Posts Tagged ‘Peter Weller

15
Mar
14

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

I’m going to start this one off on a slightly personal note. I’m a normal person who just happens to watch a lot of movies. The great thing about the internet is I need no qualifications whatsoever to write and “publish” whatever I think and feel about everything I watch. Potential audiences can choose to read it or not, and I owe nothing to anyone. This blog originally started as a place to log my impressions of everything I watch, because frankly I tend to forget details. It’s now turned into its own kind of monster, with actual, faithful readers (thank you, readers!) So, I guess I’ve decided to take it a little more seriously, especially when a particular film warrants a little more attention. Recently I’ve come across quite a few flicks that I feel deserve more than just a quick write-up, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is definitely one of them.
In an interview with The Onion’s AV Club, Peter Weller, who plays the titular hero, said of the film: “I had no idea what that movie was about, I still don’t, but I had a ball making it.” That comes pretty close to my experience watching it; I had no idea what it was happening, but I loved every minute of it. The first time felt like such a whirlwind I had to sit down and watch it a second time just to make sure I had my bearings enough to write about it! Even so, I’m certain to get some of the finer plot points wrong; there is an awful lot going on. I will try to stick to the basics.

Buckaroo plays piano for Penny Priddy

Buckaroo plays piano for Penny Priddy

Within the first ten minutes or so, we are introduced to Buckaroo’s many talents: namely surgeon, physicist, and rock star, but let’s not forget he’s hobnobbing with the President of the United States on a regular basis, and happens to be a comic book hero as well. He’s long been part of a scientific experiment led by Professor Hikita to use a handy-dandy thingamajig called an oscillation overthruster which reorders the particles that make up solid matter in such a way that people should be able to pass right through them. The overthruster has been tested before by Hikita and his former colleague Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow), but not with much luck (in fact, Lizardo ended up in the loony bin as a result), so the whole research team is biting their collective lip as Buckaroo gets behind the wheel of a mega-racecar and drives at extremely high speeds towards a giant mountain.

The perpetually suave and cool Buckaroo of course makes it, and he sees some pretty wacky shit in there too. He even brings back a strange creature from the 8th dimension, which he reveals to curious onlookers, particle physics enthusiasts, journalists, and undercover Red Lectroids at a press conference after the successful event. What’s an Red Lectroid? Well, that’s where it gets a little complicated…

A Black Lectroid

A Black Lectroid

Enter Planet 10, where years ago a civil war raged between the Red Lectroids and the Black Lectroids. The Black Lectroids won, and banished some of the most evil Red Lectroids to the 8th dimension, including their leader John Whorfin. When Dr. Lizardo failed to pass through the wall all those years ago, he was possessed by Whorfin; that’s why he’s so bonkers. Because of Lizardo, the Red Lectroids caught wind of the oscillation overthruster’s potential capabilities, and infested earth in hopes of gaining its technology and releasing their imprisoned comrades from the 8th dimension. Years of failed experiments seems to have paid off, now that Buckaroo has successfully proved the thing works. Now all the Red Lectroids have to do is steal it.

A transmission from the Black Lectroids helps get Buckaroo and his backup band The Hong Kong Cavaliers up to speed and tell him if they don’t succeed in destroying the Red Lectroids, they will simulate a nuclear missile headed for Smolensk; an act the Soviets will obviously see as an act of American aggression. It’s now up to Buckaroo and his crew to save the world from destroying itself!

The Electric Emilio Lizardo

The Electric Emilio Lizardo

Though no one in their right mind would call a four-paragraph plot synopsis “succinct” it might actually be the appropriate word to use here – there is still so much going on that I have left out! Either way, the plot is really just a vehicle for great performances and hilarious jokes. It’s no secret that I think Peter Weller is the man, and his role as Buckaroo Banzai is no exception – he is fantastic; totally cool the movie through. John Litghow as John Whorfin/Emilio Lizardo is exactly the opposite; a totally over the top villain, hamming it up every chance he gets (and that accent!). The Red Lectroid crew (Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli and Dan Hedaya) are hilariously incompetent as they fumble towards the overthruster. Other notable performances include Ellen Barkin as Penny Priddy and Jeff Goldblum as “New Jersey”, but it’s not just the big names that make this movie – everyone plays their part to a tee.

For some terribly sad reason, I never watched this movie as a kid, and as a result have been left out of the culty joke for too many years. It’d been floating around as a possible viewing option for a year or so, but my husband had a hard time marketing it to me, just as, I have read, they had a hard time marketing it to kids in 1984. This is totally understandable: a movie as all-over-the-place as this one is pert-near unmarketable. No matter, over the years it has carved out a nice little following for itself, and deservedly so; it’s an extremely quotable film with plenty of in-jokes, the perfect recipe for an underground hit. I see evidence of its reach in some recent films: it’s quoted directly at the end of Beyond the Black Rainbow, and though I might be reaching, that Jamaican dude from John Dies at the End reminds me an awful lot of a Black Lectroid!

Forever dorky, New Jersey.

Forever dorky, New Jersey.

The good news is, even if you’re late to the game there’s still a spot for you on the team. Buckaroo Banzai is as much fun to watch as an adult as I imagine it might have been for me as a kid. My husband wrapped up the sentiment in a pretty neat package when he said: “you’d have to have a soul to not like this movie.”  I completely agree. I get the feeling that this is the kind of movie that only gets more charming the more you watch it, and it can undoubtedly withstand multiple viewings; I think husband noticed at least two or three little jokes that he never had before the second time we watched it together – and he’s no Banzai novice. And, let’s get real, any movie that ends like this has got to be irresistible.

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07
Mar
14

RoboCop (1987)

I managed to go a very long time before first seeing Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. Perhaps it is because I am not a boy, and RoboCop was for boys. Perhaps I was just a little too young when it came out, and Total Recall satisfied my Dutch-director quota. I really don’t know why it took so long, but when I finally first watched it, I was floored by how legitimately good it is. Now that a shiny new reboot is out, I thought it was time to revisit it and see if the five stars I originally granted it would withstand the scrutiny of a second viewing. The short answer is: of course it did. In fact, I think I liked it even more now than I did before, quite possibly because I am growing more and more pinko by the day. More on that later. First, the basics. Also: WARNING. SPOILERS LIVE IN THIS POST.

Alex Murphy, the unsuspecting, optimistic cutie.

Alex Murphy, the unsuspecting, optimistic cutie.

RoboCop is set some time in the dystopian future. Detroit is an absolute mess; there’s no money, no jobs, and crime is rampant. In a desperate move, the mayor signs a shady deal with a company called Omni Consumer Products (OCP), handing over control of the Police Department to the private company. OCP has a big stake in controlling crime in Detroit, because they’ve also got license to demolish the worst parts of the city to make way for the new, shiny corporate city of the future, “Delta City.” How could they market their new Utopia to the rich and powerful if they’d all have to worry about having their wives getting roughed up outside their own high-rise condos?

Detroit’s police force is in an uproar over the change, and many of the cops are considering a strike. Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is the new guy on the scene, passionate, a little cocky, but optimistic and ready to take on the mean streets of Detroit. His partner, Anne Lewis, is pretty badass herself. Together, they make a really good team. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for their teamwork to gel: on their very first outing together they find themselves hot on the trail of Clarence Boddicker, a notorious drug lord and gang leader. The two become separated and Boddicker and his cronies pump wide-eyed Murphy full of lead. 

That's a big robot.

That’s a big robot.

Sad for the police force, but a boon to OCP, whose biggest decision-maker is on the lookout for a new, robotic policing option. The first proposal, brought to the table by senior president Dick Jones was nothing but a giant robot with bad programming.  When it blows a chairperson to pieces, the company’s at a loss, until up-and-coming corporate asshole Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) lets the RoboCop out of the bag. The only thing they need to start the cyborg project up is a fresh dead body. 

Enter Officer Murphy’s corpse. When the cyborg cop makes his debut at the station, the cops are more than pissed off, but Officer Lewis is pretty sure she recognizes what little of the cyborg’s face she can see – she knows it’s Murphy, but the cyborg has been programmed and reprogrammed to have no memory of its former life. It has only been programmed to seek out crime and squash it out immediately, by any means necessary. What could possibly go wrong?

RoboCop's Prime Directives.

RoboCop’s Prime Directives.

Imagine my surprise when I first saw RoboCop; I was expecting pretty standard shoot-‘em-up sci-fi horror fare, but it is so much more than that. The phrase “brilliant satire” is pretty irritatingly eye-roll-inducing, but god dammit, the shoe fits here. Just the company’s name in itself, Omni Consumer Products, is such a perfect name for corporate evil! I’m sure there are many films depicting the dangers of privatization and capitalism run rampant, but this is definitely the best example I’ve ever seen. It not only covers what people stand to lose when its government relies on corporations for protection, but also lets us in on the greedy guys who hide behind the corporate name and allow their insatiable thirst for wealth and power to consume their lives. 

Certainly RoboCop spoke to the political issues of 1987, when America was in the midst of Reagan’s presidency, but it is just as relevant today as it was back then. Living in the economically fragile time that we currently do, we hear all sorts of ideas about how to improve wealth and economic stability, but none are as loud as those who want to cut taxes and hand everything over to private corporations. I think we can all say pretty safely how Mr. Verhoeven feels about that idea.

The Future Has a Silver Lining indeed.

The Future Has a Silver Lining indeed.

As much as I love the message and how its conveyed here, there’s an even greater message to be taken away from RoboCop, and it speaks to the strength of the human spirit. Murphy’s reclamation of his own body tells us that no matter how insurmountable the obstacles seem, no matter how much they pump you full of lead, no matter how much of your body they morph into a robot, they can’t change who you are; they can’t own you – not if you don’t let them! Human will and character is too strong to be broken even by the biggest, nastiest corporations.
Wow, well, sorry for getting so intense guys, but what can I say, RoboCop inspires intense emotions in me. I wish more movies were as brazen and bold as this one. I sincerely wonder how it’s possible that Peter Weller is not the mega superstar he deserves to be. Sure, half the movie he plays a helmeted cyborg, but nobody does it better! I know this is a common Schlock Wave refrain, but why would anyone dare to attempt to retell this story? It can’t possibly be told as well as it was here. Admittedly, I am curious to see what they’ve done in the reboot, mostly I’d like to see if it holds any of the same values as the original. Even if it isn’t a total disgrace, it is most definitely unnecessary. I firmly believe Verhoeven’s RoboCop can’t be improved upon – it is nearly, if not totally, perfect. I love it a whole hell of a lot. I am gushing, and for that I apologize. But god damn what a fine movie!  
15
Dec
13

Screamers (1995)

I <3 Peter Weller!

I ❤ Peter Weller!

Screamers sounds awesome: a science fiction flick based on Philip K. Dick with robots and post-apocalyptic war-zones starring Peter Weller? Sh’yeah, sign me up, right? Unfortunately the film itself isn’t as good as one would hope. That’s not to say it isn’t good, it just isn’t great.

As most science fiction plots are, it’s complicated. There’s a war on a mining planet, and both sides have just about exhausted their resources. Joe Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is lucky; his side created a pretty intense weapon that has kept them safe in their bunker: Autonomous Mobile Swords, or Screamers. Because, well, they scream right before they’re about to kill you.

An orphaned child; the perfect camouflage.

An orphaned child; the perfect camouflage.

The Screamers detect your heartbeat, and that’s when they strike. The only way to survive when they’re near you is by having a device on your body that blots out your heartbeat’s signal, so you become invisible to the screamers. Any enemies without this device will soon be dinner for the screamers.

Some stuff happens and Hendricksson is soon convinced he and his company have been left on the planet to die. He takes a fresh-faced, idiot-boy soldier with him while trekking to the enemy’s headquarters. While he’s out there, he finds some really weird shit, namely Screamers that have taken a completely different form. Has the other side learned from and improved upon their

Weller and Rubin, suited up and ready to go.

Weller and Rubin, suited up and ready to go.

technology? Or, have the Screamers evolved into new “life” forms of their own volition?

As I said, it’s complicated, and frankly I didn’t really follow it until my husband explained it to me. Science fiction plots are often a weakness of mine, unfortunately. So, anyway, I don’t see the sense in explaining the whole thing here because, well, that wouldn’t be so much fun for you if you decide to watch the movie. Anyway, a whole lot of people with credibility thought this movie was pretty okay. I agree, it’s okay, but really nothing more. I was a little irritated with the characters; they’re all pretty one-dimensional and, well, some of them are straight-up annoying. There’s also that 90’s-badass-chick thing going on with the female lead, Jessica (Jennifer Rubin), and I find that stuff pretty insufferable. But, if that’s sort of thing, this isn’t a bad way to go.

01
Jun
13

Star Trek into Darkness (2013)

startrekintodarkness“Watch a movie… or be a part of one.” These are the words I was assaulted with as I sat down to watch my first ever IMAX 3D movie, Star Trek into Darkness. The assault continued for the next 132 minutes, after which I left the theater feeling very, very old, saying things like: “they moved so fast, I couldn’t tell what was going on!”, “all they did was fight!”, “I thought Star Trek was about science-fiction!”, etc.

Look, I’m well aware that the last thing the internet needs is another doofus writing up the latest Star Trek movie. I debated a good while whether or not I should contribute to the detritus, and ultimately decided to log it if for no other reason than to have it so I can look back on it years from now and say “wow, I’ve been old a long, long time.”

Anyway, really, I guess Star Trek into Darkness is okay, but it’s not really a Star Trek movie, right? I mean, I’m no Trekkie by any means, but this is just pretty people in goofy costumes beating up other people in goofy costumes. I wanted more aliens, more strange planets, more science-fiction, dammit! Throwing the Trekkies a bone or two during the movie (“KHAAAAAAN”? Really?) doesn’t exactly make it a Star Trek movie, does it? Just because these characters have the same names as others we know, doesn’t make them the same at all. (Obviously I’ve been spending far too much time with Q. No, not that Q.)

And what did they do with my beloved Peter Weller?!

Maybe it’s a little weird that I was so offended by the action-adventure takeover, given that I’m not all that invested in Star Trek in any of its iterations. Perhaps I just went to the theater with the wrong mindset; as I’ve said a few times already here, I was expected a science-fiction movie. This wasn’t a science-fiction movie dudes. It wasn’t! Boo!

06
Feb
13

Contaminated Man (2000)

contaminatedmanposterNext up on our spring-cleaning cull* chopping block is Contaminated Man, a completely unremarkable dramatic thrillerish thing starring William Hurt and Peter Weller.

The story revolves around David Whitman (Hurt), a hazmat guy who, unfortunately for his wife and daughter, took his work home with him one day. His exposure to a certain pesticide killed both of them, and years later in Budapest he’s confronted with the spread of the illness once again. A chemical corporation was trimming some fat, and unfortunately that means Joseph Müller (Weller) loses his job of 20+ years as a security guard. This is not good news for a man whose wife just left him and took his kid with her. Needless to say, Müller is desperate – his alimony payments were his only guarantee at child visitation.

Müller heads to work to plead for his job back. He gets the brush off, and so follows a bunch of hazmat-suited men into a private room where a whole bunch of crap explodes and he is exposed to the pesticide. He is the only man to escape the carnage, and is now the so-called Contaminated Man. Whitman is on the task of cleaning up the mess and looking for Müller, who is on the way to finding his wife and kid, but a bunch of terrorist experts stand in his way. Can Whitman find Müller and give him the antidote before the terrorist experts blow everything out of proportion?

“I VANT MY FAMILY!”

At first, I thought this movie was made after 9/11. Interestingly, it is not; it comes out just shy of a year beforehand. Either way, this sure looks like a government conspiracy flick: the terrorist team take the story of a regular, desperate guy who just wants to see his family and turn it into a potential terrorist issue. Their overreaction makes the resulting events 10 times worse than they would have been if they’d have just let Whitman do his job. That aspect of the movie is interesting, but other than that this doesn’t really have much going for it. It felt like a made-for-cable movie, and I wondered most of the time how they got Weller and Hurt to star in the damn thing. We will not be keeping this one.

*Q and I have decided it’s time for a great cull; an early spring cleaning. We have a large number of movies we have not yet seen. Are these movies any good? This is the question we are out to answer. If it’s no good, out it goes.

10
Jan
13

Naked Lunch (1991)

Hmmm... is that a talking bug?

Hmmm… is that a talking bug?

I was never able to finish reading William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Perhaps I was too young. More likely, I just didn’t have the patience for a book that seemed to go nowhere and made little to no sense. Usually my patience is equally short for films that go nowhere and make little to no sense, but my soft-spot for Cronenberg and weird shit in general trumps that here. I didn’t love it, but the film Naked Lunch is beautiful, strange and compelling.

One might wonder: “how can you film Naked Lunch?” The answer

Yep; that's a large, talking bug.

Yep; that’s a large, talking bug.

is, you don’t. What Cronenberg does instead is take elements from the book and pair them up with Burroughs’ biography. The result is a hilarious, weird, bugged-out noirish mystery about addiction, paranoia, sexuality and creativity.

Plot is secondary, but let me try to recap: Bill Lee (Peter Weller, who is awesome in this by the way) is an exterminator in New York City, and his lovely wife Joan (Judy Davis) is addicted to his bug powder. Bill is arrested and thrown into an interrogation room, where he meets a talking bug who convinces him his wife is a secret agent working against him. Bill is directed by this bug to kill her and go to Interzone to submit his report.

Novel.

Novel.

Bill does kill his wife, though accidentally during a botched game of William Tell (which actually happened to Burroughs). He runs off to Interzone and starts typing up his report, on a typewriter that seems to be a large, talking bug with a keypad, of course.

Bill meets some strange characters in Interzone, but more importantly is confronted with a lot of his own personal issues, such as his sexuality and his addiction to drugs. Throughout the film Bill evolves from “hell no I’m not gay” to having a near-permanent male squeeze named Kiki by the end.

Hell of a typewriter.

Hell of a typewriter.

Somewhere in the middle, Bill’s friends show up and start gushing over the pages of the novel he’s working on. Bill claims he’s not doing any of the writing. If he is, it’s not really him doing it – it’s the drugs and the typewriter. His friends tell him well, whatever works – you’ve got to finish this thing. And so Bill plunges deeper into the world of Interzone.

Do I totally get it? No. Does that bother me? Yes. Am I supposed to totally get it? Eeehhhhh, that’s up in the air, but I don’t think so. During the first few scenes I asked “what’s going on?” Q says: “Don’t worry about it, just go with it.” And he was right. It looks good, it’s weird and gooey, and I’ll say it again: Peter Weller is totally awesome in it. Shit, it even has interesting and important things to say, so stop trying to figure it out and just enjoy the ride.




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