Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Don't fly Oceanic!

Executive Deciscion
Director: Stuart Baird
Cast: Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton, BD Wong, Steven Seagal
Released: March 15, 1996

As far as airplane hijack movies go, Executive Decision is not as good as Air Force One, but it is heaps better than Passenger 57 (which is a sorry excuse for an airplane hijack movie since it takes place on the ground for most of the movie!)

David Grant (Kurt Russell) is the world's leading expert on the world's most wanted terrorist. No, not Osama Bin Laden, but some other guy, Jaffa. He is captured and taken into custody, but he still has men out there working for him and these men, led by a man named Hassan, hijack a plane flying from Athens to D.C. and they have canisters of a poisonous gas. A single drop can kill a few men and the amount they have on the plane can wipe out the entire eastern seaboard.

The hijacked flight is Oceanic Flight 343....yes, Oceanic Airlines, as in the same airline on Lost. First this airline has a plane that's hijacked, then it has a plane that crashed into a mysterious island...yeah, I won't be flying that (fake) airline anytime in my lifetime! This is the third time I've seen this movie and the first time I realized the Oceanic airline connection, so obviously Lost wasn't around when I saw this the first two times....I know for a fact it wasn't around the first time since I saw it when it was released on video in late 1996. The second time I saw it was in December 2004, when the first season of Lost was on, but I binged watched the first season on DVD.

Obviously it had been quite a while since I saw this movie, so I had forgotten a few things (though I didn't forget that Steven Seagal is killed within the first half hour!) I remembered that Halle Berry plays a flight attendant on the hijacked plane, but I completely forgot what Kurt Russell's role was and thought he was the pilot of the hijacked plane. I probably should have realized he wasn't when he was taking flying lessons in a small plane. Duh. I don't think pilots who fly commercial airliners should still be taking lessons in small two-seater planes!

David Grant and Seagal's Lieutenant character are not on the plane when it it hijacked. They are safely on the ground in Washington D.C. Grant is at a fancy black-tie party when he is called in for consultation. They learn that Hassan has hijacked the plane because he wants Jaffa to be released. Grant thinks the terrorist has other intentions: as in using the airplane to explode the bomb that they somehow got onto the plane. This was 1996....back when people just didn't care what you brought on a plane!

Seagal's short-lived character comes up with the most ludicrous plan ever and knows a guy, Dennis (Oliver Platt), who can help them out with it. Together with Grant, Dennis, and his team (who would be completely at home on Survivor: Cook Islands as you have the black guy (Morton), the Hispanic guy (Leguizamo), the Asian guy (Wong), and the white guy (some actor I don't know). If you are a Survivor fan like me, you will understand the reference!)

They are all in a small fighter jet and the plan is for them to fly to Oceanic Flight 343, line up with the airliner's cargo holder or something....I don't know. I don't know anything about planes, but you've all seen the movie and you know what I'm talking about. Basically they're doing a mid-air transfer and they are able to do this by putting their jet on auto pilot so it will fly in synch with the airliner and Dennis lines up the planes together and makes sure the air pressure is okay so they can crawl up this tube that he attaches  between both planes. The whole thing is completely ridiculous! I don't know which is more ridiculous - this or when Denzel flew the 747 upside down in Flight. 

Grant was suppose to stay on the jet...the only reason he went with them was because...I really don't know why, to be honest. But Morton's character, Cappy, ends up getting hurt and Grant helps him and ends up on the plane. By that time, the Seagal character and the jet pilot are the only ones left on the jet and they are loosing air pressure and Dennis tells Grant to shut the door or both planes with explode and everyone will die and Grant, who never liked Seagal's character, has the decency to look mournful about what he's about to do and after he shuts the door, the jet explodes and Seagal is never to be seen again...thank goodness as he is not a good actor and we don't need him ruining this movie!

So Hassan is with the pilots and they notice a light go off indicating the hatch (hey, another Lost reference!) and they ask what that is and make one of the pilots go down and see what's going on. He sees Grant who signals to him to keep quiet and points out they are Americans there to help him and give him a burnt flashdrive to use as an excuse as to why that light went out. He relays this message to the hijacker who pokes his head in and looks around at the darkness but doesn't actually go down to investigate to see if anything is up. What a lazy terrorist! He just chooses to believe the pilot is telling him the truth. And if he didn't want to go down there, he had plenty of other terrorist friends around him. Why didn't he have one of them go down there and check to see what was going on?  So stupid. I can't believe I'm complaining how stupid the terrorists are!

Grant and his crew drill holes and set up camera along the plane to see if they can spy Hassan. Grant says he doesn't know what he looks like, but could recognize his voice anywhere. While hiding in an elevator, Grant sees that flight attendant Jean (Halle Berry) has noticed him and she blocks him when Hassan comes over to her so that he can't see Grant. This signals to Grant that he can trust her and later they call her on the airline phone, tell her they are watching her through a camera and ask for her help...there is a passenger on the plane that is working with the terrorists and has the device that will detonate the bomb. Jean agrees to do this even after Hassan catches her talking on the phone and slaps and threatens her.

Speaking of the bomb...Cappy, our injured guy who is laying flat on his back with a neck brace, is the only guy who knows how to dismantle a bomb, but unfortunately there is no way he can do that, so he has to walk Dennis through on what to do.

I should also mention that they had no way of contacting the White House and when the jet lost contact, they assumed that everyone probably thought they were dead. The White House gives order to have the plane shot down, but one of the guys uses morse code on the plane tail lights to signal to one of the jets that they are on the plane and the attack is aborted. Obviously there is a showdown between Grant and Hassan and one of the hijackers shoots the plane and a big piece is ripped away and there is a gaping hole in the plane. Both pilots, Hassan and the hijackers are dead, but Grant, Jean, the rest of our heroes, and passengers who were fortunate not to be sitting in the area where the guy was shooting are still on the plane and they need to land safely, somehow. Grant, if you remember, has been taking flying lessons, and takes control of the plane and Jean helps him out, reading from the pilot's handbook. He misses the runway at the airport, so instead he has to land at the place where he flies the small planes. The landing is a bit (okay, a lot) bumpy and the plane is on fire, but they manage to land without anymore fatalities. And while all this is going on, Dennis and Cappy have to make sure the bomb doesn't detonate!

A fun movie, but not one you would want to see on board a plane!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Vacation from Hell

Brokedown Palace
Director: Jonathan Kaplan
Cast: Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman
Released in theaters: August 13, 1999

Imagine that you have gone to Thailand with your best friend for a vacation of a lifetime! Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Now imagine that you and your friend have decided to take a daytrip to Hong Kong.  While waiting to get on the airplane, the Thai police come charging at the two of you with guns aimed at you and snatch your luggage and while searching through it they find heroin. A LOT of it. You and your friend are immediately taken into custody and thrown into a jail that's more like an internment camp.

What I just described is what happens in Brokedown Palace where Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale play best friends Alice and Darlene who have just graduated high school. Both girls have been friends since a really young age even though Darlene is the "good", studious one and Alice is the "bad", rebellious one. Darlene is going to college in the fall and Alice, knowing they won't be seeing much of each other anymore once Darlene starts school, wants them to have one last great, memorable summer, and after talking to some of their friends, they get the idea to take a trip to Bangkok. Darlene is worried that her strict parents won't let her travel that far and Alice tells her to tell them she is going to Hawaii, which she does.

While the girls are in Bangkok, they sneak into a swanky hotel and sit out by the pool where they order drinks and Alice charges them to a random suite number. The waiter is suspicion of them and tells them that the number they gave them belongs to an older gentleman and is calling for security to escort them out. This scenario will come back and haunt them later. They are rescued by a dashing Australian lad named Nick who tells the waiter they are with him and shows him a room key he stole from the bathroom. Nick puts his charm on both girls and convinces them to come to Hong Kong for a day. I looked at a map and Bangkok and Hong Kong are a lot further apart than what I thought. It would be like taking a vacation to San Francisco and flying to Seattle for a day. Nick tells them he will fly out the day before and they can meet him the next day. There is a reason he does this!

While the girls are waiting in line at the airport, they are unknowingly tipped off by security and soon they are surrounded by the police with guns pointed at them and they find 13 pounds of heroin! (Damn!) Alice was carrying the bag, but Darlene had packed it and both girls are wondering what is going on. They are taken into custody by the Thai police and interrogated separately. Alice refuses to sign a statement because it is in Thai and she can't read it, but Darlene gives her statement and signs it, even though it is in Thai and when she reveals this to Alice, Alice gets angry with her and asks her why would she sign something that's in a language she can't read? The document she signed was actually her confession to the crime and both girls are thrown into a women's prison which isn't lacking on inmates. They are sentenced for 33 years - so they'll get out when they're 51.

The prison is filthy and the food is disgusting, but of course you're not excepting them to stay at the Four Seasons. Instead of having to wear those gaudy orange jumpsuits, their uniform is a purple smock, which is much better than wearing orange! Hey, you have to look on the bright side when you're in prison, right? Their hair is chopped off as soon as they get there. They get in good with an Australian and a Jamaican who show them the ropes and tell them the dos and don'ts of prison life.

Bill Pullman plays lawyer "Yankee Hank" who lives in Thailand and gets involved in their case for a fee. He does some investigating and finds out Nick, who's a drug smuggler, set them up. The girls try to escape, but get caught.

When visitors come, they have to stand on a bridge across from the prisoners and yell across at them to communicate with a bunch of other people around them yelling. Darlene's dad comes to visit them and talks to the girls separately. When he talks to Alice, he pretty much accuses her of committing the crime because she would always lie about things she didn't do in the past. It's not very clear how long the girls have been in prison, but they have been there at least all summer because their former classmates come to visit and Darlene asks them about college.

When it's looking grim for the girls that they will be spending the next 33 years in prison, Alice begs for them to let Darlene go and that she will serve her and Darlene's term because she was the one who did it and Darlene is completely innocent. The movie ends with Darlene being released and Alice still having hope that Hank will get her out.

I think it would have been a great reveal if Alice really had been the one who had the drugs all along and was trying to find a way to make her and Darlene stay together for a long time, but no, both girls were innocent and you knew that along. Oh, well.

I saw this movie when it came out on video and I really loved the music, so I bought the soundtrack. My favorite songs are "Silence" and "Deliver Me" by Sarah Brightman, "Damaged" by Plumb,  and "Rock the Casbah" by Solar Twins. (Is it bad that I heard that version before I even knew it was a Clash song?) There's even a Nelly Furtado song on it and this was before I even knew who Nelly Furtado was. It's called "Party's Just Begun", a song I don't like, but it fit with the atmosphere of the movie.

Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention the huge controversy over the filming of this movie that got Claire Dane into some hot water. They filmed this movie in Manila and let's just say she was not impressed with the city and said some not-so-nice things about it and the people. Now she was only like 18 or 19 when she made this movie and teenage girls can say some pretty stupid things without thinking first. I'm not excusing her actions because she should have known better since she had been acting for quite awhile and should have known not to say things like that in a public forum. I remember this when it first came out, but I thought she had badmouthed Bangkok, probably because the movie was set there. She did apologize for what she said and I'm sure she's learned her lesson, but the Filipino government did ban all her movies, which I don't really think you're really missing out on anything if you can't see a Claire Danes movie (sorry Claire Danes fans!) But I wonder if they banned her TV shows? Homeland is a pretty good show...at least the first season was good.