Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Top and Bottom of 2011 - #6

Gran Torino (2008)
Humor can come from a lot of places. It happens when people say funny things (like Groucho and Chico Marx), it happens when people do funny things (like Harpo Marx), and it happens when funny things happen to someone (like Bringing Up Baby). Humor also can happen on a more subtler level when you get folks just being folks (like most of Garrison Keilor’s Lake Wobegon stories). There is plenty of this final kind of humor in Gran Torino. Not to say that it’s a comedy since the movie deals with some serious subject matter as Walt (played by Clint Eastwood) tries to keep his next-door neighbors from getting caught up in a destructive gang world. But I was surprised at how much I laughed as set-in-his-ways Walt was continually nudged out of his comfort zone. I loved watching the characters interact with each other, especially the scenes of Walt teaching his neighbor how to be a man. (There is a disappointing dearth of scenes like this in movies today, though that’s a rant for another day.) And I loved the ending. Too often a movie like this may end up with an ending that is either too contrived to be believable or too convenient to be satisfactory, but this ending feels so right I can’t come up with a better one. Every once in a while a movie comes along that completely surprises me with how much I like it; this is one of those.

Samurai Cop (1989)
This is a gloriously bad movie. The action scenes fail at being thrilling or believable, the cinematography is shoddy, the dialog is awful (with lines like, “I will bring you his head and I will place it on your piano.”), and it even features Robert Z'Dar and his incredibly huge face. Samurai Cop's sidekick can't decide if he's the stoic silent type, or the wise-cracking black guy, and he manages to pick wrong in every single reaction shot. But the best part about Samurai Cop is the Samurai Cop's hair. The actor sports gloriously long 80s locks, but halfway through filming he cut his hair, so wears cinema's worst wig for half the movie. The great thing is that it switches back and forth between real hair and wig throughout the movie, even in the middle of some scenes.

Coming up next: A movie with enough joy for two movies (which is a good thing since the other one doesn't have any).

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