WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 44

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 44th WWW:

1) Balls of Fury:
There's something to be said for going in to a movie with low expectations. If you don't know Dan Fogler as the mop-haired overweight lead in this ping-pong movie, you might remember him from Fanboys. That's pretty much the length of his fifteen minutes of fame, and while he does similar things in both roles, he's good at what he does. Here, he's a once great champion whose childhood failure and humiliation cost him both his reputation and his father. Years later, through an improbable set of events, the FBI sends a special agent(George Lopez) to recruit Fogler's Randy Daytona to enter a tournament that will help them catch an evil arms dealer(Christopher Walken in a ridiculous over-the-top get-up in stark contrast to his Walken-ness). As the films creators describe it, this is basically a kung-fu movie where every reference to kung-fu has been replaced with ping-pong. Daytona must go through training with James Hong, while Jason Scott Lee and others object to the forbidden training of a caucasian. All the archetypes are there. A lot of the humor is in Fogler's timing and reactions to some of the absurd situations around him, or conversely how he handles getting negative or no responses from people. At the end of the day, this movie doesn't have anything significant to say about society or competition, although one could argue a message that everyone might have talent beyond outward appearances and victory can be achieved through hard work and determination. Or it could just be a silly turn-off-your-brain romp with a lot of crotch shots and Def Leppard references. And sometimes, that's okay too.

2) Babylon A.D.:
Vin Diesel plays a mercenary hired to smuggle a very special young woman from Russia to the heart of New York, in a post-apocalyptic future tale that can be summed up entirely by this one sentence. Noticing an unrated director's cut on the flip side of the DVD, I opted to watch that one first, since experience has taught me that when a movie doesn't do well or disappears from theaters, the director's original version is usually better. With some shades of Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, I didn't think the movie was so bad. The girl seemed to possess some special abilities that warned her of impending danger, while other characters speculated she was secretly a weapon of mass destruction being used to smuggle in a virus. By the time the film catches up with the iconic explosive scene from the trailers and the opening of the movie, I felt like there was going to be some real payoff. But then it just sort of fizzles and ends abruptly. I could not believe where the movie cut off; it felt unfinished. So I checked out the original, fast forwarding through parts that seemed the same. It was definitely leaner, with more action sequences, with a few bits of dialogue changed and some scenes moved up in the film. The transition to the last scene, replaced by a voiceover in the director's cut, is instead a chase sequence. And there's one more scene at the end revealing the result of that truncated final scene. So I would say that somewhere between the director's cut and the theatrical cut, there's a decent version of this movie. In both cases, there are some decent visual effects. The plot could have had more substance, and I think the movie suffers in waiting too long to reveal who or what the girl is, where she actually came from, and why she existed in the first place. It had potential, but I understand why ultimately it fizzled.

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



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