Ichi The Killer (2001), or What Is It With The Japanese And Their Trippy Movies?

30 06 2009

Takashi Miike is a good director. He makes movies the way he feels they should be made. He has his own vision, a trait that more directors need. He’s got style in spades. And he has oodles of talent, the most important component with pulling a film off. So why do his movies make me feel like cutting my face off with piano wire? It’s hard to explain. I think it might be a matter of cohesiveness.He likes to bend genres a lot, to the point that it just becomes an amalgam of off-jokes, unbelievably gruesome death scenes, and brutal criminal monologues. If anybody remembers my review for Sukiyaki Western: Django, you’ll know that while Miike made some interesting stylistic choices I liked, he made some serious blunders that tarnished the film for me (Japanese people speaking English, anyone?) Today’s film, Ichi The Killer, based off the delightful and family-friendly mangas, makes some of the same mistakes that film does, but it ends up succeeding in being a more cohesive work than Sukiyaki ever was.

The plot is so Ka-Flooey! that I couldn’t tell you the whole thing in five paragraphs, let alone one (you notice the trailer above doesn’t even bother to explain it?), but the basic gist is your typical crime drama. There is some money missing (300 million yen, or $47) from the office of a murdered crime boss, and a psycho named Kakahari, an EXTREME sadomasochist, is on the trail of his boss’s murderer and the missing cash. After torturing a few people, he finds a trail that leads to a mysterious man named Jiiji and his unstoppable assassin known only as Ichi, who is allegedly one of the most brutal killers imaginable. Kakahari is taken with the idea of a man that could bring him ultimate pain, so he makes it his own personal mission to find these two and confront them. Who is Ichi? Why does he kill in such a brutal and disturbing fashion? Why does he kill at all?

This is all your usual crime film fare with a few twisted details. The criminals are all ballooned out of proportion to be mentally disturbed caricatures. With all the psychos running around, I didn’t know whether the movie took place in Japan or Gotham City! Seriously, we have the sadomasochist, the super-killer Ichi, his fucked-up boss, a lot of the stylized Yakuza members; it becomes a madhouse within 30 minutes! If you like your villains full of cartoonish verve and your anti-heroes zany and unpredictable, this might not be such a bad movie for you. You’ll never find yourself bored anyways!

The pacing and the tone could be a little more consistent. We go from stilted dialog scenes to extended torture scenes to frantic running and jumping to POV shots within the span of five minutes! It’s relentlessly atonal! I have tried and tried to figure out what Miike is trying to convey with his camera besides corn syrup blood and disemboweled mannequins, but it eludes me. Perhaps there is something, because he can truly have a voice with an image when he wants, but here and in Sukiyaki he chooses the most equivocated way of expressing himself as a director. Maybe I’m thinking too much about this, but when you’re invited to direct an episode of a show called MASTERS OF HORROR, I guess I just figure you have something to say.

But the film succeeds where the Eastern-Western didn’t by keeping things tight. For the nutty story they’re trying to tell, it’s actually pretty succinct. There are few if any wasted scenes, and when they’re good, they’re REALLY good. I felt pretty riveted during the Katahari torture scenes. He can keep the tension on a razor’s edge, teetering from one second to the next. The character development is also a strong point here. Although the characters are hyper-ridiculous and villainous, they all have multiple dimensions. The scenes featuring the mysterious Ichi and his “problem” are also intriguing, and leave the audience with something akin to actual concern for somebody in this bloody mess of a film.

It’s not an instant classic by any means, but Ichi The Killer works. It’s a guts-painted odyssey through a Japanese criminal underworld that only film directors imagine exist. Miike is and will always be the star of any movie he makes, like any talented director, but he makes strides to change that a little bit by making characters that have different angles to choose from, even if they still have no resemblance to real human beings. It’s not for everyone, especially those with weak constitutions, but for those who can handle a little splatter and gore, this is a crime film for the 21st century. It’s a unique vision that gets my thumbs (slightly) up, with 7 inflated currencies out of 10. Kampai!!!

Tomorrow we see Charlton Heston as a Hispanic (!!!!!!!!!) in Touch of Evil!

Hard Rain (1998), or My Problem With Hard Rain

29 06 2009

All right, this is gonna sound more like a Hard Rant rather than a review for Hard Rain (Damn, I’m  witty…), but here we go anyways. I have a number of problems with the 1998 action thriller Hard Rain.

First and foremost, I have a big problem with the overly-complicated action flick. This one is WAY more complicated than it should be. It’s all about two armored truck drivers trekking through (get this!) a hard rain in Indiana trying to stop robbers from taking the money out of the waterlogged armored vehicle. Simple, right? Should be a cat and mouse game, right? Well, not exactly. Instead, we have the money changing hands too many times, too many unimportant characters after this money, and not enough interest in the good guys to make me hope that they get it back. I wanted it between the robbers and the armored truck guys, but they wanted the police, vigilantes, and rednecks to get involved too! I couldn’t maintain my interest in any characters because they divided all the time up between a bunch of them!

Oh, and talk about pick-and-choose character development!!! How come I don’t know a damn thing about some characters, but feel like a spent two months in prison with some of them as my cellmates? Christian Slater’s Tom seems cartoonish and paper-thin, but Morgan Freeman’s character Jim gets plenty of time to soliloquy and exposit. Fuck, I feel like I knew more about Betty White in this movie than the MAIN CHARACTER!!! There’s never anything of dire importance for them to talk about, to be certain, considering the script was written by Graham “Speed 2: Cruise Control” Yost, but I would have wanted at least a bit more particulars about the man we’re supposed to be rooting for.

And a quick note: Ed Asner plays Christian Slater’s Uncle Charlie, who is also trying to find the money from the armored car. The guy was 69 when this film came out. Get that man out of the fake studio rain! He could catch a cold!!! And he could most definitely NOT catch criminals, so what’s he even there for?!?

So, back on track, I also happen to feel like there was too much zip to a story about people being bogged down by a hard rain.  Director Mikael Salomon knows how to pace a film, I’ve seen him do it well. This movie, though, is outrunning 500 mile-per-hour winds with it’s breakneck pace! If they were smart, they would mimic the pace of the storm; a rough, wild patch of storm clouds that just SITS on an unfortunate town. It would make for a great psychological thriller. But what we end up with in this confused pace is something that would have come out of Michael Bay’s storm drain (which transforms from a talking robot into a giant chrome storm drain). It’s big, dumb, loud, and fast (and let’s not forget wet, shall we?), and I couldn’t enjoy it.

The acting is really grating. It’s the typical pre-Matrix 90s action film where most of the comic relief is done via one-liners. Platitudes abound when guys like the bumbling sheriff (who also wants the money), comes out the gate with lines like: “For twenty years, I’ve been eatin’ shit; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So now I’m changing the menu. From here on, everything I eat is gonna be shit-free.” Well, I’m sure up for action after a delightful bon mot such as that! And who could forget when Tom is hit in the head with a crucifix and he utters this charming slice of hilarity: “Great, I’m gonna have people from all around the world come to see the impression of Jesus on my forehead.” Oh ho! Indeed! Plus, everyone here (yes, even Morgan Freeman) is on auto-pilot. They don’t give two shits about the craft; they’re doing this to pay the bills. I might as well be watching a temp make some fucking coffee at Kinko’s! It’s par for the course on an action movie, but I can’t help but feel cheapened by it all…

Hard Rain is the kind of movie you see on cable and wonder how well it did in theaters. You figure that a movie like this would go straight to video, with its stupid, stupid plot, its list of hungry actors, and its conspicuous lack of craftsmanship. And while it didn’t do extremely well, they somehow made it a permanent staple on networks like USA and FX with its macho action selling points. And it has action. It just doesn’t have INTERESTING action. Perhaps the networks should screen the films before they play them ad nauseum. Oh, well. I’m getting out of the elements to wash off the stank on me from this dreadful shit-storm of a film. I give Hard Rain 4 Michael Bay storm drains out of 10. Boo.

Tomorrow I get a little less hateful and present a well-structured review! Tomorrow I give you my take on Ichi The Killer!

PSA: Flash Gordon (1980), or The Most Enjoyable Film Ever?

28 06 2009

If there is one movie in my collection that gets me pumped above all others, it is Flash Gordon. Whether in my dizzying youth, and in my effervescent adulthood, watching Flash Gordon has afforded me a pleasure that still amazes me every time. Every single viewing has made me a little happier as a human being. I say this with no small cognizance that this movie, for me, is possibly one of the most enjoyable experiences to be had in the cinema. Without a doubt, there are better movies; movies that engage me more on an intellectual level, movies that pique my interest emotionally, or movies that are just plain made more skillfully. But no one movie can turn my day around like Flash Gordon. It has the wacky costumes, the unbelievable plot, the set pieces made from the rare element AWESOME, and the actors so spectacular for the role that they might have been born to play them. Oh, and a far-out sci-fi cock rock soundtrack by Queen that just tops the cake.

If you were around during the 30s, firstly let me welcome you to this new-fangled thing called the internet. Amazing, huh? This is the Information Super Highway, and it’s just tops! But while I got your ear, gramps, do you remember those old Flash Gordon cartoon strips in the newspapers? Well, today’s film takes partly from those, partly from the Flash Gordon film serials from around the same era, and partly from Roger Dean acid freak-outs (after your time, old folks). Flash Gordon is a dreamy, dashing, and all-around amazing football player for the New York Jets, and he is sharing a tiny plane with sexy journalist Dale Arden when abnormal weather (like HOT HAIL) starts battering the earth and causes the plane to go down. When the two crash land together, they find they are in the company of a crazy scientist named Zarkov who tells the couple at gunpoint that they must accompany him to a dangerous mission to the planet Mongo (!!!). He says that the source of all this extreme weather on earth is on that planet, and that he can’t fix this problem alone. So off they go to fix this extreme weather situation; a crazy scientist, a bewildered journalist, and a hunky football player. What they find on planet Mongo is beyond their wildest dreams. There’s adventure, intrigue, advanced technology, alien life-forms, political drama, lasers, Queen, and lasers. Flash Gordon may just be the world’s only hope. Can he use his super football skills to the test and save Earth?!?!

Watch that trailer above. Do it. Now. You seen it yet? Was that not cool? It’s the epitome of sci-fi excess. With enough bright colors to give you Eye Diabetes, enough pomp to put Stargate to shame, and enough musical stings to be a game show, this one is it. It’s so over the top and so damn… sci-fi that I have few words that might realistically explain it’s amazing nature.

The actors are just the best. Max Von Sydow again shows us his hilariously evil side as Ming the Merciless. He is just as cartoony as yesterday’s evil Brewmeister Smith, but this time its appropriate because this was based on a cartoon strip! Sam J. Jones, in his only famous role besides being the centerfold for Playgirl in June 1975, is a delightfully earnest Flash, not the space-faring playboy we see in the cartoon strip. He’s normally jumping around from planet to planet, bed to bed, doing all kinds of cool action bon vivant stuff. Here, he’s almost like a family man without a family (unless you count the one he wants to start with Dale). He’s still doing all the action, but he’s almost like what you picture your dad was like before he met your mom when you were a kid; handsome, caring, and completely asexual. There’s a whole motley cast here full of wacky character actors that would take me a fucking lifetime to get into, but let me just say that everyone is well-suited to the role they’re given.

I could go on about what makes this movie so fun. It’s the action, it’s the romance, its the music (a guitar solo version of “Here Comes The Bride”! Thanks Brian May!), it’s the fashion. It’s all these things that make it great. It’s by no means a BETTER movie than most, but it’s a special movie that has a VERY special place in my heart. I’ll always have smiles and good vibes reserved for this film, even when I’m the old guy who’s so ancient that he can remember THIS movie (God, gramps, you’re so OLD!!!). I think in the future, I’ll do another piece on this film because I love it so. Until then, though, I’ll just say that while, as a film, I’m only giving it 7 Ming Von Sydows out of 10, in my heart I’m giving this one a big 10 Zarkovs out of 10!!! Keep in eye out in the future for more Flash Gordon related writings from me in the coming weeks!

Tomorrow we take a trip down Christian Slater Blvd. for my review of the bland thriller Hard Rain! Until then!!!

Strange Brew (1983), or Hamlet On Ice… With Rick Moranis

27 06 2009

Fun fun fun. That’s what I have to say about this movie. I had a blast with this buddy comedy from the minds of two of the best and brightest from SCTV. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas create a chemistry together that is just perfect for what ales ya. And you know, with all this talk of chemistry and ales, it’s a good thing that this is a comedy primarily about beer, otherwise the writing on this website would not be nearly as original and fresh (January 1st is this site’s Born-On date; HA!!!). The McKenzie brothers characters from the classic SCTV of the late 70s and early 80s are just two buddies who love hockey, beer, and being Canadian, and that’s the heart of this nutty comedy. But believe it or not, we’re also getting into Shakespearean territory here. You see, Strange Brew is on the surface all fun and games, but looking into the plot structure just a little bit further, we see that we have basically a comedic recreation of Hamlet!!!

That’s right! With the two hosers playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the film is a fun and loose take on the classic play, although with a LOT more emphasis on the antics of the two brothers. After losing their jobs, the McKenzies have an ingenious plan to get some money from popular beer company Elsinore Brewery (Ahhhh…), which is sticking a mouse in an empty bottle, and telling the company that they found it in there and demand compensation. Astoundingly, this works, and they are given a dream job of working at the brewery. While working there (and dicking around during their shift), they come to uncover a plot for world domination by the evil Brewmeister Smith, who plans to put some sort of mind control drug in the beer to put people under his control. Can they save the world by stopping Brewmeister Smith with the help of Pam, the would-be owner of the company whose father recently died and whose mother also recently shacked up with Pam’s uncle, who is in league with Brewmeister Smith himself? Who cares, let’s laugh at their goofy Canadian accents!!!

Before Rick Moranis was big 80s real estate in America, he was an up-and-coming sketch comedy star in Canada, where he was born and raised. This movie, directed by both Moranis and Thomas, is a love letter to the stereotypical Canadians of the world. The McKenzies are beer-drinking, hockey-loving nitwits who talk in colloquialisms so deep that they almost need subtitles. They’re just regular dudes who like to have a good time, and their unassuming and Canada-centric humor makes us have a good time vicariously. The two play the characters to the T, and I’m smiling a little just thinking about it.

This website has a huge crush on today’s villain, Brewmeister Smith. He’s played by the one, the only Max Von Sydow!!! What an acquisition these guys made! By the time that this film came out, Sydow was doing more accessible films that didn’t require much thought (Dune, anyone?), but it’s still a treat to see one of my favorite dramatic actors play for kicks in a goofball comedy. He really vamps it up, and I especially love his trademark Swedish accent being used to bolster the evilness of a character like Brewmeister Smith. They better have paid him well, is all I’m saying, because no matter what he does, Sydow goes in all the way, so he makes for quite an entertaining baddie here.

It’s really dumb and slightly presumptuous, the way it plays it’s brand of humor, but I wouldn’t change one line of this comedy for fear of messing up something so deliriously fun. It’s the kind of movie that doesn’t wear on you. The jokes are so classic you could just use it as smile-inducing background noise (“If I didn’t have puke-breath, Id kiss ya…”). There’s just an aura of looseness around the movie, a looseness that gives way to a natural comedy style. You know the kind, when you and your friends are telling jokes back and forth just to make each other laugh. No pressure, no worries. That’s how it is here, and it just does it for me. I like it, and once you find it in a clearance bin near you (it’s not thought of too highly, for some reason), you might like it too. I give Strange Brew 7 1/2 Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns out of 10. Enjoy, you hosers!

Tomorrow’s review is a surprise! I’ll make sure to make it worth your while!

The Astronaut Farmer (2007), or Polish, Polish, And Thornton

26 06 2009

Billy Bob Thornton is one of the acting world’s greatest mysteries. Is he good? Is he terrible? I don’t have the definitive answer to this question plaguing civilization, but I do have the experience from today’s film, The Astronaut Farmer, to go off, and if we’re going off just this film, I think we can safely take the former option out of the question. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this film, and after experiencing it for myself I feel I can, with some authority, tell the people who said those nice things about this film absolutely bonkers. I didn’t care for this at all, and I really expected more from the directors of Northfork.

The title says it all. I’m not even going to explain it in detail. A guy named Charles Farmer, a former astronaut in training who was forced to give up on his dream early on in life. Now that he has a wife and kids, he decides kind of spur of the moment to live out his dream of being an astronaut by building a rocket in his barn (!!!). Media coverage goes crazy over this nutty attempt at touching the stars, and shows of support flood in from all over. But it won’t be easy, building his very own rocket (!!!!!). Can he make his dream a reality with sheer fore of will? Does he have the knowledge, the moxy, and the determination?

Sounds like a comedy, right? Well, NO! This is a serious damn drama! No snickering from the back of the classroom! The Polish brothers, famous for their odd addition of surrealism to drama, have taken the same approach to this one, only the surrealism is left to languish while Thornton’s horrible blandness sets in, creating a rather boring pseudo-comedy. It tries to be bizarre, it tries to be quirky, but it never tries hard enough for it to sink in. The effect becomes more of a self-mockery or, rather, a stiff caricature of the original concept, conveyed with very poor results.

The fault really lies with it’s poor choice of main character. Charles Farmer is dull. Inspiring, impressive, but dull. He’s the kind of character that would be a parody of ridiculous and nonsensical Southern values in a funnier movie, but here he is a painfully serious character, with the world playing a parody of itself instead. A man trying to build his own rocket that would probably self-implode and injure a number of people in real is treated with respect and reverence by the community and the government; a man to be applauded for his verve and his will, not locked up for his insane, delusional, and dangerous ideas. That’s a very intriguing parody, actually, but it isn’t played that way. Instead, we have an astronaut going through a mid-life crisis, building a rocket in his fucking barn, being treated like it’s acceptable, and the punchline portion is left blank because so has the joke portion.

And Billy Bob really takes the cake on this one. He couldn’t have played it more straight if the studio had stapled his lips and eyelids into a stationary position on his face. There’s going through the motions, there’s lazy acting, and then there’s just reading your lines. Billy Bob seemingly tackles all these situations simultaneously. He has no drive, no feeling for this character. It’s uncomfortably bland, and I actually had a difficult time watching him with bright-colored shirts on, because the film ends up turning everything in its immediate proximity a muted green or brown when he’s on it.

I’m disappointed in the Polish brothers for their poor choices in this film. I normally enjoy their films unequivocally. The Astronaut Farmer, unfortunately, leaves me feeling like they needed some direction themselves. I hear that they modeled the character of Farmer after their father, but I’m having a difficult time believing that the father of such talented and eccentric kids was such a fuddy-duddy. It doesn’t even seem plausible that a man could be so ineffectual but so important to a movie. I really don’t understand the logic they were working with. One would think that even with interesting supporting characters, there is hope, but the characters on the side are about as generic as having ketchup on your linguini.

I can’t even put my thoughts into words any more. It all just blurs into a drab color pallet, filled with crazy not crazy enough to be crazy and actors not acting enough to be considered acting. It’s a misstep, and all I can say is that I anxiously await the Polish brothers’ next picture. Hopefully it will feature someone interested to be there in the main role, because Billy Bob has officially checked out here. As I said, we may never know just how good Thornton is as an actor, but as a large source of drag for a semi-inspirational freak-show Field of Dreams, is in a league all his own. I give The Astronaut Farmer 3 1/2 whoopdy-doos out of 10.

Tomorrow I take on an entirely different kind of movie; a funny one! Come back for my review of Strange Brew! Until then!!!

Irreversible (2002), The Anatomy Of Rape

25 06 2009

There is something inherently awful about Irreversible. It’s not that it’s a bad movie by any means, but it’s awful in the sense that it’s a truly gut-wrenching experience to watch. It deals with a brutal rape, a crime so horrific and devastating that it changes people’s lives forever. It’s an emotional violation that causes so much permanent damage to the victim that sometimes people can’t recover from it. It’s horrible beyond words, and it not only affects the victim, but everyone around them, as well. Today’s film explores not only the concept of rape, but it’s effects on everyone involved. It’s a brash movie, one that pulls no punches. Nor is it an easy view, either, but it’s certainly worth it for it’s uncompromising view of 21st century European club culture and the folly of youth.

In mismatched chronological order, it tells the story of a man named Marcus killing someone who he suspects raped his girlfriend Alex. We then go straight to the rape in question and stare at it for a nine minute-long straight take. We are then taken to the events preceding the rape, which involves Alex leaving a party due to Marcus’s rampant use of drugs and flirtatious attitude with other women. We then go to scenes before that, where Alex and Marcus discuss her possible pregnancy. The movie ends where things began, or perhaps where things might have been, and we are left in the darkness as to the history of the relationship, its future, or any discernible outcome of the events that took place. We are only given incidents, dialog, and characters without any clue as to what came before or what lies ahead.

It is a very difficult thing to watch. Out of all things, rape and murder hit deep into my bones. But even murder and violent death can somehow be twisted into a joke or turned so hideous as to make it comedic (see ANY Troma movie). Rape is incredibly coarse and unbearable to watch, and I personally felt a knotting up in my stomach as I watched the incredibly long scene develop ever so slowly. Many people feel that this is immoral exploitation, however, and do not see its artistic merit. I heartily disagree. There is a morality to the very essence of the film that decries against the violence by showing us the implications of such an act, forcing the audience to come to grips with the horrors of it. A rapist doesn’t hang around to watch what he’s done to the victim or their loved ones; he walks away and pretends that it did not happen, because he has afforded himself that privilege. An exploitation film doesn’t stick around and hang out with the bearers of such a tragedy; it just keeps on chugging to the next scene of unflinching brutality or sensationalist dribble. This movie makes us think deeply about the consequences of ruining a life, and there is plenty of artistic value in that.

The acting is superb. Monica Belluci proves that she is not just some pretty face with a wonderful and harrowing performance as Alex. Her bravery is on full display here as she strips down to a raw set of human emotions and becomes a person in the most vulnerable of settings. She has the role of a catalyst; all things in the film happen because of her, and as such she becomes a very difficult character. She embodies the elusive heart of the film, a heart that we witness to be very beguiling until the pieces start to fall into place at the end. I must also applaud Vincent Cassel as Marcus, who goes through a lot of changes in the movie. For all those who have seen Cassel in only American films as the vague European baddie, watch Irreversible to glimpse another side to this versatile French actor.

New French Extremity director Gaspar Noe is a man of great talent, and of an even greater desire. His desires are not like a regular director’s desires, though. Noe wishes to see his characters pushed to the brink; the brink of decency, the brink of sanity, the brink of life. He sets his sights on his cast like a bird of prey, hoping that their life may come to a grinding halt, literally or figuratively, that he might stop and muse a while on their empty vessels. Like his previous film, I Stand Alone (whose main character makes a brief appearance in this film), Noe uses the twisted minds of dark men to dig deeper into the human spirit. He asks, with a questioning glance, “How can we do these things to one another?”, and all we can do by the end of this assault on the heart is to shrug our shoulders.

I liked Irreversible. It’s not something I would be comfortable watching every day, for a strong desire to keep my spirits from sinking too deep. But it’s something that one should not be afraid to see. This is part of our reality, an existence that is far from perfect, and at times downright horrific, but a reality that we have to deal and cope with to maintain our society. Watching Irreversible might make you see rape in a whole new light, and if it can make you realize just how insufferable a crime it really is and make you angry about it, that’s one more person made aware of the reality of the situation, and that’s a strong case for what some have called an “exploitation movie”. I give Irreversible 9 New French Extremities out of 10. A high recommendation!

Tomorrow I check in on Billy Bob Thorton with The Astronaut Farmer. Until then!!!

PSA: Road House (1989), or Go Ahead, Slash My Tires; I Have A Set Of Spares, Anyway

24 06 2009

I have said time and time again that Road House is, for better or for worse, one of the greatest bad movies that America has yet to produce. I go to sleep at night sometimes just marveling at its incompetent wonder. It’s the Perfect Storm of dumb, ridiculous, hilarious, and offensive. I could probably make the same movie a thousand times over, with the same characters, cast, crew, and plot in good ol’ 1989, but I would never be able to capture the unimaginable magic of the original idea. It’s just SO DAMN FUNNY! Who thought it was a good idea to make a movie about bouncing? Perhaps writer David Lee Henry used to be a bouncer and this was his ultimate fantasy, or perhaps he had a fierce sexual addiction to bedding bouncers, but whatever the case may be this movie is a wet dream for bouncers who can dream long enough to forget that they’re bouncing a dingy club, are being paid well below what their service is worth, and have no life besides paying for overpriced sex and hoping some drunk shitkicker drops a $20 on the floor. But I kid the bouncers!

This movie is essentially a love letter to the world’s greatest bouncer, Dalton. Everything about Dalton is amazing. He’s sleek, he’s funny, he’s sexy, he’s a man’s man, he’s a badass, he built the Eiffel Tower, he’s the secret descendant of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, he kills and eats dinosaurs for pleasure. He’s just awesome, and he sauntered right on into the quiet but seedy little town of Jasper, where things aren’t always what they seem. Underneath the sleepy, sad-but-proud exterior of this cozy redneck nook lies corruption, evil and greed, and a lot of it is emanating from the Double Deuce, Jasper’s beloved hangout spot. There’s all kinds of seedy stuff going on, and it’ll take a real man to clean it all up. A real tai-chi wielding (!), philosophy studying (!!), throat-ripping (!!!) man named Dalton. And where there were zero real men in Jasper, with Dalton in town, that makes exactly one. But when all this real manhood causes trouble for the ultra-evil Brad Wesley, can even Dalton, the God of Broken Skin and Spilled Blood, take on the entire evil establishment alone, or will he be forced to call in HIS mentor, Wade Garrett, the Emperor of Bouncing?

It’s all about the good versus the evil. Dalton is good, and Brad Wesley is evil. Everything in between is like the toppings on a sandwich, separating the good and bad until just the right moment (that’s when the deliciousness of this movie occurs). And what’s in between this obvious and inevitable battle between sweet Lord Dalton and Wesley? Lots and lots of bar fights, one-liners, drinking, and Dalton’s home-spun advice.

What makes this movie so good in a bad way was that the perfect guy to play Dalton. This guy is legendary, so it only makes sense to use a legendary actor like Patrick Swayze to play him, right? Swayze delivers the performance that might, in some odd way, define his career. Dalton is the coolest motherfucker to ever fuck your mother, so Swayze pulls out an “I’m better than you” attitude that just ANNIHILATES every other sappy character Swayze has ever played. It’s not an emotionally complex role, but Swayze spends an entire 90 minutes with that look plastered on his taut and tanned face, a look he somehow manages to pull off, and for that I respect him. It’s a role that has come to be almost as well remembered as his romantic characters, chiefly due to the fact that it’s okay for guys to actively like Dalton, the ultimate bouncer.

There are some other characters that deserve mentioning, like Sam Elliott as Wade Garrett, Dalton’s salt-and-peppered mentor, or Kelly Lynch as Doc, the sexy and sassy object of Dalton’s unstoppable lust. They’re not bad, but really they’re just objects that Dalton uses to throw one-liners at in-between epic brawls. Here is a list of my favorite lines, that are spoken with the straightest of faces (Dalton’s), and you tell me what kind of movie this is afterwards:

Dalton: Pain don’t hurt.

Dalton: My way… Or the highway.

Doc: How’d a guy like you end up as a bouncer?

Dalton: Just lucky, I guess.

Jimmy: Damn, boy, I thought you were good!

Dalton: Go fuck yourself. (!!!)

And my personal favorite, when he’s trying to teach the bouncers of the Double Deuce how to be cool around the rowdy customers:

Steve: What if someone calls my mama a whore?
Dalton: Is she? (!!!!!)

That’s the kind of movie Road House is. A mindless but fun movie about the world’s greatest human being showing his kindness by cleaning out a small town of its miscreants. Full of oddball dialog, bouncer philosophizing, and unbelievably long and numerous bar room brawls, it’s a movie that doesn’t require a brain, just a sense of humor and a willingness to have a good time. You’ll find that there is a lot to enjoy, and you might just learn a thing or two about life along the way. I personally learned that if you piss off Patrick Swayze, he WILL rip your throat out of your neck. Fun fact, and on that note, I give Road House 7 1/2 Double Deuces out of 10. Now, get outta here, and remember: be nice.

Tomorrow I take on slightly more serious subject matter with Irreversible! I like to switch gears here at Cinematronica!

Transformers 2 Apparently Sucks WAY Worse Than The First One! Congratulations, Michael Bay, You’ve Reached A Whole New Level Of Shame!

24 06 2009

Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. I have rarely read worse reviews for such a huge summer blockbuster. Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is, by all accounts, one of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer (by people who were FUCKING INSANE enough to think that the first one was worth more than robot piss). So it gives me great, great pleasure to announce that the reviews are in, and, as I anticipated, it sucks worse than even I could have imagined. Congratulations to Michael Bay for having the courage to put testicles on a robot and for putting on a mechanical minstrel show with a “black” Transformer. It’s rare that I get to see this man disgrace himself more than usual, but when it happens it is ever so sweet. Now, as a layman and a fierce proletariat, I have not the money to waste on a movie that I am assured by 90% of those who saw it was abominable. But here are some links to some other reviewers who had some choice and excellent words to say about this embarrassment on wheels! And don’t forget to check out my review on the original Transformers, which looks now like a haunting prediction of the not-so-distant future!!! And keep in mind that all these reviewers were impressed by the first one! Imagine what would happen if I walked into the theater; it’d be like looking into the Ark of The Covenent! My face would melt and I would just crumple up!

My top 3:

Roger Ebert’s One-Star Review!!!

USA Today’s Un-Flattering Piece!!!

Massawyrm’s Transformers Hate-Fest!!!

Cinematronica Welcomes Elitist Jerks!!!

23 06 2009

After looking at the stats for the week, I saw a HUGE spike in viewership today, all coming from www.elitistjerks.com. I’m quite interested in where all this love is coming from. Thanks for coming by, guys or gals, and don’t forget to make your presence known on the comments section sometimes for a friendly discussion or two! With a name like “Elitist Jerks”, I think we’ll get along famously, considering I’m accused of being an elitist jerk daily! Thanks again for stopping by, and thanks to all my loyal followers for sticking with me EVERY DAY! Don’t forget that I update daily here, so you can always find something new here at Cinematronica!!!

Find Me Guilty (2006), or Diesel, Diesel, Diesel…

23 06 2009

If anybody has stuck with me these past 6 months, they will know that at the beginning of this whole year-long voyage, I stumbled across a few potholes along the way, trying to find something juicy, ripe, and tasty for you delightful people. One of the biggest potholes I found was the deliriously lopsided Babylon A.D., a film with so much wasted potential that it makes Lost In La Mancha look like The Man Who Killed Don Quixote!!! Part of the reason that movie didn’t work was because of a man who has burned me one too many times with today’s film. His name is Vin Diesel, and while I think he’s damn cool as a man, he has taken too many dollars from me undeservingly, and I can no longer abide by it. He is officially going on Cinematronica’s Least Wanted List. He is the second man to grace it so far. At the moment, the list looks like this;

1. Nicolas Cage!!!

2.Vin Diesel!!

When more people are added, I will be sure to update the list according to their loathsomeness. Until then, let me get back on track by saying that Find Me Guilty, directed by Sidney Lumet (!!!!!), is spectacularly dull, and I could have gone another lifetime or two without seeing another Italian mobster goombah comedy. But here we are, and fortunately I have reached my maximum recommended dosage of that stuff for a few weeks, so no more wacky crime family antics for a while!!!

This is based on the true story of the biggest and most tedious Mob trials in history. It all begins with a huge RICO trial, wherein a number of defendants are tried at once. The government has decided to put a number of high-ranking Mafia family members in the courtroom to try and intimidate them. They have a lot of evidence, and a lot of testimony, but the one person who could REALLY make the difference, a low-level moron named Jackie DiNorscio who is also on trial, refuses to talk because he thinks his Mafia brethren are his friends (his cousin actually shoots him 4 times before his arrest(!!!) but he refuses to rat anyone out). That’s not what elongates the trial though. What makes this shindig go on so long is the fact that Mr. DiNorscio also decides to take it upon himself to defend himself. This in itself becomes a problem for the prosecution because the guy is so lovable and dumb that the jury starts to fall for his line of platitudes and Mafioso crap. Can the prosecution save this case before Jackie “Idiot Extraordinaire” DiNorscio gets all these dangerous mob men off the hook?

The film is told in a more jovial format, as you can clearly see from the trailer above, but I’m highly dubious. Why? Because while watching the movie, you clearly notice that it is behind DiNorscio all the way. We’re rallying behind a fairly big drug dealer? A drug dealer that, by staying silent, is keeping other, more influential Mafia family members out of prison? HUH?!?! I don’t get it. The prosecution is shown to be smug, certainly, but they’re the good guys!!! They end up looking like a bunch of dumb white dweebs! What is the moral to all this? It’s one thing to have amoral characters, or characters that do evil things permeate a work of art, but what does one do when one is supposed to root for these evil-doers? Imagine the TV show Dexter, only instead of killing serial killers, he kills grown, down-on-their-luck men. I can see the headlines now: Dexter canceled after 1 episode! America sees new level of depravity on television! I know I’m thinking too much about it, but I couldn’t really laugh too much when I realized that DiNorscio is unwittingly doing a lot of harm to a lot of people by dicking around in court with all his “friends”.

And Vin Diesel just looks ridiculous. After years of patenting the bald look and keeping his skull as smooth as a Mr. Freeze’s ass cheeks, he sports a hairpiece in this role that is nothing short of revolting. It looks like John Gotti’s hair escaped from prison and is holding Diesel’s head hostage. His performance is anything but lovable, I am also sad to say. I wanted to shake him heartily on a number of occasions for just being such a douche. DiNorscio was a big lug, but you can’t as an audience member let him slide so easily. Sure, Lenny from Of Mice And Men was a swell guy, but when he starts petting chicks to death you gotta put him down. And I just can’t reconcile the fact that, while there are some HILARIOUS Italian antics going on, including the whimsical “Bring the ancient Mafioso into the courtroom, bed and all!” scene, this is still some serious stuff that isn’t really given enough gravity considering how it was based on a true story.

Sidney Lumet directs, as I said, but I can’t see much of his previous work here. I see a little of his spark from Serpico, in the form of a young man taking on a system bigger than himself, but that was for justice and this is so criminals can go free. I respect Lumet immensely, and I think that he has some potential to still make something great, but this just isn’t it. While I respect his devotion to the rehearsal, I feel like this was TOO rehearsed. It felt too dreary, too much like everyone is going through the motions. I wanted some real verve, some involved shots, or at least the illusion of inclusion, the feeling that we’re sitting there in the courtroom. But I just felt like standing up after all this hoopla! Thanks! I’ll be here all week!

Lumet is still a great director in my opinion, but he lost his vision along the way in this one. Perhaps his use of big names finally came back to bite him in the ass when he took in an actor who isn’t much more than an action star to play in his dramady role. To be fair, Diesel isn’t a TERRIBLE actor; he just doesn’t sell it very well. He gives off the vibe of “this is my performance; take it or leave it, asshole!”, and that turns me off sometimes. If he can just commit himself more fully to a role, or at least et into the directing chair where he can immerse himself that way, then I think he could go incredibly far. But until then, we only have movies like this as an indicator of his skill, so therefore I must find him guilty. Guilty of Voluntary Diesel-ing. I sentence him and his movie by giving them both 4 1/2 Least Wanted Lists out of 10! This review is adjourned.

Come back tomorrow, where, for my PSA, I take on an all-time American classic! No, not A Streetcar Named Desire! I’m talking about Road House! See you there!