188. My Name is Bruce (Bruce Campbell, 2007)
Bruce Campbell has achieved a privileged position as an actor, he’s attained cult status in a way that very few others have. In My Name is Bruce he takes the most postmodern route as Campbell plays a grotesque image of himself as a B-Movie star. He’s mistaken by one of his fans as the man most likely to help when an ancient a Chinese demon is accidentally released to torment the small town of Gold Lick. The film plays on Campbell’s status as a jobbing actor with a particularly devoted fan-club. With tongue wedged firmly in cheek it’s difficult to watch this with anything other than a feeling of warmth for Bruce. He’s worked hard in a lengthy career and with this and his fiction book Make Love! the Bruce Campbell Way he’s further crafted a niche in the hearts of those fans. Fans who just want to enjoy watching the mighty chinned one play comedically flawed matinee idols in ropey horror films. He’s more than watchable and carries the leading role in a low budget bit of escapism like this with ease and no shortage of smarm and charm.
One more thing; I’ve been specifically asked to make mention of the pneumatic charms of leading lady Grace Thorsen – who lends a little bit of class and beauty to proceedings. So there, I have.
187. 16 Blocks (Richard Donner, 2006)
The first thing I noticed about 16 Blocks is that I think it’s the first time I’ve seen Bruce Willis playing his age. He looks really very rough in this. Essentially lifting the plot of Clint Eastwood’s mediocre action flick The Gauntlet (the link is to my review from earlier this year), this film condenses the space and paints it on a gritty urban canvas of side streets and underground car-parks. Mos Def plays the witness that Willis’ hard-bitten alcho-cop has to transport to a court appearance, but travelling that short distance becomes a problem when someone tries to kill the witness and Brucie boy decides to shake off the beer fuzz and man-up.
This is an entertaining genre film, something that I’d like to see John Carpenter making more of. So it came as a bit of a surprise to see Superman director, Richard Donner’s name on the end credits, I must have missed it at the start, but that explained why it is a solidly paced and well shot action thriller – far outstripping Clint’s laboured effort at a similar thing. Mos Def is initially a bit annoying but eventually I could only find him endearing, his slightly simple outlook and genuine panic give the film a heart that it otherwise might not have had and Willis seems to genuinely warm to him aswell. Alongside Be Kind Rewind this bodes well for the guy. Willis on the other hand is entering into the difficult twilight of the action star, a path that Clint is probably the most successful survivor of. This thinking gave me the idea that 16 Blocks is in many ways another Die Hard film, perhaps a more appropriate final chapter for the accidental hero character that Willis perfected back in the 80s.
186. The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009)
It’d be a pretty safe bet to say that I laughed at this film more than any other this year. Todd Phillips returns to the kind of territory that he covered so successfully with Old School, another film about a group of men fleetingly trying to come to terms with being masculine in a world that doesn’t really allow it anymore. Except in The Hangover the men are in the adult theme-park of Las Vegas. There’s solid performances from everyone involved, especially Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms who provide the majority of the comedy.
The situation is pretty familiar to me, attempting to recall what I’ve done after a particularly heavy night on the sauce though not quite to the same extent as in this film though. I don’t want to talk about the plot anymore for fear of ruining it for anyone else. I will say that there is a genuine feeling that everyone had a lot of fun making this, I certainly think that feeling is transmitted and watching The Hangover is like an invitation to join a group of your friends having a good time. That’s probably the highest compliment I can pay to a film like this and I felt much the same way about Old School among a few other films that capture that mystery feeling of mates having a good time.