Lean, Mean, Killing Machine

Jason Statham is back in his own star vehicle, Wrath of Man. The man who The New York Times‘s Michiko Kakutani once called a “bullet-headed looker” is back.

You know who else is back? Josh Hartnett. Yup, that’s right, Josh Hartnett, who self hasn’t seen on the big screen since The Faculty (1998!). When not required to be a heartthrob, the guy can act. Self means, really act.

And you know who else is in this movie? Clint Eastwood’s son Scott Eastwood. Who plays the badest badass she’s ever seen in a movie in a while. The kind of bad guy you’d cheer to see vivisected. Good turn, Scott Eastwood! (From certain angles, she swears she almost thought it was Clint)

The final set-piece, self didn’t think she took a breath once. It was all action, and the action had the remorselessness of a yakuza movie. Or of The Raid.

Who is that actor who plays Jason Statham’s son in the movie? Self has never seen him in her life, but he is well cast. She looks him up later — he has that kind of fey quality some British actors have when very young, but the actor turns out to be from OREGON. Big surprise! Turns out Americans are capable of turning out their own fey, young actors. LOL

There is no “closure,” not really.

Self would say she still liked Mortal Kombat better, since Wrath of Man is so unrelentingly grim. But she liked it ever so much more than Here Today, which put her to sleep.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Justified 4.4

Apologies, dear blog readers, but self needed time to “process.”  She loves this season of Justified, it is absolutely great.

Raylan is quite significantly thinner than in previous seasons.  Timothy, is it overwork?  Never mind.  You are still gorgeous.  Gorgeous with a capital “G.”

When self watched “Parker” last weekend, there was a scene where Jason Statham impersonates a rich Texan and shows up in Palm Springs wearing —  gadzooks! —  an enormous white Stetson.  But, in keeping with the over-the-top nature of the whole cheesy enterprise (which is not to say that self did not find the movie hugely enjoyable —  she did, and particularly for the chemistry between J Lo, Parker, J Lo’s real estate colleagues, and her Mum’s yippy pet dog), the Stetson was about 10 sizes too large.  Self kids you not, dear blog readers, it looked about three feet wide.

Anyhoo, back to last night’s episode of “Justified.”  The preacher’s sister shows up in the local sheriff’s office, looking truly woebegone.  Until then, self was kinda hoping that her preacher brother survived the rattlesnake bite on his arm from the last episode, but alas!  He was apparently dead, dead, deader than a doornail, and that was the reason for the sister’s wan appearance.

In this episode, Ava —  who is, as we all know, hot, but whose figure has been hidden, for many episodes now, under dull-colored clothes that look like they were rescued from the dumpster behind the Salvation Army store — finally returns to sultry glory.  That is, she exhibits cleavage.  Her top was a lacy thing, like something from Victoria’s Secret.  Slutty and very fine.  Way to go, Ava!  The actress who plays her seems to be hardening her jaw, which is entirely in keeping with Ava’s long but relentless descent into Lady Macbeth territory.

Meanwhile, the waif/whore Ella May returns to the fold —  er, to the bar.  There are aspersions cast on her trustworthiness.  Ava hands her $2000 and tells her to make a fresh start somewhere far, far away.  And, just to prove how sincere Ava is, she sends Ella May off with the most malevolent member of the bar crew, a dirty blonde with a sort of Grade B Gerard Depardieu look, who rises to the occasion by having a moment of crisis in a gas station restroom, where it is revealed that he is having qualms about shooting Ella May, who is pumping gas —  a whore pumping gas!  Quelle fabulous use of subtext!  Anyhoo, the reason we know henchman is having qualms is that he pauses to sniff a line of coke before preparing his pistol for the death blow.  He then walks out of the restroom, and —  well, self cannot tell dear blog readers what happened next for she had her eyes shut.  All she knows is that lunk kept calling, almost beseechingly, “Ella May!  Ella May!”  As if he were playing a game of hide-and-seek with her.  Self listened anxiously for the report of a gun, but there was none.  Perhaps Ella May had the smarts to secret herself beneath the car?  Hanging on to the undercarriage, or something James Bond-y like that?  Way to go, Ella May!

Raylan was given a very nice gun by his increasingly comely deputy, Rachel (now divorced, though self can’t say she misses the ex, whose face she can’t ever remember seeing, in three previous seasons).  It was silver and long.  He uses it to get back at his ex-lover’s husband, the boxer.  He shoots and shoots and gets shot himself, and the lady escapes with her life, her loot, and her vixen reputation, and Raylan discovers that the $10,000 she stole from him went into buying chickens.  Or were those fighting cocks?

No Deputy Gutterson in this episode.  Self has noticed that the producers never have Rachel and Tim in the same episode.  She figures they function as alter-egos for Raylan.  When Raylan is feeling hip and manly, they have Tim to exchange sardonic verbiage with.  When he is feeling woebegone, they have Rachel to bring out his sensitive side.  Gadzooks if that doesn’t work —  in spades!

In this episode, there were more of those Holy-Cow-Mother-of-All-Lines, the ones that display the fantastic American capacity for breath control, rivaling that of even Royal Shakesperean actors like Ian Holm and Derek Jacobi.  Only, the fun quotient is to the nth power, because these characters are doing the Shakesperean thang in rural Kentucky.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Observations on Taylor Hackford and “Parker”

Taylor Hackford was the guy who, 30 years, ago, brought us “An Officer and a Gentleman,” that movie with Richard Gere as a Navy runt (Early scenes even have him wandering around Subic) and Debra Winger as a townie factory girl, and Louis Gossett, Jr. as a marine drill sergeant.

30 years later, Hackford is directing Jason Statham in an action movie.  Wow!  That shows real flexibility and directorial chops.  Self is not being ironic.  Self really does think Hackford is a very good director.

Before watching “Parker” today with The Man, self was not all that enthused about seeing it —  largely because of a review in Pajiba that basically made it sound like the same old Jason Statham shtick.  Like a recycled Transporter.

The Man chose “Parker” over “Les Miserables,” however, and self does tend to go along with his movie choices, as he has much less free time to see movies than self.

So, having seen the movie, here are some points self wishes to make:

  • You will not see this movie if you are turned off by screen violence.
  • You will not see this movie if you do not like Jason Statham.
  • You might see this movie if you like J Lo.

Further observations:

Self did not find Jason Statham as priest (Parker’s first iteration) in the least ridiculous.  In fact, he looked like a believable priest, in self’s humble opinion.  Except for the fact that when he throws darts, he never misses (He’s at the Ohio State Fair; he helps a little girl so that she can win a stuffed toy)

In addition, Taylor Hackford deserves audience’s utmost gratitude for showing that J Lo can play a ditzy Palm Springs real estate agent with money problems (Her car is about to be repossessed and as a brand-new real estate agent she hasn’t yet landed a commission) better than a real Palm Springs real estate agent with money problems.  From her disappointed pout when Parker’s girlfriend materializes, and her outfits (J Lo minces around in tacky, super-tight neon-colored suits and white pumps (Watch her stakeout a bad guy’s house —  Bad Guy’s Name is Rodriguez, how very “Bad-Guy-Sounding,” BWAH HA HA! — in high-heeled white pumps and the tightest pencil skirt this side of “Justified”!  Oh, self almost forgot :  the skirt is silk, with a pattern of big flowers), she is funny and, best of all, convincing playing a regular person!  One who doesn’t get the guy!  But who manages to swallow her disappointment with good grace!

It’s so violent, it’s almost like a B movie.  While watching, self found herself comparing the level of violence to, say, something like “Silence of the Lambs.”  It is not on that same level of gross.  At least, the villains here do not express desire to cook their victims with Fava beans.

The screenplay was surprisingly deft.  Even the minor characters —  Michael Chiklis and his gang; Nick Nolte as Parker’s father figure; Parker’s girlfriend (a very pale blonde, with a kind of Mia Wasikowska thing going); a document forger; J Lo’s mom; J Lo’s fellow realtors, even J Lo’s mom’s pet dog —  have definition.  There’s even a minor riff involving the aforementioned wee dog that reminded self of —  gasp! —  “There’s Something About Mary!”

Self loved this dialogue:

Three bad guys tied up on the floor in the document forger’s office.  Parker hands the forger a gun and tells him to shoot them.  When the forger balks, Parker says:  “If I have to shoot them I will.  But I’ll shoot you next.”  So the forger grabs the gun and obliges.  Then Parker tells him, “Shoot them again.”  And the forger protests, “But they’re dead!”  Parker’s response:  “Then they won’t feel anything!  Shoot them again!”

From the above,  dear blog readers will conclude that self has quite a high tolerance for movie violence.  Are you kidding?  Self saw the Indonesian movie “The Raid:  Redemption” last year, and gave it five stars!  She loved “Django Unchained!”  About the only cinema violence can’t stand is when it’s directed at women — those “Kill Bill” movies made her squirm.  Also, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.”  Also, “The Last House on the Left.”

So, “Parker”:  self loved it.  It made her sad to learn, however, from the closing credits, that Donald E. Westlake, who wrote the Parker books, was no more.  She loved Donald E. Westlake!  His Money for Nothing had her in stitches!  It’s the story of a man who, for seven years, receives monthly checks of $1,000.  The man is so happy about the situation that he decides not to pry into the reason for the checks. (And you and self would probably do the same, right, dear blog readers?)  Lo and behold, at the end of the seven years, a stranger appears and demands that our hero do something in exchange.  Naturally, it’s something wicked.  The man is aghast!  But he is already tainted.  Perhaps he can return the money — but no!  It’s already been spent.  And —  OK, you’d have to read the book to find out what happens.

Self is giving “Parker” —  believe it or not —  five stars!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

2nd (or 3rd) Movie of the Labor Day Weekend: “Expendables 2”

It’s a good thing The Man is into movies, like self, or there would be a real problem with what to do on weekends.

Actually, self had a hankering to see that Man Ray exhibit at the Legion of Honor, but saw it was closed today.

Anyhoo, we ended up seeing “Expendables 2.”  This was a very very very —  and self does mean VERY — enjoyable action movie, dear blog readers, especially once you get past the first five minutes, which was full of confusing explosions and everyone running around yelling.

The highlight of the movie was a very dramatic showdown somewhere in Uzbekistan.  Or was it Nepal?  Anyhoo, some Godforsaken country in one of the usual places:  the Himalayas or the Urals.  And after the smoke cleared, out from a haze of expended-bullet smoke, appeared XXXXX (Self will not spoil the fun for those dear blog readers who still haven’t seen this fabulous movie.  Suffice it to say, at the appearance of XXXXX, the audience at the Redwood City Century 20 burst out into loud cheers and laughter.  In self’s humble opinion, when a movie audience gets to the point where they are that “into” what’s on screen — it’s something self likes to call the “Star Wars Effect” — everything else that happens is just gravy)

Here are some other highlights:

  • You will get to hear Dolph Lundgren’s character described as a genius because he got a masters (in Engineering?) from MIT.
  • You will see Jean-Claude Van Damme, without shades.
  • You will see Liam Hemsworth.  Does he get to be a permanent part of the team?  For the purposes of eye candy?  No spoilers here.
  • You will hear once again the immortal words, “Yippie-ky-yay.”  (If you don’t know what movie that line is from, don’t bother seeing “Expendables 2”)
  • You will get to see a bad guy’s head get turned into mincemeat by rotating helicopter blades.
  • You will encounter a (temporary) female member of the team, who is Chinese and who has in her possession a little toolset consisting of sharp scalpels — very handy for prying (if that’s not too literal a word) information out of recalcitrant bad guys.

Hmmm, let’s see, what else?

Stallone’s face is craggy.  Statham is too young to be lumped in with these oldies, but never mind.  The Governator is there but he does not get to say “Hasta la vista,” instead he utters “I’m back,” which is lame.  Jet Li is also in this, but only for about 10 minutes.  Self thinks there was a Director named in the closing credits.  In fact, she’s almost sure his name was “Simon West.”  Which is possibly a pseudonym.  Because the name just sounds so, so —  cinematic?

The reason self is calling “Expendables 2” her third movie of the weekend was because last night, The Man found “Flash Gordon.”  And she just couldn’t get enough of the rousing refrain:

FLASH!  Ah-ah!  FLASH!

Timothy Dalton was in there, but not playing Flash (Flash is, of course, blonde.  They could have used Dalton, but only if they’d dyed his hair.  He probably wouldn’t have looked good)

There was a whole horde of attacking flying angels.  No kidding:  the wings were exactly those of the wings of the angel in Tony Kushner’s play, Lost in America.  When one sees a whole horde of these winged beings, flying through the air, how can one help but exclaim, “It’s all up with us!”

Self just can’t wait for “Expendables 3”!!!

Stay tuned.

Weekend Status Report (Monday, 7 May 2012)

In a little while, self plans to:

  1. Drop off a bag of used clothing at Goodwill on Santa Cruz Avenue
  2. Mail something to The Antioch Review (Hope springs eternal), and
  3. Pick up clothes from the dry-cleaners.

Why she feels the urge to get all of these things done right now, when she has to return to Menlo Park later anyway, to see her dentist, is really mysterious, but self never questions the decisions she makes when she is just hoppin’ full of energy!  Like, right now!

Let’s see, what did self do last weekend (aside from purchasing a really fab pair of shell earrings from the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival)?

  • Developed a fancy for the Reading Room at The Threepenny Review website.  Even though self has had nothing accepted by The Threepenny Review in the last decade, she still thinks this literary magazine is one of the best.
  • She saw the new Jason Statham movie, “Safe” (Grrreat.  No review necessary:  we all know what a successful Jason Statham movie is like.  There will be plenty of bang-bang and also the obligatory emotional low, to be followed by the kick-butt high!  Result:  Total Viewer Contentment and Satisfaction)
  • She got a form rejection (in her e-mail) from Ninth Letter (It feels like she’s been trying to get into this one forever).
  • She got an SASE (another form rejection) from American Literary Review.
  • She wrote out a check to send to Calyx.
  • She walked The Ancient One, who seemed quite spry and happy.
  • She spoke to a neighbor on the corner about his flowers.
  • She saw another ladybug in her garden (and four long, slimy things — with legs —  that she determined to be some kind of reptile:  lizards, probably)
  • Finished off a whole bottle of Vlasic Sweet Gherkins —  in two days.  Even the husband felt compelled to make a remark.

All in all, it was quite a successful weekend.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Showing Downtown Now, Redwood City Century 20

Self could see “Biutiful” in Palo Alto Square, but suddenly she doesn’t feel like driving all the way there.

She’d much rather stick to her downtown Redwood City Century 20.  Here’s a list of what’s showing there today:

  • “The Eagle” —  Wow, is this the one with Channing Tatum playing a Roman centurion?  Methinks so!  Self saw the preview when she watched abominable “Skyline” (aka worst movie of 2010) with niece G, a couple of months ago!  At that time, self was all Channing Channing Channing, and niece was all “the guy who was Billy Elliott!  The guy who was Billy Elliott!”
  • “Gnomeo and Juliet” (Sounds like a kiddie movie.  Never mind)
  • “Just Go With It,” about which self knows absolutely nothing, though it does sound suspiciously like a rom-com, might even be the one featuring Jen Aniston (And self is so tired of Jen in rom-coms!)
  • “Justin Bieber:  Never Say Never”  Which self has no inclination to see.
  • “Hood to Coast Encore Event” (Self’s brain is so limp this morning, she can’t even figure out a wise-crack for this one)
  • “The Roommate,” which self knows stars Leighton Meester and another (blonde) girl, and was supposedly the #1 movie in America last weekend.
  • “Sanctum,” and “Sanctum 3D” (0, 0, self’s brain is really dead)
  • “From Prada to Nada,” about which self thinks she will likely say Nada.
  • “The Mechanic”  —  Ben Foster and Jason Statham?  Yumm!  Oh, but she missed the first show.  And since she is no longer in Bacolod, it’s back to cheapskate mode  —  that is, she will confine herself to paying no more than $6.25 per movie.
  • “The Rite,” which sounds scary in an “Exorcist” kind of way.  Is this the one where the girl bends backwards as though she were a clothespin?  Self will not watch anything likely to exacerbate her insomnia.
  • “The Company Men” —  She thinks this one stars Ben Affleck.  Who is cute but wildly inconsistent in his choice of movie roles.  Chances are, no.
  • “No Strings Attached” with Portman and Kutcher, not two of her favorite actors.  (Self was absolutely flummoxed when she heard, while still in Bacolod, that this movie was a hit)
  • “The Dilemma,” which self hears about for the first time.
  • “The Green Hornet,” which stars a “new and improved,” svelte Seth Rogen.  No thanks.  (The bear-ish Seth Rogen was much, much funnier)
  • “Blue Valentine,” which has INDIE street cred, but the clips self saw of it (Michelle Williams doing gawky dance for Ryan Gosling) were not very prepossessing.  Besides which, self thinks this is the kind of movie that might make her cry.  And she does not want to cry.  Not, at any rate, with spring just around the corner.
  • “True Grit” (Seen)
  • “The Fighter,” which self would be willing to see, if only for Amy Adams.  Only she’s missed the first show.
  • “Tron:  Legacy” —   Self didn’t even like the first Tron, so she’d have to be crazy to sit through the second.
  • “Black Swan” —  supposedly the movie that lands Portman the Oscar.  But self just can’t get onto the Portman bandwagon, for some reason.  (Perhaps it’s the actress’s flat, expressionless voice?)
  • “The King’s Speech.”  (Seen.  Loved)
  • “Tangled”  —  Son mentioned he wanted to see this, last time he was home (a whole other lifetime ago, it feels like)

What to do, what to do?

Stay tuned.

“Transporter 3” Rocks!

Apologies, dear blog readers: self knows this is not a serious post. For instance, why does she love “Transporter 3”? When all that esteemed New Yorker could say about this movie was that Jason Statham exhibited some “balletic” moves?  When, this afternoon, during the 12:55 p.m. show in downtown RWC movie theatre, there was absolutely no one else in the theatre —  other than son and self, that is?

The reasons self loved “Transporter 3” are:

  • This movie is just tailor-made for people who are not serious (like self)
  • Self just realized who Jason Statham’s moves remind her of: Bruce Lee. The “Enter the Dragon” and “Fists of Fury” Bruce Lee.  And, he is probably the only person on the planet who can race an Audi on the top of a speeding train, and make it look believable.
  • This installment marks a return to the inspired silliness of the first. For one, it is set in Europe, where the original one was set.
  • Self can now reply with confidence when someone asks her which is a better car, an Audi or a Mercedes.  Answer:  an Audi (especially when driven by Jason Statham) as his car left all the various Mercedeses driven by the bad guys in the dust.  One (Mercedes) even went end over end and exploded in a ravine!
  • The girl is a ding-bat, as she should be. (Please, no more of the suffering, martyr wives like the one Amber Valleta had to play in installment no. 2!) This girl drinks vodka straight from the bottle, pees in the aisle of a convenience store (she has a good excuse: she’s fitted with a metal bracelet that explodes if she moves farther from the car than 75 feet), and begs Jason Statham to strip —  which, much to self’s elation, he does, in an open field. Ha ha ha ha!
  • The bad guys are nondescript: standard bad guys, none of your Max von Sydow or James Cromwell A-list bad guys. Which is what makes the movie even more enjoyable.

When the credits rolled, self could barely contain herself.  She turned to son and said, “Wow! That was a really good movie!”

And son replied, “It was all right.” Self has the sneaking suspicion he preferred “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” And, coincidentally, a preview for that very movie was showing just before “Transporter 3.” So self got to see the divine Keanu in his polygraph scene all over again.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Hunting For “Billy Bathgate”: The 4th Most Gorgeous Day So Far in 2008

This morning, on the way home after fab dimsum lunch at Ming’s in Palo Alto, self asked hubby to stop by Menlo Park Library so she could pick up a copy of E. L. Doctorow’s Billy Bathgate, one of the next books on self’s reading list. For some reason, Redwood City Library did not have a copy of this particular Doctorow novel.

Upon arrival at Menlo Park Library, however, self discovered that someone had just checked out the library’s only copy of this particular novel. Why is everyone suddenly on the same wavelength as self? Now, the only other library in the vicinity that has a copy of Billy Bathgate is the one in Belmont.

After the library, hubby and self drove to the old Century Park 12 movie theatre on Bayshore, and watched “The Bank Job.” What a fun movie! Jason Statham is such a compelling actor. There was even some kind of love triangle sub-plot going on between Jason, Saffron Burrows (whose character went by the rather improbable name of Martina Love) and Jason’s long-suffering blonde wife. Anyhoo, it was wonderful for self to re-live the 70s. Self was put in mind of other 70s movies she has loved: “The French Connection” and “The Godfather.” She loved all the low-life cockney accents, and the Jason Statham side-kick who looked disconcertingly like loony comic Andy Kaufman. And Saffron Burrows is still lovely, though her face looks rather sharper than self remembered it being in “Enigma,” several years ago.

After the movie, hubby drove home, and then self rushed off to Redwood City Nursery, which is her other favorite plant nursery, and she got there just half an hour before it closed. But there were other people still pulling in to the parking lot. And the nursery had set out the fattest, most gorgeous pink, white, and red camellias self had ever seen. But since these magnificent specimens started at $35, and self has no luck at all with this particular plant, she regretfully had to pass.

Instead, she bought four itty-bitty pots of lamium, which the tag said was a shade-loving plant that could take all kinds of mistreatment: poor soil, drought, etc etc. That certainly is the plant for self! (And then, after she made her purchase, she worried that hubby would forget to water while she is in Israel)

Now, hubby engrossed in Duke/North Carolina game (North Carolina leading), and Dick Vitale is his usual excitable self, and self got to see Eli and Peyton Manning sitting on the sidelines (Both dressed in long-sleeved shirts with collars). Stanford played earlier today, but lost (big) to USC, boo.

Dinner (stir-fried minced pork and asparagus) is over. Self and hubby are having slices of lemon meringue pie with oolong tea. Tomorrow self thinks she’ll try planting the Blanc Double de Courbet rose that she ordered from Edmunds’ Roses. Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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