Category Archives: Articles by Kevin

The Films That Made Us — The Adventures of the Shining Black Stripes

By Kevin McCabe

What movie had the biggest impact on me?

Whether it’s movies, music, art, or writing, it’s an almost impossible task for me to choose a favorite or the most influential. I have been losing myself in these media since the late 70’s when I was about five years old. One of my greatest pleasures is to see how creative someone else can be. So, to make this topic simpler for myself, I’m borrowing the same format of questioning I recently read in Entertainment Weekly in an interview with Emma Stone. Let’s hope my answers are different than a 23-year-old actress.

The first movie I remember watchingThe Adventures of the Wilderness Family (1975). Back before cineplexes, multiplexes, mega-theatres, etc., there were small town theatres with one or two screens. My home town had one and I loved going there with my family. I can almost remember driving there in our family truckster (nod to the original Vacation, another personal classic) and sitting in a room that had 50-60 seats.  I’m not going to lament about the low cost of the ticket, but I know the candy and popcorn were still reasonable for those days.



The first movie I watched at a drive-in: The Black Hole (1979). It was an RKO drive-in where you’d pay one price for a car stuffed with kids. This was the first film that scared me and made me cry, for different reasons. That night I was crying and couldn’t sleep because the robot V.I.N.CENT. died in the movie, and my older sister came into my room. This was the first, and last, time I can remember her being truly nice to me. Who could really blame her though, I was a younger brother.



The first R-rated movie I ever sawStripes (1981). I was about nine when I saw this. Don’t blame my parents though, it was during a sleepover at a friend’s house. Blame his parents. Shortly after this came the Porky’s trilogy, then Kentucky Fried Movie, followed by a plethora of B-movie softcore porn flicks. But on a serious note, to this day I love the work that Bill Murray does, whether it’s comedy or drama. If I ever went into acting, I would probably try and conjure my inner-Murray to pull off a scene.



The scariest movie I ever saw: The Shining (1980). I saw this on HBO at home at night by myself, and I loved it. To this day I compare most scary movies to this. Do they have as much suspense, drama, horror? Shortly after watching this I also saw The Making of the Shining, and that documentary had an even bigger impact. Now I could see anything and it really didn’t SCARE me. I would see Freddie’s signature hands and wonder how the make-up artists constructed them. I could watch The Exorcist and laugh when Linda Blair vomits all over the priest. Sure they still scared me sometimes, or made me gasp, or spill a little popcorn when I jumped in fright. But it stayed in the theatre or on my couch. I never took those moments into my dreams. I wish there were more horror movies like The Shining. Today it’s all about gore.



I guess it worked. Without trying I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to these films. They really have made me partially who I am. I love going to the movies and escaping into the minds of the director and the actors. The sense of peace and joy it brings me stems from my adolescence and the great times I had with my family. Before this exercise I also didn’t really know why my two favorite genres were comedy and horror.

Now if you ask me this same question in another ten years, I’m sure it will have something to do with parenting or children growing up. I honestly believe that each day brings us new experiences that change us, hopefully for the better. And it’s not until we look back far enough that we can see just how much we’ve been impacted.

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By Odin’s beard, let Thor 2 be an improvement

By Kevin McCabe


By the time Thor hit the big screen in the spring of 2011, the build-up to an even bigger Avengers release was already in place.  We had been given tasty morsels of semi-sweet chocolate Marvel with The Incredible Hulk and both Iron Man films.  And quickly on the heels of a shirtless Chris Hemsworth, was an equally stripped Chris Evans as Captain America: The First Avenger, to round out the group. I’m sure we will be talking about this collection of films in decades to come as we do now with the original Star Wars trilogy. Let’s just hope they don’t go down the same path that Lucas did and stick some Jar Jar Binks character into a prequel that disappoints all of us.

For now my focus is on Thor, and in my opinion it’s the weakest link in this chain. The out of this world locations, while necessary and in keeping with Stan Lee’s original 1960’s comic book series, were over the top with CGI. I understand the landscape of Asgard is supposed to be fantastical, but it looked like they borrowed building and scenery ideas from every other-worldly movie done in the last 15 years. It was inconsistent, very distracting, and didn’t truly help the story.



The other major flaw in my opinion was the A-list cast they pulled into the film that did nothing more than add their names to the marquee. With stars like Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Rene Russo as his mythical mother Frigga, and Natalie Portman as the love interest Jane Foster, they had a Yankees-type starting line-up. Sadly, they performed more like the Mets. I see that Hopkins and Portman are already signed up for Thor 2 coming out next year. I pray the new director and writers better use the talent at their disposal.



Despite these shortcomings though, Thor is still an impressive film. Kenneth Branagh skillfully introduces us to Thor’s half-brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston (also signed on for Thor 2). We get to see his character grow and mature into the typical jealous brother. Their relationship fuels the storyline here, and again in The Avengers. And I’m looking forward to watching it fester in the next installment. Hiddleston does a good job of making you loathe him one minute, and then feel sympathy for him the next. He and Hemsworth are a good matchup with nice chemistry, but I wish I could say the same for Portman and Hemsworth.



We are also briefly exposed to Jeremy Renner’s Avengers character, Hawkeye. As with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in Iron Man 2, Hawkeye shows us enough mystery and skill to let the viewer know there’s something bigger in store. However, I would have liked to see a bit more action or back-story here.  Having him perch above the hammer impact site for five minutes of footage just wasn’t enough. We get only a little more history in The Avengers from both these characters. Maybe it’s because they don’t possess actual superpowers or the money to create them, but I think their roles are critical in order to properly balance the team. I know I’m not alone when I say that a separate movie about Hawkeye and Black Widow would be as well received as Thor, if not more so.



It’s a difficult task to successfully weave together almost a dozen or so key roles into a single storyline. To give each of them enough face time and depth of character so any one of them could support a full story… well that would take hours and hours. We’ve already been fortunate enough to have these six full-length feature films devoted to Stan Lee’s Marvel creations. And there are already plans for at least another four installments. I can’t wait. (And actually, I’m going to see The Avengers again this afternoon.)

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)