Saturday, December 29, 2012

"Snow White and the Huntsman" (2012)

Starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron
Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Rated PG-13 - Violence, frightening images
Running Time: 127 Minutes

Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is the princess in an ancient kingdom. After the death of her mother, her father, King Magnus, marries a woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who is revealed to be an evil witch. She murders the king and usurps his throne with the help of her brother, Finn (Sam Spruell), and imprisons Snow White in a castle tower. Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan) and his son William (Sam Clafin) manage to escape the castle during the battle, and vow to kill the queen.

Years later, Ravenna's magic mirror (Christopher Obi) tells Ravenna that she is no longer the fairest in the land, that Snow White has come of age. The mirror also warns her that Snow White is the only one who can end her reign over the kingdom. Learning this, Ravenna sends Finn to retrieve Snow White from the tower in order to consume her heart and be young, beautiful and powerful forever.  But Snow White manages to escape into the dark forest, a place where Ravenna has no powers and few men dare to go.

Ravenna orders the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to enter the forest and find Snow White, in exchange for bringing the Huntsman's wife back from the dead. But when the Huntsman finally finds the girl, Finn tells him Ravenna doesn't have the power to fulfill her end of the bargain, and the Huntsman escapes with Snow White into the forest. Now hunted across the land by Finn and his mercenaries, Snow White and the Huntsman must make their way to Duke Hammond's rebel forces and retake the throne from the evil witch.

"Ted" (2012)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane and Mila Kunis
Written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Rated R - Language, sex, drug use, violence
Running Time: 106 Minutes

John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) was a boy who had no friends. One night, he made a wish that his teddy bear, Ted, could come to life and be his real friend forever. Just his luck, that's exactly what happens.  Ted and John grow up together as best friends, Ted becoming something of a minor celebrity for a few years.  But as they grow into adulthood, John's life starts to pick up when he meets Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). Unfortunately, Ted's life begins to stagnate, and he pulls John down with him.

Now in his mid-30s, John has a middling job at a car rental agency and Ted spends his days hanging around getting high. Lori is frustrated that John can't seem to move on from his childhood hangups, including being afraid of thunderstorms, without Ted.  Meanwhile, a skeevy former fan of Ted's, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) and his creepy son Robert (Aedin Mincks) keep showing up trying to buy Ted.

Ted, meanwhile, tries to figure out what to do with his life so that John and Lori can be happy. But Ted's raunchy antics and party-animal nature continue to drag John down, eventually leading to Lori and John's breakup. Now Ted realizes the error of his ways and must figure out how to get John and Lori back together forever.

"Jack Reacher" (2012)

Starring Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike and Jai Courtney
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language, drug use
Running Time: 130 Minutes

When a former Army sniper, James Barr (Joseph Sikora), is arrested for the brutal slaying of five innocent people in Pittsburgh, the police believe they have an airtight case. Given the opportunity to confess, he writes only three words: "Get Jack Reacher."

But Reacher (Tom Cruise) is no easy man to find. He's a drifter, with no address, no drivers license, no cell phone. Luckily, Reacher knows where to find them. Reacher has a past with Barr, one that compels him to seek out he truth when he suspects that the evidence against Barr is a little too perfect. Together with Barr's lawyer, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), who also happens to be the daughter of the powerful district attorney (Richard Jenkins), Reacher sets out to find the real killer. But the closer he gets, the more dangerous the situation grows.

But whoever is behind this conspiracy and whatever it is they're after, they made one mistake - they tried to mess with Jack Reacher.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Superman vs The Elite" (2012)

Starring George Newbern, Pauley Perette and Robin Atkin Downes
Written by Joe Kelly
Directed by Michael Chang
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 76 Minutes

What's so funny about truth, justice and the American Way? That's the question asked by "Superman vs The Elite," the 2012 animated feature based on an issue of the Superman comics from 2001.

A new group of superheroes, the Elite, have appeared. Led by Manchester Black (Robin Atkin Downes), they are a motley crew of super-powered freaks. At first, Superman (George Newbern) is happy to have their help and tries to befriend them. But he quickly discovers the problem: the Elite have no problem slaughtering their enemies in cold blood.

Superman soon finds himself alienated from a world that used to celebrate him. The populace quickly labels the Elite superheroes for the 21st century, not bound by Superman's antiquated moral code. Not willing to simply give in to demands for blood from the people he's vowed to protect, Superman digs deeper into the past of Manchester Black and discovers a man seething with anger and a thirst for power.

As the world forsakes him in favor of these bloodthirsty new heroes, and as two countries spiral towards open, vicious warfare, Superman must make hard choices to expose the truth about the Elite and figure out what he really stands for.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Escape from the Planet of the Apes" (1971)

Starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Bradford Dillman
Written by Paul Dehn
Directed by Don Taylor
Rated G - Violence
Running Time: 98 Minutes

Escaping (somehow) the destruction of the planet in Taylor's spacecraft, three apes, Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo), Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) find themselves transported back through time to the year 1973 where they are found and imprisoned by the United States military in the Los Angeles Zoo.

While in the zoo, Dr. Milo is killed by an enraged gorilla, leaving only Cornelius and Zira to be studied by Drs. Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman) and Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy). The four quickly become friends.

The President (William Windom) convenes a committee to discuss the apes and what to do about them. On the commission, one scientist named Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden) begins to fear the possibility that the apes have arrived from a future where humanity no longer rules the planet. While the rest of the world welcomes the apes as guests, and they even obtain a certain level of celebrity, Hasslein tries to convince the president of the danger of allowing them to live.

Once it's learned that Zira is with child, things become more dangerous for them. Hasslein discovers that the apes have kept sensitive information about Taylor and the fate of the world from them, and imprisons the apes once more. Realizing he intends to kill the apes and their child, Dixon and Branton help Cornelius and Zira escape. But now the hunt is on, and Cornelius and Zira find themselves in an unfamiliar world, and few friends to trust.

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season Two - 1988 [Blu-ray]

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

The massive, landmark project to restore Star Trek: The Next Generation in high-definition continues! In the show's second season, many elements of the show are cemented that would run through the rest of the series such as the new Ten-Forward set, Whoopi Goldberg joining the cast as Guinan, Riker's (Jonathan Frakes) beard, Worf (Michael Dorn) and Geordi (Levar Burton) promoted to their final positions, and more. The season also features several of the series' most revered episodes, including "Q Who," which introduces the Borg, and "The Measure of a Man," which features a hearing to determine whether Data (Brent Spiner) has rights as a sentient being.

While Season One was a revelation in hi-def, it was not without its problems. Indeed, CBS issued replacements of more than half the sets due to bad audio tracks and other tiny errors. Fans hoping that this situation wouldn't be repeated, and that the release of Season Two would go off without a hitch are going to be left wanting.

Much of Season Two on blu-ray looks incredible. The live-action photography in these episodes is gorgeous. Textures and details are wonderfully presented. You can see all kinds of detail in skin and clothing and hair. The new Ten Forward set looks incredible, with excellent lighting that makes every scene looking like a feature film. A demo-worthy episode is "Elementary, Dear Data" in which Data and Geordi play Sherlock Holmes and Watson on the holodeck. The old London sets and costumes are absolutely gorgeous, full of little details and textures. Lots of makeup work done on alien creatures also looks great.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (1970)

Starring James Franciscus, Kim Hunter and Charlton Heston
Written by Paul Dehn
Directed by Ted Post
Rated G - Violence
Running Time: 95 Minutes

Following the events of the original "Planet of the Apes," the sequel sees another space ship crash land in the wastelands outside Ape City.  This time, our hero is Brent (James Franciscus) who has come in search of the missing Taylor (Charlton Heston).  Brent soon encounter's Taylor's lover, Nova (Linda Harrison), who takes him to the Ape City where he meets Cornelius (Roddy McDowall/David Watson) and Zira (Kim Hunter).  He reveals to them that he was a friend of Taylor's, and they vow to help him.

Meanwhile, Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) has decided to lead an expedition into the Forbidden Zone after several gorilla scouts fail to return. Accompanied by a detachment of gorillas led by Ursus (James Gregory), Zaius heads into the Forbidden Zone.  Brent and Nova, having escaped the gorillas, find themselves in the underground ruins of old New York City, where a race of telepathic mutants worship a massive nuclear weapon capable of destroying man and ape once and for all.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Lockout" (2012)

Starring Guy Pierce, Maggie Grace and Peter Stormare
Written by James Mather, Stephen St. Leger and Luc Besson
Directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 95 Minutes

In the future, the daughter of the President, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) visits a new orbital maximum security prison, looking for human rights violations. During her visit, a prisoner manages to steal a weapon from her Secret Service detail and release a number of his fellow inmates.  Now Emilie is trapped alone aboard a space station full of vicious criminals.

Only one man can save her.

That man is Snow (Guy Pierce), a government agent wrongfully convicted of treason and killing an undercover agent.  The idea of a frontal assault on the complex is vetoed, and the plan is concocted for Snow to infiltrate the base alone in exchange for the chance to prove his innocence.  Luckily, the prisoners don't know that Emilie is the president's daughter, and therefore an extremely valuable hostage.  But that only means that there's limited time before they do find out, and the situation escalates.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Skyfall" (2012)

Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan
Directed by Sam Mendes
Rated PG-13 - Intense sequences of action and peril, language, sex
Running Time: 143 Minutes

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and a fellow agent, Eve (Naomi Harris) arrive at an MI6 safehouse in Turkey to retrieve a highly-classified hard drive containing a list of names of undercover agents in terrorist groups throughout the world.  But they're too late - the agents have been killed, and Bond is soon on the trail of the thief.  Before he can retrieve the drive from the thief, M (Judi Dench) orders Eve, acting as sniper, to shoot, and she accidentally hits Bond, sending him tumbling into a river and losing the mission and the list.

Months later, Bond is living a quiet life of alcoholism and addiction to pain pills in a beach hut somewhere when he sees on television that there has been a terrorist attack on MI6 headquarters.  Drawn back by his allegiance to M, he returns to London and to MI6.  Unfortunately, the loss of the list and now this attack, has brought M under scrutiny by civilian oversight.  Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) informs M that she's being retired, and M vows to complete the mission.

She sends Bond to Shanghai, where he will come face to face with the man who stole the hard drive. But Bond is unable to learn from him who he works for, who is behind the attack on MI6 that seems strangely personal to M, and who is releasing the names of MI6 agents across the world.  With the bodies piling up, Bond comes face to face with Silva (Javier Bardem) a ghost from M's past with a plan for vicious retribution, and the possibility that for all his loyalty to her, M may not be who or what Bond thinks she is.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Quantum of Solace" (2008)

Starring Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko and Mathieu Almaric
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis
Directed by Marc Forster
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language, sex
Running Time: 106 Minutes

Following immediately on from the events of "Casino Royale," "Quantum of Solace" opens as James Bond (Daniel Craig) is transporting Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) to be interrogated by MI6 agents, including M (Judi Dench) herself.  After Bond eludes White's agents, he's shocked to discover that White has people everywhere - including inside MI6, as one of their own agents is revealed as a traitor and tries to kill M.

Bond chases him down, but kills the man in the process.  M sends Bond to follow the agent's money trail, which takes him to a hired killer in Haiti.  Unfortunately, Bond kills him, too, and is forced to impersonate the man in order to learn more about his job. Bond meets Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), the lover of one Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric), a powerful businessman and philanthropist.  It seems Greene wants her dead, and she doesn't particularly have happy wishes for him in return.

Bond suspects that Greene is part of White's organization, and vows to dig deeper.  But M, frustrated with Bond's inability to bring back leads alive, cuts him off.  On his own, in need to help and contacts, Bond goes to a former ally, Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), and his friend in the CIA Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), in order to discover Greene's plans and shut down the mysterious organization that seems one step ahead of MI6 at every turn.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Casino Royale" (2006)

Starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Mads Mikkelson
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis
Directed by Martin Campbell
Rated PG-13 - Violence, torture, sex
Running Time: 144 Minutes

After making his first two kills as an MI6 agent, James Bond (Daniel Craig) earns his "00" status, becoming agent 007.  M (Judi Dench) sends him on his first mission, to surveil and capture a bombmaker in Madagascar.  Unfortunately, Bond not only kills the man, but he does so after storming a foreign embassy and getting caught on camera, causing an international incident.

Infuriated, M puts Bond on suspension, wondering if she's made a huge mistake promoting him.  But instead of going on vacation as he's ordered, Bond tracks the bombmaker's contacts to the Bahamas where he discovers that the man was involved in some kind of terrorist scheme to blow up a prototype new airliner set to be unveiled in Miami.

After he stops the attack, M decides to bring Bond up to speed on what's really going on: MI6 is interested in making contact with a man named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), a banker for a mysterious terrorist organization.  Bond's new mission, if he can learn to control his temper and not go off half-cocked blowing things to smithereens, is to engage Le Chiffre in a game of high-stakes poker at Casino Royale in Montenegro.  It seems Le Chiffre likes to use his clients money to bet with, and if Bond can clean him out, then he'll have no choice but to turn to MI6 for protection and give up everything he knows.

Bond is paired with veteran agent Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and treasury agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).  As the game grows more desperate and the stakes more dangerous, Bond finds himself drawn more and more to Lynd, and she to him.  But all is not as it seems, and if Bond can't beat Le Chiffre and keep Vesper safe, his first mission might be his last.

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Enemy of the State" (1998)

Starring Will Smith, Gene Hackman and Jon Voight
Written by David Marconi
Directed by Tony Scott
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 131 Minutes

Robert Dean (Will Smith) is a successful lawyer at a law firm in Washington DC.  One day while buying Christmas gifts for his wife and son (Regina King and Jascha Washington) he runs into an acquaintance from college, Daniel Zavitz (Jason Lee).  Zavitz has stumbled upon evidence that a powerful congressman recently found dead was actually murdered, and Zavitz is now being chased by NSA agents who don't want that evidence seen by anyone.  Zavitz drops the video into Dean's bag without him noticing, and is promptly killed by a fire truck while running from the NSA.

Soon enough, Dean finds himself under surveillance by the same NSA agents.  His phones are tapped, trackers are placed on his clothing, and more.  Worse, the NSA has planted evidence that Dean may be in bed with the mob, and cheating on his wife.  But that is only the beginning.  As Dean attempts to clear his name, he discovers the evidence about the congressman's murder.

With the government after him and his family and friends in danger, Dean has no choice but to track down a mysterious man called Brill (Gene Hackman), an investigator he's hired in the past through a mutual acquaintance.  Brill is a former NSA agent who Dean believes is the only one who can help him clear his name.  Now they'll have to get over their mutual dislike of each other in order to turn the tide on the corrupt NSA director (Jon Voight) who is responsible for everything.

"Mean Girls" (2004)

Starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Tina Fey
Written by Tina Fey
Directed by Mark Waters
Rated PG-13 - Language, teen drinking, sexual themes
Running Time: 96 Minutes

Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is a young girl who for most of her life was home-schooled by her parents, (Neil Flynn and Ana Gasteyer) who were zoologists working in Africa.  Now that they have returned to the United States, they've decided that it's time Cady went to high school and had a social life. So Cady enrolls at North Shore High and instantly has no idea how to deal with people.

She soon falls in with outcasts Janice (Lizzy Caplan) and Damien (Daniel Franzese).  They inform her about the various cliques in the school, including "The Plastics" - the ultimate queen bitches who rule North Shore with an iron fist.  First is Karen (Amanda Seyfried), the dumb blond.  Second is Gretchen (Lacey Chabert), the suck-up.  And finally, Regina (Rachel McAdams), the leader.

When Janice learns that the Plastics have taken an interest in Cady, she convinces Cady to join them in order to get dirt on them.  Cady develops a crush on Aaron (Jonathan Bennett) who just happens to be Regina's ex.  When Regina finds out, she sabotages things between Cady and Aaron, taking Aaron for herself.  Cady and Janice concoct a plan for revenge, but unfortunately, Cady has begun to go native.  She's spent so much time undercover amongst the Plastics, that she's actually become one of them, and starts hurting everyone around her.

As things get worse and worse, the entire school begins to turn against Cady and against each other.  Without her friends and her family, Cady has no idea how to fix things.  Unfortunately for her, Regina isn't going to take her humiliation sitting down, and her revenge could tear the entire school apart.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Argo" (2012)

Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin
Written by Chris Terrio
Directed by Ben Affleck
Rated R - Violence, strong language
Running Time: 120 Minutes

"Argo" is based on the incredible true story of six Americans who managed to escape the US embassy in Tehran as it was besieged by rioters in 1979.  The six took refuge in the nearby home of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber).  As the hostage crisis wears on, the "houseguests" continue to hide from the Iranians, but their situation is growing precarious.

CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with a daring plan to rescue them by flying into Iran and posing as part of a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a new science fiction movie called "Argo."  The plan is preposterous, but Mendez manages to get the higher ups to sign off on it because it's "the best bad idea we've got."  To wit, Mendez flies to California and enlists the aid of John Chambers (John Goodman) an Oscar-winning Hollywood makeup artist.  Chambers helps Mendez construct an elaborate ruse to make "Argo" seem like a real film.

The two get a big-shot producer, Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to put together their fake film.  Siegel begins casting the picture, setting up office space, doing all the things that real Hollywood movies do in pre-production.  With a script, storyboards, and fake credentials in place, Mendez must make his daring entry into Iran, coach the houseguests on their new identities and pray that their cover story is good enough to get them through the airport alive.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Looper" (2012)

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt
Written and directed by Rian Johnson
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity, drug use
Running Time: 118 Minutes

"Time travel hasn't been invented it.  But in the future, it will be."

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a special hit man called a Looper.  Whenever a criminal organization in the future needs to get rid of someone, they send him to the past.  Joe is there, and he kills whoever arrives at his location at the specified time, and then disposes of the body.  But there's a certain clause in the contract: whenever your usefulness to the organization has ended, you're sent back in time and killed by your own younger self.  This is called closing the loop.

One night, Joe's friend Seth (Paul Dano) fails to kill his older self, and comes to Joe for help.  But Joe gives Seth up to his boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels), who is actually from the future and sent back to run the Loopers.  But Seth has a dire warning from his older self: someone named the Rainmaker has been closing all the loops, and worse, is cutting a swath of death and destruction across the entire world.  His reign of terror is unstoppable.

Soon enough, Joe finds it's his turn: his older self (Bruce Willis) arrives from the future.  But Old Joe manages to get the drop on his younger self and escapes.  Now both Joes are on the run from Abe's men, especially Kid Blue (Noah Segen) and Jesse (Garrett Dillahunt).  Joe realizes that he can get his life back as soon as he kills Old Joe, but Old Joe has come from the future on a mission: He's going to find the Rainmaker as a child and kill him before he can become the horror he'll grow into.  Young Joe knows this, and tracks down the boy (Pierce Gagnon) and his mother (Emily Blunt) first.

Now it's only a matter of time before their inevitable confrontation.  But Abe and his men are closing in, too.  And what exactly is it that will turn this intelligent young boy into the worst terror the world has ever seen?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

'Fringe' Season Four (2011)

Starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble
Created by JJ Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

The war between the universes has been averted, but at a terrible cost.  Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) has been erased from the timeline.  But as the Fringe teams in both universes continue to deal with strange events connected to the degradation of the universes and the fracturing of the timeline, FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) and crackpot scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) have visions and dreams of a strange man neither one can identify.

And then, suddenly, Peter Bishop winks into back into existence.  Convinced he's found himself in another alternate universe or timeline, Peter focuses himself on finding a way home, back to his Olivia. Meanwhile, in this altered timeline, Peter wasn't able to stop David Robert Jones (Jared Harris) from crossing over years earlier, and now the radical terrorist is back.  He's employing a new variety of shapeshifters that are harder to spot in order to advance his plans for destruction.

Now Peter must use his knowledge and memories that no one else has to help both universes join forces to stop Jones from enacting his awful plan: to collapse both universes and create a third new one, one that he can design and control to his will.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Act of Valor" (2012)

Starring Jason Cottle, Alex Veadov and Roselyn Sanchez
Written by Kurt Johnstead
Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 110 Minutes

Two CIA agents, Lisa (Roselyn Sanchez) and Walter (Nestor Serrano) are ambushed in Costa Rica after uncovering evidence that a smuggler named Cristo (Alex Veadov) has formed an alliance with a terrorist named Shabal (Jason Cottle).  Walter is killed, but Lisa is tortured for information.

Navy SEAL Team 7, led by "Rorke," is tasked with her retrieval.  His team infiltrates the camp where she's being held and recovers her, but also finds a cell phone.  On this cell phone is intel that Shabal is planning an attack on American soil.  Thus, the SEALs are ordered to continue on the mission, their ultimate goal to find Shabal and stop his devastating attack.

It seems Shabal has cultivated at team of suicide bombers and equipped them with a devastating new weapon: bomb vests with explosive ceramic ball bearings sean directly into the fabric... which are completely invisible to metal detectors.  With the deadline approaching, the SEALs must give their all to stop Shabal and save America.

Friday, October 5, 2012

'Fringe' Season Three (2010)

Starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble
Created by JJ Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

Having successfully rescued Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) from the alternate universe, the Fringe team returns to the prime universe in the hopes of getting life back to normal.  Unfortunately, that's not to be: Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) has been replaced by her doppelganger from the other side, dubbed "Fauxlivia."  Unbeknownst to Peter, Walter (John Noble), Astrid (Jasika Nicole) and Broyles (Lance Reddick), Fauxlivia has dark motives for replacing Olivia.  Acting as a spy, she learns more about the prime universe, sending information back to "Walternate," the evil alternate Secretary of Defense.

In the alternate universe, Olivia is brainwashed into thinking she is Fauxlivia, and works with their Fringe team to help solve the strange goings on in that universe, as well as to fight against the degradation that is slowly destroying the entire universe.  But the brainwashing doesn't seem to be permanent, and her original identity seems to be surfacing.  Walternate knows he needs to learn how Olivia's special powers work in order to replicate them and save his universe.

But the mystery doesn't stop there.  Pieces of a mysterious machine have been uncovered, an ancient machine that appears to be millions of years old, and inexplicably linked to Peter.  What is this machine?  What is Peter's connection to it? And why does Fauxlivia want to steal parts of it back to her home universe?

Monday, October 1, 2012

'Fringe' Season Two (2009)

Starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble
Created by JJ Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) has finally managed to meet the elusive William Bell (Leonard Nimoy), but the truth about him and the mysterious Pattern that she's been investigating is far stranger than she imagined.  Bell now lives in an alternate universe, one which is slowly being torn apart by strange anomalies known as "Fringe Events."

Back in her home universe, Dunham's partners Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), have no idea where she's gone.  When Dunham returns, just as mysteriously as she left, but missing her memory of what happened on the other side, the team tries to figure out how to get her to remember.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick) continues to assign the team to investigate strange occurrences.  But more than just weird things are happening: enemies from the other side have infiltrated our universe.  What is their plan?  Why are they here? And when it's discovered that agents from the other side can take the form of anyone they meet, who can Dunham and the Bishops ultimately trust?

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Man on Fire" (2004)

Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning and Christopher Walken
Written by Brian Helgeland
Directed by Tony Scott
Rated R - Language, violence
Running Time: 146 Minutes

Former Marine and CIA operative John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is in a funk.  He drinks, and he doesn't have much else going for him.  His friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken) offers him a job as a bodyguard for a young girl in Mexico City, one of the kidnapping capitals of the world.  Creasy is hired by Samuel Ramos (Marc Antony) and Rita Ramos (Radha Mitchell) to protect their daughter Lupita (Dakota Fanning).

Despite his initial reservations, Creasy and "Pita" end up forming a friendship.  After taking her to a piano lesson, Creasy is ambushed by corrupt police officers.  He manages to kill some, but kidnappers make off with Pita.  Samuel negotiates a $10 million ransom with the kidnappers for Pita while Rayburn and Miguel Manzana (Giancarlo Giannini), director of the Mexican federal police, hide Creasy from the corrupt police force.

Unfortunately, the ransom drop goes wrong and the money is stolen.  Rayburn informs Creasy that Pita is dead, that the whole situation has gone south, and Creasy decides his next step will be revenge.  With guns supplied by Rayburn, Creasy vows to kill everyone who had anything to do with Pita's kidnapping.  He joins forces with a journalist, Maria Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin) who also works with Manzana, to track down the rest of Pita's kidnappers and expose their corrupt organization.  But the clock is ticking: Creasy is wounded, and the work he's doing could kill him before he's finished making his enemies pay.

"Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part I" (2012)

Starring Peter Weller, David Selby, and Ariel Winter
Written by Bob Goodman
Directed by Jay Oliva
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 77 Minutes

It has been ten years since the Batman was last seen in Gotham City.  Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller) is a tired old shell of a man, a drinker, and might even be suicidal.  He hangs out with his old friend, Police Commissioner James Gordon (David Selby), and laments his retirement.

A new gang has arisen in Gotham, the Mutants.  They are vicious, inhuman thugs who commit crimes merely for the enjoyment of violence, rather than for any kind of goal such as money.  The Mutants have threatened Gordon's life, repeatedly, as he nears his retirement.

At the same time, Harvey Dent (Wade Williams) is deemed reformed, and plastic surgery erases all traces of the scars that turned him into the villainous Two-Face.  But as soon as he's released, Two-Face disappears and goes back to his life of crime.  Feeling guilty and responsible for leaving his city to rot, Bruce once again dons the cowl of the Batman.

But the world has changed.  And so has Batman.  The populace is divided.  Batman's brutal methods scare some, enrage others.  He seems to be getting the job done, but at what price?  What about the rights of the crooks he's brutalizing?  And what personal cost will Batman pay himself, pushing his aged body to its limits?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Domino" (2005)

Starring Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez
Written by Richard Kelley
Directed by Tony Scott
Rated R - Violence, language, drug use, nudity, sexuality
Running Time: 127 Minutes

Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley) is a young, attractive woman who has never really gotten along well within the constraints of what society thought she should be doing. She trains herself with guns, fighting skills and hand to hand weapons.  After a brief stint as a model, she gets a job as a bounty hunter for Claremont Williams III (Delroy Lindo).  She works with Ed Moseby (Mickey Rourke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez) and their driver Alf (Riz Abaasi).  They bust criminals who have skipped bail.

Claremont Williams, however, is not quite on the up and up.  After the team signs on to be part of a new reality show produced by sleazy Mark Heiss (Christopher Walken) and hosted by Ian Ziering (Ian Ziering) and Brian Austen Green (Brian Austen Green), Williams orders them to track down a team of armored car hijackers known as the First Ladies.  He provides them with the names of the hijackers, and the team goes to work with the cameras in tow.

But Domino suspects that something is amiss when it turns out there are no arrest warrants out for the men Williams fingers. With an ever more complicated string of problems including FBI surveillance, $10 million in missing mob money and a fake ID ring run through the DMV by Williams mistress Lateesha (Mo'Nique), Domino and the others find themselves in a dangerous situation that could get them all killed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

'Fringe' Season One (2008)

Starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble
Created by JJ Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman

FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is assigned a case unlike anything she's seen before: a plane has landed at Logan Airport in Boston, and all the passengers are dead - and their skin has turned translucent.  Dunham and her partner and lover, Agent John Scott (Mark Valley) follow a lead to a local storage facility where Scott is caught in an explosion and exposed to a biological agent that begins to turn his skin translucent.

Desperate to find a cure, Dunham tracks down a scientist named Walter Bishop (John Noble) who decades earlier had worked in the areas of "fringe science," performing radical experiments on subjects like telekinesis, teleportation, and so on.  Unfortunately, Bishop has been committed to a mental institution for the last 17 years.  The only way to speak to him is to get permission from Bishop's son, Peter (Joshua Jackson) who is currently working in Baghdad.

Unfortunately, though Walter is able to cure Agent Scott, Dunham discovers that he is, in fact, a traitor. Dunham's boss, SAC Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick) tells Dunham that he has been investigating something called The Pattern, and that Scott was apparently involved.  The Pattern, Broyles explains, is a series of strange events that have been occurring which all seem to be macabre scientific experiments. Dunham, along with Peter and Walter and Dunham's friend Agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo) form the FBI's new Fringe Division.  Their job is to investigate these strange cases, and hopefully figure out what the Pattern truly is, and who is behind it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"I Am Number Four" (2011)

Starring Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron and Timothy Olyphant
Written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Marti Noxon
Directed by DJ Caruso
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 109 Minutes

Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) is an alien from the planet Lorien.  Though he looks human, he is not.  But the planet Earth is the only home he's ever known.  He moves around, staying under the radar, posing as the son of his protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant) a warrior charged with his safety.  They live under the constant threat of death at the hands of the Mogadorians, vicious aliens bent on conquering Earth and destroying the last of the Loriens.

Going under the suitably stupid alias John Smith, our young hero enrolls in high school in the small town of Paradise, Ohio, where Henri claims he has "business" to take care of.  At school, John befriends a bullied loner named Sam (Callan McAuliffe) and begins to fall for the lovely Sarah (Dianna Agron).  But Henri warns him that he can't get too close to people, that they must keep a low profile in order to stay safe.  At the same time, John is discovering that he is developing incredible powers called "legacies" that he's inherited from his parents.

Of course, falling for a girl at school is never a simple matter.  Sarah's ex, the quarterback of the school football team, Mark (Jake Abel) doesn't take well to John moving in on his turf.  To make matters worse, Mark's father happens to be the town sheriff, which makes Henri extremely nervous.  Even worse than that, Sam's father, who disappeared years earlier, knew about the Loriens and may have been abducted by the Mogadorians and their vicious Commander (Kevin Durand).

Oh, and someone else (Teresa Palmer) is also looking for John.  But who is she?  And what is she after?

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Enter the Dragon" (1973)

Note: I originally wrote this review on Facebook in 2009.  I'm reprinting it here, as I plan to do with a number of other reviews I did before starting this blog.  

Starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Kien Shih
Written by: Michael Allin
Directed by: Robert Clouse
Rated R - Violence, brief nudity
Running Time: 98 Minutes

Bruce Lee stars in this 1973 martial arts flick that has become legendary in the Western world. Lee stars as, well, Lee, a martial artist recruited to spy on a mysterious crime lord holding a tournament on his private island near Hong Kong. They suspect he deals in opium, and even slavery, but can't prove it. The martial arts tournament is the perfect way to get someone on the inside, and to contact an operative already in place there. Lee accepts, discovering that the man responsible for his sister's death will also be on the island.

Meanwhile, two US Army buddies, Roper and Williams, each find themselves on the way to the tournament for their own reasons. Roper has vast gambling debts he can't pay, and Williams is a wanted man after defending himself from a couple of racist police officers. These three men each have their individual paths that take them through the rather minimal story, and considerable screentime is given to each.

And the plot is rather thin, here. This is not to say that the film is poorly written, just that the setup is simple. It is the execution of this simple story that brings out so much entertainment. There are some true moments of wit, and a lot of time is spent on following the characters around the island and the various distractions from the tournament that it provides. Lee is singularly focused on his mission, while Roper and Williams find themselves entangled in a culture of excess and luxury.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"Unstoppable" (2010)

Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson
Written by Mark Bomback
Directed by Tony Scott
Rated PG-13 - Language, peril
Running Time: 98 Minutes

Will Colson (Chris Pine) is a rookie train conductor paired for a simple haul job with veteran engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington).  Barnes at first resents Colson, who he believes only has a job because of family connections.

Meanwhile, two trainyard workers attempting to move a train off a needed track, Dewey (Ethan Suplee) and Gilleece (TJ Miller) accidentally allow the train to "coast" without a conductor and it gets away from them.  Unfortunately, while everyone believes that the train is merely coasting and will come to a stop on its own, Dewey left the throttle open, and the train instead begins to pick up speed.

Unmanned and out of control, the train, carrying thousands of gallons of toxic material in its cargo, is headed for disaster.  If the train isn't stopped or slowed down by the time it hits a dangerous curve in Stanton, Pennsylvania, it will fly off the tracks into a field of fuel containers.  The resulting explosion and toxic spill could kill thousands and destroy an entire city.

Colson and Barnes make the dangerous decision to use their locomotive to catch up to the speeding train after the company's other attempts to stop it have failed.  With the help of a local yardmaster, Connie (Rosario Dawson), Barnes and Colson will make their heroic but dangerous attempt to stop the train with the whole world, including Barnes' daughters and Colson's estranged wife, watching on TV.

"Letters to Juliet" (2010)

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Chris Egan and Vanessa Redgrave
Written by Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan
Directed by Gary Winick
Rated PG
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young fact-checker for The New Yorker who dreams of being an actual writer one day.  She's engaged to her fiance, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a chef who is opening his own restaurant soon.  The two decide to take an early honeymoon to Italy.  Unfortunately for Sophie, Victor seems only interested in meeting up with the distributors he's contracting for his new restaurant, leaving her playing second fiddle on her own honeymoon.

One afternoon while visiting the house of Shakespeare's fictional Juliet, a tourist attraction where heart-broken women leave letters asking for advice, Sophie discovers a group of women who actually sit down and read and answer all the letters.  Joining them, she finds a letter hidden behind a loose brick that has gone unnoticed for decades.  She decides to answer it, and soon enough she meets Charlie (Chris Egan) and his grandmother Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), the woman who wrote the letter.

Claire, inspired by what Sophie wrote, has decided to return to Italy and find her long-lost love, Lorenzo (Franco Nero, Redgrave's real-life husband).  Leaving Victor behind, Sophie joins Charlie and Claire on their quest to find Lorenzo.  With a list of possible choices, the three hit the road, deciding to meet every Lorenzo Bartolini they can find until they get to the right one.

At first, Sophie and Charlie don't get along.  Charlie worries that his grandmother will be hurt at the end of their quest, and seems to blame Sophie for the whole thing.  But as their journey continues, the two grow closer.  All the while, Claire begins to worry about what will happen if and when she is finally reunited with Lorenzo.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Abduction" (2011)

Starring Taylor Lautner, Lilly Collins and Alfred Molina
Written by Shawn Christensen
Directed by John Singleton
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 106 Minutes

Nathan Harper (Taylor Lautner) is living a lie.  He goes to school, hangs out with his friends, but when he goes home, his parents teach him to be wary of the outside world, how to fight and to take care of himself.  While working on a sociology project with the girl next door he's had a crush on since 8th grade, Karen (Lilly Collins), Nathan discovers that his suspicions are correct.  His face appears on a missing persons website, and he tries to find the truth.

No sooner do his parents Kevin (Jason Isaacs) and Mara (Maria Bello) confess that they are not his biological parents than they are brutally murdered by foreign agents.  Now Nathan and Karen are on the run.  Nathan's therapist, Dr. Geri Bennett (Sigourney Weaver), reveals that she also knows the truth about Nathan, and tells him not to trust anyone but herself and a man named Martin Price.

On Nathan's heels are the forces of the CIA led by Agent Frank Burton (Alfred Molina), who claims he just wants to keep Nathan and Karen safe, and evil terrorist Nikola Kozlow (Michael Nyqvist).  Why is Kozlow trying to kill Nathan?  What secret is the CIA trying to protect?  With no one to trust, Nathan realizes that the only person who might be able to help is the one man he thinks wants nothing to do with him: his own father.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Beverly Hills Cop II" (1987)

Starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold and Jurgen Prochnow
Written by Larry Ferguson and Warren Skaaren
Directed by Tony Scott
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 100 Minutes

When his friend, Beverly Hills Police Captain Andrew Bogimil (Ronny Cox), is shot, Detroit Police Detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) returns to Beverly Hills to find who is responsible.  Hooking up with his other friends, Detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Sergeant John Taggart (John Ashton) he discovers that Bogimil was investigating a recent rash of crimes committed by someone known as the Alphabet Bandit.

Someone has been robbing banks, jewelry stores and other high-cash targets in alphabetical order and leaving behind coded messages the cops have been unable to crack.  With a new chief who's more interested in politics than in solving the crime, Axel, Billy and Taggart find themselves being stonewalled at every turn.

Following clues left at crime scenes and from Bogimil's notes, Axel begins to unravel a conspiracy involving a high-end gun club, oil executives and gun runners.

Friday, August 31, 2012

"Haywire" (2011)

Starring Gina Carano, Ewan MacGregor, and Channing Tatum
Written by Lem Dobbs
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 93 Minutes

Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is an operative for a private firm of ambiguous origin.  Her boss and former boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan MacGregor) hires her for an assignment in Barcelona.  There, she's tasked with rescuing a dissident Chinese journalist named Jiang, and partnered with a man named Aaron (Channing Tatum).

After she returns, she's sent out quickly on another assignment in Dublin where she must play the "eye candy" with a British Intelligence agent named Paul (Michael Fassbender).  But she discovers that Paul has killed Jiang, and that she is now a target.  Mallory is now on the run, with Kenneth sending his best assassins and local law enforcement after her.

Not knowing why she's being targeted or who she can trust, Mallory reluctantly forms a partnership with a young man she's forced to kidnap (Michael Angarano) and a mysterious government agent named Coblenz (Michael Douglas) in order to find the truth.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Battleship" (2012)

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna and Liam Neeson
Written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber
Directed by Peter Berg
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 131 Minutes

Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a loser.  He has no job, no money, and no direction.  One night, while trying to impress a girl at a bar, he's arrested breaking into a convenience store.  Afterward, his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), sick of Alex's crap, forces him to join the United States Navy, hoping it will give him some discipline and direction.

Six years later, Hopper is a lieutenant aboard the USS John Paul Jones.  He's dating that young woman, Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker) who just happens to be the daughter of Admiral Terrence Shane (Liam Neeson) who commands the Navy's Pacific fleet.  He wants to marry her, but he's afraid of the admiral.  And despite becoming a lieutenant in the Navy, he hasn't managed to curb his poor character problems.  He's stubborn and quick to anger.

While out on maneuvers during some international naval exercises, alien spacecraft crash down in the middle of the Pacific near Hawaii.  A massive forcefield is erected, cutting off the Hawaiian islands and Hopper's ship from the rest of the world.  Trapped alone, with the captain and executive officer killed, Hopper must take command of the John Paul Jones and wage a dangerous battle against the superior alien forces before they can signal their home planet for reinforcements and rain destruction down on mankind.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Seeking Justice" (2011)

Starring Nicolas Cage, January Jones and Guy Pearce
Written by Robert Tannen
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Will Gerard (Nicolas Cage) is a mild-mannered literature teacher at a high school in New Orleans.  One night, his wife Laura (January Jones) is brutally beaten and raped.  While visiting her in the hospital, Will is approached by a man who calls himself Simon (Guy Pearce) who offers to "take care" of the individual responsible.  Will, in a moment of weakness, agrees in return for a favor to be named in the future.

Six months later, Simon reappears in Will's life, tasking him with following a young woman and two children at the zoo.  Unbeknownst to Will, he's being followed himself.  Simon continues to ask Will for more favors, finally telling him to murder a man Simon says is a child pornographer.  When Will refuses, Simon begins to intrude into his life, and even threatens Laura, until Will agrees to do as he's told.

But Will discovers that the man he was supposed to murder was in fact a journalist working to expose Simon's organization.  Wanted for murder, Will doesn't know who to trust in the police department or his own personal life.  He's on the run, trying to expose Simon and his organization for what they are: cold-blooded murderers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"The Expendables 2" (2012)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jean-Claude Van Damme
Written by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Simon West
Rated R - Strong bloody violence throughout and language
Running Time: 103 Minutes

They're all back.

The Expendables, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li),  Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and newcomer Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) are hired to save a a Chinese billionaire from kidnappers in Nepal.  When they bust into the compound, they make a surprising discovery: Barney's rival, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who was captured while also trying a rescue attempt.

Soon enough, Barney and the others make their bloody, extravagant escape and head home.  Barney is then approached by Church (Bruce Willis) with a mission, to make up for the millions Barney cost him in the first film.  Barney and his team are paired with Maggie (Yu Nan) and tasked with retrieving computer data from a downed plane in the mountains of Albania.  But the team runs afoul of Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) a terrorist who uses the information to locate buried weapons-grade plutonium in a nearby mine that he plans to sell.

One murdered teammate later, and Barney and the rest of the Expendables are out for vengeance.  Cue more gunfire and cheesy banter than you know what to do with.

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Edge of Darkness" (2010)

Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone and Danny Huston
Written by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell
Directed by Martin Campbell
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 117 Minutes

Boston Homicide Detective Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is excited to have his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) home to visit.  But he suspects that something is bothering her, and when she begins to fall ill, he decides to take her to the doctor.  On their way out the door, a man with a shotgun blows Emma away, but leaves Craven uninjured.

Initially, Craven and his colleagues at the Boston PD believe that Craven was the intended target, but when he discovers an illegal, loaded pistol in her belongings, he begins to wonder if she was in some kind of trouble.  Soon enough, as he begins to dig into her life, he discovers that she may have crossed some very powerful people at a secret nuclear research facility in western Massachusetts.

Craven is paid a visit by the mysterious Mr. Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) who points Craven toward Emma's employers.  But Craven isn't sure Jedburgh is on his side, or can be trusted.  As the bodies begin to pile up, Craven himself is now a target, and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep him silent.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season One - 1987 [Blu-Ray]

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

I previously reviewed the first season of Gene Roddenberry's much-beloved "Star Trek: The Next Generation," so I won't repeat those comments here regarding the quality of the episodes.  This review will focus purely on the remastering efforts of this new Blu-Ray edition of the show.

First, a bit of background to explain what is happening with this show.  Way back in 1987, the show was shot on 35mm film, including many of the show's myriad special effects sequences.  But as a time and cost-saving measure, post-production was done on videotape.  This was common with many shows in the 80s and through much of the 1990s.  What this means, however, is that the final version of every episode only exists in a standard-definition video tape.  This is impossible to present in high definition, since the image resolution simply isn't there.

Now, however, in order to present the show in hi-def for blu-ray, CBS has gone back to the original film elements of every episode and is essentially putting the show through post-production once again.  Every episode is being edited together again from scratch, all the special effects scanned and composited digitally.

The result is, in a word, astonishing.  In standard definition, the show seems drained of life.  The image is fuzzy, at best, and its colors muted.  The special effects always looked, well, like TV-level special effects.  The Enterprise was a big, gray object moving through space that looked like just a deeper gray.    The ship lacked contrast as the compositing techniques of the time and the videotape mastering simply couldn't get that original photography to look as good as it should.

Now, however, the difference is like night and day.  The Enterprise is highly detailed, and now has proper contrast and coloring.  It looks far more dynamic and visually appealing as it moves through space that is now a deep, deep black (and even occasionally broken up by gorgeous blue and purple clouds).  The show's opening credits are simply gorgeous; you can now see that there are actually animated people moving in the windows of the ship as it passes!  It was a detail that was never visible in the standard-definition versions of the show, and just speaks as to how this release is finally, finally doing justice to how this show was originally made.

"Get the Gringo" (2012)

Starring Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez and Daniel Giminez Cacho
Written by Mel Gibson
Directed by Adrian Grunberg
Rated R - Violence, nudity, language
Running Time: 96 Minutes

'Driver' (Mel Gibson) has made off with $2 million worth of a drug lord's money.  Unfortunately, he manages to crash his car and get himself arrested by Mexican authorities.  The cops who bust him take his money and dump him in a massive prison that seems more like its own small town.  Unsure of how things work, Driver begins to get the lay of the land.  Having spent time in prisons before, he knows exactly what he needs to do: learn the social structures, figure out who's on top, and then ingratiate himself.

But this provers harder than Driver initially suspects.  To help, he partners up with young Kid (Kevin Hernandez), who he learns is very important to the prison's top dog, Javi (Daniel Giminez Cacho).  It seems that Javi has a bad liver and a very rare blood type... and Kid is a perfect match.  Javi's men protect kid at all costs, but only so that he can incubate a nice, new healthy liver for when Javi finally needs it.

On the outside, hitmen for the mob trying to track down the stolen money begin to follow a trail that will eventually lead back to Driver.  Driver knows he needs to get out of town as soon as he can, but his conscience is telling him he can't just ditch Kid and his mother (Dolores Heredia).  He'll have to use all his skills as a thief and a conman to pull off this job from the inside and get them all out free and clear.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"Total Recall" (2012)

Starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale
Written by Mark Bomback, James Venderbilt and Kurt Wimmer
Directed by Len Wiseman
Rated PG-13: Language, violence, brief nudity
Running Time: 121 Minutes

In the future, chemical warfare has left much of the planet uninhabitable.  The only remaining places of human society are the United Federation of Britain, and "the Colony," formerly known as Australia.  The Colony, despite existing on the opposite end of the Earth, is financially dependent on Britain.  British Federal Police patrol its streets, and its citizens are exploited as migrant workers.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) works a monotonous job at a factory in Britain.  Every day, he boards a gravity elevator called the Fall with his friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), and travels to the factory where he works on the assembly line constructing sophisticated new robotic police soldiers.  Lately, Quaid has been suffering from strange nightmares where he's trying to escape some kind of facility with a beautiful woman he doesn't know the name of.  His wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale) worries that Quaid isn't happy with their marriage.

One day after work, Quaid decides to visit Rekall - a company that advertises the promise of realistic memories, far cheaper and safer than going on any real vacation or adventure.  Quaid decides he'd like to be a secret agent for a while, but before the new memories can be implanted, the Rekall employees discover that Quaid really is a secret agent!  Soon enough, the Federal Police raid Rekall, and Quaid manages to kill them all singlehandedly.  When he goes home, he confesses to Lori, and she promptly attempts to kill him.  She explains that he is not, in fact, Douglas Quaid, and that she is not, in fact, his wife.  The entire life he knows are implanted memories.

Now, Quaid is on the run.  Traveling to Britain, he meets up with a resistance fighter named Melina (Jessica Biel) who works for a man named Mathias (Bill Nighy).  Melina and Mathias believe that buried deep within Quaid's mind is the information necessary to bring down the corrupt government run by Chancellor Vihos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and stop a military invasion of the Colony that would cost millions of innocent lives.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)

Starring Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy
Written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 165 Minutes

Eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight," billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) lives as a recluse in his mansion outside Gotham City.  Depressed over the loss of his love, and the sacrifice he made as Batman to protect the reputation of Harvey Dent, he hasn't been seen out in public in years.  Every year, Gotham celebrates Harvey Dent Day, the day that Gotham pulled itself together and rid itself of organized crime, galvanized in the wake of Dent's supposed murder at the hands of the Batman.

Wayne Enterprises is faltering.  Bruce sank a ton of money into a mysterious clean energy project which went belly-up, and the board is threatening to kick him.  His only ally is Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who believes that risk is part of the game when you need to save the world.

But not all is well in Gotham.  The name on everyone's lips is... Bane.  A masked and ruthless terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy) has allied himself with Gotham business man John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), who has hired career thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) to break into Wayne Manor during the Dent Day celebration and steal Bruce Wayne's fingerprints.  But when Daggett tries to screw Kyle over for her payment, Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman), suffering over the guilt of the lies he's built to protect Harvey Dent, leads the chase into Gotham's sewers and discovers Bane.

Gordon barely survives, and begs for the return of the Batman to save Gotham from whatever it is Bane is planning.  He recruits a hot-headed beat cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to be his new right-hand man as he spearheads the investigation into Bane's plans from his hospital room.  Meanwhile, when Batman does make a return appearance, Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley (Matthew Modine) becomes obsessed with capturing him, determined to prove his worth to the mayor for Gordon's job.

But Bane's plans are bigger, more devious, and more insidious than anyone could possibly imagine.  And the Batman will face his greatest threat, an apocalyptic nightmare that could destroy the entire city.  With millions of lives hanging in the balance, Batman will discover just how far he can be pushed, and how much he can give, before he breaks.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Spider-Man" (2002)

Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Willem Dafoe
Written by David Koepp
Directed by Sam Raimi
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 121 Minutes

In 2002, not long after "Blade" and "X-Men" had blasted open the comic book superhero movie genre, Sam Raimi brought Marvel's beloved Spider-Man to the screen.

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a mild-mannered high school senior, put down upon and laughed at by pretty much everyone in his school.  He's had a crush on the girl next door, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) since forever, and lives with his kindly Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson).  His best and only friend, Harry Osborn (James Franco) tries to help him be more confident, but Peter's just too shy.

One day, while on a field trip to a local science lab, Peter is bitten by a genetically engineered "super-spider." Peter develops fantastic powers, including the ability to stick to walls, increased agility and strength, and he can shoot super-strong webs out of his wrists.  He quickly realizes that he can use these gifts to make money in order to impress Mary Jane, and lies to his uncle about going to the library to study.  Instead, he enters an amateur wrestling match, where the announcer dubs him "the amazing Spider-Man!"  After the match, he's stiffed on the money he's won, and a robber gets the rest.  Peter lets him go, thinking that it's not his problem.

Unfortunately, the robber runs outside and carjacks Uncle Ben, killing him.  In a rage, Peter hunts him down and the robber is accidentally killed.  Peter remembers his uncle's advice to him - that with great power comes great responsibility, and he decides to dedicate using his powers to doing good.

Meanwhile, Harry's father, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) is desperate to prove that his company's performance enhancing drugs will work, and secure a contract with the United States military. So desperate, in fact, that he tests it on himself.  And while the drug does in fact make him stronger, it also fractures his personality and Norman becomes the Green Goblin.  When Spider-Man interferes with Goblin's attempt to murder the company's board of directors, Goblin realizes Spider-Man will have to be destroyed before he can continue with his plans.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Immortals" (2011)

Starring Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff and Mickey Rourke
Written by Vlas Parlapanides and Charles Parlapanides
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Rated R - Violence, language, gore, nudity
Running Time: 110 Minutes

Before the rise of man, the gods waged war against the Titans.  During the war, a powerful weapon known as the Epirus Bow was lost. The Titans were defeated and imprisoned in Mount Tartarus, and the gods, led by Zeus (Luke Evans) are banned from interfering in the development of mankind unless the Titans are released.

Theseus (Henry Cavill) is a young man who lives with his single mother.  His mother is abused and called a whore by the other people of their village for having had a bastard son.  He spends his days being taught by a kindly old man (John Hurt) who teaches him to defend the weak and the innocent.  Word comes to the village that King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) who is seeking the Epirus Bow in order to release the Titans, is on his way and the village must be evacuated.  When Theseus and his mother are barred from leaving with the more affluent villagers, he gets into a fight with one of the soldiers, Lysander (Joseph Morgan).  Lysander's commander Helios (Peter Stebbings) is impressed with Theseus' skills as a warrior, and strips Lysander of his rank.

Humiliated, Lysander defects to Hyperion's ranks and informs him of the location of Theseus' village.  Hyperion is searching for an oracle who he believes will lead him to the location of the Epirus Bow.  The oracle, Phaedra (Frieda Pinto), is on the run, knowing that she can never allow Hyperion access to her visions.  Hyperion invades Theseus' village, killing Theseus' mother and capturing Theseus himself.

Soon enough, Theseus meets Phaedra and a distraction provided by the god Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) allows them to escape.  Burying his mother, he finds the Epirus Bow, but eventually loses it to Hyperion.  Now Theseus must learn to lead his people in battle to defend Tartarus from Hyperion, and expect no more help from the gods to save mankind.

"John Carter" (2012)

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Samantha Morton
Written by Andrew Stanton, Michael Andrews and Michael Chabon
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 132 Minutes

Confederate Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) of Virginia finds himself in a jam when he's captured by Union soldiers in Arizona who intend to conscript him to duty against the local Apaches.  Instead, Carter escapes and takes refuge in a mysterious cave where he's attacked by a strange man who mutters words in a foreign language.  Suddenly, a burst of blue energy transports Carter to the planet Mars, known to the locals as Barsoom.

There, Carter is captured by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe), Jeddak or king of the Tharks, a race of green martian warriors.  Instead of being killed, Tars Tarkas takes a liking to Carter after the human displays incredible powers thanks to his denser bones and muscles and the lower gravity of Mars.  Carter is able to leap across huge distances and is stronger than any martian warrior.

Meanwhile, a race of red-skinned martian men who look human except for their red skin, led by Sab Than (Dominic West), Jeddak of Zodanga, wage war on the red-skinned martians of Helium. Sab Than has been given a powerful weapon that harnesses the energy from the 9th Ray (whatever that means), making him unbeatable.  He was given this power by the Therns, a race of beings martians believe mythical.

Helium is ruled by Jeddak Tardos Mors (Cirian Hinds), who has promised Sab Than the hand of his daughter Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) in marriage to end the war.  Dejah tries to escape and is hunted down by Sab Than.  Carter rescues her, but after she and Carter enter the Thark temple without permission, they are banished along with Carter's new pet Woola (a sort of alien dog) and Tars Tarkas' daughter, Sola (Samantha Morton).  The three travel to the south to discover a means of sending Carter back to Earth, but instead discover that the Therns have control of the powerful energies Sab Than is using against the forces of Helium, and that they can send Carter home.

But Dejah and Carter are captured and brought to Helium, where Dejah will be forced to marry Sab Than, who intends to sack the city anyway.  Meanwhile, Carter learns that the Thern Matai Shang (Mark Strong) is not only manipulating Mars toward its destruction, but may plan to do the same to Earth.  Carter must figure out a way to defeat Sab Than and the Therns and save the Princess of Mars.

"Justice League: Doom" (2012)

Starring Kevin Conroy, Tim Daily and Nathan Fillion
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by Lauren Montgomery
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence
Running Time: 77 Minutes

Batman (Kevin Conroy) and the rest of the Justice League, including Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Flash (Michael Rosenbaum), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), and Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) break up a robbery by the Royal Flush Gang.  With help from Cyborg (Bumper Robinson), Batman determines that the gang is using phase-shifting technology to walk through walls and steal diamonds.  But interrogating the gang on how and where they got such information is fruitless.

Soon after, the villains Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Cheetah (Claudia Black), Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), Star Sapphire (Olivia d'Abo), Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), and Ma'alefa'ak (Carl Lumbly) are brought together by the immortal Vandal Savage (Phil Morris).  He gives them each an assignment to take out a member of the Justice League, and informs them exactly how to do it.  In return, they each receive $100 million, and a promise of greater wealth and power in the future.

And so the Legion of Doom systematically and simultaneously takes out each member of the Justice League.  Bane buries Batman alive in his own father's grave.  Metallo shoots Superman in the chest with a kryptonite bullet.  Green Lantern is forced to face his own failure, and his will is broken.  Flash is fitted with a bomb that will explode if he stops running.  Wonder Woman is drugged and believes she is fighting multiple versions of Cheetah - but is actually beating up every person she sees.  Martian Manhunter is poisoned so that he sweats magnesium, and is then lit on fire.

But the most devastating revelation of all may be the source of Savage's information: Batman's own files on the League, and the contingency plans he created to take the heroes down should the occasion arise.

Now the Justice League must pull together and defeat the villains before Vandal Savage can unleash his true plan to take over the entire world.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012)

Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans
Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves
Directed by Marc Webb
Rated PG-13 - Language, superhero violence
Running Time: 136 Minutes

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a teenager at Midtown High School, where he lives a fairly anonymous life.  He has few friends, is practically invisible to women, and occasionally suffers humiliation at the hands of jock bully Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka).  He has a crush on hottie science nerd Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) but lacks the guts to ask her out.  Peter lives with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), a kindly blue-collar couple in Queens, after his parents mysteriously disappeared years earlier.

One evening, while cleaning out the basement, Peter finds an old briefcase that belonged to his father.  Hidden inside is a revolutionary formula for combining the genetics of two species of animal.  Determined to find out more about his father and what he was working on, Peter sneaks into OsCorp to meet his father's old colleague Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).  He finds that Connors is still working on genetic combinations in order to regrow his amputated right arm.  While sneaking around Oscorp, Peter breaks into a high security lab where he is bitten by a genetically-engineered spider created as part of his father's and Connors' project.

The spider imbues Peter with a host of incredible super powers.  He can stick to walls, has enhanced agility and speed, and a "spider-sense" that allows him to sense danger and be more aware of his surroundings.  Despite his excitement over this new development, his relationship with Uncle Ben and Aunt May begins to fray.  One night after a fight, Peter runs out of the house.  Uncle Ben goes to follow him.  After Peter declines to stop a convenience store robbery, Uncle Ben steps in, and is shot by the perp.

Peter decides to use his new powers to track down the man who murdered Ben.  After his first attempt goes disastrously wrong, Peter realizes he'll need to hide his identity in order to continue his search, and fashions a mask.  Soon enough, he's created an entire costume and an identity, and continues trying to track down the criminal with the unique tattoo who killed his uncle.

Connors, meanwhile, is under a great deal of pressure.  His boss, Rajit Ratha (Irrfat Khan), is pressing him to make progress on his projects in order to save the life of Oscorp's owner, Norman Osborn.  When Ratha tells Connors he intends to test his new serum on unwitting patients at a nearby veteran's hospital, Connors tries to beat him to the punch by testing it on himself.  The results are, at first, incredible, but soon enough the terrifying truth emerges: Connors' new serum intermittently turns him into a huge lizard-like beast with incredible regenerative powers.  As Connors behavior grows more and more obsessive and out of control, Peter realizes that he must put aside his own vendetta, embrace his responsibility, and become a true hero.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Con Air" (1997)

Starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and John Malkovich
Written by Scott Rosenberg
Directed by Simon West
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 115 Minutes

I recently noted that "Air Force One" was the kind of turn-off-your-brain action picture that can be a ton of fun.  While both can be labeled part of the "Die Hard on a plane" subgenre, "Con Air" makes "Air Force One" look like an intelligent Oscar-worthy film.

U.S. Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is sent off to do a dime after killing a man in a barfight.  Eight years later, he's finally being released to go home to his loving wife (Monica Potter) and meet his daughter for the first time.  He hitches a ride home on a US Marshal Service prisoner transport plane carrying some of the nation's worst fiends.

Once airborne, the cons stage a well-planned siege of the plane.  Led by Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (John Malkovich), the convicts take control of the plane, killing several of the guards and taking the rest hostage.  Cyrus and his cronies, including Nathan "Diamond Dog" Jones (Ving Rhames), William "Billy Bedlam" Bedford (Nick Chinlund), Joe "Pinball" Parker (Dave Chappelle), are being paid to hijack the plane in order to spring South American drug lord Francisco Cindino (Jesse Borego).  Cindino has promised them all a large sum of money and save haven in a non-extradition country for their help in his escape.  The plane is also carrying a number of other cons who aren't in on the plan, but are more than eager to join in when they see what's going on, like serial rapist John "Johnny-23" Baca (Danny Trejo), but also a few more than content to simply sit by and see what happens next, like the quietly insane Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi).

Poe's best friend on the inside, Mike "Baby-O" O'Dell (Mykelti Williamson), is diabetic and starts to go into shock.  Unable to leave his friend behind, Poe convinces Cyrus and the others that he wants to go along with their plans, saying he's got 15 years left and nothing more to live for than the hope of freedom on a beach.  He vows to save Baby-O and to protect the lives of the captured guards.  Meanwhile, on the ground, US Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) must figure out how to keep hot-headed DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney) from simply blowing the plane out of the sky, killing Poe and the other hostages.

"Air Force One" (1997)

Starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Glenn Close
Written by Andrew W. Marlowe
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 125 Minutes

"Die Hard" pretty much created its own subgenre.  Throughout the 1990s, there were plenty of "Die Hard on a ____" films.  "Under Siege" was "Die Hard on a boat," "Sudden Death" was "Die Hard in a hockey stadium" and so on.  1997's "Air Force One" is pretty well "Die Hard on a plane."

President of the United States James Marshall (Harrison Ford) is in Moscow delivering a speech in the wake of a successful joint military operation to capture the rogue Russian hardline General Radek (Jurgen Prochnow).  In his speech, he paints a picture of a new American foreign policy - zero tolerance for terrorism.

Once Air Force One is airborne, a Russian news crew aboard is revealed to be a group of terrorists loyal to Radek.  They kill much of the crew and capture many of the President's closest advisers, as well as his wife Grace (Wendy Crewson) and daughter Alice (Liesel Matthews), and demand Radek's release from prison.  The leader of the terrorists, Ivan (Gary Oldman) warns that a hostage will be killed every half hour until he has received word that Radek is free.

Unbeknownst to Egor, Marshall has managed to hide in the bowels of the plane and escape capture.  While Egor negotiates with Vice President Kathryn Bennett (Glenn Close), Marshall begins to retake the plane all by himself, using his experience as a US Marine.  Meanwhile, in Washington, Bennett faces a political crisis as Secretary of Defense Walter Dean (Dean Stockwell) attempts to usurp command of the situation from her at a critical time.

With his wife, daughter and political career at stake, and lives hanging in the balance, Marshall must face down the terrorists alone, and race against time before they kill more of the hostages.