Here are even more old reviews to begin the week.
The Hunt For Red October
This is the first of the movies based on Tom Clancy’s bestsellers featuring the character of Jack Ryan. Alec Baldwin is the first in a series of actors to try his hand at the character. In this movie, CIA analyst Ryan is called upon to assist in the search for a missing, and apparently very advanced, Russian submarine, the Red October. It seems Red October’s captain, Marko Ramius, played by Sean Connery, has decided to deviate from his scheduled course during the sub’s maiden run. The Russians are out to sink the sub because they fear the captain and crew will defect with the sub to the United States. The Americans, on the other hand, are worried that the sub is a rogue and may be bent on attacking the US. It’s up to Ryan to figure out what Ramius’ intentions are and to make contact with him.
Unlike the novel that this movie is based on, the movie doesn’t get bogged down with the endless amounts of techno-jargon that seem to plague Tom Clancy’s work. The movie also benefits from a strong cast and what might be one of Alec Baldwin’s better performances. The Hunt For Red October ranks as one of the best submarine movies of all time.
This is George Clooney’s first big screen starring role. As a first outing it isn’t a bad one, although the story tends to drag a little too much for my liking. Clooney teams up with Nicole Kidman in the search for a missing Soviet nuclear bomb that they fear may be in the hands of terrorists who could be planning on using it against the US. Not a bad movie overall, but as action films go, there are a great many better choices out there. The fact that Clooney and Kidman don’t really have the best on-screen chemistry doesn’t exactly help the film either.
This is the fourth, and very hopefully final, outing of the Alien movies. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is back again, although she is a clone of her former self. The original Ripley bit the dust in the third movie. This time Ripley has been resurrected so her evil employers can try to breed an Alien of their very own. They succeed, but obviously they haven’t seen the first three movies and don’t realize just how nasty they are. The aliens inevitably overpower their creators and run amok on the company spaceship. Guess who has to clean up the mess? Even the writing of Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon isn’t strong enough to breathe new life into this series that should have ended after the second installment.
This is one of those movies that was well below my radar until just a couple of weeks before it came out. We have an ex-military man (Jason Stratham) who now is an expert in transportation - specifically transporting people or things that are a little less than legal. By way of example, the movie opens with the transporter acting as a hired wheel man for a group of bank robbers. But this is no average driver. Think of this transporter as a cross between James Bond and the UPS guy - he will move anything you want in his souped-up BMW just as long as you pay his price. But when one of his parcels ends up being a kidnapped young woman, his life takes a dramatic turn. Good acting and plenty of very good action sequences make this a movie worth checking out during your next trip to the video store.
This is one of those movies that sat on a shelf for a long time. I suspect that if it weren’t for the recent successes of Vin Diesel, this movie would have never seen the light of day. Honestly, it isn’t a bad movie, but considering the cast involved, it could have been much better. Diesel and Seth Green, among others, play wanna-be mobsters. But when given the chance to prove their worth to the higher-ups in the organization by doing a simple delivery, they manage to lose their parcel - a bag full of cash. So they have to travel to a small town and do battle with the corrupt local sheriff in order to retrieve the cash and avoid getting whacked by the real wise guys. Clichés abound in this movie, but it still isn’t the worst mob movie that you are likely to come across, although I’m still not sure it’s worth the price of a rental.
One thing that this movie proves to me is that Tom Green is a hell of a lot funnier in a smaller supporting role than he ever could be as a lead. Jason Lee plays John Plummer, a man on the verge of buying his first house with his wife to be (Leslie Mann), when his plans get a slight alteration. An old promise comes back to haunt him. Years ago he promised his niece that he would pay for her tuition if she ever got into Harvard. As luck would have it, she did get in, and now she is expecting him to shell out the dough for her Ivy League education. John has the cash, but it just happens to be the down payment for his girlfriend’s dream home. So now he is faced with disappointing one of the women in his life, unless he can find a way to come up with a lot of money real fast. He turns to his old friend Duff (Tom Green) for help. Duff, who isn’t the brightest lad, promptly suggests that crime is going to be the only way that he is going to be able to get the cash he needs. So the two friends then set out on a crime spree that involves one bungled operation after the next in what appears to be a vain attempt to raise the needed tuition cash. It’s not likely this is going to be the funniest movie that you’ve ever seen, but there is enough material to provide for some light entertainment.
Madison Bell (Erika Christensen) is the new girl in school. She has everything going for her, she’s rich, she’s gorgeous, and she can get any guy she wants. She’s also psychotic. She fixates on the star of the swim team (Jesse Bradford) and decides that he is to be hers. After a one night fling, she is hurt that he would rather forget their indiscretion and stay with his girlfriend (Shiri Appleby). So Madison decides that if she can’t have him, then she is going to have to ruin his life.
Erika Christensen steals every scene she is in, and for such a young actress she does a hell of a job. In terms of psychotic former lovers, her performance here rivals that of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. If for no other reason, Swimfan is worth checking out for the performance of Ms. Christensen.
John Grisham’s The Rainmaker
Am I the only one who gets a little nervous when the author or director’s name appears in the title of a movie? It’s almost as if somebody at the studio releasing the movie realized that is wasn’t going to be good enough to stand on its own two feet. They figured that the movie in question needed a little something extra if it was ever going to make any of the money back that had been spent on making it. Generally speaking when you get the name of the author or director included in the title, the movie sucks.
That having been said, John Grisham’s The Rainmaker is the exception to the rule. While it isn’t as splashy as some of John Grisham’s other novels that have made it to the big screen, it is a solid film. Matt Damon plays a young lawyer just out of law school who takes a job working for a shady attorney named Bruiser (Mickey Rourke) whose primary business seems to come from ambulance chasing and his contacts with various elements of the criminal underworld. His less than glamorous practice leads Damon’s character into several interesting cases, the primary focus of this movie being a family whose son is dying of cancer and whose insurance company won’t pay for a procedure that may well save his life.
There are a lot of great performances in this movie, not the least of which is Mickey Rourke. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Rourke, but his supporting role here is one of the highlights of the movie. Danny DeVito, Claire Danes, Roy Scheider and Jon Voight are among the other big names to pop up in this movie in supporting roles.
Oh, and as for my observations about the author’s name in the title - quite honestly, I think the studio just didn’t know how to market this movie. It’s one of those films that doesn’t easily fit into any sort of category. It’s a courtroom drama, but the emphasis is firmly on the drama rather than the courtroom.
The most striking thing about this movie is the set. This movie occurs during a flood in a small town, so as a result the movie almost entirely takes place in the water. They have to navigate the town streets with boats, and even the buildings are submerged. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is an impressive feat. Christian Slater plays an armored car driver whose cargo of cash gets robbed by a group of crooks led by Morgan Freeman. Freeman and his compatriots intend to use the flood to help elude the cops in their escape. But Slater takes his job seriously and isn’t about to let Freeman and friends escape with the cash that he is supposed to be guarding. He doesn’t care if he is hip deep in water; he is going to get his money back. It’s a fun movie, not too deep, if you’ll pardon the pun, but entertaining.