action, martial arts, movie, movie review

July 31st, 2017 Movie – Shaolin Temple (1976)

shaolin temple (1976)

Man, talk about a let down. When I first looked up today’s movie, the first link was for a movie from 1982 that starred Jet Li, which got me pretty excited because I thought I would be getting a really good movie. Then I realized the dates were wrong so I had to do some more looking to try and find the correct movie. So let’s see if today’s movie is worth the hassle of looking up as I watch Shaolin Temple (1976).

The plot: In a Chinese palace, the emperor and his court are watching some girls dance but when the performance is over, an aide rushes into the room and says the Minister of War is coming with his army. As the soldiers begin attacking the city, the Minister of War enters the chamber with some of his top lieutenants, who begin fighting with the palace guards. The Minister says that he was never going to be satisfied with just being Minister of War and wanted to be emperor, prompting the emperor’s wife to kill herself, as she had recommended the general to that position. The prince and princess rush to her side to hold her but after her passing, the princess kills herself as well when she learns the minister plans on taking her as her wife. The minister kills the emperor and tries to kill the prince but the last of the emperor’s loyal guards manage to get him out of the palace. They manage to get out of the city but General Ho stays behind to buy his men time to get the prince to safety, telling the prince that he must get stronger so he can avenge his father. The prince and the other soldiers leave and General Ho manages to fend off the soldiers but when the new king’s general attacks him, he finds himself outmatched. The prince returns to sacrifice himself to save General Ho’s life and ends up being struck by a poisoned dart. General Ho is also struck by a poisoned dart but manages to temporarily blind the general and allow them to escape. They reach the river and have a ferryman take them to the other side but General Ho tells his men that the prince has been poisoned and needs medicine from the monastery, then instructing them to take the prince to his home and contact his two daughters to help. General Ho is killed guarding their escape and the general orders the ferryman to come back but the ferryman continues to head to the other side, then kills himself so he can’t be forced to betray the prince. The prince and the two soldiers stop to rest at a temple, with the prince becoming deranged from the poison, but they are forced to hide when some of the king’s soldiers show up for the night. Suffering from the effects of the poison, the prince scares them off when they think he is a ghost. The next day, they continue on their way and one of the soldiers goes ahead to get General Ho’s daughters but while he is gone, the prince runs off in a delusion and the remaining soldier manages to catch up to him but not before he is seen by an old woman and her son. The old woman tells her son not to say anything about what they saw but another man had seen them with the prince and reported it to the general, who kills them when they won’t tell him where the prince went. The soldier returns with General Ho’s daughters and they all start making their way back to their house. When they are attacked by some bandits, one of the daughters stays behind and kills them while the rest head to the house. With the prince’s condition getting worse, one of the daughters heads to the monastery to ask for the cure but the monks tell her she will have to pass several tests in order to receive the cure. Meanwhile, the other daughter and the soldiers go to an inn to get the prince some food but the king arrives. The daughter goes out to fight with the general, killing his guards, but the king gets past her and kills the guard and the prince. When he learns that the prince was merely the other guard acting as a decoy, the king kills the servers in the restaurant, then heads back outside to fight the daughter and learn where the prince is. Back at the monastery, the other daughter enters the temple and must make her way up to the top, battling one of the monks on each floor before reaching the top and managing to obtain the secret cure. Back at the restaurant, the daughter is wounded by the general but manages to injure him as well when he gets distracted by the prince. The daughter is struck by a poisoned dart as she tries to guard the prince but when the general’s attention is distracted by the return of the other daughter, the girl throws the dart into his back and the general is finally killed when the other sister throws her short sword into his back as well. The sisters briefly reunite before the one sister dies from her injuries and, after giving him the medicine, General Ho’s surviving daughter returns to the palace with the prince. At the city walls, they see a sign saying that the king is auditioning for courtesans and the prince decides to use that as a means to sneak into the palace, writing General Ho’s daughter a note thanking her for saving him and to live a good life. The prince disguises himself as a woman and manages to get close to the king, where he promptly stabs him and reveals himself to the court as the prince. The court accept the prince’s claim to the throne and celebrate him as the new king while Ho’s daughter returns to the monastery, to find that the monks she had fought with were actually statues left in their memory.

First off, the movie I watched was not the movie I thought it was going to be. That being said, this was a confusing but somewhat entertaining movie to watch. The acting was ok but the dubbing was pretty bad. The story was definitely unoriginal and has been done numerous times before. I did like the idea of the prince going delusional due to the poison, as those were some funny moments. The fight scenes in the movie were the best part and pretty well coordinated, though they were a little slower paced at times than I would have preferred. Not what I expected and unfortunately, not the best movie I have seen.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5

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action, martial arts, movie, movie review

July 30th, 2017 Movie – Shaolin Deadly Kicks (a.k.a. The Flash Legs)

shaolin deadly kicks

I know that I am excited about Sharknado Week going on right now on Syfy, but I have to admit that today’s movie is kind of bringing back some childhood memories. Mainly due to the fact that it is Sunday and back in the day, Sunday afternoons tended to be when they would show the classic kung-fu movies like today’s movie. Now I have never heard of today’s movie, or most of those types of movies that have been in the Martial Arts box set, but they all seem like the movies that I would have been on back then. So let’s see how entertaining today’s movie is as I watch Shaolin Deadly Kicks.

The plot: A group of bandits known as The Eight Dragons break into a house one night and, after their leader tells them not to kill anyone, they quickly knock out the people inside and begin searching for a treasure map. When they find the map, they go to leave but the owner of the house returns and after one of the Dragons accidentally says who they are, they are forced to kill him and everyone else so as not to leave any witnesses. Hiding out in the woods, one of the Dragons, Scarred Dragon, wants to go ahead and dig up the treasure, with several other dragons agreeing with him. However, Chief Dragon says that they should wait, as there is too much heat after them due to the murders, and suggests waiting three years before going after the treasure. When the other Dragons grow distrustful about his holding the map, Chief Dragon cuts it into 8 pieces and hands each of the Dragons a piece, then tells them they will meet back in 3 years but until then, they should stay out of trouble. Some time later, one of the Dragons has been staying at a brothel but ends up being caught by the police when he tries to steal some stuff to give the madam. In prison, another prisoner suggest they try to escape but the Dragon doesn’t want to at first, as he knows he will be out in a few days, but changes his mind and they come up with a plan with a third prisoner. The third prisoner fakes an illness and when the guard comes to check on him, he steals the keys to the cells and frees them. Later, the Dragon meets up with another member of the group and together, the two Dragons try using their parts of the maps to try and find the treasure, unaware that they are being followed by the police officer that arrested the Dragon bandit. The two dragons, as well as the two other crooks, start digging but find no sign of the treasure when one of the crooks reveals himself to be a police officer named Fong Yee. Fong Yee, along with the other officer, starts fighting the two Dragons and gets their pieces of the map back but the other cop is killed in the fight, as is the other crook. Fong Yee goes to see the third member of the Dragons and informs him that he killed two members of the Dragons and will let him live, plus get a doctor for the man’s son, if he just gives him the map. The Dragon goes to get the map but chooses to fight Fong Yee instead of giving him the map and Fong Yee is forced to kill him, but heads to his family’s house and gives the Dragon’s mother money to pay for the doctor, saying it was from her son. Elsewhere, a woman named Jade is travelling through the forest when she is attacked by a group of bandits. She manages to fend them off for a while but when they start to overwhelm her, Fong Yee shows up and manages to defeat or chase them off. Jade and her escorts thank Fong Yee and as they go their separate ways, Jade keeps looking back at Fong Yee as he walks away. Later, One of the Dragons hears about the three deaths and sets a trap for Fong Yee, having a snitch spread false rumors about where the Dragons will be meeting. When Fong Yee gets there, the Dragon’s men use smoke bombs to distract Fong Yee, then throw bamboo spears at him. Fong Yee appears to be killed and one of the men goes down and retrieves the pieces of the map but Fong Yee, knowing it was a trap, had faked his death and then uses a disguise to confront the Dragon and retrieve the map pieces. As he is leaving the city, Fong Yee comes across a fifth member of the Dragons and gets the piece of the map from him but spares his life. Later, Fong Yee sneaks into the home of the 6th Dragon member and tries to steal his piece of the map but ends up being captured, while the Dragon bandit kills his brother, who was the Dragon that Fong Yee had spared. Fong Yee manages to escape, freeing a forced bride on his way out, and returns the next day to reclaim the piece of the map. After defeating the Dragon’s guards, he begins fighting the Dragon, who uses a blade to cut up Fong Yee, but Fong Yee manages to defeat him. The Dragon hands over the map piece but as Fong Yee goes to leave, the Dragon throws a poisoned knife into Fong Yee’s back and Fong Yee kills the Dragon before stumbling out of the house. Making his way into the woods, Fong Yee pulls out the knife from his back but ends up passing out from the poison. When he comes too, he finds himself in a house with his wounds bandaged. Jade appears and tells him that she found him and the woods and brought him to her home, where she had her father help cure him of his poison. When Fong Yee asks about his clothes, Jade says she washed them, then hands him the pieces of map he was carrying. Jade goes to get more medicine for Fong Yee from her father, who happens to be the Chief Dragon, and he starts asking her questions about Fong Yee. When Chief Dragon finds the poisoned knife in the woods, he realizes Fong Yee is the one who killed the other Dragons and tries to kill him several times but is stopped by the appearance of Jade, who has fallen in love with Fong Yee. When Chief Dragon heads into town one day, he sees Scarred Dragon waiting for him, who reminds him that the 3 years is almost up. Wanting to keep Jade from knowing his past, and fearing for her safety with Scarred Dragon around, Chief Dragon speaks with Fong Yee and asks that he leave town and Fong Yee agrees to go but Jade overhears them talking and gets upset. Fong Yee talks with Jade and tells her the truth about who he is and what he has been doing and Jade asks what he will do when he finds the other two. Meanwhile, Scarred Dragon wants to kill Fong Yee after finding the pieces of the map and learning how he killed the other Dragons but Chief Dragon refuses to let him. Chief Dragon gives Scarred Dragon his piece of the map, as well as the ones Fong Yee collected, and asks that Scarred Dragon just leave and spare Fong Yee but Scarred Dragon kills Chief Dragon. When Jade and Fong Yee return to the house, they find Chief Dragon dead and quickly go off in search of Scarred Dragon. When they catch up to him, Scarred Dragon uses his clawed grapples to fight with them but and injures both of their legs. He then scales the top of a tower to use the map and find the treasure, knocking Fong Yee off the tower when he climbs up after him. Seeing the grapple on the ground, Fong Yee uses it to try and grab Scarred Dragon but ends up ripping open his bag of explosive powder. A distracted Scarred Dragon ends up falling through the week ceiling of the tower and Fong Yee grabs Jade and they run as the powder explodes, killing Scarred Dragon.

This is actually a pretty decent movie. The acting was pretty good, with the usual dubbing issues you would expect to find in one of these movies. The story was pretty straight forward and once it was established who Fong Yee was, there was nothing really surprising about it. I did like how Chief Dragon basically tried to turn his life around by becoming a healer, and the third one was also going straight, while the other Dragons seemed to continue doing evil things. The fight scenes were a lot of fun to watch and reasonably well coordinated. Plus, they had all the cool “whooshing” sound effects that you would expect from one of these movies. Some mindless entertainment to enjoy, but not worth hunting down.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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drama, horror, movie, movie review, thriller

July 29th, 2017 Movie – The Shallows

the shallows

So this is some fun timing in regards to today’s movie. I mean, Shark Week is wrapping up this weekend on Discovery Channel and Sharknado week is starting tomorrow on Syfy. Which means my watching a shark movie today is absolutely the most appropriate thing to be doing right now. To be fair, any time is appropriate to be watching a shark movie but that’s another story. So I remember the commercials for this movie when it came out last year and they said the same thing EVERY shark movie says in their commercials; “This is the best shark movie since Jaws.” Hollywood needs to stop using that pitch because the second I hear it, my opinion of the movie immediately drops and I it becomes harder to win me over. With that being said, let’s see just how good of a movie The Shallows really is.

The plot: On a secluded beach in Mexico, a young boy is playing with a soccer ball when he notices a helmet with a GoPro attached to it. When the boy plays the video recorded on the camera, he sees video of a some surfers and one of them being attacked by a great white shark, which sends the boy running down the beach. A few days earlier, Nancy Adams is being driven to the beach by a local man named Carlos. Along the way, she explains that her mom had come to the beach when she was pregnant with Nancy and she always thought of it as their beach, but this is the first time she has ever been able to come to it. Nancy gets upset when her friend is not able to join them but overcomes the disappointment as she talks to Carlos and they finally come to the beach. After staring in joy at the beach, Nancy tries to give Carlos some money for taking her there but he refuses, saying he lives close by and was going the same way and tells her to be careful as he leaves. Putting her gear up out of the tidal area, Nancy grabs her surfboard and heads out into the water, surfing with two locals that are also there. After surfing for a while, Nancy heads back to the beach and video calls her younger sister and shows her where she is at. After talking to her for a while, Nancy’s father gets on the phone and talks to Nancy, trying to convince her to come home and not drop out of med school but Nancy tells him he wouldn’t understand and quickly says she loves him before hanging up. Nancy heads back out into the water to surf some more but the two locals are heading in, suggesting she leave as well. After watching the locals load their gear into their jeep, Nancy gets a little nervous about how quiet it is and lays on top of her board. When a pod of dolphins swim by her, with one of them leaping out of the water over her. Nancy paddles after the dolphins a little ways but stops when she sees the carcass of a humpback whale, with several huge bites taken out of it’s flesh. Feeling scared, Nancy quickly paddles away and catches the next wave towards shore but as she is surfing, a large shark bumps into the board, knocking her into the water and causing the surfboard’s tether to snap due to the current. When Nancy surfaces, she starts swimming back towards her surfboard when a great white shark suddenly bites her in the leg and drags her back underwater. Nancy manages to get free and swims towards the whale’s carcass, climbing on top of it in order to get away from the shark. Seeing the damage done to her leg, Nancy uses the tether strap to make a makeshift tourniquet to keep from bleeding to death, then frantically yells out for help but the two locals don’t hear her and drive away. Suddenly, the shark starts dragging the carcass further away from the beach and Nancy tries to figure out what she can do. She sees a buoy nearby but decides it is too far away for her to make it and decides to head for an outcrop of rocks that have begun to rise out of the water as the tide moves out. When the shark charges at the whale and strikes it in the hopes of knocking Nancy back into the water, Nancy jumps off the whale and frantically swims to the rocks. She manages to make it there and climbs on top of them, cutting her foot on some coral in the process, but finds herself completely alone, except for a seagull which had been wounded by one of the whale’s flukes hitting it. Using her jewelry, Nancy begins stitching up the wound in her leg, then uses her wet-suit to try and keep it dry and, hopefully free of infection, before settling in to wait out the night. As night falls, Nancy takes the wet suit off her leg and then rips off one of the sleeves, then pulls the sleeve over her injured leg as a makeshift compression bandage. Nancy passes out briefly from the pain and comes too to find some crabs crawling around and on her. Nancy smashes one of them and attempts to eat it but quickly vomits it back up, which the injured seagull begins to eat. Seeing her surfboard floating nearby, Nancy attempts to swim out to it but she sees the shark nearby and quickly heads back to the rocks. As she catches her breath, she notices a man asleep on the beach and starts screaming for help. The man hears her and wakes up, tossing the empty liquor bottle in his hand away, before turning in her direction. Nancy yells for him to call for help but when he just stares at her, she motions towards her bag. The man heads to her bag and proceeds to go through it, pocketing the money and phone before shouldering the bag and starting to walk off. When the man notices the surfboard, he puts the bag down and heads out into the water to grab it and Nancy yells out a warning but is too late as the shark drags the man underwater and ends up biting him in half. The next morning, the two surfers from yesterday have returned to the beach and the seagull starts squawking to alert Nancy to their presence. Nancy starts yelling at them to get out of the water and get help but they don’t believe her. When one of the surfers is killed by the shark, the other one starts paddling towards Nancy, who moves down on the rock to try and help him but he is dragged underwater. After a a broken surf board is launched out of the water, the surfer appears and tries climbing up the rocks and Nancy grabs him to help but the shark drags the man back underwater and kills him. Nancy uses the broken surfboard to shield her from the sun, but with less than an hour before the rock’s become submerged again, she is running out of options as to what to do. Nancy manages to grab the seagull, who she starts calling Steven Seagull, and after seeing that it’s wing is merely dislocated, pops it back into place, saying now it has a chance to live. Noticing the helmet with the GoPro that one of the surfers was wearing floating nearby, Nancy times the shark’s route from the whale’s carcass to the rocks and makes a dash for the camera. Nancy manages to grab it, injuring herself some more in the process but as she holds onto the camera, the shark tries to grab her. Nancy injures herself again avoiding the shark but the shark is also injured by the coral as it tries to attack her. After viewing the footage of the guys surfing and how the last surfer was killed, Nancy noticed that the shark had been injured before, which possibly explains it’s aggressive behavior. With only a few minutes left before the tide covers the rock she is on, Nancy uses the GoPro to record a message detailing what happened, as well as a goodbye to her father and sister, then tosses it out towards the shore, in the hopes the tide will carry it there. Nancy then places Steven Seagull onto the piece of surfboard and sets it adrift, hoping that it will make it. As she prepares to make the swim to the buoy, Nancy notices a swarm of jellyfish entering the area and starts to feel despair, until she remembers the shark’s reaction to the coral and realizes that it might be her best chance. Nancy begins swimming towards the buoy and ends up getting stung but the jellyfish stings keep the shark at bay and allow her to reach the buoy. Nancy starts to climb up but the rusted metal gives way and she fall back into the water, right on top of the shark. Nancy stabs the shark with the piece of metal she has and manages to make it onto the buoy, avoiding the shark as it tries to attack her once again. Nancy sees a ship in the distance and finding a flare gun on the buoy, tries to signal it but the ship doesn’t see it and continues sailing away. When the shark begins attacking the anchor chains of the buoy, Nancy attempts to shoot it with the flare gun, igniting the oil from the whale’s body and setting the shark on fire briefly. The enraged shark begin attacking the buoy again, knocking two of the anchor chains free and causing it to tilt. Nancy uses the tether to tie herself to the third chain and when it breaks free, she is swiftly pulled underwater towards the bottom. The shark gives chase and just before she reaches bottom, Nancy lets go and moves to the side, causing the shark to miss her and impale itself on the metal rebar on the rock the chains were attached too. Meanwhile, the kid who found the GoPro has returned to the beach with his father, Carlos, and they see the bodies of one of the surfers. When the kid points out Nancy’s body in the water, Carlos carries her to shore, then tells his son to get help. Nancy comes too and smiles as she notices Steven Seagull had safely made it to shore before seeing a hallucination of her mother and saying out loud that she will be ok. One year later, a recovered Nancy, having finished med school and now a doctor,  is on the beach in Galveston, Texas with her sister and father, and heads out into the water to teach her little sister how to surf, as  her dad says he is proud of her.

The Shallows met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Lean and solidly crafted, The Shallows transcends tired shark-attack tropes with nasty thrills and a powerful performance from Blake Lively.” A puppet and CGI were considered for the character of Steven Seagull but the producers wanted to use a live animal and when they saw Blake Lively feeding a group of seagulls, they realized it would be possible to use a real animal. The movie was expected to make just $7 million on it’s opening weekend but ended up earning $16.7 million, doubling expectations on it’s way to making $119.1 million off of a $17 million budget.

There were a couple of bad moments, but this was actually a pretty good movie. Blake Lively really did a great job in this movie, showing a lot of emotion to help carry the performance, as she was pretty much the only person in the movie. The story was really good and Blake Lively really sold the sense of isolation and despair she was feeling with her being the only person out there. The special effects involved with the shark were pretty good except for the last scene where it impaled itself, which looked like it belonged in one of the numerous low budget shark movies I enjoyed watching. The interaction between Nancy and Steven Seagull was a nice bit of light-heartedness to try and take away some of the despair that she was obviously feeling being trapped in her situation. Make no mistake, this isn’t going to be considered the next Jaws, but this is still an entertaining movie that is worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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crime, drama, movie, movie review

July 28th, 2017 Movie – The Shadow Of Silk Lennox

the shadow of silk lennox

Ahh, another classic movie from the Legends of Horror box set that is in no way a horror movie but stars an actor well known for being in one. I find it a little funny that yesterday’s movie starred Bela Lugosi and today’s stars Lon Chaney Jr. Too bad tomorrow’s movie doesn’t star Boris Karloff or I would have had the classic monster trifecta going for me. Anyway’s This is yet another movie I never heard of but it sounds pretty interesting from the description. Let’s see what I am getting into with today’s movie, The Shadow Of Silk Lennox.

The plot: John Arthur Lennox is the owner of a nightclub but also serves as the leader of an underworld gang of crooks, who call him Silk due to his constantly saying “things are fine as silk.” Silk plans a bank heist to occur, while securing his gang’s alibi by inviting some cops over to the club and having a recording play to make it seem like the gang is there. After sending the three men off to do the heist, Silk heads downstairs to look over the club until he gets word that the police are on their way. Downstairs, Silk’s new singer, Jimmy Lambert, is telling his dance partner Nola that their number is coming up and when Nola says she doesn’t like what Silk is having Jimmy do, he tells her that they wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for Silk so he felt obligated to help him. When the two inspectors arrive, Jimmy calls Silk and plays the recording of his gang members, which Silk puts on the loudspeaker so that the police can hear them. At the same time, Silk’s gang holds up the bank and successfully make their getaway, with Dutch, the man holding the money, switching cars so that the police can’t catch them. The next day, the police are frustrated because they know that Silk’s gang was behind the robbery but nobody will come forward as a witness and the even though they heard the gang speaking over the phone, they can’t prove that they were actually there and a jury would believe the alibi. Back at the club, the rest of the gang arrives but when Dutch doesn’t show up, he has one of his men find and follow Dutch and report back where he is going. When they find him, Silk’s men force him into a bathroom, forcing the attendant and occupant into the nearby stalls. When Silk enters, Dutch protests his innocence but when they don’t find the money on him, Silk has Dutch killed. When the police arrive and try to get into the restroom, Silk shoots into the door to keep the police outside while he and his men slip out the window. As they meet at the club, Silk questions the man who followed Dutch and he tells him that Dutch had gone into the Interstate Express office and that the money was inside the safe there. Silk says the money is safe for now and they will get it later. Meanwhile, Jimmy is upset when he learns about the robbery and questions Silk about it but Silk tells him to keep quiet. Jimmy talks to Nola about it and she says they have the recording and she plans to keep it and threaten to turn it over to the police if anything happens to them. Unknown to them, a mystery person was searching Silk’s office and overheard their conversation over the intercom and sneaks down and takes the record. Silk is picked up by the police and taken down to the station in connection to Dutch’s murder. As he is placed in a line-up, he meets a man named “Fingers” Farley and after they are both released when the witnesses refuse to identify Silk, Silk invites Fingers back to his club. At the club, Silk asks Fingers about being able to crack the safe at the express office and Fingers says he can do it. Some of the gang are concerned about Jimmy spilling the beans but Silk tells them not to worry. After his set, Jimmy hears about Silk harassing and kissing Nola and he heads into Silk’s office and punches him before he is quickly restrained. Nola comes in and pleads for Jimmy’s life so Silk tells Fingers to take Jimmy for a ride, then tells Nola she will get him back when he gets the recording. When Fingers returns, Silk takes Nola with him as they all head out to crack open the safe. Fingers works on opening the safe but when it opens, cops come pouring out and a shootout occurs and Silk ends up being killed. Later at the station, the police thank the feds for their help in handling Silk and their leader says to thank Ferguson, who had been undercover as Fingers. Nola and Jimmy are reunited and thank Ferguson for helping them before leaving, while Ferguson asks about his next assignment.

This was actually a pretty decent movie, story wise at least. Lon Chaney Jr. did a good job playing mob boss Silk Lennox, while several of the other actors did good in their roles as well. The basic plot was pretty good but the story was a little confusing at times. I honestly think the short length of the film actually hurt it some as it could have been a better movie with some more time added to it to pan out some of the minor details. There wasn’t much in the way of special effects outside of some driving scenes that didn’t look that good, while the one real fight scene was the shootout at the office and it looked pretty ridiculous, with some of the deaths being too over dramatic at times. The film quality was pretty bad in the copy used in this set, with a lot of lines running through it at times. Not the worst movie but there was some definite room for improvement.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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crime, drama, movie, movie review, thriller

July 27th, 2017 Movie – Shadow Of Chinatown

shadow of chinatown

Once again, I find myself watching a movie that is made up from a serial film. The difference between this one and some of the others I have watched is that this one has a rather famous actor in it, one Mr. Bela Lugosi. Now, I have to admit that I never heard of this movie and when I first saw the title, I honestly thought I was getting a martial arts movie. While I am a little disappointed that it wasn’t that type of movie, a nice little crime drama could still be fun to watch. So let’s see if this is worth watching as I watch today’s movie, Shadow Of Chinatown.

The plot: In 1930’s San Francisco, manufactured goods from all over the world are arriving at the port and distributed to stores across the city, as well as the rest of the Western US. A Russian businesswoman named Sonya Rokoff receives a letter stating that the sale of goods from Russia has declined sharply due to Chinese imports and that something must be done immediately. She contacts a man named Victor Poten and tells him she needs to see him to discuss the matter. When she arrives at his home, she says she will pay him $10,000 to find a way to shut down the merchants in Chinatown, and he accepts the job. Victor hires some men to disguise themselves, then the men all head into various shops and restaurants in Chinatown and begin using smoke bombs and firing pistols into the air to scare everyone out of the buildings. Joan Whiting, a society beat reporter, heads to the home of Martin Andrews, her boyfriend and novelist, and tells him what happened. Joan tries to get him to go with her to find out what is going on but Martin refuses. When Martin’s butler, Willy Fu, tells her that if the trade in Chinatown goes bad, it will mean profits for their rivals so Martin tells her to run with that story. Joan heads down to try and get more information but the mayor and police chief refuse to speak with her. As she is about to leave, Joan sees a Chinese businessman being grabbed by some men and taken into a building and she quietly follows after them. The businessman is taken into a room and when he backs up into a statue, the statue grabs him and pivots around before dropping him down a trap door. Joan sees this happen and attempts to escape but she ends up falling through another secret door and is captured by Victor’s men. Some time later, Joan’s editor contacts Police Captain Waters and tells him about Joan disappearing in Chinatown and asks that he try to find her. Waters goes to see Martin and accuses him of knowing something about Joan’s disappearance, as the events in Chinatown are similar to the subject of one of his books. Martin claims he is innocent and accompanies Waters to Chinatown to try and look for Joan. Meanwhile, Joan writes on a mirror and tries to use the reflection to send out a message for help. As Waters goes to check with his men, Martin sees the message and climbs a telephone pole and uses the wire to try and make it to the window. When the wire snaps, Martin crashes through a lower window, then ends up fighting with the thug guarding Joan. After knocking him out, they go to escape but hear someone moving outside the door . Martin has Joan open the door and Martin attacks the man but stops when he realizes it is Waters. Waters is angry about being attacked and when he finds the room empty, as the thug had recovered and snuck away, he takes both Joan and Martin to the station to answer some questions. Later, Martin and Joan return to Joan’s editor’s office and Martin tells Joan to stay away from him. Elsewhere, Victor, Sonya, and the rest of Victor’s men escape the building and Victor and Sonya make some new plans to stop the Chinese shops. When Victor leaves, one of his men, Grogan, assaults Sonya but Victor stops him using hypnosis. Some time later, Martin and Joan are both on a ship, as is Victor, who is busy disguising himself. When Martin goes to see the captain about Grogan, who had caused a disturbance on board but as they go to question him, Victor secretly shoots him with a dart to paralyze him. Victor has Grogan’s body taken out of the room and he quickly disguises him, telling Sonya what he had done. Shocked at what happened, Sonya takes Grogan off the ship and takes him back to her apartment. Martin sees them leave and they follow her and when Martin, Joan, Willy, and Waters confront her about what is going on, she admits her part and tells them Grogan is the other room. The four go in to see Grogan, but while they are in the other room, Victor sneaks in and hypnotizes Sonya and her assistant. When Martin and the others head back into the room, they discover Sonya sitting unresponsive and her assistant is missing. Meanwhile, Victor sneaks around and takes control of Gorgan, then hands him a grenade to use in killing the others. When Martin goes in the room, Grogan throws the grenade but Martin catches it and throws it out the window. They then take Grogan and Sonya with them to try and get them some help. When Sonya comes out of her trance, she tells them about how she contacted Victor to help her but his hatred of the Chinese has driven him mad. She tells them that Victor is able to observe the happenings of all of the shops and offers to take them to Victor’s lab. When they get there, they find no sign of Victor but a trap he left causes Joan to faint. Martin takes her out of the room and tends to her, saying he couldn’t live without her and Joan reveals that she is ok and tells Martin she plans on holding him to his word. Waters gives orders to not allow anyone to leave Chinatown and gives passes to Joan and the others so they can leave. Martin asks Sonya for the keys to her apartment, thinking that there might be a clue to Victor’s whereabouts there. Meanwhile, Victor, along with Healy and a still hypnotized Grogan, are in the apartment and when they see Martin and Willy Fu arrive, they sneak out the window but leave Grogan there to attack them. Meanwhile, Joan and Sonya go to the police station, and Sonya gives a description of Victor to their sketch artist, but Joan gets worried and feels like Martin is in trouble so they head off to the apartment. When they get there, they see Martin and Grogan fighting on the roof, as Martin manages to throw Grogan off the roof to the ground below. Heading inside, Joan tends to Martin’s injuries as Waters arrives, and Martin says he has some ideas where Victor might be heading and goes with Waters, while Willy takes Joan and Sonya to Martin’s house. Meanwhile, Victor and Healy are heading to Martin’s house, figuring nobody would be there, but get in a car crash. The injured pair get inside and Victor tends to Healy’s wounds when Joan and the others arrive. Sonya lays down on the couch to rest and Willy goes to make some tea but notices a strange smell and he and Joan proceed to search the house. They are soon captured by Victor and Healy, who then sets a trap for Martin but Sonya wakes up and, noticing the trap, pushes Martin out of the way and is killed instead. Victor escapes, leaving Healy behind and Martin manages to capture him, then tells Joan to call the police while he goes after Victor. Victor avoids a police motorcycle, who chases after him with Martin, and ends up driving off a pier but as everyone looks out into the water, nobody notices Victor moving around underneath the dock. Some time later, Martin is talking with Willy about a new idea when Joan comes in and tells him about her front page article featuring him. Martin grabs her and tells her he got her fired from the newspaper and when she protests, he tells her he didn’t want his wife to be working for the paper, causing Joan to smile and kiss him.

Whenever I watch a movie made from serials, I am usually curious to watch the entire serial but I don’t necessarily feel that way with this one. The movie was pretty decent but nothing too impressive. The acting was ok, with Bela Lugosi doing a great job as Victor, while Luana Walters (Sonya) and Bruce Bennett (Martin) were also good, but Joan Barclay (Joan) just came across as whiny while Maurice Liu (Willy) was just a painfully bad stereotype. The story was pretty interesting but I felt like it could have had a little more depth to it. In all fairness, they material cut from the serials could have added that missing depth. The camera work was ok, with the usual jumpiness that you would expect considering how it was made. It is ok to watch once but not necessarily something to hunt down.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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action, drama, martial arts, movie, movie review

July 26th, 2017 Movie – Shadow Ninja

shadow ninja

So this should be interesting. When I first attempted to look up today’s movie, I could not find it online. Now that is not an unusual occurrence with some of the movies from the Martial Arts box set so I had to add a little more information to my initial search. I eventually was able to find some information  on the movie, enough to get some idea of what I was getting into. So let’s see how good, or bad, of a movie I have here in today’s movie, Shadow Ninja.

The plot: A veteran police officer named Kern is returning to his post with a grave robber when some men try and trick him and free his prisoner but the prisoner returns, allowing Kern to save face. Meanwhile, Kern’s wife is trying to get some lucky numbers to place some bets but is forced to stop when Kern comes home, and the two end up arguing about her gambling problem. Elsewhere, a young man is walking through the woods when he is attacked by two men demanding his money but he manages to use his martial arts skills to defeat them. The young man stops at a gambling den to rest when Kern shows up and has everyone line up so he can frisk them. When he finds a knife on one of the men, he takes him behind a wall, where he attempts to beat him up. When the man escapes, the young man chases after him and starts fighting him but the man says he is a police informant, which is corroborated by Kern when he catches up to them. The young man asks Kern about becoming a police man and Kern laughs him off but when he returns to the station, he finds the young man, Ah Keung, has signed up and the chief has decided to partner him with Kern. Kern decides to try and show Keung around town and has him frisk a known criminal but the criminal tricks Hun into paying him to avoid it looking like Keung is beating an innocent person. After the criminal leaves, Kern catches him and gets Keung’s money back, then treats him to lunch. As they are eating, a man steals a steamed bun but when the owner hits him in the head for stealing, the man becomes deranged with pain and begins slashing at everyone with a cleaver. At the same time, a man is robbing a bank but when he tries to leave, he encounters the madman and they both end up hiding from the crowd inside the bank. Kern and Keung show up and they come up with an idea to get Keung inside but the crooks lock the doors as the sounds of fighting commence but when Keung is tossed through the doors, it is shown that he had managed to tie the crooks hands together. Kern’s wife manages to earn some money selling costumes and immediately spends it gambling but she looses it, which upsets Kern. Kern attempts to get her money back from the gambling den but ends up getting beat up by 4 criminals and Keung is forced to chase them away. Keung then vows to get revenge for him and proceeds to ruin the gambling den before beating up the men that try to stop him. Master Wang, the leader of the gang that runs the gambling den, orders Keung to be killed and he ends up being stabbed by a woman pretending to be in distress, but he manages to fight off some other attackers before collapsing to the ground, where Kern finds him. Kern takes him back to his house so his wife can treat Keung’s injuries and she tells Keung that he doesn’t have to do this but Keung insists on continuing and goes back to destroy the gambling den. Wang sends one of his top assassins after Keung but Keung manages to defeat him. Meanwhile, Wang discovers that his wife was having an affair and goes to kick her out of his home but comes up with a different plan on getting rid of her. Wang disguises himself all in white, then kills his wife and when Keung arrives at the scene, having heard her screams, Wang throws a knife at Keung before disappearing. When other people arrive, they think Keung killed the woman at first but Kern arrives and says he is innocent and that they will look for the killer. When Kern’s informant is found dead, Keung goes to investigate and sees the killer in white again but he disappears and once again, Keung is blamed for the death. Kern fakes attacking him in order to help Keung escape the mob and later, they figure that he is being framed. Meanwhile, Wang is talking with his henchman and says that he intends to have Keung take out his rival, the real white killer, but then kills his henchman for knowing too much. Kern is talking with the chief about the situation and the chief tells him that the man known as the white killer is arriving in town today. Kern realizes that Wang is setting it up so that Keung will fight him and rushes to his house to try and warn him. At Kern’s house, Kern’s wife is killed by Wang and Keung chases after him while Kern, who just arrives, holds his dying wife in his arms before following. Wang leads Keung towards the real white killer and when Keung sees him, he starts attacking him. The white killer manages to get the upper hand on Keung by trapping one of his hands in a manacle attached to his leg, but Wang uses the distraction to kill white killer himself. As Wang taunts Keung, Keung tries to fight him but he is held back due to still being restrained by the manacle. Kern shows up and Keung tells him to run but when Kern tries to help him, Wang kills him. Keung manages to get free and attacks Wang but Wang is able to get the upper hand. When Keung manages to hide underneath a platform, Wang tries to find him but he gets distracted by Kern’s body and Keung is able to use the distraction to grab Wang’s sword and kill him.

This is about what I expected I would get; a fairly generic and rather unremarkable martial arts movie at a time where they were being produced about by the dozen. The acting was ok but the dubbing was truly atrocious, which made it incredibly funny to watch. The story was pretty confusing to be honest and seemed to go in a completely different direction from when it started. The fight scenes were pretty well choreographed and had all of the “whooshing” sound effects that you would expect from one of these movies. If you want some mindless martial arts action, than this movie can fill that role, but don’t expect it to be much more than that.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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crime, drama, movie, movie review, mystery, thriller

July 25th, 2017 Movie – Seven

seven

1995 was a time for some fairly memorable movies to come out, and man did I enjoy watching them. Today’s movie was one that I first had the opportunity to watch during a movie night at college, but ended up falling asleep. That was an interesting night as they were showing both today’s movie and 12 Monkeys and I fall asleep after Gluttony body is found and wake up to a bunch of animals running around a city with no clue what had happened. So when this came available to rent, I immediately rented it so I could find out what exactly happened. I always thought it was a good movie but never got around to buying it on DVD. When my brother was getting rid of his DVD’s and offered some of them to me, I saw that he had this one so I immediately decided to grab it. Now let’s see if it is as good as I can remember as I watch today’s movie, Seven.

The plot: At the scene of a murder, retiring detective William Somerset is examining the scene when his new partner, Detective David Mills, arrives and introduces himself. As they leave the scene, Somerset questions Mills as to why he chose to transfer to that particular city before they part ways. On Monday, Somerset and Mills arrive at the scene of an obese man who was found dead in his kitchen. As they examine the scene, they find the man’s hands and feet were bound and a bucket was under the table, collecting the man’s vomit. When Mills keeps talking nonstop, Somerset tells him to go help the officers ask the neighbors if they heard anything, which upsets Mills. At the morgue, the medical examiner tells Somerset and Mills that the man was forced to eat constantly until his stomach ruptured, with bruises on his head indicating a gun was pressed against it to force him into eating. Meeting with the captain, Somerset asks to be reassigned, as he feels like this is only the beginning and he doesn’t want this to be his last case. When he also asks that Mills be reassigned, as he doesn’t want this to be his first case, Mills objects and says he will work the case alone if Somerset doesn’t want to. The captain tells Somerset that he will keep working the dead man’s case, while sending Mills to investigate the death of a defense attorney. Mills arrives at the law firm, ignoring reporters’ questions as he heads up to the scene of the crime, where he finds the word Greed written in blood. Meanwhile, Somerset returns to the dead man’s apartment, after he had been given some pieces of wood that were in the dead man’s stomach. Examining the fridge, Somerset notices scratches in the floor in front of it and moves the fridge to find the word Gluttony written behind the fridge as well as a note. Back at the precinct, Somerset explains to the captain and Mills that the crimes are related and seemed patterned after the seven deadly sins. Somerset then tells them that they can expect 5 more murders before he walks away, saying he can’t be a part of this case. Somerset heads to the library and does some research on the seven sins, leaving a note for Mills to follow up on. The next day, as Mills is getting settled into his new desk (which was Somerset’s old office), his wife Tracy calls and invites Somerset over for dinner. After dinner, Somerset and Mills go over the photos of the attorney’s death and after seeing the picture of the attorney’s wife with blood around her eyes to make a pair of glasses, they decide to go ask her to look through the pictures to see if she sees anything missing or different. When the wife says one of the pictures is upside down, the two men go back to the office to examine the painting and discover fingerprints on the wall that spell out “Help Me.” When they run the prints, they match a known drug dealer and child molester so the SWAT team accompanies Somerset and Mills to his last known address. Breaking into the man’s apartment, they find hundreds of air fresheners hanging from the ceiling and the emaciated body of the man strapped to his bed. Mills finds photos of that the killer took of the man, showing he had been held captive there for a year, when the man suddenly starts breathing and thrashing on the bed and they have him rushed to a hospital. That night, Tracy calls Somerset and asks if they can meet in the morning to talk. Meeting at a diner, Tracy tells him that she is pregnant but she hasn’t told Mills yet as she hates the city and doesn’t want to raise a child there. As Somerset and Mills discuss the case at the precinct, Somerset gets an idea and has Mills accompany him to the library, where he prints a list of all the books that have to deal with the seven deadly sins. They then head to a diner, where Somerset hands the list to a contact at the FBI and he explains to Mills that the FBI would be able to find out who had been checking out some of those books, as well as books about murder and crime scenes in order to come up with some possible suspects. When they get a name, they head to the apartment of a man called John Doe but as they knock on the door, they notice a man approaching at the far end of the hallway. The man suddenly starts firing at them and Mills gives chase throughout the apartment and out into the street but John Doe gets the drop on him and holds a gun to Mills’ head, but lets him live and escapes as Somerset shows up. Heading back to the apartment, Mills wants to go in and look but Somerset tries to talk him out of it, as the way they found him was not technically legal, but Mills kicks the door open anyway, then bribes a woman to lie to the police in order to justify their being there. Heading inside, Mills finds several pictures, including one of him, and realizes that they had seen the killer earlier at the drug dealers’ apartment, posing as a reporter. When they hear a phone ring, Mills answers it and the killer congratulates them on finding him but says he will have to step up his time table. Seeing a picture of a blonde woman, they have some cops try to locate her before it is too late, while they head to an S&M shop, where John Doe had apparently purchased a custom item. When the girl is found, they find that she is dead, as a man was forced to rape her with a bladed codpiece, which ended up traumatizing the man. The next day, 911 receives a call from John Doe and Somerset and Mills arrive to find the fifth victim, a woman whose face had been slashed up and had a phone glued to one hand and a bottle of sleeping pills glued to the other; giving her a choice of living with a disfigured face or ending her own life. When the two return to the precinct, they are surprised to see John Doe arrive and turn himself in, demanding to see his lawyer. As John Doe speaks with his lawyer, Mills and Somerset learn that John Doe had been cutting the skin off of his fingertips for years in order to keep from leaving any prints. The lawyer meets with the detectives, the captain, and the D.A. and tells them John Doe’s demands. He says that he will take Mills and Somerset to the location of the last two bodies and sign a full confession of what he did but if they don’t do exactly what he says, he will plead insanity to everything. Somerset and Mills get in the car with John Doe and he directs them to a field outside of the city, discussing the people he killed along the way as a police helicopter follows them. When they arrive at the field, John Doe has them walk out to the field when Somerset notices a van coming down the road towards them and goes to intercept it. He discovers that it is a delivery van with a package for Mills that John Doe had arranged to send to their location at that time. When Somerset opens the box, he recoils in horror, then tells everyone to stay away before he runs back towards Mills, yelling at him to put his gun down. John Doe starts talking to Mills and telling him how much he envied his life and how he went to his home and tried to imitate it with Tracy but it didn’t take so he killed her and took her head as a trophy. When Somerset reaches them, Mills asks what is in the box while Somerset tries to get him to put his gun down. When John Doe tells Mills that Tracy begged for her life as well as her unborn baby’s life. Mills becomes grief stricken and ends up shooting John Doe, becoming Wrath like John Doe intended. Mills is taken away and the captain tells Somerset that they will do all they can to take care of him, and when he asks where Somerset will be, Somerset tells him he will be around as he walks away.

Seven met with positive results from the critics, holding an 80% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A brutal, relentlessly grimy shocker with taut performances, slick gore effects, and a haunting finale.” While filming the scene of Mills chasing after John Doe, Brad Pitt really did injure himself when he fell and his arm went through a windshield, requiring surgery, and the injury was worked into the movie. Denzel Washington and Sylvester Stallone were offered the role of Mills, while Al Pacino was offered the role of Somerset, but they all declined for various reasons and have sense admitted that they regret turning down the roles. The movie was a big hit at the box office, earning $327.3 million off of a $33 million budget.

If you want a dark and gritty movie, than this is the one for you. This is a fantastic movie to watch. The acting was fantastic, with Morgan Freeman (Somerset), Brad Pitt (Mills), and Kevin Spacey (John Doe) were absolutely incredible in this movie, while Gwyneth Paltrow was pretty much the only bright spot in the movie, somewhat literally with her blonde hair, in her portrayal of Tracy. The story was incredible and did a good job of painting a rather bleak outlook on life. The drama and tension involved in the movie did a great job in drawing the audience in and getting them invested in the outcome. I have to admit that even though I knew it was coming, I still jumped when the drug dealer started moving on the bed. A great movie to watch, especially on a dark, stormy night.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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action, adventure, movie, movie review, sci-fi

July 24th, 2017 Movie – Serenity

serenity

I think that just about everyone knows who Joss Whedon is by now. Even if you were not a fan of his shows, you have at least heard of his TV shows Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel, though more people might know him as the director of The Avengers and The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. In 2002, Whedon had another show that some people might not know about called Firefly. Unfortunately, it aired on Fox and they did not know quite where to place it in their line-up, putting it on Friday nights and eventually cancelling it before it’s first season finished airing. However, the show had developed a massive following and, with the massive sells of the Firefly DVD as proof that there was consumer interest, a movie was green lit. So lets see how the final adventures of the Serenity’s crew fare as I watch today’s movie, Serenity.

The plot: By the 26th Century, Earth had become so overpopulated that humanity was forced to find another planet to live on. They eventually found a new solar system and used terraforming to make the planets habitable. The central planets formed the Alliance and set about rules for all of the planets in the solar system but the outer planets value their independence and a war is fought over it. Some time in the future, River Tam is being experimented on and the Alliance scientists are trying to turn her into a psychic assassin but River’s brother Simon manages to sneak into the facility and break her out of there. Later, a man known as The Operative is examining the footage of the Tams’ escape and when the lead scientist arrives to question what he is doing, The operative replays the footage of the scientist saying key members of the Alliance had seen the project. The Operative says that it is possible that River had telepathically learned classified information from those members and his job is to ensure that nobody else learns it, then proceeds to kill the scientist and his guards for allowing it to happen. Meanwhile, Simon and River have taken refuge on the cargo ship Serenity, where Simon earns their keep by serving as the ship’s doctor. When they land on a planet to rob an Alliance payroll, Simon is upset that Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds is taking River with him but Mal insists that he needs her due to her telepathic abilities. Mal, River, Zoe, and Jayne leave Simon, Wash (Zoe’s husband and the ship’s pilot), and Kaylee (the ship’s mechanic) on Serenity and head into the town to rob the payroll. As Mal and Zoe are in the vault, River has a vision of the Reavers, a savage and cannibalistic group of people that attack the outer planets. Mal tells the vault guard to get everyone inside the vault and seal it so they stay safe, then he and his group get on their mule and head out of town. A Reaver ship follows after them but Wash brings Serenity to them and they are able to board it on the run, killing the one Reaver that manages to get on board. As Mal and the others recover, Simon punches Mal for putting River in danger and tells him that they will be getting off at the next port and an angered Mal agrees to it. When they reach the next port, everyone leaves the ship, with Simon and River going their own way but Kaylee, who likes Simon, doesn’t like it and argues with Mal about this. As Mal and Jayne go to meet their contact and get paid for the payroll job, River walks into the bar and sees a commercial playing on the TV, causing her to whisper the word “Miranda” before she begins attacking the patrons of the bar. As Mal and Jayne try to stop her, River knocks out Jayne and goes to shoot Mal when Simon appears and says a phrase that causes River to fall asleep. Mal grabs River and takes her back onto Serenity and, after securing River into a room, grabs Simon and demands answers from him. Simon starts to explain what happened to River and Mal is upset that he had spent 8 months on the ship and never told anyone about what could happen. Realizing they need to find more information, they contact a hacker called Mr. Universe, who tells them that the video never made it to the news and was accessed by the military. Reviewing the footage, they see what set River off and Mr. Universe discovers a subliminal message hidden in the commercial which was intended to trigger River’s response. Mal and the others head to Haven, where their friend and former shipmate Shepherd has set up a community, and while they are resting there, Mal speaks to Shepherd about their situation and Shepherd warns him about what the Alliance will do. Mal receives a communication from Inara, another former shipmate and whom Mal has a romantic interest in, and even though they know it is a trap, Mal and the others go to save her. Mal manages to sneak into where Inara is but he encounters The Operative, who attempts to reason with Mal into giving River to him. Mal refuses and they start fighting but before the Operative can kill him, a flash grenade that Inara had secretly lit goes off, allowing Mal and Inara to escape. They make it back to Serenity and use decoys to keep The Operative from being able to track them. As they are flying back to Haven, Jayne argues with Mal about why they are keeping River on board the ship. When everyone goes off to separate areas of the ship, Jayne heads to River’s room to kill her but she knows he is coming and knocks him out. As the others search for River, she knocks out Simon so he can’t put her to sleep, then heads to the bridge. Mal finds her there and tries talking to her as she goes looking through the ship’s navigation system and she stops and points to a planet, calling it Miranda. Mal has the others join them on the bridge, while River apologizes to Simon for knocking him out, and they discuss Miranda, finding it odd that there doesn’t seem to be any record of it in the Alliance database. Mal suggests going there to investigate but Wash and Zoe point out that Miranda is in the heart of Reaver territory. The group heads to Haven to come up with a plan only to find that Haven has been razed. Mal manages to find Shepherd and calls for help but Shepherd dies before Simon can get there. Realizing that The Operative is attacking anywhere where they had hidden before, Zoe says to warn their friends but they find that they have all been killed. As Mal stares at the screens, The Operative comes on and says that Mal left him no choice, angering Mal. Mal orders the others to take some of the bodies and tie them to the ship so they can disguise themselves as Reavers and head to Miranda, though the crew is unhappy about doing it. They manage to make their way through the Reaver fleet and land on Miranda only to find that it has been terraformed and populated at one point, but all of the people are now dead. Following a beacon signal, they find a transmission from an Alliance scientist, who says that the chemical they used in the air to pacify the population made it where they stopped doing anything, including eating or anything necessary to live. However, a small percentage of the population had the opposite effect, making them more violent and crazed, and Mal and the others realize that the Alliance had created the Reavers. Mal decides to take the video and have Mr. Universe broadcast it to everyone and contact him to arrange it but unknown to them, The Operative was at Mr. Universe’s home and after he finishes speaking with Mal, The Operative kills Mr. Universe and has the transmitter destroyed while he prepares to ambush Mal and the others. Knowing that the Alliance will be waiting for them, Mal fires on the Reaver fleet as they leave Miranda, getting them to chase after them. When the Serenity emerges from the ion cloud above the planet, The Operative has his fleet target it but they are surprised when Reaver ships appear after it and they are forced to fight them. The Serenity makes it through the fleet in the confusion but a Reaver ship follows after them and causes them to crash. They manage to survive the crash but Wash is killed by the Reavers and Mal orders everyone to leave the ship. They make their way inside and Zoe tells Mal they will hold off the Reavers while Mal goes and gets the video to Mr. Universe. Mal heads to Mr. Universe’s chamber to find it trashed but Mr. Universe left a message with his sexbot, which tells Mal he had a back-up transmitter that is ready to transmit. Mal heads down to the back-up transmitter but unknown to him, The Operative, who was forced to eject from his ship as it was destroyed, had followed him and hears the message as well. Meanwhile, the Reavers start to attack the others and Zoe and Kaylee are injured, forcing them to fall back behind some blast doors but they don’t seal all the way. When Simon is shot, River goes through the opening and seals the blast doors, throwing Simon’s medical bag through before it closes, and then proceeds to fight with the Reavers. Mal reaches the transmitter but is attacked by the Operative, who attempts to paralyze Mal so he can kill him but Mal manages to get the upper hand and breaks the Operative’s back, then makes it so he has to watch as he plays the transmission that tells the entire solar system about how the Alliance made the Reavers. Mal rejoins the others and when he asks about River, they are surprised to see the doors open and River standing there, having killed all of the Reavers. Suddenly, the wall blasts open and Alliance soldiers arrive and threaten to shoot them but The Operative orders the soldiers to stand down. Sometime later, Mal and the others hold a funeral for Wash, Shepherd, and Mr. Universe then get to work repairing the ship. As they prepare to leave, Mal is approached by The Operative, who says he can’t guarantee that the Alliance won’t come after them, as the video weakened the Parliment’s power but did not remove it entirely. Mal heads up to the bridge and gets in the pilot’s chair, with River acting as his copilot, and they take off to their next adventure.

Serenity met with mostly positive reviews from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Snappy dialogue and goofy characters make this Wild Wild West soap opera in space fun and adventurous.” The movie takes place 6 months after the final episode of Firefly and a three issue comic mini-series, written by Whedon, was released in the summer of 2005 to bridge the gap in the story. Despite the strong following, the movie did not do so well at the box office, earning $38.9 million off of a $39 million budget.

If you are a fan of the show, you will enjoy this movie. Even if you aren’t a fan, if you are a fan of sci-fi movies, you will probably like this movie, but just not understand as much of what is happening. This is a pretty good movie all told. The acting was good, with Nathan Fillion (Mal), Summer Glau (River), and Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Operative) doing great jobs in their roles. Whedon did a good job in writing the plot so that you could follow along without having any previous knowledge of the show, while adding some elements that would appeal to the die hard fans. The special effects and fight scenes were pretty good, especially the fight scenes with River, as they utilized some of Summer Glau’s abilities as a former ballerina into her choreography. A fun way to end a TV show and a fun movie to enjoy.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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drama, movie, movie review

July 23rd, 2017 Movie – Separate Ways

separate ways

“Here we stand. Worlds apart, hearts broken in two, two, two. Sleepless nights. Losing ground, I’m reaching for you, you, you.” I just new that as soon as I saw the title for today’s movie, that song would end up stuck in my head. Luckily, it happens to be my favorite Journey song so I don’t mind it happening, but it has absolutely nothing to do with today’s movie aside from sharing the same name. Now today’s movie comes from the Drive-In Cult Classics box set, which is one that I haven’t watched a movie from in a while. Since I had never heard of today’s movie before I got this set, this will either be a pleasant surprise, or a massive headache to watch. Let’s find out as I get right into today’s movie, Separate Ways.

The plot: Valentine Colby is married to a car dealer and amateur race car driver Ken Colby, but is growing unhappy with her marriage. The only good thing she feels has come with out of her marriage is her son, Jason. When Ken is at work, he has to deal with an auditor, who is trying to figure out why some cars that were sent to the dealership have gone missing. While Ken is finishing some paper work, Valentine is talking with some of their friends in the dealership, one of whom is complaining about the new sales lady, Mary, while another is discussing a car he is building for Ken but doesn’t give many details. Valentine tries to get some details from Ken about it but he doesn’t want to talk about it. The next day, Valentine is talking with her friends Annie and Karen, as Annie had just returned from a trip, and she discusses her unhappiness. After dropping off Annie at the pier, Valentine is walking along and sees Ken having sex with a coworker named Shelia in their boat. When she gets home, she proceeds to get drunk and start making a mess in the kitchen before heading upstairs to bed. When comes home in the morning, he finds the kitchen a mess but Valentine doesn’t say anything about it, while he doesn’t say anything about what he had done, as he had told her he would be at a meeting all day. Valentine heads to the local college, where she is taking an art class, and she runs into Jerry Lansing, who is attending classes there and invites her to go skating with him. After inviting her back to his place for something to eat, Jerry starts to kiss her and Valentine allows him to but stops it before things get too far. Meanwhile, Ken is filming a commercial for his dealership and afterwards, one of his guys tells him the auditor is back with someone from the bank, and Ken says he will handle it. Things seem to get worse between Ken and Valentine, as neither will admit to anything. They go over to their friends house for a BBQ over the weekend and as Ken is helping work on the engine of a car, his friend tells him his idea of having Ken drive his car as a way of helping to advertise for the dealership and Ken considers the offer. That night, Valentine is massaging Ken and tells him that she had fallen in love with him again, as the way he was today reminded her of the way he used to be. He tries to initiate sex but he refuses and she goes to the bathroom, feeling spurned. The next day, Valentine goes to Jerry’s apartment and ends up having sex with him. Some time later, Ken and Valentine are driving and Valentine says she wants to talk but they end up arguing over his reckless driving. After almost getting in a wreck, Ken pulls over and Valentine starts arguing some more before coming clean about seeing him with Shelia, then admitting that she slept with someone as well. While Ken says that his meant nothing and wants to try and get things back to normal, Valentine says that her affair meant something and she doesn’t want to head back home just yet and as they continue to argue, Ken ends up driving off and leaving her on the side of the road. Valentine goes to stay with Annie on her houseboat and ends up getting a job as a waitress at a go-go club. Meanwhile, Ken finds out that the bank is canceling the loan and if he doesn’t come up with the money for it, his business will be forced to close. After a few weeks, Valentine is on the phone with her son and when Ken gets on the phone, she tells him she will probably be coming home soon as she misses Jason but Ken isn’t sure that she misses him. After talking a little longer, Ken mentions he will be driving that Sunday and says he would like for her to be there. Valentine ends up dancing on the stage at her work in order to appease some drunken patrons and tells her boss she plans on quitting but he convinces her to stay on till Friday. After the bank forecloses on the dealership and takes all of the inventory, Ken says goodbye to his employees and heads home to spend more time with Jason. Valentine returns home and as Jason hugs her, she tells him the truth about why she was gone and says she isn’t going away again. After they put Jason to bed, Valentine and Ken start talking and actually communicate about what they want to do, and both of them admit that they want to be with each other and make their family work. That Sunday, as Valentine and Jason watch, Ken ends up winning the race and as they present him with the trophy, he kisses Valentine then walks off with his family.

This is a very boring movie to watch. The acting was ok, with Karen Black (Valentine) and Tony Lo Bianco (Ken) doing pretty good jobs in their roles. The story was honestly a little confusing at some points, but there was honestly nothing really remarkable about it. I have to admit that I had a hard time keeping interested enough to finish watching this movie. I will give it props for showing a decent amount of growth between Valentine and Ken and doing a good job of giving this movie a happy resolution but there was nothing else redeeming about this movie. Chalk this one up as just another unremarkable and forgettable movie that made it’s way through the Drive-Ins.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5

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crime, movie, movie review, thriller

July 22nd, 2017 Movie – The Sentinel (2006)

the sentinel 2006

I am going to be completely honest with you in regards to this movie. The only reason I watched this movie the first time was because I wanted to see if Kiefer Sutherland would be able to play this role and not slip into “Jack Bauer” mode. After all, this was right at the height of the 24 phenomenon, and Kiefer decides to do a movie playing a Secret Service Agent. It really isn’t that far of a stretch to imagine it happening. Anyways, I enjoyed the movie when I first watched it so while strolling through Blockbuster during their dying days (yes, I did that a lot and my wallet cried every time) I decided to pick up one of their copies as a change of pace from my usual fare. So now I am going to sit back and enjoy today’s movie, The Sentinel (2006).

The plot: After waking from a dream of his helping save President Ronald Reagan, Secret Service Agent Pete Garrison heads to the White House for his shift. Inside the White House, he runs into his friend and fellow agent Charlie Merriweather, who asks to speak with him later. After getting briefed on upcoming assignments, Garrison takes up his position as First Lady Sarah Ballentine and escorts her to the car, where she is going with the President to speak at a local school. As they head to the school, it is revealed that the President and First Lady are having marriage problems, and she tells him she plans on going to the beach house later that day. Meanwhile, Jill Marin arrives at the P.I.D. (Protective Intelligence Division) and reports to David Breckinridge, who chastises her for being late and then asks why she requested being assigned to him. When she tells him that Garrison said he was the best, he shows some displeasure at the mention of Garrison’s name but chooses not to say anything. Elsewhere, Charlie Merriweather is returning home when he is shot and killed by an unknown assailant. When he gets word of what happened, Breckenridge and Marin head to Charlie’s house to check the scene, which the DC police believe is a simple mugging gone bad, but Breckinridge disagrees and believes he was assassinated. At the beach house, Garrison and the rest of the security detail finish checking the house and when Garrison ends up alone with the First Lady, it is revealed that they are having an affair. Garrison is interrupted by someone calling him on the radio and when he heads downstairs, he finds another agent there who tells him about Charlie’s death. Breckinridge is speaking with Charlie’s wife on if he might have told her anything that could have gotten him killed and she tells him he was upset about some gossip about Garrison possibly having an affair with someone from work, which upsets Breckinridge. As Breckinridge leaves, he runs into Garrison and the two start arguing with each other but when Marin asks what the issue is between them, neither tells her. Later, Garrison is told that a former snitch of his, Walter Xavier, wants to talk to him and when he meets with him, Walter tells him that he believes Charlie’s death was linked to a plot to assassinate the president that he overhead. Garrison doesn’t believe it but Walter tells him that there is a mole in the Secret Service, then hands him a folder to prove his point before disappearing. The folder contains code words, call signs, and other info that indicate Walter was correct and steps are taken to increase the protection for the President, including flipping a coin to determine how the President travels to and from the White House. Meanwhile, Garrison receives pictures of him with Sarah just as Breckinridge shows up to ask him about Walter, and Garrison quickly hides the pictures and blackmail note. When he gets a chance, he goes to see Sarah to tell her about the pictures and blackmail, apologizing for putting her in this position. All Secret Service Agents are ordered to take a polygraph test and Garrison takes his before heading out to meet with the blackmailer at a hotel. While waiting outside, Garrison receives a call to head to a coffee shop and he waits there but when nobody shows up, he leaves. Garrison notices he is being followed and quickly evades his tail, only to begin following him but ends up being stopped by the FBI, who thought he was working with the cartel. Garrison accompanies President Ballentine and Sarah to Camp David and on the helicopter flight there, Ballentine asks Garrison if they can talk about the assassination threat and possible mole while at the camp. Walter contacts Garrison and tells him where to meet to deliver his money and tells him to come alone but Garrison’s superior assigns another agent to accompany him, while Breckinridge and Marin leave there office to serve as back up. When he gets to the mall, Garrison heads to his meeting with Walter but Walter sees the other agent and bolts. Meanwhile, the agent warns Garrison of a possible attacker but is shot and killed, ten the attacker tries to shoot Garrison, while taking a hostage to keep Garrison from shooting back. When Breckinridge and Marin arrive, they try to locate the assassin but he changes clothes in a shop and manages to get away. Meanwhile, Marine 1 is shot down by a surface-to-air missile but, due to the coin toss, the President and First Lady were not on board. The assassin meets with the other members of his group as the news about Marine 1 breaks and the group’s leader calls the mole and yells at him for failing to ensure the President would be on the helicopter. Garrison returns home only to have Breckinridge, Marin, and several other agents show up and Breckinridge tells Garrison he is being investigated for treason. Breckinridge tells him the evidence against him but Garrison thinks that his judgement is clouded because he believed that Garrison had an affair with his wife, causing the break-up of his marriage. When Breckinridge steps outside to meet with the director, Garrison manages to escape custody, taking an agent’s radio and gun as he does so. Using the radio, Garrison manages to locate where Sarah is and sneaks by the Secret Service guarding her in order to secretly meet with her and tell her he is being framed. Garrison then works on trying to track down Walter, eventually finding where he is hiding but when he gets there, Walter is already dead. Breckinridge and Marin arrive with some other Secret Service Agents and Garrison is forced to make a run for it, with Breckinridge chasing after him. Breckinridge manages to get the drop on Garrison and shoots him in the vest, but when Garrison tells him to shoot him in the head, he can’t bring himself to do it and allows Garrison to escape. Garrison goes to Charlie’s house to see if he can find anything in Charlie’s files and his widow mentions the car that is watching the house. When the car leaves, Garrison follows it and locates the assassins’ headquarters, killing the assassin that is inside but the other two members overhear it on the phone and head back. Garrison searches the place and finds several passports, weapons, and credentials for the G8 summit and calls Jill to let her know about it but when Breckinridge and the others get there, the body, passports, and credentials are gone. After Garrison calls Sarah and leaves her a goodbye message, she contacts Breckinridge and tells him about the affair and blackmail. Garrison makes his way to Toronto and runs the fingerprints he collected from the dead assassin and sends them to Marin to find out who he is but as he is waiting, Breckinridge appears. Garrison is ready to defend himself but Breckinridge says the First Lady explained everything and he knows he is being framed. As they identify the assassin, they try to figure out who the mole is and realize that Senior Agent William Montrose didn’t take the polygraph. As they head to the G8 Summit, they contact Marin and have her tell the First Lady that Montrose is the mole. When they get there, the Secret Service wont let them in and threaten to shoot Garrison, though Breckinridge tries to convince them he is on their side, when the radios suddenly go out. Breckinridge and Garrison head inside and during the commotion of their entering, Montrose escorts the President off the podium. Sarah gives to code word for the all clear and Garrison leads everyone after Montrose and the President. Meanwhile, the assassins, disguised as members of the RCMP, begin shooting at him and Montrose is conflicted on what to do and eventually decides to get the President to safety, coming clean about his being the mole. Montrose ends up being killed and Garrison is shot but they manage to kill the assassins and begin escorting the President to the waiting cars. As he is being loaded into a car, the leader of the assassins, disguised as a cop, approaches to try and kill him but when the First Lady exits her car, he grabs her as a shield but Garrison manages to shoot and kill him. The President is driven to safety as Sarah goes to check on Garrison, with Marin guarding her while Breckinridge calls for another car to get her out of there. Some time later, Garrison is forced to retire early due to the affair and says goodbye to his friends. As he leaves the White House, Breckinridge and Marin say goodbye and Garrison invites Breckinridge to dinner to repair their friendship but he declines as he is having dinner with his ex-wife to try and renew their marriage. Garrison walks takes one last look at the White House before walking away, unaware that Sarah was watching him leave from her office window.

The Sentinel (2006) met with mostly negative reviews with the critics, holding a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “The Sentinel starts off well enough but quickly wears thin with too many plot holes and conventional action sequences.” Gerald A. Cavis, a retired Secret Service Agent who served as a consultant on the film, said that Eva Longoria was the best shot among the principal actors when they did there “shooting school” with live ammunition, hitting every target from 30 yards away. The movie was a mild success at the box office, earning $78.1 million off of a $60 million budget.

This won’t win any Academy Awards, but this is a pretty decent political thriller that gives you almost everything you could ask for in a drama. The acting was good, with Michael Douglas (Garrison), Kiefer Sutherland (Breckinridge), Eva Longoria (Marin) and Kim Basinger (Sarah) all doing good jobs in their roles, though I will admit that Kiefer did go a little Jack Bauer on Garrison at his home.  The story was pretty good and felt a lot more realistic than some other movies at the time, though I will say that the ending did feel a little crowded, with a lot going on all within the last 15 minutes. The tension and drama in the movie was great, especially the tension between Garrison and Breckinridge, and how Marin, who respected both of them, found herself caught in the middle of the two men. A good mix of drama and excitement that can make for some fun movie watching.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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