North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Action, mythology and strange physics

 


This issue, Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman go head to head and John Cusack's hot tub sends him back to a decade when he made good movies.

The Book of Eli

(R, Now available)

It's not been long since the release of the absolutely fantastic "The Road," but apparently you can never have too many post-apocalyptic stories about wanderers trying to reach the ocean.

Eli (Denzel Washington) is all alone as he heads west. From the beginning, we see that he can quite literally sniff out an ambush and he is not a man to be trifled with, no matter how many guys you've got or what weaponry you have. Armed with a sword and a book whose significance is lost upon a generation that never learned to read (Eli states it's "been 30 winters since the flash" which blinded a great many of the few who survived), Eli will not deviate from the path he is on, even in extreme circumstances.

The book Eli carries may be unknown to most who walk the earth, but it is vitally important to Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a villain who at first seems to have more in common with Gene Hackman in "Unforgiven" than most of the villains played by, well, Gary Oldman. This only serves to emphasize the feel of the movie as a post-apocalyptic western.

Early in the film, Eli, unaware of Carnegie's hunt for the book, is invited to stay the night in Carnegie's saloon. Carnegie, unaware Eli possesses the book, hopes that Eli will decide to join his crew in the search of it. Carnegie attempts to seal the deal by offering up Solara (Mila Kunis), but Eli isn't interested of taking advantage of the young woman. Instead he teaches her how to pray, a fact that Carnegie is tipped off to the following morning. When Solara escapes, a reluctant Eli allows her to join him on his journey west, with Carnegie close behind.

While it doesn't pack the punch or create the sense of place that "The Road" did, "The Book of Eli" is a very entertaining film with strong action sequences, solid performances from the leads (along with some brief appearances by Tom Waits and Michael Gambon), and actually has more substance than you would expect.

Written by first-time screenwriter Gary Whitta and directed by the Hughes Brothers ("From Hell"), I actually found myself surprised that modern Hollywood would make this film. Its religious content is evident and unapologetic, but it manages to not come across as heavy-handed.

"The Book of Eli" is definitely worth a rental. 7.5/10.

Hot Tub Time Machine

(R, Avail. 6/29)

Sometimes a movie gives you exactly what the title promises. "Dumb and Dumber." "Snakes on a Plane." "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." "Hot Tub Time Machine" is such a movie.

The thing about a movie called "Hot Tub Time Machine" is that I'm not expecting it to set up hard and fast rules for time travel and to stick to them. I'm not expecting complex character development or revelations that make you think about your mortality, the human condition, or why Hitler was a very, very bad man. All I really want is for it to be funny. But is it?

Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson, "The Office") have lost touch over the years but find themselves brought back together by their old friend Lou's (Rob Corddry) near fatal accident. While he is their friend, Lou is not exactly a good friend.

In an attempt to relive the good times they had more than 20 years earlier, the three decide to spend a weekend in Kodiak Valley skiing and getting sauced. Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), who wasn't quite born the last time they went to Kodiak Valley, comes along for the ride.

Upon arriving at the old ski lodge, they find that it's not the happening place it had once been. Frequented now by senior citizens and with a cranky one-armed bellman on staff (Crispin Glover, ya know, George McFly), it's a bit of a hellhole. Determined to enjoy themselves anyway, the three old friends and Jacob proceed to drink heavily in their room's hot tub, and when they awake, they find something's not quite right.

Yes, they have gone back in time to 1986.

When the guys realize what's happened and that their younger selves were there on that very weekend, they determine that they must do everything the exact same way they did the first time around, fearing the so called "butterfly effect." Of course, that doesn't work out as well as they'd planned.

There are definitely more aggressively unfunny comedies out there, but really, the funniest thing about "Hot Tub Time Machine" is its title. There are a few chuckles here and there, many of them thanks to Glover in a role that just seems to fit him so perfectly, but in the end this movie just isn't that funny.

Cusack and Robinson are fine but don't really have a whole lot to do. I liked Corddry during his days on "The Daily Show" about six or seven years ago (around the time I quit watching it with any regularity), but I've just never really liked him in movies, even movies I've liked otherwise.

Lou is just another variation on the obnoxious, unlikeable character he always plays and it never has been funny. Of the four leads, Duke comes off the best. I liked that the guy in his early twenties was the voice of reason for the guys in their early forties. Very reasonably, his character's only real concern is making sure that he still ends up being born.

"Hot Tub Time Machine" is stupid, yes, but that's not the problem. It could have been the right kind of stupid and it almost is. But it just never gave me a really hearty laugh. It's as simple as that. 5/10.

 

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