Long Weekend Roundup: Top Gun, Code 46, & Bill Cunningham New York

Hi everyone! My weekend roundup is slightly delayed this week as I also got Monday off. Well I ended up seeing quite a few movies in the comfort of my home cinema. These are the four films I got to watch in my three day weekend.

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Top Gun (1986)

Thanks to Ted for lending me his Top Gun Blu-ray, my hubby and I watched it on Friday night and despite the inevitable 80s cheese-fest, the movie is still pretty darn entertaining! I remember being so wowed by it when I first saw it on the big screen two decades ago. All the flying sequences made me dizzy on the big screen, but it wasn’t too bad seeing it on my smaller TV screen. Of course, when the Berlin song Take My Breath Away played on, I was swept by the feeling of sweet nostalgia! 😀

It really didn't get any cheesier than this folks... but wait, yes it did!
It really didn’t get any cheesier than this folks… but wait, yes it did!

There were few movies bigger than Top Gun in the mid 80s and Tom Cruise’s career shot up to super-stardom. Amazing that he still remains there today, but the same can’t be said for the rest. I mean, Anthony Edwards became a TV star because of E.R., Meg Ryan became the queen of rom-com, Val Kilmer starred in high profile movies and even became a superhero (Batman), but Kelly McGillis never really got another memorable roles since. But today, Meg seems to have disappeared from Hollywood, Val has lost his svelte figure, and most tragic of all, we’ve lost director Tony Scott to suicide 😦 So not only does Cruise seemed to have drank from the fountain of eternal youth, he’s pretty much still got that movie star status. That’s really quite a feat after 27 years!

Anyway, here are my mini reviews of the rest:

Code 46 (2003)

A futuristic ‘Brief Encounter’, a love story in which the romance is doomed by genetic incompatibility.

I’ve been wanting to see this film for quite some time but when my pal Mark mentioned Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton as his favorite cinematic pairing in this post, I finally decided to see it this weekend. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi romances, and nothing is more tragic when human’s free will cease to exist and totalitarian government enforces rules as to who we can and can’t love.

The film takes place in a not-too-distant future where city security zones are enforced due to a climate disaster, and cloning and genetic manipulation has become the norm. A strict global law called Code 46 is especially troubling, as it makes the union of two people with genetic similarities illegal. The film opens with William (Robbins) traveling to Shanghai to investigate an identity fraud case for the Sphinx Corporation. During his travels, he runs into María (Morton) and though he realizes she’s the one who committed the fraud, somehow he covered up for her. A forbidden affair ensues after they spend the night together, but the fact that William has a wife and young boy is the least of their complications.

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I’m not going to go further into the plot as it’s best that you discover the predicament the two people are facing and what they have to do to be together. I have to admit though that because there are sooo many details about the universe this film is set in that I actually had to read more about it in order to grasp just what the heck is going on, especially involving the empathy drugs and other medical procedures that’s become prevalent in their world.

Though the romance is not explosive, nary of melodramatic declarations or the likes, there is a painful honesty between Robbins and Morton that is so heart-wrenching. Towards the end though, there is one scene as they run away together that I find pretty shocking for its brief graphic nudity. Now, I always think that most of the time such scenes are unnecessary as a suggestive depiction could’ve made the same impact and I feel the same way here. That said, I’m not going to hold it against the filmmaker as the scene is not without emotions. One can’t help but feel for this couple, no matter how ill-advised their union has been from the start.

What makes it more intriguing is the small details of this futuristic world, especially the language used that’s a mix of English with other languages like Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. The characters use “Ni Hao” or “As-Salamu Alaykum” to greet each other, the Spanish word “palabra” for “password”, etc. The most important legal document of that world is called “papelles” which is a made up word that sounds French. Despite the relatively low budget, somehow director Michael Winterbottom manage to make this film look futuristic-looking by using sleek, modern buildings in Shanghai, etc. and some of the gritty market/street scenes has a Blade Runner vibe to it.

One thing for sure, despite the slow and sometimes sullen mood of the film, this is one of those film that linger with me long after the film is over, especially after it’s revealed what happens to William and Maria in the finale. Worth a look for fans of sci-fi romances, I wish they made more films in this genre.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

Chronicles a man who is obsessively interested in only one thing,the pictures he takes that document the way people dress. The 80-year-old New York Times photographer has two columns in the paper’s Style section, yet nobody knows who he is.

Truth be told, I didn’t know who Bill Cunningham was until this documentary was made, but I must have seen his photos on the fashion magazines/blogs. He’s the pioneer of street fashion photography since he published an impromptu set of pictures in the New York Times which then became a regular series. He basically takes photos of fashionistas in Manhattan that catch his eye, using a 35mm Nikon as he rides his Schwinn bicycle around town. His ‘uniform’ is a blue nylon jacket, and a convenience-store bought poncho filled with black masking-tape patches all over it as he refuses to buy a new one when it gets torn.

When you watch this, it’s guaranteed that you will fall in love with this man. He’s just so endearing for his eccentricities, but you’ll also admire him for his integrity and work ethic. I find him to be even more quirky and a rare human being, much rarer that even the most bizarre piece of fashion he photographs, and you’ll see some really out-there stuff in this film!

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All the fashion stuff is fun and dandy, but what I love most about this documentary is to get to know Bill the man, the person behind the lens and all those fashion photographs. He does what he does because he loves it — he practically shuns money almost to a fault, refusing to cash his check according to his former boss at Details Magazine. It’s never fully explained why, but basically the 83-year-old refuses to sell out to anyone as he values his creative freedom more than anything. He’d rather be allowed to do what he wants than being paid to ‘conform.’ He also doesn’t allow himself to get caught up in the glitz and glamor of the fashion world. When he does go to lavish parties (even to Lady Astor’s 100th birthday party), sitting on the front row of fashion shows, he doesn’t even take a drink of water offered to him. He said he always eats before he goes to work and he’s only there to do his job, not to hobnob with the rich and famous.

BillCunninghamWhat really gets him is fashion and he is married to his work, which he doesn’t call work at all as he enjoys it so much. There’s a twinkle in his eye and he has this huge grin on his face when he’s out in his element photographing people and he’s well-loved in the fashion community. “We all get dressed for Bill“, says Vogue editor Anna Wintour who’s frequently interviewed in his documentary, and Bill appreciates fashion. He sees the beauty even in outfits most of us would deem as too weird or even ugly.

What’s fascinates me most is the contrast between Bill’s minimalist, even monastic lifestyle and the glam and glitter of the subject he’s covering. At one time, the filmmaker was baffled to learn that he goes to church every Sunday. Later on he was asked about his personal life, whether he ever has a romantic relationship and whether he’s gay, which he nonchalantly replied. But when the question turns to his faith, as to why he goes to church every weekend, suddenly the cheerful man choked up and grew quiet. It’s clearly a personal matter to him and after a long pause, he admitted that his Catholic faith ‘gives him guidance.’ It’s something he needs in his life, and to me, it makes so much sense and in a way it explains how he’s able to live the way he does.

I highly recommend this documentary to anyone who loves to learn stories about intriguing people. Mr. Cunningham definitely fits the bill and you’ll also meet other fascinating patron of the arts, like Editta Sherman, the 100-year old photographer dubbed “Duchess of Carnegie Hall” who was once Andy Warhol’s muse. Bill and Editta were two of the last few members of Carnegie Hall Artist Studios until the planned building renovation in 2010.


4.5 out of 5 reels


TheVeryThoughtOfYouPosterOh, I also rewatched this late 90s British rom-com The Very Thought of You which I saw quite a while ago because Rufus Sewell is in it. It’s actually a pretty decent movie written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland) and directed by Nick Hamm (Killing Bono). I find it especially amusing as the protagonist Martha (Monica Potter) is from Minneapolis and there’s a brief scene at Mpls/St Paul airport with Tom Hollander. Mostly the movie is set in London though, which is a big plus for me.

The cast is full of talented but underrated British actors: Sewell, Hollander and Joseph Fiennes as three lifelong friends who all fall for the same woman. Oh and Ray Winstone also has a small role as a sympathetic neighbor, a far cry from his usual violent mobster roles! It’s nice to see the normally intense actors playing a light, fluffy rom-com. It’s surprisingly enjoyable though I wouldn’t rate it as the best in the genre. I’d say give this a shot if you have Netflix Instant, especially if you’re a fan of any of the actors.

I will have the review of The Heiress next week. I’m sort of still mulling it over, but it’s definitely an excellent film from William Wyler that can’t be pigeonholed into a certain genre.


Well that’s my weekend viewing roundup, folks. Any thoughts on these films?

Attention action directors: Shaky cam and fast editing needs to go away

This is my rant to action some action directors in Hollywood who thinks that by having shaking cam and fast editing style will make your action scenes look cool. Please stop doing that right now! Those kind of sequences made some of us the viewers dizzy and a lot of times distract us from enjoying your movies.

I tweeted Brad Bird the other day asking him what’s his take on these kind of new style of shooting actions scenes and here’s what he tweeted back:

In the hands of a talented filmmaker (like Greengrass) it can be great. But a lot of hacks use it because they can hide bad staging.”

I agree with what he said 100%, besides Paul Greengrass I don’t believe any other directors has done a good job of shooting those crazy hand held shaking cam action set pieces. It seems like after The Bourne Supremacy came out, there has been an onslaught of action films with unwatchable action sequences.

I wonder if these kind of style are now being taught in film schools or that the studio big bosses are demanding that an action film needs to be done in fast-editing and hand-held-camera style. To me, it seems some of the newer filmmakers tend to take these kind of style to heart, for example I recently saw Safe House which was directed by a new young director Daniel Espinosa. The action scenes he shot were overly-done with that fast editing and shaky cam that I couldn’t really tell what the heck was going on. Another director who seems to love to make people sick while watching his film is Jonathan Liebesman. I dare you to watch his masterpiece pile of poo, Battle: Los Angeles, without getting a little dizzy.

But the worst offender to me was Sly Stallone, he shot so many bad action sequences in The Expendables that I thought he was high on something.

Take a look at this car chase scene from that film, it was so badly-edited and shot that I got dizzy from watching it:

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When I saw it in the theater, I wanted to yell out: “Stallone pull the darn cameras back and let us see what the hell is going on!”  The scene was so tightly-shot and the hand held shaking cam style didn’t help at all. I love car chase scenes but I was begging for this particular one to be over fast. The sad part is, had Stallone and his cinematographer pull the cameras back a little and forgo this overused filmmaking style, that scene could’ve been very exciting to watch.

Another experienced action director who seems to now love this kind of style is Tony Scott. His last few films were pretty bad and the action scenes in those films were even worst. Take a look at the shootout scene from Domino:


If I didn’t know it was Scott who directed it, I would’ve thought it was some amateur filmmaker who tried too hard to make that scene look exiting. I couldn’t even finish watching that scene, I had to fast-forward it because I felt sick watching it. What’s so depressing was that Scott actually shot two similar scenes in his earlier films, True Romance and Enemy of the State, but in those films he did a great job of creating chaos during a shoot out scene in a tight space. And those films were very good while Domino was an awful movie.

Then there are some directors who’s now jumping into doing action films. For example, Marc Forster, who made Quantum of Solace and most of the action scenes in that film were badly shot. With the exception of the opening car chase and the foot chase/shootout during the opera, the rest of set pieces in that film were incomprehensible. Hopefully he’ll do a better job on his next big action film Word War Z. Now I haven’t seen the film yet but I read that in The Hunger Games, Gary Ross used too much of the hand held shaky style on a lot of scenes.

Another director I need to mention is Christopher Nolan (don’t hate me Nolan fanatics, I’m a huge fan of his too), the man still doesn’t know how to shoot a well-crafted action sequence. Apparently Nolan is the only big name director in Hollywood who doesn’t have a true second unit director working for him. He wants to shoot every scene for his films and so he’s there for all of the big action sequences. I love Batman Begins but I thought all of the action scenes in that film were poorly shot and edited. His style improved in The Dark Knight but some of the action scenes in Inception were so-so. Hopefully he’ll give us some great action set pieces in The Dark Knight Rises. Although after seeing the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises last winter, my gut feelings tells me Nolan might still needs to improve his skills as an action director.

I think these directors needs to study how to shoot great and exiting action scenes from the directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson and Sam Peckinpah. I thought Brad Bird did an amazing job of shooting the action scenes in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, instead of giving us the usual shaky hand-held and fast-editing look, he built the tension up and the results were some very cool and exciting set pieces.

One of my favorite action scenes is from the final shoot out of Extreme Prejudice (which Jack Deth reviewed here), here’s the clip:


The film was directed by Walter Hill and I think this scene should be shown in film school everywhere on how to shoot an action sequence properly. I love this scene and can watch it over and over again. It’s an homage to Peckinpah’s classic The Wild Bunch, which has, in my opinion, the best finale shootout in film history. Check it out here:


Well that’s my rant to Hollywood action directors about shooting bad action sequences. Do you agree that this kind of style needs to go away or do you find them to be quite exciting to watch?

GUEST POST: The Flix List – Six hack directors working in Hollywood today

By Ted Saydalavong


So what is the true definition of a hack? We hear that a lot from film critics and fans alike. Well to me, a hack is someone who works on projects solely for financial reasons, rather than creative reasons. It is not about a filmmaker who is simply bad, well let me correct myself, some directors are just plain bad. However, I believe that some directors on this list do have some talents but for whatever reasons they tend to stay in their comfort zone and some just don’t have any talents at all, besides knowing how to shoot and edit action scenes together. I’ll also name a couple of directors who thinks they’re talented but in reality they’re pretty bad at what they’re doing.

Here’s my list of hack directors, in no particular order:

1. Tony Scott
Yes, Ridley’s little brother is on this list. I didn’t want to include him at first but then I tried to remember the last good film he made within the last four or five years and couldn’t think of one. In my opinion, the last good film he made was Spy Game back in 2001, after that it’s been a downhill slide for him. Again it’s hard for me to put him on this list, he made some very good films back in the 1990s, True Romance, Crimson Tide and Enemy of the States are some of my favorites from that decade. But then I looked at most of the films he made, Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop 2, The Last Boyscout (this one is one of my favorite guilty pleasure flicks), Domino, Déjà vu, The Taking of Pelham 123 and recently the awful Unstoppable. I truly believe that he made those films for just the money and I’ll admit some of them were very entertaining but they all lacked creativity. Some will ask what about Man on Fire? Well I like that film but I just thought it was too much style and not enough substance. Had they followed the original script, the film might’ve been great.

2. Paul W.S. Anderson
I think I won’t get a lot of disagreement over Mr. Anderson, let’s face it this man is the ultimate YES man to the studios. Whenever they need to get a movie out fast and earn some quick cash, they call Mr. Anderson. For example, he was brought in to rewrite the script for Alien vs. Predators because Fox wanted to be more kid friendly and of course Mr. Anderson obliged and made a PG-13 rated Alien vs. Predators flick! Of course the movie was awful and after that I refuse to watch any films from this man. I don’t think this man has any talents at all besides shooting cool action scenes and made his actors look good on screen.

3. Brett Ratner
Ah yes Mr. Brett Ratner, where I should begin? Well let’s start with him declaring himself to be as good as Steven Spielberg after X-Men: Last Stand earned some big money at the box office. News flash Brett, people went to see an X-Men film because it’s an X-Men film, not because of you. Ratner is another YES man type; in fact he was brought in to finish up X-Men: The Last Stand after Bryan Singer decided to do Superman Returns. The original director who replaced Singer was Mathew Vaughn, but he left the project because he told the studio he couldn’t finish the film in time for a summer of 2006 release, Fox insisted that the film opens before Singer’s Superman. After Vaughn left, Fox called Ratner and he was more than willing to come in and finish it up for them. The movie of course was a big hit but in my opinion Ratner ruined it. Fox should’ve waited for Singer or gave Vaughn more time to finish it.

I do give Ratner some credits for trying to go out of his comfort zone; he directed Red Dragon and After the Sunset. Both films looked promising when I first saw the trailers but the final product didn’t turn out so well, maybe Ratner just doesn’t have the talent to actually tell a good story; I guess he should just stick to finishing up a film for Hollywood executives and his crappy Rush Hour films.

4. Michael Bay
Mr. Bay is the quintessential hack director; in fact he admitted that he only make films for 14 year old boys and large sum of money. Most of the actors who worked with him said he would places more importance on the visuals than on his characters and actor themselves. He does very few takes of intimate character driven scenes, as he prefers to spend more time on action sequences and visually interesting moments. He would tell his writers on his films that they should just write the boring part and when the action scene starts, just write down action scene goes here.

He was given a great script, The Island, by Steven Spielberg but somehow he turned it into a boring chase movie. I saw both of his Transformers films but all I could remember from those films were people running and giant robots fighting, I don’t think there’s a plot in either film. But I guess that’s the point, people wants to see explosions and giant robots fight one another; Bay delivered and made quite a bit of money from it.

5. Richard Kelly
Now here’s one of the directors who I think doesn’t have much of a talent yet he kept getting money from studios to make his ridiculous films. I think Kelly is one of the most pretentious hack directors in Hollywood today, seriously I can’t stand any of his films, and luckily there are only three of them. He came up with all these high concept ideas and never delivered, for example The Box has a very cool concept and it was quite good until the second half of the film fizzled into sci-fi non-sense. Donnie Darko was a high concept idea and again Kelly made it into another sci-fi non-sense, same with Southland Tales<, probably one of the worst films of 2000s. With the box office failure of The Box, we may never get to see a new film from Mr. Kelly again ever and I’m fine with that. There are tons of great talents in Hollywood and the executives should spend their money on making films from those people than from this pretentious hack. Yeah I know I really despise this guy.

6. M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night started out great with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable (one of my favorite films from 2000s, I lost count of how many times I’ve watched it). Then after the release of Signs in 2002, Time magazine put him on their cover and named him the next Steven Spielberg, ever since then it’s been a downhill for this man. The Village was bad and then after an ugly divorce from Disney, he made an even worse film, Lady in the Water for Warner Bros and it tanked at the box office.  I wouldn’t even dare to watch The Happening or last summer’s The Last Airbender. I would put him in the same category as Richard Kelly, he thinks he’s talented but in the end he’s just a hack with limited talents and somehow was able to trick the Hollywood executives to give him a lot of money to make his crappy films.


Honorable Mentions:

 

McG, Len Wiseman, Stephen Sommers, Peter Hyams (he hasn’t done a film for a while but he’s definitely a hack back in the 80s and 90s) and John McTiernan (his last good film wasHunt for Red October).

I was going to put JJ Abrams on this list but so far I only saw two of his films, one good (Star Trek), one bad (M: I-3), I’ll wait and see how his new film Super 8 turns out before I call him a hack.

 


So what do you think? Do you agree that these guys are a bunch of hacks or you think they’re talented? Feel free to discuss and list your own names of hack directors.

 

Random Thoughts: Who should Christopher Nolan pick as SUPERMAN reboot director?

It’s hard to argue that Marvel’s been getting a leg up on DC with their movie adaptations, despite the comic company owning two of the biggest superhero franchises: Batman and Superman. British auteur Christopher Nolan could very well be regarded as a DC hero of sort the fact that he pretty much ‘rescued’ the Batman franchise from the pit that was Batman & Robin, practically the worst superhero movie of all time.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the son of Krypton and have the most respect for Nolan, so imagine my excitement when I first heard that Warner Bros asked him to be a mentor of sort on the The Man of Steel reboot. Then a month later came news that his frequent collaborator David Goyer came up with his dream vision of the über superhero. At the time, it seemed like the project is still so far away in our horizon, but perhaps it’s getting closer now that Nolan is currently shopping for a director to helm the franchise. The reason for the rush probably has a lot to do with the fact that DC will soon lose 50 percent of the  franchise’s copyright due to the notice filed by the heirs of the late Superman creator Jerry Siegel (per brandlaw.org).

Deadline reported Thursday that Superman producers Chris Nolan and [his wife and business partner] Emma Thomas are getting closer to resuscitating the Man of Steel… they have begun meeting with a short list of directors for the job of directing [the movie]…” The Superman reboot is slated to open Christmas 2010, whilst Batman 3 is scheduled to open right smack dab in the Summer Blockbuster month of July, 2012. Reportedly, Nolan and his team will have to select a director to helm the project and make their case in front of the studio before the project is to move forward.

So who made the list?

  • Tony Scott (Top Gun, Spy Game, Enemy of the State, Deja Vu)
  • Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In)
  • Jonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning)
  • Duncan Jones (Moon)
  • Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen)

My first reaction was to go with Snyder, as he’s quite a visionary director known for creating a visually-stunning film that combine highly-saturated color schemes with dynamic, high-octane action sequences. The former advertising commercials directors have won numerous Clio awards and he’s already got quite a few of buzz-worthy films under his belt despite his relatively short stint as a film director. The guy knows how to make killer trailers and has the ability to get a rousing response from audience at ComicCon. But after talking with one of my blog collaborators Ted S. (who’ve brought you the vision-to-film posts), I realize that perhaps all that razzle-dazzle visual feast isn’t enough to make up a truly worthy Superman film. So below is Ted’s rationale as who should get the job:

Out of all the directors from that list, I’d vote for Duncan Jones. Why? Well because I believe his style of filmmaking is very similar to Nolan’s. Just check out his first feature length Moon, it was very low budget film but yet with his direction and visual style, the film looked like it cost $30mil instead of $5mil to make. Also, the film dealt with identity and loneliness, isn’t that what Superman storyline has been about? Since we don’t know what the plot of the new Superman film is about, maybe Jones can bring us a new version of Superman like we’ve never seen before, just like what Nolan did when he introduced us to his version of Batman. Jones can probably tackle the issue of being the only super human in the world and how he feels being so isolated and yet people relies on him to save them. Whoever they choose to play the new Man of Steel, I truly believe Jones can bring out a great performance out of that actor. Sam Rockwell was pretty great in Moon.

As for the other directors, I’m not familiar with Liebesman’s or Reeves’ work. Reeves directed Cloverfield a couple of years ago, I refuse to watch that movie because I don’t care for that kind of storytelling. Liebesman’s resume is not too impressive either, although his upcoming Battle: Los Angeles looks pretty interesting.

I know that many will vote for Zack Snyder but I just don’t think he’s a good story teller; he’s great at making things blow up and can direct big action sequences. To me Snyder is more of a YES MAN type of director, you give him a script and he’ll follow it page for page, i.e. 300 and Watchmen.

Lastly, we have Tony Scott, I believe he’s run out of creative ideas when it comes to his directing style. If you saw the last couple of his films, you’ll notice that he had repeated his style from his earlier work. If you don’t believe me, watch the shootout scene near the end of Déjà Vu and then watch a shootout scene from his earlier film, The Last Boy Scout. Or watch Enemy of State then Domino, you’ll see the similarities in those films.

For this new reboot of Superman, I believe they should go with a director who not only can create great visual effects but one who can bring out the character of Clark Kent/Superman. Again, my vote goes to Duncan Jones, if you haven’t seen Moon yet, please give a rent, you won’t be disappointed.

Well, after reading his astute assessment, I think Ted has a really valid point about choosing Duncan Jones, and I’m even more curious to watch Moon now. Now your turn, readers. Who would you pick to helm the next Superman reboot?

Flixchatter Review: The Taking of Pelham 123

Ok now, The Taking of Pelham 123 is yet another remake (clearly Hollywood’s long been out of original ideas!) of a subway train being hijacked. It’s a simple premise really, but director Tony Scott managed to inject enough tension and sharp dialogue to keep audience engaged. This is a story of an ordinary man forced into extraordinary circumstances, played brilliantly by Denzel Washington. The normally dashing Oscar winner was able to convince us he’s just a regular joe in a not-so-regular day at work. Compared to his debonair and opulent look in American Gangster with his sharply-pressed suit, he’s almost entirely transformed here. Most of the time, his character Walter Garber looks perplexed and frazzled, but yet you still gets a sense he’d get the job done and carry the day in the end.

John Travolta’s role offers a strong contrast as the ultimate baddie. A self-described wronged man, Ryder is hell-bent on revenge against the NYC government, Travolta channeled his role as Castor Troy in Face/Off with his sinister laughs and facial ticks. Just like Troy, he’s not an entirely unsympathetic villain—one can’t help feeling sorry for him as much as we despise what he does.

Instead of filling it with non-stop action sequences, the movie consist a large amount of dialogue between Ryder and Garber, mostly over an intercom. I have no problem with that, in fact it makes the action sequences and car crashes all the more effectively jolting.

The one thing I could do without is the crude language and overly excessive amount of @$$ jokes for my taste, which I don’t think is necessary. IHMO, If they take all the profanities out, I don’t think it’d lessen the impact of the whole situation. Someone else might pick on the migrane-inducing shaky camera movement used throughout. It seems to be the technique du jour ever since the Bourne series came about. Doesn’t bother me though, but I feel that it’s not as highly effective as the way it was done in Bourne where it almost enhances the plotline.

In any case, I think the script is a strong one and it’s truly what’s good about this flix. The  enjoyable repartee lets you in on the character’s own dilemmas and predicaments, making their ‘connection’ believable. You enjoy their banter so much that at one point when Garber’s replaced by an official hostage negotiator (played by John Turturro) — a costly move on the part of the hostages — we want Garber back as much as Ryder does. The two finally face off towards the end, and Travolta quips, ‘You’re taller than I imagined you’d be. And good lookin’ too.’ It’s a funny line delivered in the same manner as when Castor Troy visits ‘himself’ in jail in the form of Nicolas Cage (you have to see Face/Off to know what I mean, hmmm now I want to watch it again myself!)

Besides Turturro, James Gandolfini was another solid supporting cast member. When I saw him I thought, ‘What, Tony Soprano? Wow Ryder picked the wrong mayor to deal with today!’  But Gandolfini revealed  his funny side not much seen by the public, which is too bad because his comic timing is spotless. Coming out of his limo, he said ‘I left my Rudy Giulliani suit at home’ in an apparent jab at the former Republican mayor. I actually saw his funny side in this little-seen musical called Romance & Cigarettes, which strangely enough was directed by  John Turturo! I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2005. It was around 11 AM and the director himself came and introduced the flick. He said “sorry you had to watch a dirty film so early in the morning” or something like that. It was a rather vulgar but hilarious musical where Gandolfini sang and danced along with a terrific cast of Christopher Walken, Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet (as his prostitute lover!).

Sorry I digress. Overall, Pelham is a pretty good movie. It won’t win an Oscar, nor would it linger in your memory for days to come. It could’ve been better under a more capable hand at the helm, say Michael Mann. Nevertheless, with Washington and Travolta in top form, it’s a pretty entertaining flix worth your 10 bucks.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Have you seen this movie? Well what do you think?