Monday, September 14, 2009

R.I.P. Dalton

Yeah, I'm torn. Do I remember Patrick Swayze more as the legendary cooler who tamed the Double Deuce? Or will he always be Jed, a man among boys as the Russkies invaded the Rockies?

Either way, we mourn a key actor for the thiry- and fortysomething set. Say what you will about some of his stinkers in the '90s and '00s. For a seven -year period from 1984 to 1991, Mr. Swayze was pretty solid, with the rare distinction of making both men *and* women swoon. Check it:

1984, "Red Dawn": An ensemble, true. But Swayze brought the pained leader face to the fore, getting uglier as the war went on. By the time Powers Boothe showed up, oh, it was ON.

1987, "Dirty Dancing": Or "The Movie That Chicks Still Get Misty-Eyed About." Despite Swayze's ill-advised foray into singing, you can't deny that he made the ladies weak in the knees. And other places. But I forget ... who don't we put in the corner?

1989, "Road House": I submit that despite this movie's flaws -- and there are many -- it's un-American to hate it. If this isn't a guilty pleasure, I don't know what is. And remember ... pain don't hurt.

1990, "Ghost": Actually not too bad for a love story, although the pottery scene is a bit much. OK, a lot much. But again, the ladies loved it.

1991, "Point Break": Laughable in so many respects but another guilty pleasure between Swayze's Buddhist schtick and Keanu's wooden acting. (Not to insult wood, mind you.) And admit it ... aren't you impressed with Swayze's range with all these roles by this point?

And the above list doesn't even include "Next of Kin," another guilty pleasure that doesn't get near the recognition it deserves. (Why, yes, that IS Liam Neeson as his brother and Ben Stiller as a mob guy ... ) Heck, I even watched a few episodes of "The Beast," his recent crime drama. Not bad.

Yes, I'll miss Mr. Swayze. Not sure what I'll do now. Wait a minute. Oh yeah ... there's always barber college.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A little vanilla: "Extract"

Yeah, that may be a Top 5 blog post title. Not as good as "Homo on the range" for "Brokeback Mountain," but on par with "I, pod" for "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Enough self-love? Let's move on then ...

I was pumped for this comedy for two reasons: (1) It's the latest from Mike Judge and seemed to share a few traits with his classic "Office Space," including a worn-down Everyman hero in ... (2) Jason Bateman. As I told my dad the other night, the former Derek from "Silver Spoons" is knocking on the door of Paul Rudd territory. Yes, I probably should sit down.

No, really ... I like Bateman in just about everything these days, following his stellar turn in "Arrested Development." For instance, dogs such as "Starsky and Hutch," "The Break-Up" and "Smokin' Aces" would have been a lot worse without his bit parts. If it's not a full-on man crush, then I'm definitely flirting with JB.

Our story: Bateman owns a food-flavoring company somewhere in middle America. There are some jokers at work, his wife isn't putting out and his best friend is a loser bartender who thinks drugs are the answer to anything. In short, our hero isn't so happy. A chance for rescue emerges, but is put in jeopardy by a workplace injury and the arrival of a smoking-hot con woman. What to do, what to do ... . well, beyond hire someone to screw your wife, and then go get high.

While the trailer made this out to be a relatively straightforward comedy about hijinks in this guy's work and home lives, the plot is a little more muddled than that, and I don't think it ever really came together. Actually, I found it to be too wandering and unfocused. Sure, there's the plight of Bateman at the center. But what does he really want, and which of these rambling tangents are the real story?

We're not lacking for talent. Kristen Wiig is Bateman's wife, but her manic talents aren't utilized here. If anything, I got a Jennifer Anniston vibe from her, and that's not a testament to acting chops. Mila Kunis is the con woman, and she's hot, of course. But aside from the opening scene, she's not unleashed, either, certainly not to the degree of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

Among the fellas, Ben Affleck -- bearded, with shaggy hair -- is the bartender friend, and he may be the best thing here. Don't get carried away, though. We're just talking a few chuckles. The incomparable J.K. Simmons does his thing as Bateman's second-in-command at the plant, while Clifton Collins Jr. is the redneck who gets hurt. Then there's David "Champ Here!" Koechner as Bateman's annoying neighbor. He's pretty funny, but not enough to elevate the whole.

Yeah, I really was surprised at how little I ended up laughing throughout "Extract." There were some decent scenes, but they weren't frequent. It wasn't a bad movie, mind you, just disappointing, with a finale that may not have been a neat little package but still wasn't anything daring or hilarious. Even a Gene Simmons appearance couldn't save the day. Not that his hair isn't terrifying. If only they could extract that from the movie. (Thank you! I'll be here all week. Try the veal.)