Cat-and-Mouse with Eastwood and Malkovich

In the Line of Fire
Starring: Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Sony Pictures
Rated R for violence and language

1993’s In the Line of Fire features a concept that is rarely seen in Hollywood nowadays—an aging action star who actually deals with being old. Clint Eastwood’s Frank Horrigan is out-of-shape, past his prime, and overdue for retirement. Recent Hollywood films would have us believe that aging action stars can do anything without effort, as long as they throw in the random quip of “being too old for this.”

Frank Horrigan is the only active Secret Service Agent who was around when JFK was assassinated. Frank also blames himself for being unable to save JFK on that fateful day. With his new partner, Al (Dylan McDermott), Frank investigates counterfeiters and assesses threats to the President. While investigating a new threat, Frank discovers that a potential assassin isn’t just targeting the President, but Frank as well. Frank has to convince his superiors that the threat is real, and he must do everything he can to prevent history from repeating itself.

Where most action films with aging stars focus on high-concept action sequences, In the Line of Fire focuses on the mystery and suspense involved in the cat-and-mouse game between Frank and Mitch. There are a few action sequences, and when they play out, they portray realistic concepts of how an older action star would perform: Frank gets out of breath, he can’t keep up with the younger Mitch, and he can’t take on dangerous stunts without suffering the consequences. This humanistic performance lends to the film’s credibility.

As well, the focus on the cat-and-mouse game allows events to unfold as a battle of wits between Frank and Mitch. They must rely on their mental abilities, rather than their physical prowess (or lack thereof), to foil the other. Blows are meted out as Frank outsmarts Mitch, and vice versa, rather than through physical altercation. It adds to the tension to see them get into each other’s heads. The movie wouldn’t be the same if it was two guys beating each other up. The audience is often left to wonder who is the cat and who is the mouse.

Clint Eastwood is in top form as Frank Horrigan. Having been the action star all his life as a cowboy or a cop, he plays his character perfectly as a man on the decline. He’s a multi-faceted man, distraught over the mistakes of his past and steadfast in his desire never to let his mistakes repeat. John Makovich’s Mitch Leary proves an excellent adversary. There’s a method and reasoning to his madness that sets him apart from a one-dimensional wacko. He’s confident and collected, and his decisions are made with precision and accuracy. Watching the two play off each other is masterful to say the least.

In the Line of Fire is an excellent, fast-paced thriller that is not to be missed. It will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way to the mind-blowing climax. In the Line of Fire is now available on VUDU for under $5. For this, and other great modern-day classics, select “Movies on Sale” and then “Steals for Under $5.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Clint Eastwood has won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for Unforgiven and Million Dollary Baby. He was nominated for Best Lead Actor in both films, but did not win for either. Unforgiven and Million Dollary Baby are also available for under $5.

Announcing 2-Day Rentals from Universal Studios


VUDU is pleased to announce 2-Day rentals are now available for select Universal Studios titles in SD, HD, and HDX! Take an extra day to watch and re-watch these great films:

     
     

Keep coming back—more 2-Day rentals are on their way!

Herzog’s and Lynch’s “Son”

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
Starring: Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny, Udo Kier, Brad Dourif
Director: Werner Herzog
First Look Pictures
Rated R for some language

The pedigree of director-producers Werner Herzog and David Lynch is enough to make any fan of cult film salivate. In My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, the two auteurs have joined forces for the first time in their careers to create a film that is truly worthy of their affiliation. Lynch takes on the role of executive producer while Herzog directs from his own script the story of a man who has become obsessed with the play he is rehearsing which results in tragedy.

The man is Brad McCullum (Michael Shannon) who has just done something unspeakable—he’s killed his mother (Grace Zabriske). He retreats to his home where he holes himself up against the San Diego police department. Detectives Havenhurst (Willem Dafoe) and Vargas (Michael Peña) arrive on the scene attempting to piece together what happened. They meet Brad’s fiancée, Ingrid (Chloe Sevigny), and friend Lee, (Udo Kier) who provide insight into Brad’s state-of-mind. Through flashbacks, Ingrid and Lee paint a picture of Brad’s descent into depression and mental isolation. Brad became obsessed with his character in a Greek tragedy, a play in which his character also kills his mother. The detectives probe deeper, searching for the reason for Brad’s actions, and hoping to bring the tense standoff to a peaceful resolution.

As any fan of Herzog and Lynch know, their films often take you to an unsettling and uncomfortable place. There’s an eeriness that lingers throughout their films. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done is no exception. Michael Shannon delivers the ultimate in creepy performances, toeing the line of complete insanity. The audience never knows when he’s going to reach his boiling point, as at once he can reach a high level of furor, and in an instant, he can be calm and mellow. There’s a passive-aggressiveness to Brad that disturbs you, and keeps you wondering where his madness will take him next.

The supporting cast is a sobering Yin to Brad’s raging Yang. Everyone stays calm and collected, even as Brad falls apart around them. They keep the story grounded and real. They provide the anchor that we as an audience need in order to know that their world and Brad’s world are not the same. All around, the entire cast gives amazing performances, keeping their actions subtle and nuanced.

Shot with the Red One camera, the digital nature of the cinematography plays wonderfully with light. It is simultaneously rich and vibrant with color, and at the same time dark and murky. The color and lighting of the camera work add intensity to the mindset of Brad. The mixture of saturated hues and tones plays into the dual side of Brad’s psyche.

The collaboration between Herzog and Lynch is an instant classic in the cult genre. Here’s hoping that this is just the beginning of a long and happy marriage between the two that produces more gems that take us into the psychological unknown. For My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done and other memorable cult classics, go to “Explore Catalog” and select the collection “Cult Directors.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Though My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done is based on the true story of Mark Yavorsky, a San Diego grad student who killed his mother in a similar fashion, director Werner Herzog admits that about 70% of the film is fictionalized.

Jerry Goldsmith’s Musical “Edge”

The Edge
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Elle MacPherson, Harold Perrineau, Bart the Bear
Director: Lee Tamahori
20th Century Fox
Rated R for language and some adventure gore/violence

Jerry Goldsmith’s long and illustrious career as a film composer is highlighted by such notable titles as “Planet of the Apes”, “L.A. Confidential”, “Rudy”, several “Star Trek” films, and “The Omen”—for which he won his only Academy Award. One of his most memorable and (unfortunately) overlooked entries is The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.

The film tells the story of Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins), a know-it-all billionaire who retains an immeasurable amount of seemingly trivial facts. He’s married to a much younger fashion model, Mickey (Elle MacPherson), whom he suspects is having an affair with her photographer, Bob (Alec Baldwin). All are on a photo shoot in Alaska where Charles’ watchful eye catches the interactions between Mickey and Bob , essentially validating his concerns. When Charles, Bob, and Bob’s assistant, Stephen (Harold Perrineau) venture into the wilderness, their plane crashes. Stranded, facing hunger, hypothermia, and a blood-thirsty bear, the group struggles to survive in the hopes that rescue will soon come. Complicating matters are Charles’ increasing suspicion that Bob is using their situation as a means to kill Charles in order to have Mickey all to himself.

Everything about this movie clicks. Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin play off each other so well that you would think they really were adversaries. Their interactions mirror their plight—at first they are cordial and civilized with somewhat scornful undertones. As their trials of being lost in the wilderness prolong, their primal natures take over, and the scornful undertones give way to unabashed contempt.

The screenplay by David Mamet has a great flow and ferocity to it. Also a noted playwright, Mamet’s signature style of dialogue is in full force here, bringing with it the snap and intensity that is felt throughout the movie. It sounds and feels natural, bringing great depth and passion to the extreme situations in which these characters find themselves.

It is Jerry Goldsmith’s musical score, though, that stands out as the true star of this film. The prominent use of brass, strings, and percussion echo the sense of adventure and horror the characters experience in the wilderness. The score brings with it a notion of hope, while at the same time portraying the despair that is running through the character’s minds. It is nothing short of brilliant, and the main theme will be playing in your head long after the movie is over.

The Edge was an overlooked film when it premiered in 1997, but it is starting to gain a steady following. The Edge is available on VUDU in SD, HD, and HDX! For this, and other great movies with memorable music, go to “Explore Catalog” and select the collection “Great Soundtracks.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Alec Baldwin grew a thick beard for his character that he refused to shave. He was embroiled in a tug-of-war with the producers over this. Baldwin eventually gave into the producers and shaved—one day before filming began! This incident was dramatized in the 2008 film “What Just Happened”. The film was based on novel written by Art Linson, also the producer of The Edge.

“MacGruber” – Your Action Comedy Forte

MacGruber
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe
Director: Jorma Taccone
Universal Pictures / Rogue Pictures
Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity

It has been ten years since a movie based on a Saturday Night Live sketch hit the big screen, and it has been 18 years since any of them was a critical and financial success. Unfortunately, MacGruber falls into the category of critical and box office failure. In fact, most people did not get a chance to see it, as the movie was in theaters for only a few weeks before being pulled for poor performance. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. MacGruber has a rabid fan base, its sketches on SNL are some of the best performing, and Universal spent plenty of time and money on advertising. It was intended to be one of Universal’s tent pole summer flicks. It is hard to know where things went wrong because MacGruber is an entertaining action-comedy and definitely one of the better SNL adaptations.

For those not in the know, MacGruber (yes, that’s his complete name, like Cher or Madonna) is the United States’ top military agent, somehow bumbling his way to success. He is an obvious parody of MacGyver, the titular character of a 1980’s action TV series about a spy who could take whatever was around him and use it for a weapon or a means to escape. MacGruber plays on this concept by combining everyday objects into absurd concoctions that never seem to work.

The film finds MacGruber (Will Forte) being called out of retirement to take down supervillian Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) who has just obtained a nuclear warhead. Col. Jim Faith (Powers Booth) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) enlist MacGruber to stop Cunth from retrieving the bomb’s access codes. MacGruber also sees the mission as an opportunity to exact revenge on Cunth, the man who killed his fiancée. After his plan to assemble a super team goes hilariously wrong, he is nearly removed from the mission until Lt. Piper joins the team, as does Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig), MacGruber’s long time friend. What follows is a series of comical and riotous situations as MacGruber and team take on Cunth and his henchmen.

The movie is an unexpected mashup of action and comedy. The comedy plays mostly on the awkward situations that MacGruber gets in, and features a high amount of crude bathroom humor. On the action side, things are excessively bloody, much more than what would be found in a normal action comedy. However, the excessiveness becomes the comedy as it plays out as over-the-top. The visuals and humor in this movie are not for everyone, but if the previous elements appeal to you, then you are in for a treat with MacGruber.

Will Forte comes into his own with MacGruber. Having previously only been cast in supporting roles in film and television, Forte proves he has the comedic chops to carry a movie. Kirsten Wiig is just waiting to explode as the next funny lady in Hollywood, and her performance as Vicki proves that La La Land should not wait much longer. The funnier parts of the movie come in the choice to cast Val Kilmer, Ryan Phillippe, and Powers Booth in the supporting roles. All three are well-known dramatic actors who would, at least on paper, seem out of place in this kind of flick. However, all three slip quite comfortably into their characters, never taking things seriously, and having a good time with the funny and raunchy material. One scene with Ryan Phillippe will never have you looking the same way at celery sticks again!

Critics often forget that movies are made for a specific audience. It is the critic’s job to take that into consideration when reviewing a movie. Yes, a movie still needs to hold up as movie itself, but a critic should not fault a movie just because it is not their cup of tea. With that in mind, MacGruber may not be the best film of all time, but it is perfectly fun way to spend an hour and a half. Its side-splitting antics and over-the-top scenarios make MacGruber a must-see for anyone who’s an SNL fan.

MacGruber is now available on VUDU in both Theatrical and Unrated versions. Go to “Explore Catalog” and select the collection “SNL Stars on the Big Screen” to see MacGruber and a selection of flicks starring SNL alums.

DID YOU KNOW?

It was revealed in a SNL sketch that MacGruber’s long lost father is none other than MacGyver himself!