Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Archive for May, 2010

RIP Dennis Hopper

Posted by CinemaPsycho on May 29, 2010

Well, I was planning to write about something completely different today, but that can wait. Because a true film legend died today, one who meant a lot to me personally as well as to millions of film fans around the world. The great actor, director and artist Dennis Hopper has died at the age of 74.

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I’m sure there will be lots of eulogies and tributes all over the Internet today. However, I think the best tribute I can give him is to simply give a partial list of the films he appeared in. If this doesn’t tell the story, I don’t know what will:

Rebel Without a Cause, Giant, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet, River’s Edge, Speed, True Romance, Red Rock West, Hoosiers, Cool Hand Luke, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Trip, Hang ’em High, True Grit, Mad Dog Morgan, The American Friend, The Osterman Weekend, OC and Stiggs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Black Widow, Chattahoochee, The Indian Runner, Paris Trout, Flashback, Space Truckers, Waterworld, The Blackout, Basquiat, The Pick-up Artist, Straight to Hell, Rumble Fish, Ed TV, Knockaround Guys and George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead.

Again, just a partial list. As a director, he of course gave us the seminal biker classic Easy Rider, as well as six other features (and one short) that included the excellent LA cops vs. gangs drama Colors and the underrated modern noir The Hot Spot. His TV work included the recent series Crash and a memorable turn as villain Victor Drazen on 24. While he was mostly stuck in straight-to-DVD hell for the last decade or so, he did give terrific supporting performances in such recent films as Elegy, Sleepwalking and Swing Vote.

Even in the worst B-movies (and he appeared in many), however, Dennis Hopper was always worth watching. His presence redeemed even the lamest material. He still has a couple of movies yet to be released, including Wim Wenders’ Palermo Shooting. Hopper was a true Film God, and he will be greatly missed. I look forward to rediscovering his work all over again.

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A One-Man Army Without a Clue: MacGruber

Posted by CinemaPsycho on May 23, 2010

Just wanted to start out my new blog by saying this: RIP Lost and 24, the two best shows on network television. They were complex, incredibly addictive and often brilliant entertainment, and they will be missed. I know this isn’t movie-related, but they were awesome shows that rivaled the big screen’s best work of the past decade. So much respect to all of the writers, producers and actors involved for the hours of terrific television.

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Well, it’s a real shame that MacGruber didn’t make much of a splash at the boxoffice this weekend. I’ve often thought of Will Forte as current SNL’s most underrated cast member (I have a perverse love for The Falconer), and while I was skeptical going in, I found the movie to be a hysterical piece of inspired lunacy. Obviously most moviegoers weren’t very interested in yet another movie based on a long-running SNL sketch, and scheduling it in early summer was a practically suicidal move. Maybe people actually thought it was just going to be the sketch (in which a MacGyver clone with issues fails to disarm a bomb and gets blown up every single time) over and over again.

Whatever the reasons may be, if you’re a fan of edgy, rude R-rated comedy, missing MacGruber is a huge mistake. Forte and co-writers John Solomon and Jorma Taccone (who also directed) really pulled out all the stops and turned this into a refreshingly quirky and perverse action-film parody. The humor is very genre-specific, so if you didn’t grow up watching 80’s action flicks like I did, you may find much of it puzzling. And if you have an aversion to male nudity on screen (even for comedic effect), you should probably stay far away from this. If neither of those things bother you, however, you’re likely to laugh hard (with a vengeance) at MacGruber.

While nothing in this movie is meant to be particularly deep, I don’t think it’s reading too much into it to see MacGruber as a wicked lampoon of the macho bullshit that typified those action films (that I admittedly love without shame). MacGruber (the character) is just delusional enough to think of himself as a tough guy, but in truth he’s actually rather cowardly, not to mention vain, spiteful, paranoid and irresponsible, as well as being completely incompetent as an action hero. He’s basically an idiot who thinks he’s John Rambo. One of the best running gags involves him getting “psyched up” to the mellow soft-rock sounds of Toto and Robbie Dupree. It’s funny because it’s the exact opposite of his badass, take-no-prisoners image (which is completely self-generated, of course). In truth, he’s the kind of guy who can’t even protect his car stereo from being stolen (which is why he has to carry it with him everywhere he goes), much less save the world. That dichotomy is the main joke of the film, and it’s a surprisingly potent one.

If MacGruber accomplishes nothing else, hopefully it will serve as a comeback for Val Kilmer, who is quite hilarious as terrorist Dieter von Cunth. I’ve always liked Kilmer as an actor, and seeing him stuck in straight-to-DVD B-movie hell for the last several years has been particularly painful. Here he finally gets back to showing off the comedic chops that helped establish him in movies like Top Secret! and Real Genius. It’s a pretty wonderful thing to watch the guy chewing scenery and apparently having a blast doing it, and his villain von Cunth matches MacGruber quirk for quirk. It’s worth the price of admission just to see Val Kilmer being awesome again, and I sincerely hope he keeps it up in future films. MacGruber may have unleashed a bomb at the boxoffice (ah, see what I did there), but it’s by far the funniest movie I’ve seen this year.

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