Rewind Review: Cop Out

Cop Out is the kind of film that shows you the proof is in the pudding, meaning all the pre-release news, trailers and other miscellanea don’t give you a true insight into the quality of a film. Examples here are plentiful. There is of course the title controversy – Kevin Smith, the director (this was the first film he directed that he did not write), wanted to name the film A Couple of Dicks after a line in the film and using the archaic slang for detective as a double entendre. That was shot down for advertising reasons as the title would limit their TV ads to late night. Then the trailer looked funny in parts and in others not so much. Anyway, I digress.

Cop Out is one hell of a movie that proves that Kevin Smith knows how to make a funny movie, whether he penned it or not, but it also does much more than that. It also ends up being a pretty good action crime movie at the same time, and what’s more neither of the two is ever struggling with the other. They balance perfectly together right from the first viewing. It’s in the neighborhood of the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy” (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, third film yet to be) in terms of being a spoof, an homage and a film of the genre at the same time.

The film benefits tremendously from the unlikely pairing of Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. They’re not the first two you’d think of when trying to pick foils but man did it ever work here. However, a comedy can only be a true success when it also has memorable turns from the supporting cast. This film also has the benefit of that in many areas. First there’s Seann William Scott, who it may be safe to say has never been better, as the wild Parkour-practicing criminal the partners frequently run into. Then there’s Susie Essman in a very memorable one scene appearance as a woman who is being robbed and who takes no crap. And most importantly amongst the supporting stars is Ana de la Reguera as Gabriela, the Spanish-speaking kidnapping victim they happen upon.

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The soundtrack to this film is noticeably good and does have a few toe-tappers that complement the score, which was somewhat reminiscent of action films of the 1980s, quite nicely.

The film starts with a very funny scene illustrating Paul’s (Tracy Morgan) odd interrogation techniques, which not only set the film up as an homage but also gets him the information he was after. The scene that follows that will kick the film off and send them on their mission as rogue cops. It’s a really well-structured beginning. Also, there is some character-building in as much as Jimmy (Bruce Willis) has a personal stake in retrieving something stolen from him which he planned to sell in order to pay for his daughter’s wedding. While Paul is haunted by the thought of his wife cheating on him and that paranoia is played on through suppositional flashes in which he imagines their exaggerated courtship to tremendous humorous effect.

The dialogue also needs to be cited for its excellence, while that should seem obvious it’s not always necessarily true. Take Dave, (Seann William Scott) the confrontational thief, he is constantly pestering Paul with games of shadow, knock-knock jokes and other nonsense but the film is somewhat conscious of this silliness and even plays up that for more comedy when they have an exchange of “Duck season!” “Rabbit season!”

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Cop Out is an uproariously funny film that doesn’t throw plot completely out the window as has you engaged in all elements of the tale.

10/10

Review- Rio

Rio (20th Century Fox)

For any viewer, regardless of your experience, academic acumen or whatever other qualifications you may have, there will invariably be occasions where a film plays into a sensitive area for you where it’ll either excel with flying colors or fail miserably, perhaps to a greater degree than it would otherwise, due to your personal experience. In the case of Rio it was targeted on my radar early on for two reasons: first, and the lesser of the two reasons, for my love of birds and conversely my loathing of smuggling but it hit home more because it’s set in Brazil, a nation of which I am a dual citizen.

Having been one who grew up cinematically with only Carmen Miranda and the anti-Lambada propaganda film The Forbidden Dance as major reference of American interpretations of Brazil onscreen my apprehension is understandable. Not that there’s anything wrong with Carmen Miranda but any icon can be turned into a stereotype in the wrong hands.

Suffice it to say that most of my concerns are addressed by the fact that one of the film’s writers and its director is a Brazilian, Carlos Saldanha. Yet, you also do not get a Disney-fied Saludos Amigos or Three Cabelleros rendition of Latin America, you have in the narrative of this film a setting which actually plays a role, which is rare but also one that is presented without frills and bereft of commentary. You see the glitz and glamor of Rio, the natural beauty, the beach life, the skyline at night, carnaval but also the favelas and in a minor way, crime. It’s a subtle but accurate portrait that doesn’t impose itself above the story. It shows the good and the bad. So with that personal concern overcome I can begin to address the rest of the film.

When dealing with animation set overseas there are invariably headaches of logic. There’s always the minor bugaboo of when do you float a word in said foreign language that English speakers will readily recognize? How many Brazilians and/or actors of Hispanic descent do you include in the cast? Now, there’s only one Brazilian in the principal cast, however, considering that many Brazilian actors have recently been cast as either Hispanic or “Vaguely Foreign” characters (such as Rodrigo Santoro himself in Love Actually) it all comes out in the wash.

In fact, quite a lot the voice talent does quite well either toeing that line or just being convincing that it makes you forget. Jesse Eiesenberg conveys the stressed, caged bird in the wild well and also has the unexpected task of struggling/learning to embrace his newfound culture. Anne Hathaway, perhaps more than any other name actor in the cast, vanishes behind the veneer of her character. Thankfully she is given license to sing and the few seconds of Portuguese she’s asked to speak sounds good.

The rest of the voice cast does rather well as a whole also. One of the most distinctive and hardest voices to overcome is George Lopez’s but his shtick with his wife is funny enough such that you eventually forget. While Tracy Morgan always sounds like himself it works in tandem with his character so well that it doesn’t matter. Will i. am provides the most consistent comic relief and perhaps the most overlooked voice work belongs to Jake T. Austin, perhaps best known for his work on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, he convincingly comes across as not only a Brazilian kid but also one who’s younger than he is.

The story of this film resolves itself quite neatly. It gets just the right amount of complication what with the smuggling plots getting aided with a scene-stealing performance by a Cockatoo (Jemaine Clement, who thankfully is also allowed to sing). Events head for the collision course you hope they’ll have and while there are dueling love plots and a heist everything thing has its proper priority within the infrastructure of the narrative. There’s more going on here than meets the eye with many of the villains not willing to do their own dirty work, such that you can see how it may be described as a mess but it truly does all work towards one end.

And that end is truly one of the more graceful and visual I’ve seen in some time. You realize the film is all but over and there are at least three questions/open ends you’re wondering about that are addressed in a few shots and wordlessly, without any lengthy denouement. It’s a thing of beauty of behold.

Moreover, it’s a musical that’s actually musical, meaning there are a few musical numbers where characters breakout and sing but not once does it seem random and forced. The score is tremendous and very present and when it’s not there it’s replaced by source music, which is usually a new take on a Brazilian standard. It’s another example of the synergy of location. The score is indigenous without feeling forced or trite. Even incorporating Samba beats the score and source music still underscores the action tonally.

I typically leave the 3D commentary for near the end when I do see something in 3D. I did see it as such and my general feeling is that right now animation, specifically animation by the biggest studios (Disney/Pixar, DreamWorks, Fox/Blue Sky) is usually your best bet for getting the most bang for your buck 3D-wise.

The animated feature film has become more of a box office and aesthetic presence than it ever was. It has truly grown in leaps and bounds over the history of cinema as something that was virtually a one-studio specialty to a medium that has become, at long last, a bona fide Oscar category. Having said that the category has been virtually monopolized. It’ll be very hard to justify that this year with Rio entering the fray I think.

As I may have said before, I now treat sitting through the end credits like a standing ovation. Considering the fact that I was so apprehensive about seeing it in the first place, I truly did not expect to watch this film all the way to its literal conclusion. Rio is a tremendously effervescent film that actually manages to capture some of the spirit of the city in a very honest way.

10/10