Archive for kidnapping

Getaway

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , on November 30, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Washed up former race driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) arrives home to find his house ransacked and his wife, Leanne, missing. Suddenly, his phone rings. On the other end is a mysterious man known only as The Voice (Jon Voight) who reveals himself as the kidnapper of Magna’s wife. The man tells Magna that he must follow a set of instructions precisely in order to be reunited with his wife. The Voice orders Magna to steal a specially customised Shelby Mustang from a parking garage. The Voice warns Magna that if he does not follow the instructions or is caught, Leanne will die.

Magna sees two police officers chasing him and speeds off. Being a skilled driver, he is able to evade them with ease, eventually setting a trap to cause one to crash into the other. Despite more police cars joining the pursuit, Magna is able to out maneuver them. Some time later, Magna is again contacted by The Voice, who directs him towards his first task. He tells Magna to speed up and take some perilous turns, eventually being forced to crash through a park, ice rink, and shopping center, nearly killing numerous civilians in the process. The Voice calls to congratulate him and tells him to keep moving. Magna is ordered to crash into a water truck and run through a red lighted intersection, causing accidents in his wake. Magna is then ordered to park in a construction zone and await further instructions. While Magna is waiting, a young woman known only as The Kid (Selena Gomez) attempts to steal Magna’s car. The Voice calls and orders Magna to kill The Kid. Magna refuses, and The Voice says that keeping her alive was the right choice, as he will need her help. As Magna and The Kid drive off, with more police in pursuit, she reveals that the Mustang is, in fact, her car, and that she was told, by a police officer, it was stolen. Magna realizes that their meeting was orchestrated by The Voice.

After the Voice assigns Magna another destructive task, The Kid reveals herself as a skilled computer hacker and the daughter of the C.E.O of a large bank. The Voice contacts Magna again and orders him to upload the contents of a USB flash drive into a computer before 11:30 pm. Upon reaching the designated area, a power plant, The Kid attempts to hack the computer in order to contact the police. She appears to have succeeded, only for The Voice to cut her off, revealing that he set up the computer as a trap for her. The plant suddenly overloads and explodes, destroying itself and blacking out a large portion of the city.

The Voice gives Magna his final task: to rob the bank owned by The Kid’s father. The Kid points out that there is no actual money at her father’s bank; it is an investment firm which holds all of its assets on computers. Gradually, the duo realizes that they are not actually committing a heist, but are merely providing a distraction for the police while The Voice executes the real robbery and subsequently frames them for it.

As The Voice’s men begin to commandeer an armoured car carrying sensitive hard drives, Magna surprises and overpowers them, succeeding in taking the drives. Now fleeing from the police and The Voice’s men, Magna calls The Voice and offers to release the hard drives in exchange for his wife. The Voice accepts and directs him to an airplane hangar. While it appears that Leanne is about to be returned, The Kid deduces that The Voice is planning to have them all killed once the deal is done. As Magna, Leanne, and The Kid attempt to escape, the police arrive, and in the ensuing chaos, a man Magna assumes to be The Voice grabs The Kid and drives off with her. Magna leaves Leanne with the police and pursues.

Following a high speed chase, both cars are destroyed, Magna rescues The Kid, and the police arrest the mysterious man. Leanne and Magna are reunited. However, Magna receives a phone call from The Voice, revealing that the man who was busted was no more than a decoy. The Voice thanks Magna for his help and hangs up. It is revealed that The Voice was in fact controlling the entire operation from a bar in the United States. He checks his account balance and walks out of the bar.

REVIEW:

Remember that Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock film, Speed? Well, Getaway seems to be somewhat in that same vein, what with the threat of someone dying if the driving stops, but I don’t believe this is as good as Reeves and Bullock’s, um, vehicle.

What is this about?

When washed-out race car driver Brent Magna’s wife is kidnapped, he partners with a sexy, enigmatic hacker known only as The Kid to track her down. But the figure behind the abduction is calling the shots, and is watching their every move.

What did I like?

Non-stop. I love my action, but most action films that are out there are light on the action and heavy on the useless talking which does nothing but put the audience to sleep. That being said, this flick does not fall into that trap, but does just the opposite. The action scenes take center stage…and they are GLORIOUS!!!! The talking does happen, but it is there just to get the heartbeat back to normal before things take off again. That, my friends, is how you do an action flick!

Property damage. For some reason, people got all up in arms about the property damage in Man of Steel. So much so, that it is rumored the reaction will be part of the plot of Batman vs. Superman. Why was this? I have no idea, but I do appreciate this film’s blatant disregard for cops cars and other property. Seeing vehicular rampage is a good thing once in a while. Sometimes audiences just want to see destruction. Is that so hard for studios and audiences to come together on?

Skeleton crew. We have a car, Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, and a mysterious voice. Do we really need anyone else? As it turns out, no we don’t. This small cast accomplishes a more believable story filled with emotion and intrigue than films with giant, overpaid, ensemble casts. Maybe it is best to just keep it simple, stupid.

What didn’t I like?

Who it is? I won’t spoil the identity of the mysterious voice, though his name is on the poster. However, there is something I have a problem with. This guy is revealed at the very end of the film, but that is the first time we see him in the whole film. It makes no sense to have a random guy be the villain, at least without a motive. Now, had he been seen somewhere in the film or turned out to be Selena Gomez’s father, then that would perhaps have made more sense and been a more effective “twist.”

Looks can only take you so far. Selena Gomez is cute, I’ll give you that, but if she wants to ever be a serious actress, she needs to take some lessons. Disney channel movies and shows don’t require actual acting talent because the target audience for those things just care if your character is someone they’d want to hang out with. Welcome to the real world, Selena! Here you must have actual talent and skill to go somewhere.

Hack and slash. I am no computer hacker. Hell, my technological knowledge is extremely limited. I don’t know if it is even possible to hack into a sophisticated infrastructure with an ipad. Kids these days seem to be able to pull off anything, but I just don’t see it as something that can be done. Much like the armored plating on the car, this is just a convenient plot device, I suppose.

Getaway received some really negative reviews and I don’t really understand why. This truly isn’t a bad film and, while it does have some issues, it is a fun flick. It could do without Selena Gomez, perhaps they should have used a more capable actress such as, I don’t know, Demi Lovato. All that said and done, I have to say that I would recommend this, if for no other reason than to see a film than isn’t bogged down with sex, drama, and drugs. Give it a go sometime, why don’t you?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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The Big Hit

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Melvin Smiley (Mark Wahlberg) is a hitman leading a secret life as well as maintaining two relationships, one with the demanding and demeaning Chantel (Lela Rochon), who doesn’t accept his work, and another with Pam (Christina Applegate), who knows nothing of his job. Melvin is somewhat of a pushover, trying to appease all of Chantel’s demands, even her most expensive wishes, as well as rolling over whenever one of his co-workers takes credit for his achievements. Perhaps as a result of his helplessness in asserting himself, throughout the early scenes Melvin is often seen drinking Maalox to relieve an incipient ulcer.

Feeling underpaid for their work for mob boss Paris (Avery Brooks), the assassin team of Smiley, Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips), Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine), Vince (Antonio Sabato Jr.), and Gump (Robin Dunne) take an independent job, kidnapping Keiko Nishi (China Chow), the teenage daughter of local electronics magnate Jiro Nishi (Sab Shimono), for a hefty ransom. Unfortunately, the team does not realize that Nishi has recently gone bankrupt over his failed foray into motion pictures — and furthermore, their boss Paris is the girl’s godfather. Enlisted by the group to hold Keiko, Melvin has to hide the bound and gagged schoolgirl on his property, attempting to keep her presence hidden from Pam and her parents, who are coming for dinner. Melvin feels sorry for the girl, and relieves her from her bondage. In the ensuing hours they build up a rapport preparing dinner together, an act which leads into a love scene reminiscent of the pottery scene from Ghost, but which is cut short when Keiko attempts to escape.

Ordered by Paris to discover the kidnappers of his goddaughter, a panicked Cisco kills Gump, but not before coaxing him into also implicating Melvin for the kidnapping. A team of assassins crash Melvin’s dinner with Pam’s family, leading to a shootout during which Melvin realizes Pam was going to break up with him under pressure from her stereotypically Jewish mother (Lainie Kazan). Melvin and Keiko’s feelings for each other lead them to form an awkward romance, and she and Melvin attempt to escape from the fiasco, pursued by Cisco. In the chaos, Melvin happens to run into Chantel and finally takes the opportunity to stand up to her and end their relationship. An extended fight erupts, culminating at a video store where the ever-honest Melvin stops to return an overdue tape. Melvin kills Cisco, but not before Cisco arms an explosive device. Melvin leaves the building and is confronted by Keiko, her father and Paris. He re-enters the building, which explodes. Paris and Keiko, believing Melvin to be dead, call off the manhunt. Soon Melvin is revealed to have survived, sheltered from the blast by an enormous solid gold film stand-up made for the flop that destroyed Nishi’s career. In the end of the film Melvin and Keiko are reunited and ride off together. Nishi recoups his losses by making a film out of the story of his daughter’s kidnapping

REVIEW:

Please excuse the rushed crudity of this post on The Big Hit. I am trying to watch and write at the same time so that I can be finished in time to fully devote myself to a major event that is airing within the hour. So, let’s get to it!

What is this about?

Four enterprising hit men kidnap a wealthy executive’s daughter but overlook a few crucial details — including that she’s their boss’s goddaughter.

What did I like?

Off the Enterprise. Avery Brooks is best known for his role on one of those Star Trek spinoffs that was syndicated in the mid to late 90s. Forgive me for not being a Trekkie and not knowing every incarnation of the Enterprise and her crew. As has been apparent, being on most incarnations of that show can lead to type-casting as not many actors who were regulars on those shows do much else besides other sci-fi shows and comic cons, Patrick Stewart being the most notable exception. Seeing Brooks do something else shows how talented the guy actually is. I wonder why we haven’t seen him in anything else.

Nice guys don’t always finish last. There was an ongoing joke a few years back were Mark Wahlberg was the consummate nice guy, asking everyone how they were and how their family was doing. I can’t help but think that this character had some influence on that, unless there was something else that I missed. This is early in Wahlberg’s career, so he’s still young, and it shows, but for this character youth pays off. Not to mention he gets the girl in the end. Who says nice guys finish last, huh?

(Lou) Diamond (Phillips) in the rough. The last time I believe that I saw Lou Diamond Phillips, he was getting attacked by stuffed animals at the end of the “Radioactive” video by Imagine Dragons. Here’s the thing, this is a guy who is supremely talented, but for some odd reason, he has never really gotten the big break. Playing this hitman who loses it shows the audience a different side of Phillips that we haven’t seen before. Perhaps we need to see more of this. I know that I was impressed with what I saw. He was calm, cool, suave, and collected throughout the first part of the film, then a switch was flipped and he went insane. I loved it!

What didn’t I like?

Jewish parents. Let me preface this by saying that I have nothing against those that follow the Jewish faith. However, I didn’t really see the need for Christina Applegate and her parents to be Jewish, other than comic relief. Yes, they worked, but was it really necessary? They could have very easily been Baptist, Methodist, Atheist, or some other religion and just had funny personalities. While I’m on this topic, Applegate as a Jewish girl does not work. Something about her accent made her sound like Kelly Bundy meets the Jersey Shore. Not exactly the reaction that she would want, I’m sure.

Chow down. The fight between Wahlberg and Phillips in the video store in the final act, yes I said video store, is pretty epic. It makes you wish that there was more action in this so-called action comedy. After all the dust clears and the credits start rolling, it says “introducing China Chow.” Who is China Chow? Well, in this film, she is the girl who gets kidnapped and ends up falling for Wahlberg’s character. I’m not sure she warrants an introduction, though, as she doesn’t do anything of note in the film, and since the release of this film, hasn’t done much of anything, except a couple of episodes of Burn Notice, so what was the point of introducing her, really?

Lela. Sakes alive, Lela Rochon is drop dead gorgeous! Such a shame she’s a total bitch in this film, though. There isn’t a scene than she’s in where she’s not yelling at someone, except for when she has a gun pointed to her head, then she shuts up. Strange enough, how that happens, huh? I have to wonder how this shrew of a woman ended up with Wahlberg. No wonder he was cheating on her. Geez!

So, The Big Hit was not a big hit for me. I was looking for something more action comedy and what I got was the inbred child of Goodfellas and Ocean’s 11. Would I recommend this to anyone? Not really. I didn’t even know about this film until earlier this year when I happened to run across it while flipping through the channels late at night. While I won’t say avoid this, it isn’t worth your time.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Oldboy (2013)

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on April 6, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1993, alcoholic advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) ruins a meeting with a potential client, Daniel Newcombe (Lance Reddick), by hitting on his girlfriend. Afterwards, Joe gets drunk, and goes to a bar owned by his friend Chucky (Michael Imperioli ), who refuses him entry. While stuck outside, he spots a woman with a yellow umbrella, before being knocked unconscious.

He awakens in an isolated hotel room and finds he is a prisoner. His captors provide him with basic hygiene items and meager portions of processed Chinese food, along with a pint of vodka with every meal to prevent withdrawal. Through the TV, Joe hears that he has been framed for the rape and murder of his ex-wife and that his daughter, Mia, has been adopted. After being prevented from committing suicide, Joe starts writing Mia letters, gives up drinking, and spends the next 20 years planning his revenge. He becomes a skilled boxer by watching televised matches, and compiles a list of everyone who might be responsible for his imprisonment, with Newcombe being the prime suspect.

In 2013, Joe watches an adult Mia being interviewed by a TV show called “Unresolved Mysteries of Crime”, and claiming she’d be willing to forgive him if he returns. Suddenly, he is drugged and awakes in a box in a field, with money and a cell phone. He spots the woman with the yellow umbrella, whom he chases to a nearby clinic; there he meets Marie Sebastian (Elizabeth Olsen), a nurse who offers to help him. Joe refuses help but takes her card. He later visits Chucky and tells him what happened. He receives a mocking phone call from the mastermind behind his imprisonment, The Stranger (Sharlto Copley). After learning Newcombe died in a plane crash, Joe investigates the other names on his list, and learns they are all innocent. He eventually passes out from dehydration, and Chucky calls Marie, who gives Joe medical treatment.

Marie reads the letters Joe has written for Mia and offers to help him. With her, Joe is able to locate the restaurant that provided the food he was given in captivity and follows a man who arrives to take a large order to an abandoned factory, which is where he was held captive. Joe confronts the owner, Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson), and tortures him into giving him a taped conversation in which he discusses the terms of Joe’s imprisonment with The Stranger. Joe is then forced to fight off all of Chaney’s men, one of whom stabs him in the back. Joe then returns to Chucky’s bar, where he meets The Stranger himself and his bodyguard Haeng-Bok, the woman with the yellow umbrella, who has kidnapped Mia.

The Stranger claims that if Joe is able to discover his real identity and his motives for imprisoning Joe, he will not only release Mia but also give Joe proof of his innocence along with $20 million in diamonds. He also promises to shoot himself while allowing Joe to watch. After The Stranger leaves, Joe rushes to Marie’s house and saves her from Chaney and his men. Marie digitally identifies The Stranger’s ringtone as being the theme song of Joe’s college, and, through a yearbook, Joe is able to determine that The Stranger’s real name is Adrian Pryce. Back when they were classmates, Joe saw Adrian’s sister Amanda having sex with an older man and mentioned it to many students at the college. The man was later revealed to be Adrian and Amanda’s father, who was having incestuous relationships with them both. Shortly afterward, Adrian’s father murdered his wife and Amanda, attempted to murder Adrian, and then committed suicide. Adrian, the sole survivor, blamed Joe and swore revenge against him.

Joe hides Marie in a motel, where they have sex, while Adrian finds and kills Chucky. Joe later goes to Adrian’s penthouse and kills Haeng-Bok. Adrian congratulates Joe on discovering the truth. Then Adrian reveals to Joe that “Mia” is actually an actress on his payroll and that Joe’s real daughter is Marie. Horrified by what Adrian has engineered him to do, Joe begs for death, but Adrian instead gives him the diamonds and, having exacted his revenge, commits suicide. Joe writes Marie a letter, stating they can never meet again, and leaves her all but a few of the diamonds, which he gives to Chaney in exchange for returning to captivity—supposedly for the rest of his life.

REVIEW:

In 2003, a Korean film was released that went on to be revolutionary in terms of horror and thrillers. That film was Oldboy. Fast forward 10 years and we get a US remake by acclaimed thriller director Spike Lee (note the sarcasm there). I am by no means a fan of Lee’s, but I will try to keep this objective as best I can.

What is this about?

After being unaccountably held captive for years, Joe Doucett is suddenly released. Now, his only mission is to hunt down and punish his captors. Aided by a young stranger, he sets about unlocking his past in this remake of a popular Korean thriller.

What did I like?

Violence. I’m not a fan of films that go out of their way to show blood, guts and gore, unless it is done in a comedic and over the top way such as Machete, for instance. In an effort, to keep the spirit of the original, Lee left in the bloody violence, at least a part of it, even though American audiences seem to squirm at the mere sight of blood, if you go by the watered down versions of films we’ve been getting these days. Thank goodness someone realized that American audiences aren’t as sensitive as they are perceived to be.

Torture. Staying in that same general vein, there is a scene in which Josh Brolin’s character tortures Samuel L. Jackson. Yeah, its a torture scene, big deal, right? Well, this is something to take note of because Brolin has him tied down to a table and rather than chop his head off, he carves out chunks of skin, slowly but surely, and then takes a can of salt and dashes it on the wounds. Talk about painful!!! After he gets his information, he washes away with some water, but damn, that had to hurt!

Witch in training. Elizabeth Olsen is primed for a real breakout couple of years with some of the projects she has lines, most notable The Avengers: Rise of Ultron, but I was wondering what it is that qualifies her for such lofty roles. I got my answer watching her in this. From what I gather, she is quite the capable actress. able to convey a wide range of emotions to the audience and she’s not bad looking either. I find her to be a mix between Maggie Gyllenhaal, that chick on Bates Motel (her name escapes me right now), and her obviously less talented sisters. I won’t go so far as to say her performance saved this film, but she is a reason to watch.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. I honestly don’t think this film could have started any slower. After a brief introduction to our protagonist and his downward spiral, we are shown him in this one room eating chicken and dumplings with vodka for 20 years. 20 years in the same room! I get stir crazy sitting in the same room for 20 minutes, I can only imagine what 20 years was like. That’s beside the point, though, as this could have very easily been done in montage form, pausing now and then to show the pain anguish he was facing, rather than dragging on and on as it does.

Incest is best. The recurring theme of incest is a bit much for me, partly because this is the second film in a row that has dealt with it. Now, I will say if I’d been stuck in a room for 20 yrs and then this hot young thing threw herself at me, I’d have done the same thing that Brolin’s character does to her. As far as he knew, she was just another girl. Hindsight gave me cause to pause on that, though. It is the tragic story of our antagonist’s motives that got me. His dad was having sex with his daughter at some school dance or something and got caught. I can imagine that would be something that would change a man, but damn.

Scaled back. I can’t remember if I’ve seen the original Oldboy or not. I want to say that I have, but I’m not 100% sure. At any rate, I know that this film doesn’t work on the same levels as its source material. There is a dark, menace to that film that isn’t as prevalent with this picture. I attribute that to Lee’s directing. A more accomplished director would have been able to pull it off, but instead we get a watered down version of the original, in the same vein as the 1998 version of Psycho, which was a word for word, shot by shot remake. It didn’t get the best of receptions, either.

In conclusion, Oldboy is a departure for Lee. Believe it or not, there are no racist undertones in this film at all. As a matter of fact, I believe this is most unethnic cast he has used, which is odd for him. This is not my usual genre of film, and my disdain for Lee did not make this any more enjoyable. That being said, this is not a totally unbearable film, but I do think you’d be better served watching the original.

2 out of 5 stars

 

Prisoners

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the house of their neighbors, the Birches; that afternoon, both families’ young daughters, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, go missing. A police hunt finds an RV which had been parked outside the house, and when Detective David Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to confront the driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) he attempts to escape but is arrested.

Loki’s investigations uncover a corpse wearing a maze pendant in the basement of a local priest, who says he had killed the man who claimed to be “waging a war against God” by killing numerous children.

Alex Jones is found to be developmentally disabled, having the IQ of a ten-year-old, and despite many hours of aggressive questioning, the police cannot link him to the missing girls, so he is released. Dover then confronts Jones, who whispers to him “They didn’t cry until I left them”, although no one else hears it. Dover abducts and imprisons Jones in an abandoned apartment building, and tortures him for days, but obtains no further information. Franklin discovers that Dover has abducted Alex and later Nancy discovers it too. They do not help in the torture but plead with Alex to tell them where the girls are.

During a candlelight vigil for the girls, Loki sees a hooded man acting suspiciously. When Loki approaches the man for questioning, he runs away. Both girl’s houses are broken into, apparently by the same man, who is now a suspect. A clerk at a local store reports the man had been buying different sizes of children’s clothing. This suspect, Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian), is arrested at his home, where the walls are covered in drawings of mazes. In a back room, Loki finds crates filled with maze books, live snakes, and bloodied children’s clothing. The Birches and Dover positively identify some of the items of clothing. Detained, Taylor confesses to the abduction, but before giving any more information, he kills himself.

Dover continues to torture Jones, who finally says he is not Alex Jones, and that he escaped from a maze. Dover visits Jones’s aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo) and brings up the topic of mazes, but Holly only says Jones does not say much ever since an accident involving snakes when he was young.

The blood on the children’s clothes is found to be pig’s blood. It is concluded that Taylor had been abducted as a child, and had been play-acting recreations of abductions using a true-crime book which involves unsolvable mazes; the clothing was items that had been stolen during the break-ins, and Taylor had no real involvement in the abductions.

Days later, a drugged Joy Birch is found, having escaped, but Anna is still missing. When Dover visits Joy in the hospital to ask for information, she mumbles to him “You were there.” Dover runs off, believing he now knows where his daughter is. Not knowing Dover’s true motivations, Loki goes looking for him at the abandoned apartment building and finds the imprisoned Jones.

Dover is not there, however; he had realized that Joy overheard him at the Jones’ house and that is where he returns, intending to torture Holly. She invites him in and pulls a gun on him, revealing that she alone was responsible for the recent abductions. She and her husband had abducted many other children, including Bob Taylor, as part of their own particular “war on God” for letting their young son Alex die of cancer. The man now known as Alex was the first child they abducted, and probably the only one along with Bob whom they did not murder. Holly shoots and imprisons Dover in a pit under an old car in her yard; there he finds a whistle that belonged to his daughter.

Loki goes to Holly’s house to tell her that “Alex Jones” was found. There is no answer at the door but he hears someone inside, so he enters. When he sees a photograph of Holly’s husband wearing the maze pendant, Loki draws his weapon, and searches the house, discovering Anna being injected with poison by Holly. When he confronts her she shoots at him, but he returns fire and kills her. Loki rushes Anna to the hospital, where she soon recovers. “Alex Jones” is reunited with his real parents.

Outside the Jones residence, a police team stops digging for the night. They tell Loki it will take weeks because the ground is frozen. Loki hears the faint sound of a whistle; he initially hesitates, but then hears it again and turns to investigate as the screen cuts to black.

REVIEW:

I don’t have any children, so I can’t relate to Prisoners, but I can see how the sudden disappearance of a couple of young girls can send someone off the deep end. Will they find the girls in time? Who is behind the kidnapping? What was the motivation behind the abductions?

What is this about? When his 6-year-old daughter is abducted and the investigation stalls, carpenter Keller Dover tracks down the culprit himself. But his vigilante action pits him against the case’s lead detective and puts his own sanity at risk.

What did I like?

Intense. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh Jackman this intense, outside of him playing Wolverine. I think we sometimes forget that the guy is a very talented actor, who can pull off these disturbing roles and then go sing in a Broadway show. Jackman’s character is hell-bent on finding his daughter. He’ll stop at nothing to get her back, even beating the snot out of some punk kid who just happened to be in the neighborhood, and torturing him until he talks. This is not the kind of guy you want to mess with. At times, it is uncomfortable to watch, but you know that you are watching greatness.

Truth. The deeper and deeper I get into this world of movie reviewing, the more I hear that trailers are giving away too much. Well, I went back and looked at the trailer for this. The only thing it gave away was the basic plot, who was starring in it, and the tone. For me, that is all a trailer need do to be effective. Sure, there are trailers that literally show all the good scenes, and there are those that tell you absolutely nothing, but the ad blitz behind this film was smart enough to keep it close to the vest and give us the bare minimum, making the film that much more of a mystery. Remember the says when you had to actually go see a picture to know what it was about, rather than look it up on Wikipedia or somewhere else on the internet? That’s the truth behind this trailer, and it works, for the most part.

What didn’t I like?

Solo act. At some point in the film, it becomes more about Jackman than anyone else, followed by the same kind of film from Jake Gylenhaal. Where is everyone else? Well, apparently they were there strictly as supporting cast and nothing more. Terrence Howard, who I thought was going to be awesome in this, especially since he was playing trumpet in the beginning, plays a guy who is a little more reserved and, for lack of a better term, conservative about getting his daughter back. After his wife is brought in on what Jackman is doing, we don’t see them again until near the end, and then neither one has a line of dialogue, if I’m not mistaken. This is pretty much the way it is for all of the families, but for what reason? The film just takes them out and plugs them back in later, without any explanation for what they were doing. Had it been something like they were researching previous abductions or wanted time away from this town, that would have at least made sense.

Length. At 153 minutes, this film felt as if it dragged in a couple of places. I know, I know, I’m always complaining about the lengths of movies, but this is one that I literally was getting into and then it lost me because it wasn’t really going anywhere. Luckily, it does take a sharp turn, dare I saw twist that brings the audience back in for the final act. I would say that about 15-30 minutes of this film could have been cut, making it much more effective and not so bleh.

I must apologize for the briefness of this Prisoners post. I just got in from a long weekend and am dead tired. Still, the show must go on, right? What is my final verdict on this film? Well, if you’re into thrillers of this sort, then this is right up your alley. For me, I would have preferred something a little more action-driven, as opposed to character based, but that’s a personal preference. This not a bad film. You get great performances from Hugh Jackman, Jake Gylenhaal, and a chilling one from Melissa Leo, but I can’t really say that I was gushing over. Perhaps you will so, at your own risk, give it a shot.

3 out of 5 stars

Buried

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , on July 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On October 23, 2006, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American civilian truck driver based in Iraq, awakens buried alive in a wooden coffin, bound and gagged, with only a Zippo and a BlackBerry. Although he initially has no idea how he got there, he soon starts to piece together what has happened to him. He remembers that his and several other trucks were ambushed by insurgents, who killed his colleagues before he himself was hit by a rock and passed out. He receives a call from his kidnapper, Jabir, demanding that he pay a ransom of $5 million or else they will leave him in the coffin to die. Conroy calls the State Department, which tells him that due to their government policy of not negotiating with terrorists, they will not pay the ransom but will try to rescue him regardless. They connect him with Dan Brenner, head of the Hostage Working Group, who tells Conroy they are doing their best to find him. His kidnapper calls Conroy back and demands he make a ransom video, threatening to execute one of his colleagues who survived the attack. Despite complying with their demands, the kidnappers execute his colleague and send him the video, which he watches in horror. Shortly afterwards, distant explosions shake the area, damaging his coffin which begins to slowly fill with sand. Conroy continues sporadic phone calls with Brenner, skeptical of the man’s promises of help. To reaffirm his wholehearted intentions, Brenner tells Conroy about a man named Mark White who was rescued from a similar situation two weeks prior, telling him that the man was home with his family and likely happy.

Later on, Conroy receives a phone call from his employers, who inform him that he was fired from his job due to his fraternizing with the colleague that was executed, and thus he and his family will not be entitled to any benefits or pension he earned during his time with the company. Brenner calls back and explains that the explosions that had damaged his coffin earlier were in fact several F-16 bombings, and that his kidnappers may have been killed. Conroy begins to lose all hope and does a last will and testament in video form, giving his son all of his clothes and his wife his personal savings. His kidnapper calls back demanding that Conroy video record him cutting his finger off, threatening Conroy’s family back home in Michigan if he refuses, saying himself that he lost all of his children. Conroy films himself cutting off one of his fingers and sends the video.

After some minutes, Brenner calls, notifying Conroy that they had found his location and are driving out to find him. After that, his wife Linda calls him, who heard it on the news and left her phone at home. She cries with him and begs him to promise her that he will come home. He promises, but hangs up due to needing to attend to the sand which is now filling the coffin to dangerous levels, giving him seconds to live. Brenner calls Conroy again, and reports that they found the site. The group starts to dig up a coffin, but Conroy cannot hear them jumping on the coffin. When they open it, the coffin turns out to be that of Mark White and not Conroy’s, indicating that Mark White was never saved. Paul starts to cry as the battery on the phone runs dead, and he slowly suffocates as the sand fills up the coffin. The last thing he hears is Brenner, repeating: “I’m sorry, Paul. I’m so sorry.”

REVIEW:

Imagine what would be going through your head if you woke up to find yourself in a coffin with no apparent way out and the only thing you have with you are a Zippo lighter and a cellphone. Well, that is what you get with Ryan Reynolds in Buried, but is seeing him in a coffin talking on a phone for 90 minutes too much for some people?

What is this about?

While on a job in Iraq, civilian contractor Paul Conroy is attacked and kidnapped, then awakens to find himself buried alive in the middle of the desert with nothing but a lighter, a candle, a cell phone and a knife.

What did I like?

Coffin. I’m a fan of the old west, especially the coffins. One of the first things I noticed about this flick was the coffin. It wasn’t the usual plush coffin that are used today, but a big pine box that was used in the west. When I found out that it was set in the Middle East, that was a bit weird, and then it wasn’t. I liked it the use of the pine box coffin, though. For some reason, I think the extra room made this bearable for people who have issues with tight spaces.

Talent. Last weekend, Ryan Reynolds had two films released, R.I.P.D. and Turbo, neither did that well, which had many people questioning his box office draw and his acting talent. Someone brought this film up as an example of what Reynolds can actually do. Here he is trapped in a box with nothing but a phone and a lighter. He is the only person we see in the whole film, except for a couple of videos, and we really get to see that he does have some pretty solid acting chops.

Disturbing. No ghosts. No serial killers. No monsters. Just a guy in a coffin. Yet, this is probably one of the most disturbing films I have seen in quite some time. Partially because of the buried alive part, but also because of all the other factors that are going on while Reynolds is trying to get saved. At one point, he makes a comment about had he been a diplomat, politician or general, no one would rest to find him, but because he is a normal guy, there is no rush. Let me say this, if I wasn’t already not planning on being kidnapped in the middle East, then that statement made my mind up.

What didn’t I like?

Call center. The way the call centers handle the call from a guy who is trapped underground with little oxygen and a dying cell phone is just a shame. I’m sorry, but there should be protocols for such things. I know that they are supposed to stay calm and keep the caller calm as well, but at some point you need to realize the urgency of the situation, or deal with that person’s death on your conscience, sort of like Halle Berry’s character did when she caused a girl to be murdered in The Call.

Depth perception. I’m not sure if this was some kind of camera trick, but there seemed to be some discrepancy regarding the depth/size of the coffin. Most scenes, it seems to be a pine box, but others it seems to be more of a giant, neverending pit, as you can see up there in poster.

Buried is not the kind of film you watch over and over again. That is not to say it isn’t good, not by a long shot, but the subject matter is quite heavy. Not to mention the fact that those that are claustrophobic will surely have issues watching Ryan Reynolds suffer in that coffin. Don’t even get me started about the company firing him conveniently near the end before the film’s resolution. Is this worth seeing? Yes, I do recommend it, but be warned, this is not a film for everyone.

4 out of 5 stars

Taken 2

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on February 16, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After the deaths of Albanian mobsters, the cousins of the criminals whom Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) killed while searching for his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), leave Paris, France and return to their hometown of Tropojë, Albania, for the dead men’s funeral. During the ceremony, Murad (Rade Šerbedžija), the employer of the men and father of Marko, whom Bryan killed by electrocution, states that they will find Bryan to avenge the deaths of their loved ones, no matter what the cost.

Kim and her mother Lenore (Famke Janssen), who is currently having relationship problems with her husband, surprise Bryan by joining him on his trip to Istanbul, Turkey where he is having a business vacation after a work assignment for the CIA. While Kim remains at the hotel, Lenore and Bryan are being followed by Murad’s men on the streets of Istanbul, but Bryan suspects a tail. The men capture Lenore, forcing Bryan to surrender, but before he does he calls Kim and warns her about the men, allowing her to escape through the hotel balcony, and she escapes through the rooftops of Istanbul, but Bryan is captured.

Bryan wakes with his hands tied to a pole in a dark room. Using a communications device that he has hidden in his sock, Bryan calls Kim, instructing her to go to the U.S Embassy and tell them what happened, but she begs for a chance to help him and Lenore. Under Bryan’s guidance, she opens up his weaponry suitcase and throws a live grenade out of the window. Bryan uses the time it takes for the sound of the explosion to reach him in order to deduce his location.

He then has her take a gun and two more grenades and travel towards his location via the rooftops, while he frees himself from his restraints and sends steam up a chimney to mark his location. Kim tosses the gun down the chimney and Bryan uses it to escape. Now on the run, they are chased by Murad’s men. They steal a cab and are chased through the streets. Bryan has Kim commandeer the car and while she drives away, he shoots the assailants, escaping.

Bryan later returns to the building but Lenore has already been moved. Leaving Kim at the U.S embassy, he follows the route to Murad’s safehouse he memorized from his abduction. After killing two men, he confronts Murad, who insists that his two remaining sons will seek revenge if Bryan kills him. Murad agrees to call off his vendetta in exchange for Bryan letting him live. Bryan drops his gun and walks away, but Murad seizes it and tries to shoot Bryan only to discover that Bryan has removed the bullets. Knowing that Murad would never abide by a truce, Bryan kills him.

Three weeks later, the Mills family eats at a diner back home to celebrate Kim’s passing her driving test. They are joined, much to Bryan’s surprise, by Kim’s kind boyfriend Jamie, and Kim jokingly asks her overprotective father not to shoot him nor restrain him.

REVIEW:

Somewhere along the way, Liam Neeson went and become a huge action star, and at his age, to boot! Taken 2 further cements its legacy as a go to guy for action films, but does it live up to the hype that preceded it?

What is this about?

Retired special ops agent Bryan Mills and his ex-wife are abducted in Istanbul in a bid to avenge the deaths of his daughter Kim’s kidnappers. This time, it’s Kim who helps to free her parents — unleashing Bryan to turn the tables on his abductors.

What did I like?

Length. Action movies these days seem to forget that they’re audiences are predominantly the kind that aren’t necessarily wanting to see a long, drawn-out, character-driven film. We prefer to get a bit of an intro, then get right down to it. Perhaps that is why, despite what the critics would like, films like The Expendables worked. Aside from being a throwback to the 80s, they skipped all that useless drama and got right to the meat of what we want to see. This film does that, as well, but also had a runtime of just over 90 minutes.

Don’t forget. In case you forgot, Neeson racked up quite the body count in his quest to get his daughter back in the original Taken. Tying the films together, the opening scenes show each one of these men being put in the ground, almost like something you would see in a western. Some people thought this was a bit too much for a PG-13, but I liked it.

Ladies. In the previous film, Jensen and Grace weren’t given much to do. As a matter of fact, Jensen was more of a bitch and Grace was the victim. Somehow, in the time between the two films, things were retconned and Jensen all of a sudden isn’t so hateful towards Neeson’s character and, by the nature of the plot, Grace is no longer the victim, but more of a the hero.

What didn’t I like?

Looks, but not talent. Maggie Grace is a gorgeous young woman but, just like many of her contemporaries in Hollywood today, her acting leaves much to be desired. I don’t know if it is necessarily this script, the way she was directed, her character, or what, but she comes off as having as much life in her as those leaves blowing outside my window right now.

Continuity. In the early scenes, Neeson is teaching Grace how to drive, something typical for a father/daughter. Next thing we know, he tracks her down at her boyfriend’s house so she can have her driving lesson. The tracking aside, as a driver, she isn’t that great. Fast forward to later in the film and she has to drive through Istanbul. How is it she is able to do this, when she couldn’t even parallel park earlier?

Human. A few reviews I’ve read of the latest Die Hard have said that Bruce Willis’ character is almost superhuman these days. In some ways, the same can be said from Neeson. No he doesn’t get blown halfway across town and mange to emerge without a scratch, but some of his feats just defy logic, even for the reality in which this is set in. The fact that this guy was just a normal man with a specific set of skills is what made him endearing to audiences. He can’t just go around doing impossible stunts and keep that mystique.

Null. This is a small thing, but how is it that the people in Turkey don’t notice a hot girl running around in a half-opened button down shirt, tight jeans (somehow she managed to find a pair that fit her perfectly in a men’s locker room), who is armed and throwing grenades all over the place? Is this a normal thing over there?

Taken 2 is a bit of a conundrum for me. On the one hand, it isn’t as good as its predecessor, but I have to wonder if that is because of the high expectations we all had for it, or because it really isn’t that great. Seeing as how I just recently re-watched Taken a couple of weeks ago, I can’t really say for sure. When I rewatch this at some point in the future, I’ll know for sure. I do think this is a film that is worth seeing, either way, although, like many reviewers, I think it suffers from the PG-13 rating. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

The Hangover part II

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2012 by Mystery Man

hangover2

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Two years after their escapade in Las Vegas, Stu Price, Phil Wenneck, Alan Garner and Doug Billings travel to Thailand to celebrate Stu’s impending wedding to Lauren. Much to Alan’s dismay, they are joined by Lauren’s younger brother, Teddy. During Lauren’s father’s toast, he shows his disapproval of Stu by comparing him to congee. At the end of the night, Stu hesitantly joins Phil, Doug, Alan and Teddy for a beer. Sitting at a campfire and roasting marshmallows, the group toast to Stu and Lauren’s future happiness.

The following morning, Phil, Stu and Alan, along with gangster Leslie Chow – whom Alan befriended after Las Vegas – and a chain-smoking capuchin monkey, awaken in a dirty hotel room in Bangkok. Stu has a face tattoo (a replica of Mike Tyson’s tattoo), and Alan’s head is completely shaved. However, they cannot find Teddy, only discovering his severed finger. Chow begins recalling the events of the prior night, but he dies after snorting a line of cocaine. Panicked, the trio dispose of Chow’s body in an ice machine.

Through a tip from Doug who is still at the resort, they go to a prison to pick up Teddy but are given a wheelchair-bound elderly Buddhist monk, who knows more about what happened, but does not reveal anything: he has taken a vow of silence, and rejects also an alternative such as writing something down. After finding a business card, they travel to a neighborhood smouldering in ruins. They enter a nearby tattoo parlor where Stu got his tattoo, and they learn that they had started a fight that escalated into a riot. The trio then return the monk to his Buddhist temple, where they are encouraged by the head monk to meditate. Alan is able to recall that they had been at a strip club. There, they learn that Stu had engaged in sex with a kathoey prostitute. Upon exiting, the trio is attacked by two Russian mobsters from whom they had stolen the monkey, and Phil is shot in the arm.

After Phil is treated at a clinic, Alan confesses that he had drugged some of the marshmallows from the previous night with muscle relaxants and ADHD medication in order to sedate Teddy but accidentally mixed up the bags. After noticing an address and time point for a meeting written on Alan’s stomach, the trio meet up with another gangster, Kingsley, who demands Chow’s bank account code and password by the next morning in exchange for Teddy. They return to the hotel to try to find Chow’s password, only to discover that he is still alive. They steal the monkey (who had the code given to him by Chow inside his jacket for safe-keeping) back from the Russian mobsters through a violent car chase, during which the monkey is shot and injured. After taking the code and leaving the monkey at a veterinary clinic, the group complete the deal with Kingsley. Suddenly, Interpol agents appear and arrest Chow. Kingsley turns out to be an undercover agent, who tells the trio that the police have searched all day for Teddy but were unable to find him.

Desperate and out of clues, Phil once again calls Doug’s wife Tracy. Stu then has an epiphany and the trio rushes back to the hotel and find Teddy in the elevator unharmed (albeit still missing a finger). Teddy had woken up in the middle of the night to get more ice for his severed finger (after the first bucket of ice had melted) but became trapped after the power went out. The four use Chow’s speedboat, the keys for which were in Teddy’s pocket, to travel back to the wedding reception. Arriving on land just as Lauren’s father is about to cancel the wedding, Stu makes a defiant speech where he rejects being boring and instead states that he is in fact quite wild. Impressed, Lauren’s father gives the couple his blessing. After the wedding continues on, Alan presents Stu with a special gift at the post-reception dance: a musical guest performance by Mike Tyson. Teddy later discovers that he had taken many pictures during the night on his mobile phone. The group, along with Tyson, agree to look at the pictures together once before erasing the evidence of their exploits once again.

REVIEW:

A couple of years ago, this little film called The Hangover came out of nowhere and surprised everyone. Now, it has spawned a sequel, The Hangover part II.

I’ve been reading some of the critics’ complaints about this film and the biggest, most recurrent one is that it is basically a carbon copy of the first, only darker. Now, as I was sitting here watching this film, I did see some similarities and parts taken, but that the whole point of the movie! Everything is sort of happening again, just in a different city (Bangkok instead of Las Vegas).

With that said, there are different things that happen as well and it is the combination of new and old that keeps this fresh and from falling into that trap the Home Alone movies did.

As far being darker than the first…well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it is set in Bangkok, a city not known for being especially friendly to those that come into its borders. On top of that, their 16 yr old compatriot loses a finger (the reason why is shown in the pictures that roll during the credits, but for the film, we think it is something far worse).

The first film was a riot, but I actually think this was one was even funnier. I don’t know, maybe it is because these guys have more chemistry now, or the writing is more seasoned after seeing what worked in the first film and what didn’t, but this one had me on the floor laughing more often than not.

The scenery is breathtaking. It goes from a virtual paradise to the slums of Bangkok and back, showing us what Thailand has to offer, without actually being some sort of Thai tour brochure, of sorts.

No chemistry has been lost among the returning leads, as a matter of fact, it seems as if the time away from these characters has allowed them to grow. Yes, that includes Alan, as well.

The story is great, but I especially liked the way they showed how Alan views himself and his “friends” and little boys. It sort of makes you feel sorry for the guy. I do wonder, though, and this just may be something I forgot from the first film, why it is he seems so attached to Phil. If you notice, everytime they meet, he says “Hi guys! Hi Phil!” I don’t quite know what to think of that, especially after the look he gives him in the final scene, but that is something you have to see and interpret for yourself.

If I do have one piece of negativity about this film, is that it didn’t capitalize on the hotness of the female cast. They were on the beach, so someone please tell me why they couldn’t have had at least one scene with Jamie Chung and Sasha Barresse in a bikini! Kind of negates the whole reason for having them there, if you ask me. They could have just as well hired some schlub actresses from some random acting class to read these lines and such.

So, this summer, we had a bridal shower gone bad in Bridesmaids and a bachelor party turned into a sting operation/kidnap and rescue mission in The Hangover part II. What was my verdict on it? Well, I loved it. Everything from man-child Alan to the drug dealing monkey to everytime they said “Bangkok has him now” (a phrase that I don’t believe was every explained). This is a hilarious picture and a must-see for all of us that need or could use a laugh. I highly recommend it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars