September 26th, 2009

SUNSHINE CLEANING (2009) **

Rose (Amy Adams) is a stupid broad who used to be popular in high school but is now just a maid.  She has an idiot son who obsessively licks things and after he licks his teacher, Rose pulls him out of school because “it’s not his fault”.  Rose wants to put him in a private school (a mental ward would be preferable) and in order to come up with the money for that, she starts a cleaning service that exclusively mops up after murder scenes.  She enlists the help of her fuck-up sister (Emily Blunt) and together, the two clueless cunts continually botch clean-up after clean-up.

 

Sunshine Cleaning was one of those quirky indy movies that everybody loved.  Except for me apparently.  The premise was promising enough but the main character of Rose is so moronic that I wanted to smack her.  Here is a woman who is so blind to her own incapacity as a human being that it’s amazing that somebody hasn’t cleaned up after her dead body yet.  At one point she leaves her dumb sister by herself on an important job just so she can go to a baby shower and schmooze with her old high school friends.  The house ends up burning down and Rose yells at her sister for ruining their reputation.  To me though, if Rose wasn’t busy at the damn baby shower, she would’ve been there to help put the fire out.

 

And her parenting skills are a straight-up joke.  I’m going to be a parent any day here and if I do the shit to my kid that Rose does to hers in this movie, I’m putting my child up for adoption.  I’ve already mentioned the fact that she takes her son out of school because she is oblivious to the fact that the kid is in dire need of a straightjacket.  She also drops by unannounced on her family and leaves him with them so she can make a booty call with a married man.  Later when no one will watch the kid so she can go to the baby shower, she leaves him with a creepy one-armed cleaning-supply salesman. 

 

I think she could give Jon Gosselin a run for his money for the Worst Parent of the Year Award.

 

Sunshine Cleaning is effective in spurts and sputters and sometimes you can see what the filmmakers were going for.  There is an interesting subplot where Blunt’s character tries to return a dead client’s fanny pack to her estranged daughter.  The chick is a lesbian though and thinks Blunt is trying to hook up with her.  Then there is the touching scene where a grieving widow just wants Adams to sit by her side and hold her hand for a bit before she goes to clean up her husband’s brains off the carpet.  It’s a nice little moment and if there had been a lot more of these sprinkled throughout, Sunshine Cleaning may have been successful. 

If you want to see a really good movie about someone who cleans up after crime scenes, then check out 1996's Curdled (executive produced by Quentin Tarantino) instead.

A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE (1972) **

A Mexican bandito (Rod Steiger) wants to rob a bank so he blackmails a wanted IRA terrorist (James Coburn) into arranging the explosives necessary to get inside.  As it turns out, the building is no longer a bank but a jail used for the holding of political prisoners.  After the explosion, all of the prisoners escape and Steiger becomes a reluctant hero of the Revolution.

 

Steiger overacts into a frenzied fervor which doesn’t necessarily endear him to the audience.  Using a Speedy Gonzalez accent and chewing the scenery at every chance he gets; Steiger pretty much gets on your nerves right from the beginning.  Coburn fares slightly better but like Steiger he speaks in an irritating accent (he sounds like a constipated leprechaun).

 

Sergio Leone directed the film and it’s nowhere in the same league as his previous Dollars Trilogy.  Whereas those films benefited from the larger than life treatment Leone gave them; A Fistful of Dynamite would’ve been better off on a smaller canvas.  Neither Steiger’s or Coburn’s characters are likeable enough to be worthy of such a grandiose plot.  Now sometimes Leone’s overindulgence works (like the bloody shootouts), but mostly it’s just succeeds in testing the viewer’s patience (like the boring slow motion flashbacks to Coburn’s past).  The bloated running time (154 minutes) doesn’t help matters any either. 

 

A Fistful of Dynamite does have it’s moments of fun.  Coburn’s introduction is quite memorable and starts the movie off on the right note.  There is also a great action scene where Coburn and Steiger gun down a platoon of soldiers before blowing the shit out of a bridge with some dynamite.  The best thing about the flick though is Ennio Morricone’s bizarre score.  It’s experimental, odd, and immensely enjoyable.  Too bad this same spirit didn’t cross over to the film itself.

 

AKA:  Duck, You Sucker.  AKA:  Once Upon a Time… The Revolution.

AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION (1987) ***

The original American Ninja movie had moments of WTF nuttiness sprinkled throughout your standard-issue Ninja flick.  Despite having flashes of cinematic craziness, it still desperately tried to pass itself off as a “real” movie and not a ridiculous Cannon action cheesefest.  American Ninja 2:  The Confrontation thankfully does away with any pretension and just gives us a balls-to-the-wall bat shit insane Ninja movie.

 

This time out, American Ninja Joe (Michael Dudikoff) and his buddy Jackson (Steve James) get a job guarding an Embassy on a remote tropical island.  It seems that a lot of guards have been mysteriously disappearing, so the duo investigates.  They learn that a drug dealer has blackmailed a scientist searching for a cure for cancer into using his genetic research to turn the missing soldiers into an army of biologically engineering super ninjas.

 

I’m all for utter zaniness and reckless abandon whenever you’re writing a Ninja movie but someone should’ve stopped screenwriter Gary Conway when he got to the “biologically engineered super ninjas” part.  Once they are introduced, the movie breaks the Goofy Meter and becomes so fucking mind-numbingly idiotic that I honestly think I lost some IQ points just from watching it.  I mean the doctor’s lab features cryogenically frozen Ninjas stuffed in oversized test tubes for Pete’s sakes!  You don’t even see that kind of wacky shit in Ninja Turtles cartoons!

 

Even though the movie gets increasingly sillier as it goes along, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The opening scenes were particularly great with Dudikoff hanging around the oceanfront base with a bunch of highly effeminate beach bums/Marines.  The first fifteen minutes are mostly spent on Dudikoff fighting Ninjas on the beach; which made me think the movie should’ve been called American Ninja 2:  Ninjas in Paradise.  The plot eventually dropped the travelogue aspect of the story and concentrated on the more Sci-Fi-ish type stuff.

 

The flick starts getting pretty stupid pretty fast near the end.  I mean there is one completely moronic scene where the bad guy shows some potential investors how great his new biologically engineered super-ninjas (BESN’s) are by giving them a demonstration of their skills.  Afterwards, he sends his right-hand man into the arena and he promptly kills like a dozen of the BESN’s.  Wouldn’t the fact that your personal bodyguard can easily kill your multi-million dollar BESN’s make your investors a bit worried?

 

There are also way too many comic relief moments involving James.  I know he’s the sidekick and everything but he really shouldn’t have to have so many stupid one-liners while kicking somebody’s ass.  The part where he knocks down a bunch of people at the same time and you hear the sound of bowling pins on the soundtrack is the comedic low point of the film.

 

As many flaws as American Ninja 2 has; I can’t help but like it.  As in the first movie, this one features some head-scratching logic that made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions.  Like how all of Dudikoff’s Marine cronies dressed “undercover” as Hawaiian shirt-wearing surfer dudes.  They looked especially idiotic because they still sported their military buzz cuts and never bothered to cover up their blatantly obvious Special Forces tattoos.  And how about the opening scene in which a bunch of drunks roll some unsuspecting soldiers in a bar.  It’s kinda odd when you think about it because it’s usually the other way around.  There were lots of little moments of cinematic hilarity like this that made the flick so much fun. 

 

Most of these goofy scenes revolve around the villains.  For example, the main bad guy was called “The Lion” but his real name was “Leo”.  That was so dumb that I had to laugh.  I also liked the Bond movie scene where the hero disguised himself and took a tour of the villain’s secret multi-million dollar facility where he told him all about his operation too.  Then where was the bad guys’ great dialogue that conveniently allows them to say the title of the movie; like when the right-hand man says, “That damn American Ninja, he fights like a tiger!”  The funniest moment though is when The Lion meets Joe for the first time and says, “American Ninja… I presume.”

 

Director Sam Firstenberg does a much better job on the action side of things than in the previous film.  This was his fourth Ninja Movie (after Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja 3:  The Domination, and American Ninja), so he pretty much knew how to film all the spears shoved through the ribcages, face slashing, ninja stars to the forehead, blow-darts to the face, ninjas being set on fire, and knives to the neck this sort of thing requires.  The action sequences are a lot more competently staged this time around and are filmed with a lot more energy.  Really, it’s just one big Ninja free for all as it’s basically Michael Dudikoff beating the bejabbers out of dudes in black pajamas for 90 minutes.

 

Speaking of Dudikoff; he’s a lot more credible in his action scenes too, although he still relies on an obvious stunt double occasionally.  He seems to have gotten used to the whole “acting” thing as well and carries himself much better in this outing.  For whatever reason, he declined to return for 89’s American Ninja 3 but came back to the series for Part 4.

 

Thirty years earlier, screenwriter Gary Conway made his acting debut as the monster in the immortal I Was a Teenage Frankenstein.  Luckily, he writes as good as he acts.  I think my favorite line of dialogue had to be when Dudikoff’s superior got mad and yelled, “This is really beginning to get on my tits!”