Ace Ventura: Pet Detective shouldn’t really be as funny as it is. It’s random, head scratching and just deeply juvenile, and happens to be one of the funniest films ever made. Why? Jim Carrey. The man is spun gold on camera, and he sells every outlandish minute of this gonzo Looney Toons goofball of a flick. It really wouldn’t work without him. I mean, could you imagine, say, Dustin Hoffman, or John Travolta trying to pull of this kind of malarkey? Ok, I did just laugh really hard picturing that, so it would be funny, but only in an embarrassing way. No, it had to be Carrey, and he’s an engine of unbridled comic mania the entire way through. One acting technique involves basing your performance off of the mannerisms of an animal, and I’ve heard that he chose a cockatoo as the blueprint for Ace. The head bobs, squirrelly movements and that epic, instantly recognizable ocean crest of a hairdo. Makes sense, and I couldn’t unsee it after hearing that. Ace is probably the most eccentric, beloved character Carrey has ever fashioned, and for good reason. He’s like a cannon loaded with jokes, quips, pop culture references, personal space invading antics, a complete lack of inhibitions, a treasure trove of rubber faced muckery and a deep love for any and all creatures of the animal kingdom. Those are pretty much all of the qualities one should look for in a human being. I say that now, but I feel like after spending ten minutes with the guy I’d look for the nearest exit. Ace is on the case, when he’s not goofing off, which is always. Somehow he finds time to search for the missing mascot of the Miami Dolphins, an actual dolphin named Snowflake. The story dimly unfolds in the background of all his tomfoolery, and includes Dan Marino, a suspicious billionaire (Udo Kier, whose exasperation at Carrey’s behaviour looks very un-faked), and an ice queen of a Police Chief played by Sean Young, with an arc that goes to some pretty disturbing places for this kind of light fare. He also finds time to have hot jungle love with Courtney Cox, and speak to people through his asshole like a deranged Muppet, among many other things that will have you questioning why you’re watching it, only to realize it’s like your twentieth viewing and you have no plans to ever stop. It’s Carrey’s show, and he takes it into orbit, never letting the mania subside for a nanosecond. He’s borderline certifiable, which comes in handy when he has to infiltrate a mental facility, because the guy halfway to belonging there anyway. There’s just so many cherished little moments, mannerisms and scenes that don’t ever get old, for those of us that love this character. Carrey shaped the landscape of comedy a lot during this portion of his career, and the mile markers that he released stand tall and undiminished to this day, bringing hilarity to all. The sequel is genius too, and one of those rare follow ups that is just as solid as the first.
Probably the most ridiculous outing the Farrelly brothers have ever taken us on, Me Myself & Irene cares not a whiff who it offends, how many eyes are rolled or how badly the scales of humour are tipped, or rather yanked, in the direction of extremely bad taste. With the exception of Stuck On You where they played it safe, every dirty little flick in their career is a testament to the utmost raunch in film, the very definition of lowbrow humour and never not flat out totally hilarious. Obesity, dates gone wrong, Amish people, conjoined twins, bowling, physical disability, they’ve tackled every scatalogical venture you could dream up. This time it’s mental illness, in a completely unapologetic depiction that will leave most people red faced, either from fuming or laughing their asses off. Jim Carrey plays Charlie, a meek little pussy who spends one day with his newlywed bride, before she’s whisked away by a black midget played by Tony Cox, who gets all the black midget roles, that little bastard. Charlie has a knack for never standing up for himself, and letting anyone walk all over him. He’s a Rhode Island State Trooper with no balls to back up his badge, and is pretty much the laughingstock of the town. All this bottles up and reaches a boiling point, resulting in a classic Carrey meltdown of rubbery expressions and spastic gutteral incantations. Emerging from the mess is Hank, Charlie’s abrasive, dysfunctional and borderline psychotic alter ego, a result of what the film imagines multiple personality disorder just must be like. Hank causes all hell, and the first time he shows up is the funniest bit in the film, an extended montage of hair raising antics that oddly seems to sum up the Farrely’s career. Charlie/Hank then get caught up in some intrigue involving beautiful Renee Zellweger, back when she was still Renee Zelweger. The scattershot story is just a playground for Carrey though, and this is some of the edgiest R rated mayhem he’s ever caused, guaranteed to arch the backs of some of the more, shall we say… *sensitive* folks we have to deal with running around these days. Charlie has three loudmouth black sons that were dumped in his lap, and they’ve now grown into profane geniuses who love their pops to bits, and it’s here the film finds its only bit of heart amidst the crass vulgarity. The baddies are the classic slimy Farrely cretins, a dirty cop played by Chris Cooper, and an unsavory golf club owner (Daniel Greene). Robert Forster makes a welcome appearance as Charlie’s Trooper boss, and keep a look out for Anthony Anderson, Cam ‘Sea Bass’ Neely, Richard Tyson, Lenny Clarke, and the always hilarious Richard Jenkins. Like I said, this is likely the lowest rung of the ladder in everyone’s career, but it’s a splendidly offensive, colorfully trashy piece of gross out bliss, and definitely the dirtiest of the Carrely team ups. Where else can you see Jim stare a five your old kid down and growl “What are you staring at, fucker?”
Double Team has to be seen to be believed. Hell, even the poster does. It exists in that delirious wasteland of the late 90’s action genre, a place where anything can, and does go. As the genre evolved, the scientists deep within Hollywood’s labs were trying out endless mind boggling action star team ups, even using a few celebrities that had never had a film to their name. In this particular twilight zone we get Jean Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman sharing a spotlight. There’s a pairing for ya. Van Damme plays a counter terrorist expert who miserably fails in preventing an attack from dangerous villain Stavros (Mickey Rourke), and is sent to The Colony, where disgraced agents are branded with all the snazzy technology the 90’s had to offer, after which being sent back into duty. He needs inside helps to track down Stavros, and finds it in beyond eccentric arms dealer Yaz (Rodman), a whacko who mirrors the man’s overblown real life persona. Together they make a run at Rourke, fireworks ensue, blah blah. It’s a crappy flick made noticeable by the strange presence of Rodman, and marginally watchable by Rourke, who actually gives Stavros the tiniest glint of surprising gravity, despite how downright silly the whole enterprise is. Loaded with cheese, dated special effects and clichés, it ain’t no picnic, but worth a glance during an inebriated late night channel switching blitz.
Suicide Squad has left me so torn. On the one hand I just want to belligerantly profess my love for certain key aspects which I have salivated for for a long time now, to blindly just say ‘nope. Fuck it, it’s great’, like that one stupid kid in class who just won’t back down from an argument he is clearly losing. On the other hand I do have to come to terms with the very real, very problematic aspects to the whole thing, weigh it out rationally (not something I’m great at) and make heavy mention of what didn’t work (not something I enjoy doing). I also have a massive bias towards DC as well, particularly all things Batman and foes, so that needed to be taken into account too.
Let’s get what didn’t work out of the way: everyone is hearing that the film is a mess, and I can indeed say that yes, it’s one huge jumbled mess, like twenty unmade beds tossed into a washing machine together. It’s heavily edited in places that could have used fluidity, and flatlines in other spots where a bit of frenzy would have worked better. It’s scant on character, frankly because there are too many, packed with a soundtrack that has it bursting at the hastily sewn seams, drastically and obviously cut in specific places that are noticeable holes in which you could drive the Batmobile through, and burdened with a lazily assembled antagonist who doesn’t deserve the heroes they rumble with. That’s just off the top of my head.
Now, what worked: There’s a silver lining to the inane madness of the film, because in it’s confusing symphony of random candy coated antics it almost finds a trace of a beat, a rhythm that’s almost decimated by the chorus. I’m not excusing the hackjob of editing or cuts, merely saying that with all taken into account, it kind of takes on a life of it’s own that while completely tone deaf, is never boring. Let’s talk about Harley Quinn and The Joker. When the Blu Ray comes out with all them deleted scenes, I’m going to make a personal fan edit that sheds the spotlight on all the nastier stuff we missed in the theatrical version. The stuff we do get to see with Harley is pure magic, and Robbie owns the film. Maddeningly sexy, sketchy, dangerous, cute, and gloriously insane, she nails it to the wall in terms of what makes the character so special. Jared Leto as The Joker is…. different. While I didn’t like the laugh (he sounded like a geriatric hyena), I really took a shine to the direction they went with the clown this time around. A pasty ghoul who is sick with weirdo ‘love’ for Harley, this is a Joker who is way more in tune with the comics version than Ledger was. There were a few off key mannerisms and questionable little things, but for the most part I’d say he rocked it, and I’m stoked to see him square off with Batman in a standalone flick.
So, the rest of the squad. They’re a random bunch of nut bars who are hastily and over enthusiastically hurrah-ed onto stage by stone cold suit Amanda Waller (a terrifying Viola Davis), who is far more villainous than any of them. Davis is the consummate amoral politician, fuelled by gnawing xenophobia and given the power to push her unholy agenda to scary heights. Will Smith is a hoot as Deadshot, he just needed a little less mirth and a tad more menace in the mix. A joke or three sits well with me, but I don’t like wading through quip stew with thoughts of serious threat on the other side, only to find a backbone replaced by pining for his young daughter. Nothing wrong with pathos, but remember guys, Deadshot is a villain, and too much mush takes away from the street cred. Killer Croc is great when he’s around, which isn’t much until the climax where he gets a nice action bit, but still overall underused. I’ve been an avid non fan of Jai Courtney thus far, he’s just reeked of blandness. Well crikey, the guy does a nice job here of being the rambunctious bad boy of the pack, even if the reason for his inclusion in the squad doesn’t extend much farther than ‘he robbed every bank in australia’. Like… what? Joel Kinnaman holds his own as special ops asset Rick Flagg, and Cara Delevingne much less so as the gyrating, Grudge inspired Enchantress. She’s just not a powerful villain in any way, but damn if she didn’t turn heads in that little outfit. Cara actually fared way better as Dr. June Moon in what little time we spent with her, of which I would have loved to see more. Jay Hernandez is on fire (sorry) as Diablo, a flammable ex gang banger who grew a conscience to go with his pyrotechnic prowess. As far as Slipknot (Adam Beach) goes, there was literally no reason, no reason at all for him to be in the film. Introduced as ‘the man who can climb anything’, he climbs like… one wall that anyone with his tools could scale….and then dies. Poor Adam. Karen Fukuhara is cool as Katana, but we’ve seen the hot Asian samurai shtick done to death, so it’s nothing altogether new.
No, the film rests on Joker, Harley and to a lesser extant, Batman. Old Bats is in it for two crucial scenes, one of which had me give out a roaring cheer, as it’s the type of thing I signed up for when I shelled out 22 goddamn dollars to see this in VIP mode. I kept wishing the whole time that I could make my own edit with all of David Ayer’s footage, because there’s so much gold found onscreen, and I know there’s more to be mined on the floors of his editing room, left there by the prudish anxieties of studio heads that just don’t. Ever. Learn. I want to see Batman and his villains thunder out in this blooming DC franchise, and while the rest of the more obscure faces in the squad are fun, I was in it for the core villains. All the stuff with Joker and Harley is inspired, and the car chase where the Batmobile tears after Joker’s purple Hotwheels Lamborghini is pretty much the best part of the whole film. I want more Batman and Co., for shit sake. In any case, there’s a lot of fun to be had, an endless grab bag of stylistic tricks, fonts, gimmicks, colors, sounds and chaotic hullabaloo running around. Some of it works. Some of it doesn’t. Tough shit. It’s certainly not a terrible movie, and I feel many critics resorted to the oft employed ‘knee jerk’ reaction instead of internalizing it all before brandishing pen and keyboard. Critics are a spastic lot of baboons who have have a tendancy, especially these days, to jump the gun and hurl verbal feces at stuff before it’s had a chance to sink in. I’ll concede that there are huge issues, but huge amounts of fun can be found too. Or not. It’s up to you. I certainly had some fraction of a blast watching it, and the only way I can describe the thing as an whole is the Looney Toons having a food fight with a bunch of fluorescent Lucky Charms. If that abstract picture chimes with you, chances are you’ll at least get some kind of kick from the this baby, and probably be just as perplexed by certain areas as I was. Good luck.
The Last Outlaw is a revenge themed western written by Eric Red, and if you’re at all familiar with his other works (he also penned The Hitcher and Near Dark), you’ll have some idea of how bloody and intense it is. It’s a smile story populated by hard bitten, gruff sons of bitches, and the violence comes fast and hard from all directions as soon as a few backs are stabbed, and several ravenous tempers ignited. Often in westerns the violence is clipped and minimal, the damage which a six gun does to flesh oddly shirked in favour of theatricality. This one has no use for that, and messily displays exactly what such a weapon does to people, repeatedly and with no discretion. It’s rough, gritty, Walter Hill style stuff, with not a trace of levity, smash or buckle, and every character kicking up dirt and anger the whole time. The film opens with a daring bank robbery, executed by former civil war Colonel Graff (Mickey Rourke), and his brutal gang. Their victory turns sour when mutiny looms among them in the form of Graff’s second in command, Eustos (Dermot Mulroney). He can’t abide by Graff’s sadistic methods, and bitterly betrays him. The rest is a bullet ridden cat and mouse game in the dusty deserts and shanty towns of the southwest, as the bodies pile up and the blood spatters in the dirt time and time again. Rourke is an implosive, grade A dickhead as Graff, a man less concerned with the fruits of his labor and more driven by the desire to exact violent retribution. One wonders if that’s what he’s in the game for anyway, to bide his time until something goes amiss, and the revel in the carnage. The supporting cast is just epic, with work from Steve Buscemi, Ted Levine, Paul Ben Victor, Richard Fancy, John C. McGinley and Keith David. It’s essentially one big stylish bloodbath, a pulpy ride through the gutter of arrogant machismo. Terrific fun, if that’s your thing.
Thursday is one of the great forgotten neo-noir comedies of the 90’s, floating on the wake of everything from Tarantino to Verhoeven. It’s almost impossible to find these days (I watched an old youtube version years ago), but worth hunting down for its vehement hedonism, mean spirited dark humour and cast members who take a walk down the dark end of the street, and clearly have fun with the shamelessly disgusting material. There’s a spirited willingness to be nasty, a bottom feeding urban sleaziness that almost reminded me of Wayne Kramer’s Running Scared, or Joe Carnahan’s Stretch. Thomas Jane, riding the wave of a supporting role in Face/Off, plays Casey, an ex drug dealer trying to go straight and adopt a child with his wife (Paula Mitchell). Suddenly his old buddy Nick (a ferocious Aaron Eckhart) blows back into his life with big ideas and an even bigger amount of heroin he stole from god knows where. This sets off a wild and exceedingly weird chain of events including convenience store robbery, murder, a psycho named Billy (James LeGros) with a penchant for elaborate torture, a kinky femme fatale (Paulina Porizkova) and a scary rogue cop (Mickey Rourke). It’s a big bloody hot mess, but a brilliant one that nails the feverish tone of stuff like Natural Born Killers, a complete disregard for discretion or moderation, tossing everyone and everything into the fire until the audience feels like they need a big collective shower. Eckhart is a treat to watch, taunting the laid back Jane with a knowing glee, waiting for that inevitable revert to bis old, crazy self. Rourke is relegated to what is essentially an extended cameo, but he makes the most of it with quiet tension and the menace of a junkyard dog. This film has what is probably the weirdest sex scene I’ve seen, which the youtube version won’t show (being the sicko that I am, I had to track it down elsewhere). Brutally reckless stuff, and a howl if this is your type of thing. Watch for a brief and hilarious cameo from Michael Jeter.
I forgot how much goddamn fun Shanghai Noon is. It’s pretty much the quintessential east meets west buddy flick (sorry Rush Hour, love you too bbz), and upon rewatching it I realized that it’s every bit as awesome, and more so, than I remember as a kid. You take Jackie Chan, a stoic, robotic Chinese fighting machine with the sense of humour god gave a sock, and pair him with Owen Wilson, a wishy washy surfer dude of a cowboy who can’t take one second out of the day to stop talking or cracking jokes, and you’ve got gold. Of course, they need a film to run about in that’s just as solid as they’re team up, and that’s just what we get. This is a bawdy, unapologetic roll in the hay, a genre bender that tosses the American western, the buddy cop flick and the Kung Fu picture into a big cauldron, fires a few bullets in and gives it a big old stir. It’s ridiculously fun for its entire duration, an achievement which the sequel just couldn’t keep up with. Chan is Chon Wang (say it fast), a Chinese imperial guard on the trail of runaway Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu), who has runoff to America. No sooner does he set foot on Yankee soil, he’s bumped into peace pipe smoking Natives, and clashed with a band of train robbers led by Roy O Bannon (Owen Wilson), a fast talking soldier of fortune who doesn’t seem to have much skill besides yapping his way out of a situation. The two are thrown into a mad dash across then west, Chon looking for the princess, and Roy after the missing gold from the train. It’s what movies were made to be, a pure rush of gunfighting and chop socky, kick ass action sequences, all given the boost of Chan’s insane talents. He’s like a rabid squirrel monkey, and Wilson a drunk sloth, constantly mismatched yet always coming out on top, like the best comic duos always do. They’re faced with taking dpwn a few baddies, including Walton Goggins as the dumbest outlaw this side of the Rockies, and a terrifying Xander Berkeley as a corrupt, homicidal marshal. The core of it rests on Chan and Wilson to entertain us though, and even in the down time between action, their energy is infectious, especially in a manic drinking game that just can’t be described in writing. Like I said, the sequel, Shanghai Knights, just doesn’t capture he magic quite like this one does, and seems to fall flat. You can’t go wrong with this original outing though, and it just gets better with age.