chance to experience a world that I did not know much about.  I thought to myself, “This is a film that future directors will cite as an influence.  This is a film that proves that, even if he does sometimes make movies like Hereafter or Jersey Boys, Clint Eastwood still deserves to be known as a great American filmmaker.”  On the other hand, I thought to myself, “This film is so damn depressing that there’s no way I’m ever going to watch it again.”

And really, it is an amazingly sad film.  When the film starts, of course, you don’t think it’s going to be sad.  You think it’s going to be your standard sports film, the one where the underdog beats the odds and becomes a champion.  For one thing, the film is narrated by Morgan Freeman and Morgan’s got that voice that makes you believe that there is some justice to the universe.  Secondly, Hillary Swank is so appealing in the role of Maggie, a waitress who wants to become a boxer, that you just know she deserves a happy ending.  At first, veteran trainer Frankie (Clint Eastwood) refuses to work with her but her determination wins him over.  And soon, Frankie — who, in typical Clint movie fashion, has a strained relationship with his daughter — becomes a father figure for Maggie.

And as you watch Maggie find success as a boxer, you’re so happy for her.  I certainly was, despite the fact that I know next to nothing about boxing beyond the fact that it’s something that I would never want to do.  And when Clint starts to soften up to her, you’re not surprised.  After all, he’s craggly old Clint Eastwood.  He’s scary but we all know he has a heart of gold.  Add to that, Morgan Freeman’s still telling the story and surely the voice of God would not allow anything bad to happen…

And then … tragedy.  By the time that I finally saw Million Dollar Baby, I already knew the story’s big twist.  I knew that, as a result of a brutal fight, Maggie would be left paralyzed.  I knew that she would beg Frankie to euthanize her.  But seriously, imagine what a shock it must have been for audiences when this film first came out.

I mean, everything’s going perfectly and then suddenly, it’s not.

To a certain extent, I was jealous of those who got to see Million Dollar Baby without any advanced knowledge of the tragedy that defines the final third of the film.  When I watched the film, I found myself dreading the thought of enjoying any of Maggie’s triumphs because I knew what was going to happen.  Those who watched the film with know knowledge may have been shocked but at least they got to believe, for a few scenes, that Maggie could find that perfect sports film ending.

Then again, Million Dollar Baby is a great film because it refuses the temptation to give us the ending that we all want and expect.  Instead, it’s a movie that celebrates the people who will be there for you even when thing’s suddenly aren’t perfect.

That’s why Million Dollar Baby works as well as it does.  Unfortunately, it’s also why it’s a film that I could only watch once.

Hey SAG! Where’s Jacki?


Is there any organization out there right now that isn’t handing out either awards or nominations?  Earlier today, The members of the Screen Actors Guild became the latest organization to join in the fun when they announced their nominations for the best film performances of 2010.

Here’s the nominees.  I apologize, in advance, for the lack of sarcastic commentary but I have a headache and, as a result, my wit is sleeping on the couch for now.

Ensemble:
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

Actress, Lead:
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Hilary Swank, Conviction

Actor, Motion Picture
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Actress, Supporting
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Well, okay, maybe I’ll make a few comments along the lines of “Yay for the love shown to Natalie Portman, John Hawkes, James Franco, Jennifer Lawrence, and Mila Kunis!”

But seriously, SAG, where’s Animal Kingdom’s Jacki Weaver?  I mean, I can understand why Noomi Rapace was snubbed.  The Mainstream doesn’t want to remind people that there was a perfect Lisbeth Salander before Rooney Mara.  That’s how the game is played.  That’s why the people over at awardsdaily.com are already trying to claim David Fincher’s remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as the film to beat for best picture next year.

But nobody’s remaking Animal Kingdom.  There’s nothing wrong with admitting that, in a year of excellent female performances, few were as a note perfect and unexpected as Jacki Weaver’s.