Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Movies I'm embarrassed to love

Associate Editor

• Heat — No, not the one you’re thinking of with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. This Heat is a 1972 film starring Burt Reynolds and Peter McNichol of Aly McBeal fame. Reynolds plays an ex-soldier-of-fortunish character in Las Vegas, taking "chaperone" jobs, fighting with the mob, and trying to get enough money together to move to Venice, Italy. He takes the nebbish, nerdy computer magnate McNichol under his wing, teaching him how to be a tough guy. The film is filled with tons of action, and even though it is definitely dated, it still has some raw appeal, a buddy film feel, and a great action-filled ending.

• Lone Wolf McQuade — Before there was Walker: Texas Ranger, there was J.J. McQuade, played by Chuck Norris in 1983, during the height of his career. McQuade is the archetypical renegade Texas Ranger who wages war against a drug kingpin (played extremely well by David Carradine; even more evil than his Kill Bill character) with automatic weapons, his wits and martial arts after a gun battle leaves his partner dead. All of this inevitably culminates in a classic martial arts showdown between Norris and Carradine, and the accidental death of the woman they both love. The question is finally answered: Who is tougher, Caine from Kung Fu or high kicking movie tough guy Norris?

• Battle Beyond the Stars — The classic film Seven Samaurai has be remade time and time again as films like the The Magnificent Seven, a film I’m not embarrassed to love. It’s the formula you’ve all seen before: a band of diverse heroes in outer space are assembled to defend a planet of peaceful colonists from an armada of aggressors. If the special effects look familiar, it is because you've seen the same space sequences recycled in other low budget SF films. This Roger Corman classic stars Richard Thomas, The Waltons’ John-boy, the great Robert Vaughn, playing the exact same character he played in The Magnificent Seven, and George Peppard, who was a long way from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and much closer to his stint on TV’s The A-Team. It’s typical Corman cheese, with a predictable ending, but what can I say? It’s a formula that works.

• Can’t Buy Me Love — Grey’s Anatomy’s Patrick Dempsey is Ronald Miller, typical school nerd, who everyone ignores, especially his extremely hot next door neighbor, popular girl Cindy Mancini, played by Amanda Peterson. It’s a simple plot. Cindy borrows a suede outfit belonging to her mother without her permission. At a party someone spills red wine on it and she has to come up with $1000 to buy a new one in order to avoid getting into trouble. Ronald offers to buy the new outfit in exchange for her to pretend they are dating so he will become popular. This all works until Ronald starts getting a big head due to his newly found cool status. In the words of one of the characters in the movie, he “goes from totally geek to totally sheik.” He learns a very valuable lesson, and still gets the girl in the end, who finds out that she really likes him for who he is, and not who he pretended to be. It’s all very sweet and satisfying. I saw this on a high school date in 1986 with a girl who was a cheerleader. I didn’t fare as well as Ronald.

• Bring it On — For some reason, I seem to like films that only 15 year old girls should like, such as Mean Girls, Freaky Friday,and this feature, which was released in 2000. I read this script when it was first written, while working as a lowly talent assistant in Los Angeles when it was under the working title Cheer Fever. At the time, I couldn’t believe a studio was making a movie about cheer leading.
It breaks down like this. The Toro cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has got spirit, spunk, sass and a killer routine that's sure to land them the national championship trophy for the sixth year in a row. But for newly-elected team captain Torrance (Kirsten Dunst), the Toros' road to total cheer glory takes a shady turn when she discovers that their perfectly-choreographed routines were in fact stolen from the Clovers, a hip-hop squad from East Compton, by the Toro's former captain. This is high-drama for the high school crowd.
While the Toros scramble to come up with a new routine, the Clovers, led by squad captain Isis (Gabrielle Union) have their own problems — coming up with enough money to cover their travel expenses to the championships. With time running out and the pressure mounting, both captains drive their squads to the point of exhaustion: Torrance, hell bent on saving the Toros' reputation, and Isis more determined than ever to see that the Clovers finally get the recognition that they deserve. But only one team can bring home the title, so may the best moves win.
It’s like watching a live-action teen novel. But for some reason, the tension of the competition keeps me drawn in. I would deny ever watching this film if anyone ever asked me, it is such a guilty pleasure.

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