Archive for the ‘Eva Mendes’ Category

Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans is screening tonight at BAMcinématek, as part of their New Orleans On Film series (which also features Down By Law and Disney’s The Princess And The Frog and as such is recommended across the board.)  This movie is straight-up crazy and it demands to be seen.  Seriously.  It’s demanding you to watch it.  Can you hear it calling out?  Don’t disappoint this movie.  Wouldn’t be wise.

Here’s what I scribbled about it, back in 2009:

In news which will surprise no one, I got a total kick out of Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans.  This of course is the awkwardly-titled movie that represents the inevitably-bizarre, bizarrely-inevitable collaboration between professional eccentrics Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage.  And professional beauty Eva Mendes – let’s, please, not forget her.  This review certainly will not.

Having finally seen the movie, I’m not sure why it had to be connected to Abel Ferrara’s 1992 cult shocker Bad Lieutenant.  In interviews, Herzog has indicated some discomfort with the title, and has hinted that it was named solely for commercial reasons beyond his control.  (It should tell you something about the nature of Herzog’s film that its producers insisted on reaching back twenty years to a controversial but hardly lucrative independent film as a desperate stab at adding the least bit of commercial prospect.)  Herzog’s “remake” seems to play fast and loose with the original film – at best – really keeping only the concept of a corrupt cop with tremendous drug dependencies and a serious gambling problem, rampaging through his city of employ.  The new Bad Lieutenant even improves on the original, by sparing us the sight of Nicolas Cage’s private parts, whereas the original foisted Harvey Keitel’s dangly garbage upon us. 

Also it improves on the original by, you know, adding Eva Mendes.  This would improve just about any movie I can imagine. [Even the perfect ones:  Jaws, The Godfather, Citizen Kane, The Searchers, Goodfellas, Ghostbusters…  Drop Eva Mendes in any one of those flicks and they’d go from 100% to 120%, just on a visual basis alone.]

Anyway in Port Of Call New Orleans, Cage plays Terence McDonagh, who despite the similarity in surname bears no discernible relation to his much more lovable character in Raising Arizona.  Cage is a total freak in this movie – a SUPER-freak, actually – and fans of the actor in manic, cartoonish, expressionistic, histrionic mode will find plenty to enjoy here.  Admittedly, it’s not a sight that is for everybody, in the same way that some people complain about the late-period Al Pacino performances which find Big Al bellowing and growling like an overstuffed and leaky furnace.  I understand the complaints, but I don’t agree with those people.  I love Yelling Pacino as much as the earlier version, and at least with him, there’s usually a reason for the histrionics.  With Cage, sometimes it works for me and sometimes it doesn’t.  In Kick-Ass, I felt like his performance was inconsistent and improperly policed, and his multiple modulations often didn’t fit the story.  Here, it’s not that way.  It isn’t exactly as if there’s a method to the madness, but at least the madness fits the role.

Terence McDonagh is an addict in the throes of addiction.  He’s a fiend for pills and a degenerate gambler, and between these two activities he has plenty of time to sample just about every illicit substance that he comes across.  He’s come into this condition due to crippling pain from a back injury he sustained by rescuing a prisoner from a rapidly flooding jail during Hurricane Katrina.  His partner had suggested that they let the creep drown like a trapped rat, but McDonagh did the right thing and went in after the guy.  It’s the last right thing that McDonagh does in the movie, and that’s in the opening three minutes.  The rest of the movie is relatively generic in the way of plot – McDonagh has to track the killers of an immigrant family while contending with his bookie and the much more dangerous adversaries who really run things – but it’s a hysterical and haphazard gauntlet of strange characters and random detours, all of which add up to make the trip worth taking.  It’s pretty damn bizarre but at least it’s not average.

Val Kilmer plays the voice of reason in this movie.  That’s all I’m saying.

The whole cast is weird and watchable.  Nicolas Cage stomps through the movie with shoulders hunched like Frankenstein’s monster, his eyes sunken in to his skull as far as they can go, his hair looking like it’s slowly slipping off the back of his head.  He’s like a zombie hooked up to a semi-regular IV conduit to a reservoir of Jolt Cola.  His mannerisms are so far over the top they’re like a 3-D effect – my favorite tics were the way he kept giggling at a drug dealer’s street name (“G! HEHEHEE!”) and the way he switched mid-sentence from interrogating a woman at her doorstep to cooing over the baby in her arms (“AAAW!”).  Of course there are the moments where he hallucinates a roomful of iguana during a stakeout or where he pulls a gun on an elderly woman and then cuts off her oxygen supply just to get information on a suspect, or when he instructs some of his criminal cohorts to keep shooting an already-dead body just to “watch his soul dance” – but you might have already heard of these moments.  They’re the highlight reel of an Oscar montage in an alternate universe where Bizarro Cage gets the laudatory recognition that is normally bestowed on the likes of Meryl Streep.

Val Kilmer, that notorious onscreen nutjob, is, as I mentioned, in the movie mostly to serve as a barometer to show how far gone Cage’s character is.  (“There ain’t no iguana.”)  When Val Kilmer is your straight man, things have gone wackadoo.  Meanwhile, Christopher Guest regular Jennifer Coolidge shows up in a rare dramatic role as McDonagh’s step-mom, who has cut back to beer in an effort to support her husband’s attempt at recovery.  (McDonagh still needs to drive his dad to AA though.  Remember, this is in the middle of a criminal investigation and a ticking-clock situation with criminals to whom he owes huge amounts of money.) 

Eva Mendes appears regularly to walk around and say words, which would be enough for me but in my biased opinion she also happens to be terrific in the movie.  (And is actually a generally underrated actress still deserving of a chance to fully cut loose.)  Here she plays McDonagh’s improbably-gorgeous junkie-whore girlfriend, named Frankie, and somehow manages to make mutual self-destruction seem romantic and just short of appealing.  Seriously-underrated character actor Shea Whigham pops up in a couple of scenes as one of Frankie’s customers, and he somehow manages to be as hilariously entitled as any Will Ferrell character, considering that he’s playing an abusive sociopath.  There are a few more surprise appearances along the way that I won’t spoil, and the wildlife – including a still-twitching alligator roadkill – deserves a mention alongside the two-legged cast.

That’s the thing about this movie – it’s interesting for the likably grotesque characters and the eccentric details, while it’s sure to disappoint anyone looking for a straight procedural.  I strongly suspect that Werner Herzog only took on this movie for the chance to run rampant through post-Katrina New Orleans with Nicolas Cage and a movie camera.  The plot only exists as a framework upon which to hang the parts that Herzog is really interested in.  The best parts of Port Of Call New Orleans are the weird digressions and strange bits of business on the side – the interstitial images and establishing wide shots, the strange setpieces such as the traffic incident caused by the aforementioned alligator collision, and so on.  Herzog is really a documentarian at heart, which is my assumption corroborated by the merits of this movie, and he brings a documentarian’s eye and also a love of extreme human behavior to an otherwise standard crime story.

It’s an oddity on the filmography of just about everyone else involved (oddities are kind of par for the course for both Herzog and Cage), but in my opinion Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans is well worth looking at, and now that it’s newly on DVD, it’s that much easier to do so.  Also, as I may have mentioned, it has Eva Mendes walking around saying words.  If you’re a real red-blooded American male, that’s a no-brainer.  Even if you’re a gay guy, a lady, a monk, or dead, it’s still quite the spectacle.

Find me on Twitter: @jonnyabomb


What would it look like if Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to remake Michael Mann’s Heat

Hopefully, we’ll never know. 

But try this on for size:  What if somebody remade Bad Boys 2, only they took out all the yelling and the weird racism and swapped in a likable multicultural cast? 

Now we’re getting a little closer.

Fast Five is the fifth action film in the car-happy series that started with 2001’s The Fast And The Furious, which introduced Vin Diesel as a car thief and outlaw, Paul Walker as the undercover agent assigned to bring him in, and Jordana Brewster as Diesel’s sister (suspension-of-disbelief casting there), who becomes Walker’s love interest. 

Fast Five is kind of an all-star game, collecting characters from the four previous films – the underrated Matt Schulze (also seen in Torque and Extract) from the first movie, the scene-stealing Tyrese Gibson and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges from 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious (which had no Diesel and no Brewster but much Eva Mendes), the slyly charismatic Sung Kang from 2006’s The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (which took place in Japan and had none of the recurring characters besides a belated, uncredited cameo from Diesel), and the just-a-little-bit-insanely-attractive Gal Gadot from 2009’s Fast & Furious.

Everybody getting all this so far? 

Don’t sweat it if you aren’t.  Yeah, I’ve seen all these movies.  But you don’t have to.  Whatever else you think of their work in Fast Five, you’d have to concede that three-time series writer Chris Morgan and three-time series director Justin Lin do an excellent, economical job of re-introducing all of the above characters, and giving them just enough inter-character interactions to indicate that these are all people with shared personal histories.  Which is good, because there are a bunch of new characters in here also.  More on them in a minute.  Let’s ease in with some recap:

Fast Five picks up exactly where the previous movie, Fast & Furious, left off – Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto was being carted off to prison on a bus, and Jordana Brewster’s Mia Toretto and Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner were bearing down on the bus in hot sportscars, ready to spring him.  That, they do.  Then the movie, and the two lovebirds (Brian & Mia), abruptly skip off to Rio, in what I temporarily hoped was going to be a crossover with that movie about the animated birds.

Brian and Mia crash with Vince, Matt Schulze’s character, who has long been set up in Rio with a local wife and a new baby.  Vince sets them up with a job to steal some rare cars from a moving train.  Even with Dom’s practiced helping hand, that job becomes a bit of a mess when some DEA agents on board the train are killed.  (Considering the fact that an entire humvee gets driven into the train, it’s hard to imagine that only those three guys were killed in the fiasco, but you kinda have to go with some heavy suspension of disbelief here.  As far as we know, none of the spectacular car crashes end in any deaths unless the characters mention it.)

Basically, by stealing these cars, and one in particular, Dom, Brian, and Mia have run afoul of a crimelord named Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), a Latino Gordon Gekko type who we’re told essentially runs Rio.  The trio has an even bigger problem, though:  Even though it was Reyes’s thugs who killed the three DEA agents, Dom and Brian are being tagged with the crime.  That puts the FBI on their trail, singularly personified in the form of a man named Hobbs, who the rest of us know as Dwayne Johnson, the artist formerly known as “The Rock.” 

Dwayne Johnson plays this role as Tommy Lee Jones (in unreasonable Fugitive mode) multiplied by the Juggernaut from Marvel Comics.  He has no discernible character traits outside of “chase puny humans.”  His head shaved to match Vin Diesel’s, his goatee grown out to match Blackstone the Magician’s, Dwayne Johnson is admittedly one weird- and intimidating-looking human being, maybe never moreseo than in this movie.  He’s got a team of little army guys with him, including one who looks like a deflated Patrick Warburton and another who looks like an evil Fred Durst, but he looms over them all by two or three feet.  I do think that Fast Five is yet another action movie (see: The Expendables) that suffers a little from not having a villain to match its heroes – Joaquim de Almeida is adequately slimy but not too scary – but whenever Hobbs is onscreen, the threat feels as real as it’s ever gonna.  Vin Diesel can get pretty sleepy in these movies, but when Dwayne Johnson is around, he steps up to compete.

So with this level of police heat/ starpower on their tail, the Fast/Furious kids hatch a plan to pull the fabled “one last job” – ripping off Reyes’s private vault and walking away quietly with ten million dollars.  To do that, they assemble their dream team: drivers Roman (Tyrese) and Han (Sung Kang), techno-guy Tej (Ludacris), distraction Gisele (Gal Gadot), and two new characters, a constantly-bickering odd couple played by reggaeton music stars Don Omar and Tego Calderon.  Calderon is a dead ringer for baseball star Manny Ramirez, and Don Omar is a little less descript by comparison, but they both bring a fun bilingual banter to the movie that adds some much needed humor to the proceedings.  Even funnier is Tyrese, who gets all the best wisecracks, and even when they’re not so funny on the page, he brings an enthusiasm that is completely winning, no matter how reluctant I may be to praise anyone who signed up for more than one Transformers movie.  Tyrese is fun when he’s busting Walker’s and Ludacris’s balls, and speaks for the audience when some of the truly impressive speed stunts are going on.

Maybe my favorite character (as expected) is Sung Kang’s Han, who appeared in the previous two Fast/Furious movies even though he was killed in the third one.  In a wonderfully bizarre chronological re-shuffling, both Fast & Furious and Fast Five are technically prequels to Tokyo Drift, exclusively so that Han could be resurrected.  It was worth doing.  It shouldn’t have to be pointed out, but it’s rare that  American action movies give us Asian characters who are this straight-up cool.  It’s not that Han gets all that much to do, but Sung Kang does some nice underplaying when all the aforementioned comedic ball-busting and muscle-flexing bombastics are going on, and he gets to strike up a little flirtation with Gal Gadot (who’s like a hotter version of Natalie Portman), that brings just a subtle undercurrent of pathos to the movie, when you consider that as longtime viewers of this series we know his ultimate fate.

It sounds like I’m giving a ton away already, but I’m really not – this movie is ultra-loaded with characters and business that I’ve only really begun to cover.  At over two hours, it’s unnecessarily long for a summer diversion, but to the credit of Lin and Morgan and the ensemble cast, Fast Five is never boring.  People are freaking out over this movie already, and I had a fun time too, but I’d caution against overpraise.  I can’t imagine wanting to see Fast Five more than once, for instance.  Also, as a grown-ass man (emphasis on the “ass”), I don’t love the PG-13 rating.  Like all the movies in the series, it has a Maxim Magazine ogle-first approach to women and sexuality, but ultimately a puritanical depiction of sex.  Even the ladies who count drug money in warehouses (a la New Jack City) wear bras and cover up when the action starts.  And like the majority of American movies, Fast Five may be scared off by the female body but has no problem giving us a scene where an exploded bathroom is streaked everywhere with shit.  (Long story; running out of space.)  There’s absolutely nothing deep or serious going on here. 

But that’s okay.  Sometimes I want to read a great novel, and sometimes I want to watch a baseball game.  Fast Five has a sophomoric energy that is infectious – assuming, of course, that you’re the kind of person who was willing to sit for a movie like this in the first place.  My best hope for Fast Five is that it becomes a huge success and enables Justin Lin to make whatever movies he wants.  Then, hopefully, what he wants is to come up with a badass star vehicle for Sung Kang, either by moving him into the lead of this franchise, following his character into his own adventure, or coming up with an all-new story idea.  The best thing about the Fast/Furious series is that they bring us a pan-racial culture where all characters are equally capable and equally likable.  So why not use it as a springboard to bring us the next great non-white action character?

In the meantime, I can enjoy the simpler pleasures.  Fast cars, pretty women, big stupid guns, purple dialogue, explosions, stolen police cars, crashed police cars, the return of the Predator handshake, and quite possibly my favorite post-credits cameo ever (but only if you’re me) – Fast Five has all of these things and much more.  So while my brain might yearn for smarter, I must flex my biceps in approval.  And they’re mightier than you think, so watch it punk.

It’s better than Cats & Dogs

But seriously folks, I loved the hell out of this movie.  Go see it ASAP.  Just read my review first (or immediately second, that’s acceptable too.)

The Other Guys does so many things right that I don’t even know where to start.  I definitely don’t intend to go into much detail on this one, because to talk too much about the movie would be to ruin at least a couple of its best jokes, and only an asshole would do that to you.  Just make sure that you get out to see this movie right away, so that some other asshole doesn’t ruin all the insanely quotable jokes before you get around to it.  The Other Guys is ridiculously hilarious, and we’re talking about the work of a team who previously brought us Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers.  Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are now four for four.  That’s one hell of a batting average.
Anchorman is beyond a doubt one of the greatest comedies of the past decade, melding surreal absurdity with a high-concept period piece as it does.  Talladega Nights is an amazing example of slipping brilliant satire right past the people who are being lampooned.  Step Brothers is a bizarre family saga in minimum, comedy pared down to the essentials.  With The Other Guys, Ferrell and McKay do up the buddy-cop action-comedy, and they do it up right.  Somewhere in New Jersey, Kevin Smith weeps, because this is the glorious opposite of Cop OutThe Other Guys is immediately one of the all-time great buddy-cop action-comedies.  I’m the guy who’s seen Beverly Hills Cop more times than Justin Timberlake has seen Mermaids, so I have no problem making this pronouncement.  I loved The Other Guys the second that a car is driven right into the lobby of Trump Tower as a completely unnecessary and thrilling fuck-you explosion, and that happened around minute two.
In The Other Guys, Will Ferrell plays Allen Gamble and Mark Wahlberg plays Terry Hoitz.  These guys aren’t the badass super-cops who walk away from explosions in slow-motion.  Those guys are Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, who have a blast sending up cop-movie superheroics.  Ferrell and Wahlberg are just the guys who sit at a desk in the same precinct.  Ferrell’s character is a dull pencil-pusher (or appears to be) and Wahlberg’s character was once a promising up-and-comer before he did something that you must never do if you want to be loved in New York.  (Don’t let anyone ruin this joke for you either.) 
At the start of The Other Guys, Wahlberg hates Ferrell.  He wants to get out there and kick some ass, but Ferrell loves the desk work.  This means that you get a bunch of scenes of Mark Wahlberg screaming at a straight-faced Will Ferrell, which is already comic gold.  Throw in the much-missed Michael Keaton (experiencing a big-screen renaissance between this and Toy Story 3) as their beleaguered but affectionate captain, not to mention a clutch Bobby Cannavale as a brutish co-worker, and you have a great workplace comedy even before the cop plot kicks in.
Once it does, the movie really takes off.  The main crime of the movie is a little bit convoluted, involving as it does a somewhat subdued Steve Coogan and a thanklessly grim Ray Stevenson, but there is a real profound satirical point to be made here, as the can’t-miss end credits confirm.  It’s kind of amazing and impressive that McKay and Ferrell bother to fold a sneaky social comment inside a brilliant huge-budget comedy where almost no other modern filmmaker would be bold enough, but the less said about that beforehand, the better.  Besides, it’s hard to notice much else when Ferrell and Wahlberg are wreaking comedic havoc across Manhattan in their single-minded pursuit of crime and corruption.  
There’s something inspired about the pairing; Ferrell downplaying uncharacteristically, diverging from his usual assortment of bloviating big-egos to play a more mild-mannered guy (with a dark side), while Wahlberg shouts around him, doing his typical earnest tough guy thing but amped to a level where you can’t quite tell if he’s in on the joke or not (although I’m guessing he is).  It’s great. 
Special mention to my beloved Eva Mendes, as Ferrell’s improbably smoking-hot doctor/ex-Laker-girl wife, delivering big-time on the underrated comic promise that she showed early on in Stuck On You.  A great guy-centric comedy can only benefit from a solid, game female presence, as comedies such as Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Anchorman have proved time and again, and that’s what Eva brings to the table.  She plays this unshakable, almost naïve positivity that flies in the face of her superhuman hotness, and it’s totally charming and completely hilarious.  (Wahlberg’s muttered incredulity at the marriage is all by itself worth the trip to the theater.)
Ferrell and McKay deserve a huge success with this movie.  These guys are now running entire cities, the way Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and co. did in their heyday.  The Other Guys is astoundingly funny – I laughed my ass off all the way through, and I’m talking deep, loud, uncontrolled laughs straight from the gut that should have made me embarrassed in a theater packed with people except I couldn’t stop myself and it wasn’t like the movie was going to stop being hilarious long enough to cut me a break.  I might even prefer this one to Anchorman, although I’ll have to go back a few times to see.  This genre is totally in my wheelhouse, more than most, and these guys totally nail it, in an instant-classic kind of way.  I knew I would like it, but I had no idea how much.  Again, I could talk about this movie all day, but what I’d really rather do is to see it again, right now if possible, and even more than that I’d love to encourage all of you reading this to go see it, right now if possible.  You will love this movie.  Doubt does not exist.
Follow me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

I recently reposted my take on Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans.   It does stray somewhat into a side conversation concerning the virtues of co-star Eva Mendes (it happens), but in general I hope it’s a convincing argument for more of you to check out this ridiculously over-the-top fun freakshow, and then to call or email me about it and either thank me or curse me out.