May 30th, 2009

BRUCE LEE AGAINST SUPERMEN (1975) *

I’m usually a sucker for these Bruceploitation movies but even I have to admit that Bruce Lee Against Supermen is possibly the worst Fake Bruce Lee movie of all time.  (Yes, worse than even Fist of Fear, Touch of Death.)  This flick has to have some of the worst editing and fight choreography I’ve ever seen.  

 

I’d love to tell you about the plot but it’s hard to tell what the heck’s going on because this movie is a freaking mess.  It’s got something to do with the Fake Bruce Lee (played by the premiere Bruce Lee impersonator, Bruce Li) trying to find a missing scientist.  Mostly.  That part of the movie is the only coherent section.  The other parts revolve around Bruce and his buddy getting jumped by random guys, Bruce banging chicks, and Bruce saving a little girl from a crazed sniper.

 

Then there are the scenes where Bruce goes up against the titular “Supermen”.  Okay, first off there is only ONE Superman.  (He has three other lame ass sidekicks that don’t have any superpowers.)  Secondly, this guy isn’t the REAL Superman as he has a Wayne Newton moustache and wears a black marching band costume with a dinky white cape.  Thirdly, the bad guys bribe Superman with money, girls, and a “truckload of booze” to get him to fight Bruce Lee.  So much for fighting for truth, justice, and the American way.

 

The movie also gets its facts wrong in another crucial area.  In the beginning of the film, Bruce is seen wearing his Kato outfit and driving around in the Black Beauty.  So far, so good.  But then the other idiotic characters start calling him the Green Hornet!  Dumbasses, Bruce Lee played Kato, not Green Hornet!  It’s one thing to get Superman’s M.O. mixed-up but how can you not know Bruce Lee’s character name?  Then in the end, Bruce for whatever reason dons his own Superman-ish suit (one that’s similar to the suit from 3 Supermen Against Godfather).  My brain still hurts from trying to make sense of it all.

 

On the plus side, Bruce Li is quite proficient in his fight scenes.  (Especially during the brief moments while he’s in the Kato costume.)  Too bad the fight choreography looks like it was done by Stevie Wonder.  Also, we get to see some titties, so it wasn’t a total loss of 84 minutes.

 

AKA:  Bruce Lee vs. the Supermen.

MILLER'S CROSSING (1990) **

The Coen brothers have two modes:  Wacky, over-the-top comedies (Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou) or highly stylized film noir throwbacks like this one.  I personally prefer their comedies myself, so to me Miller’s Crossing is definitely one of their lesser works.  In Miller’s Crossing, their style takes precedence over the drama and as a result, it’s hard to really care too much. 

 

Tom (Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand man to Leo (Albert Finney), a tough Irish gangster.  Both men are in love with Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), a conniving moll whose bookie brother Bernie (John Turturro) is wanted dead by a rival gangster named Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito).  Leo refuses to kill Bernie which infuriates Caspar and incites an all-out gang war.  Tom then professes his love for Verna and Leo kicks him out of the Irish mob so he goes to work for Caspar.  To prove his loyalty, Caspar makes Tom execute Bernie, so he takes Bernie out to the titular field.  After Bernie begs for his life, Tom grudgingly spares him; a decision that comes back to bite him on the ass and gets him into more hot water.

 

This movie is a lot less complicated than it wants you to think.  (I realized pretty quickly what Tom was up to.)  In fact, the flick is more convoluted than it needs to be.  I guess that’s because the Coens knew that there wasn’t a whole lot to the script.  All the double-crosses are easy to figure out and I was able to guess at least one big plot twist before it happened.

 

Byrne is excellent, but his hard work is all for naught since his character is so damn emotionally aloof.  Even though he was pretty badass, I didn’t really give a shit about him.  It’s Finney though who delivers the best performance of the film   He’s so good that the movie really starts to falter whenever he isn’t on screen (which is most of the film’s second half).

 

Miller’s Crossing is also rife with those bizarre Coen brothers touches that are just downright irritating.  Like that fat guy who just sat in the chair screaming.  What was the deal with that?  Oh well, at least the flick LOOKS great though.  (Thanks to future director Barry Sonnenfeld’s gorgeous cinematography.)  Although it has it's share of defenders, to me, Miller’s Crossing belongs in the same class as the other Coen brothers’ misses like Hudsucker Proxy and Barton Fink.  

 

Byrne gets the best line of the flick:  “Sister, when I’ve raised Hell, you’ll know it!”

JERSEY GIRL (2004) ***

Kevin Smith is one of my favorite directors but I’ve never seen Jersey Girl.  I’ve been putting off seeing it because A) It’s PG-13 B) It’s more or less just a sitcom extended to feature length C) It’s got Jennifer Lopez in it.  Luckily for me, it wasn’t too bad.  In fact, I actually liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

 

Ben Affleck stars as a music publicist whose wife (J Lo) dies in childbirth in 1994.  Stuck with his crying kid and having a nervous breakdown, he publicly slams his client, Will Smith.  “Yeah, like the Fresh Price is ever going to have a movie career!”  Predictably, he loses his job and has to move in with his father (George Carlin) and try to raise his kid.  Seven years later, he’s working as a sanitation worker and making goo-goo eyes at a cute video store clerk (Liv Tyler).  Eventually he gets an offer to become a publicist again and he has to decide whether he wants to live and work in the Big Apple or stay and raise his daughter in New Jersey.

 

I’ll give you two guesses what he chooses and the first two don’t count.

 

I think most people shat all over this movie when it was released because of the Ben Affleck-J Lo gossip drama.  (The fallout from Gigli was still lingering around Hollywood when this movie came out.)  Thankfully, J Ho is only in the first ten minutes of the flick before they put her on the slab.  I mean I dug Jersey Girl for the most part.  My biggest qualms had to do with all the godawful romantic comedy clichés.  Other than that, the performances were sharp (Carlin gave an especially touching performance) and Smith’s dialogue was as good as ever.  (Even if it had to be diluted in order to get the PG-13.)  My favorite line was:  “Cats was the second worst thing to happen in New York City.”  It’s no Mallrats or anything that’s for sure, but I liked it just about as much as Dogma.