Archive for Val Kilmer

The Saint

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At the Saint Ignatius Orphanage, a rebellious boy named John Rossi refers to himself as “Simon Templar” and leads a group of fellow orphans as they attempt to run away to escape their harsh treatment. When Simon is caught by the head priest, he witnesses the tragic death of a girl he had taken a liking to when she accidentally falls from a balcony.

As an adult, Simon (Val Kilmer)—now a professional thief dubbed “The Saint” for using the names of Catholic saints as aliases—steals a valuable microchip belonging to a Russian oil company. Simon stages the burglary during a political rally held for the company’s owner, Ivan Tretiak (Rade Šerbedžija). Tretiak is a former Communist party boss and a billionaire oil and gas oligarch that is rallying support against the Russian President. Simon is caught in the act by Tretiak’s son Ilya (Valery Nikolaev) but escapes with the microchip. After learning of the heist, Tretiak contacts Simon and hires him to steal a revolutionary cold fusion formula discovered by American electrochemist Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue). He wishes to acquire Emma’s formula—which creates clean, inexpensive energy—so he can monopolize the energy market during a severe oil shortage in Russia.

Using the alias “Thomas More,” Simon poses as an Afrikaner and steals the formula after having a one night stand with Emma. Tretiak learns Emma’s formula is incomplete and orders his henchmen, led by his son Ilya, to kill Simon and kidnap Emma in order to obtain the remaining information. Heartbroken, Emma reports the theft to Inspector Teal (Alun Armstrong) and Inspector Rabineau (Charlotte Cornwell) of Scotland Yard, who inform her Simon is a wanted international thief. Emma tracks down Simon to a hotel in Moscow and confronts him about the theft and his betrayal. The Russian police, loyal to Tretiak, arrest Simon and Emma. However, they manage to escape from the police van as they are being brought to Tretiak’s mansion.

As they flee through the suburbs, Simon and Emma are helped by a prostitute and her family who shelter them in a hidden room in their home. Later, they meet “Frankie” (Irina Apeksimova), a fence who sells them the directions through an underground sewer system that lead to the American embassy. Simon and Emma exit the sewer tunnel only to find Ilya and his men waiting for them among a gathering of protestors outside the embassy’s front gates. Emma safely makes it to the embassy for political asylum, while Simon allows himself to be caught by Ilya as a distraction. He escapes after rigging a car bomb that severely burns Ilya.

Simon plants a listening device in Tretiak’s office and learns he plans to perform a coup d’état by selling the cold fusion formula to Russian President Karpov to frame him for wasting billions on useless technology. Tretiak then plans to use the political fallout to install himself as President. Emma finishes the equations to complete the formula, and Simon delivers the information to Tretiak’s physicist, Dr. Lev Botkin (Henry Goodman), who builds an apparatus which proves the formula works. Simon infiltrates the President’s Kremlin residence and informs him of Tretiak’s conspiracy just before Tretiak loyalists detain him. In front of a massive gathering in Red Square, Tretiak makes public accusations against President Karpov, but when the cold fusion reactor is successfully initiated, Tretiak is exposed as a fraud and arrested. He is also revealed to have caused the heating oil shortage in Moscow by illegally stockpiling vast amounts of heating oil underneath his mansion.

Sometime later, at a news conference at the University of Oxford, Emma presents her cold fusion formula to the world. Simon attends the conference in disguise and once again avoids being captured by Inspectors Teal and Rabineau when they spot him in the crowd. As he drives away, he listens to a news radio broadcast (voiced by Roger Moore) reporting that $3 billion was recently donated to the Red Cross, Salvation Army and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It is implied that Simon, who had access to Tretiak’s accounts, donated the money anonymously. Furthermore, a non-profit foundation led by Dr. Botkin is being established to develop the cold fusion technology.

REVIEW:

This weekend a TV spy show from yesteryear will be jumping to the big screen with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. This is not the first time an old show has made such a jump. Sometimes these films work and sometimes they don’t. Let’s find out what side The Saint fall on, shall we?

What is this about?

Master thief Simon Templar (Val Kilmer) eludes his pursuers by assuming the names of obscure saints. When a Russian politician (Rade Serbedzija) hires Templar to steal the formula for cold fusion, he falls in love with Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), the frail Oxford scientist who has unlocked the process’ secret. Back in Moscow, Templar must decide whether to betray his new love or the madman who’s paying him millions.

What did I like?

Change it up. Many spy movies seem to forget the art of disguise, a technique that our titular hero uses as his forte. These days we may have forgotten that Val Kilmer is quite the charming actor, but back in the late 80s and 90s he was on top of the world. Kilmer switches into at least 10 different costumes, maybe more, and each is a character of their own. Why is this so special when comedians do it all the time? Just that, Kilmer isn’t a comedian, so for him to do this and create unique character shows some actual acting chops that have been grossly underutilized.

Science-y stuff. Most of the time when films start talking about science related mumbo jumbo, that is what it sounds like to the general audience, mumbo jumbo. Knowing that very few people who would be going in to watch this film are going to be in possession of or working on some sort of higher level science degree, the explanation of cold fusion was kept pretty simple. For the benefit of those that do want that challenge, they could just read the formulas.

Homage. Simon Templar is a character that has existed since the 1930s, appearing in all forms of media. At one time he was even portrayed by the great Vincent Price. A nice little touch that the filmmakers added in is the voice of Roger Moore, who has played the world’s greatest spy, James Bond. That’s not all, though. In the 60s, Moore was the titular character in a 60s television series, so it was a nice little touch to bring him in.

What didn’t I like?

Death and consequences. In the first scenes of the film, we get a bit of a background on young Simon Templar, complete with tragedy as the young girl he apparently fancied fell to her death as they were all trying to escape Catholic school. Two things bother me about this. First, after seeing her death, we fast forward to the present and nothing is ever said about what happened as a result or about his training. Second, around the film’s climax Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue are trying to escape the Russian mobsters. One of the escape routes is to jump off the roof. There is a quick flash of the dead little girl, implying that there is some repressed trauma there, but the film never does anything with it, which seems like such a waste.

Police. I feel like I should say something about the bumbling cops, but the fact is they weren’t really bumbling. They were smart enough to deduce that Templar was using disguises, so there is that. My issue with them is that they seemed unnecessary. If anything, they could have showed up as comic relief. The one time they did have something worthwhile to do was when Elisabeth Shue came to them to report her missing/stolen formula cards. I may be making too big a deal out of this though. I’m not the biggest fan of the police.

Cold blooded. Maybe it is the heat down here getting to me (we have been under a heat advisory since Monday), but I really have to question how you can not have enough resources to keep your people, who live in a cold climate, warm during the winter. Even our government, as corrupt and money hungry as they may be, would find a way to keep most people warm during the winter, because if they lose people, they lose money and votes, and that’s all that matters, right? I just don’t get how this Russian president let things get so dire before he even attempted to do anything.

Final verdict on The Saint? It fell short of my expectations. I think I was expecting something more along the lines of The Shadow but instead I got a 2nd or 3rd rate Bond rip-off. That said, there are enjoyable moments in here, Kilmer and Shue turn in great performances, and the writing isn’t too bad. Still, if you ask me to recommend it, I don’t believe I can do that. Better to just watch one of the 007 films.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Advertisements

Top Gun

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) flies a F-14A Tomcat off USS Enterprise (CVN-65), with Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) as his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). At the start of the film, Maverick and his wingman “Cougar” (John Stockwell), intercept MiG-28s over the Indian Ocean. During the standoff, one of the MiGs manages to get a missile lock on Cougar. Maverick realizes that the MiG is only trying to intimidate Cougar and drives it off, but Cougar is too shaken afterward to land. Maverick defies orders and shepherds Cougar back to the carrier as both planes run critically low on fuel. After they land, Cougar retires (“turns in his wings”), stating that he has been holding on “too tight” and has lost “the edge”, almost orphaning his newborn child, whom he has never seen. Although disapproving of Maverick’s reckless flying and repeated violations of rules, the Enterprise’s CAG “Stinger” (James Tolkan) sends Maverick and Goose—now his top crew—to attend the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, known as “Top Gun”, at NAS Miramar.

Maverick flies recklessly partly because of his father, Duke Mitchell, a Naval Aviator with the VF-51 squadron aboard the USS Oriskany (CV-34) during the Vietnam War. The elder Mitchell died on November 5, 1965, when his Phantom was shot down. The official story, which Maverick refuses to believe, is that Duke made a mistake. Goose is much more cautious and devoted to his wife, Carole (Meg Ryan), and child. The two officers are nonetheless close friends and effective partners, with Maverick considering Goose as his only family. At a bar the day before the Top Gun program starts, Maverick, assisted by Goose, unsuccessfully approaches a woman named Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) by singing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. He learns the next day that Charlie is a civilian contractor described as having a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and serving as a Top Gun instructor.

Maverick’s reckless flying both annoys and impresses Lieutenant Commander Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Michael Ironside) and other instructors. He defeats Jester in combat, but violates two rules of engagement in the process and is strongly reprimanded by the chief instructor, Commander Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerritt). Maverick continues to pursue Charlie and becomes a rival to top student Lieutenant Tom “Iceman” Kasansky (Val Kilmer)—who considers Maverick’s methods dangerous and unsafe. Although outwardly critical of Maverick’s tactics, Charlie eventually admits that she admires his flying but was critical because she was afraid for her credibility. They begin a romantic relationship.

During one flight, Maverick breaks off from his wingman “Hollywood” to go one-on-one with Viper, described as “the finest fighter pilot in the world”. Although Maverick matches the older pilot move for move, Viper lasts long enough for Jester—who has defeated Hollywood off-screen—to maneuver around and “shoot” Maverick down, demonstrating the value of teamwork over individual ability.

Near the end of the program, Maverick and Iceman both chase Jester, the latter attempting to gain a missile lock on the target. Under intense pressure from Maverick, Iceman breaks off. Maverick’s F-14 flies through the jet wash of Iceman’s aircraft and suffers a flameout of both engines, entering a flat spin from which he cannot recover, forcing both Maverick and Goose to eject. Goose ejects directly into the jettisoned aircraft canopy, which breaks his neck, killing him.

Although the board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilty for Goose’s death, losing his aggressiveness when flying. Charlie and others attempt to console him, but Maverick considers leaving the Navy. Unsure of his future, he seeks Viper’s advice. Viper reveals that he served with Maverick’s father and discloses classified details over his last mission, explaining how Duke stayed in the fight after his Phantom was hit and saved three planes before he died. Information about the dogfight was classified to avoid revealing that the American planes were not where they should have been.

During the graduation party, Iceman, Hollywood, and Maverick are ordered to immediately report to the Enterprise to deal with a “crisis situation”, providing air support for the rescue of a stricken communications ship, the SS Layton, that has drifted into hostile waters. Maverick and Merlin are assigned to one of two F-14s as back-up for those flown by Iceman and Hollywood, despite Iceman’s reservations over Maverick’s state of mind. In the subsequent hostile engagement with six MiGs, Hollywood is shot down but he and his RIO, Wolfman, manage to eject safely. Maverick is sortied alone due to catapult failure and nearly retreats after encountering circumstances similar to those that caused Goose’s death. Upon rejoining Iceman, they shoot down four MiGs and force the others to flee, and return to the Enterprise, where the two men, with newfound respect for each other, finally become friends. Offered any assignment he chooses, Maverick decides to return to Top Gun as an instructor, to which Stinger jokingly expresses horror. Later, he is seen tossing Goose’s dogtags into the ocean, suggesting that he is finally free of his guilt over Goose’s death.

Sitting alone in a restaurant in downtown San Diego, Maverick hears “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” playing on the jukebox and recalls meeting Charlie. She reveals that she is in the bar and the two reunite.

REVIEW:

Let’s take a trip back in time shall we. It’s the mid to late 80s and a father has just purchased a brand new VCR for is family. He then goes out to get a membership at a video rental place. Being a military man, of course he seeks out something somewhat military themed. What was that film, you may ask? Well, it was Top Gun. Yes, the first film my family watched in our VCR was Top Gun (followed by Do the Right Thing and something my sister was dying to see). Amazingly, after all these years, I found that I still have a grand fondness for this picture.

What is this about?

Tom Cruise stars as a hotshot flyboy who struggles to control himself, responsibility and a steamy love affair while competing at the U.S. Navy’s fighter-weapons school, better known as Top Gun. Anthony Edwards plays his loyal co-pilot.

What did I like?

Flight. Say what you will about Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, it is the planes and the flying scenes that are the real stars of this film. I remember watching this as a kid and wanting to be a pilot. Of course, a crippling fear of heights and flying kept that dream from coming true, but I still love watching airshows and dogfights in the air. Perhaps that is why I am one of the few that really enjoyed Red Tails.

Brothers. The camaraderie between Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards’ characters is very tight, but considering how they’re in a confined space and need to literally be able to trust each other with their lives, it makes sense. I really appreciated how we got to learn more and more about these guys and their relationship as the film progresses, culminating in one of those “calm before the storm” scenarios, as I like to call them, where everything is perfect and then something goes horribly wrong. That thing that went wrong was the death of “Goose”. Perhaps the singular most powerful scene in the whole film, his death left a void that the audience never recovers from, due to its tragic nature.

Keep going. The acting here isn’t that great to be honest, but that’s in comparison to what these actors have gone on to become big stars, especially Cruise. I wonder if they all watch this at some point and see how young, rough around the edges, and skinny they all were.

What didn’t I like?

Volleyball. Alright, I’ll admit the volleyball scene wasn’t meant for my sex. That was eye candy all for the ladies. Even the song that is playing, Kenny Loggins’ “Playing with the Boys”, seems to be aimed at the female species. I don’t fault the film for that, and I know that had those been girls out there, they would have had my undivided attention. Having said that, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, especially the slow motion that they put it through and the random flexing that “Slider” was doing.

Daddy issues. What is it with Tom Cruise and playing these roles where he has a well known military dad that has mysteriously disappeared. If I’m not mistaken, that was the case with A Few Good Men. At any rate, his dad is mentioned twice, but only once do we know that he has mysterious circumstances surrounding his disappearance. It is more than obvious that this drives “Maverick”, but it isn’t really touched on. I would have liked to see something more done with that, since they made a point to bring it up a few times.

Propaganda. As I mentioned earlier, this film made me want to fly a plane. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one, as military enrollment spiked after its release. I’m not a fan of using movies to camouflage recruiting, which is what I feel this was in a way, but I can respect it for coincidentally gaining some recruits. At least there was a real film and not some half-ass reality program like Act of Valor.

The 80s brought us some really good films, huh? Some are so good that the first few notes of a song from the soundtrack will get us going. Admit it, every time you hear “Danger Zone”, you think of Top Gun. This is a film that is really well made, but may not be as good as you remember. Some flaws that I found in this recent viewing, weren’t there when I was a little kid. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself and very highly recommend this as a film you must see before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Top Secret!

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , on April 26, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film tells the story of Nick Rivers (Kilmer), a US pop singer. Rivers goes to East Germany to perform at a cultural festival. While there, he becomes involved in the French resistance movement and helps the beautiful Hillary Flammond (Gutteridge) rescue her father (Gough), a brilliant scientist being held by the East Germans and forced to build the deadly Polaris naval mine.

REVIEW:

This is going to be a rather short review and for that I apologize, but Top Secret! just was never meant to be enjoyed by me, or at least the people making all the racket outside seemed to think so.

What is this about?

Following the success of their first feature, Airplane! the directing team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker return with this farce about American rock idol Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer), who’s tapped to play at a cultural festival in East Germany. Nazis are staging the concert to distract attention from a secret attack on a submarine fleet, and before he knows it, Nick is trapped in an international incident, and aiding the French Resistance.

What did I like?

Youth. Val Kilmer these days is twice the man he used to be. I’m not quite sure that he has improved his acting skills. If anything, he very well may have gotten worse, but it was good to see the guy in his youth actually show some promise. I wonder what happened between then and now.

Jokes. Parody films these days suck, let’s face it. They need to go back and look at films like this and Airplane!, where the jokes are funny situations instead of just ripoffs of whatever is going on in pop culture when the picture is being made (usually a year or two before it is released). I appreciate funny, and this film has plenty of it, without going overboard.

What didn’t I like?

Plot. I know that there is some sort of plot going on here. Something involving a kidnapped scientist, an American singer performing for the first time in Germany, and a daughter who wants to rescue her father. Whether these things go together is a mystery, though, as I found it increasingly hard to keep up with what was going on. Keep in mind that there were massive distractions outside, that contributed to that, as well.

Overrated. In the early days of this blog, I caught some flack for my labeling Scarface as overrated. This resulted in a loss of quite a few readers. I guess some people didn’t agree. Well, hopefully that won’t happen this time, but I have to say it. This flick is held in high esteem, but I felt it is overrated.

I feel as if I didn’t really get a good feel of Top Secret!, thanks to the outside interference, but from what I saw, I was not impressed. The few good moments here and there don’t do enough to stave off the mediocrity that sets in not long into the flick. I wish I could give this a better review and rating but, based on what I saw, I just can’t. Do I recommend it? Yes, but only for those that want to see why this is so highly recommended by many people. Otherwise, it is best just catching in on TV when/if it comes on.

3 out of 5 stars

Willow

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert):

The evil queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), a black sorceress who rules from her formidable stronghold of Nockmaar, is bent on conquering all lands around. She fears a prophecy stating that a newborn baby will eventually bring about her downfall; hence she imprisons all the pregnant mothers in her kingdom, and the child of the prophecy is born in her dungeons. But before Bavmorda has a chance to kill the infant via a nefarious ritual, the midwife escapes with the baby girl, and Bavmorda sends her daughter Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and General Kael (Pat Roach), the commander of her army, after them. After a long pursuit, the Nockmaar hounds catch up with the midwife. Knowing she can’t escape, she puts the baby on a raft and sends it downstream, trusting fate to run its course. The child washes up on shore near a village inhabited by a race of dwarf-like people called Nelwyns, called “Pecks” derisively by humans, and is found by the children of Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis), a farmer and amateur conjurer (though he has actual, if latent, magical talent). Willow is at first loath to take in the child, but eventually he comes to care for it.

The next day, however, a Nockmaar hound tracking the baby attacks the village. Once the cause of the attack is found, Willow is chosen by the town council to return the child to the world of the “large people,” or Daikini (humans). The first Daikini Willow comes upon is a boasting warrior named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), being held captive in an iron maiden by the side of the road for an unspecified crime, who offers to take care of the baby. During their interaction, they meet the retreating army of the kingdom of Galladoorn, which was recently destroyed by Bavmorda. Madmartigan asks his old friend Airk Thaughbaer, an officer in the army, to free him, but Airk contempuously refuses. On his way home, Willow is attacked by a clan of Brownies, who stole the baby from Madmartigan. Willow is then told by the Brownie fairy queen of the forest, Cherlindrea, that the baby, Elora Danan, has chosen Willow to be her guardian. She gives Willow a magic wand and commissions him to find the sorceress Fin Raziel, with two of her brownies, Franjean and Rool, acting as his guides. Along the way, they bump into Madmartigan, who helps them escape from Sorsha.

Willow and the rest of the group finally meet Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes), only to find that the sorceress has been turned into a rodent by Bavmorda. Soon afterwards Sorsha captures Willow and the others, and they start the long trek to Nockmaar castle. In a mountain camp, Willow attempts to use magic to turn Fin Raziel back into her human form, but transforms her into a raven instead. Franjean and Rool cause further mayhem when they accidentally expose Madmartigan to a fairy love dust they are carrying, which makes him become infatuated with Sorsha, but eventually they manage to escape, with Madmartigan proving his earlier boasts of being a fine swordsman.

The group eventually finds the castle of Tir Asleen, which has been put under Bavmorda’s spell; all its inhabitants are frozen in ice. Madmartigan, refusing to give up hope, prepares for Sorsha’s attack while Willow once again fails transforming Raziel into human form, this time turning her into a goat. Sorsha, Kael and their army arrive and give battle. Willow also has to handle a few trolls, and after a botched magic spell, transforms one into a horrific two-headed dragon. Luckily, the remnants of the Army of Galladoorn, led by Madmartigan’s friend Airk, ally with Willow. A battle ensues, and Sorsha finally discovers her love for Madmartigan. Kael, however, captures Elora and takes her to Nockmaar.

Willow, Madmartigan, Sorsha, the Brownies, the goat-sorceress Fin Raziel, and Airk’s army set up camp, preparing to storm Nockmaar castle in a final attempt to rescue Elora. Bavmorda turns all the soldiers into pigs, but Raziel quickly teaches Willow how to protect himself from the spell. Willow finally returns Raziel to human form, and the sorceress is able to transform the soldiers back to their true forms as well. But since Nockmaar seems impenetrable, all despair until Willow proposes an ingenious trick which gets them inside the walls. Thus begins the battle of Nockmaar, in which Kael kills Airk and is in turn killed by Madmartigan, and Willow manages to save Elora at the last moment from Bavmorda’s murderous ritual, whose victim the evil queen herself becomes, with one of his sleight-of-hand tricks. Willow leaves the baby in caring arms of Madmartigan and Sorsha and returns to his Nelwyn village and his beloved family with a special reward: a spellbook from Raziel, which helps him develop his own magical abilities

REVIEW:

When I was growing up, Willow was one of those films that I held in high esteem, along with the likes of The Dark Crystal and Labrynth. Surprisingly, I had actually forgotten about this 80s sci-fi gem until a friend of mine mentioned it.

The plot of this film is that a human baby is prophesized to bring down the evil queen of the land, so in typical wicked queen fashion, she orders all the babies that could challenge her destroyed. Somehow, this little girl, Elora Danan survives being sent down the river, where she finds Willow and his children. Willow, and a group of villagers set out to return the baby (and get her ut of their village before something bad happens). Along the way, they come across Madmartigan, who is imprisoned for an unnamed crime in an iron cage. He tricks the villagers into giving him the baby, but Willow knows better.

Eventually, he locates Madmartigan and the baby, and they embark on a quest to return her to her mother, but to do so requires the use of much greater magic than Willow is capable of, so they find the great witch, Fin Raziel, as suggested by the fairy queen.

After some training and drama, the film gets to the final conflict between Willow, Fin Raziel, and Queen Bavmorda.

Somewhere in the past 3 or 4 years, the vertically challenged (or whatever the politically correct term is today) seemed to become really popular. I’m actually surprised, because of that, no one has tried to remake this classic, and at the same time, I’m ever so grateful.

The great thing about this film is that it is simplistic, yet complex and anyone can get into it. I read somewhere that it was the Lord of the Rings of the 80s. I can live with that, except that is isn’t anywhere near as long or boring.

Action is in here, but I would have liked for there to have been more, or at least more magic, but maybe that was just wishful thinking.

Warwick Davis is best known to modern audiences as one of the trolls in the Harry Potter films (he’s the one that opens the vault, as well as Professor Flitwick in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets…and the other films) . Here he really shines as the titular character, Willow. It is such a shame that he doesn’t get more juicy roles like this.

For those you who weren’t lucky enough to have lived in the 80s, you really missed out fantasy films such as this that weren’t loaded down with dark themes, unnecessary CGI, etc. Not having these things, but rather having great characters and story is what makes Willow such a great film. If you’ve never seen it, track it down and give it a look-see. You won’t be disappointed!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Tombstone

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), a retired peace officer with a notable reputation, reunites with his brothers Virgil (Sam Elliott) and Morgan (Bill Paxton) in Tucson, Arizona, where they venture on towards Tombstone, a small mining town, to settle down. There they encounter Wyatt’s long-time friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), a Southern gambler and expert gunslinger, who seeks relief from his worsening tuberculosis. Also newly arrived in Tombstone with a traveling theater troupe are Josephine Marcus (Dana Delany) and Mr. Fabian (Billy Zane). Meanwhile, Wyatt’s wife, Mattie Blaylock (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), is becoming dependent on a potent narcotic. Just as Wyatt and his brothers begin to profit from a stake in a gambling emporium and saloon, they have their first encounter with a band of outlaws called the Cowboys. Led by “Curly Bill” Brocious (Powers Boothe), the Cowboys are identifiable by the red sashes worn around their waists.

Wyatt, though no longer a lawman, is pressured to help rid the town of the Cowboys as tensions rise. Shooting aimlessly after a visit to an opium house, Curly Bill is approached by Marshal Fred White (Harry Carey, Jr.) to relinquish his firearms. Curly Bill instead shoots the marshal dead and is forcibly taken into custody by Wyatt. The arrest infuriates Ike Clanton (Stephen Lang) and the other Cowboys. Curly Bill stands trial, but is found not guilty due to a lack of witnesses. Virgil, unable to tolerate lawlessness, becomes the new marshal and imposes a weapons ban within the city limits. This leads to the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in which Billy Clanton (Thomas Haden Church) and other Cowboys are killed. Virgil and Morgan are wounded, and the allegiance of county sheriff Johnny Behan (Jon Tenney) with the Cowboys is made clear. As retribution for the Cowboy deaths, Wyatt’s brothers are ambushed; Morgan is killed, while Virgil is left handicapped. A despondent Wyatt and his family leave Tombstone and board a train, with Clanton and Frank Stilwell close behind, preparing to ambush them. Wyatt sees that his family leaves safely, and then surprises the assassins; he kills Stilwell, but lets Clanton return to send a message. Wyatt announces that he is a U.S. marshal, and that he intends to kill any man he sees wearing a red sash. Wyatt, Doc, a reformed Cowboy named Sherman McMasters (Michael Rooker), along with their allies Texas Jack Vermillion (Peter Sherayko) and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson (Buck Taylor), join forces to administer justice.

Wyatt and his posse are ambushed in a riverside forest by the Cowboys. Hopelessly surrounded, Wyatt seeks out Curly Bill and kills him in a fast draw gunfight. Curly Bill’s second-in-command, Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn), becomes the new head of the Cowboys. When Doc’s health worsens, the group are accommodated by Henry Hooker (Charlton Heston) at his ranch. Ringo sends a messenger (dragging McMasters’ corpse) to Hooker’s property telling Wyatt that he wants a showdown to end the hostilities; Wyatt agrees. Wyatt sets off for the showdown, not knowing that Doc had already arrived at the scene. Doc confronts a surprised Ringo and kills him in a duel. Wyatt runs when he hears the gunshot only to encounter Doc. They then press on to complete their task of eliminating the Cowboys, although Clanton escapes their vengeance. Doc is sent to a sanatorium in Colorado where he later dies of his illness. At Doc’s urging, Wyatt pursues Josephine to begin a new life. The film ends with a narration of an account of their long marriage, ending with Wyatt’s death in Los Angeles in 1929.

REVIEW:

 I’ve seen quite a few westerns in my time…some good and some not so much. By the time Tombstone was released in 1993, the western genre had been long forgotten. Watching this film this afternoon, I applaud them for the attempt, but there is something about this film that just doesn’t stack up the those westerns of the genres heyday.

The film’s plot revolves around the later life of Wyatt Earp, after his retirement from being a peace officer. Along with Earp, notable western characters such as Doc Holliday and Earp’s 2 brothers, are present, as is the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Also present is the Earp vendetta and the sad death of Doc Holliday.

I love westerns that have lots of shootouts. The thing about this film is that you have to sit through a good hour or so of talking, character development, and other boring things before we finally get the big payoff. I realize this had to be done in order to get he audience behind or against all the characters and all, but good grief did it seem to drag on…and on…and on…and on….and on.

The infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral lasted all of maybe 2 minutes. Granted, this is Tombstone and not Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but it just seemed that they rushed through something that should have been a major focal point of the film. 

They did spend some time on the Earp vendetta ride, which I thought was a bit of a trade-off, especially since it wasn’t as popular as said gunfight.

Kurt Russell does an ok job with his role as Wyatt Earp, but for some reason he just seemed cold and aloof to me.

Sam Elliott fit perfectly in this role, even if it was a small one. We’ve all seen this guy in films before. He is just built to be a wild west gunman, and this is proof.

Val Kilmer is the highlight of the cast, of that there is no question. However, I have issue with how he portrayed Doc Holliday. I don’t ever recall reading anywhere that Doc was this flamboyant or that he resembled Guy Fawkes (the guy who face V wears in V for Vendetta). At times, I thought Holliday was homosexual. Kilmer may have done some of his best acting here, but at what cost to the legacy of Doc Holliday?

Bill Paxton and Dana Delaney are also good in their supporting roles, yet nothing memorable.

See if you can spot Jason Priestly and Billy Bob Thornton in the cast. Here’s a hint, Billy Bob is not the near skeleton he is today.

I’m not really into drama, for the most part, and that was a good chunk of this film, so I really couldn’t get too involved in Tombstone as much as I would have liked. Not to mention the fact that these filmmakers just don’t possess the skills to make a great western the way people were once able to pull off. Would I recommend this to anyone? Sure, while this film isn’t the most exciting western in the world, it is far from the worst. Still, if you’ve never seen a western, don’t judge the genre by this subpar entry into the genre.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

MacGruber

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film begins in eastern Siberia’s Dzhugdzhur Mountains with Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), the villain, and his men taking control of the X-5 missile, which contains a nuclear warhead. The scene then shifts to an Ecuadorian monastery, where Col. Jim Faith (Powers Boothe) and Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) have come to find MacGruber. The two military men find MacGruber (Will Forte) meditating in a chapel, and try to convince him to return to the United States. MacGruber refuses, even when he learns that the purpose of his return would be to go after his nemesis, Cunth. However, later that night, MacGruber explodes into a fit of rage after a flashback where Cunth killed his would-be wife Casey Sullivan (Maya Rudolph) at their wedding, and decides to take Faith up on his offer.

MacGruber goes to the Pentagon, and, eventually, finds Col. Faith. After a heated and violent conversation with Faith and Piper, MacGruber decides he will form his own team to pursue Cunth, and will not tolerate Piper on his team. MacGruber visits all his potential team members and is successful in recruiting all but his long time friend Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) and Brick Hughes (Big Show), the latter out of homophobia. MacGruber and his team meet Faith and Piper on a tarmac. Upon being questioned where his team is, MacGruber responds that they are in the van (seen in the background) along with his homemade C-4 explosives. The van promptly explodes, killing the whole team. The scene shifts to Faith’s office; MacGruber is distraught over the loss of the team and his removal from the Cunth case. In a one on one conversation with Piper, MacGruber repeatedly offers to perform sexual acts on, or with, him if he will join his team. Vicki also arrives, completing MacGruber’s team.

The group then travels to Cunth’s nightclub in Las Vegas. MacGruber’s Miata is insulted by a man driving a car with license plate KFBR392, which he vigorously tries to remember. MacGruber then enters the nightclub and announces who he is and his intentions, as well as where he can be found the next day. The team then tries to set up a sting operation, with Vicki pretending to be MacGruber. However, the van MacGruber and Piper are sitting in is attacked by Haas Bender, one of Cunth’s henchmen. MacGruber tells Piper to pass him an Incredi-Mop, which he uses to turn the ignition key and hit the gas pedal, running down Bender. Having Vickie assume the guise of Bender, the team then breaks into a warehouse to stop von Cunth from getting the passcodes to operate the rocket. MacGruber distracts the guards by walking around naked with a piece of celery clenched between his buttocks. Piper manages to kill most of the men inside, but is unable to stop the transfer of the pass codes (due to MacGruber insisting on using a homemade grenade made from a tennis ball, which fizzles). MacGruber and the team then go to a charity event Cunth is holding. MacGruber breaks into a poker game between Cunth and an influential senator. MacGruber tells the senator Cunth is bluffing, which winds up being a very bad move, leading Cunth to win the game. After a heated conversation, MacGruber is thrown out by Cunth’s guards who also break Macgruber’s beloved stereo, which he eventually does a poor job repairing with duct tape.

After the fiasco, MacGruber returns to the Pentagon where he is told he is a liability. The scene then shifts to MacGruber and Piper drinking and hanging out. However, the two men are suddenly attacked. MacGruber uses Piper as a human shield to survive, and Vicki and MacGruber escape in the Miata. Piper survives due to the fact that he was wearing a bullet proof vest, but is disgusted that MacGruber used him as protection, and leaves him. Vicki and MacGruber then return to Vicki’s house where the two have sex. MacGruber then goes to his wife’s grave in shame, but he sees her ghost, who gives her blessing to allow MacGruber to pursue Vicki. They have sex immediately afterwards.

Upon returning to Vicki’s house (and destroying the car with the license plate KFBR392), MacGruber discovers that Vicki has been kidnapped, and realizes what Cunth’s plan is: to bomb the State of the Union address. Cunth calls MacGruber to gloat, but MacGruber is able to trace the call. MacGruber then meets up with Piper to save Vicki. The two men make their way into Cunth’s compound, in large part due to MacGruber’s propensity for ripping throats. The two are captured and are taken to where Vicki and the missile are located. The group manages to overpower Cunth and his men and handcuff Cunth to a handrail. MacGruber then removes the nuclear component and disables the missile launch before his team escapes as missile explodes. The scene then shifts to MacGruber and Vicki’s wedding six months later. Out of the corner of his eye, MacGruber spies a disfigured Cunth (who was believed to have died in the explosion) with an RPG. MacGruber saves Vicki, and then battles Cunth before throwing him off a cliff behind the altar, shooting him with a machine gun as he falls, incinerating the recently dead corpse and finally urinating on it at the foot of the cliff.

REVIEW:

 Chances are you’ve seen, or at least heard of, the MacGruber sketches that had been a staple of Saturday Night Live until this year when Will Forte decided to leave to pursue bigger projects (he thinks the “success” of this movie will make him the next Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, or other SNL alumni who have went on to have successful movie careers). If you have, then you are probably like me and wondered how a sketch that most of the time doesn’t even last a minute can translate into a full-length(99 minutes) motion picture. The answer to the question is surprisingly better than one would think.

The thing that made MacGruber work so well on TV was that it was a parody of the old show McGyver, and made no qualms about being such. So, one would imagine that we’d have plenty of the scenes that made the sketch “funny”, and some wannabe McGyver moments, right? Wrong!

We only get the one scene toward the end of the film that is what the sketches were and as far as MacGruber doing the McGyver thing…well, he does it here and there, but not as much as I would have liked.

The tagline for this film reads “…The Funniest Film since Wayne’s World“. That is a bold statememnt…and one that this film just doesn’t live up to. Sure, there are a couple of funny moments, but mostly, it feels as if MacGruber is just trying too hard to not fail and prove that this was worth making.

I didn’t quite understand the whole plot of this film. I mean, it is your basic villain wants to blow up _____ scenario, but for some reason it just didn’t work. I guess because in the sketches, there is no real plot. So, to stick one in to make a film didn’t do it for me.

Strangely enough, the same can be said for all the other SNL films. Sometimes they work (Wayne’s World, Coneheads, Blues Brothers) and sometimes they don’t (Night at the Roxbury, It’s Pat, Stuart Saves His Family).

I also didn’t get the sex scene. What I mean by that is, it wasn’t set up well enough. In the Naked Gun franchise (I forget which one it is in), where Lt. Drebin is getting his freak on with the lady d jour of the film, the joke is set up perfectly, but here it was just randomly done. I’ve seen porn that sets up better!

To make matters worse, the whole ghost sex in the cemetery just made no sense, even for a comedy like this one. In one scene Maya Rudolph is translucent, and in the next she’s solid and getting rammed on her own grave! WTF?!?

 The casting here was 50/50 for me. The comedians worked for what they were supposed to do, and Val Kilmer wasn’t bad as the villanous von Cunth, but I have to question Ryan Philippe and Powers Boothe choosing to be in this flick. They both seem so uncomfortable, bored, and disinterested in their parts. It was as if they were there just to collect their paycheck.

It also seemed as if they raided the WWE for MacGruber’s team. Chris Jericho, Kane, Mark Henry, Great Khali, MVP, and Big Show all make brief cameo appearances. Sure, these guys look menacing, but really, what was the point?

If you’re going into this film with high expectations, then you need to get your head examined. MacGruber is nothing more than a waste of SNL resources. The fact that Forte left the show after this was released saying he wanted to pursue other projects may very well turn out to be the biggest mistake of his life. That being said, as bad as this film is, I expected way worse. Do I recommend it? Not really, but if you’re the curious type, like me, then check it out and appease that curiosity.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Posted in Independent, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Terrence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage), is a New Orleans Police Sergeant. While cleaning out a locker after Hurricane Katrina, he notices that a prisoner may not have been transferred. When he finds the prisoner about to drown, he mocks him before eventually jumping in the water to save him. He is promoted to lieutenant and given a medal for his work, but has suffered a serious back injury because of the rescue. As a result, he is prescribed Vicodin which he will be needing to take for pain for the rest of his life.

The film moves ahead six months. McDonagh is now not only addicted to painkillers, but several drugs including cocaine and marijuana. He has convinced a person that works in the police department to bring him drugs sent to the evidence room. His girlfriend Frankie, a prostitute, also does cocaine and they often share drugs. He has also become estranged with his father, a recovering alcoholic who can only bring himself to attend to his Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and nothing else, and his alcoholic stepmother. Over the course of the movie, he uses his position as an officer to bully people and steal more drugs. He also finds Frankie beaten by one of her clients, and threatens him.

McDonagh has been assigned to investigate a murder scene, where six illegal immigrants from Senegal were executed. Information comes in that leads them to a delivery boy who was an auditory witness, and through his details and evidence they deduce the people were killed for selling drugs in a gang leader’s neighborhood. The gang leader Big Fate has two associates: Midget and G. They are both arrested, leading to Big Fate willingly coming to the police station with his lawyer. As they try to get enough evidence to convict Big Fate, their witness goes missing. McDonagh finds his grandmother, who works at a nursing home, and almost kills an old woman trying to find out where the witness has gone. The old woman sent him to Europe so he could avoid getting involved in gang affairs.

In addition to dealing with the murder investigation, McDonagh gets in trouble with his bookie for not paying his debts. What money he had was given to a very powerful figure in the community, who is a friend of a man McDonagh threatened earlier. He now requests an exorbitant amount of money as compensation, and gives McDonagh two days to get it. As a result of his treatment of the old woman, McDonagh is temporarily removed from duty and placed in the evidence room. Angry, he goes to Big Fate and they become partners, with McDonagh supplying police information so he can get enough money to pay his debts to the bookie and the figurehead. McDonagh pays his bookie, and the figurehead is killed when he threatens McDonagh and Big Fate in Big Fate’s home.

To celebrate their partnership, McDonagh implores Big Fate to smoke pure cocaine with his “lucky crack pipe”. He does, and McDonagh later plants the pipe at the murder scene. The department uses this new evidence to arrest Big Fate and his cronies, but when they are alone, McDonagh’s partner attempts to simply kill Big Fate, as he does not want him to have the chance to escape conviction. McDonagh is outraged at the concept and arrests Big Fate, showing that despite his addictions he still performs his duty as an officer. McDonagh is promoted to Captain.

The film ends one year later. McDonagh appears to be sober, as Frankie and his parents have done so, but it turns out he is still doing cocaine. He meets up with the prisoner he saved at the beginning of the film, and the man says that McDonagh saved his life, and he has been sober for almost a year, and offers to help McDonagh finally escape his own addiction. McDonagh, high on cocaine, simply asks “Do fish dream?” The film ends with the two men in an aquarium, sitting against a fish tank.

REVIEW:

Nicolas Cage has made some…um…intersting films before, but this one is just flat out odd at points.

I chose to watch this flick this week because it was suggested as a film that was so bad, it was good. However, this was not the case.

This picture seemed to be caught in that soupy mix of not knowing whether it wants to be serious, a spoof, or whatever. I don’t have a problem with mixing tones, if it can be done well. Sadly, that is not the case here.

There are total random moments that make no sense, such as alligators in the middle of the highway, iguanas singing, disembodied souls dancing. These are all things that make you sit back and say WTF?!?

The pacing of this thing is horrible. After the first half hour or so, I found myself constantly looking at my watch, wondering how much longer this thing was going to go on.

To make things worse, just as it seems as if this film was about to pick up ad get interesting, it suddenly decides to start wrapping everything up in a nice little bow. Normally, I don’t have a problem with this, but for some reason, it just didn’t feel right for this film.

Xzibit surprised me in this film, as I had no idea he could act. I knew he could rap and host Pimp My Ride, but not act, so it was good to see him do something else. I believe that he even upstaged Nicolas Cage.

Speaking of Cage, there are moments that you would think this character was written specifically for him, and other times when you wonder what he was doing taking this role. I seriously wondered if he was trying to be Al Pacino, because there are times, especially with this character’s back issues, that he reminded me of Bog Boy Caprice, and other that he sounded like he could have been a Corleone.

Eva Mendes brings a bit of eye candy to the screen, but not much else, until the part where she gets hit by a customer, which spawns a whole new set of problems for Cage’s character.

This film is not without its problems, but there are too many of them to ignore. I wish I could say that I enjoyed this flick, but I didn’t. It plodded along, didn’t keep my interest, and just wasn’t very good. Apparently this is a remake, so that might be another reason that I don’t care for it, but I just found this out a few minutes ago. Do I recommend this to anyone? No, trust me, it isn’t worth the time. Stay away if you can.

2 out of 5 stars