action, fantasy, horror, movie, movie review

April 5th, 2018 Movie – Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans

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Shortly after Underworld was released, the studio green lit a sequel and prequel to be made, solely on the basis of the early ticket sales. Well, the problem with prequels is that you are only going to get half of the known characters at best. Still, the idea of a prequel was pretty well set up in the first movie because the start of the war between the Lycans and vampires was really the only story they could possibly tell and I was interested in seeing how they set up the story. So let’s see how this war really got started with today’s movie, Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans.

The plot: 200 years after vampires and werewolves first came to be, Viktor has worked on killing off all of the werewolves until he finds a werewolf baby that was able to change back into human. Viktor decides to spare the baby, calling it Lucian, and as Lucian grows and becomes a formidable warrior, Viktor decides to have Lucian create more “Lycans”, which the vampires will train and use as their protectors during the daytime. Meanwhile, the woods in the area are still filled with savage werewolves leftover from William Corvinus’ rampage and the local villagers offer tributes of silver to Viktor in exchange for protection. One night, as Viktor’s daughter Sonja is riding back to the castle, when she is attacked by a pack of werewolves and she manages to kill 2 of them but three more are close on her heels. As she nears the castle, guards begins firing at the werewolves but it is Lucian, who works as a blacksmith, who manages to kill them with a crossbow. After safely making it inside, Sonja curtly greets Lucian and Viktor chastises her and says she should show some gratitude towards him for saving her life, then quietly admonishes Lucian for not showing the “proper reverence” towards his daughter. As the night continues, Lucian disposes of the dead werewolf bodies but feels increasingly frustrated over the vampires using himself and the other Lycans as mere slaves to be abused. Meanwhile, inside the council chamber, Viktor is being informed of the humans’ anger that the werewolf problem is not being dealt with and one of the vampire nobles suggests that while the Death Dealers patrol the woods at night, they could send some of the more trusted Lycans, led by Lucian, to look for the werewolves during the day. The noble asks for Sonja’s opinion on the matter only to find her seat empty and Viktor has his aide, Tanis, go and find her. Meanwhile, the Lycans are being returned to their pens but Lucian manages to sneak away to a remote part of the castle, where he is met by Sonja. The two reveal themselves to be lovers and after making love, Lucian talks about leaving the castle. He shows Sonja a key he made to remove the shackles and collar around his neck and Sonja begs him not to use it, as he would be killed on sight. The two dress and make their way back to the main courtyard but as they go their separate ways, they are spotted by Tanis, and Lucian notices him as he leaves. The next night, the human nobles head towards the castle to pay a visit to Viktor and Sonja rides out to escort them to the castle, defying Viktor’s orders to stay in the castle. As Lucian continues working in the castle, Tanis approaches him and warns him about where he fixes his gaze, as it might betray his secret. When Sonja reaches the carriage, the horses all start getting nervous and she orders her men to form up so they can escort the carriage. Back at the castle, Lucian hears the werewolves moving through the woods and realizes that there are too many out there and tries to warn the guards that Sonja is in danger. When they don’t listen to him, Lucian steals a horse and rides off to save Sonja. Back at the carriage, Sonja and her men come under attack by werewolves and find themselves overwhelmed when Lucian arrives and helps out, as does Raze, one of the captured slaves. After rescuing Sonja, Lucian realizes he has no choice and removes his collar so that he can transform and as he roars out at the other werewolves, they back away into the forest. Viktor’s troops arrive and shoot Lucian and Sonja tells them to stop, then pulls out the silver barbs before they kill him. When Viktor approaches, Sonja says he did it to save her life but Viktor says that he is the leader of the coven and despite the good intentions, Lucian broke his rules and has to be punished. Viktor has Lucian whipped in the courtyard as a warning to the other Lycans not to disobey, and also to serve as a means to dissuade the other vampire nobles from trying to trust the Lycans, hoping to instill his own xenophobic beliefs into the others. After Lucian is returned to his cell, Raze gives him some water and the two begin bonding before Raze and the new slaves are taken away to be turned into Lycans themselves. Meanwhile, the other human nobles arrive and pay their tribute of silver to Viktor but when one man refuses, saying that werewolves have attacked his workers and that Viktor can barely protect his own castle, Viktor kills him in order to dissuade the other humans from backing out on their tributes. Meanwhile, Sonja goes to speak with Tanis to find out what he told her father and Tanis says nothing, as he hopes to use his knowledge to get her to relinquish her seat on the council to him. Learning that Viktor plans to have Lucian killed, Sonja sneaks down to the cells and tries to convince Lucian to flee but he refuses to do so without the other Lycans, as he doesn’t want them to remain slaves forever. Tanis manages to sneak Lucian the key to his collar and when the torturer goes to kill Lucian, Lucian transforms and kills him instead. Lucian quickly works on freeing all of the other Lycans and they try to quietly leave the castle but the vampires catch wind of the escape and begin firing bolts from their scorpions through the walls to try and stop them. The vampires manage to kill some of the Lycans and fire enough bolts to form a barrier, stopping most of them from escaping but Lucian, Raze, and some others manage to escape, with Lucian promising to come back for them. Making their way into the woods, they stop to rest and Lucian has Raze lead them back to the noble’s house that he came from, and Lucian begins recruiting humans to his cause while gathering weapons. Sending Raze and the others to go gather more people to their cause, Lucian heads out into the woods and encounters the savage werewolves, hoping to bring calm them and bring them over to his cause as well. Meanwhile, Viktor tries to figure out how Lucian escapes and accuses Tanis of helping him but Tanis reveals that Lucian must have made a key to free his collar. Viktor then goes to see Sonja and ask her if she helped Lucian and then decides to see if she is lying by biting her. After drinking her blood and seeing her memories, Viktor learns of Sonja and Lucian being lovers and he tells her she betrayed him and orders her confined to her room. Meanwhile, more people have been gathering to Lucian’s cause, causing some of the nobles to grow worried and ask Viktor to do something about him. One of the noblewomen rides out to Lucian’s camp and tells him about Sonja’s imprisonment and Lucian wants to go save her. Raze tries to talk her out of it, saying that it is obviously a trap but Lucian says that if he doesn’t return, Raze should continue the fight or lead the people to safety. Lucian makes his way into the castle and frees Sonja, then tries to lead her out through the sewer entrance but Viktor, having discovered Lucian’s use of the sewers, drops barrels of oil and torches to light the tunnels on fire, attempting to trap him. Lucian and Sonja try to fight their way to freedom, with Sonja facing off against Viktor. Sonja manages to get the upper hand on Viktor and when he says killing him won’t spare Lucian, Sonja tells him that she is pregnant with Lucian’s child, saying that it is a merging of the bloodlines. Viktor becomes enraged and manages to grab Sonja and hold a knife to her throat while Lucian is captured. A trial is held and Sonja is sentenced to death so she is placed in a chamber with Lucian and the roof is opened up to allow sunlight inside, burning her to death. When night falls, Viktor enters the chamber to look at Sonja’s body and Lucian, enraged at what happened, manages to force the silver bolts from his body and transform, knocking Viktor down. As Death Dealers start to arrive, Lucian grabs Sonja’s necklace and attempts to escape the castle but he is shot several times by the guards and as he reaches the castle wall, he roars out into the night. In their camp, Raze and the other Lycans hear Lucian’s roar and are unsure what to do until the witness the savage werewolves all racing out of the woods towards the castle and they decide to follow. The vampires begin firing at the werewolves but there are too many and the castle ends up being overrun. Raze helps Lucian remove the silver bolts from his body and Lucian tells him to go free the others while he heals for a bit before joining the fight. Viktor tells Tanis to get the Elders (Marcus and Amelia) out of there while he enters the fight, Lucian makes his way towards him and the two eventually begin fighting in one of the lower chambers. As they both blame the other for Sonja’s death, Lucian traps Viktor in some chains as the sun starts to come up and stabs him in the mouth before letting him fall to the water below. Lucian emerges from the building to find the Lycans have won the battle and Raze says it is finished but Lucian tells him it is just beginning. Elsewhere, Viktor is shown to have survived and made it onto the ship transporting the other Elders and Tanis seals him into a hibernation chamber to heal.

Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans met with poor results from the critics, earning a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Despite the best efforts of its competent cast, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is an indistinguishable and unnecessary prequel.” This movie is the first, and so far only, movie in the franchise not to star Kate Beckinsale. Rhona Mitra, who stars in this movie, was actually considered to play the role of Selene but was passed over for Beckinsale. The movie was a modest success at the box office, earning $92.1 million off of a $35 million budget.

I will be honest, I am a little underwhelmed on this movie. The acting was ok, with Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy doing good jobs reprising their roles of Lucian and Viktor respectively. I also thought Rhona Mitra did a good job portraying Sonja but felt like the character herself was a little bland (no fault on Rhona’s acting). The basic story was pretty good but I felt like they spent too much time trying to set things up for the first movie instead of letting things flow naturally and telling a story on it’s own that would explain how things happened. The lighting worked well and helped make the settings more dramatic, especially the few times that the scenes were brighter, which really emphasized the moment in them. However, I was a little disappointed in the special effects, as there seemed to be no real improvement in them, despite the fact that 6 years had passed between the movies. It’s a decent entry in the series but I feel like they could have done more with it.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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action, crime, movie, movie review, thriller

August 30th, 2017 Movie – Shooter

shooter

Once again, I find myself watching a movie that is based off of a book that I never read. I remember seeing the trailers for this movie and thinking it was just another generic action movie. At some point I got bored and ended up getting a used copy of it as a spur of the moment purchase. So I ended up watching it and almost immediately afterwards, decided to buy the book that the movie was based on just to compare the two. As is usually the case, I liked the book better than the movie but you can judge for yourself as I watch today’s movie, Shooter.

The plot: On a mission in Africa in a country they are not supposed to be in, Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger and his spotter Donnie Fenn are keeping watch over a US team as they head back to Ethiopia, taking out a military patrol vehicle when as it approaches them. When a second, larger force is spotted chasing after the US team, Swagger begins shooting at them, taking out several of the men/drivers and forcing the enemy force to focus on trying to attack them, rather than chasing after the other soldiers. They call in what is happening but the base in Ethiopia shuts down the channel, as the base commander deems them expendable. When a helicopter shows up to help the opposing forces, Donnie is killed but Swagger uses a CheyTac Intervention to take out the helicopter. 3 years later, Swagger is living in a self-imposed exile in the Wind River Range portion of the Rockies in Wyoming with only his dog as company when he is approached by Colonel Isaac Johnson. Swagger is dismissive and tells them to leave but after Johnson shows him his Congressional Medal of Honor, he convinces Swagger to give him 5 minutes to talk. Inside Swagger’s home, Johnson tells him that he needs Swagger to plan a presidential assassination, explaining that the received intel on a possible assassination attempt that will occur in one of three cities and they want Swagger’s help in preventing it. Bob tells them he won’t do it and takes a picture of their vehicle’s license plate to check their identity. After the seeing if the shot that Johnson talked about was possible, Swagger decides to help out and after going to the three cities given to him, tells Johnson that Philadelphia is the likely location. Johnson convinces Swagger to help him in spotting the possible sniper’s location and they head to Philadelphia, where the arch bishop of Ethiopia is giving the President a medal. As the President arrives, local police officer Stanley Timmons arrives at Johnson’s command post and introduces himself to Swagger, who comments about Timmons’ holster being unsnapped. When the President gets up to the podium to speak, Swagger tells them the sniper is loaded and about to fire so they should take him out now but as he turns to face Johnson, Timmons shoots Swagger. At the same time, the sniper fires but hits the arch bishop, not the President, causing a panic at the scene. Swagger falls out of the window and manages to escape, while Jack Payne, one of Johnson’s men, berates Timmons for missing him. The injured Swagger makes his way to the street, where he encounters FBI Agent Nick Memphis. Memphis draws his gun on Swagger but Swagger manages to disarm him and after telling Memphis he didn’t shoot the President, he restrains Memphis then takes his gun and car. As Timmons calls in a manhunt on Swagger, Swagger ducks into a car wash to try and stall being detected while he works on stopping the bleeding from his injuries. When the reports come in on his location, Swagger attempts to escape and after a collision with a truck, crashes into the river. Divers are called in and find the car but there is no sign of Swagger, who holds onto a rope on the side of a barge to get out of the manhunt zone and get ashore on the other side of the river, where he steals a truck and drives out of the city. After stopping in a small town, Swagger knocks out the power to a local shop so that he can buy some supplies and not get caught. After buying the supplies, he sneaks into a auto garage and uses the supplies as a makeshift field medical kit, then does his best to patch himself up in order to stay alive. Meanwhile, Agent Memphis is demoted by his superior for “embarrassing the agency” and placed in the tipline call center. When he receives a call from the clerk about what Swagger bought, he tries to tell another agent but the are dismissive of his theory. Swagger makes his way to Kentucky and pays a visit to Donnie’s widow, Sarah, to ask for her help. Though she is reluctant at first, Sarah agrees to help Swagger, who had gone there thinking she was a nurse but learns she had given up on that idea after Donnie died. Back in Philadelphia, Memphis is talking with fellow agent Alourdes Galindo and telling her his suspicions about Swagger’s guilt and says he wants to speak with Timmons, as he doesn’t believe his story, but Galindo tells him that Timmons was killed by a mugger. As Memphis continues to investigate, he checks out the church and notices some holes in the floor, which he learns were from a tripod mounted remote controlled sniper weapons system. Back in Kentucky, Sarah performs the necessary surgery on Swagger to remove the bullets and then agrees to help him in his plan to flush out Johnson. Sarah goes to Philadelphia with Swagger and he tells her to meet with Memphis and hand him the photos of the plate and VIN number for Johnson’s car. Swagger is watching their meeting but as Memphis leaves, Swagger is approached by two cops and forced to incapacitate them and escape. Memphis begins looking into the information that Sarah gave him and, with Galindo’s help, learns that they are connected to some high end military contractors but as Galindo is telling Memphis this, he ends up being kidnapped by a team of contractors. They torture him for information, then attach a device to his arm to make him shoot himself but Swagger rescues Memphis and after the two talk, Memphis agrees to help Swagger. They travel to Athens, TN to speak with a gun expert and ask him how to fire a bullet from one rifle and make it match the grooves from a different one. He then asks if anyone else could have taken the shot and the expert tells him of one other man, Michael Sandor, and Swagger realizes that he met the man. Memphis calls Galindo to ask for her help in tracking down Sander, just as Johnson decides to draw Swagger and Memphis out by offering him up. Johnson then meets with Senator Charles F. Meachum, who is in on Johnson’s operation, and Meachum tells him to make sure Swagger is killed so Johnson has Payne go and grab Sarah as insurance. When Galindo gives Memphis Sandor’s location, Swagger and Memphis go buy some supplies to make some homemade explosives, then Swagger gives Memphis a crash course in being a sniper/spotter. They head to Sandor’s house, and Swagger makes his way inside, taking out the guards along the way. When he finds Sandor and questions him, Sandor tells him about how military contractors had killed a village in Africa for the purpose of allowing an oil pipeline to go through it, then buried the bodies under a pumping station. He then informs Swagger that he was assigned to cover their escape but he wasn’t supposed to survive. Outside, a team arrives to kill Swagger and Memphis warns him while inside, Sandor tells Swagger that Johnson has Sarah before he kills himself. Swagger tells Memphis to get to a pre-arranged position and start detonating the explosives as Swagger shoots his way out of the house and the two manage to kill the team sent after them. Memphis calls the FBI to tell them he has Swagger in custody but that he can’t bring him in just yet. As soon as he hangs up, Swagger receives a call from Johnson, who had been listening in on the phone call and they arrange to meet, with Johnson agreeing to bring Meachum to the meeting and Swagger will give him the recording of Sandor’s confession in exchange for Sarah. Johnson, Payne, Sarah, and Meachum arrive on the mountain and they see a figure approaching when the figure is shot. Suddenly, a second shot rings out as Swagger kills the sniper, then kills two more counter snipers, while the figure, revealed to be Memphis, continues up to the mountain and removes the metal plate that protected him from being killed. As Payne yells out that Swagger can’t shoot him without risking his shooting Sarah, Swagger shoots the shotgun from his hand, then shoots his arm off. Swagger then approaches the group and after having Memphis disarm Meachum and Johnson, Sarah grabs Meachum’s gun and kills Payne. Swagger and Meachum then talk and as the FBI approaches, due to Memphis telling them where they would be, Swagger burns the recording, as if it was still out there then he, Sarah, and Memphis would be killed over it. Swagger is taken into custody and brought before a meeting with the Attorney General, Memphis, Memphis’ superior, and Johnson. Swagger admits that the gun the FBI found was his but after he places a bullet in it and shows that it won’t fire, he explains that he swapped the firing pin in all of his guns before he left, making it so that none of them would fire if stolen. Memphis then shows the Attorney General images from the file of the mass grave, but the Attorney General says that since the crimes occurred in another country, he had no jurisdiction over the matter and Johnson walks out of the room. The Attorney General approaches Swagger and speaks with him briefly before telling him he is free to go and orders him released. Some time later, Meachum and Johnson are talking in Meachum’s hunting cabin when Swagger kills them and causes the cabin to explode. Swagger then makes his way down the mountain, where Sarah is waiting in a car, and they drive off together.

Shooter received mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “With an implausible story and numerous plot holes, Shooter fails to distinguish itself from other mindless action-thrillers.” The scene where Swagger shoots a counter-sniper through the rifle scope and hits him in the head is based on an infamous kill by U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, who killed a counter-sniper in Vietnam by shooting him through the scope and hitting him in the eye. Shooter was a modest hit at the box office, earning $95.7 million off of a $61 million budget and years later, would spawn a TV show based off of the movie.

I still think the book was better than the movie, but this was a decent movie in itself, despite the general feeling of being a generic action flick. The acting was good, with Mark Wahlberg (Swagger) and Michael Pena (Memphis) doing great in their roles and showed great chemistry acting off of each other. I also thought that Danny Glover (Johnson), Ned Beatty (Meachum), and Elias Koteas (Payne) did a great job in their roles. The plot was a pretty good thriller, feeling a little bit like The Fugitive in the whole innocent man trying to prove his innocence, just with more guns involved. The aspect of Swagger finding out that he unknowingly helped cover for black ops contractors doing something illegal added more motivation to his actions and helped give a better sense of purpose to his wanting to prove his innocence. The special effects in the gun fights were good for the most part, though in some cases they were toned down according to the sniper expert involved in the film. It is fairly generic movie but good enough to keep you entertained if you want to give it a shot.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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