Sunday, July 31, 2005

The movie that finally made people stop asking "Do you mean 'artistic?'": "Rain Man"

Perfect example of why every home absolutely should have access to Turner Classic Movies. As John Kerry might ask, "Who among us has not seen 'Rain Man?'" But when you can catch a classic like this without commercials and in widescreen ... well, that's watching a movie, my friend.

Especially a movie that really delivers with the two lead performances. Everyone and his brother knows about Dustin Hoffman and how his portrayal of autistic savant Raymond Babbitt brought home the Oscar. And hey, it's hard to argue with that even after a dozen viewings. But allow me what the kids call a "shout-out" to Mr. Tom Cruise, who played Ray's younger brother Charlie and not only knocked it out of the park but sent that mother flying into the stratosphere.

You know the story, so no need to recap. In a way, Hoffman might have had the easier role. I mean, his Raymond is supposed to be simple and an insane creature of habit. No question that Hoffman fully inhabited the role and showed few, if any, cracks in his autistic armor. There's a reason why almost everyone has babbled "Sally Dibbs" or "about a hundred dollars" or "I'm definitely not wearing my underwear" at one time or another.

It's a lot harder to ape Charlie Babbitt, and that's due to his character being a hell of a lot more complex. We first meet Charlie as some hotshot luxury car salesman, and he remains a first-class prick for more than an hour ... hell, 90 minutes. But it's clear he has an ax to grind with his dead father, and that he's having a hard time wrapping his mind around the whole autistic brother thing.

That's what makes his coming to terms with the situation all the more gripping, and Cruise handles this incredibly well, especially considering he was what ... 25 or 26 at the time? Name one twentysomething actor today who could have pulled this off as well. Leo's too old. So is Christian Bale. Who else? Jake Gyllenhaal? Orlando Bloom? Really, I want to know. Between the intense anger early on and sad recognition/acceptance near the end, Cruise killed this role. It's mind-boggling that Hoffman actually was the original choice, or that when he took the Raymond role, he wanted Bill Murray to play Charlie. ("Gunga galunga, Ray ... gunga, gunga-galunga.")

Of course, for me and many others, the money scene is when the brothers get to Las Vegas. Watching them descend the escalator in their new suits ... you just knew they were getting ready to do some damage. I think of that every time I go to Vegas, even when I drive. You see, Dad lets me drive slow on the driveway every Saturday. I'm an excellent driver ...

Friday, July 29, 2005

You might want to watch out when he offers to trim your hedges: "The Girl Next Door"

File this one under "It's late, she's hot, why not?" This silly movie from last year was showing on one of the HBO channels -- HBO, HBO Comedy, Cool Ranch HBO ... I don't know. While my feelings on the leading lady, Elisha Cuthbert, were mixed -- annoying in "24," smokin' in "Old School" -- the smokin' brain cells won out, and I figured, "Hey, it's only 90 minutes or so, right?"

Well, it's actually 109 minutes, and it wasn't all bad. Oh, the movie isn't good as a whole. The premise is absurd, and any attempt to conjure genuine emotion/sympathy pretty much fails. But at least one performance was worth watching, and you sure didn't have to worry about thinking too much. Me think she pretty, me think he funny.

The story goes like so: Hot girl moves next door to high school kid, and just as they start getting close, he finds out she's a porn star. What follows is a series of events -- some of which I honestly can't remember -- in which the kid tries to get his girl out of the porn biz for good. Hey, junior ... this is the 21st century. A woman's got a right to make her own decisions, even if they involve garter belts, a trapeze and a rugby team.

Of course, things don't go smoothly for our hero, played by Emile Hirsch, who I had seen but forgot (or didn't ever care) was in "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys." He's decent here, but the do-gooder stuff wears pretty thin, pretty fast. Much better is Timothy Olyphant, playing a more lively cousin to his character in "Go," a much better movie. (He's also excellent in the HBO series "Deadwood.") Here, Olyphant plays Cuthbert's manager/ex-boyfriend, and watching him mess with Hirsch's life helped pass the time a little more quickly.

As for the real reason 99% of people (read: young men) went to this movie, Cuthbert definitely is easy on the eyes. And I guess I can see her going for this kid just because he's a nice, innocent guy and she's tired of the porn crowd. But we're not talking Meryl Streep here, and saying her range goes from A to B might be generous. Then again, why quibble with someone who enjoys a late-night swim in her underwear? I mean, really ... is that so wrong? Live and let live, I say.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On second thought, the kids are definitely not all right: "Village of the Damned"

You know how those uber-polite, well-dressed, super-quiet kids seem a little too perfect sometimes? It turns out they're just waiting to take over the world. Who knew?

That's sort of the premise of "Village of the Damned," which I recorded from TCM and knocked out rather quickly, thanks to its 77-minute running time. But there was plenty of suspense even at that length, and this movie turned out to be a nice little thriller that will make you think twice about brushing off snobby British school children.

For an older movie (1960), Village gets off to an intriguing start, with an entire town full of people suddenly falling unconscious, as if a cloud of knockout gas descended on the area. They eventually come to, but within weeks every woman who is able to have a baby finds herself pregnant. This raises a few eyebrows, from the teenage virgin to the woman whose husband was away on some kind of boat. Oopsie!

These women all give birth to blond kids who seem pretty advanced for their age, and then start growing at a startling rate. Of course, the kids start hanging around each other, with their blank faces and identical outfits making them the most boring street gang ever. Oh, and it turns out they can control things with their mind, to the point that some townspeople won't be going to these kids' graduations.

While it's British and in black and white, "Village" wasn't boring, moving briskly from that opening scene to the strange pregnancies to the weird alien/demon children revealing their powers. I definitely wondered where this was going and who was going to bite it along the way, and this is without any CGI or gross-out effects, too. Instead of, say, Drew Barrymore setting people on fire, you just had these kids flashing their radioactive eyes at people. You know, a few drops of Visine will clear that right up, little fella ...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No matter how boring a movie seems, you have to watch when two girls start kissing: "My Summer of Love"

After knocking out "Wedding Crashers" on Saturday, I was up for even more mindless movie fun on Sunday. Alas, the missus ... argh, the missus. the terrible missus. but at least she wasn't asleep this time (NOTE: Actual comment typed by the missus herself when I stepped away from the computer. She's a sly one ... already knows her ABCs.)

Anyway, the missus had a two-for-one deal at the local art house theater. It only has two screens, though, and since I'm pretty sure "March of the Penguins" isn't an action flick -- "Vin Diesel leads an Antarctic expedition that turns deadly!" -- we ended up at something called "My Summer of Love," which I knew nothing about and which sounded like a movie Jerry and Elaine might see on "Seinfeld." (Along with "The Pain and the Yearning" and "Chunnel.")

Even with a brief car sex scene, "Summer" got off to a less-than-promising start. First, it's British, which meant it was slow ... I mean "atmospheric." Whatever. Even the appearance of the excellent Paddy Considine ("In America") didn't spark much interest. Best I could tell, Considine's little sister was the central character, a bored girl somewhere in rural England who didn't like her brother becoming a born-again Christian after he got out of jail. So she roams around the area looking for anything that passes for excitement.

Enter another young woman, who is ... what's the word I'm looking for here? Oh yes, hot. Really hot. Killer-eyes, clean-skin, lithe-body hot. And you kind of wonder if the first girl, Mona, thinks that, too. In any case, she and this girl, Tamsin, become friends, with rich girl Tamsin taking Mona under her wing as the two bored girls start hanging out more and more.

Now this was getting interesting, and I won't keep you in suspense: There is some girl-girl action. (Or is girl-on-girl action? I mean, is it girl-on-girl if they're lying side by side? We need answers to this stuff.) Mona and Tamsin grow closer and closer, even as a few obstacles to their friendship/romance pop up. In reality, not much actually happens in this movie. But dude ... chicks making out. I even gave my wife a thumbs-up when that started. She loved it, as you can imagine.

It soon became clear where "My Summer of Love" was headed, but the movie was tolerable solely due to the three lead performances. Considine was solid as a man trying to stick to God's path, but the two young women -- unknowns Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt -- really nailed their roles. Press gave off a young Sissy Spacek vibe -- we all remember "Carrie" -- with a little Ellen Barkin thrown in. Meanwhile, Blunt was ... hot. And did I mention they make out?

Monday, July 25, 2005

To have and to hold ... at least for tonight: "Wedding Crashers"

What are the two most glorious words anyone can hear at a wedding? Not "I do," but "open bar." Hey, I liked my wedding more than any others, but it was a bit of a drag to duck out at midnight when there was more drinking, dancing and debauching to be done. The price you pay for growing up, I guess.

Given that its two stars are just a few years older than me, "Wedding Crashers" is right in my wheelhouse. That must be why everyone I know went to see it opening weekend, while the missus and I didn't catch it until last Saturday. We also had to get an extra-large drool cup for her, as her naked lust for Owen Wilson knows no bounds. Well, except good taste. Seriously, check out that schnoz, honey! He looks like an extra from "Raging Bull."

Our plot: Wilson ("Anaconda") and Vince Vaughn ("Domestic Disturbance") play divorce mediators who serially crash weddings and lie their way into women's beds. At the Mother of All Crashes -- the wedding of the Secretary of Treasury's daughter -- both guys go after the bride's two sisters, with Vaughn ending up with a psycho while Wilson chases his dream girl. That chase leads our heroes to a weekend at the family's vacation house, where hijinks ensue.

Those hijinks, and the antics leading up to them, are mostly funny, and even if "Old School" is still the standard for this crew -- I know, I know, I covered that a couple of posts ago -- "Wedding Crashers" kept me laughing for a solid hour or so. Hell, the premise itself was pretty hard to resist when I first saw the trailer several months ago. Unfortunately, the movie goes on for almost two hours, pulling in another member of the gang and crossing into Emotion Town, where sophomoric humor is forced to take a backseat.

It's too bad, too, since Owen and Vince are pretty funny on the front end. Christopher Walken ("The Prophecy 3: The Ascent") is solid as usual, although he doesn't get much to do beyond apeing De Niro from "Meet the Parents" (also featuring Owen Wilson in a smaller but funnier role). Another good turn comes from Isla Fisher, who I never heard of but does a fine job as Vaughn's crazy love interest. (You can kind of see how he's torn about her, although family dinners will never be the same.)

Ultimately, this movie had a lot of good stuff but just couldn't stick to the tried-and-true rule of (a) not getting too "deep" and (b) not going too long. If this were only 95-100 minutes long and less sugary at the end, it would have made a worthy companion to "Old School." But maybe that's nitpicking. After all, it's not any movie that have Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (Jane Seymour), ordering someone to grab her breasts. You just can't put a price on that.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Yeah, I think we can take a break from the jokes for a bit: "Hotel Rwanda"

I'm not a good griever. My wife gives me sh*t about this all the time, from me not crying after 9/11 -- when we lived in New York, no less -- to not ever getting broken up about anything in general. Not that I'm cracking jokes at funerals or anything. It's just that I tend to get more quiet and minimize things when they go bad.

Which makes me a great candidate to watch "Hotel Rwanda." What's that? A gut-wrenching look at genocide that the rest of the world essentially ignored? Hell, sign me up!

Falling squarely into the "Schindler's List"/this-is-painful-to-watch-but-necessary category, "Hotel Rwanda" is based on the true story of a Hutu hotel employee who houses more than 1,000 Tutsi people -- saving them from slaughter -- during Rwanda's ethnic/tribal civil war in the mid-1990s. So if you found "Anchorman" a little heavy, you might want to sit this one out.

Don Cheadle plays the hotel guy, and he's awesome as usual. Friends, this guy really is an actor. I'll fully admit to never being able to completely forget his turn as Buck in "Boogie Nights," but his chops are so solid that it doesn't matter. Here he paints such a complex portrait as a guy torn in several directions while his world is falling apart around him ... well, it's easy to see why he got an Oscar nomination. (And if not for Jamie Foxx channeling Ray Charles, he just might have won.)

Bottom line: This movie is powerful storytelling, with the added bonus of making you feel incredibly guilty for being an American AND pissed off at the cruelty human beings can show to one another. Seriously ... people suck. I mean, you watch this, and you get pissed -- at the Hutus, the UN, the Western world and essentially yourself. Hey, I remember Rwanda, and I remember thinking, "Um, sounds like some bad stuff going on over there. Bummer." Then I think I flipped to the Bulls game.

Watching "Hotel Rwanda" as a more responsible adult -- at least in theory -- I didn't grieve as much as get mad, thinking it wouldn't be such a bad idea to hop a plane to Darfur and stop the same sh*t from happening again. Of course, one man can't make a difference. Oh, wait a minute ... based on "Hotel Rwanda," one man can.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I'm not wearing any pants, film at 11: "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy"

It's not your fault if you can't keep track of all the sophomoric comedies featuring Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller. It's almost like these guys get together once a month and decide which two or three are going to star in the next movie, and which two or three will just have cameos. "Actually, Owen, I'm a little tired right now. Maybe you and Ben can handle this next one. I'll drop by for a day or two, though."

"Anchorman" came out right after Ferrell hit it big with family crowds with "Elf." To that point, he had been a key part of the modern guy-movie classic "Old School" and a supporting player -- usually a hilarious one -- in such fine films as "Zoolander," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and "Austin Powers (I and II)." True, he also was in "Superstar" and "A Night at the Roxbury," but the less said about those, the better.

"Anchorman" didn't exactly build on "Elf," and it's pretty uneven as far as stupid comedies go. The premise: Ferrell leads a San Diego news team that is thrown off-kilter when a woman reporter joins the staff and eventually becomes an anchor herself. That's it, and as you might imagine, it's just an excuse for a series of "funny" scenes to be strung together over 94 minutes.

The verdict: It's no "Old School," that's for sure. I guess it stands along "Dodgeball" as merely OK -- mindless time-killing without being that clever. (Sort of what my wife says about me. Pa dum dum. I'll be here all week, folks.) I actually did laugh at a few scenes and lines, and generally thought Paul Rudd, who plays the station's investigative reporter, was most consistently funny guy. (Watch out for that Sex Panther cologne, made with bits of real panther, so you know it's good.)

As for Ferrell, he's all right as long as he goes all out for a role, and he gives it a shot here. His haughty anchor comes off a bit like the James Lipton impersonation he did on "Saturday Night Live," and the weird exclamations -- i.e. "Beard of Zeus!" -- work only some of the time. But we may have to take what we can get since I understand that in "Bewitched" he's moving more into Tom Hanks territory. Nothing good can come from that. C'mon Will, we're going streaking!

Friday, July 22, 2005

I was told the movie title would NOT show up on my bill: "Deep Throat"

The perils of porn in hotel rooms are well known. When you travel on business and find yourself alone in an anonymous room -- is this a Sheraton or a Hilton ... or a Vagabond Inn? -- it can be mighty hard to resist scrolling through the movies for "mature audiences." Fortunately, most trips find me indulging another vice and killing time at the hotel bar, which makes late-night viewings of "Blind Date" that much more amusing.

While in a city that shall remain nameless last week, however, I discovered a piece of history wedged in between "Barely Legal 37" and "The Porn Identity." And considering the Watergate informant who adopted this movie's title recently revealed himself to the world, I really had no choice but to watch "Deep Throat." After all, as Samuel Coleridge wrote, "If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!" (Yes, I looked that up.)

Clocking in at a mere 61 minutes, "Deep Throat" doesn't have the most intricate story, you'll be surprised to learn. Even so, it takes a little time to get to the point: A woman (Linda Lovelace, playing herself ... instead of, say, Lady MacBeth) who can't achieve orgasms discovers that her clitoris is in her throat. As you might guess, she doesn't take the news well at first, crying to her doctor, "Suppose your balls were in your ear!"

Yes, this is the real plot, and were it not for "Edward Penishands," it could be the silliest ever in the history of film. (Never seen the latter, but I'm just guessing.) But wait, there's more! You've got the '70s look, of course -- complete with mustaches -- and some mind-bogglingly cheesy music, including the song that plays when Linda discovered how she can achieve orgasm. It goes a little something like this: "Deeeeep Throat ... deeper than deep, your throoooaaat!" Not exactly John Lennon, is it?

You may recall a documentary out earlier this year titled "Inside Deep Throat," which examines the ins and outs -- pun intended -- of this movie, how it was made and what it spawned. I'll catch that on DVD, I'm sure. Between the mainstream success and the Watergate stuff, the movie's place in history is unquestioned. And really, you can't wrong with a movie that asks the question, "Say, what's a nice joint like you doing in a girl like this?"

Thursday, July 21, 2005

If there wasn't a female, they could be the "Mediocre Men": "Fantastic Four"

Hey there, good to be back. Anyone here from Queens? I'm from normal parents myself ...

Although I was traveling quite a bit in recent days, I found time to head to the movie house earlier this week. Of course, I was dying to see "Wedding Crashers" but held off because, as I may have shared, the missus has a thing for Owen Wilson, aka He-Whose-Nose-We-Cannot-Comprehend. I also didn't want anything too heavy because (a) I had a lot on my mind and (b) really didn't want to think too much. And if I had gone to "March of the Penguins" by myself some parents might have called the cops.

Alas, this has proved to be a dangerous recipe for movie disaster in the past, and "Fantastic Four" was no exception. The movie isn't very good, period, but when you throw a New York ticket price -- $10.75, and that doesn't include a salad -- into the mix, a theater riot is a distinct possibility. No cop would arrest us, though.

The basic premise of "Four" is known. A group of scientists/pilots go into space and get zapped by kooky cosmic rays. Back on earth, they discover various superpowers, i.e. turning into flame, becoming invisible, stretching all over the place. Then you also have one guy becoming super strong, but the price is that he looks like a cracked orange rock. Yes, it does put a crimp in his love life.

This group ends up doing battle with the tycoon who financed their space mission and came back with his own power, which is ... generating power, I guess. Never got the specifics on what happened to him, other than he could shoot lightning bolts from his hands and decided metal was a good facial look. More important is how all this fun plays out on screen, and the answer is not that great.

To no one's surprise, I enjoy mindless fun as much as the next guy, even if it's a bit ironic when scientists are involved. But it's clear the stakes have been raised when it comes to comic book movies. Forget "Spider-Man" or even "Batman Begins" ... "X-Men" and "X2" were more fun than "Fantastic Four" while still making more sense and even straying into "intelligent" every now and then. Here we just have pedestrian storytelling and performances, and nothing that makes you think or feel.

Sure, Michael Chiklis ("Daddio") takes a shot at pathos as The Thing, cursed with his horrifying appearance. And Chris Evans ("Not Another Teen Movie") is amusing as The Human Torch. (Although yelling "Flame on!" might have a slightly different meaning these days.) But this doesn't offset the other one-note performances, including Jessica Alba hilariously trying to convince everyone that she went to MIT. Yeah, I believed Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom were into you, but I suspect it wasn't so much your doctorate as the prospect of playing doctor.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Where were these guys when Cruise was hopping around on Oprah?: "War of the Worlds"

You know you're in trouble when the movie ends and you think, "Geez, the most believable thing was the aliens ... "

Talk about a letdown. I might not have been as pumped for this as other summer offerings, i.e. "Batman Begins." But for something that had both Spielberg and Cruise -- the duo behind the intelligent and excellent "Minority Report" -- attached, "War" was a disappointment. Plenty of cool death and destruction, sure, but when it comes to the story and performances, what some people might say was elemental and lean I considered one-note. Not a good sign when the 10-year-old is acting circles around everyone.

Our plot: Divorced father Cruise has his kids -- the 10-year-old girl and teenage boy -- for the weekend just as weird atmospheric stuff starts happening, and then the aliens attack. This part wasn't so bad, especially with the aliens attacking from under out feet! (Hence one tagline, "They're Already Here." Cool special effects, even if this unprovoked attack runs along the same lines of "Independence Day." (And yes, I know H.G. Wells wrote "War of the Worlds" way before that.)

From there we watch Cruise and kids flee the aliens, only to have the baddies catch up every now and then. Unfortunately, the movie starts to get uneven, with some grand scenes of destruction (good) interspersed with the family's quiet worry and Cruise's wrestling with the situation (not so much). I understood the family/emotional stuff -- bad father tries to do his kids right for once -- but I didn't really buy it. And since I don't recall this being a central part of Wells' story, the deficiency may lie with Spielberg.

Another drawback is the abundance of holes in the whole story of the alien attack. In other words, a whole lot of questions, but not many answers. Worse, there doesn't seem to be much interest in finding those answers. I don't want to give away the ending, but it wasn't very satisfying, which essentially left me regarding "War" as a collection of scenes. There's nothing wrong with B-movie sci-fi, and like I said, really cool effects and a nice job of creating a sense of terror and panic, especially when the alien machines really go to town. But c'mon, Steve and Tom ... you can do better than this. The human race is depending on you!

NOTE: Due to a particularly wicked stretch of travel, I likely won't be able to post anything for at least a week, maybe a little longer. I'll do my best to find time on the road, if you want to check this site every now and then. No promises, though, and consider yourself warned.

Friday, July 08, 2005

These days, they're REALLY looking for ... : "A Few Good Men"

Caught some of this while traveling not long ago, and it really is a solid movie, even underrated considering both the star power and dialogue. True, Aaron Sorkin would go to be Mr. Rapid-Fire-Exchange-While-Walking-Down-Hallways man for both "Sports Night" and "The West Wing." But this was his first splash, and heavy hitters Cruise and Nicholson ate these lines up.

It's pretty hard to find anyone who doesn't know the money lines from this movie, but I still couldn't wait to see Jack Nicholson ("Ironweed") go toe to toe with Tom Cruise ("Legend") in that military courtroom. As you know, Nicholson plays a high-ranking colonel called to testify in the death of a U.S. Marine on his base. (Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as it turns out. Anything much happening there recently?)

Cruise is the lawyer, aided by Demi Moore ("Blame It on Rio") and Kevin Pollack ("Willow"). Those supporting roles are decent, although they pale to Kiefer Sutherland as a hardcore grunt loyal to Nicholson. Also above average are the legendary J.T. Walsh and Kevin Bacon, but really this is Cruise and Nicholson's show, and it's great to see two top-notch guys going at it, even if Jack makes Tom his nancy boy for most of the movie

Here's a fun fact: Did you know that since 1990 Cruise has averaged just one movie a year? Yeah, only 15 movies, counting this latest alien funfest. Same thing with Nicholson. Maybe that's why they're actually worth a damn as actors. Hell, Ben Stiller did 15 movies last year alone. But seriously, let's take some random guy ... Colin Farrell. Let me look it up ... yep, a whopping 12 movies since 2000. Geez, take a break, man. I mean, "S.W.A.T." doesn't exactly warrant a "For Your Consideration" ad in Variety, does it? (If only HBO would play this more. I mean, 20 times a week isn't nearly enough.)

As for "A Few Good Men," I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the signature exchange between Tom and Jack. It's not overstating to call the courtroom scene one of the more powerful scenes in movie history, especially with Nicholson's brow furrowing more with each question from Cruise. As for the climax, well, I don't want to say who ordered the Code Red, but I was curious about the truth. Please ... tell me ... where can I find the truth? Oh, here? Thanks.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Yippie-ki-yay, motherboardf*cker: "Westworld"

If it weren't for "The Magnificent Seven," it might be impossible to imagine the King of Siam as a robot who goes apesh*t at a big-spender pleasure resort. Fortunately, Yul Brynner had that earlier performance to send up in this '70s sci-fi classic, and he does it well.

Seriously ... look at this guy. Pretty damn creepy, and that alone makes "Westworld" worth watching. I saw this several years ago but jumped to TiVo it because I remembered Brynner's deadpan robot gunslinger so well. The story: Westworld is one of three themed "worlds" (along with Roman and Medieval) at a high-end resort. Guests interact with lifelike robots with no consequences, meaning they can kill or screw them pretty much as they please.

Sounds great, right? No way anything could go wrong, right? Um, yeah. When the robots start short-circuiting or whatever, people start to die, starting with James Brolin ("Pee-Wee's Big Adventure"). Yeah, I guess that's a spoiler, but isn't a movie in which you know Brolin bites it a "must-see?" Or perhaps you just love "Pensacola: Wings of Gold?"

Anyway, it's not about Brolin. It's all about Brynner. Even before he starts stalking Richard Benjamin ("Saturday the 14th"), Brynner is quietly menacing. Just consider these lines when he first bumps into Benjamin: "Sloppy with your drink? ... Get this boy a bib! ... He needs his mama." Damn ... I know robots couldn't kill guests at that point, but old Dicky B. almost dropped dead right there.

Of course, director Michael Crichton -- yes, that Michael Crichton -- would go on to use the "theme park gone bad" idea with "Jurassic Park." (That's what the TCM guy told me.) But this is a leaner story that succeeds without raptors running all over the place. Plus, you have Mr. Bradford from "Eight is Enough" rising to the role of Westworld sheriff -- one of more bizarre (and forgotten) plot lines I've even seen. Now, if Nicholas Bradford had been causing all the trouble, then I would understand ...

And you thought he couldn't top "Baby's Day Out"

Why do I get the feeling that Ol' Fred's words from the deck of an aircraft carrier in "The Hunt for Red October" will prove to be painfully appropriate? "This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Obviously De Niro and Pacino were unavailable: "Tango & Cash"

You can look it up: This gem came out the same year as "Turner & Hooch." How about that for a coincidence of titles? There's just one difference. "Turner & Hooch" starred a dog. "Tango & Cash" is a dog.

For some reason, though, I simply cannot turn away when this comes on. I suppose I've seen bits and pieces of "T&C" several times over the last few years, given its regular place in TNT's "Crappy Action Movie Collection." But like other proud members of this film fraternity -- i.e. "The Last Boy Scout" -- "T&C" isn't boring, what with all the fights, gunfire and explosions. Nope, not boring ... just mind-numbingly stupid, when it comes to both plots and performances. I know, I know ... and you were about to tell me about Sylvester Stallone's many Oscars.

As you probably know, "T&C" stars Stallone ("Rhinestone") as a hotshot L.A. cop who battles for the spotlight with fellow cop Kurt Russell ("The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes"). But when a crime lord targets our heroes, they're framed for murder and sent to prison. Fortunately, they learn the value of pacifism, appeal their case, are eventually freed and go on to lead several peace marches. The end.

Fine. As you might guess, Sly and Kurt break out of jail, find out who set them up and bring the crime lord down. I actually fell asleep 15 minutes before the end, but I had seen it before. Let's say bad guy Jack Palance ("Cops and Robbersons") can do all the push-ups he wants ... he's still not getting away with his dastardly scheme.

This is all tremendously silly, and if you treat this movie as pure comedy, you won't be disappointed. Throw in a few of "those guys" in supporting roles -- Brion James, Michael J. Pollard, and Clint Howard -- and Teri Hatcher as Sly's sister, and "Tango & Cash" fits perfectly in the "Turn Your Mind Off" category. Well, except that part where Stallone and Russell debate Nietzsche's Superman. (Sly: "I'm telling you, he totally was worse than Bizarro Superman." Kurt: "No way, you idiot.")

Monday, July 04, 2005

When I turned 30, only my social life died: "Logan's Run"

File this one under "Movies I Thought Were Cool When I Was a Kid But Now Seem More Than a Little Goofy." The concept is legend: In the future, humankind lives in domed cities in which every desire is satisfied. The only catch is that they have to die at age 30. Yow. I mean, we've all been told you can't trust anybody over 30, but isn't this taking things a bit far?

I had seen "Logan's Run" several years ago and caught bits and piece since then. Upon viewing again, there's no question this movie is seriously dated. First of all, a "utopian future" is as realistic as "And the Oscar goes to ... Johnny Knoxville!" Hey, we've all seen "Blade Runner," and considering the current president, it's safe to say we all won't be flying jet cars to any kind of Pleasure Palace in a few years.

But setting aside this stretch, "Logan's Run" is distracting for two other reasons: "Michael" and "York." This accomplished British actor may have been fine as protagonist Logan in the late '70s, but how can you watch him now and not think "Hey, it's the boss in 'Austin Powers!'" Talk about a mixed blessing: high-profile role in successful series, and absolutely no recognition of your previous work.

As for the overall story, "Logan's Run" isn't bad. With the job of tracking down people who refuse to be killed ... er, "renewed" ... on their 30th birthday, Logan gets a new assignment to find where "runners" who escape the city are going, and destroy this "Sanctuary." His flight with a comely female runner from the domed city is farily interesting, although York's performance is pretty one-dimensional. Then again, maybe that's the idea, given the simplicity of life in the 23rd century. "Hmmm ... food or sex? Let's go with sex now, food later."

Still, I couldn't help but feel like I was soldiering through this movie, and I fully realized that it's now almost 30 years old. Almost everything is a giveaway, from the cheesy popguns used by Logan and other "Sandmen" to the aluminum foil-covered robot he encounters while fleeing outside. Hey, I love to drop a reference to "Carousel" and "Sanctuary" as much as anybody, but a futuristic shopping mall doesn't look so hot when Kubrick was delivering kick-ass special effects eight years earlier in "2001." Now, if HAL 9000 had been running Carousel, then we're getting somewhere. "I'm sorry you've turned 30, Dave .... "

Friday, July 01, 2005

Business trip + movie logjam = smorgasbord of posts

I can hear the clamor ... "Where has the Movievangelist been? I'm adrfit ... rudderless ... more lost than Jessica Simpson in a game of 'Clue.' For god's sake ... help!" Forgive me, my children. Duty called earlier this week -- someone has to organize the annual meeting of Michael Ironside Fans of America -- and this humble site suffered. As penance, I offer this quick rundown of multiple recently-viewed movies:

Yeah, but in Martinique there's no difference between May and December: "To Have and Have Not"
Rumor had it this was not only a classic but the movie in which Bogey -- Bogie? I never remember -- and Bacall fell in love, and I buy it even if he's 25 years her senior. I've come to appreciate Humphrey Bogart as someone who can get away with a lot of great lines despite being less than a looker. He's pretty good here as a fishing boat captain who gets sucked into WWII intrigue in the Caribbean, and while the story isn't as brisk as it could be, the performances kept me interested. Compared with the previously-blogged "The Big Sleep," Lauren Bacall is pretty tempting here, even before delivering her signature line: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow." Well, allrightythen.

Please stop them before they get to "CHiPs": "Starsky & Hutch"
Actually, this little vanity project isn't so bad, if only because Stiller is too talented to totally suck, and Owen Wilson's weird nose is oddly riveting. Throw in Vince Vaughn as the goofy villain (vs. trying to be scary for real in crap like "Domestic Disturbance"), Jason Bateman putting another notch in his comeback belt (along with "Dodgeball" and the hilarious "Arrested Development"), and a cameo by Will Ferrell ("This is gonna get kinda weird... Two dragons"), and this movie is very watchable. Good? Whoa, let's not get carried away. But definitely watchable. And c'mon, toward the end, where you have Vaughn doing another turn at the microphone (a la "Old School") and Stiller/Starsky doing Maury Finkle, how can you not laugh? C'mon ... do it. DO it. DO it.

No, I said you had a nice bod, not pod: "Body Snatchers"
You'll recall my post on the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" not long ago. Lo and behold, the most recent version (1993) was on not long after that, so I was obliged to watch -- I had seen parts before -- and compare the two. No question the story loses a little when you take out the whole Red Menace thing from the '50s. Some updates were OK -- the main character is a teenage girl, and the takeover by pod people is on a military base -- and pretty much everyone in the cast does a decent job. Still, why have R. Lee "Sound off like you got a pair!" Ermey in the cast if he's not going to yell, scream and generally destroy people? And don't think just because you throw a little full-frontal of Meg Tilly's body double at me that I'm going to give this a high grade. I mean ... she's a pod person, man.