Saturday, May 9, 2009

Movies I Can't Resist on Television

If any of you out there have a sleeping problem (I'm convinced I go through spurts of insomnia) then perhaps you remedy that the same way I do: by watching lots of bad late night action film on TV. These usually end up being the same movies over and over, and I've come to realize that I have a certain "go-to" set of movies, that whenever they're on TV, I get sucked into watching. Now, this happens just as frequently with legitimate movies, but more often than not, when I'm at home decompressing after work, I'll find myself looking for the lamest action movie on TV. Case in point: late last night I couldn't sleep, I turn on the TV and had a choice between Tango & Cash or Showdown in Little Tokyo. Decisions, decisions. One one hand Tango & Cash is Tango & Cash, but on the other Showdown in Little Tokyo has Dolph Lundgren, and it was directed by Mark Lester, the brilliant mind who gave us Commando. More thoughts on why I chose what I chose after the jump, with a clip you won't want to miss...

Anyway, I went with Tango & Cash, even if I have seen it about ten times already, because it has all the cliches of 80's buddy cop films...and Jack Palance as the villain. How can one go wrong there? Oh, plus it has this as its opening:

Click here to watch video

Man I love Stallone's STIFF line reads, the generic 80's cop dialogue ("I want your badge!", "You're out of your jurisdiction!") and the even more generic 80's cop moments like tasting the cocaine to see if it's real. Also, the line about Rambo is brilliant.

So, this got me thinking about bad action movies that I always watch on TV, no matter how many time I've seen them or how familiar I am with the film's rhythms. Once you see the movies on this list you may think to yourself: "but Kevin, life is too short to be wasting your time watching THOSE movies over and over, watch something better." But, the truth is I don't watch TV all that much, I still watch re-runs of "Seinfeld" and "The Simpson's" and some DVD episodes of "The West Wing" and "Deadwood", but I never really got into TV, and so my way of decompressing or "trash" TV is to watch 30 minutes here, 20 minutes there of the following movies (converted to a top 5 list for convenience):

1. The Rock - no matter how much I hate Michael Bay I have to hand it to him...this movie is an amazing exercise in the action genre. My fiance can attest to the fact that whenever this is on TV (which is a lot) I will always stop the channel surfing and take a nostalgia trip to when I was in 10th grade when The Rock came out. In fact, she's probably seen the film in its entirety, just out of order. But still, I can quote this movie pretty much word for word when I'm watching it -- and yes, I know how sad and pathetic that it.

2. Robocop - Another movie that is on free TV and IFC all the time. I never get tired of this one, either. Especially the ED-209 scene and the Benny Hill parody with the guy that says "I'll buy that for a dollar!" Plus the film is just a masterpiece of violence and has the greatest villain in 80's action cinema: Clarence Boddicker.

3. Lethal Weapon 1 and 2 - Nothing brings me more joy than watching Danny Glover and Mel Gibson play their most famous movie roles to 80's action perfection. These are the epitome of the action film in the 80's: their well acted, well crafted, and never grow tiresome. The first film has amazing scene after amazing scene, in fact you kind of feel like the movie gives you the best value for your time (when it comes to action films) it has Garey Busey as the psychotic (shock!) mercenary Mr. Joshua. Also, Danny Glover's favorite line "go spit!" The second film, amazingly, is just as good as the first one. It's one of the rare occurrences where the films sequel either surpasses or lives up to the original (T2, Spider-Man 2, and Gremlins 2 are the only other sequels I can think of off the top of my head that do this) as it matches the originals energy. Plus Joe Pesci getting "effed" in the drive-thru and a house on stilts -- can't go wrong there.

4. Cliffhanger - Say what you want about Sly and director Renny Harlin (the fact that they don't have the greatest resumes is certainly true), but this early '90's action film is pretty spectacular, and always catches my attention when it's on TV. It has one of the most intense (I'm being serious, because I'm afraid of heights) opening sequences I've seen in any action movie. Plus, it has Michael Rooker in it, and John Lithgow as the villain. It's just your classic Die Hard formula, only on a mountain!

5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Another film that I can quote all the way through when I watch it. I never get tired of this movie, and surprisingly, the effects still hold up, and it serves as a reminder how brilliant James Cameron was at making intense action pictures. Totally different than the first Terminator, the sequel upped the ante big time and cam off more an all-out action film than a sci-fi/horror film. Robert Patrick made a name for himself as T1000, the creepy evil terminator, and who can forget Linda Hamilton looking all scary throughout the movie, ready to shoot anything metallic? It's the perfect example of a movie, that no matter when I happen upon it, will always suck me in because it was such a huge part of my childhood. This was one of the first movies I watched religiously so that I could know everything about it.

Anyway -- there are of course really good movies I choose to watch multiple times on TV (and to be truthful some of those action films above are some of the most brilliant of their genre) or on DVD. Whenever I see 8 1/2 or Fargo or Quiz Show, I immediately set the remote down and just drink in familiar scene after familiar scene, because there's just something comforting about the familiarity I have with those movies. And the same goes for the list above: those films calm me down at night or just put a smile on my face that few things can. I have an affinity for watching bad action films because that's what I grew up with. Sadly, I could probably tell you everything that happened in Van Damme's Double Impact or Seagal's Out for Justice (another movie I stop for a lot when it's on TV), because I prefer bad action films in order to help me decompress, or simply entertain me in my sleep deprived state when I'm having a fit of insomnia.

So, my question to all of you: what movies do you have trouble resisting whenever they're on TV? They can be good movies or "bad" movies like my list above. I'm just curious to see what some of your steady, fall-back films are when you've had a rough day or just need to're flippin' through the channels, what is it that you stop on?


  1. Oh, how I empathise with this post.

    I couldn't agree more about 'The Rock' - This is everything I should hate about film but for some reason I love everything about it. So whenever it's on, I drop everything and spend two hours in blissful ignorance.

    Escape from New York - Always, always, always. Also Assault on Prescient 13. John Carepenter in his 70's heyday actually is on non-stop.

    Any cheaply made Aptow produced/written/directed movie on late night tv. I'm not even a particular fan but if it's on, I'll watch it.

    Die Hard - Oh yes.
    Back to the Future parts 1 & 2. Preferably in a double bill but I'm not fussy.

    Stuff like Eternal Sunshine... and Punch Drunk-Love, are two films that make me drop everything just to watch.

    There are more I'm sure but at present that's what comes to mind.

    Great post Kevin.

  2. Ric:

    Thanks for the comments.

    Carpenter's films always get me, too. Although, with him it's usually his horror/sci-fi films I can't resist: The Thing, The Fog, Halloween, and of course the best of the bunch, They Live.

    Good call on Die Hard. I usually watch the third one whenever it's on, because I think that one has the most fun out of all of 'em. I'm right there with ya on good stuff like Punch Drunk-Love and Eternal Sunshine -- good movies have more of a gravitational pull when I see them on the tube, but when I want something light and fluffy, I usually pass.

    You really could do a post on any number of genres that make you stop in your tracks and watch the rest. I have an affinity for the "slob comedies" of the 70's and 80's, so whenever I see Stripes, Caddyshack, or Animal House on I definitely stop and watch -- until the inevitable, too-soon, commercial break.

    Thanks for stopping by Ric...always a pleasure to have you stop by and comment. It definitely makes the blog better.

  3. Let's see -- I'll always at least watch part of Robocop, Halloween, Die Hard, Alien, Aliens, Commando (although they don't show that as much as they used to), Road House, Dirty Dancing (I know...but it's funny), the now stupid to me Farly/Spade movies that I used to love, and pretty much anything with Van Damme in it.

  4. Troy:

    Great list. How could I forget Aliens!? Maybe it's because I don't have Encore Action anymore, so I no longer have access to nightly showings of Aliens and Under Siege 2. Oh how I miss that channel...they shows a lot of The Last Boy Scout, too.

  5. There are a lot of movies I would watch. A lot.

    Wild Wild West. I can't, can't, can't pass this one up. And I know that every frame is terrible.

    I too will watch The Rock, even though I hate Bay. And I'll watch Bad Boys.

    They've been playing the shit out of Crimson Tide and I'll watch that over and over again. It's not bad, but it's pretty dated.

    An American President and A Few Good Men.

  6. PIPER:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm with ya on Crimson Tide. I have a strange affinity for Tony Scott films. And isn't strange about The Rock? I think almost any serious film buff has a love affair with that movie. Bay is garbage, but I sure do spen a lot of my time watching The Rock.

    Also, good call on the two Aaron Sorkin films (interestingly both directed by Rob Reiner, huh, I never realized that before). I too get trapped by A Few Good Men whenever it's towards the end. Nicholson was just so so great and over the top in that role. And The American President is just a sweet, comfortable rom-com that never loses its charm. I'll also get sucked into any episode of The West Wing whenever Bravo decides to show them...even though I have all of the DVD's, I can never get enough of that show.

    Thanks again for stopping by and contributing.

  7. Is this the Land of the Lost Olsons? Are you all somehow related to me?

    For your sakes, I hope not.

    Anyway, I don't think I'd call Terminator 2 a bad action movie, exactly ... and I like "The Rock" a lot, as bad as it is.

  8. Rick:

    Ha! Actually, Troy and I are brothers.

    I'm glad there's someone else out there who loves The Rock.

    And yes, I tried to back peddle a bit in my post about placing Terminator 2 on the list...somehow the list turned into a general "action movies I can't resist on TV" instead of the "bad movies I can't resist on TV."

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  9. I don't watch all that much TV, either, but when I'm looking after my mom's dog I frequently get sucked in. Apart from having TCM on all the time (we can't afford cable, so that's a real treat), five films that stop me in my tracks are:

    1. Trust. It's my favorite film of all time, but due to copyright red-tape it may never get a Region 1 DVD release. Since my VHS tape has seen better days, and since the transfer that surfaces on IFC is so much better than the aforementioned tape...

    2. The Thin Man. How can you not?

    3. Rollercoaster. Yes, the competent disaster movie also-ran pretty much defines the phrase "aggressive mediocrity". Why, then, do I stick with it for part of its running time? Two words: Sparks cameo.

    4. The Lost Boys. I was twelve in 1989. This has some nostalgic appeal. So sue me.

    5. Better Off Dead. Any of the Savage Steve Holland movies with Cusack, really, but this one comes on cable with great frequency and is impossible to resist.

    Also, Hellboy and High Fidelity have a strange comfort level for me, though I've never quite understood why the former has that kind of appeal. There are a bunch of others that I will drop anything to watch, but I own a lot of those -- many of these films only exist on cable for me.

  10. Chelsea:

    Great list. Like you, I love the Thin Man movies and am easily sucked in anytime I see them on. Some other classic comedies that do that to me are: Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, and basically anything else with Cary Grant; I love The Awful Truth.

    The Lost Boys could easily be grouped together with a bevy a horror films I stop in my tracks for. It has 80's goodness to spare. Also, I'm with ya on the older Cusack movies, which makes me think of another type of movie I always stop to watch: the summer movie. Off the top of my head: One Crazy Summer, Summer Rental, Meatballs, and The Great Outdoors are all mediocre to good comedies that I will always watch because I associate them with summer breaks from school and being a kid and having friends over to watch sophomoric comedies like Meatballs or The Great Outdoors.

    Good stuff. Thanks commenting.