July 2nd, 2008

THE JERK (1979) ***

Steve Martin parlayed his successful stand-up act into movie stardom with this hit comedy.  He stars as Navin Johnson, a clueless dolt who leaves his family of black sharecroppers to see the world.  He gets a job pumping gas where he is hunted down by a crazy dude (M. Emmett Walsh) so he flees to join the carnival as a weight guesser.  There he becomes the property of a tattooed daredevil/sex maniac (Caitlin Adams) but ends up falling in love with Bernadette Peters instead.  When he invents a handle for eyeglasses, he becomes a millionaire overnight but loses it all due to a lawsuit.  Homeless and penniless, he finally returns home to his family who await him with open arms. 

 

The Jerk isn’t a classic but it is filled with enough hilarious moments to make it required viewing.  My favorite scenes include Martin discovering “his special purpose”, the Thermos song and the scene where he tells Peters how long it really feels like they’ve been together.  Not all the gags work though and I sincerely think that the flick could’ve stood some tighter editing.  My biggest problem with the film is actually the title.  Martin’s character isn’t really a jerk; just an idiot.  I guess if they called the film “The Idiot”, people would’ve thought it was a Dostoevsky adaptation.  Nevertheless, Martin is really funny in this and that’s all that really matters anyway. 

 

Director Carl Reiner went on to direct three more Martin vehicles:  Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains and All of Me.  Followed by a Martin-less Made-for-TV sequel. 

WANTED (2008) ***

 

Wanted is bar none the Best Brain-Dead, Over the Top, Testosterone City Action Movie since Shoot ‘Em Up. 

 

There are so many moments in this flick that will have you shaking your head with disbelief that the person beside you with think you have Parkinson’s disease.  This is a good thing though. 

 

Wanted tells the story of Wesley (James McAvoy), who works in a dead end office job and is prone to bouts of anxiety attacks.  He’s miserable because his boss is always yelling at him, his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, and he’s got a wimpy name like Wesley.  That all changes when he is recruited by “The Fraternity”, a secret order of assassins led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman) to murder the man who killed his father; the best assassin in the world.  Naturally, killing is in the blood and together with his team of crack shots, Sloan turns Wesley into an expert marksman who can “curve the bullet”, which means he can shoot people from around corners. 

 

If you think the idea of curving a bullet as easily as curving a baseball is preposterous, then avoid this movie at all costs.  You ain’t seen nothing yet. 

 

Anyway, Sloan gets his orders from “The Loom of Fate”, which is literally a weaving loom that produces cloth that when carefully read and deciphered gives the names of people that should be swiftly assassinated by the Fraternity.  

 

I told you this flick is preposterous.  Then again, if you can swallow a magic loom that orders Academy Award Winners to kill people, you’ll probably swallow anything. 

 

So the loom weaves out names and a trained and ready Wesley goes out running around on top of El trains shooting people around the corners of office buildings, effectively turning them into the Fruit of the Loom.  Eventually Wesley’s name comes out of the loom and Sloan sends his sexy as Hell assassin, Fox (Angelina Jolie) to ice Wesley. 

 

Curving bullets?  A textile machine that spits out God’s hit list in impossibly encoded fabric?  If you people can’t believe that, then I probably shouldn’t tell you about the scene where Wesley mixes up nitroglycerin and peanut butter, feeds it to thousands of rats, ties a detonator to each one of them, sends them scurrying into the Fraternity’s compound and makes them all blow up real good. 

 

Yes folks, we’re talking about the Greatest Exploding Rat Movie of the New Millennium here. 

 

Director Timur (Night Watch) Bekmambetov knows how to film scenes of bullets flying in slow motion and hitting their intended targets so that lots of strawberry jelly flies out the back of their head.  He also actually manages to out-John Woo John Woo during the final gun battle and gives us not one but THREE Shadow inspired scenes of bullets hitting each other in mid-flight.  He has trouble stringing all of this together in a plausible manner, but then again he can film a Wet and Naked Angelina Jolie Scene just as good, if not better than Robert Zemeckis, so that’s worth something in my book.