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Road to Hell (2008)
A true 1/10, A plot less and profane exhibit of violence against women, jeeps
I saw this film earlier this month with Michael Pare and its makers in attendance. They all got up on stage before the film started, and it is amazing in retrospect how enthusiastic they were about this "unofficial sequel" to Streets of Fire, which we had all just watched Before RtH began. Road to Hell is an experimental film at best, and that's being kind. The cut we saw was just under an hour, so it was too long to be a short and too short to be a feature. It was entirely green screened, and lots of the shots came off looking like poorly constructed car commercials or automotive trade show sets, as nearly every shot in this "movie" centered around a jeep. The Jeep looked too new, as if they lacked the budget to rough up a Jeep for the production and used their own daily driver instead. Also, it's difficult to tell when you watch this whether there are two different jeeps or just one--did Tom Cody have his own Jeep in addition to the female lead's Jeep? I couldn't tell. The dialog was laced with f-bombs to the point of absurdity, and there is a needless and inexplicable exploration of violence against women which appears to me to be completely incongruous with the Tom Cody character. Mind you that I'm not in the least squeamish when it comes to seedy characters--I think Bukowski is great literature. In this case it's just that the makers of Road to Hell have only invested about 5 percent of whatever scant talent they have in this production. I give a 1/10 very rarely, but this film really does make another 1/10, No Holds Barred, look like Citizen Kane.
Must be in mood for most minimal cinematic production value ever
The plot summaries for this movie say that it's shot entirely in studio, etc, but they don't make it clear that this is probably the most minimal movie production from a major director in the last 30 years (or my lifetime anyway). I don't think it's a spoiler to say that most of the set pieces and buildings aren't actually present, but rather represented by chalk outlines. I felt like I was watching a Ionesco play at the Theatre de la Huchette in Paris, not a Nicole Kidman movie in America. Needless to say, I found it a bit grating. However, despite how much I disliked the ham-fisted devices (or lack thereof) in this movie, I still give it a 4 (as opposed to a 1) for the fact that it did indeed produce extremely memorable moments involving Apples, gangsters, farm trucks, and headlights. You may end up hating this movie, but you won't ever forget it.
Dead Bang (1989)
Fun cop movie foreshadows crimes of the 90s
I missed this movie entirely during its original release but recently caught in on late night cable. Must say I was pleasantly surprised. The coolest thing about this movie was how it foreshadowed actual crime events that would happen later at places like Ruby Ridge and Mt. Carmel. And of course it was hilarious to see Johnson get to reprise his tough guy problem child Sonny Crocket type role. My favorite scene was when he enlists the straight-laced probation officer to serve in lieu of a warrant. Hilarious trick - made me wonder if that really works in real life. And the puking ruled. The one downer in this movie is that the gun fighting scenes were not produced well enough to convey the true sense of fear and danger, and the tactics employed made them look more like actors than gunfighters. This is usually the sign of a limited budget, which this movie probably had.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Most significant movie of 2004 gets no Oscar
On an art per dollar basis, I totally believe this was the most significant movie of 2004, and the Academy snubbed it. Given millions upon millions of dollars, any number of directors could've told the story of Howard Hughes or a scrappy female boxer. Those were great films, too, but Dynamite made our jaws drop while simultaneously lifting our spirits with its anachronistically hilarious depiction of modern Idaho. For those of us who remember Jon Gries in Running Scared and Real Genius, his Uncle Rico clearly steals pretty much every scene he's in. I think it's great to see Gries break out after so many years under the radar... To those of you who don't "get" this movie, see it twice.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
Vince in fine form
The raunchiness of this film recalls the fun of the early 80s, before the AIDs scare combined with the PC movement ruined all stupid T&A comedies forever. If you think that Vince Vaughn's motor mouth is second only to Woody Allen's, this is your film. Some have said this is his best work since Swingers, but I actually think it's a step up. Bradley Cooper pleasantly surprises as the dead-on annoying, better-than-you-are east coast frat boy. Somebody else's conspicuously uncredited performance is hilarious. Rachel McAdams is hot. I've seen others trash Own Wilson's work in this, but I thought he did great. Finally, the movie does a good job of swinging between plausible and absurdist moments, with Wilson catching most of the serious ones. Enough said. I give this 8 of 10.
The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
Wait to see it for free on TBS
In voting 2/10, I don't want to spend much more of my life writing about this movie than I've already wasted in seeing it. But perhaps in doing so I can save some of yours. The cast of this movie really disappointed me. I'm not talking about Jessica Simpson or Willie Nelson, who had some of the few worthwhile moments, but I think Burt Reynolds was not well utilized. And they needed some recognizable actors to play Roscoe, Cooter, and Enis, which didn't happen. While the plot was every bit as sophisticated as any typical Dukes TV episode, the execution and plausibility were less so. There was some great tire-spinning sideways- drifting car photography, but not enough of it. I got my first laugh out of this movie about half way in, in the scene where Reynolds visits the Dukes in jail, which you can see in the teaser trailer. One point of interest that was probably an attempt at good satire, but one that failed miserably: If you remember convention in the TV show whereby the boys would get in trouble, then it would pause just before going to commercial, with the narrator saying something about how they'd never get out of this one alive.... well, they recycled that convention, and when the screen unpaused, the results were usually lame and boring easy- outs. The most striking of these was when the Duke boys met some inner city residents. Without saying what happened, I'll just say it was lame, and it could've been a moment for something more funny. Now it could be that the makers of this film were just trying to satirize how lame the original TV show was by being lame, but the end-all conclusion is that it made for a lame movie, so the satire is ultimately lost in the lameness. Did I already say 2 of 10?
Air Rage (2001)
Most Hilarious Ripoff I've Seen Lately...
Spoilers? Maybe a few details, but nothing too plot related. Not like it would matter with this movie.
Air Rage blatantly rips off the mid-air infiltration premise of Executive Decision. Ice-T leads a team of four "elite" commandos who wear baggy black shirts that we can only imagine must conceal invisible body armor as their idiotic tactics (similar to what 3rd graders use when playing Star Wars on the playground) lead them to absorb a hail of gunfire.
What entertained me the most about this flick was the use of look-alike has-been actors. You'll immediately recognize Cyril O'Reily as someone who once acted in a movie that you really liked, though it was so long ago that you probably won't be able to place it (it was Porky's). Here Cyril plays a decent knock-off of a Bill Paxton character. Most Hilarious is porker Gil Gerard, who's so fat that you will never recognize him as TV's Buck Rogers. Instead of evoking his mildly heroic character past, Gerard gives us a passable performance of the crusty fat tough guy persona, which was clearly imagineered for John Goodman. Finally, Alex Cord gives us a nice hybrid look-alike performance as a Chuck Connors/Kirk Douglas type. In the 10 years since New Jack City, Ice-T's acting has deteriorated remarkably. It's not acting so much as regurgitation of lines that he might have actually memorized.
One of the items that plays into this movie is a CD-ROM of classified information. It's being hand carried, and it's apparently and unbelievably not encrypted, despite the security-savvy aura of Gerard's NSA character. What a joke. I'm severely doubting that the information purported to be on the CD would ever even all be assembled into a portable format.
Despite being in a closed aircraft without silencers, the gunfire is about as loud as canned air, and causes nary a person to flinch, so apparently no foley budget. The assortment of weapons chosen is pretty funny. The flight attendant's use of a coffee pot is about the most realistic depiction of violence in the film. When she takes intuitively to the mini-Uzi pistol, which has got to be one of the worst pistol designs ever, that's just too stupid. A true elite team would carry MP-5s for this type thing or maybe SOCOMM .45s, or even customized Hi- Powers if they were really old school, or maybe something FN 5.7 if new school... The lame-o standard issue 92Fs are totally unbelievable, having lost most of their cool after Lethal Weapon I. The bad guys, supposedly experienced soldier of fortune types, have an assorted mixture of absurdity, like the aforementioned mini-Uzi pistol and a Tec-9 with the infamous non-functional barrel extender that isn't a silencer.
There was one touch of realism on which I would like to correct the other reviewers: The flight attendant and Ice-T did lower the craft to 10,000 feet for "breathable air" before they opened the door. And I also got the impression that the flight attendant was NOT able to get the door closed, that she basically just gave up on that point. As far as the landing, there was no mention of flaps until about 2 seconds before touchdown. Sigh.
Only the Dukes of Hazard eluding Roscoe P. Coltrane at the "pass" could shame this movie for use of stock footage. They obviously chose the incredible (and retired) SR-71 because they couldn't get stock of an F-117. Aside from the fact that they were mothballed already in 2001, let's also forget for a moment that the SR-71 is not a pure stealth aircraft in the sense of the B-2, and that at point blank range... Well, I'm no expert, but I'm having doubts as to whether it would be invisible on Radar.
As others have pointed out, the repeated references to "F-15s" when they were showing F -16s was laughable. Details of the 747 were pretty stupid. No airline would put that few passengers on a 747 to begin with, not to mention everything else that was idiotic about it. Pay attention to the use of exposed electrical wiring.
Wow. What a show. Catch it on Stars or something. Don't pay to rent it, but do watch it for laughs. In contention for worst movie ever, right up there with No Holds Barred, which at least had some originality.
Love Actually (2003)
A Holiday Fantasy Classic (Yes, Fantasy - Negative Reviewers Get Over It ;-)
This movie does come off as a bit shallow, and it contains characters who are one- dimensional caricatures of themselves. But guess what -- this movie is clearly in the romantic, holiday fantasy genre -- just like It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story are. And most people love those movies, so I don't get all the negative reviewing of this film. To me, this movie is clearly a fantasy piece, and as such it should not be subject to all the driveling negativity that would better be directed toward something terrible that masquerades as serious dramatic work. Would the British PM ever go knocking door to door with just one bodyguard? No Way! Do Londoners actually care what song is "number one for Christmas" more than Americans do?? (I'm seriously doubting it -- who other than a few teenagers and record promoters actually cares about charts?) This is clearly a work that's not to be taken as a "serious" movie, though it's seriously fun if you'll take it for the fantasy that it is.
I love this film. Despite the clearly fantastic story lines, I like the characters, and the amazing A-list cast does a great job. I caught it first in theatrical release, then I watched it three times back to back on a plane to London because the other choices were the abysmal "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Duplex." Since I've caught it on HBO, and I've quickly realized it's one of those movies you can watch repeatedly when flipping channels for a quick "pick me up" that only fantasy movies can provide. My favorite movie of that sort is Groundhog Day, if that clues you into my argument.
The multi-threaded storytelling in this borrows from the likes of Magnolia, and the fact that it's a light hearted holiday theme flick place that device in interesting contrast.
I see Love Actually as a new holiday classic.
Mail Order Wife (2004)
Have fun tricking your friends
Refer your friends to the interview(s) in which Gurland refers to this film as a "documentary" in production, then watch their jaws hit the floor as you all witness perhaps the most memorable use of PostIt Notes and a Cadillac El Dorado ever committed to film. Despite the clearly stated genre of "narrative feature" in the SXSW program, I somehow got suckered into missing the fact that this is a mockumentary. The contrast between the doorman's anachronistically furnished and dimly lit Queens hovel and the filmmaker's bright, Crate and Barrel-esque (Manhattan?) flat creates a palpable sense of class warfare that really sells the "reality" of this film to the duped viewer. The scene in the doctor's office was the only one that I almost didn't believe, but it was done so well that I still bought it. I loved every hilarious and painful minute of this film. Within its genre, I give it a 10/10.
Disco Pigs (2001)
Stylish, but doesn't deliver
The cinematography in this film was stylish, sometimes gorgeous, and leaves images fresh in my mind two months after having seen it. I also thought the two leads did great jobs. Where this film failed for me was in the editing. The synopsis on the back of the rental box explains that Runt and Pig have a unique bond, and the flashbacks used at several points in the film tease the viewer into thinking we'll get a credible explanation of how that bond became so powerful as to survive for so many years. But the flashbacks ultimately lack cohesivness, and we're left feeling that the characters are a bit unsubstantiated relative to the gravity of events portrayed.
Hysterical Blindness (2002)
A night at your local bar is better spent
The utter and complete lack of self esteem conveyed by Thurman and Lewis in the lead roles will be testament to their talent as you suffer through the neon-lit pallor of 1980s New Jersey bar life. If you want to be painfully reminded of every person whom you either broke up with or declined to date due to his or her extreme self loathing, lack of direction, or bad taste in juke box selections, then this is your ticket. If not, you're better off spending two hours in your favorite working-class bar, because this film is such a perfect portrayal of unfortunate mediocrity (and achieves just as much intrigue) that you might as well enjoy it in real 3D and in a cloud of real cigarette smoke. If you want a movie that makes self misery compelling, treat yourself to Barfly, in which you'll get all the glory of a Charles Bukowski script fleshed out by some strong acting from Rourke and Dunaway. If you must have a Thurman fix in this genre, try Beautiful Girls, which while not a very good film in its own right certainly beats Hysterical Blindness hands down.