“MacGruber” – Your Action Comedy Forte

MacGruber
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe
Director: Jorma Taccone
Universal Pictures / Rogue Pictures
Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity

It has been ten years since a movie based on a Saturday Night Live sketch hit the big screen, and it has been 18 years since any of them was a critical and financial success. Unfortunately, MacGruber falls into the category of critical and box office failure. In fact, most people did not get a chance to see it, as the movie was in theaters for only a few weeks before being pulled for poor performance. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. MacGruber has a rabid fan base, its sketches on SNL are some of the best performing, and Universal spent plenty of time and money on advertising. It was intended to be one of Universal’s tent pole summer flicks. It is hard to know where things went wrong because MacGruber is an entertaining action-comedy and definitely one of the better SNL adaptations.

For those not in the know, MacGruber (yes, that’s his complete name, like Cher or Madonna) is the United States’ top military agent, somehow bumbling his way to success. He is an obvious parody of MacGyver, the titular character of a 1980’s action TV series about a spy who could take whatever was around him and use it for a weapon or a means to escape. MacGruber plays on this concept by combining everyday objects into absurd concoctions that never seem to work.

The film finds MacGruber (Will Forte) being called out of retirement to take down supervillian Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) who has just obtained a nuclear warhead. Col. Jim Faith (Powers Booth) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) enlist MacGruber to stop Cunth from retrieving the bomb’s access codes. MacGruber also sees the mission as an opportunity to exact revenge on Cunth, the man who killed his fiancée. After his plan to assemble a super team goes hilariously wrong, he is nearly removed from the mission until Lt. Piper joins the team, as does Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig), MacGruber’s long time friend. What follows is a series of comical and riotous situations as MacGruber and team take on Cunth and his henchmen.

The movie is an unexpected mashup of action and comedy. The comedy plays mostly on the awkward situations that MacGruber gets in, and features a high amount of crude bathroom humor. On the action side, things are excessively bloody, much more than what would be found in a normal action comedy. However, the excessiveness becomes the comedy as it plays out as over-the-top. The visuals and humor in this movie are not for everyone, but if the previous elements appeal to you, then you are in for a treat with MacGruber.

Will Forte comes into his own with MacGruber. Having previously only been cast in supporting roles in film and television, Forte proves he has the comedic chops to carry a movie. Kirsten Wiig is just waiting to explode as the next funny lady in Hollywood, and her performance as Vicki proves that La La Land should not wait much longer. The funnier parts of the movie come in the choice to cast Val Kilmer, Ryan Phillippe, and Powers Booth in the supporting roles. All three are well-known dramatic actors who would, at least on paper, seem out of place in this kind of flick. However, all three slip quite comfortably into their characters, never taking things seriously, and having a good time with the funny and raunchy material. One scene with Ryan Phillippe will never have you looking the same way at celery sticks again!

Critics often forget that movies are made for a specific audience. It is the critic’s job to take that into consideration when reviewing a movie. Yes, a movie still needs to hold up as movie itself, but a critic should not fault a movie just because it is not their cup of tea. With that in mind, MacGruber may not be the best film of all time, but it is perfectly fun way to spend an hour and a half. Its side-splitting antics and over-the-top scenarios make MacGruber a must-see for anyone who’s an SNL fan.

MacGruber is now available on VUDU in both Theatrical and Unrated versions. Go to “Explore Catalog” and select the collection “SNL Stars on the Big Screen” to see MacGruber and a selection of flicks starring SNL alums.

DID YOU KNOW?

It was revealed in a SNL sketch that MacGruber’s long lost father is none other than MacGyver himself!

“Get Shorty”, Get Funny

Get Shorty
Starring: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
MGM
Rated R for language and some violence

Who better to poke fun at Hollywood than Hollywood itself? In fact, Hollywood loves to skewer itself with films that go behind-the-scenes and expose the inner workings of Tinseltown. One of the best movies to do this is director Barry Sonnenfeld’s Get Shorty. Based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty essentially equates the film industry to the mob. The film is an off-beat, quirky, and hilarious look at what happens when a mobster becomes a movie producer.

Said mobster is Chili Palmer, portrayed by John Travolta at the height of his career in the mid-90s. Chili is a loan shark with a love for the movies. He is sent to Vegas to collect an overdue debt from a man who faked his death. While there, a casino hires Chili to collect from Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), a schlock movie producer. When he meets Harry, he takes the opportunity to pitch him a movie. Harry and Chili hit it off, and soon they become partners in a movie Harry believes will be his greatest hit. Chili soon realizes the movie business is much like the mob—full of shady investors and egotistical prima donnas. However, Harry’s money troubles go beyond the casino as his current investors (Delroy Lindo, Jon Gries) are demanding their money back. Now Harry and Chili are caught between the investors and Chili’s mob boss from Miami, Ray “Bones” (Dennis Farina), who comes calling to finish Chili’s original job.

Get Shorty is a who’s who of Hollywood in the 90s. Along with Travolta, Hackman, Lindo, and Farina, the film co-stars Rene Russo as a washed up B-movie actress looking to make a comeback as a producer with Chili and Harry. Also starring is Danny DeVito, Hollywood’s it-man and potential star of Chili and Harry’s flick. Guest stars and cameos abound with James Gandolfini, David Paymer, Bette Midler, Alex Rocco, Harvey Keitel, and Penny Marshall all making an appearance. Even though Travolta is the star, the movie is a true ensemble piece.

Get Shorty snaps with dialogue that oozes the swagger and cool of Elmore Leonard. The funniest moments come when people get in too deep and way over their head—from Harry thinking he can handle the mob on his own, to “Bones” thinking he can do anything without consequences. Perhaps the true highlights, though, are all the jabs and barbs slung at Hollywood, painting the business as full of people who don’t know what they’re doing. The film implies that as long as you have cash, you can be a Hollywood producer—you don’t need to know anything about making a movie; all you have to do is hire someone who does.

The pitch perfect cast and the snarky humor make Get Shorty the ultimate insider comedy that is not to be missed. Now you can rent Get Shorty throughout the Labor Day weekend in SD, HD, or HDX for just 99 cents. From 9/3 through 6/6, you can watch this film and 24 others, including New Releases like “Cop Out” and “Green Zone”, as part of our Labor Day sale. Go to “Explore Catalog” and select the collection “Labor Day Weekend 99c Rentals.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Keaton, Al Pacino, and Bruce Willis all turned down the role Chili Palmer. John Travolta was going to turn down the role as well, until Quentin Tarantino convinced him to do it.

Dirty “Harry Brown”

Harry Brown
Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, David Bradley, Liam Cunningham
Director: Daniel Barber
Sony Pictures / Samuel Goldwyn Films
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and sexual content

The revenge flick has always been a Hollywood staple, and in recent years, a new sub-genre has emerged: revenge flicks starring middle-aged or older stars. Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, and Liam Neeson have all taken on this role. Now, Michael Caine joins those ranks as the eponymous Harry Brown. As Harry, Caine excels in his performance as a pension-earning retiree who has been pushed to the limit.

Ex-Marine Harry Brown lives in a rundown apartment complex that is plagued by a gang of teenage drug pushers and murderers. Harry is indifferent to their actions at first, as he is completely consumed by his comatose wife and the prospect that he’ll soon be alone. He spends his days at the hospital visiting her; in the evenings, he frequents the local bar where he plays chess with his only friend. On his wife’s final night, he misses the opportunity to be with her one last time as the gang is blocking the shortcut to the hospital. Harry’s friend, also fed up with the gang, vows to stop putting up with their harassment and promises to do something about it. When his friend is brutally murdered by the gang, Harry realizes the local police are powerless against the gang and decides to take the law into his own hands.

Harry Brown is a brutal and enthralling depiction of a man who has nothing to. Michael Caine’s portrayal of Harry Brown is nothing short of brilliant. His performance harkens back to his role of Jack Carter, the out-for-revenge professional killer from 1971’s Get Carter. It is as if this film was meant to examine what Carter might have been like 40 years later. However, Caine’s Harry Brown is much more developed than the Carter character. Harry is out to rid his world of the filth and scum who control it, all the while retaining his humanity and helping those caught up in the gang world.

The amazing supporting cast is mostly full of unknowns, save for Emily Mortimer’s Detective Inspector Alice Frampton. Alice is the only one who suspects Harry might be behind the recent upswing in gang deaths. She’s mostly ineffective as a police officer as no one around her will listen to, or believe, her. However, she’s there when she’s most needed. Her sullen and soft-spoken character perfectly echoes the sentiment that Harry feels is the true problem: the gangs are too powerful even for the police to handle.

Be forewarned that this movie is rated R for a reason. There is plenty of violence, most of which is graphic and blood-filled. If you can tolerate the gore, you’re in for a real treat. Harry Brown provides a fine display of acting, a powerful and haunting musical score, and a gritty and honest representation of a world most of us do our best to avoid. Harry Brown is one of those underrated flicks that most people passed on at the box office. Now’s your chance to catch it on VUDU and see what has all the critics raving.

Harry Brown can be yours to own for under $10.

DID YOU KNOW?

Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. He changed his name, at the advice of his agent, after seeing an advertisement for the film “The Caine Mutiny”.

“Barry Munday” – On VUDU Before Theaters!

Barry Munday
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Judy Greer, Chloe Sevigny, Jean Smart, Cybil Shepherd, Malcolm McDowell
Director: Chris D’Arienzo
Magnolia Pictures
Rated R for sexual content and language

Patrick Wilson is quickly making a name for himself as Hollywood’s next dashing, leading man. He has shown a talented range, appearing in everything from dramas and mysteries to romances, musicals, and comic book adaptations. There isn’t a genre he’s afraid to touch. With his latest film, Barry Munday, Wilson can add romantic comedy to the list, playing the titular character, who also happens to be anything but dashing.

Barry Munday is the kind of wannabe ladies man/sleazy pick-up artist that most sensible women would avoid. He’s crude, he’s tactless, and is only interested in his next hook-up. One day he sets his sights upon a young lady at a movie theater which ultimately proves to be his downfall. Six hours later, he wakes up in a hospital and discovers that he’s suffered a major loss—his testicles. Having lost his mojo, he quickly becomes un-Barry-like. When he receives notice that he’s facing a possible paternity suit, he realizes this may be his only chance to carry on the Munday name. Much to the chagrin of the soon-to-be mother, he vows to take full responsibility and be involved as a father.

Wilson has no problem downplaying his good looks to play a slightly paunchy, average, every day kind of guy. Given the tone and style of the film, it was imperative he do so to sell Barry as a loser, which he pulls off with ease. Wilson shows his comedic chops with all of Barry’s quirky and awkward sensibilities. In fact, it is the awkwardness that generates the most laughs throughout the film. With each cringe-inducing awkward moment Barry finds himself in, he manages to make us burst into laughter as the results unravel around him.

Wilson is surrounded by a talented supporting cast that enhances the humor. Judy Greer is a riot as the soon-to-be mother of Barry’s child. Greer also downplays her good looks to portray the homely and undesirable Ginger Farley. Chole Sevigny plays Jennifer Farley, Ginger’s younger sister Jennifer, the pride and joy of the Farley clan. Jennifer has an odd attraction to Barry that creates great humorous tension whenever they share a scene. Jennifer and Barry’s interaction leads up to a hilarious scene that involves inappropriate conversation at a family dinner, a strip club, and potential case of mistaken identity. The funniest moment in the film, though, comes in the form of a testicular loss support group featuring cameos by Christopher McDonald, Kyle Gass, and Matt Winston. The scene is at the same time humorous and heart-wrenching as these gentlemen share their afflictions.

Adapted from the novel by “Life Is a Strange Place” by Frank Turner Hollon, Barry Munday is an enjoyable comedy that any fan of Judd Apatow or Mike Judge should watch. Avoid the hassle of theater parking, high concession prices, and sticky theater floors by watching Barry Munday from the comfort of your own home. Barry Munday is available to rent on VUDU now – before it hits theaters in October.

DID YOU KNOW?

Patrick Wilson got his start in showbiz, not on the silver screen, but in the bright lights of the theatre. He has appeared in several hit Broadways musicals such as “The Full Monty” and “Oklahoma!”.

Noir Reborn in “The Square”

The Square
Starring: David Roberts, Claire van der Boom, Anthony Hayes, Joel Edgerton
Director: Nash Edgerton
Sony Pictures Classics
Rated R for violence and language

Stunt coordinator-turned-director Nash Edgerton’s feature directorial debut The Square is a taut and complex crime thriller that would make Hitchcock proud. Co-written by his brother Joel Edgerton, the movies unfolds at a steady pace that serves to build the suspense as each scene progresses. Never forced, the story begins with a small simmer that gradually builds to a scalding boil.

The Square is a lesson in tension that many Hollywood filmmakers should look to as example. There are no big name stars, there are no special effects, there is no multimillion dollar budget—there is only brilliant acting, gritty and dark cinematography, and a story that progresses naturally without the need to blow something up every few minutes. When the action does happen, it is a result of the characters and their actions, and not because the film is pandering to the audience.

Ray Yale is a construction foreman having a secret adulterous affair with his neighbor across the river, Clara, the wife of a small time criminal. They plan to run away together, but Ray insists on having plenty of money to fund their escape. He takes kickbacks on the job, but the money isn’t coming fast enough. Clara discovers her husband’s stash from a recent theft, and proposes to Ray they steal it for themselves to start their new life. Ray agrees, but only if they burn down her house so that it appears an accident. However, the perfect plan they set in motion soon begins a downward spiral that results in murder, betrayal, blackmail, and more murder. Ray and Clara’s lives soon fall apart, as do the lives of those around them.

While scenes can take a while to move the film along, the slow pace serves to establish the mood and intrigue that plagues Ray and Clara. The Square, thus, is a prime example of noir. The seeds of deception, anxiety, and paranoia are planted early on, building and building until the shattering conclusion. The movie contains the conventions of a classic noir: a man in trouble, a femme fatale, and chilling underscore, and a dark color palette. Everyone is a suspect, and no one can be trusted. But while it contains all these conventions, it also turns them on their head. The beautiful and haunting score of Francois Tetaz is never overplayed. In fact, music takes a backseat to the narrative and only plays sparsely during the tensest moments. The lack of music draws us into the world, and when it does appear, it sends a chill down our spine.

It is rare in cinema to have such characters as fully fleshed out as they are here. Even the minor characters are multilayered and multifaceted. No one is reduced to being a one-dimensional stereotype to conveniently move things along. This film is a study in character development. It is a shame that its limited American theatrical run went almost completely unnoticed. Thankfully, the good people at Sony Pictures Classics have seen fit to make sure American audiences can enjoy what Australians enjoyed over two years ago.

VUDU customers can now experience the thrills and chills of The Square for under $10.

DID YOU KNOW?

Co-screenwriter and story writer Joel Edgerton also portrays Billy the arsonist in The Square.