Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Cinema: Rush Hour & Speed

Spring is officially upon us as of this past Friday, March 20th. The New Beverly has been celebrating the 90's all month and this weekend was screening a traffic titled double feature of Speed and Rush Hour. It was announced last minute on Friday that Rush Hour helmer Brett Ratner would be attending the screening. It's said to have been an informal affair with Ratner talking about the first time stars Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan met, how hard it was to get Michael Jackson's permission to use his music, shared a few directing tips and even mentioned trying to get an Enter the Dragon remake going because he loved the original and Lalo Schriffin's music so much. For some reason reaction has been poor but EtD has already been remade, didn't you see Mortal Kombat? A martial artist enters a mysterious tournament to avenge the death of a loved one, teams up with other fighters with opposite personalities, instead of a muscular Chinese right hand man that kills dudes for fun there's Goro, the four armed prince working for an evil yet manipulative, power-hungry boss. Or when Ninja Assassin was coming out, it was announced that star Rain would appear in an Enter the Dragon update. But when Ninja disappointed at the box office, talk of the new Dragon and Rain's career went away.

Anywho, some friends and I ventured to West Hollywood Saturday for the early show of 1998's Rush Hour and the prime time Speed. It's nice to see the joint cleaned up and concessions are cheap! A Coke and a Twix only set me back $3.50 while popcorn, hot dogs and White Castle sliders are also available. There was a giant Rush Hour poster in the lobby and the pre-show consisted of a 90's Mountain Dew commercial featuring an unknown Channing Tatum. Then, to continue the Chris Tucker theme as stoner/ghetto comedy Friday was screening at midnight, a Dr. Dre music video from the soundtrack played. In it's entirety! Rush Hour follows Hong Kong cop Lee (Chan) as he travels to Los Angeles to find the kidnapped daughter of the consulate while fighting a mysterious crime syndicate. He's teamed up with big mouth LAPD detective Carter (Tucker) and the mismatched duo tick off the FBI and bad guys alike as they figure out the case themselves. It's a classic buddy picture with both leads getting to shine. Chan looks surprisingly beefy in this with a thick neck but classy as well in his black suit and red tie. Trademark acrobatics and "use everything in the room" fight scenes are great along with practical stunts like hanging off street signs on Hollywood Boulevard or falling onto a giant banner from the rafters of the L.A. Convention Center. Also endearing is his chemistry with the up and coming Tucker who's funny, charming and talks too much. Great supporting cast too with Tom Wilkinson, Tzi Ma, Ken Leung, Chris Penn, Mark Rolston, Rex Linn, Elizabeth Pena, John Hawkes and Elizabeth Pena (View In Peace) rounding out a crew of familiar faces and old school professionals. It's Ratner's ability to make a well shot and produced entertaining flick with a solid cast that always keeps me from being a basher. Some people are just jealous of others I guess but if it was so easy to be successful, people would be out living their dreams instead of taking pot shots at others.

Next up was 1994's Speed, one of the surprise hits of that summer. The New Bev is playing True Lies tonight and I think those two would have been a great, summer action double feature. Surprisingly enough, the tag line for Speed is "Get ready for rush hour...". Keanu Reeves, Jeff Daniels, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper star in the intense action flick where mad bomber Hopper exacts his revenge on cop Keanu by rigging a city bus to explode if it goes under 50 m.p.h.. It's a total 90's movie from the cold metal look of Andrei Bartkowiak's cinematography and Mark Mancina's catchy, invigorating yet slightly sad score. I loved the slick, moving shots with cars, motorcycles and choppers moving in and out of frame and the film does a marvelous job of keeping the tension up without wearing you down. There's also a great sense of humor throughout. Keanu is pumped up and heroic, Bullock sassy yet cute, Daniels funny as the older partner, Hopper hammy and eccentric while 4th billed Joe Morton gets to be the cool yet tough commanding officer. The flick goes on for a bit towards the end with a rehash of an earlier ridiculous stunt but for the most part, still a great ride even if improbable if you broke it down. Plus the bus number is 2525 which added together is 50, genius!

The 90's theme has worked out for The New Bev this month with something like 13 sold out shows. Speed was packed as several friends couldn't get in. The Bev is now offering just about half of tickets online with the remaining seats being sold at the door. I'm excited to return tonight for Cutthroat Island and True Lies before Heat next weekend.

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