Monday, December 30, 2013

The Postman

Tom Petty has a part in this movie where he plays himself.  Just think about that for a second.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Ok, the reason why I’m bringing up The Postman is because it takes place in 2013 and this is the last chance I’ll ever have to mention it.  So here’s my quick take on it.

This picture is kinda bad.  It’s far from the worst thing I’ve seen but even with the refinement that it definitely needed I have a hard time seeing how this could’ve been a really great piece.  The pacing is uneven, none of the characters are that noteworthy, the story is trite and the cinematography isn’t the most exciting.  But if you liked the ragged costume design of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld then this is for you because it’s the third in that Kevin Costner/John Bloomfield trilogy.

Some of the ideas the filmmakers (and author David Brin) had were genuinely good though.  The religious allegories are kind of interesting: the villain is called Bethlehem, the postman becomes a Jesus type figure that’s worshipped, the postal service becomes like a religion giving people hope and something to believe in, etc.  And I like that Costner only puts on the postman shtick to get some food which starts a snowball of lies that grows out of his control into something real.

Other than a small number of bright spots The Postman is tedious and confusing.  A million times (I counted) Costner gives up being the postman only to take up the role again at the first sign of encouragement.  And the backstory, the inconsistent behavior of the characters and the passage of time all make for a bunch of perplexing moments.  I had a hard time in particular with that last one.  It feels like the story spans a couple of years but I think it was really all supposed to take place in less than a year. 

And it’s sorta stupid how the film ends too (SPOILER).  The world has been a shithole for about twenty years.  Then when the postman comes along it takes roughly thirty years for those badlands to get back to normal, to the way it looked before “the war”.  So this wasteland period only lasts some fifty to sixty years in total with the “postman” era taking up a little more than half of it.  That’s a pretty brief fuckin’ apocalypse if you ask me.  I mean there were probably a whole bunch of folks who ended up living through the entire ordeal.  That must’ve been inconvenient.   

See, I told you Tom Petty was in this.
Is this one horrible?  No, but it ain’t good.  It’s Costner at his cheesiest and most self-indulgent (hero is a loner that ends up saving humanity, the three hour runtime, there are a couple of parts where a band plays some corny soft rock music (Costner even does a cover of “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” with Amy Grant over the end credits), etc.).  It’s easily the worst movie he’s directed but probably not the worst picture he’s been in (I’m lookin’ at you Rumor Has It… and maybe Swing Vote).

So anyway, here’s to ya 2013.  I’m glad the world didn’t turn into a Mad Max type place of desolation and carnage ‘cause that would’ve sucked in real life (but it’s so fuckin’ badass on screen).  Happy new year everybody!  Be safe and have a good one.  See you next year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Under-Recognized Badass Christmas Movies

There are a lot of Christmas action movie lists out there and they all contain the usual suspects.  You got Die Hard 1 & 2, Batman Returns, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Reindeer Games, Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  They’re all fine films (well, except Reindeer Games which is not very good) but there are a couple others that don’t get very much recognition.  So if you’re in the mood for some explosions or kicks to the face to go along with your holiday season then you can’t go wrong with these gems.  Oh, and uh…Merry Christmas, I guess.

Invasion U.S.A.

Cubans decide to invade the ol’ U.S. during Christmas.  They bust their way in via Florida and destroy suburban residential areas ‘n’ shit.  Ex-CIA agent, Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris), ain’t gonna let these fuckers take over or ruin the holiday season though.  He lives in the Everglades and doesn’t take too kindly to the Cubans blowin’ up his homely shack.  Hunter fights back with some street tactics and almost single handedly stops the invasion.

If you guys didn’t know already, I’m not a big Chuck Norris fan.  He’s kinda bland and doesn’t have a lot of charisma.  His martial arting is fine but you get the sense that there’s nothing below the surface like you do with his peers.  In my opinion he deservedly sits on the B action star tier and it seems obvious to me why he was never able to break through onto the A list.

However, this is probably my favorite movie of his (that I’ve seen so far anyway).  It has a great and ridiculous concept, some really awesome action/stunt work (the jeep driving through a crowded mall scene is fucking tremendous) and it’s all executed clearly and pretty well overall.  It may be a lot dumber than I like my action films to be, a lot dumber, but dammit this a helluva good time.

Of course, this all didn’t need to take place during Christmas but it’s a nice touch.  Best big-dumb-action-movie of all time?  I dunno but it’s certainly on the short list.    

‘R Xmas

Ok, this one isn’t an action movie but when the hell am I ever gonna get to talk about Abel Ferrara’s (Bad Lieutenant, King of New York) take on Christmas? 

So it starts out with a glimpse into the life of this rich Manhattan couple (Drea de Matteo (The Sopranos) and Lillo Brancato (A Bronx Tale)).  They go see their daughter in a grammar school Christmas play, they go shopping at a toy store and ride a horse drawn carriage down 5th Avenue.  They seem like your average corny family.  But then the husband and wife (we never learn their names) start mixing and bagging some heroin (I think it’s that and not coke but can’t say for sure).  It’s a great setup and a decent payoff.

Shit gets real when the husband gets kidnaped and held for ransom though.  The wife has to scramble and scrape together cash and dope to save him.  The thing is the kidnapper (Ice-T) wants more than that.  He wants the husband to stop pushing drugs and straighten up.  It’s kinda weird but I don’t want to spoil anything so you’ll have to watch it to see what that’s all about.

‘R Xmas may not be really great but it has enough tension to keep things rolling.  And I dig that the film doesn’t judge the couple for dealing drugs.  Ferrara manages to stay fairly neutral on that part of it.  It’s the other end of the spectrum, the law, that Ferrara is saying something.  I’m not sure what that is but he does seem to have an opinion there (that was some sarcasm by the way).

It’s a slow burn but not bad.  Ferrara’s definitely done better and certainly done worse.  Plus the Christmas theme is probably the most prominent of the three I discuss here.


A cult wreaks havoc and goes on a killing spree in L.A.  They say it’s “the way of the new world.”  The Cobra (Stallone) is on the case though.  He needs to protect Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen (Rocky IV, Beverly Hills Cop II)) who witnessed one of these cult murders.  Can he keep her alive long enough to put these scumbags away…or brutally murder them all?  Oh yeah and it’s Christmas time.

There’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said about this one.  It’s somewhat notorious in the realm of action for not only including every single action movie cliché known to man but for also being incredibly nonsensical.  Some examples are: we never learn why the cult kills people or what they believe in exactly, the cops bring in Cobra to deal with extreme situations but then disapprove of his methods and one of Cobra’s strange idiosyncrasies is the guy sucks on a matchstick throughout the whole movie.  Some folks sport a toothpick but not Cobra, a matchstick is more, uh, dangerous?  I dunno.

(trademark guns not shown here)
Aside from just the image of Cobra, with his trademark guns, matchstick and aviator shades, the opening sequence is probably the most famous part of the film where a cult member takes some people in a supermarket hostage.  This also makes little sense because of, well, a lot of things.  The amount of ridiculous shit that occurs in this one scene is so voluminous that it’s easier if you just watch it for yourself.  I promise you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Another thing I want to point out is that Pepsi must’ve put up big bucks ‘cause it’s everywhere in this fuckin’ thing.  And I mean in your face too, not just subtly in the background or some shit.  It’s just something I noticed and now I hope you won’t be able to not see it too (yikes, sorry about that double negative there).  

Let me say though that I absolutely love this picture.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “why do you like this one so much but call Invasion U.S.A. dumb?”  First of all Cobra is sorta dumb, but the difference is Cobra has more heart I think.  It feels more well-intentioned and like they genuinely believed in the material and took it very seriously.  Invasion U.S.A. seems more removed, like those filmmakers were more aware of the type of movie they were making.  This in turn gives Invasion U.S.A. a slightly playful attitude, as opposed to the down and dirty solemn tone of Cobra (but be warned that Cobra does have its cringe inducing comic relief).

Cobra is something special guys.  Like a-woman-modeling-with-a-robot-that’s-wearing-a-fur-coat special.  It has a bit of an offbeat slant to it that I really dig.  The action is pretty goddamn spectacular too, the car chase in particular.  Plus it’s only 83 minutes long which is rarely a bad thing.

It may not be Die Hard or Lethal Weapon (especially when it comes to emphasizing the Christmas theme) but it means well.  I highly recommend it.