Archive for John Travolta

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 :: ACTION :: 015

Posted in Action with tags , , , , , on 11/09/2009 by joycereview

5beartaking_of_pelham123Tony Scott had me at hello.  But here we are, halfway in our conversation and I want to say [as I look down at my watchless wrist], “Jeepers! Would you look at the time.  I’m late for a thing.”  Top Gun was the first R-rated movie that my parents let me see.  I got to see fighter jets and I was introduced to the french kiss.  Four years later, he even momentarily smoothed over my distain for Nascar racing when he made Days of Thunder.  At the age of 65, he’s still at the top of his game when it comes to blowing back our hair with sheer, unadulterated speed.  I always knew that I could turn to Tony Scott when I felt, “The need for speed”… and apparently he can even do it with trains.

The Taking of Pelham 123, is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name (alternate spelling; One Two Three) and features two of Hollywood’s premier actors, John Travolta and Denzel Washington.  Denzel plays Walter Garber, a MTA dispatcher assigned to Railway Control when train Pelham 123 is hijacked by a man calling himself Ryder (Travolta).  Ryder demands $10 million (in 100 dollar bills) within an hour, and tells Garber that he’ll kill a passanger each minute that they are late.

This film shows clearly that the making a movie is a team effort and can’t rest on the abilities of one Mr. Tony Scott.  He was, however, a very naughty boy in allowing such unneeded and unrealistic crash scenes.  You’d think that the NYPD would be much more careful in its transportation of $10 million greenbacks.  And I thought the streets were closed down?  New York’s “finest” still managed to crash 3 times, with the final wreck coming from an ambulance no doubt… that t-bones the speeding prowler and knocks it so hard that it can no longer conform to the rules of physics and gravity… they tumble, log-roll-fashion through the intersection, off a bridge, landing on an underpass to be met by on-coming traffic.  Ouch.

As much as I like Travolta and Washington, they weren’t right for this movie (at least this script).  Denzel can be a tremendous force if given the right role (ex. Glory), but here we get apple sauce when we asked for curly fries.  Travolta spends most of the movie acting tyrannical and forcefully authoritative.  But I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can sometimes tell (without even listening to them) if they are a true-blooded bad ass.   Travolta is Danny Zuko, Tony Manero, and Vincent Vega.  Now Harvey Keitel, or Samuel L. Jackson; either one of these would have made a much better Ryder.

Oh yeah, and when an Army Ranger has the guts to step in front of a madman with a gun, just to get shot, he should have the guts to try and take the gun from the lunatic’s hand, methinks.  All in all, good action and soundtrack… no depth or real substance.  Strongly mediocre.  Your thoughts?

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CARRIE (1976) :: HORROR :: 005

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , , , , on 10/22/2009 by joycereview

6bearcarrie dvdA movie most guys would rate a “10” based on the opening sequence alone, Carrie begins with young teenage girls playing volleyball and then cuts to not only a nudity-filled locker room scene… but a slow motion one! De Palma, you’re a bona fide genius.

Carrie is the story of a timorous young girl, Carrie (Sissy Spacek), with the unique gift of telekinesis [she can move things with her mind] who is continuously taunted by classmates, overlooked by other (with the exception of hard-nosed gym teacher Miss Collins) and abused by her religiously-fanatical mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie).  Being invited to her senior prom with school stud Tommy Ross begins to give Carrie the confidence and sense of belonging that she’s always wanted.  However, when barbie-nemesis Chris (Nancy Allen) and Vinnie Barbarino, I mean, Billy (John Travolta) plays a prank on Carrie, the “last straw” is quite a doozy!

I will let this review stand as my example of how a “classic” horror film by a great director can score only 6 bear claws.  Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are both sensational, and produce two very intriguing and entertaining characters.  One anti-social, insecure, mouse-of-a-person on the one hand and flamboyant, irrational and madly-driven on the other.  This movie as a whole barely fits into the horror genre (in my opinion).  I’m sure it will frighten some (I don’t know necessarily how) but all of the characters (even Carrie at times) go so over-the-top that they produce a caricature.  Since our sensitivities are with Carrie, our emotions are sympathetic and concerning.  But the scripture-quoting mother who reminds her daughter that “…the first sin was intercourse” and “I can see your dirty pillows” becomes quite laughable.  The gym teacher with carte blanch enough to strike her undisciplined students gave me a “Right on sister!”-type feeling and added a nice sense of swift justice.  But then comes the principle with the incapacity to remember a simple, two-syllable name like “Carrie” and misspeak it an embarrassing 4 times in under 2 minutes.  He deserved to be strangled and then slapped multiple times with a sack of horse manure.

Don’t get me wrong…Carrie was an “good time” to the very end, but didn’t turn into veritable horror until Sissy Spacek unleashed those eyeballs on us.  But then, I ask you, does donning a gown drenched in pig blood and the ability to stare like a lemur constitute true horror?

After some contemplation – after looking at all sides – I came to a much different conclusion and opinion of the nature of the character of Carrie.  Most people will likely see the innocent girl with paranormal powers.  But what if the mom was right?  Margaret keeps saying that she was “born out of sin”, and even though she is as fragile as a lamb Carrie has in her the staggering capacity to kill, and afterwards, show little remorse for her actions.  Another detail that is overlooked is that the closet/prayer box/confessional booth has in it, not the statuette of Jesus Christ (as would be common & expected) but of St. Sebastian [notice the piercing of arrows], the saint of conversion.  Perhaps Carrie is not so innocent after all… and good ol’ mum is just trying her very best to convert her demonically-possessed daughter?  Something to think about I suppose?

All in all, Carrie was an entertaining film with only a mediocre story & script.  One could almost see this story as “Cinderella gone mental.”  I thought there were some interesting camera shots (particularly in the beginning. hehe) but were sub-par for De Palma.  There was little attention to detail regarding the final scenes with several inconstancies that are (at least for most) clear-as-day.  However, Carrie is a triumph for the two leading ladies (Spacek & Laurie) and a humorous look at the ultimate high school revenge.  And remember two things: ONE… “We will never be free until nerd persecution ends” (-Nerds movie).  [Think on this, it might just save your life!]  And TWO… eat your apple pie, “because pimples are God’s way of chastising you.”  Or don’t.