Friday, September 29, 2006

Chuck Koplinski Reviews "The Gaurdian"

The Champaign of Blogs warmly welcomes veteran movie critic/film buff and all around good guy Chuck Koplinski. This review was originally intended to run in the last issue of the Hub. It is being released here without edit. Other local writers are welcome to use this site as a means of publishing their content, as well. I am accepting submissions for review everyday, all the time. All writers will be given proper attribution for their work. There is no pay, but it's exposure, nonetheless. Here's to a free press!


The Guardian

Rated PG-13 – Running Time – 2:15

By Chuck Koplinski

I wasn’t present at the pitch meeting for The Guardian, but I’d be willing to bet that the idea of updating An Officer and a Gentleman was the primary focus. The old tried-and true formula of having a grizzled vet with a past shepherd a group of greenhorns through basic training has been done to death and while some films in this genre are better than others, Officer still ranks high in the memory of filmgoers though it’s fast approaching its 25th anniversary. Following the old maxim that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” director Andrew Davis and screenwriter Ron Brinkerhoff have scrubbed and polished this premise and successfully traveled where the makers Annapolis stumbled, delivering not only a rousing and exciting piece of Hollywood filmmaking but a moving one as well.

With Kevin Costner on board you’d think Davis and company would want to resist putting him on the water, what with his Waterworld track record. However, it proves to be an effective combination here as the actor stars as Ben Randall, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer who’s regarded as the best of the best when it comes to saving people in distress on the high seas. However, tragedy befalls Randall when his entire crew is lost during a rescue attempt and he, being the only survivor, blames himself for the misfortune. In need of a change of pace, he reluctantly takes on the job of instructing new recruits in the Coast Guard and, wouldn’t you know it, he runs into a hard head who, despite loads of talent, winds up bucking the system. Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), owner of numerous high school swimming records, is determined to breeze through the program that passes only a few but his hotshot ways have no place in this man’s Coast Guard and Randall goes out of his way to set him straight.

As you might expect, the recruits are put through a series of trials and then forced to perform under the most adverse conditions. Utilizing a handheld video camera during one training sequence, Davis captures the difficulty of their training as we see the actors straining while pushing a cinder block across the bottom of a swimming pool and being submerged in a hot tub that’s been turned into a cold storage unit among other things. This method as well as using archival footage of real rescue missions, some successful, some not, underscores the dangers of the job and serves as a fitting tribute to these unsung heroes.

Heretofore, Kutcher has been something of a cipher on screen but Costner makes him step up his game and he finally makes an impression. Though many knock the veteran actor, unfairly I’ve always thought, there’s no denying that he commands your attention and Kutcher is obviously aware of this as he takes successful steps to prevent being overshadowed. Credit Davis for instructing the young star to resist the temptation to overact and to compliment Costner rather than compete with him. Their scenes crackle not so much with macho posturing but with a degree of honesty that’s refreshing. This carries over into the love stories the two are involved in, with Randall’s marriage to his wife Helen (Sela Ward) coming to an end, while Fischer’s fling with a local school teacher (Melissa Sagemiller) blossoms into love.

While The Guardian may not get points for originality, it does execute its premise professionally and with gusto. That its action sequences are well-done should come as no shock with Davis at the helm of an $85 million film. What is a surprise is that he and his crew are able to pull of the movie’s stirring ending without it coming off as maudlin or cloying. In other film’s, the climax here would seem like an act of desperation. Here, it rings true because they’ve earned it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Beauty Shop EPK

A great video about one of my all-time faves, The Beauty Shop. This is featured on their myspace page, but I figured I'd go ahead and share it here for those who shy away from the social networking sites. You can catch them out at the Iron Post in Urbana on Oct. 14 at 10PM.

*UPDATE* The band's first full-length album, "Yr Money Or Yr Life," is now on sale for $10 at Exile On Main St. The band has re-released the album on their own, as it had gone out of print on Mud Records.

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