Rewind Review: Machete

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Machete (2010)

Machete is the kind of movie that will leave you smiling ear to ear from beginning to end. The film is absolutely non-stop entertainment, laughs and action and one of the more enjoyable movie experiences you’re likely to have this year. Robert Rodriguez is a director who has two very disparate personas there is his action side and his kid’s film side. It’s kind of hard to compare the two but in terms of straight-up action this is likely his best offering since the cinematic miracle that put him on the map, El Mariachi.

One thing you need to know is that this movie is a grindhouse film from start to finish. There are intentional and digitally rendered scratches on the film in the opening portion, there are outlandish situations, gratuitous nudity and some over-the-top performances all done with a tongue-in-cheek spin to make it all spot on.
This is a film that owes its genesis to Rodriguez’s 2007 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino on the Grindhouse double-feature. In which we first saw a glimpse of Machete in a spoof trailer. Leave it to Robert Rodriguez to have the guts to like his idea enough to bring it to the big screen as a feature and it has been worth the wait.

What helps drive this film along is perhaps the best scoring in a film by Robert Rodriguez since Spy Kids. Robert does not take the task alone this time but has a band assembled referred to as Chingon and the sum is definitely greater than the whole of its parts. It is the toe-tapping overdrive that is needed for such a story.

Machete (2010, Troublemaker Studios)

Not only does this film remain in the grindhouse style from start to finish but it is so through to its bones meaning there will be no attempt at subtlety in conveying its message about immigration policies in this country. It occasionally comes right out and hits you over the head with them, typically in a very funny way but it all fits and makes sense. It is also commendable that as silly and fun as it is most of the time it still manages to be about something and is not just pure escapism.

Robert Rodriguez’s films are always notable for their casting. He typically gets commitments from bigger names by having them take smaller parts they like and working them only a few days but at the same time, like many established directors, he has his stable of favorites. Here he might just have done his best balancing act of his career. Of course, you have Danny Trejo as the titular character who is convincing every step of the way through and though he is age-wise in the ballpark of many of the stars of The Expendables it never crosses your mind (and odds are he can take a few). There’s Cheech Marin, who here he plays a priest in a much more convincing and Cheech-like way than he did in The Perfect Game because the circumstances are vastly different and you have Daryl Sabara, formerly the younger half of the Spy Kids tandem, as a member of “The Network” in a hysterical turn.

On the flip-side you have Robert De Niro as two-faced Texas State Senator, Don Johnson as a man hunting border-jumpers, Jeff Fahey as a duplicitous campaign manager and Jessica Alba, fittingly placed as an agent who has turned her back on her heritage and arrests illegal immigrants. Not to mention Lindsay Lohan in a part where few will reasonably think she’s acting and, of course, Steven Seagal who…well you just have to see it as it’s indescribably funny. It’s the perfect balance.

Machete (2010, Troublemaker Studios)

This film is downright hysterical from start to finish and is without question one of the best films of the year and will be hard to top as the most enjoyable time I had watching a movie. The end teases sequels and hopefully there are, and if there are Rodriguez certainly traded up dumping Sin City for this. This is an absolute triumph for Robert Rodriguez.

10/10

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Top 10 Movies I Can’t Believe I Liked

This is a list I originally posted on my prior site. I don’t think I’ve found newer, better examples; so the choices remain the same. Below you’ll find 10 films that for one reason or another I had no expectations going into, but ended up liking.

10. The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980, Warner Bros.))

I first saw this film in cinema class as a freshman in high school. Until I saw this film I never really enjoyed being scared, and I hated horror movies. In a class setting it must’ve taken three days to watch it and I was riveted as if I watched it in one viewing and I looked forward to it every day. It was Kubrick‘s The Shining (which I like better than the book) that got me to read Stephen King and ultimately made me fall in love with horror.

9. Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002, 20th Century Fox)

I saw the Star Wars prequels first. Having never felt the urge to see the originals, and then hearing about the prequel concept which was popularized, if not invented by, Lucas – I wanted to watch the movies in the story’s chronological order. So I waited until 2005 to see the original trilogy. After having seen The Phantom Menace I just didn’t get the appeal, but I stuck it out and went to see Attack of the Clones and then I got it – Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones is awesome. The Phantom Menace was just not that good at all and it never will be no matter how many times I watch the film. Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones won the BAM for Best Picture in 2002 (BAMs are my personal movie awards – look out for those here next year).

8. Hook (1991)

Hook (1991, Columbia)

This film being on the list is based entirely on concept. To me the idea of a movie about Peter Pan growing up was just absurd, so I avoided Hook for a long time but then I watched it… and Spielberg does turn almost everything into gold. It will never replace the original, or come close to it, but it is a very good and underrated film.

7. Max Keeble’s Big Move (2001)

Max Keeble's Big Move (2001, Disney)

I saw this as the cherry on top of a self-made triple feature one day. Of the movies I saw that day (Zoolander and Hearts in Atlantis being the other two), I had the lowest expectations for this one and it was my favorite. It is just a zany, off-the-wall comedy that actually ended up being nominated for a BAM as Best Picture.

6. Freaky Friday (2003)

Freaky Friday (2003, Disney)

It was one of those Disney’s 70s live-action films that just never quite did it for me for a number of reasons, but mainly because suspension of disbelief becomes difficult. Complicating matters this was the second time Lindsay Lohan was remaking a Disney film after her big break in the The Parent Trap. I went to see it ‘just because,’ not expecting much and loved it. It was probably Lohan’s last appealing character pre-drug/attitude problems and Jamie Lee Curtis is a perfect foil. Thus, the ridiculous concept didn’t bother me at all in the end.

5. School of Rock (2003)School of Rock (2003, Paramount)

Keep in mind this film was released in 2003. At the time I only really knew Jack Black from Tenacious D and I didn’t think this concept would work or be funny. I was dragged to watch the film just short of kicking and screaming, and lo and behold I loved it, and consider it to be one of the 50 funniest movies I’ve ever seen. No other vehicle has quite captured Jack Black’s lightning in a bottle like this film did. I was ultimately very glad I saw it indeed and watch it frequently – and quote it as well.

4. A Dog of Flanders (1999)

A Dog of Flanders (1999, Warner Bros.)

I used to go to the movies every weekend in junior high and high school, whether accompanied or not, to see something new. It didn’t matter what I went to see, and that’s how I saw the next film. Here’s a film that misleads with its title. Having never seen or heard of the original story and films upon which this most recent rendition was based I thought it was your typical ‘boy and his dog’ film, in fact the title refers to the protagonist, Nello, as much as it does to his dog. However, at its heart it is a much more serious tale of poverty, sacrifice and the struggle to be an artist. In fact, it may well be one of the best examples of that subgenre. It is a rare film in which the protagonist ages and both performances by actors playing younger and older Nello (Jesse James and Jeremy James Kissner) are equally compelling. Along with a great supporting turn from Jon Voight, a good score, and a tear-jerking ending this is a great film that caught me completely by surprise.


3. Young Einstein (1988)

Young Einstein (1988, Warner Bros.)

I literally saw this because Home Alone was sold out, or was it Batman? Either way I didn’t see it that day and my friend’s birthday plans changed. Just watching it under those conditions should have lead to disappointment. However, I remember it being okay and not a complete and total waste of time. And looking back and considering that it starred a man who calls himself Yahoo Serious that is saying something.


2. High School Musical (2006)

High School Musical (2006, Disney Channel)

If nothing else, it’s one of those movies you watch just because you want to see what people are talking about, and I have to admit that the first one actually does work. Yes, it’s sappy, but it makes no claims to be otherwise and doesn’t try to overdevelop subplot as the 2nd and 3rd installments do. The sequels are also pretty much artistically unjustified and terrible but that can’t detract from the first.

1. Jack Frost (1998)

Jack Frost (1998, Warner Bros.)

This one sits atop the list because it deals with perhaps the most preposterous storyline of them all. A kid loses his father and finds him the next year reincarnated as a snowman. It sounds like the kind of thing that would land on MST3K. However, with the setup, the tumult surrounding the father leaving and the devastation his loss causes, and with all the insinuations of insanity handled immediately – it starts to work. What pushes it over the top are the performances of the cast: the always great Michael Keaton, both on screen and in voice becomes a character we ourselves greatly miss seeing. Joseph Cross, who is now an established character actor having recently appeared in Lincoln, after his prior comeback with Running with Scissors and a supporting role in the Oscar-winning Milk; gives the performance of his childhood career (which is saying something), as the sensitive, shy and affected Charlie. Rounding out the principal cast is Kelly Preston doing the most that almost anyone could with such a small role. It’s a film I’ve now seen a number of times and could probably pop in every holiday season without growing tired of it and still think “I can’t believe I like this, but I do.”