Archive for Jeffrey Wright

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt. II

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) recovers after nearly being murdered by Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who had been “hijacked” by the Capitol. After rebel forces destroy the Capitol’s weapons supply in District 2, with a plan developed by Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Beetee Latier (Jeffrey Wright), Katniss shoots a propaganda film about the influx of Capitol refugees arriving in District 13, who are mistreated and brutalized by the rebels. When she attempts to intervene in the situation, a fight breaks out, during which Katniss is shot.

During recovery, Katniss spirals into depression. She approaches President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and volunteers to kill President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), but Coin declines in favor of preserving Katniss as the symbol of their revolution. During the wedding of Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Annie Cresta (Stef Dawson), Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) tells Katniss of an aircraft leaving for District 2, where Commander Paylor (Patina Miller) is planning an all-out assault on the Capitol. Sneaking aboard, Katniss is assigned to Squad 451, the “Star Squad”, led by Boggs (Mahershala Ali), but later finds out that their mission is to trail behind the invasion and be the onscreen face of the rebellion. They use a holographic map called a Holo to evade “pods” (booby traps) created by Gamemakers which line the streets of the Capitol. Peeta is unexpectedly assigned to the team by Coin despite still being vulnerable to the Capitol’s conditioning, and Boggs warns Katniss to be careful because she is seen by Coin as a threat to her power.

As they venture into the Capitol, they are ambushed by a hidden pod, and Boggs is fatally injured, transferring command of the unit to Katniss before dying. Another pod is triggered, which releases an avalanche of black ooze. Peeta’s hijacking drives him to attack Katniss again, during which he pushes Mitchell (Joe Chrest) into the ooze but is restrained long enough for the squad to evade the avalanche and escape into a building. With Boggs dead and command passed down to her, Katniss lies and tells her squad that she is under orders from Coin to kill Snow. The Peacekeepers eventually find their hideout, however the squad is able to escape before they arrive. Peacekeepers bomb their hideout, killing the Leeg twins (Misty and Kim Ormiston). The Capitol broadcasts a message with Snow announcing the supposed deaths of Squad 451 and of Peeta attacking Katniss, but Coin then hijacks the signal, and says that everyone should praise the sacrifice.

Nearing Snow’s mansion, the team decides to venture into the Capitol’s sewers in order to avoid the pods, but Snow, realizing the Squad is still alive, ambushes them with monstrous reptilian creatures called mutts created by the Capitol. Commander Jackson (Michelle Forbes), Castor (Wes Chatham), and Homes (Omid Abtahi) are killed. After the fight that follows, a mutt pulls Finnick down as he is escaping, forcing Katniss to use the self-destruct mechanism on the Holo to end his suffering, destroying what was left of the mutts in the process. They are chased by Peacekeepers shortly after reaching the surface, during which a pod kills another squad member, Messalla (Evan Ross). The survivors eventually escape and take refuge in a shop, where a former Hunger Games stylist, Tigris (Eugenie Bondurant), hides them in her basement. While they all mourn the loss of the rest of their squad, Katniss confesses that she lied about her orders to kill Snow, and as a result of her lie, Finnick and the rest of the squad are dead. The squad reveal that they knew this all along, but went with her because they trusted her. Peeta comforts Katniss, saying that if she kills Snow, she will avenge the deaths of everyone who has died because of him. That night, Gale and Peeta discuss their love triangle, with Gale stating he thinks Peeta has won her over, but Peeta thinks that Gale has. Gale eventually remarks that deciding which one she can’t live without is Katniss’s problem, and not theirs.

Snow announces that the rebels have invaded the Capitol and welcomes refugees into his mansion, providing them with food and shelter. With the traps deactivated, Katniss and Gale pose as refugees to gain access to Snow. Their covers are nearly blown when the rebels arrive and attack the Peacekeepers, killing many Capitol civilians. In the ensuing chaos, Katniss marches towards Snow’s mansion and finds Peacekeepers taking Capitol children to provide Snow with a human shield. A Capitol hovercraft flies by and drop silver parachutes similar to the ones used in the Hunger Games into the crowd of children surrounding the mansion, which explode. Upon the explosion, a team of rebel medics attempt to help the injured, among whom is Katniss’ sister, Prim (Willow Shields). Katniss heads towards her, but a second round of bombs go off, killing Prim and knocking Katniss unconscious.

Upon recovering, Katniss learns that the Capitol has been conquered by the rebels, and that Snow has been captured. Katniss confronts Snow, who claims that Coin masterminded the bombings in order to turn his supporters against him. When Katniss accuses him of lying, he reminds her of their promise to always be truthful to each other. Suspicious, Katniss realises that the bombs resembled a trap Gale had been working on earlier. When Gale confesses that it may have been his and apologizes, she orders him out of the room. Later, Katniss attends a meeting with Coin (who has appointed herself interim President of Panem) and the remaining Victors to discuss having one final edition of the Hunger Games with the children of the Capitol as retribution for the previous games. Realizing that Snow was right and that Coin has “played them both for fools”, Katniss votes in favor of the motion “for Prim,” which gains Coin’s trust. She is awarded the opportunity to execute Snow.

At the execution, which is being held before the whole of Panem, Katniss faces Snow once again. As she readies her bow, the two make eye contact, and Snow gives her one last smile. Katniss silently agrees, and instead shoots the arrow into Coin’s heart, killing her. While a laughing Snow is finally lynched and killed by an angry mob, Katniss attempts to commit suicide by consuming a nightlock pill, given to them earlier in case of enemy capture, but Peeta stops her attempt. Katniss is pardoned for her crime, being deemed mentally unwell, and through a letter delivered by Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) advises Katniss to return home to District 12 until things settle down.

Katniss returns to her home in the ruins of District 12 to recover from her traumatic ordeal, where she is eventually joined by Peeta, who has recovered his memories of love for Katniss. Commander Paylor is elected the new President of Panem, and Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch bond over their shared trauma. Katniss and Peeta slowly grow back together, and Katniss admits her love for him. Years later, Katniss and Peeta are shown to have two children. Katniss reminisces about her recurring nightmares she still suffers from and explains she plays “a game” where she lists all the good things she has seen someone do. She notes that while the game has grown tedious over the years, “there are much worse games to play.”

REVIEW:

Well, the day studios have feared. Another franchise has come to an end, despite their desperate attempts to drag it out. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part II is surely all the action we didn’t get in its predecessor, which was more talking and planning than anything else, right? Let’s find out!

What is this about?

As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

What did I like?

Horror games. A few years ago vampires were everywhere, or at least what people were calling vampires. Now we have zombies all over the place, and these are true, mindless, killing machine zombies. Even this movie is not immune to the influence of zombie culture, as the mutts now look like zombies and/or creatures from Silent Hill. This is a big change for them since they were dog-type creatures in The Hunger Games. The design isn’t really what I liked, as mcuch as how this whole underground segment played out like a horror movie. I think I even saw some people jump when the mutts showed up out of nowhere. Can we say jump scare?

Pods. All over the Capitol, these death traps called pods, have been set up. I’m wondering what kind of twisted minds came up with these things. Tar traps that flood an arena type area, flame throwers on a motion sensor, floors that crumble as you walk on them and then reveal rolling spikes, lights that instantly disintegrate what they touch, etc., these are not the kind of things a normal person thinks up. Bringing the traps to t life from the book it impressive to me as they looked really deadly on screen and made the audience question whether our band of heroes could ultimately escape.

Aquaman. He’s not in this for very long, but Finnick Odair is still mastering the trident and water skills. Who else does that? Hmmm…oh yeah, Aquaman! I know that they have cast that Aquaman, but Sam Claflin is more of what Aquaman really is. Maybe someone casting over there at DC movies needs to read a comic book once in a while! Anyway, Finnick is a hero through and through, still protecting Katniss and fighting with the knowledge his new wife is waiting for him to come home.

What didn’t I like?

Peaked too soon. This is a franchise that has been superior from the beginning. However, this being the last film, I didn’t get that feeling that everything ended with a we will always remember these characters. Perhaps that should have taken a cue from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part II (in more ways than just splitting the last book), and show us what happened to all the characters, not just Katniss and Peeta. Yes, they do give us an epilogue, but it is more of a monologue with an older version of our heroes. Can it me that this film hit its peak in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? One can make that argument, because these two Mockingjay pictures have not felt like a fitting end that those of us fans invested since the beginning deserve.

Avox. Here we are in the final film of this series and they bring out a term from the books, avox. Know what that is? Chances are, if you haven’t read the books, you don’t have a clue, as these films never told us, and yet they gloss over it so nonchalantly, you’d think it was something as well-defined as the games themselves. An avox is a person being punished for rebelling against the Capitol. As such, they have their tongues cut out and cannot speak. With Pollux being such a somewhat major character, one would think this would have been explained somehow!

Little support. The focus of the film is obviously on Katniss, Peeta, and the usual main characters, which is fine, but what about the rest of the cast? Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch, who has been a bright spot of comedic relief in these dark times might as well have been nonexistent. Jena Malone’s character deserved more screentime, and perhaps another elevator strip scene HA! I feel as if her character could have been fleshed out more, but that didn’t happen. If I recall, there was some real time for Prim, which we say in the last film, but all we got in this one was a quick glance before an explosion. WTF?!? She is the whole reason for this whole mess with Katniss, if you think about it. Give her and Katniss at least one scene of sisterly bonding! These are just a few examples of how little the filmmakers felt the supporting characters should support.

Well, that ends The Hunger Games franchise. What will take up the mantle going forward? I would say Divergent, but that’s about to end, too. I’m sure something will pop up. In the meantime, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, pt. II left me with a bit of disappointment. It isn’t that it was a bad film, but rather there is no excitement. Other than a couple of action scenes, this isn’t much different from its predecessor in term of excessive dialogue. Do I recommend it? Yeah, again, it isn’t a bad picture, just not what I feel the final film should be. Give it a shot, though.

4 out of 5 stars

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Revisited: Ali

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with Cassius Clay, Jr. (Will Smith) before his championship debut against then heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. In the pre-fight weigh-in Clay heavily taunts Liston (such as calling Liston a “big ugly bear”). In the fight Clay is able to dominate the early rounds of the match, but halfway through the fight Clay complains of a burning feeling in his eyes (implying that Liston has tried to cheat) and says he is unable to continue. However, his trainer/manager Angelo Dundee (Ron Silver) gets him to keep fighting. Once Clay is able to see again he easily dominates the fight and right before round seven Liston quits, therefore making Cassius Clay the second youngest heavyweight champion at the time after Floyd Patterson. (Mike Tyson would later beat Patterson’s record). Ali spends valued time with Malcolm X (Peebles) and the two decide to take a trip to Africa.

Clay is then invited to the home of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad where he is granted the name Muhammad Ali due to his status of World Heavyweight Champion. While at home with his wife and children, Malcolm X is called by the Nation of Islam and has been informed Ali will not go to Africa and his suspension (Malcolm’s) has been extended. Muhammad Ali takes the trip to Africa where he finds Malcolm X, but later refuses to speak to him, honoring the wishes of Elijah Muhammad. Upon returning to America and defeating Sonny Liston a second time, Ali continues to dominate as champion, until he is stripped of the title, boxing license, passport suspended and sent to jail for his refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War. After a three year hiatus, his conviction is later overturned, and attempts to regain the Heavyweight Championship against Joe Frazier. Dubbed the Fight of the Century, Frazier wins, giving Ali the first loss of his career. When Frazier loses the championship to George Foreman, Ali makes a decision to fight George Foreman to be the first boxer to win his title a second time. Ali goes to Zaire to face Foreman for the title. While there, Ali has an affair with a woman he meets named Veronica Porsche (who he is said to later marry in the epilogue). After reading rumors of his infidelity through newspapers, his wife, Belinda Ali (Nona Gaye) travels to Zaire to confront him about this. Ali says he is unsure as to whether he really loves Veronica Porsche (Michael Michele) or not, and just wants to focus on his upcoming title shot. For a good portion of the fight against Foreman, Ali leans back against the ropes and covers up, letting Foreman wildly throw punches at him. During the fight Muhammad Ali realizes that he has to react sooner or else he will be knocked out or possibly die in the ring. As the rounds go on, Foreman tires himself out and Ali takes advantage. He quickly knocks out the tired Foreman, and the movie ends with Ali regaining the Heavyweight Championship of which he was previously stripped.

REVIEW:

When it comes to boxing, there is arguably no bigger name than Muhammad Ali. Not only was he a great boxer, but he had a larger than life personality that just lends itself perfectly to the movies. This is where we get Ali, one of the few biopics made about someone who is still living, but does it do the man justice?

What is this about?

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali stirred controversy when he ruled the ring, as shown in this biopic that also frames the social climate of his heyday.

What did I like?

Boxed in. It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when boxing matches were a big deal, much in the same way football and basketball games are today. The film captures that enthusiasm by showing how packed arenas are, the reception Ali would get, even after his draft dodging defiance, and talking about the payout/ratings for these matches, if only in passing.

Transformation. At the time of this release, Will Smith was a big movie star, no question, but he hadn’t done anything that would capture the Academy’s attention and make him a respected actor, as opposed to the skinny kid from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. One of the things that went to change people’s opinion of him was how much he transformed his body to play Ali, packing on muscle, learning to box, and even capturing Ali’s mannerisms as best one can without actually being Ali.

Cosell. When it comes to sportscasters, you would be hard pressed to find any more recognizable that Howard Cosell. As his era was in the 60s and 70s, it is no surprise that he was an important role in the rise of Muhammad Ali. What does surprise me, if this is true, is the close relationship they have. The film takes the time to show and nurture this, especially in later scenes, if for nothing more than comedic effect, and those scenes turn out to be some of the most memorable non boxing scenes.

What didn’t I like?

X marks the spot. The first 45 minutes or so of this film are spent telling the audience how Cassius Clay became Cassius X and then Muhammad Ali. All that is fine and good, but the Malcolm X angle was a bit much. I don’t know if Ali and X were actually friends, but if they were as close as this film suggests, then I’m sure it would be talked about a bit more. As such, this is the first that I’m hearing about their friendship. Also, not to take anything away from the fine performance of Mario van Peebles (where has he disappeared to?), but if I wanted to watch a movie about Malcolm X, I’d watch the one from a while back with Denzel Washington. Overall, my big issue with this is just too much time was spent on Malcolm X, even going so far as to show his home life in a couple of scenes and the FBI tapping his phone (which doesn’t go anywhere, btw).

Molasses. Sakes alive does this film move slow! I was constantly watching the time of this 2 1/2 hour film. The boxing matches, while the most exciting parts of the picture, are a little bit of a spike in movement, but even they seem to be sluggish. I don’t want to say that those should have just been highlights, but perhaps it would have been better that way. When a film is this slow and serious, it needs something to keep the audience interesting. I mentioned the Howard Cosell scenes, which are a sprinkle of life, but the boxing scenes should have captured the audience and not let go. Instead, they contribute more to the comatose feeling that this film inspires.

Hair of the fox. This is a small little issue, but it is one that I’m going to bring up. Jamie Foxx looks like he pissed off his barber or jumped while they were cutting his hair. I don’t know if that’s the way the real Bundini’s hair looked, but geez, man! I was talking to my friend a few minutes ago, and mentioned how there are some similarities to Foxx’s hair here and in his pre-Electro scenes from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yes, his hair doesn’t have anything to do with his performance, but everytime he was on-screen, all I could do was look at the bald strip.

When I was growing, like most people around my age, the boxing that I got into was Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the original Nintendo system. I heard about Muhammed Ali, mostly from greatest athlete of all time lists and the barbershop scene in Coming to America, but never really knew anything about him. It wasn’t until 1996, when an older, Parkinson’s stricken Ali appeared in Atlanta at the Olympics and lit the torch, that I became interested in his life. Not long after that, we get Ali, which has turned out to be a quality film, even with its few flaws. Once you get past the snail like pace of this picture, you may actually enjoy it, or at least learn something. Keep in mind, that Ali himself has said that many of the even portrayed were not accurate. Do I recommend this? Yes, no reason for you not to check this out.

4 out of 5 stars

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return home to District 12. On the day Katniss and Peeta are to start a victory tour of the country, she is visited by President Snow, who explains that when she defied the Capitol by breaking the rules so that she and Peeta both survived the last Hunger Games, she inspired rebellions in districts and now must continue to pretend to be in love with Peeta or her family will be killed along with Gale and Peeta’s families to maintain the illusion that her actions were out of love, not to incite an uprising.

The first stop of the tour is in District 11, home of Katniss’ friend Rue, the 12-year-old who competed in the 74th Hunger Games. Peeta offers to read the speech from a script Effie provides them, but throws it away and voices his thoughts instead. As they leave, a sorrowful Katniss delivers an inspiring speech that causes a man to whistle the tune Katniss used during the 74th Hunger Games to inform Rue she was safe, and provides the three-finger salute of District 12. Everyone follows the man until Peacekeepers shoot him dead, causing Katniss to scream in panic. Fearing for their safety, Haymitch tells Katniss and Peeta they have become a political target. The two youths proceed to visit the other districts. To solve disputes between Katniss and Snow, Peeta proposes to Katniss in public.

When they return to District 12, they find Gale has been punished and is being publicly whipped because he defended an old woman when the Commander and his troops were destroying the Black Market. Peeta, Katniss and Haymitch try to save Gale. Snow, watching them, reads out that the 75th Hunger Games will be the Quarter Quell, an event taking place every 25 years in which a new rule is added to the game. The new rule for this Third Quarter Quell states that contestants will be reaped from the existing pool of victors. Katniss is devoted to allowing Peeta to become the champion of the Quarter Quell and makes a deal with Haymitch that whatever he does he must make sure Peeta is safe and will win. Haymitch’s name is drawn at the reaping, but Peeta immediately volunteers and Haymitch has no power to stop him from joining.

During the individual training session, Peeta leaves a painting of Rue on the floor of the Training Center. Mad, Katniss hangs one of the Training Center’s dummies, leaving the words Seneca Crane (former Head Gamemaker) on it.

As the games almost start, with Katniss in the tube to the arena, Peacekeepers beats Katniss’ stylist until he is knocked out because he changed Katniss’ dress for interviews, to turn into a Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion. Katniss goes up her glass tube as the games commence.

The games are set around a saltwater lake, during which Katniss becomes an ally of Mags and Finnick Odair, both from District 4. Mags sacrifices herself when they are attacked by fog of painful poisonous gas that causes their skin to blister, allowing Finnick, Katniss and Peeta to escape. The trio rests in the middle of the forest where they are attacked by mandrills. During the attack, the woman from District 6, a camouflage expert and drug addict, sacrifices her life for Peeta. After they escape the mandrills and rest at the beach, they are met by Wiress and Beetee from District 3, who are extremely smart, and Johanna from District 7, who is cunning and violent. Wiress soon learns the saltwater lake is arranged like a clock and that every hour another attack will come—the first being the fog, the second being the mandrills. At midnight and noon, lightning strikes a very large tree. After Wiress dies, Beetee suggests a plan that requires them to direct the electricity from the lightning to the lake to electrocute the remaining two tributes from District 2. When the wire snaps, Katniss attaches the remaining wire to an arrow and shoots it at the force field to destroy the arena, causing her to black out.

She awakens in an aircraft with an unconscious Beetee. Entering the cockpit, she finds Haymitch, Finnick and Plutarch, the gamemaker, who is actually their ally and a rebel against Snow. Learning Johanna and Peeta were taken away by the Capitol, she attempts to attack Haymitch for not fulfilling his promise, but Plutarch sedates her before she can do so. She awakens days later with Gale by her side and learns her family is safe but District 12 has been destroyed, and that she is on her way to District 13.

REVIEW:

It seems like forever since The Hunger Games was in theaters, and many people have been counting down the days for the sage to continue. In the time since the first film, I actually took the time to read the books. Actually, I just read and finished them a few weeks ago, so they are quite fresh on my mind, which could be a good or bad thing for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

What is this about?

After her triumph in the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen begins a new life and confronts more danger in this sequel to the postapocalyptic fable. As Katniss travels through the districts on a “Victor’s Tour,” a rebellion gathers steam around her.

What did I like?

Emotion. Very early on, the victory tour makes a stop in District 11, home of Rue and Thresh, who were very instrumental in Katniss’ win in the last games. Once Katniss takes the mike and starts to talk about Rue, all the feelings about how she was killed so quickly and needlessly came rushing in. Even a cold-hearted bastard like myself felt a twinge in the back of my throat once the people in the district started whistling those notes and holding up the fingers. In the back of my mind though, I have to wonder, are we sure Katniss is the one everyone is getting behind, or is it Rue’s memory? Hmm…

Arena. When I was reading this book, the thing that I was most looking forward to was how they were going to be translated the arena to the big screen. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised in how they brought all the dangers to life, even if some things were cut out, and also spend much more time in the arena than in the last film. There is a reason these films are not named after the Capitol or one of the districts. I’m not sure which of the dangers I liked the most, but I think it may very well be the killer monkeys, with the poison smoke a close second.

New stuff. The new characters introduced in the film seamlessly fit in just as well as the ones that return, most notably Sam Claflin’s Finnick Odair. Personally, I think we could have gotten more development into his arrogant side, like the book, but the same can be said for just about any and all of the characters. An expanded role for Elizabeth Banks’ Effie (and her costumes) and Donald Sutherland helped to add to the newness of the film, as they just had a handful of lines in the first film, especially Sutherland.

What didn’t I like?

Connection. Earlier, I mentioned the connection we all felt to Rue in the last film, and how that connection is still here in the second. That same connection cannot be said for a couple of characters that don’t make it through the film. First, there in Mags, a tribute from Finnic’s district who is the only thing that he cares for more than himself. Also, there is Cinna, whom we briefly got to know in the first film, but should play a larger role here. Both of their deaths are parts that nearly bring the book to a screeching halt, but in the film they don’t have that same weight, especially Cinna’s. His just seem to be the beating of another designer, nothing special.

Get in where you fit in. This was actually brought up by someone else, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch is out of place. No, I’m not talking about him being cast as Plutarch. He seems to do job as far as I can tell. However, in the Capitol, everyone is dressed in extreme designer garb. That is, except Plutarch Havensebee, which seems to have just walked out of Salvation Army. The guy just doesn’t fit in with all the over the top outfits surrounding him.

Difference. I could sit here all day and list the number of changes that were made from the book to the big screen, but we’d be here all day and night discussing them. The reason the changes were made were to keep this film relatively short, well, under 3 hrs. Having said that, the parts they cut out leave the general audience wondering about some thing, such as the aforementioned emotional attachment to some of the characters. Whoever wrote this script could have done a better job of finding some level of continuity. As it is, with everything that was taken out, there is a bit of a random episodic feel to it that doesn’t quite work for me.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire obviously learned some things from its predecessor’s mistakes, such as no shaky cam, a bigger budget, etc. I still say Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” should be used somewhere in the soundtrack, but that’s just me. On a side not, I have to mention that when/if we ever get an Aquaman movie, or if they decide to feature him on Arrow, they need to look no further than Sam Claflin. In more ways that you think, Finnick is a version of Aquaman, but I digress. I had a great time with this film, despite my issues with it. I’ll gladly go see this again, and probably will. Now, we start the countdown for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part I.  While you’re waiting, go out and see this a time or two.

4 1/3 out of 5 stars

Source Code

Posted in Action/Adventure, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Army helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), last aware of being on a mission in Afghanistan, wakes up on a commuter train traveling to Chicago. He finds that to other people – including his traveling partner Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) – he appears as Sean Fentress, a school teacher. As he comes to grips with this revelation, the train car explodes, killing everyone aboard and derailing it and a tanker train traveling the other direction.

Stevens regains consciousness inside an unfamiliar cockpit. Through a screen, Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) verifies Stevens’ identity. She explains Stevens is in the “Source Code”, an experimental device created by Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), scientist for Beleaguered Castle (a military unit named after the card game), that allows its user to experience the last eight minutes of a person’s life within an alternate timeline. Stevens is being asked to use Source Code to discover the location of a bomb aboard the train and identify who detonated it. Goodwin explains that the train explosion occurred that morning, and was a warning by the bomber as a precursor to a larger dirty nuclear device that will be detonated in downtown Chicago. Though Stevens’ actions cannot change the past and save the lives aboard the train, identifying the bomber in the alternate timeline will prevent the deaths of millions more in this one.

Stevens enters the Source Code several more times and continues to discard passengers suspected to be the bomber, as well as coming to a relationship with Warren. Within these jumps, he learns that these events occurred two months after an incident while on duty that reportedly killed him. Once he discovers this, he accosts Goodwin for more information. She is forced to explain that the remains of his body are on life-support at the Source Code facility while his mind is hooked up to its computer systems, the cockpit being a mental projection of his own mind to cope with the experience. Angered to discover this, Stevens makes a deal to complete the mission, demanding that they terminate his life support after it is completed, to which Dr. Rutledge agrees.

Back in the Source Code, Stevens eventually identifies a young man, Derek Frost (Michael Arden), as the bomber, and the location of the dirty bomb. On his return, his information is successfully used by the military to capture Frost before he can trigger the bomb in Chicago. Stevens is praised as a hero, but in private, Rutledge tells Goodwin to renege on the deal and instead wipe Stevens’ memory to be able to use him the next time there is such an incident. In talking to Goodwin, Stevens realizes that the promise has been violated, and convinces Goodwin to let him return to Source Code once more after which she will disable his life support against Rutledge’s orders.

Once back aboard the train, Stevens assures that the bomb is defused and Frost contained to be taken by authorities. He sends an email out, and then calls his estranged father under the guise of a fellow soldier, mending the emotional distance from their past. Finally, he takes Warren aside and prepares to kiss her as his eight minutes run out. As promised, Goodwin disables his life-support, in a scene that reveals his actual body as severely mutilated and comatose. Stevens is surprised to finish the kiss, still aboard the train with Christina well beyond the eight minutes, and realizes he remains in the alternate timeline. The train arrives safely in Chicago, and he and Warren ditch work to walk together and discuss their future.

Later that day, the alternate timeline Goodwin receives an email sent by Stevens earlier just as news breaks of Frost’s failed bombing attempt. The email explains that Source Code does work, allowing the user to change history within the alternate timelines. Stevens’ email ends with him telling Goodwin that when they use their Stevens, they make sure to tell him that “everything is going to be OK”.

REVIEW:

I’m not sure how many of you are aware of this show on Cartoon Network called Mad TV, but if you haven’t at least checked it out, you need to. No, it isn’t the sketch show that was on Fox all these years, but rather a series of animated spoofs on various topics in pop culture. In other words, they brought the magazine to life.

One day, I was watching it and they did on this film, Source Code, and it intrigued me because I had never really heard about this film…at least that I recall, anyway. Needless to say, I found that particular segment funny, bt didn’t quite get the references. Now, after watching the film, when that episode airs again, I am almost assured to be rolling on the ground laughing.

So, what is this film about? The answer is that is about the Source Code, which is the last eight minutes a person remembers after they die. Somehow, a military scientist has fond a way to send a person back in the form of another person’s memories. This science is meant to be used to help thwart future terror attacks.

The test subject is Cpt. Colter Stephens, a pilot whose plane went down in Afghanistan and is apparently in a secure location with only the home base of Beleaguered Castle able to contact him and vice versa.

The brass at Castle are very adamant that Castle succeed in his mission of finding out who set off the bomb that destroyed a train headed to Chicago with everyone on board and that he does not deviate from that plan. Of course, we all know that wouldn’t make for a very interesting film, now wold it?

Needless to say, though, eventually he learns that deviating from the plan does not work and strokes a deal with the people in charge that has an incentive if he completes the mission, which if successful would save the entire city of Chicago from destruction at the hands of a dirty bomb.

The film ends with a major revolution about Cpt. Stevens and an unexpected twist, for lack of a better term.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, though the constant Groundhog Day effect did get a bit old, yet it made sense at the same time because of the film’s storyline.

Speaking of the story, this is one of the more interesting plots in cinema that I’ve seen in quite some time, mainly because it is *GASP* an original idea (remember those?)

The puzzles and twists along the way really make for quite the interesting tale and capture the audience’s attention.

When I really got into the film, I thought to myself that it had elements of Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap. Well, lo and behold Scott Bakula (who starred in the latter) makes a voice cameo as Stephnens’ dad.

For some reason, the explosion of the train never really captivated me. I guess it was one of those things that you can only see so many times before you become dead to it, or something. It isn’t like it was some cheap effect or anything like that, bt rather just the opposite. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t feel blown away, if you will, by it.

The real surprise was the identity of the bomber. When they first revel that he needed to capture the bomber, I started trying to figure out who it was, but never came p with the guy it ended up being. Boy was I wrong!!!

Jake Gyllenhaal really flexes his acting chops with this film. Of course for a good portion of it, he has to since he’s in a room by himself with only a monitor with Vera Farmiga talking to him. Oddly enough, I think they had better chemistry than the scenes where he is with Michelle Monaghan’s character, of course, that cold have something to do with the fact that he’s not supposed to be himself there, too.

In the end, Source Code is an enjoyable sci-fi suspense thriller. Is it a must-see? Well, I won’t say yes, but I won’t say no, either. However, I think if you take the time to watch it, you’ll feel like you didn’t waste 90 minutes of your life the way some films do these days.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Cadillac Records

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2009 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT:

This movie is based on the true story of how a small music recording studio, Chess Records, located on the south side of Chicago, began recording blues music with Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright) and Little Walter (Columbus Short) in 1947, and eventually gave birth to rock and roll in 1955 with Chuck Berry (Mos Def). Record producer, Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) has an ear for this different type of music, and believes he can cash in by signing up new talent such as songwriter, Willie Dixon (Cedric the Entertainer), Howlin’ Wolf (Eamonn Walker), and Etta James (Beyonce Knowles). Leonard Chess makes all of his artist part of his family and takes care of them. This is not an easy job for him, because they spend a small fortune on booze, drugs, and the high life. When Chuck Berry goes to jail, Leonard is able to find another talented performer, Etta James, to take his place. In the late sixties, as their music goes out of favor, Leonard Chess gets out of the record business. Douglas Young (the-movie-guy) .

REVIEW:

As a music (and Beyonce) lover, I couldn’t help but be curious as to how good or bad this film was. After watching it this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised.

Adrien Brody flexes his acting chops and reminds us all why he won that Oscar not too long ago. He really brings depth and believability to Leonard Chess.

Jeffrey Wright is best known to me as Peoples Hernandez from Shaft. I had no idea he was capable of handling such a taxing role as Muddy Waters. It seems as if he is familiar with Waters and may even have been a fan.

I’ve heard that Etta James was not happy with Beyonce playing her in this film. I’m a fan of Beyonce, but I can see Etta’s point. Beyonce just didn’t seem right for this role. For me, it seemed as though she was trying to channel her character from Dreamgirls. The only difference seems to be that Etta has meat on her bones and is grittier. Make no mistake about Beyonce’s talent, this just wasn’t the role for her, no matter what she thinks.

Mos Def, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union, and Emmanuelle Chriqui round out this outstanding cast. Each steps up their game a notch and delivers arguably the best performances of their career.

You can’t have a film about musicians without a killer soundtrack, and this film is no exception, but I could have done without the rap version of a Muddy Waters song that played as the film ended. I know many think work such as that is genius, but I find it offensive and lazy. They’re just using someone else’s work as a part of their own because they are too lazy to come up with something on their own…just like Hollywood with all the reboots and remakes.

This film is obvioulsy about all the artists at Chess Records, but it seems to foucs almost exclusively on Muddy Waters. Now, I would have no issue with this, if the film was a Muddy Waters biopic, but it isn’t, so more screentime shouldh ave been given to the other acts, especially Howln’ Wolf and Etta James.

As far as biopics go, this is one of the more entertaining films in recent memory. It kept my attention from beginning to end, which is no easy task, let me tell you. The performances were top notch, as was the music. I think anyone that wants to watch this is more than likely going to be interested in it for the subject matter (not counting those who would watch just for Beyonce) and will enjoy it.

4 out of 5 stars