March 13th, 2008

THE BANK JOB (2008) ** ½

Jason (In the Name of the King:  A Dungeon Siege Tale) Statham stars in this solid but unspectacular heist flick (based on a true story) from director Roger (The Getaway) Donaldson.  Saffron (Deep Blue Sea) Burrows co-stars as a sultry chick who ropes Statham and his crew of miscreants into robbing a bank.  Actually, she’s in cahoots with the British Secret Service who want to get their hands on some incriminating (not to mention embarrassing) photos of a member of royalty that are locked up in one of the safety deposit boxes.  The robbery goes off without a hitch, but things get complicated when the crew comes into possession of MORE incriminating photos (this time they’re of members of Parliament) AND a sleazy porn king’s secret ledger of all the dirty cops in London.  So not only are the regular cops after them, but also the dirty cops, the Secret Service, half of the London underworld, and even a handful of black revolutionaries too.  


Donaldson is a seasoned pro and keeps the plot twists coming right along.  None of the twists and turns are particularly earth shattering or mind blowing, but what they lack in surprise, they more than make up for in sheer number.  Statham is excellent as usual and Burrows does a fine job playing the unlikely femme fatale, but none of the other cast members are quite in the same league as those two leads.  To make a heist flick work, you need a variety of colorful supporting characters, each with their own specialty.  This one features a washed up porn star, a fake military colonel and a Greek tunneler, but they never fully gel as a team. 


If the supporting characters had more chemistry together, it could have elevated The Bank Job into three star territory.  Statham’s considerable charisma can only carry the movie so far, but it still makes for another decent notch in his cinematic belt.  The film is far from being a botched job, but don’t go in expecting another Getaway. 


A fussy member of Parliament gets the movie’s best line when he calls a hooker “a conniving cunt!”

MORTUARY (2005) ** ½


Okay, first off this is NOT a remake of the 80’s classic, Mortuary where a young Bill Paxton rammed embalming needles through the chests of young girls.  This is a new flick by Tobe (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper and it stars Denise (Pet Sematary) Crosby as a widowed mother who moves her two kids to a decrepit mortuary so she can make a fresh start and earn a living by embalming dead bodies.  One day she accidentally cuts herself and when her blood hits the floor, it unleashes a bunch of slimy black pipe cleaners.  Whenever that stuff gets inside a dead body, it re-animates the stiff and turns it into a zombie.  To make matters worse, there’s also a deformed psycho named Bobby living on the grounds and whenever a bunch of stupid big breasted teenagers mess around in one of the tombs, Bobby pops out to turn them into lunchmeat.  Since the tomb contains a bunch of that scummy pipe cleaner stuff, it brings the dead teeners back to life as half assed mixed-up zombies that vomit black lung butter in people’s faces.  Crosby gets a mouthful of the black puke and pretty soon she turns into a deranged zombie too.  The kids learn that salt is the only way to kill the zombies, so they go around salting zombies as if they were soft dough pretzels. 


Post 1986 Tobe Hooper has never been known to make movies that make a whole lot of sense and this flick is no exception.  It’s not up to the standard Hoop set in the 70’s but it’s slightly better than most of the crap he’s been churning out recently like The Toolbox Murders remake (which was also written by the same people).  The highlight is a creepy dinner table scene where Crosby goes bat shit insane and tries to make her kids eat a bowlful of pipe cleaner stew.  It’s not a hair on the ball sac of Tobe’s ultimate dinner table scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it’s the best thing this flick has going for it. 


The effects on the zombies are pretty decent, but the CGI is weak as all get out.  Not only does the pipe cleaner look like a coked out Etch-A-Sketch, but there’s one hand through the heart effect that looks incredibly fake.  The movie runs a little slow, but things pick up at about the three quarter mark when the kids get chased by not only the zombies, but also Bobby the psycho AND their schizoid mom as well. 


Crosby is funny as the hapless mortician (imagine if Martha Stewart was an embalmer) and is especially great at playing a zany zombie.  (Though she looked pretty nutty to me from the get-go, seeing how she packed her embalming equipment in with her silverware.)  She also gets the movie’s best lines like “We’re in business!  Two bodies came in!” and “It’s my first embalming, I’m just a little excited!” 

WESTWARD HO (1935) ** ½


No, this flick isn’t about a lonely hooker who goes out west to become a pioneer prostitute.  It’s all about John Wayne getting a posse of vigilantes together called “The Singing Cowboys” who go riding out on the plains wearing black shirts looking for the men who killed his parents and kidnapped his brother.  When they aren’t busy hunting down criminals, the vigilantes hunker down by a fire and sing cheesy campfire songs.  When Wayne offers to help a group of cattlemen deliver their herd, he doesn’t realize that he’s being set up by the gang of outlaws he’s looking for, or that his long lost brother is now one of their deadliest guns.   


When you think of a vicious vigilante, a singing cowboy isn’t the first thing that immediately comes to mind.  If you can get past some of the hokey songs, you’ll enjoy seeing a young John Wayne do what he does best, namely ride a horse, get into bar fights, shoot the bad guys, and get the girl.  If you can’t groove to all the B western clichés, you’ll at least get a kick out of Wayne’s atrociously dubbed singing voice. 


I don’t know about you, but I always enjoyed watching The Duke more in these early pictures than his more famous later films.  It’s neat seeing him paying the rent in these B oaters when he was young and fresh faced, relying less on his patented persona and more on his amiable acting chops.  Another thing I like about these old Wayne B westerns is that they most always run just over an hour long and move at a bristling pace.  While this one may slow down a bit for the occasional song, it’s still about on par with most of his material from around the same time. 


Famous stuntman Yakima Canutt and future Frankenstein Glenn Strange also have small roles.  Director R.N. Bradbury was also behind the camera for some of the Duke’s best stuff from the 30’s including ‘Neath Arizona Skies, The Man from Utah and The Star Packer. 

10,000 B.C. (2008) **


How long has it been since we’ve seen a good caveman movie?  Conan the Destroyer in ’84?  You’d think with all of today’s technology that modern filmmakers would eat up the chance at making a good old fashioned caveman flick.  This new movie by Roland Emmerich (you know the guy who did Independence Day) is the first caveman flick to come down the pike in years, but sadly it’s not very good.  It feels more like the producers saw the box office receipts for 300 and said, “Hey let’s make ourselves ANOTHER period action piece with a number in the title!  I know, we’ll call it 10,000 B.C.!  I betcha it’ll be 33.3 times better!”  It’s no Beastmaster, but it IS the best movie about ancient wooly mammoths biting the dust since The Bucket List. 


The story has this caveman who looks like Josh Hartnett only it’s not Josh Hartnett being named the leader of his tribe because he’s the only one who killed a bull wooly mammoth on the day of the “last hunt”.  The tribe names him as their new leader even though it kinda sucks for them since it means they’ll be eating cold wooly mammoth sandwiches for at least the next month or so.  It also means that he gets to name a sexy cavechick who looks like Lindsay Lohan only it isn’t Lindsay Lohan as his bride. 


But before he can consummate his marriage, a bunch of greasy Arabs swoop in and steal his woman and pillage his village.  Normally the bad guys in these kinds of movies RAPE and pillage the village, but since it’s one of those PG-13 deals, the womenfolk’s ta-ta’s are extremely off limits. 


He’s too much of a wimp to fight back, but he decides to go after the Arabs and rescue his woman, despite his cowardice.  So he treks through the mountains and into the jungles to find her, while along the way picking up about a hundred extras from Shaka Zulu for back-up.  He also gets to battle a couple of giant ostriches, vultures and even a sabretooth tiger to at least keep the audience from falling asleep through all the dull stuff. 


He tracks his woman to EGYPT (!?!) where this Michael Jackson impersonator wants her to build the pyramids, but since she’s got welts on her hand in the shape of a constellation, that means she’s “the chosen one”, so they gotta sacrifice her.  Luckily her boyfriend shows up in the nick of time to shove a lot of spears into a bunch of Arabs (again, it’s one of those PG-13 deals so there’s absolutely zero blood when somebody gets impaled) and save the day. 


This is one seriously confused movie.  I’m no history scholar or anything, but can somebody tell me when cave people stopped wearing fur pelts and started growing dreadlocks?  Emmerich’s idea of a caveman looks less like a Neanderthal and more like someone going to a Bob Marley concert.  Emmerich also seemed to have skipped a geography lesson or two when he has his hero go through snowcapped mountains, to a tropical rainforest to the Sahara desert in just a few days walk. 


Emmerich co-wrote this sucker so he was probably responsible for the idiotic narration and the gratuitous caveman speak.  (If I had a dollar for every time someone said “for many moons” it would’ve completely refunded my ticket price.)  He also cuts back and forth from the warrior’s quest to the village where a decrepit medicine woman feels the pain of the travelers.  This shit serves no purpose (at least until the very end) and if this whole subplot was cut, it could’ve easily saved us twenty minutes. 


But I will give credit where credit is due:  Emmerich knows how to film gigantic prehistoric animal attacks.  The encounter with the sabretooth is a bit abrupt, but the scene where the giant ostriches try to grab themselves a hot caveman lunch is one for the books.  In fact, I’d go so far to say that it’s the best giant ostrich attack ever filmed, so at least this movie has got that going for it. 


The effects for all the animals are superb.  For a second there, I thought wooly mammoths weren’t extinct, that sabretooth tigers WERE alive and well, and that maybe when I left the theater I should keep a sharp eye out for any carnivorous ostriches with an empty stomach.  Of course you’ll think of anything to pass the time while a bunch or articulate cavemen (I believe this is the first caveman movie on record where they all speak with English accents) blab on and on about “the last hunt”, “many moons” and “the star that does not move”.


If Emmerich was just content on making a full length version of When Prehistoric Animals Attack, it could’ve worked.  However, the movie is saddled with too much third rate Kull the Conqueror bull honky to be much use to anyone. 


Next time Roland, if you’re going to make a caveman movie MAKE A DAMN CAVEMAN MOVIE!  We don’t need a bunch of extras from Stargate, bit players from The Air Up There or some elderly windbag having conniptions every time something goes wrong.  Just cavemen vs. CGI beasts.  Got it?  Don’t make me tell you again.

THAT MAN BOLT (1973) * ½

Fred Williamson stars in this tedious blaxploitation flick as Jefferson Bolt, certified bad ass.  When we first meet Bolt he’s practicing kung fu in a Hong Kong prison cell, only to be sprung by some English honkies who want him to act as a courier and smuggle a million dollars into Mexico.  When they try to double cross Bolt he beats the shit out of them in the bathroom.  He then heads to Las Vegas to meet up with his best gal Teresa (Get Christie Love!) Graves for a quick booty call.  Once he gets her into bed though, the bad guys show up and try to kill him, but since she’s on top at the time, she gets killed instead.  This pisses Bolt off to no end and he goes out for revenge.  Along the way he is subjected to acupuncture torture, beats up a lot of chumps using a fistful of firecrackers, and throws an obvious dummy out of a ten story building. 


Bolt is sort of like a half assed blaxploitation version of James Bond, but he is too clumsily written to make much of an impression and his catchphrase “Charming!” is kinda weak.  At 103 minutes, the film is way too long for it’s own good.   The set-up is longwinded, the pacing is awfully sluggish, and the plot endlessly goes around in circles, which can make things tough going at times.  The Hong Kong locations and a modicum of kung fu helps, but can’t overcome the sheer overlength of the film and a decided lack of action. 


I'll pretty much watch Williamson in anything, but even I have to admit, this movie sucked nuts.  Williamson’s considerable charisma helps out when things are particularly languid, although at times he seems like a supporting character in his own movie.  Graves is fine in her brief role and she even gets to perform two songs, including a cover of Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady”.


Naturally, Williams gets all the best lines like:  “He poked me in the mouth with a .38.  He said he’d make me eat it.  I wasn’t hungry”, and “I’m gong to destroy that bastard!”