Del reviews ‘FUBAR’

Image courtesy of Netflix.

“FUBAR” Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Monica Barbaro, Milan Carter, Gabriel Luna, Fortune Feimster, and Travis Van Winkle. Directed by Holly Dale, Steven A. Adelson, Phil Abraham, Stephen Surijik. Eight episodes. 45-59 minutes each. Rated TV-MA. Netflix.

Del’s take

“FUBAR,” the new Netflix series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, should be funnier than it is. The problem is threefold:

1. Schwarzenegger still struggles with English, which means the sweet spot of his jokes comes and goes before he finishes bludgeoning his way through the dialogue.

2. “FUBAR” is not tightly edited, resulting in snappy comebacks that fall flat because they are not so snappy.

3. The script provides an unending stream of cornball jokes minus the self-awareness that made shows like the 1960s classic, “Get Smart,” so hilarious.

That’s a shame because “FUBAR” could be funny. It’s central conceit – that a father and daughter are forced to work together after hiding from each other their careers as CIA operatives – offers a degree of comedic potential. Given the right creators, “FUBAR” could become an action-comedy classic. Alas, that potential is currently not met.

Schwarzenegger’s character is Luke Brunner, a longtime CIA agent who is retiring after a long and violent career of making the world safe for American corporations. He hopes to purchase a boat (“It’s a ship, not a boat,” is a running joke through the series) and sail the oceans with his ex-wife (Fabiano Udenio as Tally Brunner), a casualty of Luke’s career. But his close ties with Boro Polonia (Gabriel Luna), a Central American thug who is trying to sell a suitcase nuclear bomb to terrorists, means Luke must saddle-up for a final mission to save mankind.

When he arrives at Polonia’s jungle redoubt, Luke discovers his daughter (Monica Barbaro as Emma Brunner) is also a CIA operative who is also working the Polonia case. It is from this point “FUBAR” embarks on a silly globe-trotting adventure, in the tradition of a Dollar Tree-style James Bond, as father and daughter bicker about their fractured relationship and the fractured relationships of those around them while they battle the forces of evil.

Iffy special effects, naughty language and well-worn points of conflict bring a level of tedium to the journey. Emma’s constant whining about how her father was “never there” for her as a child becomes an annoying refrain by the second act of the first episode – imagine seven more episodes of the same. It’s the equivalent of a 3-year-old pitching a temper tantrum in the cereal aisle at Kroger’s.

The supporting cast offers little respite. Luke’s wise-cracking lesbian No. 2, Roo (Fortune Feimster), is more vulgar than clever, and self-described “honey-pot” entrapment guru Aldon (Travis Van Winkle) oscillates from earnest pathos to plain-old dick with no consistency from episode to episode. Only Luna presents the same face forward and to be honest, earns a degree of empathy as the boy whose father was murdered by the elder Brunner and is hellbent on making the world pay.

“FUBAR” resorts to the goofy wisecracks of Schwarzenegger’s earlier efforts, including those of a certain James Cameron cyborg (or Harlan Ellison, depending on whom you ask), but again, the loose editing draws the venom from these bites. It all comes across as shopworn and a little pathetic.

There may be a second season of “FUBAR.” If so, let’s hope new writers will endow this series with the cleverness it deserves. Schwarzenegger is capable of being funny but it’s a specialized flavor of humor, one that plays off his size, bulk, and Teutonic roots. That isn’t happening at the moment.

I grade the current iteration of “FUBAR” as a C. It’s harmless, silly fun, but it needs an injection of actual humor, and its physical production requires improvement.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

Image courtesy of Relativity Media.

“Immortals” Starring Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, John Hurt. Directed by Tarsem Singh. 110 minutes. Rated R.

Del’s take

OK, Mom and Dad. Do not – I repeat, do NOT – take the kiddies to see “Immortals.” If you do, I suggest when you get home you immediately hide the family sledgehammer. Yes, in “Immortals,” somebody does something very bad with a sledgehammer. We’re talking back-alley vasectomy. We wouldn’t want the kiddies getting any ideas.

You might also want to hide the kitchen knives, any random chains you’ve got hanging around, pikes, swords – heck, just hide everything. Or better, do NOT take the kiddies to see “Immortals.”

Because it’s a bloodbath – an empty, silly, thoroughly predictable yet exquisitely choreographed bloodbath. Take strawberries, tomatoes, cherry Jell-O, berry-flavored Kool-Aid, and dump them into a blender. Leave the top off and hit the “on” button. That’ll give you a visceral preview of “Immortals.” Oh, and you get to clean up the mess.

In “Immortals,” the gods have won their war against the Titans, imprisoning them within a mountain. But a power-mad human king, Hyperion (played with vicious gusto by Mickey Rourke) decides he must have a WMD, something called the Epirus Bow, with which he may free the Titans and rain destruction on all of Greece. The gods are bound by law not to interfere in the matters of men (probably a part of Obama’s health care plan), but Zeus (Luke Evans/John Hurt) has been secretly preparing a human peasant, Theseus (Henry Cavill), to lead the Greeks to triumph over Hyperion. When Hyperion’s men slay Theseus’ mother, and Theseus encounters a virgin vision-seer (Freida Pinto, who doesn’t remain a virgin very long – oops, spoiler alert!) who sees his role in the upcoming battle, Theseus embarks on a bloody quest to avenge his mother’s death and make the world safe for Democrats. OK, maybe that’s stretching it.

If you go into “Immortals” expecting any kind of high-concept art, you’ll be disappointed. It is not “Being There” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Heck, it’s not even “Star Wars.”

Or maybe it is. What separates “Immortals” from movies like, say, “Transformers,” is that it does have a plot, albeit a predictable plot sans any pleasant surprises along the way. Director Tarsem has constructed a visual machine that performs its work with the ritual synchronicity of an assembly line at a Ford plant.

It also has lots and lots of flesh – pretty boys with perfectly sculpted abs and luscious women whose attributes, be they God-given or enhanced by prosthetics, suggest that life in the B.C. days had definite virtues.

But it’s the fight scenes in “Immortals” that make the movie worth seeing. If you thought Jet Lee, the Wachowski brothers and Quentin Tarrantino had mined that vein for all it’s worth, think again. “Immortals” carries the movie fight scene to an unprecedented and bloody apex, giving the viewer a slow-mo entrée to a feast of exploding heads, cartwheeling body parts and severed torsos, all of it presented in breathtaking operatic melodrama.

I recommend seeing it in 2D. The 3D version contributes practically nothing to the viewing experience.

“Immortals” is not for the squeamish. It’s not for the thoughtful moviegoer.

But if you’re looking for nearly two hours of escapist fun – and you’re not warping your children’s minds – you’ll enjoy “Immortals.”

Out of 10 stars I give it seven.

Mladen’s take

The film “Immortals” starts with a vision by a soon-to-be defrocked virgin oracle and ends with her glimpse of the future coming true. Between, the movie is filled with slick scenes of slaughter that only an R rating permits.

Immortals is loosely based on Greek mythology.

Gods, led by father Zeus and fearful of another internecine war with Titans, hope that a mortal becomes their savior. Theseus, portrayed by Henry Cavill, is nudged by fate and faith to fight against Hyperion, played by Mickey Rourke. Hyperion, a commander of vast legions, wants to free Titans to avenge cruelties that he and his family endured because Gods refused to intervene on their behalf. But, before Hyperion can achieve his desire, he has to fight Hellenes, and Theseus, defending the mountain where Titans are imprisoned.

As the heroes – Theseus and Gods – and antiheroes – Hyperion and Titans – edge closer to battle, Immortals tries to teach us lessons.

Theseus and his mother are peasants and abused by prominent members of the cliffside village where they live, so there’s a subtheme of class warfare.

Theseus, an unbeliever at the beginning of the movie, transforms into a man of faith. Hyperion, once a believer in Gods, scorns them. Guess which one survives the epic hand-to-hand combat at Immortal’s end? So, we are taught that those who bow to the will of Gods prevail and those who fail to genuflect, die. What crap.

Morals aren’t the strength of Immortals, but, I suppose, something had to be devised to bundle the movie’s virtue: gorgeous, stylized carnage.

Theseus sweeps through squads of Hyperion’s men with ballet-like precision, puncturing abdomens and heads with spears, slicing necks with swords, and, once, blasting them with electromagnetic arrows of the Epirus bow.

Though the peasant warrior’s magic with all objects sharp and pointy was impressive, nothing compared to the vivid gore that enveloped the screen when Gods or Titans warred. I’ll stop here to keep from spoiling the scenes, but wait until you see god Aries dispatch a half-dozen of Hyperion’s men in slow motion about halfway through the movie. The battle between Gods, who dress like sissies, and Titans, who look like corpuscular ash, is absolutely luscious.

Del and I saw Immortals in 3-D, though it isn’t necessary to enjoy the movie. The cinematography is bright enough, I suspect, to make Immortals very watchable in just plain 2-D, as long as the theater packs a good sound system.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.