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Today You Die is a gloriously bad action film. The best way to describe it would be what would happen if you tried to splice The Getaway (1972) with Robin Hood and an urban drama and then had this bizarre concoction star egomaniac and douchebag extraordinaire, Steven Seagal who has not been relevant since the 90's.
In terms of actual quality, yes, Today You Die is a god-awful film. The writing is hilariously bad, the acting is horrid, the action is dumb and rife with stock footage, there was virtually no attempt made to make sure the stunt double and Seagal match up (During one fight scene, one is wearing a brown jacket while the other is wearing a black jacket), and it absolutely reeks of Seagal's ego which can practically blind the viewer with its intensity.
That being said, it may very well be the best Steven Seagal film I've ever seen as a B-movie fanatic (I even preferred it to the likes of the first Under Siege, Hard to Kill, and Above the Law). It's a glorious train wreck of a film that resulted in many laughs peppered with fun action scenes.
In this film Seagal plays a burglar who steals from the rich, but then after taking a cut for himself (Given the nice place he and his hot girlfriend live in), he then gives the rest to those in need. Though I could look up his character's name, I just referred to him as Fat Ghetto Robin Hood, while watching it. He's basically a cross between Robin Hood and Doc McCoy from The Getaway with a faux-urban mentality. Let's face it, you don't come to Seagal films for character development.
His girlfriend is having strange dreams and psychic visions, and begins to worry that bad things are going to happen to Fat Ghetto Robin Hood. She's basically the Maid Marian of this story, so I'll just refer to her as Psychic Maid Marian. He assures her that nothing is going to go wrong, but like character development, you don't come to Seagal films for subtlety and surprises.
He then gets involved with shady men who intend to steal an armored truck filled with cash run by a guy who is into the occult and serves as the Prince John/Jack Benyon of the story. Fat Ghetto Robin Hood agrees to do this job because he wants to save a children's hospital that's going out of business, plus earn some extra millions for himself.
So, with another man, the two infiltrate a security company and end up stealing an armored truck, but shit goes down as Fat Ghetto Robin Hood realizes it's a setup and after a chase and beating the hell out of his traitor accomplice, manages to hide the loot. But, Fat Ghetto Robin Hood ends up in prison, and refuses to tell the F.B.I. where he hid the money.
He makes his girlfriend go into hiding to avoid having her harmed by his traitorous associates and begins plotting his escape with the help of another inmate who is basically a cross between Little John and Carol McCoy, whom I shall refer to as Little Carol from now on (This accomplice is male, but the name still stands). So, Fat Ghetto Robin Hood makes a deal with Little Carol to help him escape from prison and get revenge with the promise of part of the loot, which Little Carol obliges.
Now, bent on revenge and being hunted by his former accomplices and agents of the F.B.I. (One of the agents will basically be the Sheriff of Nottingham of the story), Fat Ghetto Robin Hood will do whatever it takes to satiate his revenge.
The story is of the typical Steven Seagal feature. Revenge, a large body count, and an auto-fellatio of his ego. However, this story inadvertently becomes a parody of Seagal as an actor as it shows all of his acting and egocentric sins and somehow manages to use it to its advantage as it unintentionally turns into a terrific action comedy that nearly becomes akin to Airplane! or Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Of the personas Seagal has had over the years (Italian, Japanese, Native American, Buddhist, heart-bleeding environmentalist, so forth), this one channels his most idiotic and ill-advised...the persona of a black man from the ghetto. This has been fatal in past Seagal films, such as the horrendous Half Past Dead (Also known as the poor man's version of The Rock), but here, Today You Die turns it into an art form of Airplane!-esque quality. And yes, he speaks in ebonics...and yes, it is hilarious.
When Fat Ghetto Robin Hood and Little Carol have a meeting with an associate of Little Carol to get guns, the associate proclaims upon seeing Fat Ghetto Robin Hood is, "Walks like a black man, breathes like a killer."
Or at another point, when the two start a gang war between traitorous associates and an Asian gang, my favorite line to come from that scene is, "Fuck you, you Asian-American motherfuckers!" I guess the gang member wanted to hurl insults but also remain politically correct (Even though in real life, if two gangs of different races encountered each other like this, they would hurl epithets at one another that would make a klansman blush).
The dialogue is filled with ridiculous lines like this, giving me more laughs than most actual comedies. That's already combined with a hilariously bad storyline that copy-pastes other, far superior action films and then injects it with the bloated ego of Seagal, which manages to revive what should have been a dull affair. His ego reacts with the rip-off script like a milquetoast person smoking a whole bag of crack - the results are wild, fascinating, and many what-the-fuck moments will ensue.
As one would hope from a Seagal film, the action scenes are damn fun to watch, even when stock footage appears (The chase scene was apparently taken from a 1997 film called Top of the World, which I haven't seen. Also, at one point when a bad guy is thrown through a window, it's clearly a different guy falling from the window). Plus, when it's clearly a stuntman doing all the kick-ass fight scenes, it only adds to the hilarity of it all. It's lazy, but also surprisingly fun because of its blatant, not-give-a-fuck attitude (It's kind of like the stunt double joke from Spaceballs).
The story is garbage, the acting is dreadful, and the action scenes are stupid, over the top, and many of them feature stock footage and obvious stuntmen in place of Seagal...but I'll be damned if I didn't say I loved Today You Die. It's fucking awful...but it's a beautiful kind of awful that becomes an unintentional parody of the action genre and Seagal himself.
If you love B-movies, Today You Die is a must-see. It's a film where you force friends to watch it with you and watch as they gawk at its awfulness and have many good laughs. It's a truly special kind of awful.
I only became familiar with this film because I enjoy actress, Ali MacGraw, who I feel is a tremendously underrated actress. Curious to know what the hell this film even was, I then looked up the trailer which shows MacGraw chasing down Alan King in a high end department store, beating the hell out of him with a purse. I found it funny and it made me even more curious to see the film. And I'm glad that I did, because what I got is one of the most underrated comedies ever made.
Set in New York, the story is an unconventional love story. Max Herschel is the head of Herschel Industries, which owns a gamut of businesses from mines to sporting goods stores, making him extremely wealthy. He's shrewd, arrogant, prone to bursts of anger like a petulant child, and is also a womanizer.
He has a wife, of course. Her name is Connie, who is an alcoholic and currently at rehab, screwing her doctor. But aside from his wife, he has a plethora of beautiful women working for him who his secretary, Stella (Who is like a mother figure of sorts to Max), refers to as the Herschel scholars. Sex and business aren't his only dealings with them, as he also has their teeth fixed at an orthodontist and sends them off to get the best schooling.
But out of all the women in his life, one of his "scholars" who one could consider the star pupil and alumni of such an illustrious class is a television executive named Bones Burton, whom he has been involved with for many years. So much so, that even Max's own daughter, Baby, looks at her like a friend or even as something like a cool aunt. While he financed her studio, it's because of her that the station has won four Emmys.
Max and Bones act more like a long-time married couple than Max's own marriage to Connie. But, like anything that lasts for many years, the two have begun to hit a rough patch in their relationship. She wants something more from their relationship, feeling that their relationship isn't a whole lot more than sex, lavish apartments, and expensive jewelry. She's also recently had another abortion, which creates further friction because she didn't tell Max about it and he only found out about it after calling the doctor she mentioned.
Things in their relationship really take a turn for the worst when Max is in the process of acquiring a failing film studio called International Pictures, which he intends to bulldoze, turn into a sports stadium, and sell the studio's film negatives for $100 million. Not only will it be a win-win on the business end of his massive industrial empire, but he also can't help but relish the fact that he is buying it from a fellow businessman/frenemy, Seymour Berger, as a way to stick it to the old man.
Apparently, his grandson, Mike, isn't good with the numbers of the business and Seymour is also disappointed that his grandson will never give him and his wife, Marsha, grandchildren because he's a "pansy."
Bones, however, sees it as a new opportunity, as she is tired of the television business and begs Max to give her a chance to turn the studio around. Max scoffs at the idea, both out of arrogance as well as a genuine concern for her, given the vicious, unforgiving nature of the film industry.
Bones is crushed by this, but tries to move on. At her job at the television studio, she has been trying to get a young playwright named Steven Routledge to come on. Steven has recently made waves for his new play, which features an Arab terrorist as the hero. Certainly a head-turner and raiser of eyebrows, that's for certain.
After speaking with Steven on the phone, they finally have an in-person meeting. First at a restaurant and then she takes him back to her lavish apartment. There, while giving a tour, it seems that he knows quite a lot about Max (Such as his art collection, and how his taste is drastically different from hers). This is quite odd, as no one associated with Max talks about him, his personal life, or even what he collects (Employees are even required to sign a lifetime N.D.A.).
He himself is quite different from Max. He's more sensitive, knows more about the finer things despite not having the wealth of Max, and seems to genuinely care about Bones. Soon, Bones becomes smitten with him. She not only goes with him to his Vermont home, but also ends up marrying him.
Max is devastated to hear that Bones is now involved with someone else. But like a petulant child, does everything to cut her off. He strips the television studio away from her, hides as many of her assets as he can, has her apartment guarded to prevent her from taking things, and takes up a newer, younger mistress named Kathy.
Bones goes off to California with Steven to pursue the dream of adapting his play into a film, while Bones herself buys the rights to a novella in the hopes of turning it into a film. She even plans to spite Max by going onto a television program to talk about what Max is really like. But, she can't help but shake her old feelings for Max (Even after the department store fight resulting in God knows how many thousands of dollars in damages).
Max continues acting like a rich, petulant child, but it also becomes clear as time goes by that he, too, deeply cares for her still.
The story is rather unconventional for a love story, and admittedly, not very wholesome. A number of subject matters will be off-putting for viewers and some will probably even find it hard to like characters of such an elite status.
I'm not going to lie, these characters certainly aren't saintly. Far from it, but they were well developed enough to where I did actually care about their problems. You get a deeper sense of who they are behind all the luxury items. Max is arrogant, but also cares deeply for those in his life. Hell, he even backs down on certain issues when his secretary, Stella, calls him out for his behavior. Bones is strong and independent, but is also fragile at times, just trying to find the right path. These two have a far deeper, far more interesting relationship and dynamic than nine out of ten romantic comedies.
I also found it to be a very funny film, not only because of the setups, but also because it knows how to give breathing room for the plot and character development. Most other films would have the comedy be a frantic, shrill, irritating mess, that would constantly stumble over itself. This film knows how to take the time to evenly space out the setups and witty dialogue. It's not stuffed to the brim with comedy, but when it does have a comedic bit, it's damn funny. Quality over quantity, for sure.
The acting is also terrific. Alan King plays Max beautifully, whether it be as a sly fox with business and the ladies, bursts of foul-mouthed fury, or even just smaller, gentler moments. Ali MacGraw plays Bones just as well and throws herself into the role wholeheartedly. She's strong-willed, but also has a softer, guarded side to her. Plus, it's a hell of a lot of fun to watch her chase King around the department store, beating him with a purse or tackling him to the ground like one of those great screwball and slapstick comedies from the 30's and 40's. I was also delighted by Myrna Loy's performance as Stella, the level-headed, motherly secretary to Max.
Just Tell Me What You Want is one of the great, underrated comedies ever made. I found it to be a hilarious, clever, well-acted film that was a pure delight from beginning to end. I hope that one day this film gets rediscovered as it is the very definition of a diamond in the rough.
Dr. T and the Women is a frustrating disaster of a film. In fact, why the hell did I watch this? I have copies of Nashville and Gosford Park that I have never watched, which are much better reviewed Robert Altman films. This film has a wonderful, talented, star-studded cast and a series of potentially interesting ideas that are all tragically wasted.
Doctor Sully Travis is a successful gynecologist in Dallas who is highly in demand. He has a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters. However, things in his life are becoming a bit complicated.
His wife has suddenly reverted to a child-like state (Even getting arrested for stripping naked and dancing in a fountain at the mall, which gets her committed to a psychiatric facility where she's fucking an orderly), his alcoholic sister-in-law and her three daughters have moved in with him, his daughter, Connie, is a strange and offbeat sort of girl (Such as giving tours where John F. Kennedy was assassinated and asserting that it was a government conspiracy to assassinate him), his other daughter, Dee Dee, is getting married but is actually a lesbian, and he develops feelings for a woman named Bree who works at the country club where he plays golf.
Dr. T's life becomes a whirlwind of the problems of the women around him (including women in his workplace) and he struggles to deal with all that has suddenly been dropped in his lap.
The biggest failure of this film is the script. It's like several script ideas that all got blended together (Marital drama, family drama, relationship drama/comedy, coming out drama, high society comedy, etc.). Unfortunately, for the audience, it's like all these ideas were culled from bad scripts because they follow numerous cliches and have no creativity or even an inspired flair to old ideas. It also feels like it's trying to be a modern day take on the 1939 comedy classic, The Women, but doesn't come anywhere close to that film's quality (Well...at least it didn't suck as bad as the 2008 remake of The Women. Of course, that's not saying much).
Not a single joke landed with me, which is made worse by how this film can't seem to decide what sort of comedy it should be. It wants at times to be a comedy with more serious overtones (Mental illness, alcoholism, family friction, marriage on the rocks, infidelity, coming to terms and accepting a loved one's sexuality), which doesn't work as none of these elements are explored on a deep level and finding the humor in life's unpredictable nature. Other times, it resorts to being a bad screwball comedy (His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, and The Philadelphia Story...this is not) which doesn't jive with the serious themes on display. It also wants to be a battle of the sexes comedy, but distills both genders to nothing more than tiresome cliches (Women are fashionable, overly chatty to the point of talking over each other through the whole fucking film, catty, complain a lot, and most of them really want to fuck Richard Gere. Meanwhile, men react to women like alien creatures and have no idea how to handle them).
Every character is a cardboard cutout with little to no defining personality. And those who do have some sort of defining characteristic can be be boiled down to one or two ideas (Like Dr. T being successful but having a troubled personal life. Nothing really beyond that other than he makes women moist in his presence). I don't get a deep dive into Dr. T's life or the women in his life despite their problems. It's a dramatic comedy with no insights into the complexities of human nature.
Sadly, despite the awful script of jumbled ideas and bad jokes, the acting is actually solid as a whole. The cast does their spirited best with the material, but even with the star power behind this film, they can do little to elevate it. What a waste of talent.
Dr. T and the Women is a tragic failure of a film. It has a great cast and a lot of potentially great ideas that go nowhere. It's unsatisfying as a drama and it's an unfunny comedy with a bloated two hour running time. What a shame.
I have yet to see the more acclaimed 1972 version. I have also never seen the 1968 made-for-television version, nor have I read the original novel. My sole experience with Solaris is the divisive 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. That being said, what I found with the 2002 version is a beautiful, cerebral, emotionally-engaging, and melancholic exploration into loneliness, guilt, existentialism, the metaphysical, and so much more. When a space station goes silent near the planet, Solaris, therapist, Dr. Chris Kelvin is sent to investigate what happened based on a video recording sent by one of the crew members, asking him by name to come. Even a security team sent in before him never returned, so the trip is already looking uneasy. Upon arriving, he sees blood trails and very few signs of life. He finds two crew members - Snow, a strange and neurotic crew member, and Gordon, who is filled with paranoia and doesn't even want to come out of her room at first. The other crew members are dead, due to the unexplained phenomena that the crew are experiencing (Though, Dr. Kelvin does see a child, but is unable to catch him and talk to him). During his stay, Dr. Kelvin is awakened by his wife, Rheya, who thinks they are at home together. Dr. Kelvin is understandably taken aback by this...because she's dead. Dr. Kelvin's time on the ship becomes a time of emotional torment as old memories are awakened and as he and the surviving crew members try to figure out what exactly is going on around them...all while being trapped in the terrifying isolation of space. Solaris is a gripping, slow-building drama that really strikes a chord as Dr. Kelvin relives memories of his marriage to Rheya - the good times, the bad times, and the ugliest of times that resulted in tragedy. It becomes incredibly heartbreaking at times, but never in an overwrought way. Rather, the way it unfolds is shown to us in a more believable manner, making such scenes all the more crushing. What makes it worse is that whatever force that has taken the form of Rheya states that she only exists through his memories and how he remembers her, causing her torment as she experiences these things, trapping her in a never-ending existential nightmare. It's a film that ponders life with all of its ups and downs, as well as exploring the possibility of a higher power and forces beyond our control. I found it to be a superb film that had made me engaged from beginning to end. I wanted to know what was happening, I wanted to dissect the myriad themes, and I was also engaged emotionally, becoming invested in the turmoil of Dr. Kelvin's life. I think Solaris is one of the most underrated and best films of the 2000's. We need more sci-fi films like this.