The Nice Guys (Another informal review that’s not a review.)

The Nice Guys. The Nice Guys are Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and from the title you know that their characters are either a). literally nice guys, or b). guys with nice-guy hearts buried somewhere deep in a flailing chaos of beating people up and sometimes killing them.

Of the movie’s various brands of humor, at least one will make someone in the audience laugh at least once. In my book, this signifies a successful comedy: make everyone in the audience bust up laughing at least once. When we went to see it, everyone laughed more than once, including us.

What the Nice Guys lack in aplomb, they make up for with dumb luck, and it is hilarious. The last time a dubious (yet strangely compatible) pair of investigators made us laugh like that was in Rush Hour. If Rush Hour had a grittier, hard-boiled cousin, it would be The Nice Guys.

 

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The writing is smart and crisp, the acting is effortless, and the fight scenes are interesting, with plenty of elbows thrown. Refreshingly, there were more elbow strikes than punches, fight scene choreography reflecting our growing public enthusiasm for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). I’m not sure if this counts as an anachronism, but I certainly enjoyed it. It’s about time Hollywood realizes that elbows are more practical weapons than fists in street fights.

If you’re a fan of Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Rush Hour, comedies, action flicks, or 70’s-ass suits and ‘staches, you might find it worth your while to catch The Nice Guys while you can.

Mad Max: Fury Road – (SPOILER ALERT!!)

(NOTE: So I started writing up my May Favorites for Tuesday. Mad Max: Fury Road was Number One on the list, and when my little blurb about it got too long, I decided to give it its own post. I’m publishing it now, off-schedule, because Tuesday will still feature my May Favorites. Carry on, if you will!)

 

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When we sat down in the theatre to watch Mad Max: Fury Road the day before Callaghan left for France last weekend, I had no expectations. It was Mad Max, right? I’d read nothing about the film since its release. I settled in for what I hoped would be an action flick so action-packed it’d numb my mind for a couple of hours. That was what I wanted… a mind-numbing movie, a big, loud, dumb action movie, preferably with lots of explosions and car chases.

I wasn’t planning to employ my brain. I was there to shut my brain off, not to turn it on… but something in the story tickled my neurons at the beginning. At first, I couldn’t figure out what. It started with the improbable spectacle of Max being restrained and forced into use as a “Blood-bag” to keep a sickly child alive, a development that followed the opening sequence of events in which Max is chased down, abducted, attempts to escape, and gets re-captured.

That’s right. After Max – Max – was hauled back into hell, he was put to use as a talking, breathing blood supply. “Blood-bag,” in fact, even became his name… it was what his parasite (the bratty war-child) called him. And that sort of lit something up in the back of my brain, but things were happening quickly, and I wanted to keep up with the events, you know, as you do when you’re blasted into action flick oblivion on a convoy fronted by a demonic wraith of a dude playing a fire-shooting electrical guitar.

But at some point after Max was rescued by Furiosa, the female war-truck driver on a personal mission to free the Biggest Bad Guy’s imprisoned harem of wives, the tickle in my brain started crackling like a live wire with the realization that this parasite (that’s how I think of him… does he even have a name? …the war-child) was literally connected to Max-the-Blood-bag via I.V. line.

The first image that embedded itself in my brain like a song on repeat was of Max tied to the outside of the vehicle with his blood feeding into the child inside.

The second image? Max struggling mightily to free himself from the child, and, giving up, simply slinging him over his shoulders, still connected by the I.V., as he trudged over to Furiosa.

And I realized that Max wanted, among other things, an abortion. It was like he’d been beaten, raped and forced to keep the resulting baby. When he finally got free, it was at the hands of a woman. It had been the men in power who’d forced him to nourish the war-child with his own blood against his will. The I.V. line of “Blood-bag” (no longer referred to as a human being, Max had been reduced to a thing) was an umbilical cord.

What was unfolding before my astonished eyes was a role reversal played out on a massive scale in a spectacular, mainstream action movie, and it barreled on relentlessly until the end. It did not stop to care. How much did it cost to make this movie? Let me look it up… okay, about $150 million, let’s say, if Google is correct. This movie is an estimated $150 million dollar middle finger stuck in the face of all the standard action flick conventions.

Max played Robin to Furiosa’s Batman, and it was something to behold.

Many more things happened along the way, many other things I’d never seen before in a high-octane action flick (which, by the way, was practically ALL explosions and car chases).

Like a gang of weather-beaten, much older women on motorcycles lending aid to Furiosa’s group. WHAT.

And Furiosa making the tough decisions (like leaving the pregnant girl behind because going back for her would have put them all at risk).

And Furiosa being the one with the superior shooting skills (Max wisely and respectfully hands her the weapon when they’re down to their last round, and she nails their target).

Furiosa does most of the driving, and none of the sleeping. Furiosa dispatches of the Biggest Bad Guy. Furiosa is unequivocally the toughest no-bullshit badass female hero I’ve ever seen in an action movie. She has nothing to prove. Charlize Theron hammered her home.

 

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Max joins Furiosa’s group of women and instantly has in common with them the fact that they’d all been used for their bodies. When war-child connects with that one girl (sorry, I’m terrible with names in movies, and I’m too lazy to look it up), their bond gives war-child the sense of humanity we assume he’d been lacking. We see nothing sexual happen between the two – I also find it refreshing that there’s nothing sexual in this movie at all – and the power of his emotional bond with her (love) proves to be more profound than his former physical bond to his “Blood-bag.” That old reliance disappears, and he’s able to recognize the humanity in Max and defect to the other side, even switching their roles and assisting Max.

When Furiosa lingers near death toward the end, Max finally reveals his name to her. “Max,” he says. “My name is Max.” There’s something about the way he says it, like the words are more meaningful to him than they would be to her. Max has emerged from the experience with a restored sense of himself, of his own humanity. Once again, he has a name and an identity. He’s no longer “Blood-bag.” He’s no longer an object, reduced to his body and used according to how it could benefit others.

I absolutely loved this movie, and Callaghan did, too. Everything about it impressed us. We pretty much left the theatre with our minds thoroughly blown. We just looked at each other and didn’t even know what to say except HOLY SHIT!! We have to see it again!!!

I went in wanting to zone out before a mindless spectacle, and ended up mentally stimulated while simultaneously holding my breath with the pace of the action. If I’d had expectations, they would’ve been obliterated… and I couldn’t have asked for a better soundtrack for such utter destruction, either.

JUSTICE IS COMING: An Overdue Anti-Rant about My FAVORITE Film!

As of today, I’ve been actively blogging for sixteen months and 4 days. That’s not a long time (not even a year and a half), but I’ve spent a fair amount of it blathering about movies and television series. Because of this, and because I injected into this blog – from the deepest regions of my heart – my profound disbelief over the deplorable miscasting of the titular character in Jack Reacher, I feel I would be remiss to let another week go by without taking the time to exalt my favorite movie.

I’m talking about my favorite movie of ALL TIME.

Most movie buffs have one – a film we’ve seen so many times, we don’t even know anymore how many times we’ve seen it. Today, I’m going to rhapsodize about mine. Keep in mind that I’m not here to write a film review; I am not a film critic. I’m here to make a (fruitless) attempt to convey how much I love this movie. I mean, I’m passionate about a lot of movies, so when I say that one is my ALL-TIME FAVORITE, that’s saying a lot.

It’s the only movie I can see again and again with perpetual excitement, my ardor sustained at the same stratospheric level over the last 21 years. It’s also the only movie that compels my inner film-geek to come out and actually recite the characters’ lines out loud, right along with them, which Callaghan had the misfortune of discovering when we watched it together a couple of weeks ago.

[Aside: the first time I saw it with Callaghan, we were still new together, and I was too shy to recite all the lines. I bit my tongue the whole time. Now that we’re married and he’s stuck with me, I let it all hang out. Typical! I did warn him in advance, though.]

So what movie am I talking about? It’s not The Big Lebowski, as some of you are probably thinking, though that’s up there in my Top Three.

I’m talking about Tombstone.

 

From left: Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp, Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp and Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone (1993)

From left: Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp, Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp and Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone (1993)

 

Historical fiction set where the main events took place here in Arizona, Tombstone is a western. This film is perfection. I’m not even going to bother adding “in my opinion,” because I truly believe that Tombstone is objectively perfect.

When Tombstone was released in 1993, I went to see it with John, my boyfriend, in central Phoenix. I remember that he lost his wallet there, and we spent about half an hour searching for it. I don’t remember whether he found it, but I do remember leaving the theatre feeling like a ten-year-old at Disneyland jumping breathlessly off the Star Tours ride, eager to run back to the line to wait for another go. Let’s do it again!

We returned to the theatre a few days later… John wanted to see Tombstone again, too. Not long after that, we went back for a third viewing. The fourth time I saw it, I went with some friends. I’m pretty sure I went a fifth time, but I don’t remember with whom. I want to say I went to see Tombstone five times… that seems about right. I remember feeling sad when it left the theatres.

But then Tombstone came out on video (VHS)! I bought it and watched it repeatedly over the years, and when the tape wore out, I picked up another one. Obsession alert: the years were rolling by, and my Tombstone-watching zeal was not dissipating! When DVDs came into existence at the end of the ‘90’s, Tombstone was the first DVD I bought. Shocking! Since then, I’ve seen it maybe, I don’t know, several hundred times more. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

 

JUSTICE IS COMING!

JUSTICE IS COMING!

 

I figure between all the theatre tickets, video and DVD purchases, I’ve never paid a cast of actors so well as I’ve paid the Tombstone cast. Kurt Russell; Val Kilmer; Sam Elliot; Michael Biehn; Powers Booth; Bill Paxton; Dana Delaney, et al AND the entire film crew and production team behind them deserve every cent.

Also, may I just say that the music… that score! Just… never mind. Here, listen:

 

 

Many a film score stirs me, but Tombstone’s score fills me with happiness and revs me up like no other film score ever has… and it sure sounds a lot like mid-19th century Old West justice to me. It captures the essence of:

You tell ‘em I’M coming … and hell’s coming with me, you hear? HELL’S COMING WITH ME!

Ah, Wyatt.

I’m just fascinated with this segment of Arizona’s history – the historic gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the ensuing vendetta ride of Wyatt Earp’s posse – and this movie puts me there.

As I’d suspected, I’m finding it difficult to articulate why this movie impacts me to such an extent; the most flawless films in existence won’t make my “favorites” list if they don’t resonate with me somehow. Tombstone resonates with the core of my being. Critics may find flaws with Tombstone, but it’s a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. My affection for Tombstone borders on adulation.

And yes, I admit it… the greatness that is Val Kilmer’s channeling of Doc Holliday kills me to this day, blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to bore you with that. I will say, though, that I haven’t seen cinematic charisma that potent before or since Tombstone. Val Kilmer’s performance is superb. If there’s ever been a more magnetic portrayal of Doc Holliday than Kilmer’s, I want to know about it, because I would have to see it to believe it. Kilmer manages to ooze Southern gentleman sex appeal and charm brilliantly from every tubercular pore in Holliday’s wasted, alcohol-saturated body in every one of his scenes. It’s not as unsavory as it sounds, believe me. He pulled it off.

 

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday

 

You know what’s kind of unbelievable? I’ve spent 21 years of my life here in Arizona, and I still haven’t visited the town of Tombstone! Kind of like how I’ve been to Paris five times and never visited Jim Morrison’s grave. Unlike that, however, my failure to visit Tombstone isn’t an extreme first-world problem, because I can easily jump in the truck and drive myself to Tombstone any time I want. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Interestingly, Val Kilmer also played Jim Morrison in The Doors, and that’s my second-favorite role of his.

At any rate, if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch Tombstone. I highly, highly recommend this film. Just trust me on this. It doesn’t matter if you’re not into westerns. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like action movies. (I know people who don’t care for either genre, but they love Tombstone.) I would be so bold as to predict that you’ll love this movie, or at least enjoy it. It draws you in, and what’s not to love about a sweeping tale involving family bonds and loyalty, lawmen and outlaws, revenge, romance and the sexiest Latin-quoting, quick-drawing, card-playing badass Southern gentleman you’ll ever see?

Oh, Johnny… I forgot you were there. You may go now.