WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 24

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 24th WWW:

1) Fast & Furious:
The fourth in the series, reuniting the original cast, proves to be a better sequel to the original than either the ill-named 2 Fast 2 Furious or Tokyo Drift. That being said, none of these films are about high quality acting or believable plot. It's all a set-up for some great car racing scenes and the movies live or die based on that. I actually preferred Tokyo Drift to the second film, not for the annoying main character but for cars and the concept of drifting. Other than an exciting stunt-packing opening moving heist, the new Fast & Furious doesn't offer anything all that different. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are driving the same kinds of cars again, but then there's a key nostalgia factor at work here as well. And the dynamic is different this time, since the outlaw now knows the undercover cop's true identity. A major death, which I won't spoil, is the catalyst that brings these two opposing forces together, where they rediscover their mutual respect and love of the road. The way they react to the tragedy, which was so initially underplayed that I thought it was fake, is actually very true to their respective established characters. It delivers exactly what you'd expect, and if you enjoyed the original movie, it provides more of the same. I had mixed feelings about the ending until I read that this is supposed to be the first of a new trilogy, in which case it's an awesome set-up for another sequel. As action and popcorn go, this is another fun ride.

2) 9:
The line between reality and animation continue to blur as a short film by Shane Acker inspires a feature-length version produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov(Night Watch, Day Watch). There are definite Burton-esque qualities to the “stitch-punk” ragdoll main characters, and the world they inhabit is as bleak and foreboding as the world of that Russian director's films. As a wrinkled old hand crafts the 9th and final burlap being in the opening credits, the textures and lighting are phenomenal, more real than real. This “9” enters a world where man is extinct, destroyed by his own machines of death. As 9 meets others like himself, as well as those deadly machines, he and his kind slowly piece together their true origins, and how the world ended up such a dark place. It's a tragic tale with a faint glimmer of hope, and a darkly artistic masterpiece. Probably too grim for smaller children, it might inspire teenagers to explore a career in computer animation. These things look better and better, and I'm jealous of both the talent and the technology.

3) Made:
Swingers alumni Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn reunite for a low-budget mobster flick written and directed by Favreau. I found it slow and tedious in the beginning, but gradually warmed up to these two losers. Vaughn is an obnoxious idiot but loyal to his friend. Favreau vouches for Vaughn's character and helps him get jobs even though he's useless. When they're not doing carpentry work, Favreau is driving a stripper, played by Famke Janssen, with whom he's also romantically involved. She's a real mess, while Favreau is more of a father to her daughter than the kid's unseen actual dad. Ultimately, he has trouble watching her deal with grabby guys at a bachelor party, and after roughing up the groom-to-be, his boss (Peter Falk) yanks him from that assignment, and sends him and Vaughn to New York for some undisclosed drop. Are they being given an opportunity to climb the illegal corporate ladder, or is it all a set-up to have two problem employees wacked as the paranoid Vaughn fears? The pace of the film picks up significantly once they're in Manhattan and seduced by the night life there, and you begin to care about these guys and worry about their fates. Favreau knows when to stay quiet and let his expressions do the acting for him, allowing Vaughn to just riff and talk a mile a minute. The dialogue is a strong point of the film, and while it never reaches the level of Swingers, it still ends up being a good rental and a quality independent film.

4) The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard:
It's not a very highbrow or sophisticated comedy, and history will probably forget this one. Heavily promoted in the wake of The Hangover's success and featuring a few of the same actors, The Goods probably wasn't in theaters for very long. James Brolin runs a struggling auto dealership that includes Tony Hale(Arrested Development, Chuck), Ken Jeong(Community, The Hangover), and veteran TV character actor Charles Napier, who gets some of the best lines as an insane sexist and racist old man. Brolin decides to call in a team of “mercenaries” to help sell cars. Enter a smarmy and confident Jeremy Piven and his team, which consists of Ving Rhames, David Koechner, and Kathryn Hahn. Piven's Don “The Goods” Ready can sell anything, and has been doing so ever since he convinced a kid on his block that trading a big wheel for a hoppity hip was a good deal. His quartet has been on the road for a long time, and Rhames misses being home since he's “pretty sure [he] left [his] front door open. But Piven is driven by some tragedy in ‘Querque, which is consistently referenced until we find out what happened, in a sequence that includes a surprise cameo from a hit-or-miss comedian known for these types of films. The humor is sophomoric and at times vulgar, but the script shines and it's the type of thing where you catch more lines on a second viewing. Quips and references are rapid-fire and clever, and while the movie had the potential to be a lot more, it still offers a ton of laughs. Craig Robinson has a small but awesome part as “DJ Request”, a self-described contrarian who doesn't like being told what to play. Ed Helms plays the fiancé to the daughter of Brolin's character, and the lead singer of a “man band” whose claim to fame is once opening for O-Town. Piven and he naturally clash over the daughter's affections, and it's hard to call it a battle of wits when one of the fighters is a grown man in a boy band. Alan Thicke plays Helms' father, and is looking to buy the car lot to get his son some rehearsal space. Rob Riggle plays Brolin's son, a 10-year-old boy with a pituitary problem that gives him the body of a 30-year-old man. He does a great job acting like a kid, while Kathryn Hahn's character struggles with her physical attraction to him. All in all, it has a solid cast of great current comedic talent, fantastic dialogue, and an unfortunately thin plot. Directed by Neil Brennan, a former writer and producer for Chappelle's Show, The Goods feels like a drawn-out sketch or series of sketches compiled to make a movie. It won't win any awards, and I'm sure it will be forgotten, but I found it extremely quotable, got a lot of laughs out of it and ended up watching it a second time.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Anonymous Bar Mitzvah DJ in Nassau County said...

I can watch 9 over and over again and every viewing session would still feel like my first. Amazing flick!

1/03/2010 9:41 PM  

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