Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eiger Counter

My wife wanted to see The Eiger Sanction for the rockclimbing scenes. Then she fell asleep waiting for them. Well, it is a long movie.

Based on a story by Trevanian, this was 1975 movie was Clint Eastwood's directorial debut. He also stars as Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, art historian, mountain climber, government assassin. He was also a rock star and brain surgeon, but they cut that part. He is blackmailed out of retirement to kill one of an international team climbing the Eiger. But first he has to do some training in Monument Valley with George Kennedy and some hot chicks.

In re: Chicks - some shockingly racial and sexual stuff. That Clint is seduced by Vonetta MacGee as "Jemina Brown" might start to give you some idea.

The climbing, on the other hand is awesome. Some amazing zoom shots: From the full mountain, to a part of the trail, to a few small dots, who turn out to be the climbers. Clint clearly does a lot of the stunts, climbing chimneys and ropes, and traversing ice. Gripping stuff, if you could stay awake for the build up.

The politics of the Eiger climb seemed a lot less realistic.The other climbers all seemed like nuts - reckless, egotistical, poorly prepared - I wouldn't have wanted to climb with any of them, even if just to kill one of them.

Final gripe: for some reason, the DVD we got was letterboxed on all 4 sides. We really needed a big theater screen, but we didn't even get the full 32" from our home tv. Closer to 27". But who's counting?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rock Lobster

Lobster Man from Mars (1989) is a pretty funny riff on 50s space invader movies. It is also a pretty funny riff on the 80s movie business. I'm not sure they really go together though.

Some kid is just putting the final touches on an amateur feature film about a Lobster Man who is invading from Mars. In the meantime, film producer Tony Curtis (!) finds out that he made too much money last year and needs a tax write-off fast. Fate brings them together.

That's the framing story. Most of the footage deals with a young Brit and his girlfriend visiting his scientist uncle Patrick MacNee (!) in California, near Old Faithful. Their enormous car breaks down when a UFO lands, people start turning into skeletons, and who is that mysterious private eye? He's Tommy Sledge, who I guess had a TV series. I've never heard of him.

This sci-fi parody got plenty of laughs out of us, but it was definitely sub-Larry Blamire (Lost Skeleton, Lost Skeleton Returns Again). Also, who did that framing story work? Why was a kid in the 80s making a 50s monster movie. Was it supposed to be period or just retro? Was it supposed to be funny, or just incompetent? Picking a tone and sticking with it would have helped. But, so what? It's only a stupid movie about a stupid movie. And it did have a gorilla monster in a diving helmet, can't hate that.

The story behind the story is that Stanley Sheff and Bob Greenberg wrote the movie using the student film concept to allow it to be filmed cheaply. But it wasn't made until after Greenberg had died, and Sheff directed as a tribute to his dead friend.

As for Tony Curtis, he needed to make a child support payment. I can't explain what Patrick MacNee was doing it this.

In conclusion, they did use "Rock Lobster" as the theme song. It didn't really go, but who could resist using it? Not me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Counting Crows

Ong Bak introduced Tony Jaa, an incredibly skilled Thai martial artist, to the world. In Ong Bak 2: This Time it's Historial, Tony Jaa shares the director's chair, and they go back to an early incarnation of his Ong Bak character. He is tortured to death at the end, with the promise that he will be reincarnated in time for the first movie. So what will happen in Ong Bak 3: The Ong Bakening?

To start with, more killing of Tony Jaa. They pick up right where Ong Bak 2 ended, and spend about 20 minutes doing harm to him, breaking every bone in his body, etc. Then he gets saved at the last minute, and is whisked off to a small village to recuperate.

Meanwhile, the evil king who was torturing him is having problems with someone eviler than him. A goth, tattooed crow-demon type is haunting his dreams, and daytimes too. Now, I've never seen any of the Crow movies, because Brandon Lee died making the first one - too creepy. But even I said, "The Crow" when he showed up.

So King and Crow fight while Jaa regains his physical and mental strength. As excruciating as the torture was, the rehabilitation was almost more so. I guess these days, there are plenty of chances to witness the process of a broken warrior being rehabilitated. Jaa presents the process from a Buddhist perspective.

Then, when Jaa must fight the Crow, he takes a Buddhist path there, as well. Well, kind of Buddhist - as peaceloving as possible when taking on an army single-handed. But his fighting style has a rhythmic flow to it - like Aikido. Thai classic dance also plays a role in this movie, like in Ong Bak 2.

Jaa's movie all seem to feature a strong spiritual component, but I felt it much more strongly in this one. It appears that Jaa did as well, since he became a Buddhist monk when this was done. After the emotional workout this film put us through, I feel like I could use a little time in meditation too.

In conclusion, Jaa's reportedly out of the monastery. I look forward to his next movie.

The Acceptables

The Expendables is famous for putting a ton of action movie heroes together for the first time, including Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the same scene. This isn't just stunt casting.

Sly heads up a mercenary band that includes Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and some other guys. Their headquarters is in Mickey Rourke's tattoo parlor. One day, Bruce Willis comes to them with a business proposition. He tries to get Schwarzenegger involved, but he declines. That is the famous Stallone/Willis/Schwarzenegger scheme. Remember when I said it wasn't stunt casting? I lied.

The gig is to take out a South American dictator. The hitch is, he has a really cute daughter who is also trying to take him out. He also has Stone Cold Steve Austin working for him.

So, a lot of fighting, shooting, blowing things up. Stallone rockin' the beret, Rourke in a cowboy hat. Some in-jokes that I probably missed, like Randy Couture fighting Austin - did they have some professional grudge, or am I just guessing?

Mostly fun, but the dictator's daughter gets waterboarded - I know, this isn't torture when Americans do it, but these are South Americans. Or wait, it's the CIA, so it's OK. Hold on, it's rogue CIA; does that make it torture or is it still OK? Anyway, I thought the waterboarding scene was way too extreme, and morally confusing. I wish they'd left it out.

I haven't listed all of the kick-ass stars in this movie, but I'll drop a hint - mostly it's just Sly and Statham. And Statham doesn't really do much. Jet Li is totally wasted in a comic role as a small guy who wants more money, because he has to fight harder than the big guys. His big fight is not the best in the movie.

Honestly, this is about as good as most supergroup movies are - this one has TEN action hero stars, it must be 10x better than any other action movie. In fact, it's pretty uneven. They could have done as well with Stallone and 9 random stunt guys, with maybe a cameo or two, like Willis and Schwarzenegger. But it doesn't matter.

In conclusion, you already know if you want to see this. In fact, you probably already did, or never will. As for me, I've started adding Stallone movies to my queue.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Yippee Kay Yay Old Guy

When did Bruce Willis become the grumpy geezer who is too old for this shit? I think he was doing that act in Die Hard II - any earlier? He really locks it down in Red.

He plays a retired government killer who spends his days waiting for his retirement check - so he can tear it up and call Mary-Louise Masterson Parker at the agency to complain. She is a cute clerk who likes to read romance novels and chat with old guys on the phone at work.

One day a black ops wetwork team come to take Willis out. Like that is going to work. He decides that Parker is probably implicated, so he picks her up and goes on the lam to kill people and blow things up. He starts collecting his old team, getting the band back together.

Yes, Morgan Freeman actually says, "We're getting the band back together." Your reaction to this information may determine how you feel about this movie.

Other members of the team include John Malkovich as a paranoid assassin brain damaged by psy-war experimentation, and refined killer Helen Mirren. I can't stand Malkovich in dramatic roles - he's too creepy with eyes too close together and the forehead and weird speech cadence. But as a psycho in comedy, he's a hoot. Mirren is wonderful - I hate to say she's too good for the picture, but she can do this little thing with her eyes that is electrifying. A real actress when everyone else is kind of phoning it in.

Nothing wrong with phoning in a performance in a casual fun little action comedy like this. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, except the people who get blown to bits by an RPG. My only reservation would be with Parker's role as Willis' girlfriend. The idea is that she's a homebody who dreams of adventure and romance, then gets it. Her part is a little underwritten, though, and she doesn't have the chemistry with Willis to pull it off. It's a thankless role anyway,

In conclusion, I have no idea who was trying to kill Willis or why. Just glad that they did. He may be old, but not ready to retire.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Passion in Fashion

Passion fruit was flavor of the year a few years ago - right after pomegranates, I think. It is still one of my favorites. I love the lilikoi (Hawaiian for passion fruit) jelly that it seems you can only get in Hawaii. I love passion fruit juice, and use it in cocktails whenever I can find it, which is never. I have enjoyed Alize, a French passion fruit and cognac concoction. Recently I discovered PassoĆ£.

It's a passion fruit liqueur, made by Remy Martin (it isn't Brazilian, as the Portuguese name hints). It is very sweet and rather pink, but has a good strong passion fruit flavor. just a splash in orange juice makes a nice refreshing (nearly non-alcoholic drink. That inspired me to make a little rum punch:

Passion in Fashion
1 oz. orange juice
2 oz. rum
1/2 oz. PassoĆ£

Shake over ice and strain into a champagne flute. Top with about an equal amount of chilled sparkling wine.

Honestly, this has a somewhat restrained flavor profile. I think it would be better with lemon instead of orange, to cut sweetness. Grounds for future research.

Stone Cole Porter

Anything Goes (1956) probably didn't kill movie musicals, but it isn't completely innocent either. It has a few Cole Porter songs, a few other songs, a story that has nothing to do with the Broadway musical or earlier film of the same name. It has some appealling stars, and an appalling lack of charm.

Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor are two stars who agree to do a musical together. Bing is the established name, O'Connor the television crooner beloved by all the bobbysoxers. I guess he's a stand-in for Sinatra, Crosby's traditional nemesis. Although both are insecure egomaniacs, they are also insincere, and agree that the leading lady can be anyone either of them choose. Then they go off on separate European trips.

In England, Bing discovers Mitzi Gaynor and gives her the job. In Paris, O'Connor discovers Zizi Jeanmaire and gives her the job. Then they all get on the ship and sail back to New York. Such is the plot.

I like Mitzi Gaynor, although she is a little too perky sometimes, like Debbie Reynolds. She can dance, though, unlike Reynolds. Jeanmaire is a ballet dancer of exceptional talent, with a beautiful "line" - her modern dance numbers especially allow her to combine sinuous curves with cubistic angles.

On the other hand, the songs are pretty limp, and the dance numbers with Bing or O'Connor are not very inspired. This is pretty disappointing, because O'Connor is a great dancer, as anyone who has seen Singing in the Rain knows. He really didn't get a lot of chances to show it, and this film is not exception.

So, two annoying male leads, some lackluster songs and a few great dance numbers, especially those involving Jeanmaire. Maybe this movie didn't kill the musical, but you can see the musical dying in it.

In conclusion, guess what they used as a substitute for "cocaine" in "I Get a Kick Out of You"? Hint: If you took one little whiff, it would bore you terrifically too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Name Your Persian

I never played the game, but as soon as the trailer started playing, I recognized it as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The game goes way back, to the early days of the Mac, and the jumping, leaping, running style is pretty recognizable. The movie delivers that style in spades, plus beautiful art direction and some very appealing actors. So why does it ring so hollow?

Jake Gyllenhall is the titular Prince, a street beggar adopted by the king. He has a lovable mutt-like look -- not like a mixed breed or a shaggy dog, but a mug, a lug, a dope. He is fearless and goes in for streetfighting and commando tactics. But he runs afoul the evil vizier, Ben Kingsley, and is soon on the run with beautiful Princess Leia - is that right? Gemma Arterton. Kingsley makes a nice Persian villain - he reminds me of his role as the Rabbi in Luck Number Slevin. There is some Disney-style comedy relief, and a lot of derring-do. David Bell choreographs the parkour stuff.

I guess I enjoyed it, and I can't say any part of it didn't live up to expectations. But I never really bought into the whole experience. It seemed like a movie spectacle, a corporate enterprise. I realize that this would disqualify pretty much every ever made, so maybe that's not the problem. Maybe it was the hype, maybe I'm reacting to the bad reviews. It just didn't grab me.

In conclusion, watch it without expectations. You might like it better than I did.