Posts Tagged ‘robert rodriguez’



USA 2010  Directed by: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis  Written by: Robert Rodriguez, Alvaro Rodriguez  Produced by: Robert Rodriguez, Elizabeth Avellan, Rick Schwartz  Cinematography by: Jimmy Lindsey  Editing by: Robert Rodriguez, Rebecca Rodriguez  Music by: John Debney, Chingon  Cast: Danny Trejo, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Lindsey Lohan, Daryl Sabara, Tom Savini, Shea Whigham, Don Johnson, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro

At a time of the global terrorism scare where everyone’s zeroed in on the Muslims I’m glad someone has the humor and heart to take a stab at a more looked over, and less glamorous, group of people – Mexicans. Being a Mexican, it’s a no-brainer that only someone like Robert Rodriguez could get away with all the racial slurs and stereotypes. And, throw in his usual bad-boy, over-the-top illustration and storyline, you can bet “Machete” will pack enough zing in this much-anticipated bravado flick.

“Machete” takes us on a journey through the life of the title character, played by Danny Trejo. With his real-life convict background and a slew of slash roles, he makes a convincing case of the ex-federal agent gone berserk. As a genre movie, “Machete” is pretty much by the book: hero does what he does; villain finds his weakness (wife) and kills her and him; only later to discover he survives the fiasco; hero embarks on a path of revenge and finds salvation – in Machete’s case, to continue killing more people.

The movie in general is quaintly fun. The characters are caricatures in essence. With an amazing cast, the players had their own moments of glory. Robert De Niro was exceptionally comical playing a two-faced camera-loving Texan senator, whom which was not too far removed from the last US president. His right-hand man-dog, Booth, is played to a T by the intense Jeff Fahey, who’s aged gracefully menacing. Booth’s daughter is out of control and out of clothes for the most part. And this role seemed like the perfect vehicle for the scandalous Lindsay Lohan to poke fun of herself and make a comeback by basing the character solely on her own life’s story. And, not stopping at reviving bygone actors, Rodriguez introduces Don Johnson to a new generation of  audience that might be unfamiliar with the dashing Miami Vice star whom can probably only be seen on a VHS playback. His squeaky voice and deadpan expression reminded me of an aging Brando. (This is totally a serious compliment in every possible way.) 80’s action fans would also get a tickle by the pudgy Steven “hand grappling and hair grafting” Seagal. His place seemed quite perfect as the Mexican mastermind that’s behind all the gore and politics, until his ridiculous end, which came abruptly pointless.

And this pointlessness surfaced to be the actual backbone of this self-back-patting burrito salad. From the flaming-hot but unbearable Latina wannabe, Jessica Alba (whom looked like a Sunday-school-play amateur next to the hell-bending Michelle Rodriguez) to the endless punch lines that served as empty calories on the plate. Not to say it wasn’t enjoyable – if your memory’s short-lived. But, if you have seen past films from this Latin lad (more guts, glory, gore and jokes that cause sickness), you’ll soon realize that “Machete” came off the Rodriguez stove as a dish that’s full of nothing.



USA 2010  Directed by: Nimrod Antal Written by: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch  Characters: Jim Thomas, John Thomas Produced by: Elizabeth Avellan, John Davis, Robert Rodriguez  Cinematography: Gyula Pados  Editing: Dan Zimmermann  Music: John Debney Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changien, Carey Jones, Brian Steele, Derek Mears

Boom. Brody falls from the sky, smack dab in the middle of a tropical jungle. Gets up and realizes there are others like him: mercenaries, yakuza or criminals, all ending up on the – island (?) – with no recollection of what’s happened and how they got here. Very soon they’ll have other things on their minds: chased by abominable carnivores, walking from one lethal trap into another they begin to realize they are not here coincidentally, but are obviously part of some cryptic master plan. The only question is: who is the master and how do you beat him?

With Robert Rodriguez quasi-helming the project expectations were high that the PREDATOR franchise could be taken back to the roots of a man vs. alien all-out war, with some over-the-top set pieces and gross stuff a la PLANET TERROR as a bonus. In fact, PREDATORS literally is planet terror as it turns out. And Rodriguez initially doesn’t let us down.

First off, PREDATORS begins on a high note, with a great opening sequence and cool punch lines. Brody is exceptional; what Neeson did for TAKEN Brody does for PREDATORS. Impressive. The exploration of the jungle, the hints to what’s going on here and the first encounter with our old fiend friend keep us tied to the seat, eagerly waiting for the story to unfold.

But watching PREDATORS very quickly resembles watching the stock market on a bad day, opening on a high and closing on a low: PREDATORS lives up to fan expectations until lunch time, but then plunges and never recovers. What a shame.

With a strong cast (including Brody, Walton THE SHIELD Goggins, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo and Lawrence Fishburne), early action mayhem and enough mystery to keep us guessing PREDATORS is on course to genre movie greatness. Then however it becomes clear that Rodriguez first and foremost is a borrower, not a master blender.

Soon after the opening we feel LOST. I was willing to look the other way but it’s just too obvious. Yet, it works for a while. Then we walk into the tribal camps of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, marvel at futuristic planets just like the ARMY OF DARKNESS, finally we don’t know anymore if we’re on a planet or in a CUBE. When we meet John Locke in his cave – excuse me, Lawrence Fishburne / Noland –, it is too late to turn the ship around.

PREDATORS must have dropped its compass in the row, and the remaining forty minutes or so are as repetitive as the world’s most nonsense island saga. One after another gets killed, with the BATTLE ROYALE interspersed by the well-known thermal images: man vs. alien, man vs. man and beast vs. beast, they really throw in everything they’ve got.

Along the way the movie’s hard-boiled coolness and black humor keep flaring up, so PREDATORS is nevertheless watchable throughout. In fact, it is the best PREDATOR sequel to date (that includes the AVP spin-offs), but different from the original it lacks suspense and sophistication. I liked Antal’s KONTROLL that showed his ability to dramatize and change the pace anytime to steer the audience’s expectations, but it seems he lost control over PREDATORS and succumbed to Rodriguez’ tendency to outsmart everyone, including himself.

We are witnessing a tragic case of opportunities unseized. Too bad. Another one bites the dust. Two stars or the movie, one star for Brody.




Something tells me that Robert Rodriguez’ follow-up to PLANET TERROR is the movie to watch in 2010: “based on” the fake trailer from PLANET TERROR and reportedly already partly shot during production of the GRINDHOUSE project MACHETE is expected to be more pulp than PULP FICTION, more schlock and awe than PLANET TERROR and more 80’s violence than all RAMBO and EXTERMINATOR movies together. Plus, remember these hot chicks from the fake trailer…

MACHETE features the most awesome mix-and-match cult cast in recent memory, a super-hilarious story and is bound for release early summer. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis. Starring (no shit): Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Lindsey Lohan, Cheech Marin, Jeff Fahey, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Cheryl Chin, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Rose McGowan and Tom Savini.