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Gentlemen Broncos (2009)
One of 2009's Most Underrated Comedies
For some reason I managed to miss the reviews for Jared Hess' "Gentlemen Broncos" when it first opened in limited release. I saw the trailer for it some time ago, and was excited for it; "Napoleon Dynamite" and even Hess' follow-up "Nacho Libre" were two of the most off-kilter, refreshing comedies I've seen in the past decade. "Broncos" is absolutely no exception, expanding on and arguably perfecting the "geekverse" that Hess started with "Napoleon." This third film in the "Crayola Trilogy" may be so well designed for sci-fi geeks and lovers of Hess' first two movies, that it simply had no way to possibly survive in the mainstream market.
Me? I loved it. Not seeing any reviews beforehand, I was expecting a film that hit the same high notes of "Napoleon," and for me, I got them. I am also a sci-fi nut, and I like my comedies full of bizarre and strangely real people- this, Hess excels in, as well. I went to bed last night rating it a "10" on IMDb; I was shocked to see the rating at a mere "5.5/ 10." Flip over to Rotten Tomatoes; it's a "Rotten" at 16%. I also find it worth noting that neither of Hess' previous releases have been treated on IMDb much better--- I seem to remember a time when "ND" was in the Top 250, or at the very least had a much higher rating than it does today (6.9). I recall "ND" being hailed as a cult classic, only to see its popularity seemingly cripple later opinions of the film (regardless of the fact it started very small).
Anyway. I'm just saying I think Jared Hess' work has been roundly ignored for being truly great cinema. I can see why "Gentlemen Broncos" has not enjoyed the success of "ND"--- it is a truly far-out film, that only "nuts" such as myself are likely to enjoy; I spent my youth much like the lead character writing short stories and dreaming up far-off worlds--- for kids like that, and their adult counterparts, I can only say "See This Film." You won't regret it.
Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Eats the previous films for breakfast
Taken on its own terms, "Punisher: War Zone" is everything it is supposed to be: excessively violent, larger than life, fast paced, and almost always loads of fun. War Zone doesn't take itself seriously and it doesn't ask the audience to do so, like the '90 and '04 films did. It never ponders the morality of its hero any more than necessary; it's The Punisher for gods' sakes.
The casting of Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle is, in a word, perfect. He is commanding, intimidating, and always fun to watch. If you can't enjoy Stevenson as The Punisher, you shouldn't even be watching the damn movie. Though the film is shot tongue-in-cheek, Stevenson stays consistent but is almost always interesting to watch. The supporting cast, led by Dominic West as Jigsaw, also shines in several scenes. There are no weak links in the cast to undermine WZ the way, say, John Travolta undermined the already-suffering Thomas Jane-"Punisher" movie.
There are many reasons to fault the first two Punisher pics for perhaps giving the character a bad rap, because the critics sure seem to be roasting this more than necessary. One perplexing review comes from Roger Ebert, who seems to praise the film in several ways while outright damning it to the same exact two star rating he applied to the first two (far dumber and less entertaining) Punisher movies: "The Punisher: War Zone is one of the best-made bad movies I've seen. It looks great, it hurtles through its paces and is well-acted. The soundtrack is like elevator music if the elevator were in a death plunge. The special effects are state of the art. Its only flaw is that it's disgusting."
I don't see what's wrong with that. This isn't an average mainstream film. This is an extremely gory film, with a level of violence that is rarely seen on the big screen outside of the "Saw" movies. And yet it remains entertaining, even comedic in how far it goes. The superb and colorful cinematography, action choreography, sound effects, score, and editing make "Punisher: War Zone" a must for (dark) comic book fans and action film junkies.