Friday, September 23, 2011

"Killer Elite" (2011)

Starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro
Written by Matt Sherring
Directed by Gary McKendry
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Is there a more quintessential action star these days than Jason Statham?  I don't think so.  With his gravely voice, scruffy beard growth and steely gaze, the man appears in action flick after action flick, often driving fast cars and making quick work of various international thugs.  In "Killer Elite," he's back at it again, this time flanked by the legendary Robert De Niro and running up against Clive Owen.

Danny Bryce (Jason Statham) and his partner Hunter (Robert De Niro) begin the film in Mexico in 1980.  They are laying a trap to assassinate someone, but when Danny pulls the trigger he discovers a child in the car and decides he'll never kill again.  A year later, he receives a package informing him that Hunter has been taken prisoner by an exiled Sheik.  The Sheik wants revenge on several British SAS officers who killed his three sons, and he wants Danny to be the one to do it. 

Danny gathers his old associates Davies (Dominic Purcell) and Meier (Aden Young) and goes after the SAS agents.  This gathers the attention of a shadowy group of former SAS men called the Feather Men, now powerful bankers and lawyers, who employ the services of Spike (Clive Owen) to foil Danny's plans.  As Danny gets closer and closer to his goals, the Feather Men become anxious that their organization will be exposed, and begin to clamp down on Spike, but Spike won't have it.  Things grow further complicated when The Agent (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) sets his sites on Danny's girlfriend Annie (Yvonne Strahovski) to make sure that Danny goes through with the mission.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Five (1998)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Robert Picardo and Jeri Ryan
Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

I've felt like Seasons Three and Four of 'Star Trek: Voyager' showed a good deal of improvement, at least in terms of just sheer fun.  The show wasn't getting better in terms of becoming a greater drama, but instead going more for pure, special-effects driven entertainment.

Season Five begins several months after the events of the season four finale, "Hope and Fear."  Now, the Starship Voyager has found itself on a months-long journey through a vast region of space devoid of both stars and planets, causing the crew to begin to suffer from cabin fever.  Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is racked with regret and guilt over her decision years earlier to strand her crew in the far-off reaches of the Delta Quadrant, and locks herself away in her quarters, leaving heavy duties to her first officer, Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran). 

But within the void live a race of beings who evolved in total darkness.  When they board Voyager, Janeway initially believes it to be an attack.  Instead, it is the beings who are in danger from another race known as the Maalon, interstellar waste haulers who are using this empty region of space as a dumping ground for their dangerous radioactive waste products.  In defending these beings from the Maalon, Janeway is once again faced with a difficult decision: help save a race of innocent aliens, or shave a couple years off her crew's journey home.

Over the course of the rest of the season, the crew of the Starship Voyager will encounter more strange, wild new creatures and civilizations.  Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is coerced into rejoining the dreaded Borg Collective.  The Doctor (Robert Picardo) faces a Sophie's Choice that causes a dangerous glitch in his programming.  Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil) disobeys orders to save an alien ocean and is busted down to the rank of Ensign. B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) begins to take ever-increasing risks on the holodeck to deal with her grief over the deaths of her Maquis friends in the Alpha Quadrant. Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) falls in love with a beautiful alien woman, but finds that he's now physically linked to her as well.  Commander Chakotay comes face to face with members of Species 8472 who are planning to invade the Federation.

And at the end of it all, a revelation is made that will change everything: Voyager is not the only Federation starship stranded in the Delta Quadrant.  But the crew of the Starship Equinox are not like the crew of Voyager - they have abandoned their morals and their Starfleet code, brutally torturing aliens to use their bodies as an energy source to get home sooner.

"The Quiet Earth" (1985)

Starring Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge and Pete Smith
Written by Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence and Sam Pillsbury
Directed by Geoff Murphy
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running Time: 91 Minutes

I'm sort of a sucker for post-apocalypse stories, I'm not gonna lie.  "The Quiet Earth" came  recommended as a different sort of take on the genre, so I decided to check it out.

Zac (Bruno Lawrence) awakens one morning and finds that everyone else seems to have disappeared.  He searches and searches, but is unable to find any other living human beings.  Trying to discover what happens, he goes to work - it just so happens that Zac works for something called Project Flashlight, part of a world-wide scientific endeavor to create a world-wide energy grid.  He suspects something has gone wrong with the project, but can't seem to corroborate that theory. 

He sets up a radio message asking anyone to contact him, and begins going on trying to fill the time.  Not long after, he quickly starts to go crazy, solitude and guilt taking its toll.  At one point, he even puts the barrel of a gun in his mouth, but ultimately can't go through with it.  Soon after that, he finally meets another survivor: a young woman named Joanne (Alison Routledge), and the two quickly grow close.  They search for other survivors and scavenge for supplies, while Zac attempts to figure out exactly what happened to all the other people.

Eventually, the two meet a third survivor, Api (Pete Smith).  The three begin to grow close, as well, as Zac comes closer to determining what is happening to the universe.  They discover that each of them survived because the moment everyone else disappeared, was their moment of death.  But things are growing worse.  Not only is the sun becoming unstable, but a dangerous love triangle is developing between Zac, Joanne and Api. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Where the Wild Things Are" (2009)

Starring Max Records, James Gandolfini and Lauren Ambrose
Written by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers
Directed by Spike Jonze
Rated PG - Mature themes, violence, frightening images
Running Time: 104 minutes

Though rated PG and based upon a children's book, "Where the Wild Things Are" is far from what might be called a children's movie.  The main character is a child, and many of the characters behave in childish fashion, but again... this is not a film for children.  It may be considered a film about being a child, but I wouldn't be particularly enthused to show it to my children (if I had any).

Max (Max Records) is a young boy with a bit of an over-active imagination.  He spends his time making snow forts, dressing in his wolf costume, and inventing strange stories.  This doesn't quite endear him to others, who see him as a weirdo, and isn't helped by the fact that Max has a tendency to react by throwing increasingly violent temper tantrums.

One night, Max interrupts his mother's date with her boyfriend (Catherine Keener and Mark Ruffalo), throwing another tantrum when his mother won't come and check out his "rocket ship" that he's constructed.  He bites her when she tries to send him to his room without dinner, and then he takes off into the night.  He runs through the woods and eventually comes to a lake and finds a boat on the shore.  The boat takes him to a strange island filled with large creatures.

When the creatures threaten to eat him, Max constructs a story to claim that he is in fact the powerful king of the Vikings, and that the creatures should beware his deadly, head-exploding powers.  They accept him as their king, and he promises to keep them safe and happy and instructs them to construct a massive fortress where they can all live. But that safety and happiness is threatened by the tenuous power he has over his subjects, especially the volatile Carol (James Gandolfini), whose temper rivals Max's but with a key difference - Carol has the strength and power to actually do great damage in his rages.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

'Star Trek: Voyager' Season Four (1997)

Starring Kate Mulgrew, Robert Picardo and Jeri Ryan
Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

Season Four is a time of great change for "Star Trek: Voyager."  At the end of Season Three, Voyager finally entered the domain of the Borg, who the crew finds are at war with mysterious and vicious aliens known as Species 8472.

Species 8472 hails from another dimension, a realm of space filled with some kind of dense fluid.  The Borg are unable to withstand the attacks of this species, unable to adapt as they have so often in the past.  Luckily, Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her crew have devised a weapon that can harm them, and formed an alliance with the Borg - safe passage through their space in exchange for the technical specs of the weapon. 

But after their Borg escort is destroyed, Voyager finds itself alone in the war zone, with only a handful of drones to guide them and help construct the weapon.  Among them is Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), a human woman assimilated into the collective years earlier as a young girl.  At the end of the confrontation with Species 8472, Janeway enacts a plan to rescue Seven from the Collective, allowing her to regain her human individuality.

Not long after, Kes (Jennifer Lien) finds that her mental abilities are growing beyond her ability to control them, even to the point of threatening the ship.  So as the crew welcomes a new member, they also must say goodbye to a close friend.  The arrival of Seven of Nine causes much friction amongst the crew, who view her with suspicion and fear.  Seven's almost total lack of social graces often puts her at odds with people who think she's rude and ungrateful.  Over the course of the year, she'll form a special bond with Captain Janeway, whom she comes to see as a mentor and a guide, and Janeway, likewise, sees Seven as almost like a daughter.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew all get to have their own adventures.  The Doctor (Robert Picardo) gets to have an adventure in the Alpha Quadrant in "Message in a Bottle." Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) swaps bodies with an alien identity thief.  Chakotay (Robert Beltran) is drafted into an alien war.  B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) is arrested on a world where violent thoughts are a crime... and a highly sought-after black market commodity.

But the biggest change of all is a moment that the show has been building toward for four years: Voyager finally makes contact with Earth. 

"Buried" (2010)

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jose Luis Garcia Perez and Robert Paterson
Written by Chris Sparling
Directed by Rodrigo Cortez
Rated R - Language, disturbing images/themes
Running Time: 94 Minutes

As a person who is mildly claustrophobic (I don't particularly like full elevators or subway cars, but I can generally deal with them, and the occasional anxiety attack in an extremely crowded room) the concept of waking up buried alive in a coffin is not one that I take to lightly.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is an American contractor working as a truck driver in Iraq in 2006.  After his convoy is attacked, he wakes up buried alive inside a coffin.  He has a few supplies with him: a couple of glowsticks, a malfunctioning flashlight, a Zippo lighter, a flask, his anxiety pills, and a Blackberry cellphone.  At first, Paul attempts to make contact with someone who can help him, including a 911 operator, an FBI agent (Erik Palladino), his wife Linda (Samantha Mathis - daughter of Bibi Besch, aka Dr. Carol Marcus), a personnel representative with his employer (Stephen Tobolowski) and a hostage rescue specialist named Brenner (Robert Paterson).

At the same time, Paul is also in contact with his captor Jabir (Jose Luis Garcia Perez) who demands that Paul contact the United States Embassy and give him $5 million for Paul's release.  Paul pleads with Jabir to release him, explaining that he's merely a truck driver and that no one will pay $5 million for him, but Jabir is unresponsive.  Paul keeps trying to contact his wife, and is aided by Brenner, but his situation grows slowly worse as his supplies, patience, and air supply dwindle.