Archive for Antonio Banderas

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

When Bikini Bottom’s livelihood is threatened after a pirate steals the secret Krabby Patty recipe, SpongeBob and his pals head to shore to get it back. But the animated crew will have to get tough to face the live-action villain on land.

What people are saying:

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water won’t win over many viewers who aren’t fans of the show, but for the converted, it’s another colorful burst of manic fun.” 3 1/2 stars

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” remains true to the surrealism of its animated television roots. But it also tries to force a live-action element which isn’t as comfortable a fit as a certain pair of symmetrical trousers.” 3 1/2 stars

“It’s a great way to say goodbye to thI remember loving Spongebob as a kid, and this brings me back to my childhood! It reminds me of Spongebob back in the good old days. I can see how people would find the mixture of computer-animation and live-action distracting whenever the characters would go to the surface, but I don’t find it too bothersome. Besides, they don’t go to the surface until the final act, so most of the movie still has that 2D traditional hand-drawn format that the TV show has. If you love the first SpongeBob movie, then chances are, you’ll probably love the second one.e part of my childhood that was a Spongebob fan who lost his interest in the show catching glimpses of the horrible recent episodes of the show. It feels like a film, though probably filmed in a very short time period and made easily with the directors sitting at a table thinking up of the most ridiculous things they could think of and finishing the script in less than a week…but it’s a fun film. Batshit insane, sure…but it’s fun. I enjoyed it.” 3 stars

“I remember loving Spongebob as a kid, and this brings me back to my childhood! It reminds me of Spongebob back in the good old days. I can see how people would find the mixture of computer-animation and live-action distracting whenever the characters would go to the surface, but I don’t find it too bothersome. Besides, they don’t go to the surface until the final act, so most of the movie still has that 2D traditional hand-drawn format that the TV show has. If you love the first SpongeBob movie, then chances are, you’ll probably love the second one.” 4 1/2 stars

“Despite what Nick’s advertising would have you believe, SpongeBob is a brilliant show that a person of any age can enjoy. Well it used to be. SpongeBob was brilliant in its first 3 seasons and decent in seasons 4 and 5. However in season 6 the quality tanked the show became an annoying and boring shell of its former self with Choir Boys being the series’ masterpiece of failure. Sponge out of Water however managed to be a laugh-out loud ride that brought back my childhood love of the show. The movie is colorful and bursting with creativity, all while showing the immense comedic talents of the cast and characters creating one of the stronger 2010’s comedies.” 4 1/2 stars

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Assassins

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , on December 15, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone) is a paid assassin who wants nothing more than to get out of ‘the business’, haunted by the memory of murdering his own mentor Nicolai years ago. Rath is a quiet, morose professional who is on an assignment to kill someone when someone else gets to the ‘mark’ (the target) before he does. That person turns out to be Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas), a fellow assassin and a competitive sociopath.

Rath then has the trouble of trying to figure out who sent Bain, the contractor offers him one last job that could financially allow him to retire: killing the four Dutch buyers and the computer hacker named Electra (Julianne Moore) and retrieve a disk that contains sensitive information. Electra has set up cameras in all the rooms of the apartment block where she lives and watches them like watching television.

Bain is assigned to kill Electra as well. Bain kills the four Dutch buyers who turn out to be Interpol agents and Rath comes to kill Electra but for the first time has a change of heart. His pay for the job is given to him in a briefcase in exchange for the disk. The briefcase actually contains a bomb placed by his own contractor in an attempt to kill him. Luckily Electra had swapped the disk, not sure if Rath was coming back or not.

The contractor takes the chance and hires Bain to terminate him; now having become a target along with Electra he must try and extract enough money out of his contractor so he can disappear for good, while avoiding the bloodthirsty Bain. Rath’s contractor turns out to be none other than Nicolai himself who also hired Bain to track down Electra and the disk.

REVIEW:

A film that has been floating on my curiosity radar has been Assassins. Why, you may ask? Well, first off, I am a huge fan of the Assassins Creed series, and I believe about the time I was getting into the games was when I was made aware of this picture. Second, I’m just curios as to why this is not a bigger film. No one I know that has seen it has said it was bad. Let’s dive into this mystery ourselves, shall we?

What is this about?

Veteran hit man Robert Rath is looking to get out of the business when he meets young, eager competitor Miguel Bain, who has Rath at the top of his “to do” list. Rath takes one last job, but complications ensue when he falls in love with his mark.

What did I like?

Loco. Over the last few years, I have developed a new respect for Antonio Banderas. As he has ages, he is no longer the “latin ass from heaven”, or whatever it is that ladies called him back in the day, but a versatile actor. How else do you explain being able to be the voice of an animated cat in Puss in Boots and then a hyper active, parkour ex-soldier in The Expendables 3. I wager he can still do the dramatic roles, too. Now, in this film he is a crazy, bloodthirsty young assassin who wants to be the best, and will stop at nothing to get that “title”. His unstable temperament worked for this character, especially in adversarial contrast to Stallone’s stoicness. Why hasn’t Banderas been a villain more often? He does it so well!

Twist. So many movies have twist endings, but not many of them come out of nowhere. The twist in this film was something I wasn’t expecting, and for that this film gets major kudos. The audience never sees it coming! I wonder, though, since this film was made in 1995, if the pre-internet/cellphone age played a part in keeping it a secret.

Pacing. Many of the reviews I’ve read have brought up that this is slow and boring. Here’s the thing, this is a film about assassins. Assassins are hired killers who take their time and wait for the perfect time to go for the kill. There is a mirroring image of sorts between that and the pacing of the film. It waits until the right time, and then picks up. Not every Stallone film is going to be non-stop action, I’m sorry!

What didn’t I like?

Less is Moore. I love Julianne Moore! She is a highly talented actress and doesn’t look half bad. We get a younger version of her in this film, and she is a bit of an annoyance. It is obvious that she is in here to fit the typical eye candy role, but they also have her as the tech geek and damsel in distress. Speaking of which, was it really necessary for her to fall for Stallone? That seemed to be too convenient!

Tone. I don’t want to say that this is a light film, but it does feel a bit…happy, for the subject matter. Maybe it is just the era, but when I think of a couple of assassins going head to head, I imagine a darker film. That sounds so weird coming from me, as I am not a fan of dark films most of the time but in this case, I think it would have worked better than what we get.

Other assassins. In Afro Samurai, there is one person that has the #1 headband. The only person with the right to challenge him wears the #2 headband. Everybody and their dead grandma comes after the #2 for that headband. I mention all this, because it seems weird to me that there are only two assassins. Where are the others? Surely, someone else would want the chance to take out Stallone, right?

Final verdict on Assassins? This is a film that takes its plot a little lighter than I would like for it to have done. That being said, I enjoyed Stallone and Banderas’ performances and chemistry. I now understand why his character was the way he was in the last Expendables. I feel this film could have done with some touch ups to the script because I was bored with most of it, especially the first half. All that said, do I recommend it? No, but I see no reason to avoid this film, either.

3 out of 5 stars

The Expendables 3

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The Expendables led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and formed by Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) extract former member Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), a knives specialist and team medic, from a military prison and recruit him to assist them in intercepting a shipment of bombs meant to be delivered to a warlord in Somalia. Arriving there, they reunite with Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), who directs them to the drop point, where Ross is surprised to find out that the arms trader providing the bombs is Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who co-founded the Expendables, but later betrayed the team to profit off of illegal weapons dealing, and was since believed to be dead. In the ensuing firefight, the Expendables are forced to retreat due to Stonebanks’ men’s advanced weaponry, and Caesar is severely injured in the process.

Blaming himself, Ross leaves for Las Vegas, where he enlists retired mercenary Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to help him find younger, mercenaries to join the team. The recruits include ex-Marine John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), nightclub bouncer Luna (Ronda Rousey), computer expert Thorn (Glen Powell) and weapons expert Mars (Victor Ortiz). Skilled sharpshooter Galgo (Antonio Banderas) advocates to be included in the team, but Ross turns him down. The new team rendezvous with CIA operative Max Drummer (Harrison Ford), the Expendables’ missions manager, and Ross’ rival Trench Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who have traced Stonebanks to Romania, where he is set to make a deal with another arms trader. Ross and the new recruits infiltrate his office building and capture him in order to deliver him to Drummer, but Stonebanks’ men catch up to them and fire a missile at the team’s van. Ross is thrown into a ravine, while Smilee, Luna, Thorn and Mars are captured by Stonebanks.

Stonebanks sends Ross a video, challenging Ross to come after him. While preparing to leave, Ross is found by Galgo, and agrees to give him a chance. Christmas, Jensen, Road and Doc likewise join his efforts, and they raid the building where Stonebanks is keeping the recruits and rescue them. Stonebanks has rigged the place with explosives, but Thorn is able to use a battery-powered device to delay the countdown. Drummer and Mauser arrive to help them alongside retired member Yin Yang (Jet Li), and the team begrudingly works together to kill Stonebanks’ men and destroy his weapons. Ross and Stonebanks fight hand-to-hand, and Ross finally kills him just as the batteries of Thorn’s device run out and the entire building begins to collapse. The team makes it to Drummer’s helicopter and flies away to safety.

Caesar recovers from his wounds, and Ross officially accepts Galgo, Smilee, Luna, Thorn and Mars into the team. They all get together at a bar to celebrate.

REVIEW:

Admittedly, I never would have expected this niche idea to spawn into an entire franchise, yet here we are with The Expendables 3. While there is something to be said about surviving to a trilogy, one has to wonder if they are getting too big for their britches. Look at how many people are on that poster!

What is this about?

Maintaining their go-for-broke attitude in this installment of the action franchise, the Expendables square off against villainous arms trader Conrad Stonebanks, who’s hell-bent on destroying the team.

What did I like?

Blood Transfusion. After a mission goes wrong and nearly costs one of them their lives, Stallone’s character fires the old guys (big mistake) and goes on a search for the next team of Expendables. Quite honestly, save for Ronda Rousey’s character, these young bucks are generic and forgettable. However, two new old guys that come in steal the show, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas. First off, Snipes has been in prison for tax evasion the past 8 years or so (in real life), so this is his first role back, and you really can’t tell he was away. Although, I wonder if it is possible for him to have gotten darker. Ha! This character of his kicks all sorts of ass and has the personality of Willie “Mays” Hays, Snipes’ character from Major League. Banderas is an acrobatic ball of Spanish fire! When he comes on, he doesn’t shut up, but he gets the job done. If I had to equate his performance with anyone, it would be as if he brought the studio performance of reading his line for Puss in Boots to this film and then had a few cases of Red Bull. I almost forgot to mention Harrison Ford, who replaces Bruce Willis’ role as CIA liaison. Ford is an upgrade, both in terms of credibility and acting ability. Most importantly, though, he appears to want to be there, whereas Willis was just sort of there.

Action and explosions. A bunch of ex-military guys going out on missions armed to the teeth and willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause. What else can we expect but lots of action and explosions? If you’re looking for some mind-blowing drama, this ain’t the place to find it, I hate to break that to you.  Save for a slight slowdown in the second and third acts, this flick is almost nonstop action, starting with a badass train rescue scene that reminds us why these films are so enjoyable.

Mel’s diner. The Expendables 2 dug up Jean-Claude Van Damme and made him a villain. Excuse me, Vilain. This time around we get Mel Gibson, who apparently was one of the original Expendables (with Stallone and Snipes), but a mission went wrong and, after being rumored for dead, he is discovered to be a massive weapons dealer. In Machete Kills, Gibson returned to the big screen, after his strange legal troubles, and gave us an over the top villain performance for the ages. This character seems as if he is just as unhinged, but Gibson is doing his best to keep that under control. That Jekyll & Hyde dynamic, if you will, is what makes it work so well as a foil for the team.

What didn’t I like?

Young vs. old. Tell me if you’ve heard this before. A bunch of old guys, who are (or were) the top of their game…maybe even the best have an encounter with the “next generation” who do the same job but with fancier gadgets and more attitude. If that sounds familiar, it is probably because just about everytime we get old and new school together, they come to blows. Personally, with this group of “newbies”, they could have been left out of the film, save for Rousey and the computer guy. These films were created with the intention of giving the older guys the spotlight, a little tidbit they seem to have forgotten.

Race card. Bare with me as I step on my soapbox for a bit here. So, early on, Terry Crews’ character is mortally wounded, strangely enough, this happens as a new African-American character, played by Wesley Snipes, is brought in. Crews even mentions it, since he was in Somalia, or whatever 3rd world country that was while the rest of the team was breaking Snipes out of that prison train. We should have known then, but it seems as if this film suffers from what has been deemed The Walking Dead syndrome, which is the inability to have two black characters. Go back and watch the show, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Most notably when T-Dog was just coming into his own is when he gets it…coincidentally as Michonne was brought in. If this is some hidden Hollywood racism, it could also point to why we still haven’t got that much-anticipated Black Panther movie. Then again, if we ever do get it and he joins the Avengers, Falcon or War Machine, if not both, would have to go. Back to the point at hand, Crews’ character is one of the most charming and endearing of this franchise and they took him out of this film. It could have just as easily been Randy Couture’s character. No one cares about him, plus we get 2 other UFC stars later in the film! –steps off soapbox–

Snipe hunt. After Snipes’ badass introduction, he disappears into the background. I have two issues with this. First, they go through all the trouble of pointing out that he’s one of the original Expendables and a doctor, yet the only time we see him doing any doctoring is when Crews is hurt. As far being one of the original, that just seemed like it was a convenient plot point to break him out of jail. Second, the clothes they put him in are…well…let’s just say they remind me of what my grandfather wore. Now, I will say that the home base of this film is New Orleans, and that is a style down there, especially among jazz musicians, just go look at Kermit Ruffins. Unfortunately, Snipes is not playing a jazz musician, so I have to wonder if the clothes were to just keep him noticed. If that was the case, then it worked. If not, then someone needs to rethink these choices because the look does not work for Snipes.

I was expecting The Expendables 3 to do better at the box office. Maybe if they stopped trying to make these PG-13, it would have. The audience for these films is mostly those of us that were around when these guys were in their prime, making R rated action flicks, complete with boobs, muscles, sweat, action, and guns. If and when they make the 4th film of this franchise, I hope they realize that. Also, they touched on the origin of the group, I would like to see more of that and/or since there are so many now, perhaps Expendables A and Expendables B? Just a couple of thoughts. All that said, this is not the kind of film that will be bringing home any awards in the spring, I think we all know that little fact. However, it is a fun summer flick. Out of the 3 films, it may be the best written and most exciting. Do I recommend it? Yes, very highly! Check it out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara), a former agent of the OSS, now works as a private detective but gets little profit for his work: four dollars and ninety-nine cents. He is contacted by the OSS and informed that his sister, Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega), is missing. He is reunited with Donnagon Giggles and his wife Francesca, who explain that Carmen was captured by the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), a villain. The Toymaker was imprisoned in cyberspace by the OSS, but he has since created “Game Over”, a virtual reality-based video game which he intends on using to escape cyberspace via players that reach Level 5, which is literally unwinnable. Juni agrees to venture into the game, save Carmen, and shut down the game.

In the game, which takes place in a full 3D environment, Juni finds the challenges difficult. He finds three beta-testers, Francis (Bobby Edner), Arnold (Ryan Pinkston) and Rez (Robert Vito), who launch him to the moon so that they’ll have less competition on the way to Level 5. On the moon, Juni receives an opportunity to bring in a fellow ally to assist him, selecting his wheelchair-bound grandfather Valentin (Ricardo Montalban), who has been looking for the Toymaker for thirty years. He receives a power-up which gives him a robotic bodysuit, allowing him to walk and possess superhuman strength and durability. Juni ventures into a robot battle arena where he fights a girl named Demetra (Courtney Jines) in order to return to Earth and Level 2. He meets the beta-testers again who believe he is a player named “The Guy”, who can supposedly beat Level 5. Rez is unconvinced and challenges Juni to a “Mega-race” involving a multitude of different vehicles. The only apparent rule of this game is “Win, at all costs.” Juni wins the race with help from Valentin, and Demetra joins the group, she and Juni display romantic feelings for each other. Upon entering level 3, Arnold and Juni are forced to battle each other, the loser getting an immediate game over. Demetra swaps places with Juni and is defeated, seemingly getting a game over, much to Juni’s sadness as he seems to have romantic feelings for her.

The group get to Level 4 where Juni finds Carmen, released by the Toymaker, who leads the group on. Juni follows a map given to him by Demetra to a lava-filled gorge. The group surf their way through the lava but Donnagon attempts to prevent them from reaching Level 5 to save them, but this fails. Outside the door to Level 5, after the other gamers start to think that Carmen and Juni are deceivers and Rez threatens to give Juni a game over, the real “Guy” (Elijah Wood) appears and opens the door only to get a game over by an electrical shock (losing all of his apparent 100 lives). Demetra then appears, claiming to have gotten back into the game via a glitch but Carmen identifies her as “The Deceiver”, a program used to fool players. Demetra confirms this and apologizes to Juni. The Toymaker attacks the group with giant robot, Demetra shedding a tear and shutting the game down so Juni and the others can return to reality. However, it is revealed that Valentin released the Toymaker, the villain’s army of robots attacking a nearby city.

Juni and Carmen summon their family members: Parents Gregorio and Ingrid, Gregorio’s brother Machete, their Grandma, and Uncle Felix. With too many robots to handle, Juni calls out to their “extended” family (or “everyone”, as Juni puts it), summoning characters from the first two films (including Fegan Floop and Alexander Minion, Dinky Winks and his son, scientist Romero (plus a Spork), and Gary and Gerti Giggles). All the robots are destroyed except for the Toymaker’s. Valentin confronts Sebastian the Toymaker and forgives him for putting him in his wheelchair, which he had been trying to find him to do all those years. The Toymaker shuts down his robot and joins the rest of the Cortez family and their friends in celebrating their family.

REVIEW:

The third entry in the Spy Kids franchise, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over was actually ahead of its time, as 3-D didn’t return to prominence (as it was in the 50s) for another 4 or 5 years after this film’s release. Three films in, one has to wonder with the kids getting older, can the fun and fantasy be kept up, or will the start to take a darker tone? Also, will the films still be worth watching?

What is this about?

In the continuing adventures of the two spy siblings, Carmen gets caught in a virtual reality game designed by the kids’ new nemesis, the Toymaker, and it’s up to Juni to save her by battling through the game’s levels.

What did I like?

Games. This film was released in 2003, about the time that the PS2 was coming into prominence and the PS3 (along with that other system people use) went into production. Because of this, gaming was becoming more and more popular, so a film that put the kids into the game was just what audiences could use. I wonder why it is that no one has really thought to make more movies (recently) that put the stars in a game. It should also be noted that the film spoofs a stereotype of people who hide behind an avatar that is the opposite of what they are in real life. I won’t spoil it, but upon the escape from the game, you’ll see, and chuckle, about what I’m talking about.

Bright and colorful. It  would appear that a surefire way to attract kids to a film is to just big, bright, and colorful things. I don’t think I need to tell you that this film follows that formula. The game world is full of brightly colored CG creations that fit right in with the tone of the film, even though it seems as if the game, at least to me, has a darker tone.

Familia. A recurring theme in these films is family, although this one seems to have less of an emphasis on that since most of the family doesn’t appear until the climactic battle, leaving most of the film to Juni (Daryl Sabara) and his grandfather (Ricardo Montalban). I was really digging how they brought back many of the characters from the previous films to help out. As this was meant to be the final film in the franchise, it made sense and put a nice ending on things and reminded us of how far the kids have come (as if the audition tapes following the credits don’t do that HA!).

What didn’t I like?

Juni. For some reason, Robert Rodriguez seems hell bent on making Daryl Sabara the star of the film, when it is actually Alexa Vega that has more of a screen presence, despite her poor showing in this flick. Sabara is trying, he really is, but it is to no avail. The guy can’t carry the film on his own. Whether it is the script or his actual talent, he just can’t do it, which is more than likely the reason they brought in the gamer boys who were in the game.

Toymaker. I was actually impressed with Sylvester Stallone’s comedic chops as the Toymaker (and his clones).  My problem with him, though, was that this is a guy that created an entire game world and still managed to get it sold on the outside world, yet he was unable to escape. How is this possible? Also, what would have been so bad about him getting out? The OSS made it seem as if Armageddon were going to happen if he were to get out.

3D & CG. I am no fan of CG, as we all know. Stop-motion is my cup of tea. Watching the awful and dated computer imagery of this film is almost painful. Not because they are dated, but because it seems as if they were used just because they could be, and not to further the story along. The same could be said of the 3D. It was obvious that was used for the sole purpose of saying “Look, its 3D!”

Takeaway. So, Netflix, finally decides to put this on streaming about a month ago, and this time next week, it will be gone. Yeah, yeah, yeah, this isn’t an issue with the film, so much as it is an issue with Netflix, but still after all this time of waiting to get this flick, they finally put it up and then yank it away  so swiftly. No real reason for this, especially since Spy Kids 4 has been up there since its release!

Remember that old Frosted Shredded Wheat commercial? The one where the person eating the cereal would say the kid in them likes the frosting and the adult likes the fiber? Well, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over is like that for me. The bright colors and big toys appealed to the kid in me, but the adult in me was telling me that this is stupid and cheesy. In the end, though, this is decent enough, but felt either unnecessary or rushed through production, leaving audiences dissatisfied. Do I recommend it? Yes, but with caution. For me, my OCD won’t let me leave a franchise unfinished. If you’re like me, then that would be a reason to check it out, otherwise, this is one of those flicks that you may or may not like, depending on your tastes.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Machete Kills

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Danny Trejo returns as former Mexican Police detective-turned-spy Machete, who is recruited by U.S. President Rathcock (Carlos Estévez) to stop madman revolutionary Mendez (Demián Bichir) from launching a deadly missile aimed at Washington, D.C. However, Machete soon learns the real threat is an international criminal organization led by an eccentric billionaire arms dealing terrorist named Luther Voz (Mel Gibson), who has launched a conspiracy to start riots in every country.

REVIEW

Machete is back, people, and this time, Machete Kills! Isn’t it amazing how a small spoof trailer that was part of the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse films has become 2 major motion pictures, with a possible third on the way?

What is this film about?

Vigilante and ex-Federal Machete returns to battle when the U.S. government recruits him to take down a psychotic revolutionary and a billionaire arms dealer trying to launch a weapon into space.

What did I like?

Knowledge is power. One of the common criticisms of Machete was that it was too serious for what it was. Well, rest assured, the filmmakers took notes and have made the sequel a fun ride for all. Not only is this film more fun to watch, but the laws of physics don’t seem to apply, almost in a cartoonish way. Some may raise hell about that, but I love that kind of stuff. Sometimes you just want to go in to a movie, sit back, turn your brain off and enjoy. If that is what Robert Rodriguez was trying to do with this picture, then he accomplished his goal.

Different. Leading up to this film’s release, message boards were burning up with rants saying that this was just going to be a rehash of the plot from the first film. Well, as it turns out, this is nowhere near the same story. Sure, the immigrant stuff is still in there, but isn’t as major a plot point. This time around, we get Mel Gibson playing a madman who wants to start a new society in space. Yes, I said Mel Gibson!

Bloody. If you were looking for the bloody violence that goes with a man named Machete, then you’re in for a treat. The blood is flowing fast and loose with body parts flying all over the place, people being thrown into helicopters, eyes poked out, etc. Gloriously violent, but not murder porn. Boy, oh boy, was it great to see!

Trilogy. Before the film proper started, there was a trailer from Machete Kills Again. Initially, I thought it was just a joke trailer, but as the film progressed, bits and pieces came together and showed that perhaps this will be a trilogy. That point aside, the trailer is like that original Grindhouse trailer, but with comedic elements. I enjoyed it, in spite of the chatty teenage girls sitting in front of me with their cell phones out.

What didn’t I like?

Reasoning. A few characters return from the original film, but they don’t really seem to serve a purpose, other than nostalgia. For instance, Jessica Alba has a cameo at the beginning of the film, but she is quickly gunned down. Why couldn’t we get another shower scene with her first? I kid, I kid, but on a more serious note La Revolucion, headed by She’, returns. Other than being Machete’s go-to army, what good are they, really?

Overhyped. With all the new characters that were added to this film, with the exception of Mel Gibson, these characters were severely underused. Take for instance, Lady Gaga, who is just one disguise for this mysterious El Camaleon. Sofia Vergara had a coupe of bigger parts (no pun intended), but even she seemed like she could’ve/should’ve been a more of a major character. Vanessa Hudgens has maybe the best performance of her career, yet she gets killed within 5 minutes! Carlos Estevez, who is playing President Rathcock (he’s Charlie Seen, btw), has a decent amount of screentime relative to who he is, so that’s a plus.

Not quite. There are many things that have been improved upon since the first film, but there seems to be something that is missing. I can’t put my finger on it, but whatever it is makes all the difference between. Perhaps it is because the entire second half of the film seems to be just strung together with silly putty in an incoherent mess that just barely manages to pass off as competent. I wish they would have taken a little bit more time and cleaned it up. Instead we go from randomly seeing El Camelon encounter the rednecks from the first film to Mel Gibson launching rockets and his spaceship. It is a bit of a head scratcher, to say the least.

Machete Kills is probably going to go down like its predecessor, which made a little bit of money in theaters and then went on to become a bit of a cult hit on DVD. I didn’t feel the story was as strong with this film, but considering how it seems to be leading up to the following film, that may be a reason for that. I highly recommend this, though. Keep an eye out for the Star Wars references, they had me cracking up and Amber Heard is a nice piece of eye candy. Check it out, turn your brain off and enjoy!

4 1/3 out of 5 stars

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

Posted in Action/Adventure, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The OSS now has a full child spy section and Carmen Cortez and Juni Cortez have become agents of the OSS and face particularly hard competition with Gary and Gerti Giggles (Matt O’Leary and Emily Osment), the children of double-dealing agent Donnagon Giggles (Mike Judge), whom Carmen and Juni helped to rescue in the previous film. It is shown that Carmen defends Gary and has a crush on him.

After an incident at a local amusement park, where the President’s daughter (Taylor Momsen) deliberately sabotages a thrill ride which juggles its passengers, forcing the Giggles and the Cortez kids to compete in the rescue, Donnagon — who has somehow hacked into the teleprompter which the President was reading from — is named the director of the OSS; while Juni is fired after being framed by Gary — who was actually to blame — into losing the “Transmooker”, a highly coveted device which can shut off all electronic devices. In his new position as director, Donnagon can carry on with his plan to steal the Transmooker, so he can rule the world.

After Carmen manages to hack into the database and reinstates Juni’s level as an agent, she and Juni follow the trail to a mysterious island near Madagascar, which is home to Romero (Steve Buscemi), a lunatic scientist. Romero has been attempting to create genetically-miniaturized animals, so he can make a profit by selling the animals to kids in “miniature zoos”. He had an experiment go wrong after accidentally pouring growth concoction onto the mutated set of animals. When Carmen is captured by a Spork, which is quite literally a flying pig, she meets Gerti there who tells her that Gary is really evil and Carmen changes her feelings for Gary and sides with Juni who was going to be hurt by Gary. After a number of action sequences, such as fighting skeletons and being captured by Sporks, the spy kids — along with the help of their family, Romero and Gerti Giggles — destroy the Transmooker and defeat Donnagon and Gary but Gregorio and Donnagon fight each other. Donnagon is relieved by the President and Gary is disavowed, while Juni quits due to the impersonal treatment of agents by the OSS. During the credits, Machete has Carmen sing as an undercover pop star in a concert. Carmen says she can’t sing so Machete gives her a mic which auto-tunes her voice and a belt that helps her dance. He also gives Juni a guitar that plays itself. After the performance, Machete informs Carmen that he had not put the batteries in and Carmen was actually singing.

REVIEW:

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams has been on my mind ever since I saw the original Spy Kids, but I’ve been waiting for it to hit the streaming queue, rather than waste a slot in my DVD list. Was the wait worth it? Should I have used that slot?

What is this about?

In this sequel to the hit sci-fi family adventure, spy kids Carmen and Juni Cortez team up with two other pint-sized secret agents, Gary and Gerti Giggles. The foursome travels to a mysterious island to save the world from an evil scientist

What did I like?

Keep it going. You have to give it to Robert Rodriguez. The guy has vision. In a time when most filmmakers shy away from putting children in franchise films, this guy started one that could go on long after they grew up. Age has made our pint-size stars better equipped as spies, which only helps things in the long run.

Creatures. There is no secret about how much affection I have for stop motion animation and my disdain for CG. While this film uses CG a bit more than it should, I recognize that they were at least honoring the great Ray Herryhausen with the creatures. There are a couple of scenes that I could have sworn were straight out of one of the Sinbad films. I’m still no fan of CG, but at least they were trying to honor the past, something that doesn’t happen very often.

Who. You would never guess it by looking at her, but the cute little girl who plays the President’s daughter is Taylor Momsen. The only other thing I’ve seen her in is The Grinch with Jim Carey, where she plays Cindy Lou Who. In both instances, she flexes some acting chops far beyond what she should have at her age. I wonder what happened to her that made her go from this to that racoon looking mess she is today?

What didn’t I like?

Effects. The CG laden effects here are geared toward younger audiences, that much is obvious, but it does seem as if they didn’t even try to get them to fit in with the surrounding. It was like they just inserted them in at the last-minute and did just enough touch up so that they didn’t look totally rough around the edges. For a major studio release like this, I feel a higher level of care should have been taken, but that’s just me.

Abuelos. Bringing in the grandparents, who were apparently spies in their time, didn’t really seem to work out as well as I think they would have liked. With that said, I think they just needed to be developed a bit more before being thrust into the story in the last third of the film. From what I hear, though, they go on to be pretty major players in subsequent films.

Rivalry. I have no problem with another brother sister spy team. It keeps out heroes on their toes. After all, rivalry is good. However, I do have issue with them not being a real threat. To me, it seemed as if they would have worked better as some sort of evil force, like their father, rather than just friendly rivals.

For what it is, Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams delivers a big, colorful film that will keep kids entertained. There are a few things here and there for the adults to enjoy, as well. I really liked this film, but one thing that bothered me is how there was a lack of dreams on the island. Why is it called the island of lost dreams? This is definitely worth checking out if for no other reason than to tell me what I missed!

4 out of 5 stars

 

Puss in Boots

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Years before Puss (Antonio Banderas) meets Shrek and Donkey in Shrek 2, he goes on a heroic adventure teaming up with mastermind Humpty Dumpty and street-savvy Kitty Softpaws. He learns that the outlaw couple Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris) have the magic beans he’s been looking for most of his life, beans that can lead him to a giant’s castle holding valuable golden goose eggs. When Puss tries to steal them from the outlaws’ room, a masked cat (Salma Hayek) interrupts. Both fail and escape, and Puss follows the cat back to the Glitter Box, a club, where they have a dance-off and a sword fight, ending when Puss hits the masked cat in the head with a guitar. He learns that the masked cat is Kitty Softpaws, and is shocked to learn she is a girl. She is allied with Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), a talking egg and Puss’ long-estranged childhood friend from the orphanage where he was raised. Puss tells Kitty of his feelings of betrayal for a youthful misadventure when Humpty tricked Puss into helping commit a crime. Humpty attempts to convince Puss to join them in finding the beans and retrieving the golden eggs, which he does.

The trio steals the beans from Jack and Jill and elude the angry outlaws in a canyon chase. As Humpty leads his compatriots to the spot where they must plant the beans, Puss and Kitty’s relationship begins to grow from rivalry into friendship. The trio ride the fast-growing beanstalk into the clouds where, Humpty explains, they’ll find the castle of the late giant, while trying to avoid a fearsome monster called the Terror who guards the Golden Goose. When they realize the golden eggs are too heavy to carry, they steal the Goose — which is just a gosling — and escape the castle and the Terror. While celebrating their victory, the group is ambushed by Jack and Jill, who knock Puss unconscious.

When Puss wakes up, he tracks Jack and Jill back to his old hometown, where he learns that the entire heist was a plot by Humpty to lure him home to be captured, as revenge for abandoning him to the authorities when Humpty’s youthful heist went bad. Jack, Jill, and even Kitty were involved in the con. After pleas from his adoptive mother, the head of the orphanage, Puss turns himself in to the guards while Humpty donates many golden eggs to the town and becomes a hero.

While in prison, Puss meets the original Jack from the “Jack and the Beanstalk” (a.k.a. Andy Beanstalk) story who warns him that the Terror is in fact the Golden Goose’s mother, and it will stop at nothing to get its child back. A repentant Kitty helps Puss break out of prison and tells him that she loves him more than gold. Puss convinces Humpty to help him fight off the Terror, saying he knows Humpty is a good person at heart, and he will be forgiven if he helps save the town. The Terror arrives, revealing itself to be a giant goose, aka Mother Goose. Using the Golden Goose as bait, Puss and Humpty lure the Terror out of the town, but Humpty and the Goose are knocked off a bridge with Puss holding on to them. Humpty knows Puss cannot hold both of them, and he lets go, sacrificing himself to save the Goose and the town. Humpty’s shell cracks open to reveal that he was a golden egg on the inside. The Terror then takes the Goose and Humpty away back to the giant’s castle.

Puss is forced to flee because he is still an outlaw, but his efforts to save the town make him a hero among the townspeople. Puss and Kitty escape the guards once more, and Kitty says she will see him again soon, showing that she has taken his boots. In the epilogue, Jack and Jill are recovering from their injuries after being crushed by the Terror, Humpty is shown once again in his regular egg form, wearing a golden egg suit, as he rides the Terror into the clouds, and Puss and Kitty head back to dance at the Glitter Box, where they finally kiss.

REVIEW:

From the moment we were first introduced to Puss in Shrek 2, it was quite obvious this was a character destined for bigger and better things, such as his own spinoff. The wait for this film has been a long and tedious one, filled with a couple of exceedingly bad and unnecessary Shrek film, but finally we have Puss in Boots!

I don’t recall what the original tale of Puss involved, but I’m pretty certain it didn’t involve an orphanage, Humpty Dumpty, and of course Jack & Jill. However, while this isn’t a Shrek picture, it is still taking place in the same universe where fairy tale creatures all live together. There are some out there who thought this was going to really deviate from the franchise’s formula, so rest assured it doesn’t.

Let’s cover the good first, shall we? It was great to see, um, hear Antonio Banderas back with Salma Hayek. With the great chemistry these two have, you’d think we’d see them together as often as audiences of yesteryear got to enjoy Ginger Roger and Fred Astaire.

Animation is top-notch, though not Pixar level, and just goes to show how far technology has come since our first introduction to the character.

The action scenes are awesome! Seriously, do you expect less from Puss in Boots? The best one, though, has to be the initial, for lack of a better term, catfight between Puss and the mysterious masked cat (who turns out to be Kitty Softpaws).

Some may not agree with me on this, but I like how this film was totally removed from anything to do with Shrek. There wasn’t a cameo, poster, or anything involving any of those characters. While some may think it may have been nice to see them, I happen to think it would have been nothing more than beating a dead horse, especially after the last two films proved that Shrek should have been left alone after 2 films. There is also the little fact that this takes place long before Puss is hired to assassinate Shrek, and is also in what appears to be a different country, so why would Shrek be foisted upon us in Puss’ feature film?

Now, onto the bad…

The story was alright. I actually liked it, but when they started going into flashback mode, I started dozing off. Ironically, Kitty does the same thing. I’m not saying anything needed to be changed in the way the plot went, but they could have done something to make the flashbacks more interesting.

Humpty Dumpty just did not appeal to me. Firstly, he doesn’t quite fit in. If you will notice, everyone speaks with some sort of Hispanic accent, yet Humpty is as American as they come! This really took away the believability of his character for me. Couple that with the fact that Zach Galifianakis is slowly but surely becoming more annoying than Jack Black, if that’s possible. As much as studios seem to like using George Lopez, Cheech Marin, or even Danny Trejo, you would think they’d have used them instead.

Keeping on the topic of Galifianakis, the guy just does not have any kind of charisma and definitely lacks chemistry with Hayek and Banderas. In other words, he’s severely miscast, in my opinion.

Jack & Jill are the secondary antagonists, but they are underused. With this gross re-imagining of them, one would think the filmmakers would have taken advantage and done something really interesting with the characters, but that wasn’t the case.

If there was one flashback we could have used, I think we all agree seeing Humpty Dumpty fall off the wall and learning how he got put back together again would have been great. Also, I’m curious how the goose survived up there on the beanstalk if the giants have been long dead.

So, as you can see there are plenty of good and bad things about this film, but the most important thing is that, despite its faults, it really is an entertaining flick, and a much-needed breath of life in the Shrek franchise. I haven’t heard of any sequel in the works, but if they do decide to go that route, they better not ruin Puss in the same way. All in all, this is a great film that I hope you all take the time to check out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars