Archive for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

My Favorite Holiday Films (Updated)

Posted in list with tags , , , , , , , on 11/12/2014 by Kevin Entrekin

A few years back I wrote an article listing my five favorite Christmas films, and in review it was a combination of bad writing and lame choises. I included Home Alone and It’s A Wonderful Life in that list. And if I’m honest, as enjoyable as those films are, I will survive each year without viewing either of them. Because I don’t really enjoy most films with a heavy focus on the holidays, more the ones that just happen to take place during the season. So here is my updated, true, five six or seven favorite X-Mas films. And maybe they’ll be aides in your survival of the holidays as well.

  •  Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

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If I could choose only one film to consider essential personal viewing during the holidays, I’d choose Shane Black’s genre-blending Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. What more could you want? Murder. Mystery. An inept Robert Downey Jr. Val Kilmer as a gay private eye. And femmes Michelle Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon round out an even more expansively talented cast in a modern, comical noir. Black’s name has more provenance since last year with his sophomore directing effort, a little indie flick called Iron Man 3. And he wrote another film on this list, but more on that later. But this film, clever and underratedly brilliant, is still one of my favorite films.

  • Die Hard (1988)

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I have only ever seen two Die Hard films. The original McClane classic and then the terrible A Good Day to Die Hard. And I’m fine with that. The original has a plethora of fun and mayhem to satisfy each repeat viewing. You get a primed and smart-ass Bruce Willis facing off against wicked Alan Rickman set in Nakatomi Towers. There is an unmistakable 80’s aesthetic without straying too far into a cliche or becoming formulaic. Think of it like this: A crappy Christmas party you were invited to, but exciting and fun. Well, that’s the plot. You get the comparison though, right?

  • Trading Places (1983)

jlc4Time to buffer that action with some comedy, and what better way to do that than with this classic John Landis 80’s Pauper-adaptation. It has many great actors at the height of their careers. Eddie Murphy is hilarious yet sincere as a poor black man given a job as a stock trader. Dan Aykroyd is equally entertaining as snooty stock trader turned poor white man. And Jamie Lee Curtis, whom (no secret) I very much adore, is charming as a smart prostitute with a heart of gold. Trading Places has that special Landis charm and whit that combined with this cast makes for an heart-warming comedic romp.

  • Lethal Weapon (1987)

lethal-weapon-2I love the Lethal Weapon films. They’re a guilty pleasure that I don’t really feel guilty about. It’s odd to me, that modern action films shy away from such a brilliant formula as these films. Yeah, you get to switch off and just watch, but not like now where people have to wipe away dribble from their lips at the end of a Michael Bay film. Did LW get a little ridiculous? Better believe it. I mean, a guy gets killed by a flying surfboard in the sequel. But there was some intelligence to these films, something to keep you lucid and connected. Before Gibson went nutty and Glover was actually too old for anything, they were one of the best buddy cop duos around. Well, they still are. And that Shane Black guy mentioned earlier? Yeah, he wrote it.

  •  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

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A December nary passes the Entrekin household before watching Clark Griswald’s decent into middle-class holiday hell. To this day, this comedic observation of those quirky people we call family is still relevant. Considering that this film comes from the Lampoon’s, a studio that pumps out about fifteen films a year and the last one that was of any relevance was… Christmas Vacation, that’s quite impressive.  Most everyone has a Eddie in the family, albeit a good bit more racist. Most everyone has heavily medicated grandparents that just stare at the tele and have the age-old conversation of how “the good ole days are gone”. And most everyone has strung out parents just trying to hold everything barely together.

  • Batman Returns (1992)

batmanbatman1I mean… Keaton as Bats. Pfieffer as (the quintessential) Catwoman. DeVito as Penguin. Gloomy neo-gothic Gotham. Can’t go wrong. I’d even go ahead and throw in the original Batman film as a warm up to Returns as well. It also has a winter drabness and why not have a mini-marathon of the Tim Burton masterpieces? It’s also a nice reminder of simpler times, pre-Marvel and Zach Snyder CGI projectile spewing.

Yeah, the holidays can be hell sometimes. The haze of Christmas lights and seasonal scents and corporate greed sends some into a sedated existence. And then there are the Christmas social media defenders. You know, the ones who get really worked up and hateful when underprivileged people point out inequality in America. The type you mostly wonder why you added them to your Facebook in the first place.  The ones who like to share a “IT’S MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS” photo everyday. Screw those grinches. Anyways, this time of year can get pretty heavy for a lot of people. So spike that egg nog just a bit more, kick back with these films, and drift away from Grandpa Ulysses’ snoring.

I Saw A Film Today… Iron Man 3

Posted in Film Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/05/2013 by Kevin Entrekin

ironman3Shane Black, the director of Iron Man 3, is also the director of one of my favorite films, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It stars a then nearly unemployable Robert Downey Jr. The rest of the cast, including Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan, are just as brilliant. It’s a devilishly clever film as well, a melting pot of genres ranging from noir, satire, and intelligent humor about an actor forced into a pulp fiction crime during yule tide Los Angeles with an old flame and a gay P.I. If you have the time, you should check it out. It’s quite brilliant.

Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) can’t sleep. Ever since the Avengers fought aliens in New York, all of which takes place in a little film no one saw, Tony has been substituting nocturnal slumber with tinkering, making improvement after improvement to the Iron Main suit. This leaves him with a strained relationship with Pepper (Gweneth Paltrow), little knowledge of the outside world, and panic attacks.

When he does take time to check the news, it’s not good. A terrorist going by the name Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is planting untraceable bombs around the states and making threats to the President. Which kind of brings up an interesting point: Where are the Avengers? Or SHIELD, for that matter. A terrorist is making threats to the country, and Hawkeye and Black Widow are too busy to do a security detail for the Pres? I know they all are off doing their “own thing”, but are you telling me Steve Rogers is too busy to throw a few punches for his beloved ‘Murica? Just a thought. Okay, back on topic.

But when Tony bites off a bit more than he can chew, his world quickly crumbles around him. Can he muster up enough strength to save everything he loves?

This installment of the Iron Man tale is the best so far. I was skeptical a bit if Black could produce a great film on a blockbuster format, and happily I have been proven wrong. His unique brand of comedic yet serious storytelling fits brilliantly in the world of Tony Stark. The balance is flawless between the two opposing forces of comedy and tragedy, which should be the benchmark of any future Marvel flick. That’s one of the few flaws of the Marvel films: they are a little too comedic at times, even in action scenarios.

This is more of a rediscovery film for Stark. Not a lot of actual suiting-up action here. In fact, quite the opposite with the use of an drone-esque Mark suit. Which brings up the topic of The Iron Legion’s presence in this film. During the climatic final battle scene, which I ultimately found cluttered, there are more than 40 of these Mark suit flying unmanned and fighting enemies. Which is a bit frightening if you think about it. Maybe Black is subtly making a statement about The U.S.’s policies of drone strikes around the world and the use of drones within the country itself in the last couple of years. Or at least this is what kept crossing my mind.

I didn’t see 3 in 3-D. So I can’t really tell you if you should skip the extra fee for the standard edition. But I don’t really see what 3-D would have added here, much like in The Avengers. Sure, there is a lot of action where things are flying everywhere but it wasn’t utilized very well in the previously mentioned film either. And it should be noted that this film wasn’t filmed in 3-D, but converted in post-production. My guess: save some cash and see it in good ole’ standard format.

Robert Downey Jr. was born for the role of Tony Stark, that much has been established since the first film. But this is the first time you really get an in-depth look at the man behind the mask. You see Tony at his lowest and most open and just how resilient this man is, which is exactly what I hoped Black would bring to the table. Downey shows his whit, his emotion, his charisma, and concern, sometimes all at once.

The supporting cast is equally great. Gweneth Paltrow is just lovely here as the strong Pepper Potts. I don’t really understand why this woman gets so much flak from chubby bloggers. She’s a good actress and god forbid she suggest you try eating alternative and better foods, Chubs. Don Cheadle is a fun character and provides a good sidekick/comic relief throughout. Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley make an interesting duo as Mandarin. They both have great performances, but it’s a bit disappointing with how the whole Mandarin situation is handled. To make the arch-nemesis of Iron Man such a joke is a bit insulting. Maybe there is more to Kingsley’s character than meets the eye. We’ll see I guess.

Shane Black did something with this third installment which was needed: He gave Tony Stark humility. He made him something more than the rich wise-cracker that most have come to love. You get to understand that the flamboyance is merely a show, truly.

Verdict: SEE IT!

*Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content. 130 minutes. Directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang).

** Poster by Midnight Marauder.

*** Thanks to my friend Cody for seeing this film with me.