Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Crazies (2010)

Okay, but unneccessary remake of George Romero's classic '70s horror film about a town that experiences dementia en masse, and the containment crew sent in to eradicate them. Instead of painting a portrait of the whole town, this remake focuses almost purely on a group of four survivors, including Timothy Olyphant as the town Sheriff, Radha Mitchell as his pregnant wife, and Danielle Panabaker as a fragile high schooler. The tension is thus more subjective and personal, and less of a display of a multitude of terrifying situations as the first one was; this makes it more palatable for modern mainstream audiences, but robs the film of the originals ruthless distinction. The interplay between the survivors is above average for a horror movie, and the arc between Olyphant and his deputy actually proves kind of touching, but in the end, the movie is best when its showing the creepy ways in which the townspeople go coo coo. Breck Eisner knows what he's doing, as proven with this and Sahara, I just hope he gets a truly distinctive, original script to match his confidence and chops.

Slightly Recommended for diehard fans of the original or this modern wave of horror remakes. This is solid, but pretty unremarkable.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Piranha 3D (2010)

Filled to the brim with gore and nudity, this is a horror film that knows its audience, and wholeheartedly respects and indulges what they are there to see. The plot is Jaws, straight-up: a lakeside community discovers killer piranha in their waters the same week as the yearly town-driving spring break. Elizabeth Shue is Roy Scheider (complete with an homage to the shot where he sees the dead boy), Adam Scott is Richard Dreyfus (who, himself, cameos in the intro), and Ving Rhames ends up as Quint, in more ways than one. The protagonist is Shue's teenage son, who gets involved with a Girls Gone Wild-type video crew to win over a prospective girlfriend; this is all stock horror filler material, but it actually proves entertaining, due in no small part to the crude presentation of the crew (including Jerry O'Connell and Paul Scheer) as lecherous, near-psychotic perverts. But the best appearance in the film belongs to Christopher Lloyd, explaining the impossibility of these ancient fish appearing in the lake with 1.21 jigawatts of his trademark energetic delivery; the filmmakers confidently set up a sequel where he may get a larger role, and that is definitely a motivator to follow this franchise. The fish carnage is bountiful and wonderfully over-the-top, but the films tight budget shows in some fuzzy, shaky gore shots. The films greatest achievement is its simultaneous self-awareness and genuine horror tension; the laughs and scares come at an equal ratio, making for a fun, breezy horror film that nails, as the critics have said, the mood that films like Snakes on a Plane have been shooting for for years.

Highly Recommended for horror buffs, or anyone else who loves gore or boobies or Christopher Lloyd (basically everyone, right?).

The Power of One (1990)

Lovely, but overly literary saga of a young English boy growing up amongst racist Afrikaners and natives in South Africa. The film starts out with its protaganist as around 7 years old, both on-screen and in narration, and then moves on about half an hour in to him at around 14-15, and then again later to a young Steven Dorff; this sprawling, ambitious storytelling is disconnecting, and stretches ones patience by the time Mr. Dorff attempts to command the picture. The other big marquee name here is Morgan Freeman, and his presence, along with that of Armin Mueller-Stahl, adds a lot of class to the proceedings, but it's limited to the first half of the film, which is actually fairly captivating. It is when the protagonist begins to settle into his role as a community leader that the film begins to grow repetitive, predictable, and stale. However, the locations and cinematography are fantastic, and the action, including some boxing scenes, is well-directed and shot.

Slightly Recommended to fans of lush African tales or the novel it is based on. It is more confident and self-assured than John G. Avildsen's earlier ciassics, The Karate Kid and Rocky, but nowhere near as cohesive and fun.

Monday, August 23, 2010

G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)

Right off the bat, this is infinitely superior to both the recent G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra AND the original animated Transformer's film; while those films are bogged down by lame, pointless plots, this film is pretty much wall-to-wall Joe vs. Cobra action, which is precisely and exactly what I want from a Joe movie. The framework involves the age-old battle between the Joes, the "Real American Heroes" (circa 1987), and the terrorist baddies the Cobras, as they are both pit against a third faction with even greater hardware than they possess. Meanwhile, the Joes train a new, younger generation of warriors (and toys) to beef up their chances against these new reptilian creatures. There are maybe 10 lines of dialogue not of the "GET HIM!" or "GO JOE!" variety, and they are trademark corny G.I. Joe; no middle-of-the-road tepid sincerity from Channing Tatum here (although Don Johnson is an excellent loose cannon recruit). The action here is definitely the name of the game here, and it is relentless, with huge battles involving fantastic vehicles, weapons, and creatures that have earned, in my eyes, multiple viewings just to capture all the glorious detail; a.k.a. FUCK AVATAR (seriously though, there is similar imagery in some of the action scenes, and this pulls it off with greater sincerity, originality, and aplomb). The visuals are of a significantly higher budget and care than the TV series, and allow for a minimalistic, thoroughly action-driven experience.

Highly Recommended to fans of the G.I. Joe cartoon (and for the Stephen Sommers version, for that matter) and action-oriented '80s cartoons such as Fire and Ice or Heavy Metal; while this is not nearly as mature as those films, it delivers on the spectacle element so thoroughly that it earns being mentioned alongside them.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New York, New York (1977)

Overblown, but handsome musical by Martin Scorcese about two post-war lovebirds trying to make it in the music business, one as a musician, the other a singer, while struggling to maintain their own tumultuous relationship. The films first half-hour is the best, with the slow romantic build up between Robert DeNiro's criminally arrogant saxophonist, Jimmy, and Liza Minelli's guarded USO crooner, Francine. Once their career's begin to soar and the film begins to find its groove, the suspense is kind of deflated; we know these two have problems, and they hooked up despite them, so watching them bend and squirm at each other's mercies (particularly DeNiro, whose nearly sociopathic character is the most magnetic in the film) becomes pretty tasking by the end of the 160 minute running time. The music, mostly big band and jazz, is great, as are the period elements of the piece; the sets, costumes, and hairstyles are all very evocative of a dreamy, blissful vision of post-war America. Scorcese's framing is inventive and lively, and is only restricted by the repetitive quality of the film's script; the greatest success of the film is that, due to Scorcese and DeNiro, the inherently destructive and anti-social Jimmy ends up coming off as likable. Minelli is, surprisingly, stronger off-stage than on; she has an endearing, haunting openness in her acting that does not come through in her comfortable, exuberant stage performances.

Recommended for fans of Scorcese or DeNiro (all 4 of you out there) and really glitzy, old-school musicals with an edge; I'm really thinking of Pennies from Heaven, which this film roughly equals in quality. This is not the bane on Scorcese's filmography that I was let to believe, but rather an interesting experiment (far superior and more inventive than his worst work) that gives DeNiro yet another opportunity to display his mastery of acting for the screen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tetro (2009)

Lovely, but unremarkable effort from Francis Ford Coppola about two brothers who reconnect in Buenos Aires. There are echoes of Rumble Fish in both the black and white visuals and the vague plot, with the younger brother escaping the shadow of his older brother while the older brother distances himself from their father. Vincent Gallo is the titular Tetro, the disillusioned, emotionally wounded older brother, and his soft-spoken, airy demeanor recalls Mickey Rourke's Motorcycle Boy; his unique acting style actually seems quite appropriate here, as Tetro is mostly an indecipherable, obtuse character. The other characters in the film are well played, but a little more stock: his Hispanic girlfriend is maternal and caring, while the younger brother is naiive and sexually awkward. The film, even more so than Rumble Fish, lives and dies on its gorgeous visuals. Coppola creates frames here that are among the most distinctive in his career, without his trademark high-budget ambitions. He uses color only in flashback, a device I have not seen before, but wholeheartedly embrace as a stylistic choice. And the use of his environment is lovely, with Buenos Aires seeming like a magical, unexploited location suitable for this story. But nothing ever happens in the story that is truly fresh or original, and while there are revelations and a narrative throughline, it is not a shred as captivating as the greatest of Coppola's earlier works.

Slightly Recommended to fans of Coppola's more indie-minded work a la Rumble Fish and Vincent Gallo. I got more than I expected, but based on what I'd heard, I expected nothing.

The Expendables (2010)

A blast from the past, a traditional, big-guns hard-rock action film about a group of mercenaries who take on a heroin-dealing dictator and his ex-FBI backer. The group itself is remarkable, but nothing mindblowing: the three principal players are Sylvester Stallone (who wrote and directed this shindig), Jason Statham, and Jet Li, along with Terry Crewes and Randy Coutour for backup. They are all competent action leads, and make lasting impressions despite their underwritten roles. But the real shockers here are the fringe players: Arnold Schwarzenegger as the head of a rival mercenary team, Bruce Willis as their CIA-agent backer, Mickey Rourke as an ex-Expendable named tool, Eric Roberts as the slimey ex-fed villain, and Dolph Lundgren as a steroid-junkie lackey. These guys walk away with the film, particularly Lundgren, whose hulking presence and weathered face makes him more threatening and imposing than ever, and Rourke, who masterfully delivers a monologue about neglecting to save a suicidal woman that actually achieves an emotional high point in this film, where clearly, no one gives a shit about, how you say, emotions? The action is well-shot and staged, especially the no-holds-barred invasion at the very end; this film is paced like the 1980 film Dogs of War, with a three act structure that involves an unrelated opening mission, a long reconnaissance period, and a final, all-out battle. The main flaw in the film is an abundance of treasures in the cast; individual stories tend not to be as interesting as the cast members that remain offscreen for the big plot developments. Seeing Arnie on screen, in particular, makes you dream of an ending where he drops in, machine gun in hand, saying something like "I'm the party pooper!" But alas, he remains a governor, and his role is unfortunately truncated, if still plenty noteworthy.

Highly Recommended for fans of 80s era actioners such as Dogs of War, Commando, or Delta Force. The leads all get shortchanged here, so seeing it for one of them could prove unrewarding, but the ensemble is phenomenal for action junkies. I prefer this to Rambo III and IV (it may be on par with II but it ain't no First Blood), and I definitely expect great things from any potential sequels (hopefully with GUNNAR!).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Hipster trash about an unemployed 22 year old who falls in love with a girl who, he discovers, has seven evil ex-boyfriends who will fight him to the death for her honor. Michael Cera is poorly cast in this film; right off the bat, we discover Scott has a 17 year old girlfriend (they "held hands for a sec, but she got uncomfortable") that he is using to get over his own ex, but who is completely in love with him and his shitty garage rock band. He leads her along and drops her when the real love story of the film (with the girl with the psycho exes), making him kind of an ineffectual asshole before the film has even gotten going. If he had been played by someone with a little more range or edge, it would be easier to dismiss his transgression as post-relationship trauma, but his apparent awareness and lack of sincerity make him fairly unlikable right from the get go. The love interest, Ramona Flowers, is also quite worthless, never exhibiting any qualities that would be worth fighting anyone for, let alone crazy psycho powerful superhero exes; as he fights for her, she continually dismisses and ignores him, making one wonder why Scott is as willing as he is to fight for a girl who may or may not care about him. The whole emotional core of the movie is empty and stupid, which is a real shame because Edgar Wright actually scores major aesthetic points here with his filmmaking methods.

There is narrative text throughout, random video game elements relating to the story, and crazy, larger-than-life, Stephen Chow-esque battle sequences. It is all really cool stuff you can stuff in a trailer, but when in the context of this film, it is loud, hollow, and pointless. The characters are not amicable enough for the audience to root for them, and the emotional situations are plodding and uninteresting. The leads, and Cera's rock band posse of friends, are contrived and unlikable, and are basically hodgepodges of other characters from other movies (the freckled angsty drummer is a third name away from being Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind of Wonderful). The only actors who come out of this film looking good are Chris Evans, Brandon Routh (as two of the more heinous, infamous exes), and, surprisingly, Kieran Culkin as Scott's snarky gay roommate, who shares his bed with Scott AND whatever conquests he brings home, much to Scott's chagrin; it is a huge detriment to the film that Culkin, the most likable character, does not throw down at any point to back up his best friend. However, the moments where the fights actually break out are typically fun and exciting, particularly the ones with the two aforementioned actors (Routh has a killer sense of timing and delivery, and Evans has the funniest moments in the film with his over-the-top movie star routine). And it was definitely cool to see a bad guy burst into coins after being defeated just like a goombah in Mario, until, like most of the interesting concepts in the film, it is repeated at face value (but NEVER explored) to the point that noone is allowed to oversee how friggin COOL the film is trying to be (and it's not.)

Slightly Recommended to hipsters and video game junkies. This is Edgar Wright's first film that is not a masterpiece (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will still get play on my TV for many years). Once again this year, I find myself dismissing a film with one constant, unswaying mantra repeating in my head: "KICK ASS WAS BETTER!"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Grown-Ups (2010)

Exactly what it looks like. Proceed at your own risk.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2008)

An alright, but deeply flawed sequel to Eli Roth's dastardly original that keeps a high school prom full of people in an infected area. The intro, like the one in Hostel Part II, fills in the details as to the fate of the previous films protaganist (let's just say Rider Strong does not deserve really top billing), and then we meet our real protagonist, a high schooler with a crush on his lifelong friend and a Clark Duke acting-and-looking sidekick, who is admittedly a fairly funny character. The evil water that capped the kids in the first one is bottled and shipped out to a local high school about to have its senior prom (don't drink the punch!!). It's not the freshest material I've ever seen, but director Ti West, following up his phenomenal House of the Devil, turns this for-hire gig into a showcase for some hilarious visuals and surprisingly straight moments; it's never achieves the same level of utter claustrophobic terror the first one did, but it is significantly better than your average DTV horror sequel (the From Dusk Till Dawn ones remain the best). One of the better choices in the film was to give the deputy character, played by Giuseppe Andrews, more of a presence throughout, and he has several terrific hick-humor scenes with some hilarious people (including Mark Borchardt!). It's really the abrupt, and terribly out of place, ending that sinks the movie; I believe Ti West was fired at some point for some reason, and it shows in the way the film quickly wraps things up and then has a pointless epilogue that seems to just be there to kill time. It hurts, because up until that point the film was in the makings to be a fairly legit sequel, taking the original's set up into a fresh direction, instead of basically a really cool Masters of Horror episode (which I think Ti West is more than capable of). I am definitely still very impressed by his handling of tension and gore, and his next film, with more creative control, will hopefully be more sure of itself and original.

Slightly Recommended to fans of the original and predictable, but fun horror films; this is not as good as Feast, a somewhat similar film I've reviewed recently, or the original, but it has enough original touches and over-the-top gore visuals to make it fairly fun for horror buffs.

Watching the Detectives (2007)

An airless, poorly conceived romantic comedy with decent performances about a geeky video store clerk who falls in love with a spontaneous, free-spirited (read: crazy) new client. Cillian Murphy actually does an admirable job making a likable, relatively normal guy out of a poorly written character, downplaying his creepiness and naiveté for a more beaten, "whatever"-type attitude. He is obsessed with film, and constantly interrupts his life for viewings and references, much to the chagrin of everyone outside of his immediate friends circle (who are, admittedly, pretty funny, if self-consciously quirky). Lucy Liu comes along as the crazy person who knows nothing about movies, but knows enough to attempt to get Murphy out of his shell by enacting high-tension, movie-like scenarios. The fact that this is, ostensibly, a romantic comedy, spending much of its time focused on the relationship between these two, sinks the film, for it is not believable for a second that Murphy's character would put up with Liu's shenanigans as long as he does; his character was not written as bored or desperate enough to be willing to jump through this many hoops for any reason, let alone for someone he's just met. Liu's casting makes the film tolerable, though, for she infuses just enough energy and know-how to avoid, until the end, looking completely psychotic and illogical. However, the ending defines the film too concretely as a light-weight rom-com (spoiler!), and the laughs do not come quick and heavy enough to hide the lack of genuine substance. That being said, this was written and directed by Paul Soter, a member of Broken Lizard (Super Troopers, Slammin' Salmon), so everyone gets at least a few cute gags in, including several Lizard members in cameos (including Soter). I was just hoping for more out of his solo debut, and he does not have the writing chops to create a fresh, substantive original script, nor the directorial knowhow to elevate a script to watchable status, despite a penchant for casting (that is common for the Lizards...Brian Cox remains the scene-stealer in Super Troopers).

Skip it. There are better movies like this (The Science of Sleep, and, although it's radically different in tone, Cyper, also with Liu), and this is, unfortunately, not nearly as funny as a Broken Lizard film. But Soter's a hell of a sweet guy, with visibly good intentions, and I'm glad he got to make his own movie.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Other Guys (2010)

A hilarious, yet imperfect comedy that involves two sidekicks of New York's number one crime-fighting cop duo, and their attempt to gain respect of their own. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play the titular Other Guys, a nebbish "forensic accountant," and a loudmouth, pent up hot-shot demoted for shooting someone famous and beloved (a stupid gag that I won't ruin just in case I'm just being a curmudgeon). The Main Guys (who deserved a better shake than they got in this film) are played by The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, two dudes who definitely know how to play over-the-top action heroes, and they are true to form here in their tragically brief appearance. The plot takes Ferrell and Wahlberg to a jewel heist that was, perhaps, faked to cover up a bigger, more substantive corporate crime. The fact that the film actually has a plot separates it from Mckay's earlier buddy comedies, and it definitely gives the film a life of its own beyond the typical improvised banter and random sight gags; however, it also gives the film a bit of a cap on the humor, as the film cannot derail from logic as severely as Anchorman and Step Brothers repeatedly did. This definitely hinders Wahlberg's character, clearly a riff on "psychos" such as Mel Gibson's Riggs, or pretty much any character who ended up having to be told "He ain't worth it, man" by his partner as he held a gun to a criminal; he runs around the film, screaming about needing to fly like a peacock (in reference to their case) without a smidgen of comedic understanding or timing. Which is a shame, because Ferrell, once again, after Step Brothers, proves he has way more comedic tricks up his sleeve than he likes to let on; his seemingly benign daff hints at his past, which ends up being a priceless slow reveal, and his continual references to his wife, Eva Mendes, as his "plain," "cute, but definitely not hot," "ball and chain." Speaking of Mendes, she's terrific in the film, showing way more chutzpah and comedic range than I believe anyone expected of her (although I liked her in Stuck On You). Damon Wayans, Jr. (I miss his old man on screen) and Rob Riggle play other other guys, an unnecessary, yet mildly amusing equivalent of The Andy's in Hot Fuzz (an infinitely superior film in almost every facet, by the way) who compete with the titular boys to one-up The Rock and Samuel L. While Steve Coogan and Ray Stevenson are also strong in their straight-man roles, the real honorable mention in the supporting cast is Michael Keaton. He turns in, for the first time in years, a thoroughly comic, goofy performance, and the biggest compliment I can give the film is that I had no clue how much I missed this side of Keaton until I saw it delivered in spades here; he is simultaneously subtle and over-the-top in ways that are matched only by Ferrell, who I now suspect may have been influenced by the Beetlejuice star in his work. The action in the film is surprisingly effective, particularly in a two-fisted office shootout set to The White Stripes' "Icky Thump", but still comes shy of the third act extravaganza of the similarly themed Hot Fuzz.

Recommended for fans of over-the-top PG-13 action comedies a la Hot Shots, or Mckay and Ferrell's previous films. For me, this ranks below Anchorman and Step Brothers, but probably on par with Talladega Nights; while it does not have that film's penchant for random insanity, it does have a stronger sense of character and story that would make the film much stronger, had Mark Wahlberg been such a desperate, overeager dud. Dirk Diggler was a fluke, everyone, it's okay, we'll always have his 5 goofy minutes or so in The Departed AND I Heart Huckabees if you can stand the existential jargon.

SubUrbia (1996)

A haunting, truly fascinating portrayal of suburban stagnancy that depicts a night outside a convenience store where several 20ish slackers languish in boredom. Giovanni Ribisi is ostensibly the lead, a wannabe writer living in his parents garage who spends most of his time articulating his self-admittedly suburban angst to his friends and his artist girlfriend, who wants him to move to New York with her to kickstart her art career. His other friends include an alcoholic Air Force veteran, a doofy hedonist (played to perfection by Steve Zahn), and a helpless nurse's aid. This film was arguably director Richard Linklater's follow-up to Dazed and Confused, with many structural and stylistic similarities; it has a crucially specific soundtrack (by Sonic Youth), a focus on spontaneous and, perhaps, ugly sex, and a piecemeal structure that follows several characters through a slightly eventful night in their mundane lives. However, where the films completely differ is tone, and that is where writer Eric Bogosian truly leaves his unmistakable mark; these slackers are not likable, nostalgia-tinged teenagers, but rather angry, lost, repressed, modern young adults who believe, more and more, that they will never find a place for themselves in the universe...or at least, not one that they'll particularly like. The Air Force vet, played by Nicky Katt in the best performance I've seen from him, is a former high school football star who joined the Force to get out of his hometown, only to wind up back home a burned out, cynical drunk, who only remembers his glory days when reminded by the football junkie liquor store clerk. The nurse's aid seems, right off the bat, like an angelic, pure soul, but she is repeatedly abused and forgotten by everyone around her. And Steve Zahn's doofus is a far cry from Ron Slater, and is an amoral, sexist pig who only gets away with his scumminess through his innocent class clown routine. Ribisi, also turning in career-best work, serves as a doppelganger for Bogosian, tearing apart his environment while, in turn, becoming a self-admitted slave to it; he cannot escape his fear that any self-worth that he could, potentially have is futile in the world that surrounds him. The humor is inherent, but bleak, and the series of events that occur manages to continually defy cliche and expectations. There is a more stage-like scope than Linklater's other films (save for maybe Tape, which never leaves the motel room), but the nuanced, organic staging and performances show his mark on the film. And Sonic Youth's score is wonderfully implemented, never calling attention to itself but accenting the film's tone perfectly.

Highly Recommended to pretty much all suburbanites, who I feel can universally relate to this movie in some way, and fans of Bogosian, Linklater's more intimate work a la Tape or Dazed and Confused, or the terrific cast, which also includes Parker Posey as a Bel-Air rich girl who finds the yokels in the film fascinating (she's great).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Crazy Heart (2009)

Strong, impeccably acted Southern drama about a broken, alcoholic country star and his relationship with a young reporter. Jeff Bridges earned his Oscar playing the lead, Bad Blake, as he drinks, smokes, and mumbles his way through his ramshackle life in search of something worthwhile, which he finds in Maggie Gyllenhaal's sweet young single mom. Their involvement, while bordering on unbelievable, plays organically and without much contrivance, and the film, like The Wrestler, understands that when people are broken, many restrictions one would set on their potential romantic entanglements would become moot (this point could've been more clear if the character was older, but she's a good enough actress to pull it off). Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Paul Herman, as friends/coworkers of Blake, turn in wonderful work, and their chemistry with Bridges creates a portrait of Blake's life that extends before and after the chronology of the film (with more screen time, I believe Farrell's work in the film could have been as seminal for his career as Bridges'). The narrative is relatively traditional, with surprising touches, but nothing groundbreaking. The film functions more efficiently as a character piece, and in that sense, it is a great success; because of Bridges' effortless likability, we can watch Blake fuck up time and time again and still root for him to persevere. The music that is both played and heard in the film is pretty sweet, especially for country music (of which I am not a fan).

Highly Recommended for Jeff Bridges fans or country music buffs. I don't think this is a better Bridges performance than The Dude, but it is still a fairly masterful portrayal.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Operation: Endgame (2010)

Half funny, fresh comedy, half hackneyed, thrown together DTV dreck centering around two cooperating groups of assassins turned on each other by their superiors. The whole fucking film takes place in their underground HQ, and the cheapness of the production does not do it any favors; this is one project that would have benefited from a big-budget, Get Smart-esque treatment. The action scenes are well-executed, but clearly contained and shortchanged. And the central love story, between a fresh new recruit and his former flame, now a Mata Hari named Temptress (the codenames in this movie are broad and pointless), is indicative of the half-assed emotional manipulation typical of z-grade productions. Which is a shame, because the cast here is actually very talented, and very game. Comedy pros like Jeffery Tambor, Michael Hitchcock, Bob Odenkirk, Adam Scott, and Zach Galifinakis (in a shorter-than-advertised role) tone their respective schticks down a bit while decidedly non-comic actors such as Ving Rhames, Emilie De Ravin, and Ellen Barkin have a blast with their over-the-top characters. But the saving grace of this movie, and one that does not allow me to regret watching the film for one second, is Rob Cordry. As the raging alcoholic head of one of the agencies (a gun-shaped flask is permanently stapled to his hand), Cordry provides further evidence (along with Harold and Kumar 2) that he was born to play this type of role, cussing, drinking, and fighting with the same zeal and dedication he brought to the much bigger-budgeted Hot Tub Time Machine earlier this year. I was skeptical of his career in film, but his performance here, which basically holds the movie up on his shoulders (until he croaks oh snap *SPOILER* then the movie goes pretty much into unwatchable territory) makes me think he could sustain a leading man gig for the entirety of a running time; I may have to seek out that paintball flick I saw him on the cover of years ago (Blackballed I believe it's called...probably ass).

Slightly Recommended for fans of ramshackle DTV comedy and the terrific cast. This is definitely best seen (and, honestly, possibly made for) on a late night, uncut Comedy Central broadcast, or in a double feature with Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay (which was supposed to be DTV, but proved to be just too damn good).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Black Moon Rising (1986)

Fairly cool '80s-style heist movie about the theft and recovery of a turbo-powered, hydrogen-fueled supercar. Tommy Lee Jones is Sam Quint ("the one man they didn't count on," says the trailer), a thief specializing in corporate espionage who stashes key info in the supercar, which is promptly swiped by Linda Hamilton's expert hijacker. The rest of the film involves Quint's attempt to steal the car back from Hamilton's boss, the typically sleazy Robert Vaughn, along with Quint and Hamilton's forced romance ("We have a lot in common...we're both thieves," says Quint...ugh). The script was co-written by '80s film demigod* John Carpenter, and there is some very efficient gadgetry, pacing, and dialogue here; although he didn't direct, it does not feel like his original draft was rewritten into oblivion. Also, Tommy Lee Jones, in one of his earliest leading man roles, somewhat resembles, in voice and appearance, Mr. Carpenter, and definitely embodies the tough, intelligent lead of this film better than any of the more obvious mid-80s action stars; with another lead delivering his cold, calculating dialogue, this film could easily be an unwatchable bore. Hamilton suffers from a poorly-written role (honestly, their love story is really lame), but remains a very vibrant, organic presence, and holds her own when riding shotgun and capping fools while Quint races the supercar. The rest of the supporting cast is serviceable, with Keenan Wynn and William Sanderson (one of whom gets a terrific death scene) making the most lasting impressions. The film is shot and styled like a contemporary '80s action film, but many of the action scenes have more energy in their conception than their execution. That being said, the heist itself proves to be a satisfying and exciting conclusion, and Jones character is magnetic enough to care about his fate.

Recommended for '80s style action junkies (Ferrarri's and neon lighting abound) and fans of Tommy Lee Jones. Jones deserved an A-list career long before he won his Fugitive Oscar, and this film offers ample proof of that with Jones' grizzled, but charming badass.

*I only use such loving praise when someone writes, directs, and SCORES movies SUCH AS Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing, Escape from New York, The Fog, Prince of Darkness, and They Live, let alone ALL OF THEM