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Raising Arizona (1987)

We figured there was too much happiness here for just the two of us, so we figured the next logical step was to have us a critter.

— H.I. McDunnough

Raising Arizona was probably my favorite comedy of theirs growing up. This was before I became the movie snob that I claim to be today. You know my track record with the Coen Brothers. Some times they could deliver absolute masterpieces and others are mindless pieces of dreck that would ever be put on celluloid. I believe that my previous love of this movie has waned a bit.

Convicted convenience store robber, H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) comes in and out of jail, because he wants to flirt with the officer that takes his mug shots, Edwina (Holly Hunter). After he gets paroled for the umpteenth time, he proposes to Edwina. They quickly marry; Edwina quits her job at the station, and the couple moves into a mobile home in the middle of the Arizona desert.

Things seem to be great, but Edwina desperately wants to have a child. The couple exhaustively tries to conceive without any success. Edwina learns that is barren. It devastates them. They try to the adoption without success, because of H.I’s long rap sheet.

They think their prayers have been answered when a news report reports about “The Arizona Quints.” Local celebrity Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) and his wife, Florence (Lynne Kitei) took fertility treatments to get their quintuplets. H.I. read is in the papers that Nathan was quoted in saying that the quints are a handful. The McDunnoughs come up with the idea of kidnapping one of the kids.

They break into the Arizona house while they are there and take almost all of them out of their shared crib. Some of the kids crawl away towards the door. H.I. hears that somebody is coming and leaves. He is scolded by Edwina to take one of the babies. He goes back to take Nathan Jr. (T.J. Kuhn Jr.) and raise him as their own.

Naturally, Nathan Arizona issues a $20,000 reward for his safe return. A bounty hunter that looks like he stepped off Mad Max, Leonard Smalls (Tex Cobb) takes up the slack that the inept police force couldn’t do. There is also H.I.’s cellmates, Gale and Evelle (John Goodman, William Forsythe) break of the same jail, Shawshank style. They come to the McDunnough’s trailer to spend the night, which complicates matters that the police will be after them soon.

There is blackmail, betrayal, kidnapping and redemption in this movie. I should feel like I did when I was a kid, but I didn’t. I understand that this movie was supposed to be over the top, but I think the Coens should have dialed it back a thousand percent. I still enjoyed the ridiculous action set pieces like the extended convenience store robberies with the barking dogs, the hand cannon and the Pampers, the fight between Gale and HI and also the climatic scene. Other than that, it was too much for me to handle.

Judgment: I can’t imagine enjoy this film, unless you want to make fun of white trash.

Rating: ***

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Review and Rant of Kick-Ass (2010)

With no power, comes no responsibility. Except, *that* wasn’t true.

— Dave Lizewski

I saw some Comic-Con footage of the #146 movie of all time, Kick-Ass when it was leaked online before it was taken down. I saw footage of Hit Girl in action, the opening sequence of the film and I believe it was Kick-Ass’s first fight with the thugs. I was pumped to see this movie. I have been eagerly anticipating this movie when it was picked up by Lionsgate. I wanted to see it before it left theaters. I’m glad I did because I had a ball with this movie.

Based on Mark Millar & John S. Romita Jr.’s graphic novel, Kick-Ass is the ultimate examination in fanboy delusion. High schooler Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) could be the typical comic book teenager. He is a total outcast that likes hanging out at Atomic Comics with his friends Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters). He is vagina repellent to all girls, especially to his crush, Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca).

He ponders the question to his friends, why can’t someone become a superhero when the guys are constantly mugged a couple of thugs. Marty bluntly says that they would fucking die within a day. Dave ignores the warning of his friends and decides to become a superhero even though he has no powers whatsoever. He orders green and yellow wet suit online and decides to be a costume vigilante. He tries to train his body to be “super strong.”

The problem is not that much crime happens until he walks into a mugging outside of restaurant. He is taped by a stranger on their cellphone the remarkably clear footage is posted on YouTube. The local news pick up the story about this costumed hero. They want to know who is Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass decides to create a MySpace account so random strangers could post messages praising him and asking him for help. Dave is enjoying the instant fame Kick-Ass is generating for him and he has to keep his secret identity. The coverage of this amateur attracts the attention of two other costume vigilantes that are in hiding, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moertz). Their paths cross when a local drug dealer, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) thinks that Kick-Ass is killing his business. He wants to kill Kick-Ass.

This movie went farther than Watchmen in my opinion. It tried to poke fun at the superhero origin story but still doesn’t go off the deep end. It was bloody, vulgar and fucking awesome. The action sequences especially with Hit-Girl were awesome.

The ultimate message of the movie is that we are desensitized to extreme violence. We don’t know that the world is not a safe place. It also showed us that bringing your fantasies like becoming a superhero into the real world is dangerous and could potentially get your killed if you try to do it. When I was younger, I wanted to be a Power Ranger. I thought it was refreshing that a movie would give this generation a much needed wake up call it deserves. Just because you want that instant fame either from being a runaway hit on YouTube or being profile in your local news, you have to know that there is a dark side to instant fame. It’s not just the notoriety you will get. There will be people that want the same thing as you and would harm you to replace your name in the papers.

I’m not saying that this movie was perfect. Far from it. Not having read the graphic novel, I heard that the ending of the movie changed. I like some of the changes, but not all of them. I thought that the movie was poking fun at Spider-Man, Superman and Batman at the beginning of the movie. Towards the ends, however, the movie becomes a conventional superhero storyline with the hero in trouble, the damsel in distress watching idly by, and the over the top climatic action sequence to close out the film. I think the relationship between Dave and Katie felt forced and uninspired or the last scene with Big Daddy and Hit-Girl went into melodrama. It was a bit of a cop out.

Before I close out this review, I have something to say is that I don’t understand why Hit Girl is the make or break factor of this movie. Have the naysayers ever heard of a pre-pubescent girl cursing like a sailor? Oh, please. Get over yourselves. I cursed a blue streak when I was that age. What about the boy from Role Models? He was so obsessed with tits and talking about sex. Where people saying that it was a horrible movie, because they got this kid to say such filthy phrases? Did anybody say boo when Stand by Me came out? They were cussing and smoothing when their balls haven’t dropped. That was in 1986. What has changed? Just because a little girl is saying these words you would write off a movie.

I would understand if you don’t like this movie, because it subverts the typical superhero tropes of the outcast granted special abilities to fight crime and defeat the bad guy at the end. I understand. You cannot dismiss an entire movie, because you don’t like one character in it. There are a lot of movies where I hated a particular character but I still enjoyed the movie such as the little sister in (500) Days of Summer. I think it is very myopic for any critic to write off a movie because of one character that don’t like. What about the other characters of the film, the story, the pacing, the direction it is going? Does that factor in at all when you are giving your final verdict?

Maybe it’s because you have been watching movies for so long that you have become jaded about the message of the movie. I’m not trying to sound like a fanboy here, but you have to have an objective eye. You are giving your opinion on a movie that other people are going to read and form their opinion about whether to see it or not. If you write a movie off because one character then people are not going trust your opinion anymore. That is my take on this so called controversy.

Judgment: It is a subversive take on the superhero story tat people could enjoy if they open their minds to it.

Rating: ****

SEPS Review: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

 

Before I start my review, I would like to preface this by saying that I missed reviewing movies. As many of you know, I was away at Navy boot camp for a while. I was discharged from it because my eyes were too fucked up to effectively do my job, which was supposed to be an air traffic controller. I was in a place called SEPS, which is out of basic training. The guys there are being transitioned out. Not training, there was A LOT of downtime. I’m glad that had movies to pass the mind numbing boredom. I was there for over a month. I’m glad to be back. I’m missed you guys. Let’s get started. Shall we? 

Let’s just say that the picking were slim in SEPS. the first movie I ever saw in SEPS was the Nicolas Cage vehicle, Gone in 60 Seconds. I have seen bits and pieces of the movie over the years. I never had the chance to watch it, because I was stuck there I checked it out. This movie was like The Fast and the Furious, but less fun. 

Apparently this movie is a remake of a 1974 movie that I haven’t heard of. I supposed that it had the same basic premise except this version was updated with fast cars and lots of hot women. Whatever. The movie centers around a retired thief, Memphis Raines (Nicolas Cage) is pulled back into the car stealing business when a British crime boss, Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston). Calitri threatens to kill his younger brother, Kip (Giovanni Ribsi) who botched an earlier job. The only way that Memphis could save his brother is to steal fifty cars on a list. 

With the clock ticking down, Memphis gathers together his old crew including his mentor, Otto (Robert Duvall) and old love interest, Sway (Angelina Jolie). When the crew starts on the list, this catches the attention of LAPD Detective Roland Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo) who dealt with Raines and his tactics. Castlebeck tries to be one step ahead of Raines with his partner, Detective Drycoff (Timothy Olyphant). Raines tries to steal all the cars in a 24-hour period to try to get the deadline. 

I wish that I could pontificate more about this movie, but the movie is a shallow action film that doesn’t satisfy you. I am perfectly fine with the anti-hero. I hate the typical cookie cutter endings to a movie. I was mildly enjoying this film as brainless entertainment, but the ending bothered the hell out of me. 

Judgment: It was a cop-out. 

Rating: **1/2 

National Treasure (2004)

If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.

— Ben Gates

National Treasure is a movie that I was intending to see when it came out 2004. I haven’t had to the chance to until now. People were saying that it was a good action/adventure film. I would agree with that.

Descending from a family of treasure hunters, Ben (Nicolas Cage) continues the quest that was told by his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) to find a long lost treasure that were left behind by a secret organization the Free Masons centuries before. His father, Patrick (Jon Voight) tries to dissuade Ben for pursuing the treasure further. The fame and the glory become intoxicating for him.

The story that his grandpa told him years before life with the phrase “the secret lies with Charlotte” brings him to Antarctica with Ben’s sidekick, Riley (Justin Bartha) and his boss, Ian (Sean Bean) to find the Charlotte. They discovered that it is a shipwreck buried under the ice. The team investigates the wreckage to discover a usual pipe hidden inside a barrel of gunpowder. It has a ridden written on it

Ben’s brain deciphers that the invisible map to the ultimate treasure on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Ian wants that document by any means necessary. Ben doesn’t want to steal the Declaration, but Ian has others ideas. He double crosses Ben and leaves him and Riley behind to die there. At the last minute, they escape; their new mission is to stop Ian for getting to the Declaration first.

In Washington DC, the duo tries to warn various government officials about the future theft. They are not hearing it, because they are confident that nothing will happen to the document with it’s high security. The twosome heads over the National Archives where Ben assumes an identity of Paul Brown, because his family has horrible reputation to meet Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger). Ben tells her about the plan. She doesn’t believe that there is an invisible map on the back of the document.

Ben is tired of getting resistance and sideways glances about the plot. Ben decides to steal the Declaration himself. Riley is uneasy about it. Their plan is steal the document when it is treated in the Preservation Room when the National Archives when they are having their 70th anniversary gala.

That night, Ben has a subtle way in by sneaking in as Paul Brown. His boss, Ian wants to go in guns blazing. Ben gets the document first, which is a chase for Ian to get the document back. When Abigail realizes that Paul Brown was not on the guest list, she confronts him. He blindly gives the Declaration to her and Ian kidnaps her. Ian gets the Declaration. Now, that they have to have a plan to get it back from Ian.

This movie is a cross between Ocean’s Eleven, The DaVinci Code and Night at the Museum. This is a film takes the audience on an adventure, but can also open up the viewer’s mind on history told in a fun way. It was nice to see Nicolas be decent in movie, instead of his schizophrenic acting he does now. I personally did not get the tacked on love story between Ben and Abigail. It was atypical that the leads would hook up. I don’t understand that rationale.

Judgment: A nice, tight action/adventure film for the entire family to enjoy.

Rating: ****

KNOW1NG (2009)

knowing

The numbers are the key to everything.

— John Koestler

Seeing as though this is billed as a Nicolas Cage vehicle, I wanted to stay away from this movie as possible. I heard that the ending was a big WTF and a lot of people wanted to know what it means. I saw Knowing and I have some questions about the ending. I was discuss it in the spoiler section after the jump.

The movies starts in 1959 with Lucinda Embry, a peculiar young girl that writes down a series of numbers on a piece of paper for a time capsule that was supposed to be buried in front of the school.

Fifty years later, the capsule is dug up with the contents of it is distributed to the children in the crowd. The letter that contain the numbers is handed to Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) who inadvertently takes it home.

His father, John (Cage), an MIT professor discovers it. He scans the page to see the date of 9/11 and the number of victims from that day. As he drinks heavily throughout that night, discovers that the numbers are a sequence of disastrous events that will lead to the end of life on Earth.

John is trying to reconcile the scientific aspects of the numbers and his waning faith about spirituality, fate, predestination, free will, prophecy, meaning of life.

As he becomes more involved with the incidents, he enlists the help of Diana Wayland, (Rose Byrne) and her daughter, Abby (Lara Robinson) to figure out what can be done with the end of days.

This movie was uneven. The beginning of the movie, I was bored. The action sequences were good, but the CG was awful. The acting was bad. I felt so sorry for Rose. She was underused in the film.

Judgment: If you last thirty minutes of the film were stretched throughout the movie, I would have been ten times better.

Rating: **1/2

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