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October 9, 2007

Exploding Cars and Machineguns
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:32 PM * 73 comments

Yesterday, on the way back from Viable Paradise, we stopped off to see a movie. After a Barnes&Noble run, and picking up some new luggage for Doyle at Target, the very next movie showing at the new digital Cinemagic theater in Hooksett.

We got there about three. That made the next movie a tossup between The Kingdom and Feast of Love.

That means I get to choose and I chose The Kingdom (next time, in identical circumstances, it’ll have to be Feast of Love, since under the rules of The Game, I have to see the next movie showing that I haven’t already seen). After all, from the posters The Kingdom was an Exploding-Cars-And-Machineguns-Movie, and I like that genre. Even if the plot sucks, chases and explosions are inherently interesting.

Turned out that this was a standard thriller.

Spoilers below the cut

Quick Movie Quiz: You have five main characters.

a) The handsome Academy Award Winner with top billing.
b) The world-weary older veteran investigator.
c) The comedy sidekick.
d) Combat Chick, who wears tight tee-shirts and tighter trousers, and uses the Power of Positive Tit to solve crime.
e) The honest local cop, played by no one you’ve ever heard of, who tells the hero about his kids.

There’s a vulture sitting on the boom microphone just out of camera range. Which of those characters is the vulture eyeing? Who doesn’t get to see the final credits roll? Who should buy extra life insurance?

That’s right.

But that isn’t the interesting part about this movie (though there were explosions, and fast cars, and machine guns in abundance). The first interesting part is that it was filmed partially in Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona. The big interesting part is that the movie opened with a four-minute documentary on the history of Saudi Arabia’s interaction with the USA.

As Lady Holiday said in The Great Muppet Caper, “It’s the plot exposition. It has to go somewhere.”

Rather than using As-You-Know-Bob dialog (“For as you know, Bob, fifteen of the nineteen hijackers, as is Osama himself, were Saudis….”) the film makers just stood there and talked directly to the audience.

Sometimes that’s the best way to tell your readers something. Just tell them.

(Alas, there wasn’t a gratuitous shower scene. Maybe in the sequel?)

Comments on Exploding Cars and Machineguns:
#1 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:04 PM:

No nudity? Off my list.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Some of my fellow commuters have seen it, and give it good reviews. (I wasn't really sure I should believe them; these are people who watch Faux News.)

#3 ::: Johan Larson ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:07 PM:

I thought all the Saudi local color was interesting, and elevated the movie from an OK action flick to a good one. Of course, if I find out they got important details wrong, I would have to revise that assessment.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:18 PM:

This reminds me of what I was very recently telling someone about 12 Angry Men, and how it confirms Hemingway's comment that action and movement aren't the same thing.

Still, I like seeing the MythBusters blow something. Even if it's a toilet. That also happened on Eureka when Deputy Jo used a laser to trim her eyebrows.

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Exteriors and long-shots were filmed in Abu Dhabi.

The villains, who up to then had been totally clever, turn into morons in the last reel in order to allow the handsome and/or beautiful FBI agents to catch them and make for a stunning action/adventure climax.

But that isn't important in a thriller. What was fun watching the way it followed the Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot point-by-point and beat by beat.

#6 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:33 PM:

I would like to point out (having not seen the movie; I am undermotivated to go sit in the dark with smelly strangers and insufficient drinking water, even though my elder offspring can get me in for free) that the one thing which might get me to go to this is Action Chick, since the actress is the A-1 certified genuine accept no substitutes Sydney Bristow model of action chick, and not somebody who doesn't know how to make the ass-kicking convincing.

(Jennifer Garner is on my list of action goddesses right behind Claudia Black).

#7 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Amusingly enough very first Google Ad on this thread currently reads:

Machineguns
Browse a huge selection now. Find exactly what you want today.
www.ebay.com
#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:49 PM:

JESR @ 6... Did you see her in Daredevil? I know, I know, almost everybody trashed the movie, but I liked it. (I hear Tania say "Yes, and you like Wing Commander.")

#9 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:56 PM:

No accounting for taste; Garner's appearance in "The Kingdom" is the reason I've not gone to see it yet. Her wooden performances in both Daredevil and Elektra were so bad I'm convinced she's faking her inability to act.

#10 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:58 PM:

I watched the infodump on the web, so I probably won't go to see the movie itself; I expect that was the best part. Explosions & Machineguns aren't as interesting to me as they used to be; I blame the 2nd Matrix movie. Before I saw that I never thought a car chase on the freeway could be boring.

On the other hand, I sort of agree with JESR; Garner isn't bad. Not in the divine Claudia's league, of course, but who is?

Which reminds me: did anyone else see the ep of "Burn Notice" with Lucy Lawless. I almost didn't recognize her, and her American accent has always been good enough to fool me.

#11 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:04 PM:

Bruce STM #10: Lucy Lawless makes anything better.

#12 ::: Jennifer Bales ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:06 PM:

That Lester Dent thing is both intriguing and evil. I'm afraid it will be like the time I took a film appreciation class and started seeing movies in terms of camara angles and cuts.

#13 ::: Jon Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Huh. I appear to have spent my entire authorial career slavishly following Lester Dent's guidelines without even knowing it.

I liked The Kingdom as police procedural until its bizarre metamorphosis into a slam-bang action movie. The whole third act seemed a bit like it had been cut out of some other movie and awkwardly grafted on with the sutures still showing.

#14 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Bruce Cohen... Yes, I saw Lucy Lawless in Burn Notice, but I paid more attention to Gabrielle Anwar. (I also want to know how the latetr hides those big guns inide those skimpy outfits of hers.)

#15 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:37 PM:

I saw the exposition part on the web too (I think it was let loose as most of one of the trailers-- the only coherent part, at any rate). In its way it is a brilliant little bit of filmstrip; they should do all modern history lessons in high school that way, to increase attendeance. Lucy Lawless and Claudia Christian can trade off narrating the American stuff; Diana Rigg can handle the Brits.

#16 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:08 PM:

I've been in and out for over a week, looks like I've missed lots of interesting posts.

Movies with big explodey bits, swearing, and gratuitous over-the-topness are fun.

Serge, I kinda liked the Daredevil movie, though Electra made me wince.

Oh, Alias seasons 1 & 2, how I miss you.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:15 PM:

Tania @ 16... Do you mean the movie Electra, or the character in Daredevil? It is my understanding that the former was dreadful.

#18 ::: SisterCoyote ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Serge @ #4:

My sister has a show she wants to pitch to Spike TV, called "Let's blow sh!t up!"

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:23 PM:

SisterCoyote... They should combine your proposal with MythBusters and with Dirty Jobs.

#20 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:01 PM:

SisterCoyote - #18
My sister has a show she wants to pitch to Spike TV, called "Let's blow sh!t up!"

I would totally get cable again if I could get Spike! for that, whatever the heck channel Mythbusters is on, Sci-Fi, and The (we occasionally still play) Cartoon Network.

#21 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Jennifer Garner is on my list of action goddesses right behind Claudia Black

Which is really kind of funny, because Claudia Black is actually a little thing, and her action sequences at the beginning of Farscape were really unconvincing. On the other hand, she did get better, and so far as I know, she did all her own stunts on the show (dunno about SG-1). I would totally be in favor of a movie that starred Claudia Black as an action lead.

Of course, Warner Brothers wouldn't be making it, apparently...

#22 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:16 PM:

cofax @21, according to people I know who've met Claudia Black at cons, she's something around 5'9." (One of them got me an autographed photo of her at Dragoncon, and a personalized photo of Lani Tupu). Gigi Edgely is wee, just about five foot nothing; Virginia Hey is quite tall.

None of the stunts in s1 Farscape were worth writing home about, but Claudia's big talent was and is slaying with a glance.

Jennifer Garner, on the other hand, has the physical stuff down cold, and it's the contrast with her girlishness that I like.

(As noted in my first post in this thread, I'm not much for going to movies in theaters lately, so the answer to "have I seen JG in Electra or Daredevil is no, sorry, I'm going on my impressions from "Alias")

#23 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:21 PM:

I have some recollection of a filk with the refrain/tagline "Let's blow the whole thing up!" I can't quite dredge up the rest of it though....

#24 ::: The Commandant ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:37 PM:

Jim @ #5

Ten days in Abu Dhabi -- ten weeks in Arizona.

Ridayh was recreated on an old Air Force base out here, and the street you see -- are Phoenix freeways with the street signs swapped out.

The ASU art department, apparently, had a lot of fun.

So, more 'Zona and less Arabia than one might think.

#25 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:38 PM:

C.Wingate #23:

Presumably to the tune of "Let's call the whole thing off"?

#26 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:05 PM:

C. Wingate @23: I flashed on Randy Newman's Let's Drop the Big One Now, but that's probably not what you're thinking of.

#27 ::: Cryptic Ned ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:14 PM:

I think more movies should start with a documentary about the time and place in which the movie takes place. It made "The Agony and the Ecstasy" slightly less dreary and tiresome.

#28 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:27 PM:

2001: A Space Odyssey was going to start with a 10 minute B&W documentary about extraterrestrial life, but thank God they didn't do it.

#29 ::: sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Totally off subject but have you seen

http://traumaqueen.blogspot.com/

As I read your comments, it struck me that you might like it.

#30 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:55 PM:

Electra the movie was dreadful. Electra in the film Daredevil was ok, especially when taken in context with the rest of the film.

SisterCoyote - I'd watch a show called Let's blow sh!t up, as would most of my friends and family.

#31 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:29 PM:

I liked the movie Electra just fine. I hope that doesn't make me a bad person. heh.

#32 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:36 PM:

#29 was not me. Just to be clear.

I haven't followed that link and don't plan to, but it looks rather like comment spam.

#33 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:39 PM:

Okay, I take that back. I did a View All By. Not comment spam. Sorry, namesake!

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Cryptic Ned @ 27... I think more movies should start with a documentary about the time and place in which the movie takes place

I was so bummed when the DVD of Lust for Life was released and found out that it didn't include the companion documentary that pops up every once in a while on Turner Classic Movies.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:55 PM:

Tania... So it was a wise decision to stay away from Electra, in spite of Terrence Stamp being in it? As for Daredevil, to be honest, I liked it more than the recent Batman. (I hope that doesn't make me a bad person either, Earl Cooley.)

#36 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:58 PM:

Earl, I don't think it makes you a bad person. Now, there might be something else that makes you a bad person... but it's probably none of my business!

#37 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:00 PM:

Serge, a wise choice indeed.

#38 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:10 PM:

Serge @ 14

Well, I'm surprised that your taste differs so much from mine in this instance; we're usually closer. I find Gabrielle Anwar has a tendency to disappear when she turns sideways, never a big turnon for me. It's a good thing she hasn't been in a disaster movie featuring a high wind: they'd never find her again. She's skinny! Lucy Lawless on the other hand looks like a woman who really can do the things her character is doing.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:14 PM:

Bruce Cohen... Yes, Anwar is on the thin side, as my wife never fails to remind me. The thing is that she's funny, one moment sitting upright and demure, next using her boyfriend's kitchen to cook up a batch of dangerous explosives as if she were making a cake. (Lawless, to tell the truth, never did it for me. I don't care for her eyes.)

#40 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:27 PM:

SLIGHT SPOILERS

I just saw The Kingdom last night under similar circumstances (walk to 42nd and 8th Ave, see what's starting soon). I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it--the action sequences were often so fast-paced it was difficult to follow exactly what was going on. Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper can usually be relied on for good performances, no exception here, and Garner, tight T-shirts and all, was decent enough. I really felt like a lot of it was kind of Iraq in drag (especially the instant classic bit: burnouse-clad militiaman fires RPG round at our heroes. It blows up a car next to them in a huge, fiery explosion. Saudi colonel: "This is a really bad neighborhood."). But yes, the insta-Saudi history at the beginning was good. I just wish they'd worked more of it into the movie.

#41 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:00 PM:

Serge #35: It doesn't make you a bad person. Just a weirdo.

#42 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:08 PM:

re 25: Yes, definitely. However, it's now driving me crazy, because I'm having what are apparently totally fantasized images of this having been a Muppet Show skit featuring Crazy Harry. It would certainly have been their style of humor, but MuppetWiki says otherwise. (On their "Crazy Harry" page, one of the muppet crew attributes C.H.'s spotty and brief appearances to the fact that he is "punctuation". Sort of like Victor Borge, except not.)

#43 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:14 PM:

SteveC #1:
"No nudity? Off my list."

Does naked aggression count?

#44 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:18 PM:

ethan @ 41... Today's kids, no respect...

#45 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:22 PM:

I didn't see Electra, but I was rather unhappy with Daredevil. Not only was the lead actor wooden, but I found it abominable that at the climax, when it was time for Daredevil's self-defining moment, the most profound thing he had to say was "I'm not the bad guy". I didn't blame the Kingpin for laughing his head off!

I mean, come on! Spiderman has "with great power comes great responsibility", the X-men have their whole persecuted-minority thing going (contrasted with Magneto's "we should rule the world"), the Hulk has both the "fury within" and "persecuted freak" motifs, Captain America is a symbol of patriotism, the Fantastic Four are the First Family of the Marvel universe -- and Daredevil, with his complex backstory and unique viewpoint, gets "I'm not the bad guy". Bah!

#46 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 01:54 AM:

#45: well, let's face it, Daredevil was always a Spider-Man/Batman ripoff, only dumber. Then Miller made him a ninja and all the fanboys went apeshit of course. He's never been that well defined the way Spidey has been.

#47 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 02:48 AM:

Serge @ 39

"on the thin side"? She hasn't got any sides!

#48 ::: Paul Herzberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 05:30 AM:

Cryptic Ned @ 27... I think more movies should start with a documentary about the time and place in which the movie takes place

Not quite the same, but the Region 1 DVD boxset of Deadwood has a couple of documentaries setting out the time and place in which the series is set.

The Region 2 boxset, for Europe where the knowledge of the factual goings on in Deadwood might be thought to be just a little sketchier than in the US, had bugger all extras.

#49 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:00 AM:

PH @48:
The Region 2 boxset, for Europe where the knowledge of the factual goings on in Deadwood might be thought to be just a little sketchier than in the US, had bugger all extras.

This actually makes some sense -- If Europeans don't have the "Western Story" in their heads, Deadwood can simply assert to them that the filth, horror, violence, etc. is The Way It Was. Americans may need a primer on what "The West" was really like in order to not be disoriented when Deadwood clashes with the traditional narrative.

#50 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Many of the best Action Chicks aren't beauties in the conventional Hollywood sense. Quite a few have come out of dancing, rather than acting. And some just didn't seem to last as stars: whatever happened to Sandahl Bergman?

Take as an example Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. In character, she looks pretty hot. In some of the DVD extras, you look at her nose and wonder how it ever survived in Hollywood. And I've heard people say that her martial arts work wasn't that good--I think I can see aome of the weaknesses.

But put her in front of the camera, and it all fits together. She can act, and with her whole body. Her imperfections are submerged in the performance.

The script helps a lot too. You don't have to like her to find yourself wanting her to succeed in her search.

I sometimes wonder if you could make a British martial arts movie.

(OK, there was a mid-seventies TV series called "Gangsters" which I vaguely recall as coming close.)

But you have all the elements in our towns and cities. There's a streetcorner in Grimsby with a chinese restaurant and a martial arts school, within sight of the docks. Heck, I'm in the middle of rural Lincolnshire and I'm 170 yards from a chinese takeaway.

The thing is, a lot of this sort of movie is fantasy layered on fantasy. A TV series such as Martial Law is within the fantasy world of TV Police, but it treats that world as a reality, and we know and accept that world. The Spiderman movies pull off the same trick, most of the time. There are conventional suspensions of disbelief: pre-existing support structures that, like the black-clad puppeteer, we choose not to see.

Of course, some of the past conventions have been akin to the Yellow Peril paranoia of the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. But why can't we have a martial arts movie where the hero is also a part of England.

(OK, so he speaks with a Yorkshire accent and is a demon fast bowler for the village cricket team-that's no more of a sporting cliche than baseball players chucking grenades with pinpoint accuracy.)

#51 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:01 AM:

Martin @#46: I was always drawn to the theme that he lives in a fundamentally different world -- blind, but able to work around it by extending his senses into new directions. The movie did explore that side visually (and the sprinkler tactic was a nice touch), but they didn't do enough with it character-wise.

#52 ::: john ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Bruce @ 10: Before I saw that I never thought a car chase on the freeway could be boring.

Have you seen To Catch a Thief? The car chase isn't on a freeway, but it is awfully boring.

#53 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Re action chicks:

Zoe Bell.

She was Xena's stunt double and the Bride's stunt double. She's also one of the two leads in the documentary "Double Dare", which is well worth searching out. (The other is Jeannie Epper.)

#54 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Lila #53: I've been wanting to bring up Death Proof. Not only is Zoe Bell an awesome action chick, she's charming as all get out.

#55 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:18 PM:

And as topicality would have it, Zoe Bell also did stunts in The Kingdom.

#56 ::: martyn44 ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:47 PM:

#50 - Dave Bell - 'Gangsters' as a British martial arts series? I don't think so, Maurice Colbourne in Brum with a little chop socky mysticism and drug induced wierdness (do I remember a 6ft white rabbit who wasn't called Harvey?) Interesting but martial arts? Not even close.

And why does that never get repeated on daytime cable?

As for competition, La Rigg kicks arse every time.

#57 ::: Fats Durston ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 09:45 PM:

Review mit Feuerwerken. About The Kingdom

#58 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Does The Avengers count as British martial arts? Steed fencing with rolled-up umbrella, and Mrs. Peel kicking various anatomy?

I recently saw some of the 1967 season in colour for the first time. I never knew Steed's suit was blue before!

#59 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:17 PM:

I wonder how Lester Dent matches up with Syd Field's screenplay formula, in those famous books (famous for film writer types, anyhow).

Definitely act structure, and things happening at certain set times, but I haven't followed it all the way through. Structure's important, and regular beats might help an audience relax, but it's not that much fun.

#60 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 05:12 AM:

I saw this last night and really rather enjoyed it. I was quite surprised by gur qbjaorng raqvat. Abg dhvgr gur frafr bs pybfher V jnf rkcrpgvat sebz n pnef jvgu rkcybfvbaf syvpx.

I also wonder, given that the movie followed the formulaic plot path, how accurate a representation of the situation in Saudi Arabia it actually is.

#61 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 06:38 AM:

50: "Robin Hood", "Captain Blood" and the many other Errol Flynn/Basil Rathbone-type films like them are British martial arts movies. It's just that the martial arts in question are British ones - archery, quarterstaff, wrestling, boxing, tilting and fencing.

For that matter, you could say that the truly American martial arts movies are not things like "The Matrix", which use kung fu, but things like "Shooter" and "Unforgiven" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", which revolve around truly American martial arts like rifle and pistol shooting.

#62 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 08:56 AM:

To the list of codified American martial arts, you'd have to add American Combato, Lua, and chulukua-ryu. You might also add Mixed Martial Arts from the Shamrock brothers, but it might be a decade or two before that gets ossified into a "system". Every few decades someone tries to synthesize a group of more or less related forms into something new, so you never know what might emerge.

#63 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 09:11 AM:

It may be possible to codify a particular flavor of MMA, but MMA continually gets reinvented by people who have studied more than one art and want to test their combo against someone else's.

For that matter, that let's-make-a-salad approach may itself be distinctively American.

#64 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 11:03 AM:

Dave Bell #50: Why not a demon spin bowler? Pace is overrated....

#65 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Fragano, sort of like a British Hellboy?

#66 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 12:05 PM:

I reckon a martial arts movie has to have something more in it than just going out and thumping things. It might not be so explicit, but it ought to be lurking in the background.

With that thought, I'd suggest ExcaliburExcalibur

#67 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Martin @#46: Daredevil has actually gotten really good writing in the past few years, and there are a couple of big themes that have come up; they would have been ripe for the picking.
The first, of course, is that he;s the lawyer superhero, so you can use him to make big statements about the relationship between law and justice, moral code and legal code, and so on. It also translates into the fact that he ends up doing a lot of charity work--second, see, more than any other superhero I can think of, he's overwhelmingly rooted in his single neighborhood. He's so, so intensely local that the whole neighborhood almost becomes a character trait and symbol. Third, Daredevil, more than most, is always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, because he's always jumping off emotional buildings, and then has to deal with what that does to his loyal supporting cast. And he had a pretty good tagline for a while, while grabbing various low-level baddies and growling into their faces: "Change your life." It's all about renovation. The neighborhood thing again.
Not bad, really. Plenty of material. He took years to get interesting, and I get as tired of Miller's ninja-wank as anyone, but in the last few years, it's actually been one of my favorite titles.

Now, as to The Kingdom--I liked the little documentary as much as anyone, but it was interesting how they made 'Usama and the mujahidin come out of the blue sky, rather than as a distinct response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, aided and abetted and often trained, armed, and funded by, well, us, and often motivated with rhetoric that reacts to colonialism. And they position him with the Saudi Wahhabi establishment, leaving entirely aside that he came from the rich-oil-magnate side that they set up in opposition, as though there's no overlap.
He just came out of nowhere! Some guy! Crazed fanatic with no context and no connection to the US of A! No connection to our friends with the oil, either, just those sinister religious guys in funny hats!

#68 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 02:49 PM:

The late Richard Jeni once suggested a movie to appeal to both women and men. He called it Waiting to Exhale...With a Vengeance.

#69 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 07:03 PM:

re #67 and Afgahnistan: well, yeah. That has to be one of the great stupid sub rosa bits of American foreign policy of teh 20th century.

#70 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 12:50 AM:

I think I'd rather see Soul Plane II. The tantalizing excerpt featured on Boondocks recently was just amazing.

#71 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 08:34 PM:

Sounds like The Kingdom fails The Rule of Cool, as do Daredevil, Electra and (needless to say) the Hailey Berry Catwoman. I just saw Mission Impossible 3 and would say that, by and large, it fits the rule.

#72 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2007, 08:48 AM:

69 Wingate

Run through all the US secret operations since WWII. Ukraine, Baltic Republics, Albania, Laos (which dragged the US into Vietnam, in part), Guatemala, Iran, Iraq. The Congo. The various drug-related scams-- see Joan Didion's Miami. Cuba (of course).

I cannot think of many operations that managed to achieve its objectives, in terms of overthrowing a state hostile to the US. And where it did (Afghanistan, Guatemala, Iran) the long term consequences have been anything but pleasant-- mass murder in Guatemala, Afghanistan the Taliban, Iran the Ayatollahs.

I guess Chile against Allende was a success for US covert operations, but I'm not sure all those murdered Chileans and their families would think that.

The pattern is recurrent. Massive blowback, leading to outcomes counter to long term US interests.

In the case of 911, blowback onto 3,000 innocent office workers in New York.

The record of the US and secret paramilitary operations is a pretty discreditable one. Boys playing with toys.

Do you remember the original plan against Saddam way back in 2000 was to land 3,000 Iraqi paramilitaries in the south, then declare an independent state, which the US would then back with overwhelming air power and special forces? Someone at the White House level stopped it with the memorable line 'a Bay of Goats?'.

#73 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Dave Bell (#50): I sometimes wonder if you could make a British martial arts movie.

Somewhere among those lines was that attempt to do a somewhat more europeo-centric martial (I know, Jet Li's still the hero, but the settingg aimed at was different) arts movie (oh, and this too, same Besson gig). I thought it failed. Not only because the movie was... well not good (though it has Tchéky Karyo, this must count for something), but because, I realized, taking the usual tropes of martial arts movies into my daily settings prevented the usal supsension of disbelief (I mean, the french cop with the chromed uzi, please) ? . It has the same effect on me as, say, a semi-biographic movie like Chok-Dee: the film stops working as a martial art flick and becomes something else.
I guess Le Pacte des loups would be a somewhat successful french martial arts movie, but it being in the past (not to mention a gigantic mess on every aspect) is what makes it work.

Too bad I do not think you could make it work as is, savate and Canne de Combat kick ass (hum now that I think of it, I haven't seen the 2006 rendition of Les Brigades du Tigre).

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