Easy Does It


Captain America to the rescue!

(2019) Action Comedy (Gravitas) Linda Hamilton, Ben Matheny, Matthew Paul Martinez, Susan Gordon, Cory Dumesnil, John Goodman (voice), Harry Shearer (voice), Bryan Batt, Dwight Henry, Charlie Talbert, Isabel De La Cruz, Catherine Capiello, Turner Crumbley, Dennis Thomas IV, Sophie Howell, Summer Selby, Marnie Morgan, Jacob McManus, Julio Castillo, Carol Ann Scruggs. Directed by Will Addison

 

There is something special and wonderful about the grindhouse films of the 1970s. They were bigger than life, well past the edge of acceptability and full of attitude. Audiences love cheering on the anti-heroes and lovable screw-ups as they confounded society and The Man. We seem to be entering an era where those kinds of films are going to become necessary again.

Fast-talking Jack Buckner (Matheny) and his best friend, Scottie Aldo (Martinez) live in a flea-bitten town called Aberdeen. It’s the 1970s and Nixon is about to resign, Detroit steel rules the roads and mob bosses like “King George” (Hamilton) wear their hair any damn way they want to because they can – in King George’s case, it’s cornrows. Jack and Scottie owe King George money, as everyone in Aberdeen seems to. They work at a greasy spoon as dishwashers, and on the side try to drum up cash by staging inept cons which in general never work out.

Then Jack gets a postcard that hints that his mom has passed away and that she’d left him something valuable under the pier in San Clemente, California (where Nixon is about to flee to). Jack thinks it’s some kind of treasure; if he can just get there in his star-spangled Mustang, it could mean the end of their money troubles and a ticket out of Aberdeen.

But he’s flat broke and so is Scottie, and even Detroit muscle cars need to be filled with gas once in awhile on the way from Mississippi to California. And Aberdeen being a small town and Scottie and Jack being none to bright, word gets back to King George that the two are about to skee-daddle. She doesn’t like the idea, and brings her enforcer – her baseball bat-wielding daughter Blue Eyes (Gordon) for emphasis. The two manage to get away but they know they aren’t going to get very far without the kindness of strangers. They end up at a gas station wondering if the clerk could front them the price of gas which they’ll pay  back once they acquire the treasure only it goes horribly wrong, and they end up stealing cash and dragging around a nerdy hostage (Dumesnil) who clearly doesn’t want to be there and suddenly they’re a viral sensation before there were viral sensations, robbing gas stations along with their increasingly not-so-reluctant hostage all the while being chased by a very perturbed Blue Eyes and the Law.

If this sounds like a good premise for a fun hour and a half at the movies, I’d be right there with you on that. The execution, though, leaves something to be desired. Part of the big problem here is that the characters are too bland, even though co-writers Addison and Metheny do their best to make them quirky, there’s a huge difference between quirky and interesting.

Definitely their hearts are worn firmly planted on their sleeves; the grindhouse movies of the ‘70s which gave us such fare as Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and Bloody Mama and more recently the Quentin Tarantino oeuvre. This is a little bit more rooted in a particular subgenre of the period than Tarantino who often references a dozen genres from blaxploitation to chop sockey (terms that were very much of their time and are being officially retired on this site as of now) and all points in between. Here, we see a lot of the good ol’ boy crime spree films that rose out of things like Smokey and the Bandit and to a lesser extent, The Dukes of Hazard the latter of which is closer kin to Easy Does It.

Hamilton is the Big Star here and she really turns up mostly in the first 30 minutes of the movie and is not really that heavily involved afterwards. She is certainly visually striking with her cornrows and dead-eyed stare, and her husky voiced Eastwood impression, but she gives little more than name value to a largely unknown cast (Goodman and Shearer, the other two big names, do not appear onscreen as baseball game announcers we here on the soundtrack).

There is decent enough chemistry between Matheny and Martinez, although the movie would have benefitted from a little more of that between the two. Gordon actually drew most of my admiration for her baseball-loving enforcer who uses a baseball bat as her weapon of choice. The voice-over baseball play-by-play is gimmicky and overused unfortunately. Dumesnil overplays Collin and brings him well into the category of self-parody, never what you want to see in a movie like this.

I think that the filmmakers were gong for something of a Logan Lucky vibe but they just needed a little more edginess to pull it off. Scottie and Jack are a little too dumb and a little too sweet to make a movie like this one work. That’s too bad because I think with a few tweaks here and there this could have been an extremely fun movie and fun is something in terribly short supply these days, kinda like toilet paper.

REASONS TO SEE: Big dumb fun.
REASONS TO AVOID: Tries too hard to be clever.
FAMILY VALUES: There is violence, profanity and some drug use.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is Addison’s debut feature film.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Redbox, Vimeo, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/23/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 33% positive reviews. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Vanishing Point
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
The Painted Bird

New Releases for the Week of November 1, 2019


TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

(Paramount) Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, Tristán Ulloa. Directed by Tim Miller

After having prevented Judgment Day, Sarah Connor is presented with a new threat from the future and must turn to an old friend/nemesis if she is to save the human race once again.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for violence throughout, language and brief nudity)

Arctic Dogs

(Entertainment Studios) Starring the voices of Jeremy Renner, Heidi Klum, James Franco, Alec Baldwin. An ambitious arctic fox, dreaming of becoming the top dog – number one courier in the Arctic – stumbles upon a nefarious plot to release greenhouse gasses to further melt the icepack and establish an evil walrus as the supreme ruler of the planet.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for some mild action and rude humor)

Harriet

(Focus) Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, Joe Alwyn. Harriet Tubman went from being a slave to a heroic figure who rescued thousands and who would become a symbol of African-American pride.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets)

Inside Game

(iDream Machine) Scott Wolf, Eric Mabius, Will Sasso, Lindsey Morgan. A small-time con-man teams up with two childhood friends – a bookie and a referee for the NBA – to bet on games his friend is working and make millions.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs. Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: R (for language and drug use throughout, and some sexual content)

Motherless Brooklyn

(Warner Brothers) Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bruce Willis, Bobby Cannavale. A private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome must use his obsessive mind to solve the murder of his friend and mentor.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Orlando, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pavilion Port Orange, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs Square
Rating: R (for language throughout including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Adopt a Highway
Badland
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
For Sama
Greener Grass
Meeku Maathrame Chepthra
Paradise Hills

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

Jojo Rabbit
Meeku Maathrame Chepthra

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Dark Justice
Meeku Maathrame Chepthra

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Give Me Liberty
Meeku Maathrame Chepthra

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Badland
Harriet
Jojo Rabbit
Motherless Brooklyn
Terminator: Dark Fate

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale

Terminator Salvation


Terminator Salvation

The sad fact of the matter is that T-800s suck at hide and go seek.

(Warner Brothers) Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham Carter, Jadagrace Berry, Michael Ironside, Linda Hamilton (voice), Arnold Schwarzenegger. Directed by McG.

The thing about the future is that it is largely unwritten. It is in many ways the undiscovered country that we all travel to together (sounds catchy, no?). Some of our biggest mistakes are made when we think we know what it holds.

John Connor (Bale) has every reason to believe he knows what’s going to happen. His mother Sarah was visited by a soldier from the future whose mission was to protect her from killer robots, called Terminators, from the same future who wish to kill her before she can give birth to a son, who will lead the human resistance to eventual victory in a war against Skynet, the sentient machine that murdered most of the human race in a nuclear horror known as Judgement Day.

Now, it is 2018 and the war is not quite going according to plan. Connor has a large following who believe he is a cross between the Messiah and a kicker of mechanical ass. He also has many who believe him to be delusional, such as the de facto resistance leader General Ashdown (Ironside) who leads the fight from a submarine.

Connor leads his team on a fairly routine mission to take out a Skynet research facility. He is supposed to retrieve a case that has a chip in it – or some such thing – and return it to the Resistance. However, in an unexpected twist you can see coming a mile off, a nuclear device detonates inside the facility, wiping out all of Connor’s crew, or most of them – some of them are back at camp. I think. Anyway, only one person gets out alive besides Connor (although he doesn’t know it at the time) – Marcus Wright (Worthington), a convicted murderer whose last memory was of his death by lethal injection. Now he’s awake and puzzled. He’s not the only one.

While Connor heads to the sub to yell at his superior officers about what was worth risking the lives of his men, Marcus walks towards Los Angeles across desolate roads covered with sand and dead cars. When he gets to L.A. he meets a Terminator who doesn’t take kindly to Marcus. Fortunately, Marcus meets the L.A. chapter of the resistance – a teenaged Kyle Reese (Yelchin), who is the soldier who will someday be sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor (are you getting all this?) and, not coincidently, become the father of John (the pain is getting worse) and a silent young girl (Berry) named Star whose sole reason for being in this movie is to be silent.

It turns out that the thing the Resistance needed from the research facility was a signal code that when broadcast turns the machines off. This could come in handy when trying to win the war. It also turns out that Skynet is collecting humans for some as-yet-undetermined purpose, and it captures Reese and Star, although Marcus gets away. He runs into fighter pilot Blair (Bloodgood) whose life he saves at least once.

Finally, it turns out that Marcus is a cyborg himself, whose purpose is as yet undetermined. It also turns out that General Ashdown wants to use the signal to turn off Skynet long enough to bomb the area into the stone age, which Connor objects to because he doesn’t want Daddy deep-fried before he can sow his wild oats in the past. What’s a Messiah to do?

As it turns out, yell quite a lot. Or talk in a strained whisper, as if channeling Clint Eastwood. If you had told me that the most one-dimensional portrayal of John Connor in the franchise would be delivered by Christian Bale, I wouldn’t have believed you but here it is. The mechanical terminators display more range than Bale here, which is surprising because he’s demonstrated that he is a terrific actor in other roles.

Of course, he doesn’t really have much time to display much of anything between action sequences. Director McG and writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris try not to dwell too much on story, instead relying on one action sequence after another. Granted, some of these action sequences are eye-popping, but by the end of the film they get a little bit overwhelming. I would have liked to have seen more balance between plot and action.

Sam Worthington does a reasonably good job as Marcus, which is a good thing although he is sometimes indistinguishable from Bale. Worthington, a veteran of Australian TV, has a high-profile lead coming this holiday season in James Cameron’s ambitious epic Avatar so judging from his work here, we can expect Mr. Worthington to be a big star. This is a good role for him to catapult into the limelight. There’s a pretty decent cast here otherwise, but quite frankly they don’t have a whole lot to do except to dodge explosions, yell a lot and look worried about the whereabouts of John Connor.

I’d be the last person to complain about too much action normally. I love great action sequences, cool special effects and big honking explosions. I also love the Terminator franchise, although I have to admit the last movie was less awe-inspiring than the first two. However, compared to this, Terminator: Rise of the Machines is much superior. That’s a shame because I had high hopes for the latest entry into the franchise. Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver. I honestly hope that the movie does well enough to justify continuing the franchise. I just hope they put a little more effort into the plot and characters and a little less emphasis on the pyro and CGI.

WHY RENT THIS: If you love action sequences, this movie is chock full of them. Worthington is a big star in the making. Some of the CGI here is breathtaking.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Bale’s performance is one of the least successful of his career. Emphasis on action comes at the expense of character development and plot.

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of gruesome violence and scary monsters will make this too intense for young impressionable sorts.  

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: This is the first Terminator film without Earl Boen, who plays the cynical psychiatrist in the first three films.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: The single-disc DVD has no extra features. Nada. None. There is a 2-disc DVD edition which is only available at Target which has 30 minutes of special features, undoubtedly some of which are on the Blu-Ray. The Blu-Ray is in Maximum Movie Mode which utilizes the Blu-Ray features better than almost any other Blu-Ray on the market, with interactive access to nearly every featurette and info piece on the disc.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Miami Vice