A Movie A Day #231: Judgment Night (1993, directed by Stephen Hopkins)


Four suburbanites (Emilio Estevez, Stephen Dorff, Jeremy Piven, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.) are driving to a boxing match in pricey RV when Piven takes a wrong turn and they end up lost in the wrong side of the city.  Not only are they lost but they also witness Fallon (Denis Leary) and his gang murdering a young man.  Jeremy Piven thinks that he can negotiate with Fallon and get his friends out of the situation by pulling out his wallet and flashing a few bills.  Guess how well that works out for them?  With Fallon chasing them through the city, these formerly smug and complacent yuppies are forced into a battle for survival.

Judgment Night is a deeply stupid but compulsively watchable movie.  From the minute that Piven shows up with that RV and Estevez says goodbye to his wife and newborn child, it is obvious what’s going to happen.  Fortunately, the cast is better than average and Stephen Hopkins does a good job of making the city look menacing and keeping up the pace.  There are a few times that Judgment Night pretends like it has something to say about wealth and society but it never tries too hard to be anything more than an exciting B-movie.  Though it may not have been hard to do considering that his main competition was Emilio Estevez, Denis Leary easily dominates Judgment Night.  Fallon may be a cartoon villain but Judgment Night is a cartoonish movie so it works.

Today, Judgment Night is best remembered for its soundtrack, on which nearly every song was a collaboration between hip hop and metal artists.  The Judgment Night soundtrack may not have invented the genre of rap rock but it was many people’s first exposure to it.  The Teenage Fan Club/De La Soul collaboration Fallin‘ opens the movie on just the right note while Biohazard and Onyx’s Judgment Night is such a strong track that there’s no way the rest of the movie can hope to live up to it.

Judgment Night.  The movie is ok.  The soundtrack is fucking amazing.

A Movie A Day #47: Body Chemistry II: Voice of a Stranger (1992, directed by Adam Simon)


body-chemistry-ii-the-voice-of-a-stranger-movie-poster-1992-1020211070Dr. Claire Archer is back!

Having gotten away with murder at the end of the first Body Chemistry, Claire (played again by Lisa Pescia) is now working as a radio psychologist, taking the 9 pm to 1 am slot at a station managed by a sleazy chain smoker named Big Chuck (played by real-life sleazy chain smoker Morton Downey, Jr.).  Claire invites her listeners to call with their deepest desires.  “Without pain, you’re not truly alive.”

One night, “John” calls.  When Claire looks at the list of callers and sees, “John likes rough sex,” she immediately put him on the air.  John is actually Dan (Gregory Harrison).  Dan is dating Claire’s call screener, Brenda (Robin Riker), who cannot recognize her own boyfriend’s voice over the telephone.  Dan is a former high school football star who left town and became a cop in Los Angeles.  When his violent impulses became impossible to control, Dan was kicked off the force and he returned home.  Dan wants to suppress his dark side but Claire has other ideas.

Body Chemistry II is a marginal improvement over the first Body Chemistry, because Dan is a more sympathetic victim character than Marc Singer was in the first film and Body Chemistry II puts Lisa Pescia’s vampy performance front and center.  Though both films tell the same basic story, Body Chemistry II is stylistically a very different film.  Body Chemistry II takes it cue from film noir, which means a lot of dark rooms with Venetian blinds.  Dan’s flashbacks and nightmares also add some surreal moments to Body Chemistry II, distinguishing it from the more straight forward first film.

Though there would be two more Body Chemistry sequels, this would be the last time that Lisa Pescia would play Dr. Archer.  Keep an eye out for Clint Howard, Jeremy Piven, and director John Landis, all of whom show up in small roles.

For tomorrow’s movie a day, Shari Shattuck takes over the role of Claire Archer in Body Chemistry III: Point of Seduction.

 

Back to School #45: Say Anything… (dir by Cameron Crowe)


220px-Say_Anything

For the past two and a half weeks, we’ve been taking a chronological look at some of the best, worst, most memorable, and most forgettable teens films ever made.  We started with two films from 1946 and now, 43 films later, we’ve reached the end of the 80s.  And what better way to close out the decade that is often considered to be the golden age of teen films than by taking a look at two films from 1989 that both paid homage to the films that came before them and also served to influence the many films that would come after.

When people talk about Say Anything…, they usually seem to talk about the fact that it was the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe (who, it must be said, launched the golden age of teen films by writing Fast Time At Ridgemont High) and that it features what may be John Cusack’s best performance.  Famously, Cusack apparently felt that — after performances in Class, Sixteen Candles, and Better Off Dead — he was through playing teenagers.  But then he read Crowe’s script and was so impressed by it that he agreed he would play a student one last time.

It may, however, have helped that the character Cusack plays, a likable and easy-going kickboxing enthusiast named Lloyd Dobler — is only briefly seen as a student.  He graduates from high school early on in the movie.  That majority of Say Anything… deals with the summer right after high school.*  Lloyd has an unlikely but heartbreakingly real romance with Diane Court (Ione Skye), the valedictorian.

Cusack is so charming as Lloyd (and, needless to say, he gets all of the best lines) that I think people tend to overlook the fact that Ione Skye is equally as good.  Diane is actually a far more challenging role than Lloyd.  Whereas Lloyd is distinguished by his confidence and his friendly manner, Diane is neurotic, shy, and unsure of herself.  She’s won a scholarship to study in England and is scheduled to leave at the end of the summer but she’s scared of flying.  Even worse, her father, Jim Court (John Mahoney), is being investigated by the IRS.  As the summer progresses, Diane is forced to deal with the fact that not only has her seemingly perfect father broken the law but, when he’s confronted with his crimes, he uses his daughter as his excuse.  Yes, Jim seems to be saying, I stole money but I only did it to give you the best life possible.

Everyone seems to remember Say Anything… as the film that has that scene where Lloyd serenades Diane by holding that radio over his head.  And yes, that’s a wonderfully romantic scene, even if it’s been parodied so many times that it’s probably no longer as effective as it was when the film was first released.  But for me, Say Anything… is truly about Diane growing up and realizing that her father is not the saint that she thought he was.  (Making this realization especially upsetting is the fact that, initially, Mahoney is so likable in the role.)  You’re happy that Lloyd is there for her and you truly do come to love him because he is the perfect boyfriend, but ultimately, Say Anything… is Diane’s story.

(That said, though, I have to admit that some of my favorite scenes are just Lloyd talking to his friends.  Lili Taylor gives a great performance and how can you not laugh at Jeremy Piven hanging out at the convenience store?)

Ultimately, of course, the film works because both Lloyd and Diane come across as real human beings.  They’re not just boyfriend and girlfriend.  Instead, they’re two very likable characters who have been lucky enough to find each other.  In the end, you love Lloyd not because he’s funny or quirky but because he loves Diane for who she is.

Of course, it also helps that Say Anything has the perfect ending.

Ding!

Say-Anything_199

—-

* On a personal note, the summer after I graduated high school was the best summer of my life because I spent most of it in Italy!  Viva Iatalia!

Trailer: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Official Teaser)


Sin City A Dame to Kill For

Hard to imagine it’s been 9 years since the original Sin City hit the big screen. It was a comic book adaptation that many thought wouldn’t work, especially how Rodriguez envisioned it to be slavishly loyal to not just Miller’s dialogue but also his unique art style.

The original film’s success quickly ramped up rumors that a sequel was already being planned using the second graphic novel in the Sin City series. Rodriguez himself stated he wanted Angelina Jolie for the role of Ava Lord, the titular “Dame to Kill For”, but after years and years of delay the role finally landed on Eva Green‘s lap (not a bad choice and one I fully support).

So, we’re now going back to Basin City for more tales of booze, broads and bullets in this hyper-noir film that should be loved or hated in equal measures by those who have followed Frank Miller’s career. Once again the directing duties have been split between Rodriguez and Miller. Here’s to hoping that Miller has learned how to be a much better directer after his last film, The Spirit, tanked.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is set for an August 22, 2014 release date.