Frank's Faves: Movie close calls

Frank's Faves: Movie close calls

"You should have seen me with the pokerman; I had no money and I bet a grand; Just in the nick of time I looked at his hand ... " — Paul McCartney

Sorry to keep you in suspense. The previously reported quarter-ton (or so) branch on our roof is gone. Peaceably.

And pieceably (as in three ginormous pieces).

The very morning that last week's column ran, the local tree-removal team we'd called (no thanks to our insurance company's referral service) showed up on our yard with their fleet of heavy equipment, and before you can sing, "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm OK" — umm, a whole bunch of times — this crack squad of treetop ninjas had this monstrous oaken limb trisected, extracted, chipped and hauled off without so much as a coffee break.

As I wandered out onto the lawn while they were busily cleaning up, packing up and shipping out, I marvelled to their good-humored crew chief that they had managed the operation so quickly and efficiently, with relatively little damage to anything other than the shingle oak itself, which — near as I can make sense of it — seems to have suffered a botanical psychotic break in splitting off its own limb, much like Vincent Van Gogh and his ear.

The crew chief gave me a sly grin, looked up at what remained of our oak as if in surprise, and said, "Yeah, I guess it turned out all right."

As if there were ever any doubt, the twinkle in his eye said.

Maybe. Still, as I'd told him earlier when they'd first arrived, I kept having premonitions, right up until they finally brought it to earth, that his team would finally show up and be just setting up when the branch would peel off that final inch or so of splintered bark and come down on its own, smashing everything in its path — including, most likely, our dining room and half our living room — and the gas meter, of course.

It didn't, thank heavens.

But it could have. At any moment. Which made it kind of shaky resuming normal breathing again once their fleet of vehicles had pulled away.

Yeah, you could call that a close call. The movies are full of them, and why not? They make for great dramatic tension and keep audiences riveted to the edge of their seats. Not quite as much fun to have one yourself, but it's safe to say they always sound a lot better when you brag about it later. Or see it in a movie — like one of these that, just in the nick of time, I'll call:

MY FIVE FAVORITE MOVIE CLOSE CALLS

— "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981). You could successfully postulate that the entire Indiana Jones movie and TV franchise is literally one close call after another, and you'd have no argument from me. But to settle on one fave out of so many? If forced out onto a ledge and made to choose, I'd still cheat and go with the entire opening sequence of the original entry in George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's ode to serial action thrillers — which features not one, but two betrayals (including by an as-yet-unknown Alfred Molina), a rapid-fire succession of death-cheating near-misses, as well as the iconic shot of Harrison Ford in an underground tunnel outrunning a boulder the size of Times Square's New Year's Eve ball. The series' creators gave us lots of hair-raising escapes, but the opening one successfully set the tone for the entire four-films-and-counting roller-coaster ride. You don't dare look away.

— "Spider-Man 2" (2004). Tobey Maguire as arguably the premier Spidey stops a runaway New York City subway train from running off its inexplicably unfinished track — juuuuust barely. Of course, the toll the effort takes on him causes him to collapse and reveal his "secret" identity to the trainload of New Yorkers he saves, but if you'll believe this then-29-year-old actor is still a teenager and that he can bring a speeding train to a halt with webbing he sprouts from his wrists, you'll also believe these total strangers will keep his secret to their graves.

— "Die Hard 2" (1990). In this action sequel's most iconic scene, Bruce Willis as hard-luck detective John McClane escapes a grounded and surrounded plane full of live grenades by strapping himself in and firing off the ejection seat juuuuust before it all blows sky high. And, believe it or not, as he hurtles skyward just above the billowing flames, he looks like he's having the time of his life.

— "Goldeneye" (1995). Moments after bungee jumping off Switzerland's Contra Dam in what was to be voted the best movie stunt of all time in 2002, Pierce Brosnan as James Bond on a motorcycle purposefully freefalls off a cliff in pursuit of a falling plane, catches up with it and manages to climb into its cockpit and pull it up juuuuust before it crashes. Agent 007 has taken his license to kill to all sorts of outlandish extremes over the course of his half-century-plus movie franchise, but this stunt takes the cake for sheer chutzpah — all before the opening credits.

— "Toy Story 3" (2010). Sure, the characters are computer-animated, but the magic of Pixar is that you find yourself forgetting that long before the final credits roll. In a movie about a group of toys who believe themselves abandoned and unloved by their now-college-age owner, this is fairly essential. So don't be surprised if you find a lump in your throat at that moment when the expressions on the faces of Woody, Buzz and pals reflect their shared realization that they are all about to perish as their descent into an incinerator appears inevitable ... juuuuust before salvation appears from above in the form of a trio of three-eyed, green aliens at the controls of "The Claw."

Topics (2):Film, Television
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