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Daily Reads: How 'Rambo' Started an Action Revolution, the History of the PG-13 Rating and More

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire August 12, 2014 at 10:19AM

Plus: an oral history of Chris Pratt, and the teenage sex comedy renaissance.
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Sylvester Stallone in 'Rambo: First Blood Part II"
Sylvester Stallone in 'Rambo: First Blood Part II"

Criticwire's Daily Reads brings today's essential news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. The History of PG-13. Thirty years ago on August 10, the John Milius Cold War thriller "Red Dawn" became the first film to be released with the PG-13 rating after initial complaints about "Gremlins" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" got the MPAA to create an in-between rating. Since then, the MPAA has been, as always, shaky in their reasoning for how they rate certain movies. Flavorwire's Jason Bailey cited 5 movies that deserved PG-13's instead of R's, and 5 that deserved R's or PG's instead of PG-13's.

"Boyhood"
MPAA rating: R
Should have been: PG-13
Why: If there were ever a better example of twisted MPAA logic, I can’t think of it — you literally have to be as old as Mason Jr. is at the end of "Boyhood" to buy a ticket and watch him grow up. The ratings board gave "Boyhood" an R for “language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.” So, in other words, since the film shows teenagers talking like teenagers talk and doing stuff teenagers do, teenagers can’t see it. Well, most can’t; New York’s IFC Center waved a middle finger at the MPAA, announcing on its website, “IFC Center feels that the film is appropriate viewing for mature adolescents. Accordingly, the theater will admit high school age patrons at its discretion.” Now if we could just get the rest of the theaters in the country to go along…Read more.


2. An Oral History of Chris Pratt. With "Guardians of the Galaxy," Chris Pratt has gone from lovable comic actor to rising star. It's a bit of a surprise to those who first think of him as Andy Dwyer on "Parks & Recreation," but Chris Pratt's TV bosses knew he was headed for the bigtime long before everyone else did. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix interviews the creators of Pratt's TV gigs, starting with "Everwood's" Greg Berlanti:

What was the moment — whether something he did in performance or something he did just hanging around the set — when you realized what kind of talent you had in him?

After a few episodes I realized he was even more special than we thought -- we never knew what kind of dailies we were gonna get back and it became so exciting cause we would send dramatic scenes and he'd find comedy -- and in the comedic ones he would find moments of drama.  I thought he was kind of like an acting Buddha -- always in the present moment and always reacting so honestly and truthfully. Read more.

3. Reviews of Petzold's "Phoenix." Christian Petzold's "Phoenix" is one of the many films premiering at TIFF next month, but it holds special interest for its comparison to Roberto Rossellini's "Germany, Year Zero" and other "rubble films." The film concerns a Holocaust survivor who needed facial reconstruction after being disfigured, and when she meets her husband after the war, he does not recognize her. Fandor's David Hudson collected and translated some early reviews out of German critics.

“For Nelly, rehearsing with Johnny, slipping into the role of a woman she isn’t supposed to know, requires a constant suppression of her feelings,” writes Bianka Piringer at Spielfilm.de. “This emotional tension gives the film a unique, artificial suspense…. The absurd masquerade opens a wide range of possible choices for Nina Hoss, who, once again, is outstanding. None of the rest of the cast approaches her level of her haunting, nuanced performance. In general, the figures here seem to be wandering across a stage as if in a dream. This impressively reflects that moment of emptiness, both historical and personal, an awakening to the rubble of one’s own life.” Rating: 4/5. Read more.


4. How "Rambo" Kickstarted an Action Revolution. Sylvester Stallone has sustained a career of shoot-em-ups since the 1980s, and "Rambo: First Blood Part II" is the one that started it. While the original "First Blood" made its unhinged hero John Rambo a figure of fear and moral uncertainty, the sequel turned him into an avenger. Robbie Collin writes that the second "Rambo" changed the approach of action movies in the 80s.

So in 1985, what was different? James Cameron, for a start. After a fraught experience on his first film, Piranha Part Two: The Spawning...the young Canadian film-maker went into creative overdrive, working simultaneously on three projects that between them would pump up the action genre to bursting point. They were "Rambo," "The Terminator" and "Aliens"..."The Terminator"was the first to be released in 1984, and it helped soften up cinemagoers for Rambo’s assault. The moral murk of the Seventies, still detectable in "First Blood," had cleared: here was a film named after, and openly fascinated by, the bad guy. Skip forward a year, to "Commando," and Schwarzenegger is playing a hero who makes the Terminator look like a pussycat. Read more.


5. The Jukebox Soundtrack in the YouTube Era. 
"Guardians of the Galaxy" might wind up the first summer film with a no. 1 soundtrack on the Billboard charts since "Mamma Mia!" (people just couldn't wait to hear Pierce Brosnan's lovely voice). But in an era where most people can just find the songs they liked from the film on Spotify or YouTube, how do studios and record labels get these old songs to sell? Myles McNutt investigates.

Attempting to control the anarchy of YouTube is challenging even for songs that can be safely stored on official Vevo accounts, but for Hollywood Records to attempt to control songs from four decades ago would be even more challenging, to the point where the soundtrack has no official YouTube presence as far as I can find. However, they’ve made more of an effort on Spotify, another space where users are able to seek out individual songs on demand or make their own compilations: Hollywood Records’ official Spotify account has created a playlist featuring the songs from the soundtrack, which is part of a larger partnership with Spotify that includes the “Awesome Mixtape Generator” website where fans can use Spotify to create their own "Guardians"-branded mixtape to share over social networks. The Awesome Mix Vol. 1 playlist on Spotify has a link back to the Mixtape Generator, which itself features links to Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes pages for the soundtrack album itself. Read more.


6. The Teen Sex Comedy Renaissance. The UK just saw the release of "The Inbetweeners 2," a sequel to the 2011 teen sex comedy "The Inbetweeners Movie." Robbie Collin of The Telegraph looked at the history of the teen sex comedy from the 60s onward, with special attention paid to the 80s likes of "Porky's," "Risky Business" and "Revenge of the Nerds," among other movies. The finding? Up until recently, most sex comedies didn't recognize that its male heroes were actually awful. 

"Revenge of the Nerds" (1984) featured an update of the medieval bed-trick story, in which a woman is tricked into having sex with a stranger she believes is her partner: it’s a well-worn joke, but also, essentially, rape. In "Screwballs" (1983), a "Porky’s" rip-off, five male high-school students make a pact to take revenge on their virginal classmate Purity Busch by somehow publicly denuding her. In the film’s finale, the boys use electromagnets to rip off her costume while she’s on stage at a high-school concert... Amy Heckerling’s "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) was the praiseworthy exception. The sex was plausibly unglamorous – Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character loses her virginity in a graffiti-peppered baseball dugout – and the film was on the side of its female characters, even as it watched them naked. Read more.


This article is related to: Daily Reads, Boyhood, Chris Pratt, Sylvester Stallone, Guardians of the Galaxy


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