The original “Die Hard” was a near-perfect action film, putting a reluctant hero in a confined skyscraper setting, facing him off against memorable villains and treating the whole enterprise with wit, style and imagination. It made Bruce Willis a movie star, established Alan Rickman as a classic villain and made a fortune at the box office back in 1988. So, naturally, there were imitations, all following the formula of a lone hero stuck battling badguys in a distinct location. There was Die Hard on a Bus (“Speed”), Die Hard on a Boat (“Speed 2”), Die Hard on a Plane (“Passenger 57”), Die Hard on a Mountain (“Cliffhanger”) and even Die Hard at the Stanley Cup (“Sudden Death”). Unfortunately, there was also the official sequel, Die Hard at an Airport, better known as “Die Hard 2.”
Last week, on Out of Theaters, we focused on “Fight Club.” The week before, “Seven.” And this week, it’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.” And you could argue that, of the three movies, “Glengarry Glen Ross” is the most violent of them all. It’s not physical violence, like in “Fight Club” or “Seven.” There are no punches thrown, and no one’s body is left bloody and shattered on the floor of the sales office. But on an emotional level? It’s one of the most brutal movies ever made.
Here’s the one thing you need to know about “Fight Club”: It’s a comedy. Forget the violence, and the anti-consumerist message, and all the scenes involving testicular cancer support groups, defiling of food and brutal, underground boxing. When you get right down to it, it’s just a buddy comedy about two mismatched friends trying to make their way in this crazy world.
There are hundreds of serial killer movies, but none of them is quite like “Seven.” It’s not the first, (Fritz Lang’s 1931 thriller “M” predates “Seven” by more than six decades, but even it wasn’t the first). It’s not the most acclaimed. (“The Silence of the Lambs,” which arrived four years earlier, took home five Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor and Actress). It’s not even the most realistic. (“Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” made almost a decade earlier, is so true-to-life that it’s almost unwatchable at times.) But “Seven” is arguably the best of the bunch.
The strangest thing about “Starship Troopers” is that so few people got the joke. Back in 1997, when Paul Verhoeven’s movie hit theater screens, critics blasted its simple storyline and cardboard characters, missing the fact that Verhoeven used an old science fiction novel to satirize patriotism, nationalism and the gung-ho military mindset of a hundred Hollywood war movies.
Not every classic movie is a black-and-white blockbuster from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Sometimes, a movie that’s not even two decades old — and that pretty much died at the box office — can become a classic, too. That’s the case with “Office Space,” a 1999 comedy written and directed by Mike Judge. Though it barely earned back its $10 million budget during its (short) theatrical run, in the years since it’s been a sensation on home video and cable, and what’s more, it’s become the de facto movie about what it’s like to work in an office in this, our modern world.
This week’s episode of Out of Theaters takes a look at teen movies from two generations: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” which was released in 1982 and aimed at the oldest members of Generation X, and “Can’t Hardly Wait,” which hit theaters in 1998 and targeted the Millennials. In a strange twist, “Fast Times” arrived three years before Will graduated high school, and “Can’t Hardly Wait” arrived three years before Billy got his diploma. So, for two of the members of our esteemed podcast (I’m leaving Kevin out because he doesn’t fit the math), these movies didn’t so much reveal what high school was like, they revealed what high school might be — at least, according to Hollywood.
Back in 1994, two movies dominated the cultural conversation. “Forrest Gump” won the Oscars, and “Pulp Fiction” changed the industry, but somehow, when no one was looking, another film released in that year became the favorite movie in the whole wide world.
The 1996 movie “Bottle Rocket” was Wes Anderson’s first movie, but it’s safe to say that “Rushmore,” released two years later, was Wes Anderson’s first Wes Anderson movie. Focusing on the exploits of bold visionary (and lousy student) Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman in a career-launching performance), “Rushmore” showcases all the elements Anderson would become known for: meticulous set design and decoration, pitch-perfect musical choices (the best since Scorsese, really), a certain theatrical mood that knocks on (but never breaks) the fourth wall, a distinct sense of sadness lurking just below the comedic surface and, most memorably, Bill Murray.
The lasting brilliance of Pulp Fiction (1994) lies within the film’s ability to create tension and humor in the same breath. Now 21 years old, the screenplay from Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary still holds all of its original style. The dark comedy is defined by its distinctive dialogue and nonlinear telling of interlocking stories. It manages to draw laughs in places you don’t want but can’t resist because of the peculiarity of it all.