Introducing Two Buck Schmuck


Today I start a hopefully somewhat regular feature.

Late last millenia I had quite the lovely time reporting on the dregs of Hollywood after it had dripped from the first-run moviehouses on to the sticky floors of the Davis Theater.

A few things have happened since my Davis Theater days.

1. The Davis, while still cheaper than many moviehouses, cannot really be called a “cheap theater” any more.
2. I live nowhere close to the Davis any more. I live really, really freaking far away “nowhere close”.
3. I got wall-to-wall freaking kids.

In a crazy mixed-up way, rather than having my blog report on my idiosyncratic behavior, my blog is now working its own influence on my behavior.

I’m going to try and visit my new neighborhood cheap theater, the LaGrange, for the occasional 9:00pm weeknight shows, after the kids have gone to bed. The LaGrange is $2.00 per show. I’ll go see a movie and then review it, most likely being entirely too snarky. Hence, the title “Two Buck Schmuck”.

There’s something I really enjoy about going to Le Cinema to see a shoddy piece of work for a low price, and afterwards taking pot shots at it. And, hey, if the movie turns out to not suck so bad, then I saw a good movie on the cheap.

Initial Impressions of the LaGrange
The LaGrange’s lobby is kinda grungy, with dirty, threadbare carpet, similar to the Davis I fondly remember. The soda on tap is Royal Crown, the faithful, cheaper alternative to Coke and Pepsi.

I can’t really give a good impression of the theater where I saw the movie, as it was dark when I arrived. It was Theater 1, which I’ll call the Curvy Theater. It’s narrow (though not *too* narrow) and the seats all form a curve, as this theater was probably the right side of a larger theater which at some point was split into smaller rooms.

A Snack Dilemma
I had considered sneaking in a bag of plain M&M’s into the movie, while still buying a soda at the LaGrange like a good, proper theatergoer. However, since this was the start of a potentially long and beautiful relationship, I decided that I should just go ahead and purchase my M&M’s there.

To my dismay, the LaGrange only carried the reviled Peanut M&M’s. I told the youngish concessionaire, “Hey, I really want plain M&M’s, so I’m gonna go buy some, then come back, but don’t worry, I’ll buy a soda.” — I figured the assurance that I would buy *some* kind of concession would mitigate the fact that I would be bringing in something from the outside — and, hey I was being straight with him. He paused, shrugged and said, “Okay.” I know what you’re thinking — “wow, that was Joe Camel smooooth.”

The Movie
Okay, so I had three choices — Premonition, 300, and Shooter.

The 9:10 showing of the Sandra Bullock film Premonition was thankfully canceled due to “technical difficulties” according to a posted note. So between 300 and Shooter I opted for Shooter, because I didn’t want some muscular dudes screaming at me for an hour and a half.

I have seen one movie by Shooter’s director Antoine Fuqua, the overrated Training Day, where Denzel Washington grabs the viewer and shakes them until he receives an Oscar (it worked!).

I like this director’s name, if only for the fact that I can say for his new movie, “What the Fuqua were you thinking, Antoine?”

This is an action movie which feels very similar to a 1980’s action movie (particularly the 1985 movie Commando) but tries to play it somber instead of playing up the cartoonish elements that made the 1980’s action movies cheesily enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some freaking cheesy moments here. The name of the protagonist (Mark Wahlberg) is Bob Lee Swagger. OH MY GOD. Why couldn’t his middle name have been “BigBalls”? There are some choice scenes with Bob and his dog, where his dog opens a refrigerator and retrieves a beer for him. No, it didn’t then proceed to pull out a bottle opener, pop the top and pour the contents into a frosty mug. That lame, good-for-nothing dog.

Bob’s love interest is played by an actress who is introduced with nipples in a white tank top. Later on, she is held captive in bra and panties. Now that’s something exploitative they didn’t do to Alyssa Milano in Commando. Granted, she was only twelve.

A couple character actors pop up in this movie that I generally like, but didn’t like in this movie. Ned Beatty is wasted as a Snidely Whiplash-ish senator. Near the end of the movie he’s crawling away from Bob Swagger on his stomach. No, there was no anal rape involved.

Elias Koteas, who has perhaps the most wondrous name ever (say it with me — E-li-as Ko-te-as) plays a reptilian crony of the big bad guys, but not an interesting one. I feel that directors should let this guy improvise in whatever roles he plays. He’d probably come up with something interesting. Aside from having his arm shot off, he doesn’t have a lot to do here.

Danny Glover has a horribly stinky part as an ex-Colonel evil guy, but I don’t like him that much as an actor (two words — Predator 2).

My main problem with this movie wasn’t the cheese, the predicatable plot, or the bad characterization. I realized I find it hard to root for a character that routinely shoots people in the head from a long ways away. You can try to portray the target of a sniper as deserving his or her fate, but still, the sniper is picking people off, literally blowing chunks of their brains out.

Seeing this movie made me think of soldiers getting killed in Iraq, and the sniper shootings in the D.C. area from a few years back.

There is something really cowardly, non-action-movie-heroic about picking people off while you’re hiding. I’m sure it’s a very valuable military strategy, but I didn’t really root for Mr. Swagger as he amassed an impressive body count.

And don’t get me even started on the ending. It’s too late! I’ve already started! During most of the run of the movie, Bob Swagger is the suspected attempted assassin of the President of the U.S.

He gives himself up and is granted a five minute discussion with the US Attorney General. His sniper rifle (which was supposedly used to attempt to kill the President) is in the room where he is meeting with the Attorney General. An FBI agent who he hooks up with during the course of the movie is also present.

To prove his gun was not the gun used in the assassination attempt (he had removed some sort of firing pin from it making it inoperable), Bob has the FBI agent secretly gives him a bullet for the rifle, which he then uses to aim, point and shoot a