Tag: Curb Your Enthusiasm

MOVIE REVIEW | Clear History (2013)

In the 90s, Larry David helped redefine the sitcom from behind the scenes when he co-created Seinfeld.  In the new millennium, he did it again, this time much more visibly, playing a fictionalised version of himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm.  At the height of Seinfeld’s success, he thought he’d give movies a go by writing and directing the immediately forgotten Sour Grapes.  Then news came after Curb’s eighth season that there were no immediate plans for a ninth, because David was once again off to have a crack at the movies.  And it looks like the result has been pretty similar to his first go round.  And that’s a shame, because like Sour Grapes, his latest effort, Clear History, deserves more attention than it seems to have received.

Ten years ago, David’s character, Nathan, was working with a fledgling electric car manufacturer, run by John Hamm’s Will Haney.  After a miniscule difference of opinion gets blown way out of prepetition (this is a Larry David story, after all), he cashes in his shares and leaves the company.  Almost immediately, the electric car he’s been helping develop, the ‘Harold’, becomes a huge success and Nathan has literally lost a billion dollars by walking away when he did.

A decade later, he has escaped the humiliation of his billion dollar mistake by moving to the island of Marha’s Vineyard and going by the name Rolly.  He’s built a modest but happy life that is turned upside down when the now multi billionaire Will Haney moves to the island to start building his dream mansion.  Again, because this is a Larry David story, easily fixed misunderstandings run rampant, totally unnecessary lies, cover ups and deceptions go down, people act in ways no one ever would in real life in a million years, and almost all of it is pretty hilarious.

For a movie you’ve probably never heard of, Larry David was able to pull together an amazing cast.  Besides Jon Hamm, there’s Danny McBride, Amy Ryan, Kate Hudson, Eva Mendes, Phillip Baker Hall and an almost unrecognisable Michael Keaton, who absolutely steals every single scene he’s in.

Going back to the Seinfeld days, and only amplified on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David loves coincidence.  The amount of tiny little, coincidental meetings, overheard comments, character quirks and contrivances that need to occur within your average Larry David story should make it impossible to suspend any disbelief.  But somehow, in the hands of Larry David, they work.

There’s an odd side story about Rolly’s ex girlfriend and the band Chicago that never really leads anywhere or has anything to do with the main story, but it’s funny enough to more than justify its existence.  Plus, his ex is played by Amy Ryan who is always amazing, so if nothing else, she makes that subplot worth it.

Basically Clear History is an extended episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, only Larry has a different name and set of friends.  And if I can’t have ten episodes of Curb every year, something like Clear History is a pretty good substitute.

Clear History
Directed By – Greg Mottola
Written By – Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DUD SEQUEL WEEK*** Robocop 3 (1993)

Robocop_3_-_de With movies like Starship Troopers and the original Robocop, director Paul Verhoeven showed how big, loud supposedly dumb action can be used to tell what is really a pretty smart, satirical story.  Robocop 3 is just like those movies, if you take away the smart satire.

As with every single movie about anything robotic as the central character, Robocop discovered he needed to embrace his humanity back in the original movie, so Robocop 3 needs to find away reset that a little and start fresh, so it can have an excuse to tell basically the same story all over again.  So within the first 20 minutes, he has some new programming put it that is supposed to wipe his brain of all those pesky emotions.  Luckily Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), his partner from the first two movies, bites the big one early on and he’s back to his emotional self.

There’s some sort of evil corporation that has control over the city and is disguising their oppression of the poor and weak as doing what’s best for the city. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the other two movies since I was a kid, but isn’t that the basic plot of those too? Robocop 3 suffers from a problem pretty common when you get this deep into a franchise…  Upping the anti and trying to top whatever came before.  In this case, Robocop’s bad assery is confirmed in his first scene when he catches a bullet inches away from exploding his partner’s face.  I know I’m watching a sci-fi movie about a cyborg cop, but c’mon, at least try to make it a little plausible.  This time it’s not enough to shoot a gun out of dude’s hand, he has to keep shooting the gun so it stays in mid air, almost as if awkwardly hanging from fishing line.

And then there’s the one thing I remember from the trailers when the movie came out, Robocop flying.  I think the entire special effects budget must have been spent on the animation of the spacey tunnel that takes us through Robocop’s mind, because they certainly spent next to nothing on the flying effects.

Peter Weller was smart enough to avoid this one, so the titular cop combined with robotics is now played by Robert John Burke.  When you can’t get the actor who played the title role in the first two installments, maybe that’s a sign to give it a rest.  Sure he’s in a mask the whole time, but even as someone who hasn’t seen the first two movies in well over a decade, I could tell straight away it was a different dude.  At least they were smart enough to not go the Smokey and The Bandit III route and promote the sidekick to the starring roll, or else we could have ended up with Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis, Miss Robocop.

But there is an upside to Robocop 3.  It’s packed with actors who I’m sure I wouldn’t have recognised when it was made two decades ago, but have all gone on to great stuff since.  CCH Pounder from The Shield, Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bradley Whitford from The West Wing, Daniel von Bargen (George’s boss Mr Kruger) from Seinfeld, News Radio,Boardwalk Empire, O Brother Where Art Though> and a thousand other TV shows and moves you’ve seen over the last 20 years.  So if the exposure they got form this movie had anything to do with their future success, Robocop 3 can consider its existence justified.

Also, you get to hear Rip Torn ask the power mad bad guy, “What, you gone war wacky?”  that’s kind of entertaining, I guess.

Robocop 3
Directed By – Fred Dekker
Written By – Frank Miller, Fred Dekker