Archive for Vincent D’Onofrio

Jurassic World

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Twenty-two years after the Isla Nublar incident, Jurassic World is a new, fully functional dinosaur theme park located on the island. Brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell go to visit their aunt Claire Dearing, the park’s operations manager. Upon arriving on the island, they are left in the care of Claire’s assistant Zara. Simon Masrani, the park’s owner, arrives and takes Claire to see their new genetically modified dinosaur, the Indominus rex (a hybrid of Abelisaurus, Carnotaurus, cuttlefish, Giganotosaurus, Majungasaurus, Rugops, tree frog, Tyrannosaurus rex, and Velociraptor DNA[a]). Upon inspection, he tells her he wants Owen Grady, a Velociraptor expert and trainer, to look for vulnerabilities in the Indominus enclosure.

Owen is approached by Vic Hoskins, the head of InGen security, who proposes using the Velociraptors (Blue, Charlie, Delta, and Echo) as weapons. However, one of the staff falls into the Velociraptor enclosure, forcing Owen to rescue him before barely escaping himself, proving that the raptors are not tame. Gray and Zach slip away from Zara and explore the park. Claire arrives at Owen’s bungalow, having previously been in a relationship with him, and tells him of Masrani’s request; he reluctantly agrees. After arriving at the enclosure, they find that the Indominus has seemingly scaled the wall and escaped. After Owen and two staff enter the enclosure to inspect it, the Indominus ambushes them, having faked her escape, and kills both staff before disappearing into the jungle. Owen escapes by hiding under a vehicle and cutting the fuel hose to douse himself in gasoline to hide his scent.

After an attempt to capture the Indominus fails, Claire closes off the northern part of the park. Gray and Zach are on the gyrosphere ride and drive it into the woods where they are attacked by the Indominus. They eventually stumble across the ruins of the old Jurassic Park’s Visitor Center, where they repair a jeep and drive toward Main Street, the park’s central hub. Owen and Claire arrive at the visitor center soon afterwards but are attacked by the Indominus. Masrani flies after the Indominus in his helicopter and follows her as she breaks into the Jurassic World Aviary. The Pteranodons and Dimorphodons attack the helicopter and cause it to crash into the aviary, killing Masrani and freeing the other pterosaurs inside.

Zach and Gray arrive back at Main Street as the pterosaurs begin attacking the congregated tourists. Zara finds them but is quickly picked up by a Pteranodon and dropped into Jurassic World Lagoon, where she and the Pteranodon are eaten by the park’s Mosasaurus. Owen and Claire arrive and reunite with Gray and Zach. Hoskins takes command of Jurassic World and decides to use the Velociraptors to find and kill the Indominus, with Owen reluctantly agreeing. However, the Indominus turns the Velociraptors against the InGen soldiers, killing most of them and allowing her to flee. Owen manages to escape. Meanwhile, Hoskins has Dr. Henry Wu, the park’s chief geneticist, board a helicopter with some of the dinosaur embryos.

After returning to Main Street and entering the Innovation Center, Owen, Claire, Zach, and Gray find Hoskins packing up the laboratory and the rest of the dinosaur embryos. He tells them he plans to turn the Indominus into a weapon. Suddenly, a Velociraptor appears and kills him. The four escape, only to be surrounded by the Velociraptors outside, where Owen manages to reestablish his connection with them. When the Indominus arrives, Owen and the Velociraptors attack her, but the Velociraptors are apparently killed. Realizing they are outmatched, Claire decides to open up the Tyrannosaurus enclosure and lure the female T. rex[b] into a fight with the Indominus. The T. rex is initially overpowered, but when the Velociraptor Blue reappears and attacks the Indominus, she strikes back. They both force the Indominus towards Jurassic World Lagoon, where the Mosasaurus lunges out and drags the Indominus to her death. The T. rex departs, but Blue shares one more moment with Owen before also leaving for the jungle. The survivors are evacuated to Costa Rica. Zach and Gray are reunited with their parents while Owen and Claire decide to stay together. On Isla Nublar, the T. rex surveys the destruction caused by the Indominus and roars.

REVIEW:

So, this is the 4th entry into the franchise but, if you think about it, if anyone had common sense, we wouldn’t have a franchise. With the catastrophe that happened in Jurassic Park, you’d think people would stop messing with nature and making attractions/parks, but nope. Now we have Jurassic World!

What is this about?

Once a popular, state-of-the-art dinosaur-themed attraction, Jurassic Park has fallen behind the times. In response, the owners decide to design a bold new exhibit, but the terror it inspires becomes all too real after the technology malfunctions.

What did I like?

Honor your past. It would appear that this park is built on the same island as the original. A point is made to distance from that “tragedy”, as Jake Johnson’s character is wearing a Jurassic Park shirt (which he bought on eBay), but there is some reverence to be found. A point comes in the film when the boys are being chased that they happen into what appears to just be an old shed, but in fact is the main auditorium for the original park, complete with the jeeps. It is a nice throwback to the film that started it all.

Music. Think back to the original film when we very first saw the island. Remember hearing John Williams’ iconic, epic theme playing as the helicopter headed towards it? Well, a downfall of this film is that we don’t really get any epic moments like that, but the Williams’ theme is there. Michael Giacchino (you may best know him for doing the scores to The Incredibles, Lost, Alias, the new Star Trek films, etc.) did a masterful job of blending his score with Williams’ work. It is next to impossible to tell whose work is which and it all works for the tone of the film

On the right track. I will say this about the premise of this park, they are on the right track to getting the park right. Keeping the really dangerous dinosaurs, such as the T-Rex behind a heavily secured door, only to bring it out for food is a good thing, if you must have him. Training the raptors, also a good idea. The “kiddie park” part, where kids get to ride baby dinosaurs was priceless. So, we’re getting there, just need to stop messing with mother nature…more than they already are, of course.

Tag team. Not to spoil anything, but the final confrontation is something pretty epic as the humans and dinos, including the mosasurus, who lives in the water park part of the park combine forces and work in tandem. In the theater I was in, kids and adults were cheering. I’m sure they would have gotten up on their feet if they could have.

What didn’t I like?

Setup. I noticed some pretty big plot holes in this picture that just could not be overlooked. First, B.D. Wong, who is the only actor to return from the original film, takes the DNA samples and leaves the island. Second, there is this Black Ops reality show type security force that infiltrates the island after someone dies. Why do they do this and what gave them the authority? It is never explained. On one hand, I feel this is setting up for a sequel and, if that is the case, I will come back and rescind these comments. However, as it stands right now, it is almost as if crucial parts of the film that would explain what is going ended up on the cutting room floor, or were never written at all.

Pratt-fall. Chris Pratt is on a meteoric rise in Hollywood. He is a total bad-ass here, but I still can’t take the guy seriously. It isn’t because he cracked a few jokes, but because of his role on Parks & Recreation. I still haven’t separated him from Andy. In Guardians of the Galaxy, it wasn’t that much of a stretch because it felt at times as if Star Lord was Andy playing dress up. This is nothing against Pratt, he is a fine actor, I just need a bit more time before I see him in badass roles, I suppose.

Creation. Indominus Rex. The name alone should tell you this thing is bad news. A creature created from merging various aspects of other animals. It is raised in captivity and ate its sibling. Why on Earth is this thing still alive? Well, as someone pointed out, it represents the greed of today’s society. It was created because consumers wanted “bigger and better”.  I’m thinking why not just shoot a T-Rex with some steroids or something, not make a Frankenstein dinosaur. I really wonder if these people will ever learn!

I have to say Jurassic World was a fun time. Not only was this movie an enjoyable popcorn summer flick, but I was in a packed theater with people who actually cared to see the film, not text everyone, let their babies cry, or walk all over you to get out in important scenes. Maybe I need to come to Texas and visit my best friend everytime I want to see a movie in the theaters. HA! While this picture does have its issues, I feel it is a worth successor and the sequel we deserved to the original Jurassic Park. I am looking forward to seeing what happens with this franchise going forward. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Revisited: Adventures in Babysitting

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!:)

After her boyfriend, Mike Todwell (Bradley Whitford), cancels their anniversary date, 17-year-old Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) volunteers to babysit for the Andersons’ children, 15-year-old Brad (Keith Coogan), who is infatuated with Chris, and 8-year-old Sara (Maia Brewton), who is infatuated with the superhero Thor. However, she gets a frantic phone call from her friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who has run away from home, asking her to come pick her up after running out of money from the cab ride to the bus station. Throughout the film, Brenda’s situation is interspersed with the rest of the film, showing her dealing with a bum who thinks a phone booth is his house, a homeless woman who steals her glasses, a hot dog vendor who demands payment only in cash, and her holding a stray cat, refusing to hand it over to animal control officers until they inform her that what she is holding is actually a sewer rat, which she cannot recognize due to her lack of eyeglasses. Chris takes Brad, Sara, and Brad’s friend Daryl Coopersmith (Anthony Rapp) and sets out, but they get a flat tire, find the spare compartment empty, and become stranded on the expressway.

A friendly tow truck driver with a hook on one of his hands, “Handsome” John Pruitt (John Ford Noonan), realizing they are on their own in the city for the first time, offers to tow them to Dawson’s Garage free of charge. En route to the garage, he gets a call on his CB saying that his wife is cheating on him and he heads home. The kids look away when Pruitt claims that he keeps his severed hand in his glove compartment, which in truth it contains his firearm, then a brief shootout ensues in which during the crossfire the windshield of Chris’ family car is shattered. During their scramble to get away, the kids unwittingly climb into a Cadillac just as it is being hotwired by a professional car thief, Joe Gipp (Calvin Levels). Gipp promises to help them get out of the city but first he needs to get the car to his boss at a chop shop. Gipp’s boss briefly detains the kids, then decides to leave them in his office as he has more important issues with his underlings. Daryl finds a Playboy magazine and steals it before they escape onto the building’s roof; however, it contains incriminating notes, causing the crooks to chase after them. They stumble into a Blues club and are forced to sing about their ordeal by Albert Collins, receiving applause from the audience. Billy Branch plays himself as the harmonica player in this scene. After they have left, the car thieves are held up when they are forced to do the same thing.

The car thieves manage to once again catch up to the kids, but the four narrowly escape by stowing away aboard a Chicago ‘L’ train. Inside the near-empty train, Chris and the children become suddenly caught in the middle of a gang fight in which Brad is injured and taken to the hospital (Mercy Medical Center), where an Indian doctor first says Brad is dead, but embarrassingly then says he mixed up his patients and that Brad only fainted from the shock and that the doctor has easily patched up the knife wound, which only knicked Brad’s foot. The group again encounters Pruitt, who is on the run due to his earlier fight. He tells Chris he took responsibility for the broken windshield, replacing that at his expense, but that his boss Dawson charged them $50 for a new tire and that he will keep the car until the debt is squared. They then come across a college fraternity party at Daryl almost gets into a fight with a jock whose lonely girlfriend attempts to make out with him. Chris encounters a fraternity member Dan Lynch (George Newbern), who is a gentleman to her, but only can offer Chris $45 towards her debt with Dawson. Dan then drives them to Dawson’s garage.

In the garage, Dawson (Vincent D’Onofrio) is seen with a sledgehammer, which makes Sara believe he is Thor. Chris gives him Dan’s cash, but he says that is insufficient to release the car. Sara says that Thor would not be stingy like that, and she gives him her plastic winged helmet, causing Dawson to reconsider and allowing Chris to reclaim the car. On their way through the city, they pass by the restaurant to where Mike was going to bring Chris on their date, and Daryl spots his car parked out front. She goes in to find him flirting with the sleazy Sesame Plexer. Furious, Chris yells at Mike, but when he insults her, Brad and Daryl shove him into a table full of food. Meanwhile, Sara wanders off and is spotted by Joe Gipp and Graydon, the underboss of the car theft ring. She is chased to the Crain Communications Building, where her parents are attending a party. Sara tries to find her parents to get to safety, but she ends up the unoccupied top floor, which is undergoing renovation. She then uses a rope to escape, but finds herself dangling precariously. Graydon goes out on the ledge in order to rescue Sara, but the intent of his rescue is to capture her to find out what happened to the crucial plans. At the last moment, Sara is rescued by Chris and Joe, who has turned on his bosses and is now convinced to go straight, joking to Chris that her babysitting job is tougher than anything he has done.

The group successfully pick ups Brenda, whom Chris returns to her house, telling Brenda she just has to face her own problems with her family. The group then speeds back to the Anderson residence. Chris sends the kids upstairs while she quickly tidies up the mess left earlier in the day. She settles in just as Mr. and Mrs. Anderson walk in through the door. She goes up to say good night to the kids and they all thank each other for the greatest night of their lives. As she leaves, Dan shows up to return Sara’s skate which she had accidentally left behind, but notes that wasn’t the only reason, and they share a kiss.

A post-credits scene shows Graydon still leaning against the side of the building, desperately waiting for rescue.

REVIEW:

Well, it appears that is my 2000th post, so it better be a good one, right? How does Adventures in Babysitting sound? Recently, I’ve gotten addicted to taking those Buzzfeed movie quizzes. One of them was about how many movies have you seen from the 80s. I thought I would’ve done better than I did, but oh well. Let there be one from the 40s or 50s, maybe even the 60s, and I bet I get a really high score! Ha! Enough rambling, let’s get to the review, shall we?

What is this about?

When Chris agrees to baby-sit for the Andersons after her boyfriend stands her up, it’s hardly the boring night she expected. Chris takes the kids along on an errand to downtown Chicago, but one flat tire leads to an outrageous all-night fiasco.

What is this about?

Excitement. There is a reason adventure is in the title. Along with all the comedy this film has to offer, the entire film is a caper. For those of us that didn’t grow up in a major metropolis, an outing to the big city with the parents was enough of an adventure. Just imagine what it would have been like to experience said trip with a babysitter, no money, and car thieves chasing you.

Blues. “Don’t nobody leave here without singing the blues.” As part of their trek across downtown Chicago, a town that look beautiful at night, btw (they just don’t show cities at night like this anymore…at least to the point that the audience can enjoy them), they end up in a blues club and Elizabeth Shue’s character is forced to sing the blues, with the kids backing her up. Now, a group of white kids from the suburbs on stage at a blues club on the wrong side of Chicago is sure to not go over well with the crowd, as you can imagine, but since this is a family film, you can also imagine that they’ll eventually warm up to them with a good performance, and that is what we get, in perhaps the most memorable scene of the film.

Back in time. Maybe it is because of the strict copyright laws (and greedy artists/companies) we have today, but 30 years from now, I don’t think any of us are going to be able to watch a film and be transported back to today based strictly on the soundtrack. This film doesn’t sport a soundtrack that is indicative of the era, such as Back to the Future, Animal House, or Clueless, but it is definitely 80s, one of the most entertaining eras for music, if nothing else. One the opening tune started, I was immediately taken back to my childhood (I was in elementary school when this was released) and had a strong desire to torture my big sister.

What didn’t I like?

Car trouble. This whole adventure happens because of car trouble. Well, actually, it starts because of Chris’ friend running away, but who is arguing exact details, right? The whole busted tire and all the trouble that happens accordingly has never really made much sense. Not because it happened, but because she didn’t have a spare. As someone says to her, “You got on the freeway without a spare?!?” Even the most inexperienced driver knows to not go anywhere without the right preparations. Since this is her parents’ car, it just seems like common sense that, unless they were driving around on a donut, they would have a spare. Why didn’t they, other than this is just a convenient plot device to get the ball rolling?

Playboy. We are constantly being teased with how much Elisabeth Shue’s character looks like the current Playboy centerfold. Keep in mind that this is somewhat of a Disney film. I say somewhat because the company that released it was owned by Disney. At any rate, even though there is some choice language sprinkled in here and there, this is a pretty clean picture. That being said, I can’t help but wish they would have given us a glimpse at said centerfold. Not because I would have gotten some horny pleasure from it, but rather because 80s films are known for gratuitous nudity, a little glimpse at a Playboy wouldn’t have hurt, now would it?

Thor. Maia Brewton’s character is obsessed with Thor. In this day and age, where superheroes have all but taken over all of pop culture that hasn’t been polluted by the kardashians, miley cyrus, and the like, a little girl obsessed with the Norse God of thunder is nothing, but remember that this was released in the late 80s. I don’t even think our current Thor, Chris Hemsworth was out of diapers, yet. I don’t need to tell you that this Thor obsession was a bit much, but when you notice that the guy in charge of the garage happens to look like he could play Thor (he doesn’t look anything like that anymore, fyi), it makes me wonder if they had plans to do something more Thor-ish at some point, but instead, we just get the annoying references to Thor from Brewton every chance she gets.

Can I go back to this simpler time, please? Adventures in Babysitting made me realize how much the world has change in a short amount of time, and not for the better. This is one of those films that sets out to entertain, and does so in spades. Do I recommend it? Yes, very emphatically! Sometimes you just cannot go wrong with a classic film from a time not so far gone. Give it a shot some time, why don’t you?

5 out of 5 stars

Escape Plan

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ray Breslin is a former prosecutor who co-owns Breslin-Clark, a Los Angeles–based security firm specializing in testing the reliability of maximum security prisons. He spends his life getting into prisons to study their designs and the guards’ habits to find and exploit their weaknesses, thus enabling him to escape without a hitch or a victim. He claims his goal is to ensure that criminals sent to prison stay inside by eliminating the weakness of every prison.

One day, he and his business partner Lester Clark are offered a multimillion dollar deal by CIA agent Jessica Miller to test a top-secret prison and see if it is escape-proof. Breslin goes against all his own rules and chooses the money. He agrees to the deal and gets himself captured in New Orleans, Louisiana, under the guise of a Spanish terrorist named “Anthony Portos”, but the plan goes awry when his captors remove the tracking microchip from his arm and drug him on the way to the prison, which thus disables him from ending the experiment by proving his identity.

Breslin wakes up in a complex of glass cells with no outside windows to indicate the prison’s location. He meets fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer, and they both stage a fight for Breslin to study the solitary confinement cell, which uses high-powered halogen lights to disorient and dehydrate prisoners. Seeing that the cell floors are made of aluminum, but the rivets are steel, Breslin has Rottmayer procure a metal plate from Warden Willard Hobbes’s office floor before the both of them and Muslim inmate Javed are once again thrown into solitary. Using the metal plate, Breslin focuses the reflection from the lights to heat the rivets and pop open the floor panel to reveal a passageway below.

He goes through the passageway and discovers that the prison is inside a cargo ship in the middle of the ocean, making a simple escape impossible in case of a possible break down. Breslin and Rottmayer continue to study the complex by learning the guards’ daily routines, and Breslin gives Hobbes false information about Rottmayer’s boss, Victor Mannheim. Meanwhile, Breslin’s colleagues Abigail Ross and Hush grow suspicious of Clark when Breslin’s paycheck for the job is frozen. They discover from hacked documents that the prison, codenamed “The Tomb”, is owned by a for-profit organization linked to an unnamed privately owned security provider, and Clark was offered a US$5 million annual salary from them in exchange for keeping Breslin behind bars.

Back in the prison, Hobbes reveals to Breslin that he is aware of his identity, and with chief security officer Drake watching him, he wants to ensure that Breslin stays for the rest of his life in prison. Rottmayer has Javed convince Hobbes to bring him on deck to do his nightly prayer when he actually uses a makeshift sextant to get the ship’s latitude. Using the latitude and observations of the weather, Breslin and Rottmayer deduce that they are in the Atlantic Ocean near Morocco. Breslin visits the infirmary of Dr. Kyrie and convinces him to help him and Rottmayer escape by sending an email to Mannheim. Breslin then transmits a false tap code message from his cell, giving Hobbes the impression that a riot will occur in cell block C. With majority of the security stationed at cell block C, Javed instigates a riot at cell block A, giving him, Breslin, and Rottmayer time to run toward the deck while a lockdown is initiated.

Breslin kills Drake, but Javed is shot dead by Hobbes and his men during their escape. Breslin goes to the engine room to reboot the electrical systems, giving Rottmayer time to open the deck hatch while a helicopter sent by Mannheim engages in a gunfight with the ship’s crew. Rottmayer boards the helicopter while Breslin is flushed to the bottom of the ship by the automated water system. The helicopter picks up Breslin, but when Hobbes starts shooting at them, Breslin kills the warden by shooting and blowing up a group of oil barrels in front of him.

They land on a beach in Morocco, where Rottmayer reveals that he is actually Mannheim, Miller is his daughter, “Portos” was a codeword used to alert Mannheim that Breslin was an ally, and Hobbes was originally unaware that Breslin’s cover story was fake. Later, at a Moroccan airfield, Ross informs Breslin that Clark had fled, but Hush tracked him in Miami, and locked him in a container aboard a cargo ship.

REVIEW:

For the longest time, action fans have been wishing for the ultimate team up of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, the two most bankable action stars  arguably of all time (although, if they don’t watch their backs, Liam Neeson is going to take that title away from them, especially if Bruce Willis hasn’t already). While they are both in their late 60s, Escape Plan finally gives action fans their wet dream team up, albeit in an action thriller, rather than a Rambo vs. Commando type film that we all were hoping for.

What is this about?

Framed and thrown into an escape-proof prison that he designed himself, structural security expert Ray must use all his know-how to break out. Ray and a fellow inmate dodge the jail’s corrupt warden and guard to track down who’s behind the setup.

What did I like?

Prison. The prison that Stallone’s character ends up in is built from the mistakes other prisons that he has escaped from have made. The warden even makes an effort to not let him escape using methods he’s used before. The guy did his homework, but the point I’m trying to make here is that the prison is an impressive sight when we first see it. Immediately, I was reminded of Magneto’s plastic cell from the X-Men movies. There seemed to be a similar design on display.

JC and the Crew. Normally, movies that star Jim Caviezel aren’t my cup of tea. He tends to do more heavy drama stuff that I just don’t go for. That being said, he makes for a great villainous warden. The snarling facial expressions and utter disdain he has for everyone, especially Stallone makes him an antagonist that you will remember, as his strength is in his intellect, rather than muscles.

Concept. Earlier this year, I watched Escape from Alcatraz, which was a true story about inmates breaking out of Alcatraz, which was supposedly impossible to escape from. Stallone’s job is to make sure prisons have airtight security. The problem is when you’re this good at your job, someone is going to come and take you down, and that is how Stallone ends up in prison with no apparent way out. That is the kind of plot that draws you in and give the audience a bit of suspense wondering if he’ll get out or not.

What didn’t I like?

Payoff. Earlier, I mentioned how there was a big hoopla about Sly and Arnold finally starring in a film together, excluding The Expendables franchise. Had this been made when both guys were in their prime, there would have been guns, fights, and pretty much anything else that you can attribute to films these guys have made. However, because they have gotten up there in age, the genre this film is placed in, and various other factors, this wasn’t the big blowout that people would have liked. What I mean by that is that everyone would have liked for these two to slug it out, much like Vin Diesel and the Rock in Fast Five, but that isn’t what we got, leaving us to wonder why not.

Twist. There is a twist in the plot that isn’t exactly obvious, but you can figure it out if you just think. That isn’t my problem though. I take issue with the fact that the twist isn’t really built up enough. It is as if you’re going along knowing something is bound to happen, but it doesn’t actually happen until you very least expect it. A better buildup would have worked better than a brief mention followed by nothing until the end.

Answer the question. More than a few times, Stallone is asked, “What kind of man spends his life in prison?” I don’t believe he answered the question, but we did get a bit of a back story involving his previous career as a lawyer and his client double-crossing him, if I’m not mistaken. This is more a complaint about character development than anything else, especially since we learned about Stallone’s history, and yet no answer as to why he wants to spend the rest of his life in and out of prisons. I almost want to say it would have been better to just let him stay a mystery.

If you were looking for an action packed team up between Sly and Arnold, Escape Plan is going to severely disappoint. The thriller aspect of this film takes center stage more than the action and we don’t get much action from Schwarzenegger (Stallone does do his fair share of stunts).  After all the dust settles, the best way to determine what one really thinks about this film is to take out the major draws and see what you have left, which is not much of anything. Do I recommend this film? Only if you’re a fan of the acting of these two guys and I don’t really know anyone that fits into that category. Your best bet with this flick is to just catch it on television one day, if at all.

3 out of 5 stars

Sinister

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on March 2, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Super 8 footage depicting a family of four standing beneath a tree with hoods over their heads and nooses around their necks. An unseen figure saws through a limb acting as a counterweight, causing them all to be strangled.

Months later, washed-up true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves into the murdered family’s home with his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance), and their two children Ashley (Clare Foley)– a gifted artist who is allowed to paint on her walls– and Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario), who begins re-experiencing bizarre night terrors upon moving into the home. Only Ellison is aware that the house they are moving into was the crime scene. Ellison intends to use the murders as the basis for his new book, and hopes that his research will turn up the fate of the family’s fifth member, a little girl named Stephanie who disappeared following the murders.

Ellison finds a box in the attic, which contains a projector and several reels of Standard 8 mm footage that are each labeled as if innocent home movies. Watching the films, Ellison discovers that they are snuff movies depicting families being murdered in various ways, including having their throats slit in bed (Sleepy Time ’98), being burnt to death in a car (BBQ ’79), being drowned in their pool (Pool Party ’66), being run over by a lawn mower (Lawn Work ’86) and the hanging that opened the movie (Family Hanging Out ’11).

The drowning film proves especially disturbing for Ellison after he notices a demonic figure watching the drownings from the bottom of the pool before turning to look at the camera. Ellison eventually finds the figure observing the murders in each of the films, along with a strange painted symbol; inspecting the lid of the box containing the films, Ellison discovers numerous crude drawings depicting the murders, along with crude drawings of the demonic figure, identified as “Mr. Boogie.”

Consulting a local deputy (James Ransone), Ellison discovers that the murders depicted in the films took place at different times, beginning in the 1960s, and in different cities across the country. He also learns that the families were all drugged before being killed; and that a child from each family went missing following every murder. The deputy refers Ellison to a local professor, Jonas (Vincent D’Onofrio), whose expertise is the occult and demonic phenomena, to decipher the symbol in the films. Jonas tells Ellison that the symbols are that of a pagan deity named Bughuul, who would kill entire families so that he could take their children into his realm and consume their souls.

One night, Ellison hears the film projector running and goes up to the attic. There, he finds the missing children in various states of decay, watching one of the films. Bughuul suddenly appears on camera before physically appearing before Ellison. Ellison takes the camera and the films to the backyard and burns them. Then he wakes his family to tell them that they are moving back to their old house.

At his old home, Ellison receives a message from Professor Jonas, who sends him scans of historical drawings associated with Bughuul; each had been partially destroyed because ancient cultures believed that Bughuul lived within the images, and that they acted as portals between his realm and the mortal world. Ellison then discovers the projector and films in his attic, along with a new envelope of film labeled “extended endings.” During this time, the deputy tries calling several times, but Ellison never answers.

The next time the deputy calls, while Ellison is assembling the films, he answers. The deputy informs him that he has discovered a link between each of the murders: Every family had previously lived in the house where the last murder took place, and each new murder occurred shortly after the family moved into their new residence; by moving, Ellison has placed himself and his family in line to be the next victims.

Ellison then watches the footage. He finds that it depicts the missing children coming onscreen following each murder, revealing themselves to be the killers before suddenly disappearing. Before he can react, Ellison becomes light-headed; inspecting his coffee cup, he finds a note reading “Good Night Daddy” and a green liquid inside the cup before losing consciousness.

Ellison awakens to find himself, his wife and his son bound and gagged. Ashley approaches holding the 8 mm camera, and promises him that she will make him famous again. Ashley then proceeds to murder her family with an axe, using their blood to paint images of cats, dogs, and unicorns on the walls. Her work complete, Ashley views the Super-8 film of her murders, which concludes with an image of the missing children watching her. Bughuul appears, causing the children to flee. He lifts Ashley into his arms and disappears into the film with her.

The film concludes with an image of the box of films in the Oswalt family’s attic, now accompanied by a reel labeled “House Painting ’12”.

REVIEW:

One of the guys at Spill.com is responsible for writing Sinister. Well, a former member of the Spill crew, that is. Skeptical didn’t begin to describe my initial thoughts, but what is my ultimate opinion?

What is this about?

After moving to a new town, a true-crime writer discovers a cache of videotapes depicting brutal murders that took place in the very house he just bought. As he tries to solve the mystery behind the crimes, a sinister force threatens his own family.

What did I like?

Creep factor. There are moments of creepiness throughout the picture, but a few really stick out, specifically the final act. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that it is worth the wait for horror fans, as you will be on the edge of your seats wondering what will happen.

Deputy So and So. The police aren’t exactly helping Ethan Hawke’s character out. I forgot the reason why, but I believe it has something to do with after each of his previous books, the family having some kind of death occur. At any rate, the sheriff has made it painfully clear that he doesn’t want the same thing to happen to his town. Luckily, there is a deputy who seems to be a huge fan and is willing to defy the sherif, as long as he gets some kind of recognition in the book, such as “thanks to Deputy So and So”, hence the name.

Tone. There a dark and sinister tone here that many films of this genre don’t have. If you research the horror films of today, not many of them take care with the product they are producing, only the dollars that they are bringing in, which is why many of them are nothing more than total crap. Thankfully, this was made by people who grew up fans of the genre, have a respect for it, and know what people would like to see. Maybe Hollywood should take notice!

What didn’t I like?

Found footage. I will never be a fan of found footage films. They are just a lazy way of filmmaking, much like reality television. Why pay real actors to spout out lines than a writer worked months and months on, when you can just did up some half-ass video and stick it in your movie? Having said that, there is a point to the footage here, since it does relate to the story. Still, I’m not a fan.

Vincent. I have to wonder why it is they hired Vincent D’Onofrio to play the role of a college professor, yet only have him appear in webcam for a couple of scenes. Could this have something do with his Law & Order schedule (is he even still on that show?), or maybe they couldn’t afford to bring him in person, or perhaps he’s being held hostage somewhere, but the kidnappers let him film his scenes. Whatever the case may be, this wasn’t the best way to use him, especially when they could have just brought in someone with a cheaper price to play the role and do just as good a job.

Get to it, already. Rather slow-paced to start, the film never gets to meat of what it is until much later. Thank goodness for the few teases of scariness. Also, the big climax, which happens in the last scenes, doesn’t result in as big a payoff as the audience would like. I think it actually ends up being about 10 minutes, if that long, and then the credits roll. Basically, I’m saying that the pacing is horrible and ruin what could have been a really decent film.

Sinister has some sinister moments, but they come few and far between. On that note, for a couple of guys just getting their starts as Hollywood writers, this isn’t half bad. Truth be told, it really is better than most of the crap that studios end up throwing at us, including some of the Oscar nominees. Do I recommend it? If you’re a Spill.com or horror fan, yes, but otherwise, I wouldn’t really waste your time. This isn’t for you.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Full Metal Jacket

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert):

During the Vietnam War, a group of new United States Marine Corps recruits arrives at Parris Island for recruit training. After having their heads shaved, they meet their drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). Hartman, tasked with producing battle-ready Marines, immediately begins abusing his recruits in an attempt to harden them. The film focuses its attention on Privates “Joker” (Matthew Modine) and “Cowboy” (Arliss Howard), while the overweight Leonard Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio) draws the wrath of Hartman, who nicknames him “Gomer Pyle”.

Unresponsive to Hartman’s constant discipline, Pyle is paired with Joker. With this help, Pyle begins to improve, but progress is halted when Hartman discovers a jelly doughnut in Pyle’s foot locker. Feeling that the recruits have not helped in motivating Pyle properly, Hartman decides to adopt a policy of collective punishment: For each time Pyle makes a mistake, Hartman will not punish Pyle, but will punish the rest of the platoon. As a result, during one night the platoon hazes Pyle with a blanket party, pinning him to his bunk with a blanket and beating him with bars of soap wrapped in towels. Joker reluctantly joins in and beats Pyle several times. In the following weeks, Pyle undergoes a transformation, becoming a model Marine, which impresses Hartman. However, Pyle also displays signs of mental breakdown – including social withdrawal and talking to his M14. This leaves Joker concerned for Pyle’s well being.

After graduation, each recruit receives an assignment to an occupational specialty, with most, including Pyle, being sent to the infantry, though Joker is assigned to Basic Military Journalism, which earns him the ridicule of Hartman. On the platoon’s last night on Parris Island, Joker is assigned to fire watch, during which he discovers Pyle in the head loading his rifle with live ammunition. Joker attempts to calm Pyle, who begins shouting, executing drill commands, and reciting the Rifleman’s Creed. The noise awakens the entire platoon and Hartman, with the latter confronting Pyle. Pyle fatally shoots Hartman, then aims his rifle at Joker, who pleads to Pyle to “go easy”. Pyle finally manages to calm down, but, being shocked at murdering Hartman, commits suicide.

The film jumps to January 1968; Joker has become a corporal and a Marine Combat Correspondent in Vietnam with Stars and Stripes, assigned to a public-affairs unit with Private First Class Rafterman (Kevyn Major Howard), a combat photographer. Rafterman wants to go into combat, as Joker claims he has done, though one of his colleagues mocks Joker’s inexperience, claiming he doesn’t have the thousand-yard stare. The sound of nearby gunfire interrupts their argument: the North Vietnamese Army has begun the Tet Offensive and attempts to overrun the base.

The journalism staff is briefed the next day about enemy attacks throughout South Vietnam. Joker’s commander, Lt. Lockhart, sends Joker to Phu Bai, a Marine forward operating-base near Huế. Rafterman accompanies him to get combat experience. There, they meet the Lusthog Squad, where Cowboy is now a Sergeant and second-in-command. Joker accompanies the squad during the Battle of Huế, during which the enemy kills their commander, Lt. Touchdown (Ed O’Ross).

During a patrol north of the Perfume River, Crazy Earl (Kieron Jecchinis), the team’s new squad leader, is killed by a booby trap, leaving Cowboy in command. The squad becomes lost in the rubble, and Cowboy orders Eightball (Dorian Harewood) to recon an area, where the latter is shot several times by a sniper. Fearing that the squad is walking into a trap, Cowboy calls for a tank via a radio. Fearing that Eightball will not make it, the squad’s medic, Doc Jay (John Stafford) attempts to retrieve Eightball against orders, but is shot numerous times in the process. The sniper refrains from killing the wounded men with the intention of drawing more of the squad into the killing zone. Cowboy learns via the radio that the tank is not available for assistance and orders the team to prepare for withdrawal, but the squad’s machine gunner, Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin), disobeys Cowboy’s order and moves up to the open to try to indicate the sniper’s location. Animal Mother learns that there is only a sniper and no other threat in the area, but Doc Jay and Eightball succumb to their wounds. Animal Mother requests to the rest of the team to move up. As the squad maneuvers to locate the sniper’s hidden position, Cowboy is shot and killed.

With Cowboy dead, Animal Mother assumes command of the survivors. Under the cover of smoke grenades, the squad advances on the sniper’s position where Joker locates the enemy soldier on an upper floor. His rifle jams as he tries to shoot. The sniper, revealed to be a young girl, hears Joker’s gun clicking and opens fire on him. Joker takes cover behind one of the building’s support beams, which barely provides enough protection. Just as it appears that Joker is going to be killed, he is saved by Rafterman who shoots the sniper and kicks her gun away after she falls to the ground. As Animal Mother and other Marines of the squad converge, the mortally wounded sniper begins to pray and repeatedly begs for death, prompting an argument about whether or not to kill her. Animal Mother decides to allow a mercy killing only if Joker performs it. After some hesitation, Joker shoots her with his sidearm. The Marines congratulate him on his kill as Joker stares into the distance. The film concludes with the Marines marching toward their bivouac, singing the Mickey Mouse March. Joker states that despite being “in a world of shit” that he is glad to be alive, and is unafraid.

REVIEW:

A good number of my friends from high school chose to forgo/postpone college after graduation and head to the Marines. Now that they’ve finished they’re time in the service, they all seem to be putting a little bug in my ear to watch this film, so I finally caved.

Full Metal Jacket is a war drama that is told in such a way that you would think it is two separate stories. Before I go on, let me clear up that the title has nothing to do with Full Metal Alchemist (it’d be cool if it did, though, huh?), but rather it is a term for the magazines of a rifle that Marines use.

The first half of the film is spent allowing the audience to watch a platoon of cadets go through basic training. It seems like that would be uninteresting, but the nonstop barrage of insults that the Sgt., played by R. Lee Emery, hurls at the men, especially “Gomer Pyle”, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, really makes it quite entertaining.

The second half is a bit more serious, as we follow Private (now Sergeant) Joker, played by Matthew Modine, as he is now on assignment in Vietnam as a reporter. Eventually, he is reunited with Cowboy and the audience is exposed to what it ‘Nam was like for them.

If you listened to 2 Live Crew back in the day, then you may recognize some lines that came directly from one of the prostitutes in the film.

This film does something that many war flicks don’t do and that is it doesn’t glorify war and/or basic training. It is gritty and violent, especially for 1987, but even though there are comedic moments, one does not forget that this is a war flick.

Some have said that the comedy was too much. I don’t really know what’s wrong with them. It fits perfectly and doesn’t take anything away. If you want a totally serious war flick, then go watch Saving Private Ryan.

So, what is my final opinion about this flick? It is a really great war film, perhaps even the best that I’ve seen. Sure, it has its flaws and all, but don’t all films? I highly recommend this film. you won’t be disappointed!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Ed Wood

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Edward D. Wood, Jr. is struggling to join the film industry. Upon hearing of an announcement in Varietythat producer George Weiss is trying to purchase Christine Jorgensen’s life story, Ed is inspired to meet Weiss in person. Weiss explains that Variety’s announcement was a news leak, and it is impossible to purchase Jorgensen’s rights. The producer decides to ‘fictionalize’ the film titled I Changed My Sex!, and “do it without the shemale”. One day, Ed meets his longtime idol Béla Lugosi, after spotting him trying out a coffin in an undertakers. Ed drives Béla home and the two become friends. Later, Ed deceides to star Béla in the film and convinces Weiss that he is perfect to direct I Changed My Sex! because he is a transvestite.

Ed and Weiss argue over the film’s title, Weiss has already had the poster printed, which Ed changes to Glen or Glenda. The shoot finishes on Glen or Glenda, and Ed is enthusiastic that he starred, directed, wrote and produced his own film. Glen or Glenda is released to critical and financial failure. Ed is unsuccessful in getting a job at Warner Bros., a producer there tells him Glen or Glenda is the worst film he has ever seen, but Ed’s girlfriend, Dolores Fuller, tells him that he is not “studio material”, and that he should find independent backers for his next film, “Bride of the Atom”. Ed is unsuccessful in finding money for Bride of the Atom, but is introduced to the psychic The Amazing Criswell.

At a bar, Ed meets Loretta King, who he thinks has enough money to fund Bride of the Atom. Filming begins, but is halted. Ed convinces meat packing industry tycoon, Don McCoy, to take over funding the film. McCoy does so, but on the condition that film ends with a giant explosion, and that his son Tony, who “is a little slow”, is the leading man. The filming of Bride of the Atom finishes, but Dolores and Ed break up after the wrap party, because of Ed’s transvestism. Also, Béla, who is revealed to be highly depressed and a morphine addict, attempts to conduct a double suicide with Ed, but is talked out of it. Béla is put in rehab, and Ed eventually finds happiness when he meets Kathy O’Hara, who is visiting her father. Ed takes her on a date on tells her and tells her that he a transvestite so he won’t have to keep it a secret from her.

Ed begins to shoot a film with Béla outide his home. Ed and company attend the premiere for Bride of the Monster, an angry mob chases them out of the theatre. Sometime later, Béla dies leaving Ed without a star. Ed convinces Reynolds that funding Ed’s script for “Grave Robbers from Outer Space” would result in a box office success, and generate enough money to make all of the Twelve Apostles films. Dr. Tom Mason, Kathy’s chiropractor, is chosen to be Béla’s stand-in. However, Ed and the Baptists begin having conflicts over the title and content of the script which they want to have changed to Plan 9 from Outer Space along with Ed’s B movie directing style, his casting decisions and his transvestism. This causes a distressed Ed to leave the set and immediately take a taxi to the nearest bar, where he encounters his idol Orson Welles. Welles tells Ed that “visions are worth fighting for”, and filming for Plan 9 finishes with Ed taking action against his producers. The film ends with the premiere of Plan 9, and Ed and Kathy taking off to Las Vegas, Nevada to get married.

REVIEW:

A while back I had the pleasure of watching  Plan 9 from Outer Space. After I finished, I decided to check this one out. I’m not so sure that was the wisest decision on my part.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad picture, but if you take out Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, and Bill Murray it becomes a total snooze-fest.

This was still pretty early in Depp’s career, but he masters the role and commands the screen with the presence of a seasoned pro. His take on Ed Wood is very flamboyant, which I hear is not too far from the man himself, and seeing him in drag was hilarious. Depp seems to be Tim Burton’s go to guy, especially when i comes to characters named Ed (as in Edward Scissorhands).

Martin Landau brings Bela Lugosi back to life. Whether he was a fan or not is unknown to me, bu one thing is for sure, he did his homework on Lugosi’s mannerisms. To make things even better, Landau makes Lugosi feel like the grandfather the audience can fall in love with. This make his death just past the halfway mark that much more impactful.

Bill Murray steals the few scenes he is in as Bunny Breckenridge, the drag queenobviously gay friend. He really sells the, for lack of a better term, gayness. One of his best performances, acting wise, in my opinion.

The rest of the cast is nothing spectacular, as I said before. Quite frankly, they seem uncomfortable in their roles, with the exception of George “The Animal” Steele as Tor Johnston and Vincent D’Onofrio as Orson Welles. Steel and Johnson were both wrestlers, so it wasn’t a big leap for him to get into that role. D’Onofrio just happens to slightly resemble Wells, and that is how he got the part, which was voiced by Maurice LaMarche.

The black and white filming of this film really puts the audience in the mindset that they’re looking at something from the past. Tim Burton has yet to make a film I don’t like. The man has a real talent for filmmaking, but I have to say he falls short with this one. I found myself wishing it would hurry and end. This is something I don’t normally do, unless I really don’t like a film. Unlike Ed Wood’s films which were so bad that they were good, Ed Woodjust seems to try to hard to find an identity and by the time it finally does, the credits are rolling. Tim Burton needs to be kissing Johnny Depp’s feet for keeping this film from being more of a bore than it is.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Men in Black

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The MIB, a top-secret agency that polices, monitors and directs alien activity on Earth, has established the Earth as an apolitical “neutral zone” for alien refugees (as Agent K explains, like Casablancawith no Nazis). MIB agents have no identity or any public record of existence, and the MIB agency answers to no government. The funding for their agency comes from the patents they own on technology confiscated from aliens, such as velcro, microwave ovens, and liposuction. Any memory of MIB activity upon “mustering out” of the MIB is erased and a new identity is created for the departing agent. Into this strange world is ushered the initially skeptical Det/Sgt James Edwards (Will Smith), an NYPD officer, as he becomes Agent J, one of the newest MIB personnel. Tommy Lee Jones plays K, a senior MIB agent who recruits and guides J as he learns the ropes.

MIB agents wear sunglasses and dark suits, and appear at UFO landing sites, similar to paranormal reports of real-world Men in Black. Instead of intimidating or threatening witnesses, the MIB use devices known as “Neuralyzers” to wipe witnesses’ memories of what they have seen, and replace the memories with more mundane explanations, such as swamp gas or weather balloons. Neuralyzers are also used on agents who leave the organization for any reason. The MIB’s sunglasses protect them from the effects of the Neuralyzer.

The main plot of the movie revolves around a “Bug” (code word for a member of an alien species that is similar in many ways to a very large cockroach) searching for a miniature galaxy which is also a vast energy source. Upon landing on Earth, the Bug kills a farmer named Edgar (Vincent D’Onofrio) and uses his skin as a disguise to aid in the hunt. A member of an alien royal family, masquerading as a diamond merchant, has concealed the galaxy on his cat’s collar. When he is killed by the Bug, his government prepares to destroy the Earth rather than let the galaxy fall into the Bugs’ hands. During their mission, J and K investigate a morgue where they meet Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino), a cynical deputy medical examiner. Eventually, the agents kill the Bug (with Laurel’s help) and recover the galaxy. K then has J erase his memory so he can retire, and Laurel joins the MIB and becomes Agent L, J’s new partner.

In the final scene of the film, the camera pulls back into the sky through space past our solar system, past millions of stars, ultimately revealing that our galaxy is contained within a circular container resembling a marble. The container is then picked up by an alien hand which throws it, hitting another ‘marble’ which also contains a galaxy. Both marbles are then picked up by the hand and placed into a bag full of galaxy-containing marbles.

REVIEW:

Over the years, I’ve seen quite a few alien movies, and this is one of my favorites. Granted, its not up there with the Star Wars films, but it is still pretty good.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ chemistry really makes the film. Both men give their respective roles their unique stamp and when they’re on screen together it interesting to see the contrasting styles. It was inspired casting putting these two on screen together. Wait forget the inspired casting mumbo jumbo, that was just pure genius!

The effects in this film take center stage when they are used, and why shouldn’t they? This is an alien film after all.

I was a little confused with the whole Arquillian galaxy angle, but from what I hear, it was more confusing in the initial script. To me it was a good and necessary plot device, as it explains why the bug came to Earth, but it just wasn’t explained as well as it could have been.

For those of you into the alien sci-fi genre…especially the older ones from back in the 40s and 50s, you’ll love this film. It hearkens back to those films as well as keeps it modern. A little bit of old and a little bit of the new. It really works. Watch and see. I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars