Frozen River: Slurpees Half Price

Melissa Leo is in a big budget picture out now alongisde mega-uber-super-duper-screen legends Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. But you could probably skip that film that can only generate lukewarm reviews and box office, and see her in Frozen River, filmed for less than 1% of the cost and is something you aren’t likely to see much in movies.

Leo plays Ray Eddy, a poor woman with two boys (T.J., 15 and Ricky, 5), who lives at the northern edge of New York state, near the Canadian border. When we meet her, her gambling-addicted husband has vanished with money they need to purchase their double-wide. She’s not a very likable character, and T.J. blames her for his father running off, though, in fairness, she’s in the difficult situation of keeping her family together while not letting the missing dad destroy it.

She crosses paths with Lila, a Mohawk Indian whose husband was killed and whose son was taken away from her when she was caught smuggling.

This leads the two to end up smuggling immigrants across the Canadian border through Mohawk reservation, which is half on the USA border and half on the Canadian border. Ray’s initial reluctance is plausibly denied by Lila’s insistance that what they’re doing isn’t illegal, because the reservation can admit whomever it wants and, uh, I guess, let whomever it wants off the reservation?

It’s a dubious justification, but one that serves well enough to convince the desperate for money Ray that she’s not really a criminal as she, you know, commits all these crimes. As it usually does, her life of crime has some negative consequences, as does her sense of right and wrong.

I won’t spoil anything here, but let’s just say her desperation leads her to venture into the dark, mean streets of Canada. So, you know.

This is a good low-budget flick that tells its story crisply, without relying too heavily on dialogue–Lila barely talks at all–and playing nicely on the cold, desolate poverty of Plattsburgh, New York. There’s a little too much shakey-cam in the opening scene (though I think I understand why) but things settle down and draw a picture which is sort of the opposite of the pristine snowscapes of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo and Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan. The snow always looks questionable, dirty and even sinister.

The acting is good. While Melissa Leo allows the camera and lighting to show all the age and poverty she’s supposed have endured, Misty Upham packs on 40 pounds to play her laconic Indian sidekick. They look and act their parts–very naturally, as if director Courteney Hunt pulled them out of the trailer parks in Plattsburgh. The boys (Charlie McDermott, James Reilly) do solid work, and Michael O’Keefe, normally seen as a white-collar type, if I’m not mistaken, makes a credible state trooper whom it’s really not clear if he’s racist or just (rightly) suspicious of Lila.

The ending of a movie like this is tricky. Very, very tricky. Our heroines are criminals, after all. But as we get to know them, the movie–almost grudgingly–gives us a chance to like them. I won’t say how it ends, but I will say it avoids the common pitfalls this sort of movie often falls prey to.

Solid flick, worth checking out.

Manic Monday Apocalypso: The Last Woman On Earth

One of Roger Corman’s favorite budget-saving tricks was to film two movies while on location instead of one. The second film was done on a shoestring-budget–an even stringer-shoestring budget than the first, shot quickly and sometimes without a full script. And sometimes, they were better than the higher-budgeted flick.

Such is the case with Creature from the Haunted Sea, and its twin The Last Woman on Earth. TLWOE is a perfect example of what makes a post-apocalyptic movie attractive to the Z-movie director: It has a cast of three and one of the three is the screenwriter.

Said screenwriter is no less than Robert Towne, best known for having written Chinatown and Bonny and Clyde. And while this isn’t his finest work–and as you might imagine this is a pretty talky flick for a post-apocalyptic thriller–it acquits itself fairly well.

Two men. One woman. The woman is the last woman on earth. Gosh, it practically writes itself.

The worst–and best–part of this movie is the fetching image of Betsy Jones-Moreland on the poster. As lovely as she is, she never quite finds herself in this state of dishabille.

Another cool thing about the movie is that it’s Public Domain. Watch it for free or download it from the Internet Archive.

Until next Monday, mutants, stay radiated!

Waitress, On Reflection

Adrienne Shelley’s Waitress has been on cable quite a bit, and I’ve had a chance to re-view it.

When it first came out, Althouse hated it. I think I even put off seeing it for weeks on that basis.

I realize now, Althouse and I do not have anything like comparable movie tastes. (For example, I’ve given a cursory view to Across The Universe, and found it vaguely offensive, despite the music.)

Anyway, I liked the movie when I first saw it, and I like it more on re-view. It’s stylized: deliberately placed out of time and a fairy tale situation, in the sense that the characters are all placed in their situations without much concern for how they got there.

What I find weird was Althouse–and others–assertion that this was a man-loathing movie. Yet, in the end, all the characters are flawed, and the only really bad man is Jeremy Sisto’s creepily played Earl. Indeed, one of the most despicable characters in movie history.

In fact, the lead character–whose view colors everything in the movie–goes from seeing men as bullies and ogres, and comes to see them as human as her girlfriends.

Now, I’m not unsympathetic to the view that movies–particularly female-centered ones–portray men badly, as villains, etc. But that just doesn’t apply here. About the only characters who don’t show off severe flaws are Dawn and Ogie, with Dawn being rather insecure and Ogie being…a little intense.

IMDB has this at 7.4 which is maybe a hair low for the current curve (maybe a 7.6). I’m a bit surprised by the number of comments I’ve read that are so severely judgmental. I sort of come away from this film thinking, “Well, we all make mistakes, and the idea is that we should correct them and move on, and also not be too severe about others mistakes.” It’s such a non-controversial concept (“Lord’s Prayer” anyone?), I’m surprised at how many people approach this from the viewpoint that the main character should be pilloried.

Anyway, Adrienne Shelly was just cute as a bug’s ear, to boot. And her tragic death should not go unobserved. Fortunately, it hasn’t.

On The Importance of Being Earnest

Not the Oscar Wilde play but the actual importance of being earnest.

I was thinking about why I find Ed Wood watchable. And then about how I find the blaxploitation flicks of the ‘70s so entertaining.

And I think it sums up as: earnestness.

Earnestness is the opposite of camp, snark, irony, hipness. It’s meaning what you say, without regard for triteness or unintentional humor. It takes a kind of courage to be earnest, and a particularly in this post-modern era of deconstruction and over analysis.

One could, were one so inclined, analyze the national election in terms of earnestness versus camp. You might say the Reps tend to favor earnest candidates suspiciously, while the Dems earnestly favor hip candidates. But I won’t say that here.

Earnestness, of course, is no guarantee of quality, as Mr. Wood, Jr., clearly illustrated, along with the dialogue of the ’70s flicks about “the Man” and white and black prejudice. But it’s almost always entertaining, if not in the way the creators intended.

The original Evil Dead, for example, has many moments of unintended comedy mixed in with some truly scary moments, reflecting Sam Raimi’s youth and intensity. By contrast, Spider-Man 2 has a few scary moments that Raimi cribbed directly from his earlier film, and which are almost intense enough to push the movie into R territory.

We see from these two films, that it is possible to maintain earnestness even while raising quality. The second Spiderman movie is probably Raimi’s masterpiece, completely committed while technically brilliant.

But very often, earnestness is lost in the perfection of craft. I like Spielberg, and am not inclined to bashing him, but I think since about Saving Private Ryan, he’s lost a lot of the earnestness he used to have making popcorn movies. (He even mentions it in reference to Jurassic Park 2. His heart just wasn’t in it.)

Earnestness can become strident proselytizing, too. When I consider Plan 9 From Outer Space, with its message of non-nuclear proliferation (or…non-solarinite proliferation), I see a movie that’s a movie first, where the message of peril is meant to give some underlying resonance to the story, rather than a story dedicated to pushing that message. And I’d still rather watch it than The Constant Gardener or any of the anti-Iraq movies that have emerged in the past five years, regardless of “quality”.

Religious movies can fall into the same trap, of course. But you don’t get many religious mainstream movies these days.

I’m not a big Peter Jackson fan, but he kept the snark out of Lord of the Rings. You can’t do “epic” without earnestness: Things have to matter, while the whole of being hip, cool and camp is that nothing matters–and very often that nothing is really very good. Or, rather ironically, that “very good” = “very easy”. (That’s a kind of modern art conceit: You can’t write a song in C or make a representational painting like the old masters. That would be too easy.)

Earnestness, like being plainspoken, reveals how we actually feel and think, of course.

This requires a degree of vulnerability.

Which, in turn, is what makes art dangerous to create and even, in a way, to enjoy.

Burn After Reading. Then Eat The Ashes.

You could divide the movies of Joel and Ethan Coen into two categories: Tragedies and comedies. You could almost adhere to the classic definition of these as well: In tragedies the hero dies; in comedies he lives.

The tragedies are usually pretty apparent up-front: Miller’s Crossing and No Country For Old Men, for example. The movie tips you off pretty quickly as to what kind of movie you’re going to see.

The comedies also come in two different flavors: dark, and extra-dark. The ones that are merely dark would include Raising Arizona (probably the lightest), Hudsucker Proxy and O Brother! Where Art Thou. The extra-dark would include movies like Barton Fink and possibly The Ladykillers. The difference between the dark and the extra-dark is that, probably nobody’s going to die in the former, whereas anyone might die in the latter.

Fargo, for example, would be one of those extra-dark comedy: Marge survives, but anyone else is up for grabs.

The potential “problem” is that you think you’re watching one kind of movie until someone ends up in the woodchipper. Still, if you’re familir with the Coen Bros’ work, you shouldn’t be surprised by any particular surprise. As it were.

Still. I was surprised.

Anyway, Burn After Reading is the story of a personal trainer (Frances McDormand, who proves that just because a director puts his wife in the film doesn’t mean she has to suck) and her dimwitted pal (Brad Pitt, in his best role since Fight Club) who stumble across a CD full of an embittered ex-intelligence agent’s memoirs and personal financial information. Said agent (John Malkovich) is having trouble with his wife (Tilda Swinton) and so she was collecting the financials in preparation for a divorce.

The agent’s wife, you see, is having an affair with a federal marshall (George Clooney) who’s a narcissitc exercise freak given to trolling the internet for women while lying to his successful children’s author wife (Elizabeth Marvel of “The District”) and having an affair with…France McDormand!

Anyway, Linda and Chad (McDormand and Pitt) figure they can get some money for the CD, which Linda desperately needs to pay for the plastic surgeries she desires. This leads them to blackmail Osborne (Malkovich) and even go to the Russian embassy when he refuses.

The various plot twists and turns remind me a lot of Lebowski and a bit of Blood Simple. Though it’s not as dark (literally) as the latter and it lacks the loveable characters of the former. It is funny–though obviously you have to be appreciative of the Coen sense of humor.

What makes it particularly funny, oddly enough, is agent David Rasche explaining what’s happening to department head J.K. Simmons. You actually feel sorry for these guys trying to figure out what’s going on, especially as they’re trying to work it out from the standpoint of whether this rises to the level of actul espionge.

“What did we learn here?” as Simmons says at the end of the movie.

Good question. Good question indeed.

One thing that cannot be denied is the quality of performance of the cast. McDormand’s shallow self-absorption, Pitt’s energetic idiocy, Clooney’s paranoid sex-addict–actully Clooney could never work for anyone but the Coens again and it’d be okay by me.

Richard Jenkins–probably the only really sympthetic character in the film–is having a good year, with this and The Visitor, and I’m sure Tilda Swinton must be the sweetest woman in the world. (She’s always portrayed as cold and mean to children, sometimes very literally as in Narnia.)

This movie speeds along–actual running time about an hour and a half–and ends almost abruptly, but exactly where it should, and keeps you paying attention and laughing. A nice change from No Country for Old Men.

Pleasantville with Zombies

Even here in La-La Land, not every movie gets a shot in the theaters, and sometimes the ones that do get a shot get just a few days. And yet, I’m surprised when a good one slips through the cracks.

I’d never even heard of Fido until we watched it last night on cable, and that’s a shame. It’s a sort of alternate-history movie (which we don’t get much of) where a Night of the Living Dead scenario occurs in the ‘20s, leading to the Zombie War. The Zombie Wars are ended when a scientist discovers their weakness (i.e., destroying the brain kills them) and also how to curb their fleshlust through a collar, allowing for their domestication.

The movie itself takes place in a recognizable version of the ’50s, where housewife Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss, in a role far scarier than The Matrix) lives on the edge of hysterical concern about appearing strange and keeping up with the Joneses. Frazzled husband Bill (Dylan Baker) is having trouble keeping up, what with the costs of funerals these days.

Seems that if you don’t want to come back as a zombie, you have to have a separate head casket from your body. With the various economic incentives, most people opt for coming back as a zombie, but Bill–having had to kill his own father who tried to eat him–is adamant on spending the family’s money on funerals. He hates zombies.

Helen, on the other hand, can barely conceal her shame, as they’re the only one on the block without a zombie! The Bottomses, who’ve just moved in, have six! And so, Helen runs out and buys a family zombie (Billy Connolly, barely recognizable without his goatee and brogue).

And this is just the set-up.

The Robinsons have a son, Timmy. (Of course, he’d have to be named Timmy.) Timmy (played by the unlikely-named K’Sun Ray) is a bit of an oddball, picked on by bullies, but friendly with the new Bottoms girl (Alexia Fast), who finds in the family zombie the father Bill isn’t. And also sort of the family dog.

Thus, the zombie is christened is “Fido”.

Ultimately, this movie works out to be both dark and cute, as it veers away from the borderline camp at the beginning of the movie, veers through a Lassie movie (if Lassie, you know, were a zombie and not a collie), and ends up in a strange Pleasantville-ish location where humans and zombies reach new levels of understanding.

There are some Cold War undertones, if you want to look for them. The father’s obsession with funerals neatly parallels the money spent on bomb shelters. And whether zombies are actually dead comes up a lot, with the Helen and Timmy deciding they’d rather be zombies than dead which reminded me of the old “Better Dead Than Red” saying.

But ultimately, this is just a fun, dark little movie–good for Halloween–and worth a watch.

A few bonus points: Henry Czerny as the ZomCon security chief; Tim Blake Nelson as a the necrophiliac neighbor; and tons of gorgeous classic cars, all polished to a shine.

Check it out!

The Chick Flick: Causes and Cures

I was going to write about “chick flicks” when I realized I already had, on New Years Eve Day, no less.

But the remake of The Women brought up an interesting point: Does the original movie The Women qualify as a “chick flick”, and if so, how can it be so good?

The answers would be: Sort of. And that’s how.

The Women may be a prototype of sorts. It meets half my definition of chick flick needing to have women treat each other badly. But I would suggest that the ill treatment in The Women is different; they’re not, for the most part, pretending to be friends. There is a rivalry, and a moral ending–i.e., the guilty are punished and the good rewarded (sort of).

The other thing is that there’s no disease. What makes the modern “chick flick” execrable is the underlying theme that one only needs to be civil, decent and generous when someone’s life is on the line. (God, that’s almost masculine.) So, the disease is vital to the ending, wherein the characters who abuse each other can show how much they truly care.

It’s an appalling Hollywood trope that one heroic emotional gesture can make up for a life poorly lived, but life is, of course, much more about day-to-day choices. You don’t break a real relationship, nurtured daily for years, by missing one event–and you don’t repair a real relationship with one heroic gesture.

Ultimately, in the chick flick, one character is martyred and the other is made heroic by becoming a victim herself.

Confused? Consider Hilary and Jackie, my favorite whipping boy: Jackie treats Hilary horribly but when Jackie is shown to be a martyr (due to impending MS), Hilary takes the heroic action of forcing her husband to sleep with Jackie (?), and thereby martyrs herself–saving the relationship (with her sister; she gets pissed at her husband).

A lot of times, it should be noted, the whole thing makes no freakin’ sense at all. Hell, maybe never. (Beaches? Wind beneath my wings? Really?)

The Women poses the question to the main character: How much is your marriage worth? As catty as the characters are, the entire thing boils down to what one woman is willing to sacrifice for that relationship. This isn’t really about the heroine wallowing in her unfortunate circumstances.

The victimization part is key. That’s what turns the story of a modern “chick flick”. And it infects some modern romantic-comedies as well, which has turned the normally crowd-pleasing genre in to one more tilted to (certain kinds of) women. It’s particularly pernicious there; you essentially turn a staple of American cinema into a romance novel.

If the remake of The Women keeps the strength of the original characters, it will have done fairly well just on that.

The Dark Knight Returned

I saw The Dark Knight again.

My original review, from six weeks ago is here. Some observations upon reflection:

  • It holds up rather well.
  • It’s at #3 on IMDB (under Shawshank and Godfather) which is still too high.
  • My initial appraisal of Maggie Gyllenhall was off. She really isn’t convincing as the tough-as-nails DA. What’s surprising is that, in retrospect, Katie Holmes was. But Gyllenhall is far more convincing as a hippie/folksinger/drifter than an authority figure, and sort of slouches and shrinks her way through this film.
  • Mostly unchanged on my view of Heath Ledger: He did good. But he’s actually not even in the film that much.
  • I was contrasting with Superman 3 and noticing that Bale does a good job acting even while wearing the cowl. I know people didn’t like the “Batman growl” he does, but it still works for me.
  • Aaron Eckhart has the toughest role: He’s a good guy in a way that’d perfectly comfortable in a movie from the ‘40s. For a guy who played a cigarette PR guy (Thank You For Smoking), he does sincerity really well.
  • Gary Oldman is too old to be Commissioner Gordon but it works.
  • Caine and Freeman and Bale should make a non-Batman movie together.
  • Joker’s claim to not be a “schemer” is not credible.
  • Watching Spiderman 3–with celebrations for Spidey–twigged a vague recollection of something. In the DC world, with Superman and Batman, the heroes are generally publicly praised. I think it was Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who introduced the idea of public opprobrium to comic books. I never once read an anti-superhero comic as a kid, unless it was due to a temporary misunderstanding.
  • The theater was about 2/3rds full. (!)
  • UPDATE: Also, Batman’s head was HUGE. That was one problem with showing him in full light. What’s up with his head being almost a perfect sphere with bat ears?

Man on Wire: Audience on Seat Edge

Narcissism and nostalgia, would be my bullet summary of Man on Wire, the documentary of Philippe Petit’s crossing of the World Trade Center on a tightrope.

Petit, a Frenchman whose means of support is not discussed at all, is a singular man with an incredible drive…to tightrope walk. His certainty and clarity of purpose is like a magnet to those around him, as he acquires a team to help him pull off a number of remarkable stunts: Walking between the towers at Notre Dame, and over a Sydney freeway, and finally, between the two largest towers in the world (at the time).

So, here’s a story about hope, passion, dedication, the creative impulse, and the ability to do the impossible, as well as a story about how easy it was to get people to do really stupid things in the ‘70s.

Petit narrates a lot of the story with tremendous passion, interspersed with comments from the others who were there at the various events. That’s not a spoiler, dammit: He’s there in the opening scenes of the movie. He obviously didn’t die. Actually, everyone still seems to be alive, which is not bad, given the time span.

This is an interesting story, both of the actual events and of the group dynamic, which completely disintegrates after the big event. It’s interesting to note that the whole thing was held together by one man’s passion, and it worked right up until he achieved his goal.

So, there’s the message: If you’re passionate enough–and you don’t care how you use people–you can do anything. I’m only being a little bit snarky, here. Everyone seems to have enjoyed being around this guy when he had this passion. He burned brightly. But I don’t get any sense that he ever related to anyone in any other way than how they could facilitate his ambitions.

Which, perhaps, is a lesson of its own about creative drive.

All-in-all, a pretty good movie, though I was confused by the fact that there’s actual footage of training they did. I first thought they had hired some very similar looking actors to the real people and recreated the scenes but, no, a lot of the (remarkably high quality!) footage is real, though they weren’t able to carry that through to the actual crossing.

Then they started throwing in re-enactments, which were pretty obviously fake. But at the end I found myself wondering which was which, and that’s not good for a documentary.

The ghost of the World Trade Center haunts the entire movie, though they never once mention 9/11. There’s no need to. You’re sitting there, looking at them going, and if you were sentient seven years ago, there’s going to be some resonance there.

All-in-all, not bad, though you don’t want to approach it from a dour, conventional point-of-view–or you’ll end up wondering what the hell it is that allows Europeans to waste all their time doing pointless things.

Take it as a flare of brilliance–a remarkable incident, never to be repeated–that fired up the imagination of the world for a few moments.

Maybe if you do something like that, that’s all you really ever need to do.

Traitor In Trange Land

The Boy opted for the new Don Cheadle movie over the documentary about the guy who tightrope walked across the World Trade Center, and since he had been the King of All Brothers with a rather whiny Flower, I let him hold the popcorn for a while.

Which isn’t really relevant to anything. Except I was proud of him. The Flower’s been going through a difficult time and she tends to take it out on him, while at the same time missing him when he shutters himself in his room.

So we went to see this movie–based on a story by wild ‘n’ crazy guy, Steve Martin!–and, The Boy didn’t really get it. That’s unusual except there are some subtitles in the movie. I’ve noticed that if the movie is entirely in a foreign language, he does fine, but if they come and go, he can get lost. In this case, while most of the dialog is in English, part of it is in arabic, and the arabic’s not all subtitled.

The other thing I think is a factor is that for more than half the movie, you’re in the terrorist’s lair, and that’s hard to relate to, I think. I liken it to the mad scientist in a Bond movie who’s going to destroy the world, except writ small. The thing is, the Bond movie doesn’t have to make sense. You have to wonder about the logic that says, “If we just blow up enough random, non-military stuff, we win.”

For a moment, I got a kind of Paradise Now vibe off it. Paradise Now is a kind of brilliant movie, told entirely from the Palestinian POV. If you’ve drunk the kool-aid, anyway. An objective POV might chafe a bit at the Palestinians blaming the entirety of their plight on Israelis. I’m sure they do that, but it turns them all into victims whose only recourse seems to be further victimization.

So, in this movie, we have Don Cheadle, Islamic explosives expert, who gets deeper and deeper into the world of jihad until he’s sent on a mission to equip 50 American moles with 50 bombs to detonate on bus trips, all on the same day.

All is not as it seems, of course, and one of the big problems is that Don Cheadle is almost a latter day Henry Fonda. Even when he’s not playing an American, he radiates a kind of All-American good-heartedness. He’s the guy who turns the hotel into a refugee camp, who takes his crazy ex-roommate under his wing, who is wise in the ways of racism. Even in Boogie Nights, he seemed like an incredibly decent guy in a sleazy business.

Seeing him as a terrorist is challenging, and maybe it ultimately works because terrorists see themselves as good people. The movie does raise a whole lot of questions about what limits it’s okay to go to get a bad man.

One of the other big problems, however, is that the actions taken to get the bad man (not Cheadle but his ultimate boss) don’t entirely make sense. They do set up a bravura climax, one that’s really quite satisfying.

Which leads us to the biggest problem: The movie is more tense than suspenseful, which makes it feel a little slow. (I remember Joel Siegel saying once that the difference between tension and suspense is that two hours of suspense is fun, while two hours of tension gives you a headache.)

I’m calling out the faults, but it’s only the movie’s slowness that hurts it seriously, and it’s still quite watchable. Cheadle is fine, as always, and the supporting cast includes Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce and Neal McDonough. Cheadle’s real co-star is Saïd Taghmaoui, who respects his love of Islam and takes him further into the terrorist network.

Ultimately, the movie works in the sense that it challenges you to think about, as I said, what’s okay in the war on terror, and it does so without being a navel-gazing exercise in America-bashing. So, that’s a plus.

It needed a little crisper direction, however. But the director’s former “big script” was the abysmally perplexing The Day After Tomorrow, so this is a step in the right direction.

Manic Monday Apocalypso: Introduction

I thought it would be fun to start every week off with some sort of post-apocalyptic topic.

Nothing like a little doom-and-gloom to cure that “case of the Mondays” you have.

First up, Gamma World. Although I and my friends mostly played D&D, we dabbled in a few other games. The ones GMed by others never lasted long, though I don’t know if it was because they weren’t very dedicated, because I was so much better at running games, because I was a terrible player, or some combination all of the above. So for some reason I never got into sci-fi, and we flirted briefly with superheroes, but Gamma World was the only one that got much play when I was around.

It’s entirely possible, if not probable, that my friends played without me without telling me, and Lord knows I was consumed by music increasingly as my teens progressed. But I did get a call from a 7th grade pal in 10th or 11th grade saying my Jr. High group hadn’t played D&D since I changed schools.

Gamma World was highly derivative of D&D but had some cool highlights. There were little things–like the set came with a map of the post-Apocalypse USA, which, quite frankly, looks like what pass for global warming maps today.

Another cool thing about GW was that you didn’t just rolled your stats, you optionally rolled your mutations. These were, of course, comic-book type mutations, not things like “easily susceptible to cancer” or “unable to aim urine stream”. So you could have extra arms or legs or eyes, psychic powers, and I think even wings were an option. You could be a mutant animal, for sure. I think–like the superhero game–you could also pick a bad mutation to offset some good powers you had. (Much like you’d pick “kryptonite” for Superman.)

In retrospect, what GW really needed was a way to let GMs and players work out their own mutations.

Though GW was fairly generic, it also featured “social groups”. One group was for expunging mutants while another was for expunging unmutated humans. There was an animal group that was for killing all humans, and a robot group, too, I think. Not all the groups were about killin’, some were for trying to restore society or had other bases of organization.

Looking back at it, I think the real problem with the post-apocalyptic movie genre is that it seldom shows a fraction of the imagination GW creators did–and this is probably true of high fantasy and D&D, too, but high fantasy movies are really pretty rare.

When was the last time you saw a post-apocalyptic movie with a three-eyed, four-armed guy? Or a mutant animal? Or a bunch of rival societies, other than generic, purposeless, Road-Warrior-style thugs?

What puts the “pop” in apopalypse? (Work with me, here, I’m on a roll.)

Nothing, that’s what. The closest you can get is Futurama, which isn’t really post-apocalyptic.

The most recent versions of GW have been desultory enough to go out of print fast, which would be a shame, I guess, if I had time to play it.

Until next Monday, stay radiated, mutants!