Archive for Alcatraz

Escape from Alcatraz

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story begins as Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) arrives at the maximum security prison Alcatraz, having been sent there after escaping from several other prisons. He is sent in to meet the warden (Patrick McGoohan), who curtly informs him that no one has ever escaped from Alcatraz. Eventually he meets his old friends, brothers John and Clarence Anglin (Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau), and he makes the acquaintance of the prisoner in the cell next to his, Charlie Butts (Larry Hankin). Morris befriends numerous other inmates, including English (Paul Benjamin), a black inmate serving two life sentences for killing two white men in self-defense; the eccentric Litmus (who keeps a pet mouse and calls himself Al Capone), and the elderly artist and chrysanthemum grower Doc (Roberts Blossom).

Morris also makes an enemy of the rapist Wolf (Bruce M. Fischer), whom Morris beats in the shower room after Wolf attempts to come onto him. Still seething from this encounter, Wolf attacks Morris in the yard and both men spend time in the hole. When the warden discovers that Doc has painted a portrait of him, as well as other policemen on the island itself, he permanently removes Doc’s painting privileges; in response, a depressed Doc cuts his fingers off with a hatchet from the prison workshop and is led away. Later, the warden finds one of Doc’s chrysanthemums and crushes it in front of the inmates; an angry Litmus leaps at the warden and suffers a fatal heart attack. The warden coldly reminds Morris that “some men are destined never to leave Alcatraz–alive.”

Morris notices that the concrete around the grille in his cell is weak and can be chipped way, which evolves into an escape plan. Over the next few months Morris, Butts, and the Anglins dig through the walls of their cells with spoons (which have been soldered into makeshift shovels), make papier-mâché dummies to act as decoys, and construct a raft out of raincoats. On the night of their escape, Butts loses his nerve and does not go with the others. Morris and the Anglin brothers make it out of the prison and are last seen paddling their raft into the night. When their escape is discovered the following morning, a massive manhunt ensues. The warden is adamant that the men drowned, despite no bodies being found. He finds a chrysanthemum on the shore of Angel Island and throws it into the bay after being told that they do not grow there.

REVIEW:

So, this morning, since I’m stuck here at home thanks to the icy roads for a 3rd straight day, I turned on Netflix and decided to check out Stephen Fry in America. Quite the interesting viewing, if you get the chance. Seeing all 50 states from the point of view of a British guy. When he reached San Francisco and visited Alcatraz, he mentioned no one escaped from there except Clint Eastwood, which prompted me to look up the reference. This is how I came to view Escape from Alcatraz.

What is this about?

Sent to Alcatraz for life, hardened crook Frank Morris plans his unauthorized departure from the island prison. Enlisting two bank-robber brothers as accomplices, Morris meticulously works out every detail before commencing his daring escape attempt.

What did I like?

Deception. Clint Eastwood is the star, but that doesn’t mean that he is the hero. As a matter of fact, there is no true hero in this film. To some extent, the “good guys” are the bad guys.. We only happen to cheer for Eastwood because we want him to escape. The deception is a bit of a switch from what we are used to, thus making for some interesting filmmaking.

No sugar. Alcatraz is not a happy place and this film doesn’t sugarcoat how horrible the inmates were treated by the guards. I’ll get into some other parts of life there a little later, though. For the tone of this film, it really works. This is a flick that has a couple of sympathetic, comedic characters, but for the most part is serious and dark in its tone. Would you really expect anything less from a film about Alcatraz?

Escape. As you can imagine the escape scene is quite exciting. What is really worth mentioning about it, is that they mange to keep it exciting without the use of explosions, gunplay, or anything other than just the actors doing what they were supposed to do. It should also be noted that these are not stunt doubles, but the actual actors.

What didn’t I like?

Work, boy. In the beginning of his stay in Alcatraz, Eastwood’s character is put to work in the library. The way this scene plays out, it would appear that it was going to go on and become something more important to the main plot and also the relationship with English, who turns out to be one of the most respected guys in the prison, should have been a bigger, but didn’t turn out that way. There is a relationship there, just not as much focus is placed on it as the audience expects.

Hotel Alcatraz. Early on, we meet the Warden who tells Eastwood’s character the rules. One of the points he makes sure to drive home is that the inmates aren’t there for a vacation, unlike other prisons. Then we turn around and see that each of the prisoners get certain amenities given to them, such as art supplies, accordions, etc., things that aren’t exactly given to prisoners.

D-block. After a prison fight with some inmate named Wolf, Eastwood’s character is sent to the dreaded D-block. After what seems like a couple of days, they release him back to his regular cell (the other guy is apparently there for 6 months or so). What’s so bad about this? Well, for such a bad place, it isn’t mention, except in passing in one scene, then it is never brought back, even when he returns to the regular cells. It just seems to me that a prisoner or two would be curious, its just human nature.

Every year, it seems that there is a loop of The Green Mile. I noticed some similarities between the characters in it and Escape from Alcatraz, showing that this film has etched quite the legacy for itself. Does that mean it is worth watching? Well, it isn’t the most exciting, thought-provoking, dramatic, or funniest film, but it is solid enough from beginning to end to warrant a viewing or two, so sure, give it a shot!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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The Book of Eli

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on August 21, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Thirty years after an apocalyptic event, Eli (Denzel Washington) travels on foot toward the west coast of the United States. Along the way, he demonstrates uncanny survival and fighting skills, hunting wildlife and swiftly defeating a group of highway bandits who try to ambush him. Searching for a source of water, he arrives in a ramshackle town built and overseen by Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie dreams of building more towns and controlling the people by using the power of a certain book. His henchmen scour the desolate landscape daily in search of it, but to no avail.

In the local town bar, Eli is set upon by a gang of bikers and he kills them all. Realizing Eli is a literate man like himself, Carnegie asks Eli to stay, although it is made clear the offer is non-negotiable. After Carnegie’s blind concubine Claudia (Jennifer Beals) gives Eli some food and water, Carnegie asks Claudia’s daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) to seduce Eli. Eli turns her down, but she discovers he has a book in his possession. Eli pacifies her with stern words, but offers to share his food with her. Before they eat, though, he has her pray with him. The following day, Solara prays with her mother. Carnegie overhears them and realizes Solara’s words were likely from the contents of the book he has been seeking. Through violence, he forces Solara to tell him Eli was reading a book. When he asks what kind, she says she does not know but forms a cross with her two index fingers. Carnegie realizes Eli has a copy of the Bible, the book he has been seeking. Eli sneaks out of his room and goes to the store across the street, where he had earlier asked the Engineer (Tom Waits) to recharge his portable battery.

Carnegie attempts to stop Eli by having all his henchmen shoot at him, but the bullets seemingly just graze him, as if he is being protected. Eli shoots most of Carnegie’s henchmen and hits Carnegie in the leg with a shotgun blast. After Eli leaves, Solara follows him and leads him to the source of the town’s water supply, hoping she can accompany him on his travels. Eli traps her inside and continues on alone. Solara escapes and soon finds herself ambushed by two bandits who attempt to rape her, but Eli appears and kills them.

Eli and Solara continue on until they arrive at a strange house. They stop to investigate and quickly fall through a trap door. The residents, Martha (Frances de la Tour) and George (Michael Gambon), invite them in for tea; however, the travellers are soon found by Carnegie. Eli, Solara, Martha, and George hole up inside the house. A shootout ensues, leading to the deaths of some of Carnegie’s men, as well as George and Martha. Eli and Solara are captured. Carnegie threatens to kill Solara, which prompts Eli to hand over the Bible. Carnegie shoots him in the stomach and leaves.

While in transit, Solara escapes and drives back to help Eli. Rather than chase her, Carnegie chooses to return to the town with the Bible, since his vehicle is running out of fuel. Solara picks Eli up and they continue west until they reach the Golden Gate Bridge. They then row to Alcatraz, where they find a group of survivors. Eli tells the guards that he has a copy of the King James version of the Bible, and they are allowed in. Once inside, they are introduced to Lombardi (Malcolm McDowell), the curator. Eli, who is revealed to be blind, begins to dictate the Bible from memory.

Meanwhile, back in the town, Carnegie manages to open the Bible with the help of his Engineer, but he is horrified to discover that it is a Braille copy. He is unable to persuade Claudia to read it for him. Carnegie’s leg wound has become septic, and he realizes he will die without making use of the Bible. Eli finishes dictating the Bible and dies from his wounds shortly thereafter. The printing press at Alcatraz begins printing the new King James Bible, after which Lombardi places a copy on the bookshelf between copies of the Torah and Qur’an. Solara is offered sanctuary in Alcatraz, but she instead chooses to head back home.

REVIEW:

Another week, another apocalyptic film. Ho-hum. No worries, though, I’m planning on staying away from this genre next week, unless Netflix screws me over and randomly picks something from my list because of the wait on the few that are on the top. It has happened before.

I don’t really know what to think about this flick. On one hand, I liked it, but on the other, I didn’t care for it. I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be some bright happy picture, but this whole dark thing is a bit played out for me. I guess that is why more and more pictures are doing the whole schtick of one actor walking around by themselves and there is no music or anything before the film finally picks up and gets going.

While I’m thinking about it, this flick starts out with Denzel killing a cat. Now, I realize he has to eat and everything, but did he really have to kill a cat? Couldn’t the filmmakers have used a dog? I’m so tired of cats getting abused in film and society while dogs are all but worshiped! It just isn’t right. I also think it would have been more effective to use a dog. The way it was done, and then the way he shooed a cat later on in the bar made it seem like he was a cat hater. I was just offended by this whole cat hatred thing.

With that point aside, this whole plot is a bit confusing. It is kind of hard to figure out that is going on, but to sum it up, it is postapocalyptic times where they have burned all the bibles. Eli has the last one and Carnegie finds out he has it and will do whatever it takes to get it because he believes that whoever controls a bible can more or less control society.

With a film like this, I sort of expected more action, but at the same time, the fact that it didn’t have too much didn’t surprise me. I was pleased with Denzel kicking ass, but disappointed that as the film progresses he seems to lose his bad-assery.

The cast is actually pretty good. I’ve already talked about Denzel, but Gary Oldman does just as good a job with his role. Seriously, do we expect less from him? As the villainous Carnegie, though, he is ruthless, cunning, conniving, and delusional. Oldman really sells his character’s descent into madness.

Mila Kunis may be the weak link of this film. She doesn’t even seem to be trying here. If you saw her in the early day of That 70’s Show, then you may remember that she more or less sleepwalked through all her scenes. The same kind of thing is going on here, but she does make a believable daughter for Jennifer Beals, as they do sort of resemble each other.

The Book of Eli isn’t the best apocalyptic flick, but it does provide some food for thought. The religious overtones and strong casting really drive this film home. Sad part is, a film like Legion, which dealt with angels wasn’t nearly as powerful, mainly because it relied more on the special effects, as opposed to the acting. I can recommend this to everyone, but for me, the jury is still out. I don’t think I would rush to see it again, but seeing it for the first time was indeed a treat.

4 out of 5 stars