Saturday, February 26, 2011

The True Confessions of a Film Freak: Second Edition

I've been back to work at Rose Park for the last couple weeks and that's seriously hindered my movie watching time.  Gotta pay the bills though, right?  

Here in Salt Lick we've got a pretty sweet movie theater called Brewvies that actually has a full liquor license.  They showcase films that are kind of in that limbo area in between their prime theater run and their appearances at the dollar theater.  So last Thursday we ventured down there and finally saw True Grit.  Also being reviewed this week after my brief TV watching week is a film a few years old called Pauly Shore Is Dead, a documentary titled The Two Escobars, a short called Nosebleed and my Basic Cable Standard for the week, Rocky IV.  We've got a little snow in the forecast and the Griffin Golf team is on Spring Break this week, so hopefully I'll get to see a few more movies before my next update.  On to it!

Starring:  Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper, Josh Brolin

My little old Great Aunts down home are big western movie fans and I remember watching the original 1969 version of this flick back with them when I was twelve years old.  I'll be honest with ya'll, I never quite got the reverence folks had for the John Wayne.  There's no denying The Duke had a great body of work, but for the most part, I always thought he was severely lacking range, and most of his performances seemed wooden as hell.  His rolling over for HUAC and selling out his fellow actors and writers to that McCarthy douchebag back in the early 50's doesn't exactly make me want to root for the guy either.  As far as westerns go, I preferred Clint Eastwood's stuff a lot more anyway.  

While I didn't like the original that much, it's a great story of frontier justice and revenge.  So when I heard that the Coen Brothers were remaking True Grit, all I could think was, "that's gonna be badass!"  Ever since Raising Arizona, those two guys will always get a lifetime pass from me.  And holy shit, they cast The Dude as Rooster Cogburn?  Sign my ass up!

Bridges was fantastic as U.S. Marshall Cogburn, as was Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LeBoeuf.  But the breakout role belongs to newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.  It's hard to think of a fourteen year old girl as a badass, but she absolutely was.  Of course, seeing as how most folks died at 45 in those days, she may as well have been an adult.  She took absolutely no bullshit from anyone in this flick and chewed up scenery in every act.  Give her the Oscar!  Of course though, it says a lot that Josh Brolin has his name in huge letters on the poster and she gets nary a mention.  Especially considering that he's in the movie for all of about ten minutes.

For as huge of a flick as this was, it didn't fall into the typical trap that most epics fall into these days in that it wasn't overly long.  In fact, I'd say this was the most well-paced Coen Brothers flick since The Big Lebowski.  Safe to say, this was my favorite movie of 2010.  

Starring:  Pauly Shore, about a million other stars

Back in September of 2004, I took a little vacation out to Los Angeles for a concert.  I stayed in the Sunset Hyatt Hotel, famous for being trashed by various rock stars back in the 70's.  Next door to the "Riot House" as it was called, is the world famous Comedy Store.  The greatest stand-up comedy club in the world.  On the marquee the weekend of my vacation was the message:  "MY SON ISN'T DEAD."  I had no idea what this meant, other than I did know that the Comedy Store was owned by Mitzi Shore, mother of 80's MTV personality and actor Pauly Shore.   

Three years later, I'm shopping at my favorite indie record and movie shop Graywhale, and I saw Pauly Shore Is Dead on the shelf.  I couldn't pass it up.  Bought that sucker and was not disappointed.  This film is a single-camera mockumentary of Pauly's life in the mid 2000's.  Pauly in the late 80's and early 90's was never really that funny, and his movies were pretty shitty (although Carla Gugino, Joey Lauren Adams and Tia Carerre were pretty nice to look at at the time).  Pauly in the 2000's however, was pretty much how you'd expect given the beating in popular culture just about everything from the late 80's and early 90's takes.  Jobless and semi-destitute (although still having a couple ducats in the bank), the film begins with Pauly being evicted by his home's new owner, Carrot Top.  Forced to move back home with his mother, he wanders LA, running into random celebrities and unsuccessfully begging for movie roles.  He eventually takes a job parking cars at the Comedy Store.

One night he's visited by his guardian angel, the ghost of legendary comic Sam Kinison, who advises him to kill himself so he could go down in history as a legend who died before his time.  So he fakes his own death and becomes a media sensation with every celebrity you can think of weighing in on how much of a genius Pauly was.  Pauly holes up in a motel room and cackles maniacally at the TV as for once, he's back on top.  But it's only a matter of time before he gets found out.        

This flick definitely doesn't take itself too seriously, with Pauly and the multitude of celebrities taking shot after shot at his act and career.  It's hilarious.  And what a lineup!  No less than Pamela Anderson, AJ Benza, B-Real, Todd Bridges, Tommy Chong, Vern Troyer, The Dahm Triplets, Carson Daly, Ellen DeGeneres, Screech, Andy Dick, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Fred Durst, Perry Farrell, Heidi Fleiss, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Clint Howard, Kato Kaelin, Craig Kilborn, Carl LaBove, Tommy Lee, Kurt Loder, Michael Madsen, Bill Maher, Mark McGrath, Jason Mewes, Pat O'Brien, Nancy O'Dell, Sean Penn, Matt Pinfield. Sally Jesse, Chris Rock, Ja Rule, Britney Spears, Jerry Springer, Vince Vaughn, Montel Williams, Sully Erna, Whoopi Goldberg, Wes Borland, Hanson, Dexter Holland and Ben Stiller all show up to weigh in.  It really becomes more of a game of spot the cameo as the story gets a little more ridiculous as time goes on.

It does have some really goddamn funny scenes though, such as Corey Feldman trying to score drugs, Tom Sizemore getting emotional and tearing up about Pauly's "death" even when he's completely surrounded by half-naked hookers and Pauly getting some helpful advice from Charlie Sheen!

Would you buy produce from this man?

Not to mention a totally awesome scene where Pauly comes across 80's Latin act Gerardo (AKA Rico Suave) who happens to be reduced to selling oranges on a freeway off-ramp.  Beyond ridiculous, but it might've been worth the purchase for that scene alone.  Netflix it for some mindless fun for a couple hours.

Directed By:  Jeff and Michael Zimbalist

I'm not a fan of soccer, but for some reason I'm fascinated by the drug culture of the 70's, 80's and early 90's.  This is kind of weird, because I'm not really a drug guy, but some of the stories are incredible.  The Two Escobars chronicles the rise of soccer in Colombia in the mid 80's, and its inevitable fall after a horrible mistake costs them the 1994 World Cup.  

Soccer in Columbia was pretty much in the doldrums in the early 80's.  They had some good players, but there was no money in it back then.  Along came Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellin drug cartel and one of the most polarizing figures in Colombian history.  People either felt he was Satan incarnate or a modern day Robin Hood with no in-between.  He starts sinking thousands of dollars into the local club team, Atletico Nacional, which soon becomes class of Colombian and eventually South American soccer.  Back then though, nobody really talked about where the money was coming from (even though they knew), but they were enjoying the spoils.  "Narco-Soccer" ushered in a golden age for soccer in Colombia with drug lords all over the country competing with each other to have their team be the best.  And very few ended up being as good as Nacional.  The film examines this period as well as the violence that drove it with no qualms whatsoever.  They even managed to score an interview in a prison with Pablo Escobar's right hand man, a dude who claimed to be personally responsible for something like 80 deaths on his own.  Unreal.  

Along side the batshit-crazy stories of violence and revolution, the film also chronicles the rise of another Escobar, Andres and his rise to fame as the captain of first Atletico Nacional and then as the undisputed leader of Colombian National team.  By all accounts, he was a shy, spiritual, family man who did all that he could to rise above and shun the violence the drug cartels created.  Unfortunately, his career was tied to it whether he liked it or not.  And when he accidentally kicked the ball past his own goalie in a 1994 World Cup elimination game against the host United States, the cartels sought their bloody retribution.  

This film was incredibly dark and sad.  I'm still no soccer fan, but the way it was edited with old game films and newsreels from Colombia as well as some classic period music kept me enthralled throughout.  This one stands right up there with Billy Corben's Cocaine Cowboys as two fascinating portraits of that era.

NosebleedDavid Arquette's nose starts bleeding.  He tries to stop it.  Sticks a bullet up his nose.  Should've fired it out of a gun. 

Starring:  Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Brigitte Nielsen, Burt Young, Tony Burton

Rocky IV!  Between HBO in the late 80's, and TNT, USA and TBS since then, I'm pretty sure I've seen this movie 1327 times.  And before I shuffle off the mortal coil, I'm pretty sure I'll see it a thousand times more.  It's easily the most accessible Rocky flick to get into, I mean, who can't get into the old-school USA vs. USSR conflict?  Okay, anyone not born after 1985, but I digress.  Once again, this passes the "remote control test."  If I see it while flipping channels, I'll watch no mater how far in this movie is.  

Who didn't want one of these things to bring you beers as a kid?
The plot is beyond simple.  Rocky's back on top after knocking out Mike Tyserrrrrrr... Clubber Lang in III and is seemingly content with polishing his Lamborghini and hanging out in his mansion with his wife, kid, alcoholic brother-in-law and their creepy-ass robot servant.  He gets a call from his old adversary and unlikely trainer Apollo Creed who is looking to take on the first professional fighter out of the Soviet Union, Ivan Drago, in an exhibition match.  

Oddly enough, this turns out to be a horrible idea.  I mean c'mon, the Russian was half his age and may or may not have been a fucking cyborg!  Anyway, Rocky ruthlessly murders Apollo by not throwing in the towel as Drago rains titanic shot after titanic shot down on Creed's head.  This leads to the inevitable revenge match in Russia, on Christmas (OOOOOH SYMBOLISM!) with Rocky battling Drago in a fifteen round fight for the fate of the free world.  Or something like that.  

Along the way we're treated to no less than three badass sports-movie montages.  The hallmark of any good sports movie of the 80's.  First, after yet another one of his wife Adrian's wet-blanket "just give up" speeches, Rocky tears ass through the Philadelphia streets in his Lambo, going at least 150 miles an hour with a deeply contemplative look on his face as he flashes back through the series.  As a matter of public safety, it might've been nice though if Rocky just once WATCHED THE FUCKING ROAD!  Then there are two fantastic training montages in Russia that juxtaposed Rocky's grass roots, farmer-in-the-dell training methods (SEE HIM DIG A SLEIGH OUT OF THE SNOW!  WATCH AS SCRAPPY ROCKY DOES CHIN-UPS IN A BARN AND LIFTS A GIANT NET OF ROCKS!) with the high-tech, steroid laced methods of his Russian killing machine rival.  The funny thing is, that at the time in real life, Stallone was 'roided out of his mind.  The montage is capped by shots of Rocky ditching his KGB chaperones and running up a 25,000 foot mountain in a pair of boots and a leather jacket.  Utterly ridiculous, but fucking awesome all the same.


And how about that fight!  Forget about the ridiculous circumstances (Rocky vacating his title, no prize money, in the Soviet Union, on the Baby Jesus' Birthday) and just revel in the violence!  If this fight were real, I'm pretty sure it would've shattered every PunchStat record in history.  You could count the misses for each fighter on one hand!  Back in the day, title fights went fifteen rounds instead of the twelve from the current era, and you just knew this one was going at least that far; with the (SPOILER ALERT FOR IDIOTS) hamburger faced Rocky vanquishing his Soviet foe and single-handedly ending the Cold War all in a two minute span.
I'm pretty sure Rocky was summarily tossed into a gulag, never to be heard from again after that.  My cousin Pete swears he had a Poli-Sci teacher quote that speech in class once, cracking him up and getting him in trouble.  I'd have laughed to, because between the two of us, we've both seen each of the Rocky flicks enough times that we now just refer to them as "Rocky," "II," "III," and "IV."  We both agree that Rocky V never should've gotten out of a pitch meeting.  

Sure, at this point, they're cliched, predictable, and no doubt overexposed, but if I'm ever flipping channels and I see a Rocky flick on there, I can guarantee I'll be sucked in for a couple hours at least.  Hell, I'm pretty sure the TNT channel never would've gotten off the ground without showing this and Mad Max:  Beyond Thunderdome on an endless loop back in the day!       

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