1987’s Light of Day is an unremarkable movie. It’s fine. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a bad movie, but I certainly wouldn’t call it good. It’s simply… a movie. It’s the sort of movie I’d imagine would be right at home in the background of another movie while someone is channel surfing in an establishing shot.
Light of Day stars Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett as two siblings trying to make it in the Ohio’s music scene. Much like in more successful music movies like Purple Rain, their personal problems (namely with their parents) keep interfering with their bid at success and the Joan Jett character’s inability to play nice with others/stay on the kosher side of the law leads to a lot of in fighting/tension in the band. Add to that the fact that her character is a financially unstable single mother, and you have the makings of a simple story with a bit of potential to land.
But unfortunately, this movie doesn’t do much to land any of its punches. Despite being written and directed by Paul Schrader, who penned seminal Scorsese films such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, the movie lacks structure and moves at the pace of a made-for-tv drama, as opposed to a fast-talking and fiery rock n roll movie. One could argue that this is a creative choice on Schrader’s part, to explore things without the glitz and glam of a movie like Purple Rain, but it’s hard to look at the final product here and agree that it was a good choice for the story.
There is stuff to enjoy here though. Michael J Fox, arguably the films true protagonist, puts in a fine performance that was a break from his lighter/more comedic roles at the time. While one would initially assume that Joan Jett is this movies lead, due to it being a film about her bad relationship with her mother and her drive to be a musician, we really get a lot of the films pathos from watching her on-screen brother (Fox) process her actions and try to compensate for the mistakes she’s making. Another highlight of this film would be it’s title track, Light of Day, which was written by none other than Bruce Springsteen. And for an added piece of trivia, Springsteen’s iconic song “Born in the USA” also happened to be the original working title for this film.
I think that, more than anything else in this movie, Jett’s performance is the biggest misstep here. It’s not that Joan Jett is a bad actor though, she actually holds her own against Fox a lot more than one would expect her to; it’s the fact that casting a famous rocker in a movie about rock n’ roll tempers the audiences expectations about what they might get from the film itself. Failing to deliver on such an obvious expectation makes it hard to enjoy the movie we did get here, which (again) is perfectly… fine?
Honestly, for a movie about loving rock n’ roll that stars the woman that iconified the famous Arrows song about loving rock n’ roll… It doesn’t do much to truly show an appreciation for the genre.
I hope you enjoyed this review! If you’re, for whatever reason, still curious about this movie and wanna hear more about it, you can do just that by checking out the episode of my podcast, Media Obscura, about the movie! It’s available on your favorite podcast player, free of charge!
Before Tom Holland in the MCU, before Andrew Garfield in whatever mutated beast Sony had created out of Marc Webb’s attempt at a Spidey reboot, there was Tobey. Good ol’ Tobey Macguire in good ol’ Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.
It was a simpler time for super hero movies. They had only really just started to come out regularly in the form of movies about Spider-Man, X-Men and other miscellaneous Marvel characters, and there wasn’t the overbearing need for these movies to overlap and intersect with each other. These really were the adolescent days for the genre, and for every time-tested banger like Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, there was a huge misstep like Daredevil not too far behind it.
As a film, Spider-Man 2 is great. It builds off of everything that the original did and, despite thematically being very similar to Richard Donner/Richard Lester’s Superman II, is a blast to watch. It’s got everything from an obligatory Bruce Campbell cameo to well-choreographed action sequences and effects that (aside from some faulty blue screen execution stripping color from Spidey’s suit in a few shots) have aged a lot better than one would expect from a 16-year-old movie. Oh, and it’s also a great and accessible run through of utilitarian philosophy.
For 2004’s Spider-Man 2, famed Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi hits the ground running by framing the movie as an exploration of Peter Parker and his relationship with being New York City’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. A lot of the film has Tobey out of the suit and trying to balance his personal life with being a superhero, often to disastrous results. He feels obligated to reject Mary Jane’s clear-as-day interest in him, he’s unable to clear the air with his best friend Harry (who believes that Spider-Man killed his father), and his grades are slipping in College. He also meets one of his idols, Dr. Otto Octavius, who becomes the maniac “Doctor Octopus” after an experiment goes wrong and he’s stuck with sentient mechanical arms on his body.
The major theme of Spider-Man 2 is that of utilitarian sacrifice, and Raimi does a great job of exploring that within his characters. In his constant bid to put doing good over his own happiness, Parker leads an essentially celibate life and can barely hold a job or pay his bills due to spending all of his time as Spider-Man. It’s also noted by his Professor (future Lizard, Kurt Connors) and Dr. Octavius that he’s “brilliant but lazy,” often appearing exhausted when he’s in class. For Peter Parker, he’s decided to essentially live a sub-par life in a dirty studio apartment so that he could protect the city as Spider-Man. Such is his life until we see that Parker is losing his powers, due to rejecting his status of Spider-Man on a subconscious level. In my podcast episode on the movie, I was pretty quick to point out how this reminded me of the psychologist Carl Jung and his theory of the shadow, a subconscious part of ourselves that we have to confront/reconcile with in order to fulfill our full potential. For Peter, this means truly having to accept being Spider-Man and making the sacrifices he was making out of a desire to make those sacrifices, and not just the obligation/knowledge that it’s the right thing to do.
This view on utilitarianism is also found in Doc-Ock’s motivation. His chief desire in the film is to try and create a renewable energy source through fusion. Essentially, he wants to create and harness the power of the sun for the betterment of man kind. After his accident, he finds himself charged with a desire to continue his work and uses this motivation (which is the sort of “greater good” that utilitarianism loves) as justification to rob, steal and threaten the lives of millions of New Yorkers. His motivation of science over morality to solve a very real/genuine problem in the world (renewable energy) is the exact issue that gets brought up against utilitarianism regularly, and serves as a great contrast against what Peter is going through.
But it doesn’t stop there. Other characters also have their own utilitarian dilemmas. Aunt May’s about to lose her home in Queens but makes the utilitarian choice to put Peter’s financial woes/issues above her own problem. Even Harry Osborn has his own issue to work through in his desire to kill Spider-Man for what he believes he did to his father, despite likely knowing/understanding that killing Spidey would toss the city into even more chaos than it was in after Spider-Man had simply quit protecting New York.
I could go on for days about why I love this movie, but it’s that sort of detailed exploration of a popular philosophical topic that draws me to Spider-Man 2. While I am a fan of newer Spider-Man movies and absolutely love the exploits of Peter, Ned, and MJ in the MCU, Spider-Man 2 succeeds due to being an isolated affair. Without a greater universe to connect to, the movie gives it’s supporting characters room to have their own arcs outside of what the main character is experiencing. That’s not to say we get a huge arc for our secondary characters in this movie, but it definitely is a bit more substantial than what you find in movies like Spider-Man Homecoming/Far From Home.
If it’s been a minute since you’ve last rewatched the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, I strongly urge you give them another visit. They each have their strengths and stand out as really fun movies.
And yes, that includes Spider-Man 3. I can’t wait to review that one and explain why I actually think it’s a fine film.
I hope you enjoyed this review! If you did and are clamoring to hear more of my thoughts on Spider-Man 2, why not check out my podcast episode on the film? It’s available on every major podcast player via this nifty link, as well as on YouTube as a full video episode!
This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I like movies. Coincidentally, I also like podcasts. Movies tickle the soft part of my brain that seeks escapism from the mundane. Thanks to movies, I can witness adventures from a hundred years ago, visit far away fantasy worlds, or watch Arnold Schwarzenegger get an astounding amount of mileage out of a single one-liner. And podcasts are… Well, the same (sans Schwarzenegger).
I love movie podcasts, and I’m not ashamed of it. And why should I be? . While I think that watching movies and studying filmmaking are a fun solitary activity, there’s no denying that watching movies is almost always better with friends. One of the best parts of the film-watching experience is discussing movies with others after you’ve watched it; that communal aspect of the medium is what makes watching Marvel movies, experimental cinema or your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy so fun And honestly, that’s something that I feel has been lost in some capacity ever since the various societal lockdowns started back in March due to the coronavirus. And thatsucks.
I know, I know, there are definitely more important things out there than talking about movies with your friends, especially nowadays, but I often find myself missing those conversations everyone inevitably has with their friends about a movie when they’re walking out of a theater, or while you’re putting a DVD back into its case after a movie night. I also miss noticing and listening in on the collective glee of an audience, excitedly waiting in line to watch a brand new blockbuster. And though we can still technically have these conversations over Zoom or Facetime (again, I literally have a movie podcast that is more or less those exact conversations), one of the best replacements for losing that communal aspect of watching movies that I’ve found is listening to movie podcasts.
That sounded pretty dramatic, I know, but if you love movies and feel like you’re missing a part of what makes the movie-watching experience so special, podcasts do a pretty great job of compensating for that loss. Getting to listen to amateur movie critics (and professionals!) chat about their experiences watching a movie, vocalize their thoughts on what the film represents, or just ramble about something only tangentially related to the film their episode is about honestly really helps fill that void in my life!
Take How Did This Get Made, Earwolf’s incredible live movie podcast that’s hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas. Even when they’re covering movies that I’ve never seen before, I feel like I’m being welcomed into a conversation that is equal parts hilarious, and informative. I genuinely feel like I can listen to an episode of How Did This Get Made and walk away feeling like I had just been entertained learning something.
Even on the more informative side of movie podcasts, like with shows such as The Rewatchables, I feel welcomed into a conversation that I might have had after a trip to the movies that led to sharing trivia/thoughts on the film from the back of a bar.
Even non-mainstream movie and TV podcasts scratch that itch for me really well, though often in a different way. While it’s a lot of fun to listen to people who either work in the industry or make a living critiquing it, there’s also something special and enjoyable about hearing people who simply enjoy visual media share their passion for it. That enthusiasm towards something is refreshing and, honestly, much needed (especially these days, given current events) and the availability of a more everyman perspective on film is something that I tend to prefer over that of an esteemed critic. But that’s probably another post for another day.
Look, at the end of the day, movie podcasts rock. They rock when you’re listening to them while you’re cooking, they rock when you’re listening to them while you’re on a run, and they rock when you’re listening to them while you tune out playing video games or are cleaning. Speaking as a person that loves movies and also loves podcasts, it’s my favorite podcast genre, and I feel fortunate to be able to work on one myself. If you love filmmaking and wanna learn more about the craft in a fun conversational way, or just wanna hear people talk about movies you might wanna check out, movie podcasts are the answer you’re looking for!
So like, maybe give them a shot if you haven’t before? I dunno, you might dig them.
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you did and wanna hear more from me, why not check out my movie podcast, Media Obscura? It’s available on every major podcast player, as well as on YouTube as full videos!
Released in 1985, Commando is a fun, breezy film that loves it’s over-the-top violence, and doesn’t care for characterization outside of portraying Arnold Schwarzenegger as an unstoppable force of nature. Nothing more, nothing less. And you know what? I’m perfectly okay with that and believe that, sometimes, middle-of-the-road movies like these are a welcome change of pace from the constant extremes of watching cinema or drivel.
Commando follows Schwarzenegger as a retired commando that’s out to rescue his daughter after she’s been kidnapped by a dictator he had once ousted. Oh, and along the way, he also repeatedly performs Herculean feats of strength/endurance like flipping a phone booth and car over, as well as being able to dive out of a plane during takeoff without incurring any injuries.
One of the things that really helps with this movies watchability is that it seems to be at least somewhat self aware of how funny and absurd that it, and it’s star, can be. While action movies from some of Schwarzenegger’s contemporaries (such as Sylvester Stallone, for instance) tend to lean in on how overtly macho/”tough” their characters are, Commando knows that we can recognize that after taking a single look at our protagonist. The guy is over 6 feet tall and can rip seats out of convertibles like they’re a roll of paper towels. We get it. So, instead of being redundant, the film allows Arnie to crack wise and deliver delightfully cringe-inducing one-liners with a straight face. It’s great and, in a lot of ways, laid the foundation for the type of roles that the Governator would tend to take for the rest of his career.
And honestly, that’s the best that I can say about this movie.
Is Commando Schwarzenegger’s best? Probably not. In fact, it probably struggles to place itself among the better movies in his canon, and it certainly isn’t one of his more iconic movies, either. But on it’s own, it’s a lot of fun while it lasts and that’s more than enough reason to give it a watch. I personally had a blast rewatching this movie, even though I’m somewhat at a loss for words about. So, if you haven’t seen Commando before, I’d say give it a watch. You won’t remember it anywhere as well as you would any of the Terminator movies, nor as well as you might remember something like Predator but there’s a lot of fun to be had here, nonetheless.
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you wanna hear more of my thoughts on Commando, I highly recommend that you check out my podcast, Media Obscura! We did an episode on it that you can listen to from your favorite podcast player, or via the Spotify embed below!
Note: This movie was recently covered on our podcast, Media Obscura, which is linked at the end of this post.
Oh boy, do I love The Iron Giant. Look, I’m not gonna waste anyones time with this post. Watch The Iron Giant. Stream The Iron Giant. Crush The Iron Giant into a powder and mix it into a protein shake. This movie is fantastic.
And honestly, most people know this. While it was initially slept on upon it’s release in 1999, The Iron Giant has since gone on to become a cult classic due to the popularity of it’s home release, as well it’s expanded/remastered Signature Edition, and for good reason; the film is a dynamite story with themes of pacifism/coming of age, which manages to tell its story without resorting to preaching or superfluous, long-flowing scenes of dialogue. It’s also gorgeously animated, using a mix of cel and CGI techniques and features a gorgeous color palette, a classic-as-all-hell soundtrack and all the nods to 1950’s culture and the cold war a man could hope or dream for.
Unless you like to add metatexual references to every movie you watch, of course. If so, you’ll also love The Iron Giant for a whole other reason (see below, spoilers and all that stuff).
A lot of the praise that The Iron Giant gets is over how it handles it’s titular character, an alien visitor that is quickly depicted and pinned as being an allegory for Superman. Much like The Man of Tomorrow, The Giant is shown to be a kind hearted and immensely powerful being. And, much like Zach Synder’s 2013 effort Man of Steel, he’s also greeted by a confused and concerned US Government that believes that he’s a weapon of mass destruction. Comparisons like these (which were bound to happen, given the fact that the movie itself compares The Giant to Superman) have since led to the movie being, perhaps somewhat jokingly, referred to as “The Best Superman Movie,” by its fans.
And honestly, while I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with the sentiment, I feel that it glosses over a huge point of the movie itself.
See, for all the good that the Superman comparison does for the movie, I can’t help but feel like it undervalues the fact that The Giant chose to be a hero. While Superman also made this decision at some point of his life, especially if we look at the DCEU’s interpretation of the character, Superman’s decision to be a hero was never the focal point of the character. Superman’s MO, to my understanding, has always been that he’s been the ultimate immigrant story. Superman’s about coming to a new world and adopting it as his new home. While he ultimately represents being the purveyor of what’s good/just in humanity, he has always held onto his Kryptonian heritage.
And it’s with that in mind that I feel like considering The Iron Giant a “Superman movie” falls flat. If we want to look at it in terms of being a movie about a being with incredible power using it to protect those around him… Well, wouldn’t Spider-Man be the better analogy? I mean, that sounds an awful lot like that franchises mantra of “With great power, comes great responsibility,” doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we, like, get The Iron Giant in the next MCU Spider-Man movie? After all, The Iron Giant was an adaptation of a book that was originally titled The Iron Man… Just saying.
I’m not the only one to ever point that out, by the way. Movies With Mikey actually brought this up several years ago in a phenomenal video essay he produced on the film, and I’m sure this interpretation of the movie has come up before. While I am genuinely okay with interpreting the film as a take on Spider-Man (or even Superman for that matter), I think it’s important to remember that the film *isn’t* an adaptation of either of those characters or their story. Yes, Superman and him being a hero factors into the story of the film, but that hardly means it’s trying to be a Superman story.
If anything, I view The Iron Giant as an incredible story that uses the Superman reference due to the bold timelessness that one gets out of bringing the character up. Simply put, Superman is universal. He’s been around since the early 20th century and, for better or for worse, the publics perception of the guy has hardly changed over the years. The reference is a simple act of plot utility as far as I’m concerned. The movie wanted to define what a “hero” is and Hogarth used Superman to do so. This was perfect because it cut out a bunch of monologuing about what defines good because everyone already understands who Superman is. The climactic peak of the movie isn’t saying that The Giant wants to be Superman himself, it’s saying that he chooses to be a Superman-type. You know, a good person. It’s just kinda hard to see that when you get all the other Superman references that are in the movie and then hear The Giant’s last words are “Superman.”
Then again, it would’ve been weird to have him articulate that he really meant that he wanted to be a hero that lives in the mold of superman. I dunno, I would’ve been here for it personally but I see how it would’ve killed a very emotional moment in the movie.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that The Iron Giant isn’t a Superman movie, nor do we need it to be. It’s just a really, really, really good movie in general that has climbed its way to cult status and deserves that title.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you wanna hear more of my thoughts on The Iron Giant, perhaps consider checking out my podcast, Media Obscura? We did an episode on the movie there and you might learn a few additional things about the movie! You can listen to it on every major podcast player!
Alternatively, you could listen to our episode (with Full Video!) from the comfort and glory of the good ol’ YouTube:
There’s a rule when it comes to 80s Kung Fu movies; If the “Three Dragons” (Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao) are in it, it’s probably a good time. These actors, who had grown up and attended the Peking Opera school in China together starred in a handful of films together, were known for being able to blend comedy and actin in a way that worked its way into the hearts of millions of adoring fans. With movies like Project A, Wheels on Meals, and several Lucky Stars movies under their belt, they decided to end things on a high-note with 1988’s Dragons Forever.
The basic plot is as follows: Jackie Chan plays a lawyer that has been hired to defend a factory owner (who is secretly manufacturing narcotics in his factory) in an environmental lawsuit. While courting someone that’s going to testify against his client, Jackie sends two of his friends, played by Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, to help tip the scale in his favor in court. What results from this is several fights between them that are spawned from misunderstandings, an excellent rematch with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez (who had previously been in Wheels on Meals, and the Three Dragons playing against type for a change…
Which brings me to my biggest gripe with the movie. Because he’s playing a scummier character than usual, it can be a bit hard to get into Jackie Chan’s character until partway through the movie, when his character starts to change his ways. I think it’s mostly the shock of seeing Jackie’s character defend a rapist in court, as well as the shock of him being a manipulative lawyer, but something about his character didn’t sit right with me for most of the movie. And while Jackie’s character does absolve himself of his behavior throughout the movie (such as when he beats up the rapist he had been defending in court, immediately after the case was closed, it really doesn’t do much to change how I perceived the character.
That gripe aside though, Dragons Forever is a lot of fun The plot is honestly paper thin and the characters do ultimately start to act more like the roles their actors are known for by halfway into the movie, but what really carries the film is it’s action sequences. Watching the Three Dragons go toe to toe after repeated misunderstandings is a lot of fun to watch, and so is Jackie and the gang going up against rival drug manufactors and the group Jackie was hired to defend in court. The action, and the brutality of it, makes this one well worth the price of admission.
Dragons Forever was the last movie made that featured the Three Dragons on screen at the same time and it’s honestly a great sendoff for the group. After this, Jackie Chan would go on to focus on his solo career, making sequels for his Police Story franchise, as well as breaking out in America with the help of Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour, and Shanghai Noon. There were also a few lesser, but also fun, movies like Around the World in 80 Days and The Tuxedo in there too, for good measure.
Wanna hear more of my thoughts on Dragons Forever? Feel free to check out my podcast episode on the film!
Hot off the heels of Cyborg Cop, a direct-to-video action movie with a title that screams “we heard you liked Robocop but thought it was too good a movie, comes Cyborg Cop II. DEA Agent Jack Ryan has captured his arch-nemesis Nightraven, only to find out that he has been stolen away by an anti-terrorist taskforce in order to be turned into a cyborg. Because that’s a great idea, am I right?
Cyborg Cop II is a briskly paced action movie that has a few alright action scenes and totally skimps on anything even approaching characterization. You know those Lethal Weapon sequels that were made in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia? Imagine those, but completely devoid of a likable cast, and with an even more outrageous plot.
I mean seriously, a crazy drug dealer that has been turned into a cyborg law enforcement unit that goes rogue? That’s not only the dumbest premise for a movie that I’ve ever heard of, it’s also a rip off of the plot to Robocop 2!
The biggest problem that this movie has is how much it tries to get done on, what I can imagine, was a shoe-string budget. I counted no-less than 5 major set pieces in this movie (the opening drug bust, the reveal of the Cyborg Cops/them going haywire, the battle at a gas station, the battle in someones garage, and the final showdown between Jack and Nightraven) and all of them suffered from a lack of scale. These scenes were supposed to be the biggest moments in the movie and I can’t remember a thing about them. While I know dumb action is sorta the point of these movies, I can’t help but feel like cutting one or two of these sequences from the movie would’ve done a lot to improve the flow/scale of the film. As is though, it’s a disjoined and over the top mess.
I tend to recommend straight-to-video mockbusters whenever I get the chance to. I think that movies like these are usually the source of good, disposable fun and that they’re the kind of entertainment that’s ripe for having a few drinks and pizza with friends over. But can I recommend Cyborg Cop II? Not really. I don’t think it’s that bad, but it doesn’t really do anything to justify its existence. Is it over the top? Yeah. Silly? You bet. But it doesn’t do anything that wasn’t done in the original Cyborg Cop (slightly) better than it was done here.
As it stands, I’d pass on Cyborg Cop II. Who knows though, maybe Cyborg Cop III is a step better than this?
I hope you enjoyed this review! If you wanna hear more about what I think this movie failed at on a fundamental level, feel free to check out my podcast episode on the movie! You can watch it over on YouTube or from your favorite podcast player!
Class Action Park is a, strangely nostalgic, trip down memory lane for anyone that has ever visited the infamously dangerous Action Park in Vernon New Jersey. It’s also a fun, too-light-for-it’s-own-good, revamp of a lot of material that has already been covered elsewhere in just as much detail (though admittedly with less flair).
For those unfamiliar with Action Park, it was a bit of a right of passage for people living in the NJ/PA/NY area in the late 70’s through the 90s, as well as for subsequent generations that knew it under its rebranded title Mountain Creek. For what it’s worth, the park did revert back to being known as “Action Park” for a brief spell in the 2010’s, before going back to being known as Mountain Creek.
The doc, an HBO Max Original, follows several former Action Park employees and actors as they reminisce about their experiences at the park and everything it became infamous for. It also serves as an overview of the life of its founder, Gene Mulvihill, and his numerous efforts to get around the sort of basic safety regulations an amusement/water park would be subject to.
Prior to writing this review, I decided to take a look at what the critical response to this doc was. What can I say? I was curious about what people thought of the doc, especially as a person that grew up visiting it’s Mountain Creek/Action Park revival incarnation every summer as a kid. And upon doing so, I was actually pretty shocked with how much people liked this documentary! Now, don’t get me wrong, I liked it too, but one thing caught me as being a bit particular about the critical response to the doc.
Based off of the reviews Class Action Park is getting, you’d be led to believe that it’s a solid documentary that didn’t have any glaring issues or places that it could improve. And like, yeah, the documentary we got was fine for what it was. But it also could have been more than that.
As is, Class Action Park is a fun, mostly light look at the notoriously unsafe amusement park. A lot of the film is spent reminiscing about the park and the “good old days” of unsupervised fun spent there. That in itself is all well and fine, I suppose, but it kinda feels dirty once the film starts to dive into the details of some of the parks more morally bankrupt aspects.
The final chunk of the documentary dives into the stories of people who were injured/killed at the park and shows how devastating their injuries were for their families. And once this comes up, the documentary’s tone completely flips from the playfulness that punctuated the rest of the film. It genuinely starts to feel like a different movie once this happens too and honestly, I’m not unconvinced that a more serious look at Action Park would have made for a better movie.
What’s divulged in the final act of the documentary feels a lot loftier and more akin to a true crime series. And with the popularity of true crime (both in podcasts, film, and television) these days, I can’t help but feel like using this tone for a full documentary about the Vernon water park would have been a great idea.
Again, it’s not that Class Action Park was a bad documentary. In fact, I quite liked it and it brought me back to my own misadventures at the (safer) park after it had been rebranded as Mountain Creek/Action Park. But while I could have accepted the film we got as is, that tonal shift in the last act of it showed me that there was a much more interesting movie waiting to get made here.
There’s also, like, a vague dirtiness to the way that transition happens in the movie for me. Right before it happens, we get an explanation that Action Parks reputation had a counter intuitive effect on its popularity. Essentially, the more people got hurt at the park/the more vocal people got in the press about how unsafe it was, the more teenagers and its clientele deitized the place. Which is true; I actually have a lot of memories of my friends and I (stupidly) hyping the park up to each other each year while we were planning a trip there. The reputation of the park did make going feel like a huge adventure for us. But… The film’s mentioning of this feels somewhat fake/like a forced transition into the series side of the parks history. After all, it had just spent a bit over an hour glorifying the park and how straight-up incompetent almost everything about it was… Wasn’t it guilty of the very thing it was condemning?
In a perfect world, I think Class Action Park should have been 15-20 minutes of nostalgic hype, followed by an hour of serious investigation into the issues behind the park. No laughing, no “that’s crazy! He created his own insurance company” hype; just some straight/clean reporting.
I still enjoyed this documentary a lot but as far as it’s content goes, it has about as much interesting information as a 15 minute Defunctland upload about the park, albeit with some primary sources and higher production value.
Wow. This is the kind of movie that sounds too fake to really exist, and yet here it is. 1982’s Mazes and Monsters is an example of how the media reacted to the rising popularity of Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970’s and 1980’s and was inspired by the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III.
Long story short, a bunch of people pinned D&D for being a source of occultist/satanic beliefs in kids and was convinced that kids playing it would become incurably insane and lead them to either murder people, commit suicide, or get lost in the fantasy worlds they were playing in. You ever see Reefer Madness? It’s like that, but with dice.
Mazes and Monsters, naturally, takes this paranoia and tries to run with it, resulting in an uneven TV movie that has some great atmosphere in the third act, performances that are fine (and nothing more) and a theme/opening credits sequence that feels like the intro to Cheers smushed into the intro to The Golden Girls.
The most notable part about this movie is that it stars a young Tom Hanks in his first starring role, though you wouldn’t know about his incredible skills as an actor here due to an overly simplified and quick moving script. In a lot of ways, there are several missed opportunities in the film to explore mental illness and how trauma can affect people in different ways. Hanks’ character has some potential to be a genuinely great role for him, but Mazes and Monsters (foolishly) decides to scapegoat roleplaying games for Hanks’ problems, as opposed to discussing how the fictitious roleplaying game was actually an outlet for the character’s many repressed issues. While a game of M&M may have set Hanks’ character on a self-destructive path, his problems were there from the start and could have likely been taken care of by a psychologist/psychiatrist.
Ultimately, Mazes and Monsters is a fine/perfectly watchable movie. It doesn’t really excel at anything, nor does it outright fail at telling its story. This makes it somewhat hard to recommend to anyone outside of fans of roleplaying games that are looking for something to poke fun at with friends, or to diehard Tom Hanks fans. Even then, it’s dicey (no pun intended). While none of its scenes stuck out to me for being particularly good, there was some fun to be had in being able to talk about it with other people. The best part of watching this movie and getting to discuss it with my friends was how it served as the perfect segue into us trying to get into D&D ourselves.
Wanna hear more about Mazes and Monsters? Feel free to check out our podcast episode on the 1982 movie from your favorite podcast player! Alternatively, you could also watch/listen to our episode on the movie on Youtube!
Anyone that knows me knows that I love Scrubs. It’s one of those shows that I tend to always be in the mood for and that I rewatch at least once or twice ever year. And a lot of why I think Scrubs is such a great show is because of how it’s creator and show-runner Bill Lawrence manages to mix pathos (the emotion-drive Socratic mode of persuasion) with raunchy and creative humor in a way that services both my stupid human emotions and my funny bone.
And while the show has a number of characters that I regularly quote and relate to, one of the characters that I’ve always had an affinity for was Perry Ulysses Cox, the gruff/tough/push-has-come-to-shove Doctor who starts in Scrubs as an attending. I can’t getenough of John C McGinley’s portrayal of the character and his tough-love mentorship over Zach Braff’s JD.
I’m definitely not alone in this either, as Dr. Cox is easily one of the most popular characters in Scrubs and is probably just as, if not more popular and beloved than it’s main protagonist JD. While JD is a whimsical and somewhat effeminate lead, Cox works as his counterpoint. Another way of putting things is that JD is Bambi and Dr. Cox is… I don’t know, the battered and weathered husk of a deer that hits the gym every day?
Does that work? That works right? I haven’t seen Bambi in a while.
Simply put, Dr. Cox is the strict disciplinarian and role model in JD’s life. He serves as a surrogate father for our character and helps take him from being a meek intern, to being a successful Doctor. And today, I’m going to explore what I think is the centerpiece of Dr. Cox’s character and what made him successful in being Newbie’s mentor, as well as a bit of a cautionary tale for him.
But first, let’s discuss Dr. Cox himself. We all know that he can be a little hard to deal with and that he tends to butt-heads with the other Doctors at Sacred Heart, which stems from his very cynical world view that people are ostensively bad/evil.
It’s a bit of a narcissistic take to have on humanity, but it falls perfectly in line with who Dr. Cox is as a person and how his life experiences shaped him into being the person that he is. For example, we know that he had a pretty abusive childhood, thanks to a season 5 episode where we meet Perry’s sister Paige. So, to keep things simple, we know that Dr. Cox is both jaded and tired of being a doctor, we also know that he’s cynical and doesn’t exactly hold people in high regard, and we can assume that part of this is due to his experiences growing up and how he never had a mentor of his own. Except that he actually did have a mentor of his own, as we saw in a Season 1 episode. Although his mentor was a bit of a dick, so that’s actually a moot point.
However through knowing JD, Dr. Cox actually starts to change a bit over the course of Scrubs, which is what I’ll be getting into right about now. When JD starts at Sacred Heart, it doesn’t take long for him to cling to Dr. Cox for moral support. And while Dr. Cox seemingly doesn’t want anything to do with JD, he continues to keep an eye on the young doctor. It’s mostly so that JD doesn’t accidentally kill someone while he’s on the job, but it’s repeatedly established over the course of season 1 that Dr. Cox genuinely likes JD and wants to see him succeed, even if he’s too emotionally constipated to admit it. As for why Dr. Cox accepts JD as his pupil, season 1 also manages to hint towards a possible answer. In the first episode that features Dr. Cox’s ex-wife Jordan, she mentions that JD reminds her a lot of Perry. When we meet Jordan’s brother, we even see that Perry and Ben have a relationship that, in a lot of ways, mirrors Turk and JD’s bromance. In my opinion, I think this is why Dr. Cox’s relationship with JD is different from the one that he has with, say, Elliot or any of the other medical interns and Doctors. He probably sees a lot of himself, or the person he either used to be or could have been, in JD and wants to make sure that JD doesn’t lose that. Sure, JD annoys the crap out of Dr. Cox, but he also recognizes his potential as a doctor and his capacity for empathy, which is something that Cox struggles with personally.
But, conveniently enough for “Welcome Back Coxer,” his relationship with JD also manages to help refine his ability as a doctor too. Through spending so much time with JD, and watching him grow from being an intern to an attending, Dr. Cox learns how to relate to his patients, fix his relationship with Jordan, and how to stop getting in his own way all the time. Essentially, being a mentor allows Dr. Cox to help himself through helping JD. It’s kinda counter-intuitive, but it asserts that Dr. Cox is a smart and capable person who knows the answers to his problems, but just needed some help recognizing that he did. JD’s just the rock that Dr. Cox needed to ground himself in the professional world and to help him keep it together.
But what makes him cautionary? Well, Dr. Cox tends to get in his own way a lot and, when we’re first introduced to him in Scrubs, he’s a little rough around the edges. He lives in a sterile/impersonally decorated apartment, he drinks excessively, and he uses his difficult/hard-to-handle demeanor as a means of distancing himself from the other Doctors. Only, as we get to know him over the course of the show, as well as watch him grow as a person, we see that none of this is really who Dr. Cox is. Yes, he still lives in an apartment that is clearly a retrofitted OR and he still drinks a lot, but we see him engaging in less behaviors that are designed to keep people away from him. When Jordan leaves to visit her mother, we actually see Dr. Cox in a vulnerable place for once, when he’s shown being actively lonely. And in season 8, after becoming the chief of medicine, we see that Dr. Cox actually misses spending time with his patients, and is equally disappointed to miss out on spending time with his son Jack.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, because Dr. Cox sees so much of himself in JD, he represents what could have happened to JD if he hadn’t served as a mentor to him. Without Dr. Cox’s guidance, or had he failed to be a good role model/secondary father figure for JD, he probably would have ended up a lot like the Dr. Cox we met at the beginning of the series. And I think Dr. Cox knows this or at least comes to know this after his second encounter with JD’s brother, who tells him to stop JD from becoming another cynical doctor.
At the end of the day and whether you agree with my assessment of the character or not, Dr. Cox is a great character. He’s one of the funniest and most memorable characters on the show and I genuinely believe that deserves to go down as one of the great TV characters of the 21st century because of how flawed and human he is. He’s also just a great example of a character that has a great capacity and desire to feel, even if the act of feeling terrifies him as much as it clearly does.
Hope you enjoyed this article on Dr. Cox! If you wanna check out more Scrubs related stuff, I’d definitely recommend checking out my podcast episode on the show! You can listen to it below, or from your favorite podcast player!