23 October 2006

The Marine

Cena not Stallone

From the opening scene, I felt like I was back in the 80s with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Lundgren, Segal, Weathers, and/or Van Damme. This had that same generic action film feel. Basically, what I am trying to say is, I was in heaven. I miss a good old action movie every now and then. This felt that way. I was ready for the next Stallone. I was hoping that Cena could maybe franchise on this and become the next Rambo. Read below for my results.I

t opens with John Triton, John Cena, in Iraq at a terrorist camp. He is there to do some reconnaissance for the Marines. The bad guys have three American troops tied and bound and ready to be slain. Triton is told to wait for the back-up to show. Of course, there is no time, and he goes in alone, just like Jack Bauer in season four of 24. He takes out 7 or 9 hostiles in his saving of the 3 troops. Cut to a weight room scene in Germany. Triton is then honorably discharged because of his service, but discharged nonetheless for disobeying a direct order. So, we see him come back to his home in South Carolina to his beautiful wife Kate, played by Kelly Carlson of Nip/Tuck fame.

Now, Robert Patrick enters the film as sociopath Rome. He is the leader of the 5-member posse of jewel thieves. They rob a jewelry store of multi millions of dollars in diamonds. It is a very elaborate and fun robbery. They then proceed to blow up a police car and escape.

Back to Triton. John goes to work as a security guard at a building. After an obvious confrontation, he is fired and the fight is caught on tape. He and his wife decide to go on a road trip to try and help him acclimate to the civilian life.

Now, here is where the story is pure eighties. While the Triton family is filling up their Lincoln Navigator’s gas tank, the band of thieves show up at the same gas station to fill their gas tank. A police cruiser Camero shows up. The bad guys get jumpy, and kill them. This prompts John to try and save his wife, but he his knocked down. The bad guys steal his Navigator and his wife. They also blow up the gas station; the only survivor is of course John, somehow. John calls the police on the trashed cruiser’s CB radio. He then goes into pursuit of the robbers. After a fun, but kind of ordinary, car chase, they think that they have killed Triton. But you can’t kill Triton. A humorous reference to The Terminator which Patrick was part of the sequel was made. That was probably the only funny line in the movie. A few were uttered by Rome, but Morgan’s, another of the posse, were just plain awful.

More action ensues, more explosions, more fights, and more weird and pointless story lines. They attempted a plot twist, but it was obvious. More humor was attempted, but again, not funny. In the climactic finale, Triton jumps onto a semi truck cab being driven by Rome. Kate is handcuffed to the truck cab in the back. After being driven through a few buildings, Triton finally loses his grip. But that doesn’t stop him. Rome dives out of the semi as its plummets into the lake with Kate trapped inside. After a five minute, terribly awful and unbelievable fight, Triton jumps in and gets her out. Attempts CPR, but Rome is not dead yet. He attacks Triton like the final villain in Die Hard. Luckily, Kate is revived and the day is saved.

Now, I know that I used the word “unbelievable” up the above paragraph. I know that there is a lot more in this movie that is unbelievable, but, when watching this movie, I have a certain amount that I let slide. But in the end, it pushed that limit too far. I would have given this movie a 7, maybe even an 8 if it were not for the terrible finale. There were other factors that I left out as to why I rate this movie as low as I did. I typically like action movies. I especially like mindless action movies. But I had high hopes for this, and it fell short. Cena as an actor was not that great, but that was not shocking. Unfortunately, this was not in the same league as Predator, Rambo, Under Siege, or even Time Cop. But for a first go at it, not too shabby.

Verdict: Rent it if you want to, but it is not worth $10. I only paid $4 because I found a theater that has early matinee prices on Saturday and Sunday.

18 October 2006

The Departed

When I went to see The Departed this past weekend, I was worried that I would be let down. I was worried that I just wouldn’t get it. Or that the critics were just way out there and that I would just flat out not like it. My initial reaction at the end of the film was, “Wow! That was the greatest movie I have seen in years!” Upon further reflection, my reaction remains the same. If you have not seen this film, make it a point to do so. I have been impressed with some action movies as of late, but the dramas and Oscar contenders have not been there. This is the second movie that I have seen this year that I think should be nominated for Best Picture, among many other nominations. They only other movie that I have felt remotely close to this with was Jason Reitman’s satire, Thank You For Smoking.

The Departed was a nice, fresh mobster film from genre vet Martin Scorsese. I enjoyed his bio picture, The Aviator, last year, but it was not this good. After Bringing Out the Dead, I was not sure that Scorsese would ever be the same. Then came Gangs of New York, it was a good movie, but not this good. Two years ago, Scorsese was out-directed by Academy Award winner, now two-time winner, Clint Eastwood. I have to say, this year, Martin Scorsese has set the bar awfully high for Mr. Eastwood.

After thinking about this movie, I found no faults with it. With such a large and diverse cast, I would have thought that someone would have stood out as the bad apple. Not the case here. Each actor was superb. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a phenomenal performance as Billy Costigan. He is a Boston Police Recruit that is set-up to be kicked out and then go undercover as a rat in Costello’s mob. Leo should earn his third Oscar nod this year. Jack Nicholson portrays Frank Costello. He is the take-no-prisoners mob leader. Look for a nomination here for Jack this year making it his thirteenth. Matt Damon plays Boston State Police Detective Colin Sullivan. He is the police leak to Frank. Matt could be looking at his first nomination since Good Will Hunting. Other actors not be overlooked are Alec Baldwin as the leader of the Organized Crime Unit, Martin Sheen as the Police Chief and one of two people who know the true identity of Billy Costigan, and Mark Wahlberg as the other who knows the identity. He is a quick-witted, smart-mouthed police officer. Each of these performances along with the rest of the cast, were exceptional.

The story centers on the Boston police trying to take down the organized crime leader Frank Costello. They have a whole division set up to concentrate on this. Sullivan infiltrates this police organization and helps keep Frank one step ahead of the police. On the other side of things, the police have Billy Costigan infiltrate Frank’s mob and keep the cops in step with Costello. Both sides of the law are then faced with trying to smoke out the rat in their organization. Each side is aware of the leak, and both sides try and plug it. They race to see who can find the leak and shut the other one down. People are caught in the crossfire both figuratively and literally with both sides taking casualties. Both rats are battling with hiding their true identities as the other side gets closer and the leaders narrow the search. Loyalty is tested. Time is tested.

A friend asked me, who hasn’t seen the movie, if it is like The Godfather where you are pulling for the bad guy. In this movie, you can chose which character you pull for. I think that most people are going to be pulling for Leonardo.

For the whole two hours and twenty odd minutes, we are treated to a violent, brutal, gritty portrayal of cops and robbers. Everything is right with this movie. The directing, the acting, the script, the music, the editing, everything.

I know that this movie is based on the Japanese film Infernal Affairs. I recently purchased this movie off the Internet and currently I am waiting its arrival. I know that Brad Pitt bought the US rights to it and that he and ex-wife Jennifer Aniston produced it. I am looking forward to watching the original. I have heard that it is fantastic. I also heard that the two films, despite their likenesses, they also have their differences. I cannot wait to see the other one. I will write my review for that later.

I feel that I have not even scratched the surface as to the greatness of this film.

Verdict: See this movie, at least once. It can only get better with more viewings. On a scale of 1 to 10, this movie is at least a 10.

11 October 2006

Crank

Crank it UP!

Last night, I had the privilege of viewing Jason Statham’s latest action phenomenon. He is an action guru. Crank was one of the freshest action movies I have seen in a very long time. The opening scene scared me though. It showed Statham’s character, Chelios, walking toward to camera and his voiceover stating that he would be dead in an hour. This only reminded me of the beginning to American Beauty, one of my least favorite Best Picture winners, but that is a different story for a different day. Now, before reading further, remember, I am a huge action movie junkie.

Other than the opening scene, it has no more ties to American Beauty. The movie cuts to Chelios waking up and feeling hung over, but not from drinking, we soon find out. He finds a DVD cleverly labeled to get his attention. Once viewed, he realizes that he has about an hour to live due to a drug in his system. He is going to die due to a hit that he performed for a drug cartel. He is going to die from a drug. Irony?

So, we follow Chelios on his quest for final revenge on the people that did this to him. He discovers that adrenaline keeps him alive. That leads to a hilarious montage of ways to keep his blood pumping. We see waffle irons, fights, head banging to “Achy Breaky Heart,” stealing Red Bull, stealing caffeine pills, stealing cop motorcycles, and more in his quest to keep his adrenaline pumping.

As the movie progresses, we meet his drug addict girlfriend Eve, played by Amy Smart. She is a totally different character from anything she has played. She was excellent. Amy needs to bank on movies as much as possible now that Smith was cancelled after 3 episodes. We also meet a friend of his, Kaylo, played by Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite. This was another interesting change of character for Efren Ramirez. He plays a gay guy that I am not really sure how he knows Chelios, or what his connection to him is, or what exactly Kaylos does. But he was funny. Dwight Yoakam plays Doc Miles, that I am pretty sure is not a licensed practitioner. He helps keep Chelios going.

In the end, Chelios comes face to face with the last of the bad guys in a helicopter fight. The gunfight leading to this point was decent. The plot got a little thick at the end. By a little, I mean, it added a few things, but nothing major. I do enjoy a little plot with my explosions and bullets. Great last shot to end film, too. Enough said about the story.

While on the subject of the last shot, the directing was awesome. It was like Grand Theft Auto meets MTV. For the 80 odd minutes of the film, I was never bored or looking at my watch. The directing was frantic, but that was the pace and point ogf the film. This was the directing debut of both Mark Neveldine and Brain Talyor. They both wrote the film as well. I anxiously look forward to their next venture.

On a final note before my verdict, there was a chase scene with a VW Rabbit convertible. I love Volkswagen.

Verdict: pay the money to see this in theaters if you like loud movies. If not, rent it so you can turn it down. But, see this movie, especially fi you are an action junky like yours truly.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

3 Fast, 3 Furious: Let this be the last.

I had the displeasure of watching this piece of garbage in the comfort of my own home. Thank goodness for that. I didn't understand the movie from the get-go. A piece of white trash races his suped up jalaopy against a football player's daddy's Viper. OK, fine. But then, the race was lame, but original. But then, the rich kids get off completely clean. Not for our hero WHITE TRASH BOY. Our superhero then has to go to Tokyo to live with his Naval father who happens to be building a classic Camero, I mean Mustang, in a garage.

For some reason, White Trash Boy, or WTB for short, ends up at a school with Bow Wow, not to be confused with his formal self Lil Bow Wow. In 30 years, he will be Ol Bow Wow. They become BFF. Now, on their first day of meeting, they go to a parking garage where they drift. A style of racing where the cars slide around corners as opposed to turn around them. This is where I totally gave up on the movie. Not because of the drifting, but because of the Yakuza. That's right, the Japanese mafia. The best drifter, DK, for Donkey King, I mean, Drift King, is a child molester. He and WTB are fighting over the same girl. So, being all macho, WTB challenges him. Why? He doesn't know how to drift. He barely knows the girl. And he certainly doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of beating the DK.

After the loss, there is an attempt at a plot in which a guy that loaned him a car to destroy becomes a new BFF but he is ripping off the Yakuza. He teached WTB how to drift. The GF knows how to drift, too. But she doesn't race.So, it all comes down to the final conflict in which WTB has to clear his name or the Yakuza will have his head. "What is WTB's solution to the problem?" you ask. Well, since you asked, he decides they will race for it. Of course, this is ok with the Yakuza. DK choses the course that only he has finished. So, remember that Mustang? They make that into a drift car for WTB to compete in. Well, he wins, clearing himslef with the Yakuza and becoming the new DK.

Vin Diesel makes a terrible cameo at the end. Just thought I would ruin that, too. Well, actually, I tell you in hopes that you feel that you have seen this movie and do not waste time and/or money on it.Another problem with the film is that you cannot recognize the cars that they are driving. They have too big of body kits, too much paint, and too much other crap on them to even tell what they are.

One plus, all the driving is real. No CGI. That is impressive. I just don't understand why eveything in this film had to suck. Not that I was expectng anything better after the very bad first sequel. To sum it up, this movie could have been improved had they cast Paul Walker instead of Lucas Black.

Verdict: STAY AWAY FOR YOUR OWN GOOD!

09 October 2006

Goal

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAL!!!

You can count the amount of soccer movies made on a little more than one hand. Now, I am a big soccer fan, but soccer movies are typically not worth the watch. Actually sports movies in general are not worth the watch. They are all the same. When I think back, the only ones that really stand out in my mind are Major League, Remember the Titans, Rocky, Mystery Alaska, and Cool Runnings. Of course I missed a few good ones in there, but that was a quick list. When it comes to Goal! The Dream Begins, however, I might have to add this to my list. I was a big fan of Bend it like Beckham, but this one is better. Both movies focused on race and being out of place, and the love of the game.

The movie opens with the lead, Santiago, and his family sneeking over the Amreican border. Little Santiago loses his soccer ball, and has to leave it behind. Cut to now. Santiago and his father work for a landscaper doing lawn maintanece. Santiago plays soccer on the weekends with a local league. There he is a star. An Englishman, that used to be an agent and player, just happens to be at the game, offers him a try out in England. Now, I don't know how much you know about soccer, but England is the Mecca of soccer. The only catch is, Santiago has to find his own way there. His father warns him that if he leaves America, he can't get back in because he was illegal to begin with. He goes against his father and goes back across the border to catch a flight over to England. This all takes place in the first 40 minutes of the 2 hour story. It felt longer, but it was not slow or boring at all.

Now, he has his try out in the rain. It is a totally different game in the rain and mud. Santiago, being from LA, does not fair well on the pitch. So, he is cut. But determination gets him back in. He eventually makes the reserver team. From there, he befriends the team captain, gets mixed up in parties, finds a girl, and becomes a star.

I have left a lot out of the plot ad story because I would hate to ruin this movie. It has great emotional parts. Being illegal comes back to haunt him. His family plays a big part. His relationships with teammates and girlfriend move to movie along.

Despite its slowness that is NOT felt, it was a stupendous film that makes me mad that I did not get to see it in theaters. This is the first movie of a trilogy. The studio spent $100 million on the whole trilogy. Soccer movies do not have the box office draw in America, or anywhere for that matter. This great film should have had a budget closer to $10 million instead of $33 million. The second one is being finished now, but I doubt that they will finish the third after the second only makes $4 million like the first.

If you like sports movies at all, rent this movie and enjoy it. Then go see the second in theaters to help get to the third. This could be a great trilogy, I just hope I get to see it all.

Verdict: worth the $5 rent.

Akeelah and the Bee

Akeelah and the T-R-I-T-E, trite.

This movie could not have been more cliche. Here is a girl, Akeelah, who happens to be smart in a city school in south California. It is not "cool" for her to be smart. She decides not to do the spelling bee because she does not want to be made fun of. So, the principal, Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, catches her skipping class and makes a deal with her to not be in trouble if she participates in the school bee.


Well, to make a short story shorter, she wins the school bee. Lawrence Fisburne plays a washed up UCLA professor that was once a competitor in the bee. He becomes her trainer. I did not know that they needed training. I did learn interesting strategies if I ever decide to compete spelling bees, professionally. Her mom is a single mom, Akeelah's father was shot and killed before the start of the movie, but apparently, he loved words. Her mother does not approve of the bee because, well, I don't really know. She compares being out late studying words to her older son out late with the local gangster.


Well, Akeelah goes on to finish third in the region behind her new found Spanish friend Javier and the Asian spelling guru Dillon. He has finished second 2 years in a row and this is his year, according to his overbearing father.


So, they go to the National Spelling Bee where she ends up in the final 2 against, you guessed it Dillon. I don't want to give the ending away, but, her whole community is behind the little poor girl from the ghetto, and not the idea that its not cool to be smart. Yay! When finished with this movie, I wanted to watch something violent, with explosions and gunfights, and I was mentally drained from all the big words.

Was it worth the $5 rent?


Verdict: Not really. I say cable is the best bet for this one. If I want an inspirational movie, I watch Rocky. If I want an underdog movie, I watch Dodgeball.