REVIEW: Machete

15 08 2011

I live in Texas, and in case you haven’t looked at a globe in your life, it’s the state situated along the border of Mexico.  With America being so great and all (cue up the NSFW national anthem), people have been pouring over that border for safety and prosperity.  Many do this legally; many don’t.  Those that favor the latter option tend to cause big problems in my great state.

I’ve spoken with the second highest ranking man in the Texas Rangers about this problem; it’s serious.  It endangers not only our economy but brings much of the conflict that is ravaging Mexico into our country.  I’ve met Governor – and now Presidential candidate – Rick Perry and heard him articulate his plan on how to secure our borders; if his plan doesn’t have you convinced that something needs to be done, I don’t know what will.

Meanwhile, Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete” is totally and blissfully on the other side of that debate.  (He wouldn’t have made “Shorts” if he couldn’t be.)  Playing with the exploitation film style that he and pal Quentin Tarantino are so fascinated by, his film farcically and irreverently takes on border control and immigration like a live-action, full-length “South Park” episode.  It’s hardline message is hardly something I agree with, as it – whether seriously or not – promotes an almost Marxist revolutionary uprising of a Mexican proletariat.  But if you can get past that, it’s wickedly gory fun.

The movie stars Danny Trejo as Machete, a stone-cold former Federale turned illegal immigrant who kills and maims with the weapon in his name.  After being framed for the attempted murder of a state senator (Robert DeNiro in yet another career-staining role), he joins the underworld of illegal immigrants led by She (Michelle Rodriguez) to rebel against the Americans who view them as parasitic maggots, all while romancing and converting an Immigration officer (Jessica Alba) to their side.  Because they didn’t cross the border, THE BORDER CROSSED THEM!

So put your politics aside, your maturity at bay, and your squeamishness to rest for “Machete,” a rip-roaring Mexploitation film that brings a great deal of violently cartoonish laughter your way.  It shamelessly is what it is – that is to say, it’s ridiculous.  From the message to such profound quotables like “Machete don’t text,” Robert Rodriguez was having a whole lot of fun … and we get to share in quite a bit of it.  I don’t know if this is necessarily worth him polluting the world with yet another “Spy Kids” movie, though.  B / 

REVIEW: Little Fockers

14 08 2011

I don’t have much to say in regards to “Little Fockers.”  It’s a tacked-on sequel that has all the same characters as its two predecessors but little of its humor.  The movie will inevitably be dwarfed in comparison to the two titans of the series, but you get a few more laughs out of the Byrne-Focker “circle of trust” and some people at Universal made a lot of money.  It’s a bittersweet win-win, right?

In case you hadn’t noticed that Robert DeNiro has fallen far and sold out since his legendary pairing with director Martin Scorsese, “Little Fockers” gives the two-time Oscar winner the chance do a tongue in cheek mockery of himself.  35 years ago, he was the younger version of the Godfather.  Now, he’s searching for – the worst pun of the series – the Godfocker!  At least DeNiro can let it roll off his back and joke about it as the series that once could have anyone rollicking in laughter – even on TBS reruns – resorts to straight-to-DVD territory.

Unlike “Meet the Parents” (and “Meet the Fockers” to a lesser extent), which tackled relevant and relatable social topics in a funny but truthful way, “Little Fockers” goes for potty humor and adolescent immaturity to hide the changing landscape of the series.  With a new director, a new writer, and a total lack of effort, these aren’t the same Fockers.  But as Hollywood has yet to learn, you can’t hide a lack of enthusiasm from all corners on a movie set.  Even when you throw in a beauty like Jessica Alba or enhance the role of funnyman Owen Wilson, people notice when they aren’t laughing in a comedy movie.

So if you’re willing to dumb yourself down a little or happen to be in the mood for guilty, stupid laughs, “Little Fockers” may lightly graze your funnybone.  But the heyday of this series is long in the past, as are the glory days of Robert DeNiro.  Wait, I think I see his self-respect in the rearview mirror as well!  C+ / 

Random Factoid #482

22 11 2010

Welcome back to the random factoid column, which I should really just rename “Dumb Stuff Jessica Alba Says.”  As you may remember, she made the news last week for Elle interview in which she claimed that good actors never use the script.  Well, the rest of the interview was published, and now the whole world is left to wonder why she can’t just shut her trap.

In the interview, she also went after directors, particularly “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” director Tim Story.  Here’s an excerpt of the garbage spewing out of her mouth on this topic:

“[Story said] ‘It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica.’ He was like, ‘Don’t do that thing with your face. Just make it flat. We can CGI the tears in.’ And I’m like, But there’s no connection to a human being. And then it all got me thinking: Am I not good enough? Are my instincts and my emotions not good enough? Do people hate them so much that they don’t want me to be a person? Am I not allowed to be a person in my work? And so I just said, ‘F**k it. I don’t care about this business anymore.'”

Right, I forgot that Jessica Alba was a three-time Academy Award winning actress who needed virtually no direction!  Oh, wait, that’s Katharine Hepburn, sorry for the mental snafu.

Alba claims that this role made her want to quit acting altogether.  Guys, let’s be honest, we don’t watch a Jessica Alba movie to see powerful acting; we watch it to see Jessica Alba looking pretty.  So if she just resigned herself to modeling, she wouldn’t be breaking any of our hearts.

Random Factoid #468

8 11 2010

When the highly esteemed actress Jessica Alba, whom the Oscars lavish with nominations and wins every year, opens her mouth with theories on acting, the world should listen.  She knows what she’s talking about.

In a cover shoot for Elle, she spewed this enlightened remark on acting:

“Good actors, never use the script unless it’s amazing writing. All the good actors I’ve worked with, they all say whatever they want to say.”

Talk about one of the dumbest things to say; this ranks only slightly below Jenna Maroney’s “I hate the troops!” outburst on “30 Rock.”  Yet now there is no mystery why Alba has been nominated for four Razzies (the counterpart to the Oscars) for SEVEN movies!  She does it all herself, and so does everyone else in her movies!

The screenwriter knows better than the dumb actor, who looks at a script and goes “BS, BS, my line, BS, my line, BS, my line, BS, end.”  They know what the movie should be, and they entrust their words to these actors who they hope will do it justice.  Looking at Alba’s resumé on IMDb, I couldn’t help but wonder what those terrible movies would look like if the actors had stuck to the script.

But I only take this from a blogger’s imagination.  Here’s John August, an actual screenwriter on Alba’s dumb quip:

“I have to believe she was misquoted, or excerpted in some unflattering way … Oh, Jessica. Where to start? … Following your logic, you’ve never been in a movie with both good actors and amazing writing. That may be true, but it might hurt the feelings of David Wain, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. … Screenwriters can be your best friends. We are pushovers for attractive people who pay attention to us. I wrote that bathtub scene in ‘Big Fish’ because Jessica Lange made brief eye contact with me. So if you’re not getting great writing — and honestly, you’re not — ask to have lunch with the screenwriter. I’ve seen you on interviews. You’re charming. That charm could work wonders.”

I acknowledge that some great scenes have come from improvisation in some of my favorite movies, like Paul Sorvino slapping Ray Liotta in “GoodFellas” and Kevin Spacey chunking the asparagus in “American Beauty.”  But those are to enhance the script, not replace it.  So until Alba comes out and says she was horribly misquoted, she should be written off entirely.