Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
I don’t like ice cream sundaes. Hot fudge annoys the neatfreak in me, I’ve always regarded whip cream as the Mongolian Death Worm of the desert trade, and cherries are hand grenades wrapped in slutty lipstick. I don’t want to fight in Vietnam with Dafoe and Sheen; I just want a bowl of ice cream. Five scoops of varied types – cookies ‘n cream, peanut butter cup, coffee – plus a grimy handful of pulverized ‘Nilla Wafers or lemon cookies, and I’m dandy as Darkseid. Perhaps the origin of my pulse-quickening hostility towards superhero movies is the compulsion by the architects of these cinemassacres to drown our icons under so much sugar-coated slick and polish that the “Hollywood Treatment” overwhelms the essence of the story.
Two movies on the outskirts of the genre allow the pain and the hurt of the superhero experience to bubble to the cesspool’s surface, making these movies as irreverently off-beat and discomfiting as the “actual” superhero experience. They avoid the tinge of uncomfortable, unmistakable regret that occurs when fantasy and reality collide, otherwise known as the atrabilious aftertaste that squats rent-free on your tongue after Daredevil, Elektra, and The Punisher; rather, the megrims are mitigated by pixilated geometry, jagged capes, and crumpled utility belts.
The high-budget movies forget (shamelessly overlook?) superheroism is an illustrious beatdown. In Super, the Crimson Bolt, portrayed with eye-bulging acrasia by an aptly-cast Rainn Wilson, takes to the streets with a hammer and a powerful message to the underworld: “SHUT UP, CRIME!” He is motivated to this path of righteousness by the fall from grace of his wife (Liv Tyler), a frail wisp of humanity struggling with dangerous addictions who has been “rescued” by requisite scumbag Kevin Bacon.
Breakfast with the enemy: pass the eggs, pass the ammo. The Crimson Bolt is joined by a comic book store employee (Ellen Page), whose zeal for adventure corresponds with Bolt’s need for justice. Wilson and Page think they have similar agendas, but we quickly discern we are witnessing the battle for supremacy between two longhorns who have inadvertently collided; neither animal can see straight through the immediate problem, and one of them is due to get its head ripped from its shoulders. **Such decapitation does occur, no shock, but you may chuckle if you have the right amount of Mountain Dew, Funyuns, and Restless Leg Syndrome in your tickety-tockety, nudge nudge headbutt**
The movie was definitely cultivated along the serpentine squiggle of a Manchester United devotee’s inevitable restoration of startling sobriety; if you are looking for good, clean fun and congenial tidiness, you should watch The Rocketeer. You won’t find an altogether satisfying conclusion with Super,but you may appreciate the movie as a series of safety tips; “Do you see what Rainn Wilson is doing? Do you see how he drives the hammer into the forehead of the man who cut the line at the cinema? He is demonstrating Bad Movietime Etiquette. That is not good behavior.” OK, so that’s NOT how to go about a life of superheroic antics. Check. Healthy reasoning gets bound, gagged, and tossed into the trunk of your Pontiac Hatchback with the beach umbrella and the box of VHS Jean Claude Van Damme movies you couldn’t sell at the Temple Beth Ohr Rummage Sale. I was most impressed by the insanity of the venture. The Crimson Bolt (a clever stab at the Flash, as in ‘live faster than you can before the antimatter cloud calls in its take-out order’) knows he can’t save the people he loves and save himself, too. The Course of the Balance of the Universe does not change because you decide to put on mask and transfer your demons to the Dazed & Confused Reg’lar Folk. Despite the movie’s loud herky-jerky-ness, you will feel occasionally traumatized to the extent of wanting to return to the womb: To the Back Issues in the White Boxes, Friend…To the Back Issues in the White Boxes. Hey – as a true superhero fan would confess, you’d don’t want to be anywhere else. By the by, Children of the Corn, Rainn finds himself in this predicament during the movie – Can’t look away, hmm?
Movie #2 on the agenda is the stealthier and deadlier Special, featuring Deep Blue Sea‘s Favorite Tech Geek Go-Bye-Bye Michael Rapaport as comic book disciple Les Franken, a man who agrees to test an experimental antidepressant, only to be rewarded by a complimentary t-shirt and the bizarre belief/side effect that he has powers beyond those of mortal motherf*ckers.
I learned about this movie while searching for pictures of another Michael Rapaport movie (I’ll name later). The above image really drew me close – The cerebral desperation of the face, the partially digested sense of self-reliance, the jumpsuit sullied by 97 moments of mountain-moving in the battle against crime – I was fortunate to find the movie ready to stream on Netflix, and I couldn’t avert my attention from this production. Breakdown of Every Five Persons Born: one becomes an avid collector of T.I. recordings and Tapout shirts from TJ Maxx, one becomes a deranged internet critic (go for it), one becomes the Little League champion of Woodcliff Lake, NJ, one becomes obsessed with MonsterQuest, and one just wants to get out alive. Les Franken isn’t certain his existence is worth the rubber on the soles of his running shoes. He woos the Girl at the Checkout Counter (Alexandra Holden) and volunteers for an experiment because boredom kept pouring the shots of tobasco and futility. After he takes the drug, he is re-born as a defender of the plebian pride, taking his responsiblity quite seriously.
Behold the power of a little blue pill. A peculiar and hypnotic image, as Les feels he has the world between his fingertips; however, as you can see, the planet’s stretched beyond true proportional allowance. Les sees the perfect blue planet of Louis Armstrong’s song – the denizens look upon this Giant Rapaport as the Devourer of Planets. ‘Wait, that’s the Nazi from Higher Learning? He’s gonna save us?’
Les Franken is the counterbalance in the cold equation with the confused and socially paralyzed Remy – Remy and Les could easily be the same person, years apart, with Les Franken holding hands with the Universal Claim…until this little blue oblong mess-em-up wobbles into his life. Special is a winner because the Everybody Wants to Be a Hero angle gets bent creatively. Superheroism: the speck of confidence, the hubris of omniscience, the bone-shattering crash, the agonizing return to good posture, the march forward. Grimy and gooey and all-over chewy – Hollywood could never digest it properly.
Added Bonus: Look for Mikey R. in The Naked Man – You say you want a movie featuring a chiropractor/professional wrestler whose parents were killed by an Elvis impersonator and Mr. Noodle’s brother (also named Mr. Noodle)?? Relinquish worry – I present this romp through the wildflowers that meets your exact specifications:
As Deep Purple says, the battle rages on…