Archive for May, 2011

The Hills Run Red

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , on May 12, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

After the American Civil War, a Confederate veteran and his comrade travel through the hills in a chuck wagon on the mission of burying a large sum in lost gold. As they near their exact destination they spot a Union army escort approaching on horseback. Knowing there is little chance of escaping without being arrested or killed, they decide that their only hope is that one of them jump off the wagon while the other continue on his way to bury the loot. So after rolling down an embankment using the rocks as cover, it is the ‘hero’ who is eventually caught by the soldiers. They demand to know what he is up to and where his friend is, who they saw with him on the wagon a few minutes previously. When he won’t tell them anything, they take his gun, beat him up and arrest him.

The movie then skips to 5 years later when the man is released from a small Union jail. Once he has his horse back he rides off to small abandoned ranch in the hills. As he stands on the sidewalk, he is shot at. Unarmed (the soldiers at the prison refused to return his gun), he dives into the adjacent barn where he meets an old friend who gives him a gun. He kills a first gunman who runs in to the barn and then hits the deck as a second comes rushing in shooting. After an exchange of shots and some quick reactions when both men run out of bullets, a fistfight ensues and he eventually overpowers his opponent and manages to kill him with his own knife.

The plot changes direction from this point in that he rides to the local town which is overrun by an outlaw gang led by a psychopathic killer. For the second half of the film, the hero is then on a vengeance quest as it appears the crazy bandit is responsible for taking his girl and the possible deaths of his family who lived at the afore-mentioned ranch.

REVIEW:

Following the success of the Eastwood “Man with no name” films, spaghetti westerns started popping up all over the place, The Hills Run Red was one of those films. As a matter of fact, I think it was one of the first, but don’t quote me.

If you’ve ever seen a western, then you know 9 times out of 10 the plot revolves around either cattle rustling or revenge. This one falls in the latter.

The hero is sent to prison, wrongfully, for 5 years at the beginning of the film. Upon his release he sets out to make a new name for himself, and the other man who was with him is forgotten for the rest of the film. The second half of the picture has our hero being a one man vigilante trying to save the town, in typical western fashion.

I wish I could say that there was something special about this picture, but there just isn’t. That isn’t to say that its bad, but rather it is so predictable that you can almost predict their lines!

Having said that, it is no secret that you watch a western for the action, more specifically, the  gunfights. This film doesn’t disappoint in that department. Sure, there could have been more, but this is a spaghetti western, remember. They tend to be more story driven, as opposed to letting the action rule.

I wasn’t really impressed with The Hills Run Red. Not really a fan of that title, either. It brings to mind a horror film…at least for me, it does. That point aside, I did think this film is a worthy view for any fan of westerns. No, it isn’t one of the great ones, but it is worth the 86 minutes.

3 out of 5 stars

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Vampyres

Posted in Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on May 11, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Two beautiful women roam the English countryside, luring unsuspecting men to their estate for orgies of sex and blood. But when an innocent young couple stumble into the vampires’ lair, they find themselves sucked into an unforgettable vortex of savage lust and forbidden desires.

REVIEW:

I really don’t know how I came across this film. It isn’t your normal vampire film, nor does it fall into the category of the soft core porn one would think it would be.

Apparently, Vampyres is a cult hit, though I had never heard of it until a few days ago when I decided I was going to watch it…eventually.

Um…there is a plot here that has something to do with these female vampires and their insatiable appetites for flesh, blood, and sexual desires.

Yeah, it sounds like a porn, and plays out like one. Of course, this is a film from the 70s, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

This isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a good one, either. The main thing that sticks out when you watch this is that for a film of this nature, one would expect more gratuitous sex and nudity, yet, there weren’t.

In that same token, I have to give kudos to the female bodies in this flick. Marianne Morris is quite the natural beauty…cellulite and all. We all know that if this was made today, they’d find some chick who seemed to have no imperfections on her at all. It is quite refreshing to see a natural woman in all her glory.

Back to the bad things, this is a vampire movie, and there isn’t much vampiric activity going on, at least not as much as I would expect. It seems to me that this could have done with more blood and gore, just to make the vampire aspect more of the forefront, and not give this such a porn feel.

Like I said, there is a plot here, but you can’t really tell what it is. If I wasn’t a red-blooded male looking at hot women from the 70s, I’d no doubt have been either bored to tears or confused out of my mind.

Vampyres is not the kid of flick you should watch if you’re looking for the traditional vampire film. However, much in the same way females flock to those Twilight movies because of the attraction to the male “vampires”, guys will love this one because of the hot vampire chicks…even if it never is said how they become vampires, especially since they get shot in the opening scene! This is worth a viewing, but I wouldn’t go out of the way to buy the DVD or anything like that.

3 out of 5 stars

How to be a Player

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 10, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Drayton “Dray” Jackson (Bill Bellamy) is a playboy with only one goal in his life: to have sex with as many women as possible. While he is doing that, he is busy trying to keep these women a secret from his girlfriend, Lisa (Lark Voorhies). But, Dray’s sister, Jenny, (Natalie Desselle-Reid) and her friend Katrina (Mari Morrow) strategize to invite all the women Dray has been playing to the same party that he is attending.He begins to make the moves on his sister’s friend, almost succeeding until the one girl he really has true feelings for shows up at the door.

REVIEW:

I think at some point in time, all guys (and maybe even some girls) ponder what it takes to be a player. While it crosses some of our minds, a few actually go through with it, this is how we get plots to films like Boomerang and this one, How to be a Player.

Personally, I’m no player, just a flirt. As a matter of fact, one of my friends called me a “horn dog flirt” this week. Be that as it may, I’m as faithful as they come. Having said that, I actually enjoy these films where the guy who can’t keep it in his pants, has all sorts of issues.

The plot of this urban comedy from the mid-90s is quite simple. We have our “player” who is in a relationship with a drop dead gorgeous woman, but still manages to go around town getting his freak on with other gorgeous women. His friends want to know the secret, which is how we get the title, and his sister and her friend want to expose him, under the guise of a sociology project. The sister’s friend also wants a little piece of the action, as well. This all leads to the many comedic moments and an entertaining ending.

I guess if you’re going to be a player, then you better have the looks to back it up, and many women seem to think Bill Bellamy was the living end back in the day. I wonder whatever happened to him? In this role, he does a pretty good job, but I’ve seen him do better. Any Given Sunday, anyone? Still, he’s come a long way since hosting the beach house and various urban parts of MTV program back when they actually could justify the M in their name.

The women in this film are all pretty hot, especially the sister’s friend, and of course the girlfriend, Lisa…played by Lark Voorhies (is she always playing characters named Lisa?)

Adding more comic flavoring to the mix are the…let’s call them sidekicks. These guys don’t really bring anything to the plot or story, but they are a nice compliment to the cast.

The good thing about films from the 90s is that they never took themselves too seriously…well, the comedies didn’t. If this film was made today, I would be you would barely be able to tell it was a comedy. My, my, how times have changed.

The comedic moments are what make this film entertaining. If you take those out, then you actually have a pretty unwatchable movie.

The way Bellamy swerves out of the situations when he is surely caught are nothing short of a show of skill and luck.

I didn’t care too much for the plot by the sister and her friend. To me, it just seemed like they were there as a plot device, and not a very good one, at that.

What is the final verdict on How to be a Player? I think it is pretty decent, but could’ve been better. No, it doesn’t necessarily teach you how to be a player. Well, I guess it kind of does, but you better hope that the women you’re using these tactics on haven’t seen this before. This isn’t the greatest film, but if you take the time to watch it, I’m sure you’ll get a couple of laughs, at least. If you get the chance, why not check it out?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Thor

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2011 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 965 A.D., Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of Asgard, wages war against the Frost Giants of Jotunheim and their leader Laufey (Colm Feore), to prevent them from conquering the Nine Realms, starting with Earth. The Asgardian warriors defeat the Frost Giants and seize the source of their power, the Casket of Ancient Winters.

In the present, Odin’s son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) prepares to ascend to the throne of Asgard, but is interrupted when the Frost Giants attempt to retrieve the Casket. Against Odin’s order, Thor travels to Jotunheim to confront Laufey, accompanied by his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), childhood friend Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three; Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Joshua Dallas) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano). A battle ensues until Odin intervenes to save the Asgardians, destroying the fragile truce between the two races. For Thor’s arrogance, Odin strips his son of his godly power and exiles him to Earth, accompanied by his hammer Mjolnir — the source of his power, now protected by a spell to allow only the worthy to wield it.

Thor lands in New Mexico, where scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) find him. The local populace finds Mjolnir, which S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) soon commandeers before forcibly acquiring Jane’s data about the wormhole that delivered Thor to Earth. Thor, having discovered Mjolnir’s nearby location, seeks to retrieve it from the facility that S.H.I.E.L.D quickly constructed but he finds himself unable to lift it, and is captured. With Selvig’s help, he is freed and resigns himself to exile on Earth as he develops a romance with Jane.

Loki discovers he is Laufey’s son, adopted by Odin after the war ended. When Odin, overcome with stress, falls into the deep “Odinsleep” that allows him to recuperate, Loki becomes king and offers Laufey the chance to kill Odin and retrieve the Casket. Sif and the Warriors Three, unhappy with Loki’s rule, attempt to return Thor from exile, convincing Heimdall (Idris Elba), gatekeeper of the Bifröst Bridge – the means of traveling between worlds – to allow them passage to Earth. Aware of their plan, Loki sends the Destroyer, a seemingly indestructible automaton, to pursue them and kill Thor. Sif and the Warriors Three find Thor, but the Destroyer attacks and defeats them, prompting Thor to offer himself instead. Struck by the Destroyer and near death, Thor’s sacrifice proves him worthy to wield Mjolnir. The hammer returns to him, restoring his powers and allowing him to defeat the Destroyer. Kissing Jane goodbye and vowing to return, he and his fellow warriors travel to Asgard to confront Loki.

In Asgard, Loki betrays and kills Laufey, revealing his true plan to use Laufey’s attempt on Odin’s life as an excuse to destroy Jotunheim with the Bifröst Bridge, and thus prove himself worthy to Odin. Thor arrives and fights his brother before destroying the Bifröst Bridge to stop Loki’s plan, stranding himself in Asgard. Odin awakens and prevents the brothers from falling into the abyss created in the wake of the bridge’s destruction, but Loki allows himself to fall to his apparent death after realizing that he disappointed Odin once again. Thor makes amends with Odin, admitting he is not ready to be king, while on Earth, Jane and her team search for a way to open a portal to Asgard so that she can reunite with Thor.

In a post-credits scene, Selvig has been taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) asks him to study an unnamed device, which Fury says may hold untold power. Loki, invisible, whispers to Selvig to agree, which Selvig does.

REVIEW:

Unless you’re a fellow comic geek, then your knowledge of Thor may be limited to Norse mythology, what you’ve seen occasionally in cartoons where he’s popped up spouting medieval lingo, or the little girl’s obsession in Adventures in Babysitting.

Well, the good people over at Marvel Studios have finally decided to bring Thor to the big screen, and they do so with a pretty big bang, if I do say so myself.

To my knowledge, Thor is the first feature film the Norse god of thunder has been featured in (excluding his segment in Hulk Vs.), so this is kind of a big deal, especially since this is supposed to be the first big film of the summer (no offense to Fast Five).

The plot of this film is basically an origin tale, because unlike Superman, Batman, Spider Man, etc., not may people are familiar with the history of the character of Thor. As we are getting to know Thor we learn that he is a kind of pompous jerk, who lets his ego go too far one day and not only threatens the lives of some of his friends, but also violates a truce, and subsequently gets banished from Asgard and stripped of his powers. Once he lands on Earth, he meets up with a trio of scientists who are studying something up in the sky (I can’t remember what it was exactly). After a few character development scenes, the film ends with some true kick-ass action scenes!

I’ve made the decision to basically boycott the use of 3D (I’m making an exception for Green Lantern, though). I mean, I have yet to see a film that makes good use of the technology, and I honestly think studios are just using it as a way to charge more money (as if ticket prices aren’t high enough).

Having said that, I think there might have been some pretty swell 3D scenes in this film, especially on Asgard, but still not enough to warrant the extra $$$.

The casting in this film really caught my attention. Let’s start with Thor, himself, played by Chris Hemsworth. Another Australian to follow in the footsteps of Mel Gibson (before he lost his mind), Heath Ledger, and currently Sam Worthington. This guy looks exactly like Thor, especially since he buffed up since he was last seen on-screen as Kirk’s father in Star Trek. On top of all that, the guy doesn’t do a bad job with this role.

Tom Hiddleston is another bit of brilliant casting as Loki. It isn’t very often that we see a villain become a villain before our very eyes and feel for him as we do here, and Hiddleston does a great job of bringing the audience to his side. I would have liked for him to have had more fun with the character. After all, Loki is the god of mischief!!!

Anthony Hopkins as Odin…do I really need to say anything other than genius?

Natalie Portman does a decent job as Jane Foster, but this isn’t really her movie, let alone anything for her to write home about. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t bad, this was just a small role, and she’s just coming off The Black Swan, those two things coupled together caused a bit of confusion, but in the end, she did what she had to and owned this role.

Idris Elba was controversially cast as Heimdall. There was an organization who actually threatened to boycott this film because of his skin color? Can you believe that? After all that hullabaloo, Elba does what he does with all his roles, treats them very professionally and delivers a knockout performance. To those people who wanted to boycott because of his skin color…well, I won’t type what I want to say to them….just use your imagination.

The sets were fantastic. Wait, let me take that back. Asgard and the lair of the Frost giants are spectacular, while the little town in New Mexico (which is somehow directly beneath Asgard –scratches head–) looks like nothing more than an old set they dug out from the studio archives and filled with extras. Did they really spend all their money on Asgard, I wonder?

The special effects were awesome, but in a film of this genre and with this subject matter, would you really expect less?

I was especially impressed with how much this film kept close to the source material. The one thing I would have liked for them to have kept, though is Thor’s helmet. He wears it when we initially see him, but he takes it off and it is never seen again. Something tells me, that we’ll get something similar with the upcoming The First Avenger: Captain America. Something about wings on a person’s head just doesn’t work these days, I guess. No wonder Flash hasn’t been on the big screen, yet.

I do have a bit of an issue with the pacing of the film, mainly when it shifts to Earth. It seems that down here the film drags on, except for the S.H.I.E.L.D. tent scene and the appearance of the Destroyer. Without those, this film all but makes you hate living on Earth because it is such a bore down here, as opposed to the non-stop action that occurs in the other worlds.

The mixture of action and comedy really works here, even better than it did in the first Iron Man. This is what a comic book movie should be, not something all dark and depressing, if you ask me.

Thor starts this summer off with a bang, and the subsequent films that are set to come out between now and Labor Day have some big shoes to fill. No, this film isn’t perfect, but it was something even better…entertaining! They also snuck in a subtle hint towards the forthcoming Avengers movie (after which, I’m sure there will be a sequel to this film). Do I recommend this film? Yes, Yes, YES!!!! you should drop everything and see it right now! It is that good!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Whole Ten Yards

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Thanks to falsified dental records supplied by his former neighbor Nicholas “Oz” Ozeransky (Matthew Perry), retired hitman Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski (Bruce Willis) now spends his days compulsively cleaning his house and perfecting his culinary skills with his wife, Jill (Amanda Peet), a purported assassin who has yet to pull off a “clean” hit (everyone she is hired to kill dies in bizarre accidents before she can kill them). Oz, meanwhile, is now married to Jimmy’s ex-wife Cynthia and has a dental practice in California, now expecting their first child, but the relationship is complicated due to Oz’s over-excessive paranoia about security, as well as Cynthia’s secret continued contact with Jimmy (Although Oz also talks with Jill on occasion).

Their lives are further complicated by the return of Lazlo Gogolak (Kevin Pollak), a father figure of Jimmy’s who ran the mob that Jimmy was once a member of, Jimmy and Jill having killed his son Yanni while Lazlo was in prison. Having deduced that Jimmy is still alive, Lazlo abducts Cynthia and threatens Oz to try and learn Jimmy’s location, Oz only just managing to escape thanks to one of Lazlo’s henchmen accidentally shooting out a light. With no other options, Oz contacts Jimmy and Jill for assistance, but Jimmy initially refuses to help until Lazlo’s men attack the house after following Oz’s car.

Having captured Lazlo’s remaining son, Strabonitz (Strabo, for short), Jimmy tells Lazlo that he will trade Cynthia for Strabo, but the group’s attempt to check into a hotel results in Oz unintentionally triggering further conflict between Jimmy and Jill when he reveals that Jimmy still wears a crucifix Cynthia gave him. Retreating to a bar to get drunk, Jimmy becomes increasingly depressed about his apparent failure to father a child with Jill, although Oz becomes frustrated when Jimmy starts discussing his and Cynthia’s old sex life, culminating in them becoming so drunk that Oz and Jimmy wake up in the same bed (Although nothing happens).

Increasingly frustrated at her poor sex life with Jimmy, Jill attempts to seduce Oz, resulting in Jimmy walking in on them and knocking Oz out, subsequently regaining his passion for Jill and his work as the two proceed to have sex in the bathroom. While re-arming themselves at Oz’s house, the three are attacked by an unknown marksman, whose attempts to shoot them result in Strabo being killed in the crossfire, the subsequent argument causing Jill to leave in frustration at Jimmy’s insults of her capabilities and his cold dismissal of Oz. Increasingly driven to breaking point by recent events, Oz retreats to his practice, where Jimmy greets him to apologize for recent events, only for Oz’s new receptionist Julie to chloroform Oz and Jimmy, revealing that she is the sister of ‘Frankie Figgs’, out for revenge for Oz and Jimmy’s role in her brother’s death.

Waking up with Cynthia and Jimmy in Lazlo’s apartment, Oz is shocked to learn that the current situation has been part of a plan by Jimmy and Cynthia from the beginning so that Cynthia could find Lazlo’s half of the first dollar he ever stole, which he had torn in half to be divided between Jimmy and Yanni when they were kids. Just as Lazlo is preparing to kill the three of them, Jill shows up, having set up Strabo’s body so that he appears to be alive and tied up in her car, threatening to detonate explosives in her car unless Lazlo releases Oz and Cynthia. Claiming to want to join Lazlo’s organization, Jill is ordered to shoot Jimmy, finally apparently shooting Jimmy in the heart when he informs her that she’ll never be a successful hitter.

When Jill’s car detonates when Lazlo’s men go to release Strabo, it is revealed that Jill was in on the plan as well, having merely shot Jimmy with blanks. With Jules having been exposed as the shooter who killed Strabo, Lazlo shoots her, Jimmy subsequently having Jill shoot Lazlo in the foot, unable to kill the man who raised him. As the group depart, Jimmy and Cynthia reveal that the plan was set up to acquire Lazlo’s half of the dollar, the combined dollar revealing the account number for a Gogalak account containing $280 million. With Jill having revealed that she is pregnant, the four drive away.

REVIEW:

Yes, I know I’ve been slacking on my reviews here lately. Please pardon my absence, I’ve recently had a tragedy. While I am far from being back to normal, things are getting back into a routine…at least enough for me to sit down and watch The Whole Ten Yards.

In case you aren’t aware, this is the sequel to The Whole Nine Yards. Like many people, I question whether this was a film that needed to be made, as it seemed to just recycle the plot from the original, with a few changes here and there.

The film begins a little while after the previous one ended. Jimmy and Jill are living down in Mexico, where he had taught her to become a professional assassin…even if she has yet to actually kill someone, and Oz and Cynthia are living it up in L.A. All this is too good to be true as we all of a sudden get introduced to Lazlo Gogolak and the plot of the film, involving money (don’t all plots involve money one way or another?).

If you will recall from me review of the last film, I believe I said that it was hard to determine if it was a comedy or drama. Well, this one was obviously more of a comedy…and I use that term lightly.

Often times, you will notice that I say a film tries too hard to be funny. Well, this is one of those times. I applaud the filmmakers for making the effort to distinguish the comedic aspects and whatnot, but they could have done a better job with the way the jokes were written.

On top of that, Kevin Pollack’s performance was just way too over the top. There really isn’t anything wrong with being “out there”, if you will, but when you can’t take the character serious (farces/parodies are exceptions), then we have a problem, and that is exactly why this just didn’t work for me.

The returning cast from the original film seem to work, but at the same time, they seemed to not be as into it this time. I won’t g so far as to say they just showed up to collect a check, because they did seem to be trying, but the chemistry seemed to have been skewered somehow.

Maybe this was die to the killing of Michael Clarke Duncan’s character at the end of the first one or perhaps it all goes back to Pollack’s over the top caricature performance. Who knows?

As I said earlier, the story was rehash of the first film. You can make the argument about “if it ain’t broke, don’t fx it”, but if you’ll recall, it didn’t work too well the first time, so why not try something new? I must be missing something.

After all is said and done, I can say that despite my complaints, The Whole Ten Yards is funnier than its predecessor, but suffers in terms of filmmaking. If you could take the best parts of the two films and put them together, then we’d have a really good …Yards picture. Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury and this is what we’re stuck with. Should you see this? It wouldn’t hurt. As a matter of fact, you may even crack a smile or two. As long as you’re not expecting anything Oscar-worthy, then I say go for it. For me, I’ve seen it once, and that may be enough for me.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars