Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Star Trek' Season One (1966)

Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForrest Kelley
Created by Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 [Blu-ray]I can't introduce it any better than this, so I won't even bother:

"Star Trek" premiered in 1966.  Forty-five years ago.  Just think about that for a moment.

In the 23rd century, humanity has grown beyond its petty Earth-bound squabbles and taken to the stars.  Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) commands the Federation starship Enterprise, part of a vast fleet of interstellar ships exploring the galaxy and keeping the peace. Kirk is joined on his adventures by Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the half-human, half-Vulcan ship's science officer who devotes his life to the pursuit of logic and rejects emotion, and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForrest Kelley), the passionate and dedicated ship's surgeon. 

The Enterprise travels throughout the galaxy at incredible speeds, encountering bizarre alien creatures, vicious enemies, strange new worlds, and danger at every turn.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"From Paris With Love" (2010)

Starring John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys-Myers and Melissa Mars
Written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak
Directed by Pierre Morel
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 92 minutes

From Paris with Love [Blu-ray]I flat out loved Pierre Morel's "Taken" starring Liam Neeson, which was essentially a hundred minutes of total badassery put on film.  "District B-13" was hit or miss, but showed Morel's incredible eye for action and stunts.  "From Paris With Love" is more in the vein of "District B-13," where the story of the film suffers while the action sequences manage to impress. 

James Reese (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is the aide to the US Ambassador to France.  At the same time, he's also a junior operative for the CIA, pulling of small jobs like planting bugs in offices, while he yearns to move up the ranks in the organization.  His opportunity comes when he's assigned to provide support for an operative named Charlie Wax (John Travolta).  Wax is on the trail of cocaine suppliers in Paris, cocaine suppliers lead him to terrorists, terrorists lead him to bla bla bla...

Ultimately, Wax reveals that he's trying to stop some kind of large terror plot which they eventually learn involves suicide bombers at a major international diplomatic conference in Paris.  Reese must man up and learn to be a man of action like Wax in order to save hundreds of lives that hang in the balance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Terminator Salvation" (2009)

Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin
Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris
Directed by McG
Rated PG-13 / R (Director's Cut) - Violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 115 minutes

Terminator Salvation (Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]Oy.

Well, okay... If I can get away with a bad pun, I'll just start out by saying "Terminator Salvation" is saved by its action sequences.  A lot of the plot just doesn't really make sense, the performance of a key player is too weak to sustain much interest, and the third act is a muddled mess.

But it's all very pretty, in a dirty, grungy kind of way.

The year is 2018.  John Connor (Christian Bale, taking over for Nick Stahl who took over for Eddie Furlong) is now a fully-grown man leading one arm of the human resistance against the computer intelligence Skynet and its army of Terminators and fleet of airborne Hunter-Killers.  He's married to Kate Brewster (Bryce Dallas-Howard taking over for Claire Danes), who is pregnant.  Connor leads a mission to infiltrate and destroy a Skynet base.  He and his squad discover that humans are being rounded up and flown to an undisclosed location.  They also discover intel on the new T-800 Terminator, a machine Connor is very familiar with.

After a self-destruct mechanism kills Connor's entire squad, only Connor escaping alive, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) stumbles out of the wreckage.  He makes his way into the ruins of nearby Los Angeles and is rescued from a T-600 by Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and his young, mute companion Star (Jadagrace).  The three of them hear one of Connor's radio addresses, and head off into the desert in search of the resistance.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes and Nick Stahl
Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris
Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Rated R - Strong sci-fi violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 109 minutes

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines [Blu-ray]Arnold Schwarzenegger returns after a decade to the world of James Cameron's "Terminator."  The year is now 2003, John Connor (Nick Stahl) lives a life of isolation.  He has no phone, no address, no way of being tracked.  One night after crashing his motorcycle, he breaks into a veterinary clinic to steal medicine and fix his wounded leg.  There he encounters Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), a girl he knew in junior high school.

Unfortunately for John and Kate, a new Terminator has arrived in the present, once again sent by the evil computer intelligence known as Skynet.  This time, the female T-X (Kristanna Loken) has been sent to eliminate other key members of the human resistance besides John.  She goes on a killing spree, but ultimately locates John and Kate in the clinic.  Luckily, the resistance has once again managed to send a reprogrammed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to protect John and Kate. 

Elsewhere, a computer virus is wreaking havoc with the world's digital systems and networks.  Kate's father Robert (David Andrews), in charge of the Skynet Project for the US Air Force, must decide whether to use the advanced new AI to seek out and destroy the virus.  When John learns that Kate's father is in charge of the infant Skynet, he concocts a plan to stop the war between humans and machines before it begins... once and for all.

"The Terminator" (1984)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton
Written by James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd
Directed by James Cameron
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running time: 107 minutes

The Terminator [Blu-ray]I've already reviewed James Cameron's bigger, badder sequel for this blog.  But over the weekend, I attended a double feature at the Somerville Theatre of "The Terminator" and "RoboCop."  It was fantastic.  It was great seeing these two sci-fi action classics up on a big screen with a crowd that's totally into it.

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is a meek young girl working a thankless job as a waitress in a busy diner in Los Angeles.  One day, two other women nearby are brutally murdered.  Both of them were named Sarah Connor, as well.  Sarah tries to contact the police, who tell her to sit tight and they'll come pick her up.  Before the police arrive, however, Sarah is discovered by the killer - a huge man with more weaponry than the local militia.  She's rescued by another man, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) who tells her exactly what's going on: Sarah has been targeted by a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) - a cyborg from the future intent on killing her before she can give birth to a son, John, who will lead the human resistance in a war against sentient machines.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Battle: Los Angeles" (2011)

Starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynihan
Written by Christopher Bertolini
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Rated PG-13 - War violence, language
Running Time: 116 minutes

All the pre-release info I read about "Battle: Los Angeles" brought me to one conclusion: this was not going to be any kind of great story for the ages, no great Oscar winner with deep themes to explore.  This was essentially a "Call of Duty" movie... with aliens.

With that in mind, my expectations going into "Battle: Los Angeles" were fairly low.  All I wanted was to sit down and watch Marines fuck shit up for two hours.  Thankfully, that's exactly what "Battle: Los Angeles" delivers.  It spends the first fifteen minutes or so  introducing the cannon fodder characters that we're going to follow through the course of the film - the dude about to get married, the dude who's about to become a father, the dude who's about to retire from the Corps, the dude who wants to be a US citizen, the virgin, etc.  Then, it gets right to the meat and potatoes: aliens are invading our world, and the United States Marine Corps is not about to take that sitting down.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"How to Train Your Dragon" (2010)

Starring Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler and America Ferreira
Written by Adam Goldberg, Peter Tolan, Dean DeBois and Chris Sanders
Directed by Dean DeBois and Chris Sanders
Rated PG - Action, scary images, language
Running Time: 98 minutes

How to Train Your Dragon Blu Ray (Single Disc Blu-Ray 2010)Another fine animated attempt from Dreamworks, who are slowly making a name for themselves alongside Pixar as CG animation kings.  "How to Train Your Dragon" is an adaptation of the series of children's books by Cressida Crowell.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) lives in the Viking village of Berk, son of the Viking leader Stoick (Gerard Butler), a great warrior.  But Hiccup is a small weakling, a disappointment both to his father and to the other townspeople.  The town is constantly besieged by dragons, which attack in the night and steal food.  Hiccup, despite his size and nerdly demeanor, wants desperately to be a great dragonslayer like his father.  He creates machines and cannons to help him, but his efforts are derided by the population.

One night, one of his devices actually succeeds in wounding a dragon called a Night Fury - a dragon capable of incredible speed and stealth due to its black skin, and its ability to shoot fire missiles from its throat.  But Hiccup finds that he's incapable of killing the wounded creature when he sees that it is afraid of him as he is of it.  Instead, he decides to (secretly) nurse it back to health.  Meanwhile, his father takes a band of Vikings to hunt down the dragons' nest and deal with them once and for all.  In his absence, he decides that Hiccup will undergo training under the tutelage of Gobber (Craig Ferguson).

"Chloe" (2009)

Starring Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson
Written by Erin Wilson
Directed by Atom Egoyan

Chloe [Blu-ray]For full disclosure: I think Amanda Seyfried is fricking hot as hell.

Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) is a gynecologist with a successful practice, married to college professor David Stewart (Liam Neeson).  Catherine is unhappy in her marriage, and suspects that David has been having affairs with his students.  In order to test his loyalties, she hires a prostitute she meets one night in a bar to attempt to seduce her husband and report back his reaction.  Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) does as she's told, and reports back to Catherine that David seems receptive to her advances. 

Catherine hires Chloe to continue tempting her husband, against her better judgment.  Catherine and David begin to butt heads constantly, and their relationship frays further.  Catherine finds herself spending more and more time with Chloe, who tells her every detail of her encounters with David, shaping her stories into erotically charged tales.  Catherine soon begins to fantasize about the things Chloe tells her, and finally finds that she's drawn to Chloe herself.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Easy A" (2010)

Starring Emma Stone, Penn Badgley and Amanda Bynes
Written by Bert V. Royal
Directed by Will Gluck

Easy A [Blu-ray]Emma Stone stars in this 2010 teen comedy inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."  It might seem like an odd sort of source material to turn into a teen comedy, but a deft script brought to life by an energetic and likable cast makes "Easy A" a winner.

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) lies about having a date with an older man in order to get out of going camping with her friend Rhianna (Aly Michalka) and Rhianna's hippie pothead parents.  When Rhianna presses her for details about the date, Olive somehow falls into a lie about losing her virginity.  Unfortunately, this conversation is overheard by Marianne Bryant (Amanda Bynes), a "stuck-up Jesus freak" and soon enough, Olive finds that her supposed tryst has become public knowledge.  Boys she's never spoken to before are suddenly approaching her, and Marianne's conservative religious clique begin a vicious slander campaign.

Monday, March 7, 2011

'Babylon 5' Season One (1993)

Starring Michael O'Hare, Jerry Doyle and Claudia Christian
Created by J. Michael Straczynski

Babylon 5: The Complete First Season (Repackage)Everyone, of course, knows of my deep love of "Star Trek."  It is my firm belief that the best of the "Star Trek" series is "Deep Space Nine," (though my sentimental favorite is "The Next Generation").  About the same time as DS9, J. Michael Straczynski's "Babylon 5" premiered, a sci-fi series with a rather similar premise.  I'd seen bits and pieces of it here or there and was sort of generally familiar with it, but never sat down to really dig into it.

I kind of wish I hadn't.

Earth-Force Commander Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) assumes command of Babylon 5, a new space station constructed in neutral space to house representatives of Earth, the Narn, the Centauri, and the Minbari races... as well as the idiotically named "League of Non-Aligned Worlds."  The station's mission is to allow communication with all of these races in hopes of avoiding further wars.  In the past, the Centauri and the Narn have warred, causing a deep-seeded hatred on both sides.  A decade earlier, Earth was nearly conquered by the Minbari before the Minbari surrendered with no explanation on the eve of victory.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Monsters" (2010)

Starring Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy
Written and directed by Gareth Edwards

Monsters Special Edition + Digital Copy [Blu-ray]"Monsters" is an odd little film, one that reminds me of some sort of mish-mash of "District 9" and "Sin Nombre".  According to the world of "Monsters," six years ago a NASA probe returning to Earth crash-landed in Mexico near the United States border, unleashing some kind of alien life-form on the planet.  Massive alien creatures roam the countryside, and the two governments have set up an "Infected Zone," a quarantined area patrolled constantly by both sides. 

Andrew Kaulder is a photojournalist attempting to take pictures of live creatures in Mexico, something for which he will be paid a great sum of money.  One day, he receives a call from his employer.  It seems that the man's daughter, Samantha Wynden, was injured in a creature attack nearby.  Andrew travels to that city and finds Samantha in a local hospital with only a minor injury.  His employer orders him to transport Samantha to a ferry crossing that will take her back to the United States via the Gulf of Mexico, before the Mexican government closes the harbor for the aliens "migration season." 

Though they reach the harbor in time, Andrew's carelessness leads to Sam's passport getting stolen, and she isn't allowed to board the ferry.  Instead, Andrew and Sam pay to be escorted through the Infected Zone by land, a dangerous journey to say the least.  All the while, the two grow closer, forming a budding romance as they make their way toward American soil.

"Despicable Me" (2010)

Starring Steve Carrell, Jason Segel and Russell Brand
Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Despicable Me (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)It's only recently that other companies have finally stepped up and managed to challenge Pixar as the undisputed king of computer generated animated feature films.  Sure, Pixar is still the king, but more and more, companies like Universal and Dreamworks are producing quality works that are going on to make tons of money.

"Despicable Me" is the story of Gru (Steve Carrell), a supervillain who has drawn up plans for his greatest crime ever: stealing the moon itself.  Until now, he has only managed to steal second-rate monuments like the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower... from Las Vegas.  But when he steals the moon, the world will know and fear Gru as its greatest villain.  But one thing stands in his way: money.

Gru goes to the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers) to ask for an evil loan, but the bank manager Mr. Perkins (Will Arnett) turns him down.  Perkins then takes Gru's plan and enlists his son, Vector (Jason Segel) to enact it instead.  Gru plans to steal a shrink ray from a secret lab in Asia, but Vector intervenes and takes it from him.  Gru tries to steal it back, but finds that Vector's home is an impenetrable fortress, and he must discover some other way in.