movie, movie review

February 26th, 2016 Movie – Mars Attacks

mars attacksMan, there were a lot of movies that came out in 1996 that had me going to the movie theaters. I’m glad it happened back then, when ticket prices were cheaper, because if it happened now, I would probably be out several hundred dollars easily. Now today’s movie is one of my favorites to come out that year, partially because of the cast and partially because of the origin. I mean, a movie based on a trading card series didn’t exactly work out the last time someone tries it, just ask the guys that made The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Then again, with Tim Burton directing and the cast assembled for this movie, there was little chance of Mars Attacks not becoming a major hit.

The plot: In a small Kentucky town, two farmers comment about smelling BBQ when they are surprised to see a herd of cattle on fire running down the road, then a flying saucer take off into the sky. The saucer heads towards Mars but explodes before reaching the planet, causing a huge fleet of saucers to launch from Mars and head towards Earth. President James Dale has a meeting with Press Secretary Jerry Ross, Professor Donald Kessler, and Generals Casey and Decker on how to handle the situation. General Decker recommends keeping the news quiet and going to Defcon 4 but everyone else feels the Martians might be coming in peace and they should act accordingly. The President makes a live address to the nation to tell the people about the Martians. Later, Donald goes onto a daily talk show hosted by Nathalie Lake but the show is interrupted by a signal from the Martians, where the Martian Ambassador appears and begins speaking to the people of Earth. The President meets with his advisors and a scientist that created a universal translator and they learn that the Martians are landing a ship in Nevada and General Casey is tasked with leading the welcoming reception. In the Nevada desert, a crowd of people and reporters have gathered to see the Martians arrive. Using the universal translator, they translate the Ambassador’s speech as a declaration of speech, and one of the assembled crowd releases a dove. When the Martian sees the dove flying towards them, the shoot the bird, then begin killing the assembled people, capturing Nathalie and her dog during the confrontation. General Decker believes that they should attack the Martians now but Donald and Jerry believe that it was a cultural misunderstanding and convince the President to send a message to the Martians to seek another chance at peace. The Martians receive the message and laugh, as it is shown that they have switched Nathalie’s and her dog’s heads, with Nathalie’s head now attached to her dog’s body and vice versa. The Martians send a reply and the Ambassador agrees to meet with Congress. However, when he arrives, the Ambassador and his bodyguards kill all of the congressmen and knocking Donald unconscious and taking him aboard their ship. When Donald comes to, he discovers his body has been dissected while the Martians keep his head alive, as well as seeing Nathalie and the two admit that they were flirting with each other on the show. That night, a Martian disguised as a human girl is picked up by Jerry, who thinks she is a prostitute, and taken inside the White House. Inside, Jerry tries to seduce the girl but she ends up killing him, then heads towards the President’s bedroom to kill him but the Secret Service are able to shoot the Martian when it is distracted by killing bird. When the assassin is killed, the Martian leader sends a full invasion to Earth and they begin attacking everywhere. When the Martians attack the White House, the Secret Service rush to escort the President and his family to safety but their daughter Taffy gets separated from them and the First Lady, Marsha, is killed when a Martian blast causes the Nancy Reagan chandelier to fall on her. As President Dale mourns his wife, the Martians advance on the Secret Service but two boys, Cedric and Neville, grab the weapons off a dead Martian and begin fighting back, helping the President get to safety before they head home. In Las Vegas, Art Land, owner of a new hotel, is giving a sales pitch when his hotel is destroyed by the Martians. Art’s wife Barbara goes to see Byron, a former Boxer who works at a casino, and asks if he knows how to fly a plane as she has one ready to go. They are approached by Tom Jones, who says a Martian is right behind him and Byron proceeds to knock the Martian unconscious and take it’s gun, then leaves with Barbara, Tom, as well as a coworker Cindy and a gambler. In Kansas, Richie, the brother of a soldier who was killed by the Martians in Nevada, heads home and finds his parents preparing to defend their trailer but when the Martians start attacking, he leaves the trailer to go get his grandma from her nursing home, and ends up being followed by a giant Martian robot after it destroys his trailer. At the nursing home, the Martians are killing the residents but when Richie gets to his grandmother’s room, he sees some Martians about to kill her but when she unplugs her headphones, the music she is listening too causes the Martian’s heads to explode. In Washington, the President gives the ok to fire a nuclear missile at the MArtian ships, but the Martians use a device to suck up the radiation, which the Martians inhale, acting like helium to the Martians. The Martians then manage to break into the war room, killing General Decker and everyone else inside and President Dale tries to reason with the Martian ruler and the Martian appears to want peace and offers to shake the President’s hand, but the hand is a fake hand and it ends up impaling the President and a Martian flag emerges from his body. In Vegas, Byron leads the others to the private airfield but the gambler gets separated and is killed by one of the Martians. When they reach the hangar, they see that the Martians are blocking the runway so Byron decides to serve as a distraction to allow the others to escape. Challenging the Martian ambassador to a fist fight, Byron proceeds to smash the Ambassador’s helmet before the other Martians surround him and proceed to beat him down, while the others fly off, looking back to see him left lying on the runway. Meanwhile, Richie and his grandmother head to the nearby radio station and play her record on the air, as other people and the military learn what the music does and use it to kill the Martians. In the main saucer, the aliens are all killed and Donald and Nathalie’s heads both come loose and they end up kissing before the ship crashes into the sea. As the Earth recovers, Richie and his grandmother are honored by Taffy in a ceremony at the steps of the destroyed Capital Building, while Byron is shown to have survived and arrives at the apartment where his wife and sons live. Meanwhile, Barbara, Tom Jones, and Cindy emerge from some caves in Tahoe and are approached by various animals while they look at the wreckage of a saucer in the nearby lake.

Mars Attacks received mixed reactions from the critics, earning a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus among the critics was that “Tim Burton’s alien invasion spoof faithfully recreates the wooden characters and schlocky story of cheesy ’50s sci-fi and Ed Wood movies — perhaps a little too faithfully for audiences.” Many people compared the movie to Independence Day, as it was also released in 1996 but Tim Burton says that while there were some similarities, it was just a coincidence as it is a basic genre. The movie was considered a commercial bomb in the US as it only made over $37 million domestically but did better overseas, as the total worldwide gross was over $101 million.

There are a lot of things to love about this movie. The acting was great, with Jack Nicholson doing great in his dual roles of President James Dale and Art Land. Annette Bening (Barbara), Pierce Brosnan (Donald), Jim Brown (Byron), and Martin Short (Jerry) were also really good in their roles. The story was pretty basic and did a good job of spoofing the classic alien invasion movies of the 50’s but did add a very humorous twist to the alien invasion, such as one of the Martians carrying the translator with it saying “Don’t run. We are your friends.”, as they Martians are attacking people in Vegas. I also liked how they borrowed an idea from Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes, with the idea of a terrible song being used to defeat the Martians. The special effects were pretty good and very colorful, which helped make the movie look more like the trading cards and comic books that the movie was based from. A very funny movie that is always a pleasure to watch.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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February 25th, 2016 Movie – The Marine

the marine

One thing that I will freely admit to is that I am a wrestling fan and have been for over 30 years. Back in the day, wrestling used to come on right after Saturday morning cartoons and right before whatever B-movie the local channels would show Saturday afternoon, so there was not much reason for me not to watch it. So in the early 2000’s, WWE decided to start getting into the movie business and began producing movies that would star, or at least feature, some of the wrestlers in their company. The first three movies featured Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, while Kane (Glenn Jacobs) was the appropriate star for the fourth film, due to it being a horror movie. Then in 2006, WWE used this generation’s version of Hulk Hogan, John Cena, to star in their latest action movie. I will admit, I was bored and curious when I picked this movie up so let’s see just how good or bad The Marine is.

The plot: At an Al-Qaeda hideout in Iraq, Sgt. John Triton observes a group of terrorists preparing to kill some hostages and disobeys orders to wait for backup, choosing to go ahead and rescue the hostages. At a marine base in Germany, Triton is informed by his colonel that he is being honorably discharged for disobeying orders and sent home, where his wife Kate is happy to have him home. The next day, a group of criminals (Rome, Angela, Morgan, Bennett, and Vescera) rob a jewelry store and steal $12 million worth of diamonds, killing the worker that tipped them off to the score. Meanwhile, John takes a job as a security guard but when he gets in a confrontation with an employee’s ex-boyfriend and his bodyguards, he throws the ex-boyfriend through a window and ends up getting fired. Arriving home, he doesn’t tell Kate what happened but when she sees a story on the news showing what happened, she decides that they need to take a vacation so John can unwind from his time in the military. Stopping for gas on their way to the mountains, John goes inside for some snacks, passing Rome as he is walking out of the gas station. As Rome is filling up his gang’s getaway car, a police car pulls up and one of the officers starts talking with Rome until Morgan, another member of the gang, shoots him and Rome shoots his partner as he tries to back away. Hearing the shots, John tries running back to his car but Bennett hits him with a fire extinguisher, knocking him unconscious. Seeing their car has a flat tire, Rome decides to steal the Triton’s truck, taking Kate as a hostage, while Morgan starts a fire that ends up blowing up the gas station. John manages to survive the blast and seeing the crooks drive off with Kate in his truck, he gets in the police car and follows them, using the radio to inform the police of what happened. When John catches up to the crooks, they begin shooting at him but he keeps following until the crooks stop at a cliff and John ends up driving off the cliff, managing to jump out of his car before the crooks blow it up. With the Triton’s truck out of commission, Rome decides to make their way through the swamp to avoid the police, continuing to take Kate with them. Detective Van Buren arrives at the scene and finds John still alive and warns him not to pursue the crooks but John doesn’t listen and makes his way into the swamp. As the crooks are making there way through the swamp, Morgan and Vescera begin arguing and Rome ends up shooting Vescera, leaving him for the alligators to feed on. As they keep moving, Rome gets a phone call from his silent partner and he ends up telling his partner that he is keeping the diamonds and cutting him out of the deal. John continues tracking the crooks, finding where Vescera was killed and grabbing his knife along the way, when he is captured by a couple of meth dealers. The drug dealers take him back to their hideout but he manages to free himself and take out the two men before continuing after the crooks. Rome spies a lodge nearby and decides to hide there until the police leave the area, then use a boat to make their way to the marina, where he arranges to have a car waiting for them. Morgan is sent to look for a generator to power the place and after he gets it running, he is attacked by John and killed. Rome sends Bennett to get one of the boats running but John kills him as well, then sees Van Buren has caught up with him. As Angela leads Kate outside, the two girls begin fighting while inside, John and Van Buren surprise Rome but Van Buren is revealed to be Rome’s silent partner and points his gun at John. When Van Buren gets distracted while asking Rome about the diamonds, John grabs him as Rome shoots at the both of them, killing Van Buren but John manages to get to cover. Rome leaves the lodge, then shoots the generator, causing an explosion but John manages to jump into the river and survive. Rome and Angela take Kate and drive off in Van Buren’s car, but then ditch it and kill a truck driver for his truck. Meanwhile, a harbor patrol officer spots John and starts to arrest him but John handcuffs him instead then uses his boat to head to the marina. At the marina, Rome is looking for the car that is supposed to be there when Kate, who is handcuffed to a pole in the back, attacks him and causes him to lose control of the truck briefly. In the boat, John sees this and catches up to the truck and jumps onto it, then makes his way to the passenger door, where he grabs Angela and throws her into the path of an oncoming bus. Rome tries knocking John off the truck by crashing into several buildings, finally succeeding but then he is forced to jump out of the truck before it crashes into the river, leaving Kate handcuffed to the sinking truck. John tries to rescue Kate but Rome attacks him and the two end up fighting in a burning warehouse before John finally is able to beat Rome, throwing him into the warehouse as it collapses. John dives into the river and frees Kate, then begins doing CPR until she begins breathing again. The two hug each other when suddenly, Rome appears and tries to strangle John with a length of chain but John manages to loop the chain around Rome’s neck and throw him, then yanks on the chain to break Rome’s neck. John and Kate embrace, with John joking that they should have gone to the beach, as the cops begins arriving at the burning wreckage.

The Marine met with poor reviews from the critics, earning only a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus among the critics is that the movie is “Overblown in every possible way, The Marine is either so bad it’s good or just really, really bad.” The movie was a mild success at the theaters, earning over $32 million off a $15 million budget. When it was released on DVD, it was the number one rented DVD it’s first week and would make over $30 million in DVD sales in 12 weeks, prompting WWE Studios to release 3 direct to video sequels, which also starred wrestlers in the title roles.

Let’s be clear about one thing, this is not a good movie. However, this is an entertaining movie due to how over the top it is. The acting is decent, with Robert Patrick (Rome) and Anthony Ray Parker (Morgan) being my favorites. As much time as he has spent in front of the camera as a wrestler, you would think that John Cena would have done a better job but I think he suffered from rookie movie nerves as he seemed kind of stiff and his acting didn’t feel as natural as some of the others. The story was a pretty typical heist/chase movie and didn’t really offer much in the way of originality, but the pacing did flow pretty well. Then thee was the random bits of humor, such as Bennett making a comment about John being like the Terminator and Rome glaring at him, or Rome talking to his silent partner on the phone while they are in the swamp, then switching lines to take a phone call where he was approved for an upgraded cable package with all of the premium channels and the sports package. The action scenes kind of reminded me of wrestling as it was over the top and entertaining. There is a reason that this movie wasn’t up for any Oscars, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t give it a chance if you are in the mood for a mindless action film.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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February 24th, 2016 Movie – Once Upon A Time In Mexico

once upon a time in mexico

I think it is safe to say that the summer of 2003 was the summer of Johnny Depp, as he would star in 2 of the summer’s biggest movies. I will get to the first movie at a later date but for now, let’s talk about today’s movie, which also happens to be the last chapter in Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy. When the trailers for this first aired, I was pretty excited to see it as it had been 8 years since Desperado came out so I wanted to see how the story played out. So let’s see how it ends with today’s movie, Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

The plot: In Mexico, CIA agent Sheldon Sands meets with a man named Belini, who tells him about El Mariachi and Carolina, and how they had a run in with General Marquez and seriously wounded him but did not kill him. Belini says that some time later, Marquez found and killed Carolina and El Mariachi just disappeared, but if he still lives, he is the man that Sands wants. Sands pays Belini, questioning why he took so little of a payment, and after Belini leaves, Sands reveals that he had a fake arm on as his real arm had a gun trained on Belini under the table. In a rural village, a group of armed men led by Cucuy show up looking for El Mariachi and after they kill one man who feigns ignorance, El Mariachi reveals himself and he is taken away. Cucuy takes El Mariachi to see Sands, who wants El Mariachi to kill Marquez, as the Barillo cartel is hiring Marquez to kill the President of Mexico in the attempt to seize control. Sands tells El Mariachi to head to a nearby church and to contact him at a certain time, but secretly, Sands had told Cucuy to contact the cartel and tell them that El Mariachi will be there. El Mariachi heads to the church, where he meets with one of Sands men in the confession booth who says that El Mariachi will be a free man after he finishes the assignment but then the man quickly leaves as the cartel show up and begin shooting the confession booth. El Mariachi escapes and kills the cartel’s men, then calls Sands, who tells him that he passed the test and to assemble his team and he will call him with further instructions. Sands meets with retired FBI agent Jorge Ramirez and convinces him to kill Barillo, which Ramirez decides to do since Barillo was responsible for his partner’s death. Meanwhile, El Mariachi goes to see his friends Lorenzo and Fideo, who were keeping his guitar while he was gone, and tells them that he will need their help. Meanwhile, Sands goes to see Belini again but when a waitress accidentally spills coffee on his fake arm and tries to wipe it off, Sands kills Belini and the waitress, then gets the information he needed from Belini and disposes of the body. Sands then meets with AFN agent Ajedrez, who has been keeping tabs on Barillo for him and he explains his plan to her, and how he plans on taking the money Barillo is going to pay Marquez and run off and invites her to join him. Sands checks in with El Mariachi, who asks why Cucuy is keeping watch on him, and Sands explains that it is for his own protection. El Mariachi, Lorenzo, and Fideo arrive at the presidential palace and are shown the back way in by the President’s Advisor, who Sands has paid to help with his mission. As they are playing during a dinner party, El Mariachi makes note of the security in the room and later, tells Lorenzo and Fideo to practice. Ramirez calls Sands and says that he has been following Barillo and Dr. Guevera and that Barillo has a medical procedure planned for the following day, which happens to be the Day of the Dead. Sands believes the coup is going to happen on that day and tells Ramirez to take a shot if he gets the chance, but doesn’t tell Ramirez what is going on. Recognizing one of Barillo’s men as a US fugitive named Billy Chambers, Ramirez approaches him and is able to get his help as Billy is tired of working for Barillo. In exchange for protection from the cartel and being sent back to the US, Billy allows Ramirez to place a bug on Billy’s pet chihuahua so that he can record Barillo’s plans. Meanwhile, El Mariachi is walking the streets and notices several cartel soldiers in the marketplace. He meets up with Cucuy, but Cucuy tells him that he no longer works for Sands and he plans on collecting on the bounty for El Mariachi. El Mariachi kills some of the men and tries to escape but Cucuy shoots him with a tranquilizer and takes him to Barillo. At Barillo’s place, Cucuy tells Barillo that Sands wants El Mariachi to kill Marquez but instead of paying him, Barillo has Billy kill Cucuy. Meanwhile, the tranquilizer causes El Mariachi to dream about Marquez killing Carolina and their daughter, which wakes him up and he is able to escape. Ramirez had followed Barillo to a hospital and when he notices a bunch of armed men enter the building, followed by AFN agents, he goes in and finds the operating staff have been shot and Barillo died of apparent blood loss due to an incomplete facial reconstruction surgery. However, when he notices that Barillo’s rings are falling off the body’s fingers, Ramirez realizes that the body is a fake, then finds the real Barillo but he is knocked out by Ajedrez, who is working with Barillo. Sands is on the phone trying to get help as he realizes that his plan has been compromised but he ends up being captured by Ajedrez and Dr. Guevera. When he comes too, he sees Ajedrez, who tells him that she is Barillo’s daughter, then Barillo has Sands eyes drilled out. Blinded, Sands grabs a young boy that had sold him some Chiclets and gets him to act as his eyes, managing to kill a cartel soldier that was following him. As Marquez and his men attack the city, El Mariachi, Lorenzo, and Fideo, along with the towns people, fight back against the soldiers. When the President’s Advisor leads him into a trap, he is saved by El Mariachi and the others, then Lorenzo and Fideo take the President to safety, stopping to grab the money that Barillo was going to pay Marquez. When Marquez enters the President’s chambers, he finds El Mariachi there and when he tries to shoot him, El Mariachi shoots out his knees, then shoots him in the head, taking back Carolina’s necklace which Marquez had stolen when he killed her. Meanwhile, Sands has the boy lead him to the middle of the city and when two of Barillo’s men show up, he sends the boy away then kills the two men, but is shot in the process. Barillo, Ajedrez, and Dr. Guevera arrive at the palace and find Marquez dead. Ajedrez notices Sands lying in the street and goes to finish him off but Sands kills her instead. Billy brings Ramirez into the room and Ramirez shoots Dr. Guevera while Barillo shoots Billy for betraying him. When Barillo turns his gun on Ramirez, Ramirez shoots him, as does El Mariachi, who had reentered the room. Ramirez grabs Billy’s chihuahua and leaves, running into Sands, who was being helped by the young boy, and the two say a sarcastic farewell to each other. Lorenzo and Fideo escort the President to a safe place, where he is picked up by his limousine. Meanwhile, El Mariachi gives his portion of the money to his village before he walks off, carrying his guitar case.

Once Upon A Time In Mexico met with positive reviews from the critics but only holds a 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus among the critics is that the movie is ” Violent, pulpy, loopy fun, with Depp stealing the show.” Some critics criticized the fact that the plot was too convoluted and that El Mariachi was almost reduced to a secondary character but Rodriguez has stated that it was his intent as he patterned the movie after The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. This movie was also distinctive in being the first big budget movie to be shot in HD. The movie was a box office hit, earning over $98 million off a $29 million budget.

The last movie in a series is almost always worth the wait, and so it was with this one. The acting was really good, with Johnny Depp (Sands) definitely stealing the spotlight in this movie but Antonio Banderas (El Mariachi), William Dafoe (Barillo), Mickey Rourke (Billy), and Ruben Blades (Ramirez) also doing great jobs. I was sad that Salma Hayek’s character was killed and only shown in flashback as I felt that was a cheap plot devise to introduce a new need for revenge. The plot was a little convoluted and could be hard to keep track of what was going on, but the important thing is that everything did get wrapped up at the end and there were no loose ends, which is good. The special effects and action sequences were both well coordinated and well shot and the HD definitely showed with the explosions. A great way to end the series and well worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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February 23rd, 2016 Movie – Desperado

desperado

In 1995, Robert Rodriguez would release the second movie in what would become known as his “Mexico Trilogy.” This movie would be Rodrigues big Hollywood debut feature and really put his mark onto what he could do. This movie also made Antonio Banderas a star in the U.S. as well as showed the audience what a bad ass Danny Trejo can be. I remember going to see this movie with some friends in college and we all enjoyed watching it. So here is today’s movie, Desperado.

The plot: In Santa Cecilia, Mexico, an American named Buscemi walks into a bar and orders a beer then proceeds to tell the bartender and the men in the bar about how he witnessed a man with a guitar case full of guns killing the men in a bar in another town. Nobody pays attention to the story until Buscemi mentions the name Bucho, at which point the bartender and Tavo, a man seated at the bar, start asking Buscemi more questions but Buscemi doesn’t stay around as he warns the patrons that the man is heading in this direction. Buscemi leaves the bar, then heads to a motel in another town, where he meets with El Mariachi and tells him that Bucho is in Santa Cecilia. El Mariachi asks where to go and Buscemi tells him to head to Tarasco Bar, then tells El Mariachi that he doesn’t have the stomach for this anymore and leaves, while El Mariachi gets ready and starts walking to Santa Cecilia. Meanwhile, the bartender at Tarasco Bar calls Bucho and tells him that he hasn’t heard from the bar that Buscemi had told them about. Bucho hangs up and orders his right hand man to double the guard around their operations, then oversees a fight for a prospective new member to the gang. In Santa Cecilia, a strange man twirling a throwing knife arrives in town and after looking at the bar, he proceeds to use a nearby pay phone. Meanwhile, El Mariachi arrives in town and rests across the street from the bar. As he is sitting there, a young boy tries to look at his guitar but El Mariachi stops him, then seeing the guitar the boy is carrying, he teaches the boy a technique and tells the boy to practice it. Inside the bar, two men had walked in and hand cards to the bartender, who slides them to Tavo to have them checked out. After getting off the phone, Tavo makes a gesture and the bartender kills one of the men but says the other one checked out, and Tavo leads him into a hidden room inside the men’s room. When El Mariachi walks in the bar, the bartender questions him about what is in the guitar case and has one of his men point a gun at El Mariachi while another one opens it, revealing a guitar. The bartender relaxes but suddenly, the guitar is revealed to be a false top that hides the guns. El Mariachi says he doesn’t want to kill anyone, as he is just looking for Bucho, but when the bar patrons start pulling out guns, he is forced to kill them all in self defense. While this is going on, Tavo sees it on a TV in the back room and as the accountant goes to join the fight, he kills the man that he brought into the room. El Mariachi kills all of the men in the bar, then starts to question the bartender but the bartender is shot by the accountant and after brief fight, El Mariachi kills him. El Mariachi leaves the bar, unaware that Tavo is following him, and as Tavo tries to kill him, El Mariachi fights him off and kills Tavo, saving a woman named Carolina, who was caught in the crossfire. Bucho shows up at the bar and finds a note that El Mariachi left, saying he is looking for Bucho, and tells his right hand man to kill anyone that they don’t recognize in town. As some of his men are cleaning up the carnage in the bar, the kife wielding man, who is called Navajas, walks in, looks at the mess, then leaves. Carolina takes El Mariachi to her bookstore, where she tends to his wounds, then she sees the guns in the guitar case and says she knows who he is but she can’t help him. El Mariachi heads to the church and meets with Buscemi and the two get into an argument when El Mariachi won’t give up his hunt for Bucho and Buscemi leaves the church. El Mariachi chases after him and says that Buscemi is right and he will give up but suddenly, they are attacked by Navajas, who kills Buscemi and wounds El Mariachi. As El Mariachi is hiding in an alley, Bucho’s men see Navajas and end up killing him, believing he is the one that killed the men at the bar. However, Bucho had received a call from the cartel and was told that Navajas was there to keep an eye on his operations. As El Mariachi makes his way back to Carolina’s bookstore, he sees Nino, the boy with the guitar, and learns that Nino’s father uses his guitar to smuggle drugs and that Carolina also does it. Reaching the bookstore, El Mariachi questions Carolina and she admits that Bucho gives her money in order to use her store as a drop off. When Bucho suddenly shows up, Carolina hides El Mariachi then lies to Bucho when he asks if she has seen him. Later, Carolina tends to El Mariachi’s wounds then shows him the guitar she bought him and the two work together to play it before then end up having sex. Meanwhile, Bucho believes that Carolina lied to him and is hiding El Mariachi so he sends his men to the bookstore to kill them. El Mariachi sees the men approaching and manages to kill them but as he and Carolina are leaving, they see the bookstore is on fire and are forced to go to the roof and jump to the nearby building to escape. As they are hiding, Carolina sees Bucho and points him out to El Mariachi but as he takes aim at Bucho, he hesitates and refuses to shoot him, which confuses Carolina. Realizing they have no chance to escape without help, El Mariachi calls in two friends, Campa and Quino, who arrive in town with their custom weaponized guitar cases. Bucho’s men show up and attack the three men but they are able to fend them off. Suddenly, reinforcements show up and Quino is killed, causing Campa to act recklessly. El Mariachi tries to get him under control but when he sees Nino lying on the ground from a bullet wound, he goes to check on the boy, and Campa is killed. Carolina steals a jeep and picks up El Mariachi and they take Nino to the hospital. Later, El Mariachi and Carolina head to Bucho’s place, where Bucho recognizes El Mariachi as his little brother. The two talk and Bucho says he will let his brother live but he will kill Carolina for betraying him but as he points his gun at Carolina, El Mariachi kills him as well as the rest of Bucho’s men. Later, they visit Nino at the hospital and then El Mariachi leaves town but Carolina picks him up and El Mariachi throws the guitar case away as they drive off but then they back up and he picks it back up, in case they need it.

Desperado was met with mostly positive reviews from the critics, but only holds a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics praised the action sequences and visual aspects of the film, but said the story itself felt flat. Most of the music in the movie was performed by Los Lobos, who won a Grammy at the 1995 Grammy awards for their song “Mariachi Suite” off of the soundtrack. The movie was a box office hit as it made over $25 million off a $7 million budget.

This is one of those movies that is fun to watch. The acting was pretty good, with Antonio Banderas doing a good job taking over the role of El Mariachi and giving the character a slightly darker edge as opposed to the more innocent look that Carlos Gallardo did in El Mariachi. I did think it was funny that Carlos had a cameo as Campa in this movie. Salma Hayek (Carolina), Joaquim de Almeida (Bucho), Steve Buscemi (Buscemi), and Danny Trejo (Navajas) were all also good in there roles. The story did seem a little weak compared to the previous movie, not really saying much as to how much time passed or what happened to El Mariachi to make him hunt Bucho, making it seem more like a continuation of the first film. The fight and action scenes were very well done and made for some visually entertaining movie watching, though at times they did seem a bit over the top. All in all, it’s a good movie and a good follow up, but I wish there was a bit more to the plot.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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February 22nd, 2016 Movie – El Mariachi

el mariachi

Quite a few things happened in 1992. First of all, I moved to Atlanta, which is small in scale compared to some of the other events in that year, such as the L.A. riots, Bill Blinton being elected, and Hurricane Andrew. During all these events, a director’s debut film came out and it probably would not have got a lot of notice among the everyday audience. But the studios and critics loved it and it ended up making the director a household name, especially after he made the sequel to this film. So let’s take a look at Robert Rodriguez’s humble beginnings with today’s movie, El Mariachi.

The plot: In a small Mexican jail, an inmate named Azul receives a phone call from Moco, a local drug lord that Azul used to work for. As Azul and Moco talk on the phone, three armed men enter the jail to kill Azul. However, Azul runs his own business from the jail and his fellow prisoners are also his bodyguards. They kill one of the men, and capture the other two, then Azul calls Moco back and has him listen as his men kill the other two assassins. Azul then leaves the jail, where he is picked up by some of his men on the outside and given a guitar case full of guns, which he plans to use to kill Moco. Meanwhile, a young man, with dreams of becoming a mariachi like his father, arrives in the town of Acuna looking for work. the guitarist tries finding work at the first bar he comes to but the bartender says he has no need for one mariachi player as he has a man with a keyboard that can act as an entire band. The Mariachi leaves but soon after, Azul shows up at the bar looking for Moco and learning that Moco owns the bar and the men inside work for him, Azul kills the four men, leaving the bartender and keyboardist alive. The bartender calls Moco and tells him what happened, describing the killer as a man wearing black and carrying a guitar case. Moco pages his lieutenant Bigoton and when he calls him back, Moco orders him to kill Azul, giving him the description that the bartender told him and Bigoton tells the local hotel manager to call him if he sees anyone matching that description. Unknowingly, the Maricahi matches the desctiption of Azul so when he checks into the hotel, the manager calls Brighton to let him know. Laying down on the bed, the Mariachi falls asleep but is quickly woken by a bad dream and he walks out of his room to find Bigoton and some more of Moco’s men at the hotel looking for him, scared for his life, the Mariachi runs out of the hotel but is forced to go back when he realizes he left his guitar inside. The Mariachi tries escaping but when he is cornered by two of Moco’s men, he runs between them, causing them to shoot themselves, then knocks out Bigoton and uses his gun to kill his last pursuer. The Mariachi runs to a nearby bar run by a woman named Domino and explains that he killed some men in self defense and he needed a place to hide because he was sure the men were looking for someone else. Domino takes pity on The Mariachi and lets him stay in her room upstairs. Shortly later, Bigoton enters the bar and uses the phone to call Moco and after the phone call, he tells Domino that the man he is looking for carries a guitar case full of weapons. When he leaves, Domino heads upstairs and finding the Mariachi in her tub, she grabs a letter opener and holds it against his throat while she opens the guitar case and finds it does contain a guitar. Threatening to castrate him, Domino orders the Mariachi to play the guitar and sing and when he finishes, she realizes that he was telling the truth and agrees to hire him to play in her bar for free room and board. The next day, Moco calls Azul and the two men argue over how many people Azul killed and Moco says they will have to see this whole thing through. Meanwhile, The Mariachi decides to go back to the motel to get his money and leaves his guitar and jacket at the bar, asking Domino to watch them. When he leaves, Domino makes a phone call to a friend of hers, who happens to be Moco. Meanwhile, Azul walks into the bar looking for Domino but when the bartender says she isn’t there, he leaves but realizes that he grabbed the wrong guitar case when some of Moco’s men grab him but let him go when they open the case and see the guitar. The Mariachi saw Azul leaving Domino’s bar and realizes that he is the one the men are looking for but when he realizes that The case he has isn’t his, he runs out of the bar to get his guitar back and sees Azul as well as Bigoton and Moco’s men. Bigoton and the men chase after the Mariachi and he is forced to kill the two men pursuing him. The Mariachi heads back to Domino’s bar, where she tends to his wounds and admits that Moco owns the bar, which he bought her to try and convince her to be his woman but she has refused him. The next day, Domino gives the Mariachi some money to buy a new guitar and he goes out but ends up getting caught by Bigoton and Moco’s men. They take him to see Moco but when he looks at the Mariachi, Moco tells Bigoton that they got the wrong guy so they take the Mariachi back to town and drop him on the street. Meanwhile, hearing from his men that Moco’s men grabbed the Mariachi, Azul heads back to Domino’s bar and gets his case back from Domino, then says that if she wants to see the Mariachi, to take her to Moco’s ranch. When they get there, Azul points a gun at Domino’s head and heads inside, but find Moco standing there with his men holding guns at them. Meanwhile, the Mariachi heads to Domino’s bar and learning where she has gone, he grabs the keys to her motorcycle and heads to Moco’s ranch. At the ranch, Azul asks for his money and Moco sends one of his men to get it but when Domino asks about the Mariachi, Moco realizes that she is in love with him and in a jealous rage, kills Domino, then Azul. The Mariachi arrives and sees the body of Domino and cradles her body. Moco approaches and begins yelling at the Mariachi before shooting his left hand, ruining the Mariachi’s ability to play the guitar. Reeling from the pain, the Mariachi sees Azul’s pistol and uses it to kill Moco, after which, Moco’s men simply walk off and leave the Mariachi alone. With his dreams of being a mariachi in ruins, the Mariachi leaves town, taking Domino’s motorcycle, dog, and letter opener, as well as the case full of guns with him.

El Mariachi was highly praised by the critics, holding a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The  consensus among the critics concerning the film was “Made on a shoestring budget, El Mariachi’s story is not new. However, the movie has so much energy that it’s thoroughly enjoyable.” The movie was a box office smash as it made $2 million off of a $7000 budget. In 2011, the movie was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, citing in particular that it was the movie that helped usher in the independent movies boom in the 90’s.

This is a good movie to watch, especially since it was such a great setup for future movies. The acting was pretty good, especially Carlos Gallardo (the Mariachi), who did a really good job as the lead. I agree with the critics as the whole mistaken identity plot line was not original but Rodriguez did a good job in keeping the audience invested in what was going on in the film. Watching this movie, you wouldn’t have believed it was made for just $7000 which is also a testament to Rodriguez’s directing abilities. With plenty of suspense and humor added into the movie, it is well worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Flashback Review: March 27th, 2014 Movie – Barbarella

barbarella

Ahhh, the cult classic movie that made Jane Fonda even more of a household name, and this is before her marriage to Ted Turner or the Vietnam controversy. I had seen the VHS case in video stores for years but I think the first time I actually wanted to watch it was due to a random comment a radio DJ had made about how the band Duran Duran got their name from this movie. Yeh, yeh, I know. “Joey this is a cult classic sci-fi movie. How could you have not seen it before then?” Just because it is a cult classic doesn’t always mean I want to watch it,…well that’s pretty much a lie but for whatever reason, this just never really struck my fancy. Still, I would eventually watch it and be entertained by it so during the MBBS (Mass Blockbuster Buying Spree), I decided to take advantage of it and buy a copy of Barbarella on the cheap.

The plot: Barbarella receives a call from the President of Earth and given a mission to track down a missing scientist named Durand Durand, who had disappeared in the uncharted area of the Tau Ceti region. The matter is of some urgency as Durand Durand had apparently created a weapon called the Positronic Ray, which could end up causing the entire region to end up in a war. As Barbarella enters the Tau Ceti region, her ship encounters magnetic disturbances and she ends up crash landing on the 16th planet of the region. As Barbarella goes outside to explore, she sees two little girls and attempts to talk to them, but as she is trying to use her translator to communicate with them, one of the girls places a crystal inside a snowball and hits Barbarella on the head with it. The two girls tie her wrists then take Barbarella to another wrecked ship, which happens to have belonged to Durand Durand. Inside, several other children emerge and they begin placing strange dolls on the ground in front of Barbarella. Suddenly the dolls begin moving and reveal razor sharp teeth which they use to begin attacking Barbarella. Before the dolls can kill her, Barbarella is saved by Mark Hand, the Catchman responsible for catching children. Mark Hand offers to take Barbarella back to her ship and fix her stabilizer in exchange for sex but when Barbarella offers him a pill to use like they do on Earth, he refuses it, preferring to do it the “old fashioned way”. Afterwards, Barbarella gets back onto her repaired ship but the stabilizer was placed in backwards and she ends up plunging into the ground and eventually ends up inside a giant underground labyrinth. As she leaves her ship, a rock slide occurs and knocks her unconscious but she is found by Pygar, an angelic creature who happens to be the last of the ornithanthropes. When she asks, Pygar tells her that he was blinded in Sogo, the City of Night, and thus lost the will to fly. Pygar then takes Barbarella to see Professor Ping, who explains that the labyrinth is basically a prison for everything good in Sogo and when she asks him, he says that he believes Durand Durand is somewhere in the city. Ping says that he will repair her ship but it could take weeks to finish. With no choice but to wait, Barbarella asks Pygar to take her to his place but as they are going, she is attacked and captured by one of the Black Knights that guard the city. Telling Pygar where her gun is, she is able to direct his aim so that he destroys the Black Knight. As thanks for saving her, Barbarella has sex with Pygar, which causes him to regain the will to fly and she offers to be his eyes if he takes her to Sogo. As they are flying towards the city, they are attacked by some Black Knights in flying ships and Barbarella is able to take out two of them but one of them briefly stuns Pygar and he and Barbarella start to fall until he is able to regain consciousness and halt there fall while Barbarella deals with the last ship. Entering the city, Pygar warns Barbarella to be careful about being with an angel and she tries to find something to hide Pygar’s wings but she is soon grabbed by two men. Before the men can do anything, she is saved by a one-eyed woman and Barbarella thanks her before going to find Pygar. She finds him surrounded by a group of people and manages to stop them from killing him but they end up in the Chamber of Ultimate Solution, a chamber where people go to commit suicide. Deciding to brave whatever fate lies in store for them, they prepare to go through one of the doors when they are stopped by the Concierge to The Great Tyrant. As he takes Barbarella to see The Great Tyrant, he explains about the Mathmos, a lake of liquid energy under the city that feeds on negative emotions. Pygar is carried away in a net and the Concierge shoves Barbarella down a pipe where she meets The Great Tyrant, who turns out to have been the one-eyed woman that saved Barbarella. The Great Tyrant shows Pygar tied up on a crucifix and Barbarella grabs a gun she hid in Pygars trunks and threatens The Great Tyrant unless she frees Pygar but the Concierge explains that the gun is out of power so Barbarella is taken away to a cage where she will be pecked to death by birds. As Barbarella is swarmed by the birds, she finds herself rescued by Dildano, the leader of a resistance movement against The Great Tyrant. Barbarella offers to thank him with sex but he wishes to do it the Earth way, as he has some pills to use. They use the pills but afterwards, Barbarella questions how he got them and realizes that the only was from Durand Durand. Dildano admits he got the pills from Durand Durand and says only The Great Tyrant knows where he might be so he gives her an invisible key into The Great Tyrant’s sleeping chamber. They work out a deal to help each other and contact Ping, who says the ship is repaired but that a Black Knight patrol had spotted it so he programmed it to fly somewhere safe. Dildano sends Barbarella back to the city but she ends up captured by the Concierge, who places her in a machine called the Excessive Machine (a.k.a. the Orgasmatron), which he plans to use to make Barbarella die of pleasure. He activates the machine but Barbarella ends up shorting out the machine, which surprises the Concierge. As he goes to get another device to use, he trips on Barbarella’s garments and her locator devise indicate that he is Druand Durand. Barbarella questions him and he says the Mathmos aged him and he refuses to go back to Earth as he plans to conquer Sogo, then head back to Earth as a conqueror. When Barbarella says she has a key to the Chamber of Dreams, Durand Durand leads her to it, then takes her key as well as the Tyrant’s key, trapping them inside the chamber. Barbarella wakes the Great Tyrant and the two wathyc on the view screen as Dildano and his rebellion destroy the Black Knights but Durand Durand kills them all with the Positronic Ray. The Great Tyrant releases the Mathmos to destroy Sogo, killing everyone including Durand Durand, but Barbarella and the Great Tyrant survive due to Barbarella’s innate goodness. As they float on the Mathmos, they find Pygar, who is also immune to the Mathmos and Barbarella manages to revive him and Pygar carries them back to Barbarella’s spaceship. As they are flying away, Barbarella questions why Pygar would save the Great Tyrant and Pygar responds that angels have no memory.

Barbarella met with mix reviews from the critics, but currently holds a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The site’s consensus about the movie states “Unevenly paced and thoroughly cheesy, Barbarella is nonetheless full of humor, entertaining visuals, and Jane Fonda’s sex appeal. Like I said earlier, the 80’s group Duran Duran got the idea for their name from the evil Durand Durand, which is kind of funny. The movie was a box office bomb as it only made about $5.5 million off a $9 million budget.

This is definitely one of those cult classics that showcases what a B-Movie is, granted this had a bigger budget than most B-movies. The acting was pretty over the top, with Jane Fonda using her sex appeal more than her acting to get this movie moving along. The story was pretty good, as it was based off a French comic book. The special effects were terrible as it seemed the budget went entirely into set design, and maybe wardrobe. One of those movies that earns it mark on the “Must See At Least Once” lists, but is funny enough in how bad it is to make it worth watching a second time.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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February 21st, 2016 Movie – The Manster

the manster

After the busy, yet fun day that I had yesterday, it feels good to sit down and relax with a classic sci-fi/horror movie. What, you mean everyone doesn’t choose this way to relax? Well their loss. Anyways, today’s movie is one that I had heard of years ago but never got around to watching myself. Then when I started buying some of these box sets of movies, it happened to be on one of them. A rather lucky coincidence as I was too lazy to actually buy this movie on it’s own. So let’s get right into today’s movie, The Manster.

The plot: Some girls are bathing at a hot spring in Japan when a strange creature attacks and kills them. The next day, Dr. Robert Suzuki goes to his mountain lab and asks his assistant Tara if Genji has returned and she says he has so Suzuki arms himself with a pistol and goes down into the basement. Downstairs, he speaks briefly with Emiko, his wife whom he had experimented on and disfigured and then sees Genji, who was also experimented on and became a huge, hairy creature. When Genji attacks him, Suzuki is forced to shoot him and then throws the body into the volcano that the lab is built on, while Emiko screams at the act. While this is happening, Larry Stanford, an American reporter stationed in Tokyo for the World Press, has climbed the volcano to reach Suzuki’s lab for an interview with the doctor. During the course of the interview, Suzuki ends up giving Larry a drugged drink and after Larry passes out, he proceeds to give Larry an injection, though Tara questions if they should do this. When Larry wakes up, he heads back to his office and his editor tries to get him to cover a story in Hong Kong, but Larry refuses, as he plans on going back to New York and his wife. That night, Suzuki takes for a night out on the town and ends up getting Larry drunk and carry on with some of the geisha girls. After a week, Larry goes back to his office and his editor Ian comments that Linda, Larry’s wife has called since Larry was supposed to be back in New York by now, but Larry says he has been working non-stop and decided to take some time off and enjoy tings that he never tried before. That night, Suzuki takes Larry to a bath house famed for it’s mineral baths and Larry ends up taking a bath with Tara, though they are separated by a glass wall, but as he is soaking in the water, he suddenly starts feeling strange and scratches at the spot where Suzuki had injected him. He spends the night dancing with Tara and when they head back to Larry’s hotel room, they find Linda and Ian waiting for them there. Linda had come to Japan to bring Larry home and tells him that he must make a choice and Larry decides to leave with Tara. At Tara’s place, Tara asks Larry why he left with her and he says that he fells like something strange is going on with him but he feels comfortable with her. Tara tells him that she won’t be with a man unless he is all hers and tells him to go resolve things with Linda. Larry returns to his hotel and, seeing Linda asleep on the couch, decides to fix himself a drink but notices that his right hand has begun to change. Hiding his hand behind his back, Larry wakes Linda by yelling at her and threatens to slap or strangle her until she runs from the room. After she leaves, Larry unbuttons his shirt and notices a strange growth on his shoulder where the injection occurred and leaves his room. Larry winds up at a temple and speaks with a monk there but when the monk doesn’t respond and continues chanting, Larry ends up attacking him. Larry ends up at Tara’s place and she questions what happened but Larry can’t recall any details after leaving his house. Later that day, Ian tracks Larry down and tries talking to him but Larry refuses to talk with him. That night, Larry wanders the streets and ends up attacking and killing two women. At his lab, Suzuki is studying a chart of Larry’s progression from a normal human into a new species and Tara comments that she doesn’t like doing this but Suzuki reminds her what he did with his own wife and how he had to continue this path. Ian brings a psychologist friend with him to speak with Larry but Larry becomes angry and kicks them out of his room, then yells out when he opens his robe and reveals an eye growing out of his shoulder. Realizing that he probably does need help, Larry goes to Dr. Jennsen’s office and breaks in. Dr. Jennsen calls the police then fills a syringe with a tranquilizer but when he steps into the room that Larry is in, he witnesses a second head grow from Larry’s and is to shocked to move as the creature kills him. Ian arrives at the Jennsen’s office and the police superintendent asks that he not report anything on the murder for 24 hours in the hopes that it will lure the killer into the trap and Ian reluctantly agrees. Later, Ian sneaks into Larry’s room and finds some prayer beads that he saw Larry holding after the monk was killed and takes them with him. The next day, after the police superintendent’s press conference, Larry gives the superintendent the beads and starts to explain how he got them. Meanwhile, some police officers see the transformed Larry and start to give chase to him but Larry attacks the pursuing officers and gets away. Larry returns to his hotel room to hide but Linda enters the room and, seeing Larry’s appearance, screams and faints. The police show up and Larry ends up fleeing, with the police in pursuit again. Larry heads to Tara’s place but not finding her there, ends up trashing the place and leaving. Ian and Linda lead the police there but they don’t find anyone there and Linda asks that they not kill Larry if possible. At his lab, Suzuki has an enzyme prepared for Larry if he returns and Tara says he never should have started this and Suzuki accuses her of falling in love with Larry. Tara gives Suzuki a knife to commit seppuku, then heads upstairs to call the police but is shocked when Larry appears and breaks into the lab. Downstairs, Suzuki speaks with Emiko and asks her forgiveness, then shoots her and prepares to kill himself when Larry appears. Suzuki tries to stab Larry and Larry ends up attacking and killing him, but not before Suzuki sets his machine to make the volcano explode and destroy his lab. As the police begin climbing the volcano, Larry grabs an unconscious Tara and climbs to the top of the crater, where he ends up splitting into two separate creatures. Larry ends up fighting with the creature but it overpowers him and grabs Tara and throws her into the volcano. Larry then shoves the creature into the volcano before collapsing and Linda rushes to his side and hugs him as the police approach. The superintendent tells them that he will have to formally charge Larry for the murders but Linda believes that Larry didn’t do it and says she will wait to be with him.

This was kind of an interesting, low budget variation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but it worked. The acting was pretty good, with Peter Dyneley doing a great job portraying Larry from the normal beginnings to the troubled person after he meets Suzuki. The plot was pretty similar to Jekyll and Hyde in the whole, good and evil in men dichotomy. But in this case, the difference of it being artificial and the two aspects actually splitting from each other was definitely a new twist. There was a good amount of suspense in this movie, though the actual scare factor wasn’t much due to the low budget. If you are a fan of either genre, this is a good movie that is worth watching.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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