Movies that set up and defy cliches (boxed spoilers)

My girlfriend and I saw the remake of Assault on Precint 13 last night. While it did have its problems, such as a forest that appeared out of nowhere for a tense finale there was one touch in particular that we both appreciated.

About halfway through the movie the feisty secretary gets taught how to properly choke someone to death. Big surprise that at the end she’s called on to use this skill or be killed.

But - It doesn’t work! She’s a secretary and the guy who’s trying to kill her is a big tough policeman. She’s not strong enough to choke him one handed, new technique or not.
Another cliche defied is from Deep Blue Sea. Again, a movie with problems but who doesn’t love the way Samual L Jacksons “lead” character gets killed halfway through the movie, in the middle of a patented good guy speech about how they have to stick together and stop fighting!
I love it when movies do this: it reintroduces the possibility of movies (especially genre films) turning out differently than expected… these days I can watch a sports movie and not be sure if the team is going to win the final game or not.

And who didn’t cheer when Steven Siegal was sucked out of the plane…

Army of Darkness did this over and over. The scene that always comes to mind is when the possessed witch keels over in the tent and the guards are about to reach down and turn her over, triggering what you KNOW will be an instant revivification that will have her killing the guy who reaches down for her…when Ash says “Wait, it’s a trick. Get an axe.”

Well, Mamet is always doing this sort of thing, and usually ends up the film on some kind of morally or plotwise ambiguous note.

Unforgiven pretty much deconstructs the whole spaghetti Western mythology. The Wild Bunch ends up with no heros and everybody pretty much getting shot to hell, but that was foreshadowed.

Roman Holiday ends on a note that virtually no other “romantic comedy” (or whatever you’d consider it) has dared, 'cept maybe for Lost In Translation that so many people here seem to hate.

Galaxy Quest was really nothing more than a big cliché-smashing story. I love Sigourney Weaver’s comment when encountering a “plot device” of smashing pistons and jetting fire in the bowels of the ship: “Well, screw that!”

There was a great film, Vozvrashcheniye (The Return), about two sons whose missing father shows up one day and takes them on a “fishing trip” to a remote island. The film keeps setting up things that you think are going to be resolved in one way and then goes an entirely different (and more plausible, or at least less contrived) way with them. Nobody saw this thing, but I think it was one of the bestt movies released in the US last year.

I also liked Diamond Men with the always great (and vastly underrated) Robert Forster. You were never sure where that thing was going until the end. First a buddy picture and road trip, then a coming-of-late-age story, then a heist, then…well, just go and see it for yourself, okay?


Million Dollar Baby looks like a pretty typical “girl in sports” movie for most of the way through.

I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but the first time I saw the movie Finding Nemo, I totally thought Gill was supposed to be a bad guy. I mean, come on, Disney movie, dark colored character with a deep voice, how can he not be the surprise villain? I don’t trust him! I was pleasantly surprised when he turned out to be a good guy.

“Maybe we can beat them. Yeah, and maybe I’m a chinese jet pilot” when thinking about their chances.

And of course, Ash intially acts very cowardly and tries to flee after botching the necronomicon heist.

“Hit a weak spot”
“It’s a rock, it doesn’t have any weak spots!”

And of course, the redshirt realizing that he was probably going to die, then being one of the few to survive the movie.

In the DVD for the movie “Dodge Ball” you can see the original ending they shot, which was for the team to go all the way to the end, have a stereotypical climactic game against the opposing team, and then lose at the last second. Then it fades out and the credits start rolling. Kind of anticlimactic, but funny.

Cold Comfort Farm
All the more becuase it didn’t hit me what a cliche it was till I saw it…

You know. Where the City Slicker goes (for some reason) to some rural location where he/she meet Colourful Locals. He/she comes armed with Newfangled Ideas and Modern Presumptions…which are soon disarmed by the Basic Wisdom of the earthy rural types. The City Slicker is humbled and Learns to Love Again or Finds Their True Selves…or whatever.

Which I found myself expecting when I started watching CCF. But as it turns out the Colourful Locals could benefit quite a bit from such Newfangled Ideas as Basic Hygiene and Modern Psychaitry…and there Earthy Wisdom had been screwing them up for years.

I was delighted.

No Way Out

Kevin Costner is a Cold War Navy commander investigating the death of a woman who may have been involved with a Russian spy. As it turns out, she was also the Secretary of Defense’s mistress, and it appears the “Russian Spy” may be red herring. The catch is that Costner also had had a fling with her, and the race is on to prove that the Sec Defense is the killer before he himself is implicated.

He succeeds, but in the end, the SecDef finds another scapegoat, and Costner walks away disgustedly …

and into a safehouse, where he is debriefed … in Russian.

My contribution is the movie Deep Rising. I liked how the leader of the jewel thieves, Hanover (played by Wes Studi) turned out to be a fairly decent fellow who really didn’t deserve his fate. Treat William’s character was just as larcenous as he was and he was able to escape to the island with Famke Janssen. I was so hoping that Hanover would find a way out of his predicament and find his way to the island. A sequel would have been great.

It’s not a movie, but Firefly did this constantly.

And, speaking of Galaxy Quest, don’t forget the bomb that gets defused, but continues to count down until it stops at one, because, “Oh, they always stop at one.”

Back in the 1950’s there was a movie “Westward the Women” about a group of unmarried women traveling west by wagon train to California, to marry the men in a town there.

The guy who recruited them said “by the time this journey is over one in three of you will be dead.” The movie stuck to that. Flash floods, Indian attack, and so on. One woman was raped by one of the men who had been hired to escort them. One woman was a widow with a 10-yr old son. Movies never kill off the cute kid, but this one did. He died when a rifle backfired, and his mother went temporarily mad. One girl was pregant, and had her baby along the way. By the end of the journey was reached the women all looked like hell, dirty and ragged. There was of course some happy endings when the men and women met, but as the spokewoman for the ladies told the men, “you can look us over, but don’t think you’re going to do the chosing!”

It definitely wasn’t your average western type film, especially considering the times.

I remember my grandmother saying the same thing the first time Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) came on the screen in Pirates of the Caribbean.

I’ve mentioned this in other threads…My Best Friend’s Wedding. In most romantic comedies, the “romantic” ending is the busting up of an impending wedding by the newcomer on the scene. In this movie, you so expected Julia Roberts to manage that, but in the end, she comes to her senses, the guy stays steadfast with his fiancee (she’s Cameron Diaz, who could blame him?) and the wedding goes off as planned.

And right before that, when the learn from the kids how to stop the bomb:

“Push the big red button.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, why?”

“There’s usually more to it than that.”

Purple Rose of Cairo is a superb little Woody Allen movie about a woman who tries to escape the drudgery of her Depression era life by going to the movies.

The movie takes a literal turn when the leading man comes off the screen to rescue her, as she has no doubt dreamed of happening. This prompts the actor who played the leading man to come to this woman and woo her and convince her to let the movie leading man to return to the movie. He promises to tkae her away with him to Holywood, her dream. But in reality once she has gotten the movie leading man to return to the big screen he leaves for Hollywood without her and we do not get the happy Hollywood ending. Real life is not the movies.

I was watching Bourne Identity last night, and it had a nice twist. Jason Bourne, master spy, needs to obtain a secret printout of some bank records. He devises sets up a grand scheme to use his girlfriend to scope out a bank, telling her all these dimensions, camera placement, and security to memorize, then call him at a payphone with a coded response, then he can plan the big infiltration. You get the idea that this will be a big, tense, gadget filled sequence.

She comes out of the bank and hands him the printout. “What?” Turns out the just went up and charmed the teller, who eagerly gave her the records. They walk away together, and he seems slightly let down that he didn’t get to go all macho and James Bond.

In the remake of The Blob, the blob kills a little kid.

In Ghostbusters, the geek (Rick Moranis’s character) gets the girl. My wife laughed for a week.