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

It Came From Beneath the Sea

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A nuclear submarine on patrol maneuvers in the Pacific Ocean captained by Commander Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey), comes into contact with something the sonar determines is massive. The boat is disabled but manages to free itself and dock at Pearl Harbor. There it is discovered animal tissue of great proportions has jammed in its propellers. A man-and-woman team of marine biologists, Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) and John Carter (Donald Curtis), is called in, and they identify the tissue as part of a gigantic octopus. The military authorities scoff at this explanation, but are finally persuaded to investigate upon receiving reports of missing bathers, and ships pulled under the water by some living thing. Over the following two weeks, as John and Lesley continue their investigation, Pete shows a personal interest in Lesley, who is only eager to return to her own research. The scientists conclude the octopus is from the Mindanao Deep and has been forced out of its natural habitat due to hydrogen bomb testing in the area. The testing has rendered the octopus radioactive, and this radioactivity drives off its natural food supply.

John and Lesley speculate that unexplained disappearances of a Japanese fishing fleet and a Siberian seal boat may have been due to the octopus. Pete and the Navy representatives express doubt over this hypothesis, however, and demand further proof. Later, as Pete assists John and Lesley with departure arrangements, a report comes in of an attack on a French shipping boat, from which several men escaped in a raft. John and Lesley are once again pressed into service for the government. The French survivors are questioned by psychiatrists, but when the first sailor’s description of an attack by a creature with giant tentacles is met with skepticism, the other sailors refuse to testify. Lesley is able to convince the first sailor to repeat his story for the government officials, who now have the evidence they need to back up the scientists’ premise. The government then halts all sea traffic in the North Pacific without revealing the reason to other countries. John flies out to sea to trace a missing ship, while Pete and Lesley follow up a report of three missing people on the coast of Oregon.

The local sheriff, Bill Nash (Harry Lauter), takes them to the site of the attack along the beach, where they find a giant suction imprint in the sand and request that John join them. While waiting, Pete and Lesley fish all day to no avail, and are convinced that the giant creature may be in the vicinity. After John arrives and the imprint is definitively identified as octopus, Pete demands Lesley leave the project, which now threatens to become dangerous, but she steadfastly refuses.

When Bill is attacked along the beach by the creature in front of the scientists, they hastily arrange for the entire Pacific coast waters to be mined before departing for San Francisco and the Navy’s central headquarters. An electrified safety net is strung underwater across the entrance to San Francisco Bay to protect the Golden Gate Bridge, which is also wired. John takes a helicopter along the shore and baits the sea with dead sharks in an effort to lure the octopus back inland. Lesley demonstrates to reporters a special jet-propelled atomic torpedo, with which they hope to shoot the creature and then drive it to sea before detonating the device. Later that day, the giant octopus demolishes the net across the Bay and heads toward San Francisco.

The Navy orders the Golden Gate Bridge abandoned, but when John learns that the electric circuit on the bridge remains on, races out to shut it off. The bridge is attacked by the creature, but Pete rescues John before one section collapses. The residents of the city panic and begin a mass exodus down the peninsula, as the Navy struggles to evacuate the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building, which is then battered by the octopus. When several more people are attacked, the Defense Department authorizes Pete to launch his submarine and the atomic warhead. John joins Pete while Lesley remains at the base. Flame throwers push the octopus back into the sea, but when Pete shoots the creature, it grabs the submarine. Using an aqualung, Pete swims out to the octopus and places explosive charges on it before being knocked out by the creature’s flailing arms. John then swims out, shoots the octopus in the eye, forcing it to release the ship, and pulls Pete to safety. Back at the base, as the creature turns toward open sea, the torpedo is detonated, destroying the giant octopus. Later, while celebrating, Lesley agrees to continue seeing Pete after she and John finish their next research project

REVIEW:

 It is no secret that I believe stop-motion animation is more entertaining to watch than today’s CGI. There is just something I find more gratifying about knowing that someone literally spent a good year or two just to make maybe 5 minutes of visual, as opposed to some random computer geek who just pressed some buttons and drags a mouse to make something look “real”.

For me, as I’m sure a lot of you are in this boat as well, CGI is usually used for something that isn’t real anyway, so why even bother. That’s just how I see it anyway.

Having said all that, you see why I love these films that use the genius and mastery of Ray Harryhausen’s genius.

It Came From Beneath the Sea is not his best work, though. However, I think this is one o his earlier films, so that could be a reason. Yet, I would still choose to look at this octopus any day over some CG version.

Now, let me get off my comparing of stop motion and CGI and get to the actual movie.

As you are all aware, films of yesteryear actually have actors that actually know how to act, and for that reason they choose to be very “talky”. While I complain about the lack of action in favor of exposition in the Mad Max franchise, films like this get a pass…to an extent.

I don’t care who you are, the main reason you would watch this is to find out what “It” is and see how they handle it. Of course, us guys also don’t mind the eye candy.

The acting here, though, is what you would expect. The actors have honed their craft so well that you can’t even tell they’re acting for the most part. Having said that, I do wish they would have shown a bit more emotion, but that’s just me.

The giant octopus, who is the real star of the film, is finely crafted by Ray Harryhausen. It is such a shame we don’t see more of it, aside for the few scenes near the end, and the tentacle shots throughout the flick.

When the film’s climax is complete, the viewer is left with a few minutes of anti-climactic resolution. Some people care for these type of endings. However, I’m f the school of thought to where it would work just as well to end it after the climax. Afterwards, go smoke a cigarette and be happy.

Seriously, though…what is my opinion of this film? Well, it isn’t the best film I’ve seen in this genre. As a matter of fact, I think it tries to be too serious for as cheesy as it is. Other than that, I did enjoy this film and recommend it to those of you that are fans of classic cinema and stop motion.

3 out of 5 stars

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Mad Max 2 begins with a prologue backstory; a narrator informs us that the world has “crumbled and…the cities have exploded;” uprisings and social disorder due to energy shortages have destabilized the country; and that “two mighty warrior tribes” had gone to war. The crumbling remnants of the government attempt to restore some form of order, but life has become a “whirlwind of looting and a firestorm of fear, in which ‘men began to feed on men.”

The film itself begins as Max Rockatansky, now “a burnt out, desolate” shell of a man, clashes with a team of marauders. Clad in his torn and dirty leather police uniform, Max roams the desert in a scarred, black, supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special, scavenging for food and, especially, petrol, which has become a precious commodity. He also has a pet dog (an Australian Cattle Dog), who has been his only companion, and a rare functioning firearm — a sawn-off shotgun — the ammunition for which is also scarce.

After driving off a gang, led by biker warrior Wez (Vernon Wells), Max collects the petrol from one of their wrecked vehicles. As Max continues to comb the desert wastelands, he comes upon a seemingly abandoned autogyro and investigates. The autogyro’s pilot (Bruce Spence) has in fact set a trap with a venomous snake; but Max and his dog outwit and overpower the gyro captain. To stay alive, the pilot tells Max about a small working oil refinery nearby in the wasteland.

Encamped on a cliff overlooking the oil refinery, Max watches as a gang of marauders piloting a motley collection of cars and motorbikes besieges the compound. They are led by the grim, charismatic warrior called “Lord Humungus” (Kjell Nilsson) — a large, muscular man with a hockey mask over his disfigured face, who commands a vicious, rag-tag band of biker-berserkers. Humungus’ speeches to the settlers, exhorting them to surrender, are articulate and convincing; he uses his eloquence as psychological warfare, and a number of the settlers begin to believe his seemingly benign offers.

The next morning four settlers’ vehicles roar out of the refinery. The marauders chase them down and kill or capture their occupants. After the Gyro Captain and Max witness one such brutal treatment, Max goes down to the wrecked vehicles and slays one biker. A critically-wounded settler is still clinging to life, and Max strikes a bargain with him: he will return the man to the refinery compound in exchange for petrol. However, the deal falls through when the man dies following Max’s entry into the compound. Facing death, Max is spared when – at that moment – the marauders return.

Lord Humungus uses a public address system to offer the settlers and their leader Papagallo (Michael Preston) safe passage out of the wastelands if they leave him the facility and fuel reserves. Max has an alternative bargain for Papagallo: he will retrieve an abandoned Mack semi-truck he came across earlier in return for petrol and his freedom. This vehicle would be sufficient to haul their tanker-load of fuel out of the wastelands. The besieged settlers accept Max’s proposal, but retain his car. Max sneaks out of the compound at night, carrying fuel for the battered truck and the autogyro. He is later joined, though, by his “prisoner” the Gyro Captain and the “Feral Kid” who wields a sharp-edged steel boomerang, and who has accepted Max.

With air support provided by the Gyro Captain, Max returns to the abandoned semi and drives it back to the compound, despite the efforts of Humungus and his men to stop the vehicle. The settlers invite Max to escape with the group, but the psychologically-scarred Max opts to collect his petrol and leave. As Max tries to break through the siege and is chased down by Wez in Humungus’s nitrous oxide-equipped car, his car is wrecked and he is badly injured, and his dog is killed by a crossbowman. However, by trying to tap into his fuel tanks, the marauders trigger an explosive booby-trap, blowing up his car and discouraging them from searching further. The semi-conscious Max is rescued by the Gyro Captain, who flies him back to the refinery, where the settlers are making hasty preparations to leave.

Despite his injuries, Max insists on driving the repaired truck with the fuel tanker. He leaves the compound in the now heavily-armored truck with the feral kid and several settlers in armored positions on the tanker. With Pappagallo driving an escort vehicle for company, he is pursued by the wasteland warriors. Overhead, the Gyro Captain follows the violent chase in his gyro-copter. While Humungus and his warriors pursue the tanker, the remaining settlers flee the compound in a rag-tag caravan of vehicles, leaving the compound open and undefended. One by one the settlers defending the tanker are killed, as is Pappagallo. The Gyro Captain also crashes as his engine is hit by arrows from a dart gun. Back at the refinery, but intercut with the tanker pursuit, a handful of marauders seize the empty compound, and discover to their misfortune that the refinery is rigged to explode.

Max and the feral kid find themselves alone against the marauders, who continue their savage pursuit. Wez boards the truck and almost slays the two survivors, but a head-on collision with Humungus obliterates both villains. Max loses control of the tanker and it rolls off the side of the road. As the injured Max carries the feral kid from the tanker, he discovers that the contents of the tanker was just sand. The Gyro Captain manages to catch up to Max in his battered gyro copter.

The truck and its trailer were a decoy, allowing the other settlers to escape with their precious fuel in oil drums inside their vehicles. With Papagallo dead, the Gyro Captain succeeds him as their chief, and leads the settlers to the coast, where they establish the “Great Northern Tribe.” Max remains in the desert, once again becoming a drifter, alone in the wasteland, and the narrator ends by saying that was the last time they ever saw Max, but the tribe will be forever grateful to him for ensuring their survival. The narrator also says that when the Gyro Captain passed away, he succeeded him as chief, revealing that the narrator is in fact the feral boy, now a full-grown man, reciting the story.

REVIEW:

 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior picks up where the original Mad Max left off, only know Max is all but a total loner…a far cry from the caring, family man we were originally introduced to in the first film.

Again, I have to say that this film was lacking in the action department. Sure, there were some brilliant scenes, including the climactic confrontation, but all that seemed to be overshadowed by the filmmaker’s apparent need to take us on some kind of emotional trip.

Now, I did like how we finally got a bit of background on Max, as well as learned what happened since we last saw him. It is true that this is his movie, but if you’re going to go that far and give us some background on one character, why not do it on some of the others. I’m mainly referring to Lord Humungus. The mystery about his background is fine and dandy, but part of me wants to know something…anything…about him.

Casting here isn’t great. Gibson returns as Max, and seems to be more comfortable in the role, but he isn’t really given much to do here. It isn’t his fault, though. I blame the writers.

I did enjoy Bruce Spence as the comic relief, though I almost didn’t recognise him since he looks so different than he does on Legend of the Seeker.

Lord Humungus was the only other part of the cast that was worth watching. Kjell Nilsson gives a masterful performance as the vindictive gang leader who is not only cruel, but also charismatic. A dangerous combination, but one that works.

In the end, what do I have to say about Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior? Well, I expected more road battles and action and not so much pointless drivel and dead time. However, that is a personal bias, and not a knock on this film. While this picture is not without its problems, it does provide some good entertainment, when the action actually picks up. Should you check it out? Sure, it won’t hurt you, but I wouldn’t exactly have high expectations for it.

3 out of 5 stars

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Ellie (Queen Latifah) and Manny (Ray Romano) are expecting their first child, and Manny is obsessed with making life perfect and safe for the family, since his first experiences as a husband and father went bad when his family was killed by hunters. At the same time, Diego (Denis Leary) finds himself unable to catch a cocky gazelle (Bill Hader) he has been stalking and decides to leave the herd, believing that he is losing his predatory nature as a tiger. Sid (John Leguizamo) grows jealous of Manny and Ellie and “adopts” three apparently abandoned eggs that he finds in an icy underground cavern and call them Eggbert, Shelly, and Yoko. Manny tells him to put them back, but Sid instead looks after the eggs, which hatch into baby Tyrannosaurus the next morning.

Although Sid tries his best to raise the three dinosaurs, their rambunctious behavior scares away all the other animals’ young and ruins a playground Manny built for Ellie’s baby. A female Tyrannosaurus, Momma, whose eggs Sid stole, soon returns and carries both Sid and her young underground, with Diego in pursuit. Manny, Ellie, Crash, and Eddie (Sean William Scott, Josh Peck) follow as well and discover that the icy cavern leads to a vast jungle populated by dinosaurs thought to be extinct. Here, an Ankylosaurus threatens the herd despite Diego’s efforts to fend it off; they are saved from a further crowd of angry reptiles by an insane, one-eyed weasel named Buckminster, or Buck (Simon Pegg).

Buck has been living in this jungle for some time and is chasing Rudy, a large albino Baryonyx, with the intention of avenging the loss of his right eye at Rudy’s hands. He agrees to lead the herd through the jungle’s perils to Lava Falls, where Momma has taken Sid and her babies. At one point, they have to cross the “Chasm of Death” which is filled with gas fumes (a mixture of helium and laughing gas, causing anyone who breathes in it to laugh uncontrollably while speaking in a high-pitched voice). Although the gas is not the actual cause of death, victims usually cannot stop laughing and thus die while trying to cross the chasm. Eventually the group manages to cross the chasm. In the meantime, Sid and Momma try to outdo each other in feeding the offspring; he loses this contest, but is soon welcomed into the family regardless. The next day, however, Sid is separated from the family and attacked by Rudy. Sid is knocked onto a loose rock slab that is floating on a river of lava and about to plummet over the falls.

As the herd moves toward Lava Falls, Ellie goes into labor and a Guanlong pack strikes, causing a rock slide that separates her from Manny and Diego. Manny doubles back to protect her and Diego fends off further attacks, while Buck takes Crash and Eddie ahead to rescue Sid. Just as he goes over the falls, the trio swoops in on a commandeered Pteranodon only to be chased by a flock of Quetzalcoatlus on the way and saves his life. Manny reaches Ellie, and there is suddenly a reaction, the cry of a newborn baby, then he sees that it is a girl. He wants to name her Ellie, or Little Ellie, but Ellie instead names her Peaches after the fruit (and the codeword they had chosen for Ellie to use if she went into labor during the trip). Sid is saddened at the fact that he never had a chance to say goodbye to “his” children as he returns to the herd and learns of Peaches’ birth.

As they venture back to the tunnel, they are shocked to discover Rudy lurking inside of the entrance. Rudy exits the tunnel and attacks at full force; Buck lures Rudy away from the group and is nearly eaten himself, before Diego saves him at the last second. Manny, Sid, Diego, and Buck manage to ensnare Rudy and knock him unconscious, but as they begin to leave, Sid trips over one of the ropes and breaks it. Rudy quickly recovers and escapes, and is about to attack Sid when Momma arrives on the scene, charging at Rudy and knocking him off a cliff before roaring her victory. As she and her children wish Sid well, Buck – now without a purpose in life since Rudy is gone – decides to join the herd and live on the surface. However, a distant roar tells him that Rudy is still alive; he changes his mind and sends the herd home, blocking off the path to the underground jungle at the same time, so nobody else can go down there anymore. Manny and Ellie welcome Peaches into their frozen world and admit that Sid did a good job looking after Momma’s children (though Manny tells Diego that he will never let Sid babysit Peaches). Diego decides to remain with the herd, while Buck stays where he wants to be: underground, battling it out with Rudy.

REVIEW:

 Both Ice Age and Ice Age 2: The Meltdown were huge commercial successes, but what about Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs? Well, for starters this thing was released in 3D, so they were going to make some money, even if only half the audience went to see it, thanks to the outrageous, overpriced tickets. That being said, it is arguably the best of the bunch.

This film franchise has been criticized for not being true to the timeline. Personally, I don’t care. Whatever happened to suspension of disbelief? Can’t kid/family films just be fn and not have to worry about being historically accurate? I mean, if you want to go that far, then you may as well go all out and say that a wooly mammoth, sloth, opossums, and sabre tooth tiger, as well as the rest of their little herd (plus whatever Scrat is), wouldnt ever be traveling together! Some people just need to get over their high and mighty elitist attitudes and enjoy something once in a while, rather than find any and everything to criticize!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way. The CG here is obviously better than the first two. Of that there is no question. If you have any doubt about that, just watch in awe of the land where the dinosaurs roam, or the detail on Manny and Ellie’s fur, or the scales on Rudy. It is impressive. Now that I’ve said that, I didn’t really see anything that warranted the use of 3D, and I feel sorry for those that wasted the extra money on the used glasses.

The plot is ok. I mean, it basically is about how the original trio is sort of drifting apart because Manny is about to become a father, Diego has gotten “soft”, and Sid wants them to stay together and be a family. A tad bit to overemotional for my taste, but I can see how it works.

I like how the movie flies along at a steady pace. Its predecessors seemed to drag a bit. I think this may be because of the action in this one, though, or maybe it is just the break from the icy world they live in.

Voice casting in here is amazing, but some seem to be giving more than others. For instance, Simon Pegg as Buck, appears to be going all out, while Denis Leary, Sean William Scott, Queen Latifah and Ray Romano all sound as if they’re just reading some lines.

When all is said and done Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs may not be the greatest film by the critics’ overpuffed standards, bt for us normal people, it is quite an enjoyable flick. Sure, it has its flaws, and that’s just fine with me. The most important thing is that it is entertaining and not boring. This is fun for the whole family and a film all will enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

Airplane II: The Sequel

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , on November 7, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Taking place in the near future, the moon has now been colonized and supports a station on its surface. A lunar shuttle known as Mayflower One is being rushed to launch from Houston. The head of the ground crew, The Sarge (Chuck Connors), does not like what is occurring, but he defers to the airline’s management. On-board is computer officer Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty), who was a flight attendant in the first movie. Elaine has long-since left Ted Striker (Robert Hays) and is now engaged to one of the flight crew, Simon Kurtz (Chad Everett). On the flight crew with Dickinson and Kurtz are Captain Clarence Oveur (Peter Graves), First Officer Dunn (James A. Watson, Jr.) and Navigator Dave Unger (Kent McCord).

Striker has been committed to an insane asylum, as he was declared mentally incompetent in a lawsuit brought after the lunar shuttle crashed during a test flight that Ted piloted. Striker believes that the lawsuit was used to silence him, because he knew there were problems with the lunar shuttle which made it unsafe. Now Striker is haunted by his actions in “The War”, specifically the events that took place over “Macho Grande”, where he lost his entire squadron. When Striker reads of the upcoming Lunar Shuttle launch, he escapes the asylum and buys a ticket for the flight.

During the flight, Mayflower One suffers a short circuit and the computer ROC develops a mind of its own, sending the ship toward the sun. Unger and Dunn try to deactivate the computer, but are blown out of an airlock. Oveur tries to stop ROC, but the computer gasses him. Kurtz abandons Elaine and leaves in the only escape pod. Once again Striker is called upon to save the day, but first he has to figure out how to make the computer relinquish control. Steven McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges), the air traffic controller, reveals that a passenger named Joe Seluchi (Sonny Bono) had boarded Mayflower One with a bomb in a briefcase, intending to commit suicide so that his wife can collect on insurance money. Striker manages to wrestle the bomb from him and uses it to blow up ROC and set course for the moon as originally intended.

On the way to the Moon, control of the flight is shifted to a lunar base, commanded by Cmdr. Buck Murdoch (William Shatner). He has a high level of contempt for Striker because of Macho Grande, but agrees to help anyway. They manage to land the craft on the moon. Ted and Elaine fall back in love and are married at the end.

After the wedding, Seluchi looks into the cockpit and asks for his briefcase back.

REVIEW:

 Often times, I have said that if something works, why not keep doing it? Well, that’s exactly what Airplane II: the Sequel does, as they take many of the jokes from Airplane! and use them again.

That being said, while it is obvious they recycled the material, it actally works. Sure, it isn’t as funny the second time around, especially if you just recently watched the first film, but funny is funny and these filmmakers know what works.

Speaking of stuff recycled from the first film, it seems the plot is almost taken, as well, just switched to a space shuttle instead of a crashing airplane filled with food poisoned passengers. This reminds me of the how Home Alone 2 is a direct ripoff of the first one, just in a different place and some slight new tweaks here and there. It doesn’t make the film any better or worse, though.

Look, there isn’t much to say about this film, to be honest. It’s a spoof that’s funny as hell, but is a slight regression from the first film, bt that’s ok. It is still leagues better than most of the crap that comes out today. Why not check it out sometime? You won’t be disappointed! (while you’re at it…look for a cameo from Pat Sajak)

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Mad Max

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 7, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film opens “A Few Years From Now…” in Australia, in a dystopian future where law and order has begun to break down at the end of the ‘Oil Age’. Berserk motorcycle gang member, Crawford “Nightrider” Montizano, has broken police custody and – with a punk woman by his side – is attempting to flee from the Main Force Patrol (MFP), the Federal highway police unit, in a stolen MFP Pursuit Special. Though he manages to elude his initial pursuers, the Nightrider then encounters the MFP’s “top pursuit man,” leather-clad Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson). Max, the more skilled driver, pursues the Nightrider in a high-speed nerve-racking chase which results in the death of the Nightrider and the woman in a fiery car crash.

Nightrider’s Armalite motorcycle gang – led by the barbaric “Toecutter” (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his lieutenant Bubba Zanetti (Geoff Parry) – is running roughshod over a country town, vandalizing property, stealing fuel and terrorising the local population. Max and his fellow officer Jim ‘The’ Goose (Steve Bisley) are able to arrest the Toecutter’s young protege, Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns), when Johnny lingers at the scene of one of the gang’s crimes, the rape of a young couple. However, when no witnesses show for his trial, the courts declare the case not able be prosecuted and Johnny is released. A shocked Goose attacks Johnny and must be physically restrained; both Goose and Johnny shout threats of revenge at each other. After Bubba drags Johnny away, MFP Captain Fifi Macaffee (Roger Ward) frees his officers to pursue the gangs as they want, “so long as the paperwork’s clean.”

Shortly thereafter, Johnny sabotages Goose’s MFP motorcycle; the motorcycle locks up at high speed the next day, throwing Goose from the bike. Goose is unharmed, though his bike is badly damaged; he borrows a ute to haul his bike back to civilization. However, Johnny and the Toecutter’s gang are waiting further up the highway in ambush. Johnny throws a brake drum at Goose’s windshield, causing him to run off the road; then – upon the Toecutter’s insistence, and perhaps as a gang initiation – Johnny is instructed to throw a match at Goose’s ute, which is leaking petrol from its ruptured fuel line. Johnny refuses, and the Toecutter starts to abuse him; in the ensuing argument, the lit match is thrown and lands in the wreckage of the ute, which erupts in flames.

The Goose is severely burned, and after seeing his charred body in the hospital’s burn ward, Max becomes angry and disillusioned with the police force. Worried of what may happen if he stays in the job, and fearing he may become as savage and brutal as the gang members, Max announces to Fifi that he is resigning from the MFP with no intention of returning. Fifi convinces him to take a holiday first before making his final decision about leaving.

While on holiday at the coast, Max’s wife, Jessie (Joanne Samuel), and their son run into Toecutter’s gang, who attempt to molest her. She flees, but the gang later manages to track them to the remote farm near the beach where she and Max are staying. While attempting to escape, Jessie and her son are run down and over by the gang; their crushed bodies are left in the middle of the road. Max arrives too late to intervene.

Filled with obsessive rage, Max dons his police leathers and takes a supercharged black Pursuit Special to pursue the gang. After torturing a mechanic for information on the gang, Max methodically hunts down and kills the gang members: several gang members are forced off a bridge at high speed; Max shoots and kills Bubba at point blank range with his shotgun; the Toecutter is forced into the path of a speeding semi-trailer truck and crushed. In the road battles, Max has his arm crushed when it is run over by Bubba Zanetti’s motorbike, and receives a gunshot wound to his knee, which he braces with a makeshift splint. Becoming even more relentless and ruthless, he searches for the final members of the gang. When Max finds Johnny taking the boots off a dead driver at the scene of a crash, he handcuffs Johnny’s ankle to the wrecked vehicle and sets a crude time-delay fuse. Throwing Johnny a hacksaw, Max leaves him the choice of sawing through either the hi-tensile steel of the handcuffs (which will take ten minutes) or his ankle (which will take five minutes). As Max drives away, the vehicle explodes; an emotionless Max drives on further into the Outback without turning back.

REVIEW:

 The world was introduced to Mel Gibson with this film. I had never seen this film before today, so seeing a young Mel kind of freaked me out, to be honest with you. That is not a knock against the man (Lord knows he has enough of those nowadays), but just a random statement.

The first I ever heard of Mad Max was when I was young and the third film happened to be on television. Soon enough, I’ll get to that one, but this review is all about the first one.

With a title like Mad Max, I expected a bit more of an unstable lead character, bt that could just be a sign of the times we live in as opposed to when this was released.

I also expected a bit more action. I know, it seems like I say that in every review nowadays, but it is true. If I want drama, I’ll watch a drama. Action flicks are for action with maybe a bit of story thrown in there.

Unfortunately, this film does the opposite and goes more the dram route with a little action thrown in there. For me, it doesn’t work, but I’m sure there are those that felt this is a perfect mix of both. I’m not one of them, however.

Let’s be honest, are you really watching this for the acting? No, because no one in here is known in the states other than Gibson, who went on to bigger and better things…and then went crazy.

However, if you must know about the acting, it is on par with most of the film of this era (late 70s). The actors are trying, but they just can’t seem to convince anyone that they are who they say they are. For instance, the guy playing the villain, Toecutter… he looks like a viking stuck in the dystopian Australian Outback, rather than a cold-blooded killer leading a motorcycle gang.

The plot of this story is a bit too cliché for my taste. Our hero has everything going right for him, then all of a sudden something happens and his family is killed which drives him to become a mercenary and get vengeance. I take that back, that isn’t cliché, that sounds a lot like the origin of the Punisher.

The bits of action we get here are pretty good, especially the scenes at the end and beginning, but for me they weren’t enough to salvage what should have been a kick ass film.

No, I didn’t hate this picture, but I do feel it gets more credit than it deserves. I don’t want to say that Mad Max is overrated, but it could be. It seems as if this film was only good for debuting Mel Gibson to the world, and given his current state of affairs, that may not have been such a good thing. Still, I would recommend this film. It wouldn’t hurt anyone to check it out. Who knows, you may actually enjoy yourself.

3 out of 5 stars

All the King’s Men

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on November 7, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Louisiana newspaper reporter Jack Burden takes a personal interest in Willie Stark, a small-town lawyer and idealist. Circumstances develop that result in Stark’s being urged to run for governor by a local political leader, Tiny Duffy. Jack has been raised around politics. He is the former lover of Anne Stanton, whose father was once governor. Jack was raised by Judge Irwin, his stepfather, an honorable man.

In time, Jack and political strategist Sadie Burke reveal to Stark that he is actually a dupe in the governor’s race, expected to split the vote, spout the party line and lose. This opens his eyes to the realities of politics and Willie vows not to be fooled again. He defies Duffy publicly and begins to give speeches with straightforward talk that the public appreciates. He becomes governor in the next election, using any means necessary. Duffy now works for him as lieutenant governor. He also has a silent, menacing driver and bodyguard called Sugar Boy. And he successfully encourages Jack to come work for him as an adviser.

Judge Irwin disapproves, seeing Stark as an evil opportunist. Anne Stanton seems to agree and so does her brother, Dr. Adam Stanton. Willie Stark is a persuasive man, though, and knows how to get his way. He has a pet project, building a new hospital, and convinces Dr. Stanton to run it for him. And he also begins an affair with Anne Stanton, to the jealousy of Sadie Burke and the disappointment of Jack.

Criticized publicly by Judge Irwin and embroiled in increasing political controversy, Stark demands that Jack dig up dirt on the Judge to be used against him. Jack insists that no such dirt exists, but he does manage to uncover the fact that many years ago, Judge Irwin accepted a bribe. To his horror, the Judge commits suicide. Stark is a ruthless tyrant, popular with the voters but a charlatan to those who really know him. Dr. Stanton discovers that even the hospital is a front for the governor’s own personal and political gain. He lies in wait at the steps of the state capitol, pulls a gun and assassinates Willie Stark.

REVIEW:

 As I sit here not far away from the Louisiana state capitol, I am pondering how All The King’s Men, a film very loosely based on the life of Huey P. Long, could have gone so wrong.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not wish to sit here and bash the life out o this picture, because it wasn’t as bad as the critics mad it out to be, but there was something about it that just didn’t connect with me.

It seemed to me as if they were trying to weave too many things together and just came up with a convoluted, tangled mess.

The story isn’t bad, per se, but it just is confusing. I found myself scratching my head on more than one occasion, wondering what in tarnation was going on, as I’m sure more than few people who have seen and will see this film have/will do the same.

As someone who lives in Louisiana, I am very aware of the various accents down here, and no one that I know of talks like these people, Sean Penn especially. I don’t know where he did his research, but no one talks like that. The folks on True Blood have it closer, but even they are way off. Strangely enough, though, it was the British cast members that were closer than the American ones with their accents. If you want almost spot on Louisiana accents on film, check out Steel Magnolias.

On the flip side of things, I have to commend this film for actually filming in Louisiana, especially the rural parts. Often times, films of this nature will go film in someplace like the Hamptons and say its Baton Rouge.

One would think that with an all-star cast like this, that the acting would not be a problem, right? Well, you’d be wrong.

I already mentioned the accent problems, but that was just the start of a snowball effect. Sena Penn did nothing bt overact his way through this and seemed like he was trying to Robert DeNiro at times.

Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins seemed as if they were just collecting a paycheck, while both James Gandolfini and Jude Law appeared to be out of their element.

Poor Mark Ruffalo suffered from bad character development, and when he finally got the chance to do something interesting it was in the last scene.

So, what is my final opinion of All the King’s Men? Well, it was huge disappointment for me, but keep in mind, that I live in Louisiana and know the even on which this film is based and what people actually talk like down here, so there is a bit of a bias. For you non-Louisiana people, I suggest you not waste your time with this. I mean, you could see worse films, but this one just fails to deliver, especially with all the talent of the cast. For me, this was nothing more than an average flick.

3 out of 5 stars