Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: September 3, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr jumps feet first into the world of exploitation pictures. He rips off his shirt to show his prison tats when he sees Machete and then becomes a weapons expert to go head-to-head with George Clooney in The American. Finally, he cringes and rolls his eyes at yet another crappy real-life couple love story with Going the Distance. It’s sad when the highlight of his moviegoing weekend is a Lindsay Lohan nip slip.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Kevin and special guest Shannon Hood from FrothyGirlz.com meet up in the Magical Studio in the Sky to take a look at this week’s slate of new releases.

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Studio: 20th Century Fox Machete

Rated: R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity

Starring: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis

What it’s about: In a love letter to Mexican gangster action flicks, Robert Rodriguez expands his fake trailer from Grindhouse into a full feature. Danny Trejo plays the brutal ex-Federali Machete who is pulled into a conspiracy to assassinate a Texas state senator who is running a major campaign against illegal immigration.

What I liked: Let’s just start off by saying that Machete is a hell of a lot of fun. It totally delivers on what the Grindhouse trailer promised three years ago. There’s plenty of bullets, blood and boobs in this movie, and for a fan of the exploitation genre, there’s a lot to love. It’s a huge improvement over movies like Bitch Slap, which promise lots of skin but never quite delivers.

On the whole, Machete is completely in on its own joke. It’s an exercise in excess, and it plays those cards with prejudice… literally. It doesn’t worry about being politically incorrect, and it doesn’t mind offending anyone in the audience, regardless of the color of your skin.

Finally, it’s a great thing to see Danny Trejo get his own starring vehicle. He’s been one of my favorite “that guys” in Hollywood, second only to the long-haired Chinese dude from Die Hard (whatever the hell his name is). Yeah, it’s a little icky to see him macking on Michelle Rodriguez and Jessica Alba, but that’s what you get with a grizzly Mexican version of James Bond.

What I didn’t: Machete doesn’t take itself too seriously, except in one respect…. it seems that Rodriguez and company have a real axe to grind (or machete to grind, rather) with the current debate on immigration in this country. I don’t mind seeing the issue be the backdrop of the story, or to have things get really silly with the strawman stereotypes on both sides of the argument. What bothered me was how Rodriguez continued to beat the dead horse… to the point in which there’s a scene where several henchmen are spouting poorly-written cliches about the issue. Regardless of what your opinion is, be ready for a sermon because Cheech Marin isn’t the only one playing the preacher in this film.

Another aspect of this film that didn’t sit right with me was the use of CGI blood and digital green screen composites. I understand it’s meant to be an homage to low-budget action flicks of the 70s, but why use the big budget cheats of today. Just use rear projection and red paint like they did 30 to 40 years ago.

Ultimately, Machete overstays its welcome. Were it 87 minutes long, it would have been perfect, but with a 107 minute running time, it got tedious at times.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the exploitation genres.

Grade: B

Studio: New Line CinemaGoing the Distance

Rated: R for sexual content including dialogue, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Ron Livingston

Directed by: Nanette Burstein

What it’s about: Real-life couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long play two thirty-somethings that start what is to be a short six-week relationship. However, when the six weeks is up and she’s heading from New York to California to go to school, the two decide to make a long-distance relationship work.

What I liked: On the whole, I like both Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. I just didn’t like them in this movie.

The only saving grace of this film is the supporting cast. Charlie Day (from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Jason Sudeikis are pretty funny as Justin Long’s foul-mouthed friends. Too bad they’re completely out of place in a film like this. Likewise, Kelli Garner was adorable as a side character as well. It’s too bad the movie wasn’t completely about these three or it might have been entertaining.

What I didn’t: There is nothing wrong with a good romantic comedy. I know there’s some people out there who freaking hate the genre, but they need to get over themselves… and they need to stop reinventing the genre. The script for Going the Distance felt like it was written by someone who hated rom coms and wanted to show the world how to really do one. So a butt-load of profanity and raunchy jokes were crammed into the script in order to differentiate itself.

I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but this kind of script just doesn’t make good date night material. Plus, it rips off a slew of other movies… and not even good ones. We’re talking about ripping off the tanning sequence from films like Old Dogs. Old Dogs, people!

The film is also woefully miscast. Barrymore’s characters (who is an intern at a newspaper hoping to later go to college for journalism) seems to have been written for someone in her early 20s but was retrofitted once the star showed interest. And the costume designer and make-up artist didn’t get the memo about Barrymore’s real age because they give her a look like she’s trying to get carded at a trendy night club.

I’m sure that Barrymore and Long are just adorable in real life. They’re just not so in this film, and they have now made a film that can go in the category of Gigli and Shanghai Surprise as crappy movies by real-life couples.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who hate traditional rom coms and want to see Justin Long’s ass.

Grade: D+

Studio: Focus Features The American

Rated: R for violence, sexual content and nudity

Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten and Paolo Bonacelli

Directed by: Anton Corbijn

What it’s about: George Clooney plays a quiet American assassin who, after an ugly job in Sweden heads to Rome for what he hopes to be his final job. There, he meets a priest and a prostitute, both of whom challenge him to reflect on the decisions he made in his life.

What I liked: I went into this movie knowing nothing about it, which is sometimes a nice thing. It prevents pre-conceived notions and high expectations. And this was a good thing here because the trailer makes it appear to be a kick-as action thriller, which it is not. The Bourne American this is not.

So in this respect, I was down for a relatively subdued character drama. Clooney isn’t knocking the role out of the park, and I wouldn’t expect to see his names in the Oscar short list this year again, but he does a decent job. He plays a bit against type, leaving his swagger and crooked gin at home for this role.

The American is a slow burn that is pretty minimalistic. But that minimal story is framed against some gorgeous backgrounds. The cinematography is pretty awesome.

Oh, and remember that prostitute I mentioned earlier? Yeah, she gets totally naked a lot. And that’s also awesome.

What I didn’t: The American isn’t going to be for anyone, and were I expecting a heavily complex drama or an international action thriller, I would be disappointed. I’ll admit that not a lot happens in the story, and if you’re clever enough, you should see every twist and turn in the plot coming. You just have to be in the right mood for this one.

Who is gonna like this movie: Someone who might enjoy a slow-burn character piece.

Grade: B+

Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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