The Movie Buffer

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up


This movie is encased in spoiler proof carbonite


If you happened to miss 90s action films, then the well oiled machine that is Shoot ‘Em Up is for you. Fast shooting, groan inducing zingers and a huge pyrotechnic budget have merged to create a film so perfectly suited for that era, that now it’s kind of quaint like an MC hammer single or crystal Pepsi.

The frantically pieced together “story” is made up of about 97% action scenes, 2% naked Monica Bellucci and 1% crying baby. Clive Owen plays the wrong place at the wrong time anti-hero, Mr. Smith, who in a moment of conscience saves a pregnant woman from what appears to be an abusive boyfriend. Little does he know this woman is part of a larger conspiracy and by the time he realizes the baby’s importance, he is swept up by the torrent of combat. With the woman inadvertently shot and unable to properly care for a new born baby, Smith turns to Donna, Monica Bellucci, a hooker with a heart of gold and mammaries of some other exotic precious metal. And that’s all it takes to segue into a ninety minute shoot out.

This is truly the brain child of someone who the cornball post mortem one-liner. In true Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone or Bruce Willis fashion, Clive Owen takes on an army of Assassins, street toughs and an assortment of warehouse workers single-handedly. Smith is not only brutally lethal, he also dispenses some wretched lines: “Eat your vegetables” after impaling a goon’s throat on a particularly pointy carrot, “So much for seatbelts” after he kills a van load of men who cannot react fast enough because of their seatbelts and the list goes on. The first few are acceptable but when Smith uses them as thoroughly as he does then they just get lost amid the shooting.

Michael Davis steps up from teen comedies like, Eight days a Week and 100 Girls, to the action-comedy in a pretty average way. He doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but he also doesn’t deck them out with chrome and spinners so even though his film is nothing special he doesn’t really try to hide it. Dare I say, this kind of no holds barred approach is kind of refreshing.

To put it simply, this film is ridiculous and peculiarly charming. It’s not very different form the hordes of rotten, stinking action movies that are produced (Crank, Ultraviolet etc.) but it hits some chords that resonate. The cast, made up of some very talented actors, look like they are having a blast in the film and play their roles with ease. Paul Giamatti as a cartoonish super villain is much better than expected. There are also some reflexive moments that put the over-the-top scenes into perspective and get a few laughs.

But it’s hard to really like a movie like this because there isn’t much to hold onto. The characters don’t grow, learn or change, so in the end, they are doomed to continue in their respective patterns. The story is wholly forgettable. There are a few scenes that scream “freeze frame, fanboy!” but for Bellucci fans there are much better films in her catalog.

Shoot ‘Em Up is the kind of movie to watch on Tuesday night after wings and beer, not the sort of thing you watch for artistry or for provoking thought. The loose take on characterization and plot doesn’t quite anger the blood because the gun play is great and it’s kind of weird to see “serious” actors in such a goofy film. It’s a conditional 6/10 or two and a half out of five stars.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007



Ask me no questions, and I'll give you no spoilers


With all his experience in independent film and his reputation of finding really interesting projects, Steve Buscemi has taken the next step by writing and directing his own film, an adaptation of Theodor Holman and Theo Van Gogh’s Inteview.

Critiquing the give and take of celebrity journalism, Buscemi, who must have experienced similar situations first hand, guides the viewer through what should have been a quick interview. The film doesn’t openly attack the proliferation of celebrity news or gossip, but it heralds a warning that the facts acquired from such interviews are always manipulated by either the interviewer or the subject.

Pierre, played by Buscemi, is a political journalist who gets called in from the field to write an entertainment piece about Katya, the flavor of the month tabloid queen, played by Sienna Miller. Pierre is annoyed that he has been put on an unimportant assignment and when Katya is late to the interview, the questions he asks her are all condescending and their discussion ends abruptly. While pulling into traffic, Pierre’s cab rear ends a truck because the driver is distracted by Katya, who then feels “almost responsible” for his injuries and invites him to her loft. So, their discussion restarts and what begins as sugar coated pabulum slowly evolves into a two-way personal investigation.

Buscemi’s performance as the uptight and at times desperate reporter is very good, even though Pierre is an ordinary guy compared to the weirdos he normally plays. What he is great at is being able to dive into a character fully and show the conflicting impulses of his character. For example, Pierre’s desperation is hidden behind charm in the hopes that Katya may offer him a nugget of gossip which he could turn into a scoop.

The really great part of the film is that Buscemi’s performance is pretty well matched by Sienna Miller’s performance as the seemingly vapid, self-interested actress. We can also see that Miller has infused the character with her own disdain for the paparazzi. As Katya’s personality is explored we see her develop into quite a complex character and Miller doesn’t miss a step.

Where the film is at its weakest is during the introduction, where the characters haven’t been defined and it’s hard to watch because they come off as such terrible people, and during the big reveal at the end. But even though the mechanics of the ending are a little sketchy, the meaning is clearly shown and is fitting.

The evolution of the characters is the meat of this movie and there is a feast in this movie. Both characters, though vastly different, work in industries that thrive on wits and out righting lying. Buscemi succeeds in adapting Interview retaining key points from the original and mapping out a few new twists of his own. This film was enjoyable and even a little thought provoking, so catch it in theatres or rent it in a few weeks. It gets a 7/10 or a three and a half out of five.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Balls of Fury


The spoilers within are for your self-defense only


Recently, a rash of atypical sport movies have been popping up with varied success, Dodgeball was both pretty funny and box office success and Kickin’ It Old Skool was neither. If a sport like figure skating can inspire a comedy, ping pong can surely do the same.

Balls of Fury doesn’t have the star power of a movie like Dogeball or Blades of Glory so it rolls out a few tried and true dick/fart jokes and cameo after cameo to stumble along. There is a laundry list of character actors in this picture: Christopher Walken, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, Jason Scott Lee, Aisha Tyler and many more. If only they had made with The Funny, this movie could have really improved.

Director Ben Garant, who directed Reno 911!: Miami, has several off the cuff comedies under his belt and this film seems to be his bid for a more mainstream audience. His strong point from his previous films is that he let the actors really take on the characters and move them in different directions. In this film, on the contrary, it feels like he reigned in many of the actors who would have been better off ad-libbing. This could have been one of those R-rated comedies that seem to do so well these days but they went the other way and toned everything way down.

Dan Fogler stars as the unambitious, former child ping pong Olympian, Randy Daytona, who is recruited by the FBI to enter the table tennis equivalent of Mortal Kombat hosted by Mr. Feng, played by Christopher Walken. Being 19 years removed from tournament play, Agent Rodriguez, played by George Lopez, shakes the rust off Randy’s game by enrolling him in Master Wong’s ping pong academy. A few “Wax on, Wax off” jokes later he’s ready to go.

All the important actors’ performances, like Fogler’s and Walken’s are hit or miss and the supporting cast isn’t much better. There were a ton of jokes that were delivered really awkwardly and it makes me wonder if the writing was weak or the actors just phoned in their performances. At least Fogler really made a strong effort to be funny and tried to sell the weak punch lines.

Balls of Fury does have a few laughs though at times you can tell that the actors wanted to make more satirical or blue jokes but were hamstrung because the director wanted a PG rating. With the wealth of comedies that are family friendly and still pretty funny, this one is at the middle of the pack. If you have a craving for Walken or you have a passion for table tennis, this may be the film for you but the humor wears thin quickly.

It earns a 5/10 or a two out of five star rating.