Friday, August 22, 2014

The Prince: Macho Mayhem As The Male Version Of Maternal Instinct

Yet another entry into the dad rescues endangered kid thriller with Brian Miller's The Prince, that macho mayhem as opposed to maternal instinct scenario is beginning to nearly qualify as a guy genre in its own right on screen. Though in this case just about every guy around is a metaphorically conceived maniac from bad to worst, and it supposedly has something to do with the ancient Romans and rabid royalty under house arrest somewhere in the Scotland wilderness centuries ago.

Updated to the present time and with ensuing anti-heroes galore, The Prince plays out as a longstanding grudge between two gangsters with combo anger management diabolical daddy issues. Paul (Jason Patric) is the title character in question, a soldier who reluctantly chose the military over prison as an option he couldn't refuse, and whose combat experience apparently sent him into post-traumatic assassination mode, bringing home the war for the New Orleans mob. Now a mysterious auto mechanic down in Mississippi, Paul returns to New Orleans to locate his missing runaway teenage daughter.

Likewise interested in finding her is Omar (Bruce Willis), a local mob chief out to seek vengeance against Paul, responsible for the car bomb murder of his wife and daughter that was intended to take down Omar instead. Also tossed into the mix though rather peripherally is 50 Cent's leering lunatic druglord dubbed The Pharmacist, and John Cusack as a retired gangster from Paul's old posse back in the day, who wants none of it but is willing to help out secretly in any way he can. Then there's Omar's peculiar sidekick played by Rain, a skinny, dapper effeminate martial arts hitman favoring designer duds.

Willis rather delicately negotiates getting into his darker side, in a shaky balancing act between a slightly humanized professional psychopath yearning for closure over a longstanding major grievance, and just a really rotten dude. Meanwhile, maximum homicidal pandemonium ensues without astonishingly, a single big city cop in sight for the duration. Along with a remarkably bullet-proof protagonist throughout the proceedings, and the most destruction inflicted instead upon exceedingly defaced property if not highly abused chewed up scenery.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mercenaries: Charlie's Devils Meets The Sexpendables

While the US energy corporations conspire to invade European markets by demonizing Russia and marginalizing their gas production, American movies seem to be getting in on the financially lucrative propaganda frenzy too. Shifting their negative focus on Muslim villains to neo-Cold War Russian adversaries everywhere, and set up with predictable elimination. Or, in the case of Christopher Ray's Mercenaries, a deranged when not daffy Danish substitute in the person of  Brigitte Nielsen will do.

A bargain basement, blatant female driven copycat ripoff of the pricier Expendables with a generous dab of Roger Corman - oddly enough or perhaps not, with Expendables the brawn over brainchild of Nielsen's ex-spouse Stallone, Mercenaries serves up its schlock and awe like S&M pole dancers with pistols. And Charlie as in the CIA covert warfare military mode, and dabbling in knockoffs right down to this female army's skintight sexpot battle slutwear from The Expendables Recycler store outlet, no less.
And with a remote US location filling in for Kazakhstan as a Russian enclave - though these geographically deprived filmmakers haven't gotten the notice yet that Kazakhstan is now an independent country. Though who knows that the territory may actually house at this point, one of those nifty secret CIA military prisons specializing in creative torture.

In any case, sent off to this somewhat mythic realm somewhere in the real world, is a criminally minded collection of female felons recruited, whether they like it or not, by the CIA visiting them armed with mace, to embark on a secret mission to rescue the US president's diplomat daughter taken hostage in Kazakhstan. And by none other than a statuesque Russian lunatic lesbian ballbuster played with femme fatale macho relish by Nielsen. Which is essentially what happens to young bombshell screen goddesses hitting old age, where in Hollywood forty is the new ninety-five.

And with Nielsen and a male army of apparently myopic sharpshooters in a ludicrous faceoff never less than destined for enemy loserville, by armed to the teeth, bulletproof, ferociously foul-mouthed battling babes counting Zoe Bell, Kristanna Loken and Nicole Bilderback. And last but hardly least, Vivica Fox as the reigning demented wild card of this deranged posse, mulling fantasies of one day turning the former Soviet Union countries like this one into those cheap labor, non-union movie sets (hey hello, it's already been happening) where packing a strap-on, she can get to perform sex acts on George Clooney.

Mercenaries: Charlie's Devils Meets The Sexpendables. And riling themselves up with the bitch bravado battle cry, 'Let's go PMS on them.'

'...It doesn’t take a feminist to figure out that the men in charge of making this film might reasonably be said to have a few issues with women...'


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good People: Kate Hudson Wears The Pants, Perfecting Ballsy Moves Against Bad Guys

Nuclear family noir faces off against gangster thriller gore in Good People. Simultaneously referencing traditional mobster mayhem and bleak, apocalyptic end stage capitalism in a recession stricken world.

James Franco and Kate Hudson are Tom and Anna Reed in Good People, an economically struggling young American couple migrating to London after Anna inherits a dilapidated family home there. Determined to renovate the aged structure in nearly complete shambles while relying on Tom's carpentry skills but few funds, the frustrated  duo are elated when a downstairs neighbor in the building where they live is found murdered, but leaving behind a huge amount of hidden cash they discover there. Money that they attempt to rationalize, has no moral value in and of itself, it's what people do with it that creates ethical quandaries.

And turning up to drive those problematic points home rather quickly as the pair begins to pay off debts, are no less than three warring parties. Counting a deeply suspicious detective (Tom Wilkinson) with his own hidden agenda, local drug dealers from whom the money was originally stolen, and French gangsters who were ripped off by the local thugs in the first place. Leaving the couple in the unfortunate predicament of eluding everyone in question at the same time, in order to save their lives.

Kate Hudson wears the pants in this particular family outing, with Franco frequently deferring to her ballsy moves intercepting the bad guys, more comfortable apparently with applying his craftsman skills to a kind of creative blue collar class warfare. And with the various menacing intruders when not homicidal busybodies standing in somewhat for a metaphorical late capitalism doing battle with itself, and those at the bottom left essentially with no side to choose from or any traditional good versus, evil amid multiple malevolent threats. Whether implicating ruthless greed, official corruption, or perfected torture in the pursuit of ill gotten gain.

Directed by masterfully bold and socially intuitive Danish filmmaker Henrik Ruben Genz (Terribly Happy) and adapted by Kelly Masterson (Snowpiercer, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead) from the  Marcus Sakey novel, Good People anchors this story in a sobering subtext beyond its otherwise conventional thriller roots. Channeling guerrilla imagination with whatever tools at hand, and workingclass resistance in a nearly futile hi-tech weaponry world. Or as a confident Kate Hudson declares at a key moment in confronting formidable, elaborately armed opponents from all sides, "Guns are for pussies."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Frontera: Eva Longoria Desperate Housewife In Hell, In Brewing Border Wars Bromance

Actor Michael Pena, who already displayed his tremendous talent and conviction earlier this year filling the formidable shoes as larger than life fearless farm worker activist and UFW labor leader Cesar Chavez in the biopic bearing his name, brings this same fury and idealist commitment to an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary historical circumstances, in Frontera. This brewing border wars bromance initially pits Pena against a disgruntled retired Arizona sheriff played with magnificent complexity and subtlety by Ed Harris, a rancher perpetually peeved about undocumented Mexicans crossing his land in search of work and sustenance in the United States.

In the course of embarking on that journey he's taken many times before to support his family back in Mexico and his now pregnant wife (Eva Longoria), Pena and a companion become trapped as unfortunate victims of apparent rifle target practice by bullying gringo teens cornering them from a cliff. In the course of which Harris' wife (Amy Madigan) who is passing by riding her horse, is caught up in the terrifying moment and suffers a tragic accident.

And in the ensuing panic and rage gripping that small Arizona town, Pena's bewildered migrant is imprisoned and his brave and determined wife travels across the border on a subsequently dangerous mission to find and save him. Even as doubts about what really transpired beyond racist accusations, hidden agendas and coverups trouble the former sheriff. As he takes matters into his own hand to the dismay of the police force, and mounts his own investigation.

Vigilantism, whether spurred on by homicidal revenge or on the other hand idealistic protest opposing official injustice, has long been an enduring theme in American movies, and no surprise there. With a US government that increasingly ranges from corruption to a woefully broken system, frustrated civilian activism whether from the right or left, is spurred on. And Michael Berry's Frontera blends these timely socio-political elements in dramatically bracing ways, intertwined with the current south of the border turbulent immigrant crisis in progress today.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The One I Love: Or Not, In This Split Personality, Identity Theft Small Talk Romance

With a movie title borrowed from the name of The Mamas And Papas classic song, this choice would appear to be not quite random, as the duo in question starring in this split personality sex romp might be termed the Ethans and the Sophies, played by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss respectively. And setting in somewhat circular and repetitive motion, a sci fi relationship scenario laced with guilt free, cake and eat it infidelity.

And if all that sounds as philosophical as theatrical in equal measure, perhaps that was the point as crafted by director Charlie McDowell and first time screenwriter Justin Lader. And seeming as much an idea for a movie as an actual dramatic feature, as well as that problematic divide between the idealized or misremembered fantasy of a lover and who they actually are, not to mention yourself in their potentially disappointed eyes in turn.

Along with how that weighty emotional baggage can precipitate the sort of identity crisis where in eager-to-please mode lavished upon your object of desire, you begin to no longer be in touch with or recognize who your really are. Or in other words, in not sounding like your usual self lately while putting your best foot forward - there is uncertainty if it's even your foot any longer. Enough said about the mysterious meanderings of this crabby when not cosmic, identity theft small talk satirical romance.

The rather perpetual primary plot point of the movie concerns Ethan and Sophie as a borderline estranged married couple entering into relationship therapy, conducted by an unorthodox shrink played by Ted Danson. Hopelessly failing the adviser's compatibility exercises, the pair upon his recommendation head to his specially designed rustic reconciliation retreat. Whereupon they enter perhaps a claustrophobic parallel universe of sorts, having something to do in an exceeding stretch of the imagination with Russian stacking dolls and aardvarks.

The One I Love - or perhaps more aptly The Ones I Love - seems more grounded in concepts and a dash of mystical intrigue than momentum and dramatic pacing. Along with the nagging notion that if you're as bored with this couple as they apparently are with one another, that's not a good sign.

Which raises a question about that tendency these internalized indie characters with their shallow intimacy seem to share. That the cure may not lie within generating even more self-entertaining amusement and wonder, but rather hey, how about getting close by getting in touch with life on the planet, and the teeming world all around you.