Archive for the ‘Nick Nolte’ Category

In the realm of faceless people writing about movies from the safety of the internet, I like to think I’m one of the more reasonable you’ll find. But I could be wrong. (See?) It’s a point that’s come up before, but it bears repeating: Unlike most people who write about movies online, I’ve spent A LOT of time working in all corners of the film and television industries in virtually every position there is. I know well how hard people work, around the clock, to bring every show to an audience. I try not to take that hard-earned knowledge lightly. Besides, I have friends who still work in film and TV, and I’m not even all the way out myself. I try mighty hard not to put anything on a computer screen that I don’t feel ready to say to someone’s face. On top of all of that, I grew up with movies. I love this stuff as much now as I did when I was young — if not more. It doesn’t make me happy to be unkind. I’m in this to share my enthusiasm, plain and simple.

All of that said, and try as I might, it’s way harder to find new ways to be nice. It’s certainly harder to be funny that way. And sometimes, a movie is put in front of me about which I just can’t find much nice to say and still remain honest.

These are the movies that forced me to be unkind.

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This is from August 5th, 2010:

It’s true.  I’ve seen Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore.  It really happened.  I was on a pretty good streak of seeing really solid movies there for a while, and such streaks are inevitably made to be broken.  The real reason why this occurred is that I am uncle to an adorable niece and I am bound by my will to honor her every request, within reason.  Hopefully the rest of you love the children in your lives significantly less.  Just this once, love is not the answer.

This Cats & Dogs movie is nominally a sequel to the previous movie called Cats & Dogs, but I’m not sure that there’s any kind of story to follow.  The first movie came out in 2001, which makes the gap between movies comparable to the time James Cameron took between Titanic and Avatar.  But whereas Cameron spent all that time working on new technologies and designing a movie that would appeal to the widest audience possible, Cats & Dogs does the opposite.  If anything, it seems like the makers of Cats & Dogs spent nine years accumulating all the crappy dog and cat puns in the world.  Seriously, I haven’t seen a movie with this many crappy puns since Batman & Robin, and we all know how that one went.

I’m not even going to bother recapping the plot for you, because… who cares?  The dogs and the cats are in some secret war, where this one police dog (voice of James Marsden) gets recruited by the dog side to stop this one evil cat (voice of Bette Midler), but it’s really all just an endless, crappy, James Bond riff.  Now there’s an original fount of comedy; no one’s ever spoofed James Bond before.  (Besides only Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, Fathom, the original Casino Royale, The Pink Panther, Get Smart, For Your Height Only, The Cannonball Run, Austin Powers, just about every cartoon ever made, and probably every third episode of Family Guy… just for starts.)  Can you possibly feel good about yourself as a creative person if you’re doing sustained James Bond spoofs in the year 2010?  Do you realize that kids, your target audience, don’t get the joke?  Do you realize that kids don’t actually find animal puns all that funny?  No, they don’t!  But more on that in a second.

Some of the voice cast is done by actors who I actually like (usually), such as Christina Applegate, Nick Nolte, Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Clarke Duncan, and comedian Katt Williams, but let’s face it, they’re all just cashing paychecks here.  And those people who complain about cartoons being aimed too much towards adults these days might be reassured by this movie.  There was nothing for me here.  There is nothing here for any fan of these performers.  Having Christina Applegate in a movie doesn’t do any good if I can’t look at her.  Having Nick Nolte in a movie doesn’t do any good if he doesn’t growl, “Damnit Reggie!” every once in a while.  Having Katt Williams in a movie will surely disappoint his many fans if he’s not allowed to use the N-word.  I mean, you see the name Katt Williams in the credits, and it’s fair to expect that the N-Word is going to happen.  I’m not saying that it’s right, or that anyone should feel good about it, but devil’s advocate:  Would this movie be any better if the pigeon voiced by Katt Williams was running around saying the N-word?  Well no, but it couldn’t have been any worse either.

So grown-ups will be miserable; that’s a given.  Then again, this movie isn’t not really for kids either.  It leans heavily on butt-sniffing humor, which seems to be leaning dangerously close to gay-panic humor at moments.  (The Bette Midler fans in the audience won’t dig it.)  The movie comes close to insinuating an interspecies romance. There’s a scene with stoner cats.  Good luck explaining that one to your kids.  The human performances are wincingly bad, particularly Jack McBrayer, who really better hope, employment-wise, that 30 Rock stays on the air for as long as possible.  But I’d rather cringe at human behavior than have to ponder the questionable morality of putting words in animals’ mouths.  It’s one thing if we humans decide to act like dickheads – at least that’s a choice – but these dogs and cats are not being given the option over how they’re portrayed.  I know it’s a big-philosophy question, but if this movie doesn’t have a brain in its head, that doesn’t mean I have to turn mine off.

Besides all that, here’s the only review you need.  On the way into the theater, my niece tugged at my hand and smiled, “This is going to be the greatest movie I ever seened!”

After twenty minutes or so, the fidgeting started.  Then it turned into full-blown roaming.  Somehow we made it through the whole thing.  But.

On the way out, she turned to me and said, “I don’t want to see Cats & Dogs again!”

This is a kid who can tolerate more hours of Dora The Explorer than even the toughest guy in the county (her uncle) can handle, and this one she couldn’t stand.  I think I just inadvertently told you that we’d both rather watch Dora The Explorer.  There can be no more dire condemnation of a supposed kids’ movie than that.

Happier news, usually, at: @jonnyabomb

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And we’re back!  Ready for round two.  Inspired again by my friend-in-movies at Rupert Pupkin Speaks, I’m re-presenting and reshuffling my top fifty movies of all time.  “Reshuffling” sounds a little more extreme than what I’ve done here — most of the titles remain the same, and the order isn’t much different.  But there’s a fair amount of new blood, and I’ve updated the links to any movies I’ve written about at length (those are bolded in red.) 

This list is absolutely subject to change, so keep watching this space, but while you’re at it, don’t forget to keep watching the skies.

1. THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY (1966).

2. GHOSTBUSTERS (1984).

3. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978).

4.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968).

5.  UNFORGIVEN (1992).

6.  KING KONG (1933).

7.  PREDATOR (1987).

8.  MANHUNTER (1986).

9.  BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986).

10.  MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976).

11.  John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982).

12.  HEAT (1995).

13.  FREAKS (1932).

14. JAWS (1975).

15.  Berry Gordy’s THE LAST DRAGON (1985).

16.  THE WILD BUNCH (1969).

17.  SHAFT (1971).

18.  BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984).

19.  THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966).

20.  SEA OF LOVE (1989).

21. RAISING ARIZONA (1987).

22.  EVIL DEAD 2 (1987).

23.  OUT OF SIGHT (1998).

24.  THE INSIDER (1999).

25.  ALLIGATOR (1980).

26.  COLLATERAL (2004).

27.  THE GREAT SILENCE (1968).

28.  AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).

29.  MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946).

30.  CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954).

31. PRIME CUT (1972).

32. WATERMELON MAN (1970).

33.  GROSSE POINTE BLANK (1997).

34.  25th HOUR (2002).

35.  COFFY (1973).

36. QUICK CHANGE (1990).

37.  MAGNOLIA (1999).

38.  HANNIE CAULDER (1971).

39. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981).

40.  48 HRS. (1982).

41.  GOODFELLAS (1990).

42.  SHOGUN ASSASSIN (1980).

43.  PURPLE RAIN (1984).

44.  THE UNHOLY THREE (1925).

45.  TRUE GRIT (2010).

46.  THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

47.  VIOLENT CITY aka THE FAMILY (1973).

48.  THE HIT (1984).

49.  EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE (1973).

50.  ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011).

50 1/2.  The five-minute skeleton swordfight in JASON & THE ARGONAUTS (1963).

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And that’s that…. for now.

For a little bit more all the time, find me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

 

48 Hrs. is the midnight movie this weekend at IFC Center in New York City.  This movie is important for what it represents in the continuum of American action movies, and surprising as a viewing experience if that first point is all you know about it. Directed by essential action auteur Walter Hill and starring Nick Nolte, 48 Hrs. is most famous for introducing film audiences to the comedic A-bomb that was Eddie Murphy, and as a result revolutionizing the politics of action-comedies.

 

 

 

There were buddy-comedies before 48 Hrs. (for example: Freebie And The Bean), and there were black & white crime-fighting duos before 48 Hrs. (for example: the Hill-scripted Hickey & Boggs), but the violent electricity generated by Nolte and Murphy in 48 Hrs. is what made the genre an American institution.  It’s impossible to imagine now, but in the years before 48 Hrs., Nick Nolte was a leading man, a pretty-boy, reportedly considered for the role of Superman, and Eddie Murphy was absolutely no one.  What you have in this movie is Nolte, cresting forty and heading towards the grizzled character-actor persona that he’s occupied ever since, and Murphy, barely out of his teens, furious, with everything in the world to prove and ready and willing to conquer.  The blond, blue-eyed, middle-American shitkicker and the quick-talking black kid from Brooklyn — the conflict is coded directly into the casting.

 

 

Nolte’s Jack Cates is an embattled detective who is chasing down a pair of cop-killers (James Remar and Sonny Landham).  Needing a lead, he goes to see an imprisoned colleague of one of the criminals, Murphy’s Reggie Hammond.  Jack borrows Reggie away from the penal system for the titular amount of time, and the search begins.  What’s amazing about this plot, and what everyone who hasn’t seen the movie in some time seems to forget, is that this isn’t a comedy plot.  48 Hrs. isn’t a comedy, hardly at all.  It’s a prime-era Walter Hill movie.  It’s a low-down, gritty, ruthless action movie.  The supporting cast includes awesome and fearsome career tough guys, including James Remar (The Warriors), David Patrick Kelly (also The Warriors), Brion James (Blade Runner), Sonny Landham (Predator), and Jonathan Banks (Beverly Hills Cop, more recently Breaking Bad).  Make no mistake, 48 Hrs. is an action movie before and after anything else.  It just happens to feature Eddie Murphy.

 

 

Eddie Murphy was — and still is, somewhere within him — one of the most incendiary comic talents this country has ever seen.  It’s little coincidence that he did such a killer James Brown impression, because he really is the James Brown of comedy.  Just a thorough, unforgettable, timeless talent, and a peerless entertainer right out of the gate.  I mean, I think Eddie only recently turned fifty.  It’s insane to contemplate how young he was when he tore right into the role of Reggie Hammond, singing “Roxanne” by The Police in a jail cell in a hilarious falsetto — one of the more indelible cinematic debuts I could ever name.  Eddie’s every scene lifts the movie into vivid comedy, just by proximity to the supernova of his talent.  In hindsight, that’s why 48 Hrs. is remembered as more of a comedy than it actually is in practice.  Eddie is an absolute firecracker in this movie, completely unintimidated by Nolte’s lurching and barking, giving as good as he gets.  And neither of these guys pulled a single punch — they portrayed two guys who HATE each other.  The dialogue between Jack and Reggie is as vicious as it is funny, and usually more of the former than the latter.  And to this day, their speech is uncompromisingly uncomfortable.  Among plenty of other awful epithets, Jack calls Reggie “nigger”.  To my ear, that’s not enjoyable banter, but it is scarily honest.

 

 

 

That was probably one of Eddie Murphy’s most significant artistic contributions:  As the first comedic superstar of the hip-hop age, he scorched the earth, loudly and with style, and boldly went after the racism that still existed then (and still does today, although just a little bit less as a result of the accomplishments of himself and others).  In 48 Hrs., Eddie Murphy gets the blond, blue-eyed action hero to shout that awful, awful word  — but somehow that’s a weird kind of progress.  Okay, we all heard it, now we know what’s under the blond, blue-eyed surface.  Now it’s out in the open.  Now we can deal with it.  If we don’t acknowledge the sick American shit under the polite veneers, there’ll be no solving it.  Meanwhile, if you’re a little kid watching Eddie in movies, you’re not thinking about any of this specifically.  If you’re a little kid, you just fucking love him.  I know growing up I personally never wanted to be Captain Kirk or Captain America or Luke Skywalker or Han Solo — I wanted to be Axel Foley.  Eddie Murphy brought this rare energy and charismatic anarchy to movies that for all its cultural significance, was also just plain cool.  He was Bugs Bunny come to life.

 

48 HRS.

 

With all that charm, there’s no way that Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond wouldn’t ultimately come to an understanding, a partnership even.  And there’s no way that his performance in 48 Hrs. wouldn’t have made Eddie Murphy a star.

Find me on Twitter: @jonnyabomb