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Darth Vader Tag

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a farm boy named Luke Skywalker had dreams of leaving his planet and doing something great with his life. He wound up saving a princess and helped to bring down an evil galactic empire.

Not so terribly long ago, not so far away, a boy named Alex Rogan had dreams of leaving his trailer-park home, going to college, and doing something great with his life. He wound up bringing down an evil galactic armada as well — by getting the highest score on a video game.

When I was a kid and would watch Star Wars (1977) and The Last Starfighter (1984) all the time on cable, I never really noticed their similarities. Looking at the two films now, I can’t see how I missed them.

Star Wars and Starfighter obviously have a lot of differences, too, but they share a basic theme: being a dreamer can really pay off, so if you want something badly enough, somehow you’ll make it happen, especially if what you want is to be the last hope of saving the universe.

Perhaps the reason why I took to The Last Starfighter so quickly when I first saw it as a kid is because of those underlying similarities I mentioned.¬†Or perhaps it’s just because it’s a well-written, beautifully executed science fiction film. Most likely, it’s a little bit of both.

Cover of "Max Payne [Blu-ray]"
For the benefit of those who haven’t seen Max Payne yet, but are considering renting the DVD, I’m going to spoil as much of it as possible for you. Why? Because this is a film that shouldn’t be seen under any circumstances, even if you’re dragged off an airplane under the Presidential Directive of Rendition, and are placed in a dark room where CIA operatives intend to show it to you in order to forcefully extract information.

Forewarned is forearmed.

In the movie, based on the immensely popular 2001 videogame, Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, The Happening) stars as the titular character, a detective whose wife and infant son were brutally murdered by three home intruders, one of whom managed to escape and was never found. Despondent over the loss of his family and that the final assailant was never brought to justice, Max now works the Cold Case division of the NYPD, and in his spare time hunts down clues as to who the final killer might be.

Three years have passed since the murders, and one night Max tricks three punks into trying to rob him in a subway men’s room, and instead takes two of them down–riding one for clues while the third escapes into the darkness of the subway tracks. As the last punk flees, he is suddenly accosted by what appear to be winged demons (or possibly angels), before he meets his end as a train slams into him on its way to its final destination (ba-dum-bump!)

Max then heads to a club to gain more helpful info from the stoolie who led him to the subway punks. While there, he meets up with Russian hottie Natasha Sax (Olga Kurylenko) and her sister Mona (Mila Kunis). The girls enter into a heated debate before Max brings Natasha home to gain intel on a series of odd wing-shaped tattoos he spotted on one of the subway thugs, and which Natasha has as well. When Natasha unintentionally insults Max’s dead wife, he kicks her out of his place. Shortly afterward, Mona is murdered–seemingly by the selfsame demons from earlier, and Max soon becomes the prime suspect. Caring more about solving his wife’s murder than clearing his name soon plunges Max into a race to find the real killers, and eventually forces him to team up with Mona–head of a Russian mob family–before Max can be brought in by Lt. Jim Bravura (Chris “Ludicris” Bridges), another detective investigating both Natasha’s murder and that of Max’s old partner, in which Max is now also a suspect.