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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Fugitive (1993)

This movie has always been a favorite of mine. When I originally saw the ads for it, I was amazed. I loved the scene where Harrison Ford jumped off the bus just before it was hit by a train. It’s such a good scene, “The Simpsons” spoofed it!

The music really makes the film. But of course, the major players (Tommy Lee Jones, Harrison Ford) are perfect for the cat and mouse plot. The plot itself is great.

One part that really got to me was when Harrison Ford is being questioned soon after his wife’s murder. He is obviously distraught, but the Chicago Police guys don’t seem to care. They’ve already labeled him as their prime suspect, so when he can’t satisfactorily describe the real villain, they just hammer away at him with question after annoying question. It’s almost sickening to see one of those two at the end, when he still fully believes that Harrison Ford is the bad guy. It takes a real pro like Tommy Lee Jones to see the higher truth.

In spite of all the adversity, Ford never gives up. Neither does Jones. I love that!

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Commando (1985)

What a cool action movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger does a great job at brining justice to the bad guys. It’s neat when the hero has some kind of advantage, because that makes him or her seem that much more believable in victory, and a hero winning is always a good thing. Arnold’s character is a retired soldier revealed to have been one of the best in the military. So when a bunch of not-so-super soldiers go to work toward fulfilling a plan to get control over Arnold, he just decimates the whole crew.

Arnold just wants to live a normal, happy life with his daughter, played by Alyssa Milano. The bad guys kidnap her in the hopes that they can use her, and threaten to kill her, as a way to motivate Arnold to assassinate some guy. I love Arnold’s opening move. The bad guys show up, take out the security guards placed there to protect Arnold and Alyssa, and somehow kidnap the daughter. Arnold goes and grabs a gun, when this cocky, relaxed bad guy says something like, “Hey, man, cool out, if you want to see your daughter again, you’d better listen what I have to say, right?” Arnold says, “Wrong.” And blows the guy away! It’s that kind of belligerent toughness that makes him so appealing. Even when surrounded by guys with guns a few minutes later, what does he do? Grabs the first rifle he can reach out of the guy’s hands and smacks another guy in the face with the butt of it. Unbelievable. And entertaining!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008) and Heath Ledger

I read somewhere that "The Dark Knight" is Heath Ledger's final role. He was found dead in his apartment with prescription medication. I think one of the bottles was of sleeping pills.

I read that playing the dark and scary version of the Joker gave Ledger nightmares. Someone said of Ledger that he has a knack for portraying dark, edgy characters. Ledger said he needed two Ambien just to get to sleep, and even then only slept for about an hour.

I've heard (on "The Simpsons," but it sounds fair) that people are known to sleepwalk and do odd things while on Ambien.

My guess is that Ledger simply took too much sleep medication, because he wanted to get to sleep so badly.

In the context of his death, "The Dark Knight" will probably seem different than otherwise. Maybe it will even be created/finished differently from this point on. I heard another man died in connection with this movie, I think it was a cameraman during a car stunt. It's really sad that there are two deaths connected with this film. And it was especially troubling to read that Heath Ledger, a guy admired and envied by so many, and in the prime of his life, had died.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The China Syndrome (1979)

I just watched this, and I think it's pretty good. It's definitely got a gripping storyline.

Jane Fonda plays an anchorwoman who suffers through the '70's male chauvinism depicted in Will Ferrel's "Anchorman." While she takes her work as a broadcast journalist very seriously, none of her bosses do. She wants to do hard news, but they won't let her. Enter a nuclear controversy story.

Michael Douglas is her trusty cameraman. Together they go for a run-of-the-mill story at the local nuclear power plant. They happen to be there when a mistake is made by the head guy there, played by Jack Lemmon. Everybody almost dies, but throughout the film the people answering "was there danger?" play it way, way down, including Lemmon. The error Lemmon experienced opens his eyes to an even bigger problem looming with the plant, that spirals to the point where he's the only one who knows the town (and part of the country) is doomed unless they shut the plant down. A lot of money's at stake though, and people are willing to kill to prevent a shutdown. So the action picks up to a major degree near the end, especially when Lemmon can't get his coworker buddy Wilford Brimley to take his concerns seriously without a gun.

I noticed a few undertones of "Women vs. Men" and "Modern Extremism vs. The Establishment." It felt a little preachy. In spite of that, I found the film enjoyable.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Note (2007) (TV)

I watched this yesterday, and it's pretty good for a touching made-for-TV movie. A plane crashes, and in the seconds before death, one passenger writes a note to his son or daughter. A writer with an ailing column finds the note, and writes about her quest to track down the intended recipient. The story is about love, death, and forgiveness.

One thing I didn't really like was how tacky it seemed for the writer, a woman, to not think twice about using the note and the relatives of the crash victims as tools to resuscitate her column. But the movie never really overtly covered the possibility that what she was doing was wrong. In fact, she at one point asked how a competing journalist, a TV news guy, could be so bold as to shove a microphone in someone's face right after they lost a loved one. Her point seemed to be that it is inappropriate to exploit others for your own professional gain, and yet it feels like that's exactly what she did.

But if you can look past that, and you're in the mood for an emotional mystery, this movie could be worth watching.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

High Plains Drifter (1973)

I just watched this for the first time yesterday, and I already feel safe in calling it one of my favorite movies. It's awesome!

Clint Eastwood shows up in the Old West at a town called Lago. He is harassed by the 3 gunfighters hired to protect the town (a fact only made clear later), and so he shoots them. The town then tries to come to terms with being completely unprepared to handle the return of 3 other thugs, who are due to get out of jail at any moment.

I honestly don't want to say any more, because I don't want to spoil the movie! This really is the kind of film that needs watching more than telling. I think you'll like it, especially if you're a fan of action and mystery.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

Lately AMC has been running the "Death Wish" movies in sequence, and I've been trying to keep up. Tonight was the fourth installment. Charles Bronson is great!

The basic premise of most of the films is that a female close to Bronson is abused or killed due to "Creep" activity. So Bronson sets out to eliminate the problem, through the use of lethal force.

In a world where red tape and lawyers conspire to give every bad guy "just one more chance," and the bad guys (probably) stay bad, it's honestly refreshing to be confronted with the "Death Wish" mode of vigilante justice. When you look at bad guys one way, you think, "They might change..." But when you look at them another way, you think the thoughts Bronson's character is probably all too familiar with: "They're no good, and they're going to stay that way. They need to be eliminated."

So in "Death Wish 4" Bronson wages a war on drugs. He infiltrates two major groups and plays them off one another, to the point where they destroy themselves. Then he needs to take down a mystery player. It's pretty entertaining once you reconcile yourself to the "Death Wish" brand of justice.

I liked one part at the very beginning, when he's in a parking garage, about to take out a punk, and the guy says, "Who are you?" Bronson replies, "Death," and kills the guy, who lands on the ground face down. Bronson turns the guy over and sees -- himself!! And then he wakes up. It was wild.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Terminator

I love "The Terminator." Taking it out of context of the series, and focusing on when it was made and its peers of the time, it seems like it's a typical 80's horror movie. Like Jason and Michael Myers, the Terminator doesn't have a soul. "It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead." So it's cliché, right?

Wrong! Time travel, the savior of the world, Christ undertones, this movie has so much more! There's layer after layer, subtleties, mysteries, and everything you could want in an action film. It's no wonder there was a 2nd, a 3rd, a theme park ride, comic books, a TV show, and now a 4th in the works!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

More Back To The Future Theories

There's a pretty deep post about time travel and "Back To The Future" on Random Waves of Insight.

It talks about how BTTF is like Timecop in that at the end of the movie, the woman is greeted by a man different from the one she used to know. There's also more in there about a scenario in which Doc does die. It's crazy to think about how something that bad could happen, especially given the incredibly upbeat context of the 3 BTTF films. Thankfully, everything evens out in the end...

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Quiet Earth (1985)

Filmed in New Zealand, this movie deals with an end of the world scenario. If you read on, you will encounter spoilers.

I watched this today. A guy wakes up in New Zealand, and finds out he's the last man on earth. Or is he? He gets lonely, goes crazy for a while, and then starts getting his act together. All of a sudden, a woman shows up. They look for more people. Well, she does, and he pretends to. Meanwhile, he does research. He's a scientist, and he was part of the project that was likely responsible for killing everybody. Everybody except the two of them, anyway. The governments of the world got together to work on a network of some sort that surrounds the earth, and could potentially provide energy to planes through unconventional means. The project went sour and killed everybody who was alive. As it turns out, the man and woman were both dead at the exact moment the effect took place, and so they came back to life, completely unharmed. Later, they meet up with a Maori tribesman who also survived, and a love triangle develops. In the end, the scientist blows up his science lab, hoping to prevent another death effect, which he had calculated to be forthcoming.

Parts I didn't like: The scientist goes nuts, puts on a dress, brings a shotgun to a church, and shoots Jesus. It wasn't that funny, and it wasn't that dramatic. I also didn't enjoy the periods of male full frontal nudity. But thankfully they weren't too long. There was a moment in the film where action evolved out of stupidity, which I found annoying. It like, "Let's spice this film up, but give the characters a flimsy excuse." And there were a couple of other scenes that seemed unrealistic. But apart from that, the film was pretty interesting.

One solitary instance where the film seemed to align itself with pop culture was when the Maori guy was in a jeep chasing the scientist, who was in a truck. The woman tells the Maori something along the lines of, "I wouldn't stay with you if you were the last man on earth."

Then the guy slips on some shades and says, "I'm working on it."

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Monday, January 7, 2008

The Wraith (1986)

I really like this film. It's 80's, sci-fi, with cool cars, and an early Charlie Sheen. Awesome!

A bunch of teenagers live in a town where the only adults are apparently all police officers. Just a few, but one stands out: Randy Quaid. The major havoc is wrought by Nick Cassavetes and his gang, who are all about cars, racing, and winning through any means necessary.

Charlie Sheen shows up as the return of a guy the gang killed. Sheen saves the girl and the town from certain doom, using advanced alien technology. He basically drives a super car against the gang members in races one by one, each time blowing up both cars in the race, and each time reconstructing his own vehicle. It's so wild. I wish there was more detail, more of an explanation, but the mystery just adds so much. My theory is that after he died originally, Sheen somehow tapped into some sort of advanced existence that has ties with technology, light speed, and the moon.

It's light, enjoyable, and action-packed. A great escape!

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Screwed (2000)

This is a funny film, if you enjoy goofy humor that sometimes goes for a gross factor. Norm is hilarious. He gets mugged by a couple of 10-year-olds. DeVito is great as a disgusting morgue worker. His hands are all covered with blood and human waste, and then he absentmindedly touches his face, smearing the stuff on his chin! That was the sickest part of the movie, but I thought it was funny for how nasty and absurd it was. The rest of the jokes are pretty neat. Chappelle is funny too.

I first saw this film before Sarah Silverman got her own show. It's interesting how Chappelle and Silverman both had shows on Comedy Central which involved similar gross out humor. I'd say "Screwed" has some elements of that, but in a modestly tasteful manner? Maybe... Most of it wasn't gross at all, though.

Norm plays a butler who thinks he's getting fired by his ungrateful boss, so he and Chappelle steal her beloved dog and hold it ransom. Things get crazy, and then the media thinks Norm the butler was kidnapped. Norm and Chappelle play along and try to get the boss, an old woman, a pie baron, to pay $5,000,000. But things just keep getting crazier.

It's neat how Norm and Chappelle come up with one simple idea, kidnap the dog, and the media explodes the story in a highly distorted manner, causing all kinds of characters to get involved. The end is far from the beginning, plot-wise.

The cast is great: Norm MacDonald, Dave Chappelle, Elaine Stritch, Danny DeVito, Daniel Benzali, Sherman Hemsley, and Sarah Silverman. Part of the appeal for me was hoping the two guys would succeed in the end and get rich. Sure they're breaking the law, but it's just a movie. And their enthusiasm is contagious!

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

What a great sequel. It kept all the same quality stuff from the first movie, with a few key changes.

Kevin is older, wiser, and more self-assured. He seems to be a con-man in the making, except that his heart is mostly pure. It was great to see him overtly triumphant in the eyes of his family this time.

I liked how when Kevin's parents slept in at the very beginning, they did what he did in the first movie, which is to stand in front of the camera, look right at it, and scream! That was funny.

Daniel Stern is hilarious. I noticed him add in a dance move when he was "supposed" to be slipping on slime. And I caught him singing/screaming warm-up notes when he was jolted with electricity. My favorite part of this movie that involves him is when he turns into a skeleton for a few seconds while getting zapped. That made me laugh!

In "Home Alone," Kevin saved his house, and helped an old man. In "Home Alone 2," Kevin saved a toy store, helped a children's hospital, helped an old man (the toy store owner), and helped an old woman (the pigeon lady). He's unstoppable!

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