On The Reel: Hot Time, Summertime Viewing
Wonder Woman, ‘Clue, and an underrated Arnold classic start your June the right way
The era of “peak TV” also means an abundance of entertainment, and some of it right at our fingertips. You don’t have time to go through it all with your job, kids, video games, and maybe even your gambling addiction. If only there was some cocky little sh*t willing to comb through it all…well you’re in luck because here I am. Every week, On The Reel will give you something to watch in theaters, a couple shows or movies to stream, and maybe even a hidden gem or two.
On The Reel was going to focus on a couple Roger Moore-era James Bond flicks this week. But that proved a touch difficult with the first of the month (wake up, wake up)approaching, meaning that time when all streaming services replenish their ranks and throw some stuff to the side is also approaching. Alas, the James Bond tribute will have to wait.
But hey, on the bright side, it’s June 1st! We’ve reached the halfway point of the year with all our bones intact, summer is basically here, and we continue to stave off the zombie apocalypse. No theme this week. School’s out for summer and there are no rules.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Wonder Woman finally getting her own solo flick is a big deal. Beyond the fact she’s been a cultural icon since wars were considered great and a symbol for strength around the world, Wonder Woman represents Hollywood getting another shot at making a good comic book movie starring a woman. So far we’ve gotten Catwoman, Elektra, Aeon Flux, and maybe some more joints I’m forgetting. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? They’ve all been forgettable or memorable for the wrong reasons, like Catwoman. And Hollywood being Hollywood, if one or two comic book movies starring women fail at the box office, they take it to mean audiences don’t want movies with women lead characters. Instead, they should take it to mean audiences don’t want bad movies with women lead characters, but again, supertitious. Wonder Woman is the first effort by Marvel or DC to give a female character her own movie and this particular effort to get this specific character on screen has gone on for at least 20 years. So, no pressure.
Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) is responsible for this take on Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, as she leaves her island filled with Amazonian women and steps into “man’s world,” a place of violence, greed, corruption, and very little hope. Or as we humans call it, “home.” It’s set during World War I, which is a different setting as most war-related movies tend to focus on World War II, but I’m sure there’s some thematic relevance to Diana entering our world the first time the seams were coming apart.
Wonder Woman as a character is fascinating. She’s more powerful than damn near everyone she comes into contact with, but never feels the need to yell it from the mountains. When done right, she’s always a commentary on our patriarchal society and offers simple solutions to complex problems; the twist is these simple solutions could only come from a woman because a lot of times, us men tend to use every muscle except the one that truly counts. She’s all about equality, civil rights, feminism, and love, but she’s got no problem throwing several dozen punches if need be. There’s a nobility to her most characters aren’t afforded and it takes a specific type of actress to carry that. Gal Gadot looks like she’s got the goods.
Of course, there’s the added pressure of being the first straight up home run for DC’s film division. While their first three at bat’s were definitely successful financially, critically they left a lot to be desired and possibly even creatively. Whether fair or unfair, Wonder Woman will be billed as an attempt to course-correct. I hate to be that guy citing critics as a reason to see a movie but so far, Jenkins’ flick has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with over 100 reviews already logged and that number will probably go up or if it goes down, it won’t be by much. So if you’re the type who needs that sort of thing to entice you, consider yourself tempted.
This probably won’t be in the movie but it should be.
Col. Mustard, In The Study, With A Rope…
Clue is one of those miracle flicks where it sounds so forgettable on paper: It’s a movie based on a board game. But it’s also a perfect example of how any idea can flourish with the right writers and right director. Written by John Landis (Blues Brothers, Animal House, Trading Places, Coming To America…the list goes on), and director Johnathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny), this 1985 flick is just fucking funny. There’s no better or other way to put it and if I could think of another way, I would’ve been one of the writers who put it together. Every line of dialogue is sharp, every exchange is layered, and it manages to be a nice homage to the board game.
If you’ve played the game, you know the setup for the movie: A bunch of guests arrive at a party and when someone is killed, they have to figure out who did it, where they did it, and with what weapon. It’s a tight 94 min. and incredibly fast. On the real — hehe — some people might be served best to watch this with captions on because the dialogue moves. But why wouldn it when the cast includes Madeline Khan, Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Michael McKean, and Eileen Brennan?
Clue is one of those movies I discovered 20 years ago when Starz or Encore would run it every day or every other day during the summer. I fell in love with it then and to this day, I can watch it and just have a great time. If you like happiness and joy, you’ll like Clue. If you don’t like Clue, then you must like being miserable.
Oh, and it has three endings.
It’s Not A Movie!
If there’s one thing this movie and Clue have in common, it’s that they were both slept-on and misunderstood initially. Last Action Hero was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s follow up to Terminator 2: Judgement Day, so yeah, it was supposed to be a big deal. But it hit theaters a week after Jurassic Park and the studio didn’t really market it well. Audiences didn’t know whether it was supposed to be a kid-friendly flick, a comedy, an action movie, or…something else entirely. Turns out, it was the latter.
Last Action Hero, starring Schwarzenegger (biggest action movie star of all time), co-written by Shane Black (biggest action movie writer of all time), and directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator, Hunt for Red October) is one of the first meta-movies, an action movie commenting on and parodying action movies. It’s got all the familiar tropes. Let’s count ‘em.
- Massive explosions our hero walks away from unscathed
- A cop this close to retirement
- A rich bad guy with a swimming pool and a deadly henchman
- Damsels in distress
- Emotionally tortured hero
- Guns that never run out of bullets
- Enough Deus Ex Machina to fill a Latin textbook
- Bad guy monologue
- Hard rock music
While it would be one thing to just have these tropes and a whole lot more, Black’s script comments on every single one of them and its main character struggles with the idea of being imginary. The movie works not just on that level,but also from the angle of Arnold probably conveying some real-life shit as a guy who’s only thought of as a movie character and not a real person.
Last Action Hero was way ahead of its time as the “movie about movies” thing didn’t really take off until three years later with Scream. It’s not as polished as Scream and I’ll admit it doesn’t hit every mark cleanly, especially towards the end of the third act, but it’s an incredibly thoughtful piece of work starring a guy who didn’t get much credit for being smart. Rarely do you get this kind of character work from Arnold, especially in an summer action movie, but he pulls it off here. Plus it’s hilarious so there’s that.
And without it, we wouldn’t have gotten one of my favorite scenes from The Simpsons
Was There A Third Man?
The Third Man is one of the greatest flicks in the history of cinema. Period. Point blank. Done. It gets busy. You get the point. It’s both a noir and a spy movie and does both genre’s perfectly. Joseph Cotton plays an American author visiting Vienna to attend the funeral of his recently deceased friend, Harry Lime. From that point on, he finds himself falling down the rabbit hole, chasing the truth of his friend’s death and trying to answer one question: Was Harry’s death an accident or something much more insidious?
I’d love to say more but it feels like every word potentially spoils the fun for anyone who hasn’t seen this already. Don’t be afraid of it being in black and white or sheik because it’s *gasp* old. Indulge in it, let it work its magic on on you, and enjoy a flick thats worth every ounce of acclaim it’s gotten for almost 60 years.
Marcus Benjamin is a danger to the public, an alum of American University, St. John’s University, a screenwriter, and has an intense relationship with words. Witness his tomfoolery on Twitter, @AbstractPo3tic.