Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't Leave Me Hangin'

Ahhh, there's nothing like coming down following a long and awesome weekend.  You aren't exactly anxious to go back to work, but you're still so happy about how the weekend turned out that you can't worry about that too much.  In my case, the week isn't getting me down either because its semester exam week...so its really easy on me and really hard on the kids.  My favorite type of week.  Anyway, why was my weekend so good?  Because I had a successful show and then Sunday and Monday I had a wonderful date with a boy named Patrick...the same Patrick from New Year's Eve.  We're seeing each other now, and already we're planning to see each other again.  I'm pretty excited about it, considering I haven't had a good second date in a long while.  We got to see Black Swan (which is amazing btw), had dinner with some friends, and had some pretty great conversation.  We are very comfortable together, and have many of the same interests.  I just hope it never gets dull.  Anyway, we also went shopping and I ran into some great blu-ray sales...so of course I simply had to indulge.  The film I chose for tonight was one of the discs I bought...a high octane thriller from the early 90s that has a wintry setting and a helluva lotta cliffs.  So let's go high altitude and ascend the heights of the ironically titled, Cliffhanger.

Gabe Walker is a Rocky Mountain Rescue ranger working in one of the national parks in Colorado.  The film opens with him ascending the Tower, the highest peak in the park, to rescue fellow ranger Hal and his inexperienced girlfriend Sarah.  With the help of Gabe's girlfriend and fellow ranger Jessie and the rescue copter's pilot, they use a cable to have Hal climb to safety.  However, when Sarah tries to cross as well, her harness breaks and, despite Gabe's efforts to the contrary, she falls to her death.  Eight months later, a treasury plane is running $100 million to the Boulder Treasury and, with the aid of inside man Travers, the plane is hijacked and robbed by Eric Qualen, a former Military Intelligence member.  However, something goes wrong and the plane crashes into the mountains below.  At the same time, Gabe has returned to the park to take the remainder of his belongings and head for the hills.  Jessie convinces him to join Hal to rescue the downed plane (who they believe to be a lost climbing expedition) and then they find themselves kidnapped by the terrorists and forced to help them find their lost cases of money.  Gabe manages to escape and with Jessie's help, he strives to reach the cases before the terrorists do and before they can kill Hal.

Cliffhanger is yet another action film that takes the Die Hard formula and places it in another locale, this time on the Rocky Mountains.  However, unlike the many clones that that former film spawned, Cliffhanger has a lot going for it.  One, it's treacherous and isolated surroundings are ideal for an action movie given that there are plenty of ways to die there.  The story of lost stolen money that needs to be found is also wonderfully simple and yet rife with possibilities for setups and payoffs.  Then there are the performances.  Stallone plays his usual badass self, but with a bit of the 'tortured-soul' thrown in for flavor.  John Lithgow is also in rare form as the slimy, scary, and insane Qualen.  His accent is a trifle odd, but otherwise he is enjoying the part.  Who knew he could take on Stallone in a fisticuffs match?  Michael Rooker grows on you as Hal, Gabe's old partner.  At first he seems like a stupid bastard...first for taking the girl up to the top of the mountain and allowing her to be killed, and then for blaming Gabe for her demise.  However, his devotion to Gabe and his perseverance in slowing the goons down...and even getting a few licks in for himself...redeems himself.  Overall, Cliffhanger is a great thriller and perfect for a movie night.  There are a few corny action movie moments that keep it from being a whole classic, but its still a great movie.

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