Archive for May, 2014

Trailer Thursday 5/29

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on May 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

I’m a little behind this week, so please excuse the lack of reviews this week. They’re in the saved que, just haven’t been posted, yet.

I will go on and get this week’s Trailer Thursday, though.

With the release of Maleficent this weekend, I figured we should go back to the year 1959.

Imagine walking in the theater and a new Disney film is about to be released. One that has some of the most breathtaking imagery and artwork we have ever seen up to the point in time. Jaws surely dropped when this hit the screen.

Please enjoy the trailer for Sleeping Beauty

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Labor Day

Posted in Chick Flicks, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on May 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1987, Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) is a depressed single mom who lives in a rural home with her 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith). While they are clothes shopping, a bloody man approaches Henry and makes them take him home to look after him. The man is revealed to be Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin), a convict who is wanted by the local police after breaking out of jail. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Frank is a Vietnam veteran who returned home and married his pregnant girlfriend, Mandy (Maika Monroe), who soon gave birth. A year after the baby’s birth, Frank and Mandy had a fight, where she unintentionally revealed that he isn’t the baby’s father. During the fight, he accidentally pushed her against a radiator, resulting in her death. Simultaneously, the baby drowned and Frank was sent to jail for Mandy’s murder.

Adele and Frank fall in love and plan to go to Canada with Henry. They begin packing the house and cleaning on Labor Day. Meanwhile, Henry develops a friendship with a mature, but manipulative girl named Eleanor (Brighid Fleming), and goes to see her one more time before they leave. She manipulates him into thinking Adele and Frank are going to abandon him and he accidentally reveals Frank’s past. The morning they are going to leave, Henry takes a note to his father’s house and leaves it in his mailbox. While he is walking home, a policeman (James van der Beek) offers to drive him home, and Henry has no choice but to accept. The policeman is suspicious of the packed car and nearly-empty house, but eventually leaves. Adele goes to the bank to get all the money out of her account, and while she is gone the neighbor comes over to give Adele some cinnamon rolls, and speaks to Frank. She is suspicious of who he may be. Henry’s father finds the note he left, and calls the house wondering what is going on. Before Adele, Frank, and Henry can escape, the police arrive and arrest him. He ties Henry and Adele up before he goes out to surrender, so that they won’t be charged with harboring a fugitive. It is not revealed who called the police to report Frank’s presence at the house.

Years later, adult Henry (Tobey Maguire) has become a successful baker and is contacted by Frank, who is getting out of jail. Henry tells him that his mother is still single, and Adele meets Frank at the prison upon his release

REVIEW:

You know, they always say don’t let a stranger in your car and for kids not to talk to strangers, right? Well, Labor Day is going to make housewives rethink that and just go out picking up random guys that look like convicts, I think, if they haven’t started already.

What is this about?

What begins as a short ride turns into a life-changing event for divorced single mother Adele Wheeler and her 13-year-old son, Henry, when they give a lift to a bloodied man on a fateful Labor Day weekend.

What did I like?

Simple. Lady gets divorced. Lady goes into seclusion and depression. Lady meets escape convict in supermarket, brings him home and they fall in love as he is hiding out. See, nothing complicated about that plot, is there? Sometimes it is best to just strip things back to the bare bones, rather than making things so deep and complicated that the audience is lost and confused. There is an adage that was taught to me in junior high, K.I.S.S. No, not the band, but Keep It Simple Stupid. More than a few films would benefit from following this little nugget of knowledge.

Not a bad guy. Josh Brolin’s character is actually not a bad guy. He’s in jail for an accidental murder. For some reason, I feel sympathy for prisoners. Think about it, we put tax evaders, shoplifters, and people who get caught pirating movies and music in the same prison as hardened thieves, murderers, rapists, etc. What kind of sense does that make? Yes, there are a few bad guys, but I would wager that there are guys like Brolin’s character than not. It is a different take on the escape convict to have one that is guilty of his crime, but not a bad guy who wants to kill everyone who looks at him funny.

Dad is around. So many times when couples are divorced in movies, depending on the story, the father is usually a mean, violent drunk, or not around. Another thing that this film does right is let the father come around. Now, the guy isn’t in the film much, because he isn’t the focus of the film, neither is the kid, really, but the fact that they make sure to let the audience know that Clark Gregg’s character isn’t some deadbeat dad, is a plus in my book. Although, I have to wonder who in their right mind would leave Kate Winslet?!?

What didn’t I like?

Frumpy Kate. I’ve been in love with Kate Winslet ever since I first saw her in Titanic. Most of the stuff she makes is not my cup of tea, but I can usually find a scene or two that I like, if you know what I mean. None of those kind of scenes are in this, though, but that’s now what I have a problem with. My issue is that, while it is necessary for this character, there was really no reason for Kate to look all greasy and frumpy. She reminded me of the sister of this girl I once dated. The only thing missing was the 8 kids and innumerable animals running around the house. OF course, she was divorced, too, so that may just be something divorcee’s go through. Who knows? I know that I just wasn’t a fan of the look. At some point during the picture, they could have dolled her up at least once!

Spider no more. Tobey Maguire handles narration and appears in the last scenes as the grown-up version of the kid we watch for most of the film. Tobey is a good enough actor, and I could see the kid growing up into him, but his narration just didn’t work for me. There is something about his voice that doesn’t work in narration format. I had the same problems with the Raimi Spider-Man films (which I will still take over these new ones we have, but that’s a topic for another day).

Want some pancakes with that sap? As a romantic drama, one goes into this expecting a certain amount of sap, but good gravy! There was enough sap in here to supply IHOP with syrup for a decade or more! A sappy love story is what you expect when you watch this, and the way Brolin and Winslet fall for each other is cliché, but sweet. I just wish it wasn’t so saccharine. I can’t pinpoint what it was that made it so, just know that you will feel sticky after watching…unless you’re a female, then you’ll just want get all cuddly and whatnot.

I’m not really sure why Labor Day wasn’t released over Labor Day weekend, other than the fact it wasn’t going to be a big hit on the last official summer weekend. Still, the marketing pretty much wrote itself, but oh well. This is a film that is made for the lonely romantics out there. Everyone else who watches is basically just watching some pictures move. Do I recommend this? Not really, I mean, as the sum of its parts, it is ok, but nothing spectacular. Watch, if you must!

3 out of 5 stars

Man on Fire

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2003, burnt-out ex-CIA officer and former Force Recon Marine officer John Creasy (Denzel Washington) looks for work and reunites with old friend and comrade Paul Rayburn (Christopher Walken), who runs a security firm in Mexico. Because of the extremely high rate of kidnappings in Mexico City for ransom money, businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) hires Creasy through Rayburn to guard his nine-year-old daughter “Pita” (Dakota Fanning), intending to keep him on for only a short period in order to renew his kidnap and ransom insurance on Pita. Creasy suffers from alcoholism, depression, and severe guilt as a result of his past work as a counterinsurgency fighter and professional assassin, and so works for Samuel at a rate far below what his experience would command. At first Creasy distances himself socially from Pita, but the two soon develop a friendship, which allows Creasy to overcome his demons and to act as a mentor and surrogate father-figure to the girl.

After a piano lesson, Pita is abducted in public; Creasy kills four of the kidnappers, but he is shot multiple times and collapses. The Ramos’ agree to deliver a dead drop ransom of US$10 million per the instructions of “La Voz” (“The Voice”) (Roberto Sosa), the mastermind behind the kidnapping ring. Samuel’s attorney, Jordan Kalfus (Mickey Rourke), arranges for the ransom money to be collected from Samuel’s kidnapping insurance policy, then arranges for it to be delivered to the kidnappers. The drop, however, is ambushed by members of “La Hermandad”, a Mexican crime syndicate composed of corrupt police officers, leading to several of the ring members killed and the money being stolen. The Voice notifies the Ramos’ that Pita will be killed in retribution.

Creasy leaves the hospital before fully recovering from his wounds and vows to Pita’s mother Lisa (Radha Mitchell) that he will kill everyone involved in Pita’s abduction. Rayburn supplies Creasy with firearms and explosives, while Mariana Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin), a journalist investigating the kidnappings, and Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini), an agent of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI), offer their support. Creasy tortures and murders several targets for their information, and eventually learns from a corrupt high-ranking police officer that the bags stolen from the ransom drop contained only $2.5 million.

Investigating further, Creasy finds Kalfus dead and evidence of Samuel’s desperate financial situation, and he confronts him with Lisa present. Samuel confesses to Creasy and Lisa that he agreed to Kalfus’ plan to stage Pita’s kidnapping, so he could pay off business debts by fraudulently collecting the insurance money. He planned to keep $5 million for himself, and split the rest between Kalfus and the kidnappers. He also confesses to killing Kalfus. Creasy leaves a pistol and one bullet (a faulty round that he had previously used to attempt suicide) for Samuel, who then uses these to commit suicide.

Using the information provided by Creasy, The Voice’s identity is revealed to be Daniel Sánchez, who Mariana exposes in the newspapers. Creasy shows up at Daniel’s ex-wife’s house and is shot by his brother Aurelio (Gero Camilo), who then tries unsuccessfully to escape. Creasy calls Daniel and threatens to kill his family, and Daniel reveals that Pita is still alive; offering to free her if Creasy surrenders himself and brings Aurelio. Creasy agrees and he and Lisa arrive at the exchange site, where he and Pita share a tearful goodbye before he is taken and driven away by the kidnappers. Creasy dies peacefully en route as a result of his gunshot injuries. Daniel Sánchez is later killed by Manzano during an AFI arrest.

REVIEW:

Am I the only who almost burst out into Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” with the title to Man on Fire? Talk about an earworm, right? So, here we have Denzel doing what he does best, but with a cast that is mostly on par with him, even if their material isn’t. Let’s find out if this is worth a watch, shall we?

What is this about?

Jaded ex-CIA operative John Creasy reluctantly accepts a job as the bodyguard for a 10-year-old girl in Mexico City. They clash at first, but eventually bond, and when she’s kidnapped he’s consumed by fury and will stop at nothing to save her life.

What did I like?

Connection. As the film begins and we meet Denzel Washington’s character, we learn that he is more the loner, not wanting to really have a connection to his clients. For a good part of the first half of the picture, we see him hold to that, but all it takes is a sweet little girl and that façade is quickly melted. Once the chemistry between Washington and young Dakota Fanning was ignited, this became a much more enjoyable film. Not to mention, without that connection, the events and motivation for the later parts of the picture would not have happened, I don’t believe.

Kidnap plot. We’ve all seen kidnap plots in television and movies, but the intricate way in which this one was planned and executed was something of interest. First off, the person behind it, who turns out to be a total surprise, is not someone you would expect to be kidnapping young Dakota Fanning. Second, the confusing paper trail, for lack of a better term, that was left behind throws everyone, including the audience off the scent, making for much time on the edge of your seat.

I’m Walken. Who doesn’t love Christopher Walken? I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s comic relief in this role, but he does manage to lighten the mood when he’s on screen, even if he isn’t necessarily cracking jokes. He also comes in handy as an informant and distraction when needed, which is always a plus.

What didn’t I like?

Accent. As usual, I take umbrage with a southern accent. Hey, I’m from and live in the south! I’m pretty sure I know what our accents sound like down here. Radha Mitchell, for some odd reason, is spitting out a horrendous accent that makes the cast of True Blood sound authentic. On top of her accent, I question why there was the decision to make her southern, living in Mexico and, to a lesser extent white. That isn’t a race thing, it just wasn’t explained. She doesn’t seem like the type that would just make random trip south of the border or uproot everything to move there.

Transition. The transition from the “happy” first half of the film to the darker second half was ok, but I felt having Washington laying there in the bed and accused of murdering police officers seemed a bit cliché and cliffhanger-ish. Surely, there had to be some other way to do this so that it didn’t seem so episodic!

Slow. With Denzel Washington films, you can never expect them to be fast-paced, action-packed popcorn flick, 2 Guns being the closest thing to an exception to the rule. However, his films that seems to be more action-based tend to actually pick up near the end. In this one, he goes on a killing spree in an effort to find the kidnapped little girl, and yet the film never speeds up. As a matter of fact, I think it gets slower as it gets darker. I would have liked for it to have picked up, if only for a little bit, during the killing/torture scenes.

I do not believe I have ever seen a bad performance from Denzel Washington. Even if the film is bad, he delivers! Man on Fire was nothing memorable, in my opinion, but it isn’t something that should be forgotten in terms of performances. Washington’s strong presence, as well as the mature way beyond her years Dakota Fanning help make this a film that is worth a watch or two. Then there is the actual plot and story, which are solidly written. Do I recommend this? Yes, while I don’t highly recommend it, I can say that it is worth checking out at least once. Give it a shot, why don’t you?

4 out of 5 stars

Bonnie & Clyde (2013)

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2014 by Mystery Man

Bonnie & Clyde

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The two-part TV movie is based on the true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Barrow, a charismatic convicted armed robber, sweeps Parker – a young and impressionable, petite, small-town waitress, who is already married – off her feet. In the early 1930s, the two embark on one of the most infamous crime sprees in American history.

Part 1: Tells the story of Clyde Barrow’s childhood growing up in rural Texas with his older brother Buck as they steal chickens, and later they do a stint in prison for stealing bigger and better things. After Buck ends up incarcerated again, Clyde meets the love of his life Bonnie Parker, who dreams of becoming a movie star in Hollywood. Soon the couple goes on a crime spree, robbing banks together after Clyde’s partner is caught. They are able to stay one step ahead of the “laws” while they rob bigger banks in the state.

Part 2: Clyde asks his newlywed brother Buck to help them. Not wanting to be alone at home, his wife Blanche becomes the fourth member of the Barrow Gang. However, Bonnie pushes Clyde to commit more dangerous crimes and rob banks across the state line to generate headlines in the newspapers, and their life of crime soon leads to their deaths.

REVIEW:

I actually let Bonnie & Clyde (2013) slip by me when it first aired, only catching bits and pieces because I was watching something else. Tonight, though, I was able to sit down and watch all 4 hours. Before I go on any further, although this isn’t a remake, the comparisons to Bonnie & Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are inevitable.

What is this about?

Clyde Barrow, a charismatic convicted armed robber, sweeps Bonnie Parker, an impressionable small-town waitress, off her feet, and the two embark on one of the most infamous bank-robbing sprees in history.

What did I like?

Authenticity. Before I flipped through and saw that this was on tonight, there was an interesting documentary about the Bonnie & Clyde that brought to life some of the facts that I was not aware of before. Those same facts were omitted from the Beatty version of these two outlaws, but this version took the time to not make everything about them so sugar-coated. There was strife between the two lovers, Bonnie was not little Miss Perfect, Clyde had his own set of insecurities, etc.

Bonnie. Most portrayals of Bonnie Parker, even in the media of the time, have her as a perfect embodiment of culture at the time. Holliday Grainger’s porcelain beauty definitely helps define the wannabe actress part of the character, but it his her acting that really allows Bonnie to come back to life.

Go Speed Racer. I can’t remember what it was that I was watching or listening to the other day, but they mention how Emile Hirsch was supposed to have been the next big thing in Hollywood, but instead, he’s become a shadow of what he can be. As we can see here, and with some of his other independent films, Hirsch shows a wide variety of moods. At times, Hirsch looks to be channeling his inner Leonardo DiCaprio, and that’s it just fine with me. What really matters is that he takes the villainous leader of the Barrow Gang, Clyde Barrow, and humanize the guy, which is something that is barely is done in the previous film.

What didn’t I like?

Laser like focus. Some people praised the laser like focus that was shown by Frank Hamer, but I’m not one of them. To me, it felt like he was wronged in some way by these two he had never met, save for an off chance meeting early on in the film with Clyde (which probably didn’t happen). Bonnie & Clyde accidentally killed one person when he was called in, but because these bank robbers freed some prisoners, it became a federal case, one that wasn’t going to end until they were dead. Maybe I’m sympathetic to the duo, but it just doesn’t seem right.

Mother’s Day. Both Bonnie and Clyde’s mother’s are portrayed as a bit bi-polar, if you will. Bonnie’s mother is very loving and all, but she can’t stand that her daughter isn’t marrying the “right guy” or going off into this dark path rather than following her dream of being an actress. Clyde’s mother is very supporting, even with the crime stuff, surprisingly, but after Buck is killed, you can imagine that she isn’t as interested in being a loving mother to someone who was the reason her oldest boy is laying in a grave.

Romance over substance. Personally, I’m more interested in the criminal life of Bonnie & Clyde, like we saw in the Warrant Beatty take on their lives, as opposed to the romantic side. Now, the romance is great and all. For goodness sakes, they died in the car together, but I don’t believe it should have taken so much of a forefront in this picture that we forget these two were gangsters and not Romeo & Juliet (or some other great couple).

Bonnie & Clyde was a decent miniseries that aired over 3 networks simultaneously upon its initial showing. They managed to capture more of the history of these figures that previous films have done and seemed to be more in tune with the era, what with the soundtrack and look of the cast. Still, it seems as if this was made to get people interested in the history of Bonnie & Clyde, rather than an entertaining film. I guess what I’m trying to say is this might as well have been one of those documentaries that is acted out with little narration. Still, I found it entertaining and believe it is worth a watch, at least once. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do…if you have 4 hours to spare.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a dystopian future, sentient robots known as Sentinels are exterminating mutants and oppressing humans, since humans harbor the genes that lead to mutant offspring. A small band of mutant survivors manage to evade the Sentinels thanks to the powers of Kitty Pryde, who has the ability to project a person’s consciousness back in time to deliver warnings.

Kitty’s group rendezvous with Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier in a monastery in China. They hatch a plan to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to prevent Mystique from murdering Bolivar Trask, the lead designer of the Sentinels. Trask’s assassination will make him a martyr, Mystique will be captured and her mutant powers will be reverse-engineered and used to create the formidable Sentinels of the future. A caveat of the plan is that they will have to stand and defend Wolverine and Kitty until Wolverine finishes his trip to the past and returns, otherwise the changes he made to the timeline will be lost.

Wolverine wakes up in 1973 in his younger body. He travels to the X-Mansion, where he encounters the young Hank McCoy and a disheveled Xavier. His school has failed and most of his original X-Men are dead, and this has left him a broken man. He has also lost his telepathic powers through taking serum which allows him to walk again. Wolverine convinces Xavier to free Magneto — who was accused of murdering John F. Kennedy (a charge he denies, stating that Kennedy was himself a mutant) — from a prison cell beneath The Pentagon. They do this with the help of Peter Maximoff, a mutant who can move blindingly fast.

Trask unsuccessfully lobbies to Congress for approval for his Sentinel program. Meanwhile, in Saigon, Mystique prevents a young William Stryker from appropriating a group of mutant American GIs, including Havok, for Trask’s research. Mystique investigates Trask Industries and discovers he has been capturing and experimenting on mutants, including some of her old comrades. Knowing that the assassination of Trask occurs in Paris, Xavier and Magneto board a private plane with Beast and Wolverine in order to intercept Mystique, although the two argue over abandoning each other.

In Paris, the Americans and Vietnamese are negotiating the end to the Vietnam War. Mystique impersonates a Vietnamese general to infiltrate a meeting with Trask. As she is about to kill Trask, Wolverine, Xavier, Magneto and Hank arrive. To guarantee her powers can never be used for the Sentinels, Magneto tries to kill Mystique, who flees out a window. A fight on the street ensues, in front of onlookers and television cameras. Wolverine’s upsetting encounter with Stryker causes his future body to react violently and injure Kitty.

Although Trask is saved, the world is horrified by the existence of mutants. President Richard Nixon approves Trask’s Sentinel program and arranges an unveiling in Washington, D.C. Trask’s scientists recover Mystique’s blood from the battle site in Paris, and Magneto fears Trask could still create the future Sentinels. Magneto intercepts the Sentinel prototypes on their way to Washington and laces them with steel, as he would not be able to control them otherwise since they’re made of polymer. At the mansion, Xavier eschews his regular serum dose to regain his powers. Through Wolverine, Xavier communes with his future self and is inspired to struggle for human-mutant peace once again. He uses Cerebro to track Mystique en route to Washington.

Nixon unveils the Sentinel prototypes on the White House lawn. As a show of force, Magneto raises RFK Stadium and deposits it around the White House. He also commandeers the Sentinels and has them attack the crowd. Nixon and Trask are taken to a safe room, followed by a disguised Mystique. Xavier, Wolverine, and Beast try to stop Magneto. Magneto impales Wolverine with rebars and flings him into the Potomac River. In 2023, the X-Men make their final stand as the Sentinels assault the monastery.

Pulling the safe room out of the White House, Magneto aims the television cameras at himself and prepares to kill the President with the whole world watching. Disguised as the President, Mystique wounds him with a plastic gun and reveals her true form. Xavier persuades Mystique not to kill Trask and allows her and Magneto to flee. Mystique’s interference is seen as a Mutant rescue of the president; the Sentinel program is cancelled and Trask is arrested.

Wolverine wakes up in 2023 in Xavier’s school, where he finds the X-Men all alive and well, even Jean Grey and Scott Summers. Logan asks Xavier to fill him in on the 50 years that he has missed out on, stating that the history he knew was a different one. In 1973, Mystique, impersonating Stryker, has the younger Wolverine rescued from the river.

In a post-credits scene, a cloaked figure telekinetically assembles the Pyramids of Giza as four horsemen stand behind him and a throng of worshipers chants his name: En Sabah Nur.

REVIEW:

Following the success of X-Men: First Class, fans were wondering if that was a reboot or if we were ever going to see the originals back in their roles (excluding Hugh Jackman, who has been in every film related to this franchise). Well, in order to keep continuity amongst both “timelines”, as we’ll call them, there was one story that could bring them all together. Aside from The Phoenix Saga, it is probably the most popular of the X-Men stories, and now it has made it to the big screen, but how will everyone react to X-Men: Days of Future Past?

What is this about?

This superhero sequel tracks Wolverine’s journey back in time in an effort to alter history and prevent the annihilation of both humans and mutants. Conflict also develops between Professor X and Magneto about the X-Men’s relations with humans.

What did I like?

X marks the spot. There is a reason the X-Men are called “X” men, and it is because of Charles Xavier, one of the most powerful mutants and brilliant minds in the Marvel Universe. Patrick Stewart brought Professor X straight out of the comics in the X-Men trilogy, leaving some very big shoes for James McAvoy to fill when First Class was made. In one of the early trailers for this film, you see the two of them talking, and you get chills. The past meets the present/future sort of thing. I hate to burst your bubble, but that scene isn’t as long as you think, but it is there. What is remarkable about both professors is as the film progresses McAvoy’s Xavier is humanized. We have never really known Professor X to be a flawed individual. Stewart’s version is the wise old sage we know him to be, but the fact that he can influence even his younger self with his wisdom speaks volume to the kind of man he is.

Tyrion. Bolivar Trask is not a likable character in the comics. In the X-Men Universe, we have seen Trask before. Go back and look at X-Men: The Last Stand, you know the X-Men movie everyone wants to forget happened, he’s in there, but it is a very different role. Peter Dinklage’s take on Trask is closer to the comic incarnation. As someone who loves it when they stick as close to the source material as possible, I was loving this. I have to bring this up, though. Dinklage is a great actor, and by winning this role, one that honestly didn’t call for someone of his stature, he may have opened up some doors for others.  I appreciate how that his height is not once mentioned, showing that he was meant to be taken seriously. Although, I could see someone using that in a future film as a mutant thing, or they could just bring in Trask’s son, who is a mutant (just a little info for those unenlightened out there).

Girl on fire. Jennifer Lawrence has really come into her own since we last saw her in blue body paint. Not that she wasn’t already a really fine actress, mind you. I guess the filmmakers paid attention to the Hunger Games films and noticed that she can kick some ass, something that Mystique needs to do. She’s not the timid little girl hanging on Xavier’s coattails as she was when we last saw her but, at the same time, she’s not the focused mercenary we see in X-Men, either. Lawrence realizes this and portrays the inner conflict between which way she should be leaning, which is a primary plot point.

Newness. Along with just about all the cast in the X-Men Universe returning for this film (not sure why Anna Paquin’s character was cut down to cameo at the very end….something I’m not happy about), we have some new mutants joining the fray. Most of which have never been seen any medium, except for Bishop who was in the 90s X-Men cartoon for this very story arc. Also appearing are Warpath, Sunspot, Blink, and Quicksilver. Blink, judging by the post-credits scene and what I know about that story, will be seeing much more screentime, What they did to shower her powers, though, was awesome! While on the topic of awesome, Quicksilver, who will be played by a different actor when The Avengers: Age of Ultron is released thanks to Marvel and 20th Century Fox having a war over these characters with neither wanting to budge (just like Sony with Spider-Man), was a real surprise. I don’t think anyone was expecting him to be that cool, especially when you saw the early pictures. That being said, if there was ever a time to use bullet time, it is with him (and this fall when The Flash comes to TV). These new characters weren’t really needed to breath new blood into the franchise, but they didn’t hurt.

What didn’t I like?

Here Kitty. Ellen Page has never been an actress I have cared very much for. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat is not a character I have any feeling for one way or the other. So, you can see why Page as Kitty does nothing for me. I’m not going to bitch about her, but rather her sudden ability to transport people through time. If I recall from the comic, Kitty was able to transport herself back, but not other people. The fact that they gave her this ability in the film seemed as if it were an easy way to give her some screentime and keep it somewhat close to the source material, as it is obvious if you have the choice between Ellen Page and Hugh Jackman carrying your film, you go with Jackman.

Talk or fight. If you are an avid reader of my posts, then you know I love me some action and, unless it is a drama, could care less about a lot of talking. This film tries to balance out the dialogue and action, but I fear it doesn’t do it as well. However, there are some quite heated interactions between McAvoy’s Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto that were just as good as an all out brawl. Still, I was hoping we’d get more fun action, but I guess they can’t all be Captain America: The Winter Soldier, can they?

Be quick about it. As I said earlier, the effects on Quicksilver were great, but not everything worked as well. His personality, which actually is the personality he has in the comics, at least from what I’ve read. I’m not necessarily saying that I’d change anything about the way he was portrayed or tone it down when/if they show him as an older version of himself, but maybe not focus so much on him being as much of a dick towards everyone. I did appreciate the mention to Magneto when he broke him out of prison that his mom knew someone who could control metal, that was a nice little easter egg.

The perfect Storm. I have never had any problem with Halle Berry as Storm, except for that weird African accent she tried to have in the first film. Apparently, I’m one of the few, though, because it seems as if no one liked her as Storm. Not to spoil anything, but not only is she not in this film very much (she became pregnant during shooting, if I’m not mistaken, which caused them to change what they were going to do with her character), but she also has something major happen to her that will rock you one way or the other depending on how you feel about her character. Personally, I don’t think it should have happened, but given what was going on with everyone around her at the time, it makes sense.

People are already saying that X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best entry into the franchise. I can see how they think that, but for me this doesn’t stand out as the best. It is still pretty damn good, though. As one of the movie review podcasts I listen to pointed out, this was the triumphant return of Bryan Singer (who directed the first two X-Men films before leaving to do Superman Returns). The fact that Singer brings back the original theme should tell you something about how this film is going to be in comparison to what we got after he left. Hopefully, they won’t scare him off again! Do I recommend this film? Yes! Yes! Yes! It is a must-see before you die! Don’t forget to stick around after the credits for a scene that, if you’re a fan of the comics, you’ll know what it leads to and will more than likely piss yourself!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 5/22

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on May 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

With the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past this weekend, I though it fitting that this week’s trailer be the one that started it all!

Now, when I say started it all, I mean this is the film that many point to as the start of superheroes ruling the cinema (though a valid argument can be made for Blade). Enough of my rambling, though. Sit back and enjoy the trailer for X-Men.

 

The Lawnmower Man

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on May 21, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dr. Lawrence Angelo works for Virtual Space Industries, running experiments in increasing the intelligence of chimpanzees using drugs and virtual reality. One of the chimps escapes using the warfare tactics he was being trained for. Dr. Angelo is generally a pacifist, who would rather explore the intelligence-enhancing potential of his research without applying it for military purposes.

Jobe Smith, a local greenskeeper with an intellectual disability, lives in the garden shed owned by the local priest, Father Francis McKeen. McKeen’s brother, Terry, is a local landscape gardener and employs Jobe to help him with odd jobs. Father McKeen punishes the challenged Jobe with a belt whenever he fails to complete his chores.

Dr. Angelo realizes he needs a human subject to work with, and he spots Jobe mowing his lawn. Peter Parkette, Dr. Angelo’s young neighbor, is friends with Jobe. Dr. Angelo invites both of them over to play some virtual reality games. Learning more about Jobe, Angelo persuades him to participate in his experiments, letting him know it will make him smarter. Jobe agrees and begins the program. Dr. Angelo makes it a point to redesign all the intelligence-boosting treatments without the “aggression factors” used in the chimpanzee experiments.

Jobe soon becomes smarter, for example, learning Latin in only two hours. Meanwhile Jobe also begins a sexual relationship with a young rich widow, Marnie. However, Jobe begins to display telepathic abilities and have hallucinations. He continues training at the lab, until an accident makes Dr. Angelo shut the program down. The project director, Sebastian Timms, employed by a mysterious agency known as The Shop, keeps tabs on the progress of the experiment, and discreetly swaps Dr. Angelo’s new medications with the old Project 5 supply (reintroducing the “aggression factors” into the treatment).

Jobe develops telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers and takes Marnie to the lab to make love to her while in virtual reality. Something goes wrong in the simulation when Jobe’s virtual avatar becomes violent, attacking her mind directly; Marnie is driven insane, laughing endlessly at nothing.

Jobe’s powers continue to grow, but the treatments are also affecting his mental stability, and he decides to exact revenge on those who abused him when he was “dumb”: Father McKeen is engulfed in flames, a bully named Jake is put into a catatonic state by a mental “lawnmower man” continually mowing his brain, and a lawnmower invention of Jobe’s runs down Harold, Peter’s abusive father. Jobe uses his telepathic abilities to make the investigating police attribute it all to “bizarre accidents” in front of Dr. Angelo.

Jobe believes his final stage of evolution is to become “pure energy” in the VSI computer mainframe, and from there reach into all the systems of the world. He promises his “birth” will be signaled by every telephone on the planet ringing simultaneously. The Shop sends a team to capture Jobe, but they are ineffective against his abilities and he scatters their molecules. Jobe uses the lab equipment to enter the mainframe computer, abandoning his body to become a wholly virtual being, leaving his body behind like a husk.

Dr. Angelo remotely infects the VSI computer, encrypting all of the links to the outside world, trapping Jobe in the mainframe. As Jobe searches for an unencrypted network connection, Dr. Angelo primes bombs to destroy the building. Feeling responsible for what has happened to Jobe, Angelo then joins him in virtual reality to try to reason with him. Jobe overpowers and crucifies him, then continues to search for a network connection. Peter runs into the building; Jobe still cares for him and allows Dr. Angelo to go free in order to rescue Peter. Jobe forces a computer-connected lock to open, allowing Peter and Dr. Angelo to escape. Jobe escapes through a backdoor as the building is destroyed in multiple explosions.

Back at home with Peter, Dr. Angelo and Peter’s mother Carla (who has become a romantic interest) are about to leave when their telephone rings, followed by the noise of a second, and then hundreds of telephone rings, all around the globe

REVIEW:

Have you ever watched a film that you just knew was cutting edge at the time of its release, but in this day and age, they seem prehistoric? The Lawnmower Man is one such film. Going back to when this was released, I recall trying to watch it through the scrambled images through pay-per-view on television. Needless to say, it didn’t really work, but I was intrigued enough to come back and revisit this film years later.

What is this about?

A scientist performs experiments involving intelligence enhancing drugs and virtual reality on a simple-minded gardener. He puts the gardener on an extensive schedule of learning, and quickly he becomes brilliant. But at this point the gardener has a few ideas of his own on how the research should continue, and the scientist begins losing control of his experiments.

What did I like?

Evolution. In the beginning of the film, Jobe, our antagonist, starts out as a simple , developmental challenged guy. After some experimental drugs from Pierce Brosnan’s character, he gets smarts and evolves into a self-proclaimed god. Watching his change over the course of the film is the interesting part, as he slowly changes from a nice guy to the villain, including killing people and taking over virtual reality!

Trapped. I won’t spoil the ending, but the way Jobe is captured is brilliant. When dealing with a malevolent techno-villain, this is pretty much the only way to take care of them, is by doing what was done here. Add in the deception that took place in order for this to transpire and it is a great way to defeat the villain.

Pulling the strings. As you can imagine, whenever there is research funding involved, the military and/or some huge company is pulling the strings and dangling money like a piece of cheese to a lab rat. Normally, I don’t care for this trope, but the film doesn’t focus on them exclusively, until it is time. Even then, there isn’t much light shed on the company, other than they have the money. Fun little tidbit, the big boss who appears on video screens is familiar to fan of the show Breaking Bad as Hank.

What didn’t I like?

Virtual reality. In 2014, this version of virtual reality is extremely dated. I say this version, because there are other virtual reality programs out there still trying to become mainstream. That isn’t the reason I disliked it, though. The effects used inside the computer are very rudimentary compared to some of the other things being done at the time, such as the ballroom scene in Beauty & the Beast.

Powers to the test. It seems to be that whenever Jobe was about to let his powers loose, there was some mysterious force that wanted him to hold back. Why? I don’t know. It is obvious that the guy has developed some strong powers, but I felt that we never got to see the full extent of all of them. It is like in the X-Men movies, we get the basic powers of the mutants, but do we ever get to see them at the full extent? Magneto we do and Jean Grey when she becomes Dark Phoenix, but that’s it. Everyone else is shackled, and that is what I was getting from Jobe here, unfortunately.

Bond, James Bond. Pierce Brosnan is a capable actor. The guy has been James Bond before, for goodness sakes! However, this material doesn’t let him do anything but look bored. A tragic hero, as it would appear, even his remorse didn’t strike me as authentic, but just part of the script, nothing more.

The Lawnmower Man is one of those sci-fi horror films that is relevant for the time it was made, but has become dated. However, the subject matter is still relevant. Can you imagine someone becoming an internet god, running any and everything about the web, just like the government is trying to do with this net neutrality laws they keep trying to force through, but that’s a topic for another day. Do I recommend this? Eh, it is ok. I think I just wasn’t in the mood for it tonight. Maybe upon a second viewing I would have a different opinion. So, I have to say this is one of those you watch at your own risk.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars