Adios, Sabata

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2015 by Mystery Man

Adios, Sabata

PLOT:

In Mexico, during the rule of the self-proclaimed Emperor of Mexico Maximillian, Mexican revolutionaries and Republican forces try to bring former Mexican President Benito Juárez back to power. The United States in neutral and is going through the pains of the American Civil War. Mexican guerrilla leader Señor Ocaño hires gunfighter Sabata to steal a wagon-load of gold from Emperor Maximillian’s Austrian and French forces. When Sabata and his friends, Escudo and Ballantine, finally get their hands on a wagon, they discover it’s full of sand rather than gold. They suspect that the gold was stolen by Austrian Colonel Skimmel. Therefore, Sabata and his partners set out to find the gold and give it to the Mexican revolutionaries

REVIEW:

I was going through stuff in my Netflix streaming queue this morning and realized two things. First, I have watched nearly all of John Wayne’s westerns, so following the next Wayne western (which will be coming before March 1st), there may be a sever drop in Wayne and/or quality. Second, a film that I literally just added less than a week ago, Adios, Sabata, will be leaving in a couple of weeks. Guess that means I better hurry up and watch!

What is this about?

A mercenary is hired by a Mexican rebel to steal a fortune in gold from the Austrian army and must pursue the thieves who have already taken the loot.

What did I like?

Gold. If there is one plot point that doesn’t ever seem to get old, it is the search for gold because, let’s face it, most people are looking for some get rich quick scheme and finding and selling gold is one of the fastest ways to do it. Hell, 2/3 of the United States exists because of people’s greed (I’m referring to the gold rush).

Flamenco dance. In film, we have scene many ways of telling someone they are about to die. Usually, it is a line of dialogue or an omen appears. Would you ever expect to see someone flamenco dancing before their friend kills you? I know I wouldn’t! I’m actually a little torn on this, because on the one hand, the dance is so distracting that it can keep your mind off the fact that you’re about to die. On the other hand, though, what if someone decides to shoot the flamenco dancer? At any rate, it was still an interesting way to execute a couple of guys with flair, class, and style.

Brynner. Yul Brynner made a name for himself here in America playing foreign royalty in period pieces such as The King and I and Anastasia. Go watch those films and you can see that this guy is no slouch in the acting department. In this role, he doesn’t really get to do much but pose, shoot, and occasionally crack a smirk. All of this is fine, as it fits the character and shows Brynner’s natural charm and charisma on screen, as well as his acting prowess.

What didn’t I like?

Austria. You know, this is set in a time that is usually portrayed almost as dire and hopeless and the Middle Ages and, when you look as the lower class people in the film, you can see why. However, when it comes to Austrians, the first thing that popped into my head was Commander McBragg’s fussy little sidekick to whom he always told his stories. Sure this guy is a crack shot with a rifle, but I didn’t really feel threatened when I looked at him, and that is a shame, because a film like this needs a capable villain, not a cartoon.

Light spaghetti. This is categorized as a spaghetti western, and yet I find myself wondering why because most, if not all, spaghetti westerns tend to be dark and gritty. Having said that, this isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it is noticeably lighter than most films in the genre, or subgenre, rather. I felt that this might have worked better with a darker tone. I know, I know that is blasphemy coming from me, but that’s just how I feel.

Accent. By this point in time, Brynner had been here in the US for at least 10-15 yrs, and yet he still has the accent. They don’t even make an attempt to cover it up! Why is this an issue? Well, this is not the first western he’s been in, and he still has that accent when he is clearly playing American guys. It is more of a nitpick for me, but I think even in Westworld, which was one of his last pictures, he has it. It is just distracting, you know?

Final verdict on Adios, Sabata? Overall, it is decent film that toes the line between good action and campy B-movie. I may have to check out the other two film in the franchise which star Van Cleef. Ironically, Cleef didn’t appear in this film because of his commitment to The Magnificent Seven Ride where he played Chris, the role that Brynner played in The Magnificent Seven. In essence, they sort of switched parts for a movie, I guess. So, do I recommend this? No, but not because it is bad, rather because it is forgettable. There are both better and worse westerns out there, but this is one that if you choose to watch, you won’t remember 5 minutes after it ends.

3 out of 5 stars

The People That Time Forgot

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Major Ben McBride (Patrick Wayne) organises a mission to the Antarctic wastes to search for his friend Bowen Tyler (Doug McClure) who has been missing in the region for several years. A British naval survey ship takes them to Caprona. McBride’s party: the paleontologist Norfolk (Thorley Walters), gunner and mechanic Hogan (Shane Rimmer) and photographer Lady Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Cunningham (Sarah Douglas) fly over the mountain wall of Caprona in an amphibious aircraft, but are attacked by a pterodactyl and forced down. They find themselves in a world populated by primitive warriors and terrifying prehistoric creatures, all of whom they must evade in order to get back safely to their ship. They meet a cave-girl, Ajor (Dana Gillespie), who can speak English (she was taught by Tyler); she leads them to the land of a race of samurai-like warriors called the Nargas, who are keeping Tyler prisoner. When the volcano that the Nargas worship erupts, they must escape the cataclysm engulfing the land. Tyler sacrifices himself to cover their retreat.

REVIEW:

There was a time when one could go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon and enjoy a cheesy action flick. When I chose to view The People That Time Forgot this afternoon, I was hoping for that feeling. Did I get it, or was I disappointed? Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

Maj. Ben McBride returns to the lost island of Caprona to rescue a fellow explorer, who’s battling brutal cavemen and prehistoric creatures.

What did I like?

Samurai. There has always been a fascination with me and samurai, especially after the animated series Samurai Jack and Afro Samurai. When I saw the samurai garb that the Naga were wearing, I was at first perplexed as to why they were wearing it, but then I came around and appreciated that they latched on to that part of culture. It definitely is a novel one to aspire to.

Adventure. A Jedi is not supposed to crave adventure. Good thing I’m not a Jedi, right? The adventurous expedition made for some interesting viewing. Who would want to watch as the plane goes down in the icy mountains, they encounter dinosaurs, fierce natives, get thrown in prison, and have their women’s lives endangered? This is the kind of stuff they used to write about. Oh wait, this is based on a book of the same name, so I guess it was written about!

Son of a Duke. Being the son of one of the biggest movie stars of all time is hard enough, but imagine if your dad is the immortal John Wayne! Patrick Wayne is not his father. If you’ve seen McLintock! you learned that, but he is a capable actor in his own right, portraying a character that would do his father proud and give him some distance and individuality. Is it me, or in some scenes does he resemble Paul Walker?

What didn’t I like?

Cavegirls know makeup? I was reading some comments about this film and someone brought up a point that I didn’t even think about. The cavegirl, Ajor, had perfect hair and makeup. Why is this a big deal? Well, let’s say you’re a prehistoric woman living on an island that, as the title says, time forgot. Are you going to look like you just walked off of a photo shoot? I doubt it! Even the penultimate movie cavegirl, Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., at least looked a little disheveled.

Dinosaurs. When I was kid, there were these little dinosaurs that you could get cheap. Basically, they were the equivalent of those military men. The dinosaurs in this film seem to have the same texture, but they can move…barely. I will say that the pterodactyl scenes were impressive, but the rest, not so much. I know everyone that works in stop motion can’t be Ray Harryhausen, but I wonder if these dinos were nothing more than something put in to create a danger, because there is an apparent lack of care shown.

Evidence. I don’t believe this is spoiling anything, and if it is I apologize, but conveniently the paleontologist loses his notebook to the stomach of a creature they confront while escaping and the photographer has her camera thrown out of the plane so they can be lighter, leaving no evidence of this prehistoric land. Maybe I’m growing cynical in my old age, or I’ve been watching too much Cinemasins, but this just screams to me of a cop out to get rid of evidence real quick in the last few minutes of the film. Seriously, what are the chances that they both lose evidence?

Remember that Saturday afternoon fun I spoke of earlier? The People That Time Forgot doesn’t quite fit the bill. Sure, it makes an attempt, but I feel as if this film is either taking itself too seriously or trying too hard to be a fun Saturday flick. I’m not sure which it seems to be doing more of. That said, this is not a horrible film and I think anybody can enjoy it at any given time. Do I recommend it? No, but only because it just isn’t the kind of film that is worth recommending. It is the kid of picture you’ll come across and love or hate.

3 out of 5 stars

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

During a mission in the Middle East, secret agent Harry Hart is unable to prevent the death of one of his fellow agents. Feeling guilt, he personally delivers a bravery medal to the man’s widow and his young son, Eggsy, saying that if they ever need help, they should call the phone number on the back of the medal and deliver a coded message.

Seventeen years later, an unemployed Eggsy, now in his early twenties, gets arrested for joyriding in a stolen car. In police custody, he remembers the medal and calls the number on the back. He is quickly released and met outside the police station by Harry, who introduces him to the world of the secret agency that he and Eggsy’s late father work for, the Kingsmen. Harry is having a drink with Harry at a pub where some local vandals, who are friends with Eggsy’s abusive stepfather, that Eggsy has gotten in trouble with when he is told to leave before a rude remark is made about Harry and his age. Harry then confronts and beats every vandal down, before taking Eggsy to the Kingsmen for training.

Another Kingsman, Lancelot, who was inducted during the mission shown in the opening, is killed by Gazelle, an assassin with bladed prosthetic legs, on a mission to find the missing scientist Professor Arnold, creating a vacancy for a new agent. Harry proposes Eggsy as a candidate; and, together with other young hopefuls including a girl named Roxy, he is enrolled in the training programme designed to weed out the unsuitable until only one candidate remains. The training is overseen by Merlin, a senior Kingsman, and each recruit is assigned a new dog to train in turn. The tests are rigorous, with scenarios implemented (and sometimes fabricated) to push the candidates to their physical and mental limits to assess their courage and ability to work as a team. Eggsy and Roxy emerge as the last two potential candidates. When the head of the Kingsmen, Arthur, instructs him to kill his dog as the final challenge, Eggsy is unable to bring himself to do it; Roxy shoots hers and is given the job. It is revealed later that both Eggsy and Roxy’s pistols, unbeknownst to them at the time, had blanks, and it was strictly a test to see how far they would go.

Meanwhile, the Kingsmen are investigating the activities of the technology tycoon Richmond Valentine, who appears to be a great philanthropist, giving away free SIM cards around the world; but he is suspected of being involved in a number of disappearances of VIPs, including the Swedish Princess. Harry tracks Professor Arnold to his class, where he interrogates him about Valentine’s whereabouts; a chip implanted in Arnold’s head suddenly explodes, killing him and injuring Harry. Once recovered, Harry is sent to investigate and follows a lead to an obscure hate group church in the American Midwest. At the church, Valentine and Gazelle conduct a test, broadcasting a signal to phones containing his SIM card, which causes humans to become uncontrollably violent. As a result, all of the church members, including Harry, break out into an aggressive fight.

Everyone is killed off until only Harry emerges as the sole survivor, only to be confronted and killed by Valentine while Eggsy, Merlin, and Arthur watch via video link. Valentine’s plan becomes clear – he is going to broadcast the signal worldwide, using his satellite network and cause a mass cull of the human race, sparing the Earth from further environmental damage by man. After Harry is killed by Valentine, Eggsy discovers that Arthur is secretly one of the many VIPs that Valentine has implanted with a device to block the signal, similar to the one planted on Arnold’s head, thus guaranteeing their survival. He avoids being killed by Arthur, switching a poisoned glass of brandy and Arthur dies instead.

Eggsy, Roxy, and Merlin head to Valentine’s mountainous secret base to stop Valentine from executing his plan; Roxy will destroy Valentine’s satellite while Eggsy stops Valentine himself. During the raid on Valentine’s base, Eggsy is cornered and Merlin triggers the implanted devices, causing them to explode and kill all of the VIPs who were part of Valentine’s plan. After the VIPs explode, the door where Eggsy is standing opens a small hole where Princess Tilde is being kept. Eggsy leaves Tilde saying he must save the world, to which she replies that he can have anal sex with her. Eggsy then says he will be right back. Eggsy confronts Gazelle and poisons her with a hidden blade in his shoe. Eggsy then grabs one of Gazelle’s prosthetic legs and uses it to kill Valentine. Merlin congratulates him for his success as Eggsy grabs two glasses and champagne and walks back to Tilde. Merlin sees this through Eggsy’s spectacles’ camera before closing the monitors playing back the feed.

In a mid-credits scene, Eggsy confronts his abusive stepfather in the bar when he is a full-fledged Kingsman (in Harry’s place) and the perks include some of the wealth established with the Kingsmen and a home. Here, he repeats the same course of action/fight as when Harry had told Eggsy and discussed about his real father at the bar after being bailed from prison.

REVIEW:

Remember the days when spy films could be fun and over the top as opposed to ultra serious, gritty, and realistic as they are today? Kingsman: The Secret Service is obviously from the school of fun and gadgetry and is something we need in this day and age. We’ve gotten too serious, wouldn’t you agree? As an alternative film the 50 Shades of Porn, this just needs to be a decent flick for guys, but could it actually be more than that?

What is this about?

Seeing untapped potential in a wayward teenager, veteran secret agent Harry Hart recruits the young delinquent and schools him in the skills that will ultimately transform him into a superspy.

What did I like?

Lisp. Most of the time when we see Samuel L. Jackson, he’s playing some guy who talks really loud and hates white people. One of the notable exceptions of this is his character in Unbreakable. The character he plays here is still a bit loud, but for him is a bit subdued, and yet still over the top, but the film dictates the need for an over the top villain, so no big there. What really stood out to me, though, was the lisp that Jackson pulled off. At first, I thought it was just a joke, or part of a disguise, but it turned out to be a characteristic that he kept throughout the entire film, even in his denouement moment, and it worked.

Return of the R. It looks like movie studios are finally starting to wise up ad realize that taking out all the blood and violence in a film that is supposed to have it just to achieve a family friendly PG-13 rating so they can bring a few more bucks in is not the way to go. Not only does this film show heads exploding, people getting stabbed in the eyeballs, impaled, shot in the head, sliced in half, etc, but it does so with the touch of class and dignity that is the overall tone for the film. In truth this is no less or more violent than Shoot ‘Em Up (give or take a couple of killings) when all is said and done. You be the judge on whether that is a good or bad thing.

Move over Neeson. It wasn’t that long ago, I think just before the release of Taken, that we scoffed at the mere thought of Liam Neeson doing an action movie, let alone being one of the top action stars currently out there (even though he was Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace). Now we can barely remember him as a dramatic actor! Well, if this film is any indication, Colin Firth could be following suit. Normally this guy plays the stuffed shirt, proper British types and, in a sense he is still doing that here but the difference is he gets to kick ass and take names! Who would have thought Colin Firth had this in him? Maybe this is just aggression from being replaced as the voice of Paddington in Paddington? Also, I think he does most of his own stunts, but don’t quote me on that.

What didn’t I like?

Speak English. When it comes to British dialects, there is one that is nearly impossible to understand, even if you’re from there…cockney! I believe I brought this up in my review for Cockneys vs. Zombies, it is just nigh impossible to translate. Lo and behold our main protagonist, Eggsy, lives over on the Cockney side of town, so when he goes into the pub and these guys threaten him and Colin Firth, I couldn’t understand half of what they said. I applaud the realism and all, but they could have cleaned it up to Jason Statham level cockney so we Americans could understand it, at least.

There will be blood. I spoke earlier on how it was to have a film that isn’t afraid to show people getting killed, but there was one killing that I have to take issue with. Early on, one of the Kingsman gets sliced in half. Nothing wrong with that, except there was no blood! In every other killing we see blood, but in what is perhaps the most gruesome death of the whole film there was nothing. Now, I wasn’t expecting something akin to a fatality from Mortal Kombat, but we literally see the two halves of his body laying there on the floor and still no blood! People’s heads blow up later in the film and, while we don’t see blood and brains, we do at least the bloody stumps left behind. What was so offensive about blood in this one kill, I wonder?

Take me to church. One of the scenes that will be talked about in this film is one involving a church in Kentucky. I had no problem with the scene, in which Samuel L. Jackson’s character does a test on this congregation, which results in the inhibition of their aggression being fulfilled. Unfortunately for them, Firth’s character is in there as well, and it is just a glorious scene to watch these self-righteous, racist, closed-minded rednecks get what’s coming to them. My issue with the scene is the reaction that it is sure to draw. Yes, it is a statement, but so are a lot of things in this film, but you know how it is when you even look at a church the wrong way in a film. If not for that other movie that came out this weekend, I’m sure Fox News and similar networks would have a field day with this scene. Such a shame, because it is great!

All in all, I must say Kingsman: The Secret Service is a very fun time. A very stylized picture, with hints at old spy film, and also some meta moments, as well. It does provide with one of the rare times Mark Strong is not the bad guy and some political satire and messages that probably need to be heard, whether we like it or not. One thing is for sure, after watching this, I wanted to go out and get fitted for a suit, and I hate wearing the things! Do I recommend this? Yes, very highly! Why are you sitting there reading this? Go, rush out and see this!!! If you’re on the fence about whether to see this or 50 Shades of Bondage, well I can only speak for what I’ve seen and this…is…AWESOME!!!!

5 out of 5 stars

Odd Thomas

Posted in Drama, Horror, Independent, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on February 13, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Odd Thomas (Yelchin) is a psychic who lives in a small town in California. He describes his ability as, “I see dead people, but then, by God, I do something about it.” One morning the ghost of a teenage girl, Penny Kallisto, silently leads him to Harlo Landerson. Odd accuses Harlo of raping and murdering Penny. Harlo flees. Odd chases him into a child’s bedroom in a stranger’s house. Harlo and Odd fight and Harlo is knocked unconscious. Odd’s friend, police chief Wyatt Porter (Dafoe), is aware of Odd’s psychic gifts and promises to spin the story to keep public attention away from him.

Odd has a vision of faceless people wearing bowling shirts who cry out to him to save them. A faceless gunman shoots them all, including Odd. Recovering from the disturbing dream, he goes to his job as a short-order cook. He serves lunch to a strange man named Hensley, whose hair resembles some kind of mold. Hensley is surrounded by dozens of bodachs, invisible creatures that feed on evil and carnage that only Odd can see. Odd’s co-worker, Viola Peabody (Mbatha-Raw), recounts a strange dream in which she saw herself shot dead with another man. The man’s clothing is identical to that worn by the faceless people in Odd’s vision.

Odd uses his psychic magnetism to find Hensley; the trail leads to the mall where Odd’s girlfriend Stormy (Timlin) works at an ice cream shop. Odd borrows Stormy’s scooter to follow Hensley home. When Hensley leaves again, Odd breaks into his house. He finds an ashtray with several brands of cigarette butts in it, indicating that Hensley had visitors. Odd learns that the man’s real name is Bob Robertson; he and Stormy refer to him as “Fungus Bob”. Odd finds a file containing newspaper clippings of mass murderers, arranged by name. There is also a blank calendar page for the next day; Odd realizes that Robertson is planning something bad on that date. Odd reports this to Chief Porter, who assigns two deputies to follow Fungus Bob.

Odd meets Stormy for dinner in the belfry of a church. They see Fungus Bob approaching and they flee to the sacristy. As they escape the church, Robertson destroys the sacristy. Stormy calls Chief Porter, who finds the church vandalized but no evidence to link it to Robertson.

Odd’s psychic magnetism leads him and Stormy to a bowling alley, where the bowling shirts from his vision are sold. Chief Porter sends Officer Simon Varner (Tortorella) to watch the place on Odd’s advice. Varner asks Odd about Robertson and is surprised to learn that Odd had encountered him only a few hours ago. He presses Odd for more information. Stormy interrupts by asking about Varner’s visible tattoo, the letters “POD”. Varner dismisses it as an embarrassment from his youth, an abbreviated obscenity that he won’t discuss.

Viola remembers more details of her dream; she tells Odd that she and the man in the bowling shirt were not the only victims of the shooting, and a large group of people were killed. Odd sees bodachs hovering over Vi’s daughters, and he advises her to leave town with her daughters immediately.

While driving home, Stormy is overcome with fear for Odd’s safety and he tries to comfort her. They hear a woman screaming. Odd finds Lysette, a friend of Chief Porter and his wife, who has been mauled to death by dogs resembling those at Robertson’s home. Another man tried to rescue the woman by shooting the dogs, but was too late. Returning to Stormy’s apartment, Odd sees a van watching the building. After securing Stormy, he returns to his apartment.

He finds Fungus Bob shot to death in his bathtub, with evidence framing Odd for the murder. Odd surmises that if he goes to the police, Porter will be required to arrest him based on the evidence, preventing him from preventing the next day’s disaster. He discovers that Bob has been dead for quite some time and deduces that the encounter at the church was with the dead man’s restless spirit. Wrapping the body in sheets, Odd dumps the corpse in the execution chamber of an abandoned prison. As he drives back through town, the magnitude of the coming disaster is indicated by the swarming of hundreds of bodachs.

Chief Porter is shot in a home invasion. Odd rushes to the hospital and learns that Porter is alive thanks to a metal trinket Odd had given him, but in serious condition. Returning to Bob’s home, Odd finds a receipt for a moving van and improvised explosives, and browser bookmarks for Satanic websites. Robertson’s poltergeist destroys the house as Odd escapes.

Odd investigates Bob’s fatal bullet wound, and finds a tattoo matching Varner’s. He realizes that “POD” is an abbreviation for “Prince of Darkness”. Odd realizes that Robertson was eliminated by his co-conspirators because Odd could identify him.

Odd’s psychic magnetism leads him back to the mall. He finds Officer Eckles has murdered the mall security staff. Odd disables him with a baseball bat. He takes Eckles’s pistol and seeks out Varner. Hearing screams from the end of the mall where Stormy works, he hurries to the site and shoots another gunman. The lingering spirit of Lysette appears and directs him to the loading dock. Odd removes the gunman’s mask and recognizes him as the man who tried to rescue Lysette. Odd rushes to the loading dock where he discovers Bob’s moving van packed with explosives, apparently part of a plan to kill the shoppers in the mall. Varner emerges and shoots Odd, but Odd manages to start the van and drive it away from the mall. Varner clings to the outside of the van and attempts to kill Odd. Odd jumps from the van as Varner enters the cab, and the van crashes into a man-made canal and explodes, incinerating Varner but killing no one else. A black, shrieking spirit escapes from the flames.

Odd wakes in the hospital. Stormy is attending him. Viola greets him and tells him that Porter has been released from intensive care. Odd is a local hero. He retreats to Stormy’s apartment to enjoy uninterrupted time with her. Porter, his wife, and Viola arrive and reveal what he already knows: Stormy was killed in the mall shooting and he has been spending time with her lingering spirit. Porter, realizing that Stormy is staying in this world only for Odd, advises him to let her go. Odd bids her a tearful farewell, promising her that they’ll be reunited one day.

Odd travels to Las Vegas, realizing that he is not yet worthy of an afterlife with Stormy.

REVIEW:

I was actually asked a few weeks ago by a friend what I thought of Odd Thomas. At that point in time, I thought this was some kind of military invasion plot or some new slang for something that I just hadn’t heard of yet. As it turned out, Thomas is the main character in a series of books by Dean Koontz and now a film. I need to go check those books out from the library when I get the chance. In the meantime, let’s have a few words about the film, shall we?

What is this about?

In a California desert town, a short-order cook with clairvoyant abilities encounters a mysterious man with a link to dark, threatening forces.

What did I like?

Leading man on the rise. Anton Yelchin has slowly been proving his mettle as both an actor and a leading man in films such as Charlie Bartlett, Terminator: Salvation, and both Star Trek films. This character is one that needs a capable actor who can not only deliver a strong dramatic performance, but also a bit of comedy and romance, as well. I fell Yelchin did all these things and also is just so darn likable.

Bodachs. An interesting enemy, as it were, in this film are the Bodachs, otherworldly creatures that only Odd can see. For a low-budget, indie film such as this, they were very convincing and dare I say menacing? The way they come into this world out of a portal that just randomly appears and then swarm out like ants who have had their hill stepped on is the stuff of nightmares. I commend the visual people for achieving this effect.

Who’s that girl? In this day and age where it is apparently a cardinal sin for female character to play the damsel in distress and/or be nothing more than a pretty face as opposed to a butt-kicking feminist, we come across Stormy played by newcomer (and practically perfect) Addison Timlin. What I like about her character is that she is hopelessly in love with Odd, can take care of herself, but also isn’t afraid to show weakness. In other words she is the compromise character of today and yesterday. The fact that she isn’t an eyesore doesn’t hurt, either! HA!

What didn’t I like?

Tone. The tone of this film seems to be all over the place. For a film that was advertised as a sort of horror comedy, I felt it started to take itself too seriously a little before the halfway point and never got back to the light comedy of the first few scenes. For me, I think the comedic parts worked better, especially with Yelchin as the title character. However, I can see the serious tone working as well. I just feel that they could have found a better balance.

Last act. Following the climax, we are subject to a 15-minute epilogue that just rips your heart out. The emotional toll this takes shows how well the characters were developed over the film, but I think for this type of film they took too long with this scene. As one critic said, “it was all a bit too CW.” I wonder if it this impactful and drug out in the book because watching it hurt my heart.

Walking to Vegas? At one point in the film, Odd says that he lives a life with no car, no home (somehow he has an apartment), etc. I questioned why this was brought up, as I figured he was just living with his girlfriend. As it turns out, he borrowed her scooter or someone else’s car when he needed to get somewhere, but in the final scene he walks from small town California to Las Vegas. Even if this place was on the border, that still isn’t a short walk. Couldn’t he have borrowed a car or taken her scooter?

Netflix seemed to be hell-bent on me watching Odd Thomas. I heard about it once or twice, but can’t remember if those were good or bad things. This turned out to be a pretty enjoyable film. I felt it could have done a few things better, there are so many things it could have done worse. I hope that we at least get one more film from this series of books, but I doubt that will happen. Now that I think about it, this might actually make a good series, if done right. So, do I recommend this? Yes, it worth a watch or two.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 2/12

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on February 12, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

First off, I want to wish all the happy couples an early Happy Valentine’s Day!

Since I have a theme for this month and Valentine’s is this weekend, this week’s trailer took some thought, but I think I came up with a good one.

Have a look at the trailer for Love & Basketball

I think after watching that, I need to watch the movie again!

The Interview

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dave Skylark, host of the talk show Skylark Tonight, interviews celebrities about personal topics and gossip. After Dave and his crew celebrate their 1,000th episode, they discover that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a fan of Skylark Tonight, prompting the show’s producer Aaron Rapoport to arrange an interview. Aaron travels to rural China to receive instructions from Sook Yung Park, a North Korean propagandist, and Dave accepts the task of interviewing Kim.

CIA Agent Lacey proposes that Dave and Aaron assassinate Kim using a transdermal strip that will expose Kim to Ricin via handshake, facilitating a coup d’état; they reluctantly agree. Upon their arrival in North Korea, one of Kim’s bodyguards discovers the Ricin strip and chews it, believing it to be gum. Lacey airdrops two more strips from an UAV and Aaron smuggles them into the palace.

Dave spends the day with Kim, playing basketball and partying. Kim persuades Dave that he is misunderstood, and they become friends. While driving a tank, Dave discovers that Kim loves the song “Firework” by Katy Perry. At dinner, the bodyguard exposed to Ricin has a seizure and inadvertently kills Kim’s other bodyguard before dying. The next morning, Dave feels guilty and discards one of the Ricin strips, then thwarts Aaron’s attempt to poison Kim with the second strip. After a dinner mourning the death of Kim’s bodyguard, Dave discovers Kim’s malicious character and that the nearby grocery store is merely a façade.

Aaron and Sook confess their attraction to each other; Sook reveals that she despises Kim and apologizes for defending the regime. Dave, Aaron, and Sook form a plan to break Kim’s cult of personality by causing him to cry on air. During the internationally televised interview with Kim, Dave addresses increasingly sensitive topics and challenges Kim’s need for his father’s approval. Kim retaliates and appears to have overturned the conversation, but when Dave sings “Firework”, Kim cries uncontrollably and soils himself, ruining his reputation. Sook and Aaron seize control of the broadcasting center and fend off guards trying to halt the broadcast.

Kim shoots Dave, who survives due to a bulletproof vest under his shirt. Dave, Aaron, and Sook regroup and escape the presidential palace, hijacking Kim’s tank in order to get to their pickup point. Kim boards a helicopter and pursues Dave, Aaron, and Sook with the military. He orders that North Korea’s nuclear missiles are prepared for launch, but before he can issue the command, Dave destroys the helicopter from the tank, killing Kim. Sook guides Dave and Aaron to an escape route, and they are rescued by SEAL Team Six members disguised as North Korean troops. Back in the US, Dave writes a book about his experience, and North Korea moves toward becoming a democracy with Sook as interim president.

REVIEW:

Remember at the end of last year when it seemed as if we were going to go to war with North Korea. That wasn’t over nuclear weapons, sanctions, or someone getting assassinated. All that drama, which to me sounded like junior high squabbling, to be honest, was over this film, The Interview. Surely a picture that nearly causes countries to go to war is a great feat in cinema, right?

What is this about?

When a TV host and his producer score an interview with Kim Jong-un, who’s a fan of their show, the CIA asks them to assassinate the dictator.

What did I like?

Journalistic satire. When was the last time you actually watched the news? I think it was high school for me, excluding weather and sports. Fact is, with the so-called “fair and balanced” news channels squabbling like school children about which side it right and wrong, you can’t tell what is news and what isn’t. This is why you can get more informed from John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Hell, I dare say you can get more useful info from watching E! That is exactly what this film is satirizing, in a way. Think about if one of those talentless hacks over there were to score an interview with someone like Kim Jong-Un or the guy in charge of Saudi Arabia, I can’t think of his name offhand. Talk about a coup!

Seth Rogen. Seth Rogen is the fat, funny guy. His career has been built off of this schtick, but sometimes he does play the straight man. I do believe this is the best I’ve seen him in that role. Maybe it is because James Franco is such a failure at comedy, but Rogen nails the seriousness of this character, while still being able to bring some funny here and there. Maybe he should look into doing some non-comedy roles just to test it out. Judging by this, he may have found another genre that will work for him.

Kim Jong-Un. A ruthless dictator is not someone who can easily be impersonated, right? In theory that is the case, but nobody said anything about making the guy a parody, similar to how Team America: World Police did with his dad. I’ll be honest with you, the way Randall Park played this guy (up to a point) would make anyone want to hang out with him or let him rule their country.

What didn’t I like?

Action. The last act of this film plays out a bit like a war film. That would be fine it that was what this was or even if this was an action comedy, but this is just a comedy, so why the action? The control room stuff didn’t cause any problems for me, but when they got in the tank and started dueling with the helicopter, as it were, I have to take issue with, mainly because this whole scene doesn’t fit with the rest of the film, came out of nowhere, and seemed to put in here just so James Franco could drive a tank while listening to Katy Perry. WTF?!?

Poops. As expected with these two, you get lots of “frat boy” type humor. After the fist 10 minutes or so, I knew what kind of jokes I would be privy to the rest of the film. What turned me off, though, was how they insisted on bringing up “peeps and poops”. Seriously, poop jokes are funny maybe once in the right setting, but to keep bringing up the same thing is not going to make it any funnier, even if the guy (Kim Jong-Un) actually “sharted” in the interview proving the rumor about him wrong.

Thought process. I really have to question the reason why this film was made. It isn’t like we are on the friendliest of terms with North Korea, so why make a film where the CIA masterminds an assassination attempt on the guy? There is no way in which this was going to end up not causing some kind of ruckus, and as you saw at the end of last year, this film did everything but start WWIII!

Final verdict on The Interview? Well, it is above average, I’ll give it that. I said when the Sony leaks and controversy first happened that it was probably some sort of publicity thing. I still stand by that statement, to an extent. This film was helped out by all that publicity. You know what they say, “No publicity is bad publicity.” I commend the filmmakers for taking the risk, but maybe this was just too big of a risk. Instead of North Korea, maybe they should have used a country that doesn’t hate us as much…Canada, maybe? HAHA! Seriously, though, while I wasn’t a fan of this flick by the time it finished, it did keep my attention throughout, there are some good parts, and I did laugh a few times. Do I recommend this? No, but if you do watch this, it won’t hurt.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Divergent

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a futuristic dystopian Chicago, the survivors of a mysterious great war live in what’s left of the downtown behind a great wall keeping something unknown out, the climate is unexplainedly dry and mild, with the Lake dried up. The society is divided into Six factions: Abnegation (the selfless, pejoratively called stiffs), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent), and those not faction members are simply called Factionless. Members join a faction based on their preference but are initially given a suggestion by an aptitude test. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) has grown up in Abnegation, the faction that runs the government, yet has always been fascinated by Dauntless. Her father, Andrew (Tony Goldwyn), serves on the ruling council along with the head of Abnegation, Marcus Eaton (Ray Stevenson).

Every year, 16-year-olds undergo a serum-based aptitude test that indicates the faction into which they would best fit and informs their choice at the Choosing Ceremony. Beatrice takes the test with a Dauntless woman named Tori (Maggie Q) as her proctor. Her test shows attributes of three factions (Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless), meaning she is Divergent. Tori records her result as Abnegation and warns her to keep the true result a secret, telling her that since Divergents can think independently and the government therefore cannot control them, they are considered threats to the existing social order.

The next day at the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice’s brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) chooses Erudite, while with hesitation, Beatrice chooses Dauntless. After the ceremony, Beatrice meets Christina (Zoë Kravitz) and Al (Christian Madsen), two Candors who chose Dauntless, and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), an Erudite who also chose Dauntless. The Dauntless initiates are given tests such as jumping from a moving train and taking a leap of faith from a tall building into a large dark hole. During these tests, the initiates meet Eric (Jai Courtney), a brutal leader of Dauntless, and Four (Theo James), the transfer initiates’ instructor. Beatrice volunteers first to jump off the building and leap into the hole, which has her branded as First Jumper. After the jump, when Four asks her name, Beatrice decides to shorten it to “Tris.”

Tris initially struggles in Dauntless training, ranking 32nd out of 33 after the first evaluation, but slowly improves. After being forced to fight her enemy Peter (Miles Teller) and being hospitalized, Tris almost fails out of Dauntless, but redeems herself by playing a key role in winning a capture-the-flag game.

After the physical stage of Dauntless training, the initiates are put into simulations in order to face their fears. Tris’ divergence allows her to excel at these tests, but Four warns her to conceal the reasons behind her success and to solve the challenges the way a true Dauntless would.

Tris visits her brother, Caleb, in Erudite, who tells her that Erudite is planning to overthrow Abnegation and become the ruling faction. On her return to Dauntless headquarters, Tris is attacked due to her success in training, with Peter, Al, and Drew attempting to throw her into a chasm. She is eventually rescued by Four. The next day, Al pleads with Tris for her forgiveness but she refuses and calls him a coward. Later, she is shocked to learn Al has killed himself by jumping into the chasm.

In preparation for her final test, Four takes Tris into his own fear simulations, where she finds out that one of his fears is taking orders he doesn’t want to do. She also finds out that his real name is Tobias, and he is the son of Abnegation leader and head of government, Marcus Eaton. After the simulation, Four and Tris realize their feelings for each other and share a romantic kiss. When the day of the test comes, Tris passes without revealing she is Divergent and is officially initiated into Dauntless. During the post-test celebration, the Dauntless are injected with a serum which is said to be administered as a tracking device, but which is revealed to be a mind control serum.

Controlling the heavily armed members of Dauntless through the serum, Erudite manipulates them into attacking Abnegation. Divergents are unaffected, so Tris and Four have to blend in and act as though they are affected by the serum. During a raid at Abnegation, Eric spots that Four is not under mind-control, and he and Tris both get captured. They are brought to the Erudite overseers, one of whom publicly identifies Four as Tobias Eaton. Four gets separated from Tris while she subsequently is about to be executed. Tris’ mother Natalie (Ashley Judd) appears and rescues Tris. Her heroic act of bravery then reveals that she once was Dauntless. During the escape, Tris is forced to kill Will when, under the effects of the serum, he attacks her. Shortly after an attempt to cross an alleyway, Tris’ mother is shot and killed.

Tris seeks her father for help to stop Erudite’s plan. Tris, her father, brother, and Marcus sneak into the Dauntless headquarters. Seeing that Peter is not under the serum, Tris orders him to take them to Erudite’s operations room. Her father sacrifices himself in a shootout. Tris goes in alone and finds Four, who is now under a more advanced form of mind-control that works even on Divergents. After a fight she manages to wake him from his stupor, knowing he cannot shoot her while looking at her face, for that is one of his fears. Tris and Four fight their way to the command center, where Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is about to start the protocols that will make Dauntless kill every Abnegation. Before Jeanine pushes the button, Tris intervenes by throwing a knife that stabs Jeanine’s hand. Tris cannot make Jeanine abort the program nor kill her since she knows the code. Instead, she injects Jeanine with the serum and orders her to stop the program. Jeanine does as she is told and when everyone is released from mind-control, she is as well and attacks Tris. Tris knocks her out and escapes the Dauntless compound with Caleb, Peter, Four, and Marcus on the train, intending to ride to the end of the tracks.

REVIEW:

Hollywood is still looking for the next big franchise for teen and tweens. Divergent is the fist in a series of books turned to film, originally written by Veronica Roth. The big question is can this measure up to the standards set by Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and to a much lesser extent, Twilight, or will it fall into obscurity like Percy Jackson, Narnia, The Golden Compass, etc. Only one way to tell, right?

What is this about?

Born into a civilization in the distant future, Beatrice is a teenager who learns that her unique cognitive skills make her useful to the authorities. Over time she discovers that she’s a Divergent, and thus slated for elimination by the government.

What did I like?

Training doesn’t make you super. We’ve all seen these films where some average/weak person goes to get training and all of a sudden they are nearly superhuman. What this film does is make sure that we know Tris has been through some training, but she isn’t the best at what she does. I appreciate that hint of realism.

No montage. While speaking on the training issue, I must say that it was nice to not get some cheesy song while watching her train. We are treated to actual training scenes, complete with failures and injuries. Now, I have nothing against cheesy song-laden montages, but given the tone of this film, I don’t believe it would have fit.

She’s got the look. Shailene Woodley appears to be the next hot thing about to burst onto the Hollywood A-list. Truth be told, she is quite pretty. What I like, though, is how her character has the look of someone who has lived in what I would say comfortable middle class and not had to be exposed to anything dangerous. Some may even say she has that school marm look to her, especially in the early scenes when she is wearing the dress and boots. Had this been in another film, I’m sure she’s be all made up and wearing tight clothing to show off her fit physique, maybe even a convenient tear to reveal skin.

What didn’t I like?

15 minutes of fame. Just 2 1/2 hours is more than enough time to introduce and develop character, instigate conflict, and give us some decent action, right? Apparently, these filmmakers didn’t get that memo because the only action we get, aside from the training scenes, come in the last 15-30 minutes of the film. The rest of the film I would compare to the first film in a superhero franchise. It is all about the origin and who is who, forgetting everything else. Granted, I believe this was done for people like me who haven’t read the book(s), but surely they could have found a compromise, or at least condensed all that dead space.

Love is in the air. What is it about YA novels and their romance? Is it the romance that I have an issue with? No, not really. It is how the romance got started, which was almost random, but it was so telegraphed from their first meeting to the way they interacted everytime they were together, to the time when the big “secret” she was told to keep from everyone nearly got her killed. I felt this would have been better executed had it not been so obvious. Should Theo James have acted more like Jai Courtney’s character? No, because there needed to be that contrast between the two, but perhaps some indignation toward her and slowly melting into love would have been better.

Everybody else. Aside from the quartet of stars, everyone else in the film gets the shaft. Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, and Ashley Judd (who apparently now looks like she does in the later scenes of De-Lovely), get a couple of good scenes here and there, but nothing special. It would have been nice to see the supporting character give some support, rather than just be some warm bodies who showed up to collect a check.

Divergent has been talked up to me incessantly by my neighbor’s daughter. I have to say that this wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I think this could be a worthy successor to The Hunger Games, despite the fact that Woodley isn’t as strong an actress as Jennifer Lawrence. The opening scene of Chicago looks like it could have been the aftermath of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Kate Winslet doesn’t do much, but I think she was pregnant at the time, Jai Courtney is still being forced down our throats, and I don’t believe these factions would ever actually work. However, this somehow managed to keep my attention. I feel that this is sure to improve with the sequels, hopefully with more focus on the story and less on the love story. I will be reading the books at some point, but in the meantime I suppose I should say what I ultimately think of this film. Well, it is a solid film for its genre. There are some issues, but it is still worth a viewing or two, especially with the sequel coming out in the next month or two. Give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

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