Saturday, August 2, 2014


(UK/China - 2013; US release 2014)

A change of pace for B action stars Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren, LEGENDARY is an adventure/monster movie of the JURASSIC PARK sort that has loftier ambitions than its visual effects team can match. Adkins is Travis Preston, a renowned cryptozoologist drawn into the search for a giant lizard on an uncharted island off the coast of China. Bringing along his research team, he's met by big-game hunter and arch-nemesis Harker (Lundgren), who doesn't share Preston's scientific curiosity and only wants to bag the creature as a trophy. The two clashed once before when Preston hired Harker as security on a search for a prehistoric bear that resulted in the tragic death of one member of their party when the arrogant Harker's itchy trigger finger sent the bear on a ferocious rampage, for which Preston shouldered the blame and saw it derail his career. Naturally, Preston and Harker butt heads once more as they close in on the fabled creature, who is expectedly unhappy about having its home invaded by uninvited guests. Cue the ALIENS-inspired scenes of characters watching and listening to radar and sonar equipment as one nervous guy yells "300 yards...200...it's coming right for us!" and finally...wait for it..."it's right underneath us!"

Released in 3-D overseas last year, the $12 million LEGENDARY goes straight-to-DVD in the US and suffers from some really wonky-looking creature effects, both in the prologue with the rampaging bear and later with the giant lizard. It's not quite on the level of SyFy or The Asylum, but it's still not ready for prime time as far as a nationwide theatrical release is concerned.  Fans of Adkins and Lundgren looking for some NINJA or UNIVERSAL SOLDIER-style action will be disappointed:  Adkins was recovering from a knee injury sustained on a previous project and chose LEGENDARY largely because it was light on demanding stunt work and fight scenes as he and Lundgren only have one very brief throwdown. LEGENDARY isn't all that different from a bottom-half-of-a-double-bill B programmer you might've seen in the 1950s, but its draggy pace doesn't do it many favors. Adkins is OK, but doesn't seem at home in these surroundings, while Lundgren, who pops in and out of the movie in a way that suggests the filmmakers probably only had him for a very limited amount of time, seems to relish playing the bad guy by turning in a performance that's somewhat Jack Palance-esque at times. LEGENDARY was directed by the unlikely Eric Styles, who helmed the acclaimed minor 1999 arthouse hit DREAMING OF JOSEPH LEES before completely falling off the radar--his 2000 follow-up RELATIVE VALUES, starring Julie Andrews and Colin Firth, and based on a Noel Coward play, skipped theaters and debuted on Starz, while his 2003 thriller TEMPO (with Melanie Griffith and Rachael Leigh Cook) went straight to DVD. LEGENDARY is Styles' first film since the barely-released 2008 Heather Graham rom-com MISS CONCEPTION, and while it's not terrible, it's pretty slight and forgettable, and really only required viewing for Adkins completists or those with insatiable Lundgren man-crushes. (PG-13, 93 mins)

(France/UK - 2014) 

Despite the success they've achieved together over the years, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost haven't fared as well when they work apart. Pegg has been part of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and STAR TREK franchises, but a rundown of his headlining films reads like a Do Not Buy list handed to employees of a used movies/music joint when the manager decides they've got far too many copies on hand just taking up shelf space: RUN FATBOY RUN, BIG NOTHING, THE GOOD NIGHT, HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE PEOPLE, BURKE AND HARE, and the miserable A FANTASTIC FEAR OF EVERYTHING range from tolerable to godawful, and none of them will ever be mistaken for Pegg's finest hour. Frost had a supporting role in the very entertaining Edgar Wright-produced alien invasion flick ATTACK THE BLOCK, but CUBAN FURY marks his first solo starring vehicle. Sadly, it can be filed on that same list along with all of Pegg's headlining duds, serving as proof that these two are best taken as a package deal (SPACED, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, PAUL, THE WORLD'S END).  Based on an idea by Frost, the makers of CUBAN FURY apparently figured "Nick Frost" and "salsa dancing" would be enough to induce guffawing and the rest would just work itself out. It's a dull, ploddingly-paced and thoroughly formulaic and lazy film that, save for one scene, forgets one ingredient that's key to any comedy: comedy.

25 years ago, Bruce Garrett was a teenage salsa phenom who gave it up after he was beaten up by some hooligans on his way to a championship contest. Cut to the present day, and schlubby Bruce (Frost) is a lathe-designer working for a London engineering company that's just brought in new American manager Julia (Rashida Jones). Bruce and asshole co-worker Drew (Chris O'Dowd) start vying for their impossibly nice boss' affections, and Bruce gets the edge when he finds out she's taking salsa classes. Finally inspired to pick up where he left off 25 years earlier, Bruce summons the eye of the tiger so he can go the distance, fulfill his long-abandoned dreams and win over Julia in the process. CUBAN FURY is a film that appears to be working from a checklist rather than a script, right down to the cock-blocking tactics of the bullying Drew, ludicrous meet-cutes (Bruce and Julia bump into one another in the hallway and get their name placards tangled in their lanyards!), and Bruce seeking the guidance of his grizzled old salsa trainer Ron Parfitt (Ian McShane). There is one funny scene where Bruce and Drew have a dance showdown in a parking garage that gets an easy laugh out of a quick cameo, but other than that, CUBAN FURY is a total snooze, laboriously going through the motions of romantic comedy and spoofy redemption saga. Frost is pretty bland, which is disappointing after his marvelous work against type in last year's THE WORLD'S END, and not even Jones' innately charming screen presence or McShane basically coasting through as a salsa-dancing Al Swearengen are enough to make things interesting. Sure, I guess it's better than SALSA, but CUBAN FURY just never heats up, neither comedically nor in the choreography of its dance sequences. (R, 98 mins)

(US/France - 2014)

Henry Altmann (Robin Williams) is a Brooklyn lawyer with anger management issues.  He hates everyone and everything and he isn't in the mood to wait two hours at the doctor's office only to be told that he has a bleeding brain aneurysm. The news comes from Dr. Gill (co-producer Mila Kunis), who's filling in for Henry's regular doctor, and when a belligerent Henry demands to know how much time he has left to live, she impulsively blurts out "90 minutes." Henry then decides to spend the next hour and a half making amends with his family--his wife Bette (Melissa Leo) and his estranged son Tommy (Hamish Linklater), who enraged his dad when he decided to pursue a career in dance instead of joining the family law practice with Henry and his younger brother Aaron (Peter Dinklage). There was a time, shown in some 1989-set flashbacks, when Henry was happy, but that time has long passed. When his other, favored son was killed in a hunting accident two years earlier, Henry imploded and became the raging asshole he is as he faces death. Even on his quest to set things right, he can't resist going off on everyone, with a xenophobic tirade against an Uzbek cabbie, yelling at homeless people, or mocking a stuttering electronics store owner (James Earl Jones). Dr. Gill has her own issues: bad choices in men, burned out with her job, and secretly nursing a prescription pill addiction, she regrets her frazzled "90 minutes" prognosis and embarks on a late-afternoon journey across the borough to find Henry and get him to a hospital, following the trail of pissed-off New Yorkers he leaves in his wake.

Where to begin?  Let there be no mystery as to why Lionsgate buried this remake of Assi Dayan's 1997 Israeli film THE 92 MINUTES OF MR. BAUM: it's staggeringly bad. Williams is the kind of actor who turns in his best work when he has a strong director to rein him in, and the usually reliable Phil Alden Robinson (FIELD OF DREAMS, SNEAKERS), helming his first film since 2002's THE SUM OF ALL FEARS, isn't up to the task. ANGRIEST MAN indulges nearly every move from the Williams playbook, but mostly his shamelessly sentimental side from PATCH ADAMS and his motor-mouthed talk-show guest persona with bonus F-bombs. In short, this film permits a completely untethered Williams to run rampant in every possible way and none of them good. Henry Altmann is the kind of character that you could almost see Larry David or maybe even Woody Allen, in one of his mean-streaked DECONSTRUCTING HARRY moods, playing with successful results. Either of them would be capable of writing a better script than the one penned by Daniel Taplitz. Not only are the character arcs predictable, but the dialogue is so stilted, awkward, and unreal that Henry's rants and bile-soaked screeds never work. Henry's anger sounds so forced and unnecessarily verbose that it never once feels natural. When Dr. Gill tries to stop him from jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, Henry yells "What are you? I ask you, what are you? Are you my thorn?  My nemesis? Have you no humanity?" Who talks like that? Even 1970s Charlton Heston would've dismissed that speech as pompously melodramatic bullshit. Williams is forced to stumble over dialogue like that throughout. There's also trite and endless third-person narration by Williams and Kunis that accomplishes nothing, and even appearances by the likes of Louis C.K., Richard Kind, Isiah "Sheeeeeeeeeiiiit!" Whitlock, Jr., Jerry Adler, and the great Bob Dishy manage to yield zero laughs. There isn't a single honest moment--either comedic or dramatic--in THE ANGRIEST MAN IN BROOKLYN, and I challenge you to find a worse final scene in a 2014 release than the one presented in this film.  Shrill, screechy, shrieking, bombastic, maudlin, contrived, and most damning of all, unfunny, it's a complete misfire from start to finish, easily Robinson's worst film, and probably Williams' as well, though in all fairness, I haven't seen LICENSE TO WED. (R, 84 mins)

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