Thirty years ago this month, John Milius’ Cold War wet dream Red Dawn rolled into theaters, helping launch the careers of Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey. But it also launched a significant chapter in movie history: it was the first film released to theaters carrying the new PG-13 rating, a Goldlocks-ish “just right” nestled between the PG and the R. But as with all things MPAA-related, the PG-13 became a giant clusterfuck in the three decades hence, as its desirability led studios and filmmakers to push the rating to its absolute breaking point — loading up their PG-13 blockbusters with dead bodies while the ratings agency’s bean counters tallied “F-words” and bare butts. So to celebrate this dubious anniversary, let’s take a look back at ten cases where the 30-year-old rating was woefully …Read More
World War Z
The 369th Infantry Regiment should be a legend: known as the Harlem Hellfighters, they saw action in World War I and never lost a a trench, a man through capture, or a foot of ground to the enemy. An all-black regiment, the Hellfighters were extraordinary soldiers in a bigoted time — sent to train in South Carolina with broomsticks, relegated to menial labor overseas, embedded with the French Army because the US wouldn’t let them fight side by side with white soldiers. The Hellfighters didn’t give up, volunteered for the most dangerous assignments, and left an incredible record on the battlefield, only to return home to a still-racist America.
We go to the movies to see a polished facsimile of ourselves, to see our collective fears and anxieties play out at an air-conditioned, melodramatic remove from reality. If the top-grossing movies of 2013 are any indication of who we are, then we must be starved for sameness, for the comfort of recurring characters — because for the most part, the top-grossing films of this year were sequels, prequels, and franchise reboots. Our yearning for the same characters has been mercilessly monetized, but this should hardly surprise us.
This Friday, Paramount unleashes World War Z, the Brad Pitt-fronted zombie apocalypse tale that has been on the receiving end of an inordinate amount of pre-release bad buzz. Stories of third-act rewrites, tension between star and director, shifting release dates, and massive budget and schedule overruns have dominated WWZ’s advance publicity, far more than anything of note about the film itself (which is unfortunate, as it’s a frequently gripping and reasonably intelligent disaster flick). But that’s nothing new in Hollywood; for decades we’ve been fascinated by stories of high-profile productions run amok, and by guessing whether those on-set woes would actually impact the final product.