Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

The Blockies: Day 2

Welcome back to The Blockies! Brought to you in part by the Michael Bay Foundation for the Arts, and Transformers 3: Bad Formers! Don't be afraid, we're robots! Today we're getting into some genre stuff, the 90s, and what we didn't like. On with the show!

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Favorite CoupleWe didn’t set out for strictly guy on guy, it just turned out that way.

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We love The Blockies and playfully mocking racial stereotypes!

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, The Rush Hour series, first summer appearance August 2001, $507 million total
The banter between Detective Carter and Inspector Lee never amounts to much more than this same gag played over and over (and over and over):

Lee:  I sound funny!

Carter:  I make fun of this guy for sounding so damn funny!

The Rush Hour trilogy takes familiar stereotypes (on both sides) and puts them to maximum blast. At a Chinese chicken market, Carter loudly proclaims that he likes his chicken dead and deep fried. Later, he punches Lee in the face on accident, “Ya’ll all look alike!” It’s dumb, and it’s fantastic. The relationship works because Jackie Chan actually does sound pretty damn funny when he speaks English and the audience is convinced that Chris Tucker is every bit as loud and ridiculous as he acts. The two don’t even spend much time interacting with each other. In fact, I’m not sure that they ever even called each other James and… and… wait- what was Lee’s first name? To their credit though, they team up for more than a few great fight scenes. (Jason)

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, Wedding Crashers, July 2005, $209 million
There's only two types of men in comedies these days. It’s either the unsympathetic, pussy-chasing, when-you-fall-asleep-I'm-going-to-put-my-dick-on-your-face-and-photograph-it douchebag popularized by Entourage and last summer's vastly overrated The Hangover. Or, there's the oversensitive, super nerdy, Peter Pan syndrome having sad clown depicted in every film in the Judd Apatow collection. But then, there's the perfect amalgamation found in David Dobkin's Wedding Crashers where Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn hit on just the right combination of charming asshole and arrested development. They're cool like the Apatow guys could never hope to be, but they also sink to depths of pathetic that would make Johnny Drama wince. As a pair, there's none better - from the hissed exchanges over an awkward breakfast to the last act animosity - Wilson's laid back flippancy is a perfect foil for Vaughn’s motor-mouthed neuroses. Old School might be the father of the modern “bro comedy,” but the Wedding Crashers are its Adam and Steve (or Chuck and Larry). (Jeff)

Adorable.

Saddam Hussein and Satan, South Park:  Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, June 1999, $50 million
Engaging Saddam Hussein and Satan in a homosexual relationship is an idea that could easily be a desperate and transparent attempt to appear edgy and court controversy. On the other hand, casting Saddam as a domineering, smooth talking, emotionally abusive horndog and Satan as a mild mannered, compassionate softie is brilliant. And since this is South Park, their romantic troubles are given more weight as they occur against an apocalyptic background. In the end though, they’re just a man and a demon who really care about each other. Only in South Park would this unlikeliest of couples be rendered pretty normal. (Jeremiah)

Jay and Silent Bob, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, August 2001, $30 million
Love is a very complicated force in our Universe; other than (possibly) death, I can't think of another corporeal phenomena that has inspired as many scribes... or drinks. As we grow as a society we have learned to evolve and accept what could be considered less traditional forms of love, and of course no variation of devotion has been misunderstood more than the bromance. The bromance does not have Shakespearean sonnets, and you can't go to your neighborhood Hallmark (do those even still exist?) and purchase a card for your bro-beau; shit, most "dudes" would be embarrassed as hell to even be in one. The bromance does have its own set of Patron Saints, though, and they happen to be two stoners from Jersey. The relationship of Jay and Silent Bob is as pure an alliance as the West has ever known; theirs is a fellowship based on wasting time and getting wasted (the pillars of any good attachment). Together, these two gentlemen have stood in front of strip malls, caused havoc at actual shopping malls, aided the Last Scion's attempts at saving reality, and were accomplices in a diamond robbery. Sure, like any relationship, they have their hard times and falling-outs, but in the end there is always another blunt to smoke and no PMS (double bonus). In time, these two New Jersyans will achieve their proper place on the Mount Rushmore of bromances alongside Butch & Sundance, Spock & Kirk, and Sam & Frodo. (Giovanny)

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Favorite Sci-Fi MovieWherein the Star Wars franchise is strangely absent

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Doing it small and dirty, but with a massive raygun.

District 9, August 2009, $115 million
Ok, so I don't really think District 9 is the best sci-fi flick to ever be released in the summer. See below, for starters, and also this whole franchise of movies that Giovanny and Ben have been trying to get me to watch - I forget the name - Space Fight or some shit. Anyway - D9 gets a shout out Blockie for the way it might change summer films in the years to come. On a modest budget of 30 million District 9 took a clever premise, cagey use of special effects, and a bunch of no name actors, and managed to rake in a ton of money as well as an Academy Award nomination. If Hollywood was paying attention, they'd see that churning out a hack screenplay from an expensive/familiar property, casting a couple big stars, and bloating the FX budget might not be the smartest way to slip their sweaty fingers into our wallets in summers to come. Just ask Paramount. (Jeff)

Blade Runner, June 1982, $32 million
Hey, even the Blockies aren’t immune to handing out some prestige awards. So, rather than rewarding my favorite summer blockbuster that happens to feature some sci-fi elements, I’m going with the blockbuster with the most pervasive and competent "science fiction." Not many films have done a better job of dealing with the kind of heady philosophical topics that science fiction raises. No summer blockbusters have. Blade Runner is largely remembered for great lead performances from Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, a grimy rather than pristine vision of the future and timeless special effects. By me, it’s remembered for when Deckard shoots that cartwheeling replicant. (Jeremiah)


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Favorite DeathTo all things an end, to some ends a Blockie

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This ends badly.

The Spitter Strikes, Jurassic Park, June 1993, $357 million
Man, after all those years of annoying Jerry, is there anything more satisfying than seeing Newman finally get his? That moment when the spitter goes from playful, curiously doglike dinobitch to full-on tar spraying, scale-mane rattling, van shaking menace is absolutely glorious. The spitter packs more murderous style into one scene than that overcompensating T-Rex does with a whole movie to chase and kill. Although the port-a-potty eat-em-up is pretty great too. (Jeff)

Hans Gruber, Die Hard, July 1988, $83 million
In action movies, we’ve all come to grips with the fact that the hero is going to win out about 98% of the time. Some of the best villains are the ones that make us temporarily forget that for a portion of the run time. Hans Gruber is one of these villains. In Die Hard, Hans dances circles around a hapless police department and FBI, and even makes John McClane look silly (“You’re one of them! You’re one of them! Please don’t shoot me!”) on more than one occasion. But in the end, of course, he must die. And die he does, in spectacular fashion! His slow motion fall from the Nakatomi Plaza is one of the most iconic villain demises I can think of. In the bit leading up to his passing, Hans also fulfills the Hollywood bad guy requirement of having a gun pointed at the unarmed hero with a chance to kill him, only to let his own monologue get in the way. Regardless, it is a truly memorable death scene. (Ben)

Bump Bailey, The Natural, May 1984, $47 million
I’ll tell ya, there aren’t too many right fielders in the game today who will sacrifice their lives to make the catch like Bump Bailey. They’re all tip-toeing on the warning track, feeling for the wall or jumping over it. What pussies. Bump literally went through the fucking wall. I guess his death is exhibit A of why a coach could eventually regret benching a player for motivational purposes. But, how could Pop Fisher have expected the slick-haired pretty boy played by Michael Madsen to take such an extreme turn in attitude so quickly? After one of the most absurd deaths in movie history, we mourned Bump for a split-second, but he was such a douchebag that the moment the center-fielder waves for help from the shattered wall, we’re already pumped about more playing time for Roy Hobbs. Bump’s pivotal demise paved the way for the Wonderboy’s emergence, but it also led Hobbs into a costly love affair with his whore of a girlfriend, played by Kim Basinger, who transfers her sabotaging touch to the new stud right fielder in town. (Zach)

This also ends badly.

Wez Hood Ornament, The Road Warrior, July 1981, $23 million In a blockbuster landscape filled with stylized gimmicky kills and drawn out emotional deaths, there is something special about the very sudden and brutal (but not graphic) way that the Road Warrior “Mad” Max Rockatansky dispatches with his last two antagonists. One second, Wez is hanging off the front of the cab, threatening our hero Max and little Feral Boy, the next he’s getting rammed through Lord Humungus’ oncoming vehicle as Max kills two marauders with one semi. It’s the capper on the greatest vehicle sequence in the history of film and it’s a death befitting two of cinema’s most unique villains. (Jeremiah)

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Favorite HorrorJason Voorhees was going to present, but summer is his busy season.

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Arachnophobia, July 1990, $53 million As a kid who was legitimately creeped out by spiders, it’s pretty impressive that Arachnophobia actually made the idea of killer household spiders fun. The use of lots of actual spiders provides the appropriate heebie-jeebies, the final assault on the house is intense and overwhelming and it’s all capped off with a terrific mano a spider inferno match with Jeff Daniels squaring off against the Queen Spider. Horror movies are rarely this thrilling and fun. (Jeremiah)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, August 1988, $49 million Way back in the day, before the advent of "Real 3D", my saintly single-mother was forced to take me to movies that she obviously had no interest in seeing. Sometimes she would be pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed the experience (Beetlejuice stands out as one such occasion), and sometimes she simply didn't get them (Wayne's World). There was only one trip to the cinema she absolutely hated; the movie watched that day, dear readers, was A Nightmare On Elm Street 4. Growing up, I wasn't afraid of the boogey man like most kids; instead, I was terrified of Freddy Krueger. Born of horrific nun gang-rape/torture, Fred Krueger's path from orphan to child murderer is the stuff of 80s horror movie legend. The exploits of everyone’s favorite melted dream-stalker have played out on the silver screen in a signature malevolent mixture of savagery and camp that set him apart from other "mute" spectral killers. The fourth installment of this beloved horror franchise has our star killing his victims in some rather entertaining ways; there's the old "girl in the waterbed" trick, "death by sucking face", and (my personal favorite) the "turn you into a bug" routine (Kafkaesque?). In the end, Freddy got killed in what was considered cutting edge special-effects fashion (he'll be back), and my mom has never let me forget about her revulsion. (Giovanny)

Suck it, Edward. Seriously.

The Lost Boys, July 1987, $32 million
I just spent the last half hour watching fan made Lost Boys tributes set to the music of Evanescence and I don’t feel the least bit ashamed. I don’t want to harp too much on how the glistening teenage vampires of today pale in comparison to the punk rock hellraisers in The Lost Boys, but I can tell you right now that Keifer Sutherland and his gang didn’t waste their days cruising science class for underage trim, and that’s not just because they’re traditional vampires that can’t go out in the day. These vamps are for real – murdering, sexing, jumping off bridges, and generally corrupting the youth. Sure, they have their fair share of teenage angst, mostly from a brooding Jason Patric, but then he spends the last twenty minutes of the movie impaling anyone that looks at him funny. I tried to make you immortal, Michael. You tried to make me a killer! Fucking badass. Oh, and lest I forget, this is also the finest hour of The Coreys. A well-deserved Blockie here for reminding me that vampires used to be cool. (Jeff)


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Most Disappointing BlockbusterIt can’t all be positivity at the Blockies

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Oh, G. Always courting the controversy.

The Dark Knight, July 2008, $533 million
I can't believe how much you conformists love this movie. Since it came out in 2008, I have had to endure one media outlet after another heap massive amounts of praise on a movie that, basically, I find offensive and insulting. Before I go any further, let me make it clear that my animosity towards this movie has NOTHING to do with Heath Ledger; his performance as the Joker was great and downright chillingly awesome at times. Everything else just happens to be awful. The issues I have with this current Batman reboot are plentiful, but if I had to start somewhere it would definitely be the choice of Christian "Raspy Voice" Bale as The Crusader. Whenever Bale is onscreen in the cowl and delivers ANY dialogue, it's hysterical in the worst of ways. Further dissection of this cash cow unveils an absurdly over the top Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, Morgan Freeman existing as nothing more than a plot device, a gratuitous and unnecessary trip to Hong Kong, Maggie Gyllenhall being useless, and a Ferry sequence that was too formulaic to be truly gripping. I suppose it isn't all bad; Michael Caine makes a great Alfred, and Oldman isn't terrible, but I promise you, this was the last movie I will ever see on pure hype alone... except for Avatar, and that turned out to be "great" too. (Giovanny)

Public Enemies, July 2009, $97 million
I was looking forward to Public Enemies for a LONG time. From the moment I got a peak at a cast list that included Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum (this was before he proved himself worthless in G.I. Joe), Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi and Rory Cochrane. A crime epic from Michael Mann about John Dillinger and the man who hunted him down with that cast seemed like a can’t-miss. Well, unfortunately the entire cast is wasted, there’s very little “hunting” yet an overabundance of navel gazing, and the movie is at times downright ugly, which is a mortal sin in blockbusters. Public Enemies is a miserable viewing experience and one of the most disappointing movies I can remember. (Jeremiah)

What's the matter, Ben? NOT ENOUGH WATER FOR YOU?!

Waterworld, July 1995, $88 million
There was a lot of controversy around the Culture Blues office when I chose Waterworld as the recipient for the Most Disappointing Blockbuster Blockie.  With an astronomical budget, big name movie stars, and an interesting premise you might figure this would have been a solid summer action film.  At least that is what the fourteen year old version of me thought as he spent some of his allowance on this godfuckawful flaming piece of dog Costner shit.  Look, I love terrible movies just as much as the next guy, but this one just never gets bad enough where it comes out hilarious on the other side.  It’s just…bad.  At some point it is every director’s responsibility to attempt to reign in Dennis Hopper.  He’s a fantastic character actor, but when given a role like this, it will always be his instinct to take it too far.  And too stupid.  This movie didn’t have to be great, it didn’t really even have to be good, it just had to get out of the way of itself and it never really does that.  I am now bracing myself to take on all comers in the comments section. (Ben)

Masters of the Universe, August 1987, $17 million
One of the great disappointments of my youth was this so-called He-Man movie that, for some reason, deems it necessary to relocate the Prince of Eternia to “modern day” and have him team up with a bunch of lame normal people. I don’t remember it too well, but I feel like the plot involved some bullshit portal and maybe a rock concert. Regardless, I remember being disappointed at how unlike the heroes and villains I loved their film counterparts were. I also remember thinking that Dolph Lundgren really failed to nail the nuanced role of He-Man – too much He-Man, not enough Prince Adam, basically. The only thing that comes close to redeeming this one is Frank Langella’s absolutely terrific Skeletor. Seeing his cackling skull emerge from the lava after the end credits was a real treat for young me. Too bad the rest of the movie was such a failure. Where’s Orco?! (Jeff)

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Favorite One-LinerThe “Welcome to Earth” Achievement Blockie

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“Luke, I am your father.” The Empire Strikes Back, May 1980, $290 million
I was not alive when The Empire Strikes Back came out, so I can’t really speculate how big of a surprise this moment really was.  Even the first time I watched the trilogy, I knew Vader was Luke’s father just because of the popularity of this quote.  But if you were to watch this movie without being familiar with Star Wars lore at all, I would have to believe this would be a pretty huge shocker.  Not only is the line itself great, but the context is amazing as well.  At the centerpiece of every Star Wars movie is a lightsaber duel, and this is the first one that showed the potential of these battles (Obi-Wan vs. Vader in Episode IV was a joke).  The revelation gives the whole scene a lot more gravity, and generated insane amounts of anticipation for Return of the Jedi. It has also accounted for several lame spoof attempts and plenty of atrocious jokes made at parties, but in the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut (who has a few memorable quotes himself): so it goes. (Ben)

Iconic.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Jaws, June 1975, $260 million
It's a testament to the brilliance of Spielberg's Jaws that we go more than an hour without ever seeing the shark. But when we finally do, as Roy Scheider lurches back from pouring chum, cigarette hanging forgotten from his mouth, and staggers pale and stunned into the wheelhouse - "you’re gonna need a bigger boat" - it's the stuff of cinematic legend. Two Christmases ago I was watching Jaws with a couple little kids (this is the kind of babysitter I am) and the initial screams of horror as the shark appeared, followed by the giddy "yeah you do!" shouted in response to Scheider's perfectly timed bit of comic relief were proof that this line/scene combination will always work. Oh, and if we were doing best speech, Quint's tale of the USS Indianapolis would win that Blockie too. (Jeff)

“Court’s adjourned.” Judge Dredd, June 1995, $34 million
Get it? He’s a "judge" and he says “Court’s adjourned!” before he kills someone, on two separate occasions, including his brother. That’s the kind of glimmering wit you just won’t find in many summer blockbusters. I’ll be the judge of that! I never broke the law, I am the LAW!! YOU BETRAYED THE LAAAWW!!! (Jeremiah)

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Favorite of the 90sWhen the blockbuster truly came into being.

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Hello, you alien assholes.

Independence Day, July 1996, $306 million
Come on - how could this Blockie go anywhere else? If they rereleased Independence Day every summer, I would pay for it again and again. It's the greatest movie of its kind – every archetype is accounted for; every landmark is exploded; every viewer, regardless of cynicism level, is left a quavering, brainless, popcorn munching mass. For my money, Independence Day is THE summer blockbuster. I’d say Hollywood agrees with me as this masterpiece pretty much launched the summer tradition of epic disaster movies, mostly directed by Roland Emmerich, though none of them have been able to recapture the magic of seeing the aliens blow up the White House for the first time. Independence Day has so many epic moments (one of which I'll be discussing at length tomorrow), there's not enough space here for me to appropriately gush. Don't worry; I'm preparing a separate list of the best parts of Independence Day for the comment section. (Jeff)

Speed, June 1994, $121 million
This is purely a sentimental award. When I first saw Speed I thought it was just about the greatest thing ever. I got the VHS tape as a Christmas present and I wore that thing out. I haven’t seen Speed in years, but I still regard it pretty highly. Keanu Reeves is badass, Jeff Daniels is funny, Dennis Hopper is straight up nutso and Sandra Bullock is hot. Relying heavily on thriller elements, Speed was a much more tense, nerve racking experience than the action movies I grew up watching. It’s got great stunt work and tons of spectacle, and even though it will always be remembered for the bus gimmick, it’s bookended by good, lengthy non-bus sequences (that still involve “speed”) and moves at a pretty brisk pace for a relatively mindless 116 minute action movie. Speed isn’t the great movie I once thought it was, but I’m not at all ashamed of my former love for it. (Jeremiah)

Braveheart, May 1995, $75 million
To this day I am still surprised that Mel Gibson did not end up playing Jesus in the Passion of the Christ.  I mean, William Wallace seemed like such a good warm-up! Braveheart is almost a perfect film. There are several good performances (Patrick McGoohan is awesome as the vile and ruthless Longshanks), the occasional dash of humor sprinkled in, amazing battle scenes, an inspiring historical background, and a tear jerker ending. But for me the best thing about this movie is how satisfying it can be. How awesome is it after Wallace’s wife gets executed, and Mel rides into town on that horse and just beats everyone to death with that club?  Really freakin' awesome, is the correct answer. The first time I saw this scene I think I literally cheered as if I was at a sporting event. My co-workers, however, have come to loathe the film’s very existence as I tend to recite the infamous Braveheart speech in a slightly modified version to fit the week’s work challenges. (Ben)

What would win your Blockies? Tell us in the comments section!

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11 Responses »

  1. I would like to applaud Ben for having the courage to stand by his convictions.
    Waterworld was stupid- epically so. I went to see it with some friends of mine from the Sci-fi club, we thought it'd be awesome. We even heard that Costner played, like, a mutant! So exciting! Personally, I slept through the last 2 hours or so, and was therefore less disappointed than the people I saw it with.

  2. First of all, bless you Laurie. Second of all, why on earth wasn't I in a sci-fi club?

  3. Did someone say our name?

  4. jesus christ. waterworld is awesome. standing by his convictions? 90% of the world hates waterworld. its not hard to stand by a conviction when more than half the world backs you up on it. for fucks sake.

    zach, great addition of bump bailey. my favorite baseball movie.

    giovanny, agreed, christ i hate batmans raspy voice, intolerabe.

  5. Haha - yeah, and liking waterworld just because its garbage is super original. You are a pioneer.

  6. actually i never mentioned why i liked waterworld nor will i because its a pointless argument and the only way your opinion could change is if you watched that epic masterpiece again. .EPIC.MASTERPIECE.

  7. Spitter FTW.

  8. Accepting the Blockie on behalf of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is acclaimed director and 5-time Razzie award winner Renny Harlin!

  9. In a way; I am kind of sad I have never seen Water World.

    Acky- Totally man! Wasn't there a screen test or audition or something? I can't believe some exec sat there and though that delivery fucking worked!

  10. also, waterworld is an amazing album
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEiMqkhNBkM

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