Over the past week or so, I watched two movies set in the jungles of Southeast Asia (“in the shit”). One of them was pretty good. The other one had Rambo in it.

The pretty good was is called Tropic Thunder. I had a choice between Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express, and decided this jungle one would be more “cinematic” for some reason. Also, it has Robert Downey Jr. in it, and Robert Downey Jr. has been one of my favorite guys since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang way back in aught-five (I’m kind of late to the RD Jr. party). He was just perfect as Jim Barris in A Scanner Darkly, too. And as the boozy writer in Zodiac last year. And he’s been good in movies that made more than a buck twenny-nine in the theaters, too.

In this new one, he plays a multiple-Oscar-having Australian actor (“Kirk Lazarus,” finest name of the summer) who has his skin medically em-brown-ened to play an African-American soldier in Vietnam. And he’s by far the best part of the movie. Not that the rest of the thing is bad… The whole cast does a great job, actually. God help me, I even liked at least 5 of the 452 minutes Tom Cruise was on the screen screaming at me in a fat suit. It’s just that Robert Downey Jr.’s performance here is something really unique. I mean, the guy is trying to juggle a satire of Method acting pretensions and Hollywood Black stereotypes at the same time. And he pulls it off! He’s got some of the most quotable lines of the year.

“I don’t read the script. The script reads me.”

So yeah, Tropic Thunder is worth seeing. I can’t say I really needed the full “cinematic” experience to enjoy it (do I ever with comedies?), but the fake trailers probably played better that way, at least. (Oh god… Satan’s Alley… If I see anything funnier than that this year, it will be the best year ever.)

Also: Steve Coogan is in it. It’s nice to see Steve Coogan in things.


The movie with Rambo in it is called “Rambo.” Here’s how the pitch meeting went for this one:

. . .

Some Hollywood Guy: Hey there, Sly! I hear you’ve got a new Rambo idea for us.

Sly Stallone: I sure do, SHG. See, I’ve been reading about these army assholes they’ve got in charge down in Burma. Real horrible guys, seriously in need of some ass-whuppin’ courtesy of our man Rambo.

SHG: Well, I do like ass!

Sly Stallone:
Yeah. So here’s how I see the movie playing out: We start by showing the audience, in detail -vivid, excruciating detail- exactly how horrible these horrible Burma-guys are. I’m talking multiple rapes, tons of murder, vicious beatings, child stabbings, village explodings, you name it. Minimum two scenes of dudes being forced to run across a minefield for sport.

SHG: Two?

Sly Stallone: I just don’t feel the audience will really GET how bad these guys are without at least two minefield sport runs.

SHG: Oh, I get it. Great stuff, Sly. But here’s my concern: Aren’t all these raped and exploded Burma-people kind of… well… Asian? I mean, Rambo usually kills Asians.

Sly: You didn’t let me finish. These Burmese army guys don’t stop at just genociding all over their own people… they kidnap Americans, too.

SHG: Fuck!

Sly: WHITE Americans.


Sly: White CHRISTIAN Americans.


And they kind of rough them up a bit.

SHG: That’s EXACTLY the kind of thing Rambo would never tolerate!

Sly: You got it, pal. I figure after 14 to 865 solid hours of watching brown people slaughtered and mutilated and raped in big clouds of pink party gas, then a few minutes of watching white Americans mildly abused, it’ll be just about time for a little Rambo. Except I’m kind of busy these days so we’ll just write in a bunch of mercenary guys to do most of the soldier stuff. I’ll turn up at the end to stand behind some kind of magical gun that converts human beings into little chunks of terrible CG. About eight hours of terrible, terrible CG ought to do it.

SHG: Well, I do like terrible CG!

Sly: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Did I mention how awful the Burmese army is? They’re real, you know. Torn straight from today’s headlines.

SHG: Wow, it’s like we’re doing a public service then. Getting the word out.

Sly: Their leader is a pedophile.

SHG: Oh?

Sly: A GAY pedophile.

SHG: Jesus, SICK! That’s like the worst kind of pedophile you can be!

Sly: The worst. But don’t worry, we’ll get his little queer innards all CG’ed through the grass real nice by the end.

SHG: Thank God. Well, I’m just about sold here, Sly. Just one more thing. though: Can we get a shot somewhere in there of a guy taking an arrow through the head and falling on a land mine? ‘Cause otherwise, Aaron Alexovich is going to totally hate this movie.

Sly: Anything for Aaron Alexovich.


. . .

I don’t usually write about entertainment-type stuff I don’t like, but man… this Rambo thing got such great reviews all over the geekosphere. Consider this a public service message: Don’t get in Rambo’s van, kids. He has bad candy.

Robert Downey Jr.’s candy, however, is DELICIOUS.