Friday, February 23, 2018

Favorite Scene Friday! Bullitt: Just Keep Driving

Steve McQueen is the actor-of-the-month over at the LAMB, so I'm taking a moment to celebrate one of the best moments from one of his less good movies. Bullitt isn't terrible, but if it wasn't for the central chase sequence I don't think many people would discuss it today, so you can be damn sure that's the scene in question this week.
Bullitt painting by Arthur Benjamins
If you're unfamiliar with the plot, I'll take a stab at it: Steve McQueen plays Lt. Frank Bullitt of the San Francisco Police Department. He is tasked with protecting a star witness over the weekend, but events occur that require said witness to be hidden somewhere, with only Frank and his team knowing the location. As such, a couple of men (seen in the clip, known to me as "Stern Face" and "Glasses") are sent to follow Frank to see where he goes, in the hope that it'll lead to the witness' whereabouts. This is what happens next:

I only really want to follow on that first segment as being the best scene, as the entire chase goes on for at least another 7 minutes, but for the sake of not depriving you here's the rest of it too:

OK, now you've got that out of your system (did you count the hub-caps? Go back and count the hub-caps) let's get back to that first segment. The key moment occurs at 2:14, when Frank, having quite easily slipped his tail, appears in their rear-view mirror, turning the tables and making the hunters the hunted. It's an ingenious and wonderful manoeuvre, and is filmed beautifully, with the camera in the back seat of the villains' car, the mirror nonchalantly positioned in the centre - because that's where it would be anyway, given we're looking out the windscreen with them for Frank's car - and then it just appears in the mirror, popping up and saying "Gotcha!". I think the zoom in goes a little too far to accentuate the reveal, but only a little.

The whole chase uses the streets and hills of San Francisco perfectly, weaving in and out of traffic, utilising the sharp right angle corners to crash and screech all over the road, all the while tormenting those roaring, guttural engines and trashing the chassis on the bumps. The entire scene has no dialogue, it's all about the concentrated expressions and wheelmanship on display.

I'd argue it amongst the best car chases of all time - I previously looked at another contender from The French Connection - but this might just beat it, at least in terms of longevity. I like the temporary satisfied smirk Glasses gives to Stern Face when he thinks they've gotten away, when Frank stopped to check a crashed motorcyclist was alright. I love the use of the mirror outside of the reveal too, allowing us to see the face of the driver and/or passenger as well as the road ahead, just perfect.

What's your favorite movie car chase?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Favorite Scene Friday! Groundhog Day: Déjà vu

Having finally featured Rick and Morty for Escape-athon last week, it seems we're going with a "I can't believe this hasn't been featured for FSF before!" trend. It's particularly surprising since we at one point did a series on scenes featuring Bill Murray, star of today's featured film. We actually have a good reason for not featuring Groundhog Day before, however...the last time the holiday fell on a Friday was all the way back in 2007, long before we started this blog.

Matt Ryan

Groundhog Day, the film about Phil Connors (Murray) reliving the titular holiday over and over in
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is many things rolled up into a nice, neat package. It's an amazing Bill Murray showcase. It's a classic romantic high concept comedy. It popularized the time loop subgenre of science fiction that's been utilized in film and even in TV, as recently as Star Trek: Discovery. The film has really aged into a modern classic, going as far as spawning a Broadway play that Bill Murray famously saw two days in a row (it sadly didn't last).

Our scene this week is the first time Phil relives Groundhog Day. Murray's immediately and effortlessly a smug asshole, but Phil starts to get the sense of something wrong. He quickly goes to the window and sees the day unfolding just as it had the day before. I love that little bit of unsettling music that plays along with that.

Groundhog Day is pretty much wall-to-wall great actors/characters. "Porkchop" - played by Ken Hudson Campbell - is one such character. Billed as "Man in Hallway" his little scream when Phil pushes him up against the wall is perfect. His terrified expression when Phil finally walks away is great as well. This whole bit's great because Phil and the viewer really start to get a sense of the strangeness happening.

Even better than Porkchop, however, is Mrs. Lancaster, played by Angela Paton (sad to learn she just passed away in 2016). Her effortlessly charming "No, but I can check with the kitchen," is one of the best things in this scene.

With all that said, enjoy the scene. Looks like the next Friday Groundhog Day isn't until 2024.

What's your favorite scene from Groundhog Day?

What day would you love to relive over and over? 



Here's a little recommendation...I recently watched Happy Death Day - a horror version of Groundhog Day, essentially - and it was amazing. The horror genre works so well with the time loop premise so I wonder why it's not used more often. Check out the trailer below.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Escape-athon 2018 Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones was a huge blind spot for me. It’s safe to say that I’m a decent Peter Jackson fan. I loved all the The Lord of the Rings films. I trudged through all the The Hobbit films. I’ve even seen Dead Alive. But for some reason the appeal of The Lovely Bones wasn’t enough to get my butt in the seat opening weekend back in 2009. Beyond that, interest dropped off and stayed dropped off. Turns out I wasn't missing much. Spoiler alert! 

In the film, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is murdered by George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). Her family has to move on and Susie observes from beyond the grave.

The main problem with this film for me is that the afterlife scenes - aka, the whole point of the movie - just felt kind of off and disconnected from the rest of the film. They lacked weight and purpose. I actually wrote in my notes that I was somehow more interested in what was happening on Earth. Going in, I expected the heaven scenes would really be the crown jewel of the film. That said, I think it's a testament to how nasty Tucci's character is and how much you want to see him get justice in the end. Tucci makes Harvey absolutely chilling and disgusting.

Surprisingly, one little detail that nagged at me was the cornfield. If you haven't seen the film, Tucci's character builds a sort of secret pit in the neighborhood cornfield and that's where he murders Susie. The problem was, it kind of seemed to be everywhere. It was right next to the school and not far from the Salmon household. Seeing a map actually helped...because it was actually directly connecting the school and the neighborhood.

Another thing that bothered me was the photo rolls. First and foremost, wouldn't the cops have taken them? Susie's dad (Mark Wahlberg) slowly develops all the rolls of film that Susie had used before her death, apparently one roll a month. Why would you parse it out like that? I would think you'd want to develop them immediately because the odds of finding the killer would go down the longer you wait. Unless he wasn't doing it to track the killer?

Another MVP here is Rose McIver playing Susie's sister. She had a bit of a subplot of suspecting the neighbor George Harvey, which leads to a very tense scene finding a secret book Harvey hid in his house that documents his crimes.

At the end nothing really happens. Harvey gets away and it's years later before he...graphically falls to his death. There's no justice for the family. I guess that's the point the movie was trying to make. That's kind of it. I don't think we really even get a final definitive heaven scene from Susie. So that's it, it's kind of middling for me at the end of the day. Part of me really likes it and I love that I finally crossed it off my list, but it's definitely not, in my opinion, Jackson's best work.

2.5 out of 5 Stars