Once again we visit the mirror universe of the Couch Zone Movie Club. This a parallel dimension when I talk not of films I love but films I hate, also Spock has a beard here.
It’s time to get angry.
A Few Good Men (1992)
There’s a weird liberating feeling at hating a film which is so critically lauded like A Few Good Men is. It was nominated for a bunch of Oscars including best movie (it rightly lost to Unforgiven) and appears regularly on these top 100 movie lists that magazines throw out when they’ve struggling to think up a story or Channel 4 dedicates an entire bank holiday viewing to.
None of that cuts any ice with me as I loathe this tedious court room drama.
Now I know exactly what you’re thinking right now.
“But Dazza, that film is awesome. How can you hate that film, Jack Nicholson is awesome and that scene in the courtroom where he cries “You can’t handle the Truth!” is one of the greatest scenes in movie history!”
I don’t think it is a great scene. Jack Nicholson is great in the scene. The monologue he delivers at Tom Cruise (who is absolutely laughable trying to keep up acting wise) where he justifies his existence and that of the military is a stirring, intense performance delivered with an unwavering violent tone and is wonderful to watch time and time again. But name another scene or any other aspect of the film which is at all memorable. I’ll give you Kiefer Sutherland’s brief appearance as a cold Marine with a hatred for the Navy and Tom Cruise.
In fact that’s two scenes which are the ones always shown and in both of them we see our leading man little Tom Cruise getting his arse handed to him both as a character in story and as an actor totally having the scene torn out of his hands.
The casting of our two heroes, the legal duo defending two Marines facing murder charges after being order to give a punishment beating to a fellow marines, is abysmal and one of my pet bugs with the film.
Tom Cruise came into this film as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He’d appeared in Top Gun as a cocky, reckless fighter pilot living in the shadow of his famous fighter pilot father. He’d followed that up in Days of Thunder where he was a cocky, reckless race driver following i the footsteps of his famous race car driver father. Here in a Few Good Men he takes a total departure from the roles he’s normally known for by playing a cocky, reckless lawyer who’s following in the shadow of his famous lawyer father.
I found Cruise tedious by now and his role here irritating as hell. No better is Demi Moore who walks around like a mannequin, delivering her lines with a bland monotone drone that makes you wonder why we all thought she was this great actress back in the 90’s.
This is the couple we’re forced to hang out with for two plodding hours (running time a long 138 minutes) having to suffer through their zero chemistry while waiting for that one scene we’ve all come to see. Once Nicholson walks into the courtroom in his uniform it’s like hearing the opening bars of “Here I go again” at a Whitesnake concert after having sat through their back catalogue (insert your own musical taste analogy if you don’t like Here I go again).
And the script tries to give them their moments to contribute a stirring performance. Moore is given the “They Stand on a wall” speech to explain why she wants to defend these young men, which should be heartfelt but just falls flat. Meanwhile Cruise is given a drunken rant scene which you feel was decide to be his big moment but instead is just cringe worthy.
And by the way that stirring speech by Nicholson that everyone loves so much, is followed seconds later by a rubbish anti-climax as he falls into Cruise and Moore’s “trap!” The whole speech not really having impact on the film in any way and is just there for Nicholson to be awesome (and really that’s worth it in itself).
And the kids get court martialed anyway.
In the mid to late 2000’s with UFC in full boom, movie fans eagerly awaited the first great definitive MMA movie. Redbelt wasn’t it. Credit should be given that it tried to do something more ambitious and serious than the low rent Rocky ripoff fare such as Never Back Down, but Redbelt while attempting to present some realism and character conflict still had it’s share of implausible bollocks.
Meet Mike Terry. He’s a martial arts instructor and sadly dull as fuck, he disapproves of fighters being paid to fight in MMA and is obsessed with honour and integrity. He does has a novel way of training his students though. He has them compete against each other with either an arm or a leg tied behind their back, which limb being decided by the luck of drawing marbles from a bowl. Mike’s philosophy is that no fight is fair and you have to adapt to any situation.
Mike’s school is struggling, probably because students are going to other dojos where they’re not expected to fight with their legs tied behind their backs. What follows is a a convoluted plot and course of events which involves a misunderstanding with a lawyer and cop leading to a gun going off and breaking a window, an unpaid bouncer, Tim Allen getting attacked in a bar, an expensive watch which turns out to be stolen, Mike’s wife’s fashion business, a bullet with finger prints on it, a suicide all leading to evil MMA promoters stealing Mike’s training idea for their show.
You see a massive MMA fight is about to take place between Brazil’s greatest fighter Ricardo Silva and Japan’s greatest fighter Taketa Morisaki (played by Pride fighter Enson Inoue). This giant clash of giant MMA cultures is so big that Ricardo is bringing his legendary Uncle “The Professor” to the match while Morisaki is putting on the line his prized possession of a diamond encrusted belt, worth a quarter of a million dollars and apparently a national treasure in Japan.
However the American public don’t give a shit about these two foreigners fighting and the show looks like it’s going to be a massive box office and PPV flop. The promoters reckon that a tournament for £50,000 where the fighters have arms and legs tied behind their backs will be just the gimmick they need to save the show.
I’m not on PPV buyrate numbers but I would love Paul Fontaine of MMADRAWS.com to run the numbers on how big a draw adding the tournament where we literally see a “one legged man in an asskicking contest” would be. I’d also have loved to have seen a scene in the movie where the promoters went before the commission to get this tournament sanctioned and to see the reaction of the MMA media and fan message boards on whether the spectacle of a one legged fighter hopping while a man with an arm tied behind his back throws left after left after left is one is simply dumb as fuck.
Anyway Mike tries to sue but has to settle for a place in the tournament. But wait there’s a twist. Because Mike finds out the tournament is being rigged, as the promoters have hired a magician to manipulate what fighters get what ball. How does Mike discover this? He looks through a curtain and sees the magician practising his sleight of hand. Not only this but the main event is going to be rigged as well as the Brazillian is going to take a dive to build to a big money rematch. A “big money rematch” to a fight we’d been told was going to be a PPV flop?
And how does Mike find out about the fix being in? Well the promoters just tell him.
Mike’s outraged and tries to go to the ring to blow the whole thing open and the Brazillian fighter takes it on himself to stop him, so our big Rocky fight conclusion to the movie is two guys them brawling in arena walkway. (And yes it’s a rope ring and not a cage that this particular promotion is using, I’m guessing because a ring was easier to come by). Strangely security don’t jump in to split them up and throw Mike out of the building, but instead when Randy Couture on commentary (played controversially by Randy Couture) sees the fight going on and goes “hey, look at this” the guys in the truck decide to put this on the live PPV. By now the entire arena is watching this unremarkable tussle which is indicative of that weird law of MMA fans where an audience will turn away from two trained and professional fighters that they’ve paid over $100 to watch to instead watch two drunk fuckers brawling in the crowd.
Spoiler: Mike wins and everyone reacts as if it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen. The Japanese fighter give Mike his belt and The Professor (who seems to be Mike’s man crush) awards him a redbelt. So I guess the tournament doesn’t take place and since the Brazillian is choked out neither does the main event no doubt leading to a massive riot. Good job Mike.
While I expect a certain loose attitude to reality in fictional sport movies (the main event in Warrior is absurd when it comes to realism but I give it a pass because it’s a great, emotional story) Redbelt doesn’t engage enough to get me to overlook them and instead the final moments of the film just become laughable.
Critics were kinder than me and it has a 67% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
But it’s far from the worst movie on MMA. For that check out Fight Valley starring Miesha Tate, Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm. Just make sure to get fucked up on booze before you do.
Fight Valley a film so shit even I don’t have anything good to say about it. Even a close up slow motion of Miesha Tate’s arse doesn’t look any good. (Mike: Wait, what?!)
Death Proof (2007)
Once Tarantino became the darling of Hollywood there was always a self indulgent streak to his films. Constant pop culture references from his favourite films and tv shows, getting his heroes from youth to star in his films and basing his movies on his beloved genres such as Martial arts, westerns and men on a mission films. It’s fine that he was entertaining his own nerdy yearnings when his love letters to his days in the video store were producing great movies that his audiences were loving.
Yet in 2007, Tarantino went over the top when he teamed up with Robert Rodrigeuz to produce the ambitious and ultimately folly “Grindhouse.” Grindhouse was going to be Tarantino’s homage to cheap exploitation movies that has become the stuff of film legend on the once notoriously dangerous theatres on 42nd Street in New York. Both director’s would make a Grindhouse style movie, Tarantino making “Death Proof” and Rodrigeuz making “Planet Terror” which would be shown as a double bill and feature trailers in between them for other fictitious Grindhouse movies (two of them Machette and Hobo with a Shotgun ended up actually been made).
The films would feature gags to give the films an “authentic” Grindhouse feel, such as scratches on the film, sometimes poor sound and picture quality, poor editing and missing reels. There’s even a reference in Death Proof to the practice of Grindhouse movies being re released with new titles to give them a new lease of life in front of unsuspecting audiences.
It’s an interesting experiment and fun for cult film lovers, but audiences were baffled and there were stories of many leaving when the credits for Death Proof rolled thinking that was the end and missing Planet Terror altogether. The film flopped in the US and as such over here in UK the whole Grindhouse experience was ditched and instead the two films were released as separate movies, with only Machette surviving as the trailers gag.
Planet Terror survived ok as a enjoyable, self aware fun romp.
Death Proof, the story of a psychotic stunt driver using his car to murder women I found an absolutely miserable experience to watch.
The poor production gags that Death Proof relies on would be fine for an half hour spoof, but for a full movie they wear thin pretty quick. But even worse is that the film is at times agonisingly boring and from early on I found a chore to sit through.
Pete Chiarella (also known as 42nd Street Pete) an expert on Grindhouse cinema having lived through the glory days in New York, states that if Death Proof had appeared in actual Grindhouse theatres it would have not lasted the weekend as the film is too slow and lacks any action.
What we get in Death Proof is long stretches of tedious dialogue that I was practically begging for Tarantino to get to the point with. Long monologues are a staple of Tarantino movies and normally lively and engaging, particularly in his early work. But it’s one thing when it’s the sizzling chemistry of Uma Thurman and John Travolta on a “date” or the sinister tension delivered by Christoph Waltz’s Jew Hunter. When it’s a group of lesser actresses going at great lengths to describe a lapdance dare they’ve set their friend on it’s quite another thing. Even Kurt Russell who has tons of presence as stuntman Mckay, has trouble trying to keep my attention when discussing if he’s going to place Arelene in his little black book under “chickenshit” or not when she tries to get out of doing the lapdance.
Death Proof gets slow and annoying and was the first Tarantino movie that I actually disliked, with the feeling I wasn’t watching a film I was meant to enjoy but just sat there as witness to a indulgent session of him stroking his massive ego.
It’s not without it’s good stuff. If you can get past the scratchy film gags there is a decent looking style to the film, Russell and his death car look great and there is a spectacular stunt segment to end the film with Zoe Bell riding the hood of a car at high speed which is definitely worth watching. There’s also a lot of fun to be had in spotting the many pop culture references (bonus points if you spot Kurt Russell’s shirt from Big Trouble in Little China hanging from a wall). But as a film it’s just a tedious massive in joke.
A lot of critics disagreed and it got 68% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Sausage Party (2016)
Seth Rogan is soooooooo cool.
Seth Rogan takes drugs, wow he’s edgy!
Seth Rogan swears, God he’s shocking!
Seth Rogan likes fucking, what a guy!
Sausage Party is everything you would expect from a film where Seth Rogan has a creative hand in it and that’s not a good thing. Massively self indulgent and with tons of puerile humour that scream at the screen “look how shocking and offensive we’re being, look scenes of drug use, yes we do drugs, take that middle America!”
When I saw the first trailer for the written by Rogan Sausage Party I thought it looked hilarious. A cartoon movie in the style of Toy Story but where it was food in a supermarket that was actually alive and praying to be bought by customers and unaware of the fate that awaited them. However when I went to see Sausage Party hoping for some really offensive laughs I was bored within about ten minutes, bombarded with bad language and jokes that just fell flat one after the other.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended by swearing or drug use in movies, and in these very sensitive and fragile times I sometimes long for the freedom to find myself laughing at gags in a “I know I shouldn’t be laughing at this,” way. But when I saw a Middle Eastern character as a Lavash Bread and a Jewish character as a Bagel who start as enemies it just seemed trying too hard to be offensive.
Sausage Party does a good job of building a world of food being alive (apparently only those heavily stoned can see them for what they are) and does well with the concept. It just in it’s attempts to be edgy and shocking it actually feels dated as shows like South Park did this so much funnier and clever many years ago.
And following on from Rogan casting himself and all his buddies as themselves in This Is The End (along with cameos from lots of other Hollywood types to show that Rogan is a star) he can’t help but break the fourth wall and have the main character that he voices discover he is in a cartoon and show Rogan as himself.
For all his self indulgence I actually do like Rogan as an actor. He’s naturally funny and I loved the films Knocked Up, 50/50 and Funny People and I think he was also great in the serious role in Steve Jobs. Even in The Interview (that I didn’t care for) I thought he was extremely good. I just find his brand of humour he has a hand in writing nauseating.
Once again critcs disagree and Rotten Tomatoes give it an 83% rating so maybe i’m just really old.
Next time I’ll be back talking about maybe not “good” films but films I love.
Stay tuned for:
The seriously fucked up four entry in Troma’s greatest film franchise, an early Dystopian sci fi movie, a Korean lady assassin out does John Wick and an independent movie that’s yet to be offcially released anywhere.