Thursday, January 6, 2011

Three Films Make A Post: They Thought They Were Alone

Iron Man 2 (2010): No wonder mainstream critics looked less favourably on Jon Favreau's second Iron Man movie than they did on the first one. Instead of going in the direction of the serious and the dark (and we all know only the serious and the dark can be good, unless your making comedies about neurotic New Yorkers not featuring any explosions), Favreau goes on an all-out binge of the silly and the slightly to heavily ridiculous while trying to tell about half a dozen stories at once without including much of an actual plot holding them together. Not surprisingly, this leads to a highly distractible film that is lacking in coherence and dramatic power and prefers spending its time on play and having (often dumb) fun with whatever it can get its hands on.

Fortunately, I do like the silly and the ridiculous parts of superhero fiction as much as I do the more serious interpretations of the concept, and approve of a director spending ridiculous amounts of big company media money on playing around, so I had just about as much fun with the film as Favreau, Downey and the gang seem to have had.

Machete (2010): I know, as someone mostly specializing in cult movies, I am required by law to look down on the efforts of people like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino mining everyone's favourite cult movies for fun, art and profit, and to mumble some stuff about "stealing" from "my genre" that has nothing whatsoever to do with my understanding of the way cultural products feed on other cultural products or - more specifically - the way classic exploitation movies themselves have been built from other people's ideas and the lust for money (which of course doesn't say anything about their qualities as art or entertainment).

Fortunately, I don't care about that law, and have enjoyed nearly anything Rodriguez (or Tarantino) has ever made. Machete is no exception to that rule. As in Favreau's movie, there's a lot of wallowing in silliness on screen here too, but also a whole bunch of silly/cool pretend violence, a bit of sledgehammer political satire, Steven Seagal actually moving and speaking his own lines (though he does both with the expected problems), mainstream Hollywood actresses not daring to undress, and Danny Trejo doing what Danny Trejo does best. It's all in good fun; most of the time, Machete is a lot of fun.

Spirited Killer 3 (or whatever it is actually called, though this might actually be the spiritual sequel to what usually goes under the name of Spirited Killer 2; 199x): Two groups of people (one Japanese, the other Chinese) are tromping through a well-known patch of Thai jungle in search of a black crane's egg. Alas, an evil shaman played by Panna Rittikrai (who else?), has called dibs on the egg and sets his undead servants (including two ninjas who just love to shout "Nin-nin-nin-nin-ja!") on them. Only when the Japanese, the Chinese and the Thai people of a nearby village unite and team-up with a girl with demonic blood (don't ask) can they hinder the bad guy from using the egg for world domination.

Unfortunately, what sounds like a perfectly awesome piece of weird fu cinema gets dragged down into that very particular brand of Thai slapstick humour that makes me want to bash my own head in when I have to witness it. Not even the ninja or a gut-munching old woman are enough to alleviate the pain of dozens of sped-up chase scenes and pratfalling. Of course, not everyone is as allergic to this sort of thing as I am, so you (yes, YOU!) might well like it.


No comments: