‘I Queue’: Gurn Blanston revisits ‘Red Dawn’

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Red Dawn
Year:1984
Director: John Milius
Writers: John Milius, Kevin Reynolds
Cast:
Patrick Swayze- Jed
Charlie Sheen- Matt
C. Thomas Howell- Robert
Lea Thompson- Erica
Jennifer Grey- Toni
Tag Line: The invading armies planned for everything – except for eight kids called “The Wolverines.”
Or
The Brat Pack goes to war. (OK, I made that one up)

I have always loved war movies. I can say that without remorse because I have now advanced to an age where self evaluation and moralistic self flagellation hold no sway over me. I lead a completely un-self-examined life, and I sleep much better. From “The Sands of Iwo Jima” to “The Green Berets”, “The Battle of the Bulge” all the way through to the 70’s blockbuster “A Bridge Too Far” I was always riveted to the screen, ready for every pointless charge into overwhelming enemy fire and every slow, drawn-out death scene. I ate it up, and then went out and shot at my friends with my plastic machine gun while they shot back with their toy cowboy rifle, and then we argued over who shot who first.
The thing about ‘Red Dawn’ is that when I first saw the movie in 1984, it kind of bought war to my doorstep. I am old enough to remember the Cold War, but young enough not to have felt very affected by it. I was too young to really understand Vietnam, at least at that time. The movies I watched were just entertainment, not reflections of real loss and sacrifice. ‘Red Dawn’ however was not distant; it took place in my front yard.
Not that this film was some great think piece on the vagrancies of armed conflict and its effect on the occupied peoples of a war-torn land, it wasn’t. It was poorly written and even more poorly acted; full of trite one liners and pseudo-patriotism, but it was entertaining. And when you see troops parachuting into the school yard of what could be your own alma-mater, and then you watch as the front of the school where kids have gathered to witness the spectacle gets strafed with machine gun fire leaving one child dead in the window, you have to step back and blink, “That kid looked like my friend Billy!” I was used to seeing troops parachuting into blown-out European hamlets or remote Middle Eastern towns, but not dropping down by the Piggly-Wiggly!
After the initial invasion by a Russo/Nicaraguan alliance, a group of teenagers, led by Patrick Swayze as the former all-star quarterback and Charlie Sheen’s older brother Jed, flee town in an exciting chase scene to hide up in the hills until the whole thing blows over. But it doesn’t just blow over, it turns into an occupation. And the kids, now styling themselves after their high school football team’s mascot “The Wolverines,” are forced into the role of insurgents. They tool about the countryside attacking convoys and stray troops, causing mayhem in the name of American freedom wherever possible. In one scene, they attack a group of Russian officers who have paused by the roadside to take pictures of themselves in front of a landmark, (flashes of Nazis posing in front of the Eifel Tower or the Pyramids), and as the officers flee the murderous group of teens they beg for their lives. The kids have to harden up and execute the last remaining Russkie so that he can’t radio in a warning. War is Hell.
Back in town, a concentration camp is up and running at the old stadium and executions abound. Harry Dean Stanton, as Swayze and Sheen’s father, implores them through the barbed wire fencing to “Avenge me boys!” The town Mayor, played smarmily by Lane Smith, is cooperating with the invaders in an effort to do “what’s best for my constituents”. He gets his son, one of the Wolverines, to wear a tracer so that the Nicaraguan counterinsurgents can track the group down. When the rest of the group find out about it from a captured enemy soldier they are forced to execute one of their own in what is probably the most powerful scene in the film. No one is able to shoot Daryl, the mayor’s kid and former class president played by Darren Dalton, until C. Thomas Howell’s character Robert, a former nerd who goes around the psycho bend after learning his entire family was executed, steps up and machine guns him down with a straight face.
At one point, an American fighter jet crashes nearby and Powers Booth, as salty Texan fighter jock Lt. Col. Andy Tanner, joins the group and helps to guide them along. He forms a quasi-pedophilic relationship with Lea Thompsons character Erica, which is a bit awkward, before being killed off in great B-movie tradition while saving the kids from a Russian tank attack.
Eventually the Nicaraguan counterinsurgency force catches up with the Violent Dumplin’ Gang and most die in a hail of bullets shot from a Russian Attack Helicopter. Howell’s character Robert has the best death scene, going out in a blaze of duel machine-wielding glory, America…F*ck Yeah! In my opinion, his is the most interesting character in the whole film, except for maybe the part of the counterinsurgency leader played by Judd Omen. His take on a reluctant military policeman forced to do things that he finds distasteful in the name of securing the territory for his forces is spot on.
Charlie Sheen is kind of a non-entity in the film, as are Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson. They are always there but never make that big an impact. The wrap up at the end of the film showing the post war memorial to the kids and narrated by Lea Thompson, one of only two of The Wolverines to survive, feels kind of tacked on. On the whole, though, this film really made an impression on me. I have gone back and watched it again several times over the years. Once I watched it just to see the scene where Powers Booth’s character admonishes C. Thomas Howell’s character about how all the hate he carries inside him will eat him up, “it keeps me warm” Howell responds, classic!
If you haven’t seen it yet, do, it’s worth the rent and the two hours out of your life. They have recently remade it with a new round of fresh faces and so it will be worth seeing the original first to compare. I understand that since we are friends with Russia now they were going to make China the bad guys, but then we became friends with them and so now they are turning to North Korea. If Kim Jong-il shows up for dinner with Obama then the producers are in trouble, I guess they could use Gaddafi if they hurry.

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Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka? Is that you?

No, unfortunately, this is in the new image for the Conan remake, courtesy of CinemaBlend.

Messing with Memories: The remakes of 2010 (so far)…

We are about halfway through the year and on the cusp of a film and television show remake (The Karate Kid and The A-Team, respectively), so let us pose a question: Which remake being released in 2010 will suck the least? The most?

Here’s a quick rundown of what has been released thus far (and in the very near future), their budgets and grosses, and trailers of the originals:

  • The Crazies (original 1973); budget: $20 mil, gross: $49 mil.
  • The Housemaid (original 1960); budget: ??, gross: $5.7 mil in Korea, released at Cannes 2010
  • Piranha 3-D (original 1978); budget $24 mil, gross: TBD (released in August)
  • Red Dawn (original 1984); budget $75 mil, gross TBD (released in November)

Sure, there are a couple of sequels in the works as well, but we wanted to give a wrap-up of the films that attempt to supplant memories of earlier works.

So, what say you?

-sources: wikipedia.org, imdb.com, flixster.com

…and we’re back (and some updates!)

For all three who noticed we were gone for a little bit, thank you.

To ensure a more regular posting schedule, I would like to pose a question. As some may know, I also run a site Use Soap, that I use as a repository for my weekly review column at a local newspaper. I would like to propose that I run my reviews from that site on here, along with the regular features in Natsukashi. I still will post the podcast, as well as “Messing with Memories” and other various and sundry nostalgic movie morsels.

Please drop me a line and let me know what you think, I welcome any and all suggestions.

Also, you will notice a certain little logo at the top right of this blog. That piece of artwork is from none other than Flixster.com, one of the largest (and coolest) movie sites on the internet.

Our little blog has been invited to become part of the Flixster fam! Go us!

We are certainly excited about this move and hope that our incredibly inflated egos do not become even more drunk with power and end up snorting blow off the sweaty ass cracks of Malaysian ladyboys…again.

Sorry, where was I?

So we look forward to getting back into things, keeping everyone updated on upcoming remakes, hobnobbing with those in the industry who helped create the movie memories of our youth, and looking at films currently in release.

Thanks for sticking with us and, as always, your suggestions help keep us going, so please let us know what you think.

Messing with Memories: ‘Police Academy’

When Marge joined the police academy, I thought it was going to be fun and exciting. Like that movie ‘Spaceballs.’ Instead, it was just sad and depressing, like that movie ‘Police Academy.‘ –Homer Simpson

Hightower, Tacklebery and That Voice Guy are on assignment yet again. For the first time. Actually, it is doubtful that Bubba and the gang will have little more than glorified cameos in the latest, which is next on the slate for a do-over.

Police Academy has been to Miami, Moscow and Under Seige (strangely, though, they did not meet up with Steven Segal), and a television series, both live-action and animated.

Certainly, you recall the immortal television show, right?

Don’t remember the animated show? Here ya ago:

Producer Paul Mazlansky is heading back to the basic training with the franchise, to be produced by New Line Pictures, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The first of the seemingly endless series was released in March of 1984 and made almost its 20 times its budget of $4 million.  A year later (almost to the date) the sequel, “Their First Assignment” introduced Bobcat Goldthwait to the cast, and grossed $55 million. The laws of diminishing returns (in many senses) applied to the remainder of the series: they went “Back in Training” in 1986 with $43 million; the “Citizens on Patrol” earned $28 million the following year; the remaining cast members headed on “Assignment: Miami Beach” in 1988, taking $19 million; 1989 found a “City Under Seige” with a total of $11 million; and finally it headed on a “Mission to Moscow,” yet went nowhere in theaters (grossing $127,000).

No word yet on production dates, as casting is just beginning.

Messing with Memories: ‘I Spit on Your Grave’

Film: I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman)
Year of original: 1978
Remake release: 2009, 2010

We usually ask why when it comes to remakes, but this one is perhaps more perplexing than the average do-over. Known only in infamy, the pseudo-revenge-fantasy film is resoundingly viewed as a shallow, misogynistic slice of cinematic sewage known for a couple of creative kills, an excruciatingly long rape scene, the fact that it starred Buster Keaton’s granddaughter, and the film often cited by Roger Ebert as “one of the worst films ever made.”

It’s known more for an extreme example of era grindhouse and usually viewed more as a test of endurance than in appreciation. That has not stopped director Steven Monroe (he of “Ice Twisters,” “Ogre” and who can forget “Sasquatch Mountain?”) and Anchor Bay films for dredging it back to the surface for a remake.

The completed film stars Sarah Butler as Jennifer, the ax-tossing protagonist who exacts revenge on a gang of brutes who brutalized her in her remote cabin. Anchor Bay Films has picked up the rights, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which reports that a fall release in the works, followed by a 2011 DVD release.

For those who care to see the trailer for the original vile heap of bottom-feeding titillation, here’s the trailer:

Messing with Memories: ‘Taxi Driver’

Film: Taxi Driver
Original release date: 1976
Scheduled remake release date: Not Happening!
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd

Wow, that was quick! Just a few days ago, every film site on the net was buzzing about a Trading Places-like bet between director Lars von Trier and Martin Scorsese, in which the latter would resculpt his 1976 masterpiece with a handful of hurdles thrown in his path, a la Danish director Jorgen Leth with his 1967 surrealistic film The Perfect Human for von Trier’s The Five Obstructions.

In that film, Leth had to remake his film, but with certain criteria dictated by von Trier (set in Cuba, must be animated, etc.). When he and Scorsese met recently, speculation swirled that the two agreed to give the same treatment to the iconic Travis Bickle.

But in an article by Geoffrey Macnab of Screen, one of von Trier’s business partners, Peter Aalbaek Jesen, shot holes in the rumors as “rubbish.”

So, thankfully, the original Travis Bickle will live to pick up another fare.

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