Gran Torino (2008)
Gran Torino, at times, feels like a death march - the lonely doom of a man without a country, slowly realizing he's the only outdated model left on the shelf. But the apparent glee in which Eastwood's Walt growls rapid slurs and insults almost finds a stand-up comedian's rhythm and unwinking acknowledgment, offending only the clueless in the crowd. It's not all Archie Bunker one-liners. When Eastwood stares down some neighborhood thugs, he's as menacing and believable as ever. As a topical depiction of America's changing portrait - the titular muscle car reminds of Detroit's fallen empire, the decaying rust belt neighborhoods - is all relevant and gracefully executed.
The questionable moral many might take from the story? Xenophobia is fine as long as you hate all the gooks, zipper heads, crackers, slopes, guineas, Jews, spooks, spades and mics all the same. But, maybe not. Hopefully more people walked out of the theater knowing that hell, if Walt can work past his old attitudes and help a neighbor in need despite himself, maybe we can too (even if his transformation takes place in a Holywood two-hours). Demerits for the sniveling young priest's uneven dialogue, and the forced macho scripting during the "teaching-young-Thao-how-to-talk-like-a-man" montage. B+
Transporter 3 (2008)
Xtreme Mountain Dew Monster Energy Red Bull Lager Doritos ('splosion) C-
Purity-ring-wearing, bible thumper Dawn learns she is the vagina dentata myth personified during a sexual assault (it does not end well for the male attacker) in this indie horror/comedy. Even during attempts to go over-the-top in it's satire of evangelical chaste, Teeth misses all the good jokes and beats us over the head with the easy ones. The film's one success is flipping the misogynistic dentata myth on its head. In ancient lore, it was a story to scare men away from doing the deed with the vile and untrustworthy fairer sex. In Teeth, her, um, gift becomes a tool of female empowerment. But, in the end, the gore isn't even fun, and that's all that really matters, isn't it? D
More slapstick and absurd than Allen's later comedies, Bananas plays like a string of one liners and physical gags tied together by the satirical story. Allen plays Fielding Mellish, a clumsy milquetoast trainwreck typical to Allen comedies. After a courtship ends in disappointment (in one of the films funnier and more insighful scenes), he leaves New York for the insignificant fictional country of San Martin in an attempt to impress his politically active lady friend. Through a series of mishaps, Mellish becomes involved in a South American revolution and before long, he's become the president/dictator in a fake Castro beard. But, as with most Allen films, it all comes back to his relationship with the girl, and his neurotic feelings of inadequacy.
Meta and postmodern well before those words were part of the mainstream's film vocabulary, the film is bookended by Howard Cossell color commentary of an assassination/coup and then a marriage consummation.
"Bananas" is strongest in its NY-set first half, before it sags under the weight of its high concept plotting — proving slight for an Allen film — but leaps and bounds beyond 99 percent of everything else out there. B+
Friday the 13th (2009) - Of course it's completely pointless, serves up a bunch of kills — none of them creative — and boobies. But it could have at least been funny, suspenseful, or I dunno, competent. Jason's newest reboot is best used for joke fodder while drinking with friends. The unambitious (even for Jason standards) plotting doesn't attempt to make one hair of sense, despite that it would have taken about three more seconds of effort to clarify all two of the plot points. You can't even tell which disposable 20-something is dating which disposable 20-something, eventually they all just start banging each other for the sake of more boobies, with girlfriends all-of-a-sudden not caring that their douchebag BF is in the next room with an identical floozy. D+