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January 18th, 2017

The Rolling Stones are for my money the greatest band of all time. Because they have been together for so long, their only real competition is themselves. Since there have been many terrific documentaries and concert films made about them over the years, this one (about their recent tour through Latin America) feels a bit slight in comparison. However, there are still enough interesting tidbits here that make it worth checking out.

If you’re watching the film to hear their music, you might be disappointed. Not many songs are played in their entirety, but we do get to see full versions of “Start Me Up”, “Out of Control”, and “Satisfaction”. The best musical moment finds Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sitting backstage and reminiscing about the evolution of “Honky Tonk Women” before doing an impromptu rendition of it. Just seeing the two of them together, alone and away from the spotlight and playing is quite a special moment.

I think the coolest thing about the film is the segment devoted to Argentina. Like many countries in South America, the government of Argentina cracked down on rock music in the ‘60s and ‘70s and banned it. Despite that, a bunch of rock fans made their own tribe (known as “Rolingas”), and modeled their life around the Stones. They tattooed themselves with the band's logo, wore their T-shirts, and played their music in rebellion to the government. If anything speaks to the band’s influence in that part of the world, it’s this segment.

There are also smaller glimpses of band’s impact on the region. We see a local samba group playing “Sympathy of the Devil” and a Mexican Mariachi band playing “Happy”. The scenes of the band running into cultural difference are amusing as well (like in Peru, where the local cuisine is guinea pigs). There are also the expected bits of the band being themselves. It’s funny seeing Keith running around the empty stadium using a magic stick to ward off an eminent rain shower. (It doesn’t work.)

Throughout all of this, the band’s management tries to organize their historical Cuban concert. The film deals with their team’s various setbacks as they try to grapple with the logistics of putting on the show and working out the timing (they have to reschedule when Obama announces his visit). That concert is a subject of another documentary, Havana Moon, which I hope to check out very soon.

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MECHANIC: RESURRECTION (2016) ** ½

After faking his death at the end of The Mechanic, Jason Statham has been busy living a quiet life in Rio de Janeiro on a houseboat. Someone tries to coerce him into pulling off an assassination, and he has to beat the ever-living snot out of them. He then heads off to Thailand where he hangs out with Michelle Yeoh and tries to lay low for a while. Naturally, he winds up helping Jessica Alba, who is also being blackmailed by the same villain. When she is kidnapped, he agrees to perform three seemingly impossible assassinations (they all have to look like accidents) for the bad guy in order to get her back.

Statham looks comfortable enough while lounging around on a houseboat and occasionally busting heads. In fact, the opening scenes are almost like Statham's audition tape to play Travis McGee in an adaptation of The Deep Blue Good-By. The opening sequence itself is badass. The fight scene in the restaurant is great as Statham beats the crap out of people in a bar using a table and shoves one guy’s face into a flaming grill. When he is cornered, he escapes by jumping onto a hang glider that just so happened to be passing by.

This entire sequence is worthy of a Bond movie. After that, things get a bit slow. Since the slow stretches of the film revolve around Jessica Alba in a bikini, I’d say there are worse ways to waste your time.

The middle act involves Statham carrying out the three assassinations. The first one finds him staging a prison break using chewing gun bombs, exploding cigarettes, and shark repellent. (No matter how uneven the film gets, you have to respect it for stealing from Batman: The Movie.) The second assassination is reminiscent of Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol as Statham scales a giant glass skyscraper to kill a man in his swimming pool. This sequence is goofy, mostly because the swimming pool is so unsafe to begin with. (It juts out hilariously far from the penthouse with seemingly no support.) It’s kind of easy to kill that guy because that pool was already an accident waiting to happen. The last sequence involves Statham breaking into an eccentric arms dealer’s elaborate panic room. Since the eccentric arms dealer is played by Tommy Lee Jones at his all-time weirdest, it’s hard to hate.

In the end, Statham confronts the villain on his yacht. I can’t say it’s great, but it yields a couple of nifty action moments. Statham uses a guy as a human shield, tosses another into a hot tub and gives him a hand grenade as a personal floatation device, and duels with the anchor-wielding villain.

The first Mechanic (OK, the Mechanic remake, if you want to get technical, since Charles Bronson was in the original) wasn’t exactly memorable, but it was an entertaining Jason Statham vehicle. This one is a step down, but not by much. It’s far from his worst; it’s just that it never quite gets into a rhythm. It sometimes flirts with the outrageousness of a Transporter movie and then pulls back almost immediately into a blander, more generic type of actioner. I have a feeling that if the filmmakers fully embraced the goofiness and really went for broke (i.e. doubled-down on shark repellent); it might’ve been a classic.

SLOANE (1985) * ½

“Jerk.”

“Egotistical bastard.”

“Selfish little prick.”

“Horse’s ass.”

These are just a few of the names our hero, Sloane is called throughout the movie, and rightfully so. I can’t remember the last time an action flick featured such a despicable character for a leading man. There’s a fine line between stoic macho behavior and a sociopathic degenerate. Sloane crosses over that line several times throughout the film. Sloane is the kind of guy whose idea of consoling a woman after she was nearly raped is to flippantly ask, “Throwing a party?”

Yeah, you probably wouldn’t want to spend 94 minutes with him either. Since I did and lived to tell the tale, I guess I should say that Sloane (the movie and the man) isn’t ALL bad. It’s just hard to root for an egotistical bastard like Sloane.

Sloane is a karate instructor who lives on a houseboat in L.A. When his ex-wife gets kidnapped in the Philippines, he teams up with her husband’s sister to get her back. They bicker A LOT before finally rescuing Sloane’s ex.

In addition to the main character’s general unpleasantness, the film itself is often mean-spirited and crude. This is one of those movies that whenever a bad guy attacks a woman, he immediately rips her blouse open. If the violence was cartoonish and over the top, I might’ve gave it a pass. As it stands, the action is mind-numbingly dull and I found myself nodding off by the end.

Despite that, there is at least one moment that is pretty badass. During a car chase, the bad guys throw a cobra into Sloane’s car. What does he do? Bite its head off and throw it back at them! Now I’ve seen plenty of heroes get into car chases and I’ve seen heroes bite the heads off snakes, but I’ve never seen a hero bite the head off a snake DURING a car chase. So there’s that. Besides, I find it hard to give One Star to any flick that ends with a random ass chase involving cannibal pygmies.

Naturally, Sloane gets the best line of the movie when he tells his leading lady, “You have as much sense as a brontosaurus!”

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