Saturday, June 11, 2016

Heat (1986)

Year 8, Day 163 - 6/11/16 - Movie #2,363

BEFORE: I took the Amtrak train overnight up to Massachusetts, pulling out of Penn Station at 2:40 am. Most of the passengers were more interested in sleeping than anything else, but I tend to stay up late - falling asleep at 2:40 seems quite early to me.  But after attending a Richard Cheese concert on Friday night, where I had a couple of cider drinks, and then eating a big plate of pasta at Sbarro before getting on board the train, I was setting myself up to at least take a nap on the train.  I probably got three hours of sleep, but I think it wasn't very good sleep, because after I reached my parents' house, I slept for another seven.  

During the afternoon I showed my mother the film "Whiplash", since she was a music teacher for 40 years and I wanted to get her take on it.  She liked the music parts, but she wasn't a fan of all the cursing.  Then I took a stab at fixing my parents' internet connection, even though they have a PC and I'm a Mac user.  They got a new cable modem recently, and for whatever reason, it wasn't working well with their laptop.  I've had pretty good luck recently figuring out computer stuff for my new boss, so I figured by googling the topic on my phone, and talking to my sister and brother-in-law (who set up the original wi-fi network in their house) I had a decent shot.  After all, without that laptop, I couldn't post my daily blog review!  

And since you're reading this, you know I was successful.  I figured out how to turn the laptop's wireless connection on, and since the new cable modem had wi-fi instructions, it should have been easy to establish a new network connection between the laptop and the modem.  Only the new modem wasn't showing up as a valid network - after going through a zillion PC control panels and diagnosis boxes, I finally decided to unplug the modem and allow it to reset - bingo, it showed up in the network connections and I made it to the web.  It wasn't pretty, and their security protocols are probably non-existent right now, but jeez, it's not like they've got the nuclear launch codes or Swiss bank account numbers on this PC, my dad just plays solitaire and checks his e-mail, that's about it.

Burt Reynolds carries over for his sixth film in a row, so I'm halfway through this chain.

THE PLOT: Las Vegas is the backdrop for all the torrid action, as Mex is the soft-hearted bodyguard who's out to protect his friends.

AFTER: Ah, it just doesn't get much manlier than Burt Reynolds.  This film plays off a lot of recurring themes lately, like turning the tables on criminals ("52 Pick-Up", "Stick", "Run All Night") and also being the protector of the innocents ("The Equalizer", "A Walk Among the Tombstones").  Meanwhile there's a lot of gambling ("The Cincinnati Kid", "The Champ") and a lot of close-up hand-to-hand fighting ("Taken 3", "John Wick", etc.) and oh yeah, the main character gets framed for murder ("American Gigolo", "Hard Time", "Run All Night").

It's a bit of a constant in these 6 Burt films that he's always the one with the moral compass, it's not that he can do no wrong, it's more like he's got his own personal definition of what is wrong and what is right.  It's OK to beat up or kill someone, as long as they deserve it.  And here that just happens to be anyone who crosses one of his friends, like a call girl who gets roughed up by a mobster and two of his associates.  She goes to see Mex under the auspices of just finding out the guy's name, but she probably knows that he's going to do a lot more to help her, because he feels he has to.

Meanwhile, a rich man from Boston wants to hire Mex as his chaperone, allegedly to keep him from gambling too much at the casinos, but there's another reason he wants to hire Mex.  Let's face it, Mex isn't the best person to keep someone from gambling, since he's a compulsive gambler himself.  Mex has determined that he needs to accrue $100K to retire to Venice for 5 years, and every little job he does gets him one step closer to his financial goal.  But Vegas is a cruel temptress, it's so easy to think that with a few bets, the $10K he has could easily result in the nest egg he needs, that is, provided that the cards come up the way he wants them to.

For a while, I thought Mex was counting cards, but that didn't seem to be the case.  He might have just had a run of good luck at blackjack.  The thing about runs of good luck, though, is that they always end.  And if you don't stop playing when you're up, you may not see in advance that the run's about to be over.  And then you can't be friends with that dealer any more.

Will Mex ever be able to put aside enough money to get to Venice, and to do it in a way where the mob won't come after him?  I must admit, I was more interested than usual in finding out the answer.

Also starring Karen Young (last seen in "Daylight"), Peter MacNicol (last seen in "Battleship"), Howard Hesseman (last seen in "About Schmidt"), Neill Barry, Diana Scarwid, Joe Mascolo, Deborah Rush (last seen in "The Purple Rose of Cairo"), Wendell Burton.

RATING: 6 out of 10 bottles of Perrier

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hard Time: Hostage Hotel

Year 8, Day 162 - 6/10/16 - Movie #2,362

BEFORE: I work two jobs, and for the last few months I've packed a lunchbox with a couple of sandwiches and some chips when I go to the one in Brooklyn, and I usually have a wider variety of lunch choices when I go to the job in Manhattan, which is three times a week.  But the Brooklyn studio I work for recently moved 12 blocks north, still the same neighborhood, Sunset Park, but suddenly I've got access to a couple of Spanish restaurants, some sandwich shops and an entire food court in a nearby complex called Industry City.  Meanwhile it seems like my lunch choices in Manhattan keep dwindling, as various restaurants shut down or undergo renovations, so I feel like I'm just left now with deli sandwiches, Indian food and cheap pizza (99 cents a slice) and I'm getting bored with the same old thing.  There's a salad place around the corner, and pickings have been so slim that I've had to devise a particular combination of salad toppings and dressing (balsamic vinaigrette, plus beets and turkey bacon are absolute musts) that will at least keep me satisfied.  

I could get gourmet fried chicken, or even Cuban food, but those require me to walk an extra 3 blocks, and that's time I don't always have.  And most of the delis around here used to serve hot food platters, (various kinds of meat or stew served over rice, with veggies) but I guess they were losing money on that deal, because most have switched over to serving hot buffet food by the pound, and I always load up the container to the point of it being super-expensive.  Hey, I get hungry.  Two days ago I noticed that one deli sells the buffet food for half-price after 2:30 pm, so I waited until three and then loaded up a container, but it still cost me $11!  Geez, I'd hate to think that if I bought that during the lunch rush, I would have paid $22 for lunch!

What I need to find is a good, cheap hole-in-the-wall lunch place, some place with a counter and some various hot food specials each day.  Just put some meat over rice, maybe a piece of chicken or a couple of ribs, and charge me a reasonable price, like 8 bucks.  Is that too much to ask?  If I can't find that, at this rate I'm going to have to switch things around, and start packing lunches for the days I go in to Manhattan.

Movie #5 in the World of Burt, and I'm wrapping up the "Hard Time" series today... I guess the series got its name from the main character serving time in prison, but they left themselves open to all kinds of jokes - like "I had a hard time enjoying this TV movie!"

THE PLOT:  Logan McQueen has to rescue a congressman's family and Logan's ex-partner from a kidnapper who has taken the group hostage in an old hotel.

AFTER: I swear, it's like the people who were in charge of promoting these three Logan McQueen TV movies couldn't bother to take the time to watch them.  Did the TV audience even care?  The plotline on IMDB says that McQueen has to rescue "a congressman and his family", but the congressman is never, ever in danger in this one, it's just his 2nd wife and his daughter that need rescuing.  Then the poster has this awful tagline: "One night can cost you your life."  But nobody actually STAYS at the hotel in this film, it's a partially renovated hotel, and it's JUST the ballroom that got spiffed up, the rooms of this abandoned hotel weren't cleaned or improved in any way.

(I don't care what kind of a deal you get on Travelocity, do NOT stay at the Hostage Hotel...)

Which, of course, made it a prime location for a disgruntled, disillusioned Vietnam vet to take it over and set up a lot of deathtraps in advance of the Senator's speech there.  He must have had a lot of notice, how did he know the Senator's family was going to be there?  This whole 3-movie series has felt sort of half-ass, with sloppy writing and poorly conceived plots.  Do we ever find out what the crazy veteran's motivation is, who hired him to target the Senator?  Does it even matter?  

Plus, I still don't know what to do with Charles Durning's character, Duffy.  He went from being Logan's partner to being a dirty cop, and then he spent the whole second movie trying to get back on Logan's good side, and then here he and Logan save each other's lives, so I guess they're friends again?  But what about the missing money, he never really gets redeemed for that?  Or did the screenwriter forget to deal with this?  Why not just have him retire from the police force, and waive his pension, which would balance the scales?  Or make a large donation to McQueen's favorite charity?  See, it's easy if you try!

This third film in the series played out like "Die Hard" without any of the fun, and about half the action and suspense.  And the timing is all off, there are long stretches where not much of anything happens, and then everything happens all at once.  Maybe that's just how it feels when you take a 2-hour TV movie and edit out all the commercial breaks?

Also starring Charles Durning (carrying over from "Hard Time: The Premonition"), Michael Buie (ditto), Keith Carradine (last seen in "Cowboys & Aliens")David Rasche (last seen in "The Big Wedding"), Ted McGinley (last seen in "Dick"), Elizabeth Dennehy, Richard Riehle (also carrying over from Hard Time: The Premonition"), Ja'net DuBois (last seen in "Hard Time"), Danielle Harris (last seen in "The Last Boy Scout"), Spencer Garrett, Kevin Durand (last seen in "Winter's Tale"), Debra Christofferson.

RATING: 3 out of 10 FBI jackets

Hard Time: The Premonition

Year 8, Day 161 - 6/9/16 - Movie #2,361

BEFORE: I'm doubling up on these (relatively) short made-for-TV movies with Burt Reynolds, because I'm planning on going up to see my parents this weekend, which means taking the Amtrak overnight train to Boston so I'll arrive on Saturday morning.  If I can't sleep on the train then I may arrive exhausted, which means sleeping through Saturday daytime, which will give me less time to watch movies over the weekend.  Plus I need to double-up twice between now and July 4 in order to get the appropriate film that I want to land there.  Anyway, I've been one movie behind in the count, compared to the number of days in the year so far, so this will even things out.  

Movie #4 in the Burt Reynolds chain, with 8 to go after this one. 

THE PLOT:  Logan McQueen, the hardest and most fearless cop in Florida, faces a series of bombing attacks in Miami, and he ends up getting closer to a convict who says that he is able to foresee the explosions.

AFTER:  I see this sort of plot from time to time, where a good cop gets framed for murder and then we see him have a particularly rough time in prison, because he put so many criminals there himself.  They did it in "Watchmen", and I'm now watching Jim Gordon go through this same situation on the latest season of "Gotham", and dozens of other movies do this sort of thing, too.  But there was a weird relationship in "Hard Time" between Logan McQueen and his mentor/father figure Charlie Duffy, played by Charles Durning.  Duffy was on the take, but McQueen couldn't let him go to prison, he'd never survive it - so he didn't really put up a strong defense and went to jail in his place.  Couldn't he have convinced Duffy to give back the money he took from the mobster, wouldn't that have been a better solution to the problem?  

But there's another reason to send McQueen to jail, and that's to put him in the proximity of a serial killer, who seems to be getting precognitive dreams about car bombings taking place across Miami, making blonde women afraid to start their cars - so why didn't everyone just walk to work for a week?  

If you're going to hire an actor to play a serial killer in jail, you can probably do a lot worse than Bruce Dern.  So there's an obvious nod to "The Silence of the Lambs", as Dern's character falls just short of shouting "Quid pro quo!" as he demands to get a visit from his daughter, in exchange for revealing what he knows about where the bombings are going to happen.

The killer's got a daughter, and she's got her own issues.  But McQueen at least tries to get her to visit her father in the joint, and whether or not it's too convenient that he also falls for her, well, that's for you to decide.  There's an attempt to suggest that she might be the bomber herself, but since she never visits her dad, that wouldn't really explain how he's getting his information, unless he's psychically connected to her - in which case, he wouldn't need for her to come visit, they could just communicate telepathically, which would be handy. 

But since we know the killer's not REALLY psychic, he must be getting this information some other way, and this means that the storyline has to bend over backwards to make this possible, and I'm not sure that in doing so, it provided a valid explanation.  Who, exactly, were the people responsible for the bombing, and why were they blowing up blonde women?  And did it have anything to do with one of them wearing those weird eyeglasses?  Maybe his prescription was driving him crazy... 

NITPICK POINT: McQueen gets a sentence of 1-5 years for murder?  Even for a policeman, that seems kind of short.  Where was the law-and-order district attorney when it was time for his sentencing?  Also, we don't really get to learn how much time he spent in prison, was it one year or five, or somewhere in-between?  Maybe they let you out early if you make friends with people on death row and learn information that can help stop crime on the outside...

NITPICK POINT: The letter fragments left behind at the scene of each bombing - jeez, these bombers leave behind more clues than a Batman villain.  And McQueen is the ONLY person capable of putting 6 pieces together to form three letters?  Nobody else has the capacity to do that?  And what were the letters, what did they spell?  A proper director might consider giving a piece of information to the audience, once in a while.  If not properly explained, this becomes a useless set of clues that goes nowhere. 

Outside of Reynolds and Dern, the majority of the acting here is really poor, Durning is over-the-top and annoying (as usual), and everyone else seems like they're just phoning it in.  Seek this out only if you want to see Burt with long, white hair and wearing a prison jumpsuit.  

And once again, the IMDB got the plot-line wrong - it states that buildings, schools, public places were destroyed by the bombs.  Nope, it was only car bombs - I guess nobody cares enough about made-for-TV movies to, you know, actually watch them and make sure the posted plotline is correct. 
Also starring Charles Durning (carrying over again from "Hard Time"), Bruce Dern (last seen in "Support Your Local Sheriff!"), Gigi Rice (last seen in "The Man"), Michael Buie (also carrying over from "Hard Time"), Roscoe Lee Browne (last seen in "Topaz"), Michael DeLuise, Pepper Sweeney, Richard Riehle (last seen in "The Odd Couple II"), with a cameo from Paul Bartel.  

RATING: 4 out of 10 tattoos