THE SUMMER OF 1990: CADILLAC MAN

Meanwhile, the same weekend as Bird on a Wire

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The Movie: Cadillac Man

The Director: Roger Donaldson (No Way Out)

The Stars: Robin Williams, Tim Robbins, Pamela Reed, Fran Drescher

Release Date: May 18, 1990

Box Office: $27,627,310

“You know what you are? You’re an ass-half. Takes two of you to make an ass whole.”

Robin Williams’ legacy speaks for itself. One of the conclusions I’ve drawn from his career, however, is that the roles that drew off both his edge and pathos were the ones that resonated the most. A film like Flubber or Jumanji would require an elastic personality, but not the sheer force of forlornness Robin was capable of.

Dead Poets’ Society and Good Morning, Vietnam had managed to get both sides of the comedy/tragedy mask right to the point of an Oscar nomination and led both to huge hits commercially. Moreover, director Roger Donaldson was riding high off the questionable success story that is Cocktail. Cadillac Man, Robin’s direct follow-up to Dead Poets’, landed on May 18, 1990, a week before the summer “officially” kicked off on the holiday weekend as it usually did 25 years ago. Its box office take was a fraction of the films that surged him to the A-list, and it’s pretty understandable why.

Orion—one of the most ubiquitous and powerfully courageous studios of the era—marketed Cadillac Man quite transparently. Robin was sold as a sleazy womanizer whose passion for moving Caddies in Queens gets thwarted by a hostage takeover by jilted lover Tim Robbins, his bug eyes and AK-47. Some took the plunge. Others wanted the inspiration, the feeling-good part. A generation out, it’s lost in translation.

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Seeing why Cadillac Man found more attraction as a rental and pay-cable staple is very understandable. Surface-level glances at Joey O’Brien (Williams) seems to show he’s miscast for the part, especially as Ken Friedman’s screenplay certainly called for something darker. Al Pacino was attached to the role before him, clearly a reversed straightforward homage to being the hostile party in Dog Day Afternoon. Imagining Danny DeVito schmoozing unwitting Japanese and Russian customers, or Michael Keaton—riding high off of going demented as Beetlejuice and Batman—sporting that mustache and talking 60 miles per minute to negotiate his life—feels more in line what they set out to make.

Cadillac Man, nevertheless, is unquestionably one of the most underrated films and performances Robin Williams ever offered. That magic shoots up in the opening scene, where notices a hearse break down as he cruises in his convertible. Instead of offering grievances and a sensible way to find help for the Jewish mourners (led by an irate Elaine Stritch), he refuses to—he immediately drums up a way to swindle a commission off of them and gets tossed aside.

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Woe is Joey, and he needs redemption. He’s trying to win his ex-wife (Pamela Reed) over again, but he’s too sidetracked by three simultaneous affairs with Fran Drescher, whose husband is a mob boss that Joey owes money to, aspiring artist Lori Petty, and dealership receptionist Annabella Sciorra. The latter is a problem point, as she’s married, and her husband Larry (Tim Robbins) crashes the lot’s big weekend sale armed with C4 and an AK-47. Oh, and Joey has to sell 12 cars or he’s fired.

Very few characters in Cadillac Man are sympathetic—they’re mean-spirited, vain, and make terrible decisions. For one, Joey is an absolutely deplorable person. He’s a personal and professional deadbeat who brags about his issues and supposed flaws to the audience, an opportunist who will try to push a luxury vehicle on anyone he crosses paths with right until the end. That’s not to mention the priorities on his libido—for the love of god, he has wild, nightly sex with The Nanny and still shows up at his ex-wife’s house to win her and their daughter over.

Williams pulls off something rather miraculous as Joey. He has all the traits of the kind of man who crashes and burns in a midlife crisis, but upon meeting Larry and realizing the incestuous bickering of his cohorts in the workplace, he realizes he just might be sane enough to save the day. Precisely, that’s how you see the warmth in Joey, that despite his poor judgment he has the charisma to solve problems and, like the salesman he is, negotiate.

The supporting cast is remarkable as well. The women in Cadillac Man are terrific—Reed’s harried former spouse is arguably the only character without a shoulder chip. Drescher is hilariously obnoxious and Lori Petty kickstarts that divine quirk she carried throughout the decade.

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Tim Robbins is the scene-commander, however. He was high off playing a stupid hothead in Bull Durham and he repeats that here as Larry. Larry is the kind of criminal who fashions himself after the movies he’s seen, empowering himself by idle threats yet making faulty decisions with his vengeance. Whereas your normal deranged psycho wouldn’t give a shit about food, he allows his captives to take refuge at the Chinese restaurant across the street and give them opportunity to cross paths with the police.

There’s a sense of violence and danger that could have made Cadillac Man a straightforward thriller, something Donaldson has and had experience with on films like No Way Out and Species. The direction is confused because comedy is not his forte, leaving Williams’ improv skills and the eccentricity of its cast to carry the weight. Orion definitely wanted this to be the Ruthless People of 1990. They did their job, but audiences wanted their lead to inspire them and make them laugh. It’s too dark to be an outright comedy, too light to create a real threat—but it works gangbusters and deserves something of a cult following beyond “Oh, I saw that a long time ago.”

Maybe if Kino Lorber, Olive Films, or Shout! Factory can get it on a Blu-ray. I’d buy it.

Cadillac Man is not available to rent or buy on iTunes or Amazon, nor is Netflix streaming it or renting the DVD. However, it is airing on MGM HD at 12:05 am on Tuesday, May 26. That’s May 27 on your cable guide, but I consider midnight to still be part of my day. Set your DVR’s accordingly.

Alternately, grab the DVD on Amazon!

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THE SUMMER OF 1990: BIRD ON A WIRE

This summer, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of 1990, a year that boasted what is arguably the last summer movie season that almost exclusively catered towards adults.

The great Scott Mendelson of Forbes posted an article shortly after wanting to embark on this journey. When studios tried to go kid-friendly, they could barely get to the $100 million mark, but R-rated films and decidedly mature PG-13 efforts ended up proving to be the kings of summer. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Home Alone proved PG-rated movies were moneymakers, but that happened outside of the season. And now, in 2015, The Pleasuredome salutes the crazy, big-budget, high-profile, and often overblown summer that was the beginning of the 90’s.

Our first submission comes in from a writer who will only refer to himself as “Mark Puckerberg.” As such, I can only post this under the pseudonym due to his fear that the principles of the summer’s first star-studded gambit, Bird on a Wire, would provide unfathomable retaliation against him. Mr. Puckerberg has shown great courage in kicking off our look back, and I hope you enjoy what he has to say about Mel & Goldie’s adventure

. Mind you, I’ve actually never seen this movie.

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The Movie: Bird on a Wire

The Director: John Badham (Stakeout)

The Stars: Mel, Goldie, David Carradine, Bill Duke

Release Date: May 18, 1990

Box Office: $70,978,012

Nobody has ever said that Bird on a Wire is their favorite movie. Maybe there was one guy back in ’90 whose yearbook caption listed this as his favorite movie. Director John Badham made a career out of nobody’s favorite movies. Sure, he’s got a good solid contender in Saturday Night Fever, but otherwise it’s the odd man out that claims to be the world’s number one Blue Thunder superfan.

Let me back up a bit and give a little personal story about this movie. Don’t worry, it’s not about formative sexual experiences or the cold, distant love of my father. Just relax. I won’t ask you to open your dead heart and emote. The weekend this movie opened, what I really wanted to see was Class of 1999, which is about cyborg teachers, and let’s leave it at that. That flick was playing way across town, and my pre-license self was still at the mercy of adults with cars. Therefore, if I wanted to see a movie, I had to settle on a closer theater. This was the only movie whoever was involved agreed to see.

Mel, Goldie, and John Badham’s unremarkable style was no proper substitute for cyborgs. Don’t worry, gentle reader, I saw the cyborg teacher movie when it hit video. In those days, however, we had to wait sometimes as long as six months for a movie to hit home video. Yes, it was a cruel and barbaric time.

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Now, I reluctantly return to Bird on a Wire, which, all these years later, is still no match for cyborgs. Let me explain the labyrinthine plot right away: Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn get chased by David Carradine and Bill Duke, playing themselves. That’s roughly the extent of the plotting. The rest is exposition, and not all that interesting. Apparently, 15 years before the film, Mel & Goldie were lovers. Mel and a friend were caught up in a drug smuggling operation (it’s really not made clear; this movie doesn’t seem interested in explaining its own bullshit) against their will. David Carradine ends up murdering the friend, as David Carradine often do (see also: Kill Bill).

Mel enlists in the Witness Protection program, and things seem okay… until Carradine is released from prison. For some reason, he cannot proceed with a lucrative partnership with a drug lord until Carradine kills Mel. When the movie opens, Mel is working for an older black man that owns a garage in Detroit. Sounds a lot like a popular series of movies Mel made, right? Anyway, this guy might as well have been named “Short Timer.” I half expected a scene of him being fitted for a coffin as he walked and talked. As fate has it, and it always does, Goldie must go to Detroit as part of her soulless corporate gig. This affords Mel & Goldie a (re)meet-cute, and poop plops in the toi… I mean, the story gets set in motion. Soon, they’re aided of a crooked FBI agent, and there’s no doubt he’s crooked. He’s played by Stephen Tobolowsky of “Ned Ryerson?” fame, but that was before he played sympathetic characters so he’s a jerk. The bad guys end up chasing Mel & Goldie all over the country. Well, at least two states.

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Bird on a Wire came out at a time when Hollywood was at least minimally obsessed with hippies and their ethos, but they were more concerned with the fallout of that over the decades. All of that was an unfortunate byproduct of baby boomers running Hollywood, and the silly next generation assumed all that hippie nonsense actually meant something. This was evident in both thoughtful ways (Running on Empty) and not so thoughtful (Rude Awakening, Flashback). Bird on a Wire manages to be neither of those. The movie isn’t even interesting enough to let Mel be a smuggler or have any guilt or remorse over the death of his friend.

Instead, they were very innocently flying back and forth to Mexico in the mid-70’s, probably delivering much-needed medicines and supplies to impoverished orphans. Yes, some murky blackmailing is the only reason that he ever crossed paths with Carradine’s character, who, I must note, spends most of the movie dressed like modern-day Steven Seagal, replete with garish tinted sunglasses. There is no real reason the movie presents why these characters have to be hippies, or ex-hippies, or any iteration thereof, except that it makes sense for the timeline. At one point, Mel dances and sings along to Bob Dylan, but the movie constantly throws Aaron Neville slow jams on the soundtrack. If it was all in tandem with Mel’s identity crisis following 15 years in Witness Protection, then great job.

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Mel’s history with the FBI is also treated just as haphazardly. In Bird on a Wire‘s version of the Witness Protection Program, the biggest problem for Mel isn’t ordering spaghetti and meatballs and getting noodles and ketchup. Rather, Joan Severance pines for him, forcing Mel to have the indignity of having to pretend to be a gay hairdresser. That’s right, Mel has to affect a stereotypical lisp in order to fall back in with his former compatriots at the salon. Thankfully, there isn’t much of this. Considering it was 1990, it could have been worse. This movie’s FBI just generates new identities based on possible Three’s Company plots, as another variation has him being a hunky carpenter and all around handyman for the aforementioned Severance, who runs an idyllic veterinarian’s clinic/home for wayward fatales. Rough life.

Everything climaxes in what we’re told is a zoo, but this zoo looks like no zoos I’ve ever seen. In design, it looks like one big room where they let all manner of big cats and monkeys play together in a warped representation of the laws of the jungle. It looks more like a laser light show than zoos of which you would see in San Diego or the Bronx. Mel used to work there, so he knows the layout, but the movie makes sure to not have him use that advantage in any meaningful way. If all you want out of a movie is to have Bill “Anytime” Duke mauled to death by big cats, then this is the movie for you.

Spoiler: Mel & Goldie sail off together, probably much to the chagrin of her loving and loyal boyfriend. A similar fate befell Charles Grodin in Seems Like Old Times, when fate puts her and Chevy Chase together in the final scene. Goldie was kind of trifling.

I’d go into more detail, but as it is, I just told you the whole movie. That’s it. It’s uncannily generic. Mel & Goldie get off a few good zingers, and they have chemistry together, that’s for sure. I did spend most of the runtime wondering why Kurt Russell wasn’t involved, but I don’t want to go overboard here. I’m not even sure why the movie is called Bird on a Wire, when I’m surprised it wasn’t simply released as Untitled Mel & Goldie Project, as that’s the only thing is really has going for it: the innate likability (before 2006) of Mel & Goldie.

In conclusion: Not enough cyborgs.

Bird on a Wire is running on Starz and Encore right now. It’s available to buy and rent on iTunes and Amazon, or on DVD.

WHAT IF THIS GOT MADE? The Avengers (1985)

Often, the Internet likes to wonder about alternate paths movies would have taken in other eras. In fact, the fantasy-cast trend dates back to the 90’s, where Wizard magazine would dream on a supernova that comic book movies would get made.

Who would direct these films? What big-name actor or star on the rise would have the role decades earlier?

Welcome to What If This Got Made?, a column that examines the could-have-been and could-be possibilities of films occurring in different eras, now or then, and realistically trying to make the pipe dreams feasible.

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The Movie: The Avengers

The Era: 1985—THEN

For the first shot at this, I’d like to address an article over at IGN last month. The Avengers was retooled for 1985 with an all-star cast that felt like—uh, well, you wouldn’t have much allowance for the visual effects.

It got us thinking, however, how would an Avengers film 30 years go down? Take into consideration of where the actors involved were at in their careers, the scope of the film, all that. Pleasuredome contributor Chris Coppedge and I are proud to kick off this column with a look at how we think it would’ve gone down in ’85.

Universal holds the rights to the Incredible Hulk, but they want to cash in on the blockbuster era. Spielberg’s a crown jewel, but they want another guy since he’s busy with other material, and they need boffo bucks. Why not go for comic books? In 1982, plans for a 3D Hulk film start with Joe Dante attached, but negotiations fall through with Dante. After failing to snag the rights to Spider-Man and X-Men, they get a package deal of other famed Marvel heroes—Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and more—and decide to go all in with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

THE DIRECTOR

Mike: IRVIN KERSHNER (The Empire Strikes Back)

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One of Hollywood’s most prolific workman directors, Kershner’s profile took a boost with one of the most acclaimed sequels of all time. He’d brought back Sean Connery as James Bond in Never Say Never Again two years earlier. It’s the sort of movie every genre director would be offered and turn down—why not go for a guy who can get the job done and well?

CHRIS: Robert Zemeckis (Romancing the Stone)

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THE WRITERS

CHRIS: Steven E. de Souza (48 Hrs.) and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon)

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The plotting of Die Hard with the smart-assery of Lethal Weapon, although this would have the same basic plot.

MIKE: James Cameron (The Terminator) and Steven E. de Souza (Commando)

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Jim Cameron’s on the rise. They’re taking notice of this Terminator risk, but they also know he’s delivering some cool action beats for Stallone on his First Blood sequel. He delivers a draft that pits the heroes against the menacing artificial intelligence being Ultron. Deemed too expensive, Universal brings in Steven E. de Souza—who’d dabbled in plenty of genre fare before and would continue to stay in the field of thrills and spills after ’85—to make it funnier and slightly smaller scale than the more brooding, existential danger of Cameron’s draft. That’s where the Nordic god of mischief, Loki, replaces Ultron as the villain…

THE CAST

TONY STARK/IRON MAN

CHRIS: MICHAEL KEATON

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The livewire of films like Beetlejuice mixed with the turmoil of Batman? Perfect, says I. Keaton was on his way to being one of America’s favorite smartasses and Stark is one of the greats at that—likely, however, Keaton would be clean-shaven.

MIKE: CHRISTOPHER WALKEN

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Walken balances sarcasm and personal demons like few other actors and his eccentric charm is the stuff of legends. Think about the risk of casting Robert Downey Jr. back when Marvel was starting up their film business—it’s the same here. He’d done some noble genre work like The Dead Zone, which is what makes Kershner believe he can humanize the famously tortured, alcoholic Tony Stark in red and gold metal armor. In later interviews, de Souza claimed Stark was the hardest character to write and that Walken improvised roughly 80 percent of his dialogue—a notable example was telling Loki to “quit playing reindeer games.”

STEVE ROGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA

MIKE: MICHAEL BIEHN

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Hot off working with him on The Terminator, Cameron recommends the rising Biehn to take the vibranium shield. Only when the studio’s top three choices for the role—Kurt Russell, Jeff Bridges, and Richard Gere—turn down the part does Biehn get an audition. It’s an arduous process that involved much screen testing, with many up-and-comers failing to get the confidence and valor of Cap right. Universal brass caved in when they saw the surprising opening weekend gross of The Terminator and believed in the freedom-fighting spirit that Biehn showed in his screen test.

CHRIS: KEVIN BACON

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Footloose cemented Bacon’s aw-shucks likability and energy, yet could nonetheless summon up great, righteous fury. Those angry solo dancing scenes? I’d say that’s perfect hints at what he could do with for Cap.

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CHRIS: JEFF BRIDGES

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This was hard. This was really, really hard. I emphatically did not want a lovable meathead like Schwarzenegger, Stallone, or Van Damme in this role. I think with a little bulking up and some kind of crazy accent, 80’s Bridges could bring this guy to life wonderfully.

MIKE: RUTGER HAUER

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Both drafts of the script eliminated Thor’s Earth alias, Donald Blake, from continuity. The Dutchman went without argument as the first choice for the part. Interviewed in Starlog about how he’d done two fantasy films the same year—Ladyhawke and Flesh + Blood—Hauer joked, “I didn’t have a hammer in those.”

BRUCE BANNER/THE HULK

MIKE: KEVIN KLINE/DOLPH LUNDGREN

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When Bill Bixby decided to focus on more directing jobs, Lou Ferrigno walked with him, leaving a gap for two new actors to play both sides of the coin. Kline plays introverted nerd appeal beyond hilts and his conveyance of that leads to a wounded, existential portrayal of Banner that balances out when he suddenly regrets his transformation. Lundgren’s physique went highly praised in auditions and he got some help from ILM and a little upstart called Pixar to make this Hulk far more than a strongman in green paint. While the Hulk only appears in a few scenes due to budget concerns, the scenes of destruction pay off with audiences.

CHRIS: BILL BIXBY/LOU FERRIGNO

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Perhaps this is cheating, but I think Bixby would be wonderful as an older, more deflated take on Banner, yet still dedicated energy amongst the then-younger actors.

NATALIA ROMANOVA/BLACK WIDOW

CHRIS: SIGOURNEY WEAVER

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How could I NOT cast her in this role? This would be a year before Aliens, but she could still kick plenty of ass at this point.

MIKE: HELEN MIRREN

mirrenThis was an extremely hard choice for me. Part of me really wants to put Rachel Ward in the role, but Mirren’s Russian ancestry just resonates here. That’s in addition to the affirmed turns she had early in the 80’s in Excalibur and The Long Good Friday. Mirren has a Valkyrie spirit no matter what she does—she stops everything on screen. Black Widow is one of my favorite Marvel characters because of how deadly she is. Unlike other famously homicidal antiheroes like Wolverine and The Punisher, Natalia will manipulate enemies before she ultimately offs them. Cameron initially wrote her as just that, a hardened S.H.I.E.L.D. operative recruited away from the KGB with a brain wired to shoot anything that moves. The revised draft by de Souza had her as a second-in-command villain, closer to her comic roots, a KGB spy infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. who ends up exploiting Earth’s cosmic invasion—only to turn good in the third act. The femme fatale idea was rejected by Mirren and Kershner, the original idea sticks, and she earns a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress—but she gets unfairly shafted from an Oscar nod. Often cited as the MVP of the film, Mirren gets a meaty role but another character gets the “villain” shaft…

CLINT BARTON/HAWKEYE

MIKE: JAMES REMAR

remarCast thanks to his wild-eyed turns in The Warriors and 48 Hrs., Remar’s ability to play incendiary, short-sighted hellraisers is a perfect fit for the often hostile archer. Cameron took full advantage of the character as just that, a guy who the Avengers viewed as the red-headed stepchild of the family, an instigator who ends up lacking self-esteem and gravitas in battle. Studio notes felt that he was too similar to Black Widow and, reading into the comics, felt their bond needed to be stronger, so de Souza’s draft turned Hawkeye into being hexed by Loki’s powers for most of the film, continually trying to thwart and murder the team, as to eventually steer Romanova’s bloodlust towards Loki. Cameron later said in an interview, “I already made my killer robot movie—why make another?” Hawkeye’s original portrayal later had many of his traits retrofitted into the character of Hudson in Cameron’s Aliens.

CHRIS: KURT RUSSELL

kurtRussell was something of a big star at this point and I think he could have done well in a more supporting role, showing a strong range from cold and inert to energetic and affirmative in the final battle. I’d love to hear his delivery of “You and I remember Budapest very differently.”

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CHRIS: KENNETH BRANAGH

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Not gonna lie, kinda proud of myself for this one. At this point, Branagh was a virtual unknown outside of the British stage, much like Hiddleston was before he broke out in Thor. Combined with his enormous energy and verve as an actor, especially at this part of his career, Branagh would give a Shakespearean gravitas to his scenery chewing, elevating the villain to something of a tragicomic antihero.

MIKE: MICK JAGGER

jaggerPerhaps the most bizarre casting choice of the film, Jagger returned to acting for the first time in 15 years to play one of the Avengers’ earliest adversaries. Jagger makes a lot of puns involving Rolling Stones songs, leading to a goofy in-joke where Iron Man blasts “Street Fighting Man” out of his suit in a battle scene at an art museum. Beyond the goofiness and novelty, Jagger is one of the coolest, most charismatic dudes to walk the Earth and critics praised his ability to menace without overtly threatening the audience. The fanboy community has a problem with his performance as years go by, but in our hearts, Mick Jagger nailed that role.

PHIL COULSON

MIKE: JOHN PANKOW

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Coulson was an original character that de Souza created as comic relief, a rookie S.H.I.E.L.D. lackey who offered warmth to the team but doesn’t suffer fools. Chicago actor Pankow—who had just filmed To Live and Die in L.A.—takes this role, one that critics noted was a lighter version of who he played for William Friedkin. Coulson surprisingly connected with test audiences, enough that reshoots had to be made so that he survives Loki’s injury to him and he joins in on the climactic New York battle, and that future adventures would feature the dutiful, by-the-book charm.

CHRIS: BILL PAXTON

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Business-like, yet with humor and heroism? That’s Paxton. Of course, in your version, he dies at the end. -Mike

MARIA HILL

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This is slightly gag casting, since Cobie Smulders is primarily known for How I Met Your Mother and I thought it would be fun to do another sitcom star in this no-nonsense role. That aside, I think Struthers would be fine here.

MIKE: GEENA DAVIS

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Another original character created for the film, Geena Davis snags the role right on the cusp of The Fly and an Oscar win. She’d been hitting the sitcom circuit and had bit parts in stuff like Fletch, but one small role in a $40 million blockbuster led to a flood of offers. While Hill was established into the Marvel fold and Coulson a new addition in the 2012 film, the likely playout of this film had them in a buddy-cop relationship, with Hill being the looser cannon of the two.

COL. NICK FURY

MIKE: JAMES COBURN

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McQueen’s dead, Bronson’s busy with his vigilante career, and Eastwood should be Batman in an 80’s Dark Knight Returns. Also, Bruce Lee trained Coburn to kick people’s asses and the man could rock a cigar. Court adjourned.

CHRIS: DANNY GLOVER glover

This wasn’t that difficult. Weary with authority, but still badass—it’s Glover’s stock in trade.

What About the Sequel?

Mike: Dropped into theaters for the Christmas season of 1985, Universal gets the second highest grossing movie of the year with The Avengers, clearing $166 million domestically and giving them the top two highest grossing films of ’85, Back to the Future being first. Naturally, sequel talk starts and Warner Bros. starts getting thoughts about answering the call with a fresh take on Batman.

What happens? Maybe The Avengers 2 comes roaring in the summer of 1988, or for the Christmas season. Perhaps new creative blood enters in the form of newcomer Frank Darabont, who makes his directorial debut and co-wrote the script with his Blob and Nightmare 3 comrade Chuck Russell. With the studio’s blessing, Ultron is allowed to be the villain? Maybe John Lithgow provides the voice of the monstrous Stan Winston creation. Who knows?

Chris: Some possible sequel castings: John Lithgow as the voice of Ultron, Mark Hamill as Quicksilver, Lea Thompson as Scarlet Witch, Rutger Hauer as JARVIS/The Vision.

Mike: Hey, we finally saw eye to eye on a casting choice!

Avengers: Age of Ultron is in theaters now, but you already knew that.

The MCU: What are the Best Movies? Where Do We Go Now?

Mike here. A warm welcome to one of our new Pleasuredome correspondents, Dan Blum! He’s passionate about comic books and loves his movies. Give him some respect, even if you don’t agree with everything he spews out, okay guys? Excelsior!

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Disclaimer: The second half of this article will be going into where I believe the Marvel Universe is going. Spoiler warning for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Dan’s Marvel Movie Ranking!

11: The Incredible Hulk – The only Hulk movie that truly exists, and it was still mediocre. I know people dig the Eric Bana one, but, well, ehhhh…

10: Iron Man 2 – Oh, horrible Mickey Rourke acting… how we haven’t missed you…

9: Thor: The Dark World – And the award for fake-out death no one ever bought goes to…

8: Iron Man 3: Fan boys wept this day.

7: Thor – Everyone loves them some Loki, but that is about it.

6: Avengers: Age of Ultron – Same Avengers fun. No Avengers magic. All Phase 3 setup.

5: Captain America: The First Avenger –  Cap done right.

4: Guardians of the Galaxy – A talking raccoon with guns and a huggable ass-kicking tree? What is there not to love?

3: Iron Man – The movie that truly started it all in all its Robert Downey Jr glory!

2: The Avengers – The movie everyone had been waiting for. We all needed new pants and underwear after that midnight show.

1: Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A better James Bond movie than most of the real ones, and Marvel’s crown jewel as of yet.

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Once again, spoiler warnings as this part will go into where the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is going post-Ultron. I will not be going movie to movie, just generally where I see the MCU heading.

As Age of Ultron closes, Iron Man “retires” (again). Hawkeye seemingly retires to his ranch with his wife and kids. Thor goes to put on fresh makeup for his next film with out seeing his girlfriend (what a dick). Quicksilver’s body is all gunned up and dead (but he’ll be back next summer in X-Men: Apocalypse!). The Hulk takes an Avengers jet in a ship to a remote island. Importantly, Steve Rogers has a new Avengers lineup to assemble: Scarlet Witch, The Falcon, War Machine, the ever-badass Vision, and of course, Black Widow.

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There’s been a bit of confusion that Ultron is the end of Phase 2, but it won’t be the last film in the current cycle. Officially, July 17’s Ant-Man will be the last Phase 2 film, where Paul Rudd will test the waters as the shrinking con man spotlighted in the trailers. That’s not too important at the moment, however. Ant-Man will certainly get a reaction this summer, but all eyes are on next year’s Captain America: Civil War, which was headed for a showdown with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice on May 6, 2016 before Warner Bros. blinked and gave it the Easter weekend slot. While many major players are confirmedChris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and more are confirmed to be part of the castthe exact number of heroes that will show up in Civil War is unknown. As in the storyline, it’s safe to wager that Rogers and Stark will be playing the MCU lineup against each other, recruiting, stealing, and double-crossing the characters we know and love. The fans are absolutely craving the appearance of two hotly anticipated arrivals: fan favorite Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (not cast at present time, but recent reports narrow it down to young actors Asa Butterfield and Tom Holland).

Ultimately, I’m seeing a tragic end to this one, much like the storyline, where Captain America is assassinated by charred mercenary Crossbones (Frank Grillo). Conversely, I could also see them doing something more similar to what is currently afflicting Steve Rogers, where he loses his serum, stripping him of his youth and powers. This results in him overseeing whoever is left over on the New Avengers. Regardless, Chris Evans will be done until Avengers: Infinity War – Part II, as unconfirmed rumors state that the old guard will not have major roles in the 2017 and 2018 releases. Part I will be an opportunity for Spidey, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and more duke it out. Plus, Sebastian Stan is signed on for nine films with Marvel. We’ve seen two of them and we’re getting another next year. Could Bucky inherit Steve’s mantle, as highly speculated?

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NOTE: Most of these release dates have been changed because of that webhead.

Avengers: Infinity War – Part I hits May 4, 2018, and between Civil War and then, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man will debut in solo films, while Thor gets his third run and James Gunn gets the Guardians of the Galaxy back together. Part I will see the New Avengers overpowered by the Mad Titan himself, Thanos, in preventing him from getting the infinity stones (My money’s on him having at least one or two at the beginning). The tricky one for Thanos to get his hands on will be the Vision’s, and if you’ve seen Age of Ultron, he’s not exactly the weakest guy to beat. Obviously, Thanos will get his hands on all the Infinity Gems and all hell will break loose. Does this mean The Visionone of the breakouts of the new filmwill live or become severely weakened? I’m banking on him dying, as that will raise the ante by proving the new blood couldn’t take out Thanos before he could get all of his precious jewels.

Part II will see the New Avengers recruit all our original favorites, with familiar faces from Netflix’s lineup and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. uniting for the ass-kicking of the century. There’s potential for something cluttered and disjointed in an ambitious crossover event like this, but Joe and Anthony Russo turned in Marvel’s best film and they’ve staked plenty of faith in the brothers to take charge at something this big and keep the action mellifluous and focused.

Inhumans comes in on July 12, 2019, two months after the Infinity War will have been fought. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has brilliantly set up elements of the mythology in the show, which should allow for a smoother transition into the inevitably large cast that the back end of Infinity War will pack. Part II is crucial in that it will likely be the end of an era, 11 years of beloved characters and actors likely saying goodbye to their roles and getting Marvel primed for a fresh start into the unmentioned frontier of Phase 4.

Marvel chief Kevin Feige has plans for the MCU through 2028do you?

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Mike’s Video Alley: The Red HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER VHS Tape!

Millennials are arguably the last generation that was able to embrace the soul-opening wonder that was the mom-and-pop video store. Before there was a Blockbuster on every sub-metro highway, your local video store—or, as previews on tapes would call it, “your local video library”—would be right next to the pharmacy or a convenience store. Hell, your rentals may have been inside of a pharmacy or convenience store. The point is, in an era of having a few hundred Netflix tiles and a strong indecision to decide what to watch, the novelty of posters, swag, and popcorn machines surrounding the Styrofoam-stuffed VHS and video boxes feel lost in time, buried in our memories.

I remember before the Blockbuster came to town, our local stop was Video Alley, where I rented Clifford, The Naked Gun, and many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tapes there. Posters all over, the aforementioned old-time popcorn machine, a Silence of the Lambs butterfly sticker… it’s all part of my vivid early childhood memories. I can still see the brown generic clamshell boxes and the red-and-gold logo that boasted comedy and tragedy masks.

Streaming has made that physical experience a relic, if more convenient, in terms of accessing movies, but nothing replaces that experience.

Welcome to Mike’s Video Alley, a look at the tapes, merchandise, and even some movie moments that highlighted the video store experience.

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The Original Hunt for Red October VHS Tape!

 The Hunt for Red October remains the best entry of the Jack Ryan movies, or any Tom Clancy adaptation for that matter. The dialogue flows, the cast rules, and John McTiernan completed his three-strike turkey that started with Predator and Die Hard. Despite the massive box office and Paramount’s setting a trend of pricing videos to own three years earlier with Top Gun and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Red October was priced for rental and if you wanted to own a copy, you’d have to shell out $80 to $100 to own it.

Now, if you planned on accruing enormous late fees or wanted to rent it twenty continuous times in a row so that you could memorize Sean Connery’s “Once again, we play our dangerous game” speech, that would be a viable option. If you wanted to conserve cash, you could be patient, wait six months to a year for the thing to hit Sam Goody for $15-20 brand new, or buy it previously viewed for the same price three or so months down the road.

Retroactively speaking, I would have suggested getting your hands on the tape while it was still a rental, as Paramount started a nifty trend on Red October.

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The physical tape and label lived up to the color of communism. I’d been on the hunt for this going back a while and managed to track it down on eBay a few years ago. VHS usually reserved crazy colors for the kids (dig those orange Nickelodeon tapes!), but a big hit like this demanded something a lot more attractive. It’s just a tad disappointing that such a beautifully badass videotape wouldn’t be available in stores. Were they looking to make this a collector’s item and throw people into a frenzy?

The tape is sourced from The Video Vault in Dwight, Illinois (rest in peace). The top sticker on the tape categorizes The Hunt for Red October as “drama,” code name DRAMA 638. For the life of me, I’ve never understood those codes—was it the 638th drama to come in stock?

I find the genre designation odd because I’ve always considered it a film that falls somewhere between action and thriller. Sure, it’s dialogue-driven, but did the folks at The Video Vault not pick up on the submarine warfare and a handful of shootouts? That was always the side effect of movies that blended genres—you ended up in a broad misfit category once the new-release phase passed by.

Given, that was probably a corporate move, but come on, it’s an action movie. Hell, the description on the back of the box promises “high-tech excitement and sweats with the tesion of men who hold Doomsday in their hands” from the man who gave us Dutch Schaeffer and John McClane. Eventually, sometime in 1991, The Hunt for Red October gets dropped in with the likes of Rain Man and Wall Street, where “high-tech excitement” and “Doomsday” are not terms associated with classic drama.

The contents are sadly no-frills as well. It doesn’t live up to that tape. Obviously, it’s reformatted to fit your old as hell TV screen and that screws up the picture. Meanwhile, the only trailer at the beginning promises Paramount’s “Great Movie, Great Price” promotion, where their “classics”—and this would technically refer to movies released the late 80’s and earlier—have been priced to own at $14.95. For me, the goal of tapes was always selling the “coming soon” aspect of things, or maybe a cute commercial plus a trailer.

Later, Ghost came on a white tape and The Godfather Part III on two shiny gold cassettes, but that was the perestroika moment for Paramount’s custom-colored VHS days. Even with three big movies from one year, I’d say that was a cool legacy to have.

That’s all I got. Remember to adjust your tracking, be kind, and rewind.

We’re Coming Back, We Swear!

Okay, I’ll confess.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve had fresh material on here and I feel like it’s time to bring it all back. This time, however, I’ve got a new gang of awesome writers and talent on-board, so it won’t be just me. In the coming weeks, expect some cool new material from my new team and me.

See you on the inside!

There Are No Words…

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

And you milked that spark for every last drop, Robin. Good god. Here’s my friend from The Erix Antoine Network on his passing:

The Erix Antoine Network

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I’m trying to remember when I was first exposed to Robin Williams…

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment. I’m pretty sure the first thing I ever saw with him in it was Moscow on the Hudson. And I fell asleep during it. … Oh wait. I remember. My first exposure to Robin Williams was a Mork action figure I had. I didn’t know what it was. It was this little man with curly hair, dressed in a red jumpsuit of some kind. And there was what appeared to be a giant silver V on his chest. There was a popular sci-fi series on TV at the time, called V. At the time, I remember thinking this action figure was from that show. So I would just refer to it as V.

All this is to say that Robin Williams has been a part of my life – in…

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ERIX ANTOINE’S ANNUAL PODCAST: Episode 3 – And The Kids LOVE Glenn Frey!

Erix Antoine of The Erix Antoine Network, Jason Pollock of what is best in life and I recorded a loud, raucous commemoration of the summer of 1989 for The Erix Antoine Network, when Batman, Indiana Jones, the Ghostbusters, James Bond, the Enterprise, Riggs and Murtaugh, Rick Moranis and more duked it out in a summer season for the ages. Films are debated, fisticuffs thrown, some REALLY funny jokes are made.

It has nothing to do with considering these guys friends that this is the most fun I’ve ever had doing a podcast, and there’s TWO PARTS to this! So, kick back with your wonderful toys, flip on Like a Prayer or the Batman soundtrack and listen and share!

The Erix Antoine Network

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And here’s another one.

On schedule this time.

It is officially the 25th anniversary of Batman. And, for a guy who was turning twelve in the Summer of 1989, that’s kind of a big fucking deal.

For many others, it probably isn’t. But the fact is, Summer 1989 does remain one of the “legendary” movie seasons. And it seemed fitting that now, one generation removed from its explosion, we should look back and reminisce.

To do this, Jason Pollock and I got together with our good friend Mike Flynn who runs a fun blog called The Pleasuredomeand he’s about as obsessed with movies in general and the Summer of 1989 in particular as I am.

What resulted from this was an extremely rich discussion, where we went over the films but also tried to pin down if 1989 even deserves its legendary status… It was such a splendid…

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Quick Thoughts on… NEIGHBORS (2014)

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Neighbors isn’t just the frat-versus-suburbia comedy the marketing has promised. This is dark, dangerous stuff, and arguably the ballsiest and dirtiest studio comedy since Observe and Report (also starring Seth Rogen, natch). Like The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s the sort of movie filled with awful behavior that can be too easily construed as endorsed by the filmmakers.

What it really functions as is a biting satire of modern parenting, the extremity of college life, the tyranny of American misogyny and the scary intersection where it all collides. It’s a comedy where the protagonists aren’t above deception, recreational drug use and reckless property damage to get a point across.

With a few keystrokes, Rogen and the hilarious Rose Byrne’s burned out new parents, Mac and Kelly, would be combating Delta Psi in the guise of a “neighbors from hell” thriller from the early 90’s a la Pacific Heights or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Their charm makes it lighter but the chaos is pitch black.

And I’ll just lay it out here right now: Zac Efron is fucking brilliant in this. He is the breakout performance, the high point, the character that incoming teenagers and twentysomethings will idolize for the wrong reasons. Going back to The Wolf of Wall Street, Efron’s role is very much like what Leonardo DiCaprio did as Jordan Belfort, and his frat ringleader Teddy is effectively Belfort if he’d skipped business class to watch Old School on a loop. The only thing charming about him is his chiseled physique and hypnotic blue eyes; he bears a strong resemblance to a young Rob Lowe. Beneath that is the villain of the piece, and one of the best comedic acting jobs of recent memory. Just a few years ago I’d never have envisioned him as able to pull off a role like this. Now, he’s as much of a Disney star as Kurt Russell.

He is a human rollercoaster of sociopathic hedonism, an abider of “bros before hos” and unwilling to allow anything less than the opposite of wholesome in the way of his boys, which include memorable turns from Dave Franco (whose moment dressed as Robert De Niro’s cat-clutching Meet the Parents character is even funnier than you think it’d be from the trailers) and a not-so-McLovin Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

This movie is going to be huge and I fucking loved it. There are images here that will linger past being just a comedy. I got the comedy I paid for. The culture clash is the sweet stuff and the best part. And it’ll absolutely grow on repeat viewings.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (1974)

How many of you are not excited for Captain America: The Winter Soldier? It better be none of you. Okay, maybe I’ll stomach one unlucky bastard for not mustering up the excitement for what’s sure to another win for Marvel Studios. Whether or not it can top Iron Man Three for me remains to be seen, but my close friend Josh Marowitz (follow him on Twitter @IAmJustJoshing) saw an advance screening in Raleigh last Thursday night. His response: “…not just the best Marvel film yet, it’s the best comic book movie ever. Period.” This is coming from someone who adored the first Cap (and after multiple viewings cited that as his favorite), and the last time he said this thing sort of thing as a gut reaction was The Dark Knight. I don’t know what to tell you other than get excited, boys and girls.

cap2A couple months ago, I gave some love to Francesco Francavilla and his beautifully rendered Batman 1972 concept art. Now, Eisner award-winning artist Paolo Rivera has taken the purported 70’s conspiracy thriller influences of The Winter Soldier and embodied them into the beautiful poster above. The structure of the characters, the quote marks around it, implying The Winter Soldier is the standalone title of the piece… I adore the out-of-time look to this. Had this been done 40 years ago, I’d put money on something like this happening. All it needs is the old rainbow-like Columbia logo or A UNIVERSAL RELEASE in the bottom-right and boom. Ready for prime-time in ’74.

Not a paranoia thriller tack, but enjoy with some cool 70’s music: