Wednesday, October 09, 2002


(A sporadic series of appreciations or deprecations of those little details in movies that either enhance the story or evict the viewer from it. Read Part One.)

GOOD: In the Line Of Fire. This underrated thriller stars Clint Eastwood as an aging Secret Service agent who becomes personally involved when a brilliant assassin announces his intention to kill the President of the United States. He has a love interest in another Secret Service agent played by Rene Russo. In one scene where they seduce each other, the camera tracks the movement of their feet across the hotel room carpet as they undress each other -- but as they move, one by one all of those gadgets Secret Service agents carry thud to the floor. Handcuffs, their guns, their holsters, their radios, those little ear-buds that come up the back of the neck, all of it. That's a good touch in itself, but it actually is the set-up for a joke. Eastwood and Russo have barely begun when the phone rings. It's their boss, of course, telling them that there's been a change in plans and they're to report immediately. Russo jumps up and starts getting dressed, leaving Eastwood alone in bed for a second, at which point he groans, "Now I gotta put all that shit back on."

GOOD: Die Hard. This film is actually full of good details, but two favorites of mine occur during the scene where the police are about to attempt to raid the Nakatomi Building, ignoring the protests of John McClane (Bruce Willis). As the policemen make their way through the building's surrounding landscaping, one of them catches his hand on a bush's thorns, and yelps, "Ouch!" Meanwhile, the bad guys prepare to receive the cops in the building's lobby, with one of them taking his position behind a candy counter. As this guy waits for the shooting to start, he reaches into the counter and swipes a candy bar.

BAD: Die Hard 2. I love all of the Die Hard movies, but Die Hard 2 has its share of goof-ups and errors. Two of them are most notable. Early in the film, Detective McClane is in Dulles International Airport, which is in Washington, DC. He uses a payphone to call his wife on her plane (she is flying in, and he is there to pick her up). The problem with the scene is that the payphone he uses is clearly marked, "Pacific Bell". The other bad detail in the film comes when the terrorists intentionally cause the crash of a jetliner. This is a very horrific scene, complete with a shot of the passenger cabin before the crash just so we know that this is a fully-loaded jet whose passengers are all going to die. When the plane crashes, it goes up in an immense fireball. The problem with this is that we've already been told that this particular plane has almost no fuel left. It simply would not make that big of an explosion upon crashing.

BAD: Air Force One. Speaking of airplanes, there's this film which may be the most disappointing film I have ever seen, when I compare my expectations based on a description of the plot versus the finished product. Harrison Ford plays the President of the United States who must fight armed terrorists when they hijack Air Force One -- how could a movie with that story go wrong? Well, I won't list the ways in which it goes wrong here, except to note one glaring detail. Air Force One contains the single worst visual effect I have ever seen in a big-budget Hollywood movie: the final crash of Air Force One into the ocean. This effect looks every bit like the lousy piece of computer animation that it is. I am astounded that the filmmakers looked at this effect and said, "Yep, that's good enough".

GOOD: Pinnocchio. You have to admire a Disney film with as cheerful a dark side as this one has. The scene where the pool-shooting ruffian Lampwick metamorphosizes into a donkey is a perfect bit of horrific film-making.

BAD: The X-Files. Just how did Mulder and Scully manage to get back from the South Pole, anyway?

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