Friday, February 29, 2008


It can be a little disorienting the first time you visit Marty McKee's Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot -- I mean, book reviews on a blog? But once you put your glasses back on after dramatically removing them, you'll notice that Marty usually reviews the kind of action-packed paperbacks that are best read on the hood of an El Camino parked at the top of a quarry. And as you'll read below, Marty sees plenty of movies -- recently, he even braved all of the American Pie sequels for the benefit of his readers. The man who has surely been called 'Marty McFly' at some point in his life also finds time to spotlight forgotten television series, like The New People, and even keep the peace at a few of the Mobius Home Video forums.

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'Season Two of Hawaii Five-0. I’m an avid fan of old television shows, primarily action/adventures and crime dramas from the 1960s and 1970s. Shortly before receiving the Five-0 set from Amazon, I picked up Season Four of The Rockford Files and Season Three of Mission: Impossible. All three shows are among the greatest television series ever broadcast.'

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES RECENTLY WRAPPED UP A MONTH OF GUEST PROGRAMMING, IF YOU WERE A GUEST PROGRAMMER WHAT 3 FILMS WOULD YOU PICK TO REPRESENT YOUR TASTES, OR A FAVORITE GENRE OR THEME?: 'Realistically, of course, I’d be restricted to whatever is in Turner’s library. However, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a trio of excellent hard-boiled crime dramas of the 1970s that are more than worth heavy evaluation: Hickey & Boggs with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby and directed by Culp (TCM has this one), The Outfit with Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker and directed by John Flynn (TCM has never shown this one in its original aspect ratio), and the highly underrated The Dion Brothers with Stacy Keach and Fredric Forrest and directed by Jack Starrett.'

FAVORITE GROSS-OUT MOMENT: 'The most recent one was in Planet Terror, where Josh Brolin punctures the boil on Nicky Katt’s tongue. Argh! Although I’ve seen my share of gore flicks, I prefer the “fun” gore of Friday the 13th movies and Romero zombie flicks to the stomach-churning stuff in, say, Italian cannibal movies. However, the one scene that always draws a huge reaction from audiences—and I’ve seen it about a dozen times—is the bit in The Stabilizer where an Indonesian extra chomps down on a live lizard.'

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'Disney movies. When I was a kid, my parents took my brother and I to just about every Disney feature around. This was long before cable television and home video, when Disney was still regularly re-releasing its classic animated features every seven or eight years. I don’t recall which one I saw first, but I definitely saw Bambi, Dumbo, Song of the South, The Jungle Book, Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs theatrically. Checking Wikipedia, I note that Dumbo and Cinderella received re-releases in 1973, when I was six years old, so these were probably the first films I saw, and I do remember scenes from both, even though I haven’t seen either of them since.'

'Until earlier this year, when I finally broke down and watched it after constant haranguing from my friends, it would have been The Goonies. I have no idea why I didn’t see it when it came out, except that I was in college and a few years older than its target audience. Now, I would have to say Goodfellas is the one film everyone is shocked to learn I haven’t seen. And I have no excuse, other than I haven’t gotten around to it. I must admit, however, that I have little affection for gangster movies as a genre and find the romanticizing of criminals tiresome.'

Sleeping Beauty
Death Wish -- 'I have to respect Death Wish. Because if it had never existed, we would have never gotten the deliriously stupid and crazy Death Wish 3.'
Withnail & I

FAVORITE KIND OF MOVIE TO REVIEW: I would actually rather write about something that’s awful than something good, more specifically, something with a wildly wonky plot that sounds more incredible on the page than seeing it on the screen. I think it’s because I can make people laugh and recommend a movie to them at the same time. I’m thinking of, say, D-War: Dragon Wars, which is a fun Korean monster movie, but is hilariously silly and a joy to describe to someone.

LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, AND WHAT DID YOU SEE?: 'I haven’t been to a drive-in since The Mask of Zorro in 1998. The reason I don’t go more often is that drive-ins generally only screen one film, and I think it should be against the law to present anything less than a double feature at a drive-in. As a kid, I went to the drive-in with my parents many times, but most of them are gone now. Only one drive-in remains within convenient driving distance of Champaign-Urbana.'

FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: ‘70s crime dramas. I’ve seen just about everything from Dirty Harry to Psychopath. It’s a time when cinema wasn’t afraid to be rough and gritty and realistic in its portrayal of action and the criminal element, and I find it fascinating. Plus, there were so many very good action directors working then—Don Siegel, Richard Fleischer, Phil Karlson, Jack Starrett, John Flynn, I could certainly go on—that, for all their obscurity, were better at their craft than all the Doug Limans and Paul Greengrasses of today.'

LAST TIME YOU VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE ABOUT FILM: 'My friend Chris and I argued about American Movie after it came out on DVD. He was offended by it, because he felt that its portrayal of Mark Borchardt was a cruel mockery, but I believe that it really shows Borchardt as a hard-working man with a dream who loves his family and takes care of them and his best friend as well as he can. Yes, he’s eccentric and not particularly well suited to be a filmmaker, but I think American Movie likes him. I know I do.'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'Michael Weldon’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, which I discovered in high school and was really the first time I noticed that there were a lot of films out there beyond what Hollywood was churning out. At that time, home video was still in its infancy, and I used to read from cover to cover about European vampire films and women-in-prison flicks and Japanese monsters and Mexican wrestlers and hundreds of other movies that I never thought I would get to see. I’m stunned at the amount of movies I first read about in Weldon’s book that I can now easily purchase or rent on DVD…in their original aspect ratio…and with commentaries by the filmmakers.'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: 'I watched 476 films in 2007, 281 of them for the first time. Almost all of them were on VHS or DVD. I don’t go to theaters much. Outside of January’s annual B-Fest at Northwestern University, I saw a theatrical film only fourteen times this year, which is a slight increase over 2006 and 2005. Three of them I saw in one day (The Tripper, Fracture, Perfect Stranger), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls showed at Roger Ebert’s annual Overlooked Film Festival, and I caught Helvetica at a Parkland College screening, so I actually visited a real theater a mere eight times in 2007. I sincerely wish it were more, but I am not willing to visit a theater to endure 20 (or more if you get there early) minutes of ads, high prices, obnoxious crowds, poor theater conditions, bad sound, shoddy projection and uncomfortable seating, when I can Netflix the same movie a few months later.'

'If you fall into the water during a kung fu fight, you’re out, even if you aren’t hurt.
'Do not talk shit to Chuck Norris if you see him in a bar.
'CGI effects will never look as cool or realistic as old-fashioned miniature effects.'

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