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 – Dragnet

Dragnet (1987)
Written by Dan Aykroyd, Alan Zweibel, and Tom Mankiewicz
Directed by Tom Mankiewicz

In the 1960s, just a couple decades into television’s public rollout in the United States, studios began producing movies based on shows. One of the most common methods of making these films was to edit and repackage episodes of the show as a movie. There were original stories, though. The Batman movie in 1966 was created in response to the first season’s explosive success. In the United Kingdom, Doctor Who was spun off into two films that completely reimagined the program’s concept and centered it around the Daleks. As soon as The Munsters wrapped filming of the series, Munsters Go Home went into production for theatrical release. The 1980s was when Baby Boomers had gotten into positions of power within Hollywood and were ready to greenlight some of their favorite shows as feature films. Sometimes this was done with great reverence to the source material, while others were extremely tongue in cheek. I’ll be looking at just a few of these movies, a mix of ones I’ve seen and some new ones. I’ll be reviewing them not just as movies but also in how well they stayed true to the conceit of the original series and if that was the right choice.

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Patron Pick – Solaris (1972)

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Solaris (1972)
Written by Fridrikh Gorenstein & Andrei Tarkovsky
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Science fiction is a label attributed to a pretty diverse genre of fiction. In recent years, the move to rebrand it as “speculative fiction” has been made but has not gotten much headway in mainstream culture. “Speculative” is a much better way to describe this genre’s full breadth. In Western cinema, the emphasis is often on technological innovation, which makes sense given the very industrial, consumptive capitalist mindset. Things will set us free; items we can purchase and/or upgrade are the path to salvation. Look at how, amid a global climate collapse, we are offered ludicrous technological solutions like dimming the sun artificially rather than simply developing systems that will help us consume fewer fossil fuels. Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky also saw this in Western science fiction and sought to make cinema that captured the metaphysical and philosophical strains, asking big questions about existence and reality.

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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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Movie Review – L’Argent

L’Argent (1983)
Written & Directed by Robert Bresson

Money is essential for survival in our current system yet is the constant root of many problems. Theft is predicated on taking money from someone or stealing property that can later be sold for money. Homelessness results from not having enough money to afford rent/mortgages. Medical debt continues to explode across the United States. Inflation is driving up the prices of essential goods. As Max Bialystock once said, “Money is honey,” but it’s also a load of shit. Those with money essentially live in a different society from those who do not have it, able to transcend the Law and behave as they please. Those who must toil and labor are slaves to money, never able to take a break from working for more. Robert Bresson was a student of how humanity tortures itself and imposes strictures based on economic class. We saw this in Mouchette earlier this year, as a peasant girl is made to be the object of cruelty for so many. 

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Movie Review – The Departed

The Departed (2006)
Written by William Monahan
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Once again, Scorsese takes a direct-for-hire gig from a studio. Unlike the previous films, this one plays to the filmmaker’s talents much better. It’s a crime story that, while set in Boston, definitely shares DNA with Goodfellas and Casino. However, it’s also a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. I haven’t seen that original picture, so as much as I’d like to compare the two, we’ll have to discuss this one on its own terms. The Departed has been a movie maligned as a red flag picture by the myopic “anti-film bro” crowd. I always sympathize with a disdain for that type of male fan who always identifies with the characters you’re not supposed to cheer for. It’s a standard American misconception with narrative fiction that the protagonist is the “good guy” whom the audience is meant to support. Scorsese’s work continually presents evil men as his main characters, which does not endorse them. These types of bad people are often more interesting to examine in stressful situations, and they also go along with one of the director’s career-long themes: can a person this bad be redeemed?

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Movie Review – Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York (2002)
Written by Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Martin Scorsese

When we last left Mr. Scorsese, he’d just released his final film of the 20th century, Bringing Out the Dead. I know that picture is experiencing a slight rediscovery & appreciation; I just did not connect with the tone or style. However, it is an excellent example of Scorsese’s fearlessness in experimenting with different techniques, a trait that has dominated his 21st-century work. I don’t think most people would be able to identify who directed The Aviator, Hugo, and Silence if they didn’t know. Those are different movies from each other, and some work while others don’t for me personally, but I always have to hand it to the director for taking risks many filmmakers would never take. Leonard DiCaprio is the one constant in almost every (but not all) Scorsese films in the 2000s and 2010s.

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Movie Review – Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Written & Directed by Richard Brooks

The 1970s saw the Sexual Revolution occur in the United States. Like everything in America, this was more complex than it first appeared, and Americans overindulged to the extent that it did cause some harm to themselves. Sex is good, people should have more of it, but Americans have never been able to engage healthily. It’s either the most insane chaste abstinence or hyper-indulgence in near comical fetish. It should come as no surprise that film & television about sex have just never managed to get anything right because they become so caught up in the specter of Puritanical thinking in which the country is rooted. Looking for Mr. Goodbar was a mainstream attempt to make a movie about women’s liberation and the sexual revolution, and I cannot say whether or not it worked. The biggest problem is that it was written & directed by a man who seemed utterly uncomfortable with what was happening.

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Movie Review – Three Days of the Condor

Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfield
Directed by Sydney Pollack

The CIA is one of the most evil and chaotic institutions in the United States. The formation of the CIA in the wake of World War II amounts to a political coup by the business class. Anticommunist sentiments were running high in the Truman administration in the wake of the war. The Soviets were gaining ground in a Europe attempting to heal from fascist destruction. However, the United States ushered many “useful” Nazis across the Atlantic to help build a new world order that put America at the top of the heap. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the CIA’s precursor, scheming to undermine any communist growth in the world. The OSS would eventually hire a group of wealthy and educated white men who saw this as an opportunity to turn the world into their playground, become the secret agents they’d read about in a growing & popular genre of literature at the time, and for some (the true believers) they operated with religious fervor to destroy communism. These agents turned global politics into a deadly game they played against people trying to survive and make their nations better and amongst each other, games within games. 

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