Friday, November 11, 2016

Favorite Scene Friday! The Blues Brothers: Drive-Thru Mall

This month over at the LAMB the Cult Chops subject is Carsploitation Movies, so what better time could there be than to look at a film that featured some of the most ridiculously fun car chases in history?
Poster by Dan Sherratt

Jake Blues (John Belushi) has just been released from prison and picked up by his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd), only to find he is living in squalor, the orphanage they grew up in is about to be demolished, and Elwood had to trade in their Cadillac for a re-purposed police car. Also Elwood has a ludicrous list of driving violations, so after they pledge to save the orphanage by raising money from a concert, they are pulled over and almost arrested, but manage to speed away with the police close on their tail, and this is what happens next:

Yes it's silly, but it's also a lot of fun. After doing a few laps of the parking lot Jake exasperatedly complains about the situation, pleading they get back to the interstate, so Elwood takes the only option available to them - driving through the mall, with the police in pursuit, destroying practically everything they come across.

I enjoy this scene mainly because it's literally three real cars driving through crowds of real people, smashing up a real shopping mall. It's the abandoned Dixie Square Mall in Illinois, within which many of the stores did not wish to be depicted in the film, so had to be covered with the storefronts seen in the scene. There's an element of wish fulfilment here - no-one gets injured, it's just about smashing stuff up - and it looks like it was a lot of fun to shoot too.

What really makes the scene for me though are the performances from Aykroyd and Belushi, who dead-pan their way through the destruction, casually pointing out the various shops, products and offers around them as they go, as if out taking a stroll rather than causing utter destruction. Also I find it all but impossible to listen to the song playing (I've always known it as The Blues Brothers' Theme but it's actually Hold On I'm Comin' by Sam & Dave) without grooving along to the tune. And what kind of a silly car chase would it be without one of the cop cars sliding along and spinning around on it's roof?

Do you have a favorite comedic car chase?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Favorite Scene Friday! American Gangster: That’s Your Cousin

This week's FSF is by Nick from French Toast Sunday! Check out his other guest posts here.

Every film has a tipping point. It’s the moment when the characters realize their good times have left them vulnerable and someone or something takes advantage of that. In gangster films, this tends to happen when characters turn to hard drugs, are arrested, or are murdered and officers find their bodies as the piano coda of ‘Layla’ plays on. In American Gangster, this moment happens during a party. The Lucas cousins are partying it up in a lavish home dressed to the nines, maybe even the tens. I’ll let you be the judge. But as they party, the drugs get the better of them. Some friends get a little handsy and things take a turn as our anti-heroes react on impulse rather than let cooler heads prevail. This causes Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) to act and act he does.

He doesn’t explode like Pacino. He doesn’t proclaim profanities like Pesci. Denzel is cold and calculating as he grabs Jimmy by his throat, sends him head first into the piano, and then proceeds to cave his head in with the lid of the piano. Even as Lucas sends the rest of the partygoers home, he does so in a reserved manor. Nothing about him is loud and boisterous. It’s calm and collected. I think that’s what always stood out to me. He didn’t make a big scene and draw excess attention. He handles what needs to be handled and goes on with his day. Time is money and punishment is swift. There is no forgiveness.

I’ve always liked this scene in this film not because of the violence or the calm badassery of Denzel, but for what happens after. The film effortlessly transitions from day to night as Frank initiates new policy changes. During his exchange with Huey (Chiwetel Ejiofor) Frank is able to press pause and then berate the butler for not properly cleaning a $25,000 Alpaca rug. Put the club soda on there. He’s making over a million dollars a day, yet he’s worried about properly cleaning a rug. Why not get a new rug? Is it pride? Is it ego? If it was me, I’d be buying a rug for every day of the week.

Frank doesn’t do that. Frank doesn’t lose his way because he has money. He’s focused and goal oriented. Yeah he imbibes in the finer things, but like the most basic principle of every gangster film, what they do is business. It’s not personal when he bashes his cousin’s head in with the piano lid. It’s a business decision. Where someone would get a write up or a suspension without pay, with Frank, it’s different. He’s not going back to the way things were and he doesn’t want that for his family either, even if it means making an example of them.

If you haven’t seen American Gangster you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s an underrated classic from Ridley Scott with an insane cast list. One wrong move and the film could explode with talent.

What's your favorite scene from American Gangster?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Unseen Halloween: The Purge

The Purge takes place in a world where, one night a year, all crime is legal. The film focuses on the Sandin family. Father James (Ethan Hawke) - who works for a security company and has sold everyone in their posh neighborhood their security systems - mother Mary (Lena Headey) and two kids, Charlie and Zoey.

On the night of the purge, Charlie lets in a man who's been targeted for murder by a group of purgers. Zoey's older boyfriend also sneaks into the house before lockdown. He claims he's there to simply talk to James (the father has an issue with the age difference in the relationship) but we find out his intentions aren't really what they seem. All this leads to the Sandin family fighting to stay alive on purge night.


The biggest problem with this movie for me is that every character is near insufferable. Ethan's James is kind of smug. Lena Headey is kind of bland. The kids are super annoying. But I guess maybe this was intentional.

Something that also annoyed me is that, sure, everything is legal on Purge Night. But it seems like most people who purge put a lot of thought and planning into their activities. Couldn't these people be held accountable for conspiracy to commit...whatever? I don't remember hearing or reading anything that would explain this away. There was some type of announcement that (certain? all?) politicians are immune but that's all I really remember.

The bad guys also get really bent out of shape about people infringing on their right to purge or something like that. But...everything is legal and nothing is illegal, so the "right to purge" kind of goes out the window?

All in all, this was a decent horror/thriller, but nothing to get too worked up over.