It was only a matter of time…
The B Action Movie Thread has been a gargantuan mainstay of this site for several years. So, in our continued efforts to dominate the internet in every conceivable way, here is a weekly column. A digest, if you will. Dig in and we’ll see you in the thread!
THIS WEEK ON THE B ACTION MOVIE THREAD (Last Week’s Installment)
Erix here with a rundown of the usual madness on The B Thread for this week.
Things are off to a rather exciting start with a much appreciated visit by Paul McCartney to the thread. He hasn’t been around for a while, so it’s nice to hear from him and he has some interesting news…
Greetings… I recently saw a rather wonderful comedy from the 90s called Don’t Tell Her It’s Me. I normally wouldn’t waste your time with something like that, but I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t resist. Steve Gutenberg does a fantastic job in both his disgusting fat slob incarnation as well as the sexy and slender alter ego. He is truly a debonair gentleman!
This leads HunterTarantino to speculate that “Steve Gutenberg would have made a phenomenal Dexter, had they made that series in the 90s.”
He then proceeds to go on a 5-paragraph rant about his new roommate. It’s an entertaining read, but I’m not sure that “shoving his face against the garbage compactor” is such a good idea, Mike. Besides – how would you do that exactly?
At first, most of us are rather excited that Noam Murro has dropped out of Die Hard 5, until Moltisanti brings this rather troubling bit of news…
Well gents… Don’t break out the champagne just yet. The new director has been announced. It’s none other than Darren Lynn Bousman – they probably picked him based on his vast experience directing movies about confined spaces. No word on if Tobin Bell has been cast as the bad guy, though I’m holding out hope for Costas Mandylor.
Also no word on if it is now called DIE HARD CUBED or DIE HARD CHALLENGE or DHIAERD.
At least you people can stop whining about no R rating now.
Most of us aren’t necessarily thrilled by this news. Just as we aren’t particularly jumping for joy when Felix stops by to tell us that both Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker have signed on to Vantage Point 2, to be directed by Alan Parker.
Thankfully, Tyler Foster can bring us out of our funk with some very exciting news that On Deadly Ground will be getting a special edition in July. He is kind enough to bring us the official press release.
Warner Home Video announces ON DEADLY GROUND – THE ESSENCE OF A MAN EDITION.
– Includes the Theatrical Version and Steven Seagal’s Official Director’s Cut (restoring the 30 minute environmental message – so necessary in our current climate)
– Audio Commentary by Steven Seagal (Director’s Cut only).
– “How Much Is Enough?” (A feature-length retrospective featuring Seagal, Michael Caine, Joan Chen, John C. McGinley and others as they look back on the making and impact of this cult classic)
– “What Does It Take?” (A special look at the legendary fight scene, featuring actor Mike Starr)
Seagal is heavily discussed also, as there is word that he is preparing to return to the director’s chair for Under Siege 3: Into The Light.
kain424 provides this interesting interview excerpt…
“I’m actually very thrilled about returning to this character with a story conceived by an exciting new writer named Patrick Gorman – and a screenplay that I wrote. It’s very high tech about an experimental zeppelin that is supposed to replace current air travel as being more environmentally friendly. And, of course, the corporate bigwigs at the airlines won’t have any of that… And there is a conspiracy to destroy the zeppelin. It’s a bit like All The President’s Men… Very political… Very topical. But there will be plenty of action to satisfy the fans. It’s going to be the best of the series. It’s a picture I really believe in this time.”
Duke Fleed talks about his trip to a New York City DVD emporium with a very special item of memorabilia:
Rene (Mr.Eko), you would be very…TITillated…by the find that I…found! I was perusing…Movie Land in the…East Side…and there was a beautiful cardboard stand of Lynda Carter as…WONDER WOMAN! She will always be…SUPERior…and more…WONDERful…than the new Wonder Woman…Adrienne Palicki!
Jox reveals that Dolph Lundgren is working on a very intriguing side project: a stage rock opera of I Come in Peace, featuring music written by Bryan Ferry—showing that Mr. Drago himself has not been fazed by the Spider-Man pandemonium on Broadway.
But, seriously, first Uwe Boll and now this? Someone please stage an intervention before it’s too late.
Fat Elvis has been watching a lot of classic movies lately. And posting a lot of interesting trailers… The most interesting of which is this one for Sidney Lumet’s THE WIZ.
Needless to say, Paul McCartney responds with an inappropriate comment about Michael Jackson.
Hans Gruber’s EYE CONDITION returns also from a rather extended hiatus to reveal the reason behind his disappearance.
I am sorry that I have been away… But I’ve been marathoning Perfect Strangers for the past few weeks. I have finally watched the entire series!
An unforgettable epic about the American dream.
Speaking of television, we have a long discussion about Judge Reinhold and his return to our lives, in the upcoming FX show – PAVEMENT. GabeT has this to say…
I don’t know if you guys heard of this or not, but I’m actually really excited about this new Judge Reinhold cop show. He’s been out of the limelight for too long. Besides, he’s looking good.
Which prompts Rene to reminisce about Zandalee and Erika Anderson’s breats. But, you know what? We’ll leave that one to the imagination.
Duke Fleed’s response is more tasteful…
GabeT, I too am excited about…PAVEMENT. But it will not be anything like…TJ HOOKER the best…cop show of all time. I don’t mean to…JUDGE too quickly but William Shatner will always be…the best of the television cops.
THE MIND OF RENE F. RANGEL
So today I went on a FRIGGIN’ FABULOUS SHOPPING SPREE! Vanessa got me a $100 gift card to Walmart! Of course I had to spend THE WHOLE FRIGGIN’ LOOT so I went there and bought Red Heat on Blu-ray. I also bought Moonstruck on Blu-ray so I could watch Nicolas Cage yelling about THE BIG KNIFE over and over again in high definition. I also bought the double feature with Universal Soldier and Lock Up on Blu-ray. Hunter, please don’t threaten me, it was only $15.00 and it was on Blu-ray so I figured why not revisit the plight of FRANK LEONE.
Then I went over to the video game section and I spotted Tron: Evolution for the PS3 on sale for $29.96. I heard it wasn’t very good, but since it was on sale, I decided to buy it. Then I found all of those really cheap Stephen J. Cannell complete series box sets, so I am now the proud owner of the complete series of Hunter (no, not your own TV show, the fabulous Fred Dryer one!), Wiseguy, and 21 Jump Street, which put me $15 over my gift card limit, but it was still a damn good haul.
Then Vanessa and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings. It was Boneless Thursday, so we ordered five dozen boneless wings and I friggin’ ate them all. I was feeling really generous so we went to see Sucker Punch. I hate to say it, Hunter, but I thought it was FRIGGIN’ FABULOUS WITH A SIDE OF AWESOME!!!!!11!!!!!1!!!! I loved when the hot Asian broad was piloting a friggin’ MECH SUIT with a pink bunny painted on it and it WENT INTO THE AIR! It was RoboCop 3 times three! I also loved how Scott Glenn shows up as a samurai, a World War I General, a Vietnam helicopter pilot, and then a BUS DRIVER. I would totally be comfortable giving it a 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 out of 10, which means that it was the equivalent of eight Bo Derek clones because of all the hot broads.
On the way home, I stopped at Big Lots and I bought Cool World, which I remember being advertised on TV a lot back in 1992 during reruns of Tales from the Darkside and Monsters but I somehow never saw it. I’m watching it right now. Kim Basinger’s cartoon cleavage is NICE.
THIS WEEK’S MOVIE
WE HONOR THE TIMELESS BATTLE OF KRAMER VS. KRAMER
Mike’s Take: Now THIS is How You Bait the Academy!
Kramer vs. Kramer is a film that has developed a bad rap over the years, due in majority to the Best Picture winner’s inferiority compared to its big competition that year, Apocalypse Now. It was a huge commercial success that emerged at a time when divorce rates had escalated, burying the “nuclear family” ideology of the 1950’s and early 60’s, and it was anchored by the excellent performances and its portrayal of a volatile and brutal personal war between Ted (Dustin Hoffman) and Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) over the custody—and loyalty—of their precocious young son Billy (Justin Henry).
Surprisingly, the subtext of the conflict plays brilliantly at the hands of writer-director Robert Benton. Not only was he involved with the screenplay for the original Superman film, Benton is a guy who exploded onto the film scene by co-scripting Bonnie and Clyde. In other words, Benton succeeds brilliantly in using the same approach for his nihilistic bank robbers in love here. Like Bonnie and Clyde, Ted and Joanna are somewhat likable people who are befallen by their unfortunate and glaring flaws. Both Hoffman and Streep won Academy Awards for their performances, and the work on display here is nothing short of explosive and commandeering.
The year before Kramer, Hoffman had turned in arguably his most powerful performance in Straight Time as Max Dembo, a paroled felon who returns to his criminal life in the face of a world unwilling to assimilate him into a law-abiding citizen. Ted evokes a spiritual successor to Dembo by not inhibiting violent qualities in the aftermath of his marriage’s destruction but playing Ted as a loving father whose diligence to his career has hurt his aptitude as a parent. He’s more comfortable as a cutthroat adman than getting his son ready for school. His attempt at preparing French toast ends in a white bread massacre. Ted is a lost cause hurting in trying to be a good father, and the pathos Hoffman channels through his performance makes for an enthralling experience that you have no doubt has to end in redeeming himself.
We’ve seen Meryl Streep cross over to so many different genres and films, and her breakthrough turn as Joanna shows a rare side of her. Joanna is a wife and mother whose dissatisfaction with the path her life has taken her in makes her a steely, ruthless ice queen, a hypocrite who forces Ted to linger in despair as she returns from California to get her son back by any means necessary. After all, Billy was almost blinded in a grave accident, and in her eyes, Ted is the bad guy, and she is the omnipotent god of self-righteousness. When the shit hits the fan in the fight to negotiate custody terms, her true colors are revealed, and the way Streep taps into Joanna’s flippancy in exploiting the law to undermine Ted further.
More than the direction and writing, Kramer vs. Kramer is a showcase for its actors. Justin Henry, making his film debut as the subject of this unflinching blood feud, may come off as an annoying little brat at first, the type you’d want to enter the film and mutilate his Mego World’s Greatest Superheroes. Conversely, Henry gives such a brilliant performance as Billy Kramer solely because he becomes that type of kid.
When he rebels against his father by telling his dinner to go fuck itself and going straight for the ice cream, not only can you truly relate to this kid’s desperation to have his way all the time, it starts to question the viewer that they were once bratty, stuck-up kids in their lifetime. By the way, the scene works so beautifully as Hoffman (who was going through a divorce at the time—a Method to the madness if there ever was one) and Henry completely improvised the scene, the former drawing from his own experiences in a similarly troubled marriage. This scene may be the film’s best and strongest (if not most remembered), and it was here that Hoffman finally listened to Olivier’s advice on the set of Marathon Man.
“Try acting,” indeed. Divorce and custody battles are a grave and damaging issue that deserved a film with performers so dedicated to expressing these grievances, and so solidifies the brilliance of Kramer vs. Kramer.
ERIX THRILLS TO ONE OF THE GREAT SHOWDOWNS OF THE SEVENTIES
Before there was Ecks Vs. Sever… Before Frost Vs. Nixon… Before Tyson Vs. Holyfield ’97 – There was KRAMER VS. KRAMER.
I’ve always liked this movie. I first saw it, in bits and pieces, as a child in a hotel room – specifically the Atrium Heights in Budapest – and it made an impression on me. I suppose it would make an impression on any child, as intense as the movie is. But it wasn’t until I rediscovered it later in life, as a young adult, that I came to realize it is one of the great thrillers of the seventies – a relentless showdown between two explosive combatants – leading to unpredictable and shattering results.
Robert Benton is no stranger to action and spectacle. He was one of the writers on Superman. And, in the 90s, he was rightly celebrated by the critics of The New York Post and The Miami Herald (as well as a great John Anderson 3-and-a-half star notice in Newsday) for the action-packed Twilight with Paul Newman and Gene Hackman. Who can forget that spectacular showdown in James Garner’s kitchen? When Newman rolls on the ground, like Martin Riggs, and his shot is straight and true…
For Kramer Vs. Kramer, Benton scales back a bit on the spectacle. But he still keeps the pulse racing and stages some very memorable scenes. And he has a great cast on hand to bring life to the proceedings.
The film opens with Meryl Streep. Streep was a fine villain, with a comedic edge in Death Becomes Her. And we saw her badass side in The River Wild. But this is probably her most chilling role. In the opening moments of the film, she ABANDONS HER SON with great abandon. Few movie bad guys are introduced with this sort of flare and panache. But, right off the bat, this bitch means business. And it becomes no surprise when she shows up later and starts fucking things up for Hoffman.
Ted Kramer is a great screen hero and Dustin Hoffman plays him to perfection. He is very much a Harrison Ford-type everyman who rises to the occasion and kicks ass when necessary. In fact, a scene in which he gets fired – and tells his boss, “Shame on you!” – is not unlike Ford’s chastising of the president in Clear And Present Danger. We’ve seen Hoffman get down to business in Outbreak and Sphere. But those guys have nothing on Ted Kramer.
It’s a great balancing act of steely resolve and warm sensitivity for the actor. We glimpse this early on, during the very exciting scene in which he tries to fix breakfast for his son. Hoffman has been accused (by William Goldman) of having certain “movie star tendencies” in films like Marathon Man. Meaning: he didn’t necessarily want to be seen as weak or cruel. Goldman is lashing out at Hoffman because of the change in Marathon Man’s ending – where a contrivance causes the villain’s demise, as opposed to Hoffman shooting Olivier in cold blood the way he does in the book.
If that unwillingness to show human frailty was present in ’76, it’s certainly absent in 1979. We sit there on the edge of our seats as Ted Kramer struggles to make French Toast. He can barely crack an egg into a cup and seldom has a man looked so lost in his kitchen. He’s so clumsy that he allows the egg to overcook and burns his hands… I’m still trying to figure out how they accomplished the special effect of the pan flying through the air so effortlessly. But there is a key dramatic reason for this scene, beyond it being a great action beat – as he shrieks: “Goddamn it! GOD DAMN HERRRRR!!!!” – he is voicing a universal frustration. It’s easy to identify with and like Ted Kramer because of this.
We are sucked into the relationship with his son. We see the good and the bad. The quiet, dramatic moments of reading Tintin at bedtime, or shopping for very specific cereals and detergents at the local PathMark, are balanced out with more explosive set pieces… Take the famed dinner scene, for instance. Hoffman is very good in this, but Justin Henry is every bit his equal as the abandoned son. The “ice cream scene” as many call it, has all the intensity of Sean Penn facing off against Christopher Walken in At Close Range. And it also allows both actors to strut their stuff in some very expertly choreographed action… It’s nail-biting stuff… Hoffman is almost taken out by Henry’s well-placed kick to the knees – but he is able to overpower the tyke and throw him onto the bed, defeated. It’s a very satisfying fight scene.
More thrills come later… First, in the very suspenseful and shocking scene where Billy Kramer falls off the jungle gym. Jackie Chan has dazzled us with many excellent stunts over the years. But Justin Henry is no slouch when it comes to that sort of thing. Cinematographer Nestor Almendros took great care to stage that scene, with some well-placed gym mats just out of frame. Well, some people don’t know this detail, but Justin Henry would have none of that. He threw himself into the scene just as he threw himself off the monkey bars and didn’t bother aiming for the gym mats! That is some world-class method acting right there, no doubt inspired by his “I will stay up until 6am and run around the block 10 times to look tired” co-star. No doubt he drew on some of that same Lee Strassberg-inspired training for the later scene where the doctor applies stitches to his cut face. It is a horrendously violent and intense scene, every bit the equal of Marathon Man and “is it safe?” As a child, I’d had stitches applied to my finger when it was busted open like a melon by a falling cinder block. I think I was on the verge of nausea when I saw this play out, while playing with my Legos, in that hotel room in Atrium Heights – but it has lost none of its power and shocking realism. It’s that sort of attention to details that sets Kramer Vs. Kramer apart from a lot of formula thrillers of the 70s.
What follows the spectacular jungle gym stunt is probably one of the great action sequences of the seventies. Hoffman’s 5-block sprint from Central Park West to the clinic is the stuff of legend. Robert Benton stages it as one continuous tracking shot and we thrill as Ted Kramer dodges cars and screams at people to get out of the way, while cradling his injured son. The sensitivity and determination he shows here is very much like Harrison Ford crying about Thora Birch losing her spleen in Patriot Games, but it is coupled with an action beat to rival the French Connection car chase.
Like many of our favorite action heroes, Ted Kramer also has a sensitive side. This is glimpsed during Hoffman’s interactions with Jane Alexander – there is an erotic tension to all their park bench conversations and it is palpable. It’s Bond and Moneypenny… Moulder and Scully. It’s so electric, in fact, that it comes as no surprise when Kramer has to get it out of his system by doing the business with Jobeth Williams in the film’s centerpiece sex scene… Robert Benton showed a lot of balls in allowing Justin Henry to get in on the action. Volker Strogonoff, or whatever the fuck his name is, got a lot of heat for The Tin Drum; and Louis Malle was crucified for Pretty Baby and that other movie he did where a kid fucks his mother. But no one talks about Benton and his exposing Justin Henry to the breasts of Jobeth Williams.
The movie makes us wait for the eventual fireworks of the film’s title. But you can be sure that, once that moment comes, it delivers in spades. I love that phenomenal confrontation between Ted and Joanna in an ugly as hell midtown restaurant (this seems to be a thematic motif for Benton, as the film’s other big face off – between Ted and his evil boss – also takes place in a tacky restaurant somewhere near 50th street.) Try not to say “OH SNAP” during the big one on one that takes place here. “I want my son.” – “You can’t have him.” It’s as stunning an exchange and as to the point as Pacino and De Niro when they pretty much tell each other that next time they meet “one shall stand and one shall fall” in HEAT.
The movie doesn’t waste an opportunity here either for some exciting action… Hoffman’s punching of the wine glass is a real “Oh shit” moment. As it was actually improvised by the actor, it shows his dedication at making Ted Kramer a unique and very memorable hero.
Although the film’s climactic moments don’t deliver as much action, they are no less exciting. Benton stages the courtroom histrionics with flare and pizzazz. He wrings every bit of tension and suspense out of it that he can… And we are right there while attorney Howard Duff is making Meryl Streep feel like an asshole. It’s riveting as he breaks her down by calling her a bad mother. And, even then, Ted Kramer shows he is a sympathetic hero when it is clear that even he thinks that was a little too much abuse for his arch nemesis.
All these elements are combined by Benton and peppered with a nice non-intrusive acoustic guitar-based musical score that gives ambience and texture to the piece. Basically, Ted and Billy Kramer get a pretty nice “hero’s theme.” It’s no different than the great work that Basil Pouledoris and Michael Kamen have done for some of our favorite films, really.
Yeah… This is great stuff. So, next time you’re in the mood for some pulse-pounding excitement, microwave some Act II and pop Kramer Vs. Kramer into your DVD player, you won’t come away disappointed.
Kramer Vs. Kramer is a tale ripped straight from the headlines about 2 people who live in a tumultuous marriage. Kramer #1 is the breadwinner in the family, but he’s also a workaholic. He barely knows his son, Kramer #3. He leaves everything up to his wife, Kramer #2. Kramer #2 in the beginning, has had enough of it all, and decides to take what little money she had in their bank account when they first married, and leave him the rest, along with the credit cards that they had together. (This must be the dream of any man who wants a divorce. The wife just taking what little she had before the marriage, and even leaving the credit cards!).
Anyway, Kramer #1 must now raise their child by himself. At first they have an intense dislike of each other, like any bad sitcom. Kramer #3 misses his Mommy, and cries incessantly for her. Even to the point where he upsets Kramer #1 and Kramer #1 calls him a little shit. They of course make up, and begin to warm up to each other.
Then the stalking begins. Kramer #2 makes her re-appearance towards the end of the film, and she’s re-introduced while looking through a glass window with her hands firmly planted on it. They show her several times looking malevolently at Kramer #1 and Kramer #3 playing together in a park and having fun.
Kramer #2 doesn’t like this, and wants to take custody of Kramer #3 away from Kramer #1. Kramer #1 has now grown to like his son, and even takes a lower paying job, after being fired from his previous high paying gig because of the fact that he has to begin raising his son on his own. Now he will do everything in his power to retain custody of Kramer #3.
Despite Kramer #2 being extremely unhinged, she does not swap stalker stories with Play Misty For Me and Fatal Attraction. No, she just wants to destroy Kramer #1’s life by taking the one thing that he holds precious. Kramer #3 and his love of French toast. Oui Oui indeed, Monsieurs and Mademoiselles.
They hire 2 ambulance chasing lawyers who are neither Bill Murray or Walter Matthau, and they proceed to dig up all the dirty deeds of Kramer #1 and Kramer #2. Kramer #1 is lucky that the subject of his son seeing one of his broads naked and asking if she liked fried chicken never came up.
In the end, Kramer #2 wins custody of their son, but at the last minute, decides that Kramer #1 is a much more suited parental figure than herself. She gives up and lets the very elated Kramer #1 keep custody of their son. He lets the teary eyed Kramer #2 go up to see their son alone, and they both smile at each other.
I highly recommend you to see this film. You will be weepy eyed at the end. Also a craving for fried chicken and French toast.