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Wild at Heart (1990)
Pretentious, Ridiculous but a template for even worse movies
First off, Cage and Dern did a great job keeping this sleazy pile going on. But their performances, however good, couldn't rectify what was essentially an evil exploitative movie. First off, I don't care about symbolism for its own sake, especially when symbolism is used to elevate trash intellectually. Pop culture references are a total bore and cop out, yeah yeah, Elvis & the Wizard of Oz, too heavy! But to the movie's credit, it CREATED the themes and styles that permeated the 90s and the early 2000s that I hated. Weird characters for weirdness sake Lots of fire & red Patronizing Southern and Western themes used to mock said cultures Stylized violence and villainy Elvis, omg, can you get any more tacky? Tacky retro styles like old T-Birds, snake skin jackets, ballroom settings for what? Road movies through the same South and West derided earlier Road movies of young lovers who aren't as wicked as the scum who are chasing them. The young lovers are actually almost noble. Lots of steaming hot sex with beautiful people. Also too much cigarette smoking, like some high school rebellion thing from the 1950s. Is that supposed to be risqué? I hate cigs! Relentlessly exploiting disabled, disfigured, mentally ill characters just to keep it all so weird. Don't get me wrong, handicapped people don't have to be glorified or honored all the time, but in here they were just there for atmosphere The relentless mockery and denigration of the family. The movies that use some of these elements are legion but two movies use this as a template, "True Romance" and "Natural Born Killers". But 1000s of cheaper indies like "Way of the Gun", or "Arizona Dream" borrow the style elements almost verbatim. Tarantino's cynically used these elements in his movies too, but of course, he added his own distinctive touches.
So in that respect, we can give this movie plaudits, like the original Road Warrior, in creating a whole genre, a dubious one.
Really Subpar but Over-hyped
The movie toyed around with all sorts of great themes and the problems of a modest modern sort of weak guy who retreats into his fantasy world. Yeah it is okay to attack corporate charades and downsizing practices that hurt employees more than just financially. That was a driving theme in the movie that was supposed to give it some meaning, which it did to a degree. Also the exotic location shots were a major plus, since chasing our elusive star nature photographer was the major plot device.
But the rest was crap. First was all the blatant product placement. No not placement, the products and brands were built into the script. Then was the plain old out of character moments when for no reason at all, he starts fighting with airport customs security, which required the intervention of a brand name rep guy.
basically, our Walter Mitty, which Ben Stiller was suitably cast as, had to find this all important picture from his roving camera man. The photographer was Sean Penn, for whom our Walter developed and processed his film but the two never met, though they worked together for a long time. So Ben/Walter has to go on this globe trotting expedition to find the camera man and get his film. Walt's bosses are sitting on pins and needles waiting for it.
That is all you really need to know about the plot element. But the conclusion will send you into hysterics. See this camera man, who never actually bothered to visit our nebbish protagonist, actually really admired Walter. So much that the final shot all of Life was waiting for was Walter sitting by himself at lunch outside. This he told Walt when Walt finally caught up with him in Nepal. Then we find out this wonderfully famous photographer, while never deigned to meet his unsung hero Walt, did visit Walt's mom.
So Walt gets terminated in the end, But the whole time, I am thinking, why didn't the Mr Wonderful Hero Photographer tell the suits at Life to not only keep Walt on, but give him a promotion? A totally Hollywood movie deserves a totally Hollywood ending! Or an ending with some grand unexpected twist, like Mitty was some bind, torture and kill serial murderer on the side.
Death Sentence (2007)
Cheap Exploitative Unrealistic Trash, Death Wish much Better
This movie was so riddled with clichés and worn out memes, as well as plain unrealistic nonsense that it is hard to keep up Of course, there are clear links between this and the classic 1974 Death Wish, But that was a masterpiece compared to this disposal flick. It had an element of realism too, where Joe Average gets a gun and turns the tables on unsuspecting street criminals in NYC and wins the public's admiration for his vigilantism in making the streets safe again. It had a good 70s everyman appeal since the protagonist didn't do anything physical that an ordinary office worker couldn't do. While this scheisskino had the protagonist doing Neo of the Matrix level stunts
This starts off with some nonsense about the perfect yuppie over achiever and his family of hockey playing sons, fine wife, nice house etc etc Then the urban myth about how if you flash some car at night because they don't have their headlights on, that is some gang who will then go and try to kill you. They catch one of the killers of his jock robot son, but the DA only wants to give him a few years. So Rambo deliberately flubs his court testimony in order to get the killer off for later revenge. Then followed one utterly ridiculous absurd cliché action scene after another; where Mr Mild Mannered VP goes medieval on these bulked up thugs, w/o taking the slightest precautions. One example was his first revenge killing where he parked his car in front of his intended victim's house and wore his business suit. That made it easy for the gang to figure out who the killer was.
One mindless foot chase scene on a busy city street where the gang is shooting wildly at him all over the place, yet no cops show up. He manages to get one on the rood of the parking garage, After flubbing numerous chances to do in the killer in stupid slasher movie style where he doesn't take the chance to finish his assailant off but gives the killer one chance after another to go after him again. Finally he puts the car in reverse while they are fighting in the front seat, you saw this coming, and as the car is going off the roof he manages to bail out just in time through the smashed out windshield. Nothing that absurd happened in Death Wish, at least the first couple ones until it became a cartoon Rambo series. This one was so over the top, then it tries to make up for it with this revenge will make you just as bad meme it through in at the end to make crap seem profound. In the end, it is just another stupid Kevin Bacon movie, on par with his TV show, "The Following"
San Andreas (2015)
An Above Par Disaster Movie
The disaster movie genre started in the 70s with such films as the Towering Inferno. They were usually ham fisted star studded turkeys. While the plot and dialogue in this one is pretty pedestrian, over all it is entertaining without being graphic or sexual, beyond the usual damsel, or in this case, his daughter, in distress. It is a good family film that serves up the action and special effects but keeps it grounded, albeit cheesy at times. Sure, the two English brothers who saved his daughter at first then she saves them is pretty schmaltzy but not too terrible. Add the cad of a potential step father who wimps out to save himself, in order to set up a possible re-union between the Rock and his ex, played by Carla Gugino, borderline cheese too.
The Rock is so much a better action hero he-man type than his 80s predecessors like Stallone and Lundgren it isn't worth the comparison. Not that he is a great actor, but he has much better screen presence.
In all, it is a good enjoyable disaster movie and an easy watch, and safe for the kids too
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
Hamfisted Stupid Message Film
The original Purge was a watchable one-trick-pony film, with a simple plot about a yearly night of no law mayhem. Which seemed to devolve into people murdering others for small grudges like the daughter's boyfriend wants to kill dad etc. It was claustrophobic, since it was all set in a man's house, Okay but not great
Then they recycled the same name and plot element into a film that was trying to be something it couldn't be, a "social message" film. Then it introduced an action movie heavy guy, who was good at playing that sort of role. But that just played to the person who wanted a Rambo or a Dirty Harry to set it all right. The movie didn't need a heavy, it works best with just average folks getting by on their wits. Not silly action scenes where berserker's drive down subway tunnels in special off road gun mounted vehicles shooting at random folks, the homeless and people just hiding. Part of the plot line was the group of random people being led by the heavy to one of the group's relative's apartment to get a car. Why not steal one, it is legal, instead of walking on treacherous streets or in subway tunnels
OKAY, one whole night of no laws, you can do anything you like. Yet the one crime people seem to want to commit is random murder. No mass robbery, arson, theft, drug dealing, etc. So they throw this group of harvesters in , who capture and gather poorer people up so rich WASPY elitists, not just white people but Mayflower types, can have their upper crust murder party. Then some righteous group is trying to fight these bag guys! And guess what, they are black criminals led by a black rapper, lol. Only in Hollywood is such racist nonsense taken as profound. Black lives matter, only the few times a white person kills one.
But the action heavy guy's motive that night was revenge, on some white guy who murdered his son on the last Purge day. But he redeems himself lala lala
Good Fan Movie, But Don't Expect Much + Don't Condemn It
This movie is a continuation of the series as it left off in the grand finale of Season 8 when the principal players all decided to get married or save their marriages by flying off to Europe in private jets Hollywood style. It is a fan movie of a show, and if you didn't like the show, you probably won't like the movie. But it is good enough to stand on its own w/o prior experience.And as you can guess, like a lot of movies of this genre, it fluffs a half hour show into something a bit too long.
The haters of this show are people who are revolted by the crass materialistic and celebrity lifestyle aspect of the show. Is this a deep movie with admirable characters overcoming enormous obstacles? NO, they can be quite shallow guys, out to score women, get high and just party first class, which rubs a cinder into the eyes of a lot of people who don't approve of that sybaritic lifestyle. But this cadre of guys from Queens, in Hollywood, plus their super agent turned studio head Ari Gold, do stick together and stick up for each other. They do have some principles, in the midst of their opportunism and hedonism, Vince is a natural womanizer who is basically a nice guy but a poor business sense and an overinflated view that confuses his movie star attributes with being a serious actor and movie maker. In this movie, he is the director of a bad remake, who then has to beg from investor, since he went over-budget. The investors wants to cut his pathetic actor brother's scenes out of the movie. Of course, he can't let his brother, or any of his friends or confidants down, regardless of the implications.
So don't expect too much from this movie. But don't whine about sexism or materialism, when there are women who have no problem playing the same game the guys are playing. It isn't a great movie, but it is watchable. Some parts I didn't like was the cracker jack feel good ending and Turtle's (Jerry Ferrara, the group's cut up and gopher, now a successful businessman) new love interest. She was played as herself by some female fighter. She was not only not attractive, she was downright unpleasant. She was there just to be the alpha female. Turtle was the least obnoxious and egotistical character, and in the TV version went out with Jamie Lee Sigler, Meadow Soprano for a season. She's far more attractive and pleasant then this pugilist. Then to the movie within the movie, "Hyde", a reimagining of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now it was always a case that the main man star, Vince, was lazy and disinterested in anything but acting occasionally. But here he directs the movie too, as well as plays the lead. And of course, not only does the movie end up being a hit. but his chump brother gets an award for his bit part in it, a part the Texans wanted to be cut. Of course, we see only the first minute of the movie within the movie, but Ari said it was gold and it became the hit movie of that week. Billy Bob and Haley Osmet were barely tolerable as the domineering Texan investor father and son team. It was a pollyanna sort of ending for sure, which made it cheesier than the show, which had a lot of (not too)downer endings.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Comic Book Adolescent Dreck
The reviewers said this was a witty send-up of Bond type movies but I thought it was juvenile post modern dreck. Like Kickass, it was derived from a comic book. But what worked for K.A. didn't work for this over produced, overly violent and sfx ridden A list monstrosity. It seems like post modernism means you can shamelessly exploit and recycle genres and stereotypes, like Q's endless gadgets for Bond. Then with some smirk, the movie makers can say "I was just spoofing or paying homage to that well worn trope."
The movie was utterly unintelligent and utterly pretentious, and any superficial Savile Row English gent class it exploited was there to hide the stupid and violent action scenes & silly plot.
Deliver Us from Evil (2014)
Pretty Lame Derivative Horror
I really enjoyed Derrickson's 'Sinister' and some of his other movies, as well as Eric Bana is good too. But this is the lamest crap. But what made it even stupider is that it is allegedly based on a real life character cop named Sarchie, which is complete and utter rot. They may have lifted a few details and people from his life but there is nothing remotely true about any of this Exorcism devil possession nonsense.
Sinister was awesome & horrible mainly because of its original "theology" of its demonic character, Baghul, and his m.o., using little kids as accomplices in their family's murder. This is just schlock grade school Catholic church "the devil possessed me" sort of voodoo. Supposedly, the devil gets inside a person if they read some crap written in Latin. Which begs the question of why didn't one of Satan's accomplices just post the script in public and reap thousands of souls each day?
The movie featured some hard core macho NYC police action, more fictional nonsense. They had Olivia Munn, the next Catherine Zeta Jones dark tall and sultry type, as his wife with the requisite sweet little soccer playing daughter too, all to be put in danger with mom.
The only really standout character was the Jesuit street priest Mendoza. But it was all to waste. They tried to get all deep as the priest got Sarchie to embrace his Catholicism. Just like the Exorcist, these sort of movies end up being Vatican promotion. Nothing gets the clueless back into the pews faster than scaring the devil out of people.
But after the bad guy got the devil knocked out of him, what happened to him? Did the cop priest duo, who supposedly pal around in real life, try to get him out of jail, since it was the devil who made him do it?
The Sentinel (1977)
Good Horror Movie Marred By Bad Director Decisions
This is a good horror movie. It was risqué for the time but compared to the cannibal ghoul gut fests we have today, it is tame. The main problems are lame direction and poor leads casting choices. Which is ironic since the movie had cast of stars as supporting actors, past present & future, such as Ava Gardner, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, etc, That made the two lame choices for leads, Chris Sarandon and Cristina Raines, seem almost sabotage. But the basic story, while derivative, is sound, and it carried the movie. Of course, one can't miss the Rosemary's Baby tie in when the opening NYC shot is an aerial view of Central Park West NYC showing the Dakota. Except here the creepy house with the "great rental deal" is in Brooklyn Heights, not Manhattan. Then add some Catholic clergy angle and church imagery to give the movie some medieval baroque old world mystery to the story. After all, the start of the movie was set in an old Italian monastery.
So if you overlook some bad direction and hokey aspects, like the Alison's suicide flashback and other bad moments. it is a good overlooked flick. I think some reasons for its dismissal are the malign homosexual characters, ghosts mainly and a freak show finale of real circus sideshow freaks. But it is still interesting enough and offbeat to make for good viewing. But there is one question you will ask yourself all through the movie, why didn't she get out of that house ASAP? Why didn't any of her friends tell her to get out of that house, especially after she started mysteriously fainting? She had money, her dead dad was super rich & she was a top level fashion model. And the plot didn't all happen in a day or two, more like a month.
Pain & Gain (2013)
Good Black Comedy Done Miami Style
Lot's of people hated and others loved this movie. I imagine a lot of the movie's haters hate Michael Bay, who is not my fave person by a long shot. Others complained it made fun of some heinous criminals & showed their victims as less than noble and innocent. But nowhere did it ever try to justify the crimes. How can you justify a crime that involves kidnapping, fraud and extortion by torture and ultimately murder as being the victim's fault? As a matter of fact, one of the victims the one who lived, played by Tony Shalhoub as Victor Kershaw, was in real life guilty of fraud in a case where his assailant Lugo testified against him.
It was about three felonious losers who bought the whole American dream of wealth and success but didn't have the brains and drive to do it at least legally. There was one of those inspirational motivational types Ken Leoung who convinced the main culprit Danny Lugo, Mark Wahlberg, to go for it all! After all, these guys just worked in gym where they looked good but were just servants to the real money types.
All the main characters were played by good actors who did a good job bringing their pathetic real life counterparts to life and injecting humanity into them. It was also a satire on human foibles in ultra rich, ultra party Miami Beach Florida, ala "Miami Vice", "Dexter" style They even had the exterior of Dexter's apartment building in one shot. The movie was so over the top and full of people who were so less than competent on both sides. Lugo did vertical sit ups from the ladder leading to the roof of his him in broad daylight was a great visual, as well as bouncing off a police car that hit him as he was making his escape.
It was a lot of fun but to those who claim it made light of the criminals they all got their just desserts.