Film Review: Shotgun Wedding (dir by Jason Moore)

A mildly amusing mix of romance, comedy, and action, Shotgun Wedding tells the story of Tom (Josh Duhamel) and Darcy (Jennifer Lopez).

Tom is a washed-up baseball player.  Darcy is …. well, I’m not sure if the film ever really made clear what exactly Darcy does for a living.  She comes from a wealthy family and she previously worked with the Peace Corps in Bali.  After dating for four years, Tom and Darcy are finally getting married.  Darcy wanted to have a simple wedding.  Tom, however, becomes a groomzilla and plans an elaborate ceremony on a remote island resort.  Sure, the island has occasionally been targeted by pirates but the owners of resort assure Tom that it probably won’t happen again.

The night before the wedding is fraught with drama.  Darcy’s mother (Sonia Braga) is not happy that her ex-husband (Cheech Marin) has brought his new agey girlfriend (D’Arcy Carden) to the wedding.  Tom’s mother (Jennifer Coolidge) insists that Tom and Darcy not sleep together the night before the ceremony.  Meanwhile, Tom’s father (Steve Coulter, a genuinely funny actor) wanders about with an old school camcorder, recording everything.  Darcy’s sister (Callie Hernandez) hooks up with one of Tom’s friends (Desmin Borges).  Finally, Sean Hawkins (Lenny Kravitz) makes a dramatic entrance, even though he wasn’t exactly invited to the wedding.  Sean was Darcy’s ex-fiancé, the man that she nearly married before she met Tom.  Everyone loves Sean.  When morning comes around, Tom and Darcy aren’t even sure they still want to get married.

That’s when the pirates show up.

Because Tom and Darcy were busy arguing, they weren’t present when the pirates took the rest of the wedding party hostage.  Now, Tom and Darcy have to make their way through the jungle so that they can defeat the pirates, save the hostages, and work on their relationship problems.  Along the way, both Tom and Darcy will discover that they’re capable of doing things that they never would have thought possible, like killing pirates.

Shotgun Wedding feels a bit like a throw back.  It’s very easy to imagine Cameron Diaz or Jennifer Aniston or Sandra Bullock (or maybe even Jennifer Lopez) starring in this film in 2003, playing Darcy opposite someone like Ron Livingston, Owen Wilson, or Greg Kinnear.  That’s not meant to be a complaint.  There’s actually something rather pleasant about the film’s somewhat quaint approach to its story.  Much like last year’s Marry Me, it feels like a throw back to a simpler time when everyone was willing to accept that there was no need for ambiguity when it came to portraying gun-toting pirates as being the bad guys.

Unlike Marry Me, in which Owen Wilson was able to hold his own opposite his glamourous co-star, Shotgun Wedding is pretty much dominated by Jennifer Lopez.  Josh Duhamel has his moments as the not terribly bright Tom but significantly, those moments almost all occur while Darcy and Tom are separated.  Indeed, much as how the studios used to pair Golden Age divas with forgettable leading men, it sometimes feel as if Duhamel was specifically cast because there was no danger of him taking the attention away from the movie’s main star.  This is a film that was pretty much designed to show off Jennifer Lopez.  With every scene, one can hear the movie whispering, “Isn’t she still funny?  Doesn’t she still look good?”  Fortunately, Jennifer Lopez is still funny and yes, she does still look good.  Even more importantly, she’s more than capable of carrying a film like this and she delivers her lines with just the right amount of comedic exasperation.  A running joke about how much she hates her wedding dress pays off in an unexpected way and the scenes in which Darcy confronts her fear of the sight of blood are enjoyably over-the-top.  For someone who was once frequently been portrayed as being a diva in the tabloids. Lopez has always had a down-to-Earth screen presence and a talent for physical comedy.  At their best, both this film and Jennifer Lopez are enjoyably silly.

Unfortunately, the film itself starts drag after the first hour and the film’s humor starts to wear thin.  There’s only so many times you can listen to someone say something stupid while a pirate points a gun in their face before the joke starts to get stale.  I still laughed at quite a few of the lines.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amusing film.  But it’s not a particularly memorable one.  It’s the type of movie that mildly entertains you for 100 minutes and then it quickly leaves your mind afterwards.  In many ways, it’s ideal for the streaming era.  If you left the house and paid money to sit in a theater and watch the film with a bunch of strangers, you might be more likely to get annoyed at how slight the film is.  But, when watched in the safety of your own home, it’s a perfectly pleasant experience.

Oblivion (1994, directed by Sam Irvin)

In the far, far future, Earth has set up colonies all across the universe.  One of those colonies is the dusty town of Oblivion, which looks just like an old west town except the deputy is a cyborg and there’s an ATM outside the saloon.  A humanoid lizard named Red Eye (Andrew Divoff, covered in green scales) comes to town and kills the marshal.  Red Eye and his gang take over Oblivion, planning to turn it into their own personal pleasure palace.

The marshal’s son, Zack (Richard Joseph Paul), comes to town for the old man’s funeral.  Everyone thinks that Zack is a coward because he refuses to avenge his father’s death.  Zack, however, is no coward.  He’s just an empath who can’t handle the negative emotion that are generated by violence.  But seeing as how his father is dead, his best friend Buteo (Jimmie F. Skaggs) is being tortured in the town square, and lovely Mattie Chase (Jackie Swanson) wants Red Eye and his gang to get out of town, Zack knows that he’s going to have to do the right thing and conquer his empathy.

Oblivion is a haphazard mix of comedy, science fiction, and the western genre.  Some of the ideas come close to being clever but it never makes sense why an Earth colony in 3031 would resemble a one-horse town from a singing cowboy movie.  (The film probably would have worked better if it had been about Red Eye invading an actual Old West town in the 1800s instead of a colony designed to look like one.)  Andrew Divoff is entertaining as he hams it up as the main desperado but, as far Old West charisma is concerned, Richard Joseph Paul is no John Wayne or Henry Fonda.  Quite a few familiar names were somehow roped into appearing in this low-budget space oater, though most of them only appear for a few minutes and don’t contribute much to the overall story.  George Takei plays the alcoholic town doctor.  Julie Newmar is Miss Kitty, the owner of Oblivion’s “social” club.  In a nod to her most famous role, Newmar hisses at Red Eye and his gang but that’s all she gets to do.  It feels like a waste of a cameo.  Isaac Hayes and Meg Foster also make appearances, though again neither really gets to do anything interesting.

The idea of a space western isn’t a bad one and there actually have been a few good ones.  (Outland, for example.)  But Oblivion can never escape the drag of its low budget and its bland lead.

Lisa Marie’s Picks For The 16 Worst Films of 2022

Well, it’s nearly February so I guess it’s time for me to start listing my picks for the best and the worst of 2022.

It’s pretty much a tradition here at the Shattered Lens that I always end up running behind as far as posting these lists are concerned.  I always think that I’m going to have everything ready to go during the first week of January but then I realize that there’s still a host of movies that I need to see before I can, in good conscience, post any sort of list.  Fortunately, I think I’ve finally reached where I can start posting lists.  Add to that, as I said at the start of this post, it’s nearly February!

Below, you’ll find my picks for the 16 worst films of 2022.  Why 16 films?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers!

In the end, of course, this list is my opinion.  You’re free to agree or disagree.  That’s the wonderful thing about having an opinion.

(Also be sure to check out my picks for 2021, 2020, 201920182017201620152014201320122011, and 2010!)

16. Glass Onion (dir by Rian Johnson) — I realize that, by even including Glass Onion on this list, I’m going out on a limb here.  A lot of people who I respect really enjoyed this film.  Several of my friends have it on their best of the year lists.  And that’s fine!  The film just didn’t work for me and it often seemed a bit too amused with itself.  That said, what really pushed me over the edge was what happened to the Mona Lisa.  If that hadn’t happened, this film would probably be ranked in the middle of the 129 films that are eligible for this year’s worst and best lists.

15. The Fallout (dir by Megan Park) — The Fallout dealt with an important subject and it had some good performances but it was just a bit too overwritten and predictable for me.  Plus, the film opened with someone making a really messy peanut butter sandwich and that totally grossed me out.  Jenna Ortega is still destined to be a star, though.

14. Studio 666 (dir by BJ McDonnell) — I wasn’t particularly harsh in my initial review of Studio 666 but, the more I think about it, the more dissatisfied I am with the film.  This is one of those films where the people making it definitely had more fun than the people who watched it.  I still respect the Foo Fighters for doing something for their fans and Dave Grohl seems to be about as likable and goofy as a rock star can be.  But the film itself ultimately feels a bit lazy,

13. A Day To Die (dir by Wes Miller) — This bland action film got some attention because it was one of the many films featuring Bruce Willis to be released this year.  Unfortunately, this one was just boring.  Willis and co-star Kevin Dillion were both seen to better effect in Wire Room.

12. The Princess (dir by Le-Van Kiet) — This cheap-looking film had a lot of action but not much characterization.  The film was so busy patting itself on the back for celebrating girl power that it didn’t seem to have noticed that the girl at the center of the film was seriously underwritten.

11. The Bubble (dir by Judd Apatow) — This oddly mean-spirited satire was Judd Apatow at his most self-indulgent and undisciplined.  The film’s smug attitude made it a real chore to sit through.

10. Fortress: Sniper’s Eye (dir by Josh Sternfeld) — This rather pointless action film was among the many films in which Bruce Willis appeared this year.  Willis spends most of the film offscreen while Jesse Metcalfe and Chad Michael Murray play two enemies who are trying to kill each other because of …. reasons, I guess.  Instead of watching this film, check out Willis in White Elephant, an entertaining film in which he plays a crime boss who goes to war with Michael Rooker.

9. Hellraiser (dir by David Buckner) — Blandly directed and poorly acted, this was a pointless reboot of the Hellraiser series, with Jamie Clayton proving to be a forgettable replacement for Doug Bradley.

8. American Siege (dir by Edward Drake) — This was undoubtedly the worst of Bruce Willis’s 2022 films, with a silly plot and Willis cast as an alcoholic police chief who has to decide whether or not to stand up to the richest man in town.  That said, Edward Drake also directed in Bruce Willis in Gasoline Alley, an excellent modern-day noir that featured a great lead performance from Devon Sawa and which gave Willis a decent role.  Instead of seeing American Siege, track down Gasoline Alley.

7. Windfall (dir by Charlie McDowell) — Jason Segel, Jesse Plemons, Lily Collins, and Charlie McDowell are all undoubtedly talented but this hostage melodrama goes nowhere unexpected.  Like a lot of hostage dramas, it becomes a bit of a drag as all of the expected mental games are played.  The attempt at social commentary falls flat.

6. Morbius (dir by Daniel Espinosa) — I started this film in October and didn’t bother to finish it until January.  Jared Leto seems to be taking the whole thing just a bit too seriously.  I still think it’s funny that a bunch of twitter trolls tricked Sony into re-releasing this thing so that it could flop twice.

5. Amsterdam (dir by David O. Russell) — Overlong and self-indulgent, Amsterdam features all of David O. Russell’s storytelling flaws without many of his strength.  To be honest, this film lost me as soon as the cutesy “This is based on an almost true story” flashed across the screen.  Amsterdam thinks that it’s considerably more clever than it is.  Taylor Swift, for all of her other talents, is not a particularly interesting actress.  Christian Bale gave the type of terrible performance that can only be delivered by someone with a lot of talent but not much of an attention span.  John David Washington was as bland as ever.  The anti-FDR Businessman’s Plot is not as obscure or unknown as this film seems to think that it is.

4. Blonde (dir by Andrew Dominik) — Andrew Dominik gives us yet another incredibly pretentious film that doesn’t seem to have much of a point beyond rubbing the audience’s face in how depressing life can be.  For all the effort that this film takes to recreate the life of Marilyn Monroe, the film doesn’t really seem to have much respect for her or even really like her that much.  Indeed, the film takes an almost perverse joy in detailing every tragedy that she suffered but it never displays much empathy for her suffering.  Never does the film see fit to really acknowledge her as a talented actress who was reportedly far more intelligent and well-read than most people realized.  People should be far more upset over Ana de Armas’s Oscar nomination than Andrea Riseborough’s.

3. The Sky is Everywhere (dir by Josephine Decker) — Ugh.  This film was unbearably twee.

2. Halloween Ends (dir by David Gordon Green) — In the past, I’ve liked quite a few of David Gordon Green’s films.  But I have to admit that I’ve disliked his Halloween films so much that it’s actually made me start to dislike his past movies as well.  There’s just something incredibly smug about Green’s approach to the films, as if he wants to make sure that we all understand that he’s better than the average horror director.  The thought of Green redoing The Exorcist…. bleh!  Anyway, Halloween Ends is a Halloween film that barely features Michael Myers.  The ending, with the somber march to the auto yard, was the most unintentionally funny thing that I’ve seen this year.  Can someone please tell David Gordon Green to get back to making films like Joe?

1. After Ever Happy (dir by Castille Landon) — The saga of the world’s most boring lovers continues.  Will these films never end!?

Pressure Point (1997, directed by David Giancola)

Sebastian “Della” Dellacourt (Don Mogavero) is a balding, mild-mannered, and middle-aged businessman who has all the screen presence of a halibut.  That is just his cover because, in reality, Della is the CIA’s best assassin.  When his handler (played by Larry Linville of M*A*S*H fame) promises him that he only has to do “one last” job, Della is relieved.  But when he discovers that the job involves killing not only an ambassador but also the ambassador’s children, he intentionally botches it.  Della is arrested and his secret life is exposed.  His wife leaves him.  Convicted of murder, Della is sent to prison but he won’t be there for long.  His handlers have one last “one last” job for him.

After they arrange for him to escape from prison, Della makes his way to Vermont where he is assigned to infiltrate a militia movement led by local businessman, Arno Taylor (Steve Railsback).  Arno hates the government and he loves apples and he wants to blow up the U.S. Congress.  It turns out that Arno has some powerful friends backing him up and Della is meant to be a patsy.  Can Della and his new cop girlfriend (Linda Ljoka) stop Arno or will Della be set up to take the fall for the worst act of terrorism in American history?

Before talking about the movie, let’s spare a thought for Larry Linville.  Larry Linville was not a bad actor but he never recovered from playing Frank Burns on M*A*S*H.  It didn’t have to be that way.  During the first season of M*A*S*H, Frank was self-righteous, annoying, and not a great surgeon but he was still recognizably human and Linville played him as just being insecure and not as quick-witted as the other surgeons.  But as the series went on, Frank was written to be more and more cartoonish and soon he became downright evil.  While every other character got to grow and develop, Frank regressed until eventually there wasn’t any room left for him on the show.  Realizing that Frank would never be allowed to become a fully-rounded character, Linville left the show after the fifth season.  The show went on for 6 more seasons without him but Linville never escaped the shadow of Frank Burns and his post-M*A*S*H movie career was spent playing villains in low-budget films like this one.

As for Pressure Point, it comes from the same people who did Icebreaker and Time Chasers so you know what you’re getting into when you start watching it.  Moments of mild action are mixed in with scenes that only exist to pad out the running time.  Even though I like the idea of action movies that star people who like actual everyday people, Don Magovero is still the least convincing action star that I’ve ever seen.  Whenever he has to run or jump or do anything requiring any sort of physical exertion, he looks like he is about to faint.  Having him go up against Steve Railsback, who actually is a good actor and who is convincing as someone who could organize and lead a militia group, just seems unfair.

I Watched Gibsonburg (2013, dir. by Jonathon Kimble and Bob Mahaffey)

Based on a true story, Gibsonburg is my favorite type of sports story.  It’s about a team that won even though everyone expected it to lose.

During the 2005 regular season, Gibsonburg High School’s baseball team compiles a desultory record of 6 wins and 17 losses.  With a record like that, no one gives them much of a chance in the state’s championship tournament.  But, against the odds, the Gibsonburg Golden Bears not only win the first game of the tournament but the second one and then the third one.  Soon, it starts to look like Gibsonburg could actually come out of nowhere to win the state championship!

I liked Gibsonburg.  There’s a lot of baseball scenes but, even more importantly, the movie is about what the underdog baseball team does for the spirit of its hometown.  Gibsonburg has been hit hard by the recession and businesses are shutting down left and right.  One of the team’s best players had just been told that the family’s bakery is going to be closed in a few weeks.  The team’s victories gives the entire town something to believe in and it shows that you can succeed even when everyone is expecting you to fail.  The team starts to win after the player comes across as valuable coin that might be lucky but, as the movie shows, the coin had nothing to do with it.  Gibsonburg won because the team came together and refused to give up.  The movie is a heart-warming celebration of community, friendship, and baseball.

Icebreaker (2000, directed by David Giancola)

Carl Grieg (Bruce Campbell) is a terminally ill terrorist who takes over a Vermont ski resort while his henchpeople search the nearby mountains for a lost shipment on plutonium.  The only man who can stop Carl is a wiseass but determined ski patroller, Matt Foster (Sean Astin).  Not only does Matt have to stop Carl from getting his hands on the plutonium but he also has to save his fiancée (Suzanne Turner) and her father (Stacy Keach), both of whom are being held hostage by Carl.  Since his future father-in-law thinks that he’s nothing more than good for nothing ski bum, this is Matt’s chance to prove himself worthy of joining the family.

Icebreaker tries to be Die Hard in a Ski Lodge but it fails because Sean Astin is no one’s idea of an action star.  With his laid back and goofy manner, Astin miscast as someone who can leap from from an exploding ski lift and land in the snow with barely a scratch on him.  This was the last film that Sean Astin made before Peter Jackson offered him the role of Sam in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Needless to say, Astin was much better cast in that role than as a knock-off of Bruce Willis.

As for the rest of the cast, Bruce Campbell hams it up as Carl and, while it is always good to see Bruce, he also appears to be having so much fun that it makes him a less than convincing terrorist.  With his shaved head, it’s easy to mistake Bruce for Billy Zane.  Stacy Keach does a good job playing someone who is never not annoyed.  Considering that his daughter wants to marry a ski bum and they’re being held hostage by a villain who wants to make his very own nuclear bomb, can you blame him?

There’s some skiing action but none of it is really memorable.  There is also a scene featuring repeated shots of a counter on a bomb, announcing that Astin only had 30 seconds to do what he needs to do before everything explodes.  I think the timer may have been broken because it took a lot long than 30 seconds for that countdown to reach zero.  If you really want to see Die Hard In A Ski Resort, I suggest sticking with Cliffhanger.  That one not only only has Sylvester Stallone and Michael Rooker cracking jokes but also John Lithgow speaking with a posh accent.

Retro Television Reviews: Hitchhike! (dir by Gordon Hessler)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1974’s Hitchhike!  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

Claire Stevens (Cloris Leachman) is an emotionally vulnerable woman who is dealing with her loneliness and depression by driving to San Francisco to visit her sister.  As she’s driving, she spots a young man named Keith (Michael Brandon).  Keith is standing on the side of the road and holding out his thumb.  At first, Claire does the smart thing and she drives by him without stopping.  However, Claire starts to feel guilty so she turns around and — NO, CLAIRE!  WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!? — offers him a ride.  It turns out that he’s going to San Francisco as well!

At first, the drive is awkward.  Keith says that he doesn’t want to talk and he doesn’t appreciate it when Claire tries to make him listen to the classical music station.  But, as they drive, Keith starts to let down his defenses.  He says that he wishes that he could just sail away on the ocean.  He encourages Claire to embrace life and to just go for it.  They stop at a pier and have lunch.  Claire buys Keith a silly white hat and she places it on his head because, as she puts it, “it’s cute.”  Keith argues with her but he doesn’t take off the hat.  However, when Keith spots some cops, he immediately leads Claire away from them.

The viewer watches all of this with a sense of dread because the viewer knows what Claire doesn’t.  The viewer knows that Keith is the son of a wealthy man.  The viewer knows that Keith had been having an affair with his stepmother, who was only a few years older than Keith.  And the viewer knows that Keith murdered his stepmother with the same weapon that he’s currently carrying in his bag.  The police are looking for Keith and Keith is willing to do just about anything to stay free.

I have to admit that I yelled a little when Claire offered Keith a ride because it was such an obviously stupid thing to do.  Everyone knows that it’s never a good idea to pick up a hitchhiker.  And, if you’re a woman who is driving down an isolated road by yourself, the last thing you should ever do is offer a ride to some strange man standing on the side of the road.  Claire’s actions were foolish but, because she was played by Cloris Leachman, it was still hard not to sympathize with her.  Claire is someone who feels as if she’s been abandoned by the world and, quite obviously, she sees Keith as a kindred spirit.  Over the course of their journey, it becomes obvious that Claire is using Keith as a substitute for what she’s missing in her life.  He becomes both a son and a companion to her.  Unfortunately, Keith tends to go into a rage whenever he sense anyone getting too close to him.

Hitchhike! is a short movie and, for all the dramatic build-up, it ends on a rather anti-climatic note.  Cameron Mitchell shows up as a detective who is looking for Claire and Keith and he gives a mannered performance that is oddly over-the-top by even his generous standards.  That said, Michael Brandon has the blandly handsome look of a generic but charming serial killer while Cloris Leachman gives a credible and sympathetic performance as Claire.  If nothing else, this film can be watched with The Hitcher as a double feature.  Never stop your car for anyone!

Film Review: You People (dir by Kenya Barris)

Ezra Cohen (Jonah Hill) and Amirah Mohammed (Lauren London) have been dating for six months.  Ezra is a Jewish atheist who works at a brokerage firm but who says his lifelong dream has been to be a podcaster.  Lauren is Black and a devout Muslim.  A graduate of Howard University, she is pursuing a career as a designer.  Despite coming from very different backgrounds, Ezra and Amirah are deeply in love and want to get married.  However, becoming engaged also means …. MEETING THE PARENTS!

Shelley and Arnold Cohen (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny) are self-styled progressives who immediately embarrass Ezra by going out of their way to trying to show how liberal and non-racist they are.  Shelley, in particular, goes out of her way to bond with Amirah but it’s immediately obvious that Shelley views Amirah as being more someone to show off than as an actual human being.  Meanwhile, Akbar Mohammed and Fatima Mohammed (played by Eddie Murphy and Nia Long) are members of the Nation of Islam who admire Louis Farrakhan and who claim that the Jews were behind the slave trade.

Just from that plot description, you can see a huge part of the problem with the new film, You People.  Whereas Shelley’s problem is that she’s too quick to brag about how much she loves the idea of having a black daughter-in-law, Akbar’s problem is that he’s an anti-Semite.  His main objections to Ezra are that 1) Ezra isn’t black and 2) Ezra’s Jewish.  While Shelley takes Amirah shopping, Akbar tries to get Ezra killed by tricking him into wearing “the wrong colors” to a barbershop.  While Shelley shows off Amirah to all of her liberal friends, Akbar shoves Ezra onto a basketball court.  While Shelley is awkwardly trying to prove that she’s an ally, Akbar is inviting himself to Ezra’s wild Las Vegas bachelor party.  (Akbar is disturbed to discover that Ezra has a “coke guy.”  If this film had been made ten years ago, Ezra would have had a weed guy and it would have been easier to buy the film’s contention that Akbar is being unreasonable.)  Shelley is certainly obnoxious and she fully deserves to get called out for her behavior.  But Akbar is an anti-Semite who peddles the type of conspiracy theories that have been at the center of the alarming rise in recent hate crimes.  Whereas Shelley is clueless, Akbar is actually malicious.  And while that’s a story that one certainly could try to tell, it also makes it a bit difficult to buy the film’s fanciful ending.  The movie ultimately can’t decide if it wants to be a fearless satire of race relations or a feel-good romcom.  The tone of the film switches from scene to scene and Kenya Barris’s direction is so inconsistent that he makes Judd Apatow look like a disciplined filmmaker by comparison.

The cast is full of talent but the characters are largely one-dimensional.  Jonah Hill is undoubtedly a good actor but he’s also nearly 40 years old and, with his full beard, he looks about ten years older, which makes it a bit hard to believe that he would be that concerned with getting the approval of his future in-laws.  At first, a role of Akbar would seem ideal for Eddie Murphy but, with the exception of a scene where Akbar quizzes Ezra on his favorite Jay-Z song in an attempt to trick Ezra into saying the “n-word,” Murphy doesn’t really get to do much other than stand around with a pained expression on his face.  Probably the most interesting performance in the film comes from Mike Epps, who plays Akbar’s brother and who is one of the few characters willing to call everyone out on their hypocrisy.  But, unfortunately, Epps is only in a handful of scenes and the film uses him as more of a dramatic device than a fully rounded character.

As I watched You People, I couldn’t help but think about another film about an interracial wedding, Rachel Getting Married.  That film provided a believable and multi-layered look at two different cultures coming together.  You People, however, can’t quite make up its mind what it believes or what it wants to say and, unfortunately, what it does say is often said with a surprising lack of self-awareness.  At times, it’s so proud of itself that it feels like it almost could have been written by Shelley Cohen.

You People is streaming on Netflix.

Film Review: Wire Room (dir by Matt Eskandari)

Wire Room tells the story of Justin Rosa (Kevin Dillon).

Once upon a time, Justin was a member of the Secret Service.  But, for reasons that are never really made clear, Justin was eventually demoted and found himself working for Homeland Security.  After 18 years, Justin has finally achieved his dream.  He’s been assigned to a wire room, a high-tech command center where HSI agents conduct surveillance on high-profile criminals.  On his first day, Justin shows up late.  He gets yelled at by his superior, Shane Mueller (Bruce Willis).  Justin explains that he couldn’t find anywhere to park.  Shane is not impressed.  Of course, Shane takes a taxi to and from work because Shane is a total alcoholic who likes to spend his free time at the local strip club.

After meeting Shane and Nour Holborow (Shelby Cobb), Justin is left in the wire room alone.  His sole job is to keep an eye on a British arms dealer, Eddie Flynn (Oliver Trevena, who chews the scenery with relish).  Shane is obsessed with taking down not only Eddie but also all of the corrupt cops that are on Eddie’s payroll.  Eddie has no idea that his entire mansion is wired and that Homeland Security is watching him while he wanders around the house in his leopard-print robe.  Eddie also doesn’t know that a bunch of assassins are coming to his house to try to kill him.

Realizing that Eddie is about to be killed, Justin tries to call Shane but Shane is too busy getting drunk to answer his phone.  When Nour calls about an unrelated manner, Justin asks her for advice.  She tells him to call Shane.  He already tried that!  Realizing that Homeland Security is full of drunks and incompetents, Justin decides to call Eddie himself.  Soon, Justin and Eddie enter into an uneasy partnership.  Justin tries to keep Eddie alive while Eddie tries to figure out how Justin knows what’s happening at his house.  To me, it would seem like it shouldn’t be difficult for Eddie to figure out that Homeland Security has wired his house but no one in this movie is particularly smart.

Wire Room was one of the last movies that Bruce Willis made before announcing his retirement from acting.  Willis doesn’t get much screen time and his dialogue consists mostly of profane insults.  That said, it is nice to see Willis playing a good guy again and there’s even a few hints of the old Willis charisma to be found in his performance.  If nothing else, he seems to enjoy the scenes in which Shane gives Justin a hard time.  As for Justin, he really is a truly stupid character who makes so many obvious mistakes that it’s hard not to worry about the fact that he’s been entrusted with keeping the homeland safe.  Fortunately, Kevin Dillon is an actor who can make stupidity likable.  (There’s a reason why Johnny Drama was the only character on Entourage that anyone really cared about.)

Like the majority of Willis’s recent films, Wire Room is a low-budget action film.  The special effects aren’t particularly special and the action scenes are fairly rudimentary.  A huge problem with the film is that the viewer is never quite sure how close or how far anyone is from the titular location.  For instance, we’re continually told that people are heading towards the wire room but it seems like it takes them forever to actually show up.  At one point, we see a group of bad guys heading up to the wire room but, somehow, Justin and Shane still have time to scrounge up some weapons and have a fairly detailed conversation before any of them actually arrive.  For all of the shooting and the yelling, Wire Room also never convinces us that there’s much at stake as far as the story is concerned.  Shane, for instance, doesn’t seem to be particularly upset when Justin tells him about what is happening at Eddie’s house, despite the fact that Eddie’s death would destroy Shane’s investigation into police corruption.  If Shane, the man in charge of the investigation, doesn’t care about what happens then why should we?

That said, there is some perhaps unintentional enjoyment to be found in Wire Room.  Kevin Dillon plays Justin as being so dense and so slow-witted that the film almost becomes a parody of the recent spate of movies and television shows that have been released about hyper competent government agents.  There are laughs to be found and Bruce Willis gets to be the good guy again.  Wire Room is not a particularly memorable movie but it is a decent time waster.

Retro Television Reviews: The Elevator (dir by Jerry Jameson)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1974’s The Elevator!  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

Marvin Ellis (Roddy McDowall) hates his job.  He’s been assigned to be the manager of a new high-rise office building.  Parts of the building are still under construction but that hasn’t stopped the company that owns it from selling out office space.  When Mrs. Kenyon (Myrna Loy) comes by and asks to look at the top floor penthouse, Ellis agrees.  In public, Ellis is always friendly and always courteous.  It’s only under the most stressful of circumstances that Ellis reveals that he feels as if the building has been built of out lies and cheap material.

Ellis and Kenyon soon find themselves in a stressful situation when they are trapped in an elevator.  Of course, they’re not alone in the elevator.  There’s also Dr. Reynolds (Craig Stevens), his wife (Teresa Wright), and his mistress (Arlene Golonka).  And then there’s Robert Peters (Barry Livingston), a teenager who has inherited a fortune.  And finally, there’s Eddie Holcomb (James Farentino).  Eddie has a suitcase full of money that he’s stolen from an office in the building.  He’s also got a loaded gun.  And, perhaps worst of all, he has an intense fear of tight places.  The longer that he’s trapped in the elevator, the worse his claustrophobia becomes.

Because the building isn’t really finished yet, the elevator’s alarm button doesn’t really work.  Other than the passengers trapped inside, the only people who know about the stalled elevator are Eddie’s partners-in-crime.  Irene (Carol Lynley) is Eddie’s girlfriend and she just wants to get the situation resolved with as little violence as possible.  Pete (Don Stroud) is Eddie’s sociopathic friend.  Pete is not only determined to rescue Eddie and retrieve the suitcase.  He’s also determined to take care of any potential witnesses by killing everyone on the elevator.

The Elevator is a disaster film, along the lines of Airport and The Towering Inferno.  Due to the hubris of a faceless corporation, a group of people find themselves trapped in a potentially catastrophic situation.  Some of them react with bravery.  Some of them react with cowardice.  All of them get a chance to reveal a bit of who they are on the inside.  Some might say that being trapped in an elevator is not quite as bad being trapped in a fiery skyscraper or being a passenger on a airplane that’s being held hostage by a mad bomber.  Technically, they’re right but I am also going to admit right now that I absolutely hate elevators and I try to avoid them whenever I can.  I always say that this is because running up and down several flights of stairs is a good way to keep my legs looking good and certainly that’s part of it.  But an even bigger reason is that I dread the thought of being stuck in a confined space with a bunch of strangers.  If I was on an elevator that was stuck between floors, I would probably lose my mind.  I have a hard enough time just standing in line for longer than 3 minutes.  As directed by Jerry Jameson, The Elevator does as good job of capturing the feeling of being trapped in a small space.  It’s not a film to watch if you have claustrophobia.

As for the cast, Myrna Loy is a delight as the eccentric Mrs. Kenyon.  And seriously, how can you dislike any film that gives Roddy McDowall a monologue about how much he hates skyscrapers?  It’s an entertaining, if undemanding, film.  After watching The Elevator, I’ll keep taking the stairs.