Drive in movies. Films Reviewed: A Haunted House, Parker

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on January 26, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

It’s that cold as ice season when the Oscar contenders are already out, so new movies are either low-budget indies, or else B movies, genre movies, the kind that would look at home on a drive-in screen. So this week I’m looking at two genre pics, a comedy and a thriller.

A Haunted House Wayans AtkinsA Haunted House

Dir: Michael Tiddes

Malcolm moves into a nice suburban LA house with his girlfriend Kisha (Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins), but they soon discover something is not right – strange activity at night. Malcolm says it’s people, Kisha is sure it’s a ghost. So, with the help of a racist security guy (who is also a wannabe reality show star) he installs hidden cameras all around the house to capture any Paranormal Activity while they sleep.

But things get worse. The invisible creature, whatever it is, may be interfering with their after-hours sex. And their best friends, a white couple, keep bugging them to participate in some wife swapping or a “Mandingo Party”. So, to set things back in order and to rid themselves of evil spirits, they enlist, in sequence: a pudgy gay psychic who only has eyes for Malcolm; some over-the-hill gangstas; and finally Rev. Doug (Cedric the Entertainer), an ex-con exorcist.

A Haunted House is a found-footage horror movie that’s not scary. So what does it have to offer? A few laughs, I guess. This is a mediocre comedy, the latest from the Wayans

Clan, who have cornered the market in cheap, horror movie parodies. (Marlon co-wroteA Haunted House Cedric the Entertainer the Scary Movie franchise). But it’s honestly not that funny, relying on the usual things that make 14-year-old boys giggle: fart jokes, potty humour, gay jokes, stoner jokes, and most of all, sex jokes.

OK I admit it, I laughed occasionally, and I appreciated the various dead-on references to Paranormal Activity movies 1-4 (I’ve seen them all). But it was less a parody, than a wholesale plundering of someone else’s low-budget movie ideas.

On the plus side, it dares to play with racial stereotypes, with Malcolm/Marlon occasionally reverting to old-time racist Hollywood portrayals of google-eyed, scaredy-cat black men. I trust that the Wayans (who also did In Living Color back in the 90s) are well aware of what constitutes a racial stereotype, and what’s just for a laugh – so they do make you think just a little bit.

And at 86 minutes, it’s a quick movie. I have to admit, I was never bored by it. But you can only roll your eyes and grimace so many times before you realize this is just not a very funny movie.

Parker StathamParker

Dir: Taylor Hackford

Parker (Jason Statham) is a career criminal. He doesn’t steal from people, just from big businesses; he doesn’t hurt innocent bystanders; and he never, ever tampers with an agreed-upon deal. They say there’s no honour among thieves, but Parker proves them wrong.

So when a State Fair heist (arranged by Hurley, his girlfriend’s dad) goes wrong, he takes it very personally. He decides to devote himself to getting revenge on the gang of thieves who double-crossed him. They are a motley crew headed by the bald-headed tough-guy Melander (Michael Chiklis). But they also have a weenie guy in their gang who is well connected to a Chicago crime family. So while he’s chasing them, there’s a professional Chicago hitman out to kill him. Parker follows them from the rural Midwest, down to New Orleans, and finally to West Palm Beach, Florida, the most gated of all gated communities.

He disguises himself as a Texas oilman to get the lay of the land. There he meets Leslie, Parker Lopeza middle aged woman (Jennifer Lopez) who is living with her mom (Patti Lupone) and is days away from getting her car repossessed. A local cop is always hitting on her, but she shooting for bigger game. So when she smells something rotten with this oilman, she volunteers to help him with his mission – to catch the thieves and foil their planned Palm Beach heist. She’ll be his local contact.

Parker is a brand new action/thriller, but it could have been made in the 1970s. It really feels like a 70s mystery novel – a plot-driven story with lots of twists and turns. We don’t even meet Jennifer Lopez’s character until a third into the movie – something you rarely see anymore. This really has an old-fashioned feel to it: small-time hoods, rich people at charity auctions, State Fairs, people in clown costumes… things like computers, cell phones, security cameras barely play a role.

Parker Statham LopezThat said, I really liked this movie. Statham doesn’t act, per se, but I love him as a hard-as-nails, Die Hard-style tough guy. And Jennifer Lopez is fun as his foil (though not as dynamic as in Out of Sight). But the characters are really enjoyable: Patti LuPone is terrific as her Florida mom, Nick Nolte as Hurley, looks like a hood who spent the past 20 years in a pickling in jar of hard boiled eggs, and Michael Chiklis is really good as the unsympathetic villain. Chase scenes, shoot outs, fights, suspense – all great. Who cares if it seems old-fashioned – Parker is a fun and exciting wintertime thriller.

A Haunted House and Parker both open today in Toronto. Check your local listings. And, if you haven’t caught them yet, there are some terrific European movies still playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, films like Barbara and Amour –one of the best movies of the year.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

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