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Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum

“I mean fuck, we’re here to have a good time.. I just wanna have a good time until this shit’s over, man. This life gig is a fucking rodeo and I’m gonna suck the nectar and fucking rawdog it till the wheels come off.”

Watching Matthew McConaughey stumble around swilling tall cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon holding a kitten is probably one of the more relatable things I’ve seen in cinema recently. Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum is a film I loved with all my heart and got tremendous, serotonin laced enjoyment out of, a raucous party of a film that celebrates drinking in excess, deliberately poor life choices, reckless and immature behaviour and just taking life as it comes wave by wave, committed to having a good time regardless of the consequences and turning a purposeful blind eye to any responsibilities one might have as an adult human being. I can’t say that Matthew McConaughey’s brilliant performance as perennial party animal Moondog and all he represents which I’ve just outlined above is any constructive way to approach life or a conducive fashion to behave in, but I also can’t promise you that it hasn’t been my go-to mantra many times over the course of my own life for many reasons, and I felt connected with this film on a level I can’t even put into words. This is interesting because as much as I love (and I mean LOVE) this film is about as much as I HATED Korine’s previous and much celebrated effort, Spring Breakers. Everything that was shrill, crass and fucking irritatingly hollow about the hedonistic lifestyle in that film rings eternally truer in Beach Bum, it’s like Korine hit the dirt jump hard and busted up his bike with Breakers and then went for one more go with Bum, and this time he soars up over the crest of the jump into a Miami sunset in glorious triumph. McConaughey is pure intoxicated eccentric gold as Moondog, a brilliant writer of poetry who seems to want nothing more in life than to drink beer, smoke a ton of weed, have sweaty sun soaked sex with anything that moves, cause endless mischief and fuck around, and who can blame him. He’s got a rich wife (Isla Fisher) who passes away and leaves him a fortune on the condition that he publishes his very long awaited novel, a simple task that becomes a cosmic obstacle for him, as does going to rehab or simply walking in a straight line. He smokes up with his wife’s boyfriend Lingerie (Snoop Dogg playing himself and loving it) and Jimmy Buffett (also pretty much playing himself), engages in vandalism with fellow rehab escapee Flicker (Zac Efron in Joker mode) and just keeps up this lifestyle that few could walk out the other side of alive but he seems to swagger through with all the wanton aplomb of Jack Sparrow mixed with The Dude Lebowski and Charles Bukowski. He comes across other characters in his travels played by the likes of Jonah Hill and commands an army of cackling homeless dudes but my favourite of these cartoonish individuals has to be Martin Lawrence as Captain Wack, a deranged dolphin obsessed weirdo who suits Lawrence’s maniacal brand of comedy beautifully. So what does it all mean and what is Korine trying to say with all this colourful hoo-hah? That’s what I struggled with in Spring Breakers and still believe that film to be an ugly, grotesque piece of non-entertainment, but I think he’s trying to say more or less the same thing in both films, it’s just that with Beach Bum he actually succeeds. Moondog puts it better than anyone could when he imparts a monologue, an excerpt from which I’ve opened this review with. He just wants to have fun, isn’t concerned about money, day to day hustle, success, what anyone thinks of him or making anything of himself, he just wants to have a fucking good time. And write the occasional passage of poetry when the mood strikes. The film is more about kicking back, relaxing with Jim and observing someone of his outlook balls deep in enjoying themselves like a creature who lives moment to moment with little regard for anything else. Don’t even get me started on the breathtaking cinematography, 10/10 soundtrack or any technical aspects because we’ll be here all day. This worked for me on a deep level, and is now one of my favourite films of all time.

-Nate Hill

Bad Boys For Life

My first thought after seeing Bad Boys For Life: Will Smith beating the living piss out of that fat fucking potato DJ Khaled is the most cathartic, pleasing thing thing I’ve seen all month. The film overall? It’s complicated, but I thought it was solid. Here’s the trajectory thus far: the first Bad Boys film was a fairly conventional, hugely enjoyable Michael Bay action romp that neither stood out nor faded from memory. The second film, however, saw Bay lose his mind in the best way possible and make the most batshit insane, balls out, edgy, fucked up screaming unhinged roller coaster flick probably… ever. Not since Crank 2 had a sequel utterly and obnoxiously left its predecessor in the dust wondering what happened, and to this day it’s one of my favourite action films ever made. So the thing is, Bad Boys 3 was just never going to reach the levels of drugged up, casually racist, cheerfully homophobic, unapologetically tasteless, hugely entertaining chaos. That being said, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are older, the world has unfortunately changed and their adventures this third time around are a tad more laid back, a bit more introspective yet still filled with enough explosions, gunshot wounds, blood, profanity and the irresistible buddy comedy chemistry that makes their pairing such a winning dynamic.

Smith’s Mike Lowry never seemed to lose his daredevil, thrill seeking edge while Lawrence’s Marcus is now a grandfather with thoughts of retiring and putting all the chases, shootouts and violence in his rear view. That works for a time until dangerous people from Mike’s past roar back into both their lives to terrorize Miami and spur them both back into action for one last ride. They’re joined by AMMO, the obligatory millennial update to the climate of any given old school franchise that finds itself resurrected, with badass characterizations from Alexander Ludwig, Paola Nuñez and a smokin Vanessa Hudgens. Joe Pantoliano also returns, stressed out as ever as their captain, he gets one of the film’s moments of surprising gravity when he basically uses parable to tell Mike he’s gotta slow his roll or he’ll kick the bucket soon. There’s a hell of an antagonist in the wings stirring trouble, an intensely attractive, hellishly angry Mexican Bruja witch (Kate Del Castillo) with designs on obliterating Mike and everyone he knows. Cue a series of chases, stakeouts, firefights and impressive action sequences, my favourite of which has to be a highway pursuit with Mike on a motorbike and Marcus in sidecar messing about with a terrific arsenal of cartel weaponry (“that is God’s gun!!!”). It’s a rock solid sequel and one can’t really complain or find anything to gripe about here other than the fact that it’s just so much more relaxed and less certifiably loony than Bad Boys 2, but I’ve reconciled that. I miss that deliberately provocative, nihilistic aesthetic but I appreciate this slightly more mellowed out, plot based one too. A good time at the movies.

-Nate Hill

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys is his Bad Boys II before college or like a drug problem, still a raging good time and a great action film but not quite the certifiably deranged mega production that he whipped out of his pants with that sequel. Nevertheless, it’s the warm up round, the pre-drink session and I love it to bits as well. I’ve read reviews comparing it to or accusing it of directly aping Beverly Hills Cop, and while it’s easy to see the thematic connection, I disagree and feel like it’s a separate aesthetic entirely. 90’s Miami, the simultaneous fast talking tornados that are Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, large scale action mayhem, constant improvised bickering, Joe Pantoliano perpetually on the verge of several strokes, it’s a vibe all its own and although this one is considerably more dialled back than II, it’s no less of a blast. Smith’s hotshot rich boy Mike LOWRY and Lawrence’s persnickety family man Marcus Burnett are live wire vice cops investigating a violent, elaborate drug smuggling ring lead by Tchecky Karyo’s Fouchet, a psychopath written as one note but the Turkish badass breathes life into him anyways. Tea Leoni is Julie, material witness to one of his murders and therefore tagging along with Marcus and Mike throughout the films chases, shootouts, verbal confrontations and what have you. Bottom line: In these roles, Smith and Lawrence are either your thing or they’re not, no middle ground. They’re loud, crass, politically incorrect goofballs who can’t sit still to save their lives and I love spending every minute with them. Also an acquired taste (and quite a cause of controversy in film discussions across the land) is Bay’s slick, noisy aesthetic, which may sometimes land with a hollow thud, but there is just no denying in one’s rational mind that the guy can’t stage absolute motherfuckers in the way of action set pieces, his films have a diamond crisp quality to the visuals, and his explosions are always shock and awe glory. The final car chase here across a giant airport tarmac is something else, feels real and dangerous, the eventual crash n’ burn a terrific payoff. The supporting ranks here are populated by the likes of Theresa Randle, Marc Macauley, Michael Imperioli, Marg Helgenberger, Kevin Corrigan, Anna Levine, Nestor Serrano, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Karen Alexander, Shaun Toub and briefly Kim Coates, hilariously credited as ‘White Carjacker.’ If you like your action movies funny, and your comedies full of action, this is the ticket. But you also have to be tuned in to Smith and Lawrence’s particular brand of lunacy, which understandably isn’t for everyone. Bring on the third film as soon as possible.

-Nate Hill

Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II

Michael Bay is a great filmmaker and Bad Boys II is a masterpiece, one of the best action movies ever made. I know there are those out there who have nothing but contempt for Bay and his balls out, blitzkrieg blockbusters, and that’s okay. But there’s also those of us who recognize that the guy just has bushels of talent when it comes to staging breathtakingly explosive, propulsive large scale action sequences. I’ll concede that he has been perpetually slumming it in Transformers-ville for ten punishing years, but honestly I think that’s just to harvest dollars from the Asian box office overseas, because that’s where those big dumb flicks are most popular.

Bay’s core filmography is legendary, and while I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite, I’d say Bad Boys II if you held a gun to my head, definitely because of aforementioned action sequences but also it’s just one of the funniest fucking things I’ve ever seen, thanks to the combustible camaraderie between Martin Lawrence, Will Smith and a host of scene stealing others. This film is insane in all the best possible ways, it starts at brutal excess and only escalates from there until taste, shame and any other employments of restraint have been pummelled by a beautifully un-PC masterwork of ultra-violence, cheerful profanity, unabashed nihilism and enough Miami gunplay to constitute a civil war.

While Bay’s first Bad Boys was a great time, it was kind of like pre-drinks at buddy’s place before really getting the night underway, and II is the penthouse party that blows the lid off of everything, gets the cops called and shuts down the entire block. Smith and Lawrence’s Mike Lowry and Marcus Burnett kick off the proceedings by noisily barrelling through a KKK rally in the Everglades which results in Marcus getting accidentally shot through the ass cheek by his own partner, going on to be a priceless running joke. Then it’s on to take down simultaneously terrifying and hilarious Cuban drug baron Johnny Tapia, played by Jordi Molla in a performance so manic and unhinged that to me he represents the Spanish Gary Oldman. This results in a deafening, barnstorming tirade of extended car chases, ferocious shootouts, almost horror movie level carnage, excessive drug consumption and so much bickering between our two leads that we begin to wonder what was improv and what was scripted, but I suspect it was mostly the former. Bruckheimer seriously just threw paint at the wall here and let Bay set fire to it, this has to be one of the most precious, time capsule worthy, fucked up blockbusters that has ever come down the Hollywood assembly line. Gabrielle Union has never been sexier and holds her own as Marcus’s DEA sister, Bay favourite Peter Stormare hams it up almost as much as he did in Armageddon as an unstable Russian gangster and the cast is insane with memorable work from Michael Shannon, Yul Vasquez, Teresa Randle, Oleg Taktarov, Jon Seda, Antoni Carone, Henry Rollins and more. A huge shout-out to Joe Pantoliano as their stressed out Captain, he reaches levels of exasperation that I didn’t think were possible, and the scene where Marcus shows up in his living room fucked up on ecstasy is one of the most indescribably great comedic moments of the millennium, played to the hilt by all three actors.

From drug infested Miami Beach nightclubs to all out warfare on the highway overpasses to attitude filled family pool parties at Marcus’s crib to a thrilling showdown outside Tapia’s Cuban mansion and everything in between, Bay pretty much set the bar for the R rated action comedy, and set it pretty fucking high. Critics like Ebert hate this one because it overflows with unpleasantness, excess and mean spirited humour, and hey who am I to argue. If your sense of humour is tuned in to this kind of stuff then you’ll dig it, if not then it won’t be your bag, it’s very much an early 00’s film and most of it sadly wouldn’t even come close to being green-lit in today’s big budget world. I love this crazy ass film to pieces, it’s showcase Bay, hallmark Bruckheimer, the comedic pinnacle of both Smith and Lawrence’s careers (“Big fuckin eyes, but a nice fuckin fish!!”) and a milestone in the action genre. Woosahh.

-Nate Hill

Blue Streak

Blue Streak is one of those flicks I’ve probably seen a couple dozen times, whether I’m tuning in intently, comforted by it as zany background noise, viewed on a lazy summer afternoon or a cozy rainy day in. It’s just about as fun as action comedies get, blessed with an adorably implausible story, packed with both notable comedians and a legion of genre talent and speckled with charming action sequences, just the right blend of over the top and entertaining. I don’t give a wet shit what anyone thinks, I love Martin Lawrence to bits, I think he’s one of the best comedic actors of his day, and never fails to put a smile on my face with his exasperated, frenzied persona and motor-mouthed cadence. He’s petty thief Miles Logan here, leading a crew of hapless jewel thieves including Dave Chappelle, John Hawkes and reliably villainous Peter Greene, who double crosses the lot of them in attempts to make off with the loot. Forced to stash a big ass diamond in the air ducts of a building undergoing construction before a stint in the slammer, Miles is released from jail, maniacally frustrated to learn the completed structure is now… an LAPD police station. What ensues is one of the silliest gimmicks in film history: Miles fakes a heap of impressive credentials, successfully impersonates a high ranking officer and infiltrates the ranks of LA’s finest in hopes of snagging that rock from the air vent. Of course, a risky shtick like that is never as simple as planned, especially when both tweaked out, hilarious Chappelle and murderous, scary Greene blow back into town looking for him. The real value lies in his interaction with all these cops though, which borders on Mel Brooks style satire it’s so cheeky and unbelievable. Rookie Luke Wilson and salty vet William Forsythe are tasked with babysitting him as he blunders from scene to scene, and via his inherent street smarts, accidentally starts solving cases and making arrests, when he’s not discreetly turning perps loose out the back door of the station. It’s a full blown laugh riot in areas, numbingly juvenile in others, but never short of a blast to sit through. The cast is peppered with wicked supporting turns from Graham Becker, Octavia Spencer, Nicole Ari Parker as an ice queen defence attorney, Frank Medrano, Steve Rankin, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Olek Krupa and more. To take this film seriously is to unwittingly brand yourself a chump, missing the point completely. It’s an asinine, fired up, ADHD riddled ride through farcical action movie territory, and I love every warped minute of it.

-Nate Hill

Ted Demme’s Life

Ted Demme’s Life is a hard one to classify or box into genres, which may have been why it didn’t do all that great at the box office and subsequently slipped through the cracks, a result that often befalls ambitious, unique films that people aren’t ready to surrender to. Part comedy, part tragedy, all drama infused with just a bit of whimsy, it’s a brilliant piece and one of the most underrated outings from both of it’s high profile stars, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. It seems fitting that the two lively, cartoonish cowboys of comedy should share the screen, and it’s lucky they got such a wicked script. In the roaring twenties, Murphy is smooth talking petty thief Ray, Lawrence is hapless, hot blooded bank teller Claude, and the pair couldn’t be more suited or dysfunctional towards each other. Brought together for an ill fated moonshine run bankrolled by a nasty NYC Gangster (Rick James), things go wrong in the most auspicious of places a black man could find himself during that time: Mississippi. Framed for the murder of a local conman (Clarence Williams III) by a psychotic, corrupt Sheriff (Ned Vaughn), they’re given life in prison by the judge, and this is where their peculiar adventure really begins. Put under the supervision of a violent but oddly sympathetic corrections officer played awesomely by Nick Cassavetes, the two wrongfully convicted, hard-luck fellows spend their entire adult life and most of the twentieth century incarcerated… and that’s the film. Squabbling year by year, making a whole host of friends out of their fellow convicts and never losing their sense of humour, it’s the one of the strangest narratives I’ve seen, and somehow works wonders in keeping us glued to the screen. Supporting the two leads is a legendary ensemble including Ned Beatty as warm hearted superintendent, Anthony Anderson, Bernie Mac, Bokeem Woodbine, Barry Shabaka Henley, Heavy D, Don Harvey, Noah Emmerich, Obba Babatundé, Sanaa Latham, R. Lee Ermey and more. Murphy and Lawrence have never been better, shining through Rick Baker’s wicked old age makeup in the latter portion of the film, and letting the organic outrage and frustration towards their situation pepper the many instances of humour, accenting everything with their friendship, which is the core element really. The film’s title, simple as it, has a few meanings, at least for me. Life as in ‘life in prison’, in it’s most literal and outright sense. Life as in ‘well tough shit, that’s life and it ain’t always pretty,’ another reality shared with us by the story. But really it’s something more oblique, the closest form of explanation I can give being ‘life happens.’ There’s no real social issues explored here, no heavy handed agenda (had the film been released in this day and age, that would have almost certainly been a different story), no real message, we just see these events befall the two men. They roll with each new development, they adapt and adjust, they learn, they live. In a medium that’s always being plumbed and mined for deeper meanings, subtext and allegories, it’s nice to see a picture that serves up the human condition without all those lofty bells and whistles. Their story is random, awkward, unpredictable, never short on irony, seldom fair, often tragic, and ever forward moving. That’s Life.

-Nate Hill

What’s The Worst That Could Happen? : A Review By Nate Hill

  
People rag on What’s The Worst That Could Happen all the time. Let em, and screw em while we’re at it. Implausible? Yes. Silly? Yup. Ridiculous? Oh yes. Funny? You bet your ass. It’s one of those lighthearted Martin Lawrence comedies like Blue Streak or National Security, tripping along an alleyway of lowbrow humour and bawdy antics that you just can’t stay mad at, like a friend who does something really dumb and follows up with something that cracks a grin on your face. Lawrence also has the luck to be paired with Danny Devito here, who is funny even when he isn’t trying to be. Lawrence plays Kevin, a cocky cat burglar who bungles the wrong dude when he breaks into the not so vacant summer home of sleazy billionaire Max Fairbanks (Devito). Max catches him red handed, holds him at gunpoint and convinces the cops that a family heirloom ring on Kevin’s finger is part of the stolen goods, adding insult to arrest. That dick move launches an ego fuelled battle of wills as these two morons find more and more elaborate ways to incite each other’s wrath. They each have a little armada who back them up when they aren’t questioning their every idiotic movie. Kevin has his gorgeous girlfriend (Carmen Ejogo has sadly made a career of being underused), his partner Berger (John Leguizamo plays around with accents like you ain’t never seen) who is the Dumber to his Dumb, and his sassy handler (Bernie Mac). Max is hounded by his witchy wife (Nora Dunn), shunned by his much abused attorney (a dry, delightful Richard Schiff), pawned over by his mistress (Glenne Headly) and secretly lusted for by his chief of security (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Larry Miller do his thang here). Max and Kevin are engaging arch enemies, with Lawrence mugging for face time a tad too much, and Devito perfectly settled into his shtick as always. I must make note of probably the best performance of the film, from William Fichtner as a flamboyantly gay police detective who hounds all parties involved. He’s one part frightening with a side of classy charm, subverting his usual weirdo tough guy image for something even weirder and totally out there. Watch for Lenny Clarke and Siobhan Hogan as as pair of squabbling fellow burglars, and work from Cam Neely, Kevin Chapman and Garry Shandling as well. It’s a screwball caper. I love it. Many don’t. They can suck it. Check ‘er out and make up your own mind.