Friday, April 27, 2007

Frailty (2002) dir. Bill Paxton

Frailty has been one of those titles that has been on my netflix queue for years and years. I shuffled it up to the top of the queue for a serial killer double feature with The Minus Man (1999).

Frailty is the story of a man and his two sons set in the late 1970s in BFE Texas. The father - played by Bill Paxton - receives a vision from God. There are demons among us and they must be destroyed. The older son thinks his Dad has gone crazier than a shithouse rat and the younger son buys into it. Dad then gets an axe and a pair of workgloves from the Lord with which to smite his foes. From here the movie goes sideways. To his credit Bill Paxton plays the Dad well, he could have easily become a rolling-eyed frothing loony. Instead Paxton's whacko really and truly believes that he is doing the Lord's work. His crazy is spooky and rings true. The sons are played well by some kids I've never seen in anything. The older brother has some really good lines and there a few moments where his acting is effortless. The younger brother is completely devoted to his father to the point of, "Wow, that kid is gonna be fucked up when he grows up." All in all these three work well together and there are some really dark moments.

If that was all there is to the movie it would have been great: a period piece dealing with insanity, family, and the effects of extreme violence on children, etc., etc., etc. . A nice, neatly wrapped piece of Texan creepiness. Well, the rest of the movie doesn't do that. The rest of the movie takes place twenty years later. There's a new serial killer on the loose. Powers Boothe is the FBI agent on the case and Matthew McConaughey is the key to the case. Oh yeah Matthew is one of the brothers and the other brother is the serial killer. These parts of the movie are pretty crappy: poorly paced, TNT acting, and since this was shot on digital back in the late 90s, looks like cheap porn or local access music videos. It's a shame that these parts of the movie spoil the rest of it but there it is.

I can't recommend seeking this movie out but if you see it on TV give it a chance. Bill Paxton isn't a bad director and is a pretty good actor and it's fun to watch him degenrate.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Hot Fuzz is the kind of movie you either see or you don't and you enjoy it or you don't.

I enjoyed the hell out of Hot Fuzz. It really is an action movie made by action movie fans for action movie fans. Wether or not that makes for great film making isn't certain but I haven't had this much fun seeing a movie in the theater in a long time. I walked out of the theater wanting to buy another ticket and see again right there.

There definitely is a lot of fun to be had trying to find references to Shaun and all the movie tributes - not just Hollywood action classics but British movies from the 70s and 80s. Once you stop doing that and just get swept up in the movie - about halfway through for me - I just had a blast. The climax of the movie has one of the best gun battles I've seen in a long time and no that crap gun battle in Miami Vice doesn't count for beans.

Two problems I have with Hot Fuzz:

1) Internet pre-hype and the fact that we've been seeing trailers for months now. The same trailer. The trailer is good but unfortunately gives away a good chunk of the comedy. It doesn't give everything away but there were moments of "Oh hey, this part was in the trailer."

2) There are moments of absurdity in this movie. I'm talking above and beyond normal absurdity - near silliness. I'm not going to give anything away but after you see the movie we can talk about it. I'm sure after seeing the movie again I'll love these elements but right now they smack a little of, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" "Yeah that'd be fucking awesome!" "Awesome! Let's do it!"

I am looking forward to seeing Hot Fuzz again, hopefully in theater. I'd write more of a review but there's too much to give away and damn it just go see it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Smokin' Aces (2006)

After seeing it and being disappointed in the theater we watched it with our neighbour folks. Y'know it's a damn shame that the movie falls apart. It has some great actors - and some piss poor acting by Andy Garcia. Mr. Garcia why do you develop a vaguely Southern accent halfway through the movie? The alternate ending is just as rotten as the theatrical ending. Did they do an advance screening for slack-jawed hillbillies who needed to be spoon-fed the "twist"?

Unfortunately I think this genre of action movies needs to be retired for a while. The wacky, twisty, hyper slick, and 90s hipster characters need a vacation. It might be time to shift back towards vet action movies - loose cannons, locos, and former special forces dudes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pathfinder (2007)

What a disappointment. Totally wasted potential. Cheap jump scares. Hyper-kinetic combat scenes. Piss poor CGI. Worse digital blood. Mindless, boring, and not particularly worth a shit. I was actually more bored when I left. I had more fun playing Pirates of the Caribbean 2 pinball in the lobby.

Don't waste your money - seriously. I could have gotten more use out of my money if I had wiped your ass with it - not even my own ass. If you want to see a movie with Vikings just watch The 13th Warrior.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Grindhouse (2007)

You probably have - in one way or another - heard something about Grindhouse. The hype machine has been running full blast for months now. Reviewers have been jumping up and down in rapture or piss, bitching, and moaning as only net-reviewers can do. I suggest cruising for general reviews and checking out Louis Black's excellent article from the Austin Chronicle about the history of grindhouse movies and all sorts of good stuff. Here's the link to an article about Grindhouse being an opening weekend dog and Weinstein wanting to chop the movie:What went so wrong with Grindhouse.

I was too young to see many of the grindhouse/exploitation/splatter movies in the theater but growing up I had WXXA Channel 23 and UHF 62. I spent most of the weekends of my youth watching these channels. On Saturday, beginning at noon would be a triple feature of 60s and 70s movies: thrillers, westerns, espionage, war, car movies, Bronson vehicles, badly dubbed European junk, crime classics, and of course horror. 4pm Saturday afternoons were awesome with hits like: Demon Dog, Food of the Gods, Blood Beach, Squirm, Life Force. Oh yeah real gems. Then - if my Grandpa would let me stay up or if I snuck in some TV time - late night horror shows and exploitation movies. As a teenager I watched all kinds of crap thanks to the magic of VHS. Later, when Mike & I teamed up we watched mountains of movies. I guess more or less Grindhouse was the kind of movie tailor-made for me.

Grindhouse was a blast, a really fun experience. We went to the Alamo Drafthouse and in all honesty this was the way to see it - a packed theater, burgers, and cold beer. Hootin' and hollerin' fun. Most of the problems I had with the movies I had after walking out and most of those problems were with Death Proof.

Planet Terror was the kind of movie that I've been complaining that they don't make anymore. It was gnarly, nasty gory but gore - none of this torture slasher crap that's been cranked out over the last few years. Gore, fountains of the stuff, dismemberments, decapitations, vehicular homicide, cannibalism, oozing sores, and all kinds of nastiness - the audience loved it. The story was straight up: evil military wants toxic gas, toxic gas makes people into flesh hungry psychos, bad-ass protagonists are immune to gas so it's up to them to save the day. What more do you want? This ain't a fuckin' Merchant-Ivory movie. Okay, I could have used more T&A.

The acting was what you expect from a Rodriguez movie - the cast seem to be having so much fun that you can't help but get caught up in the insanity. The directing and cinematography - again it's a Rodriguez movie - you just get caught up in the fun. The score was on one hand a bit too Sin City with the heavy handed saxophone theme but the incidental scoring had some synth work over a subdued theme and it sounded like something straight from a giallo classic.

Oh and the Machete preview was totally, completely, shit your britches awesome. It would be a crime to spoil such awesomeness for any of you who plan to see it. God it was cool. I would much rather have seen a double feature of Planet Terror with Machete.

The trailers between Planet Terror and Death Proof were - as we all know - fake but they were a total blast. My personal favorite was Rob Zombie's Werewolf Women of the SS. C'mon people it's Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS with werewolves! Let's just say it was awesome and leave it at that.

A question for you folks who haven't seen it at the Drafthouse - did it have the preview for Hobo with a Shotgun? Just curious.

Then we have Death Proof. Right off the bat, the car sequences were some of the best I have seen in a long time, a real long time. The wrecks were pretty freaking intense and exactly what I wanted to see. The wife beater Kurt Russell wore in Big Trouble in Little China is hanging on the wall of the Texas Chili Parlor. A good chunk of the beginning of the movie was filmed in my neighborhood. The soundtrack was pretty excellent in my opinion - a solid mix of STAX, Brit Invasion, 70s schlock, in short a good Tarantino soundtrack. Zoe Bell - as herself - is my new crush.

Problems with Death Proof:

It was a major mistake to put Death Proof after Planet Terror. Granted Death Proof wasn't finished because - if you believe the Austin rumour mill - he was run out of town for chasing under-age tail and just being a party monster. Who cares? Even if it was finished it didn't belong after Planet Terror. Too much time spent on chicks having chick talk. Now before you get all uppity and offended - there are some enjoyable moments of dialogue between the women though some of it stinks a little of written by a guy mythical bad-ass macho women. However, this is supposed to be an exploitation grindhouse homage. Let's get to killin'! Get to jigglin'! C'mon, seriously. There were a couple of moments I looked at my watch during the dialogue. In fact the dialogue was so realistic that I realized I could just as easily be listening to drunk Austin chicks in RL. I got bored and started looking at the set dressing and playing, "Guess the local." I have to admit - though I'm not proud of this - I started getting annoyed by the fact that I kept getting distracted by Austin. I realize it's a nit-pick but c'mon it's my neighborhood, get it fucking right.

When it comes down to it Death Proof could have been a pretty good stand alone movie with some polish and more character development but as a companion piece for Planet Terror it failed the genre it was trying to pay homage to. Death Proof could have been a very stripped down, intense, and effective chase movie. Well, it was...for about twenty minutes.

When it comes down to it I can understand why Grindhouse bombed its first weekend out. David Denby wrote, "The movie won't do much for anyone who doesn't have an academic or fanboy absorption in junk." To a certain extent that's true. Your average movie goer doesn't know or care or want to see a movie like Grindhouse - c'mon opening weekend it was trounced by Blades of Glory and Are We Done Yet? Granted it was a full house last night here in Austin, TX but like we say here, "Austin ain't everywhere else."

While thinking about the movie and putting together this review together it made me wish that I was in high school seeing this for the first time - not be so damned jaded and nit-picky. Then again if movies were good enough I would have to be jaded and nit-picky. Damn it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Lookout (2007) dir. Scott Frank

The Lookout is an indie heist movie that is a better character study than it is a heist movie. Not to say that the heist is bad - if the heist wasn't there The Lookout would have been a pretty bleak and potentially dull movie.

What makes the movie is the acting. Jeff Daniels pretty much made the movie for me - trust me, he's almost worth the price of admission alone. I've only seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Brick (2006) and Third Rock from the Sun and now The Lookout but he's a damn fine actor. He seems well-suited for indie crime movies. The bad guys weren't anything particularly spectacular which is not a bad thing - they were just sketches of stereotypes: the manipulative leader, the Lance Henrikssen doppleganger, the musclebound get away driver, the scruffy safe cracker, and the sexpot bait.

The Lookout is definitely a winter rental, which is when it'll probably be available on DVD.

7.5 out 10.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Time Machine (2002) Dir. Simon Wells

This movie was actually OK> If it was a video game I would play it. If you don't want the sci-fi adventure The Time Machine from 2002 spoiled for you, DO NOT read on. Repeat, if you do not want this movie ruined for you and were planning on some special day in the future of watching The Time Machine say during a marriage proposal or the birth of your child Spoilers are included.

American Werewolf in Paris Orcs, blow darts, a moon torn asunder and Guy Pierce in a "Basin of Gore" are just a few of the surprises that await you during this 96 minute adventure ride. Guy Pierce tries to prevent the death of his love by traveling back in time. Instead of getting shot, she gets hit by a carriage. I actually laughed out loud at that. So he looks for answers in the future... and fucks that up too. He arrives in the future to find that our colonization of the moon has destroyed it (as he gets further on in the future, they show the moon pulled more and more apart). The A.W.i.P. orcs are hilarious and they look like something out of the Dark Crystal. Jeremy Irons' make-up is pretty cool and he gives a sort of Saruman-esque performance.

All in all, this is an eighties film made 20 years to late. I enjoyed it but don't go out of your way. Think Stargate with American Werewolf in Paris Orcs...