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).