Film Review: Cold Pursuit (dir by Hans Petter Moland)


Released back in February (just in time for Valentine’s Day!), Cold Pursuit was this year’s Liam Neeson revenge flick.

This time, Neeson played Nels Coxman, a snow plow driver who speaks in a raspy tone of voice and tends to walk around with a thousand-yard stare on his face.  After his son is killed by gangsters, Nels sets out for revenge.  It turns out that Nels’s father was some sort of mob enforcer so both Nels and his brother (William Forsythe) have apparently inherited the “instinctively know how to kill” gene  So, while Nels’s wife (Laura Dern) stays at home and has a nervous breakdown, Nels heads out and starts killing folks.  Since the gangsters are led by an idiot named Viking (Tom Bateman), they all assume that they’re being targeted by a rival drug gang, one which is led by a Ute named White Bull (Tom Jackson).  So, while the two drug gangs are killing each other off, Nels is busy killing any stragglers that he comes across.  It all adds up to a lot of killing.

Cold Pursuit is different from other Liam Neeson revenge films by the fact that it’s an out-and-out parody of the genre.  So, while Neeson walks through the film with his usual glum expression and commits all the usual mayhem that we’ve come to expect from a vengeance-driven Neeson, everyone else plays their role as broadly as possible.  Tom Bateman leaves not a single piece of scenery unchewed in the role of Viking while Tom Jackson is stoic to the point of insanity in the role of White Bull.  Whenever a gangster gets killed, a title card appears, listing his name, his nickname, and his religion.  Meanwhile, two cops (Emmy Rossum and John Doman) prove to be comically ineffective.

And I will admit that I did laugh a few times while watching Cold Pursuit.  The scene where Neeson asks his brother to explain why everyone has a nickname made me smile.  Some of the murders are clever and the action scenes are frequently so over-the-top that you can’t help but be amused by them.

That said, Cold Pursuit didn’t really work for me.  I think the problem is that the filmmakers spent so much time trying to parody Neeson’s films that they didn’t consider that the majority of those films are themselves already parodies.  I mean, just watch The Commuter and tell me that film isn’t cheerfully winking at the audience.  Since Neeson’s screen persona hasn’t really been a serious one for close to ten years now, parodying it isn’t quite the subversive act that Cold Pursuit seems to think it is.  The difference between Neeson’s other films and Cold Pursuit is the difference between merely winking at an audience or pulling a gun on an audience while demanding, “LAUGH, DAMN YOU!”  Sometimes, the funniest jokes are the ones that you pretend you’re not making.

On the plus side, the film looks gorgeous.  It takes place in the Colorado mountains and makes great use of the frozen landscape.  And George Fenton’s score is nicely evocative and well-used in the film.  Finally, Liam Neeson is always fun to watch, even when it’s in a somewhat flawed film like this one.

 

Familiar Faces #11: When Candy Johnson Got Us All Shook Up!


cracked rear viewer

Candy Johnson, dubbed “The Perpetual Motion Machine” by American-International publicists, shaked, rattled, and rolled her way across the Silver Screen in the first four AIP/Beach Party flicks, then just as quickly disappeared from the scene. But just who was this undulating beach bunny with the amazing ability to send Eric Von Zipper flying through the air with her hip-quaking booty shaking?

‘Candy’ was the childhood nickname of Vicki Jane Husted, born in San Gabriel, California on Feb. 8, 1944. She was the niece of race car driver Jim Rathmann, who won the Indy 500 in 1960. Candy loved dancing (obviously!) and her energetic go-go shimmying landed her a two-year gig as the featured attraction at Palm Springs’ Safari Lounge, backed by The Exciters Band, where she drew sold-out crowds on a nightly basis. The California Girl and her band next hit glittering Las Vegas, where the local press first coined…

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Film Review: The Upside (dir by Neil Burger)


There’s a lot of opera in The Upside.

That, in itself, is not a surprise.  The Upside is about a wealthy, emotionally repressed white man and, if there’s anything we’ve learned from the movies, it’s that wealthy, repressed white people always love opera.

Another things that we’ve learned from the movies is that wealthy, emotionally repressed white people always hire a streetwise person of color to help them learn to appreciate life.  This person  of color will inevitably not care for all of the opera and will then introduce the wealthy, emotionally repressed white person to their own type of music.  If the movie’s a comedy, that music will be rap.  If it’s a drama, that music will be jazz.  The Upside is a dramedy so the music of emotional liberation is Aretha Franklin.

There’s not a single cliche that goes unused in The Upside.  Actually, I take that back.  As opposed to so many other films of this short, Phillip (Bryan Cranston) does not start the film as a politically incorrect bigot, which means that we’re spared of any cringey scenes of Philip trying to bait Dell (Kevin Hart) by being casually racist.  Otherwise, every cliche imaginable is present in The Upside and it all gets to be a bit much after a while.  I’m sure that the film means well and there’s a part of me that felt a little bit guilty about not liking it but seriously, this is one of those movie’s that just keeps coming at you.

Phillip is a paraplegic who wants to die, though not before listening to a lot of opera.  Dell is an ex-con who needs to find a job so his parole doesn’t get revoked.  Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) is Phillip’s personal assistant.  She’s obviously in love with Phillip, though for some reason this fact is never acknowledged until the end of the film.

Together …. they solve crimes!

No, actually, they all become friends and learn the importance of celebrating life.  It’s a good lesson to learn, make no mistake.  But it’s just all so predictable that it’s hard not to resent just how thoroughly and blatantly the film insists on trying to manipulate you.  You get the feeling that the filmmakers didn’t have any faith in their audience’s capability to feel empathy.  Director Neil Burger did such a great job with Limitless but, with this film, he seems to have lost his sense of pacing.  The movie drags from one heartwarming cliche to another, without any hints of the type of quirky self-awareness that would help to make those cliches easier to digest.

Bryan Cranston’s a great actor but, perhaps realizing that he’s merely playing a more a benign version of Walter White, he seems a bit bored here while Nicole Kidman is sabotaged by a script that doesn’t allow her to do much other than reproachfully shake her head.  Kevin Hart, however, actually gives a pretty good performance, one that suggests that he actually has a lot of potential as a dramatic actor.  The character may be a stereotype but Hart at least brings a bit of energy to the film.

The Upside came out this January and it was actually a modest box office hit.  I imagine that a lot of people loved this film for the exact reason that I disliked it.  The film’s just too predictable for me to embrace The Upside.

Spend Your Day In “Desolation Bay”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I’ve got something of a love/hate relationship with Robert Sergel — most of Eschew missed the mark in my estimation, ditto for September 12th — but when he hits, goddamn does he hit. Bald Knobber is the kind of comic Charles Forsman has always been desperately trying to make, and Joe Bonaparte is quietly, darkly sublime stuff. His latest Kilgore mini, Desolation Bay, looked intriguing to me simply because it seems a step well outside his wheelhouse, being set in 1831 Patagonia, and because the green-yellow color palette marks an abrupt and exciting change from his usual (very) black-and-white artwork. I always appreciate steps into the unknown, even if/when they come up short, just because a comfortable cartoonist is a dull cartoonist, and I give Sergel props — even when his stuff doesn’t “click” with me, it’s never dull.

This ambitious little number is no exception, focused as it…

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Music Video Of The Day: Summer Girl by HAIM (2019, dir by Paul Thomas Anderson)


What happened to summer this year?  Seriously, it’s just kind of flying by.  We’ve got August and then the first half of September and then it’s going to be Autumn again!  Get out there and enjoy yourselves while you still can!

Today’s music video of the day is all about summer.  It captures a few essential truths.  Number one, it’s fun to get undressed in public.  Number two, if you take off enough clothes while walking down the street, some dude with a saxophone will undoubtedly start following you.  What I like about this video is how everyone is both intrigued and annoyed by the saxophone player.  This is a video that just captures what it’s like to be young and have your entire future ahead of you.  It also captures the feeling of summer!

This video was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who apparently has directed a few films as well.  No, not the Resident Evil films.  That’s a different Paul Anderson, all together.

Enjoy!