Archive for Michael Shannon

Man of Steel

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The planet Krypton faces imminent destruction due to an unstable core, and its ruling council is under the threat of rebel General Zod and his followers. Scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara secretly imprint a genetic codex into their newborn son’s Kal-El’s cells and launch him on a spacecraft to Earth to preserve the Kryptonian race. After Zod murders Jor-El, he and his followers are banished to the Phantom Zone, but manage to escape when Krypton explodes. The infant Kal-El lands on Earth in Smallville, Kansas, where he is discovered by couple Jonathan and Martha Kent, who name him Clark and raise him as their adopted son.

Clark’s Kryptonian physiology affords him superhuman abilities on Earth. Young Clark gradually learns to hone the abilities that initially cause him confusion and discomfort. Jonathan reveals to a teenage Clark that he is an alien, and advises him to not utilize his powers publicly, fearing that society would reject him. After Jonathan’s death, an adult Clark spends the next several years living a nomadic lifestyle, working different jobs under false names to cover his tracks and hide his identity. He eventually discovers a Kryptonian scout ship with technology that allows him to communicate with the consciousness of Jor-El in the form of a hologram. Lois Lane, a young journalist from the Daily Planet, also discovers the ship while pursuing a story, and is rescued by Clark when she is injured. Lois’s editor Perry White rejects her story of a “superhuman” rescuer, so she traces Clark back to Smallville with the intention of writing an exposé. After hearing his story, she decides not to reveal his secret.

Detecting the scout ship, Zod travels to Earth where he demands that Kal-El surrender to him, or humanity will suffer the consequences. Clark agrees to surrender to the U.S. military, who hand Lois and Clark over to Zod’s second-in-command, Faora. Zod reveals that he intends to use a terraforming “world engine” to transform Earth into a Krypton-like planet, to eradicate the human population, and to use the codex to repopulate the planet with genetically-engineered Kryptonians. After Clark and Lois escape the ship, Clark defeats Faora and another of Zod’s henchmen in Smallville, convincing the military that he is on their side. Zod deploys the world engine and initiates the terraforming in Metropolis and over the Indian Ocean.

Clark, now dubbed “Superman”, stops the world engine in the Indian Ocean. The military uses the spacecraft that brought Superman to Earth in an aerial strike to create a portal that returns Zod’s ship and his crew to the Phantom Zone. Only Zod remains, and he and Superman engage each other. After a battle, Superman is forced to kill Zod to save a group of innocent civilians that Zod attempts to murder. Superman decides to blend into the normal world by wearing eyeglasses and resuming his identity as Clark Kent. He is hired by White to work as a reporter for the Daily Planet.

REVIEW:

Now that Batman has had his time in the spotlight, the powers that be have decided to turn their focus back on DC Comics’ golden boy, Superman, with Man of Steel. Admittedly, after seeing the early trailers, I was a bit skeptical because they made it seem like this was going to resemble Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (he’s a producer on this, btw). Boy was I wrong!

What is this about?

In another revival of the Superman legend, reporter Clark Kent must keep his alien origins and fantastic powers hidden from the world at large. But when the Kryptonian General Zod plans to destroy Earth, the Man of Steel springs into heroic action.

What did I like?

Krypton. In all the various incarnations of Superman, I do not believe we have actually seen much of Krypton. The most I believe that we’ve seen is the capitol city of Kandor, which was stolen away before the planet exploded. In this film, the filmmakers not only show us more of Krypton than we’ve seen in the past, but we also get the chance to see some wildlife and whatnot. It was a nice little touch that started off giving this film its own identity, especially when you consider a good chunk of this is just retelling Superman’s very well-known origin story.

He’s got the look. I can imagine that there was a long and arduous search for the perfect Superman. The last guy to put on the red and blue tights, Brandon Routh in Superman Returns, was a carbon copy of Christopher Reeve, at least in look. Henry Cavill seems to fit that mold a little bit, as well, but he also has his own look that really sells the fact that he is Superman. The only thing missing was the ‘S’ curl.

Excitement. Let’s think for a minute. If all of a sudden you were given this fancy costume and learned you could fly, wouldn’t you be a little excited? In the original Superman, Christopher Reeve seems to fly like a seasoned pro, however, Henry Cavill’s flying scene is reminiscent of Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man…once he gets that hang of it. He’s not perfect at it, but he’s enjoying the novelty of the new experience. I really liked that they showed that this guy is having fun being Superman.

Action. The second half of this film is almost nothing but action, and I loved every minute of it. For those not familiar with previous Superman films, you may not know that there is actually very little action save for a few gunshots to show his invincibility and then the final fight, but not much else. Superman II does have an actual fight, ironically with General Zod and the other Kryptonians. Thanks goodness Zach Snyder had the good sense to put lots of action in here. I’m pretty sure no one wants to see another brooding superhero. That’s what Batman is for.

What didn’t I like?

Costume. Call me a purist, but I need the lighter shade of blue with the red underwear on the outside to be the costume on my Superman. To some, this may be a small thing, but for me, it was a pretty major middle finger to why Superman is. Then again, the whole “new 52” which is where this costume drew its inspiration from can fall into that category, truth be told. I’m sure there could have been some sort o compromise. Also, I liked it better when Martha Kent made the costume from Kal-El’s blanket, but in the film, Jor-El’s computer spirit has it ready for him (conveniently the right size). Last thing about the costume, it has some weird scale texture to it that makes about as much sense nipples on the Batsuit.

Destruction. I was listening to a podcast about this film earlier this week, and the brought up the wanton destruction of both Smallville and Metropolis and how it related to 9/11. I won’t go that far. Personally, I think it is time we stop relating every destroyed city to 9/11. However, I do see the point about how the city was destroyed. A few months ago, I started watching Ultimate Spider-Man (please avoid that show if you know what’s best for you), and in one of the early episodes Nick Fury makes it a major point to tell Spider-Man to keep collateral damage down. Apparently, Superman didn’t get the memo, because he and Zod make such a huge mess that even the clean-up crew from The Incredibles wouldn’t be able to make something sprout from it.

Eat Crowe. I can’t help but wonder if Russell Crowe finagled for this bigger part. Jor-El is always only seen for the first few scenes, and then as a spirit-type a little later. Somehow, we see Crowe almost as much as we see Superman and Lois Lane and for what reason? He’s not doing anything that couldn’t have been just a voice -over from a computer Going even further on that topic, what makes Crowe think that s more deserving of screen time than the Kents, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane.

Two halves of the puzzle. This is really two films, if you think about it. The first is the slow-moving origin telling first that makes you want to slit your wrists it is so long and drawn out. The second is the action packed second half of the film. While it doesn’t necessarily tell a story, it does provide for some real entertainment, not to mention it is sure to have you on the edge of your seat.

As summer blockbusters go, Man of Steel is a great addition to the club and is sure to spawn more films featuring Henry Cavill as Superman. I do wish they’d lighten up, but I guess that won’ happen until Christopher Nolan steps away as producer. This is not a perfect film, nor is the best Superman picture to be made, though I am sure some will argue that point, but it is a nice summer blockbuster that you can go escape the heat for a couple of hours. You never know, you might just enjoy yourself. So, what are you waiting for? “It’s a bird…It’s a plane! It’s SUPERMAN!!!”

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Premium Rush

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is not shown in chronological order, and contains numerous flash-forward and flash-back cuts, indicated with an overlaid digital clock showing the time advancing rapidly forward/backward to the next scene. In chronological order the events are:

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a New York City bicycle messenger alongside his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez). Her roommate, Nima (Jamie Chung), delivers $50,000 that she has saved for two years to Mr. Leung (Henry O), a Chinese hawaladar, in exchange for a ticket that she must deliver to Sister Chen, buying a place for Nima’s son and mother in one of Sister Chen’s ships that smuggle people from China to the United States.

Mr. Lin, a local loan shark, learns of the ticket and how whoever returns it to Mr. Leung can collect Nima’s money. He then approaches Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), a gambling-addicted NYPD officer who owes him money, offering to clear Monday’s debt if Monday gets him the ticket. Monday begins searching for Nima, who decides to hire Wilee to deliver the envelope with the ticket to Sister Chen at 7 P.M. After Wilee leaves, Nima is confronted by Monday, who coerces her into revealing that Wilee has the ticket and handing over the delivery receipt. After Monday leaves, Vanessa finds Nima, and learns the contents of the envelope.

Monday catches up with Wilee before he leaves the campus where Nima lives and threatens him for the ticket. Wilee escapes and heads to the police station to report Monday, only to find out he’s a police officer, and hides in the bathroom, where he opens the envelope and finds the ticket.

After he escapes the station, Wilee angrily tells his dispatcher, Raj (Aasif Mandvi), that he is returning the package so that someone else can drop it off. Returning to Nima’s college, Wilee leaves the envelope, which is picked up by his rival, Manny (Wolé Parks). Before Manny picks it up, however, Monday calls the dispatch to redirect the delivery to a different address.

As he is about to leave the college after returning the envelope, Wilee runs into Nima. He confronts her about the ticket, and she reveals the truth. Guilt-ridden, Wilee tries to catch up to Manny, who refuses to give Wilee his drop. They race each other and in the process, are chased by a bike cop who had earlier tried to arrest Wilee. As they approach Monday’s location, the bike cop tackles Manny out of his bike and arrests him. Vanessa, who learns of Monday’s trickery and races over to warn Manny, appears, grabs Manny’s bag and gives it to Wilee.

As they were about to escape, however, Wilee is run over by an oncoming taxi. He is put in an ambulance with Monday, while his damaged bike is taken to an impound lot, with the envelope hidden in the handlebars. Monday beats Wilee into offering to give Monday the envelope in exchange for his bike.

Wilee tells Monday that the envelope is in Manny’s bag, and Monday leaves to search it, while Wilee meets with Vanessa in the impound lot. She gives him the envelope, which she had retrieved, and he escapes on a stolen bike. Monday, realizing Wilee has tricked him, pursues Wilee to Sister Chen’s place. Wilee’s stolen bike breaks and he steals the bike belonging to the cop who chased him throughout the movie. Meanwhile, Nima calls Mr. Leung for help. He deploys his enforcer, the Sudoku Man, to help her.

As Wilee reaches Chinatown, he is confronted by Monday, who is threatening to kill him. However, Vanessa arrives with other messengers, dispatched by Raj, and delays Monday, giving Wilee time to deliver the ticket to Sister Chen, who calls the Captain of her ship and tells him to allow Nima’s family inside. Outside, Monday is confronted by the Sudoku Man, who shoots him in the head and leaves. Nima arrives, after a phone call from her mother confirming that they got on the ship, and meets with Wilee and Vanessa.

REVIEW:

A movie about bike messengers in New York City. Who on Earth would actually find that interesting? Apparently, quite a few people. Premium Rush went on to do pretty decent business when it was released, though I do think many, including myself, looked over it because of its subject material and when it was released.

What is this about?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a New York City bike messenger whose routine “premium rush” run turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan after a dirty cop (Michael Shannon) becomes desperate to get his hands on the package.

What did I like?

Adrenaline. There is no way you can sell a film like this without amping up the action. The film does exactly that by showcasing some truly exciting bike chases through the crowded streets of NYC. There is nothing like some fast paced action to make you forget about the bad taste the last film you watched put in your mouth.

Bad guy. I still tired of cops being the bad guys, but in this case where Michael Shannon is playing one that just got into some gambling debt, I let it slide. Shannon is great in this role, as he brings the crazy, almost cartoonishness to this bad guy turn. Add in his naturally crazy eyes, and you have the makings for a truly memorably villain.

Last act. I can’t get over how fast this film flies. The pacing is great, but the last act is masterfully awesome! With almost nonstop movement, as well as breakneck bike riding, and the triumphant resolution to the plot, it is the perfect way to bring things to a satisfying conclusion.

What didn’t I like?

Rival. It makes perfect sense that our hero has a rival. I’m perfectly fine with that but, it seems to be that it might have worked better if said rival had been part of the nefarious plot to pilfer this package, especially since he actually had it in his possession! I’m no screenwriter, but doesn’t it seem like that would be a great twist?

Triangle. Maybe it was just me, but this love triangle that they had going on wasn’t working, especially in this one scene where Manny suddenly tells (the insanely hot) Vanessa that it was a good thing she broke up with Wilee. WTF?!? First off, how do you just come out of nowhere with that, and secondly, why are all up in her business?

Character development. With all the fast paced action and impressive bike riding skills and stunts going on, you would think they’d have taken a few minutes to flesh out the characters. As it is, the audience has no connection to any of them, save for maybe some sympathy for the so-called victim, but that’s only because she had to leave her baby in China and they weren’t allowing her to bring him here. That kind of sad story is sure to bring about some kind of feelings amongst the audience.

Premium Rush is one of the surprise films of 2012. It was very-well written, acted, and received, though it may still have ended up overlooked. That being said, I totally enjoyed it, despite a few fairly minor flaws. Do I recommend it? Sure, I mean, come on! How often can you say that you’ve watched an exciting movie about bike messengers?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Machine Gun Preacher

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 14, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Although the film centers on Childers, it starts off with a scene in South Sudan, where the LRA are attacking a village. This opening scene is placed into context later in the film. Childers was an alcoholic drug-using biker from Pennsylvania. On his release from prison, he finds that his wife has given up her job as a stripper, because she has since become a Christian. Eventually, after almost killing a vagrant the night before, his wife persuades him to go to church with her where he is eventually converted.

Later, on a missionary trip to Uganda to build homes for refugees, he asks one of the SPLA soldiers watching over them to take him on a trip to the north, to Sudan. The soldier warns him that it is a war zone, but upon Sam’s insistence they go. They arrive at a medical tent in Sudan, as his friend moves off to talk came in to some people, Sam is roped in by a redheaded female doctor to help lift a lipless Sudanese woman onto the examination table. That night as they lay on their beds at the relief station, they hear noises outside, when they look out Sam and the soldier see large numbers of Sudanese children swarming in to sleep outside the building.

The soldier explains that their parents send them to sleep over there because it is safer than staying in their own village. Sam wakes up the children and gets them to sleep in their room for the night. The next day they follow the children back to their village only to find that the LRA burnt it down and killed their parents. Then one of the children runs after his dog and dies upon stepping on a hidden landmine. Sam then decides to build an orphanage for the children of South Sudan. After the orphanage is built, the LRA attack it under cover of night and burn it to the ground. Sam then phones home, telling his wife what happened and that he is giving up. She reminds him that the orphans have been through worse but they have not given up, and that he should not give up and tells him to rebuild the orphanage.

One night after the orphanage has been rebuilt, he and his friends from the SPLA are attacked on the road by the LRA, they manage to chase off the small force of the LRA that attacked them. They then search the area and discover a large group of Sudanese children hiding in a ditch not far from the road, since they can not take all the children in one trip, Sam chooses to take the ones who need medical attention along with a few others on their first trip back to the ophanage. However, upon returning to the spot as quickly as he could, he finds that the LRA burnt those he had left behind. It is from here he leads armed raids to rescue children from the LRA.

In the end credits are included black and white pictures of the real Sam Childers, his wife and his daughter plus his orphanage in Sudan. The pictures are followed by a short black and white home video clip of Sam talking about his work, all the while with the credits rolling on left hand of the screen.

REVIEW:

A while back, there was some kind of push to inform people about KONY. I think some even wanted him to get elected or something. I’m not too sure what all the details are, though. It turns out that Machine Gun Preacher takes place during a time when this guy was cementing his power. He is a character in this film and is described in some detail, but the film’s major focus is on Sam Childers.

What did I like?

He’s back. For the past few years, Gerard Butler has been making romantic comedies such as The Bounty Hunter and lending his voice to family films like How to Train Your Dragon. Not that there is anything wrong with that, especially if you have a family. Just ask The Rock about that. It is good to see Butler back in an action role. This is where the guy shines brightest. Of course, I know a certain person who would watch this guy sit on his couch and read the phone book.

Father/daughter. The relationship between Childers and his daughter is one that can touch even the most hardened of hearts. From the moments he is protecting her (and his wife) from the tornado to one of the last scenes where, even as a teenager, they are playing the words game they’ve always played.

True story. Biopics more often than not take a true story and fabricate events to make it more relatable to the public. If that happened with this film, I couldn’t tell. Well, maybe that tornado thing or being able to fly back and forth from Pennsylvania to South Africa. Going even further, they didn’t water down the violence that was going on in that part of the world. One of the boys even tells him that the government told him to kill his mother!

What didn’t work?

Interest. Kudos to the filmmakers for what they did with this material, but for the love of all that is good and holy, couldn’t they have made it more interesting. I found myself dozing off. Strangely enough, the first half of the film, where we are getting to know Butler’s character was far more interesting that the parts that actually are supposed to be riveting in the second half of the picture.

Wifey. Michelle Monoghan is a decent enough actress that she deserves to be more than a pretty face that shows up now and then. The way she is featured made me almost want to say they should have just let her keep that stripper job she apparently quit when she found Jesus and just be some kind of eye candy for the duration of the flick.

Time. It seems as if this takes place in the 70s or early 80s, but as the film progresses, it is apparent that some time has passed, but, unless I missed it, there is nothing that says how much time has passed. Just take a look at the daughter, Paige. One scene she’s 4-5 yr old, and the next she’s off to the prom!

Machine Gun Preacher immediately conjures up thoughts of films such as Hobo with a Shotgun, but they couldn’t be any more different. They just both have grindhouse type titles. When it comes down to it, though, this film just didn’t do it for me. I tried to get into it, but wasn’t able to muster up any kind of great affection for it. It just resonates as an average flick that I’ll forget by the time I post this review. I do not recommend this, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad film.

3 out of 5 stars

The Runaways

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film opens with Cherie (Dakota Fanning) and her sister, Marie Currie (Riley Keough), as Cherie has just got her first period. Marie’s boyfriend, Derek (Brendan Sexton III), picks up the sisters from Marie’s job at “Pup n’ Fries” and Marie announces to him that Cherie has gotten her period. Angry at her sister for telling, she informs Derek that Marie is not wearing any underwear. Later, Cherie is seen cutting her hair in a shag and putting on face makeup in an attempt to create a look resembling Bowie on the cover of Aladdin Sane (the cover is shown on her wall as a poster). The scene is accompanied by scenes of Joan huffing marijuana with her girlfriend. Cherie is later seen lip-syncing David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul at the school talent show and is the target of paper balls, to which Cherie reacts by flipping off the crowd, but wins the talent show.

Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) is making out with a guy outside a club when she sees record producer, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon). Joan approaches him and talks about starting an all-girl rock band. Kim is interested and introduces Joan to Sandy West (Stella Maeve), a drummer. Joan and Sandy become friends and start jamming when Kim suggests that they recruit a hot blonde in the vein of Brigitte Bardot.

At a club, Kim and Joan look for hot blondes and discover Cherie. They ask if she wants to be in a band and she accepts. Then they tell her to come to auditions in a trailer park in the valley.

Cherie learns the cover song of Suzi Quatro’s “Fever” and goes to audition, however they’re disappointed at the song. Instead, Kim kicks Cherie out of the trailer and with Joan, thinks of a song for Cherie to audition for, thus writing “Cherry Bomb”. Cherie sings it and, after improving, is part of the band.

After moving in with her aunt because her mom moved to Indonesia, Cherie travels to her first gig with the band. Soon, they get signed to Mercury Records and start recording an album. Due to the album’s success, they travel to Japan to play a concert. After their performance, Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton) throws magazines at Cherie that have pictures of her, something Cherie thought was for the whole band.

After an argument with Lita, Cherie, and Joan, crazy Japanese fans break through the window and chase the girls out of the building. Afterward, Cherie overdoses in the hotel, collapses in an elevator and is sent to the hospital. Upon arrival home, Cherie’s alcoholic father is passed out on his bed. Cherie takes his painkillers and her actions are seen by Marie.

At the studio recording their next album, Cherie has a breakdown and refuses to play, followed by Lita trash-talking her and Joan defending Cherie. After a very heated argument, Cherie quits the band and leaves. Joan has a fit, throwing chairs and beer bottles against the glass. Cherie returns home while Joan continues playing and starts her own band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Cherie collapses again in a phone booth in a supermarket parking lot. At the hospital, Marie visits her and tells her to get her stuff straight.

Later at a job, Cherie hears Joan’s cover of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” on the radio and calls the station, where Joan is visiting for interviews. After an awkward conversation between Joan, Cherie, and even the radio host, Rodney Bingenheimer (Keir O’Donnell), Cherie says her goodbyes and continues working, smiling when Joan’s next song, “Crimson and Clover”, comes on the radio

REVIEW:

I’m only vaguely familiar with Joan Jett and Lita Ford, so I can’t really get in a huff about any inaccuracies this film may or may not have, however, I cam say that I did not really care for The Runaways.

I know there are a lot of people out there, mostly critics, who love this picture, but I just don’t fall in that category.

First of all, the casting doesn’t work. I’m partially biased, as I don’t particularly care for Kristen Stewart, since she is just a slightly more talented actress than Megan Fox. I guess if you’re not as hot, you have better have some talent, huh? I didn’t buy her as Joan Jett. She just didn’t have the aura, or vibe, if you will, that I expected from whomever would play Jett. Having said that, this is Stewart’s most impressive role.

Dakota Fanning may be growing up in front of our eyes, but she seems to be taking these roles that are solely meant to make her seem like an adult. As Cherie Currie, Fanning didn’t sell me on anything but the fact that she was just a little girl trying to act all grown up, especially in the parts where he character is trying to be all sexy. Unlike with Stewart, Fanning doesn’t shine with this role, for the reasons I just mentioned. She was just a bad choice.

Michael Shannon does a fairly decent job as the sleazy record producer, Kim Fowley, but I think he may have been a bit too over the top for the serious tone of this picture, or that may have been the reason for his characterization. Who knows?

I didn’t know that this film was from a book written by Cherie Currie. I thought it was just a random biopic. Since it was written by Currie, I can understand her being the main focus, otherwise you have to winder, why not focus on the “name” members, Joan Jett and Lita Ford.  I still question why there wasn’t more of Lita, and the rest of the band. It seemed like they wanted this to be a Cherie and Joan movie with Kim Fowley scenes every now and them.

A film about a music group must have the music, right? Believe it or not, they actually got that part right, but I would have liked for there to have been more. It just seemed like there could have been more performances, bu I guess the filmmakers wanted to focus more on the drama, rather than the music. Good call for a film about musicians (not the sarcasm)!

So, what is my verdict for this film. As I said before, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I can see how some people would like it. However, of the handful of people I know that actually took the time to watch this, no one seems to care for it. Let’s face it, this is not the most popular rock band in the world on film here. I think that may have been another reason I didn’t care for it. Either way, my opinion aside, I can recommend this if you’re really into Joan Jett or Kristen Stewart, or the music of The Runaways, but otherwise, this isn’t a must-see.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars