Archive for March, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Charlie is nervous about beginning his freshman year of high school. He is shy and slow to make friends: on the first day, he only connects with his English teacher.

Charlie befriends two seniors, Sam and her stepbrother Patrick. After a football game they take him to a high school dance and then a house party. Charlie unwittingly eats a cannabis brownie and becomes intoxicated. He admits to Sam that his best friend committed suicide the year before. He also discovers Patrick and Brad, a popular athlete, kissing in a room. Sam realizes that Charlie has no other friends, and makes Charlie part of their group. Charlie agrees to help Sam prepare for her SAT exams so she may enter Pennsylvania State University. On the way home from the party, the three drive through a tunnel and Sam stands up in the back of the pickup truck while listening to a song they call “The Tunnel Song” (“Heroes” by David Bowie).

During Christmas, the group organizes a Secret Santa. Though Sam was not Charlie’s Santa, she gives him a vintage typewriter. While discussing relationships, Charlie reveals he has never been kissed. Sam reveals that her first kiss was from her father’s boss when she was 11 years old. Sam adds that she wants Charlie’s first kiss to be from someone who loves him before kissing him.

Sam, Patrick and their friends regularly take part in acting out The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Charlie is asked to take part in the show when Sam’s college boyfriend, Craig, is unavailable. An impressed Mary Elizabeth, one of their friends, asks Charlie to the Sadie Hawkins dance. After the dance, Mary Elizabeth takes Charlie to her house and they kiss. She declares how glad she is to have him as her boyfriend.

Mary Elizabeth dominates the relationship, and Charlie grows irritated by her. At a party, they break up during a game of Truth or Dare when Charlie, without thinking, kisses Sam after being dared to kiss the most beautiful girl in the room. Sam is furious at Charlie. Charlie returns to isolation after Patrick tells him to stay away while things cool down. Charlie has flashbacks of the death of his Aunt Helen who died in a car accident when he was seven years old.

Patrick breaks up with Brad after Brad’s father catches them together. In the school cafeteria, Brad calls Patrick a “faggot” because Brad does not want his friends believing they are friends. Patrick attacks Brad, but Brad’s friends beat him up. Charlie intervenes, lunging at Brad’s friends, but blacks out. When he comes to, he finds he has bruised knuckles and the boys are on the floor in pain. Charlie helps Patrick to his feet and coldly warns Brad, “Touch my friends again, and I’ll blind you”. Patrick, Sam and Charlie reconcile. Patrick takes Charlie to a park and discusses how he witnessed Brad’s father beat him when he found Brad with Patrick. Patrick then states his wish that he could meet a nice guy, and kisses Charlie, but immediately apologizes. He hugs Charlie and Charlie hugs him back.

Sam receives her college acceptance letter from Pennsylvania State University, which states that she must leave immediately for a summer introductory program. Sam breaks up with Craig after learning he has been cheating on her. The night before she departs, Sam brings Charlie to her room, and after several confessions to each other, they kiss. When she starts touching Charlie on his thigh, he pulls away. The next morning, Charlie says goodbye to Sam and Patrick. Charlie is left emotionally shaken.

Charlie goes to his empty home, having severe flashbacks of his Aunt Helen and her death. Charlie calls his sister and blames himself for Helen’s death. His sister believes Charlie is suicidal and calls the police. Charlie passes out as they burst through the door, waking up in a hospital. A psychiatrist tells Charlie’s parents that he was sexually abused by his aunt. Charlie repressed the memories because he loved her.

Charlie undergoes therapy, recovers and returns home where he is visited by Sam and Patrick. Sam explains what college life is like, and how she has found “The Tunnel Song” Charlie was searching for. The three revisit the tunnel, where Charlie stands in the back of the truck. Charlie acknowledges that he feels alive and in this moment, “We are infinite”.

REVIEW:

I may be a bit long-winded when it comes to blogging and such, but in real life, I am more of a wallflower, so a film like The Perks of Being a Wallflower should be something near and dear to my heart. It would seem that this is based on an extremely popular book. I guess I need to get to reading that one of these days, perhaps.

What is this about?

In this engaging coming-of-age tale based on the best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky, a shy freshman struggling with depression deals with his best friend’s suicide and his first love — and finds help from two seniors who take an interest in him.

What did I like?

Get real. Think about every teen movie you’ve seen. Almost every single one of them focuses on the jocks, cheerleader, etc., and they all seem to be focused on sex, drugs, and/or drinking. Thankfully, this film gives a different take on things, showing that these students care about more important things, like relationships and their future. I don’t know about you, but those are a couple of things that were on my mine constantly during high school, especially my senior year!

Save it. The tone of this film doesn’t really change until the end, when one of the characters gets all dark thanks to some repressed memories that surface. For some people, they would have liked for this to have come up sooner, but for me, I was all up for saving something for the end. I mean, you don’t mix chocolate cake with your steak and potatoes now do you? No, you save dessert for the end!

Cast. The young cast is full of star just waiting to breakout, including the likes of Logan Lerman (best known from the Percy Jackson films), Mae Whitman, and Emma Watson (my, my…hasn’t Hermoine grown up?). However, it is lesser known Ezra Miller that is the true shining star and someone who hopefully we’ll be hearing big things from in the future. On the adult side of things, I do believe this is Paul Rudd’s best role since Clueless.

What didn’t I like?

WTF?!? Early on in the film, Logan Lerman’s character mentions that his best friend committed suicide. That is all we hear about it for the entire film. With all the problems this kid has, it seems as if that would have been brought up at least once or twice more, rather than just mentioned as an afterthought. I could be in the minority in thinking that way, but I felt that if they were going to bring it up, then they needed to either go somewhere with it in terms of relating it to the story, or not mention it at all.

Agenda. Given the era that this is based in, I understand that the public attitudes toward homosexuality weren’t the same as they are now (fight amongst yourselves about whether we have moved forward or backwards), but the way the film brought that to the forefront for a few scenes seemed to be pushing some sort of gay agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with alternative lifestyles. To each their own, but there comes a point when it is just too much. Then again, maybe I’m still bitter about how Glee went from a funny dramedy to one that brought up gay every chance it got.

Family. Obviously, the focus is meant to be on Lerman’s friends, rather than family, but I can’t help but think they meant for them to have something more to do. Why else do you cast name actors like Kate Walsh, Nina Dobrev, Melanie Lysnkey, and Dylan McDermott? Going even further, the flashbacks show something happened with the aunt, but it is never explicitly told to the audience. I’m thinking that should have been something that was brought up with all the family there in the mental institution.

For what it is, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a pretty decent and somewhat enjoyable film that will keep your attention. That being said, I cannot say that I will be going out of my to watch this again. I just wasn’t that into it, but that’s a personal preference. The next person may love it while someone else may despise every second. It is just a matter of personal taste. Would I recommend this, though? Yes, this is a really well-crafted film with few flaws. If you get the chance, check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Basic Instinct

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , on March 31, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When rock star Johnny Boz (Bill Cable) is viciously stabbed to death with an ice pick during sex by a mysterious blonde woman, homicide detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) is sent to investigate. The only suspect is Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a crime novelist who was the last person to be seen with Boz on the night he died. Nick and his partner, Gus Moran (George Dzundza), visit her Pacific Heights mansion, but they find only Catherine’s lesbian lover, Roxy (Leilani Sarelle), who sends them to Catherine’s Stinson Beach house. When they ask Catherine about her relationship with Boz, she shows little emotion at hearing he is dead. Nick and Gus, along with their superiors, discover that Catherine has written a novel about a former rock star who was killed in the same way as Boz (stabbed in bed with an ice pick, hands tied together with a silk scarf). During questioning by detectives, including Nick, at police headquarters, Catherine engages in provocative behavior, refuses to extinguish her cigarette, and re-crosses her legs — her short skirt revealing that she is not wearing underwear.

Nick, who accidentally shot two tourists while high on cocaine, attends counseling sessions with police psychologist Dr. Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), with whom he has had an affair. Nick goes to a bar with co-workers after the interrogation and is taunted by Lieutenant Marty Nilsen (Daniel von Bargen), an internal affairs investigator bent on making life difficult for Nick. Beth arrives and Nick leaves with her. They go to her apartment, where aggressive foreplay escalates into rape. Nick learns that Catherine has a troubled history: Her parents were killed in a boating accident when she was an adolescent, leaving her a fortune; one of her college counselors, Noah Goldstein, was stabbed in his sleep with an ice pick when Catherine was attending UC Berkeley, and her former fiancé, boxer Manny Vasquez, was killed in the ring during a prize fight in Atlantic City. He also discovers that Catherine makes a habit of befriending murderers, including Hazel Dobkins, a woman who stabbed her husband and children for no apparent reason.

During a visit to her house Catherine taunts Nick with information that should be confidential. As a police psychologist Beth is the only person with access to that information. Nick confronts Beth and she admits that she handed his file to Nilsen, who threatened to discharge Nick if he could not evaluate him directly. An enraged Nick storms into Nilsen’s office, assaults him, and accuses him of having sold Nick’s file to Catherine. Nilsen then suspends Nick, who goes home and spends the evening drinking. Beth visits him but he throws her out after a heated argument. Nilsen is found dead in his car later that night, shot once in the head with a .38 caliber revolver. Nick is the prime suspect because of their recent altercation.

A torrid affair between Nick and Catherine begins with the air of a cat-and-mouse game. Catherine explains that she will base her next novel’s character — a cop falling for the wrong woman only to be killed by her — on Nick, while at the same time he declares his love for her and his unchanged intention to nail her for Boz’s murder.

A jealous Roxy tries to run Nick over with Catherine’s car but is killed in a crash during a car chase. Her death reveals that she too has a murderous past — she killed her two brothers with a razor when she was a teenager (because juvenile arrests are sealed until the individual’s death, this record did not turn up earlier). Catherine seems genuinely saddened by Roxy’s death and Nick begins to doubt her guilt. Catherine later reveals that a previous lesbian encounter at college went awry when the girl, Lisa Hoberman, became obsessed with her. Nick identifies the girl as Beth Garner, who acknowledges the encounter but claims it was Catherine who became obsessed. It is also discovered that Beth’s husband was killed in an unsolved drive-by shooting, shot with a .38 caliber revolver.

Nick visits Catherine’s house. Before Catherine comes into the room he sees on a printer the final pages of Catherine’s new detective book. He quickly reads a few lines, in which the fictional detective finds his partner lying dead with his legs protruding from the doors of an elevator. Catherine comes in and explains that she has finished her book, and coldly ends the affair. Upset, Nick meets Gus, who has arranged to meet with Catherine’s college roommate at a hotel to find out what really went on between Catherine and Beth. As Nick waits in the car, Gus enters the hotel elevator. As he exits the elevator a hooded figure jumps out and stabs him multiple times in the neck with an ice pick. Nick figures out there is trouble brewing and runs into the building, but he arrives too late to save Gus and finds him lying dead with his legs protruding from the doors of the elevator. Hearing the floor creak, Nick grabs Gus’ gun and turns to find Beth standing in the hallway, explaining she received a message to meet Gus there. Nick suspects that she murdered Gus and, as Beth moves her hand in her pocket, he shoots her. Beth tells Nick with her final breath that she loved him. A dejected Nick checks her pocket, to find only her keys. The police arrive, and in a staircase discover a blond wig, an SFPD raincoat, and an ice pick, the weapon used to murder Gus, concluding that Beth ditched the items when she heard Nick coming up. A search of Beth’s apartment turns up the evidence needed to brand her as the killer of Boz, Gus, Nilsen, and presumably her own husband—the matching revolver, Catherine’s novels, and photos chronicling the writer’s life. At police headquarters, all the other detectives quickly piece together the story and conclude that Beth was the killer. Nick sits on his desk, confused and dejected, knowing based on Catherine’s foreknowledge of the manner of Gus’ death that she must actually have been the killer and that she must have set Beth up.

Nick returns to his apartment where he is met by Catherine, knowing she’s the killer. She explains her reluctance to commit to him, but then the two make love. Afterward, the conversation turns toward their possible future as a couple. Nick looks wary of her. While talking Nick turns his back on Catherine as she slowly reaches for something underneath the bed. He suggests their future will comprise sex and children. Catherine says she hates children and Nick then suggests their future will then just involve sex. At this Catherine stops reaching for something under the bed and she throws her arms around Nick, convincing him, and the two resume making love as the camera slowly pans down to show what she was reaching for under the bed: an ice pick

REVIEW:

Back in 1992, when Basic Instinct was released, there was tons of controversy surrounding its copious amounts of sex and nudity as well as the subject matter. By today’s standards though, this is quite tame. What a difference 20 yrs makes, right?

What is this about?

Facing internal inquiry, Det. Curran doggedly pursues a case involving Catherine, a writer and temptress who is suspected in a murder reminiscent of a crime detailed in her book. As the body count rises, so does Curran’s obsession with Catherine.

What did I like?

Whodunit? In a throwback to classic thrillers of yesteryear, or maybe just good thrillers, this film takes us in a multitude of directions as we seek out the killer. It can’t always be the person you most expect, I will leave it at that. The way the filmmakers foreshadow her, though, was quite impressive. Not to give too much away, but in an early scene the eventual killer says something along the lines of if she was the killer she would say she wouldn’t just to throw everyone off. Brilliant…bloody brilliant!

Sex sells. I was in high school when this was released, so you can imagine that all I wanted to see back then was boobs and a bit of sex. Some things never change, but now I have an appreciation for the art of these nude scenes that populate the film. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you want to watch some deep dramatic thriller. If that was the case, then you wouldn’t be watching this particular film. You’re here for the skin…admit it!!!

Stone cold fox. Sharon Stone doesn’t give her best performance, but it is way better than some of the later things we’ve been catching her in lately. Stone has the chops, face, and body to carry this film, despite a rather unimpressive script. She does so with such class that it is no wonder that she went on to bigger things. That little chair scene helped a bit, too, I’m sure.

What didn’t I like?

Motive and murder. Always in murder cases, the motive is the #1 thing they try to find out. For some reason, it seemed as if motive didn’t matter to these cops, though, as finding the motive was a second thought. Perhaps they were distracted by Stone, but I doubt it.

Internal. I’m not quite sure I understood what the whole angle with getting Michael Douglas’ character suspended, or whatever the term they used was. When we first meet all these cops, they seem to get along, then in a scene a few minutes later, animosity rears its head, and spirals for the rest of the film. I can’t say that it worked for me. I believe they could have done something more with it, or at the very least, done a better job of writing with that part of the plot.

Daddy would not be proud. Michael Douglas is quite the accomplished, competent actor, but this is not his greatest work. Ironically, it may be one of the pieces on his resume that he is best known for. I won’t say that he is sleepwalking through this film, because he isn’t, but there are times when it is quite obvious he feels as if he could be somewhere else. I wish I could give the guy a pass on this, but I can’t as I’ve seen him do so much better with far less.

Basic Instinct is one of those films that is a must-see because of it impact on culture at the time. As far as being a must-see film based on its own merit, I’m not so sure it warrants the same response. It is good in that respect, but not great. Keep in mind, this is the brilliant mind that brought us Showgirls a few years following this, so it is obvious where his mind lay. Do I recommend this? Sure. It isn’t going to hurt to watch Sharon Stone writhing around a bunch of men. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Unleashed

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on March 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Bart (Bob Hoskins) is a vicious loan shark whose method of persuading men to pay him back involves Danny the Dog (Jet Li), a man with the mentality of a child; only if a metal collar around his neck is removed by Bart will he become a violently skilled fighter who stops at nothing to take down his targets. But once the collar is on, Danny is a harmless, withdrawn person, with very little knowledge of how to live as a socialized person, and he is constantly bullied by his master Bart.

One day, Bart realizes he can end his loan shark career by regularly attending an underground fighting tournament and registering Danny to fight; in exchange, if Danny can win and survive the fights, Bart receives good money. After the first fight, however, Bart gets into a mishap with another criminal and is left for dead after a violent shooting. A critically injured Danny runs off to an antique warehouse for shelter, where he meets a kindly piano tuner, Sam (Morgan Freeman). Danny soon finds himself with Sam and his step-daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon) in their apartment, and he starts a new life with the benevolent family; curiously he is drawn closer to music while spending time with Victoria. He also develops curiosity about who his mother was when he learns what a family is.

Weeks later Sam informs Danny about moving back to New York, where he and Victoria are originally from. He invites Danny, telling him they think of him as family, and Danny happily accepts. However, Danny runs into Bart’s right-hand man Lefty in the streets and is forced back to Bart, who is still alive. Bart drags Danny back to the underground arena, where a death-match is set between Danny and ruthless martial artists. Despite Danny’s pleas, Bart shoves him into the pit, where he is pummeled by four fighters. Danny eventually retaliates, but refuses to kill them. Enraged by Danny’s change of character, Bart drags him back home and shuts him back to his cage. That night, however, Danny sneaks through his door and goes through photographs of Bart’s favorite prostitutes, finally finding one snapshot of who appears to be Danny’s own mother. He interrogates Bart, who tells him that she was simply a prostitute who is long gone. He angrily promises to make Danny repay him for the money he had lost earlier that evening.

Next morning, however, Danny manages to escape and runs back to Sam and Victoria, telling them what he had learned and where he was. With the two’s help, Danny regains memories from his childhood past: his mother was a music student with no money, so she offered herself to Bart to get some to pay for her lessons. But one day, Bart shot her when she defied him. Bart has been raising Danny ever since, not as a human being, but as a dog.

Bart and a plethora of thugs arrive at Sam’s apartement building to capture Danny. Frantic, Danny hides Sam and Victoria in their closet, and he runs out to take out the thugs all over the building. He then faces off against an attacker (Michael Ian Lambert) with skills similar to his own; Danny eventually causes him to fall to his death on Bart’s car. A vengeful Bart pursues Danny through the building with a gun, finally catching him in Sam’s apartment. He threatens to pull the trigger, all the while telling him that he was never meant for a different kind of lifestyle. But he drops the gun and instead takes out a collar, telling Danny to come home. Danny slowly advances toward the collar, but stops Bart at the last minute and disarms him. He proceeds to furiously beat Bart, causing Sam and Victoria to burst out and frantically beg Danny not to kill; however, a defeated Bart orders Danny otherwise. Bart then tells Danny he will always be an animal, to which Sam responds by smashing a flower pot on his head, knocking him unconscious. Danny, Sam, and Victoria embrace.

Some time later, Danny is with Sam at a piano recital at Carnegie Hall, where Victoria is getting ready to perform. Realizing Victoria is playing what his mother played years ago, Danny sheds a happy tear.

REVIEW:

This will also be a bit on the short side, sorry about that.

Someone had actually mention Unleashed in a conversation awhile back and was surprised that I had not seen it. Truthfully, I don’t even recall it being released in 2005, but it has a pretty niche fan base, as it would appear. Will I join the club?

What is this about?

Raised as a slave, Danny (Jet Li) is used to fighting for his survival. In fact, his “master,” Bart (Bob Hoskins), thinks of him as a pet and goes as far as leashing him with a collar so they can make money in fight clubs, where Danny is the main contender. When Bart’s crew is in a car accident, Danny escapes and meets a blind, kindhearted piano tuner (Morgan Freeman) who takes him in and uses music to free the fighter’s long-buried heart.

What did I like?

Action. Jet Li is a bona-fide martial arts action star. If you’ve never seen his work, then this is one of those that really gets to show off the technique and skill he possesses. It is obvious that this is a vehicle meant specifically for him. Had it been any other way, this would not have worked as well.

Music. The use of music as a way to bring back Jet Li’s character’s memories was inspired. As a musician and music lover, it really appealed to me. Also, the music they chose was quite soothing which has been proven to soothe the savage beast, as well as bring back repressed memories. This is a small little thing that I believe they could have made more of a focal point of the film if they wanted to and may have even improved the film.

Heavy hitters. No, I’m not talking about how hard Li’s hits and kicks are, but rather the acting of Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins. These are two of the greatest actors of this time and they get the chance to do their thing here. Freeman is his usual mentor character, but Hopkins is on a villainous turn, something that he isn’t well-known for…at least at this point in his career.

What didn’t I like?

Victoria. Kerry Condon didn’t really work in this film for two reasons. First, her introduction makes her out to be a rather over-talkative teenage girl. Second, she’s playing an 18 yr old, but looks to be about 30 or so. Surely they could have found someone with a more youthful look to play this character, right?

Collar. For some reason, I assumed that since Jet Li’s character was wearing a dog collar that it would be some kind of shock collar which could be used to bring him back and/or track him, but that wasn’t quite the case. As it is, this was just a regular old dog collar. To me, that seemed like a bit of a waste.

All in all, Unleashed was a pretty decent flick. It wasn’t something that blew me away, but all the action keeps you interested. A decent story doesn’t hurt things, either. Do I recommend this? Yes, while it isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, there are worse things you can see. Check it out!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Kentucky Fried Movie

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , on March 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A series of loosely connected skits that spoof news programs, commercials, porno films, kung fu films, disaster films, blaxploitation films, spy films, mafia films, and the fear that somebody is watching you on the other side of the TV.

REVIEW:

This is going to be a fairly short post, as I have just returned from a nearly week-long trip to Disney and am still reaclamating to the “real world”. Many of us love Saturday Night Live, especially in the time when it was actually consistently funny. The Kentucky Fried Movie is just like watching an episode, but without the network censors.

What is this about?

John Landis’s groundbreaking comedy features a lewd, loosely connected collection of skits that spoof blaxploitation films, news shows, porno movies, TV commercials, kung fu flicks and more.

What did I like?

Obscene. You know, there are times when things are so far out there that they cross the line, while other times the same things can push the envelope just enough to where they are funny. The latter is the case with this film. For example, the skits lampooning exploitation flicks could very easily have gone the wrong way, but instead they come off as some pretty funny stuff, if you ask me.

Plot. Don’t you get tired of the same, cut and dry films that have a point  A to point B plot all the time? I know I do, so when I get the chance to watch something that doesn’t necessarily have a plot, I jump at the chance to check it out. As I said earlier, this is a collaboration of sketches, none of which relate to each other, except for some bookending with the newscaster in a matter similar to the old Monty Python shows.

What didn’t I like?

One of these things is not like the other. There is this one sketch that is quite longer than the rest of the others and for some reason doesn’t quite seem to be as funny as the others. Instead it just seems to be a very bad movie that someone wanted to get made. At least that is how it looked to me. I wish they wouldn’t have done that, but instead gone with a few more sketches. It would have worked so much better in the long run.

Genre discrimination. I think every genre of  film is touched on here, they even spoof porn! For some reason, though, musicals were left out. I am curious to know what they would have done with a spoof of a musical. I bet it would have been something to have us all on the floor laughing.

Again, I apologize for the rather short review of The Kentucky Fried Movie, but I’m rather worn out. That point aside, this is a film that is sure to have you rolling on the floor laughing in more than a few parts. As with any other comedy, not everything works and some parts work from some and not for others. With that in mind, I think you should give this a shot and have a laugh. What harm will it do?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Seven Psychopaths

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

Seven Psycopaths

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Marty Faranan is a struggling writer who dreams of finishing his screenplay, Seven Psychopaths. Marty’s best friend, Billy Bickle, is an unemployed actor who makes a living by kidnapping dogs and collecting the owners’ cash rewards for their safe return. His partner in crime is Hans Kieslowski, a religious man with a cancer-stricken wife, Myra. Billy helps Marty with Seven Psychopaths, suggesting he use the “Jack of Diamonds” killer, perpetrator of a recent double murder, as one of the seven “psychopaths” in his script. Marty writes a story for another psychopath, the “Quaker”, who stalks his daughter’s killer for decades, driving the killer to suicide and ultimately cutting his own throat to follow him to hell.

Billy and Hans steal a Shih Tzu, Bonny, unaware that it is the beloved pet of Charlie Costello, an unpredictable and violent gangster. Billy places an advertisement in the newspaper inviting “psychopaths” to call and share their “crazy or quirky” stories for him and Marty to use in their script. Charlie’s thugs, led by Paulo, discover Hans’s connection to the kidnapping. At a warehouse, they threaten to kill Marty and Hans unless they reveal Bonny’s location, but the Jack of Diamonds killer arrives and shoots the thugs. Marty and Billy meet Zachariah Rigby, who saw the advertisement and came to share his story. In his youth, Zachariah rescued a girl, Maggie, from a killer’s basement. As a couple, they embarked on a long career as “serial killer killers”, travelling America and dispatching murderers, ultimately separating when he became disillusioned with her cruel methods. Marty promises to place a message in the credits of Seven Psychopaths, asking Maggie to contact the regretful Zachariah. Charlie traces Myra to the cancer ward, killing her when she refuses to tell him Hans or Bonny’s whereabouts. Marty, Billy and Hans leave town with Bonny to escape Charlie. Marty tells the Quaker story to Hans, who reveals that it is true: Hans himself was the Quaker, and survived his attempted suicide. Marty unknowingly wrote his story after hearing it from Billy while drunk.

The trio drive into the desert. Billy suggests Seven Psychopaths end with an emotional shootout between the psychopaths and Charlie’s forces. Marty and Hans see a headline saying Billy is wanted in connection with the Jack of Diamonds killings. Marty confronts Billy, who reveals he assumed the Jack of Diamonds persona and went on a killing spree to give Marty inspiration for Seven Psychopaths. Disillusioned, Marty tells Billy they must go home. Meanwhile, Hans has a vision of Myra in a “grey place”. Hans questions his belief in the afterlife, dismissing Marty’s reassurances that his vision was a peyote hallucination. Billy sets fire to the car, stranding the trio in the desert, and calls Charlie, telling him their location. Billy intends to make the climactic shootout he envisioned a reality. Upset by Hans’s loss of faith, Billy claims he caused the hallucination by impersonating Myra. Hans leaves.

Charlie arrives alone, without a weapon besides a flare gun in his car. Billy shoots Charlie, enraged that he has not brought the men and weapons required for a satisfying shootout. Hans finds Charlie’s thugs waiting for a flare signal nearby. Marty drives away with Charlie, intending to bring him to a hospital. Billy realises the flare gun’s purpose and fires a flare. Hans motions as if to draw a weapon, causing Paulo to shoot him in front of police. The thugs head towards Billy’s flare, police in pursuit, only to encounter Marty and Charlie’s car on the road. Charlie reveals that he only suffered a flesh wound. Now with backup, Charlie returns to Billy and Bonny’s location. After a shootout, Charlie and Billy have a stand-off, holding Marty and Bonny hostage respectively. Charlie releases Marty and shoots Billy just as the police arrive. Charlie and Paulo are arrested, but Bonny stays at the dying Billy’s side. Marty visits the scene of Hans’s death, and finds a tape recorder with suggestions for Seven Psychopaths on his body. Later, Marty finishes the screenplay at home, having adopted Bonny as a pet. Marty steps outside and walks down the street, script in hand.

In a post-credits scene, Marty receives a phone call from Zachariah, who has just watched Seven Psychopaths and seen that Marty has forgotten to include a message for Maggie in the credits. Zachariah tells Marty that he will be over to kill him on Tuesday. On hearing Marty’s resigned acceptance, Zachariah realises that Marty’s experiences have left him a changed man, and decides to spare him for the time being.

REVIEW:

What does one think when they hear the title Seven Psychopaths? I know that I tend to wonder about serial killers and such, but if that is what you’re thinking that you will be seeing with this film, you may or may not be getting what you bargained for.

What is this about?

When struggling screenwriter Marty needs inspiration to finish his screenplay “Seven Psychopaths,” his conniving friends oblige by kidnapping a demented mobster’s beloved pooch and getting Marty entangled with other unsavory characters.

What did I like?

Commentary. Sam Rockwell’s character makes some rather astute observations that are sure to have you shaking your head in agreement. One of his best points is about how Hollywood has to sanitize everything to the point of almost no return. If you look at films throughout the years, and society for that matter, we have gotten rather soft. For instance, I just reviewed Commando yesterday. I was reading somewhere that could have been a PG film, as it is, if not for the language. PG?!? If that was the case today, it would be, without question, an R. *SIGH*

Quaker. The stories that introduce the psychopaths are interesting, but the one that involves the Quaker was, in my opinion, the best one because it comes back, surprisingly, to one of the main characters. This brings out the true psychopath part of the film and the audience can’t help but with for more.

Cast. A talented cast is not an option for a film such as this. Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are the standouts for me, but it is good to see Colin Farrell take a break from making crappy remakes that do nothing but flop, and star in something that is worthy of his talents. Also, a small cameo by Gabourey Sidibe surprised the hell out of me. Too bad it was just that, a cameo.

What didn’t I like?

Dogs. I’m probably the most anti-dog person you will ever come across, short of those who wish them harm. The way Harrelson’s character reacts to his dog, treating it like human is one of the very reasons why I hate the infernal beasts. These things are nothing more than dumb animals and should be treated as such. Cats, on the other hand, are a different story.

Women. The women in this film are pretty much nonexistent, with the exception of the old woman in the hospital who is near death. This wouldn’t be a problem if this was meant to be something of a guy flick, but it isn’t. As such, it would have been nice for them to have gotten something more than just a couple of scenes, even if they were meant to be eye candy or actually characters.

Walken. Christopher Walken’s character was great, but given the way he is described, it seems as if he should have gone off the deep end after certain events transpire that direct him. The guy is apparently a cold hard killer who has retired. I wanted to see that side come out and it never did, leaving me a bit unfulfilled.

Not knowing what I was getting myself into with Seven Psychopaths, I was a bit reticent in any kind of prejudice for or against it. The trailers didn’t really do this film justice, as they portrayed it as either too much of a slapstick comedy or more serious and dark in tone that it is. In the end, though, I can say that this is a film that falls into the category of “you need to see it and make your own opinion”, because it is all over the place. Some will like it, some will hate it, and some will be “eh” about it. Check it out and decide for yourself.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Commando

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on March 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Retired Delta Force Operative Colonel John Matrix is informed by his former superior Major General Franklin Kirby that all the other members of his unit have been killed by unknown mercenaries. The mercenaries, among them Bennett, an ex-member of Matrix’s team fired for overt brutality in service, attack Matrix’s secluded mountain home and kidnap Matrix’s young daughter Jenny. While trying to intercept them, Matrix is also overpowered by the mercenaries.

It is revealed that Matrix is needed to carry out a political assassination for a South American dictator named Arius, who wishes to lead a military coup in his home country of Val Verde. Arius, who was deposed by Matrix in the course of one of his missions, has chosen the colonel because the current president trusts him implicitly. With Jenny’s life on the line, Matrix reluctantly accepts the demand.

After boarding a plane to Val Verde, Matrix manages to kill his guard, Henriques, and jumps from the plane just as it is taking off. With approximately 11 hours’ time (the period of the flight), he sets out after another of Arius’ men, Sully. He then enlists the aid of an off-duty flight attendant named Cindy, and instructs her to follow Sully to a shopping mall. Cindy first assumes that Matrix is a maniac, but after seeing him desperately trying to get his hands on Sully, she has a change of heart and henceforth assists him in his endeavor. After a lengthy car chase, Matrix catches up with Sully whom he drops off a cliff to his death.

With Cindy’s aid, Matrix learns where Jenny is being held. He then breaks into a surplus store to equip himself with military weapons, but the police arrive and Matrix is arrested. Cindy helps him escape, and after commandeering a seaplane from a nearby marina controlled by Arius, Matrix and Cindy land the plane off the coast of Arius’ island hideout. Matrix instructs Cindy to contact General Kirby and then proceeds to Arius’ villa, kills Arius’ entire private militia, and subsequently confronts and kills Arius in a gunfight.

Matrix locates Jenny in the basement of the villa, where she has fled and was cornered by Bennett. After a fierce struggle, Matrix finally kills Bennett. Kirby arrives with a military detachment and asks Matrix to rejoin the Special Forces Unit, but Matrix declines and departs the island aboard the seaplane with Jenny and Cindy.

REVIEW:

Many critics and reviewers, myself included,  have been saying that they want to see some legit 80s action. With this in mind, a friend of mind suggested Commando, one of Schwarzenegger’s upper tier, yet somewhat forgettable, films.

What is this about?

Col. John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the former leader of a special ops team, is vaulted back into action to save his young daughter (Alyssa Milano) who has been kidnapped. Her life is threatened lest John assassinate a South American president. Rather than being strong-armed into such a proposition, John takes matters (and lots of guns) into his owns hands as he fights through the jungle against his enemies to save his daughter.

What did I like?

Body count. From the opening scene to the end, there is a pretty high body count, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more! Man, I miss 80s flicks, where movies got away with killing people for no other reason then they were there. In a way, I was hoping for more bodies strewn about and more blood. Yes, you can call me bloodthirsty, sadistic, etc., but I know what I like.

Ridiculous. Many of the things that Schwarzenegger does make no sense. They make him almost super human with these feats, such as carrying a tree from the forest to his house. Also, driving a bulldozer into a weapons store and then stocking up on everything without cops showing up for quite some time. I feel like I should have a problem with this, but the over-the-top ridiculousness of this sold me even more on the whole flick.

What didn’t I like?

Score. This can be a big or small thing, depending on how much you pay attention to the score. For me, as a musician, I analyze everything about the things. This score isn’t bad, mind you, but it doesn’t really fit, especially in the early parts of the film when they are still in, I want to say outside of L.A., but don’t quote me. The steel drums and exotic feel didn’t seem to be the best choice. Truthfully, I didn’t really notice it until the introduction of Schwarzenegger. It was played almost like his theme music. With that in mind, in the latter half of the film, when location shifts to the island, not only does it work better, they also go with some cheesy 80s music. I felt it would have worked better the other way around.

Obvious. Look at the cast. Isn’t it quite obvious who is going to live and who isn’t? I don’t believe this was a big budget film, but they could have at least brought in some actors that wouldn’t have made it so obvious that they weren’t going to make it to the end. It just seems like that does the audience no favors.

Skin. This is sure to sound a bit hypocritical of me, but I really saw no reason for Arnold to strip down to his skivvies just to go from the plane to the land and then put clothes on. To me, that seemed like that was just a way to show off his muscles. Conversely, there is a scene a little earlier where we see gratuitous boobs. No reason for them, as she isn’t even a character in the plot, but I have no complaint about that. Arnold, though, I have to issue with.

Anyone looking for a fun, bloody, action flick, need look no further than Commando. With this you get everything you’re looking for, including Arnold in his early prime (this was around the time of The Terminator). Make no mistake, though, this is not a great film. It is just mindless fun, the kind of thing that movies of this era were made for! Check this out sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Argo

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Militants storm the United States embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, in retaliation for CIA involvements in Iran. More than 50 of the embassy staff are taken as hostages, but six escape and hide in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). With the escapees’ situation kept secret, the US State Department begins to explore options for exfiltrating them from Iran. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA exfiltration specialist brought in for consultation, criticizes the proposals, but is at a loss for an alternative. While on the phone with his son, he is inspired by watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes and begins plans for creating a cover story for the escapees being Canadian filmmakers who would scout exotic locations in Iran for a similar science-fiction film.

Mendez and his supervisor Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) contact John Chambers (John Goodman), a Hollywood make-up artist who has previously crafted disguises for the CIA. Chambers puts them in touch with film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). Together they set up a phony film studio, publicize their plans, and successfully establish the pretense of developing Argo, a “science fantasy” in the style of Star Wars, to lend credibility to the cover story. Meanwhile, the escapees grow frantic inside the ambassador’s residence. The revolutionaries reassemble embassy papers shredded before the takeover and learn that some personnel have escaped.

Posing as a producer for Argo, Mendez enters Iran and links up with the six escapees. He provides them with Canadian passports and fake identities to prepare them to get through security at the airport. Although afraid to trust Mendez’s scheme, they reluctantly go along with it, knowing that he is risking his own life too. A scouting visit to the bazaar to maintain their cover story takes a bad turn, but their Iranian culture contact gets them away from the hostile crowd.

Mendez is told that the operation has been cancelled to avoid conflicting with a planned military rescue of the hostages. He pushes ahead, forcing O’Donnell to hastily re-obtain authorization for the mission to get tickets on a Swissair flight. Tension rises at the airport, where the escapees’ flight reservations are confirmed at the last minute, and a guard’s call to the supposed studio in Hollywood is answered at the last second. The group boards the plane just as the Revolutionary Guards at the airport uncover the ruse and try to stop their plane from getting off the runway, but they are too late, as Mendez and the six successfully leave Iran.

To protect the hostages remaining in Tehran from retaliation, all US involvement in the rescue is suppressed, giving full credit to the Canadian government and its ambassador (who left Iran with his wife under their own credentials as the operation was underway; their Iranian housekeeper, who had known about the Americans and lied to the revolutionaries to protect them, escaped to Iraq). Mendez is awarded the Intelligence Star, but due to the classified nature of the mission, he would not be able to keep the medal until the details were made public in 1997. All the hostages were freed on January 20, 1981, the day that Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th U.S. President. The film ends with former President Jimmy Carter’s speech about the Crisis and the Canadian Caper.

REVIEW:

In the fall, a little film called Argo was released with a plot that seemed totally out of the box but, as it turns out, this was based on a true story. Fast forward a few months and this little film is now the winner of quite a few awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. As has been proven before, though, there is often a disconnect between what the Academy deems quality entertainment and what the public enjoys.

What is this about?

In 1979, when Iranian militants seize the American embassy, six Americans slip into the Canadian embassy for protection, prompting the CIA to concoct an elaborate plot to rescue them by pretending that they are filmmakers rather than diplomats.

What did I like?

History. I don’t recall hearing about this in any history class I’ve ever taken. Chances are, it was just brushed over. Since this happened in the late 70s/early 80s, there wasn’t much time to cover it, and those later chapters are quite thin. If this was in there at all, it was probably no more than a paragraph or two. What I’m trying to say is that it is a good thing that someone took notice of a part of history that isn’t as well know as say, WWII, and brought it to the masses.

Just like old times. One critic said, “It felt like a movie from an earlier era — less frenetic, less showy, more focused on narrative than sensation”, but that the script included “too many characters that he doesn’t quite develop.” I would be hard pressed to disagree with that statement. As someone who frequently watches older films, I did notice that the pace of this film was in no rush. Sure, there moments that are changed in order to create dramatic tension but, for the most part, this is a film that gives its audience credit for having a brain and an attention span, rather than just wanting to see stuff blow up and be done with it (those kind of films are nice, too, mind you).

Mix it up. I’m real big on films that insert a little bit of comedy here and there. This is a film that, from the outset, appeared to be nothing more than straight-forward, serious subject matter. Ben Affleck did a masterful job of throwing in some humor here in there. Not too much, but just enough. It is like that friend that cracks a joke or two when you’re having a bad day to cheer you up.

What didn’t I like?

Confusion. As I said earlier, I am not that familiar with this part of history, and I’m sure there are many in the same boat. This film does not to a good job of explaining what actually went on, because I was completely confused for most of the first half. Maybe it was just me, but there had to be some way that it could have detailed better.

Stereotype. Earlier this week, I was reading about how the Iranian government is wanting to sue Hollywood for all the accolades this film has received because they feel their people are being portrayed. Rather or not this influenced my view on this or not, I cannot tell you, but it is more than obvious that there is an anti-Iran tilt to this film. At times, it felt like watching a video game where you’re being chased by Iranian terrorists, and that should not have been.

Suspense. The problem with true stories is that when you try to  make them suspense they don’t work, mainly because we already know what happens. Suspense thrillers work best when we don’t know what happens. This is a minor complaint, but a factor that, through no fault of its own, hurts the film.

When all the smoke clears, Argo lives up to its reputation and is worthy of all the awards it received, if not more. This is a film that should be high up on the list for everyone to see. There is a mixture of drama, action, comedy, and a great story. Affleck has proven that he is a decent actor and an ever evolving great director. A definite must-see film, to be sure!

5 out of 5 stars