Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Episode 56

Death Sentence - Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) is an average man with an average life. He has a loving wife (Kelly Preston), a good job, a nice house in suburbia, and two sons named Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) and Lucas (Jordan Garrett). In high school, Brendan has become a pretty good ice hockey player with hopes of going to college in Canada to pursue his dream of playing professionally. His dream is cut short, however, when a gang attacks the gas station that he and his father have stopped at on the way home from a game. As part of new member Joe Darley's (Matt O'Leary) initiation into the gang, he is forced by the others to kill a random person. It just so happens that that random person is Nick Hume's son Brendan. Seeing the murder take place, Nick tackles the perpetrator as he escapes and removes Joe's mask before losing him. Not long after, Nick is able to pick his son's killer out of a line-up, but not satisfied with the punishment which Joe will receive for the crime, Hume decides to let him go free. Fueled by anger over the loss of his son, Nick follows Joe and this fellow gang members as they leave the courthouse, and later that night returns to the scene, killing Joe Darley. Little did Nick know, Joe was the younger brother of gang leader Billy Darley (Garrett Hedlund), who wants revenge for the murder of his brother. After he discovers that Nick was responsible, he and the rest of the gang track him down and begin to make his life a living hell. Pushed to the edge in defense of his family and his honor, Nick Hume must now go to war with an entire inner city gang, but does he have what it takes to protect what he holds dear? Not the most original film ever conceived, Death Sentence's story of revenge and retribution brings to mind previous movies such as The Punisher, Kill Bill, and about half of the action films released since the early eighties. Honestly, this movie isn't much different from any of those others, but that's not to say that it isn't without any redeeming qualities. First off, Kevin Bacon is great in Death Sentence. Outside of a particularly poorly directed scene which takes place in a hospital, Bacon's performance is very visceral and surprisingly believable given the circumstances of the plot. Not only is he believable, but also just fun to watch as he mows down a series of gangsters. The gangsters themselves are incredibly stereotypical, but I suppose that there really is only one type of modern gangster to draw reference from, and that is the highly tattooed, constantly angry lot that we get in this film. Bacon's onscreen family is much more believable than many that I have seen in the past, coming off as the imperfect, but overall loving family unit that is the universal standard throughout most of America. In a relatively small cameo as a black market weapons dealer, John Goodman delightfully plays against type, proving once more what a versatile range of personalities he can bring to a project. By far my least favorite character in the movie, Aisha Tyler's Detective Wallis is everything that Goodman's character isn't: unoriginal, unbelievable, and stale. The first non-horror film from Saw and Dead Silence director James Wan, Death Sentence carries over a lot of his directorial style to the action genre. While this film isn't necessarily meant to scare viewers, it maintains a certain level of the onscreen violence and brutality that Wan first showcased in the original Saw, and which had a number of the women behind me in the theater screaming throughout. While I don't necessarily think that this is an overall good thing, it certainly made for a few impacting death and fight scenes. With a sub-par concept and generally unoriginal direction, Death Sentence is by no means a must-see movie, but definitely one that I would recommend when looking for something fun to watch with your friends.

For Your Consideration - It all began with a little film called Home For Purim. When rumors begin to circulate around the set like wildfire that washed-up actress Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) may be in the running for an Oscar award based on her performance in the film, the cast and crew couldn't be happier. In fact, before long the word has gotten out to every news show in the country, much to the surprise of many who have never heard of the small film. Everyone begins to take notice, however, when Hack's co-stars Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer) and Callie Webb (Parker Posey) are also rumored to be nominated for Oscars. With all of the buzz going around concerning the film, it's financial backers including Whitney Taylor Brown (Jennifer Coolidge) convince studio executive Martin Gibb (Ricky Gervais) to make some alterations to the movie in order to make it more accessible to a wider audience. Changes made much to the dislike of Lane Iverson (Michael McKean) and Philip Koontz (Bob Balaban), the screenwriters of the film. In a matter of days the set of the small, independent movie is swamped with talk show personalities such as Cindy (Jane Lynch) and Chuck (Fred Willard), the hosts of an Entertainment Tonight-esque news show, and what used to be a modest film about an obscure Jewish holiday has been transformed into a cheap grab at award nominations. All that is left to be seen is whether or not there was ever any actual truth behind the rumors that Marilyn Hack and her co-stars were ever in the running for Oscar nominations at all, or if they just got caught up in the Hollywood machine. For Your Consideration is the latest mockumentary-style film from writer/director/actor Christopher Guest, whose previous films include Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, and A Mighty Wind, and co-writer/actor Eugene Levy. While I say that it is a mockumentary, this isn't one hundred percent true. Unlike a film such as Best In Show, the characters never talk straight into the camera as though being interviewed, but the similar tone and obvious and frequent ad-libbing by the actors makes it a close fit for the genre. Technically though, For Your Consideration is a normal comedy. The majority of the cast is comprised of the same familiar faces that anyone who has seen any of Guest's other movies will recognize. Fred Willard fits into his usual doofus who doesn't realize how stupid he looks archetype, Catherine O'Hara is over-dramatic in almost every scene, Eugene Levy is a conservative weirdo, Parker Posey is arrogant and full of herself, Jennifer Coolidge is an airheaded bombshell, Harry Shearer is a sweet but clueless fellow, and Guest himself is a quiet oddball. These are all repeat roles in some sense, but ones which are welcomed by fans of Guests work. New to the mix is Ricky Gervais, whose background in quirky, oft-ad-libbed humor with television shows such as The Office and Extras makes him a great addition to the cast. So with all of the pieces in place for another classic Christopher Guest comedy, why didn't I love For Your Consideration? Probably for the same reason that I didn't really like the previous A Mighty Wind. That reason being? I have no idea. Best In Show is one of my favorite comedies of all time, but A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration just haven't really done it for me. It may be because I love all of the characters in Best In Show (which was the first of Guests films that I saw) so much that it's impossible for me to like them again when they're placed in different scenarios, but I'm not sure why that would be. I cannot say that For Your Consideration (or for that matter A Mighty Wind) is a bad film, because it's probably at the same level of quality as Best In Show, but for whatever reason I just didn't think it worked quite as well. There are plenty of funny moments for anyone who likes Christopher Guest, mockumentaries, or comedy in general, but in my case I didn't laugh nearly as often as I have while watching some of Guests past films.

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