Archive for November, 2010

The Karate Kid (2010)

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on November 27, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother, Sherry (Taraji P. Henson), arrive in Beijing from West Detroit to start a new life. Dre develops a crush on a young violinist, Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han), who reciprocates his attention, but Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), a kung fu prodigy whose family is close to Mei Ying’s, attempts to keep them apart by beating Dre, and later harassing and humiliating him in and around school. During a particularly brutal beating by Cheng and his friends, the enigmatic maintenance man of Dre’s building, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), comes to Dre’s aid, revealing himself as a kung fu master who adeptly dispatches Dre’s tormentors.

After Han mends Dre’s injuries using fire cupping, Dre asks if Mr. Han could teach him Kung-Fu. Han refuses, but decides to go meet Cheng’s teacher, Master Li (Yu Rongguang), to attempt to make peace, but the brutal Li, who teaches his students to show no mercy to their enemies, challenges Dre to a fight with Cheng. When Han declines, Li threatens him, saying that they will not be allowed to leave his school unless either Dre or Han himself fights. Han acquiesces, but insists the fight take place at an upcoming tournament, and that Li’s students leave Dre alone until the tournament. The amused Li agrees, but tells Han that if Dre doesn’t show up during the tournament, Li will personally bring pain to Han and Dre.

Han begins training Dre, but Dre is frustrated that Han merely has Dre spend hours taking off his jacket, hanging it up, dropping it, and then putting it back on again. After days of this, Dre refuses to continue, until Han demonstrates to him that the repetitive arm movements in question were Han’s method of teaching Dre defensive block and strike techniques, which Dre is now able to display instinctively when prompted by Han’s mock attacks. Han emphasizes that the movements Dre is learning apply to life in general, and that serenity and maturity, not punches and power, are the true keys to mastering the martial arts. During one lesson in the Wudang Mountains, Dre notices a female kung fu practitioner (Michelle Yeoh, in an uncredited cameo) apparently copying the movements of a cobra before her, but Han informs him that it was the cobra that was imitating the woman, as in a mirror reflection. Dre wants Han to teach him this technique, which includes linking Han’s hand and feet to Dre’s via bamboo shafts while practicing their forms, but Dre’s subsequent attempt to use this reflection technique on his mother is unsuccessful.

As Dre’s friendship with Mei Ying continues, she agrees to attend Dre’s tournament, as does Dre her upcoming recital. Dre persuades Mei Ying to cut school for a day of fun, but when she is nearly late for her violin recital, which has been rescheduled for that day, she tells him that her parents have deemed him a bad influence, and forbid her from spending any more time with him. Later, when Dre finds Mr. Han despondent, he learns that it is the anniversary of his wife and son’s deaths, which occurred years ago when he lost control of his car while arguing with his wife. Dre reminds Han that one of his lessons was in perseverance, and that Han needs to heal from his loss, and tries to help him do so. Han then assists Dre in reading a note, in Chinese, of apology to Mei Ying’s father, who, impressed, allows Mei to attend the tournament.

At the tournament, the under-confident Dre is slow to achieve parity with his opponents, but soon begins to beat them, and advances to the semifinals, as does Cheng, who violently finishes off his opponents. Dre eventually comes up against Liang, another of Master Li’s students, who is instructed by Master Li to break Dre’s leg. When Liang insists that he can beat Dre, Master Li sternly tells him that he doesn’t want him beaten, but broken. During the match, Liang grabs Dre’s low kick and delivers a devastating elbow strike to Dre’s leg, along with a series of brutal follow-up punches. Although Liang is disqualified for his illegal strikes, Dre is incapacitated, which would allow Cheng to win by default.

Despite Han’s insistence that he has earned respect for his performance in the tournament, Dre convinces Han to use his fire cupping technique to mend his leg, in order to see the tournament to the end. Dre returns to the arena, where he confronts Cheng. Dre delivers impressive blows, but Cheng counters with a debilitating strike to Dre’s already injured leg. Dre struggles to get up, and adopts the one-legged form he first learned from the woman on the mountain, attempting to use the reflection technique to manipulate Cheng’s movements. Cheng charges Dre, but Dre flips, and catches Cheng with a kick to his head, winning the tournament, along with the respect of Cheng and his classmates, both for himself and Mr. Han

REVIEW:

 I don’t hide my distaste for remakes, as proven with every remake I’ve watched and reviewed, but I do keep an open mind until I’ve actually seen the film. The Karate Kid remake does nothing to change my mind about remakes. If anything, this was almost as much a waste of time as The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), which, coincidentally, also starred Jaden Smith, Hmmm…

For some reason, everyone thinks this was a good film. I’m not going to sit here and say it sucked, because it didn’t, but it is nowhere near on the level as the original. I may be slightly biased, but this Jaden can’t wipe the sweat from Ralph Macchio’s crane kicking foot!

Just because he’s Will Smith’s son doesn’t mean he’s got his talent or charisma, yet I think everyone was scared to give this film the review it deserved because of the ties to Will.

I will say that the scenery here is pretty breathtaking, and quite frankly, is the highlight of the picture. There really isn’t anything else worth remembering. Again, that isn’t my bias, this is just a boring flick.

In the original film, Daniel was a teenager, but here Jaden is a 8 yr old. Are you seriously telling me that an 8 yr old is going to beat you near death like that? I realize that kids today are such hardened killers and all, but come on! This just isn’t going to happen.

The young girl that is the love interst is actually quite beautiful. Maybe she’ll be the next Lucy Liu or Michelle Yeoh.

Jaden Smith, as I said before, is just not his dad. He comes off as if he’s trying too hard to not only make a name for himself, but also to make this his a franchise that people will remember him for and forget Ralph Macchio. It doesn’t work. Having him sing on the soundtrack with Justin Bieber didn’t help, either.

Jackie Chan is probably the best choice for the Miyagi-type role, but he just seems to be in pain the whole film. Sort of like he knows he can do better than this mess.

I have to look at this picture from two angles. As a fan of The Karate Kid, I’m offended by this charade of a film that does nothing but spit on the legacy. As bad as the fourth film was, it was still better than this mess. On the other hand, I look at this as a film fan and say it has its moments, mostly with the breathtaking scenery, but tis major faults are that a film like this should not be this long, especially with this little action. Do I recommend this? Not really, but I do suggest you check it out to make your own decision and comparisons.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Funny Face

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is a fashion magazine publisher and editor, for Quality magazine, who is looking for the next big fashion trend. She wants a new look for the magazine. Maggie wants the look to be both “beautiful” and “intellectual”. She and famous fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) want models who can “think as well as they look.” The two brainstorm and come up with the idea to find a “sinister” looking book store in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. They subsequently locate a bookstore named “Embryo Concepts”.

Maggie and Dick take over Embryo Concepts, which is being run by the shy bookshop clerk and amateur philosopher, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn). Jo thinks the fashion and modeling industry is nonsense, saying: “it is chichi, and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics”. Maggie decides to use Jo in the first fashion shot, to give it a more intellectual look. After the first shot Maggie locks Jo out of the shop to shut her up.

Jo wants more than anything else in the world to go to Paris and attend the famous philosopher and professor Emile Flostre’s (Michel Auclair) lectures about empathicalism. When Dick gets back to the dark room, he sees something in Jo’s face which is “new” and “fresh”, and which would be perfect for the campaign, giving it “character”, “spirit”, and “intelligence”.

They send for Jo, pretending they want to order some books from her shop. Once she arrives, they start treating her like a doll, trying to make her over, pulling at her clothes and attempting to cut her hair. She is outraged and runs away, only to hide in the darkroom where Dick is working. When Dick mentions Paris, Jo becomes very interested in that she would get a chance to see Professor Flostre, and is finally convinced to model.

Soon Maggie, Dick, and Jo are off to Paris to prepare for a major fashion event, shooting photos at famous landmarks from the area. During the various photo shoots Jo and Dick develop feelings for each other, and they fall in love.

One night when Jo is getting ready for a gala, she learns that Professor Flostre is giving a lecture at a cafe nearby. She attends, forgetting the gala. Eventually Dick finds her and they get into an argument at the gala’s opening, which results in Jo being publicly embarrassed and Maggie outraged.

Jo goes to talk to Professor Flostre at his home. Through some scheming, Maggie and Dick make it into Flostre’s home. After performing an impromptu song and dance for Flostre’s disciples, they confront Jo and Flostre. This eventually leads to Dick causing Flostre to fall and knock himself out. Jo urges them to leave. When Flostre wakes up, he tries to make a pass at Jo. Shocked at the behavior of her “idol”, she smashes a vase over his head and runs out.

Before the group leaves for home, there is a final fashion show. Jo and Maggie try to get in touch with Dick, who has made plans to leave Paris. Jo does the runway show and before her wedding gown finale, she looks out the window and sees the plane Dick was supposed to be on, take off. Heartbroken, she runs off the runway in tears at the conclusion of the show.

Meanwhile, Dick is at the airport. He runs into Flostre and learns that Jo bashed him on the head with a vase. Dick, realizing how much he cares, goes back to find Jo. He goes back to the runway show, only to find that Jo is nowhere to be found. Finally, after a long search, Dick finds Jo (in the wedding gown) by a little church where they shared a romantic moment during the photo shoot. They embrace and kiss

REVIEW:

 One of the most romantic musical comedies to ever grace the stage and screen, and yet this is the first time I’ve ever watched it. Was I impressed, not really, but that is more to do with overhype than a knock on this film.

Funny Face is another vehicle for the immortal Fred Astaire to show off his fancy dancing skills and for audiences to stare in awe of Audrey Hepburn’s timeless beauty.

As with every other musical I’ve watched, the most important thing to ask is are the song’s memorable. Well, with a predominantly Gershwin score, one would think so. However, even in 1957, this wasn’t good enough for Hollywood, and they just had to add stuff in. Ironically, the added songs are the least memorable.

Any film that features Fred Astaire is sure to have at least one breathtaking dance sequence, and this is no exception. I do wish we would have gotten more, though.

As far as the acting goes, it is a bit up and down. Kathryn Hepburn is great, but she seems a bit out of her element. I can’t really tell why. Maybe she was just intimidated by being the presence of Astaire.

Speaking of Astaire, as great a performer as he is, I sort of felt he was too old for this role. It kid of had that creepy old man hitting on the school girl vibe.

The story is great, but then if it wasn’t would this be such a memorable play and musical?

Funny Face is a feel-good film. Is it the best musical? No, but it is surely worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of both musicals and classic cinema. I wish this would have been a bit more faithful to the Broadway show, but beggars can’t be choosy, right? This is definitely a must-see for everyone, so go see it!

4 out of 5 stars

Norbit

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Norbit Albert Rice (Eddie Murphy) and Kate Thomas (Thandie Newton) were the best of friends in an orphanage as children owned by their father figure, Mr. Wong (Eddie Murphy), but were separated when Kate was adopted. After being bullied by twins in the orphanage, Norbit meets Rasputia Latimore (Eddie Murphy), a fat, self-centered, overbearing, vain girl who makes Norbit her boyfriend and protects him from other kids. As they both grow up, Rasputia dominates every aspect of Norbit’s life and they eventually marry. Rasputia mistreats, insults, and dominates Norbit to ensure that she keeps him to herself.

Years later, Norbit is performing a puppet show for the children at the orphanage when he sees Kate for the first time in years. Stunned by her, his affection for her returns. He is disappointed to find out that she is engaged to Deion Hughes (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), a sneaky, slick-talking businessman. Eventually, Kate and Norbit fall in love with each other, resulting from Kate teaching Norbit how to finally ride a bike.

Rasputia finds out about Norbit and Kate’s affection for each other and tries to prevent Norbit from talking to her. Things become more complicated when Norbit uncovers a plan by the Latimore brothers, Black Jack, Earl, and Blue (Terry Crews, Clifton Powell and Lester “Rasta” Speight, respectively), who wish to purchase Kate and Norbit’s former orphanage to open up a strip club. The brothers convince Deion to become their business partner in the venture. When Kate finds out about the deal she assumes Norbit was behind it all and only used her. When she confronts him after he is locked in the basement by a resentful Rasputia, Norbit lies to Kate to save her from Rasputia. In a fit of rage, Kate leaves Norbit to marry Deion.

Norbit escapes his confinement in the basement, and races to the church where Deion and Kate are to be married. Norbit reveals that Deion has gotten rich off of divorce settlements, and only marries women for their money; he proves this by presenting Deion’s ex-wives and children in person. Deion flees, and the Latimores attack Norbit.

Just as the brothers prepare to kill Norbit, the mob of townspeople arrive, who have all taken arms to defend Norbit and get revenge on the Latimores. Rasputia fights her way through the crowd, and just when Rasputia is about to kill Norbit, she is harpooned in the rear by Mr. Wong. She is chased out of town with her brothers and Deion, who are chased by the mob of townspeople.

Kate and Norbit buy the orphanage and get married under the tree that they once played as children. Rasputia and her brothers move to Mexico and open up the “El Nipplopolis” with Rasputia, who has become their most popular and lucrative stripper.

REVIEW:

 I could sit here and say that this was hands down one of the worst films I’d ever seen, but the truth is, Norbit really isn’t half as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Having said that, this is still far from being a good film.

The biggest thing this film has going for it, aside from negative publicity, is that it can be seen as extremely offensive to those that are…on the larger side.

This thing keeps with the fat jokes, but aside from the initial joke, it gets old quick. If they really wanted to keep up with the fat jokes, then they should take a page from Mike & Molly and sprinkle on in here and there. At least on that show, it isn’t offensive. Hell, I was getting offended watching this mess, especially the scene at the water park. I know that was supposed to be for comedic effect, which is all fine and dandy, but this was just uncalled for.

Anyone remember when Eddie Murphy actually made movies that were funny? I think the last one might have been the 2nd Nutty Professor. I wonder where his comedic talent went. This film shows he has it now and then, but it is sort of like a light that is about to go out.

Murphy seems desperate with this film. This may explain why he cakes on the makeup to play Norbit, who seems to be Murphy’s version of an Adam Sandler character, Rasputia, and Mr. Wong. I’m sorry, I know that the makeup was a huge thing when he first did it, but now it has been done so much, that it just isn’t funny anymore. Of course, this script/story may have ha something to do with that.

If there is a bright spot to this film it is the acting of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and the lovely Thandie Newton. Gooding is your generic douche boyfriend, but he does it as only he can. Newton is a vision of loveliness. I have to wonder, though, if she was cast for her stick figure frame, as a contrast to Rasputia. Aside from being breathtakingly beautiful, she really makes the audience believe her performance.

Another bright spot was the pimps, played by Eddie Griffin and Katt Williams. Do I really need to say anything else? These guys are hilarious (something Murphy used to be).

Sure, Norbit has been panned by critics and moviegoers alike, but it really isn’t as bad as they would have you belive. Don’t get me wrong, this thing is bad, but there is some heart buried underneath all the fat jokes and Murphy’s makeup. I am hesitant to do this, but I do think you should check it out, if for no other reason than to make an informed decision for yourself.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Tron

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a young and gifted software engineer who works for the software corporation ENCOM, creating several video games on the company’s mainframe after hours, aiming to start his own game company. However, another programmer named Ed Dillinger (David Warner) locks Flynn out of the system and presents Flynn’s work as his own. Dillinger earns himself a series of executive promotions, while Flynn is relegated to opening a video game arcade, featuring the games that he created. From then to the present, Flynn tries to hack into the ENCOM mainframe to find evidence of Dillinger’s wrongdoing, but his program, Clu, is caught and erased by the Master Control Program (MCP), an artificial intelligence running on the ENCOM computer system.

The MCP, with Dillinger’s authorization, shuts down access to the security group Flynn is using, inadvertently locking out another ENCOM employee, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner). Alan goes to speak to Dillinger and reveals that he was working on a security program, Tron, which would monitor communications between the MCP and the outside world. After Alan leaves, the MCP confronts Dillinger about this, stating that it cannot afford to have programs monitoring it. It reveals its intention to break into the Pentagon and other military mainframes, claiming it can run things “900 to 1200 times better than any human.” When Dillinger attempts to assert his authority, the MCP essentially blackmails him into complying with its wishes.

Meanwhile, Alan and his girlfriend, Dr. Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan), go to warn Flynn that he has been noticed. Explaining what happened, Flynn convinces them to sneak him into ENCOM’s laser laboratory, where he can access the mainframe via a different security group. Lora, who has been developing a method of digitizing real objects into the computer, sets Flynn down at her terminal in the laser lab, where a laser is pointed directly at the terminal. As Flynn attempts to break into the system, he is confronted by the MCP, who takes control of the laser and suddenly digitizes Flynn into the ENCOM mainframe. Flynn finds himself standing in the digital world, where Programs resemble their human creators, the Users.

Flynn is taken first to a holding pit, where he meets the Program RAM, then is taken with a number of other Programs to meet Sark, a Program that resembles Dillinger. Sark informs everyone that they can either renounce their belief in the Users and join the MCP, or be forced to play games that will result in their eventual elimination. Despite Sark’s misgivings over harming Flynn (who he knows to be a User rather than a Program), he is forced into compliance by the MCP and compels Flynn to play a game against another Program. Flynn emerges victorious, but is horrified when Sark “de-rezzes” his opponent.

Flynn eventually meets Tron (Alan’s Program), and he, Tron and Ram escape from the Light Cycle arena into the system, prompting Sark to send out his forces in pursuit. Eventually, a tank fires at the group, killing Ram and separating Flynn and Tron. While continuing to follow Tron, Flynn gradually discovers that as a User he possesses god-like powers within the computer dimension, enabling him to manipulate its ‘physical’ laws at will.

Tron makes his way to an input-output tower, where he receives instructions from Alan on how to destroy the MCP. He then makes a getaway aboard a Solar Sailer simulation with the help of Yori (Lora’s Program), and is reunited with Flynn, who is disguised as one of Sark’s forces. At this point, Flynn reveals that he is actually a User. Moments later, Sark’s ship collides with the Solar Sailer, destroying it and capturing Flynn and Yori. While Tron is believed to have been killed in the collision, he in fact escapes aboard Sark’s shuttle (the command line), which flies down to land next to the MCP’s core. Sark de-rezzes his command ship, but Flynn manages to keep it and Yori alive, and they pilot the ship toward the MCP.

The MCP has gathered a number of Programs and tells them that they will become a part of it. Sensing Tron’s presence nearby, the MCP sends Sark out to investigate, resulting in a battle between the two Programs. Tron gains the upper hand and severely damages Sark. In seeming desperation, the MCP transfers its functions to Sark, causing him to grow to enormous size. Tron begins attacking the MCP directly, but his attacks are blocked by a shield. Flynn then jumps into the MCP’s core to distract it long enough for Tron to throw his disc into the core. This destroys both the MCP and Sark and frees the system. All the backed-up I/O requests with the outside world start flowing freely again, including the I/O request to return Flynn back to the real world. Flynn is sent back to the terminal in ENCOM’s laser lab, where a nearby printer is finally printing his Priority One request for the evidence he needs to prove Dillinger’s piracy.

Dillinger comes into work the next morning to find the MCP non-functional and the same evidence displayed on his screen. Flynn later becomes the new CEO of ENCOM.

REVIEW:

With the forthcoming Tron:Legacy, I figured it would be a good time to watch the original Tron and catch up.

Now, I’m sure there are more than a handful of you out there that want to sit there and say that the graphics in this thing are subpar and outdated. Say what you will, but remember that this was released in 1982, and for that time they were cutting edge.

If you’re going to make a film about the inside of a computer, then obviously, the scenery and special effects are going to be the thing that really makes your picture. Tron does not disappointing in that department.

Each of these sets is amazing, but my favorite had to be the light cycle race. I’m not a fan of racing, by any means, but if you were to put something like that on as a real sport, I’d be there with bells on.

The plot to this film is a bit flimsy, or maybe it is just that it wasn’t really well executed. I’m not sure, but for some reason I just couldn’t seem to really follow it. I know what the basic premise is, but how it all comes together is still, after as many times as I’ve watched this film over the years, a mystery.

Be honest, are you really watching a film like this for the acting? However, if you must know, the acting ok. Nothing special, but I blame the script. It didn’t do them any favors.

Tron is one of the greatest, yet underrated sci-fi films of the 80s. It is often overshadowed by the holy trilogy and other films of the like that came out during this time, but it is more than capable of holding its own against those juggernauts.

Should you take the time to check this out? Well, duh! Seriously, though, yes you should. Especially if you plan on seeing the sequel that comes out in the next couple of weeks. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Riding a camel-drawn wagon across the Australian desert, Max (Mel Gibson) is attacked by a pilot flying a Transavia PL-12 Airtruk, who manages to steal his belongings and his vehicle. Max continues on foot and finally stumbles upon the only nearby human outpost in the wasteland that remains—the seedy community of Bartertown, founded and nominally run by the ruthless Aunty Entity (Tina Turner).

In Bartertown, electricity, vehicles, functioning industrial age technology—all almost unheard of in this post-apocalyptic world—are made possible by a crude methane refinery, fueled by pigs’ feces, using a weathered semi tractor as the electricity generator. The refinery is located under Bartertown and is operated by the smart, diminutive Master (Angelo Rossitto), who is harnessed to his enormously strong, but dim-witted bodyguard known as Blaster (Paul Larsson). Together, “Master Blaster” hold an uneasy power-truce with Aunty for control of Bartertown. Master, however, is beginning to exploit his position with energy “embargoes,” challenging Aunty’s leadership. She is furious with him but cannot challenge him publicly, as Master is the only one with the technical know-how to operate the machinery that powers Bartertown. The controlled chaos of Bartertown is maintained by a set of inflexible laws, including one that states that no contract can be broken, for any reason. The punishment for breaking this law is equally inflexible and invoked with the simple phrase, “bust a deal, face the wheel.”

Entity recognizes Max as a resourceful (if disposable) fighter, and strikes a deal with him to provoke a duel with and kill Blaster in the “Thunderdome,” a gladiatorial arena where conflicts are resolved by a duel to the death, turning what is arguably a political assassination into a lawful act. Max goes to Underworld, where he befriends a convict who was imprisoned for killing a pig in order to feed his children, and thus nicknamed Pig Killer (Robert Grubb). Max then finds his vehicle in Master Blaster’s possession, and confronts them, resulting in the necessary challenge to enter Thunderdome. The rules of Thunderdome, as chanted by onlookers crowding the arena, are simple and singular—”two men enter, one man leaves.” After a difficult match, Max defeats Blaster, but refuses to kill him when he discovers that Blaster is a man with a developmental disability. An enraged Aunty has Blaster executed and invokes the law since Max broke his deal with her. The wheel turns out to be a large, spinning metal disc (similar to a Wheel of Fortune) with an arrow pointing to one of several consequences. Possible consequences include Death, Hard Labour, Acquittal, Gulag, Aunty’s Choice, Spin Again, Forfeit Goods, Underworld, Amputation, and Life Imprisonment. When spun for Max, it lands on “Gulag.” He is cast out of Bartertown and exiled to the desert wasteland, strapped to the back of a horse. The horse runs with an initial whipping & chases a bottle of water strapped in front of its face.

The story radically shifts gears at this point. Some time later, Max, who has gotten beyond Thunderdome but is near death due to exposure to the hostile conditions, is saved by a group of children led by Savannah Nix (Helen Buday). The children, hardened to the desert environment, are survivors (or the children of survivors) of a nearby Qantas Boeing 747 plane crash, and have formed a sort of tribal community in the sheltered desert oasis in which they live. Clinging to their hopes of rescue, they keep their fading memories of the past civilization alive in the form of ritualistic spoken “tells” which hinge on the return of a messianic “Captain Walker” who will repair their shattered aircraft and return them to civilization. The “tell” explains that Flight Captain G.L. Walker at one point took most of the surviving adults to seek help, promising they would be back to rescue the rest, but never returned. Max’s age and physical resemblance to Walker make the children believe that he has indeed returned to take them to “Tomorrow-morrow Land,” or back to civilization as it once was. After nursing him back to health, they are shocked to hear Max’s account of the dystopic state of the world and become angry at his insistence that they all remain living in the relative safety of the oasis, knowing that the only “civilization” within reach is the rough and hellish Bartertown.

Some of the children decide to leave anyway, determined to find “Tomorrow-morrow land,” the mythic place they believe their parents left them to find. Max goes after them.

The third act begins as Max catches up with them at the outskirts of Bartertown. They sneak in, intent on finding Master. Without Blaster to protect him, the dwarfish Master is little more than Aunty’s slave. Max and the children free him (with the assistance of Pig Killer, who also escapes), but alert the guards, and a frenetic chase ensues, resulting in Bartertown’s methane factory becoming damaged and causing explosions, ending at the hideout of the same pilot that attacked Max in the beginning of the movie (played by Bruce Spence, who played the autogyro captain in Mad Max 2). Max coerces him to help them escape in the Transavia PL-12 Airtruk, but there is too much weight and not enough runway between them and the attackers’ vehicles, so Max takes a truck and drives it in front of the airplane, smashing a hole in the roadblock enabling the children to escape. Max is found by Aunty, and, having earned her respect, has his life spared.

The story shifts to many years later, when the much older children are seen in the ruins of a destroyed Sydney, lit up by thousands of fires and lights. Savannah, the leader of the children, recites a nightly “tell” of their journey.

This movie provides additional back story to the original Mad Max and Mad Max 2, showing a nuclear war following the energy crisis referenced in the beginning of Mad Max 2.

REVIEW:

 The final entry in the Mad Max saga (though there is supposed to be a 4th film in production). Some have argues this is the weakest entry in the franchise, while others have said it is the best.

Depending on how you look at it, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome can go either way. For me, I think it is the best of the 3. It is the most exciting, action packed, and drama-less of the bunch, which is really what I wanted from the first two.

On the other hand, the lack of road battles took a bit out of it for me, but that’s not something I can’t get over.

The action here is what really moves the picture along. In the first two films, there was some action, but this time around the action is center stage with the drama taking a backseat. Isn’t that what you really want out of an action movie?

The cast is all Australian, except for Tina Turner. Don’t get me wrong, Turner does a great job as the villainous Aunty Enitty, she just sort of sticks out as the 1 American in this cast. Of course, in most of Gibson’s films, he’s usually the only Australian, so I guess it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Mel Gibson had strong performances in the first films, but this one he seems as if he just phoned it in. I can’t tell you how much I hate it when it appears as if actors just show up for th paycheck. Have some pride in your craft, for goodness sakes, or don’t show up to work!

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is best known for the Thunderdome scene, but the fact is it is only seen on that one scene. I would have liked for there to be more Thunderdome, especially since it is in the freakin’ title, but that isn’t anything that can’t be looked over. 

My final verdict on this film is that it is the best entry in this franchise, but it does have its issues. Does that mean you should avoid it like the plague? Far from it. This is the most entertaining of the franchise and fully worth a viewing, so go check it out!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Splice

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , on November 20, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Genetic engineers Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) achieve fame by successfully splicing together the DNA of different animals to create incredible new hybrid animals. Now they want to use human DNA in a hybrid that could revolutionize science and medicine. But the pharmaceutical company that funds their research, N.E.R.D. (Nucleic Exchange Research and Development), forbids it, instead mandating that their department be reorganized to focus on finding and extracting certain proteins from the creatures they have already created. Not wishing to spend all their time engaged in what they consider mundane research for the next 5-10 years, Clive and Elsa secretly conduct their own experiments, blending human DNA with that of other animals.

Though they disagree about actually bringing the hybrid to term, Elsa pushes the issue and she persuades Clive to go along with it, in continued secrecy. They name their creature Dren (nerd backwards), who exceeds their wildest dreams; she begins to grow and learn at an accelerated rate. As their lab becomes exceedingly crowded, and the risk of Dren being discovered increases, they move Dren to Elsa’s late mother’s farm.

Their work at the company suffers as their attention is focused on Dren. One of the original hybrid animals that they had created, which was originally female, had changed sex unbeknownst to Clive and Elsa since they were distracted. This led to a disastrous presentation during a company shareholders’ meeting, when the two original hybrids, previously one male and one female very much in love with each other, became both male, killed each other in front of shareholders and potential investors. Following this meeting, N.E.R.D., found itself in danger of going out of business unless they could find a profitable discovery.

Meanwhile, Dren has become amphibious and omnivorous with a toxic sting and retractable wings coming out of parts of her arm and back. Elsa, who had formed a maternal bond with Dren, changes her mind after Dren shows violent behavior, killing her own pet cat out of spite and assaulting her. She cuts off her stinger and uses organic tissue from it to finally isolate and synthesize a protein they had been searching for.

Soon after, Clive is seduced by Dren and has sex with her, much to Elsa’s disgust; during her sexual encounter with Clive, Dren reveals that she had regenerated her stinger. Elsa and Clive have a heated argument about Clive having cheated, when he confronts her, having figured out that she used samples of her own DNA in the creation of Dren. Deciding to deal with Dren, they go back to the farm, only to discover her body in the water tank, apparently sick. Within a short amount of time Dren seems to die.

They bury Dren near the farmhouse but before they leave, their boss from the pharmaceutical company arrives, having figured out that there was some sort of human hybrid because of the DNA present in the protein they had finally synthesized. Elsa tells her boss he can dig up Dren’s body if he really wants to see it. Suddenly, they are attacked by Dren, who was not dead, but apparently in some sort of coma as her body underwent changes that turned her into a male. After killing her boss and Clive’s brother, Dren drags Clive into a freezing pond. Elsa pulls him out, but he is unconscious, so Elsa flees. Dren finds her and rapes her. As Dren is raping Elsa, Clive comes to the rescue, impaling Dren with a large sharp branch. Dren kills Clive with a toxic sting, but is dealt a fatal blow by Elsa when she smashes his head with a rock.

Later on, Elsa is seen in the office of the pharmaceutical company’s head and is given a massive amount of money in exchange for her silence and taking the experiment to the “next stage”. The head of the company then thanks Elsa for the personal risk that she is undergoing. Elsa stands up and is revealed to be pregnant, but it is left ambiguous to whether it is Dren or Clive’s child, presumably Dren’s

REVIEW:

I’ve been asked by more than a few people to check this flick out. When I first saw the trailers for it, it reminded me a little bit of Species. However, after watching it this afternoon, there really aren’t too many similarities, but at the same time, there are.

Splice can best be appreciated by those in the science community. The reason I say that is they use a lot of scientific terminology which can easily fly over the heads of us non-scientific folks. Having said that, I do appreciate the fact they didn’t try to dumb it down.

The drama aspect of the story works, but I kind of felt as if they were trying to force the whole couple issues between Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley’s characters down out throats a bit. Maybe that was just me, though.

The special effects throughout here are ok, but I wasn’t impressed. They seem to be very run of the mill. Nothing impressive about them…to me anyway.

The action scenes that are in here are fairly pedestrian, but the climactic battle at the end is pretty good. I guess they did save the best for last.

The acting here was very humdrum. Adrien Brody seemed a bit more wooded and lifeless than he normally does in his films, while Sarha Polley appeared lost in most of her scenes.

Splice isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t that great. I think this could have been a much better, more enjoyable film, but that didn’t happen. Do I recommend this to you? Eh…sure, but don’t expect too much from it. I mean, this was an ok flick to watch on a whim, but if you have something better you want to watch, go with that.

3 out of 5 stars

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part I

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film opens with Severus Snape arriving at the estate of Lucius Malfoy to deliver his intelligence about when Harry Potter will be moved from Privet Drive. The Death Eaters are gathered at a table, with Voldemort at the head. They argue about tactics, and Voldemort feeds a Hogwarts professor to Nagini.

After the title card, the camera reveals Hermione Granger in her room. After packing her things, she casts an “obliviate” spell on her parents to make them forget her. At Privet Drive, Harry’s foster family packs up their things and leave the house because it has become unsafe. The Order of the Phoenix arrive, and Mad-Eye Moody unveils the plan to move Harry. The team splits into groups of twos, with one member of each pair drinking Polyjuice Potion in order to look like Harry. As the decoys fly off, Harry leaves in Hagrid’s sidecar, just as he arrived at Privet Drive 17 years ago. The Death Eaters immediately attack, resulting in a mid-air battle in which Harry’s owl is killed. Voldemort attacks Harry with Lucius’ wand, but Harry shatters it. The Order rendezvous at The Burrow, the home of the Weasleys. They realize that Mundungus Fletcher is the traitor in their group, and that Mad-Eye did not survive.

During the night, Harry tries to slink off during the night, unwilling to risk anyone else’s life on his behalf. Ron stops him and explains that the Order’s work is about more than just him. The next day, Rufus Scrimgeour executes Dumbledore’s will, bequeathing a deluminator to Ron, a copy of The Tales of Beelde the Bard to Hermione, and the Snitch that Harry caught in his first Quidditch match. He also bequeaths to Harry the sword of Gryffindor, but Scrimgeour says it is not Dumbledore’s to give and also the sword is missing. Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour are married in a tent at The Burrow. Harry learns of Dumbledore’s dark past at Godric’s Hollow during the reception and meets Luna Lovegood’s father, Xenophilius, who is wearing a pendant with a mysterious symbol. The reception is attacked by Death Eaters. Harry, Ron and Hermione apparate to London, and they are attacked again in a coffee shop. They take refuge at 12, Grimmauld Place where they find Kreacher, who reluctantly helps them deduce that the locket of Salazar Slytherin, which is a horcrux, is in the possession of Dolores Umbridge.

The trio infiltrate the Ministry of Magic using Polyjuice Potion. Harry stupefies Dolores and Hermione snatches the locket from around her neck. During their escape, Ron is grievously wounded. Since Ron is too ill to apparate, the trio have to move on foot during the day. Unfortunately, Dumbledore never told Harry how to destroy a Horcrux, and all their attempts to destroy the locket fail. They take turns wearing the locket, as it makes its wearer brood on negative thoughts. As they walk through the countryside, Ron listens to the radio for the names of missing wizards, hoping not to hear the names of his family. He grows suspicious of Harry and Hermione, especially as they conference with each other. Eventually, Hermione realizes that the sword of Gryffindor will destroy the horcrux since it has been dipped in basilisk blood. Feeling useless and unwanted, Ron decides to leave. Frightened even more by his departure, Harry and Hermione listen to Ron’s radio and do a silly dance to “O Children” by Nick Cave in an effort to relieve the unbearable tension.

Harry convinces Hermione to travel to Godric’s Hollow, where they find the grave of his parents. They are followed by Bathilda Bagshot who takes them to her home. As Harry peppers her with questions, Hermione explores the house. When Bathilda finally speaks, she does so in parseltongue, just as Hermione discovers the body of the real Bathilda. The pair fight with Nagini, whose Polyjuice Potion has worn off, and barely escape. During the fight, Hermione accidentally breaks Harry’s wand.

As he keeps watch one night, Harry follows a patronus in the shape of a deer onto a frozen pond. The patronus disappears under the ice, revealing the sword of Gryffindor at the bottom of the pond. While trying to retrieve it, Harry is almost drowned by Slytherin’s locket, which takes on a life of its own, nearly strangling him. He is saved by Ron, who has returned. Harry insists that Ron destroy the locket with the sword. After Harry opens the locket, Voldemort’s voice taunts Ron about his insecurity. He creates an illusion of Harry and Hermione having sex, and a terrified Ron manages to smash the locket with the sword.

Together again, the trio decide to investigate the pendant that Xenophilius Lovegood was wearing, because the symbol keeps appearing in books Hermione is reading. At his home, Xenophilius tells them the story of the Deathly Hallows, and reveals that the elder wand will make its bearer the most powerful wizard in the world. As they try to leave, Xenophilius blocks their exit, explaining that the Death Eaters have kidnapped Luna and Harry is his only ransom. The Death Eaters descend on the house, and during the attack, the trio apparates to a forrest.

They are immediately set upon by a group of snatchers, who eventually catch them. During the chase, Hermione disfigures Harry to protect his identity. They all lie about who they really are, and the snatchers take them to Lucius’ estate, suspecting that they might actually have captured Harry Potter. At Malfoy Manor, Bellatrix imprisons Harry and Ron in the cellar, where she has also imprisoned Luna, the wandmaker Ollivander, and the goblin Griphook; meanwhile, Bellatrix tortures Hermione to try to find out how they acquired the Sword of Gryffindor, which she had believed to be safe in her bank vault.

Dobby apparates into the dungeon, and Harry formulates an escape plan. As they rescue Hermione from Bellatrix, Dobby is killed. The trio bury him on the top of a sand dune. The film closes with Voldemort opening Dumbledore’s tomb and removing the elder wand from the dead wizard’s grasp.

REVIEW:

 Continuing, or rather, concluding the Harry Potter franchise is a challenge, which is probably why the filmmakers decided to split the final book into two parts (combined with making more money). However, after watching this film this afternoon, I’m not so sure that was a good idea.

Before you all start jumping down my throat for that statement, let me explain. This is not a bad film. It is beautifully shot and very faithful, from what I recall, to the book. However, there was no real climax at the end. It just ended.

Now, there are films that are split that end on a down notes, The Empire Strikes Back, comes to mind, but the plot just doesn’t allow itself to be split into two parts this way. The whole time I was watching this film, I was hoping that something would happen to really catch my attention. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

The special effects here are on par with the rest of the franchise, which isn’t bad, but seeing as how this is part of the finale, I was kind of wishing they would up the ante. Maybe in part II, they will.

As I said, the plot is about a close as you can get to the source material. If you’re an avid reader of this blog, then you are more than aware of how much I detest those that stray too far from said material, so this was a breath of fresh air.

This is a dark film. Some of you out there are going to love this kind of thing. Personally, I prefer lighter faire, such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Having said that, the darkness that each film has garnered is reflective of the books, so I won’t jump on them for making this flick so dark, however, I can still say that I miss the, for lak of a better term, magic and whimsy from the first couple of films.

Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are the focal point of this film. Occasionally we see Voldemort and a couple of other characters, but the trio is the entire film (as they pretty much have been the entire franchise). It is obvious the actors have grown, not only in terms of aging, but as actors and the chemistry between them is amazing.

Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort is just itching for a final showdown with Harry. It’s coming…just hang in there.

Helena Bonham Carter returns as the psychotic Bellatrix Lestrange, as proven with her torture of Hermoine near the film’s end.

This entry into the franchise contains more action than all the other’s combined. While I love my action, I just sort of felt like some of this was just stuck in there for the hell of it. Of course, when I was reading the book, I said that it felt like it was written with the intent of being a movie, so I guess this is the result.

I have to mention this random animated scene that explains what the deathly hallows are. While Hermoine is telling the tale, we get an animated sequence to her words. Not to take anything away from it, but the animation was show pointed that the characters reminded me of the Primes from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It didn’t work for me. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but this was just so random and they didn’t bother to put oddly animated sequences in the previous films, so why start now?

Final verdict on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part I? Well, it is a pretty good film. I’m sure many will go so far as to call it great and put it on their best of and favorite lists of the year. Chances are it may make one of those lists of my own, but to be honest with you, I didn’t love it. It just felt like something was missing. It plods along and you sort of feel like they’re pushing towards something. If that something is the epic confrontation that will happen in the second film, that’s fine, but there should have been something more in this one. If you can get past leaving the theater unfulfilled, then I highly recommend this, otherwise, I suggest wait until the summer, rent it before part II comes out and watch it then.

4 out of 5 stars