Sunday, January 29, 2012

"The Grey" (2012)

Starring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo and Dermot Mulroney
Written by Joe Carnahan and Ian McKenzie Jeffers
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 117 Minutes

This review will discuss the ending of this film.  If you want to avoid spoilers, ignore the paragraphs in italics.

Liam Neeson has had something of an unlikely resurgence in his career.  Pushing 60, the man seems to have carved a new niche for himself as a total badass in action thrillers like "Taken" and "The A-Team."  Now, he teams up again with director Joe Carnahan for a tale of a broken man marooned in the Alaskan wilds, hunted by wolves.

John Ottway (Liam Neeson) works security for an oil company at the end of the world.  He protects oil drillers from the wolves that stalk the fields.  He deeply misses his wife, and has no friends among his coworkers.  One night, he boards a plan headed for Anchorage along with a number of other workers.  Partway through the trip, the plan crashes, and Ottway finds himself one of only a half dozen survivors, including Talget (Dermot Mulroney), Diaz (Frank Grillo), Hendrick (Dallas Roberts), Burke (Nonso Anozie), and Hernandez (Ben Bray).  With little food, and no chance of being found, the group hunkers down for the night.

But they soon discover they're not alone: a pack of wolves circles their camp, and Ottway realizes that they are being hunted.  If they can make it to the tree line, he thinks, perhaps the wolves will back off.  But even as the men make it to what they hope is safety, they realize the wolves are not going to let them go so easily, and their own problems begin to fray their unity.

"District 13: Ultimatum" (2009)

Starring Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle
Written by Luc Besson
Directed by Patrick Allessandrin
Rated R: Violence, language, drugs
Running Time: 106 Minutes

For all the whiz-bang coolio wizardry that CGI has wrought, there will always be something special and impressive about cool stunts done by real people.  It's what makes Asian martial arts flicks so wildly entertaining, and what makes Parkour look so freaking cool.

Three years after the events of "District 13," nothing much has changed.  The government had promised to demolish the walls surrounding the Parisian ghettos, but to date have done nothing.  District B-13 is still a shambles, run by a group of gangs separated by ethnicity.  Within its walls, Leito (David Belle) continues his campaign to bring down the wall, planting explosives and constantly running from the cops.  He is a neutral figure among the gangs, but his safety is tenuous.

Outside, Damien Tomasso (Cyril Raffaelli) is a decorated veteran police officer who has just been set up on a bum narcotics charge.  With no one else to call, he contacts Leito to bust him out of jail.  But Leito has his own problems.  He has uncovered evidence of a conspiracy within the government to set off a powder keg within the district, which will convince the government to demolish the ghetto and give the lucrative rebuilding contracts to the powerful Harriburton corporation.

Soon enough, Damien and Leito discover that all these events are related.  While on the run from the police and the crooked agents of DISS, they concoct a plan to expose the conspiracy and force the government to fix the ghettos once and for all.

Friday, January 27, 2012

"The Mechanic" (2011)

Starring Jason Statham, Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland
Written by Lewis John Carlino and Richard Wenk
Directed by Simon West
Rated R - Violence, sex/nudity, language
Running Time: 93 Minutes

I wonder if Jason Statham ever gets tired of scowling.  Look, I like Jason Statham, and the movies he's in, but really... they're all kind of the same, aren't they?

Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a mechanic - he fixes things, for a price.  Usually that means killing people.  Bishop is an excellent mechanic, capable of making his targets look like they were killed accidentally or by natural causes.  One day, he's ordered to kill Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), an old friend and mentor.  Bishop takes the job, but ultimately feels remorse for doing so.

Not long after, he meets Harry's son Steve (Ben Foster), a troubled young man looking for revenge.  Feeling like he owes something to Harry, Bishop takes Steve under his wing to teach him to be a mechanic like himself.  At first, Steve takes to the training well, but Bishop soon learns that Steve has too much anger and is too impatient when he begins botching the jobs he takes.  Bishop is also worried that Steve will learn he's the one who killed Harry.

When Bishop discovers that his employers played him, that the evidence against Harry to prove he needed to be taken out was faked, Bishop and Steve decide to take down the company.

Monday, January 16, 2012

'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Season Six (1997)

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


With Deep Space Nine and Bajor occupied by the forces of Cardassia and their Dominion overseers, Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) and the crew of the Defiant face months of losing battles against the Cardassians and the Jem'Hadar.  As morale dips dangerously low, Sisko realizes the Federation needs a major victory to get it back into the fight.

To this end, Admiral Ross (Barry Jenner) assigns Sisko the task of devising strategies to win.  Meanwhile, Dukat (Marc Alaimo) is frustrating Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs) and the female Shapeshifter (Salome Jens) with his inability to take down the minefield Sisko placed over the entrance to the wormhole.  Much-needed Dominion reinforcements are waiting on the other side, ready to sweep through the Alpha Quadrant and conquer the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans and anyone else who get in their way.

While Sisko, Dax (Terry Farrell), O'Brien (Colm Meaney), Bashir (Alexander Siddig), Worf (Michael Dorn), Nog (Aron Eisenberg), Martok (JG Hertzler) and exiled Cardassian spy Garak (Andrew Robinson) attempt to retake the station from without, Major Kira (Nana Visitor), Jake (Cirroc Lofton), Quark (Armin Shimerman), and Rom (Max Grodenchik) begin their on resistance movement to overthrow the Dominion occupation of the station, return Bajor to freedom and protection of the Federation, and stop the Dominion from conquering the Alpha Quadrant.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Mars Needs Moms" (2011)

Starring Seth Green/Seth Dusky, Dan Fogler and Elisabeth Harnois
Written by Simon and Wendy Wells
Directed by Simon Wells
Rated PG - Peril, violence, scary images
Running Time: 88 Minutes

"Mars Needs Moms" is a motion-captured CG affair that was released to little critical acclaim and even less box office success in 2011.  It's not hard to see why, since it's not a particularly good film, but it does have some merits worth discussing.

Milo (motion capture by Seth Green, voice by Seth Dusky) is a young human boy who feels unfairly punished by his mother (Joan Cusack) and ignored by his father (Tom Everett Scott), who is often away on business.  One night, Martians arrive and kidnap Milo's mom.  Milo follows them to their space ship and stows away on board. 

When they reach Mars, he discovers that the Martian female live in a monochromatic and highly ordered society where the young females are raised by "nanny-bots," machines which can only be used once and are then discarded.  Programming the nanny-bots requires removing the parenting knowledge from a human and implanting it into the bots, which destroys the human.  The male martians are dumped unceremoniously into an underworld filled with garbage. 

Milo meets Gribble (Dan Fogler) another human who attempted to rescue his own mother years previously and failed.  Now grown, Gribble lives alone in the underworld with his robot pet, Two-Cat (Dee Bradley Baker) and has gone just a little bit insane.  Milo also meets a Martian woman named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois) who has been fascinated with Earth's hippie culture, and joins Milo's quest to free his mother.

Milo, Gribble and Ki must infiltrate the Martian citadel, ruled with an iron hand by the Supervisor (Mindy Sterling) and her security forces, and rescue Milo's mom before sunrise activates the machine that will drain her of her memories and kill her. 

'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Season Five (1996)

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

The fifth season premiere title "Apocalypse Rising" is an apt description of this season.  When last we left the heroes of 'Deep Space Nine,' they had learned that Changelings had infiltrated the Klingon Empire, perhaps as high up as Chancellor Gowron (Robert O'Reilly) himself.

To this end, Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks), Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney), Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) and Constable Odo (Rene Auberjonois) go undercover in the Empire with the help of a stolen Klingon ship captained by Dukat (Marc Alaimo).  There, they hope to infiltrate a gathering of warriors to expose the Changeling in public, and hopefully bring an end to the Klingons' war with the Federation.

But even though they do this great service for the Empire, Gowron tells them it is too late to stop the conflict.  As the Federation faces increasing losses to the vicious Klingons, Sisko knows the Dominion is just waiting to pick off their remnants.  Frustrated by his peoples' subjugation at the hands of the Klingons, Dukat forms an alliance with the Dominion, giving them the in they need to begin moving massive numbers of troops and equipment into the Alpha Quadrant.

In response, Sisko enacts a bold plan to mine the entrance to the wormhole, cutting off the Dominion supply lines from the Gamma Quadrant.  It is an act that could lead to war.

Or worse.