Odds and ends from a summer when movies reminded us about all the little things filmmakers do that annoy us:
The Exploding Fish Tank. When watching an action movie, you can be sure that whenever you see a gigantic fish tank, it is just about ready to explode. It happened last year in “Outbreak” and “Bad Boys.” It happened again this summer in “Mission: Impossible,” a movie about a government agent whose boss turns out to be corrupt. A few weeks later, another fish tank blew in “Eraser,” a movie about a government agent whose boss (James Caan, corrupt in three movies this summer) turns out to be corrupt.
The Convenient Drawbridge. Need to make a getaway from the cops? Head for the nearest drawbridge, which is sure to be raised just as the police arrive, enabling you to make a narrow getaway. This dog-eared device cropped up in “The Net,” “Just Cause” and, most recently, “Chain Reaction,” although Keanu Reeves faked everybody out by pretending to beat the cops across the raised drawbridge, then doubling back under the bridge, just in case anyone had seen “The Net.”
The Carefully Placed Table. When someone falls from a great height to their death, they thoughtfully make the whole thing cinematic by falling first through a skylight, then into a glass coffee table to boot. Check it out in “Bad Boys” and “Virtuosity.”
The Curse of St. Elmo’s Fire. A curse hovers over male members of the cast, part of the once-proud Brat Pack, now so obscure they are routinely killed or beaten as part of the plot. Andrew McCarthy, playing a gay hustler in “Mulholland Falls,” is shot to death. Rob Lowe has a cameo in the same movie, and is on screen only long enough to be punched in the face by Nick Nolte. An elevator crushes Emilio Estevez in the opening scene of “Mission: Impossible.” The curse is catching up to female cast members as well. After box-office superstardom, Demi Moore bombed with “The Scarlet Letter” and “Striptease.” Mare Winningham got an Oscar nomination but was forced to listen to Jennifer Jason Leigh sing in “Georgia.”
Wouldn’t You Really Rather Drive a Humvee? Though only one person in a billion owns one of these Desert Storm monstrosities, in movies they are more commonplace than pickup trucks, especially in San Francisco. Thus, in “The Rock,” when Sean Connery sprints out of a San Fran hotel and steals the first vehicle, it’s a Humvee. Maybe it belonged to Wesley Snipes, who in “The Fan” plays a Giants outfielder who drives a Humvee, later stolen by Robert De Niro.