Contrary to the argument provided by one of my more "cherished" readers, the mere fact that a movie like Nacho Libre is doing well at the box office does not make it a good movie. Conversely, a movie not doing well at the box office is no indication that it is bad. Two recent DVD releases are proof positive that there are plenty of films that don't become huge moneymakers theatrically that are still good. You may have missed these films when they played in theatres, but now you have another chance to check them out.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang—After a long absence from Hollywood, Shane Black, the screenwriter responsible for such high-octane claptrap as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, returned as writer and director of this near-brilliant mix of comedy and action. A cinematic smorgasbord of pulp fiction and detective conventions, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a loving tribute to hardboiled gumshoes starring Robert Downey Jr. as a petty thief who, through a series of bizarre circumstances, finds himself pretending to be an actor pretending to be a detective. Downey and co-star Val Kilmer are at their best, as Black brilliantly and cynically satirizes the genre trappings that his earlier scripts embodied, trading testosterone-fueled bombast for tongue-in-cheek humor and witty banter, and delivering one of the most entertaining films of last year.
Running Scared—Here we have one of those movies you watch with dumbfounded disbelief. It is, for all intents and purposes, not a particularly good film. But at the same time, Running Scared (not to be confused with the 1986 Billy Crystal-Gregory Hines cop comedy) is a mind-blowingly entertaining bit of exploitation filmmaking brimming with blood-splattered, high-octane violence and just a touch of gratuitous nudity to keep things fun. Paul Walker stars as a bottom-of-the-barrel Mob stooge stuck with disposing of a gun used to kill a crooked cop. There are so many ridiculous twists and turns in this style-over-substance action thriller that you can't help but marvel at what's going on. One subplot comes so far out of left field it belongs in another movie, but at the same time steals the show. Running Scared is definitely not for everyone, but fans of transcendent schlock cinema will have a great time.