Thursday, August 30, 2007

If you thought Chocolate Rain was awesome ... : "Black Rain"

OK, so the goofy YouTube video du jour and the Ridley Scott/Michael Douglas collaboration from almost 20 years ago have nothing in common aside from a reference to falling water. Still, that "Chocolate Rain" song is catchy, isn't it? "Chocolate Raaaain ... Made me cross the street the other day ... Chocolate Raaaain .... Made you turn your head the other way."

Won't spend much time on this since it's late and I've got a 10-hour drive with the family ahead of me tomorrow. But after an aborted attempt several months ago, I ended up watching one of the more overlooked Ridley films over the span of two or three nights. (Honestly can't remember.) Guess what? It wasn't too bad.

There are problems, true. One, Michael Douglas, playing the motorcycle-riding NYC cop in over his head in Japan, has classic -- read, unfortunate -- late '80s hair. Just feather it out and be done with it, Mikey. Second, while I applaud Andy Garcia's youthful energy -- this was well before the unfortunate "Steal Big, Steal Little" -- he's still a little nutty here. Finally, Douglas' jeans were too tight.

But really, this movie was OK. Say what you will about Scott, but he's got a nice eye for scenery. When our heroes Mike and Andy fly into Japan to return an extradited thug, the landcape recalls "Blade Runner." We also get an "Alien" feel every now and then with some of the chase scenes. The movie, on the whole, looks decent.

As for the story and performances ... eh, good enough. Douglas overacts a bit but is OK as the detective bent on justice in a strange land. The villain, some Japanese actor, is sort of bizarre but works well, I suppose. Apparently he normally played funny men but wanted to do something different as he was dying of cancer or something bad. OK, then.

The best turn, though, is by the guy who plays the Japanese cop assigned to hang with the Noo Yawk boys. His name I'll look up -- it's Ken Takakura -- because he really nailed the subdued, respectful-yet-hangdog look that fit the character perfectly. Seriously, he's the best part of the movie, which is interesting given the various bang-bang scenes.

Let's not pretend "Black Rain" is better than it really is. But it's also plenty watchable, falling nicely into that category of "Hmmm, it's about 9:30-10 pm. I've got a whole movie in me before I got to bed. This could work." I think that shelf is right next to "Musicals" at Blockbuster. Or "Fetish." I forget.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Idiocy, debauchery and other things that never go out of style

One of these is from way back but was something I had heard about. The other I vaguely recall breezing through theaters last year. Both are pretty dumb, and in the end only mildly amusing.

Before he unveiled his true genius in "Arli$$": "The Hollywood Knights"

Kidding, of course. "Arli$$" ... I mean, come on ... I've had poops that had more right to be on HBO.

Let us take a moment to consider the esteemed Robert Wuhl. Outside of his small role in "Bull Durham" -- "Candlesticks always make a nice gift" ... "Sears sucks, Crash" ... "Lollygaggers!" ... and so on -- I can't think of a movie where Bobby W. didn't annoy the holy hell out of me. Really, he just sort of sucks all around. And "The Hollywood Knights" is where it all began.

Think of this movie as "American Graffiti" crossed with "Porky's," and not nearly as good as either. Wuhl is the obnoxious -- no! -- leader of a car club/gang of sorts in L.A. in 1965. It's Halloween Night, and the Beverly Hills snooty-snoots are shutting down the crew's beloved drive-in. So we get to watch Wuhl, whose character has the improbable name of Newbomb Turk, and his buddies wreak havoc on various events.

You could argue that this movie is worth watching just for a first look at some familiar faces. Along with Wuhl, it's the film debut of Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer. Wow, the three of them didn't exactly end up in the same place after starting from the same point, huh? Other recognizable folks include Fran Drescher (annoying as usual but actually looking not so bad) and Stuart Pankin (looking plenty bad). Then there are all sorts of other twentysomethings masquerading as high schoolers.

Beyond being funny only here and there, this movie's biggest problem is that it doesn't know what it wants to be. Raunchy teen comedy? Social commentary on such issues as Watts and Vietnam? Young love story (Danza and Pfeiffer)? "Knights" tries to be all at different points, and it ultimately doesn't add up to much. Surprising, considering this was directed by Floyd Mutrux. You know, Floyd Mutrux. Yeah, me neither.

If it weren't for "Sideways," I'm sure this would have been "Winefest": "Beerfest"

It's always fun when a new month starts and I check out what's on HBO. The network usually rolls out respectable, or at least big-budget, stuff in the early weeks; for instance, the latest "X-Men" movie and "Superman Returns" will be on this weekend, Sept. 1-2. The end of the month, though? Well, that's when you get "Beerfest."

Delivered to us by the Broken Lizard comedy troupe -- whom I never heard of before they started making movies, but whatever -- "Beerfest" follows two young Americans of German descent who stumble across a "Fight Club"-esque competition involving all their favorite drinking games. Alas, they're not wanted and are humilated by the German team, whose patriarch happens to be related to their grandpa but doesn't think much of him. That leads our heroes to assemble their own beerfest team and go back a year later with revenge on their minds. Ja, revenge.

Some parts actually are funny. Donald Sutherland and Cloris Leachman -- all 80 years of her -- both ham it up in small roles. Also, the legendary Jurgen Prochnow -- who already sold his soul when he played Schwarzenegger in that TV movie -- gets off a good "Das Boot" joke. Some of the stupid jokes and scenes -- plus the frequent use of "und" -- also prompted a chuckle, although I'm having a hard time remembering many right now. Oh, OK, one bit where a would-be male prostitute is going over his menu:

"It's $10 for a BJ, $12 for an HJ, $15 for a ZJ ...

"What's a ZJ?"

"If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

Overall, though, this was dumb and downright disturbing at times. Hey, I like stupid just fine; against my better judgment, I'd say "EuroTrip" isn't bad, and not just because of that Matt Damon cameo I mentioned a few days ago. "Beerfest," though, doesn't quite measure up, despite the best intentions of director Jay Chandrasekhar. He's also in the movie, and every time I saw him I thought, "He's like an even more awkward M. Night Shyamalan. And I really don't need to see his ass crack."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Affleck gap grows: "The Bourne Ultimatum"

Seriously, is Damon even taking his buddy's calls these days? He's got a great spy movie franchise going, and Benny's walking around mumbling, "They're going to greenlight 'Daredevil 2' any day now, I know it ... "

My man love for Damon is no secret. It's like my other guy, Paul Rudd, said in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," I always thought Matty was a Streisand, too, but he really did rock the sh*t in "The Bourne Identity." Along the way, he also (a) was in legit movies like "Syriana," "The Departed" and "The Good Shepherd" and (b) had fun with roles of varying size in "Dogma," "Stuck on You," the "Oceans" movies and, yes, "EuroTrip." Have NO idea how he ended up with a cameo in that last one, but it was awesome. Scotty doesn't know, Scotty doesn't know ...

So yeah, I love the guy. How can you not? Which means I was pumped for the latest Bourne movie, which I slipped out to see Sunday night.

Our story is a straight-up continuation of the series' previous installment, "The Bourne Supremacy." Bourne (Damon, as if you didn't know), still with a bit of a memory problem, is trying to find out who was behind the super-secret program that made him a killing machine. Oh, and behind the death of his girlfriend, too. I've already forgotten how many countries this quest takes him to, but he bounces around looking for clues while trying to avoid other badasses dispatched to kill him and others with loose lips.

While the spy stuff might seem a little complicated, it's really a simple story: Who am I, and who do I have to kill to find that out? Damon continues his mastery of the role. No glib James Bond jive here ... he's all bidness. Still pretty sad about his girl, as well as the whole "They stole my life" thing. Or did they?

Plenty of other good actors here, too. Joan Allen is back from Bourne 2 as a CIA officer, and, amazingly, she keeps getting better and better looking. Really ... it's mind-boggling. She just turned 51 but looks 10 years younger and much hotter -- in an elegant, smart way -- than 10 years ago. I mean, Julia Stiles is in this movie, too, and looks OK. But she's no Joan.

As for the fellas, Scott Glenn isn't around much as the CIA director but is sufficiently slimy. Paddy Considine is an investigative journalist in over his head. Albert Finney is a shady CIA doctor and David Strathairn is the CIA deputy director and primary thorn in Bourne's side. All are solid.

Other pluses are the frenetic pacing and some nice action scenes. In short, the movie isn't boring, and the whole quest for justice gives it a little depth. But -- and you knew there was a but -- I have a gripe that falls somewhere between nothing and middling. I really, really hate to mention it, because I like director Paul Greengrass a lot, but ...

Well, let's just ask this: Would it kill the guy to use a SteadiCam once in a while?

As I've mentioned in a couple of other Greengrass-related posts, his penchant for handheld cameras and getting right in there during fight scenes can -- can -- work well. Was huge in both "United 93" and "Bloody Sunday." But the Bourne movies ... well, it's just a little much for me. I can tolerate the frequent over-the-shoulder shots when two people are talking across a table to each other. But I gotta have a wider shot of at least some of the fight and chase scenes. Not Greengrass, though. He thinks you need to be in the middle of it. A lot of critics agree, saying his technique brings gritty realism, or something like that, to the movie. Sadly, I think it can be overkill.

Yeah, I said "sadly." That's because I generally liked "Ultimatum," just as I generally liked "Supremacy." But I still like "Identity" -- directed by Doug Liman of "Swingers" fame -- best. Because it's a little cleaner and sharper, at least to me, it seems nice and lean instead of dark and messy. True, the latter may be more appropriate to the whole spy game. But come on, man, at least let me see what's going on. If I wanted to watch a Matt Damon movie and not see his face, I'd rent "Titan A.E." (Hey, someone has to. How many people saw that, 12?)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

His excitement grew as he clicked the link to Movievangelist and found that there was a new post: "Stranger Than Fiction"

I shouldn't have been surprised, and yet I was. After all, I'm on record being a bigger fan of the more reserved Will Ferrell, which, from the trailers, appeared to be the case with this movie. Still, I didn't expect him to be a part of something that was actually interesting vs. simply juvenile.

I recall wanting to see "Stranger That Fiction" when it came out last year, but I suspect other movies jumped ahead of it on my list. That, or My Everlasting Beloved and I were near the stretch run of Project Offspring. In any case, it came and went, and it wasn't until Netflix brought the movie into my house that I got to see everyone's favorite anchorman show his stuff as a hapless puppet.

Our story has Ferrell as a bland IRS agent -- not a loser, per se, but just ... there. This is outlined with a voiceover at the very beginning. Soon, though, that narration becomes audible to Ferrell's character. Since the voice is talking about him, our hero becomes understandably curious and -- when death is mentioned -- concerned. Hey, I would be, too.

Meanwhile, a novelist (Emma Thompson) is struggling to finish her latest book, which is supposed to be fiction but has a hero who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ferrell. And check it out: She has the same voice as the one Will hears in his head. Connected? Nah.

While Thompson tries to figure out an ending -- with the help of Queen Latifah, of all people, Ferrell seeks help in figuring out (a) where the voice is coming from and (b) if he is, in fact, going to die. His main counsel: a literary professor played by Dustin Hoffman. Oh, and there's the matter of a budding romance with a baker played by the terminally cute Maggie Gylllllllllllenhaaaaaaaaal, who, even with a big ol' tattoo on her arm, lights up the screen with that shiny face. Love her. (Even before she showed the goods in "SherryBaby," which was a little discombobulating, I must say.)

It's a goofy story that clearly requires much suspension of disbelief. I guess you could almost call it fantasy, despite the normal appearance of everyone and apparent setting of "real life." As such, some things don't work. Queen Latifah, for instance, is a perfectly fine actress, but neither her part nor her skills are needed here, and it shows. Thompson also has been better. Not that she's bad here, but I kept thinking Meryl Streep -- who was in her own weird book-writing movie, "Adaptation." -- would have knocked this out of the park. (Then again, Meryl Streep could have knocked "Battlefield Earth" out of the park. Yeah, she's that good.)

Those are little things, though, in a movie that I generally enjoyed. The plot was one reason; it's just a fun idea executed relatively well. Ferrell and Gyllenhaal, and their chemisty together, is another. Like I said at the top, Ferrell's more subdued skills are underappreciated; my favorite part of "Old School" isn't the yelling or screaming, but the part in the marriage counselor's office where he's talking about the Olive Garden waitress and her underwear. Classic.

This isn't license for the guy to go get all "Jim Carrey in 'The Majestic'" on us. No, no "serious" movies, please. But the lower-key stuff works, and maybe think about how to run with that vs. running around a race track wearing a helmet and tighty-whiteys. Besides, Jack Black almost has the Hanes briefs market cornered, doesn't he?

In short, I thought Ferrell's performance worked well here, enough that I bought the thing between him and my girl Maggie. So much that I wish I had thought to bring her flours. (Not a misprint. You'll know what I mean if you see this movie.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Getting old on the shelf

These movies I've seen, not my jokes! Ha ha ha ha.

(Can you tell I just want to knock these mini-recaps out?)

Yes, another round-up of movies not quite worthy of their own post, for whatever reason. Here's where I could offer a couple of reasons, but that would suggest I care. Alas ...

Sly and the Family Drone: "Get Carter"

Remember my post on the original "Get Carter," a decent movie featuring a surprisingly hard-assed Michael Caine? Now we get hardbody Sylvester Stallone in a movie that's pretty soft.

Stallone is a Vegas enforcer who goes back to his hometown of Seattle after his brother dies. He wants to find out whodunit, and that leads him to a cast of unsavory characters played by Mickey Rourke, Alan Cumming, Rhona Mitra and ... wait for it ... Michael Caine! I can't believe it. He's usually so picky about his roles.

Also in the picture are Stallone's enforcer pal John C. McGinley, his sister-in-law Miranda Richardson and niece Rachael Leigh Cook, looking a lot worse than when she was supposed to be a geek in "She's All That." (Never saw the movie, just the trailer. Swear.) Stallone stalks around, roughing up people to get answers. But, lo, he's also tender enough to have a heart-to-heart with his niece. Awww.

Not that I was down with the movie to that point, but Sly's hamhanded attempt at touchy-feely, juxtaposed with his "grrr, I'm mean" schtick, pretty much finished me off. If you can stand the British accents, stick with the original, which was back when Caine still had something resembling a soul.

Ooohh, a space vegetable man ... scary!: "The Thing from Another World"

I had seen this movie listed as one of the great early horror/sci-fi movies but never buckled down to watch it. What it offers in brevity -- not even 90 minutes -- it takes away in being just a tad dated. Go figure, considering it's 56 years old.

The story is simple: scientists and military types at an Arctic outpost come across something buried in the ice. They bring it back to the base but -- dammit! -- it melts, with the thawed creature wreaking havoc. I hate it when that happens.

Ironically, the most familiar name in this cast is the guy decked out in alien garb, James "Gunsmoke" Arness. We never get a great look at the creature, which is just a big dude in a jumpsuit. Rather, the themes here are science and the conflict between those who would kill an alien and those who want to study it. Deep, perhaps, but I'll stick with watching Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley slog through the snow in the remake.

Pall in the family: "Little Miss Sunshine"

Won't spend too much time here since I sang this movie's praises when it came out. Caught it again on HBO, and it was just as funny the second time around.

The plot is simple: Dysfunctional family treks from New Mexico to California so the little girl can be in a beauty pageant. But when you've got a group of misfits like this, well ... you know ... hijinks ensue.

My favorite parts: grandpa Alan Arkin advising his grandson on sex and drugs, the two scenes involving dirty magazines and -- you guessed it -- the penultimate scene with the little girl doing her thing at the pageant. Still think that was genius.

Caroline in the Spin City: "Back to the Future"

Not sure how it happened, but My Eternal Radiance and I just came to watch this not long ago after stumbling across it on HBO. Well, she fell asleep, but I rode it out. Wasn't hard. Good movie.

As we all know, Michael J. Fox is Marty McFly, son of doofus parents and friend of eccentric scientist. When Marty accidentally goes back in time some 30 years, he meets his parents and then has to fix the history he messed up before he can go ... back ... to the future! (Dum-dum-DUM!!!)

Like I said, you know it, you love it. Really, I was almost surprised at how easy this was to watch given what everyone involved has been through since 1985. We never see Fox anymore because of his illness. Crispin Glover -- also excellent in "River's Edge" -- went off the edge and has only sort of come back. Lea Thompson went from supercutie -- nude scene in "All the Right Moves!" -- to annoying in that sitcom to ... well, I don't know. Then there's Christopher Lloyd, now pushing 70 but still playing Doc Brown in those DirecTV commercials. Way to branch out there, doc.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Huston, we have a problem: "Prizzi's Honor"

This movie has intrigued me since it became something of a surprise hit more than 20 years ago. After seeing it, I'm still intrigued ... by how so many people thought this was actually good.

Our story has Jack Nicholson ("Mars Attacks!") as a Mafia hitman who falls for a wedding guest who turns out to be a hitwoman, played by Kathleen Turner ("V.I. Warshawski"). Anjelica Huston is the daughter of one of Nicholson's associates, Robert Loggia is yet another associate and William Hickey -- the ghostly guy who chants "You want it, you got it ... Toyota" in "Forget Paris" -- is the Mafia don. Did I say "ghostly?" The old guy is practically transparent.

A lot of colorful characters, yes? A kooky plot -- hitman and hitwoman hook up, hijinks ensue -- yes? Loggia grabbing a girl's butt in an elevator, yes? So how can this go so wrong? I blame my bad timing, although that explains only so much.

Here's the deal: When director John Huston did "Prizzi's Honor," it was well after the first two "Godfather" movies and "Mean Streets," the great mob movies of the 1970s. It also was before "Goodfellas" and "Casino," the most well-known mob movies of the 1990s. (I maintain that "Casino" is a bit overrated.) It also was almost 15 years before "The Sopranos" showed up and lent a whole new dimension to la famiglia.

So what? So this: Critics liked "Prizzi's Honor" because it had been a good decade since there was bigtime mob movie, and the whole quirky angle was fresh. Never mind that Nicholson's accent made me fall out of my chair laughing -- and not in a good way -- or Hickey's don was a nutty caricature, or the turn toward the serious at the end pretty much undid the lame attempts at satire. Given the good mob stuff we've seen in the last 20 years, "Prizzi's" doesn't hold up well at all. And it's too damn long, too.

When I think of it, I'm not sure the movie would have been that good had I seen it in '85. The dialogue is too hammy -- "Do I ice her? Do I marry her?" -- and none of the performances struck me as anything great, even Anjelica Huston's Oscar-winning role. Really, how did this end up bagging eight nominations, including acting ones for Nicholson and Hickey, as well as best director and picture? Did John Huston have naked pictures of someone's sister ... or daughter ... or sister ... or daughter?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

So this isn't a documentary on public housing? Drag: "Hud"

There was a time that the other Ol' Blue Eyes, Paul Newman, seemed to make movies that only started with "H" -- to wit, "Hud," Harper" and "Hombre," not to mention "(The) Hustler" and "(Cool) Hand Luke." Normally that might seem gimmicky. The problem with that theory is that most of these movies were damn good.

While I had seem "Luke" several times and "Hustler" and "Harper" once and enjoyed all of them, "Hud" had escaped me. Sure, it kept popping up on TCM, and I recorded it more than once, only to watch it vanish as other movies slipped into the queue. On this last go-around, I recorded "Hud" way back in September, meaning it had been in my house longer than my daughter. While not quite at running-joke status whenever my wife and I talked about what to watch, it was close. Until this weekend, when I finally buckled down and knocked it out.

It was worth the wait.

Our story revolves around three generations of cattle ranchers: aging patriarch Homer (Melvyn "No 'i,' dammit!" Douglas), his rebellious son Hud (Newman) and grandson Lonnie (Brandon "Hey, the kid from 'Shane!'" de Wilde). Lonnie isn't Hud's son, though, but his nephew, and you soon get the sense that his dad's death wasn't natural causes. It's also not hard to see that while Lonnie idolizes Hud, Homer sure doesn't think much of him, stoic as Homer tries to be.

In the middle of this family fun is the housekeeper, Alma (Patricia "Klaatu, barada, nikto" Neal), who's had troubles of her own but mostly just gets along these days. As for her and Hud, well, I haven't seen this much sexual tension since Crockett and Tubbs hopped into Sonny's Ferrari and zoomed through the streets of Miami in the dead of night. (You know, when there was something in the air tonight ... oh Lord ... )

While the plot has another conflict -- Homer's got bad cattle that may have to be put down -- the real story is how far Hud will go with his reckless ways, and how far Lonnie will follow him. Newman may be a pretty boy, but he tears into the role, playing the scoundrel to the hilt.

The other three leads almost match him. Douglas is the old, honorable man wondering how he got stuck with a son like Hud. De Wilde is better here than in "Shane," which everyone raves about for some reason. He's about perfect as the callow youth who wants to honor his grandpa but can't help wanting to be like his uncle. Neal gets a little less screen time, but she makes the most of it with her dance with Hud. Consider this exchange when Alma is talking about her ex-husband:

Alma: Only thing he was ever good for was to scratch my back where I couldn't reach it.
Hud: You still got that itch?
Alma: Off and on.
Hud: Well, let me know when it gets to bothering you.

Oh my. Of course, none of this ends well, which is another good thing about "Hud." Might be worth mentioning here that the movie is based on a Larry McMurtry novel, and it definitely looks it. The dusty town, the Western wear, everyone moseying everywhere. Felt a lot like "The Last Picture Show," and it was kind of neat compared with "Luke," which was in color, and "Hustler," where most of the action takes place inside. Still, I'm not sure if I'd place this one above those, especially "Luke," which I can always watch. No offense, Alma, but you're no Lucille.

No, no, no ...

It's pencil-NECK geek.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

For those of you who thought "Rambo" was too cerebral and nuanced: "Missing in Action"

Seriously, I knew this was going to be laughable compared to "The Deer Hunter" and "Platoon." I wouldn't have guessed that it made the same-era movie featuring Sly Stallone seem like a thoughtful treatise on American-Asian relations.

I had seen both "First Blood" and "Rambo: First Blood, Part II" when I was a teen, but somehow I missed another fine film from the Reagan era, "Missing in Action," starring the legendary Chuck Norris. That was a shame, since Stallone and Norris together inspired one of the funnier "Saturday Night Live" skits from the '80s: "Die, Foreigner, Die!" As two musclebound guys -- shown from the chest down -- empty machine guns, an announcer tells of how they're wiping out every non-American, including "Red Chinese ... no, make that ALL Chinese!" and "Indians (Both kinds!)" Yeah, Indians are Americans, too, but who's counting?

Anyway, before we get to the rip job ... I mean, review ... a couple of disclosures:

1. I remember seeing this a couple of years ago, and it's still funny:

2. I will defend to my death the guilty-pleasure value of "Lone Wolf McQuade," easily my favorite Chuck Norris movie. From the sight of Norris, six-pack in hand, driving his Bronco out from where it was buried to villian David Carradine delivering the classic line, "Welcome to my hacienda, Mr. McQuade" just before they throw down, it's priceless schlock all the way. Love it.

That said, "Missing in Action" -- even with a generous benefit of the doubt -- blows. And no, it's not so bad it's good. Nope. Not at all.

Our story follows a former Vietnam POW (guess who) as he returns to 'Nam, where he's convinced some MIAs are still being held by former VC. You'd think they're SOL, but Chuck is on the case ASAP with plans to get the prisoners out PDQ. OK?

It's a simple plot, which makes sense considering its one of those great Golan-Globus movies. Honestly, I don't know who Golan or Globus is, but they made a lot of cheesy '80s movies, i.e. "Death Wish 2," "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo" and, yep, "Missing in Action 2." Oh, and get a load of this tidbit on "MIA" from IMDB: "Filmed together with 'Missing In Action 2,' this film was supposed to be the sequel. However, when the producers realized this film was the better of the two, they simply renamed them and made the other film a prequel to this." Wait, "the better of the two?" Whoa.

Norris does the whole stoic/tough/badass thing, but even if he was a huge martial arts champion, the fair hair and fuzzy face just don't seem that intimidating. Also -- and it pains me to say this -- the movie is kind of boring. Really. It mostly pokes along, and even the car chases and bang-bang aren't that great. I mean, we know not to expect Chuck to channel Brando, but at least keep things moving along here.

Even the presence of M. Emmet Walsh and classic "That (Asian) Guy" James Hong don't help. I'll probably take away from this exactly one scene that I vaguely remember seeing in a clip before I saw the actual movie: Norris, thrown from a boat, bursting through the surface of the water with machine gun at the ready to take down the bad guys. Otherwise, when it comes to haunted Vietnam vets, give me a mumbling Sly any day.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sucking a$$: "Pushing Tin"

It's times like these that make me think second chances are for sh!t.

I saw "Pushing Tin" several years ago and thought, "You know, that wasn't very good." Alas, I never could shake that I liked the idea of the movie: a look at how air traffic controllers can be messed up people. So it was that I gave it another shot when stumbling across it on cable recently. Boy, was that dumb.

Our story centers around how the king of controllers (John "One Crazy Summer" Cusack) is thrown off-kilter by the arrival of a new hotshot (Billy Bob "For the Boys" Thornton). Cusack thinks he's the sh!t, but Billy Bob (a) doesn't care and (b) really is the sh!t. Oh, and his wife (Angelina "Cyborg 2" Jolie) is hot.

That's about it, and we get familiar faces among the other controllers: Kurt Fuller, Jake Weber, Vicki Lewis, Matt Ross. I know, the names don't mean much, but you've seen these people, and they're mildly amusing here. However, other than poor Cate Blanchett, the leads are not.

Blanchett does her best -- affecting yet another accent, working to show genuine emotion. It's far from her best work, but it's something. Cusack, Thornton and Jolie, though, are wasted. Wait ... that's not the right word. Each of them might have been able to do more with this. As it is, they're just annoying. Really annoying.

Cusack is something of an acquired taste in the best of situations. I like him, but I also recognize that he overdoes it some times, i.e. he can't shut up. This may be the movie in which I hated him the most, and I saw both "Serendipity" and "Must Love Dogs." (Damn, did I misplace my penis again?)

Thornton is slightly better but pretty much sleepwalks through "Tin." I know his character is supposed to be aloof and cool, but I just got a dipsh!t vibe. Worse, his whole schtick comes undone when he sort of does a 180 late in the movie, admitting that he does care. Way to stick to your guns, sling blade.

As you may know, this is where he met Jolie, starting the whole "wearing blood around our necks" thing. Family fun at its finest. Jolie not only doesn't get much to do here, but she doesn't even look all that great -- bad hair, lips even puffier than usual. Even the obligatory boob shot didn't do much for me. Of course, I hit rewind and watched it a few more times -- you know, just to make sure.