Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Expendables (2010)

There was never a greater time to be a fan of action movies than during the 1980s and early 1990s. The movies might have been dumb, loud, full of corny dialogue, and lacking anything resembling plot, but they were so much fun that I can't say anything bad about them. They helped make stars out of guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal, and proved the theory that movies don't have to be good to be awesome. Sadly, you just don't see movies like that anymore. You might get close with the Crank flicks, but the days of movies like Commando or Cobra are long gone.

But thank goodness we currently live in a day and age where "retro" is cool. Why else would New Kids on the Block record a new album? What else would have caused Pepsi to start selling "throwback" sodas or VH1's I Love The... nostalgia shows to be so popular? Thanks to this, Stallone got back into making movies that hearkened back to his heyday in the '80s. He gave us the sixth Rocky movie and the fourth Rambo movie, then figured he'd go one step further and directed The Expendables. Itself a throwback to those old-school action flicks, Stallone and an ensemble cast of action stars from the past and the present assembled together to create what more than a few people have nicknamed "Testosterone: The Motion Picture." And oh man, it's as awesome as I could have ever hoped it would be.

The heroes of this particular adventure are the titular Expendables, a team of elite mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Stallone). As the movie begins, a mysterious man calling himself "Mr. Church" (Bruce Willis) has hired the Expendables to overthrow the dictator of Vilena, a small island nation in the Gulf of Mexico. Barney and his right-hand man, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), head to Vilena to do some recon work and meet their contact, a local woman named Sandra (Gisele Itié). Things end up going awry, and though Barney and Christmas escape, Sandra is taken into custody.

It wasn't a total loss, though. During their reconnaissance, they learned that Vilena's dictator, General Garza (David Zayas), is under the thumb of James Munroe (Eric Roberts), a rogue CIA operative who has been manipulating Garza in order to control the drug trade. Convinced that Mr. Church himself is a CIA operative who's hired them to do the agency's dirty work, Barney realizes that the job is probably a suicide mission. But knowing that Sandra will certainly be killed, he and the Expendables head for Vilena to kick all kinds of ass and save the day.

If you look back fondly on those old-school action flicks, then The Expendables is the movie for you. It's a movie specifically dedicated to shooting guns, swinging knives, getting into fistfights and car chases, and making things explode. It is, quite frankly, a celebration of everything that is awesome about action movies and being a man in general. The only thing missing is the old Cannon Films logo, but then the movie would have been too awesome.

Stallone's direction isn't bad at all, but I could have done with his occasional usage of the fast editing and shaky cinematography that the Bourne trilogy made so popular. That sort of filmmaking technique seems inauthentic if you're trying to hearken back to the old-school action flicks of the '80s. The same can be said for the CGI blood that seems so prevalent in The Expendables. I'll just come right out and say that I hate CGI blood in movies like this. If it's absolutely impossible to do it practically, that's okay; I can live with that. But when you have the opportunity to do it practically, why not do so? It might be low-tech, but at least it looks believable. The CGI blood was a rather annoying distraction, when the use of squibs wouldn't have been a problem at all.

But other than those complaints, I can't think of anything other negative thing to say about Stallone's direction. He lets things run wild, as his action scenes are exciting and entertaining, even in spite of any apparent flaws. Knock the movie all you want, but as a fan of action movies, I thought he made it fun as hell. Even the soundtrack gets in on the act, with Brian Tyler's score and songs from Thin Lizzy, the Georgia Satellites, Mountain, and Creedence Clearwater Revival adding to the entertainment.

And the script? Do movies like this even need one? Written by Stallone and David Callaham, the movie's plot is your basic action-adventure thing, with no deeper meaning or anything like that. And if the movie is intended to be a throwback to old-school genre movies, there's nothing wrong with that. My only problem with the script is the lack of cheesy one-liners for the heroes to spout off. Even the worst '80s action movies would have at least one. But instead, Stallone and Callaham eschew this, and I can't say I know why. It's a real shame, too. I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger has a cameo in the movie, and they couldn't even work in "I'll be back" for old times' sake?

In front of the camera is an ensemble cast of action movie stars from the past and present, along with others who've made names for themselves as badasses. Let's take a look at it: Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, former UFC champion Randy Couture, and pro wrestling legend Steve Austin all play important parts, while Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis appear in cameo roles. If Stallone could have talked Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and Wesley Snipes into being in the movie, the casting would have been perfect.

But of the ensemble cast, only a few of them get to shine. Stallone and Statham end up with what seems to be the bulk of the screen time for the Expendables, and both of them are great. I especially liked Statham, whose work I always end up enjoying anyway. Eric Roberts is also quite good as our villain du jour, and even though he plays sleazebags on TV shows and in movies pretty much all the time, he's pretty darn good at it. And as the female lead whose role isn't as important as it could be (a character seen in practically every '80s action movie), Gisele Itié was okay. I'm just bummed that they cast Charisma Carpenter as Statham's character's girlfriend and only gave her two scenes. How do you cast Charisma Carpenter and only give her two scenes? Aren't there laws about that? If not, there should be.

The Expendables is one of those movies that a review won't do justice. You need to see it to understand just how awesome it is. It's two hours of awesome that is so manly that just watching the trailers and TV commercials for The Expendables could make a few women pregnant. I actually had to go home and watch The Time Traveler's Wife after a screening of it so I wouldn't overdose on testosterone. It's that kind of movie. Yes, it's flawed, but it's still one hell of a fun ride. And thus The Expendables gets four stars and a proud seal of approval. If you have a masculine bone in your body, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. Do it now. Seriously.

Final Rating: ****

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Suburban Commando (1991)

A couple of months ago, I reviewed No Holds Barred, a movie that was supposed to turn iconic pro wrestler Hulk Hogan into a movie star. I say "supposed to" because, well, it didn't. No Holds Barred was a crappy little movie that is "Exhibit A" in the argument that Hogan should never, ever do anything outside of pro wrestling.

But I guess Hogan was unaware of that argument at the time, because he was apparently bitten by the acting bug during the first half of the '90s. I don't know why, but he ended up starring in a few movies and a syndicated TV show. I know, I'm as surprised as you are. Why he kept getting acting jobs, I have no idea. But out of all the things Hogan appeared in after No Holds Barred, the best (or more accurately, the least worst) was Suburban Commando. It is, in all honesty, proves that just because you can make a movie doesn't mean you should make a movie.

Shep Ramsey (Hogan) is an intergalactic bounty hunter who, after a particularly fierce battle with the villainous General Suitor (William Ball), is forced to land on Earth to repair his damaged spaceship. The repairs will take up to six weeks, so Shep is stuck here until then.

To bide his time, he rents a room from a meek architect named Charlie Wilcox (Christopher Lloyd). Though Charlie's wife, Jenny (Shelley Duvall), is open to letting their new tenant stay with them, Charlie is put off by Shep's odd behavior. When he discovers Shep's ship and battle armor, Charlie not only realizes that Shep is an alien, but he accidentally generates a signal that allows General Suitor and his goons to find Shep. So thanks to Charlie's screw-up, Shep will have to fight a war to save our planet and possibly the universe itself.

There is nothing I could say that could possibly make Suburban Commando sound like a good movie. You just can't polish a turd. And really, that's all Suburban Commando is: a great big steaming pile of crap. To be a bad movie is one thing, but it isn't even an entertaining bad movie. I could almost forgive Suburban Commando for being a bad movie as long as it was entertaining. But it's not. It's a waste of time, of effort, and of perfectly good brain cells that died while I watched this movie.

At the helm of this disaster is Burt Kennedy, who spent practically all of his 30-year career directing Westerns. Suburban Commando was his last movie, and if it were me, I probably would have quit making movies after this stinker too. In watching the movie, I got the feeling that Kennedy just didn't care. The movie looks like he put forth little to no effort at all, as if he couldn't be bothered to even try making a movie that didn't suck. The movie looks sub-generic, with lame cinematography and cheaply-done special effects. The movie is annoying to look at, to tell you the truth. The soundtrack doesn't help anything, either. Full of awful, groan-inducing songs and a cheesy score composed by David Michael Frank, listening to the movie is as bothersome as looking at it.

And the screenplay is even worse! Written by Frank Cappello, the script is embarrassing. Everything about it is so terrible that I cannot imagine that an adult of sound mind wrote it. There's no way that can be possible. The writing is so banal, and the comedy is so horrible and unfunny, that it had to have been written by a 10-year-old with no cognizance of his or her own lack of talent. How a professional screenwriter could come up with this and actually be satisfied with putting their name on it and having it turned into a theatrically released movie escapes me. Did Cappello have nobody to tell him how much his script sucked? He'd have to be out of his mind to think any of this actually worked. The characters aren't even one-dimensional, none of the jokes are funny, the dialogue is crap, and frankly, just thinking about it makes my head hurt.

It's made even worse by how bad the acting is. There isn't a single performance from anyone in front of the camera that could be called good. I don't know how they managed to rope Christopher Lloyd and Shelley Duvall into this movie, but it appears that they've both realized just how bad it is. However, they approach it differently. Lloyd chooses to overact like his life depended on it, not so much chewing the scenery as swallowing it whole. He's actually pretty funny at times, I must admit, but he's fighting an uphill battle in that regard.

Duvall, on the other hand, plays her role like a deer in headlights. It's as if she can't believe she actually signed on for this movie, like her brain simply cannot process just how bad the material is. I was practically expecting her to fully realize the scope of Suburban Commando's crappiness and lose her mind by the end of the movie. It would have made for a far more interesting climax, to say the least.

But there is just no matching Hulk Hogan in terms of sheer awful acting. I thought he was bad in No Holds Barred, but wow. Hogan has exactly zero acting ability. None. Frankly, I want to find the person who convinced Hogan he could be a movie star and punch them in the nose. It's frustrating to watch Hogan try to be an actor when he's clearly failing at it. Nearly twenty years after the fact, Hogan's performance in Suburban Commando is still one of the worst things I've personally seen.

I knew going in that Suburban Commando sucked, so I'm not surprised by that. I saw it on TV when I was a kid, and I remember thinking that it sucked way back then, too. But then again, outside of a few rare exceptions, nearly every movie New Line Cinema released during the transition from the '80s to the '90s was pretty bad. Suburban Commando is not one of those exceptions. The fact that a movie studio actually bought the script, hired actors (and Hulk Hogan) to play its characters and a crew to build the sets, create the wardrobe and props and effects, and people to actually record this thing on film before releasing it to theaters is depressing. Suburban Commando is an unrepentantly bad movie that is not funny, exciting, or even tolerable. So yeah, I'm going to give it one star out of five, and even that's being generous. I said before that it was the best of Hogan's movies to be released after No Holds Barred, but I'd hate to see the worst. Watching Mr. Nanny or Santa With Muscles would probably be bad for my health.

Final Rating: *

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

I've been a fan of Capcom's Resident Evil games for a long time, since even before I owned a console on which I could play them. Their combination of zombies, monsters, and the "oh crap, something's gonna get me!" vibe made me fall in love with them as far back as the PS1 days in the middle of the '90s. So when I heard that there was going to be a Resident Evil movie, I got super-excited.

And then I actually saw it. I remember the date: March 16, 2002. I sat in that darkened theater watching something so unlike the games that I was dumbstruck. The Umbrella Corporation was there, the T-virus was there, the zombies were there, but it was far from the Resident Evil I knew and loved. It was, plain and simple, 101 minutes of stupidity.

But then came the sequels. Resident Evil: Apocalypse got a teensy bit closer to the games and was better for it, while Extinction said "screw it" and took the movie franchise as far away from the games as possible. All three were utterly mediocre movies that show what happens when a filmmaker wants to piss in the faces of a franchise's built-in audience by turning his significant other into an unstoppable superhero at the expense of everything that made the source material cool.

That leads us to Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth movie in the saga and the first to be made in 3D. Having given up all hope of seeing a live-action Resident Evil movie that's truly faithful to the source material, I went into Afterlife at least hoping that maybe it wouldn't be as silly as the first three movies or as goofy as its trailers and commercials made it look. Turns out all my hopes were in vain, as the movie is just more of the same.

The movie begins where Extinction left off, with Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her army of clones pursuing her vendetta against the Umbrella Corporation. The team of Alices storm Umbrella's underground bunker in Tokyo, a mission that ends with the clone army wiped out, Umbrella chairman Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) seemingly dead, and Alice stripped of her superpowers.

With her enemies defeated, Alice ventures off to find Arcadia, a rumored safe haven for survivors located in the Alaskan wilderness. She arrives to find nothing but a field of abandoned planes and helicopters. The only other person to be found is Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who has been stricken with amnesia and has no memory of where her convoy could have gone.

While flying down the western seaboard in search of other survivors, they discover a small group living in a maximum security prison in the ruins of Los Angeles. Among them are former pro basketball star Luther West (Boris Kodjoe) and Claire's brother, Chris (Wentworth Miller). When Alice and Claire mention Arcadia, the survivors reveal that it is not a town, but a cargo ship traveling along the coast. They've heard no radio broadcasts from Arcadia for several days, and it seems as if the zombies and monsters outside the prison will get to them before any help does. Left with little other recourse, this small band of survivors must find a way through the legion of undead that surrounds them and get to the safety they believe Arcadia has for them.

Resident Evil: Afterlife is a weird movie on multiple levels. It tries to do its own thing, yet it also tries shoehorning in elements from Resident Evil 5 without making them feel natural. And despite its 100-minute running time, it feels like only half a movie. There's really only enough plot to sustain it for somewhere around 30 to 45 minutes. The movie is just a compilation of action sequences that are barely connected to one another. It's a lazy movie that, for some strange reason, still manages to be somewhat watchable and even a little fun on occasion.

Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the franchise's director's chair after simply writing the other sequels, and he once again proves that he's more style than substance. The movie looks gorgeous, with some excellent cinematography and impressive special effects. And although there was no discernible need for the movie to be 3D, it still provides for a few very cool moments. (The scene where Alice and Claire fight that giant executioner guy from Resident Evil 5 in the prison shower is awesome, by the way.) Unfortunately, there's nothing much to it at all. Anderson's overuse of slow-motion and "bullet time" gets annoying after a while, too. There's so much slow-motion in the movie that I started to think that Anderson was just padding out the runtime.

It doesn't help anything that Anderson isn't a very good writer. There's no two ways about it. It's especially obvious with this particular script, which is so utterly bad that I'm surprised a movie studio signed off on it. There's practically no plot at all, and what little there is goes absolutely nowhere. Nothing is accomplished, nothing is gained or lost. It contributes nearly nothing to the Resident Evil movie franchise at all. And that pretty much sums up the entirety of Afterlife; it's a great big mountain of nothing. The characters are useless, the story is nonexistent, and the dialogue is banal. The movie is just plain there, with no point and no reason to exist. And that's terrible.

If I may single out some more specific complaints, one of the things that bugged me the most about the script was how quickly Anderson dumped the idea of an army of Alice clones. Yes, I've complained about how Alice had completely overwhelmed everything else in the movies, but a movie where dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of Alices go to war with Umbrella was something I could have gotten behind. That could have been a cool movie. But what happens? Anderson gives us a couple of clones and kills them all off in the first ten minutes of the movie. Couldn't we have gotten at least half an hour before they get eliminated? You never cease to disappoint me, Paul W.S. Anderson.

At least Anderson manages to get a cool musical score out of his composers, Thomas Hajdu and Andy Milburn. Collectively known as "tomandandy," Hajdu and Milburn provide a bass-heavy techno score that is far better than what the movie actually deserves. If there's one good thing about Resident Evil: Afterlife, it's tomandandy's music.

Rounding us out is the cast, who aren't great, but don't totally suck either. Milla Jovovich once again returns as Alice, a role that doesn't require Jovovich to do much acting. I mean, all she has to do is look like a sexy badass and hope that the stunts don't go awry. I'm still convinced that Anderson continues to give Jovovich such a huge part in the Resident Evil movies so she'll have steady work, but maybe she should try talking him into letting the role have a few more moments where she can actually do some acting, or just stopping the movies altogether so she can do some other movies for a change.

Moving on, I thought Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller were quite good as Claire and Chris Redfield, the sibling duo whose exploits have been such an important part of the games. Both Larter and Miller play their roles with a quiet, focused intensity that I thought made them that much cooler when they got to kick some ass. I still wish, though, that the movie franchise had focused more on the game characters than Alice. Maybe then Larter and Miller would have had more time to shine.

Among the others in the cast, I have to confess that I thought Boris Kodjoe did a fine job in his role. It's a thankless character that isn't written all that well, but Kodjoe did the best he could. The same can be said for Kim Coates, who plays one of the most entertainingly irritating horror movie characters I've seen in a while. Coates purposely plays the character in such a way that you'll hate his guts the second you see him and will be happy to see him get his comeuppance. He hits every note exactly right, and though he doesn't have a whole lot of screen time, Coates's portrayal of the clichéd prick of the group was aces.

Last but most certainly not least is Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker. Wesker has been one of the most important elements of the Resident Evil franchise, serving as its "Big Bad" in one form or another since the very beginning. He's probably my favorite video game character of all time, and I thought Roberts did a fantastic job in the role. Roberts absolutely nails it, playing the character exactly how I'd always wanted to see a live-action version of Wesker done. Honestly, if the entire franchise had followed the leads of Roberts and Sienna Guillory's take on Jill Valentine from Apocalypse, the Resident Evil movies would have turned out a lot better.

Maybe I'm being too hard on the movie. Maybe when it hits DVD in a few months, I'll watch it again and have a different opinion of it. It happens. But as of this present moment in time, Resident Evil: Afterlife is disappointing. I knew exactly what to expect when I bought my ticket and put on those 3D glasses, but I still hoped for the best. And I'll continue to hope that someone will finally make a live-action Resident Evil movie that's actually good. I know it's possible. I'm sure of it. I'll be patient and bide my time, and I'll watch every movie bearing that name anticipating something great but knowing that I probably won't get it. At least the games haven't let me down yet. I still have them to remind me that the Resident Evil name can be attached to something awesome. Maybe one day, Hollywood will get it right.

Final Rating: **

Monday, September 6, 2010

Machete (2010)

When Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed up to create Grindhouse, they probably didn't expect it to be a box office flop. Their ode to the exploitation double features of the '70s did poorly during its theatrical run in 2007, but the majority of those who saw it loved it.

A lot of people, including myself, would go on to say that the four fake movie trailers in Grindhouse were the best parts of the whole thing. Some were even clamoring to see them turned into real, feature-length movies. They've gotten their wish, in a sense, as Rodriguez has done just that with his fake trailer, a "Mexploitation" action movie titled Machete. A glorious cavalcade of action and B-movie silliness, Machete is a ton of fun that shouldn't be missed.

The story focuses on Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo), a former Mexican federale who now roams Texas working as a day laborer. One day, he's approached by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey), who explains to Machete that corrupt state senator John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) is deporting illegal immigrants at an alarming rate. Because the drop in cheap labor is bad for Texan businesses, Senator McLaughlin has got to go. To accomplish this, Booth will pay Machete $150,000 in cash to assassinate the senator at an upcoming rally in Austin.

Machete hesitantly accepts the job, only so he can give the money to Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), whose catering truck hides her position as leader of "The Network," a well-connected group dedicated to helping Mexicans get across the border and start new lives in America. However, before he can pull the trigger, Booth double-crosses him by ratting him out to the police. It turns out the whole thing was a setup to paint Machete as a crazed gunman and gain support for Senator McLaughlin's reelection campaign and his proposed electric fence across the border. Said fence would allow Booth the chance to corner the market on drugs being funneled into the country by Mexican drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal), the man who killed Machete's wife and daughter three years earlier.

Now a wanted fugitive, Machete is placed in the crosshairs of Agent Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba), a persistent Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officer charged with arresting him and bringing down the Network. He must convince Sartana of the truth, while at the same time rally Luz and the Network behind him if he is to have his revenge against Booth and Torrez.

Upon reflection, I'm beginning to think that this summer was made for self-aware genre movies. Last month saw The Expendables and Piranha 3D revel in their own cheesiness, and now we have Machete doing the same. It's the kind of movie that knows nobody is taking it seriously, and decides it wants to be in on the joke too. Machete never tries to be more than what it is: a two-hour love letter to both exploitation movies and its leading man, one of the best character actors in Hollywood today.

Though I fully expected Robert Rodriguez, the "one-man film crew" himself, to have sole directorial credit, he shares it with co-director Ethan Maniquis. I don't know who directed which parts of the movie or if it was a collaborative effort all the way through, but Rodriguez and Maniquis do an excellent job. The movie looks awesome, with cool cinematography that is very evocative of the style of movie it's trying to be. The soundtrack from Rodriguez's band Chingon is pretty rockin' as well, giving off the perfect vibe for the movie. If any movie score from 2010 needs to be available for purchase, it's Chingon's Machete score. I'd buy it on 8-track if I had to.

And for saying's sake, I appreciated that Rodriguez and Maniquis didn't overdo the stylized film damage that Rodriguez put to almost excessive use in Planet Terror and the fake Machete trailer. A little bit of it appears during the opening sequence (which is very awesome, I might add), but after the opening credits, it's nowhere to be found. I was expecting it and would have been okay with a bit here or a bit there, but I'm grateful for its absence. It would have probably been a distraction. I mean, I'd have hated for something cool to be lost under a bunch of fake film grain and jarring jump cuts.

Rodriguez wasn't alone as a writer either, teaming up with his cousin Álvaro Rodriguez to create Machete's script. Go back and read my plot synopsis, and if it sounds like there's a lot going on, there is. I actually left out at least a third of the movie's subplots and half of the characters worth mentioning. There's a ton of stuff going on in the movie, but I guess that's to be expected. I've heard quite a few of these type of movies were like that, and with Machete's ensemble cast, it makes sense.

And I'm not quite sure what to think about the political statement the movie tries making. I wanted to see Danny Trejo kicking a bunch of ass, not a ham-fisted social commentary about illegal immigration. I mean, did we really need a scene where Jessica Alba gives some lame rallying speech that ends up referencing the "Plymouth Rock" scene from Malcolm X ("We didn't cross the border; the border crossed us!")? And was there a need for that trailer referencing Arizona's crackdown on illegal aliens that was released online back on Cinco de Mayo? Serious political discussion has no purpose in a movie like this. Yeah, blaxploitation movies may have had African-American characters sticking it to their Caucasian oppressors, but the movies weren't up their own asses with it. However, the Rodriguez cousins seem to be aware of when they started getting preachy and pull it back whenever it started getting annoying. So at least there was that.

But I don't want to worry about politics, I just want to enjoy a movie. That shouldn't be too hard, either, as Machete is not only a lot of fun, but boasts an awesome cast. In the title role of Machete is Danny Trejo, a character actor who's finally getting the star treatment he deserves. I've enjoyed Trejo in every movie I've ever seen him in, and Machete is no exception. He doesn't have much dialogue, but he's so awesome that he doesn't need it. Why talk when you can kick ass? He's absolutely perfect, and I hope this means more higher-profile work for Trejo.

But we can't forget the rest of the cast, either. Our quartet of bad guys — Jeff Fahey, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, and Don Johnson — are all fantastic. Fahey is wonderfully over-the-top in his part, while De Niro is good for a laugh in practically every scene he's in. Johnson is actually a little intimidating at times as a murderous border-patrolling vigilante, though I'm a little sad they didn't hire Philip Michael Thomas to play a member of his character's gang. And though it's weird seeing Seagal play against type as a villain, he does so like he was born to play the part.

Among those Machete calls allies, I liked Michelle Rodriguez a lot. I don't think I've ever seen her play a "girly girl," but it's probably because she plays a badass so well. If she turned up as the female lead in a romantic comedy, I'd be waiting for her to start a fistfight with someone. But as good as Rodriguez is, Jessica Alba is very bad. I've been critical of her acting ability (or lack thereof) more than once in the past, and Machete once again gives me the opportunity to say that just because she's cute doesn't mean she can act. She's awful here, and I wish people would quit hiring her to be in their movies. Being "eye candy" will only get you so far.

Cheech Marin turns up too, playing Machete's brother, a priest who may have surpassed Father McGruder from Peter Jackson's Dead Alive as the most badass servant of God ever captured on film. Marin is extremely funny here, making his scenes better through his sheer presence alone.

And how can I forget the human train wreck, Lindsay Lohan? She plays Booth's daughter, and I'm sure the role had to be a real stretch for her. What would Lohan know about being a drug addict with crappy parents who's had naked pictures of herself posted on the Internet? In all seriousness, it's cool to see that she's willing to play a blatant parody of herself, and though I've never been impressed with her acting ability, she does manage to illicit a chuckle here and there during the movie.

If you see Machete, you need to know exactly what you're getting yourself into. It's an utterly shameless spectacle of violence, humor, and downright coolness. You heard it here: Machete is one awesome flick. If you like action movies and having a good time, go see this movie. It's worth the time and money. I'm going to give it four stars and a "Sutton at the Movies" seal of approval. I must admit, though, that as I left the theater, I wished that either Werewolf Women of the S.S., Don't, or Thanksgiving had been made into a full-length movie too. I mean, is it so wrong to have hoped for Grindhouse 2?

Final Rating: ***½