COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

BLACK VENUS, IT, THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY, TIDELAND, THE HOT ROCK, DIAMONDS OF KILAMANDJARO, GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS, THE HIRED HAND, DAY OF THE JACKAL, and DUCKMAN THE COMPLETE SERIES

Thursday, August 9, 2012

GET THE GRINGO: GIBSON IS BACK

Mel Gibson has become the movie star folks love to kick around. First when he made PASSION OF THE CHRIST folks in Hollywood laughed at him...until the movie became a blockbuster. When he went through his public divorce he was ridiculed. Arrested on drunk driving charges and making anti-Semitic remarks? Screaming at an ex-girlfriend and mother of his youngest child? Yep he was guilty of all these things. And yet he continues to work and make movies. But we're a society more interested in the lifestyles of the rich and famous than their movies. Me? I could care less. I want to know if the movies he makes are good. GET THE GRINGO, his latest, is fantastic.

Gibson stars as a bank robber on the run as the film opens. With a wounded partner and the border patrol on his tail, he heads for the Mexican border and jumps the fence there. When the Mexican border guards find the money in his back seat, they take custody of him. Carted off to jail without his money (that the guards have taken for themselves), Gibson is tossed into one of the worst jails of all times.

The jail is a city unto itself. If guards exist here you never see them with the exception of the walls. Instead a crime boss named Javi controls everything in the prison from where you live to the drugs or guns you want. Living in his own mansion of sorts, he has family members run his business for him. As he navigates this prison, Gibson's character (never given a name) takes note of everything that goes on around him. He knows his only chance for survival is to make himself useful to Javi.

Gibson also gets to know someone who can help him understand what's going on and help him on this path. The Kid (Kevin Hernandez) is a low level hustler who Javi always seems to protect. There is a reason for this that becomes apparent later on (I won't surprise you here). As Gibson finds his way in the prison, he takes the kid under his wing as well. The kid's mother (Delores Heredia) isn't pleased at first, but eventually she takes a liking the Gibson.

While Gibson is making his way through this new territory the men he robbed to start the film off are looking for him. They track down the border cops and torture them to find out where he is. And with enough money behind them, the find their way into the prison armed to the teeth to take Gibson out. What follows is one bloody battle that you won't forget and the need for Gibson to make his move earlier than he intended to.

There are several things that make this movie work, first and foremost Mel Gibson. As he's aged Gibson has a weathered look about him that suits the character in this movie. This is a man who has seen hard times and in so doing knows how to accomplish his goals no matter who he has to use to do so. His character is all about self preservation and nothing more. But as the film progresses we notice his character begin to open a bit and to find a certain fondness for the kid.

The setting of the story plays a major role in the success of this film. You've never seen a prison like this before and hopefully never will in person. The core of the film was based on the true stories of prisons like this in Mexico, some of which have been closed down. How people survive here, how Gibson finds his way around and the interaction between characters in the prison adds to the film.

The last thing that makes this film stand out is the script. Well written much of the story unfolds through the sarcastic narration of Gibson's character. His world weary ways present themselves as he begins with "hello kids..." telling his tale. I once read that many found this character to be much like the character of Porter from Gibson's film PAYBACK. It is very much like that character, a hard core criminal that for some reason you seem to like. This film could easily be a follow up to that film. It would make a great double feature anywhere.

If you like Gibson you'll find this to be one of his better films. The range of emotion he displays through subtle looks and gestures makes this one of his best performances. If you don't like Gibson because of the personal problems get over it and watch the movie for the entertainment value. We all have problems in our personal lives; unfortunately movie stars have them displayed on the front page. If you can forget that for just a while, you'll be watching a good movie.

Click here to order.

GOD BLESS AMERICA: BAD TIMING FOR FUNNY FILM

Why bad timing? Well let's get the plot discussed first and move on to that. Frank (Joel Murray) is having the worst time ever. His neighbors are the worst ever, constantly fighting until the wee hours of the night with a baby that won't stop crying. Frank watches TV to deaden the sound but the things he sees there are so terrible it doesn't help, everything from being able to buy farting pig ring tones to reality shows where terrible women toss used tampons at one another in anger. When he sees a singing competition show (only someone living in a cave won't recognize the jab here), he sees everyone on the show making fun of a contestant who has no idea just how terrible he sounds. But it gets worse.

Frank goes to work where co-workers seem like the rest of the world, eager to make fun of people and talk trash thinking that's entertainment, discussing the loser on the singing program non-stop. When he tries to tell a co-worker how terrible it is that people seem to have nothing better to do than be uncivil to one another he's called to the office to discover he's being fired. His transgression was that he sent flowers to the receptionist because she told him she was having a bad day. In today's world this constitutes sexual harassment. To cap off his day, Frank goes to his doctor to find out he has an inoperable brain tumor.

Going home with the intent of killing himself, Frank once more turns on TV only to witness a reality show where a rich spoiled brat complains about everything going so far as to curse out her parents for buying her the wrong car for her birthday. Frank has had enough. He goes to the town where the girl lives and watches her until he has the chance and then kills her. A young girl witnesses the killing and tells him he's fantastic for doing so. A twist leads the girl to join Frank and off they go on a road trip where they discuss and sometimes kill those who are uncivil to everyone else.

I know, it sounds twisted and a bit rough. But then again keep in mind this is a dark comedy from director/writer Bobcat Goldthwait who has made some seriously dark comedies in the past as well. At least one moment will place this movie in the category of pitch black dark comedy. Amazingly enough for the violence in the film the truth is the concept behind it IS that the world has become uncivil and he's trying to point that out. The shows on TV celebrate how nasty we can be to one another. Pop-tart stars seem to be the focus of everyone's life these days, who they slept with, where they go, what they wear and more. I mean can anyone honestly tell me why we have more than one series on TV talking about a Kardashian? What did they accomplish or do that deserved a TV series?

If you can get past the violence (and especially something that even I think was over the top in the first 10 minutes of the movie) then you'll find some seriously funny stuff here. The movie hits the mark in the idea of what it is trying to discuss and satirize. Popular culture has taken a turn for the worse in the past decade or so. Discussions on serious topics have gone to the wayside leaving us talking about nonsensical things. We now praise that which we used to scorn. And this movie shows us that.

So why is it bad timing? The first reason is the violence, the choice of the main characters to use guns to solve their problems. More and more every day people are actually doing this in real life. Within weeks prior to this film coming out on DVD there have been several shootings where individuals have gone off the deep end killing groups of people. But rather than blame that person, we still look to find something to blame it on.

Secondly is a sequence in the film that seems as if Bobcat saw it coming. While watching a documentary in a theater, Frank and Roxy deal with punk kids who toss popcorn at them and continue to use their cell phone and talk while the movie is on. Eventually (and this isn't a spoiler since it was in the trailer), Frank turns around and shoots each offender. While many of us have had to deal with inconsiderate patrons at theaters often, the recent shooting in Aurora make this sequence seem a little eerie. While it might have been something to laugh at over a month ago, now it just seems too real.

The often say that art imitates life and in this case it does indeed. The movie is actually quite good and says a lot of things that many people feel is true. The violence will turn off some, especially since there is humor tied to it. But that's always been the case with dark comedy. Thirty seven years ago (has it really been that long?) it was Monty Python lopping off the arms and legs of the Black Knight. Times change and things get increasingly more intense. If you can overlook that and realize that this is a comedy then you're in for a treat. If you're too sensitive then look for another film. This movie is one of the better films I've seen this past year. I would say it's too bad about the timing of the release but instead I'll say it's too bad that someone would actually take things to this extreme in real life.

Click here to order.

BURN NOTICE SEASON 5: MORE MICHAEL WESTEN

I'll say up front that I've been a fan of this series since season one. The concept of a spy who is tossed aside mid-assignment by some unseen person who then tries to redeem himself and find out who burned him was an original concept. The lengths that the series has gone to stay fresh and change up the bad guys from season to season has made it remain constantly interesting and suspenseful as well as providing a mystery that is solved one small piece at a time.

Along for the ride are the same cast of characters that have been there from day one. Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne or Fi, Michael's love interest from the past is a woman with a past and a love of heavy armor. Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) is the old friend and ex-Navy SEAL who has been around Michael longer than anyone. With the exception of Michael's mother Madeline (Sharon Gless) who continues to discover more about her son than she would like. And coming along for the ride from season four is Jesse Porter (Coby Bell), the ex-CIA agent Michael burned but who he helped regain his standing. This cast of characters and actors is a dream team always delivering the goods and never failing. It is this core group that helps make the show so wonderful to watch.

But a perfect cast without a decent plot won't get you anywhere. The writing on this show is amazing. The quips tossed out by Michael and Sam are funny but my favorite part is the descriptions used to tag various characters such as "Julio, not a nice guy". Okay that's a bad example but once you get into the series you'll know what I'm talking about.

Season five kicks off with Michael somewhat back in the good graces of the CIA. Not completely taken off the burn list, Michael is assigned a handler to keep him involved and out of trouble named Max. Unfortunately for Max, someone kills him and set up the evidence to point straight at Michael as the assassin.

Agent Pearce is assigned to find out who it was that killed Max. Unable to turn to her for help, Michael and his group are trying to discover the same thing. At the same time a man who helped Michael get out of jail takes up much of Michael's time as well. Certain that this man is behind it all or at least a part of the organization that did him wrong, Michael plays out his options hoping to get enough evidence to take them down.

The season ends with the actual man behind it all, the one pulling all the strings, meeting with Michael and forcing his hand. He wants Michael to take out the CIA team he's working with and to come work for him. But Fi has plans of her own when it comes to helping Michael.

The twists and turns of this main plotline are interwoven with Michael and his group helping other people in need as well. It's not always just about the CIA or the covert organization beneath it all, its often about helping some poor shmuck out of a jam as well. Sometimes these are friends or acquaintances and other times its someone Michael isn't quite fond of. But a case never seems to get turned down and the group always comes through in the end.

This series looks great, is acted great, written great and best of all entertains from start to finish. Season five takes Michael into a whole new world of good guys and bad guys and as has happened before who he thinks is at the core of it all turns out to be just another pawn manipulated by some higher power. As season six has begun on TV we find out more layers beneath these layers as well. I know the series will end one day. Let's just hope that the conclusion is as suspense filled as the series has been for 5 seasons.

Click here to order.

WHITE COLLAR SEASON 3: ANOTHER GREAT SERIES

It seems amazing to me that so much great television is happening right now. For so long there was nothing to watch on TV. I found myself watching little more than reruns because the then current crop of shows were terrible. And then a few years ago something happened. New shows were interesting and had characters that I cared about. Show stopped revolving around the central character and an entire cast was now central to a show's success. What was even more amazing was that these shows didn't begin on network TV but on cable stations, causing networks to up their game. But cable has continued to lead the way with shows like this one.

To catch up the series is about a spectacular con man by the name of Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer). Neal was in prison when the show began, captured by the ever diligent FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay). When Burke needed help on a particular case he was able to get Neal a release as long as he wore an ankle bracelet. This led to a partnership with Neal helping out the FBI's white collar task force in New York. It also led to several mishaps with Neal almost skirting the law and at the end of season 2 doing so completely. It was then that he and his cohort Mozzie (Willie Garson) were able to pilfer the contents of a missing sub that was filled with all sorts of art and riches.

As this season opens the loot has been set aside and Neal and Mozzie continue to decide just what to do. At the same time Peter has a clue that the treasure didn't disappear in an explosion but was taken away prior to the fire. He suspects Neal but has no clues which digs at him since he and Neal have developed a rapport with one another. Peter sees the good in Neal, he just needs Neal to see the same.

This season is filled with numerous characters and references to the past of several main ones. A gangster from Mozzie's past shows up in one episode. A classmate of Jones (another FBI agent) goes missing. Keller, the man who put the lives of many in this group in jeopardy, returns to seek down the missing treasure. And by the end of the season, Agent Kramer (Beau Bridges), Peter's mentor from long ago, steps in and tries to take Caffrey for his own use with plans to toss him aside when he finishes with him.

The intriguing part about this series is the suave and sophisticated manner that Caffrey demonstrates while Peter always comes off as a working stiff determined to catch the bad guy. Peter also is the nice guy who wants to help Neal go straight. The two characters, adversaries at the start, have developed an admiration for one another as the show has progressed. You find yourself wanting them to be best friends but at the same time know that until Neal is released and changes his life around that won't happen. These are characters that you root for.

As with BURN NOTICE, this series is well crafter. The acting is top notch, the look of the show makes you want to actually visit New York and the stories are compelling enough to hold your interest from start to finish. Combine those stories with the thread that runs all season concerning Neal and Mozzie and the missing treasure and you have a hit show. This one is not just worth watching but worth owning as well.

Click here to order.

THE FP: ARE YOU FOR REAL?

When I first saw the trailer for THE FP and learned what it was about I could only do one thing. I laughed. Hard and loud. Are you for real? A post apocalyptic film where gangs fought one another for possession of turf by...dance dance revolution?

Much of THE FP seems like something that would come out of a Troma film. That's a compliment, not an insult. The production values are low budget but you can't really tell because the film looks that good. There is little to no money coming along to rescue this film so it all depends on the effort made by those involved. That effort is tremendous.

As I said, the film takes place in what appears to be the near future, a world where everyone seems to do little more than get drunk and celebrate their heroes, those who face off in dance dance revolution. If you don't know what ddr is it's the game where to contestants stand on a platform made of squares and must imitate the patterns appearing on the screen making dance moves in the process.

The main hero is Btro, a player who has yet to be beaten. His brother Jtro (Jason Trost) is also a competitor but not near the player Btro is. On a fateful night, Btro is facing L Dubba E, the winner taking control of the FP (short for Frazier Park where the film takes place). During the competition Btro has a heart attack and Jtro swears to never ddr again.

A year later and we find Jtro working a road crew. His friend KCDC comes to him and tells him they need his help. L Dubba E has taken control of the liquor store and now the drunks are limited to meth instead of getting drunk. KCDC pleads his case to Jtro telling him the drunks no longer feed the ducks in the local lake. "Do you know what it's like to have a lake with no ducks?" he screams? Ok so that should tell you how funny this movie can get.

Jtro returns home and KCDC helps him by getting him to the toughest trainer ever, BLT. BLT doesn't pull punches and hold Jtro up to his own high standards. He knows Btro was the best there ever was but also knows that Jtro has the potential to replace him. In a series of Rocky inspired montages we witness Jtro in training. But can he beat L Dubba E?

Along the way we have a touch of romance tossed in as well. Jtro's long lost love Stacy is glad he has returned as well. A heavy drinker with a father she hates, Stacy has always hoped for a way to be noticed. Jtro gives her that chance. Don't misunderstand though. Stacy is as far from a fairy princess as you can get with a reputation for various sexual acts, one of which closes the film as it fades to black.

I know, you're probably scratching your head thinking I've gone insane to recommend a movie that sounds like this. Had I not watched it I would have thought the same thing. But with the low expectations I had as it began I was astounded by how much heart was put into this thing. It also provided me some great belly laughs that I hadn't had much chance to expel in some time.

This movie is definitely not for everyone. Those with a sense of adventure or looking for something different will love it. Those who admire Troma films will love it. Those who look for anything off the wall will love it. All others beware. You just might find yourself laughing at the most inappropriate things.

Click here to order.

LOCKOUT: LOCK DOWN ON ENTERTAINMENT

When I saw the trailer for LOCKOUT before it hit theaters I thought it looked interesting but not enough for me to shell out the $8 for a matinee ticket. Actually there are few movies these days that make me feel that way. So I'm happy to report that the movie, just released on DVD, is well worth that $8 and more. No, it's not LAWRENCE OF ARABIA but it does offer plenty of entertainment for your money.

The year is 2079 and Guy Pearce is Snow, an ex-CIA agent caught in a trap where an old friend was killed but not before passing him a briefcase. Snow escapes with the briefcase but only enough time to pass it on to his friend Mace. Caught by the new agent in charge Scott Langrel (Peter Stormare), Snow is unwilling to give up any information and quickly sentenced to 30 years in stasis (frozen) on the newest prison rotating in space above the Earth.

Before he can get there though things happen. Emilie Wornock (Maggie Grace), the daughter of the President, is at the space station looking things over to make sure there are no civil rights violations going on. The group she works with is looking into illegal activity taking place there, experimentation on the inmates. To interview one he must be "thawed" as all prisoners are encapsulated in their cells. During this interview he takes a gun from the Secret Service man assigned to Emilie (that he snuck in) and begins to set free all the prisoners.

A rescue mission is set up to save the President's daughter but her chances of survival are slim. In steps Harry Shaw (Lennie James), a friend of Snow's who's been trying to help him and get information from him. He suggests that Snow is the only person alive who can be snuck onto the orbiting station and rescue Emilie without harm. Put in place as a back up plan the first attempt to rescue her fails and he heads in.

Via a tracking chip on Emilie Snow is directed to her location and tries to save her but it thwarted by her Secret Service agent. He gets around this eventually and tries to help her. While this is going on one of the worst prisoners, Alex (Vincent Regan) takes charge and sets about negotiating with those in charge for her release. Alongside him is his brother Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), a totally mad screw up who finds more pleasure in killing people than negotiations. These two along with some of the most deadly men to ever walk the Earth are now searching for Snow and Emilie with one purpose in mind: escape.

If that wasn't enough plot for you consider this extra. Mace is now imprisoned on the space prison too. Snow needs to find the briefcase he entrusted to him before he was caught to take down the bad guys that framed him and killed his friend. All he has to do is find him among the 500 or so insane criminals now set free while saving the President's daughter at the same time.

Many of the ideas found in this movie could have resulted in a truly bad low Z grade movie. But the cast, crew and writers up the ante and make it more fun than you would think possible. With the exception of a not too realistic CGI motorcycle chase, the effects are top notch. Everything from explosions to space situations seem real.

The thing that makes this work more than anything though is the acting by Pearce and Grace in their roles. Snow is a smart aleck, self assured, one man force who has the ability to save the seemingly pampered President's daughter. Emilie is the naive young woman who thinks she knows what's going on but clearly has no clue. When you couple the two together they both learn something, though Snow seems more in line to teach than learn.

The pacing is fast and furious and shot fantastically so that you catch it all on the screen. The concept of a rescue mission is well thought out even if the plans to make it happen fall apart over and over again. This movie is pure popcorn flick of the week and takes you on a ride that delivers on all accounts. I've always said that the first purpose of a movie should be to entertain. With this film I found myself knowing I could watch it a second time and enjoy it again, making it a film worth seeing.

Click here to order.

THE GLADES SEASON TWO: DEPTH OF CHARACTER PROGRESS

Out of nowhere it seems that many cable channels are coming alive with some of the best television shows on the air. I've found myself captivated by shows like WHITE COLLAR, BURN NOTICE and COVERT AFFAIRS while passing over many network shows. The reason is that these shows are smart, well written and entertaining. That holds true with the A&E series THE GLADES.

Season one of THE GLADES introduced us to the main characters, who they were and how they ticked. The show focuses Jim Longworth (Matt Passmore), a Chicago detective who made a mistake and was forced out of town. Longworth now works in a small Florida town for the State Police in their homicide division. His methods are unusual to say the least but his record is tops.

Side characters in the series include Carlos Gomez as Carlos Sanchez, the local coroner and friend of Longworth, Michelle Hurd as Colleen Manus the head of the local division and Jordan Wall as Daniel Green, Carlos assistant and resident nerd. But there is an additional main character as well in Callie Cargill (Kiele Sanchez), a local nurse and single mother who finds a mutual attraction to Longworth that begins in season one and continues to develop in season two.

While solving a weekly murder is the main focus of the series, the relationship between Jim and Callie is of equal importance. In season one we found out that Callie is still married but that her husband is in prison. She wants to divorce him but has held off until his release. With season two he gets an early release and now Callie must decide what to do: stay with a man who is trying to get his act together or go with Jim. The fact that her son continues to love his father but finds a friend in Jim complicates matters.

If that weren't enough there is a problem on Jim's side as well. An ex-colleague from Chicago comes down to help with a case. But this isn't just any ex-colleague. This is a woman that Jim was involved with, not just a partner of the force but in life as well for a time. Will romance rekindle or will Jim wait for Callie to make up her mind about what she wants? These and other personal questions make the series interesting from a different standpoint than the murders he investigates.

But the investigations are of interest as well. Jim Longworth is a character who is long on smart aleck quips, sarcasm and the insight to see beneath what lies on the surface. My only misgiving about the character is his willingness to toss out accusations like they hold no meanings and hoping they will stick. It would seem a charge of harassment might stick if one of the accused here considered filing. But that's reality and this is TV. The remarks help him solve the case and we get entertained in the process.

The cases are much like season one in that they don't always have the normal type murders that actually exist in the real world. Instead we have a murder in a community where sideshow carnival acts have gone to retire. Or we get into a murder of a NASCAR driver. These are not the typical fare for most murder mystery shows but they all seem to fit into this one.

There isn't an actor in this series who doesn't fit their part to a T. Not only that, each and every one excels at the role they play. To pull one front and center as the best would be to do a disservice to the rest. They all are phenomenal. As the main character Passmore does take center stage but he's often more than willing to share that with his co-stars.

It seems odd to say this as I read it in print, but this show about murder and crime is actually quite entertaining and funny. But there are moments that touch the heart as well. Give it a view and my guess is you'll find yourself much like I have, watching the series as it airs as well as enjoying the DVDs. This is one series that delivers the goods.

Click here to order.

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI: FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY

The difference between a good documentary and a bad one lies in the ability of the storyteller to draw the viewer in and make him interested in the subject matter. A bad documentary about an interesting subject can kill and a good documentary on a subject that most don't care about can pull you in. Most lie somewhere in the middle. But then there are documentaries that are simple and elegant and you suddenly find yourself wanting to watch till the end. JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is one of those films.

Jiro Ono is a master sushi chef. His title and abilities have been developed over a period of nearly 75 years. At 85 he continues to come to work every day, hating those days when he's not there. Working in a small restaurant in the basement of a Tokyo office building, Jiro has become the ultimate man to speak of when it comes to sushi. His restaurant was the first to garner a three star rating from Michelin, the ultimate achievement for those included.

Rather than focus on the years it took for Jiro to establish himself the film looks at his life now and his two sons, Yoshikazu and Takashi. The obligatory back history is provided but not the main idea presented. Instead the film looks at the life of Jiro and his obsession for perfection. To this day even after the accolades he has received he continues to feel he can do better and strives to do so. Each piece of sushi is hand crafted by Jiro to make it not just a source of nourishment but an enjoyment for the customer as well.

At 85 Jiro can't carry on forever and the film delves into the lives of his sons as well. Yoshikazu is 50 and works in the restaurant alongside his father. He is a master of the craft as well but will forever live in the shadow of his father. And yet he stays and helps, learning every day and passing the information on to those who work with them.

Takashi has moved on and created his own restaurant elsewhere in town. Like his brother, he too will have to live in the shadow of his father. But even if these two men only achieve half the success of Jiro, they will become legendary in their own right.

The film follows everything about the life of Jiro with the exception of being home. Since most of his time is spent at the restaurant that's where most of it takes place. He talks of how dedicated he is to this world. He also talks about how he wasn't always there for his sons when they were growing up. But the dedication to his profession and his family shines through.

I don't like sushi but even I wanted to try some of the items on display in this film. Jiro does indeed make incredible looking food but simple food as well. His philosophy on what he makes comes through from the start.

By the film's end it does what every great documentary does, it draws you into its topic and holds you there for 81 minutes. You find yourself wondering what a trip to Tokyo would be like and how you would find this small restaurant, knowing that to get in you need to make reservations a month in advance. And you find yourself admiring this small 85 year old man for living the life he chose and finding happiness in that. It's all anyone can hope for.

Click here to order.

THE THREE STOOGES: A FITTING TRIBUTE

One thing is certain when it comes to the Three Stooges: you either get them or you don't. Those that don't never find the humor that comes from their antics. Those that do are die hard fans who love each and every slap and eye poke. These were the comedies that fueled not just one generation but several. Their short films played in theaters across the country only to later on become a daily staple for the TV generation. But their popularity waned and their recognition factor dropped. All that is about to change with the release of this new film.

The Farrelly brothers, the comedic team behind DUMB AND DUMBER, THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and SHALLOW HAL, are major fans of the original Three Stooges. What they've done is attempt to recreate the stooges original form of comedy for a new generation with three new actors in the roles made famous by Moe, Larry and Curly. They succeed on all levels.

The story revolves around three babies dropped off at a Catholic orphanage. As the boys grow they unwittingly terrorize the nuns that run the place. Their antics continually get them into trouble and since they tend to run together they never find a home. When Moe is about to be adopted, he tells his new parents that the best thing would be if they took all three boys. Rather than do that, they take him back and adopt a single child.

As the three grow older they remain at the orphanage, helping out on the property and doing their best to keep things running smoothly. Then again these are the three stooges and anything they touch rarely runs smooth.

The day comes when the church decides they can no longer fund the orphanage. The children are to be slit up into foster care and the nuns placed elsewhere. The boys can't let that happen and go off in search of fame and fortune so that they can save the day. Ill prepared for the world the sisters trust them to at least give it their best shot.

As with the classic stooges' comedies, the three rarely have a clue what is actually going on around them. Seeing them seeking work Lydia (Sofia Vergara) hires them to kill her husband in his sleep explaining he wants to do peacefully. Thinking Mac (Craig Berko), the man with her, is her husband, they accidentally toss him about and land him in the hospital where they try to finish the job. This leads to a hilarious squirt fight using peeing babies in the maternity ward.

Eventually the boys meet an old friend from the orphanage named Teddy. Teddy was the boy adopted over Moe. Now a wealthy lawyer, he tells the boys to get in touch with him. As fate would have it, we later find out that Teddy is the husband of Lydia that she wants taken out. Before we get that far the boys have a falling out and Moe sets out on his own only to wind up in the reality series JERSEY SHORE where he slaps the cast of that show like his brothers. Oh how we wish that were true.

As the plot threads come together the comedy stays with the whole idea until the problems of each character are solved. The film moves along at a brisk pace and the comedy of the situation is mixed well with the slapstick physical comedy that was what the stooges were noted for.

The acting fits the tone and tribute exceptionally well. Chris Diamantopoulos does a great job as Moe, not just in looks but in attitude. Sean Hayes not only looks the part of Larry but sounds just like him as well (his bit with a lobster is hilarious). Will Sasso has always impersonated Curly and he morphs himself into the role with ease here.

The Farrelly brothers have captured the essence of the Stooges and brought them back to life on the big screen once more. Fans will be pleased with the outcome of this film which is not only enjoyable on its own merits but makes you long for the original Stooges films as well. That will be one of the biggest benefits of this film, bringing the originals to the attention of yet another generation. If you never loved the Stooges then you will probably get little from this film. If you did love them, you'll appreciate the tribute paid here. Either way if you're looking for comedy with little depth and plenty of laughs, then make sure you rent this one.

Click here to order.

MACHINE GUN PREACHER: VENGEANCE IS MINE...


I've always been a fan of Gerard Butler. Most found him interesting when he starred front and center on both PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and 300. I think he's been good not only in those films but the ones most right off as being bad like THE BOUNTY HUNTER and THE UGLY TRUTH. It takes a good actor to make a bad movie enjoyable and Butler has done so. His latest isn't a bad movie but he does make it one worth watching.

Butler stars as Sam Childers, a biker about to be released from prison with a drug addiction problem who finds crime the easiest way to make a living. When he's released he returns home to discover that his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) has given up her old ways. No longer working as a stripper, she has a respectable job and has found religion. Unhappy with this turn of events, Sam heads out to a bar with his friend and cohort Donnie (Michael Shannon).

On their way home they pick up an Indian hitchhiker who threatens them with a knife. Sam takes the knife from him, stabs him repeatedly and tosses the body out of the car.
Reaching home Sam tries to wash the blood off, horrified at what he has done. With Lynn at his side, she helps him find his way to God.

Sam gets his act completely together. He starts a construction company and when he hears God talking to him builds a church for people like himself, outcasts from society who need a place to pray and find help. He rescues Donnie from the life he was once leading. When he meets a missionary from Africa talking about the atrocities that are going on there, he decides to investigate further.

Heading to the Sudan he sees the effects of the war there on the children of the area. When he gets home he tells Lynn that God has called on him to build a refuge for these children and sets out to do so. Gathering any funds and donations he can, Sam does build the church and orphanage. But the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) who stand against these children and their families take offense and attack his stockade. Picking up a weapon, Sam joins his protectors to run them off and a legend is born.

Keeping the orphanage and church open is not an easy task and Sam is tested time and again for his beliefs. His fighting is rare if at all but that changes one night. On the way home after rescuing several children, Sam comes across a number of children stranded by the roadside. Only able to take so many in his truck, he promises to come back for the rest. By the time he does so he returns to find nothing more but their charring bodies burned by the LRA. This sends him over the edge and from then on he carries a weapon which he uses with more frequency.

There is no real ending to this tale. Based on the true story of the real Sam Childers his fight carries on. During the closing credits we get to see footage of the real Sam as he talks about his journey and shows us the church here at home and in Africa. It is an inspiring story that some will side with and other condemn. Those who think everything must be done to save these children will side with Childers. Those who feel you must turn the other cheek will dismiss it. But once you get into the mind of this man who has sacrificed so much for so many, you won't have a choice but to admire him for who he is and what he accomplished. 

Click here to order.

SEEKING JUSTICE: VENGEANCE ALWAYS HAS A PRICE

Nicolas Cage has made some great movies and some bad. The sad truth is that lately he's made more mediocre films than ever. Perhaps that's because he's been making them at such a frantic pace or at least it seems that way. In any event his latest thriller SEEKING JUSTICE offers a decent night's entertainment but still finds itself in that so so stack of Cage films.

In the film Cage plays Will Gerard, an English teacher in an inner city school who is married to Laura (January Jones), a cellist with the local symphony. One night after practice while Will is playing chess with his best friend Jimmy (Harold Perrineau), Laura is attacked and raped when she gets to her car.

Sitting in the hospital waiting room filled with dread and despair over the event Will is approached by a man sitting nearby. Introducing himself as Simon (Guy Pearce) he tells Will that this is not the first time this man has raped someone. He has the man's picture and shows him to Will. Then he offers him a chance for justice. He tells Will he might ask him for a favor in the future, no questions asked. In return, Simon and a group of like minded individuals will take care of the rapist. All he has to do is give them a predetermined sign.

Will makes the choice and gives the sign. Several days later he is given a picture of the rapist who was shot and killed that night. The months go on and Will and Laura move forward. Then one day Simon shows up and asks Will if he's ready to repay his debt. When he thinks it involves his killing someone else, Will reneges on the deal. But Simon forces his hand and lets Will know he's willing to put Laura in danger if he doesn't go along.

Will agrees and is instructed to meet a man they identify as a child molester on an overpass near the highway. Unable to bring himself to kill the man he tries to talk to him but the man attempts to fight Will and accidentally falls onto the street below to his death. While it appears Will has honored the contract, he later finds the police looking for him to arrest him for the murder. It turns out the man wasn't a molester at all but a new reporter.

Avoiding the police and digging deeper, Will finds out the man knew something about the group that Simon is in charge of. On the run and trying to find a way out, Will follows the clues as to who this group is and how high up they go. With helps along the way, he tries to find a way out of the predicament he's gotten himself into.

The movie offers a decent mystery here and a chase that last long enough and not too long to keep the action moving forward. The cast is excellent with the exception of Cage I'm sorry to say. Cage just doesn't feel like the meek type, the milk toast who finds it in himself to take on this group. It's not that his acting is bad but the casting of Cage in this role leaves a lot to be desired.

As with any good thriller there are plenty of plot twists going on here. Some you may see coming while others will catch you off guard. All in all it's an entertaining film that will keep you guessing. It may not be Cage's best film but is by far not his worst.

Click here to order.

BULLHEAD: INTERESTING STORY

Many foreign films seem to often lose something in translation. Either the language barrier or the difference in lifestyles make them hard to follow along and relate to. But on occasion even those items can be leapt over and a solid story can be told and understood. Such is the case here.

Jacky is a beef farmer whose cattle are filled with growth hormones to increase their size and value. He makes a deal with an unscrupulous veterinarian to supply beef to a Flemish trader who is currently under investigation. When a federal inspector is murdered and it looks like this Flemish buyer is involved, Jacky wants out. But there is too much at stake for them to lose his product.

Good enough for one story but there is another going on as well underneath. A henchman for the Flemish gangster is Diedrik, a friend of Jacky's 20 years earlier. The two don't acknowledge one another in the gangster's presence but there is something going on. It seems that something happened 20 years ago that made them part ways and has had a lasting effect on Jacky, something that Diedrik wants to make up for.

This movie works on a number of levels. To begin with while taking place in a rather dull colored area, the look of the film is marvelous. Shots are well placed and the feel of what life is like in Belgium where it takes place comes through clearly. The acting, while in a language different than mine, is so well done that you sense every nuance each actor is trying to explore and offer each viewer. The story is one that draws you in from the start but slowly unravels to reveal all the secrets that began 20 years ago.

Midway through the film a flashback sequence relates just what it was that happened back when. It is painful to watch and chilling as well. To say that what happened will be something that sticks with all the characters involved is to simplify it. If you are at all squeamish it will bother you, not because of the visuals (which are nearly non-existent) but because your mind can create something worse than they could have shown.

Foreign films get a bad rep with the casual moviegoer. This is sad because stories can be the same all over the world, giving us things to contemplate and enjoy. If you love movies, get over the idea that you have to read the film and notice that you're getting the visual as well. Truth be told when you witness a foreign film you probably pay more attention because of the sub titles. You have to focus on the screen and not let yourself be distracted by texts, crying babies or someone who wants to talk during the movie. If you've never tried watching a foreign film then give this one a chance. You'll find its more enjoyable than you would think.

Click here to order.

TREASURE ISLAND: LET'S MAKE IT BETTER!

Gone are the days when people would sit reading classic tales that had been handed down from generation to generation. Stories and books that were once required reading are now passed over for the more popular fare these days. That's sad in so many ways. Stories that once captured the imaginations of children are now ignored. The only way these stories come to life these days is when children see them in film or television format. That would be great except that children rarely seek out the original source and that film makers have a tendency to remake the original in their own mold. Such is the case here.

TREASURE ISLAND is a fantastic book to read and author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote so well that the descriptions and story come alive when reading it. The book has been made into a film more than once, the most famous starring Wallace Beery in 1934 and Robert Newton in 1950. Both stuck to the story at hand and told of the adventures of young Jim Hawkins and the infamous pirate Long John Silver. This new production does the same but alters the tale a bit.

Rather than start with the arrival of Billy Bones at the Inn Jim and his mother run, it starts with Capt. Flint and his treachery towards his crew only then returning to the original tale. Bones holes up in the Inn and tells Jim to let him know if he sees any sea faring man arrive. When one does, Bones knows his days are numbered. After he dies, Jim takes control of his possessions including a treasure map he finds. Seeking help from friend and local doctor Livesy, the pair unite with Squire Trelawney and set out in search of the hidden fortune.

This is where a couple of major changes kick in. First off in the original story we had no idea who Silver was as he works his way into the adventure that these three plan only to reveal himself at a later time. Since he was in the opening sequences we know who he is and what he plans from the start. Secondly, the character of Squire Trelawney in the original was a benevolent person who wanted to help and share with Jim and the doctor. In this version he is an evil man who intends nothing of the sort but instead hopes to take control of the entire treasure once found leaving his companions nothing. This is a major change and feels wrong in every sense of the word.

As the company prepares to sail Silver gets himself hired on as cook. When there seems to be a shortage of sailors to make the tide, he inserts members of his past crew in key positions to help him later take over the ship. None of this is apparent to Jim as he first enjoys the adventure he is on and later begins to think of forming a pact with Silver after Trelawney has told him and the doctor his intentions.

Treachery is the name of the game here and eventually Silver and his men take over the ship once they get to the island. His position of captain of this pirate crew is called into question on more than one occasion, something else differing from the original book. As those that remain hole up in the abandoned fort left on the island, Silver and his men set out to take back the map and pilfer the treasure for themselves. Just who will walk away from the island with treasure in hand waits to be seen.

With the popularity of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films it would seem that this would be a movie just waiting to be remade and apparently those in charge thought so as well. It's just too bad that like most storytellers these days remaking films they decided that it wasn't good enough on it's own merits and decided to change so much of it. Rather than rely on a book that was written so long ago and enjoyed by countless millions, it is turned into a story that barely resembles the original and fails due to the changes that are made. Film makers should learn to leave well enough alone when it comes to classics because they rarely make changes that work.

One also has to wonder why it is that a movie at one time could tell an entire story in 90 minutes yet film makers today seem intent of shooting something that's no less than 2 hours and often times, as is the case her, up to 3 hours long. Perhaps it was so that this film could be a two evening event on television but for me it did nothing more than drag on. If TREASURE ISLAND is the movie you want to see then pass this one by. The only good thing it has to offer is Eddie Izzard as Silver. He does a tremendous job in the role. If only he had played the famous character instead of this one.

Click here to order.

MIRROR MIRROR: THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL IS MISSING

I have to say after watching so many modern day versions of fairy tales I've decided I've joined to ranks of old fogies. I just don't like new fangled updates of classic tales. Perhaps that's not fair. Reworking a classic fairy tale while not saying so directly has turned out okay for some films. But to say this is the real thing when it's not makes for some bad movies. Like MIRROR MIRROR.

From all the advertising and promotions you would think that this movie isn't about Snow White at all and in a sense you'd be correct. It even begins with the evil queen narrating the tale. As played by Julia Roberts all I could think of while watching this was that she's gone from a talented actress to one that wants to be the center of attention. The evil queen is a part of the story but not the focus.

The fairy tale gets twisted to suit the needs of the actors involved with the King marrying the Queen (Julia Roberts) while Snow (Lilly Collins) is young, disappearing and leaving the Queen in charge. Snow lives more along the lines of Cinderella without the work involved, forced to stay out of the public eye while the queen throws parties and more.

Traveling through a local forest is Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) seeking fame and fortune. Unfortunately he is set upon by bandits in the form of seven dwarves on bouncing stilts. Robbed of clothing and money, the Prince is saved by Snow and taken to the castle where the Queen takes a fancy to him, not just because of his looks but because her constant spending has left the castle treasury empty. When Snow catches the eye of the Prince the Queen becomes jealous and has her taken to the forest to be killed, but we know how that ends.

Instead Snow finds the home of the thieving dwarves and asks to be taken in just for the night. Finally relenting, they allow her to stay and find themselves enjoying her company and help. She stays and they teach her how to survive which comes in handy when the Prince shows up later and is accosted by the dwarves once again.

The story goes back and forth with the love interests played out nicely and the Queen fulfilling the role of being evil and nasty. The whole poisoned apple that so many remember from the story (and of course the Disney version) is tossed out only to be dropped in at the last minute but played out differently. The kiss from the Prince to save Snow in the traditional sense is gone as well. And just so you know this isn't your grandparents telling of Snow White, a Bollywood song is tossed in at the very end.

The acting seems plain to me and in parts somewhat amateurish or perhaps it was just the script and the things the actors were doing on screen. The concept of the dwarves becoming steam punk looking robbers didn't set right with me. It shows children that stealing is okay if you have a reason. And the concept of taxing the poor seemed more out of Robin Hood than the story of Snow White. Is this something children understand yet? Then again with the way things are going perhaps the sooner they learn about taxes the better.

I'm sure this is me just not feeling that the story needed retelling or rebooting but while it looked gorgeous it just felt empty to me. I know my great great niece loved it, then again she's 6 and my guess is hasn't seen the Disney version. Knowing that, perhaps the kids in your house will enjoy it as well. But for me it was just a movie to pass time, like a fast food meal that fills you up but leaves you unsatisfied.

Click here to order.

HIJACKED: STRAIGHT TO DVD FOR A REASON

One can say this about Randy Coutre when it comes to acting: he's a great MMA fighter. Honestly it's not that he's that terrible but yes, he needs plenty of help to pull off most movies he's in. In THE EXPENDABLES he did a great job, especially since his part was rather small. In this film as the central character he needs more help.

Coutre stars as Paul Ross, a federal agent trying to track down a secret organization known as The Tribe. This group is responsible for numerous terrorists' bombings and threats that are destabilizing the world. While in Paris he gets information that The Tribe might be about to hijack a plane belonging to wealthy industrialist Bruce Lieb on his way to testify before a tribunal. Meeting the plane and trying to convince him not to go he fails but not before he discovers his ex-girlfriend on the plane. At the request of Lieb he stays on board.

Betrayal is the name of the game as Lieb's sister Michelle is working with the group hijacking the plane. Afraid that she won't get her share of the family money, she's working with them as they attempt to extort billions from Lieb by taking the plane and all on board hostage. They might have the co-pilot on their payroll but Lieb has Ross.

The size of this plane must be enormous as fights taking place in one part are not heard in another. Gunshots, though silenced, aren't heard either. And no one seems to cross paths walking from one end of the plane to the other. But that's not what the movie is about, it's about action and there is plenty of it.

Not only do the good guys have Ross on their side, an old friend named Otto Southwell (Dominic Purcell) is the head of security. He helps Ross throughout the film but if I were him I'd wonder what was up with Ross. Otto gets stabbed, beaten and shot while Ross comes out of the whole thing with a few bumps and scrapes.

The movie isn't on the high end of action adventure films but it isn't bad either. The bad guys are easily recognizable and the good guys as well. But a resolution as to who is behind The Tribe is left open making it possible for a sequel. I hope it never happens. I'd much rather see something new and original for Coutre to star in. Perhaps a Scorpion King sequel...wait he's done that. Let's just hope he gets some acting lessons to go along with his physical skills. The potential for him to be an action star is there, it just needs some polishing.

Click here to order.

JESSE STONE, BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT: AN APPROPRIATE TITLE

One would have to give the makers of this movie the benefit of the doubt when thinking back to the previous 7 outings Tom Selleck has had as the title character. Unfortunately what works a few times doesn't always continue to do so as is evident here.

The film opens with the death by explosion of the town Police Chief who replaced Stone a movie or two back. With no one on hand to replace him, the town comes to Stone to take back his old job. There are no other police officers on hand since all of them quit once the newest Chief took over Stone's position. It was a political move and had nothing to do with the job. They knew it and took off for greener pastures.

As Stone begins digging into the case he uncovers all sorts of clues that lead in numerous directions. But one of these clues must be leading somewhere as a hit man makes an attempt on Jesse's life. As if the murder of the police Chief wasn't enough to raise suspicions this certainly makes it so.

To say there is a deeper storyline going on here is to give the movie more credit than it deserves. Of course there is the continuing development of the character of Stone who deals with depression and the feeling that his job was his life and he is little without it. But the film moves at such a slow pace, something that worked before, that you find yourself thinking come on get on with it finally.

The mystery at the center of the film feels like there are no clues that would lead the viewer to the answer. It's one of those movies where the end feels too contrived and done just to finish things off rather than a methodical police story where clues are worked out to get from point A to point Z.

I enjoy watching Selleck in almost everything I've seen him in. I've even enjoyed several of the other movies in this series. But this time around I just felt like it was being done just to make another one. If they carry on let's hope they have something more to offer.

Click here to order.

HATFIELDS & MCCOYS: SLOW DOESN'T DESCRIBE IT

When I heard about this series coming to television I thought it could be interesting. When I heard that Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton were starring I definitely wanted to see how they did. My DVR wasn't working at the time so I was glad to hear it was coming to DVD. Unfortunately the series didn't live up to my expectations.

We all know the basics of the story, two warring families in the West Virginia/Kentucky area in the late 1800s. This show goes a little more in depth than any we've heard before starting with the original men who were friends only to become deadly enemies later in life.

Anse Hatfield (Costner) and Randall McCoy (Paxton) are seen fighting for the Confederacy as the show opens. Tired of the killing and battle, certain that they're working for a losing cause, Anse decides to quit and head home. Randall disagrees and stays only to be captured while the rest of their unit is all killed.

Anse returns home to start a lumber business and work the land with his family. Randall comes home after years in a battlefield prison, a beaten man and one who won't forgive Anse for leaving him behind. Added to this is the fact that Anse' Uncle Jim has killed a relative of Randall (without witnesses) and the feud between the two families is started.

Along the way various arguments and battles between the two families continue. With as many members of both as are seen here it makes you wonder if there were any other families living in the same area at the time! Bloodshed sways back and forth, hate festers between not just the two men but their families as well and no happy ending is in sight.

So why was it a disappointment? It was boring! The movie moves along at a snails pace giving us details of each and every incident that happens between the two families. The smallest slight is given screen time and the eventual outcome is evident from the start. Perhaps the makers of this series were hoping to give some depth to the story we've all been told, but do we really need the amount of depth they offer here? I found myself on more than one occasion checking the time display on the DVD player to find out just how much was left to watch and that was just on the first disc!

The acting is all over the place. Tom Berenger as Uncle Jim does a good job of being dislikeable. Costner does a great job at trying to bring harmony to the situation, trying to resolve problems only to be stopped dead in his tracks and forced to change into the mean old SOB he becomes. Paxton, an actor I've always thought highly of, just seems to be a one note ball of anger throughout.

The locations used here look drab and unattractive. Having family in West Virginia (thought I haven't been there in some time) I know that the area looks much better than presented here. Perhaps the idea was to show it in the worst light possible to go along with the way things were in those days.

The biggest problem with this show remains the length and the fact that it is boring, taking far too much time to tell the story. Great mini-series have always taken time to unfold a story but those have always held our attention from start to finish. While this isn't the worst mini-series ever it does offer little entertainment value except for pure history buffs.

Click here to order.

DESCENDENTS: HOW BAD CAN A MOVIE GET? WATCH AND FIND OUT





 

I love horror movies. I love bad horror movies and I love good horror movies. Being a George Romero fan I love zombie movies too. But when a zombie movie goes bad it goes really bad. That happens with this film.

In the future a virus has killed most everyone turning them into blood seeking zombies. But a few survivors have had children that have a natural immunity to the disease. Not only that, the zombies don't attack or attempt to eat these children. With three bloody lines across their necks, you know exactly what is coming. Hello? Gills anyone?

The story is told by a young girl as she treks her way to the sea where her dreams have told her to go in search of a giant octopus and a ship that will take these children away. Spoiler alert if you care: yes, they reach their destination and they then change.

It doesn't make a difference if I told you the outcome of this movie or not. Having to sit through it was torture that even being eaten alive would have possibly been better experiencing. The film takes the zombie motif and tries to turn it into an art film. Ho hum. The worst sin a horror movie can make is to be boring. This film does that in spades.  Let me just say that a second viewing of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE would be more entertaining than this film. Watch it at your own risk.


Click here to order.

MAC AND DEVIN GO TO HIGH SCHOOL: WHERE ARE CHEECH AND CHONG WHEN WE NEED THEM?

Comedies revolving around drug use or drinking have been around for quite a while. The same is true of movie about teenagers and going to high school. So it would seem an easy task to combine these two genres and end up with a decent film right? Wrong!

MAC AND DEVIN GO TO HIGH SCHOOL is one of the worst attempts at making a movie that I've ever forced myself to witness. The jokes range from unfunny to stale and the references to marijuana feel forced. It just isn't funny.

The plot is minimal at best. Devin (Whiz Khalifa) is an honors student who's working on his valedictorian speech for graduation. Mac (Snoop Dogg) is a 15 year student at N. Hawthorne High School where he's the weed supplier for everyone from the students to the faculty. The two are thrown together for a science project. If Devin can pull this off he becomes the valedictorian. If Mac can assist, he graduates. Failure to do so means expulsion. Where most movies with a story like this have each learn something from the other, here we just have Devin learn the values of loosening up and getting high.

All I could think of while watching was how is it possible for someone as old as Snoop to still even be allowed to be in a school. His character is so blatant about his weed usage and distribution it's near impossible to believe he's never been arrested in this town. Worse yet is the jokes told here. Their all sophomoric at best and terrible at worst. The jokes in this film make old stoner Cheech and Chong jokes seem sophisticated.

There is nothing about this film that was enjoyable. If you watched it in fast forward mode it wouldn't be enjoyable. This is one movie that is best left untouched. If the topic is what you're looking for pull out a Cheech and Chong CD of movie and enjoy those instead. This one is a waste of time.

Click here to order.