Here’s The Trailer for Ad Astra!


It seems like we’ve been hearing about Ad Astra forever.

Well, it actually hasn’t been forever.  Director James Gray first announced that he would be going into production on Ad Astra in 2016.  The film was shot in 2017.  It was originally scheduled to be released in 2018 but then the date kept getting pushed back until, eventually, it was announced that the film would be released in January of 2019.

And we were all like, “Oh, January.  It must be really bad, then.”

But then the movie was pushed back again, to May.

And we were all like, “Oh, May.  It must not be terrible but it’s probably not particularly memorable.”

But then it was moved back again, to September.

And we were all like, “September?  Isn’t that when the Oscar movies start to come out?”

So, who knows what to expect?  Here’s what we do know: James Gray has directed some good movies (The Lost City of Z) along with some frustratingly uneven ones (We Are The Night).  Ad Astra stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut who goes into space in search of his father (Tommy Lee Jones).  With Gray directing, one can imagine that there’s probably a bit more to the story than just a father/son reunion.  Apparently, Pitt is also going to discover a secret that threaten humanity’s existence.  Gary has also said that he wanted to the film’s depiction of space travel to be 100% realistic.

So …. again, we’ll see.  When a movie’s release date gets shuffled around as much as Ad Astra‘s, it hard not to be a little skeptical.  But the talent involved is impressive enough that I’m definitely going to give the movie a chance.

Here’s the just-released trailer:

Horror Film Review: Eyes of Laura Mars (dir by Irvin Kershner)


The Eyes of Laura Mars opens with Barbra Streisand singing the theme song, letting us know that we’re about to see one of the most 70s films ever made.

Laura Mars (played by a super intense Faye Dunaway) is a fashion photographer who is known for the way that her work mixes sex with violence.  Some people say that she’s a genius and those people have arranged for the publication of a book of her work.  (The book, naturally, is called The Eyes of Laura Mars.)  Some people think that Laura’s work is going to lead to the downfall of civilization.  And then one person thinks that anyone associated with Laura should die.

And that’s exactly what starts to happen.

Laura has visions of her friends being murdered.  Some people believe that makes her a suspect.  Some people think that she’s just going crazy from the pressure.  John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones), the detective assigned to her case, thinks that Laura is a damaged soul, just like him.  Neville and Laura soon find themselves falling in love, which would be more believable if Dunaway and Jones had even the least amount of chemistry.  Watching them kiss is like watching two bricks being smashed together.

There’s plenty of suspects, each one of them more a 70s cliché than the other.  There’s Donald (Rene Auberjonois), Laura’s flamboyant friend.  There’s Michael (Raul Julia), Laura’s sleazy ex-husband who is having an affair with the gallery of the manager that’s showing Laura’s photographs.  And then there’s Laura’s shift-eyed driver, Tommy.  Tommy has a criminal record and carries a switchblade and he always seem to be hiding something but, to be honest, the main reason Tommy might be the murderer is because he’s played by Brad Dourif.

If there’s one huge flaw with the film, it’s that the film never explains why Laura is suddenly having visions.  Obviously, the film is trying to suggest that Laura and the murderer share some sort of psychic connection but why?  (I was hoping the film would reveal that Dunaway had an evil twin or something like that but no.)  The other huge problem that I had is that one of the more likable characters in the film is murdered while dressed as Laura, specifically as a way to distract the killer.  So, that kind of makes that murder all Laura’s fault but no one ever points that out.

Personally, I think this film missed a huge opportunity by not having Andy Warhol play one of the suspects.  I mean, how can you make a movie about a pretentious fashion photographer in the 70s without arranging for a cameo from Andy Warhol?

The other missed opportunity is that the script was written by John Carpenter but he wasn’t invited to direct the movie.  I suppose that makes sense when you consider that Carpenter actually sold his script before he was hired to direct Halloween.  (Both Halloween and The Eyes of Laura Mars came out in the same year, 1978.)  That said, Carpenter would have directed with more of a sense of humor.  Director Irvin Kershner takes a plodding and humorless approach to the material.  When you’ve got a film featuring Faye Dunaway flaring her nostrils and Tommy Lee Jones talking about how sad his childhood was, you need a director who is going to fully embrace the insanity of it all.

With the glamorous background and the unseen killer, The Eyes of Laura Mars was obviously meant to be an American giallo.  Occasionally, it succeeds but again, it’s hard not to feel that an Italian director would have had a bit more fun with the material.  In the end The Eyes of Laura Mars is an interesting misfire but a misfire nonetheless.

Here’s The Trailer For Shock and Awe (which appears to deliver little of either)


Here’s the trailer for Shock and Awe, which is apparently a film about the media at the start of the Iraq War.

Don’t get too excited.  It was directed by Rob Reiner, who hasn’t done anything worthwhile in quite some time.  To be honest, this sounds like exactly the type of project that will bring out all of Reiner’s worst, most middlebrow instincts as a filmmaker.

But who knows?  At least Tommy Lee Jones is in it.

Embracing The Melodrama Part III #6: The Betsy (dir by Daniel Petrie)


“Wheeeeeeee!”

— Loren Hardeman Sr. (Sir Laurence Olivier) in The Betsy (1978)

Here’s a little thought experiment:

Imagine if The Godfather had starred Laurence Olivier and Tommy Lee Jones.

That may sound strange but it actually could have happened.  When Francis Ford Coppola first started his search for the perfect actor to play Don Vito Corleone, he announced that he could only imagine two actors pulling off the role.  One was Marlon Brando and the other was Laurence Olivier.

As for Tommy Lee Jones, he was among the many actors who auditioned for the role of Michael Corleone.  At the time, Jones was 26 years old and had only recently made his film debut in Love Story.  As odd as it may be to imagine the quintessentially Texan Tommy Lee Jones in the role, Coppola always said that he was looking for a brooder as Michael and that’s definitely a good description of Jones.

Of course, as we all know, neither Olivier nor Jones were ever cast in The Godfather.  Marlon Brando played Don Vito and Al Pacino was cast as Michael.  However, a few years later, Olivier and Jones would co-star in another family saga that combined history, organized crime, and melodrama.  That film was 1978’s The Betsy and, interestingly enough, it even co-starred an actor who actually did appear in The Godfather, Robert Duvall.

Of course, now would probably be a good time to point out that The Godfather is perhaps the greatest American film of all time.  And The Betsy … well, The Betsy most definitely is not.

The film’s German poster even gives off a Godfather vibe

Based on a novel by Harold Robbins, The Betsy exposes the secrets of Detroit.  Decades ago, Loren Hardeman founded Hardeman Motors and started to build his considerable fortune.  Sure, Loren had to break a few rules.  He cut corners.  He acted unethically.  He had an affair with his daughter-in-law and then drove his gay son to suicide.  Loren never said that he was perfect.  Now in his 80s, Loren has a vision of the future and that vision is a new car.  This car will be called the Betsy (named after his great-granddaughter) and it will be the most fuel-efficient car ever made.

Since the film appropriates the flashback structure used in The Godfather Part II, we get to see Loren Hardeman as both an elderly man and a middle-aged titan of industry.  Elderly Loren is played by Laurence Olivier.  Elderly Loren spends most of the film in a wheelchair and he speaks with a bizarre accent, one that I think was meant to be Southern despite the fact that the film takes place in Michigan.  Elderly Loren gets really excited about building his new car and, at one point, shouts out “Wheeeeeee!”

Middle-aged Loren is played by … Laurence Olivier!  That’s right.  Olivier, who was 71 years old at the time, also plays Loren as a younger man.  This means that Olivier wears a hairpiece and so much makeup that he looks a bit like a wax figure come to life.  Strangely, Middle-aged Loren doesn’t have a strange accent and never says “wheeeee.”

To build his car, Loren recruits race car driver Angelo Perino (Tommy Lee Jones).  Angelo’s father was an old friend of Loren’s.  When Angelo agrees, he discovers that the Hardeman family is full of drama and secrets.  Not only is great-granddaughter Betsy (Kathleen Beller) in love with him but so is Lady Bobby Ayers (Lesley-Anne Down), who is the mistress of Loren’s grandson, Loren the 3rd (Robert Duvall).

Because he blames his grandfather for the death of his father, Loren the 3rd has no intention of building Loren the 1st’s car.  Loren the 3rd wants to continue to make cars that pollute the environment.  “Over my dead boy!” Loren the 1st replies.  “As you wish, grandfather,” Loren the 3rd replies with a smile.

But we’re not done yet!  I haven’t even talked about the Mafia and the union organizers and the automotive journalist who ends up getting murdered.  From the minute the movie starts, it’s nonstop drama.  That said, most of the drama is so overdone that it’s actually more humorous than anything else.  As soon as Laurence Olivier shouts out, “Wheeeee!,” The Betsy falls into the trap of self-parody and it never quite escapes.  There’s a lot going on in the movie and one could imagine a more imaginative director turning the trashy script into a critique of capitalism and technology.  However, Daniel Petrie directs in a style that basically seems to be saying, “Let’s just get this over with.”

The cast is full of interesting people, all of whom are let down by a superficial script.  Nothing brings out the eccentricity in talented performers quicker than a line of shallow dialogue.  Jane Alexander, who plays Duvall’s wife, delivers all of her lines in an arch, upper class accent.  Edward Herrmann, playing a lawyer, smirks every time the camera is pointed at him.  Katharine Ross, as Olivier’s mistress and Duvall’s mother, stares at Olivier like she’s trying to make his head explode.  Tommy Lee Jones is even more laconic than usual while Duvall always seems to be struggling not to start laughing.

And then there’s Olivier.  For better or worse, Olivier is the most entertaining thing about The Betsy.  He doesn’t give a good performance but he does give a memorably weird one.  Everything, from the incomprehensible accent to a few scenes where he literally seems to bounce up and down, suggests a great actor who is desperately trying to bring a spark of life to an otherwise doomed project.  It’s a performance so strange that it simply has to be seen to be believed.

Tomorrow, we take a look at another melodrama featuring Robert Duvall, True Confessions!

 

Film Review: Jason Bourne (2016, dir. Paul Greengrass)


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I most certainly do know his name. It’s John Rambo. I kept thinking of that fake ad for a Rambo style movie from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City throughout the film.

Take the beginning of Rambo III (1988), and make it the whole movie. That being tracking him down to bring him in, so he can be sent out on a mission. Throw in that surveillance thing from the TV Show Person of Interest. Add a little of the 60 Minutes fueled paranoia about technology that filled the movie Blackhat (2015). Copy the ending of Terminator: Genisys (2015), but make it about swapping out love interests to reboot the franchise. Make sure to shake the camera a bunch, put in unnecessary zooms, and editing that at times gets so frantic you lose track of what is happening. Endless action must be there too since people paid to see spectacle rather than just setup. That’s Jason Bourne in a nutshell. It is a film cobbled together from elements you are already familiar with from other films, you get some action for your money, and then are sequel baited before the credits roll.

Don’t see it in theaters like I did. If you are a big movie lover or an action junkie, then check it out on DVD. If you aren’t, then don’t watch it in any form whatsoever. It’s not worth it for the casual viewer.

That’s my short review, which I know I can’t be the only one who likes to read about a film that is brand new.

Now if you want to hear more about the film, then read on. I will do my best without physical access to the film, or proper screenshots. I refuse to use promotional ones. I want to be able to show you goofs like making an IP Address be internal by being 192 at the start, but still making the second number 256 for no reason at all. They won’t show that kind of thing in promo material. I will also spoil the ending that really isn’t a spoiler. You already know simply by the fact that there are clearly planned sequels that can’t exist without Bourne.

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First, I have to confess that I did not see the last entry in the series. I have seen all the ones before that, but not the Jeremy Renner one. I doubt it makes any difference, but I thought you should know.

The movie starts off the way Casino Royale (2006) does by giving us a recap of Bourne’s previous kills. Just like Bond, it means he is in, and isn’t going to get back out again. That’s when it cuts to him fighting in an organized fight club type thing a la Rambo to get away from it all. At the same time, we are introduced to the two main people who will be chasing after Bourne. That’s Heather Lee played by Alicia Vikander and the director of the CIA played by Tommy Lee Jones.

Bourne is in Greece, which is in turmoil. They get hot his trail very quickly courtesy of Julia Stiles who makes a return, so she can lead Lee to Bourne before making sure she gets shot and killed. No joke. She hacks her way into a system they are monitoring to find Bourne herself, they catch on, they catch up, and she gets shot. There’s your setup for the movie. Bourne is drawn back into things whether he likes it or not while he is being hunted.

The next important thing isn’t really important at all, but will take up time in the movie nonetheless. It’s Tommy Lee Jones harassing a tech giant that he apparently gave money to so that he could start his company. He wants him to put in a backdoor in his very popular social network so that the CIA can spy on everyone. Yes, they do bring up Snowden because of course they do. This part of the story exists in the movie, but honestly plays very little into things except to give a purpose for drawing Bourne into something good rather than simply being the super solider who came in from the cold. It’s how Lee and Tommy Lee Jones handle the situation that tells Bourne where he stands, and sets up the sequel.

At a certain point the action takes over the film completely. Yes, there is quite a bit of fast-paced tracking sequences early on, but by the time the real action starts, you get to see a SWAT van act like a snow plow going down the street knocking cars left and right. I went with two friends, and neither of them could stop talking about the action. Things like “how did they do that” kept coming up. Obviously it’s a mix of practical effects and CGI, but there is just so much of it filled with quick cuts that you are overwhelmed as they were. It made me long for something simple like The Dark Knight (2008). However, I want to make it clear that I never lost a sense of space. That’s a deathblow to action sequences. It’s when the film isn’t shot properly so that instead of understanding the space in which the action takes place and the relation between the characters, you wind up with a bunch of disconnected actions scenes. I never felt that way watching this movie.

In the end, the tech giant is nearly assassinated, but rescued, and only gets shot in the chest. Tommy Lee Jones is killed off in a scene that reminded me of when RoboCop confronted Ronny Cox. Heather Lee is now situated as a go-between Bourne and the people who want to use him. They barely scratch at those special behind the scenes people with some flashbacks and a few documents. I figure that is what we will get a more fleshed out version of in the follow-up films.

That’s my longer review. Bourne walks away not telling Lee how she will get in touch with him. She does get into her car, and picks up some sort of device, but I honestly don’t recall what it was. The point is, she is both the new point-man, and probably a love interest down the road.

If that sounds like something you want to see, then more power to you!

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #7: Rolling Thunder (dir by John Flynn)


I’m currently in the process of watching the 36 films that I’ve recorded on my DVR since March.  Last night, I was extremely excited as I looked up the 7th film on the DVR and I discovered that I was about to watch the 1977 revenge classic, Rolling Thunder!

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Among those of us who love old grindhouse and exploitation film, Rolling Thunder has achieved legendary status.  Based on a script by Paul Schrader (though I should point out that Schrader’s script was rewritten by Heywood Gould and Schrader himself has been very critical of the actual film) and directed by John Flynn, Rolling Thunder is quite literally one of the best revenge films ever made.  It’s also a great Texas film, taking place and filmed in San Antonio.  Quentin Tarantino has frequently cited Rolling Thunder as being one of his favorite films and he even used the name for his short-lived distribution company, Rolling Thunder Pictures.

Rolling Thunder also has one of the greatest trailers of all time.  In fact, if not for the trailer, I probably would never have set the DVR to record it off of Retroplex on March 25th.  The Rolling Thunder trailer is included in one of the 42nd Street Forever compilation DVDs and, from the minute I first watched it, I knew that Rolling Thunder was a film that I had to see.

Watch the trailer below:

Everything about that trailer — from the somewhat portentous narration at the beginning to the way that Tommy Lee Jones calmly says, “I’ll get my gear,” at the end, is pure genius.

But what about the film itself?  Well, having finally seen the film, I can say that Rolling Thunder is indeed a classic.  It’s also one of the most brutal films that I’ve ever seen, containing scenes of truly shocking and jarring violence.  In fact, the violence is so shocking that it’s also, at times, rather overwhelming.  This is one of those films that you will probably remember as being far more violent than it actually is.  Because, while Rolling Thunder features its share of shoot-outs and garbage disposal limb manglings, it’s actually a very deliberately paced character study.

When we first meet Maj. Charles Rane (William Devane), he’s sitting on a plane and looking down on San Antonio.  He’s in full military dress uniform.  Setting across from him, also in uniform, is John Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones).  The year is 1973 and Rane and Vohden have both just spent the past seven years as prisoners in a Vietnamese camp.  While they were prisoners, they were tortured every day.  Now, they’re returning home and neither one of them is quite sure what’s going to be waiting for them.

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Over the imdb, you can find a few complaints from people who feel that Rolling Thunder gets off to a slow start.  And it’s true that it takes over 30 minutes to get to the pivotal scene where Maj. Rane loses both his hand and his family.  But that deliberate pace is what makes Rolling Thunder more than just a revenge flick with a kickass name.  That first half-hour may seem to meander but what it’s actually doing is setting both Rane and Vohden up as strangers in their own country.

The film gets a lot of mileage out of comparing Rane to Vohden.  Rane is good with words.  When he gets off the plane, he gives a perfect (and perfectly empty) speech about how the whole war experience has made a better American out of him.  Rane knows how to fool people but it quickly becomes apparent that, on the inside, Rane feels empty.

Vohden, meanwhile, is not an articulate man.  He’s not invited to give a speech when the plane lands.  Vohden cannot fake the emotions that he does not feel.  At first, Rane and Vohden seem to be complete opposites (and the film wisely contrasts Jones’s trademark taciturn style of acting with Devane’s more expressive technique) but eventually, we learn that they’re actually two sides of the same coin.  Both of them have been left empty as a result of their wartime experiences and, in the end, Vohden is the only one who can truly understand what’s going on in Rane’s head while Rane is the only one who can understand Vohden.  When Rane needs help getting revenge, Vohden is the one that he turns to.  It’s not just because Vohden knows how to kill.  It’s also because John Vodhen is literally the only man to whom Charles Rane can relate.

Why does Rane need revenge?  After the local bank awards him with 2,000 silver dollars (“One silver dollar for every day you spent in the Hell of Hanoi!,” he is told at the presentation), Rane returns home to discover that a group of men have broken into his house.  One of them, known as the Texan (an absolutely chilling performance from James Best), demands that Rane tell them where the silver dollars are hidden.  When Rane responds by giving only his name, rank, and serial number, Slim (Luke Askew) reacts by forcing Rane’s arm into the kitchen sink and then turning on the garbage disposal.  (A scene was apparently shot that literally showed Rane’s hand getting ripped off by the garbage disposal but it was judged to be too graphic even for this grim little movie.)  Even as the disposal mangles Rane’s arm, Rane refuses to tell them where the money is.  Instead, he just flashes back to being tortured at the camp and we realize that Rane’s experiences have left him immune to pain.

Of course, the Texan doesn’t realize this.  Instead, he glares at Rane and mocks him by declaring him to be “one macho motherfucker.”

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When Rane’s wife and son walk in on the men, Slim and the Texan murder them and leave Rane for dead.  However, Charles Rane isn’t dead.  He survives but he claims that he can’t remember anything about the men who attacked him.  It’s only after Rane is released from the hospital and starts to practice firing a shotgun with the hook that has replaced his hand that we realize that Rane does remember.  Recruiting a local waitress who also happens to be an amateur beauty queen (Linda Haynes, giving the type of great performance that makes me wonder why I’ve never seen her in any move other than Rolling Thunder) to help, Rane sets out to track down “the men who killed my boy.”

Linda Hayes in Rolling Thunder, giving a great performance in a somewhat underdeveloped role

Linda Hayes in Rolling Thunder, giving a great performance in a somewhat underdeveloped role

It’s very telling that Rane continually says that he’s after the men who “killed my boy” but he never mentions his wife.  When Rane first arrived home, he had one conversation with his wife.  He complained that she had changed her hair and that she wasn’t wearing a bra.  “Nobody wears them anymore,” She replied before telling him that, during his seven year absence, she had fallen in love with another man, Cliff (Lawrason Driscoll).  And, up until she’s murdered by the Texan, that’s the last conversation that we see Rane have with his wife.  Rane still lives in the house and he still tries to talk to his son (even though his son seems more comfortable around Cliff than around Rane) but Rane becomes a stranger to his family.  While his wife sleeps in the house, Rane insists on staying out in the garage and continuing to go through the daily routine of calisthenics that he used to maintain his sanity while he was a prisoner.

(When Cliff asks Rane what it was like to be tortured, Rane literally forces Cliff to pull back on his arms in the same way that his Vietnamese captors had to.  As I watched these scenes, I was reminded that 2008 presidential candidate John McCain cannot lift his arms above his shoulders as a result of the torture he suffered while a POW.)

When Rane goes to El Paso to recruit Vohden for his mission of revenge, we notice that Vohden also appears to be incapable of speaking to his wife.  When Vohden leaves, he says goodbye to his father but not his wife.  It’s probably not a coincidence that, when Vohden and Rane find Slim and the Texan, they’re at a brothel, a place where men are in charge, women are subservient, and primal needs are satisfied without the risk of emotional attachment.  (It’s also probably not a coincidence that Slim is also identified as having recently returned from Vietnam.  He complains that, unlike Rane and Vohden, he was never captured by the enemy and, as a result, he didn’t get a parade when he came back home.)  Rolling Thunder is a film about emotionally stunted men who are incapable of interacting in any way other than violence.  By the end of the film, you’re left wondering whether Rane’s mission was about revenge or about his own need to destroy.

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And what an ending!  When I say that the violence in Rolling Thunder is overwhelming, I’m talking about two scenes in particular.  There’s the scene where Rane loses his hand and watches as The Texan casually executes his wife and son.  And then there’s the ending.  The final shootout was quick but it was also so brutal that I was literally shaking by the end of it.

(The scenes leading up the final shootout also featured one of the few humorous moments to be found in this otherwise grim film.  When Vohden — who is inside the brothel with a prostitute — starts to put his rifle together, the prostitute asks him what he’s doing.  “Oh,” Vohden says, in that perfectly weary way that only Tommy Lee Jones can do, “just going to kill a bunch of folks.”)

I mentioned earlier that Paul Schrader is reportedly not a fan of Rolling Thunder.  Apparently, in his original script, Charles Rane was portrayed as being a poorly educated racist, a bit of a prototype for the character that Robert De Niro played in Taxi Driver.  Ranes’s final rampage was meant to be an example of the war in Vietnam coming home and it was made much clearer that Rane’s violence was as much fueled by his own racism as by a desire for revenge.  Schrader has said that his anti-fascist script was turned into a fascist movie.

A scene from Paul Schrader's original script

A scene from Paul Schrader’s original script

With all due respect to Mr. Schrader (who I think is a very underrated filmmaker), Rolling Thunder is anything but a fascist movie.  Instead, it’s a brutal and somewhat disturbing character study of a man who will never truly escape the war in which he fought.  The fact that Rane is played by super smooth William Devane (as opposed to the redneck that Schrader apparently envisioned) only serves to make the film’s critique of hyper masculinity all the more disturbing.  It’s interesting to note that, on their own, Rane and Vohden are never presented as being particularly likable or heroic.  Instead, we root for them because the people who have hurt them are even worse.

This was how Schrader envisioned Johnny and Rane.

This was how Schrader envisioned Johnny and Rane.

Though it may be far different from what Paul Schrader originally envisioned, John Flynn’s Rolling Thunder is a film that works on every level.  It is both a visceral revenge film and a character study of a disturbed man.  It’s a powerful film that will leave you shaken and it’s one that I will probably never erase from my DVR.

There are some movies that you just don’t dare delete.

Rolling Thunder is one of those movies.

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More Pure 80s Hokum: The Park Is Mine (1985, directed by Steven Hilliard Stern)


The_Park_Is_Mine_VideoCoverTommy Lee Jones is Mitch, a troubled Vietnam veteran who has just lost his job and who can not convince his ex-wife to let him spend any time with his kids.  One day, Mitch receives a letter from Mike, a friend who has recently committed suicide.  In the letter, Mike explains that he has been stashing weapons and explosives in Central Park.  Before he discovered that he had cancer, Mike had been planning to take over the park as a symbolic protest against government bureaucracy.  Now that Mike is dead, it is now Mitch’s job to declare, “The park is mine!”

When Mitch takes over the park, he announces that he does not want to hurt anyone.  Instead, he wants everyone in New York to spend some time to thinking about their lives.  “There’s a lot of people like me, who don’t feel like they have any control over their lives,” he says, “Think about how you treat people and how you want to be treated.”  Meanwhile, he will be camping out in the park for 72 hours and anyone who tries to come after him runs the risk of getting shot or blown up.   Then he orders everyone to vote for Bernie Sanders and make America great again.  Or at least he would if this film had been made today, instead of in 1985.

Deputy Mayor Dix (Peter Dvorsky) is so evil that he makes Ghostbusters‘s Walter Peck look reasonable.  Dix is personally offended that Mitch has taken over Central Park.  He is so offended that he is even willing to first call out the National Guard and then hire foreign mercenaries to sneak into the park and track Mitch down.

Reporter Valerie Weaver (Helen Shaver) also sneaks into the park so that she can interview Mitch.  When Mitch captures her, he shouts at her, “GET NEKKID!”  No, it’s not that type of movie.  Mitch just wants to make sure that she’s not carrying any weapons on her.  (The Park Is Mine was made for HBO.  Even in the 80s, HBO understood the importance of getting nekkid.)

One of my favorite things about The Park Is Mine is that, after he goes to all the trouble to paint his face and dress up in camouflage, Mitch still spends the entire movie wearing a blue Yankees cap that would make him an easy target for anyone with a scope.

The Park Is Still Mine

My other favorite thing is that, after Mitch asks everyone to think about how they treat people, a crowd of people gathers outside the park.  When a reporter interviews them, a burly man with a hockey mullet and dressed in denim steps up and says, in a perfect Canadian accent, “My name is Elton Costanza.  I’m from Queens!”

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I’m not sure if Elton Costanza is meant to be related to George Costanza.  He does look like he could be a distant cousin.

The rest of the film’s depiction of New York City is about as plausible as Elton’s accent.  For a film taking place in New York in the 80s, the streets are too clean and the people are too friendly.  Even when that crowd shows up to support Mitch, they are the most polite crowd that anyone could hope for.  That may be because. though The Park Is Mine takes place in New York, it was filmed in Toronto.

The Park is Mine is both thoroughly implausible, totally heavy handed, and stupidly entertaining. Tommy Lee Jones is one of the few actors who can actually sell a line like, “The park is mine!” and Yaphet Kotto provides good support as a policeman who is sympathetic to Mitch.  Peter Dvorsky is all too believable as the ultimate example of heartless bureaucracy.  The most interesting thing about The Park Is Mine is that it comes down, without a hint of ambiguity, on the side of a domestic terrorist.  That probably would not be allowed to happen today.  In fact, the entire film feels like a relic of a past age, a celebration of an individualistic philosophy that America once embraced but, ever since the trauma of 911, has been in the process of abandoning.  If Mitch was unhappy with America in the 80s, imagine how he would feel about the Patriot Act, NSA spying, too big to fail bailouts, and campus safe spaces.

Like Let’s Get Harry, The Park Is Mine is pure 80s hokum that deserves a nostalgic DVD release.

Hopefully, one with Tommy Lee Jones providing commentary.

The Park Is Definitely Mine