A rogue bomber pilot steals two nukes.
Directed by John Woo
Starring John Travolta, Christian Slater, and Samantha Mathis
Review by Jon Kissel
The action movies that dominated the mid-90’s occupy an interesting place in the culture. The Cold War’s over, so Communist villains are out, but it’s pre-9/11, so the next easy bad-guy shorthand hasn’t arrived yet, either. Hollywood’s still reveling in leftover masculinity from the 80’s, so there’s none of the introspection of something like the Bourne series. We’re all gung-ho with nowhere to go, so these movies frequently envision internal chaotic enemies i.e. your Castor Troys, your Cyrus the Viruses. Whatever it takes to keep the Department of Defense-sponsored glorification of war games going. Broken Arrow is an early example of the six-year period that would be dominated by Jerry Bruckheimer and his protégé Michael Bay, and no one would say it’s the best of breed. Hong Kong action staple director John Woo still hasn’t figured out how to marry his distinctive style to English-language film, a synchronization he would finally crack one year later with Face/Off. These absurd movies need to get as far from realism as possible, and Broken Arrow, while it’s no one’s idea of realistic, is still too close. I at least need magnet boots or their equivalent in my nonsense action.
The legend of Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, holds that he consulted the wise algorithm for ideas about what original programming to produce, and he discovered that subscribers loved Kevin Spacey and David Fincher. Voila, House of Cards is born. Seven years later, Spacey has a lesser Q-rating, but the same smell of calculated imitation is all over Freaks. A hearty base of Stranger Things, some Dogtooth for indie cred, a seasoning of contemporary buzzwords for political relevance, and there’s your movie. Directors Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky have enough pull to entice well-known actors, and that seems to be the only reason this was released in theaters instead of buried on the SyFy channel.
Bong Joon-ho is a kind of South Korean jack-of-all-trades, in that his movies defy easy classification. His contemporaries are more easily put into boxes, between the psycho-sexual extremity of Park Chan-wook or the mysterious morality plays of Lee Chang-dong or the low-key romance of Hong Sang-soo. Bong is all over the place, often within the same film. His breakout film, Memories of Murder, is a police farce, a ground-level satire, and a deadly serious serial killer chase. He followed that with a comedic monster film, a murder mystery, a post-apocalyptic class metaphor, and an ET-homage, if the government had been trying to eat ET. By being unpredictable for so long, the unpredictability has become his trademark. Wherever a Bong Joon-ho film starts, it’s never clear where it’s going to end. This remains true for his latest and most impactful film, Parasite. The first foreign-language Best Picture winner, Parasite has also ridden a wave of ecstatic critical acclaim, and perhaps recency bias, to feature heavily on end-of-decade lists, all while making a tremendous amount of money over its modest budget. Like all of Bong’s other films, Parasite doesn’t quite fit with what’s come before, but that dissonance doesn’t stop it from being an enthralling exploration of class in a package that is wound like clockwork.
The term ‘influential’ is a complicated one in film history. It implies some kind of groundbreaking idea or technique that no one had thought of before and future filmmakers adopted, but there’s a difference between first and widest-reaching. There were zombie movies before Night of the Living Dead, and there were McGuffin movies before Raiders of the Lost Ark. Movies that are supposedly influential, too, have the disadvantage of being the original, such that dozens of directors get to take a crack at them before a viewer goes back and sees the original. Going into Seven Samurai for the first time, I’d seen plenty of Japanese period films, Westerns, war films, and teams being assembled. I also knew of Seven Samurai’s reputation as one of the most critically acclaimed films ever made, currently standing at #17 on the Sight and Sound Top 250 list of lists. That’s a lot of baggage to put on its hefty 207 minute runtime, but this is still a classic worthy of imitation. Strip all the expectations away, and it’s just as entertaining and resonant as it was when it was released sixty-six years ago.
As DJ Shadow's "Nobody Speak" booms through the speakers, one of the numerous badass, bass-heavy hip-hop songs cycling through as a pseudo score for the film, the feeling of kicking down a door and making a grand entrance to a party emerges in Olivia Wilde's Booksmart. The film follows the one night journey of Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), the epitome of BFFs, as they look to fulfill their final chance at adolescent partying. The premise is nothing new, but the audacious character work and superb mix of comedy with earnest teenage friendship is something that should turn heads. Living with the predetermined moniker of being a female Superbad lessens the movie's innovation from its teen comedy predecessor, but also should provide an accurate seal of approval for the level of humor and impact of the film.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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