Archive for the ‘Balls of Fury’ Category

345 – Balls of Fury

September 5, 2007

Balls of Fury is amiable to the point of being gregarious, but many of its jokes – verbal and visual – either just miss or misfire completely, and when it’s over you start thinking of better ways you could have spent the previous ninety minutes. Highlights include Christopher Walken’s waaaaay over the top performance as Feng, a mysterious, rich, eccentric ping pong fan; Thomas Lennon as an ubermean German Olympian; the luxuriant Maggie Q as a table tennis champion who dresses in skimpy short-shorts; and comically terrified male sex slaves.

Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) was once a promising young ping ponger. Back in 1988, he made the U.S. Olympic team and was all set (at age 12) to win against Lennon’s Karl Wolfschtagg when he slipped and fell and couldn’t return a serve, thus not only losing his chance at a medal but also sealing his father’s fate, as the elder Daytona had bet heavily on the match. Years later, the adult Randy is approached by FBI Agent Rodriguez (George Lopez) to help the government  nail the guy who had Randy’s pop iced – a mysterious man named Feng, whose face no one’s photographed or even seen. The feds know Feng’s up to evil plans, but they need Randy to enter a private, super-secret ping pong tournament run by Feng at his undisclosed lair so they can get the goods on him.

Randy sucks at ping pong now, though, so he must undergo Karate Kid-like training under the wise tutelage of the blind Master Wong (James Hong). To make sure no stereotypes are left alone, Wong also runs a Chinese restaurant. Oh well, at least he doesn’t say the whole training bit is an ancient Chinese secret. Anyway, Wong’s got a niece, or daughter, I’ve already forgotten which, who is superdupercrazygood at competitive ping pong. She can even fend off four players while taking orders over the phone at the restaurant, she’s that darn good. Of course, it falls to her – that would be Maggie Q playing (get this) a woman named Maggie – to train the living bejeezus out of Randy. It should be pointed out here that while Maggie is sensual, gorgeous, and overall wonderful, Randy is fat, slovenly, a little sarcastic. In other words, it’s a typical movie love-match, isn’t it? From the moment Maggie puts Randy’s arm in a chicken wing, you know they’re gonna hook up.

But the real fun comes at Feng’s tournament. For one thing, Walken’s Feng is wearing a different outfit every time you see him, seemingly; he’s sort of like Ming the Merciless, only not as bland. Walken vamps like only Walken can vamp, but it’s sort of easy to steal a movie from guys like Fogler and Lopez. Even so, it’s hard to overstate how much Walken overacts, even for Walken. If you’re not a Walken fan, that is to say, you’ll find nothing to like about this movie. Sure, some may call it hammy acting, but it’s acting… nonetheless… isn’t it?

Then there’s the tourney itself – it’s sudden death, you see, and that’s meant literally. Lose, and you get a blowdart to the neck, courtesy of Feng’s right-hand chica, played by Aisha Tyler. And of course, along the way the underdog Randy must face his old enemy Karl, who so gleefully ended Daytona’s amateur – and professional – career nearly twenty years earlier. But Randy’s not even sure he wants to stick around, seeing as how everyone’s getting killed. He’s funny like that.

Balls of Fury, brought to you by the guys behind Reno 911 and A Night at the Museum, does have its moments of funny, but by and large it suffers from a scattershot script and haphazard directing – it looks almost like it’s some film student’s final thesis project thingy. It’s not quite as good as it should have been, and it’s not nearly funny enough to be worth a theater ticket.

**

Summer Movie Preview, Part IV

May 31, 2007

Oh, what the hey, here are some more previews of summer releases. Remember to grab snacks in the lobby, tip your ushers well, and don’t spit if anyone’s watching.

The Invasion (August 17): It’s sort of, but not quite, a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Nicole Kidman plays a shrink who finds out about an alien epidemic and that her son’s somehow connected. Spooky. The movie’s had its share of offscreen troubles, with major rewrites, including a new ending, and maybe that unsettled leadup will be detrimental. Still, it’s Nicole Kidman, whom I like in just about anything. (Am I the only one who liked The Interpreter?) Oh, and Daniel Craig is in it, too. Sounds like a hoot.

Mr. Bean’s Holiday (August 24): Eh, no. I remember watching Bean when it was in theaters ten years ago and openly hooting and booing at the screen. (I may even have thrown something.) I thought it was awful. Oddly enough, though, I’ve enjoyed the Bean shorts I’ve seen. So there you go. This time, Bean (Rowan Atkinson) wins a trip to France, having taken on the USA last time around, and naturally hilarity ensues. Expect a lot of slapstick, certainly, but I wouldn’t expect it to be funny.

The Last Legion (August 24): Did you like 300? That, too, was sort of a historical epic. In this one, a soldier galvanizes a band of legionnaires (watch out for their disease!) to save the Roman emperor. The movie stars Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley and features many manly men. I predict much grunting and sweating.

Wristcutters: A Love Story (August 31): Novel concept here (no, really). It’s set in a strange place where suicides go after they die. Sounds uplifting, right? It’s apparently not as gross or gruesome as the title might imply, focusing instead on relationships. Oh, and there’s a romance. So it’s more than a little offbeat, perhaps too offbeat for mainstream theaters.

Balls of Fury (August 31): Do you like balls in your face? The creators of Reno 911 hope you do. Oh, this one is about ping-pong, you perverts. Or table tennis, whatever. Men who whack little balls and the women who love them. Sounds like it wants to be this year’s Dodgeball. Jumprope: Hanging by a Thread is sure to come next summer.

Death Sentence (August 31): Okay, you can tell we’re long past the Epic Movies of the summer when we get to a loose remake of 1974’s Death Wish. Kevin Bacon plays a guy who systematically kills all the members of a gang that murdered his son. The director of Saw is behind this one, so perhaps we’ll see inventive means of slaughterin’ miscreants. Vigilantism never goes out of style. Still, I don’t believe this one will be all that powerful.

Shoot ‘Em Up (September 7): What the hell kind of title is this? Sounds more like a crappy 1960s spaghetti western to me. But look who’s in it – Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, and Paul Giamatti. Ok, you had me at Clive Owen. He’s one of those nebulous-morals guys who is good with a gun; Bellucci plays a pregnant prostitute who has a breastfeeding fetish, and Giamatti is the bad guy. Sounds kind of turgid from here. Probably worth seeing for Owen.

Eastern Promises (September 14): Another strange title, but we have us a good director behind it – David Cronenberg. And he has Viggo Mortensen, as a mysterious stranger in London who crosses paths with a saintly midwife, played by Naomi Watts. So can we expect a surprise hit, like A History of Violence? Maybe, if only because Watts is a better actress than Maria Bello. Probably no sex on the stairs with Watts dressed as a cheerleader, though.

The Brave One (September 14): Oh, man, another revenge movie. Jodie Foster is a New York radio talker who seeks revenge for an attack that killed her fiance – and then isn’t sure she’s made the right choice after she’s gone all vigilante on the city. A little late for that, Ms. Foster. Well, for her sake I hope the movie is well received, although we might have reached our revenge quote by September. And it’s too early in the year for a typical Oscar hopeful.