Notes from the back row 

Travolta travesty

John Travolta sucks, and should retire. The Baby Boomers loved him in the '70s ( Saturday Night Fever, Grease) but old Vinnie Barbarino gave a taste of what he was really worth in the '80s with the crappy Look Who's Talking franchise. (I think even the dogs were talking by the third one.) Travolta's big comeback came in 1994 with Pulp Fiction and he did well in that but it was just luck, Tarantino deserves most of the credit.

Travolta milked his comeback through the late '90s with decent roles in Get Shorty (an Elmore Leonard book adaptation) and two John Woo flicks, Broken Arrow and Face-Off, but again it wasn't him that made those flicks good, as evidenced by the other crap he was doing; Michael, Phenomenon, and The General's Daughter to name a few- all shit.

The low point, when the truth came out, was the midlife crisis Harley Davidson commercial Wild Hogs which Travolta did with that other no-talent hack Tim Allen (someone should just put that guy out of his misery). That movie, one of the worst of all time, made $168 million and gave Johnny T the confidence to really let his gayness shine in 2007's Hairspray remake. Blah.

Now Travolta's back, hamming it up with a stupid Village People handlebar mustache in Tony Scott's latest, The Taking of Pelham 123 - a remake of a seventies flick starring Denzel Washington (who's also been sort of coasting lately) as an NYC subway dispatcher up against Travolta's pissed off terrorist/hijacker. They end up milking a clichéd 'kindred spirits" subplot for much more than it's worth.

Tony Scott ( True Romance, Top Gun, Domino) is known for his loud, fast, in your face directing style - lots of moving and sped-up shots, slow mo, freeze frames and coloured filters - and he brings out all the stops for Pelham 123, but in this case it seems more like desperate gimmicks trying to elevate a sub-par action/drama into a summer blockbuster.

The strong supporting cast of James Gandolfini, John Tuturro, and even Juan Guzman keep things going but Travolta's tough guy routine ultimately sinks the picture for me and plot-wise Pelham 123 loses steam the further along the track it gets before ultimately grinding into a really stupid ending.

Looking past Suck-ass Travolta, Tony Scott is set to remake (re-imagine might be more accurate) The Warriors , the kick-ass '70s gang movie, but he's setting it in L.A. this time and is hiring real gang members as extras. So watch for that.

Imagine That , on the other hand, is a movie opening this week at the Village 8 and it's a family comedy starring Eddie Murphy. But before you roll your eyes and start making gagging sounds (Eddie's track record in the genre includes Dr. Dolittle and Daddy Day Care) this one isn't as bad as expected. Murphy plays a single father who devotes too much attention to his work and not enough to his young daughter until her imaginary friends start making financial predictions that make him a superstar at the office.

Eventually it all boils down to one of those predictable climaxes where Eddie must choose between work and family and the feel-good message drips all over everything. Interestingly, Imagine That stays away from fancy computer effects to bring the imaginary world to life. The realistic approach is refreshing, showing a father and daughter goofing around, pretending to be in all these fantastical places when really they're just in the living room. Kids might find it a bit boring but as an overall family flick this is not bad. And these days for Eddie Murphy, 'not bad' seems to be as good as it gets. Unlike Travolta, who just plain sucks.

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