We Want Action: John Wick (2014)

I don’t see a lot of movies in the theater. As a result, I try to use my Netflix queue — yup, still have the disc subscription in addition to the streaming one — to remind myself of what newer movies I want to see. But, as anyone with a queue knows, these things wind up acquiring hundreds of possible films, many of which get sent and then sit around for weeks.

I’d sat on a movie like that for an embarrassing amount of time and vowed to watch the next film with a quickness. That turned out to be the 2014 Keanu Reeves movie John Wick directed by Chad Stahelski. A lot of people told me how good this film was, so I was interested in what I came to know as “the dog revenge movie.” I actually followed through, popped the movie in and got about 25 minutes in before the disc got all skitchy and I had to send it back. Continue reading We Want Action: John Wick (2014)

We Want Action: Streets Of Fire (1984)

streets of fire poster

Walter Hill is a fascinating director to me. I discovered The Warriors in high school and it changed my brain. It felt like someone who loved comic books, taking some of the crazy, garish characters and putting them into the real world and still making it feel really real and believable even when tinged with healthy doses of melodrama. Even with as influential as that film was to me, though, I haven’t really actively sought out his other films. Sure, I’ve seen the 48 Hours movies and Last Man Standing, but that was before I realized he made those films. When I saw his 1984 film Streets Of Fire on Netflix Instant, I was super excited to give it a watch. When the titles started popping up and one of them said I was about to watch “A rock and roll fable” I got even more excited.

The film follows gun-for-hire Tom Cody (Michael Pare) as he gets hired by Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) to save rock singer Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) from a gang of thugs lead by Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe). Tom brings along new acquaintance McCoy (Amy Madigan) to help out. The structure of this film is actually very similar to that of The Warriors but in a slightly different order. The hero has a mission, he gets a girl, he and his crew do their best to get back to safety and then at the end there’s a showdown behind the good guy and bad guy while a small army of armed people stand around and watch. Hell, there’s even a scene where the subway trains aren’t working because someone set fire to them! As if all that wasn’t enough, some of the Warriors cast members pop up in this film like¬†Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Mercy) as Tom’s sister and even Lynne Thigpen who played the DJ in the previous movie popped up as a cop (interestingly enough telling the leads about the train fire). The beginning of the two films are also really similar from an editing standpoint. Heck, McCoy even kind of looks like Swan.

The story itself is set in a weird world that seems sort of 50s, but created through the prism of the 80s. You’ll understand what I mean by watching just about any scene set in a club. It feels like you’re just as likely to see some guy doing his best Johnny Cash impression or his best Stray Cats impression up on stage and that’s pretty much what you get. Every music number also has that feel too which kind of makes me wonder if Hill wanted to get into the music video game.

Anyway, even with as silly and affected as the film might feel, there’s still some real issues going on here. McCoy has to deal with all kinds of gender nonsense and does her best, but we can see her cracks. She just wants acceptance and friends (who doesn’t?). Meanwhile, our hero Tom is a total tough guy who’s clearly in love with Ellen, but he just doesn’t know how to tell her AND he doesn’t know how to do the obvious which is get the hell out of his crappy live and just move somewhere else. So there’s some stuff going on, but you’ve got to get through some of the veneer to get there, again, much like The Warriors.

I hate to keep comparing Hill movies here, but I do want to point one more thing out. The climax of the film involves the aforementioned showdown between Tom and Raven on the streets surrounded by allies on both sides. But, instead of fighting with fists or knives, they start going at it with crazy prospecting hammers but without the super pointy end. It’s a pretty bonkers scene, but it instantly reminded me of the trailers I’ve seen from Hill’s last movie Bullet To The Head¬†where Sylvester Stallone has a freaking axe fight with Jason Momoa. Now, I haven’t seen that movie yet, but it’s interesting that Hill went back to that well. It makes me want to watch the rest of his movies to see what other elements he uses over and over again or if I’ve seen them all at this point. Still, Streets of Fire is a unique, offbeat little movie that does a lot of the same things Warriors does in both theme and content. I’d probably have fallen in love with it had I also seen it in high school, but the adult version of me saw a lot of the affectedness going on and couldn’t fully commit.

A Double Feature for the Ages: PCU (1994) & The Boondock Saints (1999)

2008-07-07
2:37:26 am

The other night (Wednesday I think), I decided to get caught up on my movies from Blockbuster so I watched a double feature of PCU (1994) and The Boondock Saints (1999). Now, these two flicks don’t have anything in common (trust me I looked), but I really enjoyed re-watching both movies.

 

PCU’s about this high school senior (pre-frosh) who comes to visit a college (based on Wesleyan from what I’ve read), but instead of staying in the dorms, he ends up in a place called The Pit that used to be a fraternity house back in the day, but is now co-ed housing. We had something like this at my college, they were called SLUs (for “single living units,” I think). Anyway, the blind dude from Becker signed Jeremy Piven (who even then, looked about 30) up to house a pre-frosh, but he’s having none of it. After the usual “introducing the new kid to all the different groups on campus” scene (I still love those scenes, even long after high school and college), the pre-frosh successfully pisses off each and every highly-sensitive group and minority on campus. Meanwhile, David Spade plays a yuppie who belongs to the fraternity that used to live in The Pit. He’s conspiring with the president of the school to get The Pitters kicked out of their place. All of this leads to a killer party at The Pit (so they can raise money to keep their house) where George Clinton and Parliament/The P-Funk All-Stars play. Then they ruin the bicentennial thingy so the dean gets fired. Basically, the whole idea is that being overly politically correct (hence PCU) actually separates people instead of bringing them together. Oh, and that beer and funk solves everything.

I remember watching this flick on Comedy Central back in the day. I’m not sure if it was on the T & A Matinee that they used to do right around the time I got home from grade school (excellent scheduling CC!) or just on the pre-South Park station, but I saw it a lot. And it made me want to go to college. It was a lot of fun watching the movie post-college because, even though the movies about 15 years old by now, there’s still a lot of truth in the cartoony antics. Oh, it’s also a lot of fun watching it and calling out different people. One of the guys from Big Love is in it, so is Gary Busey’s son Jake. Oh, also, Zak Penn of X-Men movie writing fame go-wrote this movie. That’s awesome. If you haven’t checked out PCU, I highly recommend it.

Which brings me to Boondock Saints which is a flick about two Irish brothers in Southie (that’s in Boston, kids) who decide to become vigilantes and kill bad dudes in their neighborhood. One of the mob bosses isn’t too thrilled about this, so he arranges for an incredibly dangerous hitman that goes by the name Il Duce (played by the second teacher from Head of the Class Billy Connelly) to kill the brothers. Oh, duh, Willem Dafoe plays an FBI agent trying to figure out who’s killing these bad guys. He’s like a profiler I guess. They shoot the scenes pretty interestingly, basically they show the brothers about to kill somebody, then jump to the aftermath when Dafoe shows up. Dafoe then re-imagines the whole thing, at one point, even acting like a conductor. It’s a hard thing to explain, but it was pretty cool to see.

I was kind of surprised about the reaction I got to my friends when I told them I re-watched Saints. I really enjoyed the movie (in the same way you enjoy a good Punisher comic, who doesn’t like watching bad guys get wasted? especially when the guys doing it are just so damn likeable), but when I mentioned it to a few of my friends they said they didn’t like it very much. But it wasn’t really the movie they disliked but the hype that surrounded it. I only ever had two people tell me I should watch it, so I didn’t realize there was such a huge cult following around the movie comparing it to Pulp Fiction (which I would definitely not do). So, I suggested they check it out again, like I suggest all of you to check it out. I’m also excited to see the long-planned sequel that may or may not ever happen. Heck, I’d even check out a comic based on The Boondock Saints.