Tuesday, November 30, 2010

FOUR BROTHERS (2005) - Marky Mark.... in the hood.

Mark Wahlberg is one of those guys that you either love or hate. He has made a few good movies, a few terrible ones, and generally gets along rather well on his charisma. His role as the foul mouthed Sgt. Dignam in The Departed was pure gold, and of course everyone remembers his Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights. I generally find him to be good fun whenever he's in a movie, and most of his action flicks are pretty decent. Four Brothers is a solid revenge movie with a capable cast and an interesting plot, although in the end it's not exactly memorable. It's like that one girlfriend you had ten years ago, who was pretty cute and she might have even been funny or good at Super Smash Bros, but you're hard pressed to remember her name. Yeah, like that.

Why don't they brainstorm indoors? It's cold outside yo!
The movie opens with Evelyn Mercer, an older woman who has adopted several hoodlum kids in the past, doing some shopping at a Detroit convenience store. Two masked robbers run in and force the cashier to empty the register, and on their way out, kill Evelyn and the employee. A few days later, we find out that Evelyn's adopted children, now grown up, are back in town for the funeral. Bobby (Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (André Benjamin) and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) are confused and wondering why Evelyn was shot in such a random manner. The brothers are warned by a local cop, Lt. Green (Terrance Howard) to let the police do their job and keep clear of any trouble, which of course, Mark Wahlberg being Mark Wahlberg and a general badass, wholly ignores the advice and goes on the prowl to find the killers.

Mark Wahlberg's hairline has seen better days.
The brothers eventually find the guys responsible for their mother's death, and execute both of them, but not before finding out that there might be more than meets the eye with regards to the shooting. Angel finds out that Jeremiah was the sole beneficiary of their mother's $400,000 life insurance policy, and that his construction company has not been doing too well - things that Jeremiah has forgotten to inform his brothers about. It's up to Bobby, Angel and Jack to find out just what exactly went down the day their mother was shot, what the deal is with their brother Jeremiah, and why rumor has it that local crime boss Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor) had something to do with Evelyn's murder.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Victor Sweet, the villian. Serious dude is serious.
The movie is essentially just what you'd expect from the basic premise of a revenge story. The mostly good cast does a decent job with their roles, although the only performance that really stands out is Chiwetel Ejiofor's turn as Victor Sweet. He was the highlight of every scene he was in, and had some genuinely hilarious moments, like when he forced one of his thugs the guy's poor wife to eat spaghetti off the floor. I'm sure the director was going for the dangerous and sadistic vibe for Sweet, but the scene was unintentionally funny, seeing the normally refined and well-spoken Ejiofor saying stuff like, "bitch, git yo ass up." The rest of the cast plods along, with Wahlberg trying to pull off dark and unstable as Bobby Mercer, but it's nothing to write home about.

Four Brothers holds up relatively well compared to most other revenge movies. The plot is intricate enough to keep the viewer guessing, and there is plenty of action to keep things interesting, including a cool chase scene on icy roads that ends in a lot of mayhem. Also, this being a Marky Mark movie, there is the obligatory fist fight in which some poor idiot gets his face bashed in. It's gritty, entertaining, and ultimately satisfying.

TL;DR - Decent revenge story with Mark Wahlberg acting like Mark Wahlberg and fighting dudes - 6/10

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

28 DAYS LATER (2002) - Fast zombies?!? Game over, man.

I apologize for the lack of posts recently, seeing as how I've been fairly busy with job interviews and the addictive drug that are Black Ops and CoH: Online. However, I have been watching a few good movies so I have a bit of a back log to make up for. Recently, I've been watching The Walking Dead on AMC and if you haven't seen it, give it a shot. It's a damn good show that's been picking up pace since the pilot episode and there's only a few episodes left before the season ends. Anyways, seeing all that zombie mayhem got me in the mood for some zombie post-apocalyptic horror, and I decided I'd give one of my personal favorites of the genre another watch.

28 Days Later is directed by Danny Boyle, of Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire fame, and suffice to say, it's a bit different from most zombie movies. The flick kicks off with some animal liberation nutjobs breaking into a British medical laboratory and releasing monkeys infected with the highly contagious "Rage virus." Despite the frantic pleas of the scientist they capture, who warns them that a single drop of blood can infect anyone, the activists release the animals, and the chimps go batshit crazy and attack everyone. It turns out that Rage is a virus that turns anyone infected into, well... a raging maniac with a taste for murder and human flesh. And as opposed to the generic slow, clumsy zombies we're used to seeing in movies, the infected in Boyle's film are fast as Kenyan sprinters and absolutely tireless - jumping, climbing and avoiding obstacles.

London is empty. Cillian is all alone. Except not. There's zombies. Fast ones.
After the lab scene, the screen fades to black and we're presented with the words "28 days later," and see as Jim (Cillian Murphy), a former bicycle courier, lies completely naked on a hospital bed. He awakens and makes his way through the deserted hospital. As he stumbles outside, he realizes that London is completely devoid of people, leading to some very impressive shots of Jim in his hospital robe walking down an empty Westminster Bridge in amazement and horror. Jim quickly learns that he is in fact not alone. He is chased out of a church by a mob of deranged zombies intent on eating his face, when he is saved by two survivors, Mark and Selena (Naomie Harris).

The group takes shelter in an abandoned shop and Jim is told about the spreading of the virus, the chaos that followed and the evacuation and breakdown of the British government. Jim insists on visiting his parents to see if they are alive, and the other two survivors reluctantly agree. They arrive at the house the next day to see Jim's parents lying dead in their bed. Their forced to spend the night there, and in the middle of the night they're attacked by the infected. Mark is bitten and Selena kills him at once with a huge machete, knowing that he'd turn into one of the zombies near instantly. Selena and Jim eventually meet Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah, who are holed up in their apartment, and as a group decide to follow instructions Frank has heard on the radio announcing a survivor's center near Manchester.

The zombie apocalypse? I still needs my Cocoa Pebbles dawg.
28 Days Later has a relentless pace that never lets up, and Danny Boyle has a great talent for creating excruciating tension with his scenes. Walking into an abandoned gas station or going around a corner, you're constantly expecting something brutal to happen. Strangely enough, there's not a lot of gore compared to some other flicks of the genre, but the effect is the same and doesn't subtract from the horror aspect. The infected are genuinely badass - they're vicious, very fast, agile and have a habit of exploding out of the screen when you least expect them. The performances are generally good as well, with Cillian Murphy having a great starring role in his first major well known gig. He's believable and does a good job of portraying the fear and terror he goes through in the scenes.

It took me a while to finally watch this movie again, but I'm glad I finally did. Boyle's movie is an instant classic in the zombie genre, no doubt. It's a fresh take and one that is worthy of watching with some friends to maximize the scares and thrills. Very recommended.

TL;DR - Scarecrow from Batman Begins hides from zombies in England. Profit? - 8/10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

PASSENGER 57 (1992) - "Always bet on black."

In the early 1990s, action movies were close to the pinnacle of perfection. They had everything a man movie needs: absurd plots, half-hour long gunfights, ultra-cool synth soundtracks, etc. There was one thing missing though. The decade that gave us Rambo, John McClane, every Arnold role, and all those generic Van Damme movies had few notable black dudes starring in their own action flicks. In stepped Wesley Snipes to save the day for Hollywood, and for a few years, he almost A-list material. Today, poor old Wesley might be locked up in prison for not paying taxes, but in 1992 he was legit. And it was this movie right here that kicked off an eventful career of ass-kicking, drop-kicking,  face-punching and tax evasion  - Passenger 57.

Only Wesley Snipes can rock this outfit. Don't even try it, man.
Passenger 57 starts off with Charles Rane (Bruce Payne), a master terrorist (is there any other kind?) about to get some plastic surgery to avoid capture by the FBI. Right before the surgeon makes the first cut, Rane realizes he's being set up by the feds and slices the good doc's throat with a scalpel and tries to make a run for it. I said try, because he ends up getting run over by a cop car and taken into custody.

While Rane's ass is sent to jail, we see ex-cop John Cutter (Snipes) working at an airline, teaching security lessons. After a rough day at the job, his executive big shot friend Sly Delvecchio (Tom Sizemore, before he started doing loads of coke)  offers him a job at his company, which Cutter eventually accepts. In the meantime, we see that the FBI, in all its infinite wisdom, has decided to transport Rane, the world's most dangerous man, aboard  a regular commercial flight, with only two cops to escort him. Terrorists: 1, Government Planners, 0.
Sitting next to a murderer is only slightly worse than sitting next to that kid that keeps kicking your seat.
Of course, it wouldn't be much of an action movie if Rane just killed both guards and flew off to Tahiti to drink tequila shots on the beach with supermodels for the rest off his life. No sir. By a stroke of luck, John Cutter happens to be on the very same flight.

Rane is such an evil, criminal mastermind of great skill that he has managed to put his own people aboard the plane. In a matter of minutes once the plane takes off, his guys kill both FBI agents and take over the plane. It's then up to Cutter to take back the plane and capture Rane, with only a stewardess to help him out. In the course of the movie, Cutter will jump out of a moving plane, punch a French guy in the throat, hit that French ponytail wearing bastard with a golf club in the balls, ride a motorcycle dangerously (why of course), beat up some redneck cops, and deliver some classic one-liners.

Tax problems already, Wesley?

I watched Passenger 57 with my dad as a kid, and at the time we thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Since I was about 8 or 9, anything rated R was just about as close to heaven on earth as it got. My dad and I watched the movie again this week for nostalgia's sake, and fun was had by all. The movie has aged pretty well, except for the soundtrack, which is just as cheesy and lame as it was back in the 90s. To be fair though, most movies from this decade suffer from the same thing, so it's not really that much of a drawback. Snipes does a believable job, and though he won't win any Oscars for his work, he's entertaining and he's easy to root for. Bruce Payne tries a bit too hard as the English-accented terrorist, and he isn't a particularly memorable villain.

Overall, not a bad movie - just what you'd expect from the typical 90s action/thriller mix. Good for a watch if you've never seen it, or if you have a massive, unexplained celebrity crush on Wesley Snipes and his questionable clothing choices during this decade.

TL;DR - It's like Die Hard. On an airplane. And the good guy is black. - 6/10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

COMMANDO (1985) - Arnold at his glorious best

In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the top of his game. His accent was nearly undecipherable, he killed at least 50 guys per movie, had the best one liners, and he probably ate steroids with every meal. Commando is probably the best movie ever made about a retired soldier who destroys a small Latin American country and kills a gay Australian villain in order to rescue his kidnapped daughter. In fact, I'm amazed that Out of Africa won Best Picture in 1985, since there's no way that borefest could have ever legitimately beat Arnold's magnum opus. Even the movie poster was badass. Just Arnold giving you a stone cold death stare. And the title is just one word: Commando - it assures you that the body count will be ridiculous.

Arnold showing his daughter how to feed dynamite to a deer.
Retired Special Forces soldier John Matrix (Arnold, obviously) lives in the mountains, far away from civilization. His daily routine consists of a healthy breakfast, followed by a few hours of deforestation, carrying tree trunks and a chainsaw back home, and later eating delicious sandwiches made by his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). His idyllic life is interrupted when an Army helicopter carrying his former boss and two soldiers shows up. John is told that his old war buddies are being killed off, and no one knows who's doing it or why. The soldiers are stationed at the Matrix house to protect John and his girl, and the general flies off. In true guy movie fashion, there is no time wasted - as soon as the helicopter disappears over the hills, John smells the bad guys about to appear. They do, and they quickly shoot both soldiers dead and kidnap poor Jenny and make good their escape.

My daughter was kidnapped? BRB, shopping.
In one of the movie's most hilarious and over the top scenes, John pushes his sabotaged Chevy truck down mountain and chases after the villains, smashing through the forest with no brakes. Eventually, he crashes and is captured by the kidnappers, the leader of which is revealed to be a former protege of John's, a chain-mail vest wearing guy named Bennett (Vernon Wells). It turns out that Bennett and friends want John Matrix to overthrow some Latin American president in Val Verde (gotta love those fictional countries), and they make it abundantly clear he will never see his daughter again if he refuses. He'll have to escape from his captors and find a way to get her back before his time limit runs out.

Bennett wears a chain-mail vest. Hey, it's the 80s...
In the traditional sense, Commando is an average action movie. The dialogue is mostly stupid, the plot was thought up by 4th graders, and Arnold's acting is comparable to a tree rehearsing Hamlet. But it's so good as a celebration of the lost art of mindless action movies. The point of the movie is to see how much stuff Arnold can destroy and how many guys he can shoot in the film's 90 minute running time. I've compiled a short list of some of the crazy stuff Matrix does throughout the film:
  • jumps off an airliner in mid take off and falls hundreds of feet through the air into a pond... and walks away
  • throws a guy off a cliff
  • rips out a car seat with his bare hands
  • picks up a phone booth and throws it at some cops
  • impales a bad guy on a steam pipe, and suggests he "let off some steam."
  • throws saw blades at a dude's face
  • shoots about 200 bullets from a single rifle without reloading
Many manly tears of joy were shed during this scene.
The bad dialogue is hilarious, and there's a gold mine of quotable scenes. The score is typical 80s action music, but I swear, you hear the Commando theme once, and you'll recognize it years later. Most of the humor in the movie is very tongue in cheek and no one seems to be taking themselves too serious. It's mindless, it's crude, and it's great. I love this movie.

TL;DR - Arnold destroys a small country and fights a gay Australian to get his kidnapped daughter back - 9/10

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    UNBREAKABLE (2000) - M. Night Shyamamalalalan takes on superheroes

    Unbreakable was something of a rarity for me. I had never seen this movie before reviewing it tonight. The reason for the 10 year delay in watching Unbreakable is M. Night Shyamalan's latest series of terrible, eye-gouging-inducing movies. I couldn't bring myself to watch more crap movies with a gimmick twist ending, but a friend recommended this one, so I couldn't say no. Thankfully, this flick is one of his best (not that many to choose from, I know) and it was an interesting movie with a few decent, well-done twists. The fact that it's got Samuel L. Jackson already made it a million times better than the average movie. Sam Jackson could be in a laundry detergent commercial and that shit would be the best laundry detergent commercial you'd ever see.

    Samuel L. Jackson's hair... on a good day.
    Unbreakable begins with a black woman giving birth in a department store. A doctor comes to assist her since her baby won't stop screaming, obviously in pain. The doctor is astonished to find that the baby has suffered several fractures, much to everyone's surprise and horror. Flash forward a few years, and we see a young kid with his arm in a sling, refusing to go outside and play for fear of getting hurt. His mom gives him a comic book in order to get him out in the fresh air, on the condition that he cross the street to get it. Another jump in time, and it's revealed that the boy, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) has grown up into owning a fancy comic book art store and seems to hobble around. He explains that since childhood, he's been called "Mr. Glass" for the ease with which his bones are broken.

    "And in the evening, I relax by lifting weights in excess of 300 pounds with no spotter."
    The film then focuses on security guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis), who is traveling by train and is involved in a massive accident when the trail is derailed. Everyone aboard the train is killed, except for David, who miraculously escapes without a single bruise. Elijah notices the news and gets in contact with David, asking him if he ever remembers being sick or injured. A confused David, who has pretty messed up relationship with his estranged wife, can't remember a single time he was hurt. While visiting Elijah's store with his son, David is told by Elijah that his survival in the train wasn't an accident, and implies that he might have superhuman abilities as told in comic books. David obviously has a hard time believing creep with funky hair and purple overcoat, but his son starts to think it's no coincidence. Over time, David also suspects that something is fishy about the whole situation, especially after he's able to bench press something like 500 pounds without breaking a sweat.

    This is why you should spank your children.
    The rest of the movie then covers Elijah's creeper attempts to get closer to David's family and David's realization that he might in fact be a superhero. Unbreakable is a pretty interesting story, and of course, being an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you know it's going to have some sort of kooky tweests and turns. The acting is mostly good, with Bruce Willis having a pretty subdued performance as the troubled family man, and Sam Jackson doing his usual good job with whatever the script wants from him. My main problem with this movie, and in fact, every Shyamalan movie, is the fact that everyone seems to whisper. WHISPERING all the time. It gets annoying. It doesn't add substance to the movie - it just gets tired after a while and irritated me to no end.

    Overall, it's not a bad film by any stretch. It's got some memorable scenes, especially the parts in which David starts discovering his abilities, and it is surprisingly watchable despite the stupid whispered dialogue in some scenes and the moody lighting. Compared to the director's last craptastic movies, Unbreakable almost seems like his masterpiece. It's an above average thriller, with a good turn by Sam Jackson, and without giving any spoilers, I'll just say the ending was a bit of a letdown.

    TL;DR - Bruce Willis might be a superhero but he doesn't know it and Samuel L. Jackson has funny hair - 6/10

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Battle: Los Angeles trailer released

    ... and it looks straight up badass. Ever since we got a really short and vague teaser trailer a few months back, I'd been waiting to see the full length trailer for Battle: Los Angeles, which is coming next year. Check out the trailer. It basically looks like District 9, Black Hawk Down and Independence Day had an unholy child and bathed it in glorious 1080p Marines vs. aliens sci fi goodness.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    THE ITALIAN JOB (2003) - Marky Mark and the Thieving Bunch

    Everyone loves a good heist flick. If someone ever tells you they don't, they are liars or they hate life in general. In any case, stay away from them and find normal friends. Anyways, the 1960s and 70s were a great time for old fashioned caper movies, and one of the best of the bunch was The Italian Job, which starred Michael Caine and involved a pretty awesome series of chases through Venice. The 2003 movie is inspired by it, but has a new plot and characters, and is a stand up action movie in its own right. Also, it's got Charlize Theron in it and she's looks pretty hot throughout the whole thing. It didn't take much else to convince me to choose this as my next review.

    Why do I love this movie? Here's a clue: it starts with Charlize and ends with Theron
    The movie opens with a shout out to the original flick, with a scene in Venice, as veteran thief and safe-cracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) calls his daughter back in the U.S., telling her he's in Italy for one last job. John meets up with his crew of thieves, led by Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) and they prepare for a heist involving a huge amount of gold bricks. The team includes getaway driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), computer nerd Lyle (Seth Green), explosives pyromaniac Left Ear (Mos Def) and con man Steve (Edward Norton). They get their hands on the gold and they make their way out of the city on speedboats and meet up later to celebrate. The celebrating doesn't last long however, when they're betrayed by a jealous and greedy Steve, who pops a cap in John and makes off with the gold stash, leaving the others for dead in a frozen lake.

    Every good heist movie needs its share of witty banter.
    Charlie and his gang obviously start planning their revenge on that asshole Steve. To get back their stolen gold, which Steve is sure to keep in a safe, Charlie goes to recruit John's daughter Stella (Charlize Theron), who is a master safe-cracker herself. She agrees to take on the job to avenge her dead father, and the crew gets back to work, scoping out Steve's new mansion and planning to break into his security system. Steve being the bastard that he is, is still very much convinced Charlie and his buddies are dead and is trying hard to sell off his gold.
    Yes, I did just add another picture of Charlize into the review. Haters gon' hate.
    The gang's first attempt to break into Steve's house and crack his safe goes wrong after Steve wises up and recognizes Stella as the late John's daughter. Charlie is forced to go back to step one and a get a new plan, which will eventually end up including a 400-pound obese Samoan dude, an awesome car chase throughout Los Angeles in tricked out Mini Coopers, explosions, a lot of Jason Statham's scowling, the Russian mafia, etc.

    Mini Coopers. Mini Coopers EVERYWHERE.
    The original 1969 movie had a lot of comedy alongside its caper story, and was a damn good watch. This Italian Job follows the same formula. It never takes itself too seriously and instead keeps the action moving breezily and uses its cast to good effect. Wahlberg is decent, Charlize is hot, Mos Def's annoying level is at an all-time low, Seth Green has some funny lines, and Statham, as usual, is damn hilarious. Edward Norton always does a great villain too, even if Steve is not exactly one of his best roles. He's more of a tremendous douchebag than a criminal mastermind, but in keeping with the tone of the flick it works well.

    It's my blog, and I'll post as much Charlize as I want.
    I doubt there's many people that haven't already seen it, but if you're out there, and you've been living under a rock with no cable or Netflix, it's worth a watch.

    TL;DR - Marky Mark makes robbing people look so easy, you'll want to do it too - 7.5/10

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    UNLAWFUL ENTRY (1992) - Never, ever, trust Ray Liotta.

    Despite the awkward title, Unlawful Entry is not a movie about prison rape. It sounds like it, but it isn't. So rest assured. Instead, it tells the story of a happily married couple, Michael Carr (Kurt Russell) and wife Karen (Madeleine Stowe). The Carrs are average yuppies, living in the rich part of town when their normal lives are interrupted by a home invasion. Michael hears the noise, grabs a golf club (no gun? what a noob) and goes to investigate. A robber has broken into their house through a sky light, and they start to fight. Eventually, the bad guy takes Karen hostage with a knife to her throat, only to make good his escape, leaving the Carrs unharmed but scared to hell. Worse, it leaves Michael feeling powerless and like a sissy for not having done better against the guy.

    Hear intruder in middle of night. WAT DO?
    The cops, in usual movie fashion, get there right after the robber leaves. Two cops respond to the call, Officer Pete Davis (Ray Liotta) and his partner Officer Cole. While explaining the break in, Pete eyes Karen, and then suggests that the couple should get a new security system installed. His partner later notices his glances towards the wife and seems to know what's up with Pete, and tells him to knock it off as they leave the house. The next day Michael comes home from work to find a security company installing an alarm system in the house, and Officer Pete helping out and talking to his wife. See, Officer Pete is such a nice guy that he goes out of his way to make sure he knows the secret password to the alarm. This being movie-land.... neither Michael or Karen seem to think it's a bad idea, since, well, the guy's a cop.

    Mackin' on married hoes. All in a day's work for Ray Liotta.
    While having a beer with Pete, Michael says he'd love to beat the living crap out of the robber that took Karen hostage. The night after, Pete takes him on a ride along in his squad car. They find the robber on the street, and Michael backs off his earlier statement, while Pete beats up the guy. Pete then starts acting in shady ways: he visits Karen at her school, shows up without invitation to Michael's business party, and oh yeah, he also walks in on them in their bedroom. After this, the Carrs realize that Pete is not all right in the head, so to speak. Pete won't take crap from them though, and starts to try and ruin Michael's life and take his wife away, knowing that no one is going to take Michael's word over that of a decorated cop's. Michael has to figure a way to protect what's his and get the guy off his back.

    Don't judge a book by its cover, unless the cover screams "I'm a dirty, crooked, murdering cop."
    Unlawful Entry is a good thriller that takes some standard movie cliches but makes them work surprisingly well. There's some dumb choices characters make, but it helps to keep the tension high and the good acting contributes to the feel of the movie. The suspense is genuine and never lets the predictability of some things get in its way. Kurt Russell is always good at portraying the average dude in a bad situation, while Madeline Stowe does the same stand up job with her role. Ray Liotta though - this guy is gold. He is great at being the son of a bitch you love to hate. He's conniving, ruthless and does a good job of switching from the friendly, helpful, buddy cop to a sadistic murdering bastard in a heartbeat. He made this movie and his acting steals every scene he's in.

    TL;DR - Officer Ray Liotta is in ur house, stealing your wivez - 7/10

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    THE FINAL COUNTDOWN (1980) - Time travelan, World War II startan, etc

    Back in that glorious decade of manly movie making that was the 1980s, it was pretty easy to make a movie about any idea that sounded epic enough in the head of studio execs. The Final Countdown is a perfect example of this. Some guy, as he was drinking his morning coffee, thought to himself: "wouldn't it be badass if an American aircraft carrier from today went back in time to blow up the Japanese in World War II?" And the answer was yes, it would be.. And on the sixth day, God made The Final Countdown.

    Yes, that freakish alternate universe wormhole looks perfectly safe.
    The movie starts off with civilian analyst Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen rocking a Conan O'Brien haircut) being invited aboard the Navy's biggest aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, stationed near Pearl Harbor. There, he meets the skipper of the ship, Captain Yelland (Kirk Douglas... a.k.a. Spartacus), who shows him around the nuclear powered boat. They make their way to sea, when all of a sudden a strange storm with bluish lightning and strobe lights going off like a massive ecstasy fueled rave interrupts their cruise. Naturally, the Nimitz is sucked into this wormhole thing, only to find itself back in completely normal weather.

    Confused and wondering just what the hell happened, the Captain launches a few fighter planes to check out the area, and sends another jet to scope out Pearl Harbor, thinking that World War III might have just started. While the crew wonders if the Russians just nuked Washington D.C., the fighters on patrol run into some WW2 Japanese planes. To make matters worse, the plane sent to Pearl Harbor sends back pictures of all the famous battleships from WW2 all lined up like the day when Pearl was attacked by Japan in 1941. The Captain, his officers and Lasky argue with themselves until they finally realize that the storm must have been a time portal that sent them back to the day before the Pearl Harbor sneak attack: December 6, 1941.

    Note to time travelers: don't pick up kamikaze hitchhikers.
    Along the way, the time-traveling Americans rescue some survivors from a yacht attacked by the evil Japanese fleet on its way to attack Pearl. One of the survivors is a hot secretary. So far, so good. The other survivor is a US Senator who was supposed to die before their attack, and now his survival is a threat to the space time continuum with potentially disastrous consequences. That one, not so good. Now, the Americans have a tough choice to make: should they use modern day technology like jet fighters and missiles to wipe out the Japanese fleet and prevent the war, or should they let history run its course? Some of the officers will argue both sides, even though no one seems to know what kind of shit they've gotten themselves into.

    "What year are we in, Captain? "I dunno, LOL."
    The Final Countdown is basically a popcorn movie with a B-movie plot and some decent actors. Some of the best scenes are actually of the planes in action, shooting down Japanese propeller planes and scaring the hell out of the 1940s people. It's decent sci fi and works well at presenting an alternate universe in which history might be affected by what decisions are made. It can get a bit too talkative at times, but it's running length is just right for the story. It's fun entertainment, and a reminder that not every movie has to be Oscar bait and ultra serious. It's the 80s action/sci fi mix. Just let it embrace you.

    TL;DR - Americans go back in time and wonder if they should kick Japan's ass and prevent WW2 - 6.5/10

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    THE MIST (2007) - Damn nature, you scary!

    Frank Darabont's The Mist is based on an original story by the one and only Stephen King, who has made it his life's goal to scare as many people shitless as possible. He has been pretty successful. Darabont, on the other hand, has been pretty successful himself in adapting King's writing into good movies. His track record is damn good too: The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. It's no surprise then, that The Mist is a great horror/thriller and one of the best adaptations of King's stuff to make it to the screen.

    It could be worse... you could be trapped at Hot Topic.
    The Mist is set in a small town in Maine, where self-employed artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane, from The Punisher fame) lives with his wife and son Billy. After a loud thunderstorm and an enormous tree smashes into their house, David is forced to go into town to buy some supplies and groceries. He takes his kid and his asshole lawyer neighbor with him and upon arrival to the grocery store they notice a heavy mist has fallen all over the town. While shopping and minding their own business, some raggedy old guy walks in, bleeding and screaming for everyone to get inside the store and shut the door.

    Old Screaming Guy is yelling about something grabbing people off the street. Scared and confused, the customers pack inside the store and close the doors, hoping to wait it out. Problems soon appear when David and few other guys try to venture outside, and a bag boy (played by none other than the SHERMANATOR from American Pie!) gets dragged out and killed by some gnarly tentacles. Besieged by whatever the hell is waiting out there for them, the customers and staff hunker down and start arguing within themselves over their options. Even worse, a batshit crazy religious lady starts to tell everyone it is the end of days and that it's God's will that everyone die because of America's sins... uuh okay. The tension starts to build up quickly as the people inside the store start to realize that their fellow humans might just be as dangerous and cruel as the monsters waiting outside to chew their faces off. All the while, our protagonist David is just trying to make it out alive with his kid and get back home to his wife.

    Horror Movie Survival 101: Stay away from giant tentacles.
    The Mist suffers from some lack of believability in the actions of the characters. I know it sounds a bit dumb to criticize this in a movie about giant monster tentacles eating up people in a grocery store, but hear me out. In the beginning of the film, the asshole lawyer is confronted by Drayton and some others who saw the bag boy get dragged out by the tentacles. He refuses to believe their story, and even refuses to go into the loading dock to see the tentacle piece they had cut off with an ax. Seriously? How hard is it to walk a few yards to see the damn thing? No, instead he gets pissy and starts some rant about how the country hicks think they're better than the "out of towners." Idiot. I was really hoping he'd get killed in every scene.

    The creatures themselves are original and well thought out. There's a variety of weird ass designs and they eventually start killing off humans in some grotesque form or another. The constant fog over the town makes their appearance very fast, unexpected and downright scary.

    This is a movie that could easily have copped out and taken an easy way out in the final few minutes. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil what I think is one of the GREATEST endings in recent years. It is seriously shocking  - I saw The Mist for the very first time to write this review and I had no idea about the ending. You really owe it to yourself to see the stuff Frank Darabont was ballsy enough to pull off screen and get away with in an era of Michael Bay OMGWTF 3D extravaganza blockbusters and constant remakes.

    TL;DR - trapped inside a store by mysterious monsters outside and religious nuts inside - 8.5/10

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    9TH COMPANY (2005) - the Commies are good in this one

    Back in the 1980s, the Soviet Union were the biggest guys on the block and though they'd prove to world how tough and hairy chested they really were. In this moment of bravado, the Soviets decided to invade Afghanistan. Having the world's biggest and most powerful military at the time gave them a big set of brass balls they weren't afraid to swing around. Unfortunately, they picked the worst f*cking place on this shiny planet Earth to invade. The Afghans take great pleasure in kicking ass: they had done it to the Mongol hordes, they did it to those snooty British, and they sure as hell weren't gonna let Ivan get some. Long story short, Afghanistan turned out to be a nightmare for the Soviet bear, turning into their version of Vietnam. Except with Osama bin Laden. And deserts. And mountains. Mountains everywhere.

    If I were a man of the gambling sort, I'd wager half these guys will eat it by the end of the movie.
    9th Company is one of the best known Russian movies of recent times, and with good reason, since it was a major blockbuster over in the land of bears, vodka and oversized Moon rockets. Even President Putin liked it. When Putin likes it, you know that shit's gonna be successful. Director Fyodor Bondarchuk's movie tells a pretty familiar story of some raw army recruits being trained into soldiers and sent off to fight the bearded Afghans. As with almost every war movie you've probably seen to date, the group of recruits has its varied characters: the street-wise rough kid, the stuck up rich guy, the horny bastard, the wimp who pees his pants, and the philosophical artist guy who makes deep comments about the nature of war. Yawn. It's all been done before, and in better fashion.

    These guys have aimbots.
    As generic as the story is, it works well enough to keep the plot moving along. The recruits are sent to paratrooper school, where they get assigned to a hard as nails Lieutenant Dygalo (Mikhail Porechenkov), who is a veteran of the war and sports a gnarly scar on his face to prove it. Dygalo takes special pleasure in working  his recruits extra hard and they soon start to crack under the pressure. Of course, it's revealed that Dygalo actually was the lone survivor of a terrorist ambush, so he makes sure his platoon is ready for the brutal war ahead of them. After their training is complete, they are sent to Afghanistan and soon get their first taste of shit blowing up in front of them at a rapid pace.

    Protip: when at war, wear a helmet.
    They realize the Afghans are not to be messed with, since they're pretty good fighters and use caves and ambushes to hide and kill Russians. The protagonists' company is sent to guard some god forsaken hill with a new hard ass commander. Soon enough, the small group of Russians is abandoned and forced to defend their outpost against some hundreds of angry, rocket launcher packing Afghans, setting up the story for the grand finale in the last  hour or so.

    9th Company is a good war movie with a few basic flaws. The acting is a bit over the top, which is to be expected in most war movies, but this movie really does have a gung-ho feeling throughout most of it. The story also muddles along until the guys arrive in Afghanistan, dealing with the characters' backgrounds, their encounter with a hot Russian blonde (plenty of gratuitous nudity involved) and their training. Once in the war itself, the pacing picks up and the action pieces are well done. The final battle especially is the highlight of the movie, with the fight lasting a few days and being bonkers in regards to the amount of ass kicking the Russians hand out to the Afghans. It's a decent flick about a war that most people haven't seen much about. Recommended.

    TL;DR - Russians go on the set of Rambo 3 and kill Rambo's friends in some brutal mountain fighting - 7.5/10

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    DUEL (1971) - a.k.a.: Californians can't drive for shit

    Dave Mann (Dennis Weaver) is just an average guy. He's a businessman, has a wife and kids, and drives a shiny red Plymouth Valiant. As he makes his way to work and back home through some mostly deserted California roads, he comes across a rusty, piece of crap on wheels big rig driving way below the speed limit and putting out a bunch of smoke. Dave fancies himself a hotshot and guns it, overtaking the truck and pissing off the driver. This being California, and California having the worst drivers in the whole of the United States, eventually leads to an hour long chase to the death between Dave and his new truck driver friend.

    Average guy. Average car. Big freaking problem.
    As Dave tries to out run the beastly truck, his driving gets more reckless and dangerous. The guy thinks he can pull off some Mario Andretti stunts when he is actually about as skilled behind the wheel of his Plymouth as your average Asian minivan driving soccer mom. His car is pretty craptacular as well - it looks like a muscle car but ends up being wimpy, while the crazy truck driver has a souped up truck that apparently is a Ferrari in disguise. That thing can haul some serious ass.

    Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.
    Despite having a very small cast and taking place almost exclusively on various stretches of highway, Duel is a decently crafted thriller - fast paced and well scripted. The flow of the movie keeps the action going from the first encounter between Dave and his 18-wheeled tormentor from hell until the satisfying climax. So much of the movie resting on Dennis Weaver's performance, it's good to see that the veteran actor is up to the task. He's convincing as the everyday joe caught up in a shitty situation and trying to make the best of it. It's great to see his attempts to come to reason with the truck driver and his reaction when he realizes the guy just won't give up until his face is flattened by his heavy duty radials.

    Don't mind me. I'm just trying to kill you and your whole family.
    Duel is a bit dated with its lame 1970s synth score, but the basic thrill of the plot and the relentless chase between Dave and that bastard driving the truck remains fresh. It's an exciting movie that works despite its limited scope and is worth a watch. It's definitely not a classic, but it is better than a lot of the straight to video crap that overflows from Redbox and video stores. Give it a watch.

    TL;DR - a killer truck chases a guy up and down California and crashes into a lot of stuff - 7/10

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    BATTLE ROYALE (2000) - Proof the Japanese are crazy

    Director Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale is a film adaptation of Koushun Takami's controversial novel of the same name. The basic theme of the novel dealt with a dystopian vision of Japan in which the govenrment randomly selects a class of high schoolers and sends them to a deserted island where upon arrival they will be given weapons and forced to kill each other until only one remains. Of course, Japan being Japan, this is only slightly controversial. After all, Japan also got nuked twice, gave the world Godzilla and weird anime fetishes, and they tend to eat some weird shit as well. On to the film however...

    Battle Royale is a movie that for very obvious reasons could not have been made in the US. The plot of the film closely follows that of the novel, with the same premise of high schoolers forced to kill their friends (and rivals) off on an abandoned island. Watching it for the first time was a pretty crazy experience: it's very gory, it's shocking and probably even more troubling is the fact that it is a very funny movie. It's a macabre sensation to watch kids hacking at each other with sickles or shooting one another with Uzis and handguns while they yell out hilarious lines. With the differences in culture between America and Japan, especially the American problems with school violence and what not, this movie would've been cut to shreds by every morality group out there. But thankfully we have Japan, that wonderfully twisted, crazy archipelago where making weird movies is not only okay, but seems to have been embraced as a national pastime.

    It was probably the funky haircuts if you asked me.
    We are introduced to the primary protagonist, Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara), who after coming home to find his father had committed suicide finds himself unable to really care about his life anymore. Most of his classmates, including his best friend Nobu Yoshitoki, generally don't give a damn about life and go around school being assholes and causing trouble. In the first couple scenes, we see that Nobu has attacked the class teacher Kitano with a knife, leading to the teacher's hasty resignation. A girl, Noriko Nakagawa, is crushing on Nanahara and helps his best friend avoid capture.

    Word of advice: don't stab your teachers. They might put you on a deserted island and force you to kill your friends.
    A few months later as the students near their graduation, the class is sent on an end of the year trip. Aboard their bus, they get kidnapped, knocked out, and wake up to find silver electronic necklaces put on them. Some military men show up and drag the kids into an abandoned building where it's revealed that the ex-teacher Kitano is working with the government Battle Royale educational reform program. Kitano explains (with the help of a cheerful video presentation) that only one of them will be able to leave the island alive. They must kill each other off, and each student is given a duffel bag with some food, water, maps, a compass and a random weapon - some kids get shotguns, knives or a taser, and poor Nanahara gets a pot lid. Kitano is a pretty sick guy: he kills a girl outright for whispering during his instructions, and ends up blowing up the necklace on Nanahara's best friend's neck, killing poor Nobu and making Nanahara royally pissed (get it... get it?)

    No, Nanahara, he's not. In fact, it looks like he's got an axe sticking out of his head.
    After they get their duffel bag of goodies, the 40 or so kids are off and they have three days to kill each other off. At the end of the third day, if a single survivor hasn't emerged, all of the necklace bombs will go off killing them all. Thus begins the twisted and brutal game of hide and seek between the students. Some of them band together and try to avoid conflict. Some take a liking to the game and have fun shooting and stabbing their classmates. The story then begins to revolve around the basic issue of trust and personal survival. It's a really interesting concept pulled off in a bizarrely attractive fashion. Despite the massive amounts of bloodshed, the violence isn't really the end result the viewer is drawn towards. Instead, you're wondering who Nanahara and his tag along love interest Noriko can trust, if anyone. Good friends might just try and shoot you in the eye with a crossbow, after all. Most interesting of all, it begs to ask yourself the question, how would I do if my class was the one sent to the island? Which of your friends would gladly bust a cap on you, and which could you trust?

    TL;DR - Japanese high school students forced to kill each other on a deserted island because they dont behave in class - 9/10