Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Medley of Action

Ok, I was supposed to make this post last night...but I got sick and didn't feel like writing.  I got one of my gallbladder problems yesterday and spent the night in a chair watching "I Love Lucy" while invisible knives twisted in my gut.  I suppose it wasn't as bad as all that, but it was horribly uncomfortable.  I didn't sleep very well last night because of it...but amazingly enough, I didn't feel all that run down today (until it was 3pm and I was falling asleep in my chair at home...weird).  Now I'm watching Soapdish, which is a great early 90s comedy that you simply must see if you haven't already.  But tonight I'm not discussing comedy, I'm talking action.  Sweaty muscled, adrenaline pumping, bullets clattering to the floor action.  Its a fun genre, full of suspense, intrigue, and fun.  That's what its all about when you're looking for an entertaining time.  Today I'm gonna give an overview of three action films I watched last week and why I enjoy them.  Hopefully this will give us a nice prelude to summer.

This first film is one directed by the wonderful Joe Dante who also gave us some wonderful films called Gremlins and Matinee among others.  This film, however, gained notoriety due to its violent nature and its portrayal of children's toys.  The story featured action figures that used military surplus microchips to bring them to life, and the soldiers who were supposed to be the heroes then became villains in their quest to eradicate their enemies.  Its actually a fun story if you can get past the violence (which a lot of parents and critics could not).  There's some social commentary here, with the outsiders becoming the heroes and the soldiers being vilified (I mean, the military makes mistakes all the time)...and there's also a lampooning of how we make and market toys.  We package plastic violence and giggle to ourselves as the kids play soldiers and aliens...never wondering how that violence effects them...if it effects them.  We also don't think of how we're socializing kids to think in terms of 'good guys and bad guys' when the truth is much more in between.  I like this movie, and think you should go watch it.

Next up is the contemporary classic that launched Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock into stardom all because they chose to ride on that bad luck bus.  Yes friends, its Speed, and it really is as good as they say...even still.  I heard once that they had originally planned to have Reeves' character to be more like John McClaine from Die Hard...but its so good they had him be more down to earth...because the film is already too close to being Die Hard on a Bus as it is.  The plot is, a psychopathic bomber has attached a bomb to a bus that will explode if the bus goes below 50 miles per hour...this keeps the bus moving through the LA streets and ensures that there will be a lot of crashing, interpersonal drama, and cat and mouse between our hero and villain before the chase is through.  This really is simple filmmaking, and its what makes the movie so good.  Its so simple and yet offers up plenty of opportunities for good action set pieces.  There's a great elevator sequence, several scenes on the bus, and one great finale on the subway.  Its almost too much, and then it ends leaving us wanting more.  Perhaps that's why they made the sequel several years later, and why people were disappointed.  You can't capture lightning in a bottle, and you can't recreate the success of an original...which brings us to...

Yeah, I'm a completest...I often can't watch one film in a series without the other and so I moved on to Speed 2: Cruise Control.  Keanu Reeves elected to not return for the sequel (and I doubt he's too unhappy about it) and that left only Sandra Bullock to return as Annie, the wisecracking leading lady from the first along with new blood Jason Patric as her new (coincidentally enough) cop boyfriend.  They decide to take a cruise to boost the romance in their lives and find themselves on an out of control boat headed right into an oil tanker.  Yes, the concept of a cruise ship out of control isn't really as original as they think (we all saw The Posiedon Adventure) and many people thought it was ridiculous to call the film "Speed" when ships never appear to move that quickly (though in fact, even though they look slow sloshing over the waves, they move several times faster than most cars).  Another problem people had was the inclusion of so much humor in the story and rating the film PG-13 which took away a great deal of the edge that the original had.  However, this film still has quite a bit of good action in it if you can enjoy it on the stupid level rather than on a contemporary classic level.  Its a fun movie, which I suppose could be worse.

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