Sunday, September 30, 2012

untouchable like eliot ness

Brian De Palma (Carrie, Scarface) sure has made an array of dynamic, visually-affecting films.  The Untouchables is a grand popcorn movie about the nabbing of Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) and his inner circle during the Prohibition era by a ragtag group of officers led by agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner).

The film, photographed by Stephen H. Burum, employs many of De Palma's signature visual touches--low angles, canted angles and tracking shots.  The violence is stylishly captured and alluring.  There's a sort of emotional distance De Palma's elaborate set pieces and stylistic choices sometimes create but there's a good cast to help ground things notably Kevin Costner, Patricia Clarkson as Ness' wife, Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith.  This is Costner's first breakout role in a smash movie but his performance feels so comfortable and effortless here.  There is some scenery-chewing too from DeNiro and Sean Connery who won the Supporting Actor Academy Award (I preferred Albert Brooks in Broadcast News that year) for his showy turn as veteran cop Jim Malone (ponderous Irish accent and everything).  Ennio Morricone lends another incredibly lucid, exciting score here that alternates between a somber, full-bodied romantic theme and stabs of percussion and strings.  The script by Chicago-bred David Mamet can be a bit all over the place and from what I understand, historically inaccurate, but it all comes together in the crowd-pleasing finale and with its memorably cheeky last line.  ***

-Jeffery Berg

Saturday, September 29, 2012

it came alive and took him

In a Central American jungle, Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his elite team are dispatched to rescue hostages from a guerrilla operation.  In King Kong-fashion, the men get much more than they bargained for, when they are preyed upon by a fierce, technologically-advanced extraterrestrial beast.

John McTiernan, who would later direct action smashes Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, keeps Predator fueled with noise, gore, sweat and lots of guns. It's a post-Vietnam era pic with Vietnam undertones. A mix of Alien and the stalker-vibe of Friday the 13th, Predator is an entertaining, albeit meagerly-plotted, sci-fi horror pic that defines the testosterone-pumped 80s action flick. A box office smash, it would also go own to spawn numerous sequels, copycats, and remakes.  Carl Weathers as a CIA operative and the dramatic score by Alan Silverstri with its bellowing horns and hard-hitting percussive beats are best in show.  Also worth note are Stan Winston's creature effects, which still look pretty effective today.  Hard to believe that two guys in this would later become US governors (!) (Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura... who delivers the movie's most memorably crude line).  Schwarzenegger is a dreadful actor, particularly here, but who cares really, I guess.  ***

Thursday, September 27, 2012

goonies fashions

Mikey's (Sean Astin) denim coat (I still dress like this!).

Martha Plimpton's red-toned scarf & hoodie ensemble.

Chunk's (Jeff Cohen) Hawaiian shirt & popped collar red windbreaker.

Troy's high school jacket & preppy sweater set.

Mouth's (Corey Feldman) Purple Rain T.

And of course... Josh Brolin's red bandana.

I remember in the pre-You Tube days wanting to see the video for "The Goonies R Good Enough" and the excitement of finally watching it on The Goonies DVD.  It's a pretty goofy clip and features WWF peeps but the song lives forever!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

boys will be boys, bad boys...

My friend Jerome brought up this song today.  I totally forgot about it and that there was a video with "Cats" in it!  Happy b'day T.S. Eliot!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

come with me

Sea of Love is a fairly ridiculous and entertaining erotic thriller from the "Maneater" scare flicks of the 80s.  Ellen Barkin is the sultry temptress who may or may not be a serial killer who spins a 45 of "Sea of Love" for her victims.  Al Pacino, in a more subdued mode, plays the cop on the case.  It's no Vertigo but Sea of Love directed by Harold Becker has it's own smoky room appeal.  It has a good cast with one of Barkin's better moments and some interesting supporting players.  John Goodman is a little annoying as Pacino's cop sidekick (his over-the-top "Sea of Love" singalong is deleted scene material) but I guess he provides some levity to the flick.  Patricia Barry as a lonely older woman makes an indelible impression in just a few minutes.  This is also the film known for casting Samuel L. Jackson (he's seriously in almost every movie!) as "Black Guy."  Set in NYC, there are some nice shots of Manhattan, along with a saxophone-drenched score  by Trevor Jones.  It's all pretty captivating until the twist which kind of deflates the movie for a second viewing--oft the fate of movies too dependent on twists.  Still, with Pacino at the helm, Sea of Love is a decent diversion.  ***

Sunday, September 23, 2012

axel f

Yesterday I posted a review of undercover-cop-goes-rogue flick Nighthawks with Sylvester Stallone.  1984's hit Beverly Hills Cop is also about an undercover cop and almost starred Stallone.  Thankfully Eddie Murphy was cast, in one of his most memorable roles, as Axel Foley, the perfect choice for the fish-out-of-water tale of a Detroit police detective who goes to Beverly Hills to solve a friend's (James Russo) murder.  Foley stays at a plush hotel (with monogrammed robes), mixes it up with the local officers (Judge Reinhold and John Ashton) and falls into mischief and mishaps while getting closer to unlocking the mystery.

If one looks at Nighthawks and Beverly Hills Cop, it's interesting to see how studio pictures were beginning to change.  Nighthawks came out in that transitional period between the gritty 1970s and early 80s and ended up faring poorly at the box office.  Beverly Hills Cop was a smash and is one of the seminal comedies of the eighties, reigning in the decade's deluge of glossy cop stories like "Miami Vice," with a big budget (though by today's standards quite minimal) and a sleek look. The humor is light, inoffensive (Director Martin Brest resisted racial tinges) and appeals to a wide audience.  The story is satisfying and easily digestible.  Produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer who both understood the marketing possibilities of a strong soundtrack, the music from Beverly Hills Cop is a pretty incredible time capsule of '84 pop. Harold Faltermeyer's infectious synth "Axel F Theme" has become an iconic tune and is used brilliantly throughout the picture. The film opens with Glenn Frey's "The Heat is On" and also features energetic, well-placed songs from The Pointer Sisters, Vanity 6, and Patti LaBelle.  Eddie Murphy is really breezy in the lead role, one of his best performances, and this viewing made me miss his quick-witted, old-school charm.  ***

-Jeffery Berg

Saturday, September 22, 2012


In Nighthawks, terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer, in an early film role) wreaks havoc upon New York City while pursued by former undercover cops Deke (Sylvester Stallone with some mad foxy facial hair) and Matthew (Billy Dee Williams).  The movie establishes Wulfgar as extraordinarily cold-blooded and crafty as he blows up a London department store in an early scene.  Meanwhile Deke and Matthew are selected for an Anti Terrorist Action Command (A.T.A.C.) with the charismatic and elusive Wulfgar as their main target.

This is a pretty fun, schlocky movie with lots of on-location NYC scenes. The most riveting is aUnited Nations hostage situation aboard the Roosevelt Island tram.  For additional entertainment, there's also Stallone in really terrible drag (!) and a groovy disco shootout set to the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar."

The movie was originally planned as French Connection III in the mid-70s but plans for that fell through.  Directed and written by Bruce Malmuth, Nighthawks doesn't leave much for introspection and it's no French Connection, but it's a fast-moving (especially once the chase is on) action pic up until the wacky finale.  Stallone is pretty subdued in the lead role and Hauer is quietly menacing as his foil.  Well-edited and photographed (by James A. Contner who lensed Crusing), the grimy urban look and the glimmering clubs of bygone, early 80s NYC is a sight to behold as well.  ***