Crank: High Voltage
Remember when I said that the original Crank was actually less over the top and insane than it advertised itself as? This sequel, which brings back most of the significant characters in some way and attempts to escalate on everything the first movie did, corrects that issue. Instead of having to keep his heart rate up by doing things like getting into fights and having sex with Amy Smart, Jason Statham's heart has been replaced with an artificial one and he must keep its battery charged by doing things like electrocuting himself and having sex with Amy Smart (because it generates static electricity through friction, obviously). There's a lot more violence and nudity and general zaniness in this movie, so it succeeds at surpassing the first movie in that way. It does have a different problem though, which again prevented me from really liking the movie - it just seemed too mean-spirited. People don't just get hit in the nuts, their genitals get destroyed. A man is forced to punish himself for messing up by graphically cutting off his own nipples. Just lots of messed up stuff like that, and I thought it was usually more gross than entertaining. Otherwise, it's as kinetic and crazy as advertised, with a few moments of inspired originality.
Hoosiers is as predictable an underdog sports story as you're ever likely to encounter. Gene Hackman comes to a small Indiana town to become the high school basketball coach, and he struggles to gain the acceptance of the locals before molding the team into an unlikely winner, more successful than they've ever been before. Dennis Hopper plays the father of one of the players, a drunk and embarrassment to the town who actually knows a lot about the sport. Barbara Hershey is a teacher at the school who questions Hackman's methods but eventually warms up to him. There's a kid who's supremely talented but unwilling to play, and a bunch of ignoramuses who have it out for the interloper. Though it's nothing you haven't seen a bunch of times, Hoosiers is still a charming and well-executed version of that formula. The acting is solid, and the basketball scenes are authentic and exciting. It was a bit weird for the only black people in the movie to appear at the end as players for the big bad final opponent (the movie takes place in the 50s), but otherwise there's not much to really hold against the movie. Pretty likable stuff.
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming
A weird mix of comedy and politics, The Russians Are Coming tells the story of a Soviet submarine crew that accidentally runs aground on an American island and attempts to get back in the water without causing an international incident. Unfortunately, they run into difficulties, and things are exacerbated by the locals who are alarmist about the threat and quick to gossip. Things almost totally boil over in a remarkably tension-filled stand-off before the film remembers it's a comedy and deflates it in a pretty cheesy, feel-good way. It's a likable movie, with some frustrating side characters and maybe too long a running time but not much else to complain about. The best part is probably Alan Arkin's lead performance as one of the Russian crew members, who doesn't actually get a ton of dialogue but when he does always manages to make a lot out of very little. I'm honestly not totally sure what it was trying to accomplish, but it's a pretty good movie.
There's something about 18th century England that is just inherently interesting to me. The British accents, the horrible class inequality, the technology still stuck in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, it's just... I don't know. Interesting. Tom Jones is based on a serialized novel published during that period, and features Albert Finney playing a bastard who's been raised in kind society and grown up to be a womanizer, well-liked by many but hated by some. The movie actually won Best Picture, which seems kind of strange, but I guess movies could do that back then without being dramas about serious issues or mediocre. Wow that was pretty harsh, I've actually really liked most of the recent winners of that award. Oh well, whatever. Tom Jones is funny, has an intriguing little plot about the secrets people sometimes keep, and has some nice performances. It also frequently features characters talking to or just looking at the camera, which somehow never gets old. And now that the movie has expired from Netflix streaming, the site doesn't have it at all. What's up with that, Netflix?