Sunday, August 26, 2007

10 Movies About One Plot

Volume 1- Forced Back on the Saddle

When you're done reading the following plot outline, put your reading on pause and try to think (I said THINK, not Google) on how many films you can name off the bat that follow the same general story.

A former pro, the best at what he does who unwittingly fell on the wrong side of the tracks, is forced back into the game for one more round by a shady and powerful character.

How many did you get? Okay, hotshot. Compare them to mine (in no particular order)

Hudson Hawk
A career thief recently released form prison is blackmailed by power-hungry billionaire into stealing Leonardo DaVinci's formula for turning lead into gold.
How many Hollywood studio suits still bang their heads on the wall for giving Carte Blanche to one of the day's big cash cows for his (or her) own personal vanity movie? RKO's won't, cause Citizen Kane brought them down. But whoever wrote a blank check for Fire Down Below, Harlem Nights or Waterworld must still be the laughing stock of the business. Hudson Hawk proudly joined those when Bruce Willis thought it'd be a hoot to write himself an Arsene Lupin meets Indiana Jones movie. Then cast Andie McDowell and Sondra Bernard, and gave director duties to a guy who later offered us such "gems" as My Giant and Because I Said So. The result was a $65M mess (remember, this is 1991 Dollars) that raked up $17M. THAT's why Willis never tried his hand at writing again - sometimes you have to know your place, and stick to it (I'm looking at you, Edward Norton).

The Longest Yard - and its two remakes
A fallen football star, imprisoned for a car-wrecking bender, is firced by the warden to train inmates and throw their exhibition game against the guards.

The fact that the original was released a little after my birth weights less on my appreciation of it than the fact that in those days, movies and their stars were a different kind of fun. Here we have a prime Burt Reynolds, fresh-off facing wild locals in Deliverance, who heads a story not of morality and justice but fighting the man, as America still felt the impact of the Vietnam war. Plus, you get Richard Kiel in butt kicking mode, and watch The Bandit himself total a Maserati (which was fished out and sold for $7k on the sole fact that it was in this movie). There's very little to say about the Adam Sandler remake, except that it stars Adam Sandler. Instead of Burt. *cough* The other remake, 2001's Mean Machine, is much more worth the viewing effort. Replacing football with Soccer in order to "Britify", it puts real-life former soccer player Vinnie Jones (just as Reynolds used to play Football) along then-up and coming bad ass Jason Statham in a more subtly humorous take on the story. ****/*****

Escape From New York

A special-ops veteran fallen on hard-times is forcably recruited to breal out the US president from inside the Manhattan Island prison.

In my own personal opinion, and God knows I've made many blacklists for saying so, Snake Plissken is what George Lucas didn't have the balls to make Han Solo into. Of course, Lucky Lucas ain't John Carpenter. Add a dash of Lee Van Cliff with Donald Pleasance, Isaac Hayes and sexy-as-ever Adrienne Barbeau, and you have one of the 80's finest cult classics ever to be faced with the inevitability of a crappy remake. As if Carpenter wasn't used to that by now... ****/*****

Gone in 60 Seconds (the remake)
A legendary car thief, retired at the request of his mother, has to pul-off one more huge job to save his brother from a vicious crime lord.

In a time when we weren't fed up with Nic Cage's character of Nic Cage, Dominic Sena's re-imagining of H.B. Halicki's carwreck-fest was just a complete package of guilty pleasures. You have Frank The Rabbit as a clueless geek. You have Vinnie Jones silently but efficiently putting foot to ass. Giovanni Ribisi unshaven. Angelina Jolie in leather pants. Christopher Eccleston asking if he's an asshole. The Holy Grail of cars, Eleonore herself, burning rubber like no one else's business. And Robert Duval, the only actor who could in such a film deliver the line "A Jackal tearing at the soft underbelly of our fair town" (you have to respect the guy for pulling that one off). Here's a tip from a DVD nut - the Director's cut has one simple scene switch that changes Ribisi's character dramatically, and makes him more of a bad ass than a stupid git. ***/*****


A former special-ops Marine is blackmailed into assassinating a South-American president or else lose his daughter.

One of the great personal shames of my life was that, as a young hormonal teenager, I would watch this movie over-and over again without ever getting tired of it. When I mentioned that little trivia fact to my wife later on, she looked at me funny, which I understood when I caught a late-night showing on TV not so long ago. This movie alone could serve as proof that without James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger would still be pumping iron in his basement. Bad acting is an understatement. Story is a term I wouldn't really use to qualify what ever goes on in this movie. So many goofs you actually have to wonder if anyone bothered to look in the camera while filming. AND, really, we're expected to believe that a pudgy mustachioed bad guy is a match for the Terminator? If that's not enough, why not cast Dan Hadaya as a South American dictator, or Alyssa Milano as Schwarz's daughter? Plus, if anyone can tell me where to find one of those magic Porsche that get un-dented when you flip it, I'd pay big bucks for that... */*****

Running Man

An Army veteran locked-up for a massacre he tried to stop is forced by a shady TV exec to compete in a deadly game show.

Hot on the success of the above-mentioned Commando (success is a big raked in $37M on a $10M budget) and the respectably entertaining Predator, Hollywood was stumbling on itself to cash-in on The Governator's popularity. The result is a Vintage Stephen King story (written as Richard Bachman) stripped of it's darkness and pessimism to fit the man of the hour. Aside from Yaphet Koto who always manages to amaze and Richard Dawson not shouting "Survey Said" , this is the quintessential eye-candy with little to no quality in terms of story and characters. Heck, it even had NFL great James Brown as a skunky firebug. If that doesn't say it all, what about those yellow cushy pyjamas Arny wears? It should be noted that nine years later, director Paul Glaser added insult to injury with the Shaq vehicle Kazaam. Paul, buddy, do yourself a favor and learn to spell A-L-A-N S-M-I-T-H-E-E. **/*****

Ocean's Twelve

Master thief Danny Ocean and his crew must delay their retirement when their biggest mark and a playboy rival blackmail them into a thieving contest.

Yes, I know it's the sequel to a remake. But it's still highly entertaining even though it follows the same story line as the other movies listed here - The Night Fox (a sadly underused Vincent Cassel) blackmails Danny Ocean into one more theft job, to see who's the best. Using this tired plot might be why so many people snickered at it compared to the genuine fun of the original. Still, it offers the very welcome encore of seeing 3 generations of great actors having a blast with and against one another. Besides, how can you not smile at a movie where in order to fool everyone including Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts' character has to personify...Julia Roberts! Paging Dr Freud, Dr Freud please report to Mr Soderberg. ****/*****

Blade Runner
If it wasn't for the fact that most companies who bought product placement in this movie didn't exist anymore only a few years after its release, Blade Runner would still be a very actual movie. If anything, it remains a jaw-dropping Sci-Fi thriller, complete with a dark technocratic vision of the future that puts Johnny Mnemonic and other pale copies to shame, and Rutger Hauer at the very best he would ever be. Heck, how many films can boast to have made Sean Young almost sympathetic? I have to confess I've watched the movie in its entirety less often that the one finger crushing scene, where for once Harrison Ford can't manage to overcome his adversary no matter how much he grunts and grimaces. *****/*****

Rocky V

Fallen former champ Rocky Balboa must decide between family and honor when his protege bullies him into one final bout.

Okay, So I defended Ocean's Twelve for using a tired plot in order to stretch the original's appeal. But come on - how much juice can you really extract out of the same fruit? Not much, as Sly proved when mounting a fourth sequel to what MGM proudly calls "The Greatest Underdog Story" (and I don't mean that flying pup creepily voiced by Jason Lee). Stallone tried to bring a twist to the tried-and-tested tale by having his Rocky fight the climactic battle on his own terms and turf. Did it help make a good movie? No. Do we care? Not really. Unless you shelled out to see it in theatres. In that case, shame on you, you're the reason he made a sixth! -kaboom!-

Sexy Beast

A retired safe cracker is fetched by his former boss' pitbull to come back home and perform a big one.

I am continously baffled at how Ben Kingsley manages to follow every Gandhi in his resume with four Bloodraynes. Still, when he gets the right role in the right movie as is the case here with Don, he scores right off the charts. Jonathan Glazer's feature film debut offered much more though, namely making Ray Winstone into a household name outside UK. It's a movie where humour is neatly unseperable from brutality, and where tough guys are such that the Sopranos would probably try to stay away. A very British take on the Mob world, reminiscent of The Long Good Friday. *****/*****

Those are the ten titles that jumped to mind most strongly when sitting down to write. Any other that you can think of, post them down on the comments section. We'll have a barbecue with them all.

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