Friday, March 27, 2015

Worth Mentioning - And There Ain't No Nothin'

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody goes back to a couple childhood favorites.


Sixteen-year-old Nelson (License to Drive's Corey Haim) is growing up under unusual circumstances, criss-crossing the country with his father Sam (Relentless series star Leo Rossi), working as an accomplice to Sam's criminal endeavors. Sam is a professional bank robber and car thief with principles - he only steals American made cars under the assumption that the owners will use the insurance money to buy another American made car. Thus, in his mind he's helping out the economy by committing grand theft auto.

Things have been running smoothly for Sam and Nelson for quite a while, but over the course of the film things start to fall apart. The situation gets so rough that Sam and Nelson are split up, with Nelson in the clutches of their traitorous former partners Tony, the getaway driver who never got to drive (played by Ken Lerner, who has co-starred with Rossi in twelve movies, including Maniac Cop), and Sam's martial arts expert ex-girlfriend Lilly (Cynthia Rothrock).

To save his son, Sam has to team with Nelson's mother, the woman he took their child away from 12 years earlier, Marcia Strassman of Tremors: The Series and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids as Lorraine, who Sam met and taught how to drive like a maniac back in his demolition derby days.

Veteran stuntman Spiro Razatos is creeping up on two hundred movies in the stunts section of his filmography, but as a director he has only made two feature films: Class of 1999 II: The Substitute and Fast Getaway. Of those two, Fast Getaway is the one he really got to show off his stunt knowledge with.

The movie features some great vehicular chases, including some cool crashes and a sequence in which one stunt performer is hanging off the open passenger door of a speeding pickup truck while another is dragged behind the vehicle on a section of chain link fence. Cynthia Rothrock gets to do some of the fighting you'd expect from her. The standout stunt of the movie comes with a long drop from the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, which at the time was the highest bridge in the world, into the Arkansas River 955 feet below.

Fast Getaway may not be very well known in general, it was a direct-to-video release that seems to have faded into obscurity over the last twenty-four years, but it was a major part of my video renting and cable watching for a while in the early '90s. I was around seven or eight when this movie came out, and I loved it. Revisiting it now, I still find it to be a highly enjoyable action-comedy with likeable characters and fun performances. It's light as a feather, but it's an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes.

FAMILY TIES (1982 - 1989)

I went many years without watching any episodes of Family Ties, and yet it was always a show that I counted among my favorites. This is because I have so many childhood memories of watching it. I was born while the second season was airing, new episodes continued airing until I was well into my fifth year, and then it lived on in syndication.

The show centers on the Keaton family of Columbus, Ohio. Parents Steven (future Tremors star Michael Gross) and Elyse (Meredith Baxter) are children of the '60s; liberal progressives with a passion for civil rights issues. But this is the '80s, and their former hippie mindsets now clash with those of their eldest children, staunch conservative Alex (Michael J. Fox, whose career skyrocketed during the run of the show) and firm member of the consumer culture Mallory (Justine Bateman). Daughter Jennifer (Tina Yothers) is quite young when the show starts, but gradually shows signs that she's more like her parents than her siblings. A fourth child, Andy (played primarily by Brian Bonsall), is born during season 3 and quickly taken under Alex's wing.

Although politics play into the show, this isn't All in the Family, there are no blow-ups where family members butt heads. Steven and Elyse certainly don't agree with Alex's views, but let them slide with punchlines rather than arguments. However, there are episodes that deal with things such as gender equality, climate change, the anti-nuke movement, censorship, and racial discrimination.

Due to the popularity of Michael J. Fox, episodes often focus on Alex, which at times made me feel bad for Bateman and Yothers, as I think their characters could have carried more episodes than they got. It is very much to Fox's credit that Alex is as likeable as he is, because on the surface the character is greedy, sexist, and self-absorbed. He tends to hide his softer side. If there were anyone other than Fox in the role, Alex could have been an insufferable character.

One area in which Family Ties was severely lacking is continuity. Sometimes it's simple things - for example, Alex threatens to reveal the supposedly low score results of an IQ test taken by Mallory, who often comes off as a bit dim. Yet this threat comes just a few episodes after it has been shown that Mallory scores surprisingly high on IQ tests. Did the writers and actors just forget this fact? That high score was a victory for Mallory, so why would Bateman and the showrunners let a joke slide that takes that victory away? Sometimes the continuity is out of skew because a handful of episodes were aired way out of order, slotted into seasons a year or two after they were filmed. And then there's Andy... Although the fourth Keaton child was born in 1984, after a season and a half of being a baby he was aged up. Bonsall, born in 1981, was cast in the role, and Andy became the age of the actor, even though the ages of Andy's siblings did not have a similar jump.

Any issues I have with Family Ties are easily overcome, though. Watching my way through its seven seasons on Netflix was a very enjoyable experience. All of the actors do great work in their roles, the characters are fun to watch, the show is well written and funny, and it provides a very comforting atmosphere for me.

One of my clearest memories of watching the show as a child is of watching an episode from the final season in 1989. Sitting in a house that would be destroyed by fire within a year, the TV showing an episode that centers on Mallory's boyfriend Nick Moore, a Sylvester Stallone-esque fellow portrayed by Scott Valentine. Entitled Nick's Best Friend, that episode is a very emotional one, a tough one to watch, but seeing it again took me right back to 1989.

The show had notable cast members as side characters along the way and memorable cameos. Fox met his wife Tracy Pollan when she played Alex's girlfriend for a season. Tom Hanks is in a couple episodes as Elyse's troubled brother. For Friday the 13th fans, there's an appearance by The Final Chapter victim and Fox's Back to the Future co-star Crispin Glover, and Friday the 13th Part 2 Amy Steel shows up in an episode, playing the girl who takes Alex's virginity.

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