Programming Change: Join Us For Breakdown!


Earlier today, it was announced that White Lightning would be tonight’s #MondayMuggers live tweet! 

Well, it’s time for a quick programming change!  Because tonight is co-host Sierra’s birthday, White Lightning is going to be postponed until next week.  Instead, tonight at 10 pm et, I will be hosting 1997’s Breakdown for #MondayMuggers!  This Kurt Russell film features J.T. Walsh as one of the scariest evil truckers ever!  It’s a classic and it’s on Prime!

So, tonight, if you’re free, join #MondayMuggers on twitter for Breakdown!  I’d love to see you there.

Live Tweet Alert: Join #FridayNightFlix for Escape From New York!


 

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, at 10 pm et, I will be hosting the third #FridayNightFlix of 2022!  The movie? 1981’s Escape From New York!

If you want to join us this Friday, just hop onto twitter, start the movie at 10 pm et, and use the #FridayNightFlix hashtag!  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.

Escape From New York is available on Prime and Tubi!  See you there!

Scenes I Love: Snake Plisskin Shuts Down The World In Escape From L.A.


What is the deal with Presidents who don’t understand how important it is to stay on Snake Plisskin’s good side?

At the end of Escape From New York, The President (Donald Pleasence) made the mistake of not showing proper respect to all the people who died while Snake was rescuing him.  So, Snake destroyed the tape that was apparently key to keeping the world from descending into war.  Now, to be honest, the President was pretty shook up at the time and it’s possible that Snake was being a bit too judgmental.  After everything the President had been through, it was totally possible that he wasn’t even sure where he was.  Still, the tape was destroyed and America presumably never elected another British president.

Then, in Escape from L.A., the next President (Cliff Robertson) again makes the mistake of getting on Snake’s nerves.  So, Snake basically robs the world of electricity.  (Kurt Russell has said that all of this could have been avoided if they had just left Snake have a cigarette but the President had passed a bunch of anti-smoking laws.)  Hopefully, the next President was capable of not annoying Snake Plisskin.

With all that in mind and in honor of John Carpenter’s birthday, here’s a scene that I love from 1996’s Escape From L.A.

Live Tweet Alert: Join #FridayNightFlix for Escape From L.A.!


 

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, at 10 pm et, I will be hosting #FridayNightFlix!  The movie? 1996’s Escape From L.A.!

Director John Carpenter reunites with Kurt Russell and Peter Fonda, Steve Buscemi, Bruce Campbell, and Cliff Robertson are along for the ride!

If you want to join us this Friday, just hop onto twitter, start the movie at 10 pm et, and use the #FridayNightFlix hashtag!  I’ll be there tweeting and I imagine some other members of the TSL Crew will be there as well.  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.

Escape From L.A. is available on Prime and Paramount!  See you there!

Quick Review – Grindhouse (dir. by Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino)


The following was posted on 4/6/2007 from my LiveJournal on Grindhouse (which is celebrating it’s 15th Anniversary). I’ll admit I respect Death Proof a bit more now than I did back then:

Gotta write fast. Have to jump into shower and head for work.

I got into the movie theatre at about 8pm, and spent the hour talking with a pair of film students from the School of Visual Arts. At 9 (an hour before the movie), the rest of the sold out crowd appeared. I was officially 3rd in line. Sweet. 🙂 I didn’t my preferred seat (the single one on the right reserved for patrons coming in with someone in a wheelchair), but did get a seat in the empty row (meaning I could stretch my legs, even better).

The short of it: Grindhouse is paying one low price for 2 bad movies, on purpose. You get 3 great built in trailers, and two mini movies. Between the two mini movies, I loved “Planet Terror” (the Rodriguez one) more than “Death Proof” (The Tarantino film), simply because Death Proof had too much of Tarantino’s conversational style that all of his films have. It’s like you’re listening to a conversation that absolutely doesn’t tie itself to any of the storyline’s major points. It’s just “cool” stuff, but I literally almost fell asleep until Kurt Russell showed up on screen. I think that if one knows to expect this from Tarantino, it comes across better. It’s like watching both Kill Bill volumes back to back. The first one’s cool and action packed, and the second one has some action (the chase scene alone in Death Proof had me wondering how they did that), but is so slow before getting there, you want to sigh.

Being a Charmed Fan, it was great to see Rose McGowan again, and there were so many cameos to laugh at. Fergie has a cameo, and Michael Biehn’s (“Hicks” from Aliens, Navy Seals) even in this. Where did they dig up these guys?

Grindhouse is easily a party film. I’d go see it again in the theatre, but I don’t see myself getting the DVD. It takes you back about a good 30 years, and does that really well. There are missing reels, serious jump cuts in the film and the sound sometimes cuts out. 🙂 In that sense, it’s really beautiful. The audience laughed and applauded, though there were some that at the end were like “Man, that sucked.” In the 60’s and 70’s, Grindhouse movies were pretty bad. I guess it’s like watching one of those old Hammer films, mixed in with a cheap horror flick. You have to walk into this movie not expecting “The Departed” for it to work. Just have fun with what you’re seeing and remember, this is what your parents sometimes saw in the movies (it should be noted that my parents went to something of a Grindhouse once – the movie they went to see was Night of the Living Dead. The other movie that was in the show was John Carpenter’s “Halloween”, which freaked my Dad out).

The music in particular is really great. Robert Rodriguez, Chingon, and a few friends come up with a sound for Planet Terror that’s in essence a John Carpenter like sound. If you have access to the Itunes Music Store, give it a listen (I bought it). Plus, if you’re a fan of some of the older movies out there, you’ll find references to some of Carpenter’s films in there (for example, one of the songs from “Escape from New York” is actually used in the film). The same occurs with the soundtrack from “Creepshow” – The story with the drowned couple. There are also tons of older Tarantino/Rodriguez references in there. One fellow actually yelled out a line, word for word, from what was on screen. It took me a second to realize the line came from “From Dusk Till Dawn”. Sweet.

The in betwen trailers are absolutely fantastic. If I were to get the DVD, it would probably be for this reason alone. You can tell that Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and Eli Roth (Hostel) really had fun with their pieces.

So, Grindhouse is worth seeing in theatre at least once with a bunch of friends, but know what you’re walking into. The movie can get gross at times and no young kid should even be brought near to this (we got carded to actually get into the theatre, and a Weinstein Rep. was on hand after the film to let us take surveys). Also before the movies, one of the teaser trailers is for Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”. I haven’t been so excited for a horror film like this since Zack Snyder’s version of “Dawn of the Dead”. This looks really good, and I’m wondering what Michael Myers is going to look like when someone like Tyler Mane (Sabretooth from the first X-Men movie) is playing him. That’s going to be creepy.

6 Classic Trailers For January 16th, 2022


Since today is the birthday of John Carpenter, can you guess what the theme of the latest edition of Lisa Mare’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers is going to be?

Enjoy!

  1. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Let’s get things started with the wonderfully grainy trailer for 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13!  Though the film may have been intended as an homage to Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo, everything about the trailer screams grindhouse.  

2. Halloween (1978)

Assault on Precinct 13 may not have set the box office on fire but it did help build Carpenter’s critical reputation.  One fan of the film was the actress Angela Pleasence, who suggested to her father, Donald, that he accept Carpenter’s offer to play the role of Dr. Loomis in Carpenter’s next film.  And that film, of course, was Halloween!

3. Escape From New York (1981)

Donald Pleasence returned to play the President in Escape from New York and, of course, Kurt Russell appeared in his first Carpenter feature film.  (Russell had previously played Elvis in a Carpenter-directed television film.)  Though the film may not have been an immediate hit in the United States, it was embraced in Europe and it led to an entire series of Italian films about people trying to escape New York.

4. The Thing (1982)

Carpenter and Russell reunited for The Thing, another film that underappreciated when first released but which has since become a classic.

5. They Live (1988)

They Live is one of Carpenter’s best films and certainly his most subversive.  What may have seemed paranoid in 1988 feels prophetic today.

6. In The Mouth of Madness (1995)

Finally, in 1995, Carpenter proved himself to be one of the few directors to be able to capture the feel of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories on film.  In The Mouth of Madness, like other Carpenter films, has been rewatched and reappraised over the years and is now widely recognized as a classic.

Happy birthday to the great John Carpenter!

Holiday Film Review: The Christmas Chronicles 2 (dir by Chris Columbus)


If I ever actually meet Santa Claus, I’ll be really disappointed if he doesn’t look like a bearded Kurt Russell.

Russell plays the role of St. Nicholas in The Christmas Chronicles 2 and he’s absolutely perfect in the role.  It’s not just that Russell is an intensely likable actor, though that’s certainly some of it.  Santa, after all, should be a likable character and it’s pretty much impossible not to like Kurt Russell.  Even when he was killing people in Death Proof, he was still the most likable serial killer that you could ever hope to meet.  Beyond just being likable, though, Russell brings a lot of joi de vivre to the role of Santa.  As played by Russell, Santa loves what he does.  Spreading Christmas cheer and keeping the holiday spirit alive is what he lives for.  Over the years, movies have given us stern Santas and humorous Santas and occasionally even incompetent Santas.  Kurt Russell is the fun Santa.

In The Christmas Chronicles 2, Russell is joined by his real-life partner, Goldie Hawn.  Goldie plays Mrs. Claus, who turns out to be a witch but a good one.  She’s the type of witch who makes gingerbread cookies the explode, which is certainly the best type of witch to be.  As I watched Goldie Hawn in this film, it occurred to me that if Hollywood is ever foolish enough to try to remake The Wizard of Oz, Goldie would be the perfect choice for Glinda.  Not surprisingly, Hawn and Russell have a lot of chemistry in The Christmas Chronicles 2.  They’re the perfect couple.  They’re exactly who you would hope Santa and Mrs. Claus would turn out to be.

(I have to say that, of all the Hollywood couples out there, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are the couple that I would want to actually live next door to.  Kurt seems like he would be good about repairing stuff around the neighborhood while Goldie seems like she would be the type to keep an eye on my Amazon deliveries until I got home from work or wherever.  I’d much rather live next to them than George and Amal Clooney, if just because the Clooneys seem like they would be the type to complain because you accidentally clipped their yard with a lawn mower or something.)

The Christmas Chronicles 2 actually does have a plot and it tells a pretty sweet little story.  A bitter elf named Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) is trying to ruin Christmas and it’s all up to Katie (Darby Camp) and Jack (Jahzir Bruno) to help Santa and Mrs. Claus save the world’s Christmas spirit.  Along the way, Katie gets to travel through time and meet her father and both Katie and Jack learn about the importance of family.  It’s all very sincere and very sweet and if it doesn’t bring at least one tear to your eyes this holiday season, you’re hopeless.  That said, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is ultimately all about star power and charisma.  The film works because Russell and Hawn are a total joy to watch.  Consider this: it’s a 114-minute film but the main story is resolved in 90 minutes.  The remaining 24 minutes are spent watching Russell and Hawn light a Christmas tree and hang out with Santa’s elves and it’s absolutely delightful to watch!  By the end of the film, you basically just want to move to the North Pole and live with the Clauses.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is currently on Netlfix and it’s a fun little holiday romp.  It’s perfect for kids and the adults who sometimes have to watch movies with them.  There’s a great musical number and a few surprisingly clever jokes.  (I loved that when Santa and Mrs. Claus watched It’s A Wonderful Life, it was a version that had been dubbed into the Elvish language.)  Check it out.  It’ll lift your holiday spirits.

 

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014, dir. by Chapman Way and Maclain Way)


If you’re like me and you’re already missing baseball, I recommend watching a documentary called The Battered Bastards of Baseball.

In 1972, Portland, Oregon lost their minor league baseball team when the Portland Beavers abandoned the city in order to become the Spokane Indians.  At the same time, actor Bing Russell, a former minor leaguer and the father of Kurt Russell, had grown tired of Hollywood and was looking to get back into baseball.  Relocating to Portland, Russell announced that he was going to start his own independent minor league team, the Portland Mavericks.

At first, no one took the Mavericks seriously.  Because they weren’t affiliated with a major league team, the Mavericks roster was largely made up of misfits and rulebreakers, many of whom had been released from other organizations and who had been blacklisted from the major leagues.  On average, most of the Mavericks players were older than the average major leaguer.  Many of them were players who were looking for one last shot at glory and Bing refused to cut any of them because he felt that that they deserved that chance.  When the skeptical media asked Bing what the Mavericks were going to offer that other baseball teams couldn’t, he replied, “Fun.”

And he delivered.  From 1973 to 1977, the Mavericks played exciting baseball, won divisional and league titles, and, most importantly, they put on a good show.  Playing mostly for the love of the game (because Russell never had much money to spend on salaries), the Mavericks reminded people of what baseball was all about.  They pulled off amazing plays on the field while their off-field antics were legendary.  The Mavericks played baseball the way that people wanted to see baseball played, with one manager living every fan’s dream by punching an umpire.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball tells the story of the Mavericks and Bing Russell.  It features archival footage of the Mavericks at play, along with interviews with people like Kurt Russell, who briefly played for the Mavericks and then served as one of their vice presidents.   The documentary pays tribute to the players who never gave up, the fans who eventually welcomed them to a new town, and most of all to the vision and determination of Bing Russell.  Even while Bing was bringing the fun back to baseball, he was also breaking down other barriers by hiring professional baseball’s first female general manager, as well as the first Asian American general manager.

Most importantly, though, The Battered Bastards of Baseball reminds us of why people love baseball in the first place.  It celebrates the game, the players, and most of all the fans.  It’s a documentary that will just leave you in a good mood.  That’s something we all could use!

Kurt Russell as a Maverick

3000 Miles to Graceland (2001, directed by Demian Lichtenstein)


Five thieves show up in Vegas to rob a casino.  The casino is also hosting an Elvis convention so the criminals all dress up like Elvis before trying to pull off their heist.  Since one of the criminals is played by Kurt Russell and Russell famously played Elvis in a made-for-TV movie, it’s a meta joke.  The worst of the criminals is played by Kevin Costner because, in 2001, Costner’s career was dead in the water and he was trying to reinvent himself as some sort of badass character actor.

As a result of a shootout and series of personal betrayals, Russell and Costner are the only two thieves who survive the heist.  Kurt Russell ends up taking all of the money for himself and running off with single mother Courteney Cox.  (Yes, Cox’s then-husband, David Arquette, does have a small role in the movie.)  Costner pursues them, killing anyone who he comes in contact with until it all leads to one final shoot out.

3000 Miles to Graceland is a stupid, stupid movie that was made at the time when every director was still trying to remake Reservoir Dogs and The Usual Suspects.  If you need any proof of how bad this movie is, just consider that it is one of the few Kurt Russell films to never develop a cult following.  There are people who would jump into the mouth of a volcano if Kurt Russell told them to and even they won’t watch 3000 Miles to Graceland.  Even the worst 90s crime films have at least a few people willing to defend them but 3000 Miles to Graceland has been abandoned on the ash heap of crime film history.  Despite having a once-in-a-lifetime supporting cast — Christian Slater, Bookeem Woodbine, Kevin Pollack, Jon Lovitz, Howie Long, Ice-T, and even Paul Anka — 3000 Miles to Graceland has never even received a direct-to-video sequel.

Why is 3000 Miles to Graceland so forgettable?  The heist storyline has been done to death and this film doesn’t bring anything new to the genre.  The only new wrinkle that 3000 Miles to Graceland brings to its familiar story is that the thieves are all dressed like Elvis and that gets old pretty quick.  The other problem is that Kevin Costner is miscast as the psycho villain.  Michael Madsen could have handled the role.  So could Tom Sizemore or Woody Harrelson or just about other actor out there.  But Kevin Costner, who first found fame as a sort of modern-day Gary Cooper, never seems comfortable playing a cold-hearted sociopath.  He makes up for this discomfort by trying too hard.  Comparing his performance here to his more nuanced turn as another criminal in A Perfect World shows just how miscast he was in 3000 Miles To Graceland.

Fortunately, better things were ahead for almost everyone involved in this movie.  Kevin Costner has recently returned to playing the type of roles that made him a star to begin with and Kurt Russell has become an American idol.  Fortunately, 3000 Miles to Graceland is remembered, if at all, as just an unfortunate detour in their otherwise distinguished careers.

Tequila Sunrise (1988, directed by Robert Towne)


Mac (Mel Gibson) and Nick (Kurt Russell) are old friends who are on opposite sides of the law.  Mac was once a legendary drug dealer though he says that he’s now retired.  Nick is a narcotics detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  Early on, Nick warns Mac that, if he is dealing again, he’s going to have to arrest him.  Mac says that he has no interest in getting back into the business but no one believes him.

Mac is actually more interested in Jo Ann Valleneri, who owns his favorite restaurant.  Since Jo Ann is played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who can blame him?.  After tracks Mac to the restaurant, he becomes attracted to Jo Ann too and again, it’s impossible to blame him.  Soon, Jo Ann and Nick are a couple but is Nick just using her to find out about Mac’s relationship with a mysterious drug lord named Carlos?  And when Mac moves in and starts his own relationship with Jo Ann, does he really love her or is he using her to throw Nick off of his trail?

Tequila Sunrise should be a great film but instead, it’s only a good one.  It has all the elements of greatness — Michelle Pfeiffer at her sultriest, Kurt Russell at his coolest, and Mel Gibson before he lost his mind.  It also has a good supporting cast, including Raul Julia, J.T. Walsh, and Arliss Howard.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really come together because the film’s director and screenwriter, Robert Towne, doesn’t seem to be sure what type of story he wants to tell.  Tequila Sunrise could have either been a great crime thriller or a steamy love story but, by trying to be both, it gets bogged down in its own convoluted plot.  That probably won’t matter to most viewers, though.  Not when Russell, Gibson, and Pfeiffer are all on screen together at the same time.  Tequila Sunrise tries to be many things but it works best as a celebration of movie star charisma.

One final note: The film looks great.  Visually, this is one of the ultimate California films.  Cinematographer Conrad Hall received an Oscar nomination for his work on this film and it was more than deserved.