Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Disaster Artist is Ed Wood MInus a Point of View

Back in March I watched The Disaster Artist about Tommy Wiseau and the making of The Room.  I was hoping to watch The Room first but Amazon doesn't have it to rent and I couldn't find it anywhere else and the DVD was like $11 so I said the hell with it and just watched The Disaster Artist instead.

In 1998 a struggling young actor named Greg (Dave Franco) meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco, who also directs) at an acting class.  For some reason Tommy speaks in broken English with a strange accent.  Where is he from?  How does he have money?  How old is he?  No one knows and watching this movie won't tell you.

Greg and Tommy go to LA where they struggle to find work.  Ultimately they decide to make a movie.  Tommy writes the script for The Room and plans to star in it with Greg as his co-star.  With the money he gets from wherever, he hires Seth Rogen and a lot of people who have appeared in Seth Rogen movies to make it with him.

On the set Tommy is a cheap bully who also can't act his way out of a paper bag.  As the director/producer/writer, the smartest thing he could have done is let someone else play the lead role.  I guess then the movie wouldn't have been a complete disaster that's on par with Plan 9 From Outer Space for worst movie ever.  At the same time Greg's relationship with a co-star makes things awkward, especially when Greg and the girl want to move out from Tommy's apartment.  That's when Tommy really cranks up the bullying.  When Greg bumps into Bryan Cranston, who agrees to give him a small part in a couple of Malcolm in the Middle episodes, Tommy won't let Greg have time off and forces him to shave the beard he needs for the part.

Almost a year after filming the movie, Greg and Tommy reunite for the premiere.  The movie is so awful everyone starts laughing.  At first Tommy flies into a rage, but Greg talks him down and Tommy claims he meant it as comedy all along.  The End.

So what was the point?  We don't really know much more about Tommy.  We know he's kind of an asshole who made a shitty movie.  That's about it.

Almost 25 years ago Tim Burton made a similar movie, Ed Wood, about the eponymous writer/director of Plan 9 From Outer Space and other terrible movies.  What it did much better than The Disaster Artist was present an actual portrait of the main character.  The movie actually takes a point of view that Ed Wood was enthusiastic and energetic about making and financing movies, but he wasn't very patient or talented.  So at the end of the movie we have a better understanding of this deeply flawed human being.  Even if it isn't exactly true (as many biopics aren't, ie The Social Network) it at least feels true enough.  And so as the viewer I can feel I got to know the character  and learned something about him and film making in general.  Whereas with The Disaster Artist it's more like, Oh, so that's how they made that shitty movie I haven't seen.  Awesome.

So for good or bad, right or wrong, you really want the biopic to take a stand and have some point of view.  Otherwise it ends up as an empty experience.

I did eventually watch The Room when a DVD was cheap enough.  It's not really so bad it's funny as just plain boring bad.  It's a mix of wooden acting, awkward conversations, soft-core sex scenes, and unbearable misogyny.  Basically the woman is an evil manipulator looking to cash in with some man and the men are innocent dupes.  Maybe it'd help having the Rifftrax guys making jokes?

Fun Fact:  At the end of The Disaster Artist's credits is a cookie scene where the fake Tommy Wiseau is approached by a character played by the real Tommy Wiseau and they butt heads.  That was pretty funny.

Monday, May 21, 2018

November Criminals Swipes At Racial Stereotyping Before Embracing It

A couple of movies I bought last holiday season had previews for this movie November Criminals.  Then I saw it on Amazon Prime so I figured what the hell, might as well watch it.  I mean it was free and I didn't have to go anywhere.

The movie is about two white high school seniors named Addison (the eponymous Baby Driver) and Phoebe (Hit Girl from Kick-Ass) who have long been friends and decide to finally be friends with benefits.  Before going off to have sex for the first time, they stop at the local coffee shop, where they get coffee from their black friend Kevin.  And like two minutes after Addison and Phoebe leave, Kevin is gunned down, not in a robbery attempt either.

When Addison finds out he goes to the coffee shop and sees Kevin's body taken away.  And hears the cops and press write the whole thing off as a gang killing.  Which makes no sense to him because he's pretty sure Kevin wasn't in a gang.  But Kevin was a young black kid in DC who got shot so obviously it's a gang thing!

Addison refuses to take this simple answer and so puts up posters around school asking for information, which leads to him getting suspended.  Meanwhile, a kid tells Phoebe that Kevin was hanging out with some bad people.  Eventually Addison finds out from Kevin's parents that he was using drugs and he and Phoebe meet with a drug dealer named D-Cash who uses Addison for a drug mule in exchange for giving him the identity of the killer.

So Addison goes to confront the guy.  And it turns out that D-Cash paid the guy to kill Kevin because Kevin had pissed him off.  D-Cash sent Addison to the guy so the guy would kill him.  Thinking about it later, this made no sense to me.  If D-Cash wanted Addison dead, why didn't he just do it when Addison went into the ghetto to meet him?  It would have been pretty easy:  middle-class white kid goes to ghetto, runs afoul of gangs, case closed, right?  By siccing Addison on the guy, D-cash lets Addison call Phoebe and tell her everything so even if Addison died, she'd be able to blow the whistle.

Anyway, the movie starts out with this whole thing about racial stereotyping that because Kevin is a black kid in DC he must be in a gang.  But then by saying he's on drugs and hanging around with people like D-Cash aren't they actually embracing the same racial stereotype?  No one, not even his parents, really question WHY Kevin might be on drugs.  He's a young black kid, so of course he's on drugs!  And of course he's going into the ghetto to meet with drug dealers!

The movie is far more concerned with the bland, CW-style romance between Addison and Phoebe than it is with finding out the truth about Kevin.  Actually, Kevin is only shown in one scene.  Shouldn't there have been some flashbacks of him?  Addison finds out from a school employee that Kevin has had trouble emotionally for about a year, but there's never any reason given.  That was probably when he started using drugs, but why did he start using drugs?  By all rights he was doing well in school and had good friends and two loving parents, so why would he start abusing drugs?  But hey, we don't need to actually explore that issue; he's a young black kid, isn't that enough?  What other reason do you need?

So what I'm saying is you have a movie that initially wants to stand against racial stereotyping, but by its own indifference to the person of color who's murdered, the movie ends up embracing the same stereotyping.  It becomes what it's supposed to hate.  It would have been a much better movie if it actually believed what it was trying to sell.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Unrealistic Hope Amidst Renewal Season

The last couple of weeks networks have been making a lot of announcements about shows that are canceled or renewed for last year.  There are always someone's favorites that are going to be canceled.  And especially these days there's usually an outcry for another network or streaming service to pick the show up.  But thinking about it, I wondered:  how many times has that ever worked?

As a caveat, I'm not counting when for instance FX moves a show like Archer, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or The League to FXX since they're owned by the same company.  I think for the most part Supergirl's move to the CW was the same kind of thing.  That's more like a show being demoted, not picked up by a new network.

Most of the time it seems like the show in question gets one season on its new home and then canceled again.  ABC picked Scrubs off waivers from NBC.  It had one season (with several cast changes) before being canceled again.  Yahoo! picked up Community off waivers from NBC.  It had one season (also with several cast changes) before being canceled--or fans would say that was the plan for "six seasons and a movie."  Hulu picked up The Mindy Project from Fox.  It had a season (or two?) and then was canceled again.

Probably the most successful example I can think of is when TBS picked American Dad up on waivers from Fox.  They're on I think their 4th season on TBS since then.  I'm not sure if they're going to have a 5th season (or 14th overall) but I suppose at some point there will be an announcement.  I think in part the reason this transfer worked is besides no cast turnover, TBS already showed American Dad reruns and a lot of Family Guy reruns.  So you already had an audience there; you're just providing them with new episodes.

Futurama being revived by Comedy Central a couple of years after being canceled (for good) by Fox was pretty much the same thing.  Comedy Central was I think already showing reruns, so they already had an audience in place. Between that and less expectation and pressure being on basic cable, it also had about 4 seasons on Comedy Central.

Since I've been watching it a bit on Pluto TV the last six months or so, another of the more successful network jumps was when Mystery Science Theater 3000 went from Comedy Central to Sci-Fi Channel--as it was then known.  It lasted 3 seasons before it was canceled for good.  Even though I don't think Sci-Fi had been showing reruns before then, you did certainly have a sympathetic audience already in place.

Besides the cast changes, when a show switches to a new network you're usually asking them to watch a channel they may not be used to watching.  I think in part that's why some of these other shows don't succeed.  I mean you're basically putting it in front of a new audience but asking them to already know what's going on.  Sure a lot of people will probably switch, but not all and considering the ratings were already low enough for one network to cancel, there's not a huge margin of error.

It doesn't give me a lot of hope for Brooklyn Nine-Nine moving to NBC or Last Man Standing being picked up by Fox--the latter after a year off the air.  I think that one's renewal had to do with the Roseanne revival making execs think there's a market for pro-Trump sitcoms.  Time will tell, I guess.

But you know what they say: hope springs eternal.  Any more examples you can think to add to the list?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Overdue & Unnecessarily Grumpy Review of Infinity War

Except for Black Panther I haven't been all that keen on recent Marvel movies.  I didn't really like Thor: Ragnarok or Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  The former I recently posted a grumpy review of and now I'm going to do the same with Avengers: Infinity War.  With so many critics kissing Disney's ass, I think someone needs to not look at their movies through rose-colored glasses.

SPOILER WARNING!  If you're even later to this party than I am, then you'll want to not read further.  But most people aren't reading it in the first place.

The thought that kept occurring to me is how unfair it is that DC comes out with a darker, gloomy movie like BvS and all critics whine, "Why can't it be fun like Marvel?"  But Marvel comes out with a dark, gloomy movie and critics are like, "Genius!  This is Brilliant!"  It seems like a double standard.  Not to say that BvS didn't have problems, but so does this.

Since a bad CGI Thanos first appeared in a cookie scene at the end of Avengers 1, they've been building up this whole Infinity Gauntlet thing.  They'd already shown 5 of the six stones in various movies.  And so now it was finally time to bring it all together.

It's kind of a gyp that it starts Thanos off with one stone.  I guess he stole it from...someone.  The Nova Corps?  Could they not afford to pay John C Reilly or Glenn Close to show that?  Maybe it'll be a deleted scene on the Blu-Ray?  Of all the movies I probably should have rewatched before this, Guardians of Galaxy turns out to be the most important, because I was confused as to who had the purple and red stones.  I thought the Collector's place had been trashed in GOTG and Knowhere pretty much destroyed?  I guess not.

We also get gypped of mostly seeing Thanos fight Thor.  We do get to see Thanos beat down the Hulk, which seems like one of those fights Thanos wins only because it's his movie; if it had been a Hulk movie he probably would have won.

This also introduces us to the "Children of Thanos" who are...?  I mean they don't even seem to get names.  One is a sort of Snoke-looking dude with Force powers.  And another is a sort of Hulkish dude.  And one looks like the Green Goblin (only gray, so maybe the Hobgoblin) and one is female with a white-and-blue face and another is...forgettable.  I don't think we ever saw any of these dudes in other movies, which is kinda weird.

Conveniently Idris Elba sends the Hulk to Dr. Strange's house, despite that the two never met.  If Idris Elba could just beam people to Earth, why didn't he do that before the attack?  Or during the attack before then?  You know, instead of just letting everyone die?

How is it too that when Dr. Strange's cape flies to him he's also suddenly wearing his blue tunic?  I mean does he have a spell to change clothes or what?  Just as conveniently Tony Stark is hanging out in New York City.  And conveniently Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil are all out of town despite that any of them would be more useful than Spider-Man--ok, maybe not Iron Fist.

At the end of Spider-Man Homecoming, he rejected Tony Stark's offer to join the Avengers and get a new suit, but now the new suit is thrust upon him so he can go into space, rendering the end of that movie pointless.  But at least he can come up with a plan based on the end of Aliens, though it's more like Alien Resurrection, which was directed by Joss Whedon, who also directed Avengers 1 & 2.  I'm just saying.

Meanwhile, conveniently the Guardians of the Galaxy respond to the distress call of the Asgardian ship and find Thor.  As I said in my review of Thor Ragnarok, the point of the movie was mostly that Thor didn't need a hammer, but guess what he wants to do now?  Go to some planet and get a new hammer!  So we pissed all over the ending of that movie too.

And Meanwhile Vision and Scarlet Witch are hanging out in Scotland for...reasons.  There's really no significance to that location, I don't think.  Paul Bettany gets to be without makeup for a little bit, which had to be nice for him.  Then unnamed Thanos henchpersons show up to try to get the "mind stone" the Vision uses to live.  And while the henchpersons couldn't be defeated by the mind stone or magic, they can be taken down by conventional weapons wielded by the Falcon, Black Widow, and Steve Rogers.  Earlier Tony Stark said Rogers could find the Vision, but really I think it was Black Widow who knew where they were and he was still on speaking terms with her, so why didn't he just call her up?  Or maybe next time Lojack your android.  Come on, you think Batman would just lose track of Cyborg?

Back in space Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis go to Knowhere and find Thanos has already got the reality stone, or the red one.  I guess he killed the Collector or whatever.  Who cares, right?  Eventually we get Thanos's tragic backstory.  Like Jor-El he warned his planet they were all going to die but no one listened and guess what--they died!  But instead of sending a baby to Earth, he decides to get all these stones and kill half the universe.  Why?  Because the universe is overpopulated, apparently.  The infinite freaking universe is overpopulated.  Right.  I mean, couldn't you just move some of these people to other planets?  Give them more advanced technology to solve overcrowding or hunger?  Nah, let's just kill half the universe.  I guess we're supposed to sympathize with him because his planet didn't randomly kill half its people?  Incidentally that's not really a new idea.  The bad guy in Kingsman pretty much had the same idea, only more scientific.  Or the bad guy in the James Bond hologram program in DS9.  I'm just saying.

It's kind of confusing that Thanos comes from "Titan" and Titan is already a moon of Saturn.  I suppose a lot of people watching the movie probably wouldn't know that.  But for me it's kind of annoying.  I guess the reason is that in the comics he's known as "the mad Titan" though in the comics he was also part of the cosmic gods or whatever, along with the Collector and some others.  I don't read enough Marvel comics to remember all that shit.

So anyway, after telling off the Secretary of State, Steve Rogers gets all his Avenger buddies (but not Hawkeye or Ant-Man) on a plane for Wakanda so Black Panther's sister can try to get the mind stone out of Vision without killing him.  But of course bad guys come a calling.  It's kind of like Episode I (The Phantom Menace) where they all gather outside, the good guys hiding behind a shield while a horde of bad guys try to kill them.  Only in this case the bad guys have a bunch of lizard-dog thingies.

Meanwhile Thanos and Gamora go to find the Soul stone (the orange one) which is on some planet.  The biggest surprise is when the Red Skull shows up as the guide to the stone.  It was kind of a pointless cameo, but I guess it answers where he went.  Thanos murders Gamora so he can get the soul stone.  Hooray!

Meanwhile, Thor, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot go to some rundown planet where the star has burnt out and the rings frozen.  The only one left alive is Peter Dinklage, who gets to play a dwarf, but a giant dwarf!  Which makes me think of the Robot Chicken parody movie:  Attack of the Giant Midget.  (Who would be, as you might guess, a normal-sized guy.)  Neil deGraase Tyson would probably be having a coronary at all the unscientific bullshit going on to get the forge lit so they can make a new hammer for Thor.  This one has an axe blade on one side like the one from the Ultimate line of comics that this version of the Avengers was based on.  (Though I thought "Stormbreaker" was the name of Beta Ray Bill's hammer?  But again, I'm not totally up on all the Marvel stuff.)

Then Thanos goes back to the ruins of Titan, where he's jumped by Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and the GOTG.  Their genius plan is to hold Thanos down and rip the Infinity Gauntlet off while Mantis pacifies him.  Doesn't Iron Man just have an industrial-strength bone saw in his suit or something?  When that of course fails, Thanos kicks all their asses and Dr. Strange saves Tony Stark by giving Thanos the Time Stone, or the green one.  Why doesn't Dr. Strange just use the Time Stone to go back in time and stop Thanos before he gets these stones?  Shut up, that's why.

Back on Earth the lizard-dogs start to overwhelm the force field so the fighting begins in earnest.  Actually, why are the Wakandans just fighting on the ground?  They still have planes left, right?  Martin Freeman didn't destroy them all at the end of Black Panther, right?  So why weren't they attacking the alien troop carriers and strafing the clusters of lizard-dogs?  Even in Captain America's day they knew about air support.

The coolest part is when Thor comes down in a blaze of lightning and shit and starts blasting the shit out of the lizard-dogs.  Meanwhile, the bad guys try to get to the Vision and grab the mind stone.  And then Thanos shows up.  Scarlet Witch destroys the mind stone (killing her lover), so Thanos is screwed, right?  Nope.  He just uses the time stone to rewind to when the mind stone is intact.  D'OH!  As he's going to use the completed gauntlet, Thor shows up and drives the axe into his chest.  So that's it, right?  Nope.  He only has to snap his fingers to kill half the universe.  D'OH!  As Thanos said, why didn't you cut off his head?  (Or his arm?)

So then people start turning to ash:  Black Panther, Star-Lord, Drax, Groot, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man among them.  Ironically I think all the original Avengers survived, unless Hawkeye died or something.  It's weird they don't show people turning to ash all over the world.  What, you don't have the money or something to show people dying in front of major landmarks like the Capitol, Eiffel Tower, Kremlin, or pyramids?  It really would have sold the moment because for all we know only Wakanda was affected.  It's sloppy is all I'm saying.

Thanos escapes to someplace to watch the sunrise.  In his mind or whatever he sees Gamora as a little girl, like when he first finds her and talks with her.  It's one of those things if I did that it'd be creepy or "far out" and someone would call me a "chimo" but when Marvel does it, it's OK. [eye roll]

Unless you're a gullible moron (or a little kid) you should know that of course the people who died aren't going to stay dead.  I mean there's going to be a GOTG 3 and a Spider-Man 2 and a Black Panther 2 (it just made like 1.5 billion dollars!) so obviously they couldn't do that if these characters were dead, could they?  Duh.  Thus it didn't really move me much.  I mean, if they'd killed Steve Rogers or Tony Stark or Thor I'd be concerned since I don't think any of them are signed long-term, but they went the opposite way and killed mostly characters you know will be back.  Weak.

Anyway, as soon as they announced this would be split into 2 movies I knew this one Thanos would "win" and the next one they would have to strike back and save the day.  So obviously in the next one they'll get the gauntlet back and use it (especially the time stone and reality stone) to bring everyone back.  Hooray.

Overall this was an OK movie and obviously it made a ton of money, but it's not one I'd put in my Top 10 or anything. I mean there are a lot of characters but they don't really use most of them that much.  If you liked Black Panther, well, he doesn't do a lot; he doesn't even show up until about 2 hours in.  Steve Rogers mostly just fights, as do the other ones on Earth.  It mostly focuses on Thanos, Iron Man, Star-Lord, and Thor.  I guess that's not a huge surprise since they're some of the higher-paid actors, right?  (2.5/5)

Monday, May 14, 2018

8 Already Bad Movies Ruined By Bad Twist Endings

Another little fake clickbait article based on bad Rifftrax movies.  All of these movies are already pretty lame, but then they go and have stupid twist endings that put M Night Shymalan to shame and make an already bad movie badder.


This movie is a riff (pun intended) on Terminator where a police robotics scientist who lives on a ranch (because that's a real thing) creates a cyborg cop that goes nuts and starts stalking a woman who committed the deadly crime of being the passenger in a car that was speeding.  With the help of a skunk-haired lesbian mathematician (also a real thing!), the scientist kills his creation.  Hooray!  But then as he's leaving a police station his former boss shoots him in the back.  Just totally random.  So our hero survives the whole movie and gets shot by some guy who was barely in the movie for like no reason?  Um...yeah.  And then the scientist's notes go to a nephew who to that point was never mentioned.  Makes perfect sense!


A ham radio DJ (because that was a thing in the 80s) and his vaguely European girlfriend go to an abandoned house that's haunted by a creepy little girl and her clown doll.  While several people die in bizarre ways, the ham radio guy and his girlfriend survive...until they go home and one day he's crossing the street and gets hit by a truck.  The implication is that the creepy clown doll is still alive and had him murdered.  So again the hero survives the whole movie and then just gets killed almost at random.  Hooray?

Fever Lake

In the 90s 6 college students including Mario Lopez and Corey Haim(?) go to the eponymous lake to a house.  After a lot of boredom that's supposed to be spooky, a lot of weird shit happens.  Corey Haim(?) is maybe making it happen or something because when he was a kid his father murdered his mother and then "turned the axe on himself," which is apparently a thing.  He confronts one of the girls who now is channeling the spirit of his mother.  Then she starts melting for...reasons.  Later a deputy and waitress are talking at the diner and he mentions they found 2 girls but she knows there were 3 who came into the diner.  So, um, what happened to the third one?  Was she always a ghost?  Did a ghost replace her at some point?  In which case, is the real girl still alive?  Is the ghost really dead or will she reappear?  And was Corey Haim(?) making stuff happen or was it the Native American guy or the ghost maybe mom?  What does any of it mean?!  (The answer is:  who cares?)

Frankenstein Island

In this "film," 4 guys in hot air balloons crash on an island populated by scantily-clad women, sailors, and Sheila, the wife of Dr. Frankenstein who is in contact with his ghost.  The four guys eventually unleash the Frankenstein monster chained underwater to wreck the place and escape.  They bring the Army back later and everything is gone!  There's no sign that anything happened...except their dog shows up.  So did it really happen?  Did they imagine it?  Does anyone really give a crap?

Bermuda Triangle

This movie is about a yacht that goes into the Bermuda Triangle for whatever reason.  A little girl on board finds a creepy old doll that somehow causes weird things to happen.  A lot of the "plot" involves boring swimming expeditions in the community swimming pool Atlantic Ocean and shooting sharks that weren't even bothering them.  Then people start dying for various reasons.  At the end the captain radios for help and a guy in the navy or coast guard or whatever says, "Hey, that ship sank 12 years ago!"  And then the boat disappears except for the creepy doll.  So, um, the whole thing was a dream?  It's like if everyone in The Sixth Sense were Bruce Willis.  I see dead people!

The Last Slumber Party

A lame slumber party is invaded by an even lamer killer.  Three of the worst, bitchiest teenage girls are killed very slowly by an escaped mental patient with a scalpel.  And then one girl wakes up and realizes it was all a dream!  Then she goes over to the house and the killer shows up to start killing them...again.  Ironically the same girl earlier dreamed it was the morning after and was then attacked by the killer.  So it was kind of a dream-within-a-dream.  Take that Inception!  Now if only my watching it were all a dream.

Rock n Roll Nightmare

A crappy hair band goes to a farmhouse to record an album.  Then they're beset by puppets demons.  Everyone is killed in weird ways except for the lead singer.  He faces off with the head demon and suddenly declares that he's an angel and all the people in the band were just imaginary.  For some reason then his clothes all disappear except for spiky metal underwear.  And after he wrestles a couple of Gumby dolls he has a tickle fight with the head demon.  But really, so all those people who died and I didn't care about were fake?  What a screw you to the audience!  Or it would be if I gave a shit.  The weirdest part of it is the "angel" has sex with one of the female bandmates in the shower.  So was that a demon or one of his imaginary people?  If it's the latter does that count as masturbation?

Tourist Trap

It's the usual scenario where a bunch of dumb college kids are out for spring break or whatever and then their car breaks down and they end up walking to an old tourist trap run by Chuck Connors.  (How many times has that happened to you?)  Except Chuck Connors supposedly has a "brother" who's kind of a homeless man's Leatherface who kills people and turns them into mannequins.  Well except then we find out the "brother" is really Chuck Connors.  And he has telekinesis!  And somehow has the power to turn supposedly live people into mannequins.  At the end the one good girl kills him and leaves the house.  We end with her driving a car with three mannequins that look like her friends.  So, um, were they mannequins all along?  Was she crazy this whole time?  Did any of it happen?  What the hell, movie?!  This makes no sense!  Life is meaningless!!!!  GAAAAAAAH!!!!

So this is how you take something bad and make it even worse.  Sometimes these twists can work.  The "killing the main character at the end almost randomly" was used in Night of the Living Dead, Layer Cake, and The Ghostwriter for example. Those also had a good rest of the movie to go with them, which makes a difference.  It helps if the movie can establish a good relationship with the viewer to gain his/her confidence so he/she will suspend disbelief a little easier.  Too often, though, I think movies try for plot twists just for the sake of having a twist and it doesn't really work.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Ghosts of Retail Chains Past

With Toys R Us closing all its stores, it got me thinking about all the chains that have come and gone in my time.

Back in the 80s in mid-Michigan at one point you had 3 toy store chains.  There was Toys R Us of course, but in the mall there was Kay-Bee Toys, which I think was called something else back then.  There was also Children's Palace, which I think had better prices and selection than Toys R Us, but it went out of business by the early 90s to make room for a Best Buy that will probably be out of business in a few years.

Next to Children's Palace/Best Buy used to be a department store called Best.  I don't think we went there too often.  It's the kind of store that like Montgomery Ward or soon to be Sears didn't have great prices or selection.  I probably went there the most when it was going out of business.

KMart used to be across the street from there.  They used to have 3 KMarts in the Saginaw area plus one in Midland and one in Bay City.  Now I don't think there are any.  In the 80s you had Meijer and KMart as the two big discount department store chains.  Then Target moved in and then Wal-Mart and KMart started to have trouble.

Across the way from Toys R Us is a building that first was Builder's Square, a short-lived competitor to Home Depot that inexplicably opened a second location about a block away and then both went out of business.  Then half of it was converted into Media Play, which was sort of like Best Buy only with a larger selection of books, toys, and so on.  That was a cool store but it went out of business in the 2000s.  The funniest part of their liquidation was the giant pile of Scott Stapp CDs (the lead singer of Creed) and other junk they still had by the end.  The other half of the building was turned into a Circuit City, which was a little redundant in some ways but also had more appliances and computer gear than Media Play.

Down the road a little way was a plaza that had a couple of unsuccessful big box ventures.  One was an interesting case study called Hills.  It was a discount department store that was really killed by its own success.  They opened too many locations too quickly and wound up collapsing in the span of a couple of years.  In the same plaza was Phar-Mor, which was focused more on health and beauty products but only lasted a few years before it closed and became a Big Lots.

One chain I miss is Value City department stores.  They still have furniture stores around but the department store was nice for fat guys like me because they carried larger sizes and usually there'd be something decent for cheap or on clearance.  I got my first suit from there.  It was light brown and really sharp though maybe not the right color for job interviews.

Across the street from that used to be a department store called Teppe's.  We pretty much went there once after Christmas.  They were having a big sale on toys, but it turned out their 40-50% off was the regular price at normal stores.  In the same lot used to be a Mexican chain called La Senorita that we had a business lunch at one year with this accounting place I worked for.  They had really good seafood nachos.  They still have at least one location up in Traverse City--or they did when I went there back in 2015.

In Midland there was the KMart and next to it an A&P that moved into a larger building across the street was supposed to be a mall.  The A&P became a Farmer Jack, a chain that was all over Michigan until I think they ran into some financial and legal problems.  In Saginaw there was a grocery chain called Hamady that in the 80s got into legal hot water and went out of business.

Across town by Dow High there was a discount chain called 3D back in the 80s.  Then it became "Giant Family Center" which had more groceries.  That became Michael's (not the craft store chain) and then Ashcraft's and then a half-dozen other chains.  There was another Giant/Michaels across town that eventually became a Salvation Army store.

Next to that was an independent pharmacy called Eastlawn Pharmacy in the 80s.  Of course they eventually got bought up by a chain--CVS.  Then CVS moved out and it became Video Watch, which became Hollywood Video, which became nothing.  Actually they might have just knocked out the wall for the Salvation Army store to absorb it.  There was a Radio Shack in that same plaza that of course went out of business.  At the end of that plaza was a pizza place that was run by the parents of a kid in my class.  But eventually they went out of business and at least part of it became Dairy Queen.

Besides the Eastlawn Pharmacy, down the road was Perry Drugs.  I think the CVS moved into there for a while and then it became a Dollar Tree.  For a long time there was a record store across the street that in the 90s was a used CD store.  But one thing that way that hasn't gone out of business is the bar called the Boulevard, or the Bully.  And the Comerica Bank has been there as long as I can remember.  So there's that.

Something that occurred to me is Midland and Bay City both built malls in the early 90s, which probably seemed like a good idea t the time, but now we can see that was really at the tail-end of the Golden Age for shopping malls.  I mean 20 years later the malls in all three Tri-Cities are largely empty.  They're basically all like the mall in Essexville was in the 90s.  I went there with my dad a few times and the place was a ghost town; there were probably 5 stores still open at the time.

Not in the Tri-Cities, but more in the Detroit area there were some other chains.  The first laptop I bought new came from a CompUSA store.  They had a lot of computer stuff but the Internet, Dell, Gateway, etc put them out of business eventually.  Like Hills, the Steve and Barry's franchise expanded too fast and collapsed under its own weight.  They sold college merchandise in malls, though most of it wasn't really sized for me.  And in malls you had franchises like Camelot Music and B. Dalton's/Waldenbooks that gradually collapsed thanks to Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc.  There used to be a place called Suncoast that had movie memorabilia and tapes/DVDs and stuff.  I guess with EBay and such people stopped going there. 

Of course there were also a lot of restaurants that came and went too.  Sveden House was a buffet (or smorgasbord in Scandinavian terms) place that had some good stuff.  The Saginaw location had kind of an Alpine ski lodge look to the front of it and stuff.  They opened another location in the Bay City Mall that lasted longer, though eventually became something else.

There was another buffet chain in Saginaw called Ryan's that had really good cookies--and other stuff.  We had an anniversary party for my parents there.  I think it was the 25th anniversary.  It became Fire Mountain by their 30th.  Then Teppanyaki Buffet after my dad died.

Speaking of buffets, the Ponderosa chain used to have locations in Midland, Saginaw, and Bay City.  I'm not sure if the Bay City one is there yet but the other two are gone.  They served steak and later had the "Grand Buffet" that wasn't all that grand, but it had good chicken wings and salad.

One I always find amusing was a pizza by the slice drive-thru place called Spad's in Bay City.  They had the concept of hot n ready down before Little Caesars!  And it tasted about as good.  They went out of business by like 1997 but the sign is still there!  The building itself became like a truck liner place for a while and then it eventually got torn down, but not the sign and a smaller exit sign.  Last month when I went by there, it was still there! It's pretty bizarre.

In the 80s there were still Hardee's in Midland and Saginaw.  One nice memory was in whatever their Happy Meals were they had little Pound Puppies.  When I was sick in the hospital one time my dad brought me one that was gray with brown spots just like my big Pound Puppy Spot.  I forget if I named him Spot III or Spot IV.  That went out of business by the 90s while the Saginaw location became a Kenny Rogers Roasters briefly.  That became like a cell phone store maybe and then a lingerie store.  Wonder if the lingerie still smells like chicken?  There was a Hardee's in Flint a lot longer.  They used to have fried chicken that was really good.  One time I was working in Lenox or somewhere like that on a temp assignment and decided to get some chicken from Hardee's because that town had nowhere to go out.  It was an expensive lunch when I got pulled over for speeding. lol

But my favorite restaurant chain that went out of business was Hot n Now burgers.  In the 90s they had locations in Midland, Saginaw, and Bay City.  The double olive burger was to die for; no one else has ever had one as good.  But slowly they went under all over Michigan.  The last location in Bay City caught fire last year or 2016.  Now the only one left is in Ft. Wayne or something.  If it's still there.  I might have to go there someday.

There are of course many other places that have come and gone in the last 40 years.  And still more that will be going, until there's nothing left but Wal-Mart and Amazon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Long Overdue & Unnecessarily Grumpy Review of Thor Ragnarok

I'm actually writing this in March but thanks to the A to Z Challenge it's not posting until now.  And the movie came out last November so this really is overdue.

Short review:  meh.  Is there such a thing as being too funny?  I mean we've already had Thor in 4 movies and he's not really funny.  Nor from the comics I've read is he supposed to be.  I mean Spider-Man and Iron Man are supposed to be the smart asses; Thor and Captain America are straight men.  That opening fight with Surfur and his minions I thought, is he drunk?  All that quipping and smart-assery was definitely not him.

But hey I know what you're thinking:  it was fun!  For some reason that seems to be the only standard most Marvel movies are held to.  Yeah, it was fun, I guess.  I mean if you wanted Guardians of the Galaxy 2.5.  I thought maybe it'd be a Thor movie.  Or from the Hulk's appearance a Thor version of Planet Hulk.  But no.  It's just some half-assed Gladiator meets Guardians of the Galaxy thing.  And then there's some Asgard stuff that's thrown in and really doesn't go with spaceships and lasers.  But then this Asgard is just another planet and the gods aren't really gods; they're just aliens with magic or something.

The thing is there are like 50 years of Thor comics by now and Asgard has its own rich history and universe.  So why do we need to go to some other planet and borrow from GOTG?  In three movies we've hardly gotten to see more of Asgard than the palace and Bifrost.  And now it's gone!  Well, too bad, we hardly knew ye.

Also gone is just about everyone from the previous two movies except Thor, Loki, Odin, and Heimdall.  What about Jane Foster?  There's just some lame joke about mutual dumping cribbed from Seinfeld in 1995.  The "Warriors Three" have been a part of the comics for most of the book's run, but here they're dispatched with barely a thought.  As for Lady Sif, his possible Asgardian love interest, she's not even mentioned. (I know, she's on The Blindspot, but they couldn't steal a joke from Seinfeld or another 90s comedy for her?)

Instead of getting lost in space, Thor could have been stranded on some other part of Asgard and we could have gotten to know the planet and people a bit more.  Nah, let's go to Junkion with Jeff Goldblum in full Jeff Goldblum parody mode and do the most half-assed version of Planet Hulk possible.

Bringing me to my next point:  Planet Hulk deserved better than this.  If you've never read it, you should.  Or you can watch the animated version, which I guess is the closest we'll ever get now to a movie.  It's a really good story that allowed the Hulk to show he could be more than a rage monster smashing things.  Or in this case acting like a fucking toddler.  In that story the Hulk leads a rebellion against a tyrannical leader and falls in love and even makes a baby!  It was a story that allowed the Hulk to be a 3-dimensional character without Banner, something almost unheard of.  But this just takes that story and pisses down its throat.  It's too bad we'll never get a real adaptation.

As part of that, I guess we'll just ignore the fact that the Hulk killed dozens of sentient beings like "Doug."  I guess he did that in The Avengers too but those were an invading horde; these were just other aliens who were stranded on Junkion--or whatever it's called.  Poor Mark Ruffalo gets nothing to do in Banner mode except whine and cringe while other than fighting Thor, Hulk does what?  Fight a really shitty-looking giant wolf?  The trailer scene of him punching giant Surfur was just a fake-out; they don't really fight.

Seriously, Fenris looked so lame.  It was one step removed from those 50s monster movies where they'd film normal insects or reptiles (lizards, ants, grasshoppers, etc) and superimpose them on the film so they'd look huge.  I guess the wolf could have looked too computerized like Sharknado sharks or Birdemic birds, but this wasn't much better.

And once again Marvel fails to create a memorable villain.  Hela is just another boring one-note villain who is then disposed of, though not as easy as some like Whiplash.  Her extremely nuanced goal is to take over the universe.  She just kills and bitches and makes some bad quips.  Yawn.

The only other important female character was the Valkyrie with a drinking problem.  Apparently she's the last Valkyrie and was saved by a hot blonde one.  Was there maybe something going on there?  Well of course we couldn't really explore that because if we had a gay kiss or anything the movie couldn't be shown in China or the Middle East or Russia and Disney would lose hundreds of millions of dollars.  So just keep it in the closet.

Like with the Hulk, Loki is responsible for a lot of deaths.  His usurping Odin's throne is what allowed Hela to come back and kill thousands of Asgardians.  This on top of thousands of New Yorkers and various other people.  But he's totally learned his lesson now, right?  So it's cool.

The whole thing just struck me as a lot of tedious eye candy lacking much real heart.  All Thor learns in the end is to stop relying on his hammer so much.  And maybe Loki will stop being such a dick after a million years or so?  Ha, yeah, that'll stick.  I mean until the next movie.

But it was fun!  And critics liked it!  Most critics still think Superman: The Movie is the greatest superhero movie ever.  The movie where Superman turns back time by spinning the Earth backwards.  Ugh.  Hey, why didn't Thor think to spin Asgard backwards?

At least Idris Elba got slightly more to do than stand by the Bifrost entrance in uncomfortable armor with a big sword.  So that's something.

Monday, May 7, 2018

#AtoZChallenge Reflections: Toy Lines Like Any Franchise Struggle to Maintain Momentum

The A to Z Challenge is over...again.  I doubt I made any lasting friends or contacts or that anyone really gave a shit.  I didn't even get one of those random drive-bys from someone else in the "Challenge."

Since this year I talked about GI JOE and last year Transformers, and I watched Netflix's The Toys That Made Us, it became clear that toy lines struggle in the same way as movie or book franchises to maintain the momentum.  Really you can think of each successive wave of toys as a sequel and like any sequel there can be problems.

The thing about toys is that what starts with a decent concept soon has to dilute itself with more figures, vehicles, playsets, or whatever with new gimmicks.  When GI JOE started it was just one doll action figure with a variety of outfits uniforms and accessories.  While it was first a pretty normal soldier then they had to add things like astronaut outfits.

Later the Real American Hero line went the same way.  They started out with figures that were relatively ordinary troops and vehicles, on par with what the real military was using.  But over time they had to get more and more unrealistic.  New gimmicks had to be added.  Some (like bendable arms) were good while others like repainted figures categorized as new teams (Python Patrol, Night Force, Tiger Force, Sky Patrol, etc) or lame concepts like Eco Warriors or Drug Eradication Force were not such good ideas.

Hasbro's Transformers line went pretty much the same way.  It started out with robots who turned into normal vehicles or one a handgun and another a tape recorder.  Then they added a Veritech fighter (awesome!), dinosaurs (Me Grumpy Bulldog like dinosaurs), a rocket base guy (meh), and a combining team (good concept, meh execution).  Then there were more futuristic vehicles.  More combining teams.  Headmasters, Targetmasters, Powermasters, Pretenders, and micro bots.  The last gasp concept were Action Masters who were Transformer-shaped figures with movement like GI JOEs and transforming vehicles.

Then they recolored the classic toys for "Generation 2" before they started making new ones.  When that didn't work, they came out with Beast Wars.  And that started the process again.  The first Beast Wars were pretty much just normal animals that turned into robots.  But less than 18 months later they diluted their own concept with "Transmetals" that were still animals but robots on the outside.  And then Fuzors and Transmetal IIs...and then a new line called Beast Machines that was just a waste of time.

The problem Kenner had with Star Wars was they couldn't really do all sorts of weird gimmicks.  All they could do was come up with slight variations of the main characters and make every possible minor character and vehicle into a toy.  Like Prune Face:

So a couple years after Return of the Jedi, with no new movies on the horizon, they had to quit because there was no material left to mine.

Part of the problem is that kids get older and tastes change.  So kids who were into Transformers or GI JOE in 1985 might have turned to Ninja Turtles a couple of years later.  Or they might have just discovered girls or something.  Toy franchises use new gimmicks to try to keep interest or recruit new buyers, but this is usually diminishing returns.  Once a toy isn't "in" it's hard to get that momentum back.  And though adults may not want to admit it, even kids can sense a phony.  They can often see through a gimmick and reject it.

In a way it's harder for toys than movies or books because toys don't really have a story that much.  With a movie or book you might want to watch or read the next part to find out what happens to your favorite characters.  That doesn't really work as well for toys because there's not a story to keep people's interest.

But on the other hand Barbie has been popular for almost 60 years now.  I guess in large part it was because they never had much serious competition until this century with Bratz, Monster High, and so on.  Now even they're in the struggle to maintain relevance.

Anyway, if you've written a series you know how hard sequels can be.  Designing toy sequels is even tougher!

That's the end of this year's A to Z Challenge.  What about next year?  I did Transformers and GI JOE, so what next:  He-Man?  Voltron?  Go-Bots?  How about Robotech?  Actually, I've been giving this some thought:
  • A: Alpha
  • B: Breetai
  • C: Cyclone
  • D: Dana Sterling
  • E: Exedore & Emil Lang
  • F:  Fokker, Roy
  • G: Gloval, Henry
  • H: Hunter, Rick
  • I:  Invid
  • J:  Jean Grant
  • K: Khyron the Backstabber
  • L: Lisa Hayes
  • M:Miriya & Max Sterling
  • N: Nova Satori
  • O: Optera
  • P:  Protoculture
  • Q: Quadrano Battalion
  • R:  Robotech Masters
  • S:  SDFs
  • T:  Tesla
  • U: United Earth Forces
  • V: Veritech
  • W: Wolfe, Jonathan
  • X: eXo Squad
  • Y: Yellow Dancer
  • Z: Zor
So probably stay tuned for that next year!  Or you could just go research them yourself over the next year.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Root of #metoo and #timesup is That Hollywood Views Women Like Livestock

A couple of months ago I read this Geek Twins article on 10 Oscar winning actors who disappeared after bad sci-fi movies.  And one thing I noted was women on the list like Jennifer Connelly and Halle Berry disappearing from Hollywood was not that surprising, because generally by the time actresses get into their 40s they get offered fewer and fewer roles.  It got me thinking of the #timesup and #metoo social media campaigns on sexual assault, much of it focusing on Hollywood.  And really I think a large part of Hollywood's cultural problem in that area is that women are still largely seen as just pretty faces who are expendable.

A line in LA Confidential sums up the attitude when a Hollywood guy says basically that every day in LA a dozen girls get off a bus looking to be movie stars.  It's probably true.  And more to the point, that's how actresses have been seen pretty much since the beginning.  If you don't want to do this kissing scene or sex scene or nude scene, we'll just get someone who will.  If you don't let me grab your ass or fuck you, you won't get the part.  If you complain about me to the press, we'll just replace you with some underwear model, ie the Transformers movies.

About 13 years ago I read Ingrid Bergman's biography for some background on a story.  After winning an Oscar for Gaslight in 1944, she was blacklisted a few years later for having an affair with an Italian director and running away with him.  After she came back in the 50s she won another Oscar for Anastasia.  But then in the 60s even though she'd made her comeback, the roles started drying up.  Why?  Not because of blacklisting, so much as she was just getting older.  Instead of the romantic leads she was being offered mom roles.  And then later grandma roles.  She ended up leaving the country again, pretty much for the rest of her life.

You can say that was the 50s and 60s, not today!  But how many things do you see Jennifer Connelly or Halle Berry in these days?  It's not just because they did a bad movie or two.  It's because they're getting to that "certain age" where casting directors aren't going to ask them to play 30-something romantic leads or action heroes or anything.  It's probably mostly mom roles at this point.

Until Wonder last year (which got some slight awards buzz) when was the last time you'd really seen Julia Roberts in anything?  In the 90s she was America's Sweetheart and commanding $20M paydays and then she won the Oscar for Erin Brockavich, but within 10 years after that she was pretty well gone from the A-list.  One of the last big roles she had before Wonder was appropriately Mother's Day.  Back in '88 or so she was one of the young daughters in Steel Magnolias and now she's one of the moms in that other movie 25 years later.  That's the cycle for women in Hollywood.

And of course there's a double-standard to it all.  When they cast action movies with guys it's like The Rock (46), Tom Cruise (55), and Liam Neeson (65).  When they cast action movies with female leads you get Jennifer Lawrence (27), Alicia Vikander (29), Gal Gadot (33), or old-timer Scarlett Johansson (34).  You see the difference there?  It's still not even if you think of all the Chrises (Pratt, Evans, Pine, and Hemsworth) who range from 35-38.  You've had guys like Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, and Paul Newman still in big movies in their 70s-80s!  Sure there are exceptions like Helen Mirren in the Red movies, but by and large the standard is that when it comes to casting women you want them young, whereas guys it doesn't really matter.  And you can bet that as soon as Scar-Jo, J-Law, or any of those others start showing lines or their breasts sag, they'll be relegated to mostly mom roles too.

Hollywood women also aren't immune to the same pressure as normal women when it comes to babies.  This Geek Twins article talks about how Natalie Portman isn't in Marvel movies now so she could focus on her new baby and such.  When women have a baby, they're expected to be around and take care of the kid.  It's not like a man, who can just go back to work the next day.  With women, people look down at them if they go right back to work so there can be pressure to not go back right away.  And with such short windows, taking 2-3 years off for a woman can pretty much end her A-list career.  You say to the casting director you're not working for a little while and they'll just find someone else.  I mean there are a dozen more pretty faces getting off the bus, right?

The other double-standard then is that we mock women who get facelifts, breast implants, and so forth.  Like all the jokes about Joan Rivers.  But we really don't give a shit about male stars who wear hairpieces like Bill Shatner, John Travolta, or Nic Cage.  You suppose any of them get facelifts?  No, of course not!  But why shouldn't women try to look young and sexy when that's still primarily what they're judged on?

Since this is still the prevailing attitude, is it really surprising to find out so many male execs, directors, and stars are perverts?  Sure there's been some progress made but there's still the mindset that every day another batch of pretty girls is showing up ready to take the place of those in the movies.  Until that changes, you're going to continue hearing stories of groping, propositioning, and blackmailing.

How do we change that mindset?  I guess we have to keep appreciating women even when they do start to get older.  We have to give them the same suspension of disbelief as we do Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson.  Until then nothing will really change.  You can get rid of bad apples like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, but there are still plenty more in the barrel.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Can Grumpy Bulldog Make a Decent GI JOE Movie?

At first I was like, No, Joe, but then later I was like Yo, Joe!  So here we go with another excruciating fake movie plot.  I think I came up with something fairly close to the old cartoon and comic book that's also not ridiculously unrealistic.  Maybe hyper-real like they said about the Nolan Batman movies.

So let's start in a town called Springfield, which was used in both the cartoon and comics at one point.  It's just an ordinary summer night and then all the sudden the power goes out!  Not just houses, but everything:  cars, phones, etc.  In the darkness armed men in masks start ransacking the place and escape before the local cops and later National Guard can get there.

A few days later, retired General Clayton Abernathy (aka Hawk) is jogging when a gorgeous redhead appears next to him.  She's Scarlett and reveals that Hawk's old bosses want to talk to him in the Pentagon.  He eventually agrees and she takes him to DC to meet General Flagg.  Flagg tells him there's a new player in terrorism and they were responsible for the mess in Springfield.  All they have is a broadcast with a Cobra symbol and Cobra Commander inviting everyone to join him to create a new world order.  They don't have the location, but Flagg says they have a lead.  They need a team assembled off the books to get an asset into this Cobra group and find out what's happening.  Flagg and company are certain Springfield was just the dress rehearsal for something bigger.

Hawk and Scarlett split up then to recruit their team.  Hawk goes to an army base where Flint is whooping on some raw recruits.  After a couple of tours in Afghanistan/Iraq, Flint was rotated back to the States, but he's more than ready to get back into action.

Meanwhile Scarlet is in Japan, where she tracks down Snake Eyes.  Through sign language and crap she convinces him to come with her and help them investigate Cobra.

They all wind up in Barcelona or somewhere by the Mediterranean coast.  They meet their contact, code name Lady Jaye.  She doesn't know where Cobra is, but she's got a line on someone who does.  It's a former East European spy code named Baroness.  She's arriving in the area soon.  The plan is to capture her and Lady Jaye will take her place and go to Cobra's lair to infiltrate.  So then there's a big action scene where they take down the Baroness and her guards, during which Flint comes to Lady Jaye's rescue or she comes to his.  They take Baroness to a secluded location and get the location of the base on an island in the Aegean or something.

The Baroness has a ship for her and Flint goes undercover as the Baroness's underling, but Scarlett and Snake Eyes need a nondescript way to get there, so they go to the port and there find a local guy who's called Shipwreck because he's ended up on the wrong side of every crew he's with.  He agrees to help take Scarlett and Snake Eyes to the island.

Meanwhile Hawk goes back to the States to find his old buddy Conrad Hauser, aka Duke.  When the shit hits the fan, Hawk needs a strike team that doesn't have to answer to anyone should things go south.  (You know, the Mission Impossible thing where if you fail the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of you.)  They recruit some of the best of the best like Gung Ho, Roadblock, Stalker, Rock n Roll, Ace, Wild Bill, Doc, and some more generic guys like Grunt and Zap.  And one of their recruits is some random guy who's actually Zartan, the master of disguise.

On the way to the island, Lady Jaye and Flint get a little romantically involved while Scarlett and Snake Eyes get reconnected...and Shipwreck just does the comic relief.  They finally get to the island with some elaborate old temple that's hiding Cobra's secret lair.  Lady Jaye as the Baroness meets Cobra Commander (I'd go with the hooded model), Destro, Firefly, Major Bludd, and Storm Shadow.  Flint gets a little annoyed when Destro starts kissing Lady Jaye's hand and stuff.  While Lady Jaye starts trying to find out what Cobra's up to, Flint looks around the lower access places.  He uncovers Cobra's secret army and high-tech vehicles and so forth.

Lady Jaye deflects Destro's attentions and sneaks into the command center to find some information.  She finds something on a project called Pyramid of Darkness.  Before she can find out what that's about, Storm Shadow appears.  They fight, but she's captured and her identity is revealed.  Flint finds out and contacts the others on the island.  Scarlett and Snake Eyes spring into action while Shipwreck stays with their boat to make a quick getaway.  Flint stages a distraction that helps the other two get in and they converge on Lady Jaye, who's being tortured for information but not cooperating.  While Snake Eyes takes on Storm Shadow, Flint and Scarlett rescue Lady Jaye.  Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are at a draw and it takes a little effort for Scarlett to make him leave.  They head back to the boat and high tail it out of there.  Cobra pursues, but Hawk has arranged some backup to get them out of there and they get on a carrier to debrief.

Meanwhile Duke and the recruits are getting ready to launch a strike on Cobra's base.  But Zartan sneaks some of his buddies onto the base and they end up wrecking the place, leaving the strike team pretty much without any weapons.  At the same time, Firefly breaks Baroness out of custody to bring her to Destro on a submarine.

Meanwhile Lady Jaye and Flint are cozying up after their adventure and Scarlett asks Snake Eyes about Storm Shadow and he relates how Storm Shadow killed Snake Eyes's master and all that jazz.  Hawk gets word from Flagg that the strike team has been sidelined and they're going to send in some Special Forces guys instead and that the Baroness has escaped.

They watch the Special Forces raid on the island.  Except everything is gone!  The whole place has been emptied out.  Somehow Cobra has slipped out without being detected.  Flagg thanks Hawk and the team for their service and says they'll all go back to their usual units now--which for Hawk means retirement.  Needless to say no one is happy about this.  Cobra is still out there but no one believes them!

Lady Jaye and Flint are talking later about what they're going to do now and some hidden clue comes to her that indicates Cobra's next target is Fort Knox!  They're going to use their weapon to knock out all the power and steal the gold, bringing America to its knees.  They go to Hawk, but Flagg won't believe him.  So they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

Hawk gets everyone together (live and via satellite!) to lay things out.  He tells them how back in the day he was part of another team like this, a secret unit that did the dirty work that couldn't be done through official channels.  There were no ranks and such, they just called each other:  GI Joe.  And their battle cry was Yo, Joe!  Now if they're willing, he wants to bring it back at least one last time.  Everyone is pretty psyched about this.

Hawk and the others (including Shipwreck, who's at least temporarily joining the team) go back to the States.  They meet Duke and the recruits that are left.  Hawk leads them to "The Pit" where the old Joe unit's decommissioned weapons are being kept by a grizzled old guy--the original Joe who was Hawk's commanding officer back in the day.  Clutch is there with his girlfriend Cover Girl keeping the vehicles in good shape.  There are tanks, jeeps, planes, and helicopters.  All old but serviceable.  And so they head for Kentucky.  Yo Joe!

Cobra stages a feint on the DC area while it launches its Pyramid of Darkness on Fort Knox.  Cobra Commander (in battle armor) and company celebrate as they enter the fort to start taking the gold.  But before they can make off with the gold, the Joes show up and the battle begins.  Ultimately Snake Eyes has to fight with Storm Shadow and Lady Jaye and Flint fight Baroness and Destro.  Hawk keeps Cobra Commander from escaping.

With Cobra's attack on the fort foiled, their distraction forces are rounded up.  Flagg thanks Hawk and Hawk asks if he can keep his unit together, at least for now.  And Flagg agrees.  Scarlett talks with Snake Eyes and convinces him to stick around.  Lady Jaye and Flint are both staying and she invites him out on a date.

Everything seems great, but in the epilogue Cobra Commander is being transported to a secret facility when the convoy is attacked by Zartan and his minions.  And so Cobra Commander is free and ready to try again.

I think that has most of the characters people remember from the 80s and is only somewhat implausible.  Best of all, no robot suits, no Baroness with blond hair, no Cobra Commander with hair, or any of that lame shit from the first live action attempt.  Maybe call it something like GI Joe Returns or something.

For the hell of it, here's some completely unrealistic casting that is to various degrees sarcastic:
General Hawk:  Brendan Fraser (I mean, he'd be cheap, right? And probably old enough by now.)
General Flagg:  Liam Neeson
Scarlett:  Jessica Chastain
Snake Eyes: Ray Park (Or whoever. I mean we can't see him anyway.)
Lady Jaye: Anne Hathaway
Flint: Henry Cavill or (to fuck with racist "fans") John Boyega
Shipwreck: Oscar Isaac (before you nitpick, "fans," Shipwreck's real name is Hector Delgado)
Duke: Armie Hammer
Roadblock: Terry Crews
Dusty: Matthew McConaghuey
Gung Ho: Norman Reedus
Beach Head: Jon Hamm
Stalker: Jamie Foxx
Doc: Ray Fisher
Lifeline: Tobey Maguire
Breaker: Zach Galifinakis
Ace: James Marsden
Wild Bill: Woody Harrellson
Clutch: Ben Foster
Cover Girl: Michelle Williams
Mutt & Junkyard: Michael Kaltenmark & Trip (I think Trip has the range to play a Rottweiler)
Footloose:  The Ghost of Bill Paxton
Blowtorch:  Ron Weasley
Spirit: Team Jacob
Snow Job: Seth Green

Cobra Commander:  Nicolas Cage (Another who comes cheap and who does crazy better? Maybe Joaquin Phoenix or Jared Leto?)  Or Doug Jones since he's good a playing fish guys, so why not a snake guy?  And then if you could digitally recreate Chris Latta's iconic voice, that would be awesome.
Destro: Idris Elba (I will accept no other suggestions!)
Baroness: Alicia Vikander (or Mila Jokavich if you want to skew older)
Major Bludd: Aaron Eckhart (He's Australian!)
Zartan: Guy Pearce (Also Australian so you can flip-flop him and Eckhart if you want)
Firefly: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Storm Shadow: Jet Li
Dr. Mindbender: Mark Strong
Copperhead: Michael Rooker
Dreadnoks: Extras from Mad Max: Fury Road
Road Pig: Andy Serkis in motion capture rig--or he could just put on 50 pounds
Crystal Ball: Stephen King (wink!)
Viper #6: Me! (I don't have the acting chops for Road Pig)

And then you have all those other crucial roles like Cobra Officer, Alley Viper, Ice Cream Soldier...


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