March 21st, 2008

DRILLBIT TAYLOR (2008) ***

Three freshmen dorks constantly get wailed on by a malicious bully so they place an internet ad seeking a bodyguard.  What they get is Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a scheming homeless man parading as a Black Ops solider.  While he gives the kids bogus self defense advice he’s also stealing their parents’ stuff and hocking it.  Predictably, he takes a shine to the kids and eventually helps them give the bully the beat down he deserves. 

 

This consistently amusing comedy from producer Judd (Knocked Up) Apatow feels like an extended modern version of his series Freaks and Geeks in some respects as it deals with a trio of misfit nerds.  (It was also written by one of that show’s stars, Seth Rogen.)  Director Steven (Heavyweights) Brill balances the clichés with the laughs while keeping every character three dimensional.  (The way the film deals with the subject of bullying especially rings true.)  It’s thoroughly predictable, but Wilson, in one of his best performances since Bottle Rocket, carries the film with his patented charm.  He particularly shines in his scenes where he pretends to be a substitute teacher and seduces an English teacher (Leslie Mann) by saying, “English… my native tongue!”

 

He also gets a mess of other great lines like:  “I call it Mexican Judo as in Judon’t know who you’re messing with Holmes!”, “It’s not a squeegee, it’s a straight edged weapon with a little mop to wipe up the blood!”, and “They call it an ‘Army of One’, but they don’t really mean it.”

 

You should also keep an eye out for fun cameos by Frank (Pulp Fiction) Whaley and Adam Baldwin (who also starred in the similarly themed My Bodyguard) as prospective bodyguards. 

ROLLERBALL (1975) **

 

In the distopian future, America is owned by a major corporation that outlaws war.  The only way that Joe Future Average can get his fix of regimented violence is by tuning in to watch the national sport, Rollerball, which is kinda like a steroided out version of roller derby mixed with football.  The head of the corporation (John Houseman) wants the sport’s biggest star Jonathan E. (James Caan) to retire but he refuses.  When Jonathan begins to question the corporation’s status quo, they set him up to be assassinated during a no-holds barred, anything goes game.   

 

Director Norman Jewison has had a very eclectic career directing everything from dramas (In the Heat of the Night) to musicals (Fiddler on the Roof) to turds (Bogus), but he seems a little out of his element directing a futuristic sports flick.  Although he films the action sequences with white knuckled ferocity, the sections of the film that don’t involve Caan on roller skates beating the crap out of people leaves much to be desired.  It doesn’t help when the “future” looks exactly like the 70’s either.   

 

The flick’s biggest drawback is it’s murky message.  While Rollerball chastises the audience for wanting blood and guts thrills, ironically that’s the film’s most entertaining aspect.  Without those selling points, the movie would just be another muddled sci-fi flick (the scene where Jonathan tries to get information from an absent minded computer programmer goes nowhere) filled with awkward drama (the scene where Jonathan tries to reconnect with his estranged wife DOES NOT work at all), but thankfully if you can forget about all the messagy stuff (the scene where Jewison intercuts Jonathan’s negotiations with a bunch of drunken partygoers setting a forest fire is especially perplexing) and just enjoy the action, Rollerball is quite a bit of fun.  This flick isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it’s miles better than the 2002 remake, which happened to be one of the worst piece of shit I’ve ever sat through. 

 

Caan is decent as the stoic Jonathan and Houseman is fun to watch, even if the material is far below him.  A trove of familiar faces including Maud (Octopussy) Adams, Pamela (Buck Rodgers) Hensley, Moses (Shaft) Gunn and Bob (Delinquent Schoolgirls) Minor round out the supporting cast.