Monday, April 17, 2017

Ten Statements About....THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017)

Yep...that's what it's all about....
“Why are they shooting at me?"
“I don't know. Maybe because you're in a orange Lamborghini..

1) It is such a pleasure to see Michelle Rodriguez smiling at points in this film, which I hope reminds people she’s quite beautiful, and it’s her pissed off expression that hides this fact.

2) Charlize Theron sure is having fun as the villain of the piece, deadpanning her lines and reveling in her ability to sow chaos.

3) I’m not very taken with director F. Gary Grey’s effort here.  He seems to rely at inopportune times on stylistic ticks popularized by previous entries in the series.  Every time he does a ramping moment or a slow-then-fast motion moment, it just reminds you of the earlier films without enhancing this one.

4) Look, I know her character makes sense in the world of The Fast and The Furious, but it still
What worries me is that Vin Diesel's evil face is the same
as his good face....
doesn’t stop me from going, “Who the Hell let Helen Mirren in this movie?”

5) After seeing this, I would watch a film where Jason Statham and a baby going around having adventures every damn day.

6) I’d also pay to watch Tyrese Gibson’s Roman being humiliated repeatedly.

7) The one regular who seems to suffer is Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey.  She spends almost her entire screentime with her nose in a laptop clacking on the keys without any indication why.  And the return of the not-really-romantic triangle subplots between her, Roman and Ludacris’ Tej at the very end seems like an afterthought.

8) I appreciate how, as with the previous Fast films, the script manages to cram into it every possible character we’ve seen in these movies so far--even one who was in a persistent vegetative state when last we saw him.

The Rock has the reach, but The Stath is wiley....
9) I’m pleased by the fact that the Furious series continues to give us something that we may not have seen before--or at the very least something that we haven’t seen to that extent.  There are a couple of things like that in the movie, including something involving a submarine that is gobstopping.

10) I’m kind of hoping that this marks the end of the series.  It’s not that I am tiring of them, or that they aren’t keeping up the quality.  It’s just that the stakes in this one are so high that I don’t think they can top it unless they send the crew into outer space.’s a Fast and Furious film.  You should know if you will like it or not by now.  But for what it’s worth, I had fun.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ten Statements About....A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)

Oh, Steed....what they have planned for you....
“Killing Tibbett was a mistake.”
“Then I'm about to make that same mistake twice.”

1) Perhaps the major problem with the basic fabric of this film is that since all the major characters are noticably younger than Roger Moore, it emphasizes how much older he is, and how he’s too old to be playing an action hero.

2)  I never thought it’d be possible to make San Francisco look boring.  I guess you showed me, movie.

3) We can add Tanya Roberts’ Stacey Sutton to the list of unconvincing female scientists.  Sure, she’s pretty to look at, but she is incapable of delivering geological exposition in an effective way.

4) Shame on you, movie, for misusing Patrick MacNee so badly.  He deserves more than to be used as comedic relief for a long stretch of the film and then killed off.

5) Boy, is Christopher Walken...vigorous as Max Zorin (a role turned down by Sting and David Bowie, incidentally).  Grinning to beat the band, giggling at his own villainy at spots, and strutting
She looks as bored as I am....
like a peacock, he could have been more entertaining in a better film.  As it is, he seems out of place given the scheme he’s hatching.  And speaking of Zorin....

6) Why does he have so many henchpeople?  There are so many that none of them get any sort of development to make them come alive.  Even Grace Jones’ May Day is cardboard, and relies on her physicality and striking features to carry her along in the picture.

7) While John Glen for the most part dispenses with the sight gags that marred his previous efforts, there is one chase scene involving a fire truck that is truly winge-worthy in the way it’s played for laughs.  It also doesn’t help that Moore is allowed to run rampant with his lame puns.

8) As I’m sure Dean Martin would tell you, when you’re shooting so much of your fight scenes in long shot, you’re trying to hide how tired your star is.
I'd throw the screenwriters off the bridge...

9) What is up with that long, boring stretch of film in and around Stacey’s house.  It kills what little pathetic momentum the film has had up until that point.  And speaking of killing the film dead....

10) That whole sequence involving the female Russian spy and the bath house contributes literally nothing to the film save to give Walter Gotell a little bit more screen time.  If the rumors are true and they wanted Barbara Bach to reprise her role in that sequence, I’m not surprised she turned them down.  It could be cut whole and not affect the film one bit.

Overall...Maybe not the worst Bond film (that one’s coming up), but arguably my least favorite, as it’s so boring it leaves me numb.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ten Statements About....SCREWED (2000)

You all should seek out the scriptwriters and get revenge...
“Sweet Jesus! We kidnapped a turd!"

1) Norm MacDonald is way out of his depth here.  Shorn of all the schtick that made him a presence on Saturday Night Live, he’s a monotone deer in the headlights, unable to muster anything that engages the audience.  His Willard is just painful to watch.

2) But to be fair, no one--not MacDonald, not Dave Chappelle, not Elaine Stritch or Sarah Silverman, is helped by this tin-eared script that gives them all nothing to work with.  This is the type of script that doesn’t give the actors characters; it doesn’t even give them types.  There is literally nothing to any of these personages.  They just float in space with no background, no emotional life and no nuance whatsoever.

3) After seeing Silverman struggle with the role of Hillary--not because she’s not a good actress, which she is, but because it’s a whisp of a character (we don’t even get a hint of what she is in relation to Willard until halfway through the film, and even that is hastily sketched out)--I perfectly understand why she refuses to take girlfriend roles any more.

4) The gruesomeness of some of the gags detract from what little humor is inherent in them.  Having not...FUNNY!!!!
MacDonald’s hand chewed up by a tiny dog so badly that he’s spraying blood on the walls is winge-worthy.  And the whole ‘you’d be surprised what you can find in a dead body’ sequence is not only too gross to laugh at, but goes on far too long.

5) What did they give Danny Devito to disgrace himself as Grover?  This detestable ‘character’ is only there to come up with gross out joke after gross out joke revolving around cadavers.  There is nothing funny about him sorting through corpses to find one that resembles MacDonald or allowing another to fall down the stairs or using a big hose to suck....something...out of another.  It’s just painful to watch.

6) You know, don’t try to ground a film in an actual location if you’re not going to show any of said location.  This film could take place in Bohunkville instead of Pittsburgh, and it’d be unchanged.

I'd book a flight out of this movie too....
7) I thought it was a given that you don’t ever introduce a major character--a co-conspirator in one of the kidnapping plots, for example--well into the third act.  Well, I guess I know better now.

8) The problem with Elaine Stritch’s Mrs Crock’s face turn is that it’s not earned.  She’s portrayed as such a one note horror that we never see the seeds that prompt her to change her spots in the last few minutes of the film.  It’s as if the filmmakers did it because they felt it had to be done.

9) What is Sherman Helmsley’s Chip even here for?  I know he’s Mrs. Crock’s boytoy, but why does he take over operations of her bakery the second she’s missing?

10) I dunno...I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to own a rocket why is Grover still free at the end of this film.

Overall...I think the filmmakers were trying to create a funny black comedy.  And considering I spent the running time wincing instead of laughing, I’d have to say they failed.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ten Statements About....BLACK DYNAMITE (2009)

"Stare at my crazy face!  STARE, I say!
“Now Aunt Billy, how many times have I told you not to call here and interrupt my Kung Fu?"

1) Here is the major problem with this film--while comedy should be played straight, the cast plays it so straight that the humor dissipates, leaving just a sad copy of 1970‘s blaxploitation cinema.  For most of its running time, before the story finally gets silly, it’s just dull.

2)  I get it that this is a vanity project of Michael Jai White (you say labor of love, I say vanity project).  That doesn’t mean that Jai White is any good in the role.  He never gives us a sense of Black Dynamite as a character, his overtly earnest delivery never rising above being a guy playing dress-up.  He never gives us a sense of the character and his relationship to the world is (unlike, let’s say, Leslie Neilson’s Detective Drebbin in the Naked Gun movies).White aims for Richard Roundtree but ends up hitting a second rate imitation of Dolemite.

3) Even though he also gives us the sense of a guy playing dress up, I appreciate how Tommy
"I swear the talent in this movie is down here somewhere..."
Davidson’s Cream Corn is patterned so closely on Antonio Fargas that he inadvertently adds a hint of veracity in the proceedings.

4) Seeing Nicole Sullivan playing Pat Nixon mainly makes me wish I could see more of Nicole Sullivan, well, pretty much anywhere.

5) Even though this film is only 83 minutes, there are scenes that just go on forever.  One sequence, set at a version of The Pimp’s Ball, is obsessed more with introducing the actors doing cameos than advancing the story.

6) Yes, there have been blaxploitation films where the soundtrack plays as a Greek chorus, but they never repeated exactly what we’ve seen like this one does...and it’s not funny, it’s annoying.

So is that ‘Din-o-myte/Din-o-myte’ riff you play every time Jai White walks into a room.

7) I will admit that things do pick up once the script embraces the inherent silliness it obviously wants to be known for--but since that happens with only fifteen minutes left in the movie, it’s kinda too late.
President Nixon will kung-fu your ass!

8) I wonder who thought it was funny to have Black Dynomite’s back story contradict itself--first he’s promising his mother he’ll look after his brother, then he’s an orphan when the actor is obviously meant to be younger--but it only serves to  make the viewer question the world the film is set in.

9) I didn’t realize that Kevin Chapman was the same one who played Detective Fusco on Person of Interest until he was cut down in a hail of gunfire.  Which I guess says something about his chops.

10) I’m sorry, but that make-up effect of a fat guy displaying...something that ties in with the film’s MacGuffin...looks nothing like the thing it’s supposed to be.

Overall...An awful film that seems to be congratulating itself about how clever it is, yet is anything but.  It actually makes me yearn for an appearance by Creeper The Hamburger Pimp (look it up)....

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ten Statements About....AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)

Ooooooh....double-plus purty
“I think the name of this operation is offensive. What, Abscam? "Arab-scam"? It's racist!"
“Are you fucking kidding? What do you care? You're Mexican.."

1) I don’t know, but for a film that’s supposed to be a period piece, it doesn’t feel like a period piece.  Hell, you could do this film more modern-day with only a little tweaking.  The whole sense is that these are not 70‘s people, but people playing dress up.

2) That being said, I appreciate how the bulk of the actors are made to look distinctively different from their normal look--thus giving us more of a sense of veracity and allowing us to immerse ourselves in the story.

3) David O. Russell must really love Good Fellas, because so much of the structure and the way the film handles music is lifted from that film.

4) I really don’t understand why this is considered a comedy, as the tone is more grim than humorous.
"Hey, Jeremy...move your hair.  It's blocking my sightlines..."

5) I was really taken with Amy Adams’ Sydney--and not just because she’s purty (and show quite a bit of cleavage throughout).  When she’s masquerading as the very British ‘Edith,’ Adams allows her natural intonations slip through at key points, reminding us that she’s new at playing a role.  And the fact that she’s manipulating Bradley Cooper’s Richie is very well handled.  That being said...

6) ...I really think it was a mistake to give Adams a narration sequence in Act One.  It disappears fairly early on in the proceedings and dilutes the fact that this is Irving’s story.

7) Boy, Jeremy Renner’s hairstyle should get its own credit considering how it seems to dominate the proceedings every time it’s onscreen.

"No, dammit...I won't play Pattycake with you!"
8) I love how Russell’s opening title card--’Some of this stuff is true’--allows him to embellish the story to his heart’s content.

9) I get that a pop music soundtrack is now essential to any period piece movie (and that Russell is trying to emulate Good Fellas’ usage of the same), but the songs seem chosen haphazardly and placed in the film obtrusively.

10) The resolution of the story arc of Sydney’s and Christian Bale’s Irving seems forced.  It seems like they’re made to do what Russell wants them to do and not what’s organic to the story itself.

Overall...painfully flawed but with some interesting performances, it’s mildly worth a watch.  I can’t see why it was nominated for Best Picture, though.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ten Statements About....THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE! (1972)

"I know I look nothing like George Kennedy or Yul Brynner.
Just go with it."
“Well, should we bury 'em?"
“The living need us more."

1) Maybe it’s because Lee Van Cleef is a different kind of actor than either Yul Brynner or George Kennedy, but his Chris Allen is a lot more ruthless and near-unfeeling in his deadpanedness.  At times, his attitude is downright offputting.

2) Even though it all happens off-screen, this film is awful rapey.  Not only is it implied strongly that villain Del Toro and his men have had their way with the women of Magdelena, but it’s explicitly stated that Mariette Hartley’s Arietta was violated before she was killed.

3) And speaking of Del Toro--because the character doesn’t appear until literally the last moment, we’re never given the sense of him the previous films gave us of their bad guys.  As a result, he’s a paper tiger, a target for the seven to shoot at.

4) I don’t care how hard you try, it’s impossible to make the sight of our heroes’ horses strolling along around an uncovered wagon look majestic.

"Watch it...critics right around this corner.  And they ain't
5) For a village of Mexican farmers, the women are all uniformly white.

6) By having the kid Chris holds partially responsible for Arietta’s death killed (off screen) by someone else, it sort of blunts the character’s arc.  If they had allowed the kid to be a part of Del Toro’s gang and confront Chris in the climax, the film would have had a more satisfying spine.

7) This film is so...drab.  The main characters are dressed not in the easily definable, colorful outfits of previous films in the series, but in dark, lookalike clothing.

"You gals are mighty white..."
8) I miss the ‘getting the band together’ sequences the previous films had.  The remaining five members are literally picked up in one fell swoop at the prison.

9) You know what would have made it easier to tell the seven apart?  Saying their names more than once, and even then in an offhanded way.

10) Gee, it’s nice to know that Chris gets over the death of his pregnant wife quick enough to take up with Stephanie Powers.  Good way to engender character sympathies, writers.

Overall...a tired, dull and lackluster last entry in the series with just enough of a scuzzy edge to it to make it unappealing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ten Statements About....OCTOPUSSY (1983)

Yes, he's dressed like a clown...but the scene is actually
quite tense...
"Mr. Bond indeed is a rare breed...soon to be made extinct."

1) As if overcompensating for the soberness of For Your Eyes Only , this film sees the return of the broad Roger Moore humor.  It can be difficult to see past the double-taking camels, swamis complaining about people lying on their bed of nails, Tarzan yells and other annoying gags...especially the seeming endless stream of lame puns coming directly from Moore’s mouth.  That being said...

2) We still get hints of the Bond we could have gotten if Moore had taken things seriously.  There is one moment in particular, involving a circus and a bomb, where Moore conveys some real emotion.

3) One of the clever things about casting Maud Adams as...*ahem*...Octopussy is that, because she is a mature woman, Moore’s advancing age is not an issue.  As such, the romantic moments aren’t as creepy as they could have been (and as they’re going to get soon).

4) As for the other Bond girl, Kristina Waybourne is an odd personage as Magda--and not just
Somehow, this version of Charlie's Angels didn't catch on...
because she looks very striking from one angle and frighteningly weird from another--because there’s no clear sense of her loyalties.  Supposedly she’s part of Octopussy’s organization, yet she behaves as if she is Louis Jordan’s Kamal Khan’s right hand doxy.  The script needed to take a more forceful stand on her.

5) Wait a minute...a Roger Moore Bond film that actually has some connection to an actual Bond story?  Say it ain’t so!

Well, I can’t.  I find it satisfying that the story the title is derived from is summarized at one point and connected to the film, making it a sequel to the Fleming short.

6) Much like Hugo Drax in Moonraker  Louis Jordan underplays Kamal Khan.  Unlike Drax, however, it works for him.  There’s an icy sort of self-assuredness to Jordan’s presence that makes him an effective Bond villain.
That weird-looking girl is looking over my shoulder again,
isn't she?

7) Steve Berkoff, a New York stage actor, is certainly...vigorous as General Orlov.  This serves to balance out Khan, but also provides the sort of playing-to-the-rafters grandiosity that is expected of a Bond film.

8) Go away, crocodile sub.  Just...go away.

9) There is an extended sequence beginning on a train that, even with some questionable fast changes and another broad bit of humor with The German Sausage Couple, should have been the film’s climax.  It is extremely tense, full of great fighting, and manages to skillfully conceal the age discrepancy between Moore and his stunt double.  This could have been a satisfying ending, but instead we get a silly assault on the Monsoon Palace by the circus and a sequence on a plane where the discrepancy between Moore and his stunt double is all too evident.

10) Unfortunate name to the contrary, Adams’ Octopussy is a surprisingly effective, willful and competent Bond girl...until the last ten minutes, where the script suddenly decides it needs a girl’s school screamer and have her kidnapped and menanced.

Overall...nowhere near as bad as some will lead you to believe--pretty good, actually.  If you block out the broad Moore/Glen humor, you’ll have a great time.