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Kicking the Tweets
Tuesday
Mar292011

Into the Pit: The Shocking Story of Deadpit.com (2009)

Gore Than Meets the Eye

Full disclosure: I've been a huge fan of Deadpit Radio since 2008.  I tuned in after seeing two weird-looking guys named Uncle Bill (Aaron Frye) and The Creepy Kentuckian (Wes Vance) listed as guests at a horror convention.  On first listen, they sounded like a comedy duo whose shtick was talking about horror movies with the most ridiculous Southern accents I'd ever heard; but after finishing a whole episode, it was clear that their voices were as genuine as their love for and knowledge of genre filmmaking.

A few shows in, they mentioned that a documentarian named Kelly Marcott was making a documentary about them and I knew right away that I had to see it.  Fast forward nearly two-and-a-half years later, and Into the Pit: The Shocking Story of Deadpit.com has finally been released.  The movie follows Frye and Vance around their small hometown of Presontsburg, KY as they discuss the difficulties of growing up outside the mainstream of a culture that promotes guns and God, and--according to Misha Curnutte of the Prestonsburg Tourism Commission (?)--is open to anyone who doesn't try to change anything.

I was surprised by Marcott's take on his subjects.  Indeed, the only "shocking" thing about Into the Pit is the fact that it's not just about a Web site, but about the Internet as a creative outlet for two kids who otherwise might have led lives of quiet desperation.  This is most evident in Frye's story, which centers on his struggle to balance his need for self-expression through the outrageously profane Uncle Bill character with his drive to earn his Master's degree and become a drug counselor in a community ravaged by poverty and substance abuse.  Keeping the two worlds separate is a mental tightrope act that involves pouring over thick psychology text books during the day and nervously preparing to interview John Carpenter at night.

The facts surrounding Vance are sparser, and if Marcott falls short in one area it's that fans of the show learn more about C.K.'s personal life by listening to the podcast than they would by watching this film. The only insight we get into the life of The Creepy Kentuckian is a brief interlude about his deacon father's near-fatal arterial blockage a few years earlier; the incident brought the two men closer together, and it's clear that Mike Vance loves and supports his son (even if he doesn't completely understand his passions).  But Marcott dangles bits of juicy material in front of us without permitting so much as a bite, and that's frustrating.

Into the Pit is actually two movies.  One is about the environment that created Deadpit and the other is about the show's place in the world of horror fandom.  The latter portion of the film chronicles Frye and Vance's two-year ascension from radio novices in December, 2005 to modest Internet stars in March, 2007--in which their three-part interview with Night of the Living Dead director George Romero earned them over one million hits.

It's here that the story really takes off.  Marcott captures the convention culture very well, and his brief conversations with genre luminaries such as Harry Manfredini, Kevin S. Tenney, Betsy Palmer, and Lloyd Kaufman paints a distinct picture of Deadpit's success.  To a person, the people Vance and Frye have interviewed for the show compliment their passion and encyclopedic knowledge of film, as well as their laid-back style of questioning.  It's clear that the guys would still be doing Deadpit even if they hadn't gained notoriety.

I was surprised by Frye's candid assessment of celebrity attitudes on the con circuit.  He explains that, having now been on both sides of the signing table, he's come to detest what he sees as a disrespect on the part of some famous guests towards their fans. It's very much a fan sentiment, spoken by someone who's obviously geeked out over heroes who turned out to be less than pleasant.

If you're already a fan of Deadpit, I can recommend Into the Pit.  If you've never heard of Deadpit, but are a horror fan, or if you're not at all a horror fan but love documentaries, I highly recommend Into the Pit.  People who've followed the adventures of C.K. and Uncle Bill will no doubt be familiar with a lot of the material covered in the movie (though, there are surprises, too), and will instantly clamor for a sequel covering the latter part of 2007 up to the present (during which they've become even more successful, added a new member to the broadcast, and changed the show's format to include non-horror movies).

But if you've never heard of these guys--and, more importantly, if you're ready to write this whole enterprise off as stupid--then you need to see this film.  Kelly Marcott has put together a fitting tribute to two larger-than-life personalities who've made fans all over the world by speaking their minds and treating cinema's bastard genre with respect.  Like Deadpit's hosts, Into the Pit may surprise you with its wit and insight.

Sunday
Mar272011

Sucker Punch (2011)

Guy Candy

I had no interest in seeing Sucker Punch because its trailer made the movie out to be an obnoxious melange of video game action and pop culture cliches.  I saw nothing new or interesting and was pretty sure I'd figured out the beginning, middle, and end of the story before the the preview was over.  But I've been a fan of director Zack Snyder's work since his 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, and figured there must be something to latch onto.

Turns out there's a lot to latch onto, if you're a twelve-year-old boy or a thirty-seven-year-old man-child who collects vinyl figures and plays too much XBox Live; if you're also a misogynist, Sucker Punch will no doubt be your Film of the Year.  This is one of the ugliest pieces of trash I've seen, and its attitudes about women, violence, and pop culture sicken me.  Snyder should be ashamed, as should everyone else involved in the production.  Fuck this movie.

Ahem.

Sucker Punch begins with one of Snyder's signature musical montages, in which a young girl named Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is placed in the Lennox Home for the Mentally Insane after having fatally shot her young sister while aiming at their wicked stepfather (the opening song is, I believe, officially the billionth "kind-of-okay" cover of The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams are Made of These"--no doubt the inspiration for Snyder and co-screenwriter Steve Shibuya's breathtakingly clever choice of "Lennox" for the asylum's name).

Once committed, Baby Doll befriends a group of smokin' hot inmates who take dance lessons from stern headmistress Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino).  It's never made clear what the other girls did to wind up at Lennox, or what dance has to do with solving their problems (outside of some vague addages about freedom that I'm pretty sure were swiped from the Stallone movie Lockup), but Sucker Punch isn't about mental health; it's a ticking-time-bomb picture: Baby Doll has five days to escape before she's lobotomized by the sinister High Roller (Jonn Hamm).

To that end, we enter a fantasy world that Baby Doll creates for herself, in which she and the other girls work as prostitutes in the asylum run by the greasy Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), an orderly-turned-pimp who makes sure the mayor gets only the choicest tail and looks the other way when the overweight cook tries to play hide the salami with a girl in the storeroom.  It's bad enough that the girls' "profession" requires them to wear skimpy outfits, but their mode of dress when scrubbing floors and taking dance lessons can best be described as "Hot Topic Crack-Whore Chic".

Not to worry: When Baby Doll and pals enter the second-level fantasy realm--in which they must find five sacred totems in order to escape their prison--they run the pop-pinup gamut of Naughty Schoolgirl to Leather Dominatrix, all the while wielding katana blades and gigantic machine guns.

The driving force behind the plot is Baby Doll's seductive dancing which (no kidding) so entrances the old, horny men around her that they become oblivious to the other girls' theft of the totems.  In the real-life level of the fantasy (try to keep up), it's a simple matter of lifting a cigarette lighter from a breast pocket or swiping a map off a wall; but in the fantastic level of the fantasy, these quests become epic, effects-heavy adventures involving fifty-foot-tall ghost samurai, dragons, and zombified nazis--all set against a steampunk backdrop that mixes the New Millenium Retro Fetish with high-tech gadgetry. Watching Sucker Punch's battle scenes is comparable to (and as thrilling as) walking through a comic book store during a fire sale while the guys behind the counter play Call of Duty.  To some of you, this will sound like an endorsement.  I assure you, it's not.

And now, a few words about gravity.  Gravity is very important to Sucker Punch, except when it isn't.  On one hand, you have numerous action scenes in which girls are flung into buildings by giant monsters, their bodies blasting through pillars and causing concrete floors to errupt on impact.  Without exception, these warrior chicks jump right back up and strike menacing poses, ready to resume fighting without so much as a scratch or a whimper.  Because this is established in the first face-off, we the audience are excused from giving a shit about anything that happens next--during the next five minutes or hour-and-twenty-five-minutes.  In the fantastical fantasy world, which is as high-stakes as the regular fantasy world, and, in turn, the real world (Jesus, someone shoot me), we should have a sense that our heroes are in danger.  Instead, we simply watch as special effects duke it out for the right to level up.  There's no question that everyone will be just fine as they collect their totems and prance towards a happy ending.

Until Snyder turns the tables on the audience by having one of the girls sacrifice her life to save the others.  In a futuristic fantasy, Rocket (Jena Malone) detonates a bomb on a high-speed elevated rail that's headed towards a city (by "futuristic", I mean 2005, which is the year this plot point and visual idea were introduced in Batman Begins).  It makes no sense that she dies, because up to this point the only rule is that there are no rules--so, why didn't she drop-kick the bomb into the abyss or wish it away or something?  Back in the first-level fantasy world, Rocket is stabbed in the belly by the cook, and she bleeds out on the kitchen floor.

Blue scolds the group and punishes them by shooting two of the girls in the back of the head.  In a matter of minutes, Snyder takes us from Sailor Moon to Blue Velvet without earning one ounce of sympathy.  It turns out this doesn't matter, either, as he turns the tables one more time ahead of the climax.

As Baby Doll helps her former-rival-turned-reluctant-friend Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) escape by diverting the attention of the asylum's guards, we're told that Sucker Punch was never Baby Doll's story: It was Sweet Pea's all along.  In their final moments together, Baby Doll tells Sweet Pea to run back home and tell her mother how much she loves her--which is nice; I mean, what mother wouldn't want to hear that?  Oh, I know: The kind that has her daughter committed to a fucking mental institution.  By film's end, Sweet Pea's on a bus to God-knows-where, Baby Doll's a vegetable, and every other female character is either dead or subservient.

Now, a brief sidebar about totems: What sense does it make for Baby Doll to quest for a knife when the fist item she's presented with on her journey is a sword?

Look, I know I'm not the audience for a PG-13 movie, but I'd be uncomfortable letting my thirteen-year-old watch this (granted, he's about twelve-and-a-half years outside the demographic, but still...). Despite being marketed as a crazy, imaginitive romp, there's nothing smart or innovative in the whole movie; it's a catalogue of pop-culture, not a celebration of it--how else to explain the fact that the best songs in the film are covers?  The only thing one might take away from Sucker Punch is an unhealthy disrespect for women (possibly racism, too: The hot Asian girl is named Amber [Jamie Chung], and she's really good with machines).  It bothers me to think that kids (or adults) might take away the idea that the best a group of girls can do in terms of creating an empowering dream-image of themselves is to enact a male fantasy full of stripper attire and automatic weapons.  Who knew self-esteem was so demeaning?

I'm not one of those alarmists who believes in a correlation between violent media and violent behavior; but I'm not denying there could be one.  And Sucker Punch, whose female characters get tossed around, beaten, sexually assaulted, and murdered in such a way that the audience doesn't have to face the reality of what those actions implies, plants seeds of tolerance--in both genders--that make me uncomfortable.  And before you compose angry comments about how this film is a wonderful feminist power-trip, let me assure you that I understand this argument and I don't buy it one bit.  This movie's as pro-woman as Scarface is anti-drug.  But, hey, if this is your thing, I hope you have a great time, and humbly suggest that you pick up Chris Brown's new album on the way home from the theatre.

Thursday
Mar242011

The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day (2009) Home Video Review

Bore-leaf Clover

The following showed up in my Inbox this morning.  It was submitted by a reader named Suck of the Irish, and his/her views pretty much mirror my own; which is good 'cause it means I don't have to expend energy writing about The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day--which, coincidentally, I watched last night.  Though we come to the same conclusion for different reasons, Suck spells everything out in a lively, unedited manner.  It's a shame, really, because I really liked the first film.

You might call running this e-mail as a review "lazy".  I call it "leaving my brain free to write about movies that are worth my time".

Kicks-

Just caught this kickass movie on netflix that i think you may want to check out.  You're always complaining about how stupid and boring action movies are nowadays well boy do I have a movie for YOU!!!

If you saw Boondock Saints one, your goinna love All Saints day (Boondocks Saints 2: All Saints Day), the sequel.  Yeah, it's a lot of it is the same stuff from the first movie where these two Irish Brothers and there dad fight the mob in Boston with the help of some whacky roge cops, but the reason the second one's better is because they don't waste time with making you feel anything about the characters or boring you with a new plot that you have to get into.

No, this ones' pure action through and through and comedy, to.  In the first movie, there was a lot of an attempt on Troy Duffy's part (the writer and director of both) part to make a serious action movie with some silly funny parts.  He switched it up here with almost everyone over-acting and being funny like theyre on the Irish Jersey Shore or something--and then theres a little bit of serious stuff at the end for in case you're girlfriend is watching.

I loved that Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus who play the two main Saints are sillier this time, and they're Irish Accents are so over the top that they sometimes break out of it and talk like their from Hollywood.  And Julie Benz who's so fucking hot dude, she's the new detective from the goverment that's helping the saints and she's got this Southern accent that was so godamn annoying every time she opened her mouth she sounded like Jodie FOster in Silencing the Lambs doing an impression of that rooster cartoon, Foggy Carhorn.  But she's a sweet fucking piece of ass and she wears a lot of tight suits and later like a cowgirl outfit to help me keep from fastforwarding every time she opens her mouth.

In fact, this movie has more stereo types than a Best Buy, but that's okay cuz if characters are too deep than you start to get "invested" in them and it makes you think and feel stuff while you're are watching an action movie--and that's just WRONG! I like that Duffy's not afraid to use the word faggot and "gay" a lot, cuase that's the way real people talk when they don't bother to get an education and that's who this movies made for: The PEOPLE--not some arty snobs who want "plots" in theiry two-hours long movies.  There's also a fourth Saint a Mexican named Romeo whose played by Clifton Collins, Jr. that they pick up on the boat coming back from Ireland to America.  I don't know why he was on that boat but I love it cuz you don't need it to make sense.  You just know he's a mexican and they make fun of him for it and they hand him a gun thats barely the size of his pallm of his hand and its imply-ed that he's like gay or something (this keeps coming up/ the gay and mexican thing, and its fuckking hilarious everytime.

But I've wasted so much time on the story and characters that I forgot about the ACTION!!!

like i said (I think), there's not a lot of new action in Boondocs 2; but there's alot of stuff from the first movie they just repeat and it reminds you of how awesome it was the first time you saw it in Boondocks one.  i don't think there's one new shot or assassination gimick in this one--it's literally lots more slo-mow of guys jumping through glass ceilings with ropes around their wastes shooting two guns each and sometimes sliding into a room on theyre knees and skidding all across the floor shooting faceless bad guys with two guns each.  I've seen all this in my Boondocks one DVD at least ninety times and I've been dying to see more--and this is it; the only difference is that one of the saints got too much plastic surgery between films and looks like a shaved nutsack with hangover eyes. But the movie makes you comfortable watching the same stuff in fact I was kind of falling asleep at parts but when I woke back up i knew i hadn't missed anything important cause I'd already seen it in the first movie.

They do this sidestory between the saints'es' dad (Billy Connolly from Head of the Class fame) and his old archrival nemesis The Roman (Peter Fonda of Ghost Rider fame) where they keep flashing back to when they were immigrants to america in the fifties and it was just like watching Godfather Too (which I only saw bits of when my dad tried to make me watch that boring ass shit when I was ten--i'm like Dad it's 2007!" noone watches that old timey boring ass shit anymore).  But this part reminded me of that movie alot and then when they meet at the end there's some slow dialog about the mob and the good old days but this only drags on for about ten minutes before people start getting shot again.

Theres a weird part at the end where Willem DaFoe shows up to make a plan to smuggle the saints out of jail where they get locked up at the end (minus their' dad who dies at the end with the Roman), and I was confused cause they made it look like he was killed between the movies (maybe he had a heart attach looking at the nutsack guys' face!). but no, he's still alive and i was thinking if anyone who loved his character from the first movie really liked and cared about him, they'd probly be real pissed that they killed him off and only kind of mentioned it in passing--and then bringing him back as if nothing meant anything would probablly be even more frustrating and stupid.  BUt it didn't care 'cause I loved that guy as Green Goblin and I forgot to mention his characters gay so I got to watch Defao ham it up more than he did in part One (it's like he got the memmo from the other actors and was like this isn't a real movie so just have fun with it--no one cares).  THis whole movies' full of really good actors who don't bother reminding us why we love them.

In the end, if you like movies with guns, stupid cops and stupider stereotypeical mob guys, action, gay jokes, and you don't wannta be challenged by anything new, you're gonna love Boondocks Saints, the new one.  This ones' far from boring. 

Wednesday
Mar232011

Dream for an Insomniac (1996) Home Video Review

The Quotable Douchebag

You know what I love?  Those novelty "Quotable" books you find in the overcrowded checkout displays at book stores.  They're usually buried between "101 Catholic Fart Jokes" and "500 Kute Kitty Piks", and contain the best, pithiest lines from history's most notable authors.  They're pocket-sized, so you can slip them out in the john on a date, and memorize some Oscar Wilde before wiping your ass. These compact brain condoms both protect people from looking like they have nothing interesting to say and keep them from having to read anything more than three lines of 18-point type at a time.

(Much like brick-and-mortar book stores, I'm sure pocket quotables are on their way out.  Is there an obsolescence app I can buy?)

I was reminded of these novelties while watching the characters in Dream for an Insomniac recite Aristotle and Kierkegaard to each other:  Writer/director Tiffanie DeBartolo fills their mouths with reference material that stands in for dialogue.  The few lines that she actually writes herself are cliched, and repeated so often that I just wished she'd have ripped off more Kurt Cobain lyrics.  The difference between DeBartolo's writing and that of a dollar-ninety-nine point-of-purchase book is that her lines don't so much roll off the tongue as drag the actors' faces to the floor like lead weights.

To make sure we're not too distracted to appreciate her genius, DeBartolo hangs her bons mots on a frayed clothesline of a story: A San Francisco actress/barista named Frankie (Ione Skye) falls in love with David (Mackenzie Astin), the hot, personable writer who just got hired at the coffee shop where she works.  Frankie hasn't been able to sleep since her parents died in a car acciedent when she was six; the upside to this is that she has more time to spend in the coffeehouse with her Sinatra-obsessed Uncle Leo (Seymour Cassel), closeted gay cousin Rob (Michael Landes), and small, loyal circle of 20-something aspiring artists; these include best friend Allison (Jennifer Aniston), whose main personality traits are speaking in a different Audition Accent from scene to scene and being Rachel from Friends; and Juice (Sean Blackman), the ubiquitous 90s-Slacker-White-Guy-with-Dreads.

The only complication in Frankie's life is that she's fallen for a guy who has a girlfriend.  David's three-year sweetheart Molly (Leslie Stevens) is studying to be a lawyer--meaning she's a square and a sellout who doesn't understand passionate living.  It's bad enough that this is what Frankie makes of her after one two-minute introduction, and that she spends the rest of the film trying to seduce David away from her because she's in love; but DeBartolo also seems to share this cartoon opnion of Molly, as evidenced by her character being an awkward soggy blanket (which is understandable, I'd say, when walking into a coffee shop full of freaks and seeing your boyfriend dancing with another girl).  We're also meant to get down on her for having to study all the time and not being available for her "writer" boyfriend.  Where I come from, that's known as planning ahead: Captain Hot Scribe hasn't penned anything in over a year, and despite what Frankie says, you really can't live on love--especially in San Francisco.  But I digress...

If there's a sub-plot here, I guess it's that Frankie and David agree to assist with each other's problems:  She'll help him bust through his writer's block; he'll help her fall asleep.  I joked to my wife that DeBartolo could've killed two birds with one stone by having David write a screenplay called "Dream for an Insomniac", which he'd then read to Frankie.

Speaking of my wife, here's a cute little story.  The other night, I said that I had a "chick flick" for us to watch.  She got really excited, even though I told her it was pretty bad (I saw this movie about ten years ago, and blocked it from my mind until last week).  We put in the DVD at 8pm and turned it off at 8:45.  I've circled March 21st, 2011 in my mental calendar as the day I found a romantic comedy she couldn't get through in one sitting.

We finished it last night, but only with the support system of our own running commentary.  Watching Dream for an Insomiac straight is akin to being chained to a Starbucks counter for a whole day and being forced to suffer through the inane, inch-deep prattle of its patrons.  Actually, it's worse than that, because not every moment in a Starbucks is full of cute elevator music, making the experience feel like the trailer for a bad rom-com.

I mean, how can you appreciate a movie that represents everything bad about mid-90s independent slacker cinema without cruel, frequent jokes?  From the first fifteen minutes being shot in black-and-white to represent Frankie's COLORLESS world before David enters the picture to Rob's secret boyfriend B.J. (Michael Sterk)--

Wait, pull over.  I have to talk about B.J.  Is this DeBartolo's idea of a cute joke, naming the gay boyfriend "B.J."  Was "Harold Richard" too subtle, or too obvious?  And, as played by Sterk, this guy isn't just homosexual, he's the kind of four-alarm-fire, jazz-hands-and-Liza queer that struck fear into mainstream America before Ellen helped (almost) everyone relax.  DeBartolo stops just short of dressing B.J. in ass-less chaps and playing "YMCA" whenever he pops up, and I couldn't help but think of Sterk as playing Rainbow Face (it's like Black Face, but with an emphasis on a different kind of brown--sorry, that was awful).

Despite being bored out of my mind during the endless, unfunny, pointless dialogue scenes (a new Holy Trinity of Bono/Vedder/Sinatra is a cute line, but not worth five minutes of screen time), I appreciate the spirit of Dream for an Insomniac.  Like Frankie, it is in love with love, and has no idea about how the real world works.  It is also obsessed with minutiae and thinks that everything old is "retro-cool"; in this way, it's the perfect film for people in their 20s to latch onto.

Well, it's not for everyone.  I was recently reminded that when I saw this film at age twenty-three, my only reaction was a course assessment of the ending: Like Winona Ryder choosing Ethan Hawke over Ben Stiller in Reality Bites, David dumps his earnest, loving, success-minded girlfriend and cures Frankie's insomia with a simple act of love-making; at the time, I boiled this down to my friend, Leslie, as, "So, basically, he fucks her to sleep."

It's funny, 'cause that's exactly what DeBartolo's movie did to me.

This review also appears at Cinelogue.

Tuesday
Mar222011

Shoot 'Em Up (2007) Home Video Review

Carrot Flop

Shoot 'Em Up helped me realize something that should've been obvious a long time ago, but which just sunk in this morning: Not every movie is for me.  For years I've been silly enough to believe that if studios are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars hiring reputable actors, scouting exotic locations, and bringing a screenwriter's vision to life, there must be a seed of universal enjoyment buried in even the most inane of blockbusters.

But, no, some movies are just made for the shiny-objects crowd--the people who don't mind being shown the same stunt three times in a single film, a stunt that was ripped off from another action movie that they surely would have seen only a few years earlier.  Movies like Shoot 'Em Up don't try because they don't have to.  They embody the critic-proof, turn-off-your-brain defense of the lowest pop cinema, and there's no arguing with their fans.

Michael Davis's film, about an ex-gun-store-owner/son-of-a-military-weapons-expert named Smith (Clive Owen) protecting a newborn baby from a nefarious arms dealer named Hertz (Paul Giamatti), is mostly non-stop action.  Characters crack wise and blow each other away using giant guns that cause guts to make splashing sounds against whatever they land against.  I know the cartoon parallel has been drawn before, but this really is Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd, with Smith literally chewing carrots while he kills and Giamatti's villain chewing everything else on set.  Like a Friday the 13th sequel, Shoot 'Em Up exists to show the most faceless stooges get killed in the most creative ways in the least amount of time.  Unlike a Friday the 13th sequel, this movie is really, really boring.  This is due to Davis copying other movies of this ilk (like The Transporter and the far superior Crank) instead of finding anything new for his characters to do (Jason Voorhees had the good sense to vary his weapons; Smith pretty much sticks to his guns--and the occasional carrot).

I'd dismiss the film completely, save for the two really gross elements that set it apart from the harmless shoot 'em ups from which it draws its name: child endangerment and politics.  Smith is a low-life who, we learn, was a family man until a gunman knocked over a restaurant and murdered his wife and son.  This left him with a permanent hang-dog look and zero empathy--which is why his decision to help a pregnant woman escape an armed attacker is so curious.  She turns out to be a pawn in a bone-marrow-harvesting scheme, of which Hertz is second brick from the top; Smith winds up delivering the baby in the middle of a shootout, during which the mother is shot in the head.

The rest of the picture sees Smith and child on the lam, with a lactating prostitute named Donna (Monica Bellucci) that he picks up in order to keep the kid alive while he figures out the mess they're in.  During Shoot 'Em Up, the baby is shot at; abandoned on a merry-go-round; left in a bathtub, awake, while Smith and Donna have sex in the next room; left in a wooden crate in an alley while Donna blows a guy for money; and, in a sick bit of audience trickery on Davis's part, we're led to believe the baby is flung from a car during a high-speed chase (turns out it was a dummy with fully articulated features and an electronic voice box--no clue when Smith would've had time to throw that together).  A lot of this neglect and violence is used to punctuate scenes' humor; maybe my recently becoming a parent has jaded my sense of fun, but I found all of this to be disgusting evidence of a screenwriter (also Davis) too lazy to build scenes on anything but shock value.

(I might have had less of a problem with this stuff if it had been Hertz doing all the dirty work, but it's Smith, our alleged protagonist, who shows the three-day-old how his gun works.)

And the political angle; Oh, my God!  Much of Shoot 'Em Up meanders from "spectacular" action set-piece to the next, boring us to tears with cheesy one-liners and tired nonsense like a gun that can only be fired by the person who's fingerprints match the reader on its grip (can you guess how our hero gets around this problem?  No?  Go back to school).  But at about the halfway point, Davis introduces his grand conspiracy involving a gun-maker, Hertz, and a senator who wants to abolish firearms.  There's no need to expound on this because--Gasp!--they're all working together.  But the anti-gun rhetoric bogs down the screenplay, which, like New Jack City, muddies its morals in the delivery system (This film doesn't make guns look cool at all.  Nope, not in the least.).

It's clear that the wisecracks and grunting were making Davis feel insecure about his storytelling abilities, so he felt compelled to inject a quarter-baked plot about bone-marrow transplants and weapons dealers into the last act.  The result is a lot of talking and no actual message, leaving a frustrated me to wonder whether I'm supposed to give a shit about these people or just let the explosive Chuck Jones wackiness just wash over me.

This movie is ugly, plodding, and unworthy of its stars.  Owen looks like he just woke up in the middle of a Sin City 2 dress rehearsal, and Giamatti seems to be embarrassed of his Oscar nomination and illustrious career ("Hey, guys!  I can act just as shittily as any central casting heavy!  Look!).  Bellucci, in particular, doesn't do herself any favors with frequent hysterical lapses into her native Italian; these are meant as comic relief, I guess, but I just felt really bad for her having to stoop to this Hanna-Montana-level shtick (on top of her attempts at delivering English dialogue, through most of which she sounds like a stroke victim).

If you think Shoot 'Em Up is a good movie, or even an entertaining one, I can name ten other films that do what it does better.  Though, chances are, you've already seen and been unmoved by them.

Nevermind.