crime, horror, movie, movie review, thriller

May 10th, 2018 Movie – The Watcher

the watcher

You ever have those movies that really seem to come and go out of theaters in the blink of an eye. I mean, you see a trailer for it and it piques your interest but you completely miss it when it is in theaters because it disappears almost the moment it shows up. That is kind of how I feel about today’s movie. I recall seeing a trailer for it and thinking it might be worth going to see but I honestly don’t remember it being in theaters. Unfortunately, interest can be fleeting as when it ended up on video, I never got around to renting it but years later, I finally decided to pick up a copy during the dying days of Blockbuster. So let’s see whether this was worth it as I watch today’s movie, The Watcher.

The plot: In Chicago, former FBI Special Agent Joel Campbell is speaking with therapist Dr. Polly Bellman about the serial killer he failed to catch in Los Angeles, resulting in him having guilt induced migraines. After his session, Campbell returns home and lays down on his couch but wakes up some time later after having another nightmare and, after injecting himself with some medicine to deal with the migraine, heads out to get some dinner, unaware that he is being watched. When he returns home, he finds the police have one of the apartments in his building taped off and Detective Hollis Mackie briefly questions Campbell, as a girl had been murdered. The next day, Campbell is going through his mail when he finds a FedEx envelope with a picture of the murdered girl inside. After finding another FedEx envelope he had discarded that contains another picture of a different girl, he contacts Mackie, who is in the midst of a car chase, and tells him about the pictures. Campbell meets Mackie at the station, showing him the pictures of the two girls and Mackie said he wondered if the two cases were connected. Campbell tells Mackie that he spent 3 1/2 years tracking the killer, who went by the alias of David Allen Griffin in Los Angeles, where he was connected to 11 homicides, and Mackie asks what makes him think it is the same killer here in Chicago. Campbell goes to see FBI Special Agent in Charge Mike Ibby and talks to him about the matter and Ibby says that they are putting together a joint task force with the Chicago P.D. to catch the guy and offers Campbell the chance to lead it but Campbell turns it down. Meanwhile, Griffin is at a mall photo shop asking the girl working there, Ellie, about some film. He then takes a couple of pictures of Ellie, saying he wants to test the film, and asks her to develop them. That night, Griffin calls Campbell and asks him why he moved to Chicago. He then says he tried to make things work with his replacement but they didn’t have the same connection so he wants to rekindle the bond he had with Campbell. He tells him that he will send him a picture of a girl and he has until 9 the next night to find her or else she will die. When Campbell receives a card with Ellie’s picture in it, he goes to Ibby and tells him he wants in on the case and Ibby agrees. Campbell is given the lead and he starts telling the team what to do and has Mackie go talk to the press to try and get some help in identifying Ellie. As the deadline gets closer, they get a tip that she was spotted at the mall and head there to try and see if she is there, just missing her as Ellie leaves right as they get there. As they search the mall for Ellie, Campbell recognizes the nearby photoshop as being where the picture was taken and when they ask the clerk if she recognizes Ellie, she admits that she works there. Getting her phone number and address, Campbell tries calling Ellie to warn her but Griffin answers the phone, telling him it is too late. Heading to Ellie’s home, they examine the crime scene and afterwards, Campbell and Mackie are discussing the case while they eat. When Mackie complains about the restaurant, Campbell says that he eats here all the time, then whispers that Griffin might be watching them right now. Campbell sneaks out the back of the restaurant and goes around the block, then starts checking some of the cars across the street. When one of them suddenly starts up and rushes out of there, Campbell and Mackie give chase but the car manages to drive away. Some time later, Griffin is walking along the street and comes across a young girl, Jessica, begging for change and he offers to give her some money if she dances with him. The next day, Campbell goes to see Polly and as he gets in the elevator, he is joined by Griffin, though he doesn’t realize he is the killer. Griffin gets off on the same floor as Campbell and, pretending he is unsure of where he needs to go, he follows him and to learn where Campbell was going. Returning to the FBI building, Campbell and the others go over the picture of the Jessica that Griffin sent them and they begin searching for her. Meanwhile, Griffin makes an appointment with Polly and tries to learn why Campbell is seeing her. When the photo of Jessica is broadcast over the news, Jessica’s mother sees it and calls in the hotline. Based on what the mother tells him and some of the back ground imagery, Campbell deduces that the photo was taken near a coffee shop and they find a clerk that recognizes Jessica but learn that she is homeless. They start canvassing the neighborhood asking people if they have seen her and when Campbell unknowingly speaks to Jessica’s boyfriend, he runs from him and Campbell gives chase. Meanwhile, Jessica is getting ready to sleep in the abandoned building she is squatting in when Griffin shows up and she hits him with her radio and runs for it but Griffin eventually catches her and kills her. Campbell eventually catches up to the boyfriend and convinces him that they are trying to save the girl so they head to the building, getting there just as Griffin is attempting to leave. Campbell spots him and gives chase, running across the roof tops before they end up in a high speed car chase but Griffin is able to escape when he plows through a gas station and fires prevent Campbell from following. The events take their toll on Campbell as he ends up collapsing in his apartment and is hospitalized. Polly goes to visit him in the hospital but while she is there, Griffin breaks into Polly’s office and steals her file on Campbell. Later, an envelope is sent to the FBI building for Campbell and Special Agent Mitch Casper takes it and Mackie talks to the press about the latest picture. Campbell is watching the news conference and recognizes the picture as the woman he was sleeping with in L.A. that Griffin killed. Checking himself out of the hospital, Campbell heads to her grave to find Griffin sitting there, saying that he wants to talk. When Campbell threatens to shoot him, Griffin tells him if he does, then Polly will end up being killed and Campbell tells Griffin to take him to her. As they are driving, Campbell talks with Griffin and secretly calls Mackie on his cell phone, which Mackie begins to trace the call. Campbell and Griffin arrive at where he is keeping Polly and Griffin leads him inside, disarming the booby trap he had placed, and when he shows Campbell that Polly is still alive, he knocks him out. As the SWAT teams and FBi approach the building, Griffin revives Campbell and then talks with her and Polly. Griffin wants Campbell to thank him for giving his life meaning and when Campbell refuses he begins to strangle Polly. Campbell says thank you, causing Griffin to stop and approach Campbell and when he asks him to say it again, Campbell says thank you again, then stabs Griffin in the neck with his pen. As Griffin stumbles in pain, he knocks over a candle, igniting the pools of gasoline that are all around the room. Campbell grabs the shotgun from Griffin’s booby-trap and shoots Griffin in the shoulder when Griffin tries to shoot him. Campbell then frees Polly and as the flames reach the containers of fuel and the gas pump, they jump out the window to avoid the explosion, followed by Griffin, who is engulfed in flames. As the authorities pull Polly out of the water, Campbell swims over to Griffin’s body, then heads back to the dock so he can be pulled from the water and he goes to check on Polly as the two walk off to get their injuries checked out.

The Watcher was panned by the critics, holding a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “The Watcher has Keanu Reeves cast against type, but the movie is short on thrills, suspense, and believability.” According to Keanu Reeves, he had no interest in doing the film but his assistant had forged his signature and he ended up taking on the role rather than get involved in a lengthy legal battle and couldn’t say anything for 12 months due to his contract preventing him from speaking negatively about the movie for a year after the movie’s US release. Despite the poor reviews, the movie was a modest hit at the box office, earning $47.3 million off of a $33 million budget.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting way back when I first saw the trailers for this movie, but today, I find myself a little disappointed. The acting was ok, with James Spader (Campbell) and Marisa Tomei (Polly) did good jobs in their roles. Keanu Reeves was interesting as the villainous Griffin, as it was definitely something a little different for him, but he really didn’t seem to be that enthused with the character as he just played him rather bland. The story was honestly a little weak, with the whole idea of a serial killer messing with the agent assigned to catch him not feeling very original. It also felt like they had too many characters that they tried to get you interested in but aside from Campbell, Polly, and Griffin, the only character they gave half-assed attempt at some development too is Mackie, played by Chris Ellis. The couple of chase scenes were coordinated pretty well but the real driving force in the movie was the tension, which honestly felt tame compared to some other thrillers. It’s a decent movie but not something that I would call a must see.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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

January 10th, 2018 Movie – Spider-Man: Homecoming

spider-man homecoming

In 2016, fans eagerly awaited the first installment of the 3rd phase of the MCU; Captain America: Civil War. However, when the second trailer for the movie was released, fans got a thrill when it was shown that Spider-Man had been added to the line up. This was a major deal as even though Disney owns the rights to Marvel Comics, the film rights to several franchises still belonged to other companies; with Fox owning the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four and Sony Pictures owning the rights to Spider-Man. The fact that Disney and Sony worked out a deal for Spider-Man to be a part of the MCU was huge and taken as a sign that other deals could possibly occur. Anyways, since a new actor was cast as Spider-Man, Sony scrapped it’s idea for a third installment in the series starring Andrew Garfield and came up with a new movie, one that continued the adventures of the Spider-Man introduced in Civil War. I will admit that I wasa little bit hesitant to get my hopes up over a new Spider-Man movie but having enjoyed the brief glimpse of him in Civil War, I was actually looking forward to seeing what they would do. So let’s have some fun with today’s movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The plot: After the Battle of New York, a salvage crew run by Adrian Toomes is working on cleaning up the debris left from the Chitauri invasion when there work is taken over by the Department of Damage Control, a joint effort spearheaded by Tony Stark and the U.S. Government to keep the alien technology out of the wrong hands. Later that night, as Toomes and his crew watch a news report and lament the death of their business, one of Toomes workers points out that they have a truck full of Chitauri technology that they had already salvaged and Toomes says to keep it instead of turning it over. 8 years later, Toomes and his men have used the stolen technology to manufacture weapons to sell, along with creating a set of flight wings that Toomes uses. Meanwhile, Peter Parker is escorted to Berlin by Happy Hogan and given a new suit by Tony Stark for when he helps in the fight with Captain America and his group of heroes that refuse to register under the Sokovia Accords. Peter makes a video diary of his trip, including some portions of the fight, and afterwards, Tony helps him make an alibi for his Aunt May before dropping off Peter at his apartment and telling him he will call when he has a new mission for him, telling him Happy will be his handler. Peter returns to going to school at Midtown School of Science and Technology but his mind is constantly wondering when he will get a new mission, which is interfering with his school life. After school, Peter changes into his Spider-Man costume and leaves a message for Happy asking for his next mission before he goes out to stop any crimes he can see. Later that night, Spider-Man sees some men using high tech weaponry to rob a bank ATM and tries to stop it but when an errant blast destroys a nearby corner bodega, Spider-Man goes to rescue the shop’s owner, allowing the robbers to escape. When Peter tries calling Happy about what happened, Happy tells him he can’t talk, as he is busy moving all of Stark’s things to his new place in upstate New York. Peter sneaks back into his apartment and is surprised to find his best friend Ned waiting for him in his room. Ned is shocked in discovering that Peter is Spider-Man and wants to know all about it and Peter tells him they will talk tomorrow at school. At school, Ned constantly asks Peter questions about how he became Spider-Man and the other Avengers and Peter tells him to keep quiet. When they overhear a classmate Liz, whom Peter has a crush on, mention that she thinks Spider-Man is cute, Ned blurts out that Peter knows Spider-Man. Peter tries to play it off as a joke but another classmate, Flash, taunts them into inviting Spider-Man to Liz’s party that night. Peter and Ned show up at the party, but Peter feels like it is a mistake to go there. When Flash proceeds to mock them for not producing Spider-Man, Peter heads outside to change into Spider-Man but notices a glowing light in the distance and heads out to investigate. He sees two men, Herman Schultz and Brice, attempting to sell some alien weapons and tries to stop them but Brice, who calls himself The Shocker, punches him with his sonic gauntlet and they drive off, with Schultz calling Toomes to explain what happened. Spider-Man chases after them but is grabbed by Toomes, in his Vulture gear, and flown up into the air before being dropped into a lake. A parachute deploys from Spider-Man’s suit but he becomes tangled up in it and almost drowns when he hits the lake but he is saved by a remote piloted Iron-Man suit. Tony chastises Peter via the suit and tells him that he isn’t ready to be an Avenger and he should continue helping the little guys before flying off and as Peter heads home, he discovers a piece of alien technology that Brice and Schultz left behind. Meanwhile, back at their lair, Toomes chastises Brice for being too flashy in selling the weapons and kicks him off the team and when Brice threatens to tell Toomes’ wife about what he is doing, Toomes grabs a weapon and accidentally kills him, then hands the gauntlet to Schultz and says he is the new Shocker. The next day, Peter and Ned are examining the alien device at school and later, Peter sees Schultz and another guy at the school looking for it. Peter manages to tag them with a tracer and when he and Ned discover that they have headed to Maryland, he rejoins the school’s Academic Decathlon which is heading to compete in Washington D.C., which pisses of Flash as Peter is given his spot on the team. As they head to D.C., Peter is contacted by Happy, who had noticed Peter leaving New York due to his suit’s tracking chip but when Peter tells him it is a school trip, Happy says it is fine. When they get to their hotel, Peter has Ned help him disable the tracking chip and Ned learns that Peter’s suit had been placed in training mode so Peter has him disable it. After donning his suit, Peter is contacted by the suit’s computer, Karen, who helps him locate the tracker and he finds them planning to hijack a S.H.I.E.L.D. shipment of items from the Triskelion wreckage. Peter sees the Vulture fly down and make his way inside one of the trucks and when he tries to stop him, Spider-Man ends up getting trapped in the truck and knocked unconscious. When he comes too, he finds himself trapped inside Damage Control’s storage vault. Spending some time learning his new suit’s capabilities with Karen’s help, Spider-Man learns that the Chitauri artifact that he had could be explosive due to exposure to his own radioactive blood. Spider-Man managed to get out of the vault and makes his way to D.C., trying to contact Ned and warn him but their call is disrupted when Ned’s cellphone goes through the x-ray machine. Ned and the rest of Peter’s class, except for MJ, are in the elevator going to the top of the Washington Monument when the device explodes, damaging the elevator and part of the monument. When Spider-Man there, Karen helps guide him to the quickest way inside and he manages to rescue all of his classmates. Back in their hideout, Toomes is upset at Spider-Man’s interference in his plans and he decides to kill him and Schultz points out how Spider-Man rescued the kids from Midtown. Back in New York, Peter is in detention for skipping out on the decathlon event but decides to leave and head back home. Once there, he has Karen replay the footage from the arms deal he broke up and while there is no criminal background on Brice and Schultz, she does find one for Aaron Davis, the man who was there to buy the weapons. Spider-Man goes to question Davis about the crooks and, since Spider-Man saved his life, he tells them that they are meeting on the Staten Island Ferry. Spider-Man heads out there and using his reconnaissance drone, spots Schultz speaking with Toomes before heading out to speak with Mac Gargan As Spider-Man is recording the arms deal going on, he is contacted by Stark, who congratulates him on his rescue in D.C. but Spider-Man cuts him off to try and stop the arms deal. As he deals with Schultz and Gargan’s men, the FBI show up and tell Spider-Man to stand down. Toomes, alerted to Spider-Man’s presence, quickly dons his gear and begins to attack Spider-Man. Spider-Man fights back and attempts to disarm him but the weapon suddenly discharges randomly and ends up cutting the ferry in half. Spider-Man attempts to save the ferry but his webbing breaks and the ferry starts to sink until Iron Man arrives and saves it. Afterwards, Tony meets with Peter and admonishes him for his actions, and when Peter argues that Tony didn’t listen to him, Tony reveals that he did listen and trusted him, which is why he contacted the FBI so they could handle it. Tony then confiscates the suit from him and when Peter argues that he is nothing without the suit, Tony tells him that if he feels like he isn nothing without the suit, then maybe he isn’t meant to be a hero. When Peter returns home, Aunt May yells at him for worrying her and sneaking out and Peter tells her that he lost the Stark Internship. Peter goes back to being a high school student, trying to get his life back on track, and ends up asking Liz to Homecoming and she accepts. When Peter goes to pick up Liz for Homecoming, he is shocked to discover  that Liz’s father is Toomes. Toomes offers to drive Liz and Peter to the dance and during the drive, he talks with Peter and as Liz comments about how Peter mysteriously vanished at times, he figures out that Peter is actually Spider-Man. When they arrive at the school, Toomes speaks with Peter alone and thanks him for saving Liz’s life, then warns him to stay away from him and don’t interfere or else he will kill everyone he loves. Peter heads inside the school but as he approaches Liz, he realizes he can’t let Toomes get away with what he has planned and apologizes to Liz before leaving the gym. Peter grabs his old Spider-Man suit from it’s hiding space and heads outside only to be confronted by Schultz, who Toomes had sent there in case Peter decided to try and stop him. Losing his web shooters, Spider-Man is knocked into a school bus and sent tumbling over but when Schultz goes to finish him off, he is distracted by Ned, who had grabbed one of Spider-Man’s web shooters and fired it at Schultz. Spider-Man knocks out Schultz, then explains what is going on to Ned and asks him to trace his phone, which he had left in Toomes’ car, and to contact Happy. Ned manages to contact Happy, who quickly hangs up on him, and when he tells Spider-Man where his phone is, Peter figures out that Toomes is planning on hijacking the plane that is transferring materials from Stark Tower to the Avenger’s new facility. Spider-Man heads into the warehouse to confront Toomes, who tries to reason with him but was merely distracting him to allow time for his flight suit to enter the bulding and destroy the support columns, causing the roof to collapse onto Spider-Man. As Toomes leaves and prepares to fly off after the plane, Peter panics and calls out for someone to help him until he sees his reflection in a pool of water and hear’s Tony’s words coming back to haunt him. Proving he has what it takes, Spider-Man frees himself from the debris and manages to snag Toomes with a webline, being yanked behind him as he flies into the air. Toomes reaches the plane, which is being computer piloted, and makes his way inside, copying the transponder to a drone which he sends flying to where the plane was supposed to go while he steers it on a different flight path.  When Spider-Man attempts to enter the plane, Toomes sees him and heads outside to fight him, battling him along the surface of the plane. The plane loses control and Spider-Man attempts to steer it away from the buildings while ToomesToomes breaks inside and attempts to grab something so the heist was not a complete waste. The plane eventually crashes on the beach outside Coney Island and as Spider-Man picks himself up, Toomes renews his attack on him. Toomes gets the upper hand and after knocking Spider-Man down, attempts to grab a crate with his damaged wingsuit. Spider-Man notices the wingsuit is about to explode and tries to stop him but fails, and as Toomes takes off, the suit explodes and he goes crashing to the ground. Spider-Man pulls Toomes from the wreckage and leaves him webbed up to the crates for Happy and the authorities to find. The next day at school, Peter thanks Ned for helping save his life then goes to talk with Liz only to find that she is moving with her mom, as her dad doesn’t want her in town during the trial. Happy meets Peter at his school and takes him to the Avenger’s facility, where Tony offers him a new suit and a spot on the team, saying he earned it and has a room full of reporters ready to greet the new member. Peter thanks Tony but turns him down, choosing to help the little guys for the time being. As he goes to leave, Peter asks if this was a test and Tony says it was but after Peter walks away, Pepper Potts exits the room and asks where Peter is. Tony tells her that he made a mature decision, which surprised him, and when Pepper asks what she should tells the reporters, as they are expecting a story, Tony asks Happy if he still has the ring and Happy says he had been holding onto it for years, then tosses it to Tony as he and Pepper go to announce their engagement. Peter returns home and finds that Tony had left the Spider-Man suit for him in his room and as he tries it on, Aunt May sees him from the doorway and yells. Meanwhile, in prison, Toomes is approached by Mac Gargan, who says he heard a rumor that Toomes knew Spider-Man’s identity but Toomes lies to Gargan, saying if he knew who Spider-Man was, he would be dead.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was highly praised by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Spider-Man: Homecoming does whatever a second reboot can, delivering a colorful, fun adventure that fits snugly in the sprawling MCU without getting bogged down in franchise-building.” Originally, Nick Fury was going to play the role of Peter’s mentor, mirroring the dynamic in The Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, but the change was made to have Tony Stark fill the role instead. J.K. Simmons had expressed an interest in reprising his role of J. Jonah Jameson from the Sam Raimi trilogy but it was scrapped when he took the role of Commissioner Gordon in Justice League. The movie was a box office success, earning $880.2 million off of a $175 million budget, with Sony and Marvel both agreeing to make a sequel, which is slated for a 2019 release.

My faith in movies was restored as this was a great movie to watch. While I think Spider-Man 2 is probably the best overall movie in the franchise, this is definitely a close second and might end up topping it down the road. The acting was great, with Tom Holland doing a great job as Peter Parker, while Michael Keaton was equally good as Adrian Toomes. I loved Jacob Batalon as Ned, who made for some great comedic sidekick material, and I honestly didn’t get the hate directed towards Zendaya, who was really good as Michelle (though I guess the hate was directed to her wanting to be called MJ at the end of the movie). The story was really good and did a good job showing the emotional growth Peter went through; from being the impulsive teenager that wanted nothing more to be an Avenger and felt like everything else was beneath him to realizing that if he wanted to become an Avenger, he would have to do some growing up first. The one thing I was glad that didn’t occur in the movie was the origin/killing of Uncle Ben. At this point, everyone knows how Spider-Man got his powers and he was spurred to becoming a hero by the death of his Uncle Ben. Since the series was rebooted less than 10 years ago, there was really no need to have that rehashed. Besides, since we were introduced to an already powered up Spider-Man, it made no sense to try and rehash it. I also liked the interaction between Spider-Man and Karen, his suit’s on-board computer system, and the chemistry they developed in the short time Peter had the suit. The one thing that I thought was interesting was how the director decided to make this something of a tribute to John Hughes as far as the high school aspects of the movie went. The funniest part was the deliberate nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off during the scene where Spider-Man was chasing after Schultz and Brice through the neighborhood. The special effects were great and while the Vulture suit wasn’t quite like the comics, which honestly is kind of a good thing, it was unique enough to look good on camera. A great movie that is well worth it’s spot in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5