Saturday, March 31, 2012

Double Impact (1991)

I can't believe I have to work with this guy.

Jean-Claude Van Damme x2!  What more could you possibly want?  A story and acting lessons couldn’t hurt but let’s not get into that.  He plays Alex and Chad Wagner who are twin brothers whose parents were murdered in Hong Kong quite viciously by the triads.  Alex is the tougher brother who grew up in Hong Kong while Chad is the gentler brother.  They team up to take revenge on their parent’s brutal deaths.

                Let me start with, “It wasn’t actually that bad.”  My very words see it’s in quotes.  Van Damme’s acting was more acceptable this time possibly because he was able to see himself from a different angle.  I hope you get that one, ha-ha!  One aspect that I don’t comprehend is that the brothers lack accents from their respective place of being raised.  The main focus is on Alex who spent his entire life in Hong Kong.  Would he even speak English?  If so wouldn’t it be with a Chinese accent?  Now that would be hysterical, to hear Van Damme speak with a Chinese accent!  Chad did grow up in France I believe but there is no accent there as well, possibly because he went to America.  In a movie like this is no big deal but it sure is funny to think about.

I bet you're glad you checked out this review now.
                The beginning of the story is a bit difficult to warm up to but it becomes more interesting as Alex is introduced.  He is the twin who shows more aggressive behavior and attitude.  Also I crack up whenever he calls his brother Chad a faggot.  To see Van Damme call himself a faggot is hilarious considering Chad does wear those tight gymnastic types of cloths.  Overall Alex is a better character in the story.  It is unfortunate that the first scene of Chad we see is from a camera angle directly behind his butt as he does his patented splits.  It’s in his contract to showboat he is man enough to do that.

                Moving on, Alex is unwilling to believe Frank (family bodyguard and fake uncle) and Chad’s idea that the brothers are heirs to a tunnel built in Hong Kong to connect the city more properly together.  The plot revolves around the triads trying to kill the brothers to gain control of the tunnel and the profits therein, I think.  It wasn’t particularly clear or steadfast in the main storyline.  Big surprise right, the director knew that two Van Damme’s would cloud up the story well enough to hide that it really sucks.  You have the bad guys Nigel Griffith and Raymond Zhang teaming up to finish off the family.  Griffith was originally the partner to the twin’s father until he turned evil and had them taken out.  Zhang is a crime boss and basically gets involved in shady doings naturally.   

The only movie I was ever in.
                The brother’s feud with each other as Alex at one point believes Chad is trying to make some moves on his girlfriend.  He even fantasizes about his girlfriend making love to his brother, so it’s like a fantasy about him making love to his girlfriend right?  I’m so confused.  That leads to some nifty scenes of Alex being piss drunk and letting his anger take him over.  Van Damme pretending to be upset while drunk is good stuff.  Chad and Alex do fight, and then as these things so often happen they make up and go after the men who killed their parents.  Its like, “Oh, right I knew we were supposed to be doing something.”  The girlfriend and Frank get captured that leads to the twin’s finally teaming up to end this masterpiece. 

                The fight scenes themselves were a bit brutal and shorter which was good, if any longer you would become uneasy while hoping for the ending credits to begin.  The final boss battles were decent and by no means dragged on and on.  I absolutely hate when that happens!  It was rather enjoyable to see the twins beat the crap out of obviously weaker old guys.  Alex did have to take on old Bolo again and I’ll add it was solid.
Alex

                It’s not winning any awards, duh, but as far as any other films I’ve seen Van Damme in, it is an upward step.  The fight scenes were the focal point which took away from any type of interesting story to follow.  But let’s face it the story never mattered so the fight scenes might as well took center stage.  It’s a watchable movie and has many scenes where you laugh when it’s not intended so that’s a bonus.

                Alex: I hear all sorts of bullshit every day, pal. You want some advice? Take your fancy clothes and your black silk underwear and go back to Disneyland.

                Rating: 6 of 10


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Friday, March 30, 2012

Mrs. Rodger's Neighborhood

Episode 3 – Season 1

Innocent old lady calls to the Ghostbusters to get her haunted house checked on.  The house is indeed crawling with supernatural activity by a spirit called “What”.  The race is on as the Ghostbusters must escape the house and save their own firehouse before What unleashes all the captured ghosts in the containment unit.  These writers’s at last create an episode worthy of Ghosterbuster lore.

Hope you kept the receipt!
The Ghostbusters arrive at Mrs. Rodger’s house when Egon notices the PKE meter going spastic.  It would seem the ghost was behind the door all along until the nice little old lady opens the door.  Peter settles them as he ignores the PKE meters reading which is common for him to do.  Egon dropped the PKE meter anyway so they couldn’t be 100% sure at this point about it, since it broke.  Ray takes Mrs. Rodger’s to the firehouse for safety while the rest of the guys investigate the house.  At least now we know what happened to Mr. Rodger’s right?  I always knew that house was creepy.

Peter relaxing while barking some orders out claiming he will do the important duty of writing up the bill.  I like how they really bring Peter’s character to fruition.  He’s lazy and just sees this call as an opportunity for money.  It translates nicely from the movies.  Shortly after though the realization it is haunted shows itself with chants of “What” and the guys questioning who said “What” in a comical manner.

It takes more than that to intimidate Janine

Ray dumps the old hag off with Janine to give her a tour of the firehouse.  Slimer is suspicious as Mrs. Rodger’s little bird she brought along turns into a fire breathing ghost bird!  Janine shows the containment unit to the old lady which now can only be turned off by the Ghostbusters through hand identification.  You see the old lady transform into the hideous “What” spirit but revert to her old lady form as Janine explains she can’t open the containment unit.  Janine never notices as her back is turned, it’s done well actually.

The Ghostbusters realize Mrs. Rodger’s is “What” and must rush back to the firehouse to save Janine.  They make their escape with some iffy 80’s music playing in the background.  At the door they are all dangling vertical as the house has changed shape considerably.  Ray drops a trap into this furnace looking ghost and it explodes, I’m not sure why.  Maybe when it ate the trap, the trap blew up?  It’s shaky but it doesn’t hurt the episode much.

What knows how to throw a party

When they arrive back at the firehouse Janine is sitting at her desk whittling away with a file on her finger nails.  What is loose in the building and they must find it.  Peter gets possessed by What in the bathroom which is fantastic!  His hair spikes up and he gets a yellow tint across his face.  He goes to the containment unit to gain command of all the ghosts therein.  I really like all the episodes so far using the storage unit as an attacking plot point, it brings a heightened suspense to the show!

De-possessing Peter
The rest of the guys arrive to find Peter attempting to release the ghosts.  Winston was going to blast him which was very hilarious!  Egon uses some smart logic to adjust the throwers to rip apart What from Peter.  The one drawback is that the theme music doesn’t trigger in this final scene.  It would have put it over the top for excitement.  With a classic spirit god like What being captured it should have been played.  I always enjoy it when this show takes the time to explain where the ghost came from.  In this case the underworld.  What is the leader of a legion of demons and wishes to conquer the mortal world.  It provides some pressure on the Ghostbusters to stop What at all costs, even blasting Peter!  If you are going to watch any of this show to this is one I’d recommend.

A Thing about Rats

Episode 3
Mousers aren't so tough.
I’ve written so highly of the pilot series but now come to a point where I find myself putting a stop to that.  This episode is a step back from the two we’ve seen so far.  What we have here is Shredder trying to use small robot “mousers” to destroy the turtles, Splinter and April.  The mousers are a neat little invention by Baxter Stockman who makes his debut on the show.  If I’m Shredder though, I make these mousers much bigger in size at the very least.  I think I could take out a handful of these pesky little robots, the turtles basically annihilate them.  This is the first time Shredder disappoints me in his desire to defeat the turtles.  He previously stated in Turtle Tracks he never should have sent a punk to do a ninja’s job so he thinks mousers should get a crack at it?  Why mousers?  Why??  Shredder has technology from dimension X and goes with mousers created by an inventor that can’t even sell a robot rat catcher to a pest control company.  That scene is great though as the guy boots Stockman and says he’d be out of business if all the rats were gone.  The idea of the mousers is interesting but they’re just too tiny.

Can we trash your apartment?
                The turtles go to Aprils apartment and basically act like 5 year olds for some reason as they mess up the place by either flooding the bathroom or setting fire to the kitchen.  I don’t understand why they become so unaware of modern conveniences.  They have those things in their sewer lair do they act like idiots at home too?  It was mildly funny.

                The turtles get the tip on Stockman and go to pay him a visit.  By the way, Shredder created 100’s of mousers overnight which is so unbelievable; why not create 100’s of foot soldiers instead to defeat the turtles?  That seems more likely to do the job than mousers.  Taking a bit more time to make the mousers would be more interesting but of course could not fit into a single episode I suppose.  The turtles defeat four foot soldiers easy as can be since they failed to put up any resistance whatsoever.  They were like crash dummies.  Stockman squeals as to where Shredder is hiding so the turtles promptly steal Stockman’s van while leaving him tied up to a light pole.  I’d be pissed at the turtles for that wouldn’t you?  Stockman has clear motive to hate them at this point.  To Stockman’s defense he didn’t know Shredder was going to use his mousers for anything other than rats initially.  He just thought Shredder has a thing about rats, ha-ha.

How desperate are you Baxter?
                Michelangelo decides to go solo into Shredder’s hideout and gets caught fairly easy at gun point by Shredder.  Shredder should have blown Michelangelo’s head right off but he only ties him up instead.  You do want to destroy the turtle’s right?  I hate when a show puts the evil character in that position then refuses to go through with what said character would do.  How about at least blasting him with the gun into unconsciousness?  Show some brass that you mean business about eradicating them.  Krang unties Michelangelo and tells him where the master controls are for the mousers.  It’s so funny to see Krang and Shredder so hateful of one another that they want the other to fail to meet their own ends.  Michelangelo dances and makes a fool of him so as to coax Shredder into blasting his own machine.  Why won’t Shredder fight hand to hand?  He has the blades on his arms for a reason right?  He could take Michelangelo one on one.  Shredder of course is a ninja so he can’t hit the broad side of a barn with his high tech laser rifle.  He misses everything except the master controls.  Shredder is showing signs of being an impatient man and somewhat incompetent character.

My Precious...
                Now with the master controls destroyed I’d imagine the mousers going offline?  No, Donatello stole Stockman’s mini-remote control, another reason for Stockman to hate the turtles, and programs them to eat Shredders hideout.  Speaking of which, the mousers ate Aprils building incredibly fast and it crumbled to ruins.  How many people died tragically in that event?  Was April alone in that huge building, probably not, kudos to the writer for mass unreported death?  End result is Shredder gets foiled as he should have killed Michelangelo when he had the chance but instead gets beaten by that same turtle.  The jokes are not bad overall in this one.  It’s a weaker pilot episode in retrospect.

Rating: 5 of 10
Links
Next Up: Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X – Episode 4

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Want To Be A Gremlin - BLOG

STRIPE!
I put this as my second favorite movie based on all the memories I have with it.  I grew up on this film about mischievous little creatures that can still manage to scare me if I don’t grab a hold of my over active imagination.  I was scared to death of them as a kid yet I wanted to watch it anyway.  Am I alone on that?  I can’t recall any other movie having this profound effect on me.

                One aspect that stays with me to this day about these violent little gremlins is the dreams I have about them.  The gremlins are rooted deep within me particularly my subconscious.  My entire life up to the present could fill a DVD with footage that is my dreams.  I have had dreams where it was dark in my old neighborhood and the gremlins were loose.  It’s not exactly the same environment as reality but you always know in your own dream where you are.  I’ve had a dream where a plane crashed that led me to an underground facility where somebody was growing genetically enhanced gremlins.  How can you dream something like that?  I remember one dream where they were running around in the vents in the ceiling at my childhood home.  I can see their faces staring out of the vents at me, its spine tingling in a way.  The list goes on but its bits and fragments mostly; every now and then I can recall it with better detail though.

Gizmo & Mohawk
                The frighten factor is another memory that goes back far with me.  As a child I remember being in the living room watching this movie and wanting to go to the bathroom during it.  We would pause it on the VHS which we recorded from HBO, remember when HBO used to play movies, and I would hesitate to leave the couch as my imagination would conjure up a gremlin in the darkened hallway.  I had to psyche myself up and dart to the bathroom and flick on that light as quick as I could.  It sounds very silly but it’s the truth.  The same would be when it was time for bed and I had to run off to my bedroom and dive under the blankets.  I dare not poke my head out from hiding too soon either.  I slowly would lower the blanket and gaze toward the open doorway convincing myself to not see anything.  My imagination was a tough part of my mind to beat when it came to fear.

                Then there are the toys which sadly I have little of.  My most recent years have taken me to Hong Kong, China where I reverted to my childhood as I saw gremlin collectibles in a few shops.  I paid for these somewhat expensive possessions but they keep alive the spirit of admiration I have for them.  Stripe was always my favorite gremlin and I got a sizable collectible of him I HAD to take out of the box!  I broke the rule but in a way seeing that creepy looking gremlin stare me in the eyes connects me back 20 years to a time that fills me with innocent fear.  I have some of the gremlins from the second film but they are secondary to the prize of stripe.  

               I will close on the fact that at the age of 29 my imagination still battles against me whenever it sees an opportunity. After viewing the gremlin collectibles some nights I’ll meander back to my bedroom and climb into bed cautiously peering at the doorway. It’s like I’m vividly expecting to see that toy come creeping around the corner to stare at me. At least that what my therapist thinks.


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Cop Land (1997)


This is a story written with a very intriguing concept, a modern day old style Western hybrid which translates beautifully.  In New York City there are cops who don’t want to live there but merely work.  They create a community with the help of the mob outside of the city limits to live more peacefully.  That gets interrupted when one of the cops living there commits murder and flees the scene.  The crime solving begins as it’s a battle between the right and wrong side of the law.

                The lead NYPD cop Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) wants nothing more than to have his family and friends protected outside the dangerous streets of New York City.  He creates a community filled with cops he holds as his brothers in a sense.  It doesn’t stay crime free though when one of the young cops murders some black men in it.  Before that happens though it’s explained how he set up the area for his men.  He makes a deal with mobsters to give his men a good place to live (nice houses) in exchange the mob can engage in their unlawful practices safely within Ray’s built community.  The men work in the city but come home to a safe community to live out otherwise clean wholesome lives.

Patrick and Keitel
                A subtle race undertone is used in the film.  This community is all white as they believe, without ever confessing or making it clearly known in the film, that black people will bring drug and violence type problems to their community.  It alienates possible black viewers from the film in a sense but it’s handled well due to the main plot that a white cop in the community does in fact murder unarmed black men toward the beginning of the film.  Robert Patrick, who plays Jack Rucker, shows up at the scene of the crime and plants a gun in the car.  He is close to Ray and fixated on keeping the community under their control so to speak.  It’s a convincing performance turned in by Patrick as well.

De Niro and Sly
                The character Freddy Heflin (Sly Stallone himself) plays the slow-witted sheriff of said community.  It’s a very good performance by Sly to say the least.  He eventually pieces together the inherent corruption of the town he once thought so pure.  Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) is able to use Freddy enough to get to the bottom of the crime.  Moe works for NYPD internal affairs and has no jurisdiction in the community so must go through Freddy.  The story moves incredibly well with no side distraction by side characters that disrupt the flow of the film.  Gary Figgis (Ray Liotta) is the man who has felt firsthand the evil within the community and he tries desperately to leave the town and begin a new life.  His character is full on himself but in the end sides with Freddy to do the right thing.  He has a cocaine addiction that is mixed in to add to his troubles.

Luckily Ray Liotta is always in character
                Janeane Garofalo which I’m not a fan of actually doesn’t annoy me at all by acting for a change.  She is the deputy for Freddy and has an honest nature that doesn’t fit in with the community.  She ultimately leaves before things get out of hand.  Michael Rapaport and Noah Emmerich are in it which I can’t stand either but thankfully their minor characters and I don’t have to put up with them much.

                The movie accomplishes that in order to break free from a crime ridden city such as New York you must not resort to crime (the mob) in order to create what you think is a lawful community.  It also teaches that racial hate and profiling is a tool which will also hinder any plausible attempt to break free from a bad situation.  It does not outright ever address the racial tension but if you keep a watchful eye throughout the film you can see its signs.  The performances in the film are amazing by the entire cast and it’s a film that wraps up perfectly at the end.  I can’t say police type movies are my type of genre but this one certainly holds very well to a person such as me that isn’t a big fan.  Watch this film for a great story.

                Rating: 8 of 10

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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)


Attention nerds the time is here to look over the Star Wars universe, put down your glow stick.  Take it easy I like Star Wars too but episode I is a rough start for these films.  I need to put this out there first; Jar Jar Binks was awful, I’m sure many agree on that though.  Now I feel a tad relieved.  Politics abound in the control of the galactic senate as good old Senator Palpatine is already up to no good.  Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman, a fan of) is to be protected by Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his rather bland apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).  They meet young Anakin Skywalker on Naboo where Qui-Gon decides to train him as a jedi as long as they can stop Darth Maul first. 

                The movie was satisfying enough for me overall but I would love to have seen more puppets.  The CGI was too much in comparison to what you would be accustomed to in the Star Wars movies of old.  Yoda could have been like he was back in 1980.  He had no battle scenes so I think it would of strengthened the film overall.  I am a fan of puppets so I know I am biased and proud of it!

                An actress I didn’t know ended up giving one of the best performances in the movie for her smaller role, Pernilla August.  She played Anakin Skywalker’s mother and her emotions that her son would be leaving her perhaps forever really stick with me as acting done well.  She explains that she became pregnant with no partner so she always felt her son was very special based on her instinct.  She holds back tears many times and displays a sense of strength knowing Anakin will be leaving with the jedi.  She knows he will have a better life with them and it takes everything away from her.  She knows she will be left alone as a slave but the courage in parting with her son in admirable.  She tells him not to look back as he walks away with Qui-Gon.  It was a bit heartfelt and one of the better moments of the movie.  You can’t help but feel sorry for her.

Anything interesting here?  It has that bland feeling.

                The droid army vs. the fishy people, what are they called I don’t recall, battle was very uninteresting to be quite honest.  Jar Jar Binks happened to be in it as well, cringing teeth.  I felt indifferent to a bunch of robots fighting some annoying race of underwater creatures.  Their look in CGI wasn’t very impressive either, I would have liked to see people in costume, how cool would that be?  It might have brought more compassion to at least cheer for them against the robots.  It would have been a bit gruesome but seeing some actual gore effects of a battle on the organic creatures would have helped to keep attention better, unless someone was making this film to appeal to kids, would anyone do that though?  It’s called Star Wars, war is in the franchise name, and you’d imagine the war like scenes to be well a bit horrifying perhaps?  I’m not a fan of heavy amounts of gore but it’s just so squeaky clean all the time.

                The final battle with the horn headed Sith, Darth Maul, was average at best.  He doesn’t get much screen time before that and a couple of lines nobody remembers.  Where is his back-story for crying out loud?  He looks fearsome enough to deserve one.  You are just basically told he’s the bad guy now the jedi’s must kill him no matter what.  What if in his past on his own home planet jedi’s of long ago came there to wage war against some threat they always stick their noses in and his family got murdered in the chaos?  Would he be considered the bad guy for wanting to avenge his family’s death against the jedi?  Now you say but that’s not his story, no not that, but it’s not explained so why can’t it be?  All I’m getting at is the character development wasn’t always strong enough for a world that is completely made up.  This isn’t a movie based on a true story or a comedy where in a few scenes you can relate to a character because that character is the personality of someone everyone encounters in their everyday lives.

                The death of Qui-Gon Jinn was sadly necessary to keep something flickering in my attention span during the uninteresting fight and the mixed in scenes with Queen Amidala’s building break-in.  When a jedi goes down, your heart sinks, especially if it’s the best actor in the movie.  It does provide some fuel to Obi-Wan to get instantaneous revenge on Darth Maul, at least now we have something to be interested in.  I very much liked Darth Maul getting cut into two pieces though, at last some fitting Star Wars integration.
He's too happy if you ask me.

                The young Anakin was decent but I would have liked to see a more mischievous little boy at play.  A kid with a high intellect but of a dark side nature due to the company he had to be around on that planet.  Most people know he is the eventual Darth Vader so why not bring out some of those small indications as early as his childhood?  Perhaps I’m speculating too much but the kid friendly atmosphere of the film makes me sick at some parts.  I know that was probably a tough area to be successful at since you don’t want to alienate children as they have a potential to fill seats at the theater.  I wanted more out of this film considering its Star Wars and had a legacy already.  It’s not the best of the movies in the series but its fun as a whole.  One last comment, Liam Neeson really carries this movie.
You can't blame me, I died to save this movie.

                Rating: 7 of 10


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Kickboxer (1989)


We have a story of a man who is cocky as can be go to Thailand to challenge arguably the best kickboxer alive.  The rest of the movie focuses on the little brother who is out to exact revenge against the mighty Tong Po.  I will admit this movie is entertaining enough to finish watching it all.  Despite Jean-Claude Van Damme not having a lick of acting ability he makes up for it just enough with his fight scenes.

                I must get this out before I go any further but Xiao (Dennis Chan) was my favorite character.  Now he plays the eventual trainer to Karl Sloane (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and he’s quite hysterical.  I also believe Dennis Chan to be the best actor in the film which shouldn’t surprise even a diehard Van Damme fan.  He was in some Chinese film comedies and it obviously shows.

                Karl has an older brother named Eric (Dennis Alexio) in the movie who manages to be a worse actor than Van Damme himself.  I suppose a wise cast choice to make the star appear better at acting?  That’s what I think and it seems solid enough right?  Eric is the world champion of kickboxing yet he doesn’t know where the fighting style originated, he’s absolutely clueless.  When he finds out he just says something brilliant like well let’s go there so I can beat them up.  Back to where it came from though, Thailand dummy, even I knew that thanks to a video game called Street Fighter, Sagat!  Kickboxing is based on Muay Thai, you know like Thailand?  Let’s wrap up what happens to bonehead Eric shall we?  He challenges Tong Po, who is a beast at kickboxing, and paralyzes his uneducated arrogant self.  It’s truly fitting as you don’t find yourself rooting for him at all to be honest.  So Karl witnessed Tong Po kicking a concrete pillar to pieces in his changing room before all that and Eric still insisted.  He had it coming to him man.  
A.C. Slater is Eric Sloane, killer mustache
  
                The campy, corny 80’s music really hurts this film; it’s not needed at all!  It basically makes you laugh but that’s still a positive I suppose?  It’s a martial arts type of movie you need some soothing mystic sounds in the montages.  Karl gets focused on revenge of course.  He tracks down a guy named Xiao with the help of a funny, sometimes funny I should say, guy name Taylor.

                Eventually the training begins for the enviable rematch with Tong Po.  Xiao makes Karl do mundane tasks like grocery shopping for him which enables the ever bright Karl to fight in the store while trashing the place.  The shop owner is Xiao’s daughter that Karl obviously falls for, I mean why not right?  Did you see those attractive outfits he wore around?  The actual physical training sequences were comical when Xiao would drop these gourds from a tree onto Karl and make him run from his dog to work on his speed.  Trust me these are the best parts ha-ha!

                The final training moment is when Karl gets drunk at the local bar, which is like Louie’s restaurant place from Disney’s Tailspin as far as design structure, and just beats everyone up basically.  Xiao seems to be enjoying it and watching Van Damme try to be drunk is really hilarious.  It’s one of those it’s so bad its good type of deals.

                Alright the big final fight, for starters the fighting was choreographed to a fault.  It wasn’t very entertaining, I’d rather him get drunk first, it could’ve helped.  Tong Po’s managers or whatever they are kidnap his disabled brother to gain leverage in the fight.  They apparently really feel Karl is going to win in order to stoop so low but he has been training drunk so they could be right!  Eric eventually gets rescued so Karl is free to open his can of, well you know on Tong Po.  The fight goes completely 180 and Karl whoops Tong Po with a serious of flexes and muscular poses.  He also kicked him a lot.
Muscular pose +10 Style Points!

                It was a funny movie albeit it wasn’t trying most of the time, which makes it that much better.  The fashion worn by Van Damme is hilarious; you should watch it just to see that.  I will admit the physical abilities of Van Damme in the movie are impressive.  The split kicks always make smile as he incorporates it into every movie I’ve seen him in.  It’s nothing fantastic but it’s good enough to watch once a decade.  That constitutes as good still right?  My lingo on the matter varies so I wasn’t sure.  The test of time hurts this movie terribly as martial arts films are so amazing nowadays.  If anything watch it for Xiao!!

                Rating: 6 of 10


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rush Hour (1998)

Where have you been Chris Tucker?

An action comedy film that blends the two genres into an exciting story surprisingly enough I’d say.  The daughter of the Chinese ambassador in L.A. gets kidnapped and detective Lee (Jackie Chan) is assigned to find her.  Flashy detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) gets thrown into the mix and what you have is a wild crime case in desperate need of solving.    

                The story’s villain is, Juntao, who is responsible for kidnapping the daughter, Soo Yung.  Juntao has good cause though hear me out.  He spent his life acquiring the rarest of rare antiques in Chinese history for his personal collection until detective Lee recovered them all from a boat in one fell swoop.  Did he attain these antiques legally?  Probably not but he has motivation to get his money back by kidnapping his good buddies daughter.  That’s right he is friends with the Chinese ambassador under a different alias.  It sets up a decent plot to be able to plug in Lee and Carter though.

                Chris Tucker is quite hilarious in the film with all those quick screaming lines.  Jackie Chan does well as his difficultly in speaking English at times plays to his comedic advantage.  The movie does begin a bit “slow” as I like to describe it but that is part of setting up the story to come.  You have to exercise patience to watch the beginning and allow yourself to embrace the characters.  It could possibly be a result of the actors themselves settling into their roles and growing as the movie went on.

                As you reach the middle you are already taken in.  It’s time to wait for that next funny line or nifty fight scene.  My favorite funny moment, which in truth there are many to choose from, is when Soo Yung is with Carter toward the end daring Juntao to blow up the bomb.  Soo Yung is plain hilarious!  “Push the button!”  “You heard the girl” The fight scene I would pick is when Lee is fending off two men while protecting the Chinese priceless pieces of artwork.  The stuntmen fighting Chan make the most realistic fight scene in the film.  I would pick the bar scene, fight toward the beginning to be a more “you know it’s planned” type of fight.  It’s a bit silly honestly. 

                I’d like to add what Jackie Chan brought to this film.  I’m narrowing it down to the stunts and fight choreography scenes.  He has immense experience in the field with which to lean onto.  You see it in this movie with no doubt and it really helps you understand what he does to transition the story with the action sequences.  I appreciate the work put in by him to make a movie enjoyable to the audience.  The dialogue might be lacking on his part but the comedy shores it up very nicely.  It’s impressive to me to see the success of Jackie Chan through his years of hard work, from the fighting itself, the stunts and the English he had to learn.  I get motivated by it and realize how precious life is. If you enjoy certain things in life then it’s important that you should put the time into it to try to be successful and accomplish yourself.  It seems odd I drew this out of watching a comedy action movie but we all see things in a different light.  Perhaps the light I see can enlighten you as well?  I had to try to be philosophical to see if it would work.  Did it?  Let’s just move on.

                The cast is tolerable overall and the ending wraps up comically as the two detectives are on a plane to Hong Kong, China.  My favorite Chris Tucker line would be, “Wipe yourself man, you’re dead.”  It’s a well executed line for the feeling of the story at that moment.  As for the movie it’s great for a fun light hearted watch with some action sequences.  You need to force reason to take a backseat as you watch.  Don’t get caught saying, “Why doesn’t he just shoot him?” because it’s a movie to get caught in the moments of excitement.  The first of three is my personal favorite.  Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker do make a hilarious match as buddy cops.

                Rating: 8 of 10


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Monday, March 26, 2012

The Muse (1999)


A story about a screen writer that gets forced out of the business due to the notion he has lost his edge.  He meets an unusual woman who is told by his friend can turn your career around.  Steven being at his wits end agrees to see her as he feels he has more to give in his scripts.  His world gets flip flopped all over as this woman eventually turns out to be more than he bargained for.  It’s full of humor especially from Albert Brooks in every scene he’s in it seems.  The story gets twisty but remains intact to the end. 

                It’s really interesting for me at this point in my life to be watching a movie about a screen writer who is struggling to come up with a script that will be taken.  I relate to it, in that, I’ve been writing for a few months now and at times I wonder what exactly to write down for what movie I’m reviewing.  Frustration sets in at times but I remember to just express what I feel first and work from there.
 
                Steven Phillips (Albert Brooks) is down on his luck and turns to a close friend of his Jack Warrick (Jeff Bridges) to get some advice.  He gets introduced to Sarah (Sharon Stone) who seems to be a mysterious person or muse that can get his act together and back on track.  I began to get the feeling this plot was similar to a couple other movies I’ve seen before like, Sweet November and Anger Management.  A man who is troubled in one fashion or another mentally and here comes an eccentric person to do things in an extremely odd manner to fix everything up.  It appears Sarah would be that fixer as Steven is the broken man.  It’s a different approach as the story moves along though as Steven isn’t quite disturbed or bothered other than a writer’s block of some kind. 

                Sarah does help Steven’s wife Laura (Andie MacDowell) open up and become a baker for a successfully nearby restaurant.  The portrayal of a muse being real gets conveyed to be very possible as her connections with various people seem to bring great fortune to those around her.  Eventually Sarah drops a hint to Steven on how to finish this script he’s stuck on.  He brings it into the studio and gets dismissed just as he did at the beginning of the film.  Things spiral out of control for Steven just when he thought it was turning around for him.  He soon discovers from a pair of doctors that pay him a visit to his home that Sarah is a mental patient.  His wife and he get convinced of it as the doctors are tracking down Sarah.  The story gets a bit confusing and doesn’t hold together as it did throughout at this point. 

                Steven gets a call that his script will now be accepted and when he goes back to the studio Sarah is under a new alias as the person approving his script.  She has a wig and appears to be not a muse per say but indeed a mental patient on the verge of another identity crisis.  The movie swiftly ends without verifying whether she’s actually a muse or really just mentally unstable.

                I for one don’t know for sure but it’s a movie in which it doesn’t really bother me that I don’t.  The main interest points for me in the movie were whenever Albert Brooks was in any conversation.  He was always calm and delivered these hilarious lines on a whim every time.  Everything else in the movie was basically second fiddle to his performance which in turn didn’t make me want to know the truth of whatever Sarah was supposed to be.  Sharon Stone does give a decent performance but it’s really nothing special.  It’s a smart comedy so try to keep up. 

                Rating: 7.5 of 10


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Killerwatt

Episode 2 – Season 1  'Killerwatt'

An interesting concept of ghosts manipulating electricity makes this a worthy episode already.  We’ve seen what these writers did last episode but they improve quite a bit on this one.  A grand ghost by the name of Killerwatt (voiced by James Avery) takes control of New York City’s power supply.  The Ghostbusters need to act quickly and decisively in order to put a stop to all the possessed electrical machines in the city. 

'Ghost-disposal'
The opening scene is hilarious and possibly one of the best in the running of the show.  Ray makes dinner which looks quite disgusting and says it’s an old family recipe.  The guys comment its old alright based on the appearance of the soup.  Slimer gets put to good use here as he tricks Ray to look under the table for his napkin while the rest of the guys let Slimer eat their portions.  As Ray returns to the table he asks if they’d like more but are thankfully saved by a call.  It’s a comical opening.

Haunted hardware!
The Ghostbusters are sent to a mall which is levitating and obviously infested with ghosts.  They get a chanting welcome from a crowd of people outside as if once again they’re heroes.  It’s a decent introduction to the scene.  Now one of my favorite all time scenes in this show are when they are busting the ghosts in the hardware department of the store.  Egon figures out the ghosts have entered the electrical wiring and things get supernatural quick.  A line I’ll never forget is when some possessed drills come crashing down in front of the guys and Egon states that they’re dealing with some haunted hardware.  In comedic reply Peter says, “Then let’s test their warranties.”  It gets me every time.  The theme music triggers in a unique slower pace and carries on for the duration of the scene which makes it even more enjoyable to watch.  It ends with Ray mistakenly blasting Slimer claiming the last ghost is his.  It’s funny to see Ray do it as opposed to anyone else since he likes Slimer most.

Now that's cardio training
They return to the firehouse and that’s when more electrical disturbances occur.  A backup generator kicks in to save the meltdown of the containment unit until it gets possessed and takes off.  Egon patiently counts down the time to their death for some reason while the others manage to rig a bicycle powered generator in less than 50 seconds.  I don’t see that happening, couldn’t they have made it more like, and in 10 minutes meltdown will occur?  It was a tad farfetched for me but it still works.  Janine gets stuck pedaling the contraption while the guys go chase down the cause of the black outs.

Possessed Ecto-1
                The episode falters a bit as ecto-1 dies on the top of a hill looking down on a power plant.  They all get out and stand directly in front of the car as it begins to roll down the hill.  Did you think to put the car in park?  I’m assuming that’s the case unless it just did it by itself.  Either way they go crashing down the hillside all the way to an abrupt stop as Peter gets the brake just in time.  They finally meet Killerwatt and learn he is the leader of the ghosts.  It possesses ecto-1 and attacks the guys with Ray insisting they don’t blast the car because it’s like one of the family.  They instead opt to run for it into the power plant.  Ecto-1 crashes itself into a pole possibly because its inner carburetor sensed Ray’s compassion and wanted to give them mercy.  That sounds good to you?  It does me, let’s continue.

A questionable capture indeed, Killerwatt is electric
The final scene has Killerwatt all juiced up and ready to destroy our guys.  They figure out Killerwatt fuels on power so if they shut it off they’ll be able to have a chance.  After Peter blasts Killerwatt to no effect since the electricity is acting like a sponge surrounding him Slimer pulls the plug to speak on Killerwatt.  For the second episode in a row it takes a ghost to beat a ghost I guess.  I don’t like Slimer saving the guys all the time as its lame.  Killerwatt gets captured easily enough and the simple plug gets put back in the wall to restore power to the entire city.  I wonder if a plug really does power all of New York City.  As a kid I still found that odd.

They get a victory parade for their efforts the next day seemingly since its day time so didn’t they ever go back to the firehouse to tell Janine she could stop pedaling?  I’m guessing they might have been out drinking in celebration and never went home.  It could have been a funnier ending if they took the consideration to cut the parade scene and have the guys relax at the fireplace completely forgetting about Janine.  All in all this is one of the better episodes.  Uncle Phil heads to the containment unit!

Rating: 8 of 10

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The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Ledger's face says what he thinks of Matt Damon.

It took me awhile to warm up to this film.  As I watched I felt some moments were play-like.  As if the actors were performing on a stage with a live audience.  That is probably why I thought the beginnings were more fanciful or whimsical.  This is a fantasy story book type of movie which isn’t exactly my brew.  I did like Jacob Grimm (Heath Ledger) as he dedicated his life to a more magical study.  He’d never witnessed any enchantments before the time of this story in the movie.  He was goofy and a bit unique as I never came across such a character before.  He is the brother Grimm I liked more.  It’s possible due to the stories he wrote in his book as I enjoy to write as well.  Heath did a solid job as his character but it wasn’t anything to really applaud, but I’d say it’s probably my second favorite performance by him.  The other brother Will (Matt Damon, not a fan) is a mere con artist looking for the next score of money by means of trickery.  It’s a role we’ve seen before in stories and the performance of the character was about average.

                I believe the movie suffered mostly due to the French military’s presence.  The scenes with them sucked the magic and direction of the story away.  If I’m going to watch fantasy I don’t really prefer to have something as bland as military involved as much as it was.  The interesting parts are the adventures of what the brothers are up to next.  It would have been better if some other method used to coax the brothers to the events at the tower with the witch.

                The movie had some minor laughs but lacked a darker nature I hoped to see.  It was creepy at times but you only get so edgy of seeing a tree move or twist a branch by itself.  It occurred so often I got too accustomed to it.  Angelika (Lena Headey) was one of the main characters but she gets very little character development and nothing gets resolved with her father at the end.  She seemed very sad that something horrible happened to him initially but that didn’t carry over into the ladder part of the story, especially the end.  Actually most of the characters had little going on development wise.  I blame it on wasted screen time for the French military.  The story was iffy and felt lacking in a way in that regard.  I have no strong emotions for this movie.  It’s uninteresting half the time, special effects really only can take a movie so far, you need a story to pull you in all the way.  For me it’s one of those movies that if you’re a fan of one of the lead actors or actresses it could possibly get you more from the film.  Other than that I wouldn’t rush to see this one.  One last thought, why couldn’t Matt Damon die?

                Rating: 7 of 10


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Enter the Shredder

Episode 2
The turtles start off by beginning their day with practice as Leonardo leads.  He has that attitude that you know he’s the turtle in charge.  The sparing with Leonardo and Michelangelo was awesome!  Splinter saw the lack of patience being displayed by Michelangelo and reminded him to control his temper, oh what classic sensei teaching.  They get some time to eat their pizza topped with cereal, a tasty pizza time breakfast!  That’s one thing I’ve yet to do I’ll admit.  I’ll get back to you if I ever try it.  Shredder and Krang (the brain alien from dimension X) have a real trust issue to figure out.  It’s very good writing to have them both vying for the upper hand while discovering the turtles.  Shredder tried to kill Splinter with the mutagen but instead created a more powerful foe.  Krang drops the hint to mutate his own army of soldiers.  Krang meanwhile hopes to coax Shredder into creating a new body for him as it seems Krang lost his.  It’s quite an interesting plot for the show as new details emerge.

                Bebop and Rocksteady (still unnamed) are selected in Shredder’s little experiment to get revenge on the turtles.  It might be difficult for them to get a date now but you get to see them in their memorable forms now.  It’s neat early on watching April struggle to get a story on all these bizarre recent events.  The boss actually doesn’t treat her with much respect.  When I was a kid I hardly paid any attention to April’s side of the show, I just wanted the turtle power.  The turtles surprise her in “disguises” as she asks them to be serious for a change as she found a lead in the story.  When she reveals that animals were taken from the zoo the turtles crack up before they realize it could lead to the Shredder. 

                Splinter discovers the technodrome only to be captured instantly, come on Splinter!  The turtles face the technodrome with incredible ninja style and fashion; no so much as they aren’t very stealthy ha-ha.  The Shredder wishes to test the turtles with random robotic machinery, you see the leadership of Leonardo as he instructs the team how to handle and attack the situation.  Michelangelo has no clue which is interesting to see how each turtle fits their role.  The scene is exciting and the theme music is the icing on the cake!  Donatello grabs a random piece of junk after the battle.  The turtles get trapped and have a giant object bearing down on them as Donatello uses a scrap item from a previous fight.  Leonardo uses a ninja star to explode the item and make a way out of the path of the giant object.  It’s truly great to see the ninja star as it doesn’t make many appearances in the show.  They entrusted Leonardo to take the one time throw to allow their escape which show true character development.

               The Shredder tries to convince the turtles to join the foot clan upon which Raphael has some great answers for him.  “Does the phrase go suck a lemon hold any meaning for you?”  It establishes him as the turtle with the sarcastic attitude with witty remarks.  The turtles free Splinter as Donatello has his own great line, “The mutation didn’t up their I.Q.’s any.” As Rocksteady and Bebop ram heads and get knocked for a loop.  They end up trapping the two numbskulls in a zoo offering to April that they can be her story.  As far as number two in the pilot series goes this continues on a path that should have been the trail for the show all along.  I’ll continue to watch this episode over and over gladly.

Ghosts R Us

Episode 1 – Season 1
          
I must first mention how much I love the idea of capturing ghosts and containing them in a storage facility.  The possibilities seem endless with all the legends and memorable happenings throughout time.  This episode isn’t a solid enough start for the show however.  The Ghostbusters catch an annoying trio of family ghosts only to have the ever bumbling Slimer release them that very night as they sleep.  The ghost family decides to run the Ghostbusters out of business by capturing ghosts themselves.  They end up biting off far more than they can chew which results in their capture again with the Ghostbusters left to deal with the mess.  The writing on this show goes up and down which reflects the writers.  I admire some of them while others couldn’t write the alphabet correctly if you ask me.  I’ll make sure to list the writer of each episode as we go along so you understand what I mean.  As far as the writers for this one, I’m not a fan.

Worst ghosts ever
The beginning is flashy and upbeat as the Ghostbusters, who look like heroes according to the roaring crowd, arrive at a chocolate factory to investigate a disturbance.  Slimer probably has the best scene introduction wise to the viewers.  The lack of introductions for the Ghostbusters is a bit disappointing as this is the first episode but it’s not a big deal.  The three ghosts they encounter give me an ill feeling.  I don’t like their look at all and their character is not for me.  They seem too goofy or non-ghost like.  There is nothing I like about them.  They get captured as the Ghostbusters receive four huge boxes of chocolate from the owner of the factory.  That’s sums up a lacking introduction.

Being slimed is never fun
The guys decide to give Janine the chocolates but must be unable to distinguish a box full of chocolates compared to an empty box.  There all empty as Slimer devoured them all, a somewhat comical gag but still could’ve been better.  Peter wants to blast him for it, I’m all for Slimer being trapped or blasted but this isn’t something really warranting it.  Peter says one more mess up and blah blah it’s all for folly.  There was a funny line by Janine referring to “a piece of cake” as reply to Egon that she’ll hold their calls.  Slimer shows up looking for cake as Janine says it’s a figure of speech!  It’s probably one of the best moments in this episode.

Slimer in trouble
Everyone heads to bed except the slime ball who is dreaming of food.  Slimer heads to the refrigerator to get food with Winston on his trail.  Slimer eventually heads to the basement to hide and manages to do so as Winston gives up.  If I were Winston and heard noises inside a building with ghosts in a giant electric storage unit I would have my PKE meter with me a lot.  I didn’t like the idea of that I suppose.  Slimer slides down over a switch and releases the three terrible ghosts that were just caught.  An earth shaking alarm goes off in which nobody hears it somehow, but at least Slimer turns it off.

Yeah, great disguises..
The family ghosts disguise themselves to look human but still look like ghosts or at least not human at all.  They pretend to catch the big fat annoying as <expletive> baby ghost time and time again, in a garbage can.  The whole city falls in love with them somehow and they always beat the Ghostbusters to the call, since they already are there causing it.  Trying to put to words this steaming pile of crap is proving difficult.  The guys mention the “ghost grabbers” or whatever that trio of ghosts call themselves, remind them of the ghosts they caught the day before.  So in one day Egon claims they will be run out of business?  Isn’t he supposed to be smart?  How can they not tell they’re all ghosts and not just the one in the garbage can?  Anyway this episode is enough to make anyone with a brain to suffer from a migraine by the time it’s over with.

When sushi strikes!
The ghost family goes to an old toy factory to coax an old ghost friend of theirs to get the Ghostbusters.  Can’t they do it themselves?  That’s right they’ll get caught because they’re probably one of the worst ghosts this show ever put on screen.  Anyway, a new ghost, a more powerful ghost than the one they knew is haunting the factory now.  They foolishly awaken it and at least the show picks up a tiny bit.  The awakened ghost pursues the idiot family ghosts over the Brooklyn Bridge I think.  The Ghostbusters recapture them easily enough on ecto-2.  The class ten ghost remains and the Ghostbusters, with Slimer’s aid, force it over the bridge into the water as an overloaded ecto-2 goes with it.  Ecto-2 explodes taking out the ghost with it.  How does that happen?  It’s a ghost, so how explosions can hurt it is beyond me, even as a kid I thought that was stupid.  I know it’s a cartoon but I still like it when a show can stay within the universe it’s created in.  Couldn’t they have at least used their throwers on it for a capture?

Anyway, if you have seen this episode and are a fan of the RGB I trust you can understand what I’m talking about here.  It’s not the worst episode I’ve seen and it has a bit of interesting elements to it to keep it off the bottom of the list for me.  I hold the RGB to a high standard.

Rating: 2 of 10 

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