2 Guns


Denzel Washington can smile because his name comes first in the credits.

Denzel Washington can smile because his name comes first in the credits.

(2013) Crime Action (Universal) Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, Edward James Olmos, James Marsden, Fred Ward, Robert John Burke, Greg Sproles, Patrick Fischler, Edgar Arreola, Derek Solorsano, Kyle Russell Clements, Christopher Matthew Cook, Tim Bell, Tate Fletcher, Azure Parsons. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur

There is room in this world for testosterone-infused crotch-scratching knuckle-dragging action movies. We men need them, as much as we need beer, 24 hour sports networks, grilled meat and babes. They are endemic to our manhood. They make us feel good and get past all the crap we have to take for being men.

Here is a movie that will make your penis swell with pride and put a smile on your manly unshaven face. Two guys – Bobby (Washington), a natty well-dressed guy who “knows people” and Stig (Wahlberg), a skirt-chasing loudmouth who never misses – are planning to rob a bank. Unfortunately, this particular bank is across from a diner that serves the best donuts in three counties and a word to the wise – never rob a bank across from a diner that serves the best donuts in three counties. Easy fix though; they burn the diner to the ground.

It turns out they are robbing this particular bank because Mexican cartel kingpin Papi Greco (Olmos) keeps a goodly load of his cash there, about $3 million worth. It’s not generally a good idea to rob a drug lord but it’s okay – Bobby is DEA and this robbery is a good way to link Papi to tax evasion.

However, when they get to doing the deed it turns out that there’s more like $40 million in the safety deposit boxes. And it’s not Papi’s – it belongs to a corrupt CIA whose sweaty agent Earl (Paxton) wants his money back – payments from Papi and other drug lords who give a small percentage of their profits to the CIA as protection for letting them operate. Whoops.

And it turns out that Stig isn’t a mindless thug after all – he’s Naval Intelligence. But both of them have been set up. Stig and Bobby aren’t exactly a match made in heaven but they are forced to work together to get out of the mess they’re in with the CIA, the U.S. Navy and a vicious drug cartel all chasing them and none of them too particular about due process.

This is the kind of movie that Michael Bay fans are going to love. The chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg is excellent, as good as the Glover-Gibson pairing a couple of decades ago. The two bicker and trade barbs as well as bullets but when the rubber hits the road they have each other’s back. Exactly the kind of relationship men like to see.

There is a whole lot of carnage – lots of bullets flying and rarely do any of them strike the heroes but they sure do strike the flunkies of the bad guys with abandon. I can imagine there was a squib shortage in Hollywood when this baby was shooting.

The script will hold no surprises for veteran action film aficionados. Those you think are probably going to end up as villains do. Those you think are going to get shot do. Twists you think the plot is going to take happen. But that’s not why real men see a movie like this. We see a movie like this to affirm that we’re still men. There’s no exploring their feelings, no tender moments of self-expression, no issues of the day – just bullets flying, fists pumping and things going boom. And when that’s what you need, that really is all you need.

REASONS TO GO: Nice chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg.

REASONS TO STAY: Doesn’t add anything new to the genre.

FAMILY VALUES:  All sorts of violence, a bit of nudity (briefly) and a fair amount of cussing.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: At one point in the film’s development this was intended to be a vehicle for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson to team up but they elected to pass.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/8/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 60% positive reviews. Metacritic: 55/100; as with many movies this summer the critics can’t make up their minds..

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Losers

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: Star Trek: Insurrection

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New Releases for the Week of August 2, 2013


2 Guns

2 GUNS

(Universal) Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Edward James Olmos, Bill Paxton, James Marsden, Fred Ward. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur

A DEA agent and a Naval Intelligence officer have been reluctantly working together undercover for years trying to infiltrate a violent Mexican drug cartel. When things go wonky, they discover that one side of the law wants them behind bars, the other wants them dead and the first side wouldn’t be too upset to see the second thing happen. They’ll have to rely on each other and a few things they picked up pretending to be bad boys to survive.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (Opens Thursday)

Genre: Action

Rating: R (for violence throughout, language and brief nudity)

The Smurfs 2

(Columbia) Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara, Jonathan Winters. Please don’t see this movie. You’ll only encourage them to make more of ’em.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D (Opens today).

Genre: Family

Rating: PG (for some rude humor and action)

30 Minutes or Less


30 Minutes or Less

Some guys don't look intimidating at all, even when they have ski masks and guns.

(2011) Crime Comedy (Columbia) Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Dilshad Vadsaria, Michael Pena, Bianca Kajlich, Fred Ward, Brett Gelman, Ilyssa Fradin, Paul Tierney, Rebecca Cox, Rick Irwin. Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Ruben Fleischer previously directed the hit horror comedy Zombieland which starred Jesse Eisenberg. Both of them are back for a follow-up, leaving me curious as to just what kind of film we’d be seeing.

Nick (Eisenberg) is a slacker who has been delivering pizzas for awhile. He has little ambition beyond getting stoned and hanging out with his friend Chet (Ansari) who at least has sufficient ambition to rise beyond being a part-time substitute teacher to becoming a full-time one. Neither of them seem to have much drive to move past the surroundings of Grand Rapids, Michigan where they reside. However when they get into a fight and discover their worst secrets – Nick slept with Kate (Vadsaria), Chet’s sister, and Chet was the one responsible for letting Nick’s dad know that his mom slept with a lifeguard, ending their marriage and leading to his dad leaving town for good – the two split up.

Dwayne (McBride) chafes in the shadow of his father, the Major (Ward) who is sitting pretty off of a $10 million lottery win. The Major feels nothing but contempt for his unemployed son, while his son wants his dad to hurry up and expire so he can still inherit what’s left of the lottery fortune, which the Major has been squandering in a hurry. Dwayne and his best friend Travis (Swardson) are chased out of the house by the major and wind up hanging at a local strip bar where a stripper named Juici (Kajlich) implants the idea that Dwayne should kill his dad and inherit now, hinting that she knows someone who can do the deed – for a hundred grand.

But Dwayne and Travis don’t have fifty bucks between them, let alone $100,000 – until Travis suggests robbing a bank, which might not work that well since neither one of them know how. That’s when Dwayne comes up with the brilliant (but demented) idea to get some other schmuck to rob the bank for them. A pizza delivery guy, for example.

Nick is lured to their junkyard with a pizza order; they knock him out and attach a vest to him with an explosive device. When he awakens, the two would-be criminal masterminds tell him he has ten hours to rob the bank and bring $100,000 to them otherwise they’ll detonate the bomb. Nick, panicking, goes to Chet who after initial horror agrees to help his friend on the condition that he never see his sister again.

In the meantime, Juici is plotting with Chango (Pena), the hitman she had referred to – who happens to be her boyfriend – to take the money and run away with her. Double crosses are in the air – everyone is planning to betray everyone else. How will Nick and Chet escape the crossfire, assuming these two slackers can figure out a way to rob the bank?

As good as Zombieland was, 30 Minutes or Less is less consistent. Uneven in its pacing, I get the sense that they couldn’t decide whether to make a caper comedy or a raunchy drug comedy. The movie tends to be better when it goes with the former and less successful when it channels Cheech and Chong.

While all of the main characters have a following and a certain amount of success – Ansari in “Parks and Recreation,” Eisenberg netting an Oscar nomination in The Social Network for example – none of them have been actors I’ve been particularly fond of and to be honest, this movie doesn’t change my mind for any of them other than Swardson, who with his 70s porn star moustache and puppy dog attitude at least displays a certain amount of charm.

None of the rest of the leads are likable enough for me to particularly care much about any of them, a bad thing for a movie. I could forgive that however, if the movie was funny enough to sustain interest but in fact it only does so sporadically. Some of the scenes seem to want to dumb things down until only a one celled creature could possibly find it amusing.

I wish the movie could have been a little more consistent and a little less wishy-washy because it really did have some pretty funny moments. Unfortunately, they were few and far between enough for me to recommend that you find other ways to spend your movie dollars.

REASONS TO GO: Swardson does some nice work and when the movie works, it’s very funny.

REASONS TO STAY: Extremely inconsistent, the pendulum swinging from too raunchy and dumb to smart and funny in a heartbeat.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of crudity, and a little bit of nudity. There is some language most rough and some violence a little tough.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: There was an incident eerily similar to the one depicted here when on August 28, 2003, pizza delivery man Bryan Douglas Wells entered a bank with a bomb strapped around his neck in Erie, Pennsylvania with a very similar story. However, it ended badly as the bomb detonated as the police approached, killing Wells instantly.

HOME OR THEATER: Home, more like.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: Operation: Endgame

Armored


Armored

Matt Dillon finally gets around to reading the script. "That's how it ends? SERIOUSLY?"

(Screen Gems) Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Columbus Short, Fred Ward, Skeet Ulrich, Jean Reno, Milo Ventimiglia, Amaury Nolasco, Andre Jamal Kinney, Lorna Raver, Nick Jameson, Glenn Taranto. Directed by Nimrod Antal

There’s no such thing as the perfect crime. Technology has made it increasingly more difficult for criminals to ply their trade. If professionals can’t come up with a perfect crime, what kind of hope does an amateur have?

Ty Hackett (Short) is a decorated war veteran who has fallen on hard times. After the death of his parents from long illnesses, he has become legal guardian of his teenaged brother (Kinney) who is more interested in tagging than attending classes. Ty has gotten a job as an armored car security guard through family friend Mike (Dillon). He’s the new kid on the block in a tight crew that includes Baines (Fishburne), Quinn (Reno), Dobbs (Ulrich) and Palmer (Nolasco). They stage a fake heist to haze the rookie.

Except that it wasn’t just a prank, it was a run-through. You see, the guards have decided that they want a piece of the pie and they’ve come up with a foolproof way to do it. They drive their two trucks to an abandoned factory that is a radio and cell phone dead zone, unload the $40 million that they are carrying during a particularly busy period and torch the trucks, claiming that they’d been jacked. No witnesses, and after some initial suspicion if they are disciplined and don’t spend their money unwisely, the money will be theirs once the heat dies down. Nobody gets hurt.

Mike presents the plan to Ty over chili dogs and at first the straight-arrow Ty wants no part in it, but with the house in foreclosure and now child services sending a caseworker (Raver) to investigate his brother’s infrequent class attendance could potentially split the brothers up lead Ty to finally agree to the plan.

Unfortunately, nobody thought to scout the factory and make sure nobody was there. A homeless man (Jameson) who was apparently living there observes what’s going on and the crew of professional security guards panic. Guns are fired, the homeless man is killed and Ty makes a decision to lock himself in one of the armored cars (which still has half the loot in it) rather than continue on with the robbery which he agreed to participate in. The guards huff, and they puff but they can’t blow the doors down. Things are further complicated when an inquisitive cop (Ventimiglia) hears the commotion in the abandoned factory and gets critically injured by the trigger-happy Baines put further pressure on the conscience-stricken Ty.

Director Antal has a couple of terrific films in his background (Kontroll, Vacancy) and the reboot of the Predator franchise in his future but something tells me this won’t be remembered as a highlight of his filmography. It’s not badly directed – the action sequences are in fact very well done – but the script is poor.

Frankly, I find the behavior of every one of the characters to be a bit out of whack with reality. I believe the intention here was to show the pressure cracking the bonds of the thieves from within but quite frankly, we get behavior that’s just inexplicable. Baines turns out to be a trigger-happy lunatic – who knew? – which would probably come as a shock to the security transport company that hired him. Apparently that little detail escaped the rigid interview and probationary process that armored transport security personnel undergo in order to be allowed to have access to the kind of money these guys have access to on a daily basis. And it seems to me that for trained professionals, they fell apart rather easily when the homeless guy shows up.

Worst of all is Ty, who has the most motivation of all to want the cash; he’s on the verge of losing his home and his brother. He is also a trained and decorated soldier, yet time and time again he puts other people in jeopardy after it is clearly demonstrated that his former crew is willing to kill. Not a very smart soldier, apparently. Also, none of the trucks have GPS devices in them, something that even pizza delivery cars have. A point is made that the trucks are to get them shortly, which is what makes the timing of the heist crucial.

Still, Short is likable enough as Ty which is a good thing, because when he makes his moral stand logic and real human emotion seems to go out the window. Any person who is risking his family would probably at least have some sort of second thoughts but there are none displayed at any time by the young ex-soldier. And while I won’t reveal the movie’s ending, it comes very abruptly and is not terribly satisfying. You are left staring puzzled at the screen mumbling “Really? That’s all?” in a dazed voice into your empty tub of popcorn.

Armored isn’t a bad movie but it isn’t a good movie either. The actors are solid, particularly veterans like Fishburne, Dillon and Reno. If the script had matched their efforts, this might have been entertaining. Unfortunately, this is barely passable in that regard.

REASONS TO GO: The action sequences are pretty intense. Short is extremely likable in the lead.

REASONS TO STAY: Ty’s not always entirely believable in his actions. As a matter of fact, the script has a lot of logic issues.

FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of bang bang, a little bit of oozing wounds and a crapload of f bombs.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The last time Dillon and Fishburne were in a film together was Rumblefish in 1983.

HOME OR THEATER: This has rental written all over it.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Public Enemies

Management


Just say "ohhhhhhhhm"

Just say "ohhhhhhhhm"

(Goldwyn) Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Fred Ward, Margo Martindale, Tzi Ma, James Hiroyuki Liao, Katie O’Grady, Gavin Bristol, Yolanda Suarez, Robert Zorn, Dominic Fumusa, Moreen Littrell. Directed by Stephen Belber.

Loneliness can do funny things to you. It sucks away your self-confidence and makes you do crazy things, things you’d never do if you weren’t feeling that ache of having nobody in your life. Call it desperation if you will, but we definitely find ourselves reaching out for someone, anyone who we can hold onto in the night, even if it’s the absolutely wrong person. Once in a great while, that person who seems so wrong can turn out to be surprisingly right.

Mike (Zahn) doesn’t have a whole lot of what you’d call direction in his life. He works for his parents doing odd jobs and acting as night manager for the budget hotel they run in Kingman, Arizona. He has nobody in his life, whiling away his days eating Chinese food in a deserted restaurant, going to yoga classes and smoking like a chimney. His mother (Martindale) is very ill, and his father (Ward) is a Vietnam veteran who came back from the war emotionally shut down.

Into their lobby walks Sue Claussen (Aniston), a beautiful, elegant woman who sells art for corporate display. Mike is immediately smitten with her, and tries to win her with free wine (albeit free bad wine) that he delivers to her room. He’s awkward and a little bit creepy, but there’s something sweet about his awkwardness. When he remarks that he admires her butt, on a bit of a whim she allows him to touch her butt as long as he promises to leave her room immediately after.

Something about the incident sticks with her and when she’s about to check out, she seeks him out in the laundry room instead and the two wind up having passionate sex on the folding table. She heads back home to Baltimore, thinking that this strange entanglement is over.

Someone forgot to tell Mike, though, and he follows her to Baltimore. Instead of a one night stand, the two begin to find something more between them than just two people reaching out in the night. They begin an on-again, off-again long distance relationship (that is admittedly mostly off-again). After Mike’s mom dies, he finds out that Sue has moved to Aberdeen, Washington (the home of the late Kurt Cobain for trivia fanatics) to be with her punk rocker turned yogurt magnate ex-boyfriend Jango (Harrelson) who wants to marry her. Mike follows her there with nothing to lose, determined to see if love can triumph over need.

Writer-director Belber crafts a thoroughly sweet confection that is neither dazzling nor especially insightful, but then again it doesn’t really have to be. The leads are intensely likable, and you root for them to get together, despite all their hang-ups and emotional scars (Mike’s mom characterizes Sue as “a bit of a long-shot, in an emotionally annihilated way,” which is as eloquent a description as any. The film moves at a deliberate pace that doesn’t feel forced nor overly long.

Zahn always seems to play the sweet loser in most of his roles, and he does it to the hilt here. His Mike isn’t the sharpest knife in the butcher block, but what he lacks in smarts he makes up for in heart and determination. Aniston delivers another underrated performance, giving her character nuance and emotional depth. The one quibble I had was that she should have been a little bit frumpier in appearance; here she looks like a movie star, gorgeous and well-dressed. That doesn’t really fit well with the character.

Another thing to look for here is Fred Ward. He only has a few scenes as Mike’s dad, but he makes the most of them. I’ve always considered him to be a criminally underrated performer who should be getting more and better roles. He has a scene near the end of the movie with Zahn that he absolutely nails – it’s one of the best moments in the film.

This is essentially about two characters making a journey. In Mike’s case, he’s maturing into a man with an idea of who he is and what he wants to be, whereas for Sue she’s coming out of hiding from behind her causes and neuroses and able to appreciate herself for who she is, and allow herself to feel love and receive it.

You won’t get the kind of grand insights that you might be looking for in an independent film, but then again, why should every movie have to supply that? This is like a Krispy Kreme doughnut fresh from the oven; a lot of air and not a tremendous amount of substance and sure, you know it’s absolutely empty calories but my, oh my it tastes good and makes you feel warm inside.

WHY RENT THIS: The movie oozes charm and sweetness like a jelly doughnut. The leads are likable and just awkward enough to be sweet.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Jennifer Anniston is a bit too glamorous for her character. The ending is a mite too Hollywood for my tastes.

FAMILY VALUES: Not much at all to dissuade the kids from coming along. If they like “Friends” they’ll probably enjoy this.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Director Stephen Belber’s previous job was as a playwright.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: Nothing listed.

FINAL RATINGS: 6/10

TOMORROW: Battle in Seattle