Great Expectations: Daniel LaRusso and the Demise of the Underdog

Sequels can be a very tricky prospect indeed.

This is particularly true for movies that are planned as standalone features, only to be thrust back into the spotlight care of popular demand. Back before the marketing process was so regimented and ruthless, not everything was looked upon as a potential money-spinning franchise. I mean, Hollywood was still Hollywood, and if something had legs producers would run it into the ground with so many unnecessary sequels you were at risk of developing eye blisters. Still, original ideas were plentiful, and instead of making a mint off of past glories, original screenplays would forge their own commercial path, whether […]

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Reality, Identity and Satire in Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall

Prior to joining forces with Joe Eszterhas to develop subversive, erotic thriller Basic Instinct in the early 90s, Paul Verhoeven would follow up his dystopian masterclass Robocop with a similarly subversive sci-fi extravaganza.

In theory, Total Recall would be a big budget sci-fi action vehicle starring former Pumping Iron alumni and future Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. In practice, however, Verhoeven would once again manage to create a blockbuster movie loaded with his own inimitable brand of humorous contempt, while also providing the sort of rollicking adventure yarn studio execs could happily support […]

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Dragon’s Ascension: Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee was on fire in 1972.  Each of his Hong Kong films broke Asian box office records greater than the last.

Naturally, Hollywood wanted in on the action, despite having driven him away years earlier. At the time, the studio heads were reticent to portray an Asian in any more than a supporting role, even to the point of giving the role that was tailor made for Lee, the Shaolin monk in the Kung Fu television series, to David Carradine, a white actor with no martial arts experience. Now that Lee was an international star and a guaranteed moneymaker, Warner Brothers decided to change its tune and offer Bruce his own big-budget […]

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I’d Buy that for a Dollar: Robocop and the Pursuit of the American Dream

Robocop was something of a baptism of fire for filmmaker Paul Verhoeven.

Before making the switch to Hollywood in search of The American Dream, the Dutch director was known for arthouse projects that were very much grounded in reality, and in many ways his debut US production is the very antithesis of all that went before. That’s not surprising given the fact that the movie’s protagonist is a half man, half machine with a spectacularly gaudy 80s costume design, but the overtly comic tone was somewhat determined by outside forces […]

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