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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Lucy Liu

My Date with Drew (2004)

A date with anyone? Where does one begin?

Aspiring filmmaker Brian Herzlinger has been in love with Drew Barrymore since he was a young boy. So in love that he even joined her fan club at a very young age, receiving all sorts of letters and pictures that drew him even closer and closer to his Hollywood crush. After buying a video camera from Circuit City, Herzingler and his crew have 30 days to find Barrymore, date her and return the camera for a full refund. Unfortunately, Barrymore is Hollywood royalty, and Herzlinger is just a guy from New Jersey. It will take every ounce of charm Herzlinger can muster to make his way through the minefield of agents, publicists and bouncers to reach his prize. But to make it even worse, Herzingler is constantly finding himself running into roadblocks, whether they be people who aren’t willing to help him out, or the simple fact and reality that he doesn’t have a job, needs money, and can’t do anything else involving this project without it. Needless to say, it’s an impossible mission, but it’s one that Herzlinger won’t stop trying to complete.

Uhm, why?

My Date with Drew isn’t necessarily the kind of hard-hitting, thought-provoking that it sometimes intends to be. You’d think that a movie about a guy trying his absolute hardest to get a date with his Hollywood crush, while not just creepy, would have a little something to say about the Hollywood culture, the stalker culture, and the relationships celebrities hold with their fans, and how far they can go, but nope, not really. It’s literally just a documentary of watching, waiting and wondering when, or even if, this dude is ever going to get a chance to date Drew Barrymore.

And is that okay? Yeah, sure.

Would it have helped to been about something deeper, or better yet, try to make this situation more interesting? Yeah, possibly, but even without any of that here, My Date with Drew still works because it’s entertaining and never seems to slow down. In fact, the idea that it doesn’t try too hard to harp on the hard-hitting, possibly serious issues a situation like this could bring up, actually helps it out in not taking away from the action, or what actually matters: Finding and dating Drew Barrymore.

Considering that the movie was made for a little over $1,000, it’s interesting to see how all of that money is spent, what it goes towards, and just how easy it can be to shoot a documentary on the cheap, even with such a subject as this. It’s an ambitious mission for sure, but it helps that the camera is there literally every step of the way, giving us a better idea of how one outsider could possibly get a date with Drew Barrymore (in the early-aughts, that is, times have definitely changed), and also never forgetting that the sole focal point of this project isn’t just Barrymore herself, or the movies she’s made, but Herzlinger himself.

But even with him, I’m still a little bit put-off.

Not because what he sets out to do is creepy, or even downright weird, because in a way, I kind of respect the guy – he knows that he’s being weird for having this crush and knows that going about this idea is even weirder, but still, he chugs along, trying his absolute hardest, leaving nothing off-screen. The camera is always there and Herzlinger wants it that way, so of course, we get to see a whole lot of him, hear him talk, and try to keep his cool persona, even when it seems like he’s creeping every person out around him. He’s a likable presence, too, which makes it all the easier to watch him in interviews, even when, once again, he’s literally asking random people within Hollywood about Drew Barrymore, and even they know it’s a little weird, but aren’t sure if they want to, or know how to say it.

Once again, why? You’re fine! She was married to Tom Green, after all!

But then there’s this other part of Herzlinger’s that’s odd and nothing to due with the whole Barrymore-aspect – it’s the persona he actually puts-off to the camera. There’s plenty of real, raw and rather genuine moments that Herzlinger shares for the camera, but then there are these other, like when he’s showing his body off to people, working out, having random conversations with needy exes, that it feels like he may be putting on a bit of an act. Or, if he isn’t, then it’s a wonder why he includes any of this stuff in this first place; the work-out/grooming scenes are tedious, and the whole ex-sequence within the film could have been taken out and not have at all changed the film, considering how random it is.

I’m not saying that the Herzlinger we get in the movie isn’t the real guy, but a part of me feels like, possibly, he’s acting a little bit.

Just a little bit.

Then again, maybe that was intended; maybe he wanted it to appear like he was this way-more charming guy than he actually was in real life and maybe, he was just doing it all for the sake of the movie and in hopes that he wouldn’t scare Barrymore away, had he actually gotten a date with her. Makes sense and okay, whatever, I’ll accept it. But still, there’s some weird stuff about him that goes beyond the Barrymore stuff that yeah, threw me for a loop, if only a bit. And then I realized that, “Oh wait, it’s about him, but also this date. So who cares?”

And it all got better from there.

Consensus: My Date with Drew isn’t particularly deep, but then again, doesn’t need to be with its entertaining idea, and likable, if flawed subject in Herzlinger.

7 / 10

My Date with Eric? Make it happen, Hollywood.

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes

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Play It to the Bone (1999)

Only a movie that could have been made in the 90’s. Why? Because boxing was considered “cool and sociable”.

Former semi-famous boxers, Vince and Cesar (Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas) are now buddies living in L.A. after their careers fell apart. In other words, their has-beens, but still haven’t yet come to terms with that fact, still train, still long for the golden days, and hope to get their shots at being in the “big time” once again. All their dreams come true though, once two boxers who were originally scheduled to appear in an undercard match, seemingly can’t, giving the major-promoter (Tom Sizemore) nowhere else to go except to round these two up, have them fight one another, for a hefty-sum of $50,000 and a shot at the title. Sounds pretty good for these two, but getting there might be a problem, so they call-up gal-pal Grace (Lolita Davidovich) to give them a ride, but also to enlist some moral-support in both of them, considering that she’s banged them both, and is still banging one.

Without even knowing all about this flick prior to seeing it, I have to admit that the premise itself is pretty interesting and leaves plenty of room for fascinating questions, ideas, and themes, For instance, this is the tale of two friends that have to go head-to-head against one another, and basically beat the crap out of each other, just in hopes that they get more money and recognition than the other. That, and also the fact that it will probably ruin their life-long friendship from now, until forever. That’s got to be a pretty big risk to take for a friendship, no matter who the two friends are in question and it sets up some pretty intriguing, psychological questions about the limits of friendship, how far one goes to keep it lasting, and also, how far one will go to end it to better themselves.

Oh, the days when the Caesar-cut was still in style.

Oh, the days when the Caesar-cut was still in style.

All of these are thought-provoking questions, which also are never, ever addressed a single ounce in Ron Shelton’s flick.

Instead, we are subjected to two idiots who not only can sustain a normal conversation without getting into a meaningless argument about whatever’s on their mind, but a road trip with these buffoons as well. Yay for us! Actually, not “yay” at all, since practically the whole movie consists of us watching as these two just blow smoke out of each other’s ass, try to be funny, and try to make their characters seem like real people, with real feelings and emotions, but they never go any further than just, “meat heads who have a bit of a soft-side”.

That’s all there is to them. Well, with the exception that one is a firm believer in the almighty God and will make sure to let you know every time you mutter “Jesus Christ” in a sentence – and that the other also happened to be playing for the same team (if you know what I mean) for a little over a year. Why? Well, because he was depressed that he got his ass kicked in a boxing match and thought that there was nowhere else to go except for the Johnson. Now it totally makes sense why gay people are in fact, well, gay. It’s because they’re depressed. Thanks, Ron Shelton!

The insight you feature in your films, mainly this one, is unbelievable!

But not only is this movie stupid, it’s undeniably boring as well, which is a real shame for a boxing movie. Even the actual boxing match at the end is pretty dry because apparently we’re supposed to care for these characters, the outcome of their match, who’s going to win, who’s feelings are going to end up being hurt the most, and who’s going to get a shot at the title when all is said and done. Even worse, the movie loses its whole jokey feel and tone, and decides to get serious on us, but not without giving us some shots of naked women, dudes, and a guy dressed as Jesus. It’s all supposed to be hilarious, but dramatic at the same time, but instead, just feels rather odd, as if Shelton didn’t know where he wanted to take this material, so instead decided to just throw in jokes that weren’t ever funny to begin with and just resorted to cuing-up the sad, dramatic music, all before ending on a rather conventional, obvious, and totally care-free note that should infuriate you by how lame it is, but just doesn’t because you don’t care.

At least somebody's bothering to call their agent.

At least somebody’s bothering to call their agent.

Not even a single bit.

And despite Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson being two lovable, charming fellas, they can’t really do much with this crap script or their thinly-written characters. Banderas has a bit more to work with here as Cesar, mainly because the dude’s softer and more sympathetic than Harrelson’s outlaw Vince, but can’t hit the comedic-notes as well as Shelton wants him to. Not that the comedic-notes were funny to begin with, but it does get painful after awhile to see Banderas try to be humorous, while also trying to defend his character by denying the fact that he was “a fag for a year”. That’s the type of humor we’re dealing with here, and I use that word “humor” very loosely. Harrelson seems like he’s doing the same thing he’s been doing for his whole career and does it well as Vince, it’s just that his character is random.

First of all, he’s trying to be a nice, Christian-like dude that believes in the Holy Spirit, believes in a higher-power, and will do everything to ensure his spot up there all tucked-in and cozy in heaven, but is also a bit of a slum-bag. Take for instance when Lucy Liu’s terribly annoying character comes in, starts acting like a skank, and gets his eyes moving out of nowhere. Obviously, she’s good-looking and obviously, any dude in their right mind would take a whack at that, but after all of his Holy Father preaching of self-righteousness, he’s going to be one of them? Really? Okay, I guess I’m making more of a stink of it than it deserves but so be it. It was just odd to watch after awhile and I felt bad for Harrelson because the dude seems to be trying with all of his might, it’s just not working out well for him. And as for Lolita Davidovich, as pretty and charming as she can be, her role serves no purpose here other than giving these two dudes a ride, and trying to get them to reflect on their own actions and decisions. Or something like that.

Honestly, nobody should care.

Consensus: Peeps going in and expecting a sports movie that’s fun, entertaining, hilarious, fast-paced, quick, and witty, will probably be more than disappointed with Play It to the Bone because it’s so safe, meandering, and boring, you’ll wonder when the hell they’re just going to hit the year 2005 and all of the boxing world will practically be forgotten about because of even bigger idiots like these ones here.

2 / 10

Fight, or don't fight. I could care less.

Fight, or don’t fight. I could care less.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Charlie’s Angels (2000)

Yes guys: Girls this hot can indeed kick your perverted-asses. So watch yourselves!

When danger is looming and the world is on the brink of self-destruction, who is there to save the day? Well, the mysterious and unknown Charlie is, but he isn’t the one doing the action, he’s just simply pulling the strings. Who he has in his place to take over things and make sure that all is fine and right with the world, he has three of his kick-ass, female agents, who he also calls his “Angels”. We have Natalie Thompson (Cameron Diaz), the bookworm who is oblivious to the dudes around her (except for the ones who want to end her life), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore), the tough girl who finds herself in more beds of other men than she probably should be in, and Alex Munday (Lucy Liu), the class-act who longs for a life outside of being a secret-agent with her Hollywood star boyfriend (Matt LeBlanc), but just can’t help but kick some butt when it comes around her way. Together, the ladies, along with John Bosley (Bill Murray), their informant, find out what’s going on with secret weapons and tools that have suddenly go missing, and may just endanger not only themselves, but their beloved-Charlie as well.

I’m pretty sure that, by now, every person on the face of this planet has seen at least one episode of the classic, Charlie’s Angels 1970’s-era TV show, right? Okay, if not everybody, then definitely every man on the face of this planet has. And if they say they haven’t, well then ladies, get a flash-light, shine it in their pupils and question them harder, because they’re lying dogs!

Hate to say it, but if only they were wearing T-shirts. Then maybe, just maybe a "6" would have been handed-out.

Hate to say it, but if only they were wearing T-shirts. Then maybe, just maybe a “6” would have been handed-out.

Anyway, I think what we all have, you know, as a society, garnered from that show was that it doesn’t matter if these women are extremely good-looking, hot and have huge jubblies, give them some corny lines, some action-moves and plenty of cool, unique gadgets, and woolah! All of a sudden, a woman that looks like Farrah Fawcett is able to give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money! And there’s nothing really wrong with that, however, you can’t do that type of story seriously for a single bit, which is probably why it’s a good thing the show only lasted until the early-80’s, once people had about enough of it with their non-stop array of campy-material (okay, maybe the 80’s were even worse, but you get my drift).

Basically though, what I am trying to get across is that it’s extremely hard for a movie to pull-off the same type of charm, magic and fun of the original material, without having it be placed in the same decade of the 70’s, or at least being able to show it all with a wink in the eye, and the tongue, placed firmly in the cheek. And it’s apparently clear that that’s exactly the type of notion this movie is going for: It wants to crack a joke about how goofy these gals look when they get in their kung-fu stances and start whooping the ever-loving crap out of everyone that strikes a danger to them, but at the same time, it also wants to still be able to revel in how awesome these girls look when they’re kicking ass and taking names.

Which, as much as I hate to make it sound like otherwise, I didn’t have a problem with because McG certainly does inject this movie with plenty of energy and style to make this feel like a music-video, done with a lot of fighting, sexy women and explosions. The only problem is that everything else he does with this movie, it not only doesn’t work, but it’s too messy for its own good. Certain scenes just don’t work together, and McG himself, as a director, only seems to feel comfortable with his movie when something is either ripping-off the Matrix and being shown to us entirely in slow-mo, or when he’s giving us a close-up of one of these ladies spreading their legs open. And not in that type of way either, ya pervs!

For awhile, it’s all fun to watch and whatnot, but when the movie wants to try and be a bit goofy and satirical with its material and where it seems to have come from, it doesn’t work and instead, totally misfires. Most of that has a problem to do with the fact that McG himself came from a long, long line of music-videos before he made his film-debut with this, and also, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the writers didn’t know if they wanted to give us anything more than plenty of action, and leave it at that. The plot doesn’t make sense; the jokes don’t quite hit; and the action begins to feel like the same sequence showed to us, over and over again. Needless to say, while it may not be anything to write home about, it definitely isn’t terrible. Just misguided is all.

Who needs that much tail when you're Bill Murray? Serious question...

Who needs that much hot tail when you’re Bill Murray? Serious question…

However, as misguided as the rest of the material they’re working with may in fact be, the cast still seems to prevail and make ends meet with whatever it is that they have to work with. The three, leading ladies are all fun to watch, but it’s really Cameron Diaz who gets to walk away with the spotlight placed firmly in her hand as she always seemed to make everything better for herself and for the movie, whenever she decided to give us a glimpse of that beautiful, lovely, cheek-to-cheek smile of hers. Along with her sweet-ass, white girl dance moves, Diaz is very charming to watch here and definitely comes across as the most distinguishable Angel of the three, if only because she seems to actually show some personality. That’s not to discredit Barrymore or Liu or anything, but it’s Diaz who reminds us why she was so young, hot and promising at one time in her life, where now, all she is, is another botox-surgery away from being a parody of herself, much like Ms. Farrah Fawcett ended-up becoming in her later-life as well.

It’s a shame to see a movie in which not only does Sam Rockwell and Crispin Glover get wasted as villains, but so does Tim Curry. Rockwell has a bit more to work with here than the other two, but he still doesn’t seem like he was given much at all to work with, other than a bunch of cocky-lines to sound intimidating with and a random back-story that would, for some reason or another, make sense as to why the plot is so convoluted and nonsensical to begin with. But, to look on the bright side, at least THE Bill Murray wasn’t wasted here, and for that, I have to thank the movie. Then again though, it’d be pretty hard to waste Bill Murray to begin with. He just doesn’t allow for such a wrong-doing to happen.

Consensus: You could definitely place Charlie’s Angels into the “late-night rental” category because while it’s not memorable, it’s still fun, but still seems like a waste of mostly everybody involved, as well as some funny material that never seems to materialize into being anything more than just a bunch of hot ladies, running around, kicking ass and using a lame-pun every now and then.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Ouch.

With legs wide open…

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Payback (1999)

I miss the old days when the crowd used to cheer for the Jew-haters.

Porter (Mel Gibson) is one of those crooks that you don’t want to mess with because he’s smart, tough, quick-witted, and always a step-ahead of the baddies. But yet, somebody has still found a way to mess with him and even better: has taken $70,000 of his hard-earned cash away from him and left him for dead. However, whoever that was didn’t quite do a good job considering he’s still alive and wants revenge.

After seeing Parker a couple ways back, I never knew this but thecharacter that Jason Statham played, Parker, has been played many times before by some pretty famous faces. Faces like Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, and most recently (as recent the year 1999 can get), everybody’s favorite Jew-hater: Mel Gibson. That’s right, before it became common-practice to basically hate the guy with cold-blood, “Melodramatic Mel” was actually a movie-star, and a pretty good one at-that. Then again, you probably already know that since the guy just about kicks ass in anything he shows up in. This movie; is one of those instances. 

The movie’s tag-line reads, “Get ready to root for the bad guy”, but somehow, the guy isn’t all that bad. He’s a crook; yes. But he isn’t the crook that kills innocent people, women, children, cats, dogs, parrots, nuns, priests, etc. So, basically, he’s just a good guy that just so happens to be on the wrong side of the tracks and even worse: just so happens to be Mel Gibson (aka, everybody’s favorite action hero). And by, “favorite action hero”, I mean way back in the 80’s to the early 00’s, you know, before “the stuff” started to happen?

Anywhoo, other than all of that hooplah that nobody cares about, the flick itself is pretty damn fun and had me feeling as if I was watching an old-school crime movie, told by one of the greats. Writer/director Brian Helgeland isn’t necessarily what I would call a “great”, but the guy does know a thing or two about throwing out a solid, crime story, sprucing it up with some fancy twists and turns here and there, and allowing the guns, fights, and explosions to take their wind and keep things moving when it may fall-asleep due to a lame subplot. But it doesn’t feel forced, it feels good for the story and natural and every time the movie would go through some sort of change where a character would reveal something, or a new and crucial plot-point would somehow make it’s way to surface, I felt on-board with it all, as if I was just apart of some cruel, but fun game Helgeland had in-mind the whole time. I make it sound more sick and twisted than it really is, but trust me: you’re more than likely to have fun with this.

"Hey, your job's being a hooker. You all love flowers, right?"

“Hey, your job’s being a hooker. You all love flowers, right?”

In fact, I’d even go so far as to call this movie a “noir” of sorts as it has that cool, and slick look and feel to it, while giving it a visual-flair where everything is all grainy, as if the world these criminals live in, features people that are all color blind and can’t tell if that bottom light on the stop light is green or gray. This old feel, really made me feel like I was in for a treat, with a guy that knew the type of story he wanted to tell, how serious he wanted it to be, how goofy he wanted it to be, and what extremes he would go to ultimately have us never knowing what to expect next. Watching these crime-thrillers, you always want to never be in the clear about anything, and it’s just awesome when you finally get a movie like this to just allow you to sit down, relax, drop your brain for a bit, and also be ready to see a story goes places you didn’t expect. And even if you did expect the story to go into some places that it does, at least they do it in such a way that’s jokey-wokey, rather than all serious and unknowing. And even if they don’t do it that way: who the hell cares?!?!? It’s fun, exciting, and twisty, and just exactly what I like in my crime-thrillers. Especially from Mr. Mel Gibson himself.

Despite Porter not being all that much of an anti-hero as the promotional tools would probably have you think, Gibson is still pretty damn good at this character because he has the charm, he has the gruff look, but he has the acquired set of skills that always puts him ahead of the others around him, and never lets you lose the fact that this guy is always doing something for a reason. He’s a no-nonsense type of dude that may do something odd, strange, or typically out-of-the-ordinary, but don’t be fooled because it may just be another move that Porter has set-up for a trick in his sleeve. Gibson, before he was out yelling and howling at Jews and female cops, was actually a pretty cool and sly dude that people liked and cheered-on in movies and if you miss any ounce of that thrill, then definitely see this movie because it is Mel Gibson in full-effect here. For better, or for worse, depending on wherever the hell you stand. You can probably tell where I stand, and I’m staying there. Me, and Jodie Foster.

"Take this, JEWS!!"

“This is for killing Christ, Jews!!”

The rest of the cast is filled to the core with the likes of people you have all seen before and like, you just don’t know it yet. Maria Bello is always a great actress no matter what the material it is that she’s given and she’s good here as Porter’s love-interest, but feels a bit too much like a weak piece of service, the way her character and her plot brings down everything else. Granted, she does bring a nice level of action and excitement into the story when you least expect it, but all of the scenes with her and Gibson just had me taking a ticket to snoozeville, and hoping to come back to life before it was too late. Lucy Liu shows-up in one of her earliest roles as an S&M call girl that beats the shit out of guys, gets it right back, and does it all for the pleasure and money. It’s also very, very stereotypical but hey, I guess Lucy needed some way to get her foot in the door. There are others here, like Gregg Henry as the main chump who betrays Porter; David Paymer as a snarky, cab-driver that made me want to punch him square in nose (unintentionally and intentionally); and Kris Kristofferson as a big, bad mob boss that Porter ‘effs with by the end, and poses the biggest and most worthwhile threat of all. Everybody’s good and adds a little som som to the proceeds, but it’s Gibson’s show and he takes over. Big-time, bitches.

Consensus: Payback is a routine thriller that doesn’t have a whole bunch of new tricks to show on-display, but is always a blast to watch because of it’s twists, action, and utter coolness from the script, and Gibson himself.

7 / 10 = Rental!! 

Well, at least she got Kill Bill out of the deal.

Well, at least she got Kill Bill out of the deal.

The Man With the Iron Fists (2012)

It would have totally been better if the rest of Wu-Tang was here. Even you, ODB. Even you.

In feudal China, small village’s blacksmith (RZA) is forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction. When the clans’ brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become savior of his adopted people.

With Wu-Tang Clan madman RZA directing, co-writing with Eli Roth, and having Quentin Tarantino produce, The Man With the Iron Fists definitely seemed like something in my backyard. I love the old, kung-fu movies that RZA obviously loves and pay homages to here, and the story itself just seemed like the perfect fit for a mixture of those oldies, with the new, gore-tastic days of today. Sadly, all of that hype and promise lead to it being just another passion-project, that never goes it’s full-distance.

Apparently during post-production of this movie, RZA threw a huge fit because he had to cut-down a 4 and-a-half hour movie, to an hour and-a-half. To be honest, I don’t blame the guy because that is a butt-load of footage and seems like the type of job I wouldn’t want being told to do, especially if it was my own movie. However, I think that’s the problem this film hits in the first-place: it’s WAY too cut-down. What I mean by this is that certain characters will just show-up for 5 minutes, and apparently have some sort of significance to the plot, without us ever realizing it. It almost seems like there were all of these back-stories meant for these types of characters, but weren’t there for the final-cut, so instead, we get a bunch of characters that don’t really do anything for the plot other than just show-up, speak their lines, and get killed.

That element of this movie, and the fact that the story is pretty confusing is the reason as to why the cutting of this film hurts the final-product. Throughout the first hour or so, it’s never made clear as to who the villains are, who the heroes are, and just who the hell this story is going to be focused on. The Man With the Iron Fists himself, doesn’t really get much of a spot-light until the last 30 minutes or so to where he all of a sudden means a lot to the premise because of something bad that happens to him. I mean, there was an idea of who the bad guys were because of who they killed, how they did it, and what their intentions were, but after awhile, it just became a bit confusing and made me wonder just who was important to this story and who wasn’t. Once again, there was probably plenty of footage developing these characters and their story-lines a lot more, but sadly, didn’t make the final-cut and are just kind of left lost on the cutting-room floor. Poor scenes, maybe there’s a director’s cut in the future. Maybe.

Where the story fails, however, is where the action of this movie prevails and definitely made this a lot of an easier ride as it went through. Even though the whole story is filled with little bits and pieces of action here and there, the final 30 minutes is where all of it really comes into play and tears down the house and shows RZA’s true eye for fun and entertainment. The kung-fu is goofy with a lot of wire-work used to the point of where it almost seems like self-parody; the music is a mixture of hip-hop and some score music, even though it’s not entirely like the same soundtrack RZA used for Kill Bill, and gives every scene a pretty cool, retro feel while still keeping it current; and the gore/blood is pretty awesome and shows that there was a huge Roth inspiration going-on throughout this flick the whole time. All three of these factors is why I enjoyed the last 30 minutes of this flick because instead of focusing on a crappy and confusing plot, with crappy and confusing characters, we get what we came for: bloody, crazy, and fun action without any logical-reasoning as to why all of these people are flying in the air other than the fact that they are in a kung-fu movie.

Even though these action scenes are the only times the movie really comes to life, the cast does do their best to try and help-out, but end up getting over-shadowed. Lucy Liu is having the same type of fun with this role, as she had with the one in Kill Bill, and that’s all fine and dandy until you realize that the gal isn’t really trying anything new, other than working with a lesser-script, and no offense bud, but lesser-director as well. The only one who seems to be having the most fun, and brings that out onto the audience is Russell Crowe as an English mercenary, Jack Knife (gedd it?!?). Crowe is such a weird-pick for this role, but seems like the perfect-fit once you see him because he knows what movie he’s in, what role he’s playing, and what’s expected of him to make it work. Even though Crowe kicked plenty of ass in Gladiator, it still doesn’t make him any type of martial-artist master, but still shows that he can be as sinister and dangerous as he was in that classic. Yeah, it’s only been 12 years and I’m already calling that one a classic.

As a director, RZA may not be the unstoppable force to be reckoned with, but at least he still tries to maintain that credit as an actor. Sadly, his role is mainly just him keeping that one, signature, sullen-look we all know and love him for but sadly, doesn’t allow us to really stand-behind automatically, despite him being our main hero that we’re supposed to cheer for. Thankfully, though, RZA knows this and doesn’t take the center spot-light, which is pretty respectable in my opinion. Also, it was pretty neat to see former-WWE wrestler Dave Bautista show-up somewhere again as a bad-ass that can’t be stopped. I miss the hell out of that guy and it’s nice to see him doing movies now, even though a guy who turns to bricks and only has about 12 lines of dialogue isn’t the ideal role out there for a pro-wrestler. But hey, how many movies has John Cena showed-up in this year? Exactly.

Consensus: If it weren’t for the final 30 minutes of this movie where everything finally comes to head and is fun, exciting, and bloody just like we expected, The Man With the Iron Fists would have definitely been a huge-disappointment because of it’s lack of distinctive-style, sense of plot, or sense of characters. Instead, it just comes off as a minor-disappointment.

6/10=Rental!!

Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)

Why isn’t there blood spewing out of these people?!? Better yet, why isn’t there that many people getting hacked off?!?

After having killed the first two on her death list, The Bride (Uma Thurman) continues in her journey of vengeance to hunt down and kill the remaining victims, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), Budd (Michael Madsen) and ultimately, Bill (David Carradine).

Basically in a nut-shell, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 kicked ass and I was so hyped up to see this one after that. However, if you go into this one expecting that one all over again, check again bitches. Hell, I wish I actually checked again.

Without a doubt, you have to see the first one before seeing this because it will make you understand the story so much better and even the little things that popped up in the first one, will still somehow find their way back into this one so just be ready for that. What sets this film apart from the first flick though is that it’s not an insane, fast-paced action flick with people getting chopped up by samurai swords everywhere. Instead, this is a lot more of a character/plot-driven flick that depends a lot on Quentin Tarantino’s writing to create a mood and a certain amount of suspense. This guy is perfect for that and he does a great job with that here because the scenes of dialogue may go on longer than you may expect at first, they still feel relevant to the story and it’s just so damn hard to be bored of a Tarantino flick, especially when somebody in one of his films are talking.

Another element that separates this flick from the first is that there isn’t many homages to a lot of what Tarantino loves as much as there was in the last one. I liked how he was able to incorporate everything he knew, saw, and loved about movies and could put them all up into one flick but barely any of that is here, which sort of relies on him to use his also perfect directing skills. Tarantino doesn’t disappoint and there are of course some funny little nods to the kung-fu movies and spaghetti westerns but I was kind of disappointed by the lack of homages and tributes from Tarantino’s fan boy self.

The main complaint that I had mostly with this flick was that I honestly was just totally bummed by how much action there wasn’t, which may sound dumb but they honestly feel like two different movies, which I know they are, but I was just let down totally. I was expecting crazy action left-and-right like the first but what I got was just a bunch of slow and tense conversations which did work but I honestly couldn’t go from one to the other in such a different style. It may sound like a bit of a dumb complaint but I just was expecting something a hell of a lot more insane, which I think is to expected coming from Tarantino.

Don’t get me wrong though peeps, there is action here and when it does go down, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome. There’s also plenty of times where Tarantino plays with our natural fears such as being buried alive, being bitten by a snake, getting our eyeballs taken out, getting shot with a dart, and plenty of other crazy and effed up shit that will make you squirm but also feel cool about because Tarantino does it in such a creative way that it’s hard not to feel a little smile on your face about. That damn Tarantino always gets me right when I think I’m lost.

The acting is definitely a lot better this time around since we get to see these characters a lot more than we did in the first. Uma Thurman is great once again as “The Bride”, but this time she gets to show a lot more to her character rather than just slashing Japanese effers up. There’s a lot of emotions she has to show here such as anger, terror, happiness, sadness, and enterprisingly even love. Thurman does a perfect job with this role here where she actually feels like a real human with emotions even though she could kick my ass in any second.

As for the other two villains in this flick, they are pretty fine too. Michael Madsen plays Budd, Bill’s washed up brother, and brings that charming evilness to his character that he always seems to do so well and his scenes are all pretty good. Daryl Hannah is pretty bizarre again as Elle Driver, and gets to use a lot of her key bitchiness to her aide this time because her character is just a chick that you want dead right away but she always seems to be one step ahead.

Oh shit, I almost forgot to mention the man villain of them all, Bill himself. David Carradine is great as Bill because he is everything that a great villain needs: he’s charming, funny, likable, creepy, and always scary with every scene he has. There’s just this certain atmosphere Carradine brings out every time he is on-screen like I felt like this guy would just snap crazy in one second and wouldn’t give a single shit who he killed. It also helps that he has some of the best lines in this flick as well and the one that always sit in my mind at the end is the one he makes about Superman. I won’t spoil it here but it’s pretty smart and may actually think a little bit, which is definitely a total surprise considering it’s a Tarantino flick where it doesn’t matter what themes or morals he may be throwing out there, it’s still a flick about bad people doing bad things. Get used to it peeps.

Consensus: Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is not exactly like the first installment but that’s not all of a bad thing: there’s plenty of action, well-written scenes of tension done by the master himself, and it’s definitely a great way to close off this two-parter even though I don’t think Quentin is all that done here.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Don’t eff with a chick that dresses like Bruce Lee. Especially if shes waving around a sword.

The Bride (Uma Thurman) was once part of a group of world-class female assassins until her employer, Bill (David Carradine), and other members of the group turn against her and have her shot. Five years later, she awakens from her coma. She heads off around the world seeking revenge with plans to kill each person involved, saving Bill for the grand finale.

Take it from Quentin Tarantino to take what is essentially a simple, and pretty standard revenge story and give it the style that harks back to the good old days of 70’s kung-fu action movies, spiced up with many other random styles that Quentin just feels like throwing in there.

What I loved most about this flick was how the fighting, action, and blood were filled with so much energy and were better than half of the shit I’ve seen in the past 10 years, that I wanted more of it. Right from the beginning we get a nice little fight between The Bride and her second target on her list and it seems goofy because of all of the swooshing you hear when they move, but it’s so vicious and so brutal that it’s hard to laugh especially when these chicks are very close to just gutting the other person out. It’s a very minor scene but it’s one that starts the film off on the right foot and the action just keeps getting better by getting more vicious, more violent, and a hell of a lot more bloody. The blood is insane in this flick and it may be a bit ridiculous how Tarantino just makes every single kill have blood shoot out from these people, but it still gives this film this cool and deadly look that could only be achieved with an R-rating. Actually, it’s more of a very hard R-rating, one that only Tarantino can get because he’s the freakin’ man.

As we always get with Tarantino flicks, there are plenty of homages and influences seen here and they all work perfectly. The whole film is basically one big kung-fu movie that reminded me of the days when I would just sit home and watch all of these Bruce Lee flicks where he would be either taking on 50 dudes at once (no homo), or he would be getting kicked in the chest by one of Lew Alcindor’s big feet. I can definitely tell that Tarantino did the same thing when he was a little kiddy and his inspiration just runs throughout this whole flick with a giddy and original feel to it. However, it’s not just kung-fu movies that this flick seems to be harking back to, you get a bunch of blaxploitation homages, spaghetti western moments where the score is just over-powering, a random ass anime scene that may seem weird but is just as brutal as the rest of the flick, and even a little bit of nods to his own previous work such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. I don’t know how he does it but Tarantino is the master at taking everything he knows and loves about movies, and putting them all into one crazy and madly original flick.

There was only problem I had with this flick and it was one semi-cheap scene where we see Bill in the classic villain mold which is a bit unnecessary. I don’t really think I’m giving too much away talking about this scene but it shows one of Bill’s associates, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), sneaking into The Bride’s hospital room about ready to poison her while she’s sleeping. However, at the last second Bill calls it all off, saying that she “deserves better than that”. I thought that this was kind of a cheat way just for the story to continue and to show the reason why The Bride continued to live on and basically cause havoc to everybody on the planet. Also, wouldn’t a real assassin know how ruthless she is? So why wouldn’t he just off her right then and there? Regardless though, it’s only one scene but it still was at least the only negative I could come up with.

Uma Thurman is the perfect choice as The Bride because she just fits that deadly and sexy look so well. Uma is tall, sexy, blond, sweet, great to look at, but she can also be very scary and look like she’ll be hugging you one second like a sweetheart and then chopping your head off the next like the vicious killer she actually is. It also helps that her story is very easy to get behind because the chick was practically left for dead by all of these people and who wouldn’t want to get some good old revenge? Tarantino knows how to make great characters for leading ladies and it’s definitely one of the rare occasions where I actually found myself scared of a female character in quite some time.

The film really only focuses on two villains here (Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Liu) and they are both very good at playing these evil roles, especially Liu who I think had her best performance ever in this flick. She plays O-Ren Ishii and is one of those samurai sword waving villains that you always see in the kung-fu movies and seem cheesy as hell but never do you take them as seriously as you take this chick. Liu plays this character very well because she’s very quiet a lot of the times and more or less let’s her killing do the speaking for her. It’s a shame that Liu hasn’t really gotten the right roles after this but I guess that’s what usually happens to you when your biggest blockbuster hit was Charlie’s Angels.

Consensus: Kill Bill: Volume 1 shows Tarantino in top-form with a style that is bloody, violent, vicious, and shows every single one of his influences in a way that not only shows what he loves but also creates a wholly original flick on its own. Definitely can’t wait to see Volume 2.

9/10=Full Price!!

Detachment (2012)

Maybe I was wrong when I said in the ’21 Jump Street’ review that high school sucks. Maybe I meant to say “public” high schools suck.

The film stars Adrien Brody as a disillusioned substitute teacher named Henry Barthes, who seems to have just as many problems as his apathetic students. When he inadvertently becomes a role model for the student body, he finds that he is not the only lost soul struggling to find meaning in this world.

It’s been a long, long time since director Tony Kaye has graced us with his presence and every time I watch ‘American History X’, which is a lot I may add, I can’t stop thinking to myself, “where the hell has this guy gone?”. Now, I know the answer and it’s simple: making great movies that are set in high school.

Former teacher, Carl Lund, wrote this story and from what I see here, this guy had a lot of hard shit to go through. I mean I don’t know what Lund had to go through as a teacher but from what I see here is that being a teacher is hard. Lund brings up a lot of questions about the public high school system but he never points any fingers or condemns anyone, he just shows that being a teacher is hard mainly because you try, you try, and you try to help out a student and in the end, they either don’t care enough or don’t care at all. This wouldn’t be so bad but the fact that these kids don’t care, eventually gets sprung out onto the teachers and then you basically have 40-45 minutes worth of class-time where neither anybody cares about anything and all your time in this world is wasted.

Since I go to a Catholic high school, I’m not too sure of what it means to have such problems like this but I can easily say that a lot of the public schools around me have started to fall apart just because of school districts that just want high grades from these students with no return and teachers continue to demand more and more money. Hell, actually, that’s happened at my school earlier in the year so it’s not just the public schools either, it’s all schools. This script is a pretty big wake-up call because it not only shows the struggles that teachers go through on a daily basis, but also the struggles schools have in general and just how bad everything really can get behind closed doors. It’s a pretty good look at high school, and it’s also a look that I haven’t seen before considering these types of films usually end with all of the slacker kids getting A+’s on their final exams.

Lund definitely found the right director for this material with Tony Kaye because he brings so much energy to this otherwise simple story. Kaye is a veteran of music videos and commercials and a lot of that skills show through is way of bringing so much flair and style to this material that at times, it may get a little over-bearing, but at other times you also have to realize that he’s making this film more tense and provocative. The film has a narrative that jumps around to all of Henry’s sub-plots (and trust me, there are plenty) and the way Kaye is able to show this sometimes through a documentary feel or either through having Brody speak to the camera indirectly by letting all of his frustration out. It definitely creates a lot of tension with this flick and it shows how well Kaye is able at stirring the pot but is also great at taking us out of that as well with a couple of amusing animated shots of what’s going through a lot of these teachers’ heads. They are all pretty funny to watch but they are also brutally honest in the way they show just how it must really feel to put up with all of the shit that they do sometimes. Still though, I’m not always behind teacher’s backs. Trust me on that.

The problem with this flick is that it won’t be for everybody considering there is so much sadness going on and around this flick that it almost is contagious. I didn’t really go into this flick expecting a light and happy-filled flick about how a teacher brings the spirits back to his students, but it can get a little too dark for me and even when the comedy does come around every once and a blue moon, it’s a totally huge surprise.

Another problem I had with this flick was that I think they somewhat over-do the whole “problems between teachers and students” thing a little too much. There are some moments that are genuine as hell and feel like they were taken right out of the classroom, but then there are other moments where somebody starts crying or acting outlandish a way that would probably get out a lot of emotion from the audience, but they sometimes don’t feel that genuine. There’s one scene in particular where Lucy Liu is this school counselor that is so fed up with her job that she just starts balling her eyes out while hooting and hollering at this one student and it seemed totally dumb, unbelievable, melodramatic, and pretty much poorly-acted from Liu herself. There aren’t many moments like this in the flick but when they did happen, I couldn’t help but think that they were a little too over-dramatic.

In recent time, Adrien Brody has taken apart of some questionable material ever since he won his Oscar in 2002 but this is probably his best performance ever since that win. Brody gives a likable performance that makes it easy for us to stand behind him as his life starts to unfold and he’s able to express so many emotions from happiness, to anger, to sadness, and he does it all by the use of his eyes which makes it all believable and real. It’s a great performance from Brody and one that reminded me just why he did win that Oscar in the first place.

As for the rest of the ensemble, they are all pretty good with the limited amounts of time each one is given. James Caan is amusing as the pill-popping teacher who finds a dark way of enjoying his days in school; Marcia Gay Harden feels real as the watered-down principal that is expecting to be fired soon; but the two kids out of this cast are probably the best with Sami Gayle and Betty Kaye both giving compassionate and realistic performances and every time each one of them is on-screen with Brody, the film always seem to light up.

Consensus: Detachment may have some over-dramatic moments, but with Kaye’s inspired direction, great acting by its huge ensemble (especially Brody in the lead), and a real examination at the public high school system, makes it a powerful and dramatic flick that will and definitely should serve as a wake-up call to teachers and students alike.

8/10=Matinee!!

Lucky Number Slevin (2005)

Not seven, but Slevin.

Set in New York City, the plot focuses on the paths of Slevin Kelevra (Hartnett), Lindsey (Liu), two feuding crime lords known as The Boss (Freeman) and The Rabbi (Kingsley), and a mysterious hitman known as Mr. Goodkat (Willis).

One thing right from the get go of the film is that yu will notice it is a lot like Pulp Fiction. The way of story-telling, screenplay, even sometimes the way it looks, seems too much Tarantino’s masterpiece. However, it is definably not as good.

Basically the whole movie is a con, and it tries to make you, the viewer, understand the con that is going on. I felt a little too jerked around and felt that why should I care so much for the story if I don’t even know where half of the time it’s even going.

The film tries to work its way through acting as a thriller, but it didn’t quite seem that way. I felt like it was a blend of mystery and gangster genre, with a side bit of comedy. But I just didn’t feel like my needs were met as they were suddenly changed right in the middle of the film.

Slevin, has a screenplay that is pretty decent and actually turns out to be kind of witty. I enjoyed how the comedy wasn’t too bad, and it started out great at first but then soon started to drag, but was still fresh. Much of the dialogue is hard to understand since many of these characters seem like all they have are inside jokes and will actually take you a long time to comprehend who and what the joke was.

This film starts to really drag on and end it’s entertainment to me. I didn’t quite know who the good guys were and really didn’t know who to fall behind or anything of that, so I was kind of left scratching my head of who was good and who was bad.

Slevin features an ensemble cast that does actually do their best. Freeman and Kingsley do the best jobs and although their characters seem to be as stereotypes, they still try to work at it and actually put out some pretty good performances. Lucy Liu I felt was really annoying and sometimes changed her personality to really quirky and energetic then suddenly to serious and scared.

The ending to this film really does work out and saves this movie from a demise that could’ve been crucial. At the end all the little parts are explained and about everything comes full circle and it’s really cool to see all that plan out.

Consensus: Lucky Number Slevin tries to be a lot like Pulp Fiction, with it’s story-telling and witty screenplay but starts to fizzle out early but saves itself by the end.

5/10=Rentall!!!!