Movie Review – Election

Election (1999)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

There’s something deeply wrong in America. It’s a rotten core deeply embedded in the manufactured two-party political culture wars that go on endlessly. We Americans are petty, spiteful, hateful people. It’s simply the truth. Our elite spin fancy myths that seek to bolster our perceptions, but all you need to do is step back a bit, and you begin to see the fetid sludge come boiling to the surface. We crave the boot of brutal authority just as long as we can glance over and see our neighbor getting worse than us. When I first watched Election as an 18-year-old college freshman, I didn’t really get it. I don’t think the culture as a whole did, as I would hear things about Tracy Flick being such a bitch. She’s the villain of the movie, right? Not at all. She’s the victim. But we so quickly decided she was the bad guy.

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Movie Review – Citizen Ruth

Citizen Ruth (1996)
Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Directed by Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne has been a presence in American film since the late 1990s, starting with this debut feature. Filmmaking has been a passion in Payne’s life since he was a teenager and got his first Super 8mm camera. Payne would eventually attend Stanford but not study film. Instead, he majored in Spanish and History. Then, in the late 1980s, he attended UCLA film school, where his thesis film, The Passion of Martin, started the ball rolling for future projects. 

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Movie Review – My Favorite Martian

My Favorite Martian (1999)
Written by Sherri Stoner & Deanna Oliver
Directed by Donald Petrie

When I decided to do this first round of Television to Movies, I wanted to do at least one movie where I had little to no knowledge of the source material. My Favorite Martian is one of those shows. I was vaguely aware of the premise without knowing much detail, so the film was a reasonably fresh experience for me. That said, I could key in on specific elements being carryovers from the series because they were presented in a way that the audience was meant to see them as important. I also picked this movie because its two leads, Jeff Daniels & Christopher Lloyd, are pretty good actors, and so they might be able to elevate what could otherwise be a lame script.

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Movie Review – The Addams Family

The Addams Family (1991)
Written by Caroline Thompson & Larry Wilson
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

Few television-to-film adaptations are as good as the first two Addams Family movies. I didn’t realize it until recently, but The Addams Family television series only ran for two seasons, with an impressive 64 episodes total. In syndicated reruns, the series would gain a cult fanbase that kept it in the cultural spotlight. Beyond the theme song and encounters with “normals,” the film’s tone is not based on the television show. Instead, the filmmakers drew inspiration from the original New Yorker comics by Charles Addams. This was the correct decision, and the result is studio comedy that sits in the perfect middle ground between crowd pleaser and dark humor. It’s also a strange case where the sequel is arguably better than the original film.

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Movie Review – Office Space

Office Space (1999)
Written & Directed by Mike Judge

Somewhere between the toil of blue-collar factory workers and the plush offices of Wall Street investment bros lies the mind-numbing drudgery of office work. Cubicles compose a physical and psychological labyrinth of corporate buzz speak. Inane conversations happen in the breakroom while tiny wars pop up between cubicle neighbors over the music volume or the prevalence of personal decor. Mike Judge was inspired by his time as a temp worker and then some time working in Silicon Valley as an engineer. This led to his Milton short films being featured on MTV’s Liquid Television. The success of Beavis & Butthead opened up new opportunities for the filmmaker, and he took this seed of an idea and transformed it into the cult hit Office Space.

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TV Review – The West Wing Sucks Part 1

America is in considerable trouble right now. Yet, this problem didn’t begin recently; it’s been a roiling, bubbling pot of chaos that’s just now starting to overflow. In attempting to do a living autopsy of America’s rapidly dying corpse, multiple moments mark the downturn. Watergate undermined public confidence in pretty much the entire institute of government. The election of Ronald Reagan installed a seemingly permanent reactionary class in the halls of power. The 2000 election was stolen by George Bush when a feckless Al Gore rolled over in the name of “civility.”

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Comic Book Review – Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus Volume 2

Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus Volume 2 (2022)
Reprints L.E.G.I.O.N. #69-70, Legion of Super-Heroes #40-61, Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4-5, Legionnaires #1-18, Legionnaires Annual #1, Valor #20-23
Written by Tom & Mary Bierbaum, Tom McCraw, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, and Tom Peyer
Art by Stuart Immonen, Chris Sprouse, Darryl Banks, Joe Phillips, Christopher Taylor, Nick Napolitano, Adam Hughes, Colleen Doran, Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Gardner, Frank Fosco, Curt Swan, Ron Boyd, Mark Farmer, Wade von Grawbadger, Craig Hamilton, Jeff Moy, Ted McKeever, Paul Pelletier, Arnie Jorgensen, and Derec Aucoin

The end of an era was just around the corner. The 1989 relaunch of Legion of Super-Heroes was a bold move, taking the beloved team of future teens and aging them into young adults. Some were married with kids, and others had become estranged or started new relationships. It all played out against the Dominator’s takeover of Earth. Eventually, series writer/artist Keith Giffen transitioned off the title and handed it over to Tom & Mary Bierbaum. They were a fan dream come true, starting as Legion fans in the 1970s and contributing to fanzines. Keith Giffen had become aware of their passionate devotion to the series and was impressed with some of the text stories they’d written. He and Mark Waid, editor of the title at the time, brought in the Bierbaums as Giffen’s co-writers for this new era.

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Movie Review – True Romance

True Romance (1993)
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Directed by Tony Scott

While this is a James Gandolfini-centric film series, I acknowledge he has such a minuscule part in True Romance. However, that two-scene appearance managed to stand toe to toe with seasoned film veterans like Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, and others. The film itself has not aged well, in my opinion. There’s a tasteless trans joke and multiple uses of racial slurs. The worst part is that the protagonist is a complete male Mary Sue, able to pull off some of the riskiest maneuvers despite having zero credibility in the criminal element. It’s also a film with big names in minor roles, many of whom get a single scene or just a handful. The fact that Gandolfini could stand out in a movie like this is proof of what an acting talent he was and how he was capable of such great things.

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Movie Review – Into the Woods (1991)

Into the Woods (1991)
Written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
Directed by James Lapine

For a minute, I thought about rewatching the Frank Marshall-directed version of this musical, but the idea of watching James Corden turned my stomach enough to find an alternative. So I decided to finally check out this film of the original Broadway cast’s performance. It may not have the digital effects and “star power” of the 2014 motion picture, but it is the complete musical being done by highly talented people, and I loved it. I was able to see the entire story, all the scenes and songs deleted from the Disney movie, and the result was a story with much more cohesive themes and a maturity the film ultimately lacks.

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Movie Review – Ratcatcher

Ratcatcher (1999)
Written & Directed by Lynne Ramsay

Western civilization is decaying and all at its own hand. You cannot look to a foreign enemy emerging over the horizon. The collapse of the world order we’ve known since birth was a slowly festering movement of austerity and neoliberalism that is choking the life out of hundreds of millions. The authoritarian British government brutalized its citizens in Northern Ireland and Scotland quite habitually in the 1960s and 70s. This came in the form of militarized police actions, pushing back against unions, and fighting against a higher quality of life. This is the world we enter in Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher, where garbage is piled up on the streets and canals are full of toxic chemicals. This is squalor inflicted on working people by the wealthy & powerful who want to bring them to heal. It’s hard to find hope in such a living Hell. 

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