Three Fugitives (1989, directed by Francis Veber)


Daniel Lucas (Nick Nolte) is having a bad day.  He’s just gotten out on parole after spending 5 years in prison for armed robbery.  No sooner has Lucas left the prison than he’s met by Detective Dugan (James Earl) and his partner, Inspector Tenner (Alan Ruck).  Dugan says that he knows that Lucas is going to return to his life of crime and that, when he does, Dugan will be there to arrest him.

Determined to go straight, Lucas heads to the nearest bank.  Maybe he thinks that going to a bank and not robbing it will convince everyone that he’s no longer a criminal.  Unfortunately, the bank does end up getting robbed, not by Lucas but by Ned Perry (Martin Short).  Ned’s not much of a bank robber.  In fact, he’s never committed a crime in his life.  But he desperately needs the money so he can afford a special school for his young daughter, Meg (Sarah Doroff), who hasn’t spoken since her mother died.  When the bank robbery doesn’t go as planned and Lucas ends up accidentally getting shot, Lucas and Ned end up going on the run together with Dugan and Tenner in pursuit.

When I was a kid, Three Fugitives was a movie that seemed like it was on television nearly every day.  Of course, it was popular on HBO but it also used to regularly show up on the local stations, with all of Nick Nolte’s profanity awkwardly edited out.  Looking back, I can see why Three Fugitives was so popular with television programmers who needed something fill a two-hour time slot.  It’s got enough broad slapstick and just enough violence to keep the kids happy while also being so sentimental and inoffensive that parents wouldn’t complain about what their children were watching.

That Three Fugitives was such a ubiquitous presence on television is really the only memorable thing about it.  On paper, the idea of pairing Nick Nolte with Martin Short sounds like it should generate a lot of laughs and they are funny in the initial bank hold-up but after that, neither seems to be acting in the same movie.  Nolte is too serious for the comedic scenes and Short is too cartoonish for the serious scenes and their partnership is never credible.  Nick Nolte was the king of the mismatched buddy comedy in the 80s but Three Fugitives is no 48 Hours.

Icarus File No. 4: Captive State (dir by Rupert Wyatt)


Does anyone remember Captive State?

Captive State came out in March and, before it was released, it seemed like it had the potential to be something special.  The trailer looked good.  The cast was impressive.  Perhaps even more importantly, the film was directed by Rupert Wyatt, who did such a good job with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.  Surely, if anyone had the talent to create a convincing film about life under an alien dictatorship, it would be Rupert Wyatt!

In fact, my only reason for concern had to do with when the film was being released.  March seemed like a very strange time to be releasing a big “event” film.  Don’t get me wrong.  A March release isn’t as bad as a January or even a February release.  I mean, unless your film is a romantic comedy, you definitely do not want it to be released in either one of those two months.  Those months are where studios dump their worst films so that they can die a quiet death.  March, on the other hand, is when the studio releases films that have the potential to be a success but which they’re still not expecting to set the world on fire.

Of course, there have been exceptions to that rule, as both Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel) and Jordan Peele (Get Out) can tell you.  So, as Captive State’s release date approached, we were left to wonder.  Would this be another case of a film being better than it’s release date or would this be just another forgettable but not terrible movie that the studio probably spent a bit too much money on?

Captive State, sadly, turned out to be more of a case of the latter than the former.

The film opens with Chicago being invaded in 2019.  Significantly, unlike other recent invasion films, this one doesn’t spend too much time on the invasion itself or Earth’s initial attempts to fight back.  Instead, it jumps forward eight years, to 2027.  The aliens are in control of Earth, though the aliens themselves claim to only be “legislators” who are governing the planet for our own good.  While the majority of Earthlings just seem to be resigned to accepting being conquered as their new normal, there are a few resistors.  There’s also quite a few collaborators.  The tricky part of life in 2027 is figuring out who you can and can not trust.

There’s a lot of characters in Captive State and, at times, it can be difficult to keep track of how everyone’s related and who is working for who.  However, that seems to be intentional on the film’s part.  Rather than telling a conventional tale of alien conquest, Captive State sets out to be a serious exploration of what life would be like for the people living under the thumb of not just an intergalactic dictatorship but actually any dictatorship.  The Legislators rule by fear.  The collaborators have their own individual reasons for collaborating but, now that they’ve declared which side they’re on, there’s no going back for them.  One way or another, they’ve sealed their fate.  The same can be said for those in the rebellion.  Meanwhile, most people are just trying to not get caught in the crossfire.

And the thing is …. you want the film to work.  It’s an intriguing idea and how can you not respect that fact that Wyatt wanted to try to do something a little bit different with his story of alien invasion?  But sadly, the film never works the way that you’re hoping it will.  The film tries to do a lot in just 109 minutes.  In fact, it probably tries to do too much and, as a result, there’s little time to get to know the characters, the majority of whom come across as being underwritten and with murky motivations.  Captive State hinges on the actions of a detective played by John Goodman but the film itself doesn’t seem to be sure of who Goodman’s supposed to be.  Hence, the film’s final twist seems to come out of nowhere.  It’s hard not to feel that the ideal way for Captive State to have told its story would have been as a 10-episode miniseries on HBO.  Trying to stuff all of this into under two hours of running time just doesn’t work.

And it’s a shame, that it doesn’t.  Ambition should never be faulted.  If only the results, in this case, lived up to the ambition.

Previous Icarus Files:

  1. Cloud Atlas
  2. Maximum Overdrive
  3. Glass

Playing Catch-Up: The Accountant, Carnage Park, The Choice, The Legend of Tarzan


Continuing my look back at the films of 2016, here are four mini-reviews of some films that really didn’t make enough of an impression to demand a full review.

The Accountant (dir by Gavin O’Connor)

2016 was a mixed year for Ben Affleck.  Batman v. Superman may have been a box office success but it was also such a critical disaster that it may have done more harm to Affleck’s legacy than good.  If nothing else, Affleck will spend the rest of his life being subjected to jokes about Martha.  While Ben’s younger brother has become an Oscar front runner as a result of his performance in Manchester By The Sea, Ben’s latest Oscar effort, Live By Night, has been released to critical scorn and audience indifference.

At the same time, Ben Affleck also gave perhaps his best performance ever in The Accountant.  Affleck plays an autistic accountant who exclusively works for criminals and who has been raised to be an expert in all forms of self-defense.  The film’s plot is overly complicated and director Gavin O’Connor struggles to maintain a consistent tone but Affleck gives a really great performance and Anna Kendrick reminds audiences that she’s capable of more than just starring in the Pitch Perfect franchise.

Carnage Park (dir by Mickey Keating)

I really wanted to like Carnage Park, because it was specifically advertised as being an homage to the grindhouse films of the 1970s and y’all know how much I love those!  Ashley Bell plays a woman who gets kidnapped twice, once by two bank robbers and then by a psycho named Wyatt (Pat Healy).  Healy chases Bell through the desert, hunting her Most Dangerous Game-style.  There are some intense scenes and both Bell and Healy are well-cast but, ultimately, it’s just kind of blah.

The Choice (dir by Ross Katz)

The Choice was last year’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation.  It came out, as all Nichols Sparks adaptations do, just in time for Valentine’s Day and it got reviews that were so negative that a lot of people will never admit that they actually saw it.  Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer play two people who meet, fall in love, and marry in North Carolina.  But then Palmer is in a car accident, ends up in a coma, and Walker has to decide whether or not to turn off the life support.

As I said, The Choice got terrible reviews and it’s certainly not subtle movie but it’s actually better than a lot of films adapted from the work of Nicholas Sparks.  Walker and Palmer are a likable couple and, at the very least, The Choice deserves some credit for having the courage not to embrace the currently trendy cause of euthanasia.  That alone makes The Choice better than Me Before You.

The Legend of Tarzan (dir by David Yates)

Alexander Skarsgard looks good without his shirt on and Samuel L. Jackson is always a fun to watch and that’s really all that matters as far as The Legend of Tarzan is concerned.  It’s an enjoyable enough adventure film but you won’t remember much about it afterward.  Christoph Waltz is a good actor but he’s played so many villains that it’s hard to get excited over it anymore.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #69: Bad Boys (dir by Rick Rosenthal)


Bad_Boys_(1983_film_poster)First off, I am not about to review the Michael Bay film where Will Smith and Martin Lawrence shoot people and blow things up.  Instead, this Bad Boys is a film from 1983 where Sean Penn doesn’t shoot anyone but that’s mostly because he can’t get his hands on a gun.  And, at one point, a radio does blow up.  So, perhaps this Bad Boys has more in common with the Michael Bay Bad Boys than I originally realized.

Anyway, Bad Boys is about Mick O’Brien (Sean Penn), who is a 16 year-old criminal from Chicago.  One night, when one of his crimes goes wrong, Mick’s best friend (Alan Ruck) is killed and Mick accidentally runs over the brother of rival gang leader, Paco (Esai Morales).  Mick is sent to juvenile detention where he and his sociopathic cellmate, Horowitz (Eric Gurry), team up to overthrow the two “leaders” of their block, Viking (Clancy Brown, with scary blonde hair) and Tweety (Robert Lee Rush).  Meanwhile, Paco is arrested for raping Mick’s girlfriend, JC (Ally Sheedy), and soon finds himself living on the same cell block as Mick.

And it all leads to … violence!

(In the movies, everything leads to violence.)

Bad Boys is one of those films that seems to show up on cable at the most random of times.  I’ve never quite understood why because it’s not like Bad Boys is a particularly great film.  It’s hard to see anything about this film that would lead a programmer to say, “Let’s schedule 100 airings of Bad Boys!”  If anything, it’s the epitome of a good but not that good film.  On the one hand, you have to appreciate a film that attempts to take a serious look at both juvenile crime and the true life consequences of tossing every “lawbreaker” into a cell and locking the door.  People fetishize the idea of punishing criminals but they rarely consider whether those punishments actually accomplish anything beyond satisfying society’s obsessive need for revenge.  (And it’s interesting to note that the problems of 1983 are not that much different from the problems of 2015.)  On the other hand, Bad Boys is way too long, heavy-handed, and repetitive.  This was one of Sean Penn’s first roles and, much like the film itself, he’s good without being that good.  Watching his performance, you get the feeling that James Dean would say, “Nice try.”

However, the film is saved by two actor.  First off, there’s Clancy Brown as the stupid but intimidating Viking.  With his bad skin, blonde hair, and a permanent snarl on his face, Brown makes Viking into a character who is both ludicrous and scary.  And then there’s Eric Gurry as the small and demonic Horowitz.  According to his imdb page, Gurry long ago retired from acting but anybody who sees Bad Boys will never forget him.

Shattered Politics #51: Three For The Road (dir by B.W.L. Norton)


three-for-the-road-movie-poster-1987-1020243960It’s a little bit strange to go from watching and reviewing a film like Once Upon A Time In America to watching and reviewing a film like 1987’s Three For The Road.  But that’s one reason that I like doing things like Shattered Politics.  It’s always interesting to see how many different films can all be linked together by common elements.  In the case of Shattered Politics, those shared elements are politics and politicians.

Three For The Road is an 80s comedy.  In fact, it’s one of the most stereotypically 80s films ever made.  Senator Kitteride (Raymond J. Barry) may very well be the next President of the United States but first he has to do something about his rebellious teenage daughter (Kerri Green).  He has arranged for her to be shipped down to a reform school down South.

But who can he trust to drive her down there?  How about the newest member of his staff, Paul Tracy?  Paul looks up to Sen. Kitteridge and has political ambitions himself.  He’s such a responsible guy that, while all of his roommates are busy getting drunk and having sex, Paul locks himself away in his bedroom and studies.  So, naturally, who is cast as this straight-laced, ultra-responsible, uptight guy?  Why Charlie Sheen, of course!

Now, Paul has a roommate who comes along on the road trip with him and Robin.  T.S. is an aspiring writer.  (His actual name is Tommy but he demands to be known as T.S., in honor of T.S. Eliot.)  T.S. is an intellectual.  T.S. is a serial womanizer who is hit on by nearly every woman he meets.  (T.S. always asks them to name their favorite author as a test.)  So, of course, T.S. is played Alan Ruck, who is better known for playing Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Now, to be honest, I’m being a bit snarky here and that’s not really fair to either Sheen or Ruck.  Yes, they’re both miscast but that doesn’t mean that they don’t give good performances.  They both do as well as they can with the material that they’ve been given.  It’s just that the material itself… well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Three For The Road is not a bad film as much as it’s just an extremely forgettable one.  From the minute it opens with the predictable shots of D.C. landmarks to Paul and Robin falling in love to the eventual revelation that Sen. Kitteridge isn’t the great man that Paul thinks that he is, it all just feels extremely generic.  The film probably works best as a time capsule, a portrait of when it was made.

If you go to Three For The Road‘s imdb page, you can find a comment that was left by film director Richard Martini.  Martini wrote the original script for what would eventually develop into Three For The Road.  I say “develop” because, as Martini explains it, his script was apparently changed and rewritten on a daily basis.  While that’s certainly not a surprising thing to hear, it does sound like Martini’s original version would have made for a more interesting film.

In Martini’s original script, Sen. Kitteridge’s motivation for sending Robin to the institution was that Robin was embarrassing him with her own left-wing political activism.  That would have certainly brought a much needed edge to the film’s politics because, in the film that was eventually made, there’s really no point to Kitteridge being a senator.  He could just as easily have been a wealthy businessman or maybe a college president.  But apparently, once filming started, it appears that the filmmakers went for the least edgy approach possible.

(Martini also commented that, as a result of the actual film being so different from his original script, that he hates to read reviews of the film.  And, needless to say, I don’t blame him.  If Richard Martini is reading this review, please accept my apologies for any bad memories this review may have brought up.)

Three For The Road has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray but you can watch it on YouTube.

 

Back to School #42: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (dir by John Hughes)


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Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. — Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

While I was rewatching the 1986 John Hughes comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for this review, I found myself thinking about all of the days (or, to be more precise about it, half-days) that I took off back when I was in high school.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like school.  Though I certainly didn’t truly appreciate it at the time, I actually had a pretty good time in high school.  I had an interesting and diverse group of friends.  I had lots of drama and lots of comedy.  I got good grades as long as it wasn’t a Math class.  (Drama, History, and English were always my best subjects.)  My teachers liked me.  But, at the same time, I couldn’t help but resent being required to go to school.  I do not like being told that I have to do something.

So, I would skip on occasion.  For some reason, it always seemed like my favorite classes were early in the day.  So, I’d go to school, enjoy myself up until lunch, and then me and a few friends would casually walk out of the building and we would be free!  There was a Target just a few blocks down the street from our high school and sometimes we’d go down there and spend a few hours shoplifting makeup.  Eventually, we did get caught by a big scary security guy who threatened to call our parents, made us return everything that we had hidden in our purses and bras, and then told us that we were never to step foot in that Target ever again.  And you know what?  In all the years since, I have yet to step back inside of that Target.

Interestingly enough, with all of the times that we skipped school, the worst thing that ever happened to me or any of my friends is that we got banned from Target.  We all still graduated, most of us still went to college, and, as far as I know, none of us have ever been arrested for a major crime.  None of us ever regretted missing any of the classes that we skipped.  For all the talk of how skipping school was the same thing as throwing away your future, it really was not that big of a deal.

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I think that’s one reason why, despite being nearly 30 years ago, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a film that continues to speak to audiences.  It’s a film that celebrates the fact that sometimes, you just have to take a day off and embrace life.  Technically, Ferris, Cameron (Alan Ruck), and Sloane (Mia Sara) may be breaking the law by skipping school and you could even argue that they’ve stolen Cameron’s dad’s car.

But, who cares?

You know who probably had perfect attendance in high school?  Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) and seriously, who wants to grow up to be like that douchebag?

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Whenever I do watch Ferris Bueller (and I’ve seen it more times than I can remember because seriously, I freaking love this movie!), I always find myself wishing that real-life could be as much fun as the movies.  As much as I may have enjoyed skipping school and shoplifting, it’s nothing compared to everything that Ferris does during his day off!  Ferris goes to a baseball game!  He takes his friends to a fancy restaurant!  He goes to an art museum!  (And, much like Sloane, my heart swoons at this point because I would have loved to have known a guy who would skip school so he could specifically go to the museum.)  Perhaps most importantly, he encourages his best friend Cameron to actually have a good time and enjoy himself.

Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron

In Susannah Gora’s book You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, an entire chapter is devoted to the making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and, to be honest, it’s actually makes for rather melancholy reading.  Ferris Bueller was the last teen film that John Hughes directed and the book suggests that a lot of this was due to the fact that Hughes didn’t have as good a time making the film as audiences would later have watching it.  In the book, Mia Sara speculates that Hughes never bonded with the cast of Ferris Bueller in the same way that he did with the casts of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.

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And indeed, it’s hard to imagine either Ferris Bueller or Matthew Broderick popping up in either one of those two films.  Ferris is far too confident to relate to the angst-driven worlds of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, or Pretty in Pink.  True, he doesn’t have a car and his sister (Jennifer Grey) resents him but otherwise, Ferris’s life is pretty much care-free.  Not only does he live in a beautiful house but he’s also already come up with a definitive philosophy for how he wants to live his life.  You look at Ferris and you know that he probably grew up to be one of those people who ended up working on Wall Street and nearly bankrupted the country but you don’t care.  He’s too likable.

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His best friend, Cameron, is far more angsty but even his overwhelming depression doesn’t seem like it would be at home in any of Hughes’s other films.  If Cameron was a member of the Breakfast Club, he’d probably just sit in the back of the library and zone out.  Regardless of how much Judd Nelson taunted him, Cameron would stay in his shell.  If Cameron was in Sixteen Candles, it’s doubtful he would have been invited to the party at Jake Ryan’s house in the first place.  His depression is too overwhelming and his angst feels too real for him to safely appear in any film other than this one.  As a character, Cameron could only appear in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off because only Ferris Bueller would be capable getting Cameron to leave his bedroom.  On the one hand, the film may seem like a well-made but standard teen comedy where a lovable rebel defeats a hateful authority figure.  But, with repeat viewings, it becomes obvious that Ferris Bueller is truly about the battle for Cameron’s damaged soul.

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There’s a prominent theory out there that the entire film is supposed to be Cameron’s daydream and that Ferris either doesn’t exist or he’s just a popular student who Cameron has fantasized to be his best friend.  I can understand the theory because Cameron really is the heart of the movie.  At the same time, I hope it’s not true because, if this is all a fantasy, then that means that Sloane never said, “He’s going to marry me,” while running back home.  And that would be heart-breaking because I love that moment!

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may have John Hughes final teen film as a director (he would go on to write and produce Some Kind of Wonderful) but at least he went out on a true high note.

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Guilty Pleasure No. 18: Class (dir by Lewis John Carlino)


Tonight, I’ve got insomnia.

Since I realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep, I decided I might as well watch a random movie via Encore On Demand.  That movie turned out to be Class, a dramedy from 1983.  (I love dramedies, especially when I’ve got insomnia.)  I just finished watching it about 30 minutes ago and what can I say?  If there’s any film that deserves to be known as a guilty pleasure, it’s Class.

Class tells the story of two prep school roommates.  Skip (Rob Lowe) is rich  and spoiled.  Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy) is poor but brilliant.  As the result of getting a perfect score on his SAT, Jonathan has already received a scholarship to Harvard.  Their friendship gets off on a rocky start.  Skip locks Jonathan outside while Jonathan is wearing black lingerie.  Jonathan responds with a fake suicide.  (Boys are so weird.)  Not surprisingly, Jonathan and Skip become best friends and even share their darkest secrets.  Skip admits to killing a man.  Jonathan confesses to cheating on his SAT.  One of the two friends is lying.  Try to guess which one.

When Skip also discovers that Jonathan is a virgin, Skip makes it his mission to help his friend get laid.  Skip pays for Jonathan to spend a weekend in Chicago.  While there, Jonathan meets an older woman named Ellen (Jacqueline Bisset).  Soon, Jonathan and Ellen are having a torrid affair.

Once Christmas break arrives, Skip takes Jonathan home with him.  Jonathan meets Skip’s parents.  Guess who turns out to be Skip’s mom.

Meanwhile, an officious investigator (Stuart Margolin) has shown up on campus.  What is he investigating?  SAT fraud, of course.

Class is a weirdly disjointed movie.  On the one hand, it attempts to tell a rather melancholic coming-of-age tale, in which a naive young man learns about love from a beautiful but sad older woman.  (This part of the film perhaps would have been more effective if there had been a single spark of chemistry between Andrew McCarthy and Jacqueline Bisset.)  On the other hand, it also wants to be a heartfelt comedy about two best friends who come from opposite worlds.  And then, on the third hand (that’s right — this movie has three hands!), it wants to be a raunchy teen comedy, complete with a stuffy headmaster, misogynistic dialogue, gratuitous nudity, and a lengthy scene where all of the students attempt to get rid of all of their weed and pills because they’ve been incorrectly told that there’s a narc on campus.  That’s three different movies being crammed into a 90-minute film.  Not surprisingly, the end result is an uneven mishmash of different themes and styles.

And yet, as uneven as the film may be,  I still enjoyed it.  As I watched, I knew that I should have been far more critical and nitpicky about the film’s many flaws but the movie itself is just so damn likable that I found myself enjoying it despite myself.  Ultimately — like many guilty pleasures — Class is a film that is best appreciated as a portrait of the time it was made.  Everything from the questionable fashion choices of the characters to the film’s not-so-subtle celebration of wealth and narcissism, serves to remind the viewer that Class was made in the 80s.

Finally, Class should be seen just for its cast.  It’s undeniably odd to see an impossibly young and goofy-looking John Cusack making his film debut here as a rather snotty student named Roscoe.  While Andrew McCarthy doesn’t have much chemistry with Jacqueline Bisset, he still gives a good performance and is simply adorable with his messy hair and glasses.  And finally, who can resist young Rob Lowe, who was just as handsome in Class as he would be 30 years later in Parks and Recreation?

Class did not cure my insomnia.

But I’m still glad I watched it.

Previous Guilty Pleasures:

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls