THE AVENGERS (2012)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 23 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence and Action throughout, and a mild Drug Reference

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Directed by: Joss Whedon

Written by: Joss Whedon

(based on the AVENGERS comics by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany & Powers Boothe

In the history of cinema, there’s never been anything quite like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Through various origin stories and connections, Marvel released a number of films (IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, IRON MAN 2, THOR, and CAPTAIN AMERICA) with the intentions of leading up to a massive epic AVENGERS movie that comic book geeks never thought they would receive in their wildest dreams. While the films leading up this 2012 summer blockbuster ranged in quality, THE AVENGERS fast became a critically acclaimed blockbuster that ranked as one of the biggest money-makers in the history of film. Everybody loved this movie and most still do, but I don’t fawn over it as much as everybody else seems to. THE AVENGERS is hugely entertaining, but far from perfect thanks to three problems.

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Top secret organization S.H.I.E.L.D. is experimenting with the Tesseract (an infinity stone) and find themselves in a bit of trouble. The evil Loki has come to our world with the goals of using the infinity stone for evil and dominating all of mankind. It’s up to special agent Nick Fury to assemble a ragtag group of superheroes to form the Avengers. They might not get along with each other, but this team of heroes is here to save the day. It’s Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye vs. Loki and his army of intergalactic conquerors.

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The biggest pleasure of watching THE AVENGERS is to see this group of Marvel superheroes interact with each other. You get to watch as Iron Man gets into arguments with Captain America and forms a friendship with the Hulk. There’s also Thor being aggressive towards everyone as well as the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team being wary of Bruce Banner to much comic relief. Seeing as these characters have been developed through separate movies (save for Black Widow and Hawkeye), there’s no real need for extra character development. It’s a cast of actors slipping right back into their established roles with ease. Black Widow is a good character on her own, but Hawkeye is underdeveloped (though that’s mainly the result of a plot device in the first 5 minutes).

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The biggest drawback character is Loki as the main villain. He’s already been given his time to shine as the bad guy in THOR, but we’re expected to find him just as interesting in THE AVENGERS (having already seen Thor beat his ass once already). While Tom Hiddleston is funny in the role, he just isn’t that great of a threat for the Avengers. The rest of the baddies are a bunch of faceless aliens that really aren’t given much of a purpose other than to be beaten by the Avengers. For a movie that was set up as an action-packed superhero extravaganza from beginning to end, AVENGERS takes an awful long space of time just focusing on the team members squabbling with each other on their floating S.H.I.E.L.D. base. It’s as if this movie that was clearly setting itself up as a fanboy’s wet dream decided to take a break in order to build supposed tension and that doesn’t really work out in the movie’s favor.

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As far as the spectacle itself is concerned, AVENGERS looks huge and feels epic. The action set pieces are entertaining and it’s a blast to watch this well-known group of mismatched heroes working together in a climax set across the streets of New York. There are plenty of one-liners, fights, and explosions to go around. Everything looks great with one problem and it’s a big one. The Hulk is really cheesy. Mark Ruffalo is quite good in the role of Bruce Banner, but the CGI monster that he turns into looks pretty silly compared to everything else around him. It’s possible that we’ll never see a Hulk who looks perfectly rendered because, well, the Hulk isn’t that great of a hero to begin with. However, even the Hulk from 2008’s INCREDIBLE HULK was a lot better than this green Ruffalo-resembling creature. It doesn’t distract from any of the awesome scenes featuring the other heroes, but he’s pretty dumb looking by himself. That being said, a scene between him and Loki is pure gold.

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Overall, THE AVENGERS is a lot of fun. That being said, it’s far from a perfect movie. Hell, there are even films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that have managed to outdo this one (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY). The running time is bit too long and the design of Hulk looks pretty silly. Also, we’ve seen Loki before and I wish they could have given us a better villain. With all these things in mind, THE AVENGERS is a highly entertaining comic book film that delivers the goods. I do think it’s a bit overrated, but there’s hope that AGE OF ULTRON could manage to one-up this in every possible way.

Grade: B+

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Brutal Stylized Violence throughout, Sexual Content, Nudity, and brief Drug Use

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Directed by: Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller

Written by: Frank Miller

(based on the SIN CITY graphic novels by Frank Miller)

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie King, Juno Temple, Marton Csokas, Jamie Chun & Julia Garner

The original SIN CITY was one of my favorite movies during high school and hopes were high that Frank Miller’s amazing crime anthology would play out with the two sequels as a trilogy. Announcements for big name talent (including the original cast and the likes of Johnny Depp) were made and then the much-anticipated sequel was placed in development hell. Almost a full decade later, the second installment has finally been released and it was not worth the ridiculously long wait. Ironically, another Frank Miller sequel released this year bears some strong resemblance to SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. That film would be 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE. Both sequels are forcibly trying way too hard to duplicate what the filmmakers think fans liked about the originals and neither of them succeed well at it. DAME TO KILL FOR is a mixed bag in every way.

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A DAME TO KILL FOR follows the same format as the original SIN CITY. It’s a crime anthology with four noir tales that have recurring characters and an interlocking timeline. While the first film felt open and vibrant with every single detail being paid close attention to, this sequel feels confined and cheaper in many ways. The production values range from sometimes gorgeous to mostly corny. I don’t mean corny in the sense that things feel too far over-the-top (some intentional cheese works well), but corny in the sense that the world around our actors is fake looking. The visuals of 2005’s SIN CITY hold up well to this day and made me feel like I had entered a dangerous city filled with criminals. DAME TO KILL FOR feels like I’m watching a bunch of actors pretend in front of a green screen with silly looking CGI backgrounds around them. It feels like less attention was being placed on detail and more on pumping this thing out fast, but that’s not the real case because this had a nine-year-long production. The stories are as follows…

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JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT: Marv (from HARD GOODBYE in the original) wakes from a drunken stupor surrounded by crashed cars, corpses, and blood. He tries to piece together what happened to put him in this situation from hazy memories. This opener lasts less than 10 minutes and introduces the vibe that things are more forced this time around. Some dark comedy is present and I had fun watching the style in which this tale played out, but the writing was okay at best. Marv’s make-up looks ridiculous on Mickey Rourke this time around and it hurts that he appears during every single story in some way or another. It should have been an early sign for disappointment that the memorable character with the most disturbing tale in the first film was in a campy opener this time around. B-

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THE LONG BAD NIGHT: This first full-blown tale is the best segment in the film and up to the caliber of the original flick. I wouldn’t call it only good, but pretty awesome as a whole. Johnny is a gambler with a superb winning streak who visits Basin City (a.k.a. Sin City, duh) to play the most powerful poker game in town. He finds himself in over his head when he goes up against the corrupt Senator Roark (family member to a twisted priest, a cannibal serial killer, and a yellow-skinned pedophile in the first flick). Roark doesn’t take kindly to losing and Johnny finds himself against odds that he didn’t foresee when he leaves for a night on the town.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a welcome newcomer to the cast as Johnny and Powers Boothe (briefly glimpsed in SIN CITY) takes center stage as the slimy Roark. It’s easy to hate the gambling villain and the story was fairly predictable, but a few twists did take me by surprise. I liked a reveal midway through that wasn’t so much of a shock but a nice direction to take the story. The ending of this tale is fantastic. It’s a poetic conclusion to the best story of the sequel. Also production values felt far better in this single story than they were in the rest of the entire film. A

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A DAME TO KILL FOR: The story is where the ride begins to get really bumpy. Dwight (from BIG FAT KILL in the first film) is a private investigator specializing in incriminating photos. When a femme fatale from his past contacts him about her abusive husband, Dwight becomes infatuated with the sexy Ava Lord and comes to find too late that the situation isn’t as simple as he expected. This tale was as by-the-numbers as one can get. There aren’t any unexpected twists and some lengthy side plot threads go nowhere.

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This also happens to be a tale where two recurring characters from the 2005 film are recast. The hulking bodyguard, Manute, was originally played by Michael Clarke Duncan (who passed away), but Dennis Haysbert doesn’t necessarily do a bad job of filling the part. He’s a hulking baddie who serves his purpose. However, Josh Brolin is terribly cast as Dwight, a role that Clive Owen owned. Brolin has none of the charisma or charm that made the character so damn enjoyable to begin with. Eva Green (who served as the best performer in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE) bares it all here (literally), but isn’t much of a character. She merely plays out as means to an end. The worst part about this second-to-last tale is that it takes up a majority of the running time, so much so that this sequel is titled after it. C

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NANCY’S LAST DANCE: Picking up shortly after YELLOW BASTARD from the original film, Nancy Callahan is looking to avenge her dead lover/protector John Hartigan. To do this, she hardens herself and aims to kill Senator Roark. Her plan encounters some difficulties along the way. DAME TO KILL FOR commits the worst sin any anthology can by ending on its weakest note. This tale with direct ties to one of the best stories from the first film is dull, sloppy and anti-climactic. It was so bad that I was hoping the movie would just get to the final scene that everyone knew was coming. Nothing more can really be said about this story other than it’s poorly acted, written and played out. D

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To say SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR is underwhelming would be an understatement. The main returning cast members from the original come in Bruce Willis (showing up for an extended cameo), a few side characters (including a gloriously wasted Rosario Dawson as murderous hooker Gale), Mickey Rourke as a silly looking Marv, and Jessica Alba shakily trying to take on a lead role in a dark segment. It speaks volumes that the most interesting character (Dwight) only appears for one segment, while the wooden Nancy is throughout every single one of them. Marv, one of the most colorful characters from the original, is turned into a dull brute and that’s all the personality he’s given. After a nine-year wait, I sat in a theater with about six other people on opening night. When the movie ended, a person behind me exclaimed “That’s it?!?” Those two words are likely to summarize most fans’ responses to SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR, including mine.

Grade: C+

SIN CITY (2005)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 4 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Sustained Strong Stylized Violence, Nudity and Sexual Content including Dialogue

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Directed by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino

Written by: Frank Miller

(based on the SIN CITY graphic novels by Frank Miller)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Nick Stahl, Josh Hartnett, Powers Boothe, Michael Madsen, Jaime King, Elijah Wood, Rutger Hauer, Benicio Del Toro, Brittany Murphy & Michael Clarke Duncan

With the long-awaited sequel (almost a decade since the first movie) coming right around the corner, the urge hit me to rewatch SIN CITY. To be perfectly honest I haven’t seen this movie in five years, though it was a favorite of mine in high school that I viewed repeatedly. Frank Miller, graphic novelist behind 300, and Robert Rodriguez (along with a brief bit by Tarantino) brought to life the gritty crime stories of Frank Miller in a beautifully made film. This was one of the first films to be constructed in this kind of visual fashion that other movies would use further down the line (e.g. 300 for a good film and THE SPIRIT for a bad one). All the beautiful spectacle in the world cannot save a film that lacks in the writing department, but luckily Frank Miller’s stories are brought to life frame for frame. As in there wasn’t even a full writing credit on this film, because everything was right out of Miller’s books.

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For those who don’t know (a surprisingly large amount out there), SIN CITY is composed of four different crime stories that weave and intersect around each other. Think PULP FICTION loaded with even more over-the-top gratuitous violence that also packs a depressing and dark edge. The main thing I can see turning people off SIN CITY is how damned dark it is. However, some stories inject crazy humor into the mix and go into ridiculous territory that remind the viewer they’re essentially watching a live-action comic book. I’m going to tackle each story individually to address the pros and cons of all four tales, but the movie is absolutely gorgeous to behold. Extreme care and attention to detail was put into every frame to bring Frank Miller’s gritty city landscape to life and the sinful citizens inhabiting it. So without further ado, on to the four stories contained within 2005’s SIN CITY…

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THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT: Serving as an opener and closer to the film, these two brief segments welcome to the viewer to the nasty world of SIN CITY and bid them on their way right before cutting to credits. Josh Hartnett plays a character known only as The Salesman. He woos two different women and harbors a dark agenda. This story lasts under five minutes, but keeps a level of mystery around the Salesman character that makes you want to know more about him. This information is never given and never will be, but Josh Hartnett knocks it out of the park with his charismatic and foreboding performance. The opening bit also serves as a nice introduction to just what kind of tone the entire movie will have. A+

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THE HARD GOODBYE: If there’s a single story that I would point out as my least favorite in SIN CITY, it would be HARD GOODBYE. It’s not as if the story is terrible, because it is actually very creative. It follows Marv, a scarred and thuggish individual. He’s just had the time of his life with Goldie, the one hooker who has ever accepted his love. After waking up from a drunken stupor, Marv finds Goldie murdered in bed with him and he’s framed for the crime. Unfortunately for the corrupt cops and a powerful family, Marv is a lunatic who has no problem with hurting anyone who gets in his way or applying vicious torture techniques in order to get information. Mickey Rourke’s misshapen giant is a gentleman to ladies, but is more than a little eager to get his hands dirty on the male scum of Basin City (a.k.a. Sin City).

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The only flaw I find in HARD GOODBYE is how damned dark and mean-spirited the whole story is. It might seem silly to complain about brutality in a movie called SIN CITY. It’s also worth noting that this film originally received an NC-17 from the MPAA and had to go through some edits in order to secure an R rating. Most of these edits most likely come from HARD GOODBYE as it’s nightmarish at points. Elijah Wood pops in for a memorable role that doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. This story also has the most depressing ending of the bunch. It’s phenomenally made and vicious, but it’s also downright unpleasant at points. As well-made as this film is, I’m glad this story was fired early. A-

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THE BIG FAT KILL: Things go from depressing to really entertaining in this story involving gun-totting prostitutes, a hardened man named Dwight, and quite a lot of gangsters. After kicking his girlfriend’s abusive drunkard of an ex out of her apartment, Dwight is convinced that he’s up to no good and follows him into Old Town. This section of the city is full of hookers who will give you the night of your life if you follow the rules or be the death of you if you try any funny stuff. Murder, chaos, and a race against time to cover up a bad mistake ensues. I don’t want to say too much about this story, because some of the enjoyment comes from how wild things get and the unexpected turns the plot takes. BIG FAT KILL is a nice pick me up from the depressing previous story and packs a lot of absurd humor that makes it the most entertaining segment of the movie. I would even go as far as saying that this is my favorite tale of the four being told. A+

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THAT YELLOW BASTARD: The final story actually begins before HARD GOODBYE and then picks up after BIG FAT KILL. John Hartigan is one of the last honest cops in Sin City. They’re a rare breed, in case you can’t guess from the title nickname of Basin City. Hartigan has been on the trail of a pedophile/child-killer who happens to have powerful connections. John puts a few bullets in the psycho and saves an eight year-old girl named Nancy, but finds himself framed for the crimes. Eight years after being locked up, Hartigan is a free man and tries to protect Nancy from the now yellow-skinned psychopath who wants revenge. The plot of YELLOW BASTARD is predictable, but is very cool to watch unfold to say the least. This is the a more character driven story that is actually given a decent amount of time to make you care about John and Nancy. Sympathizing with them makes everything to come that much more gripping. One of the more grotesque deaths you’ll see in cinema occurs in this story and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving character. Predictability aside, this story delivers on every level. A+

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SIN CITY works in visually capturing a comic book brought to life, but also has Frank Miller’s stellar writing behind it. Every single actor and actress, including usually less-than-great Jessica Alba, gave exactly what was needed of them in their characters. The biggest strength is that all four stories (despite how short they actually are) could fill a four separate movies worth of material and still be rock solid. Packing them all inside a barely over two hour long running time leaves no room to drag and captured my attention from frame one. There are lots of things to like in SIN CITY. The beautiful visuals are merely icing on the cake as the movie moves from emotional and cold to dark and grim to strangely funny and all around amazing. There was never anything quite like SIN CITY before it came along and even if this ten-year-delayed sequel doesn’t deliver on the promise of delivering more great material, then we’ll always have this perfect noir that stands as a cinematic landmark of sorts.

Grade: A+

CRUISING (1980)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Directed by: William Friedkin

Written by: William Friedkin

(based on the novel CRUISING by Gerald Walker)

Starring: Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, Don Scardino, James Remar, Jay Acovone

I discovered CRUISING in a list of the most controversial movies of all-time. While its most likely not nearly as offensive as it was upon release (it sparked huge protests from gay rights groups), the film remains a quality serial killer thriller. Proceeding celebrated films like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and SE7EN, CRUISING has a similar suffocating atmosphere that compliments the disturbing material. Some scenes haven’t aged well, but for the most part, this is a creepy film that leaves you with something to chew on after the chilling final shot. Directed by William Friedkin (of EXORCIST and FRENCH CONNECTION fame) and headlining Al Pacino (coming off four Oscar nominations in the 70’s), the film was critically panned on its initial released (going as far as to receive three nominations at the first-ever Razzies). I’d be lying if I said that certain moments don’t come off as a little stereotypical of the gay community, but the movie doesn’t delve too long in this aspect and wisely puts the cat-and-mouse game first.

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Steve Burns is a cop bearing a striking resemblance to the victims of a depraved serial killer at large. Sent undercover by his captain, Burns assumes the identity of a homosexual man in the nightclub scene to become the next target of the madman. Burns goes into the extreme side of sexuality (S&M) in order to hopefully attract the killer. Making friends with his next-door neighbor, Burns finds himself going in too deep as the darkness of what he’s seeing begins to consume him. The killer may have taken an interest in him and the real struggle comes with bringing down the lunatic, while also being able to get back to a normal life after all this is over.

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CRUISING was far from the first serial killer thriller, but there’s a gritty nature around it that is distinctly echoed in things like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and SE7EN. There are a moments of graphic violence (one stabbing in the beginning is horrifying), but Friedkin also keeps things remarkably restrained for a good portion of the film. Apparently, the original cut was even more disturbing with about 40 minutes being cut out to secure an R rating from the MPAA. Most of those cuts probably wound up involving graphic sexuality (something that the MPAA seems more concerned over than bloody violence). Regardless of extensive cuts to the running time, the movie runs at a deliberate pace that slows to a crawl in the middle which may put some viewers to sleep. Besides this lull in the storytelling, the film does pick up very quickly in the final third. If the entire movie had maintained the high level of suspense so thick you could cut it with a knife that’s shown in quiet scenes near the ending, then I’d say CRUISING was a forgotten masterpiece.

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There are a few too many scenes of Pacino diving into the gay nightclub lifestyle, including a couple of silly dance scenes. The movie is first and foremost a serial killer mystery, but it also focuses a little too much on the natural 80’s cheese that comes with this time period. That may not make total sense when you read that sentence, but if you do wind up seeing this movie, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The movie also takes a subtle and disturbing road in its conclusion. Lots of questions go unanswered (Friedkin admits this himself) and the result is made even more disturbing for certain plot threads not being tied up with a nice little bow on top. The final scenes of CRUISING are something that can be debated and analyzed in many different ways with varying conclusions. The truth is that nobody absolutely knows what it all means, but everybody can get their own interpretation of what they take away from it. I found the ambiguous ending to be rather haunting in a lot of ways and the final shot (added up with my interpretation up to that point) was blood-chilling.

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CRUISING is a dark and disturbing film. Friedkin has said in interviews that his wife hated him for making it, but he can understand why. This is a tough movie that leaves you with a little something to chew on. Al Pacino does a good job, which we’ve all come to expect from him as a talented actor. Friedkin directs a majority of the film in masterful fashion, even though the middle does drag. I liked the way the conclusion played out which is part of the reason I’m recommending this one so highly. It’s a divisive film that some will love and others will hate, but everybody can take something away from the ending that might result in a heated conversation on what it all means. William Friedkin has had spectacular ups and disappointing downs in his career, but CRUISING is a little-known flick that deserves more attention. It’s dated and the pacing gets a little wonky for the middle section, but it still comes very much recommended for fans of serial killer thrillers.

Grade: B+

MACGRUBER (2010)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Crude and Sexual Content, Violence, Language and some Nudity

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Directed by: Jorma Taccone

Written by: Jorma Taccone, Will Forte, John Solomon

Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Powers Boothe, Val Kilmer, Maya Rudolph

Back in the golden age of parody films, Mel Brooks and Jerry Zucker were the ones to beat. Spoofs weren’t pathetic threads that pieced together out of pop-culture jokes and referenced every recent movie that could possibly be worked in. These films were downright hilarious comedies that simultaneously made fun of certain genre conventions while also being careful in constructing their own story (as familiar as they might seem). AIRPLANE, the HOT SHOTS series, the NAKED GUN trilogy and SPACEBALLS aren’t just products of their time. They are films that would wind up holding up and still be funny decades later. It really is a shame that MACGRUBER didn’t do well at the box office, because this is the kind of parody that has long been thought dead. This feature adaptation of the Saturday Night Live skit is juvenile and crass, but it’s also hilarious from start to finish!

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A nuclear warhead has been stolen by vicious terrorist Dieter Von Cunth. Upon hearing the news, one man is contacted. One hero will emerge. This mysterious mullet-sporting man is known only as MacGruber and has a personal vendetta against Cunth. He’ll recruit a special team of operatives that include the young impressionable Piper and an old flame from his past, Vicki. Together they’ll have to put a stop to Cunth, who’s become a seemingly untouchable businessman, in order to save the world. Unfortunately, MacGruber is a loose-cannon, foul-mouthed, moron that constantly screws up in the face of danger. A whole lot of hilarity follows. Seriously, this movie had me (among all the other people I’ve wound up showing it to) cracking up from the opening shot until the credits sequence! MACGRUBER is the definition of an unsung gem!

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Besides the brief references to the TV series MACGYVER (seen in MacGruber’s penchant for using homemade contraptions instead of guns and the fact that MacGruber’s name is a parody of MacGyver to begin with), this is a comedy that plays with the conventions of action movies themselves while being as totally ridiculous, over-the-top, and offensive as humanly possible. The material won’t win any awards, but it’s absolutely hysterical and that’s what a comedy of this kind should be aiming for. When I say that the laughs are non-stop, I’m not exaggerating either. You might be laughing so hard at one joke that you’ll either have to pause it to catch your breath or re-watch it to catch another comment or detail that you missed.

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MACGRUBER is one of the few recent comedies where I’ve laughed so hard that my face hurt (and done so on multiple viewings)! The pace is extremely well done as well, never leaving time for the movie to drag or focusing too long on one of the very few gags that falls flat. This is one of those rare cases for a comedy that I’d recommend watching the Unrated version (it’s only 4 minutes longer) because the moments thrown back in are hilarious as well. As briefly mentioned, there are a couple of jokes that aren’t very funny. These come from an awkward Kristen Wiig, who serves as a hit-and-miss character here, but everyone else is overshadowing her in nearly every scene. Wiig is usually great in comedies, but here she has some successful moments and doesn’t quite hit the mark with others.

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As far as the rest of the cast goes, everyone is clearly having a blast. Val Kilmer as Dieter Von Cunth is the best Kilmer performance in a solid decade. He’s a great hammy villain that seems to be incorporating all of the evil traits from every memorable action movie bad guy. Thus he offers a clear-headed menacing straight man for the hysterical force that is Will Forte as MacGruber. Forte has been seen in side roles in plenty of big comedies and most of his front-man performances haven’t been quite so good (e.g. THE BROTHERS SOLOMON), but he makes the movie work here. Working as a co-writer on the screenplay and portraying the mullet-sporting action hero himself, Forte knew exactly how scenes should play out!

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MACGRUBER is a barrage of non-stop laughs. It’s devoid of class or intelligence, but that’s simply not the kind of comedy this was meant to be from the beginning. Filled with jokes from beginning to end (one running gag kept getting incorporated in ways that had me giggling every time I saw it), this fast-paced action movie parody is crude, crass, rude, gross, and (at points) downright cruel, but it’s all in the name of hilarity. It fully delivers on that mark. There are a couple of moments that aren’t nearly as funny as the rest surrounding them, but that’s the case with nearly every comedy. In an age of lame excuses for spoofs and parodies, MACGRUBER offers a beacon of hope that these kind of films can still be nearly perfected with the right people behind them. This is an underrated, overlooked comedy that deserves a large cult following. If you want to laugh, then absolutely dive right into MACGRUBER!

Grade: A-

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