Archive for Elijah Wood

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

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9

Posted in Animation, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Prior to the events of the film, an unnamed man, referred to as, “The Scientist,” created the B.R.A.I.N. (or the Fabrication Machine) for peaceful purposes and to help evolve mankind’s technology. However, the leader of mankind took control of the machine and used it to wage war on other humans. With the lack of a human soul, the machine was corrupted and turned on mankind, wiping them out using other machines and poisonous gases. The Scientist constructed nine robotic like homunculi referred to as “Stitchpunks”, each one alive via a portion of the Scientist’s soul, and created an amulet which could be used to destroy the Fabrication Machine. The Scientist died shortly after creating the last of the Stitchpunks, 9.

9 awakens at the start of the film, taking the amulet with him. Outside, in the lifeless and devastated world, 9 meets fellow Stitchpunk 2, who gives him a vocal processor to speak. However, they are attacked by a machine called the “Cat-Beast” and 2 is captured. 9 is saved by one-eyed 5 who takes him to Sanctuary, an abandoned cathedral and home to the Stitchpunks, led by 1, and his bodyguard 8. 9 decides to rescue 2 from an old factory, aided by 5. The two locate 2 and the “Cat-Beast” is destroyed by 7, the only female Stitchpunk and a skilled warrior. 9 spots the shutdown Fabrication Machine where the amulet connects to, awakening it. It attacks 2 and sucks out his lifeforce, the soul being the machine’s power source. The Stitchpunks retreat to 3 and 4’s hideout where they reveal the machine’s origins. 9 realises they need to remove the amulet from the machine and returns to Sanctuary where 6 points out they need to return to a disclosed source. Sanctuary is attacked by a bird-like robot, called the “Winged Beast”, which is destroyed, but as is Sanctuary.

A snake-like robot, the “Seamstress”, kidnaps 7 and 8. 9 pursues it and witnesses 8 being killed by the Fabrication Machine, but rescues 7 before destroying the factory where the machine is, seemingly destroying it as well. The surviving Stitchpunks celebrate, but the machine rises and kills 5, and 6 soon after, the latter warning 9 that the souls of the deceased Stitchpunks are within the machine and it should not be destroyed, as well as the source is in the Scientist’s workshop where 9 awoke. 9 goes to the workshop and finds a video recording which explains how the amulet can be used to destroy the machine and free the trapped souls. 9 returns to the others who plan to destroy the machine. During the following battle, 9 prepares to sacrifice himself to defeat the machine, but 1 sacrifices himself to allow 9 to remove the amulet and destroy the machine.

The film ends with 9, 7, 3 and 4 releasing the souls of 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8, who fly up into the sky and cause it to rain, the raindrops containing small organisms, hinting that life in the world is not gone after all.

REVIEW:

I’ve seen some strange and confusing films in my day, but I have got to say that 9 takes the cake. THat is not to say that this is a bad film, by any stretch of the imagination, just a bit on the eccentric side.

The good…the animation is beautiful. Look at the detail in each of the puppets. It is quite impressive. Voice casting isn’t half bad, though I belive I would have switched Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau’s characters. THe fabrication machine is also quite the impressive manifestation, as are the things that “serve” it. The story is ok, but I think it could have been a bit lighter in tone, but I think that has more to do with my anti-dark film stance than an actual critique of the film.

The bad…I’m so tired of these post-apocalyptic films. Can’t anyone out there come up with something original? This could have easily happened on another planet. To make things worse, the time frame they seem to be in is as if the war happened around the 40s or so. I have no issue with that, really, but I do wish they had set down an actual time frame. Also, how is it that 7 is the only female, or how is she female, rather? I mean, these are all part of the scientist’s soul. I’m guessing that is the part of him that’s in touch with his feminine side? No, that can’t be it, because she was far from being all girly girl. I didn’t really have a problem with the character, but rather the fact that it was odd to have this one female and that its part of his soul. Just seemed a bit odd to me.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this picture, but the fact is that I didn’t. At the same time, I didn’t hate it. There just wasn’t anything to make me sit up and say I love this or that about this film, at least nothing that would make me choose it over a Pixar flick, or even remember it. However, I do think if you can get past the utter confusion of the film and how not for kids this is, you’ll find a decent film.

3 out of 5 stars

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film begins with a flashback of how Sméagol acquired the One Ring, before his degeneration and name change to ‘Gollum’, taking Frodo and Sam to Minas Morgul. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Théoden and Éomer meet up with Merry, Pippin and Treebeard at Isengard, now under the Ents’ control, and Gandalf deduces that Saruman will pose no further threat. They also recover the palantír. Pippin’s curiosity gets the better of him at Edoras, and he looks into it. The vision he sees (of a dead white tree in a burning stone courtyard) alerts Gandalf that Sauron is planning to attack Minas Tirith, and he rides off there with Pippin. In Rivendell, on her way to the Undying Lands, Arwen has a vision of her son by Aragorn and convinces Elrond to reforge Narsil, the sword that cut the Ring from Sauron’s finger long ago. She then forsakes the gift of immortality to be with Aragorn. Her fate now rests with the outcome of the war.

Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith to find the steward Denethor mourning over Boromir, and Pippin swears loyalty to him. Meanwhile, the Witch-king dispatches his immense Orc army from Minas Morgul, heralding the start of the war, as Frodo, Sam, and Gollum begin climbing the stairs nearby. The Morgul army drives the Gondorians out of Osgiliath, and Faramir is forced to take a doomed ride to reclaim the city. Near Minas Morgul, Gollum convinces Frodo to send Sam home in the belief that he wants the Ring. At the urging of Gandalf, Pippin lights the first of the beacon signals to Edoras, alerting Théoden and the rest of the Rohirrim and prompting them to ride to Dunharrow to prepare for war. While preparing for battle in Dunharrow, Aragorn meets Elrond, who presents the future king with the newly reforged sword Andúril. Aragorn then sets off with Legolas and Gimli to brave the Paths of the Dead, enlisting the help of the cursed Army of Dead in capturing the ships of the Corsairs of Umbar (Sauron was planning to use the corsairs to launch a surprise attack on Minas Tirith while the defenders were preoccupied with the Orcs). Théoden rides off to war with six thousand riders, unaware that Éowyn and Merry are also part of the army.

The Morgul forces, composed mostly of Orcs, begin the siege of Minas Tirith, and many missiles are traded, while the Witch-king and the other Ringwraiths on their Fell Beasts also attack, destroying siege weapons and sowing terror among the defenders. The Morgul army break into the city using the enormous battering ram Grond. At the same time, Gollum betrays Frodo to the large spider Shelob, but Sam returns to fight her off. Sam believes Frodo is dead and takes the Ring from him, but when Orcs from the Tower of Cirith Ungol take Frodo, Sam overhears that he is still alive. At Minas Tirith, Denethor has gone mad and prepares a funeral pyre for himself and the unconscious Faramir. Gandalf and Pippin arrive on the scene and manage to save Faramir, but despite Gandalf’s best efforts, Denethor dies. The Rohirrim arrive and charge into the Orcs, but the Witch-king responds with a counter-attack, attempting to rout the Rohirrim with the forces of Harad, including the immense Mûmakil. The Witch-king descends on Théoden, fatally wounding him. Aragorn finally arrives with the undead on the captured Corsair ships and proceeds to annihilate the Orcs and Mûmakil, while Éowyn and Merry kill the Witch-king. Théoden dies of his wounds, and Aragorn holds the Dead Army’s oath fulfilled, releasing them from their curse at last.

Sam rescues Frodo from Cirith Ungol, which is mostly empty following a fight between the two factions of the Tower’s Orc garrison over the mithrilshirt, and they begin the long trek across Mordor to Mount Doom. Gandalf realizes that ten thousand Orcs stand between Cirith Ungol and Mount Doom, which will prevent Frodo from reaching his destination. Aragorn proposes they lead the remaining soldiers to the Black Gate to draw the Orcs away from Frodo’s path. Sam carries Frodo up to Mount Doom, but Gollum arrives and attacks them, just as the Men of the West furiously battle the Orcs. At the Crack of Doom, Frodo, instead of dropping the ring into the lava, succumbs to its power and puts it on, disappearing from sight. Gollum renders Sam unconscious, seizes Frodo’s finger, and bites it off. As he begins to celebrate reclaiming the ring, Frodo gathers his strength (and his senses) and charges at him. After a brief struggle, they both fall over the edge. Gollum falls into the lava flow with the Ring, while Frodo hangs onto the edge of the cliff. Sam rescues Frodo as the Ring finally sinks into the lava and is destroyed. The Tower of Barad-dûr collapses, Sauron’s essence fades and then explodes, destroying him for good, and the Orcs are killed in the ensuing shockwave and earthquakes. Frodo and Sam are stranded until Gandalf arrives with the Eagles, and they awake in Minas Tirith, reuniting with their friends.

Aragorn is crowned King, heralding the new age of peace, and is reunited with Arwen. The hobbits return to the Shire, where Sam marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo, having finished writing the story of the Lord of the Rings and still exhausted from his quest as the Ring-bearer, decides to leave Middle-earth with Gandalf, Bilbo, Elrond and Galadriel at the Grey Havens, leaving his account of the story to Sam, who peacefully continues his family life.

REVIEW:

This is my favorite of the trilogy, even though, at 252 minutes, it is the longest.

As with the previous films, the cast is amazing, but the action really takes center stage in this one. The battle scenes are very well shot and you really feel like you’re in Middle Earth. I can only imagine what this would have been like in the theaters in IMAX or 3-D.

The biggest issue I have with this film is the multiple epilogue endings. They add a good 30-45 minutes onto an already exceedingly long film, and don’t really resolve anything. Of course, I may have been influenced by Randal’s commentary on this in Clerks II.

So, if you’ve seen the previous films, then of course you’re going to want to see this. If not, then though you may be lost as far as some plot points and whatnot, it’s still an enjoyable film, except for the length. Clear your day, watch and enjoy!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Sin City

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In a penthouse on the roof of a skyscraper overlooking Basin City, a fancy party is in progress. A woman (Marley Shelton), dressed in a red evening gown, is alone on the balcony. A man (Josh Hartnett), who is narrating, comes up behind her and offers her a cigarette. They exchange a little small talk, he tells her that he sees in her eyes a “crazy calm”, of someone who is tired of running, but doesn’t want to face her problems alone. He tells her that he will save her, and take her far away. They kiss, then he shoots her. She dies in his arms. He says that he does not know who she was running from, but will “cash her check in the morning.”

In the DVD commentary, Frank Miller explains that the victim in this story (the Customer of the title) is actually committing suicide. The unnamed woman had dated a mobster, and when she tried to break it off, he said that he would kill her in the most terrible way possible. She then used her connections to hire a hitman (known as the Salesman) to provide her with a quick death.

On the docks of Sin City, aging police officer John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is attempting to stop serial child murderer Roark Junior (Nick Stahl) from raping and killing 11-year-old Nancy Callahan (Makenzie Vega). Junior is the son of the powerful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), who has paid off many police to cover up his son’s crimes, including Hartigan’s partner Bob (Michael Madsen). Bob tries to convince Hartigan to walk away, and appears to succeed, but Hartigan sucker-punches him, knocking him out cold. Hartigan then makes his way into a warehouse, knocking unconscious two local criminals. Junior is inside with the frightened Nancy and two armed henchmen, who are making sure that Junior and Nancy “get along” before leaving them alone. Hartigan shoots and kills the henchmen, but Junior shoots Hartigan in the shoulder, grabs Nancy and runs out to the docks. Hartigan catches up to Junior and shoots off his ear, causing him to drop Nancy. He then proceeds to shoot off Junior’s arm and genitals, before being shot in the back several times by Bob, who has recovered. Bob tells Hartigan to stay down, but Hartigan knows he must buy time for backup to arrive (as Bob will kill Nancy if they are alone) so he tries to pull his reserve gun, causing Bob to shoot him several more times. As the sirens approach, Hartigan lapses into unconsciousness knowing that Nancy is safe, justifying himself with the words “An old man dies, a little girl lives; fair trade.”

Hartigan, who survived his wounds, is recovering in a hospital. Senator Roark (Boothe), Junior’s father, arrives and informs him that Junior is in a coma and all plans for the Roark legacy are now in serious jeopardy. Senator Roark reveals that Hartigan will survive, will be framed for Junior’s crimes and serve the resultant jail term. Additionally, if Hartigan tells anyone the truth, the informed people will be killed. A grateful Nancy visits and thanks him. She promises to write letters to Hartigan every week while he is in prison and departs.

Hartigan complies and goes to jail, knowing it is the only way to protect Nancy and his loved ones, though he refuses to officially confess to the crimes, preventing any possibility of parole. He receives the weekly letter from Nancy as promised. After eight years, however, the letters stop arriving, and then Hartigan receives a severed finger instead. Realizing she could have been kidnapped by the Roarks, Hartigan finally confesses to all charges, knowing this will lead to his release and being able to help Nancy. Outside the jail, he reunites with his old partner, Bob, who has come to regret his actions. Bob drives Hartigan to the city, telling him that Hartigan’s wife has remarried and has children. Unknowingly being stalked by a deformed, yellow-skinned man, Hartigan searches for Nancy, eventually finding her at Kadie’s Bar, where she has become a 19-year-old erotic dancer (Jessica Alba).

Realizing that the severed finger was a fake and that he was set up to lead the Roarks to Nancy, he tries to leave unnoticed but is seen by her, leading her to jump into his arms and kiss him passionately. Knowing they have been “made”, they quickly escape in Nancy’s car. The yellow-skinned man follows in his own car and shoots at them, but Hartigan shoots back, hitting the yellow-skinned man. When Hartigan and Nancy turn back to confirm the kill, the yellow-skinned man hides in the back of Nancy’s car. Arriving at a hotel, Nancy reveals that she is in love with Hartigan and tries to seduce him, much to his discomfort. The deformed man then attacks them again, revealing himself as Junior Roark, though Hartigan now refers to him as the Yellow Bastard.

The Yellow Bastard, having been disfigured by the years of surgery necessary to regenerate his missing pieces, leaves Hartigan for dead, having hanged him, and takes Nancy to the Roark farm to finally rape and kill her. Hartigan escapes, however, and tracks the Yellow Bastard to the farm, where he is whipping and torturing Nancy. Hartigan kills the guards and then corners the Yellow Bastard and fakes a heart attack to fool him into letting go of Nancy, giving Hartigan the chance to stab him before castrating him (with his bare hands) and beating him to death.

Hartigan tells Nancy his plans to reveal Senator Roark’s corruption to the police and finally bring down organized crime in Sin City, in order to convince her to leave him. After Nancy departs, Hartigan, knowing that this would be impossible, and Roark will never stop hunting them as long as Hartigan lives, then commits suicide in order to ensure Nancy’s safety once and for all. He reminds himself “An old man dies, a young woman lives; fair trade”, before shooting himself in the head.

Marv (Mickey Rourke), a hulking thug, is in a hotel room with the beautiful Goldie (Jaime King). After making passionate love, they fall asleep. Sometime later, Marv awakens to find that Goldie has been murdered. Sirens sound, and Marv reasons that he is being framed, by someone with money and influence. He fights his way past the corrupt police officers and storms the streets, vowing to avenge Goldie’s death. He stops at the apartment of Lucille (Carla Gugino), his lesbian parole officer, to patch up wounds sustained in the fight. Lucille, knowing Marv has a “condition”, has difficulty believing his story and unsuccessfully warns him to give up on his mission.

Marv heads to Kadie’s Bar in search of information. After a while, he is approached by two hitmen, who order Marv into the back alley behind the bar, where they plan to shoot him. There, Marv turns the tables and beats them to death after interrogating them. Marv then shakes down various informants, working his way up to a corrupt priest (Frank Miller), who reveals that a member of the Roark family was behind Goldie’s murder. Marv kills the priest and steals his car, but is then attacked and shot at by a woman with a strong resemblance to Goldie. Marv, recognizing that he has not taken his medication for his “condition” for a long time, considers her to be a hallucination.

Marv arrives at the Roark family farm, where he fights off a wolf, before uncovering the remains of many dead women. He is then attacked by a silent stalker, who he realizes is Goldie’s killer (as only someone silent could have killed her with Marv not noticing while sleeping next to her). Marv is knocked unconscious and awakens in the basement, where the heads of the stalker’s past victims are mounted on the wall. Lucille, who decided to look into Marv’s story after he left, was noticed and kidnapped, and is in the basement with Marv. Lucille reveals that the man Marv fought is a cannibal and Goldie was a high-grade prostitute. She shows Marv that her hand was cut off and she was made to watch as the killer ate it. Having comforted Lucille as best as he could, Marv starts to work on breaking the bars on the window. He sees the face of the killer, and hears him being called away by someone in a stretch limo. Marv overhears the killer’s name is Kevin (Elijah Wood) and quietly swears revenge. He breaks free and tries to flee with Lucille, but a group of cops arrive and Lucille, still not convinced Marv was attacked by corrupt police, tries to surrender to them and is shot to death. An enraged Marv kills them off, hearing from their leader that Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark (Rutger Hauer) arranged for Goldie’s murder.

Marv goes to Old Town, a section of Sin City reserved particularly for prostitution, because he wants to make sure that Roark is guilty before killing him, and he knows he can find out about Goldie there. Marv is captured and allows himself to be beaten by Goldie’s look-alike, who is revealed to be her twin sister Wendy, in an effort to convince her that he did not kill Goldie, figuring she would eventually listen to reason. After revealing that Kevin killed Goldie and the others, Marv and Wendy collect weapons and return to the farm, hoping to finally avenge Goldie’s death. Marv attacks Kevin and severs his limbs before leaving him to be eaten alive by the wolf. Marv cuts off Kevin’s head with a hacksaw, and then takes the head to Cardinal Roark, who reveals that Kevin was a deeply religious boy who began eating prostitutes to swallow their souls. He persuaded the cardinal to join in, and when Goldie began investigating, she was killed. Marv kills the cardinal and is shot by his guards.

However, Marv survives his wounds and is beaten by corrupt police in order to force him to sign a confession stating that he killed not only Roark and Kevin, but the other women that Kevin and Roark killed, as well as Lucille and Goldie. He refuses to confess, until the DA (also a member of the Roark clan) tells him that if he does not sign the confession, his mother will be killed. After breaking the DA’s arm in several places, he agrees and is quickly convicted and sentenced to death. Hours before his execution, he is visited by Wendy, who thanks him for avenging her sister and spends the night with him, telling him he can call her Goldie. They sleep together in his cell holding each other.

Finally he is strapped into an electric chair and read his last rites before ordering the guards to hurry up as he “Hasn’t got all day”. The guards accept his wishes and proceed to electrocute him. After a few seconds, the switch is thrown off the see if Marv is still alive, to which he is and makes one last insult, asking “Is that the best you can do, you pansies?” to the guards. The switch is thrown on again, and he finally dies, as the doctor checks him after it is thrown off again and says, “He’s gone”. The camera focuses into Marv’s eye, in which is reflected an image of Goldie, to remind the viewer for whom he has enacted his vengeance.

Shellie (Brittany Murphy), a barmaid from Kadie’s, is being harassed by her abusive ex-boyfriend Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro). Her current boyfriend Dwight (Clive Owen) is disgusted with his brutish rival, and shoves Jackie Boy’s head into a urine-filled toilet bowl, warning him to leave Shellie alone. Jackie Boy flees with his friends, heading to Old Town to cause further trouble. Dwight follows them and watches them harass young prostitute Becky (Alexis Bledel). Also watching is Gail (Rosario Dawson), one of the head prostitutes and Dwight’s on-and-off lover.

When Jackie Boy threatens Becky with a gun, martial arts expert Miho (Devon Aoki) sweeps down, severely injuring Jackie Boy. As it becomes apparent Jackie Boy will not die quickly, Dwight asks Miho to finish him. Miho nearly severs his head, making “a Pez dispenser out of him”. As the prostitutes collect the dead men’s money, they realize that Jackie Boy is actually well-respected police officer Lt Jack Rafferty; his death spells a certain end to the truce between the police and the prostitutes, and war against Old Town will be inevitable.

Dwight agrees to take the corpses to the local tar pit, while a traumatized Becky returns home. On the way, he has a hallucinatory conversation with Jackie Boy’s corpse, who taunts him as he is chased by a police officer. Dwight talks his way out of the situation and arrives at the tar pit, but is suddenly shot by mercenaries. Meanwhile, head mercenary Manute (Michael Clarke Duncan) arrives in Old Town and kidnaps Gail, explaining that an informant has revealed everything and that other mercenaries are currently invading Old Town.

Dwight kills several mercenaries but is knocked into the tar by a grenade; he sinks into the tar and nearly drowns before Miho arrives and saves him. However, the other mercenaries have escaped and have taken Jackie Boy’s severed head with them. They chase after the mercenaries and have a car accident, followed by a violent shoot-out that ends with the death of both mercenaries and the retrieval of Jackie Boy’s head. Dwight devises a plan and he and Miho return to Old Town.

As Gail is being tortured, she learns that Becky was the traitor, informing the mercenaries out of fear and greed. Manute receives a letter from Dwight via an arrow from Miho, offering Jackie Boy’s head in exchange for Gail. They meet in the back-alley, where the trade is made, though the mercenaries plan to kill them anyway. Dwight suddenly activates a grenade he had placed in Jackie Boy’s Head, completely destroying it and any evidence that could have been taken to the cops. The other prostitutes of Old Town then reveal themselves on the roof tops surrounding the alley and gun down the mercenaries. Amidst the gunfire, an injured Becky escapes while Dwight and Gail kiss passionately.

An injured Becky departs from a hospital, talking on a cell phone with her mother. While riding in the elevator, she is met by the Salesman, who offers her a cigarette. Realizing who he is, and knowing he is there to deal with her, she tells her mother she loves her and hangs up.

REVIEW:

When this film came out, it was a breath of fresh air. Years later, it still is. In an industry where everything is copied in one way or another, no one has tried to copy this style. I know what you’re about to say, “What about The Spirit?” Well, that’s from the same director, so of course it’s going to have the same look and feel.

The film is split into 4 different, independent stories. Each one totally different from the other, but they do cross at some points, such as Merv watching Nancy dance while Dwight is in the same establishment.

The cast and writing are outstanding. I particularly like the Old Town sections of the film.

If there is a part that I could do without, it would have to be the very beginning of the film with the hit man and the lady in red. It just seemed totally random, and aside from his appearing at the very end, you wonder why it was even in there.

This is a very entertaining, well made, masterpiece of a film. This is what you should expect when you see a movie! I fully recommend it.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film begins with a flashback set to the first film, with Gandalf battling the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, but this time continues from Gandalf’s perspective, with the scene continuing to follow both as they hurtle down below, fighting while in free-fall. Frodo awakens from his dream and continues his journey with his trusted and loyal friend, Sam. They are then attacked by the ring-possessed Gollum wishing to retrieve “his precious” from the ones he thinks stole it from him. The Hobbits subdue and bind him with Sam’s Elven rope given to him by the Elven elder Galadriel in Lórien. Sam distrusts Gollum and wishes to abandon him, but Frodo understands the burden of the creature and takes pity on him. Realizing they are lost in the Emyn Muil and in need of a guide, Frodo persuades Gollum to lead them to the Black Gate of Mordor.

In Rohan, the pack of Uruk-hai run across the grassy landscape with their captives Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are in pursuit, following three days of running, Legolas surmises the Hobbits are being taken to Isengard. In the kingdom of Rohan, home of the horse lords, King Théoden is mentally and physically weak due to the enchantments of his steward, Gríma Wormtongue, who is secretly in the service of Saruman. Orcs freely roam the land and kill the people including the king’s only son Théodred. Théoden’s nephew Éomer interrogates Gríma, angrily realizing he has lustful eyes for Éomer’s sister Éowyn and that he is now an agent of Saruman. Gríma banishes Éomer for undermining his authority and Éomer sets forth to gather the remaining loyal men of the Rohirrim throughout the land.

Frodo and Sam traverse the Dead Marshes, passing the fallen warriors of the Second Age. They hide in a bush from a newly seated Ringwraith on his flying fell beast. Later they reach the Black Gate, finding it to be heavily guarded, only to have Gollum reveal to them a less risky path. Meanwhile, Éomer and his Rohirrim ambush and kill all of the Orcs and Uruk-hai at nightfall. During the battle, Merry and Pippin narrowly escape their captors by fleeing into the trees where they are aided by Treebeard the oldest of the >Ents. Éomer later encounters Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli and in turn tells Aragorn there were no survivors of the Orc/Uruk-hai slaughter. Upon arriving at the battle site, Aragorn uses his tracking skills and finds hobbit tracks that lead into nearby Fangorn forest. The three discover a wizard who is ultimately Gandalf reborn, now known as Gandalf the White. The quartet proceed to travel to Edoras, where they exorcise Saruman’s hold on King Théoden and banish Wormtongue. Théoden is confronted with his dead son and rather than risk open war, decides to flee to a large fortification which in times of trouble has saved the people of Rohan called Helm’s Deep. Gandalf leaves to find Éomer and his Rohirrim, promising to return within five days, as a strong attraction draws Éowyn to Aragorn during the journey to Helm’s Deep. Wormtongue flees to Orthanc and tells Saruman of Rohan breaking from their grip; Saruman then decides to destroy Rohan.

In Ithilien, Gollum battles his split personality in an attempt to befriend Frodo and Sam and ultimately banishes his “evil” half. The two hobbits are witness to an ambush of Southrons but are taken captive by soldiers of Gondor. Meanwhile, along the journey to Helm’s Deep, the travelers are attacked by Saruman’s Wargs. During the battle, Aragorn is dragged by a Warg and falls off a cliff into a raging river as the grief-stricken survivors reluctantly move on to Helm’s Deep. In Rivendell, Elrond knows that the age of Elves is ending and convinces Arwen that it is hopeless to stay and should leave for the Grey Havens. Elsewhere, Frodo and Sam are taken to Henneth Annûn and brought before Faramir, the younger brother of Boromir. Gollum eluded capture and in order to save his life, is lured into a trap unknowingly by Frodo. Faramir learns of the One Ring and to prove his worth to his father, decides the Ring shall go to Gondor. In Rohan, Aragorn washes up on the river’s edge and is nudged back to consciousness by his horse, Brego. Battered but undaunted, he rides to Helm’s Deep, passing Saruman’s army of Uruk-hai; at least 10,000 strong. His arrival is met with relief but is short lived with the news of only 300 men in the stronghold. In the midst of despair, a battalion of Elves from Lórien, led by the Elf Haldir, arrives to assist in the ensuing battle. At Fangorn forest, Merry, Pippin, Treebeard and other Ents hold a Council to decide on the roles of the Ents in the war with Saruman.

In the pouring rain, the battle of Helm’s Deep begins with a flurry of arrows from both human and Elven archers cutting down dozens of Uruk-hai. Scaling ladders are placed upon the Deeping Wall, and the Uruks swarm up to engage the defenders. The defenses are slowly being breached and the enemy manages to destroy the wall through its sewer drain, using a rudimentary explosive device created by Saruman. Despite Aragorn and Gimli’s best efforts, the Uruk-hai manage to penetrate the main door and soon the stronghold is overrun. In the midst of battle, Haldir is slain and the few remaining Elves fall back into the Keep. In the Hornburg, however, the Uruks have also scaled the walls, and have breached the gate, forcing the defenders to retreat into the Keep. In Fangorn, Treebeard and the other Ents have decided to not have any involvement in the war. Frustrated, Pippin cleverly takes him to the section of Fangorn Forest Saruman has decimated near Isengard. Treebeard is filled with rage at Saruman’s betrayal and commands all other Ents to seek vengeance. The Ents gather and embark upon ‘the Last March of the Ents’.

Meanwhile, as the Keep is now under attack and realizing Gandalf’s words before he departed, Aragorn and the rest make one last gallant ride on horseback to attack the Uruk-hai army, in a desperate bid to allow the Rohirrim’s women and children to escape. As all hope seemed lost, Gandalf, Éomer, and two thousand Riders of the Rohirrim arrive to push back the Uruk-hai into Fangorn Forest, where the Ents and their Huorn allies are waiting to deal out death and destruction in revenge. Elsewhere, the Ents also attack Isengard, tossing stone and rock while collapsing a dam to flood its surroundings. At the ruins of Osgiliath, Faramir and the Hobbits are confronted by a Ringwraith and its fellbeast. With the help of Sam, Frodo narrowly escapes the beast’s capture. Sam narrates how the story must go on and how they should keep pressing forward as Faramir decides to free them to finish their quest. Gandalf and the others now know a full war is inevitable (as Sauron will surely seek retribution for the defeat of Saruman) and hope rests with Frodo and Sam, who have resumed their journey to Mordor with Gollum. Accompanying them once again and having felt betrayed after his subsequent mistreatment by Faramir’s men, Gollum’s darker nature returns and decides to reclaim the ring by leading Frodo and Sam to “her.”

REVIEW:

Again, I have to say I don’t care for these long films, but this is another pretty good example of excellent film making.

Usually the second entry in a trilogy tends to be the best, but for me, this broke that tradition. As a matter of fact, this may be the most boring of the trilogy. If not for the Ents and the Gollum, this would have been just another movie with some fighting in it. They really make the movie.

Oh, and I can’t forget the contest between Gimli and Legolas. It brings in some comic relief (much needed).

At the time of this film’s release, people were still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, even though it had been  a year, so a title involving the two towers was bound to bring up some controversy. However, surprisingly, it didn’t.

The acting in this film is excellent, but no one really stands out in their role. To me, they seem like they were just going though the motions.

This is a good film and worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of the books or watching the entire series, but in my opinion its not the best. Every series has to have a weak link, though, right?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The foreword, spoken by Galadriel, shows the Dark Lord Sauron forging the One Ring in order to conquer the lands of Middle-earth. A Last Alliance of Elves and Men is formed to counter Sauron’s forces at the foot of Mount Doom, but Sauron kills Elendil, the High King of Men. His son, Prince Isildur grabs Elendil’s broken sword Narsil, and slashes at Sauron’s hand, separating him from the Ring and vanquishing his army. However, because Sauron’s “life force” is bound to the Ring, he is not completely defeated until the Ring itself is destroyed. Isildur takes the Ring and succumbs to its temptation, refusing to destroy it. He is later ambushed and killed by orcs, and the Ring is lost in a river. The Ring is found by the creature Gollum thousands of years later, who takes it underground for five centuries, giving him “unnaturally long life.” Since the Ring is bound to Sauron, it has a will of its own and wantsto be found. Therefore, the Ring consciously leaves Gollumin its quest to be reunited with Sauron. However, it is instead found by the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, much to the despair of Gollum. Bilbo returns to his home in the Shire with the Ring, and the story jumps forward in time sixty years.

At his 111th(“eleventy-first”) birthday, Bilbo leaves the Ring to his nephew and adopted heir Frodo Baggins. The Wizard Gandalf soon learns it is the One Ring, and that Sauron seeks to retake it. Taking no chances, Gandalf tells Frodoto leave the Shire withthe Ring and sends him to Bree withSam, with plans to meet him there after Gandalf goes to Isengard to meet the head of his order, Saruman. Saruman reveals that the Nazgûl, or Ringwraiths, have left Mordor to capture the Ring and kill whoever carries it; having already turned to Sauron’s cause, he then imprisons Gandalf atop Orthanc. Gandalf is then forced to watch as Saruman orders his orcs to build weapons of war and create an elite Orc army called the Uruk-hai.

While travelling to Bree, Frodo and Sam are soon joined by fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin. After encountering a Ringwraith on the road, they manage to reach Bree, and there they meet a Man called Strider, who agrees to lead them to Rivendell. They agree only because Strider already knows about the Nazgûl and that Gandalf isn’t there to guide them. After some travelling, they spend the night on the hill of Weathertop, where they are attacked by the Nazgûl at night. Strider fights off the Ringwraiths, but Frodois grievously wounded with a morgul blade, and they must quickly get him to Rivendell for healing. While chased by the Nazgûl, Frodo is taken by the elf Arwen to the Elven haven of Rivendell, and healed by her father, Elrond.

In Rivendell Frodo meets Gandalf, who explains why he didn’t meet them at Bree as planned (he had escaped Orthanc with the help of an eagle). In the meantime, there are many meetings between various peoples, and Elrondcalls a council to decide what should be done with the Ring. The Ring can only be destroyed by throwing it into the fires (that is, lava) of Mount Doom, where it was forged. Mount Doom is located in Mordor, near Sauron’s fortress of Barad-dûr, and will be an incredibly dangerous journey. Frodo volunteers to take the Ring to Mount Doom as all the others argue about who should or shouldn’t take it. He is accompanied by his hobbit friends and Gandalf, as well as Strider, who is revealed to be Aragorn, the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor. Also travelling with them are the Elf Legolas, the Dwarf Gimli and Boromir, the son of the Steward of Gondor. Together they comprise the Fellowship of the Ring. The Fellowship set out and try to pass the mountain Caradhras, but they are stopped by Saruman’s wizardry. At Gimli’s insistence, they decide to seek safety and travel under the mountain through the Mines of Moria. They discover that an attempt by Gimli’s cousin Balin to colonize it has failed. They are attacked by Orcs and a Troll, and encounter a Balrog, an ancient demon of fire and shadow, at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. Gandalf confronts the Balrogon the bridge, allowing the others to escape the subterranean realm, while he falls with the creature into the abyss below.

The group flees to the Elven realm of Lothlórien, where they are sheltered by its rulers, Galadriel and her husband Celeborn. While resting, Boromir tells Aragorn about the troubles afflicting the land of Gondor and the people’s desire to see a strong King rescue it from destruction. Frodo meets Galadriel, who tells him that it’s his destiny to handle the Ring and ultimately destroy it. Before they leave, Galadriel gives Frodo the Phial of Galadriel, and the other members also receive gifts from them. Taking the straight path to Mordor, they travel on the River Anduin towards Parth Galen. After landing at Parth Galen, Boromir tries to take the Ring from Frodo, believing that it is the only way to save his realm. Frodo manages to escape by putting the Ring on his finger and vanishing. Aragorn encounters Frodo, but unlike Boromir, Aragorn chooses not to take the Ring. Knowing that the Ring’s temptation will be too strong for the Fellowship, Frodo decides to leave them and go to Mordor alone. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fellowship are attacked by Uruk-hai, who Saruman had ordered to hunt down the Fellowship and take back the Ring. Merry and Pippin, realizing that Frodo is leaving, distract the orcs allowing Frodo to escape. Boromir rushes to the aid of the two hobbits but is mortally wounded by the orc commander Lurtz, Boromir regrets having attempted to steal the Ring and then dies. Merry and Pippin are captured prompting Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas to begin their pursuit of the orcs with the intent of rescuing the hobbits, leaving Frodo to his fate. Before Frodo departs Sam decides to join him and together they head off to Mordor.

REVIEW:

I’m always a little skeptical when a film based on a book is made. You never know what is going to get taken out and/or put in. This film was a welcome surprise. The Lord of the Rings has long been one of most anxiously awaited novels to make it to the big screen, and judging by the first film in the trilogy, it was well worth the wait.

The scenery is done in such a way that you believe you are in Middle-Earth.

The special effects are nothing short of spectacular.

The Hobbits may be annoying little creatures, but Jackson’s depiction of them makes you feel for them, especially Frodo(part of that has to do with the source material, though).

Ian McKellan is geniusly cast as Gandalf. At the same time he was filming this, he was either just finishing up one of the X-Men films or about to start it. It just goes to show what a consummate professional talent he is.

I can’t recall Christopher Lee playing anything else other than villains in any film I’ve seen him in, but if he can keep playing these remorseless characters, then more power to him. Not everyone can be the big hero, someone has to be the villain.

Liv Tyler is beautifully radiant in her role as Arwen, and the  husky, breathy voice she uses can make a man squirm.

Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom are niceeye candy for the ladies with Mortensen giving a strong performance as one of the major heroes of the film that will play a big part down the line.

I am not a fan of movies that go over about 2 1/2 hours, and this is no exception. However, it is a very well put together film and adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic work. Peter Jackson did an excellent job, such a shame his next film was an unnecessary remake of King Kong. If you have the time, then I suggest you give this a shot.

4 out of 5 stars