Blue Steel (1990, directed by Kathryn Bigelow)

On her first night on the job, rookie cop Megan Turner (Jamie Lee Curtis) blows away a robber (Tom Sizemore) who was holding up a convenience store.  The robber was holding a gun when he was shot but, right after his body hits the ground, the gun is stolen by a stockbroker named Eugene Hunt (Ron Silver).  Somehow, no one notices Eugene grabbing the gun from the floor and he improbably gets away from the crime scene without any of the investigating officers noticing that he’s concealing a gun in his suit.

Because Eugene stole the gun, Megan is accused of shooting an unarmed man and she is suspended from the force.  Meanwhile, Eugene becomes obsessed with the gun, hears voices, and starts to shoot random people.  He even carves Megan’s name on one of the bullets.  When the bullet is found in the body of one of Eugene’s targets, Megan becomes the number one suspect even though it wouldn’t make any sense for a murderer to carve their name on the evidence.  This isn’t The Wire.  None of the dead are going to be found with a note in their hand that says, “Tater Killed Me.”  It should be obvious to everyone that Megan is being set up but instead, everyone just assumes Megan is a stupid murderer who doesn’t know how to cover her tracks.  Eugene also starts to date Megan but when Megan rejects him after he confesses to being the murderer, Eugene starts to stalk her and her friends.  Not even Megan’s new boyfriend (Clancy Brown) can keep her safe from a stockbroker with a grudge.

Blue Steel benefits from Kathryn Bigelow’s stylish direction and Jamie Lee Curtis’s dedicated performance but it suffers because Eugene is so obviously crazy from the get go that it never makes sense that he would be able to get away with his crimes for as long as he does.  Even after Megan realizes that Eugene is crazy, she can’t get anyone to believe her even though everything about Eugene suggests that he’s the murderer.  Not even confessing to the crime is enough to keep Eugene in prison.  Somehow, Eugene is able to commit multiple murders and attempted murders right in front of Megan and then escape before Megan or anyone else can even react.  Megan’s been trained at the Police Academy while Eugene has no criminal training whatsoever but he’s still always able to outthink and outrun her.  It makes it seem as if Megan just isn’t a very good cop.  Luckily, Bigelow, Curtis, Silver, and Clancy Brown would all be involved with better movies in the future.

Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 4.22 “Dating Games” and 4.23 “Wager Money Go”

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, Cassidy develops a crush on Chris while Jamal deals with a gambling problem!  Didn’t we already do all of this?

Episode 4.22 “Dating Games”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on December 9th, 2000)

It’s time for the Valentine’s Day dance!  Why did the Valentine’s Day episode air in December?

Cassidy is upset because she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  Dawn asks Cassidy why she doesn’t just hook up with Chris since they do things together all the time and Chris is totally in love with her.  In fact …. hey, remember last week when everyone got drunk and Cassidy announced on national television that she liked Chris?  I guess Cassidy doesn’t because she tells Dawn that she and Chris are just good friends.  “I need a boyfriend!” Cassidy announces.  Dawn tells Cassidy that she’s too much into image and what other people will think.  Cassidy doesn’t hear her because she’s too busy checking out Jordan, the hottest guy at the school.  Dawn says that Jordan only dates girls who are on the rebound so Cassidy decides that she needs to pretend to date someone and fake break up with them so that she can go out with the guy she really likes.

Paging Chris!

After pretending to date Chris and then staging their breakup, Cassidy hooks up with Jordan and Chris hooks up with a girl named Linda.  However, Cassidy realizes that she actually likes Chris more than Jordan so she breaks up with Jordan.  At the dance, Dawn tells Chris that Cassidy likes him so Chris heads over to Cassidy’s penthouse and finally — FINALLY! — the two of them declare their love for each other.  Awwwwww!

Despite a silly B-plot involving Ms. Noble teaching a meditation class and an A-plot that involved everyone being kind of stupid, this was actually a pretty good episode by City Guys standards.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for romance.  Chris and Cassidy are a cute couple.

Episode 4.23 “Wager Money Go”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on December 9th, 2000)

“Yo, Jamal,” Al says, “this gambling is making you whack!”

And indeed it is!  Jamal has developed a gambling problem.  He’s spending all of his time at a “backroom gambling joint,” where he plays craps while a local gangster watches.  Jamal swears to everyone that he has a system and he can’t lose.  However, he spends almost the entire episode losing.  It’s amazing that Jamal got addicted that quickly without actually being any good at the thing to which he got addicted.  After his friends get tired of him borrowing money from them, he steals it from the register at work.  Unfortunately, L-Train has just started working at the diner and he gets blamed for the missing money.  L-Train is out of a job and Jamal loses all of his friends.  Fortunately, Jamal comes clean, learns an important lesson, and that’s that.

While this is going on, Cassidy and Dawn make a documentary about Ms. Noble.  It turns out that Ms. Noble is kind of boring so Dawn and Cassidy try to create a crisis so they can get Ms. Noble doing something exciting on film.  There is a funny moment in which Ms. Noble refers to her husband as being “Bobby” before quickly correcting herself as saying, “I mean, Billy.”  I’m going to guess this was unscripted.  By the time this episode was shot, not even the cast could be bothered to remember the name of Ms. Noble’s husband.  Otherwise, this was yet another B-plot that revolved around how creepily obsesses all of the students were with Ms. Noble.

This was another one of those episodes where a well-established character, Jamail in this case, was required to start acting in a way that was totally out-of-character just so an important lesson could be learned.  It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t particularly memorable either.  Do gambling joints, even illegal ones, regularly allow high school students in to play craps?  That would seem like more trouble than its worth.

Film Review: On a Wing and a Prayer (dir by Sean McNamara)

Having just attended the funeral of his brother, Doug White (Dennis Quaid) and his family — wife Terri (Heather Graham) and daughters Bailey (Abigail Rhine) and Maggie (Jessi Case) — are flying back to their home in Louisiana.  Unfortunately, shortly after takeoff, their pilot suffers a heart attack and dies.  Now Doug, who’s had only one flight lesson in his entire life, has to not only fly the plane but also land safely.

Doug has people on the ground, trying to talk him through the landing even though they don’t know what is actually happening in the cockpit.  Hard-drinking Dan Favio (Rocky Myers) calls his friend, Kari Sorenson (Jesse Metcalfe).  Kari has never gotten over the death of his family in a similar plane crash so, for him, helping Doug land is about more than just saving Doug and his family.  It’s also about achieving his own personal redemption and hopefully finding the strength to forgive himself.

While this is going on, two kids — Donna (Raina Grey) and Buggy (Trayce Malachi) — follow the flight online and then head down to the airport so that they can watch it try to land.  To be honest, I’m really not sure why either one of them is in the movie.  When Donna first showed up, talking about how she wanted to be a pilot because “Mr. Jones” told her that girls can’t fly planes, I found myself dreading the inevitable moment when the kids would take it upon themselves to help Doug land the plane.  I dreaded Donna calling the cockpit and Doug going, “Wait a minute …. you’re just a kid!”  Fortunately, that moment didn’t happen but I was still left wondering why Donna and Buggy were in the film to begin with.

It feels almost churlish to be overly critical of a film like On a Wing and a Prayer because it is based on a true story.  Doug White really did have to land an airplane after the pilot died mid-flight and he really was instructed on what to do by a group of air traffic controllers and Kari Sorenson.  It’s a good story and the film ends with some undeniably touching shots of the real people involved in the landing.  That said, this is ultimately a film that many filmgoers will want to like more than they actually do.  Thanks to some dodgy special effects, the viewer never forgets that Dennis Quaid and his family aren’t really tapped up in the sky.  Instead, one is always aware that they’re just watching a movie and a rather cheap-looking one at that.  As well, the script is full of awkward dialogue and heavy-handed moments.  As soon as I saw that one of the daughters wouldn’t stop looking at her phone, I knew that she would be the one who would be forced to grow up in a hurry.  As soon as the other daughter ate something with nuts in it, I knew that there was going to be a desperate search for an epi-pen.

On the plus side, Dennis Quaid was as likable as ever and Heather Graham managed to wring some genuine feeling out of even the most sentimental of dialogue.  On A Wing and a Prayer was directed by Sean McNamara, who also directed one of my favorite films of 2011, Soul Surfer.  (Later this year, McNamara and Quaid have another project that is scheduled to be released, a biopic of President Ronald Reagan.)  On A Wing and A Prayer doesn’t really work as a film but, as a story, it at least reminds us of what people are capable of doing when they all work together.