Tag Archives: RZA

[Review] – The Man with the Iron Fists

11 Nov

Title: The Man with the Iron Fists
Year: 2012
Director: RZA
Writers: RZA and Eli Roth
Starring: RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, David Bautista, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Byron Mann
MPAA Rating: R, bloody violence, strong sexuality, language and brief drug use
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Metacritic: 54

Everything about The Man with the Iron Fists sounded just deliciously insane and just prime for my enjoyment. It’s the directorial debut of the RZA, the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan who most recently had an arc in Californication, he also co-wrote the film with Eli Roth which is a weird pairing that yet somehow makes a lot of sense to me. Then you find out that it’s actually a martial arts film set in 19th century China about a group of lone warriors who are forced to unite against a greater evil to save their village? I was sold.

Continue reading

Advertisements

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

31 Jan

Title: A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
Year: 2011
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Writers: Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, based on their own characters
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Danneel Harris, Paula Garcés, Elias Koteas, Patton Oswalt, Thomas Lennon, Eddie Kaye Thomas, David Krumholtz, Danny Trejo, RZA
MPAA Rating: R, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence
Runtime: 90 min
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Metacritic: 61

 

I like the Harold & Kumar movies quite a lot, I think it soars higher than its stoner comedy boundaries, and John Cho and Kal Penn are awesome in the titular roles, not to mention these are the films that did a lot for Neil Patrick Harris’ resurgence in the zeitgeist. Harld & Kumar Go to White Castle was released in the summer of 2004, made for $9 million, and even though it wasn’t a massive commercial success, making about $24 million, it became something of a cult-ish movie and four years later we got Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, made for a slightly higher $12 million, but this time making over $43 million at the box office and an added $24 million from DVD sales, even though it wasn’t as great quality-wise as the first one.

Now we get the third film by the duo, done in a hiatus from Kal Penn’s work as Associate Director at the White House Office of Public Engagement for the Obama administration, and it’s by far their most ambitious outing to date, and actually a step up from the second entry in the franchise. Not to mention that, this being their Christmas spectacular and all, we actually get a rather sweet kind of movie in the midst of all the highly raunchy and offensive moves these guys are known for, which is as hit-and-miss as always, but still pretty hilarious most of the time. If people start saying this too offensive or too crude, well, they’d be right, but it’s your fault for going into a Harold & Kumar movie in the first place, a baby covered in cocaine is a sight that’s bound to happen in their crazy little world of a ninety minute movie that’s made out of one ridiculous set piece after the other.

These guys are like the 21st Century’s Cheech & Chong, characters who have found their niche, their target audience, and the filmmakers here are smart enough to know who that target audience is and are more than happy to provide exactly what they want. It’s a film that’s all about the excesses their target audience wants from it, one that knows the sight of Danny Trejo ejaculating all over a Christmas tree will have them roaring in laughter, and one that knows the people who watch this film have an opinion of Neil Patrick Harris that’s certainly not Barney Stinson-like. Sex, drugs and claymation, all in 3D, people want this, and they’re gonna get it.

The film opens six years after the first sequel, and Harold seems to be really well-off, having the wife, the house and the great job at Wall Street. Kumar is still pretty much the same, the stoner he’s always been. And they haven’t really spoken to each other much since the second film, each going after very different paths in life, but those paths are about to intersect after a package for Harold arrives at Kumar’s door. If the first quest these two friends embarked on, to get some White Castle hamburgers, was insanely epic and full of really bizarre scenarios, then you can count that the one they embark on this time, to find a replacement for a great Christmas tree that Harold told his father-in-law (played by the aforementioned Mr. Trejo) he’d take care of, will be every bit as kooky. The quest sticks to the formula these guys are known for, and it wants to shock and it wants to be excessive, but why fix what’s not broken, this is all these characters and their fans need.

I don’t want to spoil every single crazy situation we get to witness in this film, those are for you to discover on your own, all I’ll say is that if you were a fan of the first two films, you’ll be a fan of this one, and if you weren’t, well, then this one won’t be your particular cup of tea either. Personally, I love the antics presented on screen by these guys, I think you don’t have to be a stoner to appreciate stoner comedy, nor do you have to be one to appreciate how awesome Neil Patrick Harris is at playing this insane fictionalized version of himself that proposes that the actor’s real-life homosexuality is but a front to hide his sexual depravity, you just know Mr. Harris is having a helluva lot of fun playing such a crazy version of himself, not to mention that this time around he gets to do a seasonal song-and-dance number that’s pretty neat.

I give A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas a very recommending grade, it’s a third film that improves upon the second one, and it’s just seriously entertaining and surprisingly sweet. It proves that these guys are here to stay, that their brand of comedy and knack for being excessive are justifiable when you watch just how awesome the end product is. And I truly don’t know what these guys would have to do in order to top themselves if a fourth film is ordered, but I do know that I’ll be first in line to see it if it ever comes to be.

Grade: B+

Due Date

16 Nov

Title: Due Date
Year:
2010
Director:
Todd Phillips
Writers:
Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Todd Phillips, based on the story by Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland
Starring:
Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx, Danny McBride, RZA
MPAA Rating:
R, language, drug use and sexual content
Runtime:
100 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
7.1
Rotten Tomatoes:
38%

Due Date is no The Hangover, let’s just get that right out of the gate and, while it’s still a perfectly fine comedy, it should have been way better considering the director’s pedigree and how great these two stars were together on paper. So yes, I was a bit disappointed to be honest, but Due Date is still quite good, it just suffered because it came with great expectations. But still, Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis as the mismatched lead characters are still top-notch performers, Mr. Downey has the sarcasm needed by his character nailed down perfectly, and Mr. Galifianakis is a guy I’d see in any single thing he decided to do, and he’s amazing as always here.

As I said, high expectations did this one in in the end, that and the fact that it’s impossible to watch Due Date and not think about Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a great John Hughes film from which it so obviously borrows extensively and to which, unfortunately, it doesn’t hold a candle to. There’s no train in this film, just the airplane that then goes ahead and gets the two together in the car.

And, while that’s all good and fun, Due Date ultimately plays off a very familar concept and it ends up feeling a bit tired. Hell, Mr. Phillips himself has already done Road Trip, a sillier and childish film that plays off some of the topics this one touches, but still, the core concept remains. That’s kind of what made The Hangover such an amazing film, the fact that it oozed freshness, we hadn’t seen anything quite like it before, and that’s why it worked so well.

It really does feel like I’m being seriously hard on Due Date when it fact it’s a very solid B-grade film, but the thing is that Robert Downey Jr. is one of my favorite actors around and Zach Galifianakis is one of the most reliable comedic actors Hollywood has. And while Mr. Downey is still good and Mr. Galifianakis is still funny I didn’t think Due Date was the best example of how these two could have played off each other, especially when, as I said, this one looked golden on paper.

Mr. Galifianakis is Ethan Tremblay, another character tailor-made for his impeccable comedic abilities, who’s a wannabe actor trying to get to Hollywood while making a pitstop at the Grand Canyon to spread his father’s ashes. You know how Mr. Galifianakis will play this character, because his is a very specific brand of humor, not to say that he just has one trick up his sleeve, because as we saw in this year’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story he can widen his range quite nicely. But yeah, Ethan is yet another very Galifianakis character, and I say that in a good way, though the man-purse he wears here might get some people thinking about The Hangover even more than they already would be, and think they’d be better off seeing that one.

As for Mr. Downey, he’s Peter, who’s the more uptight businessman who needs to get home in time to witness the birth of his firstborn. To be honest, even though Mr. Downey’s so charismatic and he can make the most out of every single character he gets, I didn’t really connect to this character nearly as much as I did to Ethan, and I thought the jokes he got were a total disservice to Mr. Downey.

So yeah, the two meet at the airport and after a confrontation on board of the plane they are forced to get out of it, and they then get themselves on a roadtrip from coast to coast together. There are obviously a huge amount of obstacles that come their way. Juliette Lewis appears as a premium-quality pot dealer. And so does Jamie Foxx, as an ex-football player who’s a best friend to Peter and who, we discover, may or may not be the actual father of Peter’s unborn baby. Now, I get why to bring Jamie Foxx on board, he and Mr. Downey played off each other real well in The Soloist and they’re very good friends in reality, but there was something about his character, Darryl, that I didn’t quite like, he just felt a bit like overkill.

There is obviously some good raunchy humor, but we’ve come to expect that from Mr. Phillips already, and the thing is that, unlike The Hangover, while this one still has some huge laughs they are not sustained by a good story and good characters. That’s what kills the movie, and I realize this review may have sounded a bit too negative but I was just expecting so much more. I mean it was nice to see these two on screen together, and we also got to see the always awesome and always beautiful Michelle Monaghan as Peter’s wife, but there was no real character development during this ride. And the relationship between Peter and Ethan even though it ‘evolved’ on the surface had no real deeper development. There are laughs, but there is no profound insight, no underlying sweetness to the film, and that will do nothing for this film because you’ll still have fun at it, but it will get you do notice just how special a film Planes, Trains and Automobiles really is.

Grade: B

Repo Men

9 Apr

Title: Repo Men
Year: 2010
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writers: Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner
Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schrieber, Alice Braga, Carice van Houten, Chandler Canterbury, RZA
MPAA Rating: R, strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity
Runtime: 111 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%

The concept of Repo Men is interesting, Law and Whitaker are both really capable actors, but the script is horrible, the direction is completely uninspired and the gore is excessive, actually not excessive, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as excessive gore, more like, completely and utterly unnecessary. It’s set in the future when organs can be actually bought on credit, but they can also be repossessed should the payment not be met. And by repossessed I mean that if you don’t pay for three months a Repo Man will come to your house shoot you, open you up, take the organ back and leave. Not even kidding.

I just don’t know what Repo Men wanted to be, I really don’t, it takes itself super seriously with the music and the chases, shit, I don’t know, I just didn’t get it for what it tried to be, a case could be made that if the world was actually like that this film would be a satire, because it takes themselves so seriously that it is funny, the amount of gore is truly too much, so much in fact that it’s funny to see, and the actors in the midst of all this ridicule act it all out as though they were in a Victorian drama.

And I do think that the director ultimately approached this as a satire, I sure as hell hope he did, and it’s a decision that, if that’s actually the decision he took, I won’t criticize at all, I think it was the right way to do this one, but the fact is that it doesn’t act as though it knew it were a satire, it treats itself seriously, and gets bogged down with stupidly excessive action sequences and at one point even tries to be emotional. And emotional it’s not, unless you count anger because you wasted a couple of hours of your life on it. I am, however, giving it a barely passing grade, because at least the premise was interesting, and the film could have been too, had its director and script not let us down.

Grade: C-