Archive for the Screaming Streaming Category

Screaming Streaming: CASA DE MI PADRE (2012)

Posted in 2013, Comedies, Just Plain Bad, Michael Arruda Reviews, Parodies, R-Rated Comedy, Screaming Streaming with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2013 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Streaming Video Movie Review:  CASA DE MI PADRE (2012)
By Michael Arruda

casa-de-mi-padre poster

I get it

Will Ferrell has made so many movies and has achieved so much success, he’s at the point in his career where he can do whatever he wants, like making movies that are experimental and offbeat, and stand little chance of making money at the box office.

I get it.  But that doesn’t mean I liked CASA DE MI PADRE, a movie that is indeed offbeat—it’s in Spanish with English subtitles— yet isn’t all that funny, nor is it much of an action movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like the idea of a quirky movie, but it’s got to work.  This movie doesn’t work.

In CASA DE MI PADRE (2012), now available on Streaming Video, Armando (Will Ferrell) is the black sheep of his family.  His father Miguel (Pedro Armendariz, Jr.) is always calling him stupid, and while he does work on his father’s ranch, we see him spending his days hanging around with his buddies.  When his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with his beautiful fiancée Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), he’s welcomed with open arms by his father, but it turns out Raul is really a drug dealer who’s at war with the local drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), who happens to be Sonia’s uncle.

Onza’s goons shoot up Raul’s and Sonia’s wedding, creating a bloodbath in the one stylish scene in the movie, leaving Armando to seek vengeance against Onza and to save his family’s honor

I kept waiting for CASA DE MI PADRE to be funny.  I’m still waiting.

I don’t think I laughed once, and that’s no joke.  Not a good sign for a comedy. Sure, it’s possible I could have missed the point.  I could have missed the good intentions of what Ferrell and company were trying to do here.  I’ll admit that.  Then again, CASA DE MI PADRE just might be a bad movie.

Ferrell plays it straight here.  Even though his character Armando is supposed to be a simpleton, he’s really not.  He’s no goofy idiot bumbling his way through situations a la a Mexican Inspector Clouseau.  He’s supposed to be an honorable man with a touch of spiritualism, a hero.  Gag.

I suppose the joke is that it’s Will Ferrell and he’s playing it straight in a Mexican action movie.  I suppose this is supposed to be funny.  So, if you’re into seeing a serious Ferrell play a Mexican farmer battling a Mexican drug lord, and you think that’s humorous, then this might be the movie for you. 

For a comedy, the jokes just aren’t there.  The screenplay by Andrew Steele is about as funny as Taco Bell ad.  I’ll take that back. I’ve seen funnier Taco Bell ads.  In all fairness, I’d guess that the screenplay accomplishes what the writer and director and Ferrell wanted it to accomplish.  There doesn’t seem to be much effort or interest in creating a straight comedy

Instead, the interest seems to be in creating an authentic Mexican action movie, and to get laughs simply through weird scenes and offbeat dialogue, as in, let’s have Ferrell deliver these serious lines with a straight face, and won’t this be funny! 

Here’s my answer:  no.

Director Matt Piedmont hasn’t made much of an action movie either.  There’s one decent action scene, the bloodbath at the wedding, but that’s it.  The rest of the action is incredibly flat.  So, without comedy, without action, you’re left with a Spanish language drama starring Will Ferrell, the type of thing you’d catch on your local Spanish language TV channel.

Genesis Rodriguez is drop dead gorgeous and in all seriousness is the only reason to see this movie.  But do you really want to sit through 90 minutes of CASA DE MI PADRE just to see Rodriguez?  Heck, even her nude love scene is ruined by frequent shots of Will Ferrell’s naked butt.  Yes, sadly, you will see more of Ferrell’s naked butt than Rodriguez’s.  What were the filmmakers thinking? 

Genesis Rodriguez - the only reason to see CASA DE MI PADRE.

Genesis Rodriguez – the only reason to see CASA DE MI PADRE.

I honestly felt as if the joke was on the audience.  Let’s make this as unfunny as possible and see what people say about it.  It’s as if they wanted to see our faces and laugh.

There are also some weird spiritual aspects to the story, including a talking mountain lion, which is so fake looking it makes the TWILIGHT werewolves look good!  It looks like a Muppet reject.  This lion talks to Ferrell and raises him from the dead.  Huh?  You know, maybe if you’ve had a few drinks before you see this one—.

There’s also some goofy songs sung by Ferrell and Rodriguez, but these miss the mark as well

In fact, the whole film misses the mark.  It’s so bad, I wish I hadn’t seen it

I chose to review CASA DE MI PADRE because it was an R-rated comedy, something we review regularly here at Cinema Knife Fight.  It’s about as far removed from traditional R-rated comedies as you can get.  It’s rated R because of its one nude scene (hey, is that still Will Ferrell’s butt?  Somebody make it stop!)  There’s also that one bloody scene at the wedding, but that’s about it folks.  The rest of the movie is hopelessly lame.

But didn’t I like the quirkiness of the whole thing?  The deadpan style of Will Ferrell?  His goofy buddies?  About those buddies— when the funniest thing they do is laugh, you know you’re in trouble.  Again, I felt as if they were laughing at the audience.  Yep, the joke is on us. 

Didn’t I like the scene with the severed hand?  You mean the hand that looked like it was bought from Toys R Us?  But wasn’t that funny?  That it looked fake?  No. 

Didn’t I like the strange camera angles?  The weird props?  The fake-looking mountain lion?  The mannequin?  You mean, the stuff that looked like it belonged in a Pee Wee Herman movie?  You know, I might have, if Pee Wee Herman had been around, but sadly, he’s not.

This is all a roundabout way of saying what you already know, that this movie simply didn’t work for me, not on any level.

As a result, I give CASA DE MI PADRE a whopping 0 Knives.

Don’t waste your time on this one.  Save yourself the torture and have a Dos Equis instead.

—END–

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives CASA DE MI PADRE ZERO KNIVES!

Zero

 

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Screaming Streaming Hires THE COURIER (2012)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Crime Films, Gangsters!, Killers, Michael Arruda Reviews, Screaming Streaming with tags , , , , , on February 22, 2013 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Streaming Video Movie Review:  THE COURIER (2012)
By Michael Arruda

The Courier poster

I decided to check out the action thriller THE COURIER (2012), now available on streaming video, because it starred Jeffrey Dean Morgan, an actor whose performances I’ve enjoyed of late in such films as WATCHMEN (2009) and THE POSSESSION (2012).

Well, the first thing I’ll tell you right now is I enjoyed Morgan much better in WATCHMEN and THE POSSESSION than in THE COURIER.   Sadly, his performance in this one is uninspiring.  And that’s just the beginning of what’s wrong with this clinker.

The movie starts off well.  In fact, its best scene and most memorable image might be its opening one.  It opens at an abandoned (or, at the very least, closed) amusement park, with two thugs holding a woman hostage at the top of a roller coaster track.  The Courier (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) races through the park to reach her, climbing all the way to the top of the tracks to hand deliver the package of money to the thugs for her release.  He makes it in time, but not before the kidnappers push her off the top track, but the Courier leaps to her rescue (I guess he doesn’t get paid unless the victim is returned safely) and somehow, miraculously, manages to grab onto the line tied to her and pull her to safety.

No, this Courier doesn’t work for UPS.   He’s self-employed, a man hired to find people and to deliver ransom packages.  Nice job.  You wouldn’t think he’d be all that busy, though.  How many ransom packages need to be delivered on a regular basis?

But, because he’s the best there is (of course), the Courier is sought out by a man (Til Schweiger), who forces him to find a mysterious person named Evil Sivle.  If not, this man and the people he works for will kill the daughter and grandchild of the Courier’s best friend, Stitch (Mark Margolis).

The Courier searches New Orleans for Evil Sivle with the help of a young woman Anna (Josie Ho), a friend of Stitch’s, who it seems Stitch would like to set up romantically with the Courier.  Nice matchmaker.  Why don’t the two of you go to New Orleans on the trail of a bloodthirsty killer and go out for a couple of drinks afterwards, it might be the start of a beautiful relationship.

It seems, however, according to the information that the Courier uncovers, that Evil Sivle is dead, but that doesn’t stop a guy named Maxwell (Mickey Rourke) from trying to kill the Courier.  Why?  It’s all part of the mystery, I guess.

The Courier is eventually captured and tortured by a pair of married assassins, Mr. Capo (Miguel Ferrer) and Mrs. Capo (Lili Taylor).  But being the best there is, the Courier escapes from their clutches to continue his quest to find Evil Sivle.

To confuse matters even more, it turns out that the man who forced the Courier to take this job is really an FBI agent.  It seems the FBI are the ones who want Evil Sivle found.  Why?  I wish I could tell you.

In the end, the Courier proves he’s the best by finding the reclusive Evil Sivle, whose identity is revealed in one of the more ridiculous plot twists I’ve seen in a long time.

Hands down, the biggest problem I have with THE COURIER is its story stinks.  It plays like a movie that started with a clever concept—a courier who gets involved with a seedy underworld full of undesirables—but couldn’t come up with a decent storyline that made any sense.  And that’s the bottom line with this one, folks.  It doesn’t make sense.

The Courier is forced to take this job, and it’s questionable why he would accept the job when the threat— we’ll abduct your best friend’s daughter and her child—hasn’t even happened yet.  I just didn’t buy the plot point that a guy like the Courier would simply roll over and do what these guys wanted.  He would have fought back.  He accepts their terms way too easily.

Then there’s Evil Sivle.  Nice name, but just who the hell is he?  Why is he so sought after?  The film never really makes its case that this guy is a legendary villain, someone the FBI would kill for just to find.

Other characters aren’t fleshed out either.  The FBI agent who coerces the Courier in the first place disappears half way through the film.  And Maxwell, played by Mickey Rourke in a wasted role, shows up so fleetingly that his presence in the movie is nothing more than an afterthought.

And the final plot twist is embarrassingly bad.  Screenwriters Pete Dris and Brannon Coombs should have gone back to the shop with this one for a long time before calling it a final product.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan, so memorable as the Comedian in WATCHMEN doesn’t impress here as the Courier.  Perhaps for his next role he’ll consider a character whose name doesn’t begin with “the.”  His performance as the Courier simply lacks the necessary intensity needed for the character.  I didn’t really buy him in this role.  He seemed too clunky to be the efficient swift-footed Courier.

Mickey Rourke is on screen so briefly as Maxwell I almost forgot he was in the movie.  I did enjoy Miguel Ferrer and Lili Taylor as Mr. and Mrs. Capo, the torture couple, but they’re not in the movie much either.  The other actor who stood out was Mark Margolis as Stitch.  Margolis has been in a lot of movies and TV shows and always adds a sense of realism to the proceedings. His Stitch was a convincing guy in a movie full of unconvincing characters and plot points.

COURIER01

THE COURIER does have some interesting ideas and some curious characters, but they’re never developed to any degree of satisfaction.

Director Hany Abu-Assad seems to have handled this one with an eye on something else.  It’s as if he were driving while texting or something.  The action scenes, fight scenes, shoot- out scenes, all seemed rushed.  None of it comes off as convincing because there isn’t much attention given to detail here.  In fact, there’s something rushed about this whole production, including the script.  Perhaps they were trying to make a same-day delivery.

Anyway, THE COURIER is a disappointing thriller that is too muddled to be effective.  It’s about as intense as a trip to the post office.

It gets one knife.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives THE COURIER ~ one knife!

Screaming Streaming! Presents: THE MANSTER (1959)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2012, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Deformed Freaks!, Evil Doctors!, Mad Doctors!, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Scientific Experiments, Screaming Streaming with tags , , , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Movie Review:  THE MANSTER (1959)
By Michael Arruda

One of my favorite things about streaming video is the wide selection of older titles readily available.  I’m having fun catching up with movies I’ve never seen before and obscure oddball gems I haven’t seen in ages.

Today’s feature falls into the latter category, although I hesitate to call it a gem.  It isn’t.

It’s THE MANSTER (1959), a film that’s been on my mind since Craig Shaw Gardner mentioned it this past summer after reading my review of THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT (1971).  He pointed out that along with TRANSPLANT and THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972) it made up the full complement of two-headed men monster movies.

I hadn’t seen THE MANSTER in years, so I was happy when it turned up on my streaming video menu.

THE MANSTER takes place in Japan and opens with a weird ape-like creature on the loose, the result of an experiment gone wrong by a certain Dr. Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura). Suzuki promptly destroys his creature, but like all good mad scientists, vows to try again.

Enter American reporter Larry Stanford  (Peter Dyneley), about to conduct his final interview before returning home to the States to spend some much needed time with his wife Linda (Jane Hylton).  His last interview subject—unfortunately for him— is Dr. Suzuki.

Dr. Suzuki privately tells his female assistant Tara (Terri Zimmern) that the reporter is perfect for their next experiment.  And so, while Larry is interviewing Suzuki about his work— some crazed notion about harnessing rays from outer space which, when aimed at animal life, cause changes in evolution, resulting in a new species of life— yeah, doc, whatever—Suzuki slips Larry a drug in his drink which knocks him out.

When Larry awakens, he has an aching shoulder, and soon things grow much worse.  His personality changes, he’s suddenly ignoring both his job and his wife, and he’s spending his evenings enjoying the Japanese night life, getting drunk and hooking up with other women.  And, oh that pain in his shoulder keeps getting worse!  It leads to the best image in the movie, when Larry looks at his shoulder and sees a monstrous eye sticking out of it gazing up at him.

“Someone’s watching me! I just know it!”

Eventually, Larry sprouts a new head (I guess this is that new species Suzuki was so excited about!) and soon afterwards Larry becomes a homicidal two-headed maniac, killing people left and right.  Ultimately, the head grows into an entire body and splits apart from Larry, making it easier for the police to chase the monster and leave Larry alone, conveniently enabling his wife to rescue him from all this madness.

The significance of THE MANSTER is that it featured a two-headed man monster long before its two-head cousins from the 1970s, THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT (1971) and THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972).  Other than this, the movie is just okay.

The acting is pretty good.  Peter Dyneley isn’t bad as American reporter Larry Stanford.  He has a “Lon Chaney Jr.” thing going, as there’s something about his look in this movie which reminds me of Chaney.   Dyneley plays Larry as more than just a wise-cracking American reporter.  He gives him a sincerity not often found in these roles.  Dyneley would go on to provide many of the voices for the popular 1960s TV show THUNDERBIRDS, which featured some pretty cool puppetry.

“So what do you think of this movie?”
“Be quiet, I’m sleeping.”

Dyneley’s real-life wife, Jane Hylton, appeared in many movies with him, and she’s on hand here as his wife Linda.  She’s pretty awful, unfortunately.

Tetsu Nakamura fares much better as Dr. Suzuki.  Nakamura makes for a very smooth mad scientist and gets to deliver lines Bela Lugosi would have been at home saying.  Nakamura appeared in a decent amount of Japanese monster movies, including THE MYSTERIANS (1957) and MOTHRA (1961).

Directors George P. Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane include the one memorable scene of the eye emerging from Larry’s shoulder, but other than this, there isn’t much to remember about THE MANSTER.

The two-headed “Manster” is pretty fake looking, but doesn’t look any worse than the 1970s incarnations.  Dr. Suzuki keeps mutants imprisoned in his lab, the results of previous experiments gone wrong.  These mutants are kinda creepy, but ultimately they’re a disappointment, as the make-up job on them is pretty bad.

Director Breakston also received story credit, and as monster stories go, it’s a pretty good one, but the screenplay by William J. Sheldon is not so good, as most of the dialogue in this one is plain awful.

I first saw THE MANSTER as a teenager on late night TV, and I remember liking it a lot.  I’d seen it a couple of times since, but not in a while.  Admittedly, the movie doesn’t hold up as well as I remember it.

Sure, the two main players, Dyneley and Nakamura, turn in professional performances and make their characters believable, but they’re surrounded by lesser performances.  The fright scenes are few and far between, and I guess that was my biggest disappointment seeing this movie again.  The Manster scenes really weren’t all that exciting, nor were they campy enough to make me laugh out loud.  And the murder scenes were rather lame as well.  I remember this one having more of an edge to it.

When you come right down to it, THE MANSTER is really just a mediocre B monster movie.  While it does contain a novel concept, really, at the end of the day, there’s nothing that makes it head and shoulders above the rest.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Screaming Streaming Looks at NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, AND BLUE: THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN HORROR FILM (2009)

Posted in 2012, Documentary, George Romero, Horror Movies, John Carpenter Films, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Movie History, Screaming Streaming with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2012 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Movie Review:  NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, AND BLUE:  THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN HORROR FILM (2009)
By Michael Arruda

Let’s shake things up a bit and look at a documentary for a change.

NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, AND BLUE:  THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN HORROR FILM (2009) is a documentary directed by Andrew Monument and written by Joseph Maddrey, that examines American horror movies from the silent era up to the 2000s. It’s now available on Streaming Video.

The film definitely takes a psychological and sociological approach to looking at American horror movies. It attempts to explain why Americans love horror movies so much, what the filmmakers were trying to say with their movies, and how horror movies are tied into the times in which they were made.

NIGHTMARES begins with the silent horror movies of the 1920s, and it makes the argument that horror movies of the 1920s, especially the films of Lon Chaney Sr.,  were interested in deformities because after World War I soldiers were returning home maimed and injured, often without limbs, and these injuries were a large part of the American consciousness.

Horror in the 1930s picked up steam and most of the horror movies made during this decade, specifically the Universal monster movies, were true classics of the genre. These movies struck a chord with audiences and heavily influenced future filmmakers. I loved the comment made in one of the interviews about why boys loved the Wolf Man, because he was the perfect adolescent and they related to his problems:  he got hairy and lost control of his emotions. Yep, the Wolf Man does remind me of some teenagers I know.

The movie argues that horror was toned down in the 1940s because of the real-life horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. Budgets were reduced as well, and people like Val Lewton had to do more with less, and as a result he made his movies much more artistic.

Into the 1950s the movies reflected Americans’ fears of the Cold War and atomic bombs, and thus we had giant atomic monsters like TARANTULA (1955) and the giant ants in THEM!  (1954). Americans also feared UFOs, which gave us movies about alien invasions like THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) , and THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951).

Alfred Hitchcock changed things with PSYCHO (1960), and suddenly audiences had to expect the unexpected, such as lead characters getting killed early in the movie, and the most sympathetic character in the whole movie turning out to be the villain. As the 1960s went on and the United States became bogged down in the Vietnam War and race riots at home, films like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) emerged, mirroring the horror and disillusionment Americans were feeling at home.

In the 1970s, horror went through a movie boom again, with films like THE EXORCIST (1973) and JAWS (1975). As a big budget movie, JAWS  made horror mainstream, and had it been made in the 1950s it would have simply been a B movie.

In the 1980s, NIGHTMARES covers George Romero’s zombies and some of John Carpenter’s movies. It was interesting to listen to Carpenter as he explained that he made THEY LIVE (1988) out of anger and frustration with the Reagan administration.

NIGHTMARES definitely runs out of steam as it moves into the 1990s and 2000s, and only briefly  covers the movies from this period, with  fleeting mentions of THE SIXTH SENSE (1999, )and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999), the SAW movies and HOSTEL (2005).

The film was narrated by Lance Henriksen, and he does a good job, as his voice is a natural fit for the subject matter. Some of the people interviewed in the movie include Larry Cohen, Joe Dante, John Carpenter, George Romero, and Roger Corman, among others.

NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, AND BLUE:  THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN HORROR FILM is an enjoyable way to spend an evening, but it does have a couple of drawbacks. Since it covers so many years in just 90 minutes of running time, it moves quickly and never really provides an in-depth look at the movies it covers. As a result, while entertaining, NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, AND BLUE is rather superficial. It might have worked better as a TV series, where the filmmakers could have given the films and the people they interviewed more screen time. Personally, I would have loved to have listened to John Carpenter or George Romero go on for thirty minutes or so.

NIGHTMARES is definitely interested in how American horror movies are connected to American audiences, and how American filmmakers were influenced by their times. Now, this is an interesting angle, but I have to admit, I prefer stories about how the movies were made. I find the historical backgrounds of the people and events behind the movies much more interesting, but that’s not what this documentary is about. You won’t be learning how Willis O’Brien created King Kong, or about the thought processes of James Whale when he made FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935). You won’t hear John Carpenter talk about how he filmed certain scenes in HALLOWEEN (1978).

There really isn’t a whole lot of new information in NIGHTMARES. It’s not an eye opener filled with fascinating facts and tidbits about horror movies. But it does do a good job selling its angle, that American filmmakers and their movies are tied into the American experience. Based on the material presented in the film, I bought this argument.

NIGHTMARES IN RED, WHITE, AND BLUE:  THE EVOLUTION OF THE AMERICAN HORROR FILM is a mildly entertaining documentary on American horror movies, mostly because it contains interviews with some of the greatest horror filmmakers who are still with us today. Hearing what they have to say is always a rewarding experience. But in terms of new or insightful information, especially regarding the older movies, NIGHTMARES is lacking. Sure, you’ll get to see lots of neat film clips and see snippets of neat interviews, but it’s definitely a movie in need of more meat on its bones.

It’s a tasty appetizer rather than a satisfying meal.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Screaming Streaming: THE PERFECT HOST (2010)

Posted in 2012, Michael Arruda Reviews, Mystery, Psychos, Screaming Streaming, Suspense, Thrillers with tags , , , , , on May 11, 2012 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Movie Review:  THE PERFECT HOST (2010)
By Michael Arruda

 THE PERFECT HOST is not the perfect movie.

Sure, it’s entertaining, in a sugary “oh-aren’t-we-clever sort of way,” but that’s not the best recipe for a thriller, which is why, ultimately, this one simmers rather than boils.

Career criminal John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) has just robbed a bank.  He’s injured, on the run, and he desperately needs a place to hide, so he cons his way into the plush home of one Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce, who played Niles on TV’s FRASIER) by pretending to know one of Wilson’s friends.  John got the name of the friend from a postcard in Wilson’s mail.

At first Wilson declines to invite John inside, as he’s preparing dinner for guests, but he changes his mind, saying it would be rude of him to turn away a friend of a friend.  He even invites John to stay for dinner, an invitation that John grows anxious about when he learns that one of the guests is a prosecuting attorney who works for the D.A.’s office.

When news of the brazen robbery plays over the radio, John realizes his cover has been blown.  He holds Wilson at knifepoint and tells him he’s going to kill him, and the only way he’s going to change his mind is if Wilson does exactly as he says.  At first, Wilson appears to be terrified, but his behavior changes when John passes out, and Wilson announces that he had drugged his guest’s wine.

When John awakes, he finds that he is tied to a chair and discovers that his host is not the man he thought he was.  Suddenly, it’s Wilson who’s doing the terrorizing and John who’s the victim.  For a while, it seems as if Wilson is just a nutcase, but later, the plot takes several twists and turns, and we learn that there’s more to Wilson than his just being a lonely psychopath.

 

THE PERFECT HOST is a decent thriller that’s fun at times, but you really have to suspend disbelief to truly enjoy this one.  I found its convoluted story hard to swallow, and as result I never really bought it.  It’s a case where less would have been better.  David Hyde Pierce makes for a perfectly creepy psycho, and had the story left it at that, it would have worked better instead of the direction the movie ultimately takes.

You see, Wilson is not just some random psycho, which makes John’s stumbling into Wilson’s home by chance such a coincidence it doesn’t work.

But the movie’s not all bad.  The initial twist works, and there are a lot of fun scenes where Wilson torments John.  These scenes work so well because, by far, the best part of THE PERFECT HOST is David Hyde Pierce’s performance as oddball host Warwick Wilson.  He’s deliciously over the top, and he provides the movie with its best moments.  He makes a great psycho, up to a point.  One flaw is that he’s never as scary or as unsettling as he needs to be.  While I was certainly entertained by Warwick, I was never frightened by him.

As a result, THE PERFECT HOST is not much of a thriller.  It’s simply not dark enough to be taken that seriously, and it never really reaches the level of legitimate thriller.  It’s rated R, but for language, as the violence here is rather tame.

And while Pierce dominates his scenes, Clayne Crawford, who stars opposite him as John, lacks the necessary intensity to be a convincing criminal.  Also in the cast is Helen Reddy in a role that is about as integral to the plot as a loaf of bread.

There’s also something very cheap and low budget looking about this movie, as if it were filmed in the 1970s.  I wondered if this was done on purpose by director Nick Tomnay, because one of Wilson’s idiosyncrasies is his disdain for modern technology, and he doesn’t seem to have any modern electrical devices in his home, like a computer or a flat screen television, and he takes pictures with a Polaroid camera.

Come to think of it, John doesn’t carry a cell phone, and he drives a 1980s car.  Hmm.  Maybe it’s director Tomnay with the idiosyncrasies!

Tomnay also wrote the script with Krishna Jones.  Again, the first half of the story is fun, and I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker, but as it went on and added more plot twists, I simply stopped believing it all.

On a grander scale, THE PERFECT HOST could have been the type of movie Hitchcock would have directed in his day.  There’s something very claustrophobic about the first half of the film as it takes place inside Wilson’s home, which would have suited Hitchcock just fine.  But Hitchcock’s twists would have had more meat to them, and his characters would have had to suffer more angst and overcome truer obstacles than the folks in this movie.

THE PERFECT HOST has its moments—most of them provided by David Hyde Pierce—but, ultimately, it’s a light entry in the thriller genre.  More entertaining than thrilling, and hindered by a plot that lacks credibility, THE PERFECT HOST would have benefitted from the perfect re-write.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Screaming Streaming: BLITZ (2011)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Cop Movies, Michael Arruda Reviews, Screaming Streaming, Serial Killer flicks with tags , , , , on February 24, 2012 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Movie Review:  BLITZ (2011)
By Michael Arruda

 

Jason Statham has been making movies for over a decade, but he’s still not a household name.  He should be.  As action heroes go, he’s one of the best in the business right now.

Statham stars in the new serial killer thriller BLITZ (2011), now available on Streaming Video.  BLITZ is one efficient little actioner, clocking in at 97 minutes.  Like its hard-hitting star, there’s not an ounce of fat on this one.

A British cop with anger issues, Brant (Jason Statham) is one step away from being thrown off the force.  He’s angry, impulsive, and violent, a liability to his fellow officers and the work they’re trying to do.  But when a serial killer who calls himself “Blitz” (Aidan Gillen) begins targeting police officers, the department wants every available man on the case, including Brant.

Brant teams with his newly appointed superior officer Nash (Paddy Considine) to hunt down Blitz, and it becomes a race against time as Blitz continues his brash daytime murders of police officers, even announcing to the press how many officers he intends to kill.  As the pressure mounts and emotions on the force skyrocket, Brant remains icy cold, focusing all his energies on one target, Blitz, who he intends to capture, dead or alive.

If BLITZ sounds like DIRTY HARRY GOES TO LONDON, you’re right.  There are obvious parallels connecting Statham’s Brant to Clint Eastwood’s iconic Dirty Harry character.  I was especially reminded of the original DIRTY HARRY (1971) because Aidan Gillen’s performance of the over-the-top brazen psycho killer Blitz reminded me a lot of Andrew Robinson’s Scorpio, the crazed killer in DIRTY HARRY.

However, BLITZ doesn’t play like a rip-off of DIRTY HARRY, or of other serial killer movies.  It stands on its own and plays much better than its material.  One of the major reasons it rises above the standard serial killer clichés is the presence of Jason Statham.

Statham is an extremely watchable actor, mostly because he’s very believable as an action hero.  In the film’s opening, when he confronts three thugs on the street and handily kicks their butts to kingdom come, you believe it.  Moreover, Statham’s cool no-nonsense style is easy to digest, making him very likeable, even when he’s kicking the crap out of someone.  I had really enjoyed Statham in KILLER ELITE (2011), and he’s every bit as good here in BLITZ, maybe even better.

BLITZ has a very efficient screenplay by Nathan Parker, based on a novel by Ken Bruen, and presents a story that is as compact as it is effective.  Sure, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but sometimes banalities can be overlooked if they’re done right.  Such is the case with BLITZ.  The killer is a lunatic.  You want to see him stopped, and you want to see a guy like Brant be the one to stop him.  Pure and simple, the film works on this level.

I also liked that the action took place in London.  It was just different enough to be refreshing.  And while the story is definitely driven by the desire to see Brant catch Blitz, the movie also does a good job showing us the stresses of police life without beating us over the head with it.  The story provides just enough police drama to serve as a realistic reminder that a cop’s life can be hell, day in and day out.

In addition to Jason Statham, the rest of the cast is also very good.  Paddy Considine is excellent as Nash, Brant’s superior officer.  Nash is another officer who was about to be booted off the force but then receives a transfer to Brant’s department to earn a second chance.  No clichés here, no “the new captain’s a phony or a jerk who talks big but knows nothing.”  No, Brant and Nash bond immediately, mostly because Brant tells Nash at the outset that in spite of all that has happened, he knows Nash is a good cop.  It’s a refreshing moment as those things go.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie has Nash pouring out his soul to Brant as they sit in Nash’s apartment having a drink.  Nash tells Brant the awful story of what happened to him earlier on the force, and how he almost threw his life away.  It’s a completely engrossing moment, and when he’s finished telling his tale, Nash looks at Brant, and Brant’s sleeping.  I laughed out loud.

Aiden Gillen is also very good as the killer Blitz.  He really makes you hate him, and you can’t wait for Statham’s Brant to catch up with him.

Zawe Ashton turns in a believable performance as Brant’s buddy on the force, Falls.  She plays yet another officer plagued by personal problems.

BLITZ was directed by Elliott Lester, and he has a quick, likable style.  The movie packs a punch as it flies by rapidly.  It’s also not overly gratuitous.  Blitz’ execution style murders are bloody and intense without being over-the- top violent.  This is an action film, not a horror movie.

I liked BLITZ a lot.  Jason Statham is fun to watch, and he’s supported by a fine group of actors who make this one a winner.  You’ve got a crazy serial killer on the loose and a rogue tough-as-nails cop going up against him, who’ll stop at nothing to get the killer’s head on a platter.  What’s not to like?

So, if you’re in the mood for hard-hitting action tale, one that’s as believable as it is entertaining, then you should check out BLITZ.   You won’t be disappointed if you’re a Jason Statham fan, and if you’re not a fan yet, chances are you will be after seeing this movie.

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© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Screaming Streaming: THE FIGHTER (2010)

Posted in 2011, Boxing, Michael Arruda Reviews, Screaming Streaming with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2011 by knifefighter

SCREAMING STREAMING!
Movie Review: THE FIGHTER (2010)
By Michael Arruda

 

The recent passing of boxing great Joe Frazier had me reminiscing about days long gone when, as a child, I followed the careers of Frazier, Muhammad Ali, and George Foreman. Their exploits were grand theater, and their bouts were the Super Bowls of their time.

So, with boxing on my mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to move beyond my reservations and finally watch a movie that people had been recommending to me for quite a while, THE FIGHTER (2010), starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. The reason I held out so long, in spite of the positive word of mouth about this movie, and the Oscar buzz surrounding Bale’s performance, was the simple fact that the trailers just never did anything for me. It didn’t look like anything I hadn’t seen before, and so it didn’t exactly make me feel like running to the theater to see it.

But now it’s available on streaming video, and so I thought, it’s about time to check it out. I’m glad I did. THE FIGHTER is as good as its hype, and better yet, it plays well on the small screen, so you won’t miss much watching this one in your living room.

Less an excellent boxing movie than an excellent slice-of-life movie about a family in Lowell, Massachusetts, THE FIGHTER is nonetheless A+ material, a tour de force for both its ensemble of actors and team of screenwriters, because when it comes to phenomenal acting and superior writing, THE FIGHTER delivers a knock-out blow.

Welterweight boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) has spent most of his life in the shadow of his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) who’s known as the “Pride of Lowell,” famous for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard in a classic boxing bout. Still, it was Leonard who won the fight, and from that moment it’s been downhill for Dicky, who’s now addicted to crack.

Meanwhile, Micky’s boxing career is gradually getting stronger, but with his brother Dicky as his trainer, who regularly misses or is late to their training sessions because of his crack addiction, and his domineering mother Alice (Melissa Leo, who also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and deservedly so) as his manager, others around Micky, including his father George (Jack McGee), begin to wonder if he’d be better served with someone else calling the shots.

Things come to a head for Micky when Dicky and Alice allow him to fight a much bigger and heavier fighter, and Micky gets his lights knocked out. The final push comes when Micky becomes involved with a new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) who straight out tells him after listening to his doubts about his family that in order to take his career to the next level, he needs to do it without his brother and mother.

This does not sit well with his domineering mother Alice, and the fights between Alice and her clan of daughters (seven of them!) vs. Charlene rival any of the fights conducted in the ring. On his way to a title shot, Micky has to decide whether his chances are better with or without his troubled but boxing smart brother by his side.

Even though he didn’t receive as much hype as his co-star Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg does play the lead role in THE FIGHTER, and his performance as Micky Ward is one of his best. True, I may have enjoyed Wahlberg more in THE DEPARTED (2006) but as Micky, he creates a complete character with nuances and angles most “nice guy underdog” characters don’t possess. Wahlberg delivers an understated, restrained performance, showing us a young man who loves both his girlfriend and his brother, the two polar opposites in his life, and who, in spite of this capacity, is also a fierce fighter in the ring.

Of course, most of the hype surrounding THE FIGHTER went to Christian Bale for his performance as Dicky Eklund, and while I’ve never been a big fan of Bale, in this case, the hype is deserved. By far, this is the best performance I’ve seen Bale deliver in a movie. He changed his entire appearance for this role, looking noticeably thinner and drawn. His Dicky is thoroughly believable.

Dicky is also a multi-dimensional character. In lesser hands than Bale’s, Dicky could have come off simply as a bum, a has-been, a guy who may think he’s looking out for his younger brother but really isn’t. The strength of Bale’s performance, besides the fact that he nails the look and behavior of a crack addict, is that he makes us believe that he really does love his younger brother, and that, in spite of himself and his family, he really does want to help his brother become the best fighter he can be. He’s just not doing a very good job at it. His conversation towards the end of the movie, when he tries to convince Charlene that he really does care for Micky, is one of the best moments of the film.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Micky and Dicky. They were like real brothers. They got along, they fought, they suffered deep rifts, but at the end of the day, they were brothers, and they loved each other.

As Charlene, Amy Adams also delivers a first rate performance. Adams was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but she lost out to co-star Melissa Leo. Adams makes Charlene one tough cookie, and she does this without sacrificing beauty or sex appeal. She’s still very sexy as Micky’s girlfriend. She also kicks butt. It’s a great performance.

As Micky’s and Dicky’s mother, Alice Ward, Melissa Leo did win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and it would have been shameful had she not won. Bale got all the hype, but Leo gives the best performance of the entire troupe in this movie. I wouldn’t call it my favorite performance, because she’s so damn annoying, but she dominates every scene she’s in.

Jack McGee is also excellent as Micky’s father, George Ward, as he represents the voice of reason in the family, and he’s one of the first to recognize that Micky needs to break away from his mother and brother to take his career to the next level. However, while he may be the voice of reason, he’s not the loudest voice in his family, and he’s also not the one wearing the pants. When Alice finds out that he encouraged Micky to drop Dicky as his trainer, she rewards him by firing a frying pan at his head.

I said earlier that THE FIGHTER is less a boxing movie than a movie about a family in Lowell, Massachusetts. Having grown up in Massachusetts, I’ve seen my share of Massachusetts families, and I believe they are an entity in and of themselves. I’ve seen my share of Alice Wards in real life as well, mothers who think they are queens of the world, who believe their families cannot survive without them, who make all the decisions, and who make those who cross them feel helpless, unless they let their mother run the show. Melissa Leo nails Alice Ward and all those like her. It’s a frightening performance.

While the acting is first rate in THE FIGHTER, the writing is every bit as good. Screenwriters Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson have written a phenomenal screenplay, based on a true story, giving us layered multi-dimensional characters with lots of depth. I really cared for Micky, Charlene, and George, was terrified and aggravated by Alice, and while I disliked Dicky for most of the movie, towards the end, he becomes difficult to dislike anymore.

Director David O. Russell also does a nice job with the Massachusetts locations, and, for the most part, the movie looks great, but one drawback is I didn’t find the boxing scenes all that compelling. ROCKY (1976) this ain’t, nor RAGING BULL (1980), nor even CINDERELLA MAN (2005). For a boxing movie, the boxing scenes are miles away from being the highlight.

Watching THE FIGHTER is like reading a good novel. There’s a depth to the characters and to the story that is very rare in a motion picture. Its richness is much more akin to what one usually finds on the printed page. As such, THE FIGHTER is an immensely enjoyable movie, highly recommended.

With its one-two punch of superior acting and rich writing, THE FIGHTER is more than just a contender. It’s a champion.

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© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda