Mr. Baseball: written by Monte Merrick, Kevin Wade, Gary Ross, John Junkerman, and Theo Pelletier; directed by Fred Schepisi; starring Tom Selleck (Jack Elliot), Ken Takakura (Uchiyama), Aya Takanashi (Hiroko), and Dennis Haysbert (Max) (1992): So-so Fish Out of Water Learns From Others As They Learn Also From Him comedy-drama. The laughs mostly come in the second half. Tom Selleck goes topless for about half the movie and looks pretty good for a guy in his late 40’s. Lightly recommended.
The Equalizer: adapted by Richard Wenk from the TV series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindhelm; directed by Antoine Fuqua; starring Denzel Washington (Robert McCall), Marton Csokas (Teddy), Chloe Grace Moretz (Teri), and Johnny Skourtis (Ralphie) (2014): A revenge action-thriller lifted by the moody direction of pulp-auteur Antoine Fuqua (whose Training Day nabbed Denzel Washington a Best Actor Oscar), Washington’s quirky, OCD-tinged performance as a hardware-store employee with more specialized skills than ten Liam Neesons, and a very solid supporting cast in both sympathetic and antagonistic roles.
It doesn’t really resemble the 1980’s TV show (and Washington doesn’t resemble in any way Edward Woodward’s slightly foppish original Equalizer) until the very end, when it comes into full focus as an origin story. It’s the sort of relatively low-budget, low-CGI action movie that now seems refreshingly old school in an age of superhero slug-fests. Bonus points for using The Old Man and the Sea and Don Quixote in a respectful and surprisingly relevant manner, especially the former. Recommended.
Hot Fuzz: written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright; directed by Edgar Wright; starring Simon Pegg (Nicholas Angel), Nick Frost (PC Danny Butterman), Timothy Dalton (Simon Skinner), Olivia Colman (PC Doris Thatcher), Jim Broadbent (Inspector Frank Butterman), Edward Woodward (Tom Weaver), and Paul Freeman (Rev. Philip Shooter) (2007): Really, pretty much on my top-ten of all-time action comedies, and closer to the top of that list than the bottom. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright riff on everything from Chinatown to Midsomer Murders to Point Break to Bad Boys II to Harry Potter to The Wicker Man and many, many others in this tale of a big-city cop (Pegg) shipped off to a seemingly idyllic small town because he’s so good at his job that he’s making all the other cops in London look bad.
Nick Frost plays Pegg’s buddy here as he does so often, equipped with some ridiculous malaprops along the way. The lengthy, town-ranging battle that rages at the end sends up an almost infinite number of movies and TV shows while simultaneously being both thrilling and hilarious. The second movie in Pegg&Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (following Shaun of the Dead and followed by The World’s End) , movies which use many of the same actors in different roles while nonetheless featuring the ice-cream treat Cornetto at some point in each. Flash Fact: In Canada, we’d call a Cornetto a Drumstick. Highly recommended.