September 29th, 2010

EYE SEE YOU (2002) **

After failing to save his girlfriend from a serial killer, Sylvester Stallone goes into a deep depression.  He bottoms out, crawls into a whiskey bottle, attempts suicide, and almost succeeds.  His caring captain (Charles S. Dutton) signs him up for a unique rehab facility ran by Kris Kristofferson that caters exclusively to cops.  The place is isolated in the Wisconsin wilderness and before long; the group is snowbound during a big storm.  Predictably, the killer has wormed his way into the group and starts picking off the boozehounds one by one.


Eye See You never capitalizes on it’s interesting premise and wastes it’s more than capable cast.  I mean why would you put guys like Tom Berenger, Robert Patrick, Sean Patrick Flanery, and Robert Prosky in a movie together and then give them virtually nothing to do?  Then there’s Charles S. Dutton, who’s basically given the Scatman Crothers role from The Shining of fighting his way through a blizzard the whole movie; only to arrive on the scene at the eleventh hour.  Jeffrey Wright is pretty good as the scarred dreadlocked dude and is given a few moments to shine.


And Stallone does a fine job in the lead.  He’s likable in the early scenes where he goofs around and stuff, and is solid during his character’s darker moments.  Too bad all of his work goes out the window during the lame stalk and slash third act.


Eye See You isn’t all bad though.  The scenes setting up the isolation of the facility are decent but the flick shits the bed rather quickly and proceeds to circle the drain.  All of this could’ve worked, I suppose.  I guess maybe the blame lies on director Jim (I Know What You Did Last Summer) Gillespie.  Instead of making the film into a tightly wound psychological thriller, he just reduces the second half of the film to nothing more than cheap scares and slasher movie clichés.  The killer himself isn’t anything to brag about either, and stole his disguise from Rebecca Gayheart in Urban Legend.


AKA:  D-Tox.  AKA:  Detox.

WAITRESS! (1982) *

The Short Version:  Check Please!


The Long Version:  You know, I like a good Troma movie as much as the next guy, but this comedy from Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz is one sloppy and unfunny mess.  At best, it plays like a live action version of a Cracked comic strip.  At worst, it fucking sucks.


Waitress tells the “story” of three stupid waitresses that work in a New York restaurant.  One chick wants to star in a Broadway production of Joan of Arc so she’s always hounding a producer that frequents the restaurant for an audition.  Another chick is writing an expose on how to pick up men and she uses her job as a waitress as a way to meet guys.  The third bimbo is the daughter of the owner who makes her work so she’ll learn the value of a buck.  All of them are about as bright as a 10 watt bulb.


You know, I wait tables and I can say that this is the worst portrayal of waiting I’ve ever seen.  A lot of shit in this flick is just too stupid for words.  It makes the movie Waiting look like Citizen Kane in comparison.


At heart, the movie wants to be a sex romp comedy, but the “comedy” consists of little more than a moronic collection of dumb jokes.  You know those jokes you see on the back of a cereal box?  Well that’s sophisticated humor next to the jokes in this flick.  There is some nudity every now and then to make it all bearable.  Too bad the broads weren’t wearing bags over their heads though.


As a boy, Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) played soldier just like any young American kid.  When he graduated high school, it was only natural that he would serve in Vietnam.  During his second tour of duty, Kovic gets ambushed by the Viet Cong and is shot in the chest.  Kovic returns home to the US as a paraplegic and the reception he receives is mixed.  As the nation grows with anti-war sentiment, Kovic is appalled to see people burning the flag and protesting the war.  Eventually, Kovic himself starts to question his own government and joins the anti-war movement.


Although it’s not as cinematically and emotionally gripping as director Oliver Stone’s Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July is still a pretty great movie.  It’s virtually flawless for the first hour or so as Kovic goes off to fight, gets paralyzed, and tries to make sense of the war.  Once he heads down to Mexico to bang hookers, the flick begins to lose it’s way.  It’s here where the narrative begins to get more fragmented and choppy.  And you never really buy Kovic’s transformation from a broken, disillusioned man to anti-war protestor; it just sorta happens in the last two or three scenes.


The only other quibbles I have with the movie mostly comes the usual biopic trappings.  Plus, Cruise was given a lot of shitty looking wigs and fake moustaches, which is probably what cost him his Best Actor Oscar.  (He looks like a bulimic David Crosby by the end of the movie.)  And John Williams’ score is bland and generic sounding biopic music.


What really sells the movie is Cruise.  He gives a terrific performance here.  He’s equally good at being the naïve soldier boy and the embittered pathetic hooker-banging paraplegic.  He’s not as good as he was in say, Days of Thunder, but he’s still pretty awesome.


Stone does some good stuff with the camera too.  He gives the early scenes of the movie a nice nostalgic feel and once again shows that he can film some intense war footage.  It’s also interesting to note that you can first see glimpses of his manic trademark Natural Born Killer style (switching from color to black and white, fast motion, quick cut editing, etc.) during one of Kovic’s nightmare sequences.  It was also cool that he gave Platoon stars Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and John C. McGinley supporting roles too.  The rushed third act aside, Born on the Fourth of July is still a must see for fans of both Stone and Cruise.

THE DOORS (1991) ***

Director Oliver Stone further explored his fascination with the 60’s with this biopic of one of the greatest bands of all time, The Doors.  Val Kilmer stars as Jim Morrison, a gifted poet and prospective film student who quits school and starts a band with his buddy Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan).  Together with Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley) and John Densmore (Kevin Dillon), they quickly become one of the hottest acts in LA.  By the time the band hits the big time, Jim has already gone into Self Destruct Mode, boozing it up and generally acting like a dick.  After facing obscenity charges after a particularly volatile performance, Jim heads to Paris where he eventually dies of a heart attack in his bathtub (SPOILER).


The Doors has some really memorable sequences but it’s more than a little uneven.  The film is at it’s best during the early scenes where Jim forms the band and they start playing at Whisky a Go-Go.  The concert footage is also extremely well done (especially the infamous New Haven concert) and Stone gives them raw and authentic feeling.


Despite the great music, The Doors is one of the most problematic of Stone’s films (besides The Hand that is).  The scenes featuring Meg Ryan as Jim’s girlfriend are annoying and she seems woefully miscast.  The Thanksgiving dinner scene where she and Jim drop acid and almost wind up stabbing each other seems like it came out of a bad sitcom, and not a biopic about one of the world’s greatest bands.  The trip sequences are also pretentious as all get out and the Indian symbolism (which Stone would channel much better in Natural Born Killers) is almost laughable.


The reason why the movie works warts and all is Val Fucking Kilmer.  He IS Jim Morrison.  At no time do you think, “Oh Val Kilmer is doing a great job playing Jim Morrison”, you think you’re actually watching Jim Morrison in action.  That’s the highest compliment you can give an actor I think.


The three other Doors don’t get much screen time however, which makes me wonder why this was even called “The Doors”.  It should been called “Jim Morrison” or “The Lizard King” or something.  Out of the other Doors, MacLachlan comes off best, but that’s only because Dillon and Whaley aren’t given anything to do besides mope and look pissed.  I did like Michael Madsen and Billy Idol who played members of Morrison’s entourage.  And then there’s Crispin Glover as Andy Warhol, which is about the epitome of perfect casting if you ask me.  Plus, you’ve got the usually demure Kathleen Quinlan getting naked as Jim’s blood-drinking, witchcraft-practicing reporter piece of ass.  I’d like to light her fire, if you know what I mean.

FLASH POINT (2008) **

Donnie (Iron Monkey) Yen plays a cop named Ma who has a history of excessive force.  His partner goes deep undercover with the Triads and when his cover is blown, the gang tries to kill him and his girlfriend.  The Triads are finally brought to trial, but predictably, they get off.  This doesn’t sit well with Ma and he turns himself into a one man army out for revenge.


For the first hour or so, Flash Point plays a lot like a boring rip-off of Infernal Affairs as it shows the hardship of an undercover cop stuck between a life of crime and doing his duty as a police officer.  (Actually, I never saw Infernal Affairs but I did see the American remake The Departed, and this was a lot like that movie.)  Then it becomes more of a Chopsocky Death Wish kinda thing. 


Yen is good in the lead and handles his role with authority.  The only problem is that the early scenes of the film are quite slow and offer him very few opportunities to show off his flashy Kung Fu moves.  Finally, things begin to heat up in the last twenty minutes of the film.  The final knock down-drag out battle between Yen and the bad guy is pretty fucking great but it’s not quite enough to salvage the movie. 


So it’s your call.  Do you want to sit through an hour of ho-hum police drama just to get to twenty minutes of kick ass fight scenes?  If so, then Flash Point will be for you.  Me, I wish the same kind of manic energy in the finale was present throughout the whole movie.  There was a pretty cool bomb-in-a-rotisserie chicken scene though.


AKA:  City Without Mercy.  AKA:  Fuse.