I was recently asked to participate in a “Scream” retrospective podcast in anticipation of the latest installment of the franchise. To brush up, I revisited the original and its two sequels after not having seen them for years.
What I had noticed was that, after years of sequels, spoofs, sequels to those spoofs, rip-offs and cinematic references, I had forgotten most of the primary films’ essentials. My memories were clouded with lesser films and the mocking send-ups of some of the original’s more climactic moments. Continue reading →
Two former box-office titans battled for relevancy doing what they are known best for in a market that has, at times, met their new releases with utter indifference. For Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups,” he herds up his usual suspects for a comedy about embracing (?) their ages. For Tom Cruise’s new vehicle, “Knight and Day,” he relies on his action hero roots, which have proved his bread and butter.
They both entered the race being bested by a gaggle of animated toys, but if either film were a clue as to what’s in store for their next chapters in their careers, they better look at some high-profile cameos on TV, pronto. Continue reading →
How am I supposed to uphold my tough-guy image when you reduce me to such a mess with virtually every release.
‘Field of Dreams‘ used to be the benchmark in getting choked up for a film, then came Toy Story in 1995. After that, an endless parade of heart-in-the pictures followed that have literally left me with pumpkin-sized protrusions in the throat.
‘Toy Story 3’ is just the latest example of their ability to wring emotions in essentially every frame. Continue reading →
My Cousin Vinny (PG-13)
Dale LaunerDirected by:
Joe Pesci as Vinny
Marissa Tomei as Mona Lisa
Fred Gwynne as Judge Chamberlain
Ralph Macchio as Billy
Mitchell Whitfield as Stan
Austin Pendleton John Gibbons
Lane Smith as Jim Trotter III
Bruce McGill as Sheriff Dean
Pre-screening memories: Take one part Family-Friendly Home Invader, one part Rookie Martial Artist, and one part George Costanza Fantasy Object and you’ve got the formula for a movie Young Scott would have drooled over. And did. No distinct “initial Cousin Vinny screening” memories to speak of but I have plenty of memories of the film since then. My favorite Vinny memory is when I talked My Conservative Mother into watching this R-rated film with me with promises that probably sounded like “There’s nothing bad in it, maybe a little language.” My Conservative Mother enjoyed the movie then but denies it now.
Pesci and Tomei’s characters are incredibly unforgettable. The thick accents, Years after having seen it last, the most memorable scenes are undoubtedly the most mundane. Discussions on regional mud or how to properly prepare grits not only make for humorous dialogue but each play a pivotal role in the court case at the center of the film. Macchio, on the other hand, plays a not-so-memorable character whose friend and co-defendant is even more so. But they all serve their purpose and at the end of the day, you’ve got a movie that Scott, young and old, drools over.
New memories: The writing is so tight! Every little scene you think is unimportant or menial turns out to be a part of this gigantic puzzle. Vinny is right up there with that episode of “Law & Order” where those people stumble upon a dead body at the beginning. Herman Munster (his human name escapes me) is fantastic as the Southern judge with a distaste for shenanigans.
And of course, this movie is famous for the Oscar award that followed. The Academy and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye (Diane Lane in Unfaithful. Anyone? Anyone?) and with all the trash talk aimed towards them over Tomei’s win, I figured that the list of her competitors would be shocking and undeniably more deserving of statues. That’s what I figured until I read this list:
Miranda Richardson – Damage
Joan Plowright – Enchanted April
Vanessa Redgrave – Howard’s End
Judy Davis – Husbands and Wives
First, I have no idea who Miranda Richardson is.
Second, never heard of Damage either
C. Joan Plowright was great as Mrs. Wilson in the Dennis the Menace movie.
D. What’s Enchanted April?
Fifth, I won’t way anything bad about Vanessa Redgrave but Howard’s End is a 140-minute period piece romance taking place at the turn of the century. Which century, you ask? Not the twenty-first, I can tell you that.
E. Judy Davis? For Husbands and Wives? Thanks for trying, maybe next never.
So, these were the women who everyone thought should beat Marissa Tomei? The early 90s were an odd time for us all but this is just silly.
We once again welcome Jonathan Lynn, who actually knows a thing or two about law, having earned his degree years prior to his involvement in entertainment. Here, he chats about the casting process of Vinny, the prospective of an Englishman directing culture clashes between the States’ North and South, who was originally supposed to play Vinny, and the various rumors that have surrounded the film.
Find out about Vinny’s legacy as well as Lynn’s favorite scene in this particular podcast, and we are thankful to Mr. Lynn for hanging with us once again.
Sheldon LettichWritten by:
S.N. Warren (story)
Jean Claude Van Damme (screenplay)
Jean Claude Van Damme as Leon
Harrison Page as Joshua
Debra Rennard as Cynthia
Lisa Pelikan as Helene
Ashley Johnson as Nicole
Pre-screening memories: I was old enough, when seeing Lionheart for the first time, that I can’t call it one of the most important formative movies of my childhood. True, I wasn’t a fan of martial arts films before seeing it, and afterwards I became something of a devotee of Van Damme’s, but the most vital part of the film for my developing fandom was that it reinforced the lesson, first taught by Tim Curry’s performance in the movie Clue, that following an actor from project to project would
A: Never disappoint, because if nothing else, you at least get to see a performance by someone whose work you enjoy, and
B: could possibly lead to discovering something fantastic.
Which is my circuitous way of saying that my passion for the TV show Sledge Hammer! led directly to my lifelong love of watching people kicking other people in the face. Still inconsolable two full years after Sledge Hammer’s cancellation, seeing Harrison Page show up in television ads for upcoming film ‘Lionheart’ made me determined to see the film, which was rated a forbidding R, ensuring that I wouldn’t make it to the theatres.
When I finally saw the film on video it didn’t disappoint. Not only was Harrison Page fantastic in the film, but the action was unlike anything I’d seen in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies that dominated my childhood, or even the occasional episode of Kung Fu. After all, who needed a machine gun when you could just spin really fast and crack someone across the jaw with your heel? A lifelong fan of the genre was born, as well as a devotee of Van Damme’s ‘all downhill from here’ ouevre.
New memories: I’m frankly amazed by how good this movie was. Not having seen it in years, I’d assumed that it was going to be one of those embarrassingly Natsukashi moments (that’s how you use that word, right?) where I’d created an epic action extravaganza in my mind that never actually existed – this was certainly not the case. The action certainly wasn’t up to modern choreographic standards, but everything else about the film was far better than I’d remembered.
That’s right, what impressed me most about the film was that it worked, first and foremost, as a drama. Sounds crazy, right? Van Damme’s a pretty limited actor, especially at this fresh-faced stage of his career, before that personal and professional setbacks that would reduce him to the withered husk of ‘JCVD’, but damn if it doesn’t work in this part, as a simply good, almost naïve man struggling his way through the seamy world of underground fighting. He’s helped on this journey by the even-better-than-I-remembered-it performance of Harrison Page, who provides perhaps the most raw, vulnerable, and downright emotional performance I’ve ever seen in an action film. The way his Joshua starts out sad, defeated and desperate and gradually finds a kind of purpose and nobility in training Leon is a great character arc, and it brings him to a moment, right at the end, which is unlike anything I’ve seen in an American action film.
The other thing that amazed me about the movie (other than the fact that it’s a semi-remake of Midnight Cowboy – Who knew?) was the aspect that likely affected me most as a youngster, and that’s the utter contempt that the film shows for the upper classes who are funding the brutal no-holds-barred fights. If the film’s battles aren’t the most spectacular thing ever, their settings are absolutely stunning, and steeped in subtext. Van Damme’s first professional fight is in a parking garage beneath an office building, literally taking place in the underbelly of New York’s wealth-obsessed establishment. From there the action moves out to LA, but the satirical settings don’t stop – there’s a huge pool in a beachside mansion, a squash court, and a ring constructed from the luxury automobiles of the elite who have come to watch men beat each other nearly to death. This all leads up to the final battle which takes place well within the closed walls of the upper-class, a tennis court around the back of a palatial estate. The entire film works as an attack on the kind of people who commoditize human beings, and if the message gets a little heavy-handed at times (and it does), at least the movie was trying to say something important, unlike just about all of its brethren.
I loved Lionheart as a child. As an adult, crazy as it may seem, I respect it.
Fascinated by film at an early age, Harrison sought the Hollywood dream after serving in the military.
He began, as most starting in the business do, by snagging small roles on television, film and stage. And looking back, has amassed a resume in an astonishing amount of popular shows, including C.P.O. Sharkey, Webster, HillStreetBlues, Fame, 21JumpStreet, TheWonderYears, QuantumLeap (which earned him an Emmy nod), MelrosePlace, AllyMcBeal, ER, JAG, and ColdCase, to name but a few.
But it was his role in the cult classic series SledgeHammer! (yes, the exclamation point was in the title) that cemented him into certified pop culture status. In it, he played Captain Trunk, the Pepto-Bismal-swilling, beleaguered head of a police department featuring the titular vigilante office (played by David Rasche). (Ed. note– If you are not putting this series on your Netflix queue this very moment, we don’t want to know you.)
Harrison spoke about his time spent on the set with a young Van Damme, his fond memories of Sledge, and the wisdom he’s amassed in his four decades of Hollywood. Thanks, Harrsion, from your pals at Natsukashi.