Friday, July 29, 2011

Worth Mentioning - I Don't Like Bullies

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Cody talks Captain America, Cowboys and Aliens, and Don Knotts.


Steve Rogers is a regular kid from Brooklyn with the heart of a hero. He's a guy who always stands up for what's right, even if that means he's always getting knocked to the ground. Steve wants to join the Army and fight in World War II, he's tried five times in five different cities but as a short, scrawny asthmatic he keeps getting rejected. He keeps trying anyway. Is he that desparate to kill some Nazis? No, he doesn't want to kill anybody. He just doesn't like bullies.

Steve crosses paths with Dr. Abraham Erskine, who sees in Steve, with his good spirit and determination, the perfect subject for his Super Soldier experiment. Erskine has created a Super Serum that enhances ability and brings out a person's most dominant inner qualities. When Steve is injected with it, he becomes a buff poster boy for patriotism: Captain America. From that moment he's on a collision course with a previous Super Serum subject, a man named Johann Schmidt, head of a Nazi offshoot called Hydra, who Erskine had been forced to inject with the serum some time earlier. Reacting to the evil inside Schmidt, it affected his appearance so that he's now nicknamed The Red Skull.

After a few awkward previous attempts, Captain America has finally gotten his proper cinematic due. Marvel Studios has been on a great roll with their productions starting with Iron Man and carrying on through the build-up of the rest of the Avengers film roster, and Captain America may be my favorite of the bunch.

It's a real feel-good movie. The story of Steve Rogers is heartwarming and inspiring, he's the kind of guy who's so good that it brings a tear to the eye. Chris Evans does a great job playing the character, both in his puny beginnings - aided by some great special effects - and in superhero form. Hugo Weaving is in fine villainous form as The Red Skull, Hayley Atwell has a fine form and is really good as Steve/Cap's British ally and potential love interest Peggy Carter, and Tommy Lee Jones has a fun role as Colonel Phillips. Jones has more screen time that I expected and even gets to have a little involvement in some action.

The film is stylishly well-directed by Joe Johnston, who also brought some World War II era superhero coolness to my childhood with The Rocketeer twenty years ago.

Stick around through the end credits to catch a teaser trailer for The Avengers, hitting theatres next May. I'm very excited for that film. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk, as well as Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury, all sharing the screen in live action... I can't wait.

THE LOVE GOD? (1969)

Comedy legend Don Knotts stars as the titular character, which should also give you an idea as to why there's a question mark there. This seems to be a lesser known film in Knotts's career, and it may be because the story and humor is more risque and adult than his more popular films, most of which are kid-friendly. Basically, the set-up for this one is "What if Hugh Hefner was really Don Knotts?"

Osborn Tremaine is the publisher of a nudie book called Nude & Naughty, which features his wife on every cover, with promise that the magazine holds a glimpse at the wonders of "Hot! Torrid! Sex!" The pages within feature articles with lines like "I Was Blitzed on a Blind Date: Delighted... Detained... Deflowered..." and "I picked the wrong man... and the wrong pill." Nude & Naughty magazine is put out of business when a judge cites the law that no obscene material can be delivered by a letter carrier and the attorney general revokes Tremaine's fourth class mailing privilege.

Meanwhile, another magazine is going out of business - a magazine about birds called Peacock, published by church-going middle-aged virgin Abner Peacock (Don Knotts). Abner is going to have to stop publishing his magazine due to lack of funds. His troubles catch Tremaine's attention and, taking note of Abner's fourth class mailing privilege, Tremaine buys the magazine. Sending Abner off to the South American jungle to get a picture of the world's most elusive bird, Tremaine takes advantage of his absence to start turning Peacock into a new version of Nude & Naughty.

Because of this, Abner has to be brought back to face obscenity charges. His lawyer makes him the public face for the fact that even a pornographer's constitutional rights must be fought for, going along with the prosecutor's claims against Abner's character. Peacock magazine's sales skyrocket and to deal with added publishing costs Tremaine has to bring in new partners who, along with lawyers and money-minded family members, persuade Abner to keep up the public appearance of being a "dirty little degenerate" with a lifestyle much like Hugh Hefner's.

Quite a lot of the story has to do with standing up for the rights of pornographers, a stance which I found to be surprising and admirable for a mainstream comedy of the time. "If you love your country, you'll publish a filthy magazine!"

Don Knotts is his usual extremely likeable and funny self, with an entertaining supporting cast that includes Anne Francis and a hilarious turn by B.S. Pully as J. Charles "Icepick Charlie" Twilight, a mobster who's going legit and gets regular grammar lessons from a retired teacher. When not slamming people's heads into walls, Twilight is delighted to show off his newfound vocabulary skills by dropping the new "word of the day" into sentences.


Sometime in the 1800s, a cowboy wakes up in the desert, wounded and wearing a strange high tech bracelet, which he will come to discover is a weapon of sorts. He's got amnesia, all he knows is that he speaks English. All the audience knows is that he's a total badass, because he keeps displaying this fact to us.

The cowboy stumbles into Absolution, a failing mining town, and gets mixed up with the law, but before he can be carted away by the Federal Marshal, sophisticated flying machines appear in the sky and start snatching up the locals. After blasting one of the alien ships down with his bracelet, the cowboy is recruited to lead a rescue team out into the desert to save the captured townspeople.

Daniel Craig plays the amnesiac lead character, Jake Lonergan. Craig is one of my favorite actors. He always delivers a fantastic performance and can be extremely cool and badass when the role calls for it. To back him up he's got a great supporting cast that includes Harrison Ford in one of his more enjoyable recent roles, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Adam Beach, Clancy Brown, Walt Goggins, and Keith Carradine.

The film's title has made people scoff and expect something campy, but director Jon Favreau made the more interesting decision to play the film straight. It's a real, proper Western that just happens to have aliens - disgusting, slimy, hard-to-kill frog dude aliens - as the villains. I love the look and feel of Westerns, and I love when Westerns are mixed with other genres, so I had fun watching this flick. Plus, it's been almost 3 years since the last Bond movie, the next one is still over a year away, and Craig hasn't been in a film since Defiance was released in January '09, so I was overdue for seeing him kick ass on the big screen. It was nice to have him back in action.

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