Intensive Care (2018, directed by Jared Bentley)

Ne’er-do-well Danny (Jai Rodriguez) wants his dying grandmother’s money so he takes the live-in caregiver, Alex (Tara Macken), out on a date while his friends, Seth (Kevin Sizemore) and Rudy (Jose Rosete), break into the house.  When Alex insists on cutting the date short and returning to the house, she is taken hostage by Seth and Rudy.  What they don’t know is that Alex is actually a former member of Special Forces.  Alex is not going to go down without a fight.

This one is pretty predictable.  The three men are so thoroughly outclassed by Alex in every way that there’s never any doubt that she is going to be able to not only stop them but also thoroughly humiliate them in the process.  It never occurs to Alex to call the police or even to put out a call to some of her former colleagues from the Special Forces.  Instead, she spends the whole movie fighting the three men on her own.  She can handle all three of the men but one innocent person dies because Alex never learned how to dial 9-1-1.  The movie ends with a dumb twist that makes Alex’s actions seem even stranger.

Tara Macken is primarily known as a stunt performer and the film is smart enough to focus more on her fighting than on her acting.  Police Academy fans may be interested to know that the grandmother is played by Leslie Easterbrook, who played Sgt. Callahan in almost all of the Police Academy films.  Unfortunately, she spends most of Intensive Care in bed.  Not even Steve Guttenberg and Michael Winslow could save this film.

Retro Television Review: City Guys 4.6 “Students of the Bride” and 4.7 “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week, Ms. Noble gets married and her students get involved for some reason.

Episode 4.6 “Students of the Bride”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 7th, 2000)

Ms. Noble’s wedding day is coming up and, because Ms. Noble is the most unprofessional educator in New York, she allows her students to find out that she doesn’t have a dress, a venue, a cake, a florist, or a wedding band.  Jamal, Cassidy, Dawn, L-Train, Al, and Chris step up to help Ms. Noble plan her wedding.


Are you freaking kidding me?

Look, I love weddings as much as anyone.  I love planning them and I love telling people what they have to wear and I love coming up with the song list for the reception.  But seriously — MS. NOBLE IS THE PRINCIPAL!  Add to that, she’s an adult and so is the man she’s supposed to marry.  Why are they incapable of planning their own wedding?  Why are a bunch of high school students throwing a bachelor party for Billy?  Doesn’t Billy have any friends his own age?  Speaking of which, does not Ms. Noble have anyone her own age to help her plan her wedding?  Do neither of these two have any family in New York?  How does this make any freaking sense!?

Anyway, it turns out that having a bunch of high school kids plan your bachelor party is a mistake because Ms. Noble gets upset when she sees Billy dancing with the hula girls that L-Train brought to the school.  (Of course, they have the bachelor party on the roof of Manny High.)  Ms. Noble and Billy fight and say that maybe they shouldn’t get married.  The kids make it their mission to make sure that Ms. Noble gets married to Billy.  “Ms. Noble’s getting married if I have to marry her myself!” Jamal says.  SHE’S YOUR PRINCIPAL, YOU WEIRDO!

Oh!  And Jamal and Cassidy briefly fall in love but then they realize that it’s just because they’ve been working on the wedding and they’re both in a romantic mood.  Remember when Cassidy was dating Chris?  Whatever happened with that?

God, this is a stupid episode.  Ms. Noble does get married at the end of the episode so yay.  Let’s move on.

Episode 4.7 “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 14th, 2000)

L-Train invents a glow-in-the-dark basketball.  Al, Chris, and Jamal form a company to sell the ball.  Al lets the power go to his head and he learns an important lesson about how to treat his employees.  Good for him.  I think the more important question raised by this episode is why they allowed this to happen with Chris’s hair.

I mean, Scott Whyte was not a bad-looking guy but he spent the majority of City Guys with the least flattering haircut imaginable.

While Al is learning an important lesson about business, Dawn is getting cast in a commercial and Cassidy’s getting jealous.  Cassidy gives Dawn a lot of bad advice, which Dawn believes because Dawn could be an incredibly stupid character.  After Cassidy comes clean, Dawn steps aside so that Cassidy can fulfill her dream of acting in a commercial.  Of course, this all leads to Cassidy getting hit in the face with a pie.  Ugh.  I hate pie gags.  They always look so messy.

This was a fairly middling episode but Steven Daniel did get a chance to show off his physical comedy skills when L-Train was left alone in the basketball factory.  That was definitely a plus.  As well, no one was roped into helping Ms. Noble plan her honeymoon so that was another plus.

Next week, the neat guys continue to be smart and streetwise!

Film Review: Deadly Hero (dir by Ivan Nagy)

First released in 1975, Deadly Hero tells the story of Edward Lacy (Don Murray).

Lacy is an 18-year veteran of the New York Police Department and a proud family man.  Lacy is clean-cut, handsome in a blandly pleasant way, and he has a wife and several children.  He’s a member of the Knights of Columbus and there are times when he imagines himself pursuing a career in politics.  One of the first things that we see Lacy do is introduce an anti-crime mayoral candidate named Reilly (George S. Irving) at a Knights of Columbus rally.  Lacy goes out of his way to make sure that he and his family make a good impression but Reilly barely seems to notice him.

Lacy is also a racist who enjoys pulling and using his gun.  He was once a detective but a long string of brutality complaints has led to him being demoted back down to being a patrolman.  He and his partner (Treat Williams, making his film debut) spend their time patrolling the streets of New York City, getting dirty looks and verbal abuse from the people who they are supposed to be protecting.  Much like Travis Bickle in the following year’s Taxi Driver, Lacy obsesses on the crime and the decay that he sees all around him.

Sally (Diahn Williams) lives a life that is a hundred times different from Lacy’s.  She’s a cellist and a conductor.  She spends her days teaching and her nights conducting at an avant-garde theater.  Sally and Lacy have little in common but their lives become intertwined when Sally is attacked and briefly held hostage by a mentally disturbed mugger named Rabbit (James Earl Jones).  Responding to a call put in by Sally’s neighbor (Lila Skala), Lacy discovers Rabbit holding a knife to Sally’s throat in the hallway of Sally’s apartment building.  At first, Lacy handles the situation calmly and he manages to talk Rabbit into not only releasing Sally but also dropping his knife.  However, instead of arresting the now unarmed and docile Rabbit, Lacy shoots and kills him.

Knowing that he’s about to be investigated and that he’s made enemies in the department due to his political activities, Lacy convinces the still-shocked Sally to lie and say that she witnessed Rabbit lunging for Lacy’s gun before Lacy fired.  Lacy is proclaimed a hero and soon, Reilly is inviting him to appear at rallies with him.  Lacy’s political dreams seem to be coming true but Sally starts to feel guilty about lying.  Realizing that Sally is planning on revealing the truth about what happened, Lacy goes to extreme measures to try to keep her quiet.

Deadly Hero is an interesting film, one that is certainly flawed but which ultimately works as a portrait of the authoritarian mindset.  Ivan Nagy directs without much visual flair and, especially at the start of the film, he struggles to maintain a consistent pace.  For instance, the scene where Rabbit initially menaces Sally seems to go on forever, long beyond whatever was necessary to convince the audience that Rabbit was a dangerous guy.  (With the amount of time that Nagy lingers over shots of Sally being menaced by Rabbit, I was not surprised to read that Nagy and Dianh Williams apparently did not get along during filming.)  That said, the film’s low budget actually works to its advantage, with the grainy cinematography giving the film a gritty, documentary feel.  The film was shot on location in New York City and it’s interesting to watch the actors interact with real New Yorkers.  While Lacy is never a sympathetic character, seeing the actual streets of New York does go a long way to explaining why he’s so paranoid.  This is one of the many 70s films in which the overriding message seemed to be that New York City was the worst place on the planet.

The film is dominated by Don Murray, who plays Lacy as being a blue-collar fascist who has learned how to hide his anger and his hatred behind a quick smile and an outwardly friendly manner.  Feeling confident that everyone will back him up, he has no hesitation about executing an unarmed black man.  Even when it becomes obvious that Sally is not going to continue to lie about what happened, Lacy is still arrogant enough to assume that he can charm her into changing her mind.  When that doesn’t work, Lacy becomes increasingly unhinged and vindictive.  The film’s final ambiguous image suggests that there really is no way to escape the Edward Lacys of the world.

With its portrayal of a violent cop who is convinced that he will be protected by the system, Deadly Hero feels extremely relevant today.  Of course, Deadly Hero also suggests that the same system that Lacy is exploiting can be used to take him down, with Lacy eventually being investigated by both Internal Affairs and the District Attorney’s office.  The film leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not the rest of the police are as dangerous as Lacy.  Is Lacy a product of the system or is he just someone who has figured out how to exploit the system?  To its detriment, that’s a question that the film doesn’t answer.  Still, much like Harvey Hart’s similarly underappreciated Shoot, Deadly Hero is an always-interesting and occasionally insightful look at the authoritarian mindset.

Music Video of the Day: Goodbye to You by Michelle Branch (2006, dir by Francis Lawrence)

Today’s music video of the day is another break-up anthem.  In this case, it’s Michelle Branch singing Goodbye To You while going through all of her break-up rituals.  These rituals include going to a pawnshop and exchanging her ring for a guitar and taking a goldfish to the beach.  Along the way to the beach, she witnesses a forest fire.  The fire actually looks pretty serious and undoubtedly, many lives were lost as a result.  However, this video reminds us that nothing is more important than going to the beach and singing away your troubles.

(To be honest, I’m surprised the roads weren’t closed because that forest fire looked really dangerous.  I know that California gets a new wildfire every week but still, I found myself wondering if Michelle’s going to have a home to which to return once she gets finished singing on the beach.)

This video was directed by Francis Lawrence, who also did The Hunger Games sequels.  If Jennifer Lawrence had been driving that car, she would have gotten out and helped to put out that fire.  I mean, I like the beach too and there’s even a little downtown pawnshop that I love but even I know that there are things that are more important.