Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In Which We Learn Some Self Restraint

So the goal is to write up three movies in the same amount of space I took to write about YOJIMBO. Shouldn't be too hard, especially since the three movies ranged in quality from crap to "pretty good." And instead of taking 100 still for each movie, I'll settle for a single image per movie. Not counting the poster (which I skipped for YOJIMBO - whoops!).

Okay...here goes:

CRANK (2006)

I don't get it. I like Jason Statham. He's got an easy charisma that I think translates well on screen. A big part of why I enjoyed LOCK STOCK... and SNATCH was his presence on screen (haven't seen REVOLVER, but it looked okay), and for what it was, I thought THE TRANSPORTER was a hoot and a half. But the rest? Grade-A Prime Crap. And CRANK doesn't do much to redeem him. A remake of DOA as done by people who apparently spend way too much time watching MTV and SCARFACE, Statham plays a hitman who wakes up to find he's been injected with a "Chinese cocktail" that by all rights should have him dead within minutes.

His only hope? To "crank" himself up - keeping his adrenaline going in an attempt to counteract the poison that's coursing through his system. To do this he snorts cocaine, runs non-stop, screams, plunges a hypodermic filled with an overdoes of epinephrine, and inhales bottle after bottle of nose spray. He's going to die - he knows it, but of course he can't die until he kills the stereotypical Latino gangbanger responsible. I'm all for a great action flick, but the performances by the bad guys was so over the top and so cliche I thought I was watching someone play GRAND THEFT AUTO, except I think that had a better story.

Just plain bad. Only two redeeming features: Statham is once again decent, and he and Amy Smart engage in one of the funniest sex scenes since THE TALL GUY. Decorum prevents me from going into too much detail, but it involves among other things a mailbox, a busload of Asian school girls, and a raucous crowd:


OFFICE SPACE is one of those movies that grow on you over time. There's so many little things to catch each time you see it, and every subsequent viewing is in turn funnier and funnier. IDIOCRACY is filled with so many great ideas that it suffers from not knowing what it really wants to be. Luke Wilson, about as funny and likable as I've ever seen him, plays Joe Bowers, working as a librarian for the US Army when, because of his being average in every conceivable way, is signed up for a secret government hibernation experiment. Things go awry, and Joe wakes up (along with his partner, a hooker played by Maya Rudolph) 500 years later to a world dumbed down so much by TV and rampant commercialism he literally becomes the smartest guy on the planet.

The beginning is absolutely hysterical, as a narrator calmly demonstrates why "evolution doesn't necessarily reward intelligence" with illustrated family trees and a family that shows why sterilization may not always be a bad thing. There's a running gag that begins with an army colonel's obsession with the life of a pimp that starts okay and then slowly becomes brilliant. When Joe wakes up in future, the narration briefly continues - his attempts to speak (in perfect English) are received by the dumbed down populace as "pompous and faggy." Unfortunately soon after the movie becomes confused as to whether it wants to be a slapstick comedy or a biting satire, and as a result feels more diluted as the movie progresses (supposedly there was a lot of studio interference). There are still some fun moments here and there, and a couple quips and gags that are great (water is replaced by Gatorade, Costco is larger than New York City), but IDIOCRACY soon falls prey to the mass commercialism and mindless routine Mike Judge has skewered for so long.


If nothing else, watching THE U.S. VS. JOHN LENNON will probably make you want to listen to John Lennon records. If forgot how great he was after the Beatles, this will remind you. The documentary, presented by VH1 with the full cooperation of Yoko Ono means that the film will skirt over anything remotely controversial regarding the most famous Beatle, but you can argue that that's not what the documentary was about, anyway.

What it is about is the life of Lennon as a political activist, and the trials and tribulations he suffers at the hands of the evil Nixon Administration. Vietnam looms as a spectre throughout the film, and Lennon is shown as an ethereal space child, expounding on his theories of "Give Peace a Chance" while hanging out with Bobby Seale and Abbie Hoffman. His relationship with Ono figures heavily in the film, and I came away (although I imagine this was the idea) feeling that they really were of two like minds, as pure and committed to peace as they could be in a country that was constantly trying to deport them. G. Gordon Liddy comes off particularly nasty and evil, and the sections dealing with Middle America burning their Beatles records after the whole "bigger than Jesus Christ" thing is scary even almost 50 years later.

No documentary on Lennon would be complete without dealing with his murder. When THE U.S. VS. JOHN LENNON does get to it, it does it a way that completely shocks you and wakes you up from whatever complacency you might have fallen into during the course of the film. At the end I came away feeling like the world truly lost not only a great musician, but perhaps even more a warm, funny, human being and an agent for true change through love and peace.

Still sounds like a nice idea to me.

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