Thursday, March 29, 2007

Episode 22

The Descent - Six self-reliant women decide to go caving in the mountains. Eager to experience the adventure of a lifetime, one of them lies about their destination to the other five, leading them to a previously unexplored cave instead of the mapped locale that they thought they were headed to. All goes well until a cave-in traps them deep below the Earth. Before long, one of women believes that she sees other people in the caverns with them. There are also suspicious markings on the walls that would suggest that someone had been there before, but if that were true, why wouldn't the cave have been documented and fully explored by now? Well, I'll tell you why. Because there are creepy humanoid creatures in this particular cave that like to eat anyone who ventures into it's depths. Before long the six women are separated from one another and must rely on their wits to escape the creatures. You could have probably figured all of that out by watching the preview, though, right? Well, admittedly The Descent is a rather stereotypical claustrophobic horror movie with a simple plot. Girls go in cave, girls get trapped, girls meet monsters, chaos ensues. Et cetera, et cetera. In fact, the only real story element in the entire movie is a flashback sequence in the first few minutes of the film. Don't let this fool you, though. The Descent isn't all bad. The creatures that they go up against create an entertaining threat to the characters, but more horrifying (in my opinion), were the scenes early on where the women are caught in a cave-in. I'm not claustrophobic myself, but the idea of being trapped underground in a confined space, unable to move, is not my idea of a good time. I personally felt more disturbed by these scenes than the ones involving the creepy critters. My big problem with the movie came from the fact that the writer(s) apparently felt that if six people were trapped underground fending for their lives against man-eating monsters, that they'd still be in the mood to hold grudges against each other with enough ferocity to have in-fighting within the group. Seriously, who is running from a pack of monsters in a cave and just has to bitch out everyone else around them for things in their past? My only other real problem with the movie was the very end of the film after the climax. It ended a bit abruptly for my taste. I won't say why, though. Overall, The Descent was worth a watch, but definitely not spectacular by any means. Give it a watch, have some fun, and promptly forget about it. I have.

Beerfest - From the minds who brought us Super Troopers and Club Dread comes Beerfest. When Todd (Eric Stolhanske) and Jan (Paul Soter)Wolfhouse's grandfather dies, their grandmother insists that the boys travel to Germany during Oktoberfest to deposit his ashes. When they arrive, they are led to the meeting place of a secret society that holds annual beer drinking contests. The brothers are humiliated by the award-winning German team and vow to train all year to return in 12 months and claim the championship. Joining their regulation five man team are old friends Barry Bandrinath (Jay Chandrasekhar), Landfill (Kevin Hefferman), and Steve Finklestein(Steve Lemme). Together they endure numerous hardships on the way to their goal of proving that Americans know how to drink. Can anyone say college movie? Sure, it sounds pretty dumb, and sure, it is pretty dumb, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily bad. Beerfest was a lot of fun to watch. Half the jokes are visible from miles away, but the seasoned comedy veterans of Broken Lizard still manage to make them all funny. The stereotypes and idiotic humor of Beerfest could only be made funnier by actually being drunk when you watch the movie. Anyone looking for a plot amidst their humor should probably steer clear of Beerfest and give either Club Dread or Super Troopers (both of which I prefer to this film) a watch instead. However, if humor unencumbered by story elements is your thing, Beerfest is the way to go. I don't really know what more I can say.

Smokin' Aces - Buddy 'Aces' Israel (Jeremy Piven) is a Las Vegas performer with ties to the mob. Very soon, he is planning to share a good deal of information regarding the mob (specifically mob boss Primo Sparazza [Joseph Ruskin]) with the FBI. In the meantime, he's sitting in a protected room in a prestigious hotel with some close friends and lots of prostitutes. The FBI agents in charge of his safety, Richard Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Donald Carruthers (Ray Liotta), are fairly positive that someone will try to collect the one million dollar reward placed on Israel's head, but what they weren't expecting was that instead of someone, they would be dealing with someones. Lots of someones, as it turns out. No less than nine hitmen and women converge on Buddy's hotel room. The problem is that they all happened to do so at the same exact time. The preview did it for me. Lots of hitmen running around trying to kill the same guy. It sounded like a regular Guy Ritchie-style action film to me. As fate would have it, though, writer/director Joe Carnahan had something else in store for audience. What we ended up with were around sixty minutes of build-up for about five minutes of action. My misconception about Smokin' Aces was that it would be a massive chase scene with people running around, guns blazing, trying to kill or protect the same guy. And while that does, in fact, happen (albeit briefly), I found it to be very disappointing. We are set up with the motives at the beginning of the movie. Buddy is saving his ass by spouting off at the mouth to the Feds. The FBI is trying to protect Buddy. Everyone else is trying to kill him. Then what follows are endless scenes of people preparing to either protect or do harm to Jeremy Piven. We are constantly cutting back and forth between four sets of hitmen, the FBI agents, and Piven himself. The suspense builds up so much that I was about to explode by the time that the first round was fired. Then, the action kicks in and a smile spread across my face. I leaned back in my seat in the sold-out theater on opening night and prepared to bask in firefighting delight. Then before you know it, the fighting is over. All the action you see in the trailer is contained in about ten minutes of the actual film. It was really fun and exciting, but just not enough to really satisfy me. I came away feeling that there was way too much build-up for not enough payoff. There are great scenes of dialogue, drama, and humor sprinkled throughout the film, but when all was said and done, I felt like I'd been cheated out of the huge ending that the movie insinuates that you're in for. Now, you can blame my own predetermined expectations for my dislike for the film, but I have got to say that I personally feel like I had every reason to expect what I was expecting. Mayhem. Constant mayhem. While this is not what I got, I didn't completely hate the movie, either. There were lots of entertaining scenes, and a genuinely brilliant twist at the end. In fact, if there wasn't such a disappointing climax, I bet that I would have absolutely loved the movie. It had everything that I look for in a fun action movie other than quite enough action. I've only come across one other person who agreed with my point of view thus far, so by all means go watch the movie and decide for yourself whether it was good or not. For me though, I can think of two words that sum up Smokin' Aces better than any others, and those words are "disappointing" and "anti-climactic".

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