Archive for June, 2013

The Last Stand

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a man who has resigned himself to a life of fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction, Arizona, after leaving his LAPD post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with failure and defeat after his partner was crippled and his team decimated. The crimes experienced in Sommerton range from the Mayor parking his red Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the fire lane and vintage arms collector Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) firing off guns at slabs of meat with the deputies. One night, international drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) makes a daring escape from FBI custody in Las Vegas and speeds off in a modified Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1, taking Agent Ellen Richards (Génesis Rodríguez) as his hostage as he races southbound toward Mexico at speeds over 200 mph. Agent John Bannister (Forrest Whitaker) has a blockade set up in Bullhead City, Arizona, but Cortez’s men mow down the police officers on site and clear the road for him to continue his getaway. Cortez also uses his extraordinary driving skills to immobilize two SWAT vehicles headed toward Summerton Junction. Before flying to Arizona, Agent Bannister has his team do a financial background check on all agents involved to find out how Cortez managed to escape so easily.

Sometime past 4:30 in the morning, Owens dispatches deputies Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford) and Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander) to visit the residence of the local farmer Parsons (Harry Dean Stanton), who has suddenly missed his usual milk delivery at the diner. After discovering that Parsons has been murdered, the deputies follow a trail of tire tracks that lead them to Cortez’s henchman Thomas Burrell (Peter Stormare) and his mercenary cutthroats, who are planting a mobile assault bridge across the canyon that marks the U.S./Mexico border. Bailey is fatally shot in the middle of a shootout between the deputies and the thugs before Owens rushes in to bring his officers back to his precinct. Shortly after being notified by Agent Bannister of Cortez’s presence, Owens gathers Torrance and senior Deputy Mike “Figgy” Figuerola (Luis Guzmán). He also deputizes jailed local Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro), a former Marine with PTSD who developed a streak of never finishing what he started. Because Bailey was his friend, Martinez insists that he will not falter. Finally, Owens recruits Dinkum to protect their town. Dinkum agrees only if he becomes a deputy and if he keeps the gun Owens had confiscated earlier.

At 7:10 a.m., Owens and his deputies have the town’s main road barricaded with cars when Burrell and his men arrive, prompting a lengthy firefight. Armed only with a Tommy Gun, Figuerola holds off the thugs before being injured by a sniper. Owens and Dinkum mow down a majority of the thugs with a Vickers machine gun dubbed “Nazi-Killer” mounted on the back of a school bus with Martinez providing cover fire, while Torrance snipes several gunmen on the rooftops. After Owens kills Burrell, Cortez’s Corvette eventually arrives in town, veering past the barricade as Owens and the deputies shoot at it. Cortez ejects Agent Richards from the car before speeding through a corn field. Suddenly, he encounters the Mayor’s Camaro commandeered by Owens before both cars collide with a tractor. A dazed Cortez continues his escape on foot, but Owens meets him at the bridge. Owens ignores Cortez’s bribe offers before both men wrestle each other. Despite sustaining slashes and stab wounds from Cortez’s push dagger, Owens defeats the drug lord and handcuffs him before dragging him back into town with the battered Camaro. Agent Bannister arrives to take Cortez back into custody and arrests Agent Richards for taking the drug lord’s bribe and aiding in his escape. Deputies Figuerola and Dinkum are taken to the hospital to be treated for their wounds. Martinez turns in the deputy’s badge, Bailey’s badge, that Owens had given him earlier. Owens tells him to keep it, as he’s earned it. As the Mayor sees what is left of his Camaro, Owens warns him about parking in the fire lane before he, Torrance and Martinez walk into the diner.

REVIEW:

Now that Arnold is through running California into the ground, he has returned to acting, as we saw in the two Expendables movies. The Last Stand is his first starring role, if I’m not mistaken. Given that he’s been away for a few years and, also, isn’t as young as he used to be, this is the perfect vehicle, pardon the pun, to reintroduce audiences to him.

What is this about?

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a border town sheriff who’s taken up his post after tragic events brought an end to his tenure with the LAPD. But his quiet life is interrupted when a drug boss escapes FBI custody and flees straight toward his town.

What did I like?

Action. This is one of those films where you just shut your brain off and enjoy the ride. Yes, there is a plot, but you don’t really care much about it, at least until the end. When the fast car and the guns take center stage about halfway through, you can’t do anything but smile and enjoy, which is really the whole point of any film, really. The final fight between the sheriff and the villain is really worth seeing, especially if you’re a Schwarzenegger fan. The old man still has it.

Deputies. Gone are the days of the bumbling sheriff deputies like Barney Fife, or are they. The three deputies here represent the kind of personalities we normally see associated with a cop. There is the steel-willed female who doesn’t show any emotions until just the right moment, the comic relief, and the young go-getter. These three mixed with Schwarzenegger’s bitter old man sheriff and you have quite the chemistry going on with the town’s lawmen.

Car. Last week, I had the chance to see Fast & Furious 6, where the cars were, um, fast and furious. As I was watching the car chase scenes, I couldn’t help but think there had to have been some inspiration drawn from those pictures. Also, the car scenes were just really well shot. There may have been a little too much use of the shaky came, but I can live with that because this car was awesome!

What didn’t I like?

Survival. There is a scene near the end where the sheriff bodyslams the villain onto the edge of the bridge they are fighting on. I don’t know why or how, but somehow the guy survives when he should have a broken back. I realize that all realism is thrown out the window with this picture, but good grief! That was just a bit much for even me to swallow.

Johnny Knoxville. I don’t like him!

Wasted. The great character actor, Peter Stormare is not really given anything to do in this picture. He has a couple of scenes where he gets to show off his sadistic nature, but for the most part, he is playing a character that seems like he’s a right hand man, but it is never really implicitly stated.

The Last Stand can best be described as a sort of modern say western. We have the sheriff and his deputies defending the town from the criminal element coming through. There is even a shootout in the middle of the day, and it is set in a western town. Needless to say, I enjoyed the heck out of this flick. It is right up my alley with the mindless action and whatnot. I won’t recommend it to those of you that insist on films that make you think, but for those that want mindless action and a good popcorn flick, this is for you. Give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

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Cloud Atlas

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film consists of six interrelated and interwoven stories spanning different time periods. The film is structured, according to novelist David Mitchell, “as a sort of pointillist mosaic.”

South Pacific Ocean, 1849
Adam Ewing, an American lawyer from San Francisco, has come to the Chatham Islands to conclude a business arrangement with Reverend Gilles Horrox for his father-in-law, Haskell Moore. He witnesses the whipping of a Moriori slave, Autua, who later stows away on Ewing’s ship. Ewing advocates for Autua to join the crew as a freeman. Meanwhile, Dr. Henry Goose slowly poisons Ewing, claiming it to be the cure for a parasitic worm, aiming to steal Ewing’s valuables. When Goose attempts to administer the fatal dose, Autua saves Ewing. Returning to the United States, Ewing and his wife Tilda denounce her father’s complicity in slavery and leave San Francisco to join the Slavery Abolishment Movement.

Cambridge, England and Edinburgh, Scotland, 1936
Robert Frobisher, a bisexual English musician, finds work as an amanuensis to composer Vyvyan Ayrs, allowing Frobisher the time and inspiration to compose his own masterpiece, “The Cloud Atlas Sextet.” But Ayrs wishes to take credit for Frobisher’s work, and threatens to expose his scandalous background if he resists. Frobisher, who has read a partial copy of Ewing’s journal in the meanwhile, shoots Ayrs and flees to a hotel, where he finishes “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” but then commits suicide just before his lover Rufus Sixsmith arrives.

San Francisco, California, 1973
Journalist Luisa Rey meets an older Sixsmith, now a nuclear physicist. Sixsmith tips off Rey to a conspiracy regarding the safety of a new nuclear reactor run by Lloyd Hooks, but is assassinated by Hooks’ hitman Bill Smoke before he can give her a report that proves it. Rey finds and reads Frobisher’s letters to Sixsmith, resulting in her tracking down a vinyl recording of Frobisher’s “The Cloud Atlas Sextet.” Isaac Sachs, another scientist at the power plant, passes her a copy of Sixsmith’s report. However, Smoke assassinates Sachs and also runs Rey’s car off a bridge. With help from the plant’s head of security, Joe Napier, she evades another attempt against her life which results in Smoke’s death and exposes the plot to use a nuclear accident for the benefit of oil companies.

United Kingdom, 2012
Timothy Cavendish, a 65-year-old publisher, has a windfall when Dermot Hoggins, a gangster author whose book he has published, murders a critic and is sent to prison. When Hoggins’ brothers threaten Cavendish’s life to get his share of the profits, Cavendish asks for help from his brother Denholme. Denholme tricks him into hiding in a nursing home, where he is held against his will, but Cavendish escapes. Cavendish receives a manuscript of a novel based on Rey’s life and writes a screenplay about his own story.

Neo Seoul, (Korea), 2144
Sonmi-451, a genetically-engineered fabricant (clone) server at a restaurant, is interviewed before her execution. She recounts how she was released from her compliant life of servitude by Commander Hae-Joo Chang, a member of a rebel movement known as “Union”. While in hiding, she watches a film based on Cavendish’s adventure. The Union rebels reveal to her that fabricants like her are killed and “recycled” into food for future fabricants. She decides that the system of society based on slavery and exploitation of fabricants is intolerable, and is brought to Hawaii to make a public broadcast of her story and manifesto. Hae-Joo is killed in a firefight and Sonmi is captured. After telling her story and its intent, she is executed.

The Big Island (dated “106 winters after The Fall”, in the end credits and book cited as 2321)
Zachry lives with his sister and niece Catkin in a primitive society called “The Valley” after most of humanity has died during “The Fall”; the Valley tribesmen worship Sonmi (Sonmi-451) as a goddess. Their sacred text is taken from the broadcast of Sonmi’s manifesto. Zachry is plagued by hallucinations of a figure called “Old Georgie” who manipulates him into giving in to his fear, and hiding while witnessing the murder of his brother-in-law and nephew by the cannibalistic Kona tribe. Zachry’s village is visited by Meronym, a member of the “Prescients”, a society holding on to remnants of technology from before the Fall. In exchange for saving Catkin from death, Zachry agrees to guide Meronym into the mountains in search of Cloud Atlas, a communications station where she is able to send a message to Earth’s colonies. At the station, Meronym reveals that Sonmi was mortal and not a deity as the Valley tribes believe. After returning, Zachry discovers the slaughter of his tribe by the Kona. Zachry kills the Kona chief and rescues Catkin; Meronym saves them both from an assault by Kona tribesmen. Zachry and Catkin join Meronym and the Prescients as their boat leaves Big Island.

Epilogue
A seventh time period, several decades after the action on Big Island, is featured in the film’s prologue and epilogue: Zachry is revealed to have been telling these stories to his grandchildren on a colony of Earth on another planet, confirming that Meronym, who is present at the site, succeeded in sending the message to the colonies and was rescued along with him.

REVIEW:

It is my understanding that Cloud Atlas is based on a very successful book. If the book is anything like what I just saw, then is must be highly imaginative…and long…VERY long.

What is this about?

In this star-studded drama, six seemingly disparate stories take viewers from a South Pacific Island in the 19th century to 1970s America to a dystopian future, exploring the complicated links that humans share through the generations.

What did I like?

Make-up. It should go without saying that the makeup is a star of its own in this film. The reason I say that is because what other way can you use the same group of actors over 6 very different eras and change things such as their race, nationality, and in a couple of cases, sex. The makeup artists are to be highly commended for the job they did with these people.

Time. There was something about the way these people connected in one era, then would find each other in another era and connect, then do the same thing again in another era that resonated with me. I guess if you’re meant to be friends, lovers, or enemies with someone, then it’ll happen in all of your incarnations.

Mix. A review I read about this a little before I started this post said that this is the perfect mix of all the genres that people would want to see, be it comedy, drama, intrigue/suspense, action, etc. I had to think on that for a minute and it is true. Each of these segments is not only set in a totally different era, but they all have a different tone to them. That is what keeps the film interesting.

What didn’t I like?

Ambitious. I give this film all the credit in the world for taking a stab at doing something different. However, I felt that it may have taken a bit too big of an undertaking. This is a big film, but feels like it is an independent flick. The two don’t gel the way they could/should and ultimately, it hurts the proceedings.

Asian. The story involving Neo-Seoul wasn’t working for me. I just couldn’t seem to get into it. That isn’t my complaint, though. That section of the film also featured some very odd make-up that could be construed as racist by some. I didn’t think so, but I can see how some would cry foul. Having said that, I’m not really sure what else could have been done.

Long. At nearly 3 hours long, you better be ready to be sitting for quite some time. I’m not really a fan of long films, unless they can keep my attention, which this one did not. As a matter of fact, I actually found myself dozing a bit in the middle and had to rewind in a couple of sections just so I wouldn’t be lost. I don’t know what they could have cut out, but I’m sure there had to be a way to make this shorter, right?

Cloud Atlas was very much hyped up before it was released, but the finished product doesn’t live up to that hype. For me, it was ok, but nothing spectacular. I can’t not recommend this, because it isn’t a bad film but, at the same time, I can’t say that you should rush out and see it. Yes, it is above average and worth seeing, but I just don’t know how much you should move your schedule around to check it out.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Clue

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1954, against a backdrop of McCarthyism, six strangers are invited to a party in a secluded New England mansion. They are met by the house butler, Wadsworth, who reminds them each that they have been given pseudonyms to protect their true identity. During dinner the seventh attendee, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving), arrives. After dinner, Wadsworth reveals the true nature of the party: all of the guests are being blackmailed to hide their secrets:

Professor Plum is a psychiatrist who lost his license because he had an affair with a female patient. He now works for the World Health Organization.

Mrs. Peacock is the wife of a Senator who has accepted bribes to deliver her husband’s vote.

Mrs. White is an alleged black widow who was drawn in to avoid a scandal regarding the mysterious death of her nuclear physicist husband. She was previously married to an illusionist, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Miss Scarlet is a madam who operates an illegal brothel in Washington, D.C.

Colonel Mustard is thought, at first, to have been blackmailed for scandalous pictures, but it is later revealed that he was a war profiteer who made his money from selling stolen radio components on the black market. He now works at the Pentagon.

Mr. Green is a homosexual, a secret that would cost him his job with the State Department if it were widely known.

Finally, Wadsworth reveals Mr. Boddy’s secret: he is the one who has been blackmailing them. Wadsworth has gathered all the guests together to confront Mr. Boddy and turn him over to the police, which he later reveals is his revenge against Mr. Boddy, who is his former employer, because Boddy’s blackmail had resulted in Wadsworth’s wife committing suicide.

Mr. Boddy reminds the guests that he can reveal their secrets in police custody and offers them an alternative proposition: by using weapons that he has provided to each of them, they can kill Wadsworth and destroy the evidence, keeping their secrets safe. Escape isn’t an option as Wadsworth holds the only key to the locked doors, and vicious dogs patrol the perimeter, thus Mr. Boddy turns out the lights in the room, creating a moment of chaos in which someone shoots the gun. When they are brought back up, Mr. Boddy is dead, seemingly murdered by an unknown cause in the study (there is no gunshot wound, just a bullet hole in the wall). The guests all quickly deny killing him, and are later proven right as Mr. Boddy (previously faking his death) is ultimately found murdered with the candlestick in the hall. Wadsworth and the guests try to deduce who killed Mr. Boddy by exploring the house. During their slapstick explorations, Mrs. Ho, the cook, has been murdered with the dagger in the kitchen. During the course of the evening three others who visit the house: a stranded motorist, a police officer investigating the motorist’s abandoned car, and a singing telegram girl, are all killed with the wrench, the lead pipe, and the revolver; in the lounge, the library, and the front hall, respectively. Yvette, the maid, is strangled in the billiard room with the rope as well.

Wadsworth comes to the conclusion that he knows who the murderer is, and runs through a frantic, madcap re-enactment of the entire evening with the guests in tow. Wadsworth points out that the victims were Boddy’s accomplices in blackmail. Each of them had a connection to one of the guests, enabling Boddy to find out what secrets to blackmail them over. In preparation to reveal the murderer of Mr. Boddy, Wadsworth turns off the electricity to the house. At this point, the story proceeds to one of three endings: A, B, or C. In the film’s initial theatrical run, some theaters announced which ending the viewer would see. In the VHS home video and releases, and most television broadcasts, the three endings are shown sequentially, with the first two characterized as possible endings, but ending C being the true one. The DVD home release also provides the option of a random single ending

Ending A

Miss Scarlet is the culprit in the first ending. Having used her former call girl, Yvette, to murder Mr. Boddy and the cook, she herself killed Yvette and the others to keep her true business of “secrets” safe, planning on using the information learned tonight for her own benefit. While Miss Scarlet holds the group at gunpoint with the revolver, Wadsworth tries to tell her that she used up all the bullets in the gun but she tells him she still has one and threatens to kill him. Wadsworth reveals himself to be an undercover FBI agent and arrests Miss Scarlet as police secure the house. Finally, insisting to Miss Scarlet the revolver is empty, Wadsworth accidentally fires the last bullet into the air, hitting another chandelier, and causing it to crash closely behind Colonel Mustard.

Ending B

Mrs. Peacock is revealed as the murderer of all the victims, and escapes after holding the others at gunpoint. However, Wadsworth reveals himself as an FBI agent with the night’s activities set up to spy on Mrs. Peacock’s activities, believing her to be taking bribes by foreign powers, and the police quickly capture her as she flees.

Ending C:

It is revealed that everybody (except Mr. Green) committed all of the murders. Professor Plum killed Mr. Boddy; Mrs. Peacock killed the cook, who had been informing on her to Mr. Boddy; Colonel Mustard killed the motorist, who was his driver during the war; Mrs. White killed Yvette for having an affair with her husband; Miss Scarlet killed the cop, whom she had been paying bribes to in order to stay in business; and Wadsworth killed the singing telegram girl. It is revealed that Wadsworth is the true Mr. Boddy, and that the man who was killed by Plum was actually just his butler. He had brought the other victims (his accomplices in the blackmail scheme) to the house to be killed by the guests, and thus plans to continue to extort his blackmail scheme over them. Mr. Green then draws a revolver and kills Mr. Boddy in the Hall. Mr. Green reveals that he is actually an undercover FBI agent and that the whole thing was a set-up to catch the criminals. The police raid the house and arrest the other guests for murder. It is revealed that Mr. Green’s earlier stated homosexuality was just part of his cover, signified by his final line in the movie: “I’m gonna go home and sleep with my wife.”

REVIEW:

Last weekend, ABC debuted a new show, Whodunnit?, which is a murder mystery…and unfortunate reality show. As I was forcing myself to sit through the never-ending hour that passes for “entertainment”, I thought back to an episode of Saved By the Bell where they were involved in a murder mystery weekend. This brought to mind the movie based on the board game Clue.

What is this about?

Director Jonathan Lynn’s board game-inspired campfest finds six colorful dinner guests gathered at a mansion, where they all become suspects in the death of the house’s owner, who had been blackmailing each of them.

What did I like?

Multiple endings. When this was released, I wasn’t old enough to see it in theaters. Hell, I couldn’t even cross the street by myself back then. I read that in each theater this was shown in, one of the three different endings was shown. That is a way to make keep people coming back and make some money. That was a stroke of brilliance that we don’t see today. I think they tried something similar with one of the Iron Man movies and then this year with the trailers to Man of Steel, but the sad fact is the internet and social media have ruined any notion of surprise that we once had.

Game. I was telling someone a little while ago that this is how you do a movie about a board game. Keep it as close to the spirit of the game as possible. There is no need to bring in aliens and what not. Yes, I’m looking at you, Battleship!

Funny. Nothing beats a comedy that actually makes the audience laugh, especially if that is the intention. This flick will leave you in stitches more often than it won’t. The great cast of comedic actors and a terrifically funny script help that happen.

What didn’t I like?

Uneven. The pacing of this film is pretty decent, but there are times where it just seems quite erratic. The beginning is a great exercise in introducing and developing the characters and as we near the end, the frantic pace is perfect for the madness that is going on. The middle, though, seems to drag on a bit. I felt that is sort of disengaged the audience. I know that I lost a bit of interest during that part, but it was only temporary.

Forget the gag. When the film starts, Wadsworth is tending to the dogs and accidentally steps in something. When he comes inside and passes by the staff, they all take a moment and sniff the air. However, they seem to drop this gag. Sure, he could very well have changed shoes between then and the time the guests arrive, but for some reason, I think keeping that gag running would have paid off.

Endings. This is a small complaint that is more about the way the endings are packaged. As it stands right now, you get all three endings with the film. I wonder if perhaps in a future edition if they could have the ending be randomly chosen. It seems to me that would give the viewer the experience they may have had when seeing this in the theater.

There is nothing like a campy 80s comedy to brighten your day and put a smile on your face. Clue is one of those films. It isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one of those pictures that you can pop in the DVD player and lose yourself if the madcap hijinks. I highly recommend this, if for no other reason than just as a fun departure from all the dark, depressing, violent, sex-crazed films that are out there today. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Rio Bravo

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the town of Rio Bravo, Texas, former sheriff’s deputy Dude (Dean Martin), who has acquired the contemptuous nickname Borrachón (Spanish for “drunk”), enters a saloon to get a drink. Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), brother of rancher Nathan Burdette, tosses a silver dollar into a spittoon. Presidio County, Texas Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) appears and kicks the spittoon away, looking at Dude with pity. Dude is shamed by his plight and takes out his anger on Chance whom he knocks out with an ax handle. Joe begins punching him, then shoots and kills an unarmed bystander who tries to intervene.

Joe heads to his brother’s saloon, where a bloody Chance arrests Joe for the murder of the bystander. When another patron draws his gun on Chance, Dude shoots the gun out of the patron’s hand.

Chance’s friend Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond) and his supply train stop in town; with a young gunslinger, Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson), riding guard. Inside the jail, Stumpy (Walter Brennan), Chance’s deputy, keeps watch over the jail and Joe. A mysterious woman nicknamed Feathers (Angie Dickinson), is shown playing poker.

Dude and Chance patrol the town. Carlos stops the sheriff, saying Wheeler was talking too much about Chance needing help. Chance implores Wheeler to stop, as it will draw attention from the wrong people. Wheeler suggests that Colorado could be of assistance, but Colorado politely declines saying he wants to “mind his own business.”. Colorado also promises not to start any trouble without telling the sheriff first. Feathers leaves the poker game a winner. Chance follows her up to her room and confronts her as a card cheat, with his evidence three missing aces from the deck of cards being used in the game and a handbill indicating she was wanted for card cheating. Colorado arrives saying another participant in the game is the real cheat and plans to confront him with Chance’s acquiescence. As Wheeler is walking back to the hotel he is shot dead by a Burdette man hiding in the stable. Colorado offers to help but is angrily turned away by Chance who says “you had a chance to get in this and you didn’t want it.” Chance and Dude flush out the shooter, who escapes into Nathan’s saloon after Dude wounds him. Dude believes the man had muddy boots, but everyone in the bar has clean boots. Two patrons suggest Dude is a drunk who needs a drink and one man throws a silver dollar into a spittoon. The bartender puts a beer on the bar in front of Dude. Dude notices blood dripping into the beer from above, turns, fires and kills the shooter.

Chance goes back to the hotel to sleep and unbeknown to him Feathers stands guard at the door to keep him safe, then returns to her room when he awakens. Chance asks Feathers why she did that, but she does not say. Chance insists that she should leave on the stagecoach. Nathan Burdette (John Russell) later arrives in town with his men, intent on seeing his brother Joe. Dude is standing guard and confiscating all guns from people entering town. One of Burdette’s men thinks Dude is crazy and tries to enter town until Dude cuts one of this reins with a single shot. Nathan agrees to turn in their guns until they leave.

Carlos says Feathers will not get on the stagecoach and when Chance goes to see her she tells the sheriff that she does not want to leave, then gives Chance a kiss. After Colorado visits the jail to tell Chance the meaning of the song Nathan is playing, Chance gives Dude his guns back (the ones he had before he left town, sold by Dude but bought by Chance) as well as some clothes he left behind.

The next morning, while Dude is standing guard at the town entryway, four Burdette men attack him from behind and tie him up in a stable. They draw guns and corner him (Chance’s rifle is out of reach), and demand that he release Joe. Inside the hotel, acting on Colorado’s instructions, Feathers throws a flowerpot through a window a moment after Colorado steps out on the porch, distracting the Burdette men. Colorado throws Chance’s rifle to him and the two men shoot the three Burdette hands.

The group decides to hole up in the jail, as it will take several more days for the United States Marshal to arrive to take Joe to the Presidio. Dude and Chance go to the hotel to round up additional supplies, but Carlos and Consuela are captured by Burdette’s men and trick Chance into charging and falling over a rope tied at the bottom of the stairs. Dude and Feathers also are captured. Chance is given a choice–take the men to the jail to let Joe out, or the men will arrange a trade with Stumpy for Dude and Chance. Dude implores Chance to let Joe out, saying that Stumpy is alone and has no food or water to hold out very long. The remaining Burdette men at the hotel take Dude and Burdette later offers to trade him for Joe. Chance agrees and the trade is to be made at a warehouse. During the trade, Dude bum-rushes Joe and they scuffle while a gunfight erupts

REVIEW:

I was researching a little bit about Rio Bravo and found out that the director, Howard Hawks made this as an answer to the alleged blacklisting allegory that was High Noon. Well, that is the rumor, anyway. That point aside, this is a film that kept my attention from start to finish, which is quite the feat when you consider the nearly 3 hour runtime.

What is this about?

Sheriff John Wayne has a problem: He must keep killer Claude Akins from escaping the town lockup (with outside help from his brother and a cadre of hired guns). The only people Wayne can call on for support are an alcoholic Dean Martin, a well-meaning Angie Dickinson, a crippled Walter Brennan and an eager Ricky Nelson.

What did I like?

Vintage. I think everyone who knows John Wayne knows him best as the symbol of westerns and the ideal “man’s man” of the time. The last few films that I’ve seen him in aren’t exactly highest caliber flicks and he seemed to just be there because his agent got him the role. However, this is the Duke at some of his best and, for a western fan like myself, I needed the reinforcement.

Stand your ground. I was listening to a review of The Purge a couple of weeks ago, and this film was mentioned as being similar. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, but after watching, I can see where they got the notion of similarity. You know what they say about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, but with that in mind, you can’t go wrong with the original.

Well, shoot. As with most westerns, the shootout is the selling point for me. This is no exception, though I think the cast didn’t seem to grasp the shooting concept as well as they could/should have, which caused the climax to be a bit shorter than it deserved to be. Still, it was worth it!

What didn’t I like?

Casting. Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson are better known for their vocal than acting chops, so one has to wonder why they were cast in this film. Both seem completely out of place and Martin, who they seemed to have spray tanned into being Hispanic, doesn’t quite suit the character. They do have a nice musical number, though that doesn’t make up for everything else.

Damsel. It may have been just me, but I felt that eveyrtime things started to slow down, they suddenly decided to cut to a scene with Angie Dickinson. In other words, she was nothing but eye candy and a love interest for Wayne. Come to think of it, most of the women in westerns seem to fit that bill, don’t they? It seemed like they wanted to do something more with her, but didn’t and I don’t really know why.

Drinking. I’m sure people were quite the heavy drinkers in the old west, which is why many films feature at least one alcoholic. This may go back to Martin’s character, both in portrayal and how he was written, but this drinking didn’t work as well as I think they thought it would. For me, it came off as more of a plot crutch.

Westerns are a finicky bunch of films, if you think about it. Sometime you love them, and other times they are just meh. Rio Bravo falls into the category of one that should be loved. There might not be something for everyone here, but there is a great movie to be watched, so watch it!

4 out of 5 stars

Stuart Little 2

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Three years after the first film, Stuart Little questions his ability after a grueling soccer match alongside George, who kicked him with a soccer ball. He becomes even more downhearted after George’s toy airplane gets broken in an accident because of him. However, Stuart’s father, Frederick Little, tells him that for every Little, there is a “silver lining”, a good thing that comes out of an apparently bad situation.

On his way home from school, Stuart saves a female canary named Margalo who is being pursued by a peregrine falcon, and they become friends. But she is secretly working with Falcon to case and steal from households. When he presses her to find and take an object of value, or lose the sanctuary he promised her, she can’t seem to concentrate on her assignment, as she is beginning to fall in love with Stuart. Falcon eventually loses patience and threatens to kill him if she doesn’t deliver. Worried for his safety, she takes Eleanor Little’s diamond wedding ring.

When the Littles see that the ring is missing, they think it has fallen down the sink. Stuart offers to be lowered down the drain on a string to get it, and nearly succeeds. When the string breaks Margalo saves him, and his thanks to her only makes her feel even more guilty, so she decides to leave. When he can’t find her, he assumes she has been kidnapped – and that Falcon is somehow involved. He leaves on a quest to rescue her with the household’s reluctant cat Snowbell, but not before setting up a plan with George.

Stuart and Snowbell enlist the help of Monty, who tells them that Falcon’s lair is at the disused observation deck of the nearby Pishkin Building. They use balloons to get Stuart to the top, where he finds out that Margalo is Falcon’s slave, and was forced to take the ring. He tries to save her, but Falcon captures him, and drops him in a garbage truck. Falcon then shuts Margalo inside a paint can as punishment for rebelling against him. Meanwhile, Snowbell makes his way to the top of the building while the Falcon is absent and frees Margalo, who tearfully tells Snowbell that Falcon killed Stuart. Distraught, Snowbell vows revenge.

On a garbage scow where he has ended up, Stuart blames himself for everything, and has almost lost all hope. Suddenly, he finds George’s broken plane, fixes it up, and flies to save Margalo. Falcon returns and almost hits Snowbell off the building, but Margalo defies him by taking the ring and fleeing. Falcon gives chase, but Stuart catches up in the plane and saves Margalo while trying to evade the Falcon. The Littles, who have discovered his absence and whereabouts follow him by taxi as he begins an aerial adventure through the park, with Margalo at his side. They lose Falcon, but he catches up and makes an attempt to kill Stuart, when he detaches the plane’s upper wing, damaging the main one and causing it to enter a steep nose dive, which fails when Stuart recovers from the dive, nearly missing the Littles. Unable to run from Falcon, he lets Margalo off. He turns and flies the damaged plane in a kamikaze run while Falcon goes into an attack dive. He uses Mrs. Little’s ring to temporarily blind him, and jumps out using a bandana as a parachute. The kamikaze attack works and Falcon is struck head on and defeated. Although he survives the attack, he falls out of the sky and lands in a garbage can that Monty is scavenging in, and is presumably eaten by him, but not before Stuart falls when his parachute is sliced apart by the propeller of the shattered plane, and then is rescued by Margalo.

Stuart is congratulated by his family, and Margalo, who gives Mrs. Little her ring back, and Snowbell reunites with them as well. Soon after, Margalo leaves with the other birds to migrate south, but not before saying goodbye to her friends. Stuart says the “silver lining” is that she’ll be back in the spring, and his baby sister, Martha, says her first words: “Bye bye, birdie.”, which the family then celebrates and then head inside to the comfort of their home.

REVIEW:

Welcome back to the colorful world where no one seems to notice that a human family has a talking mouse for a son. It is that suspension of disbelief that makes childhood great. Stuart Little 2 takes us all back to those innocent youth days with an adventure that we could very well have seen on Saturday morning television, and that is part of the charm and attraction of this film.

What is this about?

In this sequel to the 1999 blockbuster, adorable white mouse Stuart still lives happily with his adoptive family, the Littles — and more zany misadventures are in store as Stuart, his human brother and their mischievous cat raise the roof.

What did I like?

Message. Say what you will about every other aspect of this film, the one thing that you cannot say is that it is portraying a negative message. As a matter of fact, you can’t get much more positive than one of family and acceptance, now can you? Sure that may be a bit on the sugary, sweet side, but that’s what this film is.

Keep it moving. Not only is this film bright and colorful, but it is also short. With a run time of 76 minutes, you can be sure that kids and the ADHD crown won’t be going insane when you put this in to watch. Also, there isn’t some weird nonsensical drama involving the different species. Everyone is just who they are. It makes you wonder why can’t society nowadays be more accepting like the people in this film.

Stuart. In a strange bit of irony, you may recall that Stuart Little was more about George, played by Jonathan Lipnicki, than Stuart. This time around, we get much more of Stuart, which is really what we’re watching this for, after all, right?

What didn’t I like?

Motherly love. I love Geena Davis in these movies. She has never looked better. However, I can’t get over how overbearing a mother her character is. I don’t recall her being so protective of George in the first film. I have to wonder if this is all because Stuart is a mouse or being the youngest/smallest. At any rate, a certain amount of motherly love is ok, but she was just written almost to an extreme. They may have wanted her that way, which is fine, but I was not a fan.

Falcon. James Woods does a great job of voicing the villainous falcon. The problem I had with the character is that, well, what is a falcon doing flying around New York? If they would have had him running things from the zoo, or on the run from animal control, then that would have added something to his character, but as it stands he’s just a falcon flying around NYC. Perhaps there is a level of suspension of disbelief that needs to be had here, though.

Cats. You won’t find anyone that loves cats more than myself (except for crazy cat ladies and ancient Egyptians). I couldn’t help but notice that Snowbell and Monty returned for this flick. Snowbell, being a family cat, I can accept having a bit of a role, but Monty just made no sense, other than they just wanted to shoehorn in a familiar character that perhaps did well with audiences but wasn’t in the source material.

They say that more often than not, sequels don’t live up to the original. Stuart Little 2 is no exception. Having said that, it is able to stand alone and doesn’t feel like a cash grab the way many sequels do. If you’re looking for a fun family film that won’t insult your intelligence, this is something you should check out. The kids will enjoy it, if no one else does. I highly recommend it!

4 out of 5 stars

Fast & Furious 6

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Following their successful Rio heist, Dominic Toretto and his crew of professional criminals have retired around the world: Dominic lives with Elena; his sister Mia lives with Brian O’Conner and their son, Jack; Gisele and Han have moved to Hong Kong; and Roman and Tej live in luxury.

Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Luke Hobbs and his partner Riley investigate the destruction of a Russian military convoy by former British Special Forces soldier Owen Shaw and his crew. Hobbs tracks down Dominic and persuades him to help take down Shaw after showing him a recent photo of the supposedly long-dead Letty Ortiz, Dominic’s former girlfriend. Dominic gathers his crew together and they accept the mission in exchange for full amnesty for their past crimes, allowing them to return home to the United States; Mia and Elena remain with Jack.

The crew travels to London where one of Shaw’s henchmen leads them to Shaw’s hideout, but it is revealed to be a trap intended to distract the crew and police while Shaw’s crew performs a heist elsewhere. Shaw flees by car, detonating his hideout behind him and disabling most of the police, leaving Dominic, Brian, Tej, Han, Gisele, Hobbs and Riley to pursue him. Letty arrives to help Shaw, and shoots Dominic without hesitation before escaping. Back at their headquarters, Hobbs tells Dominic’s crew that Shaw is stealing components to create a Nightshade device which can disable power in an entire region; he intends to sell it to the highest bidder. Meanwhile, Shaw’s investigation into the opposing crew reveals Letty’s relationship with Dominic, but she is revealed to be suffering from amnesia.

Dominic’s crew investigates a Shaw subordinate who reveals Shaw’s connection to Arturo Braga, a drug lord imprisoned by Brian. Brian returns to the United States as a prisoner to gain access to Braga, who discloses how Letty survived the explosion that was thought to have killed her; Shaw attempted to finish her off but after learning of her amnesia, he took her in. Aided by a former ally in the FBI, Brian is released from prison. In London, Dominic challenges Letty in a street racing competition, and afterwards returns her necklace he had kept.

Tej tracks Shaw’s next attack to a NATO base in Spain. His crew assaults a military convoy carrying a computer chip to complete the Nightshade device. Dominic’s crew interferes, destroying the convoy while Shaw, accompanied by Letty, commandeers a tank and begins destroying cars along the highway. Brian and Roman manage to flip the tank; Letty is thrown from the tank and Dominic risks his life to save her from falling to her death. Shaw and his men are captured, but he reveals that he has kidnapped Mia. The crew is forced to release Shaw, and Riley (revealed to be working for Shaw) leaves with him; Letty chooses to remain with Dom. Shaw’s group board a large aircraft in motion on a runway as Dominic’s crew gives chase. Dominic, Letty, Brian, and Hobbs board the craft; Brian rescues Mia and they escape using a car onboard. The plane attempts to take off but is held down by excess weight as Han, Gisele, Roman, Tej, Brian, and Mia tether the plane to their vehicles. Gisele sacrifices herself to save Han from one of Shaw’s henchmen. Letty kills Riley and escapes with Hobbs to safety, but Dominic pursues Shaw and the computer chip. Shaw is thrown from the plane as it crashes into the ground; Dom drives one of the remaining cars through the nose of the exploding plane and reunites with his crew, giving the chip to Hobbs to secure their amnesty.

In the aftermath, Dominic and his team return to the United States. Hobbs and Elena (now working with Hobbs) arrive to confirm the crew are free; Elena accepts Dominic has chosen Letty over her. As Dominic’s crew gather to share a meal, Dominic asks Letty if the gathering feels familiar; she answers no, but that it feels like home. In a post-credits scene, while Han is in a car chase, he is hit by an oncoming car; Han’s car explodes, killing him. The other car’s driver walks away from the scene and calls Dominic, leaving him a message: “You don’t know me, you’re about to…”

REVIEW:

I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about Fast & Furious 6. I really wanted to go see it in theaters, but, had it not been for a friend needing to get out for a night, I probably would have had to wait to see it on DVD. A bit of a disclaimer, I’ve only seen the first two films in the franchise, but I will be getting to the rest of the franchise shortly.

What is this about?

Street racer Dominic Toretto and his crew again call on their mad driving skills for a big heist that sends them zooming through European streets. If a traitor in their midst doesn’t slam the brakes on their plan, federal agent Luke Hobbs just might.

What did I like?

Action. I’ve been dying for a real action flick and it looks like I finally got it. Not only is the action in this over the top, but it is filmed in such a way that you want to see what is going to happen next. Explosions, car chases, fighting…it is all there if you’re a fan of action. Let’s face it, chances are if you’re watching this, then you’re not looking for the same thing you would in something like Citizen Kane.

Plot. The plot involving anther crew of car thieves really drew me in, especially when it was pointed out that each of them had a sort of doppelganger on the other team. The whole time, from that pint on, I was just waiting for the big payoff where they each got to square off against their counterpart, and boy was it worth the wait!

Fight. The fight scenes were great, highlighted by the slobber knocker that took place in the cargo plane. However, the single fight that grabbed my attention the most was when Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez went at it. I’m sure everyone that saw Haywire was wishing Carano would have been a little more personable like this character, but hey, we get what can get and when you see these two touch babes go at it, you’ll be more than satisfied.

What didn’t I like?

Comic relief. Please don’t take this statement as an inference that I don’t care for comedy or that I think this film was blatantly racist. However, I found it rather odd that the comic moments were between the two African-American characters played by Tyrese and Ludacris. Hell, there was even one comic scene involving Dwayne Johnson (who is part African-American). I’m not saying that the comedy was bad, just that it seemed to be almost a negative throwback to the minstrel days of the 20s and 30s. I don’t doubt that this was on accident, plus from what I gathered in the two films in this franchise that I’ve seen, the personalities of these two are that of more comic oriented, as opposed to straight laced like Vin Diesel.

Too much. With all the characters from the previous films coming back, Luke Evans’ villainous Shaw didn’t really have a chance to shine the way he could have. As one critic put it, “Shaw is unable to make an impression.” Looking back at it all, this makes perfect sense.  The guy is clearly a more than competent villain, but other than his entrance, we don’t really get the feeling of what he is capable of, which really hurts the pre-climax. Sure, he was terrorizing the interstates of, I believe it was Spain at this time, with a tanks and running over everyone with no regard for life could have been more effective if they would have just taken a second or two to develop his character a bit more.

When all the smoke clears, it is obvious that Fast & Furious 6 is not a film for everyone. As I mentioned earlier, this is strictly an action flick. While there is a bit of a plot, it isn’t much of one. It exists clearly to justify the action, if that is even possible. This is a film that is over the top and enjoyable. The true definition of a summer blockbuster popcorn flick. If this is your genre of movie, then I highly recommend you check it out!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Snitch

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson), owner of a construction company, receives a call from his ex-wife Sylvie Collins (Melina Kanakaredes). His estranged son Jason (Rafi Gavron) is being charged for distribution of narcotics; while Jason is not actually a dealer, his friend set him up in a sting operation to reduce his own sentence after being caught. Jason’s charges carry a minimum of 10 years in prison. John feels responsible because he was not there for his son, and he becomes desperate as he realizes that Jason may be killed before he finishes his prison sentence.

Using his connections, John arranges several meetings with the local US Attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), who is running a very aggressive anti-drug campaign to bolster her chances for election to Congress. Joanne agrees to reduce Jason’s sentence if John can inform on a drug dealer, but states that he’ll receive little help from her and that the risk will be all his. Agent Cooper (Barry Pepper) leads a task force which will monitor any dealings John arranges to use as evidence for an arrest. John searches through his employee records and finds an employee on his payroll with two former distribution convictions. Daniel James (Jon Bernthal) is currently leading a clean life to avoid a third strike, as he now has a wife and young son to care for. John offers twenty-thousand dollars if Daniel will simply introduce him to a dealer. Daniel initially refuses but later agrees so that he can move to a safer apartment for his son, though he is unaware that John is acting as an informant.

Daniel introduces John to Malik, an extremely dangerous, high-ranking local drug dealer, who like Daniel has two strikes. Explaining that his business can not stay afloat in the current economy without a supplement to its revenues, John offers to run nearly limitless amounts of drugs at almost zero risk in his freight trucks. Due to being a legitimate business, the trucks avoid suspicion and carry too much freight to thoroughly searched. Malik agrees under the condition that John and Daniel drive the initial run themselves.

John and Agent Cooper arrange for several wire taps to be put in place to catch the transactions involved. John drives to the pickup point near the Mexican border. In the process, a rival gang ambushes the pickup, but John manages a daring escape, impressing cartel kingpin Juan Carlos “El Topo” Pintera (Benjamin Bratt), whose cartel successfully fights off the ambushers. John successfully completes his end of the deal, delivering the drugs to Malik while under surveillance by Agent Cooper. Malik mentions a meeting with cartel members higher than himself: Cooper, hoping to catch the higher priority targets, refuses to arrest Malik during the deal. Keeghan claims Cooper did the right thing and refuses to reduce Jason’s sentence unless John cooperates in a second meeting. John, outraged, agrees only if Jason is released when the job is completed, rather than just a reduction in sentence. Around this time, Daniel finds out about the arrangement John made with the police and is furious, saying that the cartel will kill John, Daniel, and their families if the truth comes out. John and Daniel send their families into hiding.

John meets with Juan Carlos Pintera under much higher cartel security than he has seen so far. Juan wants John to run nearly $100 million in drug profits into Mexico, back to the cartel base of operations, and offers to make John a member of the cartel inner circle if he succeeds. John reports this back to Keeghan and Cooper. Keeghan is ecstatic due to finding such a large target, but Cooper has a change of heart and tries to talk John out of doing the run, as he suspects the cartel will kill him afterwards.

John devises a plan to free himself and Daniel from both the government and the cartel. During the run, John is able to escape Cooper’s surveillance. At the same time, Daniel raids Malik’s house, killing Malik’s guards and wounding Malik. Before dying, Malik reveals Juan Carlos’s cell phone number to Daniel. John calls Cooper and has him track both his new cell phone and Juan Carlos’s phone, effectively giving Cooper both the money and the kingpin at once. After a highway chase and shootout, caused by the cartel’s realization that John is an informant, John escapes. Cartel members and the money are seized by Cooper’s men. Juan Carlos is also captured; he is unwilling to get into a shootout with the police, as his young son is with him.

The movie ends with Jason being released the next day. John and his family go into the witness protection program. Daniel refuses to go into the program, saying he and his family will go into hiding on their own. As Daniel has lost his job, John leaves Daniel the large reward check that John was supposed to receive for the capture of Juan Carlos. The film concludes by citing statistics which show that certain first-time non-violent drug offenders receive longer prison sentences on average than those convicted of rape or manslaughter.

REVIEW:

Have you ever wondered what happens to the family of wrongly accused drug traffickers? How is it that they stay in prison, whilst others, that actually are guilty, mange to get off scott-free? In some respects, Snitch will answer your questions, but is it worth watching?

What is this about?

Suburban father John Matthews is hit hard when his teenage son is sentenced to 30 years in federal prison under mandatory minimum drug laws. In order to reduce his son’s sentence, John goes undercover to take down a violent drug dealer.

What did I like?

Call him Dwayne. Dwayne Johnson is having one helluva year. It seems as if he’s been in most of the films that have been released this year, plus he went back to the WWE for a little bit this spring. Life is good for the man formerly known as “The Rock”. This role is a bit more straight-laced than I care for from him, but it is also probably his best performance since Walking Tall.

Intense. The best way to describe this film isn’t serious, dramatic, or boring, but rather…intense. Given the subject matter, you can’t really expect much else. The whole drug smuggling thing complete with the DEA swooping in near the beginning just snatches your attention up and doesn’t let go.

Walking Dead. I guess Jon Bernthal survived his near-zombie turn on The Walking Dead. For those that don’t know, he played Shane. As an actor, I found him to be quite competent in this role. He showed how much he cared for his family and also had a bit of a double life that goes back to his past. A character with this kind of depth is always a plus.

What didn’t I like?

Family. Johnson plays a devoted family man. The whole reason that he’s in this mess is because of his love for his son. There is a great scene between the two where he explains why he hadn’t been there for him. I’ll leave that for you to make your own opinion on, however, there is the slight fact that he seemed to abandon his current family and sacrifice his business for his son that didn’t quite sit right with me. The love resonated with me, but it was like he didn’t think about his wife and daughter.

Clean trucks. Whenever I’m driving on the interstate, I see a lot of trucks. These big rigs aren’t exactly pristine, unlike the truck that Johnson and Bernthal are riding in. As far as I could tell, this wasn’t a brand new truck, and even when it crashed, the thing was still shiny and clean.

Snitch didn’t blow me away, but I did like it. It has a sophisticated way of telling a story while giving us some kick-ass action, as well. If you are looking for a mixture of both worlds, then this is the perfect flick for you. I highly recommend it!

4 out of 5 stars