September 5th, 2021

#7802: [Space intentionally left blank]

Went to visit mother-in-law yesterday.

Jeep has a brake shoe sticking. Every so often the rear end goes "clunk". I figured it was the right rear, because that's where the noise comes from, but yesterday the brake was stuck for a good distance at highway speeds. Once we arrived I felt all the wheels, and the right-rear wheel was the one that was too hot to touch for very long. So I guess I need to do the brakes soon. I do believe I've got a set of new brake shoes on hand, even.

It's just a matter of doing them. Drum brakes are a pain.

While at MIL's house we ended up watching Lethal Weapon, and I forgot how good that movie was. I don't remember the last time I saw it, but it's been a good long while.

What I do remember is how much I didn't like the sequels, and watching the original led me to understand why: Mel Gibson and (like him or not) Danny Glover had great on-screen chemistry, and the movie had a lot of humor in it. The "odd couple" formula worked because of that chemistry. And it could have kept on working in a subsequent film because although Martin Riggs' (Gibson) inner turmoil had been laid to rest he was still a nut job, and Murtaugh (Glover) still worked as the straight man. We see this working so very well at the beginning of the movie.

...but then they add Joe Pesci to the mix.

I have never particularly liked Joe Pesci. I should say, his performances, because I have no opinion about the man himself. I don't bear him any animus on a personal level, but the roles he plays and the characters he portrays--well, when his character got made and whacked in Goodfellas I was neither shocked nor dismayed. And, BTW, I hate gangster movies, which may also be a factor.

Anydangway, they add Joe Pesci to the mix and the whole thing stops working. It stops being entertaining. Pesci's character is just annoying. The natural flow of the "buddy cop" film turns into "buddy cops with third wheel".

In the 3rd movie, they add Renee Russo, and in the 4th--

Point being, the movies stop being about Riggs and Murtaugh, and start being about Riggs and Murtaugh and Joe Pesci, and then those three and Renee Russo, and so on. And the more core characters they added, the less entertaining the movies got.

Besides that?

The other problem I had with the sequels was that the first one had a hard edge to it. It wasn't a comedy; it was a drama, with humor softening the hard edges a bit--but not muting them. The bad guys in the first movie were really bad guys and didn't pull any punches. It's a fine line, hard to walk, but the first movie did it without going overboard in either direction.

The bad guys in the second movie were--let's face it--South Africans connected with the Apartheid regime, with diplomatic immunity, so they were (particularly to Hollywood in the late 1980s) the next best thing to Hitler...but that fine line started to zigzag. Where the depiction of the bad guys in the first movie was just enough to show you how bad they were, in the second, they went too far.

It's something they did in the 1980s; to show how evil the bad guys were they'd put in some scene where they do something really bad--but at that point the movie is no longer entertaining for me. As an example, in 52 Pickup Roy Scheider plays a guy who does explosive forming of metal, and he ends up being blackmailed after having an affair.

The affair, it turns out, was set up by a guy who selected him as a target for blackmail. Hired a prostitute to seduce Scheider, got all the evidence needed, etcetera. When Scheider resists, the blackmailer steals Scheider's "home defense" gun, then makes a video of the prostitute being killed with it. Upping the ante, explaining that now if he doesn't pay up, he could go to jail for murder.

That scene ruined the movie for me; it was just too much. Lethal Weapon 2 had a few scenes that I didn't like but the one that clinched it for me was when they tossed Riggs, in a straitjacket, off the same pier they'd tossed his love interest, and so while he's trying to dislocate his shoulder to get out of the straitjacket (this capability thoughtfully demonstrated in the first act) he comes across her corpse, also in a straitjacket as I recall.

When you're telling a story, it's important that the reader or viewer understand the circumstances--but if you keep trying to pound the point home, the audience will just give up and stop. I've talked about this before in this post:
[The Writer] took great pains to explain--at length, ad nauseum, about how gritty and grimy and sinful and debauched and hellish and perverted and awful and...etc Nightside was. And he didn't do it once; he did it several times in the first 20 pages, as if to emphasize just how grim and gritty and perverse and... a place it was. The first couple of times, fine--but after a while I was saying, out loud, "Okay, yeah, it's a flesh pit, yada yada--we get it. You can stop describing it now and get on with the goddamned story already."
Emphasis in original.

I was watching one of the sequels to Jurassic Park when I first noticed this phenomenon. A very tense scene, trying to keep someone from going over a cliff, and this happened and that happened and the other thing happened, and I was getting close to the edge of my seat...and then suddenly something else and I just relaxed completely, even though the conflict had not been resolved and the character was still in peril, because this shit is ridiculous. What happened is that the scene hit that limit, where they just pushed the thing too far.

Oh well. Could be worse, I suppose.

* * *

You know, that's what annoys me about how corporations do marketing: "If you like X, you really will like Y!"

...the anthology I mentioned in the post I just linked--it's an attempt to piggyback three relative unknowns on Jim Butcher's success. Put his story in the book, use him as a headliner to get people to buy the thing, then add some other stories from people whose success you're trying to build. Only, those people are not unsuccessful because people don't know who they are; they're unsuccessful because they don't write good stories.

Won't rehash the critique from that post here, since that's not what I'm talking about.

But when an ad blurb says, "If you liked X, you'll love Y!" I know without a shadow of a doubt that I will not like whatever "Y" is. I can count on my horns the number of times I have liked Y. (Hint: I do not have horns.) It's always an attempt to piggyback on the success of whatever the current big deal is, and it's always done to fluff a decidedly inferior product.

The idea is to get people to try the inferior product, but it's to the point now that I've stopped bothering to try "Y", because I know it will stink.

* * *

Still, I guess I know why that kind of marketing persists. Take, for example, The Mission. When it had just come out on DVD, we happened across it while browsing DVDs at Best Buy; friend was all set to buy it, solely because of the cover art: guy with sword! I recommended against it, explaining what the story actually was (missionaries in South America in the colonial era) and friend did not end up purchasing it. I mean, it's a pretty decent movie, but it's not a swashbuckler. (Also, Robert de Niro as a Conquistador: no. But it was good in spite of that.)

If I hadn't been there, friend would have bought DVD and been disappointed. In the grand scheme of things I suppose it wouldn't matter all that much. I wouldn't mind seeing it on DVD but I'm not gonna pay for it. It wasn't that good.

* * *

I'm trying to think of a movie that Robert deNiro was in that I really liked, and I'm drawing a blank. Him and Al Pacino, for me, it's just, "Yeah, I'm not gonna like that movie." No matter how hard I try to like it, I don't. I don't even think it's them, per se; it's just that the movies they're in, I don't like.

* * *

Once we got home after yesterday's visit, we managed to watch one ep of Tuca and Bertie and then we flopped. Mrs. Fungus stayed flopped, is still in bed as I type this. I kept getting woken up by Smudge, so when I woke up naturally it seemed kind of surprising. Anyway I fed the cats and myself, and now I'm thinking about returning to the connubial bed for more shut-eye. What good is a holiday weekend if you don't get to take a nap?