Monday, April 30, 2007

Episode 31

The Host - Park Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon) runs a food stand overlooking the Han River in Korea with his eldest son Gang-Du (Kang-ho Song). On a seemingly average day, some of the patrons of the food stand who were picnicking along the river have gathered and are staring at something hanging from beneath a bridge. Before long the large misshapen mass drops from beneath the bridge into the water and swims toward them. It isn't until the creature emerges onto the river bank that they realize what it is. It is, of course, a giant mutated fish with legs and a mouth full of teeth. As the creature rampages through a parking lot and the grassy area around the river, trampling and terrorizing people, Gang-Du tries desperately to get his daughter Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko) to safety. Unfortunately, when Gang-Du grabs the wrong young girl's hand in the crowd, the creature snags Hyun-seo with it's long, prehensile tail, dives back into the water, and disappears. After the horrific events of that day, the government rounds up anyone who was in the vicinity of the Han River during the occurrence and places them in quarantine, fearing infection from a supposed virus. Gang-du, his brother Nam-il (Hae-il Park), his archery medal-winning sister Nam-Joo (Du-na Bae), and his father grieve as they are ushered around by the radiation suit-clad officials. Then, out of the blue, Gang-du receives a horrified phone call from Hyun-seo stating that she is somewhere deep in the sewer before the call is cut off. When the government refuses to believe them, much less help the Park family find their youngest member, they escape from quarantine and proceed to use all of their available assets to try to locate and rescue Hyun-seo. Unfortunately, making this task more difficult is the fact that they are now being chased by government teams afraid of further contamination. Will the Parks be able to locate Hyun-seo before either the government unleashes it's new biological weapon, Agent Yellow, or she becomes something's lunch? The Host is a Korean film. In fact, it is currently the highest grossing Korean film in history, both locally and internationally. It's hard to believe that the all-time best-selling movie to come out of Korea is a monster movie. However, while there is indeed a monster in The Host, I'd be hard-pressed to pigeon-hole it as a monster movie. Unlike most creature features, The Host introduces it's monster to the audience within the first ten minutes of the movie. There's no real suspense as to what it looks like, and thus it isn't really a "horror" film. It's truly more of an emotional drama about a family in trouble. It is also a film with anti-establishment tones that mocks the government in a way that isn't all that far-removed from Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Every person of rank in the film, be they government or military, is portrayed as either an individual of bad judgement, poor values, or simply a fool. There's no question that the military is indirectly responsible for the creation of the mutant fish, and throughout the film they do very little to actually help in stopping it's reign of terror. In this way, The Host is also very similar to the Godzilla franchise. Toward the end, the threat of a new biological weapon that the government plans to use to kill the creature becomes more frightening to the public than the creature itself. Speaking of the monster...what a great monster! The mutant fish was designed and sculpted by WETA Workshop Ltd., which is Peter Jackson's visual effects company. Needless to say,they did a bang-up job with the design. The look of the beast is great and it's movements are incredible. It's such a wild thing to see on screen, but for the most part it is very believable. The monster isn't the only great member of the cast, though. All five members of the Park family were incredibly good in their roles. Especially Kang-ho Song. The more you discover about his character as the movie progresses, the more you feel for him, and when he is fighting for the life of his daughter near the climax of the film, it honestly feels like he fears for her well-being. The writer and director are just as responsible for the incredible characters as the actors are, though. At the beginning of the film none of them are particularly likable characters, but as each of them is pushed to the limit by the incredible circumstances they find themselves in, each and every one of them progresses emotionally and earns the audience's sympathy. The film is (for the most part) sub-titled, it's foreign, it's about a giant mutated fish, and there's no chance in hell it's going to get a wide release. It's a shame, really. The Host is so much more than what it seems, but so many people will pass up or miss the chance to experience it because it isn't the norm. I went to the theater excited to see a new monster movie and came out having gotten so much more. Let's just hope that they don't royally fuck up the American re-make that's been planned so that it may convince a few more people to go back and watch the original. The Host is a must-see for anyone. If you don't like monster movies, go see it anyway for it's dramatic elements. If you don't like dramas, go see it anyway for it's comedic elements. If you don't like comedies, go out and buy yourself a sense of humor.

David Cross: Let America Laugh - This'll be a short one. Let America Laugh is a documentary about stand-up comedian David Cross as he tours the United States with a band called Ultrababyfat. Ever since expecting to laugh while watching Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian and not doing so, I've been opposed to documentaries about comedians. The Aristocrats didn't really garner my appreciation either. I've had such a desire to see more of Cross's stand-up, however, that I figured I'd give Let America Laugh a go. It doesn't have the non-stop laughs of one of his albums, but it's certainly entertaining. Instead of trying to make a sappy, sympathetic documentary about how hard it is being on the road, David Cross set out to simply make a video chock full of the fun and funny stuff that goes on behind the scenes of a comedy tour. The documentary covers everything from drunken hecklers to hilarious run-ins with uncooperative venue managers. It makes you feel like you're right along for the ride on the tour as opposed to witnessing a tortured soul's flickering flame of hope. The only real problem I had with the film were the bumpers. The flick begins, ends, and is injected occasionally throughout with a few poorly acted scenes that are supposed to be funny in which David is working at an office and getting reamed out by his boss for being a comedian on the side. If these were just at the beginning and end I wouldn't have minded so much, but every time the tour footage broke for one of these scenes I found myself wanting to be back on the road with David. Fans of David Cross should definitely give this documentary a watch. Possibly the best documentary I've seen (though I haven't seen many).

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Episode 30 - Action Film Round-Up

Hot Fuzz - Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the best officer on the London police force. In fact, he's so good at his job that he's made the rest of the force look bad. The solution to this problem? Give him a a town very far away from London. So after a few (very) brief goodbyes, Nick heads for Sandford, a small village in the country with a minute population and literally no crime. Actually, there is some crime, but the Sandford police force would just as soon let minor misdemeanors go unpunished as bother doing anything about it. Nick, of course, won't stand for this and begins shaking things up with his new partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). Danny, the son of Chief Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), may not be the best cop, but he's certainly seen enough action movies to have dreams of one day being in a firefight. As time passes, Nick begins to notice a pattern in the "accidents" that have begun to occur in the small town of Sandford, leading him to believe that there may be foul play afoot at the hands of local market owner Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton). Convinced that Nick is barking up the wrong tree, he loses the support of his co-workers and must take matters into his own hands with nothing but an endless supply of guns and a bevy of ridiculous camera maneuvers at his disposal. In the vein of Shaun of the Dead (which was also masterminded by Pegg, Frost, and writer/director Edgar Wright), Hot Fuzz is a blatant call-back to a specific genre. This time instead of zombie movies, the team has targeted action flicks for their signature brand of homage/parody. I've been exposed to a lot of British comedy throughout my life, mainly because of my grandmother's love of sitcoms such as Are You Being Served, and I've always found it to be a bit of an acquired taste. However, with Simon Pegg's obligatory combination of quirky timing and glib jokes with modern pop culture references and fan boy nods to the audience, I can't imagine how anyone could dislike his films. He and Edgar Wright have taken all of the staples of twenty-five years worth of action films and squeezed all of their recognizable stereotypes into one movie with hilarious accuracy. They've also done so without making the film a complete mockery of itself. It never goes over the edge into idiocy quite like films such as Hot Shots! or Airplane!, and maintains a plot that would work just as well in a film not meant as an homage piece. If you have ever enjoyed a Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Seagal, or Jackie Chan film, Hot Fuzz is the movie for you.

Tango & Cash - Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) is a well dressed man with manners. Gabe Cash (Kurt Russel) is a smart talking street-level dude. The two couldn't be more different if they tried, but they have one thing in common. They're both LA cops and they'll do anything to get their man. Unfortunately, they're also both really good at their jobs. So good, in fact, that crime lord Yves Perret (Jack Palance) is fed up with them foiling his deals and has devised a plan to get them both out of his way for good. Feeding false information to both Tango and Cash, Perret sets up an elaborate scheme by which both cops are framed for murder and sent to prison. Once behind bars, the two of them realize that unless they can escape they won't live long enough to be proven innocent. Taking matters into their own hands, the odd couple of the Los Angeles police force make their escape and set out on a mission to bring down Perret's crime syndicate once and for all. All they need to do is work together, but that may be easier said than done. Tango & Cash is a prime example of an eighties action film. Back in the days when movies like this were made, people didn't care so much about plot stability or reality as long as there were explosions, catch phrases and rippling muscles. Things have certainly changed since 1989. Tango & Cash is a fun film, for sure, but there were times during the course of the movie when I was left absolutely stunned by what was taking place on screen. For example, we've all seen representations of prison riots on television or in films, but when the duo of cops are led into lockup after being framed, I was taken aback. Paper was being strewn through the air as though all of the inmates were shredding newspapers and magazines by the dozens, there were fires burning all over the place, and the guards didn't seem to give a damn. It was as though this was common practice in this particular prison. Also, how in the hell did Yves Perret and his goons manage to break into the prison to torture Tango and Cash? And while we're on the subject of unbelievable events in the prison, when Tango refuses to leave his cell to escape with Cash, how does he subsequently escape to save his buddy from being shot by the guards? Admittedly all of these subjects seem unimportant once we near the end of the film and our heroes hop into a modified truck with a gatling gun strapped to the side and shoot their way into a heavily guarded fortress full of goons with guns piloting heavy machinery, but in the end it's all just part of the joy of Tango & Cash. It's hard to believe that there was a time when movies like this were commonplace, but it's sure as hell fun to watch them and visit a near-extinct genre of film.

Navy Seals - The United States Navy Seals are deployed on a secret mission to rescue the crew of an American military helicopter who have been shot down by terrorists. After securing the captives the team is attacked and forced to split up during their retreat. Separated from the rest of the group, Lieutenant Dale Hawkins (Charlie Sheen) and Chief Billy Graham (Dennis Haysbert) stumble upon a cache of high tech weapons including stinger missiles that the terrorists have in their possession. Re-joining the team, Hawkins requests to go back and destroy the weapons before the terrorists have a chance to use them, but Lieutenant James Curran (Michael Biehn) orders a hasty retreat. When the higher-ups get wind of the weapons left behind by the Seal team, orders are given to locate and destroy them as soon as possible. Back on the case, and with the aid of a journalist with leads to the weapons by the name of Claire Varrens (Joanne Whalley), Lt. Curran leads his team on several missions in search of the terrorist stockpile. There's really not much of a plot here. There're some weapons and it's up to the Navy Seals to find and destroy them. That's really all the more intricate it gets. However, don't let that fool you. Navy Seals is an excellent action film. There are somewhere in the ballpark of five missions that the team goes on in the course of the film, and each one is fucking great fun to watch! It's all about the tactics and teamwork. I hate it in movies when there's an "elite military team" and they're just a bunch of morons in black outfits with straps all over them and big guns running around shooting everything in sight. In Navy Seals there's a real sense of teamwork and stealth. It's so much fun to see the group function as a whole as opposed to the star of the film running all over the place being a bad ass while his crew gets shot up. This is part of the reason that I love the film Aliens so much. The marines seem like they've actually been trained and are doing their jobs instead of just pretending to be cool. For this reason alone, Navy Seals is worth a watch. However, if you're a child of the eighties/nineties like I am, you'll enjoy Navy Seals on a whole other level from younger or older viewers. The outfits the characters wear and the shenanigans they get into when they're on leave is so late eighties/early nineties that it hurts. But in a good way. Watching Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton wearing neon pink and blue short shorts while riding around in golf carts during a montage set to eighties pop music is an experience that I won't soon forget. If you haven't seen Navy Seals, you really must. It's an experience all it's own. I really can't think of another movie like it.

The Warriors - The streets are ruled by gangs. You can spot them by their eccentric, matching wardrobes. Each gang, apparently, embraces a different theme and is comprised of approximately eight to ten members. The gang we're concerned with is known as The Warriors and hails from Coney Island. When Cyrus (Roger Hill), a strong voice among the gang culture, calls for a meeting of all the gangs, they show up in droves. Just as he reaches the climax of a speech aimed at joining all of the gangs into one, Cyrus is assassinated by Luther, the leader of The Rogues, who frames The Warriors for the murder. Before there is time to enact vengeance on the perpetrators, the cops show up and the illegal rally is broken up. The gangs all disperse, but it isn't long before an underground radio station gets hold of the information that The Warriors are to blame for Cyrus' sudden death. Over the airwaves, the gangs are tasked with tracking down The Warriors and bringing them to justice, street style. Now, outnumbered and far from home, The Warriors have to band together to make it safely to Coney Island before the hordes of rival gangs catch up to them. This is another fine example of how out of the loop I can be. I always assumed that The Warriors was a mockery of a film that was worth nothing more than a few cheap laughs. Hence, I'd neglected to see it until recently. I was, as it turns out, completely wrong. The Warriors is very much a product of the seventies, but it is not the throw away film that I thought it was. On the surface the premise is pretty absurd, but once you allow yourself to accept the world that the story takes place in, this movie becomes all about brotherhood and survival. The Warriors have to rely on each other and are pitted against incredible odds throughout the film. I've never been one to let the time period responsible for birthing a film depreciate it's value, and The Warriors is no exception. There are some ridiculous ingredients in this film, such as the gang that wears striped shirts and overalls and is led by a guy on roller skates who patrols the subways, but once you get past those sorts of things The Warriors stands out as a bold and unforgiving look at a possible future. It's hard to look objectively at such a stylized package, but take my word for it that if you haven't seen The Warriors before, you're missing out on a delightful journey. Can you dig it?

No Escape - In the near future there are prisons that are meant specifically to house only criminals who are never going to look upon the world as free men again. One of these prisons is run by a particularly sadistic individual known only to the occupants of his prison as 'the warden' (Michael Lerner). If a prisoner becomes a nuisance, the warden has them whisked away to an island from which there is no escape. The island is unknown to the outside world, and it's use as the warden's own personal playground is not approved by the government. When a prisoner is left on the island, they have essentially two choices: join up with a tribe of evil, black-hearted men who are known as 'the outsiders', or join up with a small village of people who wish to live in peace known as 'the insiders'. Left with this decision after refusing the warden's orders to torture a fellow inmate, J.T. Robbins (Ray Liotta) opts to join the insiders, led by a man referred to as 'the father' (Lance Henrickson). Life on the island is hard for everyone, but more so for the insiders who are under constant attack from the outsiders. However the father and his people have a plan to construct a ship invisible to the warden's satellites, which they intend to use to escape his watchful eye and his island. They just need one last component to build their vessel. The good news is that Robbins has seen just the item they need on the island. The bad news is that it's in the possession of Walter Marek (Stuart Wilson), the leader of the outsiders. To earn their freedom, the insiders, along with Robbins, must stage one final defense against the forces of the outsiders. Can they pull it off with such limited resources? No Escape came to my attention through a friend who related it to another film that I'm looking forward to by the name of The Condemned. I was pleased to see that it stars not only Ray Liotta and Lance Henrickson, both of whom I quite like, but also Ernie Hudson. Also of note is Kevin Dillon, who plays a sort of sidekick to Liotta's character. This film is by no means great, but is worth a watch. Liotta puts in a solid performance that makes me wonder why he didn't become more of an action movie mainstay like Michael Biehn or Kurt Russell. Perhaps the best role of the film, however, was that of the main villain, Walter Marek. Stuart Wilson constantly walked the thin line between awesome and ridiculous in his portrayal of Marek, but I personally feel that he managed to stay for the most part on the side of awesome. His charismatic and plainly evil performance was the highlight of No Escape. There are many movies that I would recommend before this one, but if you have the chance, you should definitely check it out.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Episode 29

Thank You For Smoking - Aaron Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, a lobbyist and the primary spokesperson for Big Tobacco. His job is to argue. As he so eloquently puts it in the film, "if you argue correctly, you're never wrong". Nick makes public appearances on talk shows and other such venues where he argues that smoking isn't really as bad as people say. This makes him one of the most hated men on the planet, but he's incredibly good at his job. His son Joey (Cameron Bright) idolizes his father, and is becoming quite the fast talker himself, much to his mother (Kim Dickens) and her new boyfriend's (Daniel Travis) dismay. His closest friends are his professional equals for the alcohol (Maria Bello) and firearms (David Koechner) industries. His enemies are those who would tell the world that smoking kills, such as Vermont senator Ortolan Finistirre (William H. Macy). His job pays the bills, and his life is going well until a beautiful and devious reporter by the name Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) betrays Nick's trust and prints an article revealing all of his dirty little secrets. On top of this tragedy Nick has been abducted, and almost killed by, a group who opposes his views on the subject of smoking. At an all-time low, can Nick Naylor use his god-given gift of speech to redeem himself in not only his professional, but his personal life? I did my best just now to give you, the reader, a reliable description of Thank You For Smoking. In this task, I'm not positive that I succeeded. You see, I've laid out the plot of the film for you, but there's no way I can honestly represent this film in a short review. Thank You For Smoking was a wonderful and refreshing film. It tackles some of the most morbid of subjects with frighteningly light-hearted humor and never once apologizes for itself. If it weren't for the touchy subjects tackled within, I would almost say that Thank You For Smoking was the feel good movie of 2006. The fresh, quirky direction by Jason Reitman combined with the masterful words of Christopher Buckley and the superb acting by every single person in the film combines to create an incredible and original viewing experience. Speaking of the acting, as I said, each and every personality in the movie is spot on. In addition to the names listed above, Rob Lowe puts in a marvelous performance as the head of a talent agency in LA, J.K. Simmons knocks it out of the park as the head of a greedy tobacco company, and Sam Elliot delivers a great portrayal of the original Marlboro Man. I mean it when I say that every actor/actress in this film is put to perfect use. Because of the serious nature of the topics covered in Thank You For Smoking, it is almost unimaginable that one could smile so often as you're sure to while watching this movie. Go out, rent Thank You For Smoking, and marvel at it's greatness.

Zodiac - Zodiac is based on the true story of the Zodiac Killer, who killed several people in San Francisco throughout the 60's and 70's. Jake Gyllenhal plays Robert Graysmith, an artist for a San Francisco newspaper who becomes obsessed with the case when the killer begins to send complicated cyphers with messages hidden within them to the paper at which he works. A reporter working at the same newspaper by the name of Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) also takes a particular interest in the case. Meanwhile out on the streets, inspectors David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) investigate the murders firsthand. The film covers all of the events of the actual investigation over the entire duration of the threat. Not much of a plot description, I know, but it's tough to tie this film up into a neat little synopsis. Zodiac focuses just as much, if not more, on the hurdles and techniques involved in the police case surrounding the Zodiac Killer as it does on the characters in the film. A lot of people have complained that in this regard the film is boring because the story is so tightly woven around protocol and detective work. You should certainly be aware that this film is not like any other by director David Fincher. Do not expect to see another Fight Club or Se7en in Zodiac. Something that I believe this movie does incredbly well is to make the audience feel like they are living in the time period during which the story takes place. It is a very dark film about a very dark subject, and from what I can tell, sticks to the facts. I enjoyed the way that the story was told, more based on what really happened than telling a standard Hollywood murder mystery. It was interesting because not many films try to do what Zodiac did, much less pull it off. In the end it certainly wasn't what I was expecting, but I came away from the theater pleased. If nothing else, you can marvel at the amount of guest stars that pop up who you're bound to recognize from other films and television. There are so many that I refuse to begin to list them all. Give Zodiac a try and prove that movies don't all have to be alike to satisfy their audience.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Episode 28

The Man - Andy Fiddle (Eugene Levy) represents a dental supply company and is headed to New York City to give a speech about his products. Derrick Vann (Samuel L. Jackson) is the stereotypical loose cannon of the NYPD who is hell bent on avenging the death of his partner. The two of them have nothing in common, nor should they. However, when Vann sets up a fake arms deal to lure his former partner's killers out into the open, Andy ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and the criminals mistake him for their buyer. Now, against his better judgement, Vann has to convince Andy to continue playing the role of a wealthy man in need of a large amount of illegal weapons when all he really wants to do is get to his conference and deliver his speech. Prepare for repetitive, idiotic jokes by the bowl-full when embarking upon the task of watching The Man. First there are the jokes centered around the low-life perp who hard-ass Sam Jackson constantly abuses for information. Then there are the jokes about how much Sam Jackson curses and how Eugene Levy's character feels that it's rude and unnecessary. And let's not forget the fart jokes. Oh yes, the fart jokes. As it turns out, Levy's character gets gas when he eats red meat and Sam Jackson forces him to eat a hamburger. I think you can guess where this is going. Other stereotypes primed to make you laugh if you hadn't seen them thirty times before include Jackson's obsession with his car which he drives into dangerous gunfights, but flips out over if he finds a single scratch on it. Also, how could an odd couple-style police comedy be complete without the comic relief being shot in the ass and bitching about it for the duration of the film? I can't imagine why Samuel L. Jackson would agree to do a film like this. He's in more movies than just about anyone I can think of, so I'm sure he didn't need the money, and I'd be hard pressed to believe that The Man was some sort of passion project for him. Eugene Levy essentially reprises his role as Jim's (Jason Biggs) father from the American Pie series as an awkward family man with strong moral values in a role that really could have been played by anybody. The plot (which is so cookie-cutter that it hurts) quickly takes a back seat to the stupid jokes in The Man, and I'd strongly suggest that you steer clear of it at all costs.

Catch Me If You Can - Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) was a normal high school student until his father (Christopher Walken) ran into trouble with the IRS and his mother (Nathalie Baye) filed for divorce. Confused, and with only twenty five dollars in his checking account, Frank ran away from home. For a time he lived off of his checks, but as they continued to bounce and get him into trouble, he realized that he needed to make a change in his life. That's when he decided to be a pilot. Not become a pilot, but be one nonetheless. Frank forged IDs, acquired a uniform, and by sheer cunning and a quick wit spent over a year forging fake checks from Pan Am Airlines and getting free flights to wherever he chose around the globe posing as a co-pilot. When he became tired of his newfound "profession", he used the same trickery to become a physician, and later an attorney, and no one was the wiser. No one except for the FBI. Ever since his first days of forging checks, Frank has been under the watchful eye of FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks). With each passing month, Carl comes closer to catching Frank as the two of them form an unlikely bond that bridges on that of a father and son. I've wanted to see Catch Me If You Can since it first came out in theaters, and I wish that it hadn't taken me so long. Catch Me If You Can is one of those magical films like The Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that really puts you in the time, place, and state of mind that the story takes place in. It evokes a lot of emotions and tells an incredibly enjoyable tale. The mood and tone of the movie, as added by Stephen Spielberg's directing, is superb. Adding to the wonder of Catch Me If You Can is the fact that it is closely based on true events. When you hear that Frank Abagnale Jr. passed over four million dollars worth of bad checks, it's hard to believe that it really happened, but knowing that it actually did adds a little extra oomph to the events in the film. Of course, when looking at what makes a movie great, you can't overlook the performances therein. Leonardo DiCaprio proves once again that he is one of the actors who will replace the modern greats in coming years. Interesting, then, that he plays opposite Tom Hanks in Catch Me If You Can, which I believe to be one of the best roles of his long and noteworthy career. Christopher Walken puts in a beautiful dramatic performance that is a breath of fresh air among many of his roles of late which all seem to rely on his standing as a pop culture phenomenon who is meant only to make us laugh with his offbeat line deliveries. Really, the whole cast is spectacular. Catch Me If You Can is one of those movies that will hit you in the chest and stick with you. It doesn't rely on one genre or emotion, but plays them all against one another, creating an experience that I can't wait to have again and again upon future re-watchings of the film.

Ultraviolet - So it's the future, right? Not a post-apocalyptic future or even just a slightly advanced version of modern day, but one of those futures where everything's stream-lined and either shiny white, shiny black, or sterling silver. You know those futures? Yeah, those. Well in this future some scientists were trying to develop super soldiers, but they made a little miscalculation and ended up with vampires instead. Well, they call them "Hemophages", but that's probably just for the same reason that in most zombie movies no one calls zombies "zombies". Anyway, now the same people who created these vampires (I'm refusing to use the term Hemophage anymore) are trying to extinguish them. To do so, they've cooked up a little weapon that the vampires have decided to steal so that it can't be used against them. Enter: Violet (Milla Jovovich). Hey, the movie had to be called that for a reason, right? Violet is the super sexy, super-human super spy that the vampires have chosen to steal the weapon. After doing so, they discover that the weapon is actually a child called Six (Cameron Bright, who appears to be the new go-to guy for playing the standard young boy since everyone got sick of Hayley Joel Osment) whose blood contains the chemical weapon. Even though the child could mean the end of her kind, Violet's heart grew a few sizes that day and she decides to turn on her people to save Six's life. As it turns out, in order to do so Violet just has to beat the shit out of essentially everyone she lays eyes on. Roll credits. Well, if you haven't guessed by my extremely sarcastic review, I thought this movie was shit. I had a feeling it was going to be shit, but for some reason I feel compelled to watch pointless action movies like this. Don't ask me why. So for all the reasons that you could gather from the synopsis above, you probably shouldn't see this movie. However, for those who are interested in action and sci-fi, there are a few moments that could wake you from the coma that the "plot" and "acting" will certainly leave you in. One of which is a little device that Milla Jovovich possesses that alters her personal gravity so that with the twist of a knob she can walk on walls and ceilings. One of the few decent scenes in the movie was a chase scene which had Violet on a motorcycle using this device to ride along the sides of buildings while being chased by helicopters. The scene in question is horribly over-the-top, but entertaining nonetheless. So in closing, don't waste your time on this piece of garbage.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Episode 27

Serving Sara - Matthew Perry plays a process server named Joe Taylor. His new target is Sara Moore (Elizabeth Hurley), who is being served divorce papers by her husband; a rich, multiple-Texan-ranch-owner named Gordon (Bruce Campbell). The idea is that if Gordon serves Sara the divorce papers and she decides to take it to court, since he served her first, the case will be held in Texas where Gordon is sure to win. When Sara realizes what Gordon is up to, she convinces Joe that if he helps her serve Gordon instead that the case will be held in New York City as opposed to Texas, because that's where she was visiting when he tried to serve her. Since New York is a more modern, progressive state than Texas, Sara figures that a New York court would side with her over Gordon, and the icing on the cake is that Sara promises to give Joe one million of the ten million dollars she'd be entitled to in the divorce if he helps her serve Gordon first, ensuring that she gets the money. Disregarding the orders of his boss Ray (Cedric The Entertainer), Joe accepts Sara's deal and the two of them head off to Texas. However, unwilling to lose a high profile client such as Gordon Moore, Ray sends Joe's co-worker/rival process server Tony (Vincent Pastore) on a mission to intercept Joe and Sara and serve her before Joe can serve Gordon. Confusing? Yeah, just a bit. Serving Sara is a pretty dumb movie. The main reason that I wanted to see it was Bruce Campbell. I've been a fan of his since I first saw the Evil Dead trilogy in high school, and have always wondered why he doesn't get bigger roles. Well, after seeing Serving Sara I understand why that is. He's not really a great actor. He's great as Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep, but that's such a tongue-in-cheek role that I'm not sure if it really represents his ability to pull off a serious role in a serious movie. This is not to say that Serving Sara is a serious movie with serious roles in it, but his portrayal of a Texas ranch-owner was pretty sad. I'm also a fan of Matthew Perry, but after so many years of him playing the quirky, wide-eyed, twitchy guy, it's getting a little old. He really felt like the exact same character in Serving Sara as the one he played in The Whole Nine Yards, The Whole Ten Yards, and Friends. Here's hoping that he gets more roles in the future that require a slightly more serious performance such as his role in Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. Elizabeth Hurley was sub par as per usual. Overall, Serving Sara is a forgettable comedy that isn't really even worth a rental. If you want a silly comedy with Matthew Perry, try out The Whole Nine Yards instead.

The Aristocrats - No plot here my friends. The Aristocrats is a documentary about a joke. A particularly dirty joke, actually. In essence what we have here is an hour and a half of comedians looking into the camera and either talking about how they first heard the joke in question, the best telling of it they've heard, the best telling of it they've done themselves, or in a few cases just telling the joke to the viewer. Apparently the joke (titled The Aristocrats) is the most famous (and infamous) joke in the stand-up comedy business, but I've never heard it before. In fact, no one I've talked to personally has ever heard it before. And based on my own opinion of the film and the opinions of the few other people I know who have seen it, the only people who find this documentary the slightest bit interesting or entertaining are comedians themselves. In other words, unless you want to be bored out of your mind and hear the same joke told over and over again, steer clear of The Aristocrats. This bugs me, because the film was produced by, and really exists because of, Penn Jillette, of whom I'm a big fan. Just to save myself some time, I won't bother linking to (much less typing the names of) the particular comedians who appear in The Aristocrats, but just so you know, there's a whole lot of them. And I mean a lot.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Episode 26

Braveheart - Directed by and starring Mel Gibson, Braveheart is the semi-true story of William Wallace, a Scottish man who united his country in the fight for freedom against a tyranical English king. As a child, William Wallace's father and older brother were killed in battle. Too young to fend for himself, William's uncle Argyle (Brian Cox) took him under his wing, teaching him to use his brain as opposed to his fists. Years later, William returns to his home and re-unites with his childhood sweetheart Murron (Catherine McCormick). In his absence, the English King Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) has hatched a plan to slowly wear down the rebellious Scots by controlled breeding. A law has been made that states that on the night of any Scottish marriage, the bride must have relations with an Englishman, this way the Scottish gene will slowly dissipate with future generations. Because of this, William and Murron get married in secret. However, when they are found out, William revolts against the English troops in his town, resulting in the death of his wife. This event sparks the fire in William Wallace's heart that sends him on a cross-country quest in search of freedom for his people and all of Scotland. It seems as though I should have caught this film before now, but this is my first time seeing it. My first thought is that I was surprised by the brutality of the fight/death scenes. I understand that this may come as a shock after such recent films as 300, but I have a feeling that my surprise has something to do with the fact that all the deaths were performed without the aid of computer effects. In fact, with the advent of incredible on-screen battles such as those in 300, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and even the recent Star Wars films, I found the low-tech special effects and battle sequences in Braveheart to be a bit refreshing. Don't get me wrong, the visual effects in those films were all spectacular, but it's occasionally nice to be able to see the seams in a special effect. The same goes for science fiction films with computer generated monsters as opposed to stop motion animated puppets and guys in rubber suits. Every now and then it's nice to be underwhelmed by an effect, which in and of itself can be overwhelming (...if that makes any sense). As far as the plot of Braveheart, it's a fairly simple "quest for peace" style of film. I was worried going into the film with the knowledge that it is almost three hours long as I thought that it got off to a slow start. As soon as the rebellion goes into full swing, though, the pacing is perfect and the time flies by. Mel Gibson gives a solid performance, pulling off a Scottish accent pretty well (from what I could tell, keeping in mind that I'm no authority on the matter). McGoohan did a good job of making you hate him, as did Peter Hanley who played his son, the prince. Perhaps my favorite character in the film, though, was William's close friend Hamish as played by Brendan Gleeson. As I mentioned earlier, there are some particularly brutal scenes in Braveheart which I honestly think hold a greater emotional impact than similar computer assisted moments in more recent movies, if for no other reason than they just look more brutal and less visually fluid. There's a great moment in the first large scale battle of the film when Mel Gibson cracks a kneeling soldier on the top of his helmet with a blunt weapon and so much blood pours from his head that it looks as though there must have just been a balloon filled with red water under the helmet that broke with the impact. Also stunning was a scene in which Mel Gibson rides into a traitor's bedroom and crushes his head with a lead ball on a chain. I just love trying to figure out how effects like that were achieved. All in all, once the movie got rolling it was quite entertaining. It's good for evoking a few different emotions as well as churning up a few uncomfortable grunts during fight scenes.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a documentary filmmaker who specializes in ocean life (a la Jacques Cousteau). His films were widely regarded as the best in the field until about a decade ago when interest in his work began to wane. While filming the first part of his newest documentary, Steve's life-long friend and partner was eaten by a sea creature that he claims was a shark covered in a leopard print pattern. His goal is to now film the second half of the documentary with the focus on tracking down and killing the shark, which may or may not exist. When no financial backers are convinced that Zissou has it in him to finish the rest of the film, in steps Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), claiming to be Steve's estranged son. After Steve invites Ned to join the crew of his ship (the Belafonte), he offers up his recent $250,000 inheritance to fund the completion of Zissou's latest documentary. Riddled with problems from the start, this latest expedition takes several very unexpected turns as Steve Zissou tries desperately to reclaim his former glory and avenge his friend's death in the process. I'm not entirely sure why I wanted to see The Life Aquatic. The simple fact is that I haven't particularly cared for any of Wes Anderson's previous films: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums. I've never been delighted with Anderson's dry, quirky humor. That is, until now. If I had to think of one word to describe The Life Aquatic, I think it would have to be 'magical'. It has the qualities of a fantasy film in the vein of Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands which set it just outside of reality, giving it a very whimsical vibe. Little things like the played-down actions and/or reactions that the characters exhibit, the stop motion animated wildlife that could almost be real if you suspended your disbelief just a tad, and the incredible cutaway shots of the Belafonte make it feel like you're watching a live action cartoon. The story is touching, yet humorous, and every single actor/actress in the film is spot-the-fuck-on. In fact, this may be the first time that I've honestly enjoyed a performance from Owen Wilson. Also of note are Willem Dafoe, who makes an excellent supporting cast member in small doses as a Russian crew member, and Cate Blanchett who does an incredible job of injecting emotion into scenes while simultaneously showing very little, or sometimes no emotion at all. Jeff Goldblum was made for the part of Zissou's rival documentarian Alistair Hennessey, and the strong but subtle role of Zissou's wife Eleanor is magnificently handled by Angelica Huston. The Life Aquatic will lead you on the most emotionally confusing roller coater ride that you're likely to ever experience, ending with a punch in the chest at the climax, which I'm hesitant to call a climax. It's like the film reached into my brain and confused my senses so much that I fell in love with it without knowing quite why. I highly recommend The Life Aquatic to anyone who isn't too quick to stamp movies in the vein of Lost In Translation as boring.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Episode 25 - The Grind House Edition

With this post I'm a fourth of the way to one hundred episodes of What I've Been Watching. Should I be proud or ashamed of myself? I'm not really sure, but I think I'll commemorate the occasion with a special review. It just so happens that this post coincides with the release of one of the movies that I've been anticipating the most in 2007: Grind House. As you probably know (unless you've been living under a rock), Grind House is not one movie, but two, shown back to back in double feature format. Also, there are four "fake" trailers for films that don't exist sprinkled before and between the full length features. As Grind House isn't your average movie, this will not be your average review. I've split the film up into multiple sections that I'll be reviewing one by one.

Machete: Machete is the first of the "fake" trailers, and also the first thing that you see when watching Grind House. It stars Danny Trejo as a hitman who calls himself Machete and very violently murders a whole lot of people. Also appearing in the trailer is Cheech Marin, who plays a gun-wielding priest. This trailer, directed by Robert Rodriguez, is all about action and violence, which is illustrated nicely by a scene in which Trejo attaches a gatling gun to the front of a motorcycle and proceeds to ride the vehicle, launched into the air by an explosion, while raining bullets down upon his enemies. Machete is over the top, exciting, funny, and entertaining.

Planet Terror: A go-go dancer by the name of Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) quits her job to follow a different path. Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton) plans to leave her husband William (Josh Brolin) to be with her lesbian lover (Fergie). Sherriff Hague (Michael Biehn) wants desperately to know how his brother JT (Jeff Fahey) makes his famous barbecue. El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) rolls his tow truck up to JT's restaurant for a bite to eat, where he runs into ex-girlfriend Cherry. As all this is happening, at a nearby military base a transaction between a scientist named Abby (Naveen Andrews) and a decorated soldier named Lieutenant Muldoon (Bruce Willis) goes awry when several canisters of a dangerous chemical weapon are released in a hail of gunfire. The toxic fumes begin to take effect quickly, turning everyone in their path into hideous throbbing mutant creatures intent on one thing: killing. Robert Rodriguez's full length addition to Grind House is a balls out action horror film. It has all of the cliches that you would expect from a low budget monster movie from the early-to-mid eighties. All of the stereotypical characters are there from the strong female (McGowan) to the stubborn, well-meaning cop (Biehn), and from the charming loner (Rodriguez) to the maniacal military man (Willis). And let's not forget the wonderful Nicky Katt as a particularly disgusting infectee. Also, while we're discussing memorable characters, we can't leave out Quentin Tarantino's great performance as "the rapist". This has got to be the highlight of Tarantino's acting career to date. Robert Rodriguez did his best to achieve the most gore that he could while staying true to special effects techniques utilized in the glory days of low-budget filmmaking. Often times during the movie, dismemberments and impalings were achieved by using prosthetics and dummies rather than computer effects, which gave Planet Terror a charm that most movies lack today. As a fan of movies like John Carpenter's The Thing, Aliens, and Tremors, I greatly appreciated every instance during this film when I could tell that something was done without the aid of computers (including a scene that I believe to have been done using backwards animation and/or stop motion, which I am ecstatic about). Going along with the true nature of grind house films, Rodriguez added fake film grain to Planet Terror, along with a purposefully placed missing reel, which causes the film to jump some ten minutes into the future at one point, leaving audiences completely unsure of how they arrived there. This as a tricky move, but Rodriguez masterfully used this technique to heighten the experience of the movie. Spectacular special effects and a wonderful score by Rodriguez himself, as well as great acting on everyone's part add up to a truly incredible movie-going experience. Not to mention, I feel that Planet Terror marks a new zenith of Robert Rodriguez's directing talent. Sin City is an amazing film, but I truly feel that Rodriguez reached a whole new level with this movie. If you like eighties horror/monster movies and buckets of blood, Planet Terror is the movie for you.

Werewolf Women of the SS: Werewolf Women of the SS is the second of the four "fake" trailers included in Grind House. Directed by Rob Zombie, the concept of the film is that Hitler, while attempting to create an army of superhuman soldiers, stumbles upon the recipe for turning women into werewolf warriors. Aside from a very brief cameo by Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu, Werewolf Women of the SS lacked any redeeming qualities. It was by far the worst part of Grind House.

Don't!: Another of the fake trailers included in Grind House, Don't! was moreso centered around a premise than an actual plot. Directed by Edgar Wright, it's essentially a spoof of haunted house films and their trailers. It repeatedly tells the viewer not to do things such as open doors and explore dark rooms before flashing shocking imagery in front of you. The trailer managed to be at the same time hilarious and disturbing. The visuals, including a nude Nick Frost from Shaun Of The Dead chewing on baby dolls and human bodies leaking milky white liquids were disturbing while the repetition of humorous warnings and phrases gave Don't! a lighthearted quality.

Thanksgiving: Director Eli Roth gives us the most disturbing of the "fake" trailers, and also the most reminiscent of actual grind house-style films. While all of the films included in Grind House had a grainy film quality to them, Thanksgiving felt as though it really was from the 70's. I would almost believe that it were a real film made on a low budget some thirty years ago. The trailer is about a psychopathic murderer who kills people to the theme of a holiday much like the Halloween series. There was a lot of audience reaction when I saw this trailer in the theater, as there are some genuinely grotesque/disturbing images. Making an appearance in Thanksgiving, Michael Biehn gives a terrific reading of the line "Son of a bitch...", which caps this trailer off nicely.

Death Proof: Kurt Russell plays Stuntman Mike, a professional stuntman whose specialties are vehicular stunts and crashes. Mike is a very charming, like-able guy, but unfortunately he has a penchant for killing women. As such, he has a very unique method of tracking down groups of girls and using his death proof car as a weapon. Enter his latest victims: three women out for a test-drive in the country side. Stuntman Mike goes in for the kill only to find that these feisty females intend to fight back. Rounding out the Grind House experience, we have Quentin Tarantino's offering. Less of a horror film and more of a thriller, you can expect lots of Tarantino-esque drawn out conversations and witty retorts aplenty. In fact, prior to seeing the film I heard from several sources that they found Death Proof to be a bit long-winded and slow because of too many extended scenes of dialogue. I don't believe that the scenes in question harm the film, although I was aware of their excessive length as I viewed them. Quentin Tarantino's quirky, ranting dialogue has always relied on an acquired taste to be enjoyed, and I found them entertaining despite their length. The first half of Death Proof essentially sets audiences up to get to know and understand Stuntman Mike and his methods of acquiring and engaging his targets. In this way, Death Proof is much more subtle and slowly paced than Planet Terror, but when the action kicks in, it is well worth the wait. The climax of Death Proof is a massive car chase through the countryside between a pair of muscle cars that seems as though it will never end. Frankly, it is the best car chase that I've ever seen on film. Previously, I had given this honor to the film Ronin, but Death Proof knocks it out of the park along with every other car chase I've ever seen. The way Tarantino handles the chase, which is as much fight scene as it is chase scene, is masterful to say the least. The camera angles and shots that he achieves are beautiful. They are also unencumbered by the purposefully poor cuts and poor film quality that the beginning of the film showcases, making it even more enjoyable. During the course of Death Proof, you will no doubt love Stuntman Mike as well as despise him. I'm hesitant to say that this is the defining role of Kurt Russell's career, but I have no hesitations about saying that it is his most visceral and powerful performance to date. I've always loved Kurt Russell, but after seeing Death Proof I have a whole new love and respect for him that I never had before. He is absolutely outstanding in this film. At times the women whom he is after were a bit annoying, but I found them all to fit well in their roles. The only one I'd previously had any knowledge of was Rosario Dawson, but joining her as fellow strong female characters were Tracie Thoms, Zoe Bell, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, and Sydney Poitier as Jungle Julia. Quentin himself turned in another worthwhile performance in this film as the owner of a bar that is pivotal to the beginning of the movie. Another tidbit that I'd heard about Death Proof was that it had one of the best cuts to the "The End" screen ever. While I wouldn't necessarily agree with that statement, I would say that it is one of the most unexpected cuts to said screen that I've ever seen. Overall I enjoyed Death Proof just as much as I did Planet Terror and would be hard pressed to choose a favorite between the two. They are in the same vein as one another, but aren't really the same genre or style, so it's a toss up, really. However, the great thing about Grind House is that they're technically both part of one magnificent viewing experience, so it's absolutely fine to just say I loved Planet Terror and Death Proof equally.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Episode 24

After The Sunset - Pierce Brosnan plays a diamond thief named Max Burdett who has never been caught and never leaves a loose end. Beside his lover Lola Cirillo (Salma Hayek), he's stolen two of the three famous Napolean diamonds. Over a period of seven years, FBI agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson) has tried and failed numerous times to catch Max and his sexy sidekick. However, after a particularly humiliating experience during the most recent heist, Stan has been suspended from his duties. As it happens, Max has promised Lola that this same heist would be his last, and the two of them move to a Jamaican island to live out their days in paradise. That is, until Stan unexpectedly shows up, suspicious that Max may be after the third of Napolean's diamonds, which is part of an exhibit aboard a large, ritzy cruise ship that is planning a week-long stop in Jamaica on it's way to Paris. Teaming up with a local police detective named Sophie (Naomi Harris), Stan attempts to first find out whether Max has any tricks up his sleeves, and if so, make sure that he doesn't use them. In my last movie review blog, I talked about the movie Man Of The Year and how the trailer led me to believe that it was a comedy, when it was actually a drama. Well, the exact opposite is true for After The Sunset. Based on the previews, I was ready for a serious movie about a game of cat and mouse between a jewel thief and an FBI agent. Instead, what I ended up with was a series of ridiculous events revolving around a mismatched pair of men reminiscent of The Odd Couple or Perfect Strangers. Pierce Brosnan and Woody Harrelson's characters are supposed to be mortal enemies, but they somehow manage to go fishing, get drunk together, and even end up sleeping in the same bed when Salma Hayek kicks Brosnan out of the house. The plot revolving around the diamond heist takes a back seat to the situational humor very early on in this film from Brett Ratner, who directed such similar movies as Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2. While the movie may not have had much to offer in the intelligence department, there was plenty to look at, and I'm not just talking about the Jamaican skyline. Salma Hayek was half naked for much more than half of the movie. In fact, I think that the most clothing she ever wore in the entire film may have been when she put some overalls on over top of her bikini while she was building a deck on her oceanfront home. Then, of course, right from the moment that Naomi Harris tells Woody Harrelson's character that she's not going to sleep with him, you essentially know that you'll see her in her underoos eventually. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Don Cheadle's in After The Sunset as well? That's probably because he gets more screen time on the cover of the DVD box than he does in the movie itself. Finally, the ending comes out of nowhere. I know that a lot of movies are filmed with multiple finales in mind so that they can run them by test audiences, but never before have I actually been able to tell that an ending was tacked on at the last minute. The movie is essentially over, but Brett Ratner wouldn't be able to live with himself if middle America didn't leave the theater laughing. I don't recall laughing on my way out of X-Men 3, though. God knows he could have done a little better with the ending of that movie.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - New York City. 1939. A swarm of giant robots threatens mankind. Who will come to our rescue? The Sky Captain (Jude Law), of course. Soaring to the rescue in his fancy flying machine, The Sky Captain seems immortal. However, when his secret base is attacked by the same giant robots and his futuristic-gadget-making buddy Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) is kidnapped, everything goes to hell. Luckily, Dex pinpointed the origin of the robotic horde just before being abducted, and was able to leave a message behind for our hero. Along with his journalist ex-girlfriend by the name of Polly Perkins (Gwenyth Paltrow), The Sky Captain sets out on an adventure that will take him to the ends of the Earth, and hopefully lead to the location of the giant robots and the rescue of his friend. I have got to applaud Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow's intentions. What the filmmakers tried to do was recreate the joy and wonder of old science fiction action stories. We often forget the origins of these types of tales, but try to remember that there was a time before special effects and modern technology when the only way to imagine high-flying adventures was to see it written about or illustrated in comic books, sci-fi novels, and pulp magazines. There was once a time when to be a pilot, in the eyes of a young boy, was the equivalent of being a superhero. Being a big science fiction nerd myself, I get goose-bumps thinking about a time when space exploration was all about dome-shaped bubbles around your head and when all heroes were depicted with torn shirts and a woman with an exposed shoulder or thigh clinging to his arm. Men's adventure at it's finest. These are the types of feelings that the makers of Sky Captain were trying to evoke in viewers, and to a certain extent, they achieved just that. Jude Law was perhaps not the perfect physical specimen for the role of the hero, but he certainly handled the acting end. Gwenyth Paltrow, I felt, did essentially the opposite. She looked the part, but just didn't pull off the character for me. Angelina Jolie felt a bit misplaced to me as Sky Captain's old pal Franky, but wasn't terrible either. The characters are such stereotypes that I felt like I already knew them even though I'd never seen them before. In this regard, the actor who really hit his role on the mark was Giovanni Ribisi. I don't think there was a better person for the role of the young, scientific sidekick to the Sky Captain. The design of the film couldn't have been more spot on with the types of stories that it was trying to replicate, and the story was spectacular, if not a bit oddly paced toward the beginning. Kerry Conrad, the writer/director who masterminded the entire project from concept to completion completely understood the genre that he was trying to emulate, and in my opinion he knocked it out of the park. If you can sit down in front of the television and try to forget for a moment that you can hop online and order a plane ticket to anywhere in the world and be there by tomorrow, you can genuinely have a blast watching Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow. I truly believe that if we could travel back in time to 1939 and show this film to any young boy, that it would be the highlight of their adolescent lives. In almost every respect, if you pay attention to what the movie was trying to achieve, Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow is a perfect film. Unfortunately, I think that because of the expectations of modern movie-goers, it's about six decades too late to find it's true audience.

The Ice Harvest - Charlie (John Cusack) is a less-than-reputable lawyer. His usual company includes bar patrons and topless dancers. It should come as no surprise, then, that along with his pornographer buddy Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), he's just embezzled two million dollars from mob boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). The backdrop for their little scheme is a particularly gloomy Christmas Eve during which there is (as the title would suggest) a bad ice storm moving through town. With hitmen on their tails and loose ends to tie up in their hometown of Wichita Falls, Vic and Charlie just have to act natural for a few more hours before they can make their escape and live rich, happy lives elsewhere. Unfortunately for Charlie, acting natural seems to be one thing he's not very good at. I'll admit it right off the bat. I'm not a big John Cusack fan. I've seen a movie or two starring him that I've liked (Runaway Jury, Con Air, High Fidelity, etc.), but I've never much cared for his acting. As such, I'm always a bit hesitant going into his films. I like Billy Bob Thornton, but he's really not in The Ice Harvest as much as I'd have thought based on the advertising. The love interest, played by Connie Nielson didn't really do it for me either. All in all, I felt that The Ice Harvest was a fairly mediocre film. There were a few great scenes such as those involving Thornton, Mike Starr, and a storage trunk. Also of note were all the scenes involving Oliver Platt, whose role was essentially "drunken idiot". The story tries to be funny, but is usually so drab that it's nowhere near standard comedy, and doesn't quite reach dark comedy, leading to many instances where I thought that I should be laughing, but never found myself doing so. I had no real interest in The Ice Harvest until I found out that it was directed by Harold Ramis, but he's always held a place in my heart as Egon from The Ghostbusters, and not as a director, and The Ice Harvest is a perfect example of why that is. So thus far we've got a main character that I don't like, a story that doesn't really deliver, and directing that is all over the place. All that we need now is a confusing plot thread that seems to be very important to the ending, making the climax a perplexing mess. Wouldn't you know it? The Ice Harvest has it all.