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Movies that had the budget but blew it: Chain Reaction (1996) I think Keanu Reeves ran about thirty miles in this flick.

Dr. H and I are going on a bad movie bender.  Not your typical “bad” movies involving low budget productions or films that go right to dvd though.  Instead we are looking at bad movies that had the money, supposedly had the talent and yet managed to create a pile of dung.

 

Our first look is at Chain Reaction (1996) starring (among others) Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman.  This “film” had a budget of Fifty Million Dollars — that is right, dollars, not pesos or yen but greenbacks.  Despite an almost bottomless checkbook, the filmmakers managed to create something that I could not in good conscience feed to a goat.  Not only did it have the cash but some seasoned cast members as well.  First there is Morgan Freeman (playing Paul Shannon), a solid actor though he has made other bad movies besides Chain Reaction.  While I personally am not a fan of Reeves, who plays the lead, Eddie Kasalivich, plenty of other people would disagree with me.  There is also Fred Ward as “FBI Agent Leon Ford,” an actor who starred in one of (in my opinion) the great underrated movies “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.”  And there is my favorite actor of this bunch, Brian Cox, playing the evil Lyman Earl Collier.  Cox is in two of my favorite movies: first he plays the real/original Hannibal Lector in Michael Mann’s 1986 production of “Manhunter” and also co-stars in another of my favorites, “Super Troopers” (2001) as Captain O’Hagan. 

 

Now with fifty million dollars and a high caliber cast someone, somehow, somewhere cobbled together Chain Reaction.  I could not believe it and neither could Dr. H.

 

Eddie Kasalivich (Reeves) is a student working with a team from the University of Chicago to create the greatest most abundant clean burning and healthy form energy from bubbles. Though this team had been without success, while he was working at home Eddie discovered the secret unlocking all the energy in the tiny bubbles.  He perfects the machine and everything works and is stable.  Yeah the world’s energy problems have now been solved by a college student working at home!

 

But this is only the beginning, because after the celebration, he has to go back to the lab and get his motorcycle.  While there, Eddie discovers his leader dead and the reactor about to explode.  Then, get this, he runs to his bike and speeds away and then the reactor explodes like a nuclear bomb.  Luckily Eddie and his bike outrun the explosion’s shock wave and when it finally does catch up to him, he had skidded off into a ditch so the explosion (destroying eight city blocks) goes over him.

 

Now Reeves begins the marathon.  Because of some planted evidence Reeves and his female colleague, Lily, are framed and on the run from about every law enforcement agency in the world for the next ninety minutes. 

 

As if the viewer didn’t know it by now, the explosion was a plot hatched by some black operations government agency to destroy the science behind the great energy source.  Eddie is able to track these rogue government agents to the “C-Systems Research” facility where they are trying to replicate the experiment.  Eddie sneaks into the lab (where he finds Lily, who was kidnapped and forced to continue working on the project) and fixes the machinery so that the next morning another scientist discovers the working reactor and everyone parties.

 

Ah hah!  Luckily for someone Freeman is suspicious, gets a download of the data and secretly provides a copy to his assistant.  He then finds Eddie at a computer in the C-Systems Research board room.  Eddie begins to negotiate his release in exchange for making the reactor work.  But someone’s bluff is called at this point—I really could not tell whose—and Cox’s character Lyman forces Eddie to have the reactor explode but not before Reeves was able to send not only proof of his innocence to the FBI, but blueprints of the reactor to “hopefully a couple thousand” international scientists as well.  He must be really smart to know and remember a couple of thousand scientists and their fax numbers.  Eddie obviously has a higher calling, to the world and to science.  But first there is more running that has to be done because the base is self-destructing so Eddie and Lily must keep running to meet the FBI which is now convinced of their innocence.  Morgan Freeman escapes through a back door to a chauffeured sedan and is last seen dictating a memo to his assistant Anita informing the Director of CIA that C-System is “…no longer a viable entity. Will be in contact.”

 

Whew.  The world’s cleanest, cheapest and safest form of energy is now for everyone to consume.  All thanks to Reeves’s ability to run long distances without breaking stride and know and remember a couple of thousand fax numbers.  Dr. H near the end of the movie said “My God Man Kill Me, Please Kill Me,” but I just didn’t have it in me to put him down.  Chain Reaction and its cast were nominated for only one award, with Keanu Reeves being nominated for the Razzie for Worst Actor, which he lost to both Tom Arnold and Pauly Shore.  Well at least Reeves didn’t win the Razzie.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Here is our third and final installment of our tribute to Burt Reynolds: “Malone” (1987).

When looking at Malone I think it is important to put the film in the context of Reynolds’ career, by the mid ’80s his heyday was unfortunately over, and he ceased to be the superstar he once was.  Box office duds like Stick (1985) and Rent-a-Cop (1988), along with unfounded rumors that he had contracted AIDS (he was actually suffering from a joint ailment), were career cyanide.  The TV series Evening Shade provided Reynolds a brief pick-up and an Emmy, but when his marriage to Loni Anderson dissolved into an ugly, endless tabloid drama, Reynolds’ career (and product endorsement contracts) nosedived.  He made Malone right in the eye of this storm.

Now let’s get one with it.  Malone is a 1987 movie, starring Burt Reynolds and written by Christopher Frank and based on a novel by William P. Wingate.  In addition to Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and Lauren Hutton also play major roles.

Malone (Burt Reynolds) has been a “wet” operative for the CIA for many years, serving his country by performing assassinations.  He was tired of his job and wanted to get out of “the company” (as it is typically called) and live a “normal” life.  He is driving through the Pacific Northwest, looking for a place to settle down, when his much-cherished classic Mustang has transmission problems and breaks down outside the town of Comstock.  Reynolds manages to get to a small gas station and is treated like family by a Vietnam veteran, who owns the station, and his daughter.  They are suffering from the nefarious activities of the local big cheese (Cliff Robertson) to take over all the land in the city and turn it into to some quasi- Posse Comitatus haven for “patriots.”  By beating or killing some of the town’s hillbillies (in self-defense), Malone soon runs afoul of the town sheriff who is basically an employee of the developer.  By the end of the film, though, he eventually wins the Sherriff’s respect.  Starting with the most inept of the sinister henchmen, Malone is gradually drawn into the town drama until he achieves his final pyrotechnic victory and moves on—like Minfune’s Yojimbo or Eastwood’s man with no name.

Meanwhile, the CIA is none too pleased to hear of Malone’s intended retirement and sends a succession of hit-men after him to ensure that he divulges none of their dirty secrets.  Malone destroys the first two killers at some cost to his own well-being.  The next assassin turns out to be a woman who is susceptible to his charms.

As we know from Sharkey’s Machine, Reynolds is actually not a bad actor when he’s not trying to be “a good old boy” all the time.  Cliff Robertson goes eerily over the top while Lauren Hutton is beautiful, brave and loyal (and I would expect nothing less).  So what do we do with the formulaic movie clearly made by Reynolds because he needed the money?  There is nothing evidently wrong with the film—it doesn’t look low budget, everyone seems to play their parts and get their lines straight.  My advice to you is to enjoy it for what it is a damn good bad movie.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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This Movie is like an old friend–“Real Men” Jim Belushi and John Ritter.

Real Men (1987) starring John Ritter and Jim Belushi is an unknown quantity to many.  The movie didn’t do anything in the theaters, and get at best very infrequent airings on cable movie channels, but is has become a sort of cult classic (yes I agree that term is overused).  I normally reject movies with severe logic deficiencies—even comedies but Real Men has a special place in the comedy section of my DVD collection.  A movie like Real Men for many people is actually quite difficult to like.  Some might say it falls in the same class as “Hudson Hawk,” a different spoof that is as much vilified by its critics as it is glorified by its fans.  As for me and many of my friends, Real Men was an absolutely hilarious experience.

Belushi plays a womanizing super CIA agent who has to take Ritter, a less than average suburbanite, across the country to give aliens a glass of water in exchange for “the good package” or “the big gun.”  On the trip they have so many completely eccentric situations happening to them that I couldn’t help but be entertained.  Today the “zany” adventures of many so-called comedies are so strained that they are beyond being “not funny” and reach into the realm of annoying.  However Real Men has such an air of informality about it, that the films outlandish circumstances were seamless and even got this hardened cynic to suspend belief and laugh until there were tears in my eyes.

This one is definitely a rose, but a tough one to find.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2009 in Movie Reviews

 

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