Miracle Mile

Miracle_Mile

1988

Hemdale Film Corporation

Written and Directed by Steven De Jarnatt

Produced by John Daly/Derek Gibson

Music by Tangerine Dream

Okay. Two things before I get into the story synopsis and summery part of the review. Bear with me for a bit, okay?

First off, I do not care a poobah’s pizzle about spoilers. Really, I don’t. I’ve been watching movies and TV shows long enough that I really can predict where the plot is going and what the characters are going to do. So it takes whole lot to surprise me. That’s not to say that I advocate people spoiling movies and TV shows for others. Which bring me to MIRACLE MILE. Despite it being made almost thirty years ago, the emotional power of the movie rests on you not knowing what its about. And so, unlike other movies made during that year such as “Scrooged” or “They Live” or “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” which everybody knows and is familiar with, MIRACLE MILE absolutely depends on you seeing it with a fresh eye and not knowing what is going to happen next so that you have that “Oh, Shit.” feeling you’ll have when the end credits roll. And if you see it for the first time, trust me…you’ll say, “Oh, Shit.” when the movies ends. If you don’t, you have no soul.

Those who have seen MIRACLE MILE who are reading this are now nodding in agreement with me.

Second, MIRACLE MILE is a movie that comes to my mind when people ask me about my favorite horror movies. You can keep your “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday The 13th” as they’re nothing more than gore porn. And if that is your thing, Odin bless you and may Heimdall make your way clear to Midgard. But for me, MIRACLE MILE is the a prime example of the real deal when I talk about horror movies. Because it’s something that could actually happen and something I wonder about and ponder how I would behave if I were in that situation.

MIRACLE MILE begins with a sweet romance between Harry (Anthony Edwards) and Julie (Mare Winningham) who meet up at the La Brea Tar Pus Museum and fall in love at first sight. They spend the day together and make plans to have dinner and go dancing after Julie gets off work at the all-night diner where she works. Due to a power outage, Harry oversleeps and misses the date. He races down to the diner and finds out she’s left for home. Harry goes outside the diner to use a pay phone to call her. The phone rings and Harry picks it up. What he hears changes everything as he thinks it’s a panicky message about how nuclear missiles have been launched and World War III is only 60 minutes away. Harry attempts to find out more is cut off by machine gun fire and a voice on the phone telling him to go back to sleep.

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Harry returns to the diner and informs the other patrons of what he’s heard. Most of them are folks you would expect to find at a diner at 1AM and they don’t believe him. That’s until the chick at the end of the counter (Denise Crosby) who is dressed like a lawyer takes her satellite phone out of her purse, calls a few numbers, asks Harry a few questions and confirms that everybody important in Washington, DC from the President on down to the janitor who cleans the toilet at The Washington Monument is leaving town and heading for everywhere nuclear missles can’t reach.

Everybody immediately scrambles to try to get out of Los Angeles before the missiles hit. But here’s the thing that makes MIRACLE MILE so brilliant: we’re never really sure if what we think is happening is really happening. Are nuclear missiles really coming to turn America into a radioactive wasteland? And does that make any different when we’re so willing to turn on each other and become brutal, bloodthirsty monsters just to survive?

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As far a apocalyptic movies go, MIRACLE MILE is right up there with the best of them. It goes so fast from from being a sweet romance to a horror survivalist movie it’ll make your head burst. I have never been much of an Anthony Edwards fan but damn if he doesn’t nail it with this one. Harry spends most of the running time of the movie trying to to save the life of a girl he’s only known for a few hours but he sells that shit. 90% of the movie rests on his shoulders and he carries it with no problem at all.

And as for for Mare Winningham…sigh…this is an actress who should have enjoyed a more successful carreer. No, she’s not what we could consider conventionally pretty but she’s sexy as hell. And she can act. Mare Winningham can do more with a look than Demi Moore or Courtney Cox can do with three pages of dialog. She’s nothing less than remarkable in MIRACLE MILE

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And if you’ve never seen her in any other movie, watch her in this one.

So should you see MIRACLE MILE? Absolutely YES. It is at once one of the sweetest romantic movies I’ve ever seen and one of the most horrifying movies I’ve ever seen and there ain’t a lot of movie I can say that about.

Rated R

87 Minutes

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Guest Review by Sean E. Ali

This is a landmark for THE FERGUSON THEATER as for the very first time I’m featuring a Guest Review written by none other than Sean E. Ali, the insanely talented graphic designer and illustrator who is currently the Director of Art & Design for Pro Se Productions. He’s also the talent responsible for the current look of Dillon on the covers of  the new editions of”Dillon and The Voice of Odin” and “Dillon and The Legend of The Golden Bell.” He’s also an avid movie fan and when I read his review of BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE on Facebook I immediately asked if I could repost it here. That was simply a courtesy because the review was so good I’d have posted it anyway if he’d said no.

So read and enjoy and if you like it then let Sean know. Maybe if we encourage him enough, he’ll write more reviews I can showcase here. Mr. Ali, the podium is yours…

From the “Batbland V Superbland” File…

So…

Twelve things I learned tonight watching BATMAN v SUPERMAN…Oh and just assume spoiler alert was said somewhere, my feelings are such that I know blabbing details won’t stop it from being number one this weekend…

…but I do what I can to save folks money so I took this bullet for you…

Let’s begin if you’re still here.

1) It’s a great movie…

…if by great you mean the part where Wonder Woman shows up in costume and does something warrior like in a full on battle. In fact, just hang out in the lobby for roughly one hour and forty-nine minutes and then go right in and it’ll be the best damn superhero fight scene…

…nah, the fight scenes are okay, but Wonder Woman made it so more than any of the others.

Also, it’s the only part of the film where someone cracks a smile…

…even if it is because she’s fighting for her life at the time.gallery-1449140319-batman-v-superman-3

2) Zack Snyder secretly hates Superman’s guts.

I don’t exaggerate, that guy just doesn’t get the character even when he’s riffing off of every overdone comics event events ever…

We get “The Dark Knight Returns” and the first half of the Doomsday saga, some Superman Godhood stuff…

…but not in the same way you do in a Marvel flick where you’re excited to see echoes of great old comic stories done with the same sense of adventure and humor that made them work in print.

This was kind of the diet root beer version of that: it kinda tastes right, but then there’s that horrible aftertaste…

However Ben Affleck might be able to bring Batman up to scratch if he does another one.

Preferably a film with an actual plot and better editing.

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3) The film cameos other characters with potential films from the DC movieverse…

…and I appreciate the advance warning on what to miss if BATMAN v SUPERMAN is the baseline for these films.

The Flash looks like a mess and he was on the screen for seconds…

However, I’m still onboard for Wonder Woman, DC may want to reset around her…

4) Ben Affleck Batman = Captain Ahab.

In fact just go read “Moby Dick”, you’ll thank me later.

5) I was in a near full theater, at the end of the film about ten folks clapped…

…and believe me, there was a pause like they had to think about it first.

6) When the credits roll? Leave.

This ain’t a Marvel flick, what you saw is all you get.

And folks who waited until the end were not thrilled about that after what they got.

7) Ben Carson has strong competition in the sleep inducement department.

8) The Batman Superman fights?

Much more exciting if you stick with the trailers.

Really, the Batman scene that got me in seat seen in context to the rest of the film?

I felt kind of gypped.

9) As a general rule, fans shouldn’t cheer Superman getting his ass kicked by Batman.

That just seems wrong when the actual villains still haven’t shown up.

Plus, the whole thing could’ve been solved if Batman had actually listened to Superman when he said “we need to talk”…

…But nooooo, he just goes all “old guy sucker punching at a Trump rally” because no reason.

10) The most basic origin story in comics, the death of Batman’s parent is finally made as confusing as any other superhero on the block.

No, you didn’t read that wrong.

…or maybe you did, whoever edited this film really muddied the waters.

11) There was no emotional connection at all.

Seriously, when what happened to Superman happened…

…folks were noticing that they just ran out of popcorn or shooting selfies and such.

I think some of us were glad Henry Cavill let that part go as is in case there is no longer a need for “Man of Steel 2”

12) Jenny, the most important intern in the history of the Daily Planet, is alive and well and still getting paid to maybe replace Jimmy Olsen but no one knows…

And to make it a Baker’s Dozen (that’s tossing in one extra over 12)…

13) I finally understood the film I saw when we got to the credits and saw that the two creative consultants and comic talents being thanked at the outset for their assistance were…

Frank Miller and…

…wait for it…

…Dan Jurgens.

See if they had run that first, I could’ve gone home early…

So to sum up…

…Marvel’s got nothing to worry about here.

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London Has Fallen

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2016

Millennium Films/Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures

Directed by Babak Najafi

Produced by Gerard Butler/Mark Gill/Matt O’Toole/Alan Siegel

Screenplay by Christian Gudegast/Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt/Chad St. John

Story by Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt

Based on characters created by Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt

We’re all busy people here so I’m going to cut right to the chase: there is absolutely no reason for you to see LONDON HAS FALLEN.

Let me explain: it’s not that it’s a bad movie. In fact, much like its predecessor;  2013’s“Olympus Has Fallen” it’s a satisfying throwback to 1980s Action Movies. It’s a B-movie with A-list talent and budget. Both “Olympus Has Fallen” and the other White House invasion movie of 2013, “White House Down” turned out to be better “Die Hard” movies than the actual “Die Hard” movie that also came out that same year; “A Good Day To Die Hard.” In addition, LONDON HAS FALLEN manages to also pull off the job of being a pretty good “Die Hard” knock-off. This is why I’m telling you that there’s no reason for you to see it. You’re not going to see a movie that’s wildly innovative in plot, character, visual style or storytelling. LONDON HAS FALLEN does not in any way, shape or form re-invent The Action Movie. It is the filmic equivalent of a Big Mac with a large Coke and fries. Not that that has to be a bad thing. Sometimes all you want is a Big Mac with a large Coke and fries.

But if you did indeed see “Olympus Has Fallen” and enjoyed it as I did then you’ll probably want to check out LONDON HAS FALLEN. And you’ll probably have a good time watching it as I did. I went in with full knowledge of what I was getting and I was satisfied with that.

Top Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are getting ready for the birth of their first child. Mike is seriously contemplating resigning from The Secret Service to devote his time to his family. That decision is put off by the sudden death of the British Prime Minister. The President, along with about fifty other prominent world leaders all travel to London for the state funeral. Mike naturally goes along, with Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) as well.

Turns out that the entire funeral is a massive death trap. Armies of mercenaries attack the world leaders and their protective details as well as bombing various London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. The terrorists hack into London’s computer and power network, effectively shutting the city down. London is cast down into utter chaos as civilians are massacred in the streets and the terrorists run riot. It’s up to Mike Banning to get the President (Aaron Eckhart) to safety before the terrorists capture him as they intend to kill the President online while the world watches.

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Sounds like a pretty exciting set-up, don’t it? And it is. The special effects guys have a field day going nuts destroying London’s most beloved landmarks. They do their job of convincing us that London really is being blown to smithereens. Back in Washington D.C. Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) Joint Chiefs Chairman Clegg (Robert Forster) Secretary of Defense McMillan (Melissa Leo) and White House Chief of Staff Mason (Jackie Earle Haley) watch the carnage on jumbo sized 4K monitors and spend most of the the movie wringing their hands in agony and muttering “son of a bitch!” every two minutes. Seriously. They take turns saying it. Except for Melissa Leo, who I honestly believe didn’t have a single line in the movie. She has some terrific reaction shots, though.

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Back in London, Mike makes contact with an old buddy of his, MI6 agent Jacqueline “Jax” Marshall (Charlotte Riley) who hides him and The President in a safehouse until a Delta Team can extract them. However, when a group of terrorists show up, Mike realizes that the danger to The President’s safety and London is even greater than anyone thought as there has to be a mole inside the British government working with the terrorists.

While I’m glad to see Gerard Butler once again back in Action Hero mode, I can’t help but wish that he hadn’t wasted all those years making braindead romantic comedies. He’s equally as good with the obligatory wisecrack after breaking someone’s neck as he is in the quieter scenes he has with Eckhart, Mitchell and Bassett before the mayhem starts. Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster and Melissa Leo are all way too good actors for this material but they’re game to play along and they do. And when you have actors of this quality in a Action Movie they can’t help but give the story an added depth. They’re just hardwired that way.

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The movie is directed competently and effectively by a director I’m not familiar with by the name of Babak Najafi and he really doesn’t go out of his way to put a visual stamp all his own on this movie but he does do something I’ve never seen before in an action movie and it’s really quite remarkable. Remember the long tracking shot in “Goodfellas” where Henry Hill takes his girlfriend through the Copacabana? It lasts about three or four minutes, right? Well, Najafi does something similar here in a scene where Banning and the Delta Team are trying to rescue The President from the terrorist stronghold. It’s a vicious, savage firefight done in one long tracking shot that has to last at least two or three minutes and it’s a really badass piece of work.

So should you see LONDON HAS FALLEN? Didn’t I answer that question at the beginning of this review? Go back and read it again.

Rated R

99 Minutes

 

Billy Jack Goes To Washington

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1977

Taylor-Laughlin

Directed by Tom Laughlin

Produced by Frank Capra, Jr.

Written by Tom Laughlin & Delores Taylor

See, it’s one thing when Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) goes into a two or three minute monologue about how he’s gonna kick ass and takes his time removing his socks and boots before doing so. Given the conventions of an action movie, we go along with it for the purposes of suspending our disbelief for the duration of the time we are willing inhabit this fictional universe. But when we have JEAN ROBERTS (Delores Taylor) also going into the ritual of removing her socks and boots before kicking ass…well, you done lost me.

And don’t get me wrong. We have seen in the previous movie; “The Trial of Billy Jack” that Jean has been studying hapkido under the tutelage of Bong Soo Han himself, renowned as the ‘Father of Hapkido.’ So I would expect that between that movie and this she has achieved a level of proficiency where she can certainly handle herself if attacked. But removing off her socks and boots while her opponents, all of them trained CIA killers who have knives in their hands assigned to kill her but patiently wait for her to get herself ready to beat their asses…nah.

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But then again, this isn’t the first improbable thing that BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON wants us to accept. For many years this was the red-headed stepchild of the “Billy Jack” franchise. It only had a very limited theatrical release and really has only enjoyed a wide viewing availability on DVD and via cable/satellite channels such as The Sony Movie Channel which is where I saw it. And for good reason. Whereas “Billy Jack” is a supremely good movie to watch and “The Trial of Billy Jack” is worth watching if you know what you’re getting into, BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON is worth forgetting.

Through a series of events that are far too complicated for me to relate here in this review as I try and hold them down to a thousand words or less, Billy Jack is appointed a United States Senator to fill out the term of a Senator that has died. Billy Jack quickly decides to use his new found power to propose a bill to fund a national youth camp. Unfortunately for him that land has already been earmarked by the D.C. power elite for a nuclear power plant. Billy Jack counts on the help of an old family friend, Senator Joseph Paine (E.G. Marshall) to achieve this goal but Paine is under the control of Mr. Bailey (Sam Wanamaker) who holds no political office but does hold the balls of Senators and Congressmen in his pocket.

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Billy Jack refuses to play political ball and decides to take to the Senate floor to get his message out. In a stirring filibuster in which we see that Tom Laughlin tries his best to invoke the spirit of Jimmy Stewart and grab an Academy Award attempts to save his youth camp and expose the evils of Big Corporation.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I fully understand that all of Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jack movies are his platform for his political views. And in the case of “Billy Jack” and even “The Trial of Billy Jack” I appreciate and understand what he did. Especially in the the case of “Billy Jack” which is a pretty damn good movie when taken on its own terms.  But this movie? MEH.

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My recommendation? Watch “Born Losers” “Billy Jack” and “The Trial of Billy Jack” and leave it at that. There’s an excellent reason why BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON was unseen for many years and it’s the best reason of all. It’s not a good movie. Even though it boasts A-List actors such as E.G. Marshall, Sam Wanamaker and Pat O’Brien it also give the spotlight to Lucie Arnaz. And in this movie she demonstrates that she has neither the looks nor talent of her parents and we can easily see why she never had a career to equal theirs.

But Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor are always watchable. They are these characters and that gives them a reality that’s worth watching. I did enjoy seeing Teresa Laughlin as Carol as I like seeing how that character has grown and developed from a folk-song singing kid in “Billy Jack” to being Jean’s unofficial second-in-command to the point that there are a couple of times in the movie where Billy Jack asks for her opinion instead of Jean’s.

But I can’t recommend BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON as entertainment unless you seen all the other “Billy Jack” movies and just want to complete the series. It’s too blatant an attempt to cram the political views of Laughlin and Taylor into their fiction and I can’t endorse the movie as entertainment.

155 Minutes

NR

 

The Trial of Billy Jack

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1974

Taylor-Laughlin/Warner Bros.

Directed by Tom Laughlin

Produced by Joe Cramer

Written by Frank Christina and Teresa Christina

There’s a couple of great fight scenes that are equal to the ice cream parlor and battle in the park scenes in the first “Billy Jack.” One of the fight scenes even has the Great Great Man Bong Soo Han backing up Billy Jack as he takes on a new Posner (the one from the first movie went crazy behind his son being killed so this is his brother giving Billy Jack grief in this one.) But you got to wait a long time for those fight scenes as THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK is a whopping three hours long, a rarity during the 1970s. Movies just weren’t that long as theaters preferred movies with a running time of 90 minutes or so because that meant they could get in as many showings as possible in a business day and sell more popcorn.

And THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK tries to take on a whole lot for one movie. We get statements on the My Lai massacre (in a flashback we see that Billy Jack was involved in a similar incident) Native American mysticism, militant homegrown terrorism as a form of political protest, the pros and cons of investigative reporting, child abuse, counter-culture lifestyles, illegal government surveillance on private citizens. On one hand, THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK can be applauded for even attempting to address so many social issues in the form of an action movie. But on the other hand it also tries to take on too much and as a result at the end of its running time the movie ends up being a mess that in its effort to say so much about so many issues that we’re not sure which cause we should be for.

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Thanks to Billy Jack’s deal at the end of “Billy Jack” The Freedom School has grown and flourished. In fact, some of the best scenes in this movie belong to Delores Taylor as Jean Roberts. She founded The Freedom School but its grown way past what she wanted it to be and it’s now out of her hands as her students are now in charge of the school and see her more as an impediment than an ally. There’s a terrific scene she has where she finally gets pissed off, throws a chair into the crowd and tells the students that goddamn it, she built this school and they’re going to listen to what she has to say.

A lot of the problems besieging the school comes from their hosting hearings on corporate abuse of the Native American tribal land The Freedom School is built on. Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin) gets involved after he’s released from jail (he served time for killing Bernard Posner in the first movie) on behalf of the Native Americans once they find out that their land has been sold out from under them by their corrupt tribal chiefs to mining corporations.

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See? Told you it was a lotta plot. Throw into that Billy Jack’s undergoing an ancient Navajo ritual so that he can confront his violent side and an ending that blatantly references the Kent State shootings…and yeah, you can understand why this thing is three hours long.

If you read my review of “Billy Jack” then you know that I advised you watch that movie as it was a time capsule of issues confronting American culture at that time that “Billy Jack” addressed. It’s the same with THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK. Its political propaganda agenda is even more blatant than “Billy Jack” which at least tried to give us the beard of an action movie plot. THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK doesn’t even bother to do that. And I have to admit, the ending where we see the unarmed students of The Freedom School, including Jean brutally shot down by The National Guard is a horrifically disturbing scene that makes its point. As well as the action taken by some of the National Guardsmen and Navajo tribesmen following the shooting.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I recommend THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK. There’s a lot to like. I continue to love the relationship between Billy Jack and Jean Roberts. And since Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor were married at the time this was made I’m sure that had a lot to do with their chemistry. I appreciate and applaud Tom Laughlin’s respect for Native American traditions and culture and how he has it depicted by Native Americans. I like how we see that after her rape in “Billy Jack” Jean has taken up studying hapkido herself. Pacifist she may be but fool she ain’t. I like how we’ve seen that Carol (Teresa Kelly) has grown up into a capable and mature young woman and become Jean’s de facto second-in-command. Tom Laughlin gets another one of his great slow burn scenes where he actually asks permission from a 6 foot 9 inch bully to kick his ass.

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So should you see THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK? Okay, here’s the deal…it’s actually not necessary unless after seeing “Billy Jack” you’re really committed to seeing how the story of Billy Jack, Jean and The Freedom School plays out. I myself like it because as I said about “Billy Jack” it’s a fictional representation of real life events, concerns and issues that were indeed playing out in our country at the time. It’s not family friendly Friday or Saturday night viewing but it is worth seeing at least once.

 

2 hrs 50 minutes

Rated PG

Billy Jack

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1971

National Student Film Corporation/Warner Bros.

Directed by T.C. Frank

Produced by Mary Rose Solti

Written by Frank Christina and Theresa Christina

Don’t get me wrong…I do understand why modern day movie fans who weren’t even a glimmer in the eyes of their parents back in 1971 have a hard time understanding why this movie was such a massive hit back then. I do understand why they call the movie “corny” and “cheesy” (and that is the absolute first and last time you’ll see that hated word used here). They don’t understand because they weren’t there

BILLY JACK was made during a time of extreme turbulence in American culture. We were in the middle of the civil rights movement, Native American rights movement, protests against the Vietnam War. The youth of our country embraced the counter-culture (“Hippie”) anti-government/anti-authority philosophy of the movie’s main characters. In addition, the movie has a strong theme of pacifism (embodied in the character of Jean Roberts) vs. the use of violence to defend one’s self and one’s beliefs (as embodied in the character of Billy Jack)  The bottom line is that if you weren’t there, I can understand why BILLY JACK wouldn’t resonate with you. But it’s a movie I highly recommend that you see. If you’ve been reading my reviews then you know that I always recommend movies made in earlier times as time capsules of what was going on in America at the time they were made. And BILLY JACK does indeed have a lot to say about what was going on in 1970s America.

Billy Jack (Tom Laughin) is the self-appointed protector of The Freedom School and the Navajo land it is built on. Billy Jack is more than qualified for the job, being a decorated Green Beret veteran of the Vietnam War and a master of the martial art of hapkido. Billy Jack protects the wild mustangs of the land against local rich fat cat Stuart Posner (Bert Freed) who hunts them and sells the meat to dog food companies and The Freedom School against the nearby townspeople who just don’t like them damn dirty hippies.

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A young runaway girl named Barbara (Julie Webb) returns home, pregnant and mean as barbed wire. Her father (Kenneth Tobey) beats her nearly to death after she taunts him that she has no idea if the father is black, white or Indian. Sheriff Cole (Clark Howat) pleads with Billy Jack to take the girl to The Freedom School, a progressively innovative school that doesn’t follow traditional methods of teaching. The school is run by Jean Roberts (Delores Taylor) who is a dedicated pacifist and is always trying to get Billy Jack to use non-violent methods to resolve his disputes with Posner. Billy Jack takes Barbara to the school and while Jean civilizes her, Billy Jack’s war against Posner and his son, Bernard (David Roya) escalates. It doesn’t help that the elder Posner uses Barbara being at The Freedom School for his advantage.

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Now, so far I’ve been going on about BILLY JACK’s cultural value. But it’s also a pretty damn good entertaining movie. The scene where Billy Jack beats up Bernard Posner and his boy in an ice cream parlor is a classic. And rightfully so because Tom Laughlin takes about three minutes to do a slow burn that is unmatched in film history. And there’s a scene after that where Billy Jack has to take on about a dozen opponents that is quite realistic. His enemies rush at him in a mob instead of attacking one at a time and so Billy Jack has to keep moving. He’s not a one-man army and is eventually overwhelmed. Billy Jack doesn’t beat every ass in sight and to me, this contributed to the character. And there are several discussions between Billy Jack and Jean where they argue about pacifism vs. violence that made me think and if you see this movie I highly suspect they’ll make you think as well.

And speaking of the character of Billy Jack, I read every once in a while about this movie being remade and it simply can’t. Tom Laughlin was Billy Jack and that is apparent in every minute he’s on camera. He and his wife Delores Taylor made the Billy Jack movies not for money but for spiritual and political beliefs that they felt very deeply and those beliefs come across in their performances. These were movies made at a specific time in American history and unless a remake is going to deal with current issues as fearlessly as BILLY JACK did about the issues back then, there’s no point in remaking it. We’d just end up with a generic action movie and don’t we have enough of those already?

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So should you see BILLY JACK? Absolutely. While the politics and philosophies espoused in the movie may seem to be questionable now, mind you that they were indeed politics and philosophies that were important and discussed in that day. The performances of Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor are honest to their characters and that’s all I can ask for. BILLY JACK is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be and does it in exactly the best way it can and that’s good enough for me.

114 Minutes

Rated PG

The Last Dragon

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1985

Motown Productions/TriStar Pictures

Directed by Michael Schult 

Produced by Berry Gordy

Written by Louis Venost

I’ve got a personal cosmology in my head that is kinda like the celebrated and legendary Wold Newton Universe created by the science fiction master Philip Jose Farmer. I connect movies, TV shows, comic books, pulp characters together in my imagination in ways that make perfect sense to me but might have others saying; “WTH?

Take these three movies from the 1980s: “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension” “Big Trouble In Little China” and THE LAST DRAGON. To me all three movies have a lot in common. At the time they were originally released they were financially and critically not well received. I myself loved all three because they mixed up various genres in such a way that I was completely enthralled and captivated. I learned something from these movies that I had also learned from writers such as George C. Chesbro: not to be afraid to mix elements from different genres of fiction. But audiences didn’t take to them back then. Of course, all three of those movies are now considered classics which I suppose now proves that they were all ahead of their time. In My Head, the events of “Buckaroo Banzai” “Big Trouble In Little China” and THE LAST DRAGON are taking place at the same time in the same universe because I can easily conceive of a universe where so much inspired and delightful insanity can all exist at the same time.

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THE LAST DRAGON is a delightfully goofy mash-up of martial arts, glitzy musical numbers, Kung Fu mysticism right out of a Marvel comic book, comedy, romance and satire. Leroy Green (Taimak) is a young black man living in Harlem and studies Kung Fu with your typical wise old Kung Fu Master. Leroy’s expertise in the martial arts is so great that he is known far and wide as “Bruce” Leroy. This does not sit well with Sho’Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III) who sees “Bruce” Leroy as the only thing standing in his way of being the supreme Kung Fu Master of Harlem.

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But Leroy seeks a more spiritual path. He only wants to find a Master who can help him achieve such a sublime state of spiritual and physical perfection that he acquires “The Glow.” A mystical energy that only a true Kung Fu Master can control. He is directed to find such a Master whose name and true identity I dare not reveal here since it’s one of the movie’s best gags. Leroy gets sidetracked from his quest when he meets up with the gorgeous pop star and video jockey Laura Charles (Vanity) who is being threatened by video arcade mogul Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) to sponsor his girlfriend Angela’s (Faith Prince) singing career. The fact that Angela has no singing talent at all doesn’t seem to make a difference to Eddie. It should be noted here that Miss Prince is actually an accomplished Broadway actress and it takes a lot of talent to sing as badly as she does in this movie. Leroy’s life gets complicated when Eddie and Sho’Nuff joins forces. And even more so when Leroy’s quest for a Master takes the most unexpected turn of all as Leroy is forced to look for his Master in the last place he expected to find him.

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When people ask me for a list of recommendations for movies that are simply Fun to watch, THE LAST DRAGON is usually in the Top Ten if not the Top Five. And it is a whole lot of fun to watch and best of all, it’s a movie that you can watch over and over again just because of the fun value. First of all, there’s Taimak and Vanity who are one of the most charming and appealing movie couples in film history. Right from their first scene together you’re rooting for this couple to get together. And I like how this movie isn’t afraid to have fun with typical movie stereotypes. “Bruce” Leroy Green dresses, talks, speaks and acts as if he’s straight out of a Shaw Brothers movie whereas the Asians in this movie talk and act the way we traditional expect African-Americans to behave. Trust me, it’s funny. It’s also quite funny and really sweet in how Leroy’s little brother Richie (Leo O’Brien) is more street smart than his older brother but when it counts they are able to mesh their skills together.

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What else can I say? The acting is excellent. Everybody knows what kind of movie they’re making and act accordingly. Look for Keisha Knight as “Bruce” Leroy’s little sister (it’s awfully cute how he calls her “Little Blossom”) Chazz Palminteri and William Macy are also in in this movie. Pay attention and you’ll see them in small but pivotal roles.  Julius J. Carry III cemented Sho’Nuff as one of the greatest bad guys in the history of cinema with this movie. “The Rhythm Of The Night” is one of the greatest videos ever made to promote a movie. The moment when “Bruce” Leroy realizes who The Master is has to be one of the great Stand Up And Cheer moments in movie history. THE LAST DRAGON is one of the few movies I actually wanted to see a sequel to as I had grown to love and enjoy the characters so much. If you’ve never seen THE LAST DRAGON then your homework assignment is to do so right now.

107 Minutes

Rated PG-13