Happy New Year, movie fans. With the first DVD Tuesday of the year I take a look at five new home video arrivals, including The Wackness, Babylon A.D., Bangkok Dangerous, Pineapple Express, and Righteous Kill.
The year is 1994 and two, dare I say, unlikely friends, are smoking pot and trying to figure out how to make the most of their miserable lives.
Luke, played by Josh Peck, is a high school grad with a decrepit home life and a side job selling marijuana.
Dr. Squires, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, is his sometimes therapist, friend, and odd-ball father figure, who can’t handle that his young wife just isn’t that into him any more.
While Luke plys his trade, under the guise of a flavoured ice vendor, the two bond and talk about what it really means to grow up and become men. And all the while, Luke finds himself falling for the good doctor’s stepdaughter, Stephanie, played by Olivia Thirlby.
Sweet, funny, and just a little off-center, The Wackness is an addictive coming-of-age story. Standout performances by Kingsley and Peck, who have brilliant chemistry, also do more for the story than the infrequently funny asides.
Plus, the film looks great, the cinematography is moving and vibrant, and the retro soundtrack rocks.
Honestly, I wasn’t blown away by the script, or the film’s pacing, which could have been a lot tighter, but I loved The Wackness for the way it brings these two characters together. It wanders off the common ground as much as possible, and succeeds at going places we don’t see often enough.
Vin Diesel cashes in on his tough guy attitude with another throw-away action movie.
Set in the not-too-distant future, Babylon A.D. has Diesel playing Toorop, a mercenary charged with bringing a woman named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) to New York City. Of course, she is not all that she appears and has some funky special abilities that a new age religion hopes will give mankind hope in the age of world wide violence.
The premise is arguably intriguing, even if it is similar to numerous other films, the story falls apart once our hero is close to the end. While Toorop, Aurora, and her keeper are making their way to America, things move at top speed. And Diesel, for his part, delivers his usual routine as best as he knows how.
Worst of all, Babylon A.D. has no real idea what it wants to do with Diesel, or Aurora, for that matter. There are futuristic ideals tossed about, violence is dispensed, and rebuked, and then the ending arrives and we’re all left scratching our heads.
Don’t get me wrong, either, I’m a huge Vin Diesel fan. I’ll just admit that he’s been in some pretty bad movies, and Babylon A.D. just happens to be the latest in a long list.
In better hands, this story could have been genius, or at least half entertaining. In its current form, however, Babylon A.D. is yet another worthless example of why decent ideas don’t always survive the filmmaking process.
The remake is a time-honoured tradition in the North American film industry, giving directors on this side of the world a chance at reviving hits from other countries in their own unique little way. The general problem is that, when they get their hands on them, few directors know what to do with these films.
Remarkably, the Pang Brothers, who have made quite the names for themselves throughout Asia, don’t even seem to know what to do with their own film when given the chance. In the remake of their own Thai hit, Nicolas Cage stars as Joe, a morose hitman trying to make the best of his final job in Bangkok.
Chasing down a number of local mobsters, Joe has trouble focusing on the things that have kept him alive so long. He breaks his own rules by befriending a local street criminal (Shahkrit Yamnarm), and then he starts mooning over the pretty young girl working at the pharmacy (Charlie Young).
Ten years ago, when the Pang Brothers first made the original Bangkok Dangerous, it would have been easier to enjoy this kind of film. Nick Cage was still hot stuff, and audiences in North America would have devoured this dark anti-hero persona. But, a lot has changed in ten years and there are lots of films that look and feel exactly the same. Despite the great action sequences, it’s hard to miss the fact that Cage has lost some of his edge, and he’s now playing most roles with a total lack of charisma, or charm for that matter.
But worst of all, this version of Bangkok Dangerous feels slow, and dully paced, bringing very little to the screen that you couldn’t see a better version of in television’s 24.
Seth Rogen and James Franco star in this stoner action comedy as two lovable pot smokers who get caught up in a murder cover-up that has a crooked cop and a drug kingpin ready to put them out of their misery. And apparently, this is not just a case of being paranoid.
Directed by the well-respected David Gordon Green, who wrote and directed All the Real Girls and Undertow, the film nevertheless has producer Judd Apatow’s usual wit written all over it. Crazy action sequences, silly jokes, drugs, and of course, Seth Rogen. It also appears to be one of the first major comedies Franco has been involved in to date, and could be fairly career-changing, if he’s trying to expand the kinds of roles he’s offered.
The film succeeds at being unconventional, somewhat funny, and action-packed, but I have to admit that it all felt like an average, underachieving spoof of stoner comedies the world over. With some guns and action tossed in for kicks. It’s certainly smarter, and funnier than the likes of Tropic Thunder, but not by much.
Two of Hollywood’s most memorable modern actors are back together in a film that I can only describe as a star vehicle headed for a head-on collision with failure.
Robert De Niro and Al Pacino play two New York detectives on the hunt for a serial killer who is murdering criminals, which may sound familiar to television fans. The complication is that their case seems to mirror one they already solved years ago, which suggests they may have put the wrong person in prison.
Although the two stars had a fantastic run in the film Heat, Righteous Kill looks like a bit of a mess that runs purely on name power, rather than talent. De Niro and Pacino should definitely fire their agents for even suggesting that this film was a good idea, especially considering how type-cast it makes the two look once again.
Reviews have definitely not been on the film’s side either. Just one example comes from Justin Chang of Variety who wrote that the film was, “at once groaningly predictable and needlessly convoluted.”