Archive for James Hong

The Golden Child

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a temple in an unknown location in northeastern Tibet, a young boy with mystical abilities — the Golden Child — receives badges of station and demonstrates his power to the monks of the temple by reviving a dead bird, which becomes a constant companion. However, a band of villains led by a mysterious man, Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance), breaks into the hidden temple, slaughters the monks and abducts the boy.

Some time afterwards, a young woman named Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis) watches a Los Angeles TV show in which social worker Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy) talks about his latest case, a missing girl named Cheryll Mosley. She seeks him out the next day and informs him of the kidnapping of the Golden Child and that he is the ‘Chosen One’ who would save the Child. Chandler does not take this seriously, even after the astral form of the Child and his bird familiar begin following him.

Soon Cheryll Mosley is found, dead from blood loss, near an abandoned house smeared with Tibetan graffiti and a pot full of blood-soaked oatmeal. Kee Nang reveals to him that this house was a holding place for the Child and introduces Chandler to Doctor Hong, a mystic expert, and Kala (a creature half dragon, half woman, who remains hidden behind a screen). The three track down a motorcycle gang, the Yellow Dragons, which Cheryll had joined, and Chinese restaurant owner Tommy Tong, a henchman of Numspa, to whom Cheryll had been ‘sold’ for her blood, used to make the Child vulnerable to earthly harm. Tong, however, is killed by Numspa as a potential traitor. Still not taking the case too seriously, Chandler is drawn by Numspa—whom Chandler begins to continuously call “Numsy”—into a controlled dream, where he receives a burn mark on his arm. Numspa also presents his demands: the Ajanti Dagger (a mystic weapon which is capable of killing the Golden Child) in exchange for the boy. Chandler finally agrees to help, and he and Kee Nang spend the night together.

Chandler and Kee travel to Tibet, where Chandler is apparently swindled by an old amulet seller, who is revealed as the High Priest of the temple where the dagger is kept hidden and, subsequently, Kee’s father (Chandler calls him “Monty Hall” or “Monty”). In order to obtain the blade, Chandler has to pass a test: an obstacle course in a bottomless cavern whilst carrying a glass of water without spilling a drop. With luck and wits, Chandler recovers the blade and even manages to bring it past customs into the United States.

Numspa and his henchmen attack Chandler and Kee. The Ajanti Dagger is lost to the villains, and Kee takes a crossbow bolt meant for Chandler, and dies in his arms confessing her love for him. Doctor Hong and Kala offers him hope, for as long as the sun shines upon Kee, the Child might be able to save her. Driven now by a personal motive, Chandler — with the help of the Child’s familiar — locates Numspa’s hideout, and retrieves the dagger with the help of Til, one of Numspa’s men converted to good by the Child, and frees the boy. But when Chandler attempts to confront Numspa, the latter reveals his true face as a demon from hell. Chandler and the Child escape the hideout, only to be tracked down by the demon in a warehouse. Chandler loses the dagger when the warehouse collapses, but Sardo is buried under a chunk of falling masonry. Chandler and the Child escape and head to Doctor Hong’s shop where Kee is being kept.

As the two approach Kee’s body, a badly injured but berserk Numspa attacks Chandler but the amulet the Old Man sold Chandler blasts the dagger from Numspa’s hand. The Child uses his magic to place the dagger back into Chandler’s hands, and Chandler pierces Numspa through the heart with it, destroying him. The Child then uses the last ray of sunlight and his powers to bring Kee back from the dead. As the movie ends, the three take a walk discussing the Child’s return to Tibet and (as Chandler jokingly suggests) the boy’s prospective fame as a stage magician.

REVIEW:

There seemed to be a point where action films could not be successful without an Asian child in the cast. Following in that tradition, we have The Golden Child, a forgotten Eddie Murphy flick that many assume it part of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise.

What is this about?

A fast-talking L.A. social worker goes through a series of traps and terrors to find a kidnapped Tibetan child with mystical powers.

What did I like?

Melting pot. They say that America is a melting pot of all races, creeds, colors, and religions (despite the fact that if you are something different from “the norm” you live in fear of the out of control cops). In a way, this film mirrors that mixture. It has elements of action, romance, drama, sci-fi, comedy, and fantasy. Not only that, but it mixes them in such a way that all are given ample screen to make them effective in the long term and not give the short end of the stick to the other genres. That, my friends, is good writing.

Charlotte’s web. There have been some truly beautiful women to grace the Silver Screen. Many have gone to be recognized as the total goddesses they are, and others have appeared in a film or two, only to then fade into obscurity. In this film, we have Charlotte Lewis, a total vision of beauty, who I think did stick around for a while, but this was her biggest project. Not only does she command the audience’s attention with her looks, but her character is intriguing. Not exactly one of those characters that dwells in the gray areas, we still wonder what her intentions are and what her relationship with Eddie Murphy’s character will ultimately turn into.

A Lannister always repays his debts. Any Game of Thrones fans out there? For many of the “older” actors and actresses on that show, we can be certain that they had a career, albeit not exactly the most stellar, before joining the cast. I was surprised to see Charles Dance, perhaps better known as Tywin Lannister, appear in this film. Again he is playing a diabolical villain, and he does it so well. Thing is, much like many of our favorite villains from the 80s, there is a higher power pulling his strings that we never see, but that doesn’t make him any less evil. Whilst keeping his cool, he manages to get into Murphy’s head and play mind games as he sleeps, as well as leave a mark on his arm. It isn’t until the climax that the guy loses it and shows his true colors. Personally, I would have liked for him to show more evil power, but you can’t deny this guy has a talent for bringing bad guys to life on the screen.

What didn’t I like?

Cop or not. The whole time I’m watching this film, I can’t help but wonder if this was originally meant to be Beverly Hills Cop II, the next 48 Hours, or something along those lines. I say this because of Eddie Murphy. Look, we all know this was the time when Murphy was at his best, but looking back at his films, he seems to be very one-dimensional. His characters all seems to be carbon copies of each other, at least the cops do. The same goes for this detective-type person he in this film. The only different between him and Axel Foley is that he seems to be more mature, but they still both crack jokes at every opportunity. I would have just liked to have seen more of a line a delineation between this guy and other in the similar field which Murphy has played.

Blue herring. The Golden Child is such a non-character in this film, he might as well have been a red herring, except that we actually see him, so let’s call him a blue herring, shall we? Nothing against the kid, he did what he had to do and I’m just fine with that, but to make such a fuss over him and then to not use him for anything more than some parlor tricks? What fun was that? Honestly, its like Murphy’s character say in the last scenes, maybe he should be a magician. They way they treat him in this film, he might as well have been. If he was the one meant to save the world, or whatever, I hardly believe they wouldn’t send more than just some random private dick to fetch him.

Behind the screen. A mysterious mystical woman behind a screen, and because this is some Asian stuff, surely she’s either old or not human. Well, she is revealed, but I won’t spoil what she is. I will take a couple of moments to say that for someone as wise and, I’m assuming, powerful, she sure was forgotten quickly after the reveal. I mean, as soon as the screen is removed, we see her for a couple of seconds, and that’s it. She’s never heard from again. Seems to me she would have at least had a few words to say about being revealed, but I guess I’m wrong.

The Golden Child is one of those pictures that Netflix just won’t stop bugging me about. I finally took the time to give it a go this afternoon and must say that I wasn’t disappointed in the outcome. Now, that is not to say that this is a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun little watch. Try pairing it with Big Trouble in Little China, which coincidentally, was directed by the man who was set to direct this picture. Do I recommend it? Yes, what harm can it do to watch a fun film? Just don’t expect anything life changing.

3 1/2 out of stars

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Big Trouble in Little China

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) and his friend, restaurant owner Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), go to the airport to pick up Wang’s fiancee Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), who is arriving from China. A Chinese street gang, the Lords of Death, tries to kidnap another Chinese girl at the airport who is being met by her friend Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), intending to sell her as a sex slave. After Jack intervenes, they take Miao Yin instead. In Jack’s big-rig truck, he and Wang track the Lords of Death to the back alleys of Chinatown, where they find a funeral procession that quickly erupts into a street fight between the Chang Sing and Wing Kong, two ancient Chinese societies. When “The Three Storms” (Thunder, Rain, and Lightning) appear, slaughtering the Chang Sing, Jack tries to escape but runs over Lo Pan (James Hong), a powerful and legendary sorcerer, as well as the leader of the Wing Kong. Horrified, Jack exits his truck, only to find Lo Pan, who is merely annoyed. Wang hurriedly guides Jack through the alleys, escaping the carnage and mayhem, but Jack’s truck is stolen.

Wang takes Jack to his restaurant, where they meet up with Gracie, Wang’s friend Eddie Lee (Donald Li), and magician Egg Shen (Victor Wong), a local authority on Lo Pan. They try to explain to an incredulous Jack some of the ancient knowledge and sorcery the Chinese brought with them to America, eventually devising a plan to infiltrate a brothel, where they think Miao Yin is being held. However, the Storms make off with Miao Yin, bringing her to a front owned by Lo Pan. Trying to rescue her, Jack and Wang are quickly subdued by Rain and taken to see Lo Pan, now in the form of a crippled, old man. Wang tells Jack that Lo Pan needs a special green-eyed girl to break an ancient curse, and he intends to sacrifice Miao Yin. When Jack and Wang’s friends attempt to save them, they are also captured, and Lo Pan notes that Gracie has green eyes, too. Lo Pan decides to sacrifice Gracie, while making Miao Yin his unwilling wife.

After getting the drop on Thunder, Jack and Wang escape, also freeing many women kept in holding cells. Wang and Jack go to see Egg Shen, and, with the help of the Chang Sing, they enter an underground cavern to return to Lo Pan’s headquarters. Egg pours each of the group a potent potion that Jack says makes him feel “kind of invincible.” During the wedding ceremony, a huge fight ensues, which Jack misses, due to accidentally knocking himself out. Wang kills Rain in a sword duel, while Jack and Gracie try to catch Lo Pan. Wang joins them, and, just when all seems lost, Jack kills Lo Pan, with a skillful knife throw. Thunder, enraged and dishonored at his failure to protect his master, starts to inflate to an enormous size, exploding and killing himself. Jack, Wang, Gracie, and Miao Yin are cornered by Lightning in a corridor, which he makes collapse. Egg rescues them with a rope and kills Lightning, when he tries to follow. After finding Jack’s truck, they escape back to Wang’s restaurant.

Lo Pan having been defeated, the group celebrates in a warm and family-like way: Wang and Miao are obviously about to marry; Margo, Gracie’s journalist friend, seems to be about to pair-up with Eddie; and Egg decides to go on a prolonged vacation, saying China is in the heart. Jack, instead of starting up a new life with Gracie, (as everyone was expecting up to that point), bids farewell to the group and hits the open road, with an unknown-to-him stowaway – one of the remaining monsters from Lo Pan’s labyrinth

REVIEW:

A couple of movie review podcasts that I frequently listen to are constantly referring to Big Trouble in Little China as one of the greatest cult 80s action films out there. I remember seeing this in the video store as a kid and always passing it up, but being curious. The same has held true when I see it on Netflix. Sure, it has an interesting cover, but sometimes the artwork can be deceiving. Still, I wonder if this is worth all the hype.

What is this about?

When an ancient magician kidnaps his friend’s fiancée, a two-fisted trucker and a sexy attorney must navigate a shadowy realm to capture the culprit.

What did I like?

Supernatural. I woke up this morning with an urge to watch something supernatural. Don’t ask me why because I really can’t give you an answer. Having said that, though, I wonder if it is because my best friend has recently started watching Supernatural on Netflix and makes sure I know that is what she’s doing. All that aside, perhaps it is because I was in the mood for it, but the supernatural element of this film really struck a chord with me and made me wish for more. Chinese deities, creatures in a labyrinth, etc. keep the audience’s attention.

Wong fu. A somewhat smaller role, or so we are led to believe, is Victor Wong’s Egg Shen. Introduced as some guy driving a tour bus, we learn that he is quite the capable sorcerer in his own right. Much wiser than he looks, Wong’s character is also powerful enough to go toe to toe with the villainous Lo Pan. While Kurt Russell is the big star of this film, it is Wong that can be truly considered the hero.

Rapid fire. As someone who has spent quite some time watching old films, I notice the rhythm of how people talk. In this film, I happened to notice in some spots that the dialogue, not counting the cheesy one-liners, is as rapid fire as a 30s film noir. I was digging the retro vibe to the way these lines were delivered. It gave me the mindset of those old serials from that era, which I kind of feel this film would have worked better as, but I may touch on that a little later.

What didn’t I like?

Getting ready for her next role. Some people think Kim Cattrall is a fine actress. I am not one of those people. To me, she is nothing more than the token hot chick in the 80s who disappeared in the 90s and resurfaced as a deformed version of herself when Sex and the City started. Watching her “act” in the few scenes she has was painful. I think it would be more fun to watch mushrooms grow out in the yard. Cattrall is so wooden, it made me wonder if she was just getting ready for her next role, Mannequin. Maybe I should rephrase that as Cattrall is so plastic. Ha!

Weak storms. There are these three powerful warriors that appear out of nowhere and start wiping out the warring gangs. When it comes to the final showdown, they are taken out quite easily. Why is it such powerful henchmen, for lack of a better term, go down so easily? Shouldn’t these storms have shown the true power they have and merge together as one giant, all-powerful storm? Or would that have been too over the top for a film that is already there. While I’m thinking about it, is it me, or did anyone else think of Raiden from Mortal Kombat when the lightning storm guy showed up. Also, was he really using lightning as a fireman’s pole, of sorts?!?

Genre bending. The original concept for this film was for it to be a western, but some bigwig at the studio decided it needed to be a modern-day tale. Don’t you just love it when they do that? I’m a little biased, being a fan of westerns and all, but I think this would have been more interesting as a western, perhaps even better. Mixing the American West with Oriental mysticism was sure to make for some intriguing situations.

Upon its initial release, Big Trouble in Little China did not fare so well. Director John Carpenter took its failure so hard that he left Hollywood and went into independent filmmaking. However, it has gained a cult following over the years and is listed on many “Best of…” lists. Perhaps it was just ahead of its time or audiences at that time didn’t fully appreciate what they were seeing. Make no mistake, this is not a great film, but it falls into that category where you can overlook its flaws and just enjoy the film for what it is. As such, I say this worth a viewing whenever you’re in the mood for some 80s action. Give it a shot sometime, why don’t you?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

R.I.P.D.

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Boston Police Department Detectives Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) steal a chest full of gold found during a drug bust, and Nick buries his share of the gold in his backyard, intending to use to to create a better life for himself and his wife, Julia (Stephanie Szostak). However, he regrets his decision and informs Hayes he intends to return the gold. Later, during a raid on a warehouse, Nick and Hayes get into a shootout with criminals, and Hayes kills Nick to prevent him from returning the gold, framing one of the criminals for the murder.

Nick awakens in the office of Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), director of the Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D.), an agency that recruits deceased police officers to patrol the afterlife and capture “Deados”, spirits that refuse to cross over and return to Earth as monstrous ghosts. Nick agrees to join the R.I.P.D. after Proctor promises to help him reunite with Julia and meets his new partner, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), an ex-U.S. Marshal who lived in the 1800’s.

Nick and Roy return to Earth to attend Nick’s funeral, where Nick learns R.I.P.D. officers are assigned avatars, which is how humans perceive them. Nick’s is an elderly Chinese man, Jerry Chen (James Hong) and Roy’s is an attractive Russian woman, Opal Pavlenko (Marisa Miller). After failing to communicate with Julia, Nick accompanies Roy to the apartment of a suspect, Stanley Nawlicki (Robert Knepper), who tries to escape and is killed by the duo. Pieces of gold identical to the ones Nick stole are found in Nawlicki’s possessions and sent to Internal Affairs for analysis.

Nick and Roy then meet with Elliot (Mike O’Malley), a dealer set to make an exchange with someone, revealed to be Hayes. Nick and Roy follow him to Nick’s house, where Hayes retrieves Nick’s share of the gold, leading Julia to believe Nick was corrupt. From there, the duo tails Hayes to an abandoned warehouse where he gives the gold to a Deado, Pulaski (Devin Ratray), who escapes due to Nick and Roy’s intervention. Proctor, infuriated, takes them off the case, but they decide to continue the investigation on their own after learning the pieces of golds are components of the Staff of Jericho, a mystic device that could reverse the tunnel that transports the dead into the afterlife, returning them to Boston.

Nick and Roy visit Hayes, who quickly finds out who they are and reveals himself to be a Deado. He is arrested and brought to RIPD’s headquarters, where he and other Deados manage to escape after stealing the components of the Staff of Jericho and return to Earth. While the Deados assemble the Staff of Jericho, Hayes kidnaps Julia to use her as a human sacrifice to open the portal. Nick and Roy arrive and after killing the Deados, including Pulaski, Nick goes to save Julia while Roy destroys the Staff of Jericho and saves the city. Although Nick manages to kill Hayes, Julia succumbs to her wounds and dies in his arms before Proctor arrives and informs Nick that he has earned redemption and Julia has been awarded a second chance.

Julia is revived in the hospital and begins recovery, and Proctor reinstates Nick and Roy into the agency, in addition to providing Nick with a new avatar, which is soon revealed to be a 10-year-old girl scout (Piper Mackenzie Harris), much to Nick’s disappointment. Nick and Roy then get into Nick’s car and drive away.

REVIEW:

It seems as if Hollywood can only release a film nowadays if it is a remake, reboot or based on a novel or comic book. Until recently, I didn’t know that R.I.P.D. was a comic. Rest assured, I will be hitting up the comic book store and tracking down some issues. In the meantime, I have to wonder how far this film strayed from the source material.

What is this about?

After his murder, a policeman joins the Rest in Peace Department: a team of undead cops who help the recently deceased join the afterlife. Meanwhile, he searches for the man who killed him at the height of his successful life.

What did I like?

Tron. I have to give it up for Jeff Bridges. He plays a rugged cop from the old west who doesn’t give a damn, but still wants to do the right thing. This anti-hero, if you will, is the kind of character that seems to resonate best with today’s audiences. Pair his antics with Ryan Reynolds, who is apparently playing the straight man (ironic that a guy who played Deadpool, a character known for not being able to shut up, is telling someone else to shut up). The comedic timing that Bridges has it what really lets this character shine.

Comedy. Speaking of comedy, this is a film that could have taken itself too seriously, but instead chose to play up the comedic angle. Last summer, people were complaining that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter took itself way too serious and now they’re saying that this should have been more serious. There just is no pleasing some people. Personally, I think this is a film that would not have worked had they gone the serious route and enjoyed the comedic aspects in most places, but there were some that didn’t quite work for me, but they were forgivable.

Weapons and gadgets. For some odd reason, I was expecting all kinds of hi-tech gizmos and gadgets, but instead all the weapons were pretty humdrum. Sure, the dead all have guns that can vaporize other living challenged, but that is what they’re job requires. As explained pretty early on, regular weapons don’t work. I was more than happy that there weren’t all these Bond-like gadgets to be seen. I think we’ve seen enough of that in anther film that came out about 10 years ago.

What didn’t I like?

Similar. There are quite a few people who have picked up on the similarities, but it must be pointed out that this is very much like Men in Black. First, we have the young rookie getting paired up with the gruff veteran. They drive around in an old car, that might actually be the same make and model, but I’m not sure. To get back and forth to their headquarters, they take a transportation service in a place that no one would imagine to look, and there is a random old guy “running” the place. Do I need to keep going?

Avatar. A running joke with Reynolds and Bridges’ characters is that they don’t look like themselves. The problem with this is that it becomes a bit worn out after awhile. A couple of times they insert something new, such as the avatar for Bridges getting hit on and then him going on a somewhat feminist diatribe at him. On the whole, though, it just became a tired gimmick after awhile. Maybe it would have been better if each time they had different avatars.

Plot. The plot isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Someone finds an artifact, puts it together, and then tries to cause a sort of Armageddon. I know we’re dealing with supernatural elements here, but I’m sure they could have come up with something at least a little different. The whole end of the world thing has been done to death, especially in the last 6 months or so.

I really don’t get why everyone is being such a hater on R.I.P.D. Perhaps it is because Ryan Reynolds also is starring in the animated film Turbo and Mary-Louis Parker (does she ever age) is starring in Red 2 this weekend, and people are just tired of them. I don’t really know. What I do know is that I enjoyed this film through and through. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I loved it, but after a second viewing I may change my tune on that. There is a little something here for everyone, action, drama, deceit, comedy, even a love story. I highly recommend you give this a shot. You might like it and you might not, but you’ll never know unless you give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Wayne’s World 2

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Wayne and Garth now do their acclaimed Friday-night TV show in an abandoned doll factory in Aurora. At the end of the broadcast, Wayne, Garth, and his friends, head into the Mirthmobile, and off to an Aerosmith concert. After the band’s performance, Wayne and Garth head backstage (thanks to backstage passes), and praise Aerosmith like they did to Alice Cooper in the previous film.

That night, Wayne has a dream in which he meets Jim Morrison (Michael A. Nickles) and a “weird naked Indian” (Larry Sellers), in which Morrison tells Wayne that his destiny is to organize and put on a big concert. Wayne then asks when Garth’s football phone going to arrive, Morrison said it was sent to the wrong house and will arrive in the morning along with a swimsuit magazine and Stanley Cup video. The next morning, Garth showed up with the phone, magazine and video, which convinces Wayne to put on the show. Wayne and Garth dub the concert “Waynestock” and get to work, by, firstly, at Morrison’s request, to hire his former roadie, Del Preston (Ralph Brown), who, surprisingly had the same dream as Wayne. Their early attempts to sign bands and sell tickets fall flat, and Wayne wonders if the whole thing was a good idea.

Meanwhile Wayne’s girlfriend Cassandra has a new producer, Bobby Cahn (Christopher Walken), who slowly tries to pull her away from Wayne (blocking calls to her in the process) and Illinois. After Wayne admits that he was spying on her, Cassandra breaks off the relationship and hastily gets engaged to Bobby on the rebound. Garth meets a beautiful woman, Honey Hornée (Kim Basinger), at the laundromat, and she quickly ropes him in with her charms. Eventually, it is revealed that Honey is manipulating Garth into killing her ex-husband, and Garth quickly bails on the relationship.

Back in the real world, tickets for Waynestock are finally selling, but no bands have shown up. Wrestling with what to do, Wayne departs the festival grounds so he can find Cassandra, leaving Garth to keep the rowdy crowd in check. In a parody to The Graduate, Wayne travels to a church and breaks up Cassandra’s wedding before escaping the ceremony with her. Meanwhile, Garth has stage fright during the concert. Upon returning to Waynestock, the bands still have not shown up. As in the first film, three endings occur.

Wayne and Garth consult Morrison, who said that no one will come, telling them that all that matters is they tried. They turn around to go back to Waynestock and they lose their way, not knowing how to escape the desert dream sequence, and therefore presumably die of thirst (the sad ending).

They drive their car to find the bands, but a helicopter corners them, so they drive their car off a cliff (the Thelma & Louise ending).

The promised bands arrive and the whole event is a huge success (the happy ending).

REVIEW:

You know, there is a reason Saturday Night Live films that were based on sketches didn’t really gain more than a cult following, let alone have enough backing from the studio to earn a sequel, and that is because they were nothing more than vehicles that appealed to a certain sector of the population. With that in mind, it is a miracle that Wayne’s World 2 was even made.

What is this about?

A message from Jim Morrison in a dream prompts cable access TV stars Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) to put on a rock concert, “Waynestock,” with Aerosmith as headliners. But amid the preparations, Wayne frets that a record producer is putting the moves on his girlfriend, Cassandra (Tia Carrere), while Garth handles the advances of mega-babe Honey Hornee (Kim Basinger).

What did I like?

Valiant effort. I applaud the film for attempting to not rehash the same plot that they used in Wayne’s World. Films like this are well-known for doing such nonsense. While they didn’t use that plot, trace elements do show up, but I’ll get into that a little bit later. For now, I guess we can just be glad this film can theoretically stand on its own.

Jim Morrison. There are various dream sequences here in which Wayne dreams he is being spoken to by Jim Morrison (of The Doors’ fame), and being escorted there by a half-naked Indian. Michael A. Nickles does a decent job of bringing Morrison back to life, as it were, and he gives off that stoner, etherworldy vibe that is necessary in a dream sequence. I have nothing to say about the half-naked Indian. I belive he was there just for decoration.

Garth’s women. The last film was all about Wayne and Cassandra and that continues a bit here, but Garth also gets a little bit of action, so to speak, as he manages to hook up with Kim Basinger in a laundromat, then ends up with his doppelgänger that works in the permit office, played by Olvia d’Abo. One look at her, though, and you just knew they were going to end up together.

What didn’t I like?

Not! I believe it was Roger Ebert that said Wayne and Garth were “impossible to dislike”. Well, in my mind the impossible has been made possible, at least for Wayne. Garth, I can go along with being impossible to dislike. Wayne is your typical Mike Myers character, funny the first time, and gives you a few chuckles in small does after that, but eventually wears thin.He desparately tries to crack jokes in the hopes that they’ll get a rise out of the audience, but for me, they fell flat. As far as Garth goes, I’m glad we got more of him, but why is it his story is so much like a kiddie menu, whereas Wayne’s is like the Big Mac? I have never been a fan of how much Garth gets shafted like that.

Recycled. As I mentioned earlier, they didn’t recycle the plot from the previous film, but there are elements that pop up which are carbon copies of the first flick, most notably the slimy rich guy who woos Cassandra with the promise of furthering her career. Look, Tia Carrere is a catch, of that there is no question. Why she wants to stay with Wayne is beyond me, but we don’t always have to watch their relation get threatened like this. Come up with something else, like maybe some random chick wants to steal Wayne from her, for a change!

London calling. There is a montage where Wayne and Garth head to the UK, but it is more than obvious they don’t actually go, as they are replaced by look alikes who we never see from the front, and the plane is a toy. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but this isn’t the kind of film that goes that far overboard, so it didn’t quite jive with the rest of the film, at least in my eyes.

Wayne’s World 2 is a great example of why sequels should only be made when they are well thought out and the characters have somewhere to go and grow. As can be seen here, this is a flick that was just made because the last one made some money and the studios thought they could cash in on the popularity of these characters. I cannot recommend this, even to fans of Wayne and Garth, as this is nothing but horrid schlock that appeals to the lowest common denominator. It isn’t horrible, but it is bad.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Safe

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , on September 16, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A former cage fighter comes to the aid of a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by ruthless Triad gangsters. Before the rescue is over, the pair will go up against not only her abductors, but also the Russian Mafia and a bunch of corrupt New York cops.

REVIEW:

Say what you will about Jason Statham, I happen to believe he is the current go to guy for action films. I challenge you to name someone else who is as bankable without being a superhero (although Statham has stated he wants to e Daredevil). Safe is another entry into Staham’s action repertoire, but a bit of a departure from his usual formulaic films.

What is this about?

Mei, a young girl whose memory holds a priceless numerical code, finds herself pursued by the Triads, the Russian mob, and corrupt NYC cops. Coming to her aid is an ex-cage fighter whose life was destroyed by the gangsters on Mei’s trail. Will he be able to keep her safe and return to his normal life?

What did I like?

Mob wars. Russian and Chinese mafias going at each other throats and trying to get this little girl and kill Statham. What more can one ask for? Seems like he’s always stuck between two mobs (one of which is always Chinese) in his films, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing to me.

Hong. The other day, I saw this guy as a villain in an episode of The A-Team and now here he is again as a villainous mob boss. The special thing about that, though, is that most of his roles lately have been more of a good guy, typical mentor kind of guy. The last thing that I remember him in was the Kung Fu Panda films, and he’s Po’s dad, which makes him as good of a guy as you can get.

Mei. The little girl is hopefully on her way to a huge career. She shows some signs of true acting talent, not to mention being able to hang with Statham in the action realm, something that isn’t very easy to do.

What didn’t I like?

Lack of clarity. Throughout the whole film, I couldn’t help but find myself wondering what was really going on. It is never really a clear picture what the motives for everything are, why this little girl manages to bring Statham’s character back to “life”, etc.

Not a comedy. Some jokes were cracked here and there, but this isn’t anywhere near being a comedy, contrary to what people seem to believe. I give the film all the props in the world for inserting some jokes here and there, though.

Corrupt cops. There really isn’t anything special about the corrupt cops and city officials. In the same way that I hate how films use the military anytime something “different” appears on Earth, I’m just not a fan of these corrupt cop capers. I’ve just seen enough of these type of things.

Safe is a safe bet for those that are into these kind of action flicks. Staham is a bankable action star and earns his money in this one. Once this film gets going, hang on because you’re in for a fun ride. I don’t highly recommend this, but it is worth watching, so check it out!

3 out of 5 stars

Kung Fu Panda 2

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Years before the events of the first film, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), heir of the peacock clan that ruled Gongmen City in ancient China, sought to harness the power of fireworks as a weapon with which to rule the entire country. When he learned from the court’s goat soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh) that “a warrior of black-and-white” would one day defeat him, Shen assumed she was referring to a panda and exterminated much of the panda population to avert the prophecy. Shen’s parents were horrified at this atrocity and exiled Shen, who swore revenge.

Thirty years later, Po (Jack Black) is living his dream as the Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five, but is told by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) that he has yet to achieve inner peace. While fighting off a pack of wolf bandits who have been stealing refined metal for Lord Shen, Po is distracted by a symbol on the head wolf’s (Danny McBride) armor, which causes Po to have a flashback of his mother and allows the wolves to escape. Po asks his goose father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), where he came from, but all Ping can tell him is that he found Po as an infant in a radish crate and adopted him.

Afterwards, Shifu receives word that Master Thundering Rhino (Victor Garber), the leader of the kung fu council protecting Gongmen City, has been killed by Shen with his newly developed weapon, a cannon, with which he intends to destroy kung fu tradition and conquer China. Po and the Furious Five go to stop him, reaching Gongmen City to find it under the control of Shen’s forces. The heroes find two imprisoned council members, Masters Storming Ox (Dennis Haysbert) and Croc (Jean-Claude Van Damme), and ask their help to liberate the city, but both masters cite their helplessness against Shen’s weapon and refuse to help. Po and the Five are then discovered by the wolf leader, whom they chase to prevent him from alerting Shen, only to be captured by Shen’s army.

Upon being brought before Shen in his tower, Po and the Five free themselves and destroy Shen’s cannon. However, Po is again distracted by a flashback upon seeing the same symbol as before on Shen’s plumage, allowing Shen to escape and destroy the tower with an arsenal of cannons. After Po and the Five escape, Tigress (Angelina Jolie) confronts Po over his distraction. Po explains that he remembers Shen’s presence on the night he was separated from his parents, and wants to question Shen about his past. Though empathetic, Tigress tells Po to stay behind for his own safety.

Regardless, Po breaks into Shen’s cannon factory to confront him, inadvertently foiling the Five’s attempts to destroy the factory. Shen claims that Po’s parents never loved him before he blasts Po out of the factory and captures the Five. Po is rescued by Shen’s soothsayer, who has been exiled by Shen to the ruined village where Po was born. Guided by the soothsayer to embrace his past, Po remembers that when he was young, his parents had sacrificed themselves to save him from Shen’s forces, his mother hiding him in a radish crate before being subdued. Po thus attains inner peace, realizing that he had lived a happy and fulfilling life independent of this tragedy.

Po returns to Gongmen City to save the captive Five and prevent Shen’s conquest of China. During the ensuing battle (in which Ox and Croc participate after being persuaded by Shifu), Po uses his inner peace to enable a kung fu technique that allows him to redirect Shen’s cannon fire against his own armada, destroying it. Po then urges Shen to let go of his own past, but Shen attacks Po until he inadvertently slashes the ropes holding up his last cannon, which falls and crushes him to death. Victorious, Po returns to the Valley of Peace and reunites with Mr. Ping, lovingly declaring him to be his father. At the same time, Po’s biological father (Fred Tatasciore) is shown to be living in a far-off, hidden village inhabited by surviving pandas, and senses that his son is alive.

REVIEW:

A couple of years ago, when I watched Kung Fu Panda, I really didn’t expect it to do well enough to warrant a sequel. I guess in this day and age, I should have known better as almost everything gets a sequel…except The Incredibles, for some strange reason.

So, let me start off by saying that this is a definite upgrade to the original film. Well, maybe upgrade isn’t the best word. Perhaps evolution? What I’m trying to say is that the first film wasn’t bad, but this one takes what worked there and improved on the formula. There is more action, a deeper story, more comedy, and of course, that heartwarming moment that all films like this have.

Let me start off by mentioning the voice cast. While there are many people who can’t stand Jack Black as an actor, when it comes to voicing characters, especially one that is more or less fashioned after him, his style really works.

Gary Oldman is masterful as the villainous, neurotic, and dare I say, psychotic Lord Shen. I don’t think this should come as a surprise, though. Oldman can do no wrong on screen, though it is hard to imagine him animated as a pigeon.

Like in the first film, Angelina Jolie as Tigress just doesn’t work. I don’t know if it is my distaste for her, or the fact that the character is not designed to look anywhere near feminine. Everytime she’s on the screen, I think it’s a guy. At least Viper has a flower in her “hair” to distinguish her.

The animation is much improved as well from the first film. I’m always amazed at how animation improves over time. Just look at something like The Simpsons or Family Guy and how they are animated now compared to when they first started. The difference is like night and day. The same thing sort of applies here.

I mentioned that there was more action and a deeper story, and I was not kidding. The action is on par with many of this summer’s action blockbusters, and just think, they didn’t have to pay extra for stuntmen or risk blowing up national monuments, streets, etc.

The story is a tad bit darker than one would think. It involves Po learning that Master Chen basically committed genocide to all pandas after a premonition from the soothsayer. Luckily, they don’t dwell too much on this and use it as a passing plot point, more or less to establish the evil that Shen has done and how psychotic he really is.

The fact that they went there with the family though is a nice touch, not to mention it sets up nice for a third film, which I believe is in production as I’m typing this.

Kung Panda 2 is a nice family film that will entertain everyone. The jokes are not too mature or anything like that for younger viewers and the film doesn’t seem dumbed down so adults can enjoy it, as well. If you can get past the cartoonish bouncing sound when ever someone bounces into or off Po’s belly, then you’re sure to enjoy this flick. I highly recommend it!

4 out of 5 stars