Wednesday 10 February 2021

Rob's Movie Night Roundup - "B" (Bad Boys, Big Trouble in Little China)

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I decided that we'd like to watch more movies. There are 52 weeks in a year, 2 of us, and 26 letters in the alphabet. What better way to choose some movies than to go alphabetically? The only rule: Where possible, it should be a movie that one or more of us had never seen before. Oh, and ideally it should be part of one of the copious online streaming services we're already subscribed to, because why bother paying for a rental when we're not short of options?

Incidentally, if anyone from the big online streaming service providers is reading this (your Notfluxes or your Prims, for example), please make it easier to search for/sort movies alphabetically. Thanks.

Also, fair warning: There may well be movies that appear on this list that you'll find hard to believe I haven't seen before. It happens. I've already had this reaction privately for one of the films on this edition.

Previous letters are here: A

For this "episode", it's time for B! Not much to say on this one, except to say thanks to those who responded on social media affirming that the love of About Time is not unique to just the two of us. Not a lot of mention of Aquaman, but I think the majority view is that it's a perfectly serviceable film, which perhaps lends itself to not provoking a visceral reaction either way. I digress. To the "B" films!

Bad Boys
Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Tea Leoni

Synopsis via IMDB: Two hip detectives protect a witness to a murder while investigating a case of stolen heroin from the evidence storage room from their police precinct.

For a bit of background on this one, despite not having seen the first movie I *had* seen Bad Boys II as a one-off cinema visit in 2003 accompanying one of my university housemates. When I asked him if I needed to have seen the first one to really appreciate the sequel, though he didn't know for sure, he had a rather amused reaction and seemed pretty convinced that it would be unlikely to add much.

Well, 17 years and some change later, I can say with certainty that he nailed it.

If I were visited by extra-terrestrial life tomorrow and charged me with pointing them to a single movie that so beautifully encompasses the 1990s (and nobody can say for sure what the future will bring, so don't you *dare* say it's pointless to be prepared for this), I would point them without hesitation to 1995's Bad Boys. One of the classic "buddy cop" franchises, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence do a great job of playing off each other in this film and the cast all-round does their job serviceably. Some of the smaller roles are performed a little bit stiffly, but at the same time I wonder how much of that is just them giving the character what they think makes sense, and in all cases it's actors who I know can do a great job elsewhere, so by no means am I writing off any of the less prominent actors.

If you go, or indeed went, into this movie with expectations of highbrow cinema then I don't know what to say aside from cheerfully asking "what did we learn?" Michael Bay as director *now*, of course, gives you a great idea of what you're in for in terms of visual effects, overall tone and special effects. I'm by no means one of his detractors, as I think that what he does is something that he does very well, and who am I to judge anyway? Let's not forget, also, that from IMDB it looks like he directed a bunch of music videos including "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls, which is an absolute belter of a tune.

Caveat: I have not seen the music video for "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls, but judging by the content of Bad Boys, I can only assume it consists of a massive gunfight at an airfield with a bunch of flaming bodies flying all over the place, presumably while Divinyls are doing their best to keep playing the song with all the chaos going on around them.

Anyway, Bad Boys. I quite enjoyed it, truth be told. Yes, it's got the aforementioned ridiculously OTT ending set piece, but the buildup to it is genuinely entertaining as long as you go into it with managed expectations. This is a much easier prospect nowadays, so if you haven't had the pleasure, I can give you a sense of said expectations: "cheesy 90s movie". Any more optimistic than that and you're going to struggle.

Big Trouble In Little China
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall

Synopsis via IMDB: A rough-and-tumble trucker helps rescue his friend's fiancée from an ancient sorcerer in a supernatural battle beneath Chinatown.

Yes, I know. If it helps, when I came to the realisation that I remembered literally one scene of this film for a reason (that reason being that I hadn't seen the film in full), I was feeling a level of surprise akin to what you might be feeling right now. Until a week or so ago at the time of writing, I had not seen Big Trouble in Little China all the way through.

This becomes particularly surprising when you think about what this movie represents. A film from the 1980s (1986 in this case), starring Kurt Russell and directed by John Carpenter, should (and indeed does) tick so many of my boxes that it's almost inconceivable that it would not have found its way into my rotation over the years. Admittedly, I spent my childhood not *really* watching a lot of movies in terms of a diverse range (I had my favourites, and I stuck to them pretty keenly). Also, given that I've not only lived for 23 years past the recommended age for this film but also been to university and taken direction from my fellow students as to what to catch up on, I'd have sworn that this movie would've found its way in.

Nevertheless, here we are.

I do find myself wishing I'd seen it before, for a number of reasons. First of all, much like the aforementioned Bad Boys, Big Trouble in Little China is a thoroughly enjoyable cheesefest if you go in with low expectations for anything particularly...coherent in terms of story. The notion of a trucker turning up in San Francisco, getting embroiled in a turf war which then turns out to have deeper supernatural elements and results in a big martial arts throwdown in what is presumably a converted shopping centre turned into a villain's lair (Seriously, who has escalators in their ceremony room? Honestly...) seems pretty far-fetched really, and that's because it is.

I feel the need at this point to make a quick point that though he has no music video credits to his name (none that I could find anyway), John Carpenter is an incredibly talented musician and I've very much enjoyed using his "Lost Themes" album as a writing aid when trying to put myself in the right mindset. Seriously, give it a listen. You'll thank me, as I thank Brad for recommending it.

Anyway, one thing I picked up on during the film was how cool Kurt Russell manages to come across in the film, despite actually spending the majority of the action set-pieces being rendered completely ineffectual somehow. I liked it, and apparently it was so that Dennis Dun could shine as the intended hero of the story and look stronger. It works!

Also, I'm increasingly seeing what the excitement was about regarding 1980s Kim Cattrall. She's ace in this one!

The verdict on this one was mixed in the Wade household. While I enjoyed the movie as a cheesefest, particularly impressed by how good it looked on a modern day Apple TV HD remaster, my wife was not so enthused about it. Perhaps I benefit from *some* prior knowledge regarding the movie and had a better idea what to expect. Perhaps the presence of Kurt Russell, John Carpenter and 1980s Kim Cattrall was enough to influence me about its quality. Whatever the reason, not a resounding agreement here about whether this film would merit a rewatch. Make of that what you will.

In short, our "B" movie choices (not to be confused with B-movie choices, although who knows what the future of such a criteria may bring?) were not necessarily our favourites so far. About Time is still, surprisingly, the film we both got the most enjoyment out of. This may not be surprising to those who have long been aware of its quality, but in my position I'm sure you can appreciate that up against "a DC origin film you haven't seen yet, which is supposed to be pretty good" and more importantly "Kurt Russell and John Carpenter reunited for an action-packed cheesefest", a Richard Curtis romantic comedy wouldn't necessarily seem like the strongest prospect.

Anyway, we're halfway into C at the time of writing, so look forward to a few bon mots in a couple of weeks!

Did you enjoy the roundup? Let me know! If you have thoughts on the movies chosen and their respective writeups above, you know where to find me. Maybe you don't, but there are buttons everywhere to make that happen. Comments, Twitter, you name it. Moreover, if you want to make use of this movie night format, bearing in mind you're a few weeks in and might have to double up to get up to speed, feel free to do the same - I'd love to know what you chose too!

Rob Wade

Rob Wade blogs about stuff he likes. Whether it's video games or geek media for Emotionally14 or writing about speculative theories for future films on Talk Star Wars, the focus has always been on the stuff that brings the most pleasure to his life within media.

Rob is the editor of Emotionally14, and showrunner of the E14 podcasts "The Crazy Train", "The E14 Gamecast" and "Talk Star Wars", as well as the host and guest of a number of pieces on E14's Youtube channel over the years.

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