Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Love from a Distance and Gore Up Close

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long Retro Romantics in “Going the Distance”

By Skip Sheffield

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long are “Going the Distance” in the rather retro, reasonably pleasant romantic comedy of the same name.
“Distance” seems more authentic because Barrymore and Long were (and perhaps still are) an item when documentary film director Nanette Burstein was filming in New York and San Francisco. It doesn’t hurt that these are two of the most photogenic cities in America.
This movie is retro because Barrymore’s character, Erin, aspires to be a crusading newspaper reporter. For one thing, daily newspapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past. For another, it is mostly older people who still read them.
Yes, 31-year-old Erin is gung-ho on saving, or at least improving the world through the power of the press. She has an internship at the fictitious New York Sentinel and she hopes to go full-time.
Garret (Justin Long) works at a record label (another dying profession) and lives the bachelor life with two goofy roommates.
Erin and Garrett meet cute in a bar over a game of Centipede, a 1980s video game. They click immediately and wind up at Garrett’s and end up making out under a poster of Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” (1986).
Erin says up front she doesn’t want romantic entanglement, as she is going to grad school at Stanford in six weeks.
Of course they do become entangled and enjoy a whirlwind affair to the tune of 1980s song classics.
Erin can’t find a job in New York and Garrett is unwilling to relocate on the West Coast. So beings a long-distance relationship with all its trials and tribulations
Keeping the affair from getting too gloopy is a fine comic supporting cast including Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as Garrett’s wacky roommates and Christina Applegate as Erin’s sarcastic older sister.
“Distance” is rated R mostly for content and coarse dialogue. Ultimately it has a soft heart for young lovers in love, and that’s what makes this idealist fantasy a perfect date movie.

Three stars

“Machete” Revels in Cartoon Violence, Gore

Fan boys and girls will love the outrageous “Machete.” Tea-Partiers and other conservatives will despise it.
“Machete” is a feature-length movie based on a single 90-second sight gag in Quinten Tarantino’s 2007 “Grindhouse.”
The title character, played by the menacing-looking Danny Trejo, prefers a blade to a gun, but he is adept at all kinds of weaponry, including his bare hands and gardening equipment.
Machete is a former Mexican Federale who is driven out of his country by an all-powerful drug lord Torrez, played by slimy, reptilian Steven Seagal.
Machete is stranded in a Texas border town with no papers and no money; in short an illegal immigrant.
The area is controlled by Von Stillman (Don Johnson, relishing the role of villain), who heads a group of ruthless vigilantes who will do anything, including murder, to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico.
Jeff Fahey is another American bad guy: Michael Benz, a crooked businessman who supports the equally corrupt right-wing Senator John McLaughlin (Robert Di Niro, also relishing his scene-chewing villain).
In this revenge fantasy by Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids") all the Americans are bad; bigoted, greedy, amoral, and all the Mexicans are good souls just looking for a better life.
Rodriguez doles out violence and sickening gore in equal measure with sexy babes. The list includes Michele Rodriguez as the resourceful, fearless taco girl who in reality runs an underground Mexican resistance group; Jessica Alba as an immigration officer with a sense of justice and fair play, and Lindsay Lohan, mocking her image as infant terrible as Michael Benz’s out-of-control daughter.
And then there is Cheech Marin as Machete’s pious brother, a Catholic priest who does not turn the other cheek.
Needless to say this debacle gets a richly-deserved R Rating. If the viewer realizes the whole thing is over-the-top satire about rigid American anti-immigration crusaders then it becomes a funny spectacle of cartoon violence and a clever reversing of stereotypes for ironic effect. If not, you’ll be outraged.

Two and a half stars

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