September 26th, 2014

BRICK MANSIONS (2014) ** ½

In the near future, Detroit gets so bad that the local government puts up a wall to keep in all the hooligans and riff raff. David Belle dumps a bunch of RZA’s drugs down the drain and soon becomes a wanted man. RZA’s men kidnap his girl, and Belle has to make an unlikely alliance with an undercover cop (Paul Walker) to get her back. Oh… and there’s also a giant rocket pointed at the city that’s set to fire in 12 hours that needs to be disarmed.

Brick Mansions is an Americanized remake of writer/producer Luc Besson’s District B13. In addition to remaking District B13, Brick Mansions also borrows heavily from Robocop as the setting has now been transplanted to Detroit. Like in Robocop, the corrupt rich people want to tear down the ghettos and build skyscrapers over them. You’ve seen it all done before, but it’s not bad or anything.

David Belle from the original movie is also in this one playing the same role, which adds to the déjà vu factor. Paul Walker, in one of his last roles, doesn’t fare too badly and displays a modicum of chemistry with Belle. RZA makes for a weak villain though and sometimes he doesn’t seem to know if he wants to play his character with a Jamaican accent or not.

There is a decent amount of action in Brick Mansions and a couple of standout moments. The highlight comes when Walker hangs onto the trunk of a speeding car and climbs into it through the backseat. He then fights his way into the driver’s seat, puts on his seat belt, slams on the brakes, and delivers a baddie through the front windshield of the car and into the lobby of the police station.

The fight scenes are pretty cool too. There’s a good fight where Walker is cuffed to a steering wheel and he beats the shit out of some thugs with it. We also get a catfight with a dominatrix, a brawl with a giant henchman, and Belle does a number of well-choreographed free-running stunts.

The downside to all of this is that the bulk of the action is over-edited and suffers from having a zoom-happy cameraman who can’t keep the camera still. The film also suffers from some erratic pacing too. Just when things start getting good, it never quite goes into fourth gear. Overall, it offers up a couple of nice moments and is about on par with the original.

HOSTAGE TRAIN (1997) **

I never saw Crackerjack starring Thomas Ian Griffith, which is kind of odd when you consider how much I love Thomas Ian Griffith movies. I don’t think it’s mandatory to see it either to watch this sequel, which was retitled Hostage Train for video. Sadly, Griffith had other fish to fry, so he didn’t appear in this one. But wait until you hear who they got to replace him… Judge Reinhold!!!

Reinhold plays Jack Wild, a cop who doesn’t play by the rules. He’s trying to bring down a terrorist named Hans Becker (Karel Roden), who was responsible for killing his wife eight years earlier. Becker’s latest plan involves hijacking a train and it just so happens that Jack’s girlfriend (Carol Alt) is on board. It’s then up to Jack to pull off some Die Hard-type shenanigans to save the passengers and rescue his girl.

Judge Reinhold is pretty hilarious in this. The thing is, he’s not really trying to be funny (I think), and that’s what makes it funny. Most of it has to do with the fact that he’s so poorly miscast as a tough-talking, wisecracking cop that you just have to laugh.

Carol Alt, who plays Judge’s girlfriend spends a lot of time in her underwear in the early going of the film. Unfortunately, so does Judge. He gets a big fight scene in his Jockey shorts, and if it’s one thing I didn’t need to see, it was Judge Reinhold wearing Jockey shorts while Kung Fuing a guy.

Hostage Train is nothing more than a low budget Die Hard in a ______ movie. As far as these things go, it’s watchable, but nothing more. There are a couple of bizarre moments (like Judge finding his nerdy partner banging a hot chick) and just plain over the top ones (like the tooth pulling scene), although not nearly enough to make it a camp classic or anything. Heck, just seeing the woefully miscast Judge in a Die Hard rip-off should be enough motivation for you to watch it. I’m not saying it’s good or anything (it gets pretty dull after the first hour), it’s just that you get very few opportunities in life to see Judge Reinhold fighting terrorists.

AKA: Crackerjack 2.

WE’RE THE MILLERS (2013) *** ½

We’re the Millers is one of the most foulmouthed, raunchy, and potentially disturbing comedies I have seen in some time. That is to say, I laughed a whole lot. This is the kind of comedy that goes for broke and just doesn’t give a flying fuck, which is one of its many charms.

Jason Sudeikis stars as a small time drug dealer who is blackmailed into transporting a huge amount of weed over the Mexican border in a giant RV. He knows that he’s going to get busted, so he hires a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a teenage loser (Will Poulter), and a runaway (Emma Roberts) to pose as his family. Naturally, a Mexican kingpin tries to kill them, and along the way, they wind up becoming a (dysfunctional) family unit.

We’re the Millers plays out like a mash-up of National Lampoon’s Vacation and Traffic. It takes its unlikely premise and milks it for all its worth. From run-ins with horny border guards, to a near orgy with another couple in an RV, to Poulter getting kissing lessons from his “sister” and “mother”, the flick never fails to deliver on the crude R-rated antics. I mean most comedies would be content to just have a venomous spider bite someone on the testicle and call it a day. We’re the Millers not only shows you the aftermath, but it shows you it several times.

Sudeikis is great in this and totally earns his leading man chops. Aniston is a good foil for him and she does a couple of mean stripteases, although she never gets naked or anything. Roberts and Poulter also get some laughs and have a nice chemistry together.

The only scenes that really failed to make me laugh were the ones with Ed Helms as a dorky big time drug dealer. It just felt like you were automatically supposed to think it was funny to see Ed Helms play a drug dealer, but he didn’t really bring anything to the table. Other than that (and running about ten minutes too long), We’re the Millers is a pretty great comedy.