Ridley Scott starts the Alien franchise rolling with Alien, the story of a humble xenomorph born into a hostile world full of potential hosts that he must struggle to maim and prepare for embryo impregnation. But there is a spunky gal in a space panties that has it out for him!
Join me as I dissect this alien. I discuss the structure and pulp origins of the film, the similarities between Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, and the mysterious connections between Gunsmoke and American science fiction. I compare the film to WW2 submarine movies, Star Wars, Mission Impossible (for which I drop a spoiler), and teenage slasher films. I suggest that Veronica Cartwright’s career might have been derailed by snot. I complain about Star Trek: First Contact. I say that Dallas portrays alien characteristics when I mean hero characteristics. I say that we’re “still in the third act” when I mean the second act.
Start the film before the 20th Century Fox title at the same time you start the commentary. (54 MB)
Bond is back again in probably the most popular—and certainly most influential—James Bond film. He’s asked to check out Auric Goldfinger in this one, and uncovers a dastardly plot to steal—wait for it—gold! I discuss the gold-painted girl, the Aston Martin DB5, the idea of substituting golf for baccarat, the plausibility of putting a Lincoln Continental in a Ranchero, the plausibility of machismo overcoming lesbianism, the US Army’s sense of humor, and, of course, Pussy Galore.
Start the film before the Universal title at the same time you start the commentary.
Harrison Ford breathes life into another icon when he picks up the whip and fedora offered by George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Lawrence Kasdan. I talk about the film’s origins and episodic nature, call it “nearly perfect,” and point out its various imperfections. I ponder the nature of the triple villain and the character arc that Indy travels. I compare it to romantic comedies and serials of the 1930s and ’40s, and to the other Indiana Jones films. I say 1935 a couple of times when I mean 1936. I say Martin Scorsese directed Tucker when I mean Francis Ford Coppola. And I squeeze in a reference to Yakima Canutt.
I watched the US release on DVD from the boxed set. The commentary should work with any other version unless Lucas does something stupid with the Blu-Ray release (like replacing Marion’s final ‘drink’ dialog with: “By the way, Indy, what do you think of the name ‘Mutt’?”).
Start the commentary just before the Paramount logo fades in.
Simon Pegg knocks one out of the… cricket pitch(?) as super cop Nicolas Angle Angel, who gets reassigned to sleepy little Sanford and discovers that there is an evil there that does not sleep. Nick Frost pulls duty as his comic sidekick and film professor. And a host of fantastic British actors support Pegg and director Edgar Wright’s brilliant and hilarious screenplay. I focus on the failures in it, of course. But I do heap praise where praise heaps are due. I focus mostly on the themes and intricacies of the plot. I compare it to other films in various genres, including Cars, Doc Hollywood, Sharky’s Machine, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Shaun of the Dead, Point Break, Bad Boys II, romantic comedies, and spaghetti westerns. But I’m nothing compared to Wright and Tarantino. Check out my voluminous list of films that Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino talk about in their own weird meta-commentary.
I watched the 3-disk US special edition release. It should be the same as the standard DVD release.
Start the commentary with the whistles and sirens. (55 MB)
Owen Wilson is the voice of Lightning McQueen, the superfast city boy race car who is on his way to California to win the Piston Cup, if only he can ever get out of little old Radiator Springs. Paul Newman is wise old Doc Hudson and Larry the Cable Guy is dumb old Larry the Cable Truck, or should have been. Bonnie Hunt is way sexier than an automobile has a right to be, which causes me to ponder car anatomy. I complain about the title of the film. I explain the concept of setup and payoff. And I explore the difference between American-style animation and Japanese-style animation. But I focus primarily on the two main stories that conflict and the two sub-plots that complicate things further and how the film manages to keep them all from tearing the film apart.
This is the US Blu-Ray release. It should be essentially the same as the standard DVD release, but foreign releases may be slightly diferent, since Pixar replaced some voices and names for local color and may have made other changes.
Start the commentary with the Walt Disney Pictures logo. (51 MB)
Barry Newman is the mysterious man in the white Dodge Challenger, running away from the cops and his own screwed up life. I discuss the movie as a meditation on motivation, an allegory for the lost soul, and as a Caterpiller promotional film. I compare it (somewhat) with the 1997 version and with Smokey and the Bandit and American Westerns, but mostly with ancient mythology. I boldly suggest that beautiful women can represent both innocence and death, depending on whether they are nude or wearing a cloak and that “J. Hovah” is a little too on-the-nose for a character name. And I use my new CO3U microphone with very good results.
This is the UK version on the R1 US (NTSC) release (it’s on the back of the DVD with the US version). It includes a scene with Charlotte Rampling as a mysterious hitchhiker that was not in the US version.
Start the commentary with the start of the vintage 20th Century Fox logo. (51 MB)
Bond is back in one of the best but not best-remembered Bond flicks. Here, he is the subject of a direct attempt to kill him by involving him in a trap that SPECTRE knows he’ll fall for precisely because he knows it’s a trap. The lovely but naive Tatiana Romanova is their patsy and Red Grant their oiled-up angel of death. Along the way, a Gypsy catfight goes on too long, Bond keeps forgetting why he’s in Istanbul and why he stole the Lector device. Tatiana redeems herself in the third ending, and I wonder how Bond is going to explain her to his girlfriend. I don’t have the book to do extensive comparisons, but I do identify most of the cars, not that Bond drives them; he only drives a Chevy pickup.
Start the film with the roaring lion at the same time you start the commentary. (54 MB)
The James Bond series leaps into action with guns blazing as Sean Connery spends several hours talking to British colonial officials and wandering around Jamaica looking for a clue. Then he turns up the heat and starts blasting by sneaking around an island for a while, hoping not to get captured, before getting captured. Okay, it’s a little slow for what we’ve come to expect, but in 1962, this rocked. And even today, Miss Taro and Honey Ryder can still make your palms sweat. I compare the film to the book thruout and look for motifs, iconic elements, and firsts. I compare it to the Flint and Austin Powers movies that it inspired and to other Bond flicks. Note: Some comments are shaken while others are stirred. Somehow I make the bizarre mistake of saying that Sean Connery appeared in Zulu Dawn.
Start the film at the same time you start the commentary. (52 MB)
An imperfect commentary for a nearly perfect film. Bill Murray is chief idiot to Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis in a modern Marx Brothers-style epic comedy thriller. Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson support, not to mention Rick Moranis, William Atherton, and Yugoslavian supermodel Slavitza. Director Ivan Reitman delivers the goods in thrills and chills while the top-talent cast supplies the laughs. I describe the statue-spirit motif, the dual-story structure of the plot, the cartoonish nature of the Ghostbusters which makes them inherently merchandisable, and the evils of synthesizer music. I mistakenly say that Gozer has a “Grace Slick haircut” when I mean a “Grace Jones haircut.”
UPDATE: I’ve filled in most of the long quiet stretches with more piercing and insightful observations like “Sigourney Weaver is a year older than Bill Murray.”
Start the film at the same time you start the commentary. (48 MB)
Third in my White-House-related commentaries, overly-dramatic lighting, multiple freak rainstorms, and a complete failure to get Diane Lane’s shirt soaking wet detract from a fairly taut, multi-layered thriller. Wesley Snipes is a swaggering DC homicide cop who somehow beats the snot out of several highly-trained Secret Service agents and government assassins. Diane Lane kicks him as his sidekick until she get a chance to save his ass. Alan Alda and that creepy guy from The Agency play “good cop, creepy cop.” Dennis Miller miraculously avoids smirking too much. I say “that doesn’t make sense” too much and explain a lot about the White House.
I explore the logic of assigning an ordinary DC detective to a White House murder case when they already have their own police force. I ponder the idea that the president might be sneaked into the White House by someone other than the Secret Service agent assigned to guard his bedroom. And I consider the plausibility that there might be hidden tunnels underneath the White House (there are!) that Wesley Snipes could sneak into (no way!).