Friday, December 30, 2011

"Colombiana" (2011)

Starring Zoe Saldana, Cliff Curtis and Lennie James
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Running Time: 108 Minutes

Sometimes the enjoyment of a film comes not from the film itself, but from the audience.  B-movies of this type are a good counterpoint to serious films.

A young girl witnesses her parents' murder at the hands of Colombian gang lords.  She uses her father's stolen information on the organization to buy her way into the United States, where she goes to live with her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis).  She asks him to teach her to be a killer so she can get revenge on the people who murdered her parents.

Fifteen years later, Cataleya Restrepo (Zoe Saldana) is a contract killer for hire.  Her uncle locates members of the Colombian gang that killed her parents in America and she pulls off elaborate infiltration schemes to murder them, frustrating FBI investigators who believe they are tracking a serial killer.  Hot on Cataleya's trail is FBI Agent Ross (Lennie James), who begins to uncover a greater plot involving his serial killer when his leads start pointing toward the CIA.  When he tries to get information out of CIA Agent Richard (Callum Blue), he's shut down.  It turns out Richard is in league with drug lord Don Luis, now residing in the US.  Don Luis knows Cataleya is after him and his organization, and sends his top man, Marco (Jordi Molla) to stop her.

Cataleya is getting closer to Don Luis, who is getting more desperate to stop her.  Ross gets a big break when Cataleya's sort-of boyfriend makes a tactical error and takes a picture of her with his cell phone.  Now, with her identity blown, Cataleya must go on the run and force a final confrontation with Marco and Don Luis to get her revenge.

"My Sister's Keeper" (2009)

Starring Abigail Breslin, Cameron Diaz and Sofia Vassilieva
Written by Jeremy Leven, Doug Liman and Nick Cassavetes
Directed by Nick Cassavetes
Rated PG-13: Mature content, disturbing images
Running Time: 109 Minutes

Sometimes a movie comes along and reminds you of all the joy of life and going to the movies.  "My Sister's Keeper" is not one of those movies.

Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) was engineered.  Her birth was designed, and her entire life devoted to being a donor for her older sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) who suffers from Leukemia.  As Kate begins to suffer from renal failure, the only option to keep her alive is to take one of Anna's kidneys.  Doing so will affect Anna's quality of life for the rest of her existence.  When Anna makes the bold decision to sue her parents for 'medical emancipation,' it begins to tear the family apart.

Anna's mother Sara (Cameron Diaz) is appalled by Anna's decision, and intends to fight it.  Before she quit to take care of Kate, she was a lawyer, and she uses those skills to fight her daughter's lawyer, Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin). 

The story of "My Sister's Keeper" is told in a loose, non-linear fashion.  While it may seem like the legal fight for Anna's rights to make her own medical decisions might be the focal point of the movie, the truth is that it takes a back seat to simply telling the story of the family throughout different periods of Kate's life.  While this makes "My Sister's Keeper" more of a sentimental picture, it also makes it kind of a dull one.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Season Four (1995)

Starring Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn
Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

Though not at war, the Season Three finale had proved to Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) that the conflict with the Dominion was already in motion.  The Founders had tried to start a war between the Federation and a neighboring empire.  As Season Four opens, that plan continues.  A massive Klingon fleet arrives at Deep Space Nine led by a General Martok (J.G. Hertzler), claiming to be there to shore up the Federation's defenses should the Jem'Hadar invade.  But Sisko, suspicious of these motives, recruits Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), late of the Starship Enterprise, to get to the bottom of the matter. 

Worf discovers the Dominion has planted intelligence that the ruling council of Cardassia has been replaced by shapeshifters, prompting the Klingon Empire to launch an attack.  Sisko, knowing the way the Founders work, takes the Defiant into Cardassian space and rescues Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) and the ruling council, but in doing so triggers the ire of Klingon Chancellor Gowron (Robert O'Reilly).  Gowron dissolves the peace treaty between the Klingon Empire and the Federation.

Throughout the course of the year, Worf and the rest of the DS9 crew will deal with the growing threat of war with the Klingons, as well as more incursions by the Dominion.  The changeling threat to the Federation becomes ever more present when they detonate a bomb at an important diplomatic conference on Earth.  And for Constable Odo (Rene Auberjonois), reuniting with his people may prove to be equally dangerous as he must face their judgment for becoming the first changeling to kill another.

"The Expendables: Extended Director's Cut" (2011)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li
Written by David Callaham and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Rated R- Language, intense violence, gore
Running Time: 114 Minutes

Sylvester Stallone's action epic "The Expendables" never really felt like it capitalized on its potential, to me.  It wasn't quite as over-the-top as I'd hoped, and most of the much-hyped cast had little more than cameo appearances.  Still, some of the action was wild and cool, and as I'm always interested in checking out director's cuts and alternate versions, I dove into the extended director's cut of "The Expendables" eagerly.

The plot has not changed: Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) leads a team of mercenaries called the Expendables.  They're hired by Church (Bruce Willis) to kill the dictator of a small South American country where a rogue CIA agent has set up a lucrative cocaine business.  Barney, with his teammates Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and mentor Tool (Mickey Rourke), are betrayed by former teammate Gunner Jansen (Dolph Lundgren) and decide they have to take on the mission to save an innocent country and reclaim their honor. 

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011)

Starring James Franco, John Lithgow and Andy Serkis
Written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence
Running Time: 105 Minutes

I've seen some truly outright terrible prequels.  And some really awesome ones. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" thankfully falls into the latter category. 

Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer's, and has created a viral gene therapy he believes will allow the human brain to repair itself.  After his most promising ape trial goes wrong and the investors pull out, Will rescues an infant chimpanzee from being put down.  He takes the chimp home, where he lives with his father Charles (John Lithgow), who suffers from Alzheimer's.  Charles is immediately taken with the chimp, and names him Caesar (Andy Serkis). 

Will soon learns that Caesar is no ordinary chimp.  The enhanced genes of his mother have been passed to him, and he shows incredible intelligence as he matures.  At the same time, Will sneaks home some of his defunct viral research and tests it on Charles, and Charles begins to recover from his disease.  One day, after Charles suffers a relapse and damages their neighbor's (David Hewlett) car, Caesar comes to his rescue and bites off the neighbor's finger.  Will is ordered to surrender Caesar to an Animal Control primate facility. 

In this facility, Caesar begins to understand the mistreatment of his people at the hands of humans.  The facility administrator, Landon (Brian Cox) is uncaring and corrupt, while his son Dodge (Tom Felton) who handles the apes themselves, is outright cruel.  Only the dim-witted Rodney (Jamie Harris) shows any kindness to the apes.  Caesar quickly begins to understand what has happened to him, and manages to break out of the facility, steal some of Will's virus, and begins to teach the other apes to rise up against their oppressors.

Monday, December 19, 2011

'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Season Three (1994)

Starring Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor and Colm Meaney
Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

At the end of Season Two, the crew of Deep Space Nine had come face to face with a dangerous new enemy, the Jem'Hadar, vicious soldiers of the Dominion.  As Season Three opens, Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) has brought a new weapon back to the station: the starship Defiant, a ship he helped build years earlier to defeat the Borg.  Now, with first officer Major Kira (Nana Visitor), Lieutenant Dax (Terry Farrell), Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig), Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney) and Constable Odo (Rene Auberjonois) set off into the Gamma Quadrant to locate the Founders.

Sisko's hope is to convince the Dominion that the Federation is peaceful, and that they have no desire for war.  Unfortunately, he soon discovers the Dominion does not feel the same.  The crew discovers that the Founders are changelings, and that Odo is one of their lost children.  They beg Odo to return to them and help them lead the Dominion, but he rejects them and their ways. 

As the year progresses, the shadow of the Dominion looms large over the Alpha Quadrant.  Governments become fearful of changeling infiltrators, and new alliances are formed to fight them.  By year's end, two galactic superpowers will be ruined, Odo will have committed the worst crime in the history of his people, and the Founders will have made their first moves to conquer the Federation.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Trails: "The Dark Knight Rises"

I've spoken about movie trailers in relation to the final films in my posts before.  In this new series, I will be talking about new trailers for upcoming movies. Trailers give us a glimpse into a film, sometimes accurately, sometimes not, to help us decide whether we want to see it.

There are two previews out now for Christopher Nolan's hightly-anticipated "The Dark Knight Rises," sequel to "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight."  Firstly, there is a theatrical trailer attached to prints of "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."  Secondly, there is a six-minute opening sequence playing before IMAX showings of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol."

Both of these things are awesome.

Firstly, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" are both excellent flicks.  They have some flaws, to be sure, but the joy I've experienced watching both over and over has never begun to wane.  So to say that I'm excited for "The Dark Knight Rises" is a bit like saying that the opening of "Saving Private Ryan" depicts a minor skirmish in a limited conflict.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (2011)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Noomi Rapace
Written by Kieran Mulroney and Michele Mulroney
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language, brief nudity
Running Time: 128 Minutes

"More of the same" is sometimes what you can call sequels of this ilk.  But when it's enjoyable, is that really a problem?

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is investigating the biggest case of his career.  The world's greatest detective not named Bruce Wayne has connected a series of crimes and terrorist acts to one Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), but is unable to prove it.  Tensions are rising between France and Germany as a series of bombings in both countries point towards the other.  Holmes' brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) warns Holmes that a summit is approaching, and that war between the two powers may be inevitable.

Meanwhile, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) is about to be married to his fiancee Mary (Kelly Reilly).  Holmes uses Watson's bachelor party as an excuse to track down a Gypsy woman named Sim, whose brother is somehow connected to Moriarty's plans.  But Moriarty informs Holmes that he cannot allow Holmes to interrupt his schemes, nor can he ignore Watson's involvement in them, and sends a hit squad to kill Watson and Mary on their honeymoon.  Holmes intervenes, rescuing the two, and he and Watson set off to France with Sim to find her brother, uncover Moriarty's nefarious plan and stave off worldwide war.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" (2011)

Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg
Written by Andre Nemec and Josh Applebaum
Directed by Brad Bird
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 132 Minutes

The "Mission: Impossible" franchise is a slightly weird one.  Each movie is pretty self contained save for star Tom Cruise as super-spy Ethan Hunt and Ving Rhames as his sidekick, Luther.  Each film has a different director and generally even a different filming style.  Oh, and they alternate between short-haired Tom Cruise and long-haired Tom Cruise.  Don't ask me why that is.

The fourth entry in the series, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" is directed by acclaimed, fan-favorite animation director Brad Bird, who previously directed films like "The Iron Giant" and the Pixar hit, "The Incredibles."  "Ghost Protocol" is Bird's live-action direction debut, and he knocks it out of the park.

The film opens with IMF Agent Hanaway (Josh Holloway) being gunned down after stealing important documents from a courier.  Not long after, two IMF agents, Jane Carter (Paula Patton), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), break Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out of a Russian prison in Moscow.  Hunt and his team are tasked with breaking into the Kremlin to retrieve documents that may lead them to a mad terrorist named Cobalt (Michael Nyqvist).  But Cobalt is one step ahead of them, setting off a bomb that decimates the Kremlin, and places the blame squarely on Hunt and his team.

The IMF is disavowed by the President, and tensions between Russia and the United States escalate.  Now on the run from both the United States and Russian authorities, Hunt and his team, including a mysterious analyst named Brandt (Jeremy Renner) must work alone and off the grid to find Cobalt and stop him from starting a nuclear war that would destroy the entire world.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Trails: "Battleship"

I've spoken about movie trailers in relation to the final films in my posts before.  In this new series, I will be talking about new trailers for upcoming movies. Trailers give us a glimpse into a film, sometimes accurately, sometimes not, to help us decide whether we want to see it.


 Uh... So I've played "Battleship," and I really don't recall aliens being part of it.  Like, ever.  This is a really strange direction to take this franchise.  It obviously wants to capitalize on the success of Michael Bay's "Transformers" films, which to date have brought in over two and a half billion dollars at the box office.  But more than just saying "from the dudes who brought you 'Transformers,'" the trailer for "Battleship" actually seems to crib a lot of the style of those films, as well.

Happy Trails: "GI Joe: Retaliation"

I've spoken about movie trailers in relation to the final films in my posts before.  In this new series, I will be talking about new trailers for upcoming movies. Trailers give us a glimpse into a film, sometimes accurately, sometimes not, to help us decide whether we want to see it.

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" is the sequel to 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" directed by Stephen Sommers.  "Retaliation" is directed by Jon M. Chu, and features almost an entirely different cast from the original. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Limitless" (2011)

Starring Bradley Cooper, Robert de Niro and Abbie Cornish
Written by Leslie Dixon
Directed by Neil Burger
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language, drug use
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Playing out like a Phillip K. Dick story, "Limitless" stars Bradley Cooper as a failing writer who comes into possession of a secret weapon.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a writer... so he tells himself.  He currently has a book contract with a publisher, but his deadline is approaching and he hasn't written a single word.  He lives in a crappy apartment that he can't keep clean, he can barely pay his rent, and to make matters worse, his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) dumps him.  Just as Eddie wonders how much worse his life can get, he has a chance encounter with his ex brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth).  Vernon used to be a drug dealer, but he assures Eddie that he's no longer in that game.

Instead, he tells Eddie that he consults for a pharmaceutical company which has just created something new and extraordinary: NZT, which Vernon claims will allow Eddie to utilize the full potential of his brain.  Eddie refuses, but ends up taking one of Vernon's free samples, and immediately realizes that Vernon's claims are true.  His intelligence, his charm, his confidence, everything is boosted and soon Eddie finds himself entering a whole new world.  He finishes his book, and his publisher is astonished by its quality.  He begins to trade stocks and quadruples his money.

He goes back to Vernon to get more, but finds Vernon murdered and his apartment ransacked.  Eddie steals the rest of Vernon's stash of NZT and begins to set himself up for life.  He becomes a shooting star on Wall Street and quickly gains the attention of high roller Carl Van Loon (Robert de Niro) who wants him to consult on a very important merger.  Unfortunately, Eddie has also run afoul of Russian mobster Gennady (Andrew Howard) who loaned him his initial startup capital. 

With his life quickly spiraling out of control, Eddie must figure out how to find more NZT before withdrawal kills him, or before the Russians do, or before he ends up costing Carl Van Loon millions and millions of dollars if the merger fails.

"The Next Three Days" (2010)

Starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks and Lennie James
Written by Paul Haggis, Fred Cavaye and Guillame Lemans
Directed by Paul Haggis
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence, drugs
Running Time: 133 Minutes

Not every movie needs to be a big tent-pole, AAA feature.  Sometimes you gather together a cast around a good script and you just make a solid movie that is entertaining, clever and dramatic and that's enough. 

Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) is arrested and convicted of murdering her boss in a parking garage after they'd gotten into a fight at work.  Her husband John (Russell Crowe), a teacher at a local community college, exhausts his resources looking after theirs on Luke (Ty Simpkins) and attempting to prove his wife's innocence.

When his lawyer (Daniel Stern) informs him that they have lost their appeal and that Lara will spend the rest of her life in prison, John begins to formulate a plan to break her out of jail and go on the run.  He uses his skills as a college professor to research the possibilities of breaking out prison.  He slowly puts together all the evidence he needs, and puts the pieces of his plan into place, but the truth is that he is not the kind of person who would normally be doing such things. 

John Brennan isn't a hardened criminal, or a take-charge kind of guy.  But he soon begins to realize that in order to get his wife out of prison, he may have to become both. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Friends with Benefits" (2011)

Starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis and Woody Harrelson
Written by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, Will Gluck and Harley Peyton
Directed by Will Gluck
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Rated R - Language, sexual content, nudity
Trailer (Red Band)

I don't care for Justin Timberlake................'s music, but as an actor, I find him to be highly enjoyable to watch.  Toss in a hottie like Mila Kunis, some witty foul language and silly situations, a dash of seriously emotionality and bam, you've got yourself a fun romp on the screen.  Really, romp.  Like, a lot.

Jamie (Mila Kunis) is a headhunter for a leading agency in New York who has been courting Dylan (Justin Timberlake) for six months.  Dylan has made a name for himself as an art director, and Jamie has a prime position lined up at GQ magazine.  Dylan finally accepts Jamie's offer, but Dylan is unsure of leaving behind his life and family in Los Angeles to go to New York, regardless of how prestigious the job may be.

After one night, of course, he's smitten with both the job, the city... and Jamie.  Though the two are merely friends, they hang out a lot and have obvious chemistry with each other.  One night after watching a sappy romantic comedy and drinking a large amount of alcohol, the two discuss the problems with having a sexual relationship with someone without the emotional attachments that usually come along with it.  Of course, the two are drunk enough to enter into an agreement to have sex, but to remain merely friends.

At first, it makes things a little awkward, but soon enough the two are going at it like rabbits.  Really.  Like, a lot.  Everyone around them seems to mistake them for boyfriend and girlfriend, but they both insist that they're just friends.  But eventually it becomes obvious that these two actually have deep feelings for each other, which becomes more and more complicated as each one is too afraid to come out and say it to the other.

Monday, December 5, 2011

'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Season Two (1993)

Starring Avery Brooks, Colm Meaney and Nana Visitor
Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

After the events of Season One, tensions on the planet Bajor are rising.  A group of extremists calling themselves the Circle have begun to spread their "Bajor for Bajorans" propaganda, driving a rift between the Bajorans serving on the station and the Starfleet crew.  Major Kira (Nana Visitor) receives intelligence that a Bajoran war hero named Li Nalas (Richard Beymer) is being held in a Cardassian prison camp, and sees his rescue as a way to repair relations. 

Instead, Nalas is turned into a figurehead by Minister Jaro (Frank Langella), who is soon revealed to be a leader of the Circle, and is plotting a coup to seize control of the Bajoran government.  As his troops march on the capital city, he sends and assault force to capture Deep Space Nine.  Starfleet orders a withdrawal, but Commander Sisko (Avery Brooks) and the rest of the DS9 crew won't give up without a fight.  Sisko, Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney), and Doctor Bashir (Alexander Siddig), fight a guerilla war through the corridors of the station while Kira and Lt. Dax (Terry Farrell) head for Bajor with proof that the Circle's weapons have been supplied in secret by the Cardassians.

Over the course of the next year, the struggle to rebuild Bajor will continue.  The Cardassians will stop at nothing to gain control of the planet, the station, and the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant.  But on the other side of that wormhole, something dark is stirring. A dangerous power in the Gamma Quadrant is taking notice of Starfleet's missions, and the crew begins to hear whispers of something called the Dominion...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Take Me Home Tonight" (2011)

Starring Topher Grace, Dan Fogler and Anna Faris
Written by Jackie Filgo and Jeff Filgo
Directed by Michael Dowse
Rated R - Language, sex, drug use
Running Time: 97 minutes
Trailer (Red Band)

A film designed to evoke memories of John Hughes 80s comedies mixed with the raunchy R-rated comedies popular of late, "Take Me Home Tonight" unfortunately doesn't really succeed in its goals. 

In 1988, Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) is a recent graduate of MIT who feels lost.  Though he's graduated from a prestigious school, he has no idea what he wants to do with his life and feels stuck working at a video store at the mall.  On this night, Matt, along with his best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) and twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris) are going to a massive Labor Day party hosted by Wendy's boyfriend Kyle (Chris Pratt) where Matt hopes to meet up with and impress his high school crush, Tori (Teresa Palmer).

Barry, after spectacularly failing to make a sale at his job at a car dealership, is fired, and he decides that he's going to blow it out tonight at this party.  When Matt has an argument with his father (Michael Biehn) about finding some direction in his life, Barry convinces Matt to join him in stealing a red Mercedes from the car dealership to arrive at the party in style. 

At the party, Matt finally sees is "in" with Tori, and the two begin to hit it off.  Unfortunately, in his attempts to impress her, he told her he worked for Goldman Sachs.  As he grows closer, his guilt over starting their relationship on a lie begins to weigh on him.  Over the course of the night, the party will lead Matt and Tori into a series of adventures that bring them closer, while Barry's attempts at making the night more epic continue to backfire in his face, and Wendy confronts a truth about her status quo that she doesn't want to admit.

'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Season One (1993)

Starring Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor and Colm Meaney
Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

"Deep Space Nine" has, without question, the best first season of any of the modern "Star Trek" series.  Starting right out of the gate with the pilot movie 'Emissary,' "Deep Space Nine" presents a corner of the "Star Trek" universe that is unlike anything else in the franchise's history.

Deep Space Nine is a remote outpost in a sector of space that seems to have little of value.  The station orbits the planet Bajor, built by the occupying forces of the Cardassian Empire.  For decades, the Cardassians ruled Bajor with an iron fist.  But a recent peace treaty with the Federation gives control of the sector back to the Bajorans, who are in no condition to govern themselves.  The Bajoran government invites the Federation to aid them in restoring their world.

In charge of this mission is Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), a Starfleet officer still grieving over the death of his wife several years earlier.  His first officer, a Bajoran liason officer Major Kira (Nana Visitor), is a former resistance fighter who resents the Federation's presence.  The station's crew also consists of Chief Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney), Lt. Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), Doctor Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig), Security Chief Odo (Rene Auberjonois), and is populated by colorful characters like Ferengi bartender Quark (Armin Shimerman), Cardassian spy-slash-tailor Garak (Andrew Robinson), Sisko's son Jake (Cirroc Lofton) and Jake's best friend Nog (Aron Eisenberg).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Star Trek: Enterprise' Season Two (2002)

Starring Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock and Connor Trinneer
Created by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

At the end of Season One, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) was transported to the 29th century by temporal agent Daniels (Matt Winston), but discovered that his absence from history has led to the destruction of the future.  Earth lies in ruins, and Daniels no longer has access to the proper technology to send Archer back to his own time and repair history.  Meanwhile, the Sulban Cabal led by Silik (John Fleck) have captured the Enterprise and torture Sub-Commander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock) to learn Archer's location, not believing that he'd been whisked away to the future.

The rest of the Enterprise crew, Chief Engineer Tucker (Connor Trinneer), Lt. Reed (Dominic Keating), Ensign Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), Ensign Sato (Linda Park) and Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley) concoct a plan to retake the Enterprise from the Suliban.  In the future, Archer and Daniels come up with an equally desperate plan to figure out how to send Archer back through time.

Throughout the rest of the season, the Enterprise crew will get back to their original mission, exploring strange new worlds and meeting new life forms.  They'll make a few new friends, but they'll also encounter new enemies including the mysterious Romulans, and run afoul once more of the violent Klingon Empire.

At the end of the season, Earth suffers a terrible tragedy: an alien probe appears in orbit and fires an incredible weapon that cuts a swath of destruction from Florida to South America, killing some seven million humans.  Archer and the Enterprise crew receive word that a race of beings known as the Xindi are behind the attack, and the Enterprise is ordered to go into a dangerous region of space known as the Expanse in order to find the Xindi and stop them from destroying Earth.  But before he can save Earth, Archer has to deal with the price on his head from the Klingon Empire, and a Klingon captain called Duras who will stop at nothing to regain his honor.

"The Sandlot" (1993)

Starring Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar and Patrick Renna
Written by David M. Evans and Robert Gunter
Directed by David M. Evans
Rated PG - Mild language, peril
Running Time: 101 Minutes

Some movies you just remember, y'know?  You see them when you're young and for whatever reason they stick with you.  They might not be the greatest movies ever made, didn't win any awards, but for whatever reason they make their way into the consciousness of a generation.  "The Sandlot," it turns out, is one of those movies.

Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) is the new kid in town, just moved to the valley in the summer of 1962.  Hoping to make friends, he follows a group of neighborhood boys to an old, run-down baseball diamond they call the Sandlot.  Unfortunately for Smalls, he actually has no idea how to play baseball, and the others make fun of him.  But one boy, Benny Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) teaches him to catch and throw and he is soon welcomed into the group.

Over the course of the summer, Benny, Smalls, and the others including hefty tough-guy Ham (Patrick Renna), nerdy Squints (Chauncey Lombardi), Yeah-Yeah (Marty York), DeNunez (Brandon Adams), brothers Timmy and Tommy-Repeat (Victor DiMattia and Shane Obedzinski) get into a number of different adventures.  They go to a carnival chewing tobacco and end up throwing up all over a fast ride and the other occupants.  They play a pickup game against another local team and crush them - thoroughly.  They get kicked out of the municipal swimming pool when Squints takes his crush on the lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn (Marley Shelton) too far.

But the biggest adventure of them all, the one that will change their lives, comes when Smalls steals a ball signed by Babe Ruth (Art LaFleur) and ends up knocking it over a fence... a fence that separates the Sandlot from the home of mean old Mr. Mertle (James Earl Jones) and his vicious guard dog, The Beast. The ball belongs to Smalls' step-father Bill (Denis Leary), and is, of course, considerably valuable.  Benny, Smalls and the Sandlot gang must risk their lives to get back the ball before Bill returns from his business trip in Chicago and grounds Smalls for-ev-verrr... 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"The Robber" (2010)

Starring Andreas Lust, Franziska Weisz
Written and directed by Benjamin Heisenberg
Rated R - Violence, nudity/sex
Running Time: 101 minutes

It's always interesting to watch a movie and then find out that it's supposedly 'based on a true story.'  "The Robber," a 2010 film shot in Austria, is apparently based on the real life story of a marathon runner who also happened to rob banks.

Johann Rettenberger (Andreas Lust) is a convict recently released from prison.  While serving his sentence for attempted robbery, he has been training to run, circling the prison grounds and then also working on a treadmill in his cell.  When he gets out, he continues his training and begins running actual marathons.  He quickly becomes a national hero after setting a new record, but while his fame increases, he has to hide a particular secret: his marathon training is actually just a cover for the fact that he robs banks.

Johann puts on a mask, whips out a shotgun and uses his running skills to elude the police.  He eventually moves in with a young social worker named Erika (Franziska Weisz) and the two strike up a romantic relationship.  But when she discovers his double life, she turns him in to the police and Johann must go on the run, evading a massive manhunt.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Merantau" (2009)

Starring Iko Uwais, Sisca Jessica and Yusif Aulia
Written and directed by Gareth H. Evans
Rated R - Violence, disturbing images
Running Time: 114 minutes

Seriously, who doesn't like to watch a good ass-whupping?  I could watch martial arts movies all day long (indeed, I have), so I was excited to check out this 2009 Indonesian flick called "Merantau" that I heard mentioned in an interview recently. 

The story concerns a young man named Yuda (Iko Uwais) who must leave his home and family to undergo a sort of coming-of-age ritual.  He must go out into the world to get experience and discover himself for the first time.  Yuda is a master of a martial art known as Silat, and he plans to go to Jakarta to open a school and teach Silat. 

But when he reaches the city, he finds that the place he was supposed to live has been torn down, and he finds himself jobless and homeless.  Before he can consider what to do, his wallet is stolen by a young boy named Adit (Yusif Aulia).  Chasing down the boy, Yuda encounters Astri, Adit's older sister.  Astri is in a fight with her boss Johnny (Alex Abbad) over some money.  Yuda intervenes, rescuing Astri and embarrassing Johnny.  Unfortunately, Johnny was supposed to deliver Astri to a powerful business man named Ratger (Mads Koudai) to be sold as a sex slave. 

Johnny's goons kidnap Astri, forcing Yuda to get involved once more, track down Astri and save her and her brother from a life of misery.  But to do that, he's gonna have to beat up a whole lot of dudes.

'Star Trek: Enterprise' Season One (2001)

Starring Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock and Connor Trinneer
Created by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

Jonathan Archer facial expression 1 of 2
Oh, jeez. 

I'm not even sure where to start, here.  I've already reviewed seasons three and four of this series, because I own them on DVD.  Recently the show became available to stream via Netflix, in HD no less, which prompted me to go "well what the hell" and give it another go.  Since I've been steadily watching through the entire franchise this year, I felt it appropriate.

Set one hundred years before the events of the original "Star Trek," "Enterprise" chronicles the adventures of Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), captain of the first starship Enterprise before the founding of the Federation.  The show opens as a Klingon courier is wounded on Earth while running from alien assassins known as the Suliban.  Captain Archer, against the recommendation of Vulcan ambassador Soval (Gary Graham), decides to transport the Klingon back to his homeworld.  He gathers his crew, including Subcommander T'Pol (Jolene Blalock), chief engineer Charles Tucker (Connor Trinneer), linguist Hoshi Sato (Linda Park), pilot Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley) and weapons officer Malcolm Reed (Dominic Keating). 

Their ship is the NX-01, the first starship constructed by Earth capable of traveling at warp five.  Archer sets out into the galaxy on Earth's first deep-space mission to make contact with the Klingons.  Along the way, however, the Klingon courier is kidnapped by the Suliban, and Archer vows to rescue him.  This introduces Archer to the Temporal Cold War, a conflict raging across not just space, but time.  The Suliban take their orders from a mysterious benefactor in the future that delivers them technology and information to best their foes. 

After making an enemy of the Suliban, Archer is ordered to explore the galaxy.  He vows to make contact with new worlds and new civilizations. But the galaxy is a more dangerous place than he thought, and Archer will find out just what kind of commander he is, and what his crew is capable of.

Y'know, just like a baby gazelle.   ...or something.

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Seven (2000)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo
Created by Rick Berman, Jeri Taylor and Michael Piller
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

Here it is; the end of another seven-year 'Star Trek' saga.  The starship Voyager, after seven years lost in the Delta Quadrant, finds itself closer and closer to home.

As the season opens, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), Commander Tuvok (Tim Russ) and Lt. B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) have infiltrated a Borg cube by allowing themselves to be assimilated into the Borg Collective to help spur a rebellion.  The Borg Queen (Susanna Thompson) is getting closer to discovering the secrets of Unimatrix Zero, putting Janeway and her crew in danger, as well as the lives of countless drones that could be freed from the Queen's oppression.  Meanwhile, Commander Chakotay discovers that the key to stopping the Queen may involve destroying Unimatrix Zero itself, allowing the rebellion to live but cutting off its ability to connect over long distances.

Throughout the year, the crew of Voyager will face more adventures in the depths of unknown space.  Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) will confront her inability to feel the full breadth of human emotion.  Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) participates in an alien race to prove his ability and giving him a chance to propose to Torres.  The Doctor (Robert Picardo) will press forward a campaign for the rights of holograms as artificial life forms.  Commander Chakotay will take a tour of Voyager's past, present and future when the ship is torn into different time periods.

And all along, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schulz) will come closer and closer to devising a strategy for Voyager to return home to Earth.  But doing so may bring Voyager into conflict once again with Starfleet's greatest enemy, the Borg, and a final confrontation between Janeway and the Borg Queen (Alice Krige, this time).

'Nikita' Season One (2010)

Starring Maggie Q, Lyndsy Fonseca and Shane West
Developed by Craig Silverstein
Based on the film "Nikita" by Luc Besson

I don't watch much of the shows offered by the CW network; "Smallville" had long-since become a mere joke, leaving only the hilarious and fun "Supernatural" to make the whole enterprise worthwhile.  But when the CW shows began streaming on Netflix, I found myself with the opportunity to try out "Nikita," the network's new attempt at a straight action-adventure show.

Based on the French film of the same name, "Nikita" is actually a mish-mash of sequel and reboot.  Set six years after the events of the film (also meshed with an earlier TV series called 'La Femme Nikita' that aired on the USA Network in the 1990s), this new series follows former secret agent Nikita (Maggie Q) as she attempts to destroy the organization known as Division.  Division, a government black-ops agency that has gone rogue, is headed by the vicious and conniving Percy (Xander Berkeley), who keeps a series of "black box" hard drives at secret locations around the globe.  On these hard drives are the secrets of five presidential administrations, to be used as blackmail for Percy to continue getting the funding and equipment he needs to use Division as his own personal hit-squad.

Nikita used to be part of Division, their star agent.  But now she uses her knowledge, resources and former contacts to bring them down.  Aiding her is a young mole within Division, discovered and trained by Nikita herself: Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), heir to a former Russian empire, her family destroyed by Division years earlier.  Nikita often faces off against Percy's right hand man, Michael (Shane West), Nikita's former handler.  Alex faces threats from Amanda (Melinda Clarke), Division's lead psychologist, who takes pleasure in manipulating recruits and has terrible methods for divining the truth. 

Nikita and Alex tread carefully, trying to foil Division's missions without raising suspicion about Alex's true allegiances.  Over the course of the season, Nikita will gather new allies in her battle, and discover that Percy is planning a terrible attack on the United States government in order to cement his power.  Nikita and Alex must find the black boxes and stop Percy and Division from plunging the world into war.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Batman: Year One" (2011)

Starring Benjamin McKenzie, Brian Cranston and Eliza Dushku
Written by Tab Murphy
Directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery
Rated PG-13 - Language and violence
Running Time: 65 minutes

The latest DC Animated Universe venture adapts Frank Miller's classic "Year One" storyline, which redefined the origin of Batman in the 1980s.

The film opens as young Bruce Wayne (Benjamin McKenzie) returns to Gotham City after years abroad, training his mind and his body to fight crime.  At the same time, Lt. James Gordon (Brian Cranston) is also coming to Gotham.  But while Wayne is returning on a mission to reclaim Gotham from the scum, Gordon is there has a punishment - transferred after a flap at his previous precinct that branded him as an Internal Affairs rat.

The two find the city a pit of hopelessness and despair.  The Gotham PD is rife with corruption, all the way to the top, with Commissioner Gil Loeb (Jon Polito) in cahoots with local crime lord Carmine "The Roman" Falcone (Alex Rocco).  Gordon's partner, Detective Flass (Fred Tatasciore), is a thug who likes to shake down other thugs for cash and moonlights as an enforcer for Falcone's drug operations.

While Gordon struggles to bring some semblance of ethics to the GPD, he's also trying to come to grips with the concept that his wife is pregnant with their child, and how he can possibly raise a family in such a terrible city.  Meanwhile, Bruce tries to figure out how to make the criminals of Gotham fear him, and ultimately comes across the image of a bat, creating the alternate persona of Batman.

As the year drags on and Batman becomes a real threat to Falcone's criminal empire, Loeb tasks gordon with bringing him in.  At first, Gordon is fine with this mission; he sees Batman as a public threat, a nutjob who goes out at night and beats people up, even if they are criminals.  But as Gordon and new partner Detective Sarah Essen (Katee Sackhoff) witness Batman in action, he begins to realize that the Batman really is a hero, and strives to keep the conflict between Falcone, the GPD and the Batman from turning the city into a warzone. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Six (1999)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo
Created by Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor and Rick Berman
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

When we last left our heroes, the crew of the starship Voyager had encountered another Federation ship, the Equinox, whose crew we discover have been torturing and killing strange aliens in order to use their energy to get home faster.  As season six opens, Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is at odds with her first officer Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) on how to deal with the aliens attacking Voyager and finding and stopping the Equinox. 

Chakotay wants to seek out another race of aliens that may be able to help them, while Janeway is dead-set upon destroying the Equinox and getting revenge against Captain Ransom (John Savage).  Meanwhile, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and the Doctor (Robert Picardo) have been kidnapped by the Equinox crew. It will all lead to a final showdown between the two Starfleet crews, ones who have kept up their morals and standards, and others who are willing to trade the lives of others in order to get home.

Throughout the rest of the season, the starship Voyager will again encounter a variety of strange new cultures and bizarre anomalies.  Seven of Nine will come face to face with her past as she encounters former Borg drones she used to be connected to.  B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) will reexamine her feelings toward Klingon religious beliefs after a strange near-death experience.  Harry Kim (Garret Wang) will (again) fall in love with the wrong woman - this time, the reanimated corpse of a former shipmate.  Kes (Jennifer Lien) returns, older and resentful of her former friends.

And, ultimately, Janeway will come face to face once again with the Borg Collective. This time, Janeway sees an opportunity to bring the Collective crashing down on itself when Seven of Nine discovers a hidden community of rebels hiding inside a Borg virtual reality.  But getting inside will require a dangerous and unorthodox plan.

"Marley & Me" (2008)

Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and Eric Dane
Written by Scott Frank and Don Roos
Directed by David Frankel
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Rated PG - Language, dramatic themes

I know a lovely young woman who I call "Smalls" and she and I disagree on one pretty particular topic: dogs.  I don't really care for them.  They make me uncomfortable.  Smalls, on the other hand, I don't think could live without her puppy.  When I initially rented "Marley and Me" I mentioned it to her, thinking she'd have one reaction, but got another: she told me it was one of the most painful movies she'd ever experienced.

Of course, I didn't understand this, since it was labeled as a comedy.

"Marley & Me," based on the book of the same name, is the story of John Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his wife Jenny (Jennifer Aniston).  They are newlyweds who move to the south of Florida, and both get jobs at newspapers.  Jenny wants to have a child, but John is reluctant, and instead surprises Jenny with a puppy named Marley.  They soon discover that Marley is trouble on four legs.

John begins to write a column about daily life for the paper, most of which seems to revolve around Marley's misadventures, which becomes extremely popular.  Jenny, meanwhile, still yearns to have a child, even as the two of them grow closer to the ever more destructive Marley. 

As the years pass, John and Jenny eventually do have children, outgrow their home, struggle to make ends meet, and more.  Through it all, they deal with their untrainable but lovable dog, Marley, who becomes as integral a part of the family as their own children.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Killer Elite" (2011)

Starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro
Written by Matt Sherring
Directed by Gary McKendry
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Is there a more quintessential action star these days than Jason Statham?  I don't think so.  With his gravely voice, scruffy beard growth and steely gaze, the man appears in action flick after action flick, often driving fast cars and making quick work of various international thugs.  In "Killer Elite," he's back at it again, this time flanked by the legendary Robert De Niro and running up against Clive Owen.

Danny Bryce (Jason Statham) and his partner Hunter (Robert De Niro) begin the film in Mexico in 1980.  They are laying a trap to assassinate someone, but when Danny pulls the trigger he discovers a child in the car and decides he'll never kill again.  A year later, he receives a package informing him that Hunter has been taken prisoner by an exiled Sheik.  The Sheik wants revenge on several British SAS officers who killed his three sons, and he wants Danny to be the one to do it. 

Danny gathers his old associates Davies (Dominic Purcell) and Meier (Aden Young) and goes after the SAS agents.  This gathers the attention of a shadowy group of former SAS men called the Feather Men, now powerful bankers and lawyers, who employ the services of Spike (Clive Owen) to foil Danny's plans.  As Danny gets closer and closer to his goals, the Feather Men become anxious that their organization will be exposed, and begin to clamp down on Spike, but Spike won't have it.  Things grow further complicated when The Agent (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) sets his sites on Danny's girlfriend Annie (Yvonne Strahovski) to make sure that Danny goes through with the mission.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Five (1998)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Robert Picardo and Jeri Ryan
Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

I've felt like Seasons Three and Four of 'Star Trek: Voyager' showed a good deal of improvement, at least in terms of just sheer fun.  The show wasn't getting better in terms of becoming a greater drama, but instead going more for pure, special-effects driven entertainment.

Season Five begins several months after the events of the season four finale, "Hope and Fear."  Now, the Starship Voyager has found itself on a months-long journey through a vast region of space devoid of both stars and planets, causing the crew to begin to suffer from cabin fever.  Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is racked with regret and guilt over her decision years earlier to strand her crew in the far-off reaches of the Delta Quadrant, and locks herself away in her quarters, leaving heavy duties to her first officer, Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran). 

But within the void live a race of beings who evolved in total darkness.  When they board Voyager, Janeway initially believes it to be an attack.  Instead, it is the beings who are in danger from another race known as the Maalon, interstellar waste haulers who are using this empty region of space as a dumping ground for their dangerous radioactive waste products.  In defending these beings from the Maalon, Janeway is once again faced with a difficult decision: help save a race of innocent aliens, or shave a couple years off her crew's journey home.

Over the course of the rest of the season, the crew of the Starship Voyager will encounter more strange, wild new creatures and civilizations.  Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is coerced into rejoining the dreaded Borg Collective.  The Doctor (Robert Picardo) faces a Sophie's Choice that causes a dangerous glitch in his programming.  Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil) disobeys orders to save an alien ocean and is busted down to the rank of Ensign. B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) begins to take ever-increasing risks on the holodeck to deal with her grief over the deaths of her Maquis friends in the Alpha Quadrant. Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) falls in love with a beautiful alien woman, but finds that he's now physically linked to her as well.  Commander Chakotay comes face to face with members of Species 8472 who are planning to invade the Federation.

And at the end of it all, a revelation is made that will change everything: Voyager is not the only Federation starship stranded in the Delta Quadrant.  But the crew of the Starship Equinox are not like the crew of Voyager - they have abandoned their morals and their Starfleet code, brutally torturing aliens to use their bodies as an energy source to get home sooner.

"The Quiet Earth" (1985)

Starring Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge and Pete Smith
Written by Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence and Sam Pillsbury
Directed by Geoff Murphy
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 91 Minutes

I'm sort of a sucker for post-apocalypse stories, I'm not gonna lie.  "The Quiet Earth" came  recommended as a different sort of take on the genre, so I decided to check it out.

Zac (Bruno Lawrence) awakens one morning and finds that everyone else seems to have disappeared.  He searches and searches, but is unable to find any other living human beings.  Trying to discover what happens, he goes to work - it just so happens that Zac works for something called Project Flashlight, part of a world-wide scientific endeavor to create a world-wide energy grid.  He suspects something has gone wrong with the project, but can't seem to corroborate that theory. 

He sets up a radio message asking anyone to contact him, and begins going on trying to fill the time.  Not long after, he quickly starts to go crazy, solitude and guilt taking its toll.  At one point, he even puts the barrel of a gun in his mouth, but ultimately can't go through with it.  Soon after that, he finally meets another survivor: a young woman named Joanne (Alison Routledge), and the two quickly grow close.  They search for other survivors and scavenge for supplies, while Zac attempts to figure out exactly what happened to all the other people.

Eventually, the two meet a third survivor, Api (Pete Smith).  The three begin to grow close, as well, as Zac comes closer to determining what is happening to the universe.  They discover that each of them survived because the moment everyone else disappeared, was their moment of death.  But things are growing worse.  Not only is the sun becoming unstable, but a dangerous love triangle is developing between Zac, Joanne and Api. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Where the Wild Things Are" (2009)

Starring Max Records, James Gandolfini and Lauren Ambrose
Written by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers
Directed by Spike Jonze
Rated PG - Mature themes, violence, frightening images
Running Time: 104 minutes

Though rated PG and based upon a children's book, "Where the Wild Things Are" is far from what might be called a children's movie.  The main character is a child, and many of the characters behave in childish fashion, but again... this is not a film for children.  It may be considered a film about being a child, but I wouldn't be particularly enthused to show it to my children (if I had any).

Max (Max Records) is a young boy with a bit of an over-active imagination.  He spends his time making snow forts, dressing in his wolf costume, and inventing strange stories.  This doesn't quite endear him to others, who see him as a weirdo, and isn't helped by the fact that Max has a tendency to react by throwing increasingly violent temper tantrums.

One night, Max interrupts his mother's date with her boyfriend (Catherine Keener and Mark Ruffalo), throwing another tantrum when his mother won't come and check out his "rocket ship" that he's constructed.  He bites her when she tries to send him to his room without dinner, and then he takes off into the night.  He runs through the woods and eventually comes to a lake and finds a boat on the shore.  The boat takes him to a strange island filled with large creatures.

When the creatures threaten to eat him, Max constructs a story to claim that he is in fact the powerful king of the Vikings, and that the creatures should beware his deadly, head-exploding powers.  They accept him as their king, and he promises to keep them safe and happy and instructs them to construct a massive fortress where they can all live. But that safety and happiness is threatened by the tenuous power he has over his subjects, especially the volatile Carol (James Gandolfini), whose temper rivals Max's but with a key difference - Carol has the strength and power to actually do great damage in his rages.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Four (1997)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Robert Picardo and Jeri Ryan
Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

Season Four is a time of great change for "Star Trek: Voyager."  At the end of Season Three, Voyager finally entered the domain of the Borg, who the crew finds are at war with mysterious and vicious aliens known as Species 8472.

Species 8472 hails from another dimension, a realm of space filled with some kind of dense fluid.  The Borg are unable to withstand the attacks of this species, unable to adapt as they have so often in the past.  Luckily, Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her crew have devised a weapon that can harm them, and formed an alliance with the Borg - safe passage through their space in exchange for the technical specs of the weapon. 

But after their Borg escort is destroyed, Voyager finds itself alone in the war zone, with only a handful of drones to guide them and help construct the weapon.  Among them is Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), a human woman assimilated into the collective years earlier as a young girl.  At the end of the confrontation with Species 8472, Janeway enacts a plan to rescue Seven from the Collective, allowing her to regain her human individuality.

Not long after, Kes (Jennifer Lien) finds that her mental abilities are growing beyond her ability to control them, even to the point of threatening the ship.  So as the crew welcomes a new member, they also must say goodbye to a close friend.  The arrival of Seven of Nine causes much friction amongst the crew, who view her with suspicion and fear.  Seven's almost total lack of social graces often puts her at odds with people who think she's rude and ungrateful.  Over the course of the year, she'll form a special bond with Captain Janeway, whom she comes to see as a mentor and a guide, and Janeway, likewise, sees Seven as almost like a daughter.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew all get to have their own adventures.  The Doctor (Robert Picardo) gets to have an adventure in the Alpha Quadrant in "Message in a Bottle." Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) swaps bodies with an alien identity thief.  Chakotay (Robert Beltran) is drafted into an alien war.  B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) is arrested on a world where violent thoughts are a crime... and a highly sought-after black market commodity.

But the biggest change of all is a moment that the show has been building toward for four years: Voyager finally makes contact with Earth. 

"Buried" (2010)

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jose Luis Garcia Perez and Robert Paterson
Written by Chris Sparling
Directed by Rodrigo Cortez
Rated R - Language, disturbing images/themes
Running Time: 94 Minutes

As a person who is mildly claustrophobic (I don't particularly like full elevators or subway cars, but I can generally deal with them, and the occasional anxiety attack in an extremely crowded room) the concept of waking up buried alive in a coffin is not one that I take to lightly.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is an American contractor working as a truck driver in Iraq in 2006.  After his convoy is attacked, he wakes up buried alive inside a coffin.  He has a few supplies with him: a couple of glowsticks, a malfunctioning flashlight, a Zippo lighter, a flask, his anxiety pills, and a Blackberry cellphone.  At first, Paul attempts to make contact with someone who can help him, including a 911 operator, an FBI agent (Erik Palladino), his wife Linda (Samantha Mathis - daughter of Bibi Besch, aka Dr. Carol Marcus), a personnel representative with his employer (Stephen Tobolowski) and a hostage rescue specialist named Brenner (Robert Paterson).

At the same time, Paul is also in contact with his captor Jabir (Jose Luis Garcia Perez) who demands that Paul contact the United States Embassy and give him $5 million for Paul's release.  Paul pleads with Jabir to release him, explaining that he's merely a truck driver and that no one will pay $5 million for him, but Jabir is unresponsive.  Paul keeps trying to contact his wife, and is aided by Brenner, but his situation grows slowly worse as his supplies, patience, and air supply dwindle.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Drive Angry" (2011)

Starring Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard and William Fichtner
Written by Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier
Directed by Patrick Lussier
Rated R - Violence, gore, language, nudity, sex
Running Time: 105 Minutes

I don't even know where to begin with this one.  Uh... the plot.......?

Milton (Nicolas Cage) has broken out of Hell itself to track down a Satanic cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke).  King killed Milton's daughter, and stole his infant granddaughter, whom he plans to sacrifice to Satan in order to unleash Hell on Earth.

The Accountant (William Fichtner) has come from Hell to retrieve Milton.  He can only be killed by a mystical weapon with magic bullets, of which Milton happens to be in possession.
Milton, on his way to find Jonah's compound, asks a beautiful young waitress named Piper (Amber Heard) for a ride in her muscular Dodge Charger.  When he witnesses Piper's fiance beating her, he intercedes and nearly kills the man, taking Piper with him on his quest for revenge.  Ultimately, the two will form a bond of friendship as they attempt to rescue the infant from King and his evil hick minions.

"You Again" (2010)

Starring Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis and Odette Justman
Written by Moe Jelline
Directed by Andy Fickman
Rated PG - Mild language, rude behavior
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Sometimes, you just need to watch an innocuous, harmless little comedy, right?  "You Again" fits that bill perfectly.  It's PG-rated humor is mildly entertaining, and the film makes no attempts to really push any comedic or dramatic boundaries. 

Marni Olivia Olsen (Kristen Bell, yum) is a put-upon teenager constantly under attack from the vicious head cheerleader, Joanna Clark (Odette Justman).  After Joanna causes Marni to inadvertently ruin an important basketball game for Marni's older brother, Will (James Wolk), he imparts some brotherly advice on her that sticks.  In the years since high school, Marni gains confidence and (of course) smashing good looks.  Eventually, she becomes a high-ranking executive at a powerful public relations firm, and heads home when she hears that her brother is getting married.

To her horror, however, she discovers that Will's bride-to-be is none other than Joanna, who in the intervening years has also turned her life around.  Now a nurse, she dedicates herself to helping others through volunteer and charity work.  Marni is first fearful, and then infuriated when Joanna claims to not remember Marni from high school.  Marni suspects that Joanna's "nice girl routine" is all a big act, and sets out to show her brother exactly who he's about to marry.

At the same time, Marni's mother Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) discovers that Joanna's Aunt Mona (Sigourney Weaver) is her former best friend Ramona from high school, now a fantastically successful owner of a chain of hotels  Just as Marni and Joanna strike back up their rivalry, so do Gail and Mona.  At each event coming up before the wedding, the rivalries escalate.  Despite some sage advice from her grandmother, Bunny (Betty White), Marni continues trying to expose Joanna's past evil ways. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Conan the Barbarian" (2011)

Starring Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols and Stephen Lang
Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Rated R - Violence, language, sex, nudity
Running Time: 112 Minutes

"Conan... What is the best in life?"

"To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women."

The original "Conan the Barbarian" film was no great classic. Rather, it's a camp classic; a cheesy, but fun, sword and sorcery romp that launched the career of action legend Arnold Schwarzenegger.  So it is rather appropriate, then, that the 2011 version is thoroughly absurd, ridiculous and over the top.

Conan (Jason Momoa, of 'Stargate Atlantis' fame) was "born of battle."  Like, literally - his pregnant mother was run through during a battle, and his father Corin (Ron Perlman, of 'Hellboy' fame) just cuts open her stomach and pulls out the baby.  Conan grows to be a fierce warrior, not backing down from battle and thriving where others turn tail and run.  But one day, an army, led by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang, of 'Avatar' fame), invades his village, seeking the final piece of the legendary Mask of Acheron.  His army slaughters Conan's people, eventually leaving only Conan and his father alive.  Corin sacrifices himself to save Conan, who sets off into the wilds to get revenge for his father's death.

Years later, Khalar has built an empire and even though he has the complete mask, still needs a "pureblood" in order to complete the ritual that will turn him into a god and give him ultimate power over the Earth.  His witch daughter Marique (Rose McGowan, nearly unrecognizable) uses her powers to locate a young woman named Tamara (Rachel Nichols, looking hot) and Khalar's army goes to retrieve her.

Meanwhile, Conan runs across one of Khalar's goons and recognizes him from years earlier, discovers what Khalar's next move will be, and sets off to complete his revenge.  He happens upon Tamara as she's being attacked by Khalar's men, and rescues her.  Conan relentlessly tracks down Khalar, cutting a bloody path through his armies and henchmen while also trying to protect Tamara from a horrific death at Khalar's hands.

"Due Date" (2010)

Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis
Written by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Todd Phillips
Directed by Todd Phillips
Rated R - Language, drug use, violence
Running Time: 95 Minutes

While I thought the repetitive, mean-spirited "Hangover, Part II" wasn't much to write home about, I quite enjoyed "Due Date," made by many of the people behind "The Hangover," including director Todd Phillips and star Zach Galifianakis.

Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) is an architect trying to get home to see his wife, who is about to deliver their first child via C-section.  Unfortunately, that plan is thrown out of whack when Peter meets one Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) and the two accidentally switch bags at the airport entrance.  First, Peter is delayed and Ethan's bag confiscated when security discovers drug paraphernalia in it.  Worse, Ethan eventually causes both of them to be put off their plane just before takeoff, and their names placed on the No-Fly List.

Soon after, Peter discovers that his luggage took off with the flight, including his wallet, ID, money and credit cards.  Without any money or ID, he can't rent a car.  Fortunately, Ethan was able to rent one, and offers to take Peter with him on his cross-country journey to Los Angeles to become an actor on "Two and a Half Men."

But can Peter put up with Ethan's strange ways and ideas long enough to stick with him and get to the birth of his child on time?

"The Thing" (1982)

Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley and Keith David
Written by Bill Lancaster
Directed by John Carpenter
Rated R - Gore, frightening images, language, violence
Running Time: 109 Minutes

In the remote wilderness of Antarctica, a United States research team is shocked when a member of a Norwegian research team chases and tries to kill a dog into their camp.  The Norwegian blows up his own helicopter, and even shoots one of the Americans before the leader of the group, Garry (Donald Moffat).  Unable to raise the Norwegians, or anyone else for that matter, on the radio, the station's pilot, MacReady (Kurt Russell) along with Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) head to the Norwegian encampment and find the place utterly destroyed.

They also find the remains of some kind of inhuman creature that the doctor can't identify.  They bring it back to their own camp for dissection, and soon they begin to learn the horrible truth: the creature comes from another world, and it is a parasite that kills and replaces its host.  With the ability to mimic any animal or person, it could be anyone or anything in the camp.

As the researchers' numbers dwindle, they become more paranoid and suspicious of each other.  All the while the creature is desperate to leave the camp and get to civilization, but MacReady begins to believe that in order to stop it, none of them may make it out alive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Three (1996)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran and Robert Picardo
Created by Rick Berman, Jeri Taylor and Michael Piller
Based upon 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

The third season of "Star Trek: Voyager" opens with the crew marooned on a barren alien world, forced to live without the precious advanced technology they had refused to share with the vicious Kazon-Nistrim.  Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) tries to lead her crew to find food and shelter, contending not only with a primitive people who appear to be hostile, but also the planet's geological instabilities and giant man-eating, cave-dwelling snake creatures.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, the Doctor (Robert Picardo) finds that he and former murderous crewman Lon Suder (Brad Dourif) are the only two Starfleet officers left aboard, and must devise a plan to retake the ship from Maje Culluh (Anthony de Longis) and the traitorous Seska (Martha Hackett).  Elsewhere, Lt. Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) has formed an alliance with a group of Tallaxians to aid the Doctor in retaking the ship and saving the rest of the crew.

As the season progresses, Voyager will once again come into contact with strange aliens, bizarre space anomalies, evil villains, and ultimately the dreaded Borg Collective.

Monday, August 15, 2011

'The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes' Season One (2010)

Starring Eric Loomis, Chris Cox and Phil LaMarr
Developed by Ciro Nieli, Joshua Fine and Christopher Yost
Based on Marvel Comics characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Y'know, I've rarely dug deep into the pantheon of Marvel Comics characters... or really even DC.  For the most part, my interests are fairly mainstream, and fairly limited.  I find the decades of dense continuity to be intimidating and the shared universes have gotten so interwoven that at times its impossible to simply read a good Spider-Man story or a good Batman story without it being related to some huge, company-wide crossover that's going on.

So, I tend to find film and animated versions of these characters far easier to digest and enjoy. 

After a massive break-out of supervillains from the various prison complexes created by SHIELD, superheroes Iron Man (Eric Loomis), Ant-Man/Giant Man (Wally Wingert), Wasp (Colleen O'Shaughnessy), Hulk (Fred Tatiascore), Thor (Rick D. Wasserman) and the legendary Captain America (Brian Bloom) team up to create a vigilante team to track them all down.  They're soon joined by the Wakandan king, Black Panther (James C. Mathis III) and the archer Hawkeye (Chris Cox).

The Avengers, as they are called, are based out of a mansion in New York City provided by Iron Man's alter ego, Tony Stark.  They are called upon to save the city and the world from various super-powered threats, including alien conquerors from the future, the terrorist forces AIM and Hydra, Frost Giants of Jotunheim and evil Asgardian gods, and their own inabilities to work together as a team.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"True Grit" (2010)

Starring Haylee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Cohen
Rated R - Language, violence
Running Time: 111 Minutes

As I mentioned in my review of "Cowboys & Aliens," I'm pretty particular about the Westerns that I enjoy.  Occasionally, one comes along that acquires a good amount of accolades, and that makes it an attractive prospect.  2010's "True Grit," based on the 1968 novel, earned some impressive Oscar nominations, from popular and highly lauded filmmakers Joel and Ethan Cohen.

Mattie Ross (Haylee Steinfeld) is a 14-year-old girl who travels to a small town on the edge of the frontier to collect the body of her father, who was murdered by a man named Tom Cheney (Josh Brolin).  While there, she acquires some money and attempts to hire a Federal Marshall to track down Cheney, who has ridden off into Indian territory. 

The man she sets her sights on is Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a drunk with a mean streak, described to Mattie as being without pity.  At the same time, she's contacted by Texas Ranger LaBeouf (Matt Damon) who has been on Cheney's trail since Cheney apparently murdered a Texas state senator.  At first, the three of them attempt to track down Cheney together, but their personality clashes lead to a rift between Cogburn and LaBeouf and the group goes its separate ways. 

Mattie wants to find Cheney first so that she can watch him hanged for her father's murder.  She knows that if LaBeouf finds him, he'll be taken back to Texas, and Mattie is determined to be the one who brings Cheney to justice for his crimes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"13 Assassins" (2010)

Starring Koji Yakusho, Hiroki Matsukata and Takayuki Yamada
Written by Daisuke Tengan
Directed by Takashi Miike
Rated R - Violence, gore, nudity
Running Time: 126 Minutes

I thought the trailer for Takashi Miike's "13 Assassins" looked pretty cool, but the limited time it was playing near me, I wasn't able to get out to the theatre to see it.  Thankfully, Netflix comes through in a pinch and delivers it via their 'Watch Instantly' streaming service.

In 1830s Japan, a young lord adopted by the family of the ruling Shogun is revealed to be a deeply corrupt individual.  Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki) rapes and kills without any regard for others, seeing his servants as property he need not respect in any fashion.  Another member of the Shogunate, Doi (Mikijiro Hira) orders a decorated Samura named Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) to assassinate Naritsugu in order to save the people from his tyranny.

Shinzaemon begins to gather his friends and students together, including his nephew Shinroku (Takayuki Yamada), his student Hirayama Kujuro (Tsuyoshi Ihara), his friend Kuranaga (Hiroki Matsukata), Kuranaga's students, enemies of Naritsugu, and more.  Soon he has gathered a group of 13 warriors who are prepared to give their lives for honor to save the people from the wrath of Naritsugu.

They set out their plan to intercept Naritsugu on his journey from city of Edo to the territory of the Akashi clan.  Thinking that Naritsugu has a mere 70 warriors as an entourage, Shinzaemon and his men prepare a trap in the town of Ochiai, ready to turn the entire town into a vicious set of booby traps to ensnare and destroy Naritsugu.  But when Naritsugu arrives, Shinzaemon and his men make a startling discovery: instead of 70 men, the 13 assassins face an army of 200 troops.  But the men have pledged their lives to this mission, and quitting is not an option.

Monday, August 8, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Two (1995)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran and Robert Picardo
Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor
Based upon 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

The captain and helmsman of Voyager.  SERIOUSLY.
The second season of "Star Trek: Voyager", and the show's first full season (the first was truncated due to a January launch for UPN), is damn near a disaster.  While the first season was decent but slight entertainment, the second season features some truly atrocious episodes that drag the whole thing down, even if the majority of them are still fairly decent.

In the series premiere, "The 37s," Voyager comes across a human colony in the Delta Quadrant populated by the descendants of people abducted from Earth in the late 1930s.  Frozen in stasis they find a number of those 20th century abductees including... Amelia Earhart (Sharon Lawrence), the legendary female pilot who disappeared on her flight around the world.  Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) offers her crew the opportunity to stay on the planet with the human colony, but in the end, the entire crew decides to stay on board Voyager for the journey home.

Throughout the course of the season, Voyager will deal with the fallout of Seska's (Martha Hackett) defection to the Kazon.  Seska has allied herself with Maje Culluh (Anthony de Longis) of the Kazon Nistrim, and devised a plan to rob Voyager of its advanced technologies.  To this end, another traitor aboard Voyager, Michael Jonas (Raphael Sbarge) begins feeding the Kazon information, and even helps to sabotage Voyager's systems.  Ultimately, this will lead to a showdown between the Voyager crew and the Kazon, one that could cost the crew everything.

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season One (1995)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran and Robert Picardo
Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor
Based upon 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

The seeds for "Star Trek: Voyager" were laid throughout the last season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and the first two seasons of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."  The introduction of the Cardassian border struggles and the Maquis resistance group laid the foundations for a new 'Star Trek' series to launch the United Paramount Network, or UPN.

A Maquis vessel commanded by a man named Chakotay (Robert Beltran) is lost in the Badlands near Deep Space Nine after an attack on a Cardassian ship under the command of Gul Evek (Richard Poe).  Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) of the Federation starship Voyager is assigned to enter the Badlands to find them, since her security chief, Lt. Tuvok (Tim Russ) was undercover aboard Chakotay's ship when it disappeared.

To do so, she enlists the help of a former Starfleet officer now incarcerated in a penal settlement, Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil) who once served with Chakotay as a Maquis before being arrested.  Voyager enters the Badlands in search of the Maquis, but finds itself suddenly transported 75,000 light years across the galaxy to the unknown regions of the Delta Quadrant by an alien entity known as the Caretaker.  The Caretaker kidnaps members of the crew and conducts medical experiments on them, and then transports Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) and Maquis engineer B'Elanna Torres (Roxanne Dawson) to the nearby world populated by the Ocampa.

In her attempts to rescue them, Janeway forms an alliance with Chakotay and an alien junk dealer named Neelix (Ethan Phillips).  But doing so, they rescue a young Ocampa named Kes (Jennifer Lien) and run afoul of an alien race known as the Kazon.  To protect the Ocampa from the jealous Kazon, Janeway is forced to destroy the Caretaker's space station rather than let the advanced technology aboard fall into the hands of the Kazon.  Now, stranded 75,000 years from home, the Maquis and Starfleet crews must band together for their long, dangerous journey.