Movie Reviews: Doomsday, Drillbit Taylor, Under the Same Moon | Film Reviews | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Movie Reviews: Doomsday, Drillbit Taylor, Under the Same Moon 

Also Shutter and Tyler Perry's Meet The Browns

Wednesday, Mar 19 2008

DOOMSDAY Remember that scene in The Warriors where the Turnbull ACs chase the heroes in a pimped-out bus? Whoa! And remember that part in Escape From New York where Snake Plissken pulls the switcheroo on the commander in chief? Cool! How about that showdown in The Road Warrior with all the modified hot rods? And the fast zombies from 28 Days Later, and the death-match arena from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and Excalibur, and Streets of Fire, and Army of Darkness, and, and ... and so writer-director Neil Marshall (The Descent) cobbles together his third feature, in the manner of a junk-food glutton topping a pizza with French onion dip, ice cream and four bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. Actually, it’s a fascinating conundrum: How can a filmmaker take can’t-miss elements from a DVD stash of superior mayhem, smash ’em all together and not end up with the most! freakin’! awesomest! movie! of all! goddamn! time! How? By not creating a single memorable character, decent line, or moment that wasn’t lifted from its context in a better movie. You almost have to credit Marshall for the rampaging senselessness of this contraption, which sends a lithe ass-kicker (Rhona Mitra) into plague-ravaged, walled-off 2035 Scotland to fetch a possible antidote: Somehow the director wedges in pus-spurting ghouls, club-wielding punks, human cookouts, motorcycle chases, knights in armor and gladiator fights, while breezing past matters as trivial as the plenitude of gas in this postapocalyptic wasteland. I still believe with all my heart that no movie with real car stunts, a tough-chick hero, and a severed head that thunks directly into the camera can be all bad. But this is pushing it. (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)

Suzanne Hanover

Drillbit Taylor

Mystery man: Paris in his prime

DRILLBIT TAYLOR Rare is the star vehicle that is as poorly matched to its star as Drillbit Taylor, which casts Owen Wilson as a homeless Army deserter and con man, able to fool people into believing he’s both a substitute teacher and a master of hand-to-hand combat. It’s a part that requires bluster, but Wilson’s laid-back delivery just doesn’t pass muster. It’s easy to believe he’d be homeless and lounging around the beaches of Santa Monica all day, but impossible to buy him as an ass-kicker — or believe that anyone else would. Shame, too, because Drillbit Taylor is pretty good in almost every other respect. Were this just about the high-school freshmen — overweight and foulmouthed Ryan (Troy Gentile, the young Jack Black in both Tenacious D and Nacho Libre), scrawny stepchild Wade (Unfabulous’ Nate Hartley) and über-dorky Emmit (scary Ring kid David Dorfman, now pubescent) — who hire the title character as their bodyguard, it could have been a real charmer. (Citywide) (Luke Y. Thompson) 

GO  FIGHTING FOR LIFE Only as political as you want it to be, Fighting for Life excises context to focus on a single wartime relationship: that of soldiers getting broken into bits and the surgeons who stitch them together again. At Maryland’s Uniformed Services University, would-be Clara Bartons follow a combat-specialized curriculum that’s graduated a full quarter of current frontline practitioners. Meanwhile, America’s overseas ventures feed broken bodies through a chain of hospitals, from the MASH units in full mortar range to Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, then back home for reconstruction and rehab. Following the routing of casualties, one sees a full textbook of ways that the human body can be torn, blasted or blistered by bullets and (far more frequently) IEDs. Director Terry Sanders’ goal of comprehensiveness and some bad sequencing prevent the film from achieving the ringing purity of John Huston’s post–WWII doc Let There Be Light. But Fighting’s murky images of the maimed — soldiers, Iraqi and American; a 5-year-old, badly burned — are staggeringly affecting. Returning to the USU campus is a diluting digression, though in surer hands, the class’ simulated mass-casualty situation, replete with ghoulish prosthetic wounds, might’ve been a masterpiece. (Sunset 5) (Nick Pinkerton)

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GO  THE GRAND As the convergence of two cooling trends — poker and the comic mock-doc — this largely improvised comedy set at a Texas hold-’em championship is itself somewhat the victim of a bum deal. Even so, it’s played all-in: Director/co-writer Zak Penn (Incident at Loch Ness) has a lot of affection for his screwy characters, and he has a cast worth watching even when the plot’s held captive by unexciting card play. Continuing his own recent streak of superior work, Woody Harrelson plays the drug-casualty owner of a failing Vegas casino, who pins his hopes on the tournament’s winner-take-all $10 million pot. Standing between him and the loot are an expert ensemble at the top of their game — everyone from Cheryl Hines and David Cross as rival siblings to Werner Herzog as a brass-knuckled, bunny-stroking nut known as “the German.” Studded with guest stars (Ray Romano, Mike Epps, Hank Azaria), real-life poker champs (Doyle Brunson, Phil Laak, Celebrity Poker Showdown co-host Phil Gordon) and lots of quotable lines, The Grand forms a diverting time capsule of the early-century poker bubble — that moment when the game was dragged out of the backrooms into prime time, its daylight-challenged top guns became mainstream celebrities, and the Net raked fish into the nets of five-card predators. (AMC Loews Broadway) (Jim Ridley)

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