Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Elementary my dear......Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Quite possibly the most famous fictitious character in all of literature is Sherlock Holmes. The first published work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation dates all the way back to 1887, and most people young and old are at least aware of the pipe smoking super sleuth and his sidekick Dr. John A. Watson. There have been four novels and fifty six short stories by Doyle, but countless other variations from other writers throughout the years. His popularity has translated to radio, television, and over two hundred appearances on film with Guy Ritchie's take hitting screens this Christmas. I'll admit to having never read any of the classic stories, and my first exposure to the detective came with 1985's "Young Sherlock Holmes." Directed by Barry Levinson of "Rain Man" fame, it's a totally off canon piece that suggests that Holmes and Watson met as young boys at a London boarding school and became entangled in their first murder mystery.

Revealing too much of the plot would totally spoil the many joys this film has to offer. Let's just say that there is a murderer on the loose at the Brompton Academy whose weapon of choice is a poison dart that drives victims to suicide with its toxic hallucinatory effects. These murder sequences are the standout moments of the piece and boast some truly memorable (even by today's standards) visual effects such as a stained glass window coming to life and terrorizing a priest.

All the special effects shenanigans would be for naught without the solid performances of the leads. Nicholas Rowe plays Sherlock as the cocky uber intelligent person you'd think he would be at that age, and Alan Cox (son of Brian Cox) is solid as the loveable albeit clumsy Watson.

The talent involved bringing this story to life is astounding. Chris Columbus (Goonies/Gremlins/Harry Potter) wrote the story, and none other than John Lasseter of Pixar fame helped put the F/X together. Don't be suprised if while watching it, you feel that the material would be right at home in an Indiana Jones tale. This is due to the fact that Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment produced it. Over twenty years later, this film still holds up as fantastic celluloid magic. If you have any interest in the upcoming Holmes adventure, let "Young Sherlock Holmes" serve as the warm up act!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

He's like the wind.....Swayze 1952-2009

Throughout the 80's and early 90's, Patrick Swayze was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. In later years his popularity waned, but we will always remember him for being an extremely charismatic actor that left us some truly memorable entertainment on the big screen. Here are some of the films that I feel best represent his impact.

The Outsiders

If you were a teenager during this decade, then you no doubt saw him in 1983's "The Outsiders" playing Darrel the oldest of three brothers struggling to keep his family together after the death of their parents. He didn't have the biggest part in the story, but Outsiders was more of an ensemble piece anyways with guys like Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, and blink or you'll miss him Tom Cruise all contributing to what is still a fantastic film.

Red Dawn

In 1984 he played a former high school football star turned guerrilla in "Red Dawn." I remember Dawn for being one of the first PG-13 movies. It's a violent tale of kids rebelling against a Russian invasion of the U.S. that seems outdated now a days, but if you just consider it a "what if" story, it still holds up as a fine action film. I hear rumblings that it's going to be re-made, and that means that it will probably suck. Why tarnish the classic image of C. Thomas Howell standing on the hill with his AK-47 shouting out the name of their school mascot.........."WOLVERINES!"

Road House

One of my favorite guilty pleasures of his era was 1989's "Road house." A total redneck fest that reminded us of simpler times when men wore mullets and settled their differences with their fists instead of guns. Swayze plays Dalton, the all wise uber-bouncer who is hired to clean up a shit hole bar and maintain the peace so the local hillbillies can booze it up in peace. Throw in Sam Elliot as the older wiser mentor and you have youself a knucklebusting good ole time! Who can forget that final duel between Dalton and Evil-neck? Evil-neck has Dalton seemingly down for the count and delivers one of the greatest machismo bad guy taunts ever......."I used to fuck guys like you in prison"......classic! Swayze retaliates and delivers one of the great all time bad buy dispatches with the deadly throat rip........double classic! See the fight for yourself and suck in all that testosterone bitch!


So basically the guys responsible for "Airplane" and "The Naked Gun" were going to make a romantic supernatural thriller starring Swayze and Demi Moore? I questioned whether Jerry Zucker was the right director for this, but all of my doubts were quickly dispatched when I saw the final product. 1990's "Ghost" was a great date movie almost guaranteed to get you laid afterwards. Swayze plays Sam Wheat, a man who is murdered and must track down his killer from beyond the grave. This movie had a little bit of everything going for it. Whoopi Goldberg provided a lot of laughs, Demi provided hotness, and Tony Goldwyn was a great bad guy. There's a reason this film made over half a billion dollars in world wide box office, it's that frigging good.

Point Break

Another action role and Swayze delivered again with 1991's "Point Break." As Bodi, the surfer turned bank robber, it was great to see him switch roles and play the villain of the piece instead of the hero. Bodi was an adrenaline junkie who enjoyed taking his friends and enemies to the edge of death and back. When he finds out that Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is an undercover F.B.I. agent on his tail, he gets an even bigger rush out of the cat and mouse game that ensues. Action fans can catch the waves and really hang 10 with this one!

I know.......I know........I failed to mention "Dirty Dancing," but clever people will see reference to that in the title of the post. With the passing of Patrick, we lost another great entertainer whose body of work remains to make us smile for years to come. "the love inside you.........take it with you!".........Sam Wheat

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Michael Keaton: THE Best Batman on film.....period.

I know that at this point in Batman's cinematic life we are all supposed to be creaming our pants becauase of what Nolan has done to re-invent the franchise. Nothing wrong with that at all, he made two damn fine movies and in the case of "The Dark Knight" I'd easily say that it is one of the greatest sequels ever made hands down. Now having said that, and given myself a little time and distance from the Nolan-verse, I decided to go back and revisit Tim Burton's take on Gotham City and the freaks who inhabit its dark alleys. I came to two conclusions. The first being that the 1989 "Batman" is still an amazing movie (also my favorite Batman movie)and can be looked back upon as the first dark super hero tale brought to the silver screen. The second is that Michael Keaton is, was, and always will be my favorite Batman.

Not very many people (myself included) thought that Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice would be a good choice to don the cowl and patrol the rooftops of Gotham. I remember hearing about the casting choice pre-internet days and thoughts of the campy tv series immediately popped into my head. But the moment you saw him kicking the shit out of a couple of low lifes......Keaton vanished.......there was only Batman and the immediate realization that this was the moment the Dark Knight was born on film.

The evidence is actually pretty overwhelming in Keaton's favor. I know Clooney and Kilmer had their time, but I don't even count those turd-biscuit films so it boils down to a contest between Bale and Keaton. It's kind of like the old who is a better James Bond debate. A lot of actors played that role, but it usually ends up being an argument about Connery or Moore. (Moore please thank you) So in the argument for Keaton we must simply let the facts make the case.

The first thing that I notice is that Bale's Batman though he is a trained ninja, is kind of a pussy. I'm not sure where Batbale's code of never killing the bad guy came from, but it sucks balls. When Keaton was cornered, he had no trouble shoving a timebomb down a guys pants.....dropping a hoodlum several stories down to his doom.....or incinerating some schmuck dumb enough to stand behind the batmobile's jet engine. Bale actually saves the Joker....fuck that. Keaton had no problem bat-roping the Joker's leg to a gargoyle and letting him fall to his death. Winner.......Keaton

The next thing that concerns me is the voice of Batman. It seems that a lot of people are really bothered by what Bale does with his personification. It's like he's trying too hard to talk like a badass. One can argue that Batman is a separate personality so the voice should be noticibly different than Bruce Wayne's. I have also heard that in post production they intentionally mucked with Bale's voice to make it even angrier sounding. The fact that people notice this at all is a strike against Batbale. When I go back and listen to Keaton....I only hear Batman. I know that he is doing something different with his voice......but it doesn't stand out. I have never heard anybody complain about what Keaton did with the bat-vocals. Winner.......Keaton again.

suttle......yet effective

overkill perhaps???? you be the judge.

Now let's talk about poon-tang for a bit. I know Batbale is seen a few times scoring hot models and dancers, but as far as hooking a righteous....intelligent....gorgeous piece of ass with possible relationship implications, we again cannot ignore the facts. Katie Holmes while cute with her puppy dog eyes.......does not stand a chance against 80's era goddess Kim Basinger. No argument attempted or allowed. In TDK it's a different actress, same character, same outcome. I think Maggie Gyllenhaal is a fine actress. Not super hot or anything, but attractive nonetheless. Bale doesn't even bed the wench in the film so that should make him the loser from the get go right? Wrong. The reason Batbale loses here is because nothing they could have done would have been hotter than Michelle Pfeiffer in the dominatrix catsuit licking Batman's face......meow!
Winner.......Keaton by a landslide!

Bow before the goddess!

Pfeiffer....just all kinds of delicious naughty!

As far as Bruce Wayne goes, they are being portrayed in two different points in their lives. Bale is a younger cockier man while Keaton is older and wiser so it's difficult to say one is actually better than the other here. I like what both actors do. Winner.........it's a draw.

Overall each actor brings a unique approach to the table, perhaps nostalgia kicks in a little and makes me biased towards Keaton, but Bale is a new comtemporary Batman and I very much look forward to another outing with him donning the tights. If they were to ever adapt Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" into a movie......I would drool at the prospect of an older Keaton bringing the tale of a retired Batman to the screen! Now lets talk Joker...the best one is definately........ah hell....that's a whole another post!!!!