Extreme Measures – Bad Doc, No Biscuit! week

Extreme Measures (1996) – Rated R for violence, language, some nudity and graphic ER content.

In director Michael Apted’s medical thriller, emergency room doctor Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant) is haunted by the disappearance of a strange patient’s records. Against the advice of his nurse friend Jodie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Guy pushes the investigation. The trail leads to Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman), a brilliant doctor with a clouded conscience whose experimental surgeries, which allow spinal cord victims to walk again, hint at the sinister.

“You made a moral choice and not a medical one. I guess I’m kind of surprised, that’s all. “

Okay Extreme Measures starts off well with two naked men escaping a medical facility pursued by men in a car. Unfortunately it then segues into Hugh Grant as Dr. Guy Luthan controlling an ER. Twenty medical professionals standing around and the only one capable of dealing with things is the cute floppy-haired guy. I started giggling. I dare you to watch the scene and not giggle.

Unfortunately Hugh Grant appears to have only one forte – romantic comedy. He is not as one dimensional as Keanu Reeves but it is very hard to take him seriously in this movie. His investigations really beg the question of what happened to the other Hardy boy.

Sarah Jessica Parker is okay but the role doesn’t require her to do much of anything. Gene Hackman, who I normally like, simply collects a paycheck here. Bill Nunn and David Morse are fine character actors but don’t add much to the film.

This was the first movie for Simian Films, founded by Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley and was a financial flop. This was released the year after his arrest for lewd conduct. Seriously a long-term relationship with one of the pre-eminent super-models of the day and you get caught in a parked car with a common streetwalker. Sheesh!

There is a good chuckle to be had when we are introduced to two police officers named Burke and Hare (after the infamous 19th century graverobbers/murderers). Apart from that most of the laughs are unintentional.

People Watch: Look for Director David Cronenberg’s brief appearance as a hospital lawyer and the always welcome J.K. Simmons as Dr. Mingus.

The Poseidon Adventure – Don’t Get on That Boat! week

This week is Don’t Get on That Boat! week. The Poseidon Adventure is currently available on instant Netflix.

WARNING: This movie is only available through January 31

The Poseidon Adventure

WATCH: The Poseidon Adventure (1972) – Rated PG.

“As the luxury liner Poseidon charts its course on New Year’s Eve, disaster strikes when an undersea earthquake causes a titanic tidal wave and capsizes the vessel, leaving just 10 survivors. Led by a no-nonsense reverend (Gene Hackman), the group must maneuver through airshafts, electrical cables and a burning engine room to the boat’s hull, which is their lone chance for escape. The film scored an Oscar for Best Song (“The Morning After”).”

“The Andrea Doria stayed afloat 10 hours before she sank.”

The granddaddy of the disaster genre, The Poseidon Adventure still holds up pretty well after 38 years. In spite of the above quote, the circumstances behind the disaster are clearly patterned on Titanic lore. The Captain is urged, cajoled, and threatened to move his ship at top speed in spite of his better judgment by the owners.

One of the perks of the disaster genre is the cornucopia of stars parading through the film. The real star here is Gene Hackman who appears to take the material entirely too seriously but is a treat nonetheless. While he could hold a film by himself, he does have ample support.

Shelley Winters takes her role very seriously as well. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her juicy role. Jack Albertson plays her loving husband.

Ernest Borgnine is Hackman’s counterpart, the opposite that a buddy cop movie would demand – in fact Borgnine plays a detective. Stella Stevens is his wife, a former prostitute.

Rounding out the cast are Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall, Arthur O’Connell, Carol Lynley and a pre-Nancy Drew Pamela Sue Martin. Carol Lynley sings the Oscar-winning song, “The Morning After” somewhat ironically before disaster strikes.

Characters are well-established prior to the rogue wave. After that the film has a number of wonderful action setpieces as the survivors try to work their way through the ship. Director Ronald Neame and reportedly producer Irwin Allen make the epic trek very exciting. An Oscar Special Achievement award was given for visual effects.

In addition to the aforementioned Oscar nods, The Poseidon Adventure was nominated for many others. Best Art Direction – Set Decoration seems an obvious one for the wonderful upside-down sets. It was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and Best Sound.

In the film our main group (headed for the engine room) briefly encounters a group led by the Doctor heading for the bow. Believe it or not a poorly-regarded sequel was made in 1979, “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure” starring Michael Caine. This film deals, at least partially, with that bow group that is only glimpsed in the original.

I highly recommend this journey into “Hell, Upside Down” (the film’s tag line) but Netflix has it listed as only available until 1/31.

Wolfgang Petersen remade the original as “Poseidon” in 2006 while a quickly-made TV movie “The Poseidon Adventure” premiered in 2005.

People Watch: Long before he spoofed himself in Airplane, Leslie Nielsen (Don’t call me Shirley!) played serious roles. Here he is the Captain of the doomed ship. Irwin Allen’s wife, Sheila, appears as a nurse.

Christmas week – Enemy of the State

Besides taking place during the holidays (thus qualifying it for Christmas week status), Enemy of the State definitely knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.

Enemy of the State

WATCH: Enemy of the State (1998) – Rated R for adult content, graphic language and violence.

“Hotshot Washington lawyer Robert Dean (Will Smith) becomes a victim of high-tech identity theft when a hacker slips an incriminating video into his pocket. Soon, a rogue National Security agent (Jon Voight) sets out to recover the tape — and destroy Dean. Tony Scott directs this breakneck political thriller that co-stars Gene Hackman as an intelligence expert who comes to Dean’s aid.”

Tony Scott directed this tense thriller shortly after Will Smith came off Independence Day. Normally I find that his fast pace and jump cuts detract from the film but in this case they serve the story well. One of the background storylines in this movie is an upcoming vote on a bill that sounds a lot like a portion of The Patriot Act even though this film predates that by many years.

Will Smith is his usual likeable everyman self and Jon Voight is appropriately sinister as a man with an agenda. Gene Hackman does a marvelous update to his character from The Conversation (a very similar film) and steals every scene he is in. The cast is filled with easily recognized character actors giving good performances, many of whom aren’t credited for some reason. Jamie Kennedy and Seth Green play a funny pair of agent/analysts. Jason Robards lends some weight with a brief role as a Senator.

The film is very good but flawed. While the breakneck pacing keeps one from questioning some of the logic holes, the initial killing seems very far-fetched (far too public). The climax comes across as lazy and contrived since it is essentially the same climax as his earlier movie True Romance. Thankfully Tony Scott doesn’t overuse his odd angle  and color-shifted (or bleached) cinematography here – it only gets annoying a bit during a tunnel chase.

The theme of ubiquitous surveillance is wonderfully handled though credit should be given to the aforementioned The Conversation (1974) and The Anderson Tapes (1971) for breaking ground. Overall this is a highly enjoyable film that handles the subject matter in a fun instead of preachy manner. I also love one particular dialogue exchange.

Robert Dean: What the hell is happening?

Brill: I blew up the building.

Robert Dean: Why?

Brill: Because you made a phone call.

People Watch: Look for Tom Sizemore as a mob boss, Jack Black as an analyst, and Gabriel Byrne as an agent.