Monday, February 29, 2016

"Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed!"

Legally Blonde
Director: Robert Luketic
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Victor Garber, Jennifer Coolidge, Matthew Davis, Holland Taylor, Ali Larter, Linda Cardellini, Raquel Welch
Released: July 13, 2001



Confession: I am a redhead who loves Legally Blonde. I just adore this movie. (The sequel wasn't so good, though). Elle Woods is my favorite Reese Witherspoon character. (And yes, that includes June Carter-Cash). She has a very infectious, bubbly personality that you can't help but love. On the outside she looks like a bubble-headed, ditzy, dumb blonde who's very high-maintenance and probably comes off as snobby since she grew up in Beverly Hills right across the street from Aaron Spelling, but under that exterior she is fiercely smart and a loyal, caring friend. Who just happens to have great, shiny hair!

The movie starts with her sorority sisters wishing her good luck on her big date with her boyfriend, Warner (played by Matthew Davis...he played Alaric in The Vampire Diaries if that means anything to you). She thinks he's going to propose, but instead he breaks up with her because he is moving East to attend Harvard Law School and needs someone more serious than Elle. As he puts it, he needs someone who is more like a Jackie and less like a Marilyn. Elle, upset about all this, sniffles, "You're breaking up with me because I'm too BLONDE?"

While at a nail salon, a place where Elle goes when she's very upset and needs to relax, she sees a marriage announcement for Warner's older brother in the paper. He is marrying a girl who attended law school at Yale and Elle exclaims this is what she has to do to win Warner back. Now, following a guy all the way across the country and changing just for him isn't the best example for a strong-minded and independent woman to set, but when we first meet Elle, she is a little too dependent on her boyfriend.

We see her first glimmer of not being the stereotypical dumb blonde when she's shopping with her friends for a new dress and the saleswoman, thinking she's just a dumb college girl shopping with daddy's money tries to sell her a dress full price on the sale rack, but Elle, having her major be in Fashion Merchandising, tells her she knows it's not a new dress. We also know she is not dumb because she passed her LSAT to get into Harvard Law School and studied hard for it. Although, I do think the old men at the Harvard Admission Office enjoyed her video essay where she's wearing a bikini in most of it!

After she gets into Harvard, she and her Chihuahua, Bruiser, drive her convertible all the way from L.A. to Massachusetts with a big moving van behind her. I don't know how she managed to fit everything she had in that moving van into her dorm room, but I guess she somehow managed to make it work! And her dorm room is big enough to fit an elliptical! When she arrives, she is mocked by everyone, being called "Malibu Barbie". Her first week in her classes don't go so well. She is the only one to not have a laptop, instead opting for a heart-shaped notepad and a pink pen with a feather in it. She seems more concerned with looking the part of a law student than actually preparing to be one. (Although, I must admit, her outfit for the first day of class is really cute and the glasses ARE a nice touch!) When the teacher (Holland Taylor) calls on her, she says she didn't know there was an assignment and doesn't have the textbook yet, while everyone around her does.

A snobby, preppy girl (Selma Blair, who, I must say is killing it as Kris Kardashian-Jenner-whatever she went by back then/goes by now in American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson) is rude to Elle and of course later she finds out that she is Warner's fiance! He explains to Elle that they used to date when he grew up in Boston and recently got back together. Her name is Vivian Kensington and she is the Jackie to Elle's Marilyn. She excludes Elle when Elle wants to join their study group, saying they already have a full group and the notes have already been divvied up. She invites Elle to a party, but tells her it's a costume party when it's not so Elle looks ridiculous when she shows up as a bunny. Vivian is not the only one who thinks Elle is a joke, so do most of the other students in her classes. Elle decides it's time to get serious and we get a montage of her studying and doing well in her classes.

One of her closest friends is Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge), the manicurist Elle met when she went to a nail salon when she had to vent to someone about Warner and his new girlfriend. Paulette has a crush on the UPS guy, but has never said a word to him except for "Fine" or "Okay" whenever he asks her how she is. Elle tells her the secret that is the Bend and Snap to get a guy's attention. I get the "Bend" part where a woman "accidentally" drops something and bends over to show off her booty, but I don't get the "Snap" part where she pops back up with attitude. That part seems way too rehearsed and doesn't come off as natural. There's a funny, but ridiculous montage of Elle showing Paulette the Bend and Snap and a bunch of women (and one gay gay), also familiar with the Bend and Snap, volunteer their services to show Paulette how the Bend and Snap is done. A few days later, when the UPS guy comes to deliver a package ("I got a big one for you!"), she drops her pen, but just as she's starting to do her "Snap", he also bends over to pick up the pen and she ends up snapping back up right into his face and breaking his nose! Ouch!

After proving herself in the classroom, Elle gets a chance to help out a case that Professor Callahan (Victor Garber) has taken on along with some other law students includingWarner and Vivian and a third year law student, Emmett (Luke Wilson), who has taken a liking to Elle. They are defending a woman named Brooke (Ali Larter) who Elle knows because she is from the same Sorority as Elle and taught a fitness class in L.A. that Elle attended a few times. She is accused of murdering her much older husband because her step-daughter (Linda Cardellini), who is the same as her, claims she saw Brooke standing over her dad's dead body drenched in blood. When Callahan and the others asks her for an alibi, she won't give them one, but when Elle goes to visit her in jail, Brooke tells her she was getting lipo done the day of the murder and doesn't want anyone to know because she will be considered a fraud.

Brooke ends up firing Callahan (who turns out to be a jerk after he comes on to Elle) and hires Elle as her main attorney. It's a little dicey at first, but she ends up catching the stepdaughter in a lie when she repeatedly says on the witness stand that she was in the shower when her dad was shot, but when Elle asks her what she did earlier that day, she said she got a perm and Elle tells her she couldn't have been in the shower because it would ruin the perm if her hair got wet and we can clearly see her curls are still intact. This causes the stepdaughter to burst our and confess that she killed her father, explaining she thought it was going to be Brooke who was walking through the door when she shot the gun. Um...why didn't she just say she was wearing a shower cap? That's what I would have done! I feel like she did not think this through at all! Maybe the guilt was too much for her.

I loved the scene in the courtroom when her two best friends from L.A. come to visit her and are gushing how cute everything is and tell the jury to "vote for Elle!" I also love the scene when she introduces her and her dog as "Gemini vegetarians!"

A very cute and charming movie that I highly recommend! It's so beloved that even a musical has been made from it!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Need me, love me, and feed me


Free Willy
Director: Simon Wincer
Cast: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Michael Madsen, Jayne Atkinson, Michael Ironside, Keiko 
Released: July 16, 1993



I saw this movie in the theaters as a kid and I may have seen it on home video a year after it came out, but I haven't seen it since then. I don't remember if I saw the second movie or not, but I'm pretty positive I didn't see the third. If you had asked me who was in this movie before I recently watched it again, I would have told you "Some kid and a killer whale". I would not be able to tell you any of the adults who was in this. Lori Petty from Orange is the New Black (and Tank Girl too, I know, but I've never seen that, so to me she's Lolly from OitNB) plays a trainer at the aquarium? I didn't know that.  Michael Madsen from the Kill Bill movies play the kid's foster dad? I didn't know that. Jayne Atkinson from 24 and House of Cards plays the kid's foster mom? I didn't know that. Of course, when I saw this movie back in 1993, I didn't know any of those people! 

I forgot that Jesse (Jason James Richter) the 12 year old kid who befriends Willy the whale was a runaway. I remember he met Willy because he had to clean the aquarium shed that he and his friend vandalized with spray paint, but I thought he was just a little punk. I guess I forgot he was acting up because he didn't have any parents and would sleep in a skating park with his other homeless runaway friends and steal cakes from bakery vans and go to restaurants and eat leftover food off plates after people left and would scam people for money by telling them he didn't have enough bus fare to get home. 

After he is caught spray painting the aquarium (his friend manages to get away), he is placed in a foster home with a seemingly nice couple (Madsen and Atkinson), but acts like a total douche to them. He acts like a little prick to everyone he meets and I just want to smack him so much. But I guess since his mom is in jail and his dad is...wherever....we're suppose to feel bad for him. The only one who can make him smile is Willy, the killer whale whose tank he vandalized. Rae (Petty) the trainer, tells Jesse that they've been having a hard time training Willy, but lo and behold, Jesse and Willy form a special bond (Willy even saves Jesse after he knocks his head and falls into the tank...he's lucky Willy didn't pull a Black Fish on him!) Jesse feeds Willy and trains him by moving around in circles so the whale copies him. The whale attraction is losing money as they can't put on a show but now that Jesse has trained Willy they have a big grand opening and lots of people are in the stands to see Willy perform. However a bunch of snot-nosed obnoxious kids are banging on the glass in the downstairs viewing area and this makes Willy agitated and therefore he does not perform no matter how much his 12 year old BFF pleads him to. You would think they would have a sign that says "PLEASE DO NOT BANG ON THE GLASS!" Although I have been to zoos and people still feed the animals even though there are signs that say "PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS", so that probably wouldn't have helped. When Willy refused to put on a show, I was like, "You show them Willy...don't perform for those awful people!" 

Every movie like this needs a bad guy and in this movie it's Dial (Michael Ironside) who is the owner of the aquatic park and might as well have dollar signs etched in his eyes because that's all he cares about. He is very angry after the fiasco with Willy not performing and after he sees a leak caused by Willy ramming into the glass to stop the incessant tapping, he gets an idea to cause more damage to the tank. He and his other henchmen sneak into the aquarium one night and puncture some holes so water starts spilling out, but since Jesse was there at the time, he hides and overhears everything, such as Dial telling them that they will collect one million dollars insurance from the death of Willy. First of all, that doesn't sound like that much at all, but this was 1993. Second of all, wouldn't there be an investigation in all of this? Wouldn't they be fined for not having a stable living condition for their orca? Wouldn't they find out that the tank was purposely sabotaged? I feel like that he did not think this the entire way through.

I didn't remember this subplot at all and thought they had freed Willy because, you know, it's the right thing to do! There's a scene at night where Jesse is sitting in the bleachers and Willy is making this awful, haunting noise and he says, "What's wrong boy?" Keep in mind you can see Puget Sound beyond the little pool Willy is swimming in. Christ on a cracker, kid, look up. What the hell do you think is wrong? He does look up and on closer inspection he notices that there are....ORCAS in the wide open body of water and realizes they must be Willy's family as they are answering his sad cries. 

But it isn't until Willy's life is in danger that they then decide to release him into the wild. So if Willy had performed a great show that day and they had made a crapton of money and the evil guy never had to kill the whale for the insurance money, then they never would have released him? Is that what I'm suppose to believe? That seems effed up! In fact, I think that would have been more interesting...to FREE the damn whale (technically part of the dolphin family, I know) because it's the RIGHT THING TO DO! Not free him just because his tank was gushing out water. AURGH, movie! 

They do end up doing just that and instead of asking for help (besides from Jesse's foster parents), it's just Jesse, Rae, and a Native American guy who works at the park. Dial and his henchmen find out about the plan and go to stop them (how are they going to get back a 3 ton orca?) They back Willy out into the water, but two boats have blocked his path with a big net in the way, so Jesse beckons the whale to follow him over to a rock wall and we see the famous scene where Willy jumps over and into his freedom. The kid is right under the whale and all I can think of is, If that whale falls halfway, it's going to be very unpleasant for that kid! They show stock footage of a pod of orcas in the wild and it's so obvious that none of the whales are Keiko, the whale who played Willy because his dorsal fin has flapped over, which is a common thing that happens to orcas in captivity. None of the whales shown have the drooping dorsal fin.

As you know, Keiko was released into the wild because it didn't seem right to have a whale that was the star of the FREE Willy franchise to not be free. He was released near the coast of Iceland in 1998 (the final Free Willy movie came out in 1997 so that must have been when his contract was up, sorry, bad joke!) Sadly he died in late 2003, most likely from pneumonia.  

"Will You Be There", the song Michael Jackson sang for the movie, won Best Song at the MTV Movie Awards. (And if you want to see the famous jumping over the rock wall scene, it starts around 2:30):





Monday, February 15, 2016

Man On Wire

The Walk
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz
Released: October 9, 2015




If you've seen the 2008 documentary, Man On Wire (which won the Oscar), then you are familiar with the story of Philippe Petit, the French famed high-wire walker who walked between the two World Trade Center Building towers when they were first built back in '74. This guy is lucky to be alive because my God, you would have to be stupid or insane (or both!) to do that. Though I imagine if he had not been so lucky, I doubt there would have been a movie made about it...we don't need another depressing story involving the World Trade Center! I had actually never heard about him and the crazy stunt he did until the documentary came out. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Petit and he does a passable job with the French accent. We get a background of his childhood and early years and his love for entertaining people in the streets of Paris where he did magic tricks and worked as a mime for money. He falls in love with wire walking when he goes to a circus and sees it being performed for the first time and sneaks into the circus tent to try it. His soon-to-be mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kinglsey) chases him out of the circus tent, but is impressed by Petit's juggling skills. He teaches Philipe how to tie knots and rig up the ropes. Philippe learns to wire walk in a park with a rope only a few feet off the ground. He becomes friends with a photographer named John Louis (Clement Sibony) who he will later hire to join his coup and becomes romantically involved with another street performer named Annie (Charlotte Le Bon....I thought she was Katie Holmes with a French accent when I saw the trailer for this!) 

While waiting in a dentist's office, Philipe sees the World Trade Center being advertised in a magazine. The ad states they will be the tallest buildings in the world when finished and compares how much taller they will be compared to the Eiffel Tower. He is determined to wire walk between the two buildings. Why anyone would want to walk across a thin piece of cable between two 110 story buildings where the distance from point A to point B is 150 feet is beyond me. Even Papa Rudy, who supports Philippe, tells him he would never want any of his tight-rope walking sons to ever do anything like that ....because it's so stupid! Okay, I added that last part, but I'm sure it's what he was thinking! Philippe said he wanted to be the only person in the world to do that because it would make him special. I have never understood people like him who do crazy stunts like that just because they want to get famous and gain notoriety...but it certainly worked for him. 

Petit calls his mission to walk between the two tall buildings "The Coup" and hires more accomplices to help him including someone who is terrified of heights. I feel like that's the worst quality you could get someone to help you in a task like this! But he's really good at math so they think he will be useful in that regard. They plan to get more people "working on the inside" to help them when they get to New York.

Petit practices wire-walking between two points of Notre Dame. While still high and he could have easily killed himself if he fell, it was nowhere near as high as what he would be doing in New York! He picks August 7 as the day he will be performing his stunt. The night before, he gets very anxious and keeps going over their plan for The Coup. Before he left, Papa Rudy told him he should use a safety harness, but Petit, having too much pride, refused. I must say, I'm on Papa Rudy's side on this. So you wear the harness and if you make it, you're so far up that nobody can even see you wearing it (although he did have his photographer friend taking photos so perhaps he was worried about that?), or God forbid, if you happen to fall, then at least you'll still be attached to the wire as you're dangling in the air. I don't think people are going to get mad that you're wearing a harness because at least you're not dead on the ground! 

They get everything set up, but not without a few hiccups. I remembered a lot of this stuff from Man On Wire. Annie, on the ground, stays up the entire night with binoculars. At one point, the next morning, Petit is changing into his "costume" (just blank pants and a black turtleneck) on the side of the building. It is the literal side of the building as he jumps over a rail guard and is perched on just a few inches of building. (As you can see from the above photo). Even though I know this is all green screen, the visual effects are very effective because I definitely got a sense of wooziness whenever he did that. He drops his turtleneck and Annie sees something falling and is freaking out until she realizes it's only an article of clothing. Can you imagine if you were about to perform a stunt that would receive world recognition (which it did?) only to fall off the building before you even attempted it? 

At one point, he and the guy afraid of heights have to hide from a security guard who has come up to the roof and Petit has him go over the rail. I felt so bad for the guy! I think that would terrify anyone whether or not you had a fear of heights! It didn't seem to scare Philippe which I guess is why he's the perfect person to do something so crazy. He has a long pole he holds which much help him with his balance. He crosses the towers once, which was his original intent. Annie sees him crossing and tell pedestrians all around her to look up and soon a large crowd will gather. If I were on the ground that day, I would NOT look because I would be too scared for him. I would be the person covering her eyes telling me to open them when it's over!

When Petit gets to the other side, he says there is something calling him to cross back to the original tower from where he started from. Okay, this makes sense because if this had been a task on The Amazing Race (though they would have been wearing safety harnesses!), they would have to cross once and then back. But then he ends up crossing the wire six times which is insane when once would have sufficed! At one point, Annie mutters to herself, "Okay, Philippe, that's enough, time to come down" and I would have been thinking the same thing if I were her! Like, quit being stupid before you get yourself killed.

The reason he keeps on the wire is because the police have come up on both towers so he's goading them. He seems to get either very comfortable or very confident and "bows" to the towers, sits on the wire, and LAYS DOWN. What the hell is wrong with this man? There's a scene earlier in the movie when he's practicing on a high wire in the circus tent and he's done well and only has three steps left, but ends up falling and catches the wire. Papa Rudy tells him he must never lose his concentration and not get too cocky. I feel like he was getting a little too cocky doing all these insane stunts. He is really lucky nothing went wrong! 

The police send up a helicopter to tell him he needs to get off the wire. I can't remember if this was in the documentary or not because I feel like having a helicopter hovering above a wire walker would be very distracting and add even more danger to his situation. One officer threatened that if he wasn't going to get off, he would have to come out there to get him which made me laugh, because, oh please, like that guy's really going to step on the wire, let alone step over the side of the building! Once Petit  steps off the building, he is immediately arrested, but as he's walking handcuffed through the building, everyone is applauding him and he becomes an overnight worldwide sensation. 

During the movie, he is narrating from the Statue of Liberty with a view of the World Trade Center in the background. This was a little confusing because I was wondering if he was narrating from a few years after '74 or it was the "present" (although the WTC wouldn't be there and Petit is in his 60s now so it wouldn't make sense for JGL to play him as he is currently), but then without mentioning 9/11, he mentions 9/11 and you don't see the towers in the background anymore and it's quite depressing, but then the camera pans and you see the towers! What the hell? I guess it was suppose to be symbolic more than anything. I remember them never mentioning anything about 9/11 in Man On Wire which I always found odd since Petit had such a special attachment to the buildings; much more special than anyone else would have. In The Walk, he says that he was granted a pass to go on the observation deck and it would never expire and he could visit anything he wanted. Super depressing. While I knew there was that restaurant, Windows on the World, near the top of one of the buildings that had a great view of the city, I had no idea there was an observation deck on the roof. That's quite terrifying knowing that now! 

Can I just say this movie has one of the worst titles I've ever heard: The Walk. I mean, are you kidding me with how boring and generic that sounds? Ooh, let's go see a movie called The Walk. Nobody would want to see that. Horrible name. The documentary got the much better name! And while I enjoyed The Walk, Man on Wire is the superior film.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Godspeed, Goodspeed

The Rock
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, Michael Biehn
Released: June 7, 1996

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound (lost to The English Patient)



I decided to complete the trifecta of Nicolas Cage R-rated action movies that all came out in the mid '90s with the one that started it all, and my personal favorite out of all of them, The Rock. Although it's been at least ten years since I've last seen it, I have seen it a handful of times and I still love it. It's a great popcorn movie. It is widely perceived by many people (including Bay himself) to be Michael Bay's best movie. It is certainly my favorite movie of his, but really, it's not that hard to choose. The only notable thing he had done prior to this movie was Bad Boys, then after this he did Armageddon, which was okay, then he did a lot of crap like The Island, Pearl Harbor, and the five or so Transformers sequels. I've only seen the first two Transformers movies and since the second was way worse than the first one, I assume they get get worse and worse. 

I feel like the real dream team of this movie are the producers, Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. This was their last production together (they also produced other big movies such as Top Gun, Crimson Tide, and Beverly Hills Cop). Simpson died during the production of this movie and it is dedicated to him. 

Whenever I think Sean Connery, I don't think James Bond (not a James Bond fan anyhow), but rather this movie. Well, if I'm being honest, I probably think Sean Connery as a contestant on Celebrity Jeopardy, haha, but I don't know if that counts since it's not really him. I would say it's my favorite Connery film and maybe my favorite Cage movie, although I really do love National Treasure! It's a close call...but there are actually a lot of similarities between the two films. 

The movie begins with the villain (but not really),  a disgruntled Marine, Frank Hummel (played by Ed Harris) and other Marines he's recruited to join his cause to take control of Alcatraz (aka The Rock!) and take about 100 tourists and put them in the cells as hostages. They have four rockets ready to go off with a poisionos gas. I didn't quite understand what exactly happened, but he was involved in a secret, illegal mission that went awry and many men died. He threatens to launch the missiles unless the government splits $100 million among the family members of the marines who died that day. He is also offering to pay the men who are helping him each a million dollars. He feels like their deaths should be compensated, which I understand, but he's not going the best way about it, though he thinks this way they will listen. The first glimpse we see that Hummel is not the one dimensional villain that he could be is when he and his men are about to take the group of tourists hostage and he goes up to a group of school kids and tells them to tell their teacher they need to go back to the bus.

James Womack (a pre-West Wing John Spencer) is the FBI Director who Hummel tells his plan to. He prepares a team of Navy SEALs (led by Kyle Reese himself, Michael Biehn). All he needs is someone who knows about this particular poisonous gas and how to diffuse the rockets and someone who can help get them into the prison without being detected by the Marines guarding it.

Stanley Goodspeed (Cage) is the scientists/chemical weapons specialist who works at the FBI Laboratory in D.C. We get some foreshadowing in the scene he is introduced in because the lab is delivered a suspicious package from Bosnia, so Goodspeed and another guy go into a protective chamber with their protective suits on to inspect it. There's a baby doll in the package and the other guy starts playing with it and of course, some kind of poisonous gas (the same that's in the missiles) is spewed from its mouth and alarms are going off. Goodspeed tells everyone, "I have some bad news and some really bad news." NOT the kind of thing you ever want to hear. They're trying to run the sprinkles, but there's some kind of malfunction. Um, why didn't you check to make everything was working before you opened something potentially dangerous? Who the hell is running this place? Anyway, we see that Goodspeed is calm under pressure when diffusing a bomb (which was inside the doll and he had four seconds to spare). We also see there's an an antidote if you are exposed to the poisonous gas which the guys on the outside of the chamber want them to take because the gas is eating their suits and will soon kill them if they are exposed to it. If they stick this needle with the antidote into their hearts, then they will be fine and can stop the bomb, but neither want to stick a needle into their heart. This will also come back later.

John Mason (Sean Connery) is the "former guest" as he puts it, of Alcatraz. He is said to be the only inmate of Alcatraz to escape. (I guess they're only counting the men from the movie Escape from Alcatraz as attempted escapes since there's no evidence they survived). He has been locked up the last 30 years and basically doesn't exist as there are no records on him. He has too many national security secrets that he dug up such as Roswell and who killed JFK and the government doesn't like that. But he is the only person who can lead them into Alcatraz, so they try to cut a deal with him. He tells them he wants to stay at a hotel and get a suit and haircut. Why he didn't think to include to ask for a visit from his daughter didn't make much sense because he goes through this whole charade just to get to her. It's exciting, don't get me wrong, but it seems like it would just be a lot more simpler for him to ask for this simple request and I don't see why they wouldn't grant it. So what he does is take a rope while he's showering....because showers have ropes hidden in them, apparently. He also calls room service to distract the other agents. Womack and Goodspeed are the only ones with him when he's getting his hair cut by the guy from Boston Common (how's that for a deep cut?, no pun intended!) on the balcony. He goes to shake hands with Womack to show his cooperation, but instead ties the rope around his hands and throws him over the balcony. Goodspeed attempts to call for help, but all the other agents are too busy stuffing their faces. Mason ties the rope around a chair and runs away. By this time the other agents have come out to help pull Womack up and Goodspeed (who will need, ahem, good speed in this scene) chases Mason driving a Humvee through the streets of San Fransisco in a yellow Ferrari. They are swerving to miss people; they are flying over hills; they are crashing into parked cars; Goodspeed runs over a bunch of parking meters with the coins falling out everywhere; Mason crashes into a truck carrying huge plastic jugs of water which roll all over into the street; he also pushes a trolley off the tracks and into a great big fall of fire. Goodspeed totally trashes the Ferrari and a guy on a motorbike comes up to him and says, "Dude, your Ferrari is totally f***ed!" and he responds with, "It's not mine! And neither is this!" and takes the bike from him. The whole thing was completely ridiculous but it's the reason why we love (or hate) Michael Bay. Goodspeed figures out Mason has a daughter and is going to see her. This whole thing could have been completely avoided!

They are finally able to get Mason back and now it's time to infiltrate Alcatraz! They go under water and through a tunnel system. They wanted Mason to give them the blue prints for the place, but he tells them they're in his head. There's a giant furnace with two flaming pendulums that Mason has memorized the timing to and must roll under to get inside and unlock a door to let the others in. Soon after that the SEALs come in contact with the Marines and Hummel tells them to stand down, but Kyle Reese says he cannot do that and someone accidentally steps on stones which fall and there's a big shootout and all the SEALs are killed and the non-important Marines who we haven't had any screen time of. Now Mason and Goodspeed are the only ones left alive who came along with the SEALs.

I couldn't help thinking how cool this movie would have been as a video game because at this point on, it almost kind of plays as one. When you select a character, you could choose between Mason or Goodspeed so you're either the old guy kicking ass or the scientist diffusing bombs. This would have been an awesome video game; they ride in mine carts for God's sake! And you can shoot at an air conditioning until to land on a guy's head! Tell me that isn't asking to me made into a game! At this point it's the two of them going through the labyrinth of this abandoned prison, trying to find the missiles and diffuse them.

We find out that Hummel had no intention of ever launching the rockets and when one is launched, he is able to divert it into the ocean. This makes the other men angry and there's a big shoot out where Hummel is killed, but not before Goodspeed is able to get him to tell him where the last rocket is. This rocket is used to kill one of the bad marines when he follows Goodspeed up to the tower. In probably the most hilarious and simultaneously gruesome movie death scene, Goodspeed tells him he should like the song "Rocket Man" by Elton John because is about to BECOME the rocket man and launches the rocket at him where is thrown out the tower, then lands on a pole where he is impaled. Then in another scene, another guy is fighting with Goodspeed and he puts a ball of poisonous gas into the guy's mouth and his skin immediately starts bubbling and melting. Goodspeed must have been prepared because he has a needle of the antidote to inject his heart with.

I really love the relationship between Mason and Goodspeed. They first start out skeptical of each other, but when they have to work together, they grow some respect for each other. Each man saves the other man's life at one point when they are incapable of helping themselves. Mason gives Goodspeed some good advice and pep talks along the way and it's almost like a father/son relationship

The POTUS has ordered a strike on Alcatraz even though there are still innocent people there but he rather kill about 100 innocents than the 70 or 80,000 the missile with the poisonous gas would kill. Goodspeed tries to warn the oncoming jets with flares. One jet released a bomb, though it only lands on the back of the island and nobody is killed. However, when Womack calls Goodspeed to confirm his whereabouts, Goodspeed tells him that Mason was killed and that his body "vaporized." It's a very sweet moment and made me go "awww". In turn as a thanks, Mason tells him where he can find a microfilm with all the government's secrets and in the last scene, Stanley and his girlfriend-turned-wife are uncovering the treasure. It's very Shawshank Redemption meets National Treasure. 

But yes, by far the best movie Michael Bay has directed or been involved with. I always have lots of fun watching it and laugh at the stupid quips. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Jailbird

Con Air
Director: Simon West
Cast: Nicolas Cage,  John Malkovich, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, Monica Potter
Released: June 6, 1997

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound (lost to Titanic)
Best Original Song - "How Do I Live" by Diane Warren (lost to "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic by James Horner and Will Jennings)


I already reviewed one of Nicolas Cage's R-rated action movies from 1997, so I thought I would review his OTHER R-rated action movie that came out just a couple weeks before Face/Off, and that would be Con Air. This was another movie that was reviewed on How Did This Get Made?, hence why I wanted to see it again...it had been a VERY long time since I last saw this. This is one of those so bad, it's good movies. Although if you had asked me who directed this, I would have said Michael Bay, though I would have been wrong!

I remembered that song, "How Do I Live" is in this movie, but I forgot it was written for the movie! I guess I just thought they wanted to use a sappy country love song for the literally ten minute romance of the film. (Eh...maybe it was fifteen?) Don't get me wrong, I love the song, but it's just so weird that kind of song is in a movie about murders, serial killers, rapists, and drug lords overtaking a plane. The two just don't mesh very well. Like most people, I am very familiar with the LeAnne Rimes version of this song, but did you know they don't even play that version in the movie? It's sung by Trisha Yearwood. The LeAnne Rimes version is a trillion times better (even though it sounds like she's singing, "How do I leave without you")...the Trisha Yearwood one sounds like a watered-down version and it's not the power ballad that LeAnne makes it. I guess they (the producers, I assume) said she was too young which is ridiculous because there are two young girls in the movie and they are much younger than the 14/15 years LeAnne was when she recorded that song.

How do I "leave" without you?
The movie starts with our hero, Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) coming home to Alabama from being in the army for however long (well at least long enough to get his wife pregnant). He goes to a bar where his wife works. She is played by Monica Potter which is so crazy because I literally just binged watched five seasons of Parenthood (I'm on the last season now) in about three weeks. I feel like there's a word for that. They are being harassed by these two rednecks. They threaten to rape the wife, then start beating up Poe for really no reason and he kills one of them in self defense. We next see him in court where he is sentenced to eight years of prison just because he killed somebody in SELF DEFENSE when that guy was attempting to RAPE his WIFE and beat him up! WTF? That seems a little extreme, but the judge says with his years of experience in the army, he's a danger to society. It makes no sense at all! But we need to find a way to get our hero in prison, I guess...without him being a bad guy.

We next see the next eight years fly by in three minutes, I am not kidding you. This movie really wants to get to the point and I salute it for doing that. Let's get to the good stuff which we all know will happen on the plane. In the montage we see Poe writing letters to his wife, then daughter, Casey, when she gets old enough to write back. He is narrating this for us and I must say Cage's Southern accent is just flawless...except not. Ugh, I hate it when non-Southern actors play Southerners! It's the worst! The only non-Southern actor who I think does a good job with the Southern accent is Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards. I'm sure there are other good examples, but I can't think of any right now.

I was wondering why Casey has never visited her dad and we get this answer by Poe saying he doesn't want her to see her father this way, in jail. But then why hasn't his wife ever visited him? Unless she did and I just misunderstood. IDK...I guess it doesn't really matter. The last eight years really don't matter! It's time for Poe to go home! He gets to go on a plane with other prisoners that are being transported. I was so confused because I didn't know where they were. Why was he not in a prison in Alabama? I think they were somewhere in California, but I don't know why he would be serving time there. I guess its' so he would be on the prison plane, aptly named the Jailbird. I don't think the logistics really matter. We just need some bad guys on this plane! And bad guys we will get!

There's Cyrus aka Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich) who is 39 years old and has spent the last 25 years in prison which means he would have been 14 when he was sent to prison! Good Lord, what the hell did he do at age 14 to get that sentence? I feel like somebody did their math wrong and the screenplay wasn't checked! They did say he killed other men in prison so in fairness, he probably got more time tacked on for that. There's gangster and Black Guerilla member Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames). There's Danny Trejo playing a rapist, there's a very young Dave Chappelle playing PinBall. I think he was in there for drugs. The only other "good" prisoner besides Poe is his cellmate and friend. I forget his name, but we'll call him Bubba because the actor played Bubba in Forrest Gump. I forget why he was in there. All the prisoners are seated in chairs and are handcuffed and leg cuffed. The really bad guys (the Cyrus the Viruses and Diamond Dogs) are locked in steel cages.

U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin (John Cusack) is overseeing the flight. He has a strict no guns allowed policy on the plane. (They only have one locked in a box and a few in storage). A DEA agent, Malloy, wants one of his men (disguised as a prisoner) to carry a gun. He is on the plane to get information....it's really not important because the decoy prisoner ends up dying...spoiler alert! Malloy sneaks a gun on him but it ends up working against him. Malloy is a real piece of work. He drives a fast, shiny convertible and when he shows Larkin, he tells him it's beautiful and Malloy replies with, "Babies are beautiful, sunsets are beautiful; this, this is effing spectacular!" The vanity plate reads "AZZ KIKR" (as in "ass kicker") He's a real douche bag!

Once the plane takes off, we see Dave Chappelle start taking a piece of string out of his mouth. Attached to this string is some lighter fluid and a match that he swallowed. (This isn't even plausible, is it?) Everyone is watching him...everyone, apparently, EXCEPT the guards. And there are at least four that I remember. Plus two pilots. What the hell are they doing? Playing rummy in the cargo area? They only have one job and that is to WATCH the DANGEROUS prisoners. Chappelle lights the guy next to him on fire (I would be so pissed if I were that guy!) and this starts a riot. The guards are trying to get fire extinguishers and in the chaos, Chappelle steals the keys and unlocks the cages. The pilots hear the commotion in the cockpit and the co-pilot takes the gun out of the lockbox and goes to inspect, but Cyrus (the Virus!) immediately takes the gun from him and shoots him. He also shoots a few of the (non-important) prisoners in the mayhem. He goes to the cockpit and tells the pilot to tell ground control that everything is under control.

They make a pitstop in Carson City to pick up some more prisoners. (They have everyone fooled because they're wearing the guards uniforms). Here we meet Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi) a man who "makes the Manson family look like the Partridge family." He killed 30 people in the East Coast. When we are first introduced to him, he has a mask on his face ala Hannibal Lecter and has to be led by poles attached to his armored suit. You think a guy they're treating like that would have the physique like The Rock, (excuse me, Dwayne Johnson), but no, it's scrawny little Steve Buscemi which makes it the most brilliant casting ever! Although probably the worst wrap-sheet of all the prisoners on the plane, he doesn't even engage in any of the chaos (besides Poe and Bubba). He kind of goes off and does his own thing or chats about his creepy stories. One of the hosts on How Did That Get Made? thought maybe he was wrongly accused which was hilarious because he tells this really gruesome story about what he did with one corpse after he killed her. So, no, he was NOT wrongly accused of murdering 30 people!

Pinball has died because they forgot him when the plane took off and he's running, trying to catch it and gets caught in the wheels...IDK, but when Poe and one of the bad guys (I forget who) go down there to inspect, Poe uses the corpse to write a message on Pinball's shirt before they release him. We next cut to a scene where an old couple are stopped at a red light in their car and a bird poops on the windshield and the old man complains about it. We all know what's going to happen next. We see Pinball's body falling from the sky, getting closer and closer to that intersection. The body thumps on the car, leaving a big dent. Now, I don't think you would just get a nice little thump if a body had just fallen thousands and thousands of feet from the sky. There is no way that message would be readable; that body would be obliterated! But because this is a Hollywood film, Larkin gets the message and knows what he needs to do. He steals the DEA douche's fast car and attempts to race the airplane to the next stop...which somehow he manages to do. That is one damn fast car!

So he gets there and meets up with Poe who is keeping up his cover to be part of the bad guys crew so they don't suspect anything. Garland Greene does his own thing and sits down with a little girl who is playing pretend tea party at a nearby abandoned pool. He joins her and sings a song with her and it's so creepy because you're wondering if he's going to kill her...but he doesn't. Perhaps he's a changed man? The police come, but are not able to thwart the plane from taking off and Poe has hooked the nice sporty car to it and at this time the douchey DEA agent has come and he sees his car being flown in the air and then it crashes into thousands of pieces right in front of him and Larkin is like, "Sorry about your car." Haha!

Oh! I forgot to mention an "important" scene. Okay, so I should say it's Poe's daughter's birthday and he has somehow managed to get her a pink stuffed rabbit from the prison gift shop, I guess. One of the bad guys finds out he's actually a good guy and discovers the bunny when they're in the cargo area together and Poe tells him to "put the bunny down". Okay, I could have SWORN there was a weapon in the bunny like a knife or something. I thought the bunny's head gets ripped off and a knife is discovered by Poe and he kills the bad guy. That never happens. The bunny is never damaged (well, except it's filthy and soaking wet when it does get to the little girl, but it was never torn apart). Poe does kill the guy but not with help from the bunny.

Okay, so they finally land the plane in Las Vegas right in the middle of the Strip and they crash into a hotel and it hits a casino machine and lots of money comes out in the street. Diamond Dog and Cyrus the Virus escape but both are killed in their attempt. All the bad guys are either killed or caught. Poe is reunited with his wife and daughter and it is hilarious that he didn't want to his daughter to see him in jail, but now he's dirty with sweat and blood from all the killing he's done (of all bad guys, but still!) The last scene shows Garland Greene at a casino.

Now I love a good airplane action movie and I have reviewed a few. As far as how I would rank it against the others, I would put it higher than Passenger 57, but lower than Air Force One and Executive Decision. This movie is completely ridiculous and makes no sense, but it's a fun, dumb movie.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Off With Your Face!


Face/Off
Director: John Woo
Cast: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, Alessandro Nivola
Released: June 27, 1997

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Titanic (of course it did))


I think if one was given the choice to watch a "face off" between John Travolta and Nicolas Cage or between Bryan Cranston and Giancarlo Esposito, the latter would be chosen every time. At least that's the one I would choose. That episode of Breaking Bad was amazing and this movie is just so awfully laughably bad. I probably saw it fifteen years ago and didn't much care for it then and had no intention of ever seeing it again, but when I saw that the  comedy podcast How Did This Get Made?, which reviews ridiculous movies such as this one, had reviewed it (the episode came out in May of last year if you want to look for it), I knew I had to watch it again just to listen to the podcast. I sludged through the two and a half hours (TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF OVERACTING FROM TRAVOLTA AND CAGE!)  of this craziness but it was totally worth it to listen to that episode of that podcast. I was laughing so hard; I'm glad I was alone when I listened to it! And of course how could I deny you a review of the movie?  

I'm sure everyone has seen the movie, or at the very least know the basic premise: Travolta and Cage switch faces. Sean Archer (John Travolta) is the good guy. He's an FBI agent and a family man with a wife (Joan Allen) and a teen daughter. Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) is the bad guy. He's a terrorist, who, along with his brother (Alessandro Nivola) plants a bomb set to go off in a few weeks in L.A. There is history between these two. You see, six years ago, Troy was all set up to kill Archer who was on a carousel with his five year old son. When he takes his aim (and why is he aiming when his target is on a moving object?), he misses Archer (gee you think since he's on a MOVING object?) and only nicks him, but instead kills the kid. While Archer is mourning him (and this time he is off the carousel), you'd think Troy would take the chance to kill him but he doesn't. Because otherwise we wouldn't have a movie! So now we have our characters' backstories! 

We fast forward six years later where Archer is distant from his wife and the daughter is pretty much like Eliza Dushku 2.0 from True Lies where she thinks her dad is really lame. The two sworn enemies are reunited and Archer and his FBI agents have a shoot out with Troy and his minions in an airport hanger with lots of explosions. I laughed so hard when one guy got shot and when he flew back into the wall, you could actually see the wire he was attached to that pulled him back. Troy tells Archer there's a bomb, but won't tell him where it is. This is the first of many face offs (face.....off!) they have. 

Anyway, I'll skip all the boring stuff and get to the good part. Archer thinks Troy has died (he got hurt pretty badly during their, ahem, face off) but he's only in a coma being kept alive by ventilators. Two agents tell Archer they think there's a way that he can stop the bomb and ask him, "What if you could go up to Castor's brother AS Castor" and Archer is all like, "Huh, what are you talking about?" They introduce him to a doctor who says he can do a procedure where he will take Archer's face...wait for it....OFF and then have it replaced with Troy's face. They will also alter his body and give him a haircut so he will match Troy. They are also able to change his voice so he will sound like Troy. (And I'm sure if Travolta tried hard enough, he probably could have done a fine Nicholas Cage impersonation!) The only thing that won't be the same is their blood types....which will be a plot point later! Naturally Archer is hesitant at first, but then he agrees. If this were me, I would say, "Hell, no, you cannot take my face OFF!" (I wonder how many times I'm going to say "face off" in this review?)

I understand they want to find the bomb, but of all the people, why have Archer assume Troy's identify? The guy killed his kid for God's sake and now he's got to look like the man who murdered his son? That has got to have some damaging psychological effects that can never be undone. But I guess he's the best man for the job as he knows the most about Troy and plus the movie just wouldn't be as awesome! 

We see the procedure where the doc effortlessly peels off Archer's face after using a scalpel to cut it and sticks it in a vat of saline or something and does the same with Troy's face and stitches it onto Archer's faceless face. Basically now Nicholas Cage is now playing the part of Sean Archer. He is taken to a very high-security prison that houses the worst of the worst criminals where the other Troy brother is to work on him to see if he can get any information on the bomb.  

MEANWHILE.....apparently the FBI thought Troy was good to be in a coma for a couple more weeks because they just leave him in a room which isn't locked or contained and he isn't chained down or anything in the event he should wake up...which he does! Shocker! Bet you didn't see that one coming! He's not even being guarded! So he wakes up with a bandage on his head and we see a shot of the back of his head as he unwraps the bandage. He touches his face which has been replaced by tissue and blood and bone and whatever else is under your skin and we see blood smeared on his fingers. I'm surprised he didn't scream because I would imagine that would hurt touching your face without the skin. He see's Archer's face in the vat of saline because, you know, it's just sitting there out in the open! Not even under lock and key. Who the hell is running this place? He watches a video of the procedure they did on Archer. You think having his faceless face exposed to the elements would be damaging. He does say he took some pain killers so that explains why he's not screaming in agony. He has access to a phone so we hear him talking to one of his cronies in a muffled voice and they bring the doctor and make him do the procedure with Archer's face now to be put on Troy. The only time we see Troy's faceless face is in the reflection of the doctor's glasses and someone on How Did This Get Made? commented that they put ketchup on Cage's face which is so true because it does look like that. The doctor does the operation, so John Travolta is now playing the part of Castor Troy. He kills the doctor and the two FBI agents who told Archer about the operation, and get this...THOSE THREE WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD WHO KNEW THAT ARCHER WAS GOING UNDER THIS PROCUEDURE TO LOOK LIKE TROY AND NOW NOBODY KNOWS WHO HE REALLY IS!!! Hahahaha, I love it. I just love how stupid this movie is.

Between the two actors, I honestly don't know who is worse. They both overact, especially when they play the part of the bad guy. (I guess we should be thankful that they are never both the bad guy at the same time!) It's like Woo told them to give it their usual ten on the scale of overacting, but then drive it up to twenty....which they do. I should mention that Cage was ridiculous and over the top when he was playing Troy and it it HILARIOUS when he is playing Archer pretending to be Troy. But even more hilarious is Travolta. He turns into a total "Whoo!" girl because he is "whoo"-ing all over the place. When he confronts Cage-as-Archer, he says to him, "Whoo-wee, you good-looking!" That line delivery was so hilarious. 

Travolta-as-Troy becomes a hero when he "finds" the planted bomb and defuses it. Margaret Cho is in this movie as an FBI agent and when they're all celebrating she says to Travolta-as-Troy (because Archer is usually a buzzkill), "Sir, did you have surgery?" and he looks worried like she might know something, and then she says, "Did you finally get that stick removed from your ass?" C'mon, would you really say that to your superior who just defused a bomb? It wasn't really Archer and the bomb was never found, but still. Cage-as-Archer sees this on TV and knows he has to escape from prison...which he does with some help and a lot of fighting. He finds out the prison is actually a large barge far from land but he jumps off of it and manages to swim to shore. It cuts from him jumping into the water to dry land where he gets in a car so we never actually see how he got there, but the movie is already two and a half hours long, so I don't care if they didn't show that.

Margaret Cho tells TravoltaTroy that Castor Troy has died and he is happy by this news but when he asks to see the body she tells him it hasn't been recovered and he totally spazzes out and shouts, "It hasn't been RECOVERED yet?" It was so hilarious, but I doubt the movie was going for that.

TravoltaTroy is enjoying the perks of being Archer and starts to romance his "wife" who is surprised by all the attention he's giving to her because the real Archer was always so distant after their son died and was only focused on work. He is not subtle at all at trying to fit into his new identity. (But then again, he was never a subtle terrorist either!) He gets his "daughter's" name wrong (and lusts after her...eww!) and acts all weird and too cool around her. After he beats up a guy who was trying to advance on his  "daughter", he gives her a knife as "protection" in case a guy ever tries to rape her. This will also come in handy later in the movie. 

The most hilarious scene in the movie is when CageArcher goes to Troy's hideaway where he lives with his girlfriend (Gina Gershon) and other cronies and he explains to them that he wants to find "Archer" and take his face....off! And there's repeated lines of "face off?" "Face....off!" So bad, but so hilarious. We find that Troy has a son who is five. He pretty much looks exactly like Archer's son who died (and was also five!) They even pretty much have the same hair cut and color. They are so alike that CageArcher calls him Michael (which was Archer's son's name), but this kid's name is Adam.

CageArcher calls his wife and tells her what is going on but she doesn't believe him, so he goes to his house and she is naturally scared because it looks like the man who murdered her son and is a known terrorist is at her house, but he tells her about the first date they had and tells her to take his blood and get a blood sample from TravoltaTroy and she does and finds out the truth. But by this time, even without the blood sample, you think she would know because TravotlaTroy is now walking around with two goons and you can tell they're bad guys. That Troy guy really does not know how to be subtle whatsoever. 

The two men reunite at the funeral of Archers' boss who TravoltaTroy killed after revealing the truth to him and blaming his death as a heart attack. There's a stand off between the two of them, plus Archer's wife and Troy's girlfriend. Everyone dies except Travolta, Cage, and Allen. There are doves which I guess is a John Woo trademark. The daughter randomly shows up and thinks that TravoltaTroy is her father when she holds a gun at the two fighting men. They each plead at her to shoot the other man. Somehow TravoltaTroy grabs her and has a gun to her head so she knows that's NOT her dad (especially after he licks her face....eww!) and stabs him in the leg with the knife he gave her. He lets go of her and she runs to her mother. The two men continue fighting and somehow end up on speed boats and there's a big boat chase and lots of explosions. Actually, this scene was pretty cool and my favorite action scene of the movie. Another one of my favorite scenes was a few scenes earlier where they are facing off against each other (once again!) and they are back to back with a wall separating them. (It's the one in the above photo). They say the only way to end this is to kill each other, so they get up and face the wall where there is a mirror on each side of the wall so they are looking at a reflection of themselves....as the OTHER person and each aim a gun at the mirror. Oh, the symbolism, I love it!  

So after the boat scene where the boat and two stunt actors go flying fifty feet into the air, CageArcher finally kills TravoltaTroy and gets his face back! He comes home with Adam without discussing this with his wife in advance if she would be okay with adopting the son of the guy who killed HER son and this kid looks EXACTLY like her dead son...so I don't know is she would be down with that, but how can she say no when the kid is standing right there? 

I explain an annoying thing one of the characters does in the movie:

video