Collateral Damage (2002)

collateraldamage_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri, Elias Koteas, Cliff Curtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro, Jsu Garcia, Tyler Posey, Miguel Sandoval, Harry Lennix

Directed by Andrew Davis

Expectations: I remember wanting to like this, but being disappointed.

twohalfstar


Collateral Damage isn’t a bad movie, but the potential of the premise is not fully realized. This disappointment stems directly from the film’s tone and its production year. See, the premise is totally ’80s action fluff — a father out for vengeance in the jungles of Columbia — but the execution is pure early 2000s when tones had darkened and reckless fun had all but vanished from action movies. There are times when the film seems to forget what year it is and have fun with its dumb plot (mostly in the 3rd act), but it never does it enough to get into that sweet spot of entertainment. I love Arnold, so I still enjoyed it greatly, but it is frustrating to see so much wasted Arnold-tastic potential.

Gordy Brewer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a well-respected member of the firefighting team, loves saving people for a living. His job causes him to work odd hours, though, making the care of his son something of a juggling act between Gordy and his wife. One day Gordy agrees to pick up his son from a building downtown, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s the same building targeted by international terrorist El Lobo (Cliff Curtis). Lobo’s bomb kills Gordy’s wife and child, sending him on a one-man mission of revenge that will stop at absolutely nothing.

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Quick Takes: Ichi the Killer, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man, John Wick

ichiIchi the Killer [殺し屋1] (1994)
threehalfstar

Starring Tadanobu Asano, Nao Omori, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Paulyn Sun, Susumu Terajima, Shun Sugata, Toru Tezuka, Yoshiki Arizono, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Satoshi Niizuma, Suzuki Matsuo, Jun Kunimura
Directed by Takashi Miike

Ichi the Killer is the third feature I’ve seen from Takashi Miike, and damn he’s good. A film like this that’s so incredibly bloody and violent, but yet the main takeaway is the need for a deep intellectual discussion… that’s hard to pull off. It ultimately felt like Miike had crafted a film that wonders about the people who watch these kinds of films (or violent, “negative” media in general) with an armchair bloodlust. This all seemed to hinge on one small moment during the finale when a character in extreme peril looks directly into the camera with intense fear, while that same camera is presenting a first-person view from the character instilling this fear in the other. In any case, this is definitely not a film for the squeamish, as it’s one hell of an extreme, sadistic bloodbath. Audition may have gotten the “this movie is so crazy and shocking” press, but Ichi the Killer is a million times worse than Audition. The nipple scene is sheer torture! I literally pushed my chair back as far as it would go, cringed and repeated “Goddamn!” in a whisper for the next 30 seconds or so. Good stuff.

TheLegendIsBornIpMan+2010-3-bThe Legend Is Born: Ip Man [葉問前傳] (2010)
AKA Ip Man Zero
threestar

Starring Dennis To, Crystal Huang Yi, Xu Jiao, Hins Cheung King-Hin, Fan Siu-Wong, Yuen Biao, Lam Suet, Yip Chun, Bernice Liu Bik-Yi, Sire Ma Choi, Rose Chan Ka-Wun, Sammo Hung
Directed by Herman Yau

I initially avoided The Legend Is Born: Ip Man out of respect for the original Ip Man films. I didn’t want to see any watered-down knock-offs. But then it occurred to me that it was no different than all the Brucesploitation films that are a lot of fun, so I plunged in head-first, hoping it wouldn’t be as trashy as a you might expect a knock-off to be. And, you know, it actually felt more respectful of Ip Man’s legacy than Ip Man 2 was! The Legend Is Born even features Ip Man’s son, Ip Chun, in a wonderful role as an elder student of Wing Chun that has developed a more refined and varied approach to the fighting style that revolutionizes Ip Man’s way of thinking. This reminded me greatly of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do style, and if this section of the film was truthful to Ip Man’s life, then I imagine it was this spirit of openness to other styles and ways of thinking that he would later pass on to Bruce. I loved the focus on Wing Chun in The Legend Is Born, and it’s definitely one for Hong Kong fans to watch. In some ways it actually felt like an older-style kung fu film that is generally no longer made, and you know that kind of thing is a quick way to my heart. And it has Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung in supporting roles!

johnwickJohn Wick (2014)
AKA Sin Control, John Wick: Sin Control

twostar

Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Omer Barnea, Toby Leonard Moore, Daniel Bernhardt, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Clarke Peters
Directed by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch

I just didn’t connect with John Wick at all. I blame the fan hype that sold it as some kind of John Woo-style gun movie. I didn’t see that in it AT ALL. The way the violence was handled felt really gross. It’s the same problem I have with a lot of modern horror films: everything looks too damn real or graphic for me to just have fun with it. I am forced to reckon with the reality of the situation, which in this case is John Wick revenge-killing a whole shitload of dudes. All the violence is really flippant and backed by “cool” music, too, so everything about the violence felt glorified and dirty to me. I can’t have fun with that. Does this even make sense to anyone but me? It’s hard to explain. Whatever. I didn’t like it. ’nuff said.

Quick Takes: Ride Along, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Afternoon Delight

ride_along_xlgRide Along (2014)
threestar

Starring Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Laurence Fishburne, Dragos Bucur, Gary Owen, Jacob Latimore, Jay Pharoah, Benjamin Flores Jr.
Directed by Tim Story

Like many action comedies, it would be easy to rip Ride Along for having a dumb plot and sequences where our heroes would never survive if it were real life. But action comedies aren’t real life, so as long as I’m laughing more than I’m not, I’m happy. Ride Along made me happy. Ride Along has gotten fairly dismal reviews from almost everyone, and while I can’t defend it as some great piece of cinema, it’s definitely more fun than the consensus makes it appear. What it comes down to is that I think Kevin Hart is funny, and I also love me some Ice Cube. Together they make a great comedy duo. The action could have been shot better, but this is a small complaint in a quick, fun, entertaining movie. Clear your mind for a night and just ride along with it.

a92058kywgvRise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
threehalfstar

Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris, Ty Olsson, David Hewlett
Directed by Rupert Wyatt

I love the original Planet of the Apes films, but after seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes I think it might be hard to go back. I’m shocked how much I enjoyed this one. You really couldn’t ask for a better modern take on the Planet of the Apes saga, although I do wonder if they’ll stick with CG for the more evolved humanoid apes if they continue the series. I suppose they will, but Rick Baker’s makeup from Tim Burton’s 2001 remake was so good I kinda wish they’d do that again. Anyway, if you’ve been on the fence for the last few years, definitely watch this one! By focusing the story on a single ape, we are able to feel for the character, right down to the point of cheering the apes on during the film’s climactic (and awesome) final act. I can’t wait to see the sequel!

afternoon-delight-posterAfternoon Delight (2013)
threestar

Starring Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch, Jessica St. Clair, Michaela Watkins, Josh Stamberg, John Kapelos, Keegan Michael Key, Annie Mumolo
Directed by Jill Soloway

Afternoon Delight walks a thin line between drama and dark comedy, delivering both very well and remaining engaging throughout. At least for me. I can imagine this one will split people, as it’s pretty much nothing but spoiled white people problems. They are problems nonetheless, and something as life affecting as being unhappy in a relationship shouldn’t be trivialized. Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is the unhappy one in question, and her life changes course when she visits a strip club with her husband and another couple. Rachel becomes somewhat obsessed, or at the very least highly interested, in getting to know McKenna (Juno Temple), the stripper she connected with. One thing leads to another and McKenna is living in Rachel’s spare bedroom. What makes Afternoon Delight so interesting to me is how much director Jill Soloway seems to be saying with the film, without actually saying it. There’s so much to dissect about the character relationships, revealing insightful takes on truth, trust and the relationships that shape our lives. Kathryn Hahn is superb as Rachel, giving a raw, emotional performance that deserves acclaim, and Juno Temple is a perfect, confident complement to Hahn’s nervous energy. Very good, but definitely not for everyone.

Quick Takes: Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Disorderlies, The Happening

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)

Starring Leslie Nielsen, Mel Brooks, Peter MacNicol, Steven Weber, Amy Yasbeck, Lysette Anthony, Harvey Korman, Anne Bancroft
Directed by Mel Brooks

Actually, he’s more just getting along than loving it. I was expecting Dracula to get all Liberace on life, but alas this is a rather pedestrian re-telling of the Dracula tale and not the flamboyant re-imagining I hoped for. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. On the contrary, I’m enough of a Dracula fan to get a kick out of the places where the kicks were intended. The blood gushing gag was my favorite, as it satisfied my gorehound thirst as well as my funny bone. A very minor Brooks work, and presumably his final film unless he’s preparing a comeback, Dracula: Dead and Loving It is just OK.

Disorderlies (1987)

Starring Mark Morales, Darren Robinson, Damon Wimbley, Ralph Bellamy, Anthony Geary, Tony Plana, Marco Rodríguez, Helen Reddy, Troy Beyer
Directed by Michael Schultz

Disorderlies is an astoundingly subtle take on race and class in 1980s, both of which went completely over my head as a kid focusing on the rap antics of three of hip-hop’s heaviest dudes. Oh ok, Disorderlies may not plumb the depths of social commentary and it’s technically not a very good movie, but if you’re in the right mindset, it’s a fantastically fun 80s comedy and I had an absolute blast watching it. When I was a young kid, I had an unhealthy fascination with seeing this movie and when I finally saw it, I loved it. I haven’t seen it since that fateful day in the late 80s, and while it isn’t the laugh riot I remember it being, it’s still pretty damn funny. I just can’t help but laugh when Buff and Kool drive a cop car from the back set with coat hangers. It’s like The Three Stooges for the 80s, complete with the accompanying sound FX and prat falls.

The Happening (2008)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, Betty Buckley, Spencer Breslin, Robert Bailey, Jr., Frank Collison, Victoria Clark, Jeremy Strong
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

The Happening is a big-budget B-movie and nothing more, so like many B-movies, it never quite reaches the heights it sets out for. It’s a poorly acted, poorly directed, poorly written piece of trash moviemaking, but I honestly enjoyed it overall. I can dig the environmental theme, but I take issue with one key moment at the end that shows Shyamalan doesn’t really understand or subscribe to the theories he’s trying to enlighten others with here. Perhaps this moment is yet another comment on society, but if that’s the case, it’s poorly executed. Still though, it’s trashy fun and the R Rating helps sell the apocalypse pretty well. If you enjoy paranoia B-Movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Happening is a fair, but stupid, entry into the genre. Watch out for Mark Wahlberg’s dialogue with the potted plant, it’s a high point and I can only wonder what everyone on set thought about the state of their careers in that moment.




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