August 25, 2008

Weekend in Reviews

Death Race - This movie takes place in a not-very-distant future where the conventions of a civilized society have disappeared entirely in America and now everyone is barbaric and violent. Especially those in positions of authority. So right out of the shoot they tell us that by the year 2012 the US economy is in the shitter so violent crime is way up, the prisons are dangerously overcrowded and for reasons they fail to explain, the government has turned over control of the "correctional" system to private corporations who run prisons for profit. Jason Statham is Jensen Ames, a former race car driver who gave up racing after some criminal tendencies caught up with him, then found a good woman whose love turned him into a hard-working, honest man who loved his wife and his baby daughter very much. He is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to Terminal Island prison which is run by Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen). Warden Hennessey is the epitome of an evil genius and has developed the ultimate way of making a profit by running a prison: Pay Per View. First it was just, like, cage fighting to the death or something but the audience grew more blood thirsty so now it's Death Race.

Death Race is a three-day, grotesquely violent race where most of the competitors end up dead. Win five races and be set free. It's an interesting concept - encourage violent criminals to hone their most aggressive and psychotic tendencies, to viciously kill everyone in their way and then set them free as a reward for, you know, being an evil killer. Good plan! So anyway, Hennessey is the scariest broad this side of hell and all that matters to her is making as much money off of her little race as she can. So when the fan favorite racer - the horribly disfigured Frankenstein - is killed one race shy of his fifth win, she sets out to make sure that she keeps the popularity of Frankenstein and her race at an all-time high by replacing the mask-wearing Frank with another convict. So Jensen becomes Frank and we're off to the, so to speak.

I knew this movie would be bad, but what I was hoping is that it'd be awesomely bad. Some of it was, some of it really wasn't. The beginning of the movie is regular bad - there's a whole thing with riot cops showing up to a non-riot and beating the hell out of people for no reason, the race that kills the (presumably) original Frankenstein is a very long way of setting up a tiny little detail that will be important 1/2 way through the movie when that time would have been much better spent giving us that tidbit with some exposition and replacing those 10 minutes of unnecessary violence with some information about how the world ended up the industrial gray wasteland that it did rather than just flashing the info up on the screen in actual text form before the opening credits. Once we're introduced to Frank's pit crew of Coach (Ian McShane), Gunner (Jacob Vargas) and Lists (Fred Koehler - who I will forever love for playing Chip on my very favorite show of all-time, Kate & Allie) the picture begins to make the transition to awesomely bad. I thought I'd find the pandering addition of a chick in the mix annoying but Natalie Martinez was pretty good as Case so I ended up not minding.

The part of me that likes to watch shit blow up and people get their asses kicked enjoyed the movie well enough. The part of me that likes to see Jason Statham do anything at all, especially pull ups, was perfectly content. But the part of me that expects a movie to make even the tiniest bit of sense feels like this was a huge waste of time for all involved. What does the Warden gain by adding the giant truck to the race and killing all of the racers who aren't Machine Gun Joe and Frank? If her goal is to keep Frank from winning so that she doesn't have to let him out and can keep making money off of his popularity, then why the hell does she blow up his competition her own self? Maybe let one of them beat his ass and do your work for you, huh? How does she have the authority to let violent offenders out of prison unquestioned by the courts? Where the hell is the government and their patented bureaucracy? What exactly did Jensen and Joe talk about that suddenly made them BFFs? How did Jensen get his daughter back? If the problem is prison over-crowding then why the fuck do they let Coach stay in prison even though he's served his time? The questions go on and on and on and there are no good answers to any of them. Bottom line? Joan Allen has been nominated for three Oscars so either someone has pictures of her selling heroine at a preschool or she's got gambling debts she needs to pay off because this movie is way, WAY beneath her.

Dog Park - Luke Wilson isn't just the best thing in this movie, he's the only thing about this movie that is even remotely watchable. It's about a lot of people who either have dogs or are sleeping with people who have dogs. Their lives intertwine at the dog park. Honestly Luke, get a better agent!

21 - A bunch of MIT students and their (greedy bastard of a) teacher count cards and take Vegas for some dough. I wanted this movie to be interesting but wanting it does not make it so. There was too much narration and too many "clever" edits and not enough character development. Laurence Fishburn was a caricature and Jim Sturgess just wasn't that sympathetic a protagonist (he was nice to look at though). I'm not usually a fan of Kate Bosworth but she was my second favorite thing about this movie right after Aaron Yoo who is awesome and should be a much, MUCH bigger star. Can we get Aaron a leading man role please? Also, Kate Bosworth is 300% cuter with short dark hair. She should make that style move permanent.

That's it...I caught up on a bunch of stuff on the TiVo including some season 4 O.C. eps that SoapNet started running last week and an episode or two of Psych which I haven't caught at all this summer. I also read a teeny, tiny bit of my book for book club, The Historian. No offense to the writer but damn does she spin a boring tale!

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