MY FAVORITE FRENCH ACTRESSES: EVA GREEN
JIM CARROLL MOTHERFUCKERS
MY FAVORITE BEERS: GREEN FLASH IMPERIAL
Screenwriter Shane Black’s approach to creating unconventional characters for “Lethal Weapon” created a new template for the buddy movie genre, which dates back to the silent era of Laurel and Hardy. Under Richard Donner’s scrupulous direction, the dynamic film spawned one of modern cinema’s most durable franchises.
“Lethal Weapon” (1987) boasts an incredibly dark first act. Bobby Helms’s “Jingle Bell Rock” plays over the opening credit sequence, placing the film’s anomalous Christmastime setting in warm-weather Los Angeles. A partially nude woman plummets to her death from a skyscraper after snorting a copious amount of drugs. We descend with her, watching the light-blurring effects of terminal velocity as certain death approaches. The young woman’s svelte body smashes onto the roof of a car. We see the roof buckle from the inside as the body hits. There is nothing holy about this holiday season.
Mel Gibson’s LAPD undercover narcotics officer Martin Riggs contemplates suicide over a photo of his wife, who died recently in a car accident. The police department’s female shrink can’t convince the captain to take Martin Riggs out of the field due to his suicidal tendencies. “He may be psychotic,” she tells the cavalier Captain as he escapes into the seclusion of the men’s room. A battle of the sexes is raging.
Veteran homicide detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) has just enjoyed his 50th birthday with his doting wife and kids when he gets assigned to partner up with the volatile Riggs. Mel Gibson’s wild-eyed performance confirms Murtaugh’s worst fears. Riggs’s eccentric way of talking down a suicidal jumper makes for one of the movie’s most iconic sequences. The jaw-dropping spectacle involved is far from gratuitous. Audiences are given numerous such opportunities over the course of the movie to extract their hearts from their mouths.
The contentious relationship between Murtaugh and Riggs makes the movie tick beneath a tale of criminal corruption that seems tame by modern standards. In a hat-tip to the Iran-Contra scandal of the '80s, Peter McAllister (Michael Ryan) is a retired military general who has repurposed his classified knowledge into running a lucrative heroin-smuggling operation. Gary Busy makes for a worthy baddie as Mr. Joshua, a sadomasochistic torturer-hitman who relishes his work.
Gibson and Glover play so well off each other’s racially disparate characters that it’s easy to overlook the rampant racism that inundated the LAPD during the late 1980s. Murtaugh’s 16-year-old daughter Rianne (Traci Wolfe) conveys a shameless crush on Riggs when he joins Murtaugh’s family for dinner. Rianne’s sensual vulnerability plants a seed of unavoidable dramatic empathy when she takes on a pivotal role later in the story.
“Lethal Weapon” is a buddy-film that incorporates social commentary, crime drama, and comedy into a compulsively entertaining form. Murtaugh and Riggs are two cops you’d like to invite over for dinner.
CLASSIC FILM POSTERS: REAR WINDOW
MY FAVORITE BEERS: RUTHLESS RYE
MY FAVORITE BRITS: ANDY SERKIS
WARREN ZEVON MOTHERFUCKERS
THE INBETWEENERS — TRAILER
Enter the Dragon — CLASSIC FILM PICK
From a historical perspective, Bruce Lee’s last movie is a martial arts film of epic proportions. Having made his name on America television with scene-stealing performances as Kato on the popular children’s program “The Green Hornet,” Bruce Lee was poised to establish a new kind of movie franchise as a sort of Asian American James Bond. Lee’s lifetime of developing a personal style and philosophy of martial arts (“Jeet Kune Do”) had already made an indelible mark on international cinema audiences with films made under the auspices of Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest production studios in Hong Kong. “Fists of Fury,” “Return of the Dragon,” and “The Chinese Connection” became touchstones for a generation of movie audiences, and martial arts practitioners and enthusiasts.
Although screenwriter Michael Allin’s cartoonish script for “Enter the Dragon” leaves much to be desired, Bruce Lee’s contributions to the film’s dramatic fight sequences more than compensate for the script’s flimsy narrative underpinnings. Lee famously wrote and directed the film’s opening fight sequence — set in a Shaolin Monastery.
Keeping with the popular revenge theme of ‘70’s era cinema, the story establishes Bruce Lee’s character “Lee” as a Shaolin student called upon by a British intelligence agency to infiltrate the island compound of Han, a former Shaolin Monk-turned-evil-villain who now heads up a drug smuggling and sex trafficking ring. Lee’s Shaolin master explains that Han’s thugs were responsible for the death of Lee’s sister Su Lin (Angela Mao Ying).
Every three years Han holds a martial arts tournament on his remote island to attract recruits for his dubious business practices. Lee is one of three main contenders in the competition. John Saxon plays Roper, an American martial arts master with a gambling problem. Roper’s debts to the American Mafia make him a seemingly ideal mark for Han’s brand of illicit indoctrination. Roper’s Viet Nam War veteran buddy Williams is a tall lanky African American from the ghetto, where racists cops take out their aggression on a regular basis. Williams is looking for wealth and fame.
Bruce Lee’s infectious charisma and smart sense of humor come through in his vivid facial expressions. Lee’s catlike agility and blinding speed during fight sequences with numerous attackers arrive with high-pitched animal sounds. His character’s killer instinct is tempered by a brutal brand of empathy he expresses as he stamps the life out of his opponents. Precise attention to Lee’s form-fitting costumes fetishizes his dynamic onscreen personality. James Bond has nothing on Bruce Lee’s super-action spy.
“Enter the Dragon” was released just six days after Bruce Lee’s death on July 20, 1973 due to an allergic reaction to medication. His untimely demise was made all the more tragic for what “Enter the Dragon” promised the genre of martial arts cinema. Never before or since has a martial arts actor excited audiences as much as Bruce Lee.
SMILEY — TRAILER
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK - TRAILER
THE SAINTS MOTHERFUCKERS
CLASSIC FILM POSTERS: ROSEMARY'S BABY
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Hampered by a feeble script from writer-director Lorene Scafaria, “Waiting for the End of the World” doesn’t know whether it’s a comedy, tragedy, or romantic drama. The fairly inert movie adds yet more veracity to the reputation of Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” as the best apocalypse film to come along.
As in “Melancholia,” the end of the planet looms large on the horizon. An asteroid is on a certain collision course with Earth. Impact is due to occur in precisely two weeks time. Steve Carell shows a remarkable lack of comic character as Dodge, a sweater wearing — read “nerdy” — insurance salesman whose wife takes off with another man. Lucky for Dodge, his next-door neighbor Penny (Keira Knightly) is on the outs with her own less-than-desirable mate. Dodge and Penny team up more than hook up. The semi-romantically inclined duo set off on a road trip to track down Dodge’s long lost high-school girlfriend Olivia. If the journey happens to forge a reunion with his disenfranchised father (Martin Sheen), it comes as a minor consolation prize.
Other members of American society are busy looting, rioting, or hunkering down in readymade bunkers. Some of Dodge’s friends host a dinner party aimed at instigating an orgy to enable its participants to get off with whosoever they choose. Naturally, Dodge is too much of a prude to even consider such ribald activity. Too bad, since such messy sexual activity could have injected some much needed energy into the film’s blasé tone.
Keira Knightly is a fun actress to watch. Even in a movie where the story seems to fall apart around her, Knightly makes things interesting. Apocalypse movies have become a lot more common in the past year. If you’re keeping score, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is at best a guilty pleasure thanks to Keira Knightly’s presence. At worst, it’s a movie that bides its audience’s time on the way to certain death.
Rated R. 100 mins. (C) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)
MY FAVORITE BRITS: ALISON GOLDFRAPP
Kino Classics: The Last of England