Wednesday, December 11, 2013


The title doesn't make much sense in context, but regardless, Homefront the movie is a solid action movie written by Sylvester Stallone (!), directed by Gary Fleder and starring Jason Stathem and James Franco.

Stathem plays "Broker", an undercover DEA agent who takes down a bunch of biker/meth dealers and winds up on the surviving biker's hit list. For reasons not really explained (though Broker's wife died off-camera a some point), Broker quits the force, packs up his 12 year old daughter and buys a ramshackle house in rural Louisiana.  Evidently the DEA has an amazing pension plan because Broker no longer has to work and spends most of his time puttering around doing home-repairs and charming his daughter's grade school teacher.

But.  There's ALWAYS a but.  When daughter Maddy gets in a schoolyard fracas with a bully, daddy Stathem is confronted by the bully's annoyed parents and employs his DEA/ninja skills to settle things.  Except slamming a guy to the ground and choking him in front of his wife and son doesn't have the placating effect he hoped.  Turns out the wife's brother is "Gator" Bodine (James Franco), yet another meth dealer with a cadre of goons, and he doesn't take kindly to this newbie roughing up his relatives.  He's probably sore because people make fun of his name.  Anyhow, a series of tit-for-tat confrontations escalate until... well, I won't get into spoilers, but there's a lot of beatin' up and shootin'.

That sounds pretty routine, but there are a couple of things going for Homefront.  First, it's very well directed by Gary Fleder, who eschews CGI stuntwork for more grounded fisticuffs.  Cars don't magically fly over other cars and bodies actually obey the laws of physics.  It's also very well acted by Stathem, Franco and Winona Ryder as a meth head (!).  And finally, the story actually leaves room for characters to evolve in slightly unexpected ways.  In real life, sometimes it actually IS possible to apologize and put things behind you without a half dozen suicidal machine-gun toting dudes coming after you.  At least I hope so (sorry I flipped you off, guy who cut me off in traffic!).

But again, I don't get the title. I've read that this was originally going to be a Rambo sequel, and a story about a soldier from overseas coming home to fight local bad guys, well, then Homefront makes sense.  U.S. based DEA agent retiring to U.S. based meth region and getting into fights, not so much.  Oh well.  Too bad there's an old Burt Reynolds movie called "Gator" because that's a great title...  

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Nebraska Is A State of Mind...

...and "Nebraska" is also a really good movie from director Alexander Payne and writer Bob Nelson.  Yes, it's WGA "screener season" again, my chance to catch up on some great movies from the comfort of the couch. Yes, back cover of screener DVD box, I understand that movies are meant to be seen on the big screen... now leave me alone!  Get off my lawn!

Which is sort of the tenor of Nebraska... Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, an elderly, verging-on-Alzheimers fellow who becomes convinced he's won a million dollar Publisher's Cleaning House-type sweepstakes.  But he needs to get from his home in Billings Montana to the sweepstakes office in Lincoln Nebraska to collect it.  Woody's wife and adult kids know it's a scam, but finally his son David (Will Forte) takes pity and humors Woody by giving him a lift.

It's a pretty classic set-up for some father/son road-trip bonding, but Woody makes Wilson the volleyball look like a chatterbox. So that doesn't exactly work out.  Then a pit stop in Woody's hometown leads to encounters with family and old friends who actually believe the million dollar story, leading to new adventures in greed and avarice.

Nebraska the movie is less about big laughs (though there are a couple) and more about those knowing smiles of recognition. Awkward family encounters, pointed silences, secrets unwittingly (or maliciously) revealed... twist those moments one way and they're tragic, twist them just a little the other and you have this movie.  Writer Bob Nelson has an ear for awkward dialogue and a great comic sense of timing.  There's a bit involving an air compressor (!) that is pretty darn funny.  And believe me, people have tried to make air compressors funny before!

You need to settle in for this one, let the moody black and white photography draw you in, but once you're there, Dern is amazing as Woody and June Squibb as his long suffering (but hardly passive) wife Kate is great, too. Good stuff!


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Shark Alley The Novel

My buddy John Goins is a man of many talents (bass player for the legendary punk bank "The Cleavers", poker player extraordinaire in the legendary Nugget casino in Reno) and now he's added "excellent novelist" to the list.  His first novel, "Shark Alley", is now available from Smashwords for the ridiculously low price of $2.99, and it's well worth checking out.  A clever Western set in San Francisco's Barbary Coast, it's like a cross between Bonanza and The Wild Wild West, with great characters and lively twists.  I was hooked from page one!

Here's the official description:

SHARK ALLEY: San Francisco 1877: An insane ex-Confederate Colonel is murdering members of the famous Barbary Coast Squad. "Shark Alley" follows Detective Inspector Nick Lockwood as he pursues the evil Colonel Tobias before Lockwood's hidden past is revealed.

This gets my whole-hearted, five star, thumbs-up, multiple smiley-face recommendation.