August 31, 2016

Twilight Zone: The Movie

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You are traveling in another dimension...A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A dimension whose inhabitants intentionally sit and watch movies that no sane person would consider viewing, although there is the occasional good movie thrown in to keep them balanced.

There's a signpost up ahead: Your next stop...Twilight Zone: The Movie.

Yes, after more than a year of trying to sit down and watch this movie, the guys finally got it together and did just that.

And boy howdy, what a flick! First off, you've got some straight-up amazing directors helming this anthology (Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Joe Dante, and George Miller), and then you throw is a very solid cast, base it on a popular and creepy old TV show, and you've got yourself a home run!

But throw in Albert Brooks, and you're looking at a triple, at best.
The movie begins with a short prologue starring Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks, a man determined to be the biggest asshole in the car because he keeps trying to scare Aykroyd by turning off the car's lights while they drive in the middle of the night. After a brief foray into a game of "Guess The Theme Song" that causes both men to reminisce about the old Twilight Zone TV series, Aykroyd turns talk back to being scared. Convincing Brooks to pull over--again, it should be noted that these two are out driving in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night--Aykroyd briefly transforms into what we believe Cher would look like without her makeup, and a lot of murdering occurs.

Gypsies, tramps and MURDER!!!
Which slingshots us to our first of four main stories.

Bill Connor (Vic Morrow) has just been turned down for a promotion at work, and is drowning his sorrows with a couple of friends (Doug McGrath and Charles Hallahan) at the local bar. It appears that part of Bill's therapeutic method involved being an astoundingly racist asshole. Among other things, he feels he was swindled out of the promotion by another coworker who happens to be Jewish.

Bill goes on to disparage that person, as well as just about anybody else who does not have the same skin tone he does, which draws the attention and ire of the other patrons in the bar, including Steven Williams, who appears to be relaxing between sending cryptic clues to Fox Mulder and bossing around those scallywags at 21 Jump Street.

Bill leaves the bar and immediately realizes he is not where he is supposed to be. In fact, he's not when he's supposed to be either.

How did I find Mel Gibson's garage?
This begins a series of quick Quantum Leap-style time jumps that see Bill moving from Nazi-occupied France, to the South during the 1950s, to Vietnam, to Nazi Germany, and in each location everyone who sees him believes him to be one of the race of people he offended in the beginning of the story; In France and Germany, he is  a Jew. In the South, he is an African-American (although that is really not the word the people who met him used). In Vietnam, he is a Vietnamese soldier who makes a very poor decision to run up to a group of American soldiers on patrol. And it is all seen through Bill's point of view, so the viewer never gets to see what Quantum Leap Bill looks like in those times.

It should be noted that Vic Morrow and two young extras were killed in a tragic accident while filming this segment, and so it has a kind of "unfinished" feel to it.

Bill is finally thrown on a train and hauled away with some other Jewish folks...

In segment two, Scatman Crothers is Mr.Bloom, who is new to the Sunnyvale Nursing Home He meets a group of elderly folks (Bill Quinn, Martin Garner, Selma Diamond, Helen Shaw, Murray Matheson, Peter Brocco) who seem to have given up and are merely waiting for Death to take them.

Although he is not Death himself, an argument can be made that he is The Dark Lord.
When Bloom starts cheering people up, he announces that they shall play a game of Kick the Can after lights out, to try and recapture a little of their youth. All except Mr. Conroy (Quinn) accept, and they meet in the yard, only to find that, once the game begins, they are all returned to their younger selves.

After a fun evening of games, all the residents return to bed, but not before they wake Mr. Conroy, who sees these younger versions of his roommates and flips right out. He rushes off to find a nurse, and when he returns, all but one of the children have returned to their regular, elderly selves. Mr. Agee, who chose to remain a child and relive his life, flees into the night, but not before he can tell Conroy to go fuck himself in the most polite way possible.

The next day, Mr. Bloom leaves the nursing home and heads to another nursing home around the corner, where, we have to assume, he will continue to offer his evil voodoo magic in exchange for their souls.

The next segment involves an obnoxious young boy (Jeremy Licht as Anthony) and the woman (Kathleen Quinlan as Helen) who tried, and failed, to run him over in a diner parking lot.

With no choice but to offer the boy a ride home, Helen meets Anthony's family: Father (William Schallert), Mother (Patricia Barry), Ethel (Nancy Cartwright), Sara (Cherie Currie), and Uncle Walt (Kevin McCarthy). They are an oddly cheerful group who treat Anthony like a king (or, at least, an evil demon-child with dangerous mental abilities), despite Anthony's insistence that none of them care for him or even like him.

Helen, for her part, is pretty oblivious to what is going on around her, and she chooses instead to frown and look confused a lot. At least until Anthony tells Uncle Walt to do a magic trick.

Things take a steep downward turn from there, until Anthony finally banishes everyone--except himself and Helen...somewhere...

The final segment stars John Lithgow taking on a role that came with some pretty big shoes to fill; In the original series, William Shatner was the man who spotted something mysterious and possibly very dangerous on the wing of the plane he is on.

Valentine (Lithgow) is a computer programmer who is stuck on a plane that is flying through a terrible storm. As he's a pretty twitchy and nervous guy to begin with, the weather is not helping the situation.

After spending a good portion of the trip in the bathroom, he finally returns to his seat, where he is determined to not freak out at all in any way whatsoever. That lasts roughly fifteen seconds because he foolishly peeks out his window and sees the engine being hit by lightning, and also highlighting the big, hair monster sitting on the wing and ripping chunks off of the plane.

Hi! I'd like to talk to you about your eternal soul. Your delicious, delicious eternal soul...
As things escalate, the crew gets involved, first giving him a mild sedative, leading up to him being strapped into his seat and sat on by an incredibly doughy sky marshall.

When he looks out the window again and finds himself face-to-face with the monster, he wrestles with the doughy guy and grabs his gun, shooting out the window and getting sucked halfway out the plane. As the doughy guy holds his legs, the plane goes in for an emergency landing. But was it all in his mind?

Of course not, stupids! This is the Twilight Zone!

Jake is least happy with the "Kick the Can" segment, because he felt it was just a little too Frank Capra-y for his taste. This does not keep him from promoting his theory that Mr. Bloom is, in fact, the Devil himself. He's also sad that Joe Dante's career has taken a serious hit because of Vic Morrow's death. But he loved Lithgow! (Really, who doesn't?)

Larry liked it all, although his least favorite was also "Kick the Can". He did, however, get a kick out of it when Derek explained that Scatman Crothers made him think of Gummy, a character from The Thrilling Adventure Hour. Apple pie!

Derek disagrees with the others, stating that he very much liked "Kick the Can" (and not just because of the Gummy connection). He didn't care for the Vic Morrow segment, though, and thinks it just wasn't complete. He did, however, notice that the co-pilot from the fourth segment looked like the bastard child of Oliver Stone and Clint Howard, which earns this week's movie a solid 2.5 on our Clint Howard-O-Meter!

So go let that creepy floating eyeball in through the floating front door and download this week's episode!