Monday, March 28, 2016

The Man

Year 8, Day 88 - 3/28/16 - Movie #2,288

BEFORE: Samuel L. Jackson week (mostly) continues, and I'm back to films where he plays some kind of policeman or federal agent.  That's where he seems to be the most comfortable, he built up such a rep as this type of character that he was a shoo-in to play Nick Fury in the "Avengers" films.  They even based the comic-book "Ultimate" version of Nick Fury on his likeness, years before he was cast to play him in the films.  (Not the first Marvel Nick Fury, who fought in WWII, but the rebooted second alt-universe one, and then also the third one, who I think is the son of the first one)

I'm reminded by the presence of Jackson, along with the actor that plays the Falcon, that I'm going to have to figure out a way to link to "Captain America: Civil War" when May rolls around.  I hope that I'm not spoiling my chances for linking to that by watching the Samuel L. Jackson movies now (I don't think so, he's not listed in the cast for that film on the IMDB...)  I can't be concerned with that now, because my path is set to link to "Batman v. Superman" in exactly one week, and then I've already figured out how to link to Passover, and then I'm going to try to link to Mother's Day. (which wouldn't be a problem at all if Mother's Day were on May 1 this year, but it's not, it's on May 8 - so I'll either need to sandwich in 7 more films in late April, or take a week off.)  

THE PLOT:  Special Agent Derrick Vann out to get the man who killed his partner, but a case of mistaken identity leads him to a salesman with too many questions and a knack of getting in the way.

AFTER: This is Comedy Writing 101 - find two actors who can play characters who are total opposites, and make them work together.  Hollywood keeps spitting out different variations of this, like casting Sandra Bullock opposite Melissa McCarthy in "The Heat", or Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara in "Hot Pursuit".  You can trace this trend back much further, to films like "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" or "Midnight Run", and I'm sure I could think of many other examples, going back to Abbott & Costello or Laurel & Hardy.   It must just work, or at least make writing screenplays easier.  

In this case, a tough ATF agent trying to track down a shipment of weapons for sale in Detroit has to team up with a dental equipment salesman, who's in town for a convention.  Because the salesman was in the wrong place at the wrong time, reading the wrong newspaper, and got mistaken for the agent trying to buy the guns.  The straight arrow who's never broken the law in his life (except for a convenient customs misunderstanding in Turkey years ago) is then forced by the agent to continue the charade and impersonate an arms dealer in order for the incriminating sale to take place - and to keep the guns out of the hands of real criminals.  

And here's what's important when you do one of these "fish out of water" team-ups: the characters need to be consistent, meaning that they each have an attitude, a P.O.V., something in their core that makes them act a certain way, and that shouldn't change, unless that's a slow change over time which results from their influence on each other - normally this would only manifest itself during the climax or the demouement (wrap-up).  They tried to do this with "Spy", take a meek character and put her into a position where she needed to be a strong character, but there was no consistency - one minute she was competent, then scared, then decisive, then unsure.  It's much easier to pull this off with two characters, with each one acting as a side of the competency coin - when a writer tries to pack every emotion into one central character, it can be a real mess, because the audience could end up unsure of who they're dealing with at any given moment.

Eugene Levy is just inherently funny, whether he's playing a very suave, knowledgeable character (like in the TV show "Schitt's Creek") or a completely clueless one (like the spacey Mitch Cohen in "A Mighty Wind") but here he has to split the difference, and play a man who's knowledgeable about family matters and dental products, but clueless about arms deals and police procedures.  No matter, he'll find a way to make it work.  His character also has a problem with flatulence when he eats red meat, and I didn't think this was necessary to make the film funny, it would have been just fine without pandering to low scatological humor. 

(ASIDE: I'm going to use the dental equipment connection to voice my complaints about dentists - I just had some dental work done, getting a crown on my front tooth, and dealing with a large cavity that developed some time in the last 12 years when I was avoiding dentists, so that necessitated a root canal.  Now, I don't have a problem with the work performed, as annoying and painful as that was, but my issue resulted from going to a large dental office, with many different dentists, hygienists, and an oral surgeon who only comes in twice a month to do root canals.  This meant that I've had three visits in the last two months, first for a cleaning & x-ray, then to get the root canal, and then last week to get the first crown.  And I still have to go back two more times, to get the second crown and a filling, for a second cavity which no one told me about on the first two visits.  

Why can't there be better communication between the various employees in the same dental office, and better communication with the patient?  Not telling me about the second cavity until my third visit makes me think that they're inventing new things to work on in my mouth, doing things that don't need to be done, in order to run up the bill.  Now, I get that the root canal guy is only in on certain days, but why wasn't there an attempt to keep the number of necessary visits down to a bare minimum - since nobody likes going to the dentist in the first place!  Let's try to combine some of these visits, people, and then the work can get done faster, and I can get back to ignoring my teeth again.  And please, when you shuffle patients along from dentist to dentist, like they're products on an assembly line, please take the time to explain each procedure, what it is and why it's necessary, before you tell me to open wide - because once I've got the dental tools and the suction thing in there, it's hard for me to ask questions. 

And why the need for a temporary crown?   Why are they putting something on my tooth to make it look better, when they're only going to remove it in 2 weeks and put on the permanent one?  Why can't they just go straight to the permanent one, and save a step?  It's not like I suddenly need my mouth to look perfect - if I had been concerned about the way my teeth look, I would have gotten the front tooth fixed 20 years ago!  And I was FINE with the chipped tooth for all that time, so why assume that I'm suddenly vain and need the temporary crown to make my smile complete?  Why not ASK me if I want a temporary crown, rather than assume that I do - when what I really hate is not having a chipped front tooth, it's inefficiency.  Come on, people, get your act together and save some of my time, and yours!  

Yeah, I wasn't a very good dental patient last Friday - something tells me they made a note in my file that I was being difficult.  End of ASIDE.) 

Also starring Eugene Levy (last seen in "Goon"), Miguel Ferrer (last heard in "Rio 2"), Luke Goss, Anthony Mackie (last seen in "The Fifth Estate"), Susie Essman (last seen in "Keeping the Faith"), Gigi Rice, Rachael Crawford, Horatio Sanz (last seen in "The Dictator"), Nestor Serrano.

RATING: 6 out of 10 surveillance photos

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