Archive for Patrick Wilson

Lakeview Terrace

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

An interracial couple moves into their California dream home, only to find themselves the target of their volatile next-door neighbor — a racist LAPD officer — in this tightly wound thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington. Newlyweds Chris and Lisa seem like they have the perfect marriage and now, with their new home in the exclusive community Lakeview Terrace, the perfect life as well, but things soon turn ugly in the posh neighborhood when they begin to receive threats from their neighbor Abel, a middle-aged LAPD officer who has obvious objections to the couple’s interracial marriage. What starts as an attitude problem soon morphs into full-on harassment, and before long the couple finds that their worries go far beyond their property values — or the encroaching California wildfire burning in view of their community — as they begin to fear for their lives.

What people are saying:

“Some will find it exciting. Some will find it an opportunity for an examination of conscience. Some will leave feeling vaguely uneasy. Some won’t like it and will be absolutely sure why they don’t, but their reasons will not agree. Some will hate elements that others can’t even see. Some will only see a thriller. I find movies like this alive and provoking, and I’m exhilarated to have my thinking challenged at every step of the way” 4 1/2 stars

“It’s ironic when the tactics it uses to ratchet up the suspense actually reduces the very real tension that gets communicated in its first half.” 1 star

“Samuel Jackson pulls off another great role. A cop living next your worst nightmare? could happen. I wouldn’t call this movie a hard core thriller, but it does have its edge of the seat type of moments. I wasn’t sure about watching it, but after I started I couldn’t stop.” 3 stars

“Though it wasn’t perfect and could’ve been much better, it’s a pretty enjoyable character study. It seems like the film, in most spots, doesn’t completely get off the ground and falls a little short before it gets too intense. The three lead performances — particularly Patrick Wilson and Samuel L. Jackson — are quite strong and the story keeps you hooked despite some cliches.” 2 1/2 stars

“Samuel Jackson is downright scary as a totally racist (without provocation, at all) psycho. People are down-playing the race angle, which is the entire underpinning of this movie. He had it out for the couple SOLELY because they were an interracial couple. I doubt most men (of any color) would have put up with his psycho behavior as much as this white husband did – that part is not believable. It also throws like four different, unrelated themes together for no apparent purpose. It’s great to see a film that finally depicts black on white racism (of which there is much), but the plot and story could have been tied together better.” 3 stars

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Insidious: Chapter 2

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1986, Carl, a medium, calls his friend Elise to help discover what is haunting Lorraine Lambert’s son, Josh. After hypnotizing Josh, Elise attempts to find the location of Josh’s “friend”, an old woman who appears in photographs of him. After warnings from Josh, she makes her way to his bedroom closet and is scratched on the arm. As a result, Lorraine, Carl and Elise agree that making Josh forget his astral projection abilities is the best thing to do.

Twenty-five years later, Josh’s wife Renai is under questioning by a police detective about the death of Elise. Unsettled, Renai rejoins her family as they relocate to Lorraine’s house, where Renai witnesses strange occurrences. She suspects that Josh is inhabited by the old woman. Josh begins hearing female voices urging him to kill his family in order to stay alive. The next day, Renai sees a woman wearing a white dress sitting in the living room. Following the cries of her baby throughout the house, Renai faces a woman in white and is knocked unconscious. Lorraine visits Elise’s colleagues, Specs and Tucker, to seek an explanation behind the strange events.

They call Carl, who attempts to contact Elise using word-dice. Through the dice, they are told to find answers at the “Our Lady of Angels” hospital. Led to the ICU, Lorraine recounts a story of a patient named Parker Crane, who was admitted to the hospital for trying to castrate himself and eventually committed suicide many years ago. In Parker’s home, they find a secret room with 15 corpses in it. They also find a black wedding gown and veil as well as newspaper clippings about a killer referred to as “The Bride in Black,” who kidnapped and murdered several people while dressed as a woman. It is then revealed that it was not Elise speaking through the dice, but actually Parker’s mother. Meanwhile, Josh’s body begins to slowly deteriorate. He loses several teeth and begins to age physically.

After Renai recovers, Lorraine insists that she, Renai, and the kids get away from Josh. Carl arrives to drug Josh, who reveals that he is possessed by Parker, while Specs and Tucker monitor from outside. Josh incapacitates Carl, Specs, and Tucker and ambushes Lorraine and Renai when they return to the house. He attempts to choke Renai but is knocked over the head by Dalton. Renai and the children escape to the basement. Dalton falls asleep and returns to The Further to rescue his father.

In The Further, the real Josh, Carl and Elise proceed to Parker’s house, where they witness his mother, the woman in white, abusing him as a child. Parker’s mother had raised him as a girl, calling him Marilyn, for reasons unexplained in the film. She is violently abusive whenever he acts as a boy or refers to himself as Parker, the name his “father gave him.” It is further revealed that Parker had killed his female victims at the behest of his mother’s spirit who had also told him that killing Josh’s family would sustain his new body (because it was rejecting his soul). Josh eventually finds the room filled with standing bodies—assumed to be Parker’s victims. Upon finding Parker’s mother, the two engage in a fight. Just as Parker is about to kill Dalton’s physical body and Parker’s mother is about to kill Josh, Elise saves Josh. After the three escape, they meet Dalton, who assists Carl and Josh to return to the living world. Josh and Dalton wake up as themselves, and their memories of their astral projection abilities are forgotten through a process of hypnosis.

Specs and Tucker proceed to go to a family whose daughter, Allison, is in an unexplained coma. Unbeknownst to them, Elise enters the home and approaches Allison. She senses a demonic presence behind the girl and looks on in horror

REVIEW:

Horror films today just don’t resonate with audiences unless they are either torture porn or they do something different. Most of the horror flicks I have come across recently seems to delve into other versions of evil, such as the dubykk. With that being said, sometimes all it takes is a creepy atmosphere, possession, and alternate dimensions to provide a good scare. At least that it what Insidious: Chapter 2 is hoping will work. The questions is…does it?

What is this about?

Time has passed for Renai and Josh Lambert, but they are still haunted by the evil spirits that almost stole the body of their son, Dalton. While Renai tries to accept her son’s paranormal abilities, Josh must confront his own horrifying childhood.

What did I like?

Continuation. I won’t beat around the bush. I vaguely remember Insidious, but that isn’t a problem, because early on in the film, as Rose Byrne’s character is being interrogated, we get a brief recap of past events. Considering how it has been a couple of years since the last film, this was a very smart thing to do. Also, picking up the story where it left off was a masterful stroke of genius. This truly is the next chapter in what seems to be a fledgling franchise.

Vibe. There is a sinister vibe going on throughout the film. It isn’t inherently scary, per se, but you feel the creepiness factor amped up. Probably the best comparison I can give is walking into a haunted house at a carnival/fair. You know something is going to happen, it may even be super cheesy, but it is the knowledge that something is going to go down that changes the atmosphere. The film does a great job of keeping that creepy atmosphere throughout the picture.

Development. This is a personal preference, but for a character in horror to be truly effective, either as the protagonist or antagonist, they must have some sort of character development. This includes having a mysterious backstory. With that said, I felt that the development of the new characters was mostly done extremely well, especially with the new antagonist. That guy’s story will…well, let me not say. You just have to see it to believe it…and hope you don’t end up emotionally scarred for life.

What didn’t I like?

Time is relative. I warn you now, this film skips around in time a bit. Sometimes that can work for a film, a la Pulp Fiction. Most of the time, though, it fails to do anything but confuse the audience. I get that the scenes in the past were meant to help us get a better understanding of who these people are and how everything ties together, but a couple of flashbacks would have been just fine. There was no need to randomly skip back and forth.

Better when he’s creepy. In the last film, the oldest kid, Dalton (you may recognize him from Iron Man 3) was super creepy because of his possession. This go ’round he seems to be fairly normal. When I say normal, I mean boring. There is nothing special about the kid for most of the film, other than he risks his life to go in and save his dad with a tin can telephone. Personally, I preferred him when he was the creepy kid.

You ain’t got no job! I was thinking about this the other day. In films and TV shows of this nature, both parents seem to have the means to buy a fairly big, nice house, but they don’t ever go to work. WTF?!? What kind of drugs are they selling on the side? Seriously, though, I have a theory that perhaps these people wouldn’t be so haunted in they went to a regular 9-5 job. You’d be surprised what wonders getting out of the house will do for you!

So, what did I ultimately think of Insidious: Chapter 2? Well, it has moments that are genuinely creepy, including a guy who was forced to dress as a girl growing up which scarred him for life (and death), an alternate dimension devoid of life and light, etc. A couple of comic relief guys make a valiant attempt to lighten things up, but it just doesn’t work, sadly. I felt that Rose Byrne could have had more to do, but I guess the fact that she doesn’t die is a victory in itself, seeing as this is a horror flick. All in all, this is decent, but not spectacular. By tomorrow morning, chances are I won’t remember anything about this flick, other than the fact that I saw it. Do I recommend it? If you’re into the horror genre, sure, but I fear that even you will be disappointed in the average-ness of this picture.

3 out of 5 stars

The Conjuring

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1971, Roger and Carolyn move into a dilapidated farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island with their five daughters. During the first day, their move goes smoothly, though their dog, Sadie, refuses to enter the house and one of the daughters finds a boarded up entrance to a cellar.

The next morning, Carolyn wakes up with a mysterious bruise and finds Sadie lying dead outside the house. Over the next several days, various instances of paranormal disturbance occur. The activity culminates one night while Roger is away in Florida. After hearing various clapping and giggling noises, and seeing the picture frames shattered on the stairs, Carolyn is locked up in the cellar. Later Cindy, one of the daughters, is awakened after sleepwalking into her sister Andrea’s room—she sees a spirit on top of a wardrobe in the room that attacks Andrea.

Carolyn contacts noted paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren for help. The Warrens conduct an initial investigation and conclude that the house may require an exorcism, but they needed authorization from the Catholic Church and further evidence before they can proceed.

While researching the history of the house, Ed and Lorraine discover that the house once belonged to an accused witch, Bathsheba, who tried to sacrifice her children to the devil and killed herself in 1863 after cursing all who would take her land. The property was once 200+ acres but has since been divided up into smaller parcels. They find reports of numerous murders and suicides in houses that have since been built upon parcels that were once part of the property.

Ed and Lorraine return to the house to gather evidence to receive authorization for the exorcism. Cindy again sleepwalks into Andrea’s room and reveals a secret passage behind the wardrobe. Lorraine enters the passage and falls through the floorboards into the cellar, where she sees the spirit of a woman whom Bathsheba had long ago possessed and used to kill her child. Another of the Perron children, Nancy, is violently dragged by her hair along the floor by an unseen force.

The Perron family decides to take refuge at a hotel while Ed and Lorraine take their evidence to the Church to arrange an exorcism. While the Warrens are on their way home, their daughter is attacked in their own home by the spirit of Bathsheba, though Ed arrives in time to prevent her from being harmed.

Carolyn, now possessed by the spirit of Bathsheba, takes two of her daughters, Christine and April, and drives back to the house. Ed, Lorraine, Roger, and two assistants rush to the house where they find Carolyn trying to stab Christine with scissors. After subduing Carolyn, Ed decides to perform the exorcism himself, though Carolyn escapes and attempts to kill April. Lorraine is able to temporarily distract the possessed Carolyn from killing her daughter by reminding her of a special memory she shared with her family, allowing Ed to complete the exorcism, saving Carolyn and her daughter.

Returning home, Lorraine tells Ed that the priest who they sought for the exorcism had called back and left a message, saying that he had gained approval from the Catholic Church to perform it. In addition to this, he also has another case for them to investigate on Long Island.

REVIEW:

If there is something that 2013 as a year will go down in history for, it will be the success of smaller films like The Conjuring, as opposed to mega-blockbusters. I’ll get more into that later. For someone like me, who isn’t a horror fan to be as engulfed in this as I was speaks volumes about the quality of this picture.

What is this about?

Based on true events, this spine-chiller tells the story of a New England family who begins having encounters with spirits in their farmhouse, and the paranormal experts who help them do battle with the supernatural forces.

What did I like?

Creepy. Pretty much from the minute the film starts, the creep factor kicks in. With the exception of some character development parts, it never lets up. True, nothing is as freaky as that Annabel doll that is show in the opening vignette and on display in the glass case in the Warren’s house. This is the kind of stuff that can keep you up at night, the way horror films used to be able to, so I give my kudos to the filmmakers for being able to pull that feat off.

Look. It was impressive to see that the film, which is set in the 70s, also goes about using a look that one would see in those films from that era. Sure, there are some hiccups, such as the way a home video looks just as good as one would look if it were filmed on an iPhone, but that’s a minor mistake that you really have to be anal to pick up on. The main thing is that inspired retro look is something to behold.

Exorcism. There have been tons of exorcism in movies. This one isn’t going to be remembered for years to come like the one in The Exorcist, obviously, but it is of note because it is done in a different way. I don’t believe that I’ve seen one involving a bag over the victim’s head, only to emerge a more demonic version of themselves. It was quite the experience watching.

What didn’t I like?

Prequel. For a film like Captain America: The First Avenger to end with a scene that obviously is leading to something more makes sense, but for this, not so much. The ending has the Warrens headed to a case in Long Island, which turns out to be the Amityville Horror cases (surely you’ve heard of those films, right?) So, in a way this is a prequel, of sorts, but I just don’t think that ending scene was as effective as intended.

Perfect…or not? Is it me, or do Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga seem to be just about type cast in these type of films these days, Wilson especially. At one point this year, he had 2 or 3 films that were just about the same thing out at the same time, including Insidious 2. Farmiga seems to be a bit of a horror queen, her daughter was in at least the first season of American Horror Story, so it is a family business, I suppose. At any rate, these two are great together, but it would be nice to see them branch out.

Convenience. Before I started writing this review, I was watching a video that detailed the “cinema sins” of this film. One thing that they and I agreed on is the convenience of how all hell breaks out just as the dad gets home. Seems to me that would have worked out better with him gone, but that’s just me. I guess the demon/ghost wanted the whole family.

As I mentioned earlier, The Conjuring, along with The Purge and a couple of other films this summer, proved that big budget cinema isn’t everything, both in terms of the audience they can bring in and the quality of film. Not only was this a really good film on a limited budget, but come this time next year, I’m sure I’ll be more apt to remember this than most of the summer blockbusters that may have been good, but they were quite forgettable. That being said, this is a rare high recommendation for a horror flick from me, so you know that you need to check it out!

4 1/4 out of 5 stars

Revisited: The Alamo

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins in March 1836 in the Texas town of San Antonio de Bexar (now Downtown San Antonio in the U.S. state of Texas), site of the Alamo, where bodies of Texan defenders and Mexican attackers are strewn over the Alamo. The film then flashes back to a year earlier. Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) attends a party where he tries to persuade people to migrate to Texas. He meets with Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton), recently defeated for reelection to Congress. Houston explains to Crockett that as an immigrant to Texas, Crockett will receive 640 acres (2.6 km2) [a square mile] of his own choosing. Crockett, with a grin, pointedly asks Houston whether this new republic is going to need a president.

Meanwhile, in San Felipe, Texas, the Texas provisional government is meeting to discuss what action to take after the recent capture by the Texans of the Alamo and Bexar from Mexican forces at the first Battle of San Antonio de Bexar. Texas having rebelled against Mexico and its dictatorial president Santa Anna, who is personally leading an army to retake the Alamo, the Texan War Party calls for the Texas army to depart Bexar, cross into Mexico and confront Mexican forces at the town of Matamoros. The Opposition Party seeks to rebuild the Texan army and establish a permanent government to be recognized by other nations of the world. The provisional government votes out Sam Houston as commander of the Texas army. While having drinks with Jim Bowie later, the disgusted Houston tells Bowie to go to San Antonio and destroy the Alamo.

William Barret Travis (Patrick Wilson) is also in San Felipe, reporting for duty. His character is quickly established as a man who seeks respect as a uniformed military officer, a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army. Interlaced scenes show him granting his wife a divorce (for his adultery, abandonment, and “barbarous treatment”), and seeking to begin a new life in Texas. The Texas provisional government orders him to take command of the Alamo. There he meets Col. James Neill (Brandon Smith), who informs him that Travis will be in command of the Texas Army regulars while Neil is away on leave. Travis, alarmed that the Alamo’s small force cannot withstand the Mexican Army, which is rumored to have thousands of foot soldiers, plus the formidable Mexican cavalry. Again he sends a rider to deliver his plea for reinforcements. More small groups of Texan men arrive, but not enough for the impending battle. Travis oversees preparations for defense against inevitable attack, in hopes that enough reinforcements will arrive.

Crockett arrives in San Antonio, where he tells a crowd, “I told them folks they can go to hell, I’m going to Texas”. He is told that the other defenders are impatient for Santa Anna to arrive now that Crockett is on hand, and Crockett replies, “I understood the fighting was over… Ain’t it?” For the first time in any film about the Alamo or Davy Crockett, the viewer is shown the political aspirations of Crockett and possibly his real intentions for traveling to Texas: not so much to fight for freedom, but to seek new opportunities. The movie implies that he’s caught in the middle and cannot escape. Santa Anna soon arrives in San Antonio, much to the surprise of the Texan fighters, who were not expecting the Mexican Army to arrive until late March or early April. The Texans retire to the Alamo compound despite its vulnerability, and begin fortifying it as best they can. Amid the chaos Travis writes letters asking for reinforcements. Only a couple dozen men arrive to join them.

Santa Ana’s army surrounds the Alamo compound and the siege begins. Bowie leaves the Alamo to meet with Mexican General Manuel Castrillón (Castulo Guerra) to talk things out before they get out of hand. However, an incensed Travis fires the 18-pound cannon on the south-west wall, thus cutting short Bowie’s impromptu attempt at diplomacy; this virtually ends the chance to the forestall the Mexican attack. Bowie returns to tell Travis that Santa Anna has offered surrender at discretion. Travis offers all within the Alamo an opportunity to leave. Almost to a man the defenders decide to stay and fight to the end. At least one woman remains, Mrs. Susanna Dickinson (Laura Clifton), whose husband, Lt. Almeron Dickinson (Stephen Bruton), has decided to stay. Bowie becomes debilitatingly ill and lies in a cot in one of the buildings. For the next several nights the Mexican Army band serenades the Texans with the “Degüello” (slit throat), followed by an artillery bombardment of the surrounded compound. Convinced that the Texans will not leave the Alamo, Santa Ana orders a blood-red signal flag to be raised, the sign for “no quarter”. The flag is visible also to the Alamo’s defenders, who know its meaning.

Bugle calls along the Mexican front line in the predawn darkness awaken the Texans, who rush to their posts. The Texans also hear the battle cry of the Mexican soldiers: “Viva Santa-Ana!” After a long brutal battle the Mexicans, despite taking heavy casualties, breach the north wall of the mission. Travis is killed, shot in the head by a young Mexican soldier storming the north wall. A small group of Mexican engineers, armed with axes and crowbars, assault and break down the boarded-up doors and windows of the west wall, while another small group storms the southwest wall. The few surviving Texans fall back to the buildings; they are all killed. Attackers discover the bedridden Bowie in his room, where he fires his pistols and attempting to fight with his knife. Crockett is taken prisoner. He promises Santa Ana to lead him to Sam Houston for the Mexican Army to surrender and maybe survive; Santa Ana refuses the mocking offer and orders Crockett to be executed.

Days later, after hearing that the Alamo has been taken, Houston, once again in command of the remnants of the Texan army, orders a general retreat eastward. His army and the families of most of the soldiers flee. They are pursued by the victorious Mexican Army, led by the confident Santa Ana. (Historians call this near-panic flight the “Runaway Scrape”.) A few weeks later, Houston halts his retreat near the San Jacinto River (north of the future site of the City of Houston), where he decides to face the Mexicans in a final stand. With the support of two cannons and a small group of mounted Texans (“Tejanos”), Houston’s army surprises Santa Ana’s army during its afternoon siesta. During the ensuing short rout (called by the victors the Battle of San Jacinto), the vengeful Texans massacre at least two hundred Mexican soldiers and capture General Santa Ana—whose identity is given away when Mexican prisoners respond to his presence by whispering “El Presidente”. Santa Anna surrenders to the wounded Houston, and in exchange for his life agrees to order all Mexican troops to withdraw from Texas and to accept Texan independence. The last scene in the movie shows the spirit of Crockett playing his violin on the top of the Alamo and then looking out on the horizon

REVIEW:

Being a native Texan, I have a soft spot for the history of my home state, specifically the story of the great battle that took place at The Alamo. Everytime I’m in the city of San Antonio, there are two things I make sure to do, buy a Spurs shirt and visit the Alamo, complete with historical tour. Does this film inform and entertain the masses about that bloody battle, though, is the question.

What is this about?

Based on actual events, this period drama tells the story of a small Texas mission where, in 1836, nearly 200 men stood their ground for two weeks as they were attacked by Mexican forces led by President Santa Anna.

What did I like?

Story. If you’re watching this film, then chances are you are more than likely doing so because you have at least a fleeting interest in the Alamo and the history surrounding it. This film manages to gives us an interesting take on the bloody battle the spurred and sparked the Texas Revolution. I think some of the facts and whatnot were obviously changed for movie purposes, but this isn’t a documentary, so it can be forgiven to a point.

Sam Houston. Dennis Quaid gives one of the best performances that I’ve seen from him as General Sam Houston. Being a native Texan, it would appear that this was a bit of a passion project for him. He may not have been on screen much, but when he is, you pay attention, especially when it comes to his speech before leading his troops off to the Battle of San Jacinto.

Battle. While it may not have been the best battle scene on the big screen, you cannot deny that when we finally get to the battle for the Alamo, it is intense and powerful. Whether you care or not for these characters, is irrelevant, partially because you know they all die, but it is like a car or train wreck, you can’t help but look in awe. I think the bloody nature of this battle was captured masterfully.

What didn’t I like?

Crockett. I have no problem with Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett. The guy is a native of Tennessee playing a folk hero from that state. Like Quaid with Sam Houston, I believe it was a dream role for him. However, I felt that the film focused too much on him, when it should have been focused on the battalion as a whole. Sure, Crockett and  Thornton are big names, which means they are going to get some major time on screen, which I accept, but there are limits. I don’t think Davy Crockett was conveniently the last survivor, for instance.

Exposition. As a fan of old westerns, I appreciate how this film seemed to be taking that approach used by those films, which is to save everything for the big climax. However, it seemed like this was nothing but senseless exposition. Yes, it developed our major characters and explained the ins and outs of why this battle is important, but it just didn’t seem to resonate with me that way it should. Mayhaps I was just ready for the big battle to happen.

Slaves. This is a minor complaint, but the slaves, actually I think they were servants. It was mentioned that at least one of them wasn’t a slave, but wasn’t free, either. At any rate, the scenes with them seemed to be a bit odd. It felt like the director was trying to go with some comic relief, but it didn’t really work out the way he thought it would.

When all the dust clears, bodies counted, and the armies have moved on, it is clear that The Alamo is not a film that will go down as the greatest ever. Having said that, had a few things been tweaked here and there, it very well could have been. Personally, I love this film, but I love all stories involving the Alamo and Texas history, so there is a bit of a bias there. I implore you to check this out sometime as it is definitely a film you should see before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Insidious

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert):

During the first scene of the movie, an old ghostly woman is seen lurking in a house corridor while a young Josh is sleeping in his room.

In present day, Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) have recently moved into a new house with their three children. One morning, Renai begins looking through a family photo album with her son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins). He asks why there are no pictures of Josh when he was a child. Renai reasons that he has always been camera shy. Dalton tells Renai he is scared of his new room. One day, Dalton hears something in the attic. When he goes to investigate he sees something off screen that scares him and takes a fall when the attic ladder breaks. The next day Josh goes to wake Dalton, but he does not move. They rush him to the hospital where the doctors say he is in an unexplained coma.

Three months later Dalton is moved home, still in the coma. Disturbing events begin to occur. Renai believes the house is haunted when she begins to see and hear people in the house. She confronts Josh about the events and the family soon moves to another house. In the new house, increasingly violent and supernatural events begin to happen again. Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), contacts a friend, Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye), who deals with paranormal activities. The family, Elise, and her team go into Dalton’s room. There, Elise sees and describes a figure to one of her two assistants, who draws a black figure with a red face and dark hollow eyes.

Elise explains to Renai and Josh of Dalton’s ability to astral project while sleeping, but has wandered too far in the ‘further’ to find his way back in to his physical body. Skeptical at first, Josh later relents when he discovers Dalton had been drawing pictures which resemble the demonic figure Elise described. Elise and Lorraine reveal to the couple that Josh also can astral project, and was terrorized by a terrifying spirit during his childhood. Josh’s mother shows them pictures from Josh’s childhood, revealing a shadowy old woman nearer and nearer to Josh in each picture. Elise suggests that Josh should use his ability to find and help return Dalton’s soul. Josh agrees. Guided by Elise, Josh projects himself into the further and finds and frees his son who is captured and held by the red-faced demon. In search of their physical bodies, Josh and Dalton flee the demon who pursues them. Just before the two awaken, Josh confronts the shadowy old woman who appears to be inside his house, along with several other spirits. Shouting that he is unafraid of her, she retreats into the house. Josh awakens, as does Dalton.

Later, Dalton, Renai, and Lorraine are eating in the kitchen. In another room, while Elise and Josh packed, Elise notices something strange about Josh. She asks him to hand a video tape to her. As he hands it to her, she senses it. She grabs a camera and takes his picture. Suddenly, Josh goes into a rage and strangles Elise to death. Renai hears the noise and runs into the room to find Elise’s body. She calls out to Josh, but receives no answer. She picks up the camera that Elise used from the floor and sees, not a picture of Josh, but the old woman, implying that Josh’s astral body wasn’t able to get to his physical body in time. Instead, the old dead demon woman from his childhood has got there before him and possessed him. Just then, Josh tells Renai he is right behind her and grabs her shoulder. She turns around and the screen cuts to black. It comes back to see a flash of the old woman’s face.

After the credits roll, a short scene shows the old woman blowing out a candle followed by a laugh.

REVIEW:

A friend of mine watched this the other day and it freaked her out big time. Such has been the case with many of the people who have seen this film, so I figured I’d better check it out and see what was the big deal.

To be honest, I wasn’t freaked out all. The Strangers did a better job of freaking me out. That being said, I can see how this movie would freak some people out. First, there is the whole astral projection thing, especially when done by the little boy. Then again, his dad projects some old creepy woman who is just as freaky as the demon his son conjures.

The acting in this flick isn’t half bad, especially for a horror film. The real stars are Dalton and Josh. Seeing as how they are pretty much having to convince the audience they’re more or less possessed for the whole last 30 minutes or so. It takes some real talent to pull that off and make it believable, especially from such a young actor as Ty Simpkins.

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed with  the performance Rose Byrne. I’m not sure if it was her or the way they wrote her character, but I just felt as if something more should have happened, either with or to her. Instead, she is nothing more than the suburbanite mom.

I mentioned the astral projection aspect of this film, but I can’t help but rave about how impressed I was with the paranormal aspect of this picture. No, it isn’t on the level of Paranormal Activity (having not seen any of them, I can’t comment on whether it is better or worse). Often time in films such as this, they would glaze over it, but here it takes center stage.

The comic relief could have been better, and actually felt out of place with the way they sort of shoved them in, but at least they broke up the monotony.

So, what is the final verdict on Insidious? Well, it isn’t as creepy as some make it out to be, but some of you may be scared watching it. Not being a horror fan, I just never really got into it and I think that skewered my opinion. Still, I think this is a pretty good flick that you horror fans will enjoy. Check it out if you get the chance!

4 out of 5 stars

The A-Team

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film opens in Mexico, with Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith held captive by two corrupt Mexican officers, working for the renegade General Tuco. Hannibal escapes after being left to be fed on by two guard dogs, and sets out to rescue his comrade-in-arms Templeton “Faceman” Peck, who is himself held captive by Tuco at Tuco’s private ranch, where Face had seduced the General’s wife. Hannibal makes it to the ranch in time to save Face from a grisly demise, after enlisting disgraced Ranger Bosco B.A. Baracus, driving to the rescue in B.A.’s modified GMC Vandura van. With the three men now on the run from the enraged Tuco, they stop in at a nearby Army hospital, to recruit the services of insane pilot H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock. In a medical chopper, they engage Tuco in a vicious aerial dogfight, which results in B.A.’s permanent fear of flying, and ends when they manage to lure Tuco’s chopper into American airspace, where it’s destroyed by a U.S. F-22 Raptor – the capstone to an elaborate plan put together by Hannibal.

The film then moves forward “eight years and eighty successful missions later”, where the team – now a highly-regarded, elite combat unit – is stationed in Iraq. Hannibal is contacted by CIA Agent Lynch, who reveals that Iraqi insurgents are in possession of U.S. treasury plates being used to manufacture counterfeit currency. Lynch wants Hannibal and his team to steal the plates and over 1 billion dollars in counterfeit cash that’s due to be moved out of Baghdad. At the same time, DCIS Captain Charissa Sosa arrives on the scene, warning her ex-lover Face, whom along with the rest of team she has disdain for, to stay away from the plates and out of Baghdad. Against the advice of his commanding officer, General Morrison, Hannibal agrees to steal the plates, albeit in an unofficial “Black Ops” mission. The mission is successful, but when the team returns to base to meet their commanding officer, both the shipping container carrying the money and Morrison’s Humvee are destroyed by men from the private security firm Black Forest (a fictionalized version of Blackwater), led by the ruthless and wise-cracking Brock Pike. With Morrison the only proof that they were, in fact, acting on the U.S.’s behalf, the team is arrested, tried, dishonorably discharged and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Six months later, a still-incarcerated Hannibal is visited by Lynch once more, who reveals that Pike may be trying to sell the plates with the help of a mysterious Arab backer. Hannibal, who has been tracking Pike on his own, strikes up a deal with Lynch: clean records for himself and his team, in return for the plates. Lynch agrees, and Hannibal escapes prison with the help of a drug-soaked cigar that makes him appear dead. Hannibal then breaks out Face (pretending to be a removal man and stealing the tanning bed Face is in), B.A. (by ripping off the door of the prison bus transporting him) and Murdock (through distracting the German V.A. hospital in which he’s committed with a 3D movie). By now, Sosa, who holds a grudge against the team for disregarding her warnings to stay away from Baghdad and getting her demoted to Lieutenant, is hot on the team’s trail, and under the belief that the team is working with Pike, she tries to head them off before they leave Germany in a military Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. The plane is destroyed by two remote-piloted drone fighters, but the team manages to escape inside the body of a tank on parachutes, which they “fly” by shooting rounds off and stalling their momentum.

They track Pike, in the company of the mystery Arab, and launch an offensive in which they manage to reclaim the plates and kidnap the Arab at the same time. With the exception of Hannibal, the team is shocked to learn that the “Arab” is actually General Morrison, who worked with Lynch and Pike to steal the plates, but then teamed up with Pike to double-cross Lynch and fake his own death. When Lynch learns that the team has Morrison in their possession, he orders an air strike to eliminate them all in one fell swoop. The team barely manages to escape, and Morrison is killed.

Realizing that their backs are to a wall, Face hatches a plan. Hannibal arranges to meet Sosa (knowing her phone lines are tapped by Lynch) on board a cargo ship at a downtown dock, saying he’ll hand over Morrison and the plates in exchange for his freedom. Face then calls her on a second, untapped phone he had previously given her. Lynch reenlists Pike, and sets up a trap for Hannibal and company at the docks. This has been anticipated by Face, who sets off an elaborate series of diversions to split Lynch’s team up, and more importantly, get Lynch directly involved. The plan nearly goes awry when Pike fires a rocket at the ship, nearly destroying it, but he’s eventually killed by B.A. Lynch tracks down Hannibal and a hooded “Morrison”, and shoots “Morrison” in the head before engaging Hannibal in a vicious fistfight. Hannibal soon gets the upper hand until Lynch grabs a hold of his gun, however the container they are in is lifted- revealing Sosa and dozens of Federal agents with guns drawn. “Morrison” is revealed to be Murdock in a melted-Kevlar helmet. Lynch is taken into custody by the CIA, but contrary to what they were expecting, the A-Team is once again arrested by the military, this time for escaping incarceration. Sosa, who has been promoted back to the rank Captain for getting back the plates and apprehending the A-Team, promises to do all she can to set them free, before kissing Face goodbye as he is led into a prison van. In the van, the team laments their misfortune, but Hannibal seems optimistic, and defers to Face, who reveals a key in his mouth presumably obtained from Sosa’s kiss. Face then utters Hannibal’s catch-phrase: “I love it when a plan comes together”.

The film ends with a recital of the opening narration from the original television series.

REVIEW:

Those of us that were alive in the 80s, can’t help but know about the A-Team. The show was one of the mainstays of television back in the day, despite the fact that it was pretty much the same thing every week, just in different locations and slight plot twists.

It is well documented that I’m no fan of remakes, but I don’t mind remaking TV shows into movies for a one-time deal, if they are done in such a way as to honor and capture the spirit of the original, and not besmirch its legacy. There has yet to be one of these to hit theaters…until The A-Team.

Let’s get it out of the way, this is not the A-Team from the show. Sure, they may look the same and have similar mannerisms, this is set in modern times. Having said that, this film seems to be more of an origin story. I have seen every episode of the show numerous times, granted its been awhile since I’ve watched them all…but I’mtrying to catch up via Netflix, but other than the narration before the theme song and some mentions of it during the episodes, especially in the last season, we never really know how they came together. This is one of the things I loved about this picture. It told us how they got together, even if it isn’t the exact story.

This is mindless action if I’ve ever seen it. If you’re not into this kind of stuff, then go see something else, because, this is just as ridiculous as the show was in terms of blowing stuff up and kicking butt, and I loved every minute of it.

Storywise, as I said, I liked how it was a bit of an origin tale, but didn’t really care for some of the aspects of it, such as the Black Forest group framing them, the mystery surrounding the CIA and their involvement in all this, the way the van got flattened (I’ll get to that in a sec), etc.

Casting was pretty spot on. Liam Neeson can do no wrong, let’s face it. As Hannibal, I swear he channeled the late George Peppard. While he did an A+ job, I do think he took it a bit too serious, and at times talked down to the rest of the team, not in a bad…but more of an old guy fussing at the young folks. Also, he didn’t smoke a cigar enough. I’ve read that he had just given up smoking before this started filming, so that may be a reason for it. Still, who would have ever thought anyone could pull off Hannibal. That was nothing compared to casting B.A., though.

UFC star Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had the unenviable task of filling Mr. T’s shoes as B.A. Baracus. First of all, let me give this guy a standing ovation for having the balls to do this. On top of that, this is his first acting role, and while B.A. isn’t exactly spouting off Shakespeare (he does quote Ghandi near the end), this is still impressive for someone with no acting experience, especially under the amount of pressure he had to be under. I didn’t really care for the passive B.A. that came up after he got out of prison, but that’s just me. It did make for a more impactful fight at the end, complete with a UFC-type move. I think the only issue I have with Jackson was that he said “fool” way more than any human being should. Also, the “pity” and “fool” tattoos he had served no purpose other than to identify him as B.A. when he is first on-screen, and could have been done just as well with some gold, which is what was missing the most from him. I know, you’re all gonna say, he’s not Mr. T. So what! He’s playing B.A., and B.A. wore gold. If there is some kind of sequel, he better go rob Fort Knox and come up with some gold.

Bradley Cooper seems to be a hot commodity in Hollywood these days. Women swoon just at the mere mention of his name. Who better to play Faceman? Cooper does the character justice, though maybe a bit more rough and tough than I would like for him to be.

Sharlto Copley steals the show, though. Murdock is…well, he’s crazy. Copley takes what Schulz did in the show and amplifies it 10X. In the show, we didn’t really know if Murdock was crazy, or just acted that way. Here, it is quite obvious that he’s out of his mind, but a damn good pilot! If you need any further proof of that, just watch his first scene in the helicopter.

Jessica Biel plays a totally pointless character. I think they made her just to bring in a female to the cast, because she honestly doesn’t bring anything to the table. Not that she does a bad job or anything, but she just doesn’t fit, in my opinion.

Patrick Wilson takes a turn as the villanous CIA agent Lynch. I was quite impressed with him here, not because he did an outstanding job, because he didn’t…it was just on par with his usual performances, but because the audience couldn’t really tell what his intentions were until they were finally revealed.

One of the trademarks of the A-Team is the van. When B.A. is introduced he’s speeding through some town in Mexico in an orange Lamborghini. Initially, I thought this was Faceman, because it reminded me of the kind of car he had in the show. B.A. trades it in for the van. I was so happy to see the van, then not 10-15 minutes later, it gets flattened. If that wasn’t bad enough, they didn’t bother trying to replace it! WTF?!?

I won’t spoil all the ridiculousness that goes on in this film, but I will say that they fly a tank, and it’s pretty impressive.

One more quick note about the cast, original cast members Dwight Schulz (Murdock) and Dirk Benedict (Face) appear in cameos in the film, and in a post credits scene with their counterparts. I only wish Mr. T would have signed on. Obviously, George Peppard couldn’t, unless he came back from the dead.

Speaking of Mr. T., he said this was too violent and sexualized compared to the original. I will say that it is more violent that the original, but that has more to do with the times. I understand his frustrations, though.

There is one of the posters for this film that I don’t care for. It’s the one where the four of them are as close up as you can get. Really, do we need to see every pore on their face?

The A-Team deliver a mix of action, comedy, and nostalgia that we don’t see often. There are a few WTF?!? moments, but its in the spirit of the original series. Sure, you can say that this should have been new everything, but that just wouldn’t have been the A-Team, now would it? This is a totally awesome film and I highly recommend it to everyone!

5 out of 5 stars

Little Children

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a former campus feminist and academic who is now a reluctant homemaker and mother in an upper-middle class suburb of Boston. Feeling stifled and aimless in her role as a mother, Sarah views her young daughter Lucy as a nuisance (describing her as an “unknowable little person”), and it doesn’t help that Lucy refuses to do almost anything Sarah asks, such as get into strollers or carseats. Sarah feels out of place around the tedious and judgemental Stepford-like mothers she encounters on a daily basis at the local playground. Her marriage has become loveless, and she catches her husband masturbating to online pornography with a pair of panties over his face. Her reaction is to buy an eye-catching red bathing suit from a department store catalog to get the attention of Brad.

Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson) is a former college football player who’s married to Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a documentary filmmaker. The couple have a young son, Aaron. Emasculated by his wife’s successful career, and embarrassed at his role as a stay-at-home father (he’s failed the bar exam twice), Brad is unhappy, particularly since his wife’s role as breadwinner has put him in a helpless situation. Each day, he leaves home with the pretense of going to the library to study, but in actuality he watches skateboarders at the park. He joins a policeman’s touch football team at the urging of a friend, Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), a disgraced former police officer.

Early in the story, Sarah and Brad meet on the playground, where Sarah suggests they hug to shock the mothers nearby. Brad ups the ante and plants a kiss on her lips. While the other mothers freak out and take their children away from the playground, it’s apparent that Brad and Sarah have discovered a sudden attraction. Weeks pass before Sarah musters the gumption to take Lucy to the pool, where she knows Brad and Aaron often go. Over the course of several regular visits, they get to know each other while their children also bond. After Brad, Sarah and the children are caught in a rainstorm at the pool, they rush to Sarah’s house. The children are already asleep, and are put to bed upstairs for a nap. While Sarah dries their beach towels so that they can sit on the furniture in their soaked clothes, Brad mills about the house and comes upon a book of poetry in Sarah’s study. He finds a picture of himself, shirtless and in the pool wedged in the book. Realizing that Sarah has feelings for him, he surprises her in the basement with another kiss. Brad and Sarah have a moment alone in the basement at Sarah’s home, where they kiss and have sex in the laundry room.

Meanwhile, Ronald “Ronnie” James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), who has served a prison sentence for indecent exposure to a minor, has moved back into the neighborhood to live with his mother. Larry launches a hate campaign against Ronnie, handing out posters, vandalizing his house, harassing and almost assaulting the man and his mother. Ronnie’s mother admonishes Larry, saying that Ronnie would never have done what Larry did. It is revealed that Larry accidentally shot a 13-year-old boy at a mall during his time as a policeman, and left the force after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He takes out this anger on Ronnie. Ronnie goes to the neighborhood pool and the police are called. Ronnie’s mother (Phyllis Somerville) sets him up on a date, though he tells her that he doesn’t desire women his own age. The date starts off well but ends with him masturbating in his date’s car as he looks at a nearby playground. As his date cries helplessly, he threatens her to keep quiet.

Sarah becomes increasingly serious in her affair with Brad, becoming tearful at not being a part of his life the way Kathy is. She stakes out and watches Brad and his family on weekends, the only time she and he can’t be together. Kathy, after hearing Aaron speak about his new friend, Lucy, encourages Brad to invite the Pierces over for dinner. At dinner, Kathy picks up on the sexual tension between Sarah and Brad. Kathy enlists her mother to spy on Brad during the day and keep him away from Sarah.

At a football game, Brad is surprised, then delighted to find Sarah alone in the bleachers cheering him on as he scores the winning touchdown. After making out on the field, Brad asks Sarah to run away with him. They agree to meet at the park the next night. A drunk Larry goes to McGorvey’s house and further harasses him, using a megaphone to wake the entire neighborhood and warn them about Ronnie. When Mrs. McGorvey tries to stop him, Larry pushes her down. She has a heart attack, dying later in the hospital – but is able to write her son a final message in a note: “Please be a good boy.” Ronnie is overwhelmed at losing the one person who loved him, and goes on a rampage throughout the house, crying hysterically. He only seems to achieve an eerie calm when he finds a kitchen knife in the drawer.

Sarah packs a bag hastily, and takes Lucy to the playground to wait for Brad. Brad has said good-bye to his son and packed up some belongings. He sneaks past his unsuspecting wife and runs to the playground, but is again transfixed by the young skateboarders – who finally speak to him, and dare him to try just one jump on a short stair rail. Brad can’t resist. Even though he “almost nailed it, dude”, he falls and blacks out. Sarah leaves Lucy by herself on a swing while trying to comfort Ronnie, who has run into the playground, crying hysterically. Her daughter goes missing and Sarah runs into the street, screaming Lucy’s name. She is frightened into realizing that leaving Richard would be a terrible mistake. Once she finds Lucy, transfixed by street light and the bugs that it attracts, Sarah tearfully embraces her daughter and goes home. Brad is taken to the hospital and asks the police officer who was first on the scene – one of his football teammates – to call his wife. One of the skateboarders also discovers a note addressed to “Kathy” and gives it to Brad. The note was his goodbye to Kathy – a note that we’d been led to believe he’d left on the nightstand, and now only discover that he didn’t have the courage to.

Larry comes to the park to find Ronnie and apologize for harassing him. Noticing blood dripping off of the swing on which Ronnie’s seated, he is horrified to discover that Ronnie has castrated himself with the kitchen knife so that he can “be a good boy” as his mother asked. Panicked, Larry picks Ronnie up and takes him to the hospital. They arrive just as a concerned and doting Kathy meets Brad’s ambulance at the emergency room doors.

The film ends with an image of a saddened Sarah sleeping alongside Lucy in their home with the film’s narrator stating: “You couldn’t change the past. But the future could be a different story. And it had to start somewhere.”

REVIEW:

 If you’ve noticed the film that are reviewed on this site, you will notice that these “artsy-fartsy” types are rare. Quite honestly, Kate Winslet (and a certain laundry room scene) are the only reason I even took the time to watch this. Having said that, I had no intention of actually liking it when I popped it in the DVD player this afternoon. As a matter of fact, I expected it to be this total snore-fest. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be quite the enjoyable film.

The tone of the film is serious, but not to the depressing point. There are quite a few light moments that lift the negative cloud from over the film. The narrator, who I don’t really understand why he’s there throughout the entire film, does a good job og telling the audience what is going on, while at the same time conveying that sense of this would be a boring movie if I don’t say something here. This is best shows during the football game near the film’s end. The narrator is no John Madden, but he does a good job of play-by-play.

The acting in this film is superb. Take the lovely Kate Winslet. Her character, Sarah, is married to a guy who is obsessed with some website so much that it has taken control of his life for the most part. She also apparently has a master’s in English lit. She meets this guy at the park who and, just to stir up the gossipy, conservative other mothers, hugs and kisses him, and well, the rest is history. As the film progresses, she seems to get a bit obsessive over him, though, and at a dinner with him and his wife doesn’t seem to realize that the news would not be taken well.

Patrick Wilson, who is affectionately introduced originally as the “Prom king”, by the ladies in the park has to be a very underestimated actor. This is the 4th major role I’ve seen him in and the man is quite impressive. Here he plays the role of the father who is not getting nay love at home and finds it elsewhere, without looking for it. He also seems to be going through a mid-life crisis of sorts, which leads to his wanting to skateboard and playing football with the cops every night.

Jackie Earle Haley is a totally creepy looking guy, so it just seems natural that he should play a child molester. The thing about it is, that, with the exception of a certain date scene, you rather feel sorry for him, especially after his mother dies, I wondered if there was more psychological issues there than we are aware of.

There is a scene that just took me aback. No, I’m not talking about the sex or masturbation scenes, but rather a pool scene. When Jackie Earle Haley’s character goes to the pool, all the parents, including Winslet and Wilson, immediately yank their kids out as if there was some sort of sea monster in there. Strangely enough, though, they didn’t leave the poolside. They just stand there as he swims around in his snorkel and flippers until the cops escort him out. I can understand concern due to his background, but the man didn’t do anything. He leaves saying that he just wants to cool off. I have to wonder if this were a real situation, would people react the same way.

While on the subject of the child molester angle of the plot, I’m not sure how it fits into the film. I guess I have to read the book and maybe it will make more sense, but for me, it just seemed sort of stuck in there to give us a break from the main characters. Usually when filmmakers do this, its to drop in some comic relief, but in this case, they went with a very serious angle. Not sure it workes the way they wanted it to, but apparently, there are peple that liked it.

It’s not hard to see why this film won so many awards. It is very acted, scripted, and directed. As I mentioned before, it is a “serious” film, but has its light moments that really make it worth watching. Of course, you can never go wrong when Kate Winslet is on the screen. Watch and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars