Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Thursday, May 10, 2007

'Hot Fuzz' is greatest buddy cop spoof?

Hot Fuzz (2007)
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Timothy Dalton, and Jim Broadbent
Director: Edgar Wright
Rating: Ten of Ten Stars

When London's top cop Nick Angel (Pegg) is promoted and transferred because his superiors feel he's making them look bad (with his 400%-above-average arrest record), he finds himself in a village so peaceful that the police officers in the village spend their days eating cake and ice cream, and he is teamed with a young constable (Frost) whose idea of police work is shaped by American movies, such as "Bad Boys II". But when a hooded serial killer starts picking off some of the village's leading citizens, it seems Angel may still have a chance to do some real crime-fighting and police work. But will his fellow officers believe that it's the work of a killer and not just a series of freak accidents being inflated by a cop who is too highly strung for village life?

"Hot Fuzz" is probably the best comedy that will be released in 2007. I don't like to make that sort of hyperbolic declaration, but in this case, I think it'll be true. It's not only a hilarious spoof, but its script is so well done that it even works as a crime drama.

Like "Shaun of the Dead"--a film from the same team that made this film--"Hot Fuzz" takes the standards of a popular movie genre-in this case, the buddy cop drama-and gives them a distinctly British twist. This film is somewhat more farcical than "Shaun of the Dead" as it pokes a lot more fun at the quirks and cliches of buddy cop action films, but it still transmit an obvious affection for the genre on the part of the writers. In fact, if more police dramas and thrillers (buddy cop or otherwise) had scripts as well-crafted as this one, there would be fewer box office bombs.

The very best aspect of this film is that it's as realistic as movies of this sort get. Although there are points in the film where it seems like the film abandons realism for comedic affect-such as a scene where Sgt. Angel is chasing the hooded murderer, who seems to miraculously gain 20 yards over him every time he disappears around corner (because if Angel catches the killer at this point in the film, things will be over an hour in)--when it comes to the crimes that are going on is that everything makes sense when the truth comes to light. Even parts of the movie that just seemed like odd bits of comedy suddenly make perfect sense when all the twists and Big Reveals have been unveiled.

Another strong point of the film is the fact that the screenwriters truly wrote a mystery tale where they follow all the conventions of the genre. They lay out all the clues as to what is going on in the town AND they follow the old saw horse that if there's a gun over the fireplace in the first act, it better be fired by the third. (There are multiple of these guns in the movie--both metaphorical and actual--and every one of them is "fired", some of them in quite unexpected ways.)

While hardcore fans of the over-the-top cop dramas this film pokes fun at will probably find the first half of it too slow to be entertaining, those who appreciate British humor or British cop shows like "A Touch of Frost" or "Prime Suspect" should love this film.

Those who just enjoy crime dramas and suspense movies in general should also get a kick out of "Hot Fuzz", because the twists upon twists that are offered up here are more creative and clever than what is found in many serious attempts at the genre.

This is one of those rare "must-see" movies, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

'Blades of Glory' is a slick comedy

Blades of Glory (2007)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Craig T. Nelson, and Jenna Fischer
Director: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

After two rival skaters (Ferrell and Heder) are banned from singles figure skating for life for brawling during the medal ceremony at the Olympics, they overcome their differences and team up to become the first male/male figure skating pair. Will they transform figure skating as the world knows it, or will they meet defeat at the hands of the sociopathic figure skating team of the Van Waldenberg Twins (Arnett and Poehler) or will they be killed by their coach's (Nelson) quest to have the impossible skating move "The Iron Lotus" made a reality?

"Blades of Glory" is a fairly simple sports comedy that uses gender roles and slapstick humor to illicit huge laughs from the viewers. It's very well written, fabulously acted, and perfectly paced. Ferrell is particularly hilarious as the crude, sexaholic, self-made figure. Arnett and Poehler are almost too good as the creepy bad guys.

Allowing for the fact that the jokes aren't all that original (even if I don't think anyone has quite given us such a twisted version of the figure skating world before, nor do I think any other movie has portrayed an obsessive fan stalking a celebrity as the catalyst for something good), this is an excellent film. The very end of the denoument gets a bit dumb, as it completely breaks with the tone of the rest of the film, but otherwise it's a thoroughly hilarious experience. (The end credits has some funny bits during them, too, almost as an apology for the stupid final moments of the movie.)

Is that a special kind of sheep dog?

Film star denies lamb tale

A Japanese film star has denied reports she was conned into buying a lamb disguised as a poodle.

Maiko Kawakami has dismissed stories she was the victim of a scam by tricksters importing lambs from Australia and Britain to sell as poodles to rich Japanese women.

It was widely reported that the scam came to light after Kawakami complained on a television talk show that her new poodle refused to bark or eat dog food.

"Ms Kawakami is very surprised by how much this has spread overseas. She was just recounting on television how she had heard of such a story while she was at a nail salon," a spokeswoman for her talent agency said.

"Ms Kawakami does not even own a poodle."

Police in Sapporo, where the fraudulent company was reportedly based, also denied the tale.

"We have had inquiries from so many media - CNN, CBS among others - and all I can say is that that article is completely made up," a spokesman said.


Yes, Ms. Kawakami. We understand you don't own a poodle.

But do you own a lamb?

(BTW, the "media morons" referred to in the tag for this article are not Maiko Kawakami or her spokespeople, but rather the anonymous reporter who wrote this article,and all the other journalists who apparently didn't notice that even the original writer didn't fully believe the shaggy sheep tale he was relating, because even he states that "this has a whiff of the 'urban myth' about it."