Monday, May 31, 2010

Big Ups to My Sister MAI-LINH HONG and Her New Husband BRIAN UTTER!!

Hey look, it's a baby. What a coincidence that I'd find a picture of a baby when I googled images for a goat. No pressure, guys. None at all.

Memorial Day. A day for thankin' the troops, sunburn, barbecue, and haulin' ass in an eighteen-wheeler.

And memories, right?

Well, on May 29th and 30th my big sis Mai-Linh and her fiance Brian tied the knot! The Vietnamese ceremony was held at our parent's home, and the 'traditional' wedding at a goat farm in Luray, Virginia.

My favorite memory of the weekend was after the second wedding, when some of Mai-Linh's friends from childhood and college and I sat around the living room of the ranch which housed us for the weekend , and a tired, smiling Mai-Linh bustled through in search of her friend Debbie who performed the ceremony. Apparently she and Brian weren't sure if they filled out the marriage certificate properly. A long, drawn-out conversation ensued in which nobody could determine if Mai-Linh and Brian were legally married. Mai-Linh's childhood friend Robin (who sang beatifully during the ceremony, by the way) remarked, ever so poetically, and romantically: "Only in a room full of lawyers could we not figure out if they are legally married!"

I love you guys!

Friday, May 28, 2010

My Life, According to Daniel LaRusso

Ask about my Karate Kid 5 screenplay, tentatively titled: Karate Kid 5: The Search for Vengeance, in which LaRusso, now an older, grizzled, retired CIA agent must be reenlisted by the Company in order to infiltrate a South American fighting tournament funded by the drug cartels under the control of a powerful Yakuza mobster--the same man who was responsible for Mr. Miyagi's murder.

Fight ‘til the end
Cause your life will depend
On the strength that you have inside you

-Joe Esposito, You're the Best


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quick Thoughts: THE HURT LOCKER


Saw The Hurt Locker for the first time the other day. Can’t say that I’m that impressed. I’ve heard people say that this is a superior film to Black Hawk Down. I can’t say that I agree in any respect. This is an implausible film, firstly. In what world would a hotshot risk-taker be allowed to lead a team of bomb techs? I think the portrayal of the soldiers was pretty good, and the characters were interesting, but to say that this is an accurate view of a bomb unit’s job is kind of misleading. It’s not, from what I understand. Compared to the other films nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award, I’d have to say that Hollywood really screwed the pooch on this one. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is a far superior film in terms of characters, content, accuracy, story arc, tension, and its ability to draw in the viewer.

Jack Burton Scoffs at MacGruber's Attempts to Rejoin the 80s!

A removable radio and a Miata. How could this not work?

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

The commercials looked funny. Copious amounts of toilet humor were promised. The casting looked solid. The concept is, well, awesome. But somewhere, somehow, inexplicably, MacGruber fell apart. And it breaks my heart to say so, because this may very well have been my most anticipated film of the year’s remaining crop.

Who doesn’t remember MacGyver with some level of fondness? From the mullet-sporting Richard Dean Anderson to his irrational use of household items to stop bombs and escape from vaults, the show was, well, kind of awesome. But 80s-awesome, not regular-awesome. So when the news that the Saturday Night Live parody, MacGruber, was advertised, I was right on board. But I really should have thought it through. The skit simply doesn’t have enough in it to work in a longer format, and this movie really shows it.

But even so, the story and plot should have been enough. MacGruber, a super-seasoned veteran who is thought to be dead for the past ten years, is brought back into the fold by his old colonel in order to track down his nemesis, Dieter Von Cunth. Between the poor delivery of poorly-written one-liners, and the incredibly unfunny toilet humor, there are flashes of genuinely funny moments. The incredibly cringe-inducing sex scenes will make you laugh and stick with you but they run a little too long. MacGruber begging for another chance is hilarious. But other than that, as a parody for the 80s action film, it just isn’t working.

Take for instance Hot Shots and Hot Shots: Part Deux. These are genuinely funny parodies. And they work because they don’t overload the viewer with gags that are toilet-based or run too long or that don’t add to the movie itself. You care about the characters, the storyline is solid, and the scenes are—for that time anyway—original. MacGruber, however, drags at points and the humor just isn’t original or funny. The film makers are going for more shock-and-awe than really allowing the film room to breathe and the characters to be their funny selves.

What’s more is that the characters in MacGruber aren’t particularly likable. They’re kind of boring, and annoying, and you don’t really get any sense of attachment. There’s no depth to anyone, no matter how hard the film makers try to add it with a long and convoluted back story. There’s also a scene in which Macgruber reassembles a team of heroes. But that lasts for about a minute. What was the purpose of that scene? Did it really add that much? It didn’t have any weight, didn’t get us hyped for the rest of the film, nothing. Like the rest of the film, it was such a wasted opportunity.

The performances were nothing to write home about either. Ryan Phillipe mailed this sucker in, and he can usually pull off funny (see Cruel Intentions). Kristen Wiig doesn’t really spark my interest until she reverts to her super-nice, super-cheerleader line delivery from SNL at the end. And Will Forte. Will, Will, Will. What to do with you? Stick with the side characters. You don’t have the presence to carry a film.

Anyway, I’ve gone on way too long about this and haven’t really said much. But skip this. It’s not worth it. I have a Robin Hood review coming up and I’m catching Prince of Persia later tonight. Till next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Life, According to Rocky

Timeless words and a timeless man.


There's no easy way out,
There's no shortcut home.
There's no easy way out,
Givin' in, givin' in, can't be wrong.

- Survivor, No Easy Way Out


Monday, May 24, 2010

Jack Burton Wishes They'd Iron Out the Flaws in IRON MAN 2

Like Favreau himself, this film needs to lose the fat and get some action in its life.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

Caught Iron Man 2 recently. I guess it’s the “official” kick off to the summer blockbuster season. And to build on that football metaphor: the receiving team took it all the way to their opponent’s ten-yard line. Where they fumbled. And the kicking team recovered the ball.

So what does that mean? I have no idea. I think that it’s not good for the movies though. Whole lot of spectacle, not a lot of scoring. Okay. I’m going to go ahead and drop the football shenanigans.

Anyway. So Jon Favreau, of he-who-must-cast-himself-in-every-single-movie-he-directs fame, returns to helm the lackluster, slow, plodding, and oftentimes boring Iron Man 2. Sure, we get more eye candy in Scarlett “How Do You Spell That?” Johansson in the ultra-cool and ultra-tight Black Widow outfit. But it’s really not enough. And after her last foray in comic book filmdom, the justifiably-maligned Frank Miller ego-trip, The Spirit, you’d think she would just lay back and kind of do the movies she’s good at. Like Lost in Translation or Ghost World or whatever she’s famous for. I really can’t remember.

It’s not that she’s bad in this movie, it’s just that, well, there’s not much for her to do. And not much for anyone to do. The movie kind of rehashes whatever you thought was cool about the supremely superior first Iron Man. There are suits, there’s Robert Downey Jr. as the narcissistic and entertaining Tony Stark/Iron Man, and there are cool special effects. But nothing really works together. We get more of Tony Stark, but he comes across as more annoying than cool. He’s hiding a secret from his “loved ones,” and more than anything, I caught myself wondering: why isn’t he just being straight with everyone? Why not just admit it? And I think that this stems from a serious flaw in how his character is translated in the script and in the performance.

The main flaws in this incredibly-flawed film are in the lack of overall tension. Nothing seems to be drawing the viewer in during the hour-or-so between the beginning and end. Mickey Rourke’s version of Whiplash is rather hokey, Tony Stark is annoying, Don Cheadle kind of fades into the background, Gwyneth “I named my child after a fruit” Paltrow is kind of interesting, but at the end of the day she doesn’t seem authentic in her role as a personal assistant/love interest-turned-CEO. The big bright spot of the film rests squarely on Sam Rockwell’s shoulders. As Justin Hammer, Rockwell has his charm on full blast. He’s funny, he’s satirical, he’s absolutely awesome. So there is that, at least.

But there’s too little action in what should be an action-packed film. There’s too much melodrama that isn’t handled well—at all. Nobody is interested in the issues brought up, and they’re not handled with any depth or weight by Favreau anyway. While the film has some enjoyable parts, I’d say skip this unless you could see it at a reduced rate. What’s the point in IMAX, too? The climactic battle is a bore.

I think I’d rather rewatch the first Iron Man on mute and add my own dialogue a la Mystery Science Theater 3000. Until next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jack Burton Runs Screaming from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

Katie Cassidy: the only reason to watch this monstrosity.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

In the remake/sequel/prequel machine that Hollywood has become, there exist a few great films. Dawn of the Dead comes to mind readily. The Hills Have Eyes is a fantastic trip through parody and satire. What will never, ever come to mind is the latest in a long line of failures: A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Now, full disclosure: I was never a big fan of the Freddy franchise. I just didn't get a chance to watch them when I was a child so I guess they never left an imprint on me. When I finally watched some of those films, well, predictably, the magic wasn't there. They came across as cheesy, silly, and not very suspenseful. And this remake is exactly the same.

The remake is very much like the original: a dream entity (Freddy) is killing the children of the people who killed him in life. The only thing new that's been brought to the table is that the would-be victims may or may not have actually been molested by Freddy as children; but they did definitely claim that he molested them. The parents believed the child victims and hunted Freddy down. And for a short while, the audience is given an interesting little nugget on which to chew: what if those kids caused that man's death, and what if his desire for revenge was, well, kind of warranted? It's a nice twist and it plays out okay to the end. But other than that, well, skip this thing. It's kind of boring. The kills aren't particularly interesting, and really, Katie Cassidy's hotness (as evidenced above) is too short-lived.

There is, however, an excellent scene in which the protagonist, Nancy, is backing away in an aisle of a pharmacy while she blinks in and out of a dream state. Pretty nifty stuff there. I just wish it would have been expanded and built up. As it is, this film misses in so many ways; the characters aren't particularly likable. Freddy is so one-dimensional that you can't even root for him, which is odd, considering Jackie Earl Haley is pretty good at these types of characters. It may be the makeup that's screwing with it. I don't know. Any of the interesting stories, such as a boyfriend being framed by Freddy for killing his girlfriend, are tied up a little too quickly. The tension just isn't there.

So skip this and count yourself lucky. Till next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jack Burton Doesn't Lose it for THE LOSERS

Wow. How far you've come, Ms. Saldana.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

Well. Time to review The Losers, one of the countless comic book adaptations out there. There's nothing really wrong with this movie--not anything I can really pinpoint, anyway. It's all just sort of generic. Which is striking, considering its comic book origins.

It actually works well as a cheesy-80s-action romp: brainless and fun in the vein of Commando or Predator or the billions of others just like them. The characters are relatively fun, easily identifiable, Zoe Saldana is, once again, beautiful, Chris Evans does douchey and hilarious as well as Chris Klein from Just Friends, and through it all, we get a solid, easy-to-follow, action-packed story.

But it doesn't push the boundaries of action films, nor does it try anything new. If you saw this, there is no way in hell you'd think this was based on a comic book. That's not a swipe at films such as Road to Perdition, History of Violence or anything--lord knows I'm a proponent of comics as literature--but The Losers is none of that. It isn't literary, or serious, or anything. It's just generic. And I wonder if the comic is also this generic. What was it that made the comic enjoyable enough for a movie studio to option? Whatever it was seems to have been lost or at the least horribly translated. Because this thing is forgettable.

That's not to say that it doesn't have its cool moments. Like I mentioned, Chris Evans is a fun character. The action gets your heart pumping a little faster. There are some genuine laughs, too, like Evans being a Journey-singing delivery boy. But it's not enough to stick with you. And that's this movie's flaw.

Oh no, I lied. There's another flaw. A major one. And it goes by the name of Jason Patric, the "bad guy." Wow. If there was an award for "Most Annoying Bad Dude Ever," Patric should definitely be in the running. His performance invoked little tension and fewer laughs. Was he hamming it up on purpose? It seemed that way. But his hijinks missed so often I really couldn't tell. He was by no means a proper villain. Not in the least. He struck absolutely no fear in anyone's heart. Horrible casting.

Anyway, I'd watch this again on TV if it was free, but I wouldn't purchase or rent it. Till next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jack Burton Returns from Sabbatical to KICK some ASS

Actual screen shot.

This is Jack Burton in the Pork Chop Express, and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.

Yeah, it's been a while. Can't say that I missed you. I'm going to post a bunch of short reviews, starting with Kick-Ass, perhaps the GREATEST COMIC BOOK MOVIE EVER. Obviously I won't give it the attention it deserves. But I beg you: GO SEE THIS MOVIE. And since it's been out for over a month now, I assume there aren't many places to go see it if you haven't already. So travel. Travel to the ends of the earth, or at least your state. Whatever you need to do, do it. To see this movie. This masterpiece of comic film.

The gags and jokes fly at you fast and never feel stale or old. Everything has a distinct edge of freshness, including the ultra-violent moments involving Hit-Girl. Yes, there has been much made about a prepubescent girl cursing like a sailor and killing people like a video game character, but really, who cares? I'm not going to engage in this moral debate because, frankly, movies like The Professional and Taxi Driver make use of little girls in much more explicit and jarring manners than Kick-Ass.

Anyway, the premise is simple: kid likes comics. Kid wants to be a superhero. Hijinks ensue. With such a simple conceit, I worried that the film would devolve into mediocre gags and predictability. The key is that the film respects itself and its source material. It makes no qualms about what it is (a parody of comic films), but sets out to do a damn fine job telling its story and lets everything else take care of itself. And it works. My god, it works.

Go see it. Go buy it. I'll be adding this to my blu-ray collection.

I can't remember the cost. Perhaps my morality? Until next time, Pork Chop Express is signing off!