Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wild Hogs

A good description of this might be Brando’s “The Wild One” meets The Three Stooges during mid-life crisis. This story is about four suburban middle-aged middle class bikers, who call themselves the “Wild Hogs”, deciding to get away from it all and take a road trip from Cincinnati to the Pacific. Taking their bikes, the "Wild Hogs", Doug (Tim Allen), Woody (John Travolta), Bobby (Martin Lawrence) and Dudley (William H. Macy), putz up the road and eventually stop in New Mexico for a drink in a biker bar that belongs to the "Del Fuegos", a mean biker gang like the kind that give mean biker gangs that kind of reputation (a nice way of saying stereotyped). The leader of the gang, Jack (Ray Liotta), steals Dudley’s bike. Woody takes matters into his own hands and steals it back which starts a predictable chain of events.
Even though the plot is predictable, there are still a lot of fun parts to make this a pretty good flick, probably more so for bikers who see a lot more of the humor in these characters than non-bikers. My only complaint is that I feel that John Travolta was strained in this roll and seemed to be over-acting to me, while the others seemed to be taking it all in stride. There was also a lot of use of the “s” word (why they do this is beyond me. It adds nothing to the story at all, especially in a Disney film), but other than that there wasn’t anything offensive in it. I especially liked the scenes during the end credits. This is a no-surprises comedy that I rate as 7 out of 10.

The Farmer Astronaut

This is a story about dreams and fulfilling them. Charles Farmer is a former Air Force astronaut wannabe, astrophysicist and engineer (not stated, but implied by his talents), who left the Air Force in order to save the family ranch after his father’s death. But, his dream of going into space has never died to the point of obsession. He lives and breaths outer space. He has indoctrinated his entire family into his dream and they are all part of it. He has even built a real rocket, based on an Atlas rocket and built out of spares and scrap, in his barn, that he intends to use to shoot himself into space. The locals in the town all laugh behind his back. They just think he is a bit of a kook and don’t really take him seriously. The down side to all of this is that he has gone into debt, big time, and has not told anyone (his wife especially) about it, and they are about to foreclose on the family ranch. On top of that, government has been made aware of his rocket when he inquired about the large quantity of fuel he wanted to purchase for his launch, and in this post 9/11 world they have put the FBI to watch his every move, and the FAA tries to slow roll him so that the bank can foreclose before his launch date. Charlie feels his dream slipping away and throws caution to the wind and decides to launch using a less than perfect fuel source.

Like I said, this is a movie about dreams. It is a good family movie with nothing offensive in it at all. The performances are good with Billy Bob Thornton as our dreamer, Virginia Madsen as his “too good to believe in supporting all this” wife, a small part by Bruce Dern (he’s getting old) and an uncredited roll by Bruce Willis. The problems I had with it are it is a bit slow moving. Some people like this pace, but I needed it to move a bit faster. There were also numerous flaws, both technical and non-technical that tended to bother me, but it is still a good story with some life implications thrown in. All things considered, I give it a 7 out of 10 rating.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


It was another rental weekend. I wouldn't have rented this one except it came with a recommendation, so I gave it a try.

Shooter is another "one man hero against the system" story in the Rambo vain. Our hero, Bob Lee Swagger, played by Mark Wahlberg (what is this obsession on three word names?) is an ex-marine sniper, and obviously, the best in the business (gee, I'm surprised). The story opens with our hero and his observer showing there stuff in an operation in Ethiopia, where his observer gets killed and he is abandoned by the "good guys". Next scene is 3 years later at his mountain home living with his beer fetching dawg, now retired Swagger is approached by retired Col. Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) and his troop who convince Swagger that there will be an attempt on the life of the president by a sniper a a one mile range and only he can help them stop this before it happens. I mean, come on guys, this has fall guy written all over it! But, for the sake of a story, our hero falls for it and agrees to help.

Of course it is a set-up; of course they try to kill our hero; of course he gets wounded; of course he gets away; and of course our hero wants to uncover the plot and seek revenge. Standard plot mechanics, nothing new or original here. And because of his "super-hero" abilities, you know he will succeed showing off all his skills and waving the American flag all the way. If that's what you are looking for in this movie, you won't be disappointed, because that's what it is. A few original plot twists in the end and a lot of stupid moves on the part of our hero leaving you asking at the end of the movie "Why would he do that?", and then you realize that it is the excuse to have the action scenes, because if he "did the right things" (knowing what our hero knows all along, but they don't let us know until the end) there wouldn't be a story. So much for super-heroes.

On the positive side, Mark Wahlberg puts in a good performance and plays our hero straight and true. There is a decent supporting cast except I find Danny Glover unbelievable in his roll of a top guy, it just doesn't come off for me. I did like the small part veteran actor Ned Beatty played as Senator Meachum. He played the true arrogance of a man in his position.

So, if you want to see a Rambo style action film, this is it. If you want to see a plot twister that makes you think, you'd probably do better elsewhere. This movie is rated R. It has a bit of bad language, no sex other than Kate Mara in her underwear, no romance (other than maybe implied), and some blood, mostly due to the long range "head shots" that the sniper makes (this is the way they tell the audience that it's a kill). I was also disturbed by the sound quality. I had a lot of trouble understanding what was being said in a lot of instances and had to turn on the subtitles, but that might just be my audio setup. I give this movie a 7 out of 10.