Monday, September 12, 2011

Be Cool Blu-ray Review

Be Cool stars an unbelievable all-star cast, including John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Uma Thurman, The Rock, AndrĂ© 3000, Steven Tyler, James Woods, and Danny DeVito. This is a hilarious tale about a mob enforcer who became a movie producer before deciding to become a music mogul and discovering what it takes to be number one with a bullet.  When Chili Palmer (Travolta) decides to try his hand in the music industry, he romances the sultry widow (Thurman) of a recently whacked music exec, poaches a hot young singer (Christina Milian) from a rival label, and discovers that the record industry is even more dangerous and treacherous than Hollywood!

Film (4 out of 5 stars)

This sequel to Barry Sonnenfeld’s very funny Get Shorty was a long time coming.  The first movie took place in Hollywood and told the tale of a mob enforcer named Chili Palmer (John Travolta) who was tired of his profession and wound up getting mixed up in a situation in Hollywood where he ended up becoming a movie producer.  At the start of this movie, he’s already disillusioned with the movie industry and its reliance on sequels.  His friend Tommy (James Woods) tries to convince Chili to stay in the business and make a movie about him and the record company that he and his wife Edie (Uma Thurman) started but he’s unfortunately killed in front of Chili by some Russian gangsters.  When Chili realizes that the shooter is out of bullets he steps out to face him which allows him to identify the shooter which also marks him as a witness to the hit and a target for the Russians.
The prospect of being target doesn’t really faze Chili.  In fact, he’s used to people trying to kill him and always manages to remain cool.  He visits Tommy’s widow Edie and offers to help her with her music business and discovers that Tommy wasn’t the best business man and that the company was in trouble not only with the Russians but also that it owes $300,000 to a producer named Sin Lasalle (Cedric the Entertainer).  Sin and his gangsta rap group Weapons of Mass Destruction aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty despite their financial success.   They threaten Edie about the money but Chili is able to buy them some time to pay it back.
Chili has an ace up his sleeve as he has discovered a talented singer named Linda Moon (Christina Milian) who he believes can be a star if given a chance.  He convinces Edie to record her but the only problem is that Linda is under a contract by the very politically incorrect but hilarious Raji (Vince Vaughn) who likes to believe that he is black and even dresses and talks like how he thinks a pimp would.  Raji is so annoying that he would get continually beat on if he didn’t have Elliot Wilhelm (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as his bodyguard and his partner Nick Karr (Harvey Keitel) handling their business.  Nick barely tolerates Raji and shows him little respect while Elliot tries to be supportive of him despite Raji’s constant insults and abuse towards him.  Elliot wants to be an actor but Raji does his best to shatter those dreams since he doesn’t want to lose his bodyguard.
All of these stories collide when everyone’s interests become intertwined as the Russians keep trying to kill Chili, the gangsta rappers press for their money, and Nick and Raji become more desperate to keep Linda Moon under contract that they actually hire a hit-man (Robert Pastorelli) to kill Chili.  Chili has a plan of course on how to navigate all of this and a lot of the fun is to see how he avoids getting killed, getting Steven Tyler and Aerosmith to help Linda,  how he helps Elliot fulfill his acting dream, and how his relationship with Edie  turns out.   Much like in Get Shorty, there’s a lot of twists and turns in achieving all of those goals but no matter what happens, Chili will always be cool.
I loved the first movie and I loved this one too.  While I missed seeing Gene Hackman and Rene Russo from the first movie, we do get to see Danny DeVito reprise his role as Martin Weir.  While Hackman is missing, we do see some movie posters for Mr. Lovejoy (the movie he was trying to make in the first movie), and we also see that Martin has already made a sequel to Get Leo called Get Lost which are some nice nods to the first movie.  While I preferred Chili to be in the movie business since that’s of more interest to me, the music industry is also ripe for humor with all of its excesses too.  It all about images for them with Sin living in the suburbs  and trying to remain low profile until his gangsta posse including his main man Dabu (a funny Andre 3000) arrives at his house in a fleet of black Hummers .  Another good example would be Raji and his pathetic attempt to be something he’s not.
Everyone in this movie is very good in their roles but my favorite duo was Vince Vaughn and The Rock who both hit it out of the park.  Much of Raji’s dialogue was improvised by Vaughn and he is extremely funny in the role.  I don’t think there’s been a role with as much potential risk in it until Robert Downey Jr. played the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude in Tropic Thunder.  The Rock also took a huge gamble with his persona as he played a gay wannabe actor who has a tendency to sing songs written for women and to do monologues from Bring it On, where he plays both cheerleader parts.  I think this is the role that really showed his range as an actor and he even sang and danced for the role.  He can do action movies like The Rundown in his sleep, but this was the first time we saw a different side to him which was later emphasized in other movies like The Other Guys and his appearances onSaturday Night Live.
The only aspect of the film that I could have done without are the characters played by Uma Thurman and Christina Milian who I think had too much screen time.  With Uma being involved in this movie along with Travolta, it became too much of a Pulp Fiction love letter, especially when you factor in Harvey Keitel as well.  In fact, it almost becomes too self-indulgent to the point that they even do another dance together for really no other reason that director F. Gary Gray wanted to see them dance together again on screen.  That’s not to say that Travolta and Thurman don’t do good work in this because they do, but their story-lines felt like they belonged in a different world than this one and that when combined with the Linda Moon subplot with its extended cameo from Steven Tyler, it just went on too long and made you impatient to see one of the supporting cast which is a testament to the casting of this movie.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

The film’s 1080p (2.40:1) transfer looks very sharp and is a vast improvement over the previous DVD version.  Colors are nicely delineated and there’s a lot of nice detail to be found during close-ups and in the textures of the  character’s clothes.  Flesh tones are natural for the most part but they do occasionally get a little warm.  Black levels are suitably dark and the contrast is excellent as well.  There is a layer of grain present but it’s not too heavy and it hasn’t been scrubbed away which leaves it looking appropriately film-like.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

Be Cool’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a very good one for a comedy movie.  Usually for these kind of movies, they are largely front speaker only affairs, but Be Cool manages to utilize the rear and satellite speakers for certain scenes like the hit on Tommy, the crows at a basketball game, and the live performances by Aerosmith, The Black Eyed Peas,  and more.  The score by John Powell is well represented as well but I missed the original movie’s catchy music by John Lurie.   Dialogue is always clear and the music by This is a pretty dynamic mix and I thought it sounded really good for a comedy.

Special Features (4 out of 5 stars)

All of these extras have been ported over from the previous DVD release and they are good ones but I wish they had at least gone back and done a new documentary that allowed the cast to look back and reflect on the movie.  All of these are also unfortunately in standard definition except for the trailer.
  • Be Cool, Very Cool - A featurette that features the cast and crew talking about the movie along with a lot of clips from the film.  This is pretty good but I wish it was longer and didn’t have so many clips included to pad out the running time.
  • Deleted Scenes – Fourteen deleted or alternate scenes that vary in quality.  Some of them are entertaining and some of them were cut for a reason.
  • Gag Reel – This wasn’t as good as I thought it would be since most of the funny stuff was already included in the movie.  I really didn’t need to see repeated shots of a car stalling while Uma attempts to drive it.
  • Music Video: The Rock as Elliot Wilhelm, “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man” – The full version of the funny music video of The Rock doing his cowboy woman’s anthem.
  • Close-up: Dance Partners - A look at the dancing scene between Travolta and Thurman.  As I said earlier, this comes off as extremely self-indulgent and this extra just emphasizes that.
  • Close-up: The Rock – A short featurette devoted to The Rock and his great performance.
  • Close-up: Andre 3000 – A short featurette devoted to Andre 300 and his performance as the jumpy Dabu.
  • Close-up: Cedric the Entertainer – A short featurette devoted to Cedric the Entertainer and his performance as the refined yet dangerous Sin LaSalle.
  • Close-up: Christina Milian – A short featurette devoted to Christina Milian and her performance as Linda Moon.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars)

John Travolta is ably supported by an all star cast that proves to be just as good as he is in the movie.  While I loved the performances by Vince Vaughn and The Rock the most, everyone in the movie did a fantastic job and made the movie a lot of fun to watch.  If you liked Get Shorty, you will most likely enjoy this movie too and I hope there will be a third one someday!
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