December 4th, 2008

STEP BROTHERS (2008) ***

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are emotionally stunted 40 year-olds that act like 8 year-olds who become step brothers when their parents get married.  They move in together and generally hate each other’s guts until they realize that they have a lot in common (they both would do John Stamos if they were women) and quickly become best friends.  When their parents get a divorce, the duo schemes to try to get them back together at the climatic “Catalina Wine Mixer”. 

 

Ferrell and Reilly are both really funny, have excellent comedic chemistry together and deliver some great moments.  They definitely had excellent tastes in movie posters (Spacehunter 3-D), T-shirts (Return of the Jedi), and magazines (Hustler), so they were pretty much okay in my book.  The highlight of their antics comes when they make a hilarious rap video aboard their dad’s boat.  As their parents, Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen lend the film an emotional center and are a nice contrast to their sons’ borderline obnoxiousness.  Kathryn Hahn also has some good scenes as Ferrell’s oversexed sister in-law and cameos by Horatio Sanz and Seth Rogen add a couple of chuckles.

 

Like most of these Judd Apatow produced comedies about middle-aged men that have accept a modicum of responsibility, the laughs dry up around the ¾ mark.  That’s okay though because the first hour or so has enough truly funny moments to consistently keep a smile on your face.  It’s no Anchorman or anything, but it’s a good way to kill an hour and a half.  Ferrell takes the honors for the grossout highlight went he sticks his testicles on his step brother’s beloved drum set, but it’s Reilly who gets the best line of dialogue when he says:  “I got a V of hair going from my chest-pubes down to my ball ‘fro!”

PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) *** ½

After the success of The Fall of the House of Usher, director Roger Corman, screenwriter Richard Matheson and star Vincent Price re-teamed for another classic adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story.

 

After the death of his sister, Francis (John Kerr) comes calling on her husband, Don Medina (Price) for some answers.  Medina reluctantly tells him that she became increasingly obsessed with his grandfather’s torture chamber and eventually locked herself up in an iron maiden and took her own life.  When her “ghost” starts haunting the castle, it drives Medina positively bonkers and soon enough, he’s dusting off his grandpa’s torture equipment and sticking his houseguests into his horrific contraptions.

 

Kerr is rather annoying and abrasive, but Price is marvelous playing a subtle variation on his patented tormented nobleman routine.  And then there is Barbara Steele as Medina’s supposedly dead wife.  Seriously has there ever been a hotter chick ever seen on celluloid?  (Jane Fonda is a close second in Barbarella.)  Her role is smallish but I’ll be damned if she wasn’t fucking me with those magnificent eyes of hers the whole time she was on screen.

 

Corman offers up loads of atmosphere and the distorted red and purple tinted flashbacks are excellent.  Although the film takes it’s time to get going, the payoff is more than worthwhile as the torture chamber finale is some of Corman’s best work.  The pendulum sequence is especially memorable and the final shot is a doozy.

 

Corman returned the next year (without Price) for another Poe adaptation, Premature Burial.

THE ENFORCER (1976) ***

Clint Eastwood returns in his third go-around as Dirty Harry Callahan.  This time Harry gets saddled with a female partner (Tyne Daly) in order to take out a crazed army of hooligan revolutionaries who steal a cache of military weapons and kidnap the mayor.  It all ends with a big shootout on Alcatraz Island.

 

The Women’s Lib movement of the 70’s was in full swing at the time The Enforcer was made and I suppose that this flick was a reflection of how Dirty Harry would deal with having a broad for a partner.  While this is a wonderful set-up, very little is actually done with it as it doesn’t take Harry too long to accept her as his partner.  There is one fun scene where Harry sits on a hiring board, screening potential new detectives where he has to contend with the Equal Opportunity recruitment of females and insults just about every skirt in the room.  Also topical at the time of the film’s release was the SLA kidnapping of Patty Hearst, so naturally the villains in this one are a bunch of SLA knockoffs.

 

Eastwood and Daly have an easy chemistry together even though the script calls for them to pretty much bicker throughout the whole movie.  Daly (who of course went on to fame as Lacey on Cagney and Lacey) isn’t really as annoying as she could’ve been and handles herself well during the action.  Speaking of action, the highlight comes early in the film when Harry crashes a car through a liquor store to break up a robbery. 

 

The Enforcer is solidly entertaining, no doubt thanks to another stellar performance by Clint.  The flick does however suffer from an overall been-there-done-that feeling of deja vu.  In addition, James Fargo directs the material in a flat style that doesn’t do the movie any favors.  The stunts are nicely choreographed but the action is indifferently filmed.  Another debit is the fact that the villains are just plain boring.  Compared to the skuzzy Scorpio in the first movie and the vigilante cops of Magnum Force, these guys are definitely a notch or two below the usual scumbags. 

 

I guess the biggest gripe I had with the movie is the tone.  While it’s definitely the most light-hearted of all Harry’s adventures, the downbeat ending seems woefully out of place.  I know Harry has a habit of losing partners, but the ending just seems tacked on to an otherwise comic booky movie.

 

Yeah it seems like I’m knocking the movie, but The Enforcer still makes for breezy entertainment.  While it’s probably my least favorite in the Dirty Harry series, it’s still fun and features Harry doing what he does best, namely blowing away a lot of scumbags and saying funny shit afterwards.

 

Harry’s catchphrase in this one is “Marvelous”.  Admittedly, it’s no “Do you feel lucky?”, but it’s the WAY he says it that’s so great.  He delivers the line with his usual laconic style and every time he says it, it doesn’t fail to get a laugh.  The best line though comes when Harry enters the ghetto and tells his partner, “This is the Fillmore chapter of the VFW... Very Few Whites!”

 

Harry returned seven years later for Sudden Impact.