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.