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.