Archive for Billy Zane

The Phantom

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Four hundred years ago, a young boy, the last survivor of a pirate attack commanded by the ruthless Kabai Sengh (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), is washed ashore on an island called Bengalla, where he swears to devote his life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice and in adulthood adopts the identity of “The Phantom”, a masked avenger. The role of the Phantom is passed on from father to son through centuries, causing people to believe in a single, immortal figure and accordingly to nickname him “The Ghost Who Walks” and “The Man Who Never Dies”.

In 1938, Kit Walker (Billy Zane), the 21st Phantom, finds the man who killed his father, the mercenary Quill (James Remar), searching for one of the ‘Skulls of Touganda’, possession of which grants the owner a tremendous destructive power. The Phantom seizes Quill’s men and saves the native kidnapped as their guide; but Quill retrieves the Skull and returns to the United States of America. In New York City, Kit’s ex-girlfriend Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) is sent by her Uncle Dave (Bill Smitrovich) to Bengalla in order to investigate claims that businessman Xander Drax (Treat Williams), Quill’s boss, is resorting to piracy. En route, Diana is captured by female “air-pirates” also obeying Drax, led by the femme fatale Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The Phantom, told of Diana’s kidnapping by Capitain Phillip Horton (Robert Coleby), rescues Diana and escapes to his headquarters, the ‘Skull Cave’, where Diana meets with Captain Horton and is returned to New York.

The Phantom then travels to New York in civilian guise to meet Diana. There, they locate the second Skull in a museum, but are captured by Drax and his men, who steal the second Skull and unite it with the first; thereupon to locate the third on a island on the Yellow Sea. Diana is taken there by Drax, Sala, and Quill, while Kit follows them as the Phantom.

On the island, Drax meets with the pirate Kabai Sengh, who possesses the third Skull; and both are attacked by the Phantom. Quill is killed at close quarters, and Kabai Sengh by falling into a pool of sharks. Diana, Sala, and the Phantom co-operate to defeat the subordinate villains; whereupon Drax unites the three Skulls and turns them against the Phantom, only to be destroyed when the Phantom uses the skull marked on his own ring to overcome the others. In parting from Diana thereafter, the Phantom reveals his secret and his double-identity to her, with implication that she will therefore become his bride; but she is conveyed to New York by Sala, who does not see him exposed.

REVIEW:

Not all superheroes reside in the realm of comic books. Some come to us from comic strips. Such is the case with the star of The Phantom. If you’re like me, then you know little to nothing about this guy. Hell, if not for some random (cheap) comics that were given to me when I was little, I wouldn’t know anything about him at all.

What is this about?

We start out with the origin of the first Phantom, learning how he came to be a crime fighter and all that jazz. Then we find out that he passes down the mantle to his son and the legacy goes on and on. After this brief introduction into the origins, we get right into the thick of things and learn of a major plot point involving the skulls of Touganda, mystical skulls of immense, unmeasurable power. As with all superhero films, there has to be a girl, and we get one here in the form of the Phantom’s ex-girlfriend from college, who has been sent to Bengali by her father to learn more about these skulls and their disappearance. While down there, she meets the Phantom, unbeknownst to her that he is really her old flame, Kit Walker. As you can surmise, she eventually gets kidnapped and has to be saved, all while keeping the villainous Xander Drax and the Sengh Brotherhood away from the skulls. Will they succeed? Will the Phantom save the girl? What is the true significance of the skulls?

What did I like?

Origin. It has been said many times and will continue to be said…origins take away too much from superhero films. They dispense with all that in first 5 minutes here. I actually would have given it a pass here. Unlike Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or the Hulk, The Phantom isn’t exactly a character everyone knows, so going into his origin would have been ok. That being said, the fact that they didn’t spend 3/4 of the film on his origin and went right into the story made this a much more satisfying experience.

Damsel in distress. In this year where the girls are actually saving the world more and more, it was a breath of fresh air to just have a damsel in distress type situation. Of course, this is set in the 30s, so that might also have had something to do with it.

Scenery. The breathtaking scenery of Skull Island is so beautiful that you almost want to watch it more than what is going with the film. Perhaps that is why they decided to use it as a montage of sorts while the credits rolled.

Action. The Phantom is very similar to Batman. He has no supernatural powers, but relies heavily on his natural abilities and the mythology around him. With a character like  that, you can just about imagine that we’re going to be getting some one on one fights, and sure enough we did.

What didn’t work?

Ring. In a very early scene, we see the imprint left on the face of Quill. For those not familiar with the Phantom’s equipment, this was a random shot, but fact of the matter is, in the comics when you were hit with Phantom’s ring, it left a permanent imprint on you. This was never explored in the film, or even mention. There was just that one shot that really didn’t fit.

Zane. I have nothing against the guy or his performance. He actually is a very fine actor and did a great job. Very similar to Jon Hamm, he has that retro look to him. I can’t pinpoint exactly what is. However, while he may have been a good Kit Walker, as the Phantom, he didn’t quite pull it off. I think it was mainly because of the constant smiling. From what I know of the character, he isn’t exactly the type to be so happy-go-lucky. Ay least he kept his mask on when he needed to, though. If this was released today, not only would this be a dark, bloody film, but he’d be taking his mask off every two seconds, just like The Amazing Spider-Man.

Reception. Two of my favorite superhero films were released around the same time as this, and received the same little to no reaction, The Shadow and The Rocketeer. I can’t tell you why those films, as well as this one were so poorly received. Perhaps people just weren’t ready to accept them for anything more than fanboy cult flicks.

The Phantom is a fun ride from beginning to end. I won’t say it is the best superhero film of the 90s, but it is close. The action, sense of adventure, light tone, and hint of romance offer something for everyone. I highly recommend this one, so check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

The Roommate

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) is starting her freshman year of college at ULA. Upon arrival, she meets Tracy Morgan (Aly Michalka), an avid party-goer, and Stephen Morterelli (Cam Gigandet), a drummer, fraternity brother and love interest. After a party at Stephen’s fraternity house, Sara arrives back at her dorm late at night and meets Rebecca Evans (Leighton Meester), her new roommate.

Initially, the girls get along very well and begin to bond. Rebecca learns that Sara had an older sister, Emily, who died when Sara was nine. She has a necklace of Emily’s as well as her sister’s name tattooed on her chest. She also has an ex-boyfriend, Jason (Matt Lanter), who keeps calling her to try to reconcile. As time goes on, Rebecca’s obsession with Sara grows and she becomes more disturbed. She tries to isolate Sara by driving away anyone who could come between them. It is implied that the night they met, Rebecca was sitting in the dark waiting for Sara to come home. Tracy invites Sara to a dance/bar club but leaves her there, who eventually calls Rebecca for a ride.

Later, Rebecca attacks Tracy in the shower and threatens to kill her unless she stays away from Sara (she even rips Tracy’s belly ring from her belly button). This leads Tracy, now fearing for her life, to move to another dorm. When Sara leaves her phone in her room while out on a date with Stephen, Rebecca hears it ring and answers only to find it is Jason on the other end. Impersonating Sara, she masturbates to Jason’s voice and then tells Jason never to call her (Sara) again.

For several weeks afterwards, Jason does not call Sara. When Sara’s philandering interior design professor (Billy Zane) kisses her, Rebecca seeks him out and seduces him, while recording their dialogue on a tape recorder to make it look like he was assaulting her. Sara, oblivious to what Rebecca has done, is surprised to find out the next day in class that she has a new professor. When one of Sara’s friends, Irene (Danneel Harris), invites Sara to move in to her place, Rebecca kills the kitten Sara rescued by putting it in a laundry room dryer and pretending that it had run away. Rebecca beats herself up to look like she was assaulted by a street thug while looking for their kitten. Sara, feeling bad for Rebecca, decides to spend Thanksgiving with her and Rebecca’s family.

Rebecca’s folks (Frances Fisher and Tomas Arana) are happy to see their daughter, who didn’t call to announce both of them were coming. During her stay, Sara overhears a conversation between Rebecca and her father, hinting Rebecca has had trouble in the past making friends. Later, Rebecca’s mother inadvertently mentions Rebecca is supposed to be taking medication. When the girls go out to a coffee shop, they bump into Maria (Nina Dobrev), who, it is insinuated, was in the same situation with Rebecca that Sara is in, before Rebecca met Sara. As they are leaving, Maria tells Rebecca with unease, “We were never friends.”

After Thanksgiving break, Sara learns that Irene has returned from a fashion tour. When Rebecca goes out to “draw at the studio”, Sara and Stephen find from her drawers a bottle of pills of Zyprexa. They found out that it is used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but, as the bottle is full, Rebecca has not been taking them.

At a club, Rebecca and Irene meet, the latter unaware that Rebecca is Sara’s roommate. Rebecca knows that Irene is attracted to girls, and seduces her, going with Irene back to her place, ostensibly to hook up. The last straw comes when Sara and Rebecca go to a tattoo parlor and the latter gets Sara’s sister’s name in the exact same place. Sara, shocked, runs off. She packs all her things, except her sister’s necklace, which she can’t find, and moves in with Stephen at his fraternity house. Later, Stephen and Sara find Rebecca’s sketchbook filled with sketches of Sara.

In the midst of all this, Jason has arrived at Sara’s dorm. He slips a note under her door saying he wants to see her and where he is staying. Rebecca, reading the note, poses as Sara with her sister’s necklace, the tattoo she got, and the newly dyed hair, goes to Jason’s hotel room, and stabs him to death with a boxcutter.

Eventually, all scenes converge when Sara gets a text from Irene’s phone saying she needs her right away. She in turn leaves a voicemail on Stephen’s phone telling him she will be at Irene’s place. When she gets there, she finds Irene held hostage by Rebecca with a pistol. She reveals to Sara that she was responsible for what happened to Tracy, the professor, Jason, and the kitten and that she did it all because she wanted to win Sara’s friendship. When Sara apologizes, Rebecca forgives her but wants to kill Irene. The two begin fighting, and Stephen arrives just in time to help stop Rebecca from pulling the trigger on Irene.

However, in the ongoing struggle, gunshots are fired, Stephen is knocked unconscious and Sara is left dangling out of the window several stories above the ground. Although Rebecca pulls Sara back to safety, Sara nonetheless reaches for the pistol to shoot Rebecca; however, the cartridge is empty. Rebecca, enraged that her so-called friend would shoot her, attacks Sara in insanity and attempts to strangle her. Sara reaches for a boxcutter and, saying, “You were never my friend,” (echoing Maria’s words from earlier in the film), stabs Rebecca in the back, killing her. She retrieves Emily’s necklace back from her.

Sara remains at school, and moves back into her dorm. With Stephen’s help, she moves the extra bed out of her room, proclaiming that she does not want a roommate for a while.

REVIEW:

Years ago, there was a movie called Single White Female. This film seems to be nothing more than a college version of that film, even if it is a remake of an Asian horror film (as most horror flicks are these days).

I really don’t need to tell you what the plot is, but for those of you that didn’t bother to read the synopsis up above, in a nutshell, good girl Sara starts college at ULA. After a party, she comes back to her dorm to discover her new roommate, Rebecca.

At first, they get along fabulously, but eventually the relationship turns sour as Rebecca begins to become obsessive about her relationship with Sara.

After Thanksgiving dinner with Rebecca’s parents, it is discovered that she is schizophrenic and also has bipolar disorder.

Eventually, they come to blows after Rebecca reveals all the things she has done to be a part of Sara’s life (seduce her professor, dye her hair, kill a kitten, tattoo of Sara’s sister, etc.). This leads to the film’s denouement and an ending that we pretty much all knew would happen.

As I said, there really wasn’t anything here that we haven’t seen before, and that is really the film’s biggest downfall. If you ask me, since Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester look so much alike, maybe they should have made them sisters and adjust the story using one of them as the jealous type or something.

The cast isn’t bad. I think it would have been nice to have more from Billy Zane and Danneel Harris’ characters. Also, is it me, or is Cam Gigandet in nearly every movie these days, and yet if he were to be walking down the street, no one would know who the hell he is.

The whole suspense factor of this flick was almost non-existent because of that, but at least the acting wasn’t horrible.

The musical score was quite impressive and the exact kind of eerie tones one would expect from a film in this genre.

So, what is the final verdict on The Roommate? Well, I liked it, especially the first time I saw it, when it was called Single White Female. If you’re wanting to know whether you should watch this, then I gotta say track down the Jennifer Jason Leigh version. There really is no reason to waste your time with this, unless you just want to see Minka Kelly or someone else that’s starring in this. This is not the worst film I’ve seen in this genre, but it ends up being nothing more than an average flick with some nice eye candy, nothing more, nothing less.

3 out of 5 stars

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