Saturday, June 18, 2005

Underrated Director: John McTiernan

John McTiernan directed, consecutively:

  • Predator
  • Die Hard
  • Hunt For Red October

Is that insane or what? That's a trilogy for the ages right there. I really don't need to say much about these movies; if you have any love for good action movies, you've surely seen them all several times. Only directors like Hitchcock, Kubrick, Spielberg have a similar number of consecutive classics as John McTiernan.

For me, it all started with Jesse The Body's chain gun. When I was 14 years old, I thought that M60 that Jesse The Body was hauling around in Predator was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. "I ain't got time to bleed" -- yeah, that's about where it all started for John McTiernan entering my moviegoing experience.

Plus, with the exception of Raiders of the Lost Ark--my favorite movie of all time--Hunt For Red October is the only movie I've seen more than 3 times in the theater (Hunt for Red October: 4 times). Why even bother making a submarine movie again after Hunt for Red October and Das Boot? Crimson Tide, a good movie of its own right, was nothing compared to either of these two.

McTiernan simply created three movies in a row that ended up in the collective conciousness overnight. That's hard to do.

So how did McTiernan go from great action movie director ever to guy-you've-never-heard-of? I think he got a bad rap for "Last Action Hero". I thought this movie was hilarious, but it got called "The Worst Movie Of All Time" at the time. It is, in fact, one of the few big movies that ever lost significant money in Hollywood, which is a very difficult thing to pull off. I'm sure Hollywood exiled him after that. After all, who wants the guy who can't be packaged up to be sold to a studio after "Last Action Hero"

Anyway, John McTiernan, great underrated director. You've seen his movies, now you know his name.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

5 Funniest Fights

I was thinking today of some hilarious fights in the movies. Here's a short list of the 5 top ones in my book/collection of DVDs. I might need to correct this because it's a first draft.

5. "Charlie's Angels"

Crispin Glover vs. Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz

Ok, to be honest, there's no way this fight would be here if it wasn't Crispin Glover. You may remember him showing off his Karate moves on Letterman once upon a time, which makes this fight even funnier. Above is a picture of him letting out a high pitched scream as he attacks.

4. "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World"

Jonathan Winters vs. Arnold Stang and Marvin Kaplan

If you haven't seen the 3 hour epic madcap comedy "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", you should, and you should take a few minutes to watch this scene twice. Jonathan Winters's character destroys a gas station with his bare hands in this fight. Seriously, the first time I saw it, I could not breathe from laughter.

3. "Happy Gilmore"

Bob Barker vs. Adam Sandler

Duh. And this is has one of the most classic one-liners in all of comedy history ("The price is wrong, bitch!")

2. "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Harrison Ford vs. That Sword Guy

I guess this should be called the funniest non fight. The story is that Harrison Ford was sick that day, so they decided to make it a comic moment rather than a big fight. The payoff is a surprising, hilarious moment (the first time you see it).

1. "They Live"

Roddy Piper vs. Keith David

"I'm not putting on those sunglasses"

This is clearly the most hilarious fight in film history. It's over 7 minutes long and involves the two men fighting in an alley over Keith David's character putting on some sunglasses that allows Roddy to see the aliens among us all. This film was made at the height of the WWF craze, so a lot of pro-wrestling moves work their way in there. Some say that they just kept going because Carpenter never told them to stop. Either way, they created, by far, the most classic fight in film history.

Let's see another pic:

"The Girl Next Door"

Once in a while, a movie comes along where you wonder how it got made.

"The Girl Next Door" is one of those movies.

The only reason this movie got made is because Elisha Cuthbert somehow signed up to be on it. Her agent should be fired immediately. Whoever read the script for her and decided it would be a good move her in career obviously has a crack habit and should be fired.

Actually, the problem with the movie isn't the concept. The concept could be pretty funny... a dorky kid starts going out with a porn star that moves in next door. Hey, "Risky Business" was essentially the same thing and that movie was ok.

The problem with this movie is that it's one of the most mean-spirited movies I've ever seen. There's possibly one legitimate laugh in the whole thing. The rest is really... just... mean.

It's hard to describe what I'm talking about with this. I think Ebert might have said this about the movie when he reviewed it and it just stuck in my brain. The girl's porn director comes into the movie and it's really all downhill from there. He's a mean guy, but not comically mean, just mean. The situations with him in it just make your skin crawl instead of giving you a laugh. But who doesn't laugh when thinking of "Guido the Killer Pimp" from Risky Business? The filmmakers here missed out on making a characture here instead of a character.

Speaking of Risky Business, it's obvious that a lot of movies these days are inspired by John Hughes/80's type teenager movies (though Risky Business is not a Hughes movie). As A.O. Scott once credited, he's the least recognized, yet most influential, director of our time. The Girl Next Door is also inspired by John Hughes movies, except for one major difference: it's not funny.

Rating: it will piss you off even to watch for free on cable (which is how I watched it).

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Top 5 Hitchcock Movies

5. Rebecca

This is the only Hitchcock movie to win best picture. One of the things that makes this movie great is Lawrence Olivier's performance as Max DeWinter. Supposedly, he despised Joan Fontaine in real life and used this in his performance... seems to have worked. The best part of the film is when the camera works its way around an empty room as Olivier describes a scene. Check it out.

4. Rear Window

Not much to add to that, since I'm sure you've seen it. As far as Hitchcock movies starring Jimmy Stewart, I think this movie runs circles around Vertigo.

3. Notorious

This used to be higher on my list but has slipped a little. Hitchcock has Grant and Bergman in the same film here, which I think gives one of his best results ever. Rumor has it that Hitchcock was investigated after this movie came out because it has some discussion of an atomic bomb, before the bomb was actually completed. What to watch for: a great crane shot that comes all the way over a party, down to a key in Bergman's hand.

2. Shadow of a Doubt

As a friend of mine once said, this is Hitchcock's most subversive film. I agree with that. Joseph Cotten plays Uncle Charlie spectacularly, and the rest of the cast does well too. Hume Cronyn's bit part in this movie is one of my favorite characters in all of Hitchcock. If the first five minutes of this movie don't lock your interest, I'll give you a rebate.

1. North by Northwest

Textbook. Besides Psycho, of course this is Hitchcock's most referenced movie. This might be Hitch's longest movie, but the script is interesting enough to keep the audience going. Cary Grant delivers some extreme hilarity as well. The scenes to watch are the restaurant at the beginning, the crop duster (of course), the auction house and Mt. Rushmore (of course). My favorite part of the crop duster attack is when he's waiting around on the side of the road. You think one of those cars is going to do a drive-by with machine gun and just take him out.... but it's a crazy crop duster that comes and gets him! Genius. I wish I had seen this movie in the theater originally, without knowing the crop duster was coming.

Tanya Roberts - Worst Bond Girl Ever

I'm watching "View to a Kill" right now on Encore. 90% of her lines in this movie are "James!" in different tones of distress. Oh yeah, and if that's not bad enough, at the end of this movie, she gets abducted by a menacing blimp moving at about 5 mph.

Let's review some of her lines in this movie:
  • "James! Don't leave me!" (In burning elevator scene)
  • "James! Where are you going!?" (Burning elevator scene)
  • "James!" (When driving fire truck)
  • "James!" (In loving tone, as menacing blimp comes behind her)
  • "James! James!" (On Golden Gate Bridge)
  • "James! Look Out!" (on golden gate bridge)
Ok, much of this is the writer's fault, not hers. She is hot, I will give her kudos for that. And she's funny on That 70's Show.

Generally, I guess this movie really sucks except for the Paris chase scene. Somehow the Russians are supposed to be involved, and what's up with this horse auction? The bad guys are morons. They drive around in a blimp, yeah, that won't attract any attention. The Nazi doctor has a great line at the end when he can't get a handle on a lit bundle of dynamite: "Neh! Neh! Neh! Neh!". Some evil Nazi genius doctor huh, can't even throw a bunch of TNT out the window of a blimp? Dumbass.