All “buddy cop” movies have certain similarities. They’re always comedies, there’s always some sarcastic banter between the partners, they always get in trouble with “Da Chief”, and there’s always a conflict between being too cautious and not being cautious enough. In Peter Hyams’ film Running Scared, both of the cops fill both aspects of the caution conflict. Billy Crystal plays Danny Costanzo, and his partner is Ray Hughes, played by Gregory Hines (who we don’t really see enough of in films, so it’s good to see him in a major role here). They’re a pair of reckless Chicago narcotics detectives, and known for having maverick tendencies and going a little too far in the pursuit of justice — to the point that one of the early running gags is that their fellow officers jokingly ask them if they have alibis for a suspicious death. Continue reading
I’ve seen a handful of the films that Christopher Nolan has directed over the years: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Prestige (which has nothing to do with Batman). What they all have in common, besides Christian Bale (OK, it has a little bit to do with Batman), is that they are very good, and a bit more cerebral than the standard films of their genres. Memento, released in 2000, is one of his more critically acclaimed films, and a large part of that acclaim is that it is perhaps the most cerebral of his films. I didn’t catch the film when it first came out, and it somehow managed to elude me in the 12 years since as well; fortunately, though, I managed to elude spoilers of the film until I was finally able to see it for myself.
Memento stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a former insurance investigator with a couple of problems. The first, which provides the plot of the film, is that his wife was murdered and he was assaulted, and one of the killers is still on the loose. The second problem, which provides the gimmick of the film, is that the attack left him with a brain injury, resulting in a case of anterograde amnesia. He can remember events up to the incident as perfectly as he could before his injury, but he is left unable to form new memories. He can hold things in his memory as long as he focuses on it, but if he goes too long without writing it down, it’s forgotten forever. Every encounter is a new one to him, every event has him feeling as if he’s just woke up in media res, and every morning he wakes up to find
it is, once again, Groundhog Day he has no recollection of his recent past. He relies on Polaroids, notes to himself, and — for permanent clues and warnings — tattoos (some self-administered) to keep himself in the loop of his progress. Continue reading
“Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”
That quote by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) during a pivotal scene in The Matrix illustrates not only a central aspect of the film, but also handily sums up a problem with reviewing the film. It’s not one of those films that is only able to be watched once; I’ve watched it several times, personally, and enjoyed it every time. But it is a film in which that first viewing is substantially different from every subsequent viewing. There is a mystery at the heart of The Matrix, a central question that drives the first half of the film, and like all good mysteries, there is a lot of foreshadowing to the revelation. But like all good mysteries, it can only be mysterious once. The question “What is the Matrix?” that was used so heavily in its marketing — including the web site for the movie, back in 1999 when that was still a relative novelty — is a question you now know the answer to. And yet, what remains is still one of the best modern science fiction films and a great action film.
As Morpheus offers Neo a choice of a red pill representing a dangerous truth, and a blue pill representing safety in ignorance, so too must I offer the reader of this blog a choice. If, perchance, you have not seen The Matrix for yourself, I suggest you take the blue pill. Spend time on my other articles, or go elsewhere on the web; though I do not wish to drive you away, I also have no wish to spoil this for you, and it is impossible for me to discuss it without doing so. Take the blue pill, you stay unspoiled, and you can believe… whatever you want to believe until you see the film for yourself. If, on the other hand, you have seen the film, then take the red pill, click the continue link, and we shall see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Continue reading
Bringing in the bounty of a lifetime seemed like an easy job at first. But if that were the case, we wouldn’t have a movie to watch, would we? 1988′s Midnight Run, directed by Martin Brest (who also directed Beverly Hills Cop), features Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh, a perpetually down-on-his-luck bounty hunter. Formerly a Chicago cop until he was run out of town by a corrupt department for not taking a bribe, Jack now makes his living tracking down fugitives for a Los Angeles bail bondsman, Eddie Moscone. Played by Joe Pantoliano (whose name seems to keep coming up in my reviews lately), Eddie’s a bit of a weasel; in fact, the only more weaselly character is his assistant Jerry (Jack Kehoe).
Eddie has a problem with one of his current “clients”; yet another bailed-out crook has skipped town, leaving Eddie holding the bag for the bail money he put up. But in this case, the crook was Jonathan “the Duke” Mardukas, an accountant who embezzled millions from a suspected Chicago mob boss… so while Eddie was simply handling him for a local L.A. charge, the bond was set at half a million dollars. Eddie needs Jack to bring back Mardukas, or he’s out $500,000 — and so he offers to pay Jack $100,000 to get him in by Friday at midnight. He’s sure that since Mardukas is just an accountant it’ll be a simple job, a “midnight run”. If only. Continue reading
There are a lot of movies out there that take an old television series and adapt their characters and basic premise into a feature film. There aren’t a lot of good ones, however. But 1993′s The Fugitive, directed by Andrew Davis and starring Harrison Ford, is one of the exceptions to the rule.
Part of this is due to the quality performances of the actors, and the director and his crew. But part of it is probably also due to the nature of the story. The Fugitive, as a TV series, had a certain need to pad out its basic plot with a lot of incidental events. As a movie, the central plot can become the sole plot, allowing for a tighter focus and a story that moves at a fast clip. Though the movie is just a little over two hours long, it feels like a much shorter film due to its pace. Continue reading
One of the quintessential 1980s kids’ films, The Goonies is one of several that I am absolutely certain I saw as a child and yet have absolutely no recollection of seeing. But for most children of the 80s, this 1985 film is one of the most fondly remembered, and it’s a collaboration between three of the most renowned directors in adventure cinema — Richard Donner directs, and the story was written by Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus. Plus, it’s set in and mostly shot in Astoria, Oregon, so as an Oregon native, there’s even a bit of a local connection — as well as an expectation, locally, to have seen it. So I had a lot of reasons to cross this film off my “to see” list. Continue reading