Archive for November, 2010

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

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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

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Weeks after the events that led to Lex Luthor’s arrest, the impeachment of his presidency, and Batman’s success in saving the world from the impact of an arriving meteor, a spaceship lands in Gotham City Harbor and a young girl with no knowledge of English or any other human languages emerges. Upon arrival, she accidentally causes all sorts of havoc with her Kryptonian-like powers until the Dark Knight catches her with a piece of Kryptonite from the ship. With Superman’s help, they discover that the girl is Kara Zor-El, the niece of Jor-El and Superman/Kal-El’s biological cousin. While Superman welcomes Kara with open arms and teaches her English and how to behave in society, Batman remains suspicious.

Tipped off by Batman, Wonder Woman and a group of Amazons ambush Clark Kent and Kara in a park and take Kara to Themyscira, on the basis that only there can she learn to control her powers. Superman reluctantly agrees, but still prefers to watch over Kara himself. Elsewhere, on the planet Apokolips, Darkseid learns of Kara’s presence on Earth, and orders her to be captured and brought to Apokolips as a possible candidate to lead the Female Furies since the departure of Big Barda.

Whilst Batman and Superman are checking on Kara on Themyscira, a horde of Doomsday clones appears from Apokolips. Superman, Wonder Woman and the Amazonian army fight them for a while until Superman vaporizes all of them with a single blast of his heat vision, but Batman discovers that Kara is missing, and her friend Lyla who was with her has been killed by Darkseid’s Omega Beams while trying to prevent her abduction. Distraught, Superman vows revenge.

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman locate and recruit Barda to help them through their way on Apokolips. Once there, Superman tears his way to Darkseid’s palace while Wonder Woman and Barda go through the sewers directly into the fighting arena, where they are ambushed by Granny Goodness and the Female Furies. After a long fight, Granny and the Furies are subdued. Batman, meanwhile, makes his way underground and finds the Hell Spores, the source of the fire pits on Apokolips, and activates them.

Superman encounters Darkseid, who sets the brainwashed Kara on him. Kara pummels Superman around while Darkseid watches, until Batman confronts Darkseid and informs him that he has activated the Hell Spores, all of which will destroy Apokolips. He issues Darkseid an ultimatum: free Kara and promise to leave her alone, and Batman will deactivate the Spores. Intrigued, Darkseid admits his admiration for Batman’s tactics. Acknowledging that neither Superman or Wonder Woman have the “strength of character” to destroy an entire planet, Darkseid relents. Superman manages to defeat Kara, and Barda and Wonder Woman present Darkseid with the subdued Granny. Defeated, Darkseid allows them to leave Apokolips.

With their lives normal again, Clark decides to take Kara to meet his adoptive parents in Smallville. However, they are ambushed by Darkseid, who was waiting to kill Superman: he had promised to leave Kara alone, but not Superman or Earth. After a lengthy battle, in which Darkseid beats Superman and Kara severely, Superman gains the upper hand and pummels Darkseid. As Darkseid grabs Superman and begins torturing him with his Omega Beam, Kara uses Darkseid’s motherbox to activate a Boom Tube, which Superman pushes Darkseid through. While Superman anticipates Darkseid’s eventual return from Apokolips, Kara informs him that she changed the coordinates to a random spot in space, leaving Darkseid floating around, frozen in ice.

Having saved her cousin’s life and found her place on Earth, Kara decides to use her powers to fight for altruism under the alias of Supergirl. She is met with applause by Wonder Woman, the Amazons, and finally, Batman. Superman and Supergirl then fly off to Metropolis.

REVIEW:

 Honestly, I don’t know why they didn’t just call this Supergirl, because that’s what it was. Actually, I think this is what fans expected instead of the Helen Slater Supergirl film from the late 70s.

That being said, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is quite enjoyable, albeit a bit more dramatic that I would like. What I mean by that is that while there is plenty of action to go around, they lace it in to the heavy drama of Kara rebelling against Clark. Perhaps if the film was a bit longer, they could have gone more into this and justified it, but as it stands, there was no reason to focus on the drama. I can guarantee you that the people who watch this DVD are not watching it for some drama.

I’ve seen better animation from DC studios than this. Many of the characters seemed like they were still in the early sketch phase, or at the very least, attempting that look that late 70s-early 80s cartoons have. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work here. Also, why did Superman look Asian? Not that I have anything against Asians, mind you, but that’s just the way they made him look in some scenes, and not in others.

The action is great and is what most people will watch this for. For the most part, though, they will be disappointed. Not in the action itself, but the lack of it. This is a Superman film after all, and for some reason it is like a cardinal scene for there to be lots of action in movies involving him. The best fight scene, though, comes at the film’s end. A climactic battle between the Kryptonians and Darkseid that is well worth sitting through the 70 minute runtime to get to it.

Voice casting is pretty good. I’m always glad to hear Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy reprise their roles as Superman and Batman, respectively. In my opinion, they’ve done the best job bringing those characters to life and should always be the ones who give them life, but that’s just me.

Ed Asner as Granny Goodness was nice.

Andre Baugher really sells Darkseid as a scary, obscenely powerful, omnipotent being. I wonder who would win between him and Marvel’s Apocalypse?

Summer Glau is perfect for Supergirl, though I’m not quite sure this incarnation suits her. Seeing as how this is a very young Supergirl, maybe it would have done better to get someone with a younger sounding voice? Not saying that Summer did bad. She was awesome! I’m just saying that perhaps a younger voice would have worked a little better, in my opinion.

So, what is my final verdict on this film? Well, it isn’t as good as some of the other DC studio films, but it is really enjoyable. There isn’t that slow pace that some of the earlier films suffered from, which is extremely nice. Superman/Batman:Apocalypse isn’t for everyone, though. There is some coarse language that is sure to offend someone, especially in this day and age when a person sneezes and offends someone. Having said that, I think the added bonus of not being ties down to kiddie language really helped this film along. I highly recommend it to everyone!

4 out of 5 stars