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The Red Tent

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**½

I was thinking…I was thinking of a hot bath, actually.

This movie starts and ends strong, unfortunately, one has to watch the middle 100 minutes.  My favorite part was the History channel style opening, like a 1950’s version of a newsreel.  My main qualm with how this film was done is how cheesy it seems.  Maybe there is a good film with ghosts playing the main parts in the “present,” but this certainly is not it.  How can ghosts even have flashbacks?  Or one man’s imagination regarding those ghosts.

On the whole the sound of the film was poor.  The worst cheesy music came when a group of Soviets rode some horses in possibly the least relevant Soviet horse riding scene ever.  The format of this story was one of a tragedy; if only the director had realized how the style and under-utilization of Sean Connery would doom this film into tragically underachieving.  Still, the story was not half-bad.

Odd style, the audio was not very good.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It

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**½

Children of the night… What a mess they make.

I actually saw this in theaters when I was a kid.  It was pretty funny then and it’s pretty funny now.  Leslie Nielsen’s Count Dracula provides a nice parody of Bela Legosi’s performance in the original.  Personally, I find the numerous parallels to that film very entertaining.  This is also the only other film with Amy Yasbeck whose Maid Marian performance impressed me in Robin Hood: Men In Tights.  Ahh, I wish Mel Brooks still shot films, even if they turned out like this.

Murder on the Orient Express

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***½

Put a sewer rat in a suit, and he’s still a sewer rat… He’s just in a suit.

This is the 2010 version featuring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.  He is my favorite Poirot and he brings his A game to this delightful made for Boston’s public TV & the BBC movie.  This movie opens with a startling suicide in the midst of the classic Poirot presentation where he describes a man’s guilt.  Since that happens in Palestine, Poirot must return to England via the Orient Express.  The acting by the supporting cast seemed much more realistic in this version than in the more famous rendition from the 70’s.  Poirot’s resolution of the murder in this version shows his moral quandary, instead of side stepping it and presenting his decision as something made in good fun.

Beyond getting to see David Suchet this movie also featured two quality supporting actors in David Morrissey (of Viva Blackpool fame…okay, fine, of Basic Instinct 2:  Even More Basic Instinct) and the short man who played Truman Capote in Infamous.  My one complaint for this movie is that it could have been longer, but I am just glad that they made this version at all.  David Suchet deserved to star in the most famous of the Poirot mysteries and this one was done properly.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

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***

I don’t think that we have any, but I will take a look.  But if you’ve been drinking your headache is from the alcohol.  You drank, ’cause you smell.

This is a frustrating satire that makes the same point repeatedly–Romanian doctors are awful, egotistical pricks who hate EMTs.  They would rather stand around and talk about how impolite this EMT-nurse is for standing up for her critically ill patient.  Also, there seems to be an extremely uninformed temperance movement in Romania.  Go figure.  Unfortunately, this satire has very few laughs in its two hours and thirty minutes.  Still, with a title like The Death of…the story seems like a tragedy.  As far as the acting goes, everyone seemed very realistic and I would love to see Ioan Fiscuteanu in a comedy or some movie where he does not lose his faculties and devolve into an incoherent wretch.

Black Dynamite

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****

Dammit, I knew I forgot something.  Tiny, here’s the keys to my car, go get Pimping Jake out of my trunk.

This movie makes me wish that I had seen more blaxploitation films before this one.  Since it seems like a spot on parody–if I did not know that Jai Michael White starred in this film in 2009, I would have never guessed.  The haircuts are perfect.  The “mistakes” add to the authenticity of the movie–like Black Dynamite’s inability to hang up a phone properly and how in a low budget movie how they would not have reshot it.  His bachelor pad is amazing!  The soundtrack has so many original songs that could have come out 25 years ago.  I think that it is a crime that this did not get an Oscar nomination for best costume design.  Especially with a giant pistol or nunchuk.

I know that I am not the target audience for this, but even without that this movie delivers.  I had not seen Tommy Davidson in a decade; seeing him run wearing curlers in his hair was a definite highlight of this movie.  Mykelti Williamson was great to see again.  Ditto for Arsenio Hall!  I just hope that I can force my friends to watch this movie so that the amazing dialogue can lead to a Big Lebowski-esque, “Oh no! Not the orphanage!  I used to be an orphan!”  Only a couple of times do the actors acknowledge the absurdity of the universe they inhabit.  “This may be bigger than you, and may be bigger than me, but it’s not bigger than you and me, can you dig it?”  To which the lady responds, “Um, I think so.”  I hope that this gets sequelized.  And if there’s not a Black Dynamite 2: Blacker Dynamite, I hope that Captain Kangaroo Pimp gets his own movie.

Cedar Rapids

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****

…and I’m a fan of the HBO show The Wire.

This comedy has an amazing cast of both well-known (Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Sigourney Weaver) and slightly less well-known, but still recognizable (Anne Heche, Stephen Root, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Alia Shawkat, Rob Cordry) actors.  They create a fully realized world and show surprising depth as flawed people.  The film lets the characters be funny in their world as much as they are funny for the audience.  Each character makes his/her own style of jokes and when they’re cheesy or unfunny the other characters react how they should.  That is something that so many comedies lack–an appreciation for the quality of the jokes.

Cedar Rapids has taught to me to look for Miguel Arteta’s next film.  It also showed me that Anne Heche, someone whom I have always ignored, can act and that Ed Helms can lead a film as well as Steve Carell.  Lastly, Isiah Whitlock Jr.’s 2nd reference to The Wire was an A+.

Red

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**½

It’s terrible. I love it. It’s awful.

That review pretty much sums up this movie.  This movie lacked the gravitas of Red Heat, but similarly teams up Cold War enemies (featuring Brian Cox with one of the worst Russian accents I have ever heard) to take someone down.  Or something.  This movie has lots of explosions and, like Red Heat, features an attractive younger woman (here it’s Mary-Louise Parker) who gets into a relationship that does not fit into our reality, or maybe even the reality of these movies.  I’m sure that the actors had a lot of fun filming this, but that is usually a sign that it will not be as much fun for us to watch it.  For instance, I doubt that anyone had fun filming Rescue Dawn or Apocalypse Now.

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