Sunday, January 31, 2010

MOON - A SPOILER-FREE, BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


MOON - A SPOILER-FREE, BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


MOON dropped last year and was an exclusive fanboy favorite for those “in the know” and those lucky enough to catch a screening. For those that weren’t so lucky, it is now on DVD for the consumption of the masses. This movie is a hard lesson on cynicism at the corporate level with a realistic, painfully human core. The story will grip you, but the slower pace of the film might alienate a lot of the film’s potential audience.

However the thoughtful, time-consuming pace of MOON actually helps cement its foot into the classic 60s and 70s sci-fi mold. Long, quiet moments in classic science fiction movies like SILENT RUNNING, 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, and television’s SPACE 1999 have always hinted at the spirit-breaking loneliness that people at remote space stations might experience.

MOON’s sets have that sterile white, traditional futuristic feel. The film is definitely lower-budget, but don’t let that distract you. MOON uses its claustrophobic sets to its advantage and tricks them out. Fuzzy dice even hang in the cockpit of one of the moon rovers. And Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of a miner on the moon named Sam Bell is nothing short of astonishing.

Those that are familiar with his work might think Rockwell would be out of his range with this role as a completely spiritually lost man on the moon. The two roles that he has done that stick out the most are his starring roles in CHOKE and as Chuck Barris in CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND. He does sleazy quirkiness convincingly, so well, in fact, that when he really starts to act in MOON, one can’t help but notice his evolution as an actor. He takes on a heavy, heavy load in this film and gets to present his character in varying levels of stress, managing to deliver a performance with different, complicated facets that all spring from the core of this Sam Bell character he is playing.

This film is set in a future in which all of the energy issues are solved by a product known as Helium-3, an energy source that is harvested on the moon. Sam Bell has signed on for a three-year shift on the dark side of the moon. His job is to monitor the harvesting process and send small courier ships back to Earth with the Helium-3 payload.

It is apparent immediately that there is something wrong with Sam. He eats his breakfast beans served in clear plastic packets and drinks his coffee, but he has stomach problems. Physically he looks sickly and off. Psychologically he is getting a bit frayed around the edges and is starting to hallucinate and talk to himself.

Still Sam continues to maintain the ominous, moon-dust spitting Helium-3 harvesters named Matthew, Mark and Luke. He only has two weeks left of this gig, and then he can get back to his wife and daughter on Earth. The information that Sam receives from his wife and from Lunar Industries’ corporate desk are all recordings. Sam is the only human on the moon at a base known as the “Sarang.” Adding to the stress is the lack of live contact with Earth. The live link has been on the fritz for as long as Sam has been on the moon.

Maintaining a level of sterile sanity in this film is the voice of Kevin Spacey for “Gerty.” Gerty watches over Sam like some sort of strange mechanical angel while monitoring the Helium-3 harvesting. Unlike 2001’s HAL, Gerty is genuinely concerned for Sam‘s welfare. Flashing various emoticons across its screen in order to convey its frame of mind, this robot negotiates the position of complex caregiver and small-talk companion. Gerty also knows about the inhumane corporate practices Lunar Industries employs to keep the moon base operable. Sam just needs to ask the right questions. Gerty, while definitely on Sam’s side, cites limited knowledge on what goes on outside of the base.

The movie turns when Sam wrecks his moon rover and wakes up in the infirmary under Gerty’s care. The wreck takes its toll on him, but the undefined sickness that Sam has been experiencing produces symptoms far worse than those caused by the slight rover accident. There are numerous scenes in which Sam spits blood, and for some reason his teeth are falling out. During this time we also see Sam in what seems to be top physical condition. Sam is both broken and fresh. As we learn more and more about Sam’s predicament, he does too.

MOON manages to show how much the corporation’s greed and focus on the bottom line play into the way it treats its employees. When Sam realizes exactly how expendable he really is, the revelation is akin to a nightmare that he can’t wake up from. Gerty manages to keep a level head in all of this, consoling Sam and ultimately explaining to him who he is and how he really fits into Lunar Industries’ moon-mining plan.

Paranoia mounts as Sam tries to find a way to contact Earth. When he learns that his signals are being deliberately jammed, he doubles his efforts. What Sam finds out directly before making his Earth contact and how he solves his numerous problems all make for some brilliant, heartbreaking storytelling. Sam has found himself in the center of a personal hell that his employers at Lunar Industries deliberately dropped him into. There is also a repair crew that is on their way, but these guys look more like a scruffy hit-squad than mechanics.

MOON is mostly about lost connections. It is also about the human urge to make such connections while being stymied by greedy men playing God. This film has captured the Zeitgeist of today, angst concerning the amorality of powerful corporations. The value of human life and how it could be completely discounted is also explored to a horrific, cynical conclusion. There is a shred of hope however, and the shred of hope saves this film from becoming the biggest bummer you will ever experience. The third act lags almost a half-hour too long, but MOON manages to leave its viewers with several dark and wonderful concepts to process.

-Mediasaurus Rex





Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BLACKING UP - A BADASS DOCUMENTARY REVIEW



BLACKING UP – A BADASS DOCUMENTARY REVIEW

BLACKING UP- HIP-HOP’S REMIX OF RACE AND IDENTITY is a hard hitting, hour-long documentary that asks the questions about America and more specifically, hip-hop that need to be asked. What is up with these white kids who think that they are black? Do they really think that they are black? Are rappers like Vanilla Ice and Eminem following the steps of Al Jolson, and deeper still, what the hell was Al Jolson doing anyway?

Robert A. Clift, the narrator/director of this ambitious documentary, successfully takes a serious chunk out of this subject matter and serves it up coherently. The topic is charged with deep emotion and conflict. Clift manages to present multiple aspects of the argument with an historical background, and he doesn’t shy away from the questions immediately at hand.

The documentary starts with a freestyle rap battle in Bloomington Indiana in front of the Alpha Phi Omega house at Indiana University. A young, white rapper named Automattic takes a series of racially inflammatory raps to the face regarding the notion that he shouldn’t be rapping because he is white. Directly after the assault, he nervously looks into the camera and says, “It ain’t nothing man. I forgot I was white.” Automattic then proceeds to deliver his rebuttal, charged with a slightly above average series of profanity-laced, crypto-homophobic rhymes. Clift’s voiceover then asks the question, “is this is the face of new racial understanding in white America, transcending racial stereotypes, or is it reinforcing an ugly history mimicking a degraded idea of what it means to be black?”

This is a question that really can’t be answered in a documentary no matter how long it is. The truth of homage vs. mockery with these white kids rapping boils down to individuals and their individual experiences. Comedian Paul Mooney sums up the idea of white people acting like they are black (or “blacking up”) as something that will go away if he “has a rope and a posse and starts hanging niggers again, and we’ll find out who’s white and who’s black.”

There is truth to Mooney’s stance, but there is also truth to the fact that some of these white rappers do indeed love and respect the music and the culture. Shouldn’t they be allowed such freedom of expression? BLACKING UP interrogates the racial boxes in which we find ourselves deposited.

It looks into how hip-hop has influenced dance routines at a typical white high school dance squad in southern Indiana. The responses of the girls in this troupe to interview questions are interesting and speak to the mainstreaming of hip-hop culture within white society. Their routines are accepted and not considered as something racially specific or even a part of some sort of negritude. The boundaries of hip-hop have broadened to a point where aspects of it are unremarkable within mainstream white society. However, Clift juxtaposes this with the high school experience of Andrea Van Winkle, another Indianan, in which she was referred to as a “nigger-lover” because of her baggy clothes and braided hair.

Potential questions regarding this subject matter are literally endless. Clift pushes hard for the truth. He even zeroes in on all-white rap parody bands like the offensively silly CRACKD OWT and the over-blinged TOO WHITE CREW in attempts to determine the line between minstrel show mockery and imitation as the highest form of flattery.

In regards to minstrelsy, a good portion of the documentary is dedicated to Al Jolson (the white actor who has been immortalized singing, “Mammy” in blackface). Modern white fans of Jolson’s work are interviewed and scrutinized. Are they closet-racists? Or are they people who actually appreciate the music sans its heavy racial overtones? Blackface performance is queried and examined. It is even posited that Jolson loved the black culture and didn’t find his proper voice until he was painted up to look like a black man. But like most of the subjects tackled, Jolson isn’t easily dismissed or completely defined. There are opinions in regards to the subject matter though, and Clift has secured some respectable voices to present their different takes on this social conundrum.

Clift lands screentime with the poet Amiri Baraka, the rapper Chuck D (PUBLIC ENEMY), Russell Simmons (co-founder of Def Jam Records), and Greg Tate (a gifted staff-writer for THE VILLAGE VOICE). In order to completely drive this controversial subject matter home, he even presents a rather ebullient Robert Van Winkle (aka Vanilla Ice) who speaks about his career and what it all meant.

BLACKING UP is more of a musing and meditation than a definitive, absolute answer to a complex question. Should white people “pay your dues” as Paul Mooney suggests? Or should they be free to sample and adopt whatever culture they see because as the dreadlocked white girls from the dancehall flavored rap group EMPIRE ISIS argue, they have the right to self-definition.

A striking note of the complex bassline of BLACKING UP is the use of the word “wigger” which means “white nigger.” The reactions of many people are recorded, and it is fascinating to see how such a word has penetrated our language and the power that it wields.

BLACKING UP is a powerful documentary that will force you to think. It doesn’t present an answer because in truth, there is no absolute answer. This is America, a smorgasbord of cultures interacting with each other daily. This film takes a significant part of the modern American experience and asks it some hard questions. It is some truly bold, must-see viewing.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Monday, January 25, 2010

TRIANGLE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


TRIANGLE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Herb West over at MyMavra.com told me quite some time ago to watch TRIANGLE. The film played at the 2009 FRIGHTFEST in London and got a lot of respect. I, however, felt no inspiration to see it whatsoever. Who names a movie after a three-sided shape you learn to draw before kindergarten? So I sat on it. When I got my hands on the screener, I sat some more. I did a little legwork and found out that it is a British horror film set somewhere in the ocean. The last time I’d seen one of those it was the horrible DONKEY PUNCH. Needless to say, the film had accumulated a patina of dust by the time Herb gave me the forceful prod to “just get it over with,” and I have come away from it more than impressed.

The most interesting thing about TRIANGLE is that it is damn near impossible to write a spoiler-free review. The film is one big spider web, and each filament leads to a serious spoiler. I can reference things that happen in the film, but they are so close to the main spoilable idea that I have had to really collect myself before presenting this review. That I can barely even talk about this movie without spoiling it is really a tribute to writer/director Christopher Smith.

TRIANGLE doesn’t quite have the traditional third act unveiling of what is going on plot wise. It is more like Tarantino’s Frankenstein patchwork plot style and places massive hints before your face immediately. They aren’t enough to pull it together though; the major pieces that will snap the tumblers in place come later.

The body count in this film rises to ridiculous proportions. When the amount of murder that is underway is exposed, it is mind-boggling. However, this isn’t quite a horror film. Human beings are indeed dispatched in vicious, painful ways, but questions regarding the storyline overshadow the spattered blood. Intrigued?

TRIANGLE seems to false-start with Jess (Melissa George) consoling her autistic son Tommy (Josh McIvor) after he has had a bad dream. This film is no “then I woke up from my dream” trash though. TRIANGLE is a ride through the TWILIGHT ZONE that defies you to watch it once. As more characters are introduced and potential interpersonal issues are displayed, this film demands all of your attention.

The story of TRIANGLE really starts with a group of people getting onto a sailboat named the Triangle and owned by Greg (Michael Dorman). Downey (Henry Nixon) and his wife, Sally (Rachael Carpani) have brought a friend, Heather (Emma Lung), along with matchmaking hopes for Greg. Greg is much more interested in his other guest Jess (Melissa George) who seems to be distracted. And Heather actually takes more of an interest in the other single male on board named Victor (Liam Hemsworth). These five sail off into the sunlight.

Marketing for TRIANGLE is such that it comes as no surprise when the ship is wrecked by a strange-behaving storm. A freightliner named the Aeolus and its sketchy crew comes to the rescue, and this is where the editing, direction, and scripting all work on the audience, forcing it to the edge of its collective seat.

When Downey and Sally inexplicably know key information in advance, it feels like an editing error or a hole in the plot. But actually, it is some great editing close to MEMENTO status. TRIANGLE presents the characters’ perspectives, revealing them piece by piece. It hooks your eyeballs and pulls you along.

With nods to THE SHINING, THE PRESTIGE, and an antagonist sporting a sackcloth mask reminiscent of last year’s abysmal THE STRANGERS or even more subtly, LOS CRONOCRIMENES, the creep factor redlines and maintains itself until the very end of the film.

The solution presented at the end of the film hits the “so crazy it just might work” bullseye bluntly. TRIANGLE is an amusing step onto the storytelling landscape that Christopher Nolan has been training us to comprehend for years now. This film is something fresh for a genre that is awash with socially inept basement killers and sadistic sub-humans with journeyman butchering skills. I should have gotten to this thing a lot sooner.

*TRIANGLE will be on DVD Feb 2*

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

THE BOOK OF ELI - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




THE BOOK OF ELI - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
By: THE MAD HATTER

Looking around the blogosphere, I'm about to stand squarely in the minority and try to convince you all that BOOK OF ELI is a good movie. Maybe I think it's good because I expected it to suck. Or maybe it's because I like how it gives its action a moment or two of thoughtfulness. It's both, actually, and more that makes me one of the few who will try to convince you that this latest Denzel ass-kicker is worth your time and money.

Eli (Denzel Washington) used to be a K-Mart greeter. Yes, really. That was before the apocalypse. Nowadays he wanders what's left of America, "heading west," he says, with a scary looking knife, some expensive-ass earbuds, and a large book in his bag. He is seldom shaken from his quest; in fact he has been known to kill people trying to keep him from staying on the path. He does, however, decide to stop in a human settlement when his iPod needs recharging. Yes, really.

The camp is run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a gangster who holds sway over all the townspeople's comings and goings since he controls the water. Carnegie is obsessed with finding a book. Which book? We're not quite sure. When Eli gets into a skirmish with fifteen of his thugs and comes out on top, Carnegie immediately wants Eli working for him. Too bad Eli has no interest in being under Carnegie's employ. Carnegie decides he might get further using his kept woman, Claudia (Jennifer Beals), or rather using her daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis).

This is a great move since Solara disarms Eli just enough to find out more about the large books he's hiding, one of which is a bible—exactly the book that Carnegie has been looking for. Carnegie makes his move to forcibly take it, but Eli seems to have a particular gift for protecting it, so much so that he often seems unkillable. Yes, really.


Before I go on, I should say that the movie takes a turn in its final act. Your enjoyment of the film depends entirely on whether or not you want to take that turn with it. I went with the trick even though I don't think it completely adds up. The plot device didn't bother me nearly as much as Denzel's pearly white teeth did. It’s post-apocalyptic America. You mean to tell me he's still happening upon Crest White Strips?

Surprisingly, THE BOOK OF ELI is pretty good . . . not great but pretty good. Going past the action which is fun without being excessive, the movie is particularly interested in telling us a story. It's a story that wants us to think about the role religion plays in our world's events. After all, religion has been the cause of some of the worst atrocities committed by human beings, and at the same time, religion has been a guiding light when humanity has had seemingly nothing left. Both sides of this paradox get their due in this movie, and they have their moment without being corny or preachy. Not an easy trick for an action film to turn!

Another detail that I liked about the movie is its brief nod towards how disposable and materialistic our society has become. During a quiet moment, Solara asks Eli about "the world before," and all Eli can answer with is how much mankind owned that they truly did not need. Conversely, he points out, we were wasteful. We would constantly throw away items that people now kill for. I can't help but gravitate towards this subtle warning. I mean if the bomb were to drop somewhere right now, what would be more valuable: the computer I'm writing this blog on or the tube of Chapstick sitting on the desk with it? BOOK OF ELI gives this sort of question its due—not the sort of philosophy you'd expect to get in a shoot-em-up.

These details are what I think make the film worthwhile. It strikes a delicate balance between style and statement, and it really didn't have to. It very easily could have played to its built-in audience of Denzel/action fans, taken its box office, and called it a day. But this sort of movie working a few substantial ideas into the script and trying to give its audience something to take away is rare and indeed, something special.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

SMOKIN' ACES 2: ASSASSIN'S BALL - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




SMOKIN ACES ASSASSIN’S BALL – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

The original SMOKIN’ ACES is one of those crass movies that sneaks up on you and forces you to like it. The characters are all well-developed, and Joe Carnahan’s frenetic direction really makes that film work. But when it ends, there is no room for a sequel. Most of the characters have been killed or are considering a new line of work. So the only direction in which to build another story out of the SMOKIN’ ACES foundation would be to go prequel. But that doesn’t work either.

SMOKIN’ ACES 2: ASSASSIN’S BALL (SA2AB) is a horribly clunky, straight-to-DVD prequel that fails in its attempt to coast off of the first film. Directed by PJ Pesce, the asshat who directed LOST BOYS 2: THE TRIBE and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER, one should expect SA2AB to be nothing but a crippled film at best.

The plot is a boiler-plate, illegitimate mockery of the original SMOKIN’ ACES (SA1) right down to its last scene. FBI agents have been called to protect someone, and a bunch of psychotic assassins are closing in on that target. Everyone dies, and those that don’t are scarred either physically or mentally. Even such a cookie-cutter plot should work for a prequel/sequel, but SA2AB trips over itself constantly.

The story is about a wheelchair-bound, middle-management FBI agent named Walter Weed (Tom Beringer far from his PLATOON days). Apparently a three million dollar contract has been taken out on his life. For a solid half-hour, he is hustled away deep into the bowels of a nightclub and then into its posh panic room. Snipers are put in place, and an agent occupies a hotel room across the street with a great view of this blatantly obvious Universal Studios backlot setting. There is so much bluster from Agent Baker (Clayne Crawford) and Malcolm Little (Christopher Michael Holley) about how impenetrable the place is that it is completely predictable that someone is going to walk in heavily armed and crack through the layers of cement and metal before the film ends.

Unfortunately, there is so little character investment in Walter Weed, Agent Baker, or the other half-dozen FBI yahoos that no one should care. These other FBI agents are identified by over-dramatic screen freezes with their names emblazoned in print, but it is a useless stylistic gesture, and these characters really don’t matter.

SA2AB leans drunkenly on the movie it supposedly came before. Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven) from the first film is referenced just before McTeague (Vinnie Jones) performs some seriously blunt acupuncture on his victim’s head. McTeague is a waste of a character and a waste of an actor who could actually convey menace back when he was Bullet Tooth Tony in SNATCH. In SA2AB he is just a bloated, scarfaced hitman. He has nothing to do really, and it is his fault for signing on to this disaster.

There is another new assassin in SA2AB who comes in sniffing around for the chance to make a quick three million. It is unfortunate that Ariella Martinez (Martha Higareda), the queen of literally poisonous kisses, only kisses two people to death before she takes a sloppy bullet to the back. There was a sliver of potential with her character, but for a film running as short on time and brainpower as this one, it is a true feat that she made it to the third act.

The most heinous reference in SA2AB to SA1 is the introduction of the Tremor family sans the non compos mentis brothers who absolutely ruled SA1. Kaitlin ‘AK-47’ Tremor (Autumn Reeser) is introduced as the nymphomaniac sister who shrieks like Amanda Plummer did in PULP FICTION. There is a running incest joke as her brother Lester (Maury Sterling) paws and gropes at his sister, but relief is on the way because both of these weirdos get their aces smoked.

It takes zero brain effort to realize that if these Tremor folk aren’t around in SA1 that they will all most definitely get killed in SA2AB. And they are so irritating that it doesn’t happen soon enough. The nihilistic sophistication of the Tremor brothers in the original SMOKIN’ ACES has been swapped for loose cannons that are just completely crackers. This new (old) batch of Tremors have nothing going for them but incest and a dislike for one another. The original Tremor brothers were unified in their ignorance; they actually seemed to be brothers, not a bunch of second-rate actors in a straight-to-DVD debacle.

The only assassin that makes an appearance in both films is Lazlo Soot (Tommy Flanagan). Lazlo is a master of disguise but really doesn’t do much for the outcome of the film. He gets a couple of sneaky bullets off but is ultimately underused as a character. He is the only true link to SA1, and he is basically a throw-away character.

It will take a completely unseasoned movie watcher only seconds to guess who is pulling the assassins’ strings, but it takes the film a solid 70 minutes or so to confirm the guess. SA2AB runs at a lean 88 minutes, but seriously, I would rather clean the bathroom than watch this trash. There is a moment when exploding midget clowns are being employed by the Tremor family as a way to penetrate the fortress, but that is the only non-pedestrian step this film takes. Blood sprays heavily when throats are slashed, and Baby Boy Tremor (C. Ernst Harth) manages to execute a headshot that is worth a rewind. Other than that, this film is a loosely stitched together, ugly bastard child of a film that was in no need of a prequel or sequel for that matter.

Apparently, Joe Carnahan (the writer and director of the original) is subtly attached to this film. He presents it and apparently has something to do with the story. There was so much promise in Carnahan when he caught everyone’s attention with NARC. It is unfortunate that he is associated with this SA2AB wreck just before his career seriously implodes with his upcoming, stupid-looking A-TEAM. Pity, because when Carnahan is up and running, he is a force to be reckoned with.

SMOKIN’ ACES 2: ASSASSIN’S BALL is a complete atrocity of a film. It follows its cro-magnon skeleton plotline all the way through to its cynical end. It had the potential to really be something better than the disjointed abomination it became. Unfortunately, a blank cheque in regards to body-count, profanity, and splatter doesn’t make a decent film. This movie is a waste of talent, money, and your time.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS is just about perfect. This story of good versus evil with a trickster in the middle is amazingly fluid even though the star died before filming was complete. The inevitable series of script rewrites that took place were obviously well-thought out because PARNASSUS is seamless.

Director Terry Gilliam has a “feel” about his films, and PARNASSUS has that feeling in its entirety. Gilliam’s syllabus often contains lush, intricate depictions of a world just on the edge of or completely lost in surrealism. There is usually an element of whimsy coupled with a touch of danger. Gilliam’s movies can be safe for the kids (TIME BANDITS) or squarely in adult country (FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS). The wonderful thing is that Gilliam has his own style much like Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah, or Alfred Hitchcock had theirs. While the complaint might be made that Gilliam is recycling some of his visual images for this film (bodies that stretch, faces the size of mountains, edges that drop into nothingness), they are all necessary in PARNASSUS and fit in nicely with the story.

Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is an elderly travelling sideshow man with a rotating mirror that is a gateway into his mind. Parnassus is accompanied in his horse-drawn, fold-out Imaginarium which is a stage/storage unit/bedroom by his pixie-looking daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), their small, smart-assed driver Percy (Vern Troyer), and their trusty flamboyant assistant Anton (Andrew Garfield). Money and time are short for Parnassus who has made a deal with cigarette-smoking, pencil mustachioed Mr. Nick (Tom Waits)—the devil himself.

A key part of Parnassus’ history is that he bargained with Mr. Nick for immortality but does not enjoy eternal youth. He is 1000 plus years old and looks it when he sees and falls in love with a young woman. Mr. Nick agrees to give him youth so that he can woo and win the young woman. The rub is any child from the union will belong to Mr. Nick when he or she turns sixteen. As the film begins, Valentina’s sixteenth birthday is a few days away, and Mr. Nick has come to collect her soul

But Mr. Nick likes to gamble and offers to give Parnassus a chance to free Valentina. If Parnassus can save five souls before Mr. Nick damns five, he will release Valentina. When Tony (Heath Ledger) joins the rambling Imaginarium crew, all sorts of new elements are introduced, but the clock is still ticking for Valentina’s date with the devil, and Tony steps up to the challenge.

The character of Tony is an interesting one because he is tertiary, yet the film follows the adventures of the protagonist (Parnassus) versus the antagonist (Mr. Nick) through him. In order to cover for Ledger’s death during filming, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell all play Tony when the character is in Parnassus’ mind-mirror. Each turn exposes a little more of the man that Tony truly is. Each actor’s scripted adventure as Tony seems custom made for them. This doesn’t fall flat at all. The transitions from Ledger-Tony to any of the other Tonys works every time. In fact, when this same mechanism was employed in the Bob Dylan trainwreck I’M NOT THERE, the result was such a failure that he film’s only use seems to be to cite how PARNASSUS does it better.

The question that hangs in the air long after the film is whether Tony is evil or whether he is good. Whatever the case may be, he is a manipulator, locked between good and evil, and having a rough go of it while he negotiates his way through the mind of Parnassus.

PARNASSUS clocks in at just under two hours, and it never drags. The only glaring weak point is Vernon Troyer’s subpar acting which is mostly eclipsed by the constant spectacle of this film. The world of Parnassus’ mind is revealed slowly, and by the time it all starts to make complete sense, the film resets and takes an even more intense route grounded in reality that is sure to leave most viewers with things to discuss long after the final credits roll (and we hear Tony’s cellphone ring again). THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS is a triumph and should be enjoyed in theaters. This isn’t an AVATAR situation where spectacle outweighs the plot; this is a wonderfully balanced film that takes you into a different land and provides classic, intelligent concepts to pore over long after the movie ends.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

BITCH SLAP - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




BITCH SLAP – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness . . .

—Joseph Conrad - 1911


BITCH SLAP starts with this quote floating in the center of the screen. It later becomes apparent that with this quote, BITCH SLAP references humankind in general and not just men. BITCH SLAP features women who are violently running the show, and these are women that have little or no time for men. In some strange way, all of the men in BITCH SLAP except one become neutered, murdered victims. The horrifying fact is that the women who are in power are ultimately more despicable than the men. If there is any argument vis-à-vis female empowerment in this film, it has been subverted by director Rick Jacobson’s nonstop camera leering. In short, the men have been killed, and the women triumph, but the men have the last laugh because the camera is deep in female cleavage and gazes longingly at their posteriors.

The film starts with Trixie (Julia Voth) bleeding and crawling in the dust at the center of fire and black smoke. She wonders aloud, “Oh my God, how did it come to this?” This is the moment of realtime. The rest of the film builds to this moment in flashback. This mechanism is much like the exploding car at the beginning of CASINO or the florescent bulbs on the ceiling in CARLITO’S WAY.

The introduction credits run over a montage of film clips featuring scenes of sex and violence from various exploitation films from the 60s and 70s. Then we see three women in the dusty desert slo-mo-stepping out of a 60s model T-bird. As Camero (America Olivo), Hel (Erin Cummings), and Trixie are caressed by the camera, the assumption is that they are a team. The truth of the matter is that they are all at odds with each other. The only way to determine some of the intricacies in their connections with each other (some sexual, some criminal) is to watch them torture and ultimately kill Gage (Michael Hurst), the foul-mouthed whoremonger they have imprisoned in the trunk of the car.

Gage’s murder sets off a series of flashbacks that show his connection to Trixie and Camero. However Hel remains a mystery character, and there is also reference to a super-shady underworld character named Pinky who mangles his way through numerous enemies wielding a samurai sword.

What makes this film worth a second viewing is all the back story that pulls it together. Some of it is crudely funny (every time a woman takes a punch or kick to the crotch, there is a comedic sound effect), but it is all gratuitous. Camero has a history as a convict on the run hanging out at a monastery hooking up with nuns. Trixie is a stripper that is so beautiful that the whole club stops when she hits the stage, and celestial light shoots out of her crotch. Hel is a criminal with connections that get her and Camero out of a jailcell and sets them both on a mission to find a bag with 200 million dollars worth of diamonds. As the plot continues to reveal the characters’ history, we learn that something big went down at a place called “The Glory Hole,” and that is ground zero for the fallout that Trixie finds herself in at the beginning of the film.

The viral ad campaign for this film has suggested that it is possibly a new achievement in exploitation cinema. The cleavage and nonstop titillation that permeates BITCH SLAP’s movie posters and trailers all suggest a throwback to Russ Meyers’ heyday of big-busted, sexploitation films. But somehow BITCH SLAP manages to carve out its own niche with a fun plot and maximum leerage of the women onscreen. Once the viewer gets past the outright offensiveness in this film, they will find a movie that, surprisingly, has a lot of replay value.

A big part of the reason why some people will want to watch this movie multiple times is the timeline mixup in the plot. The film works through the present with flashbacks further and further into the past in order to show how all of these characters know each other. No one is to be trusted, and nothing is what it seems. The timeline is PULP FICTION, and the plot is heavily modeled on THE USUAL SUSPECTS. The rest of the film is a hodgepodge of salutes to movies like THELMA AND LOUISE and KILL BILL.

The dialogue is also over-the-top with zingers, but unfortunately the actors aren’t up to speed with the writers, and a lot of their one-liners fall uncomfortably flat. BITCH SLAP’s most glaring problem is the thespian skill lacking in the three main actors. They look good, but they can’t deliver their lines convincingly. Most offensive is America Olivo’s delivery of Camero’s lines. She is so strained and self-conscious that she compensates with volume and hyperactivity. It is as if she mainlined lethal expresso shots before each take. Part of this is that she is supposed to be in a hopped-up druggie haze, but it comes across unrealized.

The action in this movie delivers the complete violence-package one would expect. When dead-eyed, Tourette’s-syndrome-afflicted Hot Wire (William Gregory Lee) and the bladed-yo-yo spinning, lollipop sucking Kinki (Minae Noji) show up in the desert, the film hits full tilt. There is a lot of neck snapping and an explosive head shot, plus the introduction of a gun that looks like it was a prop in STARSHIP TROOPERS.

It seems that BITCH SLAP wants to salute the strength of women under pressure. Men in this film (except for a strange government operative named Mr. Phoenix (Kevin Sorbo)) all get torn completely to pieces. The vicious fights between the women featuring double-digit head strikes are indeed hardcore, but none of it can be taken seriously. And the supposedly gynocentric sexual romps (including a particular lesbian love scene that takes at least ten minutes) are so completely unnecessary that they knock the plot off course and force multiple questions in regards to the editing of this film.

What is the purpose of all of this sex and violence? There doesn’t seem to be one. All of these characters are linked together sexually in some way, and there is no trust between any of them. Underneath all of this chaos are the elements of something fun as in LOVE AND A .45.

There is a diamond of a film under all of this rough, and part of the value is simply in the reckless abandon of it all. Director Rick Jacobson, who comes with XENA and BAYWATCH directing experience, has finally let the dogs loose but never to the point where this film actually treads on pornographic soil. The beauty of this film is that it isn’t completely over the line. It has inched up to the edge of the NC-17 realm and lolled its tongue over it but has managed to remain an R-Rated franchise.

The movie ends with a Sun Tzu quote. But by this time, any purpose or semblance of intelligence has been completely destroyed. The conclusion simply does not work. What is cool, however, is the beautiful salutation to 1977s THE CAR. In short, BITCH SLAP is a series of salutes to better movies put to the beat of profanity, violence, and a buttload of T and A. What is shocking and lamentable about it all is that up to the lame conclusion, the movie completely works.

BITCH SLAP is a film that most people will come at expecting a typical B-movie. The title of the film and the trailer make it look like a really low-budget piece of film-hackery. The surprise is that BITCH SLAP is resourceful and uses its budget wisely. The people that assembled this film really put their work in, and it shows. The “slap” viewers will take is that the film is actually well-executed. Low expectations make for a great payoff in this case. The plot is complex enough to keep the grey matter working while silliness ensues onscreen. The script, while plagued with a horrible third-act plot-twist, moves almost too quickly at points. The dots that need to be connected in backstory are connected in such a way that the viewer has to do some brainwork to keep up.

It is definitely a B-movie, but it is superior to standard grindhouse dreck. One viewing will get the story across, but there are some subtle intricacies that future viewings will unravel. Even though the acting is atrocious, the special effects are solid and enjoyable. The gore, the bullets, the explosions, the flashback avalanche, and most notably, the nighttime shootout in Las Vegas are all well-choreographed and at some points, dizzying.

BITCH SLAP has all of the hallmarks of a post-modern cult classic. It is actually hindered by its profane title because this isn’t some disjointed B-movie; this is a movie that (outside of some horrible acting) could be at the local multiplex. It is unfortunate that the film’s title is going to deter some viewers. Titling the movie “BITCH SLAP” sets it way behind the eight-ball. This film is definitely going to find its audience and become a revered favorite. Some people had a lot of fun putting this film together, and it shows.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

44 INCH CHEST - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW




44 INCH CHEST - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
By: FRANKO

Back when I was working construction this cute weird chick took me out to the movies. She took me to see this British butt-warmer of a film called SEXY BEAST. The movie starred Ben Kingsley, and I was and still am sure that if I went bare-knuckle-brawl with that man, I would snap him. SEXY BEAST was a hard sell for me because the “sexy beast” in the film wasn’t sexy; he was just a short man with a Napoleon complex. I see guys like this at the bar all the time—two quick smacks to the head and they heel like any neutered showdog.

Anyway, I didn’t know anything about SEXY BEAST when I saw it, and it was nifty because the subtext was that I was the sexy beast. After we watched it I realized that the relationship with the cute weird chick was over. There were two more months of torment, and those months were enough for me to consider taking a break from women.

Now the same British relationship-ruining screenwriters that made SEXY BEAST have come up with another one. This time they aren’t killing my heterosexual relationship, they are murdering my heterosexuality. In a weird ‘roid-monkey twist, a dude at my gym burned this movie for me. It’s called 44 INCH CHEST, and it has nothing to do with the benchpress. I am thinking more and more that the guy who hooked me up with this movie didn’t see it at all and thought it was something else like big-boob porn or juicer chest-expansion or like what Meat Loaf was up to in FIGHT CLUB.

44 INCH CHEST has made me want to be gay. You doubt me? Then keep on reading you homophobic breeder.

44 INCH CHEST stars Ray Winstone as a crybaby named Colin Diamond. Colin is crying the blues (much like I was after my breakup shortly after SEXY BEAST) because his wife has gone and had an affair with a young French waiter. Colin also hangs out with gangster types. There is (dirty) Old Man Peanut (John Hurt), Meredith (played by Ian McShane, with “live wood” versus DEADWOOD), Archie (Tom Wilkinson who you probably know as either a Nazi in VALKYRIE or as an Asshole in ROCKNROLLA), and then there is Mal (Stephen Dillane), the weakest beanpole gangster on the planet. These are men who sit around and talk about everything dirty and then some. They jabber about cleaning out dirty foreskins, bathtub abortions, golden showers, and no vaseline sodomy, all while dropping nonstop c-bombs. These old-timers kidnap Mr. Diamond’s wife’s boytoy and slap him into the box that sounds like something the dudes at my gym want to have.

This movie could have been done on a stage at the local high school. All of the action happens in one room, and a curtain separator could be used to carry the two or three scenes that don’t happen within that room. As a matter of fact, because I am completely out of touch with what the hell is going on across the pond, I watched the credits twice to make sure this wasn’t one of those stage shows that they make into movies that don’t work right like DOUBT.

The point is that all of these dirty old men hang out in a boarded-up room somewhere in London, and they drink, smoke, and talk about what they should do with the little Frenchman they have in this chest. Their constant chattering is underlined and highlighted with one fact: they hate women. They don’t know women outside of a throw in the hay, and this makes Meredith all the more interesting.

This movie is a “talkie.” These guys sit around and talk all sorts of shit, and I sat there and tolerated it because I somehow had it in my head that the Frenchman was really going to get his ass tapped hard . . . and soon.

The Frenchman needs a Richard Gere-style UNFAITHFUL dome-crack because Colin Diamond is a blubbering mess. He cries through the whole movie. Colin mourns the end of his relationship with Liz (Joanne Whalley) in such a way that we are all forced to wonder what he had with this woman that has made him such a water-works wreck. He goes through long hallucinogenic explanations of what love is and how he had it with Liz. Colin also beat her like a rented mule when he found out that she was diddling this French kid the gangsters have stashed in the chest. The flick takes all of his over-explaining of his love for her lightly though. It is all in a strange visual flashback that is floated by Colin’s voice-over diatribe. I had no idea what was going on because stuff gets really weird in this part.

I kid you not; Dirty Old Man Peanut is actually in black lacy lingerie at one point. Diamond also holds up a wedding cake groom and claims to be the action figure in question. How much of this is Colin going loco, and how much of this is truth? I have no idea. Colin is a royal (heh) mess, and he really should exact vengeance on the Frenchman in the chest and get it over with. That is what anyone watching the movie is waiting for. I know I was. I was waiting for the brutal British gangster beatdown of this French kid. More on the fatal heterosexual reassignment case of blueballs that this film gives you later. This furthers my “stage” argument. This movie reminded me of WAITING FOR GODDAMN or whatever that play is called.

For a bunch of badasses, Colin and the rest are just under-sexed big-talkers. The only one that we know is getting any is Meredith, the anti-DEADWOOD. Meredith sports more wood than the rest of these characters including Colin who can’t remember for certain the last time he had sex with his wife. The movie starts with Meredith drinking a neat whiskey while staring down a young ass-out naked man on his couch. So we know he is getting busy with his “nine and a half inches.” We also know that Meredith believes in the five F’s: “find ‘em, follow ‘em, finger ‘em, fuck ‘em, and forget ‘em.”

44 INCH CHEST is a convincing argument that being gay is the way to be. Meredith’s style of homosexuality is suave, smooth, and James-Dean-if-he’d-lived cool. If I had to choose any of these mess-talking assclowns as a personal friend, it would be Meredith. Either Meredith or Old Man Peanut.

Peanut breaks down (in a live performance sort of fashion) the most perverted, blasphemous rendition of SAMSON AND DELILAH I have ever heard. The moral of the story is never trust a woman. Old Man Peanut also uses all of the anti-gay, homophobic, scared-straight language he can on Meredith, but in the end of the film, he asks to accompany Meredith to a gay bar “to have breakfast.” Meredith is the one that talks Colin down out of a panic attack, and he is the only guy in the room with his balls in the right place to speak of what a wonderful woman Liz was outside of her physical beauty.

Here is what sucks about this stupid movie though: it is like taking the town whore out to dinner and not getting laid. The movie is called 44 INCH CHEST because there is a Frenchman in a chest who is going to get fucked up beyond recognition. He “fucking fucked another man’s fucking wife,” and needs a super-sized combo pack of McPain. The whole selling-point of this film is built on this notion. Colin is supposed to put the French guy’s nuts in a vice and crank justice out of them. Colin is supposed to take a hot poker and seal this French guy’s rectum shut with it. Colin is supposed to pull this man’s teeth with pliers, put a leash on him, and leave him tied up in the red-light district (think about it, you perv).

It is completely unfair that at the end there is NO RETRIBUTION. WAITING FOR GODAMN indeed. Could this be because these old guys really don’t have any balls anyway? Could this be that the whole movie is Colin’s big alcohol-induced psychosis and that he is supposed to wake up from his dream? Did Colin actually beat Liz’ ass? All of this is open to interpretation.

The only solid fact that I was able to get out of this film is that Ian McShane is cool no matter what he does. If he is a whorehouse hustler in DEADWOOD, I want to be his friend. If he is a convict with questionable scruples like in DEATHRACE, I want to be on his cellblock. If he is some sort of strange animated trapeze artist like he was in CORALINE, then I want to run away and join the damn circus. Most truthfully though, if he is a gay British gangster, I want to be his lover.

-FRANKO

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

NINE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


NINE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
By: THE MAD HATTER

I'm a believer in signs.

When the opening moments of a film feature a church bell tolling followed by the line "Good luck, Maestro," it’s not a good sign.

NINE is the story of Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day Lewis). It begins as he contemplates filming his next movie, the grandly titled ITALIA. It is to star Claudia Jenssen (Nicole Kidman) and begin filming in ten days. What's the film about? Maestro's not so sure. You see, he hasn't finished the script yet; matter of fact, he hasn't even started!

As he struggles to turn cinematic water into wine, we are slowly introduced to the various women who have gotten him this far:

There's his ingenue wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard),
his fiery mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz),
his costume designer, Lili la Fleur (Judi Dench),
the prostitute who opened his eyes as a child, Saraghina (Fergie),
the fashion writer who adores his work, Stephanie (Kate Hudson),
the aforementioned diva who he directs to greatness, Caludia (Kidman),
and of course, his mother (Sophia Loren).

One by one they interact with Guido: some face to face, some in memory, some day in and day out, some only in fleeting moments. And while song after song chants his name in the lyrics (literally), maestro can't seem to tap into that part of the dolce vita that has brought him such success.

His project is ready to crumble, his sanity and physical health is fading, his marriage is in worlds of trouble, and nobody seems to be able to offer him the right bit of guidance. Not his wife, not his doctor, not his mistress, not even his priest.

For me more than anything else, NINE is a mess. It seems like it may well be an enjoyable musical if not a particularly memorable one. It certainly isn't a musical that needed to be adapted into a feature film. Why? Let me spell this out: this is a film based on the musical based on the autobiographical film of a man trying to make a film!

I truly believe that Rob Marshall did as good a job in adapting this show to the screen as anybody possibly could, but therein lies the rub—the adaptation still isn't good enough. Part of the problem is that Marshall tries to employ the same trick he used in CHICAGO; he wants to make the musical numbers extensions of the lead characters’ imagination. That's a great trick once Rob, but there's no way I'll go for it twice.

NINE comes off like a series of disjointed moments with flashes of brilliance that disappear far too quickly. It suffers from underachievement in acting, style over substance, and worst of all for a musical, mediocre singing. Seriously folks, while she knocked her number out of the park, you've seriously miscalculated if Fergie is your best singer on board.

Strangely for a film that features prominent roles for seven different women, none of the roles seem to carry any sort of weight. I'm not suggesting any of them be able to go toe-to-toe with Daniel Day-Lewis, but at least one of the seven should be able to make her part matter a bit more than it does. Nay, every single one of them breeze in and out without making much of a dramatic dent. Lordy, where's Uma Thurman speaking Swedish when you need her?

So if the ladies can't save the film, what about the maestro himself? Strange as it is for me to say this, I feel let down by Daniel Day-Lewis. He begins with such promise, delivering an opening monologue full of delicacy and love about the magic of filmmaking; . . . then he calls it a day. Not only is his Italian accent bad, but it gets a whole lot worse when he starts singing (which sucks especially since he's one of the few characters who get two turns at the mic). At first he reminded me of my bad impression of my Italian father-in-law. However, as the film went on, I realized I had it wrong. He wasn't doing my bad impression of my father-in-law; he was doing a bad impression of my bad impression of my father in law!

It seems as though from the very beginning, much like the events that unfold within the story, this movie fell victim to believing in its own legend. The fact is that only one song from this film really stands on its own. To give the other nine character numbers any sort of fighting chance, the cast should have been filled out with Broadway virtuosos. Instead, the legend of NINE demanded that only famous film actresses would do, and thus the film was doomed.

Believe in cinematic signs of fate. Toll the bell and strike the set—NINE is only a four and a half. At best.

-THE MAD HATTER

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Monday, January 4, 2010

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION – A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

Back in 1992 the lackluster UNIVERSAL SOLDIER dropped. It was in no need of a sequel then, and it still isn’t. However, there have been several lame-duck sequels including a few for TV. The only thing a few people might appreciate about the new UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (US: R) is its nostalgic Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren team-up.

The original UNIVERSAL SOLDIER is about a secret US government project that re-animates dead Vietnam soldiers and makes them into borderline indestructible killing machines. But some of their life memories are preserved in the re-animation process, and the internal struggle is supposedly enough to hold a plot together. Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, two soldiers named GR44 and GR13, eventually work out their zombie differences in that film.

There have been several attempts to reboot this franchise. Van Damme even starred in 1999’s UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN co-starring BLACK DYNAMITE. But the Lundgren/Van Damme re-team-up is something that has taken eighteen years to pull off. You would think that such a collaboration between has-beens would have hit the hype levels that Stallone’s upcoming EXPENDABLES film featuring a bunch of has-beens is hitting. But US: R has gotten little fanfare and is more of an internet joke than something that causes die-hard fanboys to click reload at their favorite movie website. The film has its moments though, and when those moments wash across the screen with bullets, arterial spray and multiple punches to the head, they really work.

US: R starts with the over-the-top kidnapping of Russian Prime Minister Musayev’s two teenage kids at a museum. The armored truck chase and the bullet-riddled bodies that are piled up in this opening sequence are riveting. Unfortunately, such a pace is never achieved again in the film. Next comes a video-taped ransom message from a mysterious Commander Topoff (Zachary Baharov) that reveals the strapping of some serious explosives to the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor for the “liberation of Pasalan” and the release of 227 political prisoners.

Topoff maintains control of Chernobyl with his military unit and NGU, also known as “the freak,” played by pro-UFC fighter Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski. NGU is a Universal Soldier (UniSol) with little more to say than “yes,” and “no.” Mainly he pummels his way through his opposition. The moves that Arlovski uses are straight out of his UFC days except for a forearm switchblade which he uses to slash and gut his enemies.

NGU is maintained by a wimpy turncoat American named Dr. Colin (Kerry Shale). Dr. Colin’s side-project has to do with regenerating the original UniSol, Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), as his personal servant. NGU is the main villain, but the draw here is for Van Damme vs. Lundgren.

The US sends in four of its own recently hatched Universal Soldiers to handle “the freak,” and they proceed to get killed with all sorts of UFC brutality. There is only one UniSol left to send into this Chernobyl terrorist mess, and that is the other original UniSol, Luc Deveraux (Jean_Claude Van Damme). However, Deveraux has been in some intensive psycho-therapy of late and is trying but failing to make a go at being normal. Deveraux is soon re-fitted, and with about ten needle shots to various parts of his neck, he is kicking down the door and heading into battle.

This film is low-budget and serves up the action that should be expected in any film with a title as ridiculous as UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. Bullets rip through human flesh, knives bleed people out, and skulls are clanged with pipes. Belonephobes beware; there is a serious needle injection to the neck every five to seven minutes in this film. The terrorist plot at the beginning is merely a throwaway backdrop to prop up a serious beat-‘em-up film. Van Damme can still kick just as high as he did back in CYBORG, and he is still fun to watch. Lundgren is just as big as he was when he was in ROCKY IV and can actually speak clearer English than he could when he was THE PUNISHER. But unfortunately there is nothing special or even original in this film.

The violence numerator far outweighs the plot denominator, and the disjointed ending smacks of RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. When Dolph Lundgren’s Andrew Scott malfunctions, the sloppy homage to BLADE RUNNER is unforgiveable. BLADE RUNNER isn’t the only film lightly snag-hooked to pull this plot together. The notion of being programmed to kill and then having all of your mental wiring get loopy is straight out of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and more recently, THE BOURNE IDENTITY

US: R is filler at best. The film completely lacks in substance and truly anything to really talk about. The fight sequences, while brutal and amusing to watch, don’t break any new action ground. US: R is a great DVD rental if you are looking to put your brain on hold for an hour and a half.

The inevitable Van Damme and Lundgren showdown is well-choreographed and vicious. These guys are older and tired looking, but they do indeed put in their work. Van Damme looks particularly rough. Seriously, he looks like he has just come off a two week straight alcohol bender.

US: R is a straight to DVD film that simply doesn’t have the legs to pack out multiplexes. While a slight step above the pedestrian action film, US: R is just the kind of movie a nostalgic fan would expect to find Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme in today . . . or in 1992 for that matter.





Saturday, January 2, 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES - A SPOILER-FREE BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A SPOILER-FREE BADASS MOVIE REVIEW
BY: SPINAL VILLAIN

Robert Downey Jr.'s past vices have come to haunt him . . . err, or should I say, praise him. His past battle with the bottle and controlled substances have branded him, and he is landing roles that exploit that brand.

Enter Sherlock Holmes, a man of science, logic, and deductive reasoning. Thankfully, unlike past incarnations of the character, this Holmes is no boring think tank. Robert Downey Jr. pulls off an unorthodox Sherlock Holmes with style and brilliance, and it is more than a pleasure to watch. RDJ’s Holmes is athletic, flawed, and determined. He's as clumsy as he is brilliant. His charms continually entice the audience while his anti-social antics continually drive a wedge between him and his best friend, Watson (Jude Law). And he is psychologically complex, grappling with his own internal demons as well as multiple antagonists.

As good as RDJ’s performance is, Jude Law almost eclipses it as a man of medicine and Holmes' best friend and partner, Dr. Watson. Watson is also an accomplished veteran of a prior conflict to which his experiences will prove invaluable.

Rachel McAdams co-stars as a career criminal and Holmes' love interest, Irene Adler. Adler, however, has an ulterior motive and has her leash being yanked by a shadowy man who sets the stage for a sequel. McAdam's performance is memorable and will ensure her employment in future films.

The supporting cast is also dynamic and enjoyable with Mark Strong holding his own as the criminally gifted magic user, Lord Blackwood. Blackwood has an early departure from life in this movie but mysteriously comes "back from the grave," and the real chase is on as people start dying and Holmes must figure out why.

Director Guy Ritchie does a splendid job of using attention to detail to present a believable turn-of-the-century London, the stage for this movie. It also has plenty of action, twists and turns, great directing, and is loads of fun. Plus this film is rife with both subtle and overt humor. I got a good giggle more than a couple of times. With just enough humor to laugh at but not laugh it off, Sherlock Holmes will no doubt earn a place in most critics’ top 5 movies of 2009.

-Spinal Villain

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