Extreme Cinema! “The Die Hard Christmas Special”

Merry Christmas from Extreme Cinema! Tonight, Andrew and I provide running commentary for the 1988 action film, Die Hard, directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart. The gag of this experiment is, you play your own copy of Die Hard and listen to our brilliant and insightful commentary. Listen for our ridiculous countdown. Remember! It’s ON three, I mean ON one – so when I say 3…2…1.. click play on your media device of choice. Either that or you can just listen to us in regular time without any kind of movie playing in the background, or you could try something really off the wall. Pick another movie to play while we talk about Die Hard. My recommendation? Pia Zadora’s Butterfly from 1981, directed by Matt Cimber and co-starring Stacy Keach. You won’t be disappointed.

Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart. It follows off-duty New York City Police Department officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he takes on a group of highly organized criminals led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), who perform a heist in a Los Angeles skyscraper under the guise of a terrorist attack using hostages, including McClane’s wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), to keep the police at bay.

It is based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, the sequel to 1966’s The Detective, which was adapted into a 1968 film of the same name that starred Frank Sinatra. Fox was therefore contractually obligated to offer Sinatra the lead role in Die Hard, but he turned it down. The studio then pitched the film to Arnold Schwarzenegger as a sequel to his 1985 action film Commando; he turned it down, as well, and the studio finally and reluctantly gave it to Willis, then known primarily as a comedic television actor.

Made for $28 million, Die Hard grossed over $140 million theatrically worldwide, and was given a positive reception from critics. The film turned Willis into an action star, became a metonym for an action film in which a lone hero fights overwhelming odds, and has been named one of the best action movies ever made. The film also ranks #29 on Empire magazine’s 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. The film’s success spawned the Die Hard franchise, which includes four sequels (Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard), video games, and a comic book.

Written by David Lawler and Andrew La Ganke.
“Love Theme from Extreme Cinema” composed and performed by Alex Saltz.
Introduction written by Bronwyn Knox.
Narrator, “The Voice”: Valerie Sachs

Running Time: 2:16:32

Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well. If you’re thinking of suing because you want a piece of the pie, please remember, there is no actual pie. We at BlissVille have no money, and as such, cannot compensate you. If anything, we’re doing you a favor, so please be kind. I do this ’cause it’s fun, and nothing else.

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Vintage Cable Box: “Silent Movie, 1976”

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“Non!”

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Silent Movie, 1976 (Mel Brooks), 20th Century Fox

In 1976, Mel Brooks was the King of Comedy.  A year-and-a-half previous, he had directed two of the greatest movies (let alone comedies) ever made in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.  The creative world was his.  He could’ve followed up those two incredible gems with any project that piqued his interest, and he instead chose to take a giant step backward in the evolution of film with a silent movie (appropriately titled Silent Movie).  I always wondered if executives at Fox were worried about this peculiar choice.  If the lack of dialogue wasn’t enough to worry the studio, the subject matter (that of lambasting the studio process and the run of billion-dollar conglomerates insinuating themselves into the creative visual arts) would be sure to give them pause.  Brooks’ power was such that he could do whatever he wanted at the time.

Brooks (in his first starring role) plays washed-up director Mel  Funn, who (along with his buddies Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise), convinces Big Pictures studio chief Sid Caesar to finance his latest work: a silent movie.  Caesar, weary from threats the studio will be taken over by evil corporation, Engulf and Devour (obviously a play on Gulf & Western and their acquisition of Paramount in 1966) agrees on the proviso Funn can sign big Hollywood names to the production.  Funn, Eggs, and Bell immediately set out finding stars for their movie.  The three attack Burt Reynolds in his shower.  They have lunch with James Caan in his wobbly trailer.  They dress in suits of armor to woo Liza Minneli.  They race in electric wheelchairs with Paul Newman.  They dance with and court Anne Bancroft.  Somewhat miraculously, these actors agree to star in Funn’s silent movie, all except for Marcel Marceau, who famously delivers the only line of audible dialogue (see above quote).

Enter Engulf and Devour.  They have an evil plan.  Knowing Funn’s past, they engage sexy vixen Vilma Kaplan (the very hot Bernadette Peters, with her explosive pelvic thrust) to seduce Funn, and then discard him so he’ll take up drinking again.  Eggs and Bell catch on to the scheme and warn Funn, who is so disillusioned and distraught (believe me, I can relate), he crawls into an enormous bottle and is declared “king of the winos”.  Unbeknownst to him (and Engulf and Devour), Vilma has fallen head-over-heels for our pal Mel.  Lucky bastard!  Vilma, Eggs, and Bell pour a hundred cups of coffee into him, sober him up, and start making the movie.  Engulf and Devour executives steal the print of the finished movie before it’s official premiere, so it’s up to the gang to get the movie back, screen it, and save Big Pictures Studios before the conglomerate can complete their take-over.

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Hi Burt!

This is such a damned fun (and funny movie), it’s unusual to watch without narrative-building dialogue quite honestly getting in the way of the sheer physical humor that propels what we see on the screen.  This is a story that doesn’t scream out for dialogue; doesn’t require dialogue.  The three leads (Feldman, in particular, channeling Harpo Marx) are perfectly suited to the exaggerated mannerisms and pantomime necessary to the humor.  Silent Movie is a delicious experiment that would not be repeated in quite this way ever again.  Recently, in viewing and commenting on 2013’s Deadly Prey sequel, The Deadliest Prey (directed by David A. Prior), I bemoaned the terrible dialogue that kills the movie for me, mainly because, in my view, if you don’t have decent actors, it’s going to make the production even worse.  When you remove dialogue, you remove a potential flaw, and if you can’t write good dialogue, don’t bother trying.

I had meant to write this review for quite some time, but I found myself almost consistently distracted by the beauty and talent of Bernadette Peters.  She is seriously sexy in this movie (and in most everything she does).  To my wife’s ire, I required a drool bucket when we sat down to watch the movie.  She also had to pick my jaw up off the floor after watching Vilma’s interpretation of Lecouna’s “Babalu”.  Men!  Anyway, this is the last installment of my tribute to Mel Brooks, who turned 90 yesterday.  God bless him.  In my life as a writer (and sometime filmmaker), I always go back to Mel; a testament to the timelessness of his material.  My wife and I often quote his gags, one-for-one.  Most recently, I rewrote a scene in my own movie, Total Male Fantasy No. 10, in which I instructed my lead to replicate a particular bit from one of Mel’s movies.  It’s odd.  You would think I revere a Welles, or a Kubrick, or a Hitchcock, but no – it always comes back to Mel Brooks.  Please make another film, Mel!

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A picture of Bernadette because … damn!

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

SPECIAL PODCAST! “Heavy Is The Helmet” (SPECIAL EDITION)

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[audio http://www.blissville.net/Podcasts/Episode_72.mp3]

In the conclusion to our two-part discussion of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, Mark Jeacoma and I discuss permutations and ruminations of the Star Wars franchise, as well as list our best-to-worst movies.  As of this writing, Regan has finished watching the first movie and “Attack of the Clones”, and is preparing for “Revenge of the Sith”.  Remember, these are just our opinions.  They’re neither right nor wrong, but I’m right.  I’m always right!

“Heavy Is The Helmet”
With David Lawler and Mark Jeacoma
Introduction Music: Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, Meco (1977)
Audio Clips: CBS/FOX Home Video Theme, 1995, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), Star Wars: The Special Edition On VHS Commercial, 1997

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2015 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “BlissVille: Ears Of A Gundark” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Disney, 20th Century Fox, CBS/FOX Home Video, Fox Video, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Bad Robot, or any subsidiaries and assigns. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

SPECIAL PODCAST! “Ears Of A Gundark” (THX Remastered)

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Tonight, a special two-part presentation: Mark Jeacoma and I discuss “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.  Also, special thanks to Andrew La Ganke for our brand-spanking-new server (even though it’s been around for the better part of a year, but it’s new to me)!  Episode 72: “Heavy Is The Helmet” will premiere tomorrow.  As of this writing, Regan is watching Episode 1: “The Phantom Menace” for the first time.

“Ears Of A Gundark”
With David Lawler and Mark Jeacoma
Introduction Music: Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, Meco (1977)
Audio Clips: CBS/FOX Home Video Theme, 1983, 20th Century Fox Fanfare, 1977, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), “The Phantom Menace” (1998), “Revenge of the Sith” (2005), “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), “Return of the Jedi” (1983)

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2015 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “BlissVille: Ears Of A Gundark” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Disney, 20th Century Fox, CBS/FOX Home Video, Fox Video, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Bad Robot, or any subsidiaries and assigns. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well.