Another week, another warning eh? Okay, here it is: Be warned, this week’s issue contains the following; two terrible Part 3s, a much maligned blockbuster “flop” undeserving of such derision, Stallone in prison, Jim Carrey in rubber, Ewan McGregor singing, a movie with a wrestler and someone I can’t stand in it that I actually quite like, Jessica Biel in a tight white vest, a Denise Richards led threesome, more Paul Walker movies then you can shake a stick at, five Wes Craven films – one of them a candidate for the worst ever made, one of the best straight-to-video B-movies I have ever seen in my life (I kid you not!), Brandon Lee, Wesley Snipes, 70s disaster flicks at their best, winged gargoyles, Ryan Reynolds and Chris Klein (shudder!), Michael Bay giving a history lesson, giant spiders, Clint Eastwood and… the time when crime was the disease and ‘Rambo Balboa’ was the cure! You have been warned!!!It can only mean one thing – Yes, its Part Two of me looking at the subsection of DVDs in my collection that makes up the Guilty Pleasures section. This subsection on my shelf is – along with the Miscellaneous Good Stuff section, which will be discussed in a later issue – more commonly the dumping ground for the whole host of films that I get sent, get burnt for me, come free with other films (i.e. you want to own Part 2 but you have to get it in a double-pack with the awful third part, etc.) or get given as presents; films that people think I will like and I don’t but I don’t want to give away! So for those of you who are fans of my writing when I’m being caustic and saying politically incorrect things – and bemoan the fact that the issues have been lacking in that and too ‘lovey-dovey’ of late – then this is probably right up your alley.
Without further ado, here are the flicks from my Guilty Pleasures DVD collection:
A friend of mine caught this at the cinema and came out talking about it like it was the greatest horror movie ever made. I’d read some pretty positive reviews of it, although they all claimed that the film had problems in the third act. Having missed out on it at the flicks I made a beeline for it on its DVD release. I friggin loved the hell out of this film for the first ten to twenty minutes. I had a ball with it and thought it was so fresh and inventive the way it thought up new scares on old conventions. Then they had the two main characters run over the villain of the piece, then run over him again… and all of a sudden he sprouts bloody wings and turns into a stupid gargoyle and this great little atmospheric chiller goes to shit! The sequel was a wasted opportunity from what I can recall but I caught it at the cinema and haven’t seen it since so I don’t want to be too hard on it, in case it’s actually better than I remember. I’ve got a knocked-off copy of Victor Salva’s script for a proposed third Jeepers Creepers movie sitting around in some cupboard in my flat (it’s sort of a prequel set in the old west) and it actually reads pretty good surprisingly. However, a movie with a bad third act and a pretty piddling sequel (from what I recall) do not make the foundations of a great movie franchise!
Another movie I burnt on the recommendation of a friend and it kind of endeared itself to me enough to end up on the shelf in my collection – Ryan Reynolds is pretty funny in this and a vast improvement on his obnoxious Van Wilder schtick but gets blasted off the screen by a rather entertaining comedy tour-de-force performance from Anna Faris (like anybody else in the cast who has the misfortune to get in her way) as a Britney Spears/Paris Hilton piss-take that shows what the gifted comedienne is capable of outside of those atrocious Scary Movie sequels. However, there really isn’t enough Faris and far too much Chris Klein. It’s an entertaining enough, mindless ninety minutes and the sort of comedy you’ll rent and not feel as if you’ve been ripped-off on the cost of the rental. It’s no genre-definer though and there are far, far, far superior movies of this “type” out there!
A title pulled from the movie corridors of the late 80s when we, as a cinema-going audience, swallowed up any low-concept nonsense dished out to us as long as it had the word “Stallone” or “Schwarzenegger” above the title and at the top of the poster in big bold letters. This is some shabby but nonetheless entertaining (in a thoroughly dumb there’s-no-way-I-should-be-liking-this sort of way) twaddle about Stallone being a model-prisoner who’s pissed off a sadistic prison warden (Donald Sutherland – in another “paycheque” role), ending up transferred, months from release, into the prison from hell where he has to fight for his survival – cue homoerotic muddy prison-yard football matches set to the music of… yes, you’ve guessed it… Bill Conti, male-bonding sessions as inmates build an American Muscle Car behind bars and the likes of John Amos, Tom Sizemore and Sonny Landham turn up to offer B-grade action movie support. Not to forget the gorgeous ‘forgotten 80s angel’ that is Darlanne Fluegel (of Running Scared and To Live & Die in LA fame!) who one of my friends risked getting a battering off me, when he referred to her as “a homeless person’s version of Sharon Stone”.
Probably one of my absolute favourite straight-to-video B-movies that I spent months hunting out on DVD; written by Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, this hugely under-rated and immensely under-seen action comedy gem stars a surprisingly good James Belushi as ex-mobster Bill “The Mouth” Manucci. He double-crossed the mysterious Chicago crime lord known only as ‘The Skipper’ and made off with $12 million. However, his anonymous life in rural South Carolina thanks to the Federal Witness Protection Programme comes under threat when The Skipper sends his goons out to track him down, led by Bill’s ex-partner Miles (Michael Beach). When the local, corrupt sheriff (Timothy Dalton) sees the bodies start piling up and $12 million up for grabs, he too decides to make a power-play for the money. However, one explosion at a redneck crystal methane factory later, and Bill finds himself on the run with the mob, the sheriff and a bunch of pissed off hillbilly rednecks on his tail. It’s fast, action-packed, surprisingly hilarious politically incorrect fun (two standout scenes include Belushi responding to finding out his wife – played by Kingpin’s Vanessa Angel – is cheating on him by questioning whether she really had been going into town to see James Cameron’s Titanic all those times and if not, why he wasted his money on buying her the merchandise and, secondly, Belushi eluding his old partner by tricking the simple-minded townsfolk into believing that the black assassin is Denzel Washington). It’s a real gem of a film that, whilst incapable of ending up on anyone’s best of lists, is well worth a look if you can get hold of a copy! And did I mention it was produced by Richard Donner and Joel Silver?
Oh come on now – stop lying to yourself; this film blew you away too when you first saw it right? Cameron Diaz’s screen debut? Jim Carrey back when he wasn’t so annoying in one-note high concept comedy fare? The no frills screenplay? Chuck Russell’s assured direction and visuals? The special effects? Come on, seriously, stop getting distracted by the “catchphrases” that went on to become probably the most insanely annoying pre-Austin-Powers form of aural abuse this side of Paris Hilton’s “album” on repeat and the kinda-weak villain and just sit back, relax and let the film take you on a ride… it’s got a cute as hell comedy dog in it too you know?
The Money Pit
A mid-eighties farce from back when Tom Hanks was doing the ‘everyman’ comedy roles. Co-starring with the rather whiney Shelley Long, he plays one half of a Manhattan couple who take on the house of their dreams only for it to turn into an unbelievable nightmare. It’s also got a pre-Die Hard Alexander ‘the defector’/”Carl” Godunov in it and some genuinely good laugh-out loud moments too. Remember that it’s a hair-brained farce though so proceedings get increasingly stupid as the running time trundles on and the hit-to-miss gag ratio is pretty fifty-fifty. I bought it for like a pound or something at a market back when I was collecting Tom Hanks movies. It’s well worth your time if you catch it on TV or available to rent from a retro-section at your local rental store if you’ve got nothing better to do and a personal injury to your wrists prevents masturbation as a suitable time-filler, but I wouldn’t go hunting it out purposefully or anything like that!
Yeah I own Moulin Rouge! So shoot me! I don’t care! I bought it as a present for an ex-girlfriend, it got left behind when we broke up and it’s been adopted by me since! Regardless of the trite screenplay or the questionable performances by Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor and especially Richard Roxburgh or the fact that it’s 30-odd minutes overlong or… you know, all of it’s other copious flaws, this is a fantastically shot musical that’s beautiful to look at and thoroughly entertaining to listen to. On top of that and fighting against the tragedy of the three main performers, there are some great turns from the likes of Jim Broadbent and John Leguizamo. On a cold, wet Sunday afternoon when the missus is out with friends and I’m bored, I like nothing more than a hot bath, to throw this on the DVD player and to open up a glass of wine then… Yeah right! You thought I’d started walking down ‘Pink Street’ didn’t you? Suckers! A visually sublime yet massively flawed piece of filmmaking!
We’ve already discussed writer/director Nick Love and his previous two films, The Football Factory and The Business, in Part One of the Guilty Pleasures edition. We don’t need to go over old ground so let me just go straight into my opinion on the film: Despite having the atrocious Danny Dyer (once again) and Keira Knightley’s fiancée/part-time model/god-awful debuting actor Rupert Friend in the cast, Outlaw has the strongest batch of actors out of all of the Nick Love movies I’ve seen: Sean Bean, Lennie James, Sean Harris (the ‘rat boy’ from Creep – without his make-up, fact fans!) and Bob Hoskins. Unfortunately, Bean, James, Harris and Hoskins decide to invest nothing into the film and come across as wooden and dreadful. They’re not helped by yet another simple-minded tokenistic Nick Love screenplay that thinks it is saying something deep and profound about men and British society as it stands at present, in a “British-Fight-Club” sort of way, but it’s actually nothing more than a one-note, mindless turgid nonsense that will, post-pub, prove fitfully entertaining for 100 minutes (if you’ve got a penchant for brainless amounts of blood, unnecessary violence, shoot-outs etc. without any real context, rhyme or reason) but, sober, leaves a nasty taste in your mouth as you start to think you’ve just been berated with half-witted, ill-informed fascist right-wing propaganda from the “drunk bloke in the pub who thinks he knows the score about the way society is at present”. You know? The hateful types who start their sentences with “I’m not racist but…” and then proceed to spit words like “Nigga” and “Paki” at you every thirty seconds and make your stomach squelch with discomfort.
Wrapped up inside this disastrous 176 mess of a movie is a stunningly shot extended 40 minute action sequence involving the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (along with that infamous shot of the bomb from it’s aerial holding position, all the way from it’s release to it’s point of impact) that proves all criticisms towards Michael Bay aside, the man is undoubtedly one of the best American action directors working to date. However, that is as complimentary as you can be about this film because it is a movie with three god-awful lead performances (from Ben Affleck – best of the three but that’s not much of a compliment – the horrific Josh Hartnett – taking the role that Matt Damon turned down – and the horrendous Kate Beckinsale – stepping in because Gwyneth Paltrow stepped out), a truly dire screenplay with some of the most appalling dialogue I have ever heard and some dubious choices of tone (the stuttering soldier ineptly played by Ewan Bremner? The champagne cork in the nose? The pointlessness of Cuba Gooding Jnr?) along with a unnecessarily ‘forced’ third act in which Randall Wallace tries to sandwich America’s revenge into the film. Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer try too hard to follow the template set by James Cameron’s Titanic when the film they’re making doesn’t fit – the doomed romance amidst Pearl Harbor has been done to death several times in numerous better movies, the characters they’ve got don’t warrant spending a three hour running time with, neither does the story being told with said characters… Hell even the ‘title’ song performed by Faith Hill is an atrocious Celine Dion clone! When this project was first announced in the wake of Armageddon and the cast was talked about as Affleck, Damon, Costner, Paltrow, Hackman and Robert De Niro I thought this was going to be the absolute dogs bollocks. However, something tells me that at least with a bit of a higher-class of acting you might have been able to paste over Randall Wallace’s atrocious screenplay. To conclude? Yeah, you certainly can’t polish a turd but, at least with the film’s 40 minute mid-section, you can wrap a nice colourful ribbon around it and dress it up for visitors eh?
The People Under The Stairs
One of my definitive favourite guilty pleasures from the mind of Wes Craven (more on him later) and, if it didn’t go so stupid in it’s third act, it would probably have ended up in the Under-Rated Gems section of my DVD collection as it really is a cracking little horror flick, worthy of re-appreciation. It’s the story of a young black kid (Brandon Adams) from the local ghetto whose family is at risk of eviction. Hearing of his landlord and landlady’s (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) house having secret “treasure” inside that could, if stolen, be used to starve off eviction, the boy breaks in but finds he can’t get out when the house becomes fortified from the inside. Quickly learning the true nature of the house’s homicidal inhabitants, the boy battles against sadistic security devices and gimps, befriends an elusive and abused girl, and finally learns the secrets of the “creatures” that are hidden deep with the house. Fast-paced, scary, dumb fun written and directed by Wes Craven, the “master” who has now proven that he can churn these movies out in his sleep (and tends to these days!). Well worth a look – just don’t say I didn’t warn you when the film gets even more stupid by the time it gets to its finale!
A martial-arts-action-adventure/straight-to-video slice of B-movie heaven starring the late, pre-The-Crow Brandon Lee as Jake Lo, a college student pursued by smugglers, mobsters and crooked federal agents and he witnesses a murder by a Mafia kingpin (the absolutely out-there-but-all-the-better-for-it Nick Mancuso). When the witness protection programme fails him, Lo has to protect himself with the only weapons he has – his “bare hands” (ho, ho!)! Determined to survive, he goes head to head with Chicago’s warring drug lords with the assistance of a renegade cop (the always ace Powers Boothe) and his beautiful partner (Kate Hodge). This is the sort of movie where roundhouse kicks take out wooden beams without nary a broken leg, where sliding through sheets of glass to take out a bad guy on a motorcycle doesn’t warrant a single drop of blood, where the hero fucks the gorgeous sexy cop just to give us a love scene, where there’s not one, but two, songs by Hardline on the soundtrack and the superb climax ends with a slow pull-out on the disaster zone whilst emergency services attend to things and we rise into the night skyline, just like in Die Hard. Huge, unadulterated B-movie fun! Every man should own this movie and watch it once on Christmas Eve every year (even though the film has nothing to do with Christmas!) and then, pumped up with adrenaline as a result of the movie, kick the living shit out of Santa Claus when he comes down the chimney and claim he was “an intruder” when the cops show up!
I actually know somebody who got their first job working on a movie set with this film. They started out as a runner for director-of-photography Robert Yeoman but then moved in to being a ‘lugger’ (as he calls it) for the second unit. He claims that the second unit shot pretty much all of the post-airplane/airport sequences and that when he was working for the second unit team he never saw Wes Craven once. I don’t know whether that’s true or not but it certainly shows in the film to be the case – it’s only 82 minutes long but the first and third act are surprisingly taut, tense and really well acted by the ever-luminous Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. Then all of a sudden rocket launchers are being fired at hotels, cars are being chased on freeways and there’s a climactic punch-up and you’re like “What the fuck is this?” It starts out as a terrific little two-hander of a thriller and then it turns in to this dumb-ass action nonsense that would be great for a different movie but doesn’t fit this one!
This is the one that I think is known as Joyride in the US. I don’t know what the Region 1 DVD is like but I picked this up years after it’s release when I needed to find a title to complete a ‘Buy Two Get The Third Free’ deal, and found it came with a 29-minute alternative ending (and 3 others to boot) marked as “Not Just a New Ending, But a Whole New Movie!” and I thought that was kind of cool and unique. The film itself contains the usual uncharismatic lead performance by Paul Walker, a stilted love-interest turn from LeeLee Sobieski but an awesome scene-stealing sidekick performance by the ever-brilliant Steve Zahn. Its Spielberg’s Duel for the MTV crowd in much the same way, years later, they’re doing Rear Window for the internet generation with Shia LaBeuof: Three kids on a cross country trip play a practical joke on a trucker and find themselves stalked and hunted by him as a result. It’s written by JJ Abrams, who’s “so big” right now, and directed by John Dahl and it proves to be quite tense and effective in some scenes making it worth a look if you’ve got time on your hands. However, the severe delays prior to release (it’s a 2001 film that didn’t show up here till 2002, under one title, pulled from screens after a week and released on DVD under another title) and it’s choppy, uneven feel (and the immense amount of alternative endings on the DVD) indicate this is a film that has been utterly butchered in post production to fit the needs of the Test Screening crowd, and has lost it’s way as a result.
Running Scared (2005)
I burnt this after finding out it was the sophomore effort of Wayne Kramer, whose debut The Cooler I told you that you had to see because “…it’s genuinely bloody ace, superbly co-written and directed [by Wayne Kramer] in which he draws extraordinary performances across the board…” I didn’t even allow the fact that Paul Walker was the lead in this story, Kramer’s attempt to tell a modern day ‘fairy tale’, involving a low-ranking mobster/family man Joey Gazelle (Walker) who ignores the mob’s explicit instructions to do away with a gun used in the fatal shooting of a corrupt cop. When Joey’s son and his best-friend Oleg come across the gun, Oleg uses it to shoot his abusive stepfather, a member of the Russian Mafia, and go on the run across the city. Joey now finds himself just 18 hours to find Oleg and get the gun before a local bent cop (Chazz Palminteri), his own gang or the Russians lay their hands on it and terminate him. Sounds all very convoluted and exciting doesn’t it eh? Well it would be if it wasn’t for one of the most nonsensical and not necessary third act twists I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. Spoilers Ahoy… We come to understand that Joey isn’t a mobster but an undercover FBI agent and therefore surely the whole events of this movie (gratuitous nudity, paedophilia subplots etc) are really irrelevant right? Surely Joey didn’t need to go on any of those adventures because the outcome is secretly irrelevant to him and his family seeing as he’s not REALLY a mobster at all?
You know what? I thought there had not been a good movie-spoof in quite a long time then this film came a long and I thought it was actually quite clever and quite unique in some of its targets and where it went for humour. I loved the fact that it was so adult and so politically incorrect and I really dug the “anything goes” mentality. Like any spoof, there are jokes that hit hard and there are jokes that miss the target completely. It’s not the greatest comedy ever made but there’s some strong laugh out loud moments and the targets are so broad that anything and everything gets hit. This should never have been a franchise though. This movie is a stand-out slap in the face of that slew of “post-modern” horror movies of a certain era and the films that surrounded them at their time of release. Scary Movies 2, 3 and 4 just show that becoming a sketch-show, taking the piss (badly) out of the year’s movie releases in general without any real purpose, doesn’t work. What’s most surprisingly about this film – the original – though is that where you expect to get the biggest laughs (Marlon and Shawn Wayans, Jon Abrahams, Shannon Elizabeth, Regina Hall etc.) you don’t. The real comedic gems are the likes of Kurt Fuller, Cheri Oteri, Dave Sheridan and the great discovery of Anna Faris who has since started to prostitute herself in the various sequels. In fact, those bloody stupid sequels make you forget how funny this film actually is.
Acclaimed, wrongly, as the “definitive horror thriller of the 90s” I think Wes Craven’s Scream is an over-rated, over-written but surprisingly entertaining ride. The thing is for a film of the “horror” genre it didn’t scare me once. I thought I’d at least get a couple of jumpy moments here and there but, no, not once did this film scare me or put me on the edge of my seat. There were moments that I laughed out loud and moments that I sat there with a bit of a grin on my face but nowhere was I scared at all. I felt like there was a party I hadn’t been invited to when this was first released when people were going about saying “Have you seen Scream? Man, it’s fucking terrifying!” And I was like “What? What the fuck are you people talking about?” Whatever it was that Kevin Williamson wanted to say about violence and the movies, he delivered in a way that felt leaden and clunky and I just couldn’t believe that this film was being talked up in the manner in which it was. A great slice of stupid escapist fun, it indeed was. A genre-changing horror masterpiece? Come the fuck off it man!
Now, for every grumble that I had about the first movie, the sequel goes out of its way to address and attend to. This is sequel-filmmaking at the very top of its game – the script is clever in offering up what is often expected of sequels (bigger budget, better kills, faster pace, new faces etc.) and then delivering everything to the letter. It also has something interesting to offer up about copycat killings/media-responses to movie violence etc. It’s funny, thrilling and never anything short of thoroughly entertaining. All involved, from the cast through to the crew (Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, especially) raise their game enormously and deliver a surprisingly scary film that actually takes hold of the first film and drags it up to an ever-so-slightly higher standard as a result of it’s very existence. A really impressive genre piece with a cracking soundtrack! In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that it would look crap on the shelf without the other two movies either side of it, then I’d promote this flick to a better subsection. They should never have killed off Randy though!
Truly one of the most god-awful, atrocious films I have ever had the misfortune to bear witness to in my entire life. I genuinely cannot abide this flick and only own it because it came with Scream and Scream 2 in a very cheap pack – both of which I wanted to own. This is insulting crap in which everybody involved phones it in whilst falling just short of looking into the camera and mouthing the words “Contractually Forced”. They couldn’t even drag up a worthy enough supporting cast so they throw the awesome Parker Posey into proceedings (with nothing to do but over-act and play like a cartoon) with the likes of Jenny McCarthy, Patrick Dempsey, Scot Foley and a hugely miscast/looks-suitably-embarrassed-the-whole-time Emily Mortimer. The script, this time out by Ehren Kruger because Kevin Williamson didn’t want to write it, shows that there isn’t actually a story to tell and they’re just out there flogging a dead horse. This time round the story is taking a swipe at Hollywood but nobody has actually anything to say of any real bite or interest so we end up with inane Carrie Fisher cameos where she tells us she’s not “who we think she is” (of course, because as thick as we the audience are for paying to see this shite, we’re not going to think the real Carrie Fisher now works in a casting agency in a basement are we?), Silent Bob and Jay turning up embarrassingly for absolute no apparent reason other than they’re “label mates” over at Miramax/Dimension, the now-dead Randy turns up in a pre-recorded video – delivered by Heather Matarazzo in a horrendously wooden performance – that he made before his death “just in case” the killings went on a third time (yes, we’re getting that desperate!) and we trundle into proceedings involving a Hollywood mansion with hidden rooms and corridors… and it all goes very Scooby Doo with masks getting pulled off and long-lost vengeful brothers being revealed. Yawn! Yawn! Yawn! I think this is definitely one of the worst cinema experiences I’ve ever had too. I went to see this out in Australia where all the adverts for this movie were telling us that “finally the secret is going to be revealed” and the reviews told us that not all of “our regular favourites see it through to the end”. There was a midnight premiere with loads of teenagers and young adults queuing round the block, the perfect demographic secured. It was a sell out on opening night! Then the film started and the minute Live Schreiber was offed in the now expected opening kill, the crowd started cheering and whooping it up like I’d never encountered before but I’m told happens in American cinemas all the time. Then they fell silent for the film to start properly… laughs didn’t come where they were supposed to… thirty minutes in, groups of people started walking out… ten minutes after that the jeering started… By the time Jay and Silent Bob turned up people were shouting profanities at the screen and throwing their food and drinks. The film got stopped and the cinema manager came in and said that if we were not happy with the quality of the presentation then to speak to him in person but if we were not happy with the film itself then could we please just walk out but refrain from acts of criminal damage and disruption to those who may still be enjoying the film. This male voice shouted out “Is anyone still enjoying this fucking disaster?” The room fell silent, no one answered and everyone burst into laughter in the manager’s face. He left, the film started again and by the time we got to that stupid friggin’ mansion there was more walk-outs and more heckling too. And as for that male voice that shouted out “Is anyone still enjoying this fucking disaster?” Well that was the first and only time I’ve ever shouted out loud about anything at a cinema screening!
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Another crushing disappointment of a third instalment but at least it’s bad in comparison to the first two chapters like many a third film entry into a franchise is and not just completely bad like Scream 3. I was one of those internet naysayers back in the lead up to the release of this film who said “No James Cameron? No movie!” I kind of stand by that. As much as I enjoy that car chase involving Schwarzenegger’s Terminator hanging from the crane and the evil Terminator controlling all the emergency vehicles etc. the film completely lacks the look and feel of what James Cameron would have done with it and considering I see him as the “godfather” of these movies, I just want to remain faithful to what Cameron has done and has achieved and just treat this as the bastard step-child that it is. The thing is that as competent a job as Jonathan Mostow has done, there’s moments in this film that absolutely kill it for me and stop it being anything more than just disposable entertaining guff as opposed to genuine brilliance like The Terminator and T2: Judgement Day. These moments are things that Cameron would never, in the light of day ever allowed in his “baby” and Schwarzenegger – if he gave any sort of shit about the franchise that gave him his entire life – would have nixed straight away too. Things like the Terminator getting his clothes from a gay stripper, the Elton John style glasses, the “talk to the hand”, the fact that the Rise of the Machines is almost dealt as an afterthought (although it is commendable to see such a brave, dark ending on a mainstream blockbuster), the weak female Terminator and the atrocious casting of her, the lack of much needed reassurances like Linda Hamilton and/or Michael Biehn and, worst of all, the fact that the film actually feels lacking the action department which is not something that should ever be said about a Terminator film. Not terrible –but still far from being anyway near as good as the first two films!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
You can read my full review by clicking here!
I know Luc Besson has made more money out of his work as scripter/producer of the glossy B-grade martial arts fare he churns out once a year then he has on his directorial output, but the majority of his movies pass me straight by bar of course the wonderful District 13 and this franchise in the making he has got going with Jason Statham as his leading man. This is inoffensive, fast-paced, well-shot, big, glossy fun with Statham’s ex-Marine Frank Martin working as a “transporter” of dangerous or illegal goods around France with no questions asked, until one day he breaks his own precious rules and uncovers an international slave trade. It’s stupid, empty-headed stuff where logic and the laws of gravity are of no importance at all. But it really is a guilty pleasure that you won’t go wrong with if you mix with a few beers and some low expectations on a bored Friday/Saturday night!
The Transporter 2
If you struggled with the complete absence of logic and common sense in the first film then don’t even entertain this one – because, despite relocating the action to Miami and riffing heavily on Tony Scott’s Man on Fire (minus the drama and acting clout), the absurdities still continue with Jason Statham’s ex-mercenary stopping bullets with a wooden door as a shield, disposing of a bomb under his car by flying it through the air and twisting it mid-fall so that a nearby hook can displace the bomb and, amongst other things, chasing a bus on a jetski… on dry land! It’s just as ridiculous and nonsensical as you’d expect it to be and, whilst it’s a bit more annoying and less of a surprise guilty experience then the first outing, it’s still a fairly good 85 minutes in a dumb sort of way. Anyone and everyone who encounters these movies seem to lower their expectations, be fairly lenient with the flaws and come out having had a blast. I don’t know whether people will be so gracious if Luc Besson decides to push his luck with a third film. However, if they do can they get someone to improve the friggin’ poster art. Both movies have awful DVD covers!
There comes a time when you’ve got to start removing your friends from that all important list of “People’s Opinions Who I Respect”. As I mentioned in the last issue, one such friend found himself stricken from such a list all because of his recommending Grandma’s Boy to me which I stupidly went out and purchased, only to find it was about as laugh-free a zone as your parent’s double funeral. He’d already struck out for me once with Craig Brewster’s debut Hustle & Flow (which was considerably shy of the mark of “modern classic” that he bestowed upon it!) and his second strike prior to Grandma’s Boy lay in him physically forcing me to buy this film by saying “Dude it is fucking hysterical. I swear to you it makes Austin Powers look like Schindler’s List!” Having watched the film once, all I can say is “WHAT?” This didn’t make me so much as smirk which is worrying for a comedy! It’s so stupid that it meanders along for 82 minutes, continually forgetting to insert any material worth a giggle. Clearly all of the talented SNL crowd were “suddenly busy” which explains Chris Kattan, but for the love of god Dave Chappelle and Chi McBride have got to get themselves a better agent! This is a painfully unfunny film that is like a black man’s Austin Powers minus any of the wit or laughs, which I am stuck with it until I next trade in a batch of DVDs at Blockbusters. As for my friend? Well, if I’d recommended you Hustle & Flow, this film and Grandma’s Boy one after the other; you’d start distancing yourself from me too wouldn’t you?
Sorry, I know I’m going to get flamed on but I’ve got a shit load of time for this film. I think it doesn’t even come close to deserving the flack that it got from critics and I wish people would stop using it as an analogy for blockbusters that flop – people seem to be deliberately blind to the fact that despite an over-inflated budget and bad press, Waterworld still made every penny of it’s money back and turned a healthy profit for the studio. It’s just that it wasn’t as big a profit as they’d predicted in the wake of Costner’s Robin Hood and Dance with Wolves outings. It’s insanely overlong for a film of this type and there really would be a cracking slice of ninety minute pure escapist fun inside this one hundred and thirty minute monstrosity but what cannot be argued is that – asides from it’s length, it’s poe-faced attitude and it’s occasionally dodgy special effects – a) there’s some genuinely brilliant set-pieces executed to the highest standard (just look at the assault on the atoll in the film’s opening act or the Mariner’s rescue of young Enola from Deacon’s lair) and b) Dennis Hopper’s outlandish pantomime style performance is the perfect compliment to Kevin Costner’s overly-serious hero. Stupid and no classic, but it’s no atrocity either!
Welcome to the Jungle
The minute I heard that this film (regardless of what title it decides to go under!) was a “modern” riff on Midnight Run, one of my all-time favourite films, I decided I had absolutely no time for it whatsoever. The minute I heard that Peter Berg had cast The Rock in the lead with Seann William Scott, an actor I cannot stand, I decided wild horses couldn’t drag me to see this at the cinema. Well, I ended up getting outvoted on a night out with friends and, despite “Stifler” annoying the living crap out of me, I had a really good time with this flick. The Rock worked well in the lead role, Christopher Walken was as bizarrely dependable as you’d expect him to be, Rosario Dawson was as smoking hot as usual and there was a plethora of cracking little action sequences to make the ticket price worth while. Three years after its release I picked it up cheap on DVD in a sale. I watched it and it still played well for me on second and third viewing too. Peter Berg is fast proving himself to be a director to watch. Having kicked the arse out of the dark-comedy subgenre with the hugely under-rated, Very Bad Things, re-energised the action genre with this outing, then delivered a genuine modern classic the minute he tried his hand at drama with Friday Night Lights (and he’s getting superb early word-of-mouth with his political action thriller, The Kingdom, due later this year) he’s definitely a man of many talents.
Do I really need to go into too much detail about this – Bill Murray gives great support, Kevin Bacon is as good as you’d expect him to be and, oh yeah, before I forget… Matt Dillon gets to have a threesome with Denise Richards and Neve Campbell. There you go! Done and dusted! The coverage on this particular guilty pleasure of a sexy thriller is complete!
And in my crappy, Warner Brothers snap-shut collection:
“… Crime is the disease. I’m the cure!” Infamously, Sylvester Stallone was up for the role of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop but left the project after doing a huge personal rewrite on the script (bringing in a finale in which Foley, in an old-fashioned American ‘muscle car’ takes on the bad guy, in a freight train, by playing ‘chicken’ – and winning!) leaving the door open for first Mickey Rourke and, eventually/brilliantly, Eddie Murphy. His response to the success of the project that he left was to show them exactly how it “should have been done” with his adaptation of Paula Gosling’s novel, Fair Game (re-made a decade or so later as the god-awful William Baldwin/Cindy Crawford movie of the same title – has any novel been so shabbily treated?) but only serving to show them how truly awful the Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer fish-out-of-water gem could have been. This is Stallone serving up a film devoid of characterisation (look at how staid and unnatural the ‘partnership’ between his character and Reni Santoni is!) and logic (that fantastically absurd road-race/shoot-out/explosions montage out in the country?!?) which is not necessarily a bad thing for a big dumb action film but even a big dumb 80s action film needs to have it’s tongue planted firmly in its cheek (a la Commando!) which this film doesn’t. This is the sort of film that Segal and Norris watched and adored without any sense of irony, and have been remaking repeatedly over and over again through the years. However, in it’s brief 83 minute running time the film’s god-awful poe-faced attitude, atrocious Brigitte Nielson acting and horrendous plotting start to become almost infectious and before you know it you’re having a ball with one of those great Friday/Saturday night they’re-so-bad-they’re-great action movies – I defy anyone not to have their foot-tapping and a stupid grin on their face by the time The Beaver Band (yes, that’s their name!) start singing ‘Voice of America’ Sons’ over the end titles! A terrible movie but a cheesy-enough-to-be-fun 83 minutes!
Eight Legged Freaks
It’s horrendously acted (I mean, really, come on now, who the hell thought of giving David Arquette a lead role?) and it’s got absolutely no right to be as fun as it is but this really is as big a guilty pleasure as you’d expect it to be the minute you read the back of the DVD cover and realise it’s about exotic spiders mutated with toxic waste into giant killers each with their own unique way of attacking and killing. Yeah the “It’s a spider… man!” line is as much a clunker as it was back in 2002 when they were going up against the might of Sam Raimi’s first web-slinger instalment and there’s some truly horrific acting on show, but forget all that and just let yourself be taken for a fast and frantic ride!
God if ever there was a film that time has not been kind to it’s this empty headed Clint Eastwood outing (in which his Phoenix cop has to get a hardened hooker from Las Vegas back to his home turf in order to give trial at court), done far better recently in Richard Donner’s “semi-remake” 16 Blocks. The film is absolutely riddled with racism, homophobia and downright horrific attitudes towards women – Eastwood’s character has no qualms whatsoever about punching the shit out of Sondra Locke’s hooker with a heart of stone and he shots an uncomfortable rape scene with such close-up glee that it’s barely watchable. Roger Ebert called it “Classic Eastwood. Fast, furious and funny” according to the DVD cover which has got the best movie-art I’ve ever seen in a tongue in cheek sort of way. My opinion? Its entertaining 70s schlock but modern audiences may not be too tolerating of it.
This is an early, ridiculous Die Hard wannabe with Wesley Snipes as John Cutter, an undercover security operative on the same flight as recently captured psychopath and renowned terrorist, Rane (the truly horrendous Bruce Payne), who decides to break free from police custody and hold the passengers and crew of Flight 163 hostage. It’s up to Cutter to fight back against Rane and his gang in order to bring the plane, and its passengers, down safely. This is a truly stupid film with some genuinely terrible acting in it. It’s the sort of film where the hero has flashbacks to a tragedy that weighs down upon him (in this case a robbery in a shop that killed his girlfriend in enormously overwrought fashion!) and the bad guy has people on “the inside” whenever it is convenient for them to be revealed. However, I guarantee you that if you’re the sort that likes a slice of stupid action nonsense every now and again, then by the time Cutter is chasing after the runaway plane in a car and boarding it by jumping from the vehicle onto the wheels of the plane as it takes off you’ll be thoroughly enjoying yourself… in spite of yourself.
The Towering Inferno
Despite being responsible for one of the greatest pieces of poster art in the history of cinema, this film looks, feels and comes across as a severely overplayed (it’s 159 minutes – which seems nothing these days but back in it’s day was horrendously long!) and desperate attempt to cash-in on the success of The Poseidon Adventure. Despite the fact that it is no where close to being as good as that film, it’s worth a look thanks to the work of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in an otherwise disappointing “all-star” cast and thanks to some surprisingly great stunt-work. It’s totally poe-faced in its presentation which makes it hard to like but it’ll win you over. Best watched on a rainy Sunday afternoon, have a CD of your favourite music on stand-by so you can wash your ears out straight afterwards and rid yourself of Maureen McGovern’s horrible theme song “We May Never Love Like This Again”.
And that’s it – we’re all done! Next week I’m digging into my Television Boxsets subsection and it’s looking as if it could be an epic four-parter!
You have been warned!!!