Four Brothers (2005)
Another revenge movie this week, but one that's very different from Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This one's a more conventional revenge film which is constructed in such a way that you'll root for the good guys to dish out pain to the sneering villains! The plot concerns four 'brothers' (of different races) who were adopted as children by a sweet old lady named Evelyn Mercer because no one else was willing to have them - they were just too much trouble. Ms. Mercer is gunned down at the beginning of the film, and the Mercer brothers come back to their hometown to seek vengeance. Despite the influence of Ms. Mercer, these brothers still turned out to be seriously violent individuals; they engage in a succession of chases and shootouts resulting in a hefty body count by the end.
This isn't a brilliant movie, but it knows what it is, which is a no holds barred action film. Sometimes it's enjoyable to just sit back and be entertained while watching the clear-cut bad guys get their comeuppance. It's well made, with exciting action scenes, a sufficient plot, and solid characterization (for this type of film). The brothers make for an interesting and lively team. The cast that was assembled is one of the movie's strengths, with Mark Whalberg's belligerent Bobby being the standout alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor, who seems to be really good at playing menacing, despicable villains. Four Brothers may play to people's baser instincts, but that doesn't change the fact that I found it to be bloody entertaining (pun intended). Worth your while if you're looking for an action film to watch while scarfing down pizza and guzzling beer.
The Baxter (2005)
I seem to state quite often that I'm not the biggest fan of romantic comedies, yet I keep watching them. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned there - perhaps I AM a fan! Anyway, this isn't your typical romantic comedy - it's a romantic comedy about the guy in romantic comedies who always gets abandoned at the eleventh hour by the leading lady when the leading man declares his undying love for her and they run off into the sunset. The movie labels such men 'Baxters' - the nice guys who are boring but safe choices that women settle for. Elliot Sherman is a Baxter - he's been losing his significant others to more dashing men all his life. When Elliot gets engaged to the proverbial hot blond, things seem to be going OK - until her ex shows up. There's also this other woman, Cecil, (whom Elliot has much in common with) that Elliot turns to for solace.
If you can't see how this movie ends, then you haven't watched many romantic comedies. It's not the destination though, it's the journey that counts. And in this case, the journey is charming and funny - it also plays out genre conventions from a different perspective. It's a small scale, low budget film that doesn't have bellyache inducing laughs but is certainly chuckle worthy throughout. The cast is what really makes the film work - Michael Showalter plays Elliot (he's also the writer and director) as the straight man, and everyone else essentially plays off him. The supporting players are excellent - Elizabeth Banks, Justin Theroux, Peter Dinklage, and Paul Rudd all make very memorable impressions. Most memorable for me was Michelle Williams as the impossibly adorable Cecil. Essential viewing for all the Baxters out there (and perhaps romantic comedy fans as well), and worth a rental for everyone else. Viewers are advised to watch the end credits.