A Movie A Day #250: Taking Care of Business (1990, directed by Arthur Hiller)


Jimmy Dworski (Jim Belushi) is a convicted car thief who only has a few days left in his criminal sentence but still decides to break out of prison so he can go see the Cubs play in the World Series.  Spencer Barnes (Charles Grodin) is an uptight ad executive who needs to learn how to relax and have a good time.  When Spencer loses his organizer, Jimmy finds it.  Before you can say “The prince and the pauper,” Jimmy has access to all of Spencer’s money and the mansion that Spencer is supposed to be staying at over the weekend.  While Spencer tries to survive on the streets and track down his organizer, Jimmy is living it up, spending money, impressing a Japanese businessman (Mako), romancing the boss’s daughter, and taking care of business.

Made in the uncertain period between the end of the culture of 80s materialism and the start of the 90s indie boom, Taking Care of Business is a rip-off of Trading Places that came out six years too late to be effective.  Everything that needs to be known about Jimmy and Spencer is apparentl from the minute that Charles Grodin’s and Jim Belushi’s names appear in the credits.  Grodin was usually the best when it came to playing uptight yuppies but he seems bored in Taking Care of Business.  Belushi mugs through his role, overplaying his character’s blue collar roots.  The movie builds up to a huge confrontation between Belushi and Grodin but it never really delivers, instead devolving into a predictable buddy comedy, complete with a trip to Wrigley Field and an elaborate plan to sneak Belushi back into prison before the warden (Hector Elizondo) discovers that he’s been gone for the weekend.  Taking Care of Business has a few laughs but it’s never as good as the BTO song.

A Movie A Day #157: Pacific Heights (1990, directed by John Schlesinger)


Michael Keaton is the tenant from Hell in Pacific Heights.

In San Francisco, Patty (Melanie Griffith) and Drake (Matthew Modine) have just bought an old and expensive house that they can not really afford.  In order to keep from going broke, they rent out two downstairs apartments.  One apartment is rented by a nice Japanese couple.  The other apartment is rented by Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton).  Carter convinces Patty and Drake not to check his credit by promising to pay the 6 months rent up front.  The money, he tells them, is coming via wire transfer.

The money never arrives but Carter does.  Once he moves into the apartment, Carter changes the locks so that no one but him can get in.  At all hours of the day and night, he can be heard hammering and drilling inside the apartment.  Even worse, he releases cockroaches throughout the building.  When Drake demands that Carter leave, the police back up Carter.  After goading Drake into attacking him, Carter gets a restraining order.  Drake is kicked out of his home, leaving Patty alone with their dangerous tenant.

Pacific Heights is the ultimate upper middle class nightmare: Buy a house that you can not really afford and then end up with a tenant who trashes the place to such an extent that the property value goes down.  As a thriller, Pacific Heights would be better if Drake and Patty weren’t so unlikable.  (When this movie was first made, people like Patty and Drake were known as yuppies.)  Much like Drake’s house, the entire movie is stolen by Michael Keaton’s performance as Carter Hayes.  Carter was not an easy role to play because not only did he have to be so convincingly charming that it was believable that he could rent an apartment just by promising a wire payment but he also had to be so crazy that no one would doubt that he would deliberately infest a house with cockroaches.  Michael Keaton has not played many bad guys in his career but his performance as Carter Hayes knocked it out of the park.

One final note: Keep an eye out for former Hitchcock muse (and Melanie Griffith’s mother) Tippi Hedren, playing another one of Carter’s potential victims.  Her cameo here is better than her cameo in In The Cold of the Night.

 

A Movie A Day #37: The Challenge (1970, directed by Alan Smithee)


A U.S. spy satellite has crashed onto an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean.  Both the United States and an unnamed communist country (described as being “a fifth-rate China,” but obviously meant as a stand-in for not only China but North Korea and North Vietnam as well) have both lay claim to the satellite.  To prevent a possible war, the two countries agree to a compromise.  One American and one communist will be dropped off on the island and will fight to the death.  The survivor gets the satellite.  The communists send the disciplined Yuro (Mako).  The American select Jacob Galley (Darren McGavin), a grizzled Vietnam veteran-turned-mercenary.  Jacob is armed with the latest advancements in weaponry, including a double-barreled sub-machine gun.  Yuro is armed mostly with his wits and an endless supply of booby traps.  Jacob and Yuro fight to a stand still, growing to respect each other even as each tries to kill the other.  However, both countries are willing to cheat to win the challenge.

Originally made for television, this is one of the many films to have been credited to Alan Smithee, the pseudonym that directors used to use whenever they felt that the finished film, usually because of studio interference, did not properly represent their vision.  According to the imdb, The Challenge was actually directed by veteran television directed George McGowan, whose other credits includes episodes of shows like Fantasy Island, Starsky and Hutch, and Charlie’s Angels.  I am surprised that McGowan chose to take his name off of The Challenge because, for a television movie, it’s not bad.  The Vietnam analogy is laid on a little thick but the action is exciting and both McGavin and Mako give excellent performances as the two very different combatants.

The Challenge can be viewed on YouTube.  Keep an eye out for a very young Sam Elliott, in the role of America’s insurance policy.

original_thechallenge5

Everybody Goes Home!: P.O.W. The Escape (1986, directed by Gideon Amir)


Pow_the_escape_posterP.O.W. films were all the rage in the 1980s.  For a country just starting to get back its confidence, refighting the Vietnam War onscreen was a way to deal with the lingering trauma of that conflict.  In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Sylvester Stallone asked, “Do we get to win this time?” and for a while, the answer was yes.  By sending action stars like Stallone and Chuck Norris to rescue American soldiers still being held captive in Asia, we would win this time (if only in our dreams).

P.O.W.: The Escape (also known as Behind Enemy Lines and Attack Force ‘Nam) is one of the many P.O.W. films that was produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus during their legendary time at Cannon Films.  In place of their usual star, Chuck Norris, P.O.W.: The Escape stars David Carradine as Col. James Cooper.  Cooper is a U.S. Airborne commando who, in 1973, is sent to North Vietnam on a special missions to rescue the soldiers behind held in a POW camp.

Why has Cooper been selected for this mission?

As one officer puts it, “Aside from being the best, he’s got one rule and it’s never been broken.  Everybody goes home!”

When the rescue mission goes awry, Cooper is himself captured and sent to the POW camp.  He gets his fellow prisoners back into fighting shape and, when the cowardly Sparks (Charles R. Floyd) challenges his leadership, Cooper reminds him of who the senior officer in charge is.  When the camp commandant, Vinh (Mako), offers to help Cooper escape in return for Cooper helping Vinh reach the United States, Cooper simply responds with his name, rank, and serial number.  When Vinh threatens to kill the prisoners unless Cooper helps him, Cooper agrees on one condition: “Everybody goes home!”

When Sgt. Johnston (played by perennial action sidekick, Steve James) learns of the plan, he argues that “Everybody goes home is a slogan, not a religion!”

“Speak for yourself,” Cooper replies.

Even, if like Sparks, they betray you and run off with a cache of gold, the religion of Everybody Goes Home means that no one gets left behind.  Even if it means having to trek through the jungle and going over a waterfall in a canoe, everybody goes home.  That is something that Sparks only comes to realize as he watches a prostitute undress and starts to have flashbacks to earlier scenes in the movie.  Suddenly, Sparks understands that everybody goes home and it gives him an opportunity for some last minute redemption.

Even though it is not as well-known as Missing in Action or First Blood Part II, POW: The Escape is enjoyably mindless entertainment in the legendary Cannon style.  As the world’s least likely paratrooper, David Carradine gets to show off some sweet kung fu moves.  By the end of the movie, Carradine is literally wearing an American flag.  Nothing about POW: The Escape is subtle but what’s important is that “Everybody goes home!”

ATTACK-FORCE-NAM-1986-600x455

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #100: Pearl Harbor (dir by Michael Bay)


Pearl_harbor_movie_poster

“And then all this happened…”

Nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale) in Pearl Harbor (2001)

The “this” that Evelyn Johnson is referring to is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  You know, the date will live in infamy.  The attack that caused the United States to enter World War II and, as a result, eventually led to collapse of the Axis Powers.  The attack that left over 2,000 men died and 1,178 wounded.  That attack.

In the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, that attack is just one of the many complications in the romance between Danny (Ben Affleck), his best friend Rafe (Josh Hartnett), and Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale).  The other complications include Danny briefly being listed as dead, Danny being dyslexic before anyone knew what dyslexia was (and yet, later, he’s still seen reading and writing letters with absolutely no trouble, almost as if the filmmakers forgot they had made such a big deal about him not being able to do so), and the fact that Rafe really, really likes Evelyn.  Of course, the main complication to their romance is that this is a Michael Bay film and he won’t stop moving the camera long enough for anyone to have a genuine emotion.

I imagine that Pearl Harbor was an attempt to duplicate the success of Titanic, by setting an extremely predictable love story against the backdrop of a real-life historical tragedy.  Say what you will about Titanic (and there are certain lines in that film that, when I rehear them today, make me cringe), Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet had genuine chemistry.  None of that chemistry is present in Pearl Harbor.  You don’t believe, for a second, that Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett are lifelong friends.  You don’t believe that Kate Beckinsale is torn between the two of them.  Instead, you just feel like you’re watching three actors who are struggling to give a performance when they’re being directed by a director who is more interested in blowing people up than in getting to know them.

Continuing the Titanic comparison, Pearl Harbor‘s script absolutely sucks.  Along with that line about “all this” happening, there’s also a scene where Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jon Voight) reacts to his cabinet’s skepticism by rising to his feet and announcing that if he, a man famously crippled by polio and confined to a wheelchair, can stand up, then America can win a war.

I’ve actually been to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  I have gone to the USS Arizona Memorial.  I have stood and stared down at the remains of the ship resting below the surface of the ocean.  It’s an awe-inspiring and humbling site, one that leaves you very aware that over a thousand men lost their lives when the Arizona sank.

I have also seen the wall which lists the name of everyone who was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor and until you’ve actually been there and you’ve seen it with your own eyes, you really can’t understand just how overwhelming it all is.  The picture below was taken by my sister, Erin.

Pearl Harbor 2003If you want to pay tribute to those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, going to the Arizona Memorial is a good start.  But avoid Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor at all costs.

Lisa Watches An Oscar Nominee: The Sand Pebbles (dir by Robert Wise)


The_Sand_Pebbles_film_posterAfter watching Witness For The Prosecution, I continued TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar by watching the 1966 Best Picture nominee, The Sand Pebbles.

Considering that The Sand Pebbles is close to four hours long, it’s interesting how little there is to really say about it.  Taking place in 1926, The Sand Pebbles follows the crew of the USS San Pablo, a gunboat that patrols the Yangtze River in China.  The San Pablo is there to protect American business interests, which are in particular danger because China is caught up in a communist revolution.  For the most part, the crew of the San Pablo are portrayed as being lazy and racist.  They have little interest in understanding the culture of the people around them and they use Chinese laborer to do the work on the boat.

When Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) is transferred to the San Pablo, he upsets his fellow crewmen by insisting on working in the ship’s engine room himself, the fear being that if Holman is willing to work then the rest of them will be expected to work as well.  The ship’s commander, Lt. Collins (Richard Crenna), views Holman as being a threat to morale and starts to make plans to get Holman off of his boat.  But, first, the boat is going to have to get out of China…

The Sand Pebbles is an episodic film and some of those episodes are more interesting than others.  Typically, an episode will start out positively and then end with some sudden tragedy.  For instance, Holman trains one laborer (Mako) to be a boxer and then watches as he beats the most racist crewman on the ship.  However, just a few minutes later, the laborer is captured and savagely tortured by the communists and Holman is forced to perform a mercy killing.

In another subplot, Holman’s only friend, Frenchy (Richard Attenborough), marries a local prostitute (Emmanuelle Arsan, who would later write an autobiography that would serve as the basis for a very different type of film).  However, in order to see his wife, Frenchy has to continually swim to shore in the middle of the night.  Frenchy soon develops pneumonia and dies while his wife is dragged off and apparently executed.

And finally, Holman strikes up a romance with Shirley Eckert (Candice Bergen), an innocent missionary.  However, when her arrogant and naive boss, Jameson (Larry Gates), refuses to leave the country despite the revolution, the San Pablo is ordered to rescue them.  This, of course, leads to a final battle with the communists which leaves a good deal of the cast dead.

As I watched The Sand Pebbles, my main impression was that it was an extremely long movie.  The film’s climatic battle was exciting and Steve McQueen (not to be confused with the director of 12 Years A Slave and Shame) gave a good performance but otherwise, the film often seemed to drag.  While the movie’s theme of Americans struggling (and failing) to understand another country’s culture had a definite resonance, The Sand Pebbles did not seem to be quite sure what it truly wanted to say about it.

Let’s face it — over 500 films have been nominated for best picture.  And, while a good deal of them hold up surprisingly well and are still entertaining to watch, there’s also a handful like The Sand Pebbles, ambitious films that never quite reached their potential but were probably nominated because they seemed like the type of epic film that should be nominated.  Many of these films were nominated and a few even won.

However, in the case of The Sand Pebbles, a nomination would have to be enough.  That year, the Oscar for Best Picture was won by A Man For All Seasons.

Con Report: Another Anime Convention 2014


Hey all, I’d usually start this post off with me saying why I haven’t made a post in forever.  I’m lazy.  Plus Arleigh forgot to remind me when I’m at home.  Plus again, I have been working my ass off for the most part this year.  But, I figure I started to feel bad about not posting much considering how much Arleigh is paying me.  And then I realized that I’m not being paid anything, so I stopped feeling so bad.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about my adventures at Another Anime Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire during the weekend of October 17-19.  Arleigh and I have attended 5 conventions together, 3 Anime Bostons and 2 Anime Expos in LA.  But there’s still many conventions that I attend solo, even though it’s incredibly expensive.  So, whenever I can, I try and go with someone like Arleigh.  However, small local conventions are just not something that I’d call him out from the wrong coast out to the right coast, especially since both of us are pretty much exclusively interested in Japanese guests.  Small, local conventions on the east coast are not going to get any Japanese guests ever. Anime Boston barely gets any, and they bring in well over 20,000 people.  Another Anime Convention is lucky to get 4,000 people.  But you know what?  The location works so well for that.  The convention is held in the convention center of the Manchester Radisson and even though the attendance is only between 3000 and 4000, it makes it feel every bit as busy as Anime Boston.  Not anywhere near Anime Expo or Otakon, but that’s not a bad thing, because both those conventions are stupidly crowded.

This particular convention has a lot going for it.  For one thing, even though I said it’s nowhere near an AB, since it’s a much smaller venue, it certainly feels every bit as big.  At no time will it take you longer than 10 minutes to get from one end of the convention center to the other, but that’s something that can only be truly appreciated with a smaller convention like this.

So what does this convention have going for it anyways?  Well, let’s say for a moment that you’re a fan of English dubs.  If you want to meet certain dub actors, then this is the place to do it without a doubt.  If English dub actors were my thing, I’d have been able to get several autographs no problem.  Now, even thought it’s a smaller convention, it still would normally be as tough to get an autograph as any convention.  However, AAC does something that I would encourage other larger conventions to do.  And to an extent Anime Expo does this as well.  What I’m talking about is that for an extra upcharge, one can essentially buy extra perks.  Basically for $50 extra, you get a free t-shirt, unlimited line skips (yes, any line, at any time, every time any and every day.  But there are maybe 3 events total over the course of the weekend that that would actually be an issue for), front of line access to guest autographs.  Basically, the perks are there to lord it over the cheap ass normals.  Did I do such?  Oh hell yeah.  If I saw a huge line for a panel, even if I didn’t give half a shit about the panel, I jumped the line just because I could, and I knew I was taking a closer seat away from some skinflint.

Now, Arleigh and I typically go to panels hosted by the Japanese guests and/or panels done by industry, such as your Funimations, Sentai Filmworks, Aniplex of America, or Viz Media.  With none of those industry members present at a small convention like this, I had to go into it with a much different mindset.  And you know what?  I still managed to have a ton of fun and still couldn’t see everything I wanted to.  What I did was take part in things that are in even the giant conventions, but we just never had time for.  For example, I actually went and watched the entire AMV contest, including voting on my favorites.  Because I am always ready to pass the buck, I long ago gave Arleigh the list of AMV winners, so instead of me posting them all, I’d hate to take away future AMV of the Day posts.  Buck officially passed.

One thing I can’t very well pass off to anyone else is the very fundamental thing of cosplay.  I’ll admit, I went into this thinking that the cosplay would be mediocre at best.  I grossly underestimated the dedication of anime fans.  Possibly due to the fact that there were less people around and so those that were there really stepped up their game, there was a big percentage of high class cosplay.  Alright, admittedly there were the predictables like Kill la Kill, and Attack on Titan, which has now become the new Bleach and Naruto, but if there’s quality, then repeatablity doesn’t much matter.  So, for right now, I’d like to regale you with pictures I took during my trip there.  Admittedly, I don’t always know what I took a picture of, but if I don’t know there’s two reasons why I took the picture.  Either the costume is cool looking, or the model is very hot. I’d say it’s up to you to decide, but screw that, I’ll tell you what I thought.

DSC00110First off, we have a Little Mac cosplay.  This is near and dear to me because I have previously cosplayed as King Hippo.  Obviously King Hippo is a million times better, but hey, Little Mac is still pretty cool.

DSC00111Pretty decent Zach (seriously, the proper contraction of Zachary is Zack.  Enough with this lazy bullcrap) Galaphanakis.  Frankly, I’ve never seen any of the movies, but even I can recognize somewhat famous movie scenes.

DSC00112No idea what this is.  Looks pretty elaborate though, so I reward people that take the effort to make a decent costume even if they obviously can’t pull it off.

DSC00113My hotel room faced out to the courtyard.  As I was up in my room taking a break, I happened to see this Sailor Pluto take a seat. I immediately headed out to try and catch her.  Again, due to it being a small convention, the elevators weren’t crazy busy, so I was able to get out there and get her picture.  If she doesn’t look crazy hot, then that’s due to my poor photography skills and not her own natural hotness.

DSC00114The first of a few Kill la Kill cosplay photos.

DSC00115May Chang from Full Metal Alchemist.  The charm point is the panda in her hair.  I love when people take the time to bring out the small details like that.

DSC00116More KlK cosplay.  Is this the last?  Probably not.  I mean, it was only the hottest anime property in the last year, so obviously no one would ever want to cosplay as it.

DSC00117Again, I dunno, probably some video game.  If it’s familiar to you, then sure, you know the game.  Either way, she’s pretty nice to look at, no?

DSC00118Another that I’m not really certain of, but she’s showing her panties for everyone to see.  Do you honestly expect someone with the username of pantsukudasai (panties please) to not immediately see this and need to take a picture?  My picture does not do her justice.  Very hot.  If you’re her and you’re reading this, color me surprised.  What are the odds?  You’re also some anonymous pervert on the internet who likes looking at attractive women in cosplay.

DSC00119Like I said before, one of the most overdone cosplay in recent times is Attack on Titan.  So if you want to stand out to me, the best way to do it isn’t to be one of a million Potato Girls, nor one of three million Levis, or the same number of Mikasas.  No, if you want to stand out, be like this one and be a half eaten Marco.  Brilliant!

DSC00120No doubt this will be done often in the next several conventions, but SAO II (Gun Gale Online) Kirito was a novelty at the time, so I was surprised to see anyone with this costume already.

DSC00121From Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, I can’t resist a Rika.

DSC00122Another rare male cosplayer.  Most Sir Crocodile cosplayers don’t bother with the cigar.  If you don’t go with the cigar, then what the hell is the point?  Seriously, to anyone that’s considering it, at the very least buy a cheap cigar.  Oh no, you’ll have to spend a day with tobacco on your lip.  You’re not gonna get cancer from one goddamn day.  Stop being a cop out bitch.  Go with realism.

DSC00123Generally I don’t take pictures of non anime properties, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Batman and Catwoman.

DSC00124The girls here spent the entire weekend making chalk art.  All in all, I can’t help but be impressed.

DSC00125 DSC00126Frozen is pretty much the most popular movie in America and the rest of the world.  It’s the top selling BD in Japan as well.  It’s a shame that there wasn’t snow on the ground, but on the other hand if it was that kind of cold out I probably wouldn’t have gotten these pictures in the courtyard.

DSC00127Again, keeping it all very topical, we have a cosplay of Luffy, or Lucy.  Honestly, I don’t think people truly appreciate what cosplayers like this do.  Most people aren’t reading the manga as it comes out, so the fact that someone gets a current arc cosplay made up is pretty impressive.

DSC00128Not the greatest of any one of the Honnouji Academy group, it’s just not often that you see them all grouped together.

DSC00129Again, I usually don’t pay any mind to non anime cosplay, but here we have Bob Ross. If you don’t know who Bob Ross is, then you are a grade A moron.  Perhaps it’s not nice to insult the readership, but come on, anyone that’s at least been in college should know who the hell Bob Ross is.

DSC00130Pretty good looking Mami.  Know what would have made her look better?  No head.  Ooops, spoilers.

DSC00131My goddamn unicorn! If that doesn’t make sense, then please hear my story.  First off, a unicorn refers to something that if you don’t have pics, it didn’t happen.  The backstory to all this goes as such.  I saw this girl while I was having breakfast, heading down to an area where there is only on way to go.  I didn’t sweat it, because I figured small convention, only one access point, I should easily find her and get her picture.  After eating, during which she definitely did not come back that way, I headed down there to find her.  I got distracted because I saw the barrel of that gun and figured I had her, but it turned out I was chasing down a Seras Victoria cosplayer.  Then later in the day, as I was on the second floor waiting for a panel to open, I saw her walk by on the first floor.  I rushed down to the first floor, heading to the direction that she was walking.  Amazingly, I could not find her.  Again, this is a small convention, with a basically small floor area.  Finally, I saw her while I was on the same floor as her and got this picture.  FYI, she’s Sinon from Sword Art Online II.  Again, it’s a fairly new show, so I’m amazed that there is a great quality cosplay as this so soon.  Plus, I’m very impressed that she didn’t go running to security when I told her that I had been hunting her down all day.  Yes, I used those exact terms.  Thank you Sinon for not getting me arrested.  Also, I never saw her again the rest of the day, so I’m glad I was able to get a picture of this unicorn and turn her into reality.

DSC00132Not the greatest I’ve ever seen, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen any Rinoa cosplay that it’s almost fresh again.

DSC00133Finishing off the day, and the weekend, we have Shiro from No Game, No Life.  This same girl was busy doing a professional shoot earlier in the day.  I suppose I could have just shot a picture, but that’s not how I roll.  Believe it or not, a guy whose username is begging to see panties does have morals.  Luckily for me, I saw her later on in the day.  During the photoshoot, she was wearing a crown.  I think I got the better picture with her wearing panties on her head, which is actually canon in the show.

(To note, every picture taken here was done with the full permission of the person whose picture was being taken.  If for whatever reason you have changed your mind and do not like the way your picture has been taken, contact me and I will take it down, no complaints or questions asked.)

So, with all that said and done, more has been said than done.  But really, while I wouldn’t say break the bank and fly across country to attend, if you find yourself in the Northeast and hear that Another Anime Convention is gonna be going on that weekend, by all means fish out the $50, plus whatever your hotel costs, and you’ll find yourself having a great time!