Sunday, December 30, 2007


Slogan: A Top-renting cast

This is "A Larry Bishop Film," the writer/director being a Joey Bishop production, Joey being a member of the Rat Pack, the Rat Pack having made the quintessential hipster/heist movie, Ocean's 11, of which this might be a deconstructed--or perhaps unconstructed--version. With Frank, Dean, and Sammy on the soundtrack, Trigger Happy distills the essence of gangster attitude with low-budget inventiveness and an A-budget cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, Gabriel Byrne, Diane Lane, Burt Reynolds, Kyle MacLachlan, Gregory Hines--not to mention Christopher Jones (unseen since 1968's Wild in the Streets), creepy Michael J. Pollard, creepier Juan Fernandez and Billy Drago, and creepiest--and Ocean's 11 alum--Henry Silva! With Larry Bishop as a hitman. And this list doesn't include the many unusual--and one alarming--cameos. Young Lar was obviously scarred by hanging around his father's cronies, but if nothing else, he offers an inspired twist on the gunfighter showdown. PLAY.

Slogan: Sometimes Revenge is the Best Therapy.

Larry Bishop wrote the script for this "A Robert Vince Production" and gave himself a featured role as, again, a soulless hitman. Larry definitely has a thing for gangsters, sharkskin suits, and stylized shootouts. And apparently a lot of daddy issues to work out. Denis Leary is some kind of hood on a killing spree avenging his father's death. He kidnaps Joe Mantegna, some kind of hood, and forces him to deal with his own papa problems, too. I was reminded of the baptism sequence in The Godfather, here extended to feature length, with a limo ride as the connecting device instead of a baptism. So, it's not really very much like The Godfather, is it? Except that Abe Vigoda looks glum in both films. But I don't think Traci Lords ever sang a song in a Coppola film. Whatever. PAUSE.

Live Entertainment
Slogan: Even Losers Get Lucky Some Time.

Rebecca DeMornay does not do her own singing in this "A Ken Scwenker Production," but she fakes it nicely. As Executive Producer, she cast herself as a fringe Vegas floozy looking to cash in on the apparently enchanted winning streak of naive Vincent D'Onofrio. Richard Edson, Delroy Lindo, Michael Madsen, Billy Bob Thornton, and an appealingly overheated Frank Whaley also want a piece of the action. Filmed on the outskirts of Vegas, director Alex Cox--dangerously resembling Sid Vicious in a cameo--removes even the fake glamour from the Entertainment Capital of the World. But that doesn't leave much to watch except weird Whaley and delicious DeMornay. PAUSE.

BMG Video [CC]
Slogan: All They Want Is Another Shot...

Hello, my name is Dave Nuttycombe and I am very glad that I am not an alcoholic. Though if I was, I wouldn't have to go out to AA meetings--I could just watch this tape. Basically an AA session with celebrity winos (Faye Dunaway, Parker Posey, Amanda Plummer, Spaulding Gray, Howard Rollins, Diane Wiest) telling horror stories in between scenes of Richard Lewis falling sickeningly off the wagon, the best moments are the drunk scenes--which bolsters the drinking-is-fun argument. And what's with all the cigarette smoking? As a comedian-who-wants-to-be-taken-seriously, Lewis acquits himself credibly, though you still hope for some jokes. Useful while under the influence, otherwise EJECT.

Paramount [CC]
Slogan: A Famous Writer. An Obsessed Fan. And a Fatal Rejection.

"I spotted your weakness," Larry Bishop says in Trigger Happy, "you care." Yes, for some reason I do care--about poor Corbin Bernsen. Never watched his TV shows but I can't escape his video work. I'm 2 for 2 on this series, which is not quite jelling. On the plus side, Corbin has ditched the kung fu fembot from first film for the saucily perky videotrix Nia Peeples. But the gruesomeness of the story--the brutal killing of unconvicted rapists--doesn't jibe with Berson's supposedly light-hearted writer character. That the psycho killer is a super ninja is a bit too convenient, and I became more fascinated watching the art direction: Corbin lives in a fantastic house overlooking a river in Vancouver. Because I care, I want to visit it again in No. 3. EJECT.

New Horizon
Slogan: Hard Wired for Destruction.

"Being a psycho is nothing to be ashamed of," says Denis Leary in Underworld. He hadn't seen Richard Grieco terrorizing Corbin Bernsen in Circuit Breaker. The last time we saw Grieco, his head was melting. Here it explodes. This is a good trend, because while his name doesn't rhyme with "psycho," it's close enough--and he should be ashamed. Corbin and wife take a "shortcut through the quasar" in a rental spaceship (!) to get medical help for their daughter, who doesn't seem very sick. The film almost becomes Event Horizon when they come across the shirtless Grieco's rocket. As lousy as that film was, at least the models weren't right out of an Aurora kit. However, it's reassuring to know that IBM keyboards are still standard in the future. The fake computer talk is entertaining ("Computer, generate theta stimulator." "Bypass her conscious brain."), but you do not bed the creature that just killed your family. Circuit Breaker bypassed my conscious brain. EJECT.

Columbia TriStar [CC]
Slogan: A Smart Comedy About Getting Stupid

"You intend to captivate people with the plight of the affluent, suburban white male?" John Rhys-Davis asks mockingly of moping art student Ben Affleck. Apparently so is this stupid comedy about being moronic. A house full of goons drink and complain about women, though they don't even remotely deserve girlfriends--especially the jerk who mistreats my ex-flame, the winsome Megan Ward. Pointless, mindless, witless philosophizing followed by pointless, mindless, witless destruction. Allysa Milano does not get naked. Cameos by Matthew McConaughey when he was a nobody and Brendan Frazer when he was a chubb. Nice soundtrack by the Vandals and others. Buy the CD instead. EJECT.

Columbia TriStar [CC]
Slogan: Robots Rule the Earth. Only One Man Can Stop Them.

"Why don't you ever write about movies people want to see?" a colleague asked, cutting me to the quick. Let me explain: No one wants to watch a Rutger Hauer film. But I watch them so that when an extraordinarily important Rutger Hauer film comes along the world shall hear of it. Omega Doom is that Rutger Hauer film. Set in a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter (Brataslava), this "An Albert Pyun Film" plays like an Off-Broadway version of Ionesco's Robocop. Beginning auspiciously with "Once upon a time..." and quoting Dylan Thomas, narration informs us that Hauer is a robot "wounded in his program" so that he "forgets his prime directive." This leads him Shane-like into the middle of dispute between the New Wave shade-wearing Roms and the beyond thunderdome Droids. The illogic is as astounding as the dialogue is insane: "You're a lousy 5.5 upgrade. I've killed your kind before." "I'm not the droid I used to be." "Sometimes I wish I were created a drone." "You cut off my head, what more do you want?" Specially credited as The Head, Norbert Weisser uses this limitation to wildly overact. And, credit notwithstanding, "Mr. Hauer's Trainer" does not seem to be working overtime. PLAY.

Next: Chop-sexy!

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