Monday, February 21, 2011


Rated Pg-13

Stars: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano
Director: James Mangold
Genre: Action-Adventure/Comedy

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz have explosive chemistry, you might say, in Knight And Day--a formula action flick which pretty much amounts to one big, wild shootout spree, with a few exotic locales thrown in to try to put a pretty face on all that death and destruction.

Cruise is Roy Miller, a rogue CIA agent who is playing caretaker to boy genius Simon Feck, (Paul Dano) who has invented a battery--referred to as the Zephyr-which never runs down ( it keeps going, and going, and...). This, of course, could change the world, (not to mention the lives of all parents with little kids, especially on Christmas morning) so a bunch of bad dudes from the government as well as a Spanish arms dealer are after Miller and Feck, so they can get the battery and become all powerful and rich (ERRRRHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!) The baddies, of course, are willing to kill whomever they need to, to get their hands on said battery, and Miller is willing to kill all of the baddies--and he does, in those endless shootout scenes--where, like every action movie hero, he gets fired at hundreds of times, but never gets hit by the traveling GANG THAT COULDN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT that is also in every similarly themed movie.

Cameron Diaz is June Havens, the clueless twit who falls in with Miller when they share a plane flight. The budding romance between the two of them occurs, literally, between extended bursts of gunfire. At one point, Miller shoots a guy and June responds by saying I FEEL LIKE HAVING SEX! We're not supposed to take seriously that only a highly disturbed person in real life would say that under those circumstances, nor should we take any note that neither of these characters feels the slightest bit of revulsion or regret about taking lives as the bodies pile up--they just breeze along in their cavalier way with their witty TV sitcom dialogue.

At one point, June shouts: STOP THE SHOOTING...PLEASE STOP THE SHOOTING! She can't hear herself think, you see. Yes, Knight And Day is a romp--cute and clever in its way--with incredible action scenes, though it relies a bit too heavily on CGI...but seriously, when ARE they going to stop the shooting? Why do films like Knight And Day, and Salt, and all the others that have essentially reduced mindless violence to a video game, continue to get made? I'm the last dude who would advocate censorship, but we need to stop and ask ourselves WHY--in the good ol' USA--are we obsessed with this kind of crap? Are we so tense, angry, and frustrated as a people that we need this to give us some kind of release? Maybe so, or there might be more Jared Laughners being spawned than there already are.

Decadence glossed over...and the beat goes on.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

THE TOWN--2010

Rated R--primarily for language and violence

Stars: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively
Director: Written and directed by Ben Affleck
Genre: Action/Adventure/Thriller

Four friends who grew up in Charlestown--a Boston area neighborhood known for having the highest rate of bank and armored car stick-ups in the U.S.--resort to (what else?) robbing banks and armored cars! You can tell these guys are thugs because they speak THUG-ESE, which is basically cussing and F-bombs as every other word, spoken in that New England accent that is not your higher class accent--like the Kennedys spoke--but your lower class accent that is most notable with Ben Affleck's character, Doug MacRay, who looks and sounds a lot like Adam Sandler on Valium.

These are not sympathetic Robin Hood type characters--they have no qualms about terrorizing and beating the crap out of bank employees--but give them credit for being creative, as they make their hits wearing these Halloween masks and costumes, my favorite being the nuns with grotesque faces that you've no doubt seen in the trailer (the movie trailer--not your trailer--though you may have seen the movie trailer in your trailer) . They will keep upping the ante, successively pulling off bigger and more complicated--and dangerous-- jobs, as if they think they will never get caught. They may be creative, but they're not too bright.

Anyhoo, on this one bank heist they take attractive bank manager, Claire Keesey (the attractive Rebecca Hall) hostage, but later release her. Later on, Doug wants to follow up and see how much of a threat she might be to them, so he "accidentally" runs into her at a laundromat (an opportunity for him to launder some of his ill-gotten cash there, I mused). Claire, of course, doesn't recognize him. Doug is held captive (pardon the pun) by her charms, and even though she's been suffering traumatic stress from her ordeal, she immediately starts up a relationship with him. You'd think she'd be a little more wary of strangers at this point, so this part didn't ring true for me.

Many a man has been undone by getting distracted from his objective by a woman, and the remainder of The Town centers on the familiar plot of bad guy trying to go straight and turn his life around and build a future with the apple of his eye. But there are enormous pressures on MacRay to participate in one last job--trying to pull of a huge heist of Fenway Park during a ball game, of all the ridiculous things! (There is also enormous pressure on you--the viewer--to begin to sympathize with the character of Doug MacRay...hmmm...which way will you lean?)

Will any of these guys make a clean getaway with the entire Boston police force and the FBI closing in on them?

The shoot-'em-up, crash-'em-up escape scenes in The Town are edge-of-your-seat thrilling-- some of the best you'll ever see--and they make up, in large part, for the implausibility of the plot, as you forget about all that and just hang on for the ride!

As mastermind of The Town--and with a talented ensemble cast--writer/director/star Ben Affleck has pulled off a pretty big job here.

Grade: B