Last week on Nashville, we finally got the kiss we had all been waiting for. Yes, Rayna and Deacon's smackeroo was sexual and violent and everything in between. And they weren't the only two who got it on — Teddy and that crazy nut Peggy went all the way, securing the end of Rayna and Teddy's marriage. How did the Queen of Country and her politician husband handle the mess? Not as gracefully as she would have liked, that's for damn sure.
The Rayna and Liam Story
The sexy allure of our old pal Liam was back in full force when he conveniently planned a business meeting of sorts in the same hotel where Rayna was based for her tour. This was both dangerously amazing (considering Ray was mourning her impending divorce) and borderline stalkerish. The two had a hateful first embrace lined with sexual undertones and it wasn't long before they were back at a dirty bar table downing shots and revealing secrets. And like many alcohol-based friendships, it was only a matter of time before the two ended up making out in front of Liam's room. Rayna was all "what on holy land and sea am I doing here?" And Liam was all like "be my queen tonight."
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And so they entered his room and started pouring the bourbon (from the minibar no less). But Ray went and ruined the mood by breaking into hysterics in the bathroom toilet. She was crying for everything: her failed marriage, her loss of Deacon, that she put Liam's skuzzy fedora on her head in public, and, of course, having to continue being nice to Juliette Barnes. She even let mascara run sloppily down her face and made squealing noises. After Liam decided that his buzz was wearing off, he barged into the bathroom to check in. They ended up bonding in a deeper way than we could have imagined, pun intended, and maybe even developed something real.
The Juliette Story
Juliette doesn't get to share her story with anyone this week because it was all about her. Everything was about the diva being a diva and forgetting her roots, once again. She was getting on the right track with her mom, Deacon, her manager, but that all went to s**t. The icy glow was back and she wasn't taking any orders from anyone, especially not mealy-mouthed manager Glenn. You see, J really wanted to get her acoustic songs in the tour, but she didn't seem to understand that changing her entire voice in the middle of her show might cause some confusion. But what J wants, J gets, and her nasty attitude came shining through, so much so that Deacon didn't even want to molest her in the elevator, where he's known to get frisky.
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In her biggest diva fit of the night, she was all amped up on energy drink (Rockstar? Country Star?) that she woke everyone up in the middle of the night to remind them that they all work for her. She yelled so aggressively that Glenn quit. Let's hope it sticks so we never have to look at his goatee ever again. At the end of the episode she was left back at her mansion in Nashville with no one by her side, finally grasping loneliness. She picked up the phone and did what any other lost and scared blonde girl with an all-white wardrobe does, she called her mom.
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The Scarlett and Gunnar Story
Old Man Watty pulled through for these young things. He decided to make them big stars! It would be more exciting if Scarlett didn't continue to live her life with a large, permanent, pathetic pout. Now that she and Gunnar are living together, the lines have begun to blur in the most delicious way: shirtlessness. Despite the confusing "no naked" rule, Gunnar walked around freely in a barely-there towel teasing Scarlett in what seemed to be the most fun game ever. But of course, she didn't want to play because she gets off on being prude. The more serious plot line focused on Gunnar's fugitive brother, who happened to be a very lovely guitar player! Gunnar convinced Scarlett to let him stay with them and she ultimately obliged. It almost seemed like they were one big family when they sat around the couch and played some sweet tunes, until his brother walked over to his duffle bag and revealed the handgun he so neatly packed away. Oh, family.
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The Maddie Story
Who's Maddie, you ask? She's Rayna and Teddy's eldest daughter and she is looking more and more like Homeland's Dana with every episode. Maddie overheard Teddy on the phone talking to Peggy about how much he missed her voice and missed her touch and missed feeling "like himself." Thankfully he did not say that he missed "feeling himself" because that would have been an entirely different traumatizing phone call. When Rayna and Teddy sat the girls down to tell them about their divorce, Maddie didn't mention a thing. She acted surprised and didn't blow up her dad's spot. At least that's what we thought. It wasn't until the very last scene that Maddie ran up to her mom, threw her arms around her neck, and whispered that "dad is still seeing that woman." Let the games begin.
[Image Credit: Katherine Bomboy-Thornton/ABC]
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“My dick is going to get so wet tonight ” declares Costa the foul-mouthed ringleader of a trio of sex-starved teens in the opening moments of Project X the new “found-footage” comedy from director Nima Nourizadeh and producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover). Believe it or not this qualifies as one of his more charming moments in the film. All of 17 but blessed with an obnoxiousness lesser men would take decades to cultivate Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the perfect mascot for a film that makes no bones of its mostly prurient intentions proffering what is essentially a succession of debaucherous montages intermingled with uneven attempts at comedy and held together by the slimmest pretense of a plot.
Caustic as he is Costa at least exhibits something of a recognizable personality; the same cannot be said of his two cohorts the tubby dweeb J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and the earnest blank Thomas (Thomas Mann). None of them seem to enjoy much in the way of popularity at their high school located in the fictional suburb of North Pasadena but Costa has a plan to fix that. On the occasion of his 17th birthday Thomas whose parents have conveniently departed for the weekend reluctantly agrees to host a party that Costa promises will be a “game-changer” for their lowly social status.
Hardly a game-changer is Project X’s script co-written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall which mostly treads a predictable teen-comedy path. At its outset the party appears to be a bust. Soon however hordes of eager revelers descend upon Thomas’ house and the event swiftly devolves into a festival of wanton hedonism that would impress Charlie Sheen. The orgy of booze drugs and sex is captured by Nourizadeh in one impressively slick sequence after another set to a vibrant soundtrack.
To maintain the guise of an actual movie – and to occupy us between shots of topless beauties downing tequila and frolicking in the pool – Project X tosses in a few familiar tropes to push its story along: an unstable drug-dealer bent on revenge a buzzkilling neighbor seeking to end the night’s festivities prematurely a budding but hesitant attraction between Thomas and his childhood friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But the scenes are so hollow and contrived that you get the sense even the filmmakers don’t buy them and only added them to the film in a transparent ploy to forestall allegations of complete and utter vapidity. The efforts serve only to add a dash of the banal to the proceedings.
Project X’s natural forebears – R-rated teen comedies Superbad and American Pie – tempered their crudity and outrageousness with a surprising degree of depth and sincerity. Moreover they were actually funny. Project X is a shallow affair to be sure but a dearth of laughs is what ultimately dooms it. A belligerent little person who goes on a crotch-kicking spree after being tossed in an oven amounts to the film’s most sophisticated attempt at humor. More often it relies on recycled gags from previous films (including Phillips’ own library from Road Trip to The Hangover Part II) and Jackass-inspired mishaps.
The found-footage approach has proven to be a potent (if overused) tool in horror films but its utility in the service of comedy at least in the hands of Nourizadeh is limited. It mostly comes across as a needless gimmick good for marketing purposes but little else. Perhaps acknowledging as much Project X’s backup plan calls for an incessant raising of the stakes. As the once-innocuous gathering metastasizes into a fully-fledged riot one so dangerous that even the police dare not intervene the specter of parental disapproval gives way to the threat of incarceration and finally to the potential incineration of the entire neighborhood. The scale of the destruction is impressive – especially for such a (presumably) low-budget film – but like much of what precedes it almost entirely pointless.
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In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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Drive Angry is a stupid movie. I know this. You know this. And most importantly everyone who made the movie knows this. Unfortunately most of the people who saw it didn’t know it and most of the people who would’ve loved the movie had they known it was stupid didn’t see it. Luckily they can relive the inanity infinitely on Blu-ray.
The movie looks really good in 1080p as most tend to but the main problem lies in its 3D. I know 3D ruins everything even when it isn’t watched in its intended format. There are obvious points in the film that are meant to be seen in the third dimension and can only be truly enjoyed with it. Like Nic Cage screwing a hooker while blasting bad guys with a shotgun and downing Jack Daniels. That alone is awesome but seeing it in slo-mo and 3D? Pure awesome. However you’ll have to settle for a standard presentation on the Blu-ray and that’s just disappointing. It also means that occasionally you’ll have really obvious computer generated elements flying at the screen. It’s kind of annoying but this is a movie called Drive Angry after all. All that being said there is a 3D version of the release so if you absolutely must see the 3D version it's available.
As for special features the pickings are slim. There are just two deleted scenes and for a movie this ridiculous I would have thought there would be more but alas. The crowning jewel of the special features is the "Access: Drive Angry" which proves to be a director’s commentary on crack. It’s the standard pop up commentary from the cast and crew where they give little anecdotes and behind-the-scenes info. It’s fairly fun if a little polished but very informative. For such a stupid movie Summit Entertainment had some really smart people making it.
But the absolute best special feature is the director’s commentary. Not because it’s super informative funny or engaging. But the writer/director Patrick Lussier was sick with Laryngitis or something and his voice sounded almost like Nic Cage’s. True it does get grating and annoying about fifteen minutes in but the sheer fact that they still let him do it while he was sick is pretty bad-ass. It’s done in the same “fuck it all” mentality the film was made with and you have to respect that.
Stupid? Yes. Fun? Most definitely. Worth checking out? Of course.