Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005): A Gay Buddy Film

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After being told by numerous people (well, two at least) that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a dynamite film that showed implicitly that Shane Black was an awesome director before Iron Man 3, I decided to watch it. Especially after seeing a clip from the film that featured Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jr and Evan Parke where Downey shoots Parke in the head.

Despite that sounding bad, it was actually quite funny and after being told by my soon-to-be illustrious director Natasha Harmer that, “Oh, it gets even better.” Watching the film became a “done deal.” Just for the record the other “fan” of this film is my daughter Meg’s significant other Max.

Based, in part, on a Brett Halliday novel titled Bodies are Where You Find Them (whatever that means) and with a screen story/screenplay written by Shane Black and directed by same, – And yes, it’s the Shane Black who wrote the Lethal Weapon films, plural, and other great bits of movie magic – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or KKBB as I’ll refer to it for the rest of this post, is a kick ass, funny film with just enough tongue in cheek humour directed at the audience to take the sting of the sadder bits of the film.

Whew! Try reading that last marathon of a sentence with one breath. Go ahead, try! I dare you!

Narrated by Downey, KKBB is a journey through the Los Angeles movie crowd as dictated by every movie ever made about Hollywood. It abounds with stereotypes, clichés and enough two-dimensional characters to populate a Top Cat cartoon.

But…

These have all been done on purpose. At the beginning of the film, Downey is introducing himself as our narrator and cheerfully telling us how bad he is going to be and then proceeds to show us. He also starts the film standing by a heated swimming pool, occasionally dipping his shoes into the water.

The reference to Sunset Boulevard is obvious and if you didn’t see it? Shame on you! Now go out now and watch Sunset Boulevard and tell me you can’t see the reference. I’ll wait.

Gay Perry and Harry...There must be a joke there somewhere...
Gay Perry and Harry…There must be a joke there somewhere…

Downey plays Harold a cheap thief who gets to Hollywood and the fabulous party with the pool via a  perfectly timed escape from east coast cops where he bursts into an audition and gets hired. While at the party he meets Val Kilmer, a gay private detective who goes by the name of Gay Perry. He meets the host who is mega rich and mega rich Harlan Dexter (played by Corben Bernsen who makes a great bad guy) and sees a girl that piques his interest.

Later he finds out that this intriguing girl is non-other than Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), a childhood crush from his hometown. While trying to win the girl, Harold gets involved with Gay Perry to learn how to be a detective. This “one-night-stand” results in a murder mystery that serpentines through the entire film involving all the main characters.

Love interest Harmony. I will resist all temptation to make jokes about Christmas Stockings...
Love interest Harmony. I will resist all temptation to make jokes about Christmas Stockings…

Downey was, as usual, brilliant. How anyone can put themselves through so much substance abuse hell and still continually “knock it out of the park” is beyond me, but we’re glad he can.

Val Kilmer actually entertained me for once and I actually liked his character.  So kudos to the man who I’ve never really liked much except for  his Doc Holliday in Tombstone and  his role in the  film Red Planet, where he also knocked his role(s) out of the park.

Michelle Monaghan was quirky and cute and funny. She was also sad and funny as the girl who “didn’t make it.” Her bear/beer commercial was sadly funny as well, although having actor Laurence Fishburne voicing said bear in the commercial didn’t hurt.

This film is a real 5 out of 5 stars effort by all concerned. It didn’t quite make me feel a full range of emotion. I cannot, hand on heart, say that, “I laughed, I cried, blah blah.” But laugh I did and the film delivered so adequately on that score that sometimes I even laughed when it wasn’t politically correct to do so.

A great film, that shows that Shane Black is more than a one trick pony.

Simply Great.

Downey Jr and Black...Bromance...
Downey Jr and Black…Bromance…

 

Iron Man 3 Downey Rocks and Paltrow Pops

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I was supposed to go see Oblivion today. My daughter Meg insisted that it would be money well spent because Tom Cruise shines in the film. But when facing the fact that Iron Man 3 was showing as well, it was no contest. That and the fact that Max (Meg’s significant other) was super excited about the film weighted the balance towards Team Downey and Paltrow.

I have seen all the Iron Man films and loved each and every one. But, third time lucky on a sequel that’s actually better than its two predecessors. That’s not to denigrate what director Jon Favreau accomplished with the first two films, but Shane Black‘s production was action packed mayhem that left you gasping.

Iron Man 3 sees Pepper Potts (Paltrow) and Tony Stark (Downey)  as a pretty solid couple. We have Stark narrating a sequence of events that start back in 1999 at Bern, Switzerland. Stark is attending a New Years Eve celebration and he “blows off” scientist super-geek Alldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and this “inconsiderate” action comes back to haunt Stark later on.

*On a side note here; is there anything that Guy Pearce isn’t in? The boy from Ely, Suffolk, England seems to be in everything recently.*

Super villain Mandarin (Ben Kingsley in a role so far removed from his award-winning Ghandi it’s not even funny) is terrorising the world and worse than that, he’s controlling the television stations as well. When Mandarin harms Happy Hogan (Favreau) Tony takes it personally and not only does he taunt Mandarin on the “live” news, but tells him his address. 

Proving to be too much of a temptation, Mandarin attacks Stark’s home and blows it into the sea.

One of the best things about Iron Man 3 Ben Kingsley.
One of the best things about Iron Man 3 Ben Kingsley.

Don Cheadle is  back as Colonel James Rhodes aka War Machine aka Patriot Man. Rebecca Hall plays ex-girlfriend (one night stand) Maya Henson who, like Aldrich Killian, shows up to “haunt” Stark in the present.

This film was a real run-a-way express train of a film. It featured more action and explosions than the first two films in the series. It featured a villain that seems indestructible, as well as his minions, and had some brilliant bits of humour as well.

For the first time in ages, I actually heard an English audience laughing out loud! I was so shocked, I almost dropped my popcorn.

With a run time of 130 minutes (2 hours and 10 minutes) the film moves so quickly that it doesn’t  feel that long. Iron Man 3 has it all; pacing, action, great performances, brilliant plot and great story.

My only complaint came at the end of the film when it almost seemed like Shane Black looked at his watch and went, “Shit! Is that the time? We’d better wrap this thing up. Now!” The details of the ending will have to be “un-revealed” (no spoilers from me friends and neighbours) but suffice to say, it had a rushed feel to it.

So while I sit here drooling for the new “Avengers” releases that are upcoming, I’ll re-live the film I saw today and rate it at a 5 our of 5 stars for delivering an Iron Man that allowed Downey to rock it like never before and Paltrow to pop her part (sounds rude doesn’t it?) up into the stratosphere.

Don’t wait for the DVD or VoD, watch it now! This is a big screen experience you don’t want to miss!

Iron Man and Patriot Man.
Iron Man and Patriot Man.

The Raid (2011): Insane Indonesian Action Thriller

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I picked up this high-octane insane Indonesian action thriller for the unbelievably low price of 6 pounds stirling (that’s about 9 US dollars) Looking at the DVD art and reading the “preview” of the film on the back of the DVD, it looked and sounded like it could be a sort of distant cousin to the French film The Horde.

It isn’t.  Although the basic premise itself is…a little.

Both films deal with police converging on a criminal  for personal rather than legal reasons; but that is the only similarity that the two films have. It did not mean that I was disappointed with The Raid: Redemption. On the contrary, I loved it.

Written and directed by Gareth Evans and starring Iko UwaisAnanda George, and Ray Sahetapy The Raid is about a 20 man SWAT team who are after a Jakarta gangster kingpin who lives in a high-rise derelict apartment building that is considered impregnable. The team is composed mainly of new recruits with only a few members having any real experience in the field.

The reason that the building’s considered to be impossible to breach is down to the fact that the kingpin has filled it with criminal types and lower-income people who “owe” him for giving them a place to stay.

On the way to the building the SWAT team leader explains that the kingpin, Tama Rihadi (Sahetepy) has two “right-hand” men. One is the extremely dangerous Mad Dog  (Yayan Ruhian) and the other is the incredibly intelligent Andi (Donny Alamsyah). Once the team arrives they split into two groups and begin to take the building, floor by floor, room by room.

Moving up floor by floor.
Moving up floor by floor.

After they reach the sixth floor, Tama finds out that they are in the building. He makes an announcement over the buildings loudspeakers that whoever helps him to repel the intruders will be allowed to live in the building rent free for life. He then tells the apartments occupants to enjoy themselves.

Thus begins a battle of life and death for the beleaguered and outnumbered SWAT team.

The film uses a high-speed mix of gunplay and martial arts to move the action forward. It is incredibly fast paced and the action is relentless.

And relentless is a good way to describe the martial arts fight scenes. Like the 2008 film Chocolate and it’s follow-on film (not really a sequel than another vehicle for the film’s star JeeJa Yanin) the 2009 film Raging Phoenix the choreography for the fights look brilliant. Each sequence must have taken weeks to shoot and the effort shows. The stuntmen must have been black and blue for months after filming had finished.

Each fight scene is complex and they look so real, you start looking for real blood; incredibly impressive and not let down by the film’s gunplay. When the films main protagonist Rama (Uwais) fights his way through wave after wave of bad guys in the building’s hallways, it puts the fight scene out of Chan-wook Park‘s 2003 film Oldboy to shame.

In fact the fight scenes all feature such meticulous choreography that there are no obvious misses or “close-call” shots that show clearly that these battles are faked. Realism is the order of the day and that is what impresses most of all about this film.

Ouch.
Ouch.

Interestingly enough this is the first Indonesian film (that I’ve seen) that started life as a non-Indonesian project. Gareth Evans had to “translate” his English script to Indonesian in order for it to be made. The film ultimately benefited from Sony taking it under it’s entertainment wing in terms of distribution.

It opened with generally favourite, if not rave, reviews and has been accepted very well by audiences and critics alike. Shot on an estimated budget of just over one million dollars, the film looks anything but low-budget. *On a side note, isn’t funny to think that anything under 10 million dollars is considered “low budget?”*

Of course it is even more surprising when you consider that all the weapons used in the film were Airsoft replicas and not functioning firearms. All the shots of the guns action’s:  cycling, muzzle flashes and casings ejecting were added digitally. *Courtesy of IMDb.*  Considering how many “rounds” were expended in this film, I would have thought that would have cost a fortune.

This is a great action thriller and I’m not alone in my opinion. The Raid: Redemption has garnered quite a few awards and the film’s creator has hinted that this is part of a planned trilogy. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

I also have to mention the films score by Mike Shinoda. The soundtrack fit the film’s scenes and themes like a skintight glove. Moving the action and accentuating the constant flow of the story.

All the actors gave a believable  performance with “hats-off” to Iko Uwais as Rama and Yayan Ruhian as Mad Dog. Ruhian as the rat-faced inhuman martial arts killing machine was impressive beyond belief. He was like a walking advert for homicidal ADHD (ADD). I can describe his fight scenes with one word. Wow.

Mad Dog. Scarier without the gun.
Mad Dog. Scarier without the gun.

Great film and I’d recommend watching it with subtitles versus the dubbed versions. There appears to be a sound problem with the dubbed version and I’m pretty sure that any dubbing would take away from the films impact anyway.

My final verdict is a full 5 out of 5 stars for insanely fast paced film that kept me glued to the screen for the entire film. Great fight choreography and the final fight scene is worth the price of admission alone.

Rama, getting ready for another wave of attackers.
Rama, getting ready for another wave of attackers.

A keeper.

*Check out  the special features for Lee Hardcastle’s Claycat’s The Raid claymation short. It is Brilliant, gory, fun.*

The Expendables 2 (2012): Twice the Fun

For pure escapism and a plot that has more holes in it than a hunk of Swiss cheese, you cannot beat The Expendables 2. But damn it, it’s  entertaining and fun and who can complain about that?

Is it realistic? Hell no, no more than The Guns of Navarone or The Wild Geese was.

Are they similar? You bet.

All three films feature heroes past their prime facing outlandish, impossible odds…and winning. Sure the big bad has changed. In Navarone it was the Nazi’s and in Geese it was an African government; in each case though the bad guys were bad.

To the bone.

So are the bad guys in both The Expendables and The Expendables 2. The first film featured a villainous Eric Roberts and the second one featured Jean-Claude Van Damme as an egotistical greedy and downright nasty villain. Both men had an equally nasty cohort and a plethora of arms toting men.

Van Damme as the Vilain…

But despite the similarity in plot and the difference in directors – Sly directed the first one and Simon West directed # 2 – the film covers familiar territory and features almost all of the guys from the first film.

Conspicuous in his absence is Mickey Rourke (who says he only did the first film as a favour to Stallone anyway) and Jet Li is missing for 99% of the film – a massive disappointment as I adore Li – and Charisma Carpenter has an even smaller cameo than in the first film, but none of these things take away from the enjoyment of the actual film.

Instead we have both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in bigger cameo roles and they both get to shoot copious amounts of ammunition and kill absolute legions of baddies. Chuck Norris shows up for the party and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

I could almost forgive Chuck for endorsing Mitt Romney (almost but not quite) and it would have been nice to see more Jet Li, but hey; we got Nan Yu to represent the Asian member of the team and a “new” member in Liam Hemsworth as the ultimate eagle-eyed sniper “Billy the kid.”

Now for the plot, did I say, plot? Do you really care? Of course you do, no matter how ropey and loose it is, plot is important. But before we go there let’s talk about the opening of the movie.

New temporary Expendable member Maggie.

Expendables 2 opens just like Expendables did, with a hostage being rescued by the guys. Everyone infiltrates a terrorist hideout that is heavily armed and looks to be pretty impregnable. Except that these are the Expendables and they can go anywhere they like.

This time the hostage is a Chinese fellow who was supposed to be protected by Trench (Schwarzenegger) who is also a hostage. Just like the first film, our heroes kill all the bad guys and release Trench and they take the Chinese chap back home. Mid-air they put Yin Yang (Li) in charge of him; he attaches the man to himself and his parachute and they leap out of the plane. Li says that he may or may not return.

Once they get home and are celebrating in their old watering hole, Billy (Hemsworth) tells boss man Barney Ross (Stallone) that at the end of the month, he is quitting and going back to his French girlfriend. Barney leaves and heads back to his plane where he finds Church (Willis) who tells him that he has not forgiven him for stealing 5 million dollars from his organization and that Barney owes him one last mission.

Barney also finds out that he has to take a woman on board for this mission, Maggie (Yu) and over his objections that is just what he does. Their mission is to retrieve a valuable object from a plane that has been shot down in hostile territory. They accomplish this but get the object stolen by Vilain (Van Damme) – villain get it – but the bad obvious joke aside, Vilain is not a joke and he kills one of the Expendables to prove a point.

With the smell of revenge thick in their nostrils the guys and Maggie go to take down Vilain.

There are enough bullets shot and cartridges expended that the lead and brass companies could retire from the weapon’s business. There is enough blood spilt to sink the Titanic and while the violence is slightly over the top (a sniper bullet can take a man’s head right off) it is not in your face; hence the rating of 15.

With everyone making fun of their own acting careers (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris because really it is hard to tell with him) the chuckles keep coming. The cast do their usual good job in their interaction with one another and the “new girl” Maggie.

For the record the “guys” are: Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Terry Crews and Randy Couture. I just thought I’d mention it, you know, in case you forgot.

Bruce and Arnie, car-pooling.

The film is a great big bundle of action-man (and action-woman) fun. The nods and the winks keep coming and the action is practically non-stop. Even though the aim of the film was to do a pastiche of the 80’s action films that made all the big names in the film famous, Sly and director Simon West have gone back even further.

Years ago, when silent films were all the newest rage, there was a cowboy star who would kiss his horse rather than kiss his leading lady (nothing strange, trust me) and Stallone does something similar at the end of The Expendable 2. Well in spirit at least.

It is not often these days that a sequel is just as good as, or better than, the original but that is this case here. Maybe the secret is in not having a too cohesive plot or not caring too much about plot; either way it works and it is pure entertainment.

Just don’t take the film seriously and you will love it.

The “Lone Wolf” aka Chuck Norris. Seriously though, how old is this guy?

Jackie Chan is NOT retiring from Action Films

Chan in his Hollywood breakthrough film Rumble...
Chan in his Hollywood breakthrough film Rumble in the Bronx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A month ago it was reported that Jackie Chan, while at the Cannes Film Festival promoting his latest film Chinese Zodiac,  made a public announcement that he would no longer be doing action films.

His fans were shocked, saddened and (let’s face it) heartbroken. No more awesome to the extreme Jackie Chan stunts? No more brilliantly choreographed fight scenes? No chance for a Jet Li Jackie Chan film again…ever??

Nope.

Not true.

False.

Almost as famous as Jackie’s stunt work is his ‘non-command’ of the English language. Over the years we have seen, in just the out-takes of his films, the problem he has with English. It is often hilarious, or at least it seems so when we see Jackie ‘creasing up’ at his verbal faux pa’s.

Jackie Chan began his film career as a stuntma...
Jackie Chan began his film career as a stuntman in the Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973, pictured). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jackie realised what the world thought he said, he immediately posted on his facebook page what he had really meant:

“Hello all my friends and fans,

Yesterday in my press conference in Cannes for Chinese 12 Zodiac I said that this movie was my last big action movie.

Today I was shocked when I woke up to read all the news coverage that I was retiring from doing Action movies.

I just want to let everyone know that I am not retiring from doing action movies. What I meant to say is that I need to do less of the life risking stunts on my movies. After all these years of doing so many stunts and breaking so many bones, I need to take better care of my body so I can keep working.

I will continue to do international action movies.

And I will keep improving my English :-)

English: Jackie Chan star in Hollywood Walk of...

A special thanks to Nerdjunkies.com for initially breaking the news of Jackies ‘retirement‘ from action films and then updating the status to fans of Jackie. For the original feature go to http://nerdjunkies.com/2012/05/jackie-chan-is-retiring-from-action-movies/#.T-Gx6xfY-So and they have included some of their fave footage of Jackie.

To say I am relieved is the understatement of the century. I have been a fan of Jackie’s for years. I think that his stunt-work and his fight choreography are in a category so far above the standard that there should be a category of film awards called: The Jackie Chan Award for Stunt Choreography.

Just my own humble opinion, but…