Uncaged: Con Air (1997) and The Rock (1996)

2008-12-05
5:05:25 am

I recently switched from Blockbuster to Netflix as it was taking way too freaking long for me to get my DVDs (five days at times, even when I turned them in at the store, ugh). As a result I sat here switching my queue over and moving things around. I gotta say, I like the Netflix site a lot more. It’s way more user friendly and I actually like a lot of their movie suggestions. All of which I’m telling you to let you in on how I inadvertently ended up with two crazy, Nic Cage action movies from the mid 90s. I had never seen Con Air before and it’s been about a decade since I saw The Rock, so it was practically like watching it again for the first time.

CON AIR (1997)

What a great and crazy movie. Like with The Rock, I don’t really buy into one of the initial plot points. In this case its the idea that a military man just home from a tour of duty (or something, I’m not always clear on the jargon) kills a dude in a fight, a dude with a knife near Cage’s pregnant girlfriend no less. According to the brief court scene, soldiers are held to a higher standard because they’re killing machines. Sorry folks, I don’t buy it. Isn’t that plain old self defense? Anyway, aside from that (and Cage’s ridiculous accent throughout the film), I bought in. You see, Cage is done with his five year sentence and just wants to get home to his girl and their kid, so they put him on a plane (why was he so far away from home anyway?) with a bunch of other cons to fly them someplace else. Once in the air, the prisoners take over the plane in a pretty ingenious multi-part plan and we go on from there.

The first thing that struck me about Con Air is the cast. Aside from Cage, you’ve got John Cusak as a cop of some kind, John Malkovich as the mastermind behind the hijack, Dave Chapelle, Danny Trejo (the best interview I’ve ever had) and Ving Rhames as cons and Steve Buscemi as a sociopath serial killer. The characters aren’t all that well rounded, but the actors really sell their parts, offering up some of the creepiest cons in recent memory. Even Cusak, who I love in High Fidelity, Grosse Point Blanke and even 1401, is believable in the roll as an action-faring blockbuster cop, who would have thought?

There are all kind of groan worthy aspects to this flick, but I’ll take all of them in exchange for a crazy balls-out action flick that pays off in big names, big explosions and big plots. The final scene takes place in the middle of Las Vegas, first as a plane crash, then as a chase between a fire truck and two motorcycles. One aspect of the movie that was too much, though, was Colm Meaney’s “disbelieving tough guy cop.” In a movie filled with otherwise compelling (if not likeable) characters, Colm’s character just comes off as a boring, one note pain in the butt whose role should have either been rewritten or toned WAY down. It is cool to see his car come to its end, though.

One last thing, I just looked director Simon West up on IMDb and was horrifying to discover he’s the man responsible for subjecting me to the When A Stranger Calls remake. Well, to be fair, I’m responsible for subjecting Ben, Rickey and myself to a pretty awful movie, but who’s counting? It was by birthday after all!

THE ROCK (1996)

Like I said, I’d seen The Rock before, but had very little memory of it, which is great because this movie turned out to be a great surprise. I had a ton of fun watching The Rock, even though I was a little worried about it’s long running time (I have gotten pretty lazy, going so far as to sending Armageddon back without watching it because of its 2 and a half hour running time). Regardless, I am officially a huge Michael Bay fan, so of me what you will, even given what I think was a fairly weak plot point. My biggest problem with the story is that I don’t really buy that Ed Harris’ character would at any point believe his plan would work. If he’s not willing to actually kill a bunch of civilians, why would the government do anything by completely annihilate the island? Oh well.

The island in question is of course Alcatraz, the famous island prison which has fascinated me since I first saw it on some long forgotten show when I was a kid. There’s always been a great sense of history and mystery surrounding that place so I’m pretty much down with any movie or comic being set there (I’m also a big fan the Mythbusters where they test to see if prisoners could have really escaped from The Rock). I am also a big Sean Connery fan, though who isn’t? Seeing how great he is in this movie makes me wish he’d come back and do a role or two. In the flick he plays the only man to have ever escaped from Alcatraz. he gets teamed with chemical weapons expert Nic Cage to stop Harris and his hired soldiers (one of whom is Candyman) from firing off a series of missles with highly toxic bioweapons inside, which means they’ve got to break back into Alcatraz.

If there’s one thing Bay knows, it’s how to make an awesome movie. This one’s got everything from chase scenes to bad ass lines to bigger than life characters and cushion clenching suspense. It really makes me wonder what happened to Cage, though. If nothing else, these two movies reminded me of how much fun he used to be to watch on screen. Maybe it’s that I used to feel like we were both on the same page (these are goofy fun movies and he’s having a goofy fun time doing it), but somewhere along the line he turned into the guy who would star in Ghost Rider. Yeesh. I’ve also heard some pretty terrible things about Wicker Man and really want to watch it after seeing this Best Scenes from The Wicker Man YouTube video:

Crazy right? Well, I can always go back and watch Con Air and The Rock, both of which looked super awesome on the new TV (I really love this thing). But, hey, maybe John Carpetner’s upcoming Cage starrer Riot will bring him back to action movie prominence (I sure hope so).

‘Point’ Taken: A Point Break Review

2008-05-23
4:42:50 am

Woah. I think I fell in love with Point Break tonight. I’d heard about it over the years, am a big Swayze fan and have even seen the Mythbusters episode that talks about the parachuting scenes (I mean, a movie’s gotta be pretty rad if the Mythbusters take it on…or completely ridiculous). If nothing else, I now want to jump out of an airplane, rob a bank, surf and hang out with Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Lori Petty. Anyway, let’s jump into:

Point Break (1991)

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Written by Rick King & W. Peter Iliff

Starring Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, Anthony Kiedis & Tom Sizemore (for a second)

Okay, so I’ve gotten a few complaints (really, just from Em, but she’s the only one that I’ve heard from next to Ben and Rickey) that the reviews zoom in on the plot a bit too much, so I’m going to try and keep the summarizing up and the in-depth plot reviews down (we’ll see how that works out).

Here’s the basic plot, Keanu plays Johnny Utah, an FBI agent who recently transfered to the robbery unit in LA. His partner is Gary Busey who actually plays one of the less crazy dudes in the movie. They’re trying to bring down a group of bank robbers calling themselves the Ex Presidents (they put on president masks while pulling their jobs). Busey’s got this crazy idea that the robbers are actually surfers (apparently the other agents consider this a crackpot theory, it sounds like good detective work to me, but what do I know?). So, to try and figure out which gang of surfers knocks off banks only during the summer months, Utah goes undercover, gets Lori Petty to teach him to surf and ingratiates himself to a group of surfers including Swayze who plays Bodhi, the lead bank robber. They become friendly, which, of course leads to conflict, much of which takes place while skydiving.

I love this cast. I used to wonder whether Keanu got a bad wrap or if he was just really good at playing the roles he was given. Honestly, I’m still not sure what the deal with him is, but he has some of the most awesomely bad lines in action movie history in this flick (“You’re sayin’ the FBI’s gonna pay me to learn to surf?” “You’re cold because all of the blood is running out of your body Roach. You’re gonna be dead soon. I hope it was worth it.”). Any way you look at it he’s an incredibly entertaining actor, especially as a surfing FBI agent.

And who can deny Swayze’s awesomeness? Have you seen Road House? They even reference it here with a throwaway line mentioning a place called Patrick’s Road House. Nice touch, writers. Whether he’s talking about “feeling waves” or doing crazy ballet and dance moves after jumping out of a plane, this dude is just so freakin’ charismatic that you can’t help but buy into his “sticking it to the man” BS, even though, by the end of the movie, you realize he’s really just a stone-cold psycho with one thing in mind: getting to the 50 year storm.

Also, why isn’t Lori Petty in more stuff? She’s great in everything she does (League of their Own, Tank Girl, Livewire on Superman the Animated Series and even Free Willy). As usual, she has an innocence that really grabs me, even though she’s playing tough broad. Speaking of tough, Gary Busey kills it, as usual, but this time he’s a good guy. Not sure if I’ve ever seen him play a good guy in a movie (or real life), but it was a nice change that he pulled off with his usual crazy bravado.

Okay, so I clearly liked the cast, but I also dug the flick itself. Yeah, it’s about 2 hours, but I feel like there’s always something on screen that kept me interested. You’ve got car chases, foot chases, beach football, surfing, sky diving, sky diving without a parachute, Dakota shooting at the sky (thanks to Hot Fuzz for so eloquently showing me this scene already), bank robberies, masks, sex, a crazy surfer party and even a fight with a group of dudes that looked like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and turned out to actually feature Anthony Kiedis of RHCP (go figure).

And, even though Mythbusters told me that, not only couldn’t Johnny Utah jump out of a plane, grab onto Swayze, pull his shoot, hold on REAL tight and not die, but wouldn’t even be able to hold the mid-air conversations, I still loved the climactic scene. Dang that was just cool (I don’t think I can swear on here, so you’ll just have to deal with my lame swear fill-ins). I even thought Swayze was gonna get away in the end and would have been happy with the film ending in Mexico (like I said, he’s freakin’ charismatic), but the last few minutes in Australia give us a cathartic fight between our good guy and oh-so-likable bad guy resulting in his (maybe) death while surfing the biggest wave in 50 years.

If there’s one movie that I’d like to see continued in a comic, it’s this one. If IDW could do a serviceable job with Scarface (and I think they did, assuming you can get past the fact that Tony’s not dead), why not Point Break? What happens to Johnny after he tosses his badge in the ocean? Does Bodhi die? What happens to Lori Petty and Keanu’s relationship? How does jail treat Anthony Kiedis? Does John C. McGinley (Keanu and Busey’s superior) ever relax? What does Tom Sizemore’s DEA agent (IRONY!) do after Johnny accidentally ruins his bust? There’s so MANY questions. I’ll make this public offer, if writers Rick King & W. Peter Iliff don’t want to take a crack at it, I’m game. I’ve got this thing half-way plotted already and I only finished the movie 30 minutes ago. Your move, other guys!