Archive for February 13, 2010

Public Enemies

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 1933, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is brought to the Indiana State Prison by his partner John “Red” Hamilton (Jason Clarke), under the guise of a prisoner drop. Dillinger and Hamilton overpower several guards and free members of their gang including Charles Makley (Christian Stolte), Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff), Walter Dietrich (James Russo), Ed Shouse Jr. (Michael Vieau), and Harry Pierpont (David Wenham). The jailbreak goes off without a hitch, until gang member Ed Shouse, Jr. (Michael Vieau) beats a guard to death. A shootout ensues as the gang makes its getaway. Dillinger’s friend and mentor Walter Dietrich (James Russo) is killed, and a furious Dillinger kicks Shouse out of the car. The rest of the gang retreats to a farm house hideout, where crooked East Chicago, Indiana cop Martin Zarkovich (John Michael Bolger) convinces them to hide out in Chicago, where they can be sheltered by the local Mafia.

Later in East Liverpool, Ohio, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) and several other Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and East Liverpool Cops are running down Pretty Boy Floyd. Purvis kills Floyd and is promoted by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), who is struggling to expand his Bureau into a national police agency, to lead the hunt for John Dillinger, declaring the first national “War on Crime.”

In between a series of bank robberies, including a violent one at The First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana, where Dillinger kills an East Chicago cop, Dillinger meets Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) at a restaurant and proceeds to woo her by buying her a fur coat. Frechette falls for Dillinger even after he tells her who he is, and the two quickly become inseparable.

Melvin Purvis leads a failed ambush at a hotel where he believes Dillinger is staying. An agent is shot and killed by the occupant. After the man escapes, Purvis realizes the killer wasn’t Dillinger but was Baby Face Nelson and Tommy Carroll. After this incident, Purvis requests that Hoover bring in professional lawmen who know how to catch criminals dead or alive, including Texas “cowboy” Charles Winstead (Stephen Lang).

Police finally find Dillinger and arrest him and his gang in Tucson, Arizona after a fire breaks out at the Hotel Congress. Purvis arrives that evening and briefly talks with Dillinger; Dillinger tries to size Purvis up and manages to unnerve him with his talk about the agent Nelson had killed. Dillinger is extradited back to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana, where he is locked up by Sheriff Lillian Holley (Lili Taylor) pending trial. Dillinger and a few inmates, chief among them is Herbert Youngblood (played by Michael Bentt), carve a fake wooden gun and use it to escape the jail in Sheriff Holley’s Police Cruiser. Dillinger is unable to see Frechette, who is under tight surveillance. Dillinger learns that Frank Nitti’s (Bill Camp) Chicago Outfit associates are now unwilling to help him; Dillinger’s crimes are motivating the U.S. government to begin prosecuting interstate crime, which imperils Nitti’s lucrative bookmaking racket.

Later, Dillinger meets fellow bank robber Tommy Carroll (Spencer Garrett) in a movie theater; with him is Ed Shouse Jr., who wants to rejoin the gang. Carroll goads Dillinger into a bank robbery job in Sioux Falls, promising a huge score. Even though Baby Face Nelson is involved, whom he doesn’t like, Dillinger agrees. A shootout (triggered by Nelson shooting a cop outside the bank) occurs in which Dillinger is shot in the arm, and Carroll is shot and left for dead. They retreat to Nelson’s wilderness hideout in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, where Dillinger’s wounds are treated; the gang is disappointed to find that their haul is only a fraction of what they expected. Dillinger expresses hope he can free the rest of his gang still in prison, including Pierpont and Makley, but Red convinces him this is unlikely to happen.

Purvis and his men apprehend Carroll (who is still alive) and torture him to find the rest of the gang’s location. They arrive at Little Bohemia and Purvis organizes another failed ambush, in which several civilians are killed in the cross-fire. Dillinger and Hamilton escape separately from Nelson and the rest of the gang. Agents Winstead and Hurt (Don Frye) pursue Dillinger and Hamilton through the woods on foot, engaging them in a running gun battle in which Hamilton is shot and fatally wounded. Trying to escape along the road, Nelson, Shouse Jr. and Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff) hijack a Bureau car, killing several agents in the process, including Purvis’s partner Carter Baum (Rory Cochrane). After a car chase, Purvis and his men kill Nelson and the rest of the gang. Farther down the road, Dillinger and Hamilton steal a farmer’s car and make good their escape; Hamilton dies later that night and Dillinger buries his body, covering it in lye.

Dillinger manages to meet Frechette, telling her he plans to do one last job that will pay enough for them to escape together. However, when Dillinger drops her off at a hotel that he thinks is safe, he watches helplessly as she is captured by The FBI. An interrogator, Agent Harold Reinecke (Adam Mucci) slaps Frechette repeatedly to learn Dillinger’s whereabouts until she fabricates a location where Dillinger is hiding. Agent Reinecke investigates and realizes that he has been lied to. Once Reinecke returns, Frechette begins sneering that they missed their chance to capture him at the hotel, and that Dillinger will be very angry because she was mistreated; Purvis and Winstead arrive and angrily break up the interrogation. Meanwhile, Dillinger is meeting with Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi), who tries to recruit a uninterested Dillinger in a train robbery with his associates, the Barker Gang. After hearing about the massive reward, Dillinger agrees to pull the robbery and flee the country the next day. Dillinger receives a note from Billie through his lawyer, Louis Piquett (Peter Gerety), telling him not to try and break her out of jail.

Through crooked cop Zarkovich, Purvis enlists the help of a madam and Dillinger acquaintance Anna Sage (Branka Katic), threatening her with deportation to Romania if she does not cooperate. She agrees to set up Dillinger, who is hiding with Sage.

That night Dillinger and Sage see a Clark Gable movie called Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater. When the movie is over, Dillinger and the women leave as Purvis moves in. Dillinger spots the police, specifically Reinecke and is shot several times before he can draw his gun against the cop who harmed Frechette. Agent Winstead, who fired the fatal shot, listens to Dillinger’s last words. Purvis departs to inform Hoover that Dillinger is dead.

Later, Winstead meets Frechette in prison. He tells her that he thinks Dillinger’s dying words were “Tell Billie for me, ‘Bye bye Blackbird.'” The closing text reveals that Melvin Purvis quit the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935 and died by his own hand in 1960, and that Billie lived out of the rest of her life in Wisconsin following her release in 1936.

REVIEW:

When I first heard about this picture, I thought it was just a random gangster picture, then I found out it was about the John Dillinger, and it suddenly piqued my interest even more, although I’m not too familiar with Dillinger.

One of the things that gave me immense pleasure, is that none of the posters or any advertising for this film features Christian Bale, but rather Johnny Depp. Why is that you may ask? Well, I detest Christian Bale to the point of wishing him a very painful, torturous, elongated death. I realize that the film is about Dillinger, so of course Depp (who is the more talented, bankable star) is going to be featured, but if you pay all the money for Bale, you would think he’d get at least something, but no such look. Aww…poor guy…NOT!!!!

The good…aside from the posters, the story is very well told and executed. At 2 1/2 hours long, one could easily lose interest, but it never goes off into that overly dramatic way of telling the story. Just as it does, we get a shootout. Maybe that’s was the filmmaker’s way of waking people up? Speaking of those gun fights. I love seeing these gangster era gunfights. THere is just something about hearing a tommy gun fire off a few rounds that I just find totally awesome! Marion Cotillard adds a nice bit of eye candy, without showing much skin, which, in today’s day and time, is something to be commended. Her acting isn’t bad either. Just watch her interrogation scene.

The bad…Christian Bale didn’t die! I know, I know, that’s not how the real events played out and all, but I can wish, right? The little info that they put up on the screen wasn’t on there long enough for a person to read. Now, I watched this on DVD, so I had the luxury of rewinding/pausing, but had I seen this in theaters, I wouldn’t have been able to do so, thus ensuring frustration. I’m a pretty fast reader, so that I couldn’t finish in time  is saying something about the speed at which they took those things down. They make such a big deal about Babyface Nelson, but until a climactic scene near the end, you don’t really get/see him much. Again, I know this is about Dillinger, but it would be like if you made a movie about Stan Lee, you couldn’t just leave out Jack Kirby and the other writers and whatnot that helped him build Marvel to what it is today. In other words, there could have been more of Nelson.

Gangsters, tommy guns, set in the 1930s….everythign sets up perfectly for this film. I’m actually surprised that they haven’t mentioned this for an Oscar. Oh wait, it came out during the summer, and isn’t really dark. That automatically disqualifies it in the fickle Oscar voter’s eyes. Such a shame because it is more than worthy. Maybe if they had replaced Marion with Meryl Streep?

Seriously, though, this is an impressive picture. It delivers on everything it sets out to do, except I do think they could have told the story a bit better, but that’s more of a personal observation than a knock against the film. Watching this film, there is no doubt in my mid who the better actor is between Depp and Bale. There is no contest. Of course, Bale always seems to play the same character, just with a different voice, so we really shouldn’t be surprised. Should you rush out to see this? Yes, unless you’re one of those that isn’t into gangster violence or not a fan of Depp and/or Bale.

5 out of 5 stars

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Gamer

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In a near-future New York, mind-control technology has taken the world by storm. Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) has revolutionized the gaming industry with his invention of self-replicating nanites. The nanites colonize in the brain, gradually replacing the existing brain cells and allowing full control of all motor functions by a third party. The first major application of this technology allows gamers to control a real person in a pseudo community (much like current simulated worlds such as Second Life but with far more telepresence). Those who work as characters in Society are paid for their participation, unlike Castle’s latest creation, Slayers, a multiplayer, third-person shooter game. Slayers allows gamers to control death row prisoners in mass-scale death matches. Any inmate who lives through 30 matches wins a full pardon. Due to Society and Slayers popularity Ken Castle has become the richest man in the world. Simon, a 17-year old gamer (Logan Lerman) has control over Kable (Gerard Butler), the most recognizable face in Slayers due to him surviving 27 matches, far more than any other participant.

While Castle is interviewed on a talk show, an activist organization called Humanz hijacks the broadcast and claims that Castle will eventually use the nanite technology to control more people against their will. They form a plot to free Kable and reveal the true capacity of the nanite technology. Simon is offered the ability to speak to Kable in game via a Humanz mod and is later brought on board with the Humanz plan. After a stranger gives Kable a warning in his prison cell that the game’s mastermind plans to kill him, Kable asks Simon to relinquish control over him in the 30th match. He uses this opportunity to escape and successfully drives out of the deathmatch arena while news outlets report that he has been killed in order to cover up his escape.

Kable is taken to the Humanz leader (Ludacris) who explains that the mind control technology used on Kable and the other Slayers can potentially be used without discretion on anyone, leading to the extinction of independent thought. He also gives Kable directions to where he can break his wife out of Society, where she has been working as an avatar since his incarceration. Kable arrives and after a violent confrontation with security he manages to escape with his wife. He returns to the Humanz base where the rebels attempt to deactivate the nanite cells from his wife’s mind. Kable reveals to the Humanz leader that he was once a soldier and part of a program designed to replace the cells in the brain with new longer lasting ones, prolonging good mental health and life. His friend was the first to receive the cell transplant. Castle, the creator of this technology, decided to discover the true ability of the nanites and forced Kable to kill his friend, leading to his conviction for first-degree murder and subsequent death row sentence. The Humanz inform Kable that his daughter was placed in foster care with Castle.

Kable infiltrates Castle’s mansion and is confronted by Castle. He sends his guards to kill Kable, whom he defeats. Castle leads Kable to a room with a large basketball court. Castle reveals that his brain is 98% artificial nanites and that his are of the controlling variety while everyone else, including Kable and his wife, has the receiving (controllable) type. Castle then demonstrates this by beating Kable savagely while restricting him from fighting. Kable’s wife and daughter are brought out after it is revealed that most of the Humanz fighters have been found and killed. Castle then forces Kable to crawl to his family and attempts to force him to kill his own daughter. After a brief struggle of wills Kable manages to stop himself. The last two members of the Humanz manage to broadcast this confrontation and then bring Simon in control of Kable with the control hardware he used to play Slayers with. He interferes with Castle’s control and allows Kable to move towards him. Kable then persuades Castle to think about stabbing himself which allows Kable to stab him. After Castle dies, Kable requests for Castle’s technicians, who have been watching, to release him and his family from their control. They release them and depart, while walking uncaringly past Castle’s dead body. Sometime later, Kable is driving with his daughter and wife in the car down a scenic country road.

REVIEW:

 I’m not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination. The most I do is a daily dose of Madden or NCAA football. When it comes to playing regular games, I usually do those when I can actually devote the time to them. REcently, I just finished God of War. Excellent game, between but none of these instances are anywhere near the kind of  gaming experiencer you would experience in Gamer. That is something more akin to The Sims or World of Warcraft.

This film tackles a topic that we should all be wary of, especially with our society depending more and more on technology. True, nothing like this exists today, to my knowledge, but if its popped up in a movie, then it isn’t far of. I read an article the other day that traced many of our modern conveniences back to the the original Star Trek TV series. Can you imagine, though, if the government could implant us all with these chips and more or less tell us what to do, or what traits to have/not have when we were born? Talk about lack of originality!

The good…action…there’s lots of it, mostly with gunplay. chances are the audience for this film is watching it for that reason. Nothing against Gerard Butler, but it is good to see him back in an action flick. I was starting to think he’ gone soft doing all those romantic comedies. Michael C. Hall surprises as this eveil bill Gates-esque character who created these two games that are all the rage. There is this big guy that is in control of Butler’s wife in the Society game, and it is just a perfect stereotype.

The bad…I thought maybe they had come up with an original story for this, but it turns out they just mutated the Death Race plot. what I mean by that is that the stories are very similar, but they have subtle differences to make them different enough. WE never get a proper introduction to the wife, and just have to assume who she is. The whole Humanz angle and the introduction of the player seemed kind of takced on, kind of like they’re more if a subplot. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’d think they would’ve at least hidden that fact that’s what they were.

For those of us that have spent hours in front of a screen playing one game or another, this is a must see. Gamer covers everything from tugging at the heartstrings to the technical aspects of some high tech evil plot, to shoot-em up type action. What more do you want?

4 out of 5 stars

Return to Oz

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie’s plot is a combination of L. Frank Baum’s novels Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, sequels to the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

It has been six months after the events of The Wizard of Oz and Journey Back to Oz, and Dorothy Gale (Fairuza Balk) cannot stop thinking about the experience and her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. One night Dorothy sees a shooting star, and the next morning while checking for eggs from her hen Bellina, Dorothy comes across a key that she thinks was sent from Oz on that shooting star. Aunt Em (Piper Laurie) is concerned over Dorothy’s inability to sleep since her return and after talking over their money worries with Uncle Henry (Matt Clark) saying she’s got a loan from her sister, she sends Dorothy to stay overnight at Dr. Worley (Nicol Williamson)’s clinic in Cottonwood Falls to “cure” her by electro-shock therapy. When waiting in her assigned room that night, Dorothy is visited by a mysterious blonde girl (Emma Ridley) who later helps Dorothy escape from the clinic when she reveals that patients have been driven insane by Worley’s treatment. However, they are pursued by Nurse Wilson (Jean Marsh), and the two girls fall into the nearby river; Dorothy manages to climb aboard a chicken coop, but the other girl presumably drowns.

Dorothy awakens to find herself back in Oz with Bellina, who can now talk (Denise Bryer). The two venture across the Deadly Desert and upon entering the nearby forest, they discover a “Lunchpale tree” which confirms that they are in Oz. Exploring further, the pair find themselves at the site where Dorothy entered Oz the first time. She becomes suspicious when the Munchkins fail to appear to welcome her. She discovers that the yellow brick road is destroyed. Worried, Dorothy follows it all the way to the ruins of the Emerald City, which has been deprived of all its emeralds. All its civilians, including the Tin Woodsman and Cowardly Lion, have also been turned to stone. The Scarecrow, who was King of Oz, is missing. The city is policed with Wheelers, humanoids with wheels instead of hands and feet. They chase Dorothy and Bellina into a alleyway which seems to be a dead end, until Dorothy discovers a lock in one of the walls. Using the key obtained at the beginning of the film, Dorothy and Bellina open the wall and lock themselves into a small room, where they meet the Royal Army of Oz, Tik-Tok, a clockwork robotic man. After hearing his side of the story about what happened, the three come out of the room and make their way to explore, where they’re ambushed by Wheelers. Tik-tok takes care of the Wheelers and holds one of them hostage, allowing Dorothy to ask questions to the Wheeler about what happened. The Wheeler eventually leads them to Princess Mombi’s castle, who is now the ruler of the city. Mombi, who is a witch and has 31 interchangeable heads, explains that the Nome King was behind the destruction of the Emerald City and the kidnapping of the Scarecrow. She takes a liking to Dorothy’s head and plans to lock her in the attic “for a few years until her head is ready”. Dorothy snaps at her and refuses, an angered Mombie then takes Dorothy and Bellina to the attic, where they’re met with Tik-tok attempting to stop Mombi, but runs down at the wrong time.

When locked in the attic, they meet Jack Pumpkinhead, a friendly stick man with a pumpkin for a head. He explains that his “mom” created him to scare Mombi, he was to be destroyed when Mombi decided to experiment on him with her Powder of Life, which brought him to life. This gives Dorothy an idea to escape. Dorothy and Jack restore a wound-down Tik-Tok, who helps Jack build a flying machine using sofas, head of a Gump, a green moose-like animal and some broad leaves picked off a plant. Dorothy steals the Ruby key off Mombi’s torso to cabinet 31, the home of Mombi’s “original head” and the Powder of Life, but wakes up both Mombi’s head and her torso. Dorothy flees back into the attic, where they find the flying machine unfinished because of lack of communication from Tik-tok, whose brain ran down and started talking absolute gibberish. Dorothy brings the Gump to life and the group escapes on it. Mombi wakes up her army of Wheelers and they chase the group from the ground, only for some of them to stumble into the Deadly Desert and turn into sand. They give up the chase and return to Mombi.

After flying all night, the Gump begins to fall apart. Jack loses his head over the side and they later crash-land on the Nome King’s mountain, where they’re met with the Nome King himself. Dorothy is brought to the Nome King’s lair, slowly falling through the air, witnessing all the precious gems that the Nome King owns. He explains to Dorothy that the Scarecrow “stole” the emeralds of the Emerald City, and he only reacted accordingly.

The Nome King takes pity on Dorothy when she cries, with her defending the scarecrow by saying that the emeralds were already there when he became king, so he offers her a chance to set things right. One by one, Dorothy and her friends venture into the King’s ornament room, to search for an ornament that the Scarecrow has been transformed into. They each have three guesses, but if they fail, they themselves become transformed into ornaments, which he failed to mention because “they didn’t ask”. With each failed attempt, the Nome King increasingly becomes more human from his rock-like state. When it’s Tik-tok’s turn to guess, Dorothy and the Nome King begin to talk. He reveals that he is the owner of the Ruby Slippers and that it was them that made it possible for him to conquer the Emerald City. Suddenly, their conversation is interrupted by one of the Nome King servants, who says that Tik-tok has become immobile. Dorothy thinks it’s because his action’s run down. He allows Dorothy to go into the room to wind him up to take her turn as well as his. Before she goes, he leaves some words to tempt her to just leave and she’ll never have to think about Oz again (echoing the same mannerisms as Dr. Worley, earlier on in the story). When she walks in, she finds a room full of ornaments. Eventually, she finds Tik-Tok and goes to wind him up, but finds his action is fine. Tik-Tok reveals it was a cunning plan to lure Dorothy into the room by pretending to be immobile, so she can watch him turn into an ornament to give her some sort of a clue what type of ornament everyone is, but the plan fails.

Meanwhile, during the entire duration of the “game”, Mombi begins journeying to the Nome King’s mountain to inform him that Dorothy Gale has returned and was on her way to the mountain, albeit a bit too late.

Dorothy’s last guess frees the Scarecrow from his enchantment, realizing that all the ornaments that contain her friends are colored green, the colour of emeralds. Dorothy’s friends are restored one by one, except for Tik-Tok. The Nome King becoming less human with each correct guess and becomes more enraged. His anger eventually leaves him to trap Mombi in a jail cell and to take care of the group himself.

A giant Nome King attacks the group. He tries to eat the Gump, but they manage to save his head. Next, he tries to eat Jack, but Bellina, hidden inside Jack’s head, lays an egg which falls down the king’s throat, killing him. Before he dies, he explains that eggs are poisonous to Nomes (which explains why every antagonist in the film set Bellina as their first priority). As he dies, the entire building starts to collapse. After reclaiming the Ruby Slippers, Dorothy wishes for all her friends to escape the mountain and to restore the Emerald City and all its citizens.

They then find themselves in a peaceful field in the moonlight, accompanied by a trapped Mombi. Bellina discovers a medal on the Gump’s antler. Dorothy releases Tik-tok from the medal, stuck inside the ornament still.

The citizens of Oz celebrate Dorothy’s triumph and ask her to become the Queen of Oz, but she declines in favor of returning to Kansas. The blonde girl from the clinic, seemingly drowned earlier in the story, then appears in a mirror behind Dorothy. It is revealed that she is Princess Ozma, the rightful ruler of Oz and the mother of Jack, who was sealed away in a mirror by Mombi when the Nome King promised her 30 heads in return for Ozma’s imprisonment. Ozma ascends the throne of Oz and Dorothy is returned to her world, where she is found by Toto, Uncle Henry, Aunt Em and a small search party. Aunt Em reveals that Dr. Worley’s clinic burned down during the night and he died trying to save his machines. A jail cart travels by, with Nurse Wilson, looking suspiciously like Mombi, imprisoned inside.

The film concludes with Dorothy’s new house being finished. Ozma and Bellina appearing in her bedroom mirror, hinting that her adventures in Oz may not be just a dream.

REVIEW:

Most, if not all, of us are more than familiar with the story of The Wizard of Oz. I’m sure we’ve all see the movie with Judy Garland. Return to Oz is not an official sequel, but it does pick up a few years after the original. However, with the exception fo the ruby slippers, that’s where the continuity ends.

The good…this film was released in 1985, over 50 yrs after the original film, so a sequel at that time kind of defeats the purpose. I like that they didn’t just make this a sequel, but rather a whole different story with little hints at the story, but following more with the books. It makes the experience that much better. The Nome King sequences, as well as the appearance of his  right hand man, really are something to see, and rival that of effects you see today. I really liked that she’s more the right age, and that the characters look more ht way they are described in the book. It jsuts makes more sense.

The bad…let’s face it, this just isn’t that intersting of a picture. I didn’t fall asleep, but I did find myself looking at my watch more than a few times. I don’t know what it was, but something just made this thing not capture my interest. When I saw the name Henson attached to to film, I was expecting lots of fantastical creatures, unfortunately, I didn’t get that. The creatures, I think, would have made it, of course, there really aren’t any creatures in here to begin with, but I still expected something more fantastical. Maybe there’s something in the book that I haven’t read, but curiosity has the better of me, and I can’;t help but wonder how the Scarecrow became king of the Emerald City

A young Fairua Balk stars as Dorothy. If I wouldn’t have seen her name in the credits, I would not have known it. Wonder what happened to her? Actually, Tik Tok is the best character. I can’t help but wonder if Ke$ha used his name for her hit song, tor vice versa.

Sure I’d love to sit here and write a review that gushes about this picture, but I just can’t do that. Its not that this film is perfection, far from it, but its also not totally horrible. Just one of those pictures that doesn’t really do anything for me.

3 out of 5 stars