Sunday, February 11, 2007


Time once again for tales of the overlooked gems from DVDland...

BANDIDAS - Another Netflix rundown, and another recommendation produced by Luc Beson (Transporter, Fifth Element). This time the french production takes on the wild west era Mexico, and the two most notable Spanish/Mexican actresses, Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek. Yes, it's a movie starring both of the internationally renowned beauties in one one action filled genre flick, packed to the hilt with gorgeous production. Bandidas has a great cast; Hayek, Cruz, Dwight Yoakam (always a treat), Sam Shepard, and Steve Zahn, great directing, great sets pieces, great costumes, great heist escapades, so why have you never heard of it?! Well, the plot and script are the only let down here, we've seen and done this all time and again, but it's done with enough style, and certainly more than enough, ahem, shall we say "star quality" to trump that minor let down.Yes, again, the storyline is completely unoriginal, and most the humor flat, but that doesn't stop Bandidas from being a great vehicle for Hayek and Cruz to make the old west as sexy and fun as it's ever been. The production and cast make it a feast for the eyes, and a darn good time too. This one deserves a better shot at a US audience than it got...

You can check out the official (French) website, and some trailers HERE (if you can get through the "activex" errors I encountered with my browser)

BLACK CHRISTMAS (1975) - As you can tell by the date on this, we're not talking about the recent version to hit theaters, but the original it was based on. Turns out I'd tripped across a recommendation for this months before the remake hit, and just got around to seeing it. BC is touted as the first true slasher flick and has a bit of a cult following (see for more on that). I'd never heard of it before, but was intrigued by the genuine devotion a 30 year old slasher pic could generate. Turns out BC lives up to the buzz, as it's a solid, moody, dark, and shockingly relevant (for being over 3 decades old) work. While you can't escape the era it's from, the directing and story are timeless and stand up with everything that's come since.BC is not a silly, forgettable affair, relying on gore or tricks to move the audience, it captures a menacing spirit and tells a creepy tale of a handful of sorority girls on Christmas break, plagued by darkly desperate crank calls. There are some great characters and moments here that make it fun, without resorting to over the top cheese (like so many imitators have since). The most notable actors here are certainly Margot Kidder (in a slightly deviant role, pre Superman the movie) and John Saxon (instantly recognizable character actor, with scores of TV and film roles through the 70's and 80's, and most recently in Masters of Horror's 'Pelts'), who are both fun to watch in their prime.

IDIOCRACY (2005) - Though this was from '05, it wasn't released until recently, as this directorial follow up to OFFICE SPACE from Mike Judge was shelved by the studio. The concept, with Luke Wilson as a supremely average soldier accidentally cryogenically frozen for 1,000 years to be woken up to a society of complete idiots (making him the smartest man on Earth), sounded delightfully fun, but while the movie doesn't exactly crash and burn it's golden premise, it does trip over itself and ultimately miss the mark.

Seeing the future American idiots would've been a lot more fun, if it didn't feel like the comedy potential was so squandered, with overly simple, unimaginative flourishes. As much as Office Space became a cult smash and recognized for it's genius in capturing cubicle nuances, Idiocracy feels mismanaged by Judge at the helm (and where Office Space had inspired casting, some of the cast here seemed questionable, especially Dax Shepard). It's still fun though, and full of enough mildly entertaining spectacle to make for a decent watch.

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN - The latest from the underwhelming Marvel animated direct-to-DVD line, drops the bar completely. With the first two features, Ultimate Avengers 1 and 2, things got more oddly interpreted and disappointing with each release, so I was hopeful that Iron Man would change that trend, instead, it drives it into the ground. This was bad, mind numbingly bad. Stupid plot, ridiculous new characters, and passable animation make for a depressing outing. Why, why on gods green earth, when you're faced with the Marvel comics cannon, do you feel the need to come up with new, completely different takes on it? Sure, reinterpret classic stories for the modern era, but what the fuck is this?!?
I fell asleep, woke up, rewound it, and fell asleep again.

(The more mainstream fair most folks, if not all, have already heard of):

HOLLYWOODLAND - I never really cared to see it, but am glad I did. I thought it was smartly acted (yes, including, and especially Affleck), written, and filmed...
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE - Another one of those you don't really feel compelled to watch, but are very glad you did outings. This was a great, great movie, and one heck of an emotionally turbulent, but uproariously funny journey...
SAW 3 - Another worthy entry to the (overly gruesome) franchise. Not sure where they go from here though...
SEE NO EVIL - Watch this one if you're a horror completest, it's too dark like so many these days, and of course absurdly pointless, but with just enough twisted creativity to be entertaining, if that's your thing...


Javier Hernandez said...

I agree with you about LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE! My woman dragged me to it...but I ended up loving it. HOLLYWOODLAND was also wonderful, great study of a man trying to live up to an icon, as well as the tragic results.

Iron Man..and the Ultimate Avengers... Well, Jas, ya know I don't give one iota of a damn of modern 're-imaginings' of these classic ideas. So, I've skipped the Avengers and figured Iron Man would be a waste, so thanks for saving me some time!! :)

BLACK CHRISTMAS sounds pretty good, and I've had others tell me to check it out. Margot Kidder? Never actually seen her in anything other that Superman! And John Saxon?!! Man, he played the bionic robot in Six Million Dollar Man!! (Called Maskatron when they made the action figure). Time to queue up this film!!

Jason Martin said...

Yeah, I was surprised by Little Miss, I knew the buzz was great, but it still seemed like it would be too indy movie family quirky, it turned out to be masterfully scripted I thought. Just real movie magic the way it all came together and you end up buying into it and the characters.

And Hollywoodland was another great character study, and nicely filmed, capturing that golden era, without being a slave to it, showing it's darker side, without going overboard... a nice balance.
And it's quite a story, whatever the true events were.

Black Christmas, check it out, if nothing else, as you say, for John Saxon. I knew you'd dig on that! HA HA!!
He's so instantly recognizeable, but I had a hard time thinking of any one thing... perusing his credits, well, the Bionic work stood out. Loved those shows as a youngin, but I was quite young, so my memory of them isn't the best. I think I had a Steve Rodgers (shit that was his name right) figure (the old school GIJoe/Barbi kind, along with a Batman and Batgirl... maybe a Robin).
I'd love to see some of those old shows, but as is often the case, it's pure nostalgia as they're not near as cool as you remember as a kid. ;)

But yeah, skip Iron Man at all costs... I'm looking forward to the movie though... for a time Ol' Shell-head was my fave... the Layton era (and the scores of old back issues I'd picked up)... the cast for that is promising (except for Gwenythg Paltrow - yuck!)

joeldanford said...

Thanks for the advice on Iron Man.

Jason Martin said...

Joel, yeah, you bet.

I normally only talk about recommendations here, but I like to cover the comic related stuff...

I wish I could say I liked it, it just seems so pointless that they crap out a lame cartoon Iron Man movie, when they're in production on a Hollywood version... I mean I understand the business behind putting one out, but ya know, seems like bad business to put out a lame totaly unrelated version in another form to potentially scare away customers from the pending movie version.

joeldanford said...

Yeah, man, I totally agree. I was looking forward to seeing this, but even the preview they showed on SuperheroHype kinda sucked.

Just because you can do something.. doesn't mean you should. That's why I haven't done my Cerebus crossover yet.