Thursday, December 30, 2010

One A Week Reviews #52: Shoot the Hero!

A odd hallucination of a sleek shoot-'em-up, reviewed by moi for for your safety...

Shoot the Hero!

Official Synopsis

30-something couple (Jason Mewes and Samantha Lockwood) unintentionally become involved in a botched jewel heist while shopping for wedding rings. The plot thickens when the crooked casino owner (Danny Trejo) who engineered the heist hires two unassuming hit men to clean up the mess, and the soon-to-be husband and wife find themselves discovering new things about themselves and their relationship.

Our Take

Three strung together, inter-connected crime vignettes, Shoot the Hero certainly has lots of pretty style, but how's it work for substance?

Part one is “Nate & Kate” and features the (completely unlikable) couple shopping after-hours for wedding bands only to be interrupted by a jewelry store robbery. The idea they'd be discussing their relationship problems in the middle of a shoot-out is not only outlandish, it's off-putting. What happens after strains all credulity as the burglars choke on their own machismo in a “I've seen way too many cool action movies” moment. Guys trying to steal millions in precious gems and other items do not take a break to kick-box one another. Why should we invest in violence that clearly has to consequences to characters we haven't even related to yet? This fact hobbles the film right out of the gate.

Jason Mewes plays nebbish and shows versatility beyond his typecasting as part of “Jay and Silent Bob.” His verbal sparring with relative newcomer Samantha Lockwood (the shrewish Kate) is entertaining, but so detached from reality they provoke guffaws when the film wants awe. Plop their self-absorbed couple in a different film and you'd have some entertaining sparring.

Part two, “The Smith Brothers,” features squabbling siblings (Mike Hatton and Nic Nac) lugging garbage bags through the desert night. Their kvetching is, unsurprisingly, interrupted by a shootout of another kind. The pleasure of Fred Williamson making an appearance to chew scenery like his trademark stogies goes a long way, but doesn't salvage this muddle of slackers and “Keystone Cops” survivalists that keeps threatening to slide into slapstick.

The first two segments dovetail into the third, which sparks audience enthusiasm by opening with B-movie legend Danny Trejo as crime lord “Crazy Joe.” He and Nick Turturro's jewel robber bring their careers playing bad guys to good effect. They're a short-hand to raise the stakes and capture the audience late in the game. Sadly, the illegal casino “Mexican Standoff” strains all credulity and wastes the cachet they bring.

The film looks and sounds good, with a slick sheen and fine pacing. The problem is the content. Unrealistic characters in stories with predictable twists. In the real world, innocent bystanders tend to get a bit stressed when trapped in the middle of gunplay. In the world of Shoot the Hero, they get glib. An odd mix of happy ending and toxic post-Tarantino violence, Shoot the Hero is a mix that never quite gels.

(Side note A: Why is Taylor Negron's name misspelled on the DVD packaging?)

(Side note B: Katie Morgan, the baby-voiced adult film star who brought memorable sweetness to Zack & Miri Make a Porno, appears briefly as Crazy Joe's moll. She's arm candy here but worth keeping an eye on. Her woozy comic presence should lead to a bright future.)

Special Features

Shoot the Hero! Is presented widescreen with an option for Spanish subtitles. The Bonus Features menu offers about 26 minutes worth of video production and director's diaries, both three-part featurettes. There are video interviews with director Christian Sesma and Jason Mewes, a photo galley. The DVD also features a trailer for the far more interesting looking documentary, Restrepo.


Shoot the Hero is built out of painful, straight-outta-film-school scenes of “relationships vs. violence” that probably reads better than they play. The whole shebang is a pretty “boy's toy” of an action film choking on it's own “hey, look what I can do” coolness, tension-free gunplay, and an uncomfortable mix of flippancy and violence. Sesma has a great eye, but his excesses make for hard viewing. I look forward to his work once he steps away from his “Tarantino & Rodriguez” checklist.

For fans of absurdly exaggerated, glossy shoot-'em-ups only.

Overall Picture
Movie: D+
Extras: B-

Monday, December 27, 2010

One A Week Reviews #51: Robert Klein: Unfair & Unbalanced

HBO celebrated their 35th year of comedy specials by bringing back the man who started it all. Here's my review for

Robert Klein: Unfair & Unbalanced

Official Synopsis

Comedy Legend, Award-Winning Actor, Improvisational Master, Bluesman Extraordinaire, Robert Klein made hilarious history with the first-ever HBO stand-up special. Now, Klein returns for his ninth stand-up special, an hour of uproarious new takes on society's foibles and follies, plus several memorable music interludes backed by a symphony orchestra. From philandering congressmen, hypocrisy in Washington, pop culture obsessions and job outsourcing, to comedic musical numbers about Barack Obama, medical marijuana, gay marriage, and why he can't stop his leg, Klein grapples with the truly important issues as only he can – with trademark insight and timeless humor.

Our Take

Robert Klein is an elder statesman of stand-up comedy, and in Unfair & Unbalanced he presents nearly a full hour of witty music and wry observations, 35 years after his first HBO special. I personally don't remember when I last saw his stand-up and know him more as an actor. The show's open, a musical number about President Obama, seemed to really be there just to rehash old Clinton jokes didn't bode well at the outset. There's lots of reheated political humor here, less “up-to-date” than “greatest hits” of the last two years. David Vitter, Larry Craig, Eliot Spitzer, all these sacred cows got ground to burger long ago. Jokes about The Sopranos and Judge Judy also are, to be generous, dated. Adult jokes fall a little flat but have a good-natured spirit that makes them enjoyably inoffensive. Observations about aging come off oddly curmudgeonly, and don't quite work coming from a man as vital and energetic as Klein. You're not a “geezer” at 68 anymore. Klein also fancies himself a song and dance man, with a cute pair of songs about medical marijuana and gay marriage.

All in all, this is a pleasant diversion filled with easy laughs. Time well spent with an expert of comedy.

Special Features

The special is presented in widescreen with Dolby 5.1 audio, but there are no extras and no frills. What this disc should have is his first HBO special from 1975 as the obvious bookend.


While perhaps a bit mellowed with age, Robert Klein brings as still-acidic outlook to urrent events, vulgarity, and aging. With George Carlin gone, he inherits HBO's crown for stand-up king and takes it in a more “Borscht Belt” direction. A must for his fans and a great introduction to those unfamiliar with his stand-up comedy. Nothing cutting edge here, but Unfair & Unbalanced is a light hour of easy entertainment.

Overall Picture
Movie: B-
Extras: D-