Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More Movie Reviews

I reached back into the late 90s for several of these movies. Between NetFlix and Chamois Butt'r (or A&D ointment - "diaper rash" is getting to be a problem!), we may survive our indoor training after all!

April 5, 2009 – split workouts – 90 minutes in the morning, and 105 minutes in the evening. We made the morning workout more interesting by watching The Long Green Line, “a film about running, teamwork and life.”

The Long Green Line (2008) As the dedicated runners of York Duke's 2005 Cross Country team attempt to claim their twenty-fifth state titles in fifty years, filmmaker
Matthew Arnold marks the occasion by crafting this sincere portrait of beloved coach Joe Newton, whose tireless efforts in transforming boys into men has inspired generations of high school athletes. The Boys Cross Country team at York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois is the most winning high school team in any sport in the entire United States, a feat accomplished in no small part by the caring mentorship of the man who has been coaching that team for half a decade. In a sport where only the top five athletes per team score points and only even are included in the competition, a staggering 214 boys have joined the York team simply to be in the presence of such an iconic and inspirational leader. Of course coaching such a sizable team is no small undertaking, but even when two of the star athletes are expelled from the school for arson mid-season, the optimistic Coach Newton refuses to give up hope that his team will endure and prevail.

April 12, 2009. Easter Sunday – which means, of course, the weather was crappy. So, a two hour trainer ride in the bike cave was in order. We watched Hoosiers.
It follows the typical “inspiring sports movie” formula, but with a cast including Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper, it does so with style.

Hoosiers (1986) High school basketball is king in small-town Indiana, and the 1951 Hickory Huskers are all hope and no talent in this Oscar-nominated drama. Things go from bad to worse when coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman
) joins the team. In short order, Dale expresses ambivalence about the star player, ostracizes himself from the townsfolk and hires a drunk (Dennis Hopper). Feelings for the coach change, however, when the sad-sack team turns itself around.

April 18, 2009. Rain and heavy snow since Thursday evening. Much too wet (and cold) to get outside. We watched Speed, and the time really went quickly (2 hour ride – ugh). Sandra Bullock was fresh, funny & engaging in that movie. Keanu Reeves was buff and dumb. Some things don’t change . . .

Speed (1994)
Keanu Reeves stars as an LA Bomb Squad specialist whose principal antagonist is elusive bomber-extortionist Dennis Hopper. Seeking vengeance after his latest ransom scheme is thwarted, Hopper presents a personal challenge to Reeves: A wired-for-destruction city bus, which will detonate if the speedometer drops below 50 MPH. Playing the reluctant civilian who is pressed into service as the bus' "substitute driver," leading lady Sandra Bullock became a major star in her own right. Once Speed gets to the meat of its story, the excitement never lets up--not even after the boobytrapped bus is out of the picture. Run Time 115 min.

April 19, 2009. The sun is out, but the roads are a wet mess . . . bike cave time. Another 2 hour endurance ride. 3:10 to Yuma is ok, but that’s all. If they are showing it on the plane, go ahead and watch it. But don’t run out to Blockbuster or put it at the top of your NetFlix queue. Kind of like Deadwood with less swearing. Everyone looked hot, sweaty and dirty. Personal hygiene just wasn’t a high priority, I suppose. Russell Crowe looked pretty good; Christian Bale looked nasty (he had one of those scruffy little beards that guys who can’t really grow beards end up with).

3:10 to Yuma (2007) Rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale
) agrees to transport the captured outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to the nearest town with a rail station, where they'll wait for a train to court in Yuma. Holed up in the hotel near the station, Wade wreaks psychological havoc on Evans, while Wade's henchmen plan their next move. The movie is a remake of the 1957 classic starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin.

April 23. We’re heading out on vacation today – 4 days in Palm Springs with Phil’s boss. Knowing that we’ll eat and drink with abandon, we squeezed in a workout before leaving for the airport. “Duck” may not be for everyone – it is a small movie with no action scenes and not a whole lot going on, but I find myself thinking about it often since we saw it. It is a sad movie about growing old and lonely, but is also uplifting. Everyone needs a purpose – and you need to find that purpose to keep moving forward.

Duck [2005] An aging societal outcast and a motherless duck set out to find shelter and meaning in a future where people are separated by as many degrees as they are connected. The last public park in Los Angeles has been closed to the public. The city is a desert, and dispossessed widower Arthur Pratt (Phillip Baker Hall
) has outlived his usefulness. A retired history professor who spent all of his savings caring for his beloved late wife, Arthur sets out to the park where his son and dearly departed wife are buried to pay his final respects before ending his own life. Arthur's grim westward march hits an unexpected hitch, however, when an orphaned duckling that has recently cheated death adopts the homeless septuagenarian as a surrogate mother figure. Once again displaced when their park becomes a landfill and their pond is drained, the unlikely pair embarks on a journey to find shelter and meaning in a world where their lives seem to have little value. Writer-director Nicole Bettauer's quietly touching indie drama screened at the Hollywood Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at Cinequest in Las Vegas. Run time 98 min.

April 27. I have confessed my dirty little secret before – I’m a fan of Dancing with the Stars. This season I wasn’t very interested, because the “stars” were pretty low-grade celebrities and no one really caught my eye. But, as usual, I did get sucked in. My favorite (though I realize he isn’t much of a dancer) is Ty Murray.
I know he won’t win, and in fact, I expect that he’ll get booted during the first week in May. But I like him because he is so obviously out of his comfort zone, and also, trying as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen on the show. The big surprise for me, is that Phil and his mom are both in Ty’s corner – in fact, Phil even voted last week, just to try to keep Ty alive one more week! So, when I saw “Adrenaline Cowboys” on NetFlix I figured it was worth a try. It is actually a good little film – personal interest, inspiring underdog stuff – just the ticket to kill a 90 minute workout.

Adrenaline Cowboys: Eight Seconds to Glory (2005) Bo Derek plays host for this in-depth documentary, which takes a look at the bone-crushing rodeo sport of bull riding -- and the hardy breed of men who participate in it. The video includes profiles of rookie Mike Lee, who became Professional Bull Rider 2004 Champion, and "King of Cowboys" Ty Murray (widely considered the greatest professional bull rider in history). Run time 90 min.

April 28. "Bigger, Faster, Stronger" wasn’t quite what I expected. It had more of a World Wrestling Federation/meathead power-lifter slant than I expected, which, in retrospect, makes sense. I get so used to cyclists being on the hot seat for using performance enhancers, I forget that they aren’t the only group of athletes trying to gain an advantage – by any means.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster (2008)
In the hopes of exploring American culture's increased obsession with winning, documentary filmmaker Christopher Bell examines the anabolic steroid use of his two brothers. After setting the stage with a look at the cultural backdrop of the 1980s -- in which hulky stars like Syvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were the ideal -- Bell illustrates how he and his brothers became involved in the bodybuilding subculture, eventually discovering the brutal truth that success in the lifestyle of pumping iron demanded the use of steroids. Run Time 106 min.

May 2. You may be shocked by this – but it is Saturday, and it is raining. Back to the cave for our 2 hour workout. Today we did hard intervals as penance for being sissies and not racing the Lookout Mountain Hill Climb. It was 42 degrees and drizzly when I was slated to take off . . . nah, I decided to pass. So, I tried to redeem myself by going really hard during our indoor training session. The “Transporter” was perfect – tons of action, nearly no dialog – and no annoying plot – with a super hot dude to watch (also a hot chick for Phil – I don’t discriminate). 92 minutes of go go go. Easy to keep my heart rate up.

The Transporter [2002] An outlaw finds his life becoming all the more dangerous when he turns against a gang of criminals in this action drama. Frank Martin
(Jason Statham) is a former Special Forces officer who lives on the French Mediterranean and has a lucrative second career as a underworld courier for hire. Martin will deliver anything anywhere, but he has three iron-clad rules - once the plan is in motion it cannot be changed, neither he nor his customers are to ever use their real names, and under no circumstances will he open the package. Martin is hired to make a delivery to a wealthy but unscrupulous American known as Wall Street, but after taking possession of the package he realizes that whatever is inside happens to be alive. Breaking his own rule, Martin opens the bag to discover a beautiful Asian woman, Lai, who is bound and gagged. Lai briefly escapes, but Martin captures her, and delivers her to Wall Street as promised. However, after being given a parcel to deliver by Wall Street, Martin finds out what Wall Street is up to - in partnership with Lai's father Mr. Kwai, Wall Street is part of a scheme to smuggle Asian illegal aliens into France. Martin's conscience gets the better of him, and he sets out to rescue Lai and put Wall Street and Mr. Kwai out of business; however, as if this wasn't enough of a challenge, Martin discovers a French detective, Tarconi has gotten wind of his illegal business. Run time 92 min.

May 3. We actually could have ridden outside today, but I had a hike planned with some girlfriends and I also needed to go into the office, so the efficiency of a workout in the pain cave won out. Back before we knew that Mel Gibson was a nut job in real life, he played a nut job in Lethal Weapon – and it was entertaining from start to finish.

Lethal Weapon [1987] LA cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson
), whose wife has recently died, is a loose cannon with a seeming death wish. This makes him indispensable in collaring dangerous criminals, but a liability to any potential partners. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), a family man who just celebrated his 50th birthday, is partnered with Riggs. As Riggs gets to know Murtaugh and his family, he begins to mellow, though his insistence on using guerilla tactics to catch criminals is still (put mildly) above and beyond the call of duty. The main villain is The General, a drug dealer responsible for the death of the daughter of one of Murtaugh's oldest friends. The General is also in charge of a deadly, militia-like gang of smugglers. Adding fuel to the fire is The General's chief henchman, played with all stops out by Gary Busey. Run time 110 min.

May 4 and May 5. Had a couple long indoor workouts to knock out on Monday and Tuesday. So long as you completely suspend your disbelief and give in to the guilty pleasure of watching stuff blow up, True Lies is a lot of fun – and it is much longer than most of the action flicks out there, so it worked nicely for us.

True Lies [1994] Borrowing liberally from the French film La Totale
, this is an action picture, domestic comedy, and political thriller rolled into a crowd-pleasing ball of entertainment. Producer James Cameron ("Titanic") wrote and directed the film. Henry Tasker (Arnold) is a workaholic computer salesman neglecting his mousy wife Helen (Jaime Lee Curtis), a legal secretary. Harry suspects that Helen is cheating on him, and he sends a few colleagues to kidnap her. Helen then discovers that Harry is a secret agent, working for a shadowy group called the Omega Sector. Harry and his partner Gib (Tom Arnold) are trying to find four nuclear warheads that have disappeared from a former Soviet republic. Mayhem ensues. Run time 141 min.

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