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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Something has gone terribly wrong in Jackass-land since Bad Grandpa.

While Bad Grandpa wasn’t technically a Jackass movie, it was a “Jackass Presents” movie, and it had the usual Jackass movie director, Jeff Tremaine. The results were the kind of fun we expect from a Jackass movie—with a little more of a narrative plot, but with the emphasis remaining on the killer stunts.

Now comes Action Point—which is a stinky pile of shit. The Jackass label and director are gone, with only stars Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius representing the former crew. The slant goes much more toward the narrative—a boring narrative—with only a few OK stunts thrown in. It’s an uneven, embarrassing, unfunny mess.

That’s a shame, because Knoxville proves he’s certainly still game to get his ass kicked for cinematic glory (although he’s looking a little beat up these days), and the “true” story at the center of the movie is one ripe for Jackass-type fun. Alas, the formula simply doesn’t work.

The story is based upon a real, now semi-defunct amusement park—Action Park in New Jersey—where at least six people were killed. I grew up on Long Island and would go to this park in the ’80s. It’s now legendary for its danger factor—you can see the stories on the Internet. It’s a place where safety wasn’t really on the top of everybody’s list of concerns.

I nearly drowned in the tidal-wave pool (others actually did); I marveled at the cannonball-loop slide I could never go on because it was closed (due to broken bones, limbs and noses; that ride is lamely immortalized in this movie). There was also an “alpine slide” with a cement track atop which you rode in plastic car with a shaky brake; you were in complete control of whether or not you met your bloody demise. It was fucking crazy.

Sadly, the movie inspired by it is not. It’s dumb, and it plays it safe. It’s basically an insult to the legend of Action Park, or Death Park, as we liked to call it.

Knoxville plays D.C., an older man baby-sitting his granddaughter in the present day. The role calls for the old-age makeup Knoxville usually wears so well. D.C. reminisces about a crazy park he once owned called Action Point, and the story flashes back to the 1980s and D.C.’s efforts to create a thrill ride/water park where “you are in control.”

Back in the ’80s, D.C. tries to save the park from evil land developers while trying to entertain his daughter, Boogie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), who is visiting for the summer. There’s some sentimental nonsense involving the father-daughter relationship, which acts as nothing but a roadblock to what we want to really see … the stunts.

Those stunts are only mildly amusing, and few and far between. They include Knoxville getting catapulted through a barn (pretty good), Knoxville getting blasted by a water hose (OK) and Knoxville hanging around a beer swilling bear (funny the first time; been there, done that by the 10th). At one point, they tempt a squirrel into Pontius’ shorts to fetch acorns and tickle his balls. It does appear to me that some animals—including the squirrel, an ostrich, an alligator and a porcupine—were mildly abused during the making of this film. Any animal that has to hang out near Pontius’ ball sack should be considered harmed.

Let’s face it: Knoxville needs to slow down on the daredevil stuff, lest he meet an early grave. Bad Grandpa, and now Action Point, are evidence of this. What Knoxville needs is a new Jackass crew he can mentor from the sidelines.

Action Point is proof he is beyond the point where he can take a herd of buffalo to his midsection. It’s also proof he needs Tremaine and co. to help guide the mayhem. This new crew is lamer than the cannonball loop being closed every time I tried to ride it.

Action Point is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The early days of cinema had Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin risking their lives with daring stunt work, all in an effort to make moviegoers laugh.

Today, we have the immortal, deranged, considerably less-refined Johnny Knoxville.

Knoxville has tried to parlay his Jackass fame into an acting career—but he hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire. Because huge paychecks are tempting, Knoxville has therefore returned to the Jackass well with movies—and his body has paid a tremendous toll. The man has thrown himself into the path of buffaloes and bulls to score good laughs—and, oh man, has he gotten those good laughs.

As big as those checks can be, internal bleeding and broken limbs lose their luster after a while. So now we get Bad Grandpa, a sort of Jackass movie that has a narrative mixed with hidden-camera stunts (very much in the tradition of Borat). Knoxville plays Irving Zisman, an 80-plus-year-old letch who has shown up in Jackass skits.

The “plot” involves Irving begrudgingly taking his grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll), on a road trip after the kid’s crack-addicted mom goes to jail. Along the way, of course, the two get themselves into all sorts of hijinks. Director Jeff Tremaine (who has piloted all of the Jackass films) includes some scripted scenes between Knoxville and the kid that are actually quite sweet at times. However, those scenes are mere buffers before and after the Jackass-type madness.

Early in the film, Irving is presiding over his wife’s funeral. He has gotten an audience full of strangers, including church-choir members, to sit in and help him mourn. The results are hilariously disturbing—and just about as evil as any hidden-camera gag has ever been.

Nicoll is quite the little scene-stealer. Knoxville has to labor for laughs, subjecting his body to a rapidly folding bed and a faulty kid’s ride that shoots him through a window. Nicoll needs only to put on a bemused face or keenly deliver a zinger to show up his older co-star.

The film’s best moment involves one of those disgusting child beauty pageants—and it belongs to Nicoll. The kid winds up in a rather convincing little princess getup and politely goes through the motions of a pageant—until the talent competition. That’s when he strips off his sailor outfit and does his best stripper dance to “Cherry Pie.” Nicoll flailing away on the ground while Knoxville showers him with dollar bills will surely contend for Funniest Moment of the Year honors.

If you go to this looking for Steve-O or Bam (Knoxville’s Jackass partners), you will be disappointed. The boys are nowhere to be seen, although co-producer Spike Jonze and actress Catherine Keener show up, unrecognizable in heavy makeup.

Speaking of makeup: Bad Grandpa should actually be a legitimate Oscar contender in that category. Knoxville’s old-age makeup is killer; I’m not surprised that he’s able to trick a lot of onlookers during the hidden-camera stunts. It’s some damn fine work, much better than the old-age makeup worn by Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer in J. Edgar. Those guys looked like California raisins.

There are a lot of good gags, as well as a few clunkers. Irving’s visit to an all-male dance club results in some ball-hanging fun, and a fart contest with his grandson has some hilariously explosive results. I also liked a bit involving a virtuous motorcycle gang, and a series in which Billy asks strangers on the street to be his new daddy.

Stick around for the credits, which feature some funny outtakes—and, best of all, scenes of the duped stunt victims finding out they are in a movie. It’s actually a relief to see those poor funeral attendees get the news.

To get primed for Bad Grandpa, I watched a lot of Knoxville’s old stunts, including the various hits he took from large animals. Those will always be funny, and I could watch them 50 times in a row and laugh each time. However, I would prefer to see him dial it down in future film ventures, as he does in Bad Grandpa. It’s the sort of movie that should please his fan base while blessedly lowering his risk for early, bone-smashing mortality.

Bad Grandpa is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to movies as a headliner not only bombed domestically; The Last Stand was a massive international bomb. It didn’t make back its relatively meager $45 million budget during its theatrical run—a big fall for the man who used to be the world’s biggest movie star.

In truth, this is not the greatest of surprises, because the movie is not very good.

Arnie plays a sheriff in a border town who finds himself squaring off with a drug-cartel baddie and his cronies. Johnny Knoxville shows up as the kooky sidekick (again), and Luis Guzman shows up and does his normal thing.

Arnie is in good form; it’s the film that seems stale. It feels like 12 movies you’ve seen before cobbled together as a warm-up for a guy who has been out of the game for a few years. It’s too bad; Arnie should’ve made his comeback vehicle a film in which he was fighting aliens or trading quips with Danny DeVito.

This mediocre rip-off of Assault on Precinct 13 doesn’t do him justice.

Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker plays an FBI agent who spends most of the film yelling into telephones and staring at computer screens.

Special Features: There are deleted and extended scenes, along with some behind-the-scenes docs.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I didn’t care all that much for Movie 43, a new-millennium attempt at something akin to Kentucky Fried Movie. But I won’t be trashing it, because it crosses many lines, is terribly offensive, and is often screamingly disgusting. I’m a little demented when it comes to comedy, so I say: Bring on the farts, excessive curse words and scrotum necks!

However, if you are going to do a gross sketch comedy, you had better do gross well. Your jokes better have the proper punch lines and kickers, and your sketches have to end strong.

Many of the sketches in Movie 43 end like bad Saturday Night Live sketches. Too many of the sketches, which are directed by various directors, just aren’t funny. They land with a thud.

First, I’ll talk about the good stuff. I must give props to real-life couple Naomi Watts (a current Oscar nominee) and Liev Schreiber for their funny turn as a couple proudly homeschooling their son. They want their kid to get the full high school experience, so they humiliate him, alienate him, nail him with dodge balls and ultimately try to make out with him. Yes, I laughed hard at this. Movie 43 would’ve been better if it had been 90 minutes with these nuts.

I must also praise Terrence Howard as a black basketball coach who gets fed up with his youngsters being afraid of a bullying white team. Yes, this joke has been done to death, but Howard sells it big-time. This is one of the sketches that ended badly, but not before Howard had me laughing out loud.

Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott kidnap a foul-mouthed leprechaun (Gerard Butler)—and excessive violence and obscenity ensue. Real-life couple Anna Faris and Chris Pratt deal with a desire to get pooped upon—yet they somehow make it romantic. Jason Sudeikis gives us a commentary on Kristen Bell's bush. There are some laughs to be had in these uneven segments.

Hugh Jackman (another current Oscar nominee) shows up for a blind date with Kate Winslet sporting testicles on his neck. This would be the first time in movie history where an Oscar nominee, mere weeks away from hearing whether he has won the golden boy, appears onscreen with hairy balls protruding from his neck. I’m thinking that this moment in movie history will cost Mr. Jackman a few votes. It’s also not funny.

Another sketch (directed by Elizabeth Banks) features Chloë Moretz and her Kick-Ass co-star Christopher Mintz-Plasse. It has, not surprisingly, a menstruation theme: Moretz gets her first period after her first kiss, and two brothers spaz out until their dad (Patrick Warburton) comes home—and doesn’t help the situation. Another dud.

Even worse would be Elizabeth Banks starring in a post-credits segment that has her getting peed on by a masturbating/animated cat. And even worse would be a truth-or-dare sketch in which Oscar-winner Halle Berry makes guacamole with surgically enhanced breasts. Far worse would be a skit in which Emma Stone and Kieran Culkin talk dirty at a supermarket, unwittingly broadcasting over the PA system.

Worst of all would be Richard Gere as an executive confused at the notion that young boys are trying to have sex with the iBabe, an MP3 player that looks like a supermodel but has a nasty, member-mangling exhaust fan in its nether regions.

The bad far outweighs the good, and that’s what makes Movie 43 a loser. I dare Hugh Jackman to wear his scrotum neck on the Oscar red carpet.

Movie 43 is playing in theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to a starring role with The Last Stand, a film that falls somewhere in the middle of the Arnie canon. It’s not a terrible effort—but it’s not anything to get all that excited about, either.

Arnie is back, murdering the English language with his own special brand of finesse—but he’s refusing to take his top off. He needs a little more time with the HGH so he can take off his shirt, Stallone style! Yep, Stallone is 66 and has no problem showing off his gloriously fake old-guy pecs.

Arnie plays Ray Owens, sheriff of a small town near the Mexican border. When stopping at a local diner to have some coffee, he notices one of the patrons is played by Peter “Where is pancakes house?” Stormare (the actor who put Steve Buscemi through the wood-chipper in Fargo). Ray correctly assesses that this guy means trouble—and bad things begin to happen.

A drug-cartel baddie named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) has busted out of a U.S. prison and is racing toward Ray’s town in an incredibly fast Corvette in an attempt to cross the border. The Stormare character is part of a team sent in advance to make sure conditions are clear for crossing—which means shooting a farmer brandishing a shotgun and demanding he get off the land. The angry farmer is played by, of course, Harry Dean Stanton.

Ray has “seen things,” thanks to his prior L.A. cop days, so he’s prepared for a good fight. His deputies include wet-behind-the-ears newbie Jerry (Zach Gilford), the hot-girl deputy (Jaimie Alexander) and another cop played by Luis Guzmán, who, like Stanton, always seems to show up in movies like this.

The same can be said about Johnny Knoxville, who once again finds himself playing wily comic relief in a sheriff-takes-a-stand” movie (something he did, with little success, with The Rock in Walking Tall). He’s basically around to wear kooky hats and make funny faces. I have come to the conclusion that I do not enjoy Knoxville onscreen unless he’s being struck in the gonads by a charging bull.

A subplot involves an FBI guy (Forest Whitaker) tracking Gabriel. He makes a couple of crucial phone calls to Ray, and spends much of the movie staring at computer screens and acting antsy. Didn’t this guy once win an Oscar?

Director Jee-woon Kim offers up some great car chases (including an especially good one in a dried-out corn field), some decent explosions and lots of cartoon violence. The film is never boring, and gets good grades for its action content. However, it is not on par with Kim’s A Tale of Two Sisters, one of the best horror films of the past 10 years.

As for the plot, it feels like a movie you have seen before, like the aforementioned Walking Tall, or even Cop Land, which starred a somber Sly Stallone as a lonely sheriff taking a stand against corruption. Stallone played that role when his career was in the midst of a dip, and he was looking to change up his image. As we know, Stallone didn’t get things swinging again until he played Rocky and Rambo as old guys. Similarly, Schwarzenegger probably won’t see his career spark up quite yet. Fortunately for him, his future slate includes a new Terminator; a shirtless, older Conan the Barbarian with saggy man tits; and a sequel to Twins. The meager first-weekend box office for The Last Stand proves that the general public could care less about Schwarzenegger emoting in a sheriff’s uniform.

Surprisingly, this probably contains Arnie’s best acting yet. He has a few moments when it almost seems like he knows how to actually act. I guess nearly two decades in politics gave him a chance to hone his bullshitting skills.

Mediocre movie aside, it’s good to see Arnold back on the big screen in a central role. Next time out, I’m hoping his movie is a little better. 

The Last Stand is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews