Archive for Gerard Butler

London Has Fallen

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert):

Western intelligence services of the G8 track down Pakistani arms dealer Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul) as the mastermind behind several terrorist attacks, and authorize an American drone strike on Barkawi’s compound, apparently killing Barkawi and his family.

Two years later, UK Prime Minister James Wilson suddenly dies, and arrangements are made for the Western world leaders to attend his funeral in London. Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) assigns agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a close friend of US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), to lead Asher’s security detail while overseas, even though Banning’s wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) is due to give birth to their child in a few weeks. The entourage arrives via Air Force One at Stansted Airport, and Banning pushes their arrival at the Somerset House in London via Marine One earlier. As Asher’s Presidential State Car arrives at St Paul’s Cathedral, a series of coordinated attacks by terrorists disguised as London Metropolitan Police, the Queen’s Guardsmen, and other first responders erupts, killing the other Western leaders, damaging or destroying major landmarks and generating mass panic. Asher’s early arrival has thrown the attack on him at St. Paul’s off-guard, and Banning is able to rescue Asher and Jacobs and rushes them back to Marine One. As the helicopter and its escorts takes off, terrorists fire Stinger missiles at them, destroying the escorts and forcing the damaged helicopter to crash-land in Hyde Park. Banning and Asher suffer only minor wounds, but Jacobs is fatally injured, and she makes Banning promise to get back at whomever did this. Banning quickly escorts Asher into the London Underground as the city’s power is lost and people take shelter in their homes.

In Washington D.C., US Vice President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) works with the British authorities to investigate the incident while trying to track down the President. Trumbull receives a call from Barkawi, still alive after all and operating out of Yemen. The man takes responsibility for the attacks, coordinated by his son Kamran (Waleed Zuaiter). Barkawi purposely had Wilson poisoned to lure the Western leaders to London to attack them. Barkawi knows Asher is still alive, and promises that if Kamran captures him, he will broadcast the execution of the President on the Internet. Trumbull orders his intelligence staff to local Barkawi’s known operatives to find any connection to the attack, while British authorities have all first responders stand down, so than any left in the open can be identified as terrorists.

After leaving a sign to be picked up by satellite tracking, Banning leads Asher to a MI6 safehouse, where Jacqueline “Jax” Marshall (Charlotte Riley) briefs them on what their intelligence has learned. Marshall receives a coded message from Trumbull that confirms they saw Banning’s sign and that an extraction team is en route. Security monitors show the approach of a Delta Force team, but Banning suspects they have arrived far too soon and may be more terrorists. He covers and fights off the terrorists as Marshall drives Asher away but their car is struck by another vehicle driven by terrorists, allowing Kamran to capture Asher. Banning and Marshall are rescued by the extraction team, a combined Delta Force/SAS squad.

Trumbull’s staff have identified a building in London owned by one of Barkawi’s companies, which still appears to be drawing power, and suspect that is Kamran’s headquarters. Banning joins the extraction team to infiltrate the building and stop Kamran before he can kill Asher. Banning and Asher escape just before the building is destroyed by the Delta Force/SAS squad, killing Kamran and the remaining terrorists. Marshall has worked with British authorities to restore London’s security system, and discovering that MI5 Intelligence Chief John Lancaster (Patrick Kennedy) aided in Barkawi’s attack, she kills him. Meanwhile, Trumbull contacts Barkawi to tell them his planned failed, and then to look outside, moments before his building is attacked by another drone strike, killing him.

Two weeks after the attack on London, Banning is home spending time with Leah and their newborn child, named Lynne after his deceased boss. He sits in front of his laptop and contemplates sending his letter of resignation. On TV, Trumbull speaks regarding the recent events, leaving an inspiring message that the US will prevail. This convinces Banning to delete the letter.

REVIEW:

We live in a world where everytime there is a whisper of a terror plot, security goes on high alert and our elected officials are whisked away to a safe bunker. Not really sure what makes them so much more special than us common folks, but whatever. London Has Fallen takes the situation is something were to happen, though I don’t think anyone would care if something happen to our current president, and runs with it.

What is this about?

After the British Prime Minister has passed away under mysterious circumstances, all leaders of the Western world must attend his funeral. But what starts out as the most protected event on earth, turns into a deadly plot to kill the world’s most powerful leaders and unleash a terrifying vision of the future. The President of the United States, his formidable secret service head and a British MI-6 agent who trusts no one are the only people who have any hope of stopping it.

What did I like?

Raise the stakes. In Olympus Has Fallen, the stakes were limited to keeping the president alive while the White House was under siege. As quickly as this film was released after that one, I was thinking this would be nothing more than the same film, just moved to London. Instead, it turns out that there is an intricate plot to take out all the world leaders and murder the president live over the internet. Much higher stakes than its predecessor!

Not just propaganda. On the surface, this film could come off as US propaganda, but as you watch the film, it becomes clear that they are not just glamorizing the military and making the US seem like the perfect country. As a matter of fact, there is a conversation that Gerard Butler has with one of the hitmen where he says something along the lines of “we may not be as united as we should be, but you can’t f— with us!”

Proper ethnicity. Hollywood has long had a problem with casting people in the correct ethnicity. They either whitewash them, as in Cleopatra, or randomly change the race of a character for no reason, see Fantastic Four (2015). In the era we currently live in, the go-to villainous race, for lack of a better term, happen to be those from the middle-east. The casting directors appeared to actually get actors from that part of the world. Kudos for authenticity!

What didn’t I like?

Cut and paste. As I said earlier, there seemed to be a rush to get this film into production. As such, the script was rushed, causing some creative things to fall by the wayside. While I praise the higher stakes we get with this flick, I couldn’t help but notice that once again Aaron Eckhart’s president character was the proverbial damsel in distress, Radha Mitchell was basically just a cameo, and Gerard Butler was basically playing a live-action first-person shooter. Surely, we deserve to see something better!

R/F switch. Make no mistake, this is a much more violent film than the first. With that said, I can’t help but wonder if all the F-bombs that were dropped were done just to get an R-rating. Not that there is anything wrong with all the cursing, especially in this situation, it was just noticeable for some reason.

You’re my friend, sir. If I recall, Butler and Eckart’s characters are supposed to be friends. So, why is he calling him sir so much? I get there is a protocol when it comes to working with the president, but it just feels as if there should have been some more casual exchanges between the two old friends.

Final verdict on London Has Fallen? This is a good action film. The director obviously knew hat he was doing there. However, the rest of the picture falls short of expectations as the first film was surprise hit with critics. That said, there’s a decent enough plot here to keep you interested between exploding vehicles and military-esque shootouts. Do I recommend this? I really don’t see a reason to watch. If you’re a Gerard Butler fan, you can see him in an actual video game in his film Gamer. As for everyone else, it would be better to keep the memory of the first film and forget this one exists.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Gods of Egypt

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In an alternate version of Egypt, the world is flat and gods live among humans. The Egyptian gods are distinguished from humans by their greater height, golden blood, and ability to transform into their animal-headed deity forms.

Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a thief with little faith in gods and their goodwill towards humans, with his love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) are attending the coronation of Horus: God of the Air (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Horus is shown getting ready for his coronation as his love Hathor (Élodie Yung) surprises him. Horus hints at marriage and they discuss Hathor’s protection bracelet made of the stars which Horus gave to her to protect and save her from her previous role as a guide to dead souls in the underworld. During the ceremony, Osiris (Bryan Brown) is killed by his extremely jealous brother Set: God of the Desert (Gerard Butler) who seizes the throne and declares a new regime where the dead will have to pay with riches to pass into the afterlife. Horus is stripped of his eyes which are the source of his power and almost killed. Hathor pleads with Set in surrender to spare him and he is instead exiled. Hathor becomes an enslaved mistress to Set.

A year later, Bek has been working as a slave building monuments while Zaya is now under the ownership of the chief architect Urshu (Rufus Sewell). Believing that Horus is the only one who can defeat Set, she gives Bek the floorplans to Set’s treasure vault. Bek is able to steal back one of Horus’ eyes. However, Urshu finds out about their theft and kills Zaya as the couple flee. Bek takes her body to the blind Horus and makes a bargain: Horus agrees to bringing Zaya back from the dead for his eye and Bek’s knowledge about Set’s pyramid.

Later, they are traveling to Ra’s divine vessel above the Earth. Horus is unable to convince Ra (Geoffrey Rush) to regrant him his power in full or to intervene and defeat Set himself as Ra is both neutral about their conflict and daily at war with an enormous shadow beast Apophis, that threatens to devour the world. Nevertheless, Horus obtains divine waters from Ra’s vessel which can be used at Set’s pyramid to extinguish the desert thirst and weaken him gravely. Ra tells Horus that his weakness is the result of him not fulfilling his destiny, which Horus believes means avenging his parents’ deaths.

Set asks Hathor to take him to the underworld which he next desires to conquer, but she refuses and manages to escape. Eventually, Hathor finds Bek and Horus. Horus at first doesn’t trust her as she is a mistress of Set, who had blinded him, while she tries to convince him that Set is her enemy as well. When they tell her of their plan regarding Set’s pyramid, she warns them of a guardian sphinx who will kill anyone not wise enough to solve a riddle. The group then heads to the library of Thoth: God of Wisdom (Chadwick Boseman), recruiting him to solve the riddle.

Arriving at Set’s shrine, they overcome its traps, including the sphinx (Kenneth Ransom), to reach the source of Set’s power. But before they can pour the divine water in, Set traps them and reveals Horus’s deception to Bek: that he is unable to bring Zaya back from the dead. Set destroys their flask of divine water and kills Thoth by taking his brain. Horus is able to save Hathor and Bek.

Horus admits before the enraged Bek to caring more about his revenge than the mortals. Hathor feels guilt for not exposing the deception and as the Goddess of Love helps the doomed lovers. She sacrifices her own safety for Zaya’s payment into the afterlife by giving Bek the protective bracelet which stops the underworld souls from overwhelming her and calling Anubis (Goran D. Kleut) to take him to Zaya. Therefore, she lets herself be dragged to the underworld while Horus realizes that he still loves her.

Having obtained Thoth’s brain, Osiris’s heart, one of Horus’s eyes, and wings from Nephthys (Emma Booth), Set has them combined with himself. Set travels to Ra, appealing to his father for approval and asking why Osiris was favored, while he was denied leadership and children. Ra claims that all of Set’s prior mistreatments were tests preparing Set for his true role: the honor and burden of taking Ra’s place as the defender of the world aboard his solar barge, fighting against the demon Apophis. Set is dismayed to hear his destiny is to be alone above the planet until he dies and refuses. He wants to destroy the afterlife so that he can be immortal. Ra tries to fight him, but cannot as Set has taken the powers of other gods. He then stabs Ra, taking his fiery spear of power, and casts him off the boat freeing Apophis to consume both the mortal and underword realms.

Bek finds Zaya, who refuses Hathor’s gift as she doesn’t want an afterlife without Bek, but then Apophis attacks and the gate to the afterlife is closed. Bek returns to the mortal world, where Horus is amazed that Bek still wants to help take down Set. Bek tells him it was Zaya who told him to, as she still has faith in Horus.

Horus climbs up the outer wall of an obelisk Set is standing on and attempts to battle him, but is heavily outmatched. Bek ascends on the inside and joins the battle, removing Horus’s stolen eye from Set’s armor, being wounded in the process. As Bek slides toward the edge of the obelisk, he throws the eye toward Horus, who must choose to catch it or save Bek instead. Horus reaches for Bek and apologizes for all he has put him through. As they plummet toward the ground, Horus finds that he now has the power to transform into his divine form and he catches Bek and flies him to safety. Horus realizes that it wasn’t the recovery of his eye nor revenge that was his destiny, it was the protection of his people that he needed to fight for. Now, Horus has the strength for battling Set, and he gains the obelisk and kills him. After the battle and Set’s death, he then finds Ra wounded and floating in space, and returns his spear to him, allowing Ra to once again repel Apophis.

As Horus returns to Bek, a child holds out his other eye which she has found, while people cheer him. But Horus’s joy turns to sadness as he arrives to find Bek dying. Horus carries him to Osiris’s tomb and lays him beside Zaya. Ra, his grandfather, arrives and offers to bestow any power on him to repay Horus for his life and Egypt’s survival. All Horus wants is bringing Bek and Zaya back to life. The other gods are also revived and have their attributes restored. Horus is crowned king by Thoth and declares the afterlife will be for those who do good in the world. Bek is made chief advisor, and he gives Horus back Hathor’s bracelet letting Horus leave to rescue her from the underworld.

REVIEW:

There are plenty of movies and TV shows dealing with the Greek/Roman gods, as well as the legends of Norse mythology, but we don’t get much from ancient Egypt. This is where Gods of Egypt comes in. A film that will hopefully not be an insult to the proud and storied culture of the Egyptians.

What is this about?

In this epic tale inspired by Egyptian mythology, Horus, the god of the sun, vows to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Set, the god of darkness. As Horus joins forces with the goddess of love and a mortal thief, a mighty battle takes shape.

What did I like?

Take a look. Regardless of what I may or may ultimately think of this film, I must say that it is a feast for the eyes. I will never be a fan of CG, but the way it is used, especially in the fight scenes and Ra’s boat, one would almost start singing the praises of the medium. The shiny metal armor may not be everyone’s thing, but given that this isn’t our ancient Egypt, but rather an alternate one, I can accept it.

Creative direction. Speaking of that armor, that was just one of the ways this film strays from what we know as the source material. I am not well versed in Egyptian mythology, but I do know the basics and, for the most part, the characterizations were kept close. However, liberties were taken with characters such as Thoth. We didn’t see a giant bird, but instead, we get a rather flamboyant and egotistical Chadwick Boseman (thank goodness he’s using a better accent for Black Panther)

Buddy. There is something to be said about a good buddy movie. This isn’t one of them. With that said, I did appreciate the attempt at camaraderie between Horus and Bek. The attempts at humor weren’t the greatest, but at least it broke up the monotony of a film that needed something to keep the audience invested. Watching their relationship grow was worth it.

What didn’t I like?

Color me something. What is with casting directors and making movies about Africa or that region over there. Is there just an ingrained stupidity that makes them think everyone was white? Oh, but the slaves, extras, servants, etc were the first ones to be cast as people of color. Excluding Chadwick Boseman’s character, who could be seen as a bit of an offense, as well, there are no people of color in lead/speaking roles for a film based on ancient Egypt. Why is that? Not too long ago, we got Exodus: Gods and Kings, which had a similar casting problem. Was nothing learned?!? Back in the day, it was custom for white actors and actresses to play other races, but look at the times and racial atmosphere back then. Even with the racial strife and tension we have today, it isn’t that bad and we should  get more accurate casting when it comes to things like this. I guess there is one bastion to go along with my slight tirade. The forthcoming Black Panther movie, coincidentally starring Boseman, is set in a fictional country in Africa and has yet to cast anyone not of color. So, maybe they’re starting to learn.

Blood brother. Let me stay on color for a bit longer. The opening narration mentions that the gods have this golden blood, yet we don’t see it until the very end when Gerard Butler is crawling away. As I was looking at it, I couldn’t help but think, it that was some kind of real golden blood, it wouldn’t look like the coloring was just put into it. Come on people, you need to put more work into the little things!

Riddle me this. When I was growing up, there was a Saturday morning cartoon called Kidd Video. Some of you may recall it. If not, type it into youtube and watch how trippy the 80s were for animation. Anyway, one of the episodes I remember best was when the Sphinx appeared and the group had to answer a riddle. What does this have to do with anything? Well, even on another world, the Sphinx still had its trademark look. Not so much the case here. As I mentioned before, liberties were taken with design and whatnot, but some things should just be left alone, like the Sphinx!

Final verdict on Gods of Egypt? This is a film that is not going to win any fans. It doesn’t have the star power (sorry Gerard Butler) to put people in the seats, the story isn’t that strong, and everything else about it is just average, at best. That being said, I still had fun watching and couldn’t turn away. This isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a good film either. I’m having a hard time deciding whether to recommend it or not. I guess if you want to see what a live action SilverHawks flick would look like, then yes, I recommend it.

3 out of 5 stars

Revisited: 300

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

One year after the famed Battle of Thermopylae, Dilios, a hoplite in the Spartan Army, begins his story by depicting the life of Leonidas I from childhood to kingship via Spartan doctrine. Dilios’s story continues and Persian messengers arrive at the gates of Sparta demanding “earth and water” as a token of submission to King Xerxes; the Spartans reply by killing and kicking the messengers into a well. Leonidas then visits the Ephors, proposing a strategy to drive back the numerically superior Persians through the Hot Gates; his plan involves building a wall in order to funnel the Persians into a narrow pass between the rocks and the sea. The Ephors consult the Oracle, who decrees that Sparta will not go to war during the Carneia. As Leonidas angrily departs, a messenger from Xerxes appears, rewarding them for their covert support.

Although the Ephors have denied him permission to mobilize Sparta’s army, Leonidas gathers three hundred of his best soldiers in the guise of his personal bodyguard; they are joined along the way by Arcadians. At Thermopylae, they construct the wall made up of stones and slain Persian scouts as mortar, angering the Persian Emissary. Stelios, an elite Spartan soldier, orders him to go back to the Persian lines and warn Xerxes after cutting off his whipping arm. Meanwhile, Leonidas encounters Ephialtes, a deformed Spartan whose parents fled Sparta to spare him certain infanticide. Ephialtes asks to redeem his father’s name by joining Leonidas’ army, warning him of a secret (goat) path the Persians could use to outflank and surround the Spartans. Though sympathetic, Leonidas rejects him since his deformity physically prevents him from properly holding his shield; this could compromise the phalanx formation. Ephialtes is enraged.

The battle begins soon after the Spartans’ refusal to lay down their weapons. Using the Hot Gates to their advantage, plus their superior fighting skills, the Spartans repel wave upon wave of the advancing Persian army. During a lull in the battle, Xerxes personally approaches Leonidas to persuade him to surrender, offering him wealth and power in exchange for his allegiance; Leonidas declines and mocks Xerxes for the inferior quality of his fanatical warriors. In response, Xerxes sends in his elite guard, the Immortals later that night. Despite some Spartans being killed, they heroically defeat the Immortals (with slight help from the Arcadians). On the second day, Xerxes sends in new waves of armies from Asia and other Persian city-states, including war elephants, to crush the Spartans once and for all, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Ephialtes defects to Xerxes to whom he reveals the secret path in exchange for wealth, luxury, and (especially) a uniform. The Arcadians retreat upon learning of Ephialtes’ betrayal, but the Spartans stay. Leonidas orders an injured but reluctant Dilios to return to Sparta and tell them of what has happened, a “tale of victory”.

In Sparta, Queen Gorgo is persuaded by the Spartan Council to send reinforcements to aid the 300. Theron, a corrupt politician, claims that he “owns” the Council and threatens the Queen, who reluctantly submits to his sexual demands in return for his help. When Theron disgraces her in front of the Council, Gorgo kills him out of rage, revealing within his robe a bag of Xerxes’ gold. Marking his betrayal, the Council unanimously agrees to send reinforcements. On the third day, the Persians, led by Ephialtes, traverse the secret path, encircling the Spartans. Xerxes’ general again demands their surrender. Leonidas seemingly kneels in submission, allowing Stelios to leap over him and kill the general. A furious Xerxes orders his troops to attack. Leonidas rises and throws his spear at Xerxes; barely missing him, the spear cuts across and wounds his face, proving the God-King’s mortality. Leonidas and the remaining Spartans fight to the last man until they finally succumb to an arrow barrage.

Dilios, now back at Sparta, concludes his tale before the Council. Inspired by their King’s sacrifice, the Persians will now face a larger Greek army 40,000 strong, led by 10,000 Spartans. After one final speech commemorating the 300, Dilios, now head of the Spartan Army, leads them into battle against the Persians across the fields of Plataea, ending the film.

REVIEW:

Sword and sandal epics are a dime a dozen, especially if you go back to the mid-late 60s or so. Those things came out like every weekend. In order to stand out in a genre that is clouded with masterpieces, flops, and mediocrity, something innovative must be done. Does 300 do this? I don’t know about all that, but one thing is for certain, it does have a unique look.

What is this about?

In a conflict pitting the ancient Greeks against the Persians in 480 B.C., Spartan King Leonidas leads his small band of 300 soldiers against an army of more than 1 million during the Battle of Thermopylae.

What did I like?

Elegant in its simplicity. Please don’t go into this film with any kind of expectations for an epic story, because it is just not there. While it is based on actual events from history, the true source material for this film is a comic book that took liberties with those facts. Does that make this a bad film? No, for someone like me, taking out all the drama and exposition in favor of action was a brilliant decision. Others may feel the opposite, so it is a matter of personal opinion.

Distinctive look. Despite your stance on the plot, you cannot deny that this flick has a distinctive look. Well, it did at the time it was released. Now it has been copied to death, much like the bullet time effect from The Matrix. What do I think of the look? Well, the fact that is not in full color, but rather some sepia tones and red is an interesting choice. Given the graphic nature of this film, though, it works very well, not to mention puts you in the mindset of watching the comic on screen.

The Butler. Gerard Butler is an actor that perplexes me. In all the action films I’ve seen him in, he seems to be a perfect fit (this includes the much reviled Gamer). However, I think this was the last action film he did before he went to rom-coms. I’m not saying the guy shouldn’t branch out, but every one of those films just felt like he was itching to do something more. Eventually he did get back into action with one of those movies about the White House being taken over that came out last year or the year before. I forgot which one he was in. At any rate, Butler as King Leonidas deliver a performance that is, well worthy of a king. He is eloquent and moving in his speech, showing that he is indeed a great actor, but also kicks ass in the fighting scenes.

What didn’t I like?

Queen. A king must have a queen. This is why we have Lena Headey. For her role, she does a decent job. I’ve never really been a fan of her, even today when I watch Game of Thrones, though. If I recall, she isn’t a major factor in the books, which means that some screenwriter beefed up her role to give us a strong female character. Ok, that would be fine, except for the fact that she in the only female character, save for some whores and concubines the Persians have. So, why do this? Just cast some random hot chick to fawn all over Butler as his doting queen and save the powerful women for the sequel. This is not a film aimed at women, at least in that way, so no real reason to attempt to give them someone to relate to, I’m sorry.

Sparta = Scotland. I don’t know what it is with me and accents, but I have to point this out. Gerard Butler uses his natural Scottish accent as the king of Sparta, a country in Greece. I could overlook that, except none of the other Spartans spoke with the same accent. I think Michael Fassbender’s character might have had his Irish come out, but I think he was doing his American, like everybody else. The Spartans weren’t the only one with accent issues. Over on the Persian side, Xerxes has a vaguely Hispanic accent, while the other are a gumbo of everything from British to ebonics. If nothing else, you major characters should agree on the dialect, right?

Darkness falls. This is a dark film. Not because of the subject matter, but because of the lighting…or lack thereof. Throw in the way they decided to use color and it makes it very hard to know what is going on. I can imagine that this looked even worse sitting in theaters with 3D glasses on. Should the darkness be taken away? No, this is a war film, after all, but I do think turning the brightness up a hair would help.

Much has been said about 300 since its release. Some good and some bad. I find that you either love or hate this movie. What side am I on? I love it! The action, the sword and sandal epicness, the blood…all come together to make a fun watch. Is this a film for everyone? No, not by a longshot, but for the audience that this appeals to, we will all love and enjoy it. Give it a shot and see which side you fall on!

4 out of 5 stars

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Five years after the Viking village of Berk has made peace with the dragons, dragons now live amongst the villagers as working animals and companions, and even take part in racing sports. Hiccup goes on adventures with his dragon, Toothless, as they discover and map unexplored lands and territories. Having come of age, he is being pressed by his father, Stoick the Vast, to succeed him as chieftain, although Hiccup remains unsure if he is ready for this responsibility.

While investigating a wildfire, Hiccup and Astrid discover the remains of a fort encased in a colossal green ice formation and encounter a dragon trapper named Eret, who blames them for the destruction of his fort and attempts to capture their dragons for an insane conqueror called Drago Bludvist. The two riders return to Berk to warn Stoick about the dragon army that Drago is amassing, and Stoick orders the villagers to fortify the island and prepare for battle. Stoick explains that he once met Drago and found him to be an unreasonable madman, but Hiccup refuses to believe that war is inevitable. Hiccup flies off with Astrid and they surrender themselves and their dragons to Eret so as to be taken to Drago in order to reason with him.

They are captured by a dragon rider named Valka, who is revealed to be Hiccup’s long lost mother. She explains that she spent twenty years rescuing dragons from Drago’s traps and bringing them to an island haven created out of ice by a colossal Alpha dragon called a Bewilderbeast, to whom all dragons answer. Stoick tracks Hiccup to the island where he discovers that his wife is still alive. Simultaneously, Astrid and the other riders kidnap Eret to find Drago, but they are also captured and Drago learns of Berk’s dragons.

Drago and his army lay siege to Valka’s sanctuary, where he reveals that he has his own Bewilderbeast to challenge the Alpha. A titanic battle ensues between the two Bewilderbeasts in a fight for control over all dragons on the island. Drago’s Bewilderbeast emerges victorious by killing the Alpha and seizes control of all the dragons, including Toothless. Hiccup tries to persuade Drago to end the violence, but Drago orders him killed as well. Toothless, under the influence of the new Alpha, approaches Hiccup and fires a plasma blast. At the last instant, Stoick pushes Hiccup out of the way, and is hit instead, killing him instantly. Drago leaves Hiccup to his fate and, riding Toothless, leads his now larger army to destroy Berk. Stoick is given a ship burial and Hiccup, now filled with regret at the loss of his father and his dragon, decides that he will fly back to Berk to defend his people and live up to his father’s legacy.

The dragon riders and Eret ride baby dragons, which are immune to the Bewilderbeast’s control, and arrive at Berk after the Alpha had already attacked the village and taken control of the dragons there. Hiccup confronts Drago and a brainwashed Toothless while the other riders work to distract the Bewilderbeast. Drago again orders Toothless to kill Hiccup, but Hiccup succeeds in disenchanting Toothless. Drago then orders the Alpha to shoot the pair, and the Bewilderbeast successfully encases them in a large blast of ice, seemingly killing them. His victory is short-lived, as Toothless, now glowing with plasma, blasts away the ice, revealing that both he and Hiccup are unharmed. Toothless challenges the Alpha and repeatedly fires plasma blasts at the Bewilderbeast. This frees the other dragons from the Bewilderbeast’s control and all fire at it, severely injuring the colossal dragon until Toothless fires a final massive blast, breaking its left tusk.

Defeated, Drago and his Bewilderbeast retreat into the ocean as the villagers celebrate their victory. All the dragons acknowledge Toothless as the new Alpha dragon, and Hiccup is made chief of Berk by the village elder. The film ends with Berk being rebuilt with a statue of Stoick erected in his honor, and Hiccup doing his duties as chief, proudly declaring that while others may have armies and armadas, Berk has its own dragons.

REVIEW:

Honestly, I don’t recall much about the original How to Train Your Dragon. That is not because it was a bad film, but rather I haven’t had the chance to watch and refresh my memory about it. I do remember how fun and entertaining it was and saying to myself that it was a notch in the right direction for DreamWorks who was and is still struggling to beat Pixar (though that gap is shrinking). Does How to Train Your Dragon 2 stand up to its predecessor or suffer the same fate as so many sequels tend to do these days?

What is this about?

Five years have passed, and while everyone else is caught up in dragon races, Hiccup and Toothless explore the island and make a shocking discovery. Will the mysterious Dragon Rider be friend or enemy to the rest of the island?

What did I like?

Aged like fine wine. Taking place 5 years after the first film, one would expect that characters to look a bit older…if this were live action. However, when it comes to animation, rarely do we see characters age, unless it is a time jump of some sorts. Just think about how long Bart Simpson has been 10 years old! The animators were smart enough to age these characters, rather than leave then in their pre-adolescent bodies.

Species. With a bigger film, we get to meet more dragons. While none are specifically introduced, with the exception of the Bewilderbeast(s), there are obviously different species that what we saw in the first film. Now, it is possible that these were introduced in the Cartoon Network animated series, but I haven’t had the chance to catch that, yet. I do appreciate seeing that there are more species out there than just the few we already knew. It shows how vast the dragon kingdom is. On a side note, the Bewilderbeasts are quite impressive. Such a shame we didn’t get to see more of the battle between the two alphas.

Here kitty..er…dragon. How can you not like Toothless. I have to give credit to these animators and designers. Not only did they create an instantly recognizable face of the franchise, but he steals your heart straight away with his cat like mannerisms and playful demeanor. If dragons were around in our world, this would be the kind I’d want as a pet, and I’m sure that I am not the only one. However, when it comes time to defend Hiccup, Toothless doesn’t mess around, and that is something that I also appreciated, along with the discovery of new powers previously unbeknownst to both Toothless and Hiccup.

What didn’t I like?

Do something, mom. After a brilliant introduction of Hiccup’s mom, previously thought deceased, she silently falls into the background and becomes a, for lack of a better word, a mother. Cheering on and offering advice to her son is all she does after being reunited with her husband Stoick the Vast. Now, this would be all fine and dandy if she hadn’t been initially introduced as a total badass, feral warrior. I must wonder why they “tamed” her for the rest of the picture.

Drago. Is it me, or does it seem like there is a prerequisite for there to be a villain named Drago in medieval era type stories. Here we have another one, this one borderline insane and somehow has found a way to control dragons. So, what is it that I didn’t like about him? Not to spoil anything, but he is defeated a little bit too easily. Also, while he may seem to be in control, had it not been for that Alpha he had, the tide might never have turned in his favor. This is a guy that gets ahead on opportunity, not his skill, and that does not a good villain make.

Tragedy. After the way the first film ended, I shouldn’t be surprised that this one takes a dark turn, as well. What does surprise me, though, is how they did it, and the fact that the character who is killed still lives in the books, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know how far they want to stray from the source material, but it just seems as if killing serves no real purpose. The emotional toll it takes on the characters is one thing, but can’t we just make it through one of these films without some kind of tragedy fueling the climax?

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has been out for about a month now, and yet the theater I was in tonight was actually more packed than the ones for Transformers : Age of Extinction and X-Men: Days of Future Past. I guess there is something to be said for a good family flick. That is what this is, a good family film that appeals to both kids and adults. There are a few flaws here and there, but overall this is a fun film. I highly recommend it, possibly even in 3D!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Olympus Has Fallen

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Former Special Forces U.S. Army Ranger Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the lead Secret Service agent assigned to head the Presidential Detail. He maintains a personal, friendly relationship with President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), First Lady Margaret (Ashley Judd) and, especially, their son Connor (Finley Jacobsen). During a Christmas evening drive from Camp David to a campaign fundraiser, a tree branch falls and strikes the front of the president’s convoy, making the vehicles skid out of control on black ice on a bridge. The lead SUV crashes through the guard rail and falls into the icy river below, leaving the presidential limousine teetering on the edge of the bridge. Banning is able to save President Asher, but Margaret and two other agents die when their vehicle falls and crashes.

Eighteen months later, Banning works at the Treasury Department, within sight of the White House. He has been removed from the Presidential Detail because the sight of him triggers Asher’s memories of the night Margaret died. During a political meeting between Asher and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Tae-Woo (Keong Sim), Korean-led guerilla forces, under guise as local garbage services and a crowd of tourists, mount an air and ground assault. Aided inside the White House by treasonous members of Prime Minister Lee’s own detail, who include Dave Forbes (Dylan McDermott), an ex-US Secret Service agent turned private contractor and aerial cover fire from a US military gunship, the attack results in the eventual capture of the White House. Asher and several top officials are held hostage in the White House bunker, where Prime Minister Lee is killed. Before he is killed, Agent Roma (Cole Hauser) alerts the Director of the Secret Service Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) that “Olympus has fallen”.

The attack has been masterminded by Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune), a former North Korean terrorist who appears to be motivated by hope for a reunification of Korea. Kang seeks to use Asher’s hostage status as leverage to force U.S. officials to withdraw military forces from the Korean Peninsula, allowing the civil war to end. He also seeks to destroy all of America’s nuclear weapons in their respective silos spread across the country and turn the United States into an irradiated wasteland as revenge for the deaths of his parents when his mother was killed by an American landmine and his father was executed for crimes against North Korea. To accomplish this, he requires the access codes to Cerberus: a fail-safe device that self-detonates any U.S. nuclear missiles during an abort, which are held by three top government officials within the bunker, including the president. Asher orders the other two officials to reveal their codes to save their lives, certain that he will not give up his code.

During the assault by Kang’s forces on the front lawn, Banning joins the White House’s defenders. He falls back into the building, disables the internal surveillance and gains access to Asher’s satellite phone, which he uses to maintain contact with Jacobs and Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), the Speaker of the House who is now the Acting President. Authorized to proceed, Banning’s first act is to save Connor, who Kang plans to use to force Asher to reveal his Cerberus code. Despite resistance, Banning finds Connor hiding in the hidden tunnels behind the Lincoln bedroom walls, thanks to the training Banning had given him before, and sneaks him out of the White House before beginning reconnaissance and reducing the terrorists’ numbers one by one. This includes Forbes, but not before Banning convinces Forbes to report to Kang that he killed Banning. Meanwhile, Army Chief of Staff General Edward Clegg (Robert Forster) convinces Trumbull to order an aerial SEAL assault on the White House in an attempt to enter through the roof and shut down Cerberus, but Kang’s team deploys an advanced anti-aircraft remote gun system called the Hydra 6, mounted and assembled directly under the White House rooftop. Discovering this, Banning advises Trumbull and Clegg to abort the mission, but it proceeds and Kang’s henchwoman Lim (Malana Lea), by computer command, annihilates the assault force before Banning can stop it. Kang retaliates for the attempted infiltration by killing Vice President Charlie Rodriguez (Phil Austin).

After Banning disables Kang’s communications, Kang tries to execute Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo) outside the White House in front of the media, but Banning’s intervention allows her to escape and he takes out several more of Kang’s men in the process. With Kang’s forces dwindling, he fakes his own death as well as Asher’s by sacrificing several of his men and the remaining hostages. Kang, Asher and the few remaining terrorists stay in the bunker, unknown to the outside world. Kang eventually cracks Asher’s code and activate Cerberus as Banning realizes that his suicide was staged. As Kang attempts to escape with Asher, Banning kills the remaining terrorists and kills Kang by stabbing him in the head with a knife after overpowering him in hand to hand combat. Banning disables Cerberus with the assistance of Trumbull with only seconds to spare and he assists Asher as the two walk out of the White House at the light of day. Sometime after the events, Washington begins to heal from the terrorist attack and Banning once again becomes head of the Presidential Detail with Banning, Jacobs and Connor observing President Asher as he addresses the public.

REVIEW:

This year just hasn’t been the best for the White House, as two films have been released dealing with the terrorists plotting to destroy it and get to the president. Olympus Has Fallen seems to be the better of the two according to reviews, but audiences weren’t crazy about either. Should you take the time to watch?

What is this about?

Director Antoine Fuqua’s action thriller stars Gerard Butler as a disgraced Secret Service agent who must come to the rescue when Korean terrorists descend on the White House and take the president hostage.

What did I like?

Action. This is another throwback action flick, but I think it may do it better than some of the films recently that have been tying to recreate the winning formula from that era. Mixing great fight scenes, gunplay, some nice banter, and a few bloody kills put the icing on the cake. If you’ve been looking for a film that will get the adrenaline pumping from start to finish, then this may be what you’re looking for.

Back. Man, how long has it been since we last saw Gerard Butler kicking ass and taking names? I can’t recall exactly, but Gamer comes t mind. Everything else since then has been romantic comedies or dramas that somehow get labeled as action, such as Machine Gun Preacher. Butler is one of those guys that has the charm and charisma to pull off romantic comedies with the right script, which he hadn’t gotten, but is a bonafide action star. For some reason, studios, is agent, or somebody doesn’t quite get that. Thank goodness someone got the memo and cast him in this. Hopefully, Butler will be kicking more ass in future films and not chasing after Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, or some other rom-com shrew.

Plot. Earlier this week, the country was commemorating the tragedy of 9/11. One of the networks even went so far as to replay their broadcast from that fateful day. I remember when that happened thinking that it was something out of a movie. Well, here is a terrorist movie plot that hopefully we will never see. That being said, save for the obvious Die Hard influence, this is a great screenplay that will leave the audience on the edge of their seat, but also in sheer awe and enjoyment.

What didn’t I like?

Tried and true.  This film feels a lot like Die Hard, as I just mentioned. In some ways, that is a good thing, but I couldn’t help but feel this was a sad attempt at a remake for a franchise that isn’t dead. No, this won’t be turning into a franchise, as far as I know, but the way it was written and the build up of Butler’s character does lead one to believe they could make it one. I’m still not comfortable with the way too familiar plot, but as they say, “it if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Casting. With the likes of Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, and Ashley Judd in the mix, one would imagine they’d be given a fair amount of the workload, but that isn’t the case, except for Freeman, obviously. I’m just not a fan of bringing in such major talent and having them just make funny faces and/or read a couple of lines and that’s it. These are the kind of things you can get for much cheaper from up and comers.

Accent. In case you didn’t know, Gerard Butler is Scottish. This means that he has an accent. As an actor, he has learned to cover it up, but most roles I’ve seen from him just let him keep it. I don’t really see why this was any different, but I guess they wanted an American protecting the president. Here is the problem, Butler goes in and out of his accent so much, you could almost think he’s some kind of Scottish terrorist infiltrating the White House! I’m not sure who to blame for this, Butler, or the director for not picking up on his accent switching.

Olympus Has Fallen was surprising action thriller that did not have that section that slows everything down to a near complete stop. I was thoroughly entertained by this film from beginning to end and was especially glad to see that Gerard Butler is back in action, where he belongs. Tis gets a very high recommendation from me, but be warned you squeamish people who can’t stand violence. People get shot, blood splatters, buildings blow up, and there are some gory wounds to be seen. Check this out!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Movie 43

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is composed of multiple comedy shorts presented through an overarching segment titled “The Pitch”, in which Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid), a mad screenwriter, is attempting to pitch a script to film executive Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear). After revealing several of the stories in his script, Wessler becomes agitated when Schraeder dismisses his outrageous ideas, and he pulls a gun on him and forces him to listen to multiple other stories before making Schraeder consult his manager, Bob Mone (Common), to purchase the film. When they do so, Mone’s condescending attitude toward Schraeder angers him to the point that, after agreeing to make the film “the biggest film since Howard the Duck”, he confronts Mone in the parking lot and tries to humiliate him. Wessler tries to calm Schraeder with more story ideas to no avail, and the segment ends with it being revealed that it is being shot by a camera crew as part of the movie, leading into the final segments.

Having recently moved, Anna and Sean have coffee with their new neighbors. The neighbors, Robert (Liev Schreiber) and Samantha (Naomi Watts) have a teenage son, Kevin (Jeremy Allen White), whom they have home-schooled. Anna and Sean begin inquiring about the homeschooling, and the numerous manners in which Robert and Samantha have replicated a high school environment within their home, going as far as hazing, bullying, and giving out detentions, are humorously revealed. They also throw high school parties and Samantha simulates Kevin’s “first kiss” with him. Visibly disturbed, the neighbors end up meeting Kevin, who says he is going out and gives them the impression that all is fine: until he reveals a doll made of a mop with Samantha’s face on it, referring to the doll as his girlfriend.

Julie (Anna Faris) and Doug (Chris Pratt) have been in a relationship for a year. When he attempts to propose to her, she reveals to him that she is a coprophiliac, and asks him to defecate on her in the bedroom. Urged by his best friend Larry (J.B. Smoove) and others to go along with it, he eats a large meal and drinks a bottle of laxative prior to the event. Wanting foreplay, Julie is angered when Doug wants to finish, and she runs into the street. Chasing after her, he is then hit by a car and graphically evacuates his bowels everywhere. She cradles him and apologizes; covered and surrounded by his excrement on the road, she exclaims that it is the “most beautiful thing” she has ever seen and accepts his marriage proposal. (In the end credits, Julie and Doug are mistakenly re-named Vanessa and Jason by Rocky Russo, Jeremy Sosenko, Steve Carr, Peter Farrelly, and Charles B. Wessler).

Neil (Kieran Culkin) is working a night shift at a local grocery store. His ex-girlfriend, Veronica (Emma Stone), comes through his line and the two begin arguing, which soon turns into sexual discussion and flirtation as they humorously lament over their relationship; unbeknownst to them, Neil’s intercom microphone broadcasts the entire explicit conversation throughout the store, where various elderly people and vagrants tune in. After she leaves in tears, the customers agree to cover his shift while he goes after her.

Robin (Justin Long) and his cohort Batman (Jason Sudeikis) are in Gotham City at a speed dating establishment seeking out a bomb threat by their arch nemesis, Penguin (John Hodgman). While Robin attempts to connect with various women through speed dating—including Lois Lane (Uma Thurman) and Supergirl (Kristen Bell)—Batman encounters his ex, Wonder Woman (Leslie Bibb), and attempts to stop Penguin from detonating Supergirl, who later turns out to be the Riddler (Will Carlough) in disguise, which Batman already knew and was screwing with Robin, who kissed “her” moments before unveiling. (Early during production, this sketch was formerly titled “Robin’s Big Speed Date”.)

A faux-PSA about kids stuck in machines and how adults’ criticism of these particular machines affect the feelings of the children stuck inside the machines. This commercial was paid for by the society for the prevention of cruelty to children inside machines.

A developing company is having a meeting in their headquarters over their newly released product, the “iBabe”, which is a life-sized, realistic replica of a nude woman which functions as an MP3 player. The boss (Richard Gere), listens to his various workers (Kate Bosworth, Aasif Mandvi, and Jack McBrayer) argue over the placement of a fan that was built into the genital region of the iBabe, which is dismembering the penises of teenage boys who attempt to have sex with them. The board members then agree to strongly emphasise the dangers of the product via its new commercials.

Nathan (Jimmy Bennett) and Amanda (Chloë Grace Moretz) are watching television after school at Nathan’s house as their first “middle school” date. When they begin to kiss, his older brother Mikey (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) enters the living room and makes fun of them. Amanda then discovers she is menstruating and tries to hide it, and when Nathan sees blood on her pants, he panics and believes her to be bleeding to death, causing a debacle, which would later have Nathan and Amanda’s fathers (Patrick Warburton and Matt Walsh) involved.

Another faux-commercial; this time it now involves two women and Tampax as the two women are swimming in an ocean and a shark suddenly appears and graphically eats one of the women.

Pete (Johnny Knoxville) captures a leprechaun (Gerard Butler) for his roommate Brian (Seann William Scott) as a birthday present. After tying the leprechaun up in the basement, they demand he give them a pot of gold. The obscene leprechaun threatens that his brother is coming to save him. When he arrives, Brian and Pete are shot at but ultimately kill both leprechauns. At the end of the segment, Pete reveals he has also caught a fairy (Esti Ginzburg) who performs fellatio for gold coins.

Donald (Stephen Merchant) and Emily (Halle Berry) are on a date together at a Mexican restaurant. Tired with typical first dates, Emily challenges Donald to a game of truth or dare. She dares him to grab a man’s buttocks, and he follows with daring her to blow out the birthday candles on a blind boy’s cake. The game rapidly escalates to extremes, in which both of them get plastic surgery and tattoos, and humiliate themselves.

Set in 1959, Coach Jackson (Terrence Howard) is lecturing his basketball team before their first game against an all-white team. Worried about losing the game, the timid players are lectured by Coach Jackson about their superiority in the sport over their white counterparts, which he expresses vulgarly. When the game ensues, the all-white team loses miserably and rejoices in a single point they earn.

Amy (Elizabeth Banks) worries that her boyfriend Anson’s (Josh Duhamel) cat, Beezel (an animated cartoon), is coming between their relationship. Beezel seems to detest Amy and anyone who comes between him and Anson, but Anson only sees Beezel as innocent. One day, Amy witnesses Beezel masturbating to summer vacation photos of Anson in a swimsuit. Beezel attacks her and violently urinates on her. Anson still finds his pet innocent but Amy threatens to leave if he doesn’t get rid of Beezel. Caring more about his relationship, Anson agrees to find a new home for him. That night, Beezel tearfully watches the couple make love from a closet (whilst sodomizing himself with a hairbrush and dry humping a stuffed teddy bear). The next day when it comes time to take Beezel away, he is nowhere to be found. Amy goes outside to look. Beezel then runs her over with a truck and attempts to shoot her to death with a shotgun, but she chases him into the street and begins beating him with a shovel, which is witnessed by a group of children attending a birthday party at a neighboring house. When Anson approaches to see what is happening, Amy tries to explain Beezel’s motives. Beezel acts innocent and Anson sides with his cat. The children of the party then attack and murder Amy for beating up Beezel, stabbing her with plastic forks. Anson grabs Beezel, as Beezel again fantasizes about French kissing his owner.

REVIEW:

Movie 43 is a film that I have yet to read a good review about. Against my better judgment, though, I decided to see what the masses were so incensed about. Surely this thing could not be that bad…or could it?

What is this about?

A series of interconnected short films follows a washed-up producer as he pitches insane story lines featuring some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

What did I like?

Offensive. No, this film did not offend me, unless you consider how unfunny it was, but there is a disclaimer at the beginning, and the directors were making the rounds before it was released saying that the reason they made this picture was to offend and shock audiences. Judging by the vitriol people have been spitting out regarding this film, I would say they succeeded.

Cohesive. Unlike Putney Swope, a film that also has random sketches interspersed amongst the “plot”, this one actually keeps everything tied together. As a matter of fact, the plot involving a guy who wants to get the horrible movie, which we are watching, made could very well be the best part of the entire flick.

What didn’t I like?

Fire the agents. I really have to wonder what the agents of such big stars as Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, and fresh off his Oscar worthy performance in Les Miserables, Hugh Jackman, amongst others that have no business being in a film this lowbrow. I don’t particularly care to say that actors are too good for a film, but they were. For goodness sakes, Jackman was playing a guy with testicles on his neck!!!!

*SIGH*.  I was talking to a friend of mine a few minutes ago, and he summed this film up very well, it is like a movie version of current Saturday Night Live. There are moments that are funny, but they are so few and far between, that you barely even notice them, or care. The rest of the sketches and whatnot just exist for the point of being gross, offensive, or filler.

Some media outlets have been trying to compare Movie 43 so such comedy sketch classics as Kentucky Fried Movie and The Groove Tube, among others, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the quality of those. This is one of those films that I am stretching to fins something good to say about, so it is best that you avoid it like the plague. I’ve suffered enough for all of us!

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Playing for Keeps

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

George Dryer (Gerard Butler) is a former professional soccer player who is largely seen as a “has been”. His attempts to raise money by selling his former game memorabilia and become a sports announcer are largely met with ambivalence. George’s relationship with his son Lewis (Noah Lomax) is equally unsuccessful due to him only seeing Lewis sporadically. When he discovers that his ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) is getting married to her boyfriend Matt (James Tupper), George grows despondent.

After dropping off an audition tape of him practicing his sports announcements, George goes to help his son’s soccer team practice. The team isn’t very good, with the coach giving little attention to his players. The team’s parents quickly pressure Stacie to ask George to become the new coach, which he reluctantly agrees to. Once coach, George attracts the attentions of various mothers and receives a bribe from Carl King (Dennis Quaid), who wants him to give his children preferential treatment. He specifically draws attention from the divorced Barb (Judy Greer), ex-sportscaster Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and Carl’s wife Patti (Uma Thurman). Denise appears to be particularly forward with George, sending him an e-mail telling him that she’s thinking of him.

At practice the next day George is invited to a dinner party at Carl’s house, is approached by Barb, and is also told by Denise that she has been given a copy of his audition tape to watch and pass along. At Carl’s party George learns that Carl has been having affairs and that his wife is aware of his infidelities, unbeknownst to Carl. Carl then lends George a Ferrari under the implication that he “takes care of his friends”, which George uses to drive to see Stacie. The two discuss what could have developed between the two of them, to which Stacie says that she doesn’t wonder about the past anymore.

When he gets home, he discovers Barb waiting for him. She confesses that she’s very lonely and has set up a dating profile in order to find a match. After asking him if he finds her attractive, the two sleep together. The following day George is called by Carl, who asks him to pick up some money from Patti in order to bail him out of jail, as he got into a fight at the party. Doing so makes him late to pick up his son, but he manages to entertain Lewis by letting him ride in his lap and drive the Ferrari. During this time George discovers that Lewis is sad that his mother is marrying Matt and that he won’t call Matt “dad”. George is then called by Denise, who informs him that ESPN is looking for a new soccer sportscaster and that he must come to the studio to record a tape. This enrages Staci and Lewis due to him being late to pick up Lewis again, weakening his relationship with the both of them.

Arriving home, George is berated by his landlord Param (Iqbal Theba) for not paying his rent while driving a Ferrari and receives a call from Patti, telling him that she’s in his bed. He soon finds that she’s in the landlord’s bed and George manages to distract the landlord by paying him with Carl’s bribe money. Despite this, Patti continues to approach George sexually, who rebuffs her while saying that she should leave Carl rather than having an affair. His relationship with Lewis worsens when Denise kisses George the next day, leading Lewis to realize why his father was late. This spurs Lewis into having a fight during a game later on, prompting Lewis to tell his mother that he wants to quit playing soccer. George manages to later coax Lewis into playing soccer in the rain, which both of them finds fun. Meanwhile Stacie and George begin to reconnect romantically, which causes small rifts in her relationship with Matt.

George manages to earn the job with ESPN, but this necessitates him moving across the country to Connecticut. He asks Stacie to come with him. She initially refuses, but then he meets her at her car and she kisses him. At the game later that same day, George finds that Barb has begun to date his landlord and that Carl has discovered pictures of Patti in George’s house from the time she came on to him. The two men begin to fight, which Staci witnesses. Staci sees the pictures, which upsets her despite George claiming that it wasn’t what it looked like. During the fight, Lewis’s team wins the game.

After the game George leaves for his new job. In the end George chooses to stay with Lewis rather than moving to Connecticut. He also begins a new relationship with Stacie, who has broken off her engagement with Matt, and becomes a local sportscaster in Virginia with his friend Chip.

REVIEW:

One of my very best friends has a little bit of a crush on Gerard Butler. I’m sure since Playing for Keeps was filmed up there in Shreveport/Bossier City she did all she could to at least get a glimpse of her future husband. For the rest of us, though, could Butler make us care about a romantic comedy that deals with soccer?

What is this about?

A washed-up, former soccer star attempts to rebuild his relationship with his son and ex-wife by coaching his son’s soccer team. His plan to reconnect with his family is met with challenges from the attractive soccer moms who pursue him everywhere.

What did I like?

Soccer. Look, like most Americans, soccer is not on my radar. As a kid, though, I seem to remember wanting to play it…until I was introduced to football and girls (ironically, that was the same time that I moved down here to Louisiana…coincidence, perhaps?) The feeling that I got from the kids, when they were winning, is that same sense of wonder. If soccer, as a sport could manage to bottle that up and sell it, maybe it would be able to be a major sport in this country.

Leonidas. Gerard Butler always has been a charismatic guy. He just happens to have an agent that makes bad choices. This may not have been one of his best, but is wasn’t his worst. As a retired soccer player and divorced dad seeking to reconcile with his wife and son, he shows a great range of emotion towards them. Throw in the love of soccer that comes out when he starts with the kids and you can see why he fit this role so perfectly.

For the guys. Romantic comedies aren’t known for being geared towards men. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a male driven film, even if Butler is the star. However, the soccer moms fawning all over him and ESPN are obvious ploys to appeal to the male demographic. Did they work? I’m not so sure, but at least they tried.

What didn’t I like?

Soccer moms. Many guys dream of landing a hot soccer mom. If you look like Gerard Butler, then I suppose you can end up with 3. My issue with them has to do with casting. Nothing against the actresses, but the soccer moms I’ve seen aren’t exactly supermodels like these women, let alone the fact that they seemed to love their kids one minute and then totally ignore them the next.

Bitter. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like every scene involving Jessica Biel had her doing some kind of mean-spirited face towards Butler, or being bitterly spiteful towards him. Sure, her actions could have been worse. She was at least mostly congenial towards him, but there still was no need for her to look so bitter most of the time.

Predictable. Once the film established the characters and their relationships towards each other, you can pretty much guess what is going to happen, especially since this is a romantic comedy. Would I have liked something a bit more random? I don’t rightly know if I can say that, but I do wish that this could have distanced itself from such a predictable way of playing things out.

These days, it seems that Gerard Butler is doing nothing but rom-coms. He isn’t bad in them, but the guy is better suited for action. The whole time I was watching Playing for Keeps I couldn’t help but feel that he was in pain the whole time, knowing he could do much better. With that in mind, I cannot, in good conscience recommend this. Sure, it has its moments and isn’t totally horrible, but it just seemed like they dug out every former A-list actor that hadn’t had a hit in the last couple of years and slapped them in here with mediocre results. Not a film to totally avoid, but don’t go out of your way to see it. I’m sure it will pop up on television in the next year or two.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars