Have You Ever Seen...
La Femme Nikita (1990)
It's been long enough that I only remembered the broad strokes of the story, and in all honesty I have to say that this current viewing felt a little anti-climatic. It's tough for me to narrow down exactly why that is because most of the production and cast still hit fairly strong for me. Anne Parillaud and Tchéky Karyo both give engaging performances, and Jean Reno as the creepy assassin (foreshadowing his role as Léon in 1994) is great as usual. I think it's mostly the concept that just sort of rang weak to me.
Parillaud plays Nikita, a nihilistic teen junkie who murders a cop and is later recruited by a secret organization to become an assassin. It's sort of Suicide Squad, but with less logic? Like, it turns out she can fight and is very gifted, but they didn't really seem to know that as the training starts. There's really no good reason why they would recruit her, other than she has nothing to live for and would maybe make a good disposable weapon? After years of training she becomes a sleeper agent and goes on some missions, then she finds love but is also haunted by the random murders she may or may not have to perform. Four missions into her career (one of them literally just acting as room service), things go bad enough after one mission that she wants out and she (spoilers?)......easily gets out? Like just, up and disappears, and the super secret effective agency can't really find her? The end.
The point is all in the drama and the various traumas of Nikita's life as she's used and abused by a callous system, I get that. And it's also a stylistic thriller, and there's plenty of style and action in it. It just felt like it was missing a little cohesive glue to keep the internal logic of the film together, but perhaps in the end it didn't really matter.
I'm mostly nitpicking because all in all it's a solid noirish action romp and worth your time. It's entirely worth it just for Parillaud's performance, so everything else is sort of a bonus.
Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996)
I love the Kids, and I've been meaning to get a copy of this for a while and someone was kind enough to gift it to me. It still holds up for me, but it's worth saying their type of humor isn't for everyone, and this was during an angrier phase of their run where they were butting heads with the studio. I do absolutely love that the film was the butt of the joke that launches the brand new series on Amazon and that they brought back the main antagonists of Don Roritor (an imitation of producer Lorne Michaels) and Marv who are also basically Mr. Burns and Smithers analogs.
The film follows a sort of skit flow that's draped over the main plot of an evil corporation creating a drug called GLeeMONEX that cures depression. The drug is rushed and is later found out to cause possible comas in the patients who take it as they can become trapped in their happiest memories that the drug taps into. Oddly enough there's a little examination into depression and the balance between happiness, sadness, and over medication. It's of course overshadowed by all the sex jokes and quirky characters but hey, it's something.
Also, on a complete side note that no one will care about, Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer) from Deep Space 9 pops up a couple times as a groupie. As a DS9 fan as it was on the air, I was always just happy to see her pop up.
If you haven't seen the new Kids show on Amazon, definitely check that out. And if you saw that and maybe never saw this or was wondering if it was worth a review, yes, definitely give this another look.
Something Wild (1986)
First time viewing for me, and I was completely unfamiliar with the film or anything about it going in. It was fascinating to watch this as the only other Jonathan Demme films I've seen are The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia. I wasn't expecting a screwball comedy road trip film, but then the darker aspects of the story started to creep into the plot in interesting ways. It's an oddly engaging mashup of comedy, romance, and crime that in the wrong hands could give tonal whiplash, but under Demme's direction it always feels perfectly balanced.
The plot follows a yuppie investment banker who randomly meets a woman named Lulu who drags him on an adventure full of sex and crime. It's essentially just a series of character examinations as we follow them and see what makes them tick. It gets really interesting when Lulu's ex Ray (played by Ray Liotta) pops up and causes trouble. It almost feels like a different movie when we hit this point, but it's all interlaced in such a way that it never feels random or too farfetched.
The entire cast works perfectly together, but this was Ray Liotta's first major role and he does steal the show. It's worth noting that he tied with Dennis Hopper (for Blue Velvet) for Best Supporting Actor in the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, and while I do love Hopper in Blue Velvet I gotta say I like Liotta's performance more. For me the character of Ray is in many ways much worse a villain because he feels like someone you often meet in day to day life as opposed to an over the top Lynchian nightmare antagonist. What makes Ray creepily effective is that he's incredibly charismatic, to the point where you feel kind of bad for him at times. Which also underscores just how great the writing and characterization is in this film and how it keeps you thoroughly engaged.
I didn't have any real reason to expect less of this, but I was honestly surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. Highly recommend checking it out.