Speed (1994)


Pop Quiz, Hot Shot

This is another in the long list of classic, action movies that I just never got around to seeing.  I’ve heard all about the movie and pretty much knew exactly where it was headed because of all the things I had heard about it, but I don’t think I had ever seen it all the way through.  I had just seen parts of it on TV.  So today became the day for me to sit down and watch Speed, written by Graham Yost and Joss Whedon, directed by Jan de Bont and Alan Ruck, and starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels, Joe Morton, Alan Ruck, Beth Grant, Hawthorne James, Richard Lineback, and Glenn Plummer.

A man with a fucked up hand has installed a series of bombs on an elevator filled with high-powered business people in an attempt to ransom them.  SWAT members Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels) are called in.  They manage to get the people out of the elevator, and even find the bomber (Dennis Hopper), who promptly grabs Harry to hold Jack at bay.  Jack reacts by shooting Harry in the leg, causing the bomber to run and set off the explosion, killing the bomber.  Jack and Harry get awards, and Harry gets promoted to a desk job because of his injury.  The next day, Jack witnesses an explosion on a bus and gets a call from the bomber, who is not as dead as originally thought.  The bomber informs Jack that he has put a bomb on another bus.  Once this bus exceeds 50mph, the bomb will activate.  If the bus then goes below 50mph, it will go off.  Jack jumps into action, getting himself onto the bus.  His presence on the bus agitates a passenger with a gun, who then accidentally shoots the driver (Hawthorne James).  Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) is then tasked with driving the bus as Jack tries to find a way to get them off the bus, and Harry tries to find out who this bomber really is.

Most of you have probably already seen Speed and have figured out your opinions already, but now I have one.  I liked it!  Sure, it’s a little cliche, a lot absurd, and most of the lines are cheesy one-liners, but it’s still a fun movie.  When the evil genius falls for the old “surveillance tape on a loop” thing, that was rookie stuff.  I was also never entirely sure about Hopper’s motivations to begin with.  He was a retired policeman, but I really don’t know what made him decide to kill people for money.  If it was only money that motivated him, it seems out of character for a police officer, and a little easy in the writing department.  Also, they go to the “road/track is under construction and not completed” thing twice, and that’s extra lazy.  The same goes for Hopper taking a hostage in the exact same way at the end of the movie.  A lot of the lines uttered in the movie are a little cheesy, but I thought some of them were pretty clever.  My favorite was the line delivered after Reeves kills Hopper.  ::SPOILER::  While fighting on top of the subway, Hopper is going off, saying “I’m smarter than you, Jack!  I’m smarter!  I’m smarter!” and then Reeves pushes Hopper’s head up into a passing light, decapitating him.  Reeves tops it off with “Yeah?  Well, I’m taller!”  I think we all saw the decapitation coming, but that is a solid line.  Granted, they kind of fuck it up afterwards when they use the way too obvious “He lost his head” line.  ::END SPOILER::  The movie is a solid action movie, through and through.  It starts out with solid action and doesn’t really waste very much time on story at all.  But the action is well done, interesting, and usually pretty spectacular.  They jump a bus, take it up on two wheels, and drag Keanu beneath the bus.  But it keeps the movie exciting, and that’s what I came for.

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t say I regard Keanu Reeves as much of an actor.  This movie doesn’t really change my perceptions, but it is the type of movie he works best in.  He can’t really seem to escape the fact that he always sounds like Ted “Theodore” Logan, no matter what setting he’s in.  But he works well in a big dumb action movie.  He can deliver one-liners with the best of ’em.  I felt like Dennis Hopper may have been a bit over the top in his performance in this movie, but he had a couple good lines as well, and it worked well in the movie.  I especially liked when Keanu was calling him crazy and he said “No!  Poor people are crazy.  I’m eccentric.”  That’s another good quality line.  This was one of the movies that introduced the world to Sandra Bullock, and that is always a good thing.  I wouldn’t say she was “hot”, per se, but she does cute exceedingly well.  I really liked when she hugged Keanu at the end of the movie with her hands cuffed.  I just wanted to protect her…and maybe have a relationship based on sex with her.  I was happy to see Jeff Daniels in the movie as well, but he was perhaps a bit underutilized.  The parts that he was in made me feel like he was every bit aware of how ridiculous parts of the movie were, and he probably was.

It took me a while to get around to it, but I’m pretty glad I did.  I probably would’ve liked this movie much more had I seen it closer to when it came out, but I feel it still holds up today.  The story itself is pretty ridiculous and occasionally feels lazy, but the action keeps the movie above 50mph all the way through.  It included a handful of the best cheesy one liners I’ve ever heard, and they were delivered by characters that were mostly over the top, but totally worked for the movie.  I dig this movie, and it will probably be making it into my collection pretty soon.  If you don’t keep a huge collection of DVD’s as I do, it’s available for streaming on Netflix.  Even if you’ve already seen it, you may want to rewatch it, and I don’t think you’d be very disappointed … unless (from what I hear) you watch Speed 2 instead.  Speed gets “Don’t get dead” out of “We’re leaking gas?”

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What Lies Beneath (2000)


You Stole the Dead Woman’s Shoe?

With October Horror-thon coming to a close, I picked an odd movie that I now feel barely qualifies as a horror movie.  It has a ghost thing going on, but not a super strong one.  But it was on the top of the pile I pulled of horror movies and so it’s happening.  The movie is called What Lies Beneath, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford, Amber Valletta, Miranda Otto, James Remar, Diana Scarwid, and Joe Morton.

Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her husband Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford) send their daughter off to college, leaving Claire all mopey about it.  One night, the Spencers hear their new neighbors, Mary (Miranda Otto) and Warren (James Remar) Feur, have a big argument.  Claire decides to get all Rear Window about it and spies on them through binoculars.  One night, she sees Warren dragging a big bag into the trunk of his car.  Being that there is no other, logical explanation, Claire decides Warren killed Mary.  Claire starts having some strange occurrences that lead her to believe that Mary is haunting her.  Claire has a seance to contact Mary and the Ouija board starts to move from M to F.  Obviously, this means it’s Mary.  She goes to her husband at work and gets all worked up when he tries to tell her that she’s overreacting.  To show just how much she’s not overreacting, she accuses Warren to his face until Mary joins in on the conversation.  Claire temporarily lets the situation go until she finds a newspaper clipping about a missing girl named Madison Elizabeth Frank.  She performs a ritual with a braid of Madison’s hair she steals from Madison’s mother that causes Claire to be temporarily possessed by Madison.  Claire must find out what the connection is between Madison and her family and why she’s been haunting them.

As I said in the prologue, I wasn’t really feeling like this movie would qualify as a horror movie through the first part of it, but it kind of brought it home in the end.  It did pull off some good startles and some suspense as well, but without any gore or confirmed supernatural occurrences, I became worried that I would have to watch ANOTHER movie before going to bed because this one wouldn’t count towards the arbitrary rule I set on myself for doing all horror movies.  I thought that Pfeiffer was only imagining ghosts because she had been in a car accident that caused her to forget certain things she saw before the accident and the “ghost” thing was just the way her memories were returning, but thankfully, near the end of the movie, things were revealed that actually had ghosts so it justified it.

I do actually kind of dig this movie.  It pulls off the suspense it goes after for the most part.  I feel like part of my enjoyment might have been because it was Robert Zemeckis, who I will eternally love for Back to the Future, but I didn’t know it was him until I started writing the review.  The movie is a little slow to start and it does feel like the whole misdirection thing involving their neighbors was a waste of time, but it was still pretty entertaining, and that’s all I really require out of a movie when push comes to shove.  I hadn’t thought about it until just now, but since the ghost had nothing to do with the neighbors, that was probably 45 minutes of unnecessary stuff in the movie.  But it turns out in the end that the ghost’s problem isn’t even with Pfeiffer, so what the hell?  Why’re you haunting her when one could assume you have the power to go after the person you actually have the problem with just as easily?

The acting is pretty good.  Pfeiffer had to pull off two distinct performances at times in this movie.  When she was Claire her stress levels were slowly climbing to a boiling point as the movie progressed, took a bit of a lull in the lower half of the movie, and then popped right back up to where they were pretty quickly.  Then she also played the much more confident, pushy, and seductive ghost-possessed Claire and the performance really showed a range for Pfeiffer.  Not a range that I didn’t already know she had though.  She did the same kind of thing in Batman Returns, technically.  Selina Kyle starts off nerdy and timid until she gets thrown out of a window by Christopher Walken.  Then Catwoman comes in all sexy and sassy.  Same principle, less leather.  Harrison Ford had an interesting performance as well.  For the first 2/3 of the movie, he really doesn’t make much of an impression, but shows up in the last third.  He’s technically present for it, but it’s more about Pfeiffer at that point.  When it’s his turn and the back story is being revealed, you kind of feel bad for him for a while.  He messed up, but he seems to deeply regret it.  And by the very end of the movie, you don’t feel as bad for him anymore.  There were very few other people in this movie so I don’t really know what else to say about their performances.  It was mainly Catwoman and Han Solo.

The movie only barely manages to qualify as a horror movie, so I would avoid going into it expecting one.  Instead, go in expecting a suspense movie with a bit of a slow start but some solid performances and you should say this movie is thoroughly okay.  And that’s what I have done.  I have decided it is okay, but thoroughly so!  And I will give this movie “Claire’s hearing things” out of “Forbidden fruit.”

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