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charlieparrCharlie Parr at Club Cafe — March 10

A correction for

October post, Charlie Parr

is able to smile.

 

Willie Watson (with Wood Brothers) at Rex Theatre — April 8

Bros sing Gus Cannon

Drunk. A rare Venn Diagram

is Willie Watson

 

Off-brand Avett Bros.

Maybe bit of Grateful Dead

Needed more Watson

 

Pokey LaFarge at Rex Theatre — April 30

No one with that face

could sing different music,

still pull off “Pokey.”

 

Richard Thompson at Pittsburgh Arts Fest — June 12

Here’s the second time

I’ve seen half Richard Thompson’s

set. Worth twice the bus.

 

Neko Case at Pittsburgh Arts Fest– June 13

Sometimes I wish she

weren’t so dreamy in tempo.

But what a goddess.

 

Mischief Brew at Roboto Project — July 24

Old mosh pit story

Risk life and limb to feel life.

(Still not a commie)

MV5BMTQ5MTE0MTk3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjczMzk2NTE@._V1_SX214_AL_I don’t remember the first time I watched Jurassic Park. I remember going to see Free Willy (yeah) while my cousin and brother saw it in theaters, and them discussing the t-rex spitting the bloody goat leg on the car on the ride home. I remember the first time I saw part of the film. I was in a department store with Joe, and on the TV screens was the scene where Timmy, Lex, and Dr. Grant are walking up the hill and Timmy is whining “I’m tired, I’m hot.” I asked Joe if that was the first time the t-rex appeared, and he said no. I even remember joyously opening a Christmas present of the VHS copy of the film. I just somehow don’t remember the first time I saw the movie I went on to watch 30 or 50 times over the next 12 years.

I could quote the movie in my sleep.  I could watch it in my head. Jesse Walker’s greatest flaw is his dislike of the movie. (Or you had to have been six in 1993.)

I watched The Lost World and defended it when I was 10, and then didn’t when I realized it sucked some time later. I reluctantly watched Jurassic Park III, and knew it was terrible but enjoyed the drive-in movie setting. I rolled my eyes at talk of still more sequels and had no interest in Jurassic World until — as with the new Star Wars preview — the familiar score in a slightly subtle trailer made me drool like Pavlov’s dog.

Must…watch…dinosaurs…

The derivative nature came through even in trailers. Chris Pratt is Dr. Grant, except he knows the dinosaurs’ nature in real life. Bryce Dallas Howard appears to be the new Hammond until you actually watch. Two generic kids are in peril — and their parents are even divorcing!

Still, the meta nature of this third sequel makes it more interesting suddenly. I knew we weren’t going to get the backstory of how dinosaurs became banal to the public, and how the disaster of the first park was PR-ed away. (The lawsuits alone….) But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want it. I laughed when the guy from New Girl who works as one of the tech guys is wearing a Jurassic Park shirt he got on ebay. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character — who basically is vaguely in charge of the park, without being in charge of the company of Ingen, we have a new Hammond for that — scolds the guy for wearing it because people died.

And that is before we even discuss some of the visual aping of the original film that got a little tiresome for someone who knows that film backwards and forwards. The final shot is like this. And a “sick dinosaurs are just animals” scene with Howard and Pratt does not work like Grant and the triceratops does in the first one. Possibly because the brontosaurus in this film is practically given cartoon eyelashes and a lolling puppy tongue.

But the worst of it comes in the second third of the movie, when the totally not credible 21st century version of the automated cars of the first one turns into “yeah, t-rexes sure love prying open vehicles to get at the delicious child innards.” The part where the brothers find the remains of the old Jurassic Park is kind of fun and pure fan service, except that it invites so many awkward questions. Did they really just leave all that shit there? Junked cars, the banner from that final shot, the merchandise? Why?

Much was made of the fact that Jurassic World has made a fake dinosaur. But within the movie, this works. And it works in a very Michael Crichton way. The man’s books — not just Jurassic Park — are full of descriptions of cold, calculating companies and their biotech plans which should alarm us all. Fish with advertisements in their skin, nanobots running amok, an ape-child, he was worried about this, and he was clearly quite willing to believe (at least in fiction) that these companies would top each other and go farther and farther. So, when Henry Wu (he’s back! and evil this time!) says “But you didn’t ask for reality, you asked for more teeth,  it’s not the only nod to the unreality of all the dinosaurs — not just the new spliced I-Rex.

This works in the Crichton-y world, even if it’s also cloyingly meta. It’s a good step to admit that this is a monster movie, not a dinosaur movie, both in the world and while watching in the audience. The absurd scene where the sea dino jumps and eats an entire Great White shark cements this. (It’s a monster movie, where the monsters are in pens, so forget the awkwardness of the first movie ruining people’s impressions of real dinosaurs perhaps forever. GRANT TOLD YOU THEY TURNED INTO BIRDS, DAMMIT.) And that is an appealing plot point that cries out for better worldbuilding — what does the world in which Jurassic World exists resemble? When these dinosaurs are normal, instead of a hushed up tragedy on a nearly empty island?

The movie won’t tell us. It’s a small world after all. Now, I like the banality of the dinosaurs in some ways. However, Boyfriend and I debated whether people would be sick of regular dinosaurs this quickly. This is still a park that requires a trip to Costa Rica and farther to visit. Meaning, this park “isn’t only for the super rich” but it is still going to cost a lot more than Disneyland does.  It would help with the believability if the audience knew exactly how long the park has been open, and how long dinosaurs as a fact have been around. Still, this strange marriage of a reboot and a sequel might be cynical and self-aware, but it works when we admit the characters want to keep audiences interested. The commies at Jabobin might think this condemns us all, but if they had committed to this, if there were more world-building and more scenes of conversation, it might really work. Instead, we have villains eaten hastily by raptors before too much plot can come out.

What of our characters? Irrfan Khan is the new eccentric, decent, but childish billionaire who owns the place. He’s…sufficiently different. Pratt and Howard are both Dr. Grant in parts. Howard manages the place, and is therefore also rigid John Hammond. But she is also the Dr. Grant because her character — buttoned up woman in heels clashing with wild man, we have seen this before, yes — has no idea how to interact with kids. This time it’s her sister’s sons. And the movie is judging her hard at the start, just because she isn’t maternal. It’s not terribly sexist, though. Her arch is the same as any male character’s who needs to be a hero and step up to save the kids — again, this is just Dr. Grant (arguably, she should care more since they’re relatives, and they’re just Hammond’s nephews in the first one. But also, Grant’s conflict over kids is with his significant other and the kids themselves. Howard’s character basically is told by her sister that she’s going to have kids someday so she will stop being such a bitch. Whatever, Judy Greer.)

And as someone on Twitter noted last week, the movie puts Howard in impossible heels, then mocks her for it. But she’s actually the most likable character in the end, and the one who doesn’t just stand still. Nobody said she’s about to get knocked up because she saves her nephews — much like Grant being heroic doesn’t mean he’s suddenly a goofy suburban dad because he didn’t let two random kids die. Plus, she’s competent and doesn’t really need a lot of rescuing. She’s arguably more competent than Ellie Sattler in the first film, and I have always been fond of her. (“Look, we can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back” is something I should say more often.)

My favorite plot and visual theft from the original film is when Howard plays Grant/Ian Malcolm and lures the t-rex with a flair — while Chris Pratt’s character is hiding with the kids! It is satisfying that Hollywood has given the ladies a chance to play dinosaur tag. It’s probably the high point of the movie.

(On the other hand, Bustle needs to accept that yes, Howard’s character was dressed for a business meeting, not dinosaur fleeing but it’s not a fucking feminist victory to wear hideous, bad for you shoes while in jungle setting just because it’s harder than wearing hiking boots. Please do not try to brand heels in the worst settings as some kind of victory, because I will laugh in all your faces and at third wave feminism in general. Feminine women can be bad-ass as well is not the same as you can do something epic while wearing ankle-breaking shoes! You’re a real woman of 2015! I punch everything.)

Weirdly, buff Chris Pratt has not won my heart as he has the rest of America’s. He’s not Andy Dwyer anymore, and he hasn’t pulled off the roguish action star thing as much as he thinks. There’s a lingering charmlessness there now. Or a lack of charisma with his onscreen romances. Sorry, America. He’s no Harrison Ford. He’s not even Sam Neill. The romance between Pratt and Howard is tepid to decent. Their first scene together is bad, and the banter completely falls flat, however it improves a bit as things go along. A bit.

What else? The military industrial complex evil plot doesn’t work (weaponized raptors, people).  They should have stuck with Ingen is scary, period. Stuck with Crichton’s strengths with his fears of biotech run wild.

Now, Chris Pratt on a motorcycle leading a pack of raptors is something we need in the internet age. It’s a meme come to life. And it’s not as dumb as it should be, like much of this movie. If these things are supposed to be as smart as an ape and as fast as a cheetah, some tentative training being possible is believable enough. You can train a bear or a lion, but it might eat you at a moment’s notice. Also, Chris Pratt on a motorcycle riding with raptors. That, America, cannot be denied.

The movie looks good. The effects are good, though I swear a brief shot of gallimimus who are “flocking this way” looks less real than in the first one. The final fight between all our favorite predators is excessive, but it doesn’t resemble one big cut scene, or one big Michael Bay wet-dream or any of the worst things action scenes in 2015 are like.

But at the end of the day, the movies is thin.  The characterization is so much weaker than in the first film. Pratt has less heart than minor characters like Robert “clever girl” Muldoon and less prickle that turns around than Grant. He is static, except for his affection for Howard. The kids are devices, not characters, even if they’re borderline ’90s annoying in the original. The billionaire is likable, but he’s sure as hell not Richard Attenborough just killing it through the whole movie. The flea circus scene with the ice cream? Come on, people. It’s fantastic.

And a thousand lawyer jokes notwithstanding — or the, shall we say, toilet humor of his death. Even though it’s still gruesome in a PG-13 way — the man who plays Gennaro in the first movie gives it his all. He is a person, even if he’s a sleazy lawyer person. Jurassic World has a surprisingly low death count, but the cartoon-gratuitous death of Howard’s British assistant who has almost no lines, but loses the kids, is surprisingly mean-feeling. It’s as if it came from another, even worse film.

The trailer’s hints that thousands of people will under dino attack is a bit of a red herring. We have our stock group, and a few faceless soldier types. Strangely, this is almost a small movie. I don’t know why it feels that way, but it does. Perhaps because, though it has some fun moments, and I did flinch during tense dinosaur times, it is just another seasick mixture of a reboot and a sequel. The movie is about as long as Jurassic Park, the cast is much bigger, but Jurassic World doesn’t feel like we evolved into anything at the end. We’ve stalled. We’re just having a little more fun as the wheels spin than we might have.

The Huffington Post turns ten this week.

It’s seen by lots more eyeballs and it’s much better looking and reading than it was at its birth, when it was nothing but a lot of hype and hope and the political scribblings of celebrities. But the HuffPo is still just a liberal pimple on the big conservative ass of the Drudge Report.

I wasn’t going to celebrate the birthday of Arianna Huffington’s love child, but over the weekend The Today Show, or whatever it’s called by NBC, apparently spoke my name during its celebration.

I didn’t see or hear what Today said about me to the whole nation.

I hear they took a line or two out of context from the critical but fair and balanced magazine column I wrote about HuffPo’s birth to show what a big dummy I was for failing to predict it’d live to see its tenth birthday.

I forgot what I wrote on May 15, 2005,  but I looked it up and here it is:

Huffing & Puffing & Disappointing

Matt Drudge can sleep easy.

Arianna Huffington’s much ballyhooed “Huffington Post” — a new Web site whose chief gimmick is a Malibu Beach party’s worth of celebrity bloggers — is no threat.

If you haven’t heard, huffingtonpost.com features the daily blathering of scores of La-La-Landers — Rob Reiner, Bill Maher, John Cusack, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, et al. — and scores of savvy inner-Beltway politicos such as David Corn, Mike McCurry, Joe Scarborough and Danielle Crittenden.

From the advance hype, you’d have thought that the multiblog site, which debuted Monday, was going to do for the blogosphere what CNN did for TV news. It won’t.

It’s way too early to declare it a flop. But it’s easy to see why the media criticism has run from brutally cruel to “Could this possibly be this dull and uninformative forever?”

Not every celebrity embarrasses himself.

Quincy Jones’ rumination on Michael Jackson’s sordid decline is wise, but contains so much God-talk he may have his star on Hollywood Boulevard removed.

“Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David’s defense of U.N. Ambassador-designate John Bolton as a fellow abuser-of-employees is clever satire.

Rob Reiner’s ranting about the news media being stooges of the Bush administration and voters being misled on Iraq, etc., etc., would make a great sendup of a demented Hollywood liberal, except he’s being serious.

Reiner’s meat-headed rant gives credence to L.A. Weekly Nikki Finke’s conspiratorial suspicion that Arianna is now “a conservative mole.” Finke, a business/political columnist, covering entertainment, wrote in her Huffington Post-trashing column that the Greek-born author-pundit “has served up liberal celebs like red meat on a silver platter for the salivating and Hollywood-hating right wing to chew up and spit out.”

Finke could be right. Maybe Arianna — who has morphed from the right-wing conservative spouse of a multimillionaire Republican congressman to a divorced big-government progressive do-gooder — is a double agent for her mid-’90s pal, Newt.

There’s no doubt celebrities are going to be eaten alive by the pros — the politicians, pundits and journalists — Arianna invited to her 300-ring circus. Byron York has already bitten into sports guy Jim Lampley, who opined in his blog that he still thinks Bush stole Ohio last fall.

And conservative Danielle Crittenden, who knows how to mock Hollywood, blogged a clever parody memo to President Bush that plugs a new movie whose heroine is a brave, pro-life Republican congresswoman who fights for family values.

Assembling scores of celebrity bloggers in one place sounds like a really good idea — until you go there and find it’s mostly just a bunch of people with little to say talking to themselves.

At huffingtonpost.com , more is much less. There’s no strong single point of view, which is what all the best blogs have. There’s virtually no interaction or squabbling between libs and conservatives. Libertarians, as usual, apparently weren’t invited.

Arianna’s got lots of tinkering to do before she provides anything close to “a tantalizing mixture of politics, wit and wisdom.” She has to learn how to be an editor and a better ringmaster.

Maybe she’ll figure it out. Meantime, her Internet Free Hollywood may do America some good by forcing the cloistered Hollywood community to debate some nonliberal arguments and ideas it’s not used to even hearing.

Reads pretty good to me.

folderiexIn which I bravely begin to rewatch the 2006-2008 cult, yet also CBS TV show Jericho, so as to always have Tuesday Apocalypse fodder in the weeks to come. The show stars Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James, and other luminaries, but don’t hold the Skeet part against it. Also, there is going to eventually be libertarian subtext, but you have got to be patient.

Episode 1: “Pilot”

Jericho begins with a Killers song, which might be the dealbreaker for some of you folks. But it’s one of the catchier ones. And, as we follow Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) driving from San Diego to home in Jericho, Kansas, the band’s semi-nonsensical lyrics hint at the plot to come. “When there’s nowhere else to run/Is there room for one more son?…the cold hearted boy I used to be/ I got soul/but I’m not a soldier.” Angst! Prodigal son! It works! It’s the mid aughts!

And technically, actually, the show begins with its eerie, minimal theme music, and the sound of morse code. That’s the show for you. Forever warring between legitimately unnerving and “emotions must be propelled by pop songs.”

Jake pulls into town, and meets several of our main characters before he makes it to the old family home in order to claim his inheritance. There’s the goofy farmer Stanley Richman (Brad Beyer) and his stern sister Bonnie (Shoshannah Stern), who is deaf. There’s the frustrating and blonde Emily (Ashley Scott) who is The Ex. Jake gives a different answer each person who asks where he has been for the past five years. We know he’s either a pathological liar, or he’s ashamed of something. There’s also the moderately annoying IRS agent, who is auditing the Richman farm, but she isn’t much of a character yet.

Jake’s mom is Leslie Knope’s mom, though much less bad-ass in this role. His dad is Raymond Tusk on House of Cards. His bearded brother Eric (Kenneth Mitchell) is married to the local doctor, but having an affair with the local tavern owner. Oh, and Johnston Green — the dad — is also the mayor of town, and has been for 100 billion years.

We also meet Dale (Erik Knudsen), employed at the town busybody Gracie’s store (she is starting to doubt your commitment to sparklemotion).  And we see his crush, mean girl Skyler, who will soften later. We meet the cops, the most prominent being Jimmy (the goofy one) and the other guy (the douchey one). And we meet new in town Robert Hawkins, who just drips with mystery.

Having realized his beloved grandfather is dead, Jake decides to leave town sans inheritance. (I was never quite sure why people didn’t tell him in earlier scenes. I suppose when he tells Stanley and Emily he’s there to visit, they must think Jake just means visit the old man’s grave. But only TV cuts justify the jump from family home to grandfather’s grave.)

And then our build-up begins. TV, radio, and cell phones go out. The music is horror-delicate and menacing. Deputy Jimmy’s son is the first one to see the mushroom cloud. He’s playing hide and seek with his sister, and has climbed onto the roof, and we see his back to the camera as he stares aghast. His little sister, whining a little, says “no fun, Woody, you have to hide better.” Here the show has the sense to show a little kid first in dumbfounded horror, then in tears. You don’t need to know your Cold War history intimately to know that you should weep if you see a mushroom cloud.

On the highway, Jake sees the cloud with his wide, Skeet Ulrich eyes and crashes into another car full of similarly distracted people. A woman named Heather (Sprague Grayden) — who will immediately begin dancing the line between endearing and annoyingly cute Mary Sue for the rest of the series — sees the cloud while we only see the reflection in the school bus window. She is on a field trip with a bunch of pipsqueaks who will soon need protecting. At the Richman ranch, Bonnie stares transfixed from her porch, until her brothers pulls her away.

It’s all fantastic. All beautifully shot. It’s restrained, but palpable sickness. Something unimaginable has happened, but it has happened far enough away that everyone is physically fine, making it all the more surreal.

The rest of the plot involves the town freaking out a bit, trying to get organized. We see a power struggle between Mayor Green and a guy named Gray Anderson. Hawkins (Lennie James) knows a lot about preparing for something like this, which might be a little odd.

And basically, Jake has to hobble away from his own car wreck, and go save the school bus that has crashed due to acute “holy shit, a nuke-itis.” He apocalypse-cute-meets Heather, and saves all the children, and even performs a tracheotomy on one. He returns to town to find a curtly proud father, and a very relieved mother. He has truly returned home now.

In the mean time, poor teenage Dale has come home to a terrifying message left on his answer machine. His mother, seemingly vacationing with her gross boyfriend, had called to check in, but the message cuts off with “oh my God! What is that?” It’s clear wherever she is has been hit by a nuke as well. A scene where Dale listens to the message over and over again in the dark is correctly awful. So is the moment where Dale comes to a neighborhood meeting with the news, and needs to clarify that his mother was not in Denver, but Atlanta. We now know that two bombs have gone off.

The safety of Jericho is too safe. The brief panic is too CBS primetime, though at least the townspeople have their moment of it. Nobody — arguably since Threads and The Day After in the 1980s — really has the guts to portray pissing yourself levels of terror, or catatonic horror in response to nuclear strikes. And I think that’s how a lot of people would react. Even the heroes should have a moment of dumbfounded stillness. That’s why I love the pilot to The Walking Dead, and the first half of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. In these stories, even the strong patriarch needs a moment to express, than rise above, his bafflement and fear. Unfortunately, slightly tiresome patriarch Mayor Johnston Green isn’t given quite enough of that moment here. And his wife’s dread-cry of “Oh, Johnston” isn’t quite nuke-horror. It’s more like the dog got hit by a car level of upset. One can argue that there’s good eye acting (see the extras in Titanic as the stern sinks, for a perfect example) here, but it’s still a bit too subtle for my taste.

On the other hand, Jericho is supposed to be in a sweet spot. Everyone is safe, and until starvation or fallout, or other end of the world threats some a-knocking, perhaps a dazed sort of disconnect is believable. This is only the first day.

We have had too many inspirational speeches (though one that fails) from the mayor and from his rival Gray Anderson, and too much TV logic, but we also have two mysterious men, family drama, and moderately interesting side characters in a small town dealing with the unimaginable. Not bad.

Though the woman who plays the one that got away from Jake is one of the weakest actresses on the show — and their chemistry has never been there, ever — her final scenes in the pilot are good. Her character Emily has missed it all. She was driving to pick up her fiance in Wichita, and only when birds begin falling from the sky at dusk does she realize something is terribly wrong. The final scene leans too heavily on a moody pop song, just like the opening scenes did, but the camera pulling back on bird armageddon is a good capper for the episode.

adam-1I wrote a review of econ professor Russell Roberts’ newest book, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. Check it out over at the Post-Gazette’s website:

A few years back, Russ Roberts, a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, co-produced a viral video which portrayed a rap battle between economists John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek.

It’s an amazingly well-crafted seven and a half minutes. Getting your economic knowledge from it is rather like getting advice on moral philosophy from the man who understood how nations get rich more than anyone else — that is, surprisingly effective.

Poor Adam Smith is known mostly for “The Wealth of Nations.” It’s a classic, albeit one that today is mostly written about, rather than read. Smith’s other work published in his lifetime was “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.” It has been ignored. Even Mr. Roberts notes that he took years and years to tackle it, due to its 18th-century style and its seemingly irrelevant subject matter. What would Mr. Invisible Hand have to say about how human beings should live anyway? Shouldn’t he stick with detailing the specialization of the butcher and the baker? No.

While we’re here, you might as well watch this again:

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

330px-This_Is_Not_a_Test_VideoCoverThis Is Not a Test (1962), directed by Frederic Gadette: This is a strange, low-budget, grim little movie. A cop who progressively becomes more and more creepy stops a few cars full of people in the hills above Los Angeles. The missiles (The Missiles) are coming, and they’ve got to prepare. Most of the characters are unlikable, as they include a murderous hitchhiker, one of those tediously self-sacrificial elderly characters, and the scary policeman. Oh, there’s also a woman who randomly cheats on her husband before the end. Basically, after yelling and flailing, the plan becomes let’s all secure this supply truck as much as possible, and hide in the back. The police officer gets more and more nuts, and the rest of the folks kick him out. The young and in love couple head for the hills, leaving behind grandpa. It’s supposed to be real people in peril, and perhaps it’s so realistic as to be unpleasant. Or it’s just not very good. The scary highlight is snatches of radio reports from the cop and other motorists’ radios. As is so often the case.

twd-season-1-main-590“Days Gone By” — The Walking Dead pilot: I long ago lost track of this show, having left it behind during the end of the God-awful second season of sniping. I may or may not ever pick it up again, though I’ve been meaning to read the comic for ages. Regardless of everything that came after, however, this is a hell of a pilot. Pilots are naturally awkward, much of the time — characterization and usually everything else is off. Even half-decent ones are still inferior to what came ever: The X-Files putting a much more timid Scully in her underwear for borderline-gratuitous reasons comes to mind. But, ah, The Walking Dead knew how to start things off, even if it didn’t know much of what else to do. Sheriff Rick Grimes gets shot, ends up in a coma (poor showrunner had to defend the coma thing, thanks to 28 Days Later), and wakes up three months later in zombie land. (Meanwhile his annoying best friend, wife, and child are busy being alive. Whatever.)

The scenes of Rick waking up in the hell of the abandoned hospital; the barricaded door with hand reaching; the camera pulling back and showing more and more body bags in the parking lot — they are morbid perfection. Hell, I’d almost argue that the show went downhill the moment Rick meets the half-destroyed, crawling “Bike Girl” zombie. Except, no it didn’t, because there we get to see Rick’s complete horror, bordering on a conviction that he is still asleep, because he has to be. I love when heroes, especially male heroes who have been strong in their earlier lives, need a moment to gather their sanity while dealing with the new world around them. The rest of the pilot has great detail, and good characters. Rick hides with the dude from Jericho who isn’t Skeet Ulrich, and zombies claw at the windows, and things become more horror movie familiar. You get that amazing shot where Rick is riding his horse towards the dead city, with cars that were fleeing all piled up his left (where is that show? I want to watch the show on the poster). It’s all so good, and then it ends on a cliffhanger where Rick is about to met all the annoying people who made the show the worst.

scaled.reddawn1984Red Dawn (1984), directed by John Milius: I first watched the ’80s epic when I was 14, and though I saw the potential camp value, it was a little too violent and its ending a little too bleak for me to really feel the joy of it. Plus, C. Thomas Howell, man, I thought you were Ponyboy, sensitive greaser cleaning up the broken potential-shiv from the parking lot so nobody punctures a tire. This C. Thomas Howell whose hate for the Ruskies keeps him warm is a little too much for me.

Successive watching has made me appreciate this movie for the historical document it undoubtedly is. Every then-relevant ’80s teen together in the Rockies clutching firearms. Also, Powers Boothe is there. A vital lesson in guerilla tactics. Oh, right, it’s totally about the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. Awkward in the most fascinating way. Is it a conservative wetdream, or a secret bit of satire? It is all things.  It is idiotic, and it still a little disturbing.

It’s so stupid, and so unlikely, and on 9/11 — before I saw this movie, I think — I had a brief moment of imaging some imminent invasion, and all of rounded up into camps. Here you can almost get into the spirit of the horror of an invasion — the opening scene of the parachuters coming to the school, and then our heroes fleeing the town is cheesy, but not enough to escape its unsettling quality. Some of the violence is both campy and vaguey disturbing for what it suggests. I have never been able to fully laugh at most disaster movie violence, even when I know it’s funny as hell.  The group of patriots being gunned down while they sing the National Anthem comes is absurd, but reminds me of actually horrific scenes in other, real movies. Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen’s father yelling “avenge me!” like an angry ham is hilarious, but then Swayze gives his all, bless him. Nobody told him what movies this was. Nobody told any of these people how funny, dated, and awkward this movie was. (“Wooooooolverines!”) Everything about Red Dawn both mocks and endorses the most terrified of Cold War feelings. This movie is so weird, and it gets weirder all the time.

“London Calling” by the Clash: Stop pairing this in cheesy, cheery teen movies and sitcoms with your 7-10 shots of London that you purchased to prove that the characters are totally going to England. This song is about the apocalypse.

London is not calling you because you are going to have a super cute time “across the pond.” It is calling because it is drowning, and did Joe Strummer’s weird shrieks not hint to you that something has gone seriously awry? Even Paul Simonon’s bassline is menacing. It is wonderful.