Monday, July 11, 2011

Preview: A Very Swayze Weekend

Here's the story,
Of a man named Swayze,
Who made movies that lots of people own.
They weren't great but,
as guilty pleasures, they stood all alone...

I don't know about you, but I didn't realize the prevalence of Patrick Swayze fans until he died a couple of years ago. At first I found it surprising, but as I've listened I've discovered that everyone has at least one Swayze film that they simply love. We can talk about Trekkies and Harry Potter fans all we want, but if you want to see a true cult of devoted followers, find some Swayze fans.

What's most fascinating to me is that his fans are comprised from all walks of life. Sure, many of them were swooning young ladies when Dirty Dancing came out, while others found connection with the romanticism in Ghost. Some are adrenaline junkies who obsess over Point Break. I know several who adore his performance in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, and then there are the legions who love anyone that appeared in The Outsiders. Personally, I was intrigued by his hypocritical turn in Donnie Darko.

But the ones who appear to have the most fun with Swayze's career are those who revel in the films of his that are, well... not so good. And let's fact it, there are plenty of those to choose from, also. Winners like Tiger Warsaw, Next of Kin (where he played a Kentuckian hillbilly with brothers played by Bill Paxton and Liam Neeson?!?), Black Dog and Steel Dawn. They make lemon-flavored moonshine out of lemonade. To me, they are The Swayze Bunch.

The undisputed heavyweight champ of these trashier Patrick Swayze movies is the epic testosterone fest, Road House. Released in 1989, it stars Swayze as Dalton, a virtual jedi master of bouncers who is a consummate professional in a business of drunken brawls. Hired to clean up a rowdy honky tonk bar from hell, he soon finds himself waist-deep in the middle of a a business man's dirty practices, pissed-off henchmen, and the local doctor (Kelly Lynch). Popping up in this movie also are Sam Elliott (as an aging mentor to Dalton) and Ben Gazzara, whose appearance here is a loooong way from the cinema of John Cassavetes.

The movie may well be the crown jewel of awesomely bad cinema. And who can argue when there are lines of dialogue like:
  • "I want you to be nice until it's time to not be nice."
  • "Calling me 'sir' is like putting an elevator in an outhouse, it don't belong."
  • "Pain don't hurt."
  • "You're too stupid to have a good time."
  • "This place has a sign hangin' over the urinal that says, 'Don't eat the big white mint.'"
And several more that I'm just unable to print here. Yes, Road House is a true slice of trashy celluloid with all the subtlety of a roundhouse kick to the face.

Grab a seat, a beer and watch the bedlam cut loose. It won't win any Oscars, but Road House is more than just a regular Saturday night thing.

If you prefer guns instead of hand-to-hand combat, may I interest you in Red Dawn? A 1984 action movie where the Soviet Union and some Sandanisitas invade the U.S. (in a Reagan-era America, mind you) and nuclear war doesn't ensue. Instead, the Russkies casually drop down in Colorado (?!) and proceed to kill or enslave the local populace. It's up to a band of freedom-fightin' teenagers to fight back (um, sure). Led by Patrick Swayze and including Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey (basically anyone who wasn't in a Brat Pack or John Hughes movie at the time), the kids practice their right to bear arms and target foreign enemies. A jingoistic and shamelessly manipulative exercise, Red Dawn is an rootin', tootin', shootin' piece of Reagan-era cheese. Loaded like an AK-47, the movie is sure to get the blood pumpin, assuming you can watch it with a straight face. Wolverines!!

For some reason, the powers that be at MGM decided to remake this outside of the context of the Cold War. Yes, these are the same powers that have made such sound decisions that MGM is now mired in bankruptcy. Filmed a couple of years ago, it is currently stuck in a vault somewhere. Starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and some other kids I'm not terribly familiar with, this time the invading force is supposedly the North Koreans (snicker snicker). Perhaps next year it will see the light of day, and we can make fun of the remake in a whole new way.

I'll admit that when it comes to an appreciation of awesomely bad 80s movies, I'm more of a Schwarzenegger fan than Swayze. Give me Commando or The Running Man and I can quote in my imitation Austrian accent with the best (worst?) of them. Nevertheless, I must confess I am pumped for this twin bill of Patrick Swayze action. I may not be a life-long member, but I can appreciate the glory of these awesomely bad films.

One day we can all enjoy together,
movies that pack a certain kind of punch.
That these fans,
Are somehow like a family.
In that way we all became the Swayze Bunch
That's the way we all became the Swayze Bunch,
The Swayze Bunch- the Swayze Bunch
That's the way- we became the Swayze Bunch.

That day, my friends, is Saturday, July 16. Join the family and enjoy a very Swayze weekend.

Showtimes for the films:

Road House
Saturday, Jul 16th
4:30 9:10

Red Dawn
Saturday, Jul 16th

Final Notes about the screening

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

By the way, just in case you're wondering what was the best thing Patrick Swayze ever did? Easy. It's THIS.

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