crime, movie, movie review, mystery, thriller

December 27th, 2017 Movie – Taking Lives (2004)

taking lives

The year is almost over and I am finishing things with a new letter. Now when it comes to this movie, this one kind of falls into a category that some other movies fell into at the beginning of the century; that being movies which used Angelina Jolie as their main marketing ploy. I understand the reasoning, as most of these movies are geared towards the male audience and she is one of the more attractive females in Hollywood. Still, the tactic can only get people to consider the movie but the actual movie itself has to do it’s job in keeping the audience interested. Let’s see if that pans out with today’s movie, Taking Lives.

The plot: In St. Jovite, Canada in 1983, a teenager named Martin Asher buys a bus ticket out of town and ends up meeting another teenage drifter named Matt Soulsby. When the bus breaks down, Matt rents a car and he and Matt continue driving down the road, with Matt telling Martin why he is on the road. When the car gets a flat tire, Matt goes to change it but Martin comments on them being the same height and when Matt looks up in confusion, Martin kicks Matt into the path of an oncoming car. The car hits Matt and ends up wrecking, killing the driver, and Martin approaches Matt, who is barely alive, and proceeds to bash in his head with a rock before grabbing Matt’s belongings and walking away through the fields. 19 years later, in Montreal, a construction crew is doing some excavating on a site when they unearth a human body that was buried there. At the same time, a woman hurriedly locates a police officer and explains that she saw her son, who had been dead for 19 years. The woman is taken to the police station and she gives her statement, saying that her son is dangerous but she knows it was him. The Montreal police take her statement but are more concerned with capturing a serial killer that has been in the area. Chief Inspector Hugo Leclair calls in FBI profiler Illeana Scott to assist with the case, introducing her to detectives Joseph Paquette and Emil Duval, though Paquette is not happy with her being there. When another murder occurs, Illeana is taken to the station where James Costa, a witness to the crime, is describing what he saw. As James works on sketching a profile of the man he saw, Illeana questions him about what he saw. The police get a hit on James’ sketch and head to the suspect’s apartment, where Illeana discovers a body chained up in the rafters. Paquette gets an ID on the victim and Illeana says not to mention anything to the press, as she hopes the killer will get upset over the lack of media coverage and make a mistake. That night, Illeana is at a bar close to James’ apartment and speaks with him when he comes in. The next day, Illeana goes to speak with Rebecca Asher about her son and while there, learns that Rebecca has two sons but one of them had died and Rebecca feels that Martin killed his brother. As Illeana continues to search the house, she finds a hidden room where Martin was kept as a child but as she looks around, she is attacked by an unknown assailant, who manages to escape. As she is relaxing in a bath, Illeana gets a call from Duval about a break-in at James’ studio and as she is looking at the file, notices something about the victims. She then explains her theory to the police that the killer is Martin, who is stealing the victim’s identities and living their lives until he finds someone with a better life for him and she believes James is the Martin’s next target. They decide to fit James with a wire and try to use him as bait to lure out Martin but nothing happens and James refuses to cooperate further as he fears for his own life. Illeana finds herself being drawn closer to James and she wants to leave, telling Leclair that they have a witness and a working profile so there is no need for her to be there but Leclair convinces her to stay until they catch Martin. That night, James holds an exhibit for his paintings and while there, he sees a man staring at him. James catches Illeana’s eye and says that the man is the killer and Illeana and Paquette give chase when he runs but they end up losing him in the festival crowd that is on the streets. The next day, they go to place James into witness protection but as Duval is packing James’ things into the car, the killer appears in James’ apartment and begins attacking him, saying that James has something he wants. James tries to get away and grab a gun but the killer knocks the gun away but James is able to yell for help, sending Duval rushing back inside the apartment. Meanwhile, Illeana arrives at the apartment to say goodbye to James when she hears gunshots coming from the apartment. When she gets there, she sees Duval lying dead on the ground but no sign of James or the assailant. Hearing James yelling for help outside, she sees James being held at gunpoint and being forced to drive away and so she gets into her car and gives chase. James eventually crashes his car into a median, which sends the attacker crashing through the windshield. James crawls out and quickly grabs the gun and begins wildly firing it into the car in the hopes of killing his attacker but his shots end up catching the car on fire just as Illeana gets there and she quickly pushes him to safety so he can avoid the blast. James is taken to the hospital to get his injuries taken care of and afterwards, he heads to Illeana’s hotel room, where the two give in to their mutual attraction and end up having sex. The next morning, Illeana wakes up to find herself and James covered in blood and at first she thinks he is dead but when he rouses, they discover that his stitches had popped. Illeana takes James to the hospital to get his stitches redone and learns that Rebecca is there to identify the body so she heads down to the morgue to meet Leclair and Paquette. Rebecca looks at the body but doesn’t say that it is Martin and walks away. Illeana chases after her but is unable to catch Rebecca before she gets on the elevator and the door closes. Inside the elevator, Rebecca hears someone say “Hello, Mother” and she turns to find James in the elevator with her. Rebecca recognizes him as Martin and speaks with him, saying she isn’t afraid of him but James moves towards her and kills her. Illeana had raced down the stairs to catch Rebecca as she leaves but when the elevator doors open, she sees James ripping Rebecca’s head off and realizes that he is Martin. She is able to tell Leclair and Paquette about James before she faints but they are unable to stop him from escaping. The police search James’ studio and Paquette yells at Leclair over Illeana’s sleeping with James and slaps Illeana in his anger. Meanwhile, Martin heads to the train station and picks out his next victim, throwing him off the train as it is moving. Martin then calls Illeana and speaks with her, telling her that she didn’t fall in love with James Costa but instead, fell in love with Martin Asher. The police discover he bought a train ticket and head out to try and catch him when he reaches the station while Illeana heads back to her hotel and proceeds to cleanse herself to the point of rubbing her skin raw in an act of disgust over her actions. Illeana is fired from the FBI for her actions and she ends up moving to Carlisle, PA, where seven months have passed and she is shown to be heavily pregnant. After running some errands, she returns home and puts her things away but as she goes to pull her tea kettle off of the stove, she finds Martin in her house. She goes for a gun she had hidden only to find that Martin had found all of the guns she had hidden throughout the house and taken them. Martin talks with her some but then attacks her when she says the babies are not his, but James Costa’s. Illeana grabs a pair of scissors to try and attack Martin with but Martin grabs her and then stabs her in the stomach with the scissors. Illeana is shocked that he did that but then grabs the scissors and stabs Martin in the chest with them. As he drops to his knees in shock, Illeana explains that everything he saw was what she wanted him to see, then removes the prosthetic stomach she was wearing to simulate being pregnant. As Martin drops dead onto the floor, Illeana calls Leclair and tells him that it is over.

Taking Lives was panned by the critics, holding a 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A stylish, but predictable thriller where the only thrills are offered by the sensuous Angelina Jolie.” Despite having third billing in the movie, Kiefer Sutherland only had a total of 17 lines and 3 minutes of screen time. The movie was barely a hit at the box office, earning $65.4 million off of a $45 million budget.

This was an ok thriller but it was too slow paced to really be effective. The acting was good, with Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke doing good jobs in their roles of Illeana and Martin respectively. The story was actually pretty interesting but, as I said earlier, the slow pacing actually kind of killed some of the tension that it had going for it. I also felt that the ending was about as cliched and predictable as you could expect it to be. The dark lighting and tones of the movie worked well together and did their job in helping to carry the story. It is predictable but still a decent movie to kill some time with.

Rating: 3 out of 5

drama, movie, movie review, thriller

December 26th, 2017 Movie – Syriana


Well, I find myself finishing up with the letter “S” today. Once again, I find myself with a movie that I never saw in theaters, though I had several friends saying it was really good. So based on their recommendations, I decided to pick up a copy on the cheap when Blockbuster was going out of business. I think I might have to figure out how many of my spur of the moment Blockbuster purchases during that time period were based solely on friends’ recommendations. Anyways, let’s get down to business with today’s movie, Syriana.

The plot: CIA agent Bob Barnes is in Tehran, Iran to participate in an arms deal. After inspecting the two anti-aircraft missile for the sale, Bob notices that one of the missiles is taken into the back of the store while the other is taken outside by the two men that bought the weapons. After getting his money, Bob heads to the back to investigate what is happening with the second missile, only to be held at gunpoint as the second missile is taken away so Bob leaves out the front door, disregarding the two arms dealers as they are killed by the explosive he secretly placed inside their missile case. Meanwhile, Connex Oil is losing control of oil fields in the Middle East just as a smaller company, Killen, won drilling rights in Kazakhstan. The Connex board decides to form a merger with Killen and hire a DC law firm to help smooth the way. Among the people involved is Bennet Holiday, who is there to help smooth things over with the DOJ and help assuage anti-trust fears. Elsewhere, Bryan Woodman, an American energy analyst working in Switzerland, is ordered to attend an emir’s party and offer him the services of their company and when he says he can’t as it is his son’s birthday, his company offers to send them with him. Back in DC, Bob’s superiors are nervous as Bob keeps asking about the missile theft and has written an official memo regarding it. They promote him to a desk job in the hopes it will keep him out of trouble but Bob’s tendency to speak his mind causes problems. Elsewhere, Pakistani workers board a bus to go work at a Connex refinery only to be told they have been laid off due to the Chinese outbidding Connex for the rights to the refinery. As Saleem and his son Wasim walk back to their lodgings, Wasim tries to figure out what to do for a job. In Spain, Bryan and his family arrive at the plaza and Bryan is told the emir can’t meet with him, as he is busy meeting with some Chinese delegates, and so Bryan is forced to give his presentation to some of the emir’s representatives. As the emir and his son, Prince Meshal, show the Chinese how they can keep watch over all of the compound using their remote cameras, not noticing that one of the lights in the pool is broken. As Bryan heads back to rejoin his family, he is attracted to a commotion at the pool and discovers that his oldest son has been electrocuted. In Pakistan, Wasim continues to try and find work and is told to learn Arabic if he wants a job, but as he goes to attend the school, he ends up being beaten. In DC, Holiday attends a meeting at the DOJ, where they tell him that they feel someone in Killen had bribed the Kazakhstan officials in order to get the contracts and are trying to find out who it was in order to prosecute them. Bob is ordered to oversee the assassination of Prince Nasir, the emir’s oldest son, and is told he has been financing terrorists. Bob goes to see his friend, who is a retired agent, and is told to check in with Hezbollah when he gets to Lebanon, so that they know he isn’t working against them. Meanwhile, Bryan attends a meeting with Nasir, who offers his company $75 million in his country’s oil interests as compensation for their part in his son’s death. Bryan is upset at first, insultingly asking what he will offer for his other son, but when he learns that Nasir actually wishes to advance his country’s growth, instead of letting it stagnate like his father has done, he accepts the offer and offers Nasir some advice. Bob arrives in Lebanon but when he gets there, he finds himself grabbed and taken away to a secret meeting with the Hezbollah leader. Back in Pakistan, Wasim and his friend are approached by a man, the same man Bob saw take the missile, who begins speaking with them and tries to convince them to join him. In Lebanon, Bob meets with a mercenary named Mussawi to help him kidnap and kill Nasir. Bob heads to Beirut to oversee the operation but when he reaches his hotel room, he finds himself attacked and kidnapped by Mussawi, who proceeds to torture him and is about to cut off his head but he is stopped by Hezbollah. Back in DC, Bob’s superiors get wind of what happened and Mussawi’s threats to tell people of Bob’s attempt to kill Nasir. Wishing to keep it in the dark that the assassination was US sanctioned, they decide to blackball Bob and make him out to be a rogue agent; revoking his passports, locking him out of his computer, and starting an investigation into him. Elsewhere, Holiday finds proof of payouts from a Killen executive to Kazakhstan and confronts Danny Dalton, the man who authorized the funds. Elsewhere, Nasir learns that his father is passing him over to replace him as emir in favor of his brother, whose views more closely resemble his own as opposed to Nasir’s more progressive views, so Nasir tries to organize a coup to usurp his father’s power. Barnes speaks with his friend to find out who is the one blackballing him and arranges a meeting with Dean Whitting, the head of the law firm backing the Connex/Killen merger and a member of the CLI (Committee to Liberate Iran), and threatens his family until he agrees to arrange for Bob’s investigation to be stopped and his passports reinstated. At the same time, Holiday meets with Jimmy Pope, the head of Killen, and tells him that Dalton will not be enough to stop the DOJ’s investigation and Killen asks if the second body could be someone in his firm, to which Holiday agrees providing the name was big enough. Holiday goes with his mentor Sidney Hewitt to meet with Leeland Janus, the head of Connex, and while there, explains the situation with the DOJ and then informs him that Hewitt had arranged an illegal deal for another pipeline to occur during the sale. Hewitt is turned over to the DOJ as the second body, which stops the investigation into the merger and Leeland is honored as the “Oil Industry Man of the Year”. Meanwhile, Nasir is heading out to lead the coup and Bryan, who has been acting as an advisor, rides with him but when they are stopped by a large herd of goats, Bryan switches cars so that Nasir can ride with his family. Bob arrives in the Middle East and goes to intercept Nasir’s convoy, attempting to warn him of the assassination attempt but he is too late, as a drone strike blows up Nasir’s car, killing him and his family, and Bob as well. Meanwhile, Wasim and his friend have been radicallized and using a bomb fashioned from the anti-aircraft missile, pilot their boat towards a Connex-Killen oil tanker and blow it up. Bryan survives the blast and heads home to his family while funerals are arranged for Nasir, as well as Bob.

Syriana met with positive reviews from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Ambitious, complicated, intellectual, and demanding of its audience, Syriana is both a gripping geopolitical thriller and wake-up call to the complacent.” George Clooney suffered a spinal injury during a stunt and, due to the weight he gained for the role, he was bedridden for a month and suffered migraines, causing him to miss out on doing promotional work for Ocean’s Twelve. The movie was a modest hit at the box office, earning $94 million off of a $50 million budget

This is a good movie but I feel like it was made overly complicated and more confusing than it needed to be. The acting was good, with George Clooney (Bob) and Jeffrey Wright (Holiday) doing great jobs in their roles. Matt Damon (Bryan) was also good, though felt a little mechanical at times, while Alexander Siddig did a much better job portraying Nasir. The story was pretty good but all the different storylines that were going on made it a little confusing to follow, as they were forced to bounce around the different plots and couldn’t really focus on any one point for too long. The special effects and the drama were both effectively used throughout the movie and did help move things along, but the bouncing story line really did hurt it. A good movie but definitely something you will have to focus on in order to understand everything going on.

Rating: 4 out of 5

comedy, drama, movie, movie review

December 25th, 2017 Movie – Swingers


You have to love those movies that seem to define a generation. Today’s movie is definitely one that seemed to resonate with my generation. I lost count of the number of times I have heard someone saying “That’s money!” or “Vegas, baby!” over the years. I will admit that it took me a while to get the references, as I didn’t end up seeing this movie until several years after it came out. Once I did, however, I decided to buy a copy of my own to keep so I could watch it whenever I wanted too. Now let’s have some fun with today’s movie, Swingers.

The plot: In Los Angeles, Mike Peters, a struggling comedian, is sitting in a diner with his friend Rob and complaining about how he misses his ex-girlfriend Michelle, who is still in New York. When he gets home, Mike contemplates calling Michelle but calls his friend Trent instead, who convinces Mike to go to Vegas with him. When they get there, Mike immediately loses $200 on a high stakes blackjack table and heads down to a lower risk table for the rest of the night, where he manages to get some of it back. After collecting his night’s winnings, Mike wants to go home but Trent convinces him to stay by talking with a waitress, Christy, and asking her to get a friend and go out for drinks with them when her shift ends. The two meet up with Christy and her friend Lisa and Christy invites them back to her place, where she ends up hooking up with Trent while Mike talks with Lisa about his ex, then interrupts Trent and Christy so he can use Christy’s phone to call Michelle. The two leave Vegas and end up talking on the side of the highway, where Trent tries to convince Mike that he needs to get over Michelle as he is better off without her. Mike hangs out with Rob, Trent, and their friends Sue and Charles, where they decide to head out to a Hollywood party. At the party, Mike attempts to pick up a girl, with Rob acting as his wingman but he gets shot down as he doesn’t drive an expensive enough car for the girls’ tastes. Meanwhile, Trent manages to get a girls phone number but then immediately rips it up as he walks away from the girl, causing the guys to chastise him. They leave the party and head to a club for some cocktails, where Mike actually ends up hitting on a girl named Nikki and getting her number. As they are leaving, some guys bump into Sue and they end up arguing and as things start getting heated, Sue pulls out a gun and chases off the men. The other guys chastise Sue over his actions, with Rob and Charles leaving, and Mike walking away in anger after Sue calls him out for how he has been pining over Michelle for 6 months. When Mike gets home, he ends up calling Nikki and leaves her several messages until she eventually picks up and tells him to not call her again. Mike is feeling depressed and considers moving back to New York but Rob comes over and talks him out of it, telling him how he actually is doing good for himself right now. Mike decides to go hang out with Trent and finds him and Sue playing video games with the guys that they got into the argument with at the club. Sue says that they ran into them the next night and apologized and realized they had a lot in common and started hanging out. Sue then apologizes for what he said to Mike and they patch things up. Mike, Trent, and Sue head out to a dance club and while they are there, Mike notices a girl at the bar and begins talking to her. He learns that her name is Lorraine and she is in a similar situation as him and she asks him if things get better. Lorraine asks Mike to dance and they end up heading out onto the dance floor, with Trent and Sue happily watching their friend. Afterwards, Mike walks Lorraine and they make plans to get together again and as they are eating breakfast, Trent and Sue congratulate Mike on seeming to be getting his life back on track. The next day, Mike receives a call from Michelle and he starts to talk with her but when he gets a call from Lorraine, he hangs up on Michelle so he can focus on building a relationship with Lorraine.

Swingers was highly praised by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, ” Funny, heartfelt, and effortlessly cool, Swingers made stars out of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, established Doug Liman as a director to watch.” The scene where Mike and Trent were talking on the side of the freeway was actually done illegally, as the crew not only did not have a permit but filming is not allowed on that particular highway. Doug Liman decided to shoot anyways, even when police showed up, and covered it up by leaving the camera running while not looking through the viewfinder, and using a microphone in the car instead of a boom mike. The movie was a box office hit, earning $4.6 million off of a $200,000 budget and helped launch the careers of Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Rob Livingston and director Doug Liman.

This is a great movie to watch. Jon Favreau (Mike), Vince Vaughn (Trent), and Rob Livingston (Rob) were all great in their roles, as was Heather Graham in her brief role as Lorraine. The story was well written, with Favreau adding a lot of realism to the script by using his own experiences from when he first moved to L.A., where he had broken up with his own girlfriend before the move and his friends helped him get over it. The music in the movie was pretty good, being a mixture of classic 40’s and 60’s swing/lounge music with some more modern music from the mid-late 90’s swing revival, a revival that coincided with the release of the movie (though there is no direct correlation between the two). A great movie and definitely one that is worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

drama, movie, movie review, thriller

December 24th, 2017 Movie – Swimfan


So, I have a lot of movie. Pretty sure that goes without saying at this point. Now the thing about having so many movies is that they have a tendency to trigger various memories; whether it is of watching the movie itself or something that reminds me of it. If you are wondering what that has to do with today’s movie, the simple answer is that I have no memory of this movie. I don’t remember getting this movie and the only thing I can think of to explain how I came about owning it is that it is a movie left behind by my ex in the divorce. Well, guess I have to figure that out another day as right now, I need to watch today’s movie, Swimfan.

The plot: Ben Cronin is a star swimmer for his high school swim team and when he shows up for practice, his coach informs him that scouts for Stanford will be at the next meet. Josh tells his friends, who all congratulate him though his rival Josh says he might steal all the attention when he races. Afterwards, Ben talks with his girlfriend Amy about the situation, as she plans on going to college in Rhode Island and is worried about what the distance will do to their relationship, even considering switching schools and attending Berkley so they can stay close together. Later that day, Ben helps out Madison Bell, a new student that just transferred there. The next day, Ben almost hits Madison with his car and after apologizing, gives her a ride home. When he gets home, Ben notices one Madison’s notebooks was left in his car and when he opens it, he finds it full of music notes, with his initials written on one of the pages. Ben heads over to give Madison her notebook back, awkwardly talking to her cousin Christoper Dante, who is also a classmate, before she shows up and asks to go get some food. The two head out to a diner and Ben ends up telling her about how he used to be involved with drugs and stealing until a short stint in juvie helped him straighten out. Ben tells her that he has a girlfriend but says Josh would happily go out with her but she says she isn’t interested in Josh. Ben wants to take her home but she convinces him to take her back to the school pool, and they end up having sex in the pool. Afterwards, Ben takes her home and they agree to keep it their secret and just be friends. The next day, Ben is already feeling guilty about what happened after talking with Amy on the phone, and oversleeping and missing morning practice. That night, Ben goes to a party at Amy’s house and Amy introduces him to her new friend, which happens to be Madison. Ben tries to avoid her but Madison continues to heavily flirt with him and tells her that she left her panties in his truck, prompting Ben to race outside and stop Amy from moving his truck. Madison continues stalking Ben, sending him emails and instant messages on his computer and pager, all of which cause Ben to start doing poorly in practice, causing his coach to chastise him. One day, Ben comes home to find Madison in his home talking with his mom and he asks his mom how long she has been there. Feeling like the situation is getting out of hand, Ben is surprised to find his inbox full of emails from Madison, some of them containing nude pictures she sent him. Ben is further confused when he sees Madison at swim practice, but she has apparently started dating Josh. Some time later, Ben is leaving practice to go to work when Madison approaches him and asks if she did anything wrong and not to worry about Josh but Ben says he is trying to stay away from her but she doesn’t seem to be getting the hint. While at work volunteering at the hospital his mom works at, Ben is passing out medicine to the patients when one of them goes into cardiac arrest. Ben swears he checked the meds at the nurse’s station and that someone must have switched the meds in his cart but he is still fired from his job. Ben races back to school and confronts Madison, telling her to stay away from him and not to contact him anymore. He then heads to Amy’s work to try and talk to her but she is busy and says they will talk before class in the morning, unaware that Madison is watching them. The next day, Ben goes to talk with Amy but finds her in tears and she slaps him, and he learns that Madison already told Amy about sleeping with him. Feeling ostracized from his friends, Ben tries to patch things up with Amy but she refuses to see him. The day of the big swim meet, Ben is pulled from the line-up as his pre-race urine sample tested positive for steroids. Seeing that Madison had disappeared from the crowd, Ben confronts Josh, thinking he helped her but Josh shoves him into the pool and says he is losing it. When Ben gets home, his mom asks if he is using drugs again and Ben says he isn’t and asks that she leave him alone so he can try to get his life back on track. He goes to see Amy and tries to tell her everything but she doesn’t believe him and asks that he leave. Meanwhile, Madison and Josh are making out but when Madison accidentally calls out Ben’s name by mistake, Josh realizes Ben was right about Madison and leaves her. The next day, Ben goes swimming in the school pool and finds Josh’s body floating in it and Ben is suspected of killing him due to his past. Trying to prove his innocence, Ben sneaks into Madison’s room and discovers steroids as well as a collection of items and newspaper clippings dedicated to him. Christopher finds Ben in Madison’s room and quickly drags Ben into his room and hands him a book before having him leave out the window so that Madison doesn’t find him. Back in his truck, Ben finds the book contians clippings about a man named Jake Donnelly and Christopher meets with Ben and takes him to New York to see Jake. Ben finds Jake is in an assisted living facility, completely comatose and learns that Jake was in a car crash but his girlfriend survived without a scratch. While Ben is gone, Madison steals Ben’s keys to his truck and uses it to run Amy off the road after school. Ben’s mother pages him and when he calls her, she tells him about Amy and how the police are looking for him. Ben tries to warn her to keep Madison away from Amy but the time runs out on his quarter. At the hospital, Madison is posing as a doctor and heads towards Amy’s room, intending to kill her, but she pauses when she hears Jake Donnelly’s name being paged to come to the nurses station. When Madison gets there, she sees someone wearing Jake’s jacket and thinks it is him but when she follows him out to the parking garage, she discovers that it is really Christopher in disguise. When she goes to kill him, Ben stops her and threatens to kill her but she says she knows he won’t kill her. When Madison says that she killed Josh and tried to kill Amy for them, Ben reveals that he had his friends tape her confession, which they give to the police. Madison is taken away by the police but as they are stopped at a railroad crossing, Madison grabs the gun from the cop in the back with her and proceeds to kill the police. Since her parents are out of town, Amy is taken to Ben’s house to recuperate and Ben apologizes for his actions harming her. When he hears the doorbell ring, Ben goes to answer it but finds nobody there. When he heads back inside the house, he sees his mom lying on the kitchen floor just before someone knocks him out. When he comes too, Ben checks to make sure his mother is still alive, then goes to check on Amy only to find her missing. Ben goes looking for her and Madison and finds them at the pool, with Madison having chained Amy to a chair. Madison demands that Ben tell Amy that he loves Madison instead of her and when he refuses, she pushes Amy into the pool. Ben dives in to rescue her, and picks the lock on the handcuffs so he can bring her back to the surface. Madison attempts to attack Ben with a pool skimmer but he grabs the handle and drags her into the pool. Madison attempts to grab onto Ben, as she can’t swim, but Ben is easily able to avoid her and drags Amy out of the pool and revives her, leaving Madison to drown. Some time later, Ben watches a swim meet as a spectator, then heads out to his truck, where he joins Amy and they head off to start a new life together.

Swimfan was panned by the critics, holding a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A Fatal Attraction rip-off, Swimfan is a predictable, mediocre thriller.” Except for the scenes inside Madison’s house, all of the scenes in the movie had a light blue tint added to them, to simulate being under water. Despite the poor reviews, the movie was a box office success, earning $34.4 million off of a $10 million budget, nearly a third of it coming from it’s opening weekend, where it was #1 at the box office.

I think this movie could be considered an accurate representation of everything that is bad with teenagers. This really is a bad movie. The acting was terrible, with everyone being completely shallow and really displaying no real character development. Speaking of shallow, that is pretty much exactly what the plot was; a very shallow attempt at trying to make a compelling thriller but falling on it’s face. Everything was so predictable that I actually fell asleep at one point watching this because it was soo boring. The lighting for the movie, with the blue tint everywhere, was actually kind of interesting but not enough to help this movie. In the ocean of movies out there to watch, do yourself a favor and swim on past this one.

Rating: 1 out of 5

drama, horror, movie, movie review, musical

December 23rd, 2017 Movie – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

sweeney todd

My apologies for the lateness of today’s post as, due to the holiday craziness, I had to go into work today. Anyways, today’s movie is one that I honestly wasn’t all that interested in seeing. Now, that may come as a surprise to most people because this seems like it would be right up my alley and normally you would be right. However, I am not really much of a fan of musicals in general and have to be in the right frame of mind to want to watch one. Still, I had several friends telling me that this was a good movie and I would enjoy it so I decided to go ahead and pick up a copy of it during the Blockbuster binge. Now let’s see if they were right as I watch today’s movie, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.

The plot: In Victorian London, Sweeney Todd arrives in town, accompanied by a young sailor named Anthony Hope. Anthony is excited about being in London but Todd is more melancholy about it and warns Anthony that London can be a treacherous place; telling him a story about a man named Benjamin Barker, who had been falsely accused of a crime by a judge so that the judge could seduce Barker’s wife Lucy. The two soon part ways and Todd makes his way down Fleet Street to Mrs. Lovett’s meat pie shop, where he used to have his shop on the second floor. When Todd enters the shop, Mrs. Lovett gives him a meat pie, warning him that they are “the worst meat pies in London”, then has him follow her to get a drink to wash the taste out of his mouth. Todd asks about the shop up the stairs and Mrs. Lovett tells him that it is empty, as most people say it is haunted. She tells him that after Barker was exiled, Judge Turpin continuously came round the shop to try and woo Lucy but she refused him. One day, Turpin sent his henchman, Beadle Bamford, to bring Lucy to him, under the pretense of their being a mistake in Barker’s case and he might be set free. When Lucy arrives at Turpin’s house, she finds a party going on and is given a drink and Turpin proceeds to rape her as the other party-goers laugh. Hearing this, Todd gets enraged and Mrs. Lovett recognizes him as Barker. When Todd asks about Lucy, Mrs. Lovett says she drank arsenic and killed herself after the rape and that Barker’s daughter, Johanna, was adopted and raised by Turpin, prompting Todd to swear revenge on those that wronged him. Mrs. Lovett takes Todd upstairs to his old shop, which Todd hesitantly enters, and gives him his old straight razors, which she had hidden underneath the floorboards as she has long felt an unrequited love for Barker. Meanwhile, Anthony is wandering around London when he sees Johanna sitting at her window sill and becomes enamored with her. As he stares up at her, a homeless woman asks him for some change and he hands her some, then asks about the house and the woman inside. The woman quickly leaves as Turpin opens the door and invites Anthony inside, where he threatens Anthony and warns him to stay away from Johanna before having Bamford throw Anthony out of the house. The next day, Mrs. Lovett takes Todd to a market, where an Italian barber by the name of Adolfo Pirelli is selling hair tonic with the help of his assistant Tobias “Toby” Ragg. When Todd calls the tonic a fake and challenges Adolfo to a shaving contest, asking Bamford, who had been wandering the market, to serve as judge. Todd wins the contest and as he thanks Bamford, he invites him to his shop, offering a free shave when he visits. Meanwhile, Anthony continues to watch Johanna from the street and Johanna appears to return his interest, unaware that Turpin is watching Johanna from secret spy holes in the house. As Todd gets impatient for Bamford to show up, and makes his plans for Turpin, Anthony shows up and asks Todd for his help. Anthony explains that he has fallen for Johanna and wishes to save her from the man that keeps her and tells them that Johanna had dropped a key out her window so he can help her escape. Since he doesn’t know anybody in town except for Todd, he asks if he can bring Johanna here for a a few hours while he arranges transport out of the city, not knowing that Johanna is Todd’s daughter, and Todd says yes. After Anthony leaves, Todd and Mrs. Lovett see Adolfo and Toby approaching the shop and Mrs. Lovett heads down to head them off, then invites Toby to have a meat pie while Adolfo speaks with Todd. Inside Todd’s shop, Adolfo reveals that his name is really Davy Collins and he threatens to reveal to Bamford that Todd is really Barker, as Davy used to be Todd’s assistant when he was a boy. As Davy continues to threaten to blackmail Todd, Todd knocks him unconscious with a tea kettle, then hides the body in his trunk when Toby goes to check on him. After Toby leaves, Todd opens the trunk and as Davy starts to climb out, Todd quickly slits his throat with a razor. Meanwhile, Turpin has finished court and as he is walking home, he tells Bamford that he plans on marrying Johanna. Bamford congratulates him and after commenting on Turpin’s stubble, recommends he go see Todd for a shave. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lovett goes to check on Todd and is shocked to learn that he killed Adolfo but when she learns that he tried to blackmail Todd, she is ok with it. Todd wants to kill Toby as well but Mrs. Lovett convinces him to let Toby help her in the shop. Suddenly, Todd sees Turpin and Bamford approaching the shop and he has Mrs. Lovett quickly leave while he makes sure to hide any evidence of Davy’s murder before Turpin walks in. Turpin is not impressed with Todd’s shop but as Bamford recommended him, asks Todd to give him a shave, then tells Todd that he plans to marry his ward. Todd proceeds to shave Turpin but as he prepares to slit his throat, Anthony bursts in and tells Todd that Johanna has agreed to elope with him, not realizing Turpin was sitting there. Turpin angrily tells Anthony that he will never see Johanna again before telling Todd he will never enter his shop again. An enraged Todd yells at Anthony to get out of his shop, then rants to Mrs. Lovett about going on a killing spree when Mrs. Lovett asks what they should do about Gary’s body. Todd says they should wait until it is late and go bury the body but Mrs. Lovett suddenly thinks it is a waste of good meat and they decide to use the bodies as part of her pies. Back at Turpin’s home, Turpin confronts Johanna, who is packing a bag to elope with Anthony, and has Bamford send her away. Anthony sees Johanna being forced into a carriage and yells at Turpin to tell him where she is going before he chases off after it. Back at his shop, Todd fashions a swivel chair connected to a trap door, so that after he kills his victims, they can be dropped down into the basement, where Mrs. Lovett proceeds to place them in her meat furnace. With the influx of fresh meat, Mrs. Lovett’s shop begins to prosper but she is constantly throwing the homeless woman out, who has taken a serious interest in the shop. Sometime later, Mrs. Lovett takes Todd on a picnic and explains her wish to take him away to the seaside and get married but Todd is still focused on getting his revenge on Turpin. Meanwhile, Anthony has discovered Johanna has been placed in an insane asylum and goes to Todd to ask for his help in getting her out. Todd tells Anthony to pose as a wig-maker’s assistant in order to get access, as wigs are made from the hair shaved off the inmates, and Anthony happily leaves. Todd then writes a letter to Turpin, telling him that Johanna will be at his shop that night and asks Toby to deliver it to Turpin. Toby does so and when he returns, he voices his suspicions of Todd to Mrs. Lovett and promises to protect her. When he sees that Mrs. Lovett has Pirelli’s purse, he tells her they have to leave, as he believes Todd is dangerous, but she calms him down and says she won’t let anything happen to him. Mrs. Lovett then tells Toby that she will show him how to ake the meat pies and takes him down to the basement. Down there, she explains the smell away as coming from the sewers, then shows him how to use the oven and operate the grinder and leaves him down there before heading back upstairs. She tells Todd about Toby but before they can head downstairs, they are confronted by Bamford, who is there due to complaints about the smell coming from Mrs. Lovett’s chimney. Todd convinces Bamford to go upstairs with him to get cleaned up, unaware that the homeless woman is watching him. In the basement, Toby discovers the bodies and is shocked when Bamford’s corpse falls from the trap door so he hides as Todd and Mrs. Lovett enter the basement looking for him. Meanwhile, Anthony had used Todd’s idea and is able to free Johanna and they head back to the shop, with Johanna disguised as a sailor. Finding the shop empty, Anthony has Johanna wait there while he goes to get a coach and after he leaves, Johanna begins examining the Todd’s pictures and razors. When the homeless woman enters the shop, Johanna quickly hides in Todd’s chest to avoid being seen. Todd finds the woman in his shop and asks who she is and the woman asks if she knows him when Tod hears Turpin’s voice calling out to him from below. Todd quickly kills the woman and dumps her body down the trap door before Turpin enters. Todd then tells Turpin that Johanna has seen the error of her ways and will be there to go home with him. Todd then convinces Turpin to let him shave him and once he has Turpin in his chair, he reveals his identity to him before stabbing him repeatedly in the throat and sending him down the trap door. As Todd feels his task is finished, he hears the chest open and he sees the disguised Johanna staring at him. Todd grabs her and, not recognizing his daughter, is about to kill her when he hears Mrs. Lovett scream and he tells her to forget his face before heading downstairs. When he enters the basement, he goes to help Mrs. Lovett deal with the bodies but as she opens the bakehouse oven, the light from the fire falls onto the body of the homeless woman. Todd stares at her and realizes the homeless woman was Lucy, and Mrs. Lovett had lied about her being dead in order to keep Todd to herself. Todd pretends to forgive her and asks her to dance with him but as they dance, he throws her into the over and burns her alive. Todd then goes to Lucy’s body and cradles her as he weeps when Toby, who had been hiding in the sewers, emerges and quickly slits Todd’s throat before leaving, leaving Todd to bleed to death over Lucy’s body.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Full of pith and Grand Guignol grossness, this macabre musical is perfectly helmed and highly entertaining. Tim Burton masterfully stages the musical in a way that will make you think he has done this many times before.” Helena Bonham Carter was pregnant with her and Tim Burton’s second child while filming this and complained about how the size of her breasts noticeably changes during the movie, as the filming was done out of sequence. The movie was a box office success, earning $152.5 million off of a $50 million budget and garnered several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Art Direction, as well as a Best Actor nomination for Johnny Depp.

My friends were right, this was a good movie. The acting/singing was really good, with Johnny Depp (Todd), Helena Bonham Carter (Lovett), Alan Rickman (Turpin), and Jamie Campbell Bower (Anthony) all did a good job in both their roles and their singing. I really liked the story as it did a good job of explaining everyone’s character and motivations for their actions. The special effects regarding the blood and deaths were a little over the top but I felt like that was a good thing in keeping with the musical aspect of the movie. Meanwhile, the dark lighting, set designs, and costumes only made the contrast of the blood (and there was a lot of blood) that much sharper, which added more of an impact to the deaths themselves. I know musicals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and neither are horror movies, but this is a pretty good combination of both that is well worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

adventure, crime, drama, movie, movie review

December 22nd, 2017 Movie – Swamp Women

swamp women

Just when you thought we were getting out of the swamp, another movie pulls us back in. Today’s movie is an early work from Roger Corman, and one of the movies that gave him the nickname “King of the B-Movies.” I remember seeing this on MST3K years ago and thinking that it was just terrible. I ended up owning this movie when I bought a box set of Roger Corman movies a few years ago. Let’s see how bad it is without Joel and the bots cracking jokes during it as I watch today’s movie, Swamp Women.

The plot: In New Orleans, a geologist named Bob Matthews is wandering around Mardi Gras with his friend Marie and tells her about a plot of land he is testing for oil out in the swamp. The two encounter a pickpocket named Charlie and Bob manages to catch him and turn him over to police to be booked. As Charlie is being booked, Lt. Lee Hampton is talking with Captain J.R. Goodrich about the missing diamond from a heist. Goodrich decides to send Lee undercover into prison, where she is supposed to get close to the women who stole the diamonds and go with them when they escape, in the hopes they will lead her to the diamonds. Inside the prison, Lee is made roommates with the diamond robbers, Josie Nardo, Vera, and Billie, and tells them she knows how to get out of the prison and has someone leaving a car for her. She will take them with her if they give her a cut of the diamonds. Wanting to get out of prison, the three women decide to go along with the plan and after climbing over the fence, they find the car just where Lee said it would be. As Lee is driving away, Josie is giving her directions to where they stashed some clothes and weapons and then they head out into the swamp to retrieve the diamonds only to have their boat spring a leak on them. Suddenly, they see a boat, with Bob, Marie, and a driver inside, heading towards them and they flag it down. When Vera tries to force them out of the boat, she ends up shooting the driver but before she can kill the others, Lee stops her and wrestles the gun from her. After Bob and Marie are taken out of the boat, Vera attacks Lee before Josie breaks it up and asks Lee why she stopped Vera from killing them. Lee says that they could be useful in case they run into trouble and Josie agrees to the idea. As they make their way down the swamp, Vera continues to pick fights with Lee, while Billie starts flirting with Bob. As they make camp for the night, the girls start talking about what they will do with their shares of the diamonds. At some point during the night, Billie attempts to seduce Bob but Vera grabs her and the two start fighting until Josie breaks them up. The next morning, Marie attempts to steal the boat but when Josie spots her and shoots at her, she ends up falling into the water. Lee jumps in to try and save her and Bob convinces Josie to free his hands so that he can help but they are too late as an alligator ends up eating her. When they make camp for the night, Lee secretly approaches Bob to check on him and he tells her he knows she isn’t like the others and kisses her but Lee pushes him away quickly as Vera approaches. After they keep making their way through the swamp, they eventually reach the spot where the diamonds are buried and Josie, Vera, and Billie quickly hop out of the boat to dig them up. Lee checks on Bob, then heads over to help and they soon find the chest and Josie shoots off the lock. Vera and Billie end up fighting over the diamonds and Josie breaks it up, threatening to kill them both if they don’t get it together. After making camp for the night, Vera quietly grabs the guns from the other girls while they are sleeping and then grabs the diamonds. She then approaches Bob and convinces him to go with her, threatening to shoot him if he refuses, and they quietly leave camp. When the others wake up and discover their guns and the diamonds are missing, Josie is curious about why Vera didn’t take the boat and figures that Vera wants them to follow after her so she can kill them. They eventually find Vera perched in a tree, with Bob tied up to the base of it, and Josie comes up with a plan. Fashioning a spear to use, Josie has Lee and Billie distract Vera, allowing her to throw the spear at Vera. As the girls distract Vera, a rattlesnake approaches Bob and threatens to bite him. Vera sees the snake and goes to shoot it when she is struck by the spear but she still manages to kill the snake before falling dead from the tree. The girls grab Bob and the diamonds and continue making their way out of the swamp, Josie starts getting suspicious of Lee’s refusal to kill anyone and decides to test her by telling her to kill Bob, with Billie agreeing with Josie. When Lee argues she doesn’t want to use a gun as it would attract attention, Josie pulls out her knife and plans to kill Bob but Lee begins fighting with her. Billie attempts to shoot Lee but Bob slams into her, throwing off her shot. Lee and Bob manage to knock out the two crooks and embrace and as a police boat shows up, Bob says he will stand by her side as they approach it.

Wow, this really is a bad movie. The acting was incredibly stiff and honestly pretty bad all around. The story was pretty basic but the execution of it just seemed to jump around all over the place. The lighting was pretty annoying as I know some aspects were supposed to be in the night but it was still daylight. The fight scenes between the women were pretty poorly choreographed to be honest and some of the other effects felt lacking. I did think the interjecting of wildlife footage, such as the alligators and birds in the swamp, was actually pretty good, but the scene with the rattlesnake next to Bob looked incredibly fake when compared to the footage of the snake on it’s own. I love Corman films but even I have to admit that this is one better watched while it is being “riffed”.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5

comedy, horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi

December 21st, 2017 Movie – The Return Of Swamp Thing

the return of swamp thing

So 7 years after the original movie came out, someone decided to make a sequel. I honestly don’t know why they did so but they did just that. Anyways, they decided to go in a slightly different direction with this movie, making it more of a horror comedy than it’s predecessor, with Jim Wynorski directing. Now, let’s see if the change made today’s movie, The Return Of Swamp Thing, any more entertaining.

The plot: A group of government agents are wandering through the Louisiana swamp at night in order to try and find an illegal moonshine still when they are attacked by a bizarre leech monster. The creature kills two of the agents and the others make a run for their truck but get separated. Two of the agents encounter a mysterious woman, Miss Poinsettia, who proceeds to shoot them with tranquilizer gun, while the third encounters the creature but is rescued by Swamp Thing. In Malibu, Abby Arcane, the step-daughter of Dr. Anton Arcane, is complaining to the plants in her store about how she keeps being told to confront her step-father in order to get her life on track and decides to pay him a visit in Louisiana. Meanwhile, Arcane, who had been resurrected and returned to human after the previous movie, heads down to his secret lab, where Dr. Lana Zurrell and Dr. Rochelle are attempting to recreate Hollands formula to create a hybrid, but their test subjects are complete rejects, including the two agents that were just captured. The sheriff comes by to speak with Arcane about the account of the surviving government agent, as the encounter occurred on his property, and Arcane passes it off as the man had simply been overcome by the swamp gasses and hallucinated the monsters to explain his friends drowning, then has Poinsettia escort him around the property. Some time later, Abby shows up at the house and Arcane is excited, as he feels her genetic makeup might be just like her mother’s, which could him reverse the aging process afflicting him. Arcane greets Abby and introduces her to Lana and Rochelle, and Abby takes an instant dislike to Lana, insinuating that she has a relationship with Arcane that is more than just business partners. That night, two kids, Omar Darryl, are looking at porn magazines while the parents are out of the house when the leech monster attacks them. The two quickly run out of the house, where the monster chases after them when Swamp Thing shows up and begins fighting with the monster. The leech monster seems to get the upper hand on Swamp Thing but when it tries to hit him with an oar, Swamp Thing dodges and he hits a transformer, causing it to explode and catch the leech monster on fire, causing it to dive back into the swamp, where another explosion occurs. The next day, Arcane sends his security team, led by Gunn and Poinsettia, to comb the swamp looking for Swamp Thing but they have no luck. Meanwhile, Arcane has dinner with Abby and gives her a ring that belonged to her mother but it cuts her hand and she gets upset and leaves, while Lana quickly takes the blood to test it. Abby wanders out into the swamp and eventually finds the still, where two rednecks were drinking and quickly grab her. Abby is rescued by Swamp Thing, and when he learns that she is Arcane’s step-daughter, he tells him about how he became Swamp Thing and warns her that she has to leave but she says she can’t, as Arcane knows what happened to her mother. Suddenly, Arcane’s security team shows up, capturing Abby and attacking Swamp Thing, eventually blowing him up with some grenades. Abby is taken back to Arcane’s mansion, where Arcane tells her that her mom was helping them in their work to cure Arcane, then orders Gunn to lock Abby up. Later that night, Arcane and Lana are lying in bed when Rochelle asks to speak with Arcane in private so Lana goes to take a bath but secretly listens in. Rochelle tells Arcane that Abby’s blood will not be enough as he will need a second blood type to bond with it and the only people with the blood type are one of the security guards and Lana. Arcane tells Rochelle to do what ever is necessary, which upsets Lana. Unknown to her, Swamp Thing’s essence had made it’s way through the swamp into Arcane’s pipes, causing the bath Lana had started to fill with gunk from the swamp, which Swamp Thing uses to form a new body. Meanwhile, Abby had tricked Gunn into letting her out of her cell and manages to escape from him. When she takes the elevator out of Arcane’s lab, she encounters Lana, who gives her the keys to the jeep outside and tells her to leave. Abby attempts to leave but is captured by two of Arcane’s guards, who start to take her to Arcane , but she is rescued by Swamp Thing. The two get in the jeep and fight their way out of the grounds but as Arcane watches them leave, Gunn steps in a piece of Swamp Thing that had been shot off and Arcane quickly grabs it to use for the experiment. The next morning, Abby and Swamp Thing talk, acknowledging their attraction to each other. Back at Arcane’s lab, Rochelle is doing a transfusion of the guard with the correct blood type to store the blood for Arcane’s treatment but Lana enters the room and speaks with Rochelle, then injects him with a serum before locking him in a secret cage. Meanwhile, Omar and Darryl head out into the swamp to try and take a picture of Swamp Thing, as Omar wants to sell it to a tabloid for $10,000. As they make their way through the swamp, they are captured by Gunn and some of his men, who were looking for Swamp Thing and Abby, but Swamp Thing rescues the kids. Omar asks Swamp Thing if he can take his picture and Swamp Thing agrees if Darryl is in it with him but before Omar can take the picture, they hear Abby scream and Swamp Thing quickly runs back to her, only to find Poinsettia and Arcane have captured her and are taking her back to the mansion. Abby is strapped to a machine and she asks Lana to help her but Lana says she can’t just as Arcane enters. Arcane lays down on another part of the machine and has Lana activate it, and Abby’s life force starts flowing into Arcane, curing him of his affliction but Abby dies in the process. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing makes his way to the mansion and starts fighting his way through the guards to get inside. Back in the lab, Arcane is observing himself in the mirror when he notices something isn’t right and checks the vials in the machine to discover that Lana had switched one of them so he shoots her. Swamp Thing enters the lab and heads over to Abby just as the mutated Rochelle breaks out of his cage. Swamp Thing battles Rochelle and ends up throwing him into the disintegration chamber, then kills Gunn before taking Abby’s body and leaving the lab, while Arcane, who had been trapped by Rochelle’s door falling on his legs, is left to die as the chamber and lab explodes. The next day, Swamp Thing uses his powers to bring Abby back to life and they embrace, unaware that Omar and Darryl had taken pictures of them. Swamp Thing warns Abby that there might be side effects and she tells him they will find out together before hugging him again, as a flower begins blooming on her foot.

The Return Of Swamp Thing met with poor results from the critics, earning a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. There isn’t a critical consensus on the site but the the majority of the critics felt it was a poor effort, especially considering the run that Alan Moore had just finished with the comics that occurred at the same time. Jim Wynorski wanted Louis Jourdan to refer to Monique Gabrielle’s character as “Points” but Jourdan refused as he knew it was just a sexual innuendo referring to her breasts. When Wynorski questioned the fact that he had just been in Octopussy, Jourdan refused to speak to him for the majority of the shoot. The movie was a box office dud, only earning $192,816 at the box office.

I know this was a bad movie and there is nothing really redeeming about it but I can’t help but laugh every time I watch it as it really is a bit of silly fun to watch. The acting was over the top in a truly campy sort of way, with Dick Durock doing a better job in his role of Swamp Thing, though I thought it was weird that his voice was overdubbed by someone else. The story was honestly pretty weak and left some plotholes, especially how Arcane’s surviving the first movie. The special effects weren’t that good but I really liked the suit design for Swamp Thing better in this movie. Silly, ridiculous, but it has a couple of laughs in it.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi

December 20th, 2017 Movie – Swamp Thing

swamp thing

Just when you think you are done with the superhero genre, you find yourself pulled right back in. Today I find myself watching the first of two movies featuring Swamp Thing, a hero I always felt was underrated and deserved a little more attention. I remember first seeing this movie on TV years ago when I was a kid, almost at the same time that I had seen him in comics. My memory of the movie was admittedly a little hazy (I was 8 when I saw it) so I decided to pick it up on DVD a few years ago to refresh my memory, and because I was buying some other superhero movies at the time. So let’s see how my memory is revitalized with today’s movie, Swamp Thing.

The plot: Government Agents Alice Cable and Charlie fly out to the swamps of Louisiana where government scientist Alec Holland is working on a secret project. After taking a boat through the swamp to Holland’s lab, they are greeted by Harry Ritter, the project supervisor, who asks what brings Charlie there and Charlie says they are there to bring Holland back to Washington as there is word that Anton Arcane is aware of the project. Alice and Harry both are surprised, as they believed Arcane is dead, and after Ritter shows Alice into the lab, he goes with Charlie to discuss the Arcane situation. Alice meets Holland and his sister Linda and after a brief introduction, Holland takes Alice out into the swamp to help her check out a damaged sensor. After discovering that the sensor has been cut, they head back to the lab, only for Ritter to chastise Alice for taking Holland out of the lab. When Alice mentions the cut sensor, Ritter says the agent Alice is replacing was working on it before he was bit by a gator so he probably didn’t finish repairing it, then storms off. Charlie asks them if they saw one of the men out in the swamp and Holland and Alice both say no, unaware that the man had been killed by some mercenaries making their way to the lab. When an explosion is heard in the lab, Holland, Alice, Charlie, and some of the other agents head inside to find that the latest serum Linda had fashioned from Holland’s work has some explosive capabilities. After Charlie and the agents leave, Holland shows Alice what he is working on, combining plant and animal DNA in order to make plants that will be able to grow anywhere as a means to help end world hunger. As they are running the latest formula through the electron microscope, Holland notices some fronds growing on the floor where Linda had dropped the formula. He shows them to Alice and kisses her in excitement before calling Linda in and has Alice go get Ritter and Charlie and bring them in. Alice goes to find them but when she enters the command hut, she sees Charlie collapsing, seemingly dead, on the video monitors just before she is attacked by Ferret, the mercenaries leader. Alice manages to get away and kill another mercenary but is captured and forced to unlock the lab before being knocked unconscious. The mercenaries quickly grab both of the Hollands and Ritter enters the room, revealing himself to actually be Arcane in disguise. When Linda tries to run, Arcane shoots her and threatens to shoot Holland as well if he doesn’t cooperate. Holland grabs the container with the formula but when Ferret punches him, he falls and the contents explode around him. Holland is covered in flames and runs out of the lab and dives into the water, which continues to explode as the formula reacts to the water. Meanwhile, Alice had regained consciousness and hides Holland’s notebook that Linda was carrying and tries to escape but is captured as the mercenaries are disposing of all of the bodies. Ferret and two other mercenaries take her out into a boat and attempt to drown her but she is rescued by Holland, who has transformed into a monstrous plant/human hybrid known as Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing takes out two of the mercenaries, with a third being killed by friendly fire, and Ferret and Bruno, the last two mercenaries, quickly leave. Meanwhile, Arcane is going over the notebooks that were recovered from Holland’s lab and realizes that one of them is missing when he receives a call from Ferret. Heading out to meet them, Arcane is told about what happened and when he learns that they let Alice get away, he yells at them to find her. Alice makes her way to a gas station and contacts her home office to try and get in touch with Ritter, unaware that he is really Arcane. After telling him where she is and that she hid the last notebook, Arcane orders his men to head to the gas station to get there. As Alice talks to Jude, the young boy that runs the gas station, they see the mercenaries arrive and Alice has Jude hide while she leads them away. When they try to run her over, Swamp Thing stops them and rescues her but she is frightened of him and asks him to leave, so the dejected Swamp Thing heads back into the swamp. Swamp Thing heads back to the lab and finds Linda’s locket, which Bruno had hung on one of the fronds in the lab, and weeps over his sister’s death. Meanwhile, Jude takes Alice to get a change of clothes and Alice asks him to take her back to the lab but when she gets there, she sees Swamp Thing attempting to mix some chemicals but when the containers continuously shatter, he gets enraged and breaks the table and Alice quickly grabs the notebook from it’s hiding place and takes off. Ferret and the mercenaries spot them and chase after them but when they see Swamp Thing, they turn their attention on him and attempt to kill him with grenades but he is able to fend them off and either kill or chase off the mercenaries. Alice has Jude let her off so she can go help Swamp Thing, telling Jude to get the notebook to somewhere safe but Jude is knocked unconscious and Alice is captured by Ferret and taken to Arcane’s boat. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing finds Jude and uses his abilities to heal him and Jude hands him the notebook and asks that he help Alice. On board Arcane’s boat, Bruno goes to get Arcane but while he is gone, Alice knocks Ferret into the water and then dives in and starts swimming to shore, with Ferret chasing after her. When Alice reaches shore, she encounters Swamp Thing and starts to run but he calls out to her, making her pause. Ferret attacks him and cuts off his arm, which angers Swamp Thing and he ends up crushing Ferret’s head in his remaining hand, causing Alice to faint. When she comes too, she finds Swamp Thing resting against a tree watching her and he hands her some orchids. As he speaks, Alice realizes Swamp Thing is Holland and apologizes for her reactions but they soon end up captured by Arcane and his men. Back at his mansion, Arcane hosts a dinner party for his men but Bruno was secretly given the formula and ends up mutating into a dwarfish creature. Arcane goes to question Swamp Thing about what happened, threatening to kill Alice if he doesn’t answer and Swamp Thing tells him that the formula only amplified what was already in the person. Arcane leaves the dungeon and decides to drink the formula himself, which transforms him into a monstrous, beastial creature. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing uses the sunlight to regrow his severed arm and frees himself and then Alice. When they hear the destruction being cause upstairs, Bruno, who was left down there with them, shows them a way out of the mansion, then distracts Arcane while they make their escape. Arcane chases after them and begins fighting with Swamp Thing and during the course of the fight, Alice is stabbed with Arcane’s sword. An enraged Swamp Thing knocks Arcane out, then uses his abilities to heal Alice before renewing his fight with Arcane and finally kills him. Swamp Thing starts to head back into the swamp and Alice asks him to come back and continue his work, offering to help him, but Swamp Thing tells her she has to tell the authorities their story, then leaves as Jude shows up to escort Alice out of the swamp.

Swamp Thing met with mixed to positive reviews, holding a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Unabashedly campy — often to its detriment — Swamp Thing is not without its charms, among them Adrienne Barbeau as the damsel in distress.” Dick Durock was originally just supposed to be used as a stuntman but was forced to become Swamp Thing full time due to the differences between him and Ray Wise when they were in the Swamp Thing makeup. The movie ended up spawning a movie sequel as well as two TV shows; a sci-fi drama series and a short lived cartoon series.

This was a bit boring at times, but it is fun in a cheesy sort of way. The acting was fairly good, with Ray Wise (Holland), Adrienne Barbeau (Alice), and Louis Jourdan (Arcane) did pretty good in their roles. I was honestly a little unimpressed with Dick Durock in his role, as he seemed somewhat stilted in some of his mannerisms and speech but I really want to chalk that up to his not being used to being an actor, as he was supposed to just be the stunt-man. The story was good but I do know there were some differences between this and the comics, particularly regarding Holland’s love interest. The special effects were honestly on the cheap side but with a budget of $2.5 million, the crew did a great job with what they had. Still, the suit for Swamp Thing looked pretty bad, but not as bad as the one for the Arcane beast, as the face itself looked like it was nothing more than a giant paper mache head attached to the body. I’m surprised anyone could see through that thing. Wow, I think I almost talked myself into downgrading this movie somewhat. In any case, it’s not a cinematic masterpiece but there are definitely worse superhero movies out there.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi

December 19th, 2017 Movie – Swamp Shark

swamp shark

Even before the Sharknado craze hit TV, shark movies were still a hit on the Syfy channel. Today’s movie was one of a couple of shark movies that came out in 2011 and starred some relatively famous actors & actresses. Now of course, as soon as these movies came out I would immediately buy them on DVD (if they were available) and I was seriously intrigued with today’s movie as it stars Kristy Swanson and Robert Davi (better known as the original Buffy Summers and Jake Fratelli) Well, I already reviewed Avalanche Sharks and Super Shark so lets go ahead and dive right into today’s movie, Swamp Shark.

The plot: In Crowley, Louisiana, a group of college kids are partying by the swamp in preparation for the upcoming Gator Fest when they are chased away by Sheriff Watson. After the kids all leave, Watson uses the radio to contact a tanker truck, which pulls up along the road. As Watson starts to pay the man, who helps him smuggle exotic animals, the animal in the tank starts slamming into the tank, causing it to roll off the truck and into the swamp, crushing the poacher in the process, and Watson quickly tells the driver, Jackson, to get rid of the truck. Elsewhere, Rachel Boussard is working at her family’s restaurant, the Gator Shed, along with her brother Jason, sister Krystal, boyfriend Tyler, and bus boy Martin. As Rachel is talking with Tommy Breysler, a recent regular, and tries to figure out why he is there, they are interrupted when a drunken Jackson makes a scene, forcing Jason to throw him out. As Jason tosses Jackson outside, Jackson punches him, causing Jason to punch him back but the police had been called and arrest him for battery. When Watson shows up, he offers to let Jason go if Rachel will go out to dinner with him and she says she will think about it, as she is tired of Tyler’s constant flirting with the younger girls. Meanwhile, Krystal is hit on by two guys, Scott and Noah, who invite her out to the boat they are renting for the weekend and she turns them down but keeps the card with their phone numbers. That night, a drunken Jackson returns to the Gator Shed and proceeds to try and poison them as an act of revenge but as he stops to take a drink, he sees a shark fin swimming towards him just before it hits the pier and knocks him into the water, where it kills him. Rachel hears the commotion and, grabbing a rifle, heads outside and sees the shark and tries shooting it but the bullets have no effect and it swims away. The next day they discover that all of their gators have been eaten and Rachel tells them what she saw but Tyler and the others are skeptical. When Watson and some of his deputies show up, looking into the disappearance of Jackson, they find his severed arm and Watson orders the restaurant shut down and wants to take Jason in for questioning but they get called away on another alert. Rachel has look up the gator’s locator tags, which she had placed on them for insurance purposes, and they see all five tags out in the swamp. Realizing the best way to save the restaurant and prove they had nothing to do with Jackson’s death was to catch the shark, Rachel, Jason, and Tyler head to the docks. When Krystal and Martin try to join them, Jason tells them that they can’t come but they are surprised to see Tommy show up. Tommy says he wants to go with them to hunt the shark and after showing his skill with a spear gun, Jason agrees to bring him along but Tyler is jealous of him. They head out to where the locators are, only to find them all floating in the water. As they try to grab them, the shark suddenly rears out of the water and attempts to bite Jason. As Rachel and Jason grab their guns and try to shoot the shark, Tyler panics and starts the boat, moving the boat forward just as the shark goes to ram the boat but it causes Jason to fall towards the back of the boat, aggravating an old knee injury in the process. When they get back to the Gator Shed, Krystal and Martin help Jason off the boat while Rachel chastises Tyler, then checks the engine with Tommy, who says he will see if he can fix it. Elsewhere, Scott and his friends are having fun when two of them, Marcus and Amber, grab a nearby canoe and paddle out to be alone. As they are out in the water, Marcus takes a picture of Amber and they see the shark fin in the back ground and Amber wants to go back, only for the shark to chase after them and kill them both. Back at the restaurant, Rachel and Tyler continue to argue, particularly over Tommy’s wanting to help them and Rachel only makes the situation worse when she kisses Tommy, causing Tyler to try and fight with Tommy. Later, Tommy is being tended to by Krystal and Rachel asks if he still wants to help her and he says yes and will see her in the morning. The next day, Martin is trying to figure out what kind of shark Rachel and the others saw and stumbled across a story about a shark attack in a deep water trench and they wonder how the shark got there. Meanwhile, Watson meets up with Jackson’s brother, who is his buyer for exotic animal smuggling, and they work out a deal to bring in some more animals before the man tells Watson to try and get rid of the shark, unaware that Tommy is on a hill taking pictures of them. Later, as the Gator Fest is starting to set up, the Watson’s deputies arrive at the site and are told to keep an eye out for anything strange but one of the deputies, distracted by a couple making out, is killed by the shark. Back at the Gator Shed, Krystal answers a call from Scott, who tells her to come out to the boat they are on. Krystal heads out there and tries to warn Scott, Noah, and Sarah about the shark but Scott, refusing to stop his party, starts up the boat and heads out onto the river, then throws Krystal’s phone into the water when she tries to call Rachel for help. Meanwhile, Tommy calls Rachel and has her meet him at the hospital, where she learns that he is an agent for the Fish & Wildlife Services. He shows her the body of the kids he found, telling her it is proof they were killed by a shark and they go back to the Gator Shed to figure out their next move only to learn that Krystal is missing. When Martin tells them about the two college kids, Rachel hands Tommy the phone and tells him to call for help. Tommy calls Watson, and he heads to the police station with Rachel, Jason, and Tyler but Watson refuses to believe them, even when Tommy offers to talk to the prosecutor to go easy on him if he helps them. Watson decides to arrest them but Jason punches one of the deputies and tells the others to run as he is hit by a taser. Rachel, Tommy, and Tyler grab Watson’s police boat and head out onto the river when they hear Krystal calling for help on the radio. Rachel talks with Krystal, who tries to tell them where she is but Scott breaks the radio, not wanting to get in trouble for underage drinking. As Scott, Noah, and Sarah continue to party, Scott doesn’t pay attention and ends up getting the prop tangled in some plants. As he goes to try and cut them free, the shark attacks and knocks him into the water. Noah throws him a life preserver but the shark kills Scott, while Sarah is injured when the rope the life preserver is attached to goes taut and wraps around her neck before Krystal manages to cut the rope and then uses a flare gun to try and signal for help. Rachel and the others see the flare and as they head towards it, Rachel calls Martin and tells him to head to the police station to help break Jason out of jail. Rachel then calls the station and asks to speak with Jason and the deputy hands him the phone, which Jason uses to choke the deputy until he unlocks the cell. Martin shows up and goes with Jason to a local bait shop to get some bait and a propane tank, then steal the owners air boat and head towards the Gator Fest. Meanwhile, Noah tries to cut the underbrush away from the prop but the shark grabs him and drags him underwater. As Krystal screams for help, Rachel hears her and they finally locate the boat, then use some rope and grapple/anchor to pull themselves next to it. Tommy helps Sarah onto the boat but as Tyler goes to help Krystal, the shark knocks him into the water and kills him and they head off to the Gator Fest, with the shark chasing after them. Jason and Martin arrive at the Gator Fest and quickly grab a net and place the propane tank and bait inside. Rachel, Tommy, Krystal, and Sarah arrive soon after and as Rachel and Krystal get Sarah to an ambulance, Tommy goes to talk to Watson and tells him to evacuate the area. When Watson’s deputy, Stanley, sees the shark and cries out a warning, Watson orders the kids out of the water and heads out to shoot the shark only to be killed. Jason heads out onto the pier and throws the net into the water, then tells Rachel to shoot the tank when the shark attempts to eat it but the tank doesn’t explode, instead goes flying off and knocks out Watson’s smuggling partner. Tommy tells Jason to start the air boat, then heads out into the water and shoots the shark in the head with his spear gun when it attempts to attack him. Tommy then takes the launcher and rope and throws it into the air boat’s fan, which begins to wrap around the fan. The shark is dragged into the fan, which chops him up, and Rachel, Jason, Krystal, and Martin hug each other in celebration. Tommy heads over and has Stanley arrest the smuggler then heads over to Rachel and the two embrace as they head back to the Gator Shed.

Of the three low budget shark movies that came out in 2011, this was not the best but it was still a pretty decent movie. The acting was ok, with Kristy Swanson (Rachel), D.B. Sweeney (Tommy) and Robert Davi (Watson) doing a good job in their roles. I really liked the interaction between Jeff Chase (Jason) and Jason Rogel (Martin), while Wade Boggs had a really funny cameo as one of Watson’s deputies. The story was ok but I felt like they could have done a bit more with the smuggling aspect but they seemed to focus more on the stupid romance triangle instead. The special effects weren’t the best, as you would expect, and I was honestly disappointed with the shark design itself, as it looked a lot cheaper than some other shark movies. There are a couple of good moments but it is honestly on the so-so side of the entertainment scale.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5