Welcome to latest chapter in our series, as The Snooty Ushers trawl through the vast expanse of Netflix. Braving the unknown… discovering the hidden gems… risking the dire and the dreadful… all so you don’t have to.
The Pink Panther (Shawn Levy, 2006)
Steve Martin is the star of one of my absolute favorite films, Planes, Trains, And Automobiles which I re-viewed last Thanksgiving. One of the all-time great stand-up comedians, Martin transitioned into films and starred in comedy classics like The Jerk, The Man With Two Brains and Three Amigos. He has also has made numberous re-makes, with variable results. Father Of The Bride is decent enough, Sgt Bilko is not good enough by half. Undetered, in 2006 took on the Inspector Clouseau role made famous by the legendary Peter Sellers.
When the French national football manager (played by Jason Statham) is murdered and his Pink Panther diamond ring stolen, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) appoints bumbling small-town policeman Clouseau to investigate the crimes, while putting together a crack team to actually solve the murder and take credit for himself. The useless Clouseau is assigned a partner (who was going to be played by Jackie Chan as an updated Cato, but ended up as Jean Reno seemingly playing Jean Reno) to keep Dreyfus informed of his activities. He actually starts to make progress however, as even the football manager’s girlfriend popstar Xania (played by Beyonce, back when she wanted to be an actress) comes under suspicion.
Even with the Stath, an enthusiastically game Emily Mortimer, and a brilliant Clive Owen cameo, I can’t recommend this, even slightly. It’s a totally forgettable comedy, it made me chuckle a few times, and Matin is trying his best, but there aren’t enough funny moments. There’s also a very long, cringe-inducing scene at customs. Then there’s a scene where Clouseau is being taught how to speak like a native New Yorker for a totally, utterly superfluous trip to the Big Apple that should provide plenty of comic moments but simply doesn’t. And what should be an easy scene to make funny – Steve Martin mangling words – misses the mark, and goes on far too long.
Thumbs down. Far, far down. Give it a miss.
Olympus Has Fallen (Antoine Fuqua, 2013)
In case you’re wondering, Olympus Has Fallen is the White House film from 2013 that had Aaron Eckhart as the President and Gerard Butler as the guy who saves the day, from Antoine Fuqua, the director of Training Day. White House Down was a more over the top, sillier film with Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, directed by Roland Emmerich of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow fame. But how does it stand as an action film three years later?
We start with Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and the First Family at Camp David, where he is more than just head of security – he’s part of the family, bantering with the President (Eckhart) and the First Lady (Ashley Judd), as well as their son. On a snowy trip to a fund raising event, Mike’s all-round good guy status is hammered home to us when we see him cracking wise with the rest of the security detail. However, tragedy strikes in the form of a car accident, and although Mike manages to save the President and his son, but not the First Lady.
We fast forward eighteen months, with Mike no longer working for the President, who is struggling to balance being a single father with being leader of the Free World. During a meeting with the South Korean President, an attack is launched on the White House by North Korean terrorists. When the President himself is kidnapped, and every seemingly member of security, armed forces, and police force taken out, it is left to Mike Banning to save the President, the day, and the world.
The best part of this film is the attack on the White House, as the terrorist attack escalates and escalates until there is a huge aircraft reigning bullets down on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. However, it’s also one of the most problematic. The terrorists are far too successful and far too many innocent people die. I’m not asking for a return to the Hays Code, but like The Family, the death of totally innocent felt like a heavy handed shortcut to show us that these are bad people. It’s just a lazy shorthand (heavy handed shorthand? I’m such a hack!) to show that these are definitely not freedom fighters, legitimate soldiers, or justified in anyway. And although I’ve not seen the sequel yet (Dan’s review is here) it seems like an issues that has only gotten worse. I blame Michael Bay.
Dylan McDermott (one of our Dependables) and Morgan Freeman (perhaps the ultimate Dependable?) are both very good supporting characters in this film, and Butler and Eckhart play their roles very well, but the plot is a bit dull after the huge set piece attack..
Although White House Down was been described as “Die Hard in the White House”, I noticed when putting this piece together I noticed the tagline on the poster for Olympus Has Fallen “The White House Under Siege”, and I think both films definitely belong alongside the Steven Seagal punch-a-thon as a second tier action movie.
Olympus Has Fallen is alright, but nothing particularly memorable. There are better action films on Netflix, so I wouldn’t recommend you go out of your way to watch. I mean, Die Hard is on Netflix now. Watch that instead. Or Team America: World Police. I can’t really recommend this film above all the other options available.
Vendetta (Jen & Sylvia Soska, 2015)
WWE Studios has a patchy record in recent years, but in The Soska Sisters it seems to have found a pair of directors that work well. After a low budget See No Evil 2 in 2014, this is their first non-horror film, with Dean Cain and The Big Show (billed as Paul “The Big Show” Wight here).
Cain plays Mason Danvers, a detective who manages to finally put away Victor Abbot (Show), a criminal he has been chasing for a long time. When Victor gets released on a technicality, he brutally kills Mason’s wife. Unable to deal with the guilt, Mason murders a gang member to get himself sent to the same prison as Victor to get his revenge. When he gets there however, he has trouble with the warden (Michael Eklund), who sees Abbot as as much of a threat to his authority as Victor.
I was pleasantly surprised with this film. I do enjoy a good… what’s the word for it? In the past they might have been called B movies, and “Straight to Video” hasn’t been accurate since about 2002. Anyway, I enjoy a good low budget action film that can’t rely on huge explosions (or even realistic looking gun fire) but manages to be exciting anyway. I think I picked this up off my Dad, who always has a good selection of DVDs ready for me, which will one day form the basis of an awesome column.
Like I have said previously, the Soska Sisters are clearly on the rise, and I hope they get bigger budgets to work with in the future. Apart from a few clearly pulled punches in a few fight scenes (surprising when you consider the studio) this is a decent, tense prison film.
Oldboy (Spike Lee, 2013)
Josh Brolin isn’t quite Steve Martin when it comes to remakes, but he has starred in two. First, in 2010 he was in the Coen brothers’ excellent True Grit, although that was an adaptation of the 1968 book rather than a remake of 1969 John Wayne film. This film however is a remake of Park Chan-wook’s 2003 Oldboy, with some material from the original manga added back in.
For those unaware, this Oldboy is the story of a man, Joe Doucett, who is mysteriously kidnapped and locked in a hotel room without any explanation. He sees a news report that his wife has been raped and murdered, and he is the prime suspect. His daughter has been put up for adoption, and he then starts training his body and mind for his eventual revenge. Twenty years later, he is released, again without explanation. With his new freedom, he sets out to find out who it was that took twenty years of his life, at what ever the cost.
Oldboy is a disappointing film for me. Maybe if I hadn’t seen the original I would enjoy this more, but I have, so I didn’t. I would recommend it however, Brolin is great and a real badass, and if you haven’t seen the original, the story makes it worth watching. And if you have seen the original, you can marvel at just how straight a remake it is.
Batman: The Movie (Leslie H. Martinson, 1966)
Although Adam West’s version of Batman didn’t win at Snootymania, for a long time he was the pre-eminent incarnation in popular culture. In the mid-1960s, Batman ran for 120 episodes over the 3 seasons, and in between its first and second seasons, they also released this film.
When Batman and Robin go to rescue a yacht, they are attacked by a shark, which explodes when Batman gets free. This leads them to conclude that the missing yacht can only be the work of a combined force of the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, and Catwoman. It’s a pretty hilarious act of deduction – Pretty fishy what happened to me on that ladder… You mean, where there’s a fish, there could be a Penguin… But wait! It happened at sea! See? “C” for Catwoman! Yet… an exploding shark was pulling my leg!…The Joker!… [It] all adds up to a sinister riddle. Riddle-er. Riddler?
That’s the tone on the film, and once you get in tune with it, it’s a really silly, really enjoyable, really fun film. There’s a scene with Robin and Alfred in the Batmobile listening in on a conversation Bruce Wayne is, and Alfred (in the driving seat) is wearing a disguise consisting of a mask that barely covers his eyes:
This film made me laugh more than most comedies do. Definite recommendation!
I hope to be Negotiating Netflix again soon.
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS As a special treat for reading all the way to the end, here’s the two Oldboy fight scenes one after another. Enjoy.