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MacheteI went into Machete with low expectations. I had heard bad things. People say Robert Rodriguez has lost his touch. And really? A movie based on a fake trailer from another movie. Maybe going in with such low expectations is what saved the film for me, because I had a lot of fun.

This is by no means a classic film. I had never heard the term “Mexploitation” before today and thought I was being really clever and coining the phrase. Turns out there’s already a Wikipedia stub, but enough about that. Danny Trejo, in his first starring role, plays a Mexican version of Shaft. He begins the film as a Mexican federale on the hunt for a notorious drug lord, but he’s betrayed by the corruption in the system and left for dead.

Jump forward three years. The man known as Machete is now an illegal immigrant day laborer in Texas. By luck, or movie magic, he’s picked as an assassin for an anti-immigrant independent senator. Of course, it’s all a set-up and, of course, it all ties back to the same drug lord Machete has a score to settle with. But mostly it’s an excuse for violence while taking some not too subtle pokes at the immigration issue at a time when it’s at the forefront of the news.

And violence there is, in spades. In the first big fight scene Machete hacks off a gunman’s hand then picks up the gun, severed hand and all, and uses it to blow away several other baddies. With a name like machete you expect a lot of sharp objects to be in play and boy are there. There are some truly squickworthy scenes of gore here but there are also plenty of moments so over-the-top you can’t help but laugh. The plot isn’t worthy of Mamet but it gets the job done.

Machete

And, somehow, we buy the 66-year old Danny Trejo, who would probably not be offended if I called him a uglyass mofo, not only as an action hero but as someone all the women want to jump in bed with. And what women they are, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and somehow Lindsay Lohan stayed out of jail long enough to portray someone not that dissimilar from her own public persona. The male cast are no slouches either. No less than Robert DeNiro plays the senator. Jeff Fahey, of Lost, does a wonderful job as his scheming underling while the big bad is played by Stephen Segal. Time hasn’t been all that kind to Mr. Segal, but he still has an air of menace that keeps him feeling threatening rather than laughable. A few of the name villains go down a little easily but most of their endings are poetic. And Cheech Marin’s small role as Machete’s priest brother almost steals the whole film. There’s an image in one his last scenes that I’m surprised hasn’t stirred up more controversy. Maybe films like this fly under the radar of advocates of a nanny state simply because it would be too odious for them to bring themselves to watch it in the first place.

I was impressed with numerous bits of foreshadowing. Some of it is obvious. A lingering shot of a corkscrew on a counter tells you that’s going into someone’s body. But others, like an offhanded comment about how long the human intestines are, come back in brilliant ways. The hero’s one-liners fall a little flat. Machete doesn’t really have a great catchphrase. The villains tend to have better dialogue than the terse Machete.

The end credits promise two sequels. Will they happen? Will they be straight to DVD? Placed in one of the worst box office weekends of the year Machete has not impressed at the box office so far. But this film could become a cult hit that thrives on home video. Violent, sexy and not unable to provoke some actual thought, Machete is not a classic movie, but it is a damn fine B-movie and those can be a lot of fun.

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new films coming out on 9.3.10

This weekend we have a surprisingly good weekend of new movie releases regardless of the end of the crazy summer season of blockbusters. The four new big movies couldn’t be more different, and while I still have films from the last few weeks that I want to see (Scott Pilgrim, The Expendables), I also sorta want to see some of these. We’ll start with the film that is most likely to get an Oscar nomination…

The American
Directed by Anton Corbijn, this action thriller that stars George Clooney as an American assassin that is being hunted in Italy while on his last assignment.  It is a story that has been told many times, but I trust George Clooney. He usually has a great eye for characters and has been on a great streak with his acting (Michael Clayton, Up in the Air, Fantastic Mr. Fox). I’m not familar with Corbijn, and from the look of his IMDB he has more experience in directing concerts and music related projects. The flick co-stars Irina Björklund.

Machete
Robert Rodriguez’s spoof trailer turned movie is the one I’m most excited about this weekend! It is an over the top b-action/horror/crime/thriller that stars one of film’s biggest badasses, Danny Trejo, as Machete.  Machete is an ex-Federale who launches a brutal rampage of violence after being betrayed by an organization that hired him. The flick co-stars Robert DeNiro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, and Lindsay Lohan.

Going the Distance
Next up is the long distance romantic comedy Going the Distance. The movie stars the on again/off again real life couple of Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, along with Christina Applegate, and Always Sunny‘s Charlie Day (who needs to be in more films!). The trailer was cute, and while it didn’t fully pull me it, it pulled in my wife who wants to check it out. A perfect dinner and a movie date movie. The flick is about two lovebirds that try to keep their romance alive regardless of living across the country from each other.

The Tillman Story
Last up is a documentary by Amir Bar-Lev that focuses on Pat Tillman, a pro football player who left a multimillion-dollar contract to join the military in a time of war and how the government manipulated his death into a tool for propaganda.

Will you be going to the movies this weekend?

The Pit v3 Logo

Welcome to another edition of The Pit. Lots of stuff is happening in the world of entertainment, here is a sampling.

  • The good news? Damages (one of the best shows on TV) has been renewed for two more seasons! The bad news? It will only be shown on Direct TV. I’ll have to wait for DVD to see the new seasons. But on the plus side, I usually let Damages episodes build on Tivo and watch them back to back anyway.
  • EW has a first look at the Lost DVD short that focuses on Hurley and Ben’s time running the island after the finale. Check it out here. I can’t wait for the DVD box set and this short film. So excited for even just a little bit more of Lost!
  • OMFG! Lindsay Lohan begins her jail time today… Really, who the F cares? *rolls eyes*
  • In another eye rolling story, the talentless cast of Jersey Shore is threatening to strike days before they are supposed to begin shooting their third season. It looks like MTV is going to give them huge raises to stay on the show, instead of doing the smart thing and replacing them all. I can’t wait until the world gets past the “being an a-hole” makes you a celebrity phase.
  • Have you checked out A&E network’s The Glades? The new series follows Matt Passmore as Jim Longworth, a homicide detective from Chicago who relocates to the sleepy middle of nowhere town of Palm Glade, Florida. While it appears like a easy/low key job, murders begin popping which forces detective Longworth to prove his worth. If you missed it’s premiere, it has been added to 141tv’s Free Video Guide.
  • There is a new trailer for Resident Evil: Afterlife. This one gives us a better idea of the story and a ton of different versions of Milla. This movie is going to be so epic-ly bad that it will be awesome! Check out the film’s poster and first trailer here.

Lindsay Lohan has a lot of (very) public issues and I really hope that they stop overshadowing her work, because Inferno looks pretty interesting. The film is the (tragic?) story of pornstar Linda Lovelace, of Deep Throat fame, who later went on to become an anti-pornography activist. The poster has a very cool and striking 70s style to it.

Inferno Movie Poster