About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Trouble With the Curve

Clint Eastwood stars as an ‘old-school’ baseball scout who is going blind and all-round not in the best of health. His long-time buddy and fellow scout John Goodman (who once played Babe Ruth in a movie) tries to convince Eastwood’s estranged, work-oriented lawyer daughter Amy Adams to help him in his work, or else the higher-ups (principally Robert Patrick) will opt for a younger, more tech-savvy replacement (a slimy Matthew Lillard). Eastwood doesn’t want any help, and Adams is extremely reticent to help out a father who frankly has been borderline absentee over the years, but Eastwood just can’t let this young punk beat him, and it’s all going to come down to the assessment of high school prospect Joe Mssingill, a boorish oaf of a hitter, whom Lillard is already singing the praises of. Meanwhile, Adams gains the attention of Justin Timberlake, an ex-baseball player turned scout for a rival team. Ed Lauter and Chelcie Ross turn up as a couple of crotchety old baseball fans and buddies of Eastwood, whilst Bob Gunton plays Adams’ boss who calls her in at an inopportune time.


There’s nothing wrong with this 2012 sports movie from debutant director Robert Lorenz (a long-time associate of Clint’s) and writer Randy Brown, also a debutant. It’s just not worth seeing, is all. I know I wasn’t too fussed with the dry, statistical story of “Moneyball” (not to mention it was a film about a sporting failure), but this more traditional, antithetical approach to a baseball movie isn’t any more entertaining as a movie. A little less dry, but not any more fulfilling, ultimately. I admire Eastwood’s fondness for simple, straightforward stories with tried and tested themes, but this ain’t tried and tested, it’s got mothballs. Not even Clint as director would be able to do much with this (though it’s probably a bit better than Clint’s own “J. Edgar”). Just look at the scene where Clint recites the words to ‘You are My Sunshine’ at his wife’s grave. Total groaner right there.


It’s a good thing that this film features a lot of talented actors, because the story sure is clichéd and not nearly as emotionally resonant as Eastwood’s boxing movie “Million Dollar Baby”. Casting Matthew Lillard as the ‘new school’ approach of baseball scouting is so blatant he might as well have a twirly moustache for fuck’s sake. The casting of punchable Lillard is almost too good (Even though he has toned down the rubber-faced obnoxiousness of his early performances, the guy is still insanely punchable on screen). Lillard does a good job, but the role is one-dimensional. The more interesting story here is the strained relationship between father Clint Eastwood and daughter Amy Adams (who is older than she looks but still young enough to be his granddaughter), but even it has its problems (if daddy wasn’t around, how did he teach her so much about baseball?), and isn’t emphasised nearly enough anyway. One of the best and most charismatic actresses going around, Adams is really bloody good here, I have to say, and John Goodman scores in his too few scenes. How is it possible that John Goodman has never been nominated for an Oscar? He doesn’t exactly deserve it here, but when has he ever been less than rock-solid in a movie? Justin Timberlake continues to be easy to take on screen, but his role here is uninteresting (By the way, getting back to Adams’ age it might surprise you to know that Adams is quite a few years older than JT. She’s older than she looks, as I said. I should probably stop talking about a woman’s age now).


One of the problems here is that the film’s supposed big-time prospect is painted as a black-hat unlikeable tool, and although he is meant to be such, in order for the film to introduce a more humble alternative, that alternative is completely eye-rollingly, clichéd, and completely tacked-on to boot. I think even baseball fans will be groaning throughout this one. The film really is cliché upon cliché upon cliché, and completely unworthy of its fine cast, which also includes the late Ed Lauter in one of his last roles (he doesn’t look well), Chelcie Ross, Robert Patrick, Bob Gunton, and even George Wyner who I haven’t seen in ages. All fine character actors (well, Gunton is hit-and-miss), all completely wasted here. It’s a film with good actors doing good work in a film that fails to merit their talent and good performances. By the way, why is JT always stripping off in movies? Yes that is a legit question!


You’ve seen this all before, maybe better, maybe exactly the same, but you don’t need to see it again. Yes, it’s an easy watch, but so is “The Bold and the Beautiful”, and I’m not about to recommend you watch that. With this cast, the material should’ve been much better, but I guess there’s only so much you can do with an empty chair, right Clint?.


Rating: C+

Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: The Laughing Policeman

Weary-looking, borderline monosyllabic cop Walter Matthau is called in to investigate the massacre of a busload of passengers in San Francisco. One of the deceased just so happened to be Matthau’s partner, who was supposed to be on sick leave, something his girlfriend protests, saying he had gone off to work every day. Matthau knows this to not be true, so just what was the guy up to and how did he end up on the bus and among the dead? It’s up to Matthau and his abrasive, smart-arse new partner Bruce Dern (in one of his best roles to date) to find out, but it may be somehow connected to a case Matthau and the deceased worked on a few years back. They might just solve the case...if they don’t kill each other first. Matt Clark plays a coroner, Clifton James and Lou Gossett Jr. play cops (the former with the bomb squad), Anthony Zerbe plays the no-nonsense superior officer, Joanna Cassidy plays a nurse important to the case, Paul Koslo plays a scummy drug-dealer with stringy blond hair, Mario Gallo plays a snitch (perfect casting), and Val Avery plays another cop.


Ironically titled cop movie from 1973, directed and co-written by Stuart Rosenberg (“Cool Hand Luke”, the underrated “Voyage of the Damned”) and his co-writer Thomas Rickman (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”). The title character played by Walter Matthau never once cracks a smile, and of all the cop movies of the late 60s and early 70s, this might just be the grimmest, most dour of the bunch. It’s almost as if these cops are just shy of being driven insane by their job. This makes it more believable than a “Dirty Harry”, even if the film isn’t up to the standard of “The French Connection”.


It certainly shows how dangerous the job can be, as there’s plenty of bodies on both sides of the law here, possibly having a higher body count than in some “Rambo” movies. The opening in particular is quite bloody and memorable, but here even the suicide jumpers follow through on their plans (which never happens in these sorts of movies). Even for 1973, the violent content must’ve been quite startling for some audiences. But the film also shows how dull, dry, and draining police work can be. Boy are these some seriously burned-out cops, and perhaps the film will be too slow and low-key for some, but I rather liked its more realistic approach. This was never meant to be “The French Connection” or “Bullitt”.


Wry, hangdog-looking Matthau is excellent in a fairly brooding and melancholic role, while both he and the abrasive, tactless Bruce Dern are perfectly matched. Great 70s supporting cast includes solid work by Matt Clark (who despite being a well-known character actor, goes uncredited in the opening), Mario Gallo, Anthony Zerbe, Clifton James, Paul Koslo, and especially Lou Gossett Jr.


Based on a late 60s Swedish novel (but seamlessly transplanted to San Francisco), this is a sorely underrated police procedural in dire need of rediscovery and fresh appraisal. If you’re a fan of 60s-70s cop movies, here’s one you might’ve missed.


Rating: B-