Quick Thoughts on X-Men: Days of Future Past

I felt like the movie was enjoyable, but forgettable, because it’s a rehash of previous character stories we’ve already seen. Every X-Men movie has been an exploration of the theme “It’s better to respond to oppression with the high road of appeals to tolerance, rather than through violence against the class that your oppressors come from.”

But at least there was a new external plot. Unlike a lot of superhero sequels that don’t bother with a complete plot at all and just throw increasing numbers of super-villains at the hero. That type of movie always ends up being an incoherent mess. See Spider-Man 3, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Batman Returns/Forever/and Robin, etc. (Or don’t see them, since they’re terrible.)

After I saw the movie, I went back and re-read the comics it’s based on. I do feel like the movie improved on the comics, and had a lot more meat to it. But then 2 hours of movie necessarily contains a lot more stuff than 40 pages of comic book.

The theme of “It’s better to fight for civil rights through appealing to tolerance and compassion rather than through tribalist violence” is the entire point of the X-Men. It’s as central to their existence as “With great power comes great responsibility” is to Spider-Man or “Truth, justice, and the American way” is to Superman.

But comics are a different medium than movies. They’re an ongoing story with no clear end. What works in comics doesn’t necessarily work in movies, and the emotional emptiness of rehashing the same theme in multiple movies is a clear example of this.

One other side-note. Rereading the comics from 1980 reminded me of how ridiculous it was that Magneto and Mystique’s group refered to themselves as “The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.” Nobody believes they’re evil. The movies (including Days of Future Past) improved on the comics by jettisoning this cartoonish point of view, and giving the villains real reasons for believing that they’re doing the right thing.

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Apologies for delays in the next Movies We Still Care About

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of drains on my time that have prevented me from working on the Movies We Still Care About series.

I should be getting back on track for this, and am hoping to have the first half of 1988 up by Monday.  (Though it might slip into later in the week.)

Movies We Still Care About – 1987 – Part 3 (R-Z)

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Evil Dead 2
  • (First half of) Full Metal Jacket
  • Hellraiser
  • Lethal Weapon
  • The Lost Boys
  • Moonstruck
  • Predator
  • The Princess Bride
  • Raising Arizona
  • Robocop
  • Spaceballs
  • The Untouchables
  • Wall Street

Other Notable Movies

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • The Running Man

Best Picture Nominees:

  • The Last Emperor (Winner)
  • Broadcast News
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Hope and Glory
  • Moonstruck

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Three Men and a Baby
  2. Fatal Attraction
  3. Beverly Hills Cop II
  4. Good Morning, Vietnam
  5. Moonstruck
  6. The Untouchables
  7. The Secret of My Success
  8. Stakeout
  9. Lethal Weapon
  10. The Witches of Eastwick

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Princess Bride (97%)
  2. Evil Dead 2 (98%)
  3. Wings of Desire (98%)
  4. Broadcast News (98%)
  5. Full Metal Jacket (94%)
  6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (94%)
  7. Moonstruck (92%)
  8. The Last Emperor (91%)
  9. Raising Arizona (90%)

Movies We Still Care About

Raising Arizona

This has a weird quirky charm that appeals to people who like those sort of things, and was the first major success for the Coen Brothers and Nic Cage.  Its quirkiness isn’t for everyone.  A good barometer for whether or not you’ll like this movie is this scene:

 

Robocop

An iconic character that has become part of our culture, and probably the peak of hyper-violent 80s action movies.  (Which actually was intended to be even more violent, but was toned down in order to avoid an X rating.)

Here’s one of the tamer scenes, where Robocop shoots a thug in the crotch, through the skirt of a woman the thug is holding hostage.

Here’s the ED-209 malfunction scene.

I can’t explain why, but for some reason I love this brief clip of a lecherous guy saying “I’d buy that for a dollar.”

And here’s a video of little-known facts about the movie.  I bet you didn’t realize how much of the movie actually has Robocop in his underwear.

 

Spaceballs

One of the better spoof movies, back in an era where spoof movies had actual jokes that connected to the source material rather than modern spoofs which just cram in a bunch of random references.

A lot of the jokes don’t hold up, and Mel Brooks had an unfortunate tendency to overexplain the punchlines.  For example:

But a much of the humor does still work, and this is certainly a must-see for any Star Wars or late 70s/early 80s sci-fi fan. Here are some better scenes:

 

The Untouchables

I don’t have much to say about this, and would probably put it in “Other Fond Memories,” except that I want to post the baby carriage scene.

 

Wall Street

Wall Street is a message movie that ends up enduring for the exact opposite of what Oliver Stone intended.  It’s supposed to be a critique of greed-driven commerce, and Gordon Gecko is supposed to be the bad guy.

But as a writer, it is important to make villains have real reasons for their actions, rather than just wallowing in their own crapulence.  (At least, if you’re making a serious/smart movie.  You can get away with cartoonish villains in a fun dumb movie.)  Every bad guy ought to believe that he’s the hero of his own movie.

Stone and co-writer Stanley Weiser, along with Michael Douglas’s performance, did too good a job of this.  Generations of stock brokers and high-finance people went into that industry because they saw the “Greed is good” speech, and said to themselves, “He makes a good point.  I want to be like him.”

Other Notable Films

The Running Man

The second silly action movie from 1987 to feature two future governors.  This isn’t as popular as it once was.  But it’s interesting for its prescience in spoofing reality TV, a genre that wouldn’t become popular for another 15 years.

It also has a bunch of ridiculous over-the-top death scenes, that are far more creative than you typically see today.

– – – – –

Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.

Movies We Still Care About – 1987 – Part 2 (L-P)

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Evil Dead 2
  • (First half of) Full Metal Jacket
  • Hellraiser
  • Lethal Weapon
  • The Lost Boys
  • Moonstruck
  • Predator
  • The Princess Bride
  • Raising Arizona
  • Robocop
  • Spaceballs
  • The Untouchables
  • Wall Street

Other Notable Movies

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • The Running Man

Best Picture Nominees:

  • The Last Emperor (Winner)
  • Broadcast News
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Hope and Glory
  • Moonstruck

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Three Men and a Baby
  2. Fatal Attraction
  3. Beverly Hills Cop II
  4. Good Morning, Vietnam
  5. Moonstruck
  6. The Untouchables
  7. The Secret of My Success
  8. Stakeout
  9. Lethal Weapon
  10. The Witches of Eastwick

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Princess Bride (97%)
  2. Evil Dead 2 (98%)
  3. Wings of Desire (98%)
  4. Broadcast News (98%)
  5. Full Metal Jacket (94%)
  6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (94%)
  7. Moonstruck (92%)
  8. The Last Emperor (91%)
  9. Raising Arizona (90%)

Movies We Still Care About

Lethal Weapon

This created the “Cop on the edge with nothing to lose” genre, which continues to be popular to this day.  (Note how 24 just returned to TV this week.)

I think that this is one of those movies that has been imitated so much that when you go back and watch it now, it feels very cliched.  Which is a compliment rather than a criticism.  But it does mean that it’s more popular in our memory than to actually watch.

In addition to being imitated by pretty much every cop movie or TV show from the last 27 years, it’s also frequently referenced.  There was an entire episode of How I Met Your Mother about how Ted kept a “Murtaugh list,” which was things he was too old to do anymore.

 

Predator

One of two over-the-top action movies to come out this year starring two future state governors. (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura)  This spawned a long-running franchise, and the Predator has entered our mythology.

I think there are two reasons this movie endures.  The first is the visual design of the Predator itself.  Creature designer Stan Winston managed to create a monster that was unlike anything we had seen before.  Its mouth was the stuff of nightmares. (While its dreadlocks are frequently imitated by pro athletes.)

Some factoids about Predator you may not have known: There was a joke going around after Rocky IV that, since Rocky had run out of people to fight, Rocky V would have him fighting an alien.  Some screenwriters were inspired by this joke to create a real screenplay, which eventually developed into Predator.  Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast to play the Predator.  But Schwarzenegger and the rest of the cast are so much bigger than him that this just didn’t work.  So he was replaced by the guy who played Harry in Harry and the Henderson.

The Princess Bride

This is one of my all-time favorite movies.  It’s a rare film that is frequently among the favorites of both fans of stereotypically male movies and fans of stereotypically female movies.  (Note that I’m talking about stereotypes.  Obviously real men and women like all sorts of movies.)

It’s one of those movies where it’s hard to find any commentary to make about it, because everyone already loves it and knows it by heart.  (And if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?)  So in lieu of commentary, I’ll post some clips.

Here’s a collection of Vizzini saying “Inconceivable!”

Here’s just about as perfect and as pure of a straightforward battle of wits as you’ll ever see on film, made all the more entertaining by Vizzini’s zany leaps of logic.

And of course, “Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”

Other Fond Memories

(These are movies that fit the category of “Movies We Still Care About,” but for which I personally can’t think of anything interesting to say. Please don’t take a movie’s inclusion in this category as any sort of criticism.  You are encouraged to voice your thoughts on these films in the comments section.)

  • The Lost Boys
  • Moonstruck

Other Notable Films

Planes Trains and Automobiles

Not as popular today as when it first came out.  But worth noting for the “those aren’t pillows” scene.  (Though probably a comedy scene that’s based so much on homophobia wouldn’t fly today.)

– – – – –

Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.

Movies We Still Care About – 1987 – Part 1 (A-H)

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Evil Dead 2
  • (First half of) Full Metal Jacket
  • Hellraiser
  • Lethal Weapon
  • The Lost Boys
  • Moonstruck
  • Predator
  • The Princess Bride
  • Raising Arizona
  • Robocop
  • Spaceballs
  • The Untouchables
  • Wall Street

Other Notable Movies

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • The Running Man

Best Picture Nominees:

  • The Last Emperor (Winner)
  • Broadcast News
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Hope and Glory
  • Moonstruck

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Three Men and a Baby
  2. Fatal Attraction
  3. Beverly Hills Cop II
  4. Good Morning, Vietnam
  5. Moonstruck
  6. The Untouchables
  7. The Secret of My Success
  8. Stakeout
  9. Lethal Weapon
  10. The Witches of Eastwick

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Princess Bride (97%)
  2. Evil Dead 2 (98%)
  3. Wings of Desire (98%)
  4. Broadcast News (98%)
  5. Full Metal Jacket (94%)
  6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (94%)
  7. Moonstruck (92%)
  8. The Last Emperor (91%)
  9. Raising Arizona (90%)

Movies We Still Care About

Adventures in Babysitting

This was a fun wish-fulfillment adventure that appealed to both children, and teenagers/young adults, who could each put themselves in the place of the characters.

Dirty Dancing

In previous years, I’ve discussed several films that worked as a wish fulfillment fantasy for boys.  Dirty Dancing is just about the purest wish-fulfillment fantasy for girls.  It’s the story of a girl who’s misunderstood by her parents and maybe isn’t the most attractive.  But then she meets a sexy dream guy who sees her inner beauty.  Not only does the hunk fall for her, but he helps her find and embrace her inner sexiness.  Then she gets validation from everyone else, including her parents.

 

Evil Dead 2

In my opinion, this is the best silly horror movie ever made.  Director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell combine for some of the physical comedy to ever be put on film.

Watch Bruce Campbell get beaten up by his own possessed hand.

I think that what really makes these films endure is that Campbell is brilliant at playing a cocky jerk who you can’t help but like.  And then he retains that cockiness even as he gets continually beaten down by mystical forces that he cannot possibly handle.

We cheer his small victories, but since he’s a jerk, we also enjoy his humiliating defeats.

(First half of) Full Metal Jacket

This is an odd movie, because it’s not based on one story.  It’s an adaptation of a collection of three novellas, which leads to a disjointed film that is two entirely separate stories which happen to share a couple characters.  The second half is a forgettable generic Vietnam movie, but the first half is amazing.  It gets the audience inside the process of boot camp, and shows how the training breaks down an individual’s psychology, and then rebuilds them as a killer.

Interesting note: R. Lee Ermey, who plays Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, was initially hired as an adviser to share his experience of what boot camp is really like.  He lobbied Stanley Kubrick for his starring role in the movie by making a lengthy video of him yelling abuse at extras, calling on his real experience as a drill instructor.  Which lead us to this piece of cinematic brilliance: (Warning: Foul language including racial slurs.)

I should note that some veterans have complained that the portrayal of boot camp isn’t realistic, and that any vaguely competent instructor would have recognized the signs of severe psychosis in Private Pyle, and kicked him out of the Marines.  (Even during Vietnam, the Marines were all-volunteer, and instructors wouldn’t hesitate to remove a recruit that was unfit to serve.)

This brings up the concept of verisimilitude, which is something that seems truthful.  Sometimes what seems truthful isn’t what actually is truthful.  The shorthand we used in film school was “real vs. reel.”  (Which is a terrible shorthand when spoken aloud, but that’s beside the point.)  If you want actual realism, you can look out a window.  At their best, films are stories that can highlight human experience, and sometimes telling the best story means deviating from how things work in reality.

Hellraiser

Notable for creating a new horror franchise and monster.  Pinhead more of a second-tier monster, not as well-known as Freddy or Jason.  But these films still are quite popular among horror fans.

– – – – –

Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.