COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

THE HOT ROCK, CINDERELLA LIBERTY, ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL and DISTANT VOICES STILL LIVES

Friday, July 13, 2012

AMERICAN REUNION: PIE BAKED ONCE MORE


One of the first movies in the teen gross out genre was AMERICAN PIE. The movie was funny, had some jokes that a few people might find offensive and on the whole was quite entertaining. It was followed by a few lackluster sequels that never quite got the whole gang together again. So it's nice to see that everyone has come back for the reunion. AMERICAN REUNION that is.

Believe it or not it's been 13 years since we the teens in the series graduated and moved on. Yes, we know that Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and Jim (Jason Biggs) got married (one of the sequels). Jim works at a good job and they have a son now. What they don't have is an interesting sex life, the crux of their problem in this film.

What's up with everyone else? Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is in love with a working woman and about ready to tie the knot himself. He works at home as an architect and the couple tend to do more things that interest her than him but he's content. Oz (Chris Klein) is a sports announcer in LA whose girlfriend seems to be far more off the beaten path than he might like. Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a mystery with rumors of him traveling the world. And Stiffler (Seann William Scott) remains Stiffler, the ever adolescent party man who works as a temp assistant to a tyrannical boss.

All of these friends have kept in touch and seen one another from time to time, but this year they've decided to get together for their thirteenth class reunion. Not only that they're coming into town early to just get in touch with one another again. They omit Stiffler from the gathering but he finds his way to them anyway. And it's Stiffler that is the same as he was 13 years ago and who pulls them into their past.

The set ups for various jokes work well into the storyline. Going to the beach they all enjoyed when they were teens they do what all responsible adults do, they get drunk. This leads to a prank Stiffler finds hilarious and the others consider a little immature.

The little girl that Jim babysat while in high school is all grown up in every way imaginable and Jim can't believe his eyes. When she gets drunk at a party he takes her home only to have her hit on him. With the help of his friends he just might get her in the house without her parents finding him.

A party Stiffler throws is not quite what he expected with people from work more suit and tie with a bottle of wine than T shirt and keg. His party seems boring until he gets things rolling. This sequence has one of the funniest yet grossest jokes in it.

Misunderstandings and final reconciliations are in order and the movie does have a happy ending. No not one of THOSE happy endings although Jim's dad (Eugene Levy) does bring that up in a conversation. His story is one of the funniest as well as Jim's dad finds possible romance with Stiffler's mom. In any event there was never any doubt that the film would provide us with a happy ending and leave it open for another sequel and that might be a good thing. It's interesting to watch these teens grow into adults and see how they deal with one another as they change.

Amazingly enough the center piece of the film is the life of Stiffler. He misses the old days and while he may have been a jerk to the rest of the characters, he actually loved them as well. They were important to him and meant something to him. On his own he has little to feel good about but with these friends in tow he finds that person that's been missing since graduation.

The acting seen here is natural but then again these are characters that the actors should by now be very comfortable with. It's nice to see them reprise the roles that actually started some of their careers. Each one displays the character at a different time in their life and does it well.

For me the clincher to these movies and to the gross out raunchy teen films in general is was I entertained? I can honestly say yes, this movie does indeed entertain. It made me laugh. It made me care for characters I hadn't watched in some time. It made me reminisce about my high school years as well. It's nice to see a movie that one would place in a niche category swing about and complete so many more. Don't sell this movie out. It's well worth taking the time to see.

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SAFE HOUSE: NOT QUITE BOURNE


Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that as Denzel Washington gets older he's playing more and more characters with killer instincts? In SAFE HOUSE, Washington once more plays a character that you hope you never find tracking you down or waiting in your home.

The film opens with Washington meeting a member of MI6, Britain's spy agency, and receiving a microchip filled with information. Heading to the bathroom of the restaurant they're in, he injects it into his hip. When the bad guys come knocking on the restroom door Washington dispatches them with ease and escapes. The MI6 agent picks him up in his car but before they can get away he's shot. Washington makes his escape to the American consulate and turns himself in.

We discover that Washington's name is Tobin Frost, an ex-CIA agent who went off the grid and has been selling secrets to various organizations around the world. Considered a traitor, the consulate turns out to be in South Africa and he's to be taken to a safe house until a team can get to him and "extract" information from him.

The safe house is operated by a fairly new agent named Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). It's his first assignment with the CIA and he wants to impress, to move forward. He gets his chance when the information team arrives closely followed by the hit squad that was chasing Frost to begin with. They take out the team but before they can take Frost, Weston escapes with him only to be tracked down. They eventually escape but you know this assassination team will eventually find them.

Calling in, Weston is told that he needs to move forward to another location and pick up the means necessary to get Frost to another safe house in South Africa. After picking up the package with various items he needs at lockers in a crowded soccer stadium, Frost causes a scene claiming he's been kidnapped. The security believes him and ignores Weston's pleas only to have Frost kill his guards and escape. Weston follows suit and continues his chase of Frost.

But there's more going on here than a simple chase film. The movie is also about what caused Frost to become who he is today and watches as Weston alters from a totally innocent and naive agent into something much more deadly. The fact that Frost has a background in psychological warfare makes the viewer wonder is he just trying to mess with Weston's head or is he trying to help he get a view of the bigger picture? The answer to that question isn't offered until near the end of the film.

Another question that runs through the film is the fact that somewhere in the CIA there is a traitor. How is it that the assassination team knew where the safe house was? How have they been able to track down Frost as he moves from place to place? And who gave them the information that led them to him at the beginning of the film? As viewers we wonder about these questions. As a participant, Weston must try and find the answers to these questions as well, never knowing who is an ally or foe.

The film moves at a frantic pace with tons of car chases, gun fights and hand to hand combat sequences. Unlike the spy films of the past, people actually get shot, stabbed and bleed. There is a touch more realism here than spy films past. But that goes hand in hand with the story of undeserved loyalty and questions of deciphering who exactly the bad guy is.

Washington has never been better. There are subtle plays at work here he delivers that make you wonder if Frost is good, bad or indifferent. The answer is found by the end of the film. Reynolds does an equally great job portraying an innocence in his character that gets jaded as the film progresses. How he ends up, what he will become is also answered by the end of the film.

Most films like these today are compared less with Bond and more with Jason Bourne. This film is grittier than the Bourne films and much more so than the Bond series. It will hold your attention and have you guessing from start to finish as to what is actually on the microchip that Frost has possession of. It delivers the goods from start to finish an is well worth taking the time to sit back, watch and enjoy.

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BANGKOK ADRENALINE: KIDNAPPING TO MAKE MONEY SOUNDS EASY, RIGHT?


There are tons of movies made around the world, some great, some mediocre and some down right terrible. But the fact of the matter is that most fall into the center category, not quite good but not as bad as some big budget films out there. Such is the case with this film.

Four backpacking friends land in Bangkok and hit the town. Between dance joints and bars their funds run a little low so one has a plan to make back what they've spent: get into a high stakes poker game! All goes well at first but then they lose what money they have left...as well as money they don't have. The stereotypical Thailand gang boss tells them he breaks a finger for every 1,000 batt they owe. But since they owe 1,000,000 he's going to run out of fingers before he gets paid. He gives them one week to come up with the funds.

Taking menial jobs here and there, everything from professional wrestler to male stripper, the group doesn't seem to have a chance of making the money. That's when one of them comes up with the idea of kidnapping a wealthy American's daughter and holding her for ransom. The kidnapping goes fine and of course the young woman is a mouthy whiner that they're anxious to get rid of but her father keeps telling them that he can't come up with the funds they want. They negotiate for a smaller sum and head out to collect.

The best laid plans saying kicks in here. Rather than send the money the American, a crook if there ever was one, sends out his bodyguards who bring along a gang that seems trained in martial arts. Good thing our 4 semi-heroes are great fighters. They battle back and forth and eventually escape.

Along the way the group discovers that the American has no intentions of paying them anything at all. As a matter of fact he wants the girl dead. So much for fatherly love. Now instead of holding her ransom they try to help her along with the bodyguards who have no idea how conniving their boss really is.

The film has so many loopholes in the plot that to try and list them would result in a review longer than what I've written so far. The idea that these idiots come up with is not only far fetched but downright stupid. But that's not what folks who look at movies like this care about. They're interested in the fight sequences and honestly there are some great ones on display here.  Where Jackie Chan and his team brought fast paced frenetic energy to fight sequences in the past, films being made in Indonesia and Thailand are upping the ante creating some classic fight scenes and catching them on film.

No, the movie isn't the greatest thing ever made but it's not the worst either. Anyone interested in this title will do so just to watch the fight sequences. To rent it for any other reason is to end in disappointment.

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MONGOLIAN DEATH WORM: CGI STRIKE AGAIN...BADLY


How can you go wrong with a movie that has a title like this? I mean who DOESN'T want to see a movie with a death worm? Better yet that the title creature comes from Mongolia! My honest guess is that most people (especially younger ones) have no idea where Mongolia is let alone why it would be plagued by death worms. That's a good thing too because most of this movie looks like it was shot in a woods near the film makers home rather than Asia.

An American oil company (it's always nice to have a convenient bad guy in films) is using a new technique to drill in a region of Mongolia. Unfortunately when they do so they awaken a den of death worms, huge slime covered creatures with retractable shooting tongues that swat out to catch their prey. So far so good. Now let's toss some more plots into this.

A rogue archeologist named Daniel is on the run from some smugglers he's apparently crossed paths with. They apparently were helping fund his search for the tomb of Genghis Khan.  Only his friend, a local policeman, saves him. But you know what they say about payback. When a truck transporting two physicians involved in Doctors Without Borders to a small village breaks down and the policeman has another crime to handle, Daniel is recruited to take them to the village.

Complications arise in various ways. Daniel and his doctors are captured by the man trying to find him. They are only saved when the death worms intervene and the bad guys are killed. And if we didn't have enough plots to follow, it turns out that the man overseeing the oil drilling plant was also waiting for the bad guys to transport an illegal shipment he has waiting at the plant. Of course this is where everyone eventually arrives including the death worms.

The story has way too much going on here. The acting is standard but not outstanding. Then again you can only do so much with what you're given. Worst of all is the effects. If this movie wasn't made specifically for SyFy then I would be surprised. It features that same poor CGI creature of the week effects seen in so many of their made for cable movies.

While this isn't the worst movie ever made, it is pretty bad. If you find that it's the last movie on the rental shelf then I would suggest you pull out a deck of cards and play solitaire.

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CROWLEY: LET HIM DIE IN PEACE


Another rather short review it seems on another movie that took me some time to get around to watching. Had I never done so I don't believe I would have missed a thing.
This film is noted simply because one of the writers behind it is Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of the heavy metal group Iron Maiden. Suffice to say that he should stick to writing heavy metal and not films.

The story revolves around Alistair Crowley, a man connected with much evil and mystery back in the early 1900s. Crowley was accused of dabbling in witchcraft, Satanism, orgies, drugs and more and was considered quite a notorious person which has led to a certain amount of fascination with him. References to him can be found in images on the SGT. PEPPER album and in the song "Mr. Crowley" by Ozzy Osbourne.

What we're presented with here is the death of Crowley as witnessed by two students who took an interest in him. Having claimed to have been born many times and lived many lives, he tells them in passing he'll return. Fast forward to the present and we have one of the students now grown and teaching at a university in England. At this same university a study is going on involving a super computer being attached to a human brain. Unfortunately the programmer of that computer is also into Crowley and has programmed in as much information and spells made by him into the computer as well. The end result is that Crowley is reborn in the person of a rather timid professor by possessing him.

What follows is Crowley's attempts to make the possession permanent. This involves orgies, drugs, spells and more that must be completed within 4 days for it to take hold. As he does so the professor who was involved with the computer along with a young student who's a journalist attempt to find out just what is going on at the campus and why the timid professor of before is now so bold.

I imagine if you were fascinated with the title character or believed in the items presented this might be a decent film. I found it tedious to the extreme and boring on the whole. I wasn't left wanting to know more about the real man but instead ready to find a new home for the copy of the film I was watching. Pass this one by.

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UNFAITHFUL: PREDICTABLE TO A POINT


When this movie was released in 2002 I wasn't in a rush to see it. The same holds true of its initial release to DVD. So when I got the blu-ray copy in it took me a while to get around to it. By the end of the film I realized I wasn't wrong in putting it off.

Diane Lane plays Connie Sumner, a suburban housewife and mother who loves her husband Charlie (Richard Gere) and adores her son. On a trip to New York she finds herself in the midst of a wind storm and bumps into a young man named Paul (Olivier Martinez) carrying a load of books. They help one another up and he offers her the use of his bathroom to clean up and bandage a nasty scrape on her knee. This act of kindness ends up in flirtation but nothing comes of it. Until later.

As she recalls the encounter, Connie ends up going back to meet with Paul and an affair ensues. Connie finds herself caught up in the moment, exhilarated by the secretive meetings and sexual involvement but at the same time knowing that she's putting her life back home in jeopardy. It's not that she's unhappy at home or that she's married to someone who treats her bad or ignores her, but she feels something is missing.

Charlie becomes suspicious as Connie's attitude at home changes. The head of a security firm it doesn't take much for him to find someone to follow her and discover just what is going on. How he handles this, what he does after he discovers the affair makes up the latter part of the movie.

This movie just felt like something that the actors walked through. I know during discussions in the extras (one of which is their appearance on the CHARLIE ROSE SHOW) they talk about the depth of their characters and the inner meanings of what transposes during the film, but I never felt that there was the depth that they speak of during interviews.

Director Adrian Lyne has made a career out of sexually charged films in which his characters often toss aside the morality of the day to explore their more animal natures. 9 1/2 WEEKS, FATAL ATTRACTION, INDECENT PROPOSAL and LOLITA are just a few and to me I see a director obsessed with his own views of morality attempting to justify them rather than a film maker intent on making a good movie. In truth I was never a fan of any of these films and found them far too predictable. This one was the same with a slight twist but one that was unsatisfying.

The film will find a number of viewers though. These will be fans of Lane, a beautiful woman who I am certain fills the dreams and imaginations of many lonely males in this world. They will rent or purchase this movie based not on an interest in the film but because somewhere online they discovered pictures of her nude connected to this film. If that's the only reason to watch this then take my advice and don't bother.

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