by Kris Katz
Brief spoiler-free entertainment reviews

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

When you get the right people in front of the right director with the right script, and then have them all pump out just the right kind of terrible, the result can be brilliant fun. This is not a good movie, but it is a damn entertaining one. The script is almost entirely made up of unceasing and pointless amounts of exposition while the acting wavers between bad and hilariously bad. And yet, it doesn't matter. John Carpenter's show about a truck driver battling an ancient Chinese sorcerer carves out a piece of work so bizarre, so knowingly off-kilter, that it all turns pleasantly surreal. Of course it doesn't hurt that the sets and effects are pretty great across the board. If you like your movies cheesy, your language salty, and your exposition extra exposition-y, there's a lot to love here.

7 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Body of Lies (2008)

Although his visual sense has only grown with age, the same cannot be said of director Ridley Scott's consistency. This twisting tale of a pair of CIA agents butting heads over anti-terrorist operations in the middle-east is big on visual punch, but is too self-important to settle comfortably. Difficult names with complicated alliances are thrown around casually, and in ten minutes all the thinking committed to sorting out where they fit in the story is rendered irrelevant as they either die, or some difficult revelation switches up the playing field. Its eye candy is opulent throughout, but it lacks a pace slow enough to be understood or, sadly, cared about. By the time it's over and done there's no great message, no single “wow” moment, no lasting flavor. It's not a waste of time, but neither is it a particular good use of time either. But it sure looks good.

5 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monty Python: Almost the Truth – The Lawyers Cut (2009)

Let's go ahead and assume you're already a fan of Python. Because if you are not, there is nothing in this documentary series that will change your mind nor, frankly, is their story remarkable enough to stand on its own. With that unpleasantness out of the way, it's probably safe to call this six-part documentary series absolutely essential for the fans. Covering everything, from each Python's early childhood, through college and meeting up, to Flying Circus, the films, Graham Chapman's death, and what they've been up to since it all came to a close, no stone is left unturned. Each sordid detail, every little anecdote, and the extremely candid nature of criticism and nostalgia that comes spilling out is utterly delightful for the devoted. Where available, it seems that almost anyone of significance in putting together and supporting the phenomenon makes an appearance. In other cases where it tries to show people who were influenced by the Pythons' work, it perhaps comes up a bit short. Despite this, for the pure breadth and scale of information provided, and for just being an excuse to geek out in remembrance for such an awesome pile of comedy, this series should not be missed.

8 out of 10.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Slick and suave, another group of con artists set out to swindle some loot from an unsuspecting mark. Abundant scheming and many a plot twist ensue. If you're going to try this old game on the screen again you'd better have something special up your sleeve. This film does. It has a fairy tale sensibility prevalent throughout which gives our dastardly heroes a misguided sense of whimsey, and the utterly ridiculous scenarios an unreal place to lay their foundations. The result is a madcap romp through one beautiful location after another, with a driving sense inevitability paradoxically mixed with the uncertainty of any traditional heist film. And it's all brought together with a visual sense that flows smoothly and is often quite striking. The movie may drag a bit in the second act, but on the whole it s every bit the pleasant surprise it sets out to be.

8 out of 10.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Machine Girl (2008)

Also known as Kataude mashin gâru.
Any movie that plays the opening credits over a gang of highschool bullies being graphically dismantled by heavy munitions is bound to raise a few eyebrows. A fire hose-powered geyser of blood later, and this gruesome slab of modern grindhouse is off and running. Campy and violent in equally extreme measures, the sense of pure exuberant mania on display is infectious. Japanese entertainment has a history of throwing all sense out the window and yet still seeming logistically sound, but there's also spark of good old American cheddar thrown in for good measure. The result is simultaneously awesome and terrible and hilarious and utterly drenched in red. If you're in the mood for a grin and a bloodbath, this is definitely one to see.

7 out of 10.