Saturday, May 21, 2011

First Blood: Psychologically Induced Violence

Ted Kotcheff’s 1982 thriller, First Blood, portrays the psychological difficulties that the protagonist, John Rambo (played by Sylvester Stallone) faces upon his return to the United States from his tour in the Vietnam War. While Rambo clearly indicates the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (although it is never validated in the film) – specifically through his short-fused temper that leads to his arrest in Washington – the violent nature that grows within his character throughout the film’s progression is resultant of the psychological torment from his service in the war. As his mental instability is only made increasingly worse from the beatings and further torment he is subjected to by the crooked police while under arrest, he has a psychological breakdown and escapes from the holding cell while the facility is being cleaned. As Rambo is resultantly forced to flee to the forest for cover, his militaristic instincts kick in, resulting in a violent rampage that he engages in throughout the forest.


Fundamentally, the violence depicted within this film is of a different nature than usually seen in the non-war movies of the 1980s. While, yes, Rambo’s violent actions are induced by the psychological instability that resulted from his service in the war; because the film solely takes place inside the United States, an elemental differentiation is made. As Rambo engages in a very warrior-like style of violence – specifically when he is seen knifing the police officers searching for him in the forest – the psychological trauma stemming from his involvement in the Vietnam War (which is actualized by the Washington police officers while they are torturing him) instinctively forces him to revert back to his violent tendencies as a soldier.

Rambo compilation:

Overall, I would recommend this film greatly. Specifically, because it illustrates a form of violence that is seen only minimally in the motion pictures of the 1980s, it resultantly provides one with a solid representation of this distinctive aspect of violence, which is ever so present in the films of this decade.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Major League (1989): Lovable Misfits

Major League is a pioneer of misfit sports movies. The film offers a refreshing contrast from serious sports movies where the players all are stellar athletes. So, if the last sports movie you watched was Hoosiers, Major League offers a fun balance to more serious sports movies.

The film is chock full of misfits and neurotic characters. Every player has strengths, but their weaknesses are just as bad, if not worse. Charlie Sheen’s character is an ex con who can throw 95 plus mph, but cannot aim to save his life. Charlie Sheen is not by any means the protagonist in the film, however, he steals the show. Willie Mayes Hayes: “What league you been playing in?" Ricky (Sheen):" California Penal." He also takes on an alter ego, “wild thing". There’s a voodooist who calls to the voodoo gods because he cannot hit any pitch besides a fastball. There’s a pre Madonna of the group, an injured leader, and many other misfits that have talent, but have severe character flaws. These flaws make the comedic aspect of the movie. Who cares about watching a bunch of perfect, with it baseball players? I’d personally watch a group of contrasting characters, and watch hilarity ensue.

There are many sports movies that have come out in the last twenty years that model themselves after Major League and were successful - Every Mighty Duck movie, The Little Giants, The Sandlot, The Replacements - to name a few. These movies allow audiences to relate more to the character, plus people always love the underdog.


The Terminator

The terminator is a movie set in the future where there is a nuclear war going on. The terminator who is a futuristic cyborg made by the computers created for one reason, and one reason only, to terminate people was sent out on a mission to find this woman named Sarah Connor. Another man comes from the future named Kyle Reese. We don’t know who he is until he sees the terminator try to kill Sarah. We find out that Reese wants to protect Sarah. The rest of the movie is a game of cat and mouse where the terminator keeps trying to kill her, but Sarah and Reese keep running. Sarah finds out from Reese that she is the mother of the leader of the resistance in the future. And that’s why the terminator is after her. Personally I feel I wouldn’t want to know this information because I would think everything I did from then on would affect the birth of the son. Like question that might come to mind, did I get pregnant with the right guy? Or am I am I doing the right thing to train my son correctly for what he is going to be. The final fight ends in a factory after the terminator kills Reese. Sarah crushes the terminator with a machine press. And the chase is finally over. Sarah is still alive. We next see her driving into the desert with a baby in her belly. I did like this movie. It kept my attention and it was action packed till the end because

Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf is about the stereotypical high school life where the social reject wants the prom queen and his best friend is falling in love with him but is too shy to tell him how she really feels. The main character, Scott, turned out to be different, though. Although Scott thinks he is hitting puberty,he really is becoming a werewolf. Apparently, the wolf trait is in his family. Things start to change in his social life. The popular girl starts becoming attracted to him and had sex with him. He became the star on the basketball team and this was all because he turned into a werewolf. But along with the perks of being a werewolf came great responsibility. Things start to turn sour; the popular girl’s boyfriend gets jealous of Scott, the basketball team doesn’t like him because he becomes a ball hog, and his best friend is drifting away. At the end, Scott learns that all the people want is the wolf and not the real Scott. So, at the basketball championship game, he doesn’t use his powers, and as stereotypical high school movies go, the team wins the game at the last minute and Scott. The human, gets the girl that he should have been with all along.

Twilight Zone: The Movie

The 1980s movie, The Twilight Zone, was comprised of four original episodes from The Twilight Zone television show of the 50’s and 60’s. In the first episode, a racist man unwillingly travels through time, interacting with different hate groups like the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Through his travels, he understands the error of his ways.

The second episode is a lovely story about a man who visits the elderly in nursing homes giving them a chance to achieve the only thing they want: to be young again. But the gift is a double-edged sword: once they became young, they realized that they continued to have responsibilities, such as going to school, and life was not just play. This is something that many of us can relate to because adults frequently think of their youth as a much simpler time.

The third episode is a story about a little boy who had the best life: his parents did whatever he wanted. But it turns out that the parents were afraid of him because they knew that he could do whatever he wanted to them as well.

The fourth and last story is one of my favorites. A man with a phobia of planes has to fly on a plane. That wouldn’t be so extraordinary except that this man can also see that there is a monster destroying the plane wing but no one else can.

Viewers may vary in their taste for each episode in this film. For example, the first episode is fairly hard to follow because it goes through many time periods. And the second one may not capture the attention of younger audiences because they have not yet experienced the desires of the elderly. The last two episodes, however, really entice the viewer because they are mysterious and exciting and keep viewers wondering.

Although the episodes in The Twilight Zone draw on some universal innermost fears, the first two episodes are less successful than the last two. But the last two are worth the wait because they go deep into the mind, making the viewer think things they may never have dared.

The Evil Dead: The Horror of Graphic Terror

Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult-classic, The Evil Dead, tracks a group of five Michigan State University students, as they venture into the rural foothills of Tennessee for a supposedly relaxing weekend-getaway at an isolated cabin. However, as the group – lead by ‘Ash’ (played by Bruce Campbell) – comes across a demonic book, entitled ‘The Book of the Dead,’ and its companion cassette upon raiding the cabin’s basement, they unknowingly summon the demons that have been lying dormant in the area upon playing the tape. As the demons systematically possess four of the five undergrads, Ash is left alone to fight against the ‘evil dead.’


While the film sacrifices the legitimacy of its ‘scare factor’ through its nonsensical depiction of the ‘evil dead,’ it subsequently portrays an aspect of the horror film-genre that, up until this point, had yet to be fully actualized in cinematography. Simplistically, as this aspect involves the excessive representation of graphic terror, gore, and violence, its implementation in cinema alludes to a director’s desire to objectify the furthest depth of the horror film-genre. Therefore, through Raimi’s substantial use of excessive violence, gore, and graphic terror – specifically in the scenes showing the rape of Cheryl (played by Ellen Sandweiss) by the demonic trees and Ash’s violent annihilation of the ‘evil dead’ – he successfully manifested the nature of the horror film-genre at its grossest form.

Graphic terror examples:

Overall, while The Evil Dead is far from being one of my favorite movies, I do recommend it. Furthermore, I believe it is worth watching, as it is one of the first films that truly exemplifies this excessively violent aspect of the horror film-genre that has become so present in the films of today.


Robocop isn’t just about a cyborg kicking ass and taking names. It’s a meaningful story about self-identity. Leaders in the City of Detroit are looking for technological advances in the police force from Omni Consumer Products. OCP first non-human prototype, the ED-209, ends up killing a board member from OCP in a demonstration. Meanwhile, James Murphy (Peter Weller), joins the Detroit force and is on a mission with his partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) to go after a gang. As a result, Murphy gets massacred by shotgun fire. But as Oscar Goldman once said, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. The Detroit police force seems to be very impressed with Robocop. But Anne notices whose face is behind the helmet. He doesn't know who he is, but he recognizes clues that tell him that his name is Murphy, and he ultimately goes in search of his killers to seek revenge. He finds out that his death goes all the way up the OCP CEO, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox). Knowing that this event could happen and set up a loophole in Robocop’s memory He also sent the ED-209 to destroy Robocop. But ED-209 failed because his feet were too bulky and he could not walk down the steps. Badly injured, Robocop finds Anne and goes to a steel mill to lay low for a while. The movie ends with the people that were trying to killed Murphy, led by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) attempting to kill Robocop with high power rifles. Robocop over powers them all, goes back to OCP, and confronts and kills Dick Jones.

The Lost Boys (1987)

Losing myself in The Lost Boys is like a pre-scream idea horror movie, minus the bumps in the night. Charmingly self aware, if the 70’s never existed it would be the best camp scary film ever. The effects are good for the 80’s, everybody enjoys a fog waterfall. But what surprises me is the vampire makeup being almost and Buffy level (Greg Cannon sounded familiar and that’s because he won the Oscar for special effects makeup for Benjamin Button in 2008). What could have been a very bad movie is saved by delivery of its dialogue, tight editing and the allure of introspection

Brilliant one liners zip through the film; during any serious scene a huffy character lets there freak flag fly with the smartest possible response to the situation. Comic book references and nerd anthems ring out whenever either of the Cory’s speaks. Michael (Jason Patrick), the epitome of an 80’s pretty boy, broods over the one girl he can’t have, at least until she turns him into a vampire so they can have sex in an underground hotel while a Jim Morrison poster watches. It is hard to explain why this movie’s entertainment level far exceeded its budget.

P.S. the long haired none Kiefer Sutherland Blonde vampire looks like Heather Chandler in the right light.

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice!

Beetlejuice - 1988

The trailer:

Beetlejuice- 1988

The only knowledge I have of Beetlejuice is of the cartoon series I
watched of it as a child. I hadn't seen the movie up until now, and so
I had little but basic knowledge going into the film.

The plot revolves around a newly dead couple who become ghosts and
haunt their former home. When they ultimately fail at scaring away the new tenants, the couple calls upon, and is joined by a "bio-exorcist" from
the underworld named Betelgeuse. Little is known about him in general,
like his age and of when he was alive. One of the darkly funny aspects
about him is that he has seen the exorcist 167 times, calling it the
"funniest film he's seen".

In a nutshell, this is one strange flick… Though I wouldn’t really expect any less from Tim Burton. Something fun for me, was watching the 1989 version of Batman before this film and then seeing the film’s classic ‘Bruce Wayne’ become transformed into Beetlejuice. It was creepy. Though I suppose that Batman came out after this film was made so it is interesting how the actor for Beetlejuice became cast as the Batman. Another fun familiar face would be that of Jeffrey Jones, or, Mr. Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Which was again, very weird. Because he was in such an iconic film, it is difficult for me to see him as anything else...

This film won an award for best make up, which as soon as Beetlejuice’s character is seen it becomes obvious why. I especially enjoyed the costumes and make up of the film, along with all of the scary and entirely random jumpy acts and film points Tim Burton always enjoys including in his films. It reminded me highly of The Nightmare Before Christmas (the jumpy and extra character elements anyway). The movie as a whole carried his trademark.

After watching the movie again, I decided to re-watch one of the cartoon series Beetlejuice episodes. I found it a lot stranger than I remember… Maybe I just hadn’t realized that the main female character is a little goth girl involved in witchcraft, spiders, skulls, and a creepy old poltergeist, but it seemed plenty clear the second time around. The cartoon was still a cartoon though, even if it was a kind of disturbing one…

Here is part one of one of the episodes: