Archive for January, 2010

District 9

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 1982, a large unidentified flying object hovers above Johannesburg, South Africa. Reports suggest that the craft became stranded and dropped to Earth after a command module separated from it and was nowhere to be found. An exploratory team discovers a group of one million sick and leaderless members of an arthropod-like extraterrestrial species who are given asylum on Earth. Some of these aliens engage in criminal and destructive activities, which lead to demands from the human population for more control. As a result, the aliens, derogatorily referred to as “prawns”, are confined to a government camp inside Johannesburg, called District 9. The camp is secured and, with a massive police presence, soon turns into a slum. In the first decade of the 21st century, Multinational United (MNU) is placed in charge of policing and relocating the now 1.8 million aliens to District 10, a new camp 200 kilometres outside of Johannesburg. They use a private military corporation, headed by Koobus Venter (David James), to enforce the relocation effort with impunity.

Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), an MNU field operative, leads the relocation with the serving of eviction notices on August 9, 2010. During the eviction Wikus confiscates alien weaponry and “aborts” their eggs with a flame-thrower. As this continues, some nearby aliens are shown distilling a mysterious fluid into a small canister. One of the aliens designated as Christopher Johnson (voiced by Jason Cope), resists. While raiding the shack of the alien that was helping Johnson, Wikus discovers and removes the container, accidentally spraying some of the liquid onto his face, and his left forearm is injured by one of the aliens who created the container. Consequently, Wikus begins to feel sick and sees his fingernails loosen. That night, during a surprise party at his house, he falls ill and is taken to a hospital, where his left forearm is revealed to have mutated into an alien appendage. He is immediately taken into MNU custody. After discovering that Wikus can now operate alien weaponry due to his mutating DNA (the weapons being unresponsive to humans), they force him to test various energy weapons, including against a live alien target. The scientists then intend to vivisect him before he fully transforms, but a panicked and terrified Wikus overpowers his captors and escapes. Piet Smit the director of Multi-National United (MNU) lies that Wikus had sexual activity with aliens that causes him to become one of them.

He is then followed by symptoms of loosening of teeth, obsession to cat food and slow loosening of hair

Now a fugitive, Wikus takes refuge in District 9 and returns to Johnson’s shack. Noticing Wikus’ arm, Johnson reveals that the canister contains a fluid that he gathered over 20 years by scavenging, which would allow him to reactivate the dormant mothership. After revealing the location of the lost command module hidden under his shack, Johnson agrees to help reverse Wikus’ genetic transformation if Wikus retrieves the canister from MNU. Wikus then finds his skin loosening and inside is the body of a “prawn”. He agrees and tries to buy weapons from a local Nigerian gang. Their leader, the paralyzed warlord Obesandjo (Eugene Khumbanyiwa), abducts Wikus, seeking to gain his ability to operate alien weapons. Wikus finds an alien firearm and kills some of Obesandjo’s men before stealing a cache of weapons and escaping.

Wikus and Johnson break into the MNU offices and retrieve the canister, fleeing back to District 9. Johnson, having just seen that MNU is performing medical experiments on his fellow aliens, tells Wikus that he will not let his people be experimented on and informs Wikus that he will seek help for the other members of his species before curing him, which would take three years. Enraged, a selfish Wikus knocks Johnson unconscious and powers up the command module. Soon after takeoff, one of the craft’s engines is shot off by an MNU missile battery and it quickly crashes nearby.

MNU forces led by Koobus enter District 9 taking Wikus and Johnson prisoners, but Obesandjo’s gang ambushes them. During an intense fire fight the Nigerian gang captures Wikus. From the downed command module, Johnson’s son activates the mothership and an alien mechanized battle suit which frees Wikus. Wikus pilots the suit and rescues Johnson. Promising Wikus that he will return to reverse his transformation, Johnson activates a tractor beam in the mothership, which lifts the stricken command module towards it, while Wikus stays behind to hold off the MNU forces, managing to kill all of them except for Venter. Heavily wounded and in a much more advanced state of his mutation, Wikus crawls out of the wrecked battle suit to be confronted by Venter. His right eye remains blue-human eye and his left eye turns large-yellow alien eye. Just as he tries to kill Wikus, several aliens appear and tear Venter apart.

The mothership begins to leave as Johannesburg’s residents celebrate its departure. The last-known footage of Wikus is showing him crying. Those interviewed hypothesize that Johnson might return for the refugees or declare war on humanity. MNU’s illegal experiments on the aliens are exposed by Wikus’ co-worker Fundiswa. A series of interviews and news broadcasts show the aliens have successfully moved to District 10, and are said to have a population of 2.5 million and growing. Those interviewed also theorize about Wikus’ fate, hypothesizing that he may still be in hiding or captured by another government agency. Wikus’ wife reveals that, having found a small metal flower on her doorstep, she has hope that her husband is still alive. In a scrapyard, an alien with chunks of human skin still on its arm is seen crafting a flower out of metal.

REVIEW:

Someone said that this was a dark picture, but I wasn’t expecting this. Military abuse of power, forced evictions, lack of emotion toward living beings…what happened to humanity?

Another alien film where the military thinks they are the absolute, supreme power and that anything else is a threat. These pictures are getting on my nerves. Not because of the portrayal of the military, I could care less about that, but rather because these are all starting to turn into the same story. Maybe the next time there’s a big alien film, the government can be the corrupt power. You know, like senators, congressmen, etc. Oh wait, that’s how it is in life!

Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but I just didn’t care for the way everyone was treated in this film. First of all, we have the aliens who are being forced to leave their run down shacks in the slums of South Africa for tents in what can best be describes as a concentration camp. To further worsen things, when these people try to ask why they are being evicted, due to lack of a communication between them and the humans, they are beaten, or worse. As if that isn’t bad enough, the almighty corporation has seen fit to declare themselves the one that decides how much of the alien population grows or not. In other words, any babies they see are aborted, or burned. Don’t even get me started on the way “Christopher Brown” was treated while he was hostage. It truly is a miracle he survived that experience.

This should all be a big surprise, except for  the humans in this picture don’t even seem to care about their own. The gy in charge of making sure the evictions go smoothly foolishly opens some category and is sprayed by something that apparently turns him into one of the “prawns” (but somehow is actually fuel for the ship). I don’t really know how/why that happened but it does. As soon as it is found out he is changing, they whisk him away as if he tried to assassinate the President. His poor wife doesn’t have a clue about what is going on, and can just stand there looking. To make matters worse, they find out that he cane use the alien technology and force him to kill one of them in an experiment. This just isn’t right!

I also wasn’t a fan of the documentary style format this thing took. It is the same reason I don’t care for reality shows, The Office, or Parks & Recreation. The filmmakers may have thought it a brilliant idea, but it just seemed to kill the film. This could have been a genuine sci-fi treat, but instead turned out to be some sort of drama laced hate crime story using humans and aliens.

Don’t get me wrong, District 9 is not a bad film, but for me, it just has too many things that I don’t care for, which took away from the entertainment value. I’m not going to sit here and write that you should avoid this film. Far from it, I think you should see it, but remember that this is not a friendly little alien film. It’s dark and covers a variety of themes not usually associated with this genre. Personally, if you want to see something about a giant ship hovering above a city where the aliens mix with people and are scaly, wait until the end of March when V returns. I can say this about District 9, though. The filmmakers took some chances with this material, and it paid off as this film was pretty successful, but again, it just isn’t my cup of tea.

3 out of 5 stars

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Superstar

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Mary Katherine Gallagher (Shannon) is an Irish-American Catholic school girl and social outcast in a Catholic high school. She wants to be a superstar so she can get a kiss from Sky Corrigan (Ferrell). When Mary is sent to Special Education, she makes a new best friend, the tomboyish and equally socially-awkward Helen Lewengrub (Emmy Laybourne).

Mary sees her chance to become a superstar when her school promotes a talent show. She wants to try out, but Grandma Gallagher (Glynis Johns), will not let her. Mary tries out anyway, and when she goes to sign up, a stereotypical cheerleader, Evian Carrie Graham (Elaine Hendrix), gets in a fight with her. The fight causes Evian and Sky to break up, and now Sky is a “single hunk of beefcake on the rebound”. Mary is now determined to get in the talent show so Sky will notice her. When Grandma Gallagher finds out that her granddaughter got into the talent show, she finally tells the truth about how her parents died – they were stomped to death while performing in a Riverdance-like competition. This is why Grandma Gallagher is against her granddaughter performing.

However, Grandma Gallagher decides to help Mary do her act in the talent show, as long as she performs for herself. Mary and the other Special Education students spend days practicing. Mary wins the competition as well as Sky’s heart. When she kisses Sky though, she discovers he is a horrible kisser and chooses to kiss her friend Slater (Harland William) instead.

REVIEW:

I remember watching Saturday Nigh Live back in the early-mid 90s (when it was still funny) and loving the sketches with Mary Katherine Gallagher. I never thought, though, that she’d make a good movie.

Superstar takes the character from the SNL stage to the big screen, and quite successfully.

The good…this is a pretty funny, and at times corny/cheesy, film. A few reviews I’ve read about this flick have said that they didn’t connect with Mary Katherine or feel any remorse for her. For me, this was not true, though. Molly Shannon improves on her character, as one would expect, from the small to the big screen, and adds a bit of depth to her. I liked the fact that she was given a best friend who was just about, if not more, um…special than she. Glynnis Johns, best known as the mother from Mary Poppins, does a pretty good job as the grandmother, who apparently has a Broadway background.

The bad…well, there is the obvious rivalry between the nerdy girl and the cheerleader for the affections of the school hunk. Mary Katherine’s special ed class is full of interesting characters, especially the devil worshipper chick (you can just imagine what they could have done with her, especially since this IS a Catholic school). I’m not real sure what was up with the Jesus hallucinations, especially when Harland Williams saw the exact same version that Mary Katherine did. Something just wasn’t right about that. I know he works in mysterious ways and all that jazz, but seriously, they couldn’t have at least changed his clothes for his appearance to a different person?

 Saturday Night Live films haven’t exactly been the best, with the exception of the original Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World, and to a lesser extent The Coneheads. Superstar falls in the category of those that don’t suck. While not being a bane on the existance of cinema, it is far from being a well made film. It has plenty of funny moments, but the plot is paper-thin and just doesn’t work. Luckily, a strong performance from Molly Shannon keeps this thing going (having Will Ferrell as a pretty boy jock helps, too). Still, I can’t give this thing too much love. It just isn’t anything more than average.

3 out of 5 stars

The Italian Job

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In Venice, Italy, retired safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) calls his daughter Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron) and tells her that he is participating in what will be his final heist. John then meets up with Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) before setting the heist into motion. Their team consists of themselves and four others: Steve (Edward Norton) is the “inside man”, Handsome Rob (Jason Statham) is a getaway driver, Left Ear (Mos Def) is an explosives expert, and Lyle (Seth Green) is a technical expert. The heist is a success, but Steve betrays them all by taking the gold for himself; he kills John Bridger and leaves the rest of the team for dead.

A year later in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Stella is using her safe cracking expertise to break into vaults as an assistant to law enforcement personnel. The team has tracked Steve down, and Charlie recruits Stella to participate with the team in stealing the gold from Steve since she has the required skill and motivation. The team travels to Los Angeles, California to begin their surveillance of Steve’s house and plan the heist. Meanwhile, Steve attempts to sell his gold through a money launderer, but kills him when the launderer begins asking questions about the source of the gold. However, the money launderer is a cousin of a local Ukrainian Mafia boss, who subsequently seeks vengeance for his cousin’s murder. The team’s initial plan is to have Steve stood up on a date with Stella—who posed as a cable repair woman to get into Steve’s house and locate his safe—while the team would break into Steve’s house, load the gold into three Mini Coopers modified by Rob’s mechanical friend Wrench (Franky G), and use hacked traffic lights to make their escape. However, Charlie is forced to call it off because of a local party, which would witness the heist’s execution. To maintain her cover, Stella goes on the date with Steve, but he figures out her real identity. Charlie then confronts Steve and promises that he will recover the stolen gold.

Now aware that Charlie and his team are alive, Steve makes preparations to move the gold. He obtains three armored trucks and a helicopter from which to monitor the trucks’ transit. To counter the shell game, Charlie uses Lyle’s control over the Los Angeles traffic system to isolate the one truck containing the gold, which Lyle manages to find, and gridlocks the entire city. The team then steals the gold from the truck and escape in their trio of Mini Coopers. Steve and his hired security guards pursue them through Los Angeles, and the team manages to lose them all, except Steve. He follows Charlie, but falls into a trap: Charlie has already informed the Ukrainian that Steve is the man they want, and Charlie gives the Ukrainian a portion of the stolen gold. Steve is taken away by the gangsters, and the team split up the remaining gold and raise a toast to Stella’s father as they leave Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight. During the credits, it is shown what happens to each of the main characters afterward.

REVIEW:

If you’ve seen these little striped cars driving around, y’know, the mini-Coopers, this is the film that brought them fame and popularity. Personally, they are a bit small for me, but to each their own. However, they do play a pivotal role on this picture. I thought, initially, that they would be just a way of transportation, but turns out that they take up more screen time than some of the actors.

Again, I have to say that I detest remakes, but I have not seen the original, so I have nothing to compare this to, so, my opinion is strictly based on what I saw, and nothing else.

The good…look at the cast, Jason Statham, Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Seth Green, Mos DEf, and Donald Sutherland. At the time this film was made, Statham was up and coming, Wahlberg, Norton and Theron were settling in to mega stardom, and Green and Mos Def were realizing that they are best served ding comic roles. Having said that, this cast is phenomenal. The chemistry that exists really sells the story. The last 30 minutes or so, are nothing but pure action, which I love. Of course, I could have done with a few more explosions, but I won’t hold that against them. While the plot of the crime is a bit convoluted, it is impressive, especially when they pull it off…before the deception, of course. What’s even more impressive is how they use the same process to get the gold back from Edward Norton.

The bad…for an action flick, there is a severe lack of action here. As I said, the last 30 minutes or so cram it all in, and that’s fine, but what about the other 90? Save for the heist at the beginning and later escape and betrayal, there’s nothing but a bunch of drama that takes up the rest of the film’s runtime. I’m not quite sure what the deal with the Ukrainians was, even if they do play a pivotal role at the end. I guess if they got a proper introduction and some development, they would make more sense, and not just 3 scenes, total. Maybe it’s just me, but if I had a few tons of gold all marked with a distinctive design of a dancer on them, I’d be finding a way to get rid of that mark, so that they can’t be traced. Norton’s character seems like a real smart guy, so I don’t understand how he missed that.

With all the fancy gadgets and ways they these guys pull off the hesits and adjust their mini Coopers, one has to wonder how long it will be before some real crooks are able to pull this off. I guess if some major city grid is shit down and a massive shipment of gold is stolen, we’ll know, right? I really don’t know why I’ve avoided this film. I guess because I thought it was more drama heavy, as most films involving Wahlberg and Theron tend to be. For the most part, I was right, but I was also wrong. I did enjoy this picture, but I’m not in love with it. The entertainment value is there, but not enough to where I’m going to drop everything I’m doing and watch this again. Having said that, if given the chance, I’d love to see it now and then, but for me, it was just above average.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Big Lebowski

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film begins with a short voiceover introduction by an unnamed narrator (Sam Elliott) introducing the character of Jeffrey Lebowski as he is buying half and half from a grocery store with a check for 69 cents on September 11, 1991. The voiceover explains that Lebowski calls himself “The Dude”.

After returning to his apartment in Venice, California, the Dude is roughed up by two thugs who have broken in. They are attempting to collect a debt the unmarried Lebowski’s wife supposedly owes to a man named Jackie Treehorn. After realizing they were looking for a different person with the same name, they leave, but only after one of the thugs urinates on the Dude’s rug. At the instigation of his friend and bowling teammate Walter Sobchak (Goodman), the Dude decides to seek compensation for his urine-soaked rug from the other Jeffrey Lebowski. The next day, the titular “Big” Lebowski, a wheelchair-bound millionaire, gruffly refuses the Dude’s request. After craftily stealing one of the Big Lebowski’s rugs, the Dude meets Bunny Lebowski (Reid), the Big Lebowski’s nymphomaniacal trophy wife on his way off the property.

Days later, the Big Lebowski contacts the Dude, revealing that Bunny has been kidnapped. He asks him to act as a courier for the million-dollar ransom because the Dude will be able to confirm or deny their suspicion that the kidnappers are the rug-soiling thugs. Back at his apartment, the Dude naps on his new, stolen rug, only to have a new set of criminals burgle his apartment. The criminals knock him unconscious. Following a musical dream sequence, the Dude wakes up on his bare wooden floor, his new rug missing. Soon after, when Bunny’s kidnappers call to arrange the ransom exchange, Walter tries to convince the Dude to keep the money and give the kidnappers a “ringer” suitcase filled with dirty underwear. The Dude rejects this plan, but cannot stop Walter. The kidnappers escape with the ringer, and the Dude and Walter are left with the million-dollar ransom. Walter seems unperturbed by this turn of events, and takes the Dude bowling. Later that night, the Dude’s car is stolen, along with the briefcase filled with money. The Dude receives a message from the Big Lebowski’s daughter, Maude. She admits to stealing back the Dude’s new, stolen rug, as it had sentimental value to her. At her art studio, she explains that Bunny is a porn starlet working under producer Jackie Treehorn and confirms the Dude’s suspicion that Bunny probably kidnapped herself. She asks the Dude to recover the ransom, as it was illegally withdrawn by her father from a family-run charitable foundation for orphans. She offers him a finder’s fee in exchange for his services.

The Big Lebowski angrily confronts the Dude over his failure to hand over the money. The Dude claims that he made the pay-off as agreed, but the Big Lebowski responds by handing the Dude an envelope sent to him by the kidnappers which contains a severed toe, presumably Bunny’s. The Dude is enjoying a relaxing bath when he receives a message that his car has been found. Mid-message, three German nihilists invade the Dude’s apartment, identifying themselves as the kidnappers. They interrogate and threaten him for the ransom money. The Dude returns to Maude’s studio, where she identifies the German nihilists as Bunny’s friends (including her pornographic co-star Uli Kunkel AKA “Karl Hungus”). The Dude picks up his car from the police, and based on evidence he finds in the front seat, he and Walter track down the supposed thief, a teenager named Larry Sellers. Their confrontation with Larry is unsuccessful, and the Dude and Walter leave without getting any money or information.

Jackie Treehorn’s thugs return to the Dude’s apartment to bring him to Treehorn’s beach house in Malibu. Treehorn inquires about the whereabouts of Bunny, and the money, offering him a cut of any funds recovered. After the Dude tells him about Larry Sellers, Treehorn drugs the Dude’s drink (a White Russian) and he passes out. This leads to a second, more elaborate dream sequence in which “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition is playing. Upon awakening once again, the Dude finds himself in a police car and then in front of the police chief of Malibu, who berates and throws a coffee mug at him for disturbing the peace. After an abbreviated cab ride home (in which he is thrown out of the cab by an Eagles-loving driver), the Dude arrives home and is greeted by Maude Lebowski, who seduces him. During post-coital conversation with Maude, the Dude learns that she hopes to conceive a child with him but wants him to have no hand in the child’s upbringing. He also finds out that, despite appearances, her father has no money of his own. Maude’s late mother was the rich one, and she left her money exclusively to the family charity. In a flash, the Dude unravels the whole scheme: When the Big Lebowski heard that Bunny was kidnapped, he used it as a pretense for an embezzlement scheme, in which he withdrew the ransom money from the family charity. He kept it for himself, gave an empty briefcase to the Dude (who would be the fall guy on whom he pinned the theft), and was content to let the kidnappers kill Bunny.

Meanwhile, it is now clear that the kidnapping was itself a ruse: While Bunny took an unannounced trip, the nihilists (her friends) alleged a kidnapping in order to get money from her husband. The Dude and Walter arrive at the Big Lebowski residence, finding Bunny back at home, having returned from her trip. They confront the Big Lebowski with their version of the events, which he counters but does not deny. During this confrontation Walter accuses The Big Lebowski of not being a genuine paraplegic and forces him from his wheelchair, causing The Big Lebowski to fall and cry. The affair apparently over, the Dude and his bowling teammates are once again confronted by the nihilists, who have set the Dude’s car on fire. They are still demanding the million dollars. After telling the nihilists they know that they never kidnapped Bunny and that the Big Lebowski never gave him any money, the nihilists demand all the money in their pockets. Walter viciously fights them off, going so far as to bite off one nihilist’s ear. However, their third teammate, Donny, suffers a fatal heart attack.

After a disagreement with the funeral home director over the cost of an urn for Donny, Walter and the Dude go to a cliff overlooking a beach to scatter Donny’s ashes from a large Folgers coffee can. Before opening the can’s lid and haphazardly shaking out Donny’s remains into the wind, Walter remembers what little he knew about Donny, including that he loved to surf and bowl, digresses into a eulogy of soldiers killed in Vietnam, then quotes a line from Hamlet: “Goodnight, sweet prince.” After an emotional exchange, Walter suggests, “Fuck it, man. Let’s go bowling.” The movie ends with the Dude in the bowling alley and meeting the narrator at the bar. The narrator tells the Dude to take it easy and the Dude responds by stating, “the Dude abides”. The narrator briefly comments on the film to the audience, saying that although he “didn’t like to see Donny go”, he hints that there is a “little Lebowski on the way.” The film transitions to the closing credits as Townes Van Zandt’s version of “Dead Flowers” plays.

REVIEW:

Apparently, my man card has been null and void until a few minutes ago when I finished this film. Yes, ladies, this is not a film for you. No, there isn’t anything chauvinistic about it, but it’s just a guy flick. That’s all there is to it.

I’m sure you’ve all seen and/or heard many references to “The Dude”. Well, this is where those references originate from. More specifically, Jeff Bridges’ character of Jeff Lebowski.

The good…this isn’t your run of the mill comedy, but rather more of the Cohen Brothers humor where you have to think for a minute before you laugh. The story is excellent. Kind of has a cop chase feel to it, but not quite. Acting is great. These actors seemed like they really had fun with this one, especially John Goodman and John Turtrro.

The bad…if you’re not careful, you can get lost trying to figure out what’s going on with this thing. That’s not necessarily a knock on the film, but every Cohen Brothers film that I’ve seen has the same issue. Tara Reid’s character could very well have been a criminal mastermind behind everything if they would hav been a little more creative with everything, but instead she’s just some random “trophy wife” that gets allegedly kidnapped. For a film where two of the leads are obsessed with bowling and in the middle of a tournament, there was surprisingly little bowling in here. I’m just saying.

I think I’m going to start calling myself the dude and walking around in a bathrobe and boxer shorts. Nah, but after you see this picture, you’ll feel the need to mellow out and veg. The Dude’s way of life is that intoxicating. Now, this isn’t the world’s perfect film, but it does accomplish what movies are made for, to entertain and create and escape from the harsh reality of the world. For that reason alone, despite the total greatness of  the film itself, you should watch this.

4 out of 5 stars

Wholly Moses

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , on January 27, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Harvey and Zoey, two tourists travelling through Israel, discover an ancient scroll describing the life of Herschel, the man who was almost Moses. Herschel receives the command from God to free his people from Egyptian slavery, but Moses keeps blundering by and taking all the credit. Several other biblical stories, such as Lot and his wife, David and Goliath, and the miracles of Jesus, are also parodied in this story of the life of a man trying to follow the path to God, but somehow always seeming to lose his way.

REVIEW:

I am always looking for good comedies, spoofs, satires, parodies, etc. So, when a friend of mine suggested that I check out Wholly Moses, I figured, why not.

Apparently, this is one of those pictures that has cult garnered cult status, but I had never heard of it until my friend mentioned it.

If you like Mel Brooks’ films, then you’ll love this, even though it isn’t one of his works.

The good…a capable comedic cast led by Dudley Moore that takes the material to another level of hilarity. This film proves that it doesn’t take a bunch of fancy special effects and a ridiculous budget to make a good comedy, something that is forgotten in today’s Hollywood. The story is great, and sure to offend the insanely religious. Oh well, they can get over it.

The bad…Moses is mentioned in like every scenes, but we never rally see him, except for maybe twice. I realize that this isn’t his movie and all, but you’d think they’d have at least thrown him in there a bit more. Richard Pryor’s appearance at the end seems a bit out of place. Not that he gives a bad performance, it just doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the film. THe papyrus that Moore and Laraine Newman read in that cave seems very well-preserved for having been in a cave for 2000 yrs or so. What’s worse is that as soon as it hits the outside air it dissolves to nothing. I don’t know much about the mechanics and biology of ancient papyrus and whatnot,but something doesn’t seem right about that. 

Wholly Moses is a hilarious farce in the same vein of films such as Mel Brooks’ History of the World, pt. I. While it doesn’t quite measure up to that film, this tale is quite entertaining and had me rolling around more than once. Is it a must-see? I can’t say that, but it is definitely far from being a waste of time. If you’re in the mood for a good comedy, why not check it out?

4 out of 5 stars

Desperado

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

An unnamed man (referred to in the credits as “Buscemi”) (Steve Buscemi) walks into a bar. The customers are initially hostile towards him but he seems not to notice. He begins to tell how he was in a bar in another town and it was cleaned out by a man in black looking for a man named Bucho. This story openly frightens the men and the bartender (Cheech Marin) and his side kick Tavo (Tito Larriva), attempt to get a description of the man’s face. Buscemi claims to not know and remarks that he believes the man is headed that way.

El Mariachi(Antonio Banderas), the man from the story wakes from a dream about Domino, his love interest in the first film. He hears a knock at the door and lets in Buscemi. It is revealed that Buscemi is helping El find out where Bucho is. He tells El that he can find out where Bucho is at the bar he just visited. Buscemi asks El what he will do when he has his revenge. El simply states that it will be over. Buscemi then says he is glad. El remarks that Buscemi never had the stomach for that sort of thing. He replies: “Neither did you.” El then cleans himself up to appear as a mariachi and walks to town. He meets a young boy and teaches him to loosen his fingers when playing the guitar, despite not being able to use his fingers on his left hand due to the gunshot wound to his hand from Moco in the first film. Meanwhile, Bucho is apparently worried that “the man in black” is coming for him. He orders his men to keep an eye out for any strangers and buys a bulletproof limo. El then goes to the bar. The patrons are suspicious of him due to the Buscemi’s story even though he appears nothing like he was described (“The biggest Mexican ever!”) except for the black clothing. They hold him at gunpoint as they open his guitar to search for weapons that they were told were in the guitar case (“The biggest fucking hand cannon I’ve ever seen!”), but only see a guitar. They let him go, just as the guitar is revealed to be a cover inside the case to conceal his guns. They prepare to kill him but he ejects 2 hidden .45 ACP pistols from his sleeves and engages in a gunfight with the men. Meanwhile in a hidden room, several other men see the gunfight on a video monitor and Tavo executes the drug Pick-Up Guy (Quentin Tarantino) because they believe he betrayed them. El proceeds to kill all the men except the bartender and tries to question him, but he is accidentally shot by a man from the hidden room. They attempt to shoot each other but run out of bullets and try to use the fallen men’s guns but find that they are all empty. Finally the man finds one and tries to shoot El with it, but El snaps his neck.

He then leaves the bar, unaware that he is being followed by the bartender’s friend and associate of Bucho, Tavo, who is carrying two pistols in public. As he walks, he notices a beautiful woman (Salma Hayek) walking towards him. Her shocked expression at the man behind him warns El and he shoves her out of the way in time as he is shot in the arm, but manages to kill Tavo. The woman then carries him away. El awakens in a bookstore to see the woman stitching up his arm. She says her name is Carolina. He wants to go to a hospital but she says he wouldn’t if he saw them. He then asks where he is and she says it is her bookstore, but business is not very good. He then falls asleep from the painkillers she gives him. Carolina runs some errands and then comes back to the bookstore. Curious about his guitar case, she opens it to see the guitar, but it then opens to show his guns. She is then grabbed by El. She says she now knows who he is (“You’re that guy you always hear stories about.”) She doesn’t seem to be afraid of him. He then offers to give her one of his guns as a gift, but she declines. He then leaves to go to church, where he meets with Buscemi who tells him to get out while he still can, because that is what he is doing. El then follows and begins to argue with Buscemi, again unaware that he is being followed, this time by another man in black (referred to in credits as “Navajas”) (Danny Trejo), who has been stalking El throughout the film. He then tells Buscemi that maybe he should quit after all. Buscemi approves of this, but is then killed by Navajas’ throwing knives. El is then also hit, but only wounded and takes cover in an alley.

Navajas waits confidently at the entrance. Bucho’s limo, full of armed men and Bucho’s girlfriend, pulls up behind him and attempts to question him on who he is. He proceeds to kill several of them with his knives, but is then shot dead. El manages to escape without being seen and runs into the little boy from earlier, who wants to show El his real guitar. El follows him, visibly in pain and bleeding profusely. A car drives up and a man inside trades guitars with the boy. They then drive around the corner and see El. The man in the car attempts to pull a gun, but El is faster and demands the other guitar. They give it to him and drive away. He then breaks it open to see a packet of cocaine. He then questions the little boy who says that everyone else in the town is involved and most of the businesses are fronts, including Carolina’s bookstore. Enraged, El heads back to the bookstore. Meanwhile, Bucho’s men return Navajas’ body. He calls his superiors to ask for a description of the man they sent in to look for El. The description matches Navajas, but Bucho doesn’t let on that his men killed the man they sent. He then chastises his second in command for believing that El is nothing but a legend.

El, returning to the bookstore, yells at Carolina, angered at the fact that she is apparently working for the man who he is trying to kill, and that his friend is dead. She then states that she doesn’t work for Bucho, stuff is only dropped off and picked up from her bookstore and she is paid 50,000 dollars a year. She says she uses a little to keep the bookstore running and saves the rest in case she ever has to leave, but that once she joined she wasn’t allowed to get out. El calms down and lays on the counter so she can fix his wounds, but she promptly shoves him off behind the counter just as Bucho walks in. He questions her about if she has seen any strange people, but she states that she hasn’t and will call him if she does. El, behind the counter attempts to load his gun silently, but is unable to in time before Bucho leaves. He attempts to leave and follow Bucho, but Carolina tells him that it would be suicide and to wait till later. Later, while El is recovering from his wounds, Carolina gives him a guitar as a present. They attempt to play together, but are unable to. Carolina then kisses El, and they proceed to have sex in her bedroom. Meanwhile, Bucho calls his men in town and tells them to search the bookstore and if El is there, to kill him and Carolina by burning the bookstore down. The next day, El awakens while Carolina sings with her eyes closed, to see the silouhettes of armed men through the curtains. He proceeds to silently pull out one of his pistols and his sawed-off double barrel shotgun and trips Carolina out of the way as he fires and kills the two men. They attempt to escape through the bookstore, only to see that it’s on fire. They make their way to the roof, gunning down several men, only to find their way blocked by men on the ground. Carolina jumps while El fires at the men and then throws his guitar case across to the next building. Men then come behind him and he is forced to jump backwards off the roof while firing at the crooks. He lands, and rolls, unharmed. He then uses a grenade to kill the last of the gangsters. While hiding on the roof, El sees Bucho drive up. He proceeds to aim a scoped Wildey Magnum pistol at Bucho’s head but hesitates when he sees Bucho’s face, and puts the gun away. Carolina asks him why he didn’t shoot him. El doesn’t answer, and they take refuge in a hotel. El tells her that she can escape and use the money she stashed to start a new life, without El having to kill Bucho, but Carolina says that the money was hidden in the books that were burned. El then decides to call his friends Campa and Quino. They show up shortly after and follow him to a deserted part of town, where Bucho’s men find them. Campa and Quino reveal that they have special cases, too, Campa’s two cases being machine guns, and Quino’s case being a rocket launcher. They proceed to kill many of Bucho’s men along with Carolina’s help. However, Quino is killed by a gangster on a roof, and Campa is killed when he runs out of ammo. The little boy is also caught in the crossfire and is badly wounded. El and Carolina kill the last man, Bucho’s second in command, by running him over, and rush the boy to the hospital. With the doctors unsure if the boy will live, El angrily heads to Bucho’s ranch to settle the conflict. They arrive and find themselves surrounded, but Bucho calls his men off.

It is then revealed that El and Bucho are brothers; this being why El did not kill Bucho earlier. Bucho, however, angry at Carolina’s betrayal, tells El to put his hands up while he kills Carolina and that they will then be even for El killing his men. El, unable to bear another love’s death, ejects his pistols from his sleeves as he did earlier in the bar, and shoots Bucho dead.

REVIEW:

I guess I’m going backwards in this trilogy. A few months back, I watched Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the third part of what is often called the “El Mariachi” trilogy. Desperado is part two. I have yet to watch the original El Mariachi, but rest assured, I’ll get to it.

This is one of those films I’ve heard nothing but good things about and have seem bits and pieces of, but never actually sat down and watched the whole thing from beginning to end, for one reason or another until today. Although I pretty much knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed, I had no idea that I’d be blown away!

The good…two words…Salma…Hayek!!!! That’s it…I can stop this review right there. lol

Seriously, though, my obsession with Salma aside. The story is well written. You feel Banderas’conflict and want him to track this guy down and get his revenge. The little kid whom he takes under his wing, if you will, is an added element that initially I was skeptical about ,but given what happens to him, it makes sense. The gunfights are awesome and reminiscent of the good old westerns of yesteryear. This is a Robert Rodriguez film, so of course thee has to be lots of blood, but surprisingly, with the exception of one guy getting run over by a truck, there are no guts. I happened to like that. Certain genres call for blood and guts, while others don’t.

The bad…as much as I hate to say thins, Salma Hayek’s character crashed and burned, especially after she and El Mariachi had sex. What I mean by that is that when we first meet her she is smart and sexy, but something happens somewhere and she becomes basically one of those chicks that just attached on to the guy and screams at every little thing that happens to him. No, I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture about what happens to her character. They introduce this drug smuggling factor in, but never realy go anywhere with it, and after the one scene and a brief interrogation of Salma that leads back to the original plot, it isn’t mentioned ever again. To me, that seemed kind of pointless. I’m not sure what Steve Buscemi was supposed to be doing here, but his character didn’t quite fit. I’m not sure why. I mean, he has a purpose, but there is just something odd about a random white guy down in Mexico I suppose.

I have to say, with the past couple pieces of crap I’ve seen it was nice to see something that was actually worth watching. Desperado is one of those films that you just don’t want to end. It has a mix of old west flair and modern-day heroics and sex appeal. If you haven’t seen this yet, what are you waiting for?

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Fired Up!

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie opens with the two main characters, Shawn (Nicholas D’Agosto) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) making out with two girls and giving each a line that it is their first time with a girl. Minutes later they are chased off by the girls’ fathers who arrived back from working out. The movie then shifts to Nick and Shawn playing a spring football game at their high school, checking out all of the girls they will make their moves on next but are distracted by the female cheerleaders who are not very good. Later that night Nick and Shawn go to a bonfire party where they overhear the cheerleaders talking about an upcoming three week cheer camp, which supposedly will be attended by over 300 girls. The boys think is the perfect opportunity to get some fresh girls so they decide to go. The conflict is that football camp overlaps with the first two two weeks of cheer camp and they wish to attend the football camp after party. So they create a story about Nick’s newly discovered “real father” to get out of their football camp commitment, freeing them up to go to cheer camp. Their next obstacle is they have no cheerleading experience, so they seek the help of Shawn’s sister Poppy to get them on the squad. They casually show off their new moves to a few cheerleaders, impressing them enough for a meeting with Carly (Sarah Roemer), the head cheerleader. Carly is aware of Shawn and Nick’s reputation as womanizers and is against the idea of having the boys on the team. But after the cheerleader coach sees the boys’ “spirit,” she is forced by the other squad members to put them on the team.

Upon arriving at cheer camp, Shawn and Nick begin their usual quest for girls. Soon they realize that they are actually good at cheering, and they begin to really care for the other squad members. Nick is smitten for Diora (Molly Sims), who is the camp coach’s wife, who rebuffs his advances. Shawn begins to fall in love with Carly. He is soon disappointed when he finds out she is dating a pre-med student, Rick (David Walton). Nick and Shawn discover that Rick doesn’t like Carly but only stays with her to make his parents happy, and that he cheats on her. Yet, Rick is overbearing and comes between Shawn and Carly. Wanting to rid himself of Shawn, Rick finds the bus tickets Shawn and Nick were planning to use to leave cheer camp early and reveals them to Carly and the rest of the squad. He also reads aloud from Nick’s diary which includes poetic passages he wrote about Diora. The boys get kicked off the team but Diora tells Nick she loved it and to meet her after the cheer competition in the field to “read her more of his diary.”

Shawn and Nick take the bus to the football camp after party. While at the party, they realize that they no longer enjoy the drunken parties of their peers and they actually enjoyed being a part of the team, and that they want to be there for the girls and try to win the cheer competition.

The boys return to cheer camp and Shawn apologizes profusely to Carly and his inspiring speech gets back on the team. On competition day they have to go against the Panthers, (the best and cockiest team at the competition) and 27 other teams. In the middle of their routine, Carly sees Rick kissing the captain of the Panthers, so she and Shawn decide to try the “Fountain of Troy” which is said to be the most difficult and dangerous cheer move ever created and is “prohibidado” (sic). They complete it cleanly, but instead of doing a double back-flip like Carly, Shawn performs a triple back-flip and lands in a shallow pool of water. The squad believes he is seriously injured, but he gets up and waves only to fall over again. Shawn later wakes up on the grass with Carly looking over him. She explains they placed 19th. She admits that she believes that they would have placed it the top 3 and gone to State thanks to the perfect Fountain of Troy move, had it not been for whole pool accident which they lost points for. Still, Carly is satisfied as it is ten places higher than the previous year. Shawn and Carly kiss and Rick sees them. He confronts them and attempts to punch Shawn but Nick ends up taking the hit. Rick is then punched in the face by another cheerleader and he runs away crying. During the credits, Nick is shown meeting Diora in the field. To get herself “in the mood” she asks him to read from his diary while she strips off her clothing and makes out with him. Just as the two prepare to have sex, Diora’s husband pulls up in a golf cart and Diora runs off. Nick is then forced to cheer in the nude while the coach assists. More of the credits involve various outtakes, the last one leading into the rest of the credits with Nick and Shawn on the bus leaving cheer camp singing “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.

REVIEW:

I’m not really a fan of cheerleading movies…cheerleaders, are a different, story, though. I had initially planned to not waste my time on this, then a buddy of mind said that this was more about the guys and not real cheering stuff. In other words, it wasn’t another Bring It On (as if the world needs any more of those).

He was right, but it still wasn’t worth the nearly 90 minutes I spent watching it.

There are a few funny moments, and plenty of eye candy (its cheer camp, what do you expect). The lead actors, if their careers survive this, are destined for bigger and better things. They have talent. A couple of the cheerleaders also keep this film from going down the crapper, unfortunately, these are the ones that aren’t focused on.

Where should I start when talking about the bad things about this flick? Well, first off, while the story is pretty good, the script kills it with bad jokes and overemotion, especially for a comedy. I have a personal hatred for AnnLynee McCord. Something about her rubbed me the wrong way, so seeing her cast in this thing is a strike, as well. Molly Sims is wasted for most of the flick, at least until the credits. I don’t really understand why they would get such a talent only to have her standing around with a clipboard the whole time. Was there really a need for the token douchebag boyfriend? It was so cliché, and we all knew he was going to try to expose the guys.

So, what did I think of this thing? Well, I was surprised that I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. It was just one of those films to pass the time and possibly give a chuckle or two. Nothing more…nothing less. Chances are that by this evening I’ll have totally forgotten everything about it. There is nothing memorable about it, and quite honestly, it doesn’t surprise me that it didn’t do well at the box office or receive good reviews. I’m not going to sit here nd say you should avoid it like the plague, but don’t go out of your way to see it. If you just have a burning desire to watch this, then go ahead, otherwise opt or something better and put this on the “if I must…” list.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars