Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever (2002), or Assaulted By Boredom

4 10 2009

Does anybody vaguely remember this film? Anybody? The trailer ran rampant in the ’02 cable television schedule right up until the release, promising some sort of divine action movie sent from on-high that angels created for the explosions-and-car-chases crowd. I remember looking at the trailer and saying, with the sarcasm of a teenager, “Eh…”. But now that I’m a man, lifting heavy things, bathing in cologne and musk to mask the scent of slow decay, and taping wigs all over my body so that my hair loss will not be so dramatic when it happens, I looked on the internet’s amazing milestone of what’s considered bad for this generation, the Rotten Tomatoes Worst of the Worst: The Worst 100 Movies of the Decade, to see that long-forgotten Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever topped the list somehow. A flicker in my brain erupted into a blanket of light, and suddenly it occurred to me that perhaps I might need to watch this to truly ascertain its bad-itude.

And indeed, after sitting through this wretched piece of Canadian baloney, I can certainly say that this one was the weakest titles to come out of the ’00s, I couldn’t see anything that would lead me to believe I was watching the worst movie of the decade. If anything, it’s probably the most boring film on the list, and that’s damn impressive when considering this is supposed to be an action movie. Let me put it like this; I’ve seen The Adventures of Pluto Nash, sir, and this is no The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

It’s about two secret agents who want to kill each other but find that they share a common enemy. Agent Ecks (?!?!), who comes out of retirement for this special assignment, is tasked by the FBI to find the missing son of a man named Robert Gant, who is the head of the DIA, or the Defense Intelligence Agency. Ecks discovers that missing son Michael was kidnapped by former DIA agent Sever, who wants revenge on Gant for killing her son in a failed raid. And he discovers that Gant has gone rogue, and has his own agenda, because he had developed a super-espionage weapon that could threaten the world’s security. And he ALSO learns that his wife, who he thought was dead, is actually alive and is married to Gant, who set up a double fake-death so that Ecks and his wife would believe the other had died, even going so far as to hold double fake closed-casket funerals (!!!). AND HE ALSO LEARNS THAT MICHAEL, THE MISSING SON, HOLDS THE KEY TO THE SUPER WEAPON… IN HIS BLOOD STREAM!!!!!

He learns a lot of stuff! But once that part is over, it’s all about Ecks and Sever, two agents with two opposite agendas, kicking and shooting the hell out of each other for the possession of Michael Gant and the chance to kill/apprehend his father. There’s a bevvy of fights between the two, and while I’m not sure about the meaning of “Ballistic“, they sure nailed the “Ecks Vs. Sever” aspect of this.

Boy, that sounds fun, huh? What do you mean it doesn’t? Well, honestly, you’re right, because it’s zero fun. It is boring. It is the epitome of dullness. The film is shot in the spectrum of navy-blue to shit-brown, which didn’t help to ease my spirits. The principal actors, Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu, who play Ecks Vs. Sever respectively, displayed a pitiful range; if they weren’t having “intense” secret agent relay conversations or shooting at something, they’re useless. I wouldn’t even call that one-note; that’s half-note acting, or, as I like to call it, “the check has cleared so I don’t really need to worry about how good I am” acting. And the music is an insipid and texture-less mix of “dunh-dunh-dunh-DUNH-DUNH” action score nonsense and alternative hits from 2002 like Crystal Method’s immensely over-played “Name of the Game” that should have gone on a compilation called “Songs To Blow Shit Up To Volume 5”.

The writing is passively dumb, but it boggles the mind the more one thinks about it. Everyone likes to bring up the fact that the FBI is featured here doing large-scale operations, and yet this takes place in Canada. Oops! I don’t know who dropped the ball on that one, but I think that MIGHT be an international incident waiting to happen. And other logic problems arise from this scenario, the most striking for me being the whole double closed-casket funeral idea. Isn’t that just a LITTLE complicated? I know he works for the government, and its in his nature to over-complicate the situation at times, but blowing up two cars at two different times and faking two funerals just to get his hands on Mrs. Ecks? Couldn’t he have just faked a mugging and bludgeoned the guy to death in an alleyway during his morning jog to the park? This stuff is just superfluous, unnecessary, and just downright odd. Just like the name Ecks. You mean X? Can spelling out the sound a letter makes be technically considered a name? If so, I’m totally changing my name to Dubbul-yoo.

But this isn’t the aggressively bad picture that deserves the title of Worst of the Worst. It’s annoyingly bad, it’s outrageously bad, but it’s not bad enough for me to have to take up drinking like Gigli or Delta Farce (YEARGHHH!). It’s just lackluster and generally uninteresting, with brief moments of jaw-dropping idiocy. I’ll have to disagree that it’s the worst movie of the ’00s, but I can’t deny that this one was a train-wreck. It was hard to sit through all 90 minutes without growing lethargic, and I’m pretty sure this is the worst thing I’ve seen Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu in. But, on the bright side, the director was stopped dead in his tracks from ever directing in this town again, and it was quickly forgotten about by everyone involved (except the studio, who lost out on almost $60 million. Burn…). So I give Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever a respectable 2 dubbul-yous out of 10. Yay…

Tomorrow I attempt to sit through all of Heaven’s Gate. Will I believe the hype? We’ll find out!!!

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters (2007), or Turn Your Guts Into Snakes!

4 10 2009

If you saw the clip above, you’ll know that this isn’t exactly a normal movie. It’s actually kinda fucking crazy. But it might just be one of the best comedies of 2007. If you’ve ever seen the show, you’ll know that Aqua Teen Hunger Force, or ATHF, is one of the most consistently funny television shows I’ve seen in a while, is a maddeningly sophomoric bit of absurdist and outrageous comedy that launched the oddball colossus that is Williams Street’s Adult Swim lineup. Along with other 15 minute-long gems like Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Sealab 2021, Adult Swim has revived the long-sleeping idea of no-holds-barred insane comedy on television, as well as the adult cartoon. Starting out as a tiny 3-hour block of shows on Sunday night showcasing oddities, anime, and new animation for older teens and adults, AS is now on every night, garners the top ratings for Cartoon Network, and generally kicks the ass out of any scripted comedy on television, and it is primarily because of the massive success of Aqua Teen Hunger Force that the lineup has done so well. Hell, ATHF did well enough to get its own movie, which is way better than most TV shows can say nowadays. But, I’m sure you’re thinking, “What the fuck is this all about, and why the fuck is he dragging this introductory paragraph out so god-damn much? Get the fuck on with it!” Well, toilet-face, let me explain.

It focuses on three anthropomorphic food items who solve mysteries from their junky house in New Jersey, and by solving mysteries I mean they don’t do anything. One, a giant talking milkshake, named Master Shake, is a total jerk who thinks he’s the dog’s bollocks, the other, named Frylock, is a talking box of fries (I think he’s the large order) with superpowers and a mind for science and logic, and lastly there’s Meatwad, a giant talking ball of cooked beef, who is kinda dumb but enthusiastic about it. They room together in NJ, and, to the disgust of their super-Jersey neighbor Carl, they have adventures every week in which something awful and terrible usually happens to either their or his house.

For the movie, we learn about the bizarre origins of the Aqua Teens (sort of), and their relationship to a freaky old bastard named Dr. Weird, who does experiments for no reason whatsoever. It also has to do with a strange piece of workout equipment called the Insanoflex, which might destroy the entire world with its mighty robotic weightlifting power. It also has to do with the Mooninites, two 8-bit loudmouthed assholes from the moon who like beer, petty larseny, and talking down to people. It also has to do with a strange floating watermelon, which is actually a spaceship for the diabolical alien Walter Melon, who, along with Neil Peart of Rush, has some sort of interest in the Aqua Teens. And it’s also about Shake’s budding recording career, including the release of his new smash hit, “Nude Love”. And it has to do with a lot of other stuff, too.

Lots of stuff going on here, and I’ll be honest; if you’ve never seen the show, you will be pretty lost. But, and I mean it when I say this, I’ve seen almost every episode of the show, and I still have no clear idea as to what’s going on here. This is as madcap as a movie can get, with one train of thought barely reaching a climax before coalescing to droves of similarly demented ideas. There is so much creativity/madness here, that it really does sit back after the credits and make one wonder just who these people are that think up all this unfathomable stuff.

If you’ve never watched the show, though, this is a pretty good primer to get you into the groove of ATHF’s style of comedy. This is a literal mirror image of what you’ll get on the show, so if you think that people’s skin melting off is hilarious, robots who like to hump things and make long-winded exposition about things that never even happened are riotously humorous, or giant poodles emerging from the Sphinx in Egypt and ripping dudes to shreds are just dandy, then I implore you to get this DVD as well as the first couple seasons of the equally-ridiculous show. If not, I have the feeling you will hate this, because it caters to no one. It doesn’t stop and wonder if you think it’s funny; it doesn’t care one bit, and that can be abrasive for people sometimes.

But a lot of people in the industry must think the show’s funny, because ATHFCMFFT has lots of cameos. Fred Armisen, Tina Fey, Isaac Hayes, Bruce Campbell, and Neil Peart all have minor voices on this 90 minute movie (one, maybe two lines), and Chris Kataan plays a semi-major character as the insidious Walter Melon. Everyone is pretty funny here, especially Neil Peart, who at one point gives the Drum Solo of Life (!!!) to revive a fallen character. But the real stars are the main cast; Dana Snyder as the loud, boisterous Master Shake, Carey Means as the super-brainy Frylock, and Dave “The Man” Willis as poor, lovable, brain-dead Meatwad. These three have such a rapport together, it’s unreal, and I love how even thought they didn’t record this together, it sure as hell sounds like it. Everyone has a favorite character, and yours will probably be Shake, since he’s got the best lines due to his douchebaggery. Mine is Meatwad, because he seems so well-meaning, even when he isn’t, and that unmistakable voice of his just gyrates my funny bone. Dave Willis also does the voice of the Aqua Teens’ long-suffering neighbor Carl, and one of the Mooninites, as well as directing, producing, writing, and promoting this movie. Good job, Dave; time to take a nap after all that movie-making stuff. YAWN!

Whether or not you like ATHFCMFFT really depends on your sense of humor. Here’s a Jeff Foxworthy-like list of things that, if you like them, will be a fairly accurate litmus test as to whether or not you’ll like this movie. For example, if you like High School Musical, you probably won’t like this movie. If you like Murder, She Wrote, you probably won’t like this movie. If you like movies that make sense, ideas that were meant to go somewhere, and a plot that was written by somebody sober, you definitely won’t like this movie. But, for me, the bottom line is this; is it funny? And, for me, the answer is an astounding yes. I thought it was very funny, and I can’t get enough of it. I give ATHFCMFFT 8 1/2 Drum Solos of Life out of 10. Oh, and if you like Jeff Foxworthy, you definitely won’t like this movie.

Keep an eye out later today for my review of Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever!