Saturday, September 28, 2019

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Synopsis: Surprisingly incompetent hero discovers San Francisco’s Chinatown is riddled with underground temples and dungeons and infested with strange, mythical creatures.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “High adventure in an underground kingdom!”
What Did I Learn?: A brave man likes the feel of nature on his face….and a wise man has enough sense to get out of the rain. 2) Sorcery is real and it always begins very small. 3) When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye and reply: “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”
Really?: See: “Synopsis.” and "Blurb from the VHS Jacket." Seriously, Big Trouble is a larger-than-life action-fantasy-comedy that gleefully demolishes the boundaries of narrative credibility, but I’d like to point out that: a) Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) doesn’t look particularly Chinese, b) I have no idea why Wang (Dennis Dun) somehow feels he needs Jack’s (Kurt Russell) help to rescue Miao, considering the former is quite an accomplished martial arts expert, and Jack is more of a blustering goofball, and c) it’s awfully convenient how Jack and Wang somehow bump into Gracie (Kim Cattrall) at the airport, and she later (and independently) joins their team.
Rating: Big Trouble in Little China is a roller coaster ride of a movie that’s built around an extremely wacky plot and a very funny performance from Russell that owes a lot more to John Wayne than the Clint Eastwood impression he adopted in Escape from New York. Big Trouble is a fun little romp, but the story doesn’t make a lot of sense and it tends to drag near the end. 7/10 stars.

Hghlander (1986)

Synopsis: Sean Connery plays an older tough guy who assists a wet-behind-the-ears hero take on a dangerous criminal….no, that’s the Synopsis for The Untouchables. Um…Scottish lad engages in risky behavior, yet somehow manages to cheat death and outwit a psycho….no, that’s Trainspotting. Badass with a cool weapon travels to mysterious, far-away city to battle a great evil….no, that’s Krull.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Connor MacLeod is a Scot who should have died in 1536. But he belongs to a rare race of immortals that can only be killed when beheaded by a sword.”
What Did I Learn?: 1) Love is for poets. 2) Cops can’t read. 3) There can be only one!
Really?: 1) So, let me see if I get this straight…Ramirez (Sean Connery, who gets second-billing but doesn’t actually appear until about 45 minutes into the movie) has no idea how the immortals were created, or where they came from, but he knows everything about the gathering and the so-called prize. 2) Speaking of the prize, that’s it? Connor loses his immortality, and feels a oneness with all living creatures? How would the Kurgan have used that to enslave humanity? 3) I’m a little unclear about this whole immortality thing… I can understand Connor and others like him being impervious to drowning, stab wounds, falls, and such but what would happen if he were to be thrown into a wood-chipper, or if he found himself at Ground Zero during an atomic bomb explosion? How could he survive either of those gruesome deaths?
Rating: I hadn’t watched Highlander since the late 1980s, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The film features some stylish sword-fighting action sequences and a highly imaginative story, and I quite liked the interplay between Connery and Lambert when they’re together in Scotland. On the other hand, the plot is predictable and chock full of holes, and Lambert isn’t the world’s greatest actor – at least not in English. 6/10 stars.

Panic (2000)

Synopsis: William H. Macy plays a sad-sack ordinary guy who runs afoul of organized crime….no, that’s the Synopsis for The Cooler. Um… likeable killer sees a shrink….no, that’s Analyze This. Badass son confronts not-so-nice father about his reluctance to work in the family business. Nope, that’s Return of the Jedi.
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “A story of family, lust, murder….and other midlife crises.” 
What Did I Learn?: Every man has a destiny. Life is not…random. 2) If you’re going to kill somebody, keep it fast-and-simple, don’t meet the victim’s eyes, just walk up, do the job and walk away. 3) The Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines action-comedy Running Scared didn’t leave much of an impression on moviegoers.
Really?: 1) So, Alex (Macy) is a professional assassin who lives a boring middle-class life lifestyle with a wife and a son (don’t these guys charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for a hit?), and he suddenly develops a conscience in his mid-40s? 2) I’m curious: why does Alex’s dad, Michael (Donald Sutherland) browbeat Alex into murdering his psychologist, even to the point of spilling the beans to Martha? Why doesn’t he do it himself? He clearly stalked Dr. Parks (John Ritter) to snap a photograph. 3) I had a bit of trouble believing that Sarah (Neve Campbell) would somehow fall for a somewhat-older man with a less-than-dynamic personality when she apparently spends most of her free time banging hot chicks. 4) How did Michael develop his unusual business? Who are his clients - and his victims? Has he or Alex ever run afoul of the law?  How do they take assignments? I think some of these details should have been fleshed out. 5) Wow…that is one precocious kid…
Rating: Panic is an interesting character-driven thriller (I’m not sure how else to describe this film) that features a fine performance from Macy, and a highly impressive cast, but somehow misses its mark. Panic has a few credibility issues (see: “Really?”) but it’s biggest problem is that it fails to adequately resolve a number of key relationships, and I’m not convinced that the one between Alex and Sarah is even necessary. 6.5/10 stars.

Worth Winning (1989)

Synopsis: Mark Harmon stars in a pointless, badly-written B-movie….sorry, that’s the Synopsis for Stealing Home. Um… narcissistic Pennsylvania weatherman must grow up if he wants to win the love of a cultured, sophisticated woman….no, that’s Groundhog Day. Charming operator solicits marriage proposals for personal gain….no, that’s Heartbreakers. Creepy weirdo who doesn't have to worry about money throws caution to the wind to pursue the woman of his dreams….no, that’s 10.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “An engaging comedy about a bachelor and three near Mrs.” 
What Did I Learn?: Poetic justice doesn’t feel so good. 2) A hero should accomplish something. 3) A beautiful woman is one of the loneliest creatures on the face of the Earth. 4) Without suffering, you don’t grow. 5) There wouldn’t be great sex if we didn’t have awful sex.
Really?: 1) So, Taylor (Harmon) is so good-looking and charming that he can somehow date an attractive woman’s roommate and then manipulate her into apologizing to him for complaining about it? Or somehow get back into Veronica’s (Madeleine Stowe) good graces after a night of bad sex? I don’t think so. 2) At some point mid-way through the movie, Taylor casually asks Ned if he’s given any thought to his plan’s possible impact on other people, and neither of them seem terribly interested in providing an answer. Holy shit, Ned seriously bets his wife’s Picasso that Taylor can’t seduce three difficult women into accepting marriage proposals – and he does this to “help” his old buddy. How are we supposed to sympathize with either of these wackos? This is sick, sociopathic behavior. 3) Just curious: does Taylor still have a job after Veronica dumps him at the altar and he goes into a deep, blue funk for a month? 4) I’m pretty sure Taylor’s proposal to Elinore was just pillow talk, and how can Taylor allow Ned to interfere without scotching the wager? 5) Wow…Andrea Martin doesn’t have much of a part, does she?
Rating: Worth Winning is a lame, unfunny and deservedly-forgotten late-1980s rom com. Even the usually-likeable Harmon can’t bring any life to Worth Winning’s bad script, as his character is incredibly smug and shallow until sometime in the third act. I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars.
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: No, but take a drink any time you think Ned should lose his psychiatric licence. (The worst thing that happens to him is he upsets his wife and must apologize to her).