Three Movies I Didn’t Finish: Vanishing Point, City Heat & Mercury Man

I laughed pretty hard to myself after reading Stacie Ponder’s post about trying to decide which movies to watch. I often have the same problem. I’m awake so few hours past 10PM these days that I want to get the most out of my time dollars. So, I’ll either play a video game (right now it’s Arkham Asylum, more on that later in the week), or watch a movie on NetBox. See, I take the DVDs with me on the train and I’ve got over 250 movies in the online queue, so I try to get through as many as possible. Oftentimes that means I’ll watch some pretty bad movies and sometimes some good movies just don’t hook me enough. Here are three such movies in the order that I semi-watched them.

VANISHING POINT (1971)
I’d heard about Vanishing Point before I saw Death Proof and even though I didn’t like that movie, I still wanted to check this one out, but the problem is that it’s pretty boring. You’ve got a lot of a guy driving a car, some chases and then weird flashbacks to him getting in motorcycle accidents and being a good cop. We also get several scenes of a blind DJ. I completely admit that I got distracted by other things and wasn’t giving this movie 100% of my short attention span, but it didn’t really seem like there was a lot of story here (guy’s driving a car across a bunch of states for a guy, but I’m not sure why). It’s kind of like when I tried to watch Superfly, which was so bad I didn’t even write about it. With Superfly the script was way-short so they padded it with tons of scenes of people driving and walking places. That’s just boring. I got the same feeling with Vanishing Point unfortunately, and like I said WAY back in my Bullitt review simple car chases just don’t do it for me. I’m not completely writing Vanishing Point off. Does anyone have a reason for me to give this one another shot?

CITY HEAT (1984)
This is one that I completely forgot about when I was putting random movies on my digital queue. It’s the only time that Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were in a movie together. By the time this movie came out, they were both around their early 50s, but still kicked ass. Reynolds is a private detective who used to be a cop with Eastwood. The movie’s mostly about Reynolds trying to find the killer of his partner, played by Shaft–Richard Roundtree (who I JUST saw in Maniac Cop, I think he might be stalking me through his old movies). It’s set in the 30s and has kind of a less-bright (color-wise) Dick Tracy-vibe to it. It’s a comedy, but definitely riffs on a ton of film noir movies like Maltese Falcon. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with this movie, I was just getting restless and it wasn’t moving all that fast (which is saying something considering it’s only 80-some minutes long). I thought I was going to move on to something more horror or action oriented, but barely lasted. I think I’ll actually go back and give this action comedy with two awesome Manly Movie Men another shot. Also of note, it was directed by Richard Benjamin Money Pit. So many connections!

MERCURY MAN (2006)
Hey, don’t watch this movie. I checked it out thinking it would be another Thai movie in the vein of Ong-Bak or The Protector which are freaking amazing with a superhero bent. It isn’t. It’s a poorly CGIed Spider-Man rip-off that rivals some pretty bad Indian knock offs. I completely admit to falling asleep for an indeterminate amount of time fairly early in the movie and TRYING to stay away to check out a fight scene to see if this thing was worth my time and it wasn’t. If you want to watch a crazy version of Spider-Man, head over to Marvel.com and peep these Japanese Spidey videos they’ve got. This is episode 26, so it might not make much sense (though I don’t know if it would matter if you’d seen the previous 25).

Train-ing Videos: The Money Pit (1986)

Hey cleaver title right? Train-ing Videos. See, it’s cause I watch them on the train. Anyway, today’s movie was the Tom Hanks/Shelley Long joint Money Pit which I got in a Tom Hanks 3-pack at Best Buy a month or so back that also includes The Burbs (awesome) and Dragnet (haven’t seen) for like $8. I’m a sucker for a deal, so I picked it up (which is also how I got Over the Top and Wet Hot American Summer yesterday for $5 each.

So, I thought I knew Money Pit fairly well, Hanks and Long buy a house that turns out to be a crap hole, things fall apart, they hire some people to fix it up, she maybe cheats on him with the maestro, they fight, (SPOILER), things work out and everything ends happily ever after. And that is basically what happens, but it’s the small things that made this already funny movie even more interesting.

First off, I don’t remember the beginning at all. I figured there was some stuff in the beginning, but didn’t remember the details. Long and Hanks are living in the apartment of her ex-husband (the maestro), a shady real estate dude tells Hanks he’s got a great place for super cheap, though it’s still pretty expensive. Yakov Smirnoff makes an appearance as the maestro’s assistant or something and is then never seen again. There’s also the matter of Hanks’ job, he’s a lawyer in the music biz, so there’s lots of funny little bits with a kid superstar and a band of crossdressing rockers.

My favorite little bit in here came with a brief appearance by an actor playing ping pong named Brian Backer who I recognized, but couldn’t place. I’m not really sure why he’s even in the scene, but it turns out that he was in The Burning! Speaking of actors I recognized but couldn’t place, the maestro is a big, blond German guy. My mind immediately went to one of the villains from Die Hard, but that’s just because I think every blond dude of a certain age was in that movie. Turns out I was right though, this is one of Karl’s few other movie roles.

I also really liked the cast of misfits who come together to act as their construction team. When they roll up on all sorts of crazy machinery flanked by huge muscle dudes and little people, it reminded me of the crazy circus people the Penguin hung out with in Batman Returns.

After the surprises were over I was left with all the scenes I remember from seeing this movie on TV: the staircase falling, them freaking out over running water (something I can relate to after my parents rennovated our downstairs when I was younger), Long openening the medicine cabinet to reveal a dude standing there, Hanks falling through the floor, but the rug traps him and, of course, the best laugh of all time (he’s got one of the top five laughs in the history of all time laughs):

But by far, my absolute favorite part of the movie is when Hanks does a damn fine Mr. Magoo impression, getting rocketed through the construction thanks to some pretty great gags. It’s a little over the top, but who cares? It’s fun. Plus he gets peed on at the end (kinda).

One thing I didn’t really like, though, was Shelley Long. I always preferred Rebecca on Cheers and, well, what else has she been in? You could just as easily have taken her out of Boston, plopped her in NYC, put a violin in her hand and call her something else. Sorry, Diane, I’m no fan. When things get heated between her and Hanks, I kept thinking “Ditch her and go after Kirstey Alley!” (remember this is 1986, not now).

Now for a few side points. The writer, David Giler, also wrote the story for Aliens, the script for Aliens 3 and apparently did an uncredited pass on Beverly Hills Cop 2. I like me some eclectic screenwriters. Also, the movie takes place in the city, so, as I have been doing for the past two or so months, I kept an eye out for any recognizable landmarks or streets (didn’t see any). I was also trying to figure out where their house was supposed to be located. I don’t think they ever say specifically where the house is, just that it’s an hour away from everything. According to the filming locations of IMDb, though, it was filmed on Long Island, which is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum from where I live. Oh well, a good time was had by all.

All Out Action: Westworld (1973) & Hard Rain (1998)

2008-12-30
8:44:15 pm

Like I said recently, I’ve been trying to watch as many movies as I possibly can with the Netflix on XBox option, but I’ve also had a few Netflix DVDs sitting around (though the Broken Arrow DVD was completely cracked down the center, so that’s one less to worry about for now). So, here we go with the reviews.

WESTWORLD (1973)

I distinctly remember watching Westworld with my dad when I was younger, but I apparently didn’t remember much but the very basics from the movie. I lucked out and got Em to watch it along with me and it seemed like she liked it well enough (she didn’t make fun of me like she did after watching The Warriors so that’s a plus). Anyway, I also really dug the movie, probably even moreso because I didn’t remember every little part of it.

The basic plot is that there’s this resort populated with robots where you can go and live like you’re in another time period (Roman Empire, Medieval England or the Wild Wild West). You can basically do whatever you want there (including shooting and having sex with the robots, though, presumably different ones). Our story focuses on two visitors, one played by James Brolin, the other by a guy named Richard Benjamin who looked familiar, but nothing on his IMDb rang any bells. Yul Brenner also starts as the robot Gunslinger who keeps coming after Benjamin. Well, the vacation doesn’t go quite as planned as the robots start revolting and SPOILER the Gunslinger kills James Brolin (Em and I both thought he’d be the hero, oh well), sending Benjamin running from the relentless cowboy killer robot.

There’s a lot of cool special effects and writer and director Michael Crichton (I had no idea he directed movies) does a great job of selling the story. According the IMDb trivia he got the idea for the story after visiting Disneyland, which was pretty funny to me because it seems pretty familiar to The Stepford Wives, which I read, watched and reviewed recently. The trivia also said that The Gunslinger also inspired John Carpenter to create the greatest slasher in movie history Michael Myers. So, if you’re a fan of either of those other movies or just cool sci-fi robot stories starring Jame Brolin and Yul Brenner, then you should definitely check this one out.

HARD RAIN (1998)

I’m not even sure why I put Hard Rain on my queue. It was probably one of those suggested movies that Netlifx does when you add a movie to your queue. Anyway, I wasn’t all too excited to watch it when the DVD came in, but I’m really glad I did as this is a fantastic action movie with one of the coolest and best handled natural disaster plots I’ve seen in a while. Plus, it’s got Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid, Ed Asner, Betty White and Minnie Driver sporting a pretty bad American accent.

Plotwise you’ve got Morgan Freeman leading a band of robbers trying to get their hands on the money in Slater and Asner’s bank truck in a town in danger of flooding. Meanwhile Quaid and his fellow police officers try to save the townspeople like Driver and White. As the water rises (and boy, does it get up there) so does the tension and a great “anything can happen” feeling. It does get a little crazy at the very end with all kinds of allegiances changing and crosses being doubled, but all that water makes it okay in my book. You’ve got everything from a boat being driven through a church window to a wave runner chase scene in a high school. It really is just a fun movie that offers up plenty of “how are they going to get out of THIS” situations. I highly HIGHLY recommend this movie to anyone who like fun movies who don’t let things like science get in the way of enjoying a movie (in this world, a gun can fire no matter how long it’s been under water, so just deal with it okay?).