Summer has not yet arrived, but blockbuster season surely has. It's a competitive time, and the numbers remain as strong and surprising as ever. ANGELS & DEMONS beamed STAR TREK out of the number one box office slot during its first (and the inter-galactic adventure's second) weekend. Even crazier still, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM's sequel beat out TERMINATOR SALVATION during their opening weekends. The need for novelty family fun reigns superior once more.
While some of the year's biggest flicks battle it out on the big screen, attracting audiences with theatrical trailers remains highly important. Having visited the theatre several times in the past couple weeks, I have been pounded with so many previews that I can hardly remember them all. And although it is the science-fiction and fantasy films that usually catche my eye, I found myself somewhat amused by the trailer of a different sort of movie last weekend.
Different, that is, for my taste. The same, however, as many plotlines spouted at a general audience.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 is Sony Picture's hope at captivating an action-seeking audience after the ANGELS & DEMONS hype has died down this
Trying to get Tom Cruise to come out of the closet.
season, and there is plenty that can be said of it at first glance. But as much as it pains me, I won't spend my time drawing probable parallels between PELHAM and other comparables like SPEED, BROKEN ARROW and DIE HARD. I don't plan on delving into the fact that once again Hollywood has decided to remake an older film to bring home the mula, or the fact that the 1974 version was based on a novel to begin with. I don't even want to spend time on Denzel Washington's revival of his usual role – simple Mr. Everyman in dire situation overcoming odds to reign victorious (you can do it America!) No, that will be saved for another time.
No, what struck me the most about the preview was the fact that PELHAM could be categorized as the perfect John Travolta movie.
While Washington seems to love the 'Man vs. World'-type scripts, I am beginning to think that Travolta is a fan of the 'Man vs. Man' ones. You know the kind that I'm talking about – the good ol' fashioned showdowns. Holstered at sunset. Mano-a-mano.
I hadn't given it much thought until now. John Travolta is an actor that I neither love nor loathe. I don't find his acting horrid like some people, nor do I feel the need to hate him based on his Scientology factor alone. In fact, he has so many different flavours of film - musical, comedy, science fiction, action, even Tarantino, for cripe's sake - under his belt that I've deemed him pretty respectable in the field.
But upon viewing the preview to PELHAM, the first thought that came to my mind was, "Here we go again!"
In 1996, you could say that Travolta was just getting started while Christian Slater's career was winding down
Edna Turnblad at her finest!
quickly. BROKEN ARROW didn't do magnificently in the box office - it ranked only twentieth for the whole year - but it made a great rental. Travolta plays bad-guy Major Vic Deakins on a mission to steal the two nuclear warheads that he is transporting with Slater's Captain Riley Hale. The explosive action included bailing out of a fighter jet, helicopter chases, countdown to nuclear disaster and even a Western-reminiscent train car encounter. Travolta made one of his first antagonists a force to be reckoned with as he showdowns with the persistent Captain Hale.
Not long after, FACE/OFF followed in 1997. Debatably one of the best shows of acting talent for Travolta and shockingly even Nicolas Cage (sorry, that's also for another time,) the movie was also directed by John Woo and fared better in the theatres. In this tale, both Travolta and Cage get a chance at playing both the protagonist and antagonist, and perform fantastically. Sean Archer, played initially by Travolta, is forced to go undercover as his captured arch-nemesis Castor Troy in order to discover the location of a planted bomb. To do so, he is recruited for a highly confidential process to switch faces with Troy. But Troy wakes from his forced slumber and all Hell breaks loose as both characters and actors trade roles. They face off for a climax that decides not only the fate of Los Angeles, but who gets ultimate vengeance and the chance at a free life.
In 2001's DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE, Travolta plays the more common character Frank Morrison- an ex-husband and father who's wife is about to re-marry. Things get far more complicated when his son witnesses the soon-to-be step-father
Travolta as a Backstreet Boy
murdering a mysterious stranger. Morrison is the only one who believes the twelve-year-old and is forced to go up against a deadly Vince Vaughn.
Plenty of Travolta's other films hold a taste of this mano-a-mano tradition. SWORDFISH might have had a hefty cast, including Halle Berry and Don Cheadle, but the film came down to Travolta with another god-complex being faced off against a pre-fame Hugh Jackman. BATTLEFIELD EARTH was a movie about the genocide of the human race by the alien Psychlos, but it is Barry Pepper's Tyler who thwarts Travolta's evil Terl. Travolta even played Howard Saint in Marvel's THE PUNISHER, enemy of title character Frank Castle.
In the end, audiences will always fall for the fast-paced action film and adults aged thirty-five and up will always have a fondness for John Travolta. Whether you're a fan due to the disco days, or because of his supposedly 'best' film, PULP FICTION, one can't deny Travolta's tendency towards an old-fashioned showdown. He's made a name of himself as a jack-of-all-trades in the show business, so why not have a favorite recurring role? Especially if he can play the role well.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 is directed and produced by Tony Scott and promises plenty of thrilling action. In it, Travolta and his gang take a New York subway train hostage for ransom and it's up to Denzel Washington's character to come head-to-head with the antagonist and save the day. If you enjoyed terrorist and hostage-driven films like SPEED, DIE HARD, and Travolta's BROKEN ARROW, then this one will probably be for you too.
Plus, it just might be worth it to see John Travolta dressed up as one of those Backstreet Boys.
If there's something Amanda can't commit to, it's a single taste in films. She believes that Walmart, Starbucks and a certain super-power government are going to clan together to take over the world. Either that, or she's over-caffeinated again.
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