Episode 257 – Deep Impact (1998)

As we close out our “…But An Incredible Simulation” series, we’re taking a deep look, thinking deep thoughts, and having a deep discussion about . . . well, it’s right there in the episode title, so you don’t really need me to say it. “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” have an odd history; most people see “Deep Impact” as a rip-off of the Michael Bay film, despite the fact that “Deep Impact” came out months before “Armageddon” and had been in production for quite some time. “Deep Impact” certainly has the edge over “Boom Boom ‘Splodey-Splodey Space Rock Movie” (see previous entry) in terms of scientific plausibility (in other words: “Deep Impact” actually has some) but is it as good a movie? Is it, in fact, a better movie? It certainly has an all-star cast and big budget effects, just like “Boom Boom etc.” Which of these two is more entertaining to watch? Give a listen as we try to answer this decades-old burning question that I’m sure someone besides us must still be asking.

Poll question: who is your favorite fictional on-screen president NOT including Morgan Freeman or Martin Sheen?

Episode 256 – Armageddon (1998)

[scene: studio execs at Touchstone Pictures talking to director Michael Bay]

Execs: So, Mr. Bay, we’re looking for a major summer tentpole movie for 1998. Any ideas?


Execs: An asteroid, you say? Love it! So, we get some big stars in a disaster movie . . . what else?


Execs: Sure, Bruce Willis, that Ben Affleck kid, Liv Tyler, an Aerosmith tie-in . . . what do you think, Jerry Bruckheimer?


Execs: Genius! These guys are geniuses! Give them all the money!

Yes, friends, I have perfectly recreated the pitch meeting for 1998’s blockbuster “Armageddon.” Sway in awe of my powers of recreation! We’re up to our final pairing in our “… But An Incredible Simulation” series and the first half of the pair is very successful, if scientifically slightly-questionable, movie “Boom Boom ‘Splodey-‘Splodey Space Rock Movie” (I’m pretty sure that was the working title; don’t look it up). Join us and our special guest Bruce Willis (hey, he’s in the movie, that means it counts as a guest appearance. I made it up, I mean, looked it up!) and see if this master class in astrophysics also doubles as a fun movie! Boom!

Poll question: what is your favorite Bruce Willis performance?

Episode 255 – Chop Kick Panda (2011)

Last week’s movie raised the question “Was everybody Kung Fu Fighting?” Well, this week, a 2011 . . . tribute/homage/why-god-why film mumbles the question “Yeah, and was everybody Tae Kwan Do fighting, too? I mean, they might have been! I guess . . .” Like the DreamWorks film, this movie(?) features a Panda and martial arts. But where “Kung Fu Panda” leans on the crutch of beautiful animation, great voice acting, and a surprisingly effective message, “Chop Kick Panda” dispenses with all that flummery and in its stead offers us pop-culture references, fart jokes and brevity. Yes, whatever else there is to say about this cinematic bolus, it does us the favor of not being too long. Or very long. Or long at all. In fact, quite literally, the runtime of this week’s podcast is longer than the runtime of the movie. Is this a good thing? Did “Chop Kick Panda” leave us crying for more . . . or just crying? Give a listen and find out.

Poll question: who is your favorite martial arts star and do you have a favorite of their films?

Episode 254 – Kung Fu Panda (2008)

This week in our “… But An Incredible Simulation” series we tackle the very serious lyrical question: Was EVERYONE Kung Fu Fighting? I mean, it just doesn’t’ seem to make practical sense for everyone, everywhere to be Kung Fu Fighting, especially at the same time. All urban infrastructure would come to a complete halt. Food production would falter. The kicks in question may have indeed been “fast as lightning”, which would suggest a fairly short refractory period but it’s more than likely that there were multiple kicks from multiple sources, so that’s going to take some time. It’s clearly stated that it was a little bit frightening, so a number of people are going to need counseling and emotional support, and that is going to eat into productivity. Also, people are bowing and making a stand all over the place; that’s going to play havoc with traffic patterns. Clearly, this is a serious question so you can understand why DreamWorks SKG decided to make a movie addressing this pressing issue. And it needed to star a Panda, voiced by Jack Black, but that’s just intuitively obvious. Sure, the plot of the movie doesn’t EXPLICITLY address if everyone was in fact Kung Fu Fighting, but I feel the subtext is pretty clear. If Mike ever stops pointing at me and laughing, I’m sure he’ll agree as well. Give a listen and see if that in fact happens.

Poll question: who is your favorite animated character?

Episode 253 – Mac and Me (1988)

Mac and Cheese. Mac and PC. Mac and Me. It’s an almost inevitable progression, isn’t it? A beloved taste treat, a primal struggle between titans, and . . . this movie we’re using for this week’s entry in “…But An Incredible Simulation.” I’m sure you don’t need me to point out the obvious connection between these three cultural phenomena . . . which is good, because I’m not gonna do it! Instead, I’m going to point out that this 1988 iconic cinematic gem bears only the very slightest resemblance to any movie we may have discussed last week. But, the cynical masses cry out, surely “Mac and Me” is just an obvious rip-off of the beloved classic “E.T.”! Is it, I bravely reply? Is it really? Then answer me this, o cynical masses: does “E.T” have even ONE SCENE shot in a McDonald’s training facility? Why no, it does not! Rather telling, no? And, remind me, how much break-dancing does “E.T.” contain? What’s that? None at all? And how many appearances does Ronald McDonald himself make in “E.T.”, would you mind telling me? Precisely zero, that’s right! Well, I think effectively countered any accusations of similarities between this movie and anything that hack Spellbug, or whatever his name is, may or may not have come out with previously. Case closed and I’m climbing out the window before anyone can even think about disputing me, but before I plummet to my doom, give a listen and see how if Mike agrees with my brilliantly cogent argument!

Poll question: what movie has the most egregious product placement, the kind that just took you right out of the movie?

Episode 252 – E.T., The Extraterrestrial (1982)

Welcome to another in our “…But An Incredible Simulation,” where we pair blockbusters with mockbusters, in an attempt to tease your cinematic palette (ooo, sounds naughty!). This week, we’ve got a classic Steven Spielberg blockbuster about a young boy and his carefully-maintained backup glass container holding earth and plants, creating a closed biosphere: “E.T., The Extra Terrarium.” Hmm. It’s possible everything in that previous sentence is wrong. Well, that’s nothing new. Yes, as you’ve probably sussed out, it’s the story of a young boy who introduces a gentle alien visitor to the pinnacles of human achievement: high-fructose corn syrup and artificial peanut butter flavoring. Oh, and probably love and compassion or some other junk. The boy is aided by his annoying but lovable older brother and his slightly shrill but lovable little sister, who actually teaches the alien to speak and later goes on to host her own daytime talk show. Way to go, Gertie! So how does this one-time tear-jerker from the 80’s hold up? Does it still make us want to phone home or does it make us want to phone a cab to get us to the nearest bar? Give a listen and find out!

Poll question: who is your favorite alien character?

Episode 251 – Atlantic Rim (2013)

Ah, the fascinating geological phenomenon known as the “Atlantic Rim”! Studied by . . . NO ONE, OK? There IS no Atlantic Rim! Well, there is, but it’s not a fascinating planetary crustal system, roughly overlapping the Atlantic Rim of Fire . . . because THAT doesn’t exist either! What DOES exist is this rushed-out knock-off of last week’s blockbuster “Pacific Rim.” This is our first (but probably not our last) series entry for “… But An Incredible Simulation” that was brought forth by the production company known as The Asylum and clearly there were in no way at all trying to piggyback on the relative success of “Pacific Rim” with a similar title, even if that title made no sense (I’m sure they realized that and that’s why they changed the title to “From the Sea” and it had nothing to do with any cease-and-desist letters from any other studio). While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, does this particular imitation flatter . . . or shame? Are we talking Ho-hos and Drake’s Cakes? Or Ho-hos and crowbar upside the head? Give a listen and find out!

Poll question: what actor’s appearance in what movie just made you go “oh, god, why?!” What’s your most tragic “I needed the paycheck” film appearance?

Episode 250 – Pacific Rim (2013)

Heckfire and dog my cats! We got us a brand, spanking new series (a spanking! A spanking!) (Calm down, Mike). Y’ever notice how sometimes a big blockbuster movie comes out? Nah, me neither. Kidding, kidding, of course you have; but have you also noticed that when such a movie comes out, right on its heels comes another movie (or movies) that are, shall we say, suspiciously similar in style, genre, and sometimes outright content? Ever notice that such movies come out with suspicious speed compared the release of the blockbuster? Well, you’re not alone! You have us! You’ll always have us! We’re with you forever and ever and ever and ever . . .

Ahem. Where were we . . . ah, yes, our new series! We’re calling this one “… But An Incredible Simulation” and we’ll be watching several pairs of movies; the first will be the actual blockbuster, followed by the . . . tribute? Homage? Shameless rip-off? You decide; we’ll help! We’re starting off with a bang. Actually, several bangs, a lot of booms, and a whole bunch of “BLAAARRGGHHHHHAAAAA!” (that’s exactly how it looks in the subtitles) in 2013’s “Pacific Rim.” We’ve got giant monsters! Giant robots! Giant Idris Elba’s! Ok, he’s regular sized but he’s a giant on screen! And a regular sized Ron Perlman! How can we go wrong?! How indeed . . .

Poll question: what is your favorite giant monster movie? Not just the monster, but the specific movie.