October 6, 2016

    Lisa

    Classics: The Magnificent Seven (1960)


    The opening theme of “The Magnificent Seven” is timeless. It instantly connects you to the wild west and the nostalgia of when westerns flourished in Hollywood.

    In present day, westerns are few. And it’s sad to see the television show “Hell on Wheels” come to an end. But currently a remake of “The Magnificent Seven” is out in theaters and in the spirit of this 2016 remake, I chose to revisit this film.

    Let’s talk cast:

    Chris Larabee Adams: Yul Brynner
    Vin Tanner: Steve McQueen
    Bernardo O'Reilly: Charles Bronson
    Lee: Robert Vaughn
    Harry Luck: Brad Dexter
    Britt: James Coburn
    Chico: Horst Buchholz

    The Story

    When a poor Mexican down becomes prey to a group of bad cowboys, a few of the townsfolk seek help. They offer to pay gunslinger Chris to take care of the baddies once and for all. And in the wild west, that usually means a sort of hit men as it were.

    Chris can’t do it alone. So he enlists others to help for a total of seven. He first teams up with Vin.


    It was a joy seeing these two actors on screen. They were so young, brimming with talent. Yul Brynner played the role with gravitas. While Steve McQueen has a slickness to him, which helps make him memorable since he doesn’t have as much screen time as Yul. And the contrast between the two work well. 

    The first half of the movie is about the team, about the seven coming together and teaching the town how to shoot guns. Because let’s face it, once the mission is complete, these townsfolk may have to fend off the next group of baddies that mosey on their way… after all, this is the wild west.

    The only weak spot for me was Chico. A young man, overflowing with too much pride… So much so, that it feels unbelievable or overacted. Though as the story progresses, he tones down—thank goodness because he plays a big part in this movie since he’s given the love story. This segment was a bit predictable, but sweet at the same time.

    I would have also liked to see a bit more Charles Bronson. Though, he made the best of what he had. Even if Steve McQueen did a better job of capitalizing on his limited scenes with cool quirks like playing with his hat.

    The fight scenes are well done. It’s not just a shoot ‘em up. There’s strategy involved.

    All in all, this classic will continue to live on. Great characters and fun interactions punctuated with exciting action sequences of horse riding and gunslinging.


     Score: 8.75/10 
     

    September 24, 2016

    Lisa

    REVIEW: ARQ


    Going into this movie blind, I came out invigorated by the constant tension generated by the blend of mystery and fast pace action scenes that both stimulated my senses and my mind. There are no lull points. This was one of those nice surprises and another win for Netfilx, who is making movies as well as television shows that make us put a pause on our lives as we binge for hours on end. Not sure if that’s a good thing, but it sure is entertaining!

    “ARQ” is one of those time looping sci-fi movies. These types of films can be tricky when you have to repeat events, as in “Edge of Tomorrow”. It leaves itself open to redundancy. But like in Tom Cruise’s movie, “ARQ” stays fresh because the very nature of knowing what’s going to happen changes everything because you change events. And the key is to have the main character change quickly and not linger for multiple loops. I won’t go into it so as to not give it away how “ARQ” keeps things different and adds something different that deviates from “Edge of Tomorrow”.

    The film centers on Renton (Robbie Amell) who wakes up next to his girlfriend Hannah (Rachael Taylor). And in a day that doesn’t seem to end, Renton is faced with a team of bad guys that invade his home almost as soon as he wakes up, not giving him or the audience much time to catch their collective breaths.

    The frenetic pace keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out who these guys are and what they want along with a confused Renton, while at the same time learning who Renton is and what he knows.

    It’s set in a dystopian time when the environment is unhealthy and people have to wear air masks to go outside.

    Robbie Amell does a good job as an action hero, who’s just an ordinary guy stuck in a crazy situation. There were several ways the ending could go and it was satisfying enough, but makes me wonder if “ARQ” is intended to be a television series. Though I can’t see it going past the first season unless they do something wild and take the looping to another location, which is possible. The two leads and plots are enjoyable enough to make we want to follow them on any future adventures.

    Score: 8/10 
     

    September 1, 2016

    Lisa

    Classics: Laura


    “Laura” is an irresistible whodunit with a seductive style that heats up with every scene.

    When a young woman is murdered, Det. Lt. Mark McPherson is called in to solve the crime. Dana Andrews plays McPherson. He’s slick and cool and knows how to play his suspects. But the hitch in his game is falling in love.

    This isn’t just any murder victim—it’s her… Laura.



    McPherson is haunted by the large picture of her that hangs in the living room. His life is set to pause as he practically lives at her apartment, looking through her personal affects—Laura’s pictures, diaries and letters written by her suiters. All this is necessary to solve the case but an obsession forms and it seems he can’t pull himself away.


    Now, every mystery needs its cast of suspects. And this casts is highly entertaining…


    There’s Waldo (Clifton Webb), the narcissistic writer who’s as wealthy as he is influential. He’s an older man obsessed with Laura. But it seems everyone is obsessed with her. Waldo snubs his nose at those beneath him, which means he does a lot of snubbing because he has the highest regard of himself.

    Shelby (Vincent Price) is the unemployed boy toy who loves Laura while involved with another suspect Ann (Judith Anderson). He’s weak minded and needs to be kept to survive.

    Ann is a rich woman who has no problem financially keeping her man. And she has her eyes set on Shelby.

    There are twists and turns in this mystery, keeping you guessing at every turn. McPherson has a knack for keeping his suspects off balance with a provocative way of making them defensive while relaxing and keeping a sly coolness about him.

    The tone has a sexy noir feeling. With enough rain to give that classic film aura usually found in this genre. Flashbacks are perfectly woven in to see how Laura fits into their lives. She’s a beautiful woman with a tremendous heart and a toughness that makes her difficult to tame, which is also part of her allure.

    I’ve watched this film several times and I never tire of it. I wish it was longer because I can’t get enough of these characters and this world. The film centers on McPherson so we don’t see as much of the lives of the suspects except for how they connect with Laura. But that’s to be expected in a whodunit. It has a satisfying ending that makes sense and doesn’t feel forced. And the acting and character interactions are on point.


    Score: 9.25/10

    August 28, 2016

    Lisa

    Edge Of Winter REVIEW


    A descent film with good tone but light on substance.

    “Edge of Winter” stars Joel Kinnaman as Elliot Baker, the father of two boys.


    Living in a remote area, Elliot is set to get some quality alone time with his sons when his ex-wife goes on vacation with the new man. The ex-wife doesn’t play much of a role as she quickly exits the film, leaving the boys with their father.

    The two boys do a very good job.


    Tom Holland (Bradley) and Percy Hynes White (Caleb)  are quite different. Bradley is the straight-laced kid who is uncomfortable with guns and the outdoors life as a whole. Caleb, on the other hand, is open to the learning about the things his father enjoys, such as shooting a rifle. And as the father tries to bond, there is a bit of a struggle with Bradley and how different they are. There’s an awkwardness to their time together that makes sense and is reflective of the country versus city differences between people.

    But as Bradley and his father find their rhythm, the trio get trapped in the wintry outdoors and end up in survival mode. And this is where the movie shifts with physical dangers, meeting strangers and an overall switch in Elliot, who fears losing his sons and being estranged from them. His mental state becomes fearful and paranoid.

    There’s some really tense-filled moments. Not knowing where it was headed and just how far the story would go. The kids do a great job of selling the panic. And from the start, the film had this ominous tone that hung over each scene.

    “Edge of Winter” isn’t a great movie but it has entertainment value. It lacks a bit of meat in parts. But while it is lean, it does trim down to the main beats without excess. I would have liked a bit more about the strangers they meet. It felt a bit rushed.

    And the movie would have been better served to bring more light into Elliot’s life. The writers may have wanted to keep him more of a mystery to provide more uncertainty, thereby creating more anxiety. But his mental shift felt a bit jarring. Was he always a bit off and the news just broke him, did the accident affect him or the weather? It’s not clear. So maybe it’s all of the above, leaning heavily on the former.

     Score: 6/10

    August 22, 2016

    Lisa

    Netflix’ The Get Down Part 1, Where Dreams Rise From The Rubble


    1970’s South Bronx is the backdrop for this netflix show that details the lives of various characters as disco fills the airwaves while hip-hop emerges from the shadows.  

    I fit into the demographics, having grown up in the South Bronx during this time and being a fan of this type of music and in particular, Grandmaster Flash. I appreciate how “The Get Down” blends in real images from the past into the show to give it a historically accurate feel.

    The central point is the budding romance between Ezekiel (Justice Smith) and Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola).


    She wants to be a singer but is trapped in a home headed by a religious father, who runs a church and has strict rules for his daughter. She dreams of someday leaving for a better place.

    Meanwhile, Ezekiel is a talented poet, who loves his roots. There’s some deep issues here where he is conflicted over the gift he has and how that affects the emotional bonds that leaving the ghetto would have on him. He has embraced the “coolness” of his life and feels a sense of obligation.

    Their romance is a key plot point and it is from here where everything branches out. But it’s also the weak link. They do a good job in the roles and have adequate chemistry, but I don’t feel invested in their relationship. When they’re on screen, the plot clogs up—add to it the ever growing conflicts that scream of contrivances. When one needs the other, things get in the way, things the other seems to prefer to do.

    However, all the other stories are interesting. So as Ezekiel and Mylene have their separate lives, it’s these lives that bring in other characters who energize the plot and propel it forward.


    Mylene’s uncle, Papa Fuerte, is masterfully portrayed by Jimmy Smits. He’s a powerful man who cares so deeply for his people and wants to help them. He uses his political connections in order to get the finances to build homes from the ruins to give hope and instill pride for his people.

    Ezekiel’s best relationship is with Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore).


    Shaolin represents a world where a young man feels trapped, making decisions that further exasperates the stronghold that the ghetto has over him. And so his friendship with Ezekiel and watching how they seemingly exist in the same spot, but are actually heading in opposite directions, is compelling to watch. 

    The two guys combine with three others to form a hip-hop group with crazy mixing. And when watching the first episode, it started off a bit slow and I wasn’t sure where the story was headed until the end of the episode when these guys came together in back alley where we are introduced to “The Get Down”. And from this point onward, the story gains traction. Their lives, the beats, all meld together to form an immersive story.

    Another win for Netflix.


    August 15, 2016

    Lisa

    Suicide Squad… What A Ride!


    Great characterizations I can watch interact all day.

    “Suicide Squad” expands the DC universe with the introduction of Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, an uncompromising government official, who heads this covert group of expendable villains that she forces to do her biding.

    She is coldblooded and I can’t wait to see her again in the DCEU. Surely she’ll continue with the suicide squad and maybe even fund Project Cadmus at some point down the line. She is an important character to the world building.

    Now onto the squad themselves.


    Will Smith as Deadshot is on point. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him shine like this. He brought back that charisma that made him a blockbuster leading man back in the day. This almost makes me forget “After Earth”. And his conflict with Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is the most interesting pairing to watch develop as the movie progresses.

    The characters are the star of the show and propel a simple story to an entertaining affair. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn plays the insane beauty to perfection and if DC is smart, we’ll be seeing more of her.

    The other characters round up the squad and add their own brand of fun to the mix. Boomerang is Jai Courtney’s best role since “Spartacus”. Diablo is totally likeable. I would have liked to have seen a bit more from Killer Croc and Katana.

    The Joker doesn’t have a big role, but that was evident from the trailers. I would have liked an added scene from him though or an extension of a scene because his scenes felt very short, almost like cliff notes. But there was enough in there to get a taste of what we will almost assuredly see in a Batman solo. And please oh please, can I have “Superman: Emperor Joker”.

    The weak spot comes from the secondary villain. Maybe she’s the main villain; but for me, Amanda Waller is the main villain among a movie filled with villains. I think this secondary villain was a bit rushed. I don’t think the story needed a magical element. It could have just gone the simplistic route just like the animated “DCU Batman: Assault on Arkham”.

    “Suicide Squad” doesn’t need a fantastical story with a lot of special affects. I could watch the squad walk through a mall and I’d be entertained. For the sequel, keep it simple. Because the characters are perfect. This is an example of getting the characters so right that it carries the entire film. Make a good script and the sequel will blow up at the box office.


     Score: 7/10
     

    August 12, 2016

    Lisa

    Star Trek Beyond, A Reminder Of The Things I Loved About The TV Show


    The crew of the Enterprise return in “Star Trek Beyond”, an action sci-fi that shines, not in the heat of the battles, but in the quieter moments that exude between the characters.

    The film kicks off with the crew having been in space for quite a while. They miss the loved ones left behind. And the isolation has transformed the ship into a mini society. I appreciate a scene between Captain Kirk and McCoy that is reminiscent of a scene between them in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”.

    Consistent with this franchise trope, at some point Captain Kirk learns of a distress call which, as we expect, propels him and the enterprise into action.

    As shown in the trailers, this mission doesn’t end well for one of the main characters—the star ship enterprise.


    I’ve watched all the old television shows, the Next Generation and the movies. And seeing the enterprise torn apart has never been fun to watch. I feel an emotional connection to her and it’s a heart-breaking moment for me.

    The crew are forced to abandon the enterprise and end up on a planet where they meet the main villain—Krall. It’s not easy to act in heavy make-up but the accomplished actor (who’s name I won’t say because it might be a spoiler) does an amazing job of expressing himself through facial movements and body language.


    “Star Trek Beyond” capitalizes on character interactions by spreading the team out in pairs: Dr. McCoy and Spock, Captain Kirk and Chekov, Sulu and Uhura and lastly, Scotty and new comer Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).


    Jaylah is a great addition. She’s smart and can handle herself. And I loved the chemistry between her and Scotty. Speaking of chemistry, anytime you can give us scenes with Spock and McCoy is a plus.

    The negative comes in the third act, which feels like too much is happening. Just when you think the movie is coming to an end, it tacks on another portion to elongate it. And it flails here because in order to tack on this second ending, the space fight has a quick and easy solution that makes it feel more like something the writers just needed to rush through so they could to arrive where they wanted to all along—a one on one fight.

    This leads to an interesting back story for Krall. Though I would have liked to know more.

    “Star Trek Beyond” is an enjoyable ride, which exceeds the second film in this rebooted franchise. The action scenes are fun. The set pieces are very well done. Although the plot in the third act feels rushed and anemic, the film focuses on the character dynamics, which is what made me fall in love with the franchise to begin with, as it hits the right notes of heart felt moments.

     Score: 8.25/10


    August 7, 2016

    Lisa

    REVIEW: The Land


    There’s an authenticity to the conflict and the portrayal of the characters that fills the screen; but the plot is hindered by trying to weave two stories together. At points it feels like it’s not quite sure which story to focus on until it makes a decision and forces one to the sideline.

    “The Land” centers on Cisco, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr., who struggles to find his way in the inner streets. He hangs with three other teenage boys and the the four of them dream of making a name for themselves in the world of skateboarding. But in the meantime, they carjack for cash.

    Carjacking is dangerous and there isn’t much money in it for them. That’s a problem because they need money to enter a skateboarding contest. Their dream is to become professional skateboarders in hopes of escaping a future of mundane labor. 

    The skateboarding is fun to watch as they find deserted building to do their thing. But it eventually takes a back seat to the main plot until it’s completely forgotten. And that’s too bad because I never get the sense of what losing this dream means to them; that’s because there is something more pressing going on in their lives.

    I think the story should have left the “dream” part out and just have the guys enjoy skateboarding. Because we never really see them pursue it. Instead it feels like a forced plot point to get them to need to make fast cash and quite frankly, needing cash should be enough to work. They’re poor and the necessities of life, such as paying rent and buying food, is good enough motivation.

    The second story or main story, that shoves the skateboarding plot aside, is about the four guys finding a stash of drugs.


    They are then left to make a decision that would change their lives and strain their relationship.

    Caple, the director, takes chances. He tells a story of these inner city boys, who are inexperienced with life and have only each other to find guidance. They are not written as heroes. Caple is not afraid to show their criminal sides. And he manages to create likeable boys while doing it.

    The main villain, named Momma, could be stronger. Though Linda Emond does a great job with the role. So the story uses a second villain to compensate and, as a result, he becomes a one-note villain that does things that make little sense except to force the boys into action.

    “The Land” takes risks telling the story of characters who break the laws as they navigate through their inner city lives. There are moments that feel predictable as if the story is moving through eventualities that are obvious. But then things take a turn and Caple offers us a chilling introspection on inner city life and the difficult, life-changing choices some find themselves.  


     Score: 8.25/10


    August 4, 2016

    Lisa

    Classics REVIEW: Touch of Evil


    “Touch of Evil” is worth the viewing if for no other reason than the opening sequence. It begins with a long one-shot scene that serves to fill the audience with dramatic tension as the camera travels along a street.

    Orson Welles shows why he is known as one of the greatest directors to ever film. His varying of camera angles and use of bizarre close-ups help to create mood and dread. Though as with the sign of those times, some of the moments can be a little hokey or overacted with exaggerated expressions. But that’s to be expected.


    The story is set on the Mexican-American border where a murder forces both sides to work together. It plays as more than a murder mystery with the issue of morality injected into the story where corruptness comes at the main character from different places.

    Charlton Heston stars as Mike Vargas, a Mexican lawman. I admit, it’s a bit odd seeing him play a Mexican and I’m not a fan of whitewashing, but I can give this 1958 movie a pass. Though I had to keep reminding myself who he was playing, particularly during the scenes where he interacted with Mexicans. He’s a newly married man, who is asked to solve this crime. Though he’d rather spend time with his wife.

    Orson Wells plays the American Police Captain, Hank Quinlan—a hardened man who may have been idealistic at one time; but there is no sign of that man in this film. However, there is a slight crack that shows he may have cared for someone once. He’s a recovering alcoholic who believes in doing whatever is necessary to get his man. And as the choices he has to make get difficult, he finds himself one step closer to the bottle.

    The plot of “Touch of Evil” weaves in various characters and their motivations that, on the onset, don’t seem to connect until midway through the movie when both Quinlan and Vargas question a suspect.



    There are seedy elements that come into play that try to influence the outcome of the investigation.

    This Film Noir carries the mystery till the end, folding in some twists that alter the path of where you think the story is going to go. There are some very tense moments throughout, especially with Janet Leigh’s character, who plays Susan Vargas—the wife of Charlton Heston’s character.


    Criminals use Susan as a tool to get to Mike Vargas. And this is where I think some elements veered off into…


    The land of implausibility…


    These moments are brief. But what makes them stand out is that they are essential to the plot or at least how Mike Vargas is affected.

    Susan Vargas’ character is sort of stalked or harassed by a subplot. And there are moments that make me shake my head and ask:
    • Why would she go off with them all alone?
    • Why would her husband leave her in some isolated place?
    • Why is this place kept by someone who doesn’t seem to know what the heck is going on?
    • Also, when Mike Vargas goes to the hotel, he seems more upset about a missing gun than a missing… well… 

    All in all, if you’re looking for a Film Noir, “Touch of Evil” offers both the tension and multi-layered story that has you wondering what will happen next. It’s unpredictable and very well acted.

    Ending Questions

    This movie leaves two questions:

    1) Did they catch the killer? It would seem the answer is YES. It was mentioned that he confessed. Though I do wonder because Quinlan wanted the suspect to be pressed hard, to be broken because the suspect wouldn’t confess (at first). Just how hard was he pressed?

    Considering this is a Film Noir, I think it fits better for the answer to be YES because it makes it all the more tragic at the end. They had the right guy all along, and so all that occurred after the scene with the explosives in the box didn’t need to happen.

    That’s how I like my Film Noirs!

    2) Was she raped? My guess is NO. But I think she was supposed to be assaulted in the original script. There were supposedly re-shoots. Add that to the fact that one of the characters wanted to “watch”. Surely she wasn’t there to “watch” nothing.

    I think the studio changed its mind and so we have the conversation between characters that say she was just drugged to make her believe something bad happened. I think this was added later when the studio had changes made. I also think she was originally going to be drugged with something other than sodium pentothal.

    Times were different back then. The fact they they had a lesbian was probably a bit much for them, let alone all the other things.


     Score: 9/10


    July 31, 2016

    Lisa

    Season 2 Finale Of Wayward Pines: ‘Bedtime Story’


    (season 2, ep 10 SEASON FINALE)
    **spoilers**

    The finale starts off the death of Jason. It appears that Theo could have saved him, but didn’t and his doctor in training noticed. But there’s too much chaos to care at this point.

    People are bused to the mountain to their pods. But not all.


    Who’s left off the list that Theo is no in charge of?


    - The husband of a family
    - Arlene
    - Xander
    - Frank


    But don’t fret, because there’s been a change of plans:

    - Theo saves Xander and Frank, who were sitting and waiting to die while everyone else went on an "angry looting and burning down the town" spree.


     Theo drives up, gathers the two guys and brings them to the mountain.

    - After somebody gets killed, Theo notices there is one spot left. He saves Arlene. Could there be a romance forming?

    - Though the man with a family isn’t saved and hangs himself. He’s a red coat.


    What’s the plan?






    Theo decides to sacrifice himself. He will inject himself with 3 viruses: Bubonic plague, typhoid and Marburg. It will take a 14 hour incubation period then he will walk outside and be consumed by the abbies. 

    Hopefully, this germ warfare will kill off the abbies so when they wake up all will be well. But happy ending don't exactly make for an entertaining season 3. So there's bound to be a snag in this plan.

    Enter Kerry, who changes things up. Germ warfare is still on the menu BUT with a twist. She will be patient zero. Unable to handle incest and killing her son, she injects herself with the virus and walks outside.



    What will happen now?

    This is the question that we will have to wait till season 3 to find out.


    Clues:


    Looks like a plant is growing. Does this mean that they can grow food inside the town?


    What will CJ do? Will he wake them up or let them stay asleep and let the abbies have a human free future?

    It’s hard to tell just what these buttons mean. The image of a woman from his past says…

    “You can make the world whatever you want. You have that power.”

    He holds all their lives in his hand.


    My guess is that he will follow through on the plan. How else will they wake up for season 3, right?


    This looks like the future. Notice the female has scarring and the baby looks almost human.

    My guess:
    The abbies survived and evolved/changed. To what? I don’t know. What will this mean for humanity? They are not alone. It’s just a matter of, will they learn from their past mistake? Will these future abbies be as docile as they were when Pilcher shot the first bullet? Who knows, maybe they move into Wayward Pines!